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WARM TEMPERATURES will persist today with high pressure remaining in place. Temperatures will begin a cooling trend through the weekend as the ridge breaks down and eventually gives way to a trough by Sunday night or Monday, bringing needed rainfall and even cooler temperatures behind it. (NWS)
YESTERDAY'S HIGHS: Ukiah 99°, Yorkville 98°, Boonville 98°, Fort Bragg 70°
37 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
LEAKS AND MORE LEAKS AMIDST A STAGE FOUR WATER ALERT.
Fort Bragg has very sandy soil. Usually if there is some sort of leak in a water line it doesn't even show up at the surface because the water soaks into the ground at a rapid rate. If there is a visible leak, you can be pretty sure that it is pretty substantial since the water lines are a good 2 feet under ground in most places. There’s one in the images on social media that has been flowing for the better part of a year. If one were to estimate the water flow from the leak it would be in excess of several gallons a minute or several thousand gallons a day. While it's hard to see the water percolating in the images, it certainly is.
So how can the City of Fort Bragg knowingly leave this glaring example of a severely deteriorating infrastructure in plain site for all to see? Do they just not care anymore?
I remember calling the City a few years back about a visible leak in the same alley and was told when the crew came to check it out that it wasn't significant enough to dig up around the meter. Maybe this leak is significant enough?
One has to wonder how many hundreds if not thousands of these types of leaks are wasting our precious water that go unnoticed and untended to because they are out of site and out of mind.
One has to also wonder: Who's minding the Town itself?
If anyone from the City is interested, the water leak is at the South West corner of the entrance to the alley on Bush St. between Stewart St. and West St. It's hard to miss and has become a neighborhood conversation piece over the last year or so.
— Bruce Broderick, Fort Bragg
SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS WRITES:
Last weekend, Mendocino county residents picketed Dr. Andy Coren's home because they do not support his latest public health order. While these residents have a right to picket and Dr. Coren never attempted to stop this action, I would ask that you please express yourself during the week, rather than imposing on Dr. Coren and his family at his home, on the weekend.
I hear that residents might return to Dr. Coren's home this coming weekend. Please reconsider any weekend action at Dr. Coren's home. I would ask that you express your position during the week, and maybe, at a county building, rather than Dr. Coren's private residence.
SUPERVISOR MULHEREN: “Last Sunday [September 19] I was prepared to do an advertisement for Sheriff's Office recruitment but it turned out they were too short staffed to do the project.”
A SUSPICIOUS BLUE SEDAN…
On Tuesday, September 23, 2021 at about 8:54 PM, a Ukiah PD Officer was on patrol and was in the 100 block of E. Standley St, when his attention was drawn to a blue sedan that was stopped in the roadway, straddling both lanes of traffic. Prior to this time and within the preceding two hours; UPD Officers had been dispatched to two separate disturbances with a vehicle matching this vehicle’s appearance. Both prior calls for service involved a male who had been entering and exiting his vehicle, dancing and removing his clothing in public. On both prior calls for service the male and the vehicle left prior to Officers’ arrival.
Suspecting the driver of this vehicle could be intoxicated and based on the observed violation; the Officer initiated an enforcement stop of the blue sedan, by activating the patrol vehicle’s emergency lights. The sedan drove over a curb and initially yielded within the 100 block of N. State Street. Within moments, the driver, who was later identified as Marcelino E. Anguiano, 42, of Ukiah, performed a U-turn and fled northbound in the vehicle on N. State Street.
Throughout the next nine minutes Anguiano failed to yield for Officers and committed numerous traffic violations that included driving on the wrong side of the roadway, failure to stop for posted Stop signs/lights and driving across or upon a sidewalk.
UPD requested the assistance of CHP and spike strips were deployed in an attempt to end the pursuit, but these measures were unsuccessful. The pursuit passed through several residential and business districts within the City. The pursuit ultimately ended following a collision involving the blue sedan and another vehicle within the 100 block of E. Gobbi Street. The collision caused the blue sedan to roll onto its passenger side. The other vehicle involved in the collision struck an MTA bus stop and another vehicle that was parked in the Safeway parking lot. Anguiano was detained without further incident. The occupant of the parked vehicle complained of pain and was transported to the Ukiah Hospital for treatment. The driver of the other vehicle was uninjured.
Anguiano was found to be on probation for a prior violation of Evading a Police Officer. His probation included a term of “obey all laws.” Following his arrest, Anguiano was transported to the County Jail and was booked on the above-noted violations. He is currently being held at the jail and has a bail set at $ 35,000. UPD would like to thank the MCSO and the CHP for their assistance with this incident.
(Ukiah Police Presser)
CALIFORNIA FARM WORKER UNION MARCHING TO THE FRENCH LAUNDRY after Newsom vetoes labor bill
by Kim Bojórquez and Melissa Montalvo
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have allowed farm workers to vote by mail in union elections, a change the United Farm Workers pressed for after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year dealt a setback to its organizing practices.
Assembly Bill 616 would have allowed agricultural workers to select their collective bargaining representative through a ballot card election by voting at a physical location or mail or dropping off a ballot to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board office.
The UFW, which supported Newsom over the past several months has fought the campaign to recall him from office, had been a planning a 260-mile march this week from Tulare County to Sacramento to advocate for the bill. The march commemorates the 1968 march labor icon Cesar Chavez carried to highlight the plight of farm workers at that time.
Instead, UFW issued a statement over Twitter saying it would redirect the march to the French Laundry restaurant in Napa County, a reference to the pricey meal Newsom had with lobbyists as he asked other Californians to avoid mixed groups and indoor settings during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Workers are now marching towards the French Laundry, hoping to finally meet with the Governor," the message read.
In a veto message, Newsom said the bill contained "various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of ballot cards."
"Significant changes to California's well-defined agricultural labor laws must be carefully crafted to ensure that both agricultural workers' intent to be represented and the right to collectively bargain is protected, and the state can faithfully enforce those fundamental rights," he said.
He wrote that he would direct his administration's labor agency to "work collaboratively with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and all relevant stakeholders to develop new policies for legislative consideration to address this issue."
The Supreme Court in June handed down a decision that set back UFW's organizing efforts by striking down a 50-year-old California law that had allowed its representatives to enter farms during nonworking hours, finding it infringed on farmers' property rights.
"The California Farm Bureau is proud of our farmers, ranchers and farm workers who stood up and spoke out against AB 616 and the threat it represented for the rights of agricultural employees to be free of undue fear and intimidation," Johansson said. "The firm action taken today by Gov. Newsom in vetoing 616 protects the sanctity of the secret ballot election. It means that strong-arm organizing tactics and coercion have no place in California agriculture."
The proposed bill also drew opposition from Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk who sent Newsom a letter on Sept. 9 urging him to not pass the legislation, arguing that it would violate farmworkers' right to "vote in secret."
Elizabeth Strater, director of strategic campaigns for the labor union, criticized Newsom's decision and likened the bill to popular vote-by-mail laws favored by California Democrats.
"Why shouldn't farmworkers have the same rights when voting in union elections?" she said. "A week ago, voters used many options to save Gov. Newsom from a recall effort. Today, the governor revealed who he is by vetoing AB 616. Farm workers will show him who we are. We're heading to the French Laundry, hoping to finally get that meeting we've so far been denied."
Assemblyman Mark Stone, the bill's author, in a statement, expressed disappointment in Newsom not signing the legislation.
"I hope that the Governor will be open to addressing the concerns that he cited," he said.
ANOTHER SLOB GRO BUSTED
On Sept. 20, 2021, wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) served a search warrant in the 9000 block of Branscomb Road in Mendocino County. The search warrant was part of an investigation into suspected unlawful cannabis cultivation and associated environmental crimes.
Support was provided by a CDFW Environmental Scientist and the State Waterboards.
Prior to serving the search warrant, a records check was conducted on the property to determine what steps may have been taken to secure a state commercial cannabis license. In this case, no state license or county permit to cultivate commercial cannabis had been issued.
The property was located in the South Fork Eel River watershed, which supports several threatened and endangered species, including steelhead trout and Coho salmon as well as bird species such as the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl.
California is currently experiencing a historic drought. Unlawful cannabis cultivation operations of this nature can pollute the land and divert water from nearby waterways with historic low flows, which can greatly impact fish and aquatic species who may rely on cold cool water to spawn and survive.
Numerous environmental violations were documented, including two surface water diversions and a large trash pile near a waterway.
Over 590 illegal cannabis plants were eradicated and over 150 pounds of illegal processed cannabis was destroyed.
A formal complaint will be filed with the Mendocino County District Attorney’s office. No other information is available at this time.
JUST IN FROM NORMAN DEVALL:
KZYX Station to move… Follow the news: KZYX has applied to the City of Ukiah for a 90 foot broadcast tower. If/When approved the station will begin the move from Philo to Ukiah. No mention thus far if the “studio” will include space for program host and guests.
RESPONSES TO COUNTY NOTES
Rye’N-Flint: Despite Supervisor Mulheren’s recent declaration that all agenda items will have a budget note about where the money is coming from, there’s no such note here (or anywhere else on the agenda, for that matter).
Despite declaring something, the CEO still won’t reveal the budget after 7 years of asking nicely. Is anyone surprised anymore?
George Dorner: In a responsibly run county, the CEO would have been fired after about a year of failing to perform her/his budgetary duty of monitoring the budget and reporting it to the BOS. But, hey, this is Mendocino. The present situation does make me wonder just what chicanery will surface after Ms Angelo’s retirement.
John McCowen: It really is astounding that CEO Angelo has gotten away with failing to provide monthly budget updates, something that every other governmental agency in Mendocino County is able to do. Supervisor Gjerde and I have been asking for this information for at least seven years, possibly as long as nine years. Now Supervisor Williams has joined in asking for the information and is being met with a continuing litany of excuses. The other thing that is astounding, and this is 100% on the Board of Supervisors, is their continuing failure to hold the CEO accountable for anything. Failing to provide monthly budget reports is only one of dozens of instances where CEO Angelo has gotten away with ignoring Board direction. Angelo also frequently commits significant County resources to policy initiatives without having any direction from the Board. And unlike Mussolini, the fascist dictator who was reputed to have made the trains run on time, Mendocino County is going off the rails in every direction.
A PAIR of quotes stuck early in my young mind, both representing what seemed to me to summarize my political feelings. The first was from George Orwell's Homage To Catalonia, which he wrote after fighting for the Spanish Republic (taking a bullet in the throat) against the combined forces of fascism: “The revolutionary atmosphere remained as I had first known it. General and private, peasant and militiaman, still met as equals; everyone drew the same pay, wore the same clothes, ate the same food, and called everyone else ‘thou’ and ‘'comrade’; there was no boss-class, no menial-class, no beggars, no prostitutes, no lawyers, no priests, no boot-licking, no cap-touching. I was breathing the air of equality, and I was simple enough to imagine that it existed all over Spain. I did not realize that more or less by chance I was isolated among the most revolutionary section of the Spanish working class.”
AND, as a perfect statement of political principle, this from Ernest Hemingway, also based on his experience with the Spanish Republic: “You felt, in spite of all bureaucracy and inefficiency and party strife something that was like the feeling you expected to have and did not have when you made your first communion. It was a feeling of consecration to a duty toward all of the oppressed of the world which would be as difficult and embarrassing to speak about as religious experience and yet it was as authentic as the feeling you had when you heard Bach, or stood in Chartres Cathedral or the Cathedral at Leon and saw the light coming through the great windows.”
IN 1936, it was a matter of rolling back the forces of darkness, and now it's a matter of rolling back darkness itself. Please excuse the pontification, but I think the UN's Secretary General, Antonio Guterres' phrase the other day in his irrefutable summary of where the world presently stands made the case that if we don't reverse course we're finito: “With humanity on the edge of an abyss, and moving in the wrong direction, the world must wake up.” The Secretary General described the rolling catastrophes as “the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes” — which include the covid pandemic, the climate emergency, and upheaval in places such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Yemen.”
THAT'S THE SHORT LIST. Poor Old Joe, leader of the free world, Christ save us all, isn't the guy you want at the helm in a time of cascading crises. Every time he slurs his way through a teleprompter address, I think to myself, “We are totally screwed. My grandchildren — everyone's grandchildren — will be stepping into a violent chaos. The leadership class of this country has never been less capable — contemptible, most of them.
I FEEL SORRY for Poor Old Joe. No way he's up to it, but “they” keep shoving him out there, like they did the other day with England's roving clown, Boris Johnson, POJ's handlers cutting off Poor Old Joe like a child who can't be trusted to answer questions “appropriately.” So Boris the Clown, always a step ahead and much smarter than anybody grilling him, was left alone to talk on, as Poor Old Joe shuffled dutifully off stage.
SO NOW the whole world is on POJ's case for the chaos at the border, with the limousine libs of his own party blaming him for the illiberal visuals of white horsemen rein-whipping desperate Haitians back across the river. The limo libs have produced zero ideas for devising orderly immigration policies, if orderly is even possible when you have millions of poor people on the move towards Western democracies because of murderous conditions in their home countries. POJ, a credit card company bagman his entire political career, and barely a liberal on his best days, can no more provide the necessary leadership to beat back cascading crises than Trump was.
CLOSER TO HOME, George Dorner wonders what crimes will be revealed when County CEO Carmel Angelo retires. Indictable stuff? Doubt it. But to take one example of the CEO's operating m.o., we have the redundant public health officer, Ms. Doohan, at a hundred thou a year. What does she do for all that money in a situation where the number one health officer Dr. Coren, who also seems marginally competent and adds to the covid confusion with his every public utterance which, fortunately for Mendo, isn't often. Doohan, a resident of San Diego, is a straight-up beneficiary of a large gift of public funds, most places an indictable offense.
WHAT WE HAVE in Mendocino County is a large apparatus of well-paid bureaucrats — pulling down three times the average annual salary of most of the people they allegedly serve — presiding over a local government whose line workers are radically underpaid, and most of whose agencies suffer major personnel shortages, meaning they can't efficiently provide the services they're supposed to provide. And lots of the people employed by the County leave when they can for greener pastures.
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 23, 2021
MARCELINO ANGUIANO, Ukiah. Reckless driving with great bodily injury, evasion by reckless driving and opposite traffic, probation revocation,.
JULIO DELCAMPO, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
PASCUAL GARCIA, Bakersfield/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ARMANDO GRANADOS, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JORGE MARTINEZ, Ukiah. Concealed dirk-dagger.
RAKAY MICHAEL, Herrium Utah/Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.
JASON MILLS, Fort Bragg. Trespassing, probation revocation.
KIEVIN QUIJADA, Ukiah, DUI, no license.
JASON RAY, Redwood Valley, DUI, suspended license for DUI.
OH LORD WON'T YOU BUY HIM A MERCEDES BENZ: FAREWELL, MICHAEL MCCLURE
by Jonah Raskin
Peter Coyote, a Zen Buddhist priest, one of the founders of the San Francisco Diggers, and the voice for a dozen Ken Burns documentaries, kicked off the memorial for Michael McClure with a sermon about emptiness, connectedness and compassion that seemed just right for the audience of several hundred people mostly from the Bay Area, nearly all of them over the age of 50. “Michael, may your karma be completely fulfilled,” Coyote murmured. Elaine Katzenberger, McClure’s longtime publisher at City Lights, called him a “founding father of the cultural revolution.” She seemed to be echoing actor and director Dennis Hopper who observed long ago that "Without McClure's roar there would have been no Sixties." With Janis Joplin, McClure wrote “Mercedes Benz,” which sounds as timely now as it was in 1971 when it was first recorded: “My friends all drive Porsches,/ I must make amends/Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends/ So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.”
When she first came to San Francisco in the 1980s, Katzenberger told the audience, she “didn’t know there was something called the Beat Generation.”
She was probably the only person at the McClure memorial, “Celebration of Light, Light Light,” in Orinda, California, who wasn’t a veteran of the Beats, the bohemians, a beatnik or a Buddhist. McClure, Katzenberger said, was “poignantly, ferociously beautiful.” He had issues, she added, with Ferlinghetti and explored them in “Listen, Lawrence” in which he wrote
“POLITICS IS DEAD/ and/ BIOLOGY/ IS HERE!/ COMMUNISM, /CAPITALISM,/ SOCIALISM, will do/ NOTHING, NOTHING.”
Rebecca Solnit, the author most recently of Orwell’s Roses, dipped into her bank of memories and shared that when she first met McClure she found him “too fierce to interview,” but that later she warmed to him and he warmed to her. He treated her as an equal, she noted, and didn’t indulge in “mansplaining,” a word and concept she coined.
Not everyone who knew McClure could make it to the event. At 90, Gary Snyder, the last of the Beat poets who first howled and roared in the mid-1950s, stayed at his home in the Sierras. And no one read from McClure’s play, The Beard, which Norman Mailer called “a mysterious piece of work” that features Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid as “ghosts from two periods of the American past.”
The one-act play climaxes with a scene that prompted police raids in 1966 and the arrest of the two actors, Billie Dixon as Harlow and Richard Bright as Billy the Kid. An ex-chief of the Berkeley police, complained that Billy “appeared to perform an act of cunnilingus.” Instantly notorious, McClure had already appeared under the name Pat McLear in Kerouac’s novel Big Sur.
Born in Kansas in 1932, McClure died in Oakland at the age of 87, an impassioned ecologist who performed with Ray Manzarek of the Doors, and who reinvented himself repeatedly, all the while that he went on experimenting with words and sounds.
I didn’t meet McClure until he was 81. When I asked him to describe San Francisco in 1954, when he first arrived, he said, “I remember roads were narrower then, traffic was lighter; the natural world seemed so close. Then houses crawled up all the hills, and there were more and more people, more cars, more everything. I belong to a generation that wasn't trained by the computer. I read a lot of books. I still do.”
Later, I heard him perform with bass player Rob Wasserman and drummer Jay Lane at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. He had rehearsed for nearly four hours before he stood before the microphone and gazed out at the audience, almost too exhausted to perform.
On the stage at the California Shakespeare Theater, with the dry brown hills in the background, “Whitman’s wild children” — as poet and biographer Neeli Cherkovski has called the Beats and their progeny — read excerpts from McClure’s poetry which spans more than fifty years. The performers all attested to McClure’s seductive hipster beauty, and, while they were still vigorous, they didn’t seem as wild as they once did. Some needed canes and walkers to reach the stage. Jack Foley, the host of KPFA’s “Cover to Cover,” called him “the rose from Wichita,” a “mystic” and a “prince.” It didn’t seem to matter whether he was a good poet, a great poet, a bad poet or a mediocre poet. That was for the scholars to debate. What mattered most at the Shakespeare Theater was that McClure was a prince of a fellow.
Cherkovski recalled the evening when McClure and Ginsberg sat down together and shared their problems with their tax man. Paul Nelson, a poet and Beat chronicler, described the time that McClure leafed through his address book and sighed, “This is like going through a graveyard.”
Frank Wildman, the director of the Berkeley-based Movement Studies Institute, remembered that McClure endured “killer” headaches, and finally through the power of words, left them behind him. Wildman called McClure “a mammal patriot.” In fact, he once read his poems to the animals caged at the San Francisco Zoo and Chaucer to kangaroos.
Juvenal Acosta, another City Lights author and an English professor at the California College of the Arts, remembered the time that Henry Miller kicked McClure out of his house in Big Sur and that Kerouac interceded on his behalf, explaining that he was a writer and ought to be allowed to stay.
Amy Evans McClure, a sculptor and the writer’s wife for three-and-a-half decades, performed his poem “Rain on the Roses.” McClure’s first wife, Joanna, a poet and teacher, and the mother of their daughter, Jane, wasn’t on the program at the memorial. Poet and musician Clark Coolidge at 82 and among the oldest to take the stage, read from McClure’s 1974 book, Fleas, while Michael Rothenberg, the founder of “100 Thousand Poets for Change,” recited “An Elegy for Michael McClure.” Henry Kaiser played the guitar like he was the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix.
Bob Holman, from the Bowery Poetry Center in Manhattan, ended the evening with a word collage composed of bits and pieces from the previous speaker’s remarks. Then Whitman’s not so wild children went gently, in couples, in groups and singly, into the good night that began to fall across the hills of the East Bay. Joyce Jenkins, the editor and publisher of Poetry Flash and the heart of the Bay Area literary scene, observed, “It’s the end of an era.” It was and yet it wasn’t. If it was up to Coyote, Katzenberger, Acosta, Cherkovski, Holman and more, the Beats would go on and on and on.
NEPALESE GIRL, 1910
ON THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11/2001
by John Arteaga
I would be remiss if I were to allow this cardinal anniversary of 9/11 to pass by without commenting on this unique feat of social engineering.
First of all, let me say that the fact that polls show a distinct minority of Americans believe in the official explanation of the events of that day, such as it is, gives me renewed faith in the common sense of my fellow Americans. Just recently I was delighted to read about the great Spike Lee, whose sincerity and integrity are beyond question to me, included a long segment with Richard Gage of Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth in the 9/11 series that he just finished for HBO. I thought, "Wow! At long last some logical light about that day might be put on a major media platform!"
Of course, a week or so later I read in the New Yorker that the corporate masters paying the bills at HBO would have none of it and had that segment removed. Yes, even the great Spike Lee was forced to bow before the universally agreed-upon (by those who matter) 9/11 fairytale. Must have been a bitter pill for the proud and wise filmmaker to swallow.
For those unfamiliar with some of the dizzying plethora of amazing 'coincidences' that led up to and occurred on that day, and at risk of being dismissed as a tinfoil hat wearing loon by the true believers who unfortunately include the otherwise great editor of the AVA and his Major, allow me to enumerate just a few of the most salient, never refuted, observations from that day.
Like so many millions of people worldwide, I initially bought the ‘19 hijackers who were amazingly lucky that day’ scenario that was quickly cobbled together by authorities and the media to explain what happened. I remember finding it remarkable, how quickly they were able to come up with the total dossiers on these 19 guys; almost like they had them sitting there on the desk ready for dissemination.
It was years later before it dawned on me that things were not adding up; the first ‘tell’ that made me doubt the whole idea that low-temperature burning kerosene caused the catastrophic collapses of the twin towers, was when I watched, for the umpteenth time, the footage of the initial collapse of the tower with the radio tower on its top.
Having lived in NYC during the time when the towers were being built, I knew that the center core columns were extremely massive I-beams, and that they must have had robust connections to the radio tower, built to withstand hurricane winds. Given these assumptions, it simply made no logical sense to see the massive radio tower tip to the side and fall into the building. I could see no other way for it to do so but to have the core columns that it was bolted to subjected to the typical method of explosive demolition, where a cutting charge is applied to each I-beam, typically at a 45° angle, so that the weight of the structure above slips off to the side and it collapses.
The towers, and later, building seven, were self-evident controlled demolitions; besides the giveaway movement of the tower portion, the enormous charges that cut the giant I-beams into ‘falling into the building’s footprint’ size pieces were impossible to hide from outside observation. Any footage of the buildings during their collapse shows clearly jets of explosive debris blowing out of the sides of the building every 20 floors or so, timed perfectly to achieve the freefall collapse of the building for easy scrap removal.
Some of the other amazing ‘coincidences’; that one of the Bush brothers was appointed chief of security there as soon as Larry Silverstein (who just happens to be best friends with Benjamin Netanyahu) took over the property. I guess that he bought this dog of a property from Port Authority for a trivial down payment; PA had already applied twice for demolition permits (they wanted to do basically what eventually was done to the buildings, sans permits), but were turned down because of the asbestos in the buildings.
Built as an ego trip by Nelson Rockefeller when he was governor of New York, the buildings were a commercial disaster; whole floors were never rented in the life of the building, the vast number of huge elevators made it use as much electricity as an average city of 100,000. And it was getting kind of run down; in order to keep renting it as high-class office space, it was due for a major many, many, millions of dollars worth of renovation. When Silverstein stepped up to buy it with the change that he got out of his couches, PA was happy to get rid of it.
For an initial down payment of 250 million or so, he was able to collect two $5 billion insurance settlements! You would have thought that these giant insurance companies would have taken him to court about all the mysterious aspects of the collapse. But like so many others who knew better, they were cowed into silence.
I could go on easily for 10 times this many column inches about the impossibility of so many of the claims of that day. Perhaps in future columns, if this one sees the light of day, but this is probably as long a piece as I can hope they can find room for in America’s last great newspaper.
I drove past the Squaw Valley entrance the day they changed the name to Palisade Tahoe. I was greeted by the new name in huge letters below the Olympic rings. Something shattered. Squaw Valley was legendary for me. There stands Granite Chief, the proud chief, strong as granite. By him is Squaw Peak, his wife. They overlook the magnificent land that is their summer home: mountains and lofty peaks, the water of Lake Tahoe reflecting the ever-changing colors of the sky. At their feet lies the valley crossed by the creek where children play and their mothers weave artistic baskets. It is the women’s valley — Squaw Valley, a fitting name and beautiful memorial to the people who lived there before the white man came. Palisade Tahoe destroyed it.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
We’ve decided to home school our boy, kindergarten starts next fall. The schools are nuts right now. Not everyone is able to do that, but we both work at home, so we figure what’s the difference to our daily lives if we take on that responsibility. There are many local groups for child socialization with other like-minded families.
Wish it were different though…there was a lot of good that came from going to public school when I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. Just ain’t that way anymore…or at least not at the moment. I know we’re not alone in this belief. Pushback is going to be real, the schools will begin to empty.
Best wishes for your kids’ friends who are suffering at the moment.
BRING BACK KNEE PADS
On the first weekend of the NFL season, I tuned in to watch the 49ers opener in Detroit. After seeing Raheem Mostert’s two efficient runs to open the game, he disappeared. I heard later that he sustained a knee injury. It required arthroscopic surgery to repair his cartilage. He is out of action for at least two months.
Why don’t NFL players wear knee pads? I feel that they could prevent injury at all levels. I played on a scholarship at UCLA as a backup to legendary quarterback Billy Kilmer. For many years after that, I coached football at many levels. Knee pads were a given back then.
Those pads were designed to protect the knee from potential injuries (like bone chips and bruises) from striking things like helmets, shoulder pads and shoes. I know today’s players feel they are faster without knee pads. It also makes their pants look better, but is that a good trade-off to possible injury?
HOW LONG WILL YOU SUFFER politicians to flatter you as sovereigns and use you as victims, without awakening your resentment? How often shall they settle and unsettle the slavery question before you discover the only meaning they have, is to excite your prejudices and get your votes? For how many years shall changing demagogues shuffle you as the gambler shuffles his cards—to win a stake—and still find you willing to be shuffled again?
— Benjamin H. Hill, speaking in Georgia, June 30, 1860
CALIFORNIA FIRES OVER 10 YEARS: SEE 170-PLUS AREAS WHERE BLAZES REPEATEDLY IGNITED
by Yoohyun Jung
California has more than 33 million acres of forestland, much of it vulnerable to fire in a climate that is getting hotter and dryer. Increasingly, that means some areas of the state are seeing wildfires repeatedly in short periods of time.
Many forest areas, including parts of the Dixie Fire’s massive footprint, experienced two or burns in just the past decade, according to a Chronicle analysis. The map above shows every wildfire in the state from 2011 to 2021. The darkest areas show where there have been multiple fires.
That an area has burned more than once by itself isn’t necessarily alarming, as fires are an integral, and at times, necessary part of California’s natural landscape, fire scientists say. “Not all trees are good and not all fires are bad,” said Britta Dyer of American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization. Some fires — smaller and less intense ones — can help remove dead trees and vegetation to reduce the risk of hotter and bigger fires that are more likely to spread uncontrollably, as well as help restore the ecological system of the forest, she said. But large, high-intensity fires occurring repeatedly in an area can deepen the area’s fire scars, destroy any reforestation efforts and reverse the forest’s regeneration process.
Ultimately, these repeated fires make a forest drier and even more vulnerable to fire, said William Stewart, a cooperative extension specialist at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “It actually becomes harder for baby trees to grow back,” he said.
The Chronicle analyzed wildfire perimeters that are 300 acres or larger, which the Forest Service defines as “large fires” for statistical purposes, from the past 10 years to see which areas overlapped. The data showed fire overlaps in more than 170 areas across the state from 2011 to 2021, this compares to about 110 areas in the decade prior—a more than 50% increase.
The Dixie Fire, which is now the second largest in California’s recorded history, is occurring in one of these areas where multiple fires have burned in just the last ten years, as shown in the map below.
Dixie largely grew around the most recent fire areas, instead of through them. That’s because recently burned areas tend to have had less time to accumulate the dry dead vegetation that are fuel for fires.
In contrast, the Dixie Fire blazed right through the older fires’ perimeters, including the Chips Fire in 2012, which burned more than 75,000 acres and left a vivid burn scar visible from space. But even before Chips scarred the region, parts of that same area had already been charred by the Rich Fire in 2008.
Repeated wildfires in the Dixie area hampered efforts to regenerate the forest by planting seedlings, Stewart of UC Berkeley said.
“Probably after the (Rich) fire, there were some seedlings on the ground and some seeds basically germinated,” he said. “Four years later, another fire came and killed those little seedlings because they have very thin bark. And then the third fire came through and killed whatever was remaining.”
Full article: sfchronicle.com/projects/2021/california-repeated-fires/
I REMEMBER 2009… My Happy House Hubby had retired a few years earlier, he was over a decade my senior, and I had a great job as a support engineer at a company named Rent-One-Online, a predecessor to VRBO, and AirBNB. We lived in the Santa Cruz mountains up in the redwoods and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an idyllic life. The company's major source of profit was selling insurance to the home owners to protect them from the inevitable stupid things that renters do. The insurance company they used was TravelGuard. A fully owned subsidiary of AIG. Perhaps you have a fuzzy recollection of how AIG helped make the 2008 crash possible?
See, the folks on Wall Street had been completely deregulated and found a way to slice crappy loans into great big AAA packages called Tranches. Well, when it became clear this was a bomb that would have to blow up sooner or later, AIG volunteered to insure the Tranches, in something called a Credit Default Swap. Because business was great and AIG was making money faster than it could count it. Then the fan and the poo danced. And the stink was fierce. What a mess. And everyone and their third cousin was looking down the barrel of fiscal implosion and lots of jail time to go around. So President Obama printed up enough money to wallpaper the planet and tried to plug the hole in the world with it. To a degree he succeeded. We aren't all enjoying the permanent camping life. But it changed America Forever.
My job evaporated, my company evaporated, the entire sector evaporated, and jobs like mine went away for a very long time, especially for 50 somethings. I muddled through, worked at a couple startups with friends, for part time pocket change compared to what I was making before the crash. Then in 2012 my Husband passed away from cancer. Between the medical debts and the loss of his retirement (we had to cash in his investments at pennies on the dollar during the crash just to stay afloat), things got really hard. Really hard. There was a short time, I was sleeping in my car, in the parking lot at work, and cleaning up in the morning in the restroom there. Just a few weeks mind you, but it was an amazing education. I have another friend who told me of a time in her life where selling blood in San Francisco was the difference between eating and not. Our new Gig Society has found ever better ways to use people, to make a small group rich, at the cost of the continued poverty of many.
I have a crazy strong work ethic. Got it from my Dad. Things like skill, talent, and dedication just don't mean anything when people are reduced to labor units. This is going to get a lot worse as jobs go away permanently. We best come up with answers and soon, because the natives have been restless for a while now.
— Marie Tobias (Fort Bragg)
SAW A FAT GIRL in my neighborhood,
God almighty she’s lookin good!
Tight ski pants, cashmere sweater,
Root Boy ain’t seen nothin’ better!
— Root Boy Slim, “Dare to be fat”
THE PSYCHOPATHIC TENDENCY IN WORLD POLITICS
by Jerry Russell & Richard Stanley
For many years, psychologists have studied the frightening reality of psychopathic or sociopathic personalities -- the serial killers, the child abusers, the pathologically consistent liars and incorrigible thieves. The scientific study of these individuals was systemically organized by Hervey Cleckley and his 1941 classic "The Mask of Sanity", and today the specialist Robert Hare is one of the foremost authorities in the field.
According to Hare, the key emotional and interpersonal traits defining the psychopathic personality syndrome are: a smooth, glib capability to lie, manipulate and dissemble; a completely callous lack of empathy or concern for others; shallow emotional affect and lack of remorse; and egocentric grandiosity.
While most psychological studies of psychopathy have been based on prison populations, there's an emerging (and controversial) recognition that many individuals with this cluster of personality characteristics, are not in prison.
The traits of these individuals are so distinctive that they may even represent a distinct taxon, a true sub-species of mankind -- consisting of otherwise normal human beings who are completely lacking in normal human responses to social interactions with others.
In his book, "Without Conscience,” Hare writes:
"To give you some idea of the enormity of the problem that faces us, consider that there are at least 2 million psychopaths in North America; the citizens of New York City have as many as 100,000 psychopaths among them. And these are conservative estimates. Far from being an esoteric, isolated problem that affects only a few people, psychopathy touches virtually every one of us.”
Consider that the prevalence of psychopathy in our society is about the same as that of schizophrenia, a devastating mental disorder that brings heart-wrenching distress to patient and family alike. However, the scope of the personal pain and distress associated with schizophrenia is small compared to the extensive personal, social and economic carnage wrought by psychopaths. They cast a wide net, and nearly everyone is caught in it one way or another.
The most obvious expressions of psychopathy -- but by no means the only ones -- involve flagrant criminal violations of society's rules. Not surprisingly, many psychopaths are criminals, but many others remain out of prison, using their charm and chameleon-like abilities to cut a wide swath through society and leaving a wake of ruined lives behind them.
Together, these pieces of the puzzle form an image of a self-centered, callous and remorseless person profoundly lacking in empathy and the ability to form warm emotional relationships with others, a person who functions without the restraints of conscience. If you think about it, you will realize that what is missing in this picture are the very qualities that allow human beings to live in social harmony.
It is not a pretty picture, and some express doubt that such people exist. To dispel this doubt you need only consider the more dramatic examples of psychopathy that have been increasing in our society in recent years. Dozens of books, movies, and television programs, and hundreds of newspaper articles and headlines, tell the story:
Psychopaths make up a significant portion of the people the media describe -- serial killers, rapists, thieves, con men, wife beaters, white-collar criminals, hype-prone stock promoters and "boiler-room" operators, child abusers, gang members, disbarred lawyers, drug barons, professional gamblers, members of organized crime, doctors who've lost their licenses, terrorists, cult leaders, mercenaries, and unscrupulous businesspeople.
What about politicians? Well, here we have to be careful, because in any individual case it can be very difficult to get the data that's needed for a complete scientific diagnosis. However, in some cases there is enough information available to make a persuasive case. For example, Chris Barr in his essay Towards a unified theory of Clinton notes the psychopathic aspects of Clinton's obsessive-compulsive work habits and decision-making processes, his multiple sexual escapades and denials, and his slimy yet inescapable "Sun King" charisma. Unfortunately, Barr's article is less attentive to Clinton's murderous attack on Yugoslavia, his coverup of the Vince Foster scandal, and his cynical manipulation of the financial markets to produce a massive and artificial boom-bust cycle, all of which would prove much more devastatingly that Clinton was a cold-blooded killer and pokerfaced liar.
Based on the conduct of the Iraq war, more and more people worldwide are concluding that George Bush is a psychopathic, insane individual. Some skeptics argue that the events of 9/11 were a cynical hoax, intended to provoke America into fighting aggressive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not millions of innocents, in a quest for Imperial power. If this is agreed, then it really should not be necessary to offer any further evidence of the psychopathy of George W. Bush. But there is much more: in this essay by Bev Conover of Online Journal, Bush isn't a moron, he's a cunning sociopath, we learn that in his youth, George W. "enjoyed putting firecrackers into frogs, throwing them in the air, and then watching them blow up." Reporter Richard Gooding of the tabloid STAR stated, in a well-referenced article, that Bush was the president of Yale's Delta Epsilon Kappa fraternity -- which "barbarically branded its new members on their backsides with a red-hot metal rod as part of a sadistic hazing practice." Reportedly, "the branding resulted in a second-degree burn that left a half-inch scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta."
While he was not busy slumming at Delta Epsilon Kappa, Bush also joined the highly elite Skull and Bones fraternity at Yale. Some boys just can't get enough of that "Greek" party lifestyle.
There's a lot of controversy over whether psychopathy should be viewed as a disease caused by some sort of organic birth defect or brain damage. Injuries to the frontal lobes can cause a syndrome that's similar in some respects, but Hare has done a series of studies showing that they're not identical, and that "true" psychopaths basically have highly intact cognitive skills, unlike victims of brain injuries.
Whether it's a "defect" or not, our speculation is that the psychopathic personality is an inherited trait (although this would certainly be controversial among psychologists, many of whom would argue that it can be a result of traumatic childhood experiences or brain injuries.)
From our perspective on the literature, it seems reasonable to speculate that it may be only a matter of time before scientists isolate the particular genes that are involved in creating a pre-disposition towards the psychopathic syndrome.
A paper by Harris, Rice & Quinsey (1994) argues that psychopathy is a "taxon" -- that is, a discrete subclass, more or less as distinctive as male vs. female, or cat vs. dog. This is based on a statistical analysis of a population of subjects with their scores for psychopathy. The distribution of scores is strongly bimodal, indicating a lack of "shades of gray" for the psychopathic personality syndrome. This is a strikingly unusual result in personality research, which usually finds a continuous range of variability in personality traits. While a five-factor personality model (introversion/extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness) is often considered sufficient to describe the normal range of personality, the psychopathic personality is very difficult to represent within this space (see Miller et al., 2001), exhibiting highly differentiated sub-traits within the major personality dimensions (where we would normally expect to find correlated sub-traits.)
The unusual pattern of sub-traits is, in our view, another basis for believing that psychopathy represents a distinct genetic syndrome.
A review article "the sociobiology of sociopathy an integrated evolutionary model"(Mealey, 1995) treats "primary sociopathy" more or less as a synonym for Cleckley/Hare psychopathy, and argues that it's an evolutionary adaptation -- that enables a percentage of the population to fill the ecological niche for cheaters and scam artists.
Along these lines, Kent Bailey(1995) argues that psychopaths should be called "warrior hawks", and that a healthy contingent of them would be necessary for the survival of any primitive band, faced with the need to survive in violent competition with neighboring tribes. "Warrior Hawks" is perhaps a kinder, less judgmental euphemism for the phenomenon. But on the other hand, it might be unfair to those who might favor warfare in some specific set of external circumstances. "All warrior hawks are psychopaths"? Dramatic, but probably not strictly accurate. (Some warrior hawks might only appear to be psychopaths.)
A related issue is the extent to which "normal" individuals can adopt the behavior patterns of psychopaths. The ideals of empathy, social cooperation and altruism have been supported by a wide variety of philosophical, ethical and spiritual arguments over the years. More importantly, they may also be backed by millions of years of evolution, as many species have adopted cooperative modes of behavior for survival. A revulsion for excessive wanton cruelty may be literally instinctive for most human beings.
Nevertheless, any evolutionary tendency towards kindness, empathy and cooperation can apparently be overcome in certain circumstances -- for example, when the government issues a call to war, and tells the people that the enemy must be killed as a matter of the society's own survival.
The psychopaths have developed an extraordinarily powerful camouflage mechanism. When it fits their purposes, they are glib, friendly and easy-going, devoid of the petty anxieties that trouble most of us and cast a pall over day-to-day interactions. They are the very embodiment of charisma and chutzpah. In this way, they stay hidden and undetected by their victims until a trap is sprung.
Precisely because most human beings have an instinctive internalized sense of fair play and altruism, they are incapable of seeing when another human being does not share these attributes. We simply do not believe that such evil could exist -- and when we do undeniably encounter it, we may be tempted to ascribe it to supernatural causes, invoking the Devil himself. It is particularly stunning and incredible to contemplate that a powerful and reputable person, a company president or a Senator, or the Ruler of our Country, could possibly be a true psychopath, a man devoid of conscience.
Yet we maintain that this is quite frequently the case, from the beginning of history down to the present day.
Psychopaths and Political Power
Sometimes (and seldom more than today) it seems impossible to escape the conclusion that the whole world is going insane with war and preparation for war. However, the situation is merely a manifestation of a psychopathic tendency in politics, a sinister undercurrent which is always present and sometimes erupts into ugly prominence.
In order to explain how this has happened, we will take the liberty of expressing a theory in terms of primitive, pre-historical culture. (Ever since Rousseau invented the concepts of the "noble savage" living in the "state of nature", philosophers have appealed to pre-history in support of their frameworks, and scientists have criticized those models as little better than fables. Keeping this criticism in mind, we offer this historical just-so story as a model, but not as a proof.)
A pre-history of psychopathy
Primitive man lived in small tribes of perhaps a hundred people or so. Within these tribes, all the basic functions of government and religion had to be filled--educating the young, taking care of the old, making plans for hunting and gathering, providing an ethical system and a knowledge base for dealing with the world, and interacting with other tribes. To fill these functions, we might imagine that hierarchies would naturally emerge, based on strength, skill and intellect.
In this intimate environment, an unintelligent psychopath who actualized a criminal desire to kill or steal from his fellow tribesmen, would obviously be maladaptive as well as easily detected. However, a more clever individual with the psychopathic personality syndrome could find himself in an advantaged position in a tribal society.
With respect to a neighboring tribe -- a well-timed lie about their intentions, or false allegations of evil actions on their part, could inflame the passions of the psychopath's own tribe. This would have tremendous advantages in terms of the outcome of prehistoric warfare -- the ability to carry out an attack with surprise at a time of one's own choosing. A psychopath could satisfy his blood-lust, and emerge as a hero of his tribe as well -- while a non-psychopathic leader would spend time pondering the pain and suffering of the neighboring tribe, as well as the risks to his own people.
With respect to one's own tribesmen -- clever, well-spun and glib lies about Nature or "The Gods" could help fellow tribesmen achieve a (quite likely false) sense of assurance and confidence about the world and their place in it, while more honest individuals would simply scratch their heads at the mystery of it all. As long as the lies are not caught (and religious ideas are often framed in terms which are not subject to verification) the psychopath can earn the respect of his tribe, and probably extra benefits in terms of a greater share of the wealth of the tribe, and better access to women.
As society became more complex, the psychopath's psychological edge may have become more significant. To the extent that psychopathy and intelligence are both hereditary, those advantages would have compounded the sociological advantages of better education and greater wealth that would naturally have accrued to the children of the leading lights of the tribe.
Psychopathy at the dawn of history
With the development of writing, the elite class would multiply their advantage over the commoners, because these highly specialized skills could be used to create an aura of mystery as well as a body of tremendously useful proto-scientific knowledge. Of course, not all members of the elite would be likely to be psychopathic by any means -- on the contrary, we would expect that accidents of birth, the distribution of skills within the broader society, and the advantages of conscientiousness and honesty, would be a constant balancing force. However, the activities of the psychopathic element would put a continuously insane "edge" on the acceptable range of elite conversation, and more often than not, non-psychopaths would find it much to their advantage to play along with the lies of the psychopaths (even when they were able to understand the fraudulent nature of those lies.)
By the time of earliest written history, we would argue that the psychopaths must have been pretty firmly in control of the emerging civilizations. We find that hordes of slaves were enlisted to build gigantic stone temples for the benefit of rulers who were seen as Gods Incarnate, while fear of the Gods (and rulers) was sometimes maintained through human sacrifice at the altar of those same gigantic temples. And this was in the stable, civilized part of the world -- which was wracked from time to time by invading hordes of roving barbarians who sometimes left none alive of the vanquished. The hatred of human sacrifice was a major part of the dialectic by which Rome conquered the ancient world.
The strategy and tactics of class struggle
As Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto --
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”
Yet Marx was quite incorrect in viewing Capital as the fundamental underlying nature of this struggle. Many other factors are just as important, if not more so. Capitalism had not even been invented when the process of Class Struggle was firmly entrenched in human society. We argue that history should more precisely be viewed as a struggle of Truth and Common Sense to emerge against the ongoing efforts of psychopathic elements within the elite classes, who promote chaos and insanity for their own benefit.
A list of the ever-evolving tactics of the psychopathic elite classes would certainly include the following --
(1) Capitalist economics. Wealth obtained by the elite through conquest or theft, or inheritance, or monopolistic practices, or government-granted privilege, is treated equivalently to wealth generated by hard work or trade or innovation. In this way, the elite co-opts the support of the productive middle class.
(2) Socialist economics. The elite captures a large percentage of the total income of society through taxation (as in most modern nations). This is done ostensibly for the benefit of the common people at large, but most of the resources are appropriated for elite purposes, while only a relatively small trickle is used for "bread and circuses" to maintain support from the lower and middle classes.
(3) Feudal, fascist or communist economics. The common people are more or less owned by the elites as slaves, who are alternatively terrorized and cajoled into compliance. This system occurs when the elite is able to cause the breakdown of capitalist or socialist economic system.
(4) Democratic political systems. All politicians come from the elite classes or serve the interests of elite classes, while the people have the illusion of determining outcomes for their benefit.
(5) Authoritarian political systems. Royal or dictatorial power is used to direct as much as possible of all social resources towards elite goals. The system may be justified on patriotic, ideological or religious grounds. Typically associated with feudal or fascist economic systems.
(6) Popular religions. Often created and always manipulated by psychopathic lies from the priesthood, popular religions exploit natural human spirituality to promote the goals of the elite. Typically, individuals are encouraged to behave honestly and altruistically on behalf of elite goals (in contrast to the elites themselves, who routinely rely on deceit and treachery.) Religion may also be used to promote war and ethnic hatred, when this is required by elite strategies.
(7) Conspiracy. Elite individuals may choose to cooperate secretly with other elite individuals in other institutions or nations, to achieve mutual goals. Since elites do not necessarily share the religious and ethnic prejudices of their citizens or subjects, these conspiratorial alignments may often seem paradoxical or impossible when viewed in terms of conventional (national or institutional) paradigms. They make sense only in terms of the universal class struggle transcending national or institutional boundaries.
(8) War and conquest. Elites in aggressor societies use their power and deceitfulness to incite the population to make war. War creates anxiety, and allows the upper classes to appropriate more resources to defeat the enemy. For the losing side in war, the population at large may suffer complete defeat (and death or slavery) but the losing elite typically emerges in quisling status -- reduced but far from impotent. Sometimes a militarily strong but culturally inept nation or tribe invades and conquers another, only to find themselves ruled in short order by the elite classes of the conquered.
A particularly astounding example of the creation of war by elite banking interests is the extraordinary level of funding of both Hitler and Stalin in the build-up to World War II, as documented in Antony Sutton's books "Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler" (1976) and "National Suicide, Military Aid to the Soviet Union" (1973). These interests were obviously more important that Hitler in creating World War II, yet they went unpunished and indeed invisible at the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunals, and they are leading the charge to war today as well.
(9) Revolution and submergence. If the lower classes make troublesome demands, the elite may stage or permit a revolution which promises a major overhaul in the social structure. Following the revolution, the same old elite class emerges in control of the new institutional framework.
(10) Economic and social chaos. Elites may intentionally create or exacerbate economic boom-bust cycles, instigate ethnic conflict, or intentionally sabotage the productive capacities of a society, in order to increase the relative power and status of government and corporate institutions.
ON THE LOST COAST, A LAWLESS CALIF. STATE PARK HAS BEEN OVERTAKEN BY OFF-ROADING, FIREWORKS, RAVES
by Ashley Harrell
I had been warned: Usal Beach Campground is basically lawless.
On the super-remote southern end of the Lost Coast, the campground in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park — about a four-hour drive north of San Francisco — is only accessible through a steep, one-lane dirt road. The place is popular with weekend warriors who arrive in expensive 4x4s, recent visitors said, and proceed to build bonfires, set off fireworks, throw multi-day raves, off-road recklessly and camp on the beach — all of which are illegal.
To find out just how crazy things had gotten during the pandemic, I set out with my partner and dog to spend a weekend at Usal Beach. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was getting into on that foggy August afternoon as I turned onto Usal Road. Within minutes, a Jeep Wrangler rounded a corner and sped toward me, swerved and slammed into the side of my Kia Niro, detaching part of the bumper. This is bad, I thought.
There is a long history of misbehavior, along with noteworthy periods of relative calm, at this remote outpost within California’s most pristine coastal wilderness. Because the terrain is so rough, Highway 1 builders bypassed the Lost Coast, and developers largely ignored it. As a result, much of the untouched region draws hardcore hikers from across the world for ambitious multi-day treks. In quieter times, families, tribe members and fishermen considered Usal Beach their spiritual home.
In speaking with locals, campers, camp hosts, a California State Parks spokesperson and a former ranger, it became clear that California State Parks’ staffing shortages had created serious problems. The agency is aware of the situation and working towards bringing this rogue campsite back under control. But what will it take?
“In the park service, it was what we call a ‘free-for-all,’” says John Jennings, a retired ranger and the first person to ever patrol at Usal Beach. He still lives near Sinkyone Wilderness, volunteering for outdoor nonprofit groups and as a camp host and leading hikes in the park. He’s seen it all out there, starting in 1986, when Usal Beach was added to the state park.
Before that, “they had allowed basically unrestricted free camping there for many, many years,” he says.
By they, he means the logging company Georgia-Pacific Lumber Corporation. Environmentalists sued it in the 1980s over its attempts to clear-cut what remained of the redwoods. Rather than fight, the company sold its 3,000 acres to the Trust for Public Land, which had secured funding from the Save the Redwoods League, the California State Coastal Conservancy and other donors. Usal Beach came with the purchase, along with its reputation for disorderliness.
It hadn’t always been this way, of course. The park is named for the Sinkyone people, who for thousands of years lived here in villages, hunted and foraged in the hills and fished in the streams and sea. In the mid-1800s, European settlers displaced them, and soon logging operations were underway. The timberland changed hands many times in the 1900s, and at one point, Usal Beach became a company town with a sawmill and a stagecoach hotel.
By the time Jennings began patrolling in the '80s, though, people believed they could do whatever they wanted out there. He regularly had to call for backup to enforce the new state park-imposed rules, which outlawed camping and driving on the beach, but backup didn’t always arrive in time. He declined to give specifics, but described those incidents as “colorful.”
Much like what’s happening now, though, visitors were blowing off steam, off-roading recklessly in the sand, building illegal fires and failing to clean up after themselves, to the detriment of the sensitive habitat and at a risk to public safety. “You can't have people target shooting in campsite one and a family with little kids running in campsite two,” Jennings says. “The things do not mix.”
Eventually, a second seasonal ranger — who worked from June to September — was stationed nearby at what is now Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area. Though that ranger lived an hour’s drive away, he made the curvy 22-mile trip each day to help patrol the beach. “That’s what it takes,” said Jennings.
When Jennings retired in 2002, there were six rangers on staff who were dedicated to the South Eel River Sector of the North Coast Redwoods District, he says. With enough staffing, Jennings and the other rangers were able to manage Usal Beach. There were 15 or 20 established campsites, he says, each with a picnic table and a fire ring, along with a half-dozen composting toilets.
“It was not party central or the Wild Wild West,” he says. “It was more like a family campground and a backpacking trailhead.” But even in those days, there were issues. There were large driftwood logs — de facto barriers — lining the road, but some visitors to Usal still drove onto the beach illegally, Jennings remembers. “The rangers would catch up with those people sooner or later and give them a ticket,” he says.
Mainly, though, visitors came to see the Roosevelt elk, which hung out on the beach in large numbers. They came to fish for surfperch along the shore. And they came to hike the Lost Coast Trail and the old-growth redwoods that had managed to remain standing.
These days, there are three rangers covering the seven parks within the sector. These include places like Richardson Grove State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which is nearly a two-hour drive from Usal Beach. The reason there aren't more rangers, according to California State Parks spokesperson Adeline Yee, is due to difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees in remote areas of Mendocino and Humboldt counties.
Lately, those areas are becoming more attractive to visitors from places like the Bay Area, according to Sinkyone Wilderness camp hosts. And they come with shiny new SUVs, rooftop tents and expensive sound systems. Some visitors throw large, unauthorized events and camp in large numbers on the beach, which can lead to sanitation issues and fire hazards.
“People put sand on their fires to try to put them out, but they can stay hot for days and days, and you can accidentally step in them and get terrible burns, especially kids,” Jennings says. “This is especially true down on a sandy beach where there might not even be a fire ring; they just make a little depression in the sand and have a huge bonfire.”
People are also driving recklessly on the beach. “On our last trip there were people driving near people at high speeds,” Instagram user sir.campalot said in a message to SFGATE. “Doing donuts and kicking up a ton of dust. Very inconsiderate.”
Back on Usal Road, 10 minutes into my camping trip, I was nervous about meeting a member of this crowd who had just slammed into my car. But as soon as the man got out of his Jeep, he apologized, offering his ID and insurance card and helping me secure my bumper with zip-ties to prevent it from dragging.
The trunk wouldn’t fully close, but the trip could continue.
I drove slowly — very slowly — through the hills, gripping the steering wheel and honking as I approached blind turns. When I finally arrived at the sign for the Peter Douglas Trail, a short hike up a slope to the park’s famous candelabra-shaped trees, it was a relief.
Bombarded by salty air and coastal winds, these ancient redwoods and Douglas firs sprouted branches with multiple bent trunks, rendering them useless to loggers. Some are more than 500 years old.
At the top of the trail, I got my first glimpse of Usal Beach. Dozens of tents and vehicles had already arrived for the weekend. Continuing on the trail, we reached a dry creek bed where thousands of salmon once thrived in the clear water that ran down through the campsites below and out to the ocean.
When Usal Creek is flowing, though, all that off-roading on the beach and in the creek bed becomes a big problem, says Carla Thomas of the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretative Association, a partner organization that obtains grants and donations to fill funding gaps in the state park system. “The silt smothers the gills of coho salmon and other fish species, and they die,” she says. Driving on the beach also reduces the survival of surfperch eggs for the next season, she adds.
Thomas tries to remain positive, emphasizing that a new camp host program is under consideration, and that many people who care about the place are trying to maintain it. “Regular visitors volunteer to remove trash, clean outhouses and encourage safer behavior among visitors,” she says.
Although she agrees with Jennings about how the problems at Usal stem from staffing shortages after the 2008 recession, she also notes that North Coast Redwoods District Superintendent Victor Bjelajac has helped the park obtain more infrastructure and personnel resources.
California State Parks budget for permanent staff in the South Eel River Sector is $395,708 for the current fiscal year, according to Yee, which is a slight improvement over last year’s $364,090.72. But for the fiscal year 2007-2008, the district spent about $849,000 on permanent and seasonal staff in the sector. Last year there was $95,000 for season staff, Yee added, and this year that figure is still being finalized. There are plans to hire additional officers in the North Coast Redwoods District, she says, and to add regulatory and interpretive signs and re-establish 22 campsites, pending the approval of funds.
Like many state parks, Usal saw increased visitation during the pandemic, Yee says, and warnings and citations were given to visitors who broke laws. In 2021, five citations were issued: one for an unregistered vehicle, one for allowing riding on a vehicle and three violations involving passengers in the back of pickups. In 2020, there were 14 citations, most notably two DUIs, resisting arrest, three unregistered vehicles, two suspended licenses and a single violation for driving/parking on the beach.
During popular visitation times like the Fourth of July weekend, patrols are stepped up, Yee says, and when necessary, law enforcement agencies and rangers from other districts can also respond. In addition, the agency has been combing social media for illegal activities planned for Usal Beach.
Although Yee says that state parks peace officers “regularly patrol Usal Beach,” what I had seen so far — and certainly the remainder of my overnight trip — suggested otherwise.
When we arrived at the campground, which was tucked into a forested area set back from the beach, a single campsite had recently been vacated. We’d gotten lucky, as there are no reservations at Usal and no fees. According to Jennings, there is an unfortunate reason for this.
Back in his ranger days, the campground at Usal Beach had what is called an iron ranger — a money box for collecting campers’ information and fees. “But at this point, nobody’s paying,” he says. “The iron ranger has been jerked out with a four-wheel drive and it doesn’t exist anymore.”
The state park system doesn’t have the wherewithal to put another one up, Jennings says, because it’s likely someone will steal it again. “You're dealing with a pretty hard-core group and it will take a tremendous effort to get it back in order,” he says.
Pulling into our campsite, we noticed that previous occupants had left a couple of large bags of garbage in the brush. Meanwhile, a couple of ATVs (which aren’t allowed) and trucks filled with firewood (also not allowed) cruised by. The campsite beside ours allowed their unleashed (not allowed) pit bull to run over, so I quickly shoved my skinny mutt back into the car. At another campsite, an American flag had been raised and a large fire was blazing (not allowed).
On the way to the beach, we stopped off at one of the toilets and discovered a sign inside: “Our septic pumping system is out of service for an extended time during repairs due to trash down the hole,” it read. “… We apologize and are very sorry for the situation.”
On the beach, there were families flying kites and fishing together. Young men who claimed they were part of a group that off-roads in cheap old cars and picks up trash were driving all over the beach in Subaru Foresters. One car got stuck, requiring several men to dig it out and push.
Meanwhile, a nearby camp was filling sandbags for an event stage, to be used at a later date. According to Instagram user Venus Quan, who had posted a recent photo of Usal’s candelabra trees, these sorts of beach raves and dancing are to be expected, as “there’s definitely a party vibe.”
“A DJ came out with all his equipment and was spinning all night, I think until around 3 a.m.,” she wrote in a message to SFGATE.
After we returned to our campsite, loud music and the sounds of (illegal) fireworks — or possibly gunshots — went on for hours into the night. I got about two hours of sleep.
The next morning, the campground was dead quiet as we loaded our belongings — along with other peoples’ trash — into our car. On our way out, we passed a deer and a fawn nibbling on dust-covered foliage. Despite the way people were treating Usal, not all had been lost, I thought. The place was still beautiful. And everyone we met certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves.
In speaking with visitors the previous day, a few expressed hope — others, fear — that the “free-for-all” scenario at Usal was unlikely to last. One fisherman told me he had been coming out for decades, but recently, because of reckless driving, he is nervous about bringing his children.
Eventually, someone’s going to get killed out here, he said, and they’re going to shut it down.
In fact, there has already been one death at Usal Beach, back in 2002, several years before the staffing shortages began. Still, the shrine to 18-year-old Katherine Rose Martinez, perched near the entrance to the beach and composed of beer cans, a wooden cross, a Buddha statue, a broken clock and other miscellaneous items, feels eerily germane.
“Katherine accidentally fell out of the back of a pick-up and was killed while partying with a lot of young friends and relatives near this location,” a placard reads. “… In her memory, we’re asking that you be very careful here, so nothing tragic ever happens again at this beach. Drive slowly and please assist anyone who needs your help. Have fun.”