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COOL, DRY WEATHER conditions expected today. Gusty northeasterly winds will occur over the highest elevation in the southern portion of the region late this morning through tonight. A weak frontal system will clip the northern portion of the area on Tuesday, bringing a chance of light rain to Del Norte County and Northern Humboldt counties Tuesday afternoon and evening. Mainly dry weather is then forecast to persist through much of the week. A chance of widespread rainfall and strong gusty winds increase late in the week as a potent upper-level trough approaches NRN California. (NWS)
AV UNIFIED BOARD MEETING, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9
Join us for the Board Meeting Tuesday at 5:30 in the high school library as we honor Coach Flick! He has given so much to the community, please make the time to stop in and celebrate him!
Also, join us on Thursday for the Site Council/CTE Meeting at 4:30 in the library. Here is the agenda:
Semester Change/Block Schedule Next Year
Curriculum Pilot Feedback
ELAC Meeting Tuesday, February 16 5:30 dinner/conversation
College and Career Fair, February 28 at 5:00 dinner, general session, break out sessions
Sports Team Requirements
Bond Construction Update
Community Grant Pending
After School Grant Pending
Agricultural Program Additional Teacher and Creating new opportunities for other math and science courses
Mendo College Opportunities
Welding in Mr. Ballantine’s Shop
Expansion of Art program next year
Louise Simson, Superintendent, Anderson Valley Unified School District
AV GRANGE NEWS
This Sunday, February 12, at The AV Grange 8:30-11:00…
We'll be flippin the flapjacks and so much more. Along with the usual eggs, bacon, coffee, juice and all the fixins it's a special weekend. Warm up for Superbowl of course, and a birthday of one of our favorite "will play for pancakes" musicians that very same day. Not to forget Valentines Day Tuesday the 14th. We don't mind if you get all lovey dovey a little early, so come on down and share the love.
FINAL UKIAH POLICE CHIEF CANDIDATES INTERVIEWED; Three Still Reportedly In The Running
by Justine Frederiksen
Three candidates remained in the running for the Ukiah police chief position this week as what was expected to be the final round of interviews was conducted Friday, according to one of the local applicants.
Greg Van Patten, currently a captain with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, said he applied for the position vacated by the firing of former Ukiah Police Department Chief Noble Waidelich last June, as he felt it would be “irresponsible for me to not throw my hat in the ring, given my ties to the community, and my knowledge and experience in local law enforcement.”
Van Patten said he has enjoyed a good working relationship with the Interim UPD Chief, Cedric Crook, and that he felt the department could benefit from their contrasting styles if he were offered the position.
Van Patten said that by Thursday, his understanding was that three candidates remained for the final round of interviews: Van Patten, Crook and a male candidate from a department in Yolo County.
When asked for comment Friday, Interim UPD Chief Crook confirmed that he had applied for the permanent position, but declined to comment further until city officials announced their decision.
Neither Crook nor Van Patten said they had been given a timeline of when the new chief would be chosen or announced.
When asked Friday who the candidates still being interviewed were and when the city expected to announce its decision, Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley said in an email: “We don’t disclose candidate names for any position, so I can’t tell you who is being interviewed. That said, we are in the process of conducting interviews, but this is just a part of the process. This recruitment effort has been methodical, transparent, and collaborative; we’re not rushing into decisions here. Our first and foremost concern is ensuring that we have the right Police Chief for the community and for the agency. As soon as a decision is made, we’ll send a press release.”
Three months after the firing of Waidelich, the city hired a Sacramento-area firm called Mosaic to handle the search for his replacement, a significant departure from the previous chief selections, which had been internal promotions. At the time of the firm’s selection, city staff noted that “Mosaic’s approach, confirmed by their interview, is responsive and transparent, with a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The first step of the process will be to work with the ad hoc committee and identify stakeholders to develop a candidate profile that reflects the community’s and the organization’s needs.”
The city has had three police chiefs in the past four years, and began searching for a new chief less than a year after naming Capt. Waidelich to replace Justin Wyatt in the fall of 2021. Waidelich, a longtime employee who rose through the ranks to become second-in-command upon the retirement of Capt. Sean Kaeser in late 2020, was fired in June for reasons that the city has yet to fully disclose to the public.
At the time, officials pointed to a criminal investigation into Waidelich by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office which has since been completed and sent to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office. No charges stemming from that investigation have been announced.
(Ukiah Daily Journal)
DOOR DASH FOR WHO? (Two on-line comments)
(1) Door Dashing at the schools in Ukiah.
As a dasher we are often asked to make deliveries to the classrooms during school hours. It is against our policies and school policies to deliver direct to the classroom. In spite of this, students have been rating dashers negatively because they did not receive their order as they requested. This has a detrimental impact on our dashers. The negative ratings affect the dashers livelihood, and their position to continue working Door Dash. As you know many Dashers are working for extra cash to care for their families. Please be kind to the Dasher Nation and pick up your order from the office. Again please do not negatively rate Dashers for following the rules, they are just doing their job.
(2) 3/4 of the negative reviews come from lazy teens that have no idea of how hard your job (or any job is for that matter) is as dashers nor do they care, their reviews are a joke, but affects the hard work of people such as my sisters, friends and even spouse, that are just trying to make ends meet in our economy!
Rules! That's a joke, door dash shouldn't accept reviews from teens PERIOD.., too lazy to get a job or their own food! The ones making negative reviews wouldn't like it if their mom or dad came home saying they lost their job because people were giving bad reviews, now we have to move because we can't pay the bills.
EDIBILITY: This woody conk is not often eaten, but in a pinch you can use the following recipe developed by my wife. "Saw into 2-inch cubes, then marinate in olive oil and dandelion wine for at least 48 hours (be sure to use LOTS of garlic!). Roast slowly on skewers over charcoal indefinitely (minimum time: 20 hours). Cool. Pound vigorously with a large mallet between two pieces of thick leather. Pulverize in a meat grinder and then force through a braced sieve (several hours for this step). Wrap the resulting mess in several thicknesses of cheesecloth and hang up somewhere high and out of the way (on a clothesline or TV antenna). Allow to dangle for at least one week. (Aging has a mellowing effect, so you may want to try one year.) Wring periodically, making sure to reserve the drippings for gravy or as a motor oil additive. To eat, boil for 24 hours, squeeze thoroughly, garnish with gravel, and serve forth." (David Arora, Mushrooms Demystified)
TWO BALD EAGLES NESTED IN A PINE FOR YEARS. A UTILITY COMPANY TRIED TO CHOP IT DOWN
The fight to save the birds’ habitat ignites old frustrations over California’s engagement with tribal communities
by Maanvi Singh (in Potter Valley)
Up a winding northern California highway, beneath a 120-foot ponderosa pine tree, a group of environmentalists gathered for some high stakes bird-watching.
Everyone was waiting for a pair of bald eagles to swoop into their nest, an orb of twigs and branches balanced amid the tree’s scraggly branches. The elusive raptors have nested here for years, renovating and upgrading it each year in preparation for hatchlings in the spring.
But this year, unless the eagles – who spend the fall and winter months away from their nests – were observed back at their tree by mid-January, they’d lose it.
That’s because Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest utility company in the US, had obtained a permit to chop down the ageing pine, arguing that it could fall on the company’s nearby power line and spark a catastrophic wildfire. Environmentalists and the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians countered that PG&E – which is facing increasing pressure to stop its equipment from starting fires across the state – should move their power lines instead.
Lawyers for the tribe beseeched the utility company to reconsider. Locals printed up signs to save the nest. In recent weeks, activists and tribal elders protested, prayed and physically barricaded themselves in front of the tree as PG&E crews came – alongside sheriff’s deputies – to cut it down.
“They had their cherry picker and their wood chipper ready,” said Polly Girvin, an environmental and Indigenous rights activist. “But we weren’t going to back down.”
Now, armed with binoculars and cell phones on a misty January morning, they were on watch. Bald eagles are protected under state and federal laws, and PG&E could only take down the tree so long as the nest was unoccupied or abandoned. “We need to keep proving that this is an active nest,” explained Girvin.
The eagles did come that day, arriving just as a thick rain began to roll in. A few days later, PG&E said it would back down.
But the showdown over this lone tree, near an electrical line that serves just a single property, has raised difficult questions about PG&E’s approach to fire safety and its fraught relationship with the communities it serves, many of whom live in rural, wildland areas.
The company is under growing legal and financial pressure to act after its power lines have been blamed for sparking multiple fires, including a deadly 2020 fire in northern Shasta county. Last year, it reached a $55m settlement with six counties over several other fires, including the Kincade fire and Dixie fire.
As PG&E rushes to trim trees and remove brush near its power lines to avert future catastrophes – and avoid liability – environmentalists worry that local nuances are being overlooked.
“PG&E says that the tree is dangerous, it’s a hazard – but that’s not right. It’s their lines that are the hazard,” said Naomi Wagner, a local activist with the environmental group Earth First!. “So why is it the tree that needs to go?”
During their recent bald eagle watch party, Wagner, Girvin and half a dozen other activists settled around to a small campfire that fizzled in the rain. Old-time environmentalists who’d been agitating since the 1960s were joined by their kids, grandkids and dogs. Coffee, muffins and binoculars were passed all around, along with warnings not to squeal or shout to avoid startling the eagles.
Priscilla Hunter, the former Coyote Valley chair squinted up and shifted closer to the fire. “It’s a miracle that they are here,” she said. Michael Hunter, the tribe’s current chair, jumped up. “Hey, birds, where are you at?”
Activists and tribal leaders, to whom the eagle holds cultural significance, have alleged that the power company and US Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly inform and consult with the tribe in deciding to remove the tree, which could remain standing and serve as a habitat for this eagle couple, or their offspring, for years to come.
And here was a bird that was not only sacred to Native American tribes, but also a symbol of the United States. And still, crews had come to take down the tree on 9 January – a day before National Save the Eagles Day. “I mean how clueless could PG&E be,” said Wagner.
Moreover, the owner of the property where the tree stands, as well as the residents who live there, all supported alternative solutions – including rerouting or burying the electric line, or setting up a solar microgrid.
In TV advertisements, PG&E has been promoting its plans to bury 10,000 miles of power lines underground to reduce the risk of them hitting trees, so why not do the same here? “I mean, come on,” Girvin said. “They just want to take the fast and easy route.”
Meanwhile, PG&E contended in public statements the tree “contains an inactive bald eagle’s nest, is a hazard and is at risk of failing and striking a PG&E line in a high fire-threat area”.
Ultimately, the company was proven wrong when eagles finally swooped in. They first arrived as activists and tribal elders sang and prayed beneath the tree, hours before PG&E crews arrived. And they returned each day afterwards. “It was magical,” said Girvin.
A few days later, PG&E issued a statement saying that it would bury the lines, after all. “This solution allows us to protect our hometowns while also taking into account the values of our local tribe, property owners and environmental advocates,” said Ron Richardson, vice-president of PG&E’s north coast region, in a statement to the Guardian.
It was a hard-won concession – one that the activists will remain wary of until they receive a legally binding commitment to leave the tree standing. Though the company can’t take down a tree with nesting eagles, they could return if the eagles leave again. “It seems like you just have to expose how inefficient this is,” said Hunter, the Coyote Valley band chair.
This was already the second year that PG&E had tried to take down this tree. In 2022, as well, the eagle couple returned to their nest just in the nick of time to call off the saws. “And they had a baby!” said Joseph Seidell, a cannabis farmer who lives on the property and led early protests against PG&E’s plans. “I mean just look at this,” he gestured. “This giant pile of beautiful woven twigs holds this beautiful, sacred bird.”
In August, the utility company de-energized the overhead electrical line, just in case the tree did end up falling and sparking a blaze, and asked for Seidell’s agreement that he wouldn’t impede crews when they came to take down the tree in the future. “It was devastating,” he said.
The ordeal has left tribal leaders and environmentalists concerned that the utility company – and the government agencies that oversee and permit its fire safety plans – have failed to properly communicate and consult with communities before undertaking work that impacts important wilderness areas.
Although the Fish and Wildlife Service had sent a letter informing Hunter of PG&E’s intention to cut down the tree in December, lawyers representing the tribe alleged that authorities didn’t wait for a response and didn’t give tribal authorities enough time to review the permit over the holiday season.
The agency was unable respond to the Guardian’s request for comment before publication.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, which has a codified “trust responsibility” – a binding moral obligation – to tribes, could do more to engage with and consult with tribal governments, said Don Hankins, a pyrogeographer and Plains Miwok fire expert at California State University, Chico.
“There clearly needs to be better coordination on these sorts of things,” he said. After a two-year fight over one tree, he noted, it’s unclear why government officials and PG&E didn’t coordinate with tribal leaders sooner.
PG&E and the Fish and Wildlife Service do have policies to ensure that they don’t impact vulnerable species, Hankins said – but those laws and policies don’t always account for the complexities of specific environments.
In Mendocino county, where there is a dark history of logging in the 1800s, which decimated old-growth redwoods and violently displaced some Native villages, a lack of proper communication and care by PG&E and the Fish and Wildlife Service brings an extra sting.
And even now, the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians are involved in a protracted fight to curb commercial logging in the nearby Jackson Demonstration state forest, a nearly 50,000-acre area managed by the, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
And although various government and private operators in this region have made some gestures toward working with local tribes with crucial, generational knowledge about the fragile landscapes here – they’ve often failed to meaningfully follow through, Girvin said.
Crews for various agencies have operated “willy nilly for years”, she said. “They haven’t cared at all about putting skid trails through sacred sites, or thought carefully about habitat protection and the species affected in the area.” These incursions can feel especially frustrating when the government for decades ignored, denied and criminalised traditional stewardship practices of tribes up and down California, she noted.
“To the settlers, whatever or whoever was in the way of doing business, they’d just cut down,” said Priscilla Hunter. “That’s what these eagles reminded me of.”
LOOKING BACK IN ORDER TO MOVE FORWARD
by Jim Shields
Glad rags and gun bags
Interesting start of the week on Monday, Jan. 30th when in the afternoon someone dropped off a tool bag with me that didn’t have any tools in it but did contain a couple of guns. The person found the bag at milepost 66.5 in southbound 101 by the guardrail past Steel Lane near the church. Found out a bit later that evidently a CHP officer and a Fish & Wildlife cop were looking for it also. I opened the bag but didn’t handle the guns. One was a Ruger .22 magnum revolver, the other was an extremely short, sawed-off 12 gauge, it looked like a Savage. There were also several rounds of ammo in the bag.
Just as I was getting ready to call MCSO, I received a call from Fire Chief Matt Matheson who said CHP and F&W were at the fire station and wanted to know if I had a bag with guns in it. Word travels quickly in a small town, don’t you know. So I took the gun bag to them and handed it over.
This episode reminded me of my union days when you never quite knew what to expect to find when you opened a bag. I bet there’s probably a pretty interesting story behind this particular bag too.
* * *
And You Thought Political Reform Was A New Idea…
OK, here’s your civics quiz for the week. Who said the following?
“It is no limitation upon property rights or freedom of contract to require that when men receive from government the privilege of doing business under corporate form … they shall do so upon absolutely truthful representations … Great corporations exist only because they are created and safeguarded by our institutions; and it is therefore our right and duty to see that they work in harmony with these institutions … In the interests of the public, the government should have the right to inspect and examine the workings of the great corporations … The nation should … also assume power of supervision and regulation over all corporations doing interstate business.”
Still stumped? Well, the same person said this:
“The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is duty bound to control them whenever need of such control is shown …”
All right, while you are thinking about whom may have uttered the foregoing, who said this?
“…Our government, national and state, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics. That is one of our tasks today … The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being. There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.”
President Theodore Roosevelt made all of those discerning remarks 100 years ago when he was battling the big corporations (“trusts), which were attempting to gain monopolistic control over various sectors of our economy. Folks back then called it “trust busting” when Roosevelt used the Sherman Act to break up the illegal monopolies.
If ol’ Teddy were in the White House today, what do you think he’d do about all of the unchecked mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations occurring in our country in the name of the global market and so-called free trade? What do you think he would think about the never before seen concentration of wealth in the hands of less than one-percent of the population. Or how about California oil companies gouging the public with through-the-roof gasoline prices?
Isn’t it amazing, just a hundred years ago we had people in public office who understood how government should work. TR was a Republican, his cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who entered the White House 25 years later, was a Democrat. They both set this country back on course in perilous economic times. It can be argued that Teddy and FDR saved capitalism from self-destruction. The former broke up the monopolies that were strangling the country’s life breath; the latter glued back together the shattered pieces of a country depressed in spirit and economy, and later would lead the nation to victory in a world war.
It kind of makes you both sad and angry that politics are now so broke. Maybe what is needed today is not a reform of government. Maybe all we need to do is to return to a government that was reformed a long time ago.
* * *
Oil refiners reveal windfall profits for 2022
Here’s the latest on gas-gouging oil refiners:
Marathon Petroleum made 75 cents in profit per gallon off West Coast drivers in 2022, virtually doubling what it made the year before, strengthening the case for the California legislature to enact a windfall profits penalty. Meanwhile Phillips 66 reported fourth quarter West Coast results indicating a moderating influence simply from the threat of a windfall profits cap. Four out of the five big California refiners have now reported profits of $72.5 billion for the year. (Chevron, Marathon, Valero, and Phillips 66.)
The legislature is considering legislation to establish a windfall profits cap on how much oil refiners can make in profit per gallon of gasoline. Consumer Watchdog has suggested penalties kick in after 50 cents per gallon. If the legislation was in force, Marathon would be on the hook for a rebate to consumers for $735 million for the year if the cap was set at 50 cents per gallon. Phillips 66 would owe $246.7 million rebate to consumers for its profiteering in previous quarters. The total owed by four of California’s five refiners would be over $3.3 billion. Historically, over the last 20 years, California refiners have made an average profit of 32 cents per gallon and of gas have only exceeded the 50-cent mark three times Chevron.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, email@example.com, 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 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
WHEN GIANTS STRODE THE NEWSROOM
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
There’s hardly such a thing as an old journalist who doesn’t miss the golden era of newspapers and the glamour that went with it.
In fact there’s hardly such a thing as an old journalist, period. And, sadly, with each passing month there are fewer.
But those of us still standing recall with wistful sighs the time that was, when journalists were celebrities and every little kid wanted to grow up to be a real newspaper reporter.
Back then, anyone spotting a journalist on the street would smile and wave; men would tip their hats, and more than a few damsels would offer a sly wink. “Why, you look like a big time reporter,” she might say with a sweet smile.
“Sorry ma’m, Editor. Features Editor.”
“Oooh,” would come the sighing, fluttering response.
We were a privileged class in a grateful society expressing heartfelt appreciation for the honorable and important effort every employee of a newspaper contributed to America.
Much of the public’s gratitude came in the form of gift boxes from local merchants (“Look, hon, another batch of cameras from Mike down at Triple S.”) or gift certificates good for a year’s Dinners for Four at the Palace Hotel (where we’d dine in the “Parlour d’Journalissimois”) on the exclusive sixth floor.
Ahh, those are faded memories today, but there was a time, and it lasted many decades, when even California politicians showed respect for the ever-watchful Fourth Estate. Journalists kept a sharp eye on any abuse of power, whether in LA, Sacramento or small towns like Ukiah.
Who among us from that lost era doesn’t swell with well-earned pride at the legislators’ gracious gift of building a separate highway system for the exclusive use of reporters? Everyone understood the need for speedy transport, given the pressure of daily, sometimes hourly deadlines. The two lane ribbon of concrete running from the Oregon border to Los Angeles opened in 1972.
“FOR CREDENTIALED NEWS MEDIA USE ONLY” read signs at every on-ramp, and true enough the lanes were empty save vehicles carrying reporters to destinations hither and yon. And since it was deemed a private highway, no CHP monitoring took place and thus no sanctions against speeding, littering, or driving while intoxicated. Glory days, those.
Originally called “First Amendment Freeway,” it was renamed “M. Geniella Boulevard: Avenue of Heroes” in 1987. Ceremonial speeches are still available on YouTube.
Are you familiar with Fantasy Camps? The Giants host one every spring so kids can mingle with players, learn fundamentals, have photos taken with Johnny LeMaster or Dusty Baker. Or “RocknRoll Fantasy Camp,” where budding musicians learn skills from real stars like Jimmy Page, Barry Melton or Milli Vanilli. Students get personalized instructions, and on the final night each band performs on stage.
I needn’t remind people about “Newspaper Fantasy Camps” from the 1980s and ‘90s, always with too many applicants for available positions on fantasy sports staffs, copy desks, police beats or news photography.
Kids learned the basics: Creative expense account tricks (a favorite: attributing hundreds of dollars in bar tabs to the “Developing Sources” category, aka meeting at bars with other reporters and lying to each other.) Another tip: Quotation Fabrication Skills, all variations on this: “Yet another distraught onlooker, who asked to remain anonymous, said the carnage was ‘horrific and terrifying’ prior to bursting into tears.”
The camp culminated in Award Night where youngsters were given prizes, like a used typewriter ribbon from Herb Caen’s personal Underwood, or an autographed photo of KC Meadows the day she was named Editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal, surrounded by 68 fellow employees. One lucky tyke took home a scorecard (Wildcats 5, Petaluma 4) from the estate of the legendary sports editor Glenn Eriksen. My son Lucas still treasures a soup-stained yellow-orange necktie once worn by Dan McKee of the Willits News.
Every year when camp was over, the AVA’s Mark Scaramella, heading for the door shouted: “Somebody oughta tell ‘em about the W’s and H thing too.”
And it seems like only yesterday I watched a parade down State Street in honor of local journalists and the glories and joy they bring to all. There, a father down on one knee was listening to his young son.
“Dad, can I grow up to be just like Bruce Anderson? Huh, can I?”
Dad: “Why sure you can Scooter! You just do your best in school, learn to be a good writer and there’s no reason at all you can’t be anything you want to be!”
“I wanna be Bruce Anderson!!”
“Well,” said Dad. “How’s your little tummy when you drink bourbon in the morning? And do you really want to own a newspaper that alienates your neighbors, outrages local leaders and then later you die broke?”
I think a nice clear, complete copy of the invoice for the “bridge” would be fun to see. Not much else fun about the whole clusterfuck.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, February 5, 2022
JAMES CLAUSEN, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
KYLE BOUGHTON, Willits. Suspended license, probation revocation.
MAKAYLA CROSS-STURGES, Willits. Failure to appear.
CAILYN DELGADO, Ukiah. DUI.
GABRIEL HUERTA, Lucerne/Ukiah. Criminal threats, resisting.
SHAWN JOHNSON, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
WESLEY MAGDALEN-OKENT, Redwood Valley. DUI causing bodily injury, hit&run resulting in death or injury, suspended license for DUI, failure to appear, probation revocation.
JONATHAN ORTIZ, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs suspended license for DUI, under influence, probation revocation.
ANTHONY TOLBERT, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, parole violation.
JOSE TOMAYO-MARTINEZ, Fort Bragg. DUI, suspended license for DUI, no license, probation revocation.
ALISHA TURNER, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, battery on peace officer, resisting.
LUIS VIDAL-ROBLES, Fort Bragg. DUI.
BILL KIMBERLIN: I am going to be giving a talk on March 19th at the Anderson Valley Historical Society. It should be an interesting presentation. This image is from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The Nazi melting sequence. How did they do that?
THE HOMELESS RACKET
Taxpayers should not be buying homes or apartments for homeless people. They should be provided with a clean bed and a clean room that they should be required to keep clean. They should be screened for physical and mental health problems and given treatment. They should live in an alcohol, drug and smoke free environment. They should be provided good food and they should be required to work and given job training skills.
Elected officials have played whack-a-mole with homelessness for years and have yet to provide a plan for solving even the encampment problem. How much have they wasted? We don’t know. They haven’t told us the cleanup cost, the housing costs, the fire and damage costs, the pollution costs, etc. Solve the problem, don’t perpetuate it.
Corporations are making a lot of money off homelessness, taxpayers are wasting a lot of money that should be going to improve our community, streets, schools, bike lanes, parks, sewage systems and trash systems.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
It is a Balloooooon!!!. WTF is up with this unbelievable media blitz about a helium gas bag at 60,000 ft.? Talking head asshole warmonger General Keane says congrats to the brave men of the USAF for shooting it down. An F22 Raptor at $200,000,000.00 per plane and already 25 years old shoots down a huge nylon bag with a 2 million dollar missile as the 150 ft. dia. target is drifting slowly over the South Carolina coast. Good got damn shootin! Well done. I can hit a quarter at 100 yards with a 22-250 for a buck a shot.
Mega-agriculture is destroying the Corn Belt and the Central Valley, which the country’s food system depends on. Can midsize farms survive to save it?
by Ian Frazier
We are eating a big hole in the middle of the Midwest and sucking up California’s ancient aquifers until the land collapses like an empty juice box. The awe that new arrivals from other countries feel when they see the bounty in a US supermarket is an illusion—more like what one might experience when stepping from a cold night into a nice, warm house where they’re burning the furniture. In short, we are plundering the natural sources of our food production and can’t go on this way.
That’s the thesis of Tom Philpott’s recent ‘Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It.’ A crash awaits, while for the moment all may seem to be wonderful. The challenge of saying how much food our super-productive agriculture is producing leads him to use versions of the phrase “to churn out” eighteen times, by my count, in the book’s 246 pages. We read that in 2010 “California farms churned out $20.7 billion worth of fruits, vegetables, and nuts”; that California’s Central Valley “churns out a quarter of the nation’s food,” though it occupies less than one percent of its farmland; and that despite the 2006–2012 global recession, “Corn Belt farmers churned out a succession of bumper crops.” And so on, churning onward. How many ways are there to say “produces a huge amount of”? I sympathize with the author’s dilemma. It’s Big Agriculture’s doing. A major challenge to the industry is that consumers in the United States can eat only so much—about 1,500 pounds of food per person per year. Investors, however, want more profit than a slowly growing population (less than half of one percent per year) can generate, so investment-driven agriculture overproduces, tries to get people to eat more, and constantly looks for new markets.
The Southeast has its hog and chicken factories, central Florida grows mountains of oranges, and fruit and vegetable megafarms line the Rio Grande Valley. Philpott leaves these aside and concentrates on the country’s top two food-producing regions. Between them, the Central Valley and the Iowa-centered Corn Belt produce “the vast majority of food Americans eat,” as well as food for export and corn for ethanol. (A third of the corn grown in the US is burned as fuel.) The Central Valley, about 450 miles long by about fifty miles wide, runs north–south between the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada, and constitutes about half of California’s cropland. The book begins with a melon farmer in the San Joaquin Valley, in the southern half of the Central Valley, who says his family may have to stop farming because of the costs of labor and water. This owner of a midsize farm competes with large corporate operations, many of which concentrate on nuts, a highly profitable crop whose labor costs are low once the groves have been planted and reach bearing age. Nuts need more water than melons, and operations that grow nuts have more money to pay for it. To grow a single almond requires about a gallon of water.
The almond groves that cover about a fifth of the San Joaquin Valley consume four times as much water as the city of Los Angeles. Having read up on healthy diet recommendations, I eat plenty of nuts myself, including almonds. Looking in the pantry, I see I possess the almond-growing equivalent of a few dozen bathtubfuls of California water. I also receive benefits from a Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America fund. Philpott points out that TIAA owns a 40 percent stake in Treehouse California Almonds. Profitable but environmentally ruinous agriculture attracts investors like TIAA, the Harvard University endowment fund, and George Soros. The Farmland Index, which tracks the performance of agricultural investments, has outperformed the Standard & Poor’s index 11.8 percent to 9.6 percent in recent decades. Millions of investors are participating in the despoliation.
As California’s groundwater, an irreplaceable fossil resource, recedes it becomes costlier to pump and gets more saline the farther down you go, Fortunately, pistachios, another profitable nut crop, can tolerate salty soil. (Is that why suddenly there seem to be more ads on TV for pistachios? The funny ads with the two marketers talking about pistachios with a tortoise?) The higher temperatures of climate change mean that farms that irrigate must now irrigate more. Snow piled up in the Sierra Nevada makes for good irrigation, with its usually gradual release into spring runoff. But the size of the Sierra Nevada snowpack shrank 20% between the Eighties and the Aughts. It is expected to go down as much as 60% more by 2050. The State of California’s 2018 Climate Change Assessment predicted that in the future the snowpack will probably not exist at all below six thousand feet.
When irrigation water from snow and rain is scarce, farmers pump more groundwater. Pumping has caused the land to settle (a phenomenon called “subsidence”). Parts of the Central Valley had subsided nearly thirty feet by 1972 and have gone down more since then. When the ground sinks, cement lined canals break, increasing the amount of mountain runoff they waste. Farmers then pump more groundwater. The land sinks more…
Woke culture, devoid of class consciousness and a commitment to stand with the oppressed, is another tool in the arsenal of the imperial state.
by Chris Hedges
The brutal murder of Tyre Nichols by five Black Memphis police officers should be enough to implode the fantasy that identity politics and diversity will solve the social, economic and political decay that besets the United States. Not only are the former officers Black, but the city’s police department is headed by Cerelyn Davis, a Black woman. None of this helped Nichols, another victim of a modern-day police lynching.
The militarists, corporatists, oligarchs, politicians, academics and media conglomerates champion identity politics and diversity because it does nothing to address the systemic injustices or the scourge of permanent war that plague the U.S. It is an advertising gimmick, a brand, used to mask mounting social inequality and imperial folly. It busies liberals and the educated with a boutique activism, which is not only ineffectual but exacerbates the divide between the privileged and a working class in deep economic distress. The haves scold the have-nots for their bad manners, racism, linguistic insensitivity and garishness, while ignoring the root causes of their economic distress. The oligarchs could not be happier.
Did the lives of Native Americans improve as a result of the legislation mandating assimilation and the revoking of tribal land titles pushed through by Charles Curtis, the first Native American Vice President? Are we better off with Clarence Thomas, who opposes affirmative action, on the Supreme Court, or Victoria Nuland, a war hawk in the State Department? Is our perpetuation of permanent war more palatable because Lloyd Austin, an African American, is the Secretary of Defense? Is the military more humane because it accepts transgender soldiers? Is social inequality, and the surveillance state that controls it, ameliorated because Sundar Pichai — who was born in India — is the CEO of Google and Alphabet? Has the weapons industry improved because Kathy J. Warden, a woman, is the CEO of Northop Grumman, and another woman, Phebe Novakovic, is the CEO of General Dynamics? Are working families better off with Janet Yellen, who promotes increasing unemployment and “job insecurity” to lower inflation, as Secretary of the Treasury? Is the movie industry enhanced when a female director, Kathryn Bigelow, makes “Zero Dark Thirty,” which is agitprop for the CIA? Take a look at this recruitment ad put out by the CIA. It sums up the absurdity of where we have ended up.
Colonial regimes find compliant indigenous leaders — “Papa Doc” François Duvalier in Haiti, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Mobutu Sese Seko in the Congo, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran — willing to do their dirty work while they exploit and loot the countries they control. To thwart popular aspirations for justice, colonial police forces routinely carried out atrocities on behalf of the oppressors. The indigenous freedom fighters who fight in support of the poor and the marginalized are usually forced out of power or assassinated, as was the case with Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba and Chilean president Salvador Allende. Lakota chief Sitting Bull was gunned down by members of his own tribe, who served in the reservation’s police force at Standing Rock. If you stand with the oppressed, you will almost always end up being treated like the oppressed. This is why the FBI, along with Chicago police, murdered Fred Hampton and was almost certainly involved in the murder of Malcolm X, who referred to impoverished urban neighborhoods as “internal colonies.” Militarized police forces in the U.S. function as armies of occupation. The police officers who killed Tyre Nichols are no different from those in reservation and colonial police forces.
We live under a species of corporate colonialism. The engines of white supremacy, which constructed the forms of institutional and economic racism that keep the poor poor, are obscured behind attractive political personalities such as Barack Obama, whom Cornel West called “a Black mascot for Wall Street.” These faces of diversity are vetted and selected by the ruling class. Obama was groomed and promoted by the Chicago political machine, one of the dirtiest and most corrupt in the country.
“It’s an insult to the organized movements of people these institutions claim to want to include,” Glen Ford, the late editor of The Black Agenda Report told me in 2018. “These institutions write the script. It’s their drama. They choose the actors, whatever black, brown, yellow, red faces they want.”
Ford called those who promote identity politics “representationalists” who “want to see some Black people represented in all sectors of leadership, in all sectors of society. They want Black scientists. They want Black movie stars. They want Black scholars at Harvard. They want Blacks on Wall Street. But it’s just representation. That’s it.”
The toll taken by corporate capitalism on the people these “representationalists” claim to represent exposes the con. African-Americans have lost 40 percent of their wealth since the financial collapse of 2008 from the disproportionate impact of the drop in home equity, predatory loans, foreclosures and job loss. They have the second highest rate of poverty at 21.7 percent, after Native Americans at 25.9 percent, followed by Hispanics at 17.6 percent and whites at 9.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department for Health and Human Services. As of 2021, Black and Native American children lived in poverty at 28 and 25 percent respectively, followed by Hispanic children at 25 percent and white children at 10 percent. Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s homeless are African-Americans although Black people make up about 14 percent of our population. This figure does not include people living in dilapidated, overcrowded dwellings or with family or friends due to financial difficulties. African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly five times the rate of white people.
Identity politics and diversity allow liberals to wallow in a cloying moral superiority as they castigate, censor and deplatform those who do not linguistically conform to politically correct speech. They are the new Jacobins. This game disguises their passivity in the face of corporate abuse, neoliberalism, permanent war and the curtailment of civil liberties. They do not confront the institutions that orchestrate social and economic injustice. They seek to make the ruling class more palatable. With the support of the Democratic Party, the liberal media, academia and social media platforms in Silicon Valley, demonize the victims of the corporate coup d’etat and deindustrialization. They make their primary political alliances with those who embrace identity politics, whether they are on Wall Street or in the Pentagon. They are the useful idiots of the billionaire class, moral crusaders who widen the divisions within society that the ruling oligarchs foster to maintain control.
Diversity is important. But diversity, when devoid of a political agenda that fights the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed, is window dressing. It is about incorporating a tiny segment of those marginalized by society into unjust structures to perpetuate them.
A class I taught in a maximum security prison in New Jersey wrote “Caged,” a play about their lives. The play ran for nearly a month at The Passage Theatre in Trenton, New Jersey, where it was sold out nearly every night. It was subsequently published by Haymarket Books. The 28 students in the class insisted that the corrections officer in the story not be white. That was too easy, they said. That was a feign that allows people to simplify and mask the oppressive apparatus of banks, corporations, police, courts and the prison system, all of which make diversity hires. These systems of internal exploitation and oppression must be targeted and dismantled, no matter whom they employ.
My book, “Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison,” uses the experience of writing the play to tell the stories of my students and impart their profound understanding of the repressive forces and institutions arrayed against them, their families and their communities. You can see my two-part interview with Hugh Hamilton about “Our Class” here and here.
August Wilson’s last play, “Radio Golf,” foretold where diversity and identity politics devoid of class consciousness were headed. In the play, Harmond Wilks, an Ivy League-educated real estate developer, is about to launch his campaign to become Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor. His wife, Meme, is angling to become the governor's press secretary. Wilks, navigating the white man’s universe of privilege, business deals, status seeking and the country club game of golf, must sanitize and deny his identity. Roosevelt Hicks, who had been Wilk’s college roommate at Cornell and is a vice president at Mellon Bank, is his business partner. Sterling Johnson, whose neighborhood Wilks and Hicks are lobbying to get the city to declare blighted so they can raze it for their multimillion dollar development project, tells Hicks:
You know what you are? It took me a while to figure it out. You a Negro. White people will get confused and call you a nigger but they don’t know like I know. I know the truth of it. I’m a nigger. Negroes are the worst thing in God’s creation. Niggers got style. Negroes got . A dog knows it’s a dog. A cat knows it’s a cat. But a Negro don’t know he’s a Negro. He thinks he’s a white man.
Terrible predatory forces are eating away at the country. The corporatists, militarists and political mandarins that serve them are the enemy. It is not our job to make them more appealing, but to destroy them. There are amongst us genuine freedom fighters of all ethnicities and backgrounds whose integrity does not permit them to serve the system of inverted totalitarianism that has destroyed our democracy, impoverished the nation and perpetuated endless wars. Diversity when it serves the oppressed is an asset, but a con when it serves the oppressors.
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 5TH FEBRUARY
The situation on Ukraine's eastern front lines is getting tough, President Volodymyr Zelensky says.
Ukrainian troops are facing a very difficult situation in three heavily contested towns in Donetsk - Bakhmut, Vuhledar and Lyman - Mr Zelensky said.
The UK's defence ministry said Ukrainian soldiers are becoming isolated in embattled Bakhmut.
It comes as Ukraine's defence minister reiterated the view that a new Russian offensive is expected this month.
At a news conference, Oleksiy Reznikov said not all Western weaponry will have arrived by then, but Ukraine had reserves to hold off Russian forces.
Mr Reznikov said he expects the anticipated Russian offensive to prioritise taking the whole of the eastern Donbas region and create a land corridor across the areas it occupies, including Crimea, by launching offensives in the south and east of Ukraine.
The defence minister also confirmed that troops will start training on German-made Leopard tanks from Monday.
Mr Reznikov also said Ukraine had negotiated the supply of new long-range missiles with a 90-mile (150km) range and pledged not to use them against Russian territory - only against Russian units in occupied areas of Ukraine.
The head of Russia's notorious Wagner group said there are fierce battles for every street in some areas of Bakhmut.
Russian forces have been attempting to seize control of the town for months - making it the longest battle since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago.
Taking the area is important to Russia in furthering its aim of controlling the whole of the Donbas region in the country's east. It would also signify a turnaround in Russia's fortunes after it lost ground in Ukraine during recent months.
by Ana Božičević
If the sky is such a cliché
Why is it falling?
If the tree is such a cliché,
Why is it dying
If soul is such a cliché
Where is it hiding
If love is such a cliché
Why isn’t there enough to go around.
For my part
I can’t get enough of the sky.
For my part, I can’t wait
For those leaves to come back.
For my party
I am inviting the clown Love
For my birthday I want a cake
Revealing the color of my soul.
ROGER WATERS: FROM ROCK STAR AND PINK FLOYD FOUNDER TO UNDESIRABLE
by Max Kühlem
Roger Waters can rightly claim to be the mastermind behind Pink Floyd. He came up with the concept of and wrote all the lyrics for the masterpiece “The Dark Side of the Moon”. He wrote the albums “Animals”, “The Wall” and “The Final Cut” single-handedly. On his current tour “This Is Not A Drill”, which comes to Germany in May, he therefore wants to express that legacy to a large extent and play songs from Pink Floyd’s classic phase. The problem: Because of controversial statements he has made about the war in Ukraine and the politics of the state of Israel, one of his concerts in Poland has already been cancelled, and in Germany Jewish and Christian organizations are demanding the same. Time to talk to the 79-year-old musician: What does he mean by all this? Is he simply misunderstood – should his concerts be cancelled? Is it justifiable to exclude him from the conversation? Or does society have a problem banning dissenters like Waters from the conversation?
The musician receives his visitors in his residence in southern England, friendly, open, unpretentious, but determined – that’s how he will remain throughout the conversation. First, however, he wants to demonstrate something special: In the studio of his house, he plays three tracks from a brand new re-recording of “The Dark Side of the Moon”, which celebrates its 50th birthday in March. “The new concept is meant to reflect on the meaning of the work, to bring out the heart and soul of the album,” he says, “musically and spiritually. I’m the only one singing my songs on these new recordings, and there are no rock and roll guitar solos.”
The spoken words, superimposed on instrumental pieces like “On The Run” or “The Great Gig in the Sky” and over “Speak To Me”, “Brain Damage” “Any Colour You Like and Money” are meant to clarify his “mantra”, the message he considers central to all his work: “It’s about the voice of reason. And it says: what is important is not the power of our kings and leaders or their so-called connection with God. What is really important is the connection between us as human beings, the whole human community. We, human beings, are scattered all over the globe – but we are all related because we all come from Africa. We are all brothers and sisters, or at the very least distant cousins, but the way we treat each other is destroying our home, planet earth – faster than we can imagine.” For instance, right now, suddenly here we are in 2023 involved in a year old proxy war with Russia in Ukraine. Why? Ok, a bit of history, in 2004 Russian President Vladimir Putin extended his hand to the West in an attempt to build an architecture of peace in Europe. It’s all there in the record. He explained that western plans to invite the post Maidan coup Ukraine into NATO posed a completely unacceptable existential threat to The Russian Federation and would cross a final red line that could end in war, so could we all get round the table and negotiate a peaceful future. His advances were brushed off by the US and its NATO allies. From then on he consistently maintained his position and NATO consistently maintained theirs: “F… you”. And here we are.
Mr Waters, you speak of the voice of reason, of the deep connection of all people. But when it comes to the war in Ukraine, you talk a lot about the mistakes of the US and the West, not about Russia’s war and the Russian aggression. Why don’t you protest against the acts committed by Russia? I know that you supported Pussy Riot and other human rights organizations in Russia. Why don’t you attack Putin?
First of all, if you read my letter to Putin and my writings around the start of the war in February….
…you called him a “gangster”…
…exactly, I did. But I may have changed my mind a little bit in the last year. There is a podcast from Cyprus called “The Duran”. The hosts speak Russian and can read Putin’s speeches in the original. Their comments on it make sense to me. The most important reason for supplying arms to Ukraine is surely profit for the arms industry. And I wonder: is Putin a bigger gangster than Joe Biden and all those in charge of American politics since World War II? I am not so sure. Putin didn’t invade Vietnam or Iraq? Did he?
The most important reason for arms deliveries is the following: It is to support Ukraine, to win the war and to stop Russia’s aggression. You seem to see it differently.
Yes. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am now more open to listen what Putin actually says. According to independent voices I listen to he governs carefully, making decisions on the grounds of a consensus in the Russian Federation government. There are also critical intellectuals in Russia, who have been arguing against American imperialism since the 1950s. And a central phrase has always been: Ukraine is a red line. It must remain a neutral buffer state. If it doesn’t remain so, we don’t know where it will lead. We still don’t know, but it could end in a Third World War.
In February last year, it was Putin who decided to attack.
He launched what he still calls a “special military operation”. He launched it on the basis of reasons that if I have understood them well are: 1. We want to stop the potential genocide of the Russian-speaking population of the Donbas. 2. We want to fight Nazism in Ukraine. There is a teenage Ukrainian girl, Alina, with whom I exchanged long letters: “I hear you. I understand your pain.” She answered me, thanked me, but stressed, I‘m sure you’re wrong about one thing though, “I am 200% certain there are no Nazis in Ukraine.” I replied again, “I’m sorry Alina, but you are wrong about that. How can you live in Ukraine and not know?”
There is no evidence that there has been genocide in Ukraine. At the same time, Putin has repeatedly emphasised that he wants to bring Ukraine back into his empire. Putin told former German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the saddest day in his life was in 1989, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Isn’t the word origin of “Ukraine” the Russian word for “Borderland”? It was part of Russia and the Soviet Union for a long time. It’s a difficult history. During the Second World War, I believe there was a large part of the population of western Ukraine that decided to collaborate with the Nazis. They killed Jews, Roma, communists, and anyone else the Third Reich wanted dead. To this day there is the conflict between Western Ukraine (With or without Nazis Alina) and Eastern The Donbas) and Southern (Crimea) Ukraine and there are many Russian speaking Ukrainians because it was part of Russia for hundreds of years. How can you solve such a problem? It can’t be done by either the Kiev government or the Russians winning. Putin has always stressed that he has no interest in taking over western Ukraine – or invading Poland or any other country across the border. What he is saying is: he wants to protect the Russian-speaking populations in those parts of Ukraine where the Russian speaking populations feel under threat from the far right influenced post Maidan Coup Governments in Kiev. A coup that is widely accepted as having been orchestrated by the US.
We have spoken to many Ukrainians who can prove otherwise. The US may have helped support the 2014 protests. But overall, reputable sources and eyewitness accounts suggest that the protests arose from within – through the will of the Ukrainian people.
I wonder which Ukrainians you have spoken to? I can imagine that some claim that. On the other side of the coin a huge majority of Ukrainians in the Crimea and the Donbass have voted in referenda to rejoin The Russian Federation.
In February, you were surprised that Putin attacked Ukraine. How can you be so sure that he will not go further? Your trust in Russia does not seem to have been shattered, despite the bloody Russian war of aggression.
How can I be sure that the US will not risk starting a nuclear war with China? They are already provoking The Chinese by interfering in Taiwan. They would love to destroy Russia first. Anyone with an IQ above room temperature understands that, when they read the news, and the Americans admit it.
You irritate a lot of people because it always sounds like you are defending Putin.
Compared to Biden, I am. The US/NATO provocations before February 2022 were extreme and very damaging to the interests of all the ordinary people of Europe.
You would not boycott Russia?
I think it is counterproductive. You live in Europe: How much does the US charge for gas deliveries? Five times as much as its own citizens pay. In England, people are now saying “eat or heat” – because the poorer sections of the population can hardly afford to heat their homes. Western governments should realize that we are all brothers and sisters. In the Second World War they saw what happens when they try to wage war against Russia. They will unite and fight to the last ruble and the last square meter of ground to defend their motherland. Just like anyone would. I think if the US can convince its own citizens and you and many other people, that Russia is the real enemy, and that Putin is the new Hitler they will have an easier time stealing from the poor to give to the rich and also starting and promoting more wars, like this proxy war in Ukraine. Maybe that seems like an extreme political stance to you, but maybe the history I read and the news I garner is just different from you. You can’t believe everything you see on TV or read in the papers. All I am trying to achieve with my new recordings, my statements and performances is that our brothers and sisters in power stop the war – and that people understand that our brothers and sisters in Russia do not live under a repressive dictatorship, any more than you do in Germany or I do in the US. I mean would we choose to continue to slaughter young Ukrainians and Russians if we had the power to stop it?
We can do this interview, in Russia this would not be so easy… But back to Ukraine: What would be your political counter-proposal for a meaningful Ukraine policy of the West?
We need to get all our leaders around the table and force them to say: “No more war!”. That would be the point where dialogue can start.
Could you imagine living in Russia?
Yes, of course, why not? It would be the same as with my neighbours here in the south of England. We could go to the pub and talk openly – as long as they don’t go to war and kill Americans or Ukrainians. All right? As long as we can trade with each other, sell each other gas, make sure we’re warm in the winter, we’re fine. Russians are no different from you and me: there are good people and there are idiots – like everywhere else.
Then why don’t you play shows in Russia?
Not for ideological reasons. It is simply not possible at the moment. I’m not boycotting Russia, that would be ridiculous. I play 38 shows in the USA. If I were to boycott any country for political reasons, it would be the US. They are the main aggressor.
If one looks at the conflict neutrally, one can see Putin as the aggressor. Do you think we are all brainwashed?
Yes, I do indeed, definitely. Brainwashed, you said it.
Because we consume western media?
Exactly. What everyone in the West is being told is the “unprovoked invasion” narrative. Huh? Anyone with half a brain can see that the conflict in Ukraine was provoked beyond all measure. It is probably the most provoked invasion ever.
When concerts in Poland were cancelled because of your statements on the war in Ukraine, did you just feel misunderstood?
Yes. This is a big step backwards. It is an expression of Russophobia. People in Poland are obviously just as susceptible to Western propaganda. I would want to say to them: You are brothers and sisters, get your leaders to stop the war so that we can stop for a moment and think: “What is this war about?”. It is about making the rich in the Western countries even richer and the poor everywhere even poorer. The opposite of Robin Hood. Jeff Bezos has a fortune of around 200 billion dollars, while thousands of people in Washington D.C. alone live in cardboard boxes on the street.
Ukrainians are standing up to defend their country. Most people in Germany see it that way, which is why your statements cause consternation, even anger. Your perspectives on Israel meet with similar criticism here. That is also why there is now a discussion about whether your concerts in Germany should be cancelled. How do you react to that?
Oh, you know, it’s Israeli Lobby activists like Malca Goldstein-Wolf who demand that. That’s idiotic. They already tried to cancel my concert in Cologne in 2017 and even got the local radio stations to join in.
Isn’t it a bit easy to label these people as idiots?
Of course, they are not all idiots. But they probably read the Bible and probably believe that anyone who speaks out against Israeli fascism in the Holy Land is an anti-Semite. That’s really not a smart position to take, because to do so you have to deny that people lived in Palestine before the Israelis settled there. You have to follow the legend that says, “A land without a people for a people without a land.” What nonsense. The history here is quite clear. To this day, the indigenous, Jewish population is a minority. The Jewish Israelis all immigrated from Eastern Europe or the United States.
You once compared the state of Israel to Nazi Germany. Do you still stand by this comparison?
Yes, of course. The Israelis are committing genocide. Just like Great Britain did during our colonial period, by the way. The British committed genocide against the indigenous people of North America, for example. So did the Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese even the Germans in their colonies. All were part of the injustice of the colonial era. And we, the British also murdered and pillaged in India, Southeast Asia, China…. We believed ourselves to be inherently superior to the indigenous people, just as the Israelis do in Palestine. Well, we weren’t and neither are the Israeli Jews.
As an English man, you have a very different perspective on the history of the State of Israel than we Germans do. In Germany, criticism of Israel is handled with caution for good reasons; Germany has a historical debt that the country must live up to.
I understand that very well and I have been trying to deal with it for 20 years. But for me, your debt, as you put it, your national sense of guilt for what the Nazis did between 1933 and 1945, shouldn’t require your whole society to walk around with blinkers on about Israel. Would it not be better if it rather spurred you to throw away all the blinkers and support equal human rights for all your brothers and sisters all over the world irrespective of ethnicity religion or nationality?
Are you questioning Israel’s right to exist?
In my opinion, Israel has a right to exist as long as it is a true democracy, as long as no group, religious or ethnic, enjoys more human rights than any other. But unfortunately that is exactly what is happening in Israel and Palestine. The government says that only Jewish people should enjoy certain rights. So it can’t be described as democratic. They are very open about it, it’s enshrined in Israeli law. There are now many people in Germany, and of course many Jewish people in Israel, who are open to a different narrative about Israel. Twenty years ago, we could not have had a conversation about the State of Israel in which the terms genocide and apartheid were mentioned. Now I would say you can’t have that conversation without using those terms, because they accurately describe the reality in the occupied territory. I see that more and more clearly since I’ve been part of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, ed.).
Do you think they would agree with you here in England?
I can’t say for sure because I’ve hardly lived here for the last 20 years. I would have to go down to the pub and talk to people. But I suspect more and more would agree with me every day. I have many Jewish friends – by the way – who whole heartedly agree with me, which is one reason why it’s so crazy to try to discredit me as a Jew-hater. I have one close friend in New York, who happens to be Jewish, who said to me the other day, “A few years ago, I thought you were crazy, I thought you had completely lost it. Now I see you were right in your position on the policies of the state of Israel – and we, the Jewish community in the US, were wrong.” My friend in NY was clearly distressed making this remark, he is a good man.
BDS positions are sanctioned by the German Bundestag. A success of the BDS movement could ultimately mean an end to the state of Israel. Do you see it differently?
Yes, Israel could change its laws. They could say: We have changed our mind, people are allowed to have rights even if they are not Jewish. That would be it, then we wouldn’t need BDS any more.
Have you lost friends because you are active for BDS?
It’s interesting that you ask that. I don’t know exactly, but I very much doubt it. A friendship is a powerful thing. I would say I’ve had about ten real friends in my life. I couldn’t lose a friend because of my political views, because friends love each other – and friendship begets talk, and talk begets understanding. If a friend were to say, “Roger, I saw you flew an inflatable pig with a Star of David on it during your Wall concerts!”, I explain to them the context and that there was nothing anti-Semitic either intended or expressed.
What is the context then?
That was during the song “Goodbye Blue Sky” in “The Wall” show. And to explain the context, you see B-52 bombers, on a circular screen behind the band, but they don’t drop bombs, they drop symbols: Dollar signs, Crucifixes, Hammer and Sickles, Star and Crescents, the McDonalds sign – and Star of Davids. This is theatrical satire, an expression of my belief that unleashing these ideologies, or products onto the people on the ground, is an act of aggression, the opposite of humane, the opposite of creating love and peace among us brothers and sisters. I’m saying in the wrong hands all the ideologies these symbols represent can be evil.
What is your ideology? Are you an anarchist – against any kind of power that people exercise over each other?
I call myself a humanist, a citizen of the world. And my loyalty and respect belong to all people, regardless of their origin, nationality or religion.
Would you still perform in Israel today if they let you?
No, of course not. That would be crossing the picket line. I have for years written letters to colleagues in the music industry to try to convince them not to perform in Israel. Sometimes they disagree, they say, “But this is a way to make peace, we should go there and try to convince them to make peace” Well we are all entitled to our opinion, but in 2005 the whole of Palestinian Civil Society asked me to observe a cultural boycott, and who am I to tell a whole society living under a brutal occupation that I know better than they.
It is very provocative to say that you would play in Moscow but not in Israel.
Interesting that you say that given that Moscow does not run an apartheid state based on the genocide of the indigenous inhabitants.
In Russia, ethnic minorities are heavily discriminated against. Among other things, more ethnic non-Russians are sent to war than ethnic Russians.
You seem to be asking me to see Russia from the current Russo phobic perspective. I choose to see it differently, though as I have said I don’t speak Russian or live in Russia so I’m on foreign ground.
How do you like the fact that Pink Floyd have recorded a new piece for the first time in 30 years – with the Ukrainian musician Andrij Chlywnjuk?
I have seen the video and I am not surprised, but I find it really, really sad. It’s so alien to me, this action is so lacking in humanity. It encourages the continuation of the war. Pink Floyd is a name I used to be associated with. That was a huge time in my life, a very big deal. To associate that name now with something like this… proxy war makes me sad. I mean, they haven’t made the point of demanding, “Stop the war, stop the slaughter, bring our leaders together to talk!” It’s just this content-less waving of the blue and yellow flag. I wrote in one of my letters to the Ukrainian teenager Alina: I will not raise a flag in this conflict, not a Ukrainian flag, not a Russian flag, not a US flag.
After the fall of the Wall, you performed “The Wall” in reunified Berlin, certainly with optimistic expectations for the future. Did you think you could also contribute to this future with your own art, make a difference?
Of course, I believe that to this day. If you have political principles and are an artist, then the two areas are inextricably intertwined. That’s one reason why I left Pink Floyd, by the way: I had those principles, the others either did not or had different ones.
Do you now see yourself as equal parts musician and political activist?
Yes, sometimes I lean towards one, sometimes the other.
Will your current tour really be your last tour?
(Chuckles) I have no idea. The tour is subtitled “The First Farewell Tour” and that’s an obvious joke because old rock stars routinely use Farewell Tour as a selling tool. Then they sometimes retire and sometimes go on another Final Farewell Tour, it’s all good.
You want to keep sending something out to the world, make a difference?
I love good music, I love good literature – especially English and Russian, also German. That’s why I like the idea of people noticing and understanding what I do.
Then why don’t you hold back with political statements?
Because I am who I am. If I wasn’t this person who has strong political convictions, I wouldn’t have written “The Dark Side of the Moon”, “The Wall”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Amused to Death” and all the other stuff.
Thank you very much for the interview.
NO ED. NOTES THIS DAY
looking for Ed. Notes
No wisdom or sage advice
To be had–so sad
Kudos to Mr. Waters! (And to our beloved AVA ). There are some sane people in this insane world, thanks be to Gaia.
Re Roger Waters: His “evidence” for his views on the Russian invasion are that he “listens to what Putin says”. Which is just blind/deaf ignorance, as the Kremlin’s history shows. Obviously actions speak much louder, and more lethally. Putin is an imperialist war criminal and no amount of “the West is bad too,” or “anti-Nazi” propaganda, no matter how true, justifies his militaristic actions. “Just ask the infantry and the dead,” as Hemingway advised. Every major human rights and media freedom group rates Russia at or near the bottom. Waters aptly called Brazil’s Bolsonaro and “our” Trump “neo-fascist,”. Why not Putin too, who’s a mass murderer to boot? But then as he admits, he’s never been there.
Maybe Waters’ self-serving rhetoric also has something to do with why none of his former musical colleagues can stand him. Only they know. But most if not all of the ideologues who say Putin’s war is justified have never been any closer to Russia than Fort Ross.
Fewer times than Trump did in his, far fewer but a lot, fer shure, fer shure.
Re Roger Waters: Political views aside, maybe the real reason his concerts are being canceled is low ticket sales. Who the hell will pay big $$$ to see a 79 year old has-been in concert? He’s not Mick Jagger or Tony Bennett.
There is no difference between socialism and communism.
Yes there is, big diff honest people who do their reading.
Where does social work fit in?
Enough with the almonds, already. Why can’t people get it through their heads that it is the meat and dairy industries that are robbing us of Central Valley groundwater? To claim almonds and pistachios are the problem is unscientific and a political ploy to take the pressure off the real culprits. Environmental degradation from animal husbandry goes beyond water, of course, and contributes to global warming through methane emissions, and meat consumption is harmful to human health, thus robbing taxpayers through federal assistance programs. And we are not even discussing how much grain (or water) goes into one pound of beef. Let’s get real.