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Off the Record (May 18, 2022)

DEPT of unintentional irony: Based on all the different sources, the latest best estimates of homelessness in San Francisco range from 8,000 to more than 19,000. “We all desperately need to have a much better way of systematically assessing whether people are experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Margot Kushel, director of the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative. “Right now everything we do has its own inaccuracies.”

I'LL SAY. Up here behind The Green Curtain, the people doing the counting are the people who get money for “serving” the homeless. The more homeless counted, the more the money flows in from the state and the feds. So every two years, the doers of paid good fan out early in the morning to beat the bushes — well, not exactly; beating the bushes could be life-threatening so the counters do most of their enumerating via drive-bys. “That looks like one, Debbie!” “No, Tanya. That guy works the night shift at Safeway.” “Well, put him down as homeless. He sure looks like a bum, er needy person.”

MENDO paid a fellow named Marbut to evaluate our homeless situation in 2017, paying him about $60k for his assessment. Marbut's report put the number of homeless at between 200 and 250, mostly in the Ukiah Valley, many of whom were drop-fall drunks and hard drug people who resist any indoor program that interferes with their daily regimen of total oblivion. Marbut’s report recommended that homeless services be prioritized to place locals first, people with roots in Mendocino County. Everyone else of the able-bodied transient type should get a sandwich or two and be encouraged to keep on moving because the sandwich was all they'd get.

SOON AFTER the Marbut Report was accepted, and discussed by the Supervisors, they shelved it. Permanently, especially when the locals working in the industrial homeless agencies assembled en masse in one of the caves in the Ukiah Convention Center to denounce Marbut and his report as “cruel.” And that was that, and ever since the homeless count by the homeless workers has been a funding-dependable 1200-1500, county-wide, a number that Marbut’s report described as “inflated,” adding that “There is very little useful (i.e., actionable) County-wide data regarding single adults experiencing homelessness. … The overall lack of meaningful data means decision making has often been made based on myths and one-off anecdotes rather than on hard data.”

AS A LITTLE KID,  circa 1947, I saw a Coast League ballplayer named Carlos Bernier chase down a fan at Seals Stadium in San Francisco and beat him about the head and shoulders. It was the first time I'd witnessed an episode of ultra-vi, but as shocking as the incident was to me as an 8-year-old I sympathized  with Bernier, who played with captivating flair. The next morning’s sports page explained that the fan had called Bernier by an insulting term. But abusive fans are common. I've seen players climb into the stands to smack big mouths at Warriors games in Oakland (when tickets were still affordable), and obnoxious fans were so common at Candlestick that lots of families stopped bringing their kids to games. The left field bleachers at Candlestick were like an unlocked psycho ward with young guys from all over the Bay Area showing up not to watch the game but to get into fights. (Which old guard historian was it who held that wars were necessary to cool out every generation of young men by killing a bunch of them? But wars are a rather extreme approach to testosterone overload, and young male energy has presented probs since time began.)

ANYWAY, these days you see middle-aged fat guys, and plenty of leather-lunged women, howling the vile-est insults at pro basketball players, as famously occurred recently when a high school kid, a rich kid, certainly, since he had a courtside seat at a Maverick's-Phoenix game in Dallas, shoved and insulted the family of Phoenix player Chris Paul whose Mother's Day family of spectators included his mom, his wife and several children. 

BUT SPORTS, as George Orwell famously pointed out, tends to bring out the worst in ordinarily well-behaved people. The myth of sports, Orwell said, is that competitions, especially international competitions, bring people together, make us all more understanding, more tolerant. Not. International tensions are often exacerbated, and who hasn't had to witness Little League parents hurling abuse at the hapless high school kids who umpire games.

ROOM FOR WHAT? WHERE? “Democracy is alive in Mendocino County, including a race for Supervisor in District 5. You have options. I will be highlighting policy differences between myself and John Redding. I ask you to keep your comments polite and kind. There is room in America for opposing perspectives. — Ted Williams”

THE ABOVE combination of piety and hypocrisy could only come from one small area of the United States, the Fifth District of Mendocino County, national home of the passive-aggressive public style. In fact, Williams ignores “opposing perspectives” if he can, and his slavish performance in office can hardly be described as “kind” unless your idea of kindness is calling your departing colleague [McCowen] a thief in open session, not to mention the routine unkindness Williams has signed off on when it was put in front of him by CEO Angelo. (Angelo's reign will haunt the county for years to come in the fiscal time bombs which are her legacy, many of them avoidable if her five auto-votes had had some political backbone.) 

MALCOLM MACDONALD called Monday morning to say that “You can be wrong about Williams” but went on to imply that if I supported Redding for Fifth District supervisor he was finished as an AVA contributor. “Haven't you been reading my column?” Macdonald demanded, as if he and his reporting were infallible, that it was downright treachery to even consider Redding. 

I'VE WRITTEN that Williams has been a disaster on a disastrous board of supervisors led around by the nose by a disastrous CEO. Williams, imo, does not deserve another four years in office, and I said that the combative Redding as a supervisor, at a minimum, would be “therapeutic” in the present context of local government. So shoot me.

YEAH, I have read Macdonald's coverage of the hospital district; it's my job. Frankly, I find the guy's reporting on the hospital district pretty much impenetrable in an inside-baseball kinda way, with only the reporter's loathing for Redding coming through loud and clear.

I DON'T FEEL strongly enough about either Redding or Williams to loathe either one of them, but we follow the supervisors very closely — the only media that does — and we think our opinions are grounded in the demonstrable facts that Williams' performance has been lamentable, even more lamentable than his two predecessors, Hamburg and Colfax. 

BECAUSE REDDING seems to have been deficient as a member of the hospital board doesn't mean he will be deficient, or more deficient, than Williams has been as a supervisor. Of course in the lockstep 5th District, Redding, a Republican and a practicing Catholic (gasp!) has zero chance of unseating Williams. But in Malcolm-Think it's a mortal sin to even try to consider the guy objectively. (Only about 20% of 5th District voters are registered Republicans. And only about 16% of Fifth District voters voted for Trump in 2020.)

MACDONALD SAYS: “It is Bruce’s publication, so he can put whatever slant he wants on our phone conversation, but it might be more transparent if he included which one of us quickly resorted to a raised voice, curse words, and which one abruptly hung up on the conversation. It’s been a nice ride, Bruce, for more than a decade. Thanks for the platform. You certainly have the right to endorse whomever you desire. One of the blessings of contributing to the AVA is that I have always retained the right to disassociate myself at any time.”

REMINDER: WILLIAMS & HIS BOARD IN INACTION:

AN UPDATE/RECAP: MENDO’S MAJOR FAILURES & SCREW-UPS (A growing list…)

by Mark Scaramella

Failure to deal with non-reimbursable mental health and drug-addled residents as Measure B called for, choosing instead to overpay for the Whitmore Lane demolition and rebuild for more much than a new facility would cost.

Picking a pointless and costly fight with the Sheriff over computer independence and liability for ordinary budget overruns.

Failure to enforce Measure V to reduce standing dead tree fire hazards/”nuisance,” even with a County Counsel’s formal opinion two years ago that Mendocino Redwoods was clearly not exempt from nuisance laws.

Failure to revise the pot ordinance with a two-acre limit after their latest use-permit proposal was withdrawn in the face of a pending local initiative, leaving the County and well-meaning applicants in permanent limbo.

Failure to plan or budget for their ill-considered consolidated Chief Financial Officer office despite voting it into existence with no plan or analysis.

Failure to convene their Public Safety Advisory Board despite its incorporation in County Code more than a year ago.

Failure to follow advisory Measure AG which was supposed to allocate the majority of pot tax revenues to Mental Health, Roads, Emergency Services and enforcement. In fact, nobody has even asked for a tally of those revenues for purposes of proper allocation.

Failure to set up permanent emergency operations center so that disasters can be responded to quickly.

Failure to develop a single project to submit for grant funding to mitigate drought.

Failure to provide promised paramedic subsidy to local ambulance services.

Wasting about $80k on a “strategic plan” that a large percentage of their own employees described as “a waste of time” while saying they are operating on an “austerity budget.”

Failure to set up a re-established water agency in a timely manner despite drought emergency — $330k consultant will only deliver a “work plan” by August after which no one has any idea what will happen or when or how much more it will cost or what authority it will have.

Failure to impose water restrictions or gaging requirements on local water agencies.

Failure to set up a budget line item for Sheriff’s overtime so that overtime can be managed and planned for as incidents occur, instead threatening the Sheriff with personal liability for overtime.

Failure to provide monthly departmental budget and status reports to the Board and public.

Wasting $4 million on a Crisis Residential Treatment Center, spending $5 million to build the equivalent of a $1 million four-bedroom house.

Failure to staff positions which the Board itself says are revenue generating positions both general fund-funded and grant funded.

Failure to codify a Mendo version of Sonoma County’s vacation rental restrictions to ease housing shortage for locals.

Failure to require permit status reporting to see if permits are taking unreasonably long to process.

Failure to consolidate Mendo’s five dispatch operations into two — Police and Fire/Ambulance — while keeping nine redundant dispatch positions on the night shift when fewer calls come in.

Wasting almost $400k on an unnecessary Board chamber “remodel.”

Failure to plan for the significant impact of the new courthouse on affected county offices: District Attorney, Public Defender, Probation, Sheriff.

AND this Umbrella Failure: Failure of all five Supervisors to bring up any of these failures for an agendized discussion in an attempt to redress them.

FORT BRAGG MAYOR BERNIE NORVELL ON HOUSING

“Failings of Fort Bragg?

The city of Fort Bragg absolutely understands the urgency. The city now allows buildings in commercial districts that look like houses to be occupied for residential purposes. The city developed and paid for pre-approved engineer plans for ADUs free of charge to the public. The city now allows tiny homes to be used as ADUs in the city. If you don’t know ask or watch a council meeting.

The city understands the benefit of a community land trust; that is why we started one. If you don’t know ask or watch Council meetings.

The city bans all vacation rentals in residential zoning and allows a very limited number in the commercial district and only on the second floor. If you don’t know ask or watch a council meeting.

For housing trusts see number two above. If you don’t know ask or watch Council meeting.

If you could direct the public to the council meeting where these responsible developments were approved and then denied it would be appreciated. If you don’t know, ask or watch a council meeting. All of our meetings are online for your viewing pleasure.”

NOT TO BE JUDGMENTAL, but given the cruel fact of radical climate change and the looming likely end of the human species, it would seem to be incumbent upon County officials, especially the one at the very top of the law enforcement pole, to eliminate his lawn. 

Yes, we all know how he loves his lawn, and how emotionally wrenching it is for a committed lawn person to look out his big view window and not see his chemically-soaked greensward’s lunatic perfection but, collectively, lawns are helping to kill the planet! And they soak up obscene amounts of water, which is a finite resource in all of California! 

BUT ENOUGH PIETY and on to desirable alternatives to ozone-depleting front yards. As one of our many public services, Boonville's beloved weekly offers… wait for it… the zero management alternative of a cactus garden! Perfect for the desertification of NorCal presently underway, aesthetically pleasing, and some botanical diversity, especially welcome in the bland uniformity of suburban neighborhoods. Why, here's one in Boonville installed by the gifted landscaper, Tom Akin, that the County's top law enforcement officer might be inspired to emulate. Xeriscape is what we want. Repeat after me, Xeriscape — zeer is scape.

THE DA RESPONDS:

Re: ‘But Enough Piety …’

Thank you for highlighting the hard work behind my well-cared for front lawn. A healthy lawn can prevent erosion by wind and water; improve flood control (assuming there is ever enough rain to cause a flood), help the breakdown of organic chemicals, reduce noise, provide wildlife habitat, create a cooling effect during warm weather, provide an ongoing opportunity to exercise, and add visual appeal.

Candidly, we have previously discussed your suggestion to xeriscape, but such a conversion is not cheap and Rosie the Welsh Terrier-ist keeps expressing her preference for keeping the lawn.

Additionally, I know you are also aware that I am not compensated – even after almost 38 years and a track record of success and transparency – comparable to that currently paid by the Board of Supervisors to their own in-house counsel and his many outside law firm contracts. Maybe someday my successes will be as noticed and financially appreciated in the Board room (now that they are supposedly back) as those things – whatever they may be (looked but can’t find the metrics) – that justified their in-house counsel’s current compensation, but I’m not holding my breath.

Or perhaps The AVA wants to start a xeriscape GoFundMe drive or talk to your nephew for me? — DA Dave

BACK in the happy days before the internet, the AVA would print our ballot recommendations and our candid assessments of the candidates. It gratified me no end to hear accounts from various areas of the county where bush hippies had strode into the polls brandishing the AVA's ballot, annoying no end the staid Republican ladies overseeing the vote.  The feedback we got typically went like this: “I don't have time to read all this bullshit, Bruce, thanks for your help,” said a guy with nothing but free time in between harvests. But now? With so many citizens voting by mail a month or so ahead of closing time? Print recommendations aren't as central as they used to be. But here's what I've got for you electronically and in the print edition of 19 May:

PRELIMINARILY, I'll say that most County department heads do a good job only to be tarnished by the poor job the Supervisors and the CEO's office do. Ditto of the County’s line workers, too, who, btw, tell me that they never see anyone from either the Supervisors of the CEO's office. One would think the leadership would be curious about how the services they are responsible for are delivered, but…

JUNE is a primary election so the ballot is overstuffed with people literally out of the money it takes to win state office while our two-party monopoly has plenty of money they get from mostly destructive forces, as most of you have figured out by now. The AVA tries to avoid endorsing anybody affiliated with either of the two death-bringing parties, instead going for unknown Greens and Peace and Freedom nostalgics.

CONTROLLER: Laura Wells.

TREASURER: Meghann Adams.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: Dan Kapelovitz.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: Nathalie Hrizi

BOARD OF EQUALIZATION: No Preference

GOVERNOR: Luis Javier Rodriguez

LT. GOVERNOR: Mohammed Arif

SECRETARY OF STATE: Gary Blenner

U.S. SENATOR: John Thompson Parker

U.S. SENATOR, PARTIAL TERM: Daphne Bradford

UNITED STATES CONGRESS, 2ND DISTRICT: Anybody But Huffman

STATE SENATOR: Not McGuire

ASSEMBLY: Not Wood

JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT: Shanahan (Unopposed Because It's All One Big Lawyer Club In Mendo)

STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS; Tony Thurmond

COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS: Michelle Hutchins

SUPERVISOR, 5TH DISTRICT: No Recommendation

ASSESSOR-CLERK-RECORDER: Katrina Bartolomie

AUDITOR-CONTROLLER/TREASURER-TAX COLLECTOR: Chamise Cubbison

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Eyster

SHERIFF-CORONER: Kendall

MEASURE M (ANDERSON VALLEY SCHOOL BOND: Yes

THE LATE JUDY PRUDEN was the last person to really, really love Ukiah, love of the civic type defined here as a dogged person so devoted to the place where she lives that she appears at every public meeting, serves on all sorts of commissions, constantly writes letters to the editor alerting her fellow citizens to this or that planning or building atrocity. She fought valiantly and uphill all her days. 

I WAS REMINDED of the formidable Ms. Pruden when I stopped to use the public bathroom in Ukiah's dungeon-like convention center, the only reason for visiting that grim space except for the cheery gift shop at the School Street entrance. The bathrooms are still closed for no apparent reason, as are the offices of our alleged state reps, Wood and McGuire, their empty offices a kind of tangible metaphor for the utter vacuity of the vacuous pair.

BUT THE UKIAH CAVES do have a large magazine rack where I scooped up a nifty little booklet called “Ukiah's Unique Urban Forest, An Interpretive, Self-Guided Tour of Ukiah's Trees, Parks, and Public Places” by Judy Pruden. In a mere twenty pages, Ms. Pruden manages to include a lot of interesting info, merging items of the town's history with photos and the lineages of the trees she finds unique, or at least worth mentioning. Highly recommended. 

AS WE KNOW, Ukiah, Judy Pruden notwithstanding, has marched steadily backwards, beginning in the middle of the 19th century as so purely savage that it and the rest of the murder-drenched county was administered out of Santa Rosa, then became by the 1920s a coherent, pretty little tree-lined town and then to the unplanned horrors we see today as expressed in the entire length of State Street.

FORT BRAGG STINKS, that’s what a couple of callers reported to us on Friday, adding that depending on the wind direction, the City’s new sewage treatment plant is creating a major stink for those downwind in recent days and weeks. 

THEN, coincidentally, the City issued the following press release later that day:

WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT ACTIVITY UPDATE 

Nearly two years ago, the City of Fort Bragg completed a major upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant facility to improve the reliability and quality of effluent (treated water released into the ocean). The new treatment system has proved to be far more efficient in the removal of solids from the waste stream than expected. This translates into a much greater need for onsite storage of the biosolids at the treatment facility. This is the source of the odor that many have experienced near the treatment plant facility located on the Coastal Trail and on occasion throughout the City. 

The City has purchased a biosolids dryer that will eliminate the odor at the wastewater facility. Staff has been working diligently to complete the installation and bring the unit on line as soon as possible. The City anticipates the equipment to be operational by mid-June. In the meantime, the City has continued treating the biosolids with a number of products to reduce the volume and combat odor. This week we have been able to remove and transport some the biosolids which have caused more odor than usual on the Coastal Trail and surrounding areas. 

DEAR MS. GLENTZER:

As your challenge to the incumbent Superintendent, Michele Hutchins, began, you assured the public your campaign would be “clean.” Of course you can't be responsible for the actions of your more zealous supporters, but it seems to me you might want to denounce the person or persons who have removed Hutchins' campaign posters up and down the Mendocino Coast. Speaking for myself, I still haven't seen specific criticisms of Hutchins' performance in office, only vague “I hear” and “I heard” statements on social media, none of it for publication.

Thank you for considering this request.

Bruce Anderson, AVA, Boonville

NO RESPONSE.

MICHELLE HUTCHINS, incumbent Superintendent of the Mendocino County Schools, has been on the receiving end of the nastiest secret slander campaign I've seen in the fifty years I've lived in Boonville. This letter is typical:

“The ballots are here. At this time, I have only one important recommendation. I’ve received a number of comments about the job Michelle Hutchins (county Ed Sup) is doing. None good. I’m happy to provide more information privately, but for now my recommendation is a vote for Nicole Glentzer for County Superintendent of Schools.”

Signed, Ginny Rorby

SUBSEQUENT EXCHANGE

Dear Ms. Rorby:

What have you heard about incumbent superintendent Hutchins?

IMO she's the victim of the most malicious secret slander campaign I've seen in my fifty years in Mendocino County.

Best to you,

Bruce Anderson, AVA

MS RORBY ANSWERED: “Bruce, without saying who this came from, this is one several the reports I've received. 

For my part, Nicole is endorsed by Becky Walker, FBUSD superintendent, whom we all know and admire here on the Coast.

“What I've witnessed and heard from trusted sources, Michelle Hutchins (current County of Ed Supt.) is not an effective leader, but more importantly, she is vindictive and unprofessional. If you disagree with her, you become her enemy, and the school(s) you represent suffer for it. I've seen it happen repeatedly. Kids do not come first for her, and her ego is her driving force.

I first heard about Michelle from my doctor in the Bay Area whose daughter works as a teacher in Anderson Valley, where Michelle was Superintendent. She told me how awful Michelle was at her job, and that she was dishonest and vindictive.

I first met Michelle at a League of Women Voters campaign workshop. Michelle told those of us mounting our first campaign, that what she did in her campaign was concentrate all of her campaigning inland, primarily in Willits and Ukiah, where nobody knew her and likely didn't know about her troubles in Anderson Valley.

That being said, I don't know Michelle's opponent, Nicole Glentzer, only that she is the assistant superintendent of Ukiah Unified, and she comes highly recommended by the Ukiah Unified Superintendent, Deb Kubo, whom I do know and have great respect for.” [Kubin] signed, Ginny Rorby

ALL PRETTY VAGUE, Ms. R but thank you for replying. As a resident of AV I watched Ms. Hutchins at work here and I've got to say I think, and our school board at the time thought, Ms. Hutchins did a good job but was disliked by a handful of elementary staff who continue to malign her for subjective reasons having to do with personalities not job performance. Anyway, best to you and thank you again for responding.

THE HUTCHINS campaign reports that all Hutchins' campaign signs on the Coast have been stolen. Never seen anything like this in Mendocino County, and the persons doing this are “educating” your children.

THANK the gods of justice and fair play that important people are ignoring the secret slander campaign against Michele Hutchins mounted by the management of Ukiah Unified and retired superintendent Paul Tichinin operating out of Fort Bragg:

DA EYSTER: “I am joining former Sheriff Tom Allman in endorsing Michelle Hutchins' re-election” David Eyster, Mendocino County District Attorney.

DR. MARVIN TROTTER: “I enthusiastically support Supt. Hutchins for re-election. We have MULTIPLE problems in our society. They can all be improved with the best education possible for our children. ESPECIALLY in elementary school. Supt. Hutchins has the intelligence, experience, common sense, and commitment to make improvements in our children's education. PLEASE join me in Re-Electing Supt. Hutchins — Sincerely, Marvin Trotter, MD”

MARK SCARAMELLA ADDS: 

The particular claim about Superintendent Hutchins that “If you disagree with her, you become her enemy, and the school(s) you represent suffer for it,” is indicative of the nastiness of the critics. A couple of months ago I wrote about an incident where Superintendent Hutchins denied a funding request from the top brass at Ukiah Unified which Ms. Kubin (not Kubo) wanted for, among other things, a “retreat” for her top staff and some favored “consultants.” (Ukiah Unified has much more top staff than the County Office.) Ms. Hutchins turned down that request and I wrote it up, and the next thing I knew these slurs against her began. In my view, the reverse of the claim that “you become her enemy” is at work here. In fact, characterizing a simple funding turn down (for retreats of all things) — i.e., “disagreeing” with the request — is true. And then to say that “the school(s) you represent suffer for it,” sounds like a little less money for the Ukiah school administration is equivalent to hurting “the kids.” The fact that we are not told what the “disagreements” are, nor the merits or demerits of those disagreements, means that they have to do with “disagreements” about what the complainers felt entitled to based on no-questions-asked handouts from prior County Edu Office holders. (Cf Paul Tichinin) The scurrilous nature of this vague slur campaign does more to convince me that Ms. Hutchins has been made into the “enemy” by those she may have denied funding for, never mind that Hutchins cites the Ed Code in the denial. In my day, obviously long ago now, when the boss said no, that simply meant no. But to these people when the boss says No, that’s grounds for a slur campaign with words like “enemy” and “not an effective leader.” 

THERE'S A NEW BATCH of my Mendocino History Exposed books at Windsong at 324 N. Main St. in Fort Bragg. The initial supply sold out. This is a fun store to visit. Call in your Mendocino History Exposed order to 707-964-2050 then set aside some browsing time when you drop by to pick up your copies.

If you are a bit bashful or your time is precious, Mendocino History Exposed is available through the easy online ordering site at gallerybookshop.com, though Gallery Bookshop (707-937-2665) on Main St. in Mendocino is another wonderful browsing experience.

Ever watch a lawman try to coax a mule down a seaside bluff. That's one of the amusing stories within a story in “Doc Standley's First Arrest,” Chapter Seven in Mendocino History Exposed. — Malcolm Macdonald

THIS AND THAT on a blowsy Mendo Sunday, with this from Byron Spooner: “the biggest joke on mankind is that computers have started asking humans to prove that they aren't a robot.”

THERE'S HYPERBOLE and then there's Lura Vieira, a Fort Bragg school administrator writing in favor of Nicole Glentzer for County Schools chief: I know Nicole to possess a strong moral compass, impeccable moral character, and to speak truthfully. Nicole has been an educational leader in our county long before she announced her candidacy. I have had the honor of working with her through the Association of California School Administrators in our county, and our region. Nicole always puts students first in everything she does. I urge you to vote for Nicole Glentzer for Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools. She is a Rock Star Educator and we need her, now more than ever! Sincerely, Lura Vieira

“IMPECCABLE MORAL CHARACTER.” Wow. We've got the Mother Theresa of Mendo education going here. But seriously, putting this kind of slavishness in historical perspective, is anyone really surprised that “educators,” from university professors on down to elementary school teachers, made up the largest bloc of WWII German Nazis of all the German professions?

AND THEN there's phony endorsements like this one: 

SO I WROTE to the vague ID on this thing asking them for their names, the names of the endorsers and how the endorsers were polled. Silence from the MCOE employees, of course, because this phony endorsement either came from the candidate herself or she approved it.

MEANWHILE, the Russians, or at least the Putin faction of Russians, keep on brandishing their nukes. “Finland wants to join this bloc [NATO], then our goal is absolutely legitimate — to question the existence of this [Russian] state. This is logical. If the United States threatens our state, it's good: here is the Sarmat [Satan-2 missile] for you, and there will be nuclear ashes from you if you think that Russia should not exist. And Finland says that it is at one with the USA. Well, get in line. The Finns in general should be grateful to Russia for their statehood, for the fact that Finland exists as a country.”

THERE'S got to be a mighty struggle underway inside the Kremlin for the keys to the nukes, and here's hoping they're wrestled away from Putin. And here's hoping that the Biden Administration, such as it exists with a non compos dude atop it, will tone down its belligerent rhetoric and exert all pressure to stop hostilities in a peace agreement.

I TRY NOT to wipe out an entire afternoon binge-watching anything, but HBO's The Staircase is irresistible. Here's a guy whose wives one and two were found battered and dead at the foot of staircases in two of Michael Peterson's homes while he was alone with them. The police find that the injuries suffered by wife number two were impossible from the tumbling fall hubbykins claimed, the injuries making it obvious he beat her to death. Peterson, as documented in the first film about him made by a French film team, is insufferable — smug, preening, about half as smart as he thinks he is, and generally as narcissistic a character as you'll find in a country teeming with narcissists. The second wife died the night she found multiple files of photos depicting nude men on the ex-Marine's computer, a few of whom he'd apparently had carnal relations with. As depicted in both the documentary and this wonderful HBO re-creation starring Colin Firth, told wife number two the nudes were “research” for a book he was writing. The effects of all this on his children and friends is, of course, catastrophic, the whole appalling saga wonderfully acted and faithful to the original documentary and the known facts many of us will already have seen.

QUESTION: What's the diff between a dude and a bro, or are they the same animal? Have the dude-bros stopped wearing their ball caps backwards?

LARRY BENSKY: Woke at 5 this morning to horrific news of a deranged kid infected with racism and his killings in Buffalo.

Before I went to sleep I had been catching up on newspapers to get ready for the Sunday deluge.

In the “Off Duty” section of the weekend WSJ is, under the “Eating and Drinking” headline, a column about the Anderson Valley. It’s said it be the first of three. Delighting in, eh, wine, food, and lodging.

You’ll find it worth annotating, I’m sure.

AFTER A REALLY TOUGH DAY of basic training, the drill sergeant got in the face of the new recruit and screamed, “I’ll bet when you are discharged you will wait for me to die just so you can spit on my grave.” “Not me,” the recruit replied. “”When I get out of the Army, I never want to stand in line again.”

ON-LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] The earth is a closed system.

A lot of people don’t get that yet.

The basic problem is “load,” not population numbers per se. 

When I look around at the humongous “pickup” trucks and SUVs, I don’t get the feeling that this is a society that understands the concept of FRUGALITY.

This used to be a virtue, even in the flush fifties.

No longer. People have no idea how to be frugal and need a special supplement in the paper or a special week at the cinema to be schooled in that virtue. Of course all the advertisers, presenters, lifestyle coaches etc. are sucking at the “save the planet” tit. A lot of these people have probably gotten grants of some kind to promote “responding to climate change.”

While still driving around in SUVs and using clothes driers (that last being my particular bete-noire; total waste of effing energy because people are too effing lazy and too embarrassed to hang up their laundry in the backyard).

[2] Every teenage girl should have to publicly burn her diary as part of an initiation into adulthood. There could be beautiful rituals in High School Auditoriums. Though first they would have to go thru the initiation of becoming “a girl of grace.” 

Boys? Wilderness training. Vision quest. Monitored fighting with each other. Military training. “Volunteer” labor for the State. Maybe young women too if they aren’t on early marriage track. Don’t want to? Fine. You never become a citizen.

[3] I’m hoping one of these days you guys will begin to emotionally balance out.

First it was hope-ium thinking that things would go back to normal aka happy motoring. Now, cynical pessimism is all the rage, with dark moody expectations.

How about, what we’re seeing & experiencing is just the logical and completely normal step down function as we transition to scarcity.

But, you claim, the entire system, whether supply chains, governance or finance are so dependent on surplus that the entire edifice will fall.

Yes, there will be systemic failures, but make work patches will always be sufficient to keep critical elements operating.

Collapse is a long drawn out process. We know the inevitable future outcomes i.e. lower population levels, less energy consumption, lower standards of living.

But there are plus sides as well to keep people satisfied. Drugs, alcohol, sex, a complete virtual reality easily maintained as long as electricity flows.

Nuke power means society can continue to cobble along. Since it preserves the existing govt system, you can bank this is what will be rolled out.

So please stop being so negative. A poster noted how he transitioned in a smaller town. I believe this is the future model. No exciting crash, just a slower wind down.

[4] Well I’ll be goddamned.

I was looking around for a bottle opener, reached into a box of rusty tools, found one of those old style devices with the pointy can opener on one end and rounded bottle opener on the other.

Stamped on both sides in fine script:

‘Schmidt’s of Philadelphia Brewers since 1860’

That’s what I call serendipity.

[5] I’m already adrift in my lifeboat but not everyone can see it just yet.

For the first time in two years, I was able to meet with my sisters. Both are in the professional class. We were sitting around talking and I made reference to how the Easter Bunny was in control of the free world and they looked at me as they often do like I was the craziest person on Earth.

I said that I was not crazy and that I could prove the Easter Bunny was in charge of the White House and the Free World and then I showed them the video of our new disinformation czar dressed as the Easter Bunny hustling the president away and not allowing him to answer questions.

I followed that video up with the one of Biden shaking hands with a ghost followed by his most famous story of all – Corn Pop.

I asked my sisters how it was possible that such things could be happening and that they, highly educated women, could be entirely unaware. “What else are you unaware of?” I asked.

[6] The thin part reminds me, my Dr. is trying to sell me on the idea of 1,500 calories as a day. Says that’s what the original caloric studies indicated was needed to sustain a normal man doing moderately strenuous field work all day. I laugh to myself and let him continue to harbor the illusion that that might be remotely possible for me. Absent the coming food shortages, when who the hell knows what’s possible, I doubt I’ve – or most Americans I know for that matter – subsisted on 1,500 calories a day since I was 3 or 4 years old.

COMMENTS ON HOMELESSNESS from the indispensable Redheaded Blackbelt:

(1) Some of you commenting must have had everything handed to you or your mommy and daddy helped you out. I am a carpenter and have always made pretty decent wages, I’ve been able to keep up with my age and I’m 43. I was renting a room from a friend on Union Street and my truck was broken into and all my tools were stolen. About $5000 worth, and that is how I make a living. What money I had saved I bought what tools I needed to get by. Right after that my friend’s son got out of prison and was up to no good and stole a lot of my personal belongings so I had to find a place. I just happened to be working for a lady that bought a house on Humboldt Hill that was vacant because of fire damage. I was staying there and working to pay rent. I started getting shorted $300-$400 a week for about a month and finally brought it up. The woman started screaming at me telling me her mom just died and I didn’t care. She was being impossible and she wanted me out in two weeks, I left. Now I am homeless, I just spent my last money on tools and for some reason I wasn’t able to find work for a few weeks. I don’t have one single person I can ask for help and there are zero services for the homeless. Seriously none, like garbage, what do I do with it? Either find a garbage can around town or pack it with me and go to the dump every time I need to throw something away. I found work now but where can I go to clean up? There isn’t even anywhere you can wash your hands unless you find a bathroom and even the public bathroom behind the mall is only open from 9-5. So where are all these homeless supposed to use the restroom? I tried sleeping in my truck in Samoa and “no camping”. I’m not trying to camp, I’m trying to sleep in my truck so I can get up and go to work, not camp. I tried sleeping in my truck in Eureka and apparently you can’t , so wtf am I supposed to do? This whole town hates the homeless so it doesn’t matter how good of a person I am , as soon as someone thinks you are homeless they look at you with disgust. I thank God that I have a trade to fall back on. I am making $40/hr now for the last two weeks and in those two weeks I put in 47 hours. So I will have a place really soon but to be humbled the way I have been and see things from this side of the road really opens my eyes to how fucked up people are to the homeless. Yes there are plenty of drug addict homeless that destroy everything because it doesn’t belong to them but you never know someone’s story or why they are where they are. I can see both points of view. The homeless have no facilities but if you give them some they will fuck it up and destroy it. There are a few that ruin it for the rest. Nobody wants the homeless around but what are they supposed to do? Most of them are just trying to live. If there were programs to help with housing where you could work around the community for credit or pick up trash. The leap from being homeless to not when you have nothing is near impossible and I truly hope all of you stuck up people whose shit doesn’t stink get humbled the way I have and watch the community you live in turn on you and treat you like scum because you don’t have a house. The amount I have paid in taxes, I should never be treated the way I have been.

(2) I lived in a van for a couple of years while going to college. Technically homeless, but I always had a job. As far as showering and keeping clean, health clubs are your best friend. Planet Fitness is only $10 a month and is open from 5am to 10 pm.

I have always been an advocate for a tent city (big military style tents) where anybody can get a safe night's sleep and some food. To utilize that though, one must be sober and willing to take job skill classes, drug rehab if needed and to also work around the facility cleaning, growing food, etc.

Our current programs unfortunately just enable addicts to continue living their self-destructive lifestyle. This is not compassionate to the homeless, nor to the citizens who must deal with all the ramifications that go along with rampant drug use and homelessness.

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