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PERIODS OF HEAVY RAIN and gusty south winds will occur across Northwest California during the next seven days.
THE LAST 24 HOURS have been very active with many reports of wind gusts in excess of 55 mph along the coast from Point Arena to Crescent City and peak winds in the mountains of Humboldt County above 70 mph. Rain, heavy at times, has lead to flooding in Mendocino County with the Navarro, Russian, and Garcia rivers all reaching stages that flooded highways. Plus, numerous rock slides and other minor flooding issues have been reported on other highways in the region. And last, but not least, thunderstorms moved through Mendocino and Lake counties. Quite the day for Northwest California.
TODAY should be a brief period of less active weather for the region but this respite will indeed be brief as gusty winds and rain will quickly expand over the region again tonight into Monday. High resolution guidance is once again indicating the potential for high end gusts over the mountain ridges and 30-50 mph gusts at the coast. This will be in response to the tightening of the pressure gradient ahead of a quick passing frontal system. High wind warnings have been issued for the mountains of Humboldt and Del Norte counties from late this evening through late morning on Monday with gusts up to 70 mph. The vast majority of other mountain ridges in Northwest California have a wind advisory with gusts generally 40-50 mph, though a few isolated spots could see higher gusts as the front moves through. Coastal areas are also under a wind advisory.
THE RAIN on Monday will be moderate to heavy at times resulting in additional rises on area rivers, creeks, and streams. A flood watch remains in effect for areas from southern Humboldt and southern Trinity counties through Mendocino and Lake counties. The heaviest rain is anticipated to occur over the extreme southern portion of the forecast area and may end quickly Monday afternoon. The current flood watch continues into Tuesday and may need to be cancelled early.
ON TUESDAY another low will approach the area bringing showers to the region and the potential for more thunderstorms, most likely south of Cape Mendocino. The biggest threat from these storms will be some locally gusty winds and cloud-to-ground lightning. Rain from these showers will not be enough to result in additional rises on the rivers.
BEYOND TUESDAY there is some considerably uncertainty in the details of the forecast, but it is highly likely that wet conditions will persist. Wednesday and Thursday will see a storm spinning just off the coast sending rain our way. If the front intersects the coast we could see a period of rather heavy precipitation but if it remains just west rain totals will be significantly less. Hopefully we will be able to gain more confidence in the details over the next couple of days.
(National Weather Service)
DOWNED POWER LINES AND GENERAL STORM-INDUCED HAZARDS FORCE CLOSURE AT HENDY WOODS
YESTERDAY'S RAINFALL (past 24 hours): Yorkville 4.04" - Boonville 2.87" - Willits 2.36" - Leggett 2.32" - Ukiah 2.29" - Laytonville 2.29" - Mendocino 2.22" - Hopland 1.44" - Covelo 0.90"
ROAD CLOSURES, Mendocino County
Route 1 is CLOSED (PM 2.1) south of Big Gulch Road in Gualala, Mendocino County due to a tree/power lines on the roadway. There is no expected time to be reopened. [Jan 8: 3:31am]
Route 128 is closed from the Route 1 junction to just west of Navarro (PM 0-12) in Mendocino County due to flooding. There is no expected time to be reopened. [Jan 7: 7:04pm]
State Route 1 is closed north of Point Are[n]a at the Garcia River in Mendocino County (PM 13.3-18.6) due to flooding. There is currently no estimated time of reopening. [Jan 7: 4:43pm]
Route 175 is fully closed at the U.S. 101 junction at Hopland (PM 0.2-0.7) in Mendocino County due to flooding. [Jan 7: 4:43pm]
(Caltrans District 1)
NAVARRO FLOODS, 128 WILL CLOSE FOR DAYS [MCN-Announce]
When it rains it pours, say the Morton's salt boxes. I have recorded 22.7 in. season to date and 2.24 in. year to date at my location 3 mi. inland from the coast at 600 ft. in Little River.
WEATHER The atmospheric river continues sending us tropical moisture from near Hawaii. The Wunderground 10-day weather forecast for Little River Airport indicates 1.9 in. Saturday, 0.83 in. Sunday, and 1.03 in. Monday , for a predicted total of 3.76 inches over the next 3 days. https://www.wunderground.com/forecast/us/ca/little-river/KCALITTL10 (Select 10-day forecast tab if needed.)
FLOODS COMING National Weather Service forecasts two big flood crests on the Navarro River in the next four days that are likely to exceed the 23 ft. flood stage and require closing Hwy. 128, probably for several days starting Saturday night and possibly staying closed until next Wednesday. https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=eka&gage=nvrc1
The FIRST FLOOD starts Saturday night and is currently forecast to peak at 26.5 ft. Sunday at 11 AM. The level won't dip below the 23 ft. level until around Sunday at dark. Caltrans generally doesn't do flood cleanup at night. Flooding at this level will leave behind mud, sand and large woody debris over miles of the highway.
The SECOND FLOOD begins Monday early and is forecast to peak at 29.2 ft. at 8 PM Monday Jan. 9. It won't fall below 23 ft. until about 4 PM Tuesday. It's very unlikely that Caltrans will be able to clear the roadway of mud and debris in the remaining hour before dark Tuesday.
That means 128 WILL BE CLOSED SATURDAY NIGHT and might remain closed until sometime Wednesday the 11th.
But a new storm series begins Wednesday and is forecast to deliver daily rains totalling 4.5 in. through Sunday Jan. 15th. So more flood surges will be coming toward the end of next week. (See the Wunderground 10-day forecast linked above.)
HIGHWAY INFORMATION It's obviously not a great time to be traveling to or from the coast if you don't have to. Don't roam, stay home! Caltrans highway information is available at https://roads.dot.ca.gov or phone 800-GAS-ROAD for the same information. The GARCIA RIVER probably will flood and close Hwy. 1 between Manchester and Point Arena.
RECENT STORM DAMAGE In the past few days heavy rain and winds have blown trees over across local roads, closing the Albion Little River Rd. overnight from Thursday into Friday. Little Lake Rd. was closed east of Mendocino for a time Thursday. Hwy. 1 was fully closed by fallen trees at Navarro Point for a time Thursday, and then reopened for one-way controlled traffic in later afternoon. High surf combined with high tides and storm winds Wednesday morning caused waves to sweep over the asphalt parking lot at Van Damme State Park, leaving driftwood logs and fist-size rocks littering the area, even reaching across Hwy. 1 and depositing driftwood debris at the east side of the roadway at the park entrance. The parking lot remained closed as of late afternoon Friday and had not been cleaned up. Hwy. 128 was closed by downed trees and flooding not only west of Flynn Cr. Rd. but also at the Indian Creek bridge just east of Philo. That meant that our two main detours from the coast to 128 weren't usable.
POWER OUTAGES As you're no doubt aware, the storms have caused widespread power outages. Although many areas have been brought back online, there are still large areas without power tonight, including Albion Ridge, Navarro Ridge and Cameron Road. Little River Airport Rd. from Rd. 18 east to Comptche-Ukiah Rd. were without power for several days until Friday morning. PG&E crews and trucks from far away have been sent here to help repair the widespread storm damage. In Fort Bragg a sign at Main and Cypress streets points to a "PG&E Staging Area" on the former GP mill site. See the interactive PG&E outage map at https://pgealerts.alerts.pge.com/outages/map/ You'll need to zoom in to make any sense of our local area outages. If you zoom in enough you'll see town names, and even street and road names.
NAVARRO RIVER I visited the mouth of the Navarro River at low tide Thursday just before sunset. The river channel through the sandbar was flowing huge volumes of brown water into the ocean at 8000 cu. ft. per second (cfs) according to the NWS chart. For contrast it was only about 700 cfs Wednesday morning before the latest surge began. No one should worry about the sandbar closing the channel any time soon.
A reader asked me how often the Navarro has major floods like the two coming Sunday and Tuesday. The USGS has historical data available as a chart for the past 15 years. https://waterdata.usgs.gov/monitoring-location/11468000/#parameterCode=00065&startDT=2007-01-01&endDT=2023-01-05
Stay warm and dry if you can!
P.S. I'm not an expert or professional weather nerd. Just sharing my observations and sources of information.
COMFIRMING HWY. 128 IS NOW CLOSED [MCN-Announce]
Just writing to confirm that Hwy. 128 is closed between Flynn Creek Rd. and Hwy. 1 due to flooding.
The level was 23.06 ft. at 7:15 PM, and the chart is beginning to round off at a lower crest than forecast, maybe 24 ft. instead of 29.2 ft. https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=eka&gage=nvrc1
That means it's possible that Caltrans will be able to reopen the road sometime Sunday afternoon, before it closes it again Sunday night.
MITCH CLOGG: This is a punishing storm. A big pine tree rests on top of a roof, its root levered up out of the wet ground and naked except for running mud. My tree, my roof—and that ain’t the half of it.
Mendocino’s beach is east of the highway bridge and west of it. I went to the beach to get some sand. My deck and steps, wet, slick, want to drop me on my ass. Keep needing to go out and thinking about my brittle bones. (You don’t get used to being old. At least I don’t. Writing about brittle bones and falling down are weird as shit. Who do I think I’m talking about!) So, the beach: I drove down the twisted little access road, wind and rain momentarily slight, and scooped a half bucket of sand, ruin all around. Trees down in every direction, beach littered with flotsam, portapotty tipped. The access road has that grim high-water mark, the highest place where debris is deposited by rampaging ocean, rampaging river, cold, loud waves. The line is halfway up the access road! The Big River canyon was filled to the point that there was no beach a few hours ago. Where I stooped to gather sand was deeper underwater than I am tall. In the same spot, hours earlier, I likely would not have made it through the thudding horizontal trees and angry water to Highway One.
Such things are meanly vivid to me. Conditions were not identical when my family drowned, but the chaos was. I’ve seen some goddamned storms before this one.
In the short couple of hundreds of yards from the bottom of my hill, where the traffic light is, on Highway 1, to the beach-access road, there was a scrum of cars and emergency vehicles, lovely flashing lights, people directing cars north, south, into the village and out—the whole storm sugaree. Just going down the hill, fences down, stuff uprooted, everything in storm guise, gray and wet, standing, stolid, until the next gust moves it, enduring, a world with its head pulled into its collar, waiting it out.
I sanded the places I step, handfuls of damp sand, flung. I can romanticize all I want about how this old-age thing is a dream I’ll wake from, but that tiny, abiding, rational voice says yeah, fine, whatever you say, but any time’s a bad time to break a leg, especially during a storm. Put sand on the steps, Mitchell, on the deck. Slipperier’n ice.
NOAA says it’s going to go on and on and on, the whole damn north american continent, ’til hell freezes over.
I’ve stopped short of saying this all my life: I hate winter. (There!) Skiing's nice (when you’re young) and sledding, when you’re younger, ice skates and ice boats, whole color-glowing cities made of carved and shaven ice, ice in a mint julep on the veranda (yes!)—all that winter stuff is fine when everything’s fine, but, much of the time it is irrelevant; things aren’t fine. People and animals are shivering wet & cold. Their shelters are broken and their blankets are wet.
Came a hurricane up the coast to Maryland. The Clogg family boat, an 80-foot converted WW2 PT boat, was in Ocean City, Maryland. Daddy was in Baltimore. He and I, as soon as he could get loose, hurried 150 miles to the boat. The storm was already whipping. We had to shout to hear each other, side by side. There wasn’t time to drive the boat (name: Judsan M V; the V was for “five”) to a nearby harbor. She had to ride it out at the end of North Fifth Street. It was an empty lot my father bought to be our summer address. The sandy soil was held back by creosoted pilings and planks; they formed a retaining wall on which Assawoman Bay lapped and to which the Judsan M V was tied.
We deployed all the fenders, old tires and anything else that would keep the boat from pounding and scraping itself to pieces against the bulkhead. We pulled out any and all ropes that were not then tying the boat to the earth and added them to the web of mooring lines. It all had to be just so. If a line is too short, it will hold the boat too tight to the bulkhead, as waves and tide go up and down, and hold its deck underwater at high-water times; too long is too stretchy, allowing too much movement. I forget all the considerations of mooring.
Anyway, we did all that, ascamper—onboard, on the bulkhead, on the ground, everything in motion, cleats, ropes, hungry splashes all ’round, wind whipping clothes, snatching your voice away—did all that at high speed, as the wind got louder and louder, until there was nothing left to do, and my father shouted (he and I both had loud voices) “Take a good look at her, Mitchell. It might be the last time you see her!”
It wasn’t. Nor was it the first or last time my father and I had a rare, close moment in the face of a storm. We were not close, so those were important. I was not present for the cold storm that killed him and the five others he was responsible for (NOT responsible for; insufficiently; damnably irresponsible). He was not given to dramatic speeches, my father. That moment in Ocean City was a harbinger. As my memory erases nice things, I wish to Christ it would erase more of the not-nice things.
I have a love-hate relation with storms. This house is tight, and my hearing’s faded. It can blow like stink outside, and you hardly hear it.
But sometimes, when gusts hit and blow fences and trees down, this house creaks and cracks. It is yielding, where wood is joined, to the pressure of the wind. I love storms when I can watch in comfort, through windows, secure.
LAKE MENDOCINO RISING
by Mike Geniella
On a soggy weekend all eyes are on Lake Mendocino, the rapidly filling reservoir behind Coyote Dam north of Ukiah.
The surging east fork of the Russian River is fast filling up the lake, promising to end three years of drought conditions with current levels on Saturday reaching close to 100 percent of the target water supply level for the coming year, according to local and state water officials.
“The rainfall is phenomenal. It has filled a big hole in the local water supply,” said Sean White, the city of Ukiah’s water director.
The unexpected change is from a series of rainstorms that are expected to last into the coming week. By mid-January, Lake Mendocino’s water storage could be almost three times the amount measured just several weeks ago at the end of November.
The reservoir’s rising level is good news amid a series of rainstorms, power outages, high winds, downed trees, and local flooding.
“Nothing has gotten the lake to these levels in recent years. It is significant,” said White. Lake Mendocino’s capacity is 68,400 acre feet of water. On Saturday, on the eve of a third expected major rainstorm, the lake’s volume measured about 63,000 acre feet.
The Sonoma County Water Agency’s main water supply is Lake Sonoma in the Dry Creek region, which holds nearly four times the water supply and principally serves 600,000 users in Sonoma County and northern Marin.
A month ago, Lake Sonoma’s storage was at the lowest historical level ever at 96,310 acre feet, but by mid-January its level is predicted to rise to 217,803 acre feet and still short of its overall capacity of 245,000 acre feet.
Water from Lake Mendocino is key to the drinking water sources for the communities of Ukiah, Hopland, Cloverdale, and Healdsburg. Downstream flows support threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead trout during fall and winter seasons and provide irrigation and frost protection for thousands of acres of farmland between Ukiah Valley and Healdsburg. The reservoir also provides critical flood control to protect communities like Guerneville, which would suffer even more drastic flooding issues if Coyote Dam was not in place.
Andrea Rodriquez, a spokeswoman for the Sonoma County Water Agency which controls the bulk of water stored behind Coyote Dam, said Saturday the current level in Lake Mendocino is amazingly nearing an “adequate water supply level” for the New Year.
Yet there are concerns about how fast Lake Mendocino will rise, and when flood measure measures must be put in place.
“We are not there yet but we are nearing a tipping point where we stop managing the lake for water supply, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers steps in to oversee management for flood control,” said Rodriquez.
It is a stark change from three years of drought, when Lake Mendocino’s water level dwindled to a record low.
Less than two years ago California Gov. Gavin Newsom and an entourage of water officials showed up at Lake Mendocino, held a news conference, and dramatically proclaimed a drought emergency because of severe conditions in the Russian River watershed. His proclamation in April 21 gave the state Water Resources Control Board authority to curtail water rights in the counties of Mendocino and Sonoma.
“We are most certainly in a better situation now than in the last few years, but honestly, ‘feast or famine’ at Lake Mendocino is not a new thing,” said White, a longtime North Coast water expert.
White said it is ‘still anyone’s guess how this ends up but there is no doubt we are going to be in a better position than we have been in the last couple of years.’
A major difference in this era is a new forecasting system for Russian River reservoirs, which has twice now allowed state and federal authorities to increase water supply benefits while managing for flood risks.
It is called FIRO (Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations) which Rodriquez, White, and others say better informs decisions to retain or release water behind dams.
“It provides more flexibility,” said Rodriquez.
The Sonoma County water agency and the Army Corps learned a hard lesson in 2012 after storms pushed Lake Mendocino water levels into the reservoir’s so-called flood pool. The decision then was made to release water downstream but a severe drought lasting until 2015 arrived, resulting in serious reductions in water storage and river flows.
Following that, the Sonoma agency and the Corps engaged with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography to develop a more sophisticated forecasting system. After six years of extensive technical and modeling analysis and annual testing, the new FIRO system proved successful during the course of two very different water years: a wet 2019 and a very dry 2020. Even in the driest year, the system allowed the agency and the Corps to maintain a 19 percent increase in water storage by the end of winter.
The new forecasting system allows the Corps the discretion to hold back an additional 9,500 acre of surplus water through Feb. 15 unless another atmospheric river is forecast. The discretionary amount rises to 19,000 feet by March 1, absent any major storm activity, according to Sonoma County Water Agency fact sheets.
In May, the innovative forecasting system was recognized statewide for being able to better address climate change impacts, including more severe and prolonged droughts.
“The successful and collaborative work done on Lake Mendocino, utilizing science, technology, and advances in forecasting, is groundbreaking and serves as a model that can be tested at reservoirs throughout California,” said Pamela Tobin, president of the Association of California Water Agencies.
TRAGIC ACCIDENT EARLY SATURDAY MORNING claims the life of hard working family man, Edgar Castillo, age 37 from Elk Grove; Castillo was in Mendocino County assisting with storm cleanup when his work vehicle rolled over on Mountain View Road; CHP report is still pending.
Posted January 7, 2023
Castillo's family has helped share the following:
Edgar Castillo was full of life and above all full of love for his wife and five kids. He worked hard to take care of his family; often working in harsh weather and locations. One of his last social media posts of his twins, he stated, "I love them so much..."
At the time of the incident Castillo was working for a subcontractor of PG&E helping clear roads for various communities in Northern California during the severe winter storms. His last post on social media was of him in his work clothes stating, "Grindtime", an indication of going to work. He was on his way to clear debris for a community near Manchester in Mendocino County. During the time of the accident Mendocino County was experiencing floods, downed trees and powerlines and widespread power outages. Roads were often blocked with little to no notice.
The family is asking for assistance to primarily cover funeral expenses and if there are any additional funds, help his wife and five children with financial support.
Family share Castillo had an infectious laugh, often the loudest in the room. The kind of laugh that comes deep from the belly and heart. He was quick to smile and quick to get up and dance. He leaves behind a wife and five kids, including twins who have autism, which require special care.
— Danilla Sands [via Facebook]
THE EDITOR HAS COVID. It kicked in big time Friday morning, diagnosed and prescribed medication the same day. People who visited the ava this past week should get tested. Apologies to you all.
ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE: Events Calendar
NORTH BAY’S RECENT PUNISHING RAINS reflect reality of climate change extremes, experts say
While recent rains may refill our water storage reservoirs, they won’t likely be enough to cure the ravages of prolonged drought.
by Mary Callahan
It’s a trick of the mind that a few days of rain can so quickly make us forget the statewide drought we’ve endured for three years.
Not even a month ago, Lake Sonoma held the smallest amount of water since its creation in 1983 — a reflection of the region’s paltry rainfall and its water supply deficit
Now, it’s like Water World everywhere. The ground is squishy. Pounding rain has been hurtling from the sky for days. The most ephemeral streams, creeks and rivers run high, with significant flooding along the lower Russian River expected in mere days.
What gives? And where exactly do we stand?
The answer is a little unclear, given the abundance of rain still coming next week alone — 5 to 10 inches in most of Sonoma County expected in at least two storms, forecasters say — and the vast uncertainty about how the rest of the traditional “rainy season” will pan out once the current storms have passed.
It’s obvious that the water supply for much of the state, including Sonoma County and the North Coast, will be greatly improved — a positive trade-off for the pain and expense of last week’s “bomb cyclone” and accompanying rain that claimed at least five lives across the state, including that of a 2-year-old boy who died when a tree fell on his Occidental home.
Lake Sonoma, low enough last month that a mandatory 30% conservation rate was considered, is now on track to be 88% full by Jan. 16.
Lake Mendocino is filling so quickly it will likely require dam releases once it is safe to do so without jeopardizing those downstream.
It’s a jarring turnabout from the months of bureaucratic maneuvering aimed at hoarding every possible drop.
But rebounding reservoirs aren’t the only measure of drought recovery, and a changing climate only means there will be more yo-yoing between weather extremes in the future, experts say.
“If you define drought by surface water levels, then this is going to dramatically alleviate it,” said Daniel Swain, a frequently consulted climate scientist with the Institute of Environment & Sustainability at UCLA.
Many smaller reservoirs around the state are approaching seasonal storage averages, and even larger ones are making critical headway, he said.
But “that’s not a great way to define drought,” Swain said.
It overlooks the impacts of drought on plant life, particularly the stresses on trees and forests, which contributed to wildfire risk.
Aquifers that have been under increased pressure to supply water in the absence of healthy reservoirs also need more time to recover.
“Those take much longer to restore. They recover on much, much longer time scales, for the most part,” said research meteorologist Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
“Water supply drought is different from landscape drought,” he said.
Jeanine Jones, drought manager for the California Department of Water Resources, said groundwater monitoring even after a very wet rainy season generally doesn’t show significant improvement in a single year’s time.
Jones also offered some “big picture” perspective on the rain that’s fallen in California this season so far.
It’s been a lot in a short time — 6 to 9 inches in most of Sonoma County over the 10 days ending Friday, with much of it arriving midweek last week. That brought the season-to-date total for Santa Rosa to about 108% of normal, according to the National Weather Service. The water season runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 of the following year.
It’s still only the first part of January, and with forecasting refined enough to provide only about a week of highly accurate projections, there’s no way to know if the spigot will just turn off, as has happened before, Jones said.
“On average, half of our precipitation in California arrives in December, January and February,” Jones said. “We’re just a third of the way through normal season. It’s far too early to say where we’ll be in March, which is about the time we’ll be able to take some comfort in our water supply conditions.
“I can’t resist observing,” she added, “that part of the noise and chatter around this is we’ve been in drought for so long, people have forgotten what winter weather looks like.”
In Sonoma County and elsewhere around Northern and Central California, last week’s rain made such an enormous impact in large part because of two drenching storms — Dec. 27 and New Year’s Eve — that saturated the ground, meaning every new inch of precipitation ran immediately downhill toward the closest ditch, stream, creek or river.
BROOKTRAILS, an on-line comment: “Brooktrails has become a toxic haven. What used to be a playground for the wealthy or the retired has suffered. Many of the homes were passed down and not maintained. Rented out. With far away landlords not monitoring the sites. Brooktrails homes especially on the shady sides deteriorate fast and require a high level of maintenance. Annual pressure washing etc. A good percentage of the homes are occupied by squatters or illegal tenants. Add the issue of remoteness, lack of services, and poor follow-up on derelict properties it’s a perfect storm.”
JURY DIDN'T BELIEVE HER
A Mendocino County Superior Court jury returned from its deliberations Friday afternoon to announce it had found the trial defendant guilty as charged.
Defendant Paloma Victoria Rodriguez Irizarry, age 39, of Ukiah, was convicted of having driven a motor vehicle in June of last year with a blood alcohol .08 or greater, a misdemeanor. The evidence presented at trial was that the defendant’s blood alcohol at the time of driving was .09/.09.
The law enforcement agencies that developed the evidence used by the prosecutor to obtain today’s conviction were the Ukiah Police Department and the Department of Justice forensic laboratory.
The prosecutor who presented the People’s evidence at trial and argued for the verdict that was returned was Deputy District Attorney Victoria Fernandez.
As an aside, this week’s jury trial was Ms. Fernandez’s first jury trial as a Mendocino County prosecutor. Congratulations, Victoria.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Victoria Shanahan presided over what turned out to be a four-day trial due to weather conditions.
THE JAIL EXPANSION COST OVERRUN ESTIMATE, number 3 in just the last few months, has gone up another $1 mil. According to the County and its high-priced Sacto architect, most of the overrun is attributed to unreasonable delays in final approval from the State Fire Marshal’s office. The project is now expected to cost about $37 million, about $12 million more than the $25 mil the state granted for their project. This means that even after borrowing about $10 million at prevailing interest rates last fall (i.e., doubling the cost to the County byadding $5 million in interest payments) they’re now claiming to be almost $1.5 million short. Even if you believe that the state fire marshall is the main culprit in the overrun (we don’t; we think it’s also got a lot to do with over-design and over-management by Sacto consulant Nacht & Lewis), we have yet to see one request from the County to the state (i.e., reps McGuire or Wood, or the state agency the granted the first $25 mil) to cover most of the overrun since the project is state mandated and the overrun is (supposedly) caused by a state office. One or two supervisors mentioned contacting the state last fall in passing, but there was no follow up.
TO GET JUST A GLIMPSE of how gold-plated this expansion is, all one has to do is look at the project description (and then tell us that the overrun is all the fault of the state fire marshal.)
“PROJECT DESCRIPTION: This project will design and construct a new stand alone building adjacent to the existing county jail located on county owned land. The building will provide a new housing unit with programming and treatment space, and a new public visiting center. The new housing unit will include approximately 60 rated beds; a safety cell; respiratory isolation cell; recreation yards; housing unit control; nursing station; medical exam room; dental exam room; program/group rooms and staff support space. The new public visiting center will include contact and non-contact visiting rooms for families and attorneys. The project will include, but is not limited to; electrical; plumbing; mechanical; heating; ventilation, and air conditioning; security; site improvements; fire protection systems; security fencing and all other necessary appurtenances.”
THE CURRENT JAIL has about 300 beds.
NOBODY KNOWS how much operating the new wing will cost. No serious analysis has been done. Nor does anyone expect staffing the new wing to be easy; the Sheriff has trouble staffing the existing jail as it is.
THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE who have never raised a single objection to the state’s imposition of a wasteful new courthouse and the impact it will have on the County’s bottom line. Nobody has even attempted to estimate the impact of the new Courthouse on County ops. They have no idea what they will do with the mostly abandoned old courthouse, or whether a new (costly) DA’s office will be built over by the old train depot where the new courthouse is planned.
MENDO PREFERS to just sit back and let the state trample all over them and their budget as they waste hundreds of thousands on silly “strategic plans” and “general plan updates” which will be gutted by the forces they can’t even bring themselves to object to.
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
This little guy was shut down at the shelter, fearful and uncertain of what was going on. He didn't want to walk, and just kind of froze. We think Baloo might have been used as a bait dog. Given his history, it's no wonder he was not trusting of strangers. Baloo is now in a foster home where he's made great strides! He's very smart and learns quickly. Baloo is crate-trained, house-broken, knows basic obedience. He's learning how to walk on-leash, and LOVES to play ball! This guy is a total sweetie, and his tail wags ALL the time! Baloo is about a year old and 50-ish pounds.
For more about Baloo, head to mendoanimalshelter.com
If you can’t adopt, consider fostering. Our website has information about our Foster Program, on-going Dog And Cat Adoption Events, and other programs, services and updates. Visit us on Facebook at: facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/
For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453.
UNITY CLUB NEWS
On January 12 at 12:30 p.m. the Annual Potluck and joint meeting of the Unity Club and the Garden Section will take place in the Dining Room, Fairgrounds. Please note the earlier time, 12:30 p.m. We each usually provide either a salad or dessert that feeds 6 to 8 people, or more if you feel like it. My German Potato Salad can feed 8 or more folks. Side dishes are always welcome too. Our hostesses will provide coffee and hot water for tea.
Following the Potluck, we will enjoy our Program: “The Blue Zone Project; Live Longer Better”. This ought to be fun.
Coming up soon: February 2nd at 12:30 our Annual Friendship Luncheon will be held in the Dining Room, Fairgrounds. Our catering crew, Terri Rhoades, Wanda Johnson and Marilyn Pronsolino, have come up with the following menu:
Vegetable or Ham & Cheese Quiche
Ranch Potatoes Fruit Salad
Mixed Greens Salad w/ add ons and dressings
Dessert Bar: Cream Puffs Rum Cake and Cookies
The cost is $25/person.
Please make your entre' selections and pay for yourself and your guest(s) at the January 12th meeting. If you aren't able to attend the Jan. 12 meeting, send your payment and entre' selection(s) to our Treasurer, Jean Condon P.O. Box 466, Philo, CA 95466-0466.
Our Speaker for the February 2nd Luncheon will be Mendocino County CEO Darcie Antle; appointed by our Board of Supervisors July 12, 2022. She also serves Mendocino County as our Disaster Recovery Finance Director. The Community is invited to attend Ms. Antle's presentation at ~ 1:30, following our Luncheon. I'd like to hear how she's helping to keep the County's Departments and Divisions fiscally sound. Even if you cannot attend the catered lunch, come for the Speaker on February 2nd.
Our lending library is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays, whenever the Fairgrounds are not rented out. I love curling up in bed with my reading lamp on, devouring my latest book and listening to the rain. Hurrah for the rain! Maybe we'll get that 55” this year. I hope so.
Please Note: January 12th Potluck is at 12:30
February 2nd Friendship Luncheon is at 12:30
If you cannot make it to the lunch, come for the Program.
Healthy New Year
AV DANCE CLASSES FOR KIDS
We had a wonderful session of dance classes for kids at The Studio SoBo this fall. Now that the holidays are wrapping up, I wanted to reach out to the community again and see who may be interested in joining us for our winter session?
Our class schedule will be determined by the availability of the studio as well as best days/times for those interested in participating.
Current classes offered include:
- Creative Movement (ages 18mo+ & parent/guardian)
- Rhythm & Dance (ages 3-4)
- Pre-Ballet (ages 5-7)
- Ballet 1 (ages 8-10)
If you would be interested in any Ballet classes this year in Boonville, please feel free to DM me thru Messenger, call/text (415) 713-3833 or email email@example.com.
* * *
Elizabeth Jensen began ballet before the early age of 3 with Virginia Stapleton at what is now Stapleton School of the Performing Arts in San Anselmo, CA. Stapleton School has a remarkable program, fostering the love of dance and creative movement in all children, without bias.
At Stapleton School, Elizabeth performed in numerous ballets over the years including Coppelia, La Fille Mal Garde, Les Sylphides, Swan Lake, and of course, The Nutcracker, in which she danced the familiar roles of Clara, Snow Queen, and Sugar Plum Fairy. With Stapleton School, she also had the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, to perform an original ballet of Tom Sawyer at the Fringe Festival.
In college, Elizabeth continued to dance as a member of the Wellesley College Dancers, a student run company focusing on ballet, jazz, and modern dance. After college, Elizabeth returned to Stapleton School as a teacher before resuming college courses to pursue a career in Physical Therapy. Today, Elizabeth continues to work with the body as a Certified Pilates Trainer and dance instructor in Boonville, CA.
BOMB CYCLONES &C
by Jim Shields
As we went to press in Laytonville last Friday, 15.51 inches of rain fell in the previous ten days, which more than doubled the total amount from the previous five months.
A week ago Friday, when we recorded 4.15 inches, if the rain hadn’t slacked off by 4pm, we would have experienced serious flooding in downtown Laytonville, and the Feed Store Bridge over Ten Mile Creek would have been underwater.
Two weeks ago, rainfall totaled a little over 11 inches or 48 percent of the historic norm. This week we stand at 26.92 inches, which is 93 percent of normal, which is 29.02 for this time of year.
So as I predicted back in August, we are seeing a return to historic precipitation patterns.
For the next week or so, the heavens will be opening up, a real deluge will be falling upon us.
One of my OES sources said of this monster events headed our way, “What I gather from this is to prepare as well as possible for the worst case scenario. Continue to hope for the best outcome. My recommendation is to make absolutely sure that you have enough fuel on hand for at least 7 days for mobile equipment and back up generation. It’s much better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!”
So be forewarned, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Flood Watch from Jan. 4 6pm to Jan. 6, 4:30am for Mendocino County as heavy rains continue. Anticipate flooding along roadways, debris, and downed trees. High Wind Watch: In effect from Wednesday (1/4/23) morning through Thursday (1/5/23) morning. Damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines. Widespread power outages are possible. Travel could be difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles.
Remember, never drive through flood waters. If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized and extremely dangerous. Do not touch or try to move it—keep children and animals away. Report downed power lines immediately by calling 911 and by calling PG&E at 1-800-743-5002. PG&E continues to restore all power outages as they occur.
Debris Flow Warning Signs: Listen and watch for rushing water, mud, and/or unusual sounds. Unusual sounds, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together, might indicate moving debris. A faint rumbling sound that increases in volume is noticeable as landslides near. Movement of fences, retaining walls, utility poles, boulders, or trees. Report debris flows to 9-1-1 Again, please use caution if you’re driving and stay home if possible.
As I said last week, one of the meteorologists that I probably pay the most attention to is Dr. Daniel Swain. He’ s a young guy who holds a PhD in Earth System Science from Stanford University and a B.S. in Atmospheric Science from the University of California, and is a climate scientist in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
Here’s what Swain is saying on Twitter as we go to press:
“Okay, folks. Starting to look like it’ s going to be a rough 10+ days from a flood risk perspective in Northern California, with a series of very wet & high-impact storms. Pretty spectacular satellite imagery of rapidly strengthening “bomb cyclone” out over the Pacific. This is the system that will bring widespread high wind and heavy rain to Northern California, along with considerable risk of flooding/wind damage.
Why is there concern re: escalating flood risk beyond (strong & high-impact) Wed storm? Ensembles are suggesting another significant precipitation event this weekend following by potential for a prolonged/strong NorCal AR on Mon/Tue, but w/substantial uncertainty.
Just kind of obsessing over the amazing and perfectly-framed satellite imagery today of the inbound California storm. This is a textbook mid-latitude cyclone, with well-defined warm and cold fronts, and it’ s even developing an eye-like feature near its center. Although peak impacts from Wed/Thu storm are expected in NorCal, this will still be a notable storm for much of SoCal (esp. LA County northward). Expect some significant rainfall Wed and Thu with 2-4” across coasts/valleys and 4-8” over the mountains. Additionally, strong southerly winds (in excess of 60 MPH) are expected across the mountains and Central Coast.
Interestingly, there appears to be lightning occurring in both warm sector of this storm as well as along the cold front. That is pretty unusual in these parts, and is indicative of both a pretty unstable atmosphere overall as well as the rapid rate of strengthening.”
Fast Food Bill Slowed Down By Court Order
As a former long-time union officer, I thought you might find this California labor development as interesting as I do.
Here’s the deal:
A Sacramento Superior Court judge has placed a temporary hold on a bill aimed at boosting wages and protections for California’s fast-food workers, which had been set to go into effect Jan. 1.
The Dec. 30 order prevents the law from being implemented until the court has a chance to hear the case and decide whether to grant a preliminary injunction. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13.
The move comes in response to a Dec. 29 lawsuit filed by Save Local Restaurants, which seeks to prevent the state Department of Industrial Relations from implementing the law while signatures are being verified for a referendum that would put it on hold until November 2024 when voters can decide the outcome.
The coalition of restaurant and business trade groups is adamantly opposed to Assembly Bill 257, also known as the FAST Recovery Act. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the legislation, authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, on Sept. 5, 2022.
“Over 1 million Californians have made clear they want their say on this flawed measure, which would raise food prices and cost their communities needed jobs,” the group said recently.
The coalition says it has gathered more than 1 million signatures opposing the implementation of AB 257. It needed 623,000 signatures by Dec. 4. The state has until Jan. 25 to verify the signatures.
If the court decides on Jan. 13 that the law can move forward, AB 257 could potentially take effect. But California Secretary of State Shirley Weber will also determine whether or not there are enough signatures to halt it until the November 2024 referendum.
AB 257 opponents have argued that, as the referendum process is well underway, it renders the law unenforceable. They also fear implementation of the law would undermine California’s referendum process.
“The state Constitution guarantees a process for voters to reconsider laws passed by their legislature,” Sean Kennedy, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “The DIR’s disregard for the rule of law is an insult to the democratic process.”
AB 257 would create a 10-person, state-run council to negotiate wages, hours and working conditions for the more than half a million fast-food workers in California.
It would require the signatures of 10,000 fast-food employees to move forward once AB 257 takes effect.
The bill is designed to help workers who often struggle to make ends meet. It would also address wage theft, harassment, discrimination and unsafe work conditions fast-food workers say they face on the job.
Opponents of AB 257 argue it could push higher prices onto consumers by as much as 20%.
My problem with the new law is the provision creating this 10-person “state-run” council that would negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions.
Negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions is the primary job description of a labor union. The state would be circumventing the collective bargaining process, albeit for commendable reasons, I guess. But by any other name this is state paternalism writ large over the labor movement.
I have no problems with this new law addressing wage theft (management appropriating tips), harassment, discrimination and unsafe work conditions fast-food workers say they face on the job because those are general conditions that affect all workers, as is the case with health and safety laws, racial and gender discrimination laws, and the like.
Unions know how to organize workers. Unions know how to represent workers at the bargaining table. Unionized workers, whether they be airline employees, construction workers, or prospective McDonald’ s fast food employees, are represented by people elected by them to negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions.
The state of California needs to stay the hell out of attempting to represent workers and negotiating labor agreements.
Court Forces Disclosure Of Trump’s Skimpier Than Skimpy Tax Returns
Former Prez Donald Trump’s tax returns were released last week by the House Ways and Means Committee
The released documents showed that he paid very little in income taxes spanning from 2015 to 2020, the last four years when he served as president.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court OK’d the congressional committee to receive copies of six years of Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department, despite Trump’s argument that the request was “politically motivated” and a “witch hunt.”
It should be noted that Trump is the only president to have refused to make his tax returns public during his two presidential campaigns. For at least 50 all men and women running for the White House have voluntarily disclosed the information.
Why all his reluctance to let people know about his finances and how much he paid in taxes?
The Trumpster answered that question during the 2016 presidential debate when he egotistically but weakly replied, “that makes me smart,” and argued that if he did, the money would be “squandered.”
Huh? It’s what we call a F-you response.
Over the years, Trumped argued he couldn’t release financial documents while he was under a “routine audit” by the IRS.
But that was a whopper because there is no law or regulatory restriction preventing any citizen from releasing tax returns while under an IRS audit “routine” or otherwise.
According to a congressional report released earlier this month, Trump and his wife Melania “reported negative income and little tax liability during multiple years throughout 2015 to 2020, and paid no federal income tax in 2020,” Trump’s last year in office.
According to a report by the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, “Trump used deductions to avoid paying taxes in some years, which should have been noted by the IRS. Trump reported massive business losses to offset his earnings and therefore reduce tax bills.”
The committee members also said they noticed that in many filings of reported streams of income, the former president’ s earnings and expenses matched exactly or there was no reported income at all, indicating that he may have improperly deducted money spent for personal purchases as business expenses.
All of these findings support media reports from 2020 showing that Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018 by reporting millions more in losses than earnings for several of his properties. Compare Trump’ s miniscule filings with the average tax filer paying about $12,200, about 16 times more than the One-Percenter multibillionaire.
Our former Congressman Mike Thompson, who now represents another district, more or less summed up the disgusting tax disclosure clown show by saying, “The idea that somebody is making millions of dollars and can get away without paying their taxes by avoiding — in an unprecedented way — their tax liability, while single moms who are trying to take care of their kids are being audited, is absolutely unacceptable.”
Here’ s a hot tip for Thompson: Trump is not the only rich-beyond-your-dreams tax cheater eluding their moral — if not legal — obligation to pay their fair share of taxes.
Turn your steely gaze on them also, Mr. Congressman.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Saturday, January 7, 2023
JOSE BUENROSTRO, Ukiah. Concealed dirk-dagger, failure to appear.
JONAHTAN CISNEROS, Willits. Saps or similar weapons, reckless evasion, resisting, offenses while on bail.
THOMAS HANOVER, Ukiah. Under influence, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JONATHAN KREBS, Fort Bragg. DUI-alcohol&drugs while on probation, reckless evasion, reckless driving, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
RITA LAVENDUSKEY, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)
JOHN MARKS, Ukiah. Protective order violation, county parole violation.
JOSHUA STEPHONSON, Modesto/Willits. DUI with blood-alcohol over 0.15%.
SHANDA THOMAS, Covelo. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, under influence.
RUSSELL WHITE, Willits. Battery on emergency personnel.
We do not need to like PG&E very much to recognize that the line repair folks are heroes. I live in Sebastopol. My power went out twice Wednesday night, and both times it was back on in about an hour. Working in a cherry-picker with big electricity in the dark and the rain — that is heroic! Big thanks.
KYM KEMP VENTS:
A little frustrated, so I'm going to vent. Scroll past if you don't want to see me get a little salty.
A regular reader insists that as I'm providing a free service, “it’s crappy to expect others to pay for it, especially through guilt like NPR/PBS affiliates do.”
Just so everyone is clear:
I’m not providing a free service. I want to get paid and I know not everyone can afford to pay but I also offer a donate button. Like the rest of humanity, I like to get recompense for the work I do.
As I said to the reader...
If you want a service, how do you think it is going to keep being there if you don’t help it stay? Just realistically…ask yourself, how does Kym Kemp stay in business if no one contributes…? How is she going to pay reporters and photographers to make sure that you get the news you need about wildfires and road closures?
Neither NPR nor I are providing free services. We provide services that we ask those that can pay for to chip in to support.
I mean, NPR has to pay reporters, pay for computers, etc. So do I. Do you think money just appears from God? It doesn’t. You use our services, presumably they are helpful and would be missed if they were gone, so why not chip in?
Maybe you don’t have the money…hey, when I was a student first listening to NPR, I didn’t either. But as soon as my husband and I got a little on our feet, we began pitching in some once or twice a year. Later, as we got more money, I tried to figure out what it was worth to me personally. How much would I pay to get behind a paywall? Then I pitched in that much per month.
You probably throw your change on the dresser and don’t count it but, you know that if every time someone clicked on an article, they gave me just one dime, I’d make well over $15,000 a month on average, closer to $17,000 other months. (That would pay for a heck of a lot of reporting.) Maybe you can get a roll of dimes next time you are at the store and then every time you click on an article, decide if I deserve a dime. Put it in a pile and then donate when you get to $10.
And it seems like the amount of information/interest provided is worth at least a dime. Same with NPR, if you listen for a half hour a day, could you give them $.50 per day you listen? That would add up to some great reporting, if even half the people did that.
Think of how many reporters we could hire. Think of how much corruption we could expose. Think of the photographers we could encourage. Think of how much we could give back to our communities.
Now, you don’t have to pay, but don’t fool yourself it’s because I don’t wish you would.
(Also, it’s crappy to expect others to work for you without paying for it and then get righteous about how they are guilt tripping you when they mention they’d like to get paid. We do the best we can to cobble together a living here with advertisers — bless them and please support them if possible — but I pay my reporters and photographer terrible wages only exceeded by the terrible wage I pay myself. We really love what we do but we'd love it more if we were able to cover more stories, provide more consistently good photography, and pay ourselves a living wage.)
Rant over. I'm going back to a job I love, helping a community I love, and I know I'm lucky to be where I am. Thanks for letting me vent a little.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
When I was a boy back in the 60’s and 70’s I remember seeing an occasional obese person. it was the exception, not the rule. Now they’re everywhere, although I think a few of them floated out to sea during the recent storm here in Santa Cruz county.
HOW DEMOCRAT ADAM SCHIFF ABUSED HIS POWER To Demand I Be Kicked Off Twitter Simply Due To A Personal Vendetta
by Paul Sperry
Back from holiday vacation, I found an interesting email waiting for me in my inbox from Matt Taibbi, the independent journo Elon Musk tasked with reviewing and releasing internal Twitter documents about decisions to censor content and ban users from the platform.
“Paul,” Taibbi wrote, “just found a crazy email on Twitter — did you know Adam Schiff’s staff . . . asked Twitter to have you banned?”
I was gobsmacked. This would explain why Twitter could never give me a reason for suspending my account, even though I had broken none of its rules.
Schiff, the powerful Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, made his “request” to ban me through his staff in a November 2020 memo to Twitter. Three months later, in early February 2021, I was kicked off the platform.
Why would a congressional leader sworn to protect the Constitution and First Amendment want to muzzle a veteran journalist? Like authoritarians everywhere, Schiff did not like critical reporting. The man who vowed to “protect our Democracy” from Donald Trump wanted to censor a free press.
In articles for RealClearInvestigations, I outed his anonymous “whistleblower” from the first impeachment of President Trump. It was Eric Ciaramella, a Democrat who had worked in the Trump White House as an Obama holdover. I also exposed Ciaramella’s prior relationship with one of Schiff’s top staffers on the impeachment committee, Sean Misko.
My reporting cast fresh doubts on Schiff’s claims that the 2019 impeachment process happened organically. The New York Times had already busted Schiff lying about prior contacts with the whistleblower. Initially, Schiff publicly stated his office never spoke with the whistleblower before he filed his complaint against President Trump, when in fact a Schiff staffer had huddled with him, something Schiff’s spokesman Patrick Boland was forced to admit after the Times broke the story. (The staffer was never identified.) The prior contacts led to suspicions Schiff’s office helped the whistleblower craft his complaint as part of a partisan operation.
In the censorship demands Schiff’s office sent Twitter, Misko and the “impeachment inquiry” are mentioned. It’s not clear if Ciaramella is, too, since some names are blacked out. Schiff demanded Twitter “remove any and all content”’ related to them.
Unlike in other cases where Twitter did censor accounts, officials there originally argued that “this isn’t feasible.”
At the time, Twitter was about the only media outlet where the names of Schiff’s impeachment operatives were circulating. The Washington press corps had conspired to protect the so-called whistleblower and cover up his identity. The Washington Post even scolded me for identifying him, claiming I was putting his life in danger. But this was a bluff. I was told by his family, as well as impeachment investigators, that he had received no credible threats.
In his list of demands, Schiff tried to justify banning me by claiming I was promoting “false QAnon conspiracies,” which I have never done and I challenge Schiff to produce evidence to back up his defamatory remarks.
Schiff knew better. He knew “QAnon” was a trigger for Twitter censors, who were suppressing QAnon posts. Yet even Twitter’s liberal gatekeepers appeared skeptical of Schiff’s claims: “If it is related to QAnon it should already be deamplified.”
Schiff knows something about promoting false conspiracies. In 2017, he took to the microphone in a televised House Intelligence Committee hearing and read into the congressional record a screed of wild conspiracy theories about Trump and Russia from the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded dossier.
He trumpeted them as if they were fact. But they were false — every one of them — as Special Counsel John Durham has proven in court documents, expanding on what Justice Department watchdog Michael Horowitz found in his earlier report.
We now know most of the preposterous rumors Schiff dramatically read into the public record came from a source who was invented by the dossier’s authors. In his hyping of the dossier, Schiff smeared and defamed not only Trump, but also Carter Page, a low-level Trump campaign adviser, whom Schiff falsely painted as a Russian agent.
The next year, Schiff would be caught lying about the so-called Nunes Memo exposing FBI abuse of the FISA wiretap process to spy on Page. Schiff claimed then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes misled the public when he said the FBI heavily relied on the debunked dossier to swear out the warrants. In his own memo, Schiff, as ranking member, insisted the FBI’s warrants were based on other evidence and were above-board.
In 2019, the scathing Horowitz Report proved it was Nunes who was telling the truth. Schiff, who had access to the same classified FISA information as Nunes, knew better.
This is the real spreader of falsehoods. Nonetheless, Twitter promised Schiff they would “review” my account — “again,” which suggests this wasn’t the first time Schiff had tried to silence me. Or the last. Were there other communications? Phone calls? Texts?
Months after Schiff lobbied Twitter to ban me and remove all the impeachment-related content from its platform, his communications director and chief of staff — Patrick Boland — tried to intimidate my editors at RCI into retracting the impeachment stories I broke a year earlier.
In his emails, Boland invoked “the events of January 6,” warning our stories could “result in actual violence” if they remained online. Over time, Boland’s demands became more and more strident. But my editors refused to give in to the bullying.
It wasn’t about “safety.” It was about wanting to avoid any scrutiny for their actions.
After joining Twitter in June 2016, I tweeted more than 20,100 tweets and I amassed more than 340,000 followers — all without any problems, without any suspensions. Until Schiff exercised his vendetta against me.
He appears to have secretly interfered with my ability to do my job for almost two years. Calling Twitter “social media” is a misnomer. In many ways, Twitter is simply the media now. As a working journalist, you need Twitter to do your job. News is broken there. Corporations and government post their press releases there. Key information and data are archived there.
If a powerful government official prevented me from promoting my stories, including my New York Post columns, on the nation’s digital town square, how is that not state censorship?
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, now battling for the speakership, has vowed to block Schiff from serving as the intelligence panel’s top Democrat. But Schiff has bigger ambitions. He is said to be planning a run at the Senate, where he could arguably have more power and influence to silence free speech.
THE GENERAL POPULATION doesn't know what's happening, and it doesn't even know that it doesn't know. They don't even know what's going on at that remote and secret level of decision making.
— Noam Chomsky
COME BACK IN SEPTEMBER: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan
by Darryl Pinckney
Elizabeth Hardwick’s favorite shoes were burgundy suede heels adorned with rhinestone butterflies. She thought you could reread E.M. Forster novels, but not those by Virginia Woolf. She could be merciless about student writing. She was an anxious, fretful cook. When she was deep in thought, she would play with the amber beads of her necklace — a gesture her friend and former student Darryl Pinckney describes as “the choreography of reflection.”
We learn all these details, and many more, in Pinckney’s elegant memoir “Come Back in September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan,” a loving and cleareyed portrait of Hardwick, a “writer who composed prose like poetry.” Pinckney, who cajoled his way into Hardwick’s creative writing class at Barnard College when he was a student at Columbia in the early 1970s, remained friends with the formidable critic for decades, eventually becoming one of the guardians of her legacy. After her death in 2007, he wrote introductions to her “New York Stories” (2010) and her “Collected Essays“ (2017), the second of which he edited. With this new book, he gives us a window into the vibrant intellectual community that he and Hardwick shared.
The memoir braids together Pinckney’s memories of Hardwick and her circle of New York intellectuals with his own coming-of-age story. The narrative unfolds chronologically, though not entirely linearly. We begin in New York City in 1973, the year Pinckney first made Hardwick laugh, and we end in Berlin sometime in the late 1980s, by which time Pinckney has become a writer and critic himself. But the book doesn’t march through time so much as dance. In parenthetical asides, Pinckney flashes backward and forward, providing back story, briefly memorializing dead friends and giving us a peek into his present life. (We get several glimpses of his partner, the poet James Fenton, “down in the kitchen, wearing shorts, reading the TLS and having a white wine spritzer.”) Dates appear infrequently; Pinckney instead conjures the historical moment with references to current affairs (the fall of Saigon, the Atlanta child murders) and to cultural touchstones: “Every week your idols were reading downtown in the East Village at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project.”
This method of marking — or not marking — the passage of time is appropriate to the genre. Like Sigrid Nunez’s exquisite “Sempre Susan“ and David Plante’s disturbing “Difficult Women,” “Come Back in September” is an exercise in intimate biography. Rather than presenting an objective account of the subject’s life, intimate biography is subjective and impressionistic; its author relies on anecdote and memory more than facts and sources. Throughout his book, Pinckney questions the accuracy of his recollections. “I could maybe find out from Ian Hamilton’s biography of Lowell exactly when he was in New York in the spring of 1974, if I got up from this chair and went in search of it,” he writes at one point. These moments of transparency, which call attention to the book’s composition, reminded me of similar moments in Hardwick’s “Sleepless Nights,” her best novel, a book that is likewise structured by the ruses and distortions of memory.
The likeness is perhaps inevitable: Pinckney, by his own account, learned much from Hardwick, first in the classroom, where she informed students that the only reasons to write were “desperation or revenge,” then in her book-lined apartment on West 67th Street, the home she once shared with the poet Robert Lowell, whom she divorced in 1972. (Mercifully, Pinckney does not allow the famous ex-husband to dominate the story.) As Hardwick’s frequent dinner companion, Pinckney learned which authors he needed to read (Faulkner), which writing tics to avoid (excessive comparisons) and what he calls the “lesson of perseverance,” that is, the importance of continuing to write, even when the writing is going badly. When Pinckney was struggling with one of his first pieces for The New York Review of Books, the journal Hardwick helped found in 1963, she went through a draft sentence by sentence, pushing the young writer to rephrase his thoughts until they met her high standards. “My school days would never end,” Pinckney writes.
Though Hardwick was brilliant, generous and great fun, she also had blind spots. Pinckney recalls moments of casual racism, ranging from an insensitive remark about the changing demographics of her Kentucky hometown to a defense of racially motivated police shootings. In sharing these incidents, he aims not to scold (“To outlive is to forgive,” he reflects) but rather to show some of the challenges facing a gay, Black aspiring writer in the late ’70s. Not quite at home among Black writers, one of whom urged him to “get away” from “those white intellectuals,” Pinckney also felt constrained and misunderstood by his white editors. He sought refuge among his hip friends, a group that included the writer Lucy Sante and the filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, but even with them he felt himself to be a “fellow traveler, hanging out in an aesthetic” that wasn’t really his.
The mature Pinckney moves among these different worlds with more grace than his younger self did. With remarkable control of perspective and tone, he takes us from the offices of The New York Review, where the editors Barbara Epstein and Robert Silvers wielded pencils like weapons, to the bars and clubs of downtown Manhattan, where the B-52’s packed the house. Though never sentimental, the book is in part an elegy for a particular moment in New York’s past and for the people who made the city’s creative scene what it was. Pinckney, who once worried he wouldn’t make it past 40, remembers the talented friends who succumbed to AIDS and reminds us that these losses fundamentally altered the city, just as they dictate the form of his book. “To recall faces in the Bar before AIDS changed the lives it did not end is to cover the page with parenthetical asides,” he writes.
At times painful and poignant, “Come Back in September” is nonetheless a delight to read, full of deft character sketches and delicious gossip. (Gossip, according to Hardwick, was merely “analysis of the absent person.”) We learn that Silvers had a temper and that Toni Morrison, asked to speak at James Baldwin’s funeral, spoke “mostly about herself.” I read and reread this book joyfully, catching many of Pinckney’s references, looking up others and letting the rest wash over me like lyrics from a half-forgotten song.
“To write is a profoundly solitary activity,” Hardwick tells Pinckney at one point. This is certainly true, but what this memoir demonstrates is how literary life can be shared. One reads and writes, yes, but one also debates, and gossips, and falls in love, and rails against edits and quotes poetry from memory to like-minded friends. Some might find the rewards of such a life paltry — writers were then, as now, underpaid — but for Hardwick, Pinckney and their compatriots, they were more than enough. As Hardwick once put it, “Reading was such a wonderful thing that to have made a life around the experience was almost criminal it was so fortunate.”
UKRAINE, SATURDAY, 7TH JANUARY
Cease-Fire: On Jan. 5, the Kremlin announced a 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine to mark the Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Amid continued attacks, Ukraine’s leaders dismissed the idea as cynical posturing by an untrustworthy enemy.
Sexual Crimes: After months of bureaucratic and political delays, Ukrainian officials are gathering pace in documenting sexual crimes committed by Russian forces during the war.
A New Resource: The Pentagon will provide to Kyiv Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which offer greater protection and firepower than any of the trucks or armored personnel carriers the West has sent so far.
Targeting Cellphones: Ukraine is able to target Russian soldiers by pinpointing their cellphone signals. Despite the deadly results, Moscow’s troops keep defying a ban on using phones.
“I lived when simply waiting was a large part of ordinary life: when we waited, gathered around a crackling radio, to hear the infinitely far-away voice of the king of England… I live now when we fuss if our computer can’t bring us everything we want instantly. We deny time.
We don’t want to do anything with it, we want to erase it, deny that it passes. What is time in cyberspace? And if you deny time you deny space. After all, it’s a continuum—which separates us.
So we talk on a cell phone to people in Indiana while jogging on the beach without seeing the beach, and gather on social media into huge separation-denying disembodied groups while ignoring the people around us.
I find this virtual existence weird, and as a way of life, absurd. This could be because I am eighty-four years old. It could also be because it is weird, an absurd way to live.”
~ Ursula K. LeGuin, Interview by Heather Davis
NOTE FROM DOWN SOUTH
To the Editor,
Thanks for the backbone and integrity you've displayed by publishing my response to your Dec. 7 encomium to San Francisco's most distinguished neo-conservative Alice Cooper impersonator, the former Steve Schwartz. Schwartz is currently operating under the handle Lulu, and next week probably under a different moniker still. In response you write: "I haven't made Schwartz Studies my life's work, as you apparently have. I defer to your superior scholarship, but still think, given his age and obvious mental illness, ordinary sympathy isn't too much to ask." Writing stuff like this isn't my life's work. So far my two novels and six short stories have been my life's work. Yes, I have expended more keystrokes on Schwartz that Schwartz merits. To me Steve Schwartz/Lulu Schwartz has been something to write about. What can I say -- writers write. I believe that this is why they are called "writers." And while I don't consider myself to be a journalist I do try to find out what I'm talking about before I voice an opinion, let alone writing and publishing one that's more than 1200 words long.
As far as giving the Ronald Reagan, Nicaraguan Contra and Islam Karimov paid propagandist Schwartz a free pass based on Schwartz's apparent current problems, I'm sure that Julius Streicher was way-hella-bummed out after late April 1945, but that wouldn't have obligated me, if I'd been around in those days, to offer the poor suffering soul a neck rub, a foot massage and a box of hankies. My milk of human kindness is all tapped out on the victims of United States foreign policy crimes, not by brown-nosing an enthusiastic career salaried apologist for these crimes.
Along with this here's my disgust and contempt for your aspersions against Attorney Dennis Cunningham, which you spewed with your predictable tact and good taste on the occasion of his death from cancer. Dennis was a fine man and he had more courage and integrity in a set of his fingernail clippings than you've ever displayed at the Andersonville Advertiser. In 2001, Dennis and another San Francisco attorney went to bat for me in a lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department, for exceeding the scope of a search warrant that the cops executed on my and my girlfriend's apartment in the context of anti-gentrification efforts that I'd been trying to stir in San Francisco's Mission District in the late 1990s. That this lawsuit settled rapidly for an amount far in excess of my most optimistic expectations was a measure of Dennis Cunningham's legal skills. He was a kind and decent human being and he is missed by many.
Kevin Keating, Buenos Aires, Argentina
RE-EXAMINING STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
I was surprised that you didn’t run Kevin Keating’s expose of Stephen Schwartz and all of his assumed names that appeared on the AVA web site last week. I was earlier disappointed when you, who he included on his lengthy email list, excused his almost daily vicious attacks and threats to various individuals with whom he had crossed paths, including yours truly, 36 years ago, as being the outpouring of a nutcase for whom we should be sympathetic.
Keating’s article exposed the real contributions on behalf of US interventions during the Reagan years in which Schwartz was viewed as a key player along with Atty. General Ed Meese. Would you have written off the actions of another mental case from those years, Ollie North, for example, because he wasn’t playing with a full deck? Of course not.
My experiences with Schwartz in 1984 were far more limited than Keating’s, mostly connected to encounters with him while in the company of wheelchair bound former Marine Ron Kovic, a close friend of mine at that time, who on his third tour of duty in Vietnam at 18 years of age, was wounded so severely that he lost complete use of his legs. His autobiography, “Born on the Fourth of July,” was made into a film, with Tom Cruise playing Kovic.
In our first encounter on No. Beach’s Columbus Ave., Schwartz, who fully backed the US war on Vietnam, called Kovic “a fucking cripple.” Confirming from Ron that I had heard him correctly, I began chasing Schwartz down to the corner of Broadway where he turned left, stopping only when he saw two SF beat cops who, he anticipated correctly, would prevent me from attacking him.
I believe I wrote about this years later for the AVA and about another very amusing encounter at Enrico’s on Broadway in which Schwartz happened to be sitting with a group of people at the adjoining table on the restaurant’s patio. On being gently reminded by me — a note on a paper napkin — of his friendship with Ed Meese, Schwartz exploded, running inside the restaurant to appeal to owner Enrico Banducci to have Ron and me and two others with us, ejected. It comically backfired, leaving Stephen humiliated among his adoring friends. He now insists that he was only with a woman friend who he claims I attacked.
Rather than expressing any contrition over his past attacks on Kovic, Schwartz doubled down, writing on his blog, that he was consulting with lawyers about a national expose he was preparing to publish about Kovic. More bullshit, of course, but of the most vindictive kind.
His accusations against me stemmed largely from my role in exposing the national spying operation of the Anti-Defamation League, and providing the name of its chief “investigator,” and Schwartz hero, Roy Bullock, to the media, which effectively put Bullock out of the spying business and resulted in personal attacks on me in editorials of the NY Jewish weekly, Forward, the Washington Jewish Week, and the Jerusalem Post, and a front page story on the Wall St. Journal by Schwartz himself. For Schwartz, attacking the ADL made me a Nazi, comparable to Dr. Joseph Mengele, and a war criminal, charges he repeatedly made, whether or not I responded. That Bullock and his buddy in the spying operation, a rogue SFPD officer, Tom Gerard, were also being paid by South African intelligence to spy on So. African exiles and the anti-apartheid movement made no dent in Schwarz’s viewing them as role models.
There seemed to be no way of shutting him up. That he had been barred from almost all of his old North Beach hangouts, Cafe Trieste, Vesuivio’s, City Lights, among others, had made no difference. Besides myself, he openly attacked a dozen or so current or former residents of No. Beach, living and dead, most I didn’t know, personally, others, longtime friends or acquaintances, accusing them of every kind of crime including murder. All the while parading himself as the face of a transsexual uprising, armed with a straight edge razor and bear spray. He had to be stopped.
In his almost daily emails, Schwartz made frequent references to his close connections with the SFPD’s Central (No. Beach) Station and to a woman sergeant in particular who he cast as his den mother. She had previously been on the mailing list of his email blog. On November 27, I sent her a message which concluded with the following:
“On Schwartz's email blog, to which you were, until at early this September, listed as one of the recipients, Schwartz mentioned, on more than one occasion, that you and the SFPD Vallejo St. headquarters were making special efforts to protect him and monitor his/her enemies. Since Schwartz's description of our few actual encounters, all back in 1984 (!) are so at variance with the truth, I assumed that boasting of having police protection and a close relationship with you and the department, fell into the same category.
“I have come to the point where I am determined to put a stop to Schwartz's libelous attacks, which I thought might end if I stopped responding to them. That has not worked and now I am considering a legal pathway to do so. With that in mind, I am writing to find out if Schwartz does, indeed, have a special relationship to the SFPD that goes beyond the protection offered any other resident of San Francisco?”
It has been more than two months since I sent that email but have yet to receive a reply. On the other hand, Schwartz has posted only two messages on his blog since. Neither contained any personal attack. What does that tell us?
by Frank Hartzell
When one of Renne’s Clark’s ducks died this December, the Albion resident dutifully had it tested through her veterinarian, Village Vet in Mendocino. Then she got unexpected news — her duck, sent to UC Davis, tested positive for H5N1, or avian flu. She quarantined her flock and observed them with no further deaths. But she took the precaution of warning other poultry keepers on Facebook’s Fort Bragg-Mendocino chicken group.
Clark explained in a recent interview that while she knew there were reasons not to use her name, she is more interested in issuing a call to arms to other poultry lovers.
“We're taking the necessary steps to deal with it, but wanted to let the community know it's here on the coast. It's great that Davis offers free necropsies for dead poultry — I've used it several times over the years,” the Albion resident wrote on Facebook.
At the same time as Clark told this reporter about her case, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced that the first case of the current strain of avian flu in a domestic flock in Mendocino County was confirmed. Although the timing is right, state agricultural officials could not confirm whether that first case was Clark’s, or even where in the county the confirmation occurred. There is no proof that the two reports are the same. This is one reason these things don’t get reported generally.
Such confusion exemplifies the information fog around avian flu, ranging from public disinterest to the spin put on the subject by the commercial poultry industry. This avian flu epidemic was the worst ever among birds and many other species, and it only continues to rage in 2023. Outbreaks in Czechia and South Korea were reported on New Year’s Day, but the flu is not infecting many humans — yet.
On Jan. 6, yhe USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the cause of death for four animals at the Riverside Discovery Center (RDC) in Scottsbluff was Avian flu. The zoo announced last week that one cougar, one bear and two tigers died. The release indicates the animals ate geese that had been donated to the zoo and the pathology reports showed Avian flu in their systems. Were the geese alive or dead when donated? Did they come from an industrial or backyard farm? As usual, this question wasn’t answered.
Researchers like virologist Rob Wallace say factory farming of chickens and pigs poses a clear and present danger to humanity, one likely to increase with time. Wallace, credited with predicting the coronavirus pandemic, soon was shunned in the industry funded ag-educational community where he had flourished for many years. Early research in HIV/AIDS and influenza led him to be a consultant for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His troubles came when he was tracking bird flu origins in China, asking questions that he says got him shut out from some industry-funded university programs. The Unemployed Epidemiologist Who Predicted the Pandemic
Wallace says money, not science, determines where and what research is done, thus directing what courses are considered to save humanity from our unsustainable appetites and practices. Unfortunately, he says, the wrong choices are being made. He and many others, including people inside some of the largest industrial chicken and meat companies, have ideas that might create a less terrifying and more sustainable future. But the available public narrative places the blame for the spread of avian flu on wild birds and backyard flocks, ignoring the fact that both lived in harmony for millennia before the advent of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The fact that this avian flu pandemic hitting birds is the worst of the century and is worrying for the future, has gone mostly unnoticed due to pandemic news fatigue. Also lacking is credible information about what keeps causing avian flu, apart from books like Dr. Michael Greger’s Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching or Wallace’s Big Farms Make Big Flu.
Meanwhile the chicken industry is not seriously considering changing its husbandry practices but instead is utilizing decades of research into gene editing to breed transgenic birds that can resist bird flu.
This flu broader and more deadly
The current outbreak of H5N1 is impacting a much wider array of species than past outbreaks. Even more ominous, it is killing wild birds and domestic ducks that normally survive it.
While H5N1 has infected just one human being so far in the USA — a prisoner in Colorado assigned to cull chickens — scientists are worried that a strain of avian flu could someday become a respiratory disease and cause a pandemic along the lines of Covid-19. The California Department of Food and Agriculture says the biggest concern is that people with human flu strains could be exposed to an infected bird, with the two diseases commingling to produce a dangerous new strain that spreads through the air in the way Covid and conventional flu strains are spread.
In 2014 H5N1 mostly disappeared, though it was replaced by H5N6 and H5N8 subtypes from 2014 through 2020. The epidemic of those two varieties wiped out 50 million birds in the Midwest, where factory farms are closer together, especially in Wisconsin and Iowa. California and the West were virtually untouched by those outbreaks.
However, in 2021 H5N1 emerged again in both Western Europe and East Asia. And in the meantime, it had evolved into something more deadly, likely inside Asian factory farms and outdoor markets, a true monster that attacks any mammal or bird that comes in direct contact with the corpses of the wild birds it kills. The virus was brought into factory farms by wild birds, then apparently escaped back out having now evolved to kill its hosts. Historically, avian flus did not kill or even sicken wild birds, and backyard chickens largely survived outbreaks that whirled around the globe.
A wide variety of mammals have been exposed to these dead birds and caught avian flu, which some scientists had thought was not possible. The following, provided to the Voice by the state Department of Food and Agriculture, lists mammal species infected by the current avian flu through December: American black bear, Amur leopard, Bobcat, bottlenose dolphin, Dixie striped skunk and virginia opossum, coyote, fisher, gray seal, harbor seal, raccoon, red fox, all animals believed to have gotten the avian flu directly from wild bird carcasses.
Hon Ip, who runs one of the best sources of information, the Facebook group “Avian Influenza, a.k.a bird flu,” provided US year-end stats for the bizarre worldwide interspecies phenomenon. “There were 98 highly pathogenic avian influenza detections in wild mammals in 2022. These came from 15 states, with Maine and Wisconsin tied at 17 detections each. The 98 detections came from 13 different species of mammals, with red fox making up 54 percent of the total.”
There have been only four human confirmed cases of this outbreak of H1N5 worldwide, two serious with one death and two less serious. To some, this means the disease has less potential human harm than other manifestations of bird flu, including earlier more fatal H151 rounds. To others, it means people have become smarter about handling dead birds. The mortality rate from human avian flu cases from 21st century varieties has been a horrifying 60 percent, according to the World Health Organization. There are some spectacular contradictions in official bird flu policies For example, why do they kill millions of chickens when just a few are found with the disease? This comes from an absolute orthodoxy that bird flu kills all the chickens and that it will spread if any birds are left alive. But WHERE are the studies that show a 100 percent mortality rate? For many in the backyard farming community, it all seems like more of the same scam that industry uses to prevent them from selling those tasty local eggs. Their birds are too strong to die in any significant numbers from this, they believe. Many of their birds are 4-7 years old, Methusalean lifespans for the industry, but common in backyard birds. Why will NOBODY study survivability? With CAFOs clearly evolving more and more deadly strains and with industry using the media to put 100 percent of the blame on backyard flocks or at best, free range flocks, the danger to backyard flocks is increasing. But still, a lot makes no sense. If bird flu kills everything it touches like they say, how do migratory birds spread it? And if this orthodoxy is true, why worry? If it kills all the chickens, then it will wipe out the entire backyard flock, right? Country farmers with “common sense” rarely trust industry promulgated theories or the science they fund and distort. This tendency may be dangerous in the future but industry’s ability to control the narrative and continue and spread the worst practices does not help. The backyard farmers believe their chickens will survive and they don’t spread bird flu to flocks locked inside. And just how does bird flu get INSIDE these supposedly bio security industrial chicken plants? Let’s pretend we killed every backyard flock to protect the chicken industry. How would that change anything? The migratory birds would still be spreading it. Nobody has ever claimed that migratory birds get it from backyard chickens. That’s the only direction of transmission that should concern industry? Does it even kill all the industrial chickens without the mandatory mass killings? Industry has successfully pushed some nations, such as Czechia to ban outdoor backyard flocks. How is this logical even if you accept the industry narrative? Of course, we should work to help stop the spread of bird flu. That has worked, as this manifestation shows, especially in California, where its possible to regulate industry and for, whatever reason, industry has self regulated and become more biosecure than its middle finger extending cousins in middle America. But some of the worst practices belong to backyard farmers, where many of America’s dirtiest, most closely packed and sickest chickens can be found. As well as the healthiest.As of December 22, there have been 192 confirmed detections in wild birds in 37 California counties, including one bird in Mendocino County, since the first confirmed detection on July 13, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. People are warned to stay away from the carcasses of birds and leave handling to professionals wearing PPE.
In an interview, Laura Bradley, public information officer for California Department of Food & Agriculture Animal Health Branch, said there had not been any flock-to-flock transmission observed as of Dec. 22, only domestic poultry likely getting the disease from wild birds. Clark had not seen wild ducks with her birds, but Bradley said that is often the case, as the disease can be transmitted from the droppings of waterfowl flying over a backyard flock. A list of wild bird species carrying and often being killed by the disease can be found on the USDA APHIS website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/avian/images/hpai-wild-birds-map.png
This variant is long-lasting
Another worrisome factor about the current avian flu pandemic is that it has been around for two years, while past manifestations lasted a single flu season. By December the global bird flu outbreak had killed hundreds of millions of chickens and turkeys worldwide. (Bradley pointed out that everything about avian flu is measured by its impact on chickens.)
That Clark’s duck was apparently the first recorded case in Mendocino County and just one case has been confirmed here in a wild bird (unknown area of the county), highlights the fact that California has been largely left out of the global H151 pandemic (at least among chickens).
Bird flu travels by the migratory routes of waterfowl, along the Pacific and Central flyways. The Mississippi Flyway, which includes the Midwestern states where chickens and eggs are largely raised, has seen chicken populations hit harder by the avian flu, as has much of Europe and Asia. But the number of cases in wild birds is similar along the nation’s flyways in 2022. California’s stronger regulatory structure and greater biosecurity measures by the chicken industry may have helped keep avian flu from killing chickens in the numbers that the Midwest has seen. Avian flu has been found in US commercial and backyard poultry in 44 states and in wild birds in 46 states since early 2022.
This is a huge jump over the last time avian flu created major problems for the poultry industry. The number of chickens, turkeys and other fowl that were killed or died from the bird flu in the USA became the highest ever this December at more than 58 million, surpassing 2015’s total chicken deaths.
This number, relatively low when wild and domestic outbreaks are compared over time, is considered a victory for US reporting and observation practices by government agencies like CDFA, USDA and CDFA, and measures taken by the poultry industry to make factory farms more biosecure. Yet the industry continues to blame backyard flocks and wild birds in its science and media releases. A solution now proposed by industrial interests is mandatory worldwide vaccinations of chickens. This is seen by critics as impractical and possibly obfuscating the real issue; they say a more likely solution is reforming free trade away from pure profit to more sustainable farming practices.
Wallace says in Big Farms, Big Flu that blaming wild birds is a distraction that can no longer be tolerated. Wild birds bring bird flu in “low pathogenic” form to backyard flocks, which can acquire some immunity, as they are often older birds exposed to more diverse conditions. Industrial flocks, slaughtered after 6-8 weeks for meat chickens to 1-2 years for egg chickens, have very low genetic diversity or variety, which makes it easier for pathogens to get at their immune systems. When the jump is made to the CAFOs, the low pathogenic becomes the deadly “highly pathogenic.” That has been the story in the past, confirmed by research in the Midwest, but this current deadlier virus does not seem to have a low pathogenic component. Bradley said she has only seen cases of highly pathogenic H5N1 in this cycle. Backyard flocks like Clark’s are also both more healthy and better spaced than the industrial model, making their experience with disease different. One duck died, with the rest of Clark’s flock not even showing signs of illness.
In a speech on YouTube, Dr. Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: a VIrus of Our Own Hatching, said, “The emergence of H5N1 has been widely blamed on free-ranging flocks and wild birds. This is somehow the fault of people keeping chickens in the backyard for thousands of years. Birds have been migrating for millions of years. Bird flu has been accompanying them. What suddenly turned bird flu into a killer? Now we put millions of chickens into a chicken factory next door to a pig factory,” he continued. “These chicken factories make billions and billions of these mutations continuously. The big shift in the ecology of avian influenza has been this intensification of the global poultry sector.”
Greger was praised for his viewpoint by many researchers, including an editorial in Virology journal. Others replay the official line that bird flu comes from mutations in the breeding grounds of migratory waterfowl. Wallace points out that money determines what is studied in labs and universities and what boundaries are pushed. He says most research money goes into vaccines that benefit big Pharma, not into the problem’s source or sustainable solutions. When this story circulated in The Mendocino Voice, this reporter was criticized for allowing my ducks to be outside and for being biased against industry in a problem that could infect everyone. But I am still unable to grasp how my ducks could ever be involved in transmission of avian flu anywhere else. If the wild ducks do bring it, then they leave with it. If they don’t bring it, they dont get it here. What gives? And this story may be unfair to industry, but only in the sense that CONSUMERS, not industry are the cause of all this.
Lessening the immune response
Chickens in CAFOs are not exposed to the outside and its natural strengthening of the immune system.They have closely matching genetics and they were not bred for the health of the birds. These conditions help evolve much more virulent viruses. Viruses are less virulent in nature because they cannot kill the host or they die themselves.
“In nature, there's kind of a limit to how virulent these viruses can get,” said Greger. “Or at least there was, until now. Enter intensive poultry production when the next host is just inches away. There may be no limit to how nasty these viruses can get. Evolutionary biologists refer to this as the key to the emergence of hypervirulent so-called predator-type viruses, like HIV.”
Greger continued, “When you have a situation where the healthy cannot escape the disease, where the virus can just knock you flat and still transmit to someone else just because it's so crowded, then there may be no stopping rapidly mutating viruses from becoming truly ferocious.”
The worst avian flu pandemic and worst overall pandemic in human history was in 1918-20 when a strain of probable avian flu killed 50 million people. Of course, there was no such thing as a CAFO in 1918. The deadly mutations are believed to have come from the packed conditions of troops fighting World War I. The virus spread in barracks and battlefields. This reporter’s great uncle, Floyd Sturm, died from the misnomered “Spanish Flu” in 1918 on his way to war.
“Just like the chickens when this harmless virus found itself in these packed conditions, it mutated and became more deadly,” Greger said. “Millions of soldiers were forced together in these stressful unhygienic conditions with no escaping a sick car. The same trench warfare conditions exist today in every industrial egg operation.”
While it's not 100 percent sure that Spanish Flu was an avian flu variety that jumped into humans, the consensus among scientists now is that is exactly what happened. Here is a link to a study about the topic in the prestigious science journal Nature. The CDC definitively lists the 1918 pandemic as being an avian originated flu.
Omnivores all, chickens, pigs and humans, have some similarities in their respiratory and digestive systems on a molecular level. As these viruses rip through packed chickens, they create something much more virulent, and that virulence can jump to humans. One study, conducted by universities in the USA and China, was suppressed as the information on how avian flu could become a respiratory disease was deemed too dangerous to be released. Engineering H5N1 avian influenza viruses to study human adaptation
These are the kind of alarm bells about the potential of avian flu that Dr. Greger and Wallace warn are being ignored at great potential peril to humanity’s future. Each book offers ways to change meat production and reduce meat consumption. But chicken farming took off in an even bigger way during the pandemic, and CAFO chicken farming is spreading in south Asia with increasing demand for meat. The chicken is also the creature on which genetic engineering is most commonly done. It is unknown the effect transgenic chickens might have on bird flu or other diseases that threaten humans, such as salmonella strains that have become highly virulent and antibiotic-resistant due to CAFO practices. Some in the industry are advocating the creation of new transgenic chicken varieties to resist the bird flu, without changing the conditions that cause it.
Almost all flu varieties that infect humans originate in China and other packed parts of Asia, creating mutations that require a new flu vaccine every year. Flu mutates so quickly that it is impossible to be sure that vaccines (or genetically altered chickens) will work against fast-changing strains.
CAFOS were actually stopped cold by a virus shortly after they were invented in Delaware in the 1920s. Large chicken operations suffered total losses of their birds from a virus called Marek’s disease. Researchers believe that Marek’s disease only began to evolve when factory farms were created. A vaccine for Marek’s saved the industry. However, Marek’s disease has been spread to every corner of the world by the chicken industry, especially industrial hatcheries. Now no one can raise chickens without fear of Marek’s disease. Although Marek’s seems to pose no risk to humans, the New York Times did an investigative story into the frightening things that has happened in the evolution of Marek’s that scientists thought impossible for any virus. The Merck veterinary manual says the following about Marek’s disease, wholly created by the chicken CAFOs and now spawning super deadly variants inside chicken factories. “Marek’s Disease is identified in chicken flocks worldwide. Every flock, except for those maintained under strict pathogen-free conditions, is presumed to be infected.”
Large chicken farms have also created massive numbers of new strains of human-sickening bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter. Overuse of antibiotics made these bacteria evolve into strains that are now untreatable by medicine. Although antibiotic use has been greatly curtailed in the USA and Europe, the CAFO industry has been growing exponentially in China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, where many controls are not in place.
Free trade rules are written by the global meat industry. This reporter, when he raised chickens and eggs for the farmers’ market, found the industry had made it illegal to sell to grocery stores and restaurants unless I chose to drive chickens more than 200 miles to an industrial inspection facility, where they might get their first exposure to industrial pathogens. Chicken raisers in countries like South Africa that signed neoliberal free trade agreements soon found it impossible to compete with giant industrial concerns. Others, in places like Gambia, can raise chickens in traditional ways and sell to anyone, because their nation did not sign free trade treaties that kill the small farm. Many of these nations have never had large outbreaks of H151. (there was an outbreak in Senegal).
In March 2009, the first case of a novel H1N1 influenza virus infection was reported in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The virus quickly spread through Mexico and the United States, and in June 2009 the World Health Organization officially declared it a pandemic. Within a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, it had killed about 575,000 people worldwide.
Early reports suggested that the source of the outbreak lay in the factory-style pig farms in the area around its epicenter in Veracruz. In-depth research traced the genetic lineage of the virus to a strain that had emerged in a supersized industrial hog farm in Newton Grove, North Carolina, in the late 1990s, where it had circulated and evolved among pigs before crossing to humans.
Industry writes the rules
Materials considered by the creators of the Paris climate accords were written by the meat industry, with claims that industrial meat chickens are better for the climate. The chickens were described as better because they moved less and ate less and thus created less carbon, an outright lie easily disproved by the tremendous consumption of food by the genetically engineered meat chicken, available on any chart used by industry itself. The notion that grass-fed cattle, pigs allowed to forage and pasture, and integrated farms could actually help with climate change was discarded due to meat industry pressures. This reporter obtained the language about agriculture that was considered in the secret meetings held that led to the Paris accords. The following published journal article documents the secrecy and the compromises that led to a Paris agreement that is not enforceable and does not confront issues like factory farming.
The actual Paris accords missed what may have been a key opportunity to take a stance on improving agricultural methods and punted on the entire subject, with agriculture not even appearing in the actual agreement. It did commit to reducing meat-eating overall but initiatives led by industrial agriculture and the Gates foundation have pushed for large scale, industrial monocrops and the destruction of the movement toward local farming. Now, it’s agriculture that is said to be the biggest threat to the Paris agreements. With nothing in the agreements, many nations in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America have greatly increased the size and number of their CAFOS.
What kind of wild birds are being infected?
“Waterfowl species are the natural host of avian influenza viruses, so we tend to see most infections among species of waterfowl,” said Krysta Rogers, senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. ”Other species that share habitat with waterfowl may also be susceptible, such as other water birds like American white pelicans, herons, egrets, and cormorants. Also, species that prey or scavenge on sick birds such as bald eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, turkey vultures, and ravens.” Rogers emphasized that all statistics rely on people reporting dead birds, which often doesn’t happen in the wide open spaces of the North Coast area.
“Testing of wild birds is generally biased towards areas with higher human populations. Areas with more people means the bird is more likely to be detected and submitted for testing versus an area with fewer people. As of December 22, the number of confirmed detections in wild birds for Mendocino County is 1, Del Norte County is 0, Humboldt County is 6, Lake County is 0, and Sonoma County is 8,” she said.
Mapping studies indicate this particular strain may have come from both Asia and Europe to the USA.”The strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 currently in circulation has not been previously detected in North America. Prior to its detection along the Atlantic Coast in December 2021 (Canada) and January 2022 (U.S.), detections of this strain of highly pathogenic H5N1 had been on the rise across parts of Europe,” she said.
“This current outbreak is unprecedented in terms of the geographic range, diversity of wild birds potentially impacted, and number of wild birds that may die from infection,” she said. “Prior to this outbreak, highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses were considered more of a disease of domestic poultry with occasional spill-over into wild birds which may or may not have caused mortality.” Operations in Europe have greatly increased biosecurity and worked toward easing the misery and ill health conditions that meat and egg chickens are raised in. This has also happened in California but has been resisted in the farm belt of the USA. During the Trump Administration, measures to regulate the chicken industry were discarded or slowed in favor of making the USA more competitive in the worldwide chicken trade.
What is the solution?
While industry seeks pharmaceutical and bioengineering solutions to specific issues such as transitioning away from antibiotics or bird flu, this does not solve the causal problems with CAFOs. A current bill sponsored by Bay Area Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna and New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker would force existing USA CAFOs to cease operating in that fashion by 2040. But is the problem consumers or CAFOs? As a farmer’s market chicken seller, I got frowns for charging $6 per pound for meat from chickens that lived happy lives outdoors with real nutrition.
During that period, I interviewed a chicken company president who said I could use his name if the article blamed not the industry, but on the consumer demand for $2 per pound chicken. He was right. The enemy, as Pogo said, is us.
The president was part of an industry group trying to interest consumers in better-tasting chicken. The effort largely failed. US chicken companies were sued and prosecuted after Walmart complained they were working together to raise prices. Meanwhile, European chicken producers are downsizing chicken operations but the cost of the chicken they sell must be government-subsidized to be affordable. And free trade brings in super cheap chicken from the world’s largest and worst CAFOs in Vietnam and Indonesia.
Industry leaders say that free trade agreements must be rewritten to force these countries, which are using the USA CAFO model and often working for USA corporations, to create smaller and healthier poultry factories. This crashes headlong into conservative forces that don’t believe in regulation. Even more powerful opposition comes from neoliberal forces, led by Bill Gates and his foundation, that believe bigger is better and work against the continuation of traditional farming practices in favor of genetic engineering, processed fake meat and other fake foods made from genetically modified soybeans. Their plans call for the massive planting of monocrops in the global South, decimating Amazon rainforests and remaining African savannas and jungles.
To some, Gates and his technology will save the world from hunger and global warming in much the way the chemical “green revolution” did with monocrops and sprays in the 1970s. To others, Gates is just creating another type of too big, badly scaled, overly processed and unhealthy food. Critics like Wallace suggest that global agriculture should be forced to pay its real costs including sewage, insect and air pollution. Operations creating weak, sick animals should be regularly tested for the creation of new pathogens and taxed for the cost of those diseases. Authorities already track new strains of the likes of salmonella, and tie them directly to the source, which is usually an industrial hatchery.
In the journal Global Jurist, Federico Regaldo cites CAFOs for pandemics and epidemics they create. Who is Going to Pay for Causing Pandemics?
Throughout human history, animal diseases like smallpox, measles and bubonic plague have been among the worst humans faced. But in the last 50 years, the situation has dramatically worsened.
According to a July 2020 report from the United Nations, three out of four of all “new and emerging human infectious diseases” are zoonotic in origin, and a study in the journal Nature found that agriculture was associated with half of all the zoonotic pathogens that emerged in humans. In Wallace’s view, this increase is “concurrent” with the livestock revolution, the expansion and consolidation of the meat sector that began in the 1970s in the southeastern United States and then spread around the world. Wallace says its profitable to create low-priced food that can kill a billion people, so it happens.
THE PENGUINS, THE MOONGLOWS, THE ORIOLES, AND THE FIVE SATINS.
Here's the recording of last night's (2023-01-06) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show* on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA) and KNYO.org:
KNYO’s antenna tower, a 70-foot redwood tree, broke off and crashed to earth in this week’s storm. Luckily it didn’t fall on the transmitter trailer. The equipment was all salvaged and the antenna is now installed on Sean Keppeler’s shop roof, about twenty feet to the southeast and 55 feet lower than it was, and pumping out the waves. It’s weaker because of the forest around it, but it still reaches town. Top people are deciding the best course forward, which might be to get FCC permission to move the whole kaboodle downtown and put the transmitter in the studio on Franklin Street and the antenna on the roof there. But it might go up on a tree again near where it was. In any case, KNYO especially needs some extra money now, it really does. Go to KNYO.org and click on the Donate heart. Everything you give to KNYO goes to the physical plant and real expenses of staying on the air. Unlike all the other radio stations that ask you for money around here, at KNYO not even a single penny goes to owners and managers and people paid to raise money to pay themselves to raise more money. If that means something to you, and it should, then come on. Also there are some airtime slots open on KNYO. You have an idea of something to do on the radio, you can just arrange it and do it. It's that simple. Your own show. Just think about it. And then do it.
Besides all that, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:
A wind-dancing tree creature. It's like a shaggy sexy cartoon dinosaur-dog. https://misscellania.blogspot.com/2023/01/tweet-of-day_01055002319.html
Igudesman & Joo: And Now Mozart (the whole 77 min. show). “Pliz, give monyeh... Music sound better with monyeh... You sit first row? You have monyeh, pliz give... No? ...You, sir, monyeh? ...Pliz, madam, monyeh, pliz?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boMJMjEBwoQ
The Last Polka (the whole 60 min. John Candy film in lovely jittery VHS soft-focus). The tuba-ist solos impressively, if not interminably, just after halfway in. https://nagonthelake.blogspot.com/2023/01/the-last-polka.html
And four women sing Nina Simone's Four Women. Happy new year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7R_Qk1AN5S4
*Email your written work on any subject and I'll read it on the very next Memo of the Air on KNYO.
Marco McClean, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com