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VERY HOT, dry interior weather will persist Friday with a strong marine layer along the coast. Temperatures will start to cool this weekend with interior valleys returning to the 90s. Mild summer weather is expected through next week. (NWS)
YESTERDAY'S HIGHS: Redding 115°, Ukiah 106°, Covelo 105°, Yorkville 99°, Boonville 88°, Fort Bragg 61°
AVHS BEAUTIFICATION COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER DAY
John Toohey: We are organizing a community volunteer work day on Saturday, August 6 to help our local high school campus with some much needed groundskeeping and campus beautification efforts. There is weed wacking to be done, blackberry vines to be chopped, and an assortment of other smaller tasks to be done. Breakfast and lunch will be served! This is a great opportunity to take some pride in and contribute to your community and help create a better learning environment for our local youth!
MENDOFEVER REPORTED Wednesday that a gray truck drove off Highway 128 on Wednesday just before noon causing a spot fire which was contained with minimal spread to nearby vegetation. No injuries were reported. By noon the vehicle and the small vegetation fires were declared extinguished.
TRANSPARENCY, CLARITY, CANDOR — MENDOCINO COUNTY!
The Executive Office Fiscal Team has been working diligently to respond to requests for data around the County’s budget process and the financial position as it relates to salary and benefits. The ability for the County to produce timely reports has been a challenge due the inability to be able to run reports from the County’s accounting system, Munis. Many of the reports produced, including the ones attached to this press release, are the outcome of having to compile data from different sources.
Our goal is to be fully transparent. With this goal in mind, the Fiscal Team would like to present an analysis of the following:
FY22/23 Auditor Controller’s Salary/Benefits Projection vs FY22/23 Salary/Benefits Adopted Budget
FY21/22 Salary/Benefits Revised Budget vs FY22/23 Salary/Benefits Adopted Budget
FY21/22 Salary/Benefits Revised Budget vs FY21/22 Salary/Benefits Preliminary Actuals
Unfilled Budgeted Positions
Allocated Unfunded Positions
The team will continue to develop reports to help provide transparency and clarity.
For further information, please contact the Executive Office at 707-463-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information will also be available at https://www.mendocinocounty.org/.../human.../labor-relations.Darcie Antle, Chief Executive Officer
Mark Scaramella notes: We are reviewing these documents and will have some comments over the weekend.
UKIAH - FORMER POST OFFICE UP FOR SALE - Building Has Been Closed Since January 2012
by Justine Frederiksen
A decade after it was retired from its official duties, the still very much beloved former Post Office building near downtown Ukiah has been put up for sale again.
“I think it’s an incredible opportunity for the right developer,” said Ukiah’s Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley, who admitted that city officials were surprised to see the building, which ceased being a post office in January of 2012, back on the market.
Since the U.S. Postal Service sold the building several months after it closed, it has sat empty.
Real Estate Agent Lia Patterson said Wednesday that for the past 10 years the former Post Office on North Oak Street had been owned by the same person,
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
ACCORDING TO A RECENT STATUS REPORT to be presented to the Supervisors next Tuesday, the jail expansion project is now expected to cost between $27.3 million (low end) and $29.3 million (high end). (They have not yet selected the contractor.) The state is providing $25 million (a number which was thought to be plenty until costs started going up). This means the general fund may have to cover up to $4.2 million more than initially projected to finish the project for a total local cost of about $6.8 million, an unreasonable amount that in a normal world should be mostly picked up by the state since local jails are now forced to house prisoners that were previously the state’s responsibility. If we had responsible state solons instead of the ciphers we have — Assemblyman Jim Wood and State Senator Mike McGuire — they’d have already been working to spend a small amount of the state’s surplus on this jail cost overrun. And the Board would have been pressuring them. But no, instead we get silence from our supposed representatives, and budget whining from the Supervisors. (MS)
THE BOARD’S DROUGHT EMERGENCY AD HOC COMMITTEE (Supervisors John Haschak and Glenn McGourty) have assembled some materials related to the drought “emergency” for presentation to the Board next Tuesday. For the first time we at least read about conservation as a policy:
“MHMP - #DR-MC-196Drought 2020 - Develop a public education campaign to encourage water conservation during drought.
“MHMP - #DR-MC-197Drought 2020 - Amend land use codes to incorporate regulations that encourage and incentivize water savings for development.
“MHMP - #DR-MC-198Drought 2020 - Replace existing turf grass and water intensive landscaping with drought resistant landscaping.”
But the Conservation proposal, as expected, favors the grape growers, again.
“The regulations contain three provisions: a conservation requirement that all water users within the County reduce their water use by 20%, in addition to all local water suppliers being requested to implement their local water shortage contingency plans, along with reporting and enforcement requirements.”
This sounds good on first reading, but by imposing a 20% reduction on “all local water suppliers” we end up with a disproportionate burden on public drinking water because their consumption is already down and a 20% overall reduction will bite. But 20% less for grape growers will not only apply to a much bigger volume of water, but will allow those grape growers to set their own baseline against which the 20% will apply. A conservation goal based on actual acre-feet restrictions would be much more fair. But the Cheap Water Mafia would never allow it.
WHEN Mao Tse Tung's red revolutionaries took over China in 1949, every criminal in China fled to the island of Taiwan, overwhelming the indiginous population. The U.S., having backed the owning classes grouped around the corrupt Kuomintang regime of Chiang Kai Shek in the Chinese civil war, continued to back the Kuomintang on Taiwan. If the present Chinese regime is serious about its threats to invade Taiwan if Nancy Pelosi visits, Pelosi just might kick off a war between China and the doddering, incompetent Biden government she's a crucial part of. Because the mainland Chinese government usually doesn't jive around with a lot of idle threats, we could soon be involved in two wars, the surrogate one in Ukraine, another in Taiwan.
MEANWHILE, here at home with inflation eating the economy, and as a general social and ecological chaos grows, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, reacting to the lowdown cruelty of Texas and Arizona governors, is calling on the National Guard to help deal with the migration crisis in the nation's capitol as Texas and Arizona continues sending asylum-seekers there. “The pace of arriving buses and the volume of arrivals have reached tipping points,” Bowser wrote in a letter to the Biden administration. “Our collective response and service efforts have now become overwhelmed. Tragically, many families arrive in Washington, DC with nowhere to go, or they remain in limbo seeking onward destinations across the United States.”
HALF of America's oldest people can't afford essential expenses due to rising inflation and cost of living, report claims… Over 50% of older American women living alone are classed as poor under federal poverty standards, according to the University of Massachusetts-Boston's Elder Index.
CLOSER TO HOME, lots of grumbling about the restricted hours at the Boonville and Philo post offices. Don't blame the local PO staffers. The order came from above. If you came in late, the restricted hours are made necessary by the recent smash and grab of individual boxes, a federal crime now being investigated by postal inspectors.
THE WAY we live now. It's complicated, but when our mostly volunteer fire department suggested re-fueling at CalFire's large and generously funded facility a mere mile from our always struggling Boonville-based fire department, CalFire said No, citing zero insurmountable objections. Which means Boonville is working out a fuel site deal with the Fairgrounds, and we shall see what we shall see. The Community Services District Board authorized up to $100k for the project on Wednesday.
I BRING it up because it's another example of no help from our state reps, Wood and McGuire, in a relatively small matter that should be simple for either or both of them to resolve.
GLAMP GEAR: Sunshine Glamping Business for sale. Everything needed to carry on this successful business is included. 2004 GMC commercial box truck w/logo wrap, 10 cabin style tents, metal folding bed frames and memory foam mattresses, all great quality bedding with cotton sheets, bedside tables, rugs, outdoor chairs, tarps. All is in great condition and priced as a whole. All serious inquiries call Susy at 707-937-3714. Absolutely worth the investment to a few motivated folks!
THE FACES OF FENTANYL
On Sunday, July 24, 2022 at approximately 8:20 PM, Willits Police Department (WPD) Officer Basurto was patrolling the area of E. San Francisco Ave and Railroad Ave when he conducted a vehicle stop in the 200 block of E. San Francisco Ave. The vehicle was occupied by two male adults, later identified as Joseph Russo, 42, of New Port Richey, Florida, and Frank Sorbera, 42, of Willits. WPD Officer Avalos arrived and assisted Officer Basurto with the traffic stop.
The driver, Russo, attempted to falsely impersonate someone else by giving officers a false name. The driver was ultimately properly identified and found to be operating the vehicle with a suspended driver’s license. Based on the driver operating the vehicle with a suspended driver’s license, the vehicle was subject to tow. During an inventory of the vehicle, approximately 38 grams of suspected fentanyl was located concealed in the vehicle along with numerous items of drug paraphernalia. The fentanyl was located in the passenger area of the vehicle where Sorbera had been sitting. The suspected fentanyl was prepackaged in over 25 small plastic baggies and ready for individual sales.
Russo and Sorbera were arrested and booked at the Mendocino County Jail for Conspiracy, Possession of a Controlled Substance for Sale, Transportation of a Controlled Substance, Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Russo was also charged with False Impersonation and Driving on a Suspended License.
This was the second time this year Sorbera has been arrested for suspected sales of fentanyl within the city limits.
It should be noted that the Willits PD had received multiple tips from concerned neighbors related to possible narcotic activities being conducted in this area. The Willits Police Department would like to thank our community members in assisting us with valuable information.
The Willits Police Department participates in the Neighborhood Watch program which empowers citizens to become active in community efforts through peer groups and
positive interactions with WPD officers in an effort to reduce crime and improve the community’s quality of life.
Any inquiries regarding the program should be directed to Sgt. Brady at (707) 459-6122.
(Willits Police Presser)
LOTTA PLACES, THIS GUY WOULDA BEEN…
On Tuesday, July 26, 2022 at approximately 11:20 A.M., Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a report of a subject discharging a firearm in a negligent manner on a piece of property in the 10000 block of Hearst Willits Road in Willits.
Upon their arrival, Deputies received information that Trevor Williams, 56, of Willits, had unsafely discharged a firearm several times in the vicinity of a juvenile (who also lived on the property) in a manner that could possibly endanger her life.
It was also learned that Williams was the restrained person in a served restraining order, which therefore prohibited him from possessing firearms.
Deputies attempted to contact Williams at his gate near his residence but he became verbally hostile towards the Deputies.
Williams closed his gate and rode back to his residence on his ATV. Deputies were able to observe Williams as he began arming himself with several firearms.
Deputies began evacuating the other residents from the property for their safety due to these new developments.
Deputies then called for additional Sheriff's Office personnel to respond to their location due to Williams’ hostile attitude and his arming himself with firearms to include a scoped high powered rifle and handguns.
This resource request included a negotiator, Sheriff Matthew Kendall, who Williams had personally requested at some point during the initial contact with Deputies.
Deputies monitored Williams from a distance while awaiting the additional Sheriff's Office resources to include Sheriff Kendall for the purpose de-escalation efforts.
Deputies observed Williams collecting various items to include firearms, ammunition, and alcohol. He then placed these items on his ATV.
Upon the arrival of additional Deputies, Williams became even more verbally hostile towards the Sheriff's Office personnel on scene.
After approximately ten minutes of Williams yelling at the Sheriff's Office personnel on scene, he left his residence on his ATV and disappeared out into his 7,700-acre ranch.
At this time Sheriff's Office personnel maintained their position(s) from a distance and did not advance or chase after Williams.
This was decided as a form of de-escalation efforts while the personnel awaited the arrival of Sheriff Kendall for the purposes of possible peaceful verbal negotiations with Williams.
A short time later, Williams was spotted low crawling through a creek bed in an attempt to flank the Sheriff's Office personnel on scene.
Once he was spotted, Williams stood up and it was determined he was armed with three handguns and a scoped high powered rifle.
Williams took up a position of cover behind a piece of heavy machinery and began pointing his rifle towards the direction of the Sheriff's Office personnel in what appeared to be an effort to acquire a target.
Williams was verbally commanded to drop his rifle several times before he finally complied and placed the rifle down and put his hands up in an apparent gesture of surrender.
Williams was then verbally commanded to come out of the field and walk towards the Deputies location with his hands up. Williams complied at first but then turned around and walked away from the Deputies.
A Deputy and a Sergeant then re-positioned themselves to intercept Williams as he again appeared to be trying to flank them.
Williams was contacted by the Sergeant and Deputy and given verbal commands to keep his hands up as he was still armed with three handguns in his waistband.
Williams complied and walked towards them with his hands up. Once he reached their position, an attempt to physically disarm Williams was conducted by the Sergeant.
Williams grabbed the Sergeant’s hand as he tried to remove the handguns from Williams' waistband. Williams then grabbed one of the handguns from his waistband and also grabbed the Sergeant’s issued firearm.
A struggle for control of the firearms between the Sergeant and Williams ensued which resulted in the Sergeant maintaining control of his firearm and Williams’ handgun.
Williams continued to try to gain possession of the Sergeant’s firearm and maintain possession of his own handgun.
Williams was pinned against a fence during the struggle which allowed the other Deputy to remove all the handguns from Williams waistband and his right hand.
The other Deputies on scene soon thereafter joined the struggle and Williams was disarmed. Williams was taken into custody by being placed into handcuffs.
Williams was thereafter medically cleared at a local hospital and booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
A subsequent search warrant was served at Williams' residence by Sheriff's Detectives and Agents with the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force.
During the search, other firearms were sized in connection with Williams being legally prohibited from possessing firearms as a result of an active restraining order.
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 28, 2022
TABOR BAILEY, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, projectile tear gas weapon, paraphernalia.
WILLIAM DENISON, Willits. Domestic battery.
ASHLEIGH ESTES, Seattle/Willits. Trespassing, controlled substance.
VINCENT GALVAN, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)
JIMMY HENDRY, Willits. Recklessly causing fire to structural or forest land.
KATE KUMMER, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
JAMES MILLER, Ukiah. County parole violation.
ALEX MORA-WHITEHURST, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
DEMETRIA PIKE, Ukiah. Failure to appear, resisting.
JOSEPH RUSSO, New Port Richey, Florida/Willits. Narcotics/controlled substance, false personation of another, conspiracy, suspended license.
AARON STILL, Willits. Vandalism.
CHRISTINA TORRES, Hopland. Petty theft, resisting, probation revocation.
TREVOR WILLIAMS, Willits. Assault with firearm, cruelty to child-infliction of injury, assault on peace officer with firearm, removing or taking a firearm from a peace officer, resisting, portective order violation, ammo possession by prohibited person.
READY FOR POST-MODERN ACTION!
I Need to Make a Move & Do Something!
Warmest spiritual greetings, Since March 1st, the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, and now it is time to exit the Building Bridges homeless shelter in Ukiah, California. For whatever reason (assuming that there is one), I've bided my time doing nothing whatsoever of any value insofar as social activism and ecological frontline direct action is concerned. The body-mind complex is alive. I am forever identified with our true nature, Immortal Atman, or "that which is prior to consciousness". I have no idea at all if I am going to get subsidized housing in Mendocino county...am on 4 waiting lists.
General health is good for 72 years of age. The dental work is finished and the insurance paid for it. Am of course eating well. Have $528.24 in the checking account, $64.01 in the wallet, and $758.88 in social security due in around the first of August.
I understand all of the problems of postmodernism, beginning with how war has bankrupted this civilization, how global climate destabilization is a hopeless situation, that the burgeoning homo sapiens population is continuing to lead to guaranteed starvation and more war, and that water is scarce. Believe me, I fully comprehend the entire insane doomed global scenario, detailed daily in the New York Times newspaper, which continues to publish "all the news that's fit to print".
Sitting here anchored in the heart chakra, behaving more or less sattwic, mind silently chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra, and eternally witnessing, is a very good condition to have. However, as the jnana yoga master Nisargadatta Maharaj said: "Remember the instruction. Whatever you come across, go beyond".
Craig Louis Stehr
UKRAINE, THURSDAY, JULY 28TH
The US State Department approved the sale of as much as $8.4 billion in weapons to Germany, including F-35 fighter planes and munitions, emphasizing the ally’s role as “an important force for political and economic stability in Europe.”
Britain’s grid operator warned of “knock-on impacts” if Russia cuts off gas flows to Europe, even though the nation receives only 6% of its gas imports from Russia, far less than much of Europe. Austria said a Russian gas embargo “isn’t possible.”
Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping spoke on Thursday amid rising US-China tensions. Xi’s declaration of a “no limits” friendship with President Vladimir Putin just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine remains a core point of concern for Washington. The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement after Thursday’s call, which included sharp exchanges over Taiwan, pointedly didn’t describe the conversation as “constructive,” a term used after previous calls between the men.
REMEMBERING MARY McCHESNEY — RIP, MARY
[The New York Times, June 28, 2022]
MARY FULLER MCCHESNEY, BAY AREA ARTIST AND HISTORIAN, DIES AT 99
She documented California’s postwar art scene, and created Aztec-inspired sculptures of bears and goddesses.
Mary Fuller McChesney was teaching adult education art classes in Point Richmond, Calif., when she was forced to make a choice. It was 1951, the height of the Red Scare, and the state had ordered all public employees to sign an oath disavowing radical beliefs, in particular communism.
She refused, and was fired.
Ms. McChesney and her husband, Robert McChesney, both left-wing artists who had been at the center of the Bay Area’s art scene in the late 1940s, soon joined dozens of intellectuals fleeing what they feared was a wave of authoritarianism crashing over the West Coast. They bought a Model A mail truck, converted it to a camper and drove to Guadalajara, Mexico.
The couple remained there for only a year, until their money ran out. But in that time, Ms. McChesney was transformed.
Her early paintings and sculpture, in the 1940s, had mostly been abstract, in keeping with the tone of the times. But in Mexico, she became fascinated with pre-Columbian art, and along with it Aztec and Mayan mythology.
After she and her husband returned to the Bay Area, Ms. McChesney developed a technique in which she blended cement and vermiculite, a mineral that slows the drying process. Once she had a basic form in place, she took to it with a knife and rasp, carving the stone into bears, owls, alligators, cats and a menagerie of fantastic beasts and totemic goddesses.
“She really had no influences other than mythology, so she was way outside the mainstream,” Dennis Calabi, a friend and gallerist who showed her work, said in a phone interview.
Ms. McChesney’s sculptures, dozens of which populated the woods around her home on an isolated peak in Sonoma County, were inspired as much by her encounter with pre-Columbian traditions as by her desire to create a new, women-centered aesthetic.
“I feel very strongly that in order to create a viable, true, feminist art, we have to bypass the entire patriarchal ideology and vision; we have somehow to get back behind all of that falseness and distortion to an authentic concept of women, and of men,” she said in a 1992 artist’s statement.
Though Ms. McChesney — who often used her maiden name, Fuller, professionally — never achieved widespread celebrity as an artist, her sculptures can be found across California today, in parks, private gardens and public plazas as well as outside San Francisco General Hospital and at the city’s zoo.
She died on May 4 at an assisted living center in Petaluma, a few miles from Sonoma Mountain, Mr. Calabi said. She was 99.
Mary Ellen Fuller was born on Oct. 20, 1922, in Wichita, Kan. Her father, Robert Fuller, had met Mary’s mother, an English nurse named Karen Rasmussen, in Britain while he was deployed to Europe during World War I. When Mary was 2, the family moved to Stockton, Calif., with hopes of starting a farm.
Mr. Fuller struggled with agriculture, and eventually became a pipe fitter for Pacific Gas & Electric. Mrs. Fuller served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and later worked for the American Legion.
Mary grew up poor, but with stellar grades she managed to get a full scholarship to study philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. Like many students in the late 1930s, she protested against American involvement in the coming war in Europe, but as someone affiliated with the Communist Party — she never said whether she had officially joined — she reversed her position once Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.
With the world in tumult, she grew exasperated sitting in philosophy seminars and yearned to do something with her hands. She left college after three years for a job as a welder at the sprawling Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif., in the Bay Area.
After the war she apprenticed herself to a ceramics company, where she proved so adept that she quickly had her own line of tableware, for sale at high-end San Francisco department stores.
She also began writing about the Bay Area art scene, which in the late 1940s was the West Coast base for Abstract Expressionism. She became close to artists like Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn, Ad Reinhardt and Mr. McChesney, whom she had met at a gallery opening. They married in 1949.
Mr. McChesney died in 2008. Ms. McChesney leaves no immediate survivors.
Even before her Mexican sojourn, Ms. McChesney was an accomplished artist, with several first-place prizes in statewide art competitions. She was also widely regarded as a critic and art historian: She wrote for magazines like Art Digest and interviewed dozens of New Deal-era artists for the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1973 she published “A Period of Exploration: San Francisco 1945-1950,” drawing on interviews she had conducted with her contemporaries. In the book, she argued for the importance of the Bay Area to early postwar art movements, especially Abstract Expressionism, a view that has gained traction in recent decades.
The McChesneys ultimately settled near the peak of Sonoma Mountain, north of San Francisco Bay, where they traded labor for an acre of land, then built a house by hand at the end of a five-mile road. They raised their own food and lived off the venison that Mr. McChesney secured from his hunting excursions.
By the mid-1950s Ms. McChesney was focused almost exclusively on her art — though to make ends meet she occasionally wrote mystery novels, including “The Victim Was Important” (1954) and “Asking for Trouble” (1955), all under pseudonyms.
She took to the printed page once again in the 1970s, when she repeatedly attacked the French artist Christo for his work “Running Fence,” a 24.5-mile-long fabric fence that stretched across Sonoma and Marin Counties.
It was, she told the newspaper The Point Reyes Light in 2016, “a con-job, a big theatrical show” and “another example about how Europeans think of Americans: that we are a bunch of idiots.”
Christo sued her for libel, but when she refused to retract her articles, he dropped the case.
THE DEMISE OF THE DELTA SALMON
by Mark Arax
No book or essay, long or short, could ever hope to bring peace to California's water wars. But I have learned something else in my trec in northern part of California's Central Valley, something from the mouths of the top water directors and the biologists who work for the state and federal governments and don't often speak with such candor: the delta is not what it appears; or rather it is much more than it appears.
They tell the story of the demise of the salmon and the smelt as a kind of allegory:
It took a long time before the debris of gold mining finally cleared itself from the Sacramento River and its tributaries. The last plug of silt washed down in the late 1990s after an epic flood. This was a good thing, it was thought. We have finally rid ourselves of the tailings, if not the legacy of mining. Then we discovered that the scoured out river channel scarcely carried any sediment or proper food for the fish. All the engineering that followed the Gold Rush — shoring and reshoring of levees, dredging of the river bottom, separation of the river from sloughs, building of dams — had transformed the Sacrament River into a firehose. Gone was the sediment that created turbidity, a stirring up that allowed an endangered species to hide from its predators. Gone too were the phytoplankton, the zooplankton, and aquatic bugs that turned a fingerling salmon into a plump juvenile.
Early on, the Delta was a place bent to the demands of not only farms and towns but a significant maritime trade. A branch of the river was carved into a channel for ships that sailed in from everywhere. As the vessels discharged their ballast water they impregnated the Delta with dozens of foreign species, among these types of clams and plants whose capacity to reproduce was outdone only by their capacity to filter columns of water over and over as many as 13 times a day. Thanks in part to their tireless grazing, the river water became nearly sterile, a food desert. Of the 212 known invasive species, none posed a greater threat to salmon, smelt and steelhead trout and than the bass. Like the Asian clam, the striped bass and the largemouth bass had no business being in the Delta. These were fish common to the Atlantic Coast. They weren't born by ballast. Striped bass came here in milk cans aboard transcontinental trains as early as 1879. The first planting of largemouth bass took place a decade later when the US Fish Commission deposited 620 fingerlings into the Feather River. By 1995 a federal study would declare the Delta conquered. "The depth and extent of biological invasions is greater than for any other aquatic ecosystem in North America. In some regions of the Bay, 100% of the common species are introduced communities."
Striped and largemouth bass are skilled hunters of shrimp, shad, fellow bass and, more important, smelt and salmon, but any notion of controlling them has been squelched by the bass anglers and bass sporting shops and associations. For decades, the bass lobby has acted as an indomitable force in the Delta, even persuading the state Fish and Game Department to propagate hundreds of thousands of striped and largemouth bass in Northern California hatcheries. Nearly 200 million fry a year were found in the cooling water intakes at the PG&E plants in Antioch and Pittsburgh. The Delta built an economy fueled in part by the region's status as a "world-class" bass fishery. In the fight over water, bass enthusiasts stand toe to toe with farmers in Westlands. Every day in Delta country, it seems, is bass tourney day.
(from “The Dreamt Land: Chasing water and dust across California”)
HATE, BUT DON'T LOOK: Reporting On The Other Side
Review of "TFW No GF," as well as "Alex's War," the controversial new documentary about Alex Jones by director Alex Moyer, who says: "It used to be called journalism."
by Matt Taibbi
They ask me why I’m hateful, why I’m bad. — Crass
In TFW No GF, Alex Moyer’s brilliant documentary about disaffected young American men, a pensive loner in a ski hat named Viddy describes how some turn violent. Hardcore internet subcultures like 4Chan, he says, attract some by way of the “trolling aspect,” but others are serious:
They think, okay, what do people hate most? And then they just become that, because it gets the reaction every time.
Then some of them forget that they’re playing the character. Next thing you know, they end up at a place like Charlottesville.
Obviously there are people that are so disenfranchised, so alienated, so demonized in whatever way, that they feel like their only choice is to lash out in whatever way they can.
“I’m not excusing that or anything,” he says, seeming genuinely confused, “but, what, that happens for no reason? Do people like really think that?”
They do. In fact, the quasi-official line about the snowballing wave of rage and nihilism in American culture is that it has no motivation, at all. Here’s the Nobel Prizewinning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, just this past weekend, diagnosing a 74-million vote Trump phenomenon as “based on nothing, or less than nothing.”
In the pre-Trump era it was understood reporters weren’t supposed to avoid ugly or scary topics. We were supposed to dive right in, and in the nonjudgmental manner of doctors figure them out. That was the job, but somewhere along the line it became taboo to ask the usual why? questions about the likes of Trump or 4Chan surfers or the subject of Moyer’s new movie Alex’s War, the infamous InfoWars host Alex Jones.
The difference between understanding the world or not can depend on whether your journalists of choice really inquire about difficult topics, or whether they’re the believers in the media equivalent of Lamarckian evolution, thinking rage, discontent, and populist uprisings appear out of nowhere, like flies spontaneously generating on carrion. Not long ago, no one outside the Bush White House (and certainly no journalists) believed “Bad people are just bad,” but now we have versions of those truisms to explain almost every species of malcontent, especially Trumpian conservatives, 4Chan trolls and other reasonless pestilences. Journalists now aren’t supposed to look too closely at their motivations, and most don’t, wearing incuriosity like a badge of honor.
In the middle Trump years she started the project that became TFW No GF, a documentary often glibly (and not quite correctly) dismissed as a movie about “incel culture,” i.e. about the notorious “involuntary celibates” who frighten with misogynist attitudes and a seeming fascination with guns and violence. As Moyer explains in this separate interview, that’s not what the movie is, or was supposed to be.
“It was just me with a camcorder going out and meeting accounts that I thought were interesting and interviewing them,” she says. “I thought it was just going to be an art project.” She wanted to focus on the clash of a mental health crisis with economic decline (see her separate interview here), and wasn’t doing the usual Hollywood thing and working backward from a pitch, the factory-style process we use to fill content demand. Bam, here’s a movie about Fake News. Here’s another about Trans Kids, Killer Cops, and so on. Moyer didn’t set out to “go on Bill Maher to talk about incels.”
TFW NO GF instead is a collection of portraits of weirdly sympathetic young men from all over the country, all intelligent and self-aware, but fitting the same generally despised profile. They’re white, male, underemployed, often friendless and almost wholly girlfriend-less, sometimes armed, and gravitating toward an online community fueled by depression, rage and black humor. Among the first taboo truths in the film is these men have really been brought together by the very people who hate and fear them most, with the histrionic disgust of would-be polite society being their most powerful bonding agent. One of the men, an F-bombing Texan named Kyle, explains:
Fucking misogyny on Twitter is like anything else on Twitter, fucking saying the N-word or anything else. It’s just funny because it makes people mad.
And the people that get mad about fucking tweets are fucking retarded. It’s funny to make them mad.
The highest compliment you can pay to a journalist is to say they brought his or her subjects to life. Moyer does this, showing exactly what the world looks like to these guys. It’s no accident so many of them get drawn to sick humor, because they’re born into parody lives. There’s no starter home in Levittown or AAA membership waiting for these dudes. Instead it’s school, a little college maybe, followed by what may be a short or a long trip wandering across the employment desert, capped by an inevitable return to Lubbock or Thornton or any of a thousand ex-places they come from, maybe to live with a parent or parents already at the end of the same cycle of failure.
They’re not expected to do meaningful work, contribute, or procreate. No one needs them to defend their country, unless they want to volunteer to use their video game skills to drone the Arab versions of themselves. They’re not building any bridge, dam, or highway their kids will use, because the infrastructure story is going backward, not forward, in the desolate, graffiti-covered, twisted-metal hellscapes of dying small town America where these guys all seem to spend their time (“Fucking dystopian movie,” mutters Kyle. “Fucking Blade Runner”). Some see the endgame early enough that they stop giving a shit in junior high or before, accelerating washout curves. Planning for the future in the short term ends up pared to questions like Should I get out of bed?(“If you go outside,” says Kyle, “at least you’re doing something”), while the nagging longer-term question becomes, Why shouldn’t I just kill myself?
This is why the post-2016 media meltdown over the apparently illegitimate use of the term “economic anxiety” to explain Trump supporters and other malcontents was so off-base. “Anxiety” describes a minor mental disruption. The guys in TFW No GF exist on a plane of total, crushing psychic defeat, a world of utter hopelessness far beyond politics. In one scene, Viddy’s roommate Charels muses with a dissociative shrug that maybe letting pre-teen kids spend years on end looking at the most extreme “gore and hardcore pornography” might not be a good idea, but it’s observation, not therapy. Later we see the two of them firing a huge arsenal of rifle and pistol ammo into the woods of the Pacific Northwest.
These guys are in such an extreme place mentally that it doesn’t take much to see how it could make perfect sense for them to do something like vote for Donald Trump, because it might horrify the Normies and/or serve as a temporary alternative to blowing their brains out or driving a car off the road. In one scene we see Kantbot, a bearded, bookish history buff with a fierce mischievous streak, gleefully celebrating Trump’s election. Before a crowd of half-mortified, half-bewildered New Yorkers, he rips off a monologue:
I don’t believe in democracy. I believe in Thule, the ancient city, and raising Thule. And I think that Trump is the candidate who’s going to raise Thule. And Atlantis…!
And I believe in land, racing from the bottom of the ocean with ancient ruins on it, like the ruins of Thule. And I believe that Trump's going to accomplish all of that. He's going to prove that UFOs exist!
It’s an ecstatic, insane, beautiful speech. He goes on, about how the government has known for a long time about UFOs, that they’re “out there and that they’re trying to communicate with us, and that they have secrets about the origins of human consciousness,” and Trump’s election would now bring those secrets to the people. Mid-rant he keeps being pestered by people who want to bring him back to earth with prosaic questions. Is he a New Yorker? “No, I’m not from New York!” How old are you? “I’m eternal!” Are you a college student? “No, I’m not in college!” Then he stares down the crowd and cries, “The alt-right elected Trump!”
It couldn’t be clearer that Trump had something other than a political meaning for this awkward overgrown man-child who looks like an escapee from the set of Meatballs II, but to the furious Democratic protesters present, he’s a one-size-fits-all Trumper. “A fascist!” shouts one, in full point-and-shriek. But it’s not politics, it’s extreme trolling, goofing off to own the beautiful people. “That’s more of what the story is with those guys than it is about them having these really genuine, heartfelt political leanings,” says Moyer. “Because, frankly, they don’t have the intense life experience to have really deep convictions about politics.”
The scene symbolizes how the movie itself was received. Like Kantbot’s speech, Moyer’s TFW No GF is an inspired creation, crystalizing the nihilistic despair of flyover country in a way artful and accessible enough that even the most thoroughly propagandized MSNBC viewer should be able to get it.
Moyer works to bring out every lurid detail, from the hideous moonscape of wrecked ex-industrial towns where the characters mostly all live to the apartments that could pass for Hoarders sets. She makes you feel the too old or too overwhelmed or too alcoholic parents who are so conspicuous by their absence in the lives of these men, they practically play a supporting actor role. Stripped of the posturing and mandatory denunciations people like Charels, Kantbot, Viddy, and Kyle are impossible to miss as familiar figures.
Like Moyer, I caught Catcher in the Rye vibes (cue Holden Caufield saying, “I like to be somewhere at least where you can see a few girls around once in a while”), as well as Rebel Without a Cause (the chicken run this time is electoral), and Pete Townsend’s stuttering-Elvis take on the awkwardness of “my g-g-generation.” There’s even a whiff of a campier take like Repo Man, which showed couch-bound parents stoned to irrelevance and sending the last family dollar to swindler televangelists, as their punk son Otto eats from a dog food can without even knowing it’s abnormal.
The difference is, for decades the alienated youth who fell through society’s cracks and acted out by guitar or switchblade always ended up mythologized by Hollywood, from Grease to Hairspray to Dirty Dancing. Moyer’s group is different. Nobody is doing 4Chan the Musical, even though these are basically the same kids as the Jets killing time (and other kids) in the rubble of Hell’s Kitchen. Forty, thirty, even twenty years ago these guys probably would have been goths or punks like Moyer herself, who “tethered between” the two worlds in her youth. That was back when Republicanism was the political mainstream and “subculture” was a few people in every metro area who could more or less all fit into the same city nightclub.
America is a lot more broken now, and alienation is now the norm even for a growing mass of adults, especially outside the cities. However, because most are viewed as proxies for rightist politics, we’ve not only been given permission to hate them, we’re allowed — required — to be disinterested even as a purely academic exercise in understanding their thoughts and motivations. After all, people like Krugman tell us, they don’t have motivations, at least not any worth knowing.
Moyer even found that investors were uninterested in a film that didn’t use these characters as two-dimensional props to make a milquetoast cable-ready point about the dangers her hated subjects pose to people actually worthy of sympathy, like historically marginalized groups. “They were like, ‘We need to have somebody who's suffered at the hands of school shooters, or women that have been harassed by misogynists.’ I just said, ‘Well, no, this isn't that kind of movie. This is an observational film… This isn’t a talking heads movie.’”
To say that didn’t go over well is an understatement. Moyer was variously blasted by reviewers for depicting the characters as too charming (because they were?) or for doing a movie that seemed to violate Wesley Lowery’s “Moral Clarity” law by having no obvious political motivation beyond showing What Is. “Pity the poor white man,” seethed onetime counterculture kings Rolling Stone, in the opening line of a remarkably poisonous interview. The Stone was one of many outlets that ripped Moyer for failing to properly contextualize her penniless, phone-addicted, ramen-gobbling subjects:
TFW No GF eschews a traditional narrative approach… The film does not interview any of the people in their personal lives — friends, family members, coworkers — to shed insight on their psyches, as would be typical in a documentary. Also absent are interviews with talking heads or cultural critics to shed light on the factors at play that have produced incel culture…
The daughter of two Democrat journalists who’d taught her that “we need opposing opinions in the world to arrive at the best outcome” and “you don’t twist the truth for your own convenience,” Moyer seems deeply disillusioned by moments like the Stone episode. “I thought, this is so great. My movie’s getting attention,’” she said. “And then everybody decided it was a Nazi movie about incels or whatever. It was just so far from where my heart was when I was trying to make the movie… really disappointing.”
Disappointment soon turned to anger, as Moyer soon assumed villain status by the omnipresent transitive property of whatever. She decided not to retreat and beg forgiveness from rejecting media but to double down. “It pissed me off,” she says. “I was like, okay, fine. If I’m going to be this person, then I’m at least going to not beat around the bush. I'm just going to go to the heart of the inferno.”
She made a movie about Alex Jones.
Without getting too deep into the subject of Jones, two quick observations:
Alex’s War at this writing is Apple’s #1 pre-ordered movie, above Top Gun and the latest Minions offering. Four years ago, in an act of silently coordinated censorship, the oligopolistic platforms Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify all yanked Jones at roughly the same time. Not only did this ratify every Jones rant about the unseen forces of the New World Order out to get him, it proved the censors miscalculated. Roughly a month after Jones’s removal, conventional wisdom coalesced around the idea that the coordinated whacking, which severely damaged his reach and business for a while, was proof that “deplatforming works,” as Vice put it.
They celebrated too early, as these numbers show. Deplatforming only works in the long run if the censoring crowd comes up with replacement content that has traction with the marooned audiences. Instead of un-personing Jones, Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and their corporate media partners turned him into a martyred folk hero, whose outlaw status only enhanced his revolutionary appeal.
When Rokfin over the weekend hosted a discussion with Moyer and Jones moderated by Glenn Greenwald, the media meltdown was instant, with everyone from ex-somebody Soledad O’Brien to choir-preaching podcaster Sam Seder to once-ironic, now genuinely holier-than-thou Internet personality Popehat railing against Greenwald’s “softball” interview with Jones. When I asked Seder (who declared Greenwald’s performance a reputational “wrap”) if he’d seen the movie, he said no. He wasn’t commenting on that, but rather “on Glenn lending what’s left of his credibility to a man who claimed Obama had a weather-controlling machine.”
With apologies to my pal Glenn, the notion that Jones needs Greenwald’s help is hilarious. Jones, like basically every other person from Joe Rogan to Trump who’s been renounced by self-proclaimed credibility arbiters in traditional media, has his own massive and growing audience and needs the approval of the center-left priesthood about as much as he needs a case of piles.
I think Jones is batty (the feeling is mutual: he once melted down about me on air, I think in a dispute over tornado weapons), but also think understanding his appeal is crucial for the same reason I once slogged across New Hampshire interviewing Trump supporters, later reporting by phone to none other than Seder what I found. The job is to understand and explain, not to act as societal bouncers, but incuriosity has become the norm. As a reporter you don’t have to like Jones, but since when did it become a point of pride to be willfully ignorant? When did journalists buy the notion that we should shelve professional curiosity when it comes to the people we most urgently need to understand?
“This isn’t a puff piece,” says Moyer. “It’s not meant to confirm your biases. It’s meant to show you what these people are actually like, and then you can make an informed decision based off of watching the film.
“It used to be called journalism.”
THE CONVENTIONAL MR. HEFNER
by August Kleinzahler
In 1977, at the age of 51, Hugh Hefner endured an existential crisis when he found himself choking on a metal Ben Wa ball, one of a pair that had been in his girlfriend Sondra Theodore’s vagina in order “to enhance her physical sensations.” The ruler of the then considerable Playboy empire “fell back on the bed, choking and unable to breathe, and was about to lose consciousness when she squeezed his chest and finally dislodged the sphere.” (I’m quoting from Steven Watts’s 2008 biography, Mr. Playboy.) “Is this what it has all come to?” Hefner later wondered aloud. Then: “What will all the newspaper headlines in the world say tomorrow morning?” Finally, regaining his composure, he asked: “Are we getting this on videotape?”
Hefner’s death on September 27, 2017, at the age of 91 made many if not all the world’s newspaper headlines. In a number of ways he was a conventional Midwesterner of his generation. His somewhat strict Methodist upbringing was in no way out of the ordinary. The family’s circumstances were modest but never strained. Hugh, the older of two boys, was a bright, if easily distracted, pupil. He worked for the high school paper, the Steinmetz Star, as a reporter, cartoonist and circulation manager. On graduating from high school his class voted him “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Most Popular Boy,” “Class Humorist,” “Best Orator,” “Best Dancer” and “Most Artistic.” He was still a virgin though.
The first issue of Playboy appeared in November 1953, featuring photographs of Marilyn Monroe taken four years earlier with, as she joked, “nothing on but the radio.” Hefner bet everything he had on it, along with quite a bit of what his friends and his mother were willing to part with. It sold 54,000 copies of its print run of 70,000. In its best year, 1972, Playboy’s circulation was 7,161,561.
Hefner spent most of his life wandering round the Playboy Mansions in Chicago and LA, in his pyjamas and slippers, pipe in mouth, a bottle of baby oil in one hand, a Pepsi in the other. He was a very late riser, eating the same breakfast, prepared by Cordon Bleu chefs, every day; likewise the same dinner every night, fried chicken, prepared exactly to his specifications. He liked board games, pinball and movies, which seemed to take up most of his time, when he wasn’t working on the magazine, hosting parties or shagging. He favored bosomy, blonde, leggy girls between the ages of 18 and 22. He didn’t seem to like them terribly bright and was quite forthright on the subject, explaining that if he wanted to have a serious conversation with someone, he had plenty of men friends around to chat with.
The so-called Bunnies, by and large, seem to have liked “Hef.” He appears never to have bullied any of them into having sex with him. Some of the women from the Playboy Mansions or Clubs have gone on to serious careers in the arts, government, higher education. One of Bill Clinton’s initial picks for attorney general, Kimba Wood, was shot down in part because she’d once worked as a Playboy Bunny, which seemed unfair even at the time. Gloria Steinem published “A Bunny’s Tale” in Show magazine in 1963. She portrayed the Playboy Club as a demeaning, exploitative work environment. But Deborah Harry thought that “being a Bunny involved a rare combination for a woman in the workplace – beauty, femininity, sexuality, and at the same time, ambition and intelligence.” Lauren Hutton described the Bunnies as “‘pre-feminist pioneers and extraordinarily brave for their time … We were like sisters learning together how to take charge of our own lives.”
In 1969, Steinem interviewed Hefner for McCall’s. She pointed out that his girlfriend Barbi Benton was “so young.” And young she was, just 18; Hefner was 42. Later, a wounded Hefner asked friends, over and over, why Steinem had to say that about Barbi; why couldn’t she have just used the word “fresh”? Steinem told Hefner during the interview that “there are times when a woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.” The comment seems to have perplexed Hefner as much as it annoyed him.
Hefner and Benton were finished as an item by 1976, but not before he’d turned up in a limo and a white suit with Barbi on his arm at his daughter’s graduation from Brandeis in 1974, upstaging the commencement speaker, another Chicago celebrity, Saul Bellow. Christie Hefner, aged 23, a year younger than Barbi, who’d graduated summa cum laude, had reconciled with her long-absentee father on a visit to the Playboy Mansion only the year before. Six years later he put her in charge of the foundering Playboy Enterprises, a position she held until 2009.
As well as Mr. Playboy, Steven Watts has written biographies of Henry Ford and Walt Disney, both Midwesterners like Hefner, and both, unlike Hefner, brilliant, visionary monsters. There was nothing especially monstrous about Hefner. And though he was an astute, risk-taking, hard-working magazine man in Playboy’s early days, there was nothing brilliant or visionary about him. The idea for Playboy came directly from Esquire, the magazine young Hefner most revered and for which he briefly worked. Esquire, at least in its heyday under Arnold Gingrich, was a literary magazine with a few sexy photos, directed at the “sophisticated” adult male. Playboy is a porn mag with a bit of literature for cachet, directed at the wanker who would like to think of himself as sophisticated. In 1969, Rollo May argued in Love and Will that Playboy reflected a “new puritanism” and a repressed anxiety among American men about impotence and intimacy with women. “You see a strange expression in these photographed girls,” he wrote: “detached, mechanical, uninviting, vacuous … Playboy has only shifted the figleaf from the genitals to the face.”
Hefner, at heart, was a small-time provincial and the worst sort of parvenu. A poster-child of arrested development, he was a shameless exhibitionist and boaster, who kept a detailed log, many volumes long, of his every sexual encounter. From the beginning he was in thrall to a rube’s notion of Jazz Age glamour, craving to mix with and be thought well of by the famous and well-born. He was the happiest, richest, oldest 14-year-old jerk in America.
THERE’S A REASON EDUCATION SUCKS and it’s the same reason that it will never, ever, ever be fixed. . . because the owners of this country don’t want that. The real owners, the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions — forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations; they’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State houses, the City Halls; they’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security and they'll get it sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's one big club, and you ain't in it.
— George Carlin
HEDY LAMARR, often proclaimed “the most beautiful woman in the world.”
The 26-yr-old Lamarr was thriving in Hollywood when, in September 1940, Nazi U-boats hunted down & sank a cruise ship trying to evacuate 90 British schoolchildren to Canada. 77 drowned in the bleak north Atlantic. Lamarr, a Jewish immigrant from Nazi-occupied Austria, who had been making America her home since 1938, was outraged. She fought back by applying her engineering skills to development of a sonar sub-locator used in the Atlantic for the benefit of the Allies. The principles of her work are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth technology, and this work led to her to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
THE PHONIEST, MOST PR-INTENSIVE WAR OF ALL TIME
by Caitlin Johnstone
The president and first lady of Ukraine have posed for a romantic photoshoot with Vogue magazine, wherein President Volodymyr Zelensky waxes poetical about his love for his darling wife.
Now, I know what you're thinking: how is Zelensky making time for a Vogue photoshoot amidst his busy schedule of PR appearances for other major western institutions?
I mean this is after all the same Volodymyr Zelensky who has been so busy making video appearances for the Grammy Awards, the Cannes Film Festival, the World Economic Forum and probably the Bilderberg group as well, and having meetings with celebrities like Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, and Bono and the Edge from U2. It's as busy a PR tour as he could possibly have without having a discussion about the strategic importance of long-range artillery with Elmo on Sesame Street.
Oh yeah, and also isn't there like a war or something happening in Ukraine? You'd think he'd probably be somewhat busy with that too.
Call me crazy, but I'm beginning to suspect that there might be a concerted effort to manipulate the way we think about the war in Ukraine. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say it's the most aggressively perception-managed war we've ever experienced.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February we have not only been smashed with mass media propaganda unlike anything we've ever seen while Russian media are purged from the airwaves, we're also seeing the new media element of unprecedented amounts of online censorship, algorithm-boosted propaganda, and social media trolling.
So we've literally never seen this much overall effort put into manipulating the way the public thinks about a war. Which makes sense, given that it's a profoundly dangerous proxy war which stands to benefit ordinary people in no way, shape or form.
I mean, can you imagine if people were allowed to just think their own thoughts about their government's economic warfare against Russia which is hurting them financially and pushing millions toward starvation with the full awareness and approval of the US government? Or if Americans were allowed to wonder if the billions they are pouring into this proxy conflict could be better spent at home? Or if people started objecting to a needless conflict for geostrategic domination threatening their lives and the lives of everyone they know with the risk of nuclear annihilation?
Can't have that.
There is a night-and-day difference between wanting to tell people the truth about something and wanting to manipulate their perception of something. There are times when true facts can be used to influence people's perception one way or the other, but if your agenda is to manipulate perception rather than tell the truth you will necessarily be forced to rely on lies, half-truths, distortion, and lies by omission wherever the truth doesn't serve that agenda.
If they were telling us the truth about this war, they wouldn't be censoring Russian media. They wouldn't be censoring online voices who disagree with the official narratives about Ukraine. They wouldn't be continually blasting us in the face with mass media perception management, and they sure as hell wouldn't be putting Ukraine's celebrity-in-chief on the cover of Vogue magazine.
We are being manipulated, and we are being deceived. And we are being manipulated and deceived because our perceiving clearly on our own would go against the interests of the empire. They are lying to us because the interests of the people and the interests of the empire are, as usual, squarely at odds.