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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Sept. 12, 2022

Marine Influence | Disco Dining | Helping Hand | Village Events | 1890 Lasses | Ed Notes | Mill Remnants | Lit Chat | Sisters | Landlines Better | SS Samoa | Agenda Item | Mother/Daughter | Both Ways | Yesterday's Catch | Moth Save | Canclinis | One Woman | Madam Stickney | Survivor Fund | Fire Helmet | Wildfire Reprieve | Gogh School | Shasta Melt | Steel Mill | Ugly Loss | Bear Chair | Autumn Begins | Feline HOF | Carolina Bugs | Great Ridge | Saddened | Underwear Models | Forever War | Collapse | 21 Years | McOrigin | Hard Work | Ukraine | Wounded Angel | Vulnerable | Minus One | OED | Honeybunch Kaminski | Writer/Adventurer | Monarchy | Royal Oligarchs | Springtime Flight

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TEMPERATURES WILL BE NEAR NORMAL or even slightly below normal across the interior during next few days. Coastal areas will also see more marine influence with cooler afternoon temperatures and areas of morning low clouds and fog. (NWS)

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Stacey Rose at Disco Ranch, Boonville

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by Fort Bragg Mayor Bernie Norvell

Client HB is a Fort Bragg local who has frequented Fort Bragg Police Department since 1991, resulting in 283 police contacts. As the Care Response Unit was able to build rapport with Mr. HB, CRU was able to find and connect Mr. HB with his immediate support system. CRU found Mr. HB struggling with drug use, depression, little to no interest with local resources, and homelessness. With much effort, CRU was able to obtain Mr. HB ID after multiple attempts. While obtaining Identification CRU worked with Mr. HB and his mother who has relocated out of the area when Mr. Hb was 21 years of age. CRU explained the severity of Mr. HB’s condition and asked his mother if she was willing to work with CRU to help guide Mr. HB to get back on his feet. His mother was more than happy to work with CRU and even reported that she would be willing to house Mr. HB at her residence.

Jannette Ornelas and Hannah Nanez

Upon the arrival of the identification card, CRU purchased a Homeward Bound Ticket enabling Mr. HB to return home to his support system. CRU and Fort Bragg Police Department checked in with Mr. HB on a day to day basis to ensure his well-being. CRU learned that Mr. Hb struggled with riding the bus the whole way through to Ohio. CRU prepared Mr. HB to the best of their abilities by providing multiple meals before his excursion, as well as packing 6 large meals for the duration of his itinerary. CRU also housed Mr. HB in Motel 6 overnight so he had a good night’s rest, access to showers, phone, and bathrooms. CRU made a plan to meet Mr. HB in the morning to get breakfast and finalize his efforts in Fort Bragg.

The day of departing Fort Bragg to board the Greyhound in Ukiah, Mr. HB was feeling overwhelmed with his trip. CRU partnered with Fort Bragg Police Department Community Service Officers to remind him of how much support he has with Fort Bragg Police Department as well as his family in Ohio. 

Mr. HB felt as if the process was moving too fast. CRU listened to his needs and was able to fulfill his goodbyes with the family he had made in Fort Bragg. CRU and Mr. HB compromised and coordinated a thoughtful plan that brought Mr. HB a great sense of relief and confidence. Mr. HB was extremely sad that he was closing this chapter of his life and leaving his friends, yet at the same time, he is so eager to get the support he needs and to become sober. Mr. HB stated it was his mission to make it possible thanks to the CRU women and Fort Bragg Police Department.

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ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE list of upcoming events:

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Four Mendo Lasses, 1890

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BOONVILLE SCHOOL SUPE, Louise Simson, who has wrought minor miracles in re-energizing the local educational effort, now faces the even more daunting fiscal problems presented by our aged school facilities, most urgently requiring immediate action being a failed septic system at the Elementary School, which has to be pumped weekly, a very expensive proposition.

FORTUNATELY for the Superintendent, she has a capable, supportive school board likely to agree with her on priority spending on the most pressing structural repairs.

YES, we just passed a school bond measure, but now comes the tough decisions on what projects to address in what order without exhausting the first round of bond money before everything that needs doing gets done. A failed septic system can't be endured, so it will have to be re-done, but with state reimbursement for the work taking the state a full year to pay, means other work nearly as pressing will have to be postponed.

TOTALLY AT A LOSS, San Francisco has been reduced to asking for suggestions on what to do about the homeless and the perhaps even more numerous free range drug people, the latter now a common sight shooting up and stumbling around on city streets. 

OPINIONS on what to do range from flame throwers to mass arrests to bus tickets to Portland to humane but vague strategies heavy on wishful thinking for creating housing and drug treatment. 

LONDON BREED, SF's feckless mayor is running neck and neck with Oakland's Libby Schaff for the Bay Area's least effective leader trophy. 

BREED has conceded that Frisco's failed, tax-funded open-air drugs market will close — not now but at the end of the year while she simultaneously announced the identical “San Francisco Recovers” plan, featuring “supervised consumption sites where drug users can safely use substances under medical supervision to prevent accidental overdose deaths.”

THE MODIFIED OPEN AIR DRUG PLAN will include “electronically-tagging users and having police officers track them down and confiscate their drugs if they wander into known drug-dealing areas.” 

SF's Breed-cloned supervisors want “job placement and training instead of imprisonment for those who agree to stop drug dealing, and “right to recovery” zones near treatment centers, with “zero tolerance for possession or dealing,” plus “supervised drug consumption sites.” 

SUPERVISOR DORSEY, who represents some of the worst drug-infested and homeless-heavy areas of the central city, declared, “This is a way that nobody's going to jail but we're doing an effective job of interrupting the drug market and drug scenes.” And he wasn't joking.

I THINK of the pointless, expensive, public-hostile "safety" remodel of the Supervisor's chambers as The James Marmon Project because I'm pretty sure former CEO Angelo had Marmon in mind when she unilaterally approved the expenditure of some $430,000, not including staff time, for the alleged security re-do. 

ANGELO was the major benefactress of Camile Schraeder, boss of an array of the County's privatized social services; Schraeder, who also has a court order restraining the Clearlaker biker from allegedly menacing her. Marmon is a former County social worker fired for doing a conscientious job as a CPS worker, and given that he's large, bearded and rhetorically belligerent, and given that Angelo doesn't seem to care much for males as a human species, having created a kind of gyno-centric administrative apparatus to rule the rudderless County of Mendo… Well, Marmon served her, and still serves Schraeder, as a catch-all boogeyman.

THE “SAFETY” GLASS and metal detectors in the Supe's chambers remind me of former Supervisor Jim Wattenburger who was revealed as carrying a handgun to Supe's meetings because “hippies” were threatening him. These are difficult times for the paranoids, menace everywhere.

A GROUP calling itself “Marin Freedom Rising” is sponsoring several candidates on the November 2022 ballot, hoping to gain seats on several public school boards and town councils. They're a Trump front group which thinks vaccines and the science around deadly viruses is some kind of conspiracy to kill Americans. They say they aim to graft themselves onto every school board and town council in Marin. So far, there's no Mendo Freedom Rising, but they're out there, fer shure, fer shure.

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Remains of Caspar Lumber Mill, 1978

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Dick Whetstone: Three authors to add to your everything list: Peter Matthiessen, Jim Harrison, and John McPhee, but especially his Pulitzer Prize winning Annals of the Former World.

Whyte Owen: Two more for anyone interested in the comic opera of university culture: Moo by Jane Smiley and Straight Man by Richard Russo. Pretty accurate in my experience at the U of Iowa.

Chuck Artigues: Late to the party, but here is my list:

  • Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana
  • Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
  • How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

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Mrs. John Sinclair and Sister, Ukiah, 1885

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ANDREW SCULLY (in response to a Coast Chat Line comment): 

Now as far as the phone service and AT&T and such:

You raised an interesting point about the fragility of our phone infrastructure, particularly the cell system in rural areas. You state that in many rural areas landlines are the only means of communication, especially in an emergency.

You're right. What many people may not realize is that your comment is equally valid and true in urban areas.

Rural, urban, exurban, or in outer space, a landline is more reliable and solid than cell. Cellular phone service is usually overwhelmed and swamped first thing out of the box in any emergency event. It doesn't matter where you are. In fact a person in a "far-flung" area may have cell service longer in an emergency event then a person in a heavily populated urban area.

Here's a news flash for everybody:

The cell phone infrastructure is vulnerable everywhere. Not just in rural areas, but equally if not more so in urban areas. Ask anybody that's been in any large area with a lot of people in any "event".

If more than about 2% of those people pick up the phone at any one time that whole system goes down right now.

Landlines are the only solid means and best line of communication in an emergency. Not perfect. Not 100%. But better than cell service.

Rural, urban or non-binary.

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SS Samoa, Caspar Lumber Company, 1913

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QUESTION: Is the below agenda item on next Tuesday’s Supervisors Agenda a good faith effort to get financial information, or an attempt to blame the newly elected Auditor/Tax Collector for long-standing problems in the CEO’s office? (Or some of both?)

Mendocino County BOS - Tuesday, Sept 13, 2022 - item 4D

Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction for Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector to Provide Financial Information Request Responses to Board of Supervisors by Agreed Upon Timeframes (Sponsors: Budget Ad-Hoc of Supervisor Williams and Supervisor McGourty)

Recommended Action/Motion:

Direct Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector to provide financial information request responses to Board of Supervisors by agreed upon timeframes

Previous Board/Board Committee Actions:

On June 21, 2022 the Board of Supervisors as part of item 4b) discussed possible action including direction to staff regarding the consolidation of the offices of Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector. During this meeting, the Board of Supervisors directed County Counsel and Acting Auditor-Controller/Treasurer Tax Collector to work together to come back with a comprehensive plan. Supervisor Mulheren suggested Budget Ad-Hoc of Supervisor Williams and Supervisor McGourty help facilitate the plan.

On July 12, 2022 the Board of Supervisors as part of item 4b) discussed (1) adoption of an urgency ordinance accelerating the consolidation of the offices of Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector; and (2) adoption of a resolution amending the position allocation table and appointing Chamise Cubbison to the position of Auditor-Controller/Treasurer Tax-Collector.   

Summary of Request: 

The Board of Supervisors is requesting the following information from the Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector be provided by agreed upon timeframes.


• Clarification if Special Districts have been audited, if not, timeline for completing audits

• Clarification of title of Chief Financial Officer used on Auditor-Controller’s website versus title of Chief Accounting Officer per Government Code 26881

• Clarification why County Financial Transaction Report is late with warning of fines

Policy & Procedures (P&Ps)/Plans/Matrix

• Documents or diagrams describing county reporting methodologies

• Financial data backup schedule, log, location, and service(s)

• List of software accounting problems reported to vendor, date reported, current status of identifications of which mandated duties are impossible without vendor remedy

• Written outline of roles and responsibilities by job function in Auditor-Controller/Treasury-Tax Collector departments

• Written plan, including timelines, for payroll processing resiliency


• Any data, formulas, documentation utilized in preparing annual reports, including adjustments, beyond with is in Tyler Munis

• Forecast on anticipated increase in revenue next fiscal year

• Monthly Reports including but not limited to:

x Balance Sheet/Statement of Assets

x Cash Balances

x Designated Reserves

x Trust Accounts

x Revenue and Expense, Actual vs Budget

x Realignment Funds

x Trends

• Report of outstanding Accounts Payable over 90 days, including dates, amounts, and line items status

Resource Requests

• Written request of what tools the Auditor-Controller/Treasure-Tax Collector departments need to complete tasks, example: staffing, consultants, software, or other resources

• Identification of vacant staff positions necessary to perform all mandated duties and board requests

Status Updates

• Status of Fiscal Year (FY) 2021/22 year-end close including an estimate of FY2021/22 carryforward balance, broken out by one-time vs on-going, for use in ongoing labor negotiation

• Status of Refunds (Property Tax and Other)

• Status of Supplemental Tax Roles

• Status of TOT Audits

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Mark Scaramella Notes: Since this proposed “direction” does not mention the CEO’s office, even though some of the requests obviously apply to the CEO’s “budget team,” we think there’s a thinly disguised agenda to this rather pointed “direction” which appears, at least in part, to be an attempt to put Auditor-Tax Collector Chamise Cubbison on the spot. We have yet to see anything like “direction” to the CEO on any of these subjects. It will be interesting to see how Auditor-Tax Collector Cubbison responds to this on Tuesday.

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Finnish Mother and Daughter, Fort Bragg, 1919

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Mendocino Railway, A Railroad Only When It's Convenient And Profitable To The Corporation And Not The Employees.

Back in 2006 there was a determination by the Railroad Retirement Board, a division of the federal Surface Transportation Board, that found that Mendocino Railway with Robert Pinoli at the helm and its sister company Sierra Entertainment were not subject to the employment/retirement requirements of a federally regulated carrier.

The information that was provided to the Railroad Retirement Board that exempted Mendocino Railway and Sierra Entertainment from being regulated by the Railroad Retirement Board and The Surface Transportation Board was supplied by Mendocino Railroads parent corporation Sierra Railroad, with Mike Hart at the helm.

In other words, Pinoli and Hart fought and won so as to not be classified as a railroad and to be subject to federal retirement and unemployment guidelines. This allowed them to pay the employees at rates not regulated by any agencies other than typical service industry rates and not the federally regulated specialty rates reserved for those watching out for the safety of passengers on public transportation.

Today Mendocino Railway is claiming that it has always been a Federally regulated railroad even though it pushed through the exemption 16 years ago. I guess it's more profitable to be a railroad today than just an excursion ride. I wonder what those working for Mendocino Railway think about that?

The Decision made in 2006 still stands today.

The attached document (above) acquired through public records speaks for itself.

PS: The Mendocino Railway article could seem to lack context as three pages of the four page letter did not make it to print, nor is the link to the complete letter in the article. Here is the link to the complete letter.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, September 11, 2022

Allen, Arreola, Ayling, Domanowki

EVAN ALLEN, Ukiah. DUI, controlled substance while armed with loaded firearm.

DANIEL ARREOLA, Fortuna/Laytonville. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance, addict driving a vehicle, pot sales.

KOREY AYLING, Magalia/Fort Bragg. DUI, resisting.

MICHAEL DOMANOWSKI, Ukiah. County parole violation.

Hobbs, Joaquin, Leon

ARTHUR HOBBS, Boonville. Vehicle registration tampering, failure to appear.

LAWRENCE JOAQUIN, Covelo. Under influence, parole violation.

LEVI LEON, Willits. Controlled substance, resisting.

Lucas, Martinez, Nunez

JESSIE LUCAS, Laytonville. Controlled substance, under influence, paraphernalia, conspiracy.

VICTOR MARTINEZ, Boonville. Grand theft, stolen property, conspiracy.

MARLEN NUNEZ-ALVAREZ, Boonville. Grand theft, stolen property, controlled substance, conspiracy.

Roth, Simpson, Tepale

ROGER ROTH, Healdsburg/Willits. Paraphernalia.

GERALD SIMPSON, Willits. County parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)

ANGEL TEPALE, Ukiah. Battery. 

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On the Pittsburgh/Bay Point BART this morning, I notice a man crouching down and trying to grab something off the floor. I look closer and see that he is trying to catch a moth that has somehow gotten onto the train. At West Oakland Station, he shoos the moth out the door. I walk over and tell him how nice of him it was to do that. He shrugs and says, “It’s probably the most important thing I'll do all day.”

— Mona Irwin

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The Canclini Family, Little River, 1908

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Dear AVA,

I thought I should write a farewell letter as I am now in prison for 18 years to life for the attempted murder of notorious woman beater and sneak thief William Berry. This evil dude once cut off a woman's middle finger! He didn't even have the gumption to come to court and face me. He was he has since left Mendocino County. Good riddance.

But this is God's will. I'm in prison.

Anyway, due to my 2020 arrest, the city of Ukiah is minus one woman beater. This Berry villain was once run out of San Francisco for abuse of women and robbing homeless people. He survived nearly 20 years in Ukiah as a Ukiah Police informant. Even the Ukiah cops got tired of tricks.

I would appreciate one thing in conclusion: if just one Ukiah woman would step up to the plate and be brave enough to send a thank you.

David Giusti, BS 7708

North Kern State Prison

P.O. Box 4999

Delano, CA 93216

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A Lady of the Stickney Clan

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The Fire Victims’ Trust could vastly increase its transparency by releasing audited financial statements. The trust owes an accounting to survivors of the fires. I recommend that William Abrams, who has successfully litigated for more financial information, go back and ask for release of the audited financial statements. This document will shed a lot of light on the spending.

Any entity in charge of $13.5 billion must have financial statements. The Fire Victims Trust should do the right thing and release its financial statements.

My family is a victim of the 2017 Nuns Canyon Fire. Our house and all our belongings burned to the ground. We moved back into our house three months ago, almost five years after the fire. We have received a pittance from the trust so far. The hardship has been great.

I find it disgusting that we, like everybody I know whose home burned, have received so little while the administrators of the trust seemingly feed at the trough. Transparency would go a long way.

Gary McClernan


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Fireman's Helmet, Japan, 18th Century

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A New York Times pictorial report…

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by Kurtis Alexander

Mount Shasta, the widely recognizable face of California’s far north, has lost almost all its defining snow cover for a second straight year.

Another summer of scorching temperatures, punctuated by the recent heat wave, has melted most of the mountain’s lofty white crown, typically a year-round symbol of the north state’s enduring wilds.

The lack of snow not only means unfamiliar views of the bare 14,000-foot-plus giant, it is hastening the demise of the mountain’s glaciers. While the seven named ice sheets have been retreating for years, if not decades, the diminishing snow, which helps insulate the glaciers and keep them from thawing, has caused an unprecedented melt-off: About 20% of the glaciers’ ice, and possibly more, is expected to have vanished over the past two summers.

Mount Shasta, nearly devoid of snow, as seen from Montague (Siskiyou County) last month. (Stephen Lam/The Chronicle)

The renowned Whitney Glacier — the longest glacier in California — lost up to 9 inches of ice depth a day during this month’s record heat, according to Mauri Pelto, director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project and a professor of environmental science at Nichols College in Massachusetts.

Scientists say the current rate of decline is simply not sustainable.

“If we do this a few more years, there won’t be any more glacial ice on the mountain,” said Phil Dawson, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s California Volcano Observatory, who grew up on the slopes of the now-dormant volcano. “Mount Shasta is a visual reminder that we’re in different times now. The Sierra glaciers are almost all gone. ... Same going north, to Alaska, and the Himalayas.”

The loss of snow and ice on Mount Shasta has created a raft of problems. The rocky slopes have become destabilized as the frosty cover has faded, unleashing dangerous mudslides down the mountain. Forests are drying out and inviting more wildfire. Water supplies have shrunk for local communities dependent on springs as well as for residents statewide who rely on the mountain’s runoff to Shasta Lake.

This year, most of the mountain’s snow was gone in August, slightly later than last year but still not staying into late summer or fall, which is usually the case, if not remaining year-round. The snowpack was already low after a dry winter, which marked a third year of drought, and was no match for the above-average heat that bore down in the second half of summer.

Some snow lingers on the north side of the peak, but the southern and western flanks visible from Interstate 5 have become mostly barren. Without snow, the glaciers are directly exposed to the sun and more prone to melting.

During this month’s 10-day heat wave, the roughly 150-acre Whitney Glacier, which averages about 100 feet thick, lost 6 to 9 inches of ice depth a day, according to Pelto.

“All of a sudden that’s several percent of the glacier melting away in a short span of time,” he said. “It’s like if you had a big pile of ice in your yard in the heat, it’s going to melt at a pretty good clip.”

Pelto estimates that Whitney Glacier will lose up to 10% of its total volume this year after surrendering 10% to 15% last year. The other two major glaciers on the mountain, Bolam and Hotlum, are probably receding at the same pace, he says.

“That’s just not a sustainable rate for more than a few years,” Pelto said. “And this story is being repeated. Maybe next summer it doesn’t happen in California, or maybe not the same mountain range, but there’s no mountain range that’s escaping it over the span of two or three years.”

The area that the glaciers on Mount Shasta cover is less than half what it was 20 years ago, according to Pelto.

Perhaps the biggest repercussion of the melt-off, or at least the most visible this year, is the debris flows on the south side of the mountain. As the snow and ice have disappeared, rocks and soil have become untethered.

The small town of McCloud (Siskiyou County), about an hour’s drive north of Redding, faced a crushing water shortage this summer after repeated mudslides in the aptly named Mud Creek filled a drainage where a critical pipeline crosses. The above-ground line had to be shut down because of the debris pounding it.

“It takes us days to clear out the channel and just hours for it to fill back up,” said Amos McAbier, general manager of the McCloud Community Services District, who led a futile effort to save the pipe. “The mud will come in pulses. Sometimes you’ll see things relaxed and laid back, but then we’ll get a pulse and we’ll get a big mudflow.”

Crews with heavy construction equipment spent weeks trying to clear debris from the creek where the town’s water line runs. Fortunately, the community recently won grant money to install a new line in the ground beneath the drainage.

“It’s just Mother Nature,” McAbier said. “It’s amazing and it’s beautiful, but it just kind of makes us feel like little ants down here.”

A handful of roads around the mountain and parts of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest remain closed because of the risk of slides.

The U.S. Geological Survey this year installed additional seismometers around the mountain, historically used for monitoring earthquakes and volcanic activity, but now for also detecting debris flows.

Dawson, with the agency, said the past several weeks have been quiet, likely because most of the snow on the mountain is gone and whatever debris was loosened has already come down. However, he worries about water in the glaciers. While glacial melt-off normally comes in a steady trickle, the ice sheets can store large deposits of water, which can break free at any time and cause flash flooding.

Mount Shasta, Dawson said, has just changed a lot since his childhood.

“It’s very different in the West than it was,” Dawson said. “I grew up with a white mountain. Now I see brown. It’s depressing.”

(SF Chronicle)

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Steel Mill, Germany, 1920s

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by Eric Branch

QB Trey Lance wasn’t helped by the sloppy conditions, but he also didn’t help himself. He overshot a throw to tight end Tyler Kroft that would have been a 32-yard TD pass, threw behind Jauan Jennings on third down, and his inaccuracy was most evident on the final play of the first half: He short-armed a lob pass to Deebo Samuel with most of the Bears backed up near the end zone in a prevent defense. Lance was part of an offense that committed two turnovers, scored one TD in three red-zone trips and didn’t score in the final 23 minutes. The final four drives: punt, interception, downs, downs.

They allowed 15 first downs and 204 yards, which is excellent, and shot themselves in the foot, unofficially, on 57 snaps?

Five of Chicago’s first downs came via penalty, four during their 19-0, game-ending run. The tone was set for LB Dre Greenlaw’s forgettable day when he whiffed on a punt-forcing tackle attempt on a 16-yard pass to RB David Montgomery on 3rd-and-6 in the first quarter. What followed: Two 15-yard penalties and a TD allowed in coverage. QB Justin Fields only attempted 17 passes, but he was kept relatively clean despite being protected by two young tackles who were fifth-round picks. The 49ers had two sacks and only one other QB hit.

The Bears had zero punt-return yards thanks to the handiwork of Mitch Wishnowsky, who had a 40.3 net average on four punts and forced Chicago to begin drives at its own 6-, 8- and 16-yard lines. Tarvarius Moore had a perfectly timed hit on returner Dante Pettis on the drive that began at the Bears’ 6. Ray-Ray McCloud, signed to enliven the return game, had a 16-yard punt runback. Robbie Gould made his extra-point attempt and a 25-yard field goal. Routine stuff, but notable considering the surface.

The in-transition Bears, with their rookie head coach and 11 rookies, figured to be the sloppier team. Instead, it was the veteran-laden 49ers who looked thrown together: 12 penalties, 99 yards. Kyle Shanahan said the field conditions factored into Lance having 13 carries, but it’s not sustainable to use him so much as a runner. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans smartly often lined up safety Talanoa Hufanga at linebacker and sent him on effective run blitzes.

OK, it’s one game. But was that a bit ominous? The Bears are so bereft of talent that they recently signed an NFL-high seven players off waivers, but the 49ers’ charity helped them resemble The Monsters of the Midway during the late-game spree. It’s not time to panic. But a home loss to the Seahawks in Week 2? Then you can feel free to freak out.

* * *

* * *


Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

by James Wright

In the Shreve High football stadium,

I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,

And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,

And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,

Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.

Their women cluck like starved pullets,

Dying for love.


Their sons grow suicidally beautiful

At the beginning of October,

And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.

* * *

* * *


by Tommy Wayne Kramer

Chiggers are small, affectionate animals frequently encountered in the southeast and which the North Carolina Board of Tourism wisely avoids mentioning in its travel literature and nature guides.

Chiggers are a tiny fraction of the size of a poppyseed but can run much faster. They have highly evolved mandibles, well developed teeth and complex digestive systems. They can be found throughout the Tarheel State except in areas of frozen tundra.

If you’re visiting and plan to be in the area only briefly, you should nonetheless be able to accumulate sufficient chigger experiences to last a lifetime. A stroll, or sprint, through grassy areas will almost guarantee the introduction of chiggers to ankles, and from there to calves and most other areas of the body covered by epidermis.

Go home, tell your friends, see the envy.

Having been made aware (aka warned) of the presence of chiggers in my new neighborhood, I took a cautious first visit around the backyard with an eye out for chiggers and other vermin. I next performed a close inspection of body parts that had been exposed.

(Note: Looking for chiggers without a microscope is like looking for Jupiter without a telescope.)

Chiggers had indeed made my acquaintance on that brief walk but were keeping quiet about it, at least for the next few days. But then one evening as sleep awaited me, the trumpets blew, the fires were lit, flashing red lights came on, and the anti-itch creams, lotions, emollients and Bic lighters were put into play.

I began thinking of designs for prototypes of socks made from aluminum foil. Heavy duty, military grade aluminum foil.

In California earthquakes are in your life in a vaguely menacing reality. In North Carolina, chiggers are in your socks in an itchy, omnipresent reality.

I spent 50 years in California and the closest I ever came to an earthquake were a few headlines in newspapers. Never felt a tremor. Never heard a rattle.

I’ve been in North Carolina about 15 minutes (well, six months) and am on a first-name basis with most of the chiggers in my neighborhood and have had intimate relations with dozens. I wonder if they can be domesticated.

Plus cicadas.

Another marvel of the North Carolina semi-insect world is the Cicada, a big, loud beetle whose nightly buzzsaw symphony is both thrilling and mysterious.

These fellers are about the size of your thumb. I’ve never seen one that wasn’t dead, and their buggy corpses, usually spotted on a sidewalk, are always worth pausing to inspect. Some have a glamorous iridescent emerald set of positively radiant wings even while ants busy themselves feasting on dead cicada innards.

Another version, almost as pretty as those wearing shiny layers of green, are exotic black-and-white cicadas, sort of like Dalmatians or zebras in their stark patterns.

When not dead, cicadas assemble in the trees around my house, all facing my direction and on a signal only they can hear, burst into “song” of a thousand raspy, hissy violinists working as a team to build crescendo after crescendo, then bang! and it’s over.

Instantly, simultaneously and abruptly, the surging gray noise of a thousand toy jet engines quits. Brief pause. Next, slowly and cicada by cicada, they pile their scratchy musical clouds atop each other’s, and soon comes the first wild crescendo.

Repeat and repeat on into the night. Next morning, dark and early, they’re still hard at it. No wonder they fall out of trees dead.

Of course they might not be cicadas at all; I’m no ophthalmologist. One set of critters could be members of the flying green toad family and the other a miniature sea gull. And maybe they make no noise whatsoever.

But if they aren’t cicadas, something else is busy whooping up loud catastrophes in my trees and bringing me storms of gray noise.

It’s a nice thought, actually. Who among us wouldn’t prefer a flock of miniature sea gulls occupying our trees to beetly beasts from the land of insects?

(Tom Hine is a retired journalist who also worked 34 years as a criminal defense investigator in California; he and his wife recently moved to the Charlotte area.)

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View of the Great Wall of China, 1871

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I watched a Frontline documentary on what led up to the 9/11 attack. It was interesting because Frontline is lauded to be a most respected reporting news program awarded notability for their accuracy in the researching of truths with evidence to back up all of their reporting. Bottom-line is (we) our Government has always had a hand in encouraging attacks to our Country. Part of the report started with why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, how we got into the Korean Conflict and of course Vietnam, which was a part of my military experience and has been with me ever since and a number of worldwide conflicts since. When I go to the SFVAMC for medical help and I see the young men (I’m sure there are many women although I don’t see as many) in wheel chairs without arms and legs, missing eyes and carrying burns struggling to exist I am harkened back to the Frontline reporting and I wonder how much of ALL of this did we brought on ourselves. And now I see a war I never thought I would see. The war amongst ourselves. As I enter my twilight years I am ever so saddened to live day to day in a country that has been reduced to lives chasing the almighty dollar and the ME generation. Is it too late to turn this around?

* * *

* * *


The devastating al-Qaida attack, and America’s response, had far-reaching consequences which are still developing

A new and deadly era began when the planes sliced into the twin towers on the morning of 11 September 2001. That evening, the historian Tony Judt wrote that he had seen the 21st century begin. The nearly 3,000 lives stolen by al-Qaida were only a small part of the toll. The horror began a chain of events that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, including huge numbers of civilians abroad and many US military personnel. 

If the killing of the plot’s mastermind Osama bin Laden a few months before the 10th anniversary perhaps let some hope that an end to that new era might be in sight, there can be no such false confidence at the 20th. The establishment of a Taliban government in Kabul, two decades after the US ousted the militants for harbouring Bin Laden, has underscored two things: that far from reasserting its global supremacy, the US looks more vulnerable today; and that the echoes of 9/11 are still reverberating across the region – but will not stay there.

Al-Qaida itself survives and others claim its mantle. In the west, the threat from Islamist terrorism endures – from 7/7 and the Madrid train bombings, to the attacks at Manchester Arena, the Berlin Christmas market and Vienna – though the nature of the threat has shifted, from a heavily financed, complex and internationally organised plot to more localised, less sophisticated attacks. This week, 20 men went on trial over the 2015 massacre at the Bataclan concert hall and other sites in Paris. Ken McCallum, MI5’s chief, said on Friday that the agency had prevented six “late stage” terrorist plots during the pandemic, and that with the Taliban’s triumph, “more risk progressively may flow our way”.

The determination to pursue a military solution fed the political problems, as history should have warned. (A Rand Corporation study of 248 terrorist groups worldwide suggested that only 7% were ended by military force.)

In Afghanistan, the refusal to accept a Taliban surrender paved the way for America’s longest war and ultimate acceptance of defeat. Islamic State arose from the ashes of the invasion of Iraq. Extraordinary renditions, torture, the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and the unwillingness to acknowledge or atone for civilian deaths at the hands of US forces or their allies all stoked the fire. These abuses and crimes were not anomalies but intrinsic to the war on terror. Men swept up in the aftermath are still held at Guantánamo Bay.

Around the world, basic rights were erased at home too. The US saw a massive expansion of presidential power; the veneration of secrecy; the destruction of norms; the normalisation of Islamophobia; the promotion of a narrative linking immigration and terrorism, breeding broader intolerance; and the encouragement of the belief that ordinary citizens were in a state of war. It is not hard to draw the line to the rise of Donald Trump and white supremacy, or rightwing populism elsewhere. In the US, far-right terror groups were behind most attacks last year; in the UK, police have said that the fastest growing terror threat is from the far right. The biggest perils to the US now appear not external but internal. The future of a divided and distrustful country looks increasingly precarious, its status in the world weakened.

Whatever many in the country once believed, American citizens cannot be isolated from the dangers of the outside world; trouble is not “always someplace else”. On 9/11, the country transitioned from a dream of unending tranquility at home to a nightmare of forever war. With the return of soldiers from Afghanistan, the US is more distanced from the enemy. But the conflict continues by other means, and without boots on the ground, drone strikes are more likely than ever to claim the lives of civilians as well as terrorist suspects. The US, and the west, cannot be safe at home while insecurity reigns abroad.


* * *

9/11 Tower Collapsing

* * *

AMERICANS REMEMBERED 9/11 ON SUNDAY with tear-choked tributes and pleas to "never forget," 21 years after the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.

The loss still felt immediate to Bonita Mentis, who wore a necklace with a photo of her slain sister, Shevonne Mentis.

"It's been 21 years, but it's not 21 years for us. It seems like just yesterday," she said before reading victims' names at the World Trade Center to a crowd that included Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff.

At the Pentagon, which also was targeted on 9/11, President Joe Biden vowed that the U.S. would continue working to root out terrorist plots and called on Americans to stand up for "the very democracy that guarantees the right to freedom that those terrorists on 9/11 sought to bury in the burning fire, smoke and ash." First lady Jill Biden spoke at the third attack site, a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

On Sept. 11, 2001, conspirators from the al-Qaida Muslim militant group seized control of jets to use them as passenger-filled missiles, hitting the trade center's twin towers and the Pentagon. The fourth plane was headed for Washington but crashed near Shanksville after crew members and passengers tried to storm the cockpit.

The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, reconfigured national security policy and spurred a U.S. "war on terror" worldwide. Sunday's observances came little more than a month after a U.S. drone strike killed a key al-Qaida figure who helped plot 9/11, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Pierre Roldan, who lost his cousin Carlos Lillo, a paramedic, said "we had some form of justice" when a U.S. raid killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

"Now that al-Zawahri is gone, at least we're continuing to get that justice," Roldan said.

The self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, still awaits a long-postponed military tribunal. An attorney for one of Mohammed's co-defendants this week confirmed ongoing negotiations toward a potential agreement to avoid a trial and impose lesser but still lengthy sentences.

The Sept. 11 attacks stirred — for a time — a sense of national pride and unity for many, while also subjecting Muslim Americans to years of suspicion and bigotry and engendering debate over the balance between safety and civil liberties. In ways both subtle and plain, the aftermath of 9/11 ripples through American politics and public life to this day.

But like some other victims' relatives, Jay Saloman fears that Americans' consciousness of 9/11 is receding.

"It was a terrorist attack against our country that day. And theoretically, everybody should remember it and, you know, take precautions and watch out," said Saloman, who lost his brother, Wayne Saloman.

By tradition, no political figures speak at the ground zero ceremony. The observance centers, instead, on relatives reading aloud the names of the dead.

Like a growing number of readers, Brooke Walsh-DiMarzio wasn't born yet when her relative died. But she took the podium to honor her grandmother, Barbara Walsh.

"I'm here today to represent generation 9/12, those who never experienced 9/11 but still suffer the aftermath of it," Walsh-DiMarzio said. "We will never, ever forget."

Nikita Shah wore a T-shirt that bore the de facto epigraph of the annual commemoration — "never forget" — and the name of her father, Jayesh Shah. She was 10 when he was killed.

The family later moved to Houston but often returns to New York for the anniversary to be "around people who kind of experienced the same type of grief and the same feelings after 9/11," said Shah.

Readers often add personal remarks that form an alloy of American sentiments about Sept. 11 — grief, anger, toughness, appreciation for first responders and the military, appeals to patriotism, hopes for peace, occasional political barbs, and a poignant accounting of the graduations, weddings, births and daily lives that victims have missed. A few readers note recent events, this year ranging from the still ongoing coronavirus pandemic to Russia's war in Ukraine.

Some relatives also lament that a nation which came together — to some extent — after the attacks has since splintered apart. Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which were reshaped to focus on international terrorism after 9/11, now see the threat of domestic violent extremism as equally urgent.

"It took a tragedy to unite us. It should not take another tragedy to unite us again," said Andrew Colabella, whose cousin, John DiGiovanni, died in the 1993 bombing World Trade Center bombing that presaged 9/11.

Communities around the country marked the day with candlelight vigils, interfaith services and other commemorations, and some Americans joined in volunteer projects. Others observed the anniversary with their own reflections.

More than 70 of Sekou Siby's co-workers perished at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the trade center's north tower. He had the day off because another cook asked him to switch shifts.

"Every 9/11 is a reminder of what I lost that I can never recover," says Siby, now president of ROC United, a restaurant workers' advocacy group. He said ahead of the anniversary that the attacks made him wary of becoming attached to people when "you have no control over what's going to happen to them next."

Ginny Barnett volunteered at the Shanksville site after the attacks and struggled for years to come to terms with the tragedy. She gradually found hope by volunteering for the memorial there now.

"I have seen firsthand the evil that man can do, but I have also seen the good that man can do," Barnett said Sunday. "With God's help, we can focus on and foster good, rather than let hate and anger consume us."


* * *


* * *

“I GREW UP hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that “hard work” was the secret of success: “Work hard and you’ll get ahead,” or, “It’s hard work that got us where we are.” No one ever said that you could work hard – harder even than you ever thought possible – and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.”

– Barbara Ehrenreich

* * *


The war appears to be entering a new phase after Ukraine dealt a big blow to Russia's grip on parts of the east with a fast-moving offensive that saw Ukrainian troops enter the strategic city of Iziumafter five months of occupation. 

Russian forces were forced to flee Izium just five days after Ukrainian forces began a new operation eastward through the Kharkiv region.

On Sunday, Ukraine's president said his military offensive had taken yet another settlement in the Kharkiv region. Ukrainian forces appear to have opened a new front against Russian defenses on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Meanwhile, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been shut down after it was reconnected to the power grid, Ukraine's nuclear energy agency said Sunday.

* * *

The Wounded Angel (1903) by Hugo Simberg

* * *

WHAT A PROFOUND THING it is to call for help. How astounding, the number of people fate allows to float through this life never once confronting their own mortality. One of the benefits of the fire and rescue business, if you will have it, is a near constant sense of vulnerability. A recognition that at the cellular level, or the speeding freight train level, we are but a particle removed from chaos. I have carried my kit in to find tattooed tavern clearing monsters weeping in bed, hairless from radiation, leaking soupy feces from a colostomy, skin like mottled pate, and on the walls beer mirrors and bellicose biker tchotchkes, and I think, how do we ever forget this sort of possibility? How do we lapse into what you might call ignortality? In part, I guess, because you simply can't function if you're always feeling the scythe pressed to your neck. I have knelt beside a wrecked car, seeing a burly 40-year-old shaking with pain and fear, and realized the last time I saw him he was steaming under the bright lights of the hometown football field, running his body like a weapon. I superimpose the image in my head over the image before me and try to keep the new one from displacing the old one so that later I can ponder the contrast and see what it might teach me. The lesson never concludes, but I'm getting parts of it. I understand that what you're doing when you call 911 — it sounds so perfunctory — is announcing to strangers that you are losing the battle. 

— Michael Perry, 'Meeting New Neighbors One Siren at a Time'

* * *

* * *

THE LONELY DRUDGERY of lexicography, the terrible undertow of words against which men like OED Editor Murray and Madman William Minor had so ably struggled and stood, now had at last its great reward. Twelve mighty volumes, the Oxford English Dictionary, 414,825 words defined; 1,827,306 illustrative quotations used, to which William Minor alone had contributed scores of thousands.

The total length of type — all hand set, for the books were done by letterpress, still discernible in the delicately impressed feel of the inked-on paper — is 178 miles, the distance between London and the outskirts of Manchester. Discounting every punctuation mark and every space — which any printer knows occupies as much time to set as does a single letter — there are no fewer than 227,779,589 letters and numbers.

Other dictionaries in other languages took longer to make, but none was greater, grander, or had more authority than this. The greatest ever since the invention of printing. The longest sensational serial ever written.

— Simon Winchester, "The Professor and the Madman, A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary"

* * *

* * *


I Remember One Time…

Don and I shared an apartment in the Berkeley flatlands. We were without girlfriends. With people of our age (I fifteen years older than he) and disposition, being without gf’s must be considered an unstable situation. Taking our cue from R. Crumb, we bewailed our lack and agreed that we needed “a couple of dope-crazed runaways”.

Since this is a true story and not an R. Crumb one, I must say it was probably not at that very moment there came a knock at our door. In my memory that’s how it miraculously happened. In fact, I don’t know, but it was not long after we put our longing into words that this happened. The knockers were two dope-crazed runaways.

That, too, must be elaborated. The two did not appear dope-crazed. They appeared cheery, smiling and ever so welcome. They would, soon enough, share whatever weed we had and whatever else under the heading of “dope” we were able to score. One was named Carol. I don’t know by what blessing they got our names and address. That was probably Don’s fault.

They shared our beds, our table and our apartment, in all its glory. I, the elder in all but maturity, was a single father with three adolescent children living downstairs, in a separate apartment. It was surely a reprehensible arrangement, but we all found it quite satisfactory, and I was flush, with a State job.

They were not exactly runaways, either. Both were beyond the age of consent, and their departure from their native Boston, if I remember correctly, was more in the nature of an adventure than an escape. Who cared? We frolicked.

It was a good thing, and we all know they must end. After I-don’t-remember-how-long, they said, sadly, they probably ought to be getting back to Boston. That was good and bad. Who knows what might have developed, had they stayed longer?

As they were about to go, the one whose name was not Carol said to me: “I just want to know one thing. Are you a bullshitter?” She was from Boston: “Ah you a bullshitta?”

I smiled my older-fella smile and said no, I wasn’t. Nor am I, mostly.

When I was little, schools still taught little children that George Washington cut down a cherry tree and, when asked by his father, admitted it. It was, to me, an impressive account. If I had used a gift tomahawk to cut down a cherry tree, my father would have told me to go get the red paddle.

I have always been mostly honest. I taught my children thus: “Life’s already too complicated to make it worse by lying. Tell the truth. You have less to remember. There are a couple of exceptions. When you’re looking for a job, a place to live, or confronting potentially hostile authority, truth is not relevant.” Older now, I add another exception. When you visit someone, especially if they’re ailing, it is not necessary to say, “You look like shit.” If asked, it’s okay to lie. I have not, in all these years, identified any other exceptions.

She asked me that question and provoked my smile because in the time she and Carol shared our space, we all told things about our lives. Mine was not just longer, it had been a deliberate quest for adventure. I read books no less when young than now. My books were full of adventures. Quite young, I piped, “I wanna be a writer and an adventurer.” There were examples in Jack London and Ernest Hemingway—and in countles others. I cannot recall turning down an adventure. If it was scary, that was better. I should be dead. When I remember my close calls, I wonder if I’m a bullshitter. I couldn’t have done all that stuff and still be here.

But I haven’t yet added senility to my life experiences, far as I can tell. Looking at old pictures, I wonder what were we doing there? Who’s that? Where was “there”? Many—MANY—of the things I recall, so many no longer decently dressed in whatever was the context, give me huge pleasure and a sense of wonder. I honored my little-boy plan. Whatever else I’ve done, while I was doing those things I have tended to my business. I have been a writer and an adventurer.

Jus’ sayin’.

* * *

James Connolly

“MONARCHY is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.” 

—James Connolly, 1910

* * *


No institution helps obscure the crimes of empire and buttress class rule and white supremacy as effectively as the British monarchy.

by Chris Hedges

The fawning adulation of Queen Elizabeth in the United States, which fought a revolution to get rid of the monarchy, and in Great Britain, is in direct proportion to the fear gripping a discredited, incompetent and corrupt global ruling elite.

The global oligarchs are not sure the next generation of royal sock puppets - mediocrities that include a pedophile prince and his brother, a cranky and eccentric king who accepted suitcases and bags stuffed with $3.2 million in cash from the former prime minister of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and who has millions stashed in offshore accounts - are up to the job. Let’s hope they are right.

“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories,” Patrick Freyne wrote last year in The Irish Times. “More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.”

Monarchy obscures the crimes of empire and wraps them in nostalgia. It exalts white supremacy and racial hierarchy. It justifies class rule. It buttresses an economic and social system that callously discards and often consigns to death those considered the lesser breeds, most of whom are people of color. The queen’s husband Prince Phillip, who died in 2021, was notorious for making racist and sexist remarks, politely explained away in the British press as “gaffes.” He described Beijing, for example, as “ghastly” during a 1986 visit and told British students: “If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty-eyed.”

The cries of the millions of victims of empire; the thousands killed, tortured, raped and imprisoned during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya; the 13 Irish civilians gunned down in “Bloody Sunday;” the more than 4,100 First Nations children who died or went missing in Canada’s residential schools, government-sponsored institutions established to “assimilate” indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture, and the hundreds of thousands killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan are drowned out by cheers for royal processions and the sacral aura an obsequious press weaves around the aristocracy. The coverage of the queen’s death is so mind-numbingly vapid — the BBC sent out a news alert on Saturday when Prince Harry and Prince William, accompanied by their wives, surveyed the floral tributes to their grandmother displayed outside Windsor Castle — that the press might as well turn over the coverage to the mythmakers and publicists employed by the royal family.

The royals are oligarchs. They are guardians of their class. The world’s largest landowners include King Mohammed VI of Morocco with 176 million acres, the HolyRoman Catholic Church with 177 million acres, the heirs of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with 531 million acres and now, King Charles III with 6.6 billion acres of land. British monarchs are worth almost $28 billion. The British public will provide a $33 million subsidy to the Royal Family over the next two years, although the average household in the U.K. saw its income fall for the longest period since records began in 1955 and 227,000 households experience homelessness in Britain. 

Royals, to the ruling class, are worth the expense. They are effective tools of subjugation. British postal and rail workers canceled planned strikes over pay and working conditions after the queen’s death. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) postponed its congress. Labour Party members poured out heartfelt tributes. Even Extinction Rebellion, which should know better, indefinitely canceled its planned “Festival of Resistance.” The BBC’s Clive Myrie dismissed Britain’s energy crisis — caused by the war in Ukraine — that has thrown millions of people into severe financial distress as “insignificant” compared with concerns over the queen's health.The climate emergency, pandemic, the deadly folly of the U.S. and NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, the rise of neo-fascist movements and deepening social inequality will be ignored as the press spews florid encomiums to class rule. There will be 10 days of official mourning.

In 1953, Her Majesty’s Government sent three warships, along with 700 troops, to its colony British Guiana, suspended the constitution and overthrew the democratically elected government of Cheddi Jagan. Her Majesty’s Government helped to build and long supported the apartheid government in South Africa. Her Majesty’s Government savagely crushed the Mau Mau independence movement in Kenya from 1952 to 1960, herding 1.5 million Kenyans into concentration camps where many were tortured. British soldiers castrated suspected rebels and sympathizers, often with pliers, and raped girls and women. By the time India won independence in 1947 after two centuries of British colonialism, Her Majesty’s Government had looted $45 trillion from the country and violently crushed a series of uprisings, including the First War of Independence in 1857. Her Majesty’s Government carried out a dirty war to break the Greek Cypriot War of Independence from 1955 to 1959 and later in Yemen from 1962 to 1969. Torture, extrajudicial assassinations, public hangings and mass executions by the British were routine. Following a protracted lawsuit, the British government agreed to pay nearly £20 million in damages to over 5,000 victims of British abuse during war in Kenya, and in 2019 another payout was made to survivors of torture from the conflict in Cyprus. The British state attempts to obstruct lawsuits stemming from its colonial history. Its settlements are a tiny fraction of the compensation paid to British slave owners in 1835, once it — at least formally — abolished slavery. 

During her 70-year reign, the queen never offered an apology or called for reparations.

The point of social hierarchy and aristocracy is to sustain a class system that makes the rest of us feel inferior. Those at the top of the social hierarchy hand out tokens for loyal service, including the Order of the British Empire (OBE). The monarchy is the bedrock of hereditary rule and inherited wealth. This caste system filters down from the Nazi-loving House of Windsor to the organs of state security and the military. It regiments society and keeps people, especially the poor and the working class, in their “proper” place.

The British ruling class clings to the mystique of royalty and fading cultural icons as James Bond, the Beatles and the BBC, along with television shows such as “Downton Abbey” — where in one episode the aristocrats and servants are convulsed in fevered anticipation when King George V and Queen Mary schedule a visit — to project a global presence. Winston Churchill’s bust remains on loan to the White House. These myth machines sustain Great Britain’s “special” relationship with the United States. Watch the satirical film In the Loop to get a sense of what this “special” relationship looks like on the inside. 

It was not until the 1960s that “coloured immigrants or foreigners” were permitted to work in clerical roles in the royal household, although they had been hired as domestic servants. The royal household and its heads are legally exempt from laws that prevent race and sex discrimination, what Jonathan Cook calls “an apartheid system benefitting the Royal Family alone.” Meghan Markle, who is of mixed race and who contemplated suicide during her time as a working royal, said that an unnamed royal expressed concern about the skin color of her unborn son.

I got a taste of this suffocating snobbery in 2014 when I participated in an Oxford Union debate asking whether Edward Snowden was a hero or a traitor. I went a day early to be prepped for the debate by Julian Assange, then seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy and currently in His Majesty's Prison Belmarsh. At a lugubrious black-tie dinner preceding the event, I sat next to a former MP who asked me two questions I had never been asked before in succession. “When did your family come to America?” he said, followed by “What schools did you attend?” My ancestors, on both sides of my family, arrived from England in the 1630s. My graduate degree is from Harvard. If I had failed to meet his litmus test, he would have acted as if I did not exist. 

Those who took part in the debate – my side arguing that Snowdon was a hero narrowly won – signed a leather-bound guest book. Taking the pen, I scrawled in large letters that filled an entire page: “Never Forget that your greatest political philosopher, Thomas Paine, never went to Oxford or Cambridge.”

Paine, the author of the most widely read political essays of the 18th century, Rights of Man, The Age of Reason and Common Sense, blasted the monarchy as a con. “A French bastard landing with an armed banditti and establishing himself as King of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original…The plain truth is that the antiquity of the English monarchy will not bear looking into,” he wrote of William the Conqueror. He ridiculed hereditary rule. “Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” He went on: “One of the strangest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings is that nature disproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving  mankind an ass for a lion.” He called the monarch “the royal brute of England.”

When the British ruling class tried to arrest Paine, he fled to France where he was one of two foreigners elected to serve as a delegate in the National Convention set up after the French Revolution. He denounced the calls to execute Louis XVI. “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression,” Paine said. “For if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Unchecked legislatures, he warned, could be as despotic as unchecked monarchs. When he returned to America from France, he condemned slavery and the wealth and privilege accumulated by the new ruling class, including George Washington, who had become the richest man in the country. Even though Paine had done more than any single figure to rouse the country to overthrow the British monarchy, he was turned into a pariah, especially by the press, and forgotten. He had served his usefulness. Six mourners attended his funeral, two of whom were Black.

You can watch my talk with Cornel West and Richard Wolff on Thomas Paine here.

There is a pathetic yearning among many in the U.S. and Britain to be linked in some tangential way to royalty. White British friends often have stories about ancestors that tie them to some obscure aristocrat. Donald Trump, who fashioned his own heraldic coat of arms, was obsessed with obtaining a state visit with the queen. This desire to be part of the club, or validated by the club, is a potent force the ruling class has no intention of giving up, even if hapless King Charles III, who along with his family treated his first wife Diana with contempt, makes a mess of it.


* * *

Springtime of Flight (1950) by Tirzah Garwood


    • Jacob September 12, 2022


      Do you know if the federal regulatory determination in the retirement context is even relevant in other contexts, like the Skunk Train alleged status or lack of status as a public utility? Sometimes, a definition or classification in one setting is not relevant in or transferrable to other regulatory settings or contexts. Regardless, thanks for the link to the whole letter; it is certainly an interesting read and something to think about.

      • Bruce Broderick September 12, 2022

        It’s very relevant. The Railroad Retirement Board is part of The Surface Transportation Board. The very entity that Mendocino Railroad has claimed it has federal standing from which gives it it’s Public Utility status. The Public Utility status has also been discredited by CPUC itself in a recent letter to Mendocino Railway. This will come to surface completely as the Mendocino Railway vs. John Meyer case in Ukiah is decided the first part of October by Judge Nadel. Interestingly, Nadel is the judge that rubber stamped all of the previous Eminent Domain filings by Mendocino Railway without doing any background checks on the railway. Hopefully this case will bring forth some irony.

  1. Kirk Vodopals September 12, 2022

    I haven’t read his entire works, but pretty much anything by Kurt Vonnegut. Last one I read was Sirens of Titan which was his first novel, I believe. Crazy to think he wrote like that in the fifties.
    Empire of the Summer Moon by SC Gwynne
    Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
    Great Plains or On the Rez by Ian Frazier

  2. George Hollister September 12, 2022

    International conflict has its roots in international trade, and since we will not end international trade, we will not end international conflict.

  3. Stephen Rosenthal September 12, 2022

    Re SF 49ers: I know it’s just one game played in difficult conditions, but I’m going on record that if the 49ers and vastly overrated coach Kyle Shanahan stubbornly cling to QB Trey Lance as the starter, they will finish with a losing record and not make the playoffs. The only statistic that matters to me is winning. Shanahan’s record with Jimmy Garoppolo as starter is 35-15, 8-28 with anyone other than Jimmy G, including playoffs. That’s 70% winning with and 22% without. In both the Super Bowl and Conference Championship losses, the 49ers had 10 point leads in the 4th quarter. Yet the Jimmy G critics only focus on his sure touchdown overthrown pass to a wide open Emanuel Sanders in the Super Bowl and his inability to generate any offense while getting pummeled by Aaron Donald and Vaughn Miller in the NFC Conference Finals while trying to throw with a shoulder that required surgical repair and an almost non-existent offensive line. I blame both of the losses on a complete meltdown by the much-heralded but also overrated defense and conservative, predictable play calling by Shanahan. No quarterback is perfect, not even Tom Brady. But no current quarterback has a an overall .722 winning percentage, not even Tom Brady. All Jimmy G does is win; some team will be fortunate to get him next year when the 49ers foolishly let him depart as a free agent. Don’t be shocked if it’s the New England Patriots; Bill Belichick is no dummy.

  4. Bruce Anderson September 12, 2022

    That was a team collapse, seems to me. A couple of the kid’s longer passes couldn’t have been made by Jimmy G. On a dry field, the Niners would have won going away. i think they’ll pull themselves together next week. Myself, I’d like to see Purdy at QB. Read somewhere he’s the team’s fave. I agree that Shanahan’s play-calling it predictable. If I know what’s coming, the other team doesn’t? If the kid doesn’t have it by game three Jimmy G will be back.

    • Stephen Rosenthal September 12, 2022

      I agree that the entire team imploded, but it’s impossible to assume the 49ers would have won on a dry field. Both teams played in the exact same conditions. Lance overthrew a sure touchdown pass to a tight end that would have made the score 17-0. Lance can make the deep throws that Jimmy G apparently can’t, but I haven’t seen any indication that he can make the short/midrange passes that Jimmy routinely completes. The much-maligned Bears QB, Justin Fields (same draft, 9 spots later), outplayed Lance. The 49ers led 10-0, then got outscored 19-0 the rest of the way. Re Purdy: be careful what you wish for.

  5. Marco McClean September 12, 2022

    About the books: Not mentioned so far by others here are brilliant comix series and graphic novels, like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Sandman; Saga; East of West; Girl Genius; Strong Female Protagonist; Watchmen; V for Vendetta…

    Speaking of comic books: Marvel teevee shows that particularly grabbed me: Jessica Jones; Daredevil… Other series: Lie To Me; Sherlock; Elementary; Firefly; Dead Like Me; Pushing Daisies; Farscape; all three Stargate series; The Magicians; the first year of Heroes; maybe one-in-four episodes of each of the Star Trek series; Cowboy Bebop; Northern Exposure; The Expanse; Dark Mirror; Sanctuary; Defiance…

    And movies that affect you as hard as any book does: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape; The Wedding Gift; Dark City (Alex Troyas); City of Lost Children; Strange Days; Illuminata; MirrorMask; The Fall (Tarsem Singh); the entire Studio Ghibli film catalog; Tom Cruise’s Edge Of Tomorrow, Oblivion, and Minority Report. Also there’s the Dust web series of very short films, such as FTL.

    I was 13 when I saw Play Misty For Me. In hindsight not a work of art, but I was 13. I’m 63 now and I think of Jessica of Jessica Walter going nuts and jumping up out of the dark with with scissors every time I pick up a pair of scissors.

    And the documentary: In the Realms of the Unreal, about Henry Darger, a janitor in a hospital, who died alone in his apartment that was stuffed and papered with his 18,000-page unpublished graphic novel). That’s on Youtube in full, in low but acceptable resolution, here:

  6. Casey Hartlip September 12, 2022

    I see the Niners going 7-10 or so. Its going to be a learning year for Trey. I was shocked when some TV talking heads were calling for the Niners to reach the Super bowl. I would almost classify Trey as a rookie and I don’t think any team has reached the SB with a rookie QB?

    A similar comparison is the Giants making……and winning the World series with a rookie catcher, but Buster was just that special.

  7. Marmon September 12, 2022

    The 49’ers and the AVA share something in common, no Kittle.


  8. Bruce McEwen September 12, 2022

    Kittle never understood that he was the invasive species in California. He never understood it ‘cause he never read Two Years Before The Mast about the first white man to come here when it was all Mexicans and Native Americans, like Covelo. He thinks they are the problem, not us. That’s his problem. Do you think he will ever figure it out?

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