Warm Interior | 39 New Cases | Vaccine Mandate | California Burning | Monster Fires | Comptche Firetruck | Panther Volleyball | Library Booksale | Independent Auditor | Archer | Arena Cove | Mendo 1882 | Maine Hermit | Sick or Treat | Code Enforcement | Desenan's BBQ | Deputy Shortage | Iron Nap | Drought Webinar | Yesterday's Catch | South Tahoe | St Ronnie | Coal Trail | Cigar Factory | Bugging Rowan | Indian Marathon | Info Trauma | Dallas Cheerleaders | Betrayed | Bad Dog | Golf Water | Sex Prayer | Unvaccinated | Amplified | Done? | Dope Athletics | Understand This | End Abortions | They Lie | Faux Pity
ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES are expected across the interior through early next week as ridging builds aloft. A shallow marine layer with abundant stratus and periods of fog will likely continue along the immediate coast through the weekend. Smoke will remain a concern over the the northern half of the area. (NWS)
39 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday evening.
MENDOCINO COUNTY SAID TO BE PREPARING VACCINATION MANDATE As Coronavirus Hospitalizations Rise
Mendocino County’s public health officer has announced he’ll prepare an order requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for restaurant employees and customers who want to dine indoors in response to spiking coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE FIRE SUMMARY, September 3, 2021
Today, over 14,700 firefighters remain on the frontlines of 14 major wildfires and three extended attack wildfires burning across California. As crews continued their progress towards containment, yesterday 35 new initial attack wildfires were sparked and extinguished quickly, however, over 56,700 structures remain under threat. The Monument fire is now the 19th largest fire in California history, while the Caldor Fire remains 15th largest fire and the Dixie Fire the 2nd largest in California history.
Since January 1, wildfires have burned more than 1.94 million acres in California. While firefighters continue their battle on the current major wildfires, CAL FIRE and fire departments across the State remain prepared for potential more significant wildfires due to critical fire weather. The US Forest Service has temporarily closed all National Forests in California through September 17, 2021, to better provide for public and firefighter safety due to the ongoing wildfires.
Warmer and very dry weather throughout the weekend and into Monday, with temperatures warming to around 10 degrees above normal in Northern California. Already low relative humidity will dry further in response with poor to very poor overnight recovery. Southern California temperatures will be near normal today with temperatures increasing to 5-10 degrees above normal throughout the weekend. Shower and thunderstorm activity will be possible mainly across the mountains and deserts of Southern California east and south of Interstate 15 Wednesday through the end of next week.
With Labor Day weekend starting, CAL FIRE is urging all Californians to take extreme caution to prevent sparking a wildfire. With dry conditions throughout the state, fire danger will be elevated. The public is asked to take steps to prevent sparking a wildfire. To learn more visit www.ReadyForWildfire.org.
MONSTER FIRES OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Dixie Fire - Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta, & Tehama Counties
Size/Containment: 868,781 acres and 55% contained
Evacuations: Evacuation Orders and Warnings remain in effect.
Road Closures: Portions of Highway 89 are closed with a threat to Highway 44, 36, 395, and 70.
Threats: Threats to critical water and power infrastructure, emergency communications infrastructure, high value private timberlands, Multiple Watersheds, critical wildlife habitat, multiple Cultural and historical sites, and to the Lassen N.P. Headquarters and multiple fire and ranger stations in the area.
Fire Activity: Active fire behavior overnight with group torching, wind driven runs and short-range spotting. The fire continued to burn actively through the night with more terrain driven winds. The northern portion of the fire continued to burn actively in the understory with isolated torching in the northern section west of Highway 44. The southern portion continued to actively burn downslope, towards 395, until the winds subsided and started to change direction about midnight. Once the winds subsided the fire continued to flank to the north and south in the surrounding drainages. Residents will see smoke coming from trees and stumps for days following their return.
Caldor Fire - Amador, Alpine, and El Dorado Counties + Douglas County, NV
Size/Containment: 212,907 acres and 29% contained
Evacuations: Evacuation Orders and Warnings remain in effect.
Road Closures: State Highway 50, 88 and 89 are closed with additional road trail and area closures in effect.
Threats: Threat remains to structures, power and communication infrastructure, El Dorado National Forest facilities and CALFIRE Amador-El Dorado Unit Headquarters, private timberland, grazing and agricultural land, critical wildlife habitat, historical and cultural sites.
Infrastructure Impacts: Many schools in El Dorado County are either evacuated or cancelled. Substantial damage to utility infrastructure reported. Impact to multiple critical watersheds.
Fire Activity: Active fire behavior overnight with short-range spotting and torching observed. West Zone - Fire activity decreased overnight due to moderate humidity recovery and a decrease in winds. Spot fires from the wind event two days ago continue to be found and firefighters engaged when safe to do so. Minimal fire growth occurred in the Kirkwood area. East Zone - Fire growth was minimal on the East Zone with some perimeter expansion near Cold Creek on the northeast edge, at Luther Spire east of Christmas Valley, and in timber stringers north of Caples Lake. Today the inversion will break around 10 a.m. when fire behavior may begin to increase. Relative humidity is expected to be in the teens, winds will switch to the east-southeast with gusts to 20 mph on ridges. Exceptionally dry fuel conditions exist in and round the fire area. Yesterday the fire was active at Lower Echo Lake, hand crews were successful in extinguishing interior hot spots and directly on the fire's edge. At the head of the fire near Trimmer Peak, hotshot crews were successful in extinguishing the fire around numerous hot spots. In Christmas Valley east of SR 89, the fire remained active and hand crews began constructing indirect fireline using trails in the area that will connect back to the main fire in Saxton Creek.
WATER TENDER REPLACEMENT
The Comptche Volunteer Fire Department is the first-responding agency for all non-law enforcement emergencies occurring within the approximately 100 square miles of our fire district in Comptche, CA.
We are raising money to replace our 1989 water tender that has irreparable mechanical problems with a Tactical Tender that has the capability of pumping water up steep inclines, which is imperative to fighting wildland fires in the Comptche area. The water tenders currently utilized by CVFD are built with the mechanics to transport water but not fully support firefighting as the practice has evolved over the last 30 years, as well as being significantly out of date with National Fire Protection Association safety standards.
The Comptche Volunteer Fire Department thanks you in advance for any contribution you can offer: https://gofund.me/583a348d
AV HIGH VOLLEYBALL RESULTS
Thursday night our high school girls volleyball team had an exciting game against Calistoga. Having defeated Calistoga at their home last week, they were ready to answer back at our home gym. However, our Panther girls did not give them that opportunity. Our junior varsity girls won both of their matches, allowing Calistoga to score only 14 points in the first match and 20 in the second match.
Our varsity girls also swept their matches, allowing Calistoga only 9 points in the first match and 14 in the second match. The third match was a nail-biter as Calistoga fought hard and took the lead. Yet the Panthers narrowly won the match with a three point lead with a victory over Calistoga's 22 points.
Anderson Valley volleyball is off to a great start! We will be traveling to Santa Rosa to play a preseason game against Roseland University Prep today, September 3.
I will keep you posted on the games to come (next week there will be no games held).
— Arthur Folz, AV High
A READER WRITES: Chamise Cubbison is a friend of mine, so I am probably biased. By the way, this is just my opinion from what I have heard, not Chamise’s. I know that Chamise is a sharp bookkeeper and the “accusation” that she is a nitpicker could indeed be correct from the perspective of those with what they consider to be nits. Chamise is also quite capable of standing up for herself and her interpretation of basic accounting rules. Except for the complaints from the DA, I am not aware of anyone else with public complaints about her performance. I suspect that she has somehow gotten on the wrong side of CEO Angelo and, considering the timing, this dispute between Chamise and the DA is another example of CEO Angelo’s behind the scenes orchestration of people who the CEO views as not under the CEO’s thumb. Like the Treasurer-Tax Collector, the Auditor is an independently elected office and not hired or fired by the CEO. The Auditor is also responsible for the very important revenue side of the County’s budget. The CEO needs the Auditor to play ball to make the budget appear ok. On top of that we’ve seen an increase in finance and budget staffing in the CEO’s office lately and a very understaffed Auditor’s office. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine that the CEO is taking the opportunity of Mr. Weer’s retirement to take more control of the revenue side of the Budget and slow the process of filling vacancies in the Auditor’s office so that the CEO can have more control of the financial numbers and what is presented to the Supervisors. Then we have the District Attorney, a personal friend of CEO Angelo, whose complaints magically arise just as Chamise is up for the Interim Auditor appointment. And we have the CEO conveniently reminding the Board (through the County Counsel’s office) that they have an option of creating “Finance Director” position which would combine the independently elected Auditor and Treasurer positions into another unelected, high-salary manager for the CEO to hire and fire. (Did you notice that during the exchange on Tuesday, after the CEO riffed on the desirability of the “Finance Director” idea, the DA went out of his way to add with great fanfare: “CEO Angelo speaks the truth!”?) So I support the idea of an independent Auditor and the appointment of Chamise and I hope the Supervisors take immediate steps to make sure the Auditor’s office is fully staffed.
Special City Council Meeting September 7, 2021
6:00 pm ~ VIA TELECONFERENCE
A) Arena Cove Parking Lot Rehabilitation Project
1) Receive report from listening session of August 31
2) Receive staff report on Arena Cove Parking Lot Rehabilitation options
3) Discuss projects related to parking lot repair and restoring Arena Creek
4) Proceed with contracted project while holding added rock component for more information
5) Direct staff for further action
REDBEARD, an on-line comment: “A number of years back, in Maine, there was another guy whose story was similar to that of the Redbearded Burglar. This guy — the Maine Hermit, he came to be known as — had been doing his thing for years before they finally caught up with him. He’d go into these people’s homes and take things, but nothing of tremendous value. A lot of times it would be just food items, so he could eat. When they eventually found him, he was camped out way back in the woods. On cold winter nights he’d even forego lighting a fire, so as to avoid detection. A little bit like Theodore Kaczynski, except that even Ted owned his place and lived in a proper shed. In the end, he was given probation, part of the terms being that he either get a job or go to school. I don’t remember which he chose."
CODE ENFORCEMENT NEWS
Redwood Valley - Months of July and August 2021 - Multiple non-permitted commercial cannabis locations identified; plants abated after Code Enforcement engagement.
Post Date: 09/03/2021 1:30 PM
Action Dates: 07/20/21 – 08/26/21
Location: Multiple Locations
In the Months of July and August 2021, the Mendocino County Code Enforcement Division conducted investigations regarding non-permitted commercial cannabis cultivation at the listed locations below. Any cannabis cultivation over the Medical or Adult Use exemption limit is considered commercial cultivation. Please see the Mendocino County Code (MCC) Section 10A.17 for additional information.
Code Enforcement investigations confirmed that commercial cannabis cultivation was occurring without either a County Cultivation Permit or a State Cultivation License, and/or cannabis was being cultivated in violation of MCC Sec. 10A.17 requirements. It was determined that were significant community quality of life concerns in these neighborhoods. The responsible parties abated the cannabis plants being cultivated after Code Enforcement engagement.
7/20/21 – 10500 Block of West Road - 287 Cannabis plants abated
07/22/21 – 10700 Block of West Road - 214 Cannabis plants abated
07/23/21 – 2000 Block of Pepperwood Court - 60 Cannabis plants abated
08/10/21 – 1400 Block of Road D – 11 Cannabis plants abated
08/18/21 – 700 Block of Conrad Road - 98 Cannabis plants abated
08/18/21 – 2300 Block of Rancheria Road – 9 Cannabis plants abated
08/19/21 – 2900 Block of Road I - 93 Cannabis plants abated
08/26/21 – 6200 Block of Walnut Lane - 5 Cannabis plants abated
Code Enforcement intends to take additional action as needed to achieve compliance with any non-permitted structures at these locations.
The Code Enforcement Division receives all Cannabis and General Code Violation complaints in the unincorporated areas of the County. Complaints can be made in person at our offices or by visiting our website at: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/planning-building-services/code-enforcement to file an online complaint. Cannabis specific complaints can also be filed by calling the Cannabis Complaint Hotline at: (844) 421-WEED(9333).
WHERE HAVE ALL THE DEPUTIES GONE?
by Mark Scaramella
Item 5h) on last Tuesday’s Board agenda was this innocuous-seeming item: “Allocate and approve funding request for up to $1,000,000 for additional mental health crisis responders to respond to mental health crisis calls for services; and recommend the appropriate budget unit and line item that funds will be received from if request is approved.”
The next day Supervisor Maureen Mulheren, perhaps a bit disoriented by agenda-speak, commented on her Supervisors website/update page, “Trying to leverage a partnership with the Sheriff's Office and BHAB [Behavioral Health Advisory Board] to get responses to Mental health Patients the support that they need, possible to be reimbursed due to covid needs from the State, need to seek mutual aid to try to get reimbursement.”
Which hardly does justice to the problem faced.
Attached to the item was this letter to the Board from Sheriff’s Captain Greg Van Patten:
The Sheriff's Office has implemented weekly COVID-19 testing of all our employees beginning this week. We currently have twenty-three (23) working Patrol Deputies county-wide whereas at full staffing we would have forty (40) working Patrol Deputies.
We are anticipating even more staffing shortages due to the weekly testing which could result in Patrol Deputies being required to isolate for periods of at least 10-days with any positive test, even if they are vaccinated or asymptomatic. This is taking into consideration the recently reported COVID-19 surge among the Mendocino County population.
As a result, we are going to be forced to reduce some services to ensure that we have the ability to provide public safety to immediate situations threatening the life and safety of the community. These types of situations are related to fire response, crimes against persons, and statutory services required of the Sheriff as examples.
Beginning today, the Sheriff's Office will not be responding to Mental Health related calls for service unless there is an immediate life-threatening situation to the public beyond a person just being suspected of having a Mental Health related crisis.
These types of non-life threatening situations will be directly referred to Mental Health for response.
We will respond to non-life threatening Mental Health situations only if it is a dual response like what we are currently doing with the Mobile Crisis Response Team model.
Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification as to the content of this email.
Gregory L. Van Patten #1184
Captain - Field Services Division
Public Information Officer
The Board discussed the bad news for 15 irresolute minutes.
While the Supervisors continue their slo-mo trainwreck dispute with the Sheriff and his (mostly overtime) budget gap, they seemed quite amenable to throwing $1 million from some unidentified place in the budget at the Mental Health department for more crisis response staff.
At one point Supervisor John Haschak asked what was taking so long to fill the other two Crisis Van slots that Measure B and the Supervisors authorized A YEAR AGO but never followed up on.
Instead of answering the question and admitting that they never do anything in a prompt manner, Mental Health Director Dr. Jenine Miller told Haschak that they have had one crisis responder on duty (for about three months now) and two more are in the pipeline, but offering no date for when the fresh hires will start responding.
Sheriff Matt Kendall told the Board that his patrol staff was depleted because 1) there have been more than the average retirements in the last few months, 2) seven deputies are out on injury status, some of them with serious injuries (you think wrestling drunks and tweekers is light duty?) with a doubtful return to full duty, and 3) the North Coast’s police officer training program was shut down due to covid and the pipeline for new deputies has nearly dried up, although one or two new officers are in recruitment at the moment.
The Supervisors seem to think that just giving Dr. Miller $1 million will magically fill part of the gap that Captain Van Patten is talking about with mental health calls. But the record shows that getting the Dr. Miller and the Mental health staff and the even slower Human Resources Department to move on these priority tasks in a manner indicating urgency seems beyond them.
Supervisor Ted Williams thought the Sheriff should ask for “mutual aid” from the state to fill his patrol gaps. Sheriff Kendall replied that all available mutual aid is already committed to other emergencies, primarily the fires now burning up huge swaths of Northern California.
We have our own proposals to narrow the gaps in the Sheriff’s patrol division. First, borrow several of the DA’s seven senior investigators, all of whom are experienced cops, to fill some of the Ukiah-area slots on a temporary duty basis. Second, if deputies can simply stop responding to most mental health calls, they can also stop responding to calls for the many “failures to appear” (unless another crime is involved) which is nothing but a glorified taxi service for the County’s nine judges. Third, have the Probation Department do their own probation violation calls (again unless another serious crime is involved).
Then, if the County can somehow manage to fill a few mental health slots with their new found $1million and provide a vehicle or two to those staffers, they might be able to get by until the winter when, hopefully the fires die down and the situation returns to … Well, whatever it can return to.
PS. A local woman has had to call 911 several times on a mentally ill man who has been camping on her property regularly over the last few months. The man refuses help, but she understandably wants him outta there. The last time she called 911 the dispatcher jokingly asked the woman if she wanted to apply for a job. They’re hiring!
MENDOCINO COUNTYWIDE DROUGHT TASK FORCE
Date: 09/09/2021 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Please click the link below to join the webinar:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 669 900 9128 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656
Webinar ID: 889 7176 5675
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 3, 2021
JACK ALVAREZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)
BRIAN ANDERSON, Ukiah. Vandalism, county parole violation.
MARCELINO ANGUIANO, Ukiah. Vandalism.
ARTHUR COLLER, McKinleyville/Willits. Controlled substance, county parole violation, probation revocation.
COLE HARBOUR, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
EDUARDO HERNANDEZ-CHAVEZ, Ukiah. Pot possession for sale, pot sale/tranportation, conspiracy.
BRYAN LOCKWOOD, Santa Rosa/Willits. Failure to appear.
ETHAN RAGAN, Novato/Ukiah. False ID, probation revocation.
SHANE SMITH, Chico/Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent.
JEREMIAH SUSAN, Fort Bragg. Arson of property, criminal threats, vandalism.
NICHOLAS TOW, Ukiah. Pot possession for sale, pot sale/tranportation, conspiracy.
NOT SURE that firefighters should be risking their lives to protect huge homes built in fireprone forests (which is basically all forests west of 100th Meridian). But it’s another example of “socialism” at work that’s never acknowledged as such by the “I support the first responders” crowd.
South Tahoe has a large working-class population, mainly to service the wealthy. They are mostly renters. As far as houses go, the median sale price this year is $735,000–$200,000 higher than the insane market in Portland, Oregon.
— Jeff St. Clair
I NEVER THOUGHT I would need to reach out and urgently ask for your help on an issue like this. The North Coast is about to be hit with the biggest environmental threat in decades.
A secret, clandestine operation – hiding behind an anonymous LLC out of Wyoming – wants to ship millions and millions of tons of coal from Montana, Utah and Wyoming to the North Coast utilizing the now defunct North Coast rail route. It would then be loaded onto ships, sold overseas and burned.
This toxic train would run along the Russian River and the Eel River (which are the drinking water sources for nearly one million residents), through ancient redwood and national forests and right through the heart of our hometowns in Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt counties.
Coal is the dirtiest and most damaging source of energy out there. It’s the number one cause of global warming and our climate crisis.
To add insult to injury: This anonymous group has also filed a request to kill the Great Redwood Trail. The Trail, which would be the longest contiguous rail-trail in America, would stretch from the bustling waters of San Francisco Bay to the fog-shrouded redwood shores of Humboldt Bay.
We need your help to stop the Toxic Coal Train.
We must say HELL NO to Coal!
Please sign our petition today. We will forward this petition to the Federal Agency that will approve or STOP the toxic coal train in its tracks.
Sign the petition here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-coal
The people of the North Coast won’t stand for this. We rallied against Big Oil to protect our coast from offshore drilling – and won.
I’m here to promise you today, no matter how many billions these coal barons throw at this project, together we’re going to stop this dangerous proposal and put a nail in the coffin of coal and continue to move the Great Redwood Trail forward.
Thank you for your support. More announcements soon!
— CA Senator Mike McGuire
IN LATE 1961 Sam Giancana approached his CIA contact, a DC-based private detective named Robert Maheu, with a personal problem — he suspected his girlfriend, Phyllis McGuire, one of the McGuire Sisters singing group, of having an affair in Las Vegas with comedian Dan Rowan, of Rowan and Martin. In return for his assistance in the Castro assassination plots, Giancana wanted the Agency to bug Rowan’s Vegas hotel room. Rowan’s phone was duly wiretapped, but the recording device was discovered by a hotel maid, who informed the police. The Vegas police turned the matter over to the FBI, which wanted to prosecute Giancana for wiretapping. Ultimately, Robert Kennedy had to be told of the affair in order to call off the FBI.
— Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn, “White-Out”
CHRIS SKYHAWK: Good morning facebook friends, I wonder what is your strategy for handling the info stream trauma that is in every news feed these days? I’ll give myself as an example. I have always been an info junkie, will even read the newspaper before bed! These days when I get up around 6ish, I listen to Democracy Now! But I find I can’t stay with it. The apocalyptic images and information are just overwhelming! I apologize to Amy, thank her work as I turn her off, and find some relaxing/spiritual meditative music stream to play. I just have to boil it back down to me and my life. Yes, I am fortunate to not be (at this moment) an evacuee, but the global tension is building like a muthafukka! I am fortunate to be involved with the Jackson State Forest campaign, as we used to say in EF!, action is the antidote for despair.
Also, if I can take all that information from my head and move it down into my heart, and have a good cry about it, that relieves a lot of tension.
As I said in my last post, late stage capitalism is extracting horrible consequences upon the entire planet. My practice at this point is attempting to maintain the open heart, with the full realization that we as a species are really blowing it, hoping that it’s not too late, and yet as a species we have also managed to contact some energies that are eternal and infinite, THAT is something to celebrate! Anyway I prefer to live from that space, fully informed yet happy anyway. It’s a weird feeling, my activist heart still fights, but my stroke has taught me that those Buddhists are not kidding when they say give up resistance and expectation in order to be happy.
Anyway, I am hoping there will be a healthy, vigorous discussion, and I’m really curious: what’s your strategy? Maybe you don’t have one and that’s ok too. Let’s see if we can spread a little love and support for each other! Thanks and have a GREAT day!
Sincerely your friend, Hawk
ED NOTE: You only need one, Hawk, the mighty AVA!
I DIDN’T FEEL DEEPLY UPSET that Anita Hill was harassed. As far as I’m concerned, if somebody says something nasty to me, even though my job’s important, I feel up to putting him in his place. Anita Hill was grown-up and capable. But that Democrat and Republican committee attack on her was a spectacle, a group of powerful white males trying to destroy an innocent black woman to achieve a political goal. And using a black man to do it. I am really hostile about that, still today. I’m not hostile about a lot of things, but I’m hostile about that. I can never forgive Clarence Thomas for allowing himself to be used that way. But my harshest feelings are reserved the sight of someone like Clarence Thomas taking Thurgood Marshall’s place. In my opinion, Thomas is a man who has sold out his black people in order to be accepted by the white establishment. Having him on the Supreme Court is the worst thing that has happened to African Americans in recent memory. Now, George Bush did good things for a lot of black people. His administration established a $300 million fund to help save and develop the historically black colleges. The Bush family personally gave major donations to Morehouse, and Mrs. Bush sat on their board. But George Bush also made us pay dues. That nomination was the dues, and as far as I’m concerned, the price was too high. Putting a Clarence Thomas up to replace an individual of Thurgood Marshall’s stature just violated everything I believe in. It made me know that my government would stick a knife through my heart and tell me it was good for me. I still can’t get over it.
— Joycelyn Elders
Green golf courses are feeling the ire of citizens who have been cutting back their water usage. It has been estimated that each golf course uses an average of 130,00 gallons of water per day. If golf courses cut back water use on fairways to the point that grass is alive enough to be revived once the drought is over, they would be doing their fair share of sacrifice.
At the driving range, golfers place the ball on a slice of artificial turf. It would be easy enough to carry a similar rolled up piece of turf in the golf bag. It could have two parts, one for short grass and the other for long grass, similar to the rough. The added benefit is the protection from divots — the digging up of a chunk of grass and soil.
Golfers may have to fine-tune their game, but that’s just another challenge. With less expense for water and grounds maintenance, perhaps the fees could be lowered.
I asked a group of golfers what they thought of this idea, and they were all for it. I encourage golfers to let golf course managers know they support temporarily cutting back on water usage. Keep putting greens green, and we’ve all done our part.
I HATE IT when people pray on the screen. It’s not because I hate praying, but whenever I see an actor fold his hands and look up in the spotlight, I’m lost. There’s only one thing in the movies I hate as much, and that’s sex. You just can’t get in bed or pray to God and convince me on the screen.
— Orson Welles
THE FACT THAT YOUR VOICE is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.
— Edward R. Murrow
DETECTING THE DUCHESS
by Jon Day
Until quite recently the question of doping in sport was one of taste – which drugs to take and in what quantities – rather than ethics. In the late 19th century, athletes ate nitroglycerin to dilate the blood vessels and sucked on sugar cubes dipped in ether to dull the pain of prolonged exertion. Before World War Two, Belgian cyclists relied on heroin and amphetamines (a mixture they called “la Bomba’) to stay awake during 24-hour track races, and drank from water bottles filled with “la Moutarde’: liquid cocaine. Thomas Hicks won the St Louis marathon in 1904 fueled by raw eggs, injections of strychnine and doses of brandy, which were given to him as he ran. His doctor reported that the victory showed “drugs are of much benefit to athletes.’
All of this was tolerated, even encouraged, by organizers, and by fans who were less interested in their sport being clean than they were in seeing their heroes pushed ever harder. Doping has been banned in some Olympic sports since 1908 (a wider ban was introduced in 1928), but athletes weren’t tested in a systematic way until the late 1960s – not least because few effective tests existed. In the 1950s, the rulebook for the Tour de France still stated that riders who wished to use drugs would have to supply their own. Things began to change, at least publicly, when several speed skaters nearly died after overdosing on amphetamines during the 1952 games in Helsinki. Fifa became the first international sporting body to conduct large-scale drug tests during the 1966 World Cup, when three footballers from East Germany tested positive for stimulants (all three blamed contamination from inhalers used to treat bronchitis and were let off). The International Olympic Committee followed suit a few years later, in response to public pressure following the death of the Danish cyclist Knud Jensen during the Rome games in 1960, but comprehensive testing wasn’t introduced at the Olympics until Munich in 1972, when thousands of tests were conducted, leading to the disqualification of seven athletes. Other sports tried to clean up their acts around the same time. The death of Tommy Simpson, the English cyclist whose heart stopped a kilometer from the summit of Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France, called time on unregulated drug use in professional cycling. Empty packets of amphetamines were found in the pockets of his jersey, and his bidon was filled with brandy.
Before the advent of mass testing, the most popular performance-enhancing – or “ergogenic” – drugs in most sports were stimulants: substances that improved speed and stamina but wore off relatively quickly. These are difficult to hide if tested on the day of competition, however, and have to be present in the body at detectable levels in order to be effective, so attention turned to chemicals that offered an advantage during training, in the months or sometimes years before a competition. The most common drugs used by dopers today are testosterone and its artificial derivatives as well as peptides: amino-acid chains that help build muscle mass, such as human growth hormone and erythropoietin (EPO). These are sometimes supplemented with blood doping, in which blood is taken from the athlete’s body and reinjected months before competition, boosting their red blood cell count. Similar effects can be achieved with injections of EPO, which stimulates the production of blood cells in bone marrow. Because many of these chemicals are produced naturally by the body, and red blood cell counts can also be boosted by training at high altitude or sleeping in an oxygen tent (both of which are allowed within the rules of most sports), these techniques have until recently been difficult to detect.
In 2009 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the organization now known as World Athletics, introduced a new method of doping control. Rather than testing individual samples for the presence of specific substances, athletes are obliged to provide several blood samples over a longer period of time. By measuring different bio-markers – relative levels of hemoglobin, hematocrit (the proportion of red blood cells in the blood stream) and reticulocyte (immature red blood cells) – an individual baseline can be established. If this changes significantly during competition then it’s likely that an athlete has doped, because in unadulterated bodies these values don’t fluctuate significantly. Crucially this “bio-passport” system means that, for the anti-doping agencies, a clean sample is as useful as a dirty one, as it establishes the standard against which future fluctuations can be measured. Manipulating the results of individual samples, or hiding an athlete’s drug use by using diuretics to flush out their system during competition, have become far less effective methods than they once were.
Despite this, top-level sport remains extremely dirty. In an era of unprecedented biological surveillance, athletes continue to cheat and to feel they have no choice but to do so. The long-running state-sponsored Russian doping program culminated in the mass manipulation of in-competition testing during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics – one of the biggest, and most fascinating, examples of systematic doping in the history of sport. Since then, Russia’s persistent refusal to share its data and stored samples, to investigate its own anti-doping officials properly or to allow independent access to testing facilities has led to a series of sanctions, the most recent of which, in 2019, banned Russian athletes from international competition for four years (reduced to two years on appeal). This left Russian athletes ineligible for the Tokyo Olympics, but in a typical Wada fudge they have been permitted to compete under the banner of the “Russian Olympics Committee’. Their medals won’t contribute to Russia’s official tally, although one suspects this will make little difference to Russians themselves.
More rarely discussed is the role of Russian athletes, scientists and reporters in resisting and uncovering the culture of compulsive doping. The Russian Affair is an account of a young Russian couple – Yulia and Vitaly Stepanov – who helped expose a vast doping conspiracy. David Walsh, a sports journalist for the Times with a good record of uncovering cheats (he wrote about his role in exposing Lance Armstrong in his previous book, Seven Deadly Sins), tells their story with the breathless drive of an airport thriller. The Stepanovs first met at an anti-doping conference in 2008. Yulia was a promising medium-distance runner; Vitaly was an almost pathologically naive sports scientist who had recently got a job with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada). They married a year later. Vitaly soon realized his role at the agency wasn’t to catch cheats, but to protect them. More devastating still, he discovered Yulia was herself a serious doper. He became a whistleblower and when Yulia was given a two-year ban for a drugs violation, and her hopes of international success faded, she began to help him in his campaign against large-scale doping.
They began by writing to officials at the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and at the IAAF, but were dismissed. Eventually they made contact with the German journalist Hajo Seppelt and following his advice started secretly to record conversations with coaches and other high-ranking Rusada officials. They were the star witnesses in Seppelt’s documentary, The Secrets of Doping: How Russia Makes Its Winners, which was broadcast in 2014 and caused a sensation. Yulia and Vitaly fled Russia for Germany just before it was broadcast, and now lead quiet lives in America as born-again Christians.
The Russian Affair demonstrates just how necessary “running dirty” was for a professional athlete in Russia in the 2010s (and, one suspects, today). When Yulia was competing, coaches decided not just who would dope and who wouldn’t – and who would be caught and who wouldn’t – but where individual athletes would finish in national races. With a glut of potential world champions, money was more important than talent. “First-class” service cost an athlete $5000 per season and a 5 per cent cut of all other winnings. If a dirty athlete alerted Rusada to a potentially positive sample before it was tested it could simply be poured down the sink; once registered in the system the price was 30,000 rubles – $1000 or so. Payment for protection in international competitions was far more expensive. The 2010 London Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova claimed to have paid the Russian Athletics Federation nearly half a million euros to cover up a positive test.
For most of her career Yulia was in economy class, paying her coach (Sergei Portugalov, who received a lifetime ban for doping offences in 2017) $1000 plus 5 per cent of all winnings for a season on his program. This left her vulnerable. Athletes who didn’t opt for the full service often found themselves sacrificed to the international anti-doping agencies, as Rusada was always looking for easy scalps to satisfy Wada quotas. “We are in the business of showing that we did many tests and we deliver plenty of positives,” Vitaly told one official in an email, “but those who test positive are carefully chosen from the second or third tier. They show that Russian sport is clean. People look at the numbers and mistakenly believe we are serious.” Yulia’s tragedy was that she was deemed by her coaches to be a third-tier athlete: whatever her talent, and no matter how hard she trained, she would never be a contender.
The Stepanovs’ story is partly about the transition from the doping culture of the Cold War, when sporting prowess was a state concern, to one that was far more individualistic and entrepreneurial. Russian sports scientists who had been paid handsomely to produce world-leading athletes whatever the cost were left largely to their own devices after 1991. “In the old days,” Walsh writes, “a coach successfully applying “special methods” was rewarded with a nice car, a decent apartment, perhaps a dacha in the countryside. In the new world, old practices evolved. Now a coach was free to keep whatever he could earn by his own enterprise.” One of the most flamboyant actors in the new doping economy of the 1990s and 2000s was Grigory Rodchenkov, an amateur long-distance runner turned sports scientist who was responsible for the Sochi affair and now lives in the US under witness protection. His account of the events has come out in paperback just in time for the Tokyo Olympics.
Rodchenkov will be familiar to some as the disheveled, Orwell-quoting star of Bryan Fogel’s documentary Icarus (he also features tangentially in Walsh’s book, where Yulia accuses him of extortion; Rodchenkov, in turn, is dismissive of the Stepanovs, calling them a “telegenic young couple” and Yulia “a has-been runner I have never met’). Fogel initially approached Rodchenkov to act as a sort of doping consultant on a film he was making about amateur cycling. Rodchenkov, who was then director of the Moscow Anti-Doping Centre, an IOC-accredited lab, happily prescribed Fogel a course of steroids and taught him ways to avoid detection. His chaotic charm and inability to keep a secret meant he soon became the star of Fogel’s film.
As a teenager Rodchenkov had been a talented runner and had for a time considered turning professional. At university, friends encouraged him to try a “light course of anabolic steroids” and so he asked his mother, a nurse, to source the Retabolil he needed. He lay face down on her sofa as she injected it into his bum. “The drug,” he writes, “felt intoxicating – I could feel energy pouring into my gluteus maximus, the most powerful muscle in a runner’s body ... I had joined the world of sport doping. It would become my life, my career, my joy – and my downfall.” He won his next race easily, running five kilometers in under fourteen minutes.
After further modest success on the track he began selling steroids to other athletes, particularly East German runners for whom they were far cheaper in Soviet Russia than back home. During his national service the army tried to recruit him to their track team, but he instead decided to pursue a PhD under Nikolai Semenov, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist. Rodchenkov’s first-hand knowledge of doping made him relatively unusual in the world of anti-doping – he often already possessed personal samples of some of the rarer drugs his lab wanted to detect, which were then used to calibrate their machinery.
At first Rodchenkov worked directly for the state. To cover for positive tests, dirty samples would be made to disappear or left in such a way that they spoiled. Some were swapped with clean samples provided by coaches, friends or relatives of the athletes. So much doping went on that “in some training camps, finding clean urine was a problem ... The coaches were drinking gallons of water and emptying their bladders into their athlete’s sample bottles.” To make the clean samples match the color of the dirty ones, Rodchenkov and his colleagues added Nescafé granules.
His grandest project – the one which eventually did for him – took place during the 2014 Sochi winter games, the first Olympics to be held on Russian soil since Moscow in 1980. Sochi was to be the “glittering jewel” in Putin’s crown and Rodchenkov was under pressure to produce winners. In the run-up he had invented a new doping method called “the Duchess’: a cocktail of three anabolic steroids – methenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone – administered via an alcoholic solvent (Chivas Regal whisky for men, Martini vermouth for women), which made the drugs quick to metabolize and easier to flush from the body. Rodchenkov was confident the Duchess couldn’t be detected, but that didn’t mean it was without risk. Even if athletes passed the in-competition testing, samples could be kept and tested again once new screening techniques had been developed. This delayed retesting was becoming a problem for dopers: new techniques emerged all the time, and subsequent testing could strip athletes of awards won years earlier. As a precaution, Rodchenkov hatched a plan that would allow him to swap dirty samples for clean ones before they were sent for testing.
The Russian state lab in Sochi was the official drug testing facility for the whole games. As head of the lab, Rodchenkov’s work was overseen by Wada, an organization in denial about Russian doping. “No one at Wada,” Walsh writes, “had ever imagined an entire national agency turning rogue.” At Sochi, testers divided individual urine samples into “A” and “B” samples, which were both stored in special tamper-proof bottles. The A sample would be tested during the competition; the B sample was put into storage. If irregularities were found in the A sample, then the B sample could be tested to confirm the results. B samples could also be kept for testing at a later date.
Before the games Rodchenkov was assigned a shadowy FSB agent called Blokhin, who developed a way to tamper with the tamper-proof bottles. A few days before the opening ceremony another assistant, a former marathon runner named Yuri Chizhov, drilled a small hole in the wall of the lab, connecting Room 125, which was under constant CCTV surveillance monitored by Wada staff, with the “operational” room 124, which wasn’t. Each night samples taken from Russian athletes on the “Duchess list” were passed through this hole and the urine in both bottles replaced with clean, pre-tested urine. It was an operation, Rodchenkov writes, “as delicately choreographed as the most intricate performance at the Bolshoi ballet, but instead of dancers, we were using the secret police’.
Things began to unravel the following summer. Rodchenkov was approached by Seppelt for an interview, which he blithely accepted. Seppelt’s documentary aired a few months later, prompting an investigation by Wada, which in 2015 found evidence of wide-ranging drug abuse within Russian athletics and imposed a three-year ban on Russian track and field athletes in international competitions. Realizing the game was up, Rodchenkov confessed everything to Fogel and the New York Times. He fled to America, leaving his wife and two children in Russia.
Rodchenkov’s downfall wasn’t a Damascene moment. He takes what he calls “a perverse pride in his past unethical achievements” and is bullish about what he sees as the positive aspects of doping in sport. The two main arguments against doping – that it is bad for athletes’ health and that it is unfair – are, according to Rodchenkov, unsatisfactory. The training regimes most elite athletes endure are far more injurious to their health than doping. Used carefully, ergogenic drugs may even protect them from harm. “Training at the Olympic level,” he writes, “puts significant strain on the body. Steroids reduce fatigue and trauma, and can also help muscles recover more quickly. I am not aware of any studies concluding that these substances are harmful in moderate doses, and I know plenty of athletes who used them for years and have lived long and healthy lives.’
It’s also not obvious that the advantages provided by doping should necessarily be thought of as unfair. “Some athletes,” Rodchenkov writes, “are genetically gifted and can get to the top of their sport with natural training techniques; meanwhile, an athlete who seems unpromising can, after a modest doping regimen, show huge progress in developing skills and stamina, progressing to the point where he or she can challenge visibly stronger rivals. An average athlete might have more room for development and be more dedicated than the “natural” competitor ... If sport was “clean” that would be a reverse handicap, favoring naturally gifted athletes over their less advantaged rivals.’
Without drugs, only a few talented athletes can ever compete at the highest levels of sport; by using them, those with unrealized potential are given their chance. Rather than seeking to make sport “clean’, Rodchenkov proposes that sporting bodies should try to inculcate a culture of sporting “honesty’: encouraging athletes to be explicit about the methods they use to improve their performance. A centrally administered, comprehensive and open doping culture in sport would allow for greater equality of opportunity for athletes. It’s an interpretation of fairness in sport that might be worth revisiting.
(London Review of Books)
THE FIRST THING you have to understand in here is that you never understand anything in here.
— Leonard Peltier
COILING & RATTLING
by James Kunstler
Actually, Progressive-Liberal abortion policy never went far enough. If only abortion were retroactive! We could send “Joe Biden” (and maybe all of Wokedom) back to the pre-embryonic cosmic darkness preceding conception? Otherwise, we’ll have to run him out of the Oval Office like some short-timer Guatemalan generalissimo, since he has completed the transition of the USA into a Third World backwater… and thus, served his purpose.
Was that it, by the way? Was “Joe Biden” a kind of suicide bomber sent into the White House overtly by dimly-perceived parties to blow up the ragged remnants of a once-dignified republic? There’s a cohort of observers, including many sage commenters on this blog, who would say so. One way or another, Ol’ White Joe’s days at the helm are numbered now. Even the claque of quasi-literate brown-nosers in the news media are turning on him since he glanced at his watch too many times while the dead marines’ bodies were rolled out before him at Dover AFB. At least he didn’t yawn or light a cigarette, too.
These cool and lovely, pre-Fall nights, Kamala Harris must be chugging Gray Goose by the liter, chasing her Xanax, up at the Veep’s mansion, the old Naval Observatory, probably the nicest house she’ll ever live in because she’s not ever moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., nosiree. The parties dimly-perceived behind all this … this meshugas… got it so wrong with her. She was supposed to be an insurance policy against removing “JB,” while he acted as an automatic legislation signing machine.
But it’s rock-and-a-hard-place time now for the power players in our nation’s capital, and I’m thinking that Kamala’s thinking that they’re thinking that maybe Kamala has to go, too… and maybe not in a pretty way… like maybe something goes wrong on Air Force Two a hundred miles east of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic en route to Botswana… and the long-awaited official meet-and-greet with President Mokgweetsi Masisi… which never happens…. Wake up Kammie!!!! Oh no, it’s even worse than a bad dream, she’s thinking. It’s reality!
Those parties dimly perceived surely think they can get away with anything now. There is no accountability, nor any memory of what it used to mean. Things just happen and unhappen, like in some raw, pre-conscious nasty-and-brutish animal kingdom, which is exactly what our country has become when you factor-in mass Woke lobotomization, meth and fentanyl addiction, social media mind-fuckery, and Covid hysteria. Klaus Schwab, you are taking this a little too far now, yes? It’s one thing to own nothing and be happy, but to remember nothing, too? That compliant surviving population of a half-billion serfs you wish to reserve to peel your grapes won’t even be able to carry out the simplest instructions. Something has gone very wrong with your Great Reset… if that’s what this is.
I prefer to label it the long emergency, simply the endgame of the techno-industrial hypertrophic phase of history. You could see it coming from a hundred months away, but now that it’s here, Western Civ has turned from tragedy to farce to psychosis. The pharmaceutical lobbying group known as the American Medical Association called this week for an “immediate end” to the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19. They forbid member doctors to prescribe it. They follow the CDC and the FDA in condemning the drug, sentencing it to the ducking stool… burning it at the stake! “Use of ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 has been demonstrated to be harmful to patients,” they say.
They lie, of course. And they want all the doctors to lie. How many of them will go along to get along? Do they care if this psychotic nonsense destroys what remains of medical practice just as race-and-gender studies have destroyed higher ed? One not-so-distant day the docs will show up for work, but the overgrown hospitals will be out of business, doors shuttered, and the docs will be back to making house-calls with a little black bag… no more German cars for you… and maybe a chicken in exchange for a little bootleg Ivermectin, if you’re lucky! As it happens, I take the veterinary-grade Ivermectin myself as a prophylactic, because that’s all you can get easily around here. I haven’t felt better in years. Perhaps I had pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis). Anyway, I don’t have Covid. I also take Vitamin D3 and zinc. Anathemize that, you chiseling bastards!
Everybody I consort with has had enough of the whole nauseating game — the lying politicians, the lying media, the lying medical bureaucrats, the lying generals, the lying teachers, the lying celebrities, the lying tech moguls, the entire armature of counter-reality you want to impose on a once-fair land. We will never do your bidding. We will never peel your grapes. There are more of us than you. Go ahead, push just a little bit harder.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
THE EMPIRE DOES NOT FORGIVE
by Chris Hedges
The faux pity for the Afghan people, which has defined the coverage of the desperate collaborators with the U.S. and coalition occupying forces and educated elites fleeing to the Kabul airport, begins and ends with the plight of the evacuees. There were few tears shed for the families routinely terrorized by coalition forces or the some 70,000 civilians who were obliterated by U.S. air strikes, drone attacks, missiles, and artillery, or gunned down by nervous occupying forces who saw every Afghan, with some justification, as the enemy during the war. And there will be few tears for the humanitarian catastrophe the empire is orchestrating on the 38 million Afghans, who live in one of the poorest and most aid-dependent countries in the world.