Dry Ahead | Cirrocumulus | Holiday Dinner | Toy Drive | Boon Box | Outdoor Dining | Gingerbread Housing | Library Closed | Fiscal Outlook | Without Art | Smoking Kills | Pipe Man | Dirt Biking | Yesterday's Catch | Raising Prices | Hep Vaccine | Good Book | FTX Q&A | Negro Mart | Sports Betting | Dead Mouse | Father Doyle | Willows Welcome | Occupied Territory | Kiowa Woman | Anonymous Liar | Christmas Tinner | Ukraine | London Playground | Saudi Oil | Ancient Oak
DRY WEATHER will continue for at least much of next week. Temperatures will continue to moderate this week, with warming to above values by late in the week. (NWS)
GET TOGETHER AT THE AV GRANGE
AV Foodshed and AV Grange are teaming up again for the annual (except the last two years) Community Holiday Dinner. This year it's on Sunday December 4th, starting at 5pm.
Beginning in the late 80s it's become a wonderful tradition, especially wonderful this year because it feels like we're being able to enjoy each other’s company not on zoom.
So, come have a delicious free dinner at the AV Grange: turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy along with coffee, tea, water and apple juice provided by AV Foodshed and AV Grange and all the extras provided by everyone else, we're talking a monster potluck here with you bringing desserts, salads, drinks, vegetarian options, etc., and we ask that you bring your own utensils (there will be a wash station). Make a list of ingredients so people will know what’s in your offering. If we want to be close to eating at 5 pm, please bring your potluck yummies earlier so we can organize everything, as you can imagine it’s a madhouse, but a fun one.
On loan from the school will be air purifiers — thanks Louise — and volunteer workers will wear masks.
We aim to have live music to eat by and a kids zone as well.
Don't forget the looooong line where you get to hang out with friends and neighbors. There will be hors d’oeuvres (finger food for you freedom fry folk) served as we wait.
As always there is much need for volunteers to cook turkeys, smash those potatoes and make stuffing before the event, and folks to pitch in, work in the kitchen, serve, set up, decorate, clean up and on and on. It's a great way to meet and greet both new and old members of our community.
If you want to help out before or during the event — and this is very important — please email Jen Burnstad at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has designed a super easy link to a sign up sheet that automatically updates so you can see what openings are still open.
All are welcome; put the date on your calendar! See you all soon — for real.
If you want more information feel free to call Captain Rainbow at 707/472-9189
The AV Grange is seeking more active members. Remember this is your community hall and the Community Dinner is a perfect time to connect and say, This is cool; what can I do to help?
BOON BOX SUBSCRIPTIONS
Boon Box subscriptions from the Boonville Barn Collective are now available! The Boon Box is a mix between a subscription box and a CSA. You pay for all 3 boxes up front, get chiles from our farm delivered in three boxes, and help support our farm with the funds we need to get the next growing year started. You also get satisfaction for helping a small farm during the time of the year when farming input costs are high! As a “thanks” for your upfront investment, you receive the products at a 10% discount.
The first box of the year ships in early December, followed by March and July. It makes a great gift for friends and family as well as the perfect way to keep your kitchen stocked with chiles during the year. If you purchase the Boon Box for yourself and live here in the valley, we will provide an extra $39 worth of goods from the farm to cover the shipping costs that are included in the overall price.
There are 3 different versions of the Boon Box available this year that have no beans, 5 pounds of beans, and 10 pounds of beans included. Check out more details here on our website or shoot Krissy an email (email@example.com) if you have more questions. Our website is also full of our Boonville grown chiles. If you'd like to place an order online and pickup at our office, use the code ILIVEHERE at checkout to remove shipping costs. Krissy will reach out to schedule pickup. You can also find Boonville Barn goods at The Farmhouse Mercantile, The Boonville Hotel, Disco Ranch, AV Market, Pennyroyal Farms, Toulouse, Drew Cellars, Sun & Cricket, and the Ukiah Co-Op.
THE BOONVILLE GINGERBREAD PROJECT RETURNS
We are bringing it back. A day event of sweet gingerbread house building at the Boonville hotel, Saturday, December 10th!
Build a sweet house with your little person and have a kid friendly lunch. You can book online at boonvillehotel.com. Hope to see your smiling faces!
STATE’S FINANCES FALL: ‘WORST SINCE GREAT RECESSION’
by Jim Shields
The California’s Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) just released a report on the outlook for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
The 20-page report shivers one’s timbers concluding that “revenue estimates represent the weakest performance the state has experienced since the Great Recession.”
The LAO’s report explains the bleak forecast succinctly:
“Facing rising inflation, the Federal Reserve—tasked with maintaining stable price growth—repeatedly has enacted large interest rate increases throughout 2022 with the aim of cooling the economy and, in turn, slowing inflation. The longer inflation persists and the higher the Federal Reserve increases interest rates in response, the greater the risk to the economy. The chances that the Federal Reserve can tame inflation without inducing a recession are narrow. Reflecting the threat of a recession, our revenue estimates represent the weakest performance the state has experienced since the Great Recession … we anticipate the state will have a $25 billion budget problem to solve in the upcoming fiscal year. A ‘budget problem’—also called a deficit—occurs when resources for the upcoming fiscal year are insufficient to cover the costs of currently authorized services. The budget problem is mainly attributable to lower revenue estimates, which are lower than budget act projections from 2021-22 through 2023-24 by $41 billion.”
Several of the key takeaways from the LAO’s analysis include recommendations that the Legislature not tap into the rainy day fund yet with a looming recession, and call for a pause, delay, or reassessment in the funding of expanded programs to see if they are working as expected.
Two thoughts come immediately to mind — at least my mind anyway.
1. The LAO’s literally “depressing” fiscal outlook is bad news for Gavin Newsom’s anticipated 2024 presidential run. If California’s economy tanks, Newsom’s White House aspirations most likely follow suit. And that’s assuming he can beat Biden in the primaries (yes Biden will seek a second term).
2. A Great Recession-like economic landscape is equally bad news for local governments spread throughout California’s 58 counties.
You don’t need me to explain why that’s the case. All you have to do is look at Mendocino County’s ongoing fiscal distress, self-inflicted or otherwise.
By the way, I believe that County Executive Officer Darcie Antle is doing a good job under very trying circumstances, as she inherited several big messes left by her predecessor.
* * *
PS. I received quite a few comments on last week’s column about the BOS tentatively approved proposed Commercial Well Extraction Ordinance that’s been stuck in the County Counsel’s Office ever since July 12th. According to County Counsel Christian Curtis, “At this point, I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done to move it along. It is something that is going to require additional analysis before we go to the Planning Commission.”
We ran some responses last week. Here are some more of what some people think about this fiasco.
“Thank you very much for your follow up and for communicating the disappointing County administrative delays. I have been wondering about progress and assuming the same old understaffing reasons for inaction by our esteemed representatives and county administrators. If you had not paid attention I fear the whole thing might have gotten lost in the paper shuffle. Only persistence pays off, due diligence is just the first step. Looking forward to more.”—Anonymous
“They all sit in these high-powered jobs earning tons of money but the positions are not based on brain power or functionality.” —Anonymous
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
SMOKING KILLS, BUT SO DOES LIFE
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
A friend of mine on the Mendocino Coast has tried every recreational drug known to druggies, hippies and doctors, and lots of the prescription meds too.
Drugs she’s sampled include, but are not limited to: marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, oxycontin, Vicodin, vodka, Valium, psilocybin, LSD, morphine, banana peels, ecstasy, methamphetamine, caffeine, Tramadol, and whatever was in her parents’ medicine cabinet when she was growing up.
And her Number One absolute favorite drug of all, and by a wide margin?
My sister quit smoking about 20 years ago and once told me if she knew the world was going to end next week the first thing she’d do is go buy a carton of cigarettes.
I’ve never smoked but I’ve long been puzzled at the ferocity of the anti-smoking crowd, a group which has expanded over the years from a small bunch of whiners to a vast mob of torch-carrying, pitchfork-waving maniacs.
Why? Why has American society spent a half-century in a crazed frenzy over cigarettes? Our collective condemnation of people who enjoy inhaling dried leafy fumes completely surpasses reason.
For as long as people and societies have been aware of tobacco they’ve been using it, enthusiastically. And think of America a hundred or more years ago when anybody who accomplished anything was a smoker. I made that part up but it’s probably true.
Most Americans think a snort of anthrax or a gulp of plutonium is safer than a Marlboro. Most Americans would prefer to discover their 13-year old dabbling in Satanism or wrist-cutting than discover a pack of Camel cigarettes under her pillow.
Why? Oh I know. Really, I do. It’s about health. We’re driving evil tobacco from every corner of our society so we will all be healthy and fit and not die, ever. More or less. (Except for politicians who love the tax revenue Big Tobacco brings in.)
Yeah, smoking is bad for you, but so is eating Big Macs. No one forces burger-eaters to stand in the rain to gobble their greasy glop, but smokers haven’t been allowed indoors the past dozen years regardless of rain, sleet, snow or earthquakes.
Smoking kills, but so do car wrecks and no one advocates warning labels on the dashboards of Cadillacs. Smoking leaves you short of breath but so does a flight of stairs.
Smoking stains your skin, kinda like tattoos I suppose, and eventually kills you but name something that doesn’t. Smoking makes you and your house smell bad, but so does a cat box, Patchouli oil, fried liver and Meadow Fresh Room Deodorizer.
So it all comes down to health, which means it all comes down to the fact smoking is bad bad bad for you, your children, the ozone and the planet, and that there’s not a single health benefit to be had.
Consider this: most people who smoke don’t get cancer (although most people who get cancer smoked).
And this: Tobacco is an appetite suppressant. Translation: Smoking helps combat obesity, a far greater threat than starvation in the 21st century. How many of us know some tubby who’s constantly telling everyone how much better he feels since he quit smoking? (The rest of us note the additional 30 lbs.)
Clinical studies out of Harvard University show smokers are less likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease, and they believe the same is probably true for Alzheimer’s. (These health benefits disappear when patients quit smoking.)
Smoking inhibits formulation of clots in coronary arteries, diminishing the likelihood of death following heart attacks. People who smoke are at a reduced risk of ever needing knee surgery, and nicotine has long been recognized as an anti-depressant.
Smoking reduces hypertension by causing a drop in blood pressure; cigarettes can cause high blood pressure to drop by up to 30%
Smokers know that cigarettes have a mysterious ability to either soothe or stimulate, depending upon the desired effect.
And although it remains medically unproven, everyone also knows smoking is cool. Smokers are cool.
Smokers are rebels, the youngsters who listen to your gassy sermons about the evils of cigarettes and your silly tirades about Big Tobacco, coronary this, malignant something else, and what they do is roll their eyes, inhale a cubic yard of tobacco fumes and say:
“Cancer when I’m 60 years old? Thanks Gramps, but if I thought I was going to ever get as old as you I’d kill myself right now.
“And I’m guessing you never parachuted, rode a motorcycle or played rugby either.”
(Congratulations. You are among a teeny tiny minority of people in America who have ever read anything positive about cigarettes in any newspaper. Tom Hine has lived most of his life surrounded by smokers; TWK is his fictional pal who probably smokes Old Golds.)
THE ADVENTURES OF OAKY JOE: Running From The Judge In The Mendocino National Forest
by Joe Munson
Years ago I was in court in Mendocino County quite a lot over the course of a couple of years. Cultivation of pot without proper paperwork is a big-time no-no if you have pissed off anyone in law enforcement in Mendocino County (or any other place, I guess). Court is a huge drag, emotionally draining, costly and some would say "not a level playing field."
Keith Faulder was in private practice at the time and I was lucky enough to have him defending my wife and myself against these pot charges. After successfully defending myself and my loved one against 18 felonies over three cases about my medical grow, law enforcement backed off!
As a remedy against worrying all the time I would go dirt motorcycle riding. One day I asked Keith Faulder, "Do you ride?" He said, "Motorcycles? Sure I do!"
I invited him to go to Lake Pillsbury and said he could use one of my spare bikes. I was not very confident of his ability to ride.
I need not have worried because when I saw that he was keeping up I took off and tried to get away and waited at the next crossroad. I ran into the ditch three times trying to get out of sight. He kept pulling up to me and said saying, "What happened?"
After three self-inflicted near wrecks I notched it down one level and we had a great ride.
Look twice and save a life! Watch out for motorcycles!
CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, November 20, 2022
JESSE COLE, Kelseyville/Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-intoxicated with drugs & alcohol, controlled substance.
EDGAR DELAGUILA, Willits. DUI, no license.
ASHLEIGH ESTES, Seattle/Willits. Under influence, controlled substance, paraphernalia, trespassing, probation revocation.
RIGOBERTO GUERRERO, Willits. DUI.
SHAWN HOLLOWAY, Lodi/Ukiah. DUI causing bodily injury.
RAINA HUDSON, Yuba City/Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.
RICKEY PHILLIPS III, Willits. Parole violation, resisting.
RAMIRO RAMIREZ-TAVARES, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, trespassing, resisting.
CORY WALLACE-FLORES, Willits. Probation revocation.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I lived in San Francisco from 79 to 81. I went to Castro Street just about every day because that was where I changed trolleys to go to work.
They were pushing the hepatitis ”vaccine” like you wouldn’t believe. No internet back then, but it was on every bus and every bus stop, as well as billboards and radio ads.
They focused on gay men, because they were more likely to get hepatitis, or that’s what they said anyway.
And then came AIDS.
I have a friend who believes in standard medicine, and she was an early adopter of the hepatitis vaccine. Then she tested positive for AIDS twice. She got called into the administrator’s office and given the bad news. She went a couple of weeks thinking she was going to die, but then they did a different test and told her that she didn’t have it. They said that the hep vaccine sometimes caused a false positive.
A false positive, huh? Or maybe the vaccine had to combine with the poppers used by gay men to activate into AIDS?
THE PRACTICALLY OVERNIGHT collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX has set off a host of questions about its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, and the future of cryptocurrency, which can all be very confusing to people who aren’t that smart. The Onion translates what happened at FTX into answers that even our dumbest readers can understand.
Q: What is FTX?
A: Something you were supposed to care about because it was considered the future, but now it doesn’t matter!
Q: Who started FTX?
A: Crypto whiz kid Sam Bankman-Fried, who has received widespread praise as the future of financial fraud.
Q: Where is FTX based?
A: The Bahamas, but strictly for tax evasion purposes.
Q: What led FTX to declare bankruptcy?
A: Like many Americans, FTX went bankrupt after being unable to pay the bills for their emergency stadium naming rights.
The popularity of sports betting has exploded in recent years in the U.S.
by Eric Lipton
Four years ago, betting on live sports was illegal in most of the United States. Now, fans watching games or attending them at stadiums are barraged with advertisements encouraging them to bet on matchups, not just watch as spectators.
This transformation in sports betting started nearly a decade ago, at first with the explosion of wagering on fantasy sports. Then in 2018, the Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize wagers on live games. Today, 31 states and Washington, D.C., permit sports gambling either online or in person, and five more states have passed laws that will allow such betting in the future. Professional sports in the U.S. now are part of a multibillion-dollar corporate gambling enterprise.
This shift represents the largest expansion of gambling in United States history. Several of my Times colleagues and I spent months investigating how the industry expanded, and today I want to highlight some of our findings.
Once sports betting was more broadly legalized, casinos teamed up with sports betting platforms like FanDuel and DraftKings, along with the major professional sports teams, to go state by state to push lawmakers to embrace it. Part of their tool kit for persuasion? Millions of dollars in contributions from the sports betting companies and their allies to those lawmakers’ campaigns for office.
We found that gambling industry representatives had told legislators they could expect to see significant tax benefits from sports betting. In many states, that windfall has fallen short.
Take Michigan, home to the Detroit Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons professional teams, along with another two dozen college athletics N.C.A.A. programs — in short, a whole lot of sports to bet on. Online sports betting started in that state in January 2021, and the American Gaming Association predicted that state legislators could expect to see more than $40 million a year in tax revenues. What has Michigan collected in the last year? Just $21 million in state and local taxes, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
The gambling industry also pressed states to keep tax rates low on sports betting, warning that if the states pushed rates too high, sports fans would turn to the black market to place bets on unregulated sites. Those warnings were misplaced. Some states, including New York and New Hampshire, ignored the industry’s advice and installed the highest tax rates on betting. They have seen bets placed at a higher rate per capita than many low-tax states. New York has seen so much betting — even with a high tax rate of 51 percent — that the state has collected an extraordinary $546 million in taxes in the first 10 months of this year. That amount is half of all the state tax revenues on sports betting nationwide.
Many of the states also allowed the gambling industry to give out hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of tax-free bets to gamblers, essentially marketing the industry. The promotions are intended to entice new customers to form a new habit: placing wagers on games. It is the modern-day equivalent of the free bus ride to Atlantic City casinos with a roll of quarters thrown in for the slots. Arizona sports betting operators alone gave out $205 million in free bets. But for states, the result was large shortfalls in expected tax revenues in places like Michigan and Virginia. Some, Virginia included, moved to curtail the tax-free bets.
The promotions were one example of how regulators were outmatched in trying to oversee the industry as it grew so rapidly. Rule enforcement was scattershot, punishments were light or rare, and regulators often looked to the gambling industry to police itself.
One casino company, Penn Entertainment, teamed up with David Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports, who has a history of misogynistic and racist behavior, turning him into a public spokesman for sports betting.
To market their expansion of sports betting, gambling sites reached unusual agreements with at least eight universities, including Michigan State, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Louisiana State University. The schools became partners with the companies in exchange for millions of dollars in payments. These deals generated questions about whether promoting gambling on campus — especially to people who are at an age when they are vulnerable to developing gambling disorders — fits the mission of higher education.
At least $161 billion in wagers have been placed since sports betting was broadly legalized in the United States. This explosion of gambling is just the start. Betting companies have made clear that the ultimate goal is to bring so-called iGaming to states across the nation, where customers can use their mobile phones to play blackjack, poker and other casino-style games.
THE GOOD PRIEST
Father Michael Doyle, who died on November 8 at his parish house in Camden, New Jersey, infused his Christianity with his goodness. That goodness showed us what it means to live a life of faith.
by Chris Hedges
During the two years the cartoonist Joe Sacco and I spent on our book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, written out of the poorest pockets of America, we invariably encountered heroic men and women who — against overwhelming odds — rose up to fight lonely and often losing battles on behalf of the oppressed. Bill Means, Charlie Abourezk and Leonard Crow Dog in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Larry Gibson and Judy Bonds in the coal fields of West Virginia. Lucas Benitez, Laura Germano and Greg Abbot in the produce fields of Florida. The men and women in Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street movement.
When set against the crushing poverty, environmental degradation, corporate abuse and despair they opposed, the victories they amassed were often miniscule. And yet, to them, and to the people they were able to support, these victories were immense. They kept alive kindness, community, decency, hope and justice. They provided another way to speak about the world. They reminded us that our primary task in life is to care for others. These moral giants, by their very presence and steadfast refusal to surrender, damned the avarice, lust for power, hedonism and violence that define corporate culture.
Joe and I met Father Michael Doyle in Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest cities and most dangerous in the United States. Father Doyle, an Irish priest and poet with ruddy cheeks and snow white hair, ran the Sacred Heart Church in one of the city’s bleakest corners. He died at the age of 88 on November 4th in the church’s parish house.
“I haven’t heard God speak in a burning bush, but I hear Him speak from the burning issues of the day, and they are all in Camden,” he told us.
Camden is desolate, with gutted and abandoned row houses, boarded-up storefronts, the empty shells of windowless brick factories and the skeletal remains of old gas stations. Weed-choked vacant lots are filled with garbage, old tires and rusted appliances. Cemeteries are overgrown. Open-air drug markets are divided up among gangs such as the Bloods, the Latin Kings, Los Nietos and MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha. Knots of young Hispanic or African-American men dressed in black leather jackets and occasionally seen flipping through wads of cash, sell weed, dope and crack to clients, many of whom drive in from the suburbs. The drug trade is perhaps the city’s only thriving business. A weapon, usually stashed behind a trash can, in the grass or on a porch, is never more than a few feet away from the dealers. Camden is awash in guns.
Camden sits on the edge of the Delaware River facing the Philadelphia skyline, with scrap yards and a vast sewage treatment plant that fouls the air. An elevated multilane highway slices through the heart of the city allowing commuters to pass in and out of Philadelphia without seeing the misery below.
“At Ferry and Sixth, we stopped at one of Camden’s 150 open air drug markets,” Father Doyle wrote in one of his newsletters. “Then down Sixth to Viola where Kevin Walls was shot a few months ago. Where his mother bent beside her bleeding son and tried to say the 23rd Psalm in his ear. Though I walk in the valley of death, I fear not evil. There’s plenty of fear at 6th and Viola. There now the most pathetic of urban shrines. His name scrawled on an abandoned wall. Dozens of beer bottles arranged for the glint and glow of a burnt out candle. A teddy bear soiled and wet on an abandoned step. Soft wishes in a hard hearted-place.”
“Sometimes I see men and women hardened by time and all washed out like the hills of Appalachia and I wonder what were their first few years of life and what happened in the little places where they played,” he wrote in another letter. “Right here on Broadway, on the blocks above and below Sacred Heart, the prostitutes adorn every corner in all weather. They are like hardy fishermen casting their lines in the constant stream of traffic. The windowless walls of gutted houses gape down like skeletons with holes for eyes on a tragic human scene. At 3:15 PM, Anna May carefully guides little children with Sacred Heart uniforms across the street when the light changes. May God’s holy angels always get them safely across the street and off it before they harden and crack like the pavements and the prostitutes and the failed plans for urban renewal.”
Father Doyle raised the funds to restore Sacred Heart Church, built at the end of the 19th century, and its murals illustrating the Ascension, the baptism of Jesus by John, the marriage of Mary and Joseph, and the return of the prodigal son. In 1984, he founded Heart of Camden, a nonprofit community development corporation that has renovated 250 homes for local families. He sustained the parish’s K-8 school, which the diocese tried to shut down, getting thousands of donors and supporters to provide $1 million a year. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Waterfront South Theatre, the Nick Virgilio Writers House, the Camden FireWorks arts center and the Camden Shipyard & Maritime Museum. Every year, he held a service for the victims of gun violence in the city, reading aloud from the pulpit the names of those killed and the type of weapons used to cut short their lives, as weeping family members, the name of those they lost displayed on a sign around their necks, came forward to light a memorial candle. He started community gardens and opened a medical clinic. He arranged for Mother Teresa to visit the city. He relentlessly defied the destructive forces around him, determined to nurture life, even if it was only a “fragile blade of grass poking up between the cracked cement.”
“When I look at all of Camden, I am paralyzed,” he said during one of my many visits to the rectory. “But it’s like a child at the beach. You give them a shovel. They'll make a hole and a hill and work at it all day. They'll have a grand time. And then the tide comes in and the waves bring down the little hill. The little thing is trampled on. But the tide doesn't take what happened, what they were doing, what’s inside. That's preserved forever.”
Father Doyle was a member of the Camden 28, a group of left-wing Catholics and anti-war activists who, in 1971, planned and executed a raid to destroy draft files on the Camden draft board. The defendants were arrested but acquitted when it was found that the FBI, which had an informant in the group, had provided tools for the break-in and facilitated the logistics.
“What do you do when a child is on fire in a war that was a mistake and you can’t extinguish the flame — the napalm flame — with water or anything else?” he said in his closing statement at the trial. “What do you do about that? What do you do with an old man whose bones are splintered by anti-personnel weapons in a war that was a mistake? We have no answer to that. There is no answer in the law for a child on fire in a war that was a mistake.”
He organized a memorial service for 300 young men from South Jersey killed in the Vietnam war. Years later, he would still carry a card with the name of one of those killed, Lawrence J. Virgilio from Camden.
The bishops were not pleased. He was fired from Holy Spirit High School near Atlantic City where he taught and transferred to Sacred Heart, a run-down and neglected parish, in 1974. He had to chop firewood to heat the church. It was meant to be a punishment, a demotion, but Father Doyle saw it as the greatest blessing of his life.
“I’ve failed…nicely,” he joked.
He called Camden “a concentration camp for the poor” and saw the city as a template for all that had gone wrong in America. He likened the suffering around him to the crucified Christ, nailed to “the cross of awfully polluted air” and “the broken sidewalks, the broken lives, the ugly scenes that wail for beautification, the dilapidated houses that must be restored for the children.”
“Camden is a casualty of capitalism,” he said as we sat drinking tea one afternoon. “It’s what falls off the truck and can’t get back on the truck. It is a sad stage we are in. There is a meanness that has raised its ugly head in the soul of America. Bobby Kennedy, even Lyndon Johnson, spoke about the poor. Now you can’t say the word poor and get elected. Let the poor suffer. They’re not important. Let the train roll over them.”
“Today’s a very hard time to be poor,” he went on. “Because you know you’re poor. You hear people my age get up and say, ‘We were poor. We put cardboard in our shoes’. But we didn’t know we were poor. Today you do. And how do you know you’re poor? Your television shows you you’re poor. So it’s very easy to build up anger in, say, a high-voltage kid of 17. He knows he’s poor. He looks at the TV. ‘All these people have everything. I have nothing’. And so he’s very angry. This is violence. I’m not talking about a violent show. I’m talking about the violence that rises out of the marketing that shows the kid what he could have. This creates a huge anger that explodes, easily. That I discovered very quickly when I came to Camden. The anger is so near the surface. You rub it and it explodes. There’s no respect for you if you have no money. The constant assault of the marketers is never-ending.”
“I grew up in Ireland,” he went on. “We had the songs of our struggle. It was clear who we were struggling against. It was the money crowd. But people here can’t see the enemy. You can’t challenge what you can’t see. Greed, prejudice and injustice, you can’t get at it. There’s no head. There’s no clarity. So you take it out on your neighbor. It’s horrendous what people do.”
He saw the United States as cursed by the war industry and American militarism, a curse that would doom it. The billions diverted to endless wars meant those around him went hungry. He prayed with his congregation that America will one day “come to the front lines of our cities to protect our children, not with guns, but hammers and saws and jobs and tools of transformation.”
“A child in Camden could teach the proud missile makers a lesson,” he said. “‘Take my hand,’ the little Camden child says, ‘and walk with me. Walk my streets to school. Will your bombs save me? If you want to defend me, come and live on my block.’”
He knew this was the end of the American empire, but he did not understand why it had to go out with such cruelty. What kind of a country, he asked, allowed people to die or go bankrupt because they were unable to pay for medical care?
“Capitalists shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the medical industry,” he said. “What they do is evil. Greed is venomous.”
“The history books are littered with the ruins of fallen empires,” he said. “A fellow I knew, a blue-collar fellow, he worked with the navy, had to go over with some work crew to Italy. He sent me a card with a picture of the Colosseum. He wrote, ‘I went to the Colosseum, but all I saw were two cats fighting in the weeds.’ It was, when you think about the mighty Caesars, what ancient Rome had been, quite profound.”
Father Doyle loved literature, especially Irish literature, and poetry, which he wrote and included in his letters. He was close friends with the local poet Nick Virgilio, whose brother he had memorialized years earlier and whose haikus captured the desperation of Camden: the prostituted women knitting baby booties on the bus; sitting alone as he ordered eggs and toast in an undertone on Thanksgiving; the latch key children “exploring the wild on public television”; the frozen body of a drunk found on a winter morning in a cardboard box labeled “Fragile: Do Not Crush”; as well as his lamentations for his older brother killed in Vietnam. Nick wrote what could be the city’s epithet:
the sack of kittens
sinking in the icy creek
increases the cold
In 1989, Nick died of a heart attack in Washington, D.C., at the taping of an interview for CBS Nightwatch. Father Doyle rode in the hearse that brought Nick’s body back to Camden, the head of his deceased friend thumping softly against the back partition. He built him a gravestone in the shape of a slender granite podium in Harleigh cemetery, where Walt Whitman, who Father Doyle could quote from memory, is also buried. He had one of Nick’s haiku poems carved on it:
out of the water…
out of itself
Father Doyle organized and attended a soup kitchen every Saturday where he would sit at the tables with about a hundred people, many of whom were destitute and homeless. He recruited volunteers from the suburbs, most of whom were white, to cook and serve his guests. “You have dignity at a table when you’re sharing food,” he said.
He spoke frequently about death, perhaps because in Camden, it is a daily reality. He loved the story of two old men in Ireland who spent their lives together until one fell deathly ill and told his friend he didn’t think he would be getting up, that he had always known when he started out where he was going, but now he didn’t. “But John,” his friend replied, “when you were coming, you didn't know where you're going and didn't it turn out alright?”
“The same God that was there when you slithered into this world will be there when you slither out of it,” Father Doyle told me.
And yet, no matter how bleak, there were always unexpected flashes of joy and hope, gifts of grace.
“One day God sent a message from of all places Arlington Street, and it brightened up the doorway of my mind,” he wrote. “On Arlington, in the awful heat, on that Godforsaken street without light or life, ugly, urban decay at levels straining the imagination, seven children were splashing in cascading water like shining wet dolphins in the sun. Somehow, they had hauled a discarded hot tub from Adventure Spas on Chelton Avenue, opened a fire hydrant and the powerful pressure sent the water upward on an old sheet of plywood into the tub and sent the children into ecstasies of delight in spite of all the awful misery around them…Nothing could daunt the wild surge of their young lives and hopes. What is it about hope? Does its real inspiration only rise out of the tragic emptiness to take its pure and unsupported stand against all odds?”
These moments of grace sustained him even as he acknowledged that everything he had spent his life fighting for had gotten worse. They affirmed that no matter how bleak the world around us, death and despair do not have the final word. Time will slowly erode the memory of this priest, as it erodes all memory, until he becomes a ghostly remnant of another era, a name adorned on a plaque. But what will endure is what mattered to him most, the life force to which he dedicated his existence.
by Justin Horton
This weekend, the day before the men’s football World Cup kicks off in Qatar, the World Team Chess Championship will begin in Jerusalem, Israel. Or so it says in the advertising, but in fact it’s taking place in East Jerusalem. That’s occupied East Jerusalem, occupied since 1967, annexed in 1980 and, in the opinion of most of the world community, not part of Israel at all.
Hosting cultural and sporting events in Israel has been controversial for a long time, and when FIDE, the international chess federation, held its Olympiad in Haifa in 1976, it was boycotted by many affiliate nations. But holding an event in annexed territory is a new one to me.
FIDE was obliged to reschedule both of its major team events this year because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Olympiad, scheduled for Moscow, was eventually held in Chennai instead, without Russian participation. The World Team Championship, in which Russia are the reigning champions in both the Open and Women’s categories, was put back several months, and Russian teams were again excluded. The event was allocated to Jerusalem some time ago, but it was only when the venue was announced – the Dan Jerusalem Hotel – that it became clear which part of Jerusalem was meant.
It may be tiresome to compare the way Ukrainians and Palestinians are treated and perceived, since both peoples are victims of great wrongs and great violence. But it is bizarre to remove one nation from a competition because it occupies another and annexes its territory, and then proceed to hold that competition on territory that has been occupied and annexed. This does, however, seem to have escaped the notice of FIDE.
The BDS movement has issued a statement calling for the event to be moved from Israel and observing:
Specifically, by holding the tournament in occupied East Jerusalem, FIDE is reinforcing Israel’s illegal military occupation and its claim of sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem as a whole. The United Nations and the absolute majority of states do not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and consider its annexation of occupied East Jerusalem as illegal.
FIDE is, normally at any rate, aware of Palestine’s existence: Palestinian teams usually participate in the Olympiad, have done so since 1984, and did so again in Chennai this year. But there is no indication that it has taken the slightest bit of notice of Palestine or the status of East Jerusalem in approving the venue for the forthcoming event. Along with the federations, players and officials participating in the tournament, FIDE is assisting in the slow erasure of Palestine as a nation and of Palestinians as a people.
(London Review of Books)
WHY IS AP CONTINUING to protect the anonymity of the US official who fed them a fake story about Russia attacking Poland? This is a very important question that demands serious answers. If government officials know they can get brazen lies anonymously published in the press and still have their anonymity protected after those lies are exposed, they will with 100% certainty continue to do so. Why wouldn't they? There are no consequences.
It's obnoxious and unacceptable that the mass media currently hold random social media users to higher levels of accountability than powerful government officials who circulate lies that can start wars.
— Caitlin Johnstone
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 20TH NOVEMBER
Europe's biggest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, is maybe the most dangerous place in the world right now. The plant is in Russian-occupied Ukraine and has been shelled repeatedly since March.
The situation is carefully monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency tasked with making sure nuclear facilities are safe and atomic material is only used for peaceful purposes. Its director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, recently inspected the site.
"Well, it's an unprecedented thing, really, in so many ways," Grossi told Lesley Stahl for this week's 60 Minutes. "This place is at the front line which makes the whole thing so volatile and in need of an urgent action."
Before the war the plant supplied 20% of Ukraine's power. It's now largely idle, but the reactors still need to be constantly cooled down with circulating water. If they over-heat it could lead to nuclear catastrophe within hours.
"The whole system is being cooled by electricity that's coming in from the town, and there's shelling," Stahl said to Grossi. "So what would happen if that electricity went down?"
"What you have in that-- in that situation is emergency systems that kick in. Like, diesel generators that you can have on a private property," Grossi said. "And you don't want the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe, one of the biggest in the world, to be cooled with-- basically an emergency system which is dependent on fuel. Because when your diesels are out of whatever you put in it to make them work, then what happens? Then you have a meltdown. Then you have a big radiological nuclear emergency or an accident, and this is what we are trying to prevent."
"So this situation is totally precarious," Stahl said.
"Totally," Grossi responded. "Until we have this plant protected, the possibility of the nuclear catastrophe is there."
That possible catastrophe could dwarf Chernobyl, a far smaller Ukrainian plant that famously blew up 36 years ago. In late August, after months of negotiating with both sides, Director General Grossi led his agency's first mission into an active warzone to inspect the stability of the Zaporizhzhia site.
INSIDE THE SAUDI STRATEGY TO KEEP THE WORLD HOOKED ON OIL
The kingdom is working to keep fossil fuels at the center of the world economy for decades to come by lobbying, funding research and using its diplomatic muscle to obstruct climate action.
by Hiroko Tabuchi
Shimmering in the desert is a futuristic research center with an urgent mission: Make Saudi Arabia’s oil-based economy greener, and quickly. The goal is to rapidly build more solar panels and expand electric-car use so the kingdom eventually burns far less oil.
But Saudi Arabia has a far different vision for the rest of the world. A major reason it wants to burn less oil at home is to free up even more to sell abroad. It’s just one aspect of the kingdom’s aggressive long-term strategy to keep the world hooked on oil for decades to come and remain the biggest supplier as rivals slip away.
In recent days, Saudi representatives pushed at the United Nations global climate summit in Egypt to block a call for the world to burn less oil, according to two people present at the meeting, saying that the summit’s final statement “should not mention fossil fuels.” The effort prevailed: After objections from Saudi Arabia and a few other oil producers, the statement failed to include a call for nations to phase out fossil fuels.
The kingdom’s plan for keeping oil at the center of the global economy is playing out around the world in Saudi financial and diplomatic activities, as well as in the realms of research, technology and even education. It is a strategy at odds with the scientific consensus that the world must swiftly move away from fossil fuels, including oil and gas, to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.
The dissonance cuts to the heart of the Saudi kingdom. The government-controlled oil company, Saudi Aramco, already produces one out of every 10 of the world’s barrels of oil and envisions a world where it will be selling even more. Yet climate change and rising temperatures are already threatening life in the desert kingdom like few other places in the world.
Saudi Aramco has become a prolific funder of research into critical energy issues, financing almost 500 studies over the past five years, including research aimed at keeping gasoline cars competitive or casting doubt on electric vehicles, according to the Crossref database, which tracks academic publications. Aramco has collaborated with the United States Department of Energy on high-profile research projects including a six-year effort to develop more efficient gasoline and engines, as well as studies on enhanced oil recovery and other methods to bolster oil production.
Aramco also runs a global network of research centers including a lab near Detroit where it is developing a mobile “carbon capture” device — equipment designed to be attached to a gasoline-burning car, trapping greenhouse gases before they escape the tailpipe. More widely, Saudi Arabia has poured $2.5 billion into American universities over the past decade, making the kingdom one of the nation’s top contributors to higher education.
Saudi interests have spent close to $140 million since 2016 on lobbyists and others to influence American policy and public opinion, making it one of the top countries spending on U.S. lobbying, according to disclosures to the Department of Justice tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Much of that has focused on bolstering the kingdom’s overall image, particularly after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 by Saudi operatives. But the Saudi effort has also extended to building alliances in American Corn Belt states that produce ethanol — a product also threatened by electric cars.
Behind closed doors at global climate talks, the Saudis have worked to obstruct climate action and research, in particular objecting to calls for a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels. In March, at a United Nations meeting with climate scientists, Saudi Arabia, together with Russia, pushed to delete a reference to “human-induced climate change” from an official document, in effect disputing the scientifically established fact that the burning of fossil fuels by humans is the main driver of the climate crisis.
“People would like us to give up on investment in hydrocarbons. But no,” said Amin Nasser, Saudi Aramco’s chief executive, because such a move would only wreak havoc with oil markets. The bigger threat was the “lack of investment in oil and gas,” he said.
In a statement, the Saudi Ministry of Energy said it expected that hydrocarbons such as oil, gas and coal would “continue to be an essential part of the global energy mix for decades,” but at the same time the kingdom had “made significant investments in measures to combat climate change.” The statement added, “Far from blocking progress at climate change talks, Saudi Arabia has long played a major role” in negotiations as well as in oil and gas industry groups working to lower emissions.
Saudi Arabia has said it supports the Paris climate agreement, which aims to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and intends to generate half its electricity from renewables by 2030. The kingdom also plans to plant 10 billion trees in the coming decades, and is building Neom, a futuristic carbon-free city that features speedy public transit, vertical farms and a ski resort.
And Saudi Arabia is hedging its bets. The government has invested in Lucid, the American electric vehicle company, and recently said it would form its own electric vehicle company, Ceer. It is investing in hydrogen, a cleaner alternative to oil and gas.
Still, the green transition at home has been slow. Saudi Arabia still generates less than 1 percent of its electricity from renewables, and it isn’t clear how it plans to plant billions of trees in one of the world’s driest regions.
All the while, the climate threat is getting harder to ignore. At current rates, human survival in the region will be impossible without continuous access to air-conditioning, researchers said last year.
Among researchers at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, a space station-like compound powered by 20,000 solar panels where discussion focuses on solar and wind projects or technologies like carbon capture, the more immediate trade-off is clear.
“If we keep consuming our own oil,” said Anvita Arora, who directs the center’s transport team, “we won’t have any oil left to sell.”…