North Wind | Skatepark Meeting | Third Place | RV Council | Wave Up | Fire Staffing | Talmage Sky | Super Bowl | Planted Trees | Beautiful Ukiah | Hendy Trail | Valentine Outreach | Stacked Modic | Miller Hiatus | Yesterday's Catch | Little Luck | Sports Drink | Housing Discrimination | Viva! | Black-on-Black | Outdoor Gamer | Scranton Joe | Usal Sunset | Suicide Hotline | Plastics | Neutering Boars | Pinocchio | Paint Jobs | Scary Shadows | Left-Right Coalition | Nursery Rhyme | Listen | Yalta | Serious Ballooning | Frankentrim | Ukraine | 1939 Menu
NORTH WINDS will gradually increase through the day today with gusts along the coast as high as 40 mph. especially around Point Arena. Very cold air moving in overnight will allow for light low elevation snow Tuesday morning. Accumulating small hail is possible along the coast with a wide spread hard freeze Wednesday morning. (NWS)
BOONVILLE! A great end to a great season, Boys Junior High A Team takes third place in the first annual Krebs Classic basketball tournament. (Coach Luis Espinoza)
MONICA HUETTL’S MONTHLY REDWOOD VALLEY MUNICIPAL ADVISORY COUNCIL REPORT includes reports from Supervisor McGourty and Sheriff Kendall, and a cannabis update.
FIRE STAFFING CRISIS
To the Editor:
For some time now your fire, rescue, and a portion of EMS services have been provided for by the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority. The agreement between the City of Ukiah and the Ukiah Valley Fire District became effective on July 1, 2017. Essentially merging two fire agencies, Ukiah City Fire and the Fire District and is now known as the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority. The area of services provided cover just under one-hundred square miles, essentially from the east and west ridge tops and Burke Hill in the south to Agnes Lane (North State St. / Gold Gulch, for us “old timers”) in the north.
This past calendar year the Fire Authority responded to 4,384 incidents, and 2,777 medical aid responses. Generating a minimum of 7,161 reports. One report per engine response and one PCR (patient care report) per ambulance response. The typical engine response is one engine with a minimum staffing of two, with possibly three as staffing allows. One member of this engine response is paramedic qualified, usually the captain position. With first alarms or greater, the second engine will be assigned with the same staffing levels. Depending upon the level of severity one incident may require more than one emergency vehicle to respond. This would also include any Volunteer response. This past calendar year there were well over 5,000 responses which does include assists to Med Star Ambulance, our local private provider. All engines are Advance Life Support equipped (ALS). Medical Aid or ambulance responses are staffed with a two-person crew, at least one being paramedic qualified.
So with the aforementioned work load, what does staffing look like? I will not sugar coat this, in my opinion it looks terrible! And has been for quite some time, years actually! Currently there are eighteen suppression positions on the roster, with three on some level of leave, this does not include the command staff of two Battalion Chiefs and one Fire Chief. Responding to well over 4300 calls for service, including over 2,700 ambulance responses. Command staff can and will on occasion staff and drive the ambulance as they are all paramedic qualified. Active stations are located on Laws Ave., and Lovers Lane. The central station is located at the Ukiah Civic Center and is where the ambulance crews live and respond from. So, if you were merely to count bodies/positions, that’s a total of 27, this includes volunteers. Volunteers are an important part of our fire department. However, they typically don’t respond to the daily call volume unless needed, larger incidents or additional staffing and such. The Fire Authority is currently seeking to fill at least three authorized vacancies. Not much luck thus far! There are incentives to those who are successful in the hiring process.
So while responding to the call volume as stated above other assigned duties must be undertaken. Reports must be completed, apparatus must be maintained, training must be undertaken, “at all levels”, and crew quarters must be kept up. So let’s look at what a typical member may receive or be required to get during any given year. Each member receives about 300 hours of training, plus an additional 80 hours of required certification training (Incident command, paramedic, state fire training). All of this is accomplished during any given period during the year and must be maintained. Volunteers also receive required training, amounting to about 468 hours per year. None of this is easy, nor is it not necessary!
So as I mentioned earlier, staffing is terrible, (my opinion) and has been for years. I started my time with the Ukiah Fire Department in 1982 as a Volunteer, promoted to paid Battalion Chief in 2005. At that time we had 25 Volunteers and 22 paid staff. Managing to run approximately 2,400 calls for service per year, which includes fire department ALS ambulance responses within the city limits, roughly 4.5 square miles. Upon my retirement from the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority in 2019 there were roughly 18 paid staff, and about 6 volunteers running over 4,300 calls for service, and over 2,700 ambulance responses within our roughly 100 square miles of service area. Now keep in mind with the merger in place the fire department now covers roughly 100 square miles with fewer staff, why is this? The call volume has significantly risen and staffing has stagnated or even declined. Cost is often given as the driving factor to not being able to hire new staff. But there are various costs to consider such as the overtime burden, injuries due to over-worked or lack of appropriate rest and recovery. The paid staff works a two day on and four days off rotation. Lack of appropriate rest and time away from work has negative impacts to well-being and health.
The question must be asked, why are our local leaders, city and county, gambling with the health, safety and welfare of our first responders, and to our community? It may be entirely possible that our community just simply doesn’t know of the working conditions of our staff? Working conditions are getting worse largely due to the lack of support. I know we don’t have a tax base that will support that of other communities, however we, our City/District must do better. How can this be accomplished as our fire department responds to ever higher demands?
Kevin P. Jennings, Retired Division Chief/Fire Marshal, Ukiah Valley Fire Authority, Newly Appointed Board Member, Ukiah Valley Fire District
CAPSULE SUPER BOWL REPORT: Great game won by Kansas City 38-35. Mahomes, playing in pain on a bad ankle, was above and beyond as usual. Lots of amazing plays by both teams. Watched a YouTube video of a frightening Philadelphia crowd, including little kids, bombarding Chief's fans with F-bombs — ugly squared. The fly over in celebration of imperialism, the military-industrial complex, and pointless wars featured female pilots. Nice redneck rendition of the National Anthem by a fat guy in a cowboy hat. Lots of repellent “celebrities” — are there any other kind these days? — including that world class swine, Rupert Murdoch. A vulgar half-time show featured a woman with one name we're apparently supposed to know belting out sexual invitations while grabbing her crotch and rear end. I listened for a few minutes until she got to “I will make you feel like a man” when I felt only like slitting my wrists if I had to listen to any more. All-in-all, except for the exciting game itself, another reminder that our nation is sinking fast.
DON'T CRY FOR ME, UKIAH
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
Or put in a parking lot…
When tourists visit San Francisco they take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower and those beautifully painted Victorian houses lined up along Alamo Square.
In New York City visitors shoot shots of the Empire State Building, the grand Main Public Library, Carnegie Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral and, perhaps, Grant’s Tomb.
In Chicago the major draw is Michigan Avenue featuring the old Chicago Bee newspaper building, plus Wrigley Field and Thalia Hill.
Cleveland has one attraction, the Terminal Tower, and it manages to make every page, every year, of every calendar featuring the city, and is the only building in all of Cuyahoga County visitors bother taking pictures of.
In Los Angeles tourists take photos of their lunch, and later that day a selfie at Dodger Stadium.
It’s this way in any and every town or city in America, and also the world. People appreciate certain aspects of cities no matter where they visit, and they shun the rest. The secret, at last revealed:
People love, admire, visit and take photographs of buildings and landmarks that are examples of old, beautiful architecture. People want to see the handsome structures that once stood proud across the lands, in the banks, hotels, schools, courthouses and neighborhoods.
And to prove it, again, every one of the cities mentioned above (and others across the country) feature the same architectural beauties on their tourist guides and hotel brochures. If you don’t see a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on a ’Frisco visitor information pamphlet I’m guessing you landed at the wrong airport.
How about Ukiah? Tourist guides and publicity shots of Ukiah are inevitably variations on the same scant material: a block of South State Street that shows the backside of the courthouse, then a shopfront or two and, finally, the old Hofman Victorian across from Alex Thomas Plaza.
And that’s it. No one has ever taken a picture of the barren lands of South State Street, nor of the painful stretch of North State that runs out to Redwood Valley. Ukiah has dozens more neighborhoods and parking lots that are as bad or worse, remnants of slipshod construction, lousy planning and drab results, and each and every one of them has gone a lifetime without having their picture taken, except by a real estate agent.
The worst and ugliest of Ukiah has been installed during the last 75 years. We’ve gone from grand, handsome civic structures and lovely houses to shabby “modern” styles and “improved” building methods that cut so many corners builders used the discarded pieces to build an extra half mile on South Dora Street.
We all see it, we all know it, we all take pictures of the architectural beauties and drive six blocks to avoid the dreary new stuff. And yet we plow on.
Knowing there are pretty buildings and lots more ugly ones, we continue to allow, nay, encourage developers from 500 miles away to dictate the style and quality of proposed development.
Why doesn’t Ukiah say NO to their cheesy proposals?
Why doesn’t Ukiah demand modest concessions when some corporate entity comes to town with artist renditions of how a new hotel will look when carefully inserted next to Fort Holiday Inn down there on Walmart-Costco Boulevard?
They want to profit from the Ukiah area? Fine. In return, Ukiah demands the new building harmonize with our best architectural examples, not our worst. Make your new car dealership / hotel / box store / courthouse rhyme with the city’s old Post Office, or with the old Carnegie Library, not with Safeway.
Check the examples above that draw the customers to New York and SF and Ukiah, and you’ll see that the main attractions are a hundred or more years old.
If they tell us it’s too expensive to build an awe-inspiring courthouse in the 21st century, that there’s no way to have columns, marble cladding and turrets at the front corners of the new courthouse, tell them to take some of the money from the millions going to the Rail Trail.
More people will enjoy and take pictures of a beautiful Mendocino County courthouse in 2299 than a northbound weed-choked strip of nothing.
by Paul Modic
It was the day before Valentine's Day and I had no prospects, but I didn't care, I'm used to it. My friend really wanted a date so I sorta steered my other friend toward her but he couldn't commit, typical male! Then he told me about a woman who has been going through some hard times: first she broke up with her husband and then her father died.
He ran into her at the store where her hands were full of veggies and when he offered to get her a cart she refused. (Some people have so much pride?) That's when he thought she was really kind of frazzled and needed some attention, although he's always reading stuff into the situation and analyzes people constantly. He's friends with her ex so that wouldn't fly, but what about me?
“Well, Valentines Day is tomorrow, what if I brought her flowers and chocolate?” I said.
“Perfect.” he said. “She might need a friend, a man to talk to, or who knows, maybe you two would really hit it off. I'll even buy the flowers and chocolate.”
Since I've been sick I've had a caregiver who comes by on the weekend to cook and clean and smoke and dance and go to the Woodrose and one night at dinner she said, “Can't you wear something nice? You're always in your grey pajamas?” (Leisure wear, really.) So she got me dressing up for dinner: my nice African shirts, white party pants, vest, tie, and a dandy hat. It was actually fun, I felt some other personality coming through.
I went to the flower shop and asked them if one rose was more romantic than three. Yes? Then I wanted three, but I didn’t want to pay the price so I got just one with the greenery around it, and figured that would lower the romance level a little for this situation.
“I'm just Valentine stalking,” I said. “I don't even know the woman.” They didn't care, gimme money, honey.
I dressed up in my finery and went to deliver my flowers at her nursery school, chocolates I deemed unnecessary. She was out to lunch but would be back at two, I almost just left the flowers there but I went home, put my grey pajamas back on, then got dressed up again two hours later.
I walked into the school and her startled co-worker saw the flowers but then relaxed. “She went to the bank, she'll be back soon,” she said. Oh shit, strike two. “I could call her, tell her there's a special delivery?” She took out her phone.
“No, don't do that, I'll just wait,” I said.
“Okay, we can sit outside and talk for a while then. What's your name?”
“Jefe,” I said, and decided to confide in the co-worker. “Hey girlfriend, can I tell you what's going on? Here's my strategy: I'm going to just hand her the flowers and walk away. If she says anything or asks anything then I'll hand her this card with a poem and my contact info.” I showed her the card.
She read the short poem and said, “No, you have to put this in with the flowers!”
“Really? But won't that seem aggressive to give her my email, I don't even really know her.”
“No! You have to put that card in. Just tuck it under the ribbon, she'll think it's weird if there's not something.”
So I tucked it in and soon the busy beauty arrived back. When I gave her the flowers she made those little girl sounds like a cross between mmm and some little squeal, you know what I mean? As planned, I quickly disappeared in my costume, my rock star uniform, and my five minute Valentine’s date was over.
(may you float in a bed
of chocolate and kisses
starry skies and
romantic near misses...)
MILLER REPORT TAKES A HIATUS
I have had a lot of competing challenges lately for my time, so I am sorry that I have not kept up with my writings. I am about to go for a three week vacation. When I get back, I plan to resume the column but shift to more general health related issues. I will strive to put it out to you all on the first and third Monday of each month. Thank you for your understanding.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, February 12, 2023
BRIANNA BELL, Covelo. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, robbery.
CHANDRA BROUILLETTE, Ukiah. DUI.
JODI DUTRA, Ukiah. Robbery.
FAITH GALLOWAY, Lakeport/Ukiah. Controlled substance, child cruelty.
JUSTIN HARRISON, Willits. DUI, child cruelty-injury infliction.
LENIN HERNANDEZ-PADILLA, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. DUI with blood-alcohol over 0.15% with priors, battery, criminal threats, controlled substance, probation revocation.
CHARMAYNE HOAGLEN, Covelo. Battery, failure to appear.
SARAH HUNTZINGER, Willow Creek/Laytonville. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance, paraphernalia.
LUIS NAVARRO-AGUILAR, Ukiah. DUI.
STEVEN ZIMMERMAN, Covelo. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, stolen vehicle, paraphernalia, resisting, probation revocation.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I was born relatively healthy and intelligent to hard-working parents who loved me. That’s a lot of luck. Because of that luck, I’ve made some good choices and worked hard but when I look at other people who’ve come from way harder places in life, I’m blown away by how much they accomplished.
STATE’S RENT VOUCHER LAWSUIT IS ABOUT MORE THAN INCOME DISCRIMINATION
by Jacqueline Waggoner
Families and individuals, particularly those with low incomes, are increasingly being left behind in a housing marketplace where racial and income discrimination run rampant. Last month, the state of California filed a lawsuit that might just pave the way for ensuring equitable access to housing for all Americans.
Earlier in January, California’s Civil Rights Department filed its first-ever lawsuit under the state’s 2020 prohibition against what’s known as source of income discrimination: the practice of refusing to rent to a tenant just because they use a housing voucher or other form of nontraditional income to pay rent.
The suit alleges that two Sacramento landlords served their tenant, Alysia Gonsalves, with an eviction notice, saying they would no longer rent to people who use what’s known as a Housing Choice Voucher – a federal program that helps pay rent for more than 2 million households nationwide. According to the department, when Gonsalves rightly pushed back, the landlords threatened violence, hurled racial slurs, locked her out of her home and destroyed her belongings.
For half a century, federal law has banned housing discrimination based on race, religion or membership in other protected classes. This is a cornerstone of civil rights litigation meant to address years of systemic discrimination in housing.
Unfortunately, as Gonsalves’ story shows, source-of-income discrimination is all too often a proxy for racial discrimination. Well over half of Black and Latino households in this country rent compared to a quarter of White households. Sixty-five percent of all voucher holders are people of color, according to federal data.
Although California – along with 20 other states, the District of Columbia and some 100 local governments – has legally banned source-of-income discrimination, people with vouchers and others who pay rent with nontraditional income are still being illegally denied a place to live.
Normally such acts would merely be intolerable. But with the state and, indeed, the country in the throes of an affordable housing crisis, such discrimination only makes the shortage more acute for Californians statewide.
And nationwide, despite a slowdown in rent hikes, housing costs are still at historic highs, wage growth isn’t keeping up and millions are struggling to find or merely maintain a roof over their heads.
It is no surprise then that the movement to ban source-of-income discrimination is gaining steam, helping ensure housing voucher programs are actually administered consistently and successfully. And the bans have been relatively effective. A 2018 Urban Institute study found that landlords in areas with source-of-income protections rejected tenants with vouchers around half as often as landlords in places without them.
But any policy that lacks enforcement will fail to make progress toward ending housing discrimination.
To be fair, the challenge with enforcing income discrimination bans is widespread. New York City has some of the strongest source-of-income protections in the country, but the city is struggling to adequately staff its enforcement efforts.
That’s why California’s lawsuit is so critical. It not only shows a commitment to the law, but also suggests that we need to direct even more funding to the Civil Rights Department to support greater enforcement. And Californians should keep the pressure on our policymakers to follow this path because income discrimination only worsens our statewide housing crisis.
Landlords also need to help with education. Many housing providers nationwide do not understand discrimination protection laws or have yet to realize the potential of renting to households with a source of guaranteed income. If landlords don’t understand the law or have little to no experience renting to residents with vouchers, stereotypes, misinformation and inequities remain persistent and unchallenged.
Of course, the broader solution would be for Congress to pass a federal ban on source-of-income discrimination and put dollars behind enforcement. This would eliminate any confusion among landlords and tenants alike about the rules around accepting vouchers.
California faces an unprecedented crisis, unable to affordably house millions of people. A failure of enforcement effectively limits our use of federal funding and sidelines families from housing opportunities. It only makes our shortage more acute.
It’s good to see the Civil Rights Department take action. Hopefully it’s the first of more crackdowns to prevent housing discrimination.
(Jacqueline Waggoner is president of the solutions division of the affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. CalMatters.org.)
I KEEP ASKING the black community, “What do you mean by black-on-black crime?” And that’s what I tell white folks. You’ve got to listen to black folk, because sometimes they be saying stuff that sound good, but they be talking about y’all. For instance, black-on-black crime. Ask anybody in the black community, they’ll say, “Oh, we’re tired of black folk killing black folk.” Now, they didn’t say they was tired of black folks killing. They said they’re tired of black folks killing black folks. Then who be left? You know, I mean, it’s a simple matter. If you go to China today, who do you think is killing Chinese in China? If you go to Italy tomorrow, who do you think is killing Italians in Italy? You kill where you live. Remember, 98% of all white folks that was murdered in America last year was murdered by white folks. So if they’re not talking about white-on-white crime, why do we want to talk about black-on-black crime? Like I say, you kill where you live.
And to all you black folks out there that’s worried about black-on-black crime, joining the NAACP, the Urban League, PUSH, SCLC. Get out here with us and work to integrate this country. And I guarantee you, if I’m living in a white suburban neighborhood, and somebody — my old lady makes me mad enough to want to shoot somebody, I’m not going to jump in my car and drive all the way back to the ghetto and shoot you. Trust me. I mean, like I say, you kill where you live. But look at these stats: 98% of all homicides in America are caused by friends or relatives. And 96% of all homicides in America are caused by arguments, not breaking and entering. So we don’t need more locks on our doors, we need locks on our attitude.
— Dick Gregory
SCRANTON JOE IS READY TO GO
by Maureen Dowd
Joe Biden is running. And that’s no malarkey.
He has no intention of following Lear’s lead, “to shake all cares and business from our age / Conferring them on younger strengths, while we / Unburdened crawl toward death.”
In his vertiginous career, Biden has felt the sensation of power slipping away, and he didn’t like it. Let Lear howl at the moon; Joe wants to strut in the sun (with his shades).
I’ve spent my career studying Biden and other pols who are grasping for power, clinging to power, brandishing power and squandering power. And I can tell you this: Nobody likes to give up power. Donald Trump is the grotesque example: trying to overturn the government to keep his grip on it.
Congress and the Supreme Court are replete with candidates for early-bird dinners. Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a huge mistake by staying on the court until the end, bequeathing us Amy Coney Barrett and a reversal of Roe. Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Grassley, both 89, are still in the Senate.
Biden thought he could be president from the moment he hit town as a new senator in 1973. People debate now whether he’s too old to be president; but back then, he was too young to be a senator. He was 29 when he was elected, turning 30 and reaching eligibility shortly after the election.
The handsome young senator told Washingtonian magazine in 1974 that he understood why he was “a hot commodity”: his youth and his “tragic fate” — his wife and baby daughter were killed in a car crash shortly after his election. The magazine compared him to “Robert Redford’s Great Gatsby in natty pinstriped suits.”
“I know I can be a good president,” he said, adding, “My family still expects me to be there one of these days.”
The neophyte was very self-confident, while blithely conceding his flaws. “I’m not the kind of guy everyone likes,” he said. “My personality either grabs you or it doesn’t.”
His quest was a bumpy one. I wrote the stories about cribbing from Neil Kinnock and Robert Kennedy that helped knock Biden out of the 1988 race. I also wrote about his well-meaning but ham-handed performance during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings.
But just when it seemed as though Biden’s best days were behind him, Barack Obama chose him for a running mate, seeking foreign policy experience. And in a well-meaning but clumsy move that actually turned out to be brilliant, Vice President Biden managed to bring President Obama and most of the country along to the idea of embracing gay marriage.
Obama shoved Biden aside for Hillary, which turned out to be a huge mistake that resulted in the execrable Trump. After being treated dismissively by the Obama team, Biden, Rocky-like, finally won the presidency, nearly half a century after he first talked about it.
After that slog, he’s not about to kiss it away because some polls and pundits fret about his age.
He thinks he’s doing great. There’s a spring in his step because he feels that he has outwitted the dimwitted Republicans. On Tuesday night, he made them look rude — with Marjorie Taylor Greene’s fur flying — and put them on the defensive. Republicans spent the whole week trying to get out from under his criticism that they always want to cut Social Security. But it’s a hard criticism to rebut because Republicans always want to cut Social Security.
Biden has gone bigger than Obama, who was supposed to be the transformational one. The president has pushed big job-creating bills and gone after Big Pharma and big corporations. (He has also gone smaller with some crowd-pleasers, like promising to get rid of junk fees on hotel bills.) Unlike Obama, who had an aversion to selling his policies, this guy loves a good groundbreaking.
In the State of the Union, the president began trying to reconnect his party to its blue-collar roots. Hillary thought she could win in 2016 with the new Democratic coalition of minorities, the elite and students. She refused to give a speech at Notre Dame and never bothered to go to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin was Biden’s first stop Wednesday in his post-State of the Union blitz. He remains unapologetically Scranton Joe.
So, we know, Joe. You’re in the race.
I ANSWER THE PHONE AT A MENTAL HEALTH HOTLINE
by Benedict Carey
“Oh my, you picked up the phone.”
The caller sounded genuinely surprised and held her breath for a moment before telling her story. For more than a year, she and her husband had been largely trapped in their home by their 25-year-old son, who suffered from psychotic episodes. He refused any treatment, he had been making threats, and most nights he holed up in his room doing drugs while his parents tried to sleep behind their double-locked bedroom door.
“Is there someone who can come out to help us?” she said. “I mean, what do we do?”
I didn’t have a quick answer. It was my first call at a brand-new volunteer job.
When a family is upended by a suicidal son, a bulimic daughter, addiction or psychosis, it’s a rare person who knows whom to call for help or even how to ask. Try searching online, and you’ll no doubt find an assortment of out-of-date directories, random advice and dicey-looking services that may or may not provide what’s advertised.
“It’s like dealing with the cable company while your son is trying to kill himself,” a friend who has been through such an ordeal three times said to me. For almost 20 years, I wrote about mental health for The New York Times and, before that, for The Los Angeles Times. In those jobs, I would have been obligated to quote top experts and scare up data for a story on the number of people swimming in this dark sea.
Yet I had my own qualitative data, a career’s worth: I fielded queries from readers asking for guidance, advice, referrals or just five minutes to talk. And these were often educated, affluent people: “We’ve been up and down Park Avenue, and my son is just getting worse. Help!” one reader pleaded in an email to me.
Here is the data point that matters: Hundreds of thousands of families go through this every year, without someone to talk to. They’re on their own.
But here is another data point that also matters, especially to me and my colleagues fielding calls at a new mental health navigation service in Asheville, N.C.: an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people calm down after a 20-minute conversation, knowing they can call back and that we can find them help quickly. They might say, “Thank you. I think I’ll be OK. At least now I know I can call somebody.”
Any real and durable improvement in mental health care in this country must come from the ground up, driven by educated consumers demanding both access and quality. Whoever figures out how to harness that power will do more for families in trouble than any politician or scientist.
I left my New York Times job to try to address this access issue directly. The timing seemed right. Twelve months of Covid had strained mental health services, especially for young people, and last year the government rolled out the 988 mental health crisis line to replace the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Those two developments made many headlines and helped expose not only gaps in service but also profound difficulties in access. Even if there is an excellent clinic or service a mile away, how do you find it? How do you know it really is the right one for your son or daughter or brother? Does it take your insurance?
Nobody seems to know anything, and someone should. I decided to join a new nonprofit organization serving North Carolina, the Mental Health GPS, which provides what it calls navigation services. The idea is simple. You call the GPS, and we listen to the whole story. We collect basic data, like age, location and insurance coverage, if any. Then we search a bank of up-to-date databases and give you multiple appropriate, vetted options — therapists, clinics, detox programs, peer support or whatever is needed. If those contacts don’t pan out for some reason, you call back and get more. The service is confidential and independent.
The role of mental health navigator — of providing humane, knowledgeable guidance — has been around for decades, filled by the country’s therapeutic consultants, with fees from $100 to $350 an hour or up to at least $5,000 per quarter. In recent years, nonprofits like the one where I volunteer have emerged to provide a similar, less concierge-like service at no cost to anyone in need.
Our experience thus far has made it clear that any navigation service that scales up must have three components. One is a sophisticated tech back end, which even at a small operation like the GPS means search engine optimization to increase its visibility on the web and data-analysis algorithms. All of the basic data from our calls is stored and anonymized to guide us in analyzing trends and updating information on the services in the databases.
The second is databases that cover the full range of services and support. In contrast to many other directories, ours include many low-cost, nonclinical supports, like warm lines that offer callers emotional support from volunteers who are in recovery themselves and information on local AA meetings.
Finally, any decent navigation service should be about talking to people at a critical moment, exactly when they have summoned the courage to ask for help. It means not just a sympathetic ear but also informed context. “What’s with this diabolical behavior therapy, anyway? I don’t like the sound of it,” one caller told me. (I replied that it was called dialectical behavior therapy and explained what it was.)
At the end of the day and the beginning of the next, this is human work. No bot can do all this adequately and sensitively, and no A.I. program can ever simulate the experience of people who have been through the fire shower of a mental health or substance use problem. These people, known in mental health circles as peers, understand the system from the inside and the frustration of trying to find decent care. GPS call takers are mostly peers, people solidly in recovery who, in effect, are taking calls from versions of their former selves.
Over its first full year of operation, the GPS received more than 1,000 calls, some 800 of which were legitimate. (All call-in lines get some prank calls, bot calls and wrong numbers.) It’s a small sample thus far, from just one state. But these 800 calls begin to tell a story or at least provide a slightly blurred X-ray of the nation’s behavioral health needs in real time, day to day.
For example, over 95 percent of callers find us by searching on their phones. A third of callers, according to my count, are under the age of 25, mostly people who are distraught over school, a breakup, work or a family conflict. They are upset or desperate enough to call a perfect stranger, largely because they can’t or won’t confide in anyone they know. “It’s my boyfriend and my mother — that’s the problem,” one youngster whispered to me on a call. She was standing in her backyard in a town near Charlotte.
I listened and promised to send her some local therapists’ contacts, but she interrupted me. “No, no, you don’t understand. I need therapy now, from you, and quickly, before my mom gets home.”
Many young people need help and want it on demand, as if from a free therapy app. (Those exist, but good luck finding one that’s effective and responsive to the nuances of an individual’s mental distress.)
Nearly 40 percent of the callers are Black, for reasons we can’t determine, compared with the state’s Black population share of just over 20 percent. Just over 50 percent of callers have private insurance, 20 percent have Medicaid, and 28 percent have no insurance. For this last group, there are very limited options for care, but they exist: Federally qualified health centers take everyone, and so do most peer support organizations.
The call from the woman with a psychotic son — my very first call — made me hold my breath, too. This was live, and I was no longer sitting on high, as the big-media expert. I was just the guy on the other end of the phone. I did some digging and found a local mobile crisis team trained in managing mental health emergencies. I also determined that the young man possibly qualified for longer-term residential care, if he could be persuaded to go. Two options only but two more than she had before.
The American mental health system is routinely described as broken and bewildering, and experts are good at making pronouncements about needed reforms: Building more and better-quality mental health hospitals. Requiring expanded insurance reimbursement. Improving youth services, especially at schools and universities, to catch first episodes of depression, severe anxiety and psychosis and treat them early. And, as always, increasing budgets, up and down the system.
These are all fine ideas. But for now, let’s at least give people someone knowledgeable to talk to.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Spay/Neuter: I helped my father-in-law neuter very young, small boars on his farm. He gave me about 5 minutes training before setting me to cutting.
Basically it was: make a small cut with a sharp knife, squeeze the testicles out, put some antibiotic ointment on the cut, and then on to the next little piggy. It was a very, very quick assembly line process on that farm.
There was no operating room or sterile environment or anesthetic but there was good light and the knife was really sharp.
Here is Chris Hedges's extended and excellent commentary about what I have mentioned in two previous posts, the use by the American political establishment of "paint jobs" to provide the illusion of "diversity,' to paper over its crimes:
"We live under a species of corporate colonialism. The engines of white supremacy, which constructed the forms of institutional and economic racism that keep the poor poor, are obscured behind attractive political personalities such as Barack Obama, whom Cornel West called “a Black mascot for Wall Street.” These faces of diversity are vetted and selected by the ruling class. Obama was groomed and promoted by the Chicago political machine, one of the dirtiest and most corrupt in the country.
“It’s an insult to the organized movements of people these institutions claim to want to include,” Glen Ford, the late editor of The Black Agenda Report told me in 2018. “These institutions write the script. It’s their drama. They choose the actors, whatever black, brown, yellow, red faces they want.”
THERE ARE NO PERMANENT ALLIES, ONLY PERMANENT POWER
If we do not build left-right coalitions on issues such as militarism, health care, a living wage and union organizing, we will be impotent in the face of corporate power and the war machine.
by Chris Hedges
On Sunday, February 19, I will be at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington at noon to speak at the anti-war rally, Rage Against the War Machine. There, I will be joined by Jimmy Dore, Dennis Kucinich, Ann Wright, Jill Stein, Max Blumenthal, Cynthia McKinney, Anya Parampil, David Swanson and other left-wing, anti-war activists I have shared platforms with for many years. I will also be joined by Ron Paul, Scott Horton and right-libertarian, anti-war figures whose political and cultural opinions I often disagree with. The inclusion of the right-wing has seen anti-war groups I respect, such as Veterans for Peace (VFP), refuse to join the rally. VFP issued a statement sent to me on Friday saying that “to endorse this event would have caused a huge disruption in VFP and had little effect on the outcome of the demonstration.” The board of Code Pink asked its co-founder, Medea Benjamin, one of the nation’s most important and effective left-wing and anti-war activists, to cancel her scheduled talk at the rally.
“The left has become largely irrelevant in the U.S. because it is incapable of working with the right,” said Nick Brana, chair of The People’s Party, which organized the rally with libertarians. “It clings to identity politics over jobs, health care, wages and war, and condemns half the country as deplorables.”
We will not topple corporate power and the war machine alone. There has to be a left-right coalition, which will include people whose opinions are not only unpalatable but even repugnant, or we will remain marginalized and ineffectual. This is a fact of political life. Alliances are built around particular issues, in this case permanent war, which often fall apart when confronting other concerns. If I had organized the rally, there are some speakers I would not have invited. But I didn’t. This does not mean that there are no red lines: I would not join a protest that included neo-Nazi groups such as Aryan Nations or militias such as The Proud Boys or Oath Keepers.
My father, a Presbyterian minister who was an army sergeant in North Africa during World War II, was a member of Concerned Clergy and Laity About Vietnam, an anti-war group that included the radical Catholic priests Philip and Daniel Berrigan. He took me with other clergy, almost all veterans, to anti-war rallies. There was much in the anti-war movement that he and other members of the religious group opposed, from the Yippies — who put forward a 145-pound pig named Pigasus the Immortal as a presidential candidate in 1968 — to groups such as the Weather Underground that embraced violence. He and the other clergy disliked the widespread drug use and propensity of some protestors to insult and bait the police. They had little in common with the Maoists, Stalinists, Leninists and Trotskyites within the movement. Daniel Berrigan, one of the most important anti-war activists in American history who was constantly in and out of jail and spent two years in federal prison, opposed abortion — a stance that today would probably see him deplatformed by many on the left. These clergy understood that the masters of war were their real enemies. They understood that the success of the anti-war movement meant forming alliances with people whose ideologies and beliefs were far removed from their pacifism, abstemious lifestyles and Christian faith. When I was about 12, my father told me that if the war was still going on when I turned 18 and I was drafted, he would go to prison with me. The jolt of that promise has remained with me my entire life.
The demands of the Rage Against the War Machine rally are ones I share. They include Not One More Penny for War in Ukraine; Negotiate Peace; Stop the War Inflation; Disband NATO; Global Nuclear De-Escalation; Slash the Pentagon Budget; Abolish the CIA and Military Industrial Deep State; Abolish War and Empire; Restore Civil Liberties; and Free Julian Assange.
I know war. I spent two decades reporting on conflicts all over the globe, including many months in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, containing two million people including over a million children. I saw thousands of lives destroyed by United States military adventurism in Central America, Africa and the Middle East. Dozens of people I knew and worked with, including Kurt Schork, a Reuters reporter, and the Spanish cameraman Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, died violent deaths.
We must halt the decades of rampant and futile industrial killing. This includes ending the proxy war in Ukraine. It includes drastic cuts to the funding of the U.S. war machine, a state within a state. It includes disbanding NATO, which was established to prevent Soviet expansion into Eastern and Central Europe, not wage war around the globe. If Western promises to Moscow not to expand NATO beyond the borders of a unified Germany had been kept, I expect the Ukrainian war would have never happened.
To those who suffer directly from U.S. aggression, these demands are not academic and theoretical issues. The victims of this militarism do not have the luxury of virtue-signaling. They want the rule of law to be reinstated and the slaughter stopped. So do I. They welcome any ally who opposes endless war. For them, it is a matter of life or death. If some of those on the right are anti-war, if they also want to free Julian Assange, it makes no sense to ignore them. These are urgent existential issues that, if we do not mobilize soon, could see us slip into a direct confrontation with Russia, and perhaps China, which could lead to nuclear war.
The Democratic Party, along with most of the Republican Party, is captive to the militarists. Each year, Congress increases the budget for the war industry, including for fiscal year 2023. It approved $847 billion for the military — a total that is boosted to $858 billion when accounts that don’t fall under the Armed Services committees’ jurisdiction are included. The Democrats, including nearly all 100 members of the House Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Republicans slavishly hand the Pentagon everything it demands.
The rally on February 19 is not about eliminating Social Security and Medicare or abolishing the minimum wage, which many libertarians propose. It is not a rally to denounce the rights of the LGBTQ community, which has been attacked by at least one of the speakers. It is a rally to end permanent war. Should these right-wing participants organize around those other issues, I will be on the other side of the barricades.
“I supported the Rage Against the War Machine Rally from the time of its conception and I support it today, even though I will not be one of the speakers because the organization I have been associated with for 20 years, CODEPINK, urged me not to speak,” Medea Benjamin told me in an email. “The CODEPINK staff felt that my participation would hurt the group's standing with other coalitions committed to gay rights, women's rights and anti-racism. They felt that Jackson Hinkle has taken stands that are anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-feminist and Islamophobic, and they were concerned about the sponsorship of the Libertarian Party’s Mises Caucus which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, has ties to white nationalists.”
“So why do I support the rally?” she asked. “Because I am heartbroken by a war that is causing such death and destruction in Ukraine. Because I have real fears that this war could lead us into World War III or a nuclear confrontation. Because both political parties are complicit in giving over $100 billion to Ukraine to keep this war going. Because the Biden administration is pushing this war to weaken Russia instead of promoting solutions. Because we urgently need as many voices as possible, from a broad variety of perspectives, to speak out so we can be much more effective at pressuring Congress and the White House to move this conflict from the bloody battlefield to the negotiating table. The future of our world stands in the balance.”
Benjamin said although she will not speak, she will be at the rally “cheering on the speakers” and is planning a lobby day two days later, on February 21, for those who want to take their anti-war message directly to the offices of Congress. You can register for the lobby day here.
Ralph Nader, who has just founded the Capitol Hill Citizen, a newspaper focused on Congress, has long advocated a left-right coalition as the only effective mechanism to push back against corporate power. He argues that those on the left who refuse to join left-right alliances are engaging in “self-immolation.” This refusal, he says, fosters political paralysis, not unlike the paralysis in the face of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts in the 1950s against supposed Communists. Although many loathed McCarthy, the Republican establishment refused to join forces with the liberals and Democrats to end the smearing, blacklisting and imprisonment of dissidents. The left-right coalition is especially important if we are to rebuild labor unions, Nader points out, the only mechanism capable of crippling the ruling oligarchy. If we cannot reach across ideological divides, we will slit our own throats.
“A left-right alliance on issue after issue, whether it’s on a living wage, ending endless wars of aggression by the United States; whether it’s striking down hard on corporate crime, fraud and abuse; whether it’s universal health insurance is an unbeatable movement,” Nader told me when I reached him by phone. “Just think of a senator receiving ten constituents from back home and five are liberals and five are conservatives. How is a senator going to game them? How is a senator going to sugarcoat them? It’s very difficult. Any time there is a left-right alliance, as in the enactment over 30 years ago of the Federal False Claims Act to go after corporate fraud in government programs and contracts, it’s an unbeatable combination.”
Sponsored by leading Republicans and Democrats, the False Claims Act amendments of 1986 have been used by the federal government to recover more than $62 billion of fraud and mismanagement funds stolen by corporations with government contracts.
“If you want to prevail on Congress to fulfill its duties under the Constitution and never engage in wars or become co-belligerents without a declaration of war by Congress — the last war that was declared by Congress was World War II, and we’ve engaged in many wars since then and are continuing to do so — you must have a left-right coalition,” Nader said. Because there is no coalition in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats are war parties. They support a Pentagon budget that gives the generals more than they ask for. They have done this for almost eight years, most recently giving the Pentagon $48 billion more than the generals and President Biden requested, instead of giving that money for public health to prevent pandemics, death, injury and disease.”
Those who will pay the steepest price for this paralysis are those killed, wounded and displaced by the war machine, including the over 900,000 civilians killed directly, and millions more indirectly, as a result in the post-9/11 U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Pakistan. But the left, mesmerized by a self-defeating boutique activism, also pays a price. As the empire unravels, the woke left, demanding moral absolutism, marginalizes and discredits itself at a moment of crisis. This myopia is a gift to the oligarchs, militarists and Christian fascists we must defeat.
For decades, radical progressive university students have protested the invitation of conservative speakers to visit on campus lest they say something that might “trigger” a negative reaction from tender-minded students. Liberal faculty members were slow, or totally absent, in standing up for freedom of speech and telling students the purpose of a university education is to learn how to think, which will probably require learning how to handle ideas you may not agree with.
Conservatives are now flipping the script. Any discussion of the 1619 Project, Black Lives Matter or critical race theory needs to be scrubbed from academic class offerings lest a topic be raised for discussion that might lead some equally tender-minded conservative Caucasian, with excessive pride in his or her epidermal hue, to be offended. And, whatever you say, just don’t say “gay.” Really?
Participating in a democracy means sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you agree with a speaker and sometimes you don’t. But we always have to listen to each other and trust we are all in this together. If you try to understand before you disagree you might disagree anyway, but you also might learn something.
With China’s spy balloon flyover last week of our entire nation can anyone be unaware that China and the US are now involved in a new era of international geo-political relations? This was a serious violation of our airspace which presents new challenges to all politicians regardless of which color state or whatever “culture” they hail from.
President Biden may try to reduce obvious new tensions with China by calling for “economic competition” and downplaying “conflict”, primarily yet not solely the struggle over Taiwan, but the Pentagon has confirmed the balloon was using sophisticated technology to probe our most important nuclear ICBM missile sites.
Our Defense Department still needs time to adequately assess debris still being collected off the floor of the Atlantic Ocean near the South Carolina coast.
Frank H. Baumgardner, III
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 12TH FEBRUARY
Ukraine’s top military commander says the country’s forces are holding their defences along the front line in the eastern region of Donetsk, including the besieged town of Bakhmut, with the fiercest battles for the cities of Vuhledar and Maryinka.
The head of Russia’s Wagner Group said it could take two years for Moscow to control all of the two eastern Ukrainian regions whose capture it has stated as a key goal of the war.
Galina Danilchenko, the Russia-installed mayor of the Ukrainian city Melitopol in the southeastern Zaporizhia region, said one civilian died and two people were injured in overnight shelling by Ukrainian forces.
NATO should hold an emergency meeting to discuss recent findings about September explosions at the Nord Stream gas pipelines, said Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov discussed “priorities”, including air defence and artillery, for upcoming meetings of Kyiv’s allies in Brussels, both sides said.
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said calls from more than 30 countries to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics were unacceptable, TASS news agency reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sacked a senior security figure, promising to continue his drive to clean up the government.
— Al Jazeera