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Off the Record (March 15, 2023)

CURIOUS about how the hardy residents of Mendocino County's deep outback are doing in this unprecedented snow, I called former Supervisor, Johnny Pinches who, at age 71, is still running cattle above the Eel River on Iron Mountain. “I take a couple of pills every day, and I'm kinda weak in the legs, but I'm feeling good,” Pinches reported.

THE PINCHES RANCH is so deep in the northeast corner of Mendo that Pinches can walk into Trinity County. In an only-in-Mendo recent gerrymander, Pinches and his handful of neighbors, none of them closer to each other than a couple of miles, now vote in the 4th District dominated by Fort Bragg, although Pinches and his family go back four generations on Iron Mountain and he served two terms as Supervisor of the 3rd District, a vast region he knows in his bones.

“I'VE GOT two and a half feet of snow in my front yard, but my cattle are doing fine down by the river, below the snow line, and my wife's 200 sheep are waiting out the snow in the barn,” Pinches said. “Ranchers up in the high country used to take their cattle down below, but  ranchers got spoiled in all the dry weather we've had and… Ranching is not easy and you're always at the mercy of the weather.”

PINCHES, a reliable historian of the Mendocino high country, remembers hearing the horror stories of the winter of 1889-90 when it didn't snow until Christmas eve, and when it did snow it snowed and snowed. “That spring, there were so many dead sheep and cattle that ranchers just walked away from their property and went to the city to look for work.”

SNOWED in, Pinches said he was reading about the disastrous flood year of 1964 on the Eel. “Farther north was hit hard when the snow became warm rain that happened to coincide with high tides, and the Eel river backed up. The dike at Fortuna broke and flooded Fortuna, and a lot of little towns washed away. There were still a lot of saw mills in '64 so log decks washed away and hit bridges on the Eel like torpedoes. ‘The Queen of Bridges’ between Fortuna and Ferndale was the only one that didn't wash away. A dairy cow at Ferndale beached at Crescent City four days later, hungry but otherwise healthy! They knew where she came from by the tag in her ear.”

I AGREED with the retired supervisor that the cow story would make a terrific animated film, as the consensus king of Iron Mountain concedes. “You gotta be prepared in the ranching business because if you aren't, everything goes to hell. I complain a lot but I really don't have much to complain about. We're in pretty good shape up here.”

WE MUTUALLY LAMENTED the current political state of the County, as Pinches, incredulous, asks, “A $350 million budget? Where's that kinda money going? When I was first on the board the budget was $98 million with a $5 million general fund deficit, but we got out of it! They don't have budget issues, they have a spending problem. How can those people can call themselves leaders?....”

I ALSO checked in with Pinches' distant neighbor and fellow cattle rancher, Chris Brennan, aka ‘Dead Dog Brennan,’ federal trapper now retired. I rarely get to talk with a local who seems to have more enemies than me, so chatting with Dead Dog is rather like two exiled lepers counting coup. And like Pinches, DD has great stories.  

“THIS IS THE worst snow in the 43 years I've been here,” Brennan states flatly. “I can get to three places where I have cows with hay stored there, but one bunch I can't reach. They have hay but I don't know how they're doing in all this — ten foot drifts? I'm used to snow but this is something else. Hell, it's snowing right now [11am Tuesday]. I'm in the Blue Rock Creek region — 2600 feet — and north of Pinches. I'm a prepper so I have everything I need for the next 50 years. But there are people up here left over from the marijuana boom who don't plan ahead. I doubt they're doing too well.”

ANOTHER SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE: Changes to California law next year may make it illegal for public schools to suspend student stoners, as if the schools don't have enough problems with instilling the basics in hordes of feral children raised in wildly dysfunctional homes. What dope advocates seldom seem to point out is that marijuana is a lot stronger than it was in the late Sixties, and the medical evidence overwhelmingly points to heavy toking from a young age directly correlates to adult schizophrenia. I can name a dozen or so kids I watched grow up here in the Anderson Valley who were either all the way batshit as adults or became semi-vegetables, going from daily pot use to the prevalent potpourri of other, harder drugs.

IN FEBRUARY, only 31% of Americans believed their personal financial situation would improve in the next year, the lowest figure on records dating back to 2010, according to Fannie Mae’s monthly survey released on Tuesday.

SHADES OF '29! Police were called after “about a dozen” financiers, including former Lyft executive Dor Levi, showed up outside Silicon Valley Bank's building on Park Avenue as investors scrambled to get their money out in the biggest collapse since the 2008 Great Recession. The bank failed today as depositors — mostly technology workers and venture capital-backed companies — began withdrawing their money following a shock announcement of a $1.8 billion loss. 

SVB, HEAVILY INVOLVED in the NorCal wine industry, took a hammering in pre-market trading Friday morning with its stock price plunging by 66% before trading was halted. But with investors only protected up to $250,000, there have already been “horror stories,” assuming you sympathize with Ashley Tyrner, CEO of Boston wellness firm FarmboxRx, who said she had at least $10 million deposited with SVB and has been frantically calling her banker. She said it had been “the worst 18 hours of my life.”

WITH AROUND $209 billion in assets, SVB is the second-largest bank failure in US history after the 2008 collapse of Washington Mutual. It is the first FDIC-insured bank to fail in more than two years, the last being Almena State Bank in October 2020. The bank's CFO and CEO dumped their shares two weeks ago in obvious anticipation of the collapse, which ought to get them some jail time but won't, as big bankers are already calling for federal intervention to prop up their fast and loose bros. 

HARD PRESSED FAMILIES are moving back in together so they can make their collective rent, mortgage payments, share childcare, and survive the economic feral society outside the front door. Some 60 million American households are now thought to be “multigenerational,” a figure which has quadrupled since the 1970s, according to data collected by Pew Research. And it is not just a trend reserved for 20-somethings. Couples in their 30s and 40s are finding they are having to move in with their grandparents to help out with rising costs. 

ECONOMIC FAMILY UNITS are common in many parts of the world, even when it isn’t necessary to make ends meet. Multi-generational families under one roof are, the experts say, good for everyone’s mental health, eliminating the isolation that causes so much mental illness. I lived with a multi-generational Malay family for about a year when I was young. The grandparents anchored a sprawling family that included three generations all the way down to a half-dozen toddlers watched over by older children. El Gringo was always struck by how smoothly the family’s matriarch made it all work, and how well everyone got along, all of us gathering on the porch every late afternoon to share the day’s events as the equatorial sun suddenly plummeted us all into darkness. 

JANET SAYS NO, but will say YES the instant the bigger banks tell her to, despite fears of a market meltdown. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced Sunday. Silicon Valley Bank was the 16th largest bank in the US until it failed on Friday after a 60% drop in share price as its customer deposits weren’t sufficient to keep this particular ponzo-ronzo afloat. SVB controlled $209 billion in total assets at the end of 2022, and has done mucho business with the NorCal wine business. How the collapse of SVB will impact the wine industry is not yet known, but a lot of those businesses, judging from on-line chatter, are very nervous.


[1] I live 30 minutes from a county road. No plow is going up my mountain road either. The road is difficult even in good weather. It’s currently impassable. I only got out Friday by shoveling and bombing down the road at what would normally be reckless speeds to keep up momentum to bust through the drifts and deep slush and not get stuck. Terrifying my partner in the process. 

Because, despite our preparations, shit happens and we were running out of gas and propane. 

And it wasn’t just us. All the people in my subdivision are what might be described as radically self-sufficient. Some of them have been up there for 40 years or more. And they needed help this week. 

We started by helping one another. When that wasn’t enough the sheriffs helped. Because while self-sufficiency is a worthy goal, it’s also contrary to who we are as a species. Shit happens. It’s why we’ve banded together for our entire existence; we’re stronger when we work together. To tell people to be prepared for every possibility or die just isn’t how we’re made, you know?

[2] I’m stupid. And I know it.

Knowing that I’m stupid and ignorant I know that I have to delve into things, read-up on things, educate myself before I make a determination or form an opinion.

I feel uncomfortable assimilating someone’s opinion as my own. It feels lazy and fraudulent.

I know we stupid people are nurtured and inculcated that way: presented the work and research of others and told this is the consensus. And we believe it.

How many times in polite company do you hear, “wasn’t it Voltaire who said…”

I don’t know! I wasn’t there

But that’s what THEY told US

[3] What’s upsetting is that some scientists, and/or branches of science especially, get/got compromised by government– by politics– by the over-politicization of their fields– and it can end up poisoning the entire well.

That said, I can understand many of those who feel betrayed by the system and just want to throw the entire tub out, along with the baby and the bathwater.

I guess this is what collapse and/or decline looks like from our front-row seats.

[4] I had two witch hazel trees at my previous house. Witch hazels bloom in February: clusters of tiny yellow flowers. I drive by the old house occasionally, and the witch hazels were blooming in mid-February (a little earlier than usual for here). 

I don’t know if you’ve seen those little miniature irises–about three inches tall. They had them at Walmart last year, so I planted some. They also started blooming around mid-February this year. 

There is nothing as pretty as when all the trees start to get little leaves on them. The woods are just heart-breakingly beautiful at that time. They look like an Arthur Rackham painting (fairyland).

[5] We seem to living in a time of inverted reality: things that were certain are now uncertain, imaginary things are now real and immoral behavior is now the height of virtue. 

Example: the dichotomy between male and female sex goes back to the Proterozoic, 2.5 billion years ago. Yet modern progressives claim that is but an illusion and that thousands of generations of creatures that led to Homo sapiens were constructing “gender” out of cultural preferences. Madness!

Reality will impose its heavy hand soon enough. We are still subject to natural selection and the future belongs to those who show up. Pray for America

[6] I am not a market guy, but I do know that something big has to happen soon. The ship cannot be righted without capsizing first, or at least taking on a whole lot of water and losing half its crew, passengers, and cargo.

After the “pandemic” orgy of free government money for all who were stomped into poverty, forced out of their crappy jobs that barely paid the bills before…for three years now in many cases, can only result in an end to logical financial functions.

Add to this that the last drips of the free “pandemic” money officially stops everywhere within a matter of weeks around the nation, if it hasn’t already. Within days or weeks of that you’ll have the poor folks unable to get the lowest of essentials (people were barely getting by with the extra help anyway, and far too many of whom used it to buy crap like TVs and take-out food instead of stocking up or saving at least a little.

They will be very angry, rightfully or not, depending on their situations.

Banks are teetering (or even collapsing, as happened today with SVB). If this trend continues, even those who have plenty of money will begin to get angry, and also scared to become like the filthy masses they feel superior to because their bank accounts prove their status year after year. Some will stay that way, many will drop like flies into quick ruin, themselves only sustaining opulent lifestyles with a few months cushion before missing payments on the Land Rover(s) in their five-car garages once their five-figure paychecks stop coming.

Inflation is soaring, rent increases are through the roof, food/gas/diapers, everything will suddenly be the target of even more theft than is already taking place since “covid” created a new generation of feral youths seeing no consequences for their actions. People filling their gas tanks and driving off will become commonplace, as will people just walking in and sacking convenient stores for cigarettes and booze (which of course happens now in many places…but think daily, and in Des Moines, Boulder and Fargo). You can take it from there…

Biden will tell everyone it’s all going to be okay, and not to panic. The government will put it all back together, we just need to all work together. No one will believe him.

Remember, we’re supposed to be ashamed of ourselves now, and not have pride in our country or our increasingly-disintegrating common bonds.

Firearms will become much more important to those tens of millions who never actually thought they might really have to use them outside of the range. Individual amateur thieves may be repelled from suburban residences…once or twice. But more will be back, and many will be larger and more organized. Good luck w/that.

So in short, a lot of kinetic civil unrest is very likely, and probably by this summer. Just my $1.05, but hey – you asked.

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