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INTERIOR SHOWERS and isolated thunderstorms will redevelop this afternoon. Temperatures will heat up to above average Wednesday through Thursday with building high pressure. An extended troughing pattern then develops, knocking down temperatures, and bringing a chance for isolated thunderstorms. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): I finally got some rain about 5pm last night, a few hundredths, eh. A foggy 58F this Tuesday morning on the coast. A couple hazy days are forecast, along with the usual fog - clearing summer pattern.
A Labor Day Celebration will take place on Monday, September 4 2023 at Todd Grove Park and Clubhouse, 600 Live Oak Ave, Ukiah from 11 - 3 pm. Speakers include: Congressman Jared Huffman, Assemblymember Jim Wood and California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks and Local Labor Leaders. The event is presented by The Mendocino County Democratic Party and the Inland Mendocino Democratic Club. Music will be provided by Mendocino Gaggle of Raging Grannies. Food from Chef Denny.
Labor Day celebrates the women and men who campaigned tirelessly for workers' rights in the labor movement of the late 20th century. Their hard-fought wins are the reason for many of the rights we enjoy and take for granted today, such as a 40-hour work week, safe work conditions, paid time off, and sick leave. Those workers saw that there could be no freedom and liberty in this country without economic freedom for the working class. The holiday honors the source of this nation's strength—American workers, unions, and labor leaders.
THE TRAGEDY OF RAYMOND TYLER’S DEATH!
by Mazie Malone
First off my sincerest Condolences to Raymonds family for their loss, Rest in Peace Raymond, we will not forget you or the cause of your death, neglect & failure of the inept system of mental health care. A heart wrenching & tragic demise the worst fear of so many families who have loved ones struggling with a Serious Mental Illness. Dying on the street alone, because of the decrepit system of care that can not/does not responsibly provide appropriate care and interventions.
In this Case there were multiple steps along the way that could have saved Raymonds life. But those steps were not taken by anyone of the service providers in place whose duty and responsibility are to provide necessary care and intervention. They failed!
Are you surprised by the lack of effort, concern or action given to Raymond while he was experiencing a very serious episode of Schizophrenia? I am not, families are traumatized by the system every day for long periods of time, often years. We bear the fallout, stoically, when our loved ones are afflicted with a Serious Mental Illness. The trauma and tragedy, no support or interventions to mitigate the damage, nothing! We are discarded along with our loved ones, dumped in the trash trying to claw our way out of the shit the system revolves around.
The circumstances of Mr. Tylers death were preventable. If the correct measures had been taken to provide him necessary treatment and safety he would still be alive!
He should not have been discharged from Shasta Regional Hospital after 24 hours. His transportation from Redding to Willits by RCS, was enough time assess his mental state, and he should have been taken right back to the hospital on a 5150!
Necessary phone calls to a family member or friend of Raymond to inform them he arrived home and maybe needed supervision. I will reiterate he should have been re evaluated and held on a 5150 for proper treatment.
We need a safety net!!!! That includes necessary action by Law Enforcement. I am sorry to break it to you officers, but indeed yes you are mental health workers! You are! Our families need you to accept this and act accordingly!
Citing HIPAA as an excuse not to inform the family or the police of a vulnerable persons last sighting and possible whereabouts is wrong! That is not health information and is necessary for creating that safety net! Stop using HIPAA in this manner, it is destructive!
Law enforcement, did they really care? Did they look for Mr. Tyler? Or was he not important given his troubled history? Did they ever go look for him on Oil Hill Road on August 5th when it was reported he was given a ride to that location? With my experience through many episodes of crisis due to Mental Illness I would venture to say that Law Enforcement did not care or go look for him. Due to the fact no crime was being committed and he is a free human to act as he pleases.
Except Raymond Tyler was a person with a Serious Mental Illness who needed immediate treatment. He was very sick and without the necessary intervention & treatment doomed to decline rapidly into paranoia and psychosis. A neurological brain illness very much like Autism, Alzheimers and Parkinsons that our society has simultaneously placed fault and responsibility on the people suffering these conditions. Leaving them in serious degradation without that Safety Net.
Would you blame your mother for being sick with Alzheimers disease? How about insisting she seek treatment for herself and that she must understand her mental faculties are askew? Would you leave her to her own vices, to remember to eat dinner or take her medicine? Would you? Not likely!
These illnesses are the same in essence, decline of cognitive abilities and understanding! We would never leave an elderly person to fend for themselves in a state of cognitive decline. In fact if families cant handle those issues they can place their loved one in a facility that is not jail or a psych ward and pay 6,000 a month to have their person cared for!
Not a possibility for someone with a Serious Mental Illness in the throes of mental decompensation. We somehow believe it is best to leave them alone until they come to their senses and can ask for help. Truth is they are often incapable of doing that, it takes a long time to become stable. The first step is intervention, we must step in and take charge, you would do it for your mother, for an elderly person, even for a dog locked up in a car or chained to a tree starving! But not for our family members/friends with Serious Mental Illness!
If it is true that Raymond shot himself, where did the gun come from? Did he steal it? Did someone give it to him? Honestly even if that is true it is not the crux of his story. The hinge, lol, of all this is Raymond had a Serious Mental Illness that was not treated appropriately, the lack of responsibility and intervention ultimately caused his death.
And once again Riley Hsieh is still missing, months later. Utterly sad! will say it again why did the County not hesitate one second to look for and help him during a mental illness crisis? He is not unlike anyone else walking the streets in desperate need of intervention! But the need was so great by the county to prove what? That they care, can do the right thing? Only proved that some peoples well being deserves better intervention and attention then the rest of us who have to call for help.
Why no search party for Raymond? Just curious, and when will we find out who the dead person “transient” was found by the freeway weeks ago? We deserve a more unified, educated and transparent approach to these matters.
I write about these issues with complete integrity, I care and I want to help people understand the truth. Not the disconnected versions of perspectives from those whose interest is based on their position in the community, the services they provide and their jobs.
Families are the key to build the Safety Net required to prevent more neglect and tragedy. We face the issues head on daily, with no support, we are the infrastructure the system must utilize to insure systems are in check and working!
UPCOMING TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES Provided by Redwood Community Services
Register Today! Call: (707) 467-2010
- Removing the Shame & Stigma of Substance Use Disorder (SUD):Monday, August 21, 2023, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
- Ensuring Youth Safety by Understanding Mandated Reporting: Tuesday, August 22, 2023, 3:30pm - 5:00pm
- Parenting Children with Exposure to Trauma: Wednesday, August 23, 2023, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
- Supporting Native American Youth in Care: Wednesday, August 23, 2023, 1:00pm - 3:30pm
- Foster Youth Bill of Rights & Prudent Parent Standard: Thursday, August 24, 2023, 3:30pm - 5:00pm
- Motivational Interviewing: Friday, August 25, 2023, 9:00am - 11:00am
- Compassion Fatigue & Vicarious Trauma: Friday, August 25, 2023, 3:30pm - 5:00pm
- Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC): Friday, August 25, 2023, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
- Tactile Activities to Improve Child & Adolescent Behavior: Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 10:00am - 12:00pm
- Foster Youth Reproductive & Sexual Wellness: Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 3:30pm - 5:00pm
- Trauma Effects on the Student in the Classroom: Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 0:00am - 12:00pm
- All Brains Are Beautiful: Supporting Children with ADHD, Autism, & More: Wednesday, August 30, 2023, 9:00am - 12:00pm
- Trauma Informed Care: Wednesday, August 30, 2023, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
- Developmental Trauma: Wednesday, August 30, 2023, 3:00pm - 5:00pm
- Ensuring Youth Safety by Understanding Mandated Reporting: Friday, September 1, 2023, 10:30am - 12:00pm
- Parenting Children with Exposure to Trauma: Friday, September 1, 2023, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
- In-Person Training Opportunity, Compassion Fatigue & Vicarious Trauma Workshop: Thursday, September 7, 2023, 9:00am - 2:00pm
Ukiah Valley Conference Center
200 S. School St.
Ukiah, CA 95482
To learn more, email email@example.com
TOM AND ED VS. STAR THISTLE
Navarro Point Preserve 2-hour thistle removing this Thursday, before they go to seed
Mendocino Land Trust staffer Ed Welter and I invite you to join us and other volunteers for this extra session of removing the ever-dwindling stock of thistles at the beautiful Navarro Point Preserve this Thursday, 8/24, from 10am til noon.
The thistle flowers are blooming now and so this is our almost last chance to remove them before the go to seed and start ever more thistle plants. We have removed around 80% of them and aim for complete eradication of this invasive plant. We hope you help us this Thursday morning!
Navarro Point Stewards
Navarro Point Preserve, 2 miles south of Albion village on Hwy 1, is owned and managed by Mendocino Land Trust, who rely on volunteer stewardship workdays to maintain our network of public access trails and beaches. Volunteers spend 2 hours removing invasive plant species, picking up trash, maintaining the trail, and taking in the beautiful scenery. Open to all ages and experience levels. Bring a spade and hand clippers if you can.
When: 2nd Thursday of each month and this coming Thursday
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
Where: Navarro Point
2 miles south of Albion on Hwy 1
Tom Wodetzki <firstname.lastname@example.org>
RECOMMENDED READING: Kalimantan by C.S. Godschalk, in my inexpert opinion the best fiction ever written about Asia. Yep, she’s better than Maugham, Conrad, Orwell, Burgess, Malraux, Theroux, Timothy Mo… any of them. Based on the experience of the first white rajah of Borneo, his wife the ranee, and a cast of characters as vividly memorable as any in fiction, Kalimantan is a highly literary (in the best sense, not the writer’s workshop sense) rendition of Borneo when 19th century Brit adventurers first set up shop in that part of Asia. We do happen to live in a time when the meretricious is routinely hailed as masterpiece, but this here book is the real deal.
FROM THE OCTOBER 14th, 1898 edition of the Mendocino Dispatch-Democrat (Ukiah): “All the speakers were given a generous share of applause and the presence of three men so noted for their honest and intelligent work for the people in the past, was a convincing argument in itself in favor of the claims of our party, that our ticket is clean, composed of men who are noted for their independence of corporate rule, and truly representatives of the people and their interests.”
QUICK! Name one elected official serving today who “is noted for his/her independence of corporate rule.”
AS THE GREAT SLIDE accelerates, we see more and more stories like this one. A woman is standing on an Oakland street chatting with a friend. A lady steps out of a car and hands one of the chatting women a four-year-old boy. “She told me, ‘I had to get rid of him. I need to get him out of my hair. My boyfriend doesn’t want kids right now’.” The impromptu mom told reporters of her sudden possession of a child not her own. What has ensued is the new mom's attempt to get some financial assistance to raise the child whom she’s become very fond of. Most people would agree that it’s in the broad social interest to raise children in stable, humane homes, but dependent children in this society are routinely tossed overboard, but only after a very large apparatus of social workers, therapists, quasi-public private businesses, and public bureaucrats take a cut out of the kid first.
HERE IN “PROGRESSIVE” MENDO, the foster home process is dominated by an essentially private business which screens foster homes for the placement of parent-less children. The private biz gets paid very well to find homes and “train” foster parents.
WHAT HAPPENS in practice, and as orphaned children desperate for a sane living situation are bounced from one temporary arrangement to another, is that many good people are discouraged by a process dominated by, well, dingbats and their mounds of paperwork.
MUCH OF THE paper part of the foster process is of course designed to protect the bureaucracies and its employees, not the kid. Worse, the process in this jurisdiction is heavily dominated by, uh, very limited people who alienate prospective foster parents from the very first step in a tedious licensing fandango. (Would you want a team of New Age nuts or Christian crackpots rummaging through your house to validate it as a home for an underclass child?)
BACK IN OAKLAND, the sudden mom had been offered $365 a month to bring up four-year-old, just about enough to feed and clothe a child that age, and about half what she’ll need to raise him when the “I Wannas” kick in around 8 or so. The net result? A huge shortage of homes for children who need them.
WHAT’S the difference between a terrorist and a tenured professor? You can negotiate with a terrorist.
* * *
A READER WRITES: One ask I have is that you think about dividing the body of the paper into coherent sections. It is long and unwieldy, and I suspect that readers scroll through looking for their friends, and are likely to miss important news. Then you could put all kinds of things in the spaces between, like the New Yorker. My other thought is to remove the private conversations from your Comments section, which is starting to look like the listserve.
THE AVA’S a more interesting read for regular people than The New Yorker, which is aimed at sophisticates who have a lotta discretionary income. The American culture having passed me by, I have zero interest in most of it. Last week's New Yorker, for this long-time subscriber, did not contain a single piece of interest. I used to think it was just me, a rural autodidact, but my urban autodidact friends agree the mag is about one-in-four, while the AVA is a four-bagger every week.
COMMENTS? Not bad on the AVA site because we edit out the insults and gratuitous vulgarity. The MCN chatline, by way of contrast, reads like an open air asylum where one has to wade through the commenters to find one who seems sane. It shouldn't surprise me how many lonely loons there are out there, but I'm reminded daily.
My husband received a jury summons. When he tried to appear for service at 10-mile court in Fort Bragg rather than at the courthouse in Ukiah, he received the following info:
The court is in receipt of your request to transfer your jury service to the Ten Mile Branch Court in Fort Bragg.
Pursuant to Standing Order 2023-06, effective August 15, 2023, the jury clerk may no longer grant a request for transfer of jury service between court locations. Jurors are required to report for service to the courthouse where they are summoned. The court shall hear any juror hardships at that time. Your service as a juror is very important and the court is willing to postpone your jury service to a later time to allow time for your appearance in the court location to which you have been summoned. A new date can be scheduled and you will receive a new summons for your new service date, closer to that date.
RH, Clerk IV - Jury Services/Family SupportSuperior Court of California,
County of Mendocino
This order, signed by Judge Nadel, is set to expire at the end of this year. I have no idea if it will be renewed.
ED NOTE: I suggest that people simply stop showing up for jury duty until Empress Nadel and her insensate, way overpaid, too many colleagues at least pretend to operate the justice system in the interests of the people it allegedly serves.
Another print (8” x 8”, framed in white) available at the annual Yorkville Labor Day Ice Cream Social [Monday, September 4]. Bidding starts at $200, cakewalk, a bake sale, a book sale (by the inch) a farm stand, and live music. Great old fashioned day on Hwy 128 between the Coast and the Bay Area.
Upshot: John Meyer’s attorney gets $265,533.50; John Meyer gets nothing for his own lost time and money in his years-long effort resisting the Skunk Train’s attempt to force him to sell his Willits property at well below market value. The Skunk Train has appealed Nadel’s ruling.
* * *
Judge Jeanine Nadel’s ‘Tentative Ruling’:
The Motion for Attorney Fees is granted as follows: The court finds that the sum of $265,533.50 is reasonable given the nature of the case and the time expended. The fees incurred for this motion are proper and this court would have required counsel to file a motion with all supporting documentation. The court, however, is unwilling to enhance the lodestar amount by any percentage. While this case may have been novel it was not complicated or difficult nor is it clear that counsel was precluded from taking other employment because of this litigation. Based on all the factors the court can consider in making such an adjustment this was not the type of case that would warrant such an enhancement. Moving party shall prepare the proposed Order.
John Meyer explains his case (from his GoFundMe page):
“In June 2020, just after Covid started, I was contacted by Robert Pinoli - President of Mendocino Railway, also known as the skunk train - who offered me $450,000 to $500,000 for my property in Willits. I looked for a property to replace it and was unable to find a property in Willits of equivalent value. I explained this to Robert and offered to sell him my propertyfor $1.5 million to which he replied the property was not worth that much. I was then contacted by Mike Hart (CEO of parent company Sierra Railroad) and when I refused his offer he indicated to me that he would get the property appraised at $350,000 and take it through Eminent Domain. They were able to get it appraised at exactly $350,000 and filed the action against my property on December 22, 2020.
Fast forward to April 2022. We finally got the site plan (a document which I originally requested in 2020) and found out that they actually wanted to take my property and turn it into a campground with a passenger loading station for the excursion train. When my lawyer informed them that it would be illegal to take my property through Eminent Domain and turn it into a private campgrounds they quickly switched their story and days before our trial started came up with a new map showing a transloading facility on my property. Mendocino railways claims they are a public utility and a freight train moving goods between Willits and Fort Bragg. Robert Pinole also stated under oath that their freight cars can hold four semi trucks of cargo/freight and can be loaded in a half an hour. These claims have both been shown to be false.
I could have started this fund raising two and a half years ago but chose not to because I assumed Mendocino railways would come to me with a reasonable offer which I would have accepted and I did not want to take money from my community and then turn around and take an offer. Now it is clear that is not the case. This case will set precedents and needs a judgment.
I don’t want to stop the excursion trains from operating. I’m trying to stop the owners from their illegal and abusive use of power but it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight them and this has been happening countrywide with excursion trains over the last 30+ years and as far as I know this case will set precedents for the future and possibly the past. With your help, we can make sure other families do not have to go through what my family has gone through.”
SHERIFF MATT KENDALL:
“Has anyone noticed the lack of honeybees? Lots of bumblebees, and the new hummingbird moths (lots of them). But where are the bees? Is something changing?”
I live between Boonville and Ukiah. I have some beehives that are BOOMING. However I seem to be the world’s greatest star thistle farmer. A distinction my father would have looked directly down his nose at. That being said they make good honey and I seem to catch swarms somewhat frequently. Which indicates wild hives are flourishing somewhere near me. I do have to treat for mites in the spring and fall, however so far so good. Therefore, I think they are doing well in my area!
I LIVE in Redwood Valley but had an occasion yesterday afternoon to tour Camp Navarro.
When I got home I did some searching on one of my favorite sites, newspapers.com ($) and found the following article of interest. Take that, Fast ‘n Furious.
Saturday, May 18 1957
Something of a speed record was made by Lt. Clarence Maggetti and Mendocino County Deputy Sheriff Don Strickland last Saturday, when the two rushed a suffering Guardsman over 23 miles of twisting mountain road from Boonville to Ukiah in 26 minutes.
The emergency hair-raising ride in the deputy's new car was the result of Maggetti's bringing in the unidentified man from Camp Navarro, where a detail of 400 Guardsmen are camped under leadership of Maggetti. Boonville's Dr. Bradford and the town's ambulance were away on a call to Santa Rosa, so Strickland, after radioing for permission, took the sick man, thought to be suffering from appendicitis, on the mountain whirl.
The Guardsman is still in the Ukiah Hospital at this writing. Maggetti and Strickland, life savers, are still dizzy from high ridge hairpin turns, and the deputy's new car got a terrific workout.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Monday, August 21
AMANDA BAGULEY, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
MELISSA CAVINO, Richmond/Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, petty theft, theft by use of access card information, conspiracy.
ROBIN DUNCAN, Ukiah. Controlled substance, disorderly conduct-alcohol&drugs.
DANIEL HOLMES JR., Ukiah. Concealed dirk-dagger, false ID, resisting, county parole violation.
JOHN HUNTER JR., Ukiah. Failure to appear.
JOSE NAVA-GARFIA, Cloverdale/Ukiah. Disobeying court order, probation revocation.
CYNTHIA PHILLIBER, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
ROLANDO RUIZ, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
CHRISTOPHER STASER, Ukiah. Criminal threats.
NO SUCH PLACE, CRAIG
Warmest spiritual greetings,
Sitting up late at the Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center in Ukiah, California, reading the absurd emails in my inbox and reader's comments posted on various online places in response to my honest, sane criticism of the stupidity of postmodernism America. Let's face it, senior citizens are not valued worth shit, because they are not important insofar as profits are concerned in a consumerist social situation.
I need to leave Mendocino County because I have no reason to be here any further. I want to relocate to a place which is full on in terms of radical environmental, and peace & justice direct action. Obviously I require housing and the association of spiritually enlightened radical others.
I apologize for previously being too reserved and reasonable in my communications. Clearly, in a crazy lost society, which the United States of America is, that was a mistake. Please accept this communique as a correction.
Craig Louis Stehr
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I am always amazed at the freak show when I go to the store. Fat women dressed in way too revealing clothing. Tattoos everywhere (strangely enough I tend to see more women with tattoos than men). Nose rings. Lip piercings. Purple, blue and green hair. People dressed in their pajamas.
Humans, it seems, have lost any semblance of self pride. Disgusting.
Then in the parking lot as I step into my nice 2007 Toyota Tacoma I watched these tattooed, pierced, false hair colored fatties climb into a 2022 Dodge Ram or a 2023 Chevy Tahoe and drive away and I wonder to myself “what the hell am I missing here.”
At least I live debt free. No mortgage. No car payments. No student loans. No credit cards. I am free in that regard. Most people are living lies. They act like they own everything and they are wealthy when in reality they are in debt up to their eyeballs and are one major disaster away from financial ruin.
I still have to send the county my annual rent check for the right to live on the land that I have paid for free and clear.
EVERETT LILJIBERG: This is for the anti predator hunters who think coyotes are cute and don't hurt anything...
STATE OF THE UNION
by Walter Kirn & Matt Taibbi
Walter Kirn: I’m writing a book about a two-month road trip that I took a couple of years ago across America, and I got to tell you, things have deteriorated. Objectively, are more suspicious. People who work in any corporate setting have no responsibility and no discretion left anymore. They just refer you to the app.
Matt Taibbi: It’s Idiocrasy.
Walter Kirn: It really is.
Matt Taibbi: It says here, “Your shit’s fucked up and you’re all retarded and...”
Walter Kirn: Exactly. And the very last thing I’ll say about this was that the ease with which Priceline gave me a hundred dollars extra credit suggested to me that it’s just the cost of doing business. That every night, thousands and thousands of people book rooms that they then get there to find don’t exist. And Priceline just has a button for that now. They just push it. I mean, I appreciated the hundred bucks, but at the same time I was like, “This should be harder. You should be more upset about this. This shouldn’t just be routine…”
Anyway, I mean, that’s my real life report. We can now get into the issues. But for me, I look at the country at the moment and I go, “Getting to the issues for the average American is becoming more and more of a luxury,” because checking into motels, getting their driver’s license, paying their bills, not having things just get screwed up all along the way is becoming more and more of a burden.
REPORTER RIDES IN BOTH A CRUISE AND A WAYMO
by Danielle Echeverria
Autonomous vehicle companies Cruise and Waymo are planning to expand their commercial service after state regulators’ decision last week allowing them to charge for driverless rides in San Francisco at all hours. But the days since the approval have been anything but smooth.
Less than a week after the state’s vote, San Francisco requested that regulators halt their approval of the companies’ commercial rollout, citing fears that the growing number of driverless vehicles will also prompt an increase in unplanned stops and erratic driving behavior that has disrupted emergency responders, transit, construction and traffic in the city.
Only a day later, a Cruise vehicle collided with a fire truck in an intersection after it failed to yield to the emergency vehicle, which the company says was driving in the oncoming lane of traffic with its sirens blaring, en route to an emergency. After the incident, the California Department of Motor Vehicles requested that Cruise reduce its fleet of driverless taxis by half pending an investigation into that and other recent crashes.
In light of the recent incidents, I took a driverless ride in both a Cruise and a Waymo to evaluate the robotaxi experience for the Chronicle on Saturday.
For both services, the area of North Beach, Chinatown and downtown was currently off limits to me. Cruise and Waymo say some of their customers now have access to the whole city, but others still must wait for a gradual opening throughout all of San Francisco.
So I took a ride from the Lone Mountain neighborhood near the University of San Francisco to Noe Valley and back, about a 3-mile trip each way. Driving myself following directions from Apple Maps would have taken about 17 minutes each way, or 35 minutes on the bus.
I decided to take Cruise first. I called for the car at 10:56 a.m. and the app said it would arrive in nine minutes. A Cruise spokesperson warned Saturday morning that wait times might be longer than usual as a result of the company reducing its fleet.
Ten minutes later, Cruise informed me that my car, named Butternut Squash, was arriving, but as I stood at the pickup spot, at Turk and Stanyan in front of the 31 bus stop, the car drove right past me. The app then asked me to wait another four minutes, before changing to tell me to meet my car where it had stopped, about a block up at Turk and Arguello. I unlocked the car using the app and got in at 11:08 — 12 minutes after my ride request and 1,000 feet away.
Once inside, the car said the ride would take 24 minutes, taking a less direct route than I would have if I were driving, and seeming to avoid roads with steeper hills. Tablets on the backs of both front seats offered the route map, music choices and trivia. A speaker in the car went over the ground rules — buckle up, keep hands and arms inside the vehicle, and press the square button on the ceiling for help or the round “end ride” button next to it to stop at any time.
The car’s first challenge came just a few minutes into the ride: a moving van double-parked with its hazards on in the middle of the street. While the Cruise pulled up closer to the movers than I might have as a driver, it took only a few seconds for the driverless car to navigate around the truck, while a man inside watched to see what the driverless car would do.
Though the route was indirect — the Cruise car drove a few blocks, essentially in a circle, before passing the original pickup spot at Turk and Stanyan seven minutes into the ride — and the car braked a bit harshly at points, the ride was off to a good start. I changed the music and played a bit of trivia as onlookers stared or took photos of the vehicle.
The next challenge came on Eureka Street. A man was biking slowly up the hill with two very young children in a carrier on the back, each of them holding a bouquet of flowers. Instead of going around the family right away — the other side of the road was completely clear — the Cruise got so uncomfortably close to the back of the bike that I was unsure whether the car had even registered its presence. Luckily, there was a stop sign, which allowed the man on the bike to put some distance between himself and the car.
When the Cruise again caught up to the cyclist, it passed him, though closer than I would have if I were driving, given that the other side of the road was still completely open. As we inched by the family, the two kids and the man riding peered into the vehicle, each with a look of concern and awe, while I looked back apologetically.
Though I’ve been in cars with ride-hail drivers or even friends who got closer to bikers or pedestrians than I may have liked, the experience in a driverless car got me thinking about what exactly I could have done if the Cruise had gotten any closer to the family. I could have pressed the support button, but how quickly could that react? At least with human drivers, you can tell them to watch out and feel like you’ve done something.
Finally, a few minutes later, the Cruise car approached the drop-off point, opting to leave me on Elizabeth Street, one block away from the busier 24th Street where I’d requested to go. The Cruise maneuvered into a narrow, one-way stretch of the street, but instead of pulling into an empty spot on the curb to drop me off, it stopped in the middle of the street, blocking the car behind. Before I could open my door, that car squeezed around us into the empty spot on the curb next to me, where I thought the Cruise would have dropped me off.
Once the human’s car had parked, I checked again to make sure no one else was trying to wriggle past the Cruise before getting out. In total, the ride took about 25 minutes and cost $13.81.
After having a coffee and a snack on 24th Street, I requested a Waymo for the trip back to Turk and Stanyan. The app’s predicted wait time was 18 minutes, so I popped over to the farmers’ market across the street to pass the time.
The Waymo arrived 20 minutes later, picking me up on 24th Street right where I had requested, pulling into the nearest empty space on the curb for me to get in. While it didn’t have a cute name like the Cruise car, the LED display on the top of the car displayed my initials so I’d know it was mine.
Like the Cruise, I unlocked the Waymo from my app and got in, while a voice over the speakers similarly went over the ground rules, which were essentially the same, telling me not to touch the pedals or steering wheel, though it didn’t mention keeping my hands in the vehicle.
The predicted time for the ride was 18 minutes, and the route was similar to what I would have done as a driver. As with Cruise, the first challenge came early — another cyclist on the road, riding between parked cars and the traffic lane, though there is no bike lane. Still, the Waymo kept a distance from the bicyclist that I felt safe with and stayed behind them until they turned right, as traffic coming in the other direction left no opportunity to go around.
While Waymo did not offer trivia, it did give the option to select music, and its display — only one on the middle console rather than two on each seat back — did not show the entire route like Cruise did, though that was still visible in the app. During the ride, the route changed, though the time stayed the same.
Another challenge came at the intersection of Oak and Baker, right by the DMV, where construction in the middle of the intersection was marked with several traffic cones, signs warning of uneven pavement and a person waiting to manually direct traffic. While I was nervous about how the Waymo would navigate around the roadwork — and by the looks of it, so was the worker there — it handled it just fine, slowing down to accommodate for the bumps in the road and moving around the cones as needed.
While I selected the same bus stop for drop-off, the Waymo, like the Cruise, opted to avoid stopping there. The Waymo instead turned right, just across the street from the drop-off location, and pulled into an empty strip of curb to let me out. It waited until it was completely pulled over before prompting me to get out of the car, and warned, in real time, of cars passing by on the other side of the vehicle, showing on its screen where they were passing.
The Waymo ride took 20 minutes and cost $16.27.
Overall, other than the Cruise approaching the biking family so closely, the two driverless rides felt safer than some ride hails I’ve taken. Both stayed below the speed limit and made complete stops at all stop signs and traffic lights, though Waymo seemed to drive a bit more smoothly than the Cruise, which made harsher stops and jerkier turns.
Still, I can’t say I’m eager to get in a driverless car again anytime soon. The experience was a bit embarrassing, with passersby turning their heads and watching, taking videos and pictures and, in some cases, shaking their heads or rolling their eyes. If I were really in a time crunch, I’d still choose a human-driven ride hail, which usually have shorter waits and take more direct routes. Otherwise, I’d probably opt for the Muni over a robotaxi, which usually takes longer but is much cheaper, at $2.50 a ride.
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
― Elizabeth Taylor
BAIL FOR TRUMP SET AT $200,000 IN GEORGIA ELECTION INTERFERENCE CASE
Mr. Trump, who said he would turn himself in on Thursday, was told not to intimidate or threaten any witnesses or co-defendants in the case.
by Danny Hakim, Maggie Haberman and Richard Fausset
A judge in Atlanta set bail for former President Donald J. Trump at $200,000 on Monday in the new election interference case against him, warning Mr. Trump not to intimidate or threaten witnesses or any of his 18 co-defendants as a condition of the bond agreement.
Mr. Trump, who posted on Truth Social that he would surrender to the authorities in Atlanta on Thursday, is also sorting out logistical details in three other criminal cases that have been filed against him this year. Earlier in the day, federal prosecutors pushed back on a request from his lawyers to postpone a separate election interference trial in Washington, D.C., until at least April 2026.
Under his bond agreement in Georgia, Mr. Trump cannot communicate with any co-defendants in the case except through his lawyers. He was also directed to “make no direct or indirect threat of any nature against the community,” including “posts on social media or reposts of posts made by another individual.”
The terms were more extensive than those set for other defendants in the case so far, which did not specifically mention social media. In the past, Mr. Trump has made inflammatory and sometimes false personal attacks on Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, who is leading the case.
Bond was set at $100,000 for John Eastman, one of the architects of a plan to use fake electors to keep Mr. Trump in power. according to court filings; a lawyer for Kenneth Chesebro, who also developed that plan, said the same amount was set for Mr. Chesebro.
Mr. Trump’s attacks continued on Monday ahead of his bond being set. In a post on Truth Social, he called Ms. Willis “crooked, incompetent, & highly partisan” and wrote that she “has allowed Murder and other Violent Crime to MASSIVELY ESCALATE.” In fact, homicides have fallen sharply in Atlanta in the first half of the year.
While Mr. Trump did not have to pay bail in the other criminal cases against him, the agreements posted for him and several of his co-defendants in Georgia on Monday require five- and six-figure sums. The defendants have to come up with only 10 percent of the bail amount, but even that could prove difficult for some, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former personal lawyer for Mr. Trump, who is running out of money because of an array of legal entanglements.
Racketeering cases like this one can be particularly long and costly for defendants — in another racketeering case in the same court, involving a number of high-profile rappers, jury selection alone has gone on for seven months.
The costs clearly worry some of the defendants in the Trump case; one of them, Cathy Latham, a former Republican Party official in Georgia who acted as a fake elector for Mr. Trump in 2020, has set up a legal-defense fund, describing herself as “a retired public-school teacher living on a teacher’s pension.” The $3,645 she has initially raised is well short of a $500,000 goal.
Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who assisted Mr. Giuliani in his efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost in 2020, expressed frustration over the looming legal costs a few days after her indictment in the case. “Why isn’t MAGA, Inc. funding everyone’s defense?” she asked last week on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Mr. Trump and the other defendants were indicted last week on charges that they were part of a conspiracy to subvert the election results in Georgia, where Mr. Trump narrowly lost to Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The indictment laid out eight ways the defendants were accused of trying to reverse the election results as part of a “criminal enterprise”: by lying to the Georgia legislature, lying to state officials, creating fake pro-Trump electors to circumvent the popular vote, harassing election workers, soliciting Justice Department officials, soliciting Vice President Mike Pence, breaching voting machines and engaging in a cover-up.
Mr. Trump has not been required to pay cash bail in the three other criminal cases he has been charged in this year — one in Manhattan and two federal cases brought by the special counsel, Jack Smith, in Miami and Washington, D.C.
In Atlanta, prosecutors and law enforcement officials have emphasized a desire to treat the defendants as other accused felons would typically be treated in the city’s criminal justice system, with mug shots, fingerprinting and cash bails. But the Secret Service is sure to have security demands regarding the booking of a former president.
On Monday, lawyers for a number of the defendants were seen walking in and out of a complex of connected government buildings, including the Fulton County courthouse and a government office building, where they met with representatives from the district attorney’s office. The lawyers had little to say, including about when Mr. Trump might surrender.
“You’ll find out everything soon enough,” Drew Findling, Mr. Trump’s lead local lawyer, told reporters. “Patience is a virtue.”
Ms. Ellis worked with Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, in the weeks after Mr. Trump lost the election, traveling with him to various states to push claims of widespread fraud that were quickly debunked. But she has been a target of online attacks by allies of Mr. Trump for months, as she has been critical of the former president and has made supportive statements about his closest competitor in the Republican presidential primary, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
“I was reliably informed Trump isn’t funding any of us who are indicted,” Ms. Ellis posted on X last week. “Would this change if he becomes the nominee? Why then, not now?”
Asked about her post, Ms. Ellis replied in a text message, “Mounting a defense in these circumstances is exorbitantly expensive. I don’t have great personal wealth and am doing this on my own. I have been overwhelmed and blessed with the generosity and support of Christians and conservatives across the nation who want to help me.”
A person briefed on the matter said that Ms. Ellis had not asked for help from a legal-defense fund formed recently by Mr. Trump’s advisers but that she had sought help earlier and had been denied.
Mr. Trump has used a political action committee that is aligned with him, and that is replete with money he raised in small-dollar donations as he falsely claimed he was fighting widespread fraud after the 2020 election, to pay the legal bills of a number of allies, as well as his own.
But other defendants have been denied help with mounting legal bills long before they were charged. Among those asking for help are Mr. Giuliani; Mr. Trump’s political action committee, which has spent roughly $21 million on legal fees primarily for Mr. Trump but also for others connected to investigations into him, has so far covered only $340,000 for Mr. Giuliani.
All 19 defendants are required to turn themselves in by noon on Friday.
“The order said it had to be by Friday, I believe, and he plans to follow the order,” Mr. Grubman said of Mr. Chesebro.
‘THAT LADY FROM NEW ENGLAND WHO SHAMED US ALL’
by Ralph Nader
The mass media is reluctant to recognize civic heroes unless they display physical bravery such as rushing into a burning building to save a child. The media also lavishes vast coverage on sports heroes and entertainers.
Unnoticed by the mass media was how it came about that the Illinois legislature, overcome by corporate lobbyists, passed legislation allowing punitive damages for wrongful death disasters, and sent the bill to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker who signed it last Friday.
In the words of one state lawmaker, this effort started with “that lady from New England who drove down here (to Springfield, Illinois) and shamed us all.” That lady was my niece Nadia Milleron, who lost her daughter Samya Rose Stumo – an emerging leader in global health – to the defective Boeing 737 Max that crashed in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019, killing all 156 people on board. (Earlier on October 29, 2018, a similar also new Boeing 737 Max crashed off Indonesia’s coast, killing all 189 passengers and crew.)
Nadia was determined that families in the future who lost their loved ones to reckless corporate actions and crimes would not be told by Illinois courts that, were people rendered disabled, they could collect punitive damages—but not if their lives were taken. The cruel absurdity of this perverse rule that lets companies escape punitive damages under the law of torts (wrongful injuries) if their recklessness or greed kills their victims, but not if they injure them, was too much for Nadia to tolerate.
Driven by her love of Samya and her determination to end this gross injustice, she spent months away from her Massachusetts home in 2022 getting appointments with every Illinois Assemblyperson – 177 of them – to plead her case in person. None of the naysayers she encountered in the lobbying circles around the legislature deterred her, not even some plaintiff trial lawyers.
By the sheer force of her legal and factual arguments, her moral authority and a few senior political advisors in Chicago, she laid the groundwork for action earlier last year. The Illinois Wrongful Death Act was championed by a young African-American state lawmaker, Rep. La Shawn K. Ford. Once it started moving through the Assembly (with little media attention) it gained momentum among the new Assembly leadership that carried through to the new leadership of the State Senate. Both legislative Houses are controlled by Democrats.
Nadia came to this challenge in Illinois, where the Stumo family civil tort litigation against Boeing is pending, with experience in battling the giant Boeing corporation’s power to get its way in Washington, DC. For months after Boeing’s homicides in Ethiopia (See, September 16, 2020, News Release from the House Committee on Transportation), Nadia and her husband Mike (both non-practicing lawyers), with the help of their two articulate sons, and other relentless, bereaved families, worked the corridors and offices of Congress, pressing for public hearings and legislation. Their efforts, punctuated by public demonstrations, culminated in the passage of federal legislation to start the process of strengthening air safety regulations.
The Stumos and their family network also focused on the derelict FAA which, over the years, had transformed itself from a supposed aviation safety regulator to a weak, consultant’s role. The agency literally delegated regulatory decisions and inspections to deputized Boeing employees on the factory floor and in the design offices. Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers made sure that Congress did not object and indeed had Congress facilitate this delegation, including by keeping the FAA’s regulatory budget and skilled staff too small to regulate directly and forcefully.
Nonetheless, with astute and newsworthy press conferences and accurate responsiveness to media inquiries, the families pushed the FAA to be a little more hands-on and probing than it was up to 2019.
When the punitive damage bill passed the Illinois legislature, Governor Pritzker had 60 days to either sign it or let it become law. He chose to sign it on August 12th without any ceremony, without having Nadia, the young Assemblyman Ford and other senior state lawmakers by his side. Had he made it an event, he would have memorably conveyed the key motivating belief in a democracy – that one person can make a difference!
Citizen Nadia blazed the way, shaming the foot-dragging Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) into jumping on the bandwagon in Springfield once the bill’s momentum grew.
On February 27, 2023, I wrote a letter to the President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Patrick A. Salvi II, wondering why the ITLA hadn’t pushed this initiative over many past years and urged them to “make the maximum effort to secure passage.” Trial Lawyer Associations do not usually answer letters, but this one got through, with copies to other interested parties. (See the letter here).
Our country, over time, has been helped immeasurably by outraged mothers (and fathers) turning their unabating mourning over the loss of their children into laser beam intensity behind health and safety laws to save other parents and children from similar tragedies. (Note e.g., Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
These civic heroes defy all odds to challenge and prevail. The odds don’t faze them; they have a higher calling to achieve.
Unfortunately, neither Governor Pritzker nor the mass media seized this dramatic moment for exemplary recognition. The law, however, now is on the books to furthermore humane and deterrent purposes, thanks “to that Lady from New England who shamed us all.”
TRACKING ORWELLIAN CHANGE: The Aristocratic Takeover of "Transparency"
Klaus Schwab, the Aspen Institute and others flip the meaning of a word that once meant the empowerment of populations against political elites
by Matt Taibbi
About to hit the road for vacation, I wanted to highlight something that Walter Kirn brought up in the most recent America This Week, and popped up repeatedly as a never-published theme of the Twitter Files: the shameful, dystopian corruption of the noble word transparency.
“Transparency” was one of America’s great postwar reforms. In 1955, a Democratic congressman named John Moss from California — who served in the Navy in World War II, was nominated for office by both Democrats and Republicans, and was never defeated in any election for public office — introduced legislation that would become one of the great triumphs of late-stage American democracy.
The Freedom of Information Act took a tortuous path to becoming law, opposed from the start by nearly every major government agency and for years struggling to gain co-sponsors despite broad public support. In a supreme irony, one of Moss’s first Republican allies was a young Illinois congressman named Donald Rumsfeld. After a series of final tweaks it eventually passed the House 307-0 in 1966, when it landed on the desk of Lyndon Johnson, who didn’t like the bill, either. Johnson signed it, but decided not to hold a public ceremony, electing instead to issue a public statement crafted by none other than Bill Moyers, which concluded, “I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society.”
The Freedom of Information Act gave reporters and citizens alike extraordinary power to investigate once-impenetrable executive agencies that conduct the business of government. FOIA requests gave windows into the affairs of the Hoover-led FBI, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the “Afghan logs” story made public after a bitter fight put up by the National Security Archive and the Washington Post.The irony alert here was this last FOIA lawsuit ultimately revealed behaviors unflattering to none other than Donald Rumsfeld.
The law governing the exercise of FOIA requests lists the following as one of the central duties of the Chief FOIA Officers Council:
Identify, develop, and coordinate initiatives to increase transparency and compliance with this section.
Transparencyfor decades was understood to mean a pro-democratic concept giving ordinary citizens the power to see how their government operates, how taxes are spent, and whether or not public officials are complying with laws. It was not dystopian gibberish when the word became synonymous with the fight against abuse of power through organizations like Transparency International’s “Corruption Perceptions Index.”
By 2023, the transformation of the term “transparency” has advanced to a stage where the word is now commonly understood by politicians to mean the mathematical opposite of what someone like John Moss would have thought. When elite politicians and media figures speak of “transparency” now, they mean giving government power to obtain “transparency” into the activities of private citizens.
I first noticed this quirk going through a batch of Twitter emails from late 2017 through early 2018, when company lawyers began to speak about communicating to the Senate Intelligence Committee plans to increase “transparency efforts around content moderation.” Internal debates also about proposed laws like Europe’s Digital Services Act wondered if companies like Twitter might better serve governments attempting to root out foreign “disinformation” by providing increased “transparency” to intelligence services.
Later, in 2021, the Aspen Institute issued a final report report on “Information Disorder” that contained an entire section on “Recommendations to Increase Transparency.” This is as perfect example of deceptive use of language as you will ever find, and also involves the bastardization of the word, “journalism,” which in the context of these “anti-disinformation” efforts means examination of private data by “qualified academic researchers.” The relevant section reads in part:
Congress… should also require platforms to disclose certain categories of private data to qualified academic researchers, so long as that research respects user privacy, does not endanger platform integrity, and remains in the public interest…
Congress should require the platforms to disclose selected private data to qualified researchers working in the public interest, including any government agency or regulatory or investigative body… The invocation of terms of service to deny access to public interest researchers is detrimental to vital research and reporting… While the protection of user privacy is important, platforms should not be permitted to use privacy as a pretext for restricting and stopping research…
The above video of World Economic Forum head Klaus Schwab speaking on the topic, which circulated a great deal last week, represents the extreme villainous end of the reversal. Transparencyin Schwab’s conception has been turned on its head, to mean an unavoidable system of total non-privacy the world must learn to accept. This is not exactly a new thought of his. As far back as 2014, he responded to Edward Snowden’s disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance by saying how important it was to “protect ourselves” against “technological possibilities,” but added:
Everything is transparent, whether we like it or not. This is unstoppable. If we behave acceptably, and have nothing to hide, it won’t be a problem.
Saying now that we must accept “total transparency,” that “you have to get used to it, you have to behave accordingly,” is a twist on those old statements. Adding that this new transparency“becomes, how should I put it, integrated into your personality, but if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be afraid,” achieves a fully dystopian reversal. Transparencyis what authorities and possessors of the new Promethean thunderbolt want to have into your every action, transaction, and thought. It’s a terrifying idea, and as Walter noted, something Hitler or Stalin would have been reluctant to say out loud, though of course this exact idea was foundational to both totalitarian societies.
Telling us not to be afraid of this, to accept it, is a line even studied actors needed a certain panache to pull off in movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.“There’s nothing to be afraid of… once you understand you’ll be grateful… Don’t fight it, Miles, it’s not use. Sooner or later, you’ll have to go to sleep.”
These, exactly,are the sentiments of the new priests of “transparency”:
One last note. The extraordinary pro-democratic ideal of FOIA was underscored by the fact that the tool was available to every citizen. Not just New York Times journalists, but every private digger, potential whistleblower, even crackpots were granted the power of “transparency.”
The chief way you know the new version of transparency is a fraud is that it’s limited to “qualified” researchers. We’re even seeing lately news stories sourced to some of these same “researchers” complaining about having to comply with FOIA requests (a few of which are being made by Racketand partner publications). Ideologically, these self-appointed intellectual vanguards do not believe information is for everyone, nor do they believe they should have to answer to the people funding their “research,” while simultaneously believing that private companies and individuals should get used to the principle of endless inquiry.
When the meanings of noble words are turned inside out, we have to pay attention, and this example is about as infamous as this sort of thing gets. Don’t let anyone tell you transparency means surrendering your privacy to the state. It’s supposed to be the other way around.
HOW THE U.S. IS TREATING AFGHANS WHO HELPED US
by Annie Yu Kleiman
My 9-year-old daughter still remembers August 2021 as a “horrible time.”
After the fall of Kabul that month, my husband and I, both Air Force officers who had served in Afghanistan, found ourselves pulled into a complex, unofficial operation to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.
There were endless sleepless nights spent frantically sending messages over Signal and compiling enormous spreadsheets of passenger manifests. We worked as if it were a matter of life and death — because it was.
Two years later, those long days are a memory for me. But for the hundreds of thousands of our allies still left behind, the horrors continue.
As of April 2023, about 152,000 Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants remain trapped in Afghanistan. These people, who served side-by-side with U.S. forces during the long war, face years of danger, severe economic hardship and increasingly onerous restrictions — particularly on women and girls — while applying for their SIVs through a complicated, Kafkaesque process.
A daunting list of obstacles
To create a snapshot of the absurd gantlet our former friends and allies have to run, I gathered quotations from text messages and emails that they sent to my organization, No One Left Behind, seeking help. They have been edited for clarity, and names are being withheld for the writers’ safety.
Proof of employment. To start an SIV application, applicants must submit a slew of documents through the U.S. State Department’s website.
This requires access to the internet — not a given when one is hiding from the Taliban. The required documents include proof of employment for the U.S. government for at least one year and a letter of recommendation from a former supervisor.
But the companies often kept poor HR records, and former supervisors are difficult to reach — and may not even remember their former employees....
ÖTZI THE ICEMAN, who was found frozen in the Alps
The story of Ötzi the Iceman is incredible! In 1991, hikers in the Ötztal Alps discovered the frozen remains of a man who had died thousands of years earlier. He was later named Ötzi the Iceman.
It's believed that he lived in the Copper Age, around 3,300 BCE. He was a hunter and carried weapons like a bow and arrows and a copper axe. He also had tattoos on his body, which may have had spiritual or medicinal purposes. Scientists think he was a shepherd who lived in a village and herded goats and sheep. He probably wore a leather coat, hat, and shoes. It's believed that he was killed by an arrow wound to the shoulder, which would have been very painful. He may have been ambushed by other people, or it may have been a hunting accident. After he died, his body was quickly covered by snow and ice, which preserved it for thousands of years. Eventually, a glacier moved over his body and kept it frozen until it was found in 1991. It's truly incredible that he was preserved for so long!
Yes, it is amazing! And it's not the only incredible thing about Ötzi the Iceman. When scientists analyzed his stomach contents, they found that he had eaten a meal of ibex meat and red deer before he died. They were even able to identify the specific types of plants he had eaten. This gives us a really clear picture of what people were eating in the Copper Age.
UKRAINE, MONDAY, 21 AUGUST
The Netherlands will give 42 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding to 19 pledged by Denmark. Ukrainian pilots have begun training on the US-made jets, long-sought by Kyiv to counter Russian air superiority.
Two people were injured after Russia downed two Ukrainian drones near Moscow early Monday. It follows a weekend of multiple alleged drone attacks across Russia, including at a railway station in the city of Kursk.
The "situation is difficult" near the northeastern city of Kupiansk as heavy fighting rages in eastern Ukraine, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday.
Vladimir Putin, who faces an international arrest warrant over alleged war crimes in Ukraine, will be notably absent from the BRICS summit this week and take part by video. The Russian president's no-show speaks volumes about Moscow's isolation — and his shrinking horizons, CNN's Nathan Hodge writes.
NUCLEAR WAR COULD END THE WORLD, but What if It’s All in Our Heads?
Some experts want to apply recent neuroscience research to the decision making that could lead to doomsday.
by Sara Scoles
Nuclear war has returned to the realm of dinner table conversation, weighing on the minds of the public more than it has in a generation.
It’s not just “Oppenheimer’s” big haul at the box office: Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country’s officials have made nuclear threats. Russia has also suspended its participation in a nuclear arms control treaty with the United States. North Korea has launched demonstrative missiles. The United States, which is modernizing its nuclear weapons, shot down a surveillance balloon from China, which is building up its atomic arsenal.
“The threat of nuclear use today, I believe, is as high as it has ever been in the nuclear age,” said Joan Rohlfing, president and chief operating officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an influential nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.
In this environment, a conventional crisis runs a significant risk of turning nuclear. It only requires a world leader to decideto launch a nuclear attack. And that decision making process must be better understood.
Historically, scholarship on nuclear decision making grew out of economic theory, where analysts have often irrationally assumed that a “rational actor” is making decisions.
“We all know that humans make mistakes,” Ms. Rohlfing said. “We don’t always have good judgment. We behave differently under stress. And there are so many examples of human failures over the course of history. Why do we think it’s going to be any different with nuclear?”
But growing scientific understanding of the human brain hasn’t necessarily translated into adjustments in nuclear launch protocols.
Now there’s a push to change that. The organization led by Ms. Rohlfing, for instance, is working on a project to apply insights from cognitive science and neuroscience to nuclear strategy and protocols — so leaders won’t bumble into atomic Armageddon.
But finding truly innovative, scientifically backed ideas to prevent an accidental or unnecessary nuclear attack is easier said than done. So is the task of presenting the work with adequate nuance.
Experts also need to persuade policymakers to apply research-based insights to real-world nuclear practice.
“The boundaries of that discourse are extraordinarily well protected,” said Anne I. Harrington, a nuclear scholar at Cardiff University in Wales, referring to internal pushback she says government insiders have faced when challenging the nuclear status quo. “So anyone who thinks that they’re going to make changes from the outside alone — I think that won’t happen.”
The world’s nuclear powers have different protocols for making the grave decision to use nuclear weapons. In the United States, absent an unlikely change to the balance of power among the branches of government, the decision rests with just one person.
“The most devastating weapons in the U.S. military arsenal can be ordered into use by only the president,” said Reja Younis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., who is also a Ph.D. candidate in international relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
In a crisis involving nuclear arms, Ms. Younis said, the president would probably meet with the secretary of defense, military leaders and other aides. Together, they would evaluate intelligence and discuss strategy, and the advisers would present the president with possible actions.
“Which could range from ‘let’s do nothing and see what happens’ to ‘let’s full-scale nuclear attack,’” said Alex Wellerstein, a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey and head of a research project called “The President and the Bomb.”
In the end, though, only the president makes the call — and they can forgo guidance from advisers. A president could just press the proverbial button.
“These are the president’s weapons,” Ms. Rohlfing said.
Ahead of his electoral victory in 2016, experts and political opponents began raising concerns about investing in Donald J. Trump the power to order a nuclear attack. That debate continued in Congress through his term. By the time he left office, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, openly asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to limit his ability to launch nuclear weapons.
It was in this milieu that Deborah G. Rosenblum, the executive vice president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, invited Moran Cerf, a neuroscientist who is currently a professor at the Columbia Business School, to give a lecture to the organization in 2018. He titled it “Your Brain on Catastrophic Risk.” (Today, Ms. Rosenblum serves in the Biden administration as assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs — an office that briefs the president on nuclear matters.)
In a black T-shirt and jeans, Dr. Cerf briefed a room of experts and researchers on what brain science had to say about existentially troubling topics like nuclear war. The visit preceded a collaboration involving Dr. Cerf and a nonprofit called PopTech, whose conference Dr. Cerf hosts.
The groups, with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, are working to provide the government with science-based suggestions to improve nuclear launch protocols. Changing those policies is not impossible, but would require specific the right political scenario.
“You would need to have some sort of consensus that’s going to come from not just outside groups, but also policy and military insiders,” Dr. Harrington said. She added, “You probably also need the right president, honestly.”
The project includes a more public-facing arm: Dr. Cerf has been interviewing influential security experts like Leon E. Panetta, former secretary of defense and director of the C.I.A., and Michael S. Rogers, former director of the National Security Agency. Excerpts from these interviews will be cut into a documentary series, “Mutually Assured Destruction.”
With this project, Dr. Cerf and colleagues may have a conduit to share their findings and proposals with prominent government officials past and present. And he is optimistic about the difference those findings might make.
“I always think things will be better,” he said. “I always think that, with a nice smile, you can get the hardest opposition to listen to you.”
Dr. Cerf has the rapid cadence of a TED Talk speaker. Born in France and raised in Israel, he went to college for physics, got a master’s in philosophy, joined a lab that studied consciousness at Caltech and then transitioned to and completed a Ph.D. there in neuroscience.
Along the way, he did mandatory military service in Israel, worked as a white-hat hacker, consulted on films and TV and won a Moth GrandSlam storytelling competition.
Dr. Cerf said his primary critique of the system for starting a nuclear war is that despite advances in our understanding of the fickle brain, the status quo assumes largely rational actors. In reality, he says, the fate of millions rests on individual psychology.
One of Dr. Cerf’s suggestions is to scan presidents’ brains and gain an understanding of the neuro-particulars of presidential decision making. Maybe one commander in chief functions better in the morning, another in the evening; one is better hungry, the other better sated.
Other ideas for improving the protocols that Dr. Cerf has spoken about publicly generally can be traced back to existing research on decision making or nuclear issues.
Dr. Cerf says one important factor is speaking order during the big meeting. If, for instance, the president begins with an opinion, others — necessarily lower in the chain of command — are less likely to contradict it.
The idea that the hierarchical order of speaking affects the outcome of a discussion is not new. “That’s a classic experiment done in the ’50s,” said David J. Weiss, a professor emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles, referring to studies conducted by the psychologist Solomon Asch.
Dr. Cerf has also proposed decreasing the time pressure of a nuclear decision. The perception of a strict ticking clock to respond to a nuclear attack originated before the United States developed a more robust nuclear arsenal that might survive a first strike.
“We know that compressed time is bad for most decisions and most people,” Dr. Cerf said — an idea that goes back to at least the 1980s. Ideally, he says, if the United States received information indicating a launch, then the president could assess it and make a decision outside the direct heat of right-away.
The group’s main recommendation, though, mirrors proposals by other advocates: Require another person (or people) to say yes to a nuclear strike. Dr. Wellerstein, who did not contribute to the group’s research, says that such a person needs the explicit power to say no.
“Our belief is that the system we have, which relies on a single decision maker, who may or may not be equipped to make this decision, is a fragile and very risky system,” Ms. Rohlfing said.
While Dr. Cerf and colleagues have other papers in the works, the research from the project that he has produced doesn’t address nuclear weapons head-on. In one paper, participants made riskier decisions when they pretended to be merchants seeking deals on unidentified fruits of unknown value.
Dr. Cerf says that research is relevant to scenarios of high risk and low probability — like starting nuclear war — which often have numerous sources of uncertainty. A nuclear decision maker might be unsure of whether a missile is really in the air, how high a nuke’s yield is, why the missile was launched or whether more missiles will follow.
Another of Dr. Cerf’s studies involves climate change. It found that when people were asked to stake money on climate outcomes, they would bet that global warming was happening, and they were more concerned about its impact, more supportive of action and more knowledgeable about relevant issues — even if they began as skeptics. “You basically change your own brain without anyone telling you anything,” Dr. Cerf said.
He thinks the results could be applied to nuclear scenarios because you could use bets to make people care about nuclear risk and support changes to policy. The findings could also be used to evaluate the thinking and prediction of aides who advise the president.
Some scholars of decision science don’t agree on such extrapolations.
“To go from there to giving advice on the fate of the world — I don’t think so,” said Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist who studies decision making at Carnegie Mellon University.
Paul Slovic, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and president of the nonprofit Decision Research, said that no psychological inquiry can stop at the experiment.
“You have to go back and forth between the laboratory studies, which are very constrained and limited, and looking out the window,” he said.
Experts say it’s also important to avoid selling too good a story about behavioral science to policymakers and elected officials.
“It’s just really easy to sell them stuff if you have enough bravado,” Dr. Fischhoff said.
Any brain, even a commander in chief’s, has a difficult time with the large-scale empathy required to understand what launching a nuclear weapon means. “We can’t really perceive what it means to kill 30 million people,” Dr. Cerf said.
There is a longstanding psychological term for this: psychic numbing, coined by Robert Jay Lifton. Just because humans are intelligent enough to master destructive weapons “does not mean that we’re smart enough to manage them after they’re created,” said Dr. Slovic, whose research has extended the concept of psychic numbing.
Compounding this effect is the difficulty of paying appropriate attention to all important information. And that compounds with the tendency to make a decision based on one or a few prominent variables. “If we’re faced with choices that pose a conflict between security and saving distant foreign lives to which we’re numb because they’re just numbers, we go with security,” Dr. Slovic said.
Dr. Slovic has also researched factors that tend to make people — including presidents — more likely to favor a nuclear launch. In one experiment, for instance, he found that the more punitive domestic policies a person supported — like the death penalty — the more likely the person was to approve of using the bomb.
Other researchers, like Janice Stein, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, have looked into scenarios where military officers show a reluctance to pass information up the chain of command that may trigger a nuclear launch.
That actually happened in 1983, when Col. Stanislav Petrov’s command center near Moscow received data suggesting the United States had launched intercontinental ballistic missiles. Colonel Petrov thought it could be a false alarm and decided not to send the warning to his superiors. He was right. Because the colonel feared a nuclear war fought under false pretenses more than he feared not retaliating, a third world war did not begin.
In the past, Dr. Wellerstein says, nuclear launch plans have adapted to changing circumstances, philosophies and technologies. And presidents have changed the protocols because of fears that emerged in their historical moments: that the military would launch a nuke on its own, that the country would experience a nuclear Pearl Harbor or that an accident would occur.
Perhaps today’s fear is that individual psychology governs a world-altering choice. Given that, working to understand how brains might work in a nuclear crisis — and how they could work better — is worthwhile.
What comes after the science — how to change policy — is complicated, but not impossible. Nuclear protocols may have a sense of permanence, but they’re written in word processors, not stone.
“The current system that we have didn’t fall out of the sky fully formed,” Dr. Wellerstein said.