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Off the Record (December 1, 2021)

CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER. Poor Old Joe goes to the doctor last week and the White House announces that not only was the colonoscopy positive but Joe's brain was fully capable of handling his (light) duties as president, although his “gait” indicated some fall off. 

UNLESS colonoscopies now include mental acuity assessments, or Joe's head was where I've always suspected it's been, Joe's physical was further evidence that his handlers are whistling in the dark every time he's out there in public, hence the laughable announcement from his handlers that he'll be running again when he's 82.

AND HENCE the national vibe, ranging from apprehension to straight up fear that nobody's at the wheel.

WHOEVER thought redistricting could be funny? I think it's at least amusing that Spy Rock is going to be shoved into the Dan Gjerde's 4th District (Fort Bragg, mostly), and lately home to an increasingly woke demographic about as far from Spy Rock's outlaw psyche as Mendo can get, short of plunking Covelo down in the "village" of Mendocino. The “village” rightfully should have joined Fort Bragg in the 4th District, but to avoid the whining that would have ensued if logical redistricting had prevailed, the re-districters plunked down Spy Rock in the 4th.

FORMER DEPUTY TRENT JAMES' latest blast at some of his former colleagues in the Sheriff's Department is, if true, both startling and depressing. But there's the rub; it's an allegation, not a conviction. The allegation is that the home address of an officer in the department is linked to a child pornography site, and that the investigation into this guy has been shelved by the DA. 

I'M NOT POSTING the name of the accused because the accusation is not substantiated and, it seems from here, that an allegation of the most vile crime there is short of murdering children has got to be verified before the alleged criminal can be or should be publicly identified. So far, the charge reminds me of the now routine allegations in child custody cases that the ex-husband is a stone pervert, or the ex-wife's new love interest is one. The ultimate smear is an accusation pegged to child pornography. Prediction re this accusation: the accused will be cleared when the investigation, still underway, is finally concluded. Wishful thinking on James' part, and really unfair of him to float a vicious rumor like this without having it nailed down in verifiable fact.

AS I'VE SAID for years, and every time I do I get accused of everything from prudery to fascism but, yeah, I think pornography should be banned. It’s pornography that has unleashed all this pervery. Not only does pornography degrade half the human population.... well, it's obvious, or should be, that it's bad for human morale.

ERNIE BRANSCOMB on what once was:

The Cedar Creek fish hatchery is at the confluence of Cedar Creek and the South Fork of the Eel. When you go past Leggett heading south, the long straight stretch of freeway known as “the 90 mile an hour dip” it is the first creek that you cross on the earth fill. To the east you can see a beautiful concrete arch bridge over the Cedar Creek. The other creek at the bottom of the dip Is Big Dan Creek.

The hatchery was damaged in the 1955 flood and rebuilt. The 1964 flood wiped out the buildings and it was not rebuilt. The last time that I was there the concrete ponds were still there. The water was perfect, it comes off the Red Mountain Wilderness area. Someone is probably using the water now… Don’t know.

MANSON CHAT. I've always thought that Charles Manson, to non-hippies, represented all the hippies rolled into one super menace. Mendocino County having become a sort of criminal sanctuary beginning in the late 1960s until psychos of the overt type and most other people of ordinary means were priced outtahere. Manson's “family” settled briefly on Gschwend Road, closer to Navarro than Philo, in 1969. His murderous flock was followed by several other world class psychopaths who touched down in hippie-friendly areas of the county from the late 1960s through the 1970s, not including Rev. Jim Jones and the Moonies. But there were many other faux-hippie sociopaths less murderous than Manson and Leonard Lake who feasted on the hippies, most of whom were, after all, the boys and girls from  secure homes without experience of human predators. Dangerous men grew long hair and beards to feast on the legions of wide-eyed stoners unequipped to defend themselves against them.

WHY did so many famous killers land in the Anderson Valley particularly and other counter-culture bastions like Greenfield Ranch northwest of Ukiah? Because land was cheap and there was lots of it in Anderson Valley and all over the Northcoast. And for the convenience of psychopaths, the fertile hunting grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area were only a couple of hours south.

OF COURSE there were hippies and there were hippies. I was hip-symp in my early days in Boonville because hippies were the only people I regularly encountered until I began meeting locals through the various local men's softball and basketball leagues, tried and true male bonding channels in those days. But squalor and sloth, as a way of life, never had any appeal for me and so thoroughly repelled my wife, who regarded the whole movement as deadbeats and leeches, that she still occasionally mentions how irritating she found the entire counterculture. But after a winter or two in an uninsulated shack is it really surprising that Hippie, Rural Division, soon came and went?

GOTTA DISAGREE with my colleague, Tommy Wayne, on Manson. He finds a new book on Manson plausible in suggesting that Manson was some kind of CIA-sponsored project. Doubt it. The CIA is, supposedly, prohibited from operating inside the United States, not that mere legalisms ever stopped them from doing all kinds of cockamamie internal stuff including, lots of people think, the assassination of JFK. I think the definitive Manson bio remains the fascinating “Life and Times of Charles Manson” by Jeff Guinn which establishes, to my satisfaction anyway, that Manson was what my grandmother called “bad seed,” a guy raised in safe and secure circumstances by people who loved him but went bad and stayed bad by choice.

GEORGE DORNER asked, “Did O’Neill mention the double murder of Clyda Dulaney and Nancy Warren? They were murdered the month after Nancy Brunner reclaimed her infant.” 

MR. D's REFERENCE is to the O'Neill bio's mention of that infamous murder on 101 (opposite the former Retech at the foot of the McNab Ranch) often attributed to the Manson Family who were in the area at the time. Chuck himself was briefly detained for other stuff in the Mendocino County Jail.

ACE RESEARCHER, DEB SILVA elaborates: 

“I might add, that by all accounts I have read, Nancy Brunner’s child was taken from her when she was arrested. I have never before read that Brunner gave birth in jail. There has been a rumor that Clyda Dulaney was murdered because she was married to the CHP sergeant that led the team that arrested Brunner and Co. George, the 2 1/2-month-old infant taken into custody when the Manson Family girls were arrested was the child of Mary Brunner, not Nancy. He was not born in the Ukiah jail. He was born while the Family was on the road. When the baby was just two weeks old the Family was arrested in Ventura County, basically for vagrancy. They were found to be sleeping, in the nude, alongside a Ventura County Road. Manson’s mug shot from that arrest is the crazy-eyed photo that most people are familiar with which appeared on the cover of the album, LIE, produced by other Family members to raise money for Manson’s defense. The CHP was not the lead agency in arresting the Manson girls in Philo in 1968. That arrest fell under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s department. Since there were nine adults and three juveniles arrested and all taken into custody, I suppose it’s possible that the CHP could have provided some of the transportation to the jail.”

WONDER what happened to that kid? Imagine being the son of a Manson Girl! Maybe like a lot of children born to the footloose of that time, little George did a 180 from his deformative years and went on to lead the much sneered at “straight life” his aberrant parents borned him into.

INSOFAR as it’s possible to be shocked by anything that happens in Mendocino County, the Skunk’s attempt to eat the Fort Bragg headlands is shocking. Couple points: This Toonerville Trolley-like entity can’t rehab or maintain its present line and, some of us will recall, when the lead Skunk, Robert Pinoli, revealed big plans for the Willits end of the decrepit line, when it came time to put up proof that he had the money to do it, the scheme collapsed. 

HOW a private party of three individuals can pretend to be a public entity with the authority to eminent domain an extensive oceanfront property worth millions, is also mysterious, and a mystery certain to be un-mystified by attorneys representing the true interests of Fort Bragg. 

COUPLE MORE POINTS: The see-through “authority” for the Skunk's eminent domain acquisition is pegged to the Skunk's murky status as a federally-qualified freight hauler, which it obviously is not. And for the enterprising lead Skunk to invoke the Skunk's opposition to shipping coal along the now privately owned old Northwestern Pacific rail lines is like being FOR the second prevalent Northcoast fantasy, the Great Redwood Trail. (Former congressman Bosco is first in line as the old line's senior creditor. How he chiseled his way into being the main creditor on track running from northern SoCo to Eureka is a long, complicated story recently laid out in all its odiferous detail in the Pacific Sun.)

JUST AS CHIMERICAL as a vague midwest Indian tribe transporting coal from the middle of the country to the East Bay, then along a defunct rail line so their coal can be shipped to China out of Eureka's defunct port… is state senator McGuire's Great Redwood Trail, which is clearly essential to Bosco's cash-in of its imaginary route. 

IN ITS PRIME as a log and lumber hauler, when the Skunk connected to the Northwestern Pacific at Willits, the Skunk also ran a passenger car or two out of Fort Bragg, making it possible for Coasties to have breakfast in FB and dinner in San Francisco. That was what? 1955? Tunnels and the Skunk's innumerable trestles were maintained by full-time crews. Since, the Skunk's infrastructure has steadily deteriorated.

THE EMINENT DOMAIN move by the three privateers to take over more than two hundred acres of primo Fort Bragg ocean-side land is almost breathtaking in its conception to parlay a big hunk of public money into their private, multi-million dollar acquisition. Not the first time that particular scam-a-rama has been pulled off in America, but the first time Mendocino County has had a front row seat.

BUT THERE are already comments like this one circulating on social media: “So the plan I saw in the ‘propaganda’ flyer looked pretty awesome. Lots of residential and commercial land to provide housing and jobs… If that actually went into action it seems like it would be a really good thing for the town. Are people upset because they think the city would do it better and faster for cheaper?? I know the tunnel has been sitting closed for a while but I believe there are some complexities to that situation that don't necessarily equate to the Skunk being negligent. In my opinion, I don't care who owns it. I just want to see housing and job growth. Period. If the city can do it better and faster than the Skunk then I'm 100% behind the city. But I would say the city has a longer history of NOT getting stuff done and/or spending way more than projected and/or abandoning projects half way…”

MORE ON LINE SKEPTICISM: “I am a bit confused here. The rail, to the best of my knowledge, no longer goes through to Willits due to trestle instability, and a recent collapse in the tunnel (remember when they accepted donations from the community to help pay for the repair?). If memory serves me correctly, the railway did not have the funds to fix the rail issues to provide service through to Willits and maintain their existing route, but somehow now has money to purchase land and expand the services. I guess they're just not that interested in running a railroad any more. It looks like someone is boosting their egos rather than the business. But even if they have to spend another $3.75M for cleanup the total acquisition price is still just around $5M. For 300 acres in the heart of town, right on the coast. That amounts to $16,700 per acre of prime real estate. Still doesn't make sense. Fort Bragg isn't Beverly Hills, but it is a nice enough little town and if this parcel is developed well it could have a major impact on the attractiveness (and commercial value) of the entire town. The use of eminent domain to acquire the land is particularly galling. Particularly given the nature of the ‘railroad’ employing this tool. It would be nice if the city were successful in negating the purchase and is able to acquire the land and develop it for the benefit of the entire town rather than for the primary benefit of a single private owner.”

BRUCE BRODERICK on the Skunk's eminent domain acquisition of about half of the Fort Bragg mill site: "Fortunately, Public Utility laws do not include tourist transport for recreation or hotel construction for personal gain. With the new CPUC complaints against the Skunks it will only be a matter of time before they lose their Public Utility status and forfeit the land they have stolen from the community."

PICKETING THE SKUNK: "The first protest went well and was mingled in with the Climate Activist Group. They want to see Skunk protest signs along with theirs until this is resolved. So for sure the next one is on Friday Dec 3, at 12:00 noon. I hope to have an informational table to dispute the misinformation that Skunk is putting out. After the protest several of us marched the Skunk parking lot and the quad area for the benefit of their out of town customers." (Bruce Broderick, bb@beingwater.com, Fort Bragg)

A READER NOTES: 

The newsletter I got in the mail recently has the design plan with detailed layout map that summarizes the Skunk Train’s “ambitious redevelopment” of the old GP Mill Site:

The text on the side says: 

Glass Beach Station & Restaurant

210 Spaces public parking 

Pomo Indian Village Historic Park

Spruce Residential:

1.9 acres- 81 units

Small-unit High Density - 42du/ac

Spruce to Pine Residential:

10.3 acres/ 121 Dwelling Units:

Medium Density - 50 units @ 8-10 du/ac

High Density - 72 Units @ 15 du/ac

Pine to Redwood Residential:

2.3 acres/98 Dwelling Units

Small-unit High Density - 42 du/ac

Public Parking - 200 Spaces

Skunk Train Depot

Railroad Square

Dry Shed#4

Public Parking - 100 Spaces

Oceanfront Hotel & Condominiums

160 Keys

Mixed Use:

30 Room Hostel, 10 Live/Work Units

Storefront Commercial

Unit Summary:

Spruce 81

Spruce to Pine 121

Pine to Redwood 98

Hotel 180

Hostel 30

Live/Work 10 

Total = 500 Units

MISSING FROM THE OUTRAGED DISCUSSION about the abrupt sale of the GP mill site to the Skunk owners is the role that GP must have played in the sale. Most local people seem to be fixated on the Skunk owners’ “eminent domain” purchase, and the city’s annoyed reaction without looking at the ridiculously low price GP was willing to accept for the property. The only reason we can think of for such a fire sale is GP’s desire to get out from under the open-ended toxic waste liability that has hung over the property since the 1990s and what seems like a bogus cost estimate for clean-up of something like $3.75 million that the Skunk owners are allegedly on the hook for. All we know now is what the PD’s Mary Callahan reported: “…the railroad expects to spend almost three times that much for environmental remediation, Pinoli said.”

Where did that number come from? How does anybody know how much “environmental remediation” will cost, much less what it involves? Who determines how much “environmental remediation” is enough? Experience with other polluted sites shows that the amount of work and cost could go on for years. Look at polluted Remco plant in downtown Willits and the still-active decades-old “environmental remediation trust” they set up in that one.

We suspect that there's an exemption for a railroad from some or all of the toxic clean up liability. Otherwise, why would the Skunk owners take on responsibility for it? The public statements and intentions that the Skunk train owners have mentioned so far don’t add up to any kind of plausible financial business plan, so it seems like there’s some undisclosed angle here that either wasn’t factored into the City of Fort Bragg’s eco-clean-up negotiations available only to a railroad operation.

Time will tell, but GP’s abrupt sale smells from here like they simply took this opportunity to dump the liability-riddled property as has been GP's intent for a long time rather than waiting indefinitely for the City to figure out how to clean up the site, while the city was probably pressuring GP to assume some or all of the clean-up liability. Who is going to hold the Skunk owners responsible for whatever clean up needs to be done? We don't see how there's any real oversight of the Skunk train activities, which probably translates into minimal clean up, dragged out for years and years as the property sits unused and mostly undeveloped. And GP walks away scot free. For all we know this whole deal may have been arranged by GP as a site dumping "get rid of it" exercise. After all, they probably know more about the problems with the site than anybody else.

(Mark Scaramella)

MARY ROSE KACZOROWSKI:

Looking Through The Gloss Of A Land Grab

There is no argument that we love the Skunk Train and its history. The Skunk Train along with other California Excursion tourist trains around the state have become noteworthy historical tourist attractions. Small operations in the scheme of things. Fort Bragg area attractions are numerous from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens to whale watching and fishing excursions, hiking trails, several State Parks and Campgrounds, local museums and art galleries and on and on.

The land grab on the former Georgia Pacific Mill Site is out of character for the aspirations of this small town that faces water emergencies, a destination for short term tourists, as a refuge from fires and extreme heat, loss of the once thriving fishing industry.

A college town with dorms– this could be a successful vision for Fort Bragg and would be more sustainable year round then seasonal tourism. This would build upon and coalesce around the successes of The Noyo Center for Marine Sciences, the world famous Krenov School of Fine Furniture, and the revitalize college with Mendocino College Coast Campus.

How many years since we have seen the ole 45 locomotive that is widely used in their advertising? We are still waiting to see the Mendocino Railway walk it’s talk. (Read more about this below.)

Interestingly, Mendocino coastal residents found something unsolicited in their mailboxes and post office boxes this past week –” The Little Stinker”.

The four color 8-page 11×17 newsprint newsletter entitled “The Little Stinker” (yep that is the name of it!) put out by the Mendocino Railway/Skunk Train/Sierra Energy outfit presents some ambitious development that runs roughshod over the City of Ft. Bragg’s “Mill Site Specific Plan.” The Mill Site Plan was informed by hours of public scoping sessions and expert input with keeping in mind the General Plan Update processes and Local Coastal Program (LCP) amendments, etc. (see https://city.fortbragg.com/176/Georgia-Pacific-Mill-Site)

The “Little Stinker” makes a whole host of claims one of which states, “Taking ownership of a large portion of the historic coastal Mill Site, the Skunk Train will work with experts to develop a world class-destination, breathing new life into this unique stretch of coastline.”

Hmmn?

Who is the “stinker” that says taking ownership will trump public input and all the General Plan zoning, and policies and guidelines set forth by Ft. Bragg City Council and which in turn must be certified by the Coastal Commission?

This tourist train with its ticket office/gift shop/depot located at the Foot of East Laurel Street is much loved and one of the several attractions in Ft. Bragg’s historic downtown. However who is in charge of Fort Bragg’s future is the question.

The Skunk Train public relations press releases keep shifting including with some unrealized plans over the years, and more so, ever so recently, to fit what appears to be the whim of private development.

This time, as indicated in the “Little Stinker,” it is about the increasing the railroad’s footprint along the former Georgia Pacific Mill site with expanding enterprises as in hotels, condos and a sundry of what not transport ideas. All that and more are part of the scheme of things. Is this all really about investors and developers’ ocean side dream property? A Cypress Station at Cypress Street on Highway 1 with a restaurant?

Why now is this enterprise claiming rights as a federally operating railroad? Hmmn? By the way who has been paying into the Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits for the Skunk Train R.R. employees? Many more questions need to be asked here.

Meanwhile precarious geological complications have not once but twice have put this tourist excursion train out of action.

The Skunk Train’s Round House in Ft. Bragg has been in disrepair for years. The former Mill Site dry sheds still stand waiting for their promise of rebuild and repair. The area public wants daylighting of creeks and the toxic cleanup on the closed areas of the Mills Site and HOUSING and so on.

Are the tracks and bridges along the railroad’s switch backs and canyons still stable on the way to Willits? Who keeps it all in repair along the rugged terrain?

The Skunk Train tunnel west end collapsed in 2015 and the east end collapsed in 2013. In 1998 Rail-Ways Inc. private freight operator for NCRA Line north of Willits closed because of slides.

In 1989 a series of devastating storms flooded the Eel River to record heights effectively destroying the line between Willits and Eureka forcing its closure. Further storms and subsidence closed the section from Willits south to Petaluma.

In February 2001, after repairs, the NWP resumed operations south of Petaluma. However, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) declared the track unfit for traffic in October 2001 and operations ceased. Not sure what is in the mix now after all that.

A skunk does not change its stripes and the Skunk Train – a tourist train it is!

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, “Tourist, scenic, historic, or excursion operations are railroad operations that carry passengers, often using antiquated equipment, with the conveyance of the passengers to a particular destination not being the principal purpose.”

By the way - The Skunk Train is one of many numerous and noteworthy attractions that bring visitors to this beautiful coast.

NOT A GOOD time for Fort Bragg to lose its capable city manager, Tabatha Miller, who has announced she will be outtahere on January 22, 2022. Ms. Miller arrived in an unhappy town whose unhappiness was largely caused by the previous city manager in league with the kind of illiberal liberals who dominate much of Mendocino County's public life. Ms. Miller restored order and a good measure of civic serenity. No one's irreplaceable, but she comes close.

AS FOR THE SUPERVISOR'S really, really, really bad decision to sign off on CEO Angelo's move, inspired by DA Eyster, to move the auditing and treasurer function under the CEO's authority, is nicely summed up by a reader: “Don’t worry about the treasurer and auditor consolidation. In two years the county will realize their mistake and then spend another giant glob of our money to hire consultants and in three years they will un-consolidate. That seems to be their dance. And so it was at Mendo College. Money spent on ENDLESS meetings, full color brochures for top tier candidates everyone disliked in a month.” (Eyster was unhappy with Ms. Cubbison of the Auditor's office for challenging his travel reimbursement requests, so he ran to Mommy Dearest to take over the office that dared challenge him. “There, there, Davy. Mommy will get those meany faces for you.”) Natch, the five auto-votes signed off on the deal with nary a peep.

CITING INFLATION, Dollar Tree announced this week that it’s rising the price of almost everything it’s stores by 25%…No word yet on whether they’re also changing the name of the store to the Dollar Twenty-Five Tree. But is inflation really the reason? Last Dollar Tree made $1,230,000,000 in profits, awarded its CEO with a salary of $10,767,883 and compensated it workers with as little as $8.32 an hour. More than 7,400 Dollar Tree employees are forced to rely on food stamps and Medicaid. (Jeffrey St. Clair)

STOCKING STUFFER If you are looking for a book to cozy up with as winter sets in, search no further than the novel Outlaw Ford. Karen McGrath, curator at the Kelley House Museum, said, "I cannot put into words how much I am enjoying the wonderful tale crafted in Outlaw Ford. What a feast of words and images." The story follows the middle child in a family of thirteen at the beginning of the previous century. In the span of a generation the Fords ride a funny and fateful trail from Mendocino County to points beyond and back to California, encountering disparate characters like Flashy Flaherty, No Knees Kelley, and the Scourge of the Plains, Ol' Death Himself.

OUTLAW FORD is available at Mendocino's independent book store Gallery Bookshop. The online ordering system at gallerybookshop.com is as easy, if not easier, than the corporate dealers. You can also call them at 707-937-2665 to acquire your copy of Outlaw Ford.

DURING THE TIME OUTS between wildly glutinous indulgences over the recent holiday, I watched Oliver Stone's two-hour documentary on the Kennedy Assassination. Like Oliver, I can't help myself thinking, reading, watching, writing about that pivotal event, pivotal because things seemed to go seriously awry after it, at least it has seemed so to those of us of the Boomer generation. 

UNLIKE OLIVER, I tend to be persuaded by whatever I've read last. Oliver's theory has remained the same as first revealed in his famous movie, JFK.

AND THAT THEORY is that the same nefarious forces which have gotten US into a permanent state of war ever since — the CIA and generations of big shot generals with big assists from, natch, the FBI, murdered Kennedy because he was taking the country in a more peaceful, rational direction. Maybe, but whether or not he was is debatable, but the basic assumption that Oliver has always made.

ME? I don't know. If the assassination was a conspiracy it would have had to involve several hundred people, but the history of conspiracies tells us that two people can rarely pull off even a low level plot, and no way can three or more do a conspiracy without one of them ratting the other two out. The Kennedy conspiracy, as alleged, requires a whole bunch of people to keep quiet. Not likely.

THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION was for sure a highly suspicious event, and it and related events have always seemed implausible to me, but I'd need to devote full-time and ten computers to keeping all the theories and allegations straight.

OSWALD never made sense to me, and when he was shot to death by an equivalently implausible man in the Dallas Police station, well, my credulity was severely put upon.

I WAS in the Marines at the same time and place as Oswald, Camp Pendleton 1958. If I'd re-upped they said I might qualify for embassy duty because I met the height requirement. Had to be over 6'3", I think it was, but for someone of my cohort to want to defect to, of all places, Russia, was unimaginable. But here's PFC Oswald who not only wants to, but does! And comes back married to the daughter of a KGB colonel. (Stone says there was a roster of fake defectors and Oswald was one of the fakes as he went on to be a tool of the CIA, an Ivy League institution at the time, btw.

AND HOW MANY TIMES have we read, “Lee Harvey Oswald, trained by the United States Marines as a sharpshooter…” To qualify with the M-1 at the time you needed to fire 190 out of 300 points. I squeezed by with a 195, Oswald a 215 which, believe me, was only mediocre. The boys who fired a lot better qualified as the “experts” they truly were and came from gun families, had grown up with guns. They fired right around perfect. 

BUT THE CONSPIRACY people always make it sound like Oswald was Deadeye Dick himself. Fact is he shot Kennedy with a pretty good scoped rifle from a couple of hundred feet above the motorcade. Your basic arthritic grandmother could have made those three shots.

PEOPLE heard shots from other directions, and how could one bullet go through two people and emerge undamaged on the floor of the hospital, and LBJ immediately escalated the War On Vietnam, and Trump and Biden both have delayed full release of the Kennedy Assassination files which were supposed to be released by now.

WHY the delay in releasing the full assassination archive? Because it was a conspiracy to kill the president and agents of our government were involved, that's why. Oswald was probably only one of the shooters and, as he said before he was assassinated himself, “I'm only a patsy.”

FRIENDS OF THE EEL, among others who have never hiked in the Eel River Canyon, seem to have bought into state senator Mike McGuire's saving us from the purely non-existent danger of hauling coal from the Bay Area to Eureka. You're much more likely to get hit on the noggin from space debris than the likelihood that a vague and probably non-existent Indian tribe will haul coal along the sixty miles of destroyed track in the Eel River Canyon. It would cost billions to again run a train from the Bay Area to Eureka, and the possibility of the money becoming available to do it is about as likely as the senator's fanciful Great Redwood Trail, the coal train's twin fantasy. The Trail, incidentally, benefits one grasping man, former congressman Doug Bosco who owns what's left of the old Northwestern Pacific.

A RECENT ARTICLE in the PD by Peg Melnik was entitled: “How the man who put California wines on the map is helping others deal with climate change.”

The article is mostly a tribute to an aging award-winning Napa winemaker named Warren Winiarski, a former Midwestern Philosophy professor, who has been making wine in Napa County since the 70s and now belatedly thinks that perhaps Professor Maynard Amerine’s famous 30s-40s era classic about where to plant which wine grapes in northern California should be updated to address climate change — despite most of the damage/planting already being done.

Waren Winiarski

Mr. Winiarski donated almost $500k to UC Davis’s enology department to develop ways for the wine industry to adjust to 21st century drought conditions. Ms. Melnik goes on at great length about how great a guy old-Mr. Winiarski is — as you would expect from the wine-friendly PD. 

But the article is light on drought resiliency ideas — just like Mendo’s drought task force which is focused mainly on grant applications. (Under “conservation” their recent report proposed more water storage (!), for example.) One brilliant idea the $500k UC Davis people have come up with so far is “a guideline could be a recommendation to harvest earlier.” No one but an academic could devise such a brilliant “guideline.” If we were Mr. Winiarski we’d demand our money back, immediately.

Nevermind that Napa and Sonoma counties alone constitute over 100,000 acres of pricy vineyard with grape varieties and systems that are subject to drought, fire, market fluctuations etc., and can’t easily be “uprooted.”

And guess how many times the word “water” appears Ms. Melnik’s lengthy report allegedly about “drought”? 

Answer: Once. When Mr. Winiarski says he rebuilt a barn that had burned down in the Atlas fire: “In its place stands a new barn, equipped with sprinklers to douse the wood building in water to protect it from flying embers.”

That’s it. Nothing else about water or conservation or the drought in Melnik’s long tribute. Maybe for another $500k or so Mr. Winiarski might get some ideas about replanting SoCo’s vines in Canada or somewhere cooler, at least for a few more years before “Climate Change” catches up to those areas too. 

The UC Davis researcher, a woman named Forrester, is quoted saying, “Winemakers and growers are receptive to participating, and I'm amazed at how helpful they've been. They want to understand what's happening and how to continue to make excellent wine and be responsible, too."

But not so “responsible” as to propose fewer grapes or dry farming or water use monitoring and regulation.

Another “expert” idea from Professor Forrester is to “focus on widely planted varietals that may be better adapted to future climate conditions, for instance those that are heat-tolerant because of the drought.”

The UC Davis expert didn’t name the varietals that “may be” better adapted. Nor did they mention dry-farming the old-fashioned way, the only serious way the wine industry could adapt to drought. 

But neither Mr. Winiarski nor the academics are capable of thinking about cutting back on their most at-risk acres or switching to dry farming — as the original Italians did. Those Italians didn’t plant grapes in frost prone areas requiring scarce water for frost protection either. And then whine about a few of their grapes freezing.

Whenever an academic says “may be” they mean that they need a lot more money to “study” the problem to be more confident in what “may be” better. 

And sure enough, a few paragraphs later Ms. Melnik reports that “Forrester expects the extensive research to cost in the millions of dollars.”

So climate change is good for the wine-academics at least. By the time they milk Mr. Winiarski and his pals and California’s wine-soaked Democrats for millions of dollars over lots of years, much of their precious “crop” will have died on the vine. 

(Mark Scaramella)

PROPERTY TAXES, ON LINE COMMENTS

Rick White: Ok, so I was on a local school board for a few years and started learn how important it is for everyone to pay their fair share of property tax. That's where a lot of funds are derived to support schools, library's, hospitals and health care.

Unfortunately, some of our neighbors don't want to pay their property tax, so they lied to the county about any structures on their property, and only pay a fraction of what they really owe.

I've spoken to the tax collector's office, they seem indifferent or unable to correct these inequities.

It takes seven people to file a class action lawsuit against the county to force them to do their job. I think it's way overdue. Don't you?

If you're interested, send me a PM. I'm already in contact with an attorney. This suit is done on a contingency basis, so there is no outlaying of funds.

I've been fighting this battle for four years alone, I'm tired and need some help. I still believe in justice, do you?

Supervisor Williams: A conversation with our (elected) Assessor might be a good next step? The (elected) Tax Collector bills according to the Assessor's records.

Mike Jones: We pay plenty already, if the county didn't have so many layers of bureaucracy there would be a lot more money going to roads and not advisors and tourism studies. The county for years has underutilized in house staff and hired outside firms with no visible result or improvement to the county at all. Also the mob like extortion of fees and permits for cannabis growers are generating millions with no real accounting of where these fees are spent.

Gary Levenson-Palmer: It is an equity issue. If someone is assessed as vacant property but instead has structures on it, then they are not paying their full share.

Katherin Cole: How do you know who is or is not paying taxes? Need solid proof to pursue something like this.

Rick White: It’s all a matter of public records, it’s just a matter of looking up an address.

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] I studied Computer Engineering Technology at the Saskatchewan Technical Institute (1987-1990) and then spent a quarter century in Systems Design as a Database Engineer and Department Technology Manager (1990-2014).

I remember a heated, beer-fueled debate with my Dad in 1992 regarding the future. I was so optimistic that computerizing everything would result in Nirvana while he saw it as The Highway to Hell.

Then, with WAY too much work to produce what my department produced (published Equity Research), we became constantly bogged down with Billy Gates releasing another fucking version of MS-Office.

We’d spend months planning, customizing and rolling out Just trying to be as productive as we were before sending him hundreds of thousands of more dollars.

Why bother? Have no choice. The new MS-Office had a bunch of useless features that nobody knew of, cared about or would ever, ever use. So why bother?

Data sharing. People external would start sending our people, for example, .xlsx files while our MS-Excel version could not read these new files (which were, Really, 98% the same as the old .xls file format).

Billy Gates captured monopolistic market share and then demanded subscription money. Pay Billy Gates for a Giant months-long clusterfuck or be obsolete. Those were your options.

A massive, unproductive, uneconomic “keeping up with the Joneses.”

I went from Techno Nirvana zealot to completely jaded after a couple of decades running on a treadmill getting nowhere.

Upgrade this. Patch that. Integrate it all into already very complex systems. And all to send that little dweeb fuck still more money.

Now look what he’s doing with the money we had to send him all those decades in his uneconomic extortion racket. Same biz model now with his Luciferean Operating System forced into our very meat puppets!

Dad was Right in 1992. I was Wrong.

(Is it ironic that our argument occurred at the Rotterdam on King Street West in Toronto? I mean: Police Really shot Real mandate protestors in the Real Rotterdam a couple of days ago.)

I’m done with “upgrades” and patches. I Just want stability to have the machines work for me instead of vice versa.

Safari, Chrome, Google, Firefox, what f-ing ever!

[2] It always baffles me that with so many intelligent, decent and honest people of every variation of race and color available, the only ones that manage to get into positions of importance and power are the scumbags. I guess a totally corrupt system HAS to have totally corrupt individuals working the system or heaven forbid, it might turn around.

[3]) Australia today is a fringe nation and started falling apart not this year but years ago before COVID.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but for the vast majority, Australia is prosperous, fair, relaxed, friendly, and most definitely free. It is also one of the most diverse and successful multicultural nations ever to exist.

There are strict gun laws, saving thousands of lives; there is a strong social safety net, assisting thousands of people, there is a national (single-desk) health insurance scheme, also saving thousands of lives. Health, education, and government services are world-class.

The COvid-19 rates in Australia have been tiny compared to virtually all comparable OECD nations.

It is tolerant, liberal (in the true sense), fairly centrist politically, but above all fun. To be born in Australia is to win the lottery, as one famous prime minister said. It remains one of the richest countries in the world.

There is still a moral compass and a strong sense of being responsible for your actions – especially if you’re a racist or misogynist fuckwit.

I suggest you might like to visit the place, prior to making a rush to judgement.

[4] I was randomly chosen to do a 1 hour session to answer questions about how prepared I myself as well as the community I live in is prepared for a natural disaster. 

After answering all the questions, which was recorded, the lady stopped recording and asked if she could pick my brain. She had interviewed hundreds of people over the last 6 months. And had never heard some of my concerns. She asked if I was willing to give my contact info to the nonprofit that was sponsoring the research. Yes. Please.

In the thousands of interviews not one person mentioned the need for info to get to those who don’t have tv, social media or cellphones. Those who are elderly, disabled, in cell dead zones, who have utilities included in rent that don’t get the updates or info from utilities, the city, etc. 

Some peoples only contact is meals on wheels or their in home care providers. Perhaps having these people have the info packets and updates available to pass on to their clients?

Also landlords should be required to pass on updates from utilities if their renters are not getting the bill. 

I know this past outage many elderly and disabled were in the throngs of it. 

We as a community need to not only prepare, and I hope this last PSPS was a wakeup call, but also we need to have neighborhood meetings or lists of resources, who is disabled, elderly, needs checking on, has water storage, EMS skills, etc. 

After chatting with her a bit I asked how many people she heard from that are concerned or prepared. She said she could not give me a number but after talking to me she realized that the number was probably less than 10 %.

No one had brought up the need for emergency supplies being away from their home in case of collapse, no one had thought of evacuations if bridges went out or their hospitals could not perform surgery, as happened to a family member this last PSPS.

And the one hospital they could go to was being evacuated. That those on oxygen couldn't just all go to the hospital and plug in. That our 'emergency shelter, the school, in a disaster had no water, heat, toilets

We talked about the Valley fire and how somehow we as a community came together and housed hundreds that simply came for a football game but had no home to return to. How our community has turned into the go to for evacuees , some relocated here as they had no home town to go back to. 

How 5 years ago this wasn't something we thought about , hosting hundreds or thousands with no notice. How gas shortages happen when the 101 is shut down or power out, with added evacuees in the mix. 

How we are now surrounded by hundreds of thousands of intentionally dead standing trees between the coast and the 101 due to MRC, Lyme and others hack and squirting the oaks in the name of carbon credits, and higher yields for harvest plans, ironic really. How we used to have fog drip, and higher humidity levels. How fire was not a major concern close to the coast.

How even if you are fire safe, your neighbor may have tall grass and brush right up to your fence line and that puts you in even more danger. 

I truly hope this past PSPS was a wakeup call.

When the many microwave towers that support communication for EMS, dispatch, our fire and police go down, (these are already hanging on by a mere miracle and many loose service monthly as of now) what will the coast do. 

The need for satellite phones at all fire, police, hospitals. Only a few have them as of now. 

Anyhow, many meetings have and continue to happen. Give input, prepare, know your neighbors and have a long term plan. 

It was mentioned at the last meeting a couple days ago OES had stated shall an earthquake at the triple junction occur we should prepare to be on our own for more than 2 months as resources will be sent to highly populated areas, such as the bay area. 

I know I preach over and over.. but prepare, get renters insurance, I have heard people say they can’t get it, so I asked Pyorre insurance the other day about that. They have never NOT been able to acquire it for their customers. 

What are your biggest concerns? What is the biggest reason or obstacle that you have come across to prepare? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Is it needing help to come up with a plan, lack of family or support in an emergency? Financial? Isolated from updates, news, information because your land lord does not pass on what they receive in bill? 

Please attend the meetings happening.. be it at the Caspar community center,, city hall or other venues. Maybe many don’t know about these meetings? Maybe a master list of when and where they are would help? Thoughts?

[5] Funny, the capricorns I know are THE most confused people. One, a jazz musician I dated for a few years, total narcissist. 

Then the other was a childhood friend who was an even bigger self-involved mess. He became a salesman and then had his own company, that failed and he went back to work for the big guys. His wife pushed him to live above their means, and they had to ‘keep up with the Joneses” to the point where, they had a mansion in an upscale suburb, along with all the people who came from money (he did not). 

And then he snapped, and went and held up a few banks and got caught and went to prison. Wife divorced him, and probably will make it tough to see his kids, although I talked to him once and I think he still was able to communicate with them. Thing was, he didn’t really care. He was happy in prison, returned to sketching and doing artwork and the stuff he was always interested in. Sad part is, he had zero remorse about what he did, and how it impacted his kids.

The third capricorn I know is a talented blues singer, and she was also tough to be friends with, but even though she was full of herself, she was also really funny and a pretty nice person underneath all the stage presence. I had some real fun times hanging with her. But ultimately, someone that wrapped up in themselves gets kinda boring, even if they are ‘larger than life.’

[6] Gobble, gobble, go the turkeys. Squeals before meals. Silence, then the feast. Thank the Universe for both yourself and the Bird and your “higher” situation.

Do you like the leg, the breast or the thigh, gentlemen?

Jurors find organizers of the Unite the Right rally liable for $25 million.

Jurors also nailed the McMichaels in the Arbery case.

One out of three isn’t so good.

Rittenhouse for Man of the Year, but Time wouldn’t dare.

One Comment

  1. Rixanne Wehren December 3, 2021

    Is there any truth to the rumor that Mendocino Railroad is secretly connected to Koch Industries, as is GP? Some move to avoid clean-up and then declare bankruptcy at MR to leave the mill site unreconstructed?

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