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WARM AND DRY weather is expected for the next week across the Northwest California interior underneath a building ridge of high pressure. Coastal areas see bouts of cloudiness and fog each day, potentially less persistently later in the week. (NWS)
STUDENTS NEED TO GO HOME AT 1:00 Unless In After School Programs Or In Sports Practice This Week
Dear Anderson Valley Jr./Sr. High School Community,
Just a reminder during this PLP early dismissal week, students must go home UNLESS they are in a supervised sports practice or at Jr. High After School Programs for safety and supervision reasons.
Louise Simson, Superintendent, AV Unified
POT’S ON THE AGENDA!
We have just been made aware that the BoS will be hearing the cannabis items on the agenda after their lunch/Closed Session is complete on October 4. Lunch usually ends for them at 1:30, though they have indicated they may come back from Closed Session tomorrow after 2:30PM and expect nearly 4 hours of conversation on the cannabis items.
To make sure we do not miss the cannabis items in case the Board comes back early from Closed Session, we are changing the time we are meeting on October 4 at 501 Low Gap Road to 1:30PM.
In addition to the memos from Hannah Nelson on Appeals in Agenda Item 4h and the proposed Equity Program limitations in Agenda Item 4f, and the MCA memo in support of the Ad Hoc recommendations for Agenda Item 4g, we are requesting that the Board not combine all of these into one item for discussion.
Sometimes the Board will choose to combine what they feel are similar items into one Agenda Item at the meeting, which would then limit commenters to only 3 minutes of comment on multiple items instead of on each item. The complexity of these individual items requires focused discussion and the opportunity to consider detailed input on each one.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can provide any additional information.
Michael Katz Executive Director Mendocino Cannabis Alliance MendoCannabis.com e: email@example.com
JOB OPENING IN SOCIAL SERVICES! (Or is it?)
“We have an opening for a Department Analyst II in Facilities for Social Services. In this position you will be responsible for overseeing all safety components for our department including fire drills, incident reports, evacuation and emergencies. $64,126.40 - $77,937.60 annually. For more information, please contact our Staff Resources at (707) 468-7080 or firstname.lastname@example.org”
WHY AM I TALKING TO THE HOMELESS?
To the Editor:
I have to stop talking – trying to talk – to homeless people. I just had my second fight with one in two weeks.
We were OK in the beginning, starting out. She - let’s call her Sally - had her dog and I had mine, and the dogs got to talking, so, you know. Plus, she was knowledgeable; she knew the history of dogs. My mostly cocker spaniel is a hunting dog, she said, a water dog.
I think that’s right. It was upsetting after the fight so I may be mixing up what she said about my dog with what she said about her dog’s job originally. But like I said, we were just fine in the beginning when I was in my “there but for the grace of god, go I” mode.
I don’t know why I think talking to the homeless is going to kick over some stone for me and I’m going to find gold underneath, or wisdom, some shiny fleck of something unexpected. But I do. The truth is, I do.
No, that’s not true. Sometimes, I want to show I don’t think I’m better than the homeless, that “there but for the grace of god, go I” mantra again playing in my mind like a Johnny Cash song. So, there I go again.
The homeless live in a swirl of conspiracy theories, fantastical thoughts; despite having lots of time on their hands, they lead pretty un-examined lives, if you ask me. That’s a skill that comes with comfort, lamps to reach over and turn on, books to read three pages of before sleep; it doesn’t come with watching out for your survival 24-7.
No one asked, but to me mental illness is common, and causal, among the homeless, looping on itself in renewal after renewal of explanations for their lives, their predicaments, their memories to themselves. They are shell shocked both from a daily and a distant war. And they tell you about it while they tell it to themselves. They lead the way on dark mine tours through their thoughts, but the lantern is dim and their way is quickly lost.
That’s when the fights I have with the homeless become, basically, inevitable.
Fight #1 two weeks ago was with a homeless young man who told me there are tunnels two or three miles long running east under the town with portals for emerging beneath the Palace Hotel. He said he had pictures.
Sally told me today her home was taken from her, and her money, and “dividends” — everything. She didn’t know by whom. She didn’t even say it was the “government.”
I liked that about her, by the way, that she didn’t say it was “the government.” If you don’t know who took your house and all your money, don’t say you do. Sally didn’t.
That’s a thing I think I admire about the homeless, too, though it gets tedious quick: they stick to the personal and the real; to the slings and arrows shot from close range.
What I mean is, they never talk or walk down the street shouting things like “the military lied and painted a rosy picture to Congress year after year for twenty years about how Afghanistan was going.” The homeless know life is lived in the shade when it’s hot, that everything you own has to sometimes go in a cart, and that what is not there anymore is still real. Even if you make it up, it’s still real.
But we hadn’t fought yet, Sally and me. It had been maybe ten minutes and my patience had not yet worn thin, I guess. She said people running a puppy mill had stolen her dogs. They came into her back yard and taken two of her dogs, first one and then the other. She said she saw the older dog later on TV.
“Well,” I said….
Even in the great outdoors of a park in late summer or early Fall, whenever this is, the temperature between two strangers on opposite picnic table benches can drop pretty quick when one of them says, “Well….,” the way I said “Well….”. And when the other one is not exactly up for being doubted.
“Dogs can look pretty similar,” I said. “The dog on the British Dog show didn’t have to be your dog.”
Still no fight, but Russian troops were suddenly on the borderline.
We didn’t fight till she said there was a puppy mill right here in town. They use the homeless to watch the dogs and walk the dogs till they can be mailed off for big money. A guy who sits “right over there” was waiting for her to turn her head some day so he could snatch this dog like they did the other two out of her yard when she had a yard.
I could feel we were already over the edge.
She said I was calling her a liar. I said I just wanted her to check her facts.
Check your facts. That’s how out of touch I am. We have two halves of a country shouting “check your facts” back and forth at the other half, and I’m fighting with a homeless woman I met ten minutes ago.
I’m fighting with a homeless woman I met ten minutes ago like I did my cousin till a year ago, when we stopped speaking all together.
All I require from people – I tell myself – is sound reasoning, the willingness to think critically, to expect there will be evidence of a thing, and to look at it.
And the homeless are not the only ones deficient in that.
“The election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing.”— Hillary Clinton, on the election of the female Italian fascist, Giorgia Meloni
MORE AND MORE talk that Hillary is going to run again for president, again leaving US with the non-choice between catastrophe and unthinkable.
A WEEK AGO, both Clintons said they were against 'open borders.' The borders aren't open, the southern one is besieged by the even more besieged victims of rolling catastrophes, most of them set in motion by the prosperous West. It seems to be a little known fact that prior to World War One all borders everywhere were open. All you had to do is show up and walk on in with ID and plenty of dough. Of course few people had the means to travel anywhere, and this was before the desperate millions of our hemisphere started walking north.
THE MURKY DECISION to arrange probation instead of prison for the corrupt Ukiah cop, Kevin Murray, hasn't exactly enhanced faith in the local justice system. The following on-line comment is typical, and there's been a ton of similar opinion:
“Can Murray’s sentencing be appealed? I guess it would be the prosecutors that would be responsible for that, and they are the ones responsible for the light sentencing, so that would be unlikely. Murray must have the dirt on the entire department…And obviously, Murray is not above doing something unsavory. Did he agree to roll on his Chief, who was disciplined, or is being investigated, (I forget how,) for misconduct? Is that how he got the sweetheart deal? Or did he just threaten to roll on his Chief, and the rest of the Department, if he didn’t get a sweetheart deal??? Murray must know where the bodies are buried, so to speak…”
DOUBT that a single deviant cop could move the whole system to get himself a sweetheart deal. We can speculate and speculate, but the answer to Murray's uniquely soft landing is probably nothing more complicated than official sloth with a dollop of palsy-walsy-ism; these people all know each other and are often social buddies. Although Judge Moorman might have put in a little OT coming up with her convoluted, totally unconvincing reasons for letting the guy slide, we'll never know the true reason for the Murray travesty.
THE COURTHOUSE people work 9-5, and a case like Murray's, a man with the apparent resources to pay a couple of expensive lawyers to defend him, means a lot of work for the prosecution, which, it should go without mentioning, day in and day out process the defenseless, the proverbial fish in a barrel come to life. DA Eyster and his hard-hitting team aren't dealing with master criminals, are they? In the 1990s DA Norm Vroman confessed: “We only catch the dumb ones.” And Murray's case? Nothing complicated about it at all. Haul it before a jury and the guy would have been packed off to the state pen.
AND NORCAL justice is cozy as hell, too. How many times have we heard the judge say versions of, “Well, counselor, if you're going to be on vacation, and Christmas is only two weeks away, and my dog has to go to the vet, and I hear you're taking the kids to DisneyLand, we'll set this matter for the 12th of never.”
MENDO'S over-large consignment of Judges dick off all the time for reasons that would get most salaried people laughed at if they sprang them on the boss. But our judges have no boss, and an office of capable women whose job it is to run interference for them. When I used to pop into courtrooms regularly, I have heard lawyers say, “Your honor I'm not prepared…” Never have I heard a local judge reply, “Why the hell aren't you prepared?” Connected defendants can have their “matter” put over for so long the “matter” simply disappears. (cf the Black Bart bandit; that case is 3 years old and counting. The guy long ago admitted guilt, then he was packed off for therapy, and drug rehab, and and and… "The Unlikely Burglar of Black Bart Trail."
TO SUMMARIZE, CLASS, we have a large group of royally compensated, publicly paid lawyers and judges who don't serve us particularly well. They put themselves first, as in their tacit, silent support for a new county courthouse that no one but them wants. We've been swindled all the way back to when our Mendo system of justice maintained simple, no frills courts in all areas of the county. Of course that was in the days the justice system existed to serve the public, not feast on it. We used to have convenient local courts in Point Arena; Covelo; Laytonville; Hopland; Ukiah; Boonville; Fort Bragg, with just two (count 'em) superior court judges presiding over some things in Ukiah. Small claims, bar fights, traffic stuff was handled in these local justice courts. Instead of all of us going to the nine of them, they came to us, which is as it should be.
THE JUSTICE COURTS were abandoned because the lawyers sitting as state legislators — the legislature is almost all lawyers — magically decided that only lawyers were capable of justice, and here they came running out of the hills of Mendocino County, hippies with law degrees forever more to be addressed as “Your Honor.” And every minor outback legal thing went to Ukiah.
On Sunday, October 2, 2022 at approximately 11:09 A.M. the Mendocino County Sheriff's Dispatch Center received radio traffic from staff working at the Mendocino County Juvenile Detention Center advising two detained youths had just escaped custody.
Prior to their escape, the two detained youths were working in the garden within the confines of the facility. Both detained youths were able to climb a 12-foot fence topped with razor wire.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies, Officers from the Ukiah Police Department and Mendocino County Probation Department personnel responded to the area the two detained youths were last seen running towards.
Within a few minutes, the juvenile female was located and detained. The juvenile female was transported by ambulance to a local hospital to receive treatment for injuries sustained during her escape.
The juvenile male was not immediately located. The Sheriff's Office and Ukiah Police Department issued Nixle alerts to residents of the immediate area advising them to be on the lookout for the juvenile male.
At approximately 2:22 P.M. the Ukiah Police Department was dispatched to a possible sighting of the juvenile male in the area of Hazel Avenue in Ukiah. Deputies and Officers responded to the area and located the juvenile male who was taken into custody after a short foot pursuit.
Both the juvenile male and juvenile female will potentially face new charges of Escape from Custody.
As with any incident of this nature, the Mendocino County Probation Department will be reviewing any relevant policies and practices connected to the situation. In addition, the Garden Project will be suspended while the department works with county officials to make adjustments to the facility to limit any future occurrences.
The Mendocino County Probation Department would like to thank the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office and the Ukiah Police Department for their assistance with the apprehension of the two minors.
(Joint Press Release From The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office And The Mendocino County Probation Department.)
COAST DEMOCRATIC CLUB IN-PERSON MEETING
Election Reports at Jughandle Farm Meeting Room
Thursday, October 13, 5 - 7 PM (5 - 5:30 Social Time, 5:30 Program)
Masks are Optional
Mendocino Coast Healthcare District Board Candidates (Club Endorsed)
Meet Lee Finney, Susan Savage and Jade Tippett
Visit Their Website: https://www.future-vision-mchcd22.org/
Measure P (Club Endorsed)
Sales Tax Allocation for Local Fire Districts
Fort Bragg and Mendocino Fire Chiefs
Sales Tax to Support Mendocino County Libraries
Hold the House Thru California Postcard Project Report
Coast Democrats <email@example.com>
CATCH OF THE DAY, October 3, 2022
ANTHONY BILLY, Hopland. DUI, probation revocation.
ALEXANDER CROSSMAN, Monte Rio/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
MARROQUIN GERARDO, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.
CHRISTOPHER GILES, Sebastopol/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
JOSEPH GRANT, Ukiah. Vehicle theft, controlled substance for sale, failure to appear.
ANGELICA LOPSTAIN, Galt/Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon with great bodily injury.
DALLAS LYONS, Willits. Petty theft, recklessly causing a fire of inhabited structure.
JAIME MARIN, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
RAYMOND REESE, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
BIANCA SCHOFIELD, Point Arena. Under influence, resisting.
CAROLYN SIDES, Covelo. DUI.
JORGE TAFOYA, Ukiah. Burglary.
SUSAN WIDMER, Ukiah. Controlled substance.
NEWSOM'S SUSPICIOUS OPPOSITION
Gov. Gavin Newsom has recently taken a very public position opposing Proposition 30 on the November ballot.
Proposition 30 would raise taxes on Californians who make more than $2 million per year. Most of the money would go to programs to help people buy electric cars and install charging stations. The ballot measure’s campaign is paid for by the ride-sharing company Lyft. Newsom says that “Prop 30 is a Trojan horse that puts corporate welfare above the fiscal welfare of our entire state.”
For over a year now, Newsom has refused to take a position on efforts by the state’s utility companies to impose a tax on roof top solar and make deep cuts in the credit for sharing surplus energy with the grid. Another Trojan horse that puts corporate welfare above the environmental welfare of the entire state. And yet, Newsom, the great protector of the environment, remains silent.
One cannot help wondering what part campaign contributions play in Newsom’s decisions to take a position on initiatives.
NO ON BOTH
Props 26 And 27 Don't Even Belong On California's Ballot. Vote No
If you’ve turned on your TV in the past few months, you’ve no doubt been flooded by ads for and against Propositions 26 and 27, both of which will appear on the November ballot. Over $420 million has been spent as of this writing on the combined campaigns, making them the most expensive propositions in California history.
Proposition 26 would allow tribal-run casinos to expand their game offerings to include craps and roulette. It would also allow in-person sports betting at these facilities and at four privately-owned horse racing tracks across the state — Santa Anita, Del Mar, Los Alamitos and Golden Gate Fields. This expansion would generate additional revenues for casino tribes as well as for California’s general fund — although how much remains unclear, as tribes are only allowed to negotiate their payments to the state if the measure passes. Gaming tribes have also signed a pact to disperse some revenues to an existing fund for non-gaming tribes. Racetracks would pay the state 10% of all bets made.
Proposition 27, meanwhile, would legalize online sports betting for companies willing to pay a $100 million licensing fee and partner with a gaming tribe. Deep-pocketed gaming companies Fan Duel and Draft Kings are backing the measure. Ten percent of paid bets would go to a new sports betting trust fund that could generate up to $500 million annually to address homelessness and gambling addiction, as well as to fund government services for tribes who aren’t involved in online sports betting.
Props 26 and 27 are in direct competition with one another; If both get more than 50% of the vote, whichever measure gets more votes will supersede the other.
We're not opposed to the expansion of gaming opinions in California. And, taken at face value, both measures seem appealing in their own ways. Prop. 26 would create in-state jobs and would lean into voters’ longstanding support of tribal gaming. Meanwhile, the potential for adding hundreds of millions in dedicated funds for California homelessness services — Prop. 27’s primary talking point — certainly sounds tempting.
But you don’t have to scratch too far past the surface of either measure to dig up serious questions.
We’re deeply concerned about Prop. 26’s ties to the horse racing industry. More than 80 race horses have died at Golden Gate Fields alone since 2018. Reforms have been slow to come, and Prop. 26 provides no new requirements for safety, despite mandating that live racing has to continue for these facilities to be eligible for sports betting.
There’s a broader issue here too.
Prop. 26 is opposed by card rooms, which are small non-tribal casinos that offer card games like poker and pai gow, because a clause written into the measure would allow private citizens to sue them over gaming violations, if the attorney general’s office chooses not to. This, card rooms say, would allow tribes to file hundreds of dubious lawsuits against them. Gaming tribes, meanwhile, counter that card rooms routinely offer illegal games — taking business from tribal casinos in the process — and that the attorney general’s office hasn’t been aggressive enough in cracking down.
We’re not overly concerned about tribes bringing frivolous lawsuits; there are strict rules within the civil litigation system to prevent abuse and we trust courts to uphold them. But are voters really equipped to weigh in on what’s clearly a confusing and long-standing legal battle between card rooms and tribal casinos? Are they even aware that’s what they’re voting on?
Prop. 27 is even more dubious.
Studies from the United Kingdom show that online gaming is particularly ripe for addictive behavior, suggesting far more of that $500 million will be needed for problematic gaming prevention and treatment than backers are letting on.
Furthermore, the language of the bill is nearly 22 pages of unintelligible legalese. Among the potential landmines buried in its text is the creation of an entirely new 17-member oversight commission to regulate online gaming.
Why are California’s existing regulatory bodies not good enough to handle online gaming? Is an aberrantly large 17-member commission really necessary, or does it simply offer more opportunities for the industry to try to place cronies in positions of power?
These are questions that the gaming law experts we spoke with struggled to navigate. How are voters supposed to parse this information?
They shouldn’t have to.
These types of nuanced discussions should take place in the California Legislature, where laws can be honed for ethics and effectiveness by experts. Yes, the Legislature is limited in that existing gaming laws can only be changed by ballot measure. Any reform driven by public officials would have to pass by a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers. That effort would then head to the ballot for a vote from the people.
It's an onerous threshold. But the push to legalize sports betting and online gambling isn’t going away, as evidenced by the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on Prop’s 26 and 27. Even if they lose, another measure is already in the works for the 2024 ballot.
Voters should say no to these industry-backed measures and demand legislators do the job we pay them to do.
(SF Chronicle editorial)
W.C. Fields said that The Marx Brothers was the only act he couldn't follow on the live stage. He is known to have appeared on the same bill with them only once, during an engagement at Keith's Orpheum Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, in January 1915. At the time the Marx Brothers were touring “Home Again,” and it didn't take Fields long to realize how his quiet comedy juggling act was faring against the anarchy of the Marxes. Fields later wrote of the engagement (and the Marxes), “They sang, danced, played harp and kidded in zany style. Never saw so much nepotism or such hilarious laughter in one act in my life. The only act I could never follow… I told the manager I broke my wrist and quit.”
Groucho Marx suffered from insomnia, which he claimed was due to a financial loss in the stock market. On those evenings that he was awake, he used to call people up in the middle of the night and insult them.
“Because of my fake mustache, eyebrows and eyeglasses, I was rarely recognized in public during the 1930s and 40s. However, one evening in 1938, I was out at a local Hollywood restaurant with my wife having dinner when this man walked up to my table and asked me, ‘Are you Groucho Marx?’ Annoyed, I politely said ‘Yes, I am.’ He then went on to say he was my biggest fan and asked me for a favor. More annoyed, I said ‘Sure, what is it?’ The guy pointed to a woman seated at a nearby table and told me that was his wife and he wanted me to tell an insulting joke about her. I told the guy, ‘Mister, if my wife looked as ugly at THAT, I wouldn't need to think of anything to insult her with!’ ”
In the 1950s, Groucho was invited to take a tour of the New York Stock Exchange. While in the observation booth, he grabbed the public address system handset and began singing “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” Upon hearing silence coming from the trading floor, he walked into view, was given a loud cheer by the traders, and shouted, “Gentlemen, in 1929 I lost $800,000 on this floor, and I intend to get my money's worth!” For fifteen minutes, he sang, danced, told jokes, and all this time, the Wall Street stock ticker was running blank.
“The greatest compliment I ever got was from (Charlie) Chaplin. He came up to me and said, ‘I wish I could talk like you on the screen.’ I said, ‘I think you're doing alright.’ He had made $50 million by that point. He was the best comedian we ever had.” (IMDb)
THE SEVEN AGES OF MAN: Spills, drills, thrills, bills, ills, pills, and wills.
— Richard Needham
by Margaret Renki
NASHVILLE — One morning last fall, during the height of the songbird migration, I opened my door to the glorious autumn light and saw a yellow-rumped warbler lying on my front stoop. I knew it was dead before I opened the storm door. A living warbler does not lie with its elegant passerine toes curled into a tiny cage of tiny bones holding nothing.
Yellow-rumped warblers don’t breed in Middle Tennessee. This one was migrating to its wintering grounds, either here or farther south. Migrating birds are vulnerable to many hazards: predators, extreme weather, insufficient food and insufficient water. Glass is particularly treacherous. Expanses of glass — windows without mullions, storm doors, skyscrapers — are the worst.
During the daytime, glass reflects the living world: It tricks birds into thinking that the sky lies safely before them, though what actually lies ahead is an invisible, neck-breaking solidity. At night, when most birds migrate, lights pose another threat. Artificial lights attract birds, who then become disoriented, crashing into windows, buildings and one another, or flying until they collapse, unable to see their way past the light.
The height of the fall migration season runs from around mid-September to around mid-October. It’s mind-boggling to check the real-time migration map at BirdCast each night and discover just how many millions of birds are migrating and where they are. At any given time, tens of thousands of them may be right overhead.
Up to a billion birds die in window strikes every year because of either daytime reflections or nighttime lights. There are several ways to make expanses of glass safer for birds. But the best way to make the migration seasons safer overall is also the easiest to do: Just turn out the lights. Many outdoor lights are merely decorative anyway and can be safely turned off, especially during the crucial weeks of the migration season. And there’s almost always a bird-safe way to adjust the lights that are truly necessary.
Consider what happened in 2016 at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where a giant cross rises 60 feet above a grassy park at the very edge of the Cumberland Plateau. War Memorial Cross is illuminated at night by spotlights. There is no other ambient light in the deeply forested area.
That’s a problem for migrating birds, as the biologist and celebrated nonfiction author David George Haskell noted in a blog post about what happened one cloudy night in September, when more than 130 birds got caught in the light dome and died. The pictures in his post have haunted me ever since.
The university faced what seemed to be an irresolvable conundrum. Students can’t safely wander around a park on the edge of a deadly bluff in the pitch-black night. But birds can’t migrate safely without darkness, and the forests surrounding the university are part of a critical flyway for migrating birds. As Dr. Haskell wrote, “Every bird taking the overland route from the northern U.S. or the vast Canadian boreal forest is winging through the southeast.”
But the conundrum wasn’t irresolvable, as it turned out. It wasn’t even hard to fix. Within hours of finding the dead birds, the university’s offices of Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability and Physical Plant Services came up with an alternative: According to Nathan Wilson, the domain manager at Sewanee, they simply swapped out the two 1,000-watt halogen lamps with two 400-watt-equivalent LED clusters. The plan worked. In the six years since the university dimmed the lights, no dead birds have been reported at the foot of the cross.
The human population has also adjusted: “Initially, I did receive complaints that the cross was too dimly lit, but everyone is used to it now,” Mr. Wilson said in an email.
At our best as a species, this is what we do: We change our ways to protect others, and then we adjust to the new ways. Soon, we can’t remember doing things differently. This is why lights-out initiatives are spreading across the country. Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco, St. Louis and a host of other cities, large and small, are working to create safe passage for migrating birds.
Birds are in profound crisis, and these efforts can make a measurable difference in their populations: A 2021 study by Field Museum scientists analyzed 20 years of data collected at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. The researchers found that merely darkening the windows resulted in a roughly 60 percent reduction in bird mortality. That study points the way to other accommodations. In New York, the Sept. 11 memorial lights are now turned off for 20 minutes at a time to give disoriented birds a chance to disperse.
Homeowners can do their part, too. If you can’t turn off all your lights, identify the ones that are truly necessary and reduce the wattage or reorient them in a way that is safer for wildlife. Lights triggered by motion detectors are far less dangerous for birds than continuously burning lights, for example. The same is true for hooded lights that direct the illumination downward rather than into the sky. Indoors, draw the curtains and close the blinds after dark. Turn off lights in empty rooms. Use lamps instead of overhead lights in the room you’re in.
Migration seasons don’t last very long, so it isn’t strictly necessary to make these changes permanently, but it would be better for wildlife, and better for the climate, if we did. Vast numbers of wild creatures are nocturnal. They evolved to hunt — and to avoid being hunted — in darkness. And as the writer Paul Bogard points out in “The End of Night,” darkness is good for us, too. We evolved to rest in darkness.
I thought my husband and I had long ago made our house as bird-safe as possible. We followed the recommendations of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, hanging screens on our windows and putting closely spaced stickers on the glass storm doors. We just didn’t make the house safe enough. Before I tucked the doomed yellow-rumped warbler under a tree, where some hungry scavenger could at least make a meal of it, I studied its curling feet, its flawless plumage. It broke my heart. The only thing wrong with that perfect little bird was our storm door, which had somehow drawn it from its nighttime path.
We’ll never be able to make this house completely safe for our wild neighbors, but that warbler was a reminder to take even more care with lights and glass, especially during the migration seasons. I have no choice but to try. It’s hard enough to feel powerless in the face of the many dangers my own species has created for the species whose ecosystems we share. It’s far worse to feel personally responsible for those dangers, too.
A COMMENT: Last spring, we also mourned a tiny yellow warbler found under our house window. Other things killing off birds in my area: 1. PESTICIDES. My neighbors are addicted to them. They finally stopped spraying, and put poison in the ground, thinking that would help. Unfortunately, birds forage for worms and bugs (as do benign woodland creatures), and we had 4 dead birds in our yard this year. This summer, only 2 or 3 birds visited our formerly packed birdbath (which we keep meticulously clean). 2. IVY & PACHYSANDRA: Hugely popular with mice and mosquitos, generating even more use of pesticides and sprays. Simple solution: use ground cover that mosquitos hate - like Thyme. 3. CATS: They are not native to North America, and imperil our native creatures. Cats routinely climb trees and wipe out nests. Our street tree has the remains of a nest where the mother Robin and all her eggs were annihilated. Leashes are required for dogs, and they should be required for cats as well. There should be more diligence about impounding cats roaming alone. Impounded cats should be quickly put away.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Clearly we have degraded into a nation of mindless idiots (“led” by a brain-dead dotard) if more than a handful of people believe that runaway inflation is going to be stopped by raising interest rates. What a line of crap! Increasing the cost of everything so that consumers stop consuming because they can no longer afford to consume is going to force prices to drop? Duh, how about they will have to go up even further in order to maintain the bottom-line corporate profit margins due to decreased sales? There may be an argument in that direction if there was an over-supply of consumables to be gotten rid of, but in a supply shortage scenario, you know, like the one we are in now, well that’s simply bullshit! We are screwed plain and simple and the scumbags that rule us are going to be screwing us harder and more frequently until everything grinds to a halt. Great Reset my ass, more like a Great Beat Down.
HUMAN COMPOSTING IS COMING TO CALIFORNIA. It could revolutionize how we get buried
by Carolyn Said
Throughout her century-long life, Ruth Gottstein broke new ground as an activist and publisher in the fields of domestic violence, women’s health, civil rights, gay rights and the La Raza movement as well as being an avid outdoorswoman. So in her final days, when she and her son Adam Gottstein were planning the disposition of her body, it was fitting that they decided she would be in the vanguard there as well, choosing to have her earthly remains turned into literal earth.
Gottstein, who died in late August, just days after her 100th birthday, had her body go through a process known as natural organic reduction, terramation or, more colloquially, “human composting.”
“It is just like my mom to continue to be a trailblazer from beyond the grave,” said Adam, who drove Ruth’s body the 15 hours from their Northern California home to Washington state for the procedure, which involves placing the body in an aerated metal container along with organic material such as woodchips, straw and mulch, to trigger the natural process of decomposition over about a month.
A local mortuary in his Sierra Foothills hometown of Volcano (Amador County) washed the body and packed it in dry ice for the journey, as well as procuring the permits for crossing state lines.
“Terramation is an idea whose time has come,” Adam Gottstein said.
Now that idea is coming to California, thanks to AB351, passed by the Legislature this year and signed in late September by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It will make human composting legal here starting in 2027.
“This is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere and will actually capture CO₂ in our soil and trees,” bill sponsor Assembly Member Christina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County), said in a statement. “For each individual who chooses (natural organic reduction) over conventional burial or cremation, the process saves the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon from entering the environment.”
Seattle’s Recompose performs terramation or human composting, placing bodies in metal containers with organic materials to trigger the natural process of decomposition. Seattle’s Recompose performs terramation or human composting, placing bodies in metal containers with organic materials to trigger the natural process of decomposition. Sabel Roizen/Recompose She and other advocates point to the heavy environmental toll of conventional burials and cremations. Burials not only consume real estate, but involve embalming chemicals that can leach into the ground, as well as using large amounts of cement for encasements, and steel and wood for coffins. Cremations consume fossil fuels and emit copious amounts of carbon dioxide.
Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Vermont already have legalized human composting in the past few years with Washington leading the way in 2019. While there’s no firm data, it appears that a few hundred people have undergone the process.
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While the bill had bipartisan support, it was opposed by the Catholic Church as reducing human bodies to a “disposable commodity.”
“The practice of respectfully burying the bodies or the honoring the ashes of the deceased comports with the virtually universal norm of reverence and care towards the deceased,” said a statement from the California Catholic Conference, which describes itself as “the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in California.”
Katrina Spade was inspired to found Washington’s Recompose, credited as the first company to offer human composting, after learning that farmers composted animal remains that weren’t fit for other uses.
“I was enamored by the composting process: It’s a beautiful way of turning organic material into soil to then create new life and build nutrients back into the soil,” she said.
Operating since late 2020, Recompose has handled 185 bodies and has 1,200 people who’ve prebooked. About 10% of clients are from California.
“I thought it would be mostly die-hard environmentalists who wanted to be composted when they died, but found that many types of people care about the land they live on, the state of the planet,” Spade said. “They love choosing something that connects them back to nature. For a lot of folks, existing funeral options don’t feel meaningful. They want something new that feels authentic, intentional and resonates in a different way.”
Micah Truman, founder and CEO of Return Home, another Washington state terramation provider (it handled Ruth Gottstein’s remains), said his company trademarked the word “terramation” and allows wide use of it to describe any process involving the transformation of human remains into soil.
Truman said it takes about a month for a body to decompose with terramation, but the bones remain, so they are ground down and added to the compost for further curing. Nonorganic materials such as hip replacements are sifted out. Similarly, in traditional flame cremation, bones also remain and are pulverized; in fact, they are the “ashes” returned to families.
The typical body produces about a cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil, the size of a pickup truck’s bed. Some families chose to take a token amount — to nourish a rose garden or plant a tree, for instance — but others request the entire amount. Companies that offer terramation utilize any remaining compost at land conservation sites.
Costs for human composting range from about $5,000 to $7,000. That compares to about $12,000 for casket burials and about $6,000 for cremation.
Carolyn Maezes worked as an end-of-life doula before co-founding Earth Funeral, a Washington company that does the process.
“The first time I heard about (organic reduction), I was taken aback for a second, then my response was, ‘This feels really obvious. How have we not been doing before?’” she said. “We should have an option to return to the earth in a gentle and natural way, with a sense of ecological and spiritual connection.”
Some other green post-life options have emerged in recent years. California in 2020 legalized water cremation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis or aquamation. It works by immersing human remains in pressurized steel chambers filled with a solution that’s 5% potassium hydroxide and 95% water. Those containers are heated to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit, dissolving the body in about four hours.
As with terramation and cremation, the bones remain after aquamation, and are ground up to be returned to the deceased person’s survivors.
While it doesn’t have the carbon implication of flame cremation, each aquamation consumes about 300 gallons of water.
Green burials, in which bodies are placed in a biodegradable shroud and buried in a cemetery — without embalming, vaults or coffins — are legal in every state. The Green Burial Council lists 11 cemeteries in California that accept green burials, including four in the Bay Area.
Terramation advocates say that legalization in California, with its huge population and strong environmental consciousness, will transform their industry. Recompose, Earth Funeral and Return Home all say that they hope to offer their services here when it becomes legal in 2027.
“California is the most pivotal state in America for terramation,” Newman said. “When California does it, it will become standard. Funeral directors will say, ‘Do you want to be buried, cremated or terramated?’”
After Shannon Perry’s partner, Richard, 63, died in April, the Seattle resident chose terramation with Earth Funeral.
“I knew it’s what he wanted,” she said. “We are big believers in sustainability, leaving minimal environmental footprint. That was obviously the way to go. I’m so happy this option exists because it’s the only one that doesn’t make my little green heart hurt.”
Still, she had to explain it to his Midwestern family, “so they knew it wasn’t like he was tossed in a compost pile,” she said. “It’s clean, there’s a lot of oversight, it’s done legally and carefully.”
Shannon, 54, and her parents, who are in their 80s, are all interested in human composting for themselves.
“We grew up Unitarian Universalists so there is a strong strain of, not quite hippie, but liberal greenliness in my family,” she said. “My mom was into recycling before it was fashionable, when you had to separate everything and take to a special place to dispose of it. She just jumped at it when heard about terramation.”
Adam Gottstein, 67, just signed his own contract with Return Home for the eventual terramation of his body. He hopes to hang on at least until after 2027, when it’s allowed here.
“I hope my date with Return Home is way the hell out in the future,” he said. “I don’t want my daughter to have to haul me all the way up to Seattle. It would be nice if it were legal in California by then.”
NEW ANTHONY BOURDAIN BIOGRAPHY: Light on Subtlety, Heavy on Grit
“Down and Out in Paradise,” by Charles Leerhsen, is an unvarnished account of a turbulent life.
by Dwight Garner
Anthony Bourdain would have hated that autocorrect turns his name into Boursin, a bland cheese with zero culinary credibility.
It’s surprising that predictive text doesn’t suggest his name first. Bourdain: He’s hot, he’s sexy and he’s dead, as Rolling Stone said about Jim Morrison on a notorious 1981 cover.
Since his death by his own hand in France, in 2018, there’s been a steady drip of books and documentaries and television specials and magazine one-offs about his life and career.
On social media, he’s omnipresent in old clips, explaining how to make a Negroni or ripping the phrase “farm to table.” There are a lot of poignant Bourdain tattoos jiggling around out there.
A new biography, “Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain,” by Charles Leerhsen, is making news. It’s grittier than anything we’ve read about him before.
Here are the prostitutes, a lot of prostitutes, and one-night stands, and rumors of affairs with other food-world personalities.
Here is the use of steroids, human growth hormone and Viagra. Here are exact, disturbing details about his suicide. His heroin habit is recounted. So is his frequent coldness to many who loved and worked with him.
A previous book, “Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography” (2021), compiled by Laurie Woolever, felt like an official Bourdain-industry product. It was worthy but dull.
It was heavy on pontificating celebrities, from the food, television and journalism worlds, who tried to puzzle out what made this magnificent, pagan, literate, lantern-jawed beast tick, to put him on the couch.
Leerhsen’s book, on the other hand, has a lot of people trying to join Bourdain on the couch, ideally without his trousers, and thus has more adrenaline and feels truer to life.
Most human beings have more desires than opportunities in life. Those whom the gods will destroy are provided with desire and opportunity in equal measure.
“Down and Out in Paradise” reminded me in certain ways of Albert Goldman’s muckraking 1981 biography of Elvis Presley. Leerhsen leans heavily, for example, on unnamed sources.
He’s not here, though, to discredit or dismiss his subject. His admiration for Bourdain is nearly always apparent. It’s hard to say if Bourdain would have liked this book. Either way, I suspect he would have admired the author’s guts.
“Down and Out in Paradise” is not the most subtle thing you’ll ever read. Leerhsen is a former executive editor at Sports Illustrated whose previous books include biographies of Ty Cobb and Butch Cassidy. His Bourdain book goes down like a mass-market rock bio.
I’d have loved it if I were 17. The author goes all in on Bourdain’s angst, his instinctive distrust of authority, his hero-worship of talented outsiders like Hunter S. Thompson and Iggy Pop and William S. Burroughs.
The older me, the one who prefers wine to fizz, wishes Leerhsen had more to say about things like: a) the elite and vernacular food worlds pre- and post-Bourdain; b) how Bourdain walked a moral tightrope across the conventions of travel writing and reporting, no mean feat for a wealthy white man in skinny jeans; and c) the sense that he was at the vanguard, more so than even the most scrutinized actors, of a new type of American masculinity. Here was an outdoor, rather than an indoor, cat.
You can’t have everything. Leerhsen sacrifices weight for speed.
He tracks Bourdain from his suburban New Jersey childhood — his parents had frustrated bohemian inclinations — to Vassar, where he followed the woman who would become his first wife. College did not appeal to him, but cooking did, its piratical side, and he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, a hidebound place at the time.
He worked in restaurants in Provincetown, Mass., and later New York, most notably the raffish French restaurant Les Halles, earning battle scars. He smoked four packs a day and had a big tank for alcohol, and for drugs.
He was a late bloomer. He published a first novel at 39. He studied unhappily with the editor Gordon Lish before writing the piece that changed his life.
“Don’t Eat Before Reading This: A New York Chef Spills Some Trade Secrets” appeared in The New Yorker in April 1999. The impact, in those mostly pre-internet days, is hard to overstate: There were television news trucks outside Les Halles the next day.
The essay was supposed to run in New York Press, an alternative weekly, but the paper accepted it and never printed it. The New Yorker piece, in which Bourdain sharpened his teeth on lax restaurant practices, led directly to his best-selling memoir, “Kitchen Confidential,” and to everything that followed, particularly the increasingly well-made television shows.
Bourdain grew into his looks; his was the kind of face that inspired Talmudic levels of study among women. He grew into his shows. They got better, moodier, more complicated.
He had a million opportunities to sell out and vastly enrich himself. There are no Bourdain knife sets, or airport bistros.
“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands,” Bourdain wrote in his 2002 book “A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines.”
Once you’ve read “Down and Out in Paradise,” you’ll never stop wanting to burn Bourdain’s cellphone and laptop. We learn he had a Google alert set to his own name. It gave him real-time, ego-stroking push notifications.
We learn he Googled the name Asia Argento — the Italian actress with whom he had a torrid, messy affair — several hundred times in the last three days of his life, after she rattled him by appearing in public with another man.
Their text messages are printed in the book. “You were reckless with my heart,” Bourdain wrote, before he hanged himself. The last website he visited was a prostitution service, Leerhsen writes, though he seems to have died alone.
“You need to have a lot of things go right in your life before you can become as miserable as Anthony Bourdain, by his late 50s, found himself — that is, before you can work your way to a position where you have so much to lose,” Leerhsen writes. “In Tony’s case it took decades to reach a height from which falling would matter.”
There’s an old joke in Hollywood that the film “Gandhi” was popular because Gandhi was everything people there wish they were: thin, tan and moral.
Bourdain — thin, tan (he was addicted to sunbeds) and mostly moral himself — is approaching secular sainthood. This book doesn’t merely light candles but scuffs him up. I doubt it will be the final word.
UKRAINE, MONDAY, 3rd OCTOBER
A Ukrainian counteroffensive that already has reclaimed thousands of miles is breaking through Russian lines in the southern Kherson region recently annexed by Moscow, Kremlin-installed officials said Monday.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-picked head of the Kherson province, said on state television that multiple settlements about 70 miles northeast of the city of Kherson on the Dnieper River have been overrun.
“It's tense, let's put it that way,” Saldo said in a translation by Reuters.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in his daily briefing that “with superior tank units ... the enemy managed to penetrate into the depths of our defense.” But Konashenkov said Russian troops had fallen back to a defensive position and “continue to inflict massive fire damage” on Kyiv’s forces.
The deputy head of the regional administration, Kirill Stremousov, said Ukraine forces “have broken through a little deeper,” but wrote on Telegram that “everything is under control.”
Ukraine also reported making inroads in the Luhansk province days after reclaiming the strategic eastern city of Lyman in the Donetsk province near the border with Luhansk.
The European Union nations will have to reduce natural gas use by 13% in the winter and may wind up competing for energy with Asia if they get entirely cut off by Russia, the International Energy Agency said Monday.
Ihor Murashov, director general of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian province of Zaporizhzhia, was released from Russian custody after being detained leaving the facility Friday, according to Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
WNBA star Brittney Griner's appeal of her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession has been set for Oct. 25, a Russian court said Monday.
Russian shelling of eight Ukrainian regions over the past 24 hours killed two civilians and wounded 14 others, Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday.
The Joint Expeditionary Force group of northern European nations met Monday and discussed coordinated security -- “including increased maritime presence'' -- for the pipelines in the Baltic Sea after blasts created three leaks of natural gas, the British Defense Ministry said.
by Hugh Barnes
One evening in February, as Ivan Gorlovko was burying his dog in the frozen yard behind his house in Chuhuiv, 25 miles south-east of Kharkiv, he heard a screech of tires and looked up to see a convoy of Ukrainian army trucks on the bridge over the Siverskyi Donets. The link between Laika’s death and the military vehicles on the bridge was not accidental as far as Gorlovko was concerned. He was sure the trucks belonged to the Security Service of Ukraine and were transporting dangerous pathogens from the Chuhuiv Bacteriological Institute to a place of safety in the west of Ukraine in case of a Russian invasion. The CBI is part of Kharkiv’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, which along with a similarly named outfit in Poltava, eighty miles west, is funded by the US government. ‘Joe Biden killed my dog!’ Gorlovko claimed. ‘But what can a poor Ukrainian dog-owner do if our American masters are developing dangerous bioweapons in those labs.’
Andrew Weber, a former US assistant secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs and now a director of the Arms Control Association, told Agence France Presse that the US Defense Department ‘has never had a biological laboratory in Ukraine’. The department’s funding of the Kharkiv and Poltava Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through its Biological Threat Reduction Program is a matter of public record, however, and openly acknowledged by Washington as part of a joint effort to deactivate biological agents and prevent the outbreak of disease.
An American diplomat in Kyiv told me that Ivan’s ‘dead dog’ story was just ‘Russian disinformation’, adding: ‘I don’t wish to intrude on a dog-owner’s grief but it’s just a misperception that America creates bioweapons. We’re working with Ukraine to neutralize bioweapons because, don’t forget, the Soviet Union had the largest biological weapons program ever created, which explains our presence in such facilities helping respond to any bioweapons outbreak. Our researchers and officials work with their Ukrainian counterparts to isolate toxins of security concern while also undertaking peaceful research and vaccine development that has recently played an important role in stopping the spread of Covid-19, by the way.’
Unsurprisingly that isn’t quite how the Russian Ministry of Defense sees it. A couple of days before the outbreak of war, Moscow’s charge d’affaires in Kyiv – there hasn’t been an ambassador in place since the invasion of Crimea in 2014 – picked up a message about the dead dog that Gorlovko had posted on a Telegram channel, and passed it upwards to the Kremlin. The story piqued the interest of Igor Kirillov, the head of the Russian military’s Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces, who delights in circulating fake information about the development of nuclear weapons and Western-run biological weapons laboratories. On 23 February, in a transparent attempt to justify the imminent invasion of Ukraine, Kirillov declared on Russian state television that ‘the latest analysis by our experts confirms the work of US scientists on pathogens of diphtheria, dysentery, dengue and African swine fever laboratories in Kharkiv and Poltava.’
He went on to imply that the Kharkiv and Poltava labs were developing pathogens specifically directed at the ‘Slavic ethnic group’ as part of a genocidal attack on the Russian-speaking inhabitants of the Donbas. ‘Since 2014, during which time more than 14,000 have died in Luhansk and Donetsk, there has been a ten-fold rise in cases of tularaemia and other infectious diseases among servicemen and residents of the people’s republics.’ Unfounded allegations of genocide in the Donbas have been repeatedly cited by Putin as a pretext for ‘liberating’ the east of the country.
Gorlovko, unlike Kirillov, doesn’t really fit the profile of a conspiracist. He doesn’t use the internet or watch TV and he doesn’t like politics. His parents were Russian, born in Belgorod, just over the border from Chuhuiv, and although he regards himself as a proud Ukrainian, he told me he was unwilling to take sides. He was angry about Laika’s mysterious death and had posted his allegations on Telegram as a way of coping with his bereavement, but he was also confused, which made him more susceptible to conspiracy theories. The inhabitants of Chuhuiv have been shelled from both sides and engulfed by propaganda, rumor and fear.
Chuhuiv was bombed on the first day of the invasion, 24 February, along with Chernobyl in the north-west and Zaporizhzhia – the largest nuclear power plant in Europe – in the south-east. The last eight months have brought back fears of weapons of mass destruction, thanks in part to Putin’s nuclear threats and his reckless disregard for human safety in shelling the Zaporizhzhia atomic facility (which Kirillov tried to blame on the Ukrainians). After the seizure of Chernobyl in February, unprotected Russian soldiers camped on contaminated soil and inhaled contaminated dust. There were reports of at least one death from radiation poisoning. Meanwhile cruise missiles were flying over the Chuhuiv Bacteriological Institute and slamming into nearby trees.
The long rows of silver birches add a bleak splendor to Chuhuiv’s industrial post-Soviet landscape, which in spite of the smoke, dirt and neglect is still reminiscent of the 19th-century paintings of Ilya Repin, one of the aesthetic cornerstones of Russian nationalism, even though Repin himself was Ukrainian, born in Chuhuiv in fact. Another Chuhuiv-born artist, Olexey Viznavsky, took me on a fifty-mile drive south along the banks of the Seversky Donets to Izium, recaptured from the Russians a week before. He had volunteered to deliver humanitarian aid. The bridge in Chuhuiv was destroyed in March and we got lost several times on back roads through farmland dotted with the wrecks of tanks and ruined barns gouged with mortar holes.
Viznavsky was impatient with Gorlovko’s bioweapons claims. ‘It’s a kind of madness to see conspiracy everywhere,’ he said. ‘Is it madness to be preoccupied by the danger of weapons of mass destruction?’ I asked. Eight months after Russia launched its invasion, Putin’s army has been driven back in the Kharkiv region, while Ukrainian forces are advancing in the Donbas and squeezing enemy troops and supply lines in Kherson, the gateway to Crimea. On 21 September, facing humiliation, Putin issued a new threat: holding ‘referendums’ in the occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, which could lead to them being annexed by Russia any day now.
The city of Zaporizhzhia and other parts of the region are not occupied by Russian troops and won’t be participating in the bogus voting exercise. Two days before Putin’s announcement I was in Orikhiv on the frontline. Ruslan Mikhalenko, a 24-year-old accountant, had joined the army three months earlier and was now stopping cars at a checkpoint on the edge of town. There was no electricity or gas or running water in Orikhiv, he said, as a shell whistled over our heads.
Later, after the referendum announcement, Mikhalenko texted me to say that Putin was hoping to make the ‘special military operation’ more legitimate in the eyes of ordinary Russians by turning the invasion of a neighboring country into a defensive war. But other Ukrainians worry that Putin may exploit the annexations to launch a nuclear attack if the war swings decisively against him. ‘I’m not bluffing,’ he warned on television, but isn’t that what buffers always say? Viznavsky asked me if I was wary (ostorozhniy) of being caught up in a nuclear incident. ‘That’s one word for it,’ I said.
We were standing in a silver birch forest just outside Izium where investigators had uncovered a mass grave of local people killed by the Russian occupiers. On the way back to the car, Viznavsky and I walked up Izium’s newly renamed John Lennon Street, past a mural of the former Beatle emblazoned with the words, in Russian, Daite miru shans (‘Give Peace a Chance’), but I’m not sure that’s really in Putin’s playbook.
(London Review of Books)
IN NORD STREAM ATTACK, US SEES 'A TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY'
Without the now-exploded Nord Stream gas pipelines, Europeans fear “a winter of de-industrialization.” As US planners have long sought, the White House sees a “tremendous strategic opportunity.”
by Aaron Mate
The Baltic Sea bombing of the two Nord Stream gas pipelines “threatens to greatly expand the military theater” in Europe (Wall Street Journal), adding “yet another diffuse threat to a growing array of worries, from power blackouts all the way to nuclear war.” (New York Times).
In halls of power on the other side of the Atlantic, the outlook is much rosier.
The idling of Nord Stream, Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared in Washington, is “a tremendous opportunity.” So tremendous, in fact, that Blinken repeated it twice. With both Nord Stream 1 and 2 unable to ship Russian energy directly to Germany for the long-term, Europe has “a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy, and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs,” Blinken said. That “offers tremendous strategic opportunity for the years to come.”
As Europe enters winter in the weeks to come, now lacking its traditional Russian source of cheap natural gas, ordinary civilians might not appreciate the tremendous strategic opportunity that their predicament offers Washington bureaucrats. Western sanctions on Russia have already led to job losses, skyrocketing bills, and fears of energy rationing amid forecasts of exceptionally cold temperatures ahead. Just before the Nord Stream blasts, the head of German’s steel federation warned that without Russian energy, “a winter of de-industrialization threatens us in Germany.”
Ahead of this feared winter of de-industrialization, Blinken’s optimistic response to a now assured shut-off of Russian gas might seem odd for a top diplomat. But it is perfectly consistent with a longstanding US effort to kill Nord Stream for good.
In waging a multi-year campaign against Nord Stream, the US has sought to weaken Russia’s economy; undermine Russian integration with the rest of Europe; preserve lucrative transit fees for the US client state in Ukraine; and increase European dependence on US energy, in particular Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). In short, the “tremendous opportunity” that Blinken draws from the Nord Stream sabotage derives from the very goals that he imputed to Putin: “the weaponization of energy” for “imperial designs.”
As one of Blinken’s predecessors, Condoleezza Rice, explained in 2014: "Over the long-run, you simply want to change the structure of energy dependence. You want to depend more on the North America energy platform.”
The US drive to promote dependence on North American energy was escalated by President Donald Trump, who imposed sanctions to stop the Nord Stream 2’s construction while urging the German government to buy American LNG instead. Nord Stream 2, Trump declared in July 2018, is a “tragedy.” In his view, “it’s a horrific thing that’s being done, where you’re feeding billions and billions of dollars... primarily from Germany, into the coffers of Russia.”
Trump’s disdain for the “horrific” Russia-Germany energy project strained US relations with both countries. But because his actions contradicted the predominant Russiagate narrative that he was in fact a Kremlin asset being blackmailed to do Vladimir Putin’s bidding, the Nord Stream sanctions were among many confrontational Trump policies toward Russia that went widely ignored at home.
Trump’s sanctions on Nord Stream 2 caused such a rift with Germany that Biden, upon taking office, initially waived them. But the Ukraine crisis gave Biden a backdoor opportunity to revive Trump’s quest. As Russian forces amassed on Ukraine’s borders in 2021, Biden pressured Germany to commit to cancelling Nord Stream 2 in the event of an invasion. When the Germans still refused, the White House announced that it would achieve its goal with or without them. "If Russia invades...then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” Biden declared on February 7, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at his side. “We will bring an end to it."
Asked how the US could do that given that “the project is in Germany’s control,” Biden replied: “I promise you, we will be able to do that.”
With someone now delivering on that promise, Biden has offered a tepid response to suspicions of US involvement. Commenting on Russian allegations that the US and its allies were responsible, Biden did not offer a direct denial. He instead claimed that “the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies... just don’t listen to what Putin is saying. What he’s saying, we know is not true.”
But Russia is not alone in pointing to US involvement. In a since-deleted tweet, Radek Sikorsky, a former Polish Foreign Minister and current European Parliament member, shared a picture of a leak from the pipeline along with the message: “Thank you, USA.” Sikorsky’s spouse, Anne Applebaum, is a leading neoconservative proponent of the Ukraine proxy war, and among a group of historians invited to brief President Biden at a White House meeting in August.
Why Russia’s adversaries from Warsaw to Washington would want to sabotage its partnership in a massive European energy project differs depending on who their audience is. In public, Nord Stream’s NATO foes argue that Russian energy is unreliable and prone to be weaponized by Moscow. But their internal strategy and analysis, meant for those who shape policy in private, tells a different story.…