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AFTER A FROSTY START of the day, expect sunshine and cold afternoon temperatures. Another chilly morning temperatures is forecast for Thursday. Otherwise, a period of dry mid week weather will be followed by another winter storm this weekend. (NWS)
Monthly figures for the 2022-23 rain season (Oct-Sep):
Yorkville (47.68" total)
Boonville (35.99" total*)
*Boonville's figures are suspect: it appears their gauges stopped reporting a couple days ago.
ANDERSON VALLEY FIRE DEPARTMENT (Tuesday evening): Thanks to the hard work of CalTrans, Wylatti Construction, PG&E and others, Hwy 128 is now open from Boonville to Cloverdale. Power has also been restored to much of Yorkville. Construction crews will remain working in the area for the foreseeable future to mitigate the remaining issues. Please be careful of the crews still hard at work!
HIGHWAY 253 has been open all day. No obstacles to through traffic reported.
OPEN MIC AT DICK'S PLACE HOSTED BY AARON FORD
Wednesday March 1st 9:00pm
Barbeque By Sam Cook Beforehand At 5:00PM
A GOOD NIGHT
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
Sometimes, after conditions are so tough, you are just glad to have a meal together with your people. Sometimes, when you hear about people, like Deleh, that have been without electricity for days, but still work a 14 hour day to support an event, your heart is full. When this morning some folks had to pivot to virtual presentation, and I put the call out that I needed help, a bunch of AVUSD folks stepped in and stepped up.
It was a good, happy, and hopeful night as we celebrated our first Career and College Fair. We had a few glitches, but how can you go wrong when Terri and Steve Rhoades cook the food? And while some presenters went virtual, the ARMY rolled in enforce with four presenters. MCOE came out with medical assisting, Fish and Game inspired youth, the Academic Talent first Generation Support gave amazing information, IUPAT LOCAL 16 showed a really tremendous career path, and virtual presenters gave it their all. We had staff members that bridged the presentation when power went out for the presenter and carried on…but that is how we do it in Boonville. We get it done.
A little heartfelt note for my late Bob’s union for the painters, IUPAT Local 16, which was represented. A good job. A good life. A good choice. He was the president of his union. Trades are a good way to go.
Nat Corey Moran outlined the path for high school graduation and how to be a stellar applicant for college. Miss Ewing and Miss Malfavon explained the complexity of A-G requirements for UC and CSU. Sonoma State, Mendo College, Adventist Health and IBEW were represented.
It was a good day. What made me proud was the turnout. The care of the parents/guardians to invest in their kids for a night out. The interest of the kids. The willingness of the community to come together.
I expect during the first week of March, we will receive a $200,000 grant from the State to become a community schools hub. This is the first, of many, many times we will have dinner together. I am grateful to be part of your community. To my staff members who saved the day today, I am grateful. To my kids and families, I love you, and I am so excited at all that our kids can become.
Louise Simson, Superintendent
VAL MUCHOWSKI: The Floodgate building on State Route 128 in Philo houses the Bewildered Pig, a farm-to-table fine dining restaurant with a cult following throughout Northern California. While the Floodgate building is for sale for $1.275 million, the Bewildered Pig is not for sale. In fact, the real estate listing for the building states that the restaurant plans to renew its lease in July 2023.
NO LUNCHES AT AV SENIOR CENTER ON MARCH 16TH. We will have an evening meal instead with corned beef and cabbage on Thursday, March 16th at 6 pm. Bingo with prizes to follow dinner! Seniors $6/Non-Senior $8. Bingo cards $1. All are welcome!
FORT BRAGG POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is more for the parents of MS/HS aged students. MS/HS students are welcome to attend, but the information is for the parents, like what to do if your child is being harassed through social media outlets and the legal consequences if your child is the one doing this. They will also talk about vaping, underage drinking, Fentanyl, and Narcan.
DARN RIGHT WE HAVE PLANNING. LOOK AROUND YOU!
The Planning Commission Special Meeting Agenda for March 9, 2023 has been posted to the department website at: mendocinocounty.org/government/planning-building-services/meeting-agendas/planning-commission
Please contact staff with any questions. Thank you.
Adrienne Thompson, Planning and Building Services Administrative Services Manager
MONO COUNTY SHERIFF Twitter Notice, Friday, February 24, 2023: The roads are closed. All of them. There is no alternate route, no back way, no secret route. It’s a blizzard, people. You cannot see your hand in front of your face, let alone a snow stake to guide your way. Stay home. Or wherever you are if you aren’t home. And if you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be, you’ll have to sort that out with your significant other. We told you to make good choices.
INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE FILM FESTIVAL
Post-festival tour takes wing
The first of three Friday evenings of live music and notable films from the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana will begin Friday, March 3, at the Ukiah Civic Center, 300 Seminary Avenue.
Festivities start at 6:15 p.m. with snacks and pre-film music by Bob Laughton. Films will begin screening at 7 p.m. Series tickets are available at Mendocino Book Company or at the door for $30. Individual tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and are available only at the door.
The theme for opening night is “Bees, Butterflies and Birds.”
The feature film, “My Garden of a Thousand Bees,” (52 minutes) was the 2022 festival winner for Best Animal Behavior. A veteran wildlife cameraman is bee obsessed. Seeking refuge from the pandemic in a small city garden, he films the wild bees that live there with mind-blowing results. From giant bumblebees to scissor bees the size of a mosquito, he has seen over 60 species of bee. More importantly, he is developing a close relationship with an individual bee he follows through its entire life.
Two short films are also on the bill. “Westward Wings “(11 min.) explores monarch butterfly migration, especially in the state of Montana, and efforts to conserve both monarchs and the milkweed that fuels their migration.
“Deveaux Bank: Reflections of a Cultural Ornithologist” (10 min.) is the 2022 winner of Best Short. In May 2019, a biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources made a monumental discovery: 20,000 whimbrel (a threatened and rapidly declining migratory shorebird) roosting together in a single flock on Deveaux Bank, a treeless sandbar 20 miles south of Charleston. This spectacle--a flock representing half of the species— entire Atlantic Flyway population â was hiding in plain sight as it gathered each night during spring migration.
Proceeds from the film festival are an important funding source for the Redwood Valley Outdoor Education Project (RVOEP), a special program of the Ukiah Unified School District that provides outdoor environmental education programs to over 2,000 students a year.
For a full program of the film series and more information about the RVOEP, visit its website, www.rvoep.org. For further inquiries, contact Erich Sommer, RVOEP Education Coordinator, at 707-841-7029.
ASSAILANT TAKES A BULLET
On Tuesday, February 28, 2023 at approximately 12:15 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to the Adventist Health Coast Hospital Emergency Room, to contact the victim of a physical assault that occurred somewhere in the unincorporated area of Fort Bragg.
Deputies arrived and contacted a 53-year-old male, who had multiple blunt force injuries on his body. The 53-year-old male was initially uncooperative with Deputies, but later cooperated with the Deputies’ investigation.
At 12:36 PM, Deputies were dispatched to the 32000 block of Basin Street in Fort Bragg, regarding a person suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg.
Deputies arrived and could not locate the person reporting he had been shot. Within minutes of Deputies being unable to locate this person, David Appier, 37, of Fort Bragg, arrived at Adventist Health Coast Hospital Emergency Room with a gunshot wound to his leg.
Deputies interviewed both the 53-year-old male and Appier and learned both incidents were related and had occurred at a residence in the 19000 block of Dorffi Road in Fort Bragg.
Deputies responded to that residence and located/collected physical evidence.
Deputies contacted an eyewitness at the location and obtained that person's statement.
Based on the statements and evidence obtained, Deputies determined Appier had beaten the 53-year-old male about the head and face with a blunt object, inflicting serious bodily injuries. This caused the 53-year-old male to brandish and discharge a small caliber handgun at Appier to stop the attack.
After Appier received medical treatment for the gunshot wound, he was arrested for Assault with a Deadly Weapo and Battery with Serious Bodily Injury.
Appier was transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail, where he was to be held in lieu of $30,000 bail.
COVELO'S ONE MAN CRIME WAVE
On Friday, February 24, 2023, at approximately 6:57 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a report of a physical altercation near the store entrance of Keith’s Market located in the 76000 block of Highway 162 in Covelo.
During the investigation it was learned a person, later identified as Markas Capskis, 24, of Covelo, had entered Keith’s Market and had stolen some items. Outside the store, Capskis was confronted by an employee and a Samaritan who were attacked by Capskis who was armed with a glass bottle of alcohol.
Capskis physically assaulted the employee and the Samaritan, however Capskis was ultimately subdued by the employee. Unfortunately, Capskis was able to escape before Deputies arrived on scene.
Deputies searched the area but were unable to locate Capskis.
During this time, Deputies began getting additional calls involving other crimes that had been discovered.
During their investigation, it is suspected that prior to the Keith’s Market incident, Capskis had been walking south in the 79000 block of Highway 162, where Deputies received reports of vandalized businesses, a possible arson at the Round Valley Health Clinic and multiple reported burglaries.
On Saturday, February 25, 2023 at about 11:00 AM, Capskis was located in Covelo and placed under arrest for robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, elder abuse, felony vandalism, and violation of felony probation, all related to the Keith's Market incident.
Capskis was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Deputies are continuing to conduct follow up investigations into the other reported crimes and are working closely with the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority arson investigator in an attempt to determine the cause of the fire at the Round Valley Health Clinic.
A special thanks to the Round Valley Tribal Police Department for assistance in locating Capskis.
THE LATE JERRY KAUFMAN OF BOONVILLE
Interviewed by Bruce Anderson
“I was born in Caddo Gap, Arkansas, on February 7, 1911, ain’t a third as big as Philo is now. I was the oldest in a family of eight sisters and a brother, the brother bein’ the youngest. My daddy died in 1929, leaving me and my mother to carry on the best we could. Back then there was two sessions of school, one in the winter and one in the summer. They did it that way because the kids had to help out on the farms. I went to around the eighth grade before I went to work. The Depression? Oh, my god! Can’t make people now believe what it was like. Couldn’t buy a pack of Bull Durham, without takin’ it off my food. It was a hard depression; had to do a little of everything to live — sawmills, farmin’, row croppin’, we called it where we raised all kinds of crops you plant in rows — corn, cotton. And there was a little bit of public work later on with the CCC. We did road work all over Arkansas then we disbanded and they shipped us out to Salinas and Monterey on troop trains. I joined the CCC on the first day of July, 1935. I learned marchin’, making up the bunk. All the stuff about the Army I knew before the Army ever got me.
“I was drafted in 1942. They took me in at Camp Robinson, Little Rock, Arkansas. From there we went to Shine, Wyoming, for boot training. Then to Camp Pendleton out here in California for three days. They loaded us on a ship in San Francisco. We didn’t know where we was goin’, we just rode the waves till we got there. We landed in Brisbane, Australia. From there we went to Sydney, Australia. | was called a Small Boat Operator. I piloted landing craft mostly. They was gettin’ us ready to go to New Guinea. A man there in Australia wanted me to stay and work with him in Australia after the war, pilotin’ boats up and down the coast, but bein’ as I’m from over here, I didn’t know about that. I liked the people there, they was just fine with me. I knew how to operate those old steam boilers. I guess that’s how they got me onto the boats. I liked the job, but I didn’t care much for the bombs a-fallin’.
“The Japanese was only in there a couple of days before we got there. There wasn’t any hand-to-hand fightin’ or anything like that. They bombed us, though, all the time at night. Got blowed right out of one foxhole one time. Another time three of us dove in a hole when the bombin’ started while we was tryin’ to unload a ship. Three of us in a hole not big enough for one. One guy went to prayin’. The bombs were droppin’ all around us. But when you got enough points, you got shipped back to the States. I landed in San Pedro. Went back to Arkansas by troop train where I worked in sawmills. I came back to California in 1952. The first time I ever saw Boonville was then, though I worked in Laytonville for five weeks in 1942 before they drafted me. I got 75 cents an hour on that job.
“There was a whole lot of gamblin’ in New Guinea, I can tell you that. There wasn’t much else to do. I saw crap games where the money was piled high. Money didn’t mean anything because there was no place to spend it.
“The New Guinea people used to bring in whole stalks of bananas they'd sell for a pack of cigarettes. They'd always walk single file. One day they showed up, about 14 of ‘em, all with bananas. A guy threw a mosquito bomb at ‘em and all we seen were their heels. They thought it was a hand grenade!
“They had a couple of big stockades in the part of New Guinea where | was for Japanese prisoners. Every third week I had to load 1300 of ’em onto ships. Never had a bit of trouble from any of ‘em. One man without a gun could guard ‘em all. Heck, they used to turn ’em out twice a day to go swimmin’.
“In ’52 I worked in Buster Hollifield’s mill in Philo. Later on, from about 1964 on, I worked out at Hollow Tree, off the Fish Rock Road. In *64 they was payin’ around $1.65 an hour. I did most of the jobs in the mill but mainly I was a oiler. I'd work wherever I could find a shade tree and a coffee pot!”
AND A SHOT OF RED BREAST
Relaxed in Ukiah, California and Available for Spiritual Direct Action
Warmest spiritual greetings, It is 1:18PM in Ukiah, California on a rainy February 28th. This is welcome weather in a region which is too dry otherwise. I'm just biding my time here in Ukiah, with March 1st being the one year mark for having an assigned bed at the Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center at 1045 S. State Street. I continue to send out a steady flow of networking messages, essentially stating that I am available for spiritually focused direct action on the planet earth.
Meanwhile, I dropped by the Ukiah Brewing Company last night for a couple of discounted pints of beer, and laughed heartily at the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, which everybody watched. Had a shot of Red Breast Irish Whiskey before ordering a fish ’n chips entree. Took a taxi back to the homeless shelter, arriving before the 8PM check-in time.
I guess that's about it for now. I shall continue to identify as being pure spirit, (as opposed to being confused that I am either the body or the mind, which I am not), and I will continue sending out networking messages for the purpose of remaining active in regard to environmental and peace & justice direct action, because doing nothing strikes me as being a waste of time. If one is not going to be involved on the side of goodness, then you tell me, why be here at all? Thanks for listening.
Craig Louis Stehr
1045 S. State Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
In listening to the news of yesterday our bad state government and the friends of the guy with the hot buttered toast hairdo, proposing to get rid of all tobacco products in California, not that I'm in favor of cigarettes I think they're terrible, but a good cigar once in a while, or even light up my pipe not very often seems to be a stretch on our freedom. The bleeding heart people in our local governments have managed to put spikes on a lot of our freedom in California and that's the reason people are moving out of state as fast as they can. The only people who have moved here are looking for the pre-health care and free check in the mail, and not have to work. They want to take the landowners rights away from him, and it kind of reminds me of what's happened in Russia in the last 50 years plus. Maybe we should change the name of California to the Soviet States of California. Don't vote for anybody other than the one person on the ballot, taking away all of our freedoms that we felt we were guaranteed, is truly sad and mixing you know that be shutting down all the bars and cocktail lounges, and somebody else saying nobody can eat meat of any kind because it's bad for you. This is going nowhere good fast.
Next subject: over the years we've noticed that the state of California seems to think they want to be in charge of everything. They’re putting truck drivers out of work because they believe their trucks are polluting the air, forcing construction companies into buying new equipment and you kind of think it might be in bed with the manufacturers to keep rotating the iron through the system. But what's even worse on the local scene that fire departments have to maintain smog compliant equipment if they take public funding either through taxes or grant money; they have to bring their equipment up to compliance and many small agencies don't have the money. In the countryside what happens is larger departments with bigger budgets take over the smaller departments, but it also lessens the amount of fire stations within a given area. We need more fire departments of all kinds in California and they need to all be smog exempt; in fact all public safety agencies of whatever type should be smog exempt so they don't have to keep buying new equipment to replace perfectly good equipment that they have that does the job, and this needs to be statewide not only small local government but state government as well. Over the years I've watched perfectly good fire trucks go to the scrapyard with nothing wrong with them; they just don't meet smog compliance. And I've seen many excellent pieces of the heavy equipment, like bulldozers either going for scrap or headed out to some other state and bought for little money at bid auctions where perfectly good Calfire equipment and ended up being sold off for pennies on the dollar with a lot of life in the equipment. The people who run the smog system, and other state officials are broken and have been for years. They squander money that they really don't have, and they could rebuild current equipment by just moving the buildup off the back of the old truck that they wore out refurbished in and then putting it on a new chassis when necessary. Over the years I have bought upwards of 10 trucks from the state of California for our little department near Elk, and the only reason we take some of that service is when we can no longer get parts for major parts of the engine and/or transmission. We attempt to recycle as much of the equipment as we can, but we noticed over the years when our friends at CDF changed their uniforms from green to dark blue the attitude of the agency and its people changed. Not all of them fell into that line but a lot of the new guys and gals seem to have a chip on their shoulders, thinking they're better than the old timers. And yes I remember the days before the major wildfires that we're having now. It had to do with force management not global warming. When everybody in the old days wore green they were one force for one with wild land. Now we can't tell who's really on the same page. We know they wanted to be like the city fire departments, but remember city departments don't know how or are not very good at fighting wildland fires, and they get to go home every night and get their uniform cleaned up. They don't have to spend 30 days out in the brush fighting fire. I would say to the people over at CAL FIRE bring back the green uniform that we all respected and enjoyed seeing our neighbors that work for the state look the part of real firefighters.
GIVE US A BREAK
We who live in California are overtaxed as we all know. Gas taxes, sales taxes, you think of it and it’s taxed! What we need is a federal tax deduction for living here, like a child tax credit. We should get one for just being Californians. Let’s see our senators get that going. Good God, give us a break.
KELLEY HOUSE MUSEUM: On this day in Mendocino Coast history…
February 27, 1931 - The steamer Sea Foam broke into two pieces on the south reef of the harbor at Point Arena. Most of the cargo washed out to sea, and the ship was a total loss. She had wrecked six days before, while battling a heavy sea.
The wreck was described by the Beacon, “Captain A. K. Simonson, of the ill fated craft, was on the bridge as they were entering the harbor and decided that owing to the rough water inside he had better put out as he could not tie up in any event. It was when he was bringing the boat around that she was caught by a heavy tow and carried over against the south reef; the first impact crashed and disabled the propeller, leaving the vessel helpless; the second crash tore a huge hole in the hull and she was then lifted bodily on top of the reef and settled down high and dry.” The Point Arena Coast Guard immediately sent a rescue boat and evacuated the crew of 20. After the ship broke into two pieces, the wreckage washed up on the beach.
Built in 1904, the Sea Foam had been a familiar sight in Mendocino. In 1916, she began making two trips per week between San Francisco and Mendocino, carrying cargo and up to 70 passengers. Passenger service ended in 1920. During the years before the wreck, she had been carrying cargo between Eureka and San Francisco, with occasional stops in Point Arena. The Beacon reported that many locals drove to Point Arena to view the wreck, and “the loss of this familiar old boat will bring a feeling of regret to many along the coast.”
(Walking Tours of Historic Mendocino: Join our expert docents for a stroll and lively commentary. Pass by early pioneer homes, historic meeting place and building that make up the Mendocino Historic District. kelleyhousemuseum.org/walking-tours/)
CATCH OF THE DAY, Tuesday, February 28, 2023
DAVID APPIER, Fort Bragg. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, battery with serious injury.
JAMES BRAY JR., Fort Bragg. DUI with blood alcohol over 0.15%, leaving scene of accident with property damage, suspended license for DUI.
VINCENT BROCK, Ukiah. Battery.
LYNN BUTLER, Willits. Controlled substance.
THOMAS HANOVER, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JACK LEMAY, Fort Bragg. Stalking with prior, domestic battery.
ALEXA MORENO, Ukiah. Suspended license for DUI.
CHARLES RAINES, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.
NATHANIEL STILES, Clearlake/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
MARK WOLK, Ukiah. Grand theft-firearm, stolen property, burglary, ammo possession by prohibited person, felon-addict with firearm, probation revocation.
GIANT CALIFORNIA GREENHOUSE SIGNALS A BIG BET ON CANNABIS LEGALIZATION
One enormous facility on the northern edge of metro Los Angeles reveals expectations of marijuana becoming legal nationally
by Scott Wilson
CAMARILLO, Calif. — This is what the long game of California weed looks like.
Rising two stories from razor-straight rows of parsley, artichokes and strawberries, the greenhouse complex hums with solar-powered efficiency, its vast airy interiors redolent with the sticky plant that fills much of it.
The flatlands here stretching between mountains and sea have attracted farmers for generations, just around a corner of the Pacific Coast Highway from the playgrounds of Malibu. Now this windy plain is a high-stakes table for a nine-figure bet on the future of California cannabis — that soon, within the next few years, adults across the country will be able to buy it as easily as hard seltzer or craft beer.
Graham Farrar has placed the bet here. He is the president and co-founder of Glass House Farms, and the company’s greenhouse offers 5 million square feet of indoor space for cannabis production. That comes to just over 114 acres, the equivalent of about 86 football fields.
Farrar, a garrulous proselytizer on behalf of cannabis and his company, said it is the second-largest greenhouse complex in the United States and the single largest dedicated to cannabis. What is harvested from these temperature-controlled cathedrals to weed is not necessarily meant to remain here in Farrar’s business plans.
Far from the misty northern redoubts of the state’s historic cannabis culture, the crop here grows just a few miles from highway-side outlet malls, an expanding regional airport, and the broad blue-stretch and logo-smile of an Amazon warehouse and distribution center.
Those neighborhood ambitions help reveal Farrar’s own restless intent — to create a national cannabis business, even though his product, while legal in the Republic of California, remains illegal in the United States of America.
“I have the capacity, when the time is right, to produce on a national scale the best cannabis in the world,” Farrar said during a recent tour.
“And when that happens,” Farrar added, speaking of national legalization, “this farm goes from feeling really big to really small.”
It’s the “when,” not “if,” that matters most here.
Since California voters approved cannabis for adult recreational use six years ago, a highly regulated market has emerged with a mishmash of rules set primarily by the state’s 58 counties and hundreds of cities.
The lack of uniform state regulations, governing how much cannabis can be cultivated and how many businesses should be licensed to sell it, has produced winners and losers among the state’s roughly 8,000 licensed growers. The state government, meanwhile, collects more than $1 billion annually in cannabis tax revenue from a roughly $5 billion industry.
Small growers have taken a beating. Without access to bank loans, many have been unable to afford the multiple levels of taxes and permitting required to become legal or to weather a severe recent supply glut in the western marijuana market.
Even more growers never bothered to come into the light. An estimated two-thirds of California’s cannabis market — by far the nation’s largest — is still black market.
The winners include big growers like Glass House, which also owns two smaller cannabis greenhouses north of here in Carpinteria and, in all, produces about 300,000 pounds of cannabis for sale annually.
The company has managed to secure both cultivation and retail licenses, which big and small farmers agree are far too few in number. There are roughly 75 times more places to buy an alcoholic drink in California than a legal joint.
The next evolution: selling California weed beyond state lines, first nearby, then nationwide. The legal process to do so has recently accelerated.
California and 20 other states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use, even though the federal government still considers it a drug on par with heroin and fentanyl.
This two-tier legal landscape has required a willing suspension of disbelief from the Biden administration and its predecessors, an I-don’t-really-see-you pretension that Farrar and other cannabis entrepreneurs predict will soon give way.
Last year, the California legislature passed a bill to allow licensed California cannabis businesses to sell their products in other cannabis-legal states. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who signed the bill, would negotiate the terms of trade with his counterparts.
A couple steps must be taken first.
In a letter to the state attorney general’s office late last month, the state Department of Cannabis Control’s general counsel, Matthew Lee, sought a legal opinion assessing whether California could face federal punishment if it allows interstate cannabis trade.
Lee, in the course of his eight-page letter, answered his own question: No.
In a recent interview, Lee said that allowing trade with Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Colorado — all cannabis-legal states — would pose a risk not “qualitatively” different than what the state or cannabis businesses are taking now by defying federal law.
“Everything we do is illegal,” Farrar said in blunter terms. “We’ve already been acting as if we have broken into a hotel room, but we’ve promised to be out by check-out time. So it’s all ok. How are you supposed to understand that incoherence in the law?”
Other states are moving in the same direction.
Oregon approved a law several years ago allowing interstate trade. But the law was tied directly to federal legalization — a high bar to clear — and late last year an Oregon resident challenged that restriction on constitutional grounds in a case winding its way through the courts. Lee said Washington state and New Jersey have legislation pending to allow interstate trade — a sign, he said, “that perhaps this idea’s time has come.”
Farrar and others in the business believe California’s cannabis would have an edge in any new market, given the historic mystique surrounding its origin. In this marketing view, California is to weed what Cuba is to cigars.
Farrar and his partners had to take Glass House public on a Canadian exchange to raise the $92 million he needed to buy this greenhouse, a sale he completed in the fall of 2021. (A retrofit of the buildings took the overall cost to about $125 million.)
But Farrar had another problem: Ventura County, where this greenhouse sits, did not allow cannabis cultivation at the time he set his sights on the greenhouse. So he and his partners worked to place a measure on the county’s 2020 ballot to allow cannabis cultivation. Voters passed it easily.
Farrar was up and running here the following year — and what a spot it is.
A ragged line of mountain peaks dives toward the Pacific Ocean just outside the greenhouse’s soaring windows, which are cleaned by a $250,000 rooftop robot because even slightly dirty glass means less sunshine and lower crop yield. No lights except the sun are used in the growing process.
The Pacific Coast Highway begins one of its most famous stretches just a few miles west of here, bending south along soft bluffs above surf and sand toward Malibu, Santa Monica and Los Angeles, home to a vast, underserved market of pot-smoking customers, just a half-hour drive beyond.
The complex is almost entirely self-sufficient. It has its own groundwater wells, and three massive water tanks for storage. Three acres of solar panels power the buildings, rotating slowly to follow the sun, which nurture Crop Duster, Purple Push, Jealousy and other plants that stand among the hundred strains of weed the greenhouse grows.
At harvest time, carts run on tracks between the rows of mature plants, which stretch for hundreds of yards down a central aisle. It is too tiring and time-consuming for the workers to cut off the branches, heavy with buds, if they worked the rows solely on foot.
Then the branches are wheeled to the drying and trimming room on trolleys that resemble hotel luggage carts. The branches themselves dangle from clothes hangers, as low-tech as the operation gets.
Ranchera music, light and bouncy, provides the soundtrack as workers, masked and in white lab coats, work at stainless steel tables under bright lights trimming away extraneous stems and other imperfections. The operation employs 200 people year-round.
The rest of the work is highly automated.
Robots move knee-high cannabis plants from nursery sections, where they fight for light as they grow taller, to other parts of the greenhouse, spacing them out so each gets enough of the everyday sun (If they keep competing for light, the plants get stringy.)
Software knows when the plants, which sit in long, shallow troughs, need water.
“If there’s a zombie apocalypse, come here,” said Farrar, who is 45 and a Santa Barbara native. “We’ll have water, power, food and weed.”
Does his confidence justify the investment? This is where the cannabis world gets small.
Take the cannabis department’s January letter to the attorney general’s office. The state attorney general is Rob Bonta, a Bay Area Democrat, who as a state legislator previously was a staunch advocate of legalization.
It is unlikely Bonta will decide that cross-border trading is a bridge too far. Lee, the cannabis department’s general counsel, said he expects an opinion from the attorney general’s office a year from now.
But the big prize is national legalization — and it is another well-placed Californian who may help change things.
Last fall, President Biden asked his Department of Health and Human Services to reassess the federal drug “scheduling,” or classification, of cannabis as among the nation’s most dangerous controlled substances. Those who oppose the classification say it is a legacy of an overzealous drug war. But it has remained in place partly due to open questions about marijuana’s effect on the brain — especially among young users, who in theory would not be allowed to buy it even if deemed legal.
Who runs the department responsible for the review? Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who was California’s attorney general when voters legalized marijuana and who pledged to defend the law against explicit threats from the Trump administration.
Farrar, whose first cannabis grow was a 2-by-3-foot plot in his apartment closet at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is moving ahead with legalization in mind.
By the end of the year, he intends to bring another million square-feet of cannabis online in this greenhouse, where the roughly 45 percent profit margin of its harvest dwarfs the single-digit profits of the celery crop being grown next door.
“My goal is to get as much cannabis to as many people as affordably as I possibly can,” Farrar said. “If there is one farm in California that can make huge headway toward that goal, it is this farm.”
SHOWDOWN IN NEVADA as Democratic Establishment Targets Party Chair
by Norman Solomon
To understand the current fierce attacks on the progressive leadership of the Nevada Democratic Party, it’s helpful to recall the panicked reaction from political elites three years ago when results came in from the state’s contest for the presidential nomination. Under the headline “Moderates Hustle to Blunt Sanders’ Momentum After Nevada Win,” the Associated Press reported that “Bernie Sanders’ commanding Nevada caucus victory made him a top target for his Democratic rivals and a growing source of anxiety for establishment Democrats.”
Such anxiety spiked for Nevada’s establishment Democrats a year later, in early March 2021, when a progressive slate, headed by activist Judith Whitmer, won every officer seat in the state party, stunning its entrenched leaders. As she explained at the time, “what they just didn’t expect is that we got better and better at organizing and out-organizing them at every turn.”
At the eleventh hour, seeing the progressive writing on the wall, the sore losers-to-be had siphoned $450,000 out of the state party’s treasury, transferring the loot to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, safely under the control of corporate-aligned operatives. And when Whitmer’s victory became clear, all the employees of the Nevada Democratic Party greeted the newly elected chair by immediately quitting.
Bloviating predictions of disaster quickly ensued. But Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto, widely seen as the nation’s most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate, won re-election last November. So did each Democratic member of the U.S. House. And Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature. (The only major loss was the governor’s seat.) Whitmer cites nearly 2 million “direct voter contacts,” increased rural turnout and “wins in deep red territories.”
With her two-year term as state party chair about to expire, Whitmer is running for re-election as part of a progressive slate, while old-guard forces ousted by party delegates two years ago are on the attack under the banner of the ironically named “Unity Slate.” The Nevada Democratic Party’s central committee will vote on March 4.
The Unity Slate candidates “work for corporations and Republican-backed lobbyists,” Whitmer said, adding that if elected “the Unity Slate would work in an echo chamber to only serve the most funded politicians in our state, and only support the status quo’s agenda.”
The Unity Slate’s corporate ties are underscored by sponsors of its Sapphire PAC, which recently reported taking donations totaling $10,000 from Southwest Gas as well as $5,000 from NV Energy. Whitmer charged that acceptance of such funding from utility corporations “screws over the same voters we're working hard to fight for as the so-called Unity Slate turns a blind eye to rising costs that impact our community's most vulnerable.”
Whitmer said on Monday that her opponents “have the audacity and brazenness to run a registered lobbyist” on their Unity Slate as the candidate for second vice chair of the state party. She added that he “lobbies for an anti-union company fighting against our largest hardest-working union,” referring to the Culinary Union -- which days ago “tweeted against his company,” the lobbying law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
Nationally, Whitmer has been a leader in efforts to reform the Democratic National Committee. In early February, the DNC resolutions committee refused to act on a motion she co-authored to ban dark money in party primaries. “Time and time again, we’ve watched ‘dark money’ used to silence the voices our party most needs to hear,” Whitmer said. When “strong Democratic candidates willing to speak truth to power” have messages that “can be drowned out in a flood of untraceable expenditures,” she pointed out, “many candidates are questioning why they should even run.”
Three years ago, during the leadup to the hard-fought Nevada caucuses for delegates in the presidential nomination race, the wide gap between powerful union officials and rank-and-file workers was thrown into sharp relief. The hierarchy of the powerful Las Vegas-based Culinary Workers Union bashed Bernie Sanders for championing Medicare for All, but workers and their families overwhelmingly voted for Sanders. Now, the state AFL-CIO leadership is backing the “unity” slate against progressives.
The Nevada showdown comes right after notable progressive breakthroughs this winter in two other western states: Shasti Conrad won election to become chair of the Washington Democratic Party. Yolanda Bejarano, a leader of Communications Workers of America and a member of Progressive Democrats of America, won election to chair the Arizona Democratic Party.
Methodical organizing at the grassroots makes such progress possible. That’s what happened in West Virginia, where last summer activists wrested control of the state Democratic Party away from Joe Manchin, the archetypal big-money-talks Democratic senator.
Now, powerful forces are doing all they can to prevent the re-election of Judith Whitmer as chair of the Nevada Democratic Party. It’s a classic battle between top-down corporate money and bottom-up progressive activism.
Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy. His next book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, will be published in June 2023 by The New Press.
by Forrest Hylton
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, and with Bolsonaro still in Florida, the political temperature at carnival was much lower this year than it was in 2019 and 2020. Violence – including homicide and sexual harassment – was lower than it is “normally,” in everyday life and death, and participation in the blocos was massive throughout Brazil.
Among the visitors to Salvador was the US ambassador, Elizabeth Bagley, who was photographed leaning from a window to shake hands with Governor Jerônimo Rodrigues as the blocos passed below. Bagley tweeted that her first trip to the city ‘could not have been better’, thanks to the ‘contagious energy’ and the ‘music, colors and people’. Gilberto Gil performed with Margareth Menezes, the new culture minister. Other musicians included BaianaSystem and Ivette Sangalo.
An estimated million tourists came to a city with a population of less than four million in the entire metropolitan region. The circuito and the blocos are now so centralized, however, that the people who historically have given carnival its identity are today largely excluded from it. A more decentralized version might feature and invest in distinctive neighborhood traditions, promoting greater circulation and less concentration.
Three-fifths of Bahians – nine million people – lack “food security,” i.e., do not get enough to eat. They can only take part in carnival as dispossessed informal workers, roped off from the pay-to-play festivities of the blocos: hundreds if not thousands of unlicensed vendors camped out (with or without children) on either side of the main avenue between the Farol da Barra and Ondina five or six days before carnival started in order to secure their places to sell water, beer, soft drinks and food on the fringes of the circuito. With only their portable umbrellas to protect them from the brutal sun and occasional rain, they had no running water or access to showers. (Rows of portable toilets were everywhere available for revelers.)
Vendors had to be licensed by the city to get inside the circuito. Fifteen thousand cordeiros were paid 60 reais a day, along with food, water and transport subsidies, to handle the rope that separated the blocos, and those who had paid to party and dance near them, from everyone else. On Saturday, cordeiros from Bell Marques’s bloco protested that they had not been paid by the security firm subcontracted to employ them. BaianaSystem, exceptionally, do not use cordeiros or otherwise separate those who can pay from those who cannot, as a matter of principle.
There was one murder inside the circuito, apparently a settling of accounts between rival criminal facções. The gun was probably planted beforehand, since the police – who were out in numbers – conducted thorough searches of everyone going in. Following an incident of sexual harassment in the Muquiranas bloco – a group of men surrounded, shoved and showered a woman with water guns before the municipal police showed up – a formal investigation has been opened by the federal and state authorities.
Beyond the issues of crowd control and protecting women – which are serious, with millions of mostly young people drinking and taking drugs in the streets – stands the question of investment. The state government of Bahia, which has been PT since 2007, and the mayor’s office in Salvador, which is bolsonarista, provided 200 million reais. Private sector sponsors included the Ambev beer conglomerate (which spent 27 million reais), TikTok and Zé (a drink delivery app). The blocos are run like small businesses, selling the equivalents of expensive seats and T-shirts (abadás), plus the massive sound system trucks cost a small fortune to rent and set up.
President Lula, who came to Salvador before leaving to visit victims of a landslide in São Sebastião, São Paulo, has promised to reinstate the Bolsa Família, a subsidy for poor families, and the Minha Casa, Minha Vida housing scheme. These public programs especially benefit the Afro-Bahian majority, most of whom are poor.
In Porto da Barra, renters of furnished apartments were forced out during carnival week to make way for people paying exorbitant daily rates in euros or dollars. This short-term, seasonal orientation of the neighborhood’s landlord class meant that gentrification had stalled until recently, but now luxury apartment condos, with names like “Porto Privilege” or “Barra Life,” are sprouting up everywhere.
The finance-driven, speculative model of urban development, backed by large insurance and construction firms, goes hand in hand with tourism, which includes the sexual exploitation of minors and young adults. “Tour guides,” an untold number of them unlicensed, charge (older, usually white) men from out of town a commission of 15 per cent for the sexual services of (younger, mostly darker-skinned) local women and men. Plenty of quid pro quo also takes place, via Tinder and Grindr, without the intermediary.
Rather than tourism, which doesn’t alleviate but appears to exacerbate existing inequalities, Bahia needs a robust program of public works and reindustrialization. When the Ford plant in Camaçari closed in 2021, it led to the loss (directly and indirectly) of 72,000 jobs. Lula is negotiating its reopening.
The president has said he would like Dilma Rouseff to be the next head of the BRICS New Development Bank. Her former chief of staff and education minister, Aloízio Mercadante, who helped form the PT in 1980, is now in charge of Brazil’s National Bank of Social and Economic Development. He has indicated that reindustrialization will be part of a long-term planning strategy that emphasizes value-added manufacturing exports, in addition to agriculture and mining, which will need to comply with environmental regulations and human rights.
Along with climate change, industrial strategy will also need to address regional inequalities, while state and municipal authorities will need to consider the problems and contradictions of urban development based on tourism, services, real estate speculation and the labor of informal workers. Mercadante has pledged a massive program of federal loans and credits for the self-employed, which cannot arrive soon enough. “Now that carnival is gone, so is the investment,” an informal parking attendant told me, “so it’s hunger that remains.”
(London Review of Books)
VIA JEFF BLANKFORT:
The West Bank Is Erupting. Israel’s Top Brass Finally See the Writing on the Wall
by Amos Harel
The West Bank has known many instances of rioting by Jews in response to terrorist attacks, but what we saw on Sunday evening in the Palestinian town of Hawara seems to be unprecedented in scope. Over a period of hours, scores of settlers ran riot in the town after the murder of Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, two brothers from the settlement of Har Bracha. The rioters assaulted Palestinians and torched homes and vehicles. The army and the police, which had stationed relatively small forces there despite mounting warning signs of what was about to happen, failed to stop the rioting.
On social media, videos were uploaded showing the rioters taking a break from the violence in order to say the evening prayer and kaddish for the victims of the terror attack. It is hard to think of a more serious distortion of the country’s declared values than prayers uttered by these Cossacks as they are pouring out their wrath on the Palestinians of Hawara and destroying their property.
The Hawara pogrom was not born in a vacuum. It has an ideological mother and father who have never hidden their aspirations. Immediately after the murder of the brothers, posters were plastered across Samaria calling for settlers to march out of the settlement of Yitzhar to Hawara to demand revenge. The deputy chairman of the Samaria Council (who for some reason remains a deputy battalion commander in the reserves) took to Twitter to call for the village to be destroyed immediately, saying “there’s no room for mercy.” Bezalel Smotrich, who is both finance minister and minister in the Defense Ministry, responded to the tweet with a like – which he later removed after facing criticism.
Somehow, none of this was enough to spur the security forces into vigorous action or for the Shai (Judea and Samaria) district police’s intelligence unit to issue a high alert. Who knows – perhaps the police were too busy in studying the plans of dangerous leftist anarchists inside Israel, ahead of the next big demonstration in Tel Aviv.
Another question relates to the Shin Bet security service’s Jewish division. Sources at the agency said on Monday that because the disturbances involved public disorder that was known about in advance, it was the Israel Police’s responsibility to deal with it. But that’s not a convincing answer, so it is commendable that the Shin Bet took action and began investigating the affair on Monday, albeit belatedly.
As the extent of the rioting was becoming apparent, Daniella Weiss, one the settlement movement’s leaders, was interviewed on a Kan television broadcast Sunday night and rejected calls to condemn the rioting or urge the rioters to leave Hawara. On Monday morning, Zvika Fogel, a lawmaker belonging to Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party, contended that burning villages was the best way to deter terror and that the rioters had created a level of deterrence for Israel not seen since Operation Protective Shield in 2002.
Fogel is well known to long-time military correspondents from the days of the second intifada as a friendly staff officer fond of being interviewed. After he retired from military service, he ran for mayor of Be’er Sheva as part of the Shinui party (headed by Tommy Lapid). What went wrong afterwards isn’t clear, but if things calm down, maybe the IDF will one day conduct an internal investigation as to how a man with that kind of moral sense succeeded in reaching the rank of brigadier general.
Still, those who are surprised by the extreme right’s reaction to the attack simply haven’t been following carefully enough what has been happening in the West Bank recently. All the ingredients for an explosion are there, this time around ready to be detonated due to a serious systemic failure on the part of all the security forces. Two hours after the terror attack, the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command and the head of the Judea and Samaria Division were at the scene. Later, the head of the Samaria Brigade arrived, and not long after that, Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi and senior officers met in order to conduct a situational assessment. By the time the meeting ended at about 9 P.M., some 20 homes and stores in Hawara were aflame.
Only a few hundred meters separate the outskirts of Hawara and the brigade headquarters. If I remember correctly, from the meeting room, which sits at the crest of the hill that the base occupies, you have a view of the entire village. If someone had bothered to open a window, perhaps the army brass would have detected the stench emanating from the burning cars and buildings right under their noses.
The IDF admits the failure and says local forces should have responded more assertively. At the time of the rioting, there were two companies of Border Police on the scene, who were joined by a reserve battalion. As night fell, a regular paratroopers brigade also arrived after being called at the last minute from the Elyakim base. But it didn’t have enough time to prepare. The settlers’ protest wasn’t of the ordinary kind. The army believes that in addition to rioters who acted spontaneously, the violence was led by an organized group that had planned in advance to torch as many houses as possible and had divided up tasks among themselves.
Palestinians walk near cars burned in an attack by Israeli settlers following an incident where a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli settlers near Hawara.
Sunday night, as the security forces struggled to contain the rioting, and were forced to cut back the scale of the manhunt underway for the terrorist who had killed the two brothers, they had to contend
with another distraction. Hundreds of settlers, led by Weiss, returned to Evyatar, the West Bank outpost that was evacuated voluntarily by the settlers who had quietly returned to it in May 2021 as Operation Guardian of the Walls was under way in Gaza.
On Monday, the IDF and police made several attempts to evacuate the site again, a task that became significantly more complicated when Ben-Gvir, the minister in charge of the police, arrived at the outpost to hold an emergency meeting with the lawmakers from his party. The insanity of the current situation, the strange distribution of powers in the territories and the authority given to ministers of the extreme right, was amply demonstrated to the IDF command in the territories. Things cannot continue this way, they said on Monday.
Riding the tiger
Above this unprecedented rioting hovers the somewhat elusive figure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is the one who opened the door to the madness when he decided to give Smotrich and Ben-Gvir unprecedented power in the current government, hoping that they would help him get out of his criminal trial.
On Sunday evening, at the urgent request of senior security officials, Netanyahu released a video in which he called on Israelis “not to take the law into their own hands,” despite the anger and sorrow over the death of the two brothers. However, as time goes on, Netanyahu will find it harder and harder to ride the tiger that he let loose with his return to power. The frenzy the country has entered, under his full responsibility, since he launched the governmental coup, is now affecting the territories as well.
UKRAINE, TUESDAY, 28TH FEBRUARY
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged Monday that the situation is deteriorating in and around Bakhmut, a besieged mining city in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine that Russia has targeted for months.
″[In the] Bakhmut direction - the situation is getting more and more difficult,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
“The enemy is constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions, to gain a foothold and ensure defense,” he added.
On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow has to take into account NATO’s nuclear capabilities as he again falsely claimed that the West wants to eliminate Russia.
Echoing that sentiment on Monday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the West wants to “isolate, and even dismember” Russia. He added that the future world order is being decided now.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The kingdom of the antichrist will be erected from the ashes of this world, that is now entering into a world war. Proclamations of peace, will be proclaimed by the antichrist, who’s deceitful lies will be accepted as truth. In the midst of chaos and confusion, many will be appeased by a mark of damnation, that will be presented under the appearance of convenience, and necessity, for the things of this world, that brings death to the soul.
A FIRE THAT PURIFIES
Disruptive spirituality inside the Machine
To be trapped inside a machine is frightening, especially when it catches fire.
Once, as a boy, I was on a Yugoslav airline when one of the engines began shooting flames as the aircraft prepared for takeoff. I had a window seat and could see the fiery turbine under the wing a few feet away, as if a giant blow torch had been ignited within its whirling interior.
I should have been horrified that an explosion was imminent, but being a boy I instinctively felt immortal, like all children, and only experienced puzzlement and wonder. We were forced to spend the night in Ireland while the aircraft was repaired, which brought the bonus of staying in a hotel and riding a double-decker bus for the first time.
The next day we were airborne again, and I was back at the same window, no more troubled than the day before. When the long transatlantic flight finally neared its end, and the plane began its descent, I heard a murmuring voice behind me, and then another and another, all of them murmuring in unison in the dim cavernous light of the cabin:
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of our death.
Soon it seemed half the cabin was reciting these words as our socialist aircraft dipped and swayed on the air currents. It did not occur to my young immortal mind that many of the passengers had been anxious ever since takeoff, fearful that our aluminum flying machine might, after all, explode over the North Atlantic.
The praying passengers were likely from the northern Catholic regions of Yugoslavia, whereas my family of origin hailed from the old Byzantine lands in the south, which were (and still are) Orthodox. I had never heard the Hail Mary prayer, at least not in English, since our services were never in English.
Still, those chanted words struck me as powerful; not powerful in the sense of comforting—I did not need comforting just then—but powerful in the sense of strange and other-worldly.
Prayer is often associated with comfort and peace or connecting with the divine. But prayer is also a disruptive practice. It breaks through the ordinary pattern of daily behavior and shifts the focus of attention from the particular to the eternal.
Prayer is divine technology: an alignment of the signals of a human creature with the signals of the Creator. This technology works outwardly, altering our external behavior, but also inwardly, redirecting the flow of thoughts and feelings.
We have a habit, say, toward fear or anger or pornography, or whatever haunts our conscience or unsettles our spirit. Prayer disrupts these tendencies and turns us away from them, so that when the anger or fear creeps up again, or we feel temptation coming on, we are more ready, more able, to deal with it, more ready and able to re-align the flow of our spirit.
Prayer is disruptive, but so is the Machine. There is the outward disruption, in the form of devices and ChatGPTs and simulations, and—like prayer—an inward disruption.
The tools of the Machine invite us into their own rhythms and patterns: the incessant checking of messages, the compulsive need to know what is happening “out there” in the world or “over there” on that platform. But the real happening is “right here”, in and around our bodies.
We cradle the tools of the Machine. We brush their glassy faces and keep them closer than our own children. We allow the tools to direct our thoughts and emotions, to shepherd the flow of our neurochemistry and our spirit. We feel helpless when we try and break away, suddenly discovering we are addicts, or else possessed by some diabolical digital spirit.
I have served as a godparent in an Orthodox baptism, and one of the most unusual moments was when the priest asked me this question as I held the baby: “Do you renounce Satan, and all his angels, and all his works, and all his service, and all his pride?”
He asked this question three times, and three times I had to answer yes. Even stranger, after answering I was required to turn away toward the door of the church (away from the sanctuary) and to spit.
Yes, to spit. It was not a vigorous spitting, though. It was more like blowing (actually it was a bit of both). I was in my twenties at the time, cool and irreligious and still inclined to think myself immortal. I went along with it, superstitious as it seemed, because this is the way it had always been done in the old Byzantine hills of my parents’ village, and I was trying to be respectful to my family and to “tradition”.
Now that I am older and more vulnerable, I see things a bit differently. Behind that weird ancient tradition is a recognition that some things are just so destructive that it is not enough to acknowledge them with a verbal statement. Some things must be rejected viscerally, with our whole being.
Imagine responding to the internet this way? Do you renounce internet, and all its tools, and all its works, and all its services, and all its pride?
Yes, yes, and yes!
If it were only so easy.
We may not go so far as to spit at our smartphones (well, you are free to do so if you wish). But our response to the tools of the Machine must go beyond words and analysis, and disrupt the way we, as whole beings, engage with the world around us. Prayer and other spiritual practices help us do that, in ways that nothing else can, for nothing but spirituality can reach into the deepest and total sense of who we are.
Christianity is not the only religion capable of disruptive spiritual practice. A few months ago, I was driving past a local woodland in the autumn twilight when I spotted a vehicle ahead, half parked in a ditch, and a man unrolling a mat on the sidewalk beside the trees.
It was a damp night with a fine mist in the air; not raining, yet wet and cool, not a night to be bowing beside an obscure roadside in the direction of Mecca. The praying man, whoever he was, was almost as surprising a sight as if a fox or coyote had emerged from the shadows to observe the headlights of the passing traffic.
I would have been equally struck if I saw an elderly Asian man doing Tai Chi on the same mat that night, or a non-religious person with her legs crossed, reading Pride and Prejudice in the glow of an oil lamp.
I am not suggesting that Tai Chi, Islamic, Christian and bizarre British literature practices are basically “the same” because they can both disrupt the ordinary flow of daily life; but I am suggesting that spiritual practices in the age of the Machine might not have much impact on us, or on the world around us, unless they disrupt that flow in discernible ways that pull us out of the Machine and ground us in a more organic reality.
In my last essay I explored how emerging technologies capture both hemispheres of the brain: the left hemisphere, which perceives through abstract words, parts, and analysis, and the right hemisphere, which perceives experientially, wholistically, and emotionally.
Disruptive spirituality does the same, but in the opposite direction of the Machine: Tweets and media are replaced by prayer and holy readings, and virtual worlds are replaced by a sacred imagination and holy silence.
But there is something else the Machine brings, and this also needs to be countered: conviction. The power and ubiquity of technology makes us believe in its metaphors.
Tesla used to construct the rear-underbody of some of its vehicles with 70 separate parts, each of which had to be pieced together by robots and humans. Now it uses a 430-ton Giga Press to do the same job. The Giga Press pumps liquified molten alloy into a mold, clamps it shut till it hardens, and then presto, out comes a rear-underbody, a single piece that is perfect, exact, technically beautiful.
This marvel of engineering will make electric cars cheaper, but it is the wrong metaphor for a human being. And yet, after more than a hundred years of factory systems, the factory model has become a natural metaphor for how we understand human life, to the point that we are now okay with leaping into the factory fire to liquify our values, our language, how we educate our children, and pumping them into the prescribed molds until they cool and harden into new values, new words, new ways of being.
Fluid modernity leads to mechanical reality. This molten-mechanical metaphor might be material and dead, but we believe in it because it is our underbody and feels almost natural. A more powerful metaphor is needed—not a metaphor but a story—to give us reason to resist.
Some of us already live by spiritual stories that are more powerful than the Machine metaphor. Some of us will not discover our stories until we have suffered enough in the cultural Giga Press. Sometimes pain leads to conviction; sometimes the fire does not destroy but purifies.
What story is lifegiving? What story puts me in a right relationship with other human beings and the natural world? What story matters so much that I am willing to risk everything for it? What story am I willing to sacrifice my life for?
The Machine metaphor is powerful, yet the story behind it is empty. Factories make anything and everything. They make whatever. “Whatever” might seem exciting, brimming with possibility: We can make whatever! But it has a shadow side too. When applied to human beings, an attitude of “whatever” inclines us toward apathy, even despair.
When the Machine asks what the meaning of life is, the answer can only be, “whatever”.
Do I renounce the Machine as a metaphor for understanding human beings?
Yes, yes, and yes.
We have entered the season of Lent, a 46-day preparation for Easter when many Christians abstain from certain foods and behaviors, and spend more time in prayer and self-examination. Along with following the traditional fasting rules, one of the things I give up is coffee. There is nothing like six weeks without caffeine to help discover the “real you”—a more sluggish, cranky creature, yet one that sleeps better and dreams deeper.
The point here is not to achieve something, or to express an unconscious self-loathing. When the excesses of life are stripped away—the endless supply of food and other stuff—we discover how dependent we are on the non-machine Power that made us and this world. We get closer to reality. We feel our mortality, yet not with despair but hope.
Paul Kingsnorth recently wrote about the future saints who may one day return to the deserts and caves, while Jack Leahy writes from a monastery in the wilderness. Praying out of caves and wildernesses is also a kind of fasting, in this case fasting from civilization itself. But the principle is the same: when we abstain from the false, we get closer to what is true.
I have little to add to their insights, except this: we will need saints in the caves, but we will need many more inside the Machine.
For the reality is, many of us are going to be stuck in a Machine world for a long time, some of us for a lifetime. It is not because we want to be here, but because the system is global and there aren’t many exit doors. For us, practicing a disruptive spirituality within the Machine might be the only way to preserve our souls from the liquifying heat and power of the Giga Press, and to light a fire of a different kind.