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TEMPERATURES WILL BE SLIGHTLY WARMER today under a passing ridge. A strong cold front will move across the area late Monday, ushering in much colder temperatures, rain and mountain snow, and occasionally gusty winds. (NWS)
CAL FIRE and California State Parks are conducting a prescribed burn in Humboldt Redwood State Park intended to address 450 acres of the forest understory. While firefighters manage the flames, Mendocino County is getting hit with smoke.…
THE UKIAH POLICE CHIEF SAGA
by Mike Geniella
The unofficial word is that former Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich won’t face any criminal charges stemming from an investigation into a woman’s criminal complaint that he abused her in some fashion.
“Local investigators believe there is no evidence of any criminal act but his conduct as police chief was definitely outside of any acceptable norm,” said a law enforcement source with knowledge of the accusations made five months ago against Waidelich. Another source said, “hard evidence” is lacking “but he doesn’t belong in the police chief’s position.”
Hard to judge the reality of Waidelich’s predicament because nothing is officially known about the encounter by anyone except the woman, and law enforcement who looked into her criminal complaint. No one is saying anything about details although the former police chief’s story is a hot topic behind closed doors.
Waidelich was fired by City Manager Sage Sangiacomo on June 17 almost immediately after Sonoma County sheriff’s investigators were asked to review an assault allegation filed against the police chief by a Ukiah woman. She is a well-known supporter and friend of local law enforcement leaders. Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall, who was first alerted to the allegation, asked for the outside investigation because of the Ukiah police department’s close working relationship with his own department.
Ever since then Waidelich’s case has been shrouded in secrecy. Investigators, prosecutors, and attorneys involved remain mum about the circumstances, and any investigative findings. So does Waidelich, and his accuser.
A blue wall of silence encircles Waldelich.
His is one of two high profile police misconduct cases that have rocked local law enforcement this year, raising questions about how they are overseen by local authorities.
In July, a former Ukiah Police Sergeant agreed to a sweetheart plea deal struck by the Santa Rosa law firm of Andrian & Gellenson and District Attorney David Eyster and approved by the sentencing judge. Kevin Murray, whose trial was twice postponed, unexpectedly had three serious felony sex charges dropped by the DA’s Office. Probation officers independently recommended at least a year jail term for Murray even on the pared down charges, but eventually the disgraced cop was only placed on a year’s probation.
The plea deal provoked condemnation from an alleged sexual assault victim of Murray, and it generated widespread media coverage and demonstrations outside the Mendocino County Courthouse.
The apparent no charge scenario in Waidelich’s case is likely to create a stir too, which some sources believe is behind the DA’s move to delay announcing an outcome to allow more space between Murray’s controversial sentencing in late August. If Waidelich is not charged, some people are already wondering whether the former police chief might have grounds for a wrongful termination action.
City Manager Sage Sangiacomo, however, says he stands by his original assessment when he stripped Waidelich of his badge five months ago.
“Recent events have transpired, illuminating the fact that this individual is not a good fit for the city,” Sangiacomo said then. “Our community deserves better.” Sangiacomo also said then that Waidelich violated unspecified police department policies separate from and in addition to the criminal investigation.
Only a handful of people know any details of the Waidelich matter, and they are not talking.
The silence is especially deafening in face of the community controversy this summer over the Murray plea deal.
It is as if nothing has been learned by local authorities on how to manage high profile police misconduct cases. They issue press releases and statements on the most mundane of criminal matters including sentencing on misdemeanor DUI convictions but when it comes to one of their own, details about police misconduct seem to be shared only among themselves.
DA Eyster, for example, toyed for weeks after the completed Sonoma investigative report was turned over to him before he, under pressure, asked for an independent review by the state Attorney General’s Office on whether he has conflicts in deciding Waidelich’s fate.
Decide for yourselves.
In 2017, Eyster was named as one of the defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by a former live in partner of Waidelich. Two years before Amanda Carley, a county probation officer and former employee in the DA’s Office, had accused Waidelich of domestic abuse but Eyster refused to press charges. Carley admitted she initially was reluctant to cooperate with investigators after her daughter told school officials about the domestic violence going on in the family home. The woman, as typical in many domestic violence cases, said she was untruthful in the beginning because of the feared professional impact on Waidelich, a popular police officer, and her family’s economic security. Investigators ultimately concluded she was telling the truth.
Eyster not only declined to prosecute, but he also took the extraordinary step of listing Carley on a so-called “Brady List,” identifying her as unreliable as a witness in legal proceedings. The move effectively ended her career in local law enforcement.
Carley claims the DA was the “architect” of a smear campaign against her, and that his actions led her to leave her job and move to Southern California where she became a criminal investigator for the state.
Eyster eventually was able at a cost of $50,000 to county taxpayers to hire SF attorneys to have him stricken from the lawsuit under state Anti-Slapp provisions that grant prosecutors immunity from actions taken on the job.
It is clear DA Eyster is entangled in the messy Waidelich-Carley litigation. How can anyone believe he is able to act without prejudice in deciding the outcome of the current criminal complaint against Waidelich?
Let’s hope the state AG will review all aspects of the Waidelich case in a timely fashion.
Waidelich and the public deserve a fair and unbiased evaluation of this case. Nothing less. Why can’t Eyster and local law enforcement involved understand the importance of an objective review that the public can trust? The Waidelich case is of significant public interest. It is a former Police Chief we are talking about here.
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
RORY is a 2 year old, delightful and oh-so-handsome Lab mix. He’s a realsweetheart, but needs a little help beefing up his confidence. Rory’s a charmer, and likes to be right by your side--what we cann a “velcro” dog. He’s a mellow guy who, during his evaluation, found a spot under a desk and took a nap. Rory spent a day on a Fido Field Trip with one of theshelter’s great volunteers, and his report noted that yes indeedy, Rorycan take a nap just about anywhere! Rory’s learning that a leash meansfun times are ahead! With a little patience and TLC, we know he will be awell adjusted and loved member of his new family.
To see more about this darlin’ dog, and our other dog and cat guests, head to mendoanimalshelter.com
For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453.
DO YOU WANT A SKATEPARK IN BOONVILLE? If so, the AV Skatepark Project needs you -- and all passionate supporters -- to show up to the upcoming November 8th AVUSD school board meeting to prove to the board that the AV community stands behind a skatepark. Here are the details:
What: AVUSD School Board will decide whether to transfer community park property to AVCSD, making or breaking the possibility of a skatepark.
When: Tuesday, Nov 8, 5:30pm
Where: AV High School Cafeteria
How: Show up and WEAR GREEN to show your support! Or show up early and buy an official AV Skatepark t-shirt.
Visit avskatepark.org to learn more, sign the petition and donate.
— Noor Dawood, Anderson Valley Adult School, office: 707-895-2953
UNINTENTIONALLY FUNNY BIG FOOT STORY on MendoFever this morning, especially if you think all these hallucinations or mistaken identifications are funny. Which I do, but they recur and recur as a kind of low intensity subtext to the whole unexplained occurrences genre dominated, of course, by UFOs. It wasn't enough for the Big Footers when that old logger up in Orick gave the media a tour of his garage containing all his Big Foot gear. He admitted that slipping into his Big Foot costume was his weekend recreation for many years. All by himself, this guy was responsible for many Big Foot sightings.
THE PRIMARY MENDO MYTH, I think, is the one that claims there's a series of underground caves running east through Lake County and on up into the Sierras. I've also heard the liquid version of this one, which says there's an underground river running along the same route.
THE PELOSI ATTACK is shocking only because attacks on monied people are rare, and they're rare because money isolates and protects them from the random attacks by street nuts suffered by ordinary people every day everywhere in the country. The demoralizing increase in the incidence of street violence has been seized by the fascist party as one more effective weapon against the conservative liberals of the Biden-Clinton-Pelosi type who have ignored the increase in everyday violence until Fatso the Nudist turned up in Pelosi's house in San Francisco. Which will now result in big appropriations of public money for security for all officeholders while the rest of us remain fair game.
SO, MR. EDITOR, how would you handle SF's street crime? The cliched response to that question is usually a blithe, “Well, golly, you can't arrest your way out of it, can you?” I think you have to start with the assumption that mad dog capitalism has destroyed social bonds of all types, leaving US with millions of dependent Thanatoids who will have to be sequestered and cared for for their entire lives. Which won't happen because the political duopoly we suffer, surrounded by bodyguards and living in gated communities and heavily policed suburbs, has gotten us to a perfect two-tier them and us entropy that will only get worse for us.
IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE: Japan said it would start subsidizing electricity bills to help families struggling with high food and energy prices.
THE STATE OF THINGS: Boris Johnson, representing western nations, supposedly sank a peace deal early on brokered by Turkey between Ukraine and Russia. Anthony Blinken does zero negotiating for peace, rather he’s constantly on tour to sell more weapons. At home, none of the political candidates recognize that “It’s the economy, stupid,” as they fight over abortion, gender and “standing with Ukraine.” And Xi has his predecessor manhandled out of a live televised ceremony.
PLEASE SHUT UP and go away: Hillary Clinton said “extremist” Republicans — is there some other kind? — have a plan underway to steal the 2024 presidential election in a video urging Americans to vote for Democratic legislatures in their states. The two-minute clip urged Americans to look past the 2022 midterms and turn out to vote in their local elections, because she says the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court might give state legislatures the power to overturn results. “Right-wing extremists already have a plan to literally steal the next presidential election - and they're not making a secret of it,” Clinton claimed.
CHECK this edict, my fellow technophobes. The NCS playoffs require all tickets to the game to be sold digitally and visitors must use their smartphones as the ticketing device. I don't have a smart phone, and I'm sure a lot of us geezers are similarly blessed, so how do get in? (We don't.)
PURE RACKETEERING for the purpose of funding a high school sports bureaucracy that has no real reason to exist: “NCS is working with GoFan to go exclusively to online ticketing for all rounds of section championships during the 2022-2023 school year. Tickets must be purchased online in advance through GoFan Ticketing. No cash sales will take place at the event. Admission Fees: General Admission (adults) $12.00; Special $5.00 (seniors, students, & children with adults).”
Here is a shortcut link to the ticketing page: https://gofan.co/app/events/748769?schoolId=CA22853
Please share this link to anyone interested in attending.
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WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
To get a Powerball ticket. The jackpot's worth $825 million tonight.
You realize your chances of winning are the same as not playing?
I understand that, but thank you for the reminder.
Then why do you play?
I play for the same reason millions of people play, to imagine what I'd do with the money.
What would you do with the money?
I'd buy a life time's supply of macadamia nuts, but beyond that I have no plans.
MENDO’S LONG-DELAYED ATTEMPT TO CLARIFY THE CHIEF PROBATION OFFICER CONFLICT FLOPS
by Mark Scaramella
Item 4c on Tuesday’s Board Agenda is: “Discussion and Possible Action Including Approval of Memorandum of Understanding with The Mendocino County Superior Court for the Appointment and Review of the Chief Probation Officer. (Sponsor: County Counsel)”
The County’s Chief Probation Officer is appointed by the Courts and works for the Courts and provides most of its work produce to the Courts, but the County/Supervisors pay for it. It’s an odd arrangement that has created not only budget problems, but in one recent case, an awkward and costly situation in 2017 which found former Chief Probation Officer named Pam Markham having sex in her office with at least one of her subordinates which created not only a scandal but forced Mendo to pay for interim Chief Probation Officers while Ms. Markham was on paid leave while the Courts dithered (“investigated”) about what to do about the Markham problem. Mendo probably would have dispensed with Ms. Markham and her months of high pay sooner than the Courts did, but the Presiding Judge took his/her time because the County was paying, not the courts.
In the slo-mo aftermath of that scandal, in September of 2019, nearly two years after the scandal, the Supervisors issued a directive County Counsel to “Determine Feasibility of Transitioning the Chief Probation Officer to Report to the Board of Supervisors.…” and “directs County Counsel and the Chief Executive Officer to draft an Ordinance regarding transitioning the Chief Probation Officer to report the Board of Supervisors and bring back to the Board of Supervisors for approval.”
In typical Mendo timing, three years later County Counsel Christian Curtis has finally delivered a proposed hybrid arrangement (“Memorandum of Agreement”) to the Board which calls for the Supervisors to nominate and the Courts to appoint the Chief Probation Officer. It also sets up a “selection committee” of judges and county officials, and gives the County an opportunity to review the CPO’s performance and recommend disciplinary action, but still leaves the review and the discipline to the Presiding Judge. The proposed new agreement also notes that “Each party is liable for the acts and omissions of itself and its employees and agents, including future consequences of said actions and omissions” — which of course is meaningless legalese since “liability” (i.e., cost) would still stick the County with the bill for any Markham-style “liability.” The proposal also calls for pointless “non-binding mediation” which, if unsuccessful, allows that “either party may pursue any available legal remedies,” which is pretty much what they already could do.
The new arrangement is probably a little better than no arrangement at all, but it still leaves the County holding the bag while providing a fig leaf of legalistic mumbo-jumbo that depends on the willingness of the local lawyer-judges to cooperate. Ultimately, if a budget dispute were to arise, there’s nothing in the proposed arrangement which would force the Courts to cover the costs of their own poor decisions or inaction.
MASTURBATION CULT WOOFS AT KZYX
To: Mendocino County Public Broadcasting KZYX Board of Directors
PO Box 1, Philo. CA 95466
RE: Kate and Keith Feigin — Demand for Correction/Retraction:
October 5, 2022, Broadcast and Article “Prison monastery Linked to Multi-Million Dollar Orgasmic Meditation Cult Suspended from County Jail”
Kate and Keith Feigin were, until recently, well-respected and productive members of the Mendocino County Community. Then KZYX broadcast the results of a KZYX investigation that smeared the good name of Kate, and by association, her husband, Keith. The broadcast and any accompanying article described above contained false statements of fact, both direct and implied, that have the propensity to harm, and have harmed, both of my clients’ personal and professional reputations, causing them injury.
All of those to whom this letter is addressed will be referred to in this letter collectively as “you.”
Publication/Broadcast of False Statements of Fact:
The direct and implied false statements of fact referenced above are summarized in bold below, and the truth is shown in italics:
The broadcast’s general implication is that jail inmates were being sexually exploited in the jail, and that, by implication, Kate Feigin is either responsible or was involved. The truth is that jail inmates were not being sexually exploited. Period.
Kate Feigin has nothing to do with the practice of orgasmic meditation and has never promoted it to the incarcerated populations she serves.
The article expressed concern that inmates would be vulnerable to exploitation through the so-called spiritual curriculum, which revolved around a self-published book called “the Art of Soulmaking.”
The jail population is well protected by the Restorative Justice Program Manager, and inmate vulnerability is not only recognized, but is carefully considered in everything the jail staff does. Sarah Reith exposed an incarcerated person’s photo without his knowledge or consent and placed it next to a photo of a person sticking their finger in an open jar of lube. This act was exploitation of a member of the vulnerable population she claims to care about. Sarah Reith did not interview any participants of the Art of Soulmaking and ask them if they felt exploited by UFP or the program.
The program included a penpal component with mystery address labels and unknown correspondents, and quote from Kate Feigin explaining it.
The “mystery address” is just a mail scanning service. All outgoing mail is monitored by jail staff before leaving the facility, and then scanned and checked for suspicious activity by the mail scanning service.
One of the Unconditional Freedom volunteers also worked at Juvenile Hall, though he was never alone with inmates, and the curriculum was not in use among the minors.
This implies that the volunteer is not a safe individual to be around children, and that jail staff is responsible for exposing jail inmates to someone who is a danger for children. There is no truth to any of this.
“A Bloomberg piece from 2018 reported former OneTaste members’ allegations that the company pressured its sales team to work long hours selling seats at OneTaste events, often to pay off staggering debts they themselves had incurred to receive higher and higher levels of certification in “the practice,” which consists of one person stroking a woman’s clitoris for exactly 15 minutes, often in a group setting. And in 2020, the BBC released a ten-part podcast called the “Orgasm Cult,” which interviewed subject matter experts and chronicled the experiences of people who claimed that the organization engaged in abusive and controlling practices to make money from sex.”
This statement is implying that this practice was happening at the jail with inmates. The implication is completely false.
An attorney for Unconditional Freedom insisted that there is no legal connection between OneTaste and Unconditional Freedom, though they share key personnel, a website, and a mailing address.
This statement is used to support the implied argument is that Unconditional Freedom is acting on behalf of OneTaste to recruit inmates and that jail staff, including – and especially - Kate Feigin, are either complicit or responsible for the abuse of jail inmates. This is completely untrue.
“According to OneTaste’s website, which went live this year, there does seem to be some kind of relationship between the service organization and a company that’s been dogged by reports of financially and sexually exploitive practices. Numerous professional profiles and advertisements for past OneTaste events identify eight current or former OneTaste personnel among the Unconditional Freedom volunteers who appear in months-long correspondence between Kate Feigin, the inmate services coordinator for the Mendocino County jail, and the organization’s leadership. (The connection between Unconditional Freedom and OneTaste was initially reported last year by B.T. Linhden.)”
“Months-long correspondence” implies Kate Feigin is involved in a conspiracy, and that is completely untrue.
Until a few days ago, the OneTaste website featured a photograph of a Mendocino County jail inmate whom we were able to identify by distinctive tattoos that were visible in photographs Feigin attached to an email she sent to Marcus Ratnathicam, the Executive Director of Unconditional Freedom and a former coach at OneTaste.
This was said to support the implied statement, argued as a fact, that Kate Feigin is conspiring with Unconditional Freedom to harm and abuse jail inmates, and that is completely untrue.
The eight-week curriculum includes brief before-and-after surveys, where inmates self-report a 24% reduction in depression, 23% less use of drugs and alcohol (which they are not supposed to have in the jail anyway), and 16% less anger. Objective measurements like recidivism and post-release employment, housing, and sobriety were not immediately available.
The survey measures inmate desire to use, not actual use because they are incarcerated. However, if there is actual use, despite the prohibitions against it, reducing desire reduces that use. The reporter did not ask for that data, and apparently was not interested in seeing it. The broadcast attempts to discredit the survey results and insert the reporter’s own metrics like employment and housing. The attempt here is to invalidate the survey results and insert their own values into the narrative, discrediting Feigin.
Inmate Services Coordinator Kate Feigin said the curriculum does include making connections with the outside world. “Part of the Art of Soulmaking is that you connect with a mentor on the outside of jail, and they write letters back and forth with the incarcerated person, and they go through the lessons in the workbook with them, to help them deepen the lessons that they’re learning,” she explained.
Kate Feigin’s work title is Restorative Justice Program Manager, not Inmate Services Coordinator. She supervises the Inmate Services Coordinator. Not knowing this is a sign that the facts were not carefully researched, and the implied charges of being part of a conspiracy are false.
We discovered when we looked at one of the inmate Art of Soulmaking packets which contained two envelopes with mailing stickers to an addressee. Inmates receive instructions informing them that removing the stickers “will constitute immediate removal from the program.”
This statement, made in the context of the broadcast, implies that The Art of Soulmaking is some kind of OneTaste sex manual, and a recruiting tool for OneTaste. The truth is that the book has nothing to do with sex and has no sexual content, or context, whatsoever. The broadcast’s use of the phrase “We discovered” implies that something secretive and nefarious was happening with the envelopes and addresses. The truth is that UF switched to a new, larger volume mail scanning service and put the new address on top of the old one. Inmates would have been removed from the program if they removed address stickers.
When we removed the sticker, we found another label underneath–this one to the address shared by OneTaste, Unconditional Freedom, and the Institute of OM, which offers intimacy training packages for upwards of $500, claiming that studies show that “OM has been shown to produce mystical experiences on par with the second highest dose of psilocybin.”
This creates a false connection between the envelope in the inmate’s hand and OneTaste, implying that they were being recruited into OM workshops with the help and cooperation of jail staff, especially Kate Feigin. The drug reference makes the argument worse, implying a conspiracy to do even greater harm to jail inmates.
The broadcast implied that there is a nefarious purpose behind the inmate penpal program.
This implies that UF might be recruiting currently and formerly incarcerated people into a sex cult through pen pals with the assistance of jail staff, including Kate Feigin.
The broadcast emphasized that UP volunteers are never allowed to be alone with underage inmates.
The implied statement is that UP volunteers a a danger to children, and jail staff are part of a conspiracy to place jail inmates in the presence of people who are a danger to children.
Demand For Correction/Retraction:
There is more, but I am sure you get the point: the broadcast and any accompanying article was an inexplicable “hit piece” designed to ruin the reputation of Kate Feigin and, by association, her husband. The aforementioned false statements of fact have defamed my clients, damaging their personal and professional reputations and causing them to be shunned in the community where they live and work. Previous to your defamatory broadcast/publications Mr. and Mrs. Feigin enjoyed good reputations among their neighbors, co-workers, customers and business associates. After your defamatory articles and broadcasts, Kate Feigin has been referred to in public as “Mendocino County’s new Jim Jones.”
On a personal note, I want you to know that I have been practicing law for more than 34 years, most of it spent representing and advising small news media outlets throughout California. I am the proud recipient of the California News Publisher’s Association’s Freedom of Information award. I have acted as a visiting professor and guest lecturer instructing student journalists, most recently at Stanford University.
Never in all my years of working with reporters have I ever encountered a more heinous example of bad, irresponsible, sensationalist, tabloid misuse of journalistic power and privilege. The reporting was biased, uninformed and simply wrong – spinning a conspiracy to harm jail inmates through guilt by association, with the ultimate result being incarcerated people denied valuable rehabilitative services and the reputations of good people being destroyed.
This letter is not being sent for the purpose of intimidating anyone or trying to silence free speech: it is being sent as the first step needed to rectify a gross injustice.
The damage you have caused to my clients cannot be overstated. Only you can make this right. Per California Civil Code section 48a, my clients demand that, within three weeks from the date of this letter, you publish a correction and/or retraction in substantially as conspicuous a manner that you broadcast/published the defamatory statements.
An apology is also warranted. In my opinion, there are factors that indicate the defamatory statements were the product of unethical journalism and the result of actual malice as defined by New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964) 376 U.S. 254 and its jurisprudential progeny. Your reporters knew or should have known that the statements and arguments - both direct and implied - within the articles and broadcasts were untrue.
The article was originally assigned to reporter Stacey Sheldon, who assured Ms. Feigin that the focus of the article being written would be on the restorative justice program at the Mendocino County Jail. When Ms. Sheldon asked questions about Unconditional Freedom (“UF”) and its alleged association with OneTaste, Ms. Feigin suggested Ms. Sheldon connect with UF who would be happy to provide information and answer questions. When Ms. Sheldon was unable to consult with UF personnel prior to her article deadline, she again assured Ms. Feigin that the article would focus on the County Jail’s restorative justice program and not on UF and/or OneTaste.
It appears that my client was deceived, was lulled into believing that your coverage would be positive, and denied notice of the true defamatory purpose and the opportunity to address Ms. Reith’s apparent bias and clear up her misunderstandings that have damaged my clients I thank you in advance for considering my clients’ request for a correction/retraction, and well-deserved apology.
Paul Nicholas Boylan, Esq.
* * *
MIKE GENIELLA COMMENTS:
KZYX Board of Directors
Re: Paul Boylan letter
I hope you will not give too much time and attention to a letter allegedly written on behalf of the Feigins, but clearly with an aim to attack the integrity and character of news reporter Sarah Reith. It is misguided, and worse reads strikingly similar to earlier communications from the Unconditional Freedom organization, and those with past ties to OneTaste.
I was surprised to read the contents, given Mr. Boylan’s knowledge of media matters. His letter is way off base. There is no basis for his complaints of journalistic wrongdoing, a ‘“smear” campaign, or reckless reporting. In short, it is Mr. Boylan’s letter that fails to meet acceptable standards by using boilerplate language seemingly provided by Unconditional Freedom advocates.
As a veteran journalist on the North Coast – I worked nearly 30 years for The Press Democrat newspaper in Santa Rosa – I know Ms. Reith’s work, the KZYX news operation, and the role both play in important community news coverage. The news team’s work is credible, factual, and to the point.
I also know Sheriff Matt Kendall, and his unequivocal respect for Ms. Reith’s reporting, and how in fact in this particular instance it helped him understand a need to buffer jail service programs from controversy.
This is a time for the Board of Directors To stand with its news team and Ms. Reith.
I am willing to meet and discuss specifics with you individually, or collectively.
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ED NOTE. Letter to KZYX board of directors
Ladies and gentlemen:
I hope you won't capitulate to the threat from a thoroughly discredited sex cult about Ms. Reith's faultless reporting on the cult's surreptitious infiltration of our Sheriff's estimable garden program.
Bruce Anderson, AVA, Boonville
* * *
Mark Scaramella Notes: This is obviously a potential SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) should it ever go to court. Among other things, there is no malice, the issue is a public issue, “implications” in the mind of the complainant are not false statements, the complainant will not be able to show provable damages, and if it ever goes to discovery, KZYX will be able to obtain documents showing the correctness of their reporting.
“In a typical SLAPP, the plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs, or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. In some cases, repeated frivolous litigation against a defendant may raise the cost of directors and officers liability insurance for that party, interfering with an organization's ability to operate. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat. SLAPPs bring about freedom of speech concerns due to their chilling effect and are often difficult to filter out and penalize because the plaintiffs attempt to obfuscate their intent to censor, intimidate, or silence their critics.”
. . .
“California has a unique variant of anti-SLAPP legislation. In 1992 California enacted Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16, a statute intended to frustrate SLAPPs by providing a quick and inexpensive defense. It provides for a special motion that a defendant can file at the outset of a lawsuit to strike a complaint when it arises from conduct that falls within the rights of petition or free speech. The statute expressly applies to any writing or speech made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law, but there is no requirement that the writing or speech be promulgated directly to the official body. It also applies to speech in a public forum about an issue of public interest and to any other petition or speech conduct about an issue of public interest.”
MOBILITY SOLUTIONS STUDY
MCOG Invites Residents of Covelo, Laytonville, Brooktrails, Potter Valley and Hopland to Take a Brief Survey about Transportation Needs & Possible Services
The Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG) is in the midst of a study of transportation needs and solutions for the communities of Covelo, Laytonville, Brooktrails, Potter Valley and Hopland – five inland rural communities with no public transit services. They are inviting residents of these communities to provide input via a 5-minute E-Survey on their project website at bit.ly/MCOGMobility.
According to MCOG staff, “The survey is a second round of public input, following a series of community workshops conducted in August. It will allow us to quantify the needs we heard about and test some of the innovative ideas for transportation solutions that are beginning to emerge.” Anyone who completes the survey will have the chance to be entered in a drawing for one of five $100 gift cards.
The survey will be open through November 13. The public engagement website is bit.ly/MCOGMobility
For further information, contact project manager Loretta Ellard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-234-3434.
“The only thing I regret is that I didn’t start sooner.” - The first thing Fal had to say, before even sitting down to kick off a conversation.
Fal Allen decided to join up with AVFD in 2012 after being approached by Chief Colin Wilson. The timing was right, because Fal had been reflecting that “...everyone should participate in community. For the first 30 years of my life, I just didn’t and felt I should pay back some.” Since then, he’s ranked up to captain and has done more than his share of paying back (he’s also an AV Senior Center board member). When calls come in during the day, Fal leaves his post as Brewmaster at AVBC to respond out of Boonville, and at night he’s one of two volunteers responding out of Rancho Navarro.
Fal’s in it for the immediate and long-term feeling of giving back. “The fire department is exciting. It gives an immediate sense of helping the community. The fire, the traffic collision you go to - you can see some immediate value in what you did that day.”
What’s most difficult about being a first responder? “We’re exposed to people’s worst days. Sometimes that can stick with you forever. And the fear of making it worse by not performing to your highest ability.” And while this may be the case, he still urges anyone considering volunteering to “Run! Join immediately! Particularly if you live in the Deep End!” After ten years with AVFD, Fal’s relating more and more to Garth and Judy Long, who held it down in the Rancho for many years, waiting for new recruits to come along so they could finally turn in their gear. Fal’s not going anywhere yet, though - he’s still having fun: “Who doesn’t want to drive a big, red firetruck!”
25TH ANNUAL BEERFEST TIX (takes place April 29, 2023) are on sale: avbc.com/boonville-beer-fest/
JEFF BURROUGHS: Now here is another rare but very small photo taken around 1875 of what would become the 2nd town of Christine, also known as Christine Landing. It shows the John Gschwend home still under construction (no roof) — it still stands today and is owned by Christine Clark and Justin Clark...Johns decendants, and can be seen if you were to stand in the driveway of Handley Cellars and look across 128 (West). It is covered in Vineyard now, surprise-surprise, and might even be called Christine Woods Vineyard?
A NEW COAST HOSPITAL?
Our hospital is designated as an acute care hospital. (Acute care is when you need an extended stay at a hospital in order for medical staff to assist you and your medical needs.) CA regulations require all acute care hospitals be seismically compliant by Jan. 1, 2030. If our hospital is not compliant, it will lose its license to operate.
The current estimate to meet those seismic requirements is $30M. If the next Board chooses this option, it will want to spend money to modernize the hospital which by that time be over 60 years old. My estimate is another $10-$20 million will be needed for this purpose. So, let’s say $45 million.
The next option is to close the hospital, keep the Emergency Room and create a Treat and Transfer facility whereby all inpatient services would be performed at other Adventist’s facilities. This is in fact what Adventist Health desires. AH management has made it perfectly clear that it will not invest a dime into a new hospital and that the future of healthcare is aging in place with the help of telemedicine providers.
The clinic would remain, but we all know how difficult it is to get an appointment there. For this to option to be feasible, the County and the City of Fort Bragg must solve the problem of housing shortage. As near as I can tell, there is no sense of urgency by either entity to do so.
The third option is to build a new, modern hospital. This would be located on the five, unused acres owned by the District. This plot is adjacent to and south of the clinic. What this means is that the new hospital can be constructed without interfering with the operation of the current one. After construction is complete, the current hospital can be converted to a 49-room Skilled Nursing Facility like Sherwood Oaks. Because a SNF is not considered to be acute care, it does not need to meet the same seismic criteria as the hospital.
How many beds should the new hospital have? Let’s first look at the costs. The cost of new hospitals is given in terms of $/bed. Today, that cost has gone up to $4.0 million a bed. So, a ten-bed hospital would cost $40M and a 25 bed one $100M. The District can easily afford to pay for the ten-bed option without any help from AH. Building a 25-bed hospital would require financing which I will explain in a moment.
There are good reasons to choose the 25-bed option. First, it would have more, much needed ER rooms, namely, eight. The remaining beds could be used for local residents who otherwise would be transferred to a hospital with more capacity. For this reason, the Chief of the Medical Staff supports this option. In order to make an informed decision, the Devenney Group has been hired to evaluate these options. An example of their preliminary work is shown in following illustration.
How would the District pay for the new hospital? As shown in the next figure, building a 25-bed hospital would require borrowing money most likely by selling General Obligation Bonds and paying those back over the customary 15 years. The combination of revenues from property tax, the lease with AH and an extension of the parcel tax for another 15 years would make that possible.
The District should get excellent financing terms. By 2029, all of the District’s long term debt will be retired. Combined with a guaranteed way of repaying the bonds, we should be able to get a very low interest rate.
Time is of the essence! The Board Chairs for the last two years have been unable to make any forward progress. Based upon the work of consultants (Devenney Group) the best estimate now of completing a new hospital is December 2031. The last figure shows the schedule which has necessarily been shortened at the front end.
The schedule shows that in order to meet the 2030 deadline, a bond measure must be approved by the voters by June 2024.
In summary, there is a plan in place to keep a hospital on the coast if the new Board acts quickly.
However, there are two threats to this plan. The first is a lack of fiscal discipline by the new Board. Several candidates have expressed strong support for using the District’s accumulating cash to build housing which would leave the District with insufficient resources for a hospital. The other threat is that of Dissolution favored by many local politicians. If the next Board adopts a resolution to dissolve the District as a legal entity, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) would do so without a vote of the people. The District’s assets including its cash, property, facilities and tax revenues, would be seized the county Board of Supervisors. You can make your own call on whether this a good idea.
— John Redding, member of the Mendocino Coast Health Care District (MCHCD) Board of Directors
CATCH OF THE DAY, Saturday, October 29, 2022
KAIDEN BRITTON, Willits. Loaded firearm in public, controlled substance while armed with loaded firearm.
LORENZO CRUZ, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, probation revocation
MANUEL FREASE, Covelo. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
DARYAN GRIVETTE, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ANDREW HERNANDEZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.
DAVID JOAQUIN SR., Covelo. Battery with serious injury, criminal threats, failure to appear.
JULIE LEGENDRE, Willits. Probation revocation.
RICHARD MCCLAM, Upper Lake/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JULIAN PILONIETAVILLATE, Willits. DUI, no license.
DAMIAN ROSALES-REYES, Cloverdale/Ukiah. Vandalism, false imprisonment.
ROGER ROTH, Healdsburg/Ukiah. Stolen vehicle, controlled substance, paraphernalia, county parole violation.
DAVID SIMPSON, Willits. DUI, suspended license.
RETURN TO PHILLY
Thank you so much more in the lovely account by Terry Sites of her trip to Philadelphia. When she returns, I urge her do go in the spring. I lived in that beautiful city for over 13 years and also in several other eastern and midwestern ones and I must say that no other city has such a glorious spring as does Philadelphia. Californians deny it, but they don't know spring. Plants bloom here year-round. In Philadelphia, in January, all is pearly gray. No color at all. Then one day you see a slight green haze in tree branches. And then it begins! Like an orchestra warming up. Blips of color here and there, crocus first, and one by one it builds: hedges of forsythia, Eastern redbud, pussywillows, weeping cherries, white and pink dogwood, daffodils, banks of azaleas and rhododendrons of all colors (four acres around the Museum of Art) on and on, and carpets the violets!
One reason Philadelphia is so lush is that it has the largest landscaped park system in the United States, over 60 parks: 9200 acres, 10 times the size of Central Park (843 acres). Philadelphia does have horrid heat some summer weeks, but it's less than an hour's drive to beautiful ocean swimming: Long Beach Island, New Jersey, with great farmers markets lining the road.
Well okay, this is a promo for Philadelphia (go Phillies!). And yes, I would have moved back decades ago but my guy didn't want to deal with winters anymore which in eastern Pennsylvania aren't really "bad." (I love winter and as Norwegians say there's no bad weather, just bad clothing.)
So thanks to Terry. As a final note I do have Welsh mining ancestors; mine settled in western Pennsylvania. I urge her and others to look up the hilarious Xenophiles guidebooks and she could check out the one on Wales. (Yes, I have the Norwegian one, too!)
HUMCO LANDOWNER SUES GREAT REDWOOD TRAIL
by Sonia Waraich
Humboldt County landowners Jack and Mary Noble want the federal government to compensate them for taking a piece of their property to construct the Great Redwood Trail, and their attorney says its the first of money to come.
The Surface Transportation Board issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use to the Great Redwood Trail Agency, formerly the North Coast Rail Authority, on Tuesday, allowing the agency to develop the Great Redwood Trail on 178.54 miles of abandoned rail line between Willits and Eureka. Adam Riley, an attorney with Flint Law Firm, said that could result in thousands of property owners along the rail line receiving compensation upwards of $250 million if they also file suit against the federal government.
“The issuance of the (Notice of Interim Trail Use) causes the taking of property and landowners next to the rail line to have a claim against the federal government for compensation for the taking of their property,” Riley wrote in an email. “We filed the first case yesterday with a single plaintiff and our firm represents approximately 170 individuals in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. We plan to file those other cases in the coming weeks.”
Once complete, the Great Redwood Trail would extend 320 miles from Marin County to Humboldt Bay. The trail’s construction requires being able to railbank the rail lines, a process that was established in 1983 through an amendment to the National Trails System Act that allowed the lines to be converted to trails until the time rail service was able to resume.
Resuming rail service along the Eel River is unlikely to happen since landslides and other risks make maintaining a rail line in the corridor financially infeasible.
Others tried to file claim to stretches of the rail line, but Tuesday’s decision quashed all other claims and is allowing the Great Redwood Trail Agency to move forward. That decision was announced Monday evening at the Great Redwood Trail Master Plan Kick-Off event hosted by state Sen. Mike McGuire, who has been a strong proponent for the trail.
“This is amazing news,” McGuire said. “This is huge and finally clears the way for us to move forward with the final railbanking, protecting that rail line in perpetuity — forever — for trails.”
Developing a master plan is the next phase of the project and will guide the next few years of construction. McGuire said it will help determine the trail construction cost, alignment, operating costs in the present and future, the type of materials that will be used on each of the segments, a timeline for buildout, environmental impacts, wildfire prevention, security measures and governance.
The Great Redwood Trail Agency will oversee the process, but McGuire said the community can expect to have a host of public meetings to be involved in the process.
AS THE WORLD TURNS
I have been in Mendocino County Jail for one year and I have five months left to do. I am 5-11, white male, aged 26, soon to be released off probation for the first time in 13 years. My wife stole a car and left me in jail, a long story for another time. I've been working out, reading my Bible and separating myself from drugs, gangs and stupid people while I have been in here in a single cell 24/7.
I am originally from Oklahoma/Texas area. I have been to New York, Chicago, Dallas, Canada, California and everywhere in between.
Now because of being locked up I have lost everything and I am taking it upon myself to finally take a break from this silly game I've been playing. I'm going to Hawaii dude. I'm taking the first flight out. Nothing is holding me back after 13 years. I deserve it. If there is anyone who would like to help a young guy like myself prepare for my solo journey, write me and put your phone number and a couple of bucks on my books through the information below.
What I'd like best is if there's someone who's been to Hawaii to reach out and give me information and stories or places I should check out to write to me or give me their number so we can chat. Hell, anyone willing to help out would be nice. I have stressed out for so long I need this. I have got to get out of the game and the best way is to go out with a bang.
Write to: Daniel Edward Batten A#99931, Mendocino County Jail, P.O. Box 30022, PMB 35803, Durham, NC 27702. To put money on books go to www.accesscorrections.com.
I pray to hear from someone soon.
Thank you and God bless.
Daniel Batton (#99931)
Proposition 1 is a real horror show. It turns out that these unwanted fetuses are quite valuable for their stem cells. Stem cells can be used to rejuvenate old, dying tissue. Of course, the injections are addictive and very expensive.
Proposition 1 is an attempt to bring "unwanted" fetuses to California from all over the United States and elsewhere to feed at an immoral industry that will pay the women for their experience.
You may ask yourself who gets the stem cell injections? Lots of old political elite who there are plenty of the California. Stephen King can't write stories this ghoulish.
TO TELL THE TRUTH
I really enjoyed your story about meeting with Sydney Poitier. I should have been a cabbie myself except I wouldn't want passengers behind my back all night. It only takes one cuckoo bird with a piano string to permanently terminate your vocal cord area!
I can go you one better that happened to me in San Francisco at Candlestick Park. One day there around 1965, the year Willie Mays clocked 52 homers and was the National League MVP, I actually met the Say Hey Kid.
In those days that jerk of a San Francisco Giants owner, Horace Stoneham (yes, the one who sold off most of his best players in the 60s to pay his gambling debts) wouldn't allow ordinary fans to mingle with "his" ballplayers before games unless you had box seats in the first four or five rows.
In 1965 my stockbroker, sports photographer cousin Jack Saunders got me great seats in the second row about three yards from the Giants dugout. Willie Mays had a soft spot like me in his heart for women and kids. He probably noticed me anxious to meet him for about three years at that point. He might even have known my dad once scouted his pal Willie McCovey and then I myself was a child prodigy sportswriter and colossal Giants fan.
A nice-looking lady walked down to the dugout with her little boy when we both noticed Mays standing those three measly yards away. The lady said (I was probably in awe and lost my voice), "Please Willie, will you sign my boy's program," and handed Mays a pen. I moved right next to that you lucky lady. Mays signed the program. (The lady was nearly in tears with thanks.) When Willie handed her back the pen he gave me a sly glance. (He must have thought her cute too.) He put his left hand up in the air towards me. I shook his hand real quick. He smiled but I can't remember what I mumbled. Maybe my voice was still lost. I do remember his fingers though. They had thin strips of white adhesive around them. Maybe to keep a better grip on the ball and bat.
That's my famous person story and as far as I know the Say Hey Kid is still motoring around at age 91. They have a birthday parade for him every year now! Willie McCovey has passed on but Juan Marichal (met and talked at length with him too on his day off), Orlando Cepeda and Gangling Gaylord Perry are still kicking. Some others I remember meeting were Harvey Kuenn, Mike McCormick, Jim "Davy" Davenport (longest San Francisco Giants tenure -- 20 straight seasons as a player, then a eight as a coach and manager. Davey was fired to make room for Roger Craig, the split finger guru. My roommate called him the split finger asshole. I guess everybody missed Davy. I also met Chris Spier, Tito Fuentes, Jesus Alou, and my cousin (with the Astros and then) Dave Giusti who went on to Pittsburgh Pirates fame. He pronounced our name the East Coast accent style — "Justea." I never actually met Joe Morgan and Nellie Fox, but I walked right by them on the field going to get my photo taken with cousin Dave. Dave and Joe Morgan were the first two players drafted in the 1962 National League expansion draft by the old Houston Colt 45s (who in 1964 changed to the Astros due to the first Astrodome).
Here's a trick trivia quiz: Who hit the first homer in the Astrodome? Answer below. (I also had a rare Joe Amalfitano mitt and a 1964 card and a Colt 45 uniform. That card is now worth $10,000!)
Anyway, Joe Morgan, may he rest in peace, was drafted out of Oakland high school at age 18. My cousin Dave "Justea" was drafted out of Syracuse University. They both went straight to the majors with my cousin having a college professor degree before ever throwing his first professional pitch! I think he was National League Fireman of the Year twice (like Rollie Fingers) and in 1971 he led the league in saves and helped the Pirates beat the Giants in the playoffs and the Orioles in the 1971 World Series.
Joe Morgan went on to fame winning two National League MVPs and two World Series, in 1975 and 1976. Joe Morgan was the final cog that solidified the Cincinnati "Big Red Machine" of the 1970s.
I have enough strong Folger's coffee to write baseball stories all night, but I need to get back to my theme of To tell the truth. Remember that TV show? Only Jeopardy could ever top that one. Ted Mack's Amateur Hour was cool too.
The AVA has amateur journalism starring Alan Crow! Costar Eyster the Shyster. I think I'd give 2022 journalist Oscar to Matt Kendall with Tommy Wayne Kramer runner-up. It's great to see my other cousin Ernie Pardini found a nice cabin to camp in.
To tell the truth: I kind of forgot my theme! Just a minor setback, not the big Alz. Can anybody spell that? Sirosis? Sacowitz? Vanlandingham? (Former giant hurler whose name was too long for the box score).
Trivia quiz #2: Who was the first New York giant Negro baseballer? Answer pending. Here's a hint: he mostly played third, came up in 1948 or 49 and by 1959 he went in for a long stretch in prison for robbery and I think murder. Sound familiar?
The answer to the first quiz on the first Astrodome Homer: it was, of all people, Mickey Mantle. It's a trick quiz because Yankees and Astros didn't play each other in the regular season. Mantle did that in a spring training game.
One more for the road. Nolan Ryan broke Sandy Koufax's career no-hitter record. Sandy briefly held the record in the 60s-70s with four, one a perfect game. Before Koufax broke that record, who held it with three and what record does that man still hold?
Answer to quiz #2: First African-American to play for the New York Giants was Henry "Hank" Thompson. I remember having his and Willie Mays 1956 baseball cards. Thompson's was in mint-condition too. It's probably worth a couple hundred dollars at least today. I had a matching set of mint condition Boyer Brothers cards. Ken for the Cardinals, Clete for the Kansas City A's.
The answer to quiz #3: Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians. He still holds the American League record for one-hit or less games at 15. He twirled 12 one-hitters and 3 no-hitters. I believe he was the youngest player to win a major league strikeout title in 1939.
Quiz #4: Where did Clete Boyer play his last three professional seasons?
Final Quiz #5: What season did Clete Boyer and Ken Boyer oppose each other as third basemen in the World Series? (In their 1955 photo they had no whiskers and looked to be junior high school age!)
I will have to write you again when I remember the "To tell the truth" theme. It can't be about Judge Faulder because he doesn't seem to know the truth. Pontius Pilate would have confused him as he once asked, "What is truth"?
Answer to tricky quiz #4: Cletius Boyer played his last three professional seasons for Osaka in the Japan League from 1973-1975 retiring at age 41.
Answer to Quiz #5: Clete was a Yankee third sacker and Ken held down third for the Cardinals in the 1964 World Series.
Detective Youngcault and "baseball stat guru" David Giusti
PS. When I was in ninth grade Orlando "cha-cha" Cepeda (the Baby Bull) was playing for the Atlanta Braves. In 1964 he was traded to St. Louis for Joe Torre. He remembered the "boy sportswriter" and waved. Why was he called the "Baby Bull"?
PPS. In 1964 Tim McCarver was Series MVP. He and his ace pitcher Bob Gibson both hit grand slams in the Series won by St. Louis. Kenny Boyer was the NL MVP that year and here's a secret fact: the Boyer clan, like me, are all half-breed Crows!
WELCOME BACK, CRAIG
Song of the Jivan Mukta, sung to the tune of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F569_t2jCio
Woke up this morning
The Dao working through
The body-mind complex
— Craig Louis Stehr
IT'S ALL ONE
It is a supreme irony that while our Nobel Prize scientists confirm the notion that everything in the entire cosmos is “entangled” — that is, related in some way — we earthlings embrace the delusion that we have separate, unique identities that have nothing to do with “others.” This egocentric view does not bode well for the future of humankind.
Francisco H. Vazquez
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME in the U.S. ends at 2 a.m. next Sunday, November 6, 2022.
[Los Angeles Times, October 30, 1986]
CELEBRATED OWNER-CHEFS VANISH: The Souffle Caves In on Boonville’s Claim to Fame
by Mark A. Stein
BOONVILLE, Calif. — Globe-trotting gourmets still blast into town, tooling their sports cars past the Boont Farm restaurant and the Horn of Zeese coffee shop. They still park in front of the familiar old hotel with its quirky, arty sign. They still expect a world-class meal prepared by a world-famous chef.
They are still being disappointed, too, because the hotel door is locked and the windows shuttered.
The New Boonville Hotel restaurant--a highly regarded urban anomaly among the serene orchards and vineyards of the Anderson Valley--is out of business.
Its celebrated owners and chefs, Vernon and Charlene Rollins, have vanished, leaving their legendary garden to wilt and their legions of creditors to fume.
Vernon Rollins recently penned letters to newspapers in Boonville and San Francisco expounding on the failure of his culinary dream, but he did little to unknot the story that has sprung up around him.
Some of the people who knew the Rollinses defend them as idealists who came to the country to run the perfect restaurant but were hounded into bankruptcy by shortsighted investors and ungrateful employees.
Others portray the Rollinses as brilliant chefs but abysmal business owners--people who bounced one check after another, who could not keep a set of books, who piled six trust deeds on top of one another in a vain bid to stay afloat and who were finally reduced to paying workers straight out of the till each day.
Still others dismiss Vernon Rollins as untrustworthy at best, a “con artist” at worst.
“It’s a community Rorschach test,” said J. David Colfax, a Boonville goat breeder and free-lance writer and friend of the Rollinses. “Everybody sees what they want to in it.”
The story began in 1979, when Vernon and Charlene bought the old Boonville Hotel, a large, two-story, wood-frame building along the strip of stores and coffee shops that constitute the downtown part of this town of 750 residents.
At first, residents of the apple, pear and grape-growing Anderson Valley thought the Rollinses would simply restore the old inn to its original country splendor. But as the renovation dragged on for two years, that clearly was not the case.
When the restaurant portion of the New Boonville Hotel debuted in February of 1982--six guest rooms upstairs and a pool and tennis courts out back were postponed, and eventually forgotten--it featured an elegant and sophisticated interior graced by expensive works of art.
It also featured a menu that won the praise of restaurant critics from Los Angeles to New York. Many visitors to San Francisco, 125 miles south, came up to dine; some even flew in from as far away as Australia and France to sample its fare.
Treat for Eyes
A typical meal would be as much a treat for the eyes and imagination as the palate. It could open with a salad garnished by three kinds of edible flowers, and move on to rabbit grilled over a secret mix of apple wood, live oak, grape cuttings and manzanita.
Pasta was served with baby Brussels sprouts so small they looked like peas; fancy nouvelle pizza was heaped with crumbled goat cheese. Dessert could be a plum sorbet or hearty cobbler. After a meal, diners could choose from among dozens of brandies and cognacs racked up behind the bar.
Dinner for two ran $80 to $100.
Visiting gastronomes found themselves in a unique sliver of America tucked into a fold of the Coastal Mountains in southern Mendocino County. Boonville is a bucolic farm town that was once so isolated it developed its own language, Boontling.
The dialect remains--"Horn of Zeese” is Boontling for “cup of coffee"--but isolation is a thing of the past. Local folks have been joined by a variety of urban refugees--world-weary academics, well-to-do winegrowers, a few yuppie muffin-mongers and New Age farmers with names like “Rainbow.”
Still, Boonville was little more than a wide spot on the road to Mendocino--until the New Boonville Hotel invited in the world.
“It was like a spaceship had landed in the middle of Boonville,” Colfax recalled, “and it attracted all of these aliens, with their weird automobiles--Audis and Porsches and BMWs.”
‘They Didn’t . . . Want Us’
And, many noted, local residents were not made to feel welcome.
“They didn’t particularly want us in there,” said one nearby merchant, who asked that his name not be used. “They wanted the tourist trade, not local people. They wanted nothing to do with us.”
But there was a mystique about the place, former employees and other locals said, and the Rollinses vigorously promoted it whenever they were not actually at the restaurant--which was not often. Employees and friends said the couple often worked 14- or 16-hour days, six or seven days a week.
The mystique focused in part on the source of ingredients. A big, attractive garden spread out behind the house, while goats and rabbits were kept penned at the side door. Some customers said they were told that everything on their plate was raised on the premises.
Employees now say this was never so, that much of the produce was bought at a market in Ukiah, 25 miles away; that chickens were purchased in Petaluma, 60 miles to the south; that the beef was supplied by a wholesale butcher, and that the rabbits were raised elsewhere in the Anderson Valley.
“The bulk of the produce did not come out of the garden--it simply wasn’t big enough,” said Morning Hullinger-Wood, the restaurant’s bar manager. “The garden became a showcase, and it was beautiful.”
In any case, the end product won wide and lavish praise, so the homegrown reputation--whether apocryphal or not--not only stuck, it grew.
But despite its vaunted culinary achievements, court records and interviews with investors indicate that the restaurant was never a financial success. A year after it opened, the original limited partners grew suspicious of its losses and got a court order to send in an auditor.
“There was not a proper accounting for what was being done,” said Narsai David, a noted San Francisco-area restaurateur and an early Boonville Hotel investor.
A declaration by the auditor filed in connection with a lawsuit brought by David and the 11 other original investors reports an inexplicable commingling of funds from five separate restaurant checking accounts and “a complete and total lack of any recognized bookkeeping and accounting practice.”
Creditors allege that Vernon placated the early investors by refunding some of their money. But he sinmply went out and solicited new investors. It was the start of a Byzantine mortgaging spree that eventually included at least six trust deeds for various combinations of the four lots on which the hotel and its garden are located, according to attorneys familiar with the financing.
“It’s very confusing,” said Joseph A. (Buck) Adams, a San Francisco lawyer for one group of investors.
Together, the deeds constitute more than $500,000 in debt, which is owed to investors from Boonville to San Diego. All have declared the loans in default. The hotel is scheduled to be auctioned Monday to try to recover some of the money.
Despite all the investors, there never seemed to be enough money. Creditors say the couple could not repay loans. Employees say they could not fully pay the help. Local merchants say they could barely pay suppliers--and had to do so in cash on delivery.
Finally, in August, headwaiter Tom Cronquist of Boonville went to the state Department of Industrial Relations complaining that the Rollinses owed him $18,000 in back wages and tips. He also alleged that the couple failed to provide workers’ compensation insurance.
That same month, court files show, holders of the second trust deed declared the Rollinses in default, prompting the auction.
Eyewitnesses said that on Aug. 22, Gregor MacInnes, an inspector from the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement in San Francisco, seized the restaurant’s books as part of his investigation of employee complaints.
Seen Heading North
The next morning, employees said, Vernon and Charlene packed a few things into her father’s pickup truck, announced to their employees that Charlene was having difficulty in her seventh month of pregnancy, and drove away.
One employee said she saw them heading north on California 128, the road that runs through town on its way to the coast. The local newspaper, the Anderson Valley Advertiser, reported that another Boonville resident saw them on Interstate 5 near Eugene, Ore. Their whereabouts now are unknown.
However, two days after they left, someone broke into their restaurant and took, among other things, some artwork being held on consignment, some of the distinctive glassware and a ceiling fan. After that, friends of the Rollinses said they removed the couple’s private art collection for safekeeping.
Since then, questions have been raised in Boonville about the fate of the restaurant’s extensive wine cellar. Diners were served only California wines, mostly those made in the Anderson Valley, but several sources said the cellar stocked expensive French wines as well.
Local residents were not clear whether the wine belonged to Vernon Rollins personally or to the restaurant. But at one store that sold him French wines, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley, manager Dave Stewart said Rollins paid for his purchases with New Boonville Hotel checks.
French Wine Taken Earlier
The Anderson Valley Advertiser speculated that the Rollinses had taken some of the wine with them when they fled, but an employee, Hullinger-Wood, said the couple did not have time to remove any wine the day they left.
Hullinger-Wood did say that more than 100 cases of French wine were removed from the cellar in early July--about the same time Vernon Rollins was losing a $22,398 judgment in a San Francisco lawsuit.
That suit stemmed from a previous business enterprise, a San Francisco wine-importing venture called M-V Wine Co., which he started in 1970 with a partner named Judith Shane.
In her suit, Shane accused Rollins of fraud and breach of contract, alleging that he failed to repay $23,000 she lent him, then duped her into giving him control of the company in exchange for a worthless promise to pay an additional $50,000. The suit also referred to a shipment of French wine to M-V Wine Co. that was never accounted for.
Shane declined to discuss Rollins, but her lawyer, David Schwartz, said Rollins has not paid the $22,398 owed to Shane.
“He left her high and dry,” Schwartz said.
‘A Great Con Artist’
A former associate in the wine business, Darrell Corti of Sacramento, was less kind: “Vernon is a great con artist--just ask any of the people who have lent him money. Vernon is of the check-is-in-the-mail school.”
In a letter to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, which arrived with a check for some of the back wages owed to restaurant employees, Vernon Rollins told what persuaded him and Charlene to finally give up on Boonville and go away.
He wrote of long days, no pay, endless bills and the embarrassment of having wide-eyed customers watch as lawmen seized his books.
“Work 15, 16, 20 hours a day; sleep; get up and do it again,” he wrote. “Never paid ourselves, sold our possessions to finance the place. . . . No, nothing except work, sleep, work. Talk to lawyers, deal with creditors, work, sleep.”
The souffle finally fell with the seizure of his books by authorities, he wrote, and "(our) will was gone.”
He added that he and his wife were “too broke to go broke” but hinted that he was still trying to raise $500,000 “to save the whole thing.”
In a subsequent letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, however, Rollins wrote that while he and Charlene may “someday have another restaurant,” the chances of its being in Boonville are “virtually none.”
The change in attitude about returning to Boonville may have to do with the decision by the Mendocino County district attorney’s office to file a criminal complaint in Ukiah charging the Rollinses with 20 misdemeanor violations of the state Labor Code.
Arrest warrants for the couple have been issued.
Meanwhile, the Rollinses’ friends and creditors--the two often were one and the same--are left to wait for the upcoming auction of the hotel property.
And they are left to assess what happened.
“It’s surprising and disappointing,” said investor David. “I’d like to think it was a matter of an honest man who was incompetent at business, but now that is all thrown into question.”
‘Grumbled, Snapped, Whined’
“Honesty was kind of relative to (Vernon),” said former headwaiter Cronquist. “He didn’t like to do things unless he was forced to do them. He didn’t give employees their paychecks, for example; you had to ask for them. He just grumbled and snapped and whined. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience.”
“I don’t think they’re bad people,” said Hullinger-Wood. “I just think they are extremely bad business people.”
“Charlene and Vernon were just absolutely uncompromising,” said Colfax. “That was part of the antagonism (with investors and employees)--they were going to do it their way.”
And their way, all agreed, was as unpredictable as it was tenacious.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” said O’Donnell, “if Vernon Rollins was right now back on his way from wherever he went to with $500,000 in cash to save the place.”
THE PELOSIS & A HAUNTED AMERICA
by Maureen Dowd
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I loved putting up twinkling bats and watching midnight monster-chiller-horror movies.
Not this year.
The world is too scary. Politics is too creepy. Horror is too real.
When I was a child, on Oct. 31, my older brother would put on a vinyl LP of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” that he had carefully cleaned. The eerie music was used by Walt Disney in the segment of his animated masterpiece “Fantasia” about the surreal celebration of evil during the night of the witches’ Sabbath.
Chernabog, the lord of evil and death, wrapped in a dark cape, stands atop a jagged peak, summoning ghosts, witches and vampires to swirl out of the mountain and pay homage. I was so relieved when, at dawn, church bells rang and drove them off.
But now the bad spirits are lurking all around us. They will not be driven off.
America seems haunted by random violence and casual cruelty every day. In New York, subway riders getting pushed onto the tracks and innocent bystanders being shot. Officials across the country facing kidnapping plots, armed visits to their homes, assaults and death threats. No place seems safe, from parks to schools to the supposedly impregnable, guarded Capitol and homes of the wealthy and well known.
In some states, women — and girls — seeking abortions are treated as criminals. In Uvalde, Texas, terrified children frantically calling the police are slaughtered by a teenage psychopath with an AR-15-style rifle as 376 police officers lingered in and around the elementary school waiting for … what?
On Friday, The New York Post broke the news that someone I know, the former Obama official and former New York City Transit president Sarah Feinberg, was sucker-punched in the face in Chelsea by someone walking by in the bike lane.
Now comes news of a maniac breaking into a house in the middle of the night, bludgeoning an 82-year-old man in the head with a hammer while demanding to know where his famous wife was. Perfect Halloween movie fare. Except it actually happened.
One of the most macabre stories to come out of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and democracy, ginned up by Donald Trump, was when the mob roamed the halls, pounding the speaker’s door with bloodcurdling taunts of “Where’s Nancy?”
Speaker Pelosi was not there, thank God. She was huddling with other top officials in a secure bunker, placing call after call for help that was slow to arrive.
Luckily, she was safe, in D.C. with her security detail, when a man broke into her Pacific Heights home in San Francisco early Friday morning. He smashed the patio glass door and attacked her husband, who struggled with the attacker for control of a hammer. In a tingly echo of Jan. 6, the man shouted at Paul Pelosi, “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?” When police arrived, the man said he was “waiting for Nancy.”
Mr. Pelosi, a genial investor who likes to star in amateur musicals and who has been married to Nancy for 59 years, called 911, The Times reported, bringing police to his home and potentially saving his life. He was hit several times on his hands and head with the hammer and was taken to the hospital for surgery for a skull fracture and is expected to recover.
The police said the intruder was David DePape, a 42-year-old from Berkeley, Calif. CNN reported that DePape’s relatives confirmed that a Facebook account spewing Trumpian conspiracies on topics ranging from climate change to Covid was his. In his posts, he cast doubt on the validity of the 2020 election — sharing pillow pusher and Trump lickspittle Mike Lindell’s absurd videos. And he defended the Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol.
With his usual level of class, Donald Trump put out a message of sympathy to the family of Jerry Lee Lewis, “the Killer” of rock ’n’ roll, who died Friday at age 87, but said nothing all day about the Pelosi family.
On Twitter, Adam Kinzinger urged G.O.P. candidates and elected officials to speak out against the “horrific” attack. He probably didn’t have in mind the sort of speaking out that Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia did. Youngkin made a joke of the assassination attempt: “There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re going to send her back to be with him in California.”
Democrats had a nice run, on climate change and gun legislation, and enjoyed some backlash to the Dark Prince of the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito. Now Republicans seem set to win back the House, and maybe the Senate, with a range of incompetent and hypocritical candidates.
“I cannot believe anybody would vote for these people,” Pelosi told The Times’s Carl Hulse on a fund-raising swing.
But a feral mood has taken hold. If you think Washington is monstrous now, just wait.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
In LA & San Francisco, Portland & Seattle, Denver & Minneapolis, NYC & Washington … there are thousands of fellows like this DePape chap roaming the streets, living rough — delusional, dangerous & menacing — making our cities unlivable. I thank God every day I didn’t end up in one of these Urban American Sh#tholes, trapped like a rat with no way out. Pelosi probably thought he was safe, protected by his wealth, above it all. Well, they got to him too. Garcetti, Newsom, Pelosi, Breed and the rest of them have no problem with thousands of stinking vagrants living on the street; after all, it doesn’t affect them personally — or so they thought. It’s about time they feel the weight of the policies they push on the rest of us, which is why I was so pleased when Gov DeSantis shipped the illegals to Martha’s Vineyard, even tho part of my family came from there.
AMERICA THIS WEEK, OCTOBER 23-29
"Chaos agent" reign begins on Twitter, Meta, Credit Suisse suffer cratering episodes, Peace caucus self-harms, Diesel vanishes, Chinese secret police stations outed, three finance headlines, and more
by Matt Taibbi
Welcome back to America This Week, the column that may now lose market advantage if new Twitter chief Elon Musk re-allows humor.
It was a busy week in American news, with several major financial catastrophes flying under the radar thanks to the consensus top story involving the “chaos agent” Musk. Details on the very bad weeks for Meta, Credit Suisse, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the Federal Reserve, plus an investigative journalism coup overseas, election news, and more:
Obviously one of the biggest stories of the week, if not the biggest, is the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The assailant asked, “Where’s Nancy?” before fracturing Paul’s skull. ATW heads for publication before key details are known, particularly with regard to the suspect, who is poised to be charged with attempted homicide and other felonies. Retiring Republican Senator Ben Sasse said, “Disturbed individuals easily succumb to conspiracy theories and rage,” which is true, but as of this writing little appears known about motives.
Musk Twitter Reign Commences
“The bird is freed,” read the tweet from billionaire Elon Musk at 11:49 p.m Thursday, October 27, after completing the sale of the social media platform with whom the whole world seems to have a love-hate (and mostly hate) relationship. To some, it’s already a date living in infamy. Former New York Times reporter and famed weeper-on-command Taylor Lorenz trended the next morning as cyber-folk lined up to gape at the horrified reactions of celebrated Current Thing advocates and pro-censorship accounts. By Thursday evening Musk fired CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, legal and policy chief Vijaya Gadde, and general counsel Sean Edgett. The name of Gadde raised a lot of eyebrows, since she is credited with being the leading executive voice who moved the company toward its decision to permanently ban Donald Trump on January 8, 2021, a turning-point date in the platform’s history. Musks’s purchase of Twitter coincided with a furious press reaction, with the New York Times setting the mainstream standard with an unabashed hit piece titled, “How Elon Musk Became a Geopolitical Chaos Agent.” The media campaign’s essence is Musk is not just any obnoxious rich person, but one who’s more than occasionally at odds with America’s enlightened geopolitical objectives and can afford to be a genuine impediment to them. The Times described how Musk weeks ago proposed a peace plan in Ukraine “that would allow Russia to annex Ukrainian land, seeming to align himself with the Kremlin.” Musk for his part wrote an open letter saying the reason he bought Twitter was “because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common town square,” while promising he would not let it devolve into a “hellscape” where “anything can be said with no consequences.” No matter what, this will be interesting.
Loss of Meta Proportions
Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, lost 24% of its equity value, or roughly $80 billion, in a single day Thursday, a “train wreck” that caused famed Wall Street anti-oracle Jim Cramer to break down weeping on air (“I trusted them, not myself!” he sniffled). The company has been in free-fall really ever since Mark Zuckerberg last year announced the “Meta” rebrand and detailed plans to spend assloads of money building a thing called “the Metaverse” that sounds fantastic, except no one knows what the hell it is. The same unique absence of people skills that allowed then-unknown Zuckerberg to code Facebook with ruthless invention is now expressing itself in a total inability to explain son projet grand to the wee folk. Facebook transforming from perhaps the most recognizable profit-generating device in history to a futuristic platform that involves a vague combination of shopping and virtual reality already sounded less than delightful to some investors. It got worse when the company announced that Reality Labs, the division responsible for building out the VR portion and which has already lost over $9 billion, will continue losing money for quite a while. “We do anticipate that Reality Labs operating losses in 2023 will grow significantly year-over-year,” the firm said in a statement, before making the mistake of putting Zuckerberg on an investor call to explain. In an all-time performance of on-spectrum corporate self-harm, Zuck came off as annoyed that investors doubted the future of his new family of apps. “I can’t tell you right now how big they are going to scale to be,” he said, adding blithely each project is “kind of going in the right direction.” Markets panicked, culminating in the Thursday run for the exits that looked like a stock-chart rendition of Angel Falls in Venezuela. Meta losses are 67% for the year, and its market value has shrunk from roughly $1 trillion to $268 billion by close of trading Thursday, a $700 billion loss.
Peace Caucus Routed
In a story covered earlier in TK, the Congressional Progressive Caucus kneecapped its own effort to push their party in the direction of negotiated settlement in Ukraine, likely pushing peace talks further into the future. Led by Washington congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the CPC in late June circulated a letter calling on Joe Biden to open a line of negotiation with Russia, in the interests of reducing nuclear tension. The caucus didn’t call for ending weapons deliveries, and suggested a formal recognition that the war will only at some point end through diplomacy, so we might as well start the process now. They even quoted Biden himself, who said on June 3rd, “At some point… there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement.” The reaction on Twitter and within the Democratic Party was so violent that virtually all of the signatories self-denounced within 24 hours, with Jayapal retracting the letter entirely. Maryland’s Jamie Raskin first apologized in a way that recast the desire for peace as a form of imperialism, saying “It is a bad colonial habit to suppose that ultimately peace depends upon the wishes of the great powers… even progressive and liberal people can fall into this colonialist reflex.” Raskin then wrote a passionate new argument for war, based on the idea that Moscow is a “world center of antifeminist, antigay, anti-trans hatred, as well as the homeland of replacement theory for export.” With Democrats united against negotiation, the partisan play going forward — especially if Democrats lose both houses in midterm elections — will surely be to equate Republican isolationism with Russian aggression. This will likely lock the Democratic Party into escalation mode through 2024, making prospects for a negotiated end to hostilities dim for the foreseeable future.
Gas Company Orgy Continues
In yet another news story where basic facts depend almost entirely on the outlet, Americans either are or are not experiencing sticker shock over gasoline prices. Either way, gas companies are doing so well, some are exhibiting bureaucratic embarrassment of a type so rare, it has an almost jewel-like quality. ExxonMobil reported second-quarter profits of $18.7 billion, while Chevron reported adjusted earnings of $10.7 billion, nearly double last year’s number. CNN Business reported that neither ExxonMobil nor Chevron mentioned that it achieved a record, “as companies typically do when they reach all-time highs,” adding, “with consumer outrage over high gas prices, both companies probably wanted to avoid calling attention to the record profits.” California Governor Gavin Newsom, who appears destined to be president even though not a single person anywhere seems to like him, rage-tweeted Monday after the gas company Valero posted its own super-sweet revenue numbers. “Valero’s new profits are out. They experienced a 500% increase in profits this year,” he wrote. “Why are gas prices so high? Time to hold these oil companies accountable.” American oil companies have defied requests from the Biden administration to increase production in the midst of lower global energy output, said to be related to war in Ukraine and to the OPEC+ decision to cut production by 2 million barrels a day. But, they’ve been more than happy to have the extra million barrels per day coming out of America’s strategic petroleum reserve run through their refineries, to earn a little extra while families bleed cash. Carrying charges, carrying charges!
Keep An Eye On…
A Senate debate between Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz served as metaphor for a shifting, but still close, midterm election picture. Fetterman had a stroke in May, and when asked if he would release medical records in the interest of “transparency,” replied he was being transparent by “showing up.” Post debate polls showed Oz pulling ahead, in line with nationwide trends, although as always, who the hell knows (a USA Today poll in July showed Democrats ahead 44%-40%; the same poll this week showed Rs up 49%-45%).
In a classic “Oh, by the way” story, it appears America is about to run out of diesel fuel. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said that as of October 14th, the U.S. had only 25 days of reserve diesel supply left, a low not seen since 2008. “I wouldn’t say ‘running out,’” analyst Patrick de Haan told Newsweek, but “we’re basically doing more with less.” Authorities are insisting “all options are on the table” to make sure deliveries continue to be made.
101st Airborne Ready to Rock
CBS aired a remarkable piece from correspondent Charlie D’Agata and 101st Airborne troops in Romania. After describing how the U.S. was “sending a message to Russia,” D’Agata jumped in a helicopter that flew 3 miles from Ukraine, displayed a map of the nearby war theater, and asked Brigadier General John Lubus what was “necessary” about the 101st presence. “We bring a unique capability,” Lubus answered. “We bring that mobility… for our aircraft and air assaults.”
* * *
INTERNATIONAL NOTES Dutch investigative journalists from the website Follow the Money reported that China has as many as 54 “secret police stations” in countries around the world, with at least two in the Netherlands, in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The story was first broken by the Spanish Civil Rights group Safeguard Defenders, which claimed in September the Chinese have “persuaded” 230,000 fugitives to return home “voluntarily,” established nine “forbidden countries” where Chinese nationals may not live without a “good reason,” and established coercive techniques that included refusing the children of relatives the right to be educated back in China. You can read the full report produced by the group here. The New York Times picked up the story and claims politicians in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia have “expressed concern” to China about the possibility that China is operating police “offices” in Western countries.
★ The CBC is claiming the Canada Infrastructure Bank is contributing $970 million to fund a “small modular nuclear reactor” that would abet the existing Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ontario. The project is supposedly central to Canada’s goal of producing net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, and will be the model for similar projects in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta. Not that it matters, but the “SMR” looks like an overgrown version of a college student’s microwave oven.
★ The Emperor Penguin, the cuddly Antarctic star of March of the Penguins and Happy Feet, will be listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced.
★ FIFA announced that broadcast revenues from women’s soccer were up 22%.
* * *
And finally, three finance headlines by Eric Salzman
The Fed: The Gift that Keeps Taking
Not to be outdone by Meta, Bloomberg reported the Federal Reserve is going to start losing billions next year and potentially for many years thereafter. “After paying as much as $100 billion to the Treasury in 2021, it could face losses of more than $80 billion on an annual basis,” if the central bank follows through with planned rate hikes in November and December. For over a decade the Fed has run a balance sheet of Treasury notes and Agency Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) anywhere between $2.5 trillion and $8 trillion. The treasuries and MBS held by the Fed earn interest. The way the Fed funds these purchases is with excess reserve accounts, held by the big banks who sold the Fed the Treasuries and MBS. Until this year, when the Fed started raising the rate they pay banks on excess reserves, they were paying out a lot less than they were making on these assets, earning at times over $100 billion a year! Those profits went to the Treasury, which in turn plugged the holes in annual budget deficits. Now however the Fed will lose money, and with rates significantly higher, will also have to start paying monster sums to banks on those excess reserve accounts. Meanwhile, the Treasury will have to issue more debt to plug the Fed’s deficit hole. Treasury borrowing rates have nearly tripled since the beginning of 2022, so that exercise has become much more expensive, too. Well done, all around! Are there any more Nobel Prizes to give?
30-Year Mortgage Rates Solidly Over 7%
Thursday morning Freddie Mac put out its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) rate, clocking in at 7.08%. It’s the first time since 2002 that the 30-year PMMS rate came in over 7%. Unfortunately, 7.08% is actually toward the low end — many lenders have pushed rates to 7.5%. Even more unfortunately, many of the key actors involved in both the origination of mortgages (sellers) and the buyers of those mortgages, in the form of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS), are withdrawing rapidly. Before 2008, banks were the prime lenders for mortgage loans. The biggest banks, like Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase were the biggest players. After the mortgage crash in the mid to late 2000s, banks reduced their footprint, ceding ground to non-bank lenders like Rocket Mortgage. Non-bank lenders, unlike banks, have one business, making mortgages and selling them. They have less capital than banks, and if something goes wrong in the mortgage market, like a rapid increase in rates, the non-bank lenders can chew up their capital very quickly, which is what’s happening now. “The wave of failures that’s coming could be the worst since the housing bubble burst about 15 years ago,” is how Bloomberg put it in August. The main buyer of mortgages since 2008 has, overwhelmingly, been the Fed, buying trillions in mortgage-backed securities. Because the Fed has now stopped buying MBS, a huge reliable buyer has left the market, and there isn’t another to replace them. The home mortgage market is a mess. Expect higher rates.
Another Terrible, No Good, Horrible Day for Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse CEO Ulrich Koerner Thursday unveiled his new plan to remake and recapitalize the European banking giant, and markets were not amused. Credit Suisse stock posted the largest one-day decline in its history, dropping over 19% to an all-time low (anyone noticing a theme this week?). Maybe what investors didn’t like was the marrying of the announcement of a plan to raise $4 billion from a Saudi Arabian backer (which of course dilutes the value of holdings for existing shareholders) with the announcement of a fresh $4 billion loss for the third quarter? In a disastrous on-air performance, Koerner told Bloomberg that “new Credit Suisse” was a “much simpler, much more stable, much more focused bank” (he crunched his hands as if making something smaller), saying “yes” when asked if he was “100% confident” he’d put questions about the bank’s capital base “to bed.” (The markets said otherwise).
As noted previously on TK, Credit Suisse is a banking giant, interconnected throughout the global financial system, perhaps more even than Lehman Brothers was. Its failure would be catastrophic. Yet: Bloomberg reported the bank alerted regulators that “One or more of its units breached liquidity requirement this month when depositors pulled their money amid speculation about the lender’s turnaround plan.” Credit Suisse blamed negative press. Not good. We’ve seen this movie before.
RISHI SUNAK & BRITAIN’S POST BREXIT FAIRY TALES
by Patrick Cockburn
Much mirth is expressed over President Joe Biden mispronouncing the new Prime Minister’s name as “Rashee Sanook”. Many see this as showing how the merry-go-round of British leaders has confused the rest of the world. Some take up the opportunity to sideswipe Biden, saying that he was pretty confused to begin with.
I doubt if it matters that much: world leaders tend to know surprisingly little about allied and hostile states because they single-mindedly focus on their own domestic politics. Biden’s attention will be fixed these days on the midterm congressional elections and his own prospects in the presidential election of 2024. More important for Rishi Sunak will be the real standing of Britain, regardless of name recognition or lack of it.
A telling but negative omen about his abilities is perhaps not receiving enough attention because of the wave of relief that Liz Truss has gone from Downing Street and Boris Johnson is not going to re-enter it. There is upbeat talk of “grown-ups” taking charge at last and encouraging recollections of Sunak’s success in mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic. He is presenting himself as the cool-headed financial expert thankfully at the helm with the skill and experience to avoid the approaching rocks.
But keep in mind that Sunak backed Brexit. He voted to leave the EU, even without a withdrawal agreement. That is one reason why Steve Baker and many Brexit leaders gave him decisive backing last weekend. On the most critical economic decision facing Britain since 1945, the new Prime Minister was decisively on the side of those who claimed that the country would have a better future outside the EU.
Sunak’s jibe at Truss during the summer Tory leadership campaign that she was indulging in “fairy-tale economics” has been ceaselessly replayed on television in the past few days. But no channel I have seen is showing Sunak telling even more disastrous “fairy tales” about the advantages to Britain of putting up trade barriers with its largest market.
The devastating impact of Brexit was highlighted this month by Mark Carney, who was for seven years head of the Bank of England. He cited a couple of damning statistics. Asked in an interview about the economic consequences of Brexit, he said: “Put it this way, in 2016 the British economy was 90 per cent the size of Germany’s. Now it is less than 70 per cent. And that calculation was made before today.”
The Brexit referendum vote and the turmoil that followed accelerated the British decline caused by a decade of austerity. The country became less and less capable of sustaining external shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war – and its own government’s divisions and contortions.
Sunak presents himself as a safe pair of hands after the Truss and Johnson comic opera, but he is complicit as a true believer in a decision that almost all economic experts agree has done nothing but self-harm to Britain. He may get a sympathy vote as he inherits deep problems, but he shares in responsibility for creating them in the first place.
Brexit revived the Irish question, which bedevilled British politics for centuries and now threatens the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement of 1998. The dispute about the Northern Ireland Protocol is in reality about Irish partition, which has turned into an international issue with which Sunak has no good options.
Go too far in meeting the anti-Protocol demands of the Tory right and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and he alienates the Irish Republic, EU and – most significantly for the UK – the US. He will presumably try to fudge and delay negotiations to avoid a trade war with the EU. But any dispute involving Northern Ireland has so many moving parts that it is largely insoluble and has its own momentum outside the control of Westminster governments – as many British prime ministers have learned to their cost.
Immigration is another dangerous issue which is not quite what it appears. Many supported Brexit and the Tories because they wanted immigration to go down, but instead it has risen spectacularly, doubling to 1.1 million to June this year compared with 2018-19.
The Government has yet to be hit by a bigger dispute over this because public attention is focused on the 38,000 people illegally crossing the channel in small boats and not on the far larger figure for legal immigrants.
Sunak may increase legal immigration to encourage growth but continue to publicise deportation to Rwanda as a gimmick to pretend that the Government is trying to limit immigration. This policy was beginning to shake apart in the last days of Truss, as shown by her last-minute sacking of the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman. Her reappointment by Sunak suggests it may be resurrected.
Standing tall on Ukraine will be one of Sunak’s easier tasks, but an endless war in Ukraine, with every sign of the conflict escalating, means continued high oil and gas prices. Neither Britain nor the EU has much idea of how to break the deadlock in Ukraine, except to hope for a comprehensive Russian defeat or the overthrow of President Vladimir Putin.
As in Afghanistan and Iraq, British policy will remain in lockstep with the White House, regardless of Biden’s inability to remember the British Prime Minister’s correct name.
Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).
UKRAINE, SATURDAY, 29 OCTOBER
The Russian defense ministry said Moscow was halting participation in the United Nations-brokered agreement after what it said was a Ukrainian attack on its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.
Russia’s decision upends a deal designed to ease the global food crisis.
A drone attack damaged a Black Sea Fleet minesweeping vessel, Russia says.
Here’s how the grain deal between Ukraine and Russia worked.
Ukraine and Russia exchange more than 100 prisoners of war, officials say.
Some four million Ukrainians face restrictions on power use.
Zelensky says that Russia is turning Kherson into a ‘zone without civilization.’