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Mendocino County Today: Sunday, May 28, 2023

Shower Chance | Prison Bound | Shelter Closing | Tippett Responds | Philo Peony | Camp Navarro | Phone Addiction | Cannabis Farmers | Ed Notes | Caspar Seals | AV Ho! | Save Pillsbury | Wilderness Bill | Eel River | Card Theft | Yesterday's Catch | Mind Watching | Willits Rose | New Mercy | SMART Larkspur | Anti Social | Thinking Machines | Sanhedrin Wilderness | Marco Radio | Elvis Whoop | Debt Deal | Ukraine | Logical Fallacies | Mining Uranium | No Quarter | Lacking Humanity | Frankenstein | Techno Religion | Front Steps

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AN UPPER LOW will bring showers and a chance for afternoon thunderstorms throughout the interior each day through mid week. Temperatures are forecast to remain near late May averages today through next weekend. (NWS)

STEVE DUNLAP (Fort Bragg) weather wrap:

A mix of high & low clouds with 51F on the coast this Sunday morning. We have a 30% chance of a shower this afternoon. A mix of clouds & sun thru Wednesday then some wind is forecast.

A cloudy 57F in the valley & 42F at Lake Tahoe where the afternoon thunder show continues into mid week.

Some good thunder in the central plains & along the southern Rio Grande. The soggy holiday for the Carolina's continues already washing out today Charlotte 600, they are not ever going to try.

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As anticipated, defendant Matias Tomas Vietto, age 22, of Argentina, was sentenced to state prison Friday morning for a term of five years. Vietto had worked in the Boonville area for five months as a field laborer while traveling in the United States on a tourist visa.

Vietto was previously convicted by plea of robbery in the second degree and personally using a firearm in the course of the robbery.

On December 9, 2022, Vietto robbed the Mi Esperanza Market in Boonville at gunpoint and stole $17,000 in cash before fleeing the area. 

During the investigation, it was determined Vietto went south after the robbery and stayed in a hotel in San Francisco before boarding an Alaska Airlines flight at SFO heading for New York City. In New York, he was intending to board an international flight at JFK for Argentina but was intercepted and arrested by the New York Port Authority Police Department.

As part of the plea and sentence negotiations, the defendant’s parents in Argentina wired full restitution to Mendocino County to cover the loss of the market owners.

While being interviewed by Probation, the defendant reported that the robbery was due to his cocaine addiction. While he had engaged in substance abuse treatment two years earlier, Vietto said the cocaine in the United States is more potent than what he had experienced in Argentina. He claimed to have relapsed in Anderson Valley ten days prior to the robbery.

In a written statement to the court, the owners of Mi Esperanza said the following:

“This was a very traumatic event for us that changed our lives forever. It left us fearful and worried, but we are trying our best to move past this. We must continue working, as our livelihood and our family’s livelihood depends on it. 

Though we will never be able to completely forget this incident, we are slowly working towards gaining back our overall sense of security and trust.

We send our heartfelt thank you to the law enforcement agencies that investigated this crime, the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Court, Probation, the interpreters, and all those who have assisted us throughout the pendency of this case. 

As victims, we felt that everyone prioritized our safety and best interests. Although this robbery had a significant impact on our lives, the work of law enforcement had an even greater impact. 

We were highly impressed with the hard work and professionalism the law enforcement officials demonstrated throughout this investigation and how diligently they work to protect society as a whole.”

The prosecutor who handled the case from charging through sentencing was Assistant DA Dale P. Trigg.

Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Victoria Shanahan imposed the stipulated state prison sentence late Friday morning.

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John Redding on his personal Facebook page posted a falsehood-riddled reaction to the Thursday, May 25 meeting of the Mendocino Coast Health Care District Board. This is my response, both as Jade Tippett, and as Treasurer of the Mendocino Coast Health Care District. I apologize for the long read, but a lot of important information is needed to correct false rumors.

First and foremost, the primary duty of the Mendocino Coast Health Care District is to maintain medical services for the 29,000 residents of the District and the more than one million visitors to the Coast each year. Everything else follows from this obligation.

When Adventist Health took over the hospital on July 1 of 2020, the hospital and Health Care District were within 18 months of going bankrupt for the second time. It has become obvious that independent hospitals cannot survive without something like a ski slope nearby to provide a steady supply of high-paying orthopedic cases.

Today, financially, our Coast Hospital, by whatever name, is clearly not out of the woods. According to the Center for Quality Health Care and Payment Reform, Adventist Health Mendocino Coast posted a three year average loss on patient care services of 6%. ( The Adventist Health system of 20 hospitals in California and neighboring states posted a two-year net loss of $390Million. (

According to Becker's Hospital Review, there are 293 hospitals nationwide in immediate danger of closing including 7 or 8 in California. ( Fortunately, so far, our Coast Hospital is not one of them. The good news is that, at least in California, hospitals and health care are now on the front burner. Whether that turns into money for rural hospitals is another question.

Now, turning to John Redding's accusations:

Embarrassingly true, attorney Alexander Henson appeared to have fallen asleep during the meeting. This is unacceptable. The District two weeks ago approved a request for proposals for a permanent general counsel and this will go out to a number of law firms and the California Association of Health Care Districts' list of firms next week. Henson's temporary appointment will end relatively soon.

Redding's reference to "giving" Adventist $4Million is thoroughly disingenuous for several reasons.

First, the lease with Adventist required the District to supply Adventist Health Mendocino Coast with $2MIllion on signing (July 1, 2020) and $1Million + CPI every six months thereafter for Maintenance and Improvements. Redding as District Treasurer refused to pay that money to Adventist Health. It wasn't until Redding was forced to resign as Treasurer in the Fall of 2022 that the Board backed Chair Jessica Grinberg in paying the $4Million that Redding withheld in arrears to Adventist Health.

Second, Redding might might be referring to the $4Million of Adventist Health's payments for services that were remitted into the District's bank accounts because COVID related delays prevented Adventist Health from taking over the Mendocino Coast District Hospital's National Provider Identifier number, the key to where payments for health care services go.

The District is still receiving payments for Adventist Health services today and is holding about $380,000 of Adventist Health's money.

As Treasurer, I have access to the online services for the District bank accounts. I know these funds belong to Adventist Health for two reasons: one, the District in January of 2021 sold all outstanding Accounts Receivable, estimated by Adventist Health at $2.2Million, and all future Accounts Receivable, for the princely sum of $150,000. Redding voted to approve this. And two, in the online access and in the bank statements, I can see where every transaction came from and who billed it.

At the time that the District Board voted to approve the $4Million transfer that Redding appears to be referring to, the District had over $5.5Million of Adventist Health's money in District bank accounts. The Board subsequently voted to approve the transfer of another $1.5Million of Adventist Health's money to Adventist Health, leaving the $380,000 of Adventist Health's money in District accounts noted above.

Next piece: the CARES Act funds.

Prior to Adventist Health taking over the Coast Hospital, the District received over $5.5Million in Provider Relief Funds intended to make up for losses due to COVID. The short form is that the District still has these funds in the District's bank accounts. As of June 30, 2019, the District had about $7.2Million in cash and savings, according to the Fiscal Year 2019 Audit. As of April 30, 2023, the District has about $12.7Million in cash, savings, and the IGT that Redding is so proud of having made me get the Board to approve. The difference is exactly $5.5Million. The CARES Act money is still in District hands. ( and

In conclusion, what distresses me most about Redding's falsehood riddled attack is not the falsehoods or the accusations directed at me personally.

An odd side effect of the Brown Act is that the public has assumed a license to attack with total impunity those who step forward and accept the responsibility of elected office. We just have to get used to it.

What distresses me most is that Redding and his ilk are perpetuating what I called in 2018 the "caustic narrative" about our hospital, a narrative that ate away at people's confidence and trust, and threatened the hospital's existence as people went elsewhere for care. Patient surveys over the last year are showing that due to hard work by health care providers and Adventist Health administrators, Coast residents' confidence in our hospital is returning. That's a good thing, not to be undermined or placed in jeopardy.

The major threat our hospital now faces is the 2030 seismic deadline, as Redding noted. To meet that deadline, to raise $20Million or so to accomplish the minimal retrofit, the District may be able to contribute a portion. The bulk of that money will need to be raised, most likely with a General Obligation Bond requiring a 2/3 vote. Re-energizing the caustic narrative, as Redding and his partners in... falsehood-spreading... are doing, jeopardizes the possibility of passing an adequate bond election, jeopardizing the future of our hospital. This would not only place the health care of 29,000 people in jeopardy. It also places our entire coast economy in jeopardy.

This is not the place to be counting political coup. This is a place for serious, substantive, evidence-based discussions about our collective future. Redding's comments fail to meet that standard.

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Philo grown peony in my garden on Signal Ridge.  You had wondered a few weeks ago if anyone grew Peonies in the Valley.  I do! (Alethea Patton)

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CAMP NAVARRO invites you to join us at one of our three summer music festivals in the redwoods of the Anderson Valley, Mendocino County! Enjoy world class music on multiple stages, relaxation, recreation and camping/glamping/RV amongst tall trees and a flowing river, and classic summer vibes with a wonderful community. More details about each event and tickets found at our festival page found at:

Camp Navarro Festivals: 

  • Under The Moon: August 4-6
  • Camp Redwoods: August 18-20
  • Camp Deep End: September 15-17

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Tex Sawyer writes: A few years ago, I substitute taught various grade levels for the AVUSD. The primary behavioral issue that I experienced, especially at the high school, was the widespread addictive attachment to cell phones that the students exhibited. The policy at the time was no phone use in class. Phones were to be turned off and stowed in their backpacks. If we could see or hear the phone, then we were to confiscate it and turn it into the office. The level of defiance to my confiscation of their phone by some of the students was surprising to me. The most defiant students were reported to the office and removed from my classrooms. I strongly support the staff in their removal of the phones from the students during class time at all grade levels.

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I WAS wandering the dead end halls of my memory bank trying to remember the rarest moments of pure candor at a meeting of the supervisors. One came to mind because it was not only true but so unexpected and funny it still makes me laugh. I looked it up in our archive, and there it was. (Long-time readers will probably want to stop reading here as the editor begins another chapter of his personal Great White Whale.) 

IN JANUARY of 1997, then 5th District supervisor Charles Peterson, since disappeared, had introduced a routine resolution saluting Gary and Betty Ball, founders of the Mendocino Environment Center, for their objectively invisible accomplishments at the MEC, funding for which remains unknown. The MEC was housed in a ramshackle building owned by John McCowen who said he, as an environmentalist, had donated it to the Balls. I think the whole show was funded by the feds, but since key documents have either been “lost” or are unobtainable from the FBI, we’re not likely to ever know know the basics of the MEC unless former supervisor McCowen’s conscience suddenly prompts him to fess up. 

THE BALLS had suddenly appeared in Ukiah just as Earth First! surfaced in the county under the auspices of two other newcomers, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, and they left town not long after environmental “direct action” on the Northcoast had become indirect unto opaque. 

THE ECO-MOVEMENT Bari had begun became a fundraising center for Bari’s pursuit of her would-be assassin. She died of her injuries seven years after the attack on her. Thousands of dollars, lots of it in cash, arrived at the ava from out-of-the-area readers, which we forwarded to the MEC.

THE ASSASSIN, presently a resident of New Zealand, turned out to be, IMO, Bari’s furtive ex-husband, Mike Sweeney, who also maintained his recycling office at the MEC. Unique in the annals of crimes against women, Sweeney was not considered the primary suspect in the spectacular attack on his ex-wife, a car bomb placed under the driver’s seat of her Subaru that exploded in downtown Oakland. How many seething ex-spouses can pull off a car bomb? 

SUPERVISOR Delbar, a noble son of the soil out of Potter Valley, objected to Peterson’s windy proclamation honoring the Balls. He said that “the law enforcement community” objected to the resolution because of the MEC’s support for Bear Lincoln. Lincoln, of Covelo, was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of Deputy Bob Davis. The DA was unable to produce a coherent prosecution, Tony Serra, master of the narrative, did.

THE RESOLUTION, introduced by Peterson, a prudent liberal of the soft Democrat type dominant in Mendocino County, passed 4-1, Delbar in the lonely minority. Delbar, after his vague reference to the “law enforcement community,” declared, “I am unable to support this resolution. I’ve taken a look at it, and there is no monumental aspect to what they’ve done here. I don’t see anything really spectacular.” Which was true, but before or since no supervisor had ever dared state the obvious.

ONE OF THE BENEFITS of senility is re-reading the books enjoyed prior to senescence. I’ve again read Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America,” a fictional imagining of a fascist attempt to take over the country, with Jews being the first target. Our latter day fascists have a much expanded enemies list and we shall see what we shall see. The inimitable Roth imagines that the great American hero of pioneer aviation, Lindbergh, who also happened to be a fascist with a medal from the Hitler regime to prove it, becomes president, defeating FDR. The novel comes with a lot of sub stories and, of course, humor, in the grim context. Since our next presidential election will also pit a fascist against Elder Abuse, in a farcical but catastrophic reprise of Roth’s imagined disaster, “The Plot Against America” is site prep for what’s ahead for US.

“The revenge of the have-nots upon those who have and own. All the self-styled have-nots seeking to associate themselves with their parents’ worst enemies, modeling themselves on whatever was most loathsome to those who most loved them.”

— Philip Roth, American Pastoral

ALSO ROTH RECOMMENDED READING: “American Pastoral.” Roth’s novel encompasses in the collapse of one uncomprehending family what amounts to the end of the primacy of a bold and confident American bourgeoisie. A wealthy couple, circa 1950, produces a child who grows up to become a Weatherman-style revolutionary, blowing up irrelevant structures and harmless people just like the real life sons and daughters of the privileged occasionally did during the 60s and the early 70s. The parents of this mega-ingrate are of course bewildered by their daughter’s choice of vocations, ignoring one relative’s sane insight that the kid is clearly at war with them, her parents, since America obviously isn’t a fascist state although there are probably forty or fifty million proto-or crypto fascists among its citizens. If you’ve ever had the experience of being denounced with more vehemence by the nutso pseudo-left than they ever seem to muster for their official enemies, you’ll appreciate the masterful job Roth does here of getting inside the mind of a person who transfers his or her personal misery into a dangerously deluded and ultimately false pseudo-left radicalism.

JEFF BURROUGHS once told me that Frank James wasn’t the only famous figure to stop at the Boonville Hotel. Jack and Charmian London rode through The Valley in the summer of 1910, leisurely making their way to the Coast on horseback but stopping for a night at the Boonville Hotel where they left their signatures in the register, fortunately retrieved some 70 years later by Mike Shapiro from a construction dumpster. Shapiro turned the register over to the Little Red School House Museum where it has safely rested ever since

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Plump of Seals, Casper Headlands (Jeff Goll)

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Jim Mastin: If anyone has a video of Mary Buckley, accompanied by Jon Tyson, singing her original song Anderson Valley Ho! at the Harvest Tidrick in Boonville last October—or of Sarah Songbird Larkin & Jon Tyson performing it as an audience sing-along at the AV Variety Show in March—please contact Mary at or 707-621-0339.

If you missed those performances, you can hear the tail end of Sarah and Jon singing it at the recent Pinotfest, used in a Greenwood Ridge Winery promo video on Katie Ambrosi’s Facebook page.

And if none of those ring a bell for you but you’re curious about this semi-Boontling song, I’ve pasted the lyrics below.

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Anderson Valley Ho (sung to the tune of Russian folksong “Hey, Zhankoye!”)

lyrics ©1999 Mary Buckley

If you pike into our region, you will find attractions legion—bomtooks, croppies, fratty wine,

Tidricks for chiggling bahl gormin, hornin regions to keep warm in—you’ll be feeling plenty fine.


A.V., Anderson Valley—won’t find it in Rand McNally

If you look for Boont or Poleeko. (Hey!)

Even though it’s hard to get to, it’s a place you’re glad you went to.

A.V., Anderson Valley, Ho!

If you think that road is hard to travel, imagine no asphalt or gravel—maybe just a horse and cart.

When diversions were much scanter, they developed their own banter. A.V. is a place apart.


Nowadays they dress more natty—less of croppies, more of fratty. Boontling isn’t what they speak.

But still it calls from Uke to Briney, “If you’re feeling nonch or whiny, keemwun keemle, have a deek!”

Last Chorus:

A.V., Anderson Valley, won’t find it in Rand McNally

If you look for Boont or Poleeko. (Hey!)

When you finally do unearth it—hard to get to, but it’s worth it.

A.V., Anderson Valley, Ho!

A.V. is the place to go.

A.V., Anderson Valley, Ho!

Boontling Words:

bahl – good

bomtook – vineyard

Boont – Boonville

Boontling – lingo created in Boonville, Anderson Valley, CA in the late 19th century

Briney – the Pacific Ocean

chiggle – eat

croppies – sheep

deek – look, pay attention

fratty – wine

gorm – food, eat

horn – drink (hornin region = bar)

keemwun keemle – come one, come all

nonch – bad

pike – travel

plenty – very, used more freely

Poleeko – Philo, Anderson Valley

region – place, house

tidrick – party, social gathering

Uke – Ukiah, Ukiah Valley

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“YOU’VE JUST GOT TO KEEP PUSHING”: Huffman reintroduces Northwest California wilderness bill in Republican house

After Democrats were unable to pass a sprawling package of new federal wilderness designations in the last Congress, Huffman announced last week he will try again with his bill to further protect 260,000 acres of wild areas in Northern California

by Andrew Graham

After a promising start for passage of sprawling public lands legislation sputtered in 2022, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman remains determined to find a way forward for his bill to protect some of Northern California’s wildest zones.

On Thursday, he announced he was reintroducing the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, which would designate 257,797 acres of national forest land in Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties as federal wilderness and place 480 miles of river in the region under the nation’s strictest environmental protections for waterways.

Map of the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (California Wilderness Coalition)

“We’re just gonna keep trying,” Huffman told The Press Democrat in an interview. “It is a very well developed bill, a good bill that has had past bipartisan support.”

His bill would designate an additional 49,692 acres as potential wilderness, pending further study. It also designates the Bigfoot Trail, today an unofficial route that winds 360 miles through the Klamath Mountains, as a national recreation trail — joining the ranks of such famed paths as the Pacific Crest Trail.

Huffman’s bill does not create any new federal land but gives vast swaths of several national forests a greater layer of protection under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Areas designated as wilderness by Congress are off-limits to motorized vehicles and mechanized equipment to preserve their wild character, with some exceptions including combat against dangerous wildfires. Traditional recreational uses, including camping, hunting and fishing, are generally allowed.

Recreation enthusiasts, outfitters, wilderness advocates and many local officials in Humboldt and Mendocino counties back the bill. It generated opposition from some in Trinity County, where the long, painful decline of the timber industry has soured some officials’ taste for more wilderness.

But the bill would open up some forestry work. It carves out 724,007 acres in Trinity and Humboldt counties as a restoration area, much of it overlapping the giant footprint of the 2020 August Complex wildfire and other blazes. In that area, the bill directs the Forest Service to unleash wildfire mitigation work, including treatment through logging on 232,000 acres.

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, also reintroduced bills to designate more wilderness and protect river miles on the Central Coast and San Gabriel Mountains Thursday. The three bills are part of a package in the Senate championed by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles called the Protecting Unique and Beautiful Landscapes by Investing in California (PUBLIC) Lands Act. All told the package would designate nearly 600,000 acres of new wilderness and create more 583 miles of new wild and scenic rivers.

“Our public lands and natural spaces are some of our state’s greatest gifts — from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Carrizo Plain to the Northern California Redwoods,” Padilla said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon us to be thoughtful stewards of these special places.”

For now at least, it’s a smaller package than the ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful effort last Congress.

In the spring of 2021, with their party newly in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, Democrat lawmakers from California, Washington, Arizona and Colorado saw an opportunity to make the largest addition to the federal wilderness system in a decade and passed a package designating two million new acres of wilderness out of the House.

Proponents hoped to attach the package to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023, Huffman said. Lawmakers often consider such critical legislation as the best way to pass any laws at all in the current political environment. But Senate Republicans objected to the inclusion of a public lands package in the defense bill, which went to Biden’s desk last December without any wilderness legislation.

“The whole idea just fell apart,” Huffman said, “it ended up not being one of the bargaining chips as the (defense act) came together.”

The conservation bills likely face a tougher path this time around, with a still divided Senate and Democrats in the minority in the House. Though public land protections have often been bipartisan in the past, when the House passed the last package in February 2021 only eight Republicans joined Democrats to vote for the measure.

Huffman described himself as patient but determined to see the measure that has cleared the House three times become law.

“Sometimes you’ve got to just keep pushing (bills) into the conversation year after year, looking for opportunities that might surprise you,” he said. “As I’ve said before, I will attach this to a ham sandwich if that’s what it takes to get it to the president’s desk.“


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South Fork Eel River Wilderness (Ryan Henson)

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by Marilyn Davin

I suppose it was inevitable though it hadn’t happened to me even once in 72 years of life that included living, working, studying, or visiting 27 U.S. states and 13 countries. Somebody ripped off my debit card which, despite my daughter’s admonitions, I use for everything. Why use the seductive medium of a credit card? I’ve always preferred to use a debit card now that a glass case is being readied in the Smithsonian for paper checks. But whatever you use to buy whatever you buy, that’s not the interesting part of this story.

My last legit debit was to the local Safeway, after which the card itself mysteriously disappeared. Poof! It wasn’t turned in at Safeway, where a friendly checker flipped through a locked drawerful of forgotten cards (this is a senior community) after my credit union called to ask if I had spent $900 and change at the San Ramon Walmart superstore, an accurately spotted anomaly on my credit union’s part. I had not. The last time I was in a Walmart was to buy an ice chest at the Ukiah Walmart many moons ago. There aren’t any Walmarts within 10 miles of here so Target is the local go-to equivalent. This courtesy call prompted me to boot up my account to check out what had first appeared to be a one-off, only to face, with mounting horror, an avalanche of unauthorized debits totaling nearly 7-grand, including recently deposited tax refunds. In our household we collectively though futilely racked our frazzled brains about where the damned card had been stolen, which is what humans do after the horse has long escaped from the barn. Must be in our DNA.

Next stop was my credit union, where I spent two long hours going through a dozen fraudulent charges totaling the aforementioned 7-grand. My helpful rep spent a good while on the phone talking with Walmart security and others to piece together details that, whatever the unlikely odds, might lead to the identification and hopeful apprehension of the perp(s). 

As an American living through these fraught days I know of course that there are cameras everywhere, ubiquitous eyes always on the alert for infractions large and small. But when the credit union rep told me I’d have photos of the thieves within minutes, a cloud of dread settled over me. Please, I thought quietly, don’t let it be an impoverished single mother trying to feed her kids or a young homeless person black, white, or other. I know, theft is theft and as such its legal consequences should be blind, but there’s often a backstory other than covetous greed. I needn’t have worried. The thieving couple in the photos, a white middle-aged man and woman, could have been Ma and Pa Kettle, even with glasses, masks, and hats. Bonnie and Clyde II didn’t need them, it was a bloodless coup.

The credit union rep then told me that, given the amount of the financial carnage, I needed to file a police report, which she said I could do at any local PD in the county. 

Walking into the Walnut Creek PD was like walking into a tomb: not a soul in sight, either in the long corridor to the public lobby or in the cavernous lobby itself. Two female employees sat chatting in a glassed-in cube in the reception area. When I told them I was there to report a theft, the woman closest to the hole in the window where you could talk told me that I needed to speak with a detective, all of whom were currently “out in the field.” She assured me that she would call one to meet with me before turning to resume her chat with the other woman in the booth. I thanked her and sat down on one of the visitor’s benches, the sole occupant. 

Midway into my nearly one-hour wait in the tomb-like lobby, a detective miraculously exited one of the locked doors, headed for an adjacent door. I jumped up to intercept him. 

Me: Thanks for meeting with me, I’m here to report a theft.

Cop #1: Sorry, I’m not the one you’re waiting for.

Me: But you’re a detective, right?

Cop: Yes, but I am doing something else right now (turns and walks away). (It must be said at this point that employees at both PDs mentioned in this story were to a person cloyingly sweet and accommodating and Stepford-like, kind of like broadcast news anchors, even in a situation like this one where a local resident (me) was clearly pissed off at cooling her heels for close to an hour in her empty, cavernous, local police station.) 

A detective finally walked out of another door and approached me. Tricked out in full regalia of uniform and complicated communication equipment involving both mouth and ears, he smiled engagingly before dropping the bad news. 

Detective #1: Glancing quickly at the carefully annotated list of fraudulent charges listed on my online credit union statement, Detective #1 told me he was SO sorry (everybody is so sweetly and serially sorry about SNAFUs these days, especially while delivering bad news), but most of these debits occurred in San Ramon so you need to go to San Ramon PD. 

Me: Can’t you please just take the report here and send it to San Ramon PD?

Detective #1): Sorry, can’t do it.

Me: But my credit union rep told me I could submit a report at any PD.

Detective #1: They don’t understand how things work in law enforcement.

Frustrated with my position yet acutely aware of my utter powerlessness and lack of recourse, I walked out of the WCPD, got back in my VW Beetle, and joined the hordes of speeding cars and trucks heading south on I-680.

Shortly after taking one of four San Ramon exits I easily found the San Ramon PD, which was undergoing a major renovation. (There must be lots of cash for law enforcement around here, either that or a bloated fear of crime intense enough to open resident wallets in this sleepy burb.) After zigzagging between temporary plywood walkways I passed several doors marked Do Not Enter en route to the PD’s double doors to face yet another lobby. Once again, a cheerful cop told me that a detective in the field would have to be called in to take my fraud report. So far more of the same, but at this point the similarity between the two PDs ended.

Within minutes a young detective (after you hit 70 everybody looks young) came to greet me and we actually sat down in a conference room. Taking careful notes in his tiny, left-handed script, he spent an hour with me, carefully retracing the trajectory of what was known so far about the theft. (I mentally chided myself for my moment of concern over his youth – a lesson for all of us oldsters.) Though he almost certainly drew the short straw for this assignment, he listened carefully and took copious notes.

Me: Thanks for spending this time with me. My local PD in Walnut Creek told me I had to come here to file a fraud report since most of the thefts happened here in San Ramon.

Detective #2 (hesitating for just a moment, undoubtedly evaluating the wisdom of contradicting a fellow detective, especially a much older one with presumably much more seniority): Well, that isn’t really true. You can file a report anywhere. 

He then went on to describe the steps he would take to widen the net around this particular thieving couple, whom he noted appeared sophisticated in the approach to their thievery: four different Walmarts at $900 and change each (expensive computers or TV systems to sell on eBay, perhaps?), several ATMs including one at my very own credit union. How he, she, or they learned my PIN is a critical question with no good answer since I’ve never written it down. 

The detective told me that some cyber thieves angle to look over your shoulder while you’re inputting your PIN at a store or restaurant. We’ll probably never know. The cop gave me his card and encouraged me to call with questions, even called me with a follow-up question of his own the next day. So we wait…

This tale cries out for an apples-to-apples comparison with another NorCal city (rather than a county sheriff’s department), so I called Ukiah PD. “Nine times out of 10, unless there is suspect information we just document those cases,” said Ukiah dispatcher and records manager Tracey Porter, who told me she was working on her 30th year on the job. “It’s super difficult [to identify thieves] without it.” I found her candor refreshing after all the hopeful East Bay talk about somehow apprehending the perps. Porter added that this type of theft “happens a lot, almost every day” in Ukiah. The process of reporting a theft in Ukiah is essentially the same as in San Ramon. An officer writes the initial report and gives it to a detective, who may or may not refer it to the DA. The sometimes unsavory politics of what advances to the DA or subsequently rises to the level of indictment is beyond the scope of this tale. 

Without actually coming right out and saying that the likelihood of collaring Bonnie and Clyde II is essentially nil (despite the odds, some do get caught), Porter said that consumers should protect themselves as best they can to head off thefts like mine. When checking out with a credit card, she cautioned, you should block a view of the card reader (and your card) with your body so that thieving eagle eyes in the vicinity can’t read it. 

Second to “I’m sorry,” “You have to protect yourself” is the second most frequent advice offering today from customer service in twenty-first century America. We’re supposed to lock our doors, encrypt our documents, insure everything, and essentially be vigilant and on guard 24/7, a near impossibility in today’s virtual reality where you’re only likely to see the Bonnie or Clyde who robbed you in a grainy black-and-white photo taken by a camera mounted in an ATM. 

Curious thing, this artificial empathy, uttered by cheerful strangers you’ll never see again, in institutions that don’t care a fig about you: the illusion of human connection and concern. The real loss here is not monetary, though that is significant—and given the regularity that our impoverished fellow travelers suffer crime in their communities, often of the violent type, this impersonal, bloodless theft ranks on a par with the proverbial tempest in a teapot. 

But our individual realities are still our realities. Until last week I was sensibly cautious but never looked over my shoulder, anywhere in the world: not at a “Yankee Go Home” protest in Izmir, Turkey; not at Peoples’ Park demonstrations back in the day; not during air raids in Israel; nowhere. Modern Bonnie and Clydes like the ones who ripped me off operate nearly anonymously in cyber space; there’s really no one to blame other than grainy security cam photos unlikely to end in either the perps’ identities or apprehension. Cops very well understand but can never say that thieving cyber ghosts, absent finger prints, DNA, or other physical evidence, are rarely if ever caught. 

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Saturday, May 27, 2023

Alexander, Avalos, Deck

LOUREN ALEXANDER, Hayward/Willits. DUI while on probation.


FRANK DECK, Willits. DUI. 

Fink, Klovski, Paniagua

ERIKA FINK, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear, resisting.

BRIAN KLOVSKI, Ukiah. Possession of over 600 obscene images etc. of minor in sexual act, probation revocation.


Prichard, Thomas, Vazquez

GABRALLIA PRICHARD, Willits. Disorderly conduct-intoxicated by drugs&alcohol.

CHRISTOPHER THOMAS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-under influence of drugs, littering and waste matter.

EDGAR VAZQUEZ-ALVARADO, Ukiah. Controlled substance, probation revocation.

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Emergency Message to Postmodern America

Warmest spiritual greetings, Awoke this morning at the Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center in Ukiah, California to discover that I probably will not have a money crisis, because the ridiculous American congress in Washington, D.C. is per usual strategizing a solution to the raising-the-deficit crisis, and therefore, necessary survival benefits for seniors such as Medicaid and Social Security will not be suspended. This is timely, because the Savings Bank of Mendocino County checking account has $144.26, and there is $24.00 in cash plus $5.09 in the wallet. Social Security is due in; $462.00 around the 1st of June, and SSI $367.07 around the 3rd of June. BTW, I am getting the SSI because the body-mind complex is 73 years of age. I have never been prescribed any psychotropic drugs for any mental illness whatsoever. I am sane! 

On May 30th, a staff member from Building Bridges is driving me to St. Helena for a consultation with the cardiologist who is going to switch out the Medtronic pacemaker for a more comprehensive pacemaker. I have already purchased spring water and snacks for the trip, previously uncertain if there would be any money left at month's end. On June 16th the Adventist Health-Ukiah dental hygiene department is going to clean and examine the teeth. If you followed my nightmare story of getting dental care in Mendocino County previously, you understand why this is just fabulous. 

Otherwise, Sunday and Monday are nigh. As usual in Ukiah, I have nothing whatsoever to do and the public library is closed. By default, this becomes watching the mind, and going where I don't need to go and doing what I don't need to do. There is no money available for a beer to while away the hours in some sports bar. 

As Abbot Lau of the nearby City of Ten Thousand Buddhas said when I asked him what his spiritual goal is: "My goal is to let the Dao work through me without interference." In other words, the mind thinks and the body moves, as the Divine Absolute acts out its will. 

Craig Louis Stehr

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Willits Rose (Jeff Goll)

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EVERY MISERY that I miss is a new mercy, therefore let us be thankful.

— Izaac Walton

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If the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District is planning a spending splurge (“SMART plans spending surge for rail, path projects,” May 22), then it is inconceivable to me why they are not revisiting and insisting on the vital connection directly to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.

I believe that this last half-mile is the key to increasing ridership to a sustainable level. No one wants to add that extra time, hassle and long walk to an already time-consuming commute to San Francisco, so it’s quicker and more efficient to drive.

Without a station at the ferry terminal itself, SMART will continue to be the “train to nowhere.”

Michael Alexin

San Rafael

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* * *



Art envisions the future.

In 1965 Frank Hebert’s science-fiction novel “Dune” was published and a series of novels continuing the saga followed. Now, almost 60 years later, the second installment of the movie based on the one-time Santa Rosan’s work is due out this November. So this is a story that still has widespread appeal to a large audience.

What may be less well known is that Herbert’s son, Frank, and Kevin Anderson wrote a three-novel prequel to “Dune,” a trilogy titled “Legends of Dune.” This tells the story of how the various political factions of the planet Dune came into being and of the battle throughout the galaxy between humans and “thinking machines.”

I am often surprised at how accurately good science-fiction can predict the future. Now that artificial intelligence is upon us, the potential conflict between humans and “thinking machines” is a topic that is (or should be) of real concern. So if you’re of a mind to have a troubled mind, give “Legends of Dune” a read. It may stimulate your thinking.

Richard Evans


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Sanhedrin Wilderness (Ryan Henson)

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Here's the recording of last night's (2023-05-26) eight-hour-long Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA) and

Email your written work on any subject and I'll read it on the very next Memo of the Air on KNYO.

Besides all that, at 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. Such as:

Curious George at the end of the line. "Ooo ooo. Aah Aah."

A Dust-channel short subject about a boy and the secret in his shoulder pack. It feels a bit too convenient that he ends up right where he's required, with the exact tool needed, but there's a wish-fulfillment deal to it that aligns with many of my own daydreams, so it's probably universal. And I wonder, will the man with the bag on his head turn out to be the boy's missing father?

This is the oldest art statue we've ever found, fifteen thousand years older than the Venus of Willendorf. It's forty thousand years old. It's called the Lion Man. It's one foot tall, made of mammoth-tusk ivory. "The carving of the figurine would have been a complex and time-consuming task." Probably the maker was a near-full-time artist, when not designing weapons and devising tactics to bring down a five-ton, fifteen-foot-tall behemoth that could run thirty-five miles an hour, or making fire with a fire-bow to cook steaks out of it, or charting a path across the tundra by the feel of the air and the position of the stars. (via Cliff Pickover)

Marco McClean,,

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A teenage fan in the moment at an Elvis Presley concert, at the Philadelphia Arena in 1957.

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TENTATIVE DEBT CEILING DEAL: The GOP has scheduled a members call for 9:30pm after McCarthy and Biden spoke on the phone earlier in the night for about 90 minutes, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Central to the package is a two-year budget deal that would hold spending flat for 2024 and impose limits for 2025 in exchange for raising the debt limit for two years, pushing the volatile political issue past the next presidential election. The deal would avert an economically destabilizing default, so long as they succeed in passing it through the narrowly divided Congress before the Treasury Department runs short of money to cover all its obligations, which it warned Friday will occur if the debt ceiling is not raised by June 5. 

— AP

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Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said his fighters have begun their withdrawal from Bakhmut as they hand the eastern city to Russia's military after capturing it in a months-long battle. Ukrainian officials have insisted this week that pockets of resistance remain in the city.

Ukrainian officials said a new wave of drone attacks launched by Russia overnight at multiple cities, including Kyiv, had failed to reach the intended targets.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said that Ukraine was behind the drone attacks on the building on May 3. US intelligence has indicated that a Ukrainian group may have launched the operation, sources told CNN, while Kyiv has denied involvement. 

Russia's defense minister called the cross-border raid near Belgorod a "terrorist act," and said Moscow will respond "extremely harshly" to any further attempts.

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by Bill Hatch

The Doomsday Clock, established in 1947 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, has moved closer to midnight than at any time in its history. The scientists see the world in 2023 as 90 seconds from apocalypse, due to the threat of nuclear war arising from the Ukraine War. 

The United States has sanctioned Russian gas and oil but hasn’t yet sanctioned low-enrichment uranium from Russia because it sells US companies somewhere between a quarter and a half of all the low-enriched uranium used by commercial nuclear reactors. But that could change: today there are bills in both houses of Congress to sanction Russian enriched uranium and to stimulate the moribund US uranium-mining industry, driven out of business due to import competition, disasters such as Fukushima, Three Mile Island, Church Rock, Chernobyl, and increased environmental regulation. 

The richest US uranium deposits are on the Colorado Plateau. The Navajo Nation alone contains more than a thousand abandoned uranium mines left over from a boom that busted 30 years ago and their radioactive tailings are a continuing danger to residents. 

One of the richest grades of ore is around the Grand Canyon, where the Obama administration in 2012 put a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mines. But the moratorium didn’t include the Energy Fuels Inc.’s existing and permitted Pinyon Plain Mine or its White Mesa Mill, the only operational uranium-processing mill in the country. Pinyon Plain ore grade is between .88 and .95 percent uranium. By contrast, the grade of uranium ore in Texas runs around .12. Canadian uranium deposits in the Athabascan Basin, on the other hand, are more than twice as rich as Energy Fuel’s Pinyon Plain Mine and their mines are not in the middle of one of the most popular and spectacular tourist attractions in the world. The White Mesa mill processes the wastes from nuclear reactors at a lower grade, recovering minimal quantities of uranium oxide and producing depleted uranium tailings.

The uranium boom that began the early 1950s on the Colorado Plateau left a haunting legacy of government and industry deceit, radiation pollution, and sickened mine workers exploited with low salaries in unventilated mines, who were denied knowledge of the health dangers, particularly kidney damage and cancer, from their work.

Today, Energy Fuels’ mine threatens the only source of water the Havasupai tribe have, and its mill threatens to pollute water and air for the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation residents of White Mesa and to pollute the San Juan River and contaminate plants gathered for medicine. 

Dianna Sue White Dove Uqualla, a former Havasupai council member and community health worker and now an elder of Supai Village, put her tribe’s situation in the most dramatic terms: “If we are meant to die here we will die here. When they kept us in the canyon they didn’t understand that we were living in Shangri-La. We’re not going to move,” she said at a gathering at Red Butte, a sacred site for the Havasupai on the canyon rim. In order to hold the ceremony, they had to get a permit from the Forest Service. 

This echoes a story as old as Thanksgiving: the white men pushing Native Americans off their land and away from their holy sites. 

The Grand Canyon itself is a holy site for all the tribes that have joined in the Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition with Arizona US Senator Kirstin Sinema and Rep. Raul Grijalva to persuade the President Biden administration to establish the the Baai Nwaavio I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument to forever outlaw uranium mining on 1.1 million acres around the canyon. 

On May 20, Secretary of Interior Debra Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, met with the group to listen to urgent reasons for protecting the environment and people, including millions of tourists, of the Grand Canyon. 

Colleen Kaska, a US Army veteran and Havasupai tribal council member, recently put the drastic nature of the threat in perspective: “Accidents happen, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, road crashes, mistakes happen, that’s just life. Once a disaster occurs there’s no fixing it and there’s no going back,” she said. 

Once mining begins at the Pinyon Plain site, the danger to the only water source the Havasupai have, a creek that includes the iconic turquoise waterfall at the bottom of the canyon, begins to escalate. The mine could pollute the creek, the water supply for tourists, and the Colorado River itself. 

The Coalition includes the Havasupai Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab Paiute Tribe, Las Vegas Band of Paiute Tribe, Moapa Band of Paiutes, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Navajo Nation, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Colorado River Indian Tribes, along with the Grand Canyon Trust, an NGO that has worked to protect the resources and people of the Grand Canyon since 1985.

The Wilderness Society reported that Baai Nwaavio means “where tribes roam” in Havasupai and “I’tah Kukveni means ‘our footprints’ in Hopi. ‘Where tribes roam; our footprints.’”

Opposing the people is a policy set out by the Nuclear Fuels Working Group established by former President Donald Trump, which states with logic worthy of the Cold looking-glass War: 

“Finally, the U.S. Government will move into markets currently dominated by Russian and Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and recover our position as the world leader in exporting best-in-class nuclear energy technology, and with it, strong non-proliferation standards. We will restore American nuclear credibility and demonstrate American commitment to competing in contested markets and repositioning America as the responsible nuclear energy partner of choice.” 

Uranium Producers of America spent $1,240,000 between 2018-2022 to lobby Congress to underwrite the renewal of uranium mining in the United States while sanctioning uranium from Russia and former Soviet republics. This particular group of American patriotic firms contains three American corporations, six Canadian corporations, and one Australian corporation.

Energy Fuels Inc. spent a total of $200,000 in 2022 alone; and, “From 2017 through 2020,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Energy Fuels paid $310,000 to the lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels (now known as Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath) to press the company’s agenda with the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. trade representative, the White House and others, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

“Another large rush of contributions came in late February and March last year, when seven board members and executives at Energy Fuels donated $13,000 to (John) Barrasso (R-WY). During that same time period, the senator was championing the creation of the uranium stockpile through legislation, and, on March 3, he pressed then-Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to provide “immediate relief” to uranium miners in the United States.

“In recent years, U.S. power plants have imported more than 90% of their fuel from abroad, including from Russia and Kazakhstan, which according to Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy posed a national security risk.” 

The military would receive an “ancillary benefit” from the program, the report added.

Trump’s Nuclear Fuels Working Group suggested that the government create a uranium reserve stockpile for domestically mined uranium, funded at $150 million. Residents of uranium-mining areas and environmental groups persuaded the government to drop the ”domestic-only” clause and the GAO halved the amount of this subsidy to the miners, whose only brush with the free market has been the free market in members of Congress. 

For $500,000 and change in lobbying funds over a few years, Energy Fuels landed a contract in December with the federal government for $18.5 million in uranium ore at $61 a ton, $10 above the world price. 

“We hope that the strategic uranium reserve will get a second look because we’re not sure it’s anything more than a handout to the uranium industry and specifically to Energy Fuels,” Amber Reimondo, energy director for the Grand Canyon Trust, told the press. She added that “tribal governments whose citizens might be impacted by new uranium mining should be included in those discussions.”

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by Maureen Dowd

By the time I took off my mortarboard two weeks ago, my degree in English literature was de trop. Instead of a Master of Arts, I should have gotten a Master of Algorithms.

As I was pushing the rock up a hill, mastering Donne, Milton, Shakespeare, Dickens, Joyce and Mary Shelley, I failed to notice that the humanities had fallen off the cliff.

It was as if the bottle of great wine I saved to celebrate my degree was bouchonné.

The New Yorker ran an obit declaring “The End of the English Major.” One English professor flatly told Nathan Heller, the writer of the 10,000-plus-word magazine piece, that “the Age of Anglophilia is over.”

The Harvard English department handed out tote bags with slogans like “Currently reading” and dropped its poetry requirement for an English degree. But it was too late for such pandering. Students were fleeing to the hotter fields of tech and science.

“Assigning ‘Middlemarch’ in that climate was like trying to land a 747 on a small rural airstrip,” Heller wrote.

Trustees at Marymount University in Virginia voted unanimously in February to phase out majors such as English, history, art, philosophy and sociology.

How can students focus on slowly unspooling novels when they have disappeared inside the kinetic world of their phones, lured by wacky videos and filtered FOMO photos? Why should they delve into hermeneutics and epistemology when they can simply exchange flippant, shorthand tweets and texts?

In a world where brevity is the soul of social media, what practical use can come from all that voluminous, ponderous reading? Would braving “Ulysses” help you pay the rent the way coding could?

I wish I could adopt the attitude of Drew Lichtenberg, who has taught theater history at Catholic and Yale Universities. “We should hail the return of the arts and humanities to bohemian weirdos,” he said. “It began as something for which there were no career opportunities or money to be made, and thence it will return. Like Gertrude Stein’s circle in the Jazz Age. Or like Baudelaire, Rimbaud and the Symbolist poets in the fin de siècle.”

But I find the deterioration of our language and reading skills too depressing. It is a loss that will affect the level of intelligence in all American activities.

Political eloquence is scarce. Newt Gingrich told Laura Ingraham that the secret to Donald Trump’s success is that “he talks at a level where third-, fourth- and fifth-grade educations can say, ‘Oh yeah, I get that’.”

My most precious possession from my time at Columbia University is a green Patrón box stuffed with slips of paper on which I scribbled the new words I learned.

Limerence. Peloothered. Clinchpoop. Chthonic. Sillage. Agnation. Akratic. Leptodactylous. Chiasmus. Caesious. Pythoness. Pettifogger. Paronomasia. Dithyramb. Propugnaculum. Adumbrate. Remembrancer. Meridional. Prehensile. Aeternitatis. Scrupulosity. Supererogatory. Anagnorisis. Spatiotemporal. Sialoquent. Alterity. Floccinaucinihilipilification.

And who is a better guide to covering presidential politics than Shakespeare? Reading his history plays should be mandatory for anybody with a dream of power.

Strangely enough, the humanities are faltering just at the moment when we’ve never needed them more.

Americans are starting to wrestle with colossal and dangerous issues about technology, as A.I. begins to take over the world. And we could use an army of thoughtful English majors to help sort it out.

“There is no time in our history in which the humanities, philosophy, ethics and art are more urgently necessary than in this time of technology’s triumph,” said Leon Wieseltier, the editor of Liberties, a humanistic journal. “Because we need to be able to think in nontechnological terms if we’re going to figure out the good and the evil in all the technological innovations. Given society’s craven worship of technology, are we going to trust the engineers and the capitalists to tell us what is right and wrong?”

It is not only the humanities that are passé. It’s humanity itself.

We are at the mercy of lords of the cloud, high on their own supply, who fancy themselves as gods creating life. Despite some earnest talk of regulation, they have no interest in installing a kill switch. A.I. is their baby, hurtling toward the rebellious teenage years.

Is this really the moment for lit departments to make “Frankenstein” and “Paradise Lost” obsolete?

Elon Musk said his friendship with Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, fractured when Musk pressed his case about the dangers of A.I. and Page accused him of being a speciesist who favored humans.

A.I. can be amazing; it just discovered an antibiotic that kills a deadly superbug. But it may also eventually see us as superbugs.

We can’t deal with artificial intelligence unless we cultivate and educate the non-artificial intelligence that we already possess.

It is not only the humanities and humanity that are endangered species. Our humaneness has shriveled. The dueling Republican clinchpoops, Trump and Ron DeSantis, are nasty and pitiless, “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable,” as Oscar Wilde described fox hunting.

Republicans have consecrated themselves to a war against qualities once cherished by many Americans. Higher principles — dignity, civility, patience, respect, tolerance, goodness, sympathy and empathy — are eclipsed.

Without humanities, humanity and humaneness, we won’t be imbuing society with wisdom, just creating owner’s manuals. That would be a floccinaucinihilipilification.

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* * *


The chickens of modernity have come home to roost

by Paul Kingsnorth

“The whole modern world”, wrote G.K. Chesterton, “has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”

Welcome to 2023.

But what can we do when there’s nothing left to conserve? The answer depends on what you were trying to conserve in the first place. In Britain, which has been at the speartip of the modern revolution for centuries, all that was solid has been melting into air since at least since the Enlightenment, and the consequence has been the loss of almost everything that the likes of Edmund Burke, who already had his back up against the wall two centuries ago, would have considered worth conserving. Across the modern world, the process has been the same: something I have described as a great unsettling.

In this unsettled world, the notion that the West is declining, collapsing, dying or even committing suicide is reaching a crescendo. Multiple reactions are underway to try and shore it up. The chickens of modernity, which the West created and exported, have come home to roost, and we are all increasingly covered in their guano.

But if you want to argue about how to conserve or defend “the West”, you first have to know what it actually is. And to do that, you need to revisit its origin story.

This story starts in a garden, at the very beginning of things. All life can be found here: every living being, every bird and animal, every tree and plant. Humans live here too, and so does the creator of all of it, the source of everything, and he is so close that he can be seen “walking in the garden in the cool of the evening" an image I’ve always loved. Everything, here, is in communion with everything else.

At the centre of this garden grows two trees, and one of them imparts hidden knowledge. The humans, the last creature to be formed by the creator, will be ready to eat this fruit one day, and when they do they will gain this knowledge and be able to use it wisely for the benefit of themselves and of all other things that live in the garden. But they are not ready yet. The humans are still young, and unlike the rest of creation, they are only partially formed. If they ate from the tree now, the consequences would be terrible.

“Do not eat that fruit,” the creator tells them. “Eat anything else you like, but not that.”

We know the next part of the story because it is still happening to us on an hourly basis. “Why should you not eat the fruit?” asks the voice of the tempting serpent, the voice from the undergrowth of our minds. “Why should you not have the power that you are worthy of? Why should this creator keep it all for himself? Why should you listen to him? He just wants to keep you down. Eat the fruit. It’s your right. You’re worth it!”

So we eat the fruit, and we see that we are naked and we become ashamed. Our mind is filled with questions, the gears inside it begin to whir and turn and suddenly here is us and them, here is humanity and nature, here is people and God. A portcullis of words descends between us and the other creatures in the garden, and we can never go home again. We fall into disintegration and we fall out of the garden forever. The state of questless ease that was our birthright is gone. We chose knowledge over communion; we chose power over humility.

The Earth is our home now.

This Earth is a broken version of the garden. On Earth we must toil to break the soil, to plant seeds, to fight off predators. We will sicken and die. Everything is eating everything else. These are the consequences of our pursuit of knowledge and power, but we keep pursuing them because we can’t see any other other way out, and anyway we need something to do with our big questing brains. We keep building towers and cities and forgetting where we came from. We forget the creator and worship ourselves. All of this happens inside us every day.

There comes a time when the creator takes pity. After so many centuries of humans eating the fruit again and again, He stages an intervention. He comes to Earth in human form to show us the way back home. Being human, we react first by torturing and killing him. But the joke is on us, because it turns out that this was the point all along. The way of this creator is not the way of power but of humility, not of conquest but of sacrifice, and his sacrifice gives us a path back home. If we follow that path, we can come back into communion again, and be as we were intended to be, which is to say holy — a word derived from the Old English halig — which means whole.

That’s the story. Now imagine that a whole culture is built around this story. Imagine that this culture survives for over a thousand years, building layer upon layer of meaning, tradition, innovation and creation, however imperfectly, on these foundations.

Then imagine that this culture dies, leaving only ruins.

If you live in the West, you do not have to imagine any of this. You are living among the ruins, and you have been all your life. They are the remains of something called “Christendom”, a 1,500-year civilisation in which this particular sacred story seeped into and formed every aspect of life, bending and changing and transforming everything in this story’s image.

But we can’t live for long among ruins. Humans are builders, and Nature abhors a vacuum. God abhors a vacuum too, I think, and whether we like it or not and mostly these days we don’t — humans need God. This is why every human culture, forever, everywhere, has directed its gaze towards the divine.

This is what we should understand if we are going to think or talk about “conserving” or “returning” or “restoring” anything. If you want to “defend the West”, you are talking about defending Christendom and the values it created, and/or the post-Christian liberal culture it gave birth to, which itself was based upon those values.

Every culture is built around a sacred core. When it begins to rot, as all cultures do, it is because that core has been neglected. Usually its people have taken their eyes off the sacred centre and directed them somewhere else; towards false gods, golden calves, or their own dolled-up image in the mirror. Chesterton, again, took issue with Marx on this one. “The truth is that irreligion is the opium of the people,” he wrote. “Wherever the people do not believe in something beyond the world, they will worship the world.” This is the process which Christianity used to condemn as “idol worship”, and today’s West is at it in spades.

A lot of people who talk about “defending the West” these days are either trying to defend red in tooth and claw capitalism — the system which has done more to destroy culture and eternal values in the West than anything else — or they’re trying to defend free speech, individualism and the right to be rude on the internet. I would suggest that these things in themselves were the results of a settlement designed, in the process now known as “the Enlightenment” to replace the West’s original sacred story with a new, human-centred version.

This was the liberal settlement. It assumed that humans were disaggregated individuals who could roam the world speaking freely, consuming freely and imposing a rational science-based order on the world, the better to achieve progress. It combined the moral values and universalism of Western Christianity with rights-based individualism and a faith in science and technology, and it brought with it a new origin story, to replace the one about the garden and the snake.

This new story told of how we were saved from superstition and ignorance by the holy trinity of modernity: Reason, Science and Technology. Along the way, we stopped believing silly stories about gods and monsters, which had been made up by our ignorant ancestors before we could see the harsh but bracing reality that the universe is just a meaningless swirl of matter-energy which came from nothing for no reason, and human beings are just gene-replicating machines. Now here we are, working out how to rationally manage the whole show. Now, here we are, a new kind of being: post-religious Man.

I grew up sort of believing this story. I thought religion was over and we had moved beyond its stupid superstitions. I don’t believe that anymore. Now I believe something else: that in a significant sense, everything is religious.

I became a Christian — an Orthodox Christian — in 2021, much to my own surprise and initial horror, after a very long search for truth. The subsequent immersion in the Christian story gave me a much clearer sense of what was happening around me in the 2020s. Most of all, they gave me an understanding of the sacred underpinning of human culture. Marx claimed that the history of all hitherto existing society was a history of class struggle, but it looks to me more like a history of religious belief. “Belief”, in fact is the wrong word. A better one might be “experience”, or “immersion”.

The more I attended the divine liturgy, the more I realised that what I had once dismissed as silly superstition was in fact the stuff of life. In the pre-modern West, as in much of the world today, there was no such thing as “religion”. The Christian story was the basis of peoples’ understanding of reality itself. There was no “religion”, because there was no notion that this truth was somehow optional or partial, any more than we today might assume that gravity or the roundness of the Earth are facts we could choose to engage with only on Sunday mornings.

Again: everything is religious. The only people who believe otherwise, in fact, are a few people in what we liked to call our “secular” corner of the world. We once thought that by abolishing religion we had got ahead of the rest of the world. But suddenly, this story is being told less confidently. The wind has changed, and secular liberal modernity no longer looks like a good bet for winner of the End of History board game.

So if everything is religious, but our old religion is dead, and the thing we tried to replace it with — rational, secular, humanist progress — is failing because it doesn’t meet real human needs, then where are we? What is coming next?

A good person to ask is the perennialist thinker René Guenon, a favourite of our new king. Guenon was a Frenchman who became a Muslim, migrated to Egypt and dedicated his life to trying to save the West from its own materialism. He predicted that, save for a turn back to religion, the early 21st century would see the arrival of what he called the “Reign of Quantity”: the age of pure materialism in which we now live, in which every aspect of life would be be measured, quantified and subject to scientific assessment and technological management.

Crucially, in the Reign of Quantity, religious feeling would become quantitative too. Humanity will never be able to shake off its desire for transcendence, but it will become unable to manifest that desire on any level other than the material. The object of worship during the Reign of Quantity, then, will not be some mysterious, untouchable, numinous force outside of creation: it will be the force of will in the material realm.

This, I think, is where we are today: the religious impulse is manifesting in material form, primarily through the use of technology to promote the human will. This phenomenon, which I like to call the Machine, is a material manifestation of the human desire for liberation through technology, in which all forms are dissolved in favour of the final and only sovereign: the independent rational individual, freed from the obligations of history, community and nature.

In the Orthodox Christian worldview, all of us are icons of God. Humanity was made in the image of the creator, and even though we endlessly fail to live up to this responsibility, it gives us a clear point of reference. We know what humans are, and what the world is for. Once that story goes, what is the still point of the turning world? Nobody can agree. The only reference point in the post-Christian, post-liberal West is whatever we happen to want or feel. And since consumer liberalism has taught us that desire is not something to be transcended or controlled, but something to be surrendered to immediately and then valorised, reality itself becomes open to endless redefinition. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong or real?

But let’s go back to our founding story again: back to the garden. What does our current state look like from that perspective? To me it looks simple enough, and I think it would have done to a citizen of Western Christendom too. We are following the path of the snake rather than the path of the creator. This is hardly a new development: the Bible is effectively an 80-book warning against it, and most other religions have their own cautionary tales. Once you reject God, you are fated to try and replace him.

This is where our path is now leading us, and it is, I think, the main reason that the waters of age seem so disturbed. Transhumanism, artificial intelligence, the “transcending” of everything from gender to biology, the growing of food and babies in labs: openly now, we seek to break all given limits, remake nature, build the world anew. We seek to become gods. The people who are building our new digital Tower of Babel are very open about what they are up to. If you don’t believe me, let them explain it for themselves.

Transhumanist writer Elise Bohan, detailed a conversation she once had with a biologist at a conference on the future of transhumanism. “He looked me in the eye,” she says, “and whispered to me: ‘We’re building God, you know,’ … I looked back at him and I said: ‘Yeah, I know.'”

Similar sentiments are expressed by transhumanist philosopher Martine Rothblatt, who claims, “We are making God as we are implementing technology that is ever more all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful and beneficent. Geoethical nanotechnology will ultimately connect all consciousness and control the cosmos.” Ray Kurzweil, Google’s head of engineering and philosopher-general of of the robot apocalypse is more succinct. “Does God exist?” he asks. “I would say: not yet.”

To return to where we started, we might say that transhumanism — the silicon manifestation of our new faith — aims not so much to eat from the tree of life, as to genetically engineer a new one, and plant it wherever the hell we like. We are on the verge of a revolution now, and it may make the Enlightenment look like a tea party. The entire basis of reality is being rewritten, or so we tell ourselves. Whole generations are growing up with a closer relationship to screen-based abstraction than to manual work or to the natural world. They have been convinced that the world is our playground, and that everything from history to human nature to sexual dimorphism can be changed at will.

We are consciously making ourselves post-human, even as we strive to make the world post-natural and post-wild. If the age you live in is starting to take on the flavour of a war over the very meaning of reality itself — which is to say, a religious war — well, that’s because it is.

What, in this world, can we possibly “conserve”? Nothing. In a culture which does not agree that nature exists, or that we have some basic, shared assumptions about reality, the question barely even makes sense. The challenge now is not to ask what we can “conserve” or “restore”. We have to go much further back. We have to dig down to the foundations.

Our challenge now is to choose our religion. Try to avoid the challenge and your faith will be chosen for you: you will be absorbed by default into the new creed of the new age: the quest to build the digital Tower of Babel. The attempt to “build god” and replace nature through technology. The path of the snake.

What can we do when there’s nothing left to conserve? Pray.


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  1. George Hollister May 28, 2023

    Thank you very much to Treasurer Jade Tippet from the Mendocino Coast Health Care District Board for a good explanation. And, ironically, thank you to John Redding for stimulating Jade’s reaction. Mendocino County would benefit from more of these insightful discussions, regardless of their potentially dubious origins.

  2. Chuck Artigues May 28, 2023

    This is conjecture but I would suggest that when Jack and Charmaine London came through Anderson Valley in 1910, they were not on horseback. Remember, he was a famous and rather wealthy author. I suggest this is part a journey that later became the short story ‘Four Horses and a Sailor’. Their names were also recorded at the Little River Inn.

    Also, as a matter of financial safety, I suggest that a credit card is much safer than a debit card for exactly the scenario described in the article. If someone hacks your debit card the money comes right out of your account and most financial institutions will NOT want to give it back to you. With a credit card it is relatively easy to dispute a charge, in fact most credit card companies make a big deal about protecting you from fraud. Plus you can get up to 2% cash back on all your charges. I will never have a debit card.

    • George Dorner May 28, 2023

      Charge everything to your credit card and pay off the balance every month. If you must, use your credit card company to dispute bogus charges. Use a debit card only in your bank’s ATMs. And of course, don’t write down your PIN; memorize it.

  3. Chuck Artigues May 28, 2023

    Just checked, Four Horses and a Sailor was first published January 1st 1911.

  4. Chuck Dunbar May 28, 2023


    Absolutely great piece by Maureen Dowd!
    She sees the wrong turn we’ve taken, and our ensuing peril, with sharp eyes:

    “Strangely enough, the humanities are faltering just at the moment when we’ve never needed them more.
    Americans are starting to wrestle with colossal and dangerous issues about technology, as A.I. begins to take over the world. And we could use an army of thoughtful English majors to help sort it out.”

    • Bruce McEwen May 28, 2023

      Clarence Day’s father would certainly approve of Paul Kingsnorth’s “bracing editorial in a conservative newspaper” today. Without the secular humanism Ms Dowd’s obituary puts to rest, the only answer seems to be the right wing Christianity of the gun toting Bible tRumpers. What say you, Vicar? Will you convert the Wokefield flock, or watch idly as they’re led down the path of the evil serpent, Lucifer?

      • Chuck Dunbar May 28, 2023

        The only answer possible: No idle watching to let fellow humans be lost and suffer. Direct intervention by way of conversion, transmutation, transgendering, alchemy, mind-altering drugs, simple persuasion, urging-on, pandering, even a bit of prayer, and all other appropriate means—the tools of the righteous, used as judged best for the person and moment.

        • Marco McClean May 28, 2023

          Terry Pratchett, after Ingrid Bergman, had a character in one of his Diskworld books say to another, “You know how to pray, don’t you? You just put your hands together and wish.”

  5. Sarah Kennedy Owen May 28, 2023

    My father helped invent the computer, but never believed in the usefulness of personal computers, and probably never even saw a cellphone. He thought personal computers were frivolous, that all that a private citizen really needed was an electronic typewriter and a pocket calculator. Computers were for businesses to take care of their, well, business.
    Now AI is poised to possibly destroy the world, not knowingly, but accidentally. One mistake and it’s nuclear armageddon. For example, this particular writing app just told me I had misspelled armageddon, but when I looked it up (on my computer) it said I was correct. Even AI disagrees with AI, so there you go, it is not infallible, and to entrust it with our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren seems… fallible. And yet, everyone thought my father was quaintly amusing when he disdained the then-mania for the almighty personal computer. Now, as Ms. Dowd states, we are throwing out the humanities in favor of technology. It is thanks to the computer that I get this publication, as I never felt obliged until it became so convenient. Paper is saved by using computers/phones to get our info. But we have gone so far beyond all of that, as humans are bound to do. Much of it in the name of the almighty dollar.

    • Chuck Dunbar May 28, 2023

      Nicely done post, Sarah, and an interesting side note about your father’s wise thoughts on the limits of personal computers and their uses. Surely there are important uses for computers, as you note. But young souls with little wisdom–Musk and Zuckerberg, and other techies, too young in age and soul to know much about humanity, history, the deep matters in life— now have nearly absolute power to take us further down dangerous paths. Already they’ve caused a good deal of damage; more will come at their hands. Headlong and heedless, and, as you say, in pursuit of the dollar.

      • Bruce McEwen May 28, 2023

        Careful, Vicar. Remember what they did to Savronarola.

      • Sarah Kennedy Owen May 28, 2023

        However, my father did not become the alternative Steve Jobs either (think “Back to the Future” and what MIGHT have been!)! And I enjoy the computer’s advantages as much as my technological illiteracy will allow. Like my father, I have always been somewhat skeptical of new technology and never got into Facebook or the other online apps. Felt like a neanderthal but I am glad now I resisted.

  6. Marmon May 28, 2023

    Raise your hand if you are sick and tired of gay/trans propaganda.🌈


    • Bruce Anderson May 28, 2023

      Only the Magas seem upset. It doesn’t seem to be much of an issue among normal people.

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