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STRONG HIGH PRESSURE over the Pacific Northwest will promote offshore winds across mountain ridges this morning, followed by passing high clouds and dry weather until Thursday afternoon as the next low pressure system approaches. Light rainfall is expected late Thursday followed by some lingering showers into Friday. (NWS)
MOUNTAIN LION ATTACKS AVHS GOATS
I hope you are on alert for mountain lions. We had 2 goats killed and had one injured at the school farm over night. There have been lots of livestock attacks in the valley recently. Pay attention!
Espero que esté alerta a los pumas. Mataron 2 cabras y una se lesionó en la granja de la escuela durante la noche. Recientemente ha habido muchos ataques de ganado en el valle. ¡Presta atenci
— Beth Swelha
HEALDSBURG MUSEUM EXHIBIT on Dry Creek Indians
A reader writes: “A great exhibit, not to be missed.”
FORT BRAGG HOLIDAY LIGHTS PARADE VOLUNTEERS - December 4, 2021
The Fort Bragg Police Department is looking for volunteers to assist with traffic control during the upcoming Holiday Lights Parade programed for December 4, 2021. This is a great opportunity to get to know your local police department, but also have the ability to assist this community in being able to watch the spectacular parade! Volunteers will assist as safety officers at crosswalks and assist with road closures. If you are wishing to volunteer please contact Acting Sergeant Anthony Welter at 707-961-2800 ext. 168 or at email@example.com .
Questions regarding this press release may be forwarded to Acting Sergeant Anthony Welter at 707-961-2800 ext. 168 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VAX US, PLEASE
I am writing in the hopes of catching the attention of the Public Health Department or maybe just some of the general public who could then inform them that inmates here at the Mendocio County Jail are once again waiting on Covid vaccines.
When I first arrived here over three months ago I submitted a request to receive the first shot. I waited seven weeks to actually receive it, during which time there were several small outbreaks of covid here at the facility.
I’m in the “at risk” category and once again I’m sitting here waiting two weeks now past the due date for the second shot.
With cases starting to increase again you would expect them to be on hand, but I just keep being told, “We’re waiting for them from Public Health and there’s nothing we can do.”
With the seriousness and extended length of this pandemic you would think that there would be better coordination between these two local agencies. I know there are inmates here who have been waiting for over two months for their first vaccine shot and many more are waiting for their second.
Just another frustrated unvaccinated inmate!
WILLITS’ ARSENIC-WATER QUESTION UPDATE
by Zack Cinek
Friday, Nov. 11, 2021
Arsenic? Willits just said “no.”
City Hall eliminated it’s water project from the meeting agenda Wednesday–a project that would have allowed arsenic into the Willits water supply.
The city’s project aimed to connect an arsenic contaminated well, the Long-20 well, into the city’s groundwater system on the valley floor.
Long-20 will be removed from a news scaled-back project, City Manager Brian Bender said at the beginning of the council meeting. Bender acknowledged public concerns and resistance.
Willits’ water system has two reservoirs south of city limits and a water treatment plant that serves the reservoirs.
Willits delivered a monthly average of about 19.8 million gallons from 2016 to 2020, the city stated.
The question of arsenic came from further developing a separate water supply, the city’s groundwater system, situated on the floor of Little Lake Valley.
A super dry winter in 2014-’15 led to a true emergency before rain came. The city’s reservoirs dwindled and the city needed to act fast and engineer a back-up water supply.
A well named Elias Well connected to water treatment equipment was the result of those efforts.
What began as an emergency project was no longer classified as an emergency water project.
Water regulators accepted the former emergency project with one well as a regular supply of drinking water in 2017, the city stated.
The arsenic question came from further development of the project. A project that sought to connect a second well, the Long-20 well, into the system.
Test results obtained from the city showed samples of water from Long-20 with arsenic detected at levels of 210 ug/l, 16 ug/l and 27 ug/l in samples labeled Zone 1, 2 and 3.
The City’s environmental documents (Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration) made clear that the project beckoned in water from the arsenic-positive Long-20 well.
Drinking water standards from the state and the Environmental Protection Agency do regulate arsenic levels.
The law permits drinking water to contain up to 10 part-per-billion of arsenic and the project would have met that standard, the study stated.
It was explained in the study that arsenic levels in the treated water would not have been known until the city conducted tests on Long-20 water from the water treatment plant.
Consulting firm LACO Associates wrote the city’s environmental documents for this project. The documents state that the groundwater system is for what the reservoirs cannot provide.
You may wonder, since it is no longer an emergency project, how are decisions going to be made to turn the system on or off with or without the arsenic well.
The document for the project was in a period of public review last month.
Letters were submitted to the city last month when the environmental documents were up for public review. Opposition goes beyond the arsenic question.
Environmentalist David Drell, Mendocino County Farm Bureau, attorney Chris Neary (as himself) and an Arcata attorney representing unnamed parties filed correspondence with the city that raised other questions, too.
Those comments cast allegations towards the city about compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act or harm that the groundwater system could do to the aquifer and other private wells on nearby farmland.
During the council meeting, the city’s Bender said he expected the project to return in early 2022.
Zack Cinek/NEWSBOY can be reached at (707) 613-0369 or email@example.com.
MIKE KALANTARIAN NOTES: "I was looking for a photo to go with your piece about former Fort Bragg High School QB Kaylor Sullivan in Ed Notes, and it seems like he was given an offer to Adams State (in 2019) but ended up at Midwestern State (Texas) that year, where he got in a few games. And that is where the trail with him went cold. Maybe someone will update us..."
AS A FAITHFUL but not careful reader of the MCN chatline, some time ago I began to look forward to the unfailingly smart posts from Marie Tobias and Carol Mattesich. Of the two, Ms. Tobias seems more broadly focused, discussing everything from alternate power sources to gentle attempts to get the regulars to tone down their endlessly abusive denunciations of each other. Ms. Mattesich usually confines herself to left wing analyses of current events, which I invariably agree with. (She's smarter and more pertinent than most of the writers on Counterpunch.)
BUT are they the same person? Not that I'm capable of reliably discerning the difference in prose styles, but my textual investigations suggest, to me anyway, that Marie and Carol just might be the same person or, and this is really farfetched, maybe both are the creation of the brilliant Eleanor Cooney pulling off the first locally-based literary hoax since Wanda Tinasky!
I WAS WRONG about Wanda Tinasky, too. At book length. If a guy's gotta be wrong, do it big, I say. I thought Wanda was the elusive Thomas Pynchon because the Wanda character went to professional forger-lengths to not only mimic Pynchon's style but wrote on a typewriter of the same type and vintage as Pynchon's. He also signed off with a signature resembling Pynchon's.
SOME PEOPLE close to that case still think the Wanda letters were the work of Pynchon, who lived on the Northcoast while he wrote Vineland. I thought Wanda/Pynchon, like lots of us, saw Mendo particularly as a target-rich environment given this area's literary-artistic-intellectual pretensions.
BUT ALONG CAME Don Foster, a well-known literary scholar with a specialty in ferreting out true authorship. Foster identified Hawkins as Wanda, helped along by letters and other documents, including a pile of ava's, recovered from the Hawkins' Trillum Lane home.
SO WANDA turned out to be an erudite old beatnik named Tom Hawkins, who was well known in the early beat Frisco literary circle that included Gary Snyder and L. Ferlinghetti. Hawkins and Mrs. Kathleen Hawkins, the latter a gifted potter, had left the city for the home on Trillum Lane outside Fort Bragg.
HAWKINS' hilarious critiques of Mendo's incestuous literary scene were published as Wanda Tinasky. Wanda's adopted persona was that of a bag lady who lived under the Pudding Creek Bridge from where she commented on local personalities and events. The Wanda letters first appeared in the long gone Commentary, later Marco Maclean's Memo. The Wanda letters got him/her banned from that publication, but she/he was of course welcomed by the ava where the Wanda letters were much admired and enjoyed.
THE WANDA interlude didn't end well for Hawkins. He bludgeoned his wife Kathleen to death in their Trillum Lane home, mourned over her remains for several days, set the house on fire, then drove himself into the sea north of town. In one of his last letters as Wanda, which were always lighthearted and very, very funny, Hawkins/Wanda said he was going to “a very cold place,” how cold nobody could have known.
REGRETS, yes, I have a few, as the song goes, one of them being turning the Tinasky project over to a perpetually aggrieved battleaxe calling herself TR Factor, a story in itself but, short form, who thought her commentary was just as interesting as the Wanda letters, the result being a book that would have been much livelier and much more interesting if Fred Gardner had done it. The Factor version, btw, last time I looked on Amazon, was going for upwards of fifty bucks.
ADDENDUM: Here's Ms. Mattessich writing to Ms. Tobias on MCN. I have to wonder if she's writing to her other self.
”Marie: There is so much to unpack here, I don't know where to begin. I believe in civility also, by the way. I've been on three lists: Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Eco-socialism, and 15 years off and on the Mendocino List. NONE of them have been civil. We don't live in a civil society or world. There did seem to be more of an appetite for discussing ideas in the past. Today everything is all about ME.
For myself, perhaps the only good thing about the internet is that it gives a platform to the real Left which throughout my long life has been demonized and silenced, cancelled, if you will. We can focus on our individual narratives where we are all victims and heroes, or we can discuss ideas about the world we share. We should be able to keep our eggoes out of the discussion. Unfortunately, that's not always the case because we are identified with our ideologies.
As a Leftist, I believe that we all share a common enemy, capitalism, and I privilege doing "psychoanalysis" on the ideology that has defined the human and the world in its terms, in other words I like examining the pathology of the norm and consensus "reality." I draw on a lot of superb thinkers who inhabit the internet. So does Zeke [an annoying MCN troll], and that's what we have in common. I also admire the way he has managed to thrive under conditions that would destroy most of us -- and cut him some slack because of that.
Ideology operates through the unconscious, and we can only be free of it through examination and re-evaluation. So when you say, we can merely dispense with ideology, I have to disagree.
The Leftist anti-capitalist, anti-dominance hierarchy perspective is necessarily antagonistic to those who think that capitalism is natural and the best of all possible worlds (conservative thinkers.)
Those of us who live in the belly of the beast and profit from its worldwide cruelty should at least be conscious of our own hypocrisy and complicity in creating a world of disposable people. Delivering comforting bromides to one another about how great we are is not honest or enlightening.
Thinkers better than you and me have noted that the world is headed in the direction of fascism, by way of oligarchies -- so it is not surprising that some of us would reflect that in our thinking -- and pointing it out is not out of line. This is Mike Sears second go round on this list, and he hasn't changed a bit, except for adding baby peons and progressives to his list of scapegoats.
To turn us around, I think we need a re-vitalized, re-visioned left in theory and in practice. Even to have a Center, we will need a Left.
All of this gets us nowhere unless more people weigh in. Why the silence? I will continue sending Leftist perspectives from time to time that I consider worthy of consideration, and anyone can delete.
I wish all of us a better world. We deserve it, if we can imagine and create it.
AND MARIE WROTE BACK TO CAROL....
“Carol, First and foremost, thank you for this thoughtful and clearly personal reply. It is indeed a difficult time, and fraught with gross self righteousness, an ends justify the means mentality, and a grotesque level of self serving personal interest (to the utter destruction of all else.)
I think the problems we face are more than simply an addiction to Egotism, though I can't argue that it is indeed a prominent symptom of the condition. The last thing I want to do is write another dissertation on the the failure of our system, or those who profit from the failure of our system, and who by and large have been behind the engineering and implementation of that failure (you only have to read the works of the Heritage Foundation and the Koch Brothers and their far reaching social engineering organizations to get some idea of what has been happening in the background of our society for the last 40 years.) And contrary to Zeke's concern of creeping Fascism (and you don't have to scrape very deep into American Banking to see those in the US who were in no small way complicit in that atrocity during the 1930s and 40s), but I think the single most dangerous ethos shaping modern thinking can be easily drawn straight back to Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. And it does indeed embody that ineffable "Me-ness" of which you speak.
I think a Religious Fanaticism, have you seen the Netflix Documentary on; The Family: https://youtu.be/7knN2TXQPzw
Combine this kind of absolute self righteousness with Objectivism, and you have something that chills me to the bone. The most discouraging change is the loss of true heroes. Joseph Campbell, author of the "Power of Myth" makes the point that a society needs its stories, its heroes, tangible points of light upon which to locate and navigate the seas of being human. We no longer respect wisdom, grace, deep intelligence and vision, statesmanship, compromise, or collaboration. A generation or two of people bred on "First Person Shooters" treasure a quick trigger finger and aggressive use of large blunt instruments. Add to that a slow disintegration of social development, and we're left with people who troll for entertainment and shoot at one another for the sport. You don't have to look any further than the number of people who've recently been pitched off planes and face jail time for antisocial behavior.
Humanity is evolving fast, and not for the better, because we hadn't even given a serious thought of how our inventions would change us and the most fundamental level. 35% of young people are now born without wisdom teeth, the species does not need to chew processed food. If this is happening because our machines do the chewing for us, what's happening to our brains and minds as our machines do the jobs we used to do. Has anyone even considered how we are making ourselves into attachments to our machines?
I cut Zeke a huge amount of slack. I've grown up with Gay men, who I love with all my heart, and I'm old enough to know what hells they went through, and the marks it left upon their souls. I cut Mike slack, precisely because he has no idea what it's like to be different and hunted and beaten for simply not fitting in. He comes from a line of self-sufficient men who "Walk it Off" when somebody blows an arm off with a high powered rifle. Men like Mike don't bend... they break. So the real tragedy here is that these two men can't see one another, don't speak the same language, and have a sufficiently different life experience that common ground is near impossible to find. They can't even begin to find how they are similar, and where they are in absolute agreement. They are too busy hating on one another to test the water to see if they might be wrong. That's a shame.
I don't believe the perfect human governing system has been invented yet, I like aspects of many systems. I like the self regulating function of Capitalism. Sadly, like Communism, left to its own devices, power and wealth concentrates and all hell breaks loose and people die horribly. Socialism has a lot going for it, but it lacks the ability to inspire greatness, or reward the exceptional for their services. There is always a tenuous dance between the benefit to the one, each and every one of us and in exchange to the commons. How much liberty for one can we have before we begin to indulge in tyranny upon the masses? I've always thought a Capitalism, that replaced monetary worth for social good, as its measure of profit, might prove a more workable system. How you would build a currency that was based on social good might be interesting.
Capitalism is as it exists, only because it is an extension of the mercantilism that was drawn from feudalism. It is inherently grounded in survival, personal gain at the expense of others, violence, and domination. We're not at all limited by those constraints and could imagine all manner of profit both spiritual and social, that might transform Capitalism into a completely different beast altogether. I tend to believe we'll come up with an AI tasked with the job of fairly distributing wealth and well being, giving it strict goals for promoting human growth and development. That's a different conversation though, isn't it.
Being conscious of human foibles, doesn't mean assuming guilt or beating one's breast over them. It demands being responsible for our baser instincts and having the moral commitment to choose a path that serves life and the living. Right and Wrong are purely invented states, nature doesn't engage in judgement. But we can certainly see if our actions forward the purpose of life, and honor the living. I speak to the forces we need to empower, because we don't empower them nearly enough. There's a story about a man with two dogs, one good and one evil. The question being "Which dog wins", the answer being the one the man feeds. I try with all my heart to feed the Good Dog. That doesn't mean I'm unaware of the bad.
Listening to Andrew Sullivan this weekend, his comment about the Soul of Conservatism" being the preservation of what is. Protecting the things of worth and beauty and being aware of the fragility of life and the world we live in. I like that idea very much. I can balance that with a need to embrace change and boldly invent a better future for all people. If we can keep two ideas in our heads at the same time preserving that which is best in us, while building on that to fix what is broken, and promote the better angels in all our natures, I expect we'll all be more able to work together. It's time for us to be citizens again, and not hostile combatants.”
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 16, 2021
JOSEPH ANDERSEN, Ukiah. Burglary, burglary tools, county parole violation, resisting.
MICHAEL BLAHUT, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
DANIEL COSTA, Fort Bragg. DUI.
ERIC FRANK JR., Willits. Domestic battery, cruelty to child with possible injury or death, disorderly conduct-alcohol.
KATRINA HILL, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, unemployment insurance fraud, conspiracy, perjury.
LAUREN MALUGANI, Ukiah. Domestic battery, resisting.
DAVID MONTHEI JR., Ukiah. “Store camp parah,” parole violation.
MICHAEL PARKER, Ukiah. County parole violation, failure to appear.
KALINA TEMPLE, Hopland. Domestic abuse.
IF THE DEMS HAVE ANY HOPE of retaining a semblance of relevancy in the 2022 elections, they’ll need to stop the psychobabble about race, gender, name changes, defunding the police and climate change. I lean toward the Progressive wing of the party so I’m not implying that those things aren’t worthwhile, but right now most folks don’t give a shit about any of them or what the state of the world will be in 2075. They care about $5.00/gallon gas and $100 for a bag of groceries. The focus needs to be on runaway inflation and a serious bully-pulpit effort to stem it. Another round of stop-gap stimulus payments won’t do a thing, but implementing strict counter inflationary controls – on everything from energy, housing, food, health care, the list goes on – will get the public’s attention.
Robert Reich Stephen Rosenthal
by Arianne Shahvisi
“Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth” may sound like a boast, but it’s a simple statement of physics. With a sufficiently long lever, Archimedes could have amplified the force of his weight sufficiently to shift the planet. The lever was one of six simple machines – rudimentary objects that transform the size or direction of an applied force – that were widely used in antiquity. The other five were the pulley, the inclined plane, the wedge, the wheel and axle, and the screw.
The screw, whose miniature steel variety is now among the most numerous fabricated objects on earth, is a combination of two other simple machines. The helical threading on a screw’s shank is a wrapped inclined plane (like a helter skelter) which drives the wedge of its pointed tip. The simplest screws have slotted heads, which are easy to drive in by hand, but prone to slipping, especially when subject to the energetic rotations of electric screwdrivers. The Phillips screw drive was developed to overcome this risk: the crosshead screwdriver nestles snugly into the scalloped cruciform. But Phillips screws easily strip; poor technique, or an ill-fitting screwdriver tip, can shred the screw, giving off that sharp scent of filings and failure.
As with many connecting objects (TV aerials, USB ports) screw nomenclature is heteronormative: the screw itself is "male,” the object it penetrates "female." The inscriptions on screw heads are sites of power. Using atypical screw drives is a way to lock people out of the objects they seal. This makes it harder for us to repair things, and more likely to replace them.
In 2009 Apple started using pentalobe screws on the cases of their phones and laptops. Removing them required a specialist tool. (Inside the case, the company uses ordinary Phillips screws: they just don’t want anyone to get that far.) The flower-shaped screw heads are part of a broader strategy of planned obsolescence. Apple has faced a raft of class action lawsuits since admitting in 2017 that it programmed older phones to download updates that made them slower, driving people to replace them. It is also guilty of "part pairing’: linking components to their devices via serial numbers and digital registration, so that an error message shows if anyone other than an authorized Apple technician replaces a iPhone battery.
Far from an atypical scam, planned obsolescence is core to the logic of capitalism. If your product – or, worse, your competitor’s – meets people’s needs too completely, you’re out of business. Enduring markets require non-enduring products. The trick is at least a century old. In 1924, a group of lightbulb manufacturers established the Phoebus cartel. They collectively directed their engineers to reverse the advances that had led to long-lasting filaments, and shorten the lifespan of an average incandescent bulb from 2500 to 1000 hours.
As electronics fail faster, our waste is becoming ever more precious. There’s now three hundred times more gold in an iPhone than in the equivalent mass of gold ore. If you do manage to unscrew a smartphone and get into its glittering innards, you’re looking at a sampler of most of the non-radioactive elements in the universe. Among them are eight or so rare-earth elements: metals with specific magnetic, fluorescent and conductive properties. Some provide the vivid colours of displays; others make the phone vibrate.
Rare-earth elements are in fact prevalent in the earth’s crust, but highly dispersed, and therefore difficult to extract in bulk (dysprosium derives from the Greek dysprositos, "hard to get’). Their mining is ruinous to soil and water: isolating a tonne of rare earth metals creates two thousand tonnes of toxic waste. After we discard them, many of our electronic devices are shipped to waste dumps, often in West Africa, where they are melted down, spewing carcinogens into the air and earth. (Electronic waste did not feature on the agenda of the COP26 talks.)
In July, the UK government introduced new "right to repair" legislation. After a two-year grace period, manufacturers of dishwashers, fridges, washing machines and televisions will have to make spare parts available to consumers and professionals. Most appliances fail because a single component – a hinge, a pump, a filter – is broken, but entire machines are often scrapped, sending large volumes of useful materials to landfill. The new policy requires that simple repairs be possible using everyday tools – which means, among other things, no esoteric screw heads.
The idea of a right to fixable products wrests power away from corporations and towards the people whose needs their products are supposed to meet, and who must live in the world that is ravaged by their production and expiration. The legislation has serious shortcomings though. If manufacturers are required to sell replacement parts, that may incentivize part failure, to bloat the market for components and repair services. Without strict guarantees on the lifetimes of products, and price controls on components, the policy may be self-defeating: it may still be cheaper to buy a new, low-end appliance than to fix an existing one. The scope of the legislation is also limited. It doesn’t include phones, tablets or laptops, which are among the most short-lived devices.
Capitalism is often praised for driving growth, variety and innovation. Growth, measured through the dubious proxy of GDP, requires ever increasing energy use and resource extraction. Variety is a zero-sum game: you can have product diversity or biodiversity but you can’t have both. And the drive for innovation ignores the fact that people’s basic needs are unchanging and still mostly unmet. Our problem is not a lack of technology.
A lot of corporate innovation consists of creating new desires. The average smartphone replacement rate in the UK is two years. Some stop working, but most simply lose their appeal: they are perceived to be obsolete. The push for fixable products will achieve little as long as consumerism’s indoctrination wing is given a free pass.
The journalist Vance Packard sounded an early warning about planned obsolescence in 1960, in his book The Waste Makers. Sixty years on, with none of the lessons learned, it seems we are wasteful not only of serviceable goods but also of serviceable ideas. People "need not stand by helplessly and let their technology carry them willy-nilly in a direction that raises their apprehension,” Packard wrote:
"They can refuse to let technology dominate their lives. They can deliberately decentralise its organized manifestations. They can insist that non-economic factors as well as economic ones be weighed in setting their society’s course. One of the challenges they face is that of working out a tolerable relationship with their machines, a relationship that leaves the possibility for the human spirit to soar."
WILL CALIFORNIA’S PLAN FOR CLEARING HOMELESS CAMPS WORK?
by Manuela Tobias
The first time William Joseph Brown filled out a survey to try to get into permanent housing, he was living beside a highway. That was December 2019.
In late August this year, when California’s transportation agency cleared him from the same strip of land tucked behind the San Clemente off-ramp on the northbound Interstate 5, he still had nowhere to live.
Caltrans removed Brown and about 20 other campers due to the “immediate safety threat of fire,” as they were “using open flames to cook near dry vegetation,” a spokesperson told CalMatters.
The agency said six of those people were matched to permanent housing. Brown said he got a voucher for a hotel room for about a week, and then another, which recently expired.
But he’s still waiting on the permanent housing voucher he was promised two years ago. Brown said none of his friends exited homelessness since they were removed from the camp, either: “They’re just in a different place.”
“We were on the off-ramp because we were out of the way,” he said. “People don’t want to see homeless people. A lot of us were there because that was the last place to go.”
California is spending more than ever before on homelessness — $12 billion between 2021 and 2023 — which also means there’s more pressure to make an impact. The bulk of that money will go to creating more living spaces and providing mental health resources for people who are now on the streets.
But some of the money is being used by Caltrans in a ramped-up effort to move people like Brown off the state’s bustling freeways in the name of safety.
“We’ve got to deal with homelessness,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the 2021 California Economic Summit in Monterey on Nov. 9. “We’ve got to deal with cleaning the state, the streets, cleaning up our thoroughfares, our underpasses, our overpasses, removing graffiti, dealing with encampments.”
Reducing homelessness is top of mind for many voters. And it’s likely to be a big campaign issue in 2022, as it was for the Sept. 14 election on whether to recall Newsom.
But while it may be good politics to move homeless people out of visible public locations, experts say it’s just moving the problem somewhere else.
“Spending state money on harassing people who are struggling under the impacts of local, state and federal policy failures is counterproductive,” said Margot Kushel, director of the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco. “I would present the radical idea of taking the perspective of the people living there.”
There aren’t enough beds
The last time volunteers and local officials counted the number of people experiencing homelessness in California was on a January night in 2020. They came across more than 161,000 people, in and out of shelters. That is the largest number in the nation, but the tally is widely considered an underestimate, and it doesn’t take into account the economic devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic that started two months later.
About 36% of those people had been homeless for at least a year, which means the other two-thirds were newly homeless, according to federal data.
Meanwhile, cities and counties across California reported last year a little more than 53,000 beds in either an emergency shelter or transitional housing — or fewer than one bed for every three people. In some areas, the ratio is as high as five people per bed; no county has at least one full bed per person.
There are, however, some shelter beds — in churches for example — that aren’t counted in these official statistics because they don’t receive any money from the federal government.
A lot more beds became available in California during the pandemic in hotel and motel rooms leased or bought by the state at a record clip. Project Roomkey has provided temporary shelter to more than 48,000 people during the pandemic, and Project Homekey temporarily sheltered thousands more across 94 hotels that created about 6,000 permanent housing units.
Funding for the latter program was tripled in the most recent budget, from $846 million to $2.75 billion. Another $2.2 billion over the next three years will go to create behavioral health facilities.
In Los Angeles, officials found that between the loss in warehouse-style shelter capacity brought on by COVID safety measures, and the gain mostly in motel rooms made available by the state, total shelter capacity in the city didn’t vary significantly between 2020 and 2021.
But advocates say achieving a one-to-one ratio on shelter beds for people shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. Running shelters can be very expensive, and while it treats the problem temporarily, it can be a dead end when there’s no permanent housing on the other side. The Los Angeles Housing Authority, for example, found it needed more than triple the existing permanent supportive housing supply to match demand.
Besides, many people say they don’t want to go into congregate shelters, where they often are not only exposed to substandard living conditions, but potential assault.
“If you offer traumatized people to be in a huge shelter where there can be violence, where there can be no end in sight, where your things will get stolen, or could get stolen, that’s not not really an offer,” Kushel said.
At Brown’s camp by I-5, he said he and two other campers were offered a shelter bed, but turned it down. He suffers from a degenerative eye condition that blocks his peripheral vision, and said he had his belongings stolen multiple times at shelters.
What’s in the budget for Caltrans?
The budget includes $1.1 billion for a project called Clean California, with most of the money going to litter pickup and beautification. Newsom has said it will add about 11,000 jobs over three years, with at-risk youth and people who were formerly homeless or incarcerated getting priority. Caltrans is also using a small portion of the funding to clear homeless encampments.
“The situation with encampments in California is unacceptable,” Newsom said in a recent statement. “I refuse to accept the status quo — our fellow Californians suffering in tents, under highway overpasses, exposed to the elements, and living in unsanitary conditions.”
During the economic summit, the governor said that his office had identified 100 encampments as top priorities and was working with Caltrans to clear them “in a thoughtful and strategic way” — a promise he has made multiple times.
But so far his office and Caltrans have declined to identify the locations, citing privacy and security concerns for the campers.
“How are we supposed to know what’s happening with these resources?” asked Christopher Martin, policy director at Housing California, a nonprofit advocacy group. “It’s very behind closed doors, and I think that’s a little bit frightening because we need some accountability.”
Caltrans also got an additional $2.7 million this fiscal year for homeless coordinators to mitigate safety risks at encampments, clean trash and debris, and connect people living in these camps to support services and housing.
In a statement to CalMatters, Caltrans said it spent more than $15 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 and projects to spend nearly $36 million in the next year specifically on homeless camp cleanups. It conducted just 19 encampment relocations in all of 2020, when federal health officials advised against them during the pandemic. This year, Caltrans has completed 347 through mid-October.
When asked how the agency deals with the shortage of shelter and housing units, Caltrans officials said they “coordinate with cities and social service providers, which can connect people experiencing homelessness with services. However, on high priority encampments where an immediate threat to safety or to essential infrastructure has been identified, the department must proceed with the encampment clearing.”
At the same time, there’s $50 million in new grants to help local governments deal with encampments. The applications opened recently, and the money will be distributed next summer.
None of that money will fund encampment clearings, according to Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Instead, he said, grantees will get funds to provide services tailored to the needs of people in those camps.
Heimerich directed any questions about the Caltrans cleanups to the transportation agency, while Caltrans directed questions about the encampment service programs to the California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council. Both declined multiple requests for phone interviews.
Martin said the apparent lack of coordination between the programs was “a little concerning.”
California’s state auditor in February raised concerns about a lack of coordination between the multiple agencies dealing with homelessness in California: “At least nine state agencies administer and oversee 41 different programs that provide funding to mitigate homelessness, yet no single entity oversees the State’s efforts or is responsible for developing a statewide strategic plan.”
The new programs raise a bigger question for Josh Barocas, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado who studies homelessness and substance use: Why is transportation money going toward clearing homeless camps?
“It doesn’t actually take into account the long-term health effects of those being displaced and doing the displacement, and their future needs,” he said.
Through a computer modeling study that did not undergo peer review, Barocas found that in Boston, disbanding a homeless camp was more likely to drive up overdoses, hospitalizations and mortality.
“It’s what I would call social theater,” he said. “It’s showing your neighborhood that you are trying to do something by literally sweeping the problem away….The only way to actually fix this problem is to get at the social and structural issues that are perpetuating poverty, perpetuating homelessness in the city.”
While Barocas doesn’t believe in clearing encampments, he said there is value in continued community outreach, even when the housing isn’t there yet. “Bringing resources to where people are, and literally meeting them where they’re at, never loses utility,” he said.
Eve Garrow, a homelessness policy analyst and advocate at the ACLU of Southern California, said many of the people now camping alongside California’s highways were originally in safer spots such as parks and restrooms. But they’ve moved into the fringes because of law enforcement harassment, often brought on by calls to service made by their housed neighbors.
“The answer is simple,” she said. “Stop criminalizing people.”
In a recent report, Garrow and her colleagues argue housing status should be a protected social group, a policy Martin’s group and the Western Center on Law and Poverty hope to advance in the Legislature’s next session.
Seeking stable shelter
Brown, who is 42, said he had worked with several county health workers to get on the waitlist for a permanent housing voucher, but all of them had since quit. “It just seems like nobody can even give me an answer as to why it’s not moving forward,” he said.
The voucher would subsidize Brown’s housing so he has to spend only a third of his disability check on rent. But he’ll still need to find a landlord willing to rent to a man who’s been homeless for more than five years.
Eventually, he wants to be able to host his grandmother, which he couldn’t do on the side of a freeway. He also wants a cure for his vision; he learned about a clinical trial when he was living in the camp, but said it was very difficult for him to consider the option if he had to take medication, as it would likely get stolen. And he wants to stop worrying about getting his stuff stolen every night, when he can barely see.
Since getting kicked out of the camp, Brown connected with another service provider who’s scheduled to call him to sort out his case. Staying in a hotel with his friend, Megan, provided some much-needed stability. “I got very used to that, and then we were told we had to leave.”
Brown and three of his fellow campers wrote a letter urging elected leaders, public officials, and service providers involved in the camp clearing to be honest about the plight of many homeless people:
“Admit that the process of getting assistance is lengthy, that there is not enough housing for everyone who qualifies for it, and that there are people on the street who do want help and are doing what they’re supposed to do to receive it.”
THE BOMB DIDN’T BEAT JAPAN … STALIN DID
Have 70 years of nuclear policy been based on a lie?
by Ward Wilson
The U.S. use of nuclear weapons against Japan during World War II has long been a subject of emotional debate. Initially, few questioned President Truman’s decision to drop two atomic bombs, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, in 1965, historian Gar Alperovitz argued that, although the bombs did force an immediate end to the war, Japan’s leaders had wanted to surrender anyway and likely would have done so before the American invasion planned for Nov. 1. Their use was, therefore, unnecessary. Obviously, if the bombings weren’t necessary to win the war, then bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong. In the 48 years since, many others have joined the fray: some echoing Alperovitz and denouncing the bombings, others rejoining hotly that the bombings were moral, necessary, and life-saving.
Both schools of thought, however, assume that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with new, more powerful weapons did coerce Japan into surrendering on Aug. 9. They fail to question the utility of the bombing in the first place — to ask, in essence, did it work? The orthodox view is that, yes, of course, it worked. The United States bombed Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, when the Japanese finally succumbed to the threat of further nuclear bombardment and surrendered. The support for this narrative runs deep. But there are three major problems with it, and, taken together, they significantly undermine the traditional interpretation of the Japanese surrender....
ANOTHER HUMOROUS SUBSTACK PANIC
Has the Empire really struck back at "independent newsletters"?
by Matt Taibbi
“The Substack Scaries are Over for Media Companies,” announced Axios today, in a tweet tagged to a story with a dramatic headline: “Big media strikes back at Substack.” The piece referenced a recent Vanity Fair article, “A Good Newsletter Exit Strategy Is Hard to Find,” that described how some writers who’d come to platforms like Substack had run up against unexpected logistical problems, like wrestling with the issue of how to quit, and returned to traditional media jobs.
Coupled with the fact that major media outlets like the Atlantic and the New York Times have recently launched their own “independent newsletter” platforms, this was evidence, Axios proclaimed, that “The Substack threat to newsrooms was overblown.” The Axios “bottom line” observation: “Journalists that crave the infrastructure and editorial support offered by newsrooms are finding more happy mediums as the newsletter industry grows.”
Burying the lede just a tad, the same article noted Substack announced Monday that it has “more than 1 million paid subscriptions to publications on its platform, up from about 250,000 in December 2020.”
The Axios and Vanity Fair articles are the latest entries in a year-plus of hilarious anthropological pieces, often quoting writers returned from the wilds of Substack with harrowing survival tales (“We had to do our own marketing!”). These pieces tend to say a lot more about the cluelessness of the mainstream publications in question than the “independent-operator model” they’re purporting to cover, and these are no exception.
The notion that Substack is or was a “threat” to traditional media itself speaks to the comical inability of these organizations to understand cause and effect. Happening #1: traditional media companies in the Trump years suffered catastrophic declines in audience trust, which have translated lately into commensurate struggles with clicks and ratings. Happening #2: those companies noticed podcasters like Joe Rogan were drawing, and retaining, mammoth audiences, even as efforts by outfits like MSNBC to create glitzy new on-demand shows hosted by people like former George W. Bush communications director Nicolle Wallace somehow flopped. This was despite the fact that industry pros insisted streaming was “where the young people are.” What went wrong?
When Substack appeared and had a run of success, news executives treated it as something traitorous and horrifying, being sure now the independents were to blame for their audience crop failures. Vanity Fair with a straight face referred to last year’s “Summer of Substack,” as if describing a disastrous, barely-survived season of hurricanes or pirate raids. These firms to the last were convinced their own problems were either being caused by podcasters and Substackers (who therefore must be bad), or by Fox (which, they all agree, should just be outlawed).
They were making the same mistake they nearly all made with Trump, confusing symptom with cause. Yes, a few independents have done well, but that’s mainly because the overall quality level of mainstream news plunged so low so long ago, audiences were starved for anything that wasn’t rancidly, insultingly dishonest.
Years ago, when I tried to start up a humor/satire site called Racket under the auspices of billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, I was asked to write a mission statement explaining a commercial strategy. I shrugged and wrote about a paragraph just calling for hiring good, funny writers. I argued they would stand out in an increasingly mechanized media landscape, because humor and literary style are unique to human beings and can’t be faked. This presentation didn’t go over well with the company’s executives, who mostly came from Omidyar’s eBay, one of the Internet’s first great magic money-making widgets.
At the time, media executives were in thrall with sites like Buzzfeed, Mic, and Upworthy, which all represented similar efforts to dream up a magical audience-hoovering thingamadoodle. Executives seemed particularly in love with Upworthy, which Fast Company once lauded as “the fastest-growing media company of all time” (that phrase itself would later become an industry joke). Silicon Valley types loved the idea of a company that fused algorithmic curation and a technically human editor to create content that merged the “awesome,” the “meaningful,” and the “visual” — cat videos, but important! Unsurprisingly, an Upworthy parody site that automatically generates its classic clickhole-camp headlines (“I Thought It Was An Ecological Disaster. But Then I Saw This Troubling Forty Second Video”) far outlasted the actual company.
People who work in the media business for too long develop certain definite traits. One is an incurable addiction to losing other people’s money. In Vanity Fair’s Substack-horror piece, writer Delia Cai referenced an old profile of Twitter founder and co-creator of Blogger Evan Williams. Cai quoted fellow Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who roasted Williams for his “ambition to make publishing profitable”:
“I was like, ‘Yeah, so does everyone else.’ How far along are we? Somewhere between zero and half a percent.”
These warriors of the information economy have been hustling venture capitalists for ages, decades in some case, in search of the magic wand that will make media fortunes: headline generators, lad-mag layout schemes, all-British editorial staffs, more and bigger chyrons, streaming, Axios-style “Why it matters” bullet-point formats, and so on, and so on. These people have been searching for a gimmick for so long, they think everything is one, including, now, the “independent subscription newsletter.”
One would think even the hardest-headed tech executive would see the conceptual problem with the New York Times creating “independent newsletters” — after all, the whole point of a platform like Substack is that it’s not sponsored and overseen by something like the New York Times — but they don’t. They’re convinced that what audiences are responding to with Substack is another collection of widgets: subscription format, a self-edited “content creator,” etc. All they need to swat away the blight of unregulated commentary is a facsimile version of the same thing.
Functionally, of course, most of these not-independent independent newsletters will end up reading like longer versions of New York Times or Atlantic editorials, which, who knows, may work. I doubt it, but they might. I sincerely wish them luck.
However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh every time I read one of these articles. It seems so obviously absurd for the New York Times or the Atlantic to try to “strike back” against the tiny slice of market represented by a handful of Substack writers by rolling out their own Death Star version of “independent voices.” If they really wanted to wipe us out, of course, they could just put out a New York Times that sucked less. In a million years, that won’t occur to them. Which, God forgive me, I still find funny, even if there are surely more important things to worry about today.