THE CURRENT STORM WEAKENS but rain and flooding continue. Thunderstorms are possible today south of Cape Mendocino. Coastal flooding and high surf are also hazards to be considered today. (NWS)
YESTERDAY'S RAINFALL (past 24 hours): Boonville 2.97" - Yorkville 4.48"
HIGHWAY 128 IS CLOSED. CalTrans said Western portion of Highway 128 was closed due to “dangerous conditions” (as opposed to flooding). Caltrans said the Highway is expected to re-open during the daytime on Thursday.
STORM UPDATES as of Wed. 9:30 PM [MCN-Announce]
ROAD CLOSURES [All caps because it's copied from https://roads.dot.ca.gov]
HWY. 1 (SR-1)
IS CLOSED 3.5 MI NORTH OF THE SONOMA/MENDOCINO CO LINE - DUE TO DOWNED TREES - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
IS CLOSED FROM LAKE ST /IN POINT ARENA/ 1.7 MI NORTH OF POINT ARENA /AT MINER HOLE RD/ (MENDOCINO CO) - DUE TO DOWNED TREES - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
IS CLOSED 4.4 MI NORTH OF MANCHESTER (MENDOCINO CO) - DUE TO DOWNED TREES - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
IS CLOSED AT THE JCT OF SR 128 (MENDOCINO CO) - DUE TO DOWNED TREES - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
HWY 128 (SR-128)
IS CLOSED FROM THE JCT OF SR 1 TO 12 MI EAST OF THE JCT OF SR 1 (MENDOCINO CO) - DUE TO DOWNED TREES - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
IS CLOSED 6 MI WEST OF BOONVILLE /AT INDIAN CREEK RD/ (MENDOCINO CO) - DUE TO DOWNED TREES - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
The Navarro River level forecasts have been heavily updated to lower the crest predicted tonight from 25+ ft. to 19.7 ft. at 7 AM Thursday, Also next Sunday crest reduced from a single peak at 29.7 ft down to TWO peaks of 26.6 ft. at 5 PM Saturday and then 27.9 ft.at 8 AM Sunday, with a small dip in level between the two peaks: https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=eka&gage=nvrc1 The chart is always the latest data available when you click the link.
Electric power outages were widespread this afternoon up and down the coast. PG&E crews have restored power to many customers from Fort Bragg down to much of Mendocino, except Little Lake Rd. Little River Airport Rd has been very lucky to have had only brief glitches and no outage longer than a minute or two, so far.
Power remains out for most of the coast south of Little River including Albion Ridge, Navarro Ridge, Cameron Ridge, Elk, Pt. Arena and further south. Here's a link to the PG&E Outage Map. It opens to the whole state, so you have to zoom it in and move the area shown to the Mendocino Coast. Before you zoom in, notice the widespread outage all over the northen state: https://pgealerts.alerts.pge.com/outages/map/
Further Reach wireless internet service has been working like a champ, with full usual speed even at the peak of the storm.
Stay warm and dry! Lots more rain and wind still to come, right into next week.
— Nick Wilson
AS INTENSE WINTER RAINSTORMS affect Northern California, it is important to make sure everyone in your household has the oxygen, prescription medicine, and other medical supplies they need to wait out any power outage or healthcare access delays due to storm conditions.
- Check that there are 2-3 days of medications available. Contact your provider or pharmacy for a refill if you need one.
- If you use oxygen, check oxygen tank levels and contact your provider or pharmacy for refills or replacements.
- Visit MendoReady.org for the most recent emergency updates
- Review the Plan and Prepare Checklist on MendoReady.org
- Before driving, check out the CHP Traffic Information Page to make sure roads are clear.
The Public Health Call Center is also available to answer any non-emergency questions about planning for health during winter storms. Give us a call at 707-472-2759.
(Mendocino County Public Health Department)
A COAST RESIDENT informs us that Luke Breit has died. Known to many in the Albion-Mendocino area, Breit was a long-time aide to elected Northcoast Democrats.
On 12/28/2022, Ukiah PD recovered a stolen vehicle with the assistance of the Flock license plate reader (LPR) camera system. At about 1543 hours, Flock alerted UPD officers, informing them of a stolen 2007 Toyota Camry in the city limits. Del Norte Sheriff’s Office entered the Camry as stolen on 12/26/2022. The owner reportedly parked and secured his vehicle on 12/26/2022 in Crescent City and the vehicle was taken without permission by KC Stillwell while he had slept.
An officer located the vehicle as it was parked in the parking lot of Lucky’s, 504 E. Perkins St., and provided updates to other officers as he watched the driver and passenger. With the assistance of UPD detectives and the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force, UPD initiated a high risk stop in the parking lot. The driver and passenger were compliant with officers’ commands and were taken into custody without resistance.
The driver was 29-year-old female, KC Stillwell, from Covelo who claimed she was recovering the vehicle for the victim.
The passenger was Michael Cady who said he was picked up by Stillwell in the vehicle from McKinleyville and they were coming to Ukiah to visit friends. Stillwell had an outstanding warrant in Mendocino County for failing to appear in court for a previous vehicle theft. Stillwell and Cady were booked at Mendocino County Jail, each having a $15,000 bond
The Flock LPR system continues to aid officers in their service to the community.
As always, UPD’s mission is to make Ukiah as safe a place as possible. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cellphone, and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website; http://www.ukiahpolice.com.
(Ukiah Police Presser)
MCHCD SPECIAL BOARD MEETING ON 1/5/23
The newly-elected Mendocino coast healthcare district board will hold their first meeting tomorrow. A special meeting, on 1/5/23. The agenda and zoom meeting info is here:
TERRIBLE STORY out of Laytonville concerns a sordid parasite called Nick Davila, a drug salesman and performer in gay porn films.
Davila, 30, has lived in the Laytonville-Leggett area for a few years where he managed to ingratiate himself with a young woman named Janelle Quinn, whose modest resources he looted as he steadily mistreated and robbed her before he severely beat the young woman.
She has since been retrieved by her family. Prior to Davila's assault on her, Janelle had been seriously disabled in a car accident, meaning he should be looking at a double felony for assaulting a handicapped person. The charming Davila has now threatened to kill his victim. This man should be arrested and prosecuted to the max, but so far he's been difficult to find, although he had once been served with a restraining order. If you know of Davila's present whereabouts please call the Sheriff's Department. This guy's gotta go. (Ukiah: 463-4086; Willits: 459-7833.)
JANELLE'S FATHER, Terry Quinn, has forwarded the following:
Janelle Quinn’s Accident & Assault
by Terry W Quinn
Nicholas Davila Fraud and Assault Charges against permanently disabled and defenseless ex-girlfriend Janelle Quinn.
Financial fraud charges, case #22-29199, Deputy Ochoa
Assault and battery charges, case #22-27562 Deputy Mendoza
We are in fear for her safety. He has threatened to kill her.
Janelle Quinn was in a near fatal car accident 7-14-2020
-She was in a coma and on life support for 12 days in the hospital over the period from July 14, 2020 to November 6, 2020
-She suffered 5 strokes
-Acute trauma to the body and brain.
-Severe memory loss
-Lost her spleen
-Multiple broken bones and a fractured pelvis
-Permanent stroke related paralysis to her right side
Janelle has dated Nicholas Davila since 2018. They are no longer together.
He’s a convicted felon, a known drug user and distributor. The assault photos attached are due to his frequent and violent rage. He is much more violent when he is under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Janelle’s jaw injuries are from Christmas Day 2022. She simply wanted to leave with her belongings.
We found out that Nicholas Davila has several aliases.
These are his porn star names. Google him.
We also recently found out he was a former male prostitute under these names.
Mr. Davila is well known in the Laytonville area as a convicted felon. It is also known that has been accused of many crimes including theft, breaking and entering, drug possession and distribution along with assault and battery, and weapons charges.
He used Janelle’s identity to open Cash App, Facebook Pay and various financial accounts without her knowledge or consent. He also transferred Janelle’s funds from her personal bank account to these cash app accounts and used these funds at his own discretion without Janelle’s knowledge or permission. He has taken her debit card and her vehicle many times without her knowledge. Transported drugs, left drugs, paraphernalia and loaded weapons in her car and put her in harms' way many times.
The American disabilities act prevents him from harming her in anyway. All ADA and civil rights groups will be alerted. This will be forwarded to all law enforcement, the California state attorney generals office and various women’s civil rights advocacy groups. Mendocino Supervisor Ted Williams has been alerted to this case and the Crimes committed against our daughter.
Mr. Davila will have to answer for mental, emotional, physical, and financial harm to our disabled and defenseless daughter, Janelle Diane Quinn.
We took Janelle to the Mendocino County Sheriff to file assault charges against Mr. Davila on Friday December 27. The photo is from the Ukiah Sheriff Station. Fearing for her safety and ours, we brought her to her home in Palmdale CA. The same day.
The attached 2020 photo's are after she woke up from her 12 day Coma. The blunt force trauma caused her 5 strokes and permanent memory loss and brain damage. Janelle is unable to make common or important decisions for herself to this day. We are preparing a Power of Attorney on her behalf to help her and Conservatorship.
Again, We are in fear that Janelle is in imminent danger of attack from her ex-boyfriend Nicholas Davila. We fear for her safety.
MOVE OVER, LANA TURNER. If they ever do a makeover of the '46 noir classic, The Postman Always Rings Twice, I hope Ms. Stillwell is available to take Lana's place.
VIA NORM DEVALL: Headline in Mendocino Beacon: “County historian writes book on Lake Leonard.”
COAST DEMOCRACTIC CLUB CANCELING JAN 8 EVENT AT CASPAR COMMUNITY CENTER DUE TO WEATHER
Dear Members and Friends,
The Coast Democratic Club has decided that the prudent course is to cancel the celebration scheduled for Sunday afternoon, January 8 as the current severe weather is expected to last for up to ten days. At this time there is not a new date but we will let you know when there is.
Meanwhile, If you are interested in participating in any of the working groups described in the previous event notice, please send Karen Bowers an email at email@example.com. The working groups are:
- Housing on the Coast,
- Local Coastal Plan Update, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Healthcare District Community Outreach,
- 2024 Elections
MENDOCINO ART CENTER’S ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE VISUAL PRESENTATIONS & OPEN STUDIOS
Friday, January 13, 5pm-7pm; Free Admission
Meet Mendocino Art Center’s talented new group of Artists in Residence (AIR) as they talk about their art, show recent work and open their art studios to the public. Refreshments will be available.
The 2022-23 Artists in Residence who will be presenting are Collyn Ahrens, ceramics; Katie Applebaum, ceramics; SULO BEE, interdisciplinary metalsmith; Nicolaus Chaffin, multidisciplinary; Winchi De Jesus, interdisciplinary; and Nick Kakavas, ceramics.
More information: mendocinoartcenter.org/events/air-presentations
If anyone needs any trees cleared from the storm or are concerned about specific trees don’t hesitate to call me. Free inspections and estimates.
Devin Elliott, (707) 513-9535, <email@example.com>
FRANK HARTZELL: Our second tidepool outing was radically different than the sad trip we had in Caspar, where purple urchin had killed off everything and there were virtually no sea anemones, mussels or seaweed of any kind.
On Wednesday, we were out off Cleone and there were NO purple urchin. Instead there was tons of seaweed, anemones and a wide variety of life. However, far, far less mussels. Left my good camera at home and used the underwater Cannon, which I got cheap. It’s pretty amazing. Most of these were with the camera submerged. We saw tons of starfish, but they were nowhere near as big as the Caspar site where the starfish were gargantuan, like 20 inches! Here they were regular sized, a bit smaller than a dinner plate and many, many different kinds.
TEEN BURGLERS NABBED
On 01/02/2023 at approximately 0326 hours, Ukiah Police Officers were dispatched to the Prime Market for a report of an alarm call. Upon arrival, Officers noticed the power was out to the building and the front glass door was broken. Through the investigation, it was determined the power was shut off to the building prior to the suspect/s entering the business and dozens of items were stolen, totaling approximately $1,800.
While on scene, UPD Dispatch received a disturbance call in the 300 block of N. Oak St. Shortly after receiving the disturbance call, UPD Dispatch received a second call of two subjects breaking a vehicle’s windshield in the 700 block of N. Oak St. Officers were provided a description of the subjects and responded to the area. Officers contacted two subjects in the 1000 block of N. Oak St. Officers discovered in the investigation that the two subjects climbed onto the hood of a vehicle and stomped/kicked the front windshield multiple times, and caused it to break. The damage to the vehicle was determined to be in excess of $400.
While checking the area that the subjects were located, Officers found multiple items that were stolen from the burglary at the Prime Market.
After concluding the investigation on scene, both individuals were arrested for the above listed charges and were transported to the Mendocino Juvenile Hall after being medically cleared for incarceration per COVID-19 protocol.
(Ukiah Police Presser)
SHERIFF KENDALL’S NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE
Here we are in 2023 and we are working our way into the new plans for the year. We are working to continue programs that are working well in our communities, while making new plans to deal with the problems which continue to exist.
The recent slaying of Riverside County Deputy Isaiah Cordero was a terrible and senseless tragedy. I am afraid we are seeing these events much too frequently. My mind immediately went back to the kidnap and attempted murder we saw in 2020 in which our deputies were nearly ambushed by well-armed suspects.
The reason we were able to take all three suspects into custody with no loss of life was because of our multi agency SWAT team. This team is continuing to train and keep their skills sharp. We can’t control what is presented to us, however we can control our responses. The proper tools and training allow us to have a measured response, which is what our communities demand and deserve from those serving.
We have had some good impacts made into the illegal marijuana cultivations and we will continue to investigate these crimes with the same focus and enforcement goals as we have had for the past several years. As we saw a downturn in illegal cultivation sites, we saw a downturn in violence. This will continue to be an uphill battle until such time we truly get our arms around the problem and the voices in our rural counties are heard at the state and federal levels. Once we get this issue sorted out I am afraid we will still have several years of cleanup to complete and I am uncertain who will be carrying that load.
We are hiring personnel as Sheriff’s Services Technicians to assist in several aspects mostly data entry and completing some of the newly mandated reporting which is taking our deputies off patrol for a good portion of their shifts. This should allow more patrol time in the areas which we serve.
We are continuing to see a rise in the dumping of trash, household furnishings, appliances etc. along our county roads. We can’t have this continue. Mendocino County is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we can’t allow it to be trashed.
Mail theft, theft of packages delivered to homes and crimes which affect our quality of life are also continuing to rise. We are working on solutions as we have in the past with the high intensity surveillance of problem areas. I am certain we will see results and reductions in these crimes.
Fentanyl is plaguing the United States and we are no exception. We will continue to battle this with the limited tools which have been left for us to use. We will have to take a stand and tell our state representatives the recent legislation is killing people. We have to stand together on this or our voices will not be heard.
I am not only the Sheriff, but also the Coroner for Mendocino County. Therefore I see the Coroner’s Investigations and I have become increasingly concerned about the issues we are facing with mental health and drug addictions. Suicide and overdose are preventable, and we must start working further upstream to stop these problems.
The dual response team has been a great help with mental health, however the issues surrounding addictions are continuing. Currently the approach to drug usage has been the issuing and administering of NARCAN. Narcan is a bandage and doesn’t stop the problem, only the symptoms. We have to come back to a realistic approach combining education with enforcement. Personal responsibility will be the only thing which causes this problem to end. Education and enforcement have been the only things we see that help create personal responsibility.
With the support of our communities I am confident that we will make headway on many of the issues that we are currently facing. Thank you for continuing to support the men and women serving all of us at the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Matt Kendall
WELCOMING THE NEW YEAR with some extra cuteness! Meet Baby Alani Maribel Garcia, the first baby born at our Family Birth Center for 2023! While Baby Alani waited well until after the fireworks and festivities to make her grand entrance, her arrival was still welcomed with lots of fanfare and excitement both from her parents, Perla Garcia and Alexis Lopez, and our Labor and Delivery team. Born on January 2, at 12:58 a.m., Baby Alani weighed 6 lbs. and 14 oz and is 18 inches long.
Baby Alani’s arrival is already special as the first born in her family, but it holds a special meaning for her mom, Perla as her middle name is from her mother who passed away four months ago. “I always knew I was going to name her after my mom. It’s a great way to honor her memory and a great way to welcome this little blessing after the tough year we had.” Baby Alani’s arrival just after the holidays make it extra special as she also comes just a week before her mom’s birthday. “She’s the best gift I could ever ask for.”
As is the tradition, our team welcomed the first baby of the year with a gift basket complete with a handmade quilt, a stocking fit for the best present ever, a knitted hat, books, the cutest outfits and lots of baby necessities. The team also gifted Baby Alani her first box of diapers, which she will need a lot of!
Taff Cheneweth, Labor and Delivery manager says it’s a privilege to be part of such a special moment for families. “We are honored that they trust us with their most precious delivery. It brings us so much joy to welcome new lives into this world. The New Year’s baby is a much-anticipated event for us and our team works very hard to make their experience meaningful. Our team spends many months putting together the quilt and other handmade items so our babies know how special they are. It truly is a labor of love for us,” he adds.
Indeed it was special, and surprisingly easier than she expected, says Perla. “All of my nurses were amazing. They were very helpful and kept me and baby comfortable.”
Join us in congratulating Perla and Alexis and welcoming Baby Alani into this world!
(Ukiah Hospital Presser)
114-YEAR-OLD EDIE CECCARELLI OF WILLITS IS NOW THE OLDEST PERSON IN THE UNITED STATES
by Chris Smith
Edie Ceccarelli has for many, many years delighted and astounded her hometown of Willits — all the more now that she’s suddenly the oldest person in America.
Just short of 115 years old, Ceccarelli was, until Tuesday, the country’s second-oldest resident. Then in Iowa on Tuesday, the most-senior American, Bessie Hendricks, died at the age of 115 years and 57 days. She had tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before her death.
Hendricks’ death also moves Ceccarelli up one place on the list of the verified oldest people on Earth.
Ceccarelli, who was born in Willits on Feb. 5, 1908, is now No. 4.
A cousin by marriage, Evelyn Persico of Willits, last visited with Ceccarelli in her room at a small care home last Friday. Persico said Ceccarelli continues to have a good appetite, but her dementia continues to advance.
“She really doesn’t recognize me, even when I say, ‘Edie, this is Evelyn.’”
For most of her life, Ceccarelli was a sparkling, fit and finely groomed woman who loved to dance, and to take long walks in Willits, stopping into businesses to say hello.
For the past two years, she has sat outside the tidy Holy Spirit Residential Care Home on her birthday as dozens of Willits people have paraded in fire trucks, police cars, all manner of decorated vehicles and on horseback.
It’s been clear she hasn’t comprehended the festivities. But she smiles and waves, and when told it was all for her birthday she declared, “February 5?”
Persico said she and others in Willits are hoping to put on another birthday celebration for Ceccarelli this year.
“She’s tired,” Persico said. “But she’s just got that strong, little heart that keeps ticking.”
According to scientists with the Gerontology Research Group, the only people on the planet confirmed to be older than Ceccarelli are Lucille Randon of France, at 118 years and 327 days; Spain’s Maria Branyas Morera, 115 years, 306 days, and Fusa Tatsumi of Japan, 115 years, 254 days.
The second-oldest American now is Hazel Plummer of Massachusetts. She is 114 years and 199 days old.
THE NAVARRO STORE. CAN'T MISS IT!
BETSY CAWN: The list of drought relief projects funded by the Bureau of Reclamation includes the “California Land Stewardship Institute” which was founded in 2005 and is based in Napa County. Their 2015 Form 990 states that “The purpose of this corporation is to plan and implement environmental stewardship, restoration and enhancement programs and projects including educational activities, scientific studies, promotion of beneficial stewardship practices and resource conservation activities on private and public lands and waterways.”
The federal funding awarded to the Institute, according to the list published in today’s AVA, is $1,531,635 for the purpose of “creating long-term water supply resiliency for the communities of Ukiah Valley and the Upper Russian River.”
In the past few years of observing the progress of the Potter Valley Project, the formation of the Mendocino Inland Power & Water Company, and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors inactivity on the drought response and water resource management needs, I have not heard of this organization and would welcome any input from readers about its level of activity IN Mendocino County on these issues.
The website provided by Google leads to this URL: https://www.napawatersheds.org/login, and prohibits non-members from viewing its contents. All that does is pique my curiosity… Russian River Waterkeepers?
CATCH OF THE DAY, Wednesday, January 4, 2023
DEREK CLEEK, Willits. Explosive device, burglary, loaded firearm in public.
KEITH GILCHRIST, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
THOMAS GUYETTE JR., Lakeport/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
TAMRA LARSON-FURLANI, Kelseyville/Ukiah. Domestic battery.
ROBERT OCHOA, Little River. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
WILLIAM OWENS, Ukiah. Controlled substance, parole violation.
BRIANNA PINKARD, Willits. DUI with blood-alcohol over 0.15%.
JUSTIN SETTLES, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
CHARLES STASER, Covelo. Controlled substance while armed with loaded firearm, paraphernalia.
NATHAN TOTTEN, Shingletown/Ukiah. Burglary, vandalism, parole violation.
JONATHAN YOUNG, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
SINGING IN THE RAIN
I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I'm happy again
I'm laughing the clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I have a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And I'm singing
Just singing in the rain
I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I'm so happy again
I'm laughing the clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I have a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And I'm singing
Just singing in the rain
— Arthur Freed
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Teddy Roosevelt nearly banned college football around 1904, in which year there were about 18 gridiron fatalities. He didn’t want his sons playing the sport at Harvard, and at the time it was a game played primarily in the Ivy League. A local chap named Walter Camp “The Father of College Football,” worked with Roosevelt to make the game safer and less brutal, changing the rules and coming up with equipment like helmets and shoulder pads. This was before the NFL, which didn’t start out until the 1920s.
DAMAR HAMLIN’S INJURY A NEW EXAMPLE OF PLAYERS TELLING NFL THE RIGHT THING TO DO
by Michael Silver
Bryant Young remembers the moment with chilling clarity.
Young, the San Francisco 49ers ’ Hall of Fame defensive tackle, was down on his knee in the visitors’ locker room shortly after a 2005 preseason game in Denver when he and his teammates experienced a football player’s greatest fear.
“(Coach) Mike Nolan gave his postgame talk and started saying the Lord’s Prayer,” Young recalled Tuesday. “Right as he said ‘Amen,’ Thomas (Herrion) collapsed. I remember to this day, (guard Justin) Smiley yelling, ‘TRAINER!’ After that, it was all hands on deck. They gave him CPR. They tried everything. Seeing all that in our locker room, it was really hard, and I remember thinking, ‘How are we gonna go on?’”
Herrion, a 23-year-old guard, was pronounced dead shortly thereafter, an autopsy later revealing significant blockage of his right coronary artery and a slightly enlarged heart. The medical examiner concluded that Herrion’s weight, family history of heart disease and strain from playing in the game were likely among the factors that contributed to his death, with an arrhythmia the probable cause.
On Monday night, it all came flooding back for Young, who’d had his own near-death experience in 1998, hours after suffering a gruesome leg injury in a regular season game. A scary scene that jolted the football world — Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin going into cardiac arrest following a tackle, and medical personnel using CPR and AED (automatic external defibrillator) to revive him — reminded current and former players of the risk they confront in their chosen profession and the fragility and fear they must compartmentalize.
With Hamlin hospitalized in critical condition and his outcome still unclear, this is a jolting time for players across the league, and especially those on the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. The concerns go beyond the postponement of a game with major playoff ramifications and transcend the usual collective summoning of strength in the wake of a severe injury to a member of the brotherhood.
The trauma of watching what happened to Hamlin constitutes a potential mental-health crisis for those who witnessed it, and that’s not a statement I make lightly. NFL players are conditioned to block out a loteach time they take the field and to tough out physical, mental and emotional pain as a badge of honor.
Based on my conversations with numerous sources who experienced Monday’s events in real time, it was Bills and Bengals players, in conjunction with their respective head coaches, who spearheaded the decision not to continue Monday’s game while NFL officials were still pondering their options. That tells you all you need to know.
“That’s why the coaches did what they did, because it was so uncharted,” said former Niners quarterback Steve Young, another Hall of Famer who was unnerved by Hamlin’s life-threatening event. “What makes football great is that risk — and the camaraderie it generates. The challenge is the danger. Then, to see one of your brothers go down… Football players can handle a lot. Seeing Damar in that kind of distress — the fear, empathy and concern for Damar made it all too much.”
In any workplace, going back on the job immediately after watching a colleague cling to life would be immensely difficult. For an NFL player, there’s another level of complexity. If you’ve never stood on a sideline during a game, let alone played in one, there’s no way you can appreciate the mental place that these modern-day gladiators must go before they charge out of the tunnel and engage in fast-paced, ultra-violent combat.
“You have to go to a spot where the blinders are on and it’s just hyper-focused on one task,” Bryant Young said. “You have to go to this place where, when you look back at it, it’s like, Damn. Whether it’s pain, whether it’s injury, whether it’s something that happens to one of your brothers, you’ve got to be able to have this focus and mental toughness and ability to block it all out. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it.”
I’ve detailed some scary situations during my three-plus decades as a journalist and marveled, in many cases, at the way players were able to plow through them.
In 1989, as a rookie on the 49ers’ beat for a now-defunct newspaper, I covered a surreal game at Stanford Stadium — played there in the wake of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, which had damaged Candlestick Park during the Bay Bridge World Series — in which promising safety Jeff Fuller suffered a brutal spinal injury that left him partially paralyzed.
Three years later, Niners cornerback Kevin Lewis sustained a career-ending neck injury during a preseason game. Medical sources who treated him later told me there were some frightening moments in the immediate aftermath of the incident, before Lewis was finally stabilized.
Bryant Young’s leg injury, witnessed by a Monday Night Football audience in that 1998 game, was gruesome and obviously severe: a closed fracture of the tibia and fibula. A few hours later, things turned truly harrowing: Young, suffering from compartment syndrome, required life-saving surgery.
“I remember being at the hospital, and the plan was to do surgery the next day,” Young said. “And then, all of a sudden, the plan changed drastically, and they whisked me away for emergency surgery. The pressure in my leg elevated, and they were concerned about loss of limb and loss of life. It wasn’t until days later when they had to change the bandages on my leg and I talked to my wife that I realized how bad it had really been.”
Young, who returned the following season to earn NFL comeback player of the year honors, was programmed to plow through adversity, like so many of his peers. Sometimes, that collective ability to soldier on astounded me.
In 2012, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend in front of their infant daughter, then drove to the Chiefs’ practice facility next to Arrowhead Stadium. He shot and killed himself as police cars approached and head coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and linebackers coach Gary Gibbs tried to persuade him to drop the gun.
The Chiefs had a home game the following day, and against all logic the league decided not to postpone it. After witnessing it in person, I marveled at the Chiefs players’ ability to focus, even as they retained a healthy perspective about the horrific events.
Arguably, those players — and Crennel, Pioli and Gibbs — needed a mental-health pause as much as the Bills and Bengals did Monday night. What’s frustrating to me is that, based on my conversations with several sources, the latter postponement occurred only after Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Bills coach Sean McDermott conversed with their own players, and with one another and pulled the teams off the field.
Eventually, the NFL’s Powers That Be arrived at the correct decision: Asking the Bills and Bengals to continue playing while unsure about Hamlin’s well-being was unreasonable. That it wasn’t commissioner Roger Goodell’s first impulse to clear the field — once it was clear that CPR was being administered — is troubling.
As ESPN’s Joe Buck told viewers that the two teams were being given five minutes to warm up before a resumption of play, the camera showed a shaken Joe Burrow, Cincinnati’s quarterback, tossing the football. NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent later disputed that the teams were told they had five minutes to warm up. On Tuesday, Buck told the New York Post that he was consulting with ESPN’s rules analyst, John Parry, who was in direct communication with the league, during the broadcast. In a statement, ESPN stood by its reporting.
I’ve known Buck for a long time. I worked for the NFL for eight years, and I’ve covered the league for three-and-a-half decades. I know who I believe, and it’s not ‘The Shield.’ (I also spoke to a player and coach who corroborated the report that a resumption was expected before the two teams proactively forced the issue.)
That NFL executives would initially err on the side of resuming play isn’t surprising. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, owners and then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue planned to play a full slate of games five days after the tragedy before pressure from players caused them to reconsider.
Professional athletes are often portrayed as self-absorbed, myopic prima donnas who aren’t clued into the outside world. In my experience, NFL owners and executives are far more clueless and tone deaf when real tragedy strikes.
On Monday night, once again, it was the players whose empathy and raw emotion rose to the moment. They may be conditioned to tough things out, but when a man’s life hung in the balance, his teammates and opponents revealed their humanity and maintained perspective.
“It’s one thing seeing somebody go through an injury — a mangled leg or an arm, or even a head injury,” Bryant Young said. “There’s a level of toughness you have to push yourself through, to block that out and to move forward. But to see somebody lifeless on the field, with everyone scrambling to save him, that’s different.
“Yes, this sport affects our communities and our society, and there’s obviously a bottom line. But in that situation, it’s got to be more than a business decision. It’s about life. The players are the ones who have to get to that mental space to be able to play at the highest level, and you really have to make sure they have a big, big voice in those moments.”
CNN RECRUITS WASHINGTON’S WORST WARMONGER The Instant He Leaves Congress
by Caitlin Johnstone
CNN has shattered the speed of light in its haste to recruit former representative Adam Kinzinger to its punditry lineup the millisecond he left congress.
Kinzinger, who prior to being redistricted out of his House seat received handsome campaign contributions from arms manufacturers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman, was arguably the most egregious warmonger on Capitol Hill.
Nobody in congress lobbied as aggressively to start World War Three as Kinzinger did last year; he tried to advance a bill authorizing hot war against Russia if Moscow crossed specified red lines in Ukraine but couldn’t get cosponsors because even his fellow congressional hawks thought it was too insane. He was the loudest voice in the US government publicly advocating a no-fly zone over Ukraine in the early weeks of the war, an idea that was slammed by the mass media as it would necessarily have entailed the US military shooting down Russian war planes and aggressively tempted nuclear war.
Kinzinger was such a demented omnicidal maniac in 2022 that while still in office he became an official member of the empire-backed online troll farm known as “NAFO”, which was founded by an actual neo-Nazi whom Kinzinger openly supported both before and after revelations emerged of the founder’s expressions of hatred for Jews and fondness for Hitler. While still a sitting congressman he was flagging trolls with hashtags inviting them to swarm the social media comments of critics of US foreign policy who opposed his psychopathic warmongering.
Before the war in Ukraine Kinzinger was calling for the re-invasion of Afghanistan immediately following the US troop withdrawal and raging about public opposition to “endless war.” Before that he was cheerleading Trump’s assassination of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, calling for US interventionism in Venezuela, defending the US-backed war on Yemen, calling for the invasion of Syria, and just generally pushing for more war and militarism at every opportunity. Before that, he was helping the empire kill Iraqis as a member of the US Air Force.
Kinzinger is such an obnoxious warmonger online that I myself have called him “the single worst Twitter account that has ever existed,” long before his CNN gig was a twinkle in his eye.
So it’s no wonder a warmongering propaganda network snapped him up the instant he became available, ensuring that his warmongering receives as large a platform as possible. As Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp quipped regarding CNN’s hire, “All those calls for WWIII must have landed him this gig.”
Kinzinger’s assimilation into the war propaganda industry was so predictable that Glenn Greenwald included it in a Twitter poll this past October asking his audience where they expect his career will take him after he leaves congress, with CNN being one of the options. As one Twitter follower put it, the “congressman to media commentator to lobbyist revolving door spins so fast in Washington, it actually affects the earth’s rotation relative to the sun.”
War is the glue that holds the US empire together, and to serve that purpose it requires endless war propaganda. War propagandists are not any more separate from the endless mass military slaughter they facilitate than the people who actually pull the trigger, and we see this illustrated in the way Kinzinger has been able to slide seamlessly from dropping bombs to passing bomb-dropping legislation to manufacturing consent for the dropping of bombs.
We live under an empire that is fueled by lies and human blood, and driven by the ongoing efforts of murderous war sluts like Adam Kinzinger.
CNN will be perfect for him.
157 YEARS AGO, Saturday, December 30, 1865, famous English short-story writer, poet, & novelist Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born at the city of Bombay in British India.
Kipling is best-remembered for his tales & poems of British soldiers in India & his children’s stories. Two of his best-known works include the 1890 poem “Gunga Din,” & the collection of stories published in 1894 under the title “The Jungle Book.”
In 1907, Rudyard Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize, & to date he remains its youngest recipient.
The 1895 photograph depicts the moustachioed & bespectacled visage of Rudyard Kipling at the age of 29.
MUSIC MAKES ME FORGET my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. It transports me immediately into the condition of the soul in which he who wrote the music found himself at that time.
— Leo Tolstoy
IN ONE OF THE BIGGEST TRANSACTIONS in professional sports history, the New York Jets of the American Football League signed Joe Namath to a record-breaking contract that took the sports world by storm. Namath, who was first overall pick in the 1965 AFL Draft by the Jets, signed a then-record $427,000 contract with the team for the largest such contract in professional football history. The move would be one that would draw major attention to the American Football League and was a new benchmark moment in the war between the AFL and the rival National Football League.
Upon the completion of his collegiate playing career at the University of Alabama in 1964, Joe Namath was one of the most coveted draft prospects by both the AFL and the NFL. Namath was drafted in the first round of the 1965 AFL Draft by the New York Jets who had the first overall pick and the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 1965 NFL Draft with the 12th overall pick.
Prior to any contract negotiations, Joe Namath consulted his college coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant asked Namath what he was considering asking for to which Namath expressed uncertainty. All that Namath knew was that the biggest contract the year before went for $100,000. The discussion ended with Namath being told by Bryant to ask for $200,000. Namath was also given the suggestion by a friend to also ask for a Lincoln Continental as an extra throw-in.
The St. Louis Cardinals were the first to negotiate with Joe Namath regarding a possible contract signing at Namath’s dormitory at Alabama. The Cardinals’ representatives sent to negotiate asked what Namath was willing to sign. When Namath told the Cardinals that he wanted $200,000 to sign, they were left flabbergasted. After the team representatives recovered, Namath then mentioned his desire to also be given the Lincoln Continental that he wanted as well.
As soon as they St. Louis Cardinals got wind of what it would take to sign Joe Namath, the team was ready to sign him, but Namath insisted that he would not sign anything until after he talked to the New York Jets. While the Cardinals went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to negotiate with Namath, Namath was flown to Los Angeles by the Jets. The meeting with the Jets would take place between Namath and team owner Sonny Werblin at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.
Sonny Werblin was the former president of the Music Corporation of America and made his living turning many of the greatest entertainers of all time into megastars. Though Werblin knew little about football, he did know that the quarterback was the most visible figure on the team and was looking for a good player who had charisma. When Werblin failed to find a quarterback on his team with the qualities of competency and charisma, Joe Namath became their priority and, for Werblin, money would be no object.
When Joe Namath and Sonny Werblin met at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the negotiations were decidedly different. Instead of asking Namath for what he wanted, Werblin offered Joe Namath $300,000 to sign, $100,000 more than what he had originally been seeking. When confronted with the offer from the New York Jets, Namath contacted real estate attorney Mike Bite of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Bite then recommended that Namath should ask for more and try to take care of his family.
When all was said and done, Joe Namath signed his rookie contract with the New York Jets for what amounted to $427,000 in total value. Included was a house for his mother and scouting jobs with the Jets for Namath’s two brothers. The signing of Namath would be one of the biggest coups for the AFL in their bidding wars with the NFL.
However, after the press conference, Joe Namath was taken into the men’s room for an examination of his knee, one that he had injured during his senior season at Alabama. Upon examination, the doctor recommended immediate surgery which would take place the following day. While Joe Namath would be known during his first year in the AFL for his big rookie contract, his knees would be the biggest hindrance to his playing career, one that lasted 13 seasons and five knee surgeries.
It would prove to be the best money ever spent by the AFL as Joe Namath would give the AFL the attention it so desperately needed. The following year, the AFL and the NFL announced a merger agreement that would result in the two leagues becoming one in 1970 and the start of a world championship game that would be played at the conclusion of the 1966 season for both teams.
After the NFL’s Green Bay Packers won in dominant fashion over the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in the first two Super Bowls, Joe Namath led the New York Jets to one of the biggest upset wins in sports history when the Jets defeated the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. For his career accomplishments, most notably his impact on the history of the AFL-NFL war, Namath was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
CAPSULE SUMMARIES OF ALL TWITTER FILES THREADS TO DATE, With Links And A Glossary
For those who haven't been following, a compilation of one-paragraph summaries of all the Twitter Files threads by every reporter. With links and notes on key revelations
by Matt Taibbi
It’s January 4th, 2023, which means Twitter Files stories have been coming out for over a month. Because these are weedsy tales, and may be hard to follow if you haven’t from the beginning, I’ve written up capsule summaries of each of the threads by all of the Twitter Files reporters, and added links to the threads and accounts of each. At the end, in response to some readers (especially foreign ones) who’ve found some of the alphabet-soup government agency names confusing, I’ve included a brief glossary of terms to help as well.…
JANUARY 4, 1957, THE BROOKLYN DODGERS become the first team to purchase an aircraft, buying a 44-passenger Convair 440 two-engine airplane for $770,000. The team, from 1949 through 1957, had flown in a 20-seat DC-3, a gift from Bud Holman, who won the plane from Eastern Airlines in a crap game, according to legend, and gave it to team owner Walter O’Malley. The Dodgers become the first team with their own plane during regular season road trips.
BENEDICT’S PASSING: NO TEARS FOR ‘GOD’S ROTTWEILER’
by Brian Kelly
The long-anticipated death of Josef Ratzinger—head of the Catholic Church between 2005 and 2013 as Pope Benedict XVI—has led to a deluge of the kind of vacuous eulogising that accompanies the passing of any leading pillar of the establishment. One can detect in some of the commentary the terms of a debate over Benedict’s legacy that has been underway for some time—particularly over his role in the crisis brought on by revelations of widespread sexual abuse within the Church. Given the deep political polarization in the top echelons of the Catholic hierarchy and the likely prospect of a bruising confrontation over Pope Francis’s successor in the very near future, Benedict’s embrace by an aggressive Catholic Right in recent years means that these controversies are bound to continue.
For now, however, mainstream pundits seem inclined (as they were following the recent death of the British monarch) to forgive Ratzinger’s worldly offenses, and focus instead on an ostensibly benign theological legacy. In many quarters he is credited with “finally facing up to” the problem of sexual abuse. Given the scale of his partisan involvement in the major battles within the Church over many years, this is an excessively generous approach that lends itself to apologetics or, worse, to cover-up. Confronted with soft platitudes and insipid eulogising on one side and a looming clash with a resurgent Catholic Far Right on the other, socialists need a sober and hard-headed appraisal of Benedict’s role.
Youth and Background
Ratzinger was born into a pious, middle-class family in Marktl am Inn, a Bavarian village along Germany’s border with Austria. Much has been made of his membership of the Hitler Youth movement in his teens, but this seems to have been obligatory: his family were moderately hostile to the Nazis, mainly because of the restrictions they imposed on German Catholicism. By the age of 12 he was enrolled in a junior seminary at Traunstein, and after the war entered a Catholic seminary in Freising, later attending university in Munich.
Ratzinger’s early reputation as a liberal within the German Church is well known, as is his support for Vatican II—the internal reforms initiated from Rome beginning in 1962—which called on a Church seen as distant and lifeless to “open the windows…so that we can see out and the people can see in”. Most accounts of his Munich years paint Ratzinger as a progressive who executed an about-face when confronted with the excesses of 1968, and while there is an element of truth here, the reality is that Ratzinger’s early enthusiasm was always conditional.
He took part in the Vatican II sessions at the age of 35 as an academic theologian who had little contact with lay Catholics. While one faction at Rome—the aggiornamento movement—pushed for embracing the modern world and “integrating the joys and hope, the grief and anguish, of humanity into what it means to be Christian”, Ratzinger leaned toward the backward-looking faction grouped around ressourcement—a ‘back to basics’ impulse that pushed for a return to early tradition. Still, his writings at the time “breathe[d] with the spirit of Vatican II,” one critic wrote, “the spirit that Ratzinger…would later denigrate”.
Vatican II represented a compromise between Church liberals and traditionalists—a fudge that makes it possible even to this day for both conservatives and a dwindling core of Church progressives to claim it as its own. Both Francis and his right-wing opponents, for example, declare themselves to be faithful inheritors of Vatican II.
Turning Point in 1968
Even given this ambiguity, there is no doubt that the effect of the social upheavals around 1968 drove Ratzinger toward a fundamental social and theological conservatism, and to a deep hostility against what he saw as the evil influences of secularism and modern life. This bedrock rejection of the sixties legacy has informed virtually every area of Ratzinger’s public role, from his appointment as cardinal of Munich in 1977 to his handling of the sexual abuse scandals in recent years.
In 1966 Ratzinger took up a teaching post at the University of Tubingen, then a “flagship of theological liberalism”. When student protests reached the campus in 1968, Ratzinger reacted with marked hostility, indignant that students would dare to challenge him in class, and shocked that his colleagues didn’t share this resentment. When protesting students disrupted the faculty senate, Ratzinger reportedly walked out rather than engage the students, as other faculty did. Stunned that the radicalisation had made inroads among even among Catholic staff, Ratzinger placed his faith in Protestant theological students to provide a ‘bulwark’ against the left, but even they let him down. Setting himself against the “fanatical ideologies” circulating across the world, he wrote dejectedly (if prematurely), “The Marxist idea has conquered the world”.
Simultaneously, conservatives within the Church scored a major victory in the internal conflict over the implications of Vatican II, when in the same year Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical Humanae vitae, reiterating Rome’s traditional ban on artificial contraception. The Church’s unwillingness to shift on the issue of birth control deflated not only many lay Catholics, but even a substantial layer of clergy, who had signalled support for the “rights of individual conscience” and who had assumed, naively perhaps, that the lofty rhetoric of Vatican II would be accompanied by deeds. The abrupt turn to the right was “even more disheartening” for many believers because it “followed a moment of such optimism and new life”.
The ban on contraception has to be seen in the context of a deeply conservative reaction against the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and Ratzinger was at the centre of the panic it induced among Church conservatives. He later recalled being repulsed by a movie billboard showing “two completely naked people in a close embrace”. Rejecting “all-out sexual freedom [which] no longer conceded any norms”, Ratzinger blamed the new permissiveness for a “mental collapse” across society, linking it to a new “propensity for violence” and—curiously—to the outbreak of fistfights during air travel. Eccentricities aside, this signalled the beginning of a major offensive to roll back sexual freedom, and in later iterations would include an obsessive targeting of LGBTQ rights.
John Paul II, The Challenge of Secularism and Liberation Theology
By the late 1970s Ratzinger had rejected even the tepid liberalism of his younger days, and it was this turn that brought him into collaboration with the Polish-born cardinal Karol Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II. At the core of John Paul’s tenure in Rome was a sustained campaign to finish the hollowing out of Vatican II and consolidate conservative control over the global Church. His appointment as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made Ratzinger John Paul’s leading heresy-hunter, earning him a reputation as ‘God’s Rottweiler” for his role in a series of brutal purges—including of his own former close friends from Germany. The “freedom to explore, which Ratzinger had once demanded for theologians,” one biographer writes, “was now being rapidly eroded by his own hand”.
The rise of Liberation Theology in Latin America presented the most formidable challenge facing Rome in the early 1980s. In a desperately poor region where the Catholic hierarchy had consistently aligned itself with corrupt US-supported regional oligarchs—including right-wing military dictatorships reliant on torture—a challenge had begun to emerge in the late 1960s, led initially by grassroots missionaries among Jesuits and the other religious orders, including large numbers of women. By the mid-1970s these had won wide influence among workers and the poor, organized into ‘base communities’ that operated outside the control of the upper levels of the hierarchy.
John Paul’s iconic finger-wagging at the poet-priest and Sandinista Minister of Culture Ernesto Cardenal on the airport tarmac at Managua in 1983 gave a clear indication of Rome’s attitude to ascendant left-wing Catholicism in Latin America. The campaign then underway was a comprehensive one, involving high-level collaboration between Rome and the Reagan administration at Washington, and included generous support from the CIA and the targeting of the religious orders for murder and assassination.
The scale of the purge can be seen in Brazil, where under a military regime Liberation Theology had sunk deep roots among a new generation of industrial workers, in the favelas and among the rural poor. There John Paul II replaced progressives with conservative religious leaders in nine of Brazil’s thirty-six archdioceses, a ‘dismantling’ that continued under Benedict’s reign. Rome oversaw a multi-faceted campaign against the Catholic Left, involving an intense centralization, bureaucratic high-handedness and tacit support for military repression. But it was Ratzinger who prosecuted the ideological campaign to recapture the Church for the Right.
Here John Paul’s rottweiler turned his theological training to rooting out the ‘heresy’ of the Liberationists’ “preferential option for the poor”. In 1984 he issued his Instruction on Certain Aspects of Theology of Liberation, which argued predictably that biblical refences to the poor referred to a ‘poverty of the spirit’ rather than material inequality. Wielding a ‘perverted’ concept of the poor and inciting envy of the rich, liberation theology represented in his eyes a “negation of the faith”. Ratzinger countered with a ‘theology of reconciliation’, following the Pope’s admonition that “a more harmonious society” would “require both forgiveness from the poor, for past exploitation, and sacrifice from the rich”.
Ratzinger oversaw the purge of liberation theology’s leading exponents, including Brazilians Leonard Boff and the nun Ivone Gebara, whose work had “linked liberation theology with environmental concerns” and who “defended poor women who had abortions in order not to endanger existing children”. At the same time he drew close to right-wing organizations like Opus Dei and brought the Latin American bishops’ conference [CELAM] directly under Rome’s control. In the face of wide-ranging repression and a comprehensive purge led by Ratzinger, by the early 1990s liberation theology was in full-scale retreat.
Sexual Abuse, Homophobia and Misogyny
With this major confrontation behind him and the ‘liberal voice’ of the Church in retreat all along the line, Ratzinger was well-placed to take over when John Paul II died in 2005. By now a “consummate insider”, and with a curia mostly hand-picked by his predecessor, his ‘election’ as Pope Benedict XVI was in the bag before voting began. The “victories already achieved in the last decades of the 20th century [around] questions of sexual morality, clerical celibacy, the place of women and religious freedom [were] secure,” Peter Stanford writes, and his papacy represented “an extended postscript to the one that had gone before”.
There was one major complication that threatened to disturb Benedict’s rule: the revelation of widespread sexual abuse by clergy across the Church had been continually swept under the carpet by John Paul II—sometimes with Ratzinger’s support. Continuing the trend toward intense centralization, as prefect in 2001 he had ordered all reports of sexual abuse forwarded to Rome, with strict penalties against leaking—including the threat of excommunication. Investigations were to be carried out internally, behind closed doors, and any evidence was to be kept confidential for up to 10 years after victims reached adulthood. His clear priority was damage control for the Church’s reputation. Victims rightly characterized this as a “clear obstruction of justice”.
By the time he assumed the papacy in 2005 avoidance was no longer an option. A major scandal had erupted in 2002 when Cardinal Law of Boston—John Paul’s “favourite son in America”—was revealed to have “secretly shuffled abusers from one parish to another”. Similar revelations emerged in Ireland and Australia. Described by victims as “the poster child for covering up sexual abuse crimes against children”, Law not only avoided reprimand but was promoted to a $145,000 a year post in Rome. Obituaries have drawn attention to Benedict’s willingness to censure Marcial Maciel, the millionaire priest-founder of the powerful Legionnaires of Christ who had fathered multiple children and was accused of widespread abuse of minors. Maciel was untouchable under John Paul II, and Benedict’s mild censure was long overdue.
Media attention made it impossible for Benedict to dodge the issue any longer: clearly it was these pressures, and not any change of heart on his part, that compelled him to take limited action. Even minimal scrutiny, however, shows the same priorities—defence of the Church’s reputation and its finances— were evident in every aspect of Benedict’s response. His own carefully-crafted image as a credible mediator was severely tarnished when it was revealed that Ratzinger himself had been involved in covering up such crimes while a cardinal in Munich, and in 2022 he was compelled to admit to providing false information to an inquiry there.
More significant is the ideological content of Benedict’s attempt to rescue the Church. The problem of sexual abuse and its systematic coverup became, in Benedict’s hands, further confirmation of the depravity brought on by sexual permissiveness and, unsurprisingly, an opportunity to rail against the evils of homosexuality. There was little tolerance for a frank discussion of problems inherent in clerical celibacy, or of the costs of sexual repression more generally. Over and over again Benedict and his closest aides attempted to link the horrific abuse carried out under their watch to a specific inclination toward paedophilia they attributed to “homosexual cliques” and “gay lobbies”. This was the basis for his admission of “how much filth there is in the church [even among] the priesthood”, and it won Benedict the endorsement of the Catholic Right, who were relieved to return to the offensive after so long on the back foot. It was a despicable attempt to deflect the Vatican’s responsibility for crimes carried out under its watch.
The scapegoating of the LGBTQ community was rooted in a more general misogyny underpinning the Catholic Right’s response to even the most moderate demands by female congregants to assume a larger role in Church life. In 2003 Ratzinger had denounced civil partnerships for same-sex couples as “the legislation of evil”, and on the cusp of his papacy in 2004, his Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World defined the role of women in terms of virginity followed by marriage, motherhood and support for the male head of family, citing Genesis 3:16: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Under both popes, the Vatican became obsessed with policing dissent around its teachings on sex, and women have paid an especially high price. In Latin America the hierarchy welcomed a turn away from social and economic justice and toward a fixation with sexual morality and holding the line on abortion. In the US—apparently at the instigation of Cardinal Law—the Church carried out a clampdown on nuns accused of promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”. Hailing from religious orders with experience in Latin America, they were charged with “‘corporate dissent’ on homosexuality and failure to speak out on abortion” and criticized for supporting socialized health care. Elsewhere a nun was excommunicated for supporting a pregnant woman whose doctors believed she would die if they did not terminate her pregnancy”. Priests were removed from teaching positions for questioning Church teaching on birth control.
Benedict’s Legacy: A Church in Freefall
Underneath the sound and fury, the whole period between the ascendancy of John Paul II and Francis’ papacy is marked more by continuity than rupture. Although the mood music has changed, there is no prospect of a fundamental change of direction, and despite the invective from the Catholic Right, the reality is that Francis has only tinkered at the edges of a deep, possibly existential crisis facing the Church. Ratzinger himself acknowledged that to hold fast to its dogma the Church might have to accept a sharp decline in numbers and influence, and this is clearly the preferred trajectory of the Catholic Right, who have made of Benedict’s orthodoxy “a kind of Tea Party Catholicism”: they wield considerable influence, and seem keen to purge all who dissent from its backward social teaching and its warped take on sexual morality.
They may not have a choice. In the traditional heartlands of Catholicism—notably Ireland and Spain in western Europe, but in urban immigrant neighbourhoods in the US as well—the Church is in freefall, with no signs of recovery. In Latin America, where it once enjoyed a religious monopoly—and across Asia and Africa—Benedict’s war on liberation theology opened the door to grassroots evangelicals and Protestant sects, who are growing by leaps and bounds among the dispossessed in places like Brazil. The deep inadequacy of its response to the sexual abuse scandal has shaken many religious believers and lifted the veil on the endemic sexism and authoritarianism at the heart of the Church, and in the US an especially deranged hierarchy has hitched its fortunes firmly to Trump, Bannon and the brutality of the far Right. Those hungry for the meaningful solidarity and full flowering of humanity that the Church promises—but is incapable of delivering—will have to seek solutions elsewhere.
(Brian Kelly is an award-winning historian of race and labor in the post-emancipation United States.)
ARE MOVIES GOING TO PIECES?
by Pauline Kael (1964)
“Bring your bathing suit,” said the movie producer, who was phoning me to confirm our date for lunch at his hotel. And before I could think of a way to explain that I didn’t have one with me, he added, “And remember, you’re meeting people for cocktails in my suite at six, so just bring your change of clothes.” Now I was completely out of my depth: I just said I would join him at 2:30 and hung up. Somehow I didn’t want to come right out and say that I didn’t have a change of clothes in the evening sense that he meant. Los Angeles dislocates my values, makes me ashamed of not being all the things I'm not and don’t ordinarily care to be. Each time I get on the jet to return to San Francisco it’s like tuming the time-machine backward and being restored to an old civilization that I understand.
Los Angeles is only 400 miles away from where I live and so close by jet that I can breakfast at home, give a noon lecture at one of the universities in LA, and be back in time to prepare dinner. But it’s the city of the future, and I am more a stranger there than in a foreign country. In a foreign country people don’t expect you to be just like them, but in Los Angeles, which is infiltrating the world, they don’t consider that you might be different because they don’t recognize any values except their own. And soon there may not be any others.
Feeling rather seedy in the black and brown Italian suit which had seemed quite decent in San Francisco, I arrived at the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel, sans bathing suit or change of clothes. And as I walked past the recumbent forms to the producer, also recumbent, who was limply waving to me, I remembered Katharine Hepbum as poor Alice Adams in her simple organdy frock among the plushly over-dressed rich girls at the party. Only here it was I who was overdressed; they were expensively undressed. They didn’t look young, and they didn’t act old, these people eating and drinking and sunning themselves around the pool. They seemed to be ageless like crocodiles; and although they weren't fat, they were flabby.
Despite the narcissism of their attitudes, and the extraordinary amount of loving care they lavished on their bodies, each giving way to the sun-blessed fantasy of himself, stretching this way and that to catch or avoid the rays, it was impossible to feel superior to them. They could afford to make this spectacle of themselves.
In San Francisco, vulgarity, or “bad taste,” ostentation are regarded as a kind of an alien blight, an invasion or encroachment from outside. In Los Angeles, there is so much money and power connected with ostentation that it is no longer ludicrous: it commands a kind of respect. For if the mighty behave like this, then quiet good taste means that you can’t afford the conspicuous expenditures, and you become a little ashamed of your modesty and propriety. Big money and its way of life is exciting; the vulgarity of the powerful is ugly, but not boring. This, you begin to feel, is how people behave when they're strong enough to act out their fantasies of wealth. In this environment, if you’re not making it in a big way, you're worse than nothing—you're a failure. But if you can still pass for young, maybe there’s still time to make it; or, at least, you can delay the desperation and self-contempt that result from accepting these standards that so few can meet. It’s easy to reject all this when I’m back in San Francisco. But not here. You can’t really laugh at the Beverly Hills Hotel and people who pay $63 a day for a suite that’s like a schoolboy’s notions of luxury. It’s too impressive. Laughter would stick in the throat—like sour grapes.
What “sensible” people have always regarded as the most preposterous, unreal and fantastic side of life in California —the sun palace of Los Angeles and its movie-centered culture—is becoming embarrassingly, “fantastically” actual, not just here but almost anywhere. It embodies the most common, the most widespread dream—luxury in the sun, a state of permanent vacation. And as it is what millions of people want and will pay money for, the Hollywood fantasy is economically practical. Across the country, homes become as simple, bare and convenient as simulated motels, and motels are frequently used as residences.
But pioneers suffer from stresses we don’t know about, and the people I met in Los Angeles seem to have developed a terrible tic: they cannot stop talking about their “cultural explosion.” The producer went on and on about it, about their new museums, and their concerts, and their galleries, and their “legitimate” collegiate theater. It was like my first trip to New York, when I wanted to see skyscrapers and go to shows and hear jazz, and New Yorkers wanted me to admire the flowers blooming in Rockefeller Plaza. I wanted to talk about the Los Angeles that fascinated and disturbed me, and about movies and why there were fewer good movies in 1963 than in any year in my memory. He discussed the finer things in life, trying to convince me and maybe himself that Los Angeles, in its cultural boom, was making phenomenal strides toward becoming like other cities—only, of course, more so.
I dutifully wrote in my notebook but not about what he was saying. Perhaps, because the whole scene was so nightmarish, with all the people spending their ordinary just-like-any-other-day at the pool, conducting business by the telephones whose wires stretched around them like lifelines, and this eamest man in wet trunks ordering me double Bourbons on the rocks and talking culture while deepening his tan, I began to think about horror movies.