Sunny | Missing Teen | Enough Housing | Pet Jack | AV Events | Leaders Needed | Bragg Development | High Alert | Wave Explosion | Mendo Failed | Old Timers | Drought Concern | Potter Bun | Covelo Gathering | Yesterday's Catch | Guard Dog | Boogie Woogies | FOG Artists | 1922 Picnic | Marco Radio | Tethered Telephone | Disaster Capitalism | Jesus Sorry | Ask Croz | Fritzie Zivic | Ask Leguizamo | Bitter McRae | US & China | Owl Walk | Ukraine | EPA Designations | Stalin Scholar | Loaded Cane
A NORTH PACIFIC HIGH will keep skies clear and temperatures mild into early next week. By early to mid week, a low pressure system with colder air will bring lower temperatures throughout the region, rain and low elevation snow. The low pressure system will impact the region through the end of the week. (NWS)
When I was speaking at the Realtor Caravan this week I did ask the question and it’s one I think about all the time: “When will we have ‘enough’ housing?” I’ve watched for years the comments on Facebook the complaints that come in every time new housing is built. My answer at this point is we will have “enough” when we don’t have people living in motels or on our streets. We need housing of all types. Recently in our community we have seen several types of specific housing types for Seniors, USDA and low-income individuals, we need this type of housing. Those units are full, yet we still have families of 5 living in a single motel room.
What is coming up next is a large housing development of single family housing (Planning commission this spring) and I’m already hearing “I’m not going to be able to afford that”. Ok, I understand, I’m not either. BUT we do have people in our community that will. Because I’ve grown up here I’ve watched this us against them battle in our community for decades, we watched it when West Fork went in (“no one” can afford those houses, yet those homes don’t sit empty).
When will we have a clap for each other community. “They got in to housing? Good for them”
Maybe those people exist they just don’t write on my Facebook page. As a policy maker I’m always thinking about all types of people, that’s my job. We need housing of ALL types. Not just low income, not just market rate, and no; we don’t have enough.
* * *
CHARLES PRATT COMMENTED: Kinda off topic, but I have observed that nobody moves in to a too percentage of the single family houses that have recently sold on the west side. The number of unoccupied houses has increased quite a bit in the last couple of years.
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Jack is a happy and social dog. He enjoys meeting new people and we think he will be a welcome companion for a family with children. Jack will enjoy getting out and about for adventures, but he’s also pretty mellow inside, and will most likely be content to hang out with his peeps. Jack is a mixed breed dog, 5 years old and 65 cheerful pounds. For more about Jack, head to www.mendoanimalshelter.com The Shelters are packed with dogs, so if you can’t adopt, consider fostering. Our website has information about our Foster Program, on-going Dog Adoption Events, and other programs, services and updates. Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/
For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453 in Ukiah, and 707-467-6453 in Ft. Bragg.
ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE: Events Calendar
NOTE TO SUPES, AN ON-LINE REALITY CHECK:
It's too bad the BOS don’t get out and about and talk to local businesses to actually get a feel for the economic impacts currently happening because they are paralyzed to make a decision.
Lumber yards are down 50% and cutting people’s hours, seeing the writing on the wall a legacy AG supply store sold out, and a major chain grocery store is voluntarily asking people close to retiring to leave early to help cut costs.
Stop playing the blame game and be a leader. Remember, they signed up for this position.
IT CAME OUT OF THE SKY
by Jim Shields
Be sure and read Mark Scaramella’s excellent recent report “Veg-Mod Hell.”
Here’s some brief background on this bewildering issue of the Weed Ordinance’s provision prohibiting the removal of even a single tree for the purpose of cultivating pot.
Here’s an excerpt from a column I wrote six years ago on the topic.
Back on July 18, 2017, just a couple of months after Supervisors approved the new Cannabis Ordinance, the representatives of two state resource agencies, on their own motion, addressed County officials on potential problems with their pot rules.
The two agencies were CAL FIRE and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).
From the outset of their remarks, the state resource agencies’ reps pointedly but politely bared their fangs on the County’s problematical environmental review process and the enforcement issue.
CAL FIRE’s Unit Resource Manager Craig Pederson spoke on the lack of enforcement regarding tree removal associated with marijuana cultivation.
“CAL FIRE was satisfied with the final ordinance language which clearly prohibited tree removal” for grow sites, Pederson said.
But, he stated, “In practice we find that not to be the case as conversion of timberland to cultivate marijuana has continued.”
He pointed out that “the number of issues and potential CAL FIRE law enforcement cases are escalating …”
He told the Supes, “CAL FIRE encourages the county to promptly and consistently enforce the cultivation ordinance. The ordinance must be enforced by the County, as lead agency, to ensure responsible agencies’ (such as CAL FIRE) written and verbal concerns are addressed.”
He reminded the Supes that the ordinance created a “zero tolerance for tree removal. It doesn’t allow a single (commercial) tree to be removed for cultivation purposes.”
He also told the Supes even CAL FIRE doesn’t have a rule that restrictive, but “it’s in your ordinance so you need to enforce it or get rid of it.”
Naturally, the Supes did neither. I’ve always said and I still believe that problems just don’t happen, people make them happen. That’s the history of weed legalization in this County.
U.S. top guns have been busy the past week in their fighter jets.
The US military shot down a high altitude “object” over Lake Huron last Sunday afternoon.
Another “unidentified object” was blasted to bits over northern Canada the day before that.
And the day before that, another “unidentified object” was shot down over Alaska by a US sky pilot.
And don’t forget last weekend, when a Chinese surveillance balloon was taken down by F-22s off the coast of South Carolina.
Who says Joe Biden’s sleepy?
The dude is totally locked in, laserfocused on getting to the bottom of what’s behind all these “unidentified objects” that are infiltrating US and Canuck skies.
Joe’s motto is “shoot first and ask questions later … maybe.”
The past week’s aerial fireworks prompted James Marmon, a frequent poster on the AVA’s website, to inquire: “Weird how all of a sudden unidentified aircrafts are falling out of the sky. Why is this suddenly an issue?”
Well, actually I have the answer to what the hell is going on.
Well, actually, I don’t have the answer, but John Fogerty, front man for one of the greatest rock ‘n roll bands ever, Creedence Clearwater Revival, knew what was happening years ago, and he explained to us in this song:
It Came Out of the Sky
Whoa, it came out of the sky
Landed just a little south of Moline
Jody fell out of his tractor
Couldn’t b’lieve what he seen, oh
Laid on the ground shook
Fearin’ for his life
Then he ran all the way to town
Screamin’, “It came out of the sky”
Well, a crowd gathered ‘round
And a scientist said it was marsh gas.
Spiro came to make a speech
About raisin’ the Mars tax
Vatican said, “Woe, the Lord has come”
Hollywood rushed out an epic film
Ronnie the Populist said
It was a communist plot
Oh, the newspapers came
And made Jody a national hero.
Walter and Eric said they’d put him On a network TV show
White House said, “Put the thing in the Blue Room
“The Vatican said, “No, it belongs in Rome”
Jody said, “It’s mine
But you can have it for 17 million.”
Great, great song one of my favorites, especially meaningful since I lived in Moline (Illinois) when I was a toddler.
Speaking of the Canucks, Canadian retired Maj. Gen. Scott Clancy, former director of operations at NORAD and former deputy commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region, told CNN he does not believe China is behind the unidentified objects that have been shot down in recent days. He explained that it could be a “confluence of a distinctive activity by our adversaries to test the systems.”
“It smells to me, as the guy who was directed to conduct operations to defend North America, I’d be very suspicious,” Clancy said on ‘CNN This Morning.’ “And I’d be on high alert to make sure that all of our adversaries are being countered.”
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs, Melissa Dalton explained they were taken down out of an “abundance of caution.”
Dalton said that high-altitude objects can be used by a range of companies, countries, and research organizations for “purposes that are not nefarious, including legitimate research.”
Hah, Ms Dalton of Homeland Defense thinks these “objects” could be used “by a range of companies … for purposes that are not nefarious …”
Is she talking about companies owned by those megalomaniac, narcissistic one-percenters who also happen to own the world right now.
They’d be at the top of my list of suspects. Imagine that, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, true masters of the universe. No wonder they got all those rocket ships and satellites whizzing around inner and outer space.
I’ll be damned.
Be sure and tune in to my radio show this Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM. I’ll play “It Came Out of the Sky” during our jukebox break. It’ll be a blast, pun intended.
CALIFORNIA COUNTY’S CANNABIS INDUSTRY ON ‘THE BRINK OF IRREVERSIBLE FAILURE’
by Lester Black
Mendocino County is one of the best places in the world to grow cannabis. Wet air from the Pacific washes over the county’s mountain valleys, creating perfect microclimates for growing pungent pot, and the “Mendo” nickname has become an international shorthand for high quality pot. But when it comes to the legal cannabis market, this historical cannabis county’s government can’t seem to get much of anything done.
After six years of pot legalization, only 12 of Mendocino County’s 832 active cannabis farms have received annual licenses, according to an SFGATE analysis of county and Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) records. That means only 1% of the county’s cultivators are fully licensed — one of the worst rates in the state. Overall, 49% of California’s cultivation licenses have annual status and over 63% of farms in Humboldt County, a neighboring county also known for cannabis cultivation, have received annual licenses.
The remaining businesses are at risk of losing their temporary licenses, and the cannabis farmers are blaming dysfunction at the county government.
The situation is so dire that this month, the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance (MCA), a coalition of local cannabis businesses, sent an open letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and DCC Director Nicole Elliott warning that the county’s cannabis industry is “on the brink of irreversible failure” because of negligence by the county government.
Michael Katz, the executive director of the MCA, said that the county government has been a “roadblock” stopping pot farmers from getting full licenses, costing pot farmers thousands of dollars in the process.
“The time is basically out and we basically don’t have a lot more flexibility to get people through [the licensing process],” Katz told SFGATE. “... These people have no money left and they’re still being told to this day that they don’t know if they can get their annual permits.”
A spokesperson for Newsom’s office declined to confirm whether the governor received the letter or plans to take any action on the farmers’ behalf. David Hafner, a spokesperson for the DCC, confirmed that they received MCA’s letter and said the department is “currently assessing all options” in how it can respond to Mendocino County.
What’s causing the backlog? Kristin Nevedal, the director of Mendocino County’s Cannabis Department, blamed the lack of annual licenses on delays caused by the county’s cannabis ordinance and defended the management of the department. She said the government is working on hiring more than 16 new employees to process applications faster.
“The department has an amazing and dedicated staff. I do not believe the department is mismanaged,” Nevedal wrote in an email to SFGATE.
John Haschak, a county supervisor, agreed that Mendocino is “way behind” other counties in terms of licensing.
“With deadlines approaching quickly, I am concerned that the County's Cannabis Department will be able to appropriately process the hundreds of cultivation applications we have,” Haschak said in an email. “We can't have any more delays.”
Hundreds of Mendocino County cannabis licenses could be lost.
California has struggled for years to push cannabis businesses into full “annual” licenses. Following the legalization of cannabis in 2016, the state has used a series of temporary permits for pot businesses to transition the state from the largely unregulated medical market to the fully regulated recreational market. The state hoped to have all pot businesses fully licensed by 2019, but the state legislature has repeatedly delayed licensing deadlines.
California’s pot companies are now facing a July 1 deadline to either have an annual license or satisfy an increasingly long list of other requirements. With 99% of Mendocino’s pot farms still lacking annual licenses, there’s a real risk that hundreds of license holders could be blocked from renewing their provisional license, according to Hannah Nelson, an attorney based in Mendocino County.
“Historically, and even recent history, demonstrates that the local cannabis department is not equipped to process the number of applications that would need to be processed,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the Mendocino County Cannabis Department has repeatedly made mistakes processing applications, including losing files and misunderstanding the county’s own laws. She said “It’s maddening” how the county has handled the applications.
“I have clients who have submitted three, four and even five times and the county keeps losing things, changing what was required, and failing to track its own steps along the way,” Nelson said.
Nevedal, of the county cannabis department, defended her agency’s actions and said the delay was largely caused by a disagreement between the county and state over how farms must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. The department was unable to fully process license applications until the state and county clarified the CEQA process in July of 2021, according to Nevedal.
The Mendocino County Cannabis Department said in January that it is prioritizing 256 of the remaining 832 applicants for renewal. Nevedal said the county is processing these licenses in order of when their provisional permits expire.
Katz, of the local trade organization, said he doubts the county can handle even this limited workload.
“We still don’t understand how the county actually plans to even get through those 200 to 300 people, but the bigger picture issue beyond that is the 400 to 500 additional operators that have been deprioritized,” Katz told SFGATE. “All of those folks are in danger of losing their provisional licenses because they’re not even having their permits reviewed in this timeline. And that is a choice being made by the county.”
Nevedal said in an email that the county had deprioritized more than 300 applications for not paying local cannabis taxes or not having a DCC license. However, both Katz and Nelson said that the county has used incorrect information to deprioritize applicants. Nevedal defended the deprioritization decisions.
“While I’m sure there has been some human error, there is no evidence that the department has wrongfully deprioritized significant numbers of applicants or permit holders,” Nevedal said.
Nelson, the attorney, said seeing the county mismanage the licensing process has been like watching a “slow-motion murder” and she is now considering suing the county for due process violations related to its licensing procedure.
“I did not want to focus on litigating against the county. I wanted to work with the county as a partner to help make sure that these businesses survived and help their communities continue to thrive,” Nelson said. “But … I’m to the point that I can no longer ignore litigation as a mechanism for change.”
‘Worried about the economic fallout’ of licensing roadblocks.
Mendocino’s licensing problems come as pot companies across the state go out of business, particularly the small family cannabis farms of Northern California. Haschak, the county supervisor, said he is worried that the county’s licensing difficulties could cause financial problems for the entire county.
“I am worried about the economic fallout from not having a viable legal cannabis industry. This County has relied on cannabis dollars to boost the economy,” Haschak said in an email. “Our legacy of high quality cannabis is world renowned. Opportunities for cannatourism, niche marketing, and Mendocino branding are all dependent on a legal industry.”
Pot farms going out of business are already contributing to the financial decline of some small towns in Northern California that have historically depended on the cannabis industry.
“If things continue as they are there will only be a really small handful of these small batch legacy cultivators,” Katz said.
YOU'RE A BOONVILLE OLD TIMER If You Remember This Crew
YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY ANCIENT If You Remember These Boonville People
JUST BECAUSE NORTH BAY RESERVOIRS ARE FULL, It Doesn’t Mean The Drought Is Over, Experts Say
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will consider whether to extend the drought emergency in April.
by Mary Callahan
It’s a busy time at the Lake Sonoma Marina, where the phone “has been ringing off the hook” with folks calling about boat rentals and slip leases for what all signs suggest will be a blockbuster year for recreation at local reservoirs.
But “an unusual amount of people” also are coming by just to gaze at the lake and the deep reserve of water accumulated since a series of winter storms reset the course for the region after three years of severe drought, Lake Sonoma Area Resort owner Rick Herbert said.
There is a touch of miracle in the sudden, drastic reversal that has brought Lake Sonoma from the lowest point in its nearly 40-year history on Dec. nine to 99.3% of its water supply threshold in just 10 weeks.
The earthen sides of Lake Sonoma’s basin had been increasingly exposed as the water receded in recent years, revealing trees poking up from the lake bottom in the shallow arms. Now it is full, at level with the marina lawns and the private boat ramp, which had been out of operation for two years, Herbert said.
“We’re all shocked,” said Grant Davis, general manager of Sonoma Water, which manages the water supply pool at lakes Sonoma and Mendocino and supplies water to more than 600,000 consumers in Sonoma and northern Marin counties through its wholesale contractors.
This month’s rainfall seemed epic, but was it really? Here’s how the North Bay totals stack up And really, said Herbert, “it all happened in about three weeks,” during the storms that raged Dec. 26 to Jan. 17.
But so far, the last month has been essentially dry, but for a few splashes of rain here and there totaling just over an 1 1/2 inches at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
That’s one reason experts aren’t ready to call the drought over, despite full water levels at lakes Sonoma and its smaller, more northerly counterpart, Lake Mendocino.
“You have to go back to what happened last year” after early season rains, Davis said. “The spigot just turned off,” resulting in an exceptionally dry start to the year and a third season of below average rainfall.
While recent winter storms have filled reservoirs, they haven’t had time to restore groundwater or allow for the landscape’s complete recovery, either.
Season-to-date rainfall for Santa Rosa is 25.83 inches, 115% of average for this time of year, National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Goss said. But we’re nearing the end of what typically are the wettest three months of the year — December, January and February — so hopefully, March is wet enough to raise the season’s rainfall up to normal of 33.78 inches between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30, the technical water year.
Already, this season is wetter than both 2019-20, which had 19.35 inches over 12 months, and 2020-21, which had 13.01. Last year, 2021-22, there was 27.13 inches, just above the amount of rain that has fallen this season so far.
But the U.S. Drought Monitor still has Sonoma County and the surrounding region characterized as in “moderate drought,” along with more than half the state of California. About 33% of the state remains in a condition of “severe drought,” according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor release on Thursday, while 15% has improved to “abnormally dry.”
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is expected in April to reconsider whether to extend its emergency drought proclamation, first approved April 27, 2021, one week after Gov. Gavin Newsom stood on the dry bed of Lake Mendocino to declare a drought emergency.
Jeffrey DuVall, deputy director of emergency management for Sonoma County, said there could be one more extension of the proclamation in store, though it was premature to say what the staff recommendation to the board would be, with more than a month still to go and many consultations still ahead.
He noted that those whose water source is the Russian River are in a different position than those on the east or west side of the county who depend on other water sources.
“We got a lot of rain, and it filled up our reservoirs, but we still need a little more to bust out of a drought completely,” DuVall said.
There were actually periods during the storms when more rain fell than was forecast, which might have sent Lake Sonoma’s water level over the water supply threshold into what’s called the “flood pool,” transferring management to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Nick Malasavage, operations and readiness chief for the Corps’ Golden Gate District.
When that happens, the Army Corps’ mission is to ensure there remains sufficient vacant space in the basin to accept additional runoff in the event of future storms — a mission that sometimes requires discharging water in the reservoir to make room.
That hasn’t been necessary at Lake Sonoma, where outflow has remained essentially steady to maintain stable stream flows in Dry Creek and is only slightly less than the runoff still coming in.
At Lake Mendocino, however, the water rose so high that the Army Corps began “high-flow” releases of water Jan. 16. Over the next couple of weeks it discharged about 15,000 acre-feet of water — close to five billion gallons.
Even now, the reservoir holds a little over 80,000 acre-feet, more than its 68,410 acre-foot water supply threshold. (An acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons, or about the amount of water needed to flood most of a football field one foot deep. It can supply the indoor and outdoor needs of three water-efficient households for a year.) But under recently revised operational rules developed to ensure available water is maximized, that extra water will be held back until there’s a decent-sized rainstorm is forecast and more room appears needed behind the dam.
Though the same rules are not officially in use at Lake Sonoma, Davis said that up to 19,000 extra acre-feet of water could be held in the reservoir beyond the 245,000 acre-foot water supply threshold under a temporary arrangement with the State Water Resource Control Board.
Davis praised water users for the conservation efforts, which made it possible for the area to endure three years of drought. He said he hoped people would remember those water-efficiency practices because “there’s never enough water to waste.”
“We got very lucky,” DuVall said. “Lake Sonoma and Mendocino came up. We still need to look at how we can conserve water and maintain that, because we don’t know what the future’s going to hold.“
EARTH DAY FESTIVAL IN ROUND VALLEY
The Friends of the Round Valley Public Library is hosting an Earth Day event in 2023, to bring together our community after a long and uncertain three years; to celebrate each other and the beautiful place where we live, and raise funds for our Library and the Library Commons which serves as a community center.
Our event is a collaboration of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, local schools and the greater community. Our rural area is remarkably diverse with exceptional natural beauty, including the Yolla Bolly Wilderness and the Eel River watershed.
The vision of the Earth Day event is to bring awareness to the natural world by engaging the entire community in activities around natural resources, the watershed and our flora and fauna.
We are planning student projects and presentations, educational movies, workshops, live music, library activities and a youth art show.
April 22nd 2023, 11:00 - Sunset
Here is the link to the festival Facebook page.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Saturday, February 18, 2023
MIGUEL BAUTISTA, Covelo. DUI.
JUDITH BORDELON, Ukiah. DUI, no license.
BENJAMIN DIMMICK, Eureka/Ukiah. Burglary, arson of structure or forestland.
ANGELA FREASE, Covelo. Controlled substance, narcotics for sale, failure to appear.
JONATHAN MCCOY, Willits. Failure to appear.
SANJAY MOHAN, Ukiah. Protective order violation, probation revocation.
CARI RICCI, Ukiah. DUI.
DIEGO SANDOVAL, Ukiah. Contributing to delinquency of minor, felon-addict with firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person, short barrelled rifle.
RACHEL SCOPINICH, Gualala. Domestic battery.
DEBRA SHOMAKER, Willits. Domestic battery.
SETH SMART, Willits. Attempted (unspecified felony).
ALEXIS TORRES, Redwood Valley. DUI.
RUSSELL VILLALPANDO, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-loitering in or about toilet, under influence.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I have lost chickens to my dogs, bobcats, hawks and a great horned owl that was the bane of my existence for a while. Never a coyote though. But I have dogs. Once they learn not to kill chickens they are good at keeping coyotes away. My dogs won’t mess with bobcats though. Too scary.
FAR OUT GALLERY: ART AT THE EDGE OF THE CITY
by Jonah Raskin
Art and art galleries are two wonders of The City, my friends North of the Golden Gate tell me. That's true for me. When Anne Marguerite Herbst founded Far Out Gallery, aka FOG, on Taraval Street seven years ago with her partner Peter Munks, a singer and songwriter, she wanted it to be, she said, “a sanctuary, a place to go in the mind and the imagination." It has been all that and more. "Art saved my life," she added. "It has gotten me through traumas." San Francisco gallery owners such as Collier Gwin, at Foster Gwin in the Financial District, complain that art isn't selling. "COVID really did us in," Gwin said. The same works by well-known Bay Area artists like Wally Hendrick, who painted the American flag long before anyone else, hang on the walls of his gallery month after month.
Anne Herbst tells a different story about art and artists, including the two painters, Natalie Craig and Ken Downing, whose work was exhibited recently at FOG. The show opened in mid-January and ran until the end of February.
Natalie Craig's canvases explore the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach where she often walks, sketches and enjoys the sand, surf, wind and sun if it happens to be sunny. At the edge of The City, Ocean Beach isn't for everyone. For years, Ken Downing wouldn't go near it. “I was a snob,” he told me. Born in Napa, he served in the US military in Germany and in the 1970s settled in San Francisco where he says that he fell among artists, and refused to go west of Twin Peaks, a City landmark. After a while, he explains he "started fiddling around with oil paint and got the bug."
Ken Downing still has the art bug. His paintings at FOG tend to be long and narrow with Asian influences and with nods toward the surreal and the whimsical. For decades, he made Japanese-style woodblocks. Five years ago he switched to acrylic on paper. One of his canvases on exhibit at FOG featured white bananas; in others raccoons peek out at viewers and invite them into their fugitive world.
His watercolors on rice paper offer fantastic shapes and spectacular colors and they match Craig’s shapes and colors, though that wasn’t his intention.
Seventy-six-years-old and with hearing aids to help him follow conversations, Downing can be self-deprecating. "I'd rather look at Craig's work than my own," he said. When asked what he'd like art lovers, as well as the cautious and the curious, to take away from his paintings he said, "I want them to take them home. I don't want them back." His prices are as low as can be, perhaps because this is his first gallery show. By the start of February, he'd already sold three of his canvases: he was a happy camper at Ocean Beach.
Herbst brought Downing and Craig together in her gallery for the first time in the summer of 2022. Then, in January 2023 she arranged their work on opposite walls so they feed into and bounce off one another. They show how different and how similar two San Francisco artists can be. "There's a dialogue between the two," Herbst said.
Craig painted her canvases of the beach and the ocean at Ocean Beach for an international conference about water held in Germany in the summer of 2022. Ken Downing leaned forward, gazed at Craig’s work and said, "She muscles out the paint. Unlike me, she's not afraid to sling it."
Born and raised in San Diego, right on the water, Craig lives in the Marina District in San Francisco, though she has also spent considerable time on the Atlantic Ocean. "Every ocean has its own personality," she said. "I think of the Pacific as passionate and engaging. The Atlantic is docile until a storm comes in and then it's fierce."
Her Ocean Beach paintings, which she created at different times of the day, and from dawn to dusk, capture the feel of the surf, the churning of the water and the beauty of the sand and the shore. “Each work is a meditation on a moment in the day,” Craig said. “My expressionistic images are meant to capture my sensitivity to the ocean’s beauty which can be tame, treacherous, and wild.”
In 2020, Craig published her sketches and photographs in Caminando, Walking. She made the sketches with pen and ink brush in Spain, France, Romania, Scotland and San Francisco. Art has taken her around the world.
Once a year, Herbst takes all the wall spaces in the gallery and shows her own work. For now, it's in a small room behind the large front room that features Downing’s and Craig's paintings.
"At FOG we're not trying to compete with the big commercial galleries," Herbst said. "I show artists whose work moves me and that isn’t in the regular art world."
She has put the stamp of her own warm and engaging personality on FOG and made it a sanctuary for edgy work where neighborhood folks, who are often afraid of art, learn to understand and appreciate it. While it's often foggy on Taraval Street, it's always crystal clear inside the walls of 3004, that art really matters. When you're in The City take a look.
MEMO OF THE AIR: Ja'loja!
“In the sight of those who stand with me, and those for whom I would sacrifice my being, I begin the release.” — Bortus of Moklus
Here's the recording of last night's (2023-02-17) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA) and KNYO.org: https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0528
Email your written work and I'll read it on the very next Memo of the Air on KNYO. I don't care what it's about nor even if you can't control yourself from swearing like a sailor; most of the show is during Safe Harbor hours when that's okay. It's still a free country, or so they say. Rights you don't use, you don't have.
Last time I looked, donations are approaching the $5000 goal toward getting KNYO's antenna back up to full height after the disaster and replacing some crucial equipment with new stuff that has that delicious /new radio smell/. I know times are tough, but if you have a little money left over in your life, go to KNYO.org, click on the big red heart and help out.
Besides all that, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together.
The toxic pollution cloud over Ohio viewed from far above. The railroad company paid out twenty-five whole thousand dollars to the citizens of Ohio, out of the goodness of their heart, to make this right. In space no-one can hear you cough, unless you cough into the microphone and somebody left his thumb on the button. https://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com/2023/02/the-pollution-cloud-over-palestine-ohio.html
Scott Peterson's story Queens of the Damned that I read the first third of on the show, but here it's in his own voice and accompanied by all the illustrations. He puts a great deal of time and energy into these productions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uz9xue489lU
Chelsea girl breaks the record. “She reached for the Constable's eye with her shoe, which she had in her hand, and now the Constable's eye is all wrong.” https://misscellania.blogspot.com/2023/02/chelsea-girl.html
And Si Tu Vois Ma Mére. Look for other things with this singer and this band in them. https://nagonthelake.blogspot.com/2023/02/si-tu-vois-ma-mere-sidney-bechet.html
Marco McClean, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
THE OHIO DERAILMENT CATASTROPHE IS A CASE STUDY IN DISASTER CAPITALISM
Rail workers say the industry has long ignored pleas for better safety protocols.
by Mel Buer
As public outrage has grown over the toxic fallout from last week’s fiery derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, the urgent questions behind this disaster echo the past year’s confrontations over working conditions in the lightly regulated rail industry. Indeed, the catastrophe in Ohio—together with another hazardous derailment in Houston, Tex., just a week later—drives home the steep costs in health and well-being that we all incur when we fail to heed rail workers’ calls for more regulation and adequate staffing mandates.…
‘IF WE QUIT TRYING, IT ALL GOES IN THE SH-TTER’
David Crosby's Final Words of Wisdom
by Andy Greene
When Rolling Stone visited David Crosby’s house in Santa Ynez, California for his Ask Croz advice column, we didn’t know it would be our last chance to get some hard-earned life lessons from the singer.
The idea of making David Crosby our new advice columnist started as a joke around the Rolling Stone office. Croz was the first to admit that he lived a rather imperfect life, making many catastrophic decisions along the way. “If there was a way to go wrong possible, I did,” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “I could have easily died at so many points in my past. It happened to my friends — Jimi, Janis, Cass.…
But Croz somehow survived a crack addiction, alcoholism, diabetes, hepatitis C, and a liver transplant, not to mention a stint in a Texas prison. He emerged from these battles with deep scars, but also real wisdom and an appreciation for his second shot at life. The more we thought about it, the less of a joke it became. When we decided to formally offer him a chance to be our advice columnist, he jumped at the opportunity.
Questions about drugs, death, grief, music, parenting, and sex came pouring in. Croz never saw a question before we put the index cards in front of his face, and he never once balked at a single one of them. The only thing he ever asked of us was to do this with him more often. He absolutely loved helping out strangers with their problems, especially after taking a few puffs off his vape pen. “Once again, I forge out into the wilderness of questions,” he said in 2021, “and try to come up with some kind of answer.… I’m old, I’m stoned … but I’ll give it my best shot.”
Sessions usually took place when he visited New York, but they slowed down during the pandemic. In the summer of 2021, a camera operator came to his house in Santa Ynez, California, with a fresh stack of questions. We didn’t know this would be our final opportunity to extract wisdom from the singer, who died at 81 on Jan. 18 after a long illness. But it was an incredible, hysterical session. These answers have never been seen before — consider them a parting gift from Croz.
* * *
What sort of deal did you make with the devil to not only live this long, but to preserve your voice? I’m half-kidding, but I cannot think of any other explanation for the state of your body, mind, and voice other than satanic intervention. — Dustin
You’re a funny guy. It is kind of inexplicable, I’ll give you that. I did everything wrong.… No, I didn’t do everything wrong. I didn’t smoke cigarettes. There. I did something right. I did smoke a ton of pot. I still do, but I vaporize it since its better for you. No tar.
I don’t have a real explanation for why my voice is the way it is. People ask me all the time since everyone else’s voice seems to be going to shit. I’m extremely grateful. I figure as long as it works, I should use the hell out of it.
This is going to sound a little corny, but I’m an old hippie and I think music is a lifting force. I think it makes things better, it makes people happier. Considering the generally shitty state of affairs, at least in this world that I know about, more music is a good thing. I’m going to give it the best shot I can while the voice is still working.
* * *
How is it that you appear to be so intolerant to people with differing opinions? As in Trump supporters. — Michael
My problem with Trump supporters is that they are stupid and ignorant and uneducated, and just wrong. What can I tell you, man? If you’re dumb enough to believe in QAnon, I can’t help you.
I think a lot of you are just too stupid to understand what a democracy is or how it works. If you believe that kind of nonsense … man, you’re going to some really funny places. They aren’t real. You’re being led by the nose.
* * *
I’m a single father of a daughter heading into her teenage years. I want to talk to her about safe sex and making healthy choices, but I fear it’ll be way too awkward and she won’t want to hear any of that from me. Sadly, her mom died when she was a baby. What should I do? — Jonathan
Go ahead and talk to her. She wants to know, and you are her friend — hopefully. Look, there’s only one real truth about sex. It’s that love is where it gets good. If you can communicate that, you will have won. Sex is great. It’s wonderful. I spent the first half of my life being almost obsessed with sex. But it’s not where the real value and the deal is. As much fun as that is, loving somebody and being loved by somebody, knowing that somebody gives a shit about you … that if you fall down, somebody is going to try and pick you up, that’s even better. You don’t have to get all technical and shit. Just try and tell them the real truth, which is that love is where it gets good.
* * *
Settle an argument: Who is better, CSN or CSNY? — Derek
I don’t think “better” really applies. They were two completely different bands. This is something most people don’t get. Chemistries between human beings are individual as snowflakes — very delicate and very complex. The chemistry between the three of us in Crosby, Stills, and Nash was organic. It came there of its own will.
Neil [Young] did add something, and he did bring some good songs. “Helpless” is a great song. So is “Country Girl.” Neil wrote some great songs. There is no way around it. He’s an exciting guitar player, and an exciting artist. He’s always pushing the limit, and that’s good.
Both bands made really excellent music. All of the celebrity nonsense, all of the “Oh, my God, they’re playing to 20,000 people in a baseball stadium,” all of the personality bullshit between us doesn’t count at all. It doesn’t signify. What counts is the songs, and both bands generated great songs. I can’t tell you which one is better. I think it depends what you’re looking for at any given time. They both did a really good job, for a while.
* * *
Hi, David. My late husband and I saw you with CSNY at the Verizon Theatre about 15 years ago. He was my best friend. He died in December 2011, and not a day passes without something triggering a memory. But sometimes I wish I had someone now to be my companion in life, to share and laugh with. Then I feel guilty. Am I disloyal? Am I wrong to want that? — Glenda (the Good Witch)
No, you’re not wrong. You have a hole in your life. Only the passage of time will ease it — the passage of time, and you focusing your attention elsewhere. You have a degree of control over this in the sense that where you put your attention is where your consciousness is. If you focus on your husband … you have to try not to.
I don’t think it’s wrong that you miss him. I don’t think it’s wrong that you feel lonely. These are all natural things. But we can’t change death. It’s not going to change itself. And you have to keep going. It’s OK to want someone to laugh with, to share life with. I think you should be looking. I know that’s a hard thing — real hard. Being alone is real hard, too.
* * *
David, I held my nose and voted for Biden in the election even though I was a proud Bernie supporter. But Biden hasn’t delivered a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, or any of the things I care the most about. I feel scammed, and I’m contemplating voting for the Green Party candidate next time. My friends tell me I’d be wasting my vote. What do you think? — Sarah
Your friends are right. The Green Party is not going to get any votes. I was a Bernie guy. Biden is trying his best, man. And neither one of them is the best guy for me. The best guy in American politics right now is Pete Buttigieg, because he is the smartest one.
Joe Biden is a decent man, trying to be a decent man. He’s not getting some stuff done because the Republicans in the Senate are holding a death grip on it and will not pass anything that he puts forward. Mitch McConnell told him the same thing he told Obama. Nothing gets through. That’s Mitch McConnell. If I were a violent person, well …
Primarily, though, we have to deal with global warming. I understand there are a great many people who are just too fuckin’ dumb to understand what that means. It’s not really hard. As we put dark stuff into the atmosphere — car exhaust, coal smoke, oil smoke — it darkens the atmosphere a tiny bit, a millionth. It’s such a delicate balance that even a little change like that changes stuff drastically and dramatically down the chain. We are going to experience weather that will kill people. Soon whole areas of land will become uninhabitable.
* * *
Dear Croz: How can someone not have empathy for other living beings? I don’t understand how someone could pass by an animal who is in distress. And I don’t understand how someone could cut down a tree and still sleep at night. — Amy
I worship trees. That’s the reason I fell in love with [my home]. I cannot pass an animal in distress. If they are hurting, you help them. My whole family feels the same way. I advise you not to abuse any animals in front of my son Django. He’ll rip your arm off.
We have three dogs, two cats, two horses, and some hawks that love us. I think animals elevate your life. Dogs know about love. If you have a kid, you have to have a dog. They teach kids about love — beautifully, naturally, without even trying. I really wasn’t kidding about people who trophy hunt. I would love to sell licenses to hunt them in Africa.
* * *
David, I’m a baby boomer who turned 18 years old in 1969. In those days, I firmly believed that when people my age became older and “in charge” that the world would finally be a better place, filled with “peace, love, and understanding.” What the fuck happened? — Richard
Well, I’ve asked myself the same thing. I’m an idealist. I wanted to think that we could do better. I think there is an innate goodness in human beings and that it’s natural for them to head that way.
We are trying to evolve as human beings to the point where we don’t have ego, and anger, and greed, and lust running our affairs. I don’t know if we’re going to make it. I believe that we will, but that’s mainly because I need to believe that we will to keep going.
Whether that helps you or not, I don’t know. My suggestion is don’t lose your idealism. Just be patient and keep trying. If we quit trying, it all goes in the shitter.
“I BOXED ROBINSON a couple of times. Real tough, and everything I done he done better. I remember the first time I fought him, I went out first, he didn't expect it, I ran across the ring real quick and nailed him real quick, nailed him with a punch right away because I had heard about him, he was just coming up, and I thought I'd nail him quick, hurt him, maybe get a shot at him. As soon as I nailed him he started dancing around and I'm moving, moving in, hitting him in the belly. The first fight they called a split decision. That's why we boxed back a second.
Sugar Ray's got to go down in my book as one of the all-time greats. I mean, the fellow was a great boxer, great puncher, could take a punch and could move. What else do you need for a fighter? His hands look like they go off automatically. You couldn't take chances with him. The guy was a great fighter. What's the use of telling any lies or baloney. I fought him twice. I'd have fought him again. I got some real good paydays.
We drew pretty good.”
WOOING A LATIN STAR, KARDASHIAN-STYLE
by Maureen Dowd
I heard Kim Kardashian give a talk once about techniques she uses to inspire loyalty in her fans. Sometimes, she would jump on her $150 million custom Gulfstream and surprise strangers by showing up at their birthday parties.
I thought of Kim when I went on Instagram recently and saw John Leguizamo, the talented actor, writer and comedian, brandishing The New York Times’s logo with a red X through it. “Better not exclude me for speaking up!!!” he warned.
I wondered if there was any way, Kim-style, to fire up his allegiance to the paper. I called him and asked what his beef was. He had a lot to say. I told him I’d come to New York (sans jet) to hear him unreel his critique, hoping to reel him back in.
We went to Morandi in Greenwich Village. Leguizamo, 62, sported Rag & Bone jeans, a silver chain and a two-carat diamond stud. Over minestrone, he argued that New York papers were committing “cultural apartheid” by not having a percentage of Latino staffers that mirrored their makeup in the city, which is about 29 percent.
“We were here before everybody,” he said. “It’s not like we just got here. We just keep coming.” The Colombian-born descendant of a conquistador grew up poor in Queens.
He said he always had a hard time pitching Latin stories in Hollywood even though Latinos are nearly 30 percent of the U.S. box office, noting that the suits told him audiences preferred to see white people. “I go: ‘I like seeing white people. I got no problem seeing white people. But I want to see me.’”
Despite the success of Bad Bunny, Jenna Ortega, Pedro Pascal and others, the odds are still stacked, he said. His complaints are encyclopedic, from Charlton Heston — “the whitest person on the planet” — playing a Mexican in Orson Welles’s “Touch of Evil,” to Al Pacino playing a Cuban, Tony Montana, in “Scarface.” Pacino was an acting hero, “but he’s not Latin.”
“How about all the white women in brown face, like Kylie Jenner and Ariana Grande?” he said, referring to photo shoots that showed a darker skin tone. “It’s so bizarre that all these white girls are trying to look Latin but they won’t hire Latin women.” He added, “I see super-gorgeous Latin people in New York City and L.A. and Miami but never on the runway.”
When Leguizamo realized that the old white boys’ club in Hollywood was not going to pony up the career he envisioned, he branched out, using his humor to illuminate Latin history. IMDb likens Leguizamo’s influence as a breakthrough performer to Sidney Poitier. He’ll stir the pot again next month when he takes a turn hosting “The Daily Show.”
Should actors be bound to roles that match their ethnicity and sexuality? Would he still play his Golden Globe-nominated role of the drag queen Chi-Chi Rodriguez in the 1995 comedy “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar”?
“I don’t think it would be fair nowadays,” he said. “I’d be taking the role away from somebody who should be telling the story.”
He said that when white actor friends complain of their fading hegemony, he thinks, “Now you understand what it feels like,” adding, “Sometimes I just laugh with glee inside.”
Leguizamo sprinkled in the word “Latinx” and mocked Sarah Huckabee Sanders for banning it in Arkansas state documents. He scoffed at the notion that wokeness has ruined comedy: “There’s so much humor to be made of everything without having to hurt somebody’s feelings.”
I scanned his Instagram because I was writing about “The Menu,” the black comedy about a psychotic chef played by Ralph Fiennes. “My character in ‘The Menu’ is supposed to be this washed-up action star,” Leguizamo said. “I modeled it after Steven Seagal ’cause he’s a washed-up action star.”
When he appeared with Seagal in the 1996 movie “Executive Decision,” he angered the star by snickering at his dictatorial demeanor. “He took his elbow and rammed it into my solar plexus and shoved me against the brick wall,” Leguizamo recalled. “Then he dies in the movie. I showed up every day to that set. I know it was a fictional death but I wanted to believe it was real.”
I asked about all the Hispanics shifting to the Republican side — despite Donald Trump demonizing Latin Americans.
Leguizamo is a fan of Bernie Sanders and A.O.C. — “I think she can be president someday” — but he knows that Republicans can effectively harp on “socialism.”
“It works with Colombians, Venezuelans and Cubans, and Republicans know it’s a trigger word,” he said.
He thinks that if Trump — “a tiny little bitch” — is the nominee, “Biden’s going to kick his ass. If it’s not Trump, then we got to figure something out. Biden against DeSantis? I’m not sure that’s going to be so good.”
Is George Santos — who was said to have played a drag queen himself — dragging down the team? “He’s a Latin guy, but that doesn’t mean I support people just because they’re Latin,” Leguizamo said. “I want the best.”
So, I asked him, as we finished lunch, is The Times back in your good graces?
“I do subscribe online,” he admitted with a grin.
NEIGHBORS OF THE MAN who fatally shot three students at Michigan State University said he used to fire a gun out of his home’s back door, possibly for target practice. Anthony McRae, 43, left five other students with critical injuries before taking his own life in the rampage in Lansing on Monday night. Now his neighbors say McRae—who had previously pleaded guilty to a firearms offense—would shoot into his own backyard. Paul Rodney Tucker, who lives around the corner, called McRae a “hell-raiser” and said he heard what he believed was gunshot target practice from the home last summer. Megan Bender, who lived on the same street, told the Detroit News that police had been called to the home because of the gunshots. Another unnamed neighbor told MLive that McRae’s father, Michael McRae, had told them that his son would fire a gun out of the house to quiet family dogs. The anonymous neighbor claimed Michael's father also said his son had stopped speaking to him directly, communicating instead through notes. Dad told NBC that his son turned “bitter” and “evil” after his mom died of a stroke in 2020.
IMAGINE IF CHINA DID TO THE US What The US Is Doing To China
by Caitlin Johnstone
This past Thursday US Senator Josh Hawley gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation — a warmongering think tank with immense influence in the DC swamp — that is a perfect representation of a couple of interesting dynamics occurring in US foreign policy thought today.
The Trump-endorsed Hawley is a perfect example of the faux-populism in the "MAGA" branch of the Republican Party: a rich Ivy League alum who makes a big display of standing up to the elites on behalf of the little guy, while consistently advancing the longstanding agendas of western oligarchs, DC neocons, and secretive US government agencies.
Hawley's latest performance of pretending to fight the Deep State while directly assisting the Deep State appears in his speech titled "China and Ukraine: A Time for Truth," wherein he denounces the “endless proxy war in Ukraine,” the "Uniparty” of “neoconservatives on the right and liberal globalists on the left,” and the way US wars in the Middle East cost "billions of dollars there and lost hundreds of American lives" (a massive understatement on both counts).
In typical MAGA Republican fashion, Hawley then takes all this populist-sounding rhetoric and uses it to argue that all the wealth, resources and military firepower that's going toward those foreign policy blunders overseas should instead be used to help prepare for war with China over Taiwan. It's no wonder that Hawley is a favorite guest of another faux-populist, the virulent anti-China propagandist Tucker Carlson, who often makes the same argument.…
UKRAINE, SATURDAY, 18TH FEBRUARY
The US government formally declared that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in its war on Ukraine. Vice President Kamala Harris made the announcement at the Munich Security Conference Saturday.
Russia launched cruise missiles at Ukraine from the Black Sea on Saturday, according to Ukraine's military. Local leaders report increased Russian attacksin the eastern Luhansk and Kharkiv regions.
The US has started observing “disturbing” trends in China’s support for Russia’s military, officials familiar with the intelligence tell CNN.
Outgunned Ukrainian pilots are fighting against Russia in old Soviet-era helicopters.
HOW THE WAR IN UKRAINE ENDS
Eminent Historian Envisions A Settlement Among Russia, Ukraine, And The West.
by David Remnick
Last year, not long after Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, I turned to the historian Stephen Kotkin for illumination and analysis. I’ve been doing that, for good reason, since the final years of the Soviet empire. Kotkin has published two volumes of a projected three-part biography of Stalin, and his works on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its aftermath are without peer in their precision and depth. After spending more than thirty years at Princeton, he is now at Stanford.
In our conversation last year, we delved into the nature of the Putin regime, his decision to invade, and what the war could look like as time unfurled. Now we know: the Russian invasion has been a catastrophe in every sense. There have been hundreds of thousands of casualties — it is folly to attempt a more accurate reckoning — and much of Ukraine’s infrastructure is in ruins. Once the Russian military failed to achieve its early hope of taking the capital, Kyiv, and supplanting the Ukrainian leadership, it has prosecuted a vicious war of attrition, in which more and more human beings on both sides are sacrificed to Putin’s pitiless ambitions.
Kotkin is a top-flight scholar, but his ties to the subject are not limited to the archives and the library. He is well connected in Washington, Moscow, Kyiv, and beyond; his analysis of the war draws on his conversations with sources as well as on his own base of knowledge. We spoke again last week, and our discussion, which appears in different form on The New Yorker Radio Hour, has been edited for length and clarity.
Last year, you told me, at a very early stage of the war, that Ukraine was winning on Twitter but that Russia was winning on the battlefield. A lot has happened since then, but is that still the case?
Unfortunately. Let’s think of a house. Let’s say that you own a house and it has ten rooms. And let’s say that I barge in and take two of those rooms away, and I wreck those rooms. And, from those two rooms, I’m wrecking your other eight rooms and you’re trying to beat me back. You’re trying to evict me from the two rooms. You push out a little corner, you push out another corner, maybe. But I’m still there and I’m still wrecking. And the thing is, you need your house. That’s where you live. It’s your house and you don’t have another. Me, I’ve got another house, and my other house has a thousand rooms. And, so, if I wreck your house, are you winning or am I winning?
Unfortunately, that’s the situation we’re in. Ukraine has beaten back the Russian attempt to conquer their country. They have defended their capital. They’ve pushed the Russians out of some of the land that the Russians conquered since February 24, 2022. They’ve regained about half of it. And yet they need their house, and the Russians are wrecking it. Putin’s strategy could be described as “I can’t have it? Nobody can have it!” Sadly, that’s where the tragedy is right now.
How do you even begin to analyze Putin as a strategic figure in this horrendous drama?
He is not a strategic figure. People kept saying he was a tactical genius, that he was playing a weak hand well. I kept telling people, “Seriously?” He intervened in Syria, and he made President Obama look like a fool when President Obama said that there would be a red line about chemical weapons. But what does that mean? It means that Putin became the part owner of a civil war. He became the owner of atrocities and a wrecked country, Syria. He didn’t increase the talent in his own country, his human capital. He didn’t build new infrastructure. He didn’t increase his wealth production. And so if you look at the ingredients of what makes strategy, how you build a country’s prosperity, how you build its human capital, its infrastructure, its governance — all the things that make a country successful — there was no evidence that any of the things that were attributed to his tactical genius, or tactical agility, were contributing in a positive way to Russia’s long-term power.
In Ukraine, what is it that he’s gained? If you look over the landscape, he’s hurt Russia’s reputation — it’s far worse than it ever was. He consolidated the Ukrainian nation, whose existence he denied. He is expanding nato, when his stated aim was to push nato back from the expansion undertaken since 1997. He’s even got Sweden applying for nato membership. And, so, all across the board, it’s a disaster.
The problem is that he’s in power. And soft Russian nationalists, who were semi-critical of Putin, now have no place to go because you’re either all in, or you flee to Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. He’s wrecking his own country in a way, although in a very different way from the murdering that he’s carrying out in Ukraine.
What has been revealed about Russia’s military and its intelligence capabilities in the past year?
The war’s a tragedy. There’s no way to spin it as other than tragic, given what’s happened: the number of deaths in Ukraine; the amount of destruction; the consequences for other countries, including food insecurity. But there have been some pleasant surprises. One was the Ukrainians’ ability and will to fight. It’s been very inspiring from the get-go. We knew they would fight to a certain extent, because they twice overthrew a domestic dictator: in 2004 and in 2014. They went out into the streets, risked life and limb, and were willing to confront those domestic tyrants. Now you have a foreign tyrant. We knew that they would resist, but it’s been a pleasant surprise, the depth of their courage and resistance.
The other pleasant surprise has been Russia’s failures. We knew that there were issues with Russia: many of us thought that the Russian Army was really only about thirty thousand or fifty thousand strong, maximum, in terms of trained fighters who had up-to-date kit — as opposed to hundreds of thousands of dog-food-eating conscripts, untrained or poorly trained, badly equipped soldiers under corrupt officers. But, still, the depth of the Russian failure in Ukraine, from a military point of view of their objectives, was a pleasant surprise for many of us, myself included.
And there’s Europe’s adaptability and fortitude, right? Everybody said, “If Europe doesn’t have its cappuccinos in the morning and its espressos after lunch, there’s no way they could put up with this.” Look what’s happened: they switched from their dependence on Russian energy much faster than anybody thought. They’ve rallied in support of Ukraine pretty much across the board.
Then there’s been what I would call an unfavorable surprise. Despite the sanctions, the Russian economy didn’t shrink, let alone shrink massively. It turns out that the Russian people proved extremely adaptable to the sanctions regime and figured out how to survive — and, in some cases, how to prosper. Russian imports are back, and Russian exports are back. Russian employment is looking O.K. Yes, the figures are a secret, but there are indirect ways that we can figure it out. How much is Turkey exporting? That helps us figure out how much Russia is importing, even though Russia’s keeping it a secret. So it turns out that the sanctions are not having the effect of inflicting severe pain in the short term. We’ll see what the long-term impact is. But so far the pressure to make Russia reconsider its policy of criminal aggression against Ukraine has not been there — even less than I thought it would be, and I was a skeptic on sanctions.
Steve, last year we talked about Sun Tzu, the great Chinese theorist of war, who said that you have to build your opponent “a golden bridge” so that he can find a way to retreat. A year later, do you have any thoughts on what that might look like, and is anybody even thinking about it at this point?
That would be a great thing, if we could do that. But there’s nothing like that in sight. You win the war on the battlefield. There are some shortcuts that could potentially enable you to get to a victory more quickly — for example, if the Russian Army disintegrated in the field. I said, a year ago, that that seemed unlikely, and there hasn’t been any evidence that the Russian Army is disintegrated in the field. In fact, the call-up of the several hundred thousand new recruits — they’ve been deployed, they’re on the front lines, and they’re fighting. The other shortcut we talked about was an overthrow of the Putin regime in Moscow and his replacement by a capitulatory, not an escalatory, Russian leader. But there was no evidence that the regime was in trouble. Authoritarian regimes can fail at everything — they can even launch self-defeating wars — so long as they succeed at one thing, which is the suppression of political alternatives. He’s very good at that. And then the third shortcut was the idea of the Chinese exerting pressure to force Russia to climb down. We didn’t think that China had this leverage, and we certainly didn’t think they would use their imaginary leverage.
So, without the shortcuts, we’re at the battlefield. And the problem with the battlefield is that victory is misdefined here. You have to win on the battlefield, but how do you then win the peace as well? What would winning the peace look like? We know you can win on the battlefield and lose the peace, right? Sadly, we’ve experienced that in our own country, with some of the wars that we’ve been involved in.
Vietnam, for example.
Yes. And then some of the more recent ones in the Middle East.
So here we are with Ukraine, and their definition of victory — as expressed by President Zelensky, who has certainly more than risen to the occasion — is to regain every inch of territory, reparations, and war-crimes tribunals. So how would Ukraine enact that definition of victory? They would have to take Moscow. How else can you get reparations and war-crime tribunals? They’re not that close to regaining every inch of their own territory, let alone the other aims.
If you look at the American definition of what the victory might look like, we’ve been very hesitant. The Biden Administration has been very careful to say, “Ukraine is fighting, Ukrainians are dying — they get to decide.” The Biden Administration has effectively defined victory from the American point of view as: Ukraine can’t lose this war. Russia can’t take all of Ukraine and occupy Ukraine, and disappear Ukraine as a state, as a nation.
But what would Biden — and U.S intelligence and the U.S. military — really like to see, in terms of a shift in attitude, if that’s the case?
We are slowly but surely increasing our support for Ukraine. First it was “Oh, no, we’re not sending that.” And then we send it. “Oh, no, we’re not sending himars,” the medium-range rocket systems. We sent them. “Oh, no, we’re not sending tanks.” Well, yes, we’re sending tanks. So there’s been a kind of grudging, gradual escalation because of the fear of what Putin could do on his side in an escalatory fashion. And so we’ve given enough so that Ukraine doesn’t lose, so that they can maybe push a little more on the battlefield, regain a little bit more territory, and be in a better place to negotiate.
Here’s the better definition of victory. Ukrainians rose up against their domestic tyrants. Why? Because they wanted to join Europe. It’s the same goal that they have now. And that has to be the definition of victory: Ukraine gets into the European Union. If Ukraine regains all of its territory and doesn’t get into the E.U., is that a victory? As opposed to: If Ukraine regains as much of its territory as it physically can on the battlefield, not all of it, potentially, but does get E.U. accession — would that be a definition of victory? Of course, it would be.
Says you, but would the Ukrainian leadership and the Ukrainian people accept a situation in which they’re in the E.U., but Donbas and Crimea remain in Russian hands?
Well, you accept it or you don’t accept it — meaning you continue to fight. And, if you continue to fight, your country, your people, continue to die, your infrastructure continues to get ruined. Your schools, your hospitals, your cultural artifacts get bombed or stolen. Your children get taken away as orphans. That’s where we are right now. I understand they want all of that territory back. But let’s imagine that they can’t take all the territory back on the battlefield. What then? We’re in a war of attrition right now, and in a war of attrition there’s only one way to win. You ramp up your production of weaponry, and you destroy the enemy’s production of weaponry — not the enemy’s weapons on the battlefield, but the enemy’s capability to resupply and produce more weapons. You have to out-produce in a war of attrition, and you have to crush the enemy’s production.
What’s an example of that historically?
Every war that’s ever been fought. There are two ways that major wars evolve. They all start as wars of maneuver because somebody attacks. There’s a lot of movement at first, and then they meet resistance and the offensive stalls out because it’s hard to maintain an offensive, and the other side’s resistance gets ramped up. Then what happens is you radically expand your industrial base for weapons. That’s what the U.S. did in World War Two, and that’s how we won the war.
And so think about this: We haven’t ramped up industrial production at all. At peak, the Ukrainians were firing — expending — upward of ninety thousand artillery shells a month. U.S. monthly production of artillery shells is fifteen thousand. With all our allies thrown in, everybody in the mix who supports Ukraine, you get another fifteen thousand, at the highest estimates. So you can do thirty thousand in the production of artillery shells while expending ninety thousand a month. We haven’t ramped up. We’re just drawing down the stocks. And you know what? We’re running out.
Is Russia running out?
We’ll get to that in a second. But we’re on the hook for Taiwan, and we’re four years behind now in supplying Taiwan for contractual orders of American and allied military equipment. General [Mark] Milley, [chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], God bless him, he’s there in the Pentagon, in that big E-ring where all the important people sit, and he turns his head because all his stuff is going out the door. Everything in our stocks is going right out the door, right past his desk. And it’s not going to Taiwan, which is a place that we want to send it. And so we would have to radically ramp up production, us and our allies, to fight a war of attrition.
And, at the same time, the sanctions were supposed to destroy Russia’s ability to produce weapons, and that’s not happening. Russia can produce about sixty missiles a month under sanctions. So that’s two horrible barrages against Ukrainian civilian homes and infrastructure, their energy infrastructure, their water supply — sixty missiles a month. That doesn’t include what they’re buying back from Africa that they previously sold. What they’re trying to get in deals with North Korea or Iran. The Soviet arsenal, the biggest arsenal ever assembled — a lot of it is rotting, but not all of it is rotting. Some of the production is still ongoing, not as much as Russia would like, but enough to carry out the strategy of “If I can’t have it, nobody can have it.”
If you’re in a war of attrition, you’ve got to be bombing the other side’s production facilities. You have to be denying the other side the ability to resupply on the battlefield. And you have to be ramping up your production like we did in the previous wars where we were directly engaged, but we haven’t done here. So tell me: How do you fight a war of attrition with your left hand tied behind your back and your right hand tied behind your back? The Ukrainians are amazing. It’s just so inspiring to see what they’re doing. But if we get every inch of territory back — and we’re not close to that — we still need an E.U. accession process. Ukraine will need a demilitarized zone, no matter how much territory it gets back, including if it somehow gets Crimea back. It’s got the problem that, next year, the year after, the year after next, this could happen again.
Recently, in the Washington Post, there was an interview with [Kyrylo Budanov], the very young head of Ukrainian intelligence. What did I get out of the interview? Two things. One: a sense of optimism that includes not only doing well on the battlefield but getting back Crimea within the next year. And, number two, he said with great confidence that Vladimir Putin is extremely sick. I have the suspicion that the rumors of Putin’s poor health are — the origins of that are — from Ukrainian intelligence. Can you address those two points?
Of course, we fully understand Ukrainian intelligence has to be optimistic. He’s not going to go in the Washington Post and say, “Our chances of taking Crimea are next to zero. We’re going to have another hundred thousand casualties over the course of the next year or so. Even if the tanks arrive by May or late April.” He can’t say stuff like that.
Is there any evidence that Putin’s health is actually poor?
The director of the C.I.A., William Burns, publicly announced that there’s no evidence that Putin is sick. Once again, we want it to be true, because we want a shortcut to a Ukrainian victory. The problem is, we have to live in the circumstances we’ve got. If you look at the North Korea… South Korea outcome, it’s a terrible outcome. At the same time, it was an outcome that enabled South Korea to flourish under American security guarantees and protection. And, if there were a Ukraine, however much of it — eighty per cent, ninety per cent — which could flourish as a member of the European Union and which could have some type of security guarantee — whether that were full nato accession, whether that were bilateral with the U.S., whether it were multilateral to include the U.S. and Poland and Baltic countries and Scandinavian countries, potentially — that would be a victory in the war.
Now, if Ukraine can achieve its stated victory of every inch of territory, reparations, and war-crimes tribunals, it still has to get into the West in order to consolidate those gains. It still needs a security guarantee. So we’re arguing over some issues which are deeply important to the Ukrainians because of the atrocities committed against them. At the same time, it’s maybe not the definition of victory that would get Ukraine to a better place, in a more reasonable amount of time with fewer casualties, given the situation.
Western patience and Western supplies are not a given for all kinds of factors. Various European factors. You have a Republican Congress now that is not as likely to accede to Ukrainian requests as the Democratic one was. Am I right?
I’m not worried about resolve here. I came up with this equation early in the process, which is: Ukrainian valor plus Russian atrocities equals Western unity and resolve. And it’s held. Because the Ukrainian valor continues — and it continues to inspire the whole world, not just their own war effort internally. The Russian atrocities continue because that’s what this war is. It’s an atrocity. It’s more like murder than it is like war. So I’m good on the Western alliance holding together. My problem is material. I don’t have a military-industrial complex on the scale to continue this indefinitely. I’m running my own stocks down. I’m not supplying my other allies, including Taiwan. And I have an opportunity-cost issue here.
But wait a minute. Russia has the same problem, with a different look. It has proven that its military — on a level of organization and supply and strategy — is nothing like what it had been advertised. We have the so-called Wagner Group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, going from prison to prison, taking thousands of people who were serving time, and throwing them onto the Ukrainian battlefield within days.
He’s a former convict himself!
A former chef and former convict. But what does that suggest about Russia’s military? It, too, is being depleted rather quickly, no? Or are you just saying, because of the sheer population and scale, Russia’s advantages are obvious?
Russia is much bigger; it has many more people. Also, the Russian leadership doesn’t really care about its people. If the Russian leadership throws twenty thousand untrained recruits into the meat grinder and three-quarters of them die, what do they do? Do they go to church on Sunday and ask forgiveness from God? They just do it again. People talk about Stalin and the big sacrifices that the Soviet people made in World War Two, losing twenty-seven million people. They were enslaved collective farmers. He had millions and millions more of them. He threw them into the meat grinder and they died. Then he threw more into the meat grinder!
In that respect, isn’t the Stalin era different than the Putin era? Ever since the controversial mass conscription, you saw political repercussions in Russia that you would not have seen in Stalin’s time.
Sort of. You saw tens of thousands of people resist and flee. You also saw a couple of hundred thousand get deployed. You know, Leonid Bershidsky, of Bloomberg, got this right. He said we focus on those who resist the call-up, the conscription. We don’t focus on those who are actually deployed. The Russian leadership has no trouble expending its weaponry and sending its people to death. The value of life in the Putin regime is just not there. When you talk about Roosevelt not wanting to take Berlin before Stalin did, because he didn’t want to sacrifice human lives — and then people complain that he should have done it anyway? Democracies don’t fight wars which are intentionally a meat grinder, to just throw their people away. And a war of attrition is what we’re asking of the Ukrainians. They’re doing the fighting. We’re not doing any of the fighting.
Much of the challenge here comes from the fact that President Biden and the European allies have decided that there will be no direct engagement between nato forces and Russian forces. There’s been a ceiling on how far we would go in assisting the Ukrainians. We don’t want an escalation of direct confrontation with the Russians or Russians using some of the capabilities that Putin has, that we all know about — and we’re right to be concerned about.
People say, “It would be irrational if Putin were to use nuclear weapons. It would be self-defeating. He would just get destroyed himself in retaliation.” And the answer is: from our point of view, certainly that would be really stupid. Just like this war. Starting this war looks really stupid, from our point of view.
But he thought that he could take Kyiv, and arrest or kill Zelensky. That was the plan, that it would be a matter of days or weeks, tops. It hasn’t gone that way. On the use of nuclear weapons — it’s been made clear to him by representatives of Western governments and the United States precisely what kind of retaliation he could expect.
Yes, I think that’s a great policy. I’m very happy that that happened. But here’s the problem. He has the capabilities. He’s got a lot of capabilities short of nuclear weapons. He could poison the water supply in Kyiv with chemical and biological weapons. He could poison the water supply in London, and then he could deny that it’s his special operatives that are doing that. He could cut the undersea cables, so that we could not do this radio broadcast. He can blow up the infrastructure that carries gas or other energy supplies to Europe. He’s got submersibles, he’s got a submarine fleet, he’s got special ops who can go right down to the ocean floor where those pipelines are located.
What does restrain him?
We don’t know. You tell me. When someone has these capabilities, you have to pay attention. You can’t say, “Oh, you know, that would be crazy if he did that. That would be totally self-defeating. What idiot would do that?” And the answer is: O.K, but what if he does it?
We have to be concerned about escalation. I have been in favor of greater supply, more quickly, of more weapons to the Ukrainians from the beginning. But not because I’m blasÃ© about the capabilities that Russia has.
Why are you in favor of that?
Because I think the Ukrainians deserve the chance to try to win on the battlefield before we get to that part that you described as: each side has to sit down and make unpleasant concessions, and you have to sit down across from representatives of your murderer, and you’ve got to do a deal where your murderer takes some of the stuff he has stolen — and killed your people in the process. That’s a terrible outcome. But that’s an outcome which may not be the worst outcome. The point being that, if you get E.U. accession, it balances the concessions you have to make.
How big has the Ukrainian exile been — or how many Ukrainians have left?
We don’t know exactly, but we’re in the multimillions. And that’s your future. That’s the future of your country. The hope is that it’s temporary and they get them back, and they can go back to a peacetime country. And they can be prosperous and they can have careers and they can show what they can do — not just on the battlefield, like their elders are doing now, with the incredible ingenuity that we see from the Ukrainians — but that they can do that and establish civilian companies. Then you have a reconstruction issue. Even if you win, you’re wrecked. You’ve got to have reconstruction. You know what kind of numbers we’re talking about? Three hundred and fifty billion dollars is one of the numbers being tossed around.
If things ended today?
Yeah. And who knows what the actual number is? What was Ukrainian G.D.P. before the war? About a hundred and eighty billion dollars. So you’re talking double G.D.P., in reconstruction funds, has to somehow enter that country and not disappear, not vanish. What happened to the covid funds in our country? We’re still trying to find some of them. Billions disappeared. And so you’re talking double their prewar G.D.P. So for that you need functioning institutions, not wartime resistance institutions. You need a civil service. You need an independent judiciary. You need a lot of stuff — a banking system — to manage that type of reconstruction and doing that honestly, fairly, and smartly. Right now, there’s no prospect of those reconstruction funds being able to be used well, because they don’t have those functioning institutions. They’re at war. And they didn’t have such functioning institutions before the war started, as you know.
It was interesting to see Zelensky get rid of a few top officials for corruption charges very recently, in the middle of the war.
What choice does he have? Part of it is real, and part of it is performance. He’s an incredible leader in a wartime situation, and we owe him a lot. We owe him the rejuvenation of the West — the rediscovery of the West — in institutional, not geographic, terms, including our Asian partners, Japan, Australia.
We’re in a situation where the sooner we get to a reconstruction of Ukraine in some form, where we don’t lose a generation of kids who grow up to be eighteen in Poland — we want to get those kids back. We want to build a South Korea-style Ukraine, part of the E.U., behind the D.M.Z., where there’s an armistice, not a settlement; where there is no legal recognition of any Russian annexations unless there’s some type of larger bargain, peace settlement; where the Russians make significant concessions as well and there is the move toward an actual security guarantee rather than discussion and promises of a security guarantee. We need to get to the other side of this in a way that gives Ukraine a chance to be the country that they want to be, deserve to be, and could be with our support.
It’s one thing for them to now get the tanks and see if they can pull off an offensive, likely in the summer — or, at a minimum, stave off a Russian offensive, which is under way as we speak, in the eastern part of Ukraine. There is the makings of a Russian offensive under way, with some of those hundreds of thousands of conscripts who got brought in. So when do we get to the point where we understand that it is E.U. accession, reconstruction, bringing people home to live — the end of hostilities in some form — to build a Ukraine, a peacetime Ukraine, on some version of Ukrainian territory, which doesn’t concede that the rest of the territory is no longer Ukrainian territory, even if they don’t control it?
Let’s remember a divided Berlin, and East and West Germany. You lived through that. Nobody thought that would happen, but it was the right thing to do: to build a successful West Germany, integrated into Europe with a nato security guarantee. You can look at that as decades and decades of commitment, but also success. You can look at the Korean Peninsula as a worse situation because it’s still divided.
People talk about the Cold War being over. It sort of is — except for the places where it’s not. And so that outcome is suboptimal. The better outcome is a Russia that looks like France. That is to say, it’s a regular big country, that behaves under rule of law and international norms, and is proud of its own culture, and has a large army but doesn’t threaten its neighbors, and wants to live peacefully in the region in which it’s in. That would be a great outcome. Let’s hope that we see that outcome for the Russian people, as much as for their neighbors. But, until we see that outcome, what are we going to do?
Say Ukraine takes back some of its territory — this spring and summer, maybe. And then, two years from now, there’s another Russian gear-up, to something else that might happen. How do we prevent ourselves from having hostilities continue indefinitely? Which I’m not sure they can, given our industrial base when it comes to production of weaponry. We have other priorities — as we should, as a country — where we want to expend taxpayer funding and resources, and build, and do a lot of things that your staff writers write about all the time in your magazine. And so I’m in favor of a Ukrainian victory. I’m against the Russian victory. But I’m defining a Ukrainian victory within the circumstances in which we live.
Let’s say there is such a settlement. Where does that leave Russia? Where does that leave a Putin regime?
Slobodan Milocevic — you’ll remember him as the former tin-pot dictator in Serbia — lost four wars before he was kicked out. Four wars. So maybe the Putin regime experiences some domestic turbulence if it’s unable to achieve its maximal war aims. Maybe he survives — he lasts for a while. Russian power going forward degrades even further. Their status as an energy superpower degrades. Their status as a junior partner in a grand Chinese Eurasia gets more dependent, provided the Chinese will accept Russia as a junior partner. Russia’s hemorrhaging human capital. The whole new economy fled Russia.
All the I.T. people, called ITshniki.
They’re all gone.
In the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands.
They have no future there. The Ukrainian ones are still there. They’re the brilliant people running the social-media side of the defense ministry. They’re the ones re-rigging those drones — commercial drones, bought off the shelf for ninety-nine dollars, that they attach a catapult and a grenade to. Those Ukrainian twentysomething-year-olds — and in some cases teen-agers — are still in Ukraine, many of them. And they’re on the side of their country. Russia has lost those people at least for the time being, but maybe for a generation or more.
That kind of cosmopolitan, urban life in Russia that you saw is gone.
And so we have a Russia which looks more and more like the Putin regime as a society, not just as a regime, potentially. We have all the flotsam of the xenophobic hard right in Russia complaining that the war is not being fought properly, wanting to nuke Ukraine, nuke the West, as they go on social media and express the extremism that unfortunately social media facilitates and encourages. And so that’s the Russia we have already. Russia has already been transformed utterly. Wars are transformational in all ways.
This war is just — it’s so painful. My whole life was writing about Stalin, and I would get absorbed in that. But then I put that down, and I had kids to hug, and I had a wife who loved me, and I had students that I could harangue in the classroom. Now I put the Stalin thing down — and then I got the Stalin thing again. In the real world. In real time. So it hurts. This whole thing hurts a lot. There’s no relief from this part of the world.