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FROST IS EXPECTED for many of the interior valleys early Monday morning. A front will bring light rain to mostly Del Norte, northern Humboldt and northwest Trinity counties later this morning into this afternoon. Showers will linger early this evening, and then taper off during the night. Another weak front will bring more light precipitation Tuesday night for locations north of Cape Mendocino. Isolated light showers could linger into Wednesday, however dry weather with near normal temperatures are forecast to prevail for much of Northwest California Wednesday through Thursday. Another front will likely stall and become stationary offshore on Friday. Rain may not push across the area until sometime during the weekend. (NWS)
SUPERVISOR MULHEREN: One of the (many) conversations that has come up about illegal dumping is root causes and it’s “assumed or alleged” that some of the illegal dumping is done by people that were paid by others to take it to the transfer station so I wonder if an educational campaign would be helpful. One thing I thought of is get the receipt, either a text or the actual receipt to make sure they take it in. Thoughts on this? I think bottom line is, if the price is too good to be true it might be. So how can we deter illegal dumping as a community? We have vouchers available for people that are low income. We are working on more free bulky item dump days with the State. Help me help you! Looking for ideas.
A READER WRITES: “There is a problem in the tax assessor's office. I bought my house in Ukiah not long ago, and I just got my tax bill and it is underbilled by $5,000 because the assessment valuation hasn't been updated. People are going to get supplemental bills once someone figures this out and those taxpayers are going to be upset. This is a mess. I know you support Chamise, but they need to get some big guns into that office to fix this.... They need to hire a consultant and fix the valuations and the supplemental tax roles. The board of supes is too inept to do it and I don't think Chamise knows what to do. They need to get a consultant in there ASAP. People are going to get tax bills that are multiple thousands past due.”
Mark Scaramella replies: Chamise Cubbison is the Auditor-Controller-Tax Collector Treasure, not the Assessor. The Assessor Clerk-Recorder is Katrina Bartolomie. Both offices were consolidated by fiat, not planning, and the Supes deserve blame for consolidating the Auditor-Treasurer without pre-planning and abruptly against the advice of the officials involved. The property tax/assessment problem has come up in passing at previous Board meetings, but nothing came of it besides some hand-wringing and complaints about chronic understaffing. Part of this stems from the ongoing problems with the County’s conversion to a new property tax system which continues to present data incompatability problems (apparently in other Counties as well). They’ve been working with the software vendor but progress is slow and piecemeal at best. Personally, I don’t blame Ms. Cubbison or Ms. Bartolomie. The Supervisors and the CEO should acknowledge the seriousness of the problem and devote more resources to the problem, and, yes, perhaps a consultant. But frankly, even with that, I don’t think they’re going to fix the problems for this year’s tax bills and they should just come out and say that so the public at least has some understanding of what’s going on. And then set up a tiger team to speed up the conversion where possible. Will that happen? History says it won’t.
HELP BRING A SKATE PARK TO ANDERSON VALLEY
Community Meeting Monday, October 24, @5pm (at AV Firehouse Community Meeting Room)
Anderson Valley needs more public spaces for recreation and community connection - especially for our growing youth.
Our AV Jr/Sr High Service Learning Team (SLT) - a student group that works to improve the community - is partnering with the Parks & Recreation committee of our AV Community Services District (AVCSD) to support bringing a Skate Park to Boonville, welcoming skateboarders, roller skaters, bikers and scooters of all ages to share recreation together, making for meaningful and vibrant community connection.
Want To Learn More? Website: http://avskatepark.org/
Learn all about the project, current status and updates, and show support by signing the petition and/or donating.
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Why A Skate Park In AV?
There are very few public spaces in our community for young people to spend time together, and few opportunities for non-competitive, healthy recreation. The void of such public spaces and opportunities encourages youth to congregate in less visible areas (e.g. under bridges, in empty houses or cars) and engage in risky, unhealthy activity. A skatepark will inspire AV youth to be more active and fosters healthy community connection. Skateboarding, roller skating, biking and scooting are great outlets, physically and mentally, for young people, and can be a vital source for promoting mental and physical well being.
Who Will The Skatepark Serve?
The AV skatepark will welcome skateboarders, roller skaters, bikers and scooters of all ages. Skateparks are a rare space where community members of all ages -- from toddlers to retirees -- share recreation together, making for meaningful and vibrant community connection.
How Much Will It Cost?
The projected cost is around $250,000, but this figure is likely to change based on custom modification of the skatepark design and community donations of supplies and labor.
Who Is Involved In The Skatepark Project?
The project was initiated by students in the AV Jr/Sr High Service Learning Team (SLT), a student group that works to improve the community. The CSD Parks and Recreation Committee is partnering with SLT to support the project, and is acting as the fiscal sponsor. A community skatepark planning group is also being formed to help guide the project, and open community meetings will be held regularly to solicit input during the planning process.
AV VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFFS
Big news: We are the 7th seed in the NCS Division 6 playoffs and we will be hosting 11th seed Ferndale in the first round in the Boonville gym. Be there on Wednesday, 26 October at 7pm.
Volleyball Playoff Ticket Link: The NCS playoffs require all tickets to the game to be sold digitally and visitors must use their smartphones as the ticketing device.
"NCS is working with GoFan to go exclusively to online ticketing for all rounds of section championships during the 2022-2023 school year. Tickets must be purchased online in advance through GoFan Ticketing. No cash sales will take place at the event. Admission Fees: General Admission (adults) $12.00; Special $5.00 (seniors, students, & children with adults)."
Here is a shortcut link to the ticketing page: https://gofan.co/app/events/748769?schoolId=CA22853
PROPOSITION P – NOT THE WAY TO HANDLE PUBLIC FUNDS
Open Letter to Mendocino Voters
I will surely make far more enemies than friends by expressing my concerns over Proposition P (and all such similar tax measures). But I do so out of an abiding belief that we must find a better way to tax ourselves for essential services. The Prop P approach is just wrong.
I like firefighters. I’m very glad we have them. I “support” them (whatever that means). I want them to have all necessary equipment for both fighting fires and protecting themselves while doing so. Virtually 100% of us feel the same. So Prop P will pass because it is a “substitute” tax use that maintains the existing sales tax rate rather than seeking to bump up that rate.
When Measure AA passed on the coast many years ago, it was because those who supported it like myself articulated a “new tax” need for a K-8 school in the Mendocino Unified School District. We developed plans, costs, analyses – and then “sold” the package to residents with information specifically about when and how that money would be used.
Compare with Prop P. Hyperbole abounds. We are simply told the tax proceeds will “support local fire departments” as well as “wildfire-preparedness programs.” Well, who could be against that? And certainly we all agree that “costs” have increased over the past five years. We are told all our departments countywide will get “financial relief they desperately need now.” (All emphasis in original.) Strong words. I had not heard about any such desperation previously. So what are those desperate needs? We’re never told.
I don’t know the individuals opposing Prop P nor am I aware of any “special interests” backing them. I’d like to know more but Prop P proponents don’t tell me. All I could discern from the Voter Information Pamphlet is that Ukiah is going to get the biggest bundle of funds. To be used for? Why isn’t Chief Hutchinson featured prominently? The website yesonpmendocino.com is not more helpful, other than to stoke more fears by telling me the “current volunteer fire system is not sustainable!” OK. But when did that happen exactly and what does “sustainable” mean? Six years ago, the Board of Supervisors expressed that Prop 172 funding would not meet fire needs. So why hasn’t the Board of Supervisors put a dedicated tax measure on the ballot since then?
In the future, maybe we can do better allocating tax funds based on articulated and precise needs. Taxpayers deserve as much.
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RESPONSE TO “NO ON P” BY ROD JONES
I serve on the Mendocino Co. Fire Safe Council (MCFSC) board. I am also working on the Measure P campaign. This letter is to provide your readers with a summary of the Measure P information Mr. Jones states he cannot find in his Letter to your paper yesterday. I have already provided a more extensive, three-page list of information and emergency/fire needs directly to Mr. Jones.
Mr. Jones states he had not heard of our “desperate needs” for Fire until now. Measure P does have a web site, but it is also on social media, mailers, signs, campaign flyers, letters to editors and more. Words are limited in these formats. Campaign representatives have been at city forums, farmers markets, the county fair, local events, candidates nights, Zoom forums, radio spots all across the county. These ‘speak to the experts’ events are the best opportunities to ask questions, receive indepth information about Measure P, hear the plans our 20 fire departments have for the funds if/when they get them. Too bad Mr. Jones wasn’t at the Albion-Little River open house last Saturday, the 15th, to see the extensive plans for that fire station, the goals and objectives laid out for the public (not to mention he missed a great tri-tip bar-b-q fundraiser for only $15! ). The information is available, as voters we should all be accessing it. Please ask your local fire chief how they plan to spend Measure P funding – they can tell you.
“When did this happen?” Our fire and emergency response situation has indeed been discussed for many years now in this County. As far back as 2016 the Board of Supervisors agreed to some proportional funding for the County’s fire agencies from Prop 172, a public safety sales tax, an amount of approximately $560,000. Then Chair Gjerde stated in his letter of May 26, 2016 about Prop 172, “it is our understanding that fire agencies need at least $3 million more and perhaps as much as $10 million more each year . . “ That was in 2016; costs for everything along with 911 calls have increased dramatically. Measure P was placed on the November Ballot by the BOS because they have long recognized and discussed the need for additional funding to support Mendocino County fire departments. Measure P is an opportunity to get, yes! desperately needed funding to fire districts right away.
I sent Mr. Jones a list almost two pages long of “articulated and precise needs” from county fire chiefs; this is available to the public. Basic operational costs like: our mostly volunteer firefighters have to be covered by Workman’s Compensation - those costs have skyrocketed; outfitting them in protective gear (Personal Protective Gear, PPE, for one firefighter costs approximately $15,000); purchase of equipment, maintaining equipment, replacing equipment; purchase of water tenders and fire engines (these cost more than $400,000 new); maintaining ISO ratings – meeting those state criteria. (ISO is Insurance Services Office, a score provided to fire departments and insurance companies. This brings a whole other issue of keeping fire district ISO ratings high enough so we can keep our fire insurance.) Not having enough revenue to pay for these basic operations does very clearly presents a desperate situation.
The individuals opposing Measure P, who wrote the Against P statement on our ballot include Steven L.Gomes, Arthur McChesney, James Crabtree, Robert Blake. The rebuttal is signed by Steven Gomes. There is no actual campaign Against Measure P, they just submitted the Against P ballot statement. What is their agenda? What is their interest in this? If any of you know these individuals you might take a guess regarding their “special interests”.
Mr. Jones mentions the work he did on passing Measure AA on the coast years ago for the Mendocino K-8. Our situation with County Fire and emergency response is much more complex, it is county-wide. We have 20 Fire Districts, each with their own district board. Those board members are elected locally. These boards understand what the immediate and future needs are of their communities, they do indeed have agendas and goals. Developing coordinated, county-wide planning with 20 independent, local entities will require a huge effort. This is not just one, small school district.
Most all of our 20 fire districts are comprised of mostly volunteers, very few have paid chiefs or staff let alone paid firefighters. That should be our first alarm bell. Is this a safe way to run emergency services, with mostly volunteers? When will we need to begin paying salaries for firefighters? Indeed, some districts have needed to hire seasonal firefighters to get them through fire season. This is a very scary way to run emergency response. For the moment we must rely on these volunteers, as we have in the past. However, we know costs have risen, availability of new volunteers is limited. Thank goodness these volunteers are dedicated and experienced folks, but they have their real jobs to do as well, i.e., the one that pays their bills.
I don’t agree that the Measure P campaign is trying to stoke your fears. The reality is we really are in a very scary situation. The current volunteer fire system is not sustainable. We need more. Let’s pass Measure P. I think this is an emergency measure. And yes indeed – we must find a better way to tax ouselves for these essential, emergency services. So next let’s get to work and make longterm, extensive plans for the future to safeguard ourselves, our families, and our homes.
For Bragg resident & voter
ERNIE BRANSCOMB: How soon we forget…
To look at the area today, it is difficult to see that this was the location of an important part of early California, and railroad history. The Golden Spike was the pin that connected Humboldt County to the rest of the world, and opened up the markets for redwood lumber. The driving of the Golden Spike was a three day celebration, with a train coming from the north and a train coming from the south. They met at Cain Rock for the Golden Spike Driving. The mayor of San Francisco and the future governor of California, James “Sunny Jim” Rolph, came on the south train and made a glorious speech.
COOL NEW STORE IN MENDO: Coast E Bike Co, ebike, surfboard, paddleboard rentals, skate shop, dye-sub printing etc
Just saw a cool new store on Lansing in Mendo near the coffee place and Lansing Street Gallery. Rents ebikes, surfboards, wetsuits, stand up paddleboards. Also skate shop, bikes, clothing, sunglasses, sublimation printing on metal, wood, fabric etc. And probably some more stuff I'm forgetting. Open Thurs - Sun. I think, I guess best to call or email: 707 397-4044, https://coastebikeco.com/
IN TERMS OF SHEER DOLLARS, the most conspicuous corruption in Mendocino County is the sweetheart contracts with the Sacramento Architectural/Design outfit Nacht & Lewis, personally arranged by former CEO Carmel Angelo.
N&L has contracts with Mendo for the Jail Expansion project, the Crisis Residential Treatment (CRT) Center and the upcoming Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF), (and perhaps others). In each case, they build in their own costs and “fees” for design and development and construction management into each project which nobody questions, grossly inflating the cost of these already grandiose projects.
For example, here’s the Nacht & Lewis cost breakdown for the CRT & the PHF that was recently presented to the Measure B committee. (There are comparable charges for the grossly overrunning jail expansion project for which Mendo recently had to borrow about $8 million at prevailing interest rates to cover.)
Notice N&L’s huge numbers estimated for various cost categories which are for themselves. These are not competitive bids and nobody questions them as they charge hundreds of dollars per hour — hours and rates for which they also have unilateral control. Why does it cost over $55,000 for “bidding”? Why will it cost over $274k for “schematic design”? Almost $700k for “construction documents”? Etc.
In a normal county, this stuff would go out to bid for hourly rates and/or fixed price contracts, and, at least in part, in-house. How much would, say, a local professional architect like Don Alameida charge for these services and documents? How much would it cost to hire a professional construction manager in Mendo’s facilities department? Nobody knows; nobody cares. Nacht & Lewis writes their own overpriced ticket and then Mendo officials brag when N&L comes in a few thousand dollars below their inflated estimates.
WILL THE GRAND JURY look into this? Probably not.
FROST FANS disturbed central Boonville early Sunday morning although there's no frost. Apparently, some of these outrageously noisy contraptions are on timers; when the temp lowers to around 40 degrees, as it did Sunday about 1am, they roar into life and several hundred of us wake up cursing them, the wine industry, the absent authority that permits them. Mendo's uninforced noise ordinance is anyway waived for the wine mafia.
BEETHOVEN AND BEER, another great event at the Boonville Brewery, this one Sunday afternoon, and I'm not the only local to notice that the impenetrable Boonville Fairgrounds is being replaced by the welcoming Brewery as Anderson Valley's and Mendocino County's go-to entertainment site.
DON'T CRY FOR ME, HEALDSBURG, but I'm crying for you as dubious development overwhelms what was once a coherent, well-planned, beautiful little town. A major housing development at the north end, endless large-scale construction at the south end. Water? Interesting question. Residential water in Healdsburg is already restricted as the town erects water-gulping projects all over.
STEVEN HIGGS ASKS, “Is Humanity Destined to Self Destruct?“ Seems so, but don't blame us. We're at the mercy of humanity's shot callers, and unconsulted.
ON THE SUBJECT of humanity's shelf-life, my first thought when I saw the photos of those two young women throwing soup at a Van Gogh to protest humanity's looming death, I thought they were wayyyyyy outtaline. But reading on I was relieved that the painting was covered with a protective layer of plastic, so my next thought was the efficacy of a protest that merely outrages people to the extent most people say, “Well, hell, go ahead with global destruction.”
INTELLECTUALLY, the protesters are correct. More stuff for more people forever has arrived us at Survival Junction — keep on and the planet dies, get off dino juice and live on.
I WATCHED a sad doc the other night about a genius-level kid named Tyler Johnson who probably killed himself as an on-the-lam exile in Corsica. He'd been associated with ELF, the Earth Liberation Front, when he torched a whole car lot of Hummers, certainly a right-on thing to do, but also major felony time if you get caught. And he was quickly identified as the perp. (Every so-called terrorist group in the country is loaded with FBI snitches.) In this one young man existed the basic argument: How to effectively stop the destroyers before it's too late.
DIGGING DEEP for a tsk-tsk type of moral condemnation, all I could come up with is, “Gosh.” A sincere gosh, though, because I'm simply at a loss to understand why that dramatic re-enactment of the Jeff Dahmer saga on Netflix is Netflix's most watched show going on a month now. I managed the first couple of minutes as I wondered at my own ghoulish curiosity, but that was enough for me as the film begins with the cannibal's neighbor popping out of her apartment to ask, “Excuse me, Jeff. But there's that smell again.” Dahmer assures her he'll step up his housekeeping as the very next scene presents him at a bar zeroing in on his next victim. I'm sure the Dahmer film is well done, etc; after all, we live in the mayhem capitol of the world where there's no shortage of the real thing… But Gosh!
IF YOUR BABY'S arrival is imminent, why are you and hubbykins driving around at 3am on a deserted stretch of strange (to you) Mendo road? But here comes the baby on Sunday, October 15th on 128 near the Hendy Woods turnoff where the, uh, unexpectant expectant Oregon couple had pulled over to welcome their heir. AV's emergency crew was soon on site, mom and little 3am were hauled over the hill to be checked out, and all's well that ends well.
A SHARP-EYED READER WONDERS, “How come no boys on the CSF Mendocino field trip?” I thought maybe they were home watching the kids, but the worrisome fact is none of the boys qualified.
BUY BACK ALBION? “The Mendocino County Coastal community is in need of a CRV Buy Back Facility. To meet this need, we are excited to announce that Albion Transfer Station has been identified as a potential location that would bring a CRV Buy Back to the coast in a timely manner.
Prior to moving forward with this project, we would like to gauge community support. We have assembled a short survey that can be reached at the following URL: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RYYR9BK
We would appreciate if you would provide your feedback on this project, as your opinion is important to us.
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COMMENT: Despite sounding like a NIMBY, I have made comment that Albion ridge road is TOO narrow and therefore unsafe to accomodate increased traffic, should a buy-back sight be established at the Albion Transfer Station. Please add your comments to this survey.
DAN KUNY: I plan on winning the lottery soon, but I'll never stop falling timber.
WATER IS NOT FREE
David Taber is right that treating water as if it’s free is a bad idea. Any cost-benefit analysis should evaluate impacts to Eel River communities since the Eel became a Russian River tributary.
These impacts include huge losses for Eel River fishing-related businesses, tribes and property owners from a century of lost water, lost salmon and lost way of life. Commercial and sport fishermen up and down the coast traditionally relied on salmon from the Eel River as part of a thriving port economy.
What about the economic value of a fully restored fishery on the Eel and other beneficial uses of 398 river miles designated wild, scenic or recreational? People once came from far away to enjoy the river and brought money into the local economy. One study valued protecting and rebuilding Eel River fish stocks at $150 million per year, and a restored local commercial fishery at $50 million-plus annually.
To select the best course of action, decision-makers should consider a reasonable price for water transferred from the Eel River.
THE GREAT REDWOOD TRAIL, AN ON-LINE COMMENT: There are so many things the McGuire cartel has not thought of. But to be sure he got Doug Bosco millions of our tax payer money with the NWPco buyout and now he has the Coastal Conservancy (Bosco is the Chairman) to conduct millions in “planning.” Nothing to see here folks just move along… When the planning is complete they will probably find out it can’t be done with the lawsuits that are lining up. But McGuire won’t be asking Bosco for our money back.
Mark Scaramella adds: As chair of the Coastal Conservancy, Bosco is in a key position to steer McGuire’s planning money to friendly planning and consulting cohorts mostly in Sacramento. We certainly won’t be privy to the bidding and contracting process. I’d bet that he is now in the process of arranging some complicated legal arrangement that will make sure that some of the planning grant money ends up coming back to him somehow.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, October 23, 2022
DARIN CRUMRINE, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
JOSHUA DEPREE, Redwood Valley. Controlled substance, false personation of another, failure to appear, probation revocation.
JAMES EADS, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
NELSON GIBSON, Laytonville. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
TAATO HERNANDEZ, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LAJUAN MARTIN, Ukiah. Domestic abuse.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Meanwhile, last night (2) bears showed up and ate most of the pumpkins on the street as well, overturning everybody’s trash cans. They got into my neighbor’s man made pond and ate the fish — all that was left was one fish head. I asked him how many fish were in there and he said 1 dozen trout. This is the first time we’ve seen two bears working together as a team, and they were pretty effective, hitting every house and creating quite the mess. The guy at the end of the street — the Fire Chief — confronted one of the bears in an attempt to scare him away; the bear wasn’t even phased, just continued cracking open a pumpkin. Instead, the Fire Chief got scared away!
ROUTED BY CHIEFS, 49ers show how far they’ve fallen from past greatness
by Ann Killion
Sunday was a day about Super Bowls, which is a little odd in October.
But that was the vibe at Levi’s Stadium. Memories, both good and bad, of diamond rings and Lombardi trophies filled the air.
But by game’s end, it was only the bad reminders that lingered. In their first game against Kansas City since the bitter Super Bowl LIV loss in February of 2020, the San Francisco 49ers were again overmatched. This was no revenge game. The 49ers were simply dominated on both sides of the ball and were humiliated by the Chiefs, 44-23.
“The spots that we hurt ourselves,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s what disappoints me the most.”
And there were a lot of those spots. Penalties. Turnovers. Strange decisions. The 49ers dropped below .500 to 3-4, lost a share of first place in the NFC West (which now belongs solely to Seattle) and gave up the most points in a loss since December 30, 2018 when a Nick Mullens-led team was routed by the Rams.
More concerning, this was the second straight game where the 49ers were dominated on both sides of the ball. And, once again, in the fourth quarter when the game was not yet completely out of hand, the 49ers showed a bizarre lack of urgency.
Maybe one of the day’s reminders of past Super Bowls could have helped out on that count. It was alumni day and Joe Montana, winner of four Super Bowls, was on hand. That guy knows a little something about directing a high-pressure offensive drive.
Bryant Young, an anchor behind the last Super Bowl that the 49ers won, in the 1994 season and the newest 49er to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was honored at halftime. The organization, still haunted by the Super Bowl loss in New Orleans, also recognized that 2012 team. Sunday marked the first return of Jim Harbaugh to Levi’s since his “mutually agreed upon” parting from the 49ers.
But those Super Bowl memories belong to different eras. Right now, this Kyle Shanahan team fancies itself a Super Bowl contender. The team it measures itself against was on the field. But the 49ers looked nothing like a championship-caliber team against the Chiefs.
On Sunday, the 49ers debuted their newest player, one that Shanahan hopes can jumpstart the 49ers’ anemic offense and who could be a key to getting back to the Super Bowl. Christian McCaffrey debunked the theory that Shanahan’s uber-complex offense needs weeks to grasp, playing just 48 hours after he officially joined the team, following the blockbuster trade from the Carolina Panthers. He had a list of about 20 plays he could use. He played about that many snaps.
But even with the new toy, the 49ers’ offense was mediocre once again. They scored on their first three drives but had to settle for field goals twice, which is no way to keep up with Mahomes.
“Field goals instead of touchdowns, that was a big difference with momentum,” Jimmy Garoppolo said.
The offense self-destructed several times, with bad penalties, poor protection, a bad Garoppolo interception in the end zone and — in the fourth quarter — a sack in the end zone for a safety.
Still, the biggest problems were not on offense. With Patrick Mahomes directing the offense and Andy Reid dialing up plays, the Chiefs racked up 529 yards against the 49ers’ once-vaunted defense. Yes, the defense is missing some key pieces, but it was utterly shredded on Sunday, giving up enormous plays on third downs as the Chiefs converted 6 of 9 third-down attempts.
“It’s a great team but we gave them too many easy ones,” said Nick Bosa, who was celebrating his 25th birthday.
“We haven’t really played together as a team, on offense and defense and special teams. We need to get clicking on all cylinders.”
In contrast, Mahomes and Reid looked in complete control. The Chiefs were angry after a loss to Buffalo last week; the result was Mahomes sliced up the 49ers’ defense like a varsity player going against the JV.
He had at least one major fan in the building.
“He’s crazy fun to watch,” Montana raved before the game. “The guy does everything you tell every quarterback not to do. He does all of it and he does it well. Don’t go off the back foot. Don’t go this way. Don’t go sidearm. Don’t go late down the middle. He’s one of the most talented guys you’ll see in that position.”
The 49ers lost at Levi’s for the first time this season and for the first time since the dreadful loss to Arizona last Nov. 7. They gave up the most points at home since a loss on Oct. 11, 2009. That was a Mike Singletary coached team, which no 49er team wants to be measured against.
On Sunday, there were a lot of Super Bowl memories and dreams, ghosts and promises, floating around. There was plenty of Super Bowl royalty in the house.
But the current 49ers looked unworthy of any comparisons.
* * *
49ERS GAME GRADES: Gap between Chiefs and S.F. is getting wider
by Michael Lerseth
The Christian McCaffrey Train got out of the station quickly, only to be derailed by a series of missed opportunities and mistakes. Jimmy Garoppolo had decent stats (25-of-37, 303 yards, 99.3 rating), but his interception at the Chiefs’ goal line nullified a gift turnover less than 2 minutes before halftime, and his not throwing the ball away from the end zone in the fourth led to a K.C. safety. George Kittle (6 catches, 98 yards, TD) was a bright spot on National Tight Ends Day, but Deebo Samuel was pedestrian (2 yards rushing, 5 catches for 42 yards).
The league’s top defense played nothing like it — particularly on third down. Kansas City was 6-of-9 on third-down conversions, including second-half gains of 34 yards on 3rd-and-20, 24 yards on 3rd-and-11 and a “turn-out-the-lights” 45-yard scoring play on 3rd-and-6 with 6:05 to play. Patrick Mahomes threw for 423 yards and 3 TDs. Nick Bosa returned to action and notched his seventh sack, but was flagged on back-to-back plays for lining up in the neutral zone and on two other plays was run past or around — a jet sweep TD and a long third-down conversion that set up another K.C. score in the third quarter.
The half-full view? Robbie Gould made all three field goal tries (30, 50 and 49 yards) and the 49ers recovered a muffed punt at the Chiefs’ 12. Half-empty? A false-start penalty pushed the 49ers out of Gould’s range in the second quarter and the Chiefs returned the opening kick of the second half 48 yards to set up a touchdown three plays later.
Was McCaffrey on some kind of Kyle Shanahan pitch count? After rushing for 39 yards on six carries (and a reception for another 13 yards) in the first half, the Stanford alum had just three touches in the second: two carries for a minus-1 yard rushing and an 11-yard catch. That sizzling sound you’re hearing is cold water thrown on the head coach talk surrounding red-hot DeMeco Ryans, whose defense has been torched for 72 points the past two weeks.
What looked like a potential nail-biter at the half — when the 49ers trailed 14-13 — turned into a humbling blowout that dropped S.F. to 3-4. Even with leeway allowed for unfamiliarity (McCaffrey) and rust (Bosa and Trent Williams), this loss made crystal-clear the Chiefs are at the same level they were at beating the Niners in Super Bowl LIV, while S.F. has dropped from that perch.
ASSIGNMENT: UKIAH - WORDS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
Definitions dreamed up in a slow stretch at the column-writing factory:
APPLE: Once defined as a fruit varietal, now best known as a cyber-digital entity, and to a lesser extent as a recording label; see The Beatles. See also: Amazon, Chrome, Cookies, Tweet.
BITCOIN: Monetary unit whose intrinsic value isn’t worth the paper it’s not printed on.
BOOK: Antiquated vessel of printed and pictorial information; primary purpose today being the exhibition of exterior spines upon shelves, suggesting owner’s intellectual superiority to visitors.
BULL MARKET: Brief period during which stock market roulette wheel is tilted in your favor.
CANCER: Illness too valuable to cure.
CAREER: A series of undesirable employment goals required by society, reached by misfortune, and endured until something worse comes along.
CATS: Ill-tempered freeloading ingrates fortunate to have achieved domestication half a generation ahead of raccoons.
CELEBRITIES: Artificialities manufactured by marketers with the assistance of agents to the delight of accountants, consumed by morons to the detriment of society.
DEATH: Journey to graveyard, date of arrival recorded in advance.
DOGS: Best friend to those who have no other, and whose loyalties are purchased via threat of starvation.
ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Institution whose value and worth are disputed by those whose cause it most recently failed to reward.
FACT-CHECKERS: News media grading its own papers.
FREE SPEECH: Reserved for favored groups advocating opinions approved by those groups. See also: Mass Media restrictions re: expression of acceptable opinions in contrast with previously acceptable opinions now deemed unacceptable.
HOMELESS: Funding unit for grant writers, human services administrators and social workers. Eller’s Law posits that any increase in the homeless population produces a corresponding increase in salaries of those working to reduce the homeless population, resulting in disincentives to achieve promised results.
INTERNET: A series of tubes delivering dubious information to credulous consumers who believe honest journalism is best achieved if provided free, and who cancel their magazine and newspaper subscriptions to prove it.
JOURNALIST: One who strives to deliver biased, dishonest information as if it were neither.
MARXISM: Political fad dividing citizens as workers or owners; failed in the face of Fordism, Carnegieism, etc. Revived, now dividing citizens by race and gender. Oft-shouted goal of equality to be attained when all citizens are equally impoverished.
MINORITIES: Provided month-long observations in America, as in Women’s History Month, Black History Month, Hispanic Awareness Month and LGBTQ Celebration Month. Minor groups also honored in America via somewhat shorter (typically one day) commemoratives: War Veterans, Columbus Day (Italians) St. Patrick’s Day ( Irish) and U.S. Presidents.
PEN: Once-popular writing implement for transferring thoughts into sentences, then into personal letters and transported via the postal service, none of which today exist in meaningful numbers.
POET: Job title favored in lieu of being termed unemployed. See also: Laytonville carpenter, Los Angeles scriptwriter, community activist.
POLITICIAN: Takes money from Peter to pay Paul and Paula, betting he’ll get two-thirds of the vote next election.
PORNOGRAPHY: Displays of sexually explicit content defined a generation ago as having “No redeeming social value” but now freely available to anyone capable of operating a computer, i.e., everyone over age five. Once scourge of society, now defended as Free Speech by those who benefit financially.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Semi-effective means of delivering crowded groups from one unpleasant urban area to another as a means of punishing those who decline to use it.
SPORTS: Fierce competition between factions whose loyalties are determined by shirt colors.
SUPER BOWL: Annual event most closely representing a national holiday by generating the fewest number of activists protesting its existence.
TAROT: Card game at the conclusion of which the dealer explains your future in terms most favorable to her.
WALLET: Portable container transported by men to enable transfer of their wealth in exchange for transitory pleasures for the enrichment of those who keep them temporarily filled.
WRITING: Low art of communicating without having to look anyone in the eye.
(Tom Hine says definitions owe their inspiration and stylings to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary, now more than 100 years old. Get your copy at the Mendocino Book Company. Ask for Stan. Tell ‘em TWK sent you. Demand a free bookmark.)
HOW THE LOTTERY CAME TO BE what it now is is the subject of an excellent new book, “For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries in Modern America,” by the historian Jonathan D. Cohen. At the heart of Cohen's book is a peculiar contradiction: on the one hand, the lottery is vastly less profitable than its proponents make it out to be, a deception that has come at the expense of public coffers and public services. On the other hand, it is so popular that it is both extremely lucrative for the private companies that make and sell tickets and financially crippling for its most dedicated players. One in two American adults buys a lottery ticket at least once a year, one in four buys one at least once a month, and the most avid players buy them at rates that might shock you. At my local store, some customers snapped up entire rolls — at a minimum, $300 worth of tickets — and others show up in the morning, play until they win something, then come back in the evening and do it again. All of this, repeated every day at grocery stores and liquor stores and mini-marts across the country, renders the lottery a $91 billion business. “Americans spend more on lottery tickets every year than on cigarettes, coffee or smartphones,” Cohen writes, “and they spend more on lottery tickets annually than on video streaming services, concert tickets, books, and movie tickets combined.”
As those two sets of comparisons suggest, lottery tickets can seem like either a benign form of entertainment or a dangerous addiction. The question that lurks within “For a Dollar and a Dream” is which category they really belong to — and, accordingly, whether governments charged with promoting the general welfare should be in the business of producing them, publicizing them, and profiting from them.
— Kathryn Schulz, ‘Scratch That,’ The New Yorker
I will cut adrift — I will sit on pavements and drink coffee — I will dream; I will take my mind out of its iron cage and let it swim — this fine October.
— Virginia Woolf
IS THERE REALLY A COVID ‘NIGHTMARE VARIANT’ SPREADING?
by Aiden Vaziri
While the United States contends with the newly detected COVID omicron BQ.1 subvariants, another highly mutated strain of the coronavirus called XBB is tearing across Southeast Asia, where in some countries, it has caused the number of cases to double in a day.
Some more sensationalist reports have called XBB a “nightmare variant” due to its apparent ability to evade immunity and dampen some therapies. But infectious disease experts say it is too soon to jump to such broad conclusions.
“That is pretty irresponsible reporting because it’s impossible to know what all these variants mean,” said UC Berkeley infectious disease expert John Swartzberg.
“We are seeing a slew of new variants that are using a similar approach to survive — they are finding ways to evade the way we get immunity from vaccines and previous infection with changes on the spike protein,” he said. “XBB is no different from the others.”
The subvariant was first detected in August in India and has since been sequenced in more than 17 countries, including Bangladesh, Japan and Singapore, where it has caused cases to spike at an alarming rate.
“XBB is now the predominant subvariant circulating in the community, accounting for 54% of local cases,” up from 22% the previous week, according to a bulletin from the Singapore Ministry of Health.
The subvariant has overtaken BA.5, which is estimated to account for 21% of cases in the country — with many of the new cases being reinfections.
“It will be their second biggest wave after BA.2 — even bigger than BA.5,” said Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research in San Diego.
But he added that Singapore’s 79% booster uptake rate and strict virus mitigation measures appear to be blunting the impact of the new strain when it comes to the worst outcomes of the disease.
“The number of people dying or in the ICU is really low,” he said. “Their protection level is really solid.”
Singapore’s health ministry added that so far “there is no evidence that XBB causes more severe illness.” Like BQ.1, there are indications that XBB is resistant to the monoclonal antibody treatments Evusheld and bebtelovimab, according to a pre-print study from researchers in China.
The good news is the updated bivalent boosters — which contain half the recipe that targeted the original coronavirus strain and half protection against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 omicron versions — are designed to broaden immune defenses against newer strains. Experts just don’t know how much.
“We might expect some dent in efficacy,” Topol said.
BQ.1 and XBB — both descendants of the omicron BA.2 subvariant — appear to have similar growth advantages. But they are surging in different geographic regions, with the former mostly affecting North America, Europe and Africa while the latter has been detected in Asia.
In the few countries where they overlap, the two strains appear to be co-circulating rather than out-competing each other.
“If the immunity from the BQs is enough to not let us get sick from XBB then we could get some cross-protection there,” said Swartzberg. “What we can be doing in the meantime is getting immunized and being more assiduous, specifically by wearing masks indoors in crowded places.”
So far, 23 sequences from XBB have been detected in the United States, including six cases in California, based on data from GISAID, an international research organization that tracks virus variants.
“XBB is a chimera,” Natalie Thornburg, the CDC’s lead respiratory virus immunology specialist, said during a webinarthis week. “I think there have been a couple of sequences identified in the United States. But it’s way, way, way, way below that 1% threshold. I mean, it’s really like a handful of sequences.”
Topol said he is more concerned about the omicron coronavirus variant BQ.1 and its sibling BQ.1.1, which could drive another winter surge in the U.S. and could knock the BA.5 variant out of its dominant spot — especially with sluggish booster uptake.
“We’ve got another bad variant and we don’t have enough people protected,” Topol said. “We’re booster-vaccine deficient and we’re not in a good place to deal with a very tough variant like BQ.1.”
Nationally, about 14.8 million Americans have received the updated COVID-19 booster shots since they became available in early September, based on numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a little under 7% of the more than 209 million vaccinated people who are eligible — in stark contrast to Singapore’s robust numbers.
“We’re going to have another wave,” Topol said. “The question is, how bad is it going to be?”
I’m in a state of suspense. Nothing seems important to me except the November election. I’m certain it’s the most important election of my lifetime.
Lots of elections have seemed that way. George W. Bush, tragically free to walk around, if not stupider than Trump, just as, stole more American taxpayer money than the Donald and killed far more people, mostly Iraqis, whose thriving, western-style country he converted, at ultra-high cost, into a dessicated cemetery, home to forsaken, demoralized survivors of our awful visit. Hail to the thief, the signs said along Pennsylvania Avenue during his first inauguration. We knew all about W before he became president — ”we” being me and Ann Richards, Texas’s best governess, and a few handfuls of people, called “news junkies,” because ignorance is True Americanism.
We knew he was a dry drunk, that he partied his way from Connecticut to California, spent Vietnam awol from the Texas National Guard, did community service for snorting coke (for all the good it did him), had a family history of public criminals, a father who served, killed, stole, lied and died, revered as Reagan, and committed crimes (I’m talking Bush Jr. here, though the same applies to Poppy) as stupidly and nakedly as Trump (and more successfully; Trump is in process of Paying, paying bigly.)
Unless November’s contests go wrong. In that case, it’s not impossible for Donald J. Trump to become President of the United States. Nothing is impossible anymore, especially if it’s bad. The application of law and Constitution to a commanding army of rogues will fail utterly and stop.
But Bush: Scared that he would win a second term, I published a little newspaper. I named it after I. F. Stone’s Weekly. Stone was one of the most feared reporters in Washington history. Everybody who was anybody read his little, small-circulation paper and sighed with relief when they weren’t in it. Mighty news organizations and mighty people knew not to question the accuracy of Stone’s weekly. It was fading in memory by 2004, and I hoped I wouldn’t offend Izzy Stone’s descendants by commandeering his name and his paper’s appearance. Eleanor Cooney and Marco McClean provided essential help in getting this project done. My son, Mitch Clogg III, bankrolled most of it.
I went east. I had, I think, a thumb-drive with the paper on it, encoded in the proper way for a printer I found in Virginia. For a two-week period I hardly ate or slept. I rented a van and filled it with “The New I. F. Stone Weekly”. I landed in D.C. just in time to meet a hurricane that had been messing things up — Ivan, maybe. By the time it and I swept the streets in D.C., it was just a fierce storm. I walked alone and wet in the city, stacks of papers, tied in plastic, on a baggage cart that travelers used before suitcases had wheels. The wind blew a stack off the cart and into the rain-running street. I chased around and gathered the wet newsprint and loaded it into waste cans. I unloaded the neighborhood papers from free boxes, threw them away and stuffed the boxes with my paper. I did this morning, noon and night, in Washington and Manhattan.
I still have a few of my Stone-style weeklies. They still read good. There were two articles in it. One told all the stuff the Bush campaign did not want aired on the eve of an election, Junior’s revolting life, his family’s, all the documented facts that were swept under the costly rugs of the thieving, envious, avaricious Bush clan — with pictures. The other was a bio of Saddam Hussein, W’s supposed nemesis “because he tried to kill my dad.” Hussein’s story was the inverse of Bush’s, ragamuffin to most-powerful (and progressive!) Arab leader since Nasser. Saddam was about intense focus. He tortured and killed, true, but he was no threat to the greater world. He had no nukes, though he hoped to, eventually. All the things Iranian girls are dying for today — and Afghani girls and Pakistani girls and on and on in the east — all those things were heartily granted by Hussein. The photograph of him, sitting proudly in a school for girls he founded, surrounded by the female student body, everybody grinning, that picture got little circulation in America.
Bush2 is a wimp. Hussein was a man. Bush needed a villain and a war. Hussein rattled his saber and flapped his tongue in the interest of saving a sliver of dignity, while his emissaries quietly entreated the U.S. to spare them. Who remembers that the biggest anti-war demonstration in human history happened immediately before what our compliant media agreed to call the “Shock & Awe” attack on Baghdad? Every nation in the world saw millions take to the streets and shores. In my name, with my money, Bush committed the gravest crime in international law, the unprovoked invasion and destruction of a sovereign country. The torturing and killing that followed dwarfed any of the cruelties and atrocities of Saddam Hussein. That’s what my newspaper said. It is mere idle curiosity when I wonder what went wrong, who emptied all the boxes I filled in New York and Washington. They were thorough. It was no accident.
I went to the New York Times, to news broadcasters in D.C. and NY. Wet, or harried, or exhausted, I was received like a crazy man, wherever I was admitted. I spent hours in the Library of Congress, getting names and addresses for every news organization in every U.S. city over 10,000. I sent a copy to every senator. (Not enough money for every congress member.) I gave a copy of the paper to Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the protest organization Code Pink. It was at a party for the magazine Mother Jones. She angrily slapped it back on my table, having merely glanced and assumed it was in praise of G.W. Bush. Medea does good work, but I can’t forget that incident.
I got home more dead than alive. I seldom get sick. I have to be 1) thoroughly chilled and/or 2) thoroughly exhausted. I was both. I soon began noticing things going bad with my body, weird things. By the following spring, the weird things were weirder and worse. A VA doctor noticed a lump on my neck. I had throat cancer, Stage 4. The cancer’s long gone, but the treatment included a medical mistake, and the consequences of that are permanent and drastic. That’s not my point, but it adds to my animus for George W. Bush.
Other elections seemed decisive. My first vote, age 21, was for JFK, that dead dud, whose assassination saved his legacy from the truth. George McGovern was the Bernie Sanders of his time (also a little socialist senator named Paul Wellstone). McGovern, my hero, was roundly beaten and Wellstone was promptly killed (as in “murdered,” in all likelihood) in a plane crash.
Clinton won twice, but he was like the picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s character whose atrocities went unsuspected, while a painting of him, hidden from view, gradually became hideous. Clinton’s horny behavior attracted the attention of multitudes, but his real sin was misrepresenting himself as a man of the people. He was just fine with the elite. He still pushes the image of himself as a good Democrat, but he hangs with the rich.
Obama changed the world, putting a man with a black African father in a White House. At great cost, he also got a small but significant victory in the generations-long effort to provide healthcare for everybody. He, too, is a hustler and a liar, but, in spite of that, he had progressive plans that Mitch McConnell and his host would not permit. Until his first mid-term, Obama had a majority in both houses of congress, and he squandered it, and after that, it was too late.
I could go on. So many elections, national and local, seem to me the most momentous. Then another one seems even moreso. Next month’s, in keeping with my personal delusions, seems like the biggie, the apocalypse, the showdown between good and evil.
It is that. Modern life puts us all in places our species has not yet evolved to manage. Our instincts are neither good nor evil. Some are necessary. I’m glad I didn’t have to learn in school not to touch a hot stove. On the other hand, schools enforce a no-hitting policy that is counter-instinctual and teaches us lessons in control. The deliberate favoring of the already-favored at the cost of misery for the rest seems like evil to me, but what should I expect? Without systems of education and socialization that teach cooperation and concern for others, we will always default to self-service. When I was a kid, the intention to teach the values that civilization needs was prevalent. The teaching of values was collectively called “The Humanities.” You can go a long time, now, without hearing that phrase.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: What we are facing is often described as unprecedented—a pandemic, climate catastrophe and, always lurking off center stage, nuclear annihilation. Three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
NOAM CHOMSKY: I can add a fourth: the impending destruction of what remains of American democracy and the shift of the United States toward a deeply authoritarian, also proto-fascist, state, when the Republicans come back into office, which looks likely. So that’s four horses.
WASHINGTON, so shallow and dull to outward appearances, does have a way of outpacing the imagination of pulp writers. John F. Kennedy smuggling the Mob's molls into the White House bedroom? Nixon and Kissinger praying on the Oval Office rug? Nixon and Chuck Colson discussing a possible bombing of the Brookings Institution? Oliver North running a parallel state and private treasury from the White House basement? Ronald Reagan musing on the Biblical end times with the head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee? George Tenet insisting that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction by saying, “It’s a slam-dunk!”? Bill Clinton's furtive cigar with Monica Lewinsky, tagged and bagged by the FBI on the grounds — this actually is in a footnote of the Starr report — that smoking materials were forbidden in the executive mansion?
— Christopher Hitchens
NOT-SO-GREAT BRITAIN’S CONSERVATIVE CRACKUP
by Maureen Dowd
Never give in, never give in, never, never, never.
That was Winston Churchill’s famous mantra. Liz Truss, another Tory prime minister trying to lead a battered Britain, couldn’t follow that bulldog advice. She wilted faster than The Daily Star head of lettuce gussied up to look like her.
She lasted only 44 days before resigning. The Storm didn’t even have time to Gather. The photo of Queen Elizabeth shaking hands with Truss at Balmoral Castle, as Truss took over as head of the government, is epic in its symbolism.
Liz squared. The longest-reigning monarch meets the shortest-serving prime minister. It was such a swift fall that Truss was anointed by a queen and resigned to a king.
In years of yore, I would have felt sheepish about a woman self-immolating so quickly.
When I covered Geraldine Ferraro’s run for the vice presidency and Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, it felt as though their fates were tied to gender. If they failed, many women told me in interviews, there was an X through the whole X chromosome, a blot on the female copybook. If not those women then, they would say, what woman ever?
Although when Sarah Palin flamed out in 2008, coming across as comically inept, it did not reflect poorly on women in general. That was an important step for women.
Truss took that step for Britain: Many consider the third woman to dwell at No. 10 incompetent and hopeless, perhaps the worst P.M. in history.
She was a bad communicator, a poor speaker and weak on camera. She didn’t understand that you couldn’t simply borrow money from the future. She managed to be a radical ideologue and a lightweight at the same time. (Blimey, sounds very Trumpy.) But no one believes Truss blew up on the launchpad because she’s a woman.
She turned out to be a stooge for a reckless, unprincipled Boris Johnson, who was no doubt scheming to see if he could snatch back the reins.
Gavin Barwell, the chief of staff for Theresa May when she was prime minister, predicted that Johnson — who’s been trying to write a book on Shakespeare for years — would haunt Truss like Banquo’s ghost.
“The moment she gets into political difficulty,” Barwell told The Times’s Mark Landler, “there’s going to be a bring-back-Boris movement.”
And here we are at that moment.
“It’s incredibly funny if you’re not English,” Henry Porter, a British writer, told me. “It’s humiliating if you are. Boris is Boris Karloff, the monster who comes alive again, after you thought he was buried.”
Many think Johnson planned this from the start. By backing Truss, he was able to defeat Rishi Sunak, the ally who stabbed him in the back, “Julius Caesar”-style. Johnson threw his support behind Truss, knowing that she would be so mediocre that he’d look good in comparison.
Just like Donald Trump, Johnson may think if he gets back into office he can squash the investigation into his chicanery. He’s enmeshed in an inquiry into whether he misled Parliament about his Downing Street get-downs during the pandemic.
The outcome was foggy, as Johnson rushed back from a vacation in the Caribbean. In some vote estimates, Sunak was ahead but Johnson was winning support, as well. James Duddridge, an M.P. who backs Johnson, told the British press: “I’ve been in contact with the boss via WhatsApp. He’s going to fly back. He said: ‘I’m flying back, Dudders, we are going to do this. I’m up for it.’”
Tory lawmakers are split. Half are morally outraged by Boris, and the rest are worried that without the riveting spectacle of Boris, they’ll lose their seats in two years.
Many Tories believe, amid rising electric bills, power shortages and inflation, that Sunak — whose wealthy wife was accused of avoiding paying 20 million pounds in taxes until the press upbraided her — would be wiped out by Labour in two years. So it depends on whether the self-preservation group is bigger than the disgusted-with-BoJo group.
British conservatives are becoming as shameless as American conservatives, willing to put up with any outrage to keep their posh offices and perks. The “good chap” principle in England, the tradition that sometimes you have to leave office for the greater good, seems passé.
“One of the glories of the traditional Conservative Party used to be its readiness to place country before party,” Peter Oborne, a British journalist, wrote in this paper recently.
Winston Churchill set this standard before stepping down as prime minister in 1955: “The first duty of a member of Parliament is to do what he thinks in his faithful and disinterested judgment is right and necessary for the honor and safety of Great Britain.”
Mr. Oborne asserted that “today’s Conservatives, by contrast, cling to power for power’s sake,” and that “their obstinacy is ensuring the ruination of Britain.”
HOW LONG DOES A BOOK LAST ANYWAY?
We know Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales were extremely popular in the Middle Ages because we still have 90+ copies floating around 700 years later.
Fortunately, they were hand-copied on parchment, amongst the most durable of book materials. Only papyrus has a longer pedigree. First manufactured in Egypt as far back as the fourth millennium BCE, surviving papyri give us a glimpse into ancient medical and surgical practices. Not to mention our only extant copy of the Book of the Dead, and wonderful curiosities such as a bill of sale for a donkey.
Papyrus was replaced in Europe by the cheaper, locally produced products parchment and vellum, both of which were significantly more durable in moist climates. The development of linen rag paper was another great step forward.
The introduction of pulp paper in the late 19th century seemed an enormous boon because it allowed cheap publication for the masses. But the high sulphur content of the pulp was disastrous. I watch with dismay as my classic science fiction collection yellows and crumbles despite protective jackets. (Book paper is now acid-free.)
Although I own an e-reader and I appreciate how widely it allows texts to be disseminated, I struggle to imagine how these texts will be preserved over time.
John R. Rogers
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 23 OCTOBER
In a call, U.S. and Russian officials discuss Russia’s escalating threats against Ukraine.
Russian attacks are seen as an attempt to stretch Ukraine’s resources.
A Russian fighter jet crashes into a home in Siberia, killing the two pilots.
Zelensky says some power is already back on after another wave of Russian strikes on infrastructure.
More Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of intentionally slowing grain shipments.
Using adoption, Russia turns Ukrainian children into spoils of war.
Russian-installed authorities tell civilians to ‘immediately’ leave Kherson, a key southern city.
WHO BLEW UP THE NORD STREAM PIPELINES? “RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA!”
Matt Orfalea's new video compilation exposes the absurdity of Nord Stream propaganda
by Matt Taibbi
About a month ago, on September 26th, explosions rocked the undersea “Nord Stream” natural gas pipelines connecting Russia to Germany, sending boiling methane rushing to the surface in masses big enough to be seen from space.
We’ve all seen the video of Joe Biden promising last February, “There will no longer be a Nord Stream 2” and “We will bring an end to it.” The history of America’s bellicose threats with regard to Nord Stream were far more expansive than just a clip or two. Stopping Nord Stream was a central goal of American foreign policy for nearly a decade, with politicians from both parties pounding the table to stop it, and all that history was disappeared the moment the blasts took place.
We can’t say yet who blew up the pipelines. Matt Orfalea’s video captures three troubling things we already know about the Nord Stream blasts:
One, American officials have an extensive, years-long record of promising action to stop or disable the pipeline. Two: those earlier statements were ignored both by officials and press commentators in asserting ad nauseam that the West did not have motive for the attack.
Three: despite a total absence of evidence, American voices repeatedly insisted Russia was behind the attack. The first weeks of coverage featured a blitz of commentary from politicians and intelligence and military officers who declared the unknown to be fact, often pointing a finger and admitting ignorance at the same time.
“We have to conclude, without the evidence, that it’s most likely… Russia is the cause of it,” said retired General Jack Keane.
“All the signs point to some sort of sabotage,” said former CIA director John Brennan. “Russia is certainly the most likely suspect.”
The $11 billion pipeline was long a centerpiece of Russian geopolitical strategy. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year likely wouldn’t have happened had the project linking Russia’s Yamal gas fields with the German town of Lubmin not been completed the previous September. Before Nord Stream, Russian gas had to travel over land to Europe by way of Ukraine, which annually extracted as much as $2 billion in transit fees. Once the Baltic pipeline was complete, Ukraine not only lost a huge revenue source, but its main leverage against Russian attack.
Ukraine naturally lobbied the United States to intervene to stop the completion of the pipeline. American politicians saw that their interests aligned with Ukraine’s and complied, and in another oddly forgotten fact, no one was more enthusiastic about pressuring Europe to reject the pipeline than Donald Trump. In 2019 Trump imposed sanctions on contractors working on the Nord Stream project, including the Swiss Allseas group, declaring the completion of the pipeline a threat to U.S. security interests that would turn Germany into a “hostage to Russia.”
At the same time Russiagate-mad press figures were casting Trump-Putin as geopolitical Brokeback Mountain, Trump was maybe the most resolute opponent of Nord Stream in American politics. He used his address to the United Nations in 2018 to blast Europeans for cooperating on the pipeline, saying it would leave EU nations open to “extortion and intimidation,” adding that “Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy” if it didn’t “immediately change course.”
American officials in both parties for years used the strongest possible language to condemn, cajole, and threaten Europeans. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings in 2017 led by Republican Ron Johnson and ranking member Chris Murphy of Connecticut blasting Europe for even considering the pipeline. One Senator after another testified to being determined to remind EU countries of “Russia’s persistent use of energy as a weapon,” adding America’s aim was to help Europe “minimize dependence upon a single supplier.”
A. Wess Mitchell, a Trump State Department official, explained this would be accomplished in part by going ahead with an Obama-initiated plan to loosen rules about the export of American liquefied natural gas (LNG), because “the mere availability of LNG provides leverage when negotiating contracts with Russia.” A year later, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen co-sponsored a bill with Ted Cruz to sanction companies involved with Nord Stream production, with Shaheen saying the U.S. can’t stand by “while the Kremlin builds this Trojan horse.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: “Germany is a model U.S. ally. Our partnership is critical to furthering global security and prosperity. Unfortunately, Putin is dangling the prospect of cheap gas in Europe to monopolize the supply of energy on the continent and sow increased instability.”
Wyoming’s John Barasso in 2019 said “Germany seems to be willing to put its head in the noose,” which he thought was a “terrible mistake.” The American ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell wrote an editorial for Die Weltthat year saying, “the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will heighten Europe’s susceptibility to Russia's energy blackmail tactics,” chiding “some” Europeans for “pushing a self-serving narrative that it is too late to stop Nord Stream 2.”
By next year, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Europe must “get out now” from the pipeline project “or risk the consequences,” saying he was deliveringa “clear warning to companies that aiding and abetting Russia’s malign influence projects will not be tolerated.”
Matt’s video collects a sample of the saber-rattling that came from both parties during the long period of intense U.S. opposition to the pipeline’s construction. Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger said we had to “end it, once and for all,” while Ted Cruz stumped for America to use “all tools available” to stop the project.
Senator Tom Cotton on May 21, 2021 meanwhile delivered what for him qualifies as inspired oratory, blasting the Biden administration for waiving sanctions on Nord Stream 2 (hold that thought; this would be an important later development), seething that this was a bit of a punk move from a party that “spent the last four years… pretending they were Jack Ryan in a Tom Clancy novel.” He went on to argue it wasn’t too late to act and dismounting with a KILL NORD STREAM NOW line seemingly culled from the first Naked Gunmovie, when Reggie Jackson tried to take out Queen Elizabeth with a bat:
This Russian pipeline is bad for America and bad for Europe. If the president wishes to take the reins of international leadership, this is his opportunity. Kill Nord Stream 2 now, and let it rust beneath the waves of the Baltic.
Many Europeans were furious when sanctions were imposed. Some accused the United States of meddling with European economic independence and suggested the Americans had both financial and geopolitical ulterior motives that made their objections hard to accept at face value.
The Federation of German Industries complained that U.S. sanctions created “serious stress“ for the U.S.-Europe partnership, while former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who chaired Nord Stream 2’s board of directors, denounced the U.S. attempt to “dictate the sovereign community of states such as the EU what to do.” He said Europe would pursue a diplomatic solution, but added, vaguely and ominously, “this will not work without counter sanctions.”
Nord Stream then was at the center of an incredibly fraught dispute that saw Europe and the United States in schism, with Russia a catalyst for conflict and Ukraine a penniless pawn in the larger game. European countries, led by Germany, were bent on getting access to cheap Russian energy, perhaps with the aim of achieving more independence from the U.S. American pols were in lockstep that the pipeline needed to be stopped, arguing that its completion would increase security risks to Ukraine andEurope. An obvious subtext was the unprecedented threat this pipeline (as well as the similar TurkStream project that would run from Russia beneath the Black Sea to Turkey) posed to a crucial market for American energy.
Russiagate also colored interpretation of the Biden administration’s decision to reverse Trump policy and waive Nord Stream 2 sanctions in May of 2021. The two parties had been in sync, the major difference being that Trump was willing to browbeat European companies involved with the project, whereas the Biden administration tried to redirect sanctions to Russian entities only. Pompeo’s successor, Anthony Blinken, used conciliatory tones to say the waiving of sanctions would “demonstrate the administration’s commitment to energy security in Europe,” pledging to “rebuild relationships with our allies and partners in Europe.”
As Russia moved closer to invasion, however, Biden administration officials lapped the Republicans in the saber-rattling game, offering more and more overt promises of action should Russia enter Ukraine. Biden’s famed quote that “we will bring an end to it” has been circulated the most, but a more unequivocal statement, seen above, came from National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on January 14, 2022, when he told CNN’s Jake Tapper “that pipeline is at risk if they move further into Ukraine.”
As Matt shows, both in his video and a series of tweets nearly the entirety of this history was either whitewashed or misrepresented after the pipelines were blown up. Not only did outlets like Yahoo! erroneously describe the Russian-owned pipeline as a “European infrastructure project,” but outlets like ABC repeatedly described NATO as having not only assessed that the blasts were sabotage, but Russian sabotage (NATO never specified who it believed was behind the blasts).
Remember when all establishment media concluded Russia was “most likely” responsible for the bombings (“leaks”) of the Nord Stream pipelines? Typically, this was presented as an “expert” opinion, based on no evidence whatsoever, but some coverage was even worse!
The United States went from being so firmly against the pipeline that a parade of elected officials warned of “consequences” if Europeans followed through, to Blinken saying with a straight face that “if” the blasts were sabotage, it would be “clearly in no one’s interest.” This in turn was followed by the comedy seen in the video, in which one pundit and pol after the other repeated the mantra that the pipeline was “sabotaged by the Russians.”
Blinken went from trying to build bridges with Germany by acceding to its pipeline plans to cheering the explosions as a “tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy,” adding happily, “And we’re now the leading supplier of LNG to Europe.”
American politicians and commentators didn’t just forget nearly a decade of lobbying about the pipeline, they also forgot with amusing alacrity their reflexive outrage on climate change issues. At least 300 million metric tons of gas poured into the atmosphere, making it the largest-ever dump of greenhouse gases from a single event, equivalent to a year of emissions from a million cars. But outrage was muted if it was there at all. As Matt notes, outlets like the Washington Post even turned around with regard to the use of words like “catastrophe” to describe toxic emissions:
Washington Post: “Trump’s denial of catastrophic climate change is a clear danger … Nord Stream spill could be biggest methane leak ever but not catastrophic.”
The sudden “What, me worry?” attitude toward toxic emissions wasn’t limited to the U.S. The following passages appeared minus sarcasm emojis in Die Weltright after the explosions:
Images show the surface of the sea broiling as gas erupted from pipelines 80-110 meters (265-360 feet) below sea level. The long-term impact of the explosion is hard to quantify.
“According to our current knowledge, the leaks in the Nord Stream pipeline do not pose any serious threat to the marine environment of the Baltic Sea,” a spokesperson for Germany’s Environment Ministry told DW.
Trade routes, access to energy, and spheres of influence are the stuff that inspires world wars, and the fight over who would get to be the main supplier of European energy is a powerful casus belli. The United States has every right to lobby against the completion of a Russian-German pipeline. To an extent, it even makes some sense that our government would try to dissemble about who’d benefit from sabotage of the pipeline, after the fact.
However, national press going along with the transparent deception is a lot less forgivable. We’re headed toward a major war and not telling the population the reasons for it. New York Times writer David Sanger for instance knows better than to look into a CNN camera and say, hoping to be taken seriously, that it’s “hard to imagine others with a significant motive.” That such an experienced reporter would pretend he didn’t live through ten years of American politicians screeching demands to stop the pipeline tells you the extent to which government and media have merged. There’s no discernible difference now between the Sangers and Chuck Todds of the world and the craggy-faced retired CIA flacks the networks bring on as guests. The media performance on this one was and is as bad as it gets.
Again, it’s impossible to say for sure what the United States role was in the Nord Stream sabotage, but the notion that we don’t have a motive is a silly falsehood. I’m glad Matt Orfalea is around to make memory-holing the fact harder.
STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB
The longer the proxy war in Ukraine continues, the closer we come to a direct confrontation with Russia. Once that happens, the Dr. Strangeloves running the show will reach for the nukes.
by Chris Hedges
I have covered enough wars to know that once you open that Pandora’s box, the many evils that pour out are beyond anyone’s control. War accelerates the whirlwind of industrial killing. The longer any war continues, the closer and closer each side comes to self-annihilation. Unless it is stopped, the proxy war between Russia and the U.S. in Ukraine all but guarantees direct confrontation with Russia and, with it, the very real possibility of nuclear war.
Joe Biden, who doesn’t always seem to be quite sure where he is or what he is supposed to be saying, is being propped up in the I-am-a-bigger-man-than-you contest with Vladimir Putin by a coterie of rabid warmongers who have orchestrated over 20 years of military fiascos. They are salivating at the prospect of taking on Russia, and then, if there is any habitation left on the globe, China. Trapped in the polarizing mindset of the Cold War — where any effort to de-escalate conflicts through diplomacy is considered appeasement, a perfidious Munich moment — they smugly push the human species closer and closer toward obliteration. Unfortunately for us, one of these true believers is Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Putin is saying he is not bluffing. Well, he cannot afford bluffing, and it has to be clear that the people supporting Ukraine and the European Union and the Member States, and the United States and NATO are not bluffing neither,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned. “Any nuclear attack against Ukraine will create an answer, not a nuclear answer but such a powerful answer from the military side that the Russian Army will be annihilated.”
Annihilated. Are these people insane?
You know we are in trouble when Donald Trump is the voice of reason.
“We must demand the immediate negotiation of a peaceful end to the war in Ukraine, or we will end up in world war three” the former president said. “And there will be nothing left of our planet — all because stupid people didn't have a clue ... They don't understand what they’re dealing with, the power of nuclear.”
I dealt with many of these ideologues — David Petraeus, Elliot Abrams, Robert Kagan, Victoria Nuland — as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. Once you strip away their chest full of medals or fancy degrees, you find shallow men and women, craven careerists who obsequiously serve the war industry that ensures their promotions, pays the budgets of their think tanks and showers them with money as board members of military contractors. They are the pimps of war. If you reported on them, as I did, you would not sleep well at night. They are vain enough and stupid enough to blow up the world long before we go extinct because of the climate crisis, which they have also dutifully accelerated.
If, as Joe Biden says, Putin is “not joking” about using nuclear weapons and we risk nuclear “Armageddon,” why isn’t Biden on the phone to Putin? Why doesn’t he follow the example of John F. Kennedy, who repeatedly communicated with Nikita Khrushchev to negotiate an end to the Cuban missile crisis? Kennedy, who unlike Biden served in the military, knew the obtuseness of generals. He had the good sense to ignore Curtis LeMay, the Air Force Chief of Staff and head of the Strategic Air Command, as well as the model for General Jack D. Ripper in “Dr. Strangelove,” who urged Kennedy to bomb the Cuban missile bases, an act that would have probably ignited a nuclear war. Biden is not made of the same stuff.
Why is Washington sending $50 billion in arms and assistance to sustain the conflict in Ukraine and promising billions more for “as long as it takes”? Why did Washington and Whitehall dissuade Vladimir Zelensky, a former stand-up comic who has been magically transformed by these war lovers into the new Winston Churchill, from pursuing negotiations with Moscow, set up by Turkey? Why do they believe that militarily humiliating Putin, whom they are also determined to remove from power, won’t lead him to do the unthinkable in a final act of desperation?
Moscow strongly implied it would use nuclear weapons in response to a “threat” to its “territorial integrity,” and the pimps of war shouted down anyone who expressed concern that we all might go up in mushroom clouds, labeling them traitors who are weakening Ukrainian and Western resolve. Giddy at the battlefield losses suffered by Russia, they poke the Russian bear with ever greater ferocity. The Pentagon helped plan Ukraine’s latest counteroffensive, and the CIA passes on battlefield intelligence. We are slipping, as we did in Vietnam, from advising, arming, funding and supporting, into fighting.
None of this is helped by Zelensky’s suggestion that, to deter the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, NATO should launch “preventive strikes.”
“Waiting for the nuclear strikes first and then to say ‘what’s going to happen to them.’ No! There is a need to review the way the pressure is being exerted. So there is a need to review this procedure,” he said.
The West has been baiting Moscow for decades. I reported from Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War. I watched these militarists set out to build what they called a unipolar world — a world where they alone ruled. First, they broke promises not to expand NATO beyond the borders of a unified Germany. Then they broke promises not to “permanently station substantial combat forces” in the new NATO member countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Then they broke promises not to station missile systems along Russia’s border. Then they broke promises not to interfere in the internal affairs of border states such as Ukraine, orchestrating the 2014 coup that ousted the elected government of Victor Yanukovich, replacing it with an anti-Russian — fascist aligned — government, which, in turn, led to an 8-year-long civil war, as the Russian populated regions in the east sought independence from Kiev. They armed Ukraine with NATO weapons and trained 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers after the coup. Then they recruited neutral Finland and Sweden into NATO. Now the U.S. is being asked to send advanced long-range missile systems to Ukraine, which Russia says would make the U.S. “a direct party to the conflict.” But blinded by hubris and lacking any understanding of geopolitics, they push us, like the hapless generals in the Austro-Hungarian empire, towards catastrophe.
We call for total victory. Russia annexes four Ukrainian provinces. We help Ukraine bomb the Kerch Bridge. Russia rains missiles down on Ukrainian cities. We give Ukraine sophisticated air defense systems. We gloat over Russian losses. Russia introduces conscription. Now Russia carries out drone and cruise missile attacks on power, sewage and water treatment plants. Where does it end?
“Is the United States, for example, trying to help bring an end to this conflict, through a settlement that would allow for a sovereign Ukraine and some kind of relationship between the United States and Russia?” a New York Times editorial asks. “Or is the United States now trying to weaken Russia permanently? Has the administration’s goal shifted to destabilizing Putin or having him removed? Does the United States intend to hold Putin accountable as a war criminal? Or is the goal to try to avoid a wider war — and if so, how does crowing about providing U.S. intelligence to kill Russians and sink one of their ships achieve this?”
No one has any answers.
The Times editorial ridicules the folly of attempting to recapture all of Ukrainian territory, especially those territories populated by ethnic Russians.
“A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal,” it reads. “Though Russia’s planning and fighting have been surprisingly sloppy, Russia remains too strong, and Mr. Putin has invested too much personal prestige in the invasion to back down.”
But common sense, along with realistic military objectives and an equitable peace, is overpowered by the intoxication of war.
On October 17, NATO countries began a two-week-long exercise in Europe, called Steadfast Noon, in which 60 aircraft, including fighter jets and long-range bombers flown in from Minot Air Base in North Dakota are simulating dropping thermonuclear bombs on European targets. This exercise happens annually. But the timing is nevertheless ominous. The U.S. has some 150 “tactical” nuclear warheads stationed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
Ukraine will be a long and costly war of attrition, one that will leave much of Ukraine in ruins and hundreds of thousands of families convulsed by lifelong grief. If NATO prevails and Putin feels his hold on power is in jeopardy, what will stop him from lashing out in desperation? Russia has the world's largest arsenal of tactical nukes, weapons that can kill tens of thousands if used on a city. It also possesses nearly 6,000 nuclear warheads. Putin does not want to end up, like his Serbian allies Slobodan Milošević and Ratko Mladić, as a convicted war criminal in the Hague. Nor does he want to go the way of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. What will stop him from upping the ante if he feels cornered?
There is something grimly cavalier about how political, military and intelligence chiefs, including CIA Director William Burns, a former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, agree about the danger of humiliating and defeating Putin and the specter of nuclear war.
“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they've faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said in remarks at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta, who also served as Defense Secretary under President Barack Obama, wrote this month that U.S. intelligence agencies believe the odds of the war in Ukraine spiraling into a nuclear war are as high as one in four.
The Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, echoed this warning, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee in May that if Putin believed there was an existential threat to Russia, he could resort to nuclear weapons.
“We do think that [Putin’s perception of an existential threat] could be the case in the event that he perceives that he is losing the war in Ukraine, and that NATO in effect is either intervening or about to intervene in that context, which would obviously contribute to a perception that he is about to lose the war in Ukraine,” Haines said.
“As this war and its consequences slowly weaken Russian conventional strength…Russia likely will increasingly rely on its nuclear deterrent to signal the West and project strength to its internal and external audiences,” Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier wrote in the Defense Intelligence Agency’s threat assessment submitted to the same Armed Services Committee at the end of April.
Given these assessments, why don’t Burns, Panetta, Haines and Berrier, urgently advocate diplomacy with Russia to de-escalate the nuclear threat?
This war should never have happened. The U.S. was well aware it was provoking Russia. But it was drunk on its own power, especially as it emerged as the world’s sole superpower at the end of the Cold War, and besides, there were billions in profits to be made in arms sales to new NATO members.
In 2008, when Burns was serving as the Ambassador to Moscow, he wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”
Sixty-six U.N. members, most from the global south, have called for diplomacy to end the war in Ukraine, as required by the U.N. Charter. But few of the big power players are listening.
If you think nuclear war can’t happen, pay a visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These Japanese cities had no military value. They were wiped out because most of the rest of Japan’s urban centers had already been destroyed by saturation bombing campaigns directed by LeMay. The U.S. knew Japan was crippled and ready to surrender, but it wanted to send a message to the Soviet Union that with its new atomic weapons it was going to dominate the world.
We saw how that turned out.