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Mendocino County Today: Thursday, April 20, 2023

Warming | Cold March | Meyer Prevails | Joaquin Wanted | Not Right | Smith Ranch | Spring Turning | Park Sundays | Boonville Peppers | EPIC Weed | Sarahs Willits | Disco Ranch | Low Gap | Braxton Bragg | Film Grant | Yesterday's Catch | COPD Diagnosis | Fire Retardant | Take Stairs | Hoffman Encounters | Timely Ballad | Spooner Retires | Mall Hush | Tick | Abysmal Athletics | Draymond Drama | Loaded Bridge | Overdose Deaths | Crumb 17 | Unzipped | Assisted Living | Ukraine | Cow Poet | China Hawks | Nostalgia

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DRY WEATHER with warmer daytime temperatures are expected into Saturday. A weak upper trough will move into the Pacific Northwest on Sunday and could generate some light rain for the North Coast region. Otherwise, upper ridging will strengthen early to mid next week resulting in another warm up, especially for the interior. (NWS)

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DESPITE BEING THE SECOND WARMEST MARCH on record, this past month was unusually cold for those of us living in the Western or Northwestern US. We even saw some all-time coldest month records in parts of coastal California (which is extremely rare in a warming world). (Zeke Hausfather)

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WILLITS RESIDENT JOHN MEYER CAME CLOSE TO BANKRUPTCY resisting Mendocino Railway's (MR) attempt to take his property by eminent domain. Today, he won his case in court. “The court concludes that MR has failed to meet its burden of establishing that its attempt to acquire Meyer’s property through eminent domain is supported by constitutional and statutory powers. The court finds in favor of Meyer.” (Jade Tippett)

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On April 2, 2023 the Sheriff's Office posted the following information on our Facebook page regarding the identified suspect in this case:

Lee Anthony Joaquin is currently wanted in connection with the recent homicide that occurred in Covelo in the early morning hours of Wednesday March 29th.

Joaquin is an adult male standing 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing approximately 180 lbs. Joaquin has shoulder length hair that is sometimes pulled back in a ponytail.

Lee Joaquin

Joaquin is considered armed and dangerous.

Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Joaquin or any information related to this homicide, are urged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office by calling 707-463-4086.

Anyone with information that can assist Sheriff's Detectives with this Homicide Investigation are 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.

A photo of Lee Anthony Joaquin (photo date 09-21-2022) is attached to this press release and he is still wanted as of the date/time (04-19-2023 at 4:00 PM) of this press release.


On 03-30-2023 a forensic autopsy determined Nicholas Shehli Whipple had a gunshot wound to his torso and his death is currently being investigated as a homicide.

Nicholas Whipple

Further investigations are currently ongoing and no additional information is currently available for public release.

Anyone with information that can assist Sheriff's Detectives with this homicide investigation are 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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There's a little house for sale in Boonville, asking price $650,000. No one in AV makes enough to buy it. That means it has to go to a super rich outsider who will either visit it a few times a year, or else rent it out as an Air BnB rather than allowing someone who actually wants to live here full time have it. I know, they have to get an outrageous amount to buy an over-priced place somewhere else. But that doesn't make it right!

Nancy McCleod


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Smith Ranch at Keene Summit off Flynn Creek Road (Elaine Kalantarian)

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by Marshall Newman

After several weeks of hesitation, it appears spring has finally sprung in Northern California. The seemingly endless rains of this winter have finally ended and the temperatures are warming, though frost remains a possibility. In short, it is time for spring turning; turning the soil and planting a garden.

For lots of us, spring turning is a tradition – maybe not a fond tradition (sore muscles can remove the fondness factor) - but a tradition nevertheless. It’s the beginning of working outside, helping things grow and eventually enjoying the beauty and bounty of those efforts. 

Those involved in agriculture know that spring may be the unofficial kickoff of garden season, but also know their work begins earlier, with pruning, soil preparation and occasionally even planting.

We Newmans did our share of that early-season ag work during our decades (late 1950s to late 1980s) in Anderson Valley; pruning our small orchard mostly, but also plowing and seeding pastures for hay. 

Two lessons from those experiences inform my gardening today: start before spring actually arrives and stick with it, both through the growing season and over the years. Both make gardening easier and the results better.

This year started particularly early, as I switched from compost to manure to fertilize, and the latter needs time to decompose in the soil. I spread manure and turned soil in early March in preparation for planting. I also planted wildflower seeds then, as they need to go in early to flower by summer.

Lots of people turn their soil with a rototiller. I’m not so lucky; I use a shovel. On the plus side, it gives me an opportunity to remove the weeds that take over my garden plot each winter. On the minus side, I ache for a couple of days from the effort. Fortunately, the more years ground has been worked, the easier it is to work.

Some have a green thumb and can grow almost anything. Some have a black thumb and can kill off almost everything. My thumb is somewhere in between. My vegetable garden produces vegetables every year, but not in great quantities. It also looks unkempt, with weeds popping up here, there and everywhere. My fantasy is to someday plant weeds and have vegetables of various kinds crowd them out. 

To compensate for my lack of gardening prowess, I put in started plants rather than seeds and I seek out the easiest crops. Cherry tomatoes, Early Girl tomatoes, broccoli and romaine lettuce do fine for me: beets and lemon cucumbers do less fine. Leaf lettuce does poorly and – situated close to the coast - my garden is too cold for bell peppers and zucchini (maybe not for zucchini, but that’s my excuse and I am sticking with it). 

Of course, my use of started plants puts me at the mercy of my local garden center. Selection varies week to week and some varieties sell out quickly. I am still waiting for my favorite romaine lettuce to arrive this year. If it does not soon, I may have to find an alternative. 

Then there is kale. As one friend wondered aloud, “Don’t garden centers give away kale for free?” They don’t, but I still plant some; it is easy to grow, reliable and makes a tasty salad. 

Those with land in Anderson Valley, the Ukiah Valley and the rest of Mendocino County should plant gardens, even if it is just a scattering of wildflowers. Truth be told, the county is a veritable Garden of Eden; almost everything grows well here. 

How well? In the spring of my sophomore year in college, I planted 40 tomato plants in the garden plot near our water tanks. Except for a short visit in June, the vines were left to their own devices. When I returned from my summer job near Lake Tahoe after Labor Day, I found my parents had been inundated with tomatoes. We had so many, my mother could no longer give them away to friends, and had resorted to canning tomato sauce so they wouldn’t go to waste. 

So start turning the soil, start planting those seeds and starts, and anticipate pleasures to come. They will be worth the effort.

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by Naoki Nitta

Working as sous-chef at the Boonville Hotel in Anderson Valley, Krissy Scommegna observed a general principle of the restaurant. “Salt, pepper and Espelette” were the three kitchen basics established by chef and co-owner Johnny Schmitt. 

Scommegna quickly warmed up to the subtle heat of the savory, paprika-like chile, which back then was still a rare pantry item. But Schmitt, whose parents, Sally and Don Schmitt, founded the French Laundry in Napa before decamping to this smaller Mendocino County wine country region to start The Apple Farm in nearby Philo, had acquired a taste for Piment d’Espelette while working in various restaurants in France.

Dried and ground from Espelette peppers, the spice is the cornerstone of Basque cuisine. Named for the town in southwestern France where they’re grown, the piment is appellation-controlled, like Champagne, making the imported staple “really expensive,” said Schmitt — “almost like buying saffron.” 

Realizing that Boonville and Espelette shared a similar, coast-adjacent climate, Scommegna and Schmitt wondered if it wouldn’t be easier just to grow the peppers locally. In 2011, they tried an experimental crop on her father’s nearby farm with help from his foreman, Nacho Flores, a pepper aficionado from Michoacan, Mexico.

The harvest proved to be fruitful. After tinkering with processing, Scommegna christened the resulting grind Piment d’Ville, a local take on the Espelette original. Subtly sweet, with a hint of tomato, smoky haze and slight sizzle, it’s a deep nod to the chile’s Basque roots, but with an unmistakable essence d’Boonville — and a novelty that puts the town squarely on the map of a burgeoning, farm-to-shaker spice trade.

“We want to honor what they’re doing in Espelette,” said Scommegna, who, with her husband, Gideon Burdick, turned the venture into the Boonville Barn Collective, a home-grown chile powder and dry goods company established in 2020.

Still, this is Boonville, she added, “so we’re going to do things our own way.”…

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by Kurt Snibbe

(Shades of CAMP?)

It’s been five years since recreational cannabis sales began in California. Many have played by the rules, but the illegal growth and sale of the plant continue to undermine those obeying the laws.

Since its establishment in 1983, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) has had more than 110 law enforcement agencies involved, making it one of the largest law enforcement task forces in the U.S.

But things are changing.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced CAMP seized nearly 1 million illegally cultivated cannabis plants and more than 200,000 pounds of illegally processed cannabis. Bonta also announced that the Department of Justice will be phasing out CAMP in favor of a year-round multi-agency program, Eradication and Prevention of Illicit Cannabis (EPIC).

What is EPIC?

The EPIC program focuses on the investigation and prosecution of civil and criminal cases relating to illicit cannabis cultivation with a focus on environmental and economic harms and labor exploitation.

Beginning in 2022, EPIC transitioned the Department of Justice’s 30-year seasonal eradication program into a year-round task force.

EPIC is a multi-agency collaboration led by DOJ in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service; the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration; the California National Guard, Counter Drug Task Force; the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program; California State Parks; and other local law enforcement departments.

EPIC works in close coordination with DOJ’s Cannabis Control Section, Special Prosecutions Section and Tax Recovery and Underground Economy Task Force to build investigations and prosecute civil and criminal cases.

In June 2022, the DEA announced it seized nearly 5 million plants from California in 2021 as part of its Domestic Cannabis Suppression/Eradication Program.

As in past years, the overwhelming percentage of plant seizures (86%) and arrests (60%) nationwide took place in California.

You can report an illegal business anonymously online at

California’s divide

Cannabis use is legal in California, but cities and counties can prohibit cannabis businesses. As a result, the state is a patchwork of areas where it is and is not legal to establish a cannabis business.

Proposition 64 passed in 2016 with 57.1% of the voters in favor of the legalization of marijuana for adults 21 or older.

(Ukiah Daily Journal)

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In a much-anticipated return engagement, the popular local ensemble of The Real Sarahs will perform at the Willits Community Theatre on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m.

Sarah “Songbird” Larkin and Sarah Ryan are joined by bassist Jen Rund in bringing their organic sound that enchants and uplifts the spirit, and sharing in their special gift of vocal synergy.

Rising stars in the West Coast Americana scene since they joined together in 2010, The Real Sarahs have distinguished themselves as skillful harmony singers and evocative songwriters. The duo creates magic with voices in harmony, acoustic instruments, and the energetic connection between artists and audience. Embracing many genres of music from folk to jazz, blues and bluegrass, and country, they sing from the stories of their own journeys and life experiences. Their original music is honest, captivating and heartfelt.

The Real Sarahs have released recorded works representing the broad musical influences and potential that the duo embodies. The 2017 release “Afternoon With the Dirty Birds” has the support of full instrumentation and showcases their songs with a big, “full band” sound. Their 2018 release “Headed For The Hills” sinks back to their roots as acoustic musicians.

With warmth and humor at the center of their performances, The Real Sarahs offer themselves as women of song with the gift of music given them. Tickets are $20 and available online at: and at the door.

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by Jess Lander

There are two main reasons that people pull over at Disco Ranch on their way through the rural, quarter-mile stretch of downtown Boonville in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley: they are either in-the-know, or the whimsical name piqued their curiosity. 

From the outside, Disco Ranch doesn’t look like much. It’s a rustic, barn-like building with some picnic tables out front. A large white banner identifies it as a wine shop and specialty market — a necessary detail considering that its name gives nothing away. 

But inside, Disco Ranch is an epicurean dream filled with Champagne and a diverse wine selection, plus a bevy of other artisanal products including caviar, tinned fish, cheeses, cured meats and craft cider. 

A disco ball hangs over the counter, where visitors find Wendy Lamer. The quirky owner of Disco Ranch might be pouring a glass of Pinot Noir from a lesser-known local producer, or whipping up her popular smoked duck breast sliders. She’ll most definitely have on her signature paisley button-up shirt; Lamer has more than 20 in her collection. Since opening Disco Ranch in 2019, Lamer has helped make Boonville a destination, not just a thoroughfare people drive through on their way to the coast.

“When you go in there and you see what she’s been able to curate and procure, it’s really like going to a fine wine shop in France,” said G.W. Lussier, whose wines sell at Disco Ranch. “The Anderson Valley has a certain pace about it. It’s a slow, sleepy town, but when you’re at Disco Ranch, it almost transports you to Europe.” 

Lamer has reached a sort of celebrity status in Anderson Valley. Beloved for her approachability, expertise and shockingly reasonable pricing, Lamer has generated a loyal following from the local wine community and beyond. She ships wine to customers all over the Bay Area that discovered her on a stopover in Boonville. Many of her fans make the two-hour round-trip drive from Healdsburg to shop in person, despite the fact that Bottle Barn — the North Bay’s largest, most popular wine warehouse — is only 15 minutes away in Santa Rosa. 

First-timers are typically caught off guard by Lamer’s wine knowledge, unaware that she spent her career working in wine shops and as a buyer for big distributors like Winebow and Southern Wine & Spirits. At the age of 18, she apprenticed at a shop with a 3,000-bottle selection under Tim Hanni, who became one of the first Masters of Wine in America. (Arguably the most prestigious credential in wine, there are just over 400 worldwide.) Lamer said she made just $3.65 an hour at the time. 

“She has that sixth-sense palate, where she’s able to understand what people want and really give it to them,” said winemaker Ashley Holland of Read Holland wines, which Disco Ranch has sold since the beginning. “I feel like she personifies the name of the store. She does really make wine fun.”

Lamer spent 10 years trying to launch her business in both Georgia and Arizona, but she said it always fell through. She first discovered Anderson Valley when her brother Greg accepted a job there with sparkling wine house Roederer. 

“When he moved here, I looked at the map and I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ But I came out to visit and just fell in love with the place,” she said. “It’s magical, a great little bubble. It took about six months to move out and I just never looked back.”

A town with a population of 1,000 people isn’t the most obvious place to launch a successful business, especially one that sells high-end, luxury products. While Boonville has evolved into a bit of a wine country destination, it receives a small fraction of the tourism that Napa or Healdsburg do. It’s especially slow in the winter; many business owners close down for the season or are open only on weekends. Boonville also lacks lodging and restaurants and is out of day trip range for most Bay Area residents. 

But somehow, after several failed attempts in much larger cities, Boonville turned out to be the sweet spot for Lamer’s dream. Before she opened, she said that many Boonville locals urged her to change the name, worried it would cause confusion. Instead, it actually draws people in. Disco Ranch is an homage to the nickname given to her run-down, 1970s farmhouse in Georgia, which used to host epic, all-night dance parties. 

The shop not only survived the COVID-19 pandemic, it thrived. Anderson Valley doesn’t have a major supermarket, so while Lamer had to temporarily cease sit-down service for wines by the glass, tapas and other snacks, she “quadrupled” her pantry selection. Disco Ranch quickly became an essential supplier for locals in need of shelf-stable goods — like oils and mustards and pickled vegetables — and wine to get them through the uncertain times. “They were buying hundreds of dollars worth of stuff,” she said. 

Lamer built her success on a niche: Disco Ranch has one of the largest selections of Anderson Valley and Mendocino County wines in the country. This section of the store is hyper-local, zeroing in on a sector of California wine that’s typically an afterthought and given limited shelf space compared to wines from Napa Valley and Sonoma County. (You won’t find those at Disco Ranch.)

She’s especially passionate about carrying small producers that don’t have a tasting room or winery within Anderson Valley, “to kind of give them a chance,” she said. Lamer isn’t shy about her favorites, which include Anderson Valley’s Read Holland, Waits-Mast, which is based in San Francisco but uses grapes from Anderson Valley and Mendocino, and Mendocino’s Minus Tide.

Her first order from Waits-Mast was for seven to eight different wines totaling nine cases. “I was like, ‘Really? You want to buy all of these wines?’” said co-owner Brian Mast. “For a small shop buying from a small producer, that was a big order for us. Most retailers give you one, or if you’re lucky, two places on the shelf.”

Since then, Waits-Mast has consistently received referrals from the shop. “It’s the closest thing we have to a tasting room in the valley,” said Mast. “A lot of people actually discover us from Disco Ranch.” 

In two years’ time, Disco Ranch has sold well over 50 cases of wine for Lussier’s wine brand, Lussier Wine Co. Lamer even helped get Lussier wines on the list at a Boonville restaurant, Wickson, after she poured them for the chef. “To move the amount of wine that she has through that little shop has been incredible,” said Lussier, a Napa Valley native focusing on Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. 

Lamer has provided Anderson Valley’s wine community a much-needed place to showcase their wines, but she really won them over with her imports, like Champagne, Burgundy and hard-to-find, aromatic Italian whites. These are the wines winemakers, who often look to the Old World classics for inspiration, crave, yet previously couldn’t access within an hour’s drive. Disco Ranch is “great for visitors,” said Mast, “but for the people that live in the valley, she carries the kind of stuff they want to drink.”

European wines are Lamer’s specialty. She’s been selling them for 40 years and knows how to sniff out a value. The most popular corner of her store is the Cheap & Delicious section. “I kind of zone in on great deals,” said Lamer. “I really want something that is classic, but most importantly, overdelivers in a big way.” 

Just like she does. 

(SF Chronicle)

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Low Gap Road looking east (Jeff Goll)

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My eyes have seen the glory!

Every time I read about General Bragg and the Fort Bragg name change it compels me to pick up a pen. How about Viva 13 or Trienta. There were 13 colonies that started the "first" American Revolution and 13 states that allegedly started a second rebellion commonly known as the American Civil War. To my knowledge there has been no statue bashing (by imbecilic mobsters) or name changing concerning the Revolutionary war (not to mention the French and "Indian" war). But the imbeciles really went gonzo over the Civil War, screaming Racist about every other city and every white southern citizen and their uncle! Slavery ended in the United States in the 1860s, so why is it still a super "violent issue"?

I don't care about the answer, all I want to do is vote for Trump, Nikki Haley and the Huckabee governor gal or native home boy Leonard Peltier if he appears on the ballot again. But I have no clue if I can still vote and my one stuffed ballot isn't going to win the "selection."

What galls me is the last AVA reference to our heroic General Bragg. He helped tremendously free Texas from Mexico. That's why there's also a Fort Bragg, Texas. So how does some wannabe journalist state that the Confederate States of America (CSA) lost the Civil War due to General Bragg's blunders? To the contrary. Due to the genius of Braxton Bragg and his West Point classmate and fellow professor (at the Point) General Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy nearly won that war when those two great generals had Washington DC surrounded on three sides in 1863. The only Yankee escape route was through the Potomac and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, the Confederate Navy was its weakness, except for the battleship Alabama (that my great-granddad sailed on). The Alabama was busy in the Pacific at that most vital time or our present-day flag would be the Stars and Bars! Viva La Revolution!

After basically "double handedly" annexing what? California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas into the United States, General's Bragg's and Lee's names are now subject to constant "statue bashing." Only in this nowadays America. A place where criminals like Faulder and Eyster can frame me and where Alvin "Bragg" can an attempt to frame President Donald Trump. Get real Alan. Trump has been fine tooth comb investigated for years before he was Presidentm while he was president, and now. Why does Trump always come away clean? Because he's an honest (odd for a President) patriotic American who maybe has rocks in his head to even want that pinko job for four more years!

Yours Truly,

Detective David Youngcault Giusti, a Crow native considering a run for the House of Representatives on the Republican ticket!

California Men's Colony East

San Luis Obispo

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SEABISCUIT'S LEGACY DOCUMENTARY gets $7500 grant from Mendocino County to film at Ridgewood Ranch Home of Seabiscuit

by Leigh Anne Lindsey

Seabiscuit’s Legacy, A Feature Documentary Film, Is A Recipient Of This Year’s Enrichment Grant From The Community Foundation Of Mendocino County

Willits, Mendocino County, CA Apr 18, 2023 — Sea Storm Studios, Inc. is proud to announce that its documentary project, Seabiscuit's Legacy, was awarded a $7500 Enrichment Grant from the Community Foundation of Mendocino County. These funds will help Sea Storm film a portion of the documentary at Ridgewood Ranch, home of Seabiscuit, near Willits, in Mendocino County. The Community Enrichment Grant is an annual, competitive grant from the Community Foundation. Filming is slated for this summer.

"We are pleased to contribute to this project which captures a unique moment in history and honors the spirit of our county," said Megan Barber Allende, President/CEO of the Community Foundation. 

According to the film’s producer and writer, Leigh Anne Lindsey (who has deep roots in Mendocino County), “Seabiscuit's Legacy is a heartwarming journey that weaves a story of courage, hope, and healing from past to present, illuminating the healing connection between horses and humans. It starts with the transformation of Seabiscuit when a new trainer, Tom Smith, helps the underdog horse become a champion which thus inspires a nation suffering from The Great Depression.” 

The film will showcase how, in the present, adults and children with disabilities are enriched through therapeutic horsemanship activities in the Seabiscuit Therapeutic Riding Center at Ridgewood. Lindsey, who conceived the storyline, is working with Nadia Jordan (director/producer from Los Angeles) and Dr. John Osborne (writer/producer from Mendocino) to bring this inspirational film to audiences around the world.

Tim Cooper, Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation's President, states, "We're proud to be the fiscal manager of this project. The documentary will be a testament to the enduring legacy of Seabiscuit in the Willits community. At the Foundation, we work diligently to preserve that history and conserve the land for future generations. The portion of donations we receive through the funding of this project will help support our endeavors." 

The film also benefits the Seabiscuit Therapeutic Riding Center and the Frank R. Howard Foundation, a non-profit healthcare organization in Willits; each will get a percentage of the net profits from the sale of the film. To make a tax-deductible donation to this project, go to 

"We are adding the $10, 000 in crowdfunding support we received last Fall,” explains Lindsey, “to the grant to pay for the shoot at Ridgewood. We’re still seeking funds for editing, post-production, marketing, and distribution. When you contribute to this documentary film project, you are helping all three non-profits!”

The Enrichment Grant & The Community Foundation

The program is made possible by the Community Endowment Fund, a collection of gifts from individuals dedicated to the enhancement and sustainability of local nonprofits. These contributions foster healthy communities, vibrant arts programs, economic and leadership opportunities, and projects that honor Mendocino County's unique sense of place and the natural environment. For more information, visit 

The Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation

The Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, formed in 2004 in Willits to preserve and protect the cultural legacy of Ridgewood Ranch, the home and final resting place of the legendary racehorse, Seabiscuit. The SHF works closely with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Mendocino Land Trust and others, through an historic preservation management plan which seeks historic designations and preserves the buildings and landscapes that constitute Seabiscuit's and owner Charles S. Howard's legacy. 


Sea Storm Studios, Inc.

Sea Storm Studios is a film and audio production company located in The Sea Ranch, CA. Founder Leigh Anne Lindsey, is also part owner (along with four siblings) of the Southwestern portion of the original home of Seabiscuit. For more details go to or email 

Sizzle Reel On Vimeo


The concept for Seabiscuit's Legacy came to me years ago when filming the celebration of the restoration of Seabiscuit's Stud Barn in late 2014; here, almost 10 years later, that vision is finally coming to fruition. 

Sea Storm is located in the Sea Ranch on the North Sonoma coast at 1000 Annapolis Road above LyndonDesign Gallery and The Wine Shop. I founded the firm and am the film's producer/writer. 

More about Leigh Anne Lindsey: I have a black & white horse named Jax at the Sea Ranch Equestrian Center, I volunteer at KGUA public radio in Gualala as producer, editor, and show host, and I'm part-owner (along with 4 siblings) of the Southwestern portion of the *original home of Seabiscuit* in Mendocino County. I have been a full-time Sea Rancher since 2017 and have driven the Hwy 128 corridor since 1980 when our parents purchased the Mendocino County property which they named “Linholme Ranch & Vineyards” (we have 22 acres of Cabernet grapes and sell the produce to other vineyards in both Mendocino and Sonoma counties. We were also selling our olive oil in both counties as well, but that will be ending this year as we are going to sell that in bulk going forward. For about 2 decades, I lived and worked in Silicon Valley.) 

Producer, Film & Voice, Sea Storm Studios & KGUA Radio | 707-888-6844 | PO Box 75 The Sea Ranch

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Kleinsorge, Torres, Zarate

DALE KLEINSORGE, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

KENNETH TORRES, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, syringe, suspended license, probation revocation.

MARIA ZARATE, Ukiah. Domestic abuse, assault with deadly weapon not a gun.

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Message #2 April 19th, 2023. Spent a very productive day at Adventist Health in Ukiah. Now have a primary care physician assigned to me. Many tests, following an extensive interview plus a breathing treatment, and the fact is that treatment is now being done for COPD. Followed that with an ECHO at cardiology, and later, lab work and a chest x-ray at the Pavilion. Increased meds and more inhaler puffs prescribed. More appointments in May. Happy that the situation is defined and corralled!

Craig Louis Stehr

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BETSY CAWN [comment on fire retardant]: “IT WORKS” — you bet it does. Several years ago, CalFire changed its approach to stopping wildfires before they grow, giving full authority to the regional Emergency Command Centers to immediately deploy aircraft and other resources to the smallest of fires responded to by local firefighter agencies. If you watch “Flightradar24” when a call goes out (several local Facebook pages report every call that is issued, and of course “Watchduty” picks up those calls — and monitor the live real-time communications between pilots and the dispatch center, and each other), within minutes spotter planes, water-bearing helicopters, and Very Large Aircraft (as big as former airline jets) are in the air and on their way to the location. As soon as local containment efforts are successful, they return to their bases, but if they arrive and the incident is not yet contained they begin their orchestrated intervention efforts, not letting up until the area is deemed safe for repopulation or other remedial actions are initiated.

2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 wildfire starts in Lake County, including a highly threatening conflagration that occurred on the east-facing Point Lakeview cluster of denizens in an area with 4-inch ancient hydrants, narrow roads, one-way ingress and egress from the Point Lakeview Road, hazardous winds, and thickly vegetated steep slopes descending to the lake — which was documented by people on the opposite side in spontaneous video posts on Facebook — was squelched by the audacious and highly skilled pilot of the new Sikorsky water-bearing chopper stationed at the Boggs Mountain CalFire facility, as monitoring aircraft and ground support teams wrestled with conditions including the Sheriff’s mandated evacuation of the entire area including Jago Bay and a large portion of the Kelseyville Riviera subdivision (before quickly halving the designated “zone” identified in the Zonehaven map by the local OES) and chaotic transmission of that information to residents.

While we also had the peripheral impacts of the mostly-Napa/Sonoma County “Lightning” fire, and some of the subsequent “Glass” — both in the southern-most territories of vast wildland tracts and out-back occupants — our county fire protection districts, law enforcement and public service responders are so well coordinated that their actions, combined with the high levels of suppression resources, demonstrated the benefits of that new approach.

We also look closely at the impacts of unavoidable side effects, such as the addition of phosphorus-based dry retardant materials in already nutrient-rich Clear Lake and vital water resources generated by deeply forested watersheds, serving six surrounding counties and critical for their industries and domestic populations. The benefits clearly outweigh the negative impacts and are well worth the downsides.

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DONALD CRUSER ON ABBIE HOFFMAN: Just a few words about my two distant encounters with Abbie Hoffman. When I graduated from college in 1969 I went to Chicago to spend a year working as a Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA). It was an exciting time to be in Chicago since among other things it was a year after the riots at the Democratic Party convention and the trial of some of the demonstrators was going on. The trial was a circus with such things happening as the handcuffing and gagging of Black Panther leader Bobbie Seale. Abbie Hoffman was a defendant.

My first encounter with Abbie was when I went down to a small concert hall to see and hear the great old blues singer Howling Wolf. During one of his breaks Abbie got up to speak, or I should say “try to speak”? He was so messed up on drugs that he was incapable or uttering a coherent sentence. This was the 60’s after all.

The second contact came when I got it into my head that it would be interesting to watch the trial for a day as a spectator. My girlfriend and I got up at 4 am and were down there standing in line by 5:30. Even at that we were 11th and 12th in line with only 12 seats available. But we were in so we stood there in line until just before 9 or 10 when they were scheduled to let us into the courtroom. Then Abbie showed up to go in and for some reason was allowed to bring in two of his friends. This bumped me and my friend out of the gallery. I never went back since it wouldn’t have been wise to jump the barrier and kick Abbie’s ass right there in the courtroom.

* * *


* * *

BYRON SPOONER is the author of 𝘙𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘜𝘱 𝘢 𝘉𝘪𝘴𝘰𝘯: 𝘚𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴 (𝘈𝘯𝘥𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘵 𝘈𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘗𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴, 2021). He is retired as the Literary Director of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library after 21 years. There he produced literary events, including a weekly poetry series featuring a diverse array of California poets, with co-producer San Francisco Poet Laureate Emeritus Jack Hirschman; three San Francisco International Poetry Festivals; and Latinx and Vietnamese poetry festivals. 

He founded and edited 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘙𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸, the Friends’ literary blog, where he wrote about books, music, film and bookselling. His writing has been published widely and won Honorable Mention in the 2021 𝘋𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘺𝘥𝘰𝘶𝘯 𝘐𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘍𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘗𝘳𝘪𝘻𝘦 competition for his story 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘤𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘢𝘵 𝘙𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘚𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘯𝘴 and was nominated for a 𝘗𝘶𝘴𝘩𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘗𝘳𝘪𝘻𝘦 for 𝘌𝘭𝘷𝘪𝘴 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘬𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩. 

He served on the San Francisco Poet Laureate Nominating Committee and the 𝘖𝘯𝘦 𝘊𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘖𝘯𝘦 𝘉𝘰𝘰𝘬 Selection Committee of the SFPL and on the Boards of 𝘓𝘪𝘵𝘲𝘶𝘢𝘬𝘦, California Public Library Advocates and the Advisory Board of the Beat Museum. He is also an adventurer, a naturalist and a partner in 𝘈𝘯𝘥𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘵 𝘈𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘴, brokering literary and cultural archives to university libraries. From 1982 to 1996 he owned and operated 𝘉𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘴 𝘙𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥, an award-winning outlaw bookstore in San Rafael, California. Back in the seventies he was a founder, editor and writer of 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘢𝘱𝘦𝘳 𝘛𝘪𝘨𝘦𝘳, the underground newspaper of the New Jersey Student Union. He lives with his wife, writer Judith Ayn Bernhard, in San Francisco.

* * *

SHE WENT TO THE SHOPPING MALL every day to escape the sound of breathing. In the mall the music was a cradle and all the manikins in the windows wore clothes as bland as puree. She found herself, like the rest of the people there, speaking in hushed tones in reverence to the mall, intoxicated by the sheer size and force of the steel and stone and glass and endless displays of things to buy. But she wasn’t very similar to these people at all.

— Cookie Mueller

* * *

* * *


It gives me no pleasure to report that the Oakland Athletics -- who currently have a 3-9 record with an OPS of .655 and an ERA of 7.54 -- have all the pieces in place to challenge the 1962 New York Mets for most losses in a 162-game season. The Mets, in their first season, lost 120, and it remains to be seen if the A's can conjure the same lovable loser mythology that allowed those Mets to achieve a certain legendary status in the game's history. More likely, Oakland's unique combination of a spin-the-wheel roster and apathetic ownership will go down as more sad than playful.

— Tim Keown (April 13, 2023)

Note: since this was written the A's lost another seven straight games and now sport the worst record in baseball at 3-16.

* * *


[1] This season started - and it looks like it's going to end - with Draymond Green's brutish behavior hurting the entire team. Given how Green abuses the referees on a regular basis, why would the League give him the benefit of the doubt? There are many NBA players who play with passion and intensity. Green apparently can't differentiate between playing with passion & intensity, and inflicting all-about-me tantrums and brutishness that accomplish nothing but hurting the team. He has become an embarrassment and an obstacle to the team's fortunes. I really hope Bob Myers doesn't host Green in the stands during Game 3 like he did in 2016 when Green's suspension cost the Warriors a championship. This season began with a Green buzz-kill, and now it's ending with a Green buzz-kill. I hope he opts for free agency.

[2] It's quite possible grabbing someone's ankle as he is trying to run could cause a bad sprain or even a broken bone. If that had happened, it would be a completely different narrative ... wouldn't it? I've seen games where someone yanked an elbow on purpose and injured a player. As the league said: Green is also getting punished NOT just for this one incident ... but, for a HISTORY of behaviors. Interesting.

[3] Apparently Green did have an X-ray after the game ... to determine if the pain in his ankle was a sprain. Bet y'all didn't know THAT

[4] What was Sabonas even thinking? "Uh, sorry, Mr. Green, I was only joking. You know, pulling your leg?"

* * *

The Golden Gate Bridge 50th anniversary celebration (1987): estimated population of people on the bridge was around 800,000, causing the bridge to sag seven feet because of unprecedented weight. (photo by Doug Atkins, via Lars Liljeberg)

* * *


Overcounting the Overdose Deaths

by Eva Chrysanthe

In April 1979, KRON-TV descended upon Point Reyes Station to interview residents about the Pulitzer Prize that the tiny Point Reyes Light newspaper had won for its coverage of the violent Synanon cult. The town’s residents seemed charmed and surprised that a television crew would take interest in them, even if it was only because an unmonitored drug rehabilitation cult up the road had abused its patients and viciously beaten and terrorized local farmers and other residents for years.

But the KRON coverage wasn’t about what the Point Reyes Light had actually exposed, merely about the Pulitzer going to such a small paper. So the news crew got the obligatory shot of old trucks, the pipe-smoking young publisher, and a man riding a chestnut-colored horse down the main drag. (That main street, which is now packed with luxury vehicles every weekend, was then barely dotted with a few old cars.)

How quickly the victory of the Pulitzer faded. Publisher David Mitchell later suffered from bouts of depression that took him out of commission for weeks at a time. Synanon leaders were never fully charged for their sickening violence. And then quietly, with little notice, Synanon’s violent approach to drug treatment was allowed to morph into equally abusive clones, including one of the largest, most exploitative drug rehab organizations in the country: Cenikor.

Looking back, one of the ironies of the 1979 KRON coverage is the interview with one of the local deputies, who remarked that the attention from the Pulitzer might bring more tourists to Point Reyes Station, which would mean more work for law enforcement. The Marin County Sheriff at the time, Louis Mountanos, had in fact “turned down” some work: Mountanos had not only routinely turned a blind eye to the violence and abuse that was ongoing at the Synanon properties, he had remained an enthusiastic supporter of Synanon. So had the Governor of California; the local Pacific Sun newspaper, (where the future Senator Barbara Boxer had recently worked as a reporter); and the County’s Board of Supervisors.

* * *

Fast-forward 44 years: I had been told that Mark Dale, the termed-out former Chair of Marin County’s embattled “Alcohol and Other Drug” Advisory Board and the self-proclaimed co-founder of the curious “coalition-not-a-nonprofit” RxSafe Marin, was trolling the obituaries and memorials of young people who died of overdoses.

He did so, I was told, not in an effort to make an accurate count of the County’s overdose deaths, but to recruit their grieving parents onto his lilywhite, pro-law-enforcement AOD Board. By his own statement, the AOD Board had been a major project of Mr. Dale’s for nearly ten years. And it is clear from the videos that he remained its de facto head, even encouraging the other members to change the bylaws so that he could remain on the Board.

But as much as I found Mr. Dale unethical, the suggestion that he was trolling memorials seemed too outrageous to be true.

In trying to investigate the embattled Board’s processes, I had to file a public records act request for recordings of its meetings, which, in this case, was a lengthy process in itself. At first, I was provided only a handful of meeting recordings. Eventually, the County provided all of 2022’s recorded meetings on the website, but nothing prior to that year. (Although it was not publicly posted by the County, I also received the October 2021 and December 2021 recordings from the County.)

But in the 2022 meeting recordings alone, there was evidence of the outrageous claim: by his own statements in several meetings, Mark Dale had “reached out” to still-grieving parents shortly after the overdose deaths of their children. And by the publicly recorded statements of at least two of the mothers themselves, (one of whom stated that she had at first resisted his entreaties), the mothers, in their grief, had come aboard.

Like a less-dashing version of Ryan O’Neal in Paper Moon, Mr. Dale was trolling obituaries and death notices, but instead of locating widows as sales targets for a fake bible-selling business, Dale was selling something more complicated. He was selling himself as a new kind of guru: half motivational speaker, half grief counselor. And, for pay or not, he was not-so-subtly selling a new iteration of the old War on Drugs.

Mark Dale didn’t see law enforcement and the criminalization of substance abuse as part of the problem, as many medically trained addiction specialists view it. Mr. Dale saw law enforcement as important partners, and he made a point of attending public meetings around the county where he repeated that claim to wealthy white people. He didn’t mind being the only civilian in a meeting to argue against civilian oversight of the sheriff. He didn’t hesitate to contradict the many health professionals who protested the new policy of involuntary psych meds at the County jail.

And whenever police were found to be savagely beating a defenseless Mexican gardener, or violating some other basic point of decency and law, Mark Dale was there to defend the police. To Mr. Dale, the likes of Joanne Segovia, Derek Chauvin and the Oakland Riders weren’t indications that American policing was in any kind of profound crisis; they were just outliers.

And it was in this capacity that Mr. Dale claimed he had co-founded a curious entity called “RxSafe Marin” which has since had to be re-named “OD Free Marin”. When it was still RxSafe Marin, I called the organization seeking information on Mr. Dale’s credentials. To my surprise, the person who answered the phone was a County HHS staffer.

“Why,” I asked the staffer last May, “is a nonprofit like RxSafe Marin being staffed by County employees?”

I subsequently received an email response from County staffer Anita Renzetti:

“Hi, Eva: Sorry it’s confusing. Despite our ‘.org’ URL, RxSafe Marin is a coalition. The County is the backbone for operations related to the coalition, and RxSafe does not have nonprofit status. If you want a bio for Mark Dale, please ask him directly.”

But if Mark Dale was the “co-founder” of RxSafe Marin, shouldn’t they have his bio readily available? Was he not the co-founder? Or were they simply dissociating themselves from Mr. Dale? Was RxSafe Marin an example of one of the the vaunted “public-private partnerships” that the County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Matt Willis, promoted as a solution during the County’s Board of Supervisors meetings?

If anyone at RxSafe Marin knew the answers to any of these questions, they weren’t going to tell me, the unofficial face of the schmuck public. But it does appear that identifying as a “coalition” and not a nonprofit meant that RxSafe Marin didn’t have to provide the meager transparency that a 501(c)3 non-profit is obliged to document for public view. And all of that sounded very possibly like a great way to disappear a lot of money that was expected to come down the pike in the form of opioid settlement cash. But what concerned me just as much was the fuzzy relationship between RxSafe Marin and local law enforcement.

Whether Mr. Dale was the most naïve person on the planet to believe that police were important partners in reducing overdose deaths, or was being paid to maintain such naïvete, I could not say. But to watch the videos is to understand both how Mr. Dale had manipulated the AOD Board, and why the recordings had not been made public without a CPRA request.

On video, the Alcohol and Other Drugs Advisory Board members repeatedly demonstrated, after years of Dale’s tutelage, their lack of understanding of the issues, their lack of training even in the Brown Act; and their deep racial biases. The Board lashed out against members of the public who dared to question their assumptions and inwardness, and the Board engaged in repeated histrionic verbal attacks on the County’s Health and Human Services Director, a Black U.S. Navy Veteran, for her effort to bring the County up to a more modern standard by merging the AOD Board with the Behavioral Health Board.

And there was something else on the videos. A clear admission from Mr. Dale that he had willfully inflated the official count of overdose deaths in the County. Mr. Dale didn’t make that admission just once; he made it repeatedly, assertively, and he insisted that it was the right thing to do.

Mr. Dale’s statement during the January 2022 meeting stands out in particular for its baldness: “It’s been part of my methodology in the data to include the out-of-county deaths. Because it’s huge.”

He then addressed one of the mothers who lost her son not to an overdose, but to issues that occurred at a rehab center. “Gail, you lost Harrison down south. How many parents have I dealt with whose children did not die in Marin? So they’re not technically supposed to be part of our number. Well, they’re part of my dataset. And they will be as long as I’m kickin’, because I was getting a lot of shit in the beginning because it was anecdotal. Nope! Gail, was it anecdotal that you lost Harrison down south? It’s not anecdotal. It’s real.”

Harrison’s death was real and it was tragic. But it was still not what should be counted as an overdose death, and certainly not as an overdose death that had occurred in Marin County. Gail Dunnett, who had been understandably public about her son’s death in order to shine a light on the rehab industry, looked somewhat uncomfortable to be put on the spot by Dale on this particular point. She mumbled, “Yeah, he grew up here.”

Dale then continued: “Yeah. And you’re here. This is Marin family. Okay?”

To be clear, Ms. Dunnett’s son didn’t die of what we commonly perceive as an accidental overdose. Per the Orange County Register, Harrison Dunnett was at a rehab center in Orange County where he “was prescribed a lethal stew of drugs that depressed his breathing and killed him.”

It wasn’t the illicit drug, but the under-regulated rehab industry that had killed him. But identifying Harrison’s death accurately – as the result of a dysfunctional industry – wouldn’t help fund the new War on Drugs. Calling it for what it was wouldn’t help anyone argue for more cops, more busts, more Sheriff Special Investigative Units, more jails, more prisons, more detention centers, more DEA “special agents”.

To be honest about how Harrison died meant acknowledging the reality that we as a country, and our health care system as an industry, don’t know how to take care of people who are suffering from addiction. That acknowledgement would be the necessary first step to building a more effective approach.

But why didn’t anyone on the Board point out that Mr. Dale’s willful inflation of the numbers was unethical? Mr. Dale hadn’t just overcounted the death of Harrison. Dale bragged about including other out-of-county deaths repeatedly, even in meetings that were attended by staff from the County’s Office of Legal Counsel and by the then-President of its Board of Supervisors, Katie Rice. None of them dared to contradict Mr. Dale, even though they clearly had a responsibility to at least note that his deliberate manipulation of data was both unethical and misleading.

In what universe does a dysfunctional Advisory Board, whose long-term former Chair repeatedly admits to falsifying data with no protest from the Board itself get to maintain its status as a Board? The answer is simple. That universe is Marin County, which, though lacking the Faulknerian excuse of poverty, has at least as many secrets and lies as any Southern Gothic.

* * *

If I had any hope for this Board, it was Gail Dunnett. She seemed to be the only person on the Board who understood and cared about the very serious dysfunction in drug rehab centers. But except for some sympathy, there was little that the Board seemed to offer her. Mr. Dale himself had no actual expertise in any of this – his background, as one of the CPRA’s indicated, was apparently in marketing and little more. How this qualified him to be the co-founder of RxSafe Marin, or to serve on any variety of Marin’s probation boards dealing with “equity” and juvenile offenders, was anyone’s guess, particularly when Mr. Dale went out of his way to mock the very notion of equity in Board meetings.

Dunnett maintained an unpretentious presence on the board that belied the fact that she runs a successful business and her resumé includes time at Bain. She does not seem very Bain-like. Dunnett usually attended the AOD Board’s monthly Zoom meetings slumped into a chair at her chic kitchen table, looking like a younger cousin of Chrissie Hynde in a variety of expensive sweaters. She was the only Board member who, while the rest were professing lavish, near cult-like praise of Mark Dale during an “appreciation”, offered more tempered praise and asked him a genuinely practical question:

“I think it would be helpful for you to maybe share with us some of the contacts and sources of information so that we can continue to get that information… about what’s going on in the County.”

Her question surprised me, as it suggested that in the many years that both Dale and Dunnett had served on the Board, he had kept his methods secretive enough that she had to ask him that in a public, recorded meeting.

“Do you have something in mind?” Dale asked.

“Something in mind? Well, just, what’s going on with the deaths, and the cause of them, and all the data you get.”

Mr. Dale paused. Then, “So, it’s incredibly organic.”

I found myself pausing the video. Organic? What did that mean?

Dale continued: “I usually get notified by text or phone call or someone sends me an email, ‘did you hear about so-and-so or such-and-such’. So that’s definitely a part of it. If you go to the master log over at the Sheriff Coroner’s Division, it’s a huge book–”, and here Mark Dale began an unusual gesticulation with both hands, they were parrying at one another, in imitation of nothing that looks like reviewing data in a logbook at all, although it did look like a man struggling to explain himself when asked an uncomfortable question.

And then Mr. Dale pressed his fingers to his temples, in an uncanny if unintentional imitation of Johnny Carson’s turbanned “Carnac the Magnificent”, who could guess otherwise unknowable answers: “…and you’re able to look, and I mean it takes time, mental effort to go through this dog-gone thing,” and here Mark Dale’s hands left his temples and begin parrying with themselves again, the same bout of untranslatable body language.

But it didn’t take mental effort. I had gone to the Coroner’s office many times to review data from the same logbooks, and it was just a matter of reading the information in the tables, and tabulating the results. There should not have been any interpretation, unless you were pulling the full Coroner’s report, but in that case, the primary cause of death was still going to be the same. It was neither rocket science, nor art.

And then, amazingly, Mark Dale said:

“And there’s so many that I’ve not included in this mix because we do have a suicide problem in this County, the bridge is part of our county,” Mr. Dale continued. “Guns are a real problem in this county that I would like to see us tackle more, but that’s not under the purview of the AOD Board, y’know? So, um, the way that people lose their life. But I got you, Gail. I will, if I’m able to share it forward, y’know.”

Wait, “y’know” what, exactly? But it didn't matter; no one asked Mark Dale to explain further.

Mark Dale had already indicated that he was overcounting the opioid deaths, but here was his open admission that his count has routinely omitted suicides. And there was no way for anyone to discern which of the suicides he had deliberately “not included.” His methodology, which may or may not have been used by RxSafe Marin and now OD Free Marin, remains secretive.

Why would someone want to artificially inflate the overdose death data in the County and artificially undercount the suicides? If you’re guessing the ability to steer federal funding and opioid settlement money to an already very wealthy county and away from less wealthy counties for everything from increased drug interdiction to rehab centers, you might not be totally wrong.

* * *

Note that Mark Dale said he was pulling data from the Sheriff Coroner Division. That also introduced a degree of error and bias.

Though it may seem incredible, California remains one of only three states that doesn’t require coroner offices to remain independent of its sheriffs. And in Marin County, the Coroner isn’t a physician, or even a nurse.

That’s because the State of California doesn’t require Coroners to have any medical background or even a single class in biological sciences. That means that if your only training was watching “CSI” or listening to true crime podcasts, you would not be disqualified. In fact, you would not even need that.

For understandable reasons, the criticism of California’s sheriff-controlled coroner’s offices has focused largely on the inherent conflicts of interest that arise when people are killed by law enforcement officers. Much of the reporting on AB 1608, a reform bill to separate coroner offices from sheriff offices, focused on the death of US Navy veteran Angelo Quinto. Mr. Quinto, a slight man who was experiencing a mental health crisis, died after an Antioch police officer allegedly knelt on his neck for an extended period of time (the officers had mysteriously turned off their body cameras during this incident.) The Contra Costa County Coroner later “determined” that Mr. Quinto’s death was due to “excited delirium”, a diagnosis that the American Medical Association has denounced. Separately, the American Psychiatric Association concluded that the term “excited delirium” is disproporationately applied to racial and ethnic minorities, and that the term is “too non-specific to meaningfully describe and convey information about a person.”

But Sheriff control of the Coroner can create other conflicts of interest aside from “officer-involved” deaths. The Marin County Sheriff-Coroner logbook is only a public record for those who can afford the time to travel to the Sheriff Office and view the book between 8 am and 4 pm Monday through Friday, when most people are at work. Even though deaths are a matter of public record, the records have not been digitized.

Marin County’s system is archaic and lacking in transparency. But whom does it benefit? And whose deaths are misrecorded? On a visit to the Sheriff-Coroner office earlier this year, I realized that the location of one of the deaths had been miscategorized. Susan Yoder, who died on December 9, 2021 in San Rafael’s police-run, abusive “SSA”, (which was in reality little more than a homeless internment camp under a polluting freeway that had no bathrooms or running water), is listed in the logbook as having died not in that camp, but more coyly: “friend’s Residential Tent San Rafael”.

The Marin County Sheriff-Coroner’s willful failure to record accurately the location masks the liability of both the City of San Rafael and its Police Department, which has a terrifying record of abusing lower-income people, including the unhoused population.

But the only reason I recognized that discrepancy is because I was already aware of the circumstances of Ms. Yoder’s death, after I submitted a request for information from the San Rafael Police Department. For the countless others, I must rely on the information provided by the Sheriff-controlled Coroner. And our Sheriff is hardly without bias when it comes to protecting the County, its municipalities, and other law enforcement agencies.

The current system forces us to rely on the non-medically trained Chief Deputy Coroner to report the primary cause of death accurately. Because increased federal funding may accrue to law enforcement agencies for drug interdiction based on reported overdose deaths, and based on whether those deaths are categorized as accidential or suicidal, we are essentially asking the Sheriff to act on its honor, and we already know that such a thing is impossible for an agency with so much money so much power, and so little accountability.

* * *

It’s been a year since I first started requesting information from the County about the AOD Board. I hesitated for that period to write about it, in large part because Mark Dale had drawn these grief-stricken mothers like a kind of human shield around himself, and thus around his unethical and manipulative conduct.

It was a bad exchange. He made them look dumb, but they made him appear more powerful than he is.

What I didn’t know last year is that Mr. Dale’s particular schtick wasn’t limited to Marin County, or even California. There was a whole series of local movements that either drew in or recruited grieving mothers to promote a War on Drugs approach to the issue.

But it was the War on Drugs approach that had created the conditions for their childrens’ deaths. And that War on Drugs was going to take entire neighborhoods of Black and Latino people down with them all over again. And it was certain to make police departments even more brutal and corrupt than they became during the last War on Drugs.

We who are middle-aged had been “tweens” when Synanon was finally disbanded (only to see it morph into the also-deadly Cenikor.) We had turned sweet sixteen the year that Nancy Reagan descended on Longfellow Elementary School in Oakland and uttered the words “Just say No” for the first time. We had seen this all before. We knew how it turned out.

So why was my generation – Mark Dale, Gail Dunnett and the even older group on the AOD Advisory Board – making the same mistake twice?

(Next: The New New New (This Time It’s Different!) War on Drugs, Part III: The Alcohol and Other Drugs Advisory Board Strikes Back at the County’s HHS Director)

* * *

R. Crumb drew this at age 17

* * *

STANDING IN LINE at a bus stop, a woman in a tight skirt was trying to get on the bus but realized her skirt was too tight to allow her leg to come up to the height of the first step of the bus. 

Slightly embarrassed and with a quick smile to the driver, she reached behind to unzip her skirt a little, thinking that this would give her enough slack to raise her leg. She tried to take the step, only to discover that she couldn't. 

With another little smile to the driver, she again reached behind to unzip a little more and was still unable to take the step. 

After becoming quite frustrated and embarrassed, she tried yet again to unzip her skirt more to allow more legroom to reach the first step of the bus. 

About this time, a large Texan who was standing behind her picked her up easily by the waist and placed her gently on the first step of the bus. 

The woman went ballistic, turning to the would-be Samaritan yelling, "How dare you touch my body! I don't even know who you are!" 

The Texan smiled and drawled "Well ma'am, normally I would agree with you. But after you unzipped my fly three times I kinda figured we were friends.” 

* * *

“THE ANSWER as to why we are failing on the global scale is that Joe Biden is demented. The president belongs in assisted living, not in the Oval Office. The White House is likely run as an assisted-living facility for him. He gets oriented to time, place and person, then gets his script for the day, including instructions on when to stop talking and what to avoid discussing. He takes a variety of meds for conditions hidden from the public.” 

— Ruth Cohen

* * *


Russia launched 60 air strikes in the past 24 hours as fierce fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, especially in and around the beleaguered city of Bakhmut.

Germany has delivered a Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, as Kyiv tackles depleted ammunition stocks in a grinding war of attrition against Russian forces.

The Russian military is in a state of decline due to battlefield losses and Western sanctions, but it will still have enough firepower to extend the war in Ukraine, an independent analysis shows.

US officials will look at options to bring Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich back home after a Moscow court denied his detention appeal Tuesday.

* * *

* * *


by Tom Stevenson

Sino-American relations are probably at their lowest point since the 1970s. Scott Kennedy and Wang Jisi argue in Foreign Affairs that one reason for the decline was Covid: diplomatic meetings and cultural exchange programs dwindled, which created ‘echo chambers’ on both sides. That may be true, but pressure was building long before the pandemic.

In the US, talk of the ‘China threat’ is ubiquitous. The Washington Post saw in Xi Jinping’s trip to Moscow last month a plan for a ‘post America’ world order. In Foreign Affairs, John Pomfret and Matt Pottinger accused China of openly ‘preparing for war’: China’s military budget has doubled over the last decade (though it’s still small compared to that of the US). Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal called China ‘an expansionist, tyrannical power whose inordinate ambition endangers freedom worldwide’. The CIA director, William Burns, who recently spoke in the Baker Institute’s Shell Distinguished Lecture Series, was more measured, but said China was ‘not content to only have a seat at the table, it wants to run the table’. In the words of Larry Summers, ‘everyone is a China hawk.’

Meanwhile in Beijing, the Chinese government announced a revision to its foreign policy doctrine last month. China has been busy forging bilateral links with European states, even if the messages coming from Emmanuel Macron, Annalena Baerbock and Christine Lagarde are mixed. When Lula visited Beijing last week, Brazil and China signed fifteen trade agreements, though most seem to be fairly minor (Brazil is considering a hosting a new Chinese semiconductor factory).

In the Middle East, the restoration of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, brokered by China, has increased the chances of a settlement of the brutal war in Yemen, sustained for over seven years by the US and UK. On 12 April, Sinopec acquired a 5 per cent stake in Qatar’s North Field East expansion project. China is also in talks with Saudi Arabia about conducting some of the oil trade between them in yuan. This has been rumored for about a decade. It now looks less improbable. Most of these developments are easy to overstate. But Saudi oil denominated in dollars and ‘protected’ by US military force in the Persian Gulf has been a significant part of US global strategy: a revision to that system would be very significant.

According to Xi, China’s military build-up (the creation of a ‘great wall of steel’) is necessitated by the ‘perils of US hegemony’. In a speech in early March, Xi said that ‘Western countries headed by the United States have implemented containment from all directions.’ The difficulty for US planners is that Xi’s assessment isn’t too far from their own. The secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, said in May 2022 that the US was not looking to ‘block China from its role as a major power’, but he also said it would ‘shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open, inclusive international system.’ One man’s shaped strategic environment is another’s containment.

The decision to prevent China from accessing the technology for the most advanced semiconductors (sixteen nanometers or lower) was made at the highest level of US foreign policy: Blinken, Burns and the national security Adviser, Jake Sullivan. Whatever its practical effects, from China’s perspective it looks, in the words of the Economist, like a US attempt at ‘beating China to death’. Elsewhere the paper described the Biden administration’s ‘attempts to defang the Chinese tiger’ and warned that tigers don’t succumb to the dentist voluntarily.

Historically, China had a nuclear policy of minimum deterrence based on the smallest arsenal possible. But it has been building more silos, more launchers and probably more warheads. Perhaps China is jettisoning minimum deterrence. Or perhaps, as Van Jackson put it in the Asia Times, ‘China has looked into the abyss that is American militarism and decided that minimum deterrence requires a higher minimum.’

In February, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence published its annual threat assessment, which concluded:

China is reorienting its nuclear posture for strategic rivalry with the United States because its leaders have concluded that their current capabilities are insufficient. Beijing worries that bilateral tension, US nuclear modernization and the PLA’s advancing conventional capabilities have increased the likelihood of a US first strike.

US nuclear policy has always been to seek superiority. According to James Acton, the co-director of the Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program, new radar and satellite installations mean China probably now has an early warning system capable of detecting a US first strike. If he’s right, the increased survivability of Chinese nuclear weapons may mean that the chances of the US using its own have been reduced.

Senior American military figures are forever predicting the date of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan (most regional specialists, however, don’t think it’s imminent). Visiting New York at the end of March, the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, said that her country ‘stands on the front lines of democracy’. When she returned to Taipei, China announced three days of military exercises. On 11 April the US conducted its largest ever joint military exercise with the Philippines, involving more than twelve thousand US troops, to test out new access agreements to Philippine military bases announced in February.

The current US government has tried to tie its domestic political projects to a confrontation with China. As Scipio Nasica said of Rome’s relations with Carthage, the existence of an official enemy can have a stimulatory effect on the home state. But the risks are too high. The US military used to have reasonably friendly contacts with the Chinese military. US undersecretaries of defense would visit Beijing. They now travel to Taipei. The hotlines are quiet, the rules unclear. Without a framework for managing Sino-American relations, too much depends on the personal moderation of a few leaders.

* * *

Nostalgia (2016) by Gabriela Sanchez


  1. Stephen Dunlap April 20, 2023

    Bay Area news this morning reports the A’s have inked a deal to buy 49 acres in Las Vegas for their new stadium.

    • Paul Modic April 20, 2023

      I feel bad for Oakland, but I’ll continue to cheer on the A’s (as long as they’re winning, admitted a fair-weather fan) as I continue to cheer on the Raiders, just attaching Las Vegas to the name of a team exudes excitement, though my one visit there 35 years ago I saw the place as a sick ridiculous example of American humanity.
      Also Go Warriors! Tonight…There’s hope, or maybe it’s delusion, well, if they go down I may start rooting for the Kings, what’s not to like with them? And if we beat ’em tonight, what drama!
      (Dray, you went too far and the NBA blew it…)

  2. Grapes April 20, 2023

    Nancy McCleod

    RIGHT on

    Imagine GROUPS of Stakeholders (baby boomers) from across this county who are interested, who could become interested, who need housing, who will need housing…purchasing these properties, and converting them to suit local/OUR needs?

  3. Pico Rivera April 20, 2023

    A half acre would do….

  4. Eric Sunswheat April 20, 2023

    Overcounting the Overdose Deaths

    —>. But why didn’t anyone on the Board point out that Mr. Dale’s willful inflation of the numbers was unethical? Mr. Dale hadn’t just overcounted the death of Harrison. Dale bragged about including other out-of-county deaths repeatedly, even in meetings that were attended by staff from the County’s Office of Legal Counsel and by the then-President of its Board of Supervisors, Katie Rice.

    None of them dared to contradict Mr. Dale, even though they clearly had a responsibility to at least note that his deliberate manipulation of data was both unethical and misleading.

    In what universe does a dysfunctional Advisory Board, whose long-term former Chair repeatedly admits to falsifying data with no protest from the Board itself get to maintain its status as a Board? The answer is simple.

    That universe is Marin County, which, though lacking the Faulknerian excuse of poverty, has at least as many secrets and lies as any Southern Gothic…

    Why would someone want to artificially inflate the overdose death data in the County and artificially undercount the suicides?

    If you’re guessing the ability to steer federal funding and opioid settlement money to an already very wealthy county and away from less wealthy counties for everything from increased drug interdiction to rehab centers, you might not be totally wrong. (Eva Chrysantha)

  5. Marmon April 20, 2023


    I hate to say it, but the only time that community ever became united was when the Feds came in.


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