Mendocino County Today: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017
by AVA News Service, February 12, 2017
EARLY FEBRUARY RAIN: During this very wet rainy season, February got off to a drenching start. Over the eight day stretch of February 2 through 9, Yorkville received 12.5 inches of rain (Boonville got 8.3 inches over the same stretch). The season total for the High Rollers rose to 64.5 inches.
THIS SURGE OF PRECIPITATION, falling on an already supersaturated landscape, pushed the Navarro River over flood stage (23 feet) on two different occasions last week, reaching heights of 31.3 feet (Feb 7) and 30.2 feet (Feb 9).
North Fork Navarro River, 9 February 2017
HIGHWAY 20 from Fort Bragg to Willits was re-opened Saturday afternoon for one way traffic, but, “expect delays,” added the CHP.
DEPUTY ORELL MASSEY is Mendocino County’s first and, so far, only black patrol deputy. He has recently semi-retired, shifting from patrol to prisoner transportation. The tall, fit former Marine sat down with us recently for a wide ranging discussion of his unique career.
Since mental health has been a high-visibility subject in recent months and because Sheriff Allman recently told a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and the Behavioral Health Board that he planned to stop having deputies respond to non-criminal mental health calls, we begin with Deputy Massey’s experience with mental health calls.
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Massey: Over the years I've dealt with many mental health cases. My experience with the mental health system is not positive. There are a number of problems. One of them is when you deal with someone on a mental health call you have to contact them and evaluate them and determine if the person needs to be turned over to mental health. Often it takes a long time for the mental health worker to show up. You can be sitting there waiting for a long time. Other deputies have the same problem. There is always a problem with the availability of a mental health response. Sometimes you get a mental health worker who wants to know all about the case before they will send someone out. But all we want is for them to send someone to take a look. Most of these people are their clients who they have dealt with before. But apparently the mental health workers just do not want to come out. So they usually want to know exactly what this person was doing and so forth. Then you have to call someone else and give them details about why you think they need mental health attention. And they drag their feet sometimes before they come out. All of this you’re sitting with the person waiting. And then many times when they do show up they release the person so fast that their client will beat the deputy out the door. [Laughs] You can be walking out the front door and you’ll see the person who needs mental-health attention coming out the side door. And you have been tied up with that individual for who knows how many hours. Sometimes the person may be somewhat violent. There are also times I've been required to wait an hour or two for a mental health person to show up and deal with a person. And then when they arrived the first thing they do is interview you [the deputy] to find out what the problem is, not the person who needs assistance. The single craziest thing that I see with mental health is the way the referral forms are handled. For an official 5150 the deputy has to fill out a mental health form, If a person volunteers to be seen by mental health, no form is required. But if you need to pursue a 5150 under the Welfare and Institutions code, the form is required for involuntary detention where they can keep you for 72 hours or longer for evaluation. Under the mental health form today if you have a word misspelled or an incorrect date or any other minor error or mistake they will not accept the form. You cannot call them on the phone and tell them to correct it, to change a date from 1950 to 1960 say. They simply won't do it. Time and again I've asked them to make a simple correction or change and they won't do it. They have to come back and or have you come back in to change the form and re-sign it. I think they are simply trying to avoid having to evaluate the people. Why can't they fix minor things like that without some giant rigmarole? It's just a correction. Or maybe you don't check a box — if you ask them to check the box they will not do it. And so their client is right out the door again and they don’t have to deal with them because the problem is still there. Nothing has been done.
AVA: Have you seen any difference between the previous contractor and the present contractor?
Massey: It seems like it's been the same no matter who's doing it. There's always a shortage of beds, a shortage of facilities, so they are reluctant to accept people for evaluation or treatment. I understand that. But they should not use the form as a way to avoid dealing with these people. Ordinarily, once they accept the form and the person, the deputy is relieved of the responsibility of staying with them. But a deputy must stay with the person if they are being considered for 5150 until a mental-health worker assesses them and accepts them.
There are also times when mental health workers ask the deputies to do additional things the mental health person should do. I’ve told them my initial evaluation is for the 5150 and that they should be turned over to Mental Health. Typically we will call mental health in these cases and ask them where they want the person taken. If the person is somewhat violent or if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they usually are taken to the emergency room where they are held until the mental health worker shows up. If the person is exhibiting some type of violence and the mental health worker is afraid of them then the deputy is still tied up.
AVA: So you'd support the idea of a crisis van that gets dispatched on mental health calls behind the cops who could take the person from the deputy on the scene?
Massey: Of course! If a crime was committed, that would be different. But that would be a big improvement in many cases.
AVA: They have a version of this in other Northern California counties, but as far as I can tell Mendocino has avoided it for decades. Many times the person just needs to be held for a while to calm down so they can be taken home or some other more stable situation.
Massey: That would be good. But my experience in the Sheriff's office is that the mental health people want the Sheriff to do everything. The first thing anyone does is to call the Sheriff. We need a person to come in for a few minutes -- call the sheriff. The public seems to have this attitude as well. If a person is acting out, people will not want to carry them in their cars so they call the Sheriff for a ride to the hospital or something. So sometimes we are little more than a taxi service. And sometimes those are problems that could be handled with mental health and should be handled by mental health without any law enforcement involvement. But they want a cop present.
AVA: I saw where the sheriff declared that he was going to stop dispatching deputies to minor mental health incidents. He wasn’t specific about when or what kinds of situations, but I think he means it.
Massey: I know that many times when people call on the crisis line, instead of a mental health person responding, the crisis line staffer will call the sheriff's office and tell us that someone is calling the crisis line or someone is threatening to kill himself and the sheriff has to go out and evaluate the person and take the person down to the mental health department for evaluation. No crime is involved. All you do is go out and do a simple evaluation and ask certain questions to the family members and maybe talk to the person. And if the family thinks the person needs mental health service then the deputy will transport the person in. But obviously mental health people are more qualified to do that. And they can do what they need to do and keep the person at home and help them if they need medical help. But if the person needs medical attention, then they often ask the sheriff to transport them to the hospital or to a doctor's office or clinic. Transport, transport, transport. And frequently in this county that can be quite a distance. It can take hours. It can take hours for us to deal with a situation which a mental-health worker could solve in a matter of minutes if they were on the scene. I can't believe it. Can't they simply do their job? Why do they call the Sheriff's office for everything? I understand there are times when there is a real emergency or a physical problem. But most of the time there’s a person on the crisis line or sometimes they are at the mental health office and a client of theirs has called in and says they don't want to do something mental health asked them to do, or they want to hurt themselves. So they will call the Sheriff's office and say the person is threatening to hurt themselves. So there we go again. It happens all the time.
AVA: Are there any statistics on that kind of thing?
Massey: All our calls are recorded and the nature of the call is recorded. You can go through and look at that and see how many are mental health and what the disposition was. The information is available if someone wants to get it. Basically, the Sheriff and the police spend a lot of their time babysitting. Taking care of people, stopping people from fighting, stopping people from stealing other people's stuff, taking care of all these social situations and trying to keep things relatively smooth. Every day the police are tasked with more and more stuff and more rules and… I don't know where it's going. But today's police officers are weighed down with so many things that don't have much to do with crime because we are the ones that people know must respond and will respond. The public is more and more demanding. And they are more and more critical of the police. You know, you can work all your career and have no big problems, and then one incident can take it all from you. Wow! That is not a great feeling!
ANOTHER SUSPECT IN THE KILLING OF LAYTONVILLE GROWER ARRESTED
Another suspect has been arrested in the death of Jeffrey Quinn Settler. Settler was allegedly killed in November of 2016 reportedly as a result of a dispute over payment for trimming marijuana with the suspects.
Frederick Gaestel was arrested early this morning in Virginia. He is the 6th male suspect arrested for Settler’s homicide. Two more men are still being sought.
Below is the Facebook post from the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office in Virginia detailing the arrest:
At approximately 12:00 AM on 2-10-17 we received information about a wanted suspect from Mendocino County, California (Frederick Gaestel). He was wanted for murder and was reported to be staying in a vacant house in the 1200 block of Oriana Rd. Deputies and our Emergency Response Team set up a perimeter around the residence and the suspect surrendered without incident. Mendocino County detectives were notified. We have no other information to release as this is not our case. Sheriff Diggs said that he was happy that his office was able to bring this out of state suspected murderer to justice.
Two more men, both local, are sought in the slaying.
The remaining suspects are Gary Blank III, 34, of Garberville, and Jesse Wells, 33, of Laytonville.
(Courtesy, The Redheaded Blackbelt/KymKemp.com)
Gaestel (pre-arrest), Gaestel (after arrest), Blank, Wells
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THE MENDOCINO COUNTY SHERIFF’S UPDATE on the Settler Murder Case:
On 11-11-2016 at 3:39 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were summoned to a reported man who had been murdered on a remote property located in the 49000 block of North Highway 101 in Laytonville, California. The property was a rural parcel approximately 5 miles from Highway 101, on a dirt road that traveled in a westerly direction. Deputies responded to the scene confirming there was a male adult who was obviously deceased as a result of what appeared to be a violent assault. Mendocino County Sheriff's Detectives were summoned to the scene, along with Investigators from the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office and Criminalists from the California Department of Justice. During the investigation it was determined the deceased male adult, Jeffrey Quinn Settler, was operating a commercial marijuana growing operation on the property. In the early morning hours of 11-11-2016 (Thursday), multiple subjects who had been recently employed by Settler as marijuana trimmers returned to the property in the middle of the night with the intent to commit robbery of processed marijuana. The investigation has revealed the subjects knew the marijuana was stored in the same structure where Settler slept and the subjects violently assaulted him during the robbery, causing his death. The subjects were believed to have fled the property in at least two vehicles and were believed to have stolen over 100 pounds of processed marijuana. The suspects were believed to have fled to Southern California or out of state. In all seven suspects were identified and subsequent felony arrest warrants were sought. Prior to 02-10-2017, four of the suspects were in custody and being prosecuted for homicide. On 02-10-2017, at approximately 10:00 PM (PST), the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was contacted by a representative of York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office in Williamsburg, Virginia and notified that they had taken suspect Frederick Gaestel into custody on the Mendocino County arrest warrant. Information relayed was that the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office received a tip that Frederick Gaestel was hiding out in a vacant house and that he was wanted for murder out of California. Once the warrant was confirmed, the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office was able to surround the house and Gaestel surrendered peacefully. Mendocino County will work to get Gaestel extradited to Mendocino County so he can stand trial for homicide. This process can take up to several months if Gaestel tries to challenge extradition. This arrest was made as a result of the cooperative effort of law enforcement agencies working with concerned citizens who came forward with the information about Gaestel's whereabouts. Currently two suspects are still at large and are believed to have fled the state of California. The remaining suspects are identified Gary Blank III (34 year-old male from Garberville, California) and Jesse Wells (33 year-old male from Laytonville, California). Any persons with information about the location of the outstanding suspects are encouraged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Investigative Services Unit at 707-463-4421 or the Sheriff's Office Tip Line at 707-234-2100.
DURING TUESDAY'S pot rules discussion, a Redwood Valley mom offered this poignant, first-hand account of what it's like to live in a grow area, and all of Mendocino County is a grow area, which in turn prompts the influx of criminally-oriented street people, drug and alcohol-dependent derelicts generally, who in turn create a cadre of helping professionals, who in turn prompt grant grabbing by the county and the individual cities of the county, and everyone just goes on tsk-tsking the steady growth of scumbaggery without even an honest discussion of who all these neo-funding units are, where they're from, what their criminal histories are. And the so-called rules governing local marijuana production are already a joke before the ink is dry because the county has little enforcement capacity, and we won't even begin to get into the thugs attracted to the NorthCoast because they know growers, many of them also armed, tend to keep a lot of cash around. We think the following statement by Mrs. McEwen is a realistic account of what life is like for many non-pot people living in Mendocino County:
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Heather McEwen, Ukiah: I am here as a mom, a mom of four. We bought our home 17 years ago at the end of Redemeyer Road outside Ukiah. My kids are 10 years apart, two are in their 20s and two in their teens. 17 years ago when we moved into that neighborhood we were able to go outside and play hide and go seek, basketball… All the neighbors were out there with them. They were able to run around, go on a jog if they were training for something… Now my two teenage kids are not allowed to go outside the front door. We never locked our house before, we do now. They can't go on walks by themselves, they have to have an adult. And I am not comfortable out there either. We know that the high fences and the dogs and the traffic and all that is a nuisance. But I have witnessed having people in my woodpile or looking in the garage door seeking a marijuana grow. I have had people knocking on my door asking if we sell marijuana. I have met people peeking over my fence, going through my yard, past my children's window or doors because they are stealing marijuana from that neighbor. That neighbor then came over the next morning and accused me of stealing it and then hating me because I called the Sheriff's department and somebody came and he had to pull his grow out. I have had my other neighbor come over and ask if I saw someone come and steal his $19 grand in cash which was stolen over the weekend. I've had people come driving through our garden and threaten to kill me because I wouldn't tell them where a certain person lived. They were looking for his grow. I've seen people peeking over fences to see where people are growing marijuana. It's not — we've had somebody raped just down the street. It's not safe. It's not fair that my kids have to stay indoors and not be able to go outside and be a child and play and be with their friends — they have to stay inside where they are bored. I never stayed inside as a child. It's not fair for them to have to stay inside as well. Please do not allow them to grow in our neighborhood, near our property. My neighbors can afford to buy new cars every year and remodel their homes with all new landscaping. I can't afford to do any of that. I can't afford to buy a new house and move out. I cannot afford to go buy property and go grow my marijuana somewhere else. I need to be in a residential area. Thank you.”
AND ARE WE the only people to notice the increase in shopping cart-ism in Ukiah? As we repeat ad nauseum, persons unable or unwilling to care for themselves cannot be permitted to live on the streets.
HOW DO WE GET THEM off the streets and into shelter is the question. The answer is not likely to come from the state or federal government. It's up to us, and here's a vote for a mandatory safe space set aside on public property where the homeless would be required to stay while they remain incompetent. The Ukiah Fairgrounds, the old hospital in Willits, the abandoned Point Arena Air Force station, the Boonville Fairgrounds. (There's four or five vacant acres in Boonville.)
THE SHERIFF'S PLAN to house and treat the mentally ill portion of the homeless population was the right idea at the right time, but it was narrowly defeated by a tiny sliver of County voters misled by the "liberal" member of the Board of Supervisors. There is a large population of people out there — many of them not from Mendocino County — who are not technically mentally ill, but they are career drunks and drug addicts committing public suicide. It is not humane to encourage or facilitate aberrant ways of outdoor living.
DURING PUBLIC COMMENT at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors discussion of the final draft of the new medical pot cultivation rules, Hal Wagenet said that Chris Brennan, who filed the complaint about Stuart Bewley (described in last week’s AVA) was prevented from signing because of an impacted tooth and Swami Chaitanya said the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association had voted to endorse the letter "with concern." This coalition formed to support the Board’s essentially middle of the road position to allow new pot grows in many areas (not including forest or rangeland) but permit existing grows and allow limited new ones in most other rural areas. Conspicuous among the non-signers is the group fronted by Coast marijuana legend Pebbles Trippet whose smaller pro-marijuana organization is suing the County on grounds that the County is imposing an illegal tax on their “medicine.”
Coalition Letter for Cannabis Cultivation and Zoning Code Ordinances
SCHOOL PARKING LOT PERV
On 02-10-2017 at approximately 7:45 A.M., Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a reported suspicious adult male in the parking lot of the Round Valley High School in Covelo. School officials reported the adult male was seen walking barefoot in the school parking lot. When Deputies were responding, they were notified that Round Valley Tribal Police officers had located an adult male matching the description provided by the school officials in the area of the Round Valley Airport. Tribal Police Officers identified the person and awaited for Deputies to arrive at the scene.
The person was identified as Delbert Alford, 29, of Ukiah, who was determined to be a registered sex offender who was on active CDC Parole from the Ukiah area. Deputies contacted and interviewed Alford about this incident. It was confirmed that Alford was the same person seen walking barefoot on school grounds. During this investigation it was determined Alford was under the influence of a controlled substance so he was placed under arrest. Deputies also learned Alford had no justifiable reason to be at the school and did not have written permission from school administrators to be on school grounds. A school official was able to identify Alford as the suspicious adult male who was seen in the school parking lot and on school grounds. Alford was placed under citizen's arrest by a representative of the school for being a registered sex offender on school grounds without lawful business and written permission from the school officials. Deputies contacted Alford's parole officer and learned that he was not permitted to be in Covelo and was in violation of numerous terms of his CDC Parole. A parole hold was issued for Alford based on this investigation. Alford was arrested for 3056 PC [Parole Violations], 626.81(a) PC [Sex Registrant on School Grounds without Lawful Business and Written Permission], and 11550(a) PC [Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance]. Alford was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on a no-bail status due to his Parole Violations.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “That full moon came up Friday night, but not a peep from the coyotes across the creek. They usually all go off on full moon nights.”
FORT BRAGG'S FORMER SCHOOL CHIEF, CHUCK BUSH….
CATCH OF THE DAY, February 11, 2017
Alford, Alvarez, Arab
DELBERT ALFORD, Covelo/Ukiah. Sex Registrant on School Grounds without Lawful Business and Written Permission, under influence, parole violation.
KELISHA ALVAREZ, Ukiah. Probation revocation, and unspecified second charge. (Frequent flyer.)
KRISTINA ARAB, Laytonville. Drunk in public.
Cauckwell, Charles, Chase
RICHARD CAUCKWELL, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation.
CRYSTAL CHARLES, Ukiah. Suspended license, controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
NOAH CHASE, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
Dominguez, Johnson, Kidd
LUIS DOMINGUEZ, San Diego/Ukiah. Drunk in public.
EDWARD JOHNSON, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia. (Frequent flyer.)
JARED KIDD, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
Maynard, Miller, Parker
ANDREW MAYNARD, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
GERALD MILLER, Ukiah. Under influence, criminal threats, suspended license, failure to appear.
MICHAEL PARKER, Ukiah. Dirk-dagger, probation revocation.
EVERY NEW WHITE HOUSE has lots of growing pains and plenty of leaks. But they never feature leak after leak after leak portraying the president as a boob. That's something new. At this point, I'm mostly curious about who's doing the leaking. Is it career staff from the Obama era who are still working in the White House until they get reassigned? Or is this coming from folks who were actually hired by Trump? If it's the former, it's still unprecedented but probably just represents lingering resentment. However, if Trump's own people think he's an idiot and are happy to let the whole world know it, something is very, very wrong.... (Kevin Drum)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The Office came out of watching those great docusoaps where an ordinary guy got his 15 minutes of fame and that was it. Now fame is different. Now fame is insatiable. People live their lives doing anything to be famous. And they’re rewarded for it. They do bad things and they’re rewarded for it. There’s no difference today between fame and infamy. People go on these shows and there’s sort of an unwritten contract with broadcasters, they say, “I’ll behave like an idiot if you let me on.” It’s fame for fame’s sake. It’s a new profession. We’ve had kids growing up thinking it’s OK to do nothing. Sell your soul and get a house. The other thing about it is that people have changed in terms of, like, the new narcissist. We’ve seen the new narcissist. He’s the president of the United States. (Ricky Gervais)
SPIRALING COSTS OF DIABETES & INCREASE IN DIABETES 2
The Sacramento Bee published an article about the spiraling costs of diabetes. Over the past 20 years the cost of insulin has increased 450% after accounting for inflation. There are two types of diabetes: diabetes 1 which is the inability of the body to produce insulin. It occurs in early childhood and daily insulin injections will be required for the life of the patient. Diabetes 2, the most common form of diabetes, typically occurs in adults and is primarily caused by age, obesity, physical inactivity or family history. It can be controlled with diet, exercise and medications to lower blood-glucose levels, but often progresses to require daily insulin injections. The Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2012 estimated 30 million Americans had diabetes and another 86 million have pre-diabetes. If current trends continue the CDC estimates by 2050 1 in 3 Americans could have diabetes. In California, 55% of adults either have diagnosed diabetes or blood sugar levels that put them at risk of developing diabetes. These figures include 1 in every 3 adults age 18 to 39. Diabetes tops the nation's list of 155 chronic conditions at $101.4 billion.
A number of reasons are cited for the spiraling costs of diabetes. Supply and demand, health plans do not disclose set prices negotiated with the insulin manufacturers, and prices vary as what insurance you have and the results are different for Medicaid, Medicare, or on private insurance. I would recommend to the readers of this letter, if you have not, you should check your Body Mass Index, BMI, to see if you are overweight or obese. Either way, if you do not want to develop diabetes 2 get off sugary drinks, junk food and eating on a regular basis at fast food places and chain restaurants and get an exercise regimen. As a sidebar, I would mention President Trump's BMI is obese, stage 2. He is a prime candidate for diabetes 2.
In peace and love,
"Lest he should be taken alive, Hook always carried upon his person a dreadful poison distilled when he was weeping from the red of his eye. A mixture of malice, jealousy and disappointment, it was instantly fatal and without antidote."
The recording of last night's (2017-02-10) KNYO and KMEC Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show is available to download and enjoy via
Also at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find directions to many non-radio though worthwhile goods that I found while putting radio shows together. Items such as:
I'm trying not to say, "Admit it, you would tap that," because that particular idiom annoys me, but in this case it's apt. If you could, you would tap that, that's all.
Control panel porn.
And a map of math, the control panel of the universe.
ROAMING CHARGES: BIG BOSS MAN
by Jeffrey St. Clair
You got me working boss man, a workin’ around the clock,
I want a little drink of whiskey, you sure won’t let me stop.
Big boss man, can’t you hear me when I call?
Well, you ain’t so big, you just tall, that’s all.
— Jimmy Reed, Big Boss Man
When Trump speaks these days it’s usually in a strictly-controlled environment, before a self-selected (if not always compensated) crowd that bows, laughs and applauds on cue, like the “live studio audience” of a sit-com.
This week Trump cloaked himself in a pack of gung-ho sheriffs summoned from Trump-devoted counties across the country. The mutual backslapping and banal banter between the President and the cops took an ominous turn when Harold Eavenson, Sheriff of Rockwell County, Texas, complained to Trump that soft-on crime politicians were threatening the financial firepower of the war on drugs by trying to enact minor reforms in asset seizure laws, which allow police departments to confiscate the property of suspects in drug crimes, sell it off and keep the money to fund their own operations.
Eavenson griped to Trump: “There’s a state senator in Texas that was talking about legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money.”
“Do you believe that?” Trump responded, mugging for the cameras.
“And I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation passed,” Eavenson growled.
Trump’s hackles rose to the occasion: “Who is that state senator? I want to hear his name,” he boasted. “We’ll destroy his career!”
Even the sheriff seemed stunned by Trump’s political bloodlust. Eavenson chuckled nervously, but refused to name the senator.
This is a portrait of Trump in full law-and-order mode, where all of the emphasis is on order and none on law. Any real conservative would object to asset seizure as a “taking” of property without compensation or judicial review, a constitutional crime by the state.
That’s not the way Trump thinks, naturally. But let’s face it, his eagerness to demolish the career of a state senator from Texas is hardly the political equivalent of big game hunting. A small town politician is scarcely a threat to the Republic on the order of refugee-coddling Angela Merkel, currency-manipulating Xi Jinping or even the impertinent John Bercow, speaker of the British House of Commons who has vowed to bar Trump from addressing Parliament. But Trump doesn’t discriminate. Blood will have blood.
In the perverse logic of the bully, Trump seems to believe that the smaller the victim, the bigger it makes him look. But it’s the casual brutality that really matters. That’s the selling point of his administration. As flies are to wanton boys, so are his enemies, great or small, to Trump. He crushes them for sport, live in prime time.
During more sedate political times, enemies lists were kept as tightly guarded secrets, the names known only to an inner circle of henchmen. Trump broadcasts his targets to anyone who will listen, as if he were a post-modern Henry II, begging his most credulous acolytes to rid him of meddlesome troublemakers. Ironically, Trump campaigned by saying that it would be foolish to publicly reveal his strategy for dealing with opponents. (Of course, many took this to indicate that Trump really had not the faintest idea what he was going to do in Iraq, Syria or the Straits of Hormuz.)
We now know that this stealthy stricture only applies to Trump’s overseas targets. Here in the homeland, the looming domestic crackdown will be fully marketed and previewed by Trump as a coming attraction, whetting the appetite of the far right for the final destruction of what remains of the Left. In that sense, we can count our blessings that Trump never fully digested Machiavelli, never learned the dark arts of political misdirection. The red laser point fixed on our foreheads is flashing for all to see. Ignore it at your peril.
This directness of purpose explains, of course, much of Trump’s appeal to the white working class. He’s all text, no subtext: a man who Tweets what he means and means what he Tweets, dammit! Even though Trump made most of his billions (if billions are, in fact, what he made) ruthlessly exploiting the legalistic fine print in contracts, he remains, for much of America, the man without qualities, the qualities of subtlety and nuance. And for that, at least, we must be thankful.
Even by the standards of the Chaos Theory of Politics, Trump is an inept politician, who only holds power because he proved to be marginally less inept than Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most uninspiring candidate since Bob Dole. We have entered a time of the politics of personal pique, where incitement to public violence seems to have become a new presidential prerogative. Everyone is fair game for Trump: federals judges and senators, state legislators and department store executives, actors, Mexican grandmothers, Syrian children and journalists. He sees enemies everywhere and doesn’t hesitate to name and GPS-locate them.
Nixon was a paranoid politician, but he largely operated in the dark, using surrogates and cut-outs to do his dirtiest work. Nixon was also a cynical political hedge fund artist. Bomb Cambodia, create the EPA; break into the Watergate, visit Mao’s China. He always sought to build alliances that would limit his political liability. Even Reagan shielded himself behind a curtain of plausible deniability, discreetly keeping the blood off of his own hands. Reagan could rip your heart out, as his mouth cracked into an enigmatic smile. The enigma being: was the smile sadistic or merely a sign that he had lost his marbles? Or both.
Trump has quickly shed any pretense of deniability, plausible or otherwise. His most malign ideas, and the intentions behind them, stream forth on his Twitter feed in his own words, keyed by his own stubby fingers. It’s like reading the darkest exchanges of the Nixon tapes in real time. This refreshing forthrightness in the pursuit of malevolent policies has already self-sabotaged Trump’s own plans, as in the Muslim Travel Ban case, where the judges had no problem divining the true intent of the executive order. But the boy can’t help it, he is a prisoner of his own corrosive insecurities.
Even weeks after the inauguration, Trump remains so insecure in his own position that he feels compelled to prove that he is the big boss man every day through increasingly outrageous pronouncements delivered in the bombastic style of Anastasio Somoza or John Gotti, the Dapper Don. Of course, Trump’s mouth occasionally ejects pearls of wisdom. It’s particularly entertaining when Trump ejects these pearls in the face of Bill O’Reilly as he did on Super Bowl Sunday in the following exchange:
O’REILLY: Do you respect Putin?
TRUMP: I do respect him.
O’REILLY: Do you? Why?
TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean I am going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. Will I get along with them? I have no idea.
O’REILLY: He is a killer though. Putin is a killer.
TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country is so innocent? Do you think our country is so innocent?
O’REILLY: I don’t know of any government leaders that are killers in America.
TRUMP: Take a look at what we have done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning.
O’REILLY: Yes. Mistakes are different then —
TRUMP: A lot of mistakes, okay? But a lot of people were killed. So, a lot of killers around, believe me.
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During the campaign, Trump railed against the dangers of military intervention, then proved his own point in the first few days of his presidency after his favorite squadron of super-heroes, SEAL Team 6, botched a night raid in Yemen, missing their Al Qaeda-Arabian Peninsula target and killing a bunch of civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen blown to bits by one of Obama’s drones in 2011. Of course, when I heard Trump say, twice, “Do you think our country is so innocent?” it sounded more like a threat than an apologia.
Trump’s unbridled bellicosity is testimony to his psychological frailty and an enervating personal insecurity. The bigger the bully, the weaker his own sense of self and that internal, pathological weakness, as Wilhelm Reich warned, is a lethally dangerous trait in a political leader. Henry Kissinger once said that “Bill Clinton lacked the moral fibre to be called a war criminal.” This statement betrays Kissinger’s unrivaled hubris, but it also exposes why the Hitler/Trump comparisons falter. Trump is no Hitler. The comparison demeans Hitler’s millions of victims. Trump is not even a Goebbels. The psyche of our president more closely resembles that of a cowardly guard at one of the slave labor camps on the eastern front, a man whose self-esteem derives from kicking the frail bodies of the starving, the infirm and the condemned. Trump is, in fact, exactly the kind of petty warlord who sent others to kill and die in the jungles of Vietnam in his place and then cheered on the carnage, as American as it gets, from the sanctuary of distant sidelines.
Most of Trump’s supporters never experienced the pre-lapsarian America the president sold them a return ticket to, because that American Eden, unsullied by the free agency of blacks and Hispanics, never existed. Instead, Trump pitched a WestWorld-like illusion, a political mirage, where one is induced to see the past one desires: for some an image of the 1950s, for others, many others apparently, an image of the 1850s. Trump is betting on the fact that his supporters won’t notice the shantytown they’ve been deposited in when his boxcars hit their final destination, until he is safely out of range.
Trump’s shock jock politics will soon wear off for the simple reason that Trump’s imagination is as shrink-wrapped as his vocabulary. His horrorshow is unsustainable. There are only a few notes that he can play comfortably and, after a year on the stage, he’s already played them to death. Trump has said that his political base is “the uneducated,” but the under-educated aren’t necessarily dumb and they don’t like being conned. As art historian Robert Hughes noted, shock only works as an aesthetic device as long as it remains new. Consult the careers of Wes Craven or Dick Cheney about the dwindling ticket sales for their fright-night routines, once the audiences began to see all of their old tricks coming in advance. After a while, even the most gullible refuse to suspend their disbelief.
As a real estate shark, Trump has always been able to simply sell junk and move on, never looking back at the shattered illusions he’s peddled to his buyers without regrets. But now Trump is stuck in the spotlight, a con man whose snake oil has gone dry. There’s no escape hatch from the White House. His only real hope for political survival is to create more and more internal chaos, invent more enemies, pump up the toxicity of his invective.
The trouble is that having already fired all of his guns at once against a wide-spectrum of external targets, Trump might soon have to train his ire on figures inside his own administration, knocking them off one by one, as in the final bloody episode of “The Apprentice.” Sending Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway to a gold-plated guillotine on the lawn of the Ellipse might prove an amusing spectacle, but a frontal confrontation with an experienced street fighter like Mad Dog Mattis might not end so pleasantly for the bloated hulk of the draft-dodging president.
Sooner or later, the Trump possé will be reduced down to Trump and Trump alone. Then he will be forced to confront his most primal fear about himself, the one that has haunted him all of these years, the one he has fled from wife to wife and scam to scam: that he is a loser and has always been a loser. And now there’s no one left to bail him out of the jam he has put himself and the country in, except, perhaps, for the chilly, death skull visage of Mitch McConnell. The ultimate humiliation.
With Melania ensconced in her Versailles-in-the-Sky penthouse in New York, Trump spends most of his evenings alone in DC, gorging on Big Macs served on silver plates and fuming at the latest libels against his name committed by CNN’s Jake Tapper, before creeping down the dark corridors of the White House to his nighttime quarantine in the East Wing, where he wraps himself in a gold lamé robe, fingers his Android, and launches into a fragmented soliloquy of Tweets, a figure as strange and isolated as his old friend Michael Jackson when he was tucked into that hyperbaric chamber at the Neverland palace. Three weeks into his presidency and Trump already seems like a pathetic and trembling old man, trapped in a hall of mirrors reflecting only his own sinister image, a warped simulacrum of his own design.
* * *
+ You can see why Mitch gagged Liz. If you allow the integrity of one sitting senator to be impugned for racism, who knows where it would stop? The reputation of that entire august body might be brought into question…
+ Oregon’s junior Senator Jeff Merkley picked up reading the same passages that got Warren gagged. Why didn’t every other Democrat do the same? Mitch didn’t pull the plug on Merkely. Why not? Sexism undoubtedly played a role. But Merkley tends to mumble when he talks and many people can’t understand what the hell he’s saying. Probably one reason why he got re-elected.
Even so, I like having Merkley as my senator. Unlike, Oregon’s other senator, Ron “the Weenie” Wyden, a West Coast version of Chuck Schumer, Merkley is a senator largely without pretense. I used to run into him occasionally at the same 7-11, where Tanya Harding used to make emergency runs for a six-pack and a carton of Marlboro Lights.
+ Can the corpse of Strom Thurmond be retroactively censured for secretly keeping the King letter out of the Congressional Record in 1986?
+ Has Jeff Sessions emerged from his Safe Space yet?
+ This just in from Sean Spicer: “I can only hope that if Coretta Scott King was still with us, that she would support Senator Sessions’s nomination.” Melissa, is that you?
+ The latest from the Jefferson Beauregard Sessions Klavern. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s State of the State address this week: “If Alabamians can put man on the moon, we can build new prisons.”
What’s all this about Alabama putting people on the Moon? Recall, that Huntsville was once home to one NASA’s biggest compounds. In fact that’s where Werner von Braun and many of his fellow rocketeers ended up after being swept out of Germany during Operation Paperclip. Von Braun and his crew, who had ruthlessly exploited slave labor while engineering and producing the V-2 rocket, seemed to fit right in Alabama and there’s no evidence in any photos that I’ve seen of Nazi-only bathrooms or water fountains.
+ As the debacle in Yemen unravels around Trump, Rand Paul has seized the moment and is pushing for a bi-partisan investigation to the bloodbath. Paul, 98-pound weakling that he is, will almost certainly prove to be a bigger pain in Trump’s ass than the Senator from Citibank and his crew of DNC-approved has-beens (and never-were’s)…..
+ Newly disclosed CIA documents prove conclusively what most of us have known for decades: Saddam Hussein was operating with the backing of the US government when he used poison gas during the Iran/Iraq war. Like the Shah of Iran and the Guatemalan butcher Gen. Rios Montt, Saddam was our flunky, doing the most malign shit while on our leash (including savagely suppressing Kurdish uprisings afterthe Gulf War), until he had finally outlived his usefulness.
+ Who needs Democrats? Shortly after the Army Corps of Engineers announced its intention to grant an easement allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to begin tunneling under the Missouri River, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the Democrat from North Dakota, said, “Today’s announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brings this issue one step closer to final resolution — and delivers the certainty and clarity I’ve been demanding.” Heitkamp’s “Final Re-solution” has a chillingly familiar ring to it..
With the connivance of petro-Democrats like Heitkamp, the FBI has made its return to Indian Country to investigate, spy on and, no doubt, infiltrate Standing Rock protesters. What could possibly go wrong?
+ This week Congressman Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, introduced a bill that would abolish the Department of Education. That’s one way to get rid of DeVos…
+ The Pentagon is looking to rent space in Trump Tower, attracted apparently to the wonderful golden bidets and gilded chandeliers. Perhaps Melania can help redecorate. I’m sure she’ll give Mad Dog a reasonable price.
+ Finally found: the daily atrocities Trump accused the press of not reporting.
+ How to prepare Snail Water, a Renaissance treatment for syphilis, thought to have been ingested by DaVinci’s model for the Mona Lisa: “Take Garden-Snails cleansed and bruised 6 Gallons, Earth-Worms washed and bruised 3 Gallons, of common Wormwood, Ground-Ivy, and Carduus, each one Pound and half …” I don’t know about the syphilis part. It sounds like a recipe for a potent form of Absinthe.
+ Nancy [Net Worth: $48 million] Pelosi snuffs out one more liberal campaign: “there are no grounds for impeaching Trump.”
+ If it seems like the Democrats are always at retreats it may be because they are always in retreat…
+ Round One to Xi, doesn’t look as if it will go the distance….
+ Last week, cops in Hernando County, Florida seized more than 5,000 packets of heroin, some featuring the name and image of Donald Trump. Under federal drug and RICO statutes couldn’t Trump be arrested as a co-conspirator & his assets seized (assuming he actually has any)? His business consists largely of leasing out his name and image, right? Let the burden of proof fall on him to demonstrate that he didn’t in this instance. People have gone to prison for much less…
+ Expecting Trump to soon begin construction of a wall around Georgia to keep all of the white men in. ..
+ I was invited to give a talk this week in Stumptown about the state of the Left in the early hours of the Trump Age. Most of the crowd were in their 70s or older and, as is so often the case, they were a very feisty bunch possessing deep knowledge about how to organize a resistance in times of political crisis.
One spry woman came up to me and said, “Honey, Trump, don’t scare me much. I’ve seen them all. I was around for Nixon’s first dance as vice-president. Now he was a nasty one.” Turns out she’d protested against the Korean War, when her husband had been a conscientious objector.
The talk was held at Grace Church in a working class neighborhood of northeast Portland. One attendee told me: “Don’t worry! Many of us are atheists. The Church is the only place that will have us!”
“How long should I talk?” I asked.
“Until they kick us out!”
When I described Steve Bannon as one of the last living Leninists, the crowd seemed a little incredulous. Then a woman rose her hand and said, “Leninists? Phew!! Have you ever been at a meeting with one? No one else can get a word in.”
That’s the real Portland for me, still alive and kicking, beneath all of the dispiriting hipster bullshit.
What I’m listening to this week…
The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble: Out on the Coast
Soweto Kinch: War in a Rack
Fantastic Negrito: The Last Days of Oakland
The Pleasure Seekers: What a Way to Die
What I’m reading this week…
Peter Orner and Evan Lyon (Eds.): Lavil: Live, Love and Death in Port-au-Prince
Alexander Bergman: Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist
Bettany Hughes: The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life
A World on Defense Against Strangers
Stefan Zweig: “Nationalism emerged to agitate the world only after the war, and the first visible phenomenon which this intellectual epidemic of our century brought about was xenophobia; morbid dislike of the foreigner, or at least fear of the foreigner. The world was on the defensive against strangers, everywhere they got short shrift. The humiliations which once had been devised with criminals alone in mind now were imposed upon the traveler, before and during every journey. There had to be photographs from right and left, in profile and full face, one’s hair had to be cropped sufficiently to make the ears visible; fingerprints were taken, at first only the thumb but later all ten fingers; furthermore, certificates of health, of vaccination, police certificates of good standing, had to be shown; letters of recommendation were required, invitations to visit a country had to be procured; they asked for the addresses of relatives, for moral and financial guarantees, questionnaires, and forms in triplicate and quadruplicate needed to be filled out.”
(Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: email@example.com.)
CDFW RESCUES 8 MILLION YOUNG SALMON, 1 MILLION STEELHEAD ON FEATHER RIVER
by Dan Bacher
50 California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff conducted a successful relocation over the past two days of 6.5 million young Chinook salmon imperiled by raging, muddy flows of 65,000 cfs below Oroville Dam as a giant hole caused by erosion continues to expand.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) this afternoon boosted the water release from 40,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 65,000 cfs with hopes that they could avoid the use of the emergency spillway at the Lake Oroville and Oroville Dam site in Butte County, according to DWR.
However, the agency just issued an update saying they plan to reduce the releases to 55,000 cfs to prevent erosion along the north side of the spillway from compromising nearby power line towers.
“Whether the emergency spillway is used or not, Oroville Dam itself is sound and there is no imminent threat to the public,” emphasized DWR Acting Director William Croyle. “We’re ready to use the emergency spillway if needed. But we’re trying to avoid it because there will be sediment and debris impacts downstream.”
Staff have relocated the 6.5 million fall-run and spring run Chinooks to the hatchery annex near the Thermalito Afterbay, according to Andrew Hughan, CDFW spokesman. These fish, approximately 1 inch long each, would die from suffocation in the turbid, sediment-laden water if left in the raceways of the hatchery.
Approximately 1.5 million juvenile salmon will remain in the hatchery where they will be benefit from sediment ponds set up to cleanse the water. Engineering staff have also set up a charcoal filtration system utilizing a fire hydrant pump for the 1 million eyed steelhead eggs remaining in the hatchery.
“Right now we consider our rescue operation to be a good success,” said Hughan. “We brought in staff from hatcheries all over the state to help in this emergency effort.”
“We used 8 trucks to move the fish and have done everything as fast as we can,” Hughan noted.
The hatchery annually takes more than 3 million spring-run eggs and 12 million fall-run eggs in order to produce Chinook salmon for release in the spring. In recent years, the Feather River has produced approximately over half the salmon harvested in the ocean by sport and commercial fishermen.
In March 2016, CDFW staff estimated that Feather River salmon accounted for 63 percent of the California recreational ocean harvest and 76 percent of the commercial ocean harvest.
Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, 100 percent of the spring-run stock and 25 percent of the fall-run stock will be adipose fin clipped and implanted with coded wire tags prior to release, according to the CDFW. Biologists use the information from these tags to chart the survival, catch and return rates of the fish.
This has been a relatively good year for steelhead. The hatchery has trapped over 1,130 steelhead to date this year, compared to just 125 steelhead last season. according to Anna Kastener, hatchery manager. The steelhead are normally released in the winter as yearlings.
In an update Friday evening, DWR announced that they will slow the releases down the gated spillway from 65,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 55,000 cfs. in order to prevent erosion along the north side of the spillway from compromising nearby power line towers:
“The slight shift in operations is intended to balance risks caused by erosion in the dam’s main spillway, but the dam itself is sound and there is no imminent threat to the public or the dam.
Based on analysis of the waning inflows to the lake, weather forecasts, and other factors, DWR officials say that a sustained discharge of 55,000 cfs may keep the lake level below 901 feet elevation, the point at which water flows over the emergency spillway’s concrete weir, down an unpaved hillside, and into the Feather River. There are many variables involved, and the public should not be surprised if some water flows into the emergency spillway. Such a spill would be the first in the dam’s 48-year history, but it would be within DWR’s contingency plans and pose no flood threat downstream.
Regardless of whether water flows from the reservoir through the gated spillway, Hyatt Power Plant outlets, or the emergency spillway, DWR does not expect releases to the Feather River to exceed the carrying capacity of any channels downstream. The releases would be on the order of half the downstream flood system capacity and consistent with flood releases made this time of year in wet years such as this.
Typical winter operations at Oroville were complicated Tuesday when the lower portion of the reservoir’s gated spillway began to erode. To manage the lake level, DWR continues to use the damaged spillway while closely monitoring the spillway erosion. Two side-by-side towers carrying power lines to Hyatt Power Plant may be at risk if the erosion spreads. Without power lines to carry electricity into or away from the power plant and its outlets, the plant outlets would be unable to discharge at a capacity of 14,000 cfs.
Flows out of the power plant were halted Thursday evening because debris downstream of the damaged spillway had caused water to back up in the Diversion Pool portion of the Feather River immediately downstream of Oroville Dam, and the elevated levels affect the ability of DWR to operate the power plant.
DWR and federal, state, local, and utility partners are working on various contingency plans to both restore operation of the power plant and to protect the electrical lines to the plant. DWR also is clearing debris and making reinforcements to minimize erosion in the hillside corridor where water would flow should the emergency spillway be used.
DWR is coordinating closely with state and federal wildlife and dam safety officials at Oroville Dam. Those involved in contingency planning and response include the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Butte County Sheriff’s Office, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the state’s Division of Safety of Dams, CAL FIRE and state and federal wildlife agencies.”
Lake conditions, including lake levels, inflows, and outflows can be obtained via a recorded message at 530-534-2307. More information is available on the California Data Exchange Center .