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Mendocino County Today: Saturday, May 8, 2021

Cool Sunny | Another Death | Fire Season | Flower Garden | Pedestrian Killed | 1920 Mill | Hybrid Meeting | Elk Logging | Lost Villages | 1910 Loggers | County Notes | Cloud Goat | Wine/Weed | 1939 Truckers | Cannabis Tax | Scotia Train | Streetscape Update | Yesterday's Catch | Cop Shakedown | Donner Picnic | Garden Chat | Bear Stumping | Knife Sharpener | Political Virus | Tax Shift | Bubblicious Market | Prayer Day | Prime Idiocy | Circumlocution | Mitch McSponsors | Teacher Appreciation | Royal Hit | Crime Syndicate

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RELATIVELY COOL BUT SUNNY CONDITIONS will continue across the region today. In addition, gusty north winds will persist through Monday. Sunday into next week increasing heat is expected to occur across interior valleys. (NWS)

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2 NEW COVID CASES and another death reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.

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RED FLAG WARNING issued for North Bay hills this weekend

by Austin Murphy

Five things to know about the fire season so far:

• 13,604 acres have burned in California this year, nearly eight times the burned acres recorded at the same time last year.

• Moisture levels in brush are at record lows for this time of year. Other signs of potential fire intensity are at levels normally seen in mid- to late June.

• Cal Fire has suspended all permits for outdoor residential burning as of May 10 due to high fire danger posed by dry brush and weather conditions.

• Forecast high pressure systems are expected to heat up inland areas this summer, allowing temperatures to range a few degrees above normal.

• Residents should prepare by signing up for emergency alerts, knowing evacuation routes, having a go-bag and respirator mask on hand, and readying an inside space where you can deploy an air cleaner or filter.

The National Weather Service on Friday issued a red flag warning for the North Bay hills this weekend, reflecting an early start to the type of critical weather conditions that can fuel catastrophic wildfires in the region.

Offshore winds, low humidity and expected warm temperatures prompted the alert, starting at 11 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Monday. Upper elevations in the East Bay are also affected.

While PG&E’s meteorology team is closely monitoring conditions, no public safety power shutoffs are anticipated at this time, said Tamara Sarkissian, a spokesperson for the utility.

Most of Northern California is experiencing severe drought after a second historically dry winter. Moisture levels in fuels are at near record lows for this time of year, and other indicators of fire intensity show that conditions on the ground are already what might be expected in June of a more normal year.

The last time the National Weather Service issued such a heightened alert for this part of the state so early in the fire season was in May 2013, according to Ryan Walbrun, a meteorologist for the service.

“It’s not unprecedented, but it sure is rare,” Walbrun said.

Forecasts call for a burst of offshore winds expected to reach the Napa County hills and Mayacamas Mountains around 11 p.m. Friday night. Those gusts, along with low relative humidity, will further dry out fuels that are already parched following a second winter with paltry rainfall, Walbrun said.

Another concern, he added, are the “pretty warm to hot temperatures” — upper 80s to lower 90s — expected in the Sonoma region this weekend. “When all those elements line up, that kind of becomes a trigger point for issuing red flag warnings.”

Walbrun pointed out that this weekend’s wind event, while strong enough to necessitate the high alert, will not be as powerful as the gusts that came down the Mayacamas in September and October 2020. Those winds fueled the Glass fire that spread from western Napa County into Sonoma County, where flames ran roughshod over rural properties and subdivisions on Santa Rosa’s eastern outskirts, destroying more than 330 homes.

(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

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Photo (and garden) by Bob Sites and Terry Ryder

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WHO KILLED PAUL BROWN?

ON FRIDAY, May 7, 2021, at approximately 1:20 AM, an unidentified person was driving a silver, 2018-2020 Hyundai Accent, westbound on Sherwood Road east of Birch Terrace, at an unknown rate of speed. A male pedestrian (later indentified as Paul Brown, 41, of Willits) was walking west on the south asphalt shoulder of Sherwood Road. For reasons being investigated, the driver of the Hyundai, crossed over the solid double yellow lines, across the eastbound lane of Sherwood Road, and the left front of the Hyundai collided with the male pedestrian as he was walking on the south asphalt shoulder. The impact resulted in fatal injuries to the male pedestrian. The driver of the Hyundai fled the scene, driving the Hyundai westbound on Sherwood Road.

The silver, 2018-2020 Hyundai Accent sustained left front damage as a result of this traffic collision. The damage includes the left headlight assembly and the front bumper.

The CHP Garberville Area is requesting the public’s assistance in locating the involved vehicle (a silver, 2018-2020 Hyundai Accent) as well as locating any video footage from residences or businesses in the area which may have captured the silver, 2018-2020 Hyundai Accent prior to or following the traffic collision.

If anyone has any information which could lead to the location of the silver, 2018-2020 Hyundai Accent, or the identity of the driver, please contact the CHP Garberville Area at (707) 923-2155 or at the Humboldt Communications Center at (707) 268-2000.

This investigation is still ongoing.

(CHP Presser)


UPDATE: Sister of Man Killed by Hit and Run Driver Says Her Brother Had a Bit of the ‘Rebel Mendocino County Boy’ in Him

mendofever.com/2021/05/07/mendocino-county-man-killed-on-sherwood-road-in-the-early-morning-by-an-unidentified-hit-and-run-driver/

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Union Lumber Mill Site, Fort Bragg, 1920 (forerunner to Georgia-Pacific)

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FORT BRAGG COUNCIL OPENS UP — SOME

Fort Bragg City Council to Hold First Hybrid Meeting and Consider Commercial Cannabis Cultivation in City Limits 

On Monday, May 10, at 6pm, the Fort Bragg City Council will conduct its first “hybrid” meeting since the COVID-19 surge last summer. Individuals will be able to participate in person at Town Hall located at 363 N. Main Street or virtually via Zoom. The City Council will consider the introduction of an ordinance making changes to the Cannabis Businesses Chapter 9.30. Those changes include updates to administrative procedures and the addition of commercial cannabis cultivation within the City limits. Other matters on the agenda include the voluntary implementation of Stage 1 Water Conservation Measures and a budget request for the short and long-term solutions to the odors from the City’s Waste Water Treatment Plant. Written public comments can be submitted to the City Clerk, jlemos@fortbragg.com

The full agenda is available on the City’s website at https://city.fortbragg.com/

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Elk Logging Site

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THE LOST VILLAGES OF ANDERSON VALLEY

Esteemed Editors:

It was a lovely elegy to villages gone by in Marshall Newman’s “The Lost Hamlets,” in last week’s AVA.

A couple of my own recollections: 

I believe there were in fact two Christines now gone. The original one was somewhere along Mill Creek near the Gschwend Mill. I think Bob Glover described it as on the flat upstream of the current Highway 128 bridge. I don’t know whether it was fire or a ten year flood that encouraged the local settlers to abandon the original village. But the second Christine was along the old wagon road/McDonald to the Sea right-of-way further north on the edge of Christine Woods. It consisted of a General Store owned by Ed Guntly (for which I have a newsprint broadside ad) and a blacksmith shop, also Guntly-owned. Thirty years ago I could still see the mudsills for one of those buildings from the current 128 and have been planning an archeological exploration of the site for years now.

And what about Peachland, five miles up the road above Rawles Ranch? Weren’t there enough families living up there at the turn of the century to support a Post Office and a school?

And Comfort? Where exactly on Mountain View Road? Does Newman mean Elk Creek headwaters up there, west end of Piper Ranch? Alder Creek’s headwaters are way down the mountain from Ciapusci vineyard, almost to Highway 1 south of Manchester.

Thank you, Marshall Newman, for your memories of Old Anderson Valley.

Brad Wiley

Navarro

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Willits Loggers, 1910

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COUNTY NOTES

by Mark Scaramella

THE COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION has come up with a sensible compromise for the 10% of your parcel for pot proposal the Supes are trying to sell to a mostly skeptical local populace. Among several other adjustments to the Supervisor's pot expansion proposal to allow up to 10% of your parcel for pot cultivation (i.e., 16 acres on a 160 acre parcel), the Planning Commission says, OK, but in no case more than two acres — a hard cap but still a pretty big grow by Mendo standards. They also want to limit hoop house size and require proof of water on top of the Supervisors limitations that these expansions can only be done where the land was already in recognized ag production. The PC’s proposals now go back to the Supes for reconsideration before being made official. So far the libertarian idea that telling pot growers — or grape growers for that matter or anybody else — that they can grow as big as conditions permit has dominated the Board’s unpopular approach, as exemplified by Supervisors Williams’ statement that limitations on size such as those proposed by the more deliberative Planning Commission “reeks of a communist cannabis model.”

THE ISSUE OF PERMIT TERMS compliance or enforcement is still unaddressed with the current focus on enforcement on outright illegal grows. Since permit terms are not “code” requirements, all these new-ish permit conditions the County wants to impose on marijuana use permits, whatever they may end up being, still won’t mean much unless the “code enforcement” process also includes compliance with permit terms, or at least requires the permittee to provide independent proof of compliance as part of their initial permit approval.

THE STATE WATER BOARD doesn't enforce water permit rules on anybody either. Back in the late 90s the late Dr. Hillary Adams filed a complaint about the Goldeneye Vineyard in Philo, complaining that Goldeneye was illegally pumping and storing riparian water in one of their big vineyard ponds and then illegally trucking it to another of their vineyards elsewhere in the Anderson Valley. 

THE WATER BOARD’S COMPLAINT PROCESS is complicated, costly and slow, but Ms. Adams stuck with it and presented a solid complaint with plenty of evidence of Goldeneye's water trucks trundling up and down Highway 128. But when the Water Board people finally arrived for an in-person investigation months later — the first time in the history of Anderson Valley that the water board had investigated a vineyard/water complaint — Goldeneye shrugged it off, blithely lying that the water in the pond was “run-off” — it hadn’t rained in weeks — and denied that the water trucks were delivering water from that pond to their other vineyard. 

THE WATER BOARD STAFFERS, faced with a she-said/he-said situation — nobody could “prove” the creek water wasn’t run-off water (how could anyone prove that?) — gave up with nothing more than a hand-slap warning to Goldeneye.

As part of her complaint, Ms. Adams wrote:

“In their document dated July 15, 1996, the Division of Water Rights refused to take its responsibilities in determining unlawful diversions seriously, placing that burden on the public.

“Section 1825 of the Water Code states that: ‘It is the intent of the Legislature that the state should take vigorous action to enforce the terms and conditions of existing permits and licenses to appropriate water and to prevent the unlawful diversions of water.’

“Unlawful reservoirs such as that which are being built and filled without permits to pump creek water could have been fined as much as $500 per day. To our knowledge, no such fines have ever been imposed on the Navarro watershed. This, in our opinion, not only fails to satisfy the intention of the Legislature of the State of California, but sends a clear message that the permitting process can be ignored without harm.”

And that is still the case: the public (aka neighbors) are expected to compile their own evidence — no trespassing allowed —and then file these complicated bureaucratic complaints, neighbors who themselves may be on shaky water permit grounds and who can not be expected to prepare these highly technical complaints (like Dr. Adams was). So, as Dr. Adams noted, the permit rules are simply “ignored without harm” which is bad enough in a wet year, but downright dangerous in a dry, fire-prone year. 

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A RETIRED Santa Rosa Police officer named Paul Henry has been hired by the City of Ukiah to conduct an “independent” investigation of the Magdaleno incident where Ukiah cops subdued Magdaleno as, tweaked to insensibility, he dangerously romped nude in the middle of South State Street. Mr. Henry recently told the Ukiah City Council that his investigation might take months, by which time the public’s attention will have shifted to the next incident or issue. 

AS WE'VE NOTED before, since there’s a mental/behavioral health/medication component to this incident —Magdaleno was off his psych meds and on street drugs — this approach of having cops investigate cops conveniently avoids the obvious mental health services failures because the investigator doesn’t have any background or qualifications in mental health and because the County and its mental health services and contractor are not included in the City’s investigation. 

MAGDALENO'S attorney who plans to sue the City (and not the County) has not mentioned County-level mental health factors in his complaints about the incident — so far.

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COME & GET IT! CEO Carmel Angelo’s staff has put itself first in line with several dozen inflated-looking ways to spend the $22.6 million in PG&E Settlement funds. Proposals gathered up by County staff totalling over $38 million will be presented to the Supervisors on Tuesday, May 12. Several more million worth of firefighting equipment requests are being submitted by the Potter Valley and Redwood Valley fire departments. 

ONE OF THE REQUESTS is for about $2.6 million to put a new roof on the dilapidated Whitmore Lane rest home (also being talked about as a possible psych facility backfilled by Measure B sales tax millions). The Library’s request for $580k for backup generators is also still on the wish list. Only $1.5 million is being sought for road work.

WE REMEMBER a few years ago when the Supes announced about $180k for a few local community projects in each Supervisorial District, but with the proviso that allocations would come only after a highly competititve process where each Supervisor would pick from his own district’s proposals. $180k seemed like a lot then, since the County historically has been very stingy with community spending, preferring to hoard our property tax money for themselves. But now, with this whopping $22.6 million available (and another $16 million to come from Biden & Co. in the next two years), the CEO’s staff is skewing the process to favor the County’s pet projects while community proposals are few and far between. There hasn’t even been a call for proposals from local agencies or groups to share the windfall like there was for the measly $180k. Will the Supervisors dare overrule Angelo and staff and devise a more equitable spending plan?

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DOUBLE TROUBLE

Editor: 

All these letters from Wine Country inhabitants wailing about pot are almost surrealistically hypocritical. I mean alcohol essentially works by killing brain cells. Now we have a study on twins that says pot use in adolescence reduces mental ability little if at all, mainly working to reduce ambition (not sure that’s entirely bad). As the saying goes, give five guys a barrel of wine and you’ll end up with a brawl. Give five guys a bag of pot and you’ll end up with a band. But I guess it’s that scruffy hippie image taking a beating from wine’s pseudo Euro-snob image.

Mike Sherill

Sebastopol

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Fort Bragg Log Trucks, 1939

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SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: 

BoS - May 11, 2021 - consent item 4a

Direction to Staff to Begin Fully Assessing, Billing and Collecting Cannabis Business Tax, in the Current Calendar Year, to Initially Focus Expanded Application on Unlawful Cannabis Cultivation Sites that are Subject to Other Enforcement Action; Further to Direct Treasurer-Tax Collector, County Counsel and Code Enforcement to Provide a Report at the End of the Year with Recommendations

(Sponsor: Supervisor Williams)

Recommended Action/Motion:

Direct staff to begin fully assessing, billing and collecting Cannabis Business Tax, in the current calendar year, to initially focus expanded application on unlawful cannabis cultivation sites that are subject to other enforcement action; further to direct Treasurer-Tax Collector, County Counsel and Code Enforcement to provide a report at the end of the year with recommendations. 

Summary of Request: 

The Mendocino County Cannabis Business Tax, as approved by voters, applies to commercial cannabis cultivation whether lawful or unlawful. However, unlawful cultivators have not yet been assessed or billed for this tax which is assessed and collected from cultivators participating in the County’s Cannabis Program. The disparity in collection creates an unfair business practice, negatively impacting licensed and permitted cultivators. Uncollected revenue is in the millions of dollars per year, if not tens of millions of dollars per year. Beginning in the current calendar year, staff should be directed to begin assessing, billing, and collecting the existing Cannabis Business Tax from commercial cultivators whether they are lawfully or unlawfully operating. Current minimum tax calculations are based on permit types, so it is expected staff will utilize the gross receipts section of the Ordinance. Assessments should be calculated based on the size of the garden footprint, or number of plants if the geographic footprint of the garden cannot be defined, using standard calculations to determine projected marketable yield and value at potential full maturity during the cultivation cycle. As this assessment is expanded to include unlawful cultivation, it should be initially focused on unlawful commercial cultivators that are subject to other enforcement action. A report to the Board from the Treasurer-Tax Collector, Code Enforcement and County Counsel at the end of the calendar year should also be directed, with perspective from staff as to the effectiveness of the assessment & collection process and to include potential recommendations to modify the ordinance

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Scotia Train

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UKIAH STREETSCAPE PROJECT CONSTRUCTION UPDATE - MAY 7

As we approach the final stages of the project, we’re revisiting some of the primary concerns and myths. Here are a couple that keep coming up; follow our facebook page for even more! https://www.facebook.com/UkiahStreetscape 

Will there be diagonal parking? No. One of the first drafts of the plan included diagonal parking on State Street. However, the street is simply not wide enough. Parallel parking will remain on both sides of the street. Likewise, the street is not wide enough for bike lanes. Other parallel streets will be encouraged for bikes. 

How do the lane changes make State Street safer? Statewide, the average collision rate for four-lane roads (like State Street is currently) is more than double that for a three-lane facility that includes dedicated left-turn lanes. Rear-end collisions, unsafe lane changes, and pedestrian impacts are far less likely to occur when the left-turning vehicles are in dedicated turn lanes instead of obstructing traffic. Bonus: taking those left-turning vehicles out of the flow of traffic makes the through traffic more efficient, too! 

Construction Overview, Week of May 10 

Yes, we know it looks like a lot of lights...but notice the tree-wells--one or two between each of the lights! Once the trees are planted, their canopies will shield many of the lights. Also, note that these are LED for energy savings and downcast so as to preserve our starry nights! The black poles will match the new garbage and recycling containers, benches, planter rails, and traffic signals, too.

Ghilotti Construction (Perkins – Mill): Continued work on the west side of State Street between Perkins and Mill Streets, including excavating, forming and pouring new curbs, gutters, bioretention facilities, and sidewalks. 

Monday-Friday: On the west side of State Street, working south to north, crews will continue forming and pouring new curb and gutter and installing electric and irrigation systems. Bulbouts and bioretention facilities are being formed at Church Street. Additionally, crews will prepare and pour the new driveway at Community First Credit Union starting Wednesday; in order for the concrete to cure, the driveways will be closed until about Tuesday of the following week. 

East Church will remain closed during this phase due to grade changes. 

The 100 block of West Church will be temporarily closed until the concrete work at the corners is complete. 

Construction hours: 7am – 5pm 

Looking forward: 

Week of May 17: Sidewalk construction on the south side of W. Perkins to School Street. Perkins Street closed to traffic this week.

Week of May 24: Sidewalk construction on the south side of W. Church to School Street. Church Street closed to traffic this week.

Week of June 1: Sidewalk construction on the north side of W. Church to School Street. Church Street closed to traffic this week.

Week of June 7: Sidewalk construction on the north side of W. Standley to School Street. Standley Street closed to traffic this week.

Have a great weekend!

Shannon Riley, Deputy City Manager, City of Ukiah

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CATCH OF THE DAY, May 7, 2021

Amador, Brady, Buckingham

TRINITY AMADOR, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.

GENE BRADY III, Visalia/Ukiah. DUI.

JOSEPH BUCKINGHAM, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

Chatham, Cross, Flinton

DARIUS CHATHAM, Willits. Domestic battery.

ALISSA CROSS-WEBB, Potter Valley. Harboring a wanted felon.

SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)

Graham, Hendry, Hipes

SAMUEL GRAHAM, Pittsburg/Ukiah. Concealed weapon in vehicle with prior, convicted person with loaded firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person.

KEITH HENDRY, Willits. Protective order violation.

JOSEPH HIPES, Willits. Concealed weapon with prior, loaded firearm in public, loaded firearm-not registered owner, felon-addict with firearm, offenses while on bail, county parole violation.

Llamas, Nash, Romero

JOEL LLAMAS-GARCIA, Ukiah. Pot sales, cultivation of over six plants, employment of individual under 21 to sell pot, conspiracy, probation revocation.

ISHMAEL NASH, Ukiah. Felon-addict with firearm, resisting, probation revocation.

ANTHONY ROMERO, Antioch/Ukiah. Controlled substance while armed with loaded firearm, concealed weapon in vehicle, forged driver’s license, false ID, loaded firearm not registered owner, convicted person with firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person.

Shipman, Varela, Vasquez

JACOB SHIPMAN, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

MARIO VARELA-VILLA, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon with great bodily injury, robbery, burglary, battery with serious bodily injury, damage to communications device failure to appear.

KEVIN VASQUEZ, Ukiah. DUI, criminal threats.

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO

by Paul Theroux

My car was where I had left it, in the secure parking near the hotel. There was a bulky package in the back seat. One of my students had left this as a present for me, a framed etching by a celebrated Mexican artist, Sergio Hernandez, with a note: Please come back, Don Pablo.

Touched, a bit dreamy from this sweet gesture, I drove out of the lot, turned the corner, entered a street -- usually empty of cars -- and heard a loud yell and a shrill whistle.

A policeman flapped his hand at me and pulled me over.

"You are in violation of the law," he said.

"I don't understand."

"As this is a Sunday, this road is closed to vehicles -- notice the bicycles."

That was true -- bike riders everywhere, swishing past us in both directions. There was no sign saying the road was closed to vehicles. Apparently, the bike riding was a Sunday tradition in Mexico City.

"We can impound your car for this violation."

"How much?" I asked. He then named his price. I handed him the money. He softened, became polite and thanked me with a little salute.

"Which way to Texcoco?" I asked. "But not by the Periferico."

I wanted to avoid the ring road because it was patrolled by the sort of motorcycle police who had shaken me down before. It was not a direct route to Puebla, but judging from my map, it was the quickest way out of Mexico City with fewer cops.

"Straight ahead. Look for the signs to the airport," the policeman said with a friendly smile as he palmed my dollar bills. He then slipped them into his jacket and patted the proud little square of thickness in his pocket. "Keep going east."

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L’ENVOI

by Ernest Hemingway

The king was working in the garden. He seemed very glad to see me. We walked through the garden. "This is the queen," he said. She was clipping a rose bush. "Oh, how do you do?," she said. We sat down at the table under a big tree and the king ordered whiskey and soda. "We have good whiskey anyway," he said. The revolutionary committee, he told me, would not allow him to go outside the palace grounds. "Plastiras is a very good man, I believe," he said, "but frightfully difficult. I think he did right, though, shooting those chaps. If Karensky had shot a few men things might have been altogether different. Of course, the great thing in this sort of an affair is not to be shot yourself."

It was very jolly. We talked for a long time. Like all Greeks, he wanted to go to America.

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JOHN COX: ANIMAL ABUSER

Dear Editor,

In October 2019, the State of California enacted SB 313, a circus ban preventing wild animals such as tigers, lions, elephants, bears, and monkeys from being used in circuses. However, this law did not ban the use and abuse of these same animals for publicity stunts and other inhumane “acts” for human amusement.

This week, Tag (a Kodiak bear) was “hired” by John Cox for a publicity stunt in Sacramento. (Mr. Cox is a governor candidate trying to replace Newsom.) In 2012, Tag was born in captivity at a private zoo in Ohio. He has been used for movies and is now being used as a side show for a desperate man. This past Tuesday, Tag was placed on hot asphalt with a thin, inadequate hot wire separating him from the human audience during a publicity stunt in Sacramento. He was thrown chicken and other items to munch on while Cox spoke.

Mr. Cox plans to continue to drag Tag around the state for attention. Cox’s plans include a visit to The French Laundry in Yountville this week. I seriously doubt he has obtained the proper permits for this or any event. Also, that wire will not contain an agitated bear. This is a threat to public safety and the safety of Tag, the bear. 

Is this how we treat animals in California? This is animal abuse. This is shameful. This must be stopped.

Sincerely,

Mara Parker

Santa Rosa

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Knife Sharpener, 1959

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ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER on the pandemic: “Wearing a mask and washing your hands and all that stuff has become a political issue. Because I guess Republicans don’t wear masks and don’t wash their hands — and don’t get coronavirus, apparently. Apparently the virus will know exactly who is a Democrat. [Rolls eyes.] So I suggested that we should do a PSA and have all the governors involved. If the rest of the country is stupid enough to think this is a political issue, so be it.”

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RACKET OF THE WEEK: THE $2 BILLION DELI

by Matt Taibbi

For decades, any debate about spending was a zero-sum affair, with stimulus advocates butting heads with deficit hawks warning of inflationary disaster. But after Joe Biden’s “transformational” relief package this year, the hawks have retreated, seemingly for good. It feels very Alan Greenspan, very New-Paradigm to say so, but maybe it’s true, as NPR noted this year, that “Government borrowing doesn’t mean what it used to.”

Paul Krugman even wrote a piece called “Who’s afraid of the big, bad boom?” that sounded like an economist’s version of “How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb” — except his guilty pleasure was a rapidly expanding economy. While society drowns in other cultish fears, of maskless faces, naughty words, misinformation, Russians, “trauma,” and a hundred other bugbears, debt seems the one area where conventional wisdom hasn’t given in to safetyism. Traditional vices like sex, drugs, and even dirty jokes are out, but deficit spending has been deemed an acceptable, if not mandatory national indulgence.

Perhaps that’s a good thing, but there’s an emerging flip side to the limitless liquidity era: shenanigans! We’ve seen it in stories like GameStop, Archegos, the 12,000% rally in DogeCoin, and the unprecedented boom in penny stocks that’s caused hundreds of microcap stocks to surge to market capitalizations exceeding S&P 500 companies. Money is still scarce in the pockets of ordinary people, but in the finance sector, the economy’s blood pressure just seems too high: we have vessels bursting and cash flying out all over, in what one analyst describes as signs we’re nearing the top of a hyper-speculative, “bubblicious” market. Take the fatalism of post-Trump, lockdown America, add it to the general conviction that markets are corrupt, lubricate it all with trillions of new dollars, and people suddenly seem game to bet on anything, even if they’ve been warned against it — why?

“Why do people pay $3 to watch two rats fuck?” asks short-seller Marc Cohodes. “You don’t do it because you believe it, because there’s nothing to believe. They do it for the action.”

And what action! Take the story of Hometown International:

Back on April 15th, investor David Einhorn, author of Fooling Some of the People All of the Time, wrote a letter to investors that began with an assessment of the state of the financial services sector:

“Many who would never support defunding the police have supported — and for all intents and purposes have succeeded — in almost completely defanging, if not defunding, the regulators… quasi-anarchy appears to rule in markets… For the most part, there is no cop on the beat. It’s as if there are no financial fraud prosecutors; companies and managements that are emboldened enough to engage in malfeasance have little to fear.”

Einhorn went on to list examples of that “quasi-anarchy,” mentioning the investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James of Tether, a cryptocurrency that had risen above $40 billion in market capitalization.

At the end of February, James found that Tether was hiding $850 million in losses, and its “claim that its virtual currency was fully backed by U.S. dollars at all times was a lie.” 

For all that, the company wasn’t shut down, there were no charges, and trading was only halted “with New Yorkers.” It’s not every day that a company gets caught in a $40 billion lie by a regulator and is only barred from trading to some customers. Even the notion — once pushed by the company, but no longer — that every Tether is backed by one real dollar wasn’t punctured by James’s “lie” pronouncement. In fact, by the first week in May, Tether was back cruising in news reports, as Bloomberg cheered:

“Tether, the crypto stablecoin backed 1-for-1 by fiat currencies, surpassed $50 billion in circulation, a sum that’s more than the insured deposits of all but 44 of the thousands of U.S. banks.” Einhorn’s grumblings about Tether didn’t garner much attention. Another story he mentioned did:

”Someone pointed us to Hometown International (HWIN), which owns a single deli in rural New Jersey. The deli had $21,772 in sales in 2019 and only $13,976 in 2020, as it was closed due to COVID from March to September. HWIN reached a market cap of $113 million on February 8. The largest shareholder is also the CEO/CFO/Treasurer and a Director, who also happens to be the wrestling coach of the high school next door to the deli. The pastrami must be amazing.”

The Paulsboro, New Jersey-based Hometown Deli, which did barely any business two years running, and appears to be owned by the wrestling coach and a math teacher from the local high school, really was and is the core business in an investment vehicle now “worth” over $100 million. 

It came out that initial shareholders also hold warrants allowing them to purchase 20 times their investment, putting the overall theoretical valuation of Hometown at $1.9 billion.

(This is an excerpt from today’s subscriber-only post. To read the entire article and get full access to the archives, you can subscribe for $5 a month or $50 a year. taibbi.substack.com)

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INDIA’S PRIME MINISTER MODI THE MAGICIAN takes a bow for saving humanity by containing the coronavirus effectively. Now that it turns out that he has not contained it, can we complain about being viewed as though we are radioactive? That other countries’ borders are being closed to us and flights are being cancelled? That we’re being sealed in with our virus and our prime minister, along with all the sickness, the anti-science, the hatred and the idiocy that he, his party and its brand of politics represent?

— Arundhati Roy 

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CIRCUMLOCUTION, n. A literary trick whereby the writer or speaker who has nothing to say breaks it gently to the listener or reader.

— Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary”

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TEACHER APPRECIATION DAY, WEEK, YEAR

by Michelle Hutchins, County Superintendent of Schools

This has been a year we won’t soon forget. As the current school year comes to end, it's important to take a moment to reflect, not only on the challenges but also on the many successes. Having just celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week during the first week of May, this seems like a good time to reflect. 

When the pandemic hit last spring, many of us thought school would return to normal by August. Little did we know things were just getting started. With very few resources, school districts did everything they could to maintain academic standards while teachers constantly adjusted to new ways of sharing information with students—from distance learning to hybrid to both concurrently.

Change was the name of the game. 

As a former teacher (for more than 15 years), I can tell you that teaching is probably one of the toughest professions on Earth. If you enter the profession thinking your only job will be to educate children, you’ll be stunned by the volume and variety of “other duties as assigned.” 

The teaching profession embodies so many other occupations rolled into one. Teachers are counselors, doctors, judges (and juries), life coaches, students, secretaries, reporters, firefighters and more. If you can think of it, a teacher has probably done it! If you get the opportunity to thank a teacher, please do so. I’m confident they deserve it. 

As we look to next year, how can we use the experiences forced upon us by the pandemic to grow and learn? This year’s disruption wasn’t fun, but if it can serve as a catalyst for lasting improvements, that’s a good thing.

One of the changes we experienced was an accelerated journey into remote learning, utilizing technology in a whole new way. I am not recommending we stick with distance learning; kids belong in the classroom learning from their teacher and each other; however, I do love the idea that if a student had to spend an extended period away from the classroom for some reason, they may be able to continue to participate remotely thanks to the new technology infrastructure many districts put in place.

We also became more conscious of health and safety protocols—in addition to keeping students safe from COVID-19, it’s worth noting that all the handwashing, mask wearing, social distancing, and cohorting (maintaining stable groups) also reduced the seasonal flu this year. Again, I’m not suggesting we keep all these safety protocols in place, but when students understand the power of handwashing to reduce the spread of germs, they can cut infection rates dramatically. 

For some schools, the end-of-day dismissal and student pick-up routine changed dramatically. Rather than mingling with each other while they waited for their kids to come out of school in a rambunctious mob, parents stayed in their cars and students left school in organized cohorts. I’m not sure whether that’s better or worse, but it’s different. 

Teachers of all ages and experience levels had to learn new routines to teach students of all ages and grade levels. Preschool teachers were tasked with helping the youngest students understand the importance of wearing masks and social distancing. Can you imagine? I’m pretty sure everyone who works in early learning and care deserves a medal. 

Elementary school teachers, from seasoned veterans to brand new teachers, did their best to provide engaging and informative content to students who were easily distracted or quickly tuned out. Have you ever taught someone how to read or memorize their multiplication tables? Now imagine doing it while trying to compete with a three-ring circus (more accurately, with YouTube, online gaming, or playing outside).

Secondary school teachers did their best to provide solid academic content while staying alert for intentional or unintentional signals that students were at-risk for mental illness and needed emotional support. 

All year, teachers rose to the occasion time and again in creative and masterful ways. They provided curricular and interpersonal support, helped students stay positive, and remained flexible in ways most people may not even recognize. 

Looking forward, I hope we can take the good from what we’ve learned, embracing the unknown as an adventure and an opportunity whenever possible. 

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THE TRUTH IS SURELY BASELESS

by James Kunstler

MADDOW: … I think we should see this as the Justice Department putting these whack jobs in Arizona, forgive me, on notice, that what they`re doing is something they`re not going to be allowed to do for very much longer.

O`DONNELL: I think ‘whack jobs’ is now in The New York Times style sheet for describing what`s happening in Arizona.

— MSNBC 5/5/21

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What you’re seeing now with the DC establishment are desperate moves to keep the suspicious and yet more pissed-off public from understanding the government crime spree of the past five years that started with the Obama gang using the Department of Justice to disable and terminate Donald Trump and the threat he represented to the network of special privilege and money known as the Swamp, which has managed to put a deep-fake president in office as a last resort to protect itself.

The urgent problem: how to squash the Arizona vote audit by branding it as an outlaw action, even though it was ordered under law by the Arizona State Senate. Having failed to stop it so far using the Swamp’s Lawfare cadres in the Arizona courts, the DOJ has called in its Civil Rights Division to get’er done, pretending that it will be an offense against people-of-color if auditors seek to know whether write-in votes correspond to actual addresses, and other particulars of election procedure that may have been violated.

Of course, the Arizona business is only one leak in a giant dike of official deceit built-up over the years to keep any truth from deluging the DC lowlands. Other leaks are springing in New Hampshire and Michigan, with a wormhole opening up in Georgia. It will be interesting to see if cable TV news can keep painting the truth as something against the public interest. As many times as they style election fraud “a conspiracy theory” and “baseless,” the public relations arm of the Democratic Party still has a hard slog convincing at least 80-million Americans that a detailed review of a contested vote is a bad thing.

Meanwhile, other breaches in the dike threaten to flood the low-lying Swamp zone with existential threats. The DOJ, the FBI, and other agencies are so saturated in crime that the only feasible damage control they can do is to haplessly commit more crimes against the common decency of the republic to cover up their old crimes. Hence, the seizure of Rudy Giuliani’s phones and computers in a 6 a.m. raid last week, leading to the incriminating disclosure that the FBI secretly accessed Giuliani’s iCloud account to spy on his correspondence with Mr. Trump in the fall of 2019 during the first impeachment preliminaries. Are you kidding me? Who gave the order for that? To violate basic attorney-client privilege during a legal proceeding of the highest order? And what was behind the Giuliani raid?

Among other things, the horror show of corruption in Ukraine, starring (but not limited to) Joe and Hunter Biden in their ceaseless quest for grift, but also featuring many of the origins of the RussiaGate hoax and its spin-offs, plus the involvement of State Department personnel such as Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and deputy George Kent, double-plus the shady activities of George Soros and his Atlantic Council in seditious activity working hand-in-hand with the CIA’s “whistleblower” (Eric Ciaramella) to damage Mr. Trump — who was impeached for simply inquiring about what was going on in Ukraine.

Mr. Giuliani had to conduct his own investigation into all that for the obvious reason that the usual US agencies who would ordinarily investigate official misconduct were actually perpetrating it: the DOJ, FBI, CIA, and State Department. And who, at the DOJ now, might be behind the current effort to neutralize Mr. Giuliani? Try Lisa Monaco, the new Deputy Attorney General, formerly one of Barack Obama’s chief White House fixers — i.e., an attorney detailed to shutting down investigations and covering the tracks left by questionable operations — and a protégé of former CIA Director John Brennan. Is the weak and pliable AG Merrick Garland fronting for her running the DOJ now? Joe Biden is going to need a whole lot of fixin’. And, is Lisa Monaco actually still reporting to Barack Obama? He can also probably use a fix or two. Who knows what’s coming down the pike? Just maybe a loaded semi driven by the nearly forgotten John Durham?

MSNBC might have made an unforced error on Wednesday scripting 10 o’clock troll Lawrence O’Donnell to diss former AG William Barr — some jive about Mr. Barr trying to mess with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s efforts back in 2018 to nail Mr. Trump on an obstruction of justice rap. Is this the time to piss-off Mr. Barr? You have to wonder. Is it possible that the FBI concealed its possession of the Hunter Biden laptop from Mr. Barr during those 2019 days of impeachment, when Mr. Trump was attempting to mount a defense for making a phone call to Ukraine? Who might be responsible for hiding that, if it were so? By the way, it was Mr. Barr who, just before resigning in late 2020, made John Durham a Special Counsel, whose work — whatever that might be, maybe nothing at all, maybe something consequential, nobody knows — can’t be blocked by Merrick Garland (or Lisa Monaco).

(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)

11 Comments

  1. Michael Koepf May 8, 2021

    Mara Parker is irate to the point of pulling out her hair, because gubernatorial candidate John Cox has been seen to use a bear. Ms. Parker, Tag, the bear, is an actor who works in TV and in films, and unlike our governor Newsom he works hard to earn his daily keep. Tag is a cis-gender bear who uses the pronoun ME! He’s also a member of the Screen Actors Guild. So, stop attacking a union member, who like so many Americans, struggle on the job to keep our nation strong.
    PS. There’s a current rumor in Hollywood that President Biden is about to hire a sloth to help with his next appearance: a press conference to be held in a couple of years.

  2. Aaron Sawyer May 8, 2021

    Alder Creek has it’s headwaters on the west side of Cold Springs Mt. from which it runs out to the northwest of the Piper Ranch area. Elk Creek kind of peters out pretty quickly once you get past the Soda Fork (there is a soda spring there at the confluence that was once touted for its medicinal waters). The southwest side of elk creek is bordered by what’s called Brushy Opening and the Mallo Pass road area. Brushy Opening is easy to see on aerial photos or google earth.

    Appreciate all the history that gets shared!

    • William Brazill May 8, 2021

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the area.that’s very interesting. Would you or anyone know how Fish Rock Road got it’s name and when?

      • Nathan Ramser May 8, 2021

        I believe it’s named that because of the rocks in the ocean called Fish Rocks just north of Anchor Bay beach.

    • Marshall Newman May 8, 2021

      Actually, Alder Creek has two forks. I believe Mr. Sawyer is referring to the north fork of Alder Creek. My article referred to the main branch of Alder Creek, which flows from the south. In looking at another topographical map, I found Summit Spring, the spring that lent its name to the resort mentioned in the article, which is located near Mountain View Road southwest of Devils Slide, near a junction of Mountain View Road and the road that goes south towards Buck Peak. The location is just east of the two headwaters of Alder Creek, and a little south east of Sugarloaf.

    • Marshall Newman May 10, 2021

      Regarding Peachland. While Peachland was settled 150 years ago and had a one-room school for many years, I could not find an old map that showed it as a settlement. Also, Peachland in Anderson Valley never had a post office, though there was a Peachland post office near Camp Meeker in Sonoma County for a time.

  3. Lazarus May 8, 2021

    “THE COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION has come up with a sensible compromise .”

    I’ve spoken with legit and illegit growers.
    What they say is who cares at this point what anyone from the county says. Why should we believe anything that comes out of that place? And now, with a heavy drought in full swing, they want to expand the program to bring in the heavy hitters.
    Meanwhile, they don’t want or are incapable of processing all the applications. The applications that have lingered who knows where for months, if not years. But oh yeah, and the county took our money and gave us nothing in return. And now they are setting up another scam to get more money from the growers. Many of the legit growers wonder why they even bothered to get legal. Since 80% of the weed that moves out of the county is the so-called illegal stuff and sells for more money and less hassle.

    Then Covelo and others are left to organized and unorganized crime and are lawless and hopeless. A third of Covelo is in ruin, and criminals heavily armed run the show. Yet the county wants half a mil for generators for libraries. The State and County need leadership that’s got the guts to send in the military, state police, whoever, to flush the toilet that Covelo has become.
    As always,
    Laz

  4. Lee Edmundson May 8, 2021

    KUDOS to Mr. Kunstler’s impeccable recap of Fox, Breitbart, One America and Newsmax “reporting”. Thorough. Concise. Representative.
    I have only one question for Mr. Kunstler: Is there residing within you a single original political observation or idea?

    To take another point. Everyone should view PBS’s excellent documentary “Reconstruction”. Provides very deep background light on the voting dilemma we currently face in states like Texas, Georgia, Florida and — what the bejeezus is going on in Arizona?!?

    Register. Vote. As our dearly departed Joe Louis Wildman (nee: Hoffman) so eloquently advised: Vote Early. And Often. (Old Chicago saying).

    Or, better, attributed to Sleepy Uncle Joseph Stalin, “It doesn’t really matter who votes, only who counts the votes.”

    Whoever thought the Republican Party of America would be driven by an American Stalin?

    Food for Thought.

  5. chuck dunbar May 9, 2021

    Thank you for your various thoughts here, Lee. As you say, “food for thought.” These times are strange indeed–many thoughts and deeds of nefarious intent and substance need to called-out for what they truly are. By all of us, again and again and again.

  6. Rye N Flint May 10, 2021

    RE: Only $1.5 million is being sought for road work.

    Pathetic. The roads in this county are a perfect refection of the treatment of the people that live here. Let the public pay for the corporate damage to our environment. I love the water rights example too.

    “In their document dated July 15, 1996, the Division of Water Rights refused to take its responsibilities in determining unlawful diversions seriously, placing that burden on the public.”

  7. Rye N Flint May 10, 2021

    RE: THE THC Tax

    “The Mendocino County Cannabis Business Tax, as approved by voters, applies to commercial cannabis cultivation whether lawful or unlawful. However, unlawful cultivators have not yet been assessed or billed for this tax which is assessed and collected from cultivators participating in the County’s Cannabis Program. The disparity in collection creates an unfair business practice, negatively impacting licensed and permitted cultivators. Uncollected revenue is in the millions of dollars per year, if not tens of millions of dollars per year.”

    And how will they collect on the thousands of illegal grows run by int’l crime syndicates? Tax and fine the land owners?

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