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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Dec. 13, 2021

Cold Showers | Unmasked Hoodlums | Skunk Ban | Panther Spotting | Working Railroad | Rental Wanted | Daily Vigil | Health Directors | Yorkville 1860 | Understaffed | CEO Captives | Highland Corral | Save Pillsbury | Star Cast | Guisti Situation | Why Grandma | Missing Things | Train Trestle | Niners Win | Yesterday's Catch | Watching Poker | In Paris | Mildred Cleghorn | Dem Delete | Biden Country | Human Brotherhood | Bronx River | Moving On | Next Coup | Anchor Afraid | After End | Leaf Carving

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STEADY RAIN accompanied by gusty winds and mountain snow will transition back to showers this afternoon and tonight in the wake of a cold front. Snow levels will fall through Tuesday morning with some minor accumulations possible as low as 1000 feet as showers linger. Another winter storm will bring another round of steady rain Wednesday, with heavy snow for the interior. (NWS)

YESTERDAY'S RAIN (past 24 hours): Yorkville 1.1" - Willits 0.8" - Leggett 0.8" - Boonville 0.7" - Hopland 0.7" - Laytonville 0.6" - Ukiah 0.5" - Covelo 0.4"

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FOR THE SECOND TIME, roughly two dozen unmasked people, including children, invaded the Ukiah Co-Op, allegedly in protest of the store's mandated mask policy. The protesters denounced CoOp employees as fascists while encouraging their children to help themselves to whatever food they desired as their parents loaded shopping carts with food items they left in carts. The response by the Ukiah police was [suspiciously] slow. No one was cited although the store sustained minor damage and staff had to spend several hours cleaning up deliberately spilled goods and re-shelving items the demonstrators left in loaded shopping carts.

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INCIDENT AT THE SKUNK TRAIN DEPOT

Earlier this afternoon, a friend and I were returning from a walk to Otis Johnson Park on the east end of Laurel St. As we were walking through the Depot parking lot on our way home we decided to stop by the Model Train Museum. It is not open much, so when they are it's nice to be able to see what they have going on.

After about 10 minutes or so looking at the different displays and talking with the volunteers about different aspects of their projects, I was approached by an employee of the Skunk train and told to get off of their property, immediately. Confused, I asked him why. He said that his boss wanted me and my friend to leave. I asked again why he wanted us to leave and he said it was their right to remove us from their property. I stated that we were at the Railroad Museum exhibit who indeed rented from Skunk but we weren't on Skunk Train controlled property. He said it didn't matter and we needed to leave immediately or be forcibly removed. I said no and the police were called. After about 15 minutes or so, the police arrived and then began about an hour or so of back and forth with the police being the intermediaries.

It turns out that the Skunk people can indeed have people removed from their property even if that property is rented to someone else, as ridiculous as that sounds. The reason that was given was that the management of the Skunk Train was fearful that my friend and I might take pictures of the employees. The reality is that I took pictures of the oil spill in the train yard and turned them over to the county.

We were agreeable with the police after we understood that an open to the public business can kick people off of their property for whatever reason they want, even if they are a Public Utility. So now it seems that my friend and I are banished from any Mendocino Railway property because I took a few pictures of a toxic oil spill and brought it to the attention of the county, who in turn sent out an inspector who was also kicked off of the property after taking their own pictures of the mess.

Somehow, this doesn't quite seem like the friendly little Skunk Train that used to attract tourists to Fort Bragg. It seems more like some distant corporation that will do anything to further its own interests, community be damned.

— Bruce Broderick

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ANOTHER BOONVILLE LION ATTACK as reported on Facebook:  

"A mountain lion just killed some of Pennyroyal’s sheep and was seen jumping the deer fence towards Hulluva vineyard which is where the horse arena is next to the high school. Just want you to know."

Pennyroyal is at the south end of Boonville. 

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COMMENTER WONDERS ABOUT THE SKUNK:

I have some questions and viewpoints here. I thought that for a railroad to claim eminent domain it must first have a working railroad so shouldn't the tunnel have been restored along with service twixt Fort Bragg and Willits first? Or is it enough to declare the repair and reopening of said line as imminent? I personally would like to see the Willits/'Fort Bragg train improved and the steam train running again. I would like to see a fully functioning roundhouse at both the Willits and Fort Bragg depots and upgraded service yard and barns. I would further like to see the hotel and restaurant expansion at the depots. Certainly such developments are not unprecedented as anyone who has taken train trips will have noticed. I would even like to see cargo loading and unloading facilities at both depots and even Northspur. It would mean increased tourism traffic for the coast without increasing vehicular traffic over highway 20; perhaps even reducing it somewhat. It means more jobs here as well. People might want to come over to do a day of sport fishing out of Noyo or take a hike or bike along the coastal trail or just picnic on the headlands. Accommodations for overnight or longer stays would be possible and even predictable. Which brings up another issue: the privatizing of the coastal beach access, the coastal trail, and the headlands, I believe that is illegal by State and/or Federal statute already. I must leave the determining of that to you legal eagles out there. 

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CHRIS SKYHAWK:

Hello friends, just back from a forest meeting out at Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) where through direct action, public pressure and tree sits we have been able to maintain a "People’s Moratorium“ on egregious logging activity most of this summer. Well logging crews are still trying and clearly we’ve reached the level of spite cut as this fallen sister has a sarcastic ”good morning” spray painted on her. Cal Fire which manages this public forest continues to disregard the public desire to stop spraying toxic herbicides in these forests, continues to underplay the critical role these second growth redwoods play in carbon sequestration - and inadequately respects tribal rights and practices within its boundaries. There will be a daily vigil dawn to dusk this week at this fallen tree 5.85 miles out HWY. 20 from Fort Bragg at Camp one turnout. We are also asking people to call rep. Jim Wood at 916- 319-2002 and state Sen. Mike McGuire at 916-651-4002 and ask for an immediate logging moratorium on JDSF pending a new management plan. Thank you, please make that call, it will help us a lot!

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NORMAN DEVALL:

BIG AGENDA: MEETING OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS MENDOCINO COAST HEALTH CARE DISTRICT

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE a Regular Board of Directors meeting has been called for Monday, December 13, 2021.

5:00 P.M. Closed Session; 6:00 P.M. Open Session

This meeting will be held via Zoom Conference only in order to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) and pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Orders N-25-20 and N-29-20 and as ratified by BOD Resolution 42021.

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/3453214116

Meeting ID: 345 321 4116

One tap mobile

+12532158782,3453214116# US (Tacoma)

Meeting ID: 345 321 4116

Find your local number: https://us06web.zoom.us/u/kc9dN1lLL

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Yorkville Hotel and stage stop in 1860

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STRATEGIC PLANNERS (AND EMPLOYEES) FAULT COUNTY’S STAFFING SHORTAGE

An update on Mendo’s Strategic Plan progress. The Strategic Plan preparation was farmed out to a hip wine country consultant outfit in Santa Rosa). Item 6C on Tuesday’s agenda. Below is the text from slide 16 of the inevitable power point presentation which can be read that the employees responding to the survey have NO trust in County leadership. The exit interviews are something I believe the Board directed years ago but, like the financial updates, it would raise too many questions so it never happened. Or if it did the results were never reported.

Another slide indicates the employees have little faith that the plan will make any difference because they've seen this movie before — without resources for implementation it doesn't mean anything, if it meant much to begin with.

One specific criticism from the consultant is whether the County will hire enough people to implement the plan. A look at the CEO report’s vacancy list (which basically has not changed for years) makes it clear that's not going to happen. At least not as long as Carmel Angelo is in charge. 

According to her own report the County has 1,466.65 authorized positions with 386.65 of them vacant for a vacancy rate of 26.4%. Only 296 of the positions are currently under recruitment. They can't hire people fast enough to keep up with departures. Since July 1, 2021 they hired 54 and 73 have left. If 54 hires (about 10 a month) since July 1 is representative, it will take 38 months to fill the current vacancies even if no one retires, dies, gets fired or quits. Which means the skepticism of employees who doubt the County will hire the people to implement the plan is well founded.

“#16 Employee Survey Trends. 

A. County leadership needs more oversight and increased accountability. 

B. Leadership is too top heavy. 

C. County would stop hiring contractors and/or consultants for work that employees can do. 

D. Prioritize hiring and retaining employees and the urgent need to fully staff all departments, as many are understaffed. 

E. Exit interviews should be prioritized and completed without delay.” 

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Anderson Valley

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COUNTY NOTES

A READER WRITES: “Why are you always attacking the Board of Supervisors? Don't you have anything better to do?” 

SINCE virtually every Supervisors agenda contains one or more new outrages it must seem like the mighty AVA is always on the attack. But the truth is our reporting on the Supes and their handlers in the Executive Office only scratches the surface. Every agenda is loaded with more dubious items than we have time to research and report on and every meeting is larded with more statements giving more proof of ignorance and incompetence than we have time to keep up with.

SAYING THE CURRENT LINEUP is the weakest in memory (possibly in history) is based on decades of experience following County issues. No one is saying the Supes are bad people but they lack the experience and the backbone to stand up to CEO Carmel Angelo who has steadily consolidated power over the last dozen years that she's been in power. Contrast that with the Supervisors, 4 of whom added together have less than 8 years in office with Gjerde being the exception with just under 9 years on the job. 

CARMEL ANGELO also controls every function the Supes rely on, beginning with the Executive Office and Clerk of the Board (COB) staff all of whom work for the CEO and answer to her, not to the Supes. The CEO is also careful to keep the Board Clerk function understaffed. When the Supes want to put items on the agenda or want more information they're frequently told there's no time on the agenda and no time for staff to get them what they need. 

TWENTY YEARS AGO before the County was inundated with cannabis regulations, serial on-going disasters and fiscal meltdowns, there were five full time staff in the COB office, it was run by a competent department head who was hired by and reported directly to the Supervisors who met at least once and sometimes twice a week. Fast forward to today when there are two overworked staffers in the Board Clerk’s office, the Board meets two or three times a month and the agendas are packed with too many items — many of which are routine items that consume Board time that could be better spent dealing with actual issues. And they are often poorly developed without the information that would allow the Supes to make informed decisions. 

TAKE ITEM 5J on Tuesday's agenda which deals with the County’s retirement/pension system. If adopted as presented (which it will be, unanimously, and probably with little or no discussion), it will result in an annual on-going additional cost to the County of $190,000+ and a total cost of $4 million of the projected forecast period. But since the plan is underfunded by hundreds of millions, who cares? Probably not the Supes who will vote on the item without understanding what it is. 

THE RECOMMENDED ACTION is clear as mud:  “Adopt a resolution making Government Code section 31641.56 applicable from January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2009 and Government Code section 31648.3 applicable from January 1, 2005 through March 31, 2011 to conform Mendocino County Employees Retirement Association (MCERA) plan documents to plan operations during those periods of time, and thereby, subject to Internal Revenue Service approval, authorize formally and ratify purchases of service credits pursuant to those sections previously permitted by MCERA; and authorize Chair to sign same.”

THE ONLY BACKGROUND is a densely worded eight-page letter from the retirement system’s consulting actuary. The Executive Summary makes no mention of the $4 million cost to the retirement system. The letter takes pains to say the recommended action will result in no added cost to the system. That's because it leaves in place an error made years ago that allows 67 employees to be paid more in retirement than they're otherwise allowed.

THE RETIREMENT BOARD initially recommended correcting the error and paying the employees (most who are already retired, a few who are still working) the correct amount. But one of the 67 who would see their retirement reduced is former Supervisor Kendall Smith who retired in 2012 having spent lots of her time billing the County for travel she didn’t take and pay raises for herself as County employees took pay cuts. Longtime readers will recall that Ms. Smith was the subject of three successive Grand Jury reports documenting her fraudulent travel claims, signed under penalty of perjury, where she was billing the County for travel not taken.

SMITH CLAIMED she was commuting daily from Fort Bragg when she was staying rent free with a friend in Ukiah. Smith refused to reimburse the County "on principle" until District Attorney Eyster presented her attorney with an ultimatum: pay back the money or turn yourself in at the County jail for booking. She paid. But Smith is still getting overpaid in retirement based on the error that was made. And she is determined to keep getting overpaid. She successfully lobbied the Board of Retirement (most of whom are retired County employees/pensioners and who have a built in conflict of interest) to reverse their previous recommendation to the Board and instead recommend that they ratify the error and keep overpaying the 67 employees, Smith included. But the Supervisors are unlikely to get the full story because, even if they were interested, the Board Clerk function is perennially understaffed and overworked.

UNDERSTAFFING THE BOARD CLERK’S OFFICE is a control mechanism the CEO uses to her advantage. She who controls the flow of info controls the outcome. By contrast the Executive Office is bursting at the seams with staff. We don't expect the current crew to do anything about it but the Supervisors will remain captives of the CEO until she departs this fall. What happens next is anyone's guess but the indications are not encouraging. The Supervisors effectively have two senior employees at present, the CEO and County Counsel, but it's clear to any close observer of the process that the CEO is running the show with the assistance of her lap dog County Counsel. If the Supervisors can't effectively manage two employees, how are they going to manage 15 or so department heads under the alternative “Chief Administrative Officer” model they are taking about? 

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Yorkville Highlands Corral

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HANDS OFF PILLSBURY

Editor: 

I’m disappointed to see the Friends of the Eel River continue to run a fake news campaign. They claim they are committed to supporting the two-basin solution, but they couldn’t care less. They just want to tear down Scott Dam (and all California dams). 

It is insulting to hear them and others quote data as if they are facts when they are completely baseless. David Keller says Scott Dam and Cape Horn Dam are past their expiration dates and a liability with zero facts to support his claim. In fact, PG&E performs countless structural and dam safety tests and reports results to multiple agencies on an ongoing basis. 

California desperately needs water, and anyone who says otherwise is uninformed. Friends of the Eel River claim there are hundreds of miles of prime spawning ground that would be uncovered based on test it did. The fact is if you walked the Eel in the summer in any of the last several years you would have found no water where Friends of the Eel claims it is. 

Please leave Lake Pillsbury alone.

Dave Luhrs

Potter Valley

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STAR WARS CHARACTERS together from left to right: Han Solo, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 (1977)

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GUISTI SITUATION

Dear AVA Editor:

Jail inmate/felony defendant David Giusti complains in Saturday’s MCT that he has been “locked down now 21 months in solitary confinement at the Mendocino County Jail. What is my crime? If DA C. David Eyster has his way nobody will ever know, including me! DA Eyster has zero evidence to prosecute me, so he is attempting to stall me into insanity.”

I personally don’t know the particulars of Mr. Giusti’s housing status at the jail. However, given that he is a Strike defendant facing an attempted murder charge (of another person living on the streets of Ukiah), along with special allegations that Mr. Giusti used a weapon to commit the crime and inflicted great bodily injury on the victim, it would not surprise me if he was being housed away from other inmates.

Candidly, we would love to have Mr. Giutsti’s case decided by a jury sooner than later, but that is currently not possible under California law. While Mr. Giusti’s preliminary hearing was conducted in June 2020 where evidence was presented to a magistrate that justified the pending charges, Mr. Giusti has since been ordered into the Jail Based Competency Treatment (JBCT) Program at the Low Gap jail.

JBCT is funded by Department of State Hospitals (DSH). Since there are limited beds available in state hospitals, a local jail-based program was developed to treat defendants judicially determined to be incompetent to stand trial with the goal of restoring these individuals locally to competency. The funding from DSH pays for JBCT program implementation and staffing. The Jail must follow the JBCT program elements set forth by the contract with DSH.

A defendant can be found by a judge to be incompetent to stand trial if, due to a mental disorder, he or she does not have ability to understand the nature of the pending criminal proceedings and/or is unable to assist his defense counsel in presenting a defense in a rational manner.

DA Dave Eyster

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THE CASE OF THE MISSING CHRISTMAS TREE STAND

by Tommy Wayne Kramer

This is a Christmas story but might better fit on Page 2 of the Daily Journal because it’s also about crime, except it’s stale for a crime story since it happened 20 years ago, and whatever happened might not have been a crime anyway.

And it’s not much about Christmas either.

It’s about how things disappear from our house, starting way back when someone stole our Christmas tree stand. Really, someone stole it. No other explanation.

One year we had a Christmas tree stand and the next year we didn’t. One January morning we took the ornaments and lights down from the tree, stored them on the laundry room shelf, put the dismembered tree in the yard waste bin, took the stand back to the garage and, exhausted by Christmas, could hardly wait til next year’s holiday season.

But next December the tree stand was gone. There are only so many places a tree stand can hide or be hidden and ours wasn’t in any of them. Think about your own Christmas tree stand: Beyond sticking it in the trunk of your car or throwing it over the back fence there aren’t many places to put one.

If you think I absentmindedly tossed ours into the trash, no. It was half the size of a beer keg, and I’d be as likely to throw the TV set into the trash can, or the cat.

On the other hand, no one would steal it. Even crack-addled brain-dead zomboids with no sense and no money would find something else before taking a tree stand. A lot of things, actually. (But if you looked for things to steal in our garage you’d go to a neighbor’s garage instead.)

And even our garage has better things than Christmas tree stands to steal. There are old Buster Cleveland artworks cluttering the walls and some partially full cans of house paint. Rusty saw. A broken chair. The neighbor’s garage, definitely.

So we wound up buying a new plastic Christmas tree stand that year, wondering and grumbling all the while about where it could possibly have gone and what kind of moron would steal a used tree stand when a perfectly good broken chair could be just as easily taken.

I think every house does weird things. Socks disappear from a sock drawer or laundry basket, as do jars of mayo and ketchup from refrigerators. Gas gets siphoned out of car tanks two or three times a year. Park in the driveway and by morning the car’s out in the street.

No way to know whether our house causes more mischief than others, but a significant and memorable extraction occurred years ago when an earring disappeared.

Gold earrings from Italy had sentimental value and that’s why wife Trophy turned the house upside-inside-outside-down trying to find the missing one from her pair. It also had value because a single earring is semi-worthless.

Following much fruitless searching, our friends Berry and Olivia Robinson said they were heading to Europe, stopping in Italy. Trophy gave them a photo of the lone earring, told them which jewelry shop on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence had them, etc. The Robinsons returned six weeks later with a small jewelry box containing an identical pair of gold earrings.

The following morning an incredulous Trophy discovered the longtime missing earring sitting squarely atop her pillow on our bed, downstairs where we sleep seven nights a week. Think and conjure all you want. Speculate on suspects, question our memories or our honesty, roll your eyes and shrug. But it happened just like that.

More recently we were tidying up after dinner, putting leftovers on plates, wrapping them in Saran Wrap, when the box of Saran Wrap itself vanished from the kitchen counter while we were using it. We checked the shelves, the waste basket, the pantry, but it had escaped and was never seen again.

A high school yearbook stored for decades in an old cardboard box disappeared. Who would want it? Or even find it? Why not take the entire box with the other worthless stuff? And don’t forget the broken chair in the garage.

Suspects, Inspector Columbo? Denouement, Dame Agatha?

Buckeyes redux

The influx of Ohioans into Mendotopia starting 50 or so years ago has been frequently discussed and commented upon, and to this day no one knows how many arrived, or why. I’ve written yards about the Buckeye phenomenon through the decades, and have concluded that had the county Built a Wall a lot of problems might have been avoided.

Now I’m in North Carolina. Paula, my next door neighbor grew up in Rocky River, a Cleveland suburb, and her husband is from Sandusky where my mother was born. Leslie, three doors down, is from Sheffield Lake. My friend Rich, directly across the street from us, went to Ohio University in Athens.

A couple days ago we had Robin come over to help with a small project; she grew up in Olmsted Falls, just west of Cleveland, and graduated from Bowling Green. So did I. In separate casual conversations with three middle-aged Black guys I found all had either lived in Shaker Heights or had family there.

These stats are gleaned from a total of no more than 15 or 20 people I’ve had sufficient contact with to learn where they’re from. I wonder if it’s too late to Build a Wall.

(Tom Hine thinks “The Case of the Missing Christmas Tree Stand” would make an excellent 12-episode Netflix series. TWK thinks his role should be played by Casper the Friendly Ghost.)

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UPON FURTHER REVIEW, 49ERS WIN IN OVERTIME IN CINCINNATI

by Eric Branch

The 49ers squandered a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead, missed a potential game-winning field goal as time expired and still survived to grab a wild 26-23 victory over the Bengals in overtime Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Trailing 23-20 in the extra session after the Bengals kicked a field goal on the opening drive, the 49ers ended their 30-minute scoring drought with the game-winner: Jimmy Garoppolo tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who reached the ball over the pylon in the right corner of the end zone, a score that was confirmed on a replay review.

The 49ers, who had been outscored 20-0 before their game-winning score, improved to 7-6 and moved up one spot, to No. 6, in the seven-team NFC playoff standings. The Bengals dropped to 7-6.

In overtime, the 49ers extended their touchdown drive in fitting fashion, with the final big play of the game by All-Pro tight end George Kittle, who had 13 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. On 3rd-and-5 from the Bengals’ 21-yard line, Garoppolo found Kittle in a crowd over the middle for a 9-yard completion.

The Bengals trailed 20-6 early in the fourth quarter, but they rallied to tie the game on two touchdown passes from quarterback Joe Burrow. First, Burrow closed the gap to 20-13 with 9:20 left on a 17-yard touchdown pass to wideout Ja’Marr Chase on 4th-and-5. Next, he had a 32-yard scoring strike to Chase to tie the game at 20-20 with 1:25 remaining.

The 49ers drove 50 yards on the ensuing drive and gave kicker Robbie Gould a chance to win the game when Garoppolo completed a 19-yard pass to a fully outstretched Kittle on 3rd-and-10 from Cincinnati’s 48-yard line. However, Gould — who had made 13 of 15 attempts this season — pushed his 47-yard attempt wide right as time expired.

The Bengals took the opening drive of overtime and ended it with a 41-yard field goal by Evan McPherson to take a 23-20 lead with 6:15 remaining.

It appeared the 49ers would leave with a no-sweat victory thanks to the Bengals initial barrage of errors: The temperature was in the mid-40s throughout the first half, but the Bengals spent much of the first 30 minutes melting down.

Returner Darius Phillips gift-wrapped 10 points for the 49ers by muffing two punts that were recovered by River Cracraft and Trent Sherfield, respectively.

Phillips’ first giveaway led to an eight-play drive that ended with Gould’s 33-yard field goal, which gave the 49ers a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. The second proved more costly after the 49ers recovered at Cincinnati’s 31-yard line with 39 seconds left before halftime.

The 49ers turned that turnover into a touchdown when Garoppolo tossed a 14-yard pass to Kittle to take a 17-6 lead. That drive was extended by another Bengals error: safety Vonn Bell was flagged for taunting after Garoppolo threw a 3rd-and-7 pass away.

Thanks to the home team’s charity, the 49ers had an 11-point halftime lead despite doing little offensively: They had seven first downs, 128 yards and went 0-for-6 on third down.

(SFgate.com)

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CATCH OF THE DAY, December 12, 2021

Cotner, Glass, Gonsalez

JOCELYN COTNER, La Puente/Ukiah. Controlled substance/transportation.

VINCENT GLASS, Laytonville. More than an ounce of pot, failure to appear.

LUIS GONSALEZ, Covelo. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

Guerra, Hagan, Ivy

CATALINA GUERRA-RODINIS, Willits. DUI, no license.

EDWARD HAGAN, Mendocino. DUI, resisting.

BARBARA IVY, Willits. DUI.

A.Simpson, G.Simpson, Torres

AARON SIMPSON, Ukiah. Controlled substance, stolen property.

GERALD SIMPSON, Willits. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, county parole violation.

GEORGE TORRES JR., Visalia/Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, stolen property.

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ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

I’m watching a poker show with the sound muted, as always. A guy named Phil Helmuth is at the table. He’s quite famous in the poker world. I notice he has aged. He’s been sitting around casino gaming tables so long he has no muscle mass. I wonder how long ago he ever got any sunshine vitamin D. And he now sports a rather large gut. It’s sad to watch people age.

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PARIS WITH GRANDMA: "I MET MY FIRST TURKISH TOILET"

by Justine Frederiksen

When she was 80 and I was 25, my grandmother invited me to Paris and London with her. I think she preferred traveling alone, as she had done for many decades, but age was finally limiting her abilities, and she wanted me to drive us into the English countryside.

My grandmother loved to travel, and could afford to by being very frugal. Orphaned by the Spanish Flu in 1919, she tracked every penny she spent after coming of age during the Great Depression. She worked as a bookkeeper most of her adult life as a single woman, scrimping and saving so she could vacation in places like Russia and China. She first went to Paris at age 56, obtaining a student visa so she could live there for six months while learning to speak French.

Like most trips, the journey we took together in 1995 was both amazing and awful, creating my favorite memories of her: us collapsing in laughter after battling our way on and off crowded buses during a transportation strike in Paris, us collapsing in laughter again after misinterpreting the warning sign “Weak bridge” as the name of the span, and her looking at me mournfully over yet another stack of white toast for breakfast at our hotel in London and saying, “Let’s go to McDonald’s and get Egg McMuffins!”

But even better than my memories are the journals we both kept during our trip:

My grandmother’s first entry:

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1995

Overnight on plane, arrived 2:25 p.m. at gate. 

Called Andra from baggage, arrived Parnasse at 4 p.m.

Walked to hotel, we stopped for coffee. Got there 6:30 p.m.

Philippe there, did not ask for money.

Rested 1/2 hour, walked.

Justine liked the view from the window.

My journal entry:

“I think the first night was the worst. We got off the plane in Paris, dragged all our luggage thru the airport and found an Air France bus that dropped us off in the freezing cold at Montparnasse, and then began our trek to the hotel. But I had to pee like mad, so we found a toilet first, and there I met my first Turkish toilet: basically a f--king hole in the ground. 

I had a long overdue pad (with no wastebasket to put it in) and hovered there, trying to keep pee off my underwear, shoes and everything else. It was not looking good. 

Then we dragged the bags through the streets, grandma at a snail’s pace, my arms falling off and the sidewalks barely wide enough, with a steady stream of people rushing in front and behind; wet streets, cars rushing by, it was hell.

Every corner my suitcase tipped over and we were the conversation piece and annoyance for everyone for eight blocks. Halfway there, we stopped at a cafe and squeezed, I mean squeezed, ourselves inside. We were all bulky jackets and sweaters and scarves and gloves and huge bags cramming past the people at the bar and dragging our bags up the steps to these tables built for dolls. 

Finally, we got to the hotel, and I sat up on the table at the window, put my legs on the radiator and ate my first baguette in Paris, watching the endless stream of lights and traffic below.”

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MILDRED IMOCH CLEGHORN

Traditional doll maker, schoolteacher, and Fort Sill Apache tribal leader, Mildred Imoch (En-Ohn or Lay-a-Bet) was born a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on December 11, 1910. Her grandfather had followed Geronimo into battle, and her grandparents and parents were imprisoned with the Chiricahua Apache in Florida, Alabama, and at Fort Sill. Her family was one of only seventy-five that chose to remain at Fort Sill instead of relocating to the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico in 1913.

Mildred Cleghorn

Mildred Cleghorn attended school in Apache, Oklahoma, at Haskell Institute in Kansas, and at Oklahoma State University, receiving a degree in home economics in 1941. After she finished her formal education, she spent several years as a home extension agent in Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, and then worked for sixteen years as a home economics teacher, first at Fort Sill Indian School at Lawton and then at Riverside Indian School at Anadarko. Later, she taught kindergarten at Apache Public School in Apache. She was married to William G. Cleghorn, whom she had met in Kansas, and their union produced a daughter, Peggy. In 1976 Mildred Cleghorn became chairperson of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, newly organized as a self-governing entity. Her leadership in that government revolved around preserving traditional history and culture. She retired from the post at age eighty-five in 1995.

Cleghorn's many awards and recognitions included a human relations fellowship at Fisk University in 1955, the Ellis Island Award in 1987, and the Indian of the Year Award in 1989. She also served as an officer in the North American Indian Women's Association, as secretary of the Southwest Oklahoma Intertribal Association, and as treasurer of the American Indian Council of the Reformed Church of America.

Above all, Mildred Cleghorn was a cultural leader. She spent a lifetime creating dolls authentically clothed to represent forty of the tribes she had encountered in her teaching career. Her work was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Her life ended in an automobile accident near Apache on April 15, 1997.

* * *

SEND US MONEY IF YOU DISAPPROVE OF MITCH AND DON

Editor: 

I'm on the Democrats’ side. Really. But it is fatiguing to see 50 emails every morning. “Do I approve of Mitch McConnell?” If I don't, will he leave?

And the endless petitions. I can't tell if I've signed them or not. Is anyone counting? Is there a penalty for signing them twice? “Tell the Attorney General to arrest Donald Trump.” Don't people think it through? The attorney general is gathering evidence, and if he has enough evidence, he will act within the law. He can't arrest anyone just because we ask him to.

I'm not infuriated, or frightened, or seeking revenge. I feel like you are addressing a Trump rally. And don't ask me to be honest. Is there a choice?

Here's a thought for the Democratic Party. Send one email a day outlining reasons to send money. Then divide it up among the candidates. I'll bet the party would make more money because the focus is on one thing, and sending a few bucks to one entity is easier than having to choose among a huge field of choices.

Otherwise, it's so easy to just delete, delete, delete.

Jessie Gordon

Sonoma

* * *

* * *

CAN SOCIALISTS BE HAPPY?

by George Orwell (1943)

The thought of Christmas raises almost automatically the thought of Charles Dickens, and for two very good reasons. To begin with, Dickens is one of the few English writers who have actually written about Christmas. Christmas is the most popular of English festivals, and yet it has produced astonishingly little literature. There are the carols, mostly medieval in origin; there is a tiny handful of poems by Robert Bridges, T.S. Eliot, and some others, and there is Dickens; but there is very little else. Secondly, Dickens is remarkable, indeed almost unique, among modern writers in being able to give a convincing picture of happiness.

Dickens dealt successfully with Christmas twice in a chapter of The Pickwick Papers and in A Christmas Carol. The latter story was read to Lenin on his deathbed and according to his wife, he found its ‘bourgeois sentimentality’ completely intolerable. Now in a sense Lenin was right: but if he had been in better health he would perhaps have noticed that the story has interesting sociological implications. To begin with, however thick Dickens may lay on the paint, however disgusting the ‘pathos’ of Tiny Tim may be, the Cratchit family give the impression of enjoying themselves. They sound happy as, for instance, the citizens of William Morris’s News From Nowhere don’t sound happy. Moreover and Dickens’s understanding of this is one of the secrets of his power their happiness derives mainly from contrast. They are in high spirits because for once in a way they have enough to eat. The wolf is at the door, but he is wagging his tail. The steam of the Christmas pudding drifts across a background of pawnshops and sweated labour, and in a double sense the ghost of Scrooge stands beside the dinner table. Bob Cratchit even wants to drink to Scrooge’s health, which Mrs Cratchit rightly refuses. The Cratchits are able to enjoy Christmas precisely because it only comes once a year. Their happiness is convincing just because Christmas only comes once a year. Their happiness is convincing just because it is described as incomplete.

All efforts to describe permanent happiness, on the other hand, have been failures. Utopias (incidentally the coined word Utopia doesn’t mean ‘a good place’, it means merely a ‘non-existent place’) have been common in literature of the past three or four hundred years but the ‘favourable’ ones are invariably unappetising, and usually lacking in vitality as well.

By far the best known modern Utopias are those of H.G. Wells. Wells’s vision of the future is almost fully expressed in two books written in the early Twenties, The Dream and Men Like Gods. Here you have a picture of the world as Wells would like to see it or thinks he would like to see it. It is a world whose keynotes are enlightened hedonism and scientific curiosity. All the evils and miseries we now suffer from have vanished. Ignorance, war, poverty, dirt, disease, frustration, hunger, fear, overwork, superstition all vanished. So expressed, it is impossible to deny that that is the kind of world we all hope for. We all want to abolish the things Wells wants to abolish. But is there anyone who actually wants to live in a Wellsian Utopia? On the contrary, not to live in a world like that, not to wake up in a hygenic garden suburb infested by naked schoolmarms, has actually become a conscious political motive. A book like Brave New World is an expression of the actual fear that modern man feels of the rationalised hedonistic society which it is within his power to create. A Catholic writer said recently that Utopias are now technically feasible and that in consequence how to avoid Utopia had become a serious problem. We cannot write this off as merely a silly remark. For one of the sources of the Fascist movement is the desire to avoid a too-rational and too-comfortable world.

All ‘favourable’ Utopias seem to be alike in postulating perfection while being unable to suggest happiness. News From Nowhere is a sort of goody-goody version of the Wellsian Utopia. Everyone is kindly and reasonable, all the upholstery comes from Liberty’s, but the impression left behind is of a sort of watery melancholy. But it is more impressive that Jonathan Swift, one of the greatest imaginative writers who have ever lived, is no more successful in constructing a ‘favourable’ Utopia than the others.

The earlier parts of Gulliver’s Travels are probably the most devastating attack on human society that has ever been written. Every word of them is relevant today; in places they contain quite detailed prophecies of the political horrors of our own time. Where Swift fails, however, is in trying to describe a race of beings whom he admires. In the last part, in contrast with disgusting Yahoos, we are shown the noble Houyhnhnms, intelligent horses who are free from human failings. Now these horses, for all their high character and unfailing common sense, are remarkably dreary creatures. Like the inhabitants of various other Utopias, they are chiefly concerned with avoiding fuss. They live uneventful, subdued, ‘reasonable’ lives, free not only from quarrels, disorder or insecurity of any kind, but also from ‘passion’, including physical love. They choose their mates on eugenic principles, avoid excesses of affection, and appear somewhat glad to die when their time comes. In the earlier parts of the book Swift has shown where man’s folly and scoundrelism lead him: but take away the folly and scoundrelism, and all you are left with, apparently, is a tepid sort of existence, hardly worth leading.

Attempts at describing a definitely other-worldly happiness have been no more successful. Heaven is as great a flop as Utopia though Hell occupies a respectable place in literature, and has often been described most minutely and convincingly.

It is a commonplace that the Christian Heaven, as usually portrayed, would attract nobody. Almost all Christian writers dealing with Heaven either say frankly that it is indescribable or conjure up a vague picture of gold, precious stones, and the endless singing of hymns. This has, it is true, inspired some of the best poems in the world:

Thy walls are of chalcedony,

Thy bulwarks diamonds square,

Thy gates are of right orient pearl

Exceeding rich and rare!

But what it could not do was to describe a condition in which the ordinary human being actively wanted to be. Many a revivalist minister, many a Jesuit priest (see, for instance, the terrific sermon in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist) has frightened his congregation almost out of their skins with his word-pictures of Hell. But as soon as it comes to Heaven, there is a prompt falling-back on words like ‘ecstasy’ and ‘bliss’, with little attempt to say what they consist in. Perhaps the most vital bit of writing on this subject is the famous passage in which Tertullian explains that one of the chief joys of Heaven is watching the tortures of the damned.

The pagan versions of Paradise are little better, if at all. One has the feeling it is always twilight in the Elysian fields. Olympus, where the gods lived, with their nectar and ambrosia, and their nymphs and Hebes, the ‘immortal tarts’ as D.H. Lawrence called them, might be a bit more homelike than the Christian Heaven, but you would not want to spend a long time there. As for the Muslim Paradise, with its 77 houris per man, all presumably clamouring for attention at the same moment, it is just a nightmare. Nor are the spiritualists, though constantly assuring us that ‘all is bright and beautiful’, able to describe any next-world activity which a thinking person would find endurable, let alone attractive.

It is the same with attempted descriptions of perfect happiness which are neither Utopian nor other-worldly, but merely sensual. They always give an impression of emptiness or vulgarity, or both. At the beginning of La Pucelle Voltaire describes the life of Charles IX with his mistress, Agnes Sorel. They were ‘always happy’, he says. And what did their happiness consist in? An endless round of feasting, drinking, hunting and love-making. Who would not sicken of such an existence after a few weeks? Rabelais describes the fortunate spirits who have a good time in the next world to console them for having had a bad time in this one. They sing a song which can be roughly translated: ‘To leap, to dance, to play tricks, to drink the wine both white and red, and to do nothing all day long except count gold crowns’ how boring it sounds, after all! The emptiness of the whole notion of an everlasting ‘good time’ is shown up in Breughel’s picture The Land of the Sluggard, where the three great lumps of fat lie asleep, head to head, with the boiled eggs and roast legs of pork coming up to be eaten of their own accord.

It would seem that human beings are not able to describe, nor perhaps to imagine, happiness except in terms of contrast. That is why the conception of Heaven or Utopia varies from age to age. In pre-industrial society Heaven was described as a place of endless rest, and as being paved with gold, because the experience of the average human being was overwork and poverty. The houris of the Muslim Paradise reflected a polygamous society where most of the women disappeared into the harems of the rich. But these pictures of ‘eternal bliss’ always failed because as the bliss became eternal (eternity being thought of as endless time), the contrast ceased to operate. Some of the conventions embedded in our literature first arose from physical conditions which have now ceased to exist. The cult of spring is an example. In the Middle Ages spring did not primarily mean swallows and wild flowers. It meant green vegetables, milk and fresh meat after several months of living on salt pork in smoky windowless huts. The spring songs were gay – Do nothing but eat and make good cheer, And thank Heaven for the merry year When flesh is cheap and females dear, And lusty lads roam here and there So merrily, And ever among so merrily! – because there was something to be so gay about. The winter was over, that was the great thing. Christmas itself, a pre-Christian festival, probably started because there had to be an occasional outburst of overeating and drinking to make a break in the unbearable northern winter.

The inability of mankind to imagine happiness except in the form of relief, either from effort or pain, presents Socialists with a serious problem. Dickens can describe a poverty-stricken family tucking into a roast goose, and can make them appear happy; on the other hand, the inhabitants of perfect universes seem to have no spontaneous gaiety and are usually somewhat repulsive into the bargain. But clearly we are not aiming at the kind of world Dickens described, nor, probably, at any world he was capable of imagining. The Socialist objective is not a society where everything comes right in the end, because kind old gentlemen give away turkeys. What are we aiming at, if not a society in which ‘charity’ would be unnecessary? We want a world where Scrooge, with his dividends, and Tiny Tim, with his tuberculous leg, would both be unthinkable. But does that mean we are aiming at some painless, effortless Utopia? At the risk of saying something which the editors of Tribune may not endorse, I suggest that the real objective of Socialism is not happiness. Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue.

Socialist thought has to deal in prediction, but only in broad terms. One often has to aim at objectives which one can only very dimly see. At this moment, for instance, the world is at war and wants peace. Yet the world has no experience of peace, and never has had, unless the Noble Savage once existed. The world wants something which it is dimly aware could exist, but cannot accurately define. This Christmas Day, thousands of men will be bleeding to death in the Russian snows, or drowning in icy waters, or blowing one another to pieces on swampy islands of the Pacific; homeless children will be scrabbling for food among the wreckage of German cities. To make that kind of thing impossible is a good objective. But to say in detail what a peaceful world would be like is a different matter.

Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness. This is the case even with a great writer like Swift, who can flay a bishop or a politician so neatly, but who, when he tries to create a superman, merely leaves one with the impression the very last he can have intended that the stinking Yahoos had in them more possibility of development than the enlightened Houyhnhnms.

(London Tribune, December 20, 1943)

* * *

Bronx River, 1970

* * *

IF YOU WANT ME WHERE YOU ARE…

Reality According to Jnana Yoga: youtube.com/watch?v=SS8Y9mPzEmg

Am blissfully sitting on the big green couch at The Earth First! Media Center in Garberville, California. The digitization of the Earth First! video archive is now completed. I am interested in moving on. If you would like me to be where you are, then feel free to make contact. If postmodern America does not respond to this message, then I shall spend December resting comfortably in my own svarupa (heart center), watching the days go by. Let me know. Thank you. 

Craig Louis Stehr, craiglouisstehr@gmail.com

ED NOTE: You seem to be a hard sell, Craig. Have you ever considered a re-do of your presentation, maybe a tad less Hare in your Krishna?

* * *

TRUMP’S NEXT COUP HAS ALREADY BEGUN

By Barton Gellman

Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect....

theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/january-6-insurrection-trump-coup-2024-election/620843/

* * *

NBC’S BRIAN WILLIAMS QUITS with strange farewell message: America Is Being Burned Down “With Us Inside”

* * *

IT’S AFTER THE END of the world! Don’t you know that yet? 

— Sun Ra

* * *

AFTER STRUGGLING WITH ADHD, MAN FINDS HIS CALLING IN LEAF CARVINGS

By Natsumi Nakai

A 35-year-old man who lives in the Kanto region has finally found his true calling in life after years of struggling with mental health problems and fighting to hold down a steady job.

Since childhood, he was frequently told dispiriting things such as, “You are tactless.”

For most of his adult life, he felt he was slow to learn work-related tasks and had difficulty multitasking. He shuffled from one job to the next.

Fast forward to today, the leaf-cutting artist known as Lito has earned devoted followers around the world.

“His cutout technique is unbelievably complex,” one foreign online media outlet said in praise.“It is as if he holds a picture book on his palm, and the leaf is telling a story,” another said.

Lito makes his artworks by carving intricate shapes and designs into leaves that he finds on the street.

With his technique, the leaf slowly morphs into an incredibly detailed picture. In one, a bear and a hedgehog console a crying rabbit. In another, a giraffe and a penguin watch a shooting star together.

Lito held a solo show at a bookstore in Tokyo in May. All 30 works put on display were sold.

One of them fetched 150,000 yen ($1,355).

He only began creating these kinds of works last year.

It all started after he was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and learned that what he had long believed to be shortcomings are simply character traits.

He used to work in the restaurant business. But he could not keep working at the same place for long and drifted from job to job.

Struggling to learn how to work as smoothly as his coworkers and handle multiple tasks at the same time, he often failed to build healthy personal relationships at work.

One day, he searched the phrases, “tactless” and “failing at work,” on the internet.

The term “developmental disorder” immediately jumped out at him.

“Everything written there described me, literally,” he recalled.

He went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with ADHD.

He said he was relieved because what he had thought to be a lifelong hardship was not because of a lack of competency but rather a personality attribute.

He quit his job and decided to focus on “things I can do” and not “things I can’t do.”

He drafted up a list of things he is bad at and analyzed his weaknesses.

In the process, he realized he is good at doing detail-oriented tasks and that he has great concentration.

Then he saw leaf-cutout art on social media created by a Spanish artist.

“Maybe I can do this, too,” he thought.

By studying the artist’s example, he made one of his own and posted it on social media. It immediately garnered attention.

Now, on a typical day, Lito will go out to a nearby park to collect leaves that are easy to work with in terms of colors and sizes.

Then, he thinks up a story based on each leaf. He decides on a main animal character as well as a supporting cast and develops a theme.

He sketches an outline on the leaf and begins to make an incision with a design knife with surgical precision.

The leaves are very delicate and each is unique. Due to the delicate nature of the work, he must frequently change his knife blade throughout the process. It takes him more than several hours to do.

But he can usually complete an exquisite artwork in just one go.

Then he takes it outside for a photo shoot. It takes a few more hours for him to come up with a title and post it on social media.

His work usually features the sky as a backdrop. That allows viewers to see the color of the sky through a cutout and enjoy the dreamy atmosphere, he said.

But because of that, he’s always working under a tight deadline.

“Once the sun goes down, I cannot take a picture. So, I’m desperate to get it done on time every day,” he said.

A book of a collection of his art published in May has been in reprint and already sold more than 50,000 copies.

His calendar is filled with solo exhibitions until next summer.

He said he was nervous about his future after being diagnosed with ADHD.

But leaping into a new journey could teach people who are struggling as he did that there are ways to capitalize on their strengths, he said.

“You may be making many mistakes and losing confidence in yourself,” Lito said. “But I want to say that you surely have your specialty and there are people who will support you.”

asahi.com/ajw/articles/14415664

13 Comments

  1. Kirk Vodopals December 13, 2021

    Brian Williams is scared. Brian Williams is a talking head quack. Brian helped to light the house that is burning down around us.

    • Marshall Newman December 13, 2021

      He – and we – have every right to be scared.

  2. Stephen Dunlap December 13, 2021

    keep it up Bruce Broderick, please

  3. Harvey Reading December 13, 2021

    HANDS OFF PILLSBURY

    Drain Pillsbury and remove the dam! Keep the water in the river, and far away from grape farmers.

  4. Harvey Reading December 13, 2021

    “America Is Being Burned Down ‘With Us Inside'”

    About the only intelligent passage ever spoken by the fascist propaganda peddler. I suspect he has a rather large “retirement” income coming for his great service to the ruling scum over the years.

  5. John McKenzie December 13, 2021

    Bruce Broderick,
    When the persecution you perceive is a direct result of your personal agenda, you cannot claim to be a victim.

    • John Kriege December 13, 2021

      There’s been some back-and-forth between the city and the Skunk over the extent of the oil spill. Since Bruce Broderick has pictures, could the AVA put them in a future edition?

  6. Marmon December 13, 2021

    I told the little stinker to take out a restraining order on that trouble maker in a comment last week.

    The Pennyroyal sheep herder might want to keep his/her sheep in anti-lion cages like the one those nuts suggested for the School goats. Shoot the damn thing before it attacks a human kid or some old bastard out on their morning walk.

    Marmon

    • Harvey Reading December 13, 2021

      Typical settler-mentality response. Part of the reason so many species are going extinct. Fortunately humans will be one of them.

    • Marshall Newman December 13, 2021

      Got dumb? The “damn thing” was here before you arrived and – with any luck – will be here after you are gone.

  7. Marmon December 13, 2021

    MENDOCINO COUNTY COVID-19 REPORT
    DECEMBER 11, 12 and 13, 2021

    25 ADDITIONAL POSITIVES

    1 NORTH COAST
    2 SOUTH COAST
    6 NORTH COUNTY
    2 SOUTH COUNTY
    14 UKIAH AREA

    https://twitter.com/OnlyInMendocino

    Marmon

  8. Rye N Flint December 14, 2021

    Re: HANDS OFF PILLSBURY

    REMOVE the damn dams. They are expensive to maintain. They don’t have proper fish ladders. They are old and outdated, just like the people that support keeping them. Stop stealing water from one watershed and sending it to another.

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