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Off the Record (August 11, 2021)

THE HORRIFIC Dixie Fire continues to wreak havoc in Northern California, becoming Sunday the second largest blaze in the state’s history at nearly 500,000 acres. Dixie has surpassed the Mendocino Complex Fire of 2018 and the SCU Lightning Complex Fire of 2020. Only the mammoth million-acre August Complex Fire of 2020 remains larger. Dixie has destroyed the town Greenville, Plumas County, and is menacing the even larger town of Chester. The seven largest fires in state history have all occurred since 2017, further evidence of a dangerously changed climate.

MENDO RE-MASKS. I think. The directive last week from Dr. Coren, County Health Officer, is equivocal enough to continue the confusion reigning most places in the United States, but authorities from Fauci to Coren are recommending that we resume masking.

OLD TIMERS and not-so-old timers will remember that Cloverdale has previously experienced bans on new construction over concerns about the town's finite supply of water. But both Cloverdale and Healdsburg, over the past decade, have seen building booms, as has Ukiah, especially in "visitor accommodations" as Hotel Groznys sprout the hundred miles of 101 from Willits to Petaluma. (Healdsburg's Groznys are more expensive but architecturally pretty much indistinguishable from Ukiah's pace setter on Airport Boulevard.)

THREE GENERATIONS of elected people in both Healdsburg and Cloverdale have known that there were water limitations but kept on approving more and more new construction, including whole new neighborhoods.

AS THE TEMPS slowly rise beneath the water containing all us frogs, as the metaphor for global death puts it, it seems obvious that the carrying capacity of our region has been reached, and over-reached.

NOW that the state has turned off the Russian River taps for 1,500 individuals and civic entities in the Russian River watershed, the long predicted water reckoning has arrived and, as we all now know, if the rains are light this winter, 2022 will see real desperation take hold, with dry homeowners selling out and all these new Hotel Groznys abandoned.

SHORT monitors hiking long stretches of the Russian River, I wonder how the great shut-off will be enforced. Ranchers, grape growers and other beneficiaries of God's bounty have always resisted metering, operating on the wildly hubristic assumption that the natural world is theirs for the taking.

TIM McCLURE wrote Tuesday: “I agree with Tom McFadden, people should be encouraged to build their own housing and the process should be streamlined to be both affordable and understandable for the average citizen to achieve. Codes, once designed for reasonable public safety, have morphed into expensive juggernauts of complex and unachievable design requirements which can only be deciphered by architects, engineers and other highly trained professionals. As a builder with over 50 years of experience in the rear view mirror I have seen the costs of building and the complexity accelerate year by year. Talking to an old timer backhoe guy the other day he informed me that you can expect to spend $100K and two years to receive permission to begin building in the Coastal Zone. If this is true I am at a loss to understand how it got this way.”

FOR YEARS I simply built what I needed to build on my half-acre, accumulating a slew of red tags as I went. As it turned out, the County Assessor merely bumped up my property tax a modest bit, but calculating those increases against repeated trips over the hill for contradictory advice from a rotating cast of Planning and Building martinets (with the exception of one commonsense person, a woman of course), or a straight up rejection of whatever modest project I had in mind, I am convinced that I actually saved money and hours of frustration via the red tag route.

MY MOST RECENT and presumably final project involved a couple of modulars on an acre in the center of Boonville that came with two wells and a commercial septic system. Since I'm in the center of town, and the modular guys needed permits, the red tag strategy was out. But even this simple project turned out to be endlessly complicated, especially by one neo-zoot suit zany in the B&P department who didn't believe the county building code even when it was shown to him. I agree totally with Mr. McClure; the process has become impossible for reasons having nothing to do with health and safety, and local government operates more like an occupying army than public servants.

I ALSO agreed with Mr. McClure's remark that the school system ought to go back to an emphasis on vocational training and apprenticeships. In fact, I'd go for… Who was the educational theorist who said she thought that children, during their adolescent years, should not be raised by their parents, but farmed out to single sex teen camps heavy on specific training in specific skills and lots of physical exercise. Hmmm. Think about it. Show of hands from parents? Unanimous in favor!

I WAS WATCHING one of those grand European tour shows on KQED the other night, one beautiful old church or ancient village after another, with stunning photos of the Roman aqueducts. Do we even have to wonder what would happen if Michelangelo appeared at Mendocino County Planning and Building with an offer to erect the Sistine Chapel in, say, Laytonville? The P&B desk guy puts in a hasty call to the Supervisors. “Hey! There's a guy here who wants to build a big church in the middle of nowhere. Big tourist draw he says. Says his name is Mike Angelo or something like that. I looked at his plans, but when I told him I didn't see handicapped ramps or fire exits, nevermind the painted glass ceiling and the size of the goddam thing, he got very emotional and started yelling about how beautiful it would be for centuries to come.” Carmel Angelo, speaking, as always for the castrati she allegedly works for, replied, “Tell Mr. Angelo thanks but no thanks. We haven't done beauty in this county since 1920, and we have no intention of starting now!”

BACK TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT and my mon cheri, Shari L. Schapmire, treasurer-tax collector, who has billed me $20.03 as the tax on my business, Boonville's beloved weekly newspaper. Shar, pulling figures out of mid-air, says my paper is valued at $1,860 and says at the rate of 1.077 percent, I owe her twenty bucks and three cents, the three cents is probably a little office joke. “The three cents will frost the bastard, eh girls?”

I WISH SHARI was funnin' me, but the bill comes with all kinds of bold type caps and warnings of the Pay or Die type government specializes in. Heretofore when Shar has sent me a form demanding I list my business’s assets I've truthfully listed them as No Value — a couple of old laptops, a surplus desk and a yard sale office chair in a leased trailer at a time newspaper-newspapers are being rapidly replaced by the cyber loony bin. But suddenly Shar says the mighty ava is worth $1,860! If someone walked through the door with $1,860 cash money I'd probably take the money and run.

MAYBE SHE'S a little more sophisticated, a little more humane, a little smarter than she was when I dealt with her, but Bekkie (sic) Emery as director of Mendocino County Social Services, gives me pause. Check that: Her appointment gives me a panic attack. Mendo Social Services has never been a bastion of humane, sensible social workers over the years in my fortunately limited experience with them, but my encounters with Ms. Emery, when she functioned as a Children's Protective Services agent, were enraging. Throw in a cast of rotating county-assigned attorneys who would starve to death (and deserved to) without their lucrative county assignments, I found myself involved in a custody case so obvious that everyone outside it looking in, including two clear-headed women working at Project Sanctuary, agreed it was the worst miscarriage of a custody case they'd ever seen. Long story short, and long-time readers will remember it, a Syrian, fluent in English, married to a non-English-speaking Indonesian woman he'd forsaken for a 300-pound reporter from the Press Democrat, accused his wife of renting their daughter to Satanist child abusers. The accusation occurred at a time when twisted pockets of moronic Mendo hysterics, inspired by a Mendo social worker named Pam Hudson, were claiming Satanists were preying on daycare children in Fort Bragg. Only in Mendo, you say? Nope, it was a national hysteria, and further evidence civilization is always only a half-step away from the tom-toms and fortune tellers rattling chicken bones in rusty coffee cans. This case of the innocent Indo mom separated from her young daughter bumbled on for a preposterous year as the child was bounced around foster homes and mom tried to fathom the accusations against her and defend herself against them. One cretinous colleague of Ms. Emery blithely commented to me one day, “Well, you know, Mr. Anderson, child molestation is common in that part of the world.” Having spent four years in that part of the world and speaking the language of that part of the world, I said child molestation was unknown, unlike here in Perv Central. I got a “Whatever” dismissal. It was constantly frustrating to have to argue with really, really limited people somehow invested with the legal authority to grab the children of people unable to fight back, which isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of parents who deserve to lose their children, but only underclass parents lose their kids. And these child confiscations at the time I’m writing about were undertaken by people with no commonsense, no ability whatsoever to suss out truth from untruth. Anyway, that ugly matter, no thanks to Mendo Social Services, ended justly, with mom at last getting the custody of her daughter she should have had very early in the idiotic process. One high moment in the case occurred when two San Francisco cops, un-subpoened, appeared in Mendo Superior Court on behalf of mom because they were so outraged that they'd had to physically separate mother and child on the basis of the father's lies at the SF Greyhound Depot. Anyway, as the world turns it turned to justice in this case, no thanks to the County of Mendocino. Daughter graduated college with honors, mom met a good man, and mother and daughter are living happily ever after. 

I'VE ALWAYS SYMPATHIZED with James Marmon's beefs against Social Services based on his experience with the CPS unit especially. I know local authorities regularly slander him as a nutcase, but I've always felt that Marmon's assessments coincided with my experience of Social Services, that they were duplicitous, unfeeling, arbitrary, conniving, and not at all the kind of people who should be doing the work they're doing.

JOHN MCCOWEN: There will be a cleanup of several vacated homeless encampments directly on the Russian River. More info will be released in advance of the 8/14 cleanup date. All volunteers will be required to sign an acknowledgement and release of liability. Due to the presence of needles, volume of trash and the terrain this will be an 18 and over event. I've gotten most of the easy stuff (25 truckloads so far) but a large volume of trash has been pushed down steep banks and is intertwined with berry vines and brush. There is always the potential for used needles. There are numerous tripping hazards including concrete rubble that was historically dumped at the river. A car and refrigerator can be seen in the video so dumping at the river didn't start with homelessness. That said, it is not acceptable for people to be living at the river. In addition to the lack of proper sanitation and trash disposal there is a lot of cutting down riparian vegetation and excavation of the river bank. I think when some people hear that people are “camping at the river” they imagine it's as if people were in a campground with basic health and sanitation being met but that is obviously not the case. Watch for more info that will be posted in advance of the cleanup. Thank you!

“THE VERY FINE people of the Progressive Left believe many things: that men can be women (and mostly should be); that two plus two should equal how you feel, not the same darn thing every time; that “Joe Biden” is not just president but the greatest one since Barack Obama (and the 2020 election proved it). The very fine people on the Left don’t believe in a couple of things: reality and the law. This is getting to be a problem in what’s left of the USA.” — James Kunstler

MR. K is a good writer, and often very funny, but his use of “progressive left” is redundant because the left, by definition, is progressive, especially against the backdrop of Trump-think. The left is also non-existent in this country in any traditional-historical sense of the term, the casual false labeling of Pelosi libs as communists notwithstanding. There's nothing at all left or progressive about Biden; he's never been either one, or even much of a mainline liberal, and I haven't heard any conservative liberal of the Democrat type proclaim either Biden or Obama as great. 

THE FALSE TROPE that conflates conservative liberals of the Biden-Pelosi Democrats with the left, whatever “left” means to the Fox fascisti, is deliberately intended to discredit any government program likely to ease the burden of most Americans, a stance which just happens to work to the great advantage of Bezos Unlimited, owners of both political wings of American capital.

I'VE NEVER HEARD a pwoggie-woggie say he wanted men to be women, but this is what the right does — they seize some isolated incident like a transvestite reading to kindergartners and blow it up to make it seem that transvestites are now part of the public school curricula and American children will be cross-dressing by the time they hit the 8th grade. And liberals are routinely called socialists and communists when — the better ones anyway, are reformers like, say, Ralph Nader and the dread AOC. Socialists like AOC (Ralph's a liberal) aren't opposed to capitalism, they  simply want capitalism’s fruits fairly distributed. Communists want to destroy capitalism, and how much present-day influence in the United States do communists have? None is the correct answer.

THE IRONY in all this is that capitalism is in the process of finishing off life as we know it for everyone, regardless of belief system. Every day we experience new climate-wrought natural catastrophes while the political talk is about neener-neeneer irrelevancies.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT FIRE. The temperate forests of North America evolved with fire. Fire has been a shaping force in forest ecosystems since the end of the last ice age. Forests have adapted to fire and been reborn out of it. From Yellowstone to the Oregon Coast Range, the Siskiyous to the Sangre de Cristos, forests have burned and remained forests. Douglas-firs, redwoods, Ponderosa pines, and Giant Sequoias have all evolved and even thrived under natural fire regimes. But not now. Not with these forest-killing infernos that burn for weeks and months, killing everything in in their paths, down to the soil itself. These fires are hotter and more intense. They burn longer, spread faster, travel farther. Of course, the climate has changed and it’s a driving force behind these super-charged fires. It’s hotter and drier, in both winter and summer. The moisture content of forest soils has withered. The understories of forests are dry and crisp. The snow pack has dwindled. The fogs of summer have dissipated. The warming climate has primed the forests to burn. But the forests themselves have changed–or rather–change has been inflicted upon them. The fire-resistant old growth trees–95 percent of them, anyway–have been logged off. The forests themselves have been fractured and fragmented by clearcuts, pipelines, power corridors, monocultural plantations, and a road network that in some places exceeds 10 miles per square mile of land. Fires, most of them, start near roads, many by accident others by design. Some for sick kicks, others for profit. There’s a dark history of arson for profit in America’s forests: for the jobs that come in putting them out and “cleaning” them up. Not just in the firefighting, but the roadbuilding and logging and milling and log exports that come afterwards. Managed forests–that is logged, roaded, grazed–forests burn and they tend to burn long and hot. Under normal circumstances, logging is an accelerate not a deterrent for fire. Under these extreme climate conditions, logging has fueled the infernos that have swept the West for the last decade. Last year was the worst fire season in the West in the last 2,000 years. This year will worse. And so, likely, will be the consecutive years of the next several decades. There’s no immediate solution and all of the proposed political responses will only exacerbate the crisis. Welcome to the Pyrocene. — Jeffrey St. Clair

HAVING TURNED 82, I read the local obituaries not, as the old joke has it, to see if I'm one of them, but to confirm my finding that a bad person has never died in the Redwood Empire excluding, of course the presumed villains who've ended their days in prisons. Invariably, the departed is described as selflessly committed to the human project. But those of us who actually knew the saint would have a more nuanced memory shall we say, as he or she steps into that void atheists seem to look forward to. If the gone person hasn't stepped into eternal nothing is forced to confront his life as it was truly lived in some kind of cosmic courtroom, we won't know because no one has ever reported back from “the other side.”  I hope a lot of past tense people have to explain themselves, and I wish people would spend more time writing obituaries, flesh out the life of their gone one in anecdotes that give us some idea what the person was like. Hire a pro to do it for you if the prospect of summing up the life of a loved one intimidates you. Newspapers used to do it but, except for the NYT and a couple of other mass circulation papers, most of the obits you see these days are obviously rush jobs, painful toil for the relative assigned to do it. And the very old never, ever attribute their years to pure luck, which the achievement of old age purely is.

I ALSO READ columns by older people to see how my peer group is faring. The amusing piece by Dalton Delan, a mere 66, neatly summed up my feeling of Rip Van Winkle-ism, a cultural reference itself probably lost on people younger than sixty. (Rip dozed off one afternoon and woke up in a world he didn't recognize.) I've had my eyes wide open the whole way and I'm telling you much of what I see doesn’t reconcile what I thought I knew about reality.

MR. D writes: “My cultural references — author, singer, baseball batter, star of television or silver screen — all receive blank stares. Truffaut recognition is rare as truffles. Was Norman Mailer a kind of Amazon packaging? I might as well be discussing pterodactyl sightings at the La Brea Tar Pits. Yes, Virginia, the late Jurassic is where I hail from. They named the park there for me. Is there some wisdom that comes with dotage?”

NOPE. Young fools become old fools, and please don't call me or anybody else an “elder,” as if age confers sagacity. It doesn't. Culturally? The place is unrecognizable. It's all references to people that I hope real young people, like my grandchildren, don't think are admirable or in any way worth emulating. 

NORTHCOAST DILEMMA, an on-line exchange:

(1) I’m liberal and I want more crack down on petty theft and have more police presence. How do you make sense of that?

(2) I’ll take that question! 

The explanation is simple. Most of us agree generally on most things. We all want (need) clean air, shelter, water, food, security, love. The liberal/conservative (or Republican/Democrat) divide is a false construction. The modern two party political system is horrible. There is no reason for it and it does not need to be this way. Don’t buy into the division. We are the UNITED States of America. Most people are mostly good. The bad draws more attention. I have been treated with love by all varieties of folks (races, religious and non, genders, sexual identities, ages, political views, etc.). I have also been treated poorly by a much smaller group of equally diverse people. The middle ground on almost every issue exists and is actually where most people want to be. Extremists make a great deal of noise and draw attention. They have more influence than they deserve.

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] There’s a great lot of stuff than doesn’t add up, plus stories that don’t compute, and configurations that make no sense, the preponderance of these head-scratchers pointing to a monumentally corrupt and incompetent American ruling class that’s been foisting stupid shit now on the USA and the world for at least a couple of generations. Hardly matters where you look, it’s so thick on the ground you don’t know where to start shoveling. But maybe start big instead of small and so look to where there’s numbers that we can look at and that would be the national coffers, stuffed to the brim with Fed Funny Money because it seems that the people most able to pay tax really don’t want to.  If Bezos, who is supposedly worth $200 bil, give or take, had to cough up let’s say 199 bil he’d still be worth a billion. IOW still a billionaire. He could cough up hundreds of millions more and still be a centimillionaire. And then look at the other obvious guys like Gates and Buffet – or you could just go down the donor list for the Democrat and Republican parties – and scrape up some serious loot. And then put the gun to the heads of overseas banks and leaders of tax havens where a lot of rich Americans stash their money and see how much more you can rake in. I know, I’ve heard it said many a time, that there aren’t enough rich people to fund the annual deficit never mind the national debt. But has it ever been tried? In any case we have to start somewhere. And that’s where the money is.

[2] “…I am angry that the tragic scenes of prior surges are being played out yet again, but now with ICUs primarily filled with patients who have chosen not to be vaccinated. I am angry that it takes me over an hour to explain to an anti-vaxxer full of misinformation that intubation isn’t what “kills patients” and that their wish for chest compressions without intubation in the event of a respiratory arrest makes no sense. I am angry at those who refuse to wear “muzzles” when grocery shopping for half an hour a week, as I have been so-called “muzzled” for much of the past 18 months. I cannot understand the simultaneous decision to not get vaccinated and the demand to end the restrictions imposed by a pandemic. I cannot help but recoil as if I’ve been slapped in the face when my ICU patient tells me they didn’t get vaccinated because they “just didn’t get around to it.” Although such individuals do not consider themselves anti-vaxxers, their inaction itself is a decision — a decision to not protect themselves or their families, to fill a precious ICU bed, to let new variants flourish, and to endanger the health care workers and immunosuppressed people around them. Their inaction is a decision to let this pandemic continue to rage. I am at a loss to understand how anyone can look at these past months of the pandemic — more than 600,000 lives lost in the U.S. and more than 4 million worldwide — and not believe it’s real or take it seriously. But the unhappy truth is that there are people who do not. They did not in the beginning and many are doubling down now.” (Thanh Neville, M.D., M.S.H.S., is an ICU physician and researcher at UCLA Health.)

[3] “It’s been said here by a bunch of commenters that the political center has been displaced by the extremists on both left and right. ”Actually I have noticed for a long, long time that the artificial two-party system in the USA means that millions of citizens cannot find a channel for meaningful political participation; they cannot find or create a party that reflects their views and for which they can work to get their candidates into government. This is not the case in a parliamentary system, where small parties can fight their way to the fore by gaining enough votes (say, 5% of the votes) and then forming coalitions.

(Of course what happens after that is still up for grabs—viz. the Green Party in Germany.) But note the creation of a new party in Germany, Die Basis—hopefully they will be able to get a few candidates into local govts and start to influence the political landscape. There seems to be no chance of that in the USA.

IMO—-or, it is my speculation that— it is this two-party stranglehold that has driven more and more movement to political extremes.

[4] I’m 62 years old, and I guess I’m not gonna get the comfy retirement as “promised.” Actually, I’m not as bummed out as you might expect. If I play my cards right, I still might be able to enjoy the show, in a twisted kinda way. But try as I might, I just can’t see even a bumpy landing, let alone a soft one. Mentally, at least for me, that’s very hard to deal with. Is that why we’re all here, talking it out, searching and hoping for some light at the end of this tunnel? I haven’t done it yet, but I must choose a new path. The one I’m on ain’t gonna pay off, I’m afraid.

[5] Recent history looks to my eyes like a succession of lunacies each of which may have been unable to topple Western Civ on its own given built-in social inertia and maybe resilience plus the raw survival instinct of ordinary people, but each following on the heels of the last may have the cumulative momentum to put this thing to where vanished civilizations go ie, dirt mounds.

Consider the miseries of the Industrial Revolution which had a hand in creating both communism and fascism, and the two world wars with tens of millions dead and wounded, and then the rise of neo-liberalism which ruined the lives of huge swathes of people of the formerly developed West. And now what one guy deems a step back to pre-Enlightenment authoritarian modes of thinking coming out of university campuses, of all places. How far can we be from witch burnings? But what would we expect? I mean our best and brightest brought us viral gain-of-function research. Just between us, does this look to you like the product of disturbed minds? Because that’s how it looks to me. 

Our allegedly best and brightest hatched all this craziness and now they’re back to incubating more. They don’t believe in reality? Well, their grip on it has been pretty weak for a while now, accommodating only what conforms to their own self-justifying narratives. The trouble of course is that reality doesn’t give a shit about narratives.

[6] VISITORS. Went to an estate sale this morning. Met a lovely family from Idaho, who were apparently here selling grandma’s estate. When I got out of my vehicle, I asked if they would like me to wear a mask and stated that I’ve been vaccinated. The woman replied, “Oh no, we’re from Idaho and we don’t do that.” Now, I know better to engage in that conversation, but I should have told her that my niece visited Idaho early on in the pandemic and contracted COVID-19. What is wrong with people?!! So, just a reminder - our hospital has 25 beds to serve the entire coastal community surrounding FB, and only 6 max of those beds are for intensive care. So, be safe out there as we have visitors who may be contagious, and, in this case, are planning to go to the botanical gardens today. 

[7] Phew! Glitterati from all over the world flying into Martha’s Vineyard on private Gulfstream IVs for Obama’s unmasked Birthday Bash. The NYT explained everyone invited was “sophisticated, vaccinated.” Meanwhile, in Obama’s Hometown, Chicago, at least 50 people already shot so far this weekend, including 2 police officers, one of whom is dead, one critical. Apparently Obama’s $15 million mansion was built on water’s edge, so apparently nobody is worried too much about ‘Sea level rise’. Many of the Honored Guests arrived on massive motor yachts the size of WW2 Navy Destroyers. Those things are powered up by diesel fueled turbines that really suck up the juice. I don’t know if the Climate Czar — John Kerry — sailed over from Nantucket in his impressive yacht. Eventually the guest list will be released. Springsteen’s daughter has been competing in equestrian events at the Olympics. My brain started mulling around how much it must have cost to raise an Olympics level equestrian. It got to 7 digit numbers, and I gave up with a couple conclusions: the expense of transporting the horse to Tokyo and back was a mere drop in the overall cost bucket; and her daddy’s working class hero routine paid off really, really well.

One Comment

  1. Mark Laszlo August 11, 2021

    Albert Einstein defined stupidity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
    In the “pyrocene”, those whose homes burn down, who rebuild above ground are sitting ducks all over again. The prudent way to build now is underground, airtight, with a good air filter. That would save you and your home. You would not have to evacuate.
    Underground homes are warmer in winter and cooler in summer. In heat dome events, avoid heat stroke with an underground home.
    While you’re at it, make it, or add, a fallout shelter. In addition to wildfire smoke, you’ll be safer from nuclear, bio & chem warfare, exterior electrosmog, volcanic fallout and home invasion. Don’t let anyone stop you!

    Children are the most vulnerable to all of these perils of our time. If there are no children with intact genomes there will be no future. Fallout shelters are just commonsense now.
    Switzerland has public shelters to protect everyone there 5 days, and private shelters
    too.

    No commercial interest.
    Floodplain and moist soil sites need shielded, aboveground shelters. 2′ of dense material, such as
    concrete, stops ionizing radiation.
    WWIII V.1. 1:36-:306. Baghdad. Listen to the crew.

    WWIII V.2. Homs. Pak-SA, A-Bomb? 4 videos exist.

    WWIII V3. Saana. Sparkles are neutrons. 20 videos.

    Don’t be a sitting duck.

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