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Mendocino County Today: Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021

Cold Showers | 18 Cases | Two Deaths | Fine Turkey | Benjamin Van Zandt | Old Postcards | Crisis Van | Tarwater Barn | Ed Notes | Mendo Troubadours | Weed Tax | Yesterday's Catch | Hate Show | Bonsai Forest | Paris 95 | Log Slide | Solar Policy | Point Arena | Money Power | War Hammer | Drinking Alcohol | Gotta Be | Asylum | Robert Frost | Mercy Dogs | Tree Rental | Holy War | Breakfast Surprise | Home Testing | 1951 Gifts | Pandemic Duty | Tramway | Civil War | Bronze Buddha | Broadband Upgrades | 1870 Church

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HEAVY SNOW is forecast to occur across the mountains of northwest California Friday through Monday. In addition, periods of beneficial rainfall are expected across lower elevations, in addition to isolated thunderstorms and possible small hail near sea level during Friday and Saturday. (NWS)

YESTERDAY'S RAINFALL: Laytonville 2.1" - Leggett 1.4" - Yorkville 1.4" - Willits 1.3" - Covelo 1.1" - Boonville 1.0" - Hopland 0.8" - Ukiah 0.6"

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18 NEW COVID CASES and two more deaths reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.

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Two Mendocino County residents recently passed away with COVID-19. Our thoughts are with their family and friends. 

Death #104: 72 year-old man from the Willits area; unvaccinated. 

Death #105: 76 year-old man from the Fort Bragg area; unvaccinated. 

Public Health asks all Mendocino County residents to think about the ways they are protecting themselves and their families from COVID-19. When in doubt, consult with and follow all CDC and CDPH guidance. Vaccination, masking, and social distancing remain the best tools for combating COVID-19. 

Fully vaccinated people over age 18 should strongly consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster to improve immunity. If you have questions about boosters or vaccines in general, speak with your doctor, or call Public Health at 707-472-2759. To find the nearest vaccine clinic in your area, please visit the Public Health website at: 

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"That a Fine Turkey" by Anna Mary Robertson 'Grandma' Moses (1860-1961)

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January 15, 1922 – November 23, 2021

Benjamin Van Zandt passed away peacefully on November 23, 2021 at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, California. He was preceded in death by his wife of 74 years, Alice, his parents Alta and Don, his brother-in-law and sister-in-law Frank and Rachel Burtschell, nephew-in-law Bob Burtschell and mother-in-law Pearl Frevert and father-in-law Gustav Frevert. He leaves behind children Marty Van Zandt and his partner Veva Stone, Carol Johns and husband Jerry, and Bonnie Mercer and husband Dave, grandchildren Matthew Van Zandt and wife Orlana, Charlie Mercer and wife Melissa, Don Johns, Todd Van Zandt and wife Kelly, Heidi Hendricks and husband Ryan, Jason Mercer and wife Lori and Ben Johns. He also leaves behind 11 great grandchildren.

Ben was born January 15, 1922 to Alta and Don Van Zandt at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Eureka, California. He grew up near Philo, California attending elementary and high school near Boonville, California. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College (where he met his later to be wife, Alice) and the University of California, Berkeley until 1942 when he enlisted in the Navy. In the Navy he enlisted to be an officer and underwent flight training to become an aviator. He was just finishing that training when in May of 1945 the allies claimed victory in Europe and Ensign Van Zandt was declared a surplus aviator candidate and assigned to the Saidor, an aircraft carrier in the Pacific where he served until he was separated from active duty in March of 1946. He stayed in the reserves until 1965 when he achieved a full retirement as a Lt. Commander after 20 years of Naval Service.  

After discharge from active duty he then went on to complete his studies, graduating from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1949.

He and Alice were married in Ithaca, New York on April 6, 1945. She had traveled by train from San Francisco to Ithaca where the Navy was training Ben at Cornell University. She followed him on his Navy travels through St. Simons Island, Georgia to San Diego, California until he was discharged. When he reentered studies at UC Berkeley, she did secretarial work in San Francisco, he did civil engineering work for Contra Costa County and they lived in Albany, California. They had three children, Marty (1947), Carol (1950) and Bonnie (1954). In 1949 they moved to Eureka, California.

Ben worked for the California Division of Highways (later Caltrans) from 1949 to 1981, a 33 year career which saw him design and build many highway projects in the Northwest part of California. After retirement he did consulting work for Winzler and Kelly and storm damage assessments for FEMA and Mendocino County for a few years.

He truly enjoyed life. He was a golfer, deer and duck hunter, boater, poker player, water skier, fisherman, boat builder and loved working and playing on the ancestral home lands in Philo, California. He was a member of the Eureka Elks Lodge until moving to Sacramento in 2014, a member of their poker group and a member of the Eureka Branch of the Military Aviators Association. 

He will be missed by many and remembered fondly by family and friends. Rest in Peace Dad.

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TWO OLD POSTCARDS from E-Bay (via Marshall Newman)

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by Mark Scaramella

There’s a common misimpression out there in our crumbling world that the mental health 911 calls that cops are responding to are criminal or otherwise violent or dangerous. Mostly, that’s not true. In fact, the cops are typically called because of family tumult, such as mom, dad, bub or sis or all of them are talking crazy and throwing stuff. 

Not that “domestic disputes” are without their hazards. Police officers have been killed or seriously injured on calls that seem relatively routine. 

But many domestic disturbances don't require police muscle to sort out. That’s why Mendo’s long-delayed Crisis Van (aka Mobile Crisis Response Unit) is such an important part of the local response to 911 call response system. The helping professionals do not get involved in these cases until after the “crisis” has been dealt with and the “patient” is under some control, either by the cops or, better and when available, the crisis van. And even after that first response, the “help” — aka “services” and “resources” from the helping professionals is frequently refused by the patient or their family.

The impression given by the promoters of Measure B was that millions and millions of dollars must be spent on layers of bureaucrats and architects and buildings and property and psychiatrists and drugs and case managers, and therapists and on and on. But as the call logs for the Crisis Van show, most of the time the early response to the 911 call by a person of understanding and knowledge who can handle that initial difficult encounter, does more good for the person involved, and significantly reduces the law enforcement burden as well as reducing the need for all those follow-on expensive layers of ancillary staff.

But in Mendo, especially in Mendo, most of the money goes to Camille Schraeder and her $30 million a year Helping Industrial Complex, a complex that hides its effectiveness (and Mr. and Mrs. Schraeder's personal annual take) behind “patient confidentiality,” recently further expanded when Mendo spent $5 million for a $1 million four-bedroom house next door to Ms. Schraeder’s admin HQ in Ukiah, thus significantly reducing her costs (without reducing the cost to the County) because, for the individuals involved, her staff can simply walk across the parking lot to meet with their “clients” — after they’ve calmed down and been brought there by the cops and/or the crisis van.

Most of the real response has already been done by then, and anyone who does not meet the technical 5150 criteria (a danger to himself or others or gravely disabled) and accepts a ride to the $5 million “crisis residential treatment” home on Orchard Street in Ukiah is already much less of a problem. All the helpers have to do is feed and house them for a few days, offer them some sympathetic chat time and maybe some new drugs — at hundreds of dollars per hour.

According to sources close to the crisis van operation, the main difficulty in staffing the crisis van and bringing it to more areas of the county for more hours of the day is that the Schraeders, with their millions of County funds, hire almost every likely crisis van candidate that comes along, and, because they’re a private company, they can hire people much more quickly than Mendo can — recruitment and hiring for Mendo takes months and months, during which time qualified candidates have to wait around for an unspecified start date, during which time they are likely to take another non-County job that will employ them now. And there’s no limit to the number of people the Schraeders can hire because whatever they do at whatever cost will be reimbursed by the County and the state — albeit delayed at times — as long as they prepare the bill correctly. And they make all the administrative decisions once the person has been accepted as their client.

Not once has official Mendo asked for a report on the crisis van, its effectiveness, its cost, its recruiting, its staffing, its protocols, its impact on reducing the number of 911 emergency calls, its level of reduction in emergency room visits, etc. Instead, Official Mendo, in particular an ill-conceived ad hoc committee of Supervisors Ted Williams and Maureen Mulheren, is working with the Schraeders to come up with yet another repackaging of some service numbers which, of course, will report that all those millions Mendo gives them, uncompetitive, sole-source of course, are well spent. We’ll get charts and graphs with disembodied out-of-context data which is nothing but a slicing and dicing of the raw numbers, not a measure of whether anyone is actually helped.

But as obvious as the Crisis Van benefits are, prioritizing and ramping it up has never been important to Mendocino County. Official Mendo prefers to waste millions on homeless “services” and mental health office staff instead of focusing on the incidents that push people into personal difficulty, and sometimes homelessness, when they really need help.

In the next few days we will summarize the kinds of calls that the crisis van has been called to in the last few months. Almost every one of them is an example of how Mendo’s expensive helping bureaucracy has its priorities backwards. 

PS. Also unheard from regarding the Crisis Van is Mendo’s small but loud horde of cop-haters who should be thanking local law enforcement for embracing and implementing the crisis van which in turn reduces and de-escalates cop-citizen encounters, thus reducing the chance of an unfortunate incident of the type we read about in the News From Elsewhere. Instead, the last we heard from them, they were calling for an audit of the Sheriff’s Department even though the Sheriff’s department is the most transparent operation in the County and they couldn’t identify a single thing they thought the Sheriff was wasting money on.

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photo by Bill Kimberlin

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A STORY in Wednesday's PD described a firefighters' blood drive, reminding me of the days when at least a couple of times a year the regional blood bank would set up at the local high school and take Valley blood all day including, as I recall, blood donations from the older high school kids. The donor set-up was on the gym stage. The late Carl Kinion of Boonville probably still holds the regional record for pints donated. He gave literal gallons.

I TRIED to sell Anderson Blue at a commercial blood bank in Eugene, Oregon. My primary motive was curiosity at how the commercial blood outfits worked. This one was paying thirty bucks per, but when I got to the head of the line in a room full of obviously unhealthy people (almost all men), I was told, "You're too old, Mr. Anderson. You've got to be under forty." I remember the cutoff as forty but, in terms of drug and alcohol consumption, my fellow donors' average age had to be around 200, and their blood must have run heavily to pure dope of one lethal kind or another or Muscatel. I tried to investigate the science behind young blood vs. old, but the guy at the counter had no idea, and the quack overseeing the sales was too busy to talk to me. 

DURING A TRIP TO RANCHO NAVARRO yesterday I couldn't help but notice how the Rancho seemed so much more fully occupied than the last time I'd visited. Every parcel of the 10-20-acre development looked as if somebody was at home, and lots of the parcels featured eyesore shipping containers. But from up on Bald Hills Rancho Navarro all looked like forest, a reassurance that property owners had left the forest over-story pretty much untouched, and had planted even more redwoods. Only twenty years or so ago the Rancho was only about half-occupied but is now pretty much filled to capacity, thanks to the Green Rushers who've rushed in just in time to watch the marijuana market crash. 

IT'S NOT UNUSUAL to see early narcissus, but daffodils in December? Someone much more observant than me, please tell us if daffs in December are not unprecedented.

A FOX NEWS bully boy named Jesse Watters told his fellow fascists recently at a "conservative" conference called "Turning Points USA,” that Dr. Fauci ought to be assassinated. "Go in for the kill shot. The kill shot? With an ambush? Deadly. Because he doesn't see it coming." Conservative blowhards get off on this kind of irresponsible talk but, as the cliche reminds us, words have consequences. Fauci, for the great sin of being the country's chief medical officer, said some time ago that he's had to go top security for himself and his family because death threats are routine for him. 

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Mendocino Troubadours, 1978

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Press release from the City of Rio Dell:

At a special meeting of the Rio Dell City Council on Tuesday, December 14th the Council approved a resolution urging the State government to consider reforming its cannabis taxation system. Specifically, the Council requested that State dramatically reduce or eliminate State cultivation taxes. The State’s original tax scheme called for cultivation rates ranging from $9.25 to $2.75 per ounce, depending on the type of dried product. This is in addition to a 15% State transaction tax at the retail level.

Starting on January 1, 2022 the State plans to raise their cultivation taxes to range from $10.08 to $3.00 per ounce despite a deep decline in legal cannabis prices.

Mayor Debra Garnes Tours Legal Rio Dell Cannabis Site. [Photo from the City of Rio Dell]

“This is a case where what is going up should be going down, and what’s going down needs to be going back up.” States Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes. “It’s upside down. The State needs to correct this. The State needs to respond. They are by far taking the lion’s share of cannabis tax receipts and they risk killing the concept of the small legal cannabis farmer. That’s not good for anyone in Humboldt.”

The Council’s Resolution resulted from the request of Margro Advisors, a cannabis consulting firm that has invested in the City.

California voters passed cannabis legalization via Proposition 64 on November 8, 2016. Over the subsequent years, the City of Rio Dell worked hard to develop a comprehensive framework to allow the newly legal industry to invest in the community, including cultivation.

“I think locally we’ve done a good job of turning this newly legal industry into something that benefits Rio Dell as a whole.” Stated Rio Dell City Manager Kyle Knopp. “We’ve been able to pave roads and invest in public safety, in good part because of cannabis legalization and how we’ve approached it. But the State’s taxation system is now putting these local benefits at risk, perpetuating the black market and shutting down legal north coast cultivators.” Knopp concluded by underlining the disconnect between the January 1st cultivation tax increase and the State’s current record $30+ billion surplus.

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COMMENTS, all from Redheaded Blackbelt:

(1) Oh yeah - that’s a real mom n pop scene there (snicker)! Look - the tax isn’t the thing killing the small operators, it’s the overgrown supply. Most permitted scenes are already selling black market so that’s not the problem either. Lower the taxes and the biggest most mega-operations still have the advantage and will still crush the little permitted farms. The problem is…you got permits! Face it - you will be assimilated….this “tax revolt” is going nowhere and even if you get the state to grant you the shaving off of a few bucks it is an empty victory. The state wants mega-farms and big corporate owners…like Greasy Gavin’s friends he convinced to get involved. Very rich people who invest and make lots of money that used to be your money. Your tiny protest will not change that…maybe expand your revolt into a class war. Oh except most permitted scenes are wealthy people. Okay never mind. I’m out of suggestions!

(2) There is a niche for the small grower if given a fair chance. Look how local breweries took off. They competed against the real big boys and did very good. Good customer product will compete. Build up a loyal base.

(3) I agree. Indeed I believe that we are realizing that “small is beautiful.” But if you came here to blow up big scenes w/o an established market then you are in trouble. If you are small and have a good product for your old friends/customer base then you are gonna survive - just as long as you can live humbly w/ little overhead. But that’s all that many of us wanted to do in the first place! The luxury is being able to live here, work for yourself, breathe clean air and sometimes go to the river or jump in the ocean. That’s a good life!

(4) Reasons small farmers have been screwed: 1. Let’s start with our local “crooks” also known as Planning Dept and Supervisors. We began the process of permitting our farm shortly after legalization. It took the county three years and approximately $300k to permit my small farm on prime ag land. So we had approximately one year of decent prices before the shitshow began. If we’d had that three years of income while awaiting the county’s endless requirements and $$$$ needed (always $$$$) we may have had the funds needed to withstand a couple bad years. 2. When we applied for legalization there was a one acre cap on all grows in California until 2023. Ya well, that didn’t last long. 3. Even if we choose to not grow a season, we are required to pay our yearly permit fees, which are approximately $30k yearly. We can’t even close our cannabis bank account which is $1k a month, unless we surrender our licenses. 4: TOO much legal cannabis has been grown with no out! Bottom line! A tax moratorium will not help. We won’t ever even see it, the distros that we are forced to use will simply not pass on that change to us.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, December 22, 2021

Ayala, Bettega, Ceja

LUIS AYALA-ORTIZ, Ukiah. Controlled substance, unlawful use of tear gas weapon, false personation of another, probation revocation.

CURTIS BETTEGA, Covelo. Child endangerment, pot sale, ammo possession by prohibited person, controlled substance while armed, felon-addict with firearm, offenses while on bail.

EZEQUIEL CEJA-GUZMAN, Ukiah. Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing bodily injury.

Kidd, Lopez, Nielsen

ANDREA KIDD, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

PEDRO LOPEZ-GARCIA, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

MARK NIELSEN, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, disobeying court order, offenses while on bail, probation revocation.

Pruitt, Ramier, Wright

PAUL PRUITT, Willits. Protective order violation.

STEVEN RAMIER, Willits. Arson during state of emergency, arson of property, vandalism, offenses while on bail.

ERIC WRIGHT, Ukiah. Failure to appear.

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Nicolle v. Fox News
Choose sides for The Two-Hour Hate
God we love it so

— Jim Luther

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Bonsai Forest by Masahiko Kimura

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TRAVELS WITH GRANDMA - Paris During A Transportation Strike

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, 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 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:

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1995

My grandmother’s entry —

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

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.

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 1995

Grandma’s journal entry —

Up three times, cold. Breakfast here.

To Seine, looked for boats, found to Bercy. Could not go back, waited 35 mins for another.

To Eiffel Tower, ate at restaurant: Poulet, frites, coffee, 150 francs.

Walked, took bus. Held up in St. Germain de Pres.

My journal entry —

The next day started with good, strong coffee and steamed milk made for us downstairs by a woman at the hotel, plus a baguette and croissant she just bought at a bakery. Then my camera broke after three pictures; I tried and tried to fix it, getting more and more frustrated and depressed.

We heard there were free boat rides because of the strikes, so we set out to find where they were… After walking back and forth from bridge to bridge, over and back, we finally found a stop, missed the right boat and got on one going the other way. It took us all the way to Bercy, then we had to get off because the men were having lunch. We had to go out into the cold, get behind this huge crowd, wait 45 minutes for them to eat lunch, and a new boat to come. Finally, after starting out at 9 a.m., we got to the Eiffel Tower around 2 p.m. But it was beautiful.

We walked across to the Palais de Chaillot, and I ached for my camera. And it was FREEZING! It was windy and incredibly cold, and we stopped for tea and coffee on the way, and luckily the Arc de Triomphe was only a few blocks away. We saw the Arc and all the traffic, very impressive, and caught one of the free buses that drove us right to our hotel, straight down the Champs Elysees with all the trees lighted — breathtaking — and through the Place de Concorde, with all the lights and statues, really beautiful.

Thursday, Dec. 14, 1995

Grandma’s journal entry —

Slept very well. Breakfast early.

Found photo store, got two cameras.

Walked to Palais Royal, Justine to Pyramid.

To Marks and Spencer, Justine got body suit. My Visa refused!

Walked across to National Assembly, missed one bus, second full, third we pushed lady in fur coat to get on.

My journal entry —

We walked to the Hotel de Ville, going into Notre Dame and looking at the Louvre from the outside. We walked all the way to the Opera House, beautiful, then looked at all of the expensive shops on the way back.

We got to the Place de Concorde again, and as we were crossing the bridge I saw a bus go by and said, ‘I bet that’s ours.’ But we couldn’t make it to the stop in time, so we stood at the corner, and it started to snow again. I have never been so cold in my life.

There were lots of other people waiting, too, and cars would stop and pick people up randomly. One bus stopped and only picked up four of us, so when another came, we got brutal. Grandma just plowed on, so I had to really push to get on or I would have been left there alone.

We were all packed on the bus like sardines; the woman behind me was holding onto my parka. It got dreadfully hot and I felt sick and claustrophobic; the windows were all steamed and you could not see out. Then more and more people got on and sometimes the bus would barely move, the traffic just crawling, and finally when we got to our stop, it was impossible to get off! No one else was getting off, but more people were squeezing on, and I pushed, and got stuck between a man and a round woman — I literally could not move. But I pushed and pushed and finally popped out, my stuff all squished and twisted, and grandma slowly squeezed out, and we collapsed into the hotel lobby, laughing so hard we had to sit down in the chairs.

Every night in Paris I slept like a baby, falling asleep almost instantly, couldn’t read one page.

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Big River, 1900

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by Dan Walters

The emails arrived just minutes apart on Monday.

The first, from a group called Affordable Clean Energy for All, proclaimed “CPUC Takes Steps to Fix the Unfair Customer Cost Shift Created by 25-Year-Old Rooftop Solar Program.”

The second, from a rival organization, the Environment California Research & Policy Center, countered with “California Public Utility Commission fails Californians by gutting bedrock solar program.”

Both were reacting to release of a California Public Utilities Commission draft ruling that would reduce the payments from utilities to owners of rooftop solar power systems when they feed excess juice back into the grid. It would also require those owners to pay a monthly fee for using the grid.

The release capped months of political jousting between the state’s major utilities, backed by their employees’ unions, and the solar power industry, which has allies among environmental groups, over how solar energy will develop as the state attempts to drastically reduce its carbon footprint. Will it emphasize individual solar installations controlled by consumers or large solar panel farms controlled by utilities and their suppliers?

The big utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy — are pushing the policy change. They argue that since rooftop solar arrays are mostly owned by upper-income Californians, the current policy, in effect, gives them a subsidy, of as much as $3.4 billion a year, from the pockets of less affluent ratepayers. They also contend that since owners of solar panels use the grid, they should pay something to maintain it, hence the $57 monthly fee.

The companies that install personal solar systems counter that the new policy proposal would make them less affordable to middle- and low-income homeowners. They and their environmental allies also contend that changing the rules would have the overall effect of reducing solar generation and thus hamstring California’s efforts to wean itself from carbon-based energy.

Both sides have waged public relations and media campaigns to sell their messages, but so far, with the release of the draft, the utility-led faction is prevailing, which is not surprising given the CPUC’s historic slant.

While it regulates utilities, supposedly to protect consumers, the commission also has an implicit duty to make sure that power companies are financially healthy enough to attract investors and borrow money for system improvements.

Clearly, the utilities — and their unions — see the growth of personal solar systems as a potential threat to their financial future. Reducing that threat, rather than creating more equity, is their true motive for seeking a change of policy. Likewise, while their solar industry rivals also claim equity as their motive, the proposal would make it more difficult to sell rooftop systems, more than a million of which are already operative. So their underlying motive is also financial.

The full CPUC is expected to vote early next year, but the battle is not over and it now shifts to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who appoints its members. He’s already nominated a new chairperson, Alice Reynolds, who is now his energy advisor and will take the new position before a final vote on the policy.

Politically, therefore, it is very clear that the revised solar policy will only be adopted if Newsom wants it to be adopted. Setting aside the major interest groups in the conflict, it involves two sub-factions that have close ties to the governor — unions and environmentalists — although the latter are also divided into pro and con camps.

The full CPUC is likely to adopt the proposed policy change and if there’s political fallout, Newsom will feel it as he seeks re-election next year.

(Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers.

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Point Arena, 1933

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AS LONG AS MONEY DETERMINES who we get to vote for, there will be nobody worth voting for. As long as people of wealth and power have more say in the shape of our government, you can be assured what you have to say will be ignored by our government. As long as those in power are satisfied with remaining in power, no matter the cost to those alive today or those who are yet to be born, you can expect nothing to change. This is why it is time to stop the action and rebalance this machine... it is inherently broken. (Marie Tobias)

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FEW THINGS give me as much pleasure as a dram of Laphroig at room temperature, spicy with peat and bonfires and mermaid corpses. Despite or conceivably because of this, Instagram keeps bombarding me with invitations to switch to alcohol-free alternatives and to sample mocktails endorsed by Chrissy Teigen or by Holly Whitaker, author of the New York Times bestseller ‘Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol.’ It was recently explained to me that the algorithm inundates me with sobriety aids because it thinks (based on my demographic data and my associated search terms: “surrogacy”, “family”) that I want to get pregnant. This amuses me, but if the world wants women not to use alcohol, it should abolish the conditions that make it necessary. 

— Sophie Lewis

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(Ed note: There are lit-crit people who think the following poem is as terrifying as any in the language.)

I didn't make you know how glad I was 
To have you come and camp here on our land. 
I promised myself to get down some day 
And see the way you lived, but I don't know! 
With a houseful of hungry men to feed 
I guess you'd find.... It seems to me 
I can't express my feelings any more 
Than I can raise my voice or want to lift 
My hand (oh, I can lift it when I have to). 
Did ever you feel so? I hope you never. 
It's got so I don't even know for sure 
Whether I am glad, sorry, or anything. 
There's nothing but a voice-like left inside 
That seems to tell me how I ought to feel, 
And would feel if I wasn't all gone wrong. 
You take the lake. I look and look at it. 
I see it's a fair, pretty sheet of water. 
I stand and make myself repeat out loud 
The advantages it has, so long and narrow, 
Like a deep piece of some old running river 
Cut short off at both ends. It lies five miles 
Straight away through the mountain notch 
From the sink window where I wash the plates, 
And all our storms come up toward the house, 
Drawing the slow waves whiter and whiter and whiter. 
It took my mind off doughnuts and soda biscuit 
To step outdoors and take the water dazzle 
A sunny morning, or take the rising wind 
About my face and body and through my wrapper, 
When a storm threatened from the Dragon's Den, 
And a cold chill shivered across the lake. 
I see it's a fair, pretty sheet of water, 
Our Willoughby! How did you hear of it? 
I expect, though, everyone's heard of it. 
In a book about ferns? Listen to that! 
You let things more like feathers regulate 
Your going and coming. And you like it here? 
I can see how you might. But I don't know! 
It would be different if more people came, 
For then there would be business. As it is, 
The cottages Len built, sometimes we rent them, 
Sometimes we don't. We've a good piece of shore 
That ought to be worth something, and may yet. 
But I don't count on it as much as Len. 
He looks on the bright side of everything, 
Including me. He thinks I'll be all right 
With doctoring. But it's not medicine-- 
Lowe is the only doctor's dared to say so-- 
It's rest I want--there, I have said it out-- 
From cooking meals for hungry hired men 
And washing dishes after them--from doing 
Things over and over that just won't stay done. 
By good rights I ought not to have so much 
Put on me, but there seems no other way. 
Len says one steady pull more ought to do it. 
He says the best way out is always through. 
And I agree to that, or in so far 
As that I can see no way out but through-- 
Leastways for me--and then they'll be convinced. 
It's not that Len don't want the best for me. 
It was his plan our moving over in 
Beside the lake from where that day I showed you 
We used to live--ten miles from anywhere. 
We didn't change without some sacrifice, 
But Len went at it to make up the loss. 
His work's a man's, of course, from sun to sun, 
But he works when he works as hard as I do-- 
Though there's small profit in comparisons. 
(Women and men will make them all the same.) 
But work ain't all. Len undertakes too much. 
He's into everything in town. This year 
It's highways, and he's got too many men 
Around him to look after that make waste. 
They take advantage of him shamefully, 
And proud, too, of themselves for doing so. 
We have four here to board, great good-for-nothings, 
Sprawling about the kitchen with their talk 
While I fry their bacon. Much they care! 
No more put out in what they do or say 
Than if I wasn't in the room at all. 
Coming and going all the time, they are: 
I don't learn what their names are, let alone 
Their characters, or whether they are safe 
To have inside the house with doors unlocked. 
I'm not afraid of them, though, if they're not 
Afraid of me. There's two can play at that. 
I have my fancies: it runs in the family. 
My father's brother wasn't right. They kept him 
Locked up for years back there at the old farm. 
I've been away once--yes, I've been away. 
The State Asylum. I was prejudiced; 
I wouldn't have sent anyone of mine there; 
You know the old idea--the only asylum 
Was the poorhouse, and those who could afford, 
Rather than send their folks to such a place, 
Kept them at home; and it does seem more human. 
But it's not so: the place is the asylum. 
There they have every means proper to do with, 
And you aren't darkening other people's lives-- 
Worse than no good to them, and they no good 
To you in your condition; you can't know 
Affection or the want of it in that state. 
I've heard too much of the old-fashioned way. 
My father's brother, he went mad quite young. 
Some thought he had been bitten by a dog, 
Because his violence took on the form 
Of carrying his pillow in his teeth; 
But it's more likely he was crossed in love, 
Or so the story goes. It was some girl. 
Anyway all he talked about was love. 
They soon saw he would do someone a mischief 
If he wa'n't kept strict watch of, and it ended 
In father's building him a sort of cage, 
Or room within a room, of hickory poles, 
Like stanchions in the barn, from floor to ceiling,-- 
A narrow passage all the way around. 
Anything they put in for furniture 
He'd tear to pieces, even a bed to lie on. 
So they made the place comfortable with straw, 
Like a beast's stall, to ease their consciences. 
Of course they had to feed him without dishes. 
They tried to keep him clothed, but he paraded 
With his clothes on his arm--all of his clothes. 
Cruel--it sounds. I 'spose they did the best 
They knew. And just when he was at the height, 
Father and mother married, and mother came, 
A bride, to help take care of such a creature, 
And accommodate her young life to his. 
That was what marrying father meant to her. 
She had to lie and hear love things made dreadful 
By his shouts in the night. He'd shout and shout 
Until the strength was shouted out of him, 
And his voice died down slowly from exhaustion. 
He'd pull his bars apart like bow and bow-string, 
And let them go and make them twang until 
His hands had worn them smooth as any ox-bow. 
And then he'd crow as if he thought that child's play-- 
The only fun he had. I've heard them say, though, 
They found a way to put a stop to it. 
He was before my time--I never saw him; 
But the pen stayed exactly as it was 
There in the upper chamber in the ell, 
A sort of catch-all full of attic clutter. 
I often think of the smooth hickory bars. 
It got so I would say--you know, half fooling-- 
"It's time I took my turn upstairs in jail"-- 
Just as you will till it becomes a habit. 
No wonder I was glad to get away. 
Mind you, I waited till Len said the word. 
I didn't want the blame if things went wrong. 
I was glad though, no end, when we moved out, 
And I looked to be happy, and I was, 
As I said, for a while--but I don't know! 
Somehow the change wore out like a prescription. 
And there's more to it than just window-views 
And living by a lake. I'm past such help-- 
Unless Len took the notion, which he won't, 
And I won't ask him--it's not sure enough. 
I 'spose I've got to go the road I'm going: 
Other folks have to, and why shouldn't I? 
I almost think if I could do like you, 
Drop everything and live out on the ground-- 
But it might be, come night, I shouldn't like it, 
Or a long rain. I should soon get enough, 
And be glad of a good roof overhead. 
I've lain awake thinking of you, I'll warrant, 
More than you have yourself, some of these nights. 
The wonder was the tents weren't snatched away 
From over you as you lay in your beds. 
I haven't courage for a risk like that. 
Bless you, of course, you're keeping me from work, 
But the thing of it is, I need to be kept. 
There's work enough to do--there's always that; 
But behind's behind. The worst that you can do 
Is set me back a little more behind. 
I sha'n't catch up in this world, anyway. 
I'd rather you'd not go unless you must.

— Robert Frost

* * *

Robert Frost by Clara Sipprell, gelatin silver print, 1955

* * *

A MERCY DOG (also known as an ambulance dog, Red Cross dog, or casualty dog) was a dog that served in a paramedical role in the military, most notably during WW1.

They were often sent out after large battles, where they would seek out wounded soldiers; and trench warfare suited their use.

They carried first-aid supplies that could then be used by wounded soldiers, and comforted dying soldiers who were mortally wounded. 

They were also trained to guide combat medics to soldiers who required extensive care. Many mercy dogs were trained by national Red Cross societies to serve the country in which the specific society operated.

As many as 20,000 dogs are estimated to have served as mercy dogs in WW1 and WW2, and they have been credited with saving thousands of lives. Such dogs were also used by the United States in the Korean War.

A dog's sense of scent and acute hearing enabled the dog to detect the sound of the breathing of a wounded person when inaudible to the human ear.

Moreover, a puff of wind often suffices to carry to the dog's nose the scent of a soldier lying possibly unconscious in some concealed place.

Lest We Forget.

* * *

* * *


In part three of a series, an opposition galvanized by revelations of bizarre school policies finds itself on an enemies list

by Matt Taibbi

In their zeal to implement the “Action Plan to Eliminate Systemic Racism” devised by a California consultancy called the Equity Collaborative, the Loudoun County, Virginia Schools seemed to get everything wrong. Like the crew of a hijacked jetliner, they kept trying to win favor with displays of groveling and obedience, but only inspired annoyance and heightened tensions.

One of the Collaborative’s recommendations was that Loudoun “publish on the ‘Superintendent’s Message’ page” a statement “defining and condemning white supremacy.” School leaders hurled themselves into the task with élan, planning a microwave apology for a hundred-plus years of history. In preparation for both a written and videotaped statement, which was to include local African-American leaders like Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, they asked Loudoun’s NAACP chapter head, pastor Michelle Thomas, if she wanted to participate. Her furious reply denounced the thoughtless demand for emotional labor. 

“As victims of racism and discrimination, with its beginnings in segregated education,” Thomas said, “it is unconscionable for the abuser to ask the victim to provide assistance in writing an apology for the abuse.”

Abashed, the county nonetheless made a 14-minute video that appeared almost desperate in its earnestness, though still off somehow — its tone of succinct abjectness recalled the “I’m sorry I caused all that cancer” routine by Kids in the Hallcomic Bruce McCulloch. Posting the video triggered a response headline, “Loudoun NAACP Leaders Find School Division’s Segregation Apology Lacking.” Pastor Thomas now blasted the apology as “self-serving,” and, as Loudoun Nowexplained, “Thomas questioned the timing and asked why the apology… did not include the involvement of community groups such as the NAACP.” 

Thomas’s move was a master-class in political punking, and surely would have been applause-worthy on that level alone, but for one thing: the Loudoun schools appeared to respond to the criticism by offering to set the Bill of Rights on fire.

Around that time, the school system drafted a proposal — this really happened — to prohibit employees from making “comments that are not in alignment with the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity practices,” in “on-campus and off-campus speech.” The plan would ban any statements by LCPS employees deemed to be “undermining the views, positions, goals, policies or public statements” of school leadership. Furthermore, all employees would have a “duty to report” such comments. The draft statement even recognized their employees’ “First Amendment right to engage in protected speech,” but went so far as to say such concerns “may be outweighed” by the goal of achieving “directives, including protected class equity, racial equity, and the goal to root out systemic racism.”

The measure would eventually fail, but not before helping rally an opposition movement into existence. In the fall of 2020, a variety of pissed-parent groups, most politically conservative, began to form. With names like “PACT,” “The Virginia Project,” and “Fight For Schools,” they among other things began filing FOIA requests in hopes of a look at the particulars of the new “Action Plan.” Anger was accelerated by school closures. “All the kids got sent home with their laptops, and parents got to see what was really going on,” is how one parent put it. 

Not only Republicans objected. Some more traditionally liberal educators and officials who’d welcomed what they expected to be basic “bias training” in hopes of addressing upsetting disparities in discipline especially, were shocked when they first started attending training sessions. Three people contacted for this story cited a video called the “Unequal Opportunity Race.” One school employee described an “‘Oh shit,’ moment,” fearing that “the wrong reaction, or any reaction actually” to the video might result in a reprimand. “Oh my God,” said another. “I just kept thinking, ‘Oh, my God.’” The video shows four track athletes — a white man and woman, a (presumably) Hispanic male, and a black woman — beginning a relay race through American history. The white men pass ever-fattening batons of cash to each other through the centuries, cruising to victory on a Jetsons-esque conveyor belt of privilege while sipping from a giant cup marked YALE. The black woman collapses before a brick wall of discrimination reading DEAD END, while the Hispanic racer leaves the track in a floating jail cell after stumbling into a shark-infested tank called STANDARDIZED TESTS. If you could distill How To Be An Antiracist into an edible, this is the movie you’d make while high.

“I think privilege is real, I teach it to my kids,” the school employee said. “But that video is psychotic.” Another commenter felt the problems with the video were subtle: the effort to explain historical obstacles made sense, but ignored the experiences of poor whites and again-absent Asians, and also sent a confusing message by implying current America was still the same kind of impossible steeplechase. Was the final panel about how “Affirmative Action levels the playing field” referencing a remedy for past or current injustices? In a mirrored echo of the “Underground Railroad simulation” story, this video had also previously inspired multiple local school controversies, including in Virginia, if anyone had bothered to check. 

Much later, in a New York Timesstory that included another teacher’s critical comments about the video, the school system would say “conservative activists” had “cherry-picked the most extreme materials” to make the program look bad, but the critics weren’t all conservatives. 

In fact, the School Board’s one-size-fits-all, Scientology-like hostility to naysayers of any kind would end up becoming almost as controversial as the specifics of the “equity” plan, which as of late 2020 was still far less on the minds of local parents than, say, the county’s hesitancy to reopen schools, an issue that polls later showed was particularly damaging to Democrats among suburban women.

A key figure in the school-closure debate, who would also become central to later culture-war pileups, was a recently elected School Board member. Beth Barts is a character the most gifted fiction writer would struggle to create. Imagine asking a person incapable of learning the rules to Candy Landto pilot a 747 in a snowstorm, and you’re close to grasping what it meant to Loudoun to have Barts in elected office while the county tried to navigate a national controversy. 

The former PTA officer, classroom volunteer, and Girl Scout troop leader announced she was running for the Board in 2019. The Loudoun Times-Mirrorsummed up her stated priorities then:

Parent outreach and communication is an area Barts said she feels is lacking transparency. She would like to see the School Board committee meetings recorded, livestreamed and archived if they continue to be held during the workday…

Within a year, the champion of transparency would launch an epic rebellion against the Freedom of Information laws, or against attempts by peers to explain the Freedom of Information laws, or possibly both. Barts had two irrepressible character traits her election set on course for collision. On one hand, like a lot of Americans, she was addicted to saying crazy shit on social media at all hours. On the other hand, she just could not be made to believe it was true that election to public office meant her posts were public record and no longer belonged entirely to her.

Barts was a great example of why conservative caricatures of woke warriors as statists or communists often undersell how obnoxious they really are. She would go on to evince near-total faith in the power of government to do everything from raise your children to regulate your speech, but like a lot of digital-age post-millennial types, Barts advanced such beliefs while retaining the typical American’s insistence on limitless privacy and property rights for herself, all while managing the additional difficult trick of not seeing the contradiction, like at all. Socialism for you, Atlas Shruggedfor me is this movement’s rallying cry, and Barts proved a great exemplar, as her initial notoriety came from defying public obligations, and not even the hard ones. 

Her first offense came in June of 2020, after sharing the contents of closed Board sessions on Facebook. Colleagues quietly pleaded with her to grasp the “closed” concept, and when she wouldn’t, they were forced to bring in a lawyer to explain the problem. Just weeks later, they were again forced to bring in counsel to explain that her emails and social media posts were public records and she couldn’t just delete them. She ignored the advice and even seemed to intentionally torpedo potential future defenses that she was just using Facebook for private ends by introducing posts with phrases like, “Speaking as a member of the LCSB…” 

On November 6th, 2020, according to a later recall petition, former Board member Debbie Rose contacted the Superintendent and the Board to complain that Barts was using her private Facebook page to conduct school business. In response, Barts posted an update, saying that her page had been “archived and is not coming back,” a move made, she said, for anyone “who is trying to FOIA my old page.” Barts had another fascinating habit of publicly setting down in writing suggestions to constituents for how to work around FOIA. “Please continue to call me if you want to discuss items with discretion,” she’d write. “Emails are subject to FOIA.” All this was like wearing a “Honk if you like violating the Freedom of Information Act” bumper sticker on your forehead. 

Eventually, on March 4, 2021, the School Board voted 7-0 to formally censure Barts. Fellow member Ian Serotkin said the vote was necessary because “nothing else we’ve tried has worked.” One week after this move, on March 11, 2021, she joined a thing called the Antiracist Parents of Loudoun County Facebook Group, a closed community that would eventually boast over 600 members. This is when all hell broke loose. Having refused to let herself be pushed around by transparency requirements, Barts now threw herself into the joys of opaque posting, right away helping spearhead the creation of a Nixonian enemies list of parents deemed insufficiently devoted to equity, school closures, and other causes. 

Insanity like this probably goes on in every district in the country, but what made Loudoun different was the bizarro, M. Night Shyamalan-esque plot twist: the presence of five other Loudoun School Board members in the same Antiracist Parents group. Weirdly, many of the same people who publicly reprimanded Barts for ignoring open government laws were now essentially sitting with her in an exported quorum of the School Board in a locked Facebook group that, no big deal, was crowdsourcing a list of suppressive persons. 

I won’t quote directly from the initial Barts post to the group, because that will spoil the punchline, but roughly speaking she expressed concern that opposition to the county’s policies was growing, and said people needed to “call out statements and actions that undermine our stated plan to end systemic racism.” In response, a woman writing under the name “Jen Morse” announced a “call for volunteers” who would gather information about political opponents they wanted to “silence,” raise money, and “infiltrate,” by which she meant:

Create fake online profiles and join these groups to collect and communicate information, hackers who can either shut down their websites or redirect them…

A former teacher added that they should “compile a document of all known actors and supporters.” There were more suggestions, and Barts later returned with a cyber-thumbs-up. “Thank you for the response to my posting this morning… Thank you for stepping up. Silence is complicity.”

News of the “enemies list” got out, as the Daily Wirebroke a story revealing that Barts had even been questioned by the county Sheriff about it. The culty quality of the revealed Facebook exchanges was eye-opening. In one instance, the group elected to keep a woman on the register of suspect persons precisely because she hadn’t done anything, or as one parent put it, “I wouldn’t go so far as to take her off… from what I’ve seen she is very carefully neutral.” 

Soon, a movement to recall Barts kicked into gear, led by Ian Prior of Fight for Schools. Prior had written an article in The Federalist in late 2020, among other things about the speech policy, and also addressed the Board. “I write this article, then I’d go to a school board meeting in October,” he says. “I just talked about the First Amendment. And that was it. I kind of checked out. What am I going to do, be a private investigator of Loudoun County Public Schools? I thought, maybe I’m overreacting.”

Then the story of the “list” came out. Prior turned out to be on it, but more alarmingly to him, so were a lot of other oddly random people. “Not everyone wrote op-eds in The Federalist,” he says. “Most of them just showed up at school board meetings, and opposed what the schools were doing. And most of these people actually were just going to try and get schools to open.” A local self-described “mouth-runner” named Mike Biron who’d had an extensive (and amusingly unfriendly) online repartee with Barts was asked to be the name on the recall petition. How hot were things in Loudoun? Biron didn’t need to go door-to-door for signatures. 

“I left my garage door open with a table out there and put on Facebook, ‘Hey, I’m collecting signatures. I’m the main point of contact for Leesburg. Here’s my address,’” Biron recalls. “And people all week long were rolling up in front of my house.” They needed 1,176 signatures, and got 1,860. Biron describes being surprised by the diversity of the response to a drive that began in mid-May. 

“There was quite a handful of people that came to sign the petition at my house that admitted they were Democrats, but felt like they got duped with the school board,” he says. 

On May 25, 2021, a Christian gym teacher at Loudoun’s Leesburg elementary school named Byron “Tanner” Cross addressed the School Board. Referencing a 60 Minutesstory entitled “Transgender Healthcare,” he voiced opposition to a planned measure called “policy 8040” that would punish teachers who intentionally refused to use preferred pronouns. 

“I’m a teacher, but I serve God first, and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion,” Cross said. “It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.”

Even some hardcore atheists raised an eyebrow when, in an echo of the planned speech ban from the previous fall, Cross was immediately placed on leave. When he sued with the intent of being reinstated, the Antiracist Parents Group sprang into action, with one member reminding all that “DISRUPTION OF SCHOOL ACTIVITIES can help keep him on leave,” which could take the form of phone calls and or emails to the school principal. Barts pitched in, noting that “we already passed a policy referring to gender expression,” pointing to the county’s “Equal Opportunity for Equitable, Safe and Inclusive Environment” rule banning “demeaning or otherwise harmful actions,” which apparently included verbally expressing an opinion against proposed government action. 

Time and again, the real issue in Loudoun came down to the impatience of officials with criticism. This dynamic reached a breaking point on June 22nd, when a man named Scott Smith was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after a Board meeting. If you want to understand why the richest county in America soon after turned pitchfork, read the Washington Postaccount of the incident, entitled, “Loudoun school board cuts short public comment during unruly meeting; one arrested.”

The piece spent a lot of time talking about how “unruly” attendees violated “decorum,” implying throughout that the anger at the meeting was aimed at “initiatives meant to counteract… widespread racism,” or over the Board’s efforts to “protect the rights of LGBTQ students.” It ended with a quote from Board chair Brenda Sheridan about how she hoped these “politically motivated antics ought to end.” 

It turned out, of course, that the man’s daughter had been sexually assaulted in a school bathroom. A viral video in which the words “My child was raped!” could clearly be heard soon circulated. The Postcould be forgiven for not knowing the context of the story, details of which didn’t emerge until later. Still, pitching the scene essentially as an outburst of recalcitrant bigotry was typical of the lazy, knee-jerk assumptions dominating national coverage.

These habits looked especially grotesque after Smith’s arrest was cited by the National School Board Administration in a successful request to Attorney General Merrick Garland for help in combatting parental threats that, they said, were “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.” 

Other misreads were inexplicable. The Postdescribed the initial disruption of the June 22nd meeting as follows:

School board chair Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) warned the crowd several times to lower their voices and referenced a school board policy that requires members of the public speaking at school board meetings to “refrain from vulgarity, obscenities, profanity or other . . . breaches of respect for the dignity of the school board.” But the dozens of audience members did not listen…

This passage implied that the triggering incident involved vulgarity, obscenities, profanity, or other such “breaches of respect.” What actually happened: former State Senator Dick Black stood up in the public comment period to rail against the “enemies list,” the Tanner Cross incident, and the “equity” plan, saying, “I am disgusted by your bigotry and depravity!” This caused the crowd to break into, not vulgarities, but applause. 

The problem was, the Board ages before had instituted a policy intended to speed up the public comments period. It mandated that, instead of applause, crowds could only use the “jazz hands” method of showing approval. Board chair Sheridan’s real repeated warning was, “Jazz hands only!”

Originally, this policy may have made sense, but in the context of a heated controversy around zany academic ideas, the injunction that this group of child-rearing adults express themselves using a form of speech popular on campuses sent the crowd over the edge. You can’t see it on Loudoun’s public site, because it’s been edited out of video of the June 22nd meeting, but when the Board tabled public comments over the jazz hands business, the crowd responded with a scene straight out of South Park’s“I’m sorry, I thought this was America” bit, breaking into the national anthem in protest.

If the Washington Poststory had been headlined, “Virginia Crowd Refuses Jazz Hands Order,” the country might have laughed at least a little, and some of the tension might have been defused. Things went the other way, of course.

From that horrible June meeting through Election Day on November 2nd, the worst thing that can happen to a place in America, happened to Loudoun County: it became the primary focus of the top figures in the national news media. This leads to the punchline. I intentionally wrote the first three parts of this story with just a few offhand mentions of the term, “Critical Race Theory,” in an effort to show how many other things the Loudoun tale was about: a sizable, suddenly disenfranchised Asian minority, a suspicious no-bid consulting contract, the elimination of midterms, finals, and standardized tests, a scandal-shot state Attorney General selling out his home county to try to save his political career, an ominous plan to ban political speech, the placing of residents on a secret enemies list (for everything from opposing school closures to defending Dr. Seuss), and the father of a rape victim essentially tabbed a domestic terrorist by the nation’s top law enforcement official, among many other things.

Loudoun was also very much a story about transformational changes on the blue side of American politics. Fifteen or twenty years ago, the Tanner Cross story would have had big-city ACLU lawyers stumbling over one another to come defend the controversial speech of a small-town teacher. In 2021, the ACLU wrote a brief in opposition to Cross. FOIA was another progressive legacy, having been created in response to the persecution of accused communists in the Eisenhower years, while standardized tests had been progressivism’s tool for helping Jews and Catholics break into the Ivy Leagues. What we called “progressives” once were now becoming something else, and the composition of their opposition was as a result also changing.

This saga was about so much more than Critical Race Theory, yet in the coming months of intense national spotlight between June and November, “CRT” became the national media’s sole explanation for everything that happened there. Invocation of the decades-old academic theory, papers like the Postexplained, was the “new Trump,” the latest in fake news scammery (Barack Obama, in campaigning for McAuliffe, even described the controversies as “fake outrage”). It was all, the Postsaid, rightist hokum that had been “weaponized” by a population whose real problem was anxiety over an “influx of families of color,” since the county that was “85 percent White in 2000” was “barely 60 percent White in 2020.” Many outlets made this same point, by the way. Most failed to mention that the bulk of that demographic change came from the 750% rise during that time in the county’s Asian population, whose members of course made up a significant part of the opposition to the school policies. It was impossible to make it through a paragraph of most of these national accounts without hitting a bluntly provable lie.

Again, the point in spending so much time on the other parts of the story is to underscore that whole ranges of people here, of multiple races and political persuasions, would have been angry for a dozen serious reasons even if the term “Critical Race Theory” never came up. The punchline is that as a point of fact, the national press got even this wrong. The “Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism” did contain heavy doses of CRT, or CRT-inspired thinking, or at least that’s what the plan’s own local advocates believed (Barts and the Antiracist Parents Group constantly referred to the “anti-CRT” enemy, for instance). It was also what many traditionally liberal press outlets initially reported, not that it particularly matters.

The significance of “Critical Race Theory” instead became that the national framing of the Loudoun story around the idea of it as a giant ruse, constructed around an imaginary racist phantasm, became the crowning insult that ended up altering the balance of power in the state. This in turn led to the boffo ending: total humiliation for everyone responsible, but too late to repair the fractured county.

* * *


In the early morning hours while eating breakfast, Union General George Custer and his men were surprise attacked by Confederate cavalry under the command of General Thomas Rosser. Custer lost forty men captured, along with a few horses and camp equipment. Custer withdrew and abandoned his plans to attack Staunton. Instead, Custer and his men would take part in a larger operation taking place on both sides of Massanutten Mountain.

Confederate Gen. Thomas Rosser (left) and Union Gen. George Custer (right)

* * *


by Annie Vainshtein

The omicron variant now has taken hold in the Bay Area, and appears to be causing some outbreaks, doubling case rates in a matter of days, and testing the distribution speed of health systems and labs that are rushing to provide tests to residents.

Public health officials and experts anticipate winter holidays and celebrations happening over the next weeks will further fuel omicron’s spread, with increased travel and social gatherings. Many more people in the Bay Area, including vaccinated and boostered people, are about to test positive, and may well be getting those results from at-home COVID tests like Binax Now and QuickVue.

The official guidance on when to test and what to do after you test positive hasn’t changed to account for omicron’s high contagiousness. But it is a good a time for a refresher, experts say, on finding wise ways to get tested as the holidays approach and as omicron becomes even more prevalent in communities.

(SF Chronicle)

* * *


* * *



I believe our responsibility to do our part to end COVID-19 far outweighs our potential “loss of freedoms. People should understand facts and read history about the 1918 influenza pandemic. As the deadliest flu outbreak in history, it killed 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in America (Today, there are 800,000 dead in the U.S.).

Most cities and states rolled out initiatives to try to stop the flu’s spread via mandated mask-wearing ordinances. Most Americans were willing to endure the inconvenience of wearing masks and complied. Those who didn’t were referred to as “slackers,” and arrested with punishments such as fines and prison sentences.

Looking back, we see that communities that implemented stronger health measures such as mandated mask wearing fared far better than those that didn’t. The 1918 pandemic ended after two years.

We are now entering our third year of struggling with COVID-19 and all its mutations. Unless the anti-vaxxers and anti-mask wearers stop complaining about their rights and understand that masks and vaccines are our only lines of defense against the deadly disease, we’ll be in this for a long time to come.

Cathryn Tait


* * *

Big River Mill Tramway, 1863

* * *


I was thinking just this morning while waking up (I always take a long pause before getting up to let my mind wander and concentrate anything I got overnight in dreams) that the Civil War has already begun. Thing is, it – like the US itself – is GLOBAL now, and people are not yet even cognizant of the “sides” who are fighting. It’s the top 10% or so (the .01% + all their managerial and technical lackeys, or roughly the top 10%) vs. the rest of us, and the bottom 90% for the most part don’t even realize they’re in a war yet.

* * *

* * *

BILLIONS OF DOLLARS COMING FOR BROADBAND UPGRADES, seeking to close digital divide for North Coast residents

by Guy Kovner

Sonoma County readers asked The Press Democrat why broadband service in west county was so limited and whether anything was being done to change that.

A 200-foot tower recently installed at a remote tribal rancheria in the northwest corner of Sonoma County brought broadband service to about 70 residents who saw an immediate difference in their lives. Their children can now do their homework and adults can search for jobs online.

A federal grant paid for the $471,000 tower that reaches over the treetops to pick up a broadband signal from Annapolis that can also carry wildfire and other emergency alerts, as well as downloading music and video games.

“We bridged the digital divide — tremendously,” said Vaughn Pena, tribal administrator of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians at the Stewarts Point Rancheria.

“It has opened up a lot of eyes,” he said.

Spanning the gap between the haves and have-nots of high-speed internet in an increasingly digital world is now a multibillion dollar undertaking by Congress and California lawmakers pouring a collective $71 billion into the effort.

California’s $6 billion investment is kicking off with about 80 miles of high-capacity internet lines in Lake and Mendocino counties, one of 18 initial projects statewide.

The infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden last month included $65 billion to improve broadband service, with a minimum of $100 million designated for California and aimed at providing high-speed internet for an estimated 545,000 residents who are without it.

A question about access to quality broadband in west county and along the Sonoma Coast came from a Press Democrat reader as part of the newspaper’s North Bay Q&A series, which collects and answers readers’ questions about life in the region.

Broadband, also known as high-speed internet, is informally known as “anything that’s not dial-up,” and defined by the Federal Communications Commission as a minimum of 25 megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.

“This has the potential to be quite transformative,” Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said of the new investments in broadband coverage. “We’re looking at some tangible benefits in people’s daily lives.”

Broadband is indispensable for students, businesses and people in need of health care, especially veterans who must “undergo an odyssey” to reach a VA clinic, he said.

Huffman’s North Coast district includes three rural counties with significant broadband gaps: Mendocino with 28.6%, Humboldt with 20% and Trinity with 79.7% of housing units lacking high-speed service, according to the state Public Utilities Commission. Overall, 14.6% of the housing units in the sprawling rural district lack service.

Sonoma County’s gap is 5.8%, lowest among seven North Bay and North Coast counties and essentially equal to the statewide gap of 5.7% of more than 14 million housing units.

In San Francisco, 99.1% of housing units are connected; none are in Sierra County, home of Downieville, north of Truckee.

Ethnicity, income factors in broadband access

Pew Research Center, which has tracked Americans’ internet use since 2000, reports income and ethnicity factors in the digital divide, the gap between haves and have-nots of broadband access.

Household income Broadband at home

$75,000+ 92%

$50,000-$74,999 87%

$30,000-$49,999 74%

Less than $30,000 57%


White adults 80%

Black adults 71%

Hispanic adults 65%

Source: Pew Research Center

Critics say the commission’s data, derived from internet service provider reports to the Federal Communications Commission, overstates broadband coverage.

For example, an analysis by Kill the Cable Bill, a company focused on alternatives to cable television, using data from the Census Bureau and Pew Research Center, said 19.3% of Sonoma County households lack broadband, ranking second lowest among 81 mid-size metropolitan areas nationwide. That is compared to 29.2% of households nationwide.

“Ensuring reliable access to quality broadband is crucial for our district,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in an email. “This has only gotten more important over the last two years when we relied on the internet to stay connected to our schools, our doctors and our friends and loved ones.”

In Thompson’s district, which includes all of Napa County and parts of Sonoma, Lake, Solano and Contra Costa counties, just 4.5% of housing units lack broadband, according to the PUC.

(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

* * *

Presbyterian Church, Mendocino, 1870s


  1. mr. wendal December 23, 2021


    The article was hilarious at times and the whole series is a good read about what has been going wrong throughout the country. I can imagine this happening with a future Fort Bragg City Council. Four out of the five seats are up for election next year and we have some strong my-way-or-the-highway personalities behind the scenes looking for candidates they can prop up.

    • George Hollister December 23, 2021

      It was a well researched, and well written series. I think people living in the monied enclaves, of America are where we see this Laudoun County problem. San Francisco, and Washington DC are front and center. Go to rural Ohio, or Louisiana and what one sees is completely different, and refreshing. We should be thankful for the backwardness of the South, too. They might be our saviors.

  2. Kirk Vodopals December 23, 2021

    Rancho Navarro is especially beautiful this time of year since most of the weed traffic has died down. I had to go start my neighbors generator yesterday. Our internet service is based on a repeater at his house to bounce a signal down to mine. His place is off grid and he’s out of town regularly. So, the kids and I tromped through the woods straight up the hill to his place. The forest was thick with huckleberry, tan oak and redwoods- none of which were greater than 18 inch diameter. Didn’t see any poison oak on that hike. I wish that was the case on my property.

  3. George Hollister December 23, 2021

    According to Matt Taibbi Critical Race Theory in Loudoun County Virginia schools was real, and not a ruse. Of course there was more to the story as well. And the MSM got it all wrong. They seem to be in the business of doing that.

  4. chuck dunbar December 23, 2021

    Mercy Dogs, serving the wounded and dying in the two World Wars and in Korea. I’d not known this. Man’s best friends for sure.

  5. Marshall Newman December 23, 2021

    Rest easy, Ben Van Zandt. You will be missed.

  6. John Sakowicz December 23, 2021

    To the Editor:

    Thank you for the brilliant opinion piece by Mark Scaramella about Camille Schraeder and her $30 million a year Helping Industrial Complex…a complex that hides both its ineffectiveness (no performance metrics — “data dashboards and trends” are not performance metrics) and executive salaries (the salaries of the C-level Timothy and Camille Schraeder, Daniel Anderson, Rebecca Timme, Carmen Harris, and Alicia Logan are all hidden behind the smokescreen of “patient confidentiality”).

    And make no mistake, Camille Schraeder is a monster that was created by County CEO Carmel “Boss” Angelo.

    Boss Angelo will almost certainly retire in 2022. She will leave behind the following legacy:
    1. the failure of Measure B — essentially, the CEO’s private “slush fund” to do with whatever she pleases
    2. the $30 million a year Schraeder Empire — no measurable improvement in county mental health
    3. the disempowerment of the Board of Supervisors by the CEO — the Clerk of the Board and the BOS Meeting Agenda have both been taken from the Board by the CEO; and a lot gets hidden in the consent calendar
    4. the intimidation of the Board of Supervisors by the CEO — mess with the Boss and get falsely accused of harassment or some other such thing; remember Tom Woodhouse?
    5. the consolidation of power in the CEO’s Office — at first, risk management, public works, and IT; and now, the treasurer and audit functions
    6. the total and abject failure of the county’s cannabis licensing and permitting program — high taxes, high fees, high legal barriers, and low worker productivity in the program; consequently, a shift back to the black market by cannabis farmers, or they just give up and sell their farms.

    Happy New Year!

    John Sakowicz, Ukiah

  7. Marmon December 23, 2021


    I’ve never been a big fan of the crisis vans because I think they are a waste of money. What I’ve always felt was necessary and more cost effective is “Outreach Teams”. I worked on an outreach team in Sacramento in the late 90’s. Getting out to people before they reach a crisis state is much more beneficial for all involved. If family members are concerned that their love one is falling apart they can call the outreach team for an intervention. Law enforcement can be called in for backup if warranted. Street Outreach works well too. We used to go out to where the homeless were, get to know them, and offer services. By doing so you don’t want to be come accross as adversarial in order to gain their trust. Dragging a cop around with you can be counter productive in most cases.

    The biggest issue with setting up teams like this is funding. The Schraeders can’t bill MediCal unless a person is really in Crisis. Angelo who now controls the Measure B purse would do everyone, but the Schraeders, a favor if she would look into and consider turning these crisis vans into pre-crisis vans staffed with outreach teams.


    • chuck dunbar December 23, 2021

      Good points, James, based on your experience. At least the crisis vans are maybe a step forward. Maybe they can at some point morph into a mix of outreach and crisis, with the focus best put on outreach. In a crisis situation, if the person in crisis has dealt with a team before, and there is some trust already in place, it may be safer for all involved and easier to resolve the crisis….

    • Marmon December 23, 2021

      The problem with Mendocino County is that there no services for the mild to moderate clients before they reach crisis. Giving the Schraeders all that Measure B money is criminal in my mind. Measure B money should be spent the way the voters envisioned, a PHF Unit and to fill in the gaps. No services for the mild and moderate is the biggest gap of all. The mild to moderate can eventually turn into the severely mentally ill if allowed to go unserved.


      • Lazarus December 23, 2021

        Everything the Measure B committee looked at for a PHF makes the new CRT look minimal.
        And then you have the “Training Center.” They’ll have close to a mil by the time that thing is over.
        Oh yeah, and at the last Measure B meeting, it got reported that the pipes broke in the proposed Sherrif substation building, water flooded the place, significant damage, they say.
        More money for something nobody seems to want. Ask around.
        Happy Christmas

    • Mark Scaramella December 23, 2021

      Let’s do both. Clearly the crisis van is doing some good. If they hadn’t wasted $4 million on the CRT there’d be plenty of money for both.

      • Marmon December 23, 2021

        I agree, a 3 or 4 bedroom house would have been sufficient. They could have bought one of those homes accross the street from where they are now for a cool mil. I don’t think any of those homes would even cost a half mil. on the open market.


        • Marmon December 23, 2021

          One of those houses on the other side of the street a block down housed mentally ill folks as a board and care for years after the State hospital closed. Larry Long (better known as Elvis) lived in it for years until he was tossed off the Talamadge bridge by two teenagers, David Portlock and Eric Mehtlan.

          The Man Who Loved Elvis

          “Larry lived on social security income, residing at board and care homes or local motels.”


          • Marmon December 23, 2021


            I just upset my 88 year old mom by reminding her of the treatment the mentally ill received after the State Hospital closed. Mendocino County created one of those so called President Kennedy’s Community Health Centers.

            My mom, who managed the Salvation Army Store on Main Street for over 17 years got to know a lot of the patients that were released from the hospital. The “Commuinty” took advatage and took in millions of dollars with little in return. Folks like Larry Long were left to live in garages or burn up in a motel fire on State Street and often left hungry or cold.

            They would routinely tell my mom how much they missed the hospital where they felt safe and cared for.

            I told my mom, “nothing has changed” Some people are getting rich, and others are suffering and dying on the streets.

            We’re both happy we don’t live in Ukiah anymore, we see it as the most evil place on earth. My mom moved to Ukian in the 40’s and I was born in 1954 at Ukiah General Hospital on Dora Street behind what’s know now as the Civic Center.

            Until what ever it is is eradicated, we’re outa there


  8. Stephen Rosenthal December 23, 2021

    Boo hoo, pot growers want a tax break. After not paying taxes for how many years?

    • Kirk Vodopals December 23, 2021

      Oh you can’t say that in Mendo land… You’ll never get invited to any parties

      • Bruce McEwen December 23, 2021

        Just got my so-called Social Security (to borrow a verse from Merle Haggard) raise; simultaneously, my Medicare increased proportionately.

        “What they give with one hand, they take with the other.”
        Grandpa McEwen’s Compendium of Epigrams

        • Marmon December 23, 2021

          I got mine too Mac, now I’m afraid it’s going to throw over the poverty line and I will lose my deferments on my past Federal taxes and Student Aid Loans. If they don’t raise the poverty level to match, I’m in a shit load of trouble.


          • Marmon December 23, 2021

            I might also lose my MediCal and be left with Medicare only. If that happens I’m resposible for 20 percent of my medical bills.


            P.S. None of this would have been a problem had Carmel Angelo and Camille Schraeder not ended my career 10 years early

            • Harvey Reading December 24, 2021

              I suspect, your behavior was a factor in ending your career, too. Always blame it on others, eh Marmon, so people will pity you?

              Marmon’s way or the highway…and you got the highway.

          • Harvey Reading December 24, 2021

            How is you guys got the raise and increase in cost already? I don’t get my next check, with the supposed raise and Medicare increase, until the second Wednesday of January. Or, is what y’all got just a notification?

  9. Marmon December 23, 2021

    I want to thank Mark Scaramella for bringing me back down to earth, “all politics are local”


    • Harvey Reading December 24, 2021

      Kennedy? You mean that scumbag RFK’s little boy? If so, then you have been suckered, big time.

      Enjoy your dream world. Anything coming from a Kennedy cannot be taken at face value.

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