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HOT AND DRY weather will prevail over interior areas through next weekend as high pressure builds in from the east. Coastal areas will see a return of widespread stratus and patchy fog during the overnight and morning hours this week, followed by at least some thinning during the afternoons. (NWS)
SENTENCING OF FORMER UKIAH POLICE SGT. KEVIN MURRAY NOW SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY
by Justine Frederiksen
The sentencing of former Ukiah Police Sgt. Kevin P. Murray, which was abruptly postponed last week for still undisclosed reasons, has now been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at 3pm.
According to Mendocino County Superior Court documents, an order signed by Judge Ann Moorman on Aug. 25 sets Murray’s new sentencing hearing for Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 3 p.m. in Courtroom G. The previous morning, Moorman signed an order that that “vacated and continued to a date to be determined” the first sentencing hearing for Murray that had been on the docket for 1:30 p.m. that day.
Murray, who was fired after being arrested for allegedly breaking into a woman’s hotel room and sexually assaulting her, had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors last month that dismissed five felonies, including three sex offenses, he was previously charged with.
According to Mendocino County Superior Court documents, in a July hearing Murray, 38, pleaded “no contest” to two new charges: one felony, intimidating a witness identified only as S.Y., and one misdemeanor, false imprisonment of a person identified only as Jane Doe.
According to the minutes of the hearing posted to the Mendocino Superior Court Case Information Portal, the charges Murray pleaded “no contest” to were recently added as charges 7 and 8. The original six charges in the complaint were listed as: two counts of felony burglary in the first degree and one count of felony sexual battery alleged to have occurred on Nov. 25, 2020; one count of felony forcible rape alleged to have occurred on June 1, 2014, one count of felony forcible oral copulation alleged to have occurred on April 10, 2014, and one count of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, alleged to have occurred on Dec. 1, 2020.
Also according to the court documents, Murray was expected to only face two years probation when sentenced.
Murray was fired from the UPD about a month after being arrested for allegedly breaking into a Ukiah motel room and raping a woman in late November of 2020. Later, allegations from other women surfaced, including from a former fellow UPD officer.
In a letter to Judge Moorman dated Aug. 11, 2022, Murray writes that since his arrest he has had “the opportunity to reflect on the poor choices that I have made. I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused.
“I have learned so much from this situation,” Murray continues, noting that he has “realized that my family is the most important thing to me. My daughters are 17 and 15, and my sons are 11 and 7. During the past 20 months, I have been able to be actively involved in my children’s lives,” something he explains he did “not have the opportunity to do before while serving in the military or working in law enforcement. Being with my family and supporting them in all endeavors is what I want most in this world.
“Although the circumstances surrounding this incident are not something that I am proud of, they led me to a place where I was able to take my health, especially my mental health, seriously,” Murray continues, describing himself as being diagnosed with PTSD and Bipolar Disorder, for which he is “attending therapy and seeing a psychiatrist. My goal is to continue down this road and … show everyone that I can persevere through this traumatic time and become a better person, father and husband. Supervised probation would allow me this opportunity and assist in keeping me accountable to these goals.”
When previously reached for comment on the plea agreement, Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster directed all inquiries to Deputy District Attorney Heidi Larson, who did not return a phone call.
Reached late Wednesday for comment, Eyster said that his office had not requested postponement of the sentencing, and that he did not know the reason for the delay.
When previously reached for comment on the plea agreement, Murray’s attorney Stephen Gallenson confirmed that all six previous offenses against Murray had been dismissed, and that his client would not have to register as a sex offender.
When asked why all sex offenses against Murray had been dismissed, Gallenson said that, in his opinion, the charges would have been hard to prove.
A call to Gallenson Wednesday seeking comment regarding the postponement was not returned.
DAVID GURNEY ON JACKSON STATE FOREST:
OK, folks here’s the problem. While the Pomos try to negotiate tribal sovereignty with the State of California, they’re negotiating with the wrong people. Have too many years of gambling boards corrupted them as well?
Jackson Forest needs to be taken out of the hands of the State of California, and “Calfire.” If the Pomos want to negotiate as a sovereign nation, they need to negotiate with the federal government, not the State.
California has no legal authority to engage in “government to government” negotiations with a sovereign nation. Especially not our slick-haired Governor, who has completely turned a blind eye to this major crisis. Mr. Newsome, you blew it.
Jackson Forest needs to be removed from the grossly corrupt “CalFire” cult and turned into federal lands. There might then be meaningful (and legal) conversations with the Indians.
If “Calfire” wants to be a fire department, that’s fine. But they no longer have any business “managing” our forests.
JOAN VIVALDO on the endless case of Douglas Stone, the bandit of Black Bart Road:
“The PX (Preliminary Examination) was held at 10am on 6/20/2022. Although he could have excluded me from the PX, Mr. Stone's new attorney, Michael Clough of Oakland, CA, kindly allowed me to attend. Because of some upset in available judges, the PX was assigned to Judge Pekin at 9:45 on 6/20. Judge Pekin explained that his calendar was full, but the second of the two day PX could be held at 9am 6/27/2022. All parties agreed to the delayed time and date for the second day, I arrived at 9am on 6/27/2022 to find that the second day of the PX had been rescheduled for 9am 8/22/2022. I returned on 8/22 for the second day of the PX. A few of the charges against Mr. Stone were dismissed. Remaining charges were sufficient to schedule an arraignment at 9am on 10/4/2022.”
Background: "The Unlikely Burglar of Black Bart Trail"
HONORING THE QUIET, WAITING MAN
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
Today I suggest a modest memorial to the modest man who lives both among us and within us. He is the quiet gentleman who defers, serves, assists, and waits.
A dullish, solid small bronze statue on a pedestal would be appropriate, with the quiet man depicted as rumpled and bulky, a fuddy-duddy in frumpy garb and unfashionable hat.
Look as he checks his bronzed left wrist, forever hoping that the minutes and hours on display are wrong, because if the time on his watch is accurate he’s missed yet another bus or railroad car or airplane.
Or in this case, taxi. Like the previous two or two hundred, the estimated Times of Departure roll silently by. The Waiting Man quietly wonders when his wife will be prepared to depart. Right now she is upstairs considering a different pair of shoes, and it won’t take her but a minute or two to decide.
And once different footwear is selected she’ll need time to choose a suitable outfit to coordinate with them. Again. Her various clothing options (dresses, suits, pantsuits, jackets, jewelry, hosiery, and makeup) are all within easy reach, except for wardrobe items in the attic. She’ll be ready in a jiffy.
She asks the Waiting Man why he’s in such a darn hurry.
He looks at his wristwatch.
Placed around him on the bronze pedestal are six or eight pieces of bronzed luggage: a small suitcase and a large one, a few carry-on pieces, a steamer trunk. None contain wardrobe items belonging to the Waiting Man himself.
Close scrutiny of the smallish statue would reveal he’s wearing three sport coats, two neckties and a parka. A trench coat is draped over his right arm; an umbrella hangs beside it. All this, plus four pair of trousers he’s wearing and five sets of socks make him look bulky, but when he arrives at his destination he will shed all but basic clothing and be revealed as small, slight and unassuming.
His garments, few in total, are all he owns, and will fit neatly on a motel clothes rack.
But now, and it is always now in the land of statues and memorials, the quiet, uncomplaining Waiting Man continues to monitor the time. The minutes roll by in an endless stream leading to this moment and well beyond, and he will always stand quietly contemplating, for instance, a Yellow Cab arrival but unwilling to get his hopes up, then dashed yet again by rash assumptions.
Better to let his mind rest and his expectations dwindle to zero; he will simply wait. He is good at waiting. He has practiced many years.
All his life he has waited for honors, recognition, a promotion, his picture in the newspaper, the Browns to win a Super Bowl, a signal from God, a break.
He knows Godot will never arrive, and whenever the Waiting Man goes to a tavern to check on The Iceman’s arrival it seems to take darn near forever just to get a drink. Better to just stay here and be content with what arrives, and when.
There is no hurrying to be done, no reason to grow impatient with the time because time exists outside his power to control or regulate or understand it. So he waits.
He waits for dreams to fade and hope to die. He waits for a tomorrow that never comes. He waits for a helping hand. He waits for his wife to decide if the lace-up brown shoes look right with her blue canvas purse.
He waits for one of these days to arrive or for tomorrow to depart. He offers no response other than a shrug when his wife asks if this pair of earrings look OK.
Then finally she arrives wrapped in subtle maroon plaids and bold orange stripes, and his long wait is over. The slow luggage drag and hump to the Taxi stand begins.
The Man Who Waits and defers halts briefly at a sidewalk vendor to pick out a candy bar, and his wife says, “What now? I thought you were in such a big hurry.”
* * *
A SOMBER STATUE would be a fitting tribute to the perpetually waiting man. No taller than five or so feet in height would emphasize his quiet, inconspicuous demeanor and deferential manner, his willingness to sacrifice himself at the whims and convenience of others.
The statue would fit nicely in a remote corner at Todd Grove Park or on a sidewalk at a busy shopping mall in Los Angeles. He’d complement the Cloverdale Rail Station platform perfectly.
There, perched at a slight angle to the north to suggest him peering far down the tracks, as if checking to see if the 7:08 southbound is at last a-comin’ ’round the bend. But no. It’s running late.
He looks at his watch and waits.
FBI IN ZUCK-ROG FLAP: In a story that was a bombshell for conservatives and a back-pager elsewhere, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told podcaster Joe Rogan his company reduced distribution of an expose about Hunter Biden at the behest of the FBI. “If they come to us and tell us that we need to be on guard,” he said, “then I’m going to take that seriously.”
FRONTIERS OF FREE ENTERPRISE: That spiffy new structure on the west side of State Street at Talmage is a new dope store called, I think, “Cookies.” Which I thought was, like, you know, chocolate chip and oatmeal cookie-cookies. Silly me. It's a marijuana business funded by a German muy famoso in the pot biz. And how many pot stores does Ukiah have anyway, ten? Now this one.
AS AN OLD SCHOOL GUY who's also just plain old, I'm happy to see that Friday Night football is back in Mendo, with Fort Bragg off to a fast start with a drubbing of Healdsburg, 37-0, Willits knocking off Piner, 29-0 but Ukiah dropping 27-0 to Montgomery. Ukiah, incidentally, is coached by Ryan Parrish, a Boonville guy who was once, and probably still is, a fearsome defensive back and running back.
WONDER if there are still kids who play all three major sports in high school — football, basketball, baseball. I played football and baseball, and would have played basketball but I didn't like the basketball coach. The feeling was mutual, and I think it stemmed from me laughing at a solemn, shaming spiel he tried to deliver about what an enormous hassle it was for the school when this never identified kid kept sneaking in through locked doors to defecate in the indoor swimming pool which, as a high school kid, my peers and I thought was hilarious. “You fun-loving rover boys probably think it's funny…” the coach began. At which point I couldn't help… From there on it was war. I remember him telling me, “I hope I'm there when you get yours, Anderson,” which even as a kid I thought was awfully unprofessional of him.
FUNNY, how an incident like that lingers forever somewhere in one's memory, that haunted ragbag filed away in the rear of an old man's failing cortex. Gawd, now it all comes back to me! I attended my millionth high school reunion, hoping to see some old teammates from the various sports, and darned if an ancient crone didn't immediately confront me with, “Do you remember the night…” Mother of God! I suddenly did remember, but hadn't thought about her or grappling with her in her vehicle high on a foggy ridge overlooking Frisco Bay since the very sin itself in the summer of ’56. “I hope you support our president,” was the very next thing she said. Which was Trump at the time. “Great to see you again, Janet, but my pager just went off and I have to go.” To my retreating back she yelled, “I read about you going to jail up there…” She drove me clear outta the venue because it was obvious she was just getting warmed up, but I did get to see one guy I'd come to see.
MENDOCINO COUNTY MUSEUM:
Out of tragedy, came a Willits icon.
The Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital came into fruition after the tragic death of its namesake.
After an automotive accident, and lack of a ‘real’ hospital in the area, 15-year-old Frank R. Howard passed away due to his injuries in 1926. This led his father, Charles S. Howard, owner of ‘Seabiscuit,’ to donate $30,000 (~$510,000 in today’s money) to begin construction on the hospital, with a donation from Dr. Raymond Babcock of $42,000 (~$715,000), and others in the community following. In 1927 groundbreaking began, and by 1928 the first patient was admitted.
Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital kept growing, eventually growing out of its walls, and a new building had to be constructed to continue providing services to the area. Now that the old building is slated for demolishing, we at the Mendocino County Museum want to add our respects to the history, the workers, the patients, and the legacy of the Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital.
We have a small pop-up display of items used in the Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital, and we invite audiences to come and add what they remembered so fondly of it. Were you born there? Or know someone who was? Worked there?
Write a little note about your memories on our provided notepads and add it to the display, so we as a community can stand together and fondly remember this fallen icon.
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 28, 2022
MARTIAL BRUCHET, Willits. DUI, controlled substance, evasion.
EARL CASTANEDA, Willits. Domestic battery.
ALEGANDRO CIBRIAN-ROMERO, Cloverdale/Ukiah. Grand theft of access cards (4 or more), controlled substance, paraphernalia.
JOAQUIN DELACRUZ-LOPEZ, Willits, DUI, no license, resisting.
SARAH HALSTAD, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
ZANE HAUGER, Willits. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
IVAN JUAREZ, Corona/Ukiah. Controlled substance, disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ETHAN MANN, Covelo. Evasion.
JESSE MARTINEZ, Caspar. DUI, suspended license for DUI, contempt of court.
ELIZABETH VALLEY, Hopland. Under influence.
FAILURE TO OBEY
A common theme in cases of death by cop is that the victim did not obey the cop. A shout to a boy who is unaware of the presence of a cop did not produce obedience, a man acting erratically doesn't go "down" when a cop says "down" in broken Spanish. Police training has to change. Failure to obey is not a reason for killing. Police have to be trained how to deal with failure to obey by something other than killing.
LIVING WITHOUT, AN EXCHANGE
(1) It's a good idea for you to learn to live without the following, and this is just for starters:
gas or electric heat
electric washing machines (you might be using one of those gasoline engine powered models that would sit in your back yard or back porch.
new or imported clothing
new or imported shoes
reliable sources of food (you’ll be gardening and/or hunting)
If you can’t visualize living with most of the above being unavailable, then you likely won’t live through the transition to sustainable living in a finite world.
* * *
(2) I’m sure I can cover most of this stuff myself:
automobiles, — I keep my cars till they rot in to dust and maybe do 6-700 miles
dish washers– I have two hands for that
air conditioning– Never had it growing up
gas or electric heat– I have trees for that
electric washing machines (you might be using one of those gasoline engine powered models that would sit in your backyard or back porches for a year– They destroy your duds
clothes dryers– rope in the sun
water heaters– see trees above
“health care”– This I will miss and modern dentistry. I like my teeff
“education”– never needed it after I learned to read
big tvs– screw dat
new or imported clothing– I have clothes to last for 30 years, my wife 100 years
new or imported shoes– My US made Redwing boots.They’ll outlive me
reliable sources of food (you’ll be gardening and/or hunting)– I have so much produce I can’t give it away. fruit and vegetables
FROM THE AUG 22 NEW YORKER:
Sante has long been fascinated by infrastructure. (In an essay for a book accompanying a new show at the Met, she describes water towers photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher as “alarmingly penile glans-topped cylinders” and “gold-miners’ cabins moldering in Western ghost towns.”) She lived in the Catskills for decades before getting around to researching the book. She’s a quick writer, once she starts. “Reservoirs” took her a few months. (In 1991, “Low Life,” more than four hundred pages, took her nine.) “The next book is my trans memoir, and I’m planning to write this book as quickly as I possibly can,” Sante said; she transitioned last year...
A few minutes later, Sante said, "This is the stolen church." The Methodists of Glenford had plopped it on land technically owned by the railroad. "The railroad and the reservoir were both fine with the church," Sante said. "It was just New York City that decided to be pricks, as they made the decision to be pricks at almost every point." The city sued and won forty-five dollars.
Would the New Yorker have run the quote if Sante had said, “New York City tried to pussywhip the locals but they refused to be pussywhipped?”
What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander – or used to be.
And I wonder if Sante's book would have taken longer to write if Princeton University Press hadn't published Gerard Koeppel's “Water for Gotham” – a detailed, very readable history – in 2000.
— Fred Gardner
by Paul Modic
With this fiftieth reunion coming up I'm taking a look back at my elementary years at the K-12 Burris Laboratory School in Muncie, Indiana where we were all lab rats without knowing it—who can I sue 56 years later? (Just my dead parents for leaving Muncie.) I'm wondering about the positive or other effects of going to a school like that, affiliated with the teachers college next door which sent over three student teachers in the morning and three more in the afternoon for my whole K through 6 experience.
When my father got the teaching job at Ball State in 1960 I don't know if he was aware of or cared about the Burris connection when we moved to Doctor Gill's rental at 225 N Celia (Atlas 80438) across from Ball Memorial Hospital for $85 a month, a five minute walk to school.
My classmates were always nice to each other as we went from Miss Schroeder in kindergarten through Miss Smith, Miss Vanetta, Mr Lykens, Mrs Harshbarger and finally Mr Mazza in sixth grade. (What happened after is a mystery about which I'd like to know everything, and am especially interested if it's none of my business.)
There were no bullies in our class but maybe that started in junior high or high school? Or maybe bullying just didn't exist in a small town like Muncie, with 60,000 population back then. (Now I remember a couple older guys who liked to torment me—more on that later.)
Burris did not prepare me for the real world: school life after we moved away to Fort Wayne in the summer of '66 was an unpleasant surprise.
At Burris we did not have grades! At the end of the school year the teacher wrote a short letter to the parents, I wonder if anyone has one of those still? Before the letters I think there was another form of evaluation. Did junior and high school have real grades at that time? Did the whole school finally convert to the standard method, A to F?
Looking back I would have probably been a happier kid if I'd stayed at Burris: the continuity, the familiarity, and the smaller town vibe, but I've never thought about that before.
In Fort Wayne the schools looked like prisons and the teachers and administrators were allowed to beat you—I got “the board” a few times and it really hurt, they wound up like sadists and hit you as hard as they could. One time I got four whacks leaving me in tears in the bathroom. Girls however were exempt from getting the board, something about “not harming their reproductive organs.” (Of course it's mostly boys who were bad.)
Our eighth grade basketball team got creamed by a cross town school 63-12 and at our next practice the coach made up derogatory nicknames for the starters. Mine was “No Moves Modic,” an apt moniker which my therapist years later probably agreed with when I showed up at her office with anxiety, whining about how hard it was to meet a nice woman. (Anyone who missed a layup that afternoon got the board, ouch again, dammit!)
I doubt that Burris ever had corporal punishment—maybe they wrote the parents a letter? In shop class in Fort Wayne they encouraged us to make our own paddles—I still have mine. On the first day of high school the seniors terrorized the freshmen, chasing us down with colorful markers to splotch up our faces and maybe they had boards too—they didn't catch me.
I'm proud of kids today because they wouldn't put up with that crap, at least ones here in California. (“Hit me? I think not. I'm going home.”) But I just took it like a weenie back then. (I have written some revenge fantasies but am saving them for the Fort Wayne Northside essay—that 50th reunion comes up a week after Burris.)
In junior high I guess I had a weird snorting laugh and the science teacher Mr Budenz ordered me to write 600 times “I must not make strange noises in class.” How would Burris have handled that, sent a letter home?
“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Modic, We are concerned that Paul may have some kind of nasal blockage or other issues which might need attention by your family doctor. We think he's trying to laugh but we're not sure—was he possibly raised by wolves? That would be no problem—we're very inclusive here at Burris Lab. We are planning to send over our three funniest student teachers, including that happy horn dog Mr. Western, from Ball State to work with Paul and his odd laugh.” (After writing it about thirty times Mr. Budenz called off the punishment when I agreed to never laugh again.)
The student teachers at Burris were pretty much teenagers themselves but to us elementary kids they were like big adults. Were there as many student teachers in high school as well? They would be barely older than the students so I wonder if there were any intra-dating scandals? ( Pregnancies? Relationships? Marriages?) Did a student teacher ever invite a high school girl to the prom? (Did Mr. Mazza?) Did Burris even have a prom? I never went--is it too late? (I want to play spin the bottle before I die!)
Were there any lasting effects from having the Burris Owls experience? (Open up the lab files!) It was all so random: the arriving, the leaving, we were all there because our fathers (any single mothers?) got jobs and we moved to Muncie, a famous little town studied and written about by the Lynds as “Middletown” and also mentioned in MAD magazine as the place that manufactured the shopping carts which veered to the right. (Muncie has been kind of a punchline for some reason, maybe because of the Lynds?)
So as we meet for this reunion be grateful we chanced upon this laboratory school experience: we lucked out and the brutal realities of life were delayed as we nestled peacefully in the bosom of Burris, the happiest lab rats around.
* * *
I had always thought my first “sexual experience” was when I was about ten trying to save an injured chipmunk with Jane (she was really into that) in our sandbox and when she bent over the shoebox containing the rodent I peered down her shirt for a look at the nubs of her starter boobs. (I still remember her numbers: Atlas 22816 at 104 South Manning.)
I remember now that the first one actually happened in the Burris School bathroom when I was seven. Jerry Fisher was in there also and he said, “I'll show you mine if you show me yours.” I must have agreed because Jerry whipped out his string bean and I scooted out of there without doing my side of the deal.
Where do kids get ideas like that? Maybe another classmate had tried that line on him, showed him his, and made him curious? Maybe he had a friend or brother doing those trades or his parents paraded around naked—do rich people do that? I guess they can do whatever they want.
Muncie was all about the Ball Brothers who made their name manufacturing canning jars in the 1800s. As an heir to the family fortune Jerry always brought a dollar for lunch, which seemed extravagant at the time, while the rest of us just had the standard forty cents needed to buy lunch at the nearby Ball State student center, when we didn't bring it or walk home for it.
Our whole class once was invited to Jerry's birthday party out on Burlington Pike, a row of mansions in the country just outside Muncie. His orange behemoth stood next to his uncles' houses, all the descendants of the original Ball Brothers: Lucius, William, Edmund, Frank, and George.
This morning I woke up thinking about Jerry Fisher's penis: I've always recalled it as a string bean and now I realize that's because it was uncircumcised, wearing a little hat off to the left, an unfamiliar sight for me on a couple of levels. Maybe it wasn't just a silly little sex game children play but Jerry was seriously interested or confused about his and was seeking more data?
Jerry left Burris after a couple years, was shipped off to boarding school, and now I'm starting to wonder what happened to him over the last sixty years and how his eagerness to share may have affected his life? I searched for an hour but couldn't find anything about him.
(I find it amusing that sixty years later I'm still writing gossip, this trash, because back in 6th grade at Burris I had my little notebooks, called Jewel Books, was writing observations about class activities and personalities, and still have them in a box somewhere.
In the eighties and nineties I had a zine, a news and opinion rag called The Gulch Mulch, and often wrote about my small-town neighbors including one enraged subject, Dana, who drove down to my cabin and berated me in the parking lot about my veiled description of her. Another agitated crazy, Hoy, screamed insults at me in front of the school a day after publication, and thirty years later I'm still writing about local people, teasing them, and myself even harder, including a recent piece called “The Beast of Boonville” which didn't go over well with the subject.
When Daryl Cherney showed up in the area in the late eighties I was relieved to realize I was no longer the most annoying person in Southern Humboldt.)
WE LOOKED INTO EACH OTHER'S EYES in a way that said that nothing else mattered as much as us. I asked myself if I would kill my parents to save his life, a question I had been posing since I was fifteen. The answer always used to be yes. But in time all those boys had faded away and my parents were still there. I was now less and less willing to kill them for anyone; in fact, I worried for their health. In this case, however, I had to say yes. Yes, I would. We walked down the tunnel between this place and real life, and then, without so much as a look in my direction, he glided away from me.
— Miranda July
THE US EMPIRE is indisputably the most murderous and destructive power structure on the world stage today. No other power has spent the 21st century killing people by the millions in wars of aggression. No other power is circling the planet with hundreds of military bases and working continuously to destroy any government which disobeys it. No other power is starving entire populations with economic sanctions, military blockades and brazen theft. No other power has been interfering in foreign elections anywhere near as often. No other power is terrorizing populations around the world with wars, covert ops, drone strikes, proxy conflicts, and staged coups and uprisings. No other power is using its military, economic, diplomatic and media dominance to bully the world into serving its interests. The US exports most of its tyranny outside its own borders (though certainly not all of it), but it is nevertheless plainly the most tyrannical regime on earth.
— Caitlin Johnstone
MOST PEOPLE HAVE HEARD OF KOKO, the gorilla who could speak about 1000 words in Sign Language, and understand about 2000 in English. What most people don’t know, however, is that Koko was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fan. When Fred Rogers took a trip out to meet Koko for his show, not only did she immediately wrap her arms around him and embrace him, she did what she’d always seen him do onscreen: she proceeded to take his shoes off.
MICKEY MANTLE ROOKIE CARD SELLS FOR RECORD-BREAKING $12.6 MILLION
by Bill Shea
Scoot over, Honus Wagner. Mickey Mantle is back on top in a big way – for now, at least.
A nearly perfect and incredibly rare 1952 Topps Mantle card sold at auction for a trading card industry record $12.6 million on Saturday night, according to Heritage Auctions.
That shatters the sales price record set early this month when a SGC 2-graded T206 Honus Wagner trading card produced by American Tobacco Co. between 1909-11 sold for $7.25 million in a private sale brokered by the Goldin sports memorabilia company.
The SGC graded 9.5-mint Mantle card originally sold for $50,000 in 1991 when famed collector Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen sold it to an anonymous buyer in a deal that made headlines at the time. The card reportedly came from a Massachusetts attic find in the 1980s.
There are reportedly only three known better-graded Mantle cards.
The card is famous because of the Yankees slugger’s hall of fame career and because of the card’s scarcity. The lack of sales of the high series cards prompted Topps to dump thousands of them into the ocean around 1960.
The ’52 Mantle isn’t his rookie – a 1951 Bowman is his first card – but is his first Topps card and the one in far greater demand.
The Mantle and Wagner cards for decades have been holy grails for collectors and investors because of their rarity, reflected on the increasingly higher sales prices.
The previous high for a ’52 Mantle was $5.2 million for a PSA 9 version of the card bought via the PWCC Marketplace in early 2021 by serial entrepreneur and streetwear designer Rob Gough. Several others have sold for lesser but still hefty sums.
Sports cards and collectables have been hot for years but went into overdrive after the COVID-19 pandemic began, triggering a series of record-breaking sales as investors (and some deep-pocket collectors not seeking to flip for a profit) view cards, particularly vintage but some modern, as alternative assets akin to rare art and fine wine. The top couple of dozen card sales by known price have occurred since 2020.
While there have been some general price card declines this year, demand for rare high-end cards remains strong, industry sources have said, and this Mantle sale reinforces that.
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 28 AUGUST
The EU is set to suspend its visa travel agreement with Russia this week, The Financial Times reports. The plan to freeze a 2007 deal will make it harder and more expensive for Russians to get Schengen-area documents, the FT reports. It comes after some eastern member states threatened to unilaterally close their borders to Russian tourists, with other countries calling for collective action to stop ordinary Russians from travelling to the EU on tourist visas. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has previously called for a complete ban.`
Russia claims it has hit workshops at the Motor Sich factory in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine. The facility is where helicopters for the Ukrainian air force are being repaired, the defence ministry said. But Ukrainian officials later said the hit resulted significant civilian damages: damaging nine multi-story buildings and 40 private homes.
A Russian missile has struck military infrastructure in Rivne oblast in northern Ukraine. Reports so far are that there were no casualties, and that the missiles came from just over the border from Belarus.
The United States today called out Russia’s “cynical obstructionism” after Moscow remained the sole holdout in blocking the adoption of a joint declaration on nuclear non-proliferation following lengthy international negotiations at the United Nations. The 191 signatories review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty every five years, which aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and promote cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. But on Friday, Russia prevented the declaration’s adoption, saying it took issue with “political” aspects of the text.
It is unclear if Russia will try to fill its increase in armed forces members by recruiting more volunteer “contract” soldiers or by lifting annual targets for conscriptions, British intelligence says. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree this week to increase the size of the armed forces from 1.9 million to 2.04 million in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, now in its sixth month. The latest UK Ministry of Defence briefing says that under the Russian legislation now in place, the decree is unlikely to make “substantive progress” towards increasing Russia’s combat power.
Two people were killed in Russian firing on Bakhmut, the governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on Saturday. The eastern city is a significant target for Russian and separatist forces seeking to take control of the parts of Donetsk they don’t hold. Associated Press also reported local government officials as saying that in the Black Sea region of Mykolaiv, one person was killed and another wounded in Russian firing.
On the opposite shore from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets were hit by shells on Saturday afternoonand evening, Nikopol’s mayor, Yevhen Yevtushenko, said on Telegram.
Concern persists about the potential for a radiation leak at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukraine’s state energy operator has warned there are “risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances” at the Russian-occupied plant. Authorities were distributing iodine tablets to residents who live near the plant in case of radiation exposure.
Russia and Ukraine traded fresh accusations of each other shelling the area around the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, on Saturday. Moscow’s troops have “repeatedly shelled” the site of the plant over the past day, the Ukrainian state nuclear company, Energoatom, said. Russia’s defence ministry has claimed Ukraine’s troops “shelled the territory of the station three times” in the past day.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is trying to negotiate access to the plant for an urgent inspection mission“to help stabilise the nuclear safety and security situation there”. Energoatom head Petro Kotin told the Guardian a visit could come before the end of the month, but the Ukrainian energy minister, Lana Zerkal, told a local radio station she was not convinced Russia was negotiating in good faith.
— The Guardian
UKRAINE AND THE POLITICS OF PERMANENT WAR
The prosecution of permanent war requires permanent censorship.
by Chris Hedges
No one, including the most bullish supporters of Ukraine, expect the nation’s war with Russia to end soon. The fighting has been reduced to artillery duels across hundreds of miles of front lines and creeping advances and retreats. Ukraine, like Afghanistan, will bleed for a very long time. This is by design.
On August 24, the Biden administration announced yet another massive military aid package to Ukraine worth nearly $3 billion. It will take months, and in some cases years, for this military equipment to reach Ukraine. In another sign that Washington assumes the conflict will be a long war of attrition it will give a name to the U.S. military assistance mission in Ukraine and make it a separate command overseen by a two- or three-star general. Since August 2021, Biden has approved more than $8 billion in weapons transfers from existing stockpiles, known as drawdowns, to be shipped to Ukraine, which do not require Congressional approval.
Including humanitarian assistance, replenishing depleting U.S. weapons stocks and expanding U.S. troop presence in Europe, Congress has approved over $53.6 billion ($13.6 billion in March and a further $40.1 billion in May) since Russia's February 24 invasion. War takes precedence over the most serious existential threats we face. The proposed budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in fiscal year 2023 is $10.675 billion while the proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is $11.881 billion. Our approved assistance to Ukraine is more than twice these amounts.
The militarists who have waged permanent war costing trillions of dollars over the past two decades have invested heavily in controlling the public narrative. The enemy, whether Saddam Hussein or Vladimir Putin, is always the epitome of evil, the new Hitler. Those we support are always heroic defenders of liberty and democracy. Anyone who questions the righteousness of the cause is accused of being an agent of a foreign power and a traitor.
The mass media cravenly disseminates these binary absurdities in 24-hour news cycles. Its news celebrities and experts, universally drawn from the intelligence community and military, rarely deviate from the approved script. Day and night, the drums of war never stop beating. Its goal: to keep billions of dollars flowing into the hands of the war industry and prevent the public from asking inconvenient questions.
In the face of this barrage, no dissent is permitted. CBS News caved to pressure and retracted its documentary which charged that only 30 percent of arms shipped to Ukraine were making it to the front lines, with the rest siphoned off to the black market, a finding that was separately reported upon by U.S. journalist Lindsey Snell. CNN has acknowledged there is no oversight of weapons once they arrive in Ukraine, long considered the most corrupt country in Europe. According to a poll of executives responsible for tackling fraud, completed by Ernst & Young in 2018, Ukraine was ranked the ninth-most corrupt nation from 53 surveyed.
There is little ostensible reason for censoring critics of the war in Ukraine. The U.S. is not at war with Russia. No U.S. troops are fighting in Ukraine. Criticism of the war in Ukraine does not jeopardize our national security. There are no long-standing cultural and historical ties to Ukraine, as there are to Great Britain. But if permanent war, with potentially tenuous public support, is the primary objective, censorship makes sense.
War is the primary business of the U.S. empire and the bedrock of the U.S. economy. The two ruling political parties slavishly perpetuate permanent war, as they do austerity programs, trade deals, the virtual tax boycott for corporations and the rich, wholesale government surveillance, the militarization of the police and the maintenance of the largest prison system in the world. They bow before the dictates of the militarists, who have created a state within a state. This militarism, as Seymour Melman writes in The Permanent War Economy: American Capitalism in Decline, “is fundamentally contradictory to the formation of a new political economy based upon democracy, instead of hierarchy, in the workplace and the rest of society.”
“The idea that war economy brings prosperity has become more than an American illusion,” Melman writes. “When converted, as it has been, into ideology that justifies the militarization of society and moral debasement, as in Vietnam, then critical reassessment of that illusion is a matter of urgency. It is a primary responsibility of thoughtful people who are committed to humane values to confront and respond to the prospect that deterioration of American economy and society, owing to the ravages of war economy, can become irreversible.”
If permanent war is to be halted, as Melman writes, the ideological control of the war industry must be shattered. The war industry’s funding of politicians, research centers and think tanks, as well as its domination of the media monopolies, must end. The public must be made aware, Melman writes, of how the federal government “sustains itself as the directorate of the largest industrial corporate empire in the world; how the war economy is organized and operated in parallel with centralized political power — often contradicting the laws of Congress and the Constitution itself; how the directorate of the war economy converts pro-peace sentiment in the population into pro-militarist majorities in the Congress; how ideology and fears of job losses are manipulated to marshal support in Congress and the general public for war economy; how the directorate of the war economy uses its power to prevent planning for orderly conversion to an economy of peace.”
Rampant, unchecked militarism, as historian Arnold Toynbee notes, “has been by far the commonest cause of the breakdown of civilizations.”
This breakdown is accelerated by the rigid standardization and uniformity of public discourse. The manipulation of public opinion, what Walter Lippman calls “the manufacture of consent,” is imperative as the militarists gut social programs; let the nation’s crumbling infrastructure decay; refuse to raise the minimum wage; sustain an inept, mercenary for-profit health care system that resulted in 25 percent of global Covid deaths — although we are less than 5 percent of the world’s population — to gouge the public; carries out deindustrialization; do nothing to curb the predatory behavior of banks and corporations or invest in substantial programs to combat the climate crisis.
Critics, already shut out from the corporate media, are relentlessly attacked, discredited and silenced for speaking a truth that threatens the public’s quiescence while the U.S. Treasury is pillaged by the war industry and the nation disemboweled.
The war industry, deified by the mass media, including the entertainment industry, is never held accountable for the military fiascos, cost overruns, dud weapons systems and profligate waste. No matter how many disasters — from Vietnam to Afghanistan — it orchestrates, it is showered with larger and larger amounts of federal funds, nearly half of all the government’s discretionary spending. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven the U.S. debt to over $30 trillion, $6 trillion more than the U.S. GDP of $24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spend more on the military, $813 billion for fiscal year 2023, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined.
An organization like NewsGuard, which has been rating what it says are trustworthy and untrustworthy sites based on their reporting on Ukraine, is one of the many indoctrination tools of the war industry. Sites that raise what are deemed “false” assertions about Ukraine, including that there was a U.S.-backed coup in 2014 and neo-Nazi forces are part of Ukraine’s military and power structure, are tagged as unreliable. Consortium News, Daily Kos, Mint Press and Grayzone have been given a red warning label. Sites that do not raise these issues, such as CNN, receive the “green” rating for truth and credibility. (NewsGuard, after being heavily criticized for giving Fox News a green rating of approval in July revised its rating for Fox News and MSNBC, giving them red labels.)
The ratings are arbitrary. The Daily Caller, which published fake naked pictures of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was given a green rating, along with a media outlet owned and operated by The Heritage Foundation. NewsGuard gives WikiLeaks a red label for "failing" to publish retractions despite admitting that all of the information WikiLeaks has published thus far is accurate. What WikiLeaks was supposed to retract remains a mystery. The New York Times and The Washington Post, which shared a Pulitzer in 2018 for reporting that Donald Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin to help sway the 2016 election, a conspiracy theory the Mueller investigation imploded, are awarded perfect scores. These ratings are not about vetting journalism. They are about enforcing conformity.
NewsGuard, established in 2018, “partners” with the State Department and the Pentagon, as well as corporations such as Microsoft. Its advisory board includes the former Director of the CIA and NSA, Gen. Michael Hayden; the first U.S. Homeland Security director Tom Ridge and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former secretary general of NATO.
Readers who regularly go to targeted sites could probably care less if they are tagged with a red label. But that is not the point. The point is to rate these sites so that anyone who has a NewsGuard extension installed on their devices will be warned away from visiting them. NewsGuard is being installed in libraries and schools and on the computers of active-duty troops. A warning pops up on targeted sites that reads: “Proceed with caution: This website generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability.”
Negative ratings will drive away advertisers, which is the intent. It is also a very short step from blacklisting these sites to censoring them, as happened when YouTube erased six years of my show On Contact that was broadcast on RT America and RT International. Not one show was about Russia. And not one violated the guidelines for content imposed by YouTube. But many did examine the evils of U.S. militarism.
In an exhaustive rebuttal to NewsGuard, which is worth reading, Joe Lauria, the editor-in-chief of Consortium News, ends with this observation:
NewsGuard’s accusations against Consortium News that could potentially limit its readership and financial support must be seen in the context of the West’s war mania over Ukraine, about which dissenting voices are being suppressed. Three CN writers have been kicked off Twitter.
PayPal’s cancellation of Consortium News’ account is an evident attempt to defund it for what is almost certainly the company’s view that CN violated its restrictions on “providing false or misleading information.” It cannot be known with 100 percent certainty because PayPal is hiding behind its reasons, but CN trades in information and nothing else.
CN supports no side in the Ukraine war but seeks to examine the causes of the conflict within its recent historical context, all of which are being whitewashed from mainstream Western media.
Those causes are: NATO’s expansion eastward despite its promise not to do so; the coup and eight-year war on Donbass against coup resisters; the lack of implementation of the Minsk Accords to end that conflict; and the outright rejection of treaty proposals by Moscow to create a new security architecture in Europe taking Russia’s security concerns into account.
Historians who point out the onerous Versailles conditions imposed on Germany after World War I as a cause of Nazism and World War II are neither excusing Nazi Germany nor are they smeared as its defenders.
The frantic effort to corral viewers and readers into the embrace of the establishment media — only 16 percent of Americans have a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in newspapers and only 11 percent have some degree of confidence in television news — is a sign of desperation.
As the persecution of Julian Assange illustrates, the throttling of press freedom is bipartisan. This assault on truth leaves a population unmoored. It feeds wild conspiracy theories. It shreds the credibility of the ruling class. It empowers demagogues. It creates an information desert, one where truth and lies are indistinguishable. It frog-marches us towards tyranny. This censorship only serves the interests of the militarists who, as Karl Liebknecht reminded his fellow Germans in World War I, are the enemy within.
NEW RESEARCH REVEALS OUTSIZED WATER COST OF ALMONDS AND PISTACHIOS IN CALIFORNIA
by Dan Bacher
Despite years of intense drought in California marked by the declaration of multiple drought emergencies, dwindling water supplies, and the collapse of Delta smelt and salmon populations spurred by water exports from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta to agribusiness, the state's almond acreage exploded by nearly 78 percent from 2010 to 2022, according to new research by Food & Water Watch.
This journalist has written about the gargantuan water needs of nut crops like almonds and pistachios grown by billionaire agribusiness tycoons like Stewart and Lynda Resnick in the San Joaquin Valley for many years, but the new Food & Water Watch report has zeroed in on the precise water cost of a boom period in the expansion of those crops.
Between 2017 and 2021 alone, almond bearing acres grew by 32 percent and pistachio acres increased by 63 percent, according to the new report.
“That expansion necessitated the withdrawal of an extra 523 billion gallons of water for irrigation — enough water to supply nearly four million households with enough water for an entire year. In a megadrought where small farmers and households are struggling to survive, those numbers are sobering,” the group revealed.
The report also revealed the following in almond and pistachio acreage trends:
• Despite dwindling water supplies and years of intense droughts, thirsty almond acreage in California has increased steadily since the 1990s.
• An estimated 1,640,000 acres of land were dedicated to water-hungry almonds in 2021 in California according to the USDA, including 320,000 acres producing almonds and 320,000 not yet bearing acres.*
• According to 2021 USDA Census data, 409,000 acres were pistachio bearing acres — a 64 percent increase in bearing acres compared to 2017.
• Total almond and pistachio bearing and non-bearing acres in 2021 amounted to more than 2,700 square miles.
• Almond and pistachio orchards are permanent and need to be watered year-round, which is becoming increasingly difficult with limited water resources.
• Small farmers who do not have senior water rights or the capital to drill deeper wells to pump large amounts of groundwater must make difficult decisions with their limited water.
• The continuation of the intense drought in 2022, high water prices and a myriad of other factors are prompting some farmers to reconsider their water allocation towards the thirsty crop.
To show how this expansion of almond and pistachio acreage impacts the current climate change crisis, Food and Water Watch highlighted the following data:
* * *
Warmer temperatures mean crops require more water to make up for the additional water lost via evapotranspiration. -
The Public Policy Institute of California estimated that crop water demands increased by 8 percent in 2021 — in response to average temperatures that year being nearly 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the average annual temperature during the 20th century. -
Because surface water is drying up during the drought, state and federal water projects are delivering less and less water to farmers. Insufficient surface water, lack of groundwater regulations and advancing technology have led large agribusinesses to pump groundwater at an alarming rate for years. -
Groundwater accounts for 30 percent of water used by California agriculture in wet years, and a staggering 80 percent of water in dry years.
“The majority of these crops are grown in the San Joaquin Valley, an arid landscape where 683 wells have gone dry this year alone — a 123 percent increase from last year,” the group states. “Unlike industrial agribusiness, most small farmers and residents in the Central Valley who rely on private wells for daily water use can’t afford to drill ever deeper in search of groundwater. And while Governor Gavin Newsom dodges mandatory action on the drought, that unequal access is likely to grow.”
According to a 2015 report from the Congressional Research Service, almonds and pistachios require an average of 3.5 acre-feet of water (about 1.1 million gallons) applied per acre of nut trees annually.
The report also reveals that an estimated 58 percent of California’s almonds were exported in 2020 — essentially exporting 880 billion gallons of the state’s already limited water supply.
The California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) has also published a short report on almonds and agricultural water use in California: https://bit.ly/aboutalmonds
C-WIN says agriculture uses 34 million acre-feet of water
or 80% of the 43 million acre-feet of California’s developed water supply, but contributes only 2% to the California economy.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, almond acreage went from 640,000 acres to 1,640,000 acres between 2004 and 2021. San Joaquin County alone went from 1,757 acres to 43,121 between 2008 and 2021, C-WIN reported.
C-WIN reported almonds use approximately 4.9-5.7 million acre-feet of water per year, which is up to 17% of the total agricultural water use in California and 13% of the total developed water supply.
“Since California’s developed water supply is 43 million acre-feet, 5.7 million acre-feet is 13% of the total developed water supply in California, or conservatively 11% of the total supply,” the group observed.
At the same time as almond and pistachio crop acreage has skyrocketed in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has been moving forward with the Delta Tunnel, voluntary water agreements and the construction of Sites Reservoir to benefit powerful corporate agribusiness interests. These projects will only worsen the ecological collapse in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary and hasten the extinction of endangered Sacramento River spring and winter-run chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon.
The Governor’s support of these projects is no surprise, since Stewart and Lynda Resnick, major promoters of the Delta Tunnel and increased water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, have donated a total of $366,800 to Governor Gavin Newsom since 2018, including $250,000 to the campaign to fight the Governor’s recall.
Newsom received a total of $755,198 in donations from agribusiness in the 2018 election cycle, based on the data from www.followthemoney.org. That figure includes a combined $116,800 from Stewart and Lynda Resnick and $58,400 from E.J. Gallo, combined with $579,998 in the agriculture donations category.
The Resnicks, nicknamed “the Koch Brothers of California” by activists, have contributed many millions of dollars to candidates from both sides of the political aisle and to proposition campaigns so they can continue selling back public water to the public at a huge profit while promoting legislation and other efforts to weaken laws protecting fish, wildlife and water. The Resnicks are considered the largest tree fruit growers in the world.
The Resnicks have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to not only Newsom, but to Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger and other governors in California. Their donations of many millions of dollars to candidates, campaigns and committees, as well as contributions of hundreds of millions of dollars to the University of California system and the arts through the Resnick Family Foundation, have bought them disproportionate influence on water and environmental policy in California.
How did the Resnicks acquire so much water to grow their crops and sell water to other water users? Well, during a secret meeting in Monterey between state regulators and major irrigators in 1994, the conclave’s participants decided to eliminate the “urban preference” directive from the operational mandate of the State Water Project (SWP), according to C-WIN: <https://bit.ly/CAwatergrab>
“In other words, cities would no longer be first in line for water allocations during drought. Cutbacks would be shared by cities and farms equally,” the group wrote.
“Then something even more appalling happened. In the same meeting, the State ceded control of the Kern Water Bank, a vast, rechargeable aquifer designated as an emergency reservoir for urban drought relief, to the Kern County Water Agency (KCWA). Almost immediately, KCWA transferred 58% control of the water bank to Stewart and Lynda Resnick, Beverly Hills billionaires and heavyweight Democratic Party fundraisers who — among other ventures — cultivate 130,000 acres of almonds, pistachios, and pomegranates in the San Joaquin Valley,” the group wrote.
There is no doubt that the “Monterey Agreement” helped clear the path for the privatization of public trust water resources in California for the benefit of agribusiness billionaires like the Resnicks. The result is that one billionaire oligarch couple alone — the Resnicks — now use more water to irrigate their crops than the residents of Los Angeles use in an entire year, according to Mother Jones: motherjones.com/environment/2016/08/lynda-stewart-resnick-california-water/
LIKE OYSTERS IN THEIR SHELLS
by Malcolm Gaskill
This is what happens when you die. Electricity stops flowing through your neural circuitry and consciousness shuts down as though a switch has been flicked. Blood keeps moving for a while, ebbing without the heart’s propulsion before succumbing to gravity and pooling in the lower back where it congeals. Starved of oxygen, cells are dismantled by enzymes with nothing else to do now life is at an end. Three or four hours later the cooling body enters rigor mortis. Muscles lock and eyelids stiffen, followed shortly by the face and neck. Another few hours and all softness and suppleness has vanished – but within a day or so everything relaxes in the same order it seized up. Not that it’s an entirely dignified restoration. Lips shrivel, the nose twists and cheeks migrate to the ears. Eyeballs deflate and sink into the skull. It’s not all bad news, though, because the tension, worry and pain of existence will have drained from your face. You look serene, unbothered, content. You’re off the hook.
During this process, there’s a good chance you won’t be alone, or not for long. Quite a few people will participate in the removal, inspection and disposal of your corpse. Their work is discreet and business-like. By and large, they’re anonymous. Most people in the developed West hide from the reality of death, and those who don’t, those who make a living from it, are hidden from us. Hayley Campbell wants us to peer into this strange world, not least because it’s where we’re all heading – 55 million of us annually, more than six thousand every hour. Startling and affecting, her candid, compassionate investigation is based on interviews with those who work with dead bodies. We can spare ourselves by closing the book – but we shouldn’t, because Campbell is scared too and has cared enough to do the work in the sincere belief that it will do us good. Nor has she brought us here only to meet the corpse-handlers: we are here to see corpses, the past beloved, who, for all our fond feeling, might as well be monsters.
We know death is there – over the horizon, round the corner, tugging at our sleeve – but, as La Rochefoucauld observed, we cannot stare directly at it, and when we finally do it’s only because we can’t help it. Until then we contrive to disguise dying with art and literature, spirituality and religion. Death is personified as an adversary, as in The Seventh Seal, sometimes faced down by love, as in Romans 6:9 where death “hath no more dominion,” a tyrant deposed by Christ. Dylan Thomas made a poem from this bit of scripture, joined to the hope that “Though lovers be lost love shall not” – a secular prayer also given expression in Larkin’s “An Arundel Tomb.” Among extinction’s consolations, the fiction of the afterlife reigns supreme. The dead bask or lurk beyond the veil, or they haunt us as ghosts and revenants, behaving in the only way we can reasonably imagine: as though they were still alive.
In previous ages, death was not taboo. The memento mori of funerary sculpture – skulls, scythes, rapidly draining hourglasses – exhorted the living to live well. The medieval trope of the danse macabre did a similar job, showing kings and bishops being dragged off with peasants and paupers; the aesthetic of “death be not proud” came later. After 1700 an iconography inherited from the days of plague was superseded by romantic angels and weeping willows, broken columns and ivied urns. We’ve not really moved on.