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Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Warming | Her Pets | Ukraine | Albion Wharf | Supes Notes | Lauren Buckhorn | Vacant Parcels | Camp Jobs | Angelo Failed | Meet Artists | Dry Time | Derailed Train | Water Conservation | Flowers | Dashboard Gone | Noyo Harbor | Ed Notes | CO2 Emissions | Beneficial Bees | Carrot Day | Contaminated Soil | Anthony Irvin | Wilson McFaul | PG&E Disgusting | Grand Opening | Library Tax | Bad Neighbors | Elitist Bureaucrats | Yesterday's Catch | Red Beetle | War Atrocities | Solidarity | Retail Annoyances | SF 1905 | Big Wrong | Mario Savio | Union Movement | Longshoreman Strike | Sex Threat | Temperance Society

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DRY AND WARMER WEATHER is in store for today and Thursday. A cooling trend with periods of blustery winds are forecast Friday through Monday. A cold upper trough may bring some showers with snow above 1,500 to 2,500 feet Sunday through Monday. (NWS)

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Lost Coast Girl and her Pets, 1911

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TODAY IN UKRAINE

At a UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Russia of wanting to make Ukrainians “silent slaves”.

The UN’s human rights office says evidence from Bucha indicates Russian forces “directly targeted” civilians after Kyiv says 300 non-combatants were killed in the town, near Ukraine’s capital.

The European Commission proposes more sanctions on Russia, including a ban on coal imports.

European countries expel Russian diplomats; Moscow is expected to respond with tit-for-tat measures.

NATO says Russia is regrouping to refocus its offensive on taking complete control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

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The Pasadena and Melville Dollar at Albion Wharf

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SUPES NOTES

by Mark Scaramella

As expected, the Supervisors blindly approved the retroactive $4.2 million five-year Calfire dispatch contract on the consent calendar without a word of discussion about savings that might result from the dispatch consolidation they committed to a couple of years ago, or the amount of the contract or the reason it’s nine months late.

The Board also considered an extremely abstract and poorly prepared item about getting some allegedly un-assessed properties onto the assessor’s rolls.

A Mendo citizen named Redhawk Pallesen (once upon a time a great linebacker at Ukiah High School) said he’d looked at some census data and some parcel data and some permit info, apparently from his inland (Ukiah area) neighborhood, and concluded that there are building addresses on the census data which don’t appear to be permitted or are listed as “vacant.” Mr. Pallesen said that using his rather small sample size he estimated that the County was missing out on upwards of $15 million of additional property taxes if his research was applied to the entire County.

Which reminded us of the old story about the guy who heard that the Mississippi River delta was receding at the rate of about half an inch a year and concluded that 70 million years ago the Delta was just south of Buenos Aires and in 15 million years it will be just north of Detroit.

While not saying so directly, the discussion implied that most of the non-vacant, unassessed properties are connected in some way to unpermitted pot ops because Mr. Pallesen talked about cannabis operations at some of the addresses he sampled and County Assessor-Clerk-Recorder Katrina Bartolomie said even if she had the staff to go look at some of the parcels, they could be expected to be met with pit bulls and guns, making it difficult to do appraisals from behind a locked gate or two without law enforcement backup.

Supervisor Ted Williams, who sponsored the item, offering no evidence or presentation, said he thought maybe upwards of one out of four existing Mendo buildings were not on the assessor’s rolls. But he acknowledged it might be one out of ten or one out of a hundred.

Supervisor Dan Gjerde pointed out that most property taxes don’t go to the County’s general fund, but to the state and the schools, so the County could only expect to get about a third of any new taxes derived from increased assessments.

Supervisor John Haschak thought the County should go after unpermitted structures, not just un-assessed ones.

Supervisor Williams disagreed saying the County is already short of housing and they shouldn’t go around demolishing unpermitted buildings where people live. (Of course, nobody is seriously considering demolition. Even back in the hippie shack days of the 70s and early 80s, the right-wing bulldoze-em-all talk was mostly just anti-hippie rhetoric. Williams may have used the word “demolition” to appear reasonable to his Fifth District constituents when they don’t demolish anything.)

By way of contrast, the Anderson Valley Community Services District, whose primary funding is property tax disbursements from the County and a parcel tax based on those property taxes, doubts there’s any significant number of unassessed parcels in Anderson Valley. Every year knowledgeable district staff look closely at the AV portion of the County’s tax rolls and permit applications and satellite maps and even go out on inspections with local firefighters to sometimes verify the accuracy of their assessments. (Apparently, there were some hiccups this year which the locals think might be associated with the County’s new property tax computer system conversion, but they won’t know until the end of the year when county tax disbursements are compared to last year.)

So if the Board’s property assessment discussion seems abstract and unrealistic and ill-focused and out of touch to you… Well, you’re probably not a Supervisor.

Assessor-Recorder Bartolomie said she carefully keeps her property assessment info close to her vest and doesn’t release it to code enforcement because she’s only interested in assessments and doesn’t want property owners to hide their property for fear of getting slapped with a red tag.

In the end the Board voted to ask the Assessor to come back to the Board “at a later date” — unspecified, of course — with a plan to maybe hire more staff (Ms. Bartolomie said she’s badly understaffed with six funded positions unfilled, another legacy of CEO Angelo who required that all new hires be personally approved by her; we have no idea if Interim CEO Darcie Antle is continuing that policy, but she was a major devotee of CEO Angelo), or contract with a consultant (who probably would want a substantial bounty for each additional assessment they can verifiably snag) or look at more satellite images or get some help from the overstaffed “executive office” or something, and see if they can get a few more un-assessed properties added to the tax bill mailings. Ms. Bartolemie noted that the process can get complicated if people who get new assessments dispute their assessments or argue about whether a hoop house that’s not there anymore was a structure or not, or didn’t belong to the assessed party.

Even if there are some properties out there that need to be added to the assessor’s list, the entire discussion is several days late and many dollars short. By the time Mendo gets around to even figuring out a “plan” (much less funding it or staffing it) to address the problem, many of the “structures” Mr. Pallesen apparently thinks are unassessed will either be gone or abandoned by their pot-growing “owners” (or renters, or employees, or squatters, or…?) in the wake of the collapse of the pot market.

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In other Supes news, Supervisor Haschack asked Interim CEO Darcie Antle about the status of the Public Safety Advisory Board which the County enacted into County Code last year with some fanfare but hasn’t yet convened.

Ms. Antle replied that she’s working on an agenda item for a future meeting. (Which probably means she hasn’t done anything at all, but will start thinking about it now.) After Ms. Antle’s “I’m working on it” reply (reminiscent of former CEO Tom Mitchell), the subject — already almost a year since the Advisory Board was put in place — might make it back to the Board agenda before the understaffed Assessor’s assessment review plan materializes.

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LAUREN’S AT THE BUCKHORN:

Sometimes you just have to find a new path…

We have been working tirelessly to make this happen for months! Wow, we cannot wait to start this new adventure! We are thrilled to announce we will be starting Boonville’s first craft distillery this year…and reinstating the community’s one bar. New exciting times, mixed with our love of tradition.

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SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS (to Anna Stockel): Stephen Dunlap pays property tax on his house. Others pay zero. Many parcels with houses show as undeveloped land in county records. The amount paying zero is significant. I’m suggesting we catch up the rolls so that the county can provide better services and infrastructure.

ANNA STOCKEL (to Supervisor Ted Williams): I think I'm reasonably intelligent. And with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and a master's in business, for the life of me, I can't understand what you're saying here. I'm sure it makes sense to you because you live and breathe this stuff everyday.

What I think I see is the county thinks they're missing out on uncollected taxes. I still cannot figure out on whom? I'm totally confused about this “vacant parcels” language. What are vacant parcels? What tax do the landowners supposedly owe that you are not collecting?

“Public safety, roads, and so much more” depends on you guys bucking up and writing a budget with the money that you already collect to get it done! Then at the end of the day, decide if there's any left over for these ridiculous raises and salaries that you pay yourselves. 

If you did your jobs there might be some left over. If you didn't then you don't deserve it in the first place.

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CAMP NAVARRO is ready to open for a new exciting season!

Camp Navarro is seeking Housekeepers, Line Cook, Prep Cook, Dishwasher, Banquet Servers, Banquet Bartenders and Event attendants to join the team at its 200-acre event center and venue.

Drone View, Camp Navarro

Full Time and Part Time seasonal positions available

All open positions include competitive compensation, and the opportunity to cater to a diverse range of events, including festivals, weddings, and corporate groups while working with the team to create truly unique events in a stunning location!

Join us in the redwoods!

Follow the link to submit your application: https://www.campnavarro.com/jobs

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JOHN MCCOWEN: The Supervisors are supposed to make decisions in public based on information that is in the public record, in order that the public is able to understand why the Supervisors are making decisions and on what basis. But there is no information in the pubic record that analyzes the merger of the Treasurer-Tax Collector and Auditor-Controller's offices. None! And I don't expect the Supervisors to develop this analysis, for all the reasons that you mention. But one of the primary responsibilities of the CEO is to provide the Supervisors with the information they need in order to make informed decisions. In this regard, CEO Carmel Angelo failed over and over and over again. The collective failing of the Board of Supervisors (current and past) is they repeatedly failed to hold the CEO accountable for failing to do her job. The result is the Supervisors have been put in a position of making decisions without having sufficient information in front of them to justify the decisions they're making. For the most part, the recommended actions are appropriate, and no harm is done. But in too many cases the recommended actions are setting the stage for public policy failures that misuse or squander personnel and fiscal resources. Carmel Angelo has bailed out just as the chickens are beginning to come home to roost. No one ever said she wasn't smart.

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HOW BAD IS CALIFORNIA’S DROUGHT AHEAD OF DRY SEASON?

Moving into April means the end of the state’s rainy season — and hope of improving drought conditions.

by Soumya Karlamangla

Tuesday marked the final day of California’s rainy season.

December, January and February are typically the wettest months in the Golden State, with 75% of the state’s annual precipitation falling between November and March.

Now we’re about to enter our dry season, and the drought is nowhere near over. Gov. Gavin Newsom this week, in an attempt to curb water usage, proposed banning businesses from watering their lawns. More than 93 percent of California is considered to be in severe or extreme drought.

“We are definitely very much at the tail end of our wet season in California,” Jeanine Jones, drought manager with the California Department of Water Resources, told me. “We are not expecting any significant amount of additional precipitation — certainly not something that would make any difference for the drought.”

Jones added: “In other words, most of what we’re going to get, we have gotten.”

So where does that leave us?

All of California’s major reservoirs are currently at below-average levels. The state’s snowpack on Wednesday was a dismal 39 percent of what it typically is this time of year, according to state data. Newsom hasn’t yet announced mandatory water cuts for Californians but faces increasing pressure to do so.

The water year in California runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 and is defined that way so that the winter rainy season falls within a single water year.

Between October and December — the start of this water year — California received more rainfall than it had over the previous 12 months. Atmospheric rivers shattered records and replenished reservoirs.

But then we entered 2022. January and February represented the driest two-month start to a year on record in California, according to state officials. March is unlikely to be much better, even after this week’s storms.

The whiplash isn’t unusual in the Golden State; we have more climate variability than any other state in the nation, Jones said. And the weather has recently become even more unpredictable because of the effects of climate change.

Still, the heavy rains from the end of 2021 were not enough to overcome the past three exceptionally dry months.

At the end of December, the state had received 150 percent of the precipitation it typically has at that point in the water year. That figure has since dropped to below average — to roughly 70 percent.

Unfortunately, with March coming to a close and no storms on the horizon, we can say with near certainty that California’s drought in 2022 will keep getting worse.

(New York Times)

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Train Derailed at Navarro Lumber Yard, 1909

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WATER FEE 'PIPE DREAM'

Editor: 

The idea that developer fees will supply more water through conservation is not supported by any factual evidence ("Water fees OK'd for new housing," Saturday). It is a pipe dream. This dream is based on unsupportable assumptions: e.g., that you only flush your toilet three times a day and that eliminating lawns and other measures will conserve enough water to support thousands of residential units.

Average water use per capita in California is about 100 gallons per day. I believe in conservation. I also believe in developer fees. I do not believe in pipe dreams.

Again, agriculture uses 80% of the available water. What is ag doing to conserve? A 10% reduction of water use by agricultural users (though conservation) would provide enough water for urban use to solve a lot of problems. Tiered water rates with some bite might help with conservation.

Alan Levine

Santa Rosa

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THE COUNTY is no longer putting out a Covid Dashboard. If things begin to spike again, we won't see it coming. If you agree, please go the the original post (click on post) on Mendocino County Public Health page and voice your opinion. This change is not in the interest of public health. Thanks!

The best place to get COVID-19 case and data updates is now the Mendocino County website: mendocinocounty.org/community/novel-coronavirus

We will post more frequent updates about COVID data on Facebook if cases suddenly increase.

(Mendocino County Public Health Presser)

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Loading Lumber onto Steamer, Noyo, 1921

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ED NOTES

AN UNHAPPY NORTH COUNTY PERSON wrote in under a gender non-specific pseudonym to denounce another NC person unknown to me. When I asked Anon for the specifics of its unhappiness and what public interest it might have, Anon denounced me as a “far, far right old windbag.” (And all this time I thought I was a far, far left old windbag.) And for asking it if I was corresponding with a he or a she, Anon replied that I was “fag bashing.” I have discontinued the interface.

THE RUSSIANS have commenced shelling of Ukraine's port city of Odessa, a city with much splendid architecture and non-combatant citizens inhabiting it. Meanwhile, on the evening news from the we-all-read-from-the-same-script-big-white-teeth people at CNN and MSNBC the glib talkers wonder if Putin has committed “war crimes.” I'll go wayyyyyy out on a limb and say, Yes, he has, unless indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian habitat is no longer considered a war crime. 

NOT TO defend Vlad the Oligarch, but instead of a steady deluge out of the White House and its captive media constantly listing Russian atrocities, Biden's handlers ought to tone down the war crime talk and tune up language aimed at bringing this atrocity to an end before it expands or sets off the nukes. Yes, Putin is an irremediably bad person whose armies either lack elementary command discipline or are murdering civilians for the hell of it — probably both — but implacable war crime rhetoric coming out of our implacably ga-ga president makes a cease fire ever more unlikely.

AS OUR ALL AGAINST ALL civil war kicks off, the utter intractability of the Trumpers is more and more evident, and confirmed by the recent PBS Frontline documentary called “The Plot to Overturn the Election,” narrator A.C. Thompson presents the wealthy and well-funded lunatics working to destroy faith in our elections, one of our remaining institutions ordinary citizens can still trust.

FALSE CLAIMS of election fraud are believed by about 75% of registered Republicans. But despite the millions of dollars spent by wealthy Trumpers to prove election fraud, they have discovered there wasn't any, which doesn't prevent them, with ex-General Flynn leading the charge, from continuing to make the claim. 

MY FAVE FASCIST appearing in the documentary's collection of straight-up nut cases is an Arizona candidate for state office endorsed, of course, by Trump, named Mark Finchem. Finchem is on record as declaring vaccination against covid is “a crime against humanity” and routinely describes harmless libs of the active Democrat type as “Marxists,” as in when he says, “Of course the Marxists say the election wasn't rigged.”

EVEN WHEN there were communists in this country, most of them weren't exactly Marxists, especially if Marxists are defined as people who've read the sacred texts beyond The Communist Manifesto, a joint declaration of Karl and his wealthy friend and sponsor, Frederick Engels, now available in a spiffy little edition by Verso with an introduction by Eric Hobsbawm, a Marxist historian. To dismiss all non-Trumpers as “Marxists” is actually funny.

HOW ABOUT YOU, Mr. Editor, are you a Marxist? Kind of, I guess. I think the basic arguments about how capitalist societies are organized are irrefutable, but I've never been able to read the theories beyond the Manifesto without falling asleep. 

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BUMBLE BEES AND BENEFICIAL INSECTS HAVE THEIR DAY IN THE SUN A family event to sing praise for our buzzing companions

Fort Bragg, CA—April 5, 2022—All ages are invited to explore, observe, and engage in protecting our native pollinators. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens will be hosting a Bumble Bees and Beneficials Family Field Day on Sunday, April 24 from 10:00am to 4:00pm. There will be lots to discover both in and around the Education Center that day. The event will include kids activities, self-guided field exploration, storytelling, music, bug displays, and seed bomb building. You can also take a deep dive into the world of pollinators with our special guest speakers (class details below).

“The garden is always alive with bumble bees, hummingbirds, newts, snakes, skunks, and more. I am excited to have a day that is dedicated to the exploration and enjoyment of the small beings that hold our world together,” said MCBG Garden Manager, Jaime Jensen. Come and enjoy family entertainment, and learn more about the great diversity of life that makes a thriving balanced garden ecosystem!

Bumble Bees Leif Richardson will be hosting a Bumble Bee Identification class in the morning. Leif is a conservation biologist for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation who coordinates the California Bumble Bee Atlas project.

Beneficials In the afternoon, MCBG associate Frederique Lavoipierre, author of Garden Allies: The Insects, Birds & Other Animals That Keep Your Garden Beautiful and Thriving, will provide a class on beneficial insects.

And More Naturalist, Mario Abreu, will offer a guided Native Plant Walk in the morning and in the afternoon focused on the native plants that support bumble bees and beneficial insects.

Participation in all of the day's classes and activities is free with the cost of regular Gardens admission. Advanced registration is required for the classes. Admission tickets must be purchased in advance. Register for classes and pay admissions at www.gardenbythesea.org/calendar/field-day.

(Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is a unique natural treasure located on the bluffs of Northern California. Over the past 61 years, the nonprofit botanical garden has cultivated a wide array of plants that are both sustainable and beautiful. The Gardens are located at 18220 North Highway One in Fort Bragg, California. For more information call 707-964-4352, or visit www.gardenbythesea.org)

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DID YOU KNOW APRIL 4 WAS INTERNATIONAL CARROT DAY? Today, 85% of the carrots in the United States come from California, but it was not always so. Before 1950, Grants, New Mexico named itself the Carrot Capitol of the World.

"Harvesting carrots" from the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, New Mexico History Museum. (photo by Harmon Parkhurst, circa early 1940's)

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JADE TIPPETT: 

Going through some Land Use Covenants, Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) contracts forever restricting how land on the former mill site, the Noyo Headlands can be used, I came upon a map of the area that Mendocino Railway's "Little Stinker" also mapped for development. A few minutes with PhotoShop to resize the DTSC map produced this overlay map. The section inside the dotted line is restricted in its use because the groundwater contains dioxin and a variety of organic solvents. Mendocino Railway proposes to build single family homes and workforce housing on this contaminated land.

The cross-hatched area, most of which is the Skunk Train depot and train yard, is contaminated with lead, benzine, in several forms, diesel fuel and other petroleum products. 

DTSC has also given Mendocino Railway now less than 90 days to come up with a detailed remediation plan for the contamination from burning railroad ties treated with arsenic. And then there are the 1,500 cubic yards (75 truckloads) of diesel contaminated soil that need to be removed from the railyard.

"Federal preemption" because they are a "railroad" will not get them out of any of this. I keep wondering what they were thinking.

The complete Land Use Covenant may be found here: https://savenoyoheadlands.com

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DEATH ON MOUNTAIN HOUSE ROAD

On Friday, April 1, 2022 at approximately 11:08 P.M. the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was contacted by the Santa Rosa Police Department regarding a missing person investigation.

Anthony Irvin, a 56 year-old male from Santa Rosa was reported missing by family members. Santa Rosa Police Department started their investigation which led to a possible location in the 18000 block of Mountain House Road south of Hopland.

Deputies responded to the area and located a vehicle in a turnout, which was registered to Irvin. Deputies checked the area and were unable to locate Irvin.

On the morning of 04-02-2022, Deputies responded back to the area and searched the area by vehicle, by foot and by Unmanned Aerial Vehicle's (UAV).

On Sunday, April 3, 2022 and Monday, April 4, 2022 Deputies continued to search the area by vehicle, foot and UAV.

On Monday, April 4, 2022 Deputies were assisted by a Mendocino County Volunteer Search and Rescue member with his Canine partner.

On Monday, April 4, 2022 at approximately 9:26 AM, Irvin was located deceased on a property accessed from Mountain House Road in Hopland. This area was in the vicinity of where his vehicle was previously located.

Next of Kin has been notified of Irvin's death.

The preliminary cause of death is believed to be suicide.

(Sheriff’s Presser)

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Wilson McFaul in his Schacht, Mendo, 1913

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THE FINAL INSULT

Editor,

I wish to comment on the recent Press Democrat editorial called, “California PUC failing to oversee PG&E wildfire safety.” I object to tactics by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in efforts to get out of the financial problems it has caused itself.

Company leaders have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to approve a place for severe rate hikes. It appears the CPUC just can’t say no to PG&E.

From my perspective, it seems impossible for PG&E to serve the public and be a for-profit corporation at the same time. Most of us use PG&E’s service, yet we seem to be helpless as Northern California burns. Some of PG&E’s negligence has led to the loss of human and animal lives, as well as the loss of many homes and businesses, because of past decisions not to spend enough money to care for their infrastructure. It seems the stockholders and management came first.

Now, after multiple disasters, PG&E has the insufferable gall to want us, the innocent ratepayers, to pay more to cover the vile mistakes fueled by carelessness and greed.

Reading about the high salaries for PG&E management feels like the final insult. It is beyond disgusting.

Sally Seymour

San Rafael

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Coast Theater Grand Opening, 1933

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LIBRARY TAX MEASURE REBOOT

Editor,

The revival of programs and services in all branches of the Mendocino County Library system over the last decade is the direct result of the passage of Measure A in 2011 with 75 percent voter approval. Measure A was passed for a period of 16 years and will sunset five years from now in 2027.

The Citizens Initiative for the Library is a countywide volunteer group formed for the purpose of building on the success of Measure A by passing a citizens’ initiative in November to provide stable and permanent funding for all library branches and the Bookmobile.

Signature gathering began April 2 in Fort Bragg, Point Arena, Round Valley, Ukiah and Willits. We need 6,000 signatures of registered Mendocino County voters by mid-June, a requirement for a citizens’ initiative to be on the ballot.

Measure A currently provides for 60 percent of total library funding with a sales tax of one-eighth of one cent. The remaining 40 percent of library revenues are generated by a property tax. The Mendocino County General Fund contributes nothing to the library budget. There has never been a reserve set aside for building improvements such as new roofs.

We want to continue the present level of Mendocino County library services and programs and also provide stable and secure funding for needed building improvements. We want to renew Measure A funding permanently and, at the same time, increase the sales tax by one-eighth of one cent, for a total of one-quarter of one cent. Don’t worry: your sales tax will not increase. That’s because our initiative is timed to take effect at exactly the same time that a three-eighths of one cent sales tax, part of Measure B, will end.

The language in the initiative states that the revenues will be deposited in a special fund that only the library can access. This has worked very well in the 10 years since Measure A taxes have been collected. The Library Advisory Board, a volunteer board representing the five supervisorial districts and four cities, regularly reviews the library budget to ensure that the funds are spent appropriately. We welcome your participation. For more information, call (707) 462-4870.

Lynn Zimmerman

Redwood Valley

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DISSOLUTION?

Editor,

This letter is written in all sincerity with the purpose of enlightening my own ignorance. It is written in response to the letter to the editor by John Redding about the dissolution of the Mendocino Coast Health Care District and relinquishment of its authority to an apparently evil Board of Supervisors. Apparently Mr. Redding thinks that I am going to be distressed by the information he provided. Honestly, I have never heard of the Mendocino Coast Health Care District in all my 22 years here. 

Over the last two years, the citizens of Mendocino County have been abused and humiliated by arbitrary and capricious autocrats from all levels of “authority”. These tyrants and little dictators have shut down our businesses; put us out of work; forced us to wear useless masks on our faces; forced us to submit to toxic RNA manipulation “vaccines” that simply do not work (or worse).

I know I from recent events that people who simply ask questions are often castigated and vilified. Yet, I must ask a simple question: “What good is the Mendocino Coast Health Care District? What has it done to resist the oppression of these medical authoritarians? Why is it any better than those creeps on the Board of Supervisors?” As far as I can tell from here in the cheap seats, neither of these two entities are anything more than a bunch of elitist bureaucrats looking for nothing more than to further their own prestige and authority to impose their arbitrary will upon the lowly citizens of this county. In the past few years I have seen no evidence to convince me otherwise. And God knows the horrible reputation that hospital has and how many people would rather be helicoptered down to Santa Rosa rather than be submitted there. What we the people need is for all these “know-it-alls” to go away and leave us alone. We can take care of our own lives, thank you. 

Somebody needs to start talking clearly and simply (and honestly).

Ronald K Cox

Ukiah

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CATCH OF THE DAY, April 5, 2022

Decosta, Flinton, Jenkins, Maciel

ROBERT DECOSTA, Clearlake/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, paraphernalia.

SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, shoplifting, trespassing. (Frequent flyer.)

GLENN JENKINS, Ukiah. County parole violation.

RAMON MACIEL, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting (Frequent flyer.)

Mandujano, Martinez, Ruiz

JUAN MANDUJANO-ALFARO, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

MARIA MARTINEZ-HERNANDEZ, Philo. Failure to appear.

MARIO RUIZ-DIAZ, Ukiah. Annoy or molest child under 18.

Stone, Telez, Thomas, Wetzler

SCOTT STONE, Conway, South Carolina/Willits. Controlled substance for sale.

ESTEBAN TELEZ-RODRIGUEZ, Hopland. DUI, suspended license for DUI, child endangerment.

ANTONIO THOMAS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-drugs&alcohol.

AMICA WETZLER, Ukiah. DUI, paraphernalia, resisting.

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Red Beetle (photo mk)

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WAR CRIMES WILL ONLY MAKE THINGS WORSE FOR RUSSIA As Ukrainians Prepare For A Fight To The Bitter End

by Patrick Cockburn

As the bodies of Ukrainian civilians murdered by Russian soldiers are discovered in the streets and cellars of towns around Kyiv, the chances plummet of a compromise peace in the Ukrainian war. The likelihood of this happening was never high, but the slaughter will persuade many Ukrainians that they have no choice but to fight to a finish or at least until Russia troops are forced out of the country.

Massacres are the all-important staging posts of history – their influence often greater than that of famous battles – because they send a message to whole communities that their existence is threatened by a common enemy. If the aim of a mass killing is to intimidate a whole population, then experience from Amritsar to My-Lai shows that it usually has precisely the opposite effect. The death of 410 civilians at the hands of the Russian army in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv may well join the grisly list of massacres that permanently shape relations between nations.

Why did the Russian army carry out these crimes? They are much against the interests of the Kremlin, which five weeks ago had persuaded itself that part of the Ukrainian population would welcome Russian intervention with open arms. The atrocities were the more-or-less inevitable outcome of this ill-conceived invasion plan, rooted in wishful thinking and carried out by ill-disciplined and ill-trained troops. Poor-quality soldiers like this facing a hostile population are particularly dangerous in my experience, because they quickly come to believe that they are being spied on, sniped at and generally betrayed by the local population.

An example of this is reported from Motyzhyn outside Kyiv where the head of the village, her husband and son were killed and buried in a shallow grave in the sand by Russian forces. “There had been Russian occupiers here,” said a Ukrainian interior ministry official who showed reporters the bodies. “They tortured and murdered the whole family of the village head. The occupiers suspected they were collaborating with our military, giving us locations of where to target our artillery.”

This is typical of troops who come under fire and are in a high state of paranoia as they look for somebody to blame. But, though the decision to execute an innocent villager is made on the spot by some frightened 20-year-old, this does not absolve the generals and politicians who have a fair idea of what is going on even if they have not given direct orders for the killings. They may privately imagine that “a whiff of grapeshot” will suppress local opposition, blind to the fact that it promotes it and legitimises it.

Massacres everywhere have common features, but those carried out by Russian troops in north Ukraine are typified by feckless violence by troops, frequently drunk going by the number of discarded vodka and whiskey bottles around their positions, who see all civilians as hostile and fair game, even when they are obviously families in flight.

Paradoxically, the corpses of the dead are only being found now because Russian negotiators announced last week during peace talks with a Ukrainian delegation in Istanbul that it was pulling back its forces around Kyiv and Chernihiv in the north of the country as a gesture of goodwill. It is a measure of the disconnected nature of the Russian war effort that no attempt was made to remove evidence of atrocities before the retreat took place, aside from a few botched attempts to burn bodies.

Images of these ill-concealed murders are horrifying the world, but diverting attention from an undoubted Russian failure in north Ukraine. A few Russian troops were said to be still present on Monday around Chernihiv, which is close to the Belarus border, but they have gone from around Kyiv. These forces are likely to be moved to reinforce Russian positions in the Donbas in south-east Ukraine but are reported to have suffered heavy casualties and loss of equipment so they will need to refit and reorganise.

The Russian retreat and the revelations about atrocities and possible war crimes will impact the way other nations view the war, tipping the balance towards those who want to see Russia defeated in Ukraine, and against those who want a compromise peace with President Putin, allowing him to say that he achieved something by his war. Meanwhile, those who argue for a total ban on the import of Russian oil and gas into Europe will be strengthened and will have greater popular support.

Such a furious reaction to the latest butchery may be understandable, but it will not necessarily be good for the 44 million Ukrainians. Monstrous though the killings are, the war could get a lot worse yet if Russia engages in so-called “meat-grinder” tactics in south-east Ukraine, pounding cities into submission or destruction. Russia may have done badly on the battlefield so far, but it is by no means defeated. It has tactics it has not used – such as destroying the Ukrainian electricity grid as the US did in Iraq 1991. It has vast reserves of manpower it could still mobilise. If Putin used poison gas, Ukraine refugees fleeing to the rest of the Europe would be numbered in the tens of millions.

Most important, there is no sign of Putin changing his mind about the war or being influenced by who would like to change it. Opposition to his invasion in Russia has ebbed since the period immediately after it had taken place because of wall-to-wall propaganda in state-controlled media, repression of open dissent – and a sense among Russians that they are all bring targeted because they are Russians, and not just because of Ukraine.

Oligarchs who once lived partly in the West have been forced back to Russia, making them more dependent than previously on the Kremlin. Prolonged economic sanctions and consequent unemployment might eventually cause discontent, but Russia is self-reliant in oil, gas and foodstuffs.

The only way to stop atrocities in Ukraine is to end a war which is unlikely to produce a clear winner. But in the wake of the latest killings this looks less and less likely. Russia, Ukraine and its backers all have reasons to end the war, but perhaps even stronger motives for fighting even harder.

(courtesy, CounterPunch.org)

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Coastal Solidarity

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ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

I was in a department store yesterday. I noticed that in this particular store, as in many other businesses I’ve been in, they have gone ahead and installed much more permanent-looking plexiglass barriers only this year.

They also had another increasingly common feature - I was paying in cash, but I was still directed to use the stylus to tap the electronic screen. They have some inane question you just have to answer yes or no to, or agree with.

The cashier apologized, because she was locked out of the register unless I used the screen.

She told me that people did not like touching the screen, so they were trying to get people to use their app to avoid touching anything.

More and more of the chains are doing this, you are paying cash but you still have to interact with the electronic screen anyway.

I even think that’s why CVS has been handing out those ridiculously long receipts. They wish to annoy you so much you will quit asking for a receipt and do it all electronically.

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“IF YOU’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING WRONG, do it big, because the punishment is the same either way.”

— Jayne Mansfield

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BODIES UPON THE GEARS

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THE GROWING UNION MOVEMENT

by Senator Bernie Sanders

Let me begin by congratulating the workers at Amazon in Staten Island who, for the first time, were able to win a union organizing campaign against that giant corporation which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the second wealthiest person in America.

Amazon spent over $4 million in trying to defeat the union drive. The independent union, the Amazon Labor Union, had almost no money at all for their grassroots campaign but ended up with 55% of the vote. Congratulations Amazon Labor Union.

I also want to congratulate the workers at Starbucks for their incredible union organizing efforts. Starbucks has coffee shops in some 15,000 locations all across the country and, until a few months ago, none of them were organized. Then, in December, workers in 2 shops in Buffalo, New York voted to join a union and that union organizing effort is now spreading like wildfire all across the nation. In fact, last Friday workers in New York City successfully voted to form the first Starbucks union roastery and tenth union Starbucks coffee shop in America. And, in the coming weeks and months, Starbucks workers in some 170 other coffee shops in 27 states will be holding union elections.

What makes these union victories so impressive is that from start to finish they were accomplished by a grassroots movement with very little financial resources.

Why is it important that we support these union organizing efforts? We live in a time of massive income and wealth inequality where CEOs make 350 times more than the average worker, where 2 people own more wealth than the bottom 42 percent.

While the billionaire class is becoming much, much richer, real weekly wages for American workers are $40 lower today than they were 49 years ago. In fact, during that period there has been a massive, massive transfer of wealth from the working class and middle class of our country to the top one percent.

According to the RAND Institute, since 1975, $50 trillion in wealth has been redistributed from the bottom 90% to the top 1% – primarily because corporate profits and CEO compensation has grown much faster than the wages of average workers.

And listen to this, which really says it all. During this terrible pandemic, when thousands of essential workers died, gave up their lives, doing their jobs, some 700 billionaires in America became nearly $2 trillion richer.

Today, multi-billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are off taking joy rides on rocket ships to outer space, buying $500 million super-yachts and living in mansions with 25 bathrooms.

And let’s be clear. It’s not just income and wealth inequality. It is economic and political power. In America today, just 3 Wall Street firms (Black Rock, State Street and Vanguard) control assets of over $21 trillion which is essentially the GDP of the United States, the largest economy on Earth. 3 Wall Street firms.

Why do we want to grow the union movement? Because unions provide better wages, benefits and working conditions for their members. In fact, union workers make, on average, wages that are about 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts. They also have much better healthcare and far better pension plans than non-union employees. And, by the way, when unions win decent contracts for their employees they drive up wages for all workers in the country.

Further, unions give workers some degree of control over their work lives and make them more than just cogs in a machine. They end the ability of companies being able to arbitrarily fire workers for any reason and to impose any schedule that they want on their employees. In other words, at a time when we are seeing more and more concentration of ownership in this country and increased corporate power, unions give workers the ability to fight back and have some control over their lives.

Similarly, when large corporations have enormous political power through the billions they spend on lobbying, campaign contributions and advertising, unions have the capability to fight back and create a legislative agenda that works for all Americans and not just the few.

What these union victories tell me is that working people all over this country are sick and tired of being exploited by corporations making record-breaking profits.

They are sick and tired of billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, becoming obscenely rich during the pandemic, while they put their lives on the line working for inadequate wages, inadequate benefits, inadequate working conditions and inadequate schedules.

And let’s be clear. If you think that the union victories at Amazon and Starbucks are an aberration, you would be sorely mistaken.

During the last year, I have been proud to stand in solidarity with courageous workers around the country who have been on strike or who are engaged in union organizing efforts.

I’m talking about the United Auto Workers who went on strike at John Deere in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas to protest against massive cutbacks to retirement benefits and totally inadequate pay raises.

I’m talking about the United Steel Workers who went on strike at Special Metals in West Virginia – a company owned by Warren Buffett worth $127 billion – to fight for good wages and good benefits.

I’m talking about Bakery Workers who went on strike at Kellogg’s, Nabisco and the Jon Donaire ice cream cake factory in California fighting for justice, dignity and respect.

I’m talking about the United Mine Workers who are still on strike at Warrior Met in Alabama – a company owned by BlackRock – the largest Wall Street investment firm in the country managing $10 trillion in assets.

I’m talking about the United Food and Commercial Workers who went on strike at the King Soopers grocery store chain owned by Kroger in Colorado.

And I’m talking about graduate students and Adjunct Professors at MIT who are waging a strong union organizing effort on that campus.

Today, I want to continue to express my support for these workers who are not only organizing for themselves and for their coworkers, but for all of us – and, in fact, for the future of the entire country.

While we may not hear much talk about the struggles of the working class in communities across the country, let’s be clear.

The union struggles that have been taking place against corporate greed ultimately determine the quality of wages, benefits, and working conditions that all American workers enjoy.

In other words, when unionized workers do well in raising the bar for economic and social justice, we all do well. Their success is our shared success. Make no mistake about it, we cannot have a strong middle class in this country without a strong labor movement.

Here is the bottom line. In the year 2022, the United States and the rest of the world face two very different political paths. On one hand, there is a growing movement towards oligarchy in which a small number of incredibly wealthy and powerful billionaires own and control a significant part of the economy and exert enormous influence over the political life of our country.

Remarks prepared for delivery in the US Senate.

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Longshoremen's Strike, SF, 1934

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AMERICA’S SEXUAL RED SCARE

Is sex "our era's communist threat"? Author Laura Kipnis on speech, Title IX, and the degradation of intimacy in the pandemic era

Book Review by Matt Taibbi

Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, 2017

Love in the Time of Contagion: A Diagnosis, 2022

by Laura Kipnis

On March 18th, the New York Times published “America Has a Free Speech Problem,” an editorial wrapped around a poll, asserting roughly 80% of the country withholds opinions over fear of “retaliation or harsh criticism.” The piece prompted outrage from Twitter’s moral police — “arguably the worst day in the history of the New York Times” cried blue-check analyst Tom Watson — some of whom claimed the article did so much to legitimize right-wing propaganda about speech suppression that the entire Times editorial board should resign or be fired. 

A day before the Times editorial, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by author and longtime professor Laura Kipnis called “Academe is a Hotbed of Craven Snitches.” My first question upon reading this disturbing piece was why the excellent word “craven” isn’t used more by writers. The second, after digesting the content — a litany of horrific scenes of students, administrators, and academics destroying each other’s careers and reputations, often over consensual, legal sexual encounters — is how anyone familiar with even a fraction of what Kipnis writes about could quibble with the notion that America has a “speech problem.”

This country doesn’t just have a narrow civil liberties dispute about speech. We’re in a crisis of communication and intimacy, compounded by a uniquely American terror of sex that probably dates back to the days of the Puritans, and seems at the core of what Kipnis calls the “carceral turn” in her world of higher education. Atop legitimate and necessary mechanisms for identifying and stopping campus predators — Kipnis stresses that “sexual assault is a reality on campus, though not exactly a new one” — we’re building new bureaucracies to prosecute an array of social or even just intellectual offenses.

These range from consensual but “inappropriate” workplace affairs (the downfall of University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel), to explicitly permitted sexual relations with adult students not under one’s tutelage (among the reported crimes of University of Rochester professor Florian Jaeger), to trying to intervene on behalf of a lawyerless, accused student (the no-no of University of Colorado professor David Barnett, who was hit with a “retaliation” charge by an administration that then spent $148,000 investigating him), to countless other mania-inspired offenses, from “suspicious eye contact” to a female professor dancing “too provocatively” at an off-campus party, to a ballet teacher saying “I always wanted to partner a banana” in class. 

Kipnis was a canary in this speech-lunacy coal mine. She made history in 2015 by becoming the subject of two harassment complaints for the seemingly impossible offense of writing an article (also in the Chronicle, called “Sexual Paranoia on Campus”). Students accused Kipnis of creating a hostile environment via the piece, in which she’d questioned the harassment investigation against fellow Northwestern professor Peter Ludlow, criticized new campus prohibitions against relationships between professors and graduate students, and argued that the logic behind some new campus enforcement policies were politically regressive, re-imposing an old-school paternalism that cast women back in roles as helpless victims in constant need of saving. “If this is feminism,” she wrote, “it’s feminism hijacked by melodrama.”

Kipnis was cleared of the charges, but not before being taken on a tour of the bizarre inquisitorial bureaucracy of Title IX, a federal law originally instituted in 1972 that most Americans associate with an effort to bar gender discrimination and achieve funding parity for women’s sports. The law expanded in the Obama years to encompass not just discrimination but sexual misconduct. The concept ended up being worded so vaguely that, as Kipnis discovered, Title IX was soon used as the broadest of political tools, to hammer out everything from office disagreements to parameters of acceptable thought. She later wrote:

Perhaps you’re wondering how an essay falls under the purview of Title IX, the federal statute meant to address gender discrimination and funding for women’s sports? I was wondering that myself… The answer, in brief, is that the culture of sexual paranoia I’d been writing about isn’t confined to the sexual sphere. It’s fundamentally altering the intellectual climate in higher education as a whole, to the point where ideas are construed as threats —writing an essay became “creating a chilling environment,” according to my accusers — and freedoms most of us used to take for granted are being whittled away or disappearing altogether.

Most Americans don’t know a whole lot about Title IX, among other things because the accused are encouraged/ordered to keep experiences secret. Kipnis’s accusers inadvertently did her an enormous favor here. Not only did they make a colorful writer with a keen satirical bent an eyewitness to a prosecutorial mechanism silly enough in its mindless destruction to have been written by the cast of Monty Python, they also spurred her to look into the case of Ludlow, a once-prominent philosophy professor accused of inappropriate behavior who ended up delivering to Kipnis a literary gold mine. 

Campus protesters marched against the possibility of any kind of settlement with Ludlow, so he resigned without a confidentiality agreement, which left him free to hand over to Kipnis the gold mine, i.e. the files from his cases. The transcripts of interviews conducted by Ludlow’s campus inquisitors, along with the mountain of emails and other materials introduced as evidence, painted a picture of a bureaucracy of pre-determined guilt, casual institutional cruelty, and ingrained sexual terror so extreme that the whole concept of viewing sex as anything but predatory appeared to have become taboo in the eyes of officialdom. 

Laura Kipnis. Photo by Nina Subin

Because Kipnis broke the seal on what had been a mostly secret national phenomenon, an avalanche of letters about Title IX incidents soon filled her inbox, offering a shocking sense of the scope of the problem. In her 2017 book Unwanted Advances, she writes that a biopic about disgraced screenwriter Dalton Trumbo “left me reflecting that sex is our era’s Communist threat, and Title IX hearings our new HUAC hearings.” A bold statement, given how ingrained a part of the national psyche the “communist threat” was for generations, but the idea holds up. The book opens by describing her experience and the Ludlow case in painful detail, moves on to recount scores of other incidents and statistics, and concludes with essays asking profound and uncomfortable questions about America’s deteriorating relationship toward sex and intimacy.

One of those is, “What happened to the gains of the sexual revolution?” Three years before Covid-19, Kipnis wrote this prescient passage arguing that Americans had begun to recoil from sex itself, as from a communicable disease:

For my generation, coming of age in the all-too-brief interregnum after the sexual revolution and before AIDS turned sex into a crime scene replete with perpetrators and victims—back when sex, even when not so great or when people got their feelings hurt, fell under the category of life experience—words like pleasure and liberation got tossed around a lot. But campus culture has moved on and now the metaphors veer toward the extractive rather than additive—sex takes something away from you, at least if you’re a woman: your safety, your choices, your future. It’s contaminating: you can catch trauma, which, like a virus, never goes away.

Kipnis has a new book, Love in the Time of Contagion, that ventures more down that road, attempting to chronicle the impact of Covid-19. In it, she wonders if it will have the same effect as AIDS, bemoaning the “all-too-brief interregnum” between the sexual revolution and the discovery of HIV. That was when we Americans briefly gave up our unique collection of demented hangups and saw sex as a clear net positive (things have changed so much that Kipnis, for instance, is often described using the weird and weirdly sneering term, “sex-positive feminist”). These books I don’t think were meant to be thematically connected, but reading one after another, it’s hard not to notice what they collectively say about America’s deepening sexual confusion, and the relationship of that confusion to our burgeoning political expression problem. 

Love in the Time of Contagion, a brief book of four self-contained essays, describes how when the virus struck, relationships were forced into a mass stress-test. “If previously coupled,” she writes, “say hello to your emotional bargains. In fact, say hello to them 24 hours a fucking day.” Most people felt these stresses as personal and idiosyncratic, but pull back a little and it’s not hard to see how the disease unleashed simmering national tensions. “#MeToo exposed that heterosexuality as traditionally practiced had long been on a collision course with gender parity,” she writes, and goes on to describe how heterosexual couples (including her own) put under the strain of Covid confinement began demonstrating the potential violence of this collision. 

Maybe bourgeois America wasn’t quite at the point of agreeing with the late Andrea Dworkin that, as Kipnis put it in 2015, “women’s consent was meaningless in the context of patriarchy.” Still, there was for sure more confusion than ever about what constituted proper conduct, not just with regard to physical contact but with glances or those “teensy unregulated libidinal outstations” called jokes. Women were “checking ourselves for bruises, combing our pasts for perpetrators,” while men, endlessly awaiting the fateful knock on a cyber door with news that an old career-killing atrocity had surfaced, became more timid, retiring, and fearful. This added to their dweeby nuisance factor at home and stressed relationships even more. 

As the “cultural sanitation project progressed,” with offenders zapped on an almost daily basis — like the NPR movie critic David Edelstein, fired for making the Last Tango in Paris-themed joke, “Even grief is better with butter” — sexuality was not only more and more confined to private spaces, but even behind bedroom doors became a thing both practiced and talked about less and less freely. Speaking of Bertolucci movies: America even before #MeToo and Title IX had more sequels to Saw than movies like Last Tango in Paris, a testament to how much more comfortable we are fantasizing about almost any kind of violence over talking in a grownup way about sex. Now? A country already famous for its tortured sexual attitudes seems more lost than ever. 

We’re a nation that’s not just cramming desire back into closets, but becoming obsessed with prohibition and punishment generally. In the same way we seem determined to define sex as inherently predatory — “extractive” as Kipnis puts it, with sexual participants divided into takers and survivors — we’re defining political reality as violent by nature, a world of repressors and victims, where the line between political and sexual perversion is fading. Through processes like Title IX investigations (and the office DEI tribunals playing a similar role in the private sector, in which I had the well-publicized misfortune to take part once), we’re building the social machinery to hunt an ever-expanding taxonomy of perverts.

Imagine me laughing a little while shifting to say that for a “sex-positive feminist,” Kipnis sure seems to have a grim view of relationships. True, the details she shares in Love in the Time of Contagion of her own Covid-era experience make it pretty easy to understand why (he called her “the Puritan”; they referred to each other as cellmates). One of her funnier passages makes Sam Kinison sound like a spokesperson for monogamy:

At best a couple is a workable neurotic pact, the paradigm being women who married captured serial killers, getting the thrill of proximity to a dangerous man alongside the satisfaction of seeing him behind bars, castrated by social constraints.

Kipnis is a fluid, entertaining essayist and skilled rhetorician, which seems to be one of the complaints of a lot of her detractors, who treat writing well like cheating. In Unwanted Advances she talks about the discomfort of briefly becoming a darling of a “certain libertarian flange of the right,” and notes, correctly I think, that the “political culture of the moment throws all traditional left-right distinctions up for grabs.” In Unwanted Advances especially, the divide seems less about right and left than obviousness and nuance, or rigidity and humor. This passage of hers feels like a confession to thoughtcrime:

Despite being a left-wing feminist, something in me hates a slogan, even well-intentioned ones like ‘rape culture.’ Worse, I tend to be ironic — I like irony, it helps you think because it gives you critical distance on a thing.

The New York Times review of Contagion, while positive, opened in oddly backhanded fashion: “Dance like nobody’s watching. Love like there’s no tomorrow. Write like nobody’s going to cancel you. This is the way of Laura Kipnis…” 

Shouldn’t that be the “way” of any artist or writer? What a strange comment… The piece went on to note, with the faintest hint of annoyance, that Kipnis “launches provocations with the frequency of a tennis ball machine.” It struck me reading this that reviewers are starting to forget what a healthy mind full of things to say and unafraid of blowback sounds like. 

Kipnis comes across as a clear advocate for due process and free speech, which has made her a target for a certain brand of cliché-spewing critic — wannabe Commissars like Noah Berlatsky complain she’s become a “cause for many on the right” — but it feels like she may have come to these roles by accident, just by being a normal person unwilling or unable to accede to sexual and political panics. In the first “Sexual Paranoia” essay that got her into trouble, she described reading her University’s sexual harassment guidelines and being troubled that faculty were “warned in two separate places that inappropriate humor violates university policy,” adding, “I’d always thought inappropriateness was pretty much the definition of humor.” I doubt she went into academia to become a defender of jokes, but circumstances pushed her in that direction.

“I wonder who I’d have become without all the bad sex, the flawed teachers, the liberty to make mistakes,” she writes in Unwanted Advances, adding:

I don’t have anything against escapism or irresponsibility, and you certainly won’t hear me arguing against drunken hookups. Fuck all the guys you want would be my motto. Just don’t fuck the guys you don’t want, which is where things get tougher, since this requires women actually knowing what they want, and resisting what they don’t want.

Critics have gone after her for sentiments like that second part, claiming that by giving credence to the idea that women could help combat sexual harassment by learning how to say “get your hand off my fucking knee,” she was engaging in what the New York Times once said sounded “suspiciously like victim-blaming.” But I think it may be more those first, Carpe Diem-ish sentiments that got her in trouble, because embracing the messiness of life does sound like a provocation in this cultural sanitation era, dominated by words like threat and harm. The question is why such provocations have become a bad thing, and how it came to happen that sexual angst has started to become the province of the left-liberal mainstream, when not long ago it seemed wholly owned by the religious right. 

I asked Kipnis about these and other questions: 

MT: I’m sure you saw the now infamous New York Times free speech editorial, which inspired outrage, with many essentially saying, “There’s no issue here.” Do you think people are not aware of the things that you wrote about out in Unwanted Advances?

Laura Kipnis: I think for sure people aren’t aware as far as Title IX, because so much of it is behind closed doors. As I said, people are threatened with their jobs if they go public. You’re threatened that you’ll be brought up on more charges like retaliation. I got so many emails after that from people who have been through these absurd tribunals, and told not to talk about it. There’s that part of it. I also do think — I don’t want to be doing all that much left-bashing, I can leave that to you — but these used to be my friends, and where I felt comfortable, so that’s part of my bitterness about it all.

I remember right before Unwanted Advances came out. I was at a conference, I think it was in Berlin. It was like a queer conference. I read a section from the book. It was about to come out. I’m reading to all these queer people who you would think would at least understand the ways that people get harangued, particularly about sexual issues. And all these people, they said to me, “I don’t recognize this as the campus that I’m on.” I think they also think that these procedures are somehow on the side of justice, or on the side of the people who are victims of various kinds of harassment or assault. So there’s a huge amount of disbelief.

MT: You wrote in Unwanted Advances: “Sex is our era’s communist threat,” and also talked about “officially sanctioned hysteria.” Can you expound on that?

Laura Kipnis: (laughs) It might be hyperbolic language. I do get accused of that at times. I suppose you do, too, of course — my brother in hyperbole. I remember writing a similar line when I was writing about pornography in an earlier book, Bound and Gagged. Back in the eighties, there were all those pedophile trials, like the McMartin Preschool case. It did seem that there had been some kind of transition, that it started happening then, where it wasn’t a communist under every bed, it was a pedophile under every bed. There’s a kind of threat shopping. What used to be the communist threat, became the pedophile threat, and now became — it’s still pedophiles, but also that pedophilia can extend now to targeting grown women, with the same term, “grooming,” being used.

MT: That came up in Unwanted Advances, in a case involving adults.

Laura Kipnis: It’s used constantly. You see it used about people in their thirties. I think one of the things that happened is that sex started to be seen as a harm in a way that it wasn’t, after the sexual revolution. It had something to do with AIDS, HIV, and the way sex started to be seen as something that can kill you. There was this shift from sex being seen as something that was fun or good for you, to something that was invariably harmful and traumatizing. With all those shifts came the growth of these bureaucratic entities, on campus and off, like HR offices, but also Title IX. And on the Internet and Twitter, you’ve got this prosecutorial spirit in more informal ways, callout culture or cancel culture, whatever you call it. All of those things seem to have converged.

This is not to say, to insert parenthetically, that there aren’t predators, that there wasn’t a huge harassment problem on campus, mostly having to do with male professors, but also peer sex — that there wasn’t a lot of incredible, horrible, abusive stuff that happens in and out of frats. I think an awful lot had to do with drinking and binge drinking and people basically being comatose on the weekends. This is students I’m talking about. There have been real issues, but then there’s this mission creep about all of it that seeks out wrongdoing in places where really there were things like simple communication issues with undergrads. Inflated stuff, like I wrote about in the Snitches article, cases where somebody’s making eye contact somebody didn’t like. There’s just a lot of absurdity. 

MT: There seems to be more and more fear of sex on all levels, from the standpoint of disease and predation, a tremendous amount of anxiety.

Laura Kipnis: A lot of anxiety. I’d say this shift, which I don’t entirely understand, but it also did start, I think, in that McMartin era, where you’ve got this shift. The old Freudian model was that children desire their parents. Now you can’t even bring that up. It’s all older people who desire to sexually exploit younger people. All the desire flows from the other direction. For a lot of people, they can’t even imagine or conceive of a relationship that’s not exploitative when there’s more than maybe a five-year age difference. So this idea of power, too, it exacerbates all this anxiety about sexual danger. You’ve got an infusion of this idea of power as malevolent, or that institutional power disparities have this malevolent underpinning to them, such that people — who would usually be younger, female people — are only going to be exploited in those situations. It’s just a big clusterfuck of stuff.

MT: I’ve talked to other professors who’ve complained about all the different sub-deans and deans that have been added to campus bureaucracies, to police certain behaviors. How do academics talk about this amongst themselves?

Laura Kipnis: There are two professors that I know of that are dealing with this, Janet Halley and Jeannie Suk Gersen. Jeannie writes in The New Yorker, and Janet— I don’t know if you read about this John Comaroff accusation, but Janet has written about it. They’re both at Harvard. 

Older, white male professors will talk and complain about it, because they’ve probably had scrapes. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from that sort of person, and some of them are in the firing line because they’re old school about compliments, maybe used to be complimenting whatever — women’s dresses and stuff. But the people in the humanities who all think of themselves as progressive and enlightened, no, they aren’t aware of all this, I think partly because they don’t know what’s going on.

It’s also a thing where half the professors on campuses now are not tenure or tenure track. They’re instructors or adjuncts, and they’re terrified. They can’t speak up. Also, faculty governance is really declining. The other thing is that, even on my campus, which I think of as a liberal campus, there are no professors that are invited to be on these committees that create these rules and these structures. If you look at the 25 people who are calling the shots, which I did when I was writing that book, they’re all administrators. They’re not faculty.

But the mores on campus have changed so much so that now professors dating students is seen as a high crime. That’s how I think I opened the first Chronicle piece that got me in trouble, where I said, “You can barely throw a stone on most campuses around the country without hitting a few of these neo-miscreants.” That was the norm for quite a long time.

MT: Those couples are almost like SRs or Mensheviks now. They’re a disappeared group.

Laura Kipnis: I was going to say that at one point, about the Mensheviks. I just thought, “No one will get it.” I either took it out or thought, “It doesn’t entirely map onto the thing.”

MT: In Unwanted Advances, you talked about how male and female students, when they’re unconscious from binge-drinking, they act out extremes of gender stereotypes. Why do you think that is, and what’s been the reaction to you making that observation?

Laura Kipnis: I talked to Claremont McKenna a few months ago. I had this line of students say that they were survivors and that I was supporting rape culture. 

It was incredible… It’s seen as individualist to tell women that it would behoove us to learn to say no more emphatically, or learn to defend yourself. To say, “Maybe it’s not a good idea to pass out at a frat party,” you will get told, or I get told, “No, it’s the men that have to change.” To say that self-protection could be pragmatic is seen as being on the side of the abuse. It’s not allowed to be pragmatic because that’s to acquiesce to the whole thing. So it just seems to me like until men decide to change or until there’s enough social pressure on men to change, maybe not get raped in the meantime. If you say that, you’re seen as the enemy. 

There’s a way in which the kinds of versions of feminism that have prevailed on campus are the ones that somehow require the most patriarchal supervision from the institution, on the one hand. On the other, they also seem to be weirdly feminine and passive in their responses. They say men are all-powerful sexual creeps, and women are passive. The drinking is the reality of it. There’s not a lot of honesty about this. To talk about the drinking, you will get told that you’re victim blaming.

MT: In Love in the Time of Contagion, you wonder at the beginning if COVID is going to have as long an afterlife as AIDS. You’d mentioned before that AIDS turned sex into a crime scene. Americans already had such a complex about closeness, relationships, physical contact, even humor, for all the reasons you described. Has COVID made people even more hesitant about intimacy? 

Laura Kipnis: It’s a huge question. I suppose, in a way, we don’t know enough. One of the things I was just reading that’s interesting is about political differences and that the more liberal side people veered toward, the more they feared COVID and contagion. As we’ve all seen, the anti-mask groups are really conservatives. But they have their own contagion fears, obviously — like, say, immigration. There are these fears of impurity or fears of encroachment that take different forms across the spectrum. I think that is what’s interesting. The left liberal side of it has no less fear of being encroached on. I think that “purity fears” is the larger umbrella term.

As far as how it’s going to affect relationships, I just don’t know because things seem so incoherent to me. I think it’s at the end of the book, I’m reading about these young single women saying they just want to be touched in a bar again, whereas three years ago, it was like, “If you touch me in a bar, you’re going to lose a hand.” I think people don’t really know what they want. The fallout from all of this is yet to be figured out. We’ll look back if we’re still around five years from now, if the virus hasn’t won. I mean, this virus seems to be smarter than we are, perhaps.

MT: What has writing these books touching on dangerous subjects cost you? Have you lost friends?

Laura Kipnis: A lot of times, you don’t hear directly about the blowback. What happens is you don’t get invited places. Up until when I wrote Unwanted Advances or maybe the articles that it came from, I had been a fellow traveler in academic gender and sexuality studies, at women’s and gender studies departments, and also queer theory and queer departments. I was invited to keynote queer conferences and grad conferences and feminist stuff. A lot of that somehow seemed to go away. Part of it is I think that on campus, there was — I think of it as there was Queer Studies 2.0, that replaced what used to be a really freewheeling, interesting, intellectually rich kind of queer studies. 

It became replaced by a weird puritanism and correctness about everything. I’m sure that I have lost friends, but I think nobody’s exactly written to me and said, “I’m not your friend anymore.” You notice, “Oh, I’m not getting invited to speak here or at those conferences.” There’s that whole level of academic stuff that’s gone on. I think that I probably am persona non grata in certain places, but luckily, I don’t necessarily know about it.

MT: Lastly, in Unwanted Advances, you wrote, “I like irony.” Your books are witty, they’re metaphorical, they’re full of funny movie references, for obvious reasons. It makes your prose very enjoyable to read. But, for want of a better term, pop culture now is quite literal. It’s non-metaphorical. It doesn’t like irony, for some reason I can’t quite understand. Why is that?

Laura Kipnis: I mentioned a queer conference I’d been at where people disliked the stuff I was reading that was going to be in Unwanted Advances. Somebody actually told me, somebody I’d been friendly with, a queer theorist person, maybe Gen-X-ish, she said this directly, that young people don’t like irony and I was too ironic. That was the first time I’d been aware of it.

But I have been asked that not infrequently, when I give talks, by students: “Why is your style like this?” Part of it just is temperament. I think I do have literary aspirations. The writers who I admire are funny or make points by humor… I like making myself laugh when I’m writing. If I can write a sentence that makes me laugh, it makes me happy. Part of it is self-entertainment and keeping myself from being bored.

I don’t know the answer to why there’s this generational style. I think the world is objectively worse. There’s climate change. There’s the job situation. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not funny in the world. So I can see that. But there is also an intellectual rigidity that’s driving it as well. It just makes these people seem pretty boring to me. Their writing is boring. Their ideas are boring, because there isn’t this intellectual play, or ambivalence, or ability to see contradiction. It’s got to be black and white.

MT: The traditional take on life being worse would be that that’s exactly when you need to have more humor. It’s like the scene in “Life of Brian,” with Eric Idle singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as he’s being crucified. One would think people would get really, really funny during the current sucky period. 

Laura Kipnis: I think maybe it’s this punitive, carceral spirit as well. If you’re going to judge and crucify somebody, you’ve got to pronounce them guilty or innocent. So on one hand, there’s this flight from the gender binary, but on the other hand this investment in the punitive binary — innocent or guilty. It’s interesting.

MT: Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it, and definitely recommend people read your books.

Laura Kipnis: Thank you. 

* * *

Finnish Temperance Society, Fort Bragg, 1905

20 Comments

  1. John Sakowicz April 6, 2022

    QUOTE OF THE DAY
    “Carmel Angelo has bailed out just as the chickens are beginning to come home to roost. No one ever said she wasn’t smart.”
    …John McCowen

  2. Marco McClean April 6, 2022

    Where Jade Tippet says, “The complete Land Use Covenant may be found here,” the link is broken. But you can find the list of covenants she mentions by going to https://SaveNoyoHeadlands.com and scrolling to the bottom of the page.

  3. George Hollister April 6, 2022

    The county assessor used to take on the task of bringing un-permitted, and un-taxed land improvements into tax compliance. That would include un-taxed buildings. I remember 40 years ago the late Duane Wells coming through Comptche checking out properties with untaxed buildings. There really wasn’t much fuss about it, just a quick visit, some note taking, and moving on. Duane make it clear, he did not care about pot. The Supervisors were not involved. So the question should be, why isn’t the now Assessor-Clerk office doing this today? I think I know the answer.

    • Kirk Vodopals April 6, 2022

      The County already raises property taxes indiscriminately and without justification. Why add more salt to the wounds?

      • George Hollister April 6, 2022

        I am unaware of anyone back in the Duane Wells days who he brought into compliance that complained. He didn’t do it from his office, he was actually on the ground looking, and seeing.

  4. George Hollister April 6, 2022

    PBS Frontline documentary on the effort to overturn the election: How about a Frontline documentary on the. Russian interference-hoax scandal of 2016 that evolved into the long drawn out Trump impeachment? Oh, PBS was a part to that one, along with MSM, Hillary Clinton, and the DNC. Then, I won’t hold my breath.

    • George Hollister April 6, 2022

      There is also the coverup of Biden-China influence pedaling. Oh, PBS was part of that one as well. Frontline won’t touch it.

  5. Harvey Reading April 6, 2022

    “IF YOU’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING WRONG, do it big, because the punishment is the same either way.”

    Did she say it before or after her head was lopped off in an auto accident?

  6. Harvey Reading April 6, 2022

    It’s clear from reading the nooze above that the west’s “free” propaganda press continues to put out misinformation on the situation in Ukraine…and gullible people continue to lap it up and beg for more. “Lies r Us” should be the nickname of US nooze media.

    • Bruce Anderson April 6, 2022

      Specifically?

      • Harvey Reading April 6, 2022

        Mainly the continual whining about the “poor, innocent, Ukrainians” and reporting of, without proof, supposed Russian war crimes, which were likely committed by Ukrainians themselves. The Russians had good cause to level the damned place, in self defense, given the NATO (US) buildup on its western borders that’s been going on for years. In my opinion, they have responded far too timidly. The US did far worse in Iraq, and that country posed no threat whatsoever, never did. What the “free” press peddles is propaganda and utter lies on behalf of the US ruling class, period.

  7. Stephen Rosenthal April 6, 2022

    Dear Mr. Ronald K Cox of Ukiah,

    The next time you have a heart attack, or develop cancer or any other myriad serious illnesses, please take care of yourself and don’t burden the health care system with your odiousness. The health care professionals and the majority of Mendocino County’s citizens thank you in advance.

    • Paul Andersen April 6, 2022

      Is there a difference when innocent by standards get killed? Asking for a friend.

  8. chuck dunbar April 6, 2022

    AMERICA’S SEXUAL RED SCARE

    Greatly interesting review of Laura Kipnis’ 2 books on sexual issues, including an interview of her, by Matt Taibbi today. Kipnis is sharp, bold and funny, will seek out at least one of the books to read. Taibbi continues to do fine reporting on many issues.

  9. Marmon April 6, 2022

    BREAKING: Texas Governor Greg Abbott announces Texas will begin using charter buses to ship illegal immigrants to Washington D.C.

    Marmon

    • Bruce Anderson April 6, 2022

      Sadistic manipulation of desperate people tickle your funny bone, Jimbo?

      • Marmon April 6, 2022

        Remember the Alamo!

        Marmon

        • Harvey Reading April 6, 2022

          The Alamo battle ended appropriately, with the much-deserved deaths of a bunch of white scumbag thugs. And don’t forget the later war with Mexico, that WE instigated, and which resulted in white, slave-owning morons from Texas becoming part of the union along with New Mexico, Arizona, and your home state becoming US property… Oh, my, aint we grand… This country was built on slavery and lies, and the lies continue, on a grand scale, to the point that people lap them up and beg for more…as the black flag of lies flies from Post Office flagpoles around the country, all year long these days. Simply putrid.

  10. Marmon April 6, 2022

    RE: MINI HEAT WAVE

    just activated the swamp cooler, working well,

    Marmon

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