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DRY CONDITIONS are expected to last into Friday with temperatures warming to above average into tomorrow afternoon. By this weekend, wetter and chillier conditions are expected to return with rain and mountain snow possible. (NWS)
MENDOCINO COUNTY RESIDENT FACING LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY
by Carole Brodsky
Mendocino County is one of those “still old-fashioned” rural communities, where families volunteer for everything – from being 4-H leaders to firefighters. The Roysum family, Tonya, her husband, Ron; and daughters Alisha and Erica, exemplify that spirit of service: saving lives, fostering creativity and encouraging young people to dream big.
If Tonya were not currently intubated and fighting for her life, she would be humbled beyond words that her friends and community members are seeking support from GoFundMe, but a sudden, profound and potentially fatal medical emergency has overcome Tonya and left her family shattered.
Currently diagnosed with ARDS – Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome – Tonya was recently airlifted to the UCLA Medical Center where she is being cared for by some of the world’s top pulmonary experts, and, with luck, will not have to have a lung transplant.
Just last summer, Tonya was doing what she loves most: volunteering – first at Ukiah’s Redwood Empire Fair and then on to the Mendocino County Fair.
“Every fair attendee has seen and experienced Tonya’s volunteer spirit – from her unflagging commitment to our kids in the agriculture community to the wonderful exhibits, displays and ambiance she creates for our fair entrants and visitors,” says Jennifer Seward, CEO of the Redwood Empire Fair in Ukiah. “She is part of this amazing group of people who enrich and enliven our fair. Tonya shows up and the magic happens behind the scenes.”
Tonya can sew bridal gowns without a pattern – just from her fertile imagination. She is also an award-winning master bead worker and gardener – creating stunning jewelry and breathtaking outdoor plantings.
For most people, a months-long volunteer commitment to the county’s fairs would be considered an outsized achievement, but Tonya is no ordinary person. She has been a longtime 4-H leader, helping kids raise the unique Navajo Churro sheep, and has volunteered with the California High School District 2 Rodeo.
One cannot live in Mendocino County without coming across Tonya’s community contributions: her handmade red, white and blue backdrops for the Ukiah Fire Department’s award ceremonies – her expert organization of the hugely successful raffles for the Hopland Fire Department.
“Ron’s business, Rescue Solutions, is a strong supporter of the Redwood Empire Fair’s Junior Livestock Auction. Ron and Tonya consistently bid on and purchase animals, enabling Mendocino County youth to attend college, trade school or purchase another animal for the following season,” Seward notes.
“Tonya is a person who puts herself last. On more than one occasion, I have seen Tonya volunteer on a community project – selflessly giving her heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears to the point of near-exhaustion,” Seward says. “She does all this while being the primary caregiver for her 98-year-old grandmother, Gigi, and is always there for family and friends.”
But last December, everything in the Roysum family changed dramatically.
Following the onset of this year’s rains, Tonya noticed some swelling in her hands and feet. She chalked it up to weather, or possibly arthritis. But soon, the swelling became significant enough that she had to set aside her beadwork. By Dec. 13, the swelling spread to her legs and stomach. Something was very wrong, and Ron rushed Tonya 60 miles south to the emergency room at Santa Rosa’s Sutter Hospital.
Tonya’s initial diagnosis was pneumonia and panniculitis. The organs in her abdomen were swollen. She was treated for eight days and released on Dec. 21, only to be readmitted after just one day back home because she could not breathe. Tonya was admitted to the ICU and given oxygen and then placed on a CPAP machine, because her oxygen saturation levels plummeted with the slightest exertion or movement.
The cause of Tonya’s condition was unclear, so doctors administered a “kitchen sink” of anti-fungals, antibiotics and steroids. Unfortunately, her breathing didn’t improve.
Tonya and her family were now riding the emotional roller coaster so familiar to those in medical crisis. One afternoon, she’s sitting up enjoying a popsicle. Then, with very little warning, she’s struggling to catch a single breath. There were “ground glass opacities” visible on her X-rays and CT scans, which mimic the appearance of pneumonia. Despite those indicators, pneumonia was ruled out, and physicians were not able to effectively treat Tonya’s severe lung inflammation.
The family requested transport to a more sophisticated medical facility. Initially, Tonya’s medical team felt she was too unstable to travel, and, conversely, that she wasn’t “sick enough” for emergency transport. But suddenly, her condition precipitously deteriorated. She was intubated because she could no longer tolerate the oxygen from the CPAP machine. That was on Jan. 3, and Tonya has been intubated and sedated ever since.
As the search for another hospital continued, the family grappled with the hellish realization of the limitations of their insurance. Sutter Hospital contacted Stanford Medical Center, which denied Tonya’s admission because the family’s insurance didn’t meet their criteria. Most of California’s leading pulmonary hospitals declined admission due to the lack of bed space.
The University of California at Los Angeles is considered one of the top five lung care facilities in the country. Initially, they declined. Their reason: Tonya would have to be treated like a transplant patient. The family was told, “If we don’t know what caused this, we can’t waste a new set of lungs if we’re not certain a lung transplant will be successful.” Fortunately, Tonya’s team at Sutter Hospital persisted. UCLA reconsidered, and within an hour, their flight team was touching down at Sutter and transporting Tonya 500 miles south, to Los Angeles.
Tonya’s expert team of infectious disease doctors and pulmonologists ordered a bevy of new tests. Pressure on her lungs and blood vessels from the CPAP machine and intubation tubes resulted in pneumothorax – pockets of air in her chest, which required the placement of two chest tubes. For about 16-20 hours per day, Tonya is placed in a prone position to reduce the weight of her heart on her lungs. The number of “prone hours” is being reduced until her condition improves. Physicians are also attempting to reduce Tonya’s sedation and dependence on high concentrations of oxygen to see what she can tolerate.
Currently, the family is stacking tiny but consistent improvements into Tonya’s “win” column. They know she is fighting. At best, Tonya’s physicians estimate she must be hospitalized for a minimum of eight weeks, with an arduous, complex recovery to follow. Even a low-grade fever, which she woke up with recently, could portend very serious consequences. Ron has rented a nearby home, acting as her advocate and providing updates to family and friends. Depending on Tonya’s progress, a lung transplant is not off the table.
Although Ron would never be anywhere but beside his wife of 35 years, the firefighter in him was assuredly wishing he could be doing what he does best – saving lives during California’s deadly storms that began around the time Tonya was hospitalized.
Ron began volunteering with the City of Ukiah’s Fire Department in 1995, going from there to the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department. He has been with the Hopland Fire Department for 15 years, where he is Battalion Chief.
In 2010, Ron started his business, Rescue Solutions, considered one of the West Coast’s premier technical rescue teams. Their unusual array of services includes the provision of rope access teams trained to work in hazardous environments and performing real-time, emergency rescue operations. Ron’s teams also provide training in confined space activities, rope rescue, swift water and flood rescue.
“Ron’s successful business in rescue systems trains others throughout the world – assuring everyone is safer while doing their jobs,” notes Pete Bushby, retired fire captain for the City of Ukiah’s Fire Department and friend of the Roysum family.
The Roysums are a “fire family,” with daughters Erica and Alisha following Ron into volunteer fire service. Erica remains a volunteer engineer with the Hopland Fire Department.
The Mendocino County First Responder community are grateful recipients of Ron’s generosity. He has volunteered countless hours training firefighters and law enforcement agencies in rescue techniques. Ron has personally assisted the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office with multiple swift water rescues and search-and-recovery dive missions, and has donated not one, but two fire engines to the Hopland Fire District. And when he’s not volunteering, Roysum is helping a fellow firefighter remodel their kitchen.
“This family has donated thousands of their own dollars to the Hopland Fire Department – making it a highly effective agency,” notes Bushby.
“I’m supposed to write a couple of sentences about Tonya and Ron, but something brief is just not enough,” Bushby continues. “These two have spent a good part of their adult lives as volunteer firefighters/EMT’s – helping citizens of Mendocino County and beyond. There have been sacrifices on both their parts to assure everyone goes home safe to their loved ones when tragedies strike.”
But ironically, Ron – a man who lives to rescue others – a person who has literally saved lives, and facilitated the rescue of countless individuals, does not have the ability to save the life of his beloved Tonya.
When it comes to medical emergencies, it doesn’t take an economist to do the math. The list of financial unknowns is staggering. Expenses add up like wildfire. Ron mentioned to a pal it costs $30 per day just to park at the hospital.
It’s still unclear what insurance will cover but, like most first responders, Ron doesn’t bring home a millionaire’s salary, and the family has consistently put others’ welfare before their own.
The friends of the Roysums are requesting support in the amount of $100,000, which will assist with Tonya’s medical expenses and costs not covered by insurance, allow for 24-hour care for Grandma Gigi, replace Ron’s lost income, pay Ron’s rent, utilities, transportation and living costs and provide a six-month cushion for the family, so they can focus solely on Tonya’s care once she returns home. “Unfortunately, this family is not immune to tragedies,” says Captain Bushby. “They now seriously need our help.”
“We hope those who know Tonya, Ron, her parents and children will recognize and return the generosity the Roysum family has given freely for decades, without any thought of recompense or recognition. For those outside the area, we hope fellow First Responders, FFA members, 4-H friends and celebrants of fairs throughout the country will support a colleague at a time when the last thing families should worry about is paying the bills, “ notes Dana Froneberger, GoFundMe coordinator.
“Tonya has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know,” says Tonya’s dear friend Brenda Hodges. “Her constant, unconditional generosity and hospitality for others comes in many forms: true, continuous support arising from her impeccable, compassionate empathy and love.”
“Even if you don’t know Tonya personally, please know her heart and hands sustain countless young people and organizations in Mendocino County. We know when she gets through this, she will be right back at it. That’s who Tonya is. She doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk,” Seward concludes.
To support Roysum’s GoFundMe visit https://www.gofundme.com/start/medical-fundraising and place “Roysum” in the search bar.
(Ukiah Daily Journal)
SENIORS AND SICK HAVE TWO DAYS TO MOVE Out Of Creekside Cabins Starting Today, Says Mendocino County Board Of Supes
by Sarah Reith
The Board of Supervisors ratified a state of emergency and order to close Creekside Cabins just north of Willits yesterday, amid conflicting claims about the safety of the water. …
* * *
CREEKSIDE CABINS FAQs
The County of Mendocino has received numerous questions and concerns about the conditions at Creekside Cabins and will attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) below:
Question: Why can’t the temporary bridge be in place longer?
Answer: The temporary bridge must be able to cross the sinkhole, which has grown in size due to the erosion caused by the storm and the delay of the property owner to schedule a timely repair. Unfortunately, this extends the bridge into the adjacent Hwy 101, which requires one-way controlled traffic and would create a safety hazard for motorists if left unattended.
Question: Why can’t the County give the residents more time, why now?
Answer: Due to the health and safety conditions at the site, the County needed to close the area. Environmental concerns, such as illegal dumping and illicit discharge into the nearby creek can not be allowed to continue. Additionally, the unfortunate timing of the appearance of the sinkhole is dangerously close to the salmonid spawning season, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has advised the County of the mitigation and monitoring measures. These measures make activity in an active watercourse impractical.
Question: Many of the vehicles and trailers are not registered, will law enforcement be waiting to issue citations to evacuees?
Answer: The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has advised our partner law enforcement agencies of the emergency evacuation and subsequent concerns.
Question: Whose responsibility is it to fix the culvert/driveway?
Answer: The private property owner is responsible for restoring vehicle access to the site, whether that is via Caltrans encroachment permit or an alternative route. If access is restored, responsibility for any clean up or mitigation will need to be managed between the property owner and Caltrans.
* * *
THE CREEKSIDE CABINS SITUATION, on-line comments…
LAZARUS: The Creekside Resort… Look’n in on the BOS meeting this morning it appears the County has stepped in it. And not just stepped but are wallowing in it. The owner called the Sups racist this morning. I suspect she’s not going away without a knockdown drag-out brawl. But fun and games aside, two days to pack out is crazy. And a quarter mil for a two-day railroad car bridge is crazier…Who are these people? Then there’s the Spyrock road situation. The County government is collapsing in slow motion. Be Well,
PS. $250,000 for a temporary bridge available for 48 hours is one of the most egregious misuses of public money since the Measure B Mental Health Facilities fiasco. And the bump in salary they are paying the County Council/Attorney. But this is directed directly at some of the most vulnerable citizens in Mendocino County. I read on Facebook today that there could be an organized protest by residents, and others, against the authorities at the site.
* * *
MARMON: The County is walking into another big lawsuit regarding the Creekside compound. The washed out culvert is on Caltrans property, not Creekside’s. Ms. Thurman told the board today that she is working with Caltrans to track down the Encroachment documentation. As far as the water system in the park, I’m very knowledgeable about that system. I once managed a park in Newcastle. We had a small treatment facility for our well water in which I had to maintain and test twice weekly. The State Water Board would come by the park and pick up the test samples and take them down to Sacramento to their lab to be tested. The reason for that was because above normal e-coli was found in the surrounding groundwater which is not unusual especially for properties with septic tank and leach field systems. The fix is treatment or dig a deeper well.
I’ll have more to say about the County stepping in it later.
* * *
STEPHEN ROSENTHAL: “On January 24, 2023, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors met during closed session to discuss the Creekside Cabins property, where a sinkhole has cut off residents from the adjacent Hwy 101. After deliberations, the board voted unanimously to direct County Counsel to initiate litigation against Houser Holdings LLC, and property owner Teresa Thurman, to address ongoing hazardous conditions at the site.” Well, Laz beat me to it by a nanosecond, but let me also say that some high-falutin’ San Francisco law firm will score a lot of billable hours. Does anyone think that Mendo’s highly compensated County Counsel can or will handle this?
* * *
LAZARUS: Creekside? “The Board returned to announce that the County was going to sue Ms. Thurman” — M.S.
This BOS versus Creekside deal appears strangely motivated, likely about money. This is from a board that has trouble deciding what time of day it is, generally. The County has made all the moves that indicate they want the Creekside RV Park over and done. Trotting out the County’s Medicine man was an interesting touch. Speaking in health and well-being platitudes was opportune. Meanwhile, residents have been given 48 hours to move on. How does that affect the renter’s well-being Doc?
Then the 3rd District sup’s parting shot, remarking, “this is an unfortunate situation.” Yes, Sir; “just another student of the obvious.” Then there’s the money. I ask again, who are these people? Who can ask for and get a cool quarter mil. for a 48-hour exit, barely capable of getting a full-size vehicle out, let alone trailers, RVs, and such? I don’t know any players in this sad but true drama. The RV park is several miles north of Willits. I was there once, looking at a place for a relative who was getting out of jail. It seemed orderly and clean at the time, but some might see it as a little sketchy, but the rent was cheap. The relative ended up with me, then found his own home.
Anyway, there appears to be more to this than code and health violations. With the bridge, a lawsuit, etc., likely handled by a $1 to 42K an hour out of town attorney, this deal could cost the County a bundle. Which should not be a surprise to anyone. What I saw Tuesday at the BOS meeting was 5 out of touch snobs who have no idea what it’s like to be the residents of Creekside RV Resort. The owner obviously has issues, but why hardship the many to pursue only one?
* * *
MARMON: I hope the County’s hired contractor got all the proper State Permits before he started excavating in a creek on Caltrans’ property.
* * *
MARMON: RE: FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL
“Health Officer Andy Coren’s insistence that the Water Board had issued a ‘boil water’ notice.” Ms. Thurman claimed that her well water tested good but the Water Board told her that they decided not to remove the “boil water” notice yet, at the County’s request. The good Dr. Coren is an idiot. Thurman’s counter suit is going to be a whopper. The County has villainized her to the general public by feeding a false narrative through the press. The washed out culvert (not a sinkhole) will most likely turn out to be Caltrans’ responsibility to maintain since the washed out culvert is on Caltrans property. The county or some government agency put up $250k to install a bridge for about 3 days to allow patrons of Creekside RV to get out. And that was just the contractor not to mention other county costs with sheriff, social services etc. For that amount of money they could have put in a permanent 9-foot culvert and solved the problem but for it being public money to a private party. That account could have been settled after the installation. Probably taken same amount of time as coordinating the bridge. Traffic control probably half that amount.
THE CREEKSIDE FIASCO is a perfect metaphor for the present functioning of the top echelons of County government. But for the fifty souls who have two days to abandon their homes the eviction edict is no metaphor, it leaves them scrambling in impossible conditions to get themselves and their property outtathere. But many of their motorhomes are inoperable, and many of the residents have no other place to go. It's real life in a place — Mendocino County — that advertises itself as a kind of 'progressive' rural paradise but in reality is a place where government is an ongoing menace to the health and welfare of persons of ordinary means.
(FOR those of you in the outside world, Creekside is a ramshackle trailer park off 101 north of Willits, a stutter step away from homelessness.)
OF COURSE we won't get the names of the County people who paid a quarter of a million dollars for a two-day bridge, and we won't get the name of the persons who decided the premises were so toxic that Creekside's 50 residents had to leave, and leave pronto as if a wildfire was closing in on them.
I'LL SPECULATE as to who's responsible for this casual sadism: the County's alleged health officer, Dr. Coren, fresh off his many covid triumphs; the five supervisors who get three times the average County income to steer policy; and the County's legal counsel, Christian Curtis, a dependable source of bad advice.
LAZ OF WILLITS COMMENTS:
Creekside? This BOS versus Creekside deal appears strangely motivated, likely about money. This is from a board that has trouble deciding what time of day it is, generally.
The County has made all the moves that indicate they want the Creekside RV Park over and done.
Trotting out the County’s Medicine man was an interesting touch. Speaking in health and well-being platitudes was opportune. Meanwhile, residents have been given 48 hours to move on. How does that affect the renter’s well-being, Doc?
Then the 3rd District supe's parting shot, remarking, “this is an unfortunate situation.”
Yes, Sir; “just another student of the obvious.”
Then there’s the money. I ask again, who are these people? Who can ask for and get a cool quarter mil. for a 48-hour exit, barely capable of getting a full-size vehicle out, let alone trailers, RVs, and such?
I don’t know any players in this sad but true drama. The RV park is several miles north of Willits. I was there once, looking at a place for a relative who was getting out of jail. It seemed orderly and clean at the time, but some might see it as a little sketchy, but the rent was cheap. The relative ended up with me, then found his own home.
Anyway, there appears to be more to this than code and health violations. With the bridge, a lawsuit, etc., likely handled by a 1 to 2K an hour out of town attorney, this deal could cost the County a bundle. Which should not be a surprise to anyone.
What I saw Tuesday at the BOS meeting was 5 out of touch snobs who have no idea what it’s like to be the residents of Creekside RV Resort.
The owner obviously has issues, but why hardship the many to pursue only one?
SUPERVISOR GJERDE has announced he's over as 4th District supervisor. The County might have to buy some extra Whereas' to rain down on Silent Dan as he departs. “Whereas Supervisor Gjerde loyally voted for every hair-brained scheme put before him; Whereas Supervisor Gjerde appeared cryonically encrypted for his final four years in office but always roused himself to vote Yes; Whereas Supervisor Gjerde faithfully kept up the pretense that County leadership earns its exorbitant salaries....” Etc.
GJERDE'S finest hours in public service occurred when he was an unpaid Fort Bragg city councilman. He stood up to the low rent crooks and arsonists then operating FB as their personal ATM's, and Fort Bragg, when Gjerde left to become a supervisor, went on to become the model of civic functioning it is today.
NOBODY ever could plausibly claim that Gjerde is stupid. He's a virtual encyclopedia of the inner workings of local government. But stuck with low functioning colleagues, and a CEO who, in my opinion, was a functioning nut case, maybe Gjerde simply tuned out, mailed it in as they say. On the other hand, if he'd become a dissident vote like McCowen and Pinches, his colleagues, all extensions of CEO Mommy Dearest, would have cordoned him off, as they did McCowen and Pinches, neither of whom got their Whereas' when they left office.
ALWAYS A PLEASURE to see Dead Dog Brennan appear in person before the Supervisors. The lively and outspoken Brennan, an archetypal throwback redneck and former federal trapper, always has something interesting to say. As they do every citizen appearing before them, the Supes listened impassively and without comment to Dead Dog, nevermind a “thank you for taking the time to appear here today” — add the absence of basic manners to the Supervisors’ long list of deficiencies — and as always his always sensible comments were ignored. Brennan, who got his Dead Dog handle from people who claim as federal trapper Brennan was prone to shooting their household pets, although no verification of DD's summary executions was ever provided. The guy knows his wildlife, hence his unpopularity among the local Bambi-type anthromorphs. Tuesday, Brennan, togged out in cowboy hat and wool outdoorsman vest, complained that Spy Rock Road was just about impassable and that the County's present wildlife management strategy was non-existent, which he's pointed out before and will be pointing out to The Last Day, but bless him for trying.
CONGRESSMAN PRESS RELEASE and Senator Feinstein, the latter even deeper in her non-functioning dotage than Biden, said they'll try to get Congress to pass their Ocean Protection Act, a cynical move without hope of passage to give us rubes the illusion that DEMOCRATS CARE. You don't have to be an old timer to recall that Northcoast Democrats have been saving the ocean — annually — for forty years. Remember Richard Charter? That guy passed most of his working life saving the ocean for the Democrats, one year at a time. Last I heard, Charter was gazing at the Pacific from his redwood box at Sea Ranch, exhausted from all those years saving the sea.
SPEAKING of Congressman Press Release, Boonville school superintendent/high school principal, Louise Simson, had gone to considerable effort to mobilize a staff and student reception for his eminence, aka Congressman Huffman. The Congressman himself, shortly before he was due to appear, had an aide call Boonville to say the Congressman could not come. No excuse given.
AN ON-LINE COMMENT re Fort Bragg name change essay contest: “Offering a bribe for an essay from high school kids against the name of our school and actually against our town’s name. The families that have been here for generations never gave a thought to the origin of the name any more than wondering who Casper, or Mendocino was named after. People move here to get away from the places they lived thinking this is where they can make a comfortable home but then they look around and think “our old neighborhood did this or thought that so let’s change it to the way we were before we moved”. Going after the children, offering money is low, especially since most of the families here are below the poverty level. The people behind this have no respect for Fort Bragg and the community. We see what you’re doing.”
ELEANOR COONEY, my go-to person for literary matters, comments on my puzzlement over a Joyce Carol Oates quote over a Lorrie Moore short story:
“Okay, well, I dig Lorrie Moore, too. And JCO, not so much, at least as far as her fiction goes. Her essays are something else. As for the scissors quote; my first thought was that it was a reference to mayhem. You know, plunging a giant pair of scissors into somebody's neck or belly. I'll read the Moore story and get back to you.
Meanwhile, reading your story of the wailing woman after she saw your humble digs: Here's an excerpt from an essay of mine called "As She Lay Dying." Here, I'm talking about Faulkner's THE WILD PALMS, and its two illicitly and confusedly in-love characters, Harry and Charlotte. They finally arrange to go somewhere to consummate, and Harry has an experience remarkably like yours. Start:
In the decade-later world of Harry and Charlotte, Harry quickly learns that Charlotte is a strict taskmaster who burns with the ferocious intensity of a prophet when it comes to this thing called Love, bringing the same blunt, abrading honesty to it that she brings to everything, and that anything resembling waffling, faintheartedness or mendacity, anything at all that cheapens or compromises the miracle that they are now responsible for will be burned off of him and out of him like dross in a smelter.
Her vision is transcendent and ruthlessly practical at the same time. Like a prophet heeding a summons from on high, she knows that to drop everything and follow will inevitably cost them everything; she also knows that if they don’t do it right, they must not do it at all. After three meetings for lunch—just lunch, no more than that—she informs him that she’s told her husband. After the fourth lunch, they arrange, at last, to go to a hotel. He, the poor medical student, chooses a semi-fleabag. Then, carrying a suitcase weighted with a couple of bricks in it to fool the bellboy and desk clerk, he waits for her to appear, not really believing she will show up. But he’s wrong:
"She had a coat, but no bag nor veil. She came swiftly out of the cab when he opened the door, her face was hard, sober, her eyes extraordinarily yellow, her voice harsh.
He told her. ‘It’s not far. We can—’ She turned, already getting back into the cab. ‘We can walk—’
‘You damned pauper,’ she said. ‘Get in. Hurry.’ "
Once in the room, she does not even take off her hat and coat. It’s not a sudden attack of prudishness, ambivalence or conscience. She’s perfectly willing to walk away from her husband and children, because, as she puts it:
"….the second time I ever saw you I learned what I had read in books but I never had actually believed: that love and suffering are the same thing and that the value of love is the sum of what you have to pay for it and anytime you get it cheap you have cheated yourself."
No. It’s her blunt-instrument honesty, from which she herself, especially, is not spared. The room is seedy. It’s a “back-alley” kind of place.
"'Oh God, Harry,’ she said. She beat her clenched fists on his chest. ‘Not like this, Jesus, not like this…..not us, Harry. Not you. Not you.’ "
What she knows, and which the sight of the shabby room forcibly brings home, is that he has no money, and aside from a little she’s saved, neither does she. And she, illusion-free, knows that lack of money is slow arsenic to love. It’s not a matter of being poor. She’s willing to be poor. It’s a matter of not sullying or dishonoring love by contaminating it with squalor.
She doesn’t let him touch her. She is willing to sacrifice everything for love, except the love itself. Better to abort the affair than to poison it at its conception with penury. She leaves in a cab:
"She sat there, her face harsh and wrung and savage beneath the springing tears like sweat. ‘Oh, you pauper, you damned pauper….’ ….She leaned toward the driver. ‘Go on!’ she said savagely. ‘Drive on! Down town!’ ”
The New ‘No Bad News’ CEO Report
by Mark Scaramella
Last week we noted how devoid of actual content CEO Darcie Antle’s “new” CEO report format was, even less than what her predecessor and guru, Carmel Angelo, included. At the Board meeting on Tuesday, we got a clue about why.
Sonoma County Ag Commissioner Andrew Smith, who has been hired as Interim/Part-Time Mendo Ag Commissioner and may not (yet?) be fully indoctrinated about No Negativity Mendocino, told the Supervisors that info from his department had been omitted from the CEO Report.
Smith: “Our department has been working very hard on some organizational development and working on building out our mission and our vision. It's been missing for some time. We think it's a great thing and it connects very well with the organizational excellence this community and county strives for. I didn't see any information related to our department in the CEO report. I hope that when departments submit their input for the CEO report that it is at least able to be shared by the CEO's office and the Board of Supervisors collectively. Even if excerpts are not chosen to be displayed publicly.” (Our emphasis.)
Supervisor Williams commented: “I don't know if I've received all the updates. I don't know what I don't know. It seems like there may be some updates circulating that I have not seen.” (Our emphasis.)
Antle: “I'll review it and we will get it circulated if we missed something. Absolutely.”
Smith: “I had no intention to pull anybody under the bus or anything. I'm just trying to advocate for a way to circulate the CEO Report amongst the board members. Because I'm not opposed to covering some of the more glamorous things for the public as to what different departments are up to, to align with the strategic plan. But I think it's also important for the board's understanding to be able to know what's going on in each department. That's how we advocate for resources. That's how we really let you know what's going on within the nuts and bolts in each department with staffing and so forth.” (Our emphasis.)
Long Time local Cannabis Attorney Hannah Nelson seemed to agree adding that cannabis program info should be in the CEO report too.
Nelson: “I agree with earlier comments about the need for additional information to be linked in the report about some of the more nitty-gritty aspects of each department's work. I encourage the board to look at the outstanding directives and what if anything are the obstacles to moving forward with some of those for each department, knowing that there may be reasons why things have moved. Perhaps having a report about why things have not moved along and what else is needed from the county to support moving those directives along might be beneficial. I also hope that the Cannabis Department reports can be folded in to include the accomplishments as well as the challenges on how those four pillars of the strategic plan are being achieved for the Cannabis Department.”
Supervisor Mulheren: “It is my expectation departments are submitting information to the CEO report, that is how we communicate to the public. That will be an expectation for the departments. And of course all of our elected officials, obviously we can't require them, but we can encourage them to submit a summary of the work they are doing in their departments as well.”
Expectations and encouragement (and hope for that matter) are not good management concepts. The Board should require reports from all departments, including budgets, staffing and project status. Period. No exceptions. But they never have and never will.
Newly Seated Board Chair Glenn McGourty seemed to confirm that the CEO Report has been reduced to happy talk, selectively glossing over County operations, not informing the Board or the public about what’s actually happening in the County’s many departments, a number of which have not been asked, much less required, and so don’t even bother to submit reports.
Supervisor McGourty concluded: “I'm very enthused about this because one of the things I don't think we do very well is tell our story here in Mendocino County and we let other people take over the narrative which sometimes doesn't turn out good for us, so I think an informed public and the transparency in our business is critical to us being effective as a county. So I appreciate the efforts of CEO Antle and her team to do a better job of this.”
“Other people”? Like who? Most of the local Board news coverage is minimal and without a hint of criticism. We only know of one local news outlet that doesn’t go along with McGourty’s “narrative.” We’ll take this as a compliment. And a “better job of this”? Meaning, presumably, that McGourty is pleased that CEO Antle is making sure that “the narrative” contains nothing meaningful, and certainly nothing that is “not good for us.”
ON LINE COMMENT: The Animal Services does not include the important monthly statistics in the CEO Report that help people keep an eye on intakes, outcomes and reasons why. We finally had a monthly accounting of these and should continue to have them.
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SPY ROCK ROAD was in bad shape before this winter’s rainstorms. It is even worse now, as several Spy Rock Road residents, including Chris ‘Dead Dog’ Brennan, complained to the Supervisors Tuesday morning. They said that the pot holes are up to a foot deep and getting worse, and they are causing serious vehicle damage. Making matters worse was the apparent recent closure of the small Spy Rock School which requires parents of school-age kids to drive down the road every week day to the Laytonville school. There was no response to the complaints on Tuesday.
Wednesday morning, County Transpo Honcho Howard Dashiell told KZYX’s Karen Ottoboni that he can’t do much about the problem in the winter season because repairs wouldn’t hold up for very long in another storm. Therefore, there are no repair plans until spring at the earliest.
On Tuesday, the Supes confirmed that the Laytonville County Road Yard no longer has any staff (no explanation offered), meaning that repair crews, even for emergencies, have to be dispatched from Fort Bragg or Covelo. Dashiell told Ottoboni that he has some new hires in the pipeline and hopes to have up to four new employees at the Laytonville yard soon. (But given the County’s sludge-like hiring processes, that might not be until spring or later either.) Dashiell also noted that it seems like whenever they do patchwork repairs on Spy Rock Road, the drivers then speed up causing the potholes to re-appear.
Compounding the problem even more is former Supervisor John Pinches’s observation last year that Spy Rock Road now has some 800 residential parcels and traffic has increased exponentially since the last century.
There’s also the County’s decision last year to abandon the previous “dust-off” procedure which annually applied some commerical dust-control compound to reduce the traffic damage impact because of (disputed) water availability problems. Dashiell said Wednesday morning that he and the Supervisors are now using that dust-off road budget, such as it was, to chip-seal segments of the lower end of Spy Rock Road where it approaches Highway 101. Which won’t do much to allay the complaints of the people further up. Dashiell’s advice to people and emergency vehicles using Spy Rock Road? Slow down.
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ON LINE COMMENT Re: Mendocino County’s Strategic Plan: Stephen Rosenthal: “Piggybacking on The Major’s excellent analysis of the so-called “Strategic Plan” (talk about hubris!), I would like to add my addendum to it: Whenever any of the current clowns masquerading as Supervisors is up for re-election, reject them overwhelmingly and vote for people with a modicum of expertise in running a government bureaucracy. Unfortunately, like everything else in Mendo’s “Strategic Plan”, it will never happen.
Mark Scaramella replies: That would be a good idea if Mendo had people with “a modicum of expertise in running a government bureaucracy” who are willing to run for Supervisor, have some backbone, and who are electable in the present political context. We don’t know anyone with that particular set of characteristics, off-hand. John Pinches was the last person who comes readily to mind.
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MIKE GENIELLA on John Arteaga’s critique of the plans for the rehab of the Palace Hotel: “I suspect the ‘team’ Mr. Arteaga mocks is far more qualified to assess the Palace’s fate than he and his fellow naysayers. Let’s see what they come up with before we trash the determined efforts of Ms. Shankar to do something positive. A successful Palace project could transform the downtown, and make our community more liveable.”
NEXT BOONVILLE QUIZ: February 2
Last week’s quiz saw a great turnout; time for a short break. I am referring to the 29 folks who played last week’s Quiz at Lauren’s at The Buckhorn. A good time was had by all, I’m sure. Jan 26th is the 4th Thursday, so there isn’t a Quiz. But we shall return as always for the first Thursday of the month next week on February 2nd. Hope you can make it. Cheers, Steve Sparks, The Quizmaster.
TWO GRAND SYMPHONY CONCERTS
Symphony of the Redwoods launches into 2023 with a concert on Saturday, January 28 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, January 29 at 2:00 pm at Cotton Auditorium in Fort Bragg. This concert will feature auditioning conductor, Ryan Murray. Mr. Murray will present a preconcert lecture prior to the concerts at 6:30 PM on Saturday and 1 PM on Sunday. The program opens with Ballade in A Minor, Opus 33 by Samuel Coleridge Taylor. The piece is a romantic example of the composer’s early style. Next is the Concerto in E Minor by Edward Elgar featuring Adelle-Akiko Kearns on the cello. Ms. Kearns is a highly in demand performer who exhibits “beautifully sensuous cello playing.” The concert finishes with Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43 by Jean Sibelius. Full of grand, heroic melodies, the Symphony paints magnificent pictures of the rugged Finnish landscape.
Tickets are available at Out of this World in Mendocino, Harvest Market in Fort Bragg, Brown Paper Tickets (www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5592569) and at the door.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Wednesday, January 25, 2023
JESSE DUGGER, Ukiah. Domestic battery, contempt of court, probation revocation.
BRAD EMERY, Ukiah. Parole violation.
RUSSELL HARMON, Willits. Suspended license, failure to appear.
RAYMOND MERRITT, Fort Bragg. DUI.
UP TO US
Calling all folks with gloves and trucks. Citizen action is needed to clean up the trash being dumped on rural roads. Once a place is targeted with old cars, refrigerators and unwanted furniture, it invites more dumping. Maybe folks don’t know that residential trash service offers pick up for big things like couches. We can’t wait for the county to clean up these areas; it’s up to us. Let’s clean up Sonoma County. Put trash bags in your car, and the next time you are out take some trash home.
LOOKALIKES (one from Yesterday's Catch)
Following a routine morning of ablutions at the Building Bridges homeless shelter in Ukiah, California, walked to the Plowshares Peace & Justice Center for a free lunch, and then took a bus to the north end of town for a Peet's coffee at the Raley's supermarket. Sufficiently caffeinated, walked to the Ukiah Public Library, and am on computer #4 this moment. The mind is meditating on its source, which is Brahman. There is $152.91 in the Savings Bank of Mendocino checking account. Food stamps are incoming at some point. General health is good. Will eventually go to Safeway to purchase yogurt and fruit and a deli entree for tonight. Will sleep well. ~OM Shanthi~
Craig Louis Stehr
CHRIS SKYHAWK: Redwood trees range— Just sitting in the cafe reading your Off The Record bit about their range; One time with my ex (she’s a brit- we were at an estate along the Avon River- they have a fantastic play area for kids- climbing structures zip lines, etc), I looked across and was stunned to see a redwood tree! I thought I must be making mistake, but wandered over there and saw a plaque; they were donated by someone from California. As a gift. They were doing great, tall and healthy, I thought of course- its rainy, cool. Except for the accents of the people, they probably think they’re still in California!
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I worked briefly at a rehab hospital 40+ years ago.
Most of the paraplegics had crashed their cars and permanently damaged their spinal cords.
Here’s the thing. They spent all of the their time in the common room talking about new medical breakthroughs that were totally going to heal their spinal cords and allow them to walk again.
40+ years ago. Any day now.
What did I learn from that? That the human body is both a tough and a fragile organism. That you can crash your car and smash your body and still live, but if you crush your spinal cord you will not walk again.
AND I learned that some actions are irreversible. There is no magic cure for some things. AND that medical science is not all-knowing and all-curing. And that wishing that something were true does not make it true.
I watched the documentary “Anecdotals” which was very good, but the people damaged by the GMO injectable were pathetically hopeful that the same doctors who jabbed them could diagnosis and cure their disabilities. They kept going to the doctors for tests and expecting that the doctors could fix them.
Not going to happen. Some people’s bodies may heal some damage and some people’s bodies may develop workarounds, but relying on the same people who injured you to fix you is not a sound decision.
I FINALLY GOT COVID. HERE’S WHY I THREW MY PAXLOVID PILLS IN THE GARBAGE
by Debbie Cohen
It’s been a month since I threw my Paxlovid pills in the garbage.
I only took the three-pill, twice-daily dosage for one day instead of the prescribed five. But no matter how many cough drops I sucked on or sticks of gum I chewed, I could not shake the rancid, metallic-tasting dumpster fire that has seemingly taken up permanent residence in my mouth.
What I am experiencing is common enough that it has a name: “Metal mouth” or “Paxlovid mouth.” In medical literature, this altered sense of taste is called dysgeusia. But, however it’s referred to, I wish I understood the risk of developing this nasty side-effect before I started taking the drug.
In November 2021, after the pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced the results of a study that showed Paxlovid reduced COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths by 89%, the drug quickly became touted as a “game changer” by infectious disease experts and the media alike. A month later, the the drug emergency use authorization for mild-to-moderate COVID in adults and pediatric patients 12 and older that had underlying medical conditions associated with a higher risk for severe COVID. One of those conditions was being 50 or older.
By the time I came down with COVID, Paxlovid had been in use for about a year and taken by millions of Americans for free, courtesy of the federal government. In my case, I had received all five of the recommended vaccinations for COVID but was worried about past issues with nighttime wheezing and how being over 50 might affect the severity of the infection. So, my doctor prescribed Paxlovid, assuring me it was generally well-tolerated. When I asked about potential side effects, she replied: “It might make your mouth a bit metallic.”
I thought she meant for maybe a few minutes after taking it. Nothing could have prepared me for the unbearable 24/7 reality that has been going on for weeks. I’m not alone.
A quick search for “Paxlovid mouth” on Twitter revealed an avalanche of complaints. People described it as tasting like everything from sheet metal to a mouthful of dirty pennies to sucking on sweaty gym socks or, as one Twitter user put it, like “licking an ashtray all day, every day.” Many people felt like their mouth was on fire and were finding it hard to eat or drink.
One such person is Marin County resident Morgan Lance, 52. Lance, who has an underlying autoimmune condition, asked her doctor to prescribe Paxlovid when she tested positive for the coronavirus a couple of months ago. But, within hours of starting the treatment, she began having an overwhelmingly bitter, metallic taste in her mouth along with extreme nausea. Two days later she was barely able to eat or drink.
“I couldn’t handle the side effects and stopped taking it on day three,” Lance told me. “It took almost another full week before I had my sense of taste back.”
Americans are repeatedly being told that potential side effects from taking Paxlovid are minimal and worth the protection it provides from severe COVID. (California has gone so far as to now recommend expanded use.) When asked about dysgeusia in May 2022, a Pfizer spokesperson said that in trials “most events were mild” and that “very few patients discontinued the study as a result.” Last month, an executive at the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, one of the largest professional associations of pharmacists in the country, made the message more plain: “A bad taste for five days is a small price to pay for a drug that can save your life.”
Tell that to Lance, the Twittersphere and my mouth.
As so many of us who have taken the drug know, Paxlovid mouth can last far longer than five days. In fact, the data showed that from the earliest published results. The European Medical Agency, the European Union’s governing body in charge of the evaluation and supervision of pharmaceutical products, noted in December 2021 that potential side effects from Paxlovid, including dysgeusia, can last up to 34 days after the initial dosage.
Why doesn’t public messaging around the drug match the data?
Fortunately, there soon may be an alternative. Last month, results from a Phase 3 trial for a new antiviral pill were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The new pill — known as V116 — was found to be as effective as Paxlovid at curbing mild to moderate COVID among people at high risk, with far fewer side effects. In the case of dysgeusia, researchers found that only 4% of patients who took V116 experienced the side effect compared to 26% of those in its study who took Paxlovid. Interestingly, Pfizer’s Phase 2/3 study found only 5.6% of patients experienced an altered sense of taste.
Paxlovid may be the most effective tool we have to reduce the risk of severe COVID. But in order for the drug to be effective, people have to make it through the entire course of treatment. For some of us, the side effects of Paxlovid were too much to bear. As we move to a more endemic phase of COVID, our treatments for the infection should continue to be studied, and we shouldn’t downplay any drug’s negative side effects.
CHAPPELLE SLAMS HYPOCRITE TRANS PROTESTERS WHO CLAIM HIS JOKES CAUSE THEM VIOLENCE; And Then Turn Up To His Shows And Attack People.
by Andrea Cavallier
Dave Chappelle confronted recent backlash on his podcast as he slammed trans protesters who claimed his transphobic jokes caused violence against them, but then turned up to his show and became violent in the crowd.
The comedian's show in Minneapolis last summer was forced to change venues because of the backlash from the community. And while Chappelle was met with a line of fans and a standing ovation at the Varsity Theater, he was also met with violent protesters.
In the latest episode of his podcast, ‘The Midnight Miracle’ podcast with co-hosts Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey, Chappelle said the protesters threw eggs at him, yelled for him to go home, and even threw a barricade at the crowd.
He pointed out the hypocrisy of protesters who have blamed transphobes and those speaking out against trans for recent violence against the trans community, yet are now causing violence themselves.
Chappelle drew a backlash in 2021 for material in his Netflix comedy special ‘The Closer’ that some in the LGBTQ+ community said ridiculed transgender people. His supporters viewed it as a cry against cancel culture.
Chappelle’s show at Minneapolis’ First Avenue club in July was canceled with the venue apologizing to the community for booking him and vowing to keep the club a “safe space.”
“I guess apparently they had made a pledge to the public at large that they would make their club a safe space for all people, and that they would ban anything they deemed transphobic,” Chappelle said on the podcast. “This is a wild stance for an artistic venue to take, especially one that's historically a punk rock venue.”
Yet, when his show was rescheduled for the Varsity Theater, large groups of protesters swarmed the outside of the venue and became violent.
“These were grown people of various genders and gender identities. They threw eggs. They threw eggs at the [fans] who were lined up to see the show,” he said on the podcast.
Chappelle also talked about a protester who he said threw a police barricade into the crowd.
“One lady was so mad with the protesters, she picked up a police barricade,” Chappelle added. “You ever seen one? They look like a bike rack. This bitch picked that barricade up by herself and threw it at the crowd. I gotta tell you, it's an amazing feat of strength for a woman.”
But Chappelle said the protesters did not succeed in getting his show canceled. Instead, when he walked on stage, he was greeted with a standing ovation.
“When I walked on stage, it was a huge ovation because suddenly going to see a comedy show was this huge act of defiance,” Chappelle said.
“I don't think anyone had any malicious intent. In fact, one of the things that these people, the trans and their surrogates, always say is that my jokes are somehow gonna be the root cause of some impending violence that they feel like is inevitable for my jokes.
“But I gotta tell you, as abrasive as they were, the way they were protesting, throwing eggs at people, throwing barricades, cussing and screaming, [none of my fans] beat ’em up. In fact, the people in the crowd would just say, ‘We love you. Like what are you talking about’?”
Chappelle continued his argument by saying that he's not mad that the groups take issue with his work, but that “because they don't like it, I'm not allowed to say it.”
“Now I have a belief that the gay community is not monolithic, and I think that in regards to me, that there's probably a variety of opinions throughout that,” he said. “But there's a thing they do where they deliberately obscure what I think they believe is the intent of my work to make a moment of it that I don't know that the work necessarily merits. You know what I mean?”
Chappelle continued: “I'm not even mad that they take issue with my work. Good, fine. Who cares? What I take issue with is the idea that because they don't like it, I'm not allowed to say it.”
“Art is a nuanced endeavor,” he added. “I have a belief that they are trying to take the nuance out of speech in American culture, that they're making people speak as if they're either on the right or the left. Everything seems absolute, and any opinion I respect is way more nuanced than these binary choices they keep putting in front of us. I don’t see the world in red or blue.
“Trying to silence a person like me, I don't think it has anything to do with being loved,” Chapelle said.
“They want to be feared. ‘If you say this, then we will punish you. We'll come to First Avenue and f--k your show up and we'll come to the Varsity Theater and f--k your show up.’ And they just don't get to do that.”
Chappelle generated anger last year after the October release of ‘The Closer,’ which included remarks about the transgender community and prompted swift backlash from offended onlookers and even staffers at Netflix, which in recent years aired a slew of the comic’s specials.
The backlash included a staged walkout from employees at Netflix's LA HQ, after the streaming giant's CEO Ted Sarandos defended Chappelle’s jokes as artistic expression and nothing more than an example of the comedian's “creative freedom.”
The special even spurred a response from transgender star Caitlyn Jenner, who also defended the comedian for his comments.
In the special, Chappelle also jokes women view trans women the same way black people might view white women wearing blackface.
He also joked women are entitled to feel anger toward trans women, since Jenner won Glamour magazine’s 2015 Woman of the Year award.
“I'd be mad as shit if I was a woman,” Chappelle sarcastically says in one bit that had been deemed problematic.
The star also joked about the anatomy of trans women, joking they lacked real female reproductive organs and that they did not have blood but “beet juice.”
He joked: “Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact.”
The comic, who has continued to produce content for Netflix over the past year despite the backlash, has since refused to defend his remarks, saying they were clearly made in jest, while also pointing to his status as a standup comedian — a job that is likely to often offend at least some.
This increasingly politically correct climate has since become a pronounced topic in Chappelle's material — though, notably, his sets, while still rife with his trademark tongue-in-cheek observations, have become markedly more toned down since ‘The Closer.’
When he appeared on SNL in November, he declined to discuss anything related to his jokes which drew controversy — but seemed to allude to them somewhat heavy-handedly with his material, which largely focused on topics that underpin enduring stereotypes, anti-Semitic and otherwise.
The appearance was Chappelle's third-ever on the show, following a 2016 appearance and return to the show in 2020, during an episode that saw him lambaste a then-ousted President Trump following that year’s presidential election.
Ahead of that performance, SNL staff members, seemingly still irate over the comic's past material, threatened to boycott the episode, but ultimately did not make good on those threats.
One took to Instagram to argue “transphobia is murder and it should be condemned” after Chappelle’s slot was announced, while others were rumored to be furious the showrunners chose the controversial comedian.
Chappelle joked that like J.K. Rowling - who was eviscerated for sharing her view on the subject - he too was a ‘TERF’ - a trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
Chappelle had also claimed that gender was a “fact.”
He was eviscerated by activists calling for a boycott and claiming he was “harmful” to them.
However many in the trans community said they had no problem with the jokes, and that the faux-outrage was largely leveled by cisgender people.
Among those who jumped to Chappelle's defense was the family of the late trans comedian Daphne Dorman, who killed herself in 2019.
“Daphne was in awe of Dave's graciousness. She did not find his jokes rude, crude, off-coloring, off-putting, anything. She thought his jokes were funny. Daphne understood humor and comedy—she was not offended. Why would her family be offended? Dave loved my sister and is an LGBTQ ally. His entire set was begging to end this very situation,” her family said.
Chappelle later offered to meet with critics and Netflix staff who had complained about the show.
“It's been said in the press that I was invited to speak with transgender employees at Netflix and I refused. That is not true. If they had invited me I would’ve accepted, although I am confused about what we're speaking about,” he said.
PART OF BLACK AMERICA is always paranoid about what white people will think. That's kind of an old argument, a civil rights argument, but it's still out there a bit: what do white people think of us? The basic perception of the black intelligentsia and a lot of more mainstream black people is that white people buy hip-hop music to enjoy the violent tales of black people killing each other. It's really that simple. And they really believe that. When you hear that 70% of all rap records are purchased by white kids in the suburbs, that becomes part of the dialogue and it really makes people insanely mad. White people are enjoying this, especially young white people, and we are allowing them to say things like "nigger." They hear it on the records so they feel like they can use it as well. And then there's the question: What is this doing to black people? When you look at the numbers of people incarcerated, you look at the unemployment numbers, the dropout rates, you can see this downward spiral which has been happening since the 70s. Rap records have been a phenomenon of this period, so people want to blame it all on the music.
— Nelson George, writer, filmmaker and cultural commentator
The extreme features of the Rezvani Vengeance – including electrified door handles and blinding strobe lights – are wholly in tune with lethal trends in the US market…
THE REAL DEBT CRISIS IS LOW TAXES
by Binyamin Appelbaum
Washington’s favorite show, “Debt Ceiling Chicken,” is playing again in the big white theater on Capitol Hill. And once again, it is diverting attention from the fact that the United States really does have a debt problem.
Republicans and Democrats in recent decades have hewed to a kind of grand bargain, raising spending and cutting taxes, and papering over the difference with a lot of borrowed money.
From 1972 to 2021, the government, on average, spent about 20.8 percent of gross domestic product while collecting about 17.3 percent of G.D.P. in revenue. It covered the gap with $31.4 trillion in I.O.U.s — the federal debt.
The government relies on this borrowed money to function, and for decades, it has defied a variety of dire predictions about the likely consequences. Notably, there’s no sign that Washington is exhausting Wall Street’s willingness to lend. In financial markets, U.S. Treasuries remain the ultimate comfort food. There’s also little evidence the government’s gargantuan appetite is making it harder for businesses or individuals to get loans, which could impede economic growth.
But the federal debt still carries a hefty price tag.
The most immediate problem with the government’s reliance on borrowed money is the regular opportunity it provides for Republicans to engage in blackmail. Congress imposes a statutory limit on federal borrowing, known as the debt ceiling. The government hit that limit this month, meaning the total amount of spending approved by Congress now requires borrowing in excess of that amount.
Raising the ceiling ought to be a formality, since it simply allows the government to meet the obligations Congress already has approved. But House Republicans say they won’t raise it without a deal to cut future spending.
The Biden administration is rightly insistent that it won’t pay Congress to do its job, as the Obama administration agreed to do in 2011.
After all, Americans don’t want large spending cuts. The vast majority of federal spending is supported by most Americans. About 63 cents of every federal dollar goes to mandatory programs, the largest of which, Social Security and Medicare, are wildly popular. Others, like Obamacare subsidies, are less popular, but there’s no need to speculate about what would happen if Republicans tried to cut the program. They’ve tried and failed repeatedly. An additional 15 cents goes to discretionary programs. The big-ticket items, like health care for veterans, highway construction and subsidies for law enforcement, are pretty popular, too. The rest is the defense budget and interest payments.
Indeed, Americans need more federal spending. The United States invests far less than other wealthy nations in providing its citizens with the basic resources necessary to lead productive lives. Millions of Americans live without health insurance. People need more help to care for their children and older family members. They need help to go to college and to retire. Measured as a share of G.D.P., public spending in the other Group of 7 nations is, on average, more than 50 percent higher than in the United States.
But Democrats ought to emphasize a distinction between resisting Republican demands and defending the government’s current borrowing habits. There is another, better way to fund public spending: collecting more money in taxes.
In recent decades, proponents of more spending have largely treated tax policy as a separate battle — one that they’ve been willing to lose.
They need to start fighting and winning both.
It costs money to borrow money. Interest payments require the government to raise more money to deliver the same goods and services. Using taxes to pay for public services means that the government can do more.
The United States paid $475 billion in interest on its debts last fiscal year, which ran through September. That was a record, and it will soon be broken. In the first quarter of this fiscal year, the government paid $210 billion.
The payments aren’t all that high by historical standards. Measured as a share of economic output, they remain well below the levels reached in the 1990s. Last year, federal interest outlays equaled 1.6 percent of G.D.P., compared with the high-water mark of 3.2 percent in 1991. But that mark, too, may soon be exceeded. The Congressional Budget Office projects that federal interest payments will reach 3.3 percent of G.D.P. by 2032, and it estimates interest payments might reach 7.2 percent of G.D.P. by 2052.
That’s a lot of money that could be put to better use.
Borrowing also exacerbates economic inequality. Instead of collecting higher taxes from the wealthy, the government is paying interest to them — some rich people are, after all, the ones investing in Treasuries.
If the debt ceiling serves any purpose, it is the occasional opportunity for Congress to step back and consider the sum of all its fiscal policies.
The nation is borrowing too much but not because it is spending too much.
The real crisis is the need to collect more money in taxes.
THE INDIAN CULTURE such as the great warrior, Crazy Horse, believed in lying their deceased on scaffolds, wrapping them in buffalo blankets. There to be exposed to the elements and delivered over a year or two back to nature. Then to come back as buffalo grass, and eaten by the buffalos, which would be eaten by the Sioux, thus completing the cycle. Versus the Anglo belief of burial in a metal casket preventing breakdowns over a longer time. This is from Stephen Ambrose book of Custer and Crazy Horse.
THIS EVENING I appeared at the Congress of the Soviets. Even I, who care little for pageant and ceremony, wondered whether this battered old suit and the trousers I tread at the heel would not be seen as a sort of insult. I should have been ashamed to underestimate the victorious comrades. I had toyed with various eloquent, or anyway elaborate, openings. But in the end it came out flat, simple, unadorned. I had to wait several minutes for the great rolling, building, multiplying roar of an ovation to stop — there seemed no reason why it ever should so long as this great multi-piped organ had bellows to power it. Then it stopped as at a conductor's baton. Into the silence my voice, small, coarse, dry, fed the words, "Comrades, we shall now proceed to construct the socialist order." The voices had only been in a pause, the cheers now felt like an avalanche. I was buried alive in noise. For a moment, I was afraid at what I had done.
— Lenin, as channeled by Alan Brien
WOULD A WEALTH TAX ACTUALLY DRIVE THE RICH OUT OF CALIFORNIA?
by Grace Gedye
Lawmakers in blue states like California may prefer to tax the rich, but there’s always a risk: What if the rich just move elsewhere?
Last week Assemblymember Alex Lee said he was introducing a new tax on “extreme wealth.” It wasn’t the first time the Milpitas Democrat pushed the idea. But this year, he had back up.
Lawmakers from seven other states, including Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Illinois and Washington were introducing new taxes for the rich on the same day.
“The counter argument is that the rich will just leave,” said Lee. “Well, this is kind of the strategy of ‘You can run but you can’t hide.’”
Lee’s proposal would apply to individuals with a net worth of $50 million or more, taxing their wealth at 1% annually. Wealth beyond $1 billion would be taxed at 1.5%. The tax would apply to about 23,000 households, or the wealthiest 0.1% in the state, and would raise about $21.6 billion in revenue per year, according to calculations from UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, who helped design Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s national wealth tax proposal and had a hand in some of the state-level proposals.
Unlike income tax, a tax on overall wealth is unprecedented in the U.S. The proposal would apply to assets including shares of privately owned companies, art and collectables, “financial assets held offshore” and more.
Even in the overwhelmingly Democratic state Legislature, the proposal is a longshot. When Lee introduced similar legislation last year, it didn’t get a first hearing, much less a vote.
But Lee remains optimistic. One change is that last year the state was flush with cash. This year the California has a projected $22.5 billion budget deficit.
That deficit, Lee said, is almost exactly the same amount that the tax is projected to raise annually.
“The top 5 percent of income earners pay 70 percent of the personal income tax. And the personal income tax is California’s biggest source of revenue,” said Robert Gutierrez, CEO of the California Taxpayers Association, which opposes the idea. “So, if even a few of those taxpayers rethink California as a place to live, that does have an impact on the (state) budget.”
But do wealthy people actually relocate when their tax bill goes up? And if they do, how large is the exodus?
Research on the subject is growing rapidly, but a clear consensus has yet to emerge, wrote Cristobal Young, a sociologist at Cornell, and Ithai Lurie, an economist at the U.S. Treasury in a recent paper.
In 2018, Charles Varner and Cristobal Young, then both at Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, worked with Allen Prohofsky at California’s Franchise Tax board, looking at decades of California tax data to figure out the impacts of several tax changes. Before and after tax increases in 2004 and 2012, they compared top earners affected by the tax increases to those just below them on the income ladder — people who still make plenty of money, but weren’t affected by the raises.
First they looked at the number of $1-million-plus-per-year earners leaving the state each year versus moving to it. Before 2004, there was a net out-migration. In the years after the 2004 tax increase, that outflow decreased, and by 2007 it flipped: More million-dollar earners were coming to California than were leaving. That persisted after another tax increase in 2012 (the data goes through 2014).
That leads to another important point: The number of million-dollar-plus earners in California each year fluctuates considerably, but people moving to the state or pulling up stakes only account for a teensy portion of the change, they found. The average number of people earning more than $1 million per year varies by about 10,000 people each year; net migration accounts for only about 50 to 120 people. The number of super-high earners California has each year, in other words, is almost entirely driven by other stuff; mostly “California residents growing into the [million-dollar-earner] bracket, or falling out of it again,” they wrote.
Next they analyzed the 2004 tax increase — comparing top earners affected by the tax to the almost-top earners who aren’t — and found that the rate of top earners leaving the state actually declined slightly after the 2004 tax increase, while the almost-top earners continued to leave at the same rate. In other words, the 2004 tax increase didn’t drive the people paying a larger bill out of the state.
Then, they looked at the 2012 California tax increase, brought on by the passage of Proposition 30, which boosted the tax rate by 1% for individuals earning $250,000 to $300,000, 2% for individuals earning $300,000 to $500,000, and 3% for individuals earning over half a million dollars annually. “This was one of the largest effective tax rate increases in recent US history,” said Varner.
The researchers did find “a very slight” difference: For every 1 percentage point increase in the tax rate they found that the state lost about .04% of its million-dollar earners to net migration — about 40 people, Varner wrote in an email.
There’s a broader context too, to this research teasing out the specific effects that taxes have on rich people moving, Varner said: California has grown its population of million-dollar earners overall. In 2009, that rarified group was about 75,000 strong (adjusted for inflation), and by 2019 it was over 158,000 Varner said, drawing on data he received from the state’s tax board.
In 2019, a different group of researchers from Stanford also used tax data, again to examine the effect of the 2012 tax increase. They found a much larger effect: The tax increase drove an extra 0.8% of top earners to leave the state the year after it went into effect.
That 0.8% translates — with some fancy math putting more weight on the tippy top of the top earners to account for their disproportionate impact — to 535 additional people making $500,00 per year or more hightailing it as a result of thet tax. The impact on California’s budget, of course, is in the revenue lost from that exit rather than the headcount of people leaving.
Not every study of this issue has the same finding, said Saez, the Berkeley economist. But “if I were to summarize the work,” he said, “you will find that some people move to avoid paying higher taxes, but it is quantitatively small, meaning that the fraction of your tax base that you lose … (is) typically quite small.” He thinks Lee’s proposal would cause some wealthy people to leave, but the number of people would be small relative to the number of wealthy people in the state.
The possibility that ultra-wealthy people — and the taxes they pay, and the dollars they spend — will leave the state is not the only critique opponents of the tax make. They also argue it will immediately face a legal challenge, especially because the tax applies to wealthy people for a few years after they leave California. And they contend that it will be extremely difficult to evaluate the totality of the ultra-rich’s assets.
But, Lee points out, we already tax people on one form of wealth – houses – and “we have developed a whole system of assessment for millions and millions of units of homes” he said. “So we can do the same thing for mega yachts.”
UKRAINE, WEDNESDAY, 25TH JANUARY
Germany announced it will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks from its own stock as part of its first shipment to Ukraine after weeks of diplomatic pressure from some NATO allies.
The announcement came a day after CNN reported the US is finalizing plans to sendits Abrams tanks to Kyiv, a move that appeared to break the diplomatic logjam.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky praised the announcement as Russia’s ambassador to Germany said Berlin's decision takes the conflict "to a new level of confrontation."
Ukraine has confirmed its forces have withdrawn from the eastern town of Soledar, a site that had seen intense fighting in recent weeks.
Russia branded the move to send tanks to Ukraine an 'immediate provocation' and one raging Putin mouthpiece called for the Bundestag to be destroyed after weeks of bitter rows between Germany and Nato allies looked set to finally resolve. While there is yet to be official confirmation, officials in Germany and the US said M1 Abrams tanks and Leopard 2 tanks will soon be sent to the battlefield, to the delight of Kyiv. Volodymyr Zelensky's officials hailed the move as a 'punching fist' for democracy, while Russia had previously warned it would cause a 'global catastrophe' and escalate the war beyond Ukraine's borders.