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ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS ARE POSSIBLE over eastern Trinity County again this afternoon and evening. Afternoon temperatures will be near normal across the interior while temperatures dip a bit this weekend. Typical summer coastal weather is expected with periods of coastal low clouds during the nights and mornings and partial sun is expected each afternoon. (NWS)
THIS WEEK AT BLUE MEADOW FARM
Full at last!
- Sungold, Early Girl & Heirloom Tomatoes
- Corno di Toro, Gypsy & Bell Sweet Peppers
- Padron, Jalapeno, Anaheim, Poblano Peppers
- Eggplant, Basil, Walla Walla Onions
- Zucchini & Patty Pan Squash
- Butter Lettuce, Cucumbers, Plums
- First Sunflowers & Zinnias
Blue Meadow Farm, 3301 Holmes Ranch Rd, Philo, 707-895-2071
ASHLEY MENDOZA: Hello valley people! Many of you may or may not know me! My father and mother both graduated from Anderson Valley High School as well as my siblings. We currently have created a women's soccer team representing the Valley and will be playing in the Mendocino Women's Soccer Association league. We are currently looking for sponsors for jerseys and some soccer balls! Anything would be greatly appreciated!
YO! ASHLEY! Where do we send donations?
FELINES OF PHILO!
We’re at it again!
Please donate to Felines of Philo to help with spay/neuters.
FUNDING AGRICULTURAL REPLACEMENT Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) Program
The Mendocino County Air Quality Management District is pleased to announce the Application Period for the FARMER “Shared Allocation Pool” (SAP) will begin August 1 through August 31, 2022.
To be eligible, vehicles and equipment must be engaged in agricultural operations. Eligible categories include on-road heavy-duty trucks, off-road vehicles, such as tractors, stationary and portable engine sources, such as agricultural pumps, utility terrain vehicles (UTV), or small tractors, and infrastructure engaged in, or supporting, agricultural operations.
Applicants must complete and submit the appropriate FARMER Application to Mendocino County Air Quality Management District by August 31, 2022.
Application forms are available online at: www.CAPCOA.org/farmer-program
- Off-Road Agricultural Equipment Application
- On-Road Agricultural Truck Application
- Zero-Emission Agricultural UTV Application
- Infrastructure Application Attachment
FARMER SAP Program application forms are also available at the District office: 306 E. Gobbi St., Ukiah, CA 95482, Phone 707-463-4354
FIRST FRIDAY ART WALK - August 2022
ART WALK: emphasis on ART and WALK. Ukiah is a very walkable town. Join artists and their hosts for an evening of art, music and refreshments as you stroll from one venue to the next; each showcasing local art and artistry. Held in Historic Downtown Ukiah on the first Friday of each month, the First Friday Art Walk is the perfect way to relax your body, mind and soul. This enjoyable evening begins at 5:00 p.m. and promises to delight your senses; all while enjoying the company of others. For more information contact (707) 391-3664
Corner Gallery Ukiah, 201 S State Street, Ukiah Corner Gallery Ukiah helps celebrate the 68 years of art and artists of the Annual Mendocino County Artists Association with their annual show. This group continues to delight and inspire new artist. The front windows will feature a variety of works from these artists. Join us Friday August 5 from 5 pm - 8 pm meet the artists and enjoy music by Steve Winkle. Corner Gallery Also welcomes a new young artist, who will exhibit her acrylic paintings and other works during the month of August and September.
Art Center Ukiah, 201 S State Street, Ukiah "The Sky Is The Limit" Art Center Ukiah celebrates what we see when we look up! Human beings have always looked at the sky for inspiration. And we have a couple of extraordinary celestial events happening in August which ought to inspire just about anyone— including the Perseid meteor showers. "The immense endlessness of space encourages and lets fly our hopes, fantasies, dreams and ponderings—without limits." "The light and cloud forms in the daytime sky stun us with their beauty, and the nighttime show of celestial bodies turns us to unbridled awe…what moves you to magic when you look up?" This show, which will include art in a wide variety of media, is guaranteed to offer viewers a large dose of that magic.
Paradigm, 312 N School Street, Ukiah Ukiah's First Friday Art Walk we will have the paintings of Michael Eich will be at Paradigm Shop! "My style utilizes both canvas and hard surfaces like plywood, allowing me to use all kinds of tools for texturing, layering, scraping and sculpting. Beginning with a choice of color that seems to correspond to the current thought or feeling, it then takes on a life of its own as the push and pull of the whole process reveals itself." - Michael Eich
Medium Art Gallery, 522 E. Perkins, Ukiah, Pear Tree Center Come out for our new photography show opening and make a cyanotype sun print! A cyanotype is a photo process where specially treated paper reacts to UV light (the sun's rays) and exposes the paper. Place objects on the treated paper and expose to sunlight for a few minutes to create fun shadow images. All materials provided. Free event. Juried Group Photography Exhibition. Opening night!This is a juried group exhibition showcasing visually compelling images using any photographic process (print, image transfer, emulsion transfer, encaustic, black and white, etc.). Show runs through September 25th.
Grace Hudson Museum, 431 S Main Street, Ukiah We'll have some cool jazz in the front gallery of the Museum as we welcome Duologue, comprised of bass player Pierre Archain and trumpeter Carlos Abdiel Hernandez Rivera. This will be the final First Friday to see our current exhibition Pulped Under Pressure: The Art of Handmade Paper. You can also check out our core galleries devoted to Grace Hudson's artwork, Pomo basketry, and the history of the Hudson-Carpenter family, as well as take a stroll or guided tour through the Wild Gardens. And, of course, you can visit Little Bear and friends at his popular table of Native American tools and toys. Light refreshments will be served.
Bona Marketplace, 116 W Standley Street, Ukiah Our art walk artist for August and September will be a collaboration of watercolor, mixed media and collage with Laurie Howard and Lynn Williams of the beautiful changing of seasons and light in local art.
Ukiah Library, 105 N Main Street, Ukiah Come enjoy an exhibit by Kathleen Miller Thomas, titled "Well-Traveled". Ms. Miller Thomas will show landscape pieces in oil and pastel. There will be live music by Charlie Seltzer. Miniature tiny painting materials will be available for in-person crafting or as a Take & Make kit. This exhibit is free to the public, for all ages, and sponsored by the Friends of the Ukiah Valley Library and Mendocino County Library.
Ukiah Valley Networking Agency
Ukiah, CA 95482
FIRST FRIDAY AT GRACE HUDSON: Cool jazz & pulped paper First Friday at the Grace Hudson Museum will happen at August 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. As always, admission is free and the community is warmly welcome. The evening will feature cool jazz created by Duologue, comprised of bassist Pierre Archain and trumpeter Carlos Abdiel Hernandez Rivera.
The Museum also has on display a pop-up exhibition featuring the low-relief casted paper handiwork of Fort Bragg artist and sculptor Neno Villamor. Villamor will also be leading a demonstration and papermaking workshop at the Museum on August 7 from 12 to 3 p.m.
This will also be the final First Friday to view the Museum's current exhibition, "Pulped Under Pressure: The Art of Handmade Paper." The exhibit showcases exquisitely hand-crafted artworks all made from paper, while also exploring important social issues of the day. Visitors can also check out the core galleries devoted to Grace Hudson's artwork, Pomo basketry, and the history of the Hudson-Carpenter family, as well as take a stroll or guided tour through the Wild Gardens. And, of course, Little Bear and his friends will preside over his popular table of Native American tools and toys. Light refreshments will be served.
The Grace Hudson Museum is at 431 Main St. in Ukiah. For more information visit https://www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or call (707) 467-2836.
MARSHALL NEWMAN SENDS ALONG:
Another item from Ebay: 1949 Anderson Valley High School Yearbook.
FALSE FINANCIAL STATEMENTS, MISINFORMATION, RUMORS & UNFAIR INNUENDO AT TUESDAY’S SUPES MEETING
by Mark Scaramella
AT TUESDAY’S SUPERVISORS MEETING, several Board members, lead by Board Chair Ted Williams, took some very unfair and distorted shots at their newly elected Auditor-Controller, who was not in attendance, even though the person they should have blamed was their own CEO — and themselves.
A few selected quotes:
Williams: “I would like to ask my colleagues for support on direction to the CEO’s office to reach out to the state controller’s office to help us get our books in order. … I’m three and half years into a term. I worry, I’m coming up on the point where I can no longer use the excuse, I’m new here. And yet in the three and a half years, I haven’t been able to get a credible financial report. I understand we have three different sets of books. They all differ. Why?”
CEO Darcie Antle: “I would agree with you. I’m not quite sure. I think a lot of the reason we have asked for a pause in the labor negotiations is that we don’t know. We don’t have a clear vision on what the books are, and where the finances are. And those discussions need to continue with the new Auditor-Controller.”
Williams: “We have an outside audit that happens. When was the last time this board, you and I sitting on this board, voted to direct the auditor to incorporate the outside audit recommendations? I don’t think I’ve done it yet. I don’t know if past boards have done it. But it means we’re paying for an outside audit, we’re getting advice about changes we need to make to meet accounting principles. And then we’re ignoring the advice. So how much accumulated error is there, and over how many years is it? Ten years? Is it thirty years? Is that why we have different sets of books, with different numbers? Because we never incorporate the outside audit findings? I think we have a financial crisis here, and we just don’t know how bad it is. … Part of the reason that I supported the consolidation [of the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector] is that I couldn’t get financials. And we had an auditor retire, and shortly after, I learned we have a $4.5 million hole in the health plan. Why didn’t this board know that we had a $4.5 million hole? We would have planned accordingly.
Right there our bullshit alarm went off. The CEO and her staff are responsible for oversight of the County’s self-insured Health Plan, not the Auditor or the finance team. They’re also supposed to maintain the backup insurance to cover unplanned overages to minimize and smooth out health claim spike costs.
Williams went on: “There’s an institutional problem here that this county doesn’t have a set of books that anybody believes. There’s nobody in this county today you could ask, how much money do we have to our name, and get a straight answer. How can I do my job, voting on a budget, if I don’t know how much money we have to spend?”
Another alarm bell. There’s pretty good info on revenues. That’s not the problem. The problem is tracking budgets and expenses by department which the CEO and her predecessor refuse to do.
Supervisor Glenn McGourty piled on: “You want to have people who really know finances, who are properly trained. That’s why I’ve supported a professional financial office, which is what most big organizations have, where you appoint people based on their skill set and a proven track record of handling money well. And if we look back through Mendocino County’s history at the auditor-controller and tax collector-treasurer, we don’t see that pattern. So I still think we’re going to need long-term structural change in county government on this. This will not go away until we do.”
NEITHER OF THESE SUPERVISORS has the “skill set” to be Supervisor, much less make these uncalled for public comments. And if they’re going to single out the newly elected Auditor Controller, wouldn’t it have been fair to at least ask her to respond before jumping to conclusions? And Ms. Antle, CEO Angelo’s long-time budget point person, claiming that “we don’t know” is an admission that she’s been asleep at the switch for years.
We were going to report on this bogus discussion yesterday until it quickly became obvious that the entire show was a transparent attempt to shift the blame for whatever the budget problem is from their ignorant selves and their CEO to the Auditor’s office. Reporting these glib statements without a response from the Auditor or the people in the departmental budget trenches, seems to border on fraud. So we didn’t report on it. Other local news outlets have trotted it out there as Thus Spaketh Williams & McGourty, self-proclaimed financial experts.
Remember, it was only a few months ago that this same Board unanimously signed a laudatory proclamation praising their retiring CEO, Carmel Angelo for her financial acumen:
“WHEREAS, Carmel [first name only, of course] later became Assistant Chief Executive Officer in September 2007 where she worked to reorganize the Executive Office and provide fiscal stability while functioning as Chief Financial Officer; and…
“WHEREAS, long time retired Mendocino County District 1 Supervisor, Carre Brown, remembers ‘In 2010, as Chair of the Board of Supervisors, I began a close working relationship with Carmel as the new CEO. I credit her strong leadership in the guidance she gave to get the County on strong financial ground throughout the great recession. I thank her for her knowledge and steadfast effort, working non-stop from one disaster to the next for Mendocino County in the past decade. Carmel Angelo gained a distinguished reputation statewide on many issues facing Counties, not only from colleagues, but also State officials. She has earned a well-deserved rest and I wish her the very best in retirement’.”
In January, Matt LaFever of the MendoFever website ran an interview with CEO Angelo when she announced her retirement:
“Since these fiscally lean times, Angelo said her primary objective was working to build a robust county administration that could provide consistency and reliability as county supervisors served their terms. ‘You cannot run an organization in four-year increments,’ Angelo said. Her work building a fiscally-responsible, stable county government grew county reserves from $1.9 million in 2007 to $20 million today.”
That $20 million number that CEO Angelo fed to Mr. LaFever was never questioned by the Supervisors — until later when they couldn’t find it. Yet here’s Williams now saying the County is broke and that he hasn’t got any idea how much money the County has?
Fortunately, on Wednesday, Auditor-Controller Chamisse Cubbison corrected the record.
Date: August 2, 2022
To: Honorable Board of Supervisors
From: Chamise Cubbison, Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax-Collector
Re: August 2, 2022 Board Discussions and Direction to Staff to Contact the State
It has been brought to my attention that the Board gave direction to staff to contact the State Controller’s Office about the County’s financial systems and that several false statements were made during today’s [Tuesday’s] meeting. I respectfully request that staff delay reaching out to the State until after a presentation is made to the Board on the FY 2020-21 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) and the FY 2020-21 Single Audit that is currently being finalized. Such presentation was already anticipated to be scheduled once the Single Audit is released.
There has been no request to discuss the relationships between the County finance system, the ACFR, and the Budget Schedules since I became Acting Auditor-Controller or Auditor-Controller/Treasurer Tax-Collector until this week. No specific questions were brought forward other than to request a discussion of those areas of the financial system and why they do not all present information in exactly the same way. It seems very premature to sound alarms and contact the State when it is likely that perhaps those raising concerns simply do not understand how things are presented, and when given the opportunity to hear from the audit firm may understand better.
In addition, there was a lot of misinformation discussed at today’s meeting, and no opportunity for rebuttal or open discussion. I would hope the Board would seek information directly before spreading rumors.
Health Plan Deficit:
The CEO’s office is responsible for managing the Health Plan, authorizing payment of all Health Plan payables, and reviewing various reports. It is unfortunate that the CEO’s office and the Health Plan consultants did not sound the alarm sooner on the growing deficit, but that is not because the information was not available.
[Former Auditor] Lloyd Weer and I met with then Assistant CEO Antle, Deputy CEO Cherie Johnson and Executive Office Fiscal staff in August 2021 before his retirement. We reviewed the year-to-date report, discussed the Health Plan projected deficit for 20/21, the concern that it appeared likely to continue to grow, and that the CEO’s office would be responsible for monitoring the fund going forward. Mr. Weer and I both believed that the CEO’s office would present the issue during the already scheduled future Board agenda item to go over the Health Plan. We were both surprised that a higher Health Plan contribution rate was not requested at that meeting.
Finance System Adjustments, Financial Statements and Audits:
The statements made that outside auditor recommendations are being ignored and not implemented is false. As I explained to Supervisor Williams and CEO staff yesterday [Monday], during a brief, unplanned discussion after another meeting, many of the “adjustments” made by the outside auditors are for financial statement presentation, not due to information being inaccurate in the finance system.
Depending on where the information is being reported (on Financial Statements, or to the State or Federal Government) it may require different presentation. If the outside audit firm found that there had been material misstatements or issues with how information is being maintained/reported in the finance system or other reports, they would be required to state those concerns. Adjustments are made in the finance system when required to correct misstatements. There are not years of required adjustments that have been ignored.
Property Tax Refunds:
Supervisor Williams has been in contact with me, and other the offices involved in the Property Tax System regarding refunds to property owners. Supervisor Williams is fully aware that the Property Tax System is not functioning properly in most areas and that staff has been working hard, forgoing vacations, and working overtime for the last two-plus years to try to bring the system into full functionality.
The suggestion that staff just issue manual checks to people, write information on post-it notes and account for them later is not realistic. Most property owners want an accounting of what the changes were that resulted in their refund. Staff is working hard to reach the point where the County can resume issuing refunds in batches and larger groups, while also spending countless hours working with the software vendor and trying to keep up with their other mandated tasks. Staff is working to process small batches when they can and is very aware that property owners have been waiting and need their refunds. Unfortunately, the current situation is not limited to Mendocino County. Other Counties that came before Mendocino in implementing the same software have experienced similar issues, also taking years to resolve.
When I asked Supervisor Williams if he would be willing to accept that redirecting staff to manually process more refunds (which takes a significant amount of time) could result in delayed property tax payments to Special Districts, Fire Districts, Schools and Cities, delays in reporting to the State, and likely delay the fiscal year end close, he said no. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as reaching out to the State or hiring temporary help. Property Tax is a specialized area that requires years of on-the-job training and there is limited staff in the Auditor-Controller’s side and Treasurer Tax- Collector’s side working with the system. Some of those with years of institutional knowledge and additional staff hours to help perform related tasks left the County or retired early due to the conversion project or due to the Consolidation. You cannot simply demand that current staff just work harder and longer than they already are, or we will lose even more staff.
In closing, I respectfully request that there be a discussion and further education about the financial systems before the County reaches out to the State to request help in these areas.
MAPLE BASIN. Can you imagine a more pristine swimming hole and overall rural dream spot? A local treasure enjoyed by generations of Valley people is no more because it's silted up from a rip and tear Mendocino Redwood Company culvert project. The pool, which used to be about 20 feet deep, fed year-round from a bracingly cool flow from deep in the bowels of Signal Ridge, is now about three feet deep. MRC has told shocked neighbors “the state” made them do the culverts. If it ever rains again, the pool might be blasted clean of the dirt and debris presently clogging it. But for now the barbarians have destroyed a natural treasure going back hundreds, maybe thousands of years.
THE VALLEY seems under assault from large, outside forces. We've got more and more industrial vineyards, PG&E's laughably unfunny “line clearing” attack on previously attractive rural vistas, too many single family homes given over to tourist rentals while locals scramble for housing, hard drugs gaining a harder foothold among the young, and our rivers and streams dead as fisheries. This golden goose seems cooked.
ACCORDING to the Continuum of Care data at Mendo’s neatly contradictory handupnothandout.com website, there are 2,580 homeless citizens wandering our rural paradise. Most of them are white, most are between the ages of 25-54, 358 are more than 62 years old, 442 are children, 900 of the women have been the victims of domestic violence, 182 are veterans.
THESE STATS are wildly inflated, and derive from the bi-annual “point in time” counts, the process by which teams of early morning volunteers drive around Willits, Fort Bragg and Ukiah pointing at and tabulating people they assume are homeless.
(“HOW about that guy, Deb? Pretty scruffy, Jason, put him down. Wait a minute! I think that's Craig Stehr, wandering Hindu. Is he homeless, Deb? Only Vishnu knows for sure. Put him down. The guy's worth about 20 grand in reimbursements.”)
HARD TO BELIEVE, but the government reimburses California counties millions of annual dollars on evidence of homelessness thus obtained. Much of the reimbursed tax money funds the Ukiah-based “Continuum of Care,” 31 agencies (at last county) allegedly caring for the casualties of America's crumbling society.
IN 2018 THE COUNTY paid a fellow named Robert Marbut $60,000 to advise County supervisors on strategies for reducing the growing number of free range drunks, dope heads, crazy people, and menacing undesirables, all of them lumped into the one category of “homeless.” This population occupies the public areas and surrounding underbrush of our three major towns, except for Willits, because Willits is light, very light, on free stuff. Marbut concluded that there were in living fact about 200 or so homeless in the Ukiah area, 100 in Fort Bragg and less than 10 in the Willits area.
MARBUT found 40% of the homeless were native to the County, 23% were “somewhat homegrown,” and 38% were “out of town individuals,” aka “north-south travelers.”
MARBUT recommended that homeless services focus on the small number of chronically homeless people who have some connection to Mendocino County.
BECAUSE individual homeless people have a “better chance of recovery” in their hometowns, Marbut says that professional mooches, or travelers, should be given a sandwich or two and then helped to return to where they came from, not shunted toward long-term housing in Mendocino County and otherwise encouraged to stay here. Marbut said that “more often than not, the travelers came here because of services being provided.”
THE SUPERVISORS shelved Marbut's report in the wake of the “continuum of care” axis convening a hurry-up mass meeting that denounced Marbut's suggestions as “cruel,” not one of them in the continuum seemingly aware that their self-interest was fully visible through their see-through “compassion.”
IN A RECENT FACEBOOK VIDEO, Supervisor Maureen Mulheren, says it’s a “myth” that Mendo’s homeless came to Mendo for freebies, free meals, cold weather rooms in Ukiah's tweeker motels, readily available dope, easy panhandled booze. Ms. Mulheren, bless her all her days for her many volunteer hours of community clean-up, but the Marbut breakdown concludes that upwards of 40% of the ”homeless” are “travelers” who landed in Mendo for whatever “services” they may get.
YOU CAN SPEND a lot of time poring over the Continuum of Care’s statistics and walk away confused by their exaggerated numbers about how many people they “help.” Like the Mental Health “data dashboards,” the reader is left with a pile of out-of-context figures, color-coded and charted and percentage-ized by the people whose jobs depend on the numbers they’re generating. In other areas of American life this is called fraud, but Mendo isn't exactly known for public policy clarity.
THE “Continuum” people have never made an attempt to explain the large disparity between their numbers — more than 2500 house-less —and Marbut’s fewer than 300 unsheltered.
And that’s probably why Supervisor Mulheren and her friends at the Continuum (31 “helping” agencies) prefer to ignore the Marbut report and choose instead to insist that their pile of meaningless “data” demonstrates that they’re “helping.”
(I GET to Ukiah once a week most weeks. In a couple of hours I invariably see a half dozen or so people who, in 1950, would have been humanely confined to a state hospital, people who are clearly unable or unwilling to care for themselves. Despite all the “care” money annually lavished on Mendocino County there are, as Marbut confirmed, a couple of hundred people whose dysfunction destroys the quality of life for many people, especially the vulnerable, in Ukiah and Fort Bragg.)
IT WOULD BE HELPFUL if Supervisor Mulheren, who says she has more first-hand experience with the Ukiah area homeless than her Board colleagues via her well-meaning trash-pickup projects, would explain the data gaps and why they can’t do more to address that 60% of the Ukiah area 200 who have Mendo connections. If Marbut is right (and we believe he is based on anecdotal reports, crisis van contacts and sheriff’s log info), the chronic homeless, many of whom appear regularly in the Sheriff’s Log, should be a manageable number; getting those “frequent flyers” off the streets would do a lot more for them and improve the credibility of the helpers and the Measure B mental health/substance abuse overlap population. (Mark Scaramella contributed to these paragraphs)
FAMILY OF MAN FATALLY SHOT BY SONOMA COUNTY DEPUTY PRESS FOR ANSWERS
by Nashelly Chavez, Alana Minkler & Matt Pera
When David Pelaez-Chavez left his hometown in southern Mexico for Lake County about a year ago, his sights were set on realizing the American Dream.
For him, that meant earning enough money to provide for his two young children who live with their mother in Putla Villa de Guerrero. The town is located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where Pelaez-Chavez, 36, was born and raised, his family said Wednesday.
The youngest of seven brothers and a sister, Pelaez-Chavez told his family that he was living in Lower Lake and had found good work as a farmworker, said Jose Pelaez, his brother.
Though he was far from his native home, family was nearby. One of his brothers and his sister live in Clearlake. Jose Pelaez and another brother call Sonoma County home, Pelaez said.
“From what we knew, he was fine,” Pelaez said of his brother. “He always spoke with us. He never commented about anything (bad in his life).”
Pelaez-Chavez’s life was cut short Friday morning.
He was shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who was responding to an 8:20 a.m. report of an attempted break-in at a home on a vineyard property east of Healdsburg.
Pelaez-Chavez was holding a hammer, a rock the size of a cantaloupe and a garden tool similar to a pickaxe when the deputy fired three shots at him from 10 to 15 feet away shortly after 10 a.m., authorities said.
The deputy fired on him after an attempt to subdue Pelaez-Chavez with a stun gun was unsuccessful, authorities said.
Pelaez-Chavez was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later at the site of the shooting.
On Wednesday, the Santa Rosa Police Department, which is investigating the incident, identified the Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who shot Pelaez-Chavez as Michael Dietrick. He’s a five-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office who previously worked for the Clearlake Police Department.
It was while working for that agency that Dietrick shot and killed a burglary suspect accused of attacking him with a steel flashlight in 2016. The Lake County District Attorney’s Office determined a year later that Dietrick was justified in firing his weapon.
Both Dietrich and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Powers, who deployed the stun gun against Pelaez-Chavez and was with Dietrich at the time of the shooting, remained on paid administrative leave Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The shooting leaves Pelaez-Chavez’s siblings and other relatives mourning his loss and questioning the chain of events that led to his death. Jose Pelaez described his youngest brother as a friendly man driven by the aspirations he had for his family.
“He wanted to give his family a better life,” Jose Pelaez said.
Relatives are skeptical of the official police account of what led up to the shooting, Jose Pelaez said.
Pelaez-Chavez was described as behaving erratically in the moments leading up to and during his encounter with deputies, but he had no history of mental illness or substance abuse, Jose Pelaez said.
If he was in distress, Aurora Castro, Jose Pelaez’s wife, asked why was it necessary to shoot and kill Pelaez-Chavez.
“Why were they hunting him like an animal?” Castro said. “We want to know what happened.”
A call from a homeowner in the 5200 block of Tre Monte Lane set off the search for Pelaez-Chavez, who authorities suspect of using a rock to smash a pane of glass on a door leading into the home.
The homeowner confronted Pelaez-Chavez with a handgun and told him to leave. As Pelaez-Chavez moved away from the home, he got into a pickup that belonged to a worker on the property and drove off, authorities said.
Pelaez-Chavez drove through several vineyard gates on the property and eventually crashed into a ditch in the 5600 block of Tre Monte Lane. Someone in a nearby home then saw him go near a back door while he carried large rocks, prompting that person to confront Pelaez-Chavez with a gun and tell him to leave the property.
Pelaez-Chavez told that person to shoot him, authorities said. At some point, he left and stole a Gator-style farm utility vehicle from a nearby storage building.
He used the vehicle to drive through dirt roads in the neighborhood before crashing again and continuing on foot, police said. Meanwhile, deputies followed his path across steep hillsides and through creeks for about 45 minutes as they attempted to catch up to him.
Deputies eventually encountered him in the area of Franz Creek, where they said he was holding a rock, hammer and pickax-style tool, according to the Santa Rosa Police Department, which is investigating the shooting.
Pelaez-Chavez was screaming, yelling and rambling words as deputies told him to drop the items in his hands, police said. Jose Pelaez said his brother did not speak English.
Powers fired his stun gun but it was unclear whether the darts struck him, Sgt. Chris Mahurin, a Santa Rosa Police Department spokesman, said Wednesday.
In the moments before he was shot by Dietrick, Pelaez-Chavez “started making the motions to throw” a rock at the deputies but the rock never left his hand, Mahurin added.
Izaak Schwaiger, a Sebastopol-based lawyer who has filed lawsuits in several police brutality cases in Sonoma County, said the information released by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and the Santa Rosa Police Department about the shooting so far leaves many unanswered questions.
Schwaiger said he thinks the omissions are telling.
“If the facts of the case justify the use of deadly force, we'd know more than we do now,” Schwaiger said. “I think that the absence of certain information speaks more loudly than the information that they've given us.”
Based on his experience representing the families and victims of multiple excessive force cases in Sonoma County, Schwaiger added “the best indicator of the future is usually the past.”
Pelaez-Chavez’s family has turned to the community for monetary help to send his body back to his mother and children in Oaxaca, where they hope to bury him. One of Pelaez-Chavez’s nephews started a GoFundMe to collect donations.
A vigil for Pelaez-Chavez is planned for Friday at Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square. It is being organized by the North Bay Organizing Project’s police accountability task force and religious leaders caucus, said Karym Sanchez, the nonprofit’s executive director.
Jose Pelaez said several of his relatives, including a brother who lives in Fresno, plan to attend.
“We will have some faith folks out to offer prayer,” Sanchez said. “We want to keep it as a vigil so it feels safer for the family to come and share their stories.”
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
BILL KIMBERLIN: Dinner in Healdsburg at a place called Matheson. Father owned the building, kid became a chef, now the whole place is a restaurant with rooftop dinning. Over looks the plaza park. Yes, Healdsburg has become a tourist magnet with too many high priced shops etc. However, I challenge anyone to find a nicer town layout. Not Sonoma, or St. Helena, Yountville, Napa, even Glenn Ellen has a town surrounding a traditional Spanish park design.
It is 11:12 PM at the Building Bridges homeless shelter in Ukiah, California. The air cooled commons room is sattwic right now, which is rare. The yoghurt and banana have been consumed and the naan bread eaten, washed down with a yerba mate. Passively watching the manifestation of this earthly show during the waking state, (enhanced by an afternoon visit to the Ukiah Public Library to read the New York Times and the latest issue of The New Yorker), any further eco-political direct action must be guided by the Divine Absolute. Otherwise, it's slowly down the river we go in our boats, knowing that what is happening all around us is actually taking place on the river banks. There is always some distance between we in our small boats, and what is happening on the river banks. It is necessary to remember this well.
Craig Louis Stehr
NORM CLOW: Baseball and America lost an icon for the ages yesterday with the passing of legendary Los Angeles Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully at age 94. Vin Scully, arguably the greatest announcer in history, spent 67 years - sixty-seven years - as the voice of the club, beginning in 1950 in Brooklyn and ending at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco in October 2016 at age 88, the longest-tenured announcer with a single team ever. Oddly enough, given the hundred year-plus rivalry of the Dodgers and the Giants, Scully grew up a New York Giants fan in the Bronx in the 1930s and 40s before being hired by Brooklyn after only three years in the business out of Fordham University - the youngest in history. He worked alone for most of his career, a rarity in sports broadcasting, and also announced football and golf from time to time. It’s been said that his dulcet-toned game voice was almost poetry, the way he would describe the events on the field, and it was true. There was no hyperbole, no wasted talk about anything other than the game with a little history tossed in, something more current baseball announcers should emulate. He simply loved the game. Vin’s trademark “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for Dodgers baseball” was music to even us die-hard Beat L.A. Giants fans, and when he finally signed off on that Fall day in San Francisco with “This is Vin Scully wishing all of you a pleasant evening,” it was truly the end of a remarkable era never be repeated.
And to illustrate the love and respect the Giants had for him, the team had already named the visiting announcing booth the “Vin Scully Broadcasting Booth". Among other well-deserved awards he garnered in his rich life were the Ford C. Frick award in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcasting wing, a lifetime achievement Emmy, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barak Obama. A great man and great career. Here he is that October day with the greatest baseball player of all time, Willie “Say Hey” Mays, receiving a five-minute standing ovation from the crowd. In San Francisco. Go figure. Hey, it's baseball.
NEW LEADERSHIP TEAM AT MENDOCINO THEATRE COMPANY
The Board of Directors for Mendocino Theatre Company is pleased to announce a new leadership team. In December, Pamela Allen announced that, after six years, she would be stepping down as Executive Director of the company in order to spend more time with her family. Following a six-month search, the Board is very pleased to announce an entirely new leadership structure and team. Elizabeth Craven will take the reigns as the company’s new Producing Director. Becky Abramson, Mark Friedrich and Roxy Sevens will take on entirely new positions as Associate Artistic Directors. Lorry LePaule has been promoted to another new position, Director of Youth and Alternative Programming.
Ms Allen oversaw a significant period of MTC growth. Her artistic choices embraced an impressive array of emotional, political and social depths. The youth programming expanded significantly, and she produced readings, radio plays and one-minute plays. Pamela guided the company through the treacherous time of covid. During this time, the Board undertook a refresh of the company’s mission statement and, with Ms Allen’s guidance, the creation of values & goals, an anti-harassment policy and a commitment to including more diverse work and artists in future seasons. She also co-produced a major live streaming fundraiser called The Long Intermission which celebrated local performance companies, featured an interview with Bill Irwin, and raised significant funds to help the theatre survive lockdown. Finally, during covid, the theatre undertook a significant renovation. New ventilation, soft goods, paint, sound & lighting equipment, and new more comfortable seating were installed to make the audience experience more comfortable. During all this, Pamela somehow found time to perform in many MTC shows. Audiences will remember her in the most recent offering The Moors as well as Doll’s House Part 2, Idea:on, Becky’s New Car and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. “Pamela leaves behind a legacy of passion, compassion and a visionary commitment to the power of theatre to change lives” extols Board Vice President, windflower Townley.
Elizabeth Craven is a name many will recognize. Her history of running theatres in Northern California is deep. She was the Founding Artistic Director of Main Stage West in Sebastopol, Executive/Artistic Director for 6th St Playhouse in Santa Rosa, and Producing Artistic Director for the Western Union Theatre Company at Cinnabar Theatre in Petaluma. She’s directed numerous productions including Eureka Day, the award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-:me, Heathen Valley and Enchanted April. As an experienced performer and director, as a successful fundraiser and grant writer, and as a seasoned arts leader, Ms Craven brings a confident guiding hand to MTC. “We are incredibly fortunate to have lured Beth out of retirement”, said Board President, Jeff Rowlings, “Her experience, her respect for artists & crafts persons, and her commitment to invigorating theatre is a perfect fit for MTC.”
Betty Abramson has been involved in theater on the Mendocino Coast for more than twenty-five years. She has worked with various companies including the Mendocino Theatre Company, Warehouse Repertory Theater, Willits Theater and Cinnabar Theater. Betty debuted at MTC as a director with Copenhagen, in 2005, and went on to direct other memorable shows including Tuesdays with Morrie, The Oldest Profession, and 4000 Miles. Her experience has included directing, stage management and occasionally as an actor. Like Mark, she also served on past incarnations of the Artistic Directors’ Committee.
Mark Friedrich is a longtime MTC member. He served on many versions of the artistic directors and play selection committees as well as performing in many of the company’s most notable productions including The Moors, Idea:on, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Born Yesterday, and Rumors. Mark was a founding member of The Raven Players and Actors Group Playhouse. He currently runs the tasting room for Baxter Winery and is a former owner of the Mendocino Wine Shop. Mark received his BA in Theatre Arts from University of New Orleans.
Roxy Seven is a name some may also recognize. A Mendocino native, Roxy produced and directed Fa La La Follies, a local holiday fundraiser and wrote and produced an award-winning short film, West of Wonderland, shot here in Mendocino. Her MTC production history includes acting in Doll’s House Part 2 and Luna Gale and she made her directorial debut with this season’s production of The Moors. Roxy attended UCLA where she earned her BA in theatre, film & television. She still lives in LA and is the Fine Arts Instructor for grades 4 to 6 in the la Cañada school district.
Lorry Lepaule has been running youth workshops for both Gloriana and MTC for almost 25 years. She was a graduate of Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, with a Master’s in Expressive Therapies, and worked for 11 years as a drama and art therapist in a psychiatric hospital in the Netherlands. At MTC, her directions include Vagina Monologues, When we were Young and Unafraid and Luna Gale and most recently the first youth mainstage production, Lockdown. At Gloriana, her directions include youth productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Peter Pan, and Guys and Dolls. Lorry’s performances include Oldest Profession, Bull in a China Shop and Doll’s House Part 2. In creating this new leadership structure, the Board is seeking to empower people to succeed in their jobs as well as reaffirm the companies values and goals which include strengthening and making more visible the Youth programming of the company, creating an artistic leadership structure that could represent more voices and faces from the community, focusing the full-time staff on more efficient execution of the productions and expanding the opportunities for fundraising and pursuit of grants. “It’s an experiment”, Jeff Rowlings added, “this a mixture of ideas that worked well at MTC in the past with ideas we see being deployed at theatres across the country in this new era of producing art. We’re all in this together. We’re hoping to see the development of new young artists, the emergence of artists of color not seen on or off the MTC stage as often as they should, and new financial support for our company as it approaches its 50th anniversary.”
Mendocino Theatre Company, PO box 800, Mendocino CA 95460
On Thursday, August 4, at 9 AM, Pacific Time, "Heroes and Patriots" returns with its two-part series about the recent decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Our guest is Robin Marty. Marty is director of operations at West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and author of the book "Handbook for a Post-Roe America" from Seven Stories Press. She was also just featured by NPR: “Patients in ‘trigger law’ states reorient after access to abortion care halts.”
KMUD simulcasts its programming on two full power FM stations: KMUE 88.1 in Eureka and KLAI 90.3 in Laytonville. It also maintains a translator at 99.5 FM in Shelter Cove, California.
We also stream live from the web at https://kmud.org/
Speak with our guest live and on-the-air at: KMUD Studio (707) 923-3911.
— John Sakowicz
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 2, 2022
ANDREW CEDILLO, Redwood Valley. Attempt-aid-counsel or procure arson, incendiary device, violation of domestic violence court order with prior, battery with serious injury, vandalism.
ANDREA GONZALES, Ukiah. Embezzlement, false personation of another, controlled substance, paraphernalia, failure to appear.
JAMES HOFFMAN SR., Ukiah. Burglary tools, parole violation.
JOSE LOPEZ-CAMPOS, Hanford/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, misdemeanor hit&run, controlled substance without prescription, more than an ounce of pot.
ISSAC MCCOVEY JR., Willits. Disturbing the peace by loud and unreasonable noise, vandalism, disorderly conduct-alcohol.
MICHAEL MCGEE, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, failure to appear.
MARK PALLEY, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ELISABETH SHOEMAKER, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
SANTOS SILVA-MENDOZA, Oroville/Ukiah. Loaded handgun not registered owner.
TY SIMPSON, Potter Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LIAM SMITH, Willits. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, disobeying court order.
JESSICA WHISMAN-FRIDAY, Laytonville. Stolen vehicle, DUI-drugs&alcohol, taking vehicle without owner’s consent, failure to appear.
UKRAINE, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3RD
by Jordyn Beazley & Martin Belam
Russia accuses US of direct involvement in war; ship loaded with corn arrives at Black Sea entrance under export deal; sanctions on Putin girlfriend
The first shipment of grain to leave Ukraine under a deal to ease Russia’s naval blockade has reached Turkey. The Sierra Leone-registered ship, Razoni, set sail from Odesa port for Lebanon on Monday under an accord brokered by Turkey and the United Nations. The ship has been inspected by members of the Joint Coordination Centre, and is now expected to move through the Bosporus strait “shortly”.
The Ukrainian president has dismissed the importance of the first grain export shipment from his country since Russia invaded, saying it was carrying a fraction of the crop Kyiv must sell to help salvage its shattered economy. Volodymr Zelenskiy’s downbeat comments, via video to students in Australia on Wednesday, came as an inspection of the ship was completed in Turkey before it continues to its final destination in Lebanon under a deal aimed at easing a global food crisis.
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has insisted that Russia had no reason to hold up the return of a gas turbine for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. The turbine is stranded in Germany, following servicing in Canada, in an escalating standoff that has resulted in flows to Europe falling to a trickle, just 20% of capacity. Standing next to the turbine on a factory visit to Siemens Energy in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Scholz said it was fully operational and could be shipped back to Russia at any time – provided Moscow was willing to take it back.
Russia has started creating a military strike force aimed at Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih and warned that Moscow could be preparing new offensive operations in southern Ukraine, Ukraine said on Wednesday. Russia holds swathes of Ukraine’s south that it captured in the early phases of its invasion, but Kyiv has said it will mount a counter-offensive. It said on Tuesday it had already recaptured 53 villages in occupied Kherson region, Reuters reports.
The UN has said that there have been over 10m border crossings into and out of Ukraine since Russia launched its latest invasion of the country on 24 February. Data gathered by the UNHCR states that 6,180,345 individual refugees from Ukraine are now recorded across Europe. Ukraine’s neighbours have taken the largest individual numbers. Poland has 1.25 million refugees.
In its latest operation briefing, Russia’s ministry of defence has claimed that its strike on Radekhiv in the Lviv region “destroyed a storage base with foreign-made weapons and ammunition delivered to the Kyiv regime from Poland”. Earlier today, Lviv’s governor acknowledged the strike, and said “one building was damaged. Fortunately, no one was hurt.”
The UK’s Ministry of Defence says there is likely to be an increase in civilians attempting to flee Kherson and the surrounding area as hostilities continue and food shortages worsen, putting pressure on transport routes. They have also said that a Ukrainian strike against a Russian ammunition train in Kherson oblast, southern Ukraine, means it is “highly unlikely” the rail link between Kherson and Crimea is operational.
Mykola Tochytskyi, deputy minister of foreign affairs, has repeated Ukraine’s request for the skies over nuclear installations to be closed to prevent a potential accident and their misuse. He said: “For the first time in history, civil nuclear facilities have been turned into military targets and springboards for the Russian army in breach of the non-proliferation provisions on peaceful use of nuclear energy. The world witnesses how nuclear terrorism, sponsored by the nuclear-weapon state, is arising in reality. The robust joint actions are needed to prevent nuclear disaster at global scale. We ask to close the sky over the nuclear power plants in Ukraine.”
The US embassy in Kyiv has criticised what it says is a decision by Roskomnadzor, the Russian government’s media agency, to block a US government website – share.america.gov.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said the US has not offered Russia to resume talks on the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty.
Gerhard Schröder, a former German chancellor and friend of Vladimir Putin, said the Russian president wanted a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine and last month’s agreement on grain shipments might offer a way forward. “The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schröder told Stern weekly and broadcasters RTL/ntv, adding he had met Putin in Moscow last week. “A first success is the grain deal, perhaps that can be slowly expanded to a ceasefire.”
Ukraine has said any negotiated peace settlement with Moscow would be contingent on a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops, brushing off comments by Schroeder. In response on Wednesday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described Schroeder derisively as a “voice of the Russian royal court”.
Schröder has come under fire for a private meeting held with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, after he travelled on holiday to Moscow to meet him. Schröder is facing an investigation by the Social Democrats of which he has been a member since 1963, over his Kremlin links and his refusal to distance himself from Putin, and could yet be ejected from the party.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has been accused of glorifying war after she retweeted a Ukrainian tweet listing Russia’s war dead – described in an embedded graphic as “eliminated personnel”, before she quickly deleted it. The original tweet from the Ukrainian defence ministry quoted a Robert Burns poem saying “tyrants fall in every foe! Liberty’s in every blow! Let us do or die!”
Ukrainian refugees are likely to become victims of rising tensions and disinformation campaigns in their host countries, a report has warned. False reports exaggerating how much aid refugees receive compared with local people, as well as linking refugees with violent crime and political extremism, could cause a breakdown in relations with local communities, the charity World Vision said.
A group of Russian soldiers have accused their commanders of jailing them in eastern Ukraine for refusing to take part in the war. About 140 soldiers were detained and four have filed complaints with an investigative committee, said Maxim Grebenyuk, head of Moscow-based group Military Ombudsman.
Russia has accused the US of being “directly involved” in the war by supplying targeting information for Ukraine’s long-range missile strikes. Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s acting deputy head of military intelligence, denied US officials were providing direct targeting information but acknowledged there was consultation.
The US has imposed sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s purported lover. Alina Kabaeva, 39, landed on the latest update to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s specially designated nationals list – freezing any of her assets in the US and generally prohibiting Americans from dealing with her.
Russia’s supreme court has designated the Azov regiment – a former volunteer battalion that was incorporated into Ukraine’s army – a “terrorist” organisation, allowing for lengthy jail terms for its members.
The G7 is threatening to further deprive Russia of revenue by blocking services that enable the transportation of its oil globally if it doesn’t heed the proposed oil price cap. Russia has already stated it will not obey the cap and will ship to nations that don’t support the price ceiling.
Russia has carried out deadly strikes against Ukrainians in the eastern Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions, according to Reuters, which said it was yet to verify the battle reports.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
“Alex Jones Concedes Sandy Hook Attack Was ‘100% Real’”
I have to admit that I love this headline. The lying, bullying blowhard Jones gets put in his place in a court of law, after all these years and all the money he’s made by spewing vile lies about Sandy Hook. The courts are proving to be our last refuge in conspiracy world (as in Trump’s false claims about the election, shot-down in so many courtrooms around the nation). Facts matter and lies are exposed in such settings.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the reporting of this trial and Jones’ admissions:
“Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testified Wednesday that he now understands it was irresponsible of him to declare the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was ‘100% real.’
Speaking a day after the parents of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the 2012 attack testified about the suffering, death threats and harassment they’ve endured because of what Jones has trumpeted on his media platforms, the Infowars host told a Texas courtroom that he definitely thinks the attack happened.” (Politico, 8-3-22)
— Chuck Dunbar
August 2, 1916 - Newport, Kentucky native Brig. Gen. John T. Thompson formed the Auto-Ordnance Company to perfect his design for the Thompson submachine gun. Thompson was an 1882 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and retired from military service in 1914 after a 32-year military career. He was fascinated by the concept of automatic weapons and spent years experimenting with various versions. While World War I was underway, he focused on the creation of an effective, light-weight rifle capable of firing a significant number of rounds rapidly.
Thompson’s invention was perfected just as The Great War was coming to a close but years down the road, it was used in combat in World War II. Between the two wars, the submachine gun became the weapon of choice by organized crime organizations and some of the country’s legendary criminals. Thanks to gangsters in real life and sensational movies on the big screen that included the weapon, it came to be familiarly known as the “Tommy gun.”
Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” was a misnomer, making it out that Medicare for seniors is free. Far from it. Medicare funding comes from working people paying 1.45% of their income to the Medicare fund. At 65, a person pays $170.10 a month for Medicare — usually taken out of their Social Security check.
A person needs a supplemental plan for prescription drugs and medical costs. Choosing an HMO like Kaiser Permanente includes prescriptions and medical services for a low monthly cost. Monthly premiums vary depending on annual out-of-pocket costs, with a cap.
But you are limited to the network in an HMO. Choose a PPO for your medical plan and prescription drugs and monthly costs are higher and varying premiums affect your out-of-pocket costs. However, this gives you more freedom choosing doctors and pharmacies.
Medicare does not offer direct medical services. It’s an administrative organization that collects money to pay administrative and health care costs. It reimburses money to health care organizations that provide the services and prescriptions drugs. Medicare also sets the rules to access health services.
BILL RUSSELL WAS A REVOLUTIONARY
by Dave Zirin
William Felton Russell revolutionized basketball with a simple innovation: jumping. In an era when players were told to stay fastened to the ground when playing defense, he jumped. And when Bill Russell jumped, he blocked shots. He blocked so many shots—while averaging an astounding 22.5 rebounds a game—that even though the blocked shot was not a stat that was kept during his day, it is widely assumed that he is the all-time leader. Russell turned the blocked shot into an art form and played unselfish basketball en route to 11 championships and five MVPs in 13 years with the Boston Celtics. And he was cagey about shot blocking, famously observing, “The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”
He also played a role in revolutionizing politics, and at this moment when the GOP is trying to roll back time—to in effect kill the reforms and memory of the Black freedom struggle—remembering his legacy is especially vital.
Russell flourished in a climate, both in Boston and around the country, that was relentlessly hostile toward him and his family because he was a famous Black man willing to speak his mind. Russell held a mirror up to this country. He once said, “We have got to make the white population uncomfortable, because that is the only way to get their attention.”
He believed that the discomfort he caused among white Bostonians in particular counted as progress, because they were far too comfortable with their own racism. Russell, of whom there is now a statue in front of the Celtics arena, was treated terribly during a career that spanned the core years of the Black freedom struggle. People broke into his home, scrawled racial epithets on the walls, and even defecated in his bed. He once told a story about his car breaking down in Boston in a thunderstorm and his being unable to flag down a ride but hearing people curse at him as they drove by. During the Russell dynasty, most Celtics games didn’t even sell out. That is why when his career was over, he said “I am a Celtic, not a Boston Celtic.” That is why he called Boston “a flea market of racism.” That is why he did not show up in 1972 when the team retired his number. But that is also why, when he reconciled with the team in 1999, and the fans stood and cheered, it was more than just a basketball honor.
This was a special person, the kind of human being who would walk alongside Dr. Martin Luther King at the March on Washington but then declined to be on stage, because he had no patience for celebrity culture and thought that if he stood at the front, he would be disrespecting those risking their lives to end American apartheid.
This quest to draw the good from this country by making the white majority uncomfortable was also seen in 1967 when Russell stood with Muhammad Ali, who was reviled for resisting the draft and refusing to fight in Vietnam. His solidarity led to one of my all-time favorite Russell quotes. A reporter asked him, “Are you concerned about Muhammad Ali?” Russell paused and responded, “I’m not worried about Muhammad Ali. He is better equipped than anyone I know to withstand the trials in store for him. What I’m worried about is the rest of us.”
He also famously would make autograph seekers uncomfortable, refusing—even when criticized for it—to be treated like a commodity or anything less than a full human being. I can say from experience that approaching Russell for an autograph was a mistake, but approaching him and sharing that you agreed with his political commitment? That would earn you a smile and maybe a friendly, infectious laugh.
Russell never stopped defending what was right. He took a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick while wearing his Olympic gold medal, in a viral photo.
In 2020, he spoke out in support of the NBA players who went on strike after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., backing them with moral authority and helping force the NBA and then most of the professional sports to almost entirely shut down in protest of racialized police violence. He would introduce himself as a civil rights activist.
Russell was a giant in the truest sense: fearless in the face of injustice—and never cared that he made bigots uncomfortable.
THE MYTHOLOGY OF WAR
West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich discusses his new book, a collection of essays by combat veterans who excoriate the myths of war.
by Chris Hedges
Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army Colonel who fought in Vietnam, and Danny Sjursen, a retired Army Major who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, have just published Paths of Dissent: Soldiers Speak Out Against America’s Misguided Wars. Bacevich and Sjursen, West Point graduates, like many writers in the book, come out of the military culture. They began as true believers, embracing the myths of American goodness and virtue and the military honor code pounded into them as young cadets at the military academy. The reality of combat, as it has for generations, exposed the lies told by the generals and politicians. We are not a good and virtuous nation. God does not bless us above other nations. Victory is not assured. War is not noble and uplifting. The clash between the reality of combat, and the mythical version of combat consumed by the public, one that propels young men and women into war, creates not only dissonance and moral injury, but an existential crisis combat veterans, at least those who are self-reflective, must cope with for the rest of their lives.…
HOW CRAZY-ASS TOM CRUISE & "Top Gun" Saved America
America needs to get back to meaningless fun, and "Top Gun: Maverick" delivers in colossal doses
by Matt Taibbi
In a classic Beavis and Butt-Head episode the boys watch a video of U2’s One. They hear Bono’s lyrics:
Is it getting better?
Or do you feel the same?
They see a blurry buffalo running in slow motion through a field of tall grass. “Whoa!”says Beavis. “That’s a big dog!” Next, shots of the word “One” written in various languages flash on TV — Une, Aon, 하나— followed by cuts to a still shot of a sunflower field, which zooms out, eventually fading back to the slo-mo buffalo. “Is this like a quiz?” asks Butt-Head.
“This is like school,” says Beavis. “This means something.”
Over the weekend I saw the much-hyped Top Gun: Maverick. Two hours of bad-ass plane battles. It wasn’t art. It didn’t mean anything. And it was awesome. I left the theater genuinely sad to be back in 2022 America.
In a gutsy call, considering how high-tech the movie’s effects and roller-coaster direction were, the film opened with a scruffy-looking Tom Cruise — his “real life” costume — looking like he’d eaten a canister of happy pills as he delivered an 50s-style apostrophic intro to the long-awaited sequel. Sounding like a proud Dad, he told audiences to buckle up for “real Gs” and the “most immersive and authentic film experience” they could muster.
Cut to: the most unapologetically corny script ever, but one that works all the way. It’s every film cliché in history! It’s “Washed up hero gets one last chance at glory” meets “Fulfilling a dying friend’s last request” meets “Hand over your gun and badge!” (it’s a movie about pilots, so the actual line is, “You’re grounded!”) meets “Slow-running man impossibly escapes fusillade of helicopter-fired automatic weapons” meets “Boy and girl ride off into the sunset.”
Is it brainless propaganda? Hell yes! In the one scene where an atavistic sourpuss reflex kicked in for me, Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson — played by dialed-down Mad Men survivor Jon Hamm — explained the Top Gun “mission”:
Let’s get to the goal. An unauthorized uranium enrichment plant. It was built in violation of numerous NATO agreements. The uranium produced there poses a direct threat to our allies in the region. The Pentagon has given us the task of forming an assault team to destroy it before it is fully operational…
If you want to be a dick about it, and apparently at least one reviewer was, you can do the math and conclude the best candidate for the enemy described is Iran, which not only didn’t violate our joint agreement with them, but apparently kept adhering to it after we ourselves violated the deal in the Trump years. But the premise is fictional, the landscape ends up looking more like Russia or China, they never come back to the politics, and beyond that, the situation is so totally absurd that you’d have to be nuts to be offended by it. The whole premise is ripped directly from Star Wars anyway, right down to the ticking clock before the deadly weapons station is “fully operational,” and the impenetrable enemy air defense whose one fatal mistake is not accounting for the gifted super-pilots of Our Team zig-zagging under the radar to bullseye a one-in-a-million shot at blinding speed.
It’s “just like Beggar’s canyon back home,” or in this case just like the dartboard at the famous I Bar Navy hangout in San Diego, where Cruise’s Pete Mitchell watched flyboys throw bullseyes one after another, even with hands over their eyes. How accurate does the real attack team have to be? “Your target is in an area of less than 3 meters,” the Top Gun pilots are told solemnly in training, at which every last perfect-looking actor exhales in relief: that’s a whole meter wider than the Death Star shot! (“The target area is only 2 meters wide,” General Dodona said back in 1977).
The action-movie allusions are this bald throughout and you’re all for it. The pre-flight ritual dialogue between ground-bound Bernie “Hondo” Coleman (“I don’t like that look, Mav”) and airspeed record-smasher Mitchell (“It’s the only one I’ve got”) feels shot-for shot like Levon Helm’s Ripley character ritualistically offering Sam Shepard’s Chuck Yeager his last stick of Beemans before he broke the airspeed record in The Right Stuff. Ed Harris, who’s in both movies, does a great job in Maverick of pretending he’s never seen a hot-shit test pilot defy orders, blast past an impossible Mach barrier, incinerate a gazillion-dollar plane, and show up in the next scene walking in a daze with a grease-covered face after ejecting at high altitude.
The only other time my cerebral cortex even flickered during Top Gun: Maverick was during the hilarious swipe at Lockheed-Martin screenwriters inserted mid-movie. The whole film is a Boeing ad, so it made sense, but it was still genius. In fact, the tale of an aging but still impossibly fit Cruise/Mitchell being called back into service for a crucial mission after being deemed a dinosaur by colleagues is a naked metaphor for the career path of the movie’s other main character, the Boeing F-18. In real life the Super Hornet has been written out of the defense budget two years running, only to be re-inserted at the last minute by congressional Rabbis (the legislative equivalent of Mitchell’s sole friend high in the Navy brass, Val Kilmer’s Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, who keeps intervening to prevent Cruise’s decommissioning).
Given all that backstory, the Boeing/Lockheed subplot works as priceless corporate pettiness. When Cruise/Mitchell is asked to assess the low feasibility of the proposed mission, he goes out of his way to dump on Lockheed-Martin’s next-generation F-35:
Sir, normally, with the F-35s flying in silent mode, this would be child’s play. But GPS jamming throws it away… I think it’s achievable with an F-18.
This line apparently generated controversy among people who care about fighter jets, and I’ve since seen humorously earnest articles about how a Top Gun: Maverick featuring F-35s would have been “boring” because the plane kills too easily, from a distance. It doesn’t matter. The rest of the movie is gasp-inducing shots of actors and actresses perched on vomit-edge as they pilot fearsome-looking planes through supersonic versions of the World War II dogfights that of course never happen anymore. (It’s not an accident that Mitchell’s downtime hobby involves working on a P-51 Mustang Cruise actually owns, or that he and Jennifer Connelly end the film by literally riding off into the sunset in the thing). The audio booms out of this world and really makes the movie in parts, particularly the CLANG!-swerve-CLANG! scenes where Mitchell slams the stick as he grimaces his way through the test course. The plot is so vague and trite and so nakedly an ad for military hardware that it’s impossible to be mad at. It’s just fun. How many things in the last seven, eight years in America have just been fun?
I wasn’t a fan of the original Top Gun. In fact, the only scenes I could even remember from the first movie were the Righteous Brothers bar serenade of Kelly McGillis and the death of Maverick’s mustache-wielding wingman “Goose,” and when Top Gun: Maverick replayed the latter scene I realized I didn’t even remember that correctly. I’d filed away the far more ridiculous Hot Shots version of Goose’s death — he’s called “Dead Meat” in the spoof, where his pen runs out before takeoff, but no problem, he tells his loving wife, he’ll sign his life insurance “when I get back” — and mistaken it for the real thing. When I went back and looked that scene up, I realized it, too, had a “lucky gum” reference, making the heroic test-pilot-movie confusion total.
When the original Top Gun came out in the eighties, America’s culture-war dynamic was still plenty hot but ran in a different direction. Anti-Reagan malcontents (I was one) stewed over the Hollywood-Pentagon partnership and quietly seethed at the film’s makers for plunging millions into a script that read like a two-hour” not just a job, an adventure” Navy ad written over a single Burger King lunch (the legendary “500% recruitment increase” the film supposedly triggered is apocryphal, by the way). That movie did monster box office, grossing $357 million, but even in hindsight I’m not convinced it was all that. Val Kilmer’s abs were probably more of a draw than the dogfight scenes (I’d argue it wasn’t near the second-best Kilmer movie of the period, being clearly behind Top Gun! and Real Genius. If drunk enough I might even argue for Willow). Moreover the era was packed with other great movies like Blade Runner and Full Metal Jacket, so there were reasons to scoff at a jingoistic Cruise vehicle shot with a Navy PR officer on set with veto power over its wooden script.
Fast forward 36 years. Not only are we on the brink of what feels like civil war, and as of this week flirting with real war with two different superpowers, we’re nearly a decade into a crippling fun shortage. We have complexes about every holiday from Christmas to Thanksgiving to the Fourth of July, the president has been severely disordered or clinically dead for at least six years, and the most famous standup performance in a generation involved Chris Rock getting man-slapped by the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
America used to be a global leader in brainless entertainment, particularly featuring explosions, boobs, and weightlifters, but since Trump’s election Hollywood’s been in a funk and spent years trying to bury its baser instincts and reinvent itself as Highbrow and Caring. This resulted in a thousand iterations of self-serious films straining to make the miserable entertaining (Bill Maher’s take on the perfect modern Oscar hopeful was The Immigrant Who Shit in a Coffee Can). Of all the negative by-products of Trump’s election, one of the most subtly destructive was alienating America from the one thing we’ve consistently done well, the lowest common denominator. For no good reason, politics has made a big chunk of the country wary of Cheez Whiz, mud wrestling, commercials about pickup trucks carrying other pickup trucks up mountains of boulders, and a hundred other mindless awesome things in our blood.
This country sucks at highbrow, we’re great at stupid, and since there’s nothing more stupid than stupid highbrow, we’ve spent the last half-decade exporting the most embarrassing conceivable content on a grand scale. This has just made everybody, left and right, more uptight and pissed at each other. When we get back to embracing shark panics, Hang in There Baby office posters, and weightlifters/models blowing each other out of the sky with billion-dollar weapons, my guess is we’ll all start feeling better. Thank you, Tom Cruise, you lunatic. You’ve helped the healing begin.