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Mendocino County Today: Monday, April 17, 2023

Evening Showers | Buoy Repair | Teen Murder | Ag Leader | Education Foundation | Ridgewood Summit | Covelo Question | Hedgehog Books | IOOF Ukiah | Three Jewels | Toad & Frog | Community Morale | Talmage Market | Mendocino Theatre | Debra Keipp | Paradise Lost | Yesterday's Catch | Tulare Lake | Never Progressing | Deregulation Fiasco | Empire Secrecy | Industrial Ag | Dead Men | Totalitarian Dystopia | Unbuild Walls | Lady Detective | Capitalism | Editor Killed | Ferry Building | National Genealogy | Grooming Kids | Parachute Scam | Schoolbus Stripes | Bookish Poser | Doesn't Matter | Ukraine | Justice Sponsors

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A FRONTAL SYSTEM will cross the area today through Tuesday bringing rain and followed by showers with the risk of small hail and even light snow overnight above 2000 feet. In addition, gusty southerly winds will occur over the highest elevation in the northern portion of the region this afternoon through tonight along of the frontal system. (NWS)

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Buoy Repair Vessel by Falcon

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On Saturday, April 15, 2023 at 11:25 AM Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to the presence of a deceased person in a vacant field located to the north of the 23800 block of Howard Street in Covelo.

Upon arrival Deputies contacted the uncle of the deceased person who was identified as being Ruby Sky Montelongo (16-year-old female from Covelo). Deputies learned Montelongo's uncle had been searching the area for her after she failed to return home the previous evening. During that search effort, Montelongo's uncle found her deceased in the vacant field prompting a call to the Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's Detectives were summoned to the scene and began investigations into the circumstances of Montelongo's death. 

During those initial investigations on 04-15-2023, Sheriff's Detectives learned Montelongo had been socializing with a 15-year-old female during the evening of Friday, April 14, 2023. The pair knew each other as they both lived in Covelo.

During the evening of Friday, April 14, 2023 the 15-year-old female physically assaulted Montelongo in the vacant field. Sheriff's Detectives developed probable cause which led them to believe Montelongo's death was related to the physical assault.

Sheriff's Detectives arrested the 15-year-old female on Saturday, April 15, 2023 and she was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Juvenile Hall on a murder charge.

This investigation is still ongoing to determine the circumstances of the physical assault and Montelongo's official cause of death. Sheriff's Detectives are being assisted by investigators from the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office. 

A forensic autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday, April 19, 2023 which will include BA/Toxicology analysis which normally takes several weeks for results to be returned to the Coroner's Office.

Anyone with information that could assist Sheriff's Detectives in this investigation is urged to contact the Sheriff's Office Tip-Line by calling 707-234-2100 or the WeTip anonymous crime reporting hotline by calling 800-782-7463.

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BETH SWEHLA: Do you know a current AVHS Agriculture student who would make a good leader? Encourage them to apply to be an 2023-24 AV FFA Officer.

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When your heart is full...

You can take the girl out of Shoreview, but you can't take Shoreview out of the girl.

I had the pleasure of attending the Anderson Valley Education Foundation dinner tonight.  A beautiful meal prepared by the Boonvile Hotel staff to benefit the students of Anderson Valley.

I shared that my dad was a first generation American.  I grew up happy, but with not a lot of money. I got new shoes at Easter and Christmas.  My dad met my mom in 8th grade and they were married 65 years.  The year they made $34,000 combined as a plasterer and a teacher's aide they though they were rich, and I opened in 5th grade Christmas morning tickets to fly PSA -- (remember the flight attendants in hot orange and pink mini-dresses, white go-go boots and Hot Dog on a stick hats?). It was LIFE-CHANGING and my destination was only Disneyland.

I can only comprehend what this community does, and continues to do, to support kids like me to create experiential learning opportunities to Puerto Rico under the exuberant and mindful direction of Ali Cook, FFA National Convention in Indianapolis with the mindful wise owl Beth Swehla, and immersion in world-class theatre with Arthur Folz in Ashland, Oregon at the Shakespeare festival, in addition to the endless field trips at the elementary school.

What this community does for kids is UNPARALLELED. I own we have work do with our standards based instruction, but I look at the opportunity THAT YOU GIVE OUR KIDS WITH THESE ENRICHMENT OPPORTUNITIES, AND ALL I CAN EXPRESS IS GRATITUDE AND TO REPEAT LOUDLY, "LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR KIDS"


With deepest gratitude....

Louise Simson, Superintendent

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Ridgewood Summit: highest elevation (1,953 ft) of Route 101 in the state (Jeff Goll)

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Hi, Carrie Shattuck, 1st District Supervisor candidate. Thank you for introducing yourself in the AVA with your letter on April 12th.

I have a quick question:

Have you been out to Covelo ever?

My Supervisor is Hashack. But good luck in the elections coming up! Thanks for participating in public service.

Ginny Chichester

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HEDGEHOG BOOKS IS CLOSED until mid-late June. We hope to see you then!

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Greetings Friends of Three Jewels,

As you probably know, Cindy "Mettika" Hoffman of Three Jewels in Fort Bragg passed away last year. Before the pandemic, the monks visited regularly to teach at Mettika's Three Jewels Dhamma Hall. Mettika spent her final weeks at a care facility in Ukiah, which allowed the monastic community to visit her many times. Mettika's life and her peacefulness during her final weeks were an inspiration to the Abhayagiri community. Mettika has left the Three Jewels property including its lovely Dhamma Hall to the Abhayagiri sangha allowing the possibility of a small Abhayagiri branch monastery in Fort Bragg.

Senior monks from Abhayagiri will start visiting Three Jewels at the end of April to provide teachings and be available on some Monday nights starting May 1st. This will also sometimes include being available around the meal time on some Sundays and Mondays. Furthermore, Ajahn Kassapo, Ajahn Thitapao and Upasika Kevin are planning to walk from Abhayagiri to Three Jewels at the end of June arriving at Three Jewels by July 10. They are planning to live at Three Jewels at least through the end of October.

Please see the info below this email for more details on these Monday evening programs and on the meal offerings.

If you have any questions or you wish to be unsubscribed from this email list, please let us know by emailing

For current info on Three Jewels, please see this webpage.

With good wishes,

— Ajahn Thitapao on behalf of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery Redwood Valley

Monday evening programs at the Three Jewels Dhamma Hall:

On these Mondays a senior monk will lead an evening program at Three Jewels: May 1, 15, 29 June 12, 26, July 10 and every Monday evening after July 10

The schedule for these Monday evenings is: 5:30pm - Tea time in the main house - An opportunity for informal conversation and questions and answers with a monk and other practitioners 7pm - Evening Program in the Dhamma Hall - Thirty minutes of meditation, offering of Dhamma reflections and an opportunity for questions and comments

All are welcome to participate in the tea time or the evening program.

Meal offerings at Three Jewels

Meal offerings are at 11am in the main house on the below days. Please arrive before 11am if you wish to participate in the meal offering. This traditionally includes bringing a dish to be offered to the monastics and shared with others. Sundays - April 30, May 28, June 11, 25, July 16 and every Sunday after July 16 Mondays - May 1, 15, 29 June 12, 26, July 10 and every Monday evening after July 10.

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Fort Bragg psychologist proposes decriminalizing psychedelics

Charlie Engel: Dr. Richard Miller, a Fort Bragg resident for decades and a practicing psychologist since 1961, has brought a couple big ideas before the Fort Bragg City Council in 2023. He wants the town to create a Community Morale Commission, and to decriminalize garden-grown psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, peyote, and ayahuasca.

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Marco here, Charlie. That reminds me of this J.P. Sears video essay on ayahuasca. It's just eight minutes long but comprehensive. It's from before he became a right-wing antivax lunatic. It might be that ayahuasca enlightenment contributed to that:

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by Laura Maria Censabella 

Mendocino Theatre Company opens their second play of the 2023 Season on April 27, with playwright Laura Maria Censabella’s powerful and moving drama, Paradise. The play is directed by Virginia Reed and stars Toomba Imran and Lucas Eli. Performances are held at the Helen Schoeni Theatre, 45200 Little Lake Street, Mendocino. It runs through May 28, 2023. 

The Story: Dr. Guy Royston (Lucas Eli), a once-respected scientist who wrote a book entitled “What’s Love Got to Do With It: The Science of Romantic Love, the Brain and Evolution,” is now unhappily teaching first year biology in a poorly rated public high school in the Bronx. As we eventually learn, love caused his downfall: He was discovered sabotaging a colleague’s lab experiment as revenge for his having stolen his girlfriend. 

Into his classroom comes, 17-year-old Yasmeen Al-Hamadi (Tooba Imran), pleading with him to let her do over the quiz that she failed. She is normally a straight A student, and needs to keep it that way: She wants to study science at Columbia (Dr. Royston’s former employer), and has her eye on a scholarship reserved for an American girl of Middle Eastern descent. We eventually learn why she failed the test: She had learned the night before that her family had arranged a marriage for her with a fellow young im-migrant from Yemen named Samir. 

Along the way, both Yasmeen and Dr. Royston learn from each other. They wind up col-laborating on a scientific experiment testing the neurological effects of first love, using the other students in the school as their test subjects. Yasmeen also schools her teacher on Islam, correcting misconceptions, and in effect sharing with him her love of her religion. In the end, they are both tested . You could say each is faced with an ethi-cal dilemma, but in a real – and fresh — way, what’s most tested is their love. 

Commissioned and developed by The Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project, Paradisehas had several fully staged pro-ductions since 2016. A 2019 production at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles, co-pro-duced by film star Viola Davis, was designed by Mendocino Theatre Company Board President, Jeff Rowlings. Jeff was instrumental in bringing the play to MTC. Some of the scenic elements of the LA production were transported from Los Angeles for this pro-duction. Other important production personnel include: Cultural Consultant, Neamah Hussein; Sound Designer, Ken Krauss; and Costume Designer, Pamela Allen. 

Paradise by Laura Maria Censabella, directed by Virginia Reed 

Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2:00 PM 

April 27 thru May 28, 2023. Previews are April 27 & 28. An “Opening Night Gala” is planned April 29 beginning at 7:00 PM. 

Admission is $15 - $30 Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with $7 - $15 dis-count tickets available for previews. April 29, Opening Night Gala, (including complimen-tary food and drinks) is $45. 

For more information and to order tickets call: 707.937.4477 or visit on-line at: 

Covid safety protocols: Masks are encouraged inside the theatre space but are no longer mandatory. 

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by Bruce Anderson

Where there were once hop fields, apple orchards and sheep in the Anderson Valley, by the middle 1970s there was marijuana and an outlaw population of people who weren’t really outlaws, but middleclass back-to-the-landers forced to live like outlaws. 

Hard drugs, and the hard people who come with hard drugs, arrived in Mendocino County and everywhere else in the land in the later years of the 1960s. Most significant of all, a huge demographic change arrived with a large population of Mexican immigrants, and the Anderson Valley, as other areas of Mendocino County, found itself living in parallel societies with the public schools being the primary agent of only a partial integration.

Jaime Vasquez

One night in the spring of 2000, maybe a half-mile south of the Anderson Valley Elementary School, on the west side of Anderson Creek, a young Mexican named Jamie Vasquez thought he’d been invited out to the only house on the edge of a vineyard to see a friend, but as he and his young wife and infant son made their way in their battered Honda through the grapevines, four armed men suddenly appeared in front of the family’s car and ordered Jamie Vasquez to get out of the car and come along with them. Vasquez was never seen again. The abducted man’s wife, made her way back into town to make it known that something terrible had happened to her, but something more terrible had probably happened to her husband. Mrs. Vasquez was able to identify one of her husband’s kidnappers. That man was soon arrested, but the only crime the DA could pin on him was being an illegal in possession of a firearm.

The missing man’s best friend, also a vineyard worker, ran off as soon as he heard about his friend’s abduction, and he too has never been seen since in the Anderson Valley. The liberals said, “The cops won’t even look for Vasquez because he’s a Mexican.” But the cops had a helicopter with body heat-sensing devices in it flying low back and forth over the stretch of Anderson Creek where Vazquez was last seen for two full days, and deputies, accompanied by a search and rescue crew, walked the creek bed and the surrounding areas, meticulously combing the wilderness of river rock and scrub brush, but they never found any sign of the missing man. The rumor went around that Vasquez owed drug dealers $40,000, but he didn’t live like a man who'd ever had $40,000; he’d worked in the grapes and went home every night to his young wife and his infant son.

Only a hundred miles north of San Francisco, Boonville’s easy proximity to millions of people has led it to its present battered incarnation as a center of industrial-scale wine production and wine-related tourism or, as Gerald Casey has described the unwelcome (to some of us) phenomenon: “Since moving here I’ve noticed that men and women who are masters of production, finance and opinion have taken an interest in wine. Setting vines in rows as they might have once arranged office cubicles, their genius is now focused on producing the world’s best wines, as they know them. The genetic oddity that gives grapes their mystical potential has been isolated and cloned and set out in neat rows of grow tubes. Force-fed and scientifically watered, grafted, canopied and pruned to balance, they’ll get suckered and sulfured, their ground covered, leaves pulled, and crop dropped. There’s frost to be fought, hand time to hold, the brix to fix, then pick and pack, stem and press, meet the yeast, heat and cool, punch the cap, do the malolactic tactic, filter and fine, blend and barrel. Made in steel, aged in oak behind a chain-link fence, this wine has color and clarity, legs and body, feel and finish, with hints of all the fruits of the cornucopia. A number is assigned that corresponds to price, and the drink that once sent a romantic’s senses tumbling back through the centuries now inspires awe among the cognoscenti appreciative of the technical achievements of the people who replaced Bacchus with Bill Gates.”

One hundred years after the first description of Covelo as a resort for rogues of all sorts, two idealists whose opinions were widely characterized as criminal in the America of their time, made their last homes in Round Valley. Maybe. One did for a fact. The other, Harrison George, perhaps the outstanding figure in the history of the Communist Party in California, and a leading figure in the history of Soviet clandestine operations in the United States and Asia, was rumored to have lived in Covelo after being removed from his responsibilities as a member of the Comintern’s Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat, i.e., one of the key persons responsible for agitation among Asian labor. Where George died is not known; it isn’t known for a dead sure fact that he lived in Covelo, but old rumors wafting over the Mayacamas mountains say that George retreated to Covelo to lick his political wounds and maybe even died there.

George had been a Wobbly, or a communist assigned by the CP to sab the Wobs — that argument continues — and, later, an editor of the People’s World. He was regarded as an expert on strike strategy, something he had in common with other ex-IWWs in the CP. There is a whole trove of documents in Moscow in which George complained non-stop at the purported errors of Harry Bridges and Bridges’ CP allies in directing the 1934 longshore strike in San Francisco. George apparently didn’t realize that he was far outranked in the clandestine apparatus by Harry Hynes, the Australian-born underground agent who was Bridges’ main adviser. Hynes, who was a top KGB man, was calling the shots. Once the big strike was over George was replaced and, old whispers say, retreated to Covelo from where he vanished from history.

(An aside here to establish the devolution of trade unionism in the United States: Harry Bridges never took a pay check greater than the pay earned by his longshoremen and warehousemen. Leonard Johnson, the father of an old friend of mine, was a warehouseman in San Francisco all his life, ironically a registered Republican, and a devoted admirer of Stanford and its football team. Leonard was walking home from work one day when a modest Ford pulled up and the man at the wheel offered him a ride. That man was Harry Bridges. Today, the union leader would be in the back seat of a limo and, even if he happened to recognize one of his members waiting for a bus or trudging homeward, it is highly unlikely he’d order his non-union driver to stop for the guy to offer him a ride.)

Luke Hinman

George must have known Luke Anson ‘Royal’ Hinman, another radical who died in Covelo at age 88. Born in Sheridan, Placer County, Hinman worked as a laborer before he became active in the early 1930s in a branch of the John Reed Club, a communist cultural group. He then became an organizer in a tough campaign to unionize California cannery and agricultural workers, an effort that continues today. In 1937, Hinman went to Spain as a volunteer with the International Brigades, which were recruited to aid the elected left-wing government of the Spanish Republic against a fascist uprising that began in 1936. Hinman served in the Spanish Popular Army until the withdrawal of all foreign fighters in 1938. His combat experience included the brutal battle of Teruel, where many American volunteers were killed. Hinman was cited for bravery and was offered a lieutenant’s commission, which he declined, although he was made a sergeant and attached to the battalion staff. His commitment to the forces of anti-fascist resistance remained for him the high point of his life.

Back from Spain, Hinman returned to the fields as an organizer for the old United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America. He was arrested in 1939 for picketing during a tumultuous strike of pear and nectarine pickers against a Marysville subsidiary of the DiGiorgio Corporation. Demonstrations and further picketing led to mass arrests, and the strike became a cause celebre.

Hinman was held in jail for a week before he was convicted under the now-defunct anti-picketing law, but was eventually pardoned. He later worked for the federal Farm Security Administration and then joined the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union as a dockworker. In 1943, he purchased land in Covelo, moved there and went to work at the sawmill that eventually became part of Louisiana-Pacific Corporation. Hinman retired from the mill in 1970. Covelo seemed completely unaware that an anti-fascist hero had lived and died there.

There was never much radical activity in Mendocino County until the Earth First! period of 1988-1995. That agitation against the outside timber corporations then dominant in the County was led by Judi Bari, a red diaper baby from Silver Springs, Maryland, and the sister of New York Times’ science writer, Gina Kolata. The original Wobblies had agitated some in the woods and the mills of the Northcoast but were never as influential in Mendocino County as they were farther north in Oregon and Washington. There was, though, a left radical presence in Eureka and Arcata from early in the century; Mickey Lima, a well-known communist, was born and raised in Arcata.

There have always been radicals stuck away in the great vastness north of the Golden Gate Bridge, real ones, too, many of whom supported the Bari-led Redwood Summer demonstrations against corporate timber in 1990.

By the beginning of the 20th century, there were Red Finns and White Finns in Fort Bragg. Immigrant woodsmen. As they did up and down the Pacific Coast, the two starkly opposed politically-based communities maintained separate social halls and a chill social distance as well, so chill they often suspected each other of not responding to fires and other catastrophes affecting their enemy Finns.

Fort Bragg’s left Finns maintained a Comrade’s Club (and hall) for years, well into the 1920s, as did the Finns of Astoria, Oregon, home of two competing Finnish language newspapers serving each community — one paper for the left Finns, one for the right Finns. The editors of these publications were brought over from the mother country and could be depended on to fan the flames whose fires had been set in Finland. The competing newspapers were distributed to the Finn communities from San Francisco to Seattle,

One of the saddest pictures one will ever see is a photo of a group of jubilant 1917 Red Finns departing Noyo Harbor in a small sea-going ship they’d built themselves. They’re waving goodbye to capitalism, sailing back to Finland and the Russian Revolution where most of them would disappear into labor camps or be executed simply because they’d lived a few years in America. A few Finns made it back to Astoria after bitter sojourns in Finland and Russia, but none made it back to Fort Bragg.

In 1946, there was a bitter, year-long strike at the Fort Bragg mill. A few communists were active in it, and the owners of the mill, the Johnson family, eventually settled, mostly on the strikers’ terms.

“We dreamed when we were young. We used to talk about working the woods like a big co-op. No bosses, no owners. We'd cut the trees down and mill them ourselves and sell the lumber to people to build their houses,” summed up Oscar Erickson of Fort Bragg, union organizer, who was acquitted of charges of criminal syndicalism, 1946.

And there was us — the back-to-the-landers, the hippies, the white Indians, the dreamers of rustic peace, the estranged liberals, the defeated radicals. 

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, April 16, 2023

Ayala, Berlow, Bruce, Carillo

LUIS AYALA-ORTIZ, Ukiah. Controlled substance, no license, leaving scene of accident with property damage.

NOAH BERLOW, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Failure to appear, evasion.

FRANK BRUCE, Clearlake/Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, trespass/injure property, conspiracy.

ALEJANDRO CARRILLO, Ukiah. DUI, probation revocation.

Grannan, Hampton, Johnson

KATY GRANNAN, Berkeley/Ukiah. DUI, controlled substance.

BRANDON HAMPTON, Willits. Domestic battery, assault with deadly weapon not a gun.

JAMES JOHNSON, Penn Valley/Ukiah. Domestic battery.

Kidd, Lima, Olson

SHANNON KIDD, Ukiah. Under influence, controlled substance, paraphernalia.

CAMEO LIMA, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

JESSE OLSON, Clearlake/Ukiah. Trespass/Injure property, conspiracy.

Pacheco, Reichenbach, Tapia

HUMBERTO PACHECO-REYES, San Jose/Ukiah. Under influence, loaded handgun-not registered owner.


EDUARDO TAPIA-TORRES, Ukiah. Domestic battery.

Treppa, Vanhorn, Yadon

PATRICIA TREPPA, Redwood Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. 

DANIEL VANHORN, Fort Bragg. Domestic abuse, assault with deadly weapon not a gun.


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Water from once-dead Tulare Lake is lapping at the levees in the city of Corcoran. Some say it’s only a matter of time before it spills over, submerging the city.

by Kurtis Alexander

With California’s Sierra Nevada buried in historic snow, shattering a century of records at peaks and passes, the emerging melt-off is raising widespread fears of flooding. Nowhere is the concern greater than Corcoran (Kings County).

In this San Joaquin Valley city of 22,500, where already the famously dry Tulare Lake is being revived by mountain runoff, water is lapping against the levees that stand between the farm town and flooding. Some say it’s only a matter of time before the water spills over, submerging Corcoran as well as the state prison there.

To ward off disaster, the community has set out to do what even in the best of times can be tough: raise its roughly 15 miles of levee by about 4 feet. Not only do local leaders not have the money to do this, they want the project done in a matter of weeks.

“If it’s not worked on now, I hate to say it, but it may be too late,” said Corcoran City Manager Greg Gatzka.

The snowmelt, which comes with the spring weather, could send uncontrollable surges of water into the region anytime over the next few months.

The local flood control district, in coordination with the city of Corcoran, has begun tapping its modest reserves to try to get 850,000 cubic yards of dirt for the levee expansion — more than 50,000 dump trucks’ worth. It also has identified a contractor to help with the complicated task of raising the sprawling embankment while partially underwater.

However, Gatzka says, securing the $17 million to $21 million needed for the job has been difficult even as state and federal emergency officials arrive in Kings, Kern and Tulare counties to assist communities threatened by flooding.

“There needs to be more support to make this happen,” he said.

The sense of urgency, and even frustration that additional help hasn’t arrived, lingers beyond City Hall.

Many in this community, which provides much of the labor for the surrounding tomato fields, pistachio groves and dairies, are increasingly nervous about the high water. Farmland around much of the city is inundated, as are many roads to town.

“Time’s ticking,” said Jason Mustain, a clerk at Corcoran True Value Hardware and a former fire captain. “You’d think they’d want to build up the levee while they still can. It blows my mind that the state or the feds haven’t sent the resources … even if they just care about the inmates” staying locked up.

Unlike other levees in the region, which may be old and particularly vulnerable, the 14.5-mile L-shaped embankment that partially encases Corcoran was overhauled six years ago. The Cross Creek Flood Control District, which includes the city, the prison complex and some farms, advanced a major property tax initiative to fund the upgrade.

The problem is that the remodeled levee, which was designed for a flood event with a maximum 1.1 million acre-feet of water, may not have been enough.

This year, in keeping with the increasing extremes of climate change, California was whisked from the depths of drought to a point of unthinkable and perilous saturation, especially the Tulare Lake basin.

Danger lurks in snowmelt, swelling rivers 

A century and a half ago, the bounty of water that flowed from the Sierra to the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, through rivers and creeks, naturally drained to Tulare Lake.

The lake was the biggest freshwater body west of the Mississippi River, stretching sometimes nearly 1,000 square miles. Diversions by farmers ushered in its demise.

During this winter’s storms, the infrastructure built to intercept the lake water — the dams, canals, ditches and levees — was simply outmatched by the runoff that poured from the mountains, prompting the old lake to reemerge, which it has done only a handful of times over the past 100 years.

The bigger worry, though, remains the spring snowmelt. The southern Sierra, which feeds the basin, has about three times as much snowpack as average, more than any year on record, and again, it’s too much for downstream systems to handle.

While the Tule and Kaweah rivers have so far driven the revival of Tulare Lake, the much larger Kings River to the north is expected to begin sending torrents when the Pine Flat Reservoir upstream can’t accommodate the melt-off. Between April and July, state officials forecast 265% of average runoff in the Kings River watershed.

To the south, the Kern River also could contribute floodwater. That watershed is projected to unleash 422% of its average runoff between April and July.

“The really long view is that this was a lake, and now it’s a lake again,” said Nicholas Pinter, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Davis, who expressed sympathies for those who live and work in the spot on the landscape where water was meant to drain. “Every flood disaster is really a past planning mistake.”

The extent of the threat to Corcoran and other communities in the basin depends on how the snow dissipates. Rapid bouts of melting, triggered by hot weather or rain, would be most detrimental, creating blasts of runoff that could produce rampant flooding.

While most experts say problems are inevitable, a best-case scenario is a gradual melt-off that gives cities and towns time to absorb at least some of the water.

“It’s anyone’s guess whether it will just trickle out,” Pinter said, “or whether we get a warm storm on top of that, which is much more worrisome.”

‘This thing looks like the ocean’

From the edges of Corcoran, Tulare Lake is visible all the way to the horizon in some directions. The occasional stop sign, mailbox or barn pokes out of the muddy water as a reminder of the lowlands.

About 101 square miles was submerged as of early last week, most of it farms, according to Kings County officials, and that number is expected to grow significantly. The last time the lake reached its current size, in 1983, it took nearly two years to drain, which could be the case this go-round as well.

“I no longer refer to it as a lake,” said Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle, who represents the Corcoran area. “This thing looks like the ocean.”

County administrators are already pinning $24.3 million in agricultural losses on the flooding and say the number could soon swell to $879 million.

Should Corcoran begin to take on floodwater, the damage could be much greater. Estimates by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put the property value behind the city’s levee at more than $6 billion.

Officials at the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which operates two neighboring facilities in Corcoran with about 8,000 total inmates, report no problems so far but say they’re preparing for flooding.

Valle and the rest of the county Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, have been working with flood control districts, water agencies and private landowners to try to steer the initial runoff to areas where it would have the least impact. The process, though, has been rife with tension, as the parties stand for different priorities. The conflict will almost certainly worsen as more water comes down.

The county already has ordered the farming giant J.G. Boswell Co. to breach a stretch of levee and flood fields, hoping to relieve pressure on Corcoran’s levee.

Valle also has been reaching out to state and federal officials for help. He said Thursday that he got a financial commitment from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to cover part of Corcoran’s levee expansion. The Office of Emergency Services told The Chronicle that it’s still surveying the area and figuring out exactly how to allocate resources.

On the federal side, emergency benefits are not available to communities in Kings County because the county was not included in the past week’s presidential disaster declaration for California. Tulare and Kern counties were included in the order. State officials, who generally request a presidential order, have not yet asked for Kings County to be part of it because they haven’t completed a disaster assessment there.

Beyond the financing, there’s the challenge of doing the work on the levee before the worst of the snowmelt arrives.

A report this past week from the Cross Creek Flood Control District describes the potential for “overtopping or failure” of the levee and possible “need for mass evacuation” as the runoff compounds and cites a goal of completing the expansion by June 1.

“This is going to be a major engineering challenge,” said Gatzka, the city manager.

Even the initial step of getting dirt is proving difficult. Roads are sometimes impassable for deliveries because of the flooding and so much land is water-logged — wet dirt won’t work.

Then, there are limitations that come with raising a levee when water already is pushing against it. The construction can only be done from the dry side, and the levee is able to support fewer of the trucks and heavy equipment needed for the job.

“There’s more to work out,” Gatzka said. But “we’re pulling the trigger to get this started. We have to. We don’t have a choice.”

(SF Chronicle)

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by Jim Shields

Note: I read with some interest the posts regarding the CPUC and PG&E in Friday’s online AVA. Your post was spot-on pin-pointing the bi-partisan collaboration between Republicans and Democrats in fostering the collapse of electrical regulation that resulted in the CPUC’s neutering from Watchdog to Lapdog. 

PG&E and the state’s other electrical monopolies are able to operate with a public-be-damned attitude because of this state’s fatal blunder deregulating the electrical industry back in 1996. The real culprits are the politicians who brought us deregulation. The entire state legislature (Republicans and Democrats) voted unanimously to unleash economic havoc on an unsuspecting public. Those elected leaders, colossal imbeciles each and every one, are responsible for the deregulation fiasco. 

Here in Mendocino County back in 1996 most local governments, including the then-Board of Supervisors (John Pinches, Patti Campbell, Mike Delbar, Richard Shoemaker, and Charles Peterson), also went on record unanimously supporting electrical deregulation. The BOS was paid a visit by a PG&E exec who was the monopoly’s point man on the Northcoast. He was also Patti Campbell’s husband, Peter. He was a very amiable, charming Englishman, PBS/BBC-style, and the day he made his deregulation pitch to the Board, he succeeded in gaining their support by charming the monkeys right out of their trees for what turned out to be one of the state’s most prodigious fubars. Yours truly opposed the whole hornswoggle, obviously I charmed no one. 

Over the past 25 years, I’ve written probably 80 to a 100 hundred pieces on numerous facets of this abysmal story. Back in 2001, I wrote a column that I think is a fair summary of a very long, sometimes treacherous saga leading up to the much justified recall of an indecisive and ethically-spent Governor — Gray Davis. And then things got real interesting, real fast.

Anyway, here’s a look back at something that’s still happening…

Calling Virginia Strom-Martin. 

Calling Wes Chesbro. 

Calling Mike Thompson. 

Calling Dianne Feinstein. 

Calling Barbara Boxer. 

Please answer your pager. Please call home. You have a message. A very important message. California is in a crisis. Your constituents are getting screwed. Our state’s economy is about to crash. 

We can’t hear you. 

We can’t see you. 

Where are you? 

Most likely our stellar legislative delegation has been abducted by aliens. They are nowhere to be found. What else could explain the mysterious disappearance of our distinguished posse of swivel-chair legislators.

Still think deregulation is such a great idea?

Obviously, our elected leaders think California’s failed experiment with utility deregulation is just what the doctor ordered — Dr. Kevorkian, that is. 

I’ll bet that bunch of so-called public servants can’t even spell PG&E.

Well, since none of them have the guts to face the music about the deregulation fiasco, here’s the tune they’ve all been whistling.

Back in the mid-90s I warned you that the imbeciles in Sacramento were planning to deregulate the state’s energy utilities. All of the jackasses were braying about all the wonderful things deregulation would do for the public. I told you not to believe them. I told you that every experiment with once-regulated industries has been a disaster: airline, railroad, telephone, savings and loans, and the list goes on.

Truly great leaders like Teddy Roosevelt, a grand old Republican, figured out a century ago that certain sectors of our economy must be monitored and regulated because the typical forces of the free market could not control the resulting anti-competitive, monopolistic behavior inherent to such economic endeavors. Teddy used his big stick to bust the trusts, which is what folks called monopolies back then. He also brought the monopolies under their first public control.

While Teddy (who along with his cousin Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington and Abe Lincoln are this country’s four greatest presidents) was bringing the monopolists to heel back East, California Populists led by Republican Governor Hiram Johnson, in the early 1900s were rounding up Southern Pacific Railroad and the gas and electric utilities which owned state and local government lock-stock-and-barrel. An aroused citizenry brought the railroad and utility giants to their knees, primarily through the creation of public commissions with broad regulatory authority over those industries.

For almost a hundred years, California’s utilities policy was pretty straight-forward. In return for allowing PG&E and Southern California Edison to continue to do business as legal monopolies, their rates and services would be subject to control through the Public Utilities Commission. That was the basic trade-off. Theoretically, and most of the time in practice, the PUC set rates charged to the public on a standard of cost-based pricing. Whatever it cost the utilities to actually produce energy was factored into the basic rate, plus a reasonable margin for profit.

A century ago, our political leaders understood that the electric and gas industries were the types of economic endeavors that just didn’t work in the free marketplace. Besides, given the then evolving public investment in critical utility infrastructure, such as dams and related activities for hydroelectric power, it was good public policy to maintain these kinds of private-public partnerships growing out of a regulated environment. 

The system was not perfect, but it sure beat the alternative — as we are now learning to our great detriment. As any country boy or girl will tell you, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But that’s exactly what our sell-out politicians did back in 1996. 

By a unanimous vote in 1996, the entire state legislature voted to kill something that had worked for a century.

By a unanimous vote in 1996, every Republican and every Democrat in Sacramento, decided they knew better than what folks knew — and learned the hard way — a century ago: The utilities have to be controlled by the public because the free market just doesn’t work in certain situations. You might say Californians back in the 1900s “had been there, done that.” They fixed it the first time because it was broke. A hundred years later, an arrogant gang of political hacks broke it because the fix was in.

With the passage of electrical deregulation, California proudly led the nation in efforts to deregulate the electricity sector. The act was hailed as a “historic reform” that would reward consumers with lower prices, reinvigorate California’s then-flagging economy, and provide a model for other states.

Now five years later, the “reforms” lay in ruins, overwhelmed by electricity shortages and skyrocketing prices for wholesale power. The electrical giants now find themselves on the precipice of insolvency just half a step from outright bankruptcy. The state of California became the buyer of last resort, draining the general fund and committing itself to spending $42 billion more on long-term power deals that stretch over the next ten years. And you don’t need me to tell you who’s actually on the hook for that I.O.U.

That’s the long and short of it. You can complain all you want about backroom deals between and among, the politicians, the utilities, out-of-state energy corporations, lobbyists, and the fat cats. It’s all true. They hatched the plot. They passed the money around. They cut the deal. They wrote the law that screwed each and every one of us. 

And they’ll keep it up as long as you let them. They’ll keep it up as long as you don’t hold them accountable. They’ll keep it up as long as you keep re-electing them. They’ll keep breaking you until you decide to fix them. Keep that in mind when you pay your next PG&E bill.

* * *


I shudder for the young airman who leaked documents regarding Ukraine, etc. The list of leakers is, to me, is an honor roll: Daniel Ellsberg, Ed Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea (formerly "Bradley") Manning, my good friend Greg Ford, fellow Baltimoreans Philip and Daniel Berrigan and the others of the "Catonsville Nine." 

Merrick Garland can't find cause to accuse D.J. Trump, it seems, but he's all over national tv when he catches a 21-year-old Air Force mechanic with classified government material. He's pathetic, Garland. Dunno yet about Tex. He's at least imprudent.

I don't know if Jack Teixeira had evil intent. The "news" doesn't help. You can tell more about the medium than its subject, in this case. After years of secondhand Fox, if they say he is a traitor, I watch for a patriot.

Whichever--if they find him guilty of having a hangnail, he'll do some hard time, regardless. America is a notoriously anti-intellectual place, but don't mess with our "intel"! Empires require secrecy, lots of it, and loathe "transparency," despite our lip service.

* * *


Industrial agriculture could not compete with the small farmer without government subsidies. That’s also why it is illegal or heavily regulated to sell raw milk. Here, it’s legal to sell it if the customer comes to your farm. You can only sell it at farmers’ markets if you have a prearrangement with a customer, which I suspect must be in writing or documented in some way. It is illegal to sell raw milk across the state line, or even to give it away. My daughter used to milk dairy goats, and she could not legally give her dad goat milk, as he lives on the other side of the state line, about 30 miles from here. 

It’s legal to sell eggs here too, but Facebook won’t allow you to advertise, or even post, about eggs for sale. 

I’m not sure what the state laws are in other states. I think many won’t allow a small farmer to sell meats of any kind. 

The reason these laws exist is to make it almost impossible for small farmers to earn a living. 

It should also be pretty obvious that there is no way that a head of lettuce that must travel from California to Missouri can be less costly to the consumer than a head of lettuce produced by a local farmer. Massive government subsidies are required in order to under-price the local farmer.

* * *

I SEE MEN ASSASSINATED around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead; men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideas. 

— Charles Bukowski

* * *

YOU COULDN'T DESIGN a more effective totalitarian dystopia than the one we're in right now. One where everyone's brainwashed by propaganda without even knowing it, where everyone thinks, acts, votes and shops exactly as their rulers want them to, all while thinking they are free.

People worry about technocratic escalations like increasing surveillance, digital IDs, central bank digital currencies etc, and rightly so; those measures do give the powerful a greater degree of power over the populace. But many incorrectly imagine that a future technocratic dystopia created by those measures would look a lot different from the dystopia we're in right now, and it simply would not. Those measures would be used to help keep this current system locked in place, not to create a new one.

People imagine totalitarian dystopia as some dark threat looming in the future because they don't understand how profoundly unfree we already are right now. They think we're free because we can choose what to buy at the supermarket and call the president "Brandon", but we're not. They imagine that our rulers have some grand conspiracy to create a dystopia where they can force us all to do as they wish, not realizing that we're already in a dystopia where we are doing exactly as they wish. It really can't be improved upon. They're just locking it in.

Seriously, think about it: what could the rulers of western society possibly extract from us that they're not already getting? There's no meaningful political opposition, no antiwar movement, no anti-capitalist movement, very little critical thought — they've got total control. Everything we do in this dystopia is designed to funnel profit into the coffers of the oligarchs and power into the hands of the imperialists, and all efforts to resist and change these funneling systems have been successfully quashed by mass-scale psychological manipulation.

This totalitarian dystopia looks like freedom because they let us more or less do what we want, while controlling what it is that we want to do using mass-scale manipulation. They further bolster this by creating systems where what we do has little or no meaningful effect. Even if we had actual software in our brains that gave our rulers total and complete control over our minds, they'd have the masses think and behave in more or less the same way they do right now.

The primary weapon of our totalitarian rulers is not surveillance, police robots, digital IDs or CBDCs — their primary weapon is propaganda. The system of mass-scale psychological conditioning they've created is unlike anything that has ever existed in history. The ability to detect and suppress an emerging revolution is vastly inferior to the ability to use psychological conditioning to prevent people from even thinking about revolting in the first place. That's what real power looks like. That's total control.

This is a dystopia whose inhabitants all move fully in alignment with the will of their rulers, without ever even thinking that they are unfree or should try to become so.

Try to design a more effective totalitarian dystopia than this.

You can't. It's perfect.

Propaganda is the real mechanism of control, and that's what we're going to have to fight if we're ever to become free. The only way out of this giant matrix of psychological control is to show people how unfree we are, how they're being deceived, how much better things could be. Awaken people to the lies, to the real nature of the political, educational and media institutions designed to keep us enslaved, weaken public trust in the propaganda machine, and then we might have the beginnings of the possibility of real change. Until then, we're locked in.

— Caitlin Johnstone

* * *


Ursula LeGuin

It's always easier not to think for oneself. Find a nice safe hierarchy and settle in. Don't make changes, don't risk disapproval, don't upset your syndics. It's always easiest to let yourself be governed.

There's a point, around age twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.

Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I'm going to go fulfil my proper function in the social organism. I'm going to go unbuild walls.

— Ursula LeGuin

* * *


by Melody Ermachild

(Note: After working to free the wrongly imprisoned Black Panther Geronimo Platt, Melody Ermachild became one of the first women members of the Association of Licensed Investigators. She specializes in death row defense work and has written a memoir, ‘Altars in the Street’ (1997).)

* * *

Separating work and home life…

My job is all about murder and mayhem and rape and then I make a wall in my brain and in my life. I just go home and cook dinner with my kids, my grandkids, my husband, my dog. My own life is not really about crime. I rarely watch a movie that’s about all that. When read the paper I never read about crime, I kind of let my eyes go soft. I look, but don’t read it, and then I’ll just think “Oh, God, don’t hire me for that thing.” And then they do.

But I have to read the actual pile of police reports for my cases. It’s a different level than a news report. I read all the clippings. Media is important in picking a jury — what press conferences were given by the DA or the Chief of Police. But if I don’t need to know about a crime, I don’t want to know about it. I am really interested in culture as it affects my clients. I had a young kid who killed a cop recently, he was so interested in rap that he was writing raps in jail and giving them to me as I was working toward his trial. I bought a Tupac book off the internet, and since he can’t have a book I copied the whole thing for him.

* * *

Becoming an investigator…

My earliest interest in crime was the Nancy Drew mystery series. I read every one of them in this little library in Arizona in the 50s. I loved Nancy and I thought, “I’m going to be that.” I re-read a few of them recently and realized what I liked was that she’s a young teenager, like 15, and she can drive a car. Ahe has this agency. As a girl I was told, “You can’t really do much, you're not going to be able to do anything.” Except be a mother and a housewife, like my mother. I really didn’t want that.

I was raised in the US Army. My father was killed in World War II and my mother married another soldier. The year before I read all the mysteries I decided that I wanted to be a railroad engineer, I wanted to drive a train. I remember telling my stepfather and he said, “You can’t be that.” I said, “Why not?” He just said, “Because you’re a girl. You can’t be that.” “You mean, like, ever?” “Never.” So I said, “You mean none of them are girls?” “No. None. No. You can’t be that. Period.” That really hit me hard. But Nancy could do all kinds of things. My stepfather wasn’t cruel, he was telling me the facts.

My mother was violent and abusive to me and my half-sisters. I wanted out of there. I wanted to be somebody. I was smart and it didn’t help me that much. I was always trying to get more books and tune out what was going on. Books saved my life. I’ve always been very “I’m going to do it.” I wanted to be an investigator when I figured out it’s an actual thing you can be.

I was very political. I went to University of California, Berkeley. There was the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, the farmworkers’ movement — I was involved in all of them. I left and lived in Canada because I was so against the war and didn’t want to pay taxes for it. I helped deserters and draft dodgers there. I’m a leftist. I was trained in Marxist sociology, and I still think that I see people in terms of groups and historical trends.

After the war ended I became a schoolteacher. Then, I volunteered on the case of Geronimo Platt, an old Black Panther who was framed in LA for a murder that he didn’t commit. He was a decorated Vietnam veteran. He came back to the University of California Los Angeles, and joined the Panther Party. Then he was framed. He spent 27 years in prison, the same number as Nelson Mandela. I was on his defense committee. I worked on the ballistics, I started to interview people. I realized — oh that’s an actual career, a private eye. I got a job with an agency and then I got my license.

When I joined the Association of Licensed Investigators, on the form they had a place to fill in your wife’s name. I was definitely one of the early women in this. I mean, I knew all the other women. I wanted to fight the good fight against the government. I am besotted with the Constitution, I adore it. My job is to keep the government’s feet to the fire, to make them honest, and try to make them prove my client is guilty. However, over almost 28 years of this, we’ve been losing. Our clients’ rights have been taken away and eroded. Now our backs are pressed to the wall. The Federal cases I am doing now are death penalty cases — the government no longer has to turn over what they have against our client. It’s very difficult to investigate.

In no way have I given up. I don’t have a cynical bone in my body.

Geronimo Pratt was freed after 27 years. So many times we were sure he was getting out, but lots of people didn’t want to see that thing overturned. Those who framed him rose high in the power structure, all of them were rewarded for what they had done. One time before we went to court we were so sure he would be freed that he gave away his television and belongings in the prison. They ruled against us, it went on and on. We proved six different ways that he was innocent. His case had to do with the FBI’s counter-intelligence program. There was an FBI informant on Geronimo’s defense team. There were lots of informants in the Panther Party. LA County gave him a significant amount of money, they compensated him for wrongful prosecution. Nothing though, for the years he spent in prison. He lives in Africa, which is smart — to get out of America.

* * *

* * *


by Gary Kamiya

Western journalism in the 19th century was a blood sport — often literally. Editors made a habit of launching vicious personal attacks against their enemies, who sometimes responded violently.

In an earlier Portals we told the story of Edward Gilbert, an editor killed in a duel after an inflammatory editorial. Another San Francisco editor, the peculiarly named James King of William, was gunned down on the street by a corrupt supervisor he had been savaging in print. According to a possibly apocryphal story, one editor hung a sign over his door reading, “Subscriptions received from 9 to 4; challenges from 12 to 1 only.”

But perhaps the most lurid murder involved the editor of The Chronicle and a flamboyant preacher who was about to be elected the city’s mayor.

Charles de Young and his two brothers, Michael and Gustavus, had started The Chronicle in 1865. Originally a theater guide called the Daily Dramatic Chronicle, it soon became a popular general-interest paper. The Chronicle’s growing circulation was driven by its penchant for outspoken editorial positions, salacious stories and sensational personal attacks: Famed journalist and economist Henry George called it “a ‘live’ paper of the most vigorous and unscrupulous kind.”

All three brothers were involved in running the paper, but its moving force was Charles, a small, dark man who aspired to be the kingmaker in San Francisco, and didn’t care who he offended, smeared or, according to some reports, blackmailed in the process. According to the New York Times, he “was proud of the notoriety he had obtained, and proud of the personal danger, as a legitimate element of that notoriety.”

De Young carried a revolver but was a notoriously bad shot. This was evidenced when he feuded with a rival editor named Benjamin Napthaly. In 1874, The Chronicle called Napthaly “a professional blackmailer, a hanger-on of the lowest gambling-houses and dens of prostitution, and, generally, one of the most degraded specimens of hoodlumism.”

For his part, Napthaly dredged up an old story that de Young’s mother had once been a prostitute. The two men shot it out at point-blank range, but succeeded only in wounding a passing boy in the leg.

Two years later, Isaac Kalloch, a charismatic, 240-pound preacher with red hair, pink whiskers and a long history of drinking, gambling and seducing his female parishioners, arrived in San Francisco. The so-called “Sorrel Stallion” soon became pastor of the Metropolitan Temple, an enormous church on Seventh Street that could hold 5,000 people. In 1879, the ambitious Kalloch was chosen by the new Workingmen’s Party to run for mayor.

Although The Chronicle had been the only city newspaper to back the populist, anti-Chinese party and its demagogic founder, Denis Kearney, de Young had supported a different candidate, and set out to destroy Kalloch with a barrage of stories about his scandalous past. A typical front-page headline read: “Kalloch: The Record of a Misspent Life — Driven Forth From Boston Like an Unclean Leper — His Trial for Adultery — His Escapade With One of the Tremont Temple Choristers.”

Failing to heed the biblical injunction to turn the other cheek, Kalloch thundered back from his pulpit that the de Youngs were “hyenas of society” and “hybrid whelps of sin and depravity.” When de Young threatened to reveal more sordid details, Kalloch told de Young what he really thought of him and his brothers: “The de Youngs are the bastard progeny of a whore, conceived in infamy and nursed in the lap of prostitution.”

In August 1879, Charles de Young hired a buggy and drove to Kalloch’s church. Kalloch was getting into his own carriage when a messenger told him a woman wanted to speak to him. As the preacher approached de Young’s buggy, the editor whipped open the curtains and opened fire.

Even he could not miss at that range. Kalloch was badly wounded in the chest and thigh and fell to the ground. De Young tried to drive away, but a crowd of Workingmen’s Party members who happened to be there seized the carriage and overturned it. De Young was almost lynched on the spot, but police rescued him and hustled him away to jail.

Kalloch recovered and went on to be elected mayor. De Young posted bail and went to Mexico. He came back five months later, thinking passions had cooled and he would be safe. He was wrong.

Kalloch’s son, Isaac Milton Kalloch, was a brooding young man who had vowed to take revenge on the man who shot his father. On April 23, 1880, after spending the afternoon drinking in Market Street bars, he walked into The Chronicle’s offices, then at Kearny and Bush.

De Young was talking to an employee named Read when Kalloch opened fire with a five-shot revolver. He missed. De Young hid behind Read but Kalloch leaned over Read’s shoulder and fired again, the powder singing Read’s face. Again he missed.

As de Young ran toward a gate at the rear of the office, Kalloch fired twice more, missing again. De Young crouched down behind the gate, desperately trying to grab his own revolver, but his overcoat got in the way. He had just managed to pull out his gun when Kalloch leaned over the gate and fired his fifth and last bullet at de Young’s face from two feet away. The bullet entered de Young’s mouth, tore through his throat on a downward trajectory and severed his jugular vein. De Young died three minutes later.

At Milton Kalloch’s murder trial, the defense produced a witness who claimed that de Young had fired first, despite three witnesses who testified that de Young never fired and incontrovertible evidence that his gun had not been fired. It turned out that the witness was a paid hack. He was sentenced to 14 years for perjury.

Late in the trial, Mayor Kalloch was called to the stand. In “Murder by the Bay: Historic Homicide In and About the City of San Francisco,” Charles F. Adams writes that as Kalloch testified, he kept jiggling two small objects in his hand. Finally the prosecutor asked, “Tell us, Mayor Kalloch, what is it you have in your hand?”

Kalloch had been waiting for that moment. He sprang from the witness box and proclaimed, “These are the two bullets from de Young’s murderous weapon which were extracted from my body.” He then strode to the jury box and handed the bullets to the jurors. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty because of extenuating circumstances.

Milton Kalloch left town after the verdict, but returned to San Francisco and became a successful attorney. Mayor Kalloch served two undistinguished years in office, saw the Workingmen’s Party collapse and died in 1887. Michael de Young ran the Chronicle for the next 45 years.

(Gary Kamiya is the author of the bestselling book “Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco,” awarded the Northern California Book Award in creative nonfiction. His new book, with drawings by Paul Madonna, is “Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages Through the Unknown City.” All the material in Portals of the Past is original for The San Francisco Chronicle.)

* * *

photo by Ryan Fitzsimons

* * *

THE PARALLEL HISTORY of Amerca’s national genealogy — of who can be imagined as the nation’s forefathers — is full of strange contingencies and fantasies but has very little to do with actual genealogical practice. Norman Rockwell’s 1959 cover for the Saturday Evening Post, ‘Family Tree,’ has at the top of the tree an impeccably white baby — not surprising — one far whiter than might be expected from the swarthy and often disreputable ancestry sprouting up from the roots: at the bottom, a pirate is matched with a Spanish lady and a central-casting floozy is matched with a Mexican-looking cowboy. More to the point, somewhere in the middle of the tree is a bearded mountain man and a Native American woman. This ought to be surprising. Ten states at some point banned marriage between Native Americans and whites; in some states it was still banned when the picture was painted. Native Americans were subject to rampant racism. Why was it that white Americans could imagine them in their family tree but not African Americans?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Black Americans existed in the present of the cultural imaginary of the Post's readers and thus raised issues of civic inclusion and kinship. Native Americans seemed to belong to the past; they were and to some extent still are — invisible. The imagined non-existence of Native Americans is also what makes possible a populist version of the Virginia “Pocahontas” story. Many people, especially in the South, lay claim to an “Indian grandmother” — or great-great-grandmother. The number of people claiming to be at least part Native American purportedly grew 1600% between 1960 and 2020. Fake claims based on self-interest are much in the news.

Other claims that turn out to be mistaken were made out of compassion: Johnny Cash, a great supporter of Native American causes and a singer of songs — “Bitter Tears” — about their harsh treatment, long held himself out as having Cherokee blood. His daughter Rosanne discovered in 2021 that she had no Native American markers. For some poor white men in the South, the claim is an identification with people, especially the Cherokee, with whom they have little in common except “Southern heritage.” They, too, are victims of the federal government, first in the Civil War and then, post-1960s, in attacks on their way of life; they, too, are rebellious. Working-class men I knew in rural Virginia went to pow-wows where they beat drums and enacted ritual kinship with Native Americans. When I was last at the Pulaski County Fair, in 2010, one could buy a “rebel native flag” — the Confederate Battle Flag with an “Indian” head silhouette imposed on it. This is an imagined community (and of course cultural appropriation of the most florid and white supremacist kind.) 

— Thomas Lacquer

* * *

* * *


by Mark Scaramella

Late one afternoon I got a call from a fellow squadron commander over on the training side of Keesler Air Force Base when I was stationed there in 1970. This was unusual. Our aircraft maintenance squadron usually had very little to do with the electronics training that was also going on at Keesler, quite separate from aircraft operations. 

Captain Stoddard said that he had noticed some civilians at the Biloxi Airport (General Aviation, not part of Keesler) using what looked like Air Force issue parachutes. Stoddard said he’d heard that the civilian jumpers had paid over $200 [around $1500 today] for the chutes. He wanted to know if they were legit or perhaps stolen.

I told him that we occasionally “surplused” our parachutes if they were damaged or if they were more than three years old. They were then dropped off at the base salvage yard for sale. But they were not sold for anything close to $200; more like $50 and they were labeled “not for civilian use.” I guessed that was where the chutes may have come from, but, given the high price tag, I said I’d look into it.

I first checked with our civilian paint, fabric and corrosion control shop chief, Mr. Sid Forman, whose responsibility included the Parachute Shop. Forman said he was unaware of any inventory problems, and that all the surplus chutes were accounted for; he kept records of each one dropped off at base salvage. Each chute was numbered and the salvage office provided a receipt for each one dropped off.

But out of curiosity, I went over to the base parachute shop and took a short course in parachute rigging and admin.

A typical parachute drying tower

After three years of service (at that time), for safety reasons, Air Force parachutes were taken out of service and sent to the base salvage yard, basically a large rummage sale of old equipment and supplies which was operated out of an old supply warehouse. They produced a monthly inventory of items that were available for sale with a brief description, condition, and price.

Salvaging parachutes was just one small part of the operation. The parachute shop did routine scheduled inspections, drying, and any necessary repair of the dozens of chutes used by our Flight Operations pilots. The chutes were unpacked, opened, laid out on a long table, checked and raised by a hand-hoist up into a tall tower to make sure there were no tangles or holes, then dried with an upward fan. 

Parachute inspection and rigging (civilian)

Since Keesler was right on the Caribbean, the high, salty humidity could cause mold and decomposition. Then they were lowered and carefully repacked following a detailed USAF parachute rigging manual. It was a two-airman job to make sure things were done right. Then before they were returned to the parachute packs, they were re-inspected by an experienced supervisory sergeant-rigger. 

At Keesler we had a small three-airman parachute shop on the night shift which did most of the inspections and occasionally surplused the over-age chutes. The night shift did not pack the chutes but left the rigging and packing for the more experienced day shift. 

Things seemed to be in order, so I set the question aside.

A couple of days later I got a call from another squadron commander from the training side of the base, reporting much the same thing as the first, adding a detail that the chutes had the distinctive USAF logo on them.

So I asked Maintenance Superintendent Chief Master Sergeant Ralph Johns about it. Johns, always quick to jump on potential problems, immediately said that we should go to the salvage warehouse and have a look around.

Which we did. Everything looked ok. Several chutes were on factory style metal shelving in their gray packs. 

USAF Parachute Pack

Johns pulled one down and opened it up. It looked ok. But when Johns hefted the chute in its pack, he noted that it seemed a little light. So he opened the chute. Lo and behold it was mostly old bedsheets disguised as a parachute by an outer wrapping of parachute material.


We checked the records and saw that all of the salvaged chutes had been brought to the salvage facility by a Sergeant Daniel Robinson, the Staff Sergeant in charge of the parachute shop’s night shift.

Sergeant Robinson was a sharp, young black kid. He and two other airmen comprised the night shift.

The next afternoon we brought Sergeant Robinson into my office for questioning before his shift began. We told him what we were investigating and read him his rights under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, basically a version of the Miranda warning. 

We quickly discovered why Sergeant Robinson was on the night shift. It took a very long time for First Sergeant Johnson and I to conduct the interview because Sergeant Robinson had a serious stutter. That’s why he was on the night shift where conversations were minimal. It was almost painful to pry answers out of him as he haltingly tried to reply but seemed barely able to complete a sentence. Making the time problem worse was that, because this was a formal, potentially disciplinary interview, we weren’t allowed to finish his sentences for him even when we knew what he was trying to say or if they were simple yes or no questions.

Sergeant Robinson had a clean record, everyone in his shop thought he was good at his job. He was friendly and cooperative. He was also a decent musician who played jazz organ and accompanied himself singing blues and pop tunes off-base on off-hours. In fact, I had heard him perform at the base NCO club a couple times when I had gone over there for periodic Officer of the Day inspections. When he sang, he didn’t stutter. 

Robinson at first denied any knowledge of the situation. But, confronted with our “evidence” — his signature on the salvaged parachute records and the chute that Johns had opened up — he eventually admitted that he had been earning a little side money by selling chutes to local sport jumpers. He pointed out that the chutes were being salvaged anyway, so what was the big deal? 

Robinson also made several veiled accusations of racism, claiming that he should have been promoted to Tech Sergeant a couple of years earlier, but that a black squadron commander at Subic Bay in the Philippines where he had been previously stationed was harder on black airmen than he was on white airmen and that he had been denied promotion because of it. 

Robinson also claimed that he knew of other airmen who were using base facilities and supplies for side jobs, so he didn’t think anybody would mind. But he refused to name any. He insisted that no harm was done. No one was endangered by the chutes he sold which he said he personally checked out before selling them. He pointed out that the scam began when he realized he could cut up one surplus parachute and use that material to wrap the bedsheets he took from the barracks laundry room so that they looked like parachutes to the casual observer.

I asked him how many parachutes he thought he sold this way. Robinson said he thought maybe four or five. 

We didn’t argue with him, it was taking too long anyway. 

I excused him and talked the situation over with First Sergeant Johnson. We agreed that Robinson had a good record, he had confessed, and we needed him to stay in his night shift position at the parachute shop. But he had violated several regs and some kind of discipline called for.

So we calculated that he had probably made over $1,000 on his little scam and offered him the equivalent of a plea deal involving a $1200 fine and a suspended bust of one rank to buck sergeant. Basically, if he paid the fine over the next six months and had no other problems in that time, we’d leave him at the rank of staff sergeant and clear his record. 

Robinson agreed, and he did. Six months later we removed the disciplinary action from his personnel file.

We also required the base salvage yard staff to open and inspect all future parachutes brought in for salvage.

* * *

* * *


by Tommy Wayne Kramer 

My reputation as a brooding intellectual blossomed in junior high then flowered in high school. 

It was a period in my life when I hauled around thick books on serious topics by profound authors for ostentatious displays. I was hoping my ninth grade colleagues would take me for a high school student, perhaps even college material. I’m surprised I didn’t start smoking a Meerschaum pipe. 

These pretentious gestures might have succeeded if I were not short, scrawny and a walking pimple farm. 

By tenth grade, while others were reading books about duckies on the farm and the Bobbsy Twins, I was marinating in Kerouac and e.e. cummings. 

Having already conquered ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ my appetite for advanced literary material was primed. I wanted books that challenged, books that impressed other people, books that were big, thick, heavy and impossible for me to comprehend. 

Having no real identity and not many friends, I was trying to invent a plausible character for myself. I imagined a young scholar (me) who appeared to the world, or at least other kids in study hall, as an intriguing loner immersed in troubling thoughts, inner turmoil, a budding skeptic. 

Books were props in the one-dimensional play I starred in. (I was also director, critic, wardrobe assistant and script writer.) Carrying around a battered copy of ‘Naked Lunch’ allowed me to move freely amid disparate groups, secure knowing I was secretly admired by cheerleaders, envied by jocks, laughed at by friends who knew a phony when they saw one (saw me). 

One day I picked out a fat number called ‘Exodus’ by Leon Uris. It had the bulk and pretension factors I required, and for a semester we went steady. It was set in some place called Israel, which I probably thought was between Iowa and Indiana. Trouble brewing.

Ignorance showing. 

I “read” Exodus slowly. Exceedingly slowly. Three words a day slowly. My goal, remember, was for fellow students to behold my towering intellect. When “reading” it in study hall I paused every few pages to scrawl messages in the book’s margins, giving the impression I’d encountered a arresting comment, brilliant insight or a dangling participle. 

‘Exodus’ is a complex historical novel detailing middle eastern strife going back to oh, Biblical times give or take a geological age or two, culminating around the Second World War. More trouble, more ignorance. 

But I couldn’t quit. Instead I dug deeper, read harder, furrowed my brows thicker, turned the pages faster and stayed the course, from about Page 20 where I’d been stalled for a week, to page 16,000. I was hoping to spot some metaphors, allegories, symbolism, satire, poetic license and a few italicized phrases in French. All culminating in man’s inhumanity to man. 

Bah. What I really needed was an ‘Exodus’ synopsis, like maybe a 24-page coloring book version. 

I plodded on, lost in a vexing morass of confused plot, a barrage of characters whose names all started with “Abba Ben-something” and a few thousand years of background, probably mingled with betrayal and mystery but I wouldn’t have understood even if Mr. Uris had sent me a plot diagram. 

The Problem: I was in way over my head, no more able to understand ‘Exodus’ than if reading it upside down and backwards. 

The Other Problem: Weeks ago I’d committed to giving my oral book report on ‘Exodus,’ chosen entirely because of its impressive girth. The fat turquoise paperback pig weighed as much as Gus, my Dachshund. 

I was sunk. My rising star of pseudo intellectualism was at stake, it was far too late to change course and I would soon be exposed as a cheap weasely fraud. Looking back, I understand teenage suicide. 

The oral report itself is a blur of embarrassment, 15-minutes of standup fraud, my counterfeit image exposed as nothing but lies and deception. I was Elizabeth Warren before there was an Elizabeth Warren. 

I was finished as a scholar; if I had actually smoked a pipe I would have thrown it away. But then a funny, unanticipated thing happened and my secret remained buried. 

The thundering defeat and humiliation I clearly deserved went unnoticed by my audience of inattentive 14-year olds. They didn’t care. No one was listening to me stammering out a bunch of boring stuff about a dumb book. 

My rank hypocrisy? Unnoticed. The shame was mine alone. They’d paid no more attention to my dishonest book report than I’d paid when Melanie Froelich gave hers on ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Or maybe it was about Nancy Drew. 

Of course I learned nothing from the near disaster and kept up my lying, deceitful ways. Next on the literary tour of shame: ‘Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,’ which I lugged everywhere. ‘Dear & Glorious Physician,’ by Taylor Caldwell, was my next victim. 

Sometimes I wonder if teachers and students today at Parma Senior High still marvel at the precocious lad who, long ago, read ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ when he was just 15. 

* * *

* * *


Eight people, including a toddler, were killed after Russian shells hit an apartment block in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. More than a dozen residents were hurt.

The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence said Russia had “re-energised” its efforts in Bakhmut thanks to better relations between the army and the mercenary Wagner Group. Ukraine was still holding western districts of the town but had been subjected to particularly intense Russian artillery fire, it added.

Russia’s special forces have suffered “significant losses” in the war in Ukraine, leaked US military documents show.

Ukraine will “test and use” any non-banned weapons to liberate its territory, including Russian-occupied Crimea, the head of its National Security and Defense Council said.

Ukraine retrieved the bodies of 82 of its soldiers from Russian-controlled territory, a government minister said.


In talks in Beijing, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on the need for a negotiated settlement to end the war in Ukraine.

Also in Beijing, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged China to pressure Moscow to end its invasion of Ukraine<span, saying no other country had “more influence on Russia”.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote to Russia, Ukraine and Turkey to raise concerns about the implementation of a deal that allows the safe wartime export of grain from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Finland, which joined NATO last week, unveiled the first section of a fence it is building on its border with Russia.

The Pentagon announced US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet his Swedish and German counterparts next week, and host a Ukraine-related defence meeting with nearly 50 countries. Weapons

The eight Leopard 2 tanks Canada promised to Ukraine arrived in neighbouring Poland, according to Defense Minister Anita Anand.

The Danish defense ministry said Ukraine would receive 19 French-made Caesar howitzer artillery systems within the coming weeks. China has “approved the incremental provision” of military equipment to Russia and wanted it kept secret, according to leaked US military intelligence based on Russian intercepts.

Foreign Minister Qin Gang said China would not sell weapons to either Russia or Ukraine to use in the war.

A senior adviser in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said Ukrainian forces said were finding China-made components in Russian weapons used on the battlefield. 

— Al Jazeera

* * *


  1. Carrie Shattuck April 17, 2023

    Hi Ginny Chichester,
    I have been to the beautiful valley of Covelo and attended the Blackberry Festival, quite a few years ago. I ran into John Pinches, my brother-in-law and Supervisor, at the time, making his usual appearances at the local functions, wanting to hear the concerns of the community.

    Recently someone commented here that we needed John for his budget knowledge. He has offered to share his budget knowledge with me, as soon as he is no longer snowed in. I am very much looking forward to absorbing all the years of budget knowledge I can get. I have the 2022-23 budget book, all 661 pages, and have been studying it.

    I watched and learned from John what it takes to be a good Supervisor. It’s about the People, the ones who really drive the county.

    People not Politics

    Carrie Shattuck

  2. George Hollister April 17, 2023

    “by the middle 1970s there was marijuana and an outlaw population of people who weren’t really outlaws, but middleclass back-to-the-landers forced to live like outlaws.”

    There is a long history in Mendocino County of people living like outlaws, and being outlaws. As far as I know, none of this behavior was forced, but was done out of convenience.

  3. chuck dunbar April 17, 2023


    Jim Shields reminds us, in this piece from 2001, of the high price California citizens have paid via the deregulation of PG&E years ago. His message remains true today. He reminds us of why government regulation of some parts of the economy is essential, sadly mostly forgotten these days–a lesson we need to learn again:

    “Truly great leaders like Teddy Roosevelt, a grand old Republican, figured out a century ago that certain sectors of our economy must be monitored and regulated because the typical forces of the free market could not control the resulting anti-competitive, monopolistic behavior inherent to such economic endeavors. Teddy used his big stick to bust the trusts, which is what folks called monopolies back then. He also brought the monopolies under their first public control.”

    A great piece, and thanks, AVA, for the reprint.

    • George Hollister April 17, 2023

      PG&E was never deregulated. They went into bankruptcy because there was a regulated limit placed on how high they could raise their rates. The result was they were unable to raise their rates high enough to cover their costs.

      • chuck dunbar April 17, 2023

        “PG&E Outage: A look back at utility company’s history of blackouts”
        By Ken Miguel
        ABC NEWS
        Friday, October 25, 2019

        “SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — PG&E has had its share of massive blackouts since the state deregulated utilities in 1996. Some have been planned, others have not.
        In June, 2000, PG&E experienced rolling blackouts caused by deregulation of the energy industry. It left 97,000 customers without power in the Bay Area…”

        • George Hollister April 17, 2023

          The other aspect is PG&E is not representative of a free market in energy. It’s a government controlled monopoly. And increasingly that monopoly is being enforced by government to take away any choices that might still exist. So suck it up if you voted for the current governor. It is his administration that is orchestrating and enforcing the mandates on energy that have resulted in increase cost to the consumer, and less choice.

          A model for a more free market in energy would be one where the grid is owned and managed by government, and the consumer can buy electricity from anywhere, and from any source. But that is a fantasyland dream.

  4. Jim Armstrong April 17, 2023

    It wasn’t the job of the young AF reservist to protect national “secrets.”
    It is the job of the FBI, the CIA and the ridiculous number of other security agencies who gave him the clearance and then the documents.
    Of course those are same guys who will now lead his vigorous prosecution.

  5. Jim Armstrong April 18, 2023

    Maybe the Major’s parachute story will lead to a way to get the poor pilot that he stranded in the air a few years ago back on the ground.

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