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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Jan. 24, 2022

Fair Weather | Ruddy Dawn | Lug Nuts | Trail Stewards | Ukrainiacs | Teed Up | Traveling Niners | Trailer Thief | Call Al | Mexican Monday | FB Trees | Home Library | Senior Raffle | Prohibition Stories | Big Lizzard | Recycling Marijuana | Albion Tigers | Library Tax | MacCallum Home | Boscorama | Caspar Thespians | Utility Crime | Yesterday's Catch | Steinbeckigrams | Televised Launch | Frog Punch | Sparrows | Condemned Ukiah | Star Figure | Kafka's Friend | Quiet Roommate | Thierry Muglar | Rocky Rowf | Swinging Update | People's Party | Woman Passing | Crazy Karen | Romania 1918

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HIGH PRESSURE will bring fair weather conditions through the week. The return of a dense marine layer and coastal clouds will be probable tonight. Otherwise, temperate conditions and mild weather will prevail through the work week. Light rain is possible this weekend. (NWS)

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Ruddy Dawn (photo by Elaine Kalantarian)

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GREAT FELLOW BOONTERS

Hey Anderson Valley,

Driving back to Anderson Valley from Chico, coming down the last hill on Highway 253, the truck started steering weirdly. I made the junction with Highway 128 and turned to the side of the road hearing a scraping sound. Stepping out of the truck, I immediately saw that the rear driver’s side wheel was OFF the truck just leaning against the axle! Whoa Nellie Bell. The studs were still there but all the lug nuts were gone. Very lucky it didn't fall off on the way down the hill. 

As I scratched my head, who comes tooling by but Tommy Jones and a minute later Jed Adams stops. These guys started right in jacking up the rear end of the truck. The plan was to steal a lug nut from the other wheels if the studs weren't all stripped and I could get back home. They went right to work, with all their own tools by the way, while I just stood around like an old fart which I guess I am.

During this process Jed looks over and says, hey, there's one of your lug nuts. It was laying in the road right at the stop sign. We walk over and there's another and another. All six lug nuts were laying right there in the road not 20 feet from the truck. Wha? Go figure, never heard of such a thing. 

Talk about luck, after the lads cleaned up the studs and straightened the brake drum they put on the wheel and sure enough the lugs all went on, they luckily weren't stripped. 

What was REALLY lucky though was these two local guys cheerfully helping out a fellow Boonter. It's guys like this that make the valley a fine place to be. We still do take care of each other here. Thanks again Tommy and Jed, not just good but GREAT SAMARITANS.

Captain Rainbow

Boonville

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BIDEN WEIGHS DEPLOYING THOUSANDS OF TROOPS TO EASTERN EUROPE AND BALTICS

President Biden is considering deploying several thousand U.S. troops, as well as warships and aircraft, to NATO allies in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, an expansion of American military involvement amid mounting fears of a Russian incursion into Ukraine, according to administration officials.

The move would signal a major pivot for the Biden administration, which up until recently was taking a restrained stance on Ukraine, out of fear of provoking Russia into invading. But as President Vladimir V. Putin has ramped up his threatening actions toward Ukraine, and talks between American and Russian officials have failed to discourage him, the administration is now moving away from its do-not-provoke strategy.

In a meeting on Saturday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, senior Pentagon officials presented Mr. Biden with several options that would shift American military assets much closer to Mr. Putin’s doorstep, the administration officials said. The options include sending 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries, with the potential to increase that number tenfold if things deteriorate....

nytimes.com/2022/01/23/us/politics/biden-troops-nato-ukraine.html

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THE NINERS VS. THE RAMS

by Cam Inman

The 49ers are, so far, conquering an unprecedented travel log to reach the Super Bowl.

At least this next stop is a short, familiar jaunt.

They'll be visiting the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC Championship at 3:30 p.m. next Sunday at SoFi Stadium, where the 49ers won in overtime two weeks ago, and where Super Bowl LVI will be held Feb. 13.

That's right, these traveling businessmen from Santa Clara HQ won't have to leave California again if they're to bring home the franchise's sixth Lombardi Trophy.

The No. 4-seed Rams advanced with a 30-27, walk-off win against the reigning Super Bowl champion and No. 2-seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Of the seven teams that previously won the Super Bowl as a wild card, none traveled as much the final two months of their season as the 49ers have, so far. This will be their seventh road game in nine weeks.

Only two weeks ago, the 49ers kept their season alive by rallying from a 17-0 deficit and downing the Rams in overtime, thus locking the 49ers into the NFC's No. 6 seed as a wild card.

SoFi Stadium was besieged by red-clad, 49ers fans, and it was so loud that the Rams' offense resorted to using a silent count in the 27-24 thriller.

If the 49ers win in Sunday's encore visit — where the Rams are attempting to sell tickets only to local residents — they'll be making actually their fourth appearance this season at SoFi Stadium. It is where they played their only road game in the preseason, a win over the Chargers.

These stakes are much greater. After the Jan. 9 win over the host Rams, then came a nail-biting win at No. 3-seed Dallas, followed by a fourth-quarter comeback Saturday night in the snow at No. 1 Green Bay.

Jet lag? It can wait, apparently.

This nine-game stretch began Dec. 5 at Seattle (loss) before ensuing visits to Cincinnati (Dec. 12, win), Tennessee (Dec. 23, loss), Los Angeles Rams (Jan. 9 win), Dallas (Jan. 16, win), Green Bay (Jan. 22, win) and back again to Los Angeles this Sunday.

That makes seven trips, and the most any wild-card champion traveled were six games in the nine leading up to a Super Bowl.

"It is very rewarding to be an underdog, come in and take something," linebacker Fred Warner said after Saturday's 13-10 win over the Packers.

Before flying Friday to Green Bay, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan sensed his team was ready to go after quickly overcoming any jetlag earlier in the week. The road comes with a chance to rest, too, at least before kickoff.

"I don't mind the traveling," Shanahan said Friday. "... It's harder to just sit there and zone out when you're around your whole family, instead of just sitting in a hotel room, so I think our guys get to sleep, we catch up."

It's worth noting the 49ers won two weeks before that across the country in Jacksonville. This was also the first season of the 17-game schedule, which meant an extra road game for the 49ers. They're 8-3 overall on the road this year, and, incidentally, 7-1 in their traditional road uniform of white jerseys and gold pants (0-2 in the all-white throwbacks).

The Rams, meanwhile, will try doing what the Bucs did last season: win a Super Bowl on their home turf, the first time that had happened in the game's 55-year history. The Rams have lost six in a row to the 49ers, getting swept in the home-away series annually since 2019.

"The way this year has gone has made this journey special, and I'm glad it's still going," defensive end Nick Bosa said.

Two years ago, the 49ers enjoyed home-field advantage and won their NFC playoff games against Minnesota and Green Bay at Levi's Stadium (before falling in the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami).

"There's nothing we like more than being at home and being in our own stadium with our fans and the noise," Shanahan said, "but besides that, we don't mind going on the road either."

(San Jose Mercury News)

BEFORE BUCS GAME STARTS, Los Angeles Rams restrict 49ers fans from buying tickets to possible NFC Championship

by Alex Shultz

The Los Angeles Rams' 27-24 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers in early January was embarrassing for the home team for a number of reasons, including that Niners fans were heavily represented at SoFi Stadium. The large presence of scarlet and gold in the stands caught Rams coach Sean McVay by surprise, he said afterwards. Rams quarterback Matt Stafford even had to go to a silent count, a tactic usually employed by the road team to continue calling plays in a rowdy stadium. 

A few weeks later, the 49ers have secured a surprising spot in the NFC Championship Game. And the Rams, looking ahead to a rematch, are trying to shut down the possibility of another influx of 49ers faithful.

As The Athletic's David Lombardi clocked, even before their 30-27 divisional round victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs, the Rams were already preparing to sell NFC title game tickets with the caveat that they'd be restricted to "residents of the greater Los Angeles region."

The Rams' warning notes that anyone whose credit card has a zip code outside of that region will immediately have their ticket purchase cancelled. That wouldn't stop Niners fans from buying tickets on the secondary market, of course, but it would surely have a tangible effect on avoiding what previously felt like a neutral game site, if not a 49ers home game. 

The fact that the Rams were already thinking ahead to the following week and worrying about fan turnout at home is a reminder that they've only been back in Los Angeles since 2016, and despite a fancy schmancy new stadium, they're clearly behind the Lakers and Dodgers as far as the city's pro sports teams pecking order goes.


REALISTICALLY, the Niners are playing as if under a spell. The breaks that traditionally went against them EVERY TIME in crucial situations (Preston Riley, for those of you with long and bitter memories, fumbling an onside kick against the Cowboys in 1972; Roger Craig's last carry as a Niner, a fumble against New York which put the Giants in the Super Bowl) are evening out (thanks forever, Dwight). Now, the team expects to win, even when they have no first downs, no points, even no positive yards. It's catching; we do too. The Chron's entire roster of sports reporters on Friday picked against them. But the noble, venerable Packers blinked, twice (Ward, Willis — blocks). That said, I think they're overmatched against Tampa Bay. But if the Rams should somehow win today… Jimmy and Company can be back in the Super Bowl. Somebody has to win this thing. Why not S.F.?

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TRAILER THIEF CAPTURED ON CAMERA

OK Folks! We got the thief on Camera so keep your eyes out for this vehicle. White Ford Explorer. Dent on drivers side front fender. Wrap-around back windows. Not giving up. Do not want this kind of activity in our valley. Thank you for all your support.

Kira Brennan

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AL NEEDS A PLACE

Sending this on behalf of Al Nunez, who did some work for us on the ranch a few years ago, and did it okay. Many of you know of Al, but he no longer has WiFi where he is currently living. He has to leave his Albion location where he lives in his RV, and move the RV along with his truck and supplies to a new place. He asks if anyone knows of a place between Albion and Fort Bragg where he can park and live in exchange for caretaking or handyman work. His telephone number is 707-409-4147 and he asks that you call him. Please call Al if you know of something. (Posting for Al Nunez)

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LAUREN'S AT THE BUCKHORN

Olga’s Mexican Monday! 5 to 9 

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TREELESS FORT BRAGG, an on-line comment

Trees are absent (mostly) from the sidewalks of Ft Bragg because as anyone who lives in town knows (I lived downtown 20 years), the wind comes in from the coast practically every day and withers them unless really protected. You’ll see survivors bent over and stunted on the side of the prevailing winds. Cypresses are the few that survive but don’t have a particularly long lifespan. There is a “tree line” along the coast below which not many trees thrive. 

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BILL KIMBERLIN: This is the library in the home of Richard Macksey in Guilford, Baltimore. 

He was a professor at Johns Hopkins. There were about 51,000 books in his library. I thought I had a lot at 2500.

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FROM THE AV SENIOR CENTER

Thanks to everyone who purchased Warriors raffle tickets. The winning ticket will be drawn by a senior at the Senior Lunch on Tuesday. 

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BOOZE IN FORT BRAGG DURING PROHIBITION — two local recollections

“When I was in the oil business in the 1920s they used to bring booze into Noyo Harbor. One big ship I remember especially, the Zozal. It was a big boat, painted black to make it less visible. I used to have to go down there with my fuel truck and fuel them up. The diesel outfit. That's the first time I ever saw a split of champagne. It came hidden in a straw container. They gave me a couple of them. They always paid cash of course. There was a lot of bootlegging on the coast in the 1920s. Oh, the law just made noises, they tried. Toward the end I think they slacked off. It was almost too dangerous. They landed liquor in many many places on the Coast that I know of starting down at Gualala and up north as well. Money was made. Pretty near any Italian family who has money now usually got it from bootlegging. There's quite a few of their descendents around town. Some really made it. It was completely out of control towards the end. You could knock on every other door in the south part of town and they would probably be a bootleg joint and you could buy a drink. There were many of them. The demand was probably not heavy enough for the supply. I think it cost you 50¢ a drink for jackass which was nearly straight alcohol. You got a lot more alcohol for your money than you do now in the drink. It was so strong that you had to dilute it, you couldn't just drink it. One of the big dairy farmers down near Greenwood ran a large still and he used to haul the jackass whiskey up to Fort Bragg with a load of hogs.”

— Frank Petersen, ‘Fort Bragg Remembered’


“About a year or two prior to the end of Prohibition when I was working for the Shell Oil Co. down on the river, seven rum-runners came into Noyo Harbor at one time. Rum-runners were the ones who brought in the booze. Outside the 12 mile limit was a Canadian mothership loaded with Canadian whiskey. These boats were fast boats. One of them was called the Thor. It had two 300 horsepower Liberty motors. It was about 50 feet long and could run away from the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard had no chance. They unloaded where the Caito Brothers fishery is now. It was an unusual boat. It had a deep hole so it could carry a big load of whiskey. It came down here and it would unload via those rum-runners. In those days brandy came in sacks about 12 bottles to a sack and it was hidden in straw. Seven fishery workers were recruited and told to get in a big truck. One guy stood over them with a tommy gun. They would pass the sacks of booze over to the truck and put them in although it was pitch dark. One guy got the idea he was going to see if he could get away with a couple of the sacks. Behind him was a big patch of nettles so he threw a couple sacks into those nettles. But they knew how many sacks were in the boat and they knew how many sacks they had to have on the truck. After it was over the fellow with the tommy gun came over and said there were two sacks missing. He said, ‘Okay fellows, we're two sacks short here. What happened to them?’ Nobody would say anything. So the guy said, ‘Ok, if nobody here is going to admit anything about where the sacks are, we're ongoing to start chopping off fingers. So –’ The guy then admitted he threw the two sacks down in the nettles. ‘All right young man, take off your clothes,’ the gun guy said. They made him take off his clothes and jump in the nettles and retrieve those two sacks. You know what nettles are? Oh boy! That's just one of those stories from the Prohibition era.”

— Albert Penitenti, ‘Fort Bragg Remembered’

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FROM ONE BUMMER TO ANOTHER

by Tommy Wayne Kramer

The last time marijuana did me a favor was when I went to see the Grateful Dead along with 30,000 other smelly hippies and, just as the show was about to start, realized I’d left my stash of weed back in the VW bus.

Uh oh. Like, Dude…

So I had to sit through 16 hours of noodling, feedback, Dark Star and boredom, at the end of which I realized “Like, Dude—this band totally sucks, man!” 

I went home and traded in my Live at Fillmore East album for a copy of The Carpenters Greatest Hits, and from then on my life was like, totally right on, dude. I can’t thank weed enough for showing me the error(s) of my ways and putting me back on the road to sanity. Not sure about the other 30,000 hippies; they can’t have all moved to Mendocino County.

Since then marijuana has been one big stupid headache after another, having gone from being a “victimless crime” and mild intoxicant to a medical marvel capable of curing anything from tuberculosis to a broken ankle. 

And here we are. Marijuana at long last is as legal as aspirin, and more socially acceptable than tobacco. The turning point was in softening up the citizenry with all that rubbish about weed being the wonder cure for every ailment in the Physicians’ Desk Reference. Remember how pot cured Glaucoma, and that former sufferers cast aside their crutches and shouted hallelujah after a single dose of ganja therapy? 

Or cancer and all the promising research being undertaken that would soon replace Laetrile as the ultimate solution? Even marijuaniacs would today acknowledge they were lying just a real lot about all that guff.

The capper was yet another fabrication the weed industry promoted, which was that once the harmless leafy substance was legalized, why just think of all the tax dollars that would come rolling into city, county and state coffers starting yesterday!

Marijuana’s been legal for many years now, and tell me what decade you think Mendocino County will realize its first nickel of profit. Before you answer, check out some of the cash outlays the county is making to build its regulatory agency to deal with the growers and gardens and water and paperwork and security and many, many other things neither of us ever thought of. 

In a recent Daily Journal advertising section a modest display ad appeared in the Help Wanted columns, offering the following county positions for qualified candidates:

Chief Planner, Cannabis Program

Cartographer / Planner, Cannabis Program

Office Services Supervisor, Cannabis Program

Planners I / II, Cannabis Program

Planning Technician I, Cannabis Program

Senior Planner, Cannabis Program 

How soon will these well-compensated county employees run through a million dollars per year in salaries and benefits, and how soon will the previously mentioned nickel(s) of profit mean the county breaks even? How many other people are already employed by the county trying to figure out how to rake in tax money from a reluctant group of growers who have always dodged the law, taxes, and giving anything to the very communities in which they grow and thrive and get so rich they can buy second and homes in Hawaii and Costa Rica?

We’ve been duped again, and this time with a big swindle that no one saw coming, or at least no one employed by Mendocino County.

Because seriously now, do you suppose 2022 will be the year wily old outlaw growers on remote parcels of land behind multiple locked gates on confusing roads heading to unmapped grow sites will invite county bureaucrats in county cars to come count their plants, inspect their water lines, measure the product, estimate the haul, calculate the owed revenue, photograph everything and be invited back in three weeks to be assured of mandatory compliance? 

Me neither.

Or will those longtime growers simply maintain contact with the same old sources in Denver and Minneapolis they’ve been using since the 1980s, and do business the same old successful way as always? 

Me too.

IS THIS LEGAL?

Another intriguing UDJ story outlined the subterfuge and chicanery involving rogue recyclers bringing truckloads to weigh stations and finding illegal ways to increase their pay. Some have the same load weighed twice, others bring in bottles and cans from out of state and cash them in here in California.

But the story ignored another, more dishonest scam utilized right here in Ukiah. Like everywhere in the state, when you buy a six-pack of Coke or a bottle of wine you are charged a “CA Redemption Value” deposit to be refunded upon returning the empty containers. 

But Ukiah stopped refunding the redemption fees years ago. Local recycling centers have all disappeared, and today there’s nowhere to cash in the glass and / or aluminum for the promised deposit. How many tens of thousands of dollars disappear per month?

How much would Ukiah citizens be entitled to if, for instance, an attorney (Erik Petersen? Attila Panczel?) launched a Class Action suit for monies owed? 

With millions in reimbursements we’ll be able to throw a big party at my place!

(Tom Hine was cheered to see neon lights glowing outside the Forest Club, and plans to drop in for a properly chilled Coors one of these nights. TWK says Ukiah cannot afford to lose another bar or saloon.)

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Albion Tigers, 1908

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REACTIONS TO BOOKWORM TAX PROPOSAL

by Jim Shields

I recently reported that Mendocino County library supporters informed me of their intention to circulate petitions to place a tax measure on the November 2022 ballot that would add a one-quarter cent (0.25%) sales tax to fund libraries in Mendocino County. Nearly every town in this county has a “Friends of the Library” group that work, organize and fund-raise to establish brick-and-mortar libraries throughout the county. My daughter is a founding member of the Laytonville library group.

That item caused a number of readers to respond expressing their concerns about the proposed voter initiative.

Here’s a few of the comments:

Actually, there’s more than Measure A expenditures to audit. The county should have a total audit of its budget when the present CEO departs. That allows the new CEO a fresh start, as well as finally allowing the public knowledge of county expenditures and revenue.

Is there any assurance that the present Measure A money has not been illegally diverted from library expenditures? With that assurance in place, I am all in favor of the new library tax.

—George Dorner

How could anyone ever prove or refute the proper use of the money?

—Carmel

I’m very pro-library but equally anti any new tax. If I recall correctly Boss Angelo and her lackeys on the BOS tried to divert Measure A funds for other purposes. Two or three Library Directors were disappeared by this cabal after they and the Library Commission exposed the chicanery and tried to get the money, which eventually was returned to the library. If I got any of the details wrong, I’m sure The Major will correct them. At any rate, like you, I’m very conflicted about this proposed tax measure.

— Stephen Rosenthal

I would like to support a library sales tax measure. But there are several reasons to be skeptical: This Board of Supervisors is not showing the kind of management or backbone that would lead some voters to support any new money for them even if it’s in a lockbox. Not one Supervisor has shown any serious commitment to library spending oversight. There is no “supplement, not supplant” provision. The Library Advisory Board has not demonstrated that the last library sales tax measure was spent for objective “improvements.” There’s nothing stopping County admin from either 1) delaying the spending and sitting on it to make the books like balanced, or 2) overcharging the Library fund for support services just because there’s money there. There’s no specific list of “improvements” that the money must be spent on.

PS. Don’t forget that Mendo figured out a way to spend $5 million for a $1 million house — “a Crisis Residential Treatment facility,” a house that some observers have noted is not well built — and brags about it as some kind of accomplishment. Then we heard today that even though they held a well-hyped “grand opening” it’s not open yet because the contractor Mendo picked has some kind of licensing problem.

—Mark Scaramella


Here’s my reply to the concerns these intelligent folks have raised:

All good points which is why this proposed measure builds a super-solid lock box to protect and, I believe, prohibit any attempt to divert tax proceeds from the special library fund the measure creates. Here are the actual lock box provisions which are clear and unambiguous:

1. To impose a permanent one-quarter cent (0.25 percent) sales tax for the specific purpose of maintaining and improving library services in Mendocino County; and

2. To create a special fund for these tax proceeds to be used exclusively for maintaining and improving library services. At least forty percent (40%) are reserved for capital investments, such as building improvements.

AT&T, Verizon 5G plans on hold

Also, in the same column I wrote about the proposed library tax, I also informed you about AT&T and Verizon moving forward with their 5G expansion plans — despite a request from the U.S. government to delay the project.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT). want the rollout delayed, concerned about possible impacts on airplane and airport controls.

But the companies have refused, claiming that 5G technology is “every bit as essential to our country’s economic vitality, public safety and national interests as the airline industry.”

These two mega-corporations act as if they are beyond the reach of the U.S. government.

The FAA and DOT, when it comes to airline safety issues, have a long record of mostly looking out for the interests of the public. In this case, the feds are concerned about 5G interfering with airplane instrumentation and avionics, not exactly minor concerns. For example, avionics includes such things as communication systems, navigation systems, aircraft flight-control systems, fuel systems, collision-avoidance systems, flight recorders, and weather systems

Both Federal agencies should immediately change their “request” to an order.

Well on Tuesday, Jan. 18, in response to escalated pressure from the Feds and the airline industry, AT&T and Verizon said they will delay the rollout of 5G service near certain U.S. airports after major airlines warned that it would lead to flight cancellations and have a negative impact on cargo operations.

Among major carriers to push back, United Airlines said Monday that 15,000 flights and upward of 1.25 million passengers will be negatively impacted each year if the plan were implemented in its current form.

“Unfortunately, this will result in not only hundreds of thousands of flight cancellations and disruptions for customers across the industry in 2022, but also the suspension of cargo flights into these locations, causing a negative ripple-effect on an already fragile supply chain,” United Airlines said in a statement.

In announcing its intention to delay the rollout, AT&T said in a statement on Tuesday, “At our sole discretion we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment,” adding, “We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services.”

“We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers,” the company’s statement continued.

Verizon also announced Tuesday it would limit its 5G network around airports.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, observer@pacific.net, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)

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MacCallum Home, Glen Blair

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ANOTHER DUMB MOVE FROM SMART

Editor: 

Seemingly SMART’s directors have finally lost any sense of reality. In one fell swoop, they decided to give up their most stable source of a significant part of their revenue stream. The storage of tanker cars has gone on for years without any problem. And SMART has no replacement for this revenue stream.

SMART bought a company without ever having a look at the books. No organization, public or private, buys a company without knowing the financial situation. In this case, I think the financials are so bad that they don’t want to know the whole truth. It’s a head in the sand approach.

Isn’t it about time that the public speaks up and tells the SMART board to finish what they have promised — service to Cloverdale — before they go out on a limb with another money-losing venture.

Every SMART board member is an elected official on another board or city council. Maybe they need to be held accountable by that electorate.

Wayne Diggs 

Cloverdale

ED NOTE: The company the SMART board bought “without ever having a look at the books” is owned in large part by former Congressman Doug Bosco. So of course no elected official in Northern California would dare to question the books of such a prominent local businessman.

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Thespians, Caspar, 1938

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JUDGE ADMITS HE CAN’T STOP PG&E FIRE DESTRUCTION

It’s been more than 11 years since a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. pipeline ruptured, unleashing a fireball in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed 53 homes.

The company’s felonious behavior resulted in six criminal convictions and five years’ court probation that began in 2017. During that probation, the federal judge in charge of the case admitted Wednesday, he has failed to rehabilitate PG&E.

The death and destruction linked to the utility since 2017 has been staggering: 31 wildfires, burning 23,956 structures and nearly 1.5 million acres — and killing 113 Californians.

“So, in these five years, PG&E has gone on a crime spree and will emerge from probation as a continuing menace to California,” Judge William Alsup wrote. The utility repeatedly prioritized “keeping the meters turning” over public safety while maintaining “a stubborn refusal to take responsibility for its actions.”

In effect, the judge told Californians that they cannot count on the courts to hold PG&E accountable. But the 16 million customers served by PG&E can’t keep waiting.

The state and the California Public Utilities Commission must step up and initiate a takeover of the utility. Now. Before PG&E wreaks further havoc on our lives.

The question now is not whether to take over the failed utility, but how: What is the best way to replace the company? Should it be split up? Run by the state? By a nonprofit? By another utility company? It’s past time for state officials to figure that out — and to act.

While on probation in the San Bruno case, PG&E has pleaded guilty to 84 manslaughter charges for its ignition of the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County. And it is facing five felony and 28 misdemeanor counts arising out of the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County; pending involuntary manslaughter charges arising out of the 2020 Zogg Fire in Shasta County; and civil suits by five counties, and possible criminal charges, arising out of the 2021 Dixie Fire.

Alsup’s eight-page summation of the San Bruno case as the probation draws to a close was stunning, not for the details of the new destruction, which were well known, but rather for the candor with which he acknowledged the court’s inability to rein in PG&E.

Survivors of the wildfires had asked the judge to extend the probation. But Alsup declined to do so, saying the U.S. attorneys had not asked for an extension and he would not do it on his own. For their part, the prosecutors said federal law apparently didn’t permit probation extension but acknowledged that there were no court precedents setting clear guidelines on the issue.

Rather, the federal prosecutors opted to defer to district attorney offices in Sonoma and Shasta counties that are actively pursuing felony criminal cases against PG&E. There, the federal prosecutors said, if the company is convicted, a broader array of sentencing options will be available.

What seems to be lost here is that PG&E’s destruction has been going on for more than a decade. There is no end in sight. And the legal system has proven powerless in stopping it.

Making matters worse, Alsup noted, “Almost all of the survivors of these fires are still waiting for compensation. Many hundreds who lost their homes endure in travel trailers because they have not yet been compensated. Meanwhile, PG&E management pays itself handsome salaries and bonuses, all paid from revenues collected from customers.”

It’s long past time to end this outrage. Once again, we ask, what will it take for the state and the PUC to stop PG&E’s reign of terror?

-- San Jose Mercury News Op-Ed

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CATCH OF THE DAY, January 23, 2022

Castro, Gaeta, Hunt

MISAEL CASTRO, Cloverdale/Ukiah. DUI-drugs&alcohol.

ESTEBAN GAETA, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, public nuisance, resisting, probation revocation.

RACHEL HUNT, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

Ickes, Martin, Nidros

COLE ICKES, Fort Bragg. Robbery, trespassing, probation revocation.

JOSEPH MARTIN, Ukiah. Resisting, threatening.

MELISSA NIDROS, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, domestic battery.

Padilla, Ramos, Rivera

JOSE PADILLA-GONZALEZ, Ukiah. Robbery, burglary, domestic battery.

ANTONIO RAMOS-PALMA, Fort Bragg. No license. 

ANGELA RIVERA, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, suspended license for DUI.

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A CROCK OF CHRYSANTHEMUMS

by Herb Caen

In the words of Shakespeare, "We shall not look upon his like again." John Steinbeck who could only have died too young was uniquely American and peculiarly Californian -- a strong, shaggy wolf of a man who came raging out of the Salinas hills to make an indelible mark on his time and place.

Along with his honesty which every so often broke into memorable outrage he had a strong sense of privacy. I met him first in 1939 at the old Bal Tabarin nightclub here in San Francisco and he was not particularly pleased to see me. "All I ask," he said roughly, "is that you don't turn me in." (Translation: "Don't mention that you saw me.") Some writers court publicity, but Steinbeck was not among them. So I was doubly pleased that we became friends and that he would write on the 25th anniversary of my column:

"Herb Caen has made a many faceted character of the city of San Francisco. It is very probable that Herb's city is the one that will be remembered. It is interesting to me that he was able to do this without anger and without venom and without being soft. Then suddenly I see the anniversary — 25 years! Where in hell did those years ago? Well, they went into his column, for one thing."

Where did those years ago? I remember John Steinbeck in 1961 lying ill in a suite at the Cliff Hotel after returning from a trip to the Orient. He was propped up in bed, a pad of yellow paper on his knees, pencil in hand. "I'm so sore at myself for being sick," he growled, "that I'm making myself write epigrams."

He had scribbled 64 of them in laborious long hand and I take the liberty of reproducing a few of them here. So far as I know they have never been published before -- these feverish thoughts of an angrily ailing John Steinbeck:

Hospitality is the most charming torture we have devised.

I wonder who appointed the Americans to world leadership. Could it have been the Americans?

Some men so love the world that they wish to own it.

Since Thoreau's time desperation has grown noisier.

The final test of gentility is solvency.

There are two roads to privacy -- smallpox and poverty.

Confusion is the child of speech. Silence gives no misinformation.

Dignity is elusive. If man wants it he can't have it. If he hasn't he has never heard of it.

An author is an entertainer with tailfeathers.

Sympathy is what you feel for someone you wish were somewhere else.

Love of women keep poolrooms open.

Two be loved get rich and hide your will.

All people have this in common: They are good and those others are bad.

Ambition is a loss for something to avoid when you have it.

Hell must be a pleasant place. Nobody wants to steal it.

A bird can fly but can't thread a needle.

Government is the evidence that as individuals we have failed.

A man who loves cops is studying to be one.

Swans are free swimming public buildings.

Without the devil and the weather we would lack work and conversation.

A gift is a bribe with bells.

Mankind has at last reached the eminence of the child with a stolen dynamite cap.

Loyalty is conditioned friendship.

Ignorance is the solidified wisdom of the ages.

Thought is for Monday after the game.

An evil man is never evil to himself nor a good man good.

Time is the only critic without ambition.

Force is the failure of reasoning.

A man too well insured may find it economically unsound to be alive.

A man will break his ass to avoid trouble, forgetting that a broken ass is troublesome.

Art is a scream of loneliness.

We can have peace if we can make peace dangerous and expensive.

* * *

* * *

SAVE THE FROGS, OR, MY CAREER AS AN ECOTERRORIST

by Steve Heilig

Way back when I was a free-range kid in coastal Southern California, there was a decent-sized freshwater pond about a twenty-minute walk through the barbed-wire fence and up into the hills behind our street. Whether it was fed by a spring and/or creek or wholly by rain I don’t know. It can’t have been more than a few feet deep even in winter, such as that was in Southern California. But each year it filled up and reliably bloomed with tadpoles, and then small frogs. I loved them and would walk out there regularly, sometimes sneaking out at night with a flashlight to hear them singing away in mass unison under the stars, like an orchestra of rhythmic voices I never tired of. When it was truly late and quiet one could also faintly hear the surf murmuring from the beaches not far away below our suburban streets. 

For a couple of years each spring I took a large mason jar with me and scooped up a few dozen tadpoles, bringing them back down to our small yard and dumping them into a wheelbarrow I’d filled with water. There I could more easily watch them grow legs and morph into frogs, who would soon jump out and take up residence in our greenery. The one problem with this forced relocation was that they started up their evening concert there too, right outside my parents’ bedroom, and my dad finally said “OK, no more damn tadpoles - it’s getting way too loud out there at night!”

One day I walked out to “my” pond to see “my” frogs and was surprised to find another kid sitting there on the big rock I sat on at the pond’s edge. Our neighborhood was relatively small and most of us knew each other at least by sight, but I didn’t recognize him. He seemed to be about my age. I walked up and was about to say hello when I saw what he was up to. He had a flat rock in one hand and was scooping up frogs with the other, dropping them on the big sitting rock, and smashing them. There was a pulpy mess of crushed flesh and blood smeared next to him. 

The phrase “seeing red” has always seemed metaphorical, or something like that, but in this case it was literal. A rush of rage exploded inside me. I must have yelled at him, for he stood up and faced me. I was not a big kid and he must have been at least my size. I don’t recall if he still had the murder rock in his hand. But without hesitation I punched him hard in the face. As his hands went up, I lunged forward and pushed him backwards, into the water. It was only a couple feet deep at the pond’s edge but he was fully submerged for a second at least. He popped back up, blood under his nose, looked at me in shock, and soaked, ran off without a word, down towards civilization as we knew it. I stood there, shocked myself, then scooped up pond water to rinse the grotesque mash off the rock. I must have sat there sadly for a long time before walking back home.

Later that night our telephone rang and my parents talked on it for some time. I was cowering in my room, not having said a thing about what had happened that afternoon. Soon came my dad’s voice yelling “Steve, come out here now.” Out I went. Pop, an intimidating presence at the best of times, was sitting on the couch, cocktail in hand, looking stern.

“Did you hit somebody today?” he asked quietly. I gulped and just nodded.

“Why?” 

I told Pop the story, almost cringing in anticipation of the likely consequences. But as I talked, a strange expression grew on his face. When I finished, he sat there quietly for a moment, looking down, and then just said “Well…. just don’t do that again.” Then he stood up and walked into the next room, where I thought I heard him explode into laughter. In retrospect, I bet he was proud of me, not so much on behalf of the frogs - Pop was raised as a hunter and had little sentimentality about animals, although he did seem to enjoy our cats - but as I’d shown some glimmer of macho toughness.

By my high school years I was reading widely in the environmental realm and as an undergraduate chose Environmental Studies as one of my majors. Decades later at a seminar in West Marin the renowned physician and author Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen posited that most environmental and other advocates had a signature event in their very young lives that set them on their activist path. She asked attendees if we could recall any such experiences and my frog-saving violence came to my mind for the first time in decades. So I related it to the group. “Well, THAT certainly qualifies,” Remen remarked. Another attendee then half-joked “Wow, you were a child eco-terrorist!”

There’s the famous parable of the frog in the frying pan - as the water slowly heats, the frog doesn’t notice it until too late, and is boiled alive. This vignette has often been invoked regarding the human future as well. Human population has doubled since that little pond was obliterated by development of fancy houses and a golf course. Our impact on the planet’s climate has become increasingly clear and it’s not a happy scenario going forward. The last presidential administration did all it could to halt and even reverse any climate policy that scientists advocated, setting us back crucial years in efforts for a livable future, but it remains doubtful whether even optimal collective responses can head off mass disruption and suffering. Some of us hoped the COVID pandemic might reverse or at least stall human-caused carbon and other emissions by shutting down some economic activity, but that appears to have been a short-lived side-effect as people and industries go right back to what they were doing before. It does appear that actual lasting changes and lessons come only via disasters - if even then.

Interestingly, just up the street from our house lived a UC Irvine chemistry professor, Sherwin Rowland, who some years after my frog-saving violence discovered that certain chemicals humans were using could fry us all by destroying earth’s protective ozone layer. His pioneering work led to a landmark treaty to phase such chemicals out, and a Nobel Prize for himself and his colleagues. But before that they were attacked by the chemical industry as “KGB agents out to destroy capitalism.” Later, a pioneering UC Berkeley biologist who showed that pesticides were linked to bad mutations in frogs was also attacked by industry-funded flacks. Such profit-protecting nonsense had been directed at the pioneering author Rachel Carson for her crusade against pesticides a decade earlier, and at anybody who dared argue that tobacco wasn’t healthy, and so on and on, and continues today. Meanwhile the internet has help foster nonsensical paranoid “theories” about vaccines and much more, often also motivated by profit. Actual scientists, medical, and public health experts despair while being threatened by delusional crusaders for garbage. Such madness is hardly new but nowadays goes truly “viral” - an ironic term indeed.

As for the poor frogs, they, and other amphibians, are declining worldwide. The numbers of frogs, toads, salamanders and other such creatures are plummeting, and could be halved in the next couple decades. Climate change, habitat erosion, agricultural chemicals, invasive species and diseases are driving many such species towards extinction - in recent times, this has accelerated to where over 200 species of frogs are already gone forever. And as these creatures are often crucial parts of ecosystems, and especially vulnerable to environmental pressures, they are sometimes called “indicator” species, like the proverbial canaries in coal mines, foretelling and warning of our collective future. At this point hope remains a good thing, but optimism seems like a form of denial.

As for my long-gone frog friends, while I’ve had some incidents of rough self-defense and sports-related bruising, I fairly sure that punching and soaking that murderous kid was the only time I’ve ever instigated physical violence against another human. And I’ve never regretted it. 

* * *

"Sparrows, Bamboo and Falling Snow" by Keisai Eisen (late 1820s)

* * *

DEMOLITIONS (repost for added info)

To the Editor:

Why is the Palace still standing?

I read where it has been voted to demolish the Dragon’s Lair and Tom’s Glass even though they have history to each building.

Why then is the Palace still standing even though that building is a disaster?

What does the owner of the land on which the Dragon’s Lair and Tom’s Glass sits on plan on building on the property? And who owns the land? No one has printed his/her name yet.

The library sits across the street so hopefully whatever is being planned for the property will be built with the library in mind!

Seems like in this town if one has the right last name anything is possible!

Donna Van Wyhe

Ukiah

ED NOTE. Our research reveals they are Dragon's Lair 101 S Main St. Ukiah and Tom's Glass 105 S Main St. Ukiah.

According to Been Verified 101 S Main St. is owned by Todd and Noel Schrapmire. Todd is the son of Shari Schrapmire the Mendocino County Tax collector. Todd and Noel live in Windsor and Todd has a property management company.

https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/industry-news/2-ukiah-property-management-firms-combine-covering-sonoma-mendocino-market/

105 S Main St. was a little iffier. I was not able to find the address at Been Verified but I did find 105 "North" Main St. and the run down on that said the Tom's Glass was a tenant but at the South address. BV states that 105 N Main is owned by the City of Ukiah. There is a 105 N Main St. and it is the public library. 

So, I'm not sure if 105 South Main St. is simply another address on the same property as 101 South Main St. and not listed at BV but I suspect that is the case. 

Both the north and south addresses come up on a Google map as separate properties a couple of blocks from each other.

The summary at BV says that 101 S Main St has a single building on the property. The two buildings on the property look to be the same vintage. I wonder if the property taxes reflect one building or two at the property? 

PS. It does look like both buildings are on the same property and the sales price reflects what the owners are currently paying in property taxes. The price paid does seem kind of cheap for two rentable spaces in a commercial district but it was sold about five years ago and we have no idea of the condition when purchased.

* * *

* * *

PROBABLY APOCRYPHAL, BUT: 

At 40, Franz Kafka (1883-1924), who never married and had no children, walked through the park in Berlin when he met a girl who was crying because she had lost her favourite doll. She and Kafka searched for the doll unsuccessfully.

Kafka told her to meet him there the next day and they would come back to look for her.

The next day, when they had not yet found the doll, Kafka gave the girl a letter "written" by the doll saying "please don't cry. I took a trip to see the world. I will write to you about my adventures."

Thus began a story which continued until the end of Kafka's life.

During their meetings, Kafka read the letters of the doll carefully written with adventures and conversations that the girl found adorable.

Finally, Kafka brought back the doll (he bought one) that had returned to Berlin.

"It doesn't look like my doll at all," said the girl.

Kafka handed her another letter in which the doll wrote: "My travels have changed me." the little girl hugged the new doll and brought her happy home.

A year later Kafka died.

Many years later, the now-adult girl found a letter inside the doll. In the tiny letter signed by Kafka it was written:

"Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end, love will return in another way."

* * *

KEY WEST

Just past Cafe Sole at 1017 Southard is a dignified, prettified-to-the-max Conch house. It was not always thus, however. Once it was quite overgrown and run-down. On April 30, 1992, police found a man who had been dead for two months lying on the floor there. His roommate, a 78-year-old gentleman named Thomas Warren, thought he was just being "stubborn" and ignored him, though occasionally he asked him if he wanted something to eat or drink or wanted to go to the hospital. Annoyingly, the body didn't reply. As his roomie moldered and melted into the linoleum, Mr. Warren went about his business, stepping over the body, which lay facedown between the kitchen and a bathroom. He told detectives he thought the fellow an unlucky man named Delaney, was alive because he appeared to change positions and, even, stretch his legs. 

— Joy Williams, The Florida Keys

* * *

Thierry Muglar (1948-2022)

* * *

ROCKY ROWF

by Edna Buchanan

I was a pushover.

I met Rocky on a sizzling Fourth of July weekend. I never intended to take him home with me. He was sprawled under a park bench on South Beach trying to stay cool. I was there to exercise, and to bend and stretch in the shade of the sea grape trees, and to look at the blue green summer sea. Two elderly men, friendly regulars in the park, were sitting on the bench.

“Is that your dog?” I asked.

They said no. He was so quiet they had barely noticed him. He was panting in the heat, and I grew alarmed as I petted him. His tongue was purple -- eggplant purple. I was certain that it meant the animal was dangerously dehydrated. I filled a paper cup several times from a faucet used by vendors to rinse sand off their feet and he drank politely. But his tongue remained purple.

That is its normal color, something I did not learn until later. It may mean he is part chow chow, though he does not look it. He looks like the kind of mutt that everybody has owned at some time in their life: Black with buff-colored claws, medium-sized and affable. His years are floppy, his grin silly. He wore a battered old leather collar with no tag. After he drank he watched me exercise, then followed me as I walked along the sea wall. This little romance will end now, I thought, as I returned to my car.

When I opened the door, he pushed right past me, scrambling into the front seat. Obviously accustomed to traveling by car, he was determined to have his way. When ordered out, he slunk into the back seat and settled stubbornly on the floor, on the far side, out of arm’s reach. What the heck, I thought. I'll keep them until I can find his owner. As we pulled away from the curb, however, I reconsidered: I can't take his dog home, what about all those cats?

I stopped at the main lifeguard station and the dog clambered out after me, trotting right alongside. The guard said he had seen the dog roaming the beach alone for the past three days. He would call animal control, he said, and held the dog, so I could get away. “Bye puppy,” I said, and headed for my car. My mistake was in looking back. The dog was whimpering and struggling to follow, his eyes fixed on me, pleading.

“You sure this isn't your dog?” The lifeguard looked suspicious.

I insisted that I'd never seen that animal before in my life. The lifeguard let go, and the dog bounded to me, wagging his tail.

On the way home we stopped at the supermarket for dog food. It was too hot to leave him in the car so I left him just outside the store and told him to wait. He'd probably be gone, finding a new friend, by the time I get a dog food do check out, I thought. But as I turned the next aisle, there he was, trotting past the produce, wriggling with delight when he spotted me. Somebody had opened the door.

“Is that your dog?” the store manager wanted to know. I denied it.

“Are you sure?” he said, staring pointedly at the dog food and a Milkbone box in my cart.

He ejected the dog, who was waiting when I came out. I looked around the parking lot vaguely wondering where I had left my car. He knew. All I had to do was follow as he trotted briskly ahead, found the car, and sat down next to it waiting for me. When we got home he scampered up the front steps without hesitation and waited as I unlocked the door. It was as though he had lived there all his life. Misty and Flossie were snoozing on the highly polished hardwood floor in the living room when this strange dog walked nonchalantly into their home. Both shot straight up in the air, then fled so fast that for several seconds they ran in place on the slick surface. They skidded into my bedroom and dove out the window. Luckily it was open. The screen landed in the middle of the lawn.

After the initial shock they sized him up at once. He must have lived with other animals because he dotes on them, especially smaller ones, and is particularly deferential to cats. He was so obsequious in fact, rolling on his back in abject surrender whenever they entered the room, that they quickly became disgusted at his fawning. Within two days the cats were stealing his food and stepping disdainfully over him as he napped.

For two weeks we walked up and down that stretch of South Beach seawall looking for his owner. Lots of people had seen the friendly dog but always alone. A middle-aged Puerto Rican busboy with no teeth grinned and greeted him as Blackie. I thought we had found the owner, but he said he had fed the dog a hamburger and some water at about one o'clock the same morning I had found him performing his hungry and thirsty act.

After two weeks I gave up, took him to the vet, got him licensed and he joined the household.

He chose his own name. I ran through dozens of appropriate possibilities. None appealed to him. He would not even open his eyes at most. But when I said Rocky, he looked up, wagging his tail and grinned. So Rocky it is -- Rocky Rowf.

His past remains a mystery. Housebroken and well behaved, he did not seem to understand even the most simple commands. Perhaps, I decided, his owner spoke a language other than English. We went to an obedience school taught by a cop in charge of the Coral Gables police K-9 unit. The only mutt, Rocky was the smartest in the class. However, he did refuse to be a watchdog. In an attempt to educate him, they thrust him between a Doberman pinscher in a German shepherd. The big dogs were ferocious, leaping into frenzies, snarling and barking, Rocky sat between them, grinning and drooling. A very laid-back do, he hates trouble, rolling his eyes and whining when the cats quarrel among themselves. If the chips were down and we were attacked by strangers he would do the sensible thing -- run for his life.

The day after his first visit to the vet I got home from the Herald after nine o'clock at night. When I opened the door and called, he did not come bounding in from the yard as usual. I stepped out into the dark and could barely make him out, curled up next to the banana tree. I called to him again and again. He did not move. My heart sank. Frightened, I approached the still form, reached out, and touched the fur, ruffled by a summer breeze. It felt cool. He was dead.

Poor stray dog, doing fine until I took them home; now he was dead. How did it happen? My mind raced. The vet said he was in good health 36 hours earlier. It had to be poison or maybe he had been shot. It was too dark to see anything in the yard. I dialed the vet’s emergency number. He's dead!, I cried accusingly, probably an allergic reaction to the shots you gave it.

“What makes you think he dead?” asked Dr. Hal Nass.

“I know a dead dog when I see one!” I screamed.

He told me to bring the body to his office. He would get dressed and meet me there; together we would find out what happened.

The dog weighed 47 pounds. The backyard was dark, and I didn't even own a flashlight. The only neighbor I knew was across the street in the big house on the Bay. When I had moved in months earlier he introduced himself and invited me to call him if I ever needed help.

His wife answered. They had gone to bed early. I said I needed her husband's assistance. I whimpered to him that somebody or something had killed my dog and asked if he had seen any strangers prowling the neighborhood. I told him I had to get the dead dog out of my shadowy and unlit backyard and into my car. Poor Rocky’s last ride would be to the vet for an autopsy.

A sympathetic man and a good neighbor, Larry Helfer climbed out of bed, got dressed and brought a flashlight. “I think it was poison,” I said, breaking into tears. “The doctor said he was fine yesterday.”

I offered him a blanket to wrap the body in. “Where is it?” He said grimly. Out there, I said, pointing. He pushed open the back door, stared into the darkness, then slowly turned and looked at me, his face strange. I stepped past him to look. Sitting in the back door, gazing up at us was Rocky. He was grinning.

Never taking his eyes off me, Larry Helfer began to back slowly toward the front door. He obviously believed that, using the pretext of a dead dog, I had lured him out of his bed and across the street for some unknown purpose.

“I could have sworn he was dead. He didn't answer when I called him,” I babbled. “He was just lying there.”

It was his turn to babble. “My wife is worried. I better go tell her everything is all right,” he said and made a run for it.

I caught the vet, just as he was leaving is home. “Never mind,” I said.

Larry Helfer and his wife avoided me for several years after that. When we did meet by chance they always asked politely after the health of my dog.

Nowadays, I point an index finger at Rocky and say, “Bang, you're dead! He falls on the floor, then rolls over on his back. It's one of the best tricks in his repertoire.

It wasn't difficult to teach him at all. He already knew how.

* * *

* * *

TIME FOR AN ALTERNATIVE

Middle Seat, main media consulting firm behind Justice Democrats, MoveOn, The Squad, AOC, Beto O’Rourke, Working Families Party, Indivisible, and dozens of other self-proclaimed progressives has raked in more than $48 million in revenue — while simultaneously working to co-opt progressive messaging in an effort carry water for Democratic party elites.

The representatives and organizations Middle Seat fundraised off promises such as Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a living wage, housing for all, and student loan debt forgiveness, only to peddle unpopular incrementalist legislation like the Build Back Better Act once the candidates were elected.

What Beto, Biden, AOC, and the DNC all have in common

Middle Seat’s founders are no strangers to progressive messaging. Founders Zack Exley, Kenneth Pennington, and Hector Sigala all previously held roles on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign. Kenneth Pennington and Hector Sigala went on to work a short stint with Our Revolution following Sanders’ Campaign, before founding Middle Seat.

Middle Seat, like many other political contractors, often have a heavy influence on what their clients are presenting to the public. Their suite of services includes social media, texting, web design, advertising, organizing, and even campaign strategy. Noting on their website that they, “work with campaigns and organizations to build and grow their impact in the progressive space.”

The firm is very close with Justice Democrats, having been formed in conjunction with each other, by some of the same people, and essentially serving as the for-profit wing of the PAC. The Justice Democrats' connections to Middle Seat run deep considering Zack Exley was also a founder of Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress.

Together both organizations have established a recruitment pipeline where Justice Democrats find candidates and set them up with Middle Seat, which moderates their message and aligns it with the Democratic Party establishment while making millions and keeping their influence invisible to the public and the movement.

If Justice Democrats supporters gave to the Squad or JD candidates as a small grassroots donor, there's a good chance it ended up with Middle Seat.

Middle Seat has amassed tremendous revenue from Justice Democrats, the Squad, and JD candidates alone. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Middle Seat brought in more than $9.1 million from Justice Democrats, affiliated political action committees, and JD candidates combined.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Courage to Change PAC accounted for $2.8 million in revenue alone. Middle Seat also represents nearly every Justice Democrat candidate and member of Congress, who pay in tens of thousands of campaign dollars to the firm for services each month.

Some of Middle Seat’s most profitable Justice Democrats representatives are Jamal Bowman at $1.3 million spent, Ro Khanna at $1.4 million spent, and Ayanna Pressley at $488,000.

Middle Seat is bringing in funds from other progressive candidates and representatives. Charles Booker’s campaign and affiliated PACs have spent more than $3.1 million since the end of 2020 alone. Katie Porter and her affiliated PAC has paid in more than $2.3 million to Middle Seat, from 2019 to now.

While Middle Seat has capitalized off of progressive candidates and shifted their messaging to the right, they also worked with establishment candidates to pass moderate candidates off as progressive and shift the goalposts of the progressive movement, Beto O’Rourke, and Joe Biden stand as shining examples of this type of client.

The Biden Victor Fund was also a client of Middle Seat in 2020. The firm worked in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee’s in-house digital advertising team in an effort to make Biden more palatable for progressives.

But they weren’t Middle Seat’s first establishment candidate. The firm has also worked with DNC-backed clients such as MoveOn, Beto O’Rourke, and the Working Family’s Party.

Beto O’Rourke and his campaign support PACs, People Powered Action and Powered by the People, account for half of Middle Seat’s revenue at a whopping $23.1 million going to the firm. Middle Seat was contracted by the Beto campaigns, and supporting political action committees, during his 2018 Texas Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and his subsequent 2020 Presidential run.

While the Squad and others have moved to the right under the messaging hand of Middle Seat, Beto garnered millions in campaign donations and support by masking his past stances. His campaign touted policies such as Medicare for All to capitalize on the zeitgeist born out of Bernie Sander’s 2016 Presidential run, despite his tendency in the past to support moderate and conservative legislation.

According to the by-line on Beto’s current website, Middle Seat has been contracted once again for his 2022 Texas gubernatorial race.

The Lies, The Grift, & The Cooptation

Many progressive candidates and organizations contracted by Middle Seat fueled their campaigns by touting themselves as Democratic-party outsiders. Now progressive figureheads like AOC, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman are toeing the Party line.

For instance, they’ve replaced their criticisms of Joe Biden in 2020 with glowing reviews of his performance, despite the President’s ever-slumping approval ratings and refusal to support progressive policies he promised on the campaign trail.

In October, Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal gave a glowing speech in support of Joe Biden and his deeply unpopular Build Back Better Act saying, “The President is the inspirer, he is the closer, he is the convincer… He really is doing a phenomenal job.”

In January of 2021, The Squad and other progressive members of the House sparked a massive public outcry when they refused to use their influence to force the vote on Medicare for All by withholding their votes for Nancy Pelosi’s speakership unless she brought the legislation to the floor.

Earlier this year AOC, Cori Bush, and the Working Families Party put on a theatrical display at the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building during their sit-in to demand that Biden extend the moratorium on evictions. Just a few days later they touted Biden’s mere 60-day extension as a victory, despite the fact that the legislation wasn’t even close to their initial demand of Housing for All and left millions of renters without support.

It’s no surprise to see Middle Seat’s clients’ messaging shift, considering the firm “teamed up” with the DNC to conduct messaging for President Biden’s 2020 campaign, even showcasing their partnership on the Middle Seat website. The firm has utilized its proficiency in targeting the left to give the Democratic Party and Joe Biden a facade of progressivism in an effort to mask their corporatist agenda.

This is the machinery of co-optation in the Democratic Party. It’s a key piece of the overall picture of how the Democratic Party neutralizes the left within the party, and why it cannot be reformed.

When pulling on the proverbial thread, it’s clear how the Democratic Party and consulting operatives have co-opted the progressive movement and diluted it to push for Biden’s incrementalist agenda while candidates spend millions of small-dollar donor money on their services. The Squad and Congressional progressives have allowed the Democratic elite and consulting firms to push a corporate agenda while attempting to save face through political theater and messaging that runs counter to their actions and votes in the House and Senate.

The corporate parties and their affiliates will capitalize on the hopes of the American people for personal gain and political power and continue to direct movements away from policies the majority of Americans demand.

The label “progressive” only extends as far as the party associated with the candidate, incumbent, or organization. Movements and politicians can be co-opted and seized as long as they are intertwined with the corporate political system. The answer to corruption is a major new party, free of corporate influence that will hold their representatives and affiliated organizations to the policies they have pledged to support.

The Solution

The corporate parties and their affiliates will capitalize on the hopes of the American people for personal gain and political power. They will continue to direct movements away from policies the majority of Americans demand.

The label “progressive” only extends as far as the party associated with the candidate, incumbent, or organization. Movements and politicians can be co-opted and seized as long as they are intertwined with the corporate political system.

The answer to corruption is a major new party, free of corporate influence that will hold their representatives and affiliated organizations to the policies they have pledged to support.

Thousands of volunteers are working across the country to build the People’s Party. A major new party that will demand an end to half-measures and weak policies. We deserve better than cooptation and the status quo. We deserve a People’s Party.

Let’s end the corruption. It’s time for a party of the people.

— Nick Brana, National Chair Zeynab Day, Executive Director People’s Party

* * *

"Chansons De Femmes" by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1897)

* * *

RIGHT-WINGERS ARE TERRORISTS

Editor,

A middle-aged Karen from Virginia is in jail,
Because she’s an anti-masker terrorist mom
Who brags about her loaded guns & bombs.
She said she’d be back on Monday to kill the
Page County School Board for their mandate
That children wear masks due to the plague.
This crazy Karen (AKA Amelia Ruffner King)
Said she would bring all of her guns loaded!
This is what y’all get with Glenn Youngkin.
Virginia’s racist Republican Party is to blame
For choosing politicians from their insane.
Having been arrested, this Karen apologized.
Who cares?  Shut up, Karen, and go to trial!
If this keeps happening, I’m running in Nov.
For my local school board, to put a stop to it.
We The People aren’t putting up with this!
Threaten us here in Humboldt County, GOP,
And I will personally kick your ass endlessly!
But only if you’re male, of course, you see,
I’ll leave Karens for my female colleagues…

Sincerely,

Jake Pickering

Arcata

* * *

Port of Embarkation, Braila, Romania, 1918 (photo by André Kertész)

13 Comments

  1. Eric Sunswheat January 24, 2022

    RE: And here we are. Marijuana at long last is as legal as aspirin
    ->. January 23, 2022
    Excise taxes for marijuana sold for adult recreational use exceeded alcohol excise taxes for the first time in Massachusetts, reflecting growing marijuana sales that reached $2.54 billion, according to the Cannabis Control Commission.
    https://www.bostonherald.com/2022/01/23/ticker-pot-taxes-outpace-booze-in-massachusetts-weber-grills-apologizes-for-ill-timed-meatloaf-recipe/amp/

  2. Harvey Reading January 24, 2022

    BIDEN WEIGHS DEPLOYING THOUSANDS OF TROOPS TO EASTERN EUROPE AND BALTICS

    Elect an idiot, and you get idiotic actions.

  3. Eric Sunswheat January 24, 2022

    RE: Covid vaccine update
    ->. January 12, 2022
    European Union regulators warned that frequent Covid-19 booster shots could adversely affect the immune system and may not be feasible.

    Repeat booster doses every four months could eventually weaken the immune system and tire out people, according to the European Medicines Agency.

    Instead, countries should leave more time between booster programs and tie them to the onset of the cold season in each hemisphere, following the blueprint set out by influenza vaccination strategies, the agency said…

    Boosters “can be done once, or maybe twice, but it’s not something that we can think should be repeated constantly,” Marco Cavaleri, the EMA head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy, said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

    “We need to think about how we can transition from the current pandemic setting to a more endemic setting.”
    https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/covid-19-pandemic-frequent-boosters-can-weaken-immunity-says-eu-122011201707_1.html

  4. Stephen Rosenthal January 24, 2022

    What a great weekend of football – 4 playoff games, each one decided on the final play of the game!

  5. Jim Armstrong January 24, 2022

    Captain Rainbow’s lug nut story: Permit me to doubt.

    Verifying Heilig: I think my part of Potter Valley has seen a 90% drop in amphibians in 50 years, with biggest part in 20. Grapes, I think.

  6. Linda Bailey January 24, 2022

    I was an activist for increased tax support for the County Library, both the failed parcel tax and successful Measure A. However, I will not support this tax proposal unless and until the library is structured in accordance with the governing statute for County Free Libraries. It currently is treated as a county department for command and control by the CEO and as a special district, which it legally is, for the financial accounting.. This hybrid model deprives the County Librarian of the ability to purchase equipment according to his/her professional judgment; for example, three designs for the new circulation desk in Ukiah were submitted before the CEO gave her approval. Importantly, this arrangement also empowers to CEO to siphon off library funds for county personnel through A87 charges–check out the last budget. Requiring equipment purchases to be made through GSA (in the CEO’s office) not only prevents the librarian from possible economies but also enables charging the library for any time that any county employee spends processing the purchase.

  7. Alethea Patton January 24, 2022

    As a fellow frog lover, I enjoyed Steve Heilig’s recollection. We need more frog protectors. Thank you Steve for your one small childhood deed. Who knows, you may have made a future psychopath think twice before killing again.

  8. Marmon January 24, 2022

    RE: ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS.

    Joe Biden on a “hot mike” at the White House just called FOXNEWS reporter, Peter Doocy, a “stupid son of a bitch”.

    Marmon

    • Bruce Anderson January 24, 2022

      His first lucid statement. Atta boy, Joe!

    • Joe January 24, 2022

      There was more;

      “Do you think inflation is a political liability ahead of the midterms?” asked Fox News’ Peter Doocy as Biden was wrapping up a press conference for the White House’s Competition Council.

      “No. It’s a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch,” replied Biden.

  9. George Dorner January 24, 2022

    Above, you may read my remarks about the need for an audit of the county’s budget. Ms Angelo’s reply is, “How could anyone ever prove or refute the proper use of the money?”

    That’s an interesting, and inadvertently revealing, statement. The county CEO offers no explanation for her claiming an audit is unnecessary, just as she never accounts to the Board of Stupes for any county expenditures. It’s deny, agree, “forget”, but never comply. It’s enough to make the suspicious minded wonder how much embezzlement has taken place.

    As for the locked-box provision for a new library tax…I think it’s naive to think a CEO would pay any more attention to such a provision than it does to any other laws governing the CEO’s office.

  10. Craig Stehr January 24, 2022

    There is actually only one activity which is necessary, and that is to keep the mind united with its Source. When this is accomplished, there is nothing left to achieve.
    Sitting at Local Flavors enjoying a red eye coffee, watching passersby and the slow moving tourist traffic on Redwood Drive, it is a pleasant, sunny day in Garberville, California.
    In order to maintain centeredness, innumerable practices are available, some new and some ancient. It is crucial to have one that the individual enjoys and will be kept up. At some point there has to be something that is more important than anything else. That’s the key. I have been reciting the Mahamantram for over 50 years: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. I discovered this when a group of Krishna devotees moved next door during my junior year at The University of Arizona in Tucson in 1970. The practice proved to be so enjoyable, that I just kept doing it. I continued chanting while still going to Catholic mass, while living in New York City during the hip 70s, upon moving to California during 23 years serving with Catholic Worker, including twice being in residence at the Berkeley Krishna Temple, while employed by the San Francisco Zen Center in 1979, while in India in 1994, and at both NYC and D.C. Occupy encampments, and on and on and on…
    Awoke this morning on the green couch at The Earth First! Media Center, with the mind silently repeating the Mahamantram fast. It has slowed down a tad by early afternoon, but continues to keep the Mahamantram going constantly. Regardless of any outside event, it never stops! Attached to none of postmodern society’s institutional insanity, fully aware of what I am, and not identified with the body nor the mind, at the appropriate time I am going back to Godhead.
    Trust me on this one: You do not want to be here at the end of the Kali yuga. Vaishnava scriptures have spelled out that the final avataric incarnation, who is Kalki astride a white horse brandishing a flaming sword, will appear to destroy the demonic.
    I am very happy to have been able to share this ultimate truth with you. ~Hare Krishna~ ??☺

    Craig Louis Stehr
    Email: craiglouisstehr@gmail.com
    Telephone Messages: (213) 842-3082
    PayPal.me/craiglouisstehr
    Snail Mail: P.O. Box 938, Redwood Valley, CA 95470
    Blog: http://craiglstehr.blogspot.com
    January 24, 2022

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