Pacific Overlook | Warm Day | Max Temps | County Finance | Saracina Ranch | Appreciative Patient | Mendo-a-GoGo | Fall Gathering | Fiber Fair | Guilty & Insane | Ocean View | Mister Clean | Cleek Guilty | Chili Cook-Off | Ed Notes | Jattice Hill | Great Dislike | Lamont Rowlands | Old Wallpaper | Yesterday's Catch | Anonymous Zoomers | Russian River | Luxury Beliefs | DiFi's Seat | $5 Billion | Rothko Painting | Cruel Move | Migrant Crisis | Animal Day | Ukraine | Hope Books | Fosse Nobel | Last Words | Dock View | Can't See | Laugh Inside | Drink It | Chicken Facts | Micromanaged Sport | Gibson Rules | Angry Christian | Cowboy Booty
DRY WEATHER WITH ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES are expected through Friday. Temperatures will then gradually cool during the weekend. A front will move across the area early next week bringing rain and locally gusty southerly winds. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): Today will be the hottest day of this cycle before slight cooling tomorrow, then much cooler starting Sunday. 54F with severe clear this Friday morning on the coast. We now have increased rains forecast for early next week, as always, we'll see.
REAL DEAL ON COUNTY’S FISCAL CRISIS
by Jim Shields
Most folks know that for months, I’ve called for the County to stop talking about the County’s fiscal crisis and start doing something, get to the bottom of the root cause(s), and then take decisive action to solve it.
Recently, Fifth District Supervisor asked me what I think should be done to solve this crisis. This led a few days ago to Williams and I exchanging posts on the Anderson Valley Advertiser website.
What follows are excerpts from those exchanges that provide pretty solid information on what this issue is all about.
Here’s our dialogue:
“Ted, so my question is, assuming that both you and I are correct in our respective narratives, why haven’t you (or any of your colleagues) at least asked former-CEO Carmel Angelo to explain her assertion that ‘she is especially satisfied that the county, facing near bankruptcy in 2010, is today (February 2022) on firm financial footing with $20 million in reserves in the face of an annual budget of $340 million. I leave knowing the situation today is much healthier than when I was appointed CEO in 2010.’”
“There’s a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between you knowing back in 2019 that the County was in big trouble and Angelo’s declaration that it was “on firm financial footing” as she made her exit in 2022. Something’s not right with those pictures.”
“Jim, Angelo’s state of feeling satisfied is irrelevant to me. I’m looking at the numbers, not anyone’s feelings. The county cannot pay market wages to its existing employees, maintain its existing buildings, and maintain its roads with the current revenue. Perfect assessment and tax collection would help, but it won’t completely solve the gap. I’ve studied the budgets from 1965 to the present. It appears one board after the next ignored certain long-term liabilities in order to focus on limited priorities. For example, roads were forgotten. When was there last a long-term plan to maintain the road network? Your original question presumes the county was functioning well under prior officials. I find this wasn’t the case. The bad math was simply hidden.
“On untenable fiscal mess, the cost of doing business has outpaced revenue. This has been long standing. The county has increased wages by deferring maintenance of buildings, infrastructure, software, training, jail, etcetera. Under Prop 13, in a no-growth county, it’s foreseeable that the cost of doing business will increase at greater slope than revenue. One can agree with “hire more people, pay the people more,” but the revenue doesn’t create this possibility.
“Your idea would be good if we truly didn’t know how we got here. We already know. Over decades, officials grew the county beyond what the revenue from 90k people can support. The county will need to reorganize.”
“Ted, the discussion with you centers on the argument that the fiscal footprint of the County is no longer sustainable. This assumes that at some point, even if the currently missing revenues are restored, we’re still in the big hurt locker because, ‘Over decades, officials grew the county beyond what the revenue from 90k people can support. The county will need to reorganize.’ When you talk about the need to reorganize, I’m assuming that means laying off employees, eliminating certain services, selling off assets, including property and buildings, perhaps refinancing certain financial instruments (COPs, POBs), etc. In other words, you’re most likely proposing something similar to a quasi-Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reorganization, sans Bankruptcy Court.’”
“Jim, the county has a long-standing tradition of paying below-market wages, but it was only able to pay these low wages by deferring maintenance. Essentially, the county-operated under a Whac-A-Mole model where certain problems would get addressed by defunding other needs. The underfunded pension debt hasn’t helped, but there isn’t a single cause for the financial woes. It’s cumulative impact from decades of decision-making without sufficient data. When a building was acquired, parkland accepted, a road adopted, the county didn’t plan and put aside dollars for eventual maintenance. Rather, it just kept empire-building. That’s all caught up with us. The local portion of In-Home Supportive Services was paid from general fund because nobody knew the 1991 Realignment could be used. The $27M or so we spend on privatized specialty mental health services isn’t money that could be used for other purposes. In fact, it only flows when services are provided. In my view, past boards didn’t connect the dots between the performance of mental health services and general fund impact of public safety. I say this because standardized data does not exist to compare the performance in our county to any other county, the state or the nation. Dollar for dollar, how does our performance rank? Untreated mental illness and social problems generate general fund expenses under Sheriff, District Attorney, Public Defender, Alternate Defender, Jail and Probation.
“It’ll be a softer landing if the board makes hard decisions well in advance of June 1 (2024). Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
“Bottom line, the revenue growth curve, considering state and federal mandates, is inadequate to meet public expectations. Change the board, change management, blame this person or that person, and the core problem will persist. It’s structural.”
* * *
As far as a timeline for implementing his reorganization plan, Williams told his colleagues at their most recent meeting, “I know you’re probably not happy with me for bringing this up but I’m really worried about we started the year off in a really bad place. We gave some direction (to staff) but we’ve been talking about everything else, acting like we don’t have a financial crisis. I don’t know how you figure the numbers but I write them down and look at them, and go through the position allocation table to see what we can trim. I just don’t see an easy way to get there without a major re-structuring. And the time to do that is not in March or April (of 2024). The time to do it is before the end of the year because it will take time for staff to execute and implement whatever we come up with.”
One over-riding consideration for any reorganization plan is that current negotiations with county unions are stalled out due to this fiscal mess. What Williams terms as “hard decisions” needing to be made, will certainly include some involving employee jobs and wages, and perhaps working conditions.
There’s an awful lot of work to accomplish on this reorganization, and the ride to its destination will be anything but smooth.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)
HAPPY WITH ADVENTISTS
Rick Sacks: There have been a couple incidents in recent months requiring me to visit the emergency room. Each time I was greeted in a warm and unpretentious manner, seen within a couple minutes, dealt with nurses and a doctor and techies promptly and politely. I was very impressed. Thank you to those that cared for my needs.
THANKS to all the birthday well wishers. To those few who still think I should run for Supervisor: Back in 2010, I think it was, I announced that I would run if six people who agreed with my “good government” platform put up $100 each (to cover my filing fees) and agreed to be my campaign committee and kitchen cabinet if elected, I would run. Exactly two (2) people called to say they’d do it. A few more thought that it was a good idea, but wouldn’t personally sign up. That was the end of my campaign. If well-organized and of sufficient critical mass, non-partisan good government groups (GoGos, in local political parlance) can be a positive force for reform and better management in a local context even if in a minority because they can become swing votes. But Mendo prefers shallow political, ideological, personality, niceness and geographical factors in candidate support and good government has never gone over well here. Which is evident in most local elected officials these days.
PACIFIC TEXTILE ARTS - FIBER FAIR
This weekend is the annual fund raiser called Fiber Fair. Donations collected throughout the year are available in the gallery throughout the month of October, but the best variety is shown during First Friday 5-7pm. Then Saturday 10-4, in addition to the gallery, the patio will be filled with everything from fabric to yarn, textile rummage and more at prices you will love! Jackie Wollenberg will be holding her annual rummage sale in the tapestry room and various local artists and vendors, including Rodrigo Sosa Bautista with his Oaxacan rugs, will have booths in the classroom.
Items will be in the gallery during October during regular gallery hours.
Pacific Textile Arts, 450 Alger St, East end of Laurel St in Fort Bragg
KELLEY COAN: GUILTY BUT INSANE
Charged with murdering a coastal neighbor in the Caspar area in May of 2017, defendant Kelley Anne Coan, age 45, formerly of Caspar, was found both guilty last week of murder in the first degree and the special allegation that she used a firearm to inflict death, and not guilty of the same crime and allegation by reason of insanity.
When a defendant is charged with committing a crime, he or she is presumed to have been sane at the time the crime was committed. If a defendant wishes to raise the defense of insanity, he or she pleads both not guilty to the substantive charges, denies any special allegations, and additionally enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
As adopted by the California voters in 1982, the legal test for determining whether a defendant is insane or not -- known as the M’Naghten Rule -- is whether the accused, at the time of the charged crime, “was incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of her act or of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the commission of the offense.”
With defendant Coan and the prosecution waiving their respective rights to a trial by jury on both the guilt and insanity phases, a court trial was convened last week. Based on evidence presented by the prosecution, the court found the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree. The special allegation alleging that the defendant used a firearm to commit the murder was found to be true.
The second phase of the trial was on the question of insanity. All forensic psychiatric professionals who evaluated the defendant (and submitted written reports to the court on that issue) came to the same conclusion – that defendant Coan was indeed incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of her act or of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the commission of the 2017 murder.
After those reports were received as evidence, the court issued its second verdict holding that the defendant was legally insane at the time of the murder.
Thus, the defendant having been found both guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, it is expected that defendant Coan will next be committed to a state hospital, with the maximum period of her hospital confinement to be set at 50 years to life.
That said, if the defendant develops sufficient evidence over time (no less than 180 days in the state hospital up to the end of the life sentence) to show that she has regained her sanity, there is a chance she could win her release upon making an adequate showing in court proceedings that she has been restored and is a fit candidate to be released from the hospital without supervision.
Such a release based on a claim of restoration of sanity and fitness is ultimately a question to be decided by a jury. A jury would be selected, evidence would be presented by both sides, and then a future jury would be asked to decide whether the defendant, as of the time of the trial, continues to pose a danger to the health and safety of others as a result of mental disease, defect, or disorder.
California law presumes that a defendant who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity continues to be a danger to the health and safety of others.
In order to overcome this presumption of dangerousness, a defendant committed to the state hospital for murder has the burden of proving by competent evidence that it is more likely than not that she is no longer a danger.
If the defendant asserts that her sanity has been restored by the administration of prescribed medications, she also carries the burden of proving that she is voluntarily taking the prescribed medicine, that the medicine adequately controls her mental condition and/or impulses, and that she will continue to take that medication if released to an unsupervised environment.
Defendant Coan is expected back in the Mendocino County Superior Court on October 19, 2023 at 9 o’clock in the morning for the court to consider the recommendation of the county's mental health director as to an appropriate placement for the defendant.
The local law enforcement agencies that investigated the underlying murder back in 2017 were the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and the DA’s own Bureau of Investigations.
The attorney who has been directing the prosecution of defendant Coan these many years is Senior Deputy DA Scott McMenomey.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder presided over last week's court trial at which the defendant was found guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
WELCOME TO CRAIG'S HOUSE
Warmest spiritual greetings, It is another sunny day in Ukiah, California. Awoke early to attend to morning ablutions before participating in the monthly "deep cleaning" at the Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center located at 1045 South State Street. Then another gentleman with a permanent bed and I took care of all of the trash and recycling. Pushed on with a garbage bag southward on State Street along the airport fence, collecting all of the litter; it is clean on both sides of South State Street from Thomas Street all the way to the Plowshares Peace & Justice Center. I joked with the shelter staff that we are ready for an open house! Hey, looking this good, we might get the needed budget increase and some choice donations. After all, the homeless are certainly no less members of the Mendocino County community than anybody else. Where's the support everybody? Telephone messages to schedule your private tour are (707) 234-3270. There is a staff person on duty 24/7-365. I am thanking you in advance for your cooperation. Peaceout.
Craig Louis Stehr
A Mendocino County Superior Court jury returned from its efficient deliberations (lasting just one hour) late on Tuesday afternoon to announce it had found the trial defendant guilty as charged.
Defendant Derek Brendan Cleek, age 45, of Willits, was found guilty by jury verdict of being a convicted felon in unlawful possession of a shotgun, being a convicted felon in unlawful possession of 700 rounds of ammunition, being in malicious possession of three destructive devices (“Molotov cocktails”) in a private residence, and being in unlawful possession of materials to make a destructive device with the specific intent to do so.
After the four guilty verdicts were read into the court record and the jury was excused, the defendant was remanded into the custody of the Mendocino County Sheriff with a no bail hold put in place.
The defendant was referred to the Mendocino County Adult Probation Department for a background investigation and a sentencing recommendation based on the four convictions.
Defendant Cleek will be formally sentenced on Tuesday, October 31st in Department A of the Ukiah courthouse at nine o’clock in the morning.
The law enforcement agencies that developed the evidence used to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial were the Willits Police Department (lead agency) and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (assisting agency).
Expert testimony relating to the destructive devices was provided at trial by Battalion Chief Justin Buckingham of the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority.
Special thanks are also extended to the forensic chemists at EFI Global Inc. in Rocklin for their work on analyzing and identifying the flammable liquid used by the defendant in the three destructive devices.
The attorney who presented the evidence to the jury and represented the People’s interests at trial was District Attorney David Eyster.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder presided over the two-day trial. Judge Faulder will also be the sentencing judge at the end of the month.
THE OTHER DAY Trump said one of the big problems with America is the “Marxist liberals,” a basic contradiction, not that Trump cares. The point he's making is that his critics are worse than wrong, they're subversives. They “hate America.” And millions of people believe him.
I WISH I had a dollar for every time I've been called a communist. I've known a lot of communists but I'm not one. I'm a… Wait for it… I'm a socialist. Viva socialista!
COMMUNISTS are an extinct species in America, with socialists on the endangered lists, and excuse the broad brush here, communists would promote the violent overthrow of capitalism, which isn't a bad idea, but what comes afterwards, at least in Russia, is the murders of anyone who gets in the way of the new order. Socialists would vote in the collective ownership off all the large-scale resources and businesses. (Cuba was much less bloody than the Russian Revolution, confining executions pretty much to people who had it coming for doing the dirty work for the Batista dictatorship. China was not a tea party, and although still called a communist country it's really more like fascism — state capitalism.)
RUSSIAN COMMUNISM, on the basis of my half-assed scholarship, would have been much more humane if Lenin had lived longer and if Trotsky had succeeded him. Lenin wanted Trotsky to succeed him, not Stalin, but like lots of intellectuals Trotsky underestimated people less smart than him, and Stalin, “the man of steel,” took power and millions of people, not just in Russia, died. Stalin stalked Trotsky all the way to Mexico where one of his international assassins finished off Trotsky with an ax to the head. A socialist would have argued with Trotsky, not murdered him.
SOCIALISTS used to be common in America. Many areas of Idaho, today a Maga bastion, saw many socialists elected as mayors and city councilmen. Right here in Mendo there were lots of socialists on the coast from the Scandinavian countries, especially Finland. If they'd been dominant, they'd have logged the forests as a cooperative, not looted them like LP and GP did for short-term profit taking, with the profits going to wealthy people far from Mendocino County. A socialist cooperative would have divided the profits among the people who harvested the trees.
AS A KID, I was naturally, instinctively drawn to the left by reading and by my experience working at the lowest rungs of free enterprise. It was hard to miss the built-in cruelties of a system that ground down the millions of people ill-equipped to make their way in it, nevermind the lethally deliberate exclusion of black and brown people.
COMMUNISM was way too tough for me. I couldn't have taken the Czar's family down into that basement and shot them all, down to the last child and even their servants. Intellectually, I understand why Lenin did it, and from all I know about it the order to shoot the Romanovs — all of them — came from Lenin himself. If they'd been allowed to emigrate, to live, they would have served as a rallying center for the thousands of displaced Russian aristocrats, and the many hostile foreign governments, to rally around as the rightful government of Russia. Lenin figured they had to go and they went.
HARRY FISHER was a communist, and a friend of mine. He'd fought for the elected left government in Spain as a member of the Lincoln Brigade, leftwing Americans who'd gone to Spain hoping to stop the insurgent fascists under Franco from overthrowing the legitimate Spanish government. Fisher told me a story about how his unit of Americans had captured a fascist officer, “a kid in his early twenties. The kid kept shouting fascist slogans. Some of our guys wanted to execute him on the spot.. So we took a vote. I voted no, but the majority voted to kill him. ‘They'd do it to us.’ was the main argument for shooting him. I've never forgotten it,” Harry said. The point? Socialists would have voted not to shoot the boy. (The best book on the Spanish Civil War is Orwell's ‘Homage to Catalonia.’)
We lost a great friend from the Philo years most unexpectedly yesterday, Jattice Hill, whose family lived across the road from us at Hollifield's Lumber Company in our old apple orchard. The Hills moved back to Arkansas in the summer of 1966 before her senior year at Anderson Valley High School, but she and my sister remained in close contact all these decades. We each saw her last in 2002, Janice in Arkansas when she made a side trip there from her AMTRAK baseball odyssey; I when she and her brother Joe Hill, a retired special education teacher in Houston, made a trip out to the valley and they stopped by the real estate office to visit. I just talked to her on Facebook on Monday. Thanks to Anna Avery Rosone for letting me know last night, and thanks to Norna Wilkin Van Rossum for calling Janice. Like Janice told me, Jattice is family.
EYSTER & BRENNAN, THE ORIGINS OF THE GREAT DISLIKE
by Mike Geniella (January 30, 2022)
So, DA Dave once again has flipped his “bright lights” on a high-profile animal abuse case on the Mendocino Coast.
Even though DA Dave acknowledged late Friday that he lost his bid in a state Court of Appeal to overturn a judge’s sentencing in the case, he is brashly claiming victory in his “Hail Mary” legal challenge. DA Dave had hoped to embarrass Superior Court Judge Clayton Brennan further publicly, even though the associated costs of the DA’s appeal outweighed the chances.
No doubt DA Dave is righteous in his beliefs about the 2019 case of “Thunder the Wonder Dog.” He has pursued it with as much vigor as any criminal prosecution.
DA Dave is cruising toward a fourth term in office unopposed (the filing deadline is early March), which will make him only one of two DAs in county history to have served as long. Eyster sees this as widespread public endorsement of his prosecution policies, and management of the county’s top law enforcement office. Indeed, the DA’s office is one of the few stable operations in a county facing administrative turmoil, and sharp divisions in leadership.
Yet it is no surprise to long-time observers that DA Dave sometimes gets in the way of his own self. The dog case is an example.
DA Dave believed Judge Brennan mishandled the sentencing and was too lenient on the defendant, who had pled no contest to shooting the dog and leaving it to die in the woods. Thunder survived and returned to health under new care. The defendant in 2020 entered her plea of felony animal cruelty. She was sentenced to unsupervised probation for 36 months, court imposed counseling, and a ban on owning animals during her probation. She also was required to serve 500 hours of community service.
Animal lovers on the coast and across the nation were outraged with the outcome of the widely publicized case. DA Dave knows how to seize on public sentiment about animal abuse and turn it into political force. He publicly launched a follow up attack on Brennan.
The truth, however, is DA Dave’s fight with Brennan is not about Thunder.
It is really about Brennan’s audacious challenge a decade ago of DA Dave’s “marijuana restitution” program. The judge then dared to publicly challenge DA Dave by suggesting the program was tantamount to extorting defendants unless they agreed to pay hefty fines for illegally cultivating marijuana in exchange for lesser criminal charges. DA Dave’s program was unique in the state. It cleared up a court backlog of marijuana cases, and eventually raised $7.5 million for county coffers before voter legalization of marijuana made the program moot.
DA Dave was livid after Brennan’s denunciation from the bench of his pot plea deal program. He then forced the Superior Court to keep Brennan in exile on the coast court by refusing to let him try cases at the courthouse in Ukiah. Other judges reluctantly went along with Brennan’s exile to avoid a public bloodletting.
It is important to remember that DA Dave, even if unopposed in his bid to be re-elected, needs checks and balances. In an era when the news media has collapsed, and there are no longer “court reporters” roaming the halls of the courthouse and monitoring the legal process, DA Dave has free rein.
As it is DA Dave has taken to writing his own press releases and massaging his message in his own style.
Case in point is the official press release on dismissal of DA Dave’s legal challenge by the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District in San Francisco.
DA Dave claims victory, and he has the audacity to pretend he was interviewed in a press release he wrote himself.
“When asked for comment on today’s decision,” he writes, ‘‘While my attorneys and I respect the decision of the Court of Appeal, that decision will not affect the safeguards that I put in place last year. Those safeguards will remain in place as a long as I have any say in the matter.”
Perhaps the bright lights need to be kept on DA Dave as he struts unopposed into a fourth term.
* * *
And further back, in 2015 "Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object"
October 6th 1916 the Ukiah Dispatch Democrat reported that the new-to-Mendocino-County Goodyear Redwood Lumber Co. had purchased the former Kenny property at Cuffey's Cove including the old apron chute. The Goodyear family, in the lumber business several places around the US had recently purchased the L.E. White Lumber Co. for $3.5 million. The California show was run by this man, Lamont Rowlands whose wife was the former Josephine Goodyear. The new company ran the large mill and logging operation for another 14 years without ever doing anything with the Kenny property or landing.
THERE’S MORE TO WALLPAPER THAN MEETS THE EYE
by Karen McGrath
When the Kelley House began its journey from a private residence to a museum in 1975, its interior walls were covered with sagging strips of wallpaper, the adhesive having deteriorated almost completely. As renovations went forward, samples of these vintage wallcoverings were preserved in the museum’s archives. They had stylized floral patterns in metallic gold and silver, burgundy, gold and pale yellow, and deep burgundy, a color palette that has been continued through subsequent facelifts.
Rolls of machine-made wallpaper were first produced in Delaware in 1817; by the 1880s, further manufacturing advancements, which included the use of wood pulp and machine printing, brought the price of paper wall coverings low enough that it became commonplace to enliven the interiors of buildings with them. Previous to that, the walls of middle- or working-class homes were usually whitewashed, and only the wealthy could afford papered, plastered, or painted walls. Wood paneling was also expensive, but in Mendocino, where wood was plentiful and less costly, paneling was a good option for bringing style or durability to the lower parts of walls. In the Kelley House kitchen-dining room, the original beaded board wainscoting is intact.
The walls of homes like the Kelley’s were built of several layers. They were first covered with wooden planks nailed to upright studs, which were of variable dimensions and sometimes set apart at greater distances than what we typically find today. This layer of boards would do much to strengthen the wall structure but were not meant to see the light of day. Instead, they would be covered with finer grades of tongue & groove boards, beadboard, or wood paneling. But how to create a smooth surface with all those cracks between the strips of wood? The answer is cloth. By the time Mendocino’s buildings were going up, wallpapers were pasted onto loosely woven, light-weight cotton or linen before they were hung to make the wall appear as smooth as possible.
As time went on and fashions changed, new papers were put right on top of the older ones. Examples of this wallpaper “sandwich” have been preserved in the museum archives. Of particular interest are the ceiling papers that have a light background and stylized metallic silver or gold patterns. These would have created a soft, reflective surface to brighten interiors on dim, foggy days.
It wasn’t only well-to-do merchants like William Kelley who lined the walls of their homes with cloth and wallpaper. According to the 1883 Sanborn Insurance map (courtesy of David J. Russell, who years ago photographed the copy held by the Presbyterian Church), there were at least 56 structures throughout town that carried the symbol used for “Cloth-Lined” walls: CL inside a circle. Almost all were dwellings, except three saloons— the Lisbon House on Ukiah Street, Duncan Walker's Saloon on Main (which would become the now-gone Alhambra Hotel), and a small joint on Main Street where Flow Restaurant is today. Of the dwellings, two were labeled “Chinese” and were on property the Kelley family owned immediately east of the MacCallum House, where Corners of the Mouth is today.
If you wonder why a fire insurance mapping company would take the time to call out buildings with wallpaper, wooden walls lined with extremely flammable cloth could quickly catch fire, which would spread throughout the building, resulting in considerable loss. Luckily, the Kelley House has only caught fire once (that we know of). In 1971, a smoldering fire in the dining room’s brick fireplace was quickly extinguished by the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department, but not before causing some damage to the room’s interior and exterior walls and windows.
Remnants of cloth-lined walls, as well as other interesting objects from the Kelley House collections, are on display in the new 50th Anniversary exhibit, Kelley House Museum: Building a Home.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, October 5, 2023
DOMINGO ALVAREZ-GARCIA, Morgan Hill/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
DAVID ALLRED, Marysville/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
MARLEN CORBEN, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol&drugs.
SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol&drugs, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
RICHARD HADLEY, Longview, Washington//Ukiah. DUI, suspended license, paraphernalia.
DAVID HALSTAD, Willits. Check forgery, bad checks.
ANTHONY LOPES, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent Flyer)
MICHAEL MARTIN, Redwood Valley. Parole violation.
KENDALL MOULDER, Mendocino. Failure to appear.
SHEILA OWENS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol&drugs.
WILLIAM PARKER, Willits. Failure to appear.
ANDREW STEPHENSON, Clearlake/Ukiah. Parole violation.
NEIL WALDRON, Ukiah. Parole violation. (Frequent Flyer)
NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS
The recent problems with public meeting disruptions by remote (Zoom) participants is leading many elected boards to take actions that limit public participation in government. In order to preserve the public square, which is the bedrock of our democracy, elected officials must implement a process that eliminates anonymous participation in public meetings.
I propose that technology be implemented with three safeguards that return us to the public square. Those wishing to comment remotely must have their identity verified; must be confirmed as a constituent of the governing board; and must be willing to be seen on camera, or agree to have their photo from a government-issued ID displayed on screen, with their full legal name.
This solution may not eliminate disrupters, but the public will at least know their identity.
TWO MURDERS & THE COST OF LUXURY BELIEFS
by Rob Henderson
Recently, two high-profile supporters of “justice reform” were murdered.
At 4 a.m. on Monday, Ryan Carson, a 32-year-old social justice and climate change activist, was walking with his girlfriend in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, when he was stabbed to death by a stranger. Only a few hours earlier in Philadelphia, activist and journalist Josh Kruger was shot and killed in his home.
And two Democratic lawmakers who voted to “redirect funding to community-based policing reforms” have been recent victims of violent crime.
On Monday night, blocks away from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Congressman Henry Cuellar was carjacked by three armed men. (The lawmaker survived the incident unscathed.) In February, Angie Craig was attacked in an elevator at her apartment building in Capitol Hill. A homeless man demanded she allow him into her home to use the restroom, then he punched her and grabbed her around the neck. She escaped after throwing hot coffee on him.
Of course, these people did not deserve harm because of their support for soft-on-crime policies. But I’ve long argued that many people who hold “luxury beliefs”—ideas and opinions that confer status on the upper class, while often inflicting costs on the lower classes—are oblivious to the consequences of their views. Support for defunding the police is a classic example.
Luxury beliefs can stem from malice, good intentions, or outright naivete.
But the individuals who hold those beliefs, the people who wield the most influence in policy and culture, are often sheltered when their preferences are implemented.
Some online commenters have said that my luxury beliefs thesis is undermined by these tragic events, because the victims were affluent and influential—and they still suffered the consequences of their beliefs.
But the fact remains that poor people are far more likely to be victims of violent crime. For every upper-middle-class person killed, 20 poor people you never hear about are assaulted and murdered. You just never hear about them. They don’t get identified by name in the media. Their stories don’t get told.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poorest Americans are seven times more likely to be victims of robbery, seven times more likely to be victims of aggravated assault, and twenty times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than Americans who earn more than $75,000. One 2004 study found that people in areas where over 20 percent of inhabitants live in poverty are more than 100 times more likely to be murdered than people in areas where less than 10 percent of residents live in poverty.
Expressing a luxury belief is a manifestation of cultural capital, a signal of one’s fortunate economic circumstances. And we are living with the consequences of the elite’s luxury beliefs when it comes to public safety and criminal justice. Indeed, the massive spike in violent crime across the U.S. is a reminder of the power of elite opinion.
A study from 2014 found that strong support for a policy among the middle class has virtually no effect on whether that policy will be adopted. In contrast, strong support among Americans in the top income decile—those who earn at least $173,000 a year—doubles the probability that a policy will be adopted.
Who was most likely to champion the fashionable “defund the police” cause in 2020 and 2021?
A nationwide survey from YouGov found that Americans in the highest income category were by far the most supportive of defunding the police. Among Democratic voters, white Democrats were more likely to support reducing police funding than black or Hispanic Democrats.
In response to elite opinion in 2020, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Austin, and many other major cities in the U.S. reduced police spending.
Most people didn’t want to defund the police, but the most affluent sector of society did. And so it was implemented.
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argued that “distance from necessity” signals high social class. Similarly, in his book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, Paul Fussell points out that the presence of physical danger is a marker of low social class. For instance, among occupations, a big reason why being a diesel mechanic or an electric power line installer is considered working class—while being a schoolteacher is middle class—is that the former jobs are more dangerous.
The vast majority of educated people have never been in a real fight or experienced serious physical injury. On occasion, I’ve wondered if this is why many of them believe words are “violence.” They have never known serious physical pain. I recently spoke with an editor at a prestigious magazine who explained how shocked he was to learn from Tara Westover’s memoir Educated how frequently people who work in junkyards experience cuts, scrapes, bruises, and burns. Physical pain—even bodily soreness—was just not a reality in this person’s world.
I had a professor in college who liked to say that common sense is like air: the higher you go, the thinner it gets. Sadly, it will probably take more high-profile deaths and attacks for people to wake up. When a bunch of peasants are killed, the luxury belief class shrugs. But when the nobility and petty nobility are targeted, the narrative shifts. It’s only when those in positions of influence and privilege feel the consequences of their beliefs and policies that real change is seriously considered.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Today’s laugh-out-loud moment:
“At the height of his wealth, Sam Bankman-Fried reached out to President Trump’s advisors and asked for a monetary amount that he could pay the GOP leader to refrain from challenging President Joe Biden to a rematch. The amount SBF said he offered, Michael Lewis reported, was $5 billion.
‘Sam’s thinking we could pay Donald Trump not to run for president, like how much would it take?… He did get an answer. There was a number that was kicking around, and the number that was kicking around when I was talking to Sam was $5 billion,’ said Lewis.
“Sam was not sure that number came directly from Trump… The question Sam had was, not just was $5 billion enough to pay Trump not to run, but was it legal?” he added.
Asked why SBF didn’t complete the deal, Lewis said that the tech mogul was in the midst of watching his empire collapse as investors fled the crypto market he created. ‘He didn’t have $5 billion anymore,’ Lewis said.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has slammed Biden for his 'cruel' move to resume border wall construction - just as his administration announced they would begin deporting thousands of Venezuelans in another stark reversal on migration policy. Ocasio-Cortez shamed Biden and urged him to 'reverse course' after he launched new stretches of border barriers, a signature policy of Donald Trump that Biden previously decried. 'A wall does nothing to stop people fleeing poverty and violence from coming to the United States,' she said. Meanwhile, the US will resume deporting Venezuelan migrants, the largest single group encountered at the southern border last month, back to their economically troubled country. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, said the new measure is one of the 'strict consequences' the Biden administration will use in tandem with the expansion of legal pathways for asylum seekers.
THE US CREATES POVERTY AND CHAOS in other countries and then sounds the alarm over a “migrant crisis” as people flee those conditions it created. It’s like flooding the basement and then crying when the people who live there try to come upstairs.
— Caitlin Johnstone
UKRAINE, THURSDAY, 5TH OCTOBER
A Russian missile strike killed dozens in a village near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kupiansk on Thursday, officials say, in what would be one of the deadliest attacks against civilians since the conflict began.
US President Joe Biden is concerned failing efforts to approve arms for Ukraine amid political upheaval in Congress could become a serious battlefield concern.
When asked about the prospect of dwindling aid from Washington, Zelensky said "it’s too late to worry." He told reporters at a European summit on Thursday that the US is dealing with a "difficult election period."
In a move that could help to alleviate potential military aid shortages, Washington will transfer thousands of seized Iranian arms to Kyiv, officials told CNN.
ANNE LAMOTT'S 5 FAVORITE BOOKS for Finding Hope
“I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine.”—Anne Lamott
“Strangers in Their Own Land” by Arlie Russell Hochschild
“I have been foisting this on everyone since the election. A famed sociologist from Berkeley spends months visiting the Louisiana Bayou and getting to know the people who live there—their values, problems, minds, hearts, lives, and dreams. What they tell us in their conversations and how Hochschild changes by listening to them give me hope for our country.”
“Happy All the Time” by Laurie Colwin
“This is a beautiful, hilarious, big-hearted novel about four really good, slightly odd mixed-up people (like us) as they form couples: shy, worried, and brave. I have given away THOUSANDS of copies.”
“Praying for Sheetrock” by Melissa Fay Greene
“This is one of my favorite nonfiction books ever. It’s about a small backwoods county in Georgia in the 1970s struggling to be included in the progress for civil rights and about the idealists who lead the cause against entrenched racism. It’s a story that reads like a novel, filled with eccentrics and ordinary folks. Lovely in every way. If you read it, you will owe me forever.”
“The Illustrated Rumi” by Jelaluddin Rumi
“I love Rumi so much. I can open this book to any page, read any one of his poems, study any one of the illustrations, and feel spiritually rejuvenated—or at least a little less cranky and self-obsessed.”
“Women Food and God” by Geneen Roth
“This is the most profound and helpful book on healing from the tiny, tiny, tiny issues around eating and body issues that some of us have had for, oh, most of our lives. Charming, wise, funny, and deep.”
(via Radical Reads)
POIGNANT LAST WORDS OF STEVE JOBS, billionaire, dead at 56:
“I have reached the pinnacle of success in business.” In other people's eyes my life is a success.
However, aside from work, I’ve had little joy.
At the end of the day, wealth is just a fact I’ve gotten used to.
Right now, lying on my hospital bed, reminiscing all my life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth I took so much pride in, has faded and become meaningless in the face of imminent death.
You can hire someone to drive your car or make money for you, but you can't hire someone to stand sick and die for you.
Material things lost can be found again. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost: Life.
Whatever stage of life we are currently at, in time we will face the day the curtain closes.
Love your family, spouse, children and friends... Treat them right. Cherish them.
As we get older, and wiser, we slowly realize that wearing a $300 or $30 watch both give the same time.
Whether we have a $300 or $30 wallet or purse, the amount inside is the same.
Whether we drive a $150,000 car or a $30,000 car, the road and the distance are the same, and we reach the same destination.
Whether we drink a $1000 or $10 bottle of wine, the hangover is the same.
Whether the house in which we live is 100 or 1000 square meters, loneliness is the same.
You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from material things of this world.
Whether you travel first class or economy class, if the plane crashes, you go down with it...
Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have friends, brothers and sisters, with whom you discuss, laugh, talk, sing, talk about north-south-east or heaven and earth,... this is the real happiness!!
An indisputable fact of life:
Don't raise your children to be rich.
Educate them to be happy.
When they grow up, they will know the value of things and not the price. "
I STILL CAN’T SEE
I rode my bike in the rain
My clothes are soaking wet
Now it’s starting to wane
Sunny tomorrow, I bet
Lake trout in the freezer
Almost a year
There’s that old geezer
Stumblin’ on beer
I quit weed
The day before yesterday
Want became need
As I hid from the fray
Emotions run high
And blood sugar low
A tale of woe
I do have enough
To get through this day
But it’s gonna be rough
Can’t you hear what I say?
God, wisdom grant me
To do the right thing
But I still can’t see
Our glorious king
Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside - remembering all the times you've felt that way.
— Charles Bukowski
FOR GOD’S SAKE, JUST DRINK IT
by Mary Lowry (August 1984)
(From the Vault)
My esteemed friend. Bruce Anderson, radical editor provocateur of this newspaper, has further endeared himself. In response to a story in the Sunday Chronicle-Examiner last month on the New Boonville Hotel, Bruce wrote:
“One reference did annoy me lots. That was the one from a local vintner who sneered at the undoubtedly apocryphal truck driver who complained that he didn’t get a baked potato with his meal at the Hotel. The point of the story was that the ordinary working stiff was far too unsophisticated to appreciate what the Hotel has to offer. I wonder how in this country the myth of the dumb working class guy got started? In television ads, blue collar workers are always depicted as morons. I personally don’t know any dumb guys who are good car mechanics, for instance. I know lots of dumb people who think because they can chatter endlessly about cooking or wine they have somehow achieved the pinnacle of sophistication. The typical yuppies passing through the wine gauntlet of Anderson Valley are less sophisticated, in real terms, than Borneo tribesmen. If you really want to experience suicidal boredom sometime, attend a wine tasting.”
Touche. I’m quickly running out of tolerance for the chichi coterie, the would-be elite who are wallowing in wine snobbery. This same group is now pooh-poohing red meat, making a big fuss over chicken and noodles — not calling them noodles, of course, but “pasta.’’ Before the big Cholesterol Crisis, chicken and noodles were considered foods to be eaten strictly by the poor and fat, who had no pride, and couldn’t afford steak.
I’m going to launch into a tirade about wine, but first, a few prefacing remarks:
I’m no Goth. In the years of my wild youth, before settling down with my heart’s desire, Babycakes, who has no money but has what money could never, ever buy: a brain, wit, generosity, depth, guilelessness, hilarious neuroses (and my love), I was often squired around town to some damn impressive places, where I behaved in an august manner.
And now, the tirade:
I appreciate good wine as much as the next snob. I am, however, honest and realistic enough to admit that ninety-nine percent of wine’s appeal is that it contains alcohol. In other words, my lips would have no interest whatsoever in an excellent cabernet sauvignon if it wasn’t going to get me tipsy. Such forthrightness does not exist among ‘‘wine-tasters.” I'll even go so far as to admit that at times of cash-flow stress I am not above doing comparison shopping for jug wines. I have, on numerous occasions, been amused by the presumption of Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy because of its 12.5% alcoholic content by volume.
On the way home from a particularly extravagant dinner at L’Etoile with another couple, a former suitor asked me what I thought about the wines we had consumed. We had gone through two bottles, and although they were both delicious, my heartfelt assessment of the situation was that two bottles for four people was grossly inadequate and we should have ordered more. But graciously I told him the wine was to die over. When he told me what the wine had cost, I was sick for having drank it instead of asking for my share in cash.
Heavy-duty wine snobs have a drinking ritual. They look at the wine in its glass, appreciating its color. Then they swirl the wine, sniff its bouquet, hoist it carefully to their mouths, take an acceptable sip and swish it around their mouth. The procedure is interminable. The first time I observed it, I was with a man I had hitherto respected. “For God’s sake,” I thought while observing him, “Just drink it.”
BASEBALL HAS BECOME MICROMANAGED, LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN OUR LIVES
by Jesse Nathan
The playoffs are upon us, and this year Major League Baseball likes to think of itself as having a lot to cheer about. Regular-season attendance for games and viewership on TV are the highest they’ve been in years, a result, many people say, of bold changes to the game’s rules: bigger bases to encourage more stealing (read: action), the intentional walk rule (which eliminates the staging of four outside lobs from pitcher to catcher) and the prohibition on pitchers’ throwing to first base as often when a runner’s on.
But the rule change that has gotten the most attention and has had perhaps the biggest impact on the game is the addition of a pitch clock. M.L.B. seems to feel that, with the pitch clock, it has saved baseball from irrelevance.
But popularity isn’t the only measure of the game’s health. In various ways, the rule changes have introduced time to a sport that had always stood well outside of it.
It seems to have come to a head this season: I can’t shake the feeling that the pitch clock and related rule changes amount to a blemish on baseball’s opposition to time itself.
Baseball is a game of turns, not time. It argues for a different metaphysics (“catching rhythms,” Quincy Troupe calls it, or as Gail Mazur puts it, a “firm structure with the mystery / of accidents”) that absconds from our universe of time, even if only for the duration of an illusion on a summer afternoon. With the new rules and particularly the new pitch clock, the game has become one less place in our subdivided lives in which we get to imagine — to feel, to daydream — something existing outside of time.
Even the theater of the performed four-pitch intentional walk had an idiosyncrasy about it so true to baseball, and to being human. It was a modest digression in the course of an inning, a silly little dance. It was interesting to see if the batter would take a wild swing at one or if the pitcher would go lazy and throw a comically wild pitch or — more beautiful and rare — if he’d catch the batter sleeping and sneak a zinging, disorienting strike down the middle of the plate. The whole affair would add a minute or two to a game.
The pitch clock is the biggest modification to the game in years: With nobody on base, pitchers have 15 seconds to wind up and throw. With a runner on, the pitcher has 20 seconds. If pitcher or batter is not ready by the appointed second, the penalty is a ball or strike, depending on which side is getting penalized.
One pitch clock incident this summer stands out to me. There’s no better baseball weather in the world than Oakland in September. We were in the top half of the eighth, the A’s beating the Angels 6-0, when Shohei Ohtani, a rare star at both pitching and hitting, stepped to the plate. It felt as if there were more Ohtani fans in the stands than A’s fans.
On this night we’d arrived at his last trip to the plate, and excitement swept through the crowd. The count went to 3-2. Two out, nothing on the line, since it was a rout, but still, fans got on their feet. The pitcher stared home. And how did this minor showdown end? With a clock violation by the pitcher, awarding Ohtani ball four and first base. You could hear the disappointment in the groans from A’s and Ohtani fans alike. It was a sad, boring — and judging from the boos, irritating — way to end the night for the game’s greatest player.
Some of the arguments against the pitch clock are still developing and could be quite serious in their own right, like reports this season that speeding pitchers up may lead to more injuries. The league disputes this, but time will tell.
Some catchers, batters and umpires, meanwhile, have grumbled that the pressure they now feel has meant less chitchat at the plate, less small talk, a little less congeniality. “It’s all business” at home plate now, said San Francisco Giants outfielder Joc Pederson in April. Trivial as chitchat might sound, the intangible, unquantifiable impacts on the game like this are the ones I find most striking — the feeling that the oddities of the sport are being sanded away or that the game is speeding by or that you’re being rushed out of the stadium, hastened along in your pleasure.
Most of all, I get the feeling that a languorous 19th-century invention — baseball — is being forced to fit a 21st-century pace of life. Most days, most places, I already feel rushed, sensing, as Andrew Marvell wrote, “time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near.” Now I have to feel that at the ballpark, too?
“Baseball games end in their own terms; they do not end because a clock runs out,” wrote Gilbert Sorrentino years ago. Now he’s a little less right about that. “In football,” he said, “if one team is four touchdowns behind with 10 seconds to play, the football game is over, truly, though officially it is not.” His description of what happens in football (or basketball or soccer) describes what’s been happening this summer on baseball diamonds: “Invented time imposes itself on the game and affects its patterns.”
It’s not just the pitch clock. In recent years, Major League Baseball has been hurrying us out of the ballpark in other ways. In 2017 it turned the intentional walk into a mere hand gesture, and in 2020 the boys upstairs decreed that when a game went to extra innings, each half inning was to begin with a runner already on second base. Pitchers have to start extra innings as if they’d just given up a double. I’ve heard fans call this runner at second base “Manfred’s man” or “the Manfred man,” after the league commissioner, Rob Manfred, who’s been a driver behind many of these changes.
Manfred’s man has dramatically reduced the number of games going beyond 10 or 11 innings. But it’s a rule change that deflates the earned excitement toward which a baseball game beautifully builds, particularly a tie game. It’s like skipping to the good parts in a great novel. I dislike but understand the need for a shootout in a tied soccer match, when players are utterly out of gas and can’t run anymore. But if protecting baseball players is the concern here, why not play 10 or 20 fewer games a season? Then we wouldn’t have to deal with the oxymoron of baseball in Boston in November.
Not only do these changes smack of micromanagement and a corporate fixation with flattening and sanitizing in the name of efficiency, but they’re also anti-poetic — something we do not need in these prosaic times.
What we need is what Robert Frost called a “momentary stay against confusion” — poetry — and its disregard for time, its lyric respite from it, not a speeding up, not more life on the clock.
Everything in the game is standardized down to the inch, but baseball fields, even in the pros, have no set distance for the outfield fence line, and this fact has a parallel in the way a game could, in theory, go on forever.
“I don’t care if I never get back,” we sing every seventh-inning stretch. The pitch clock is a betrayal of the game’s sacred creed.
(Jesse Nathan, a poet who teaches literature at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of “Eggtooth.”)
“(Hank Aaron told me) ‘Don’t dig in against Bob Gibson, he’ll knock you down. He’d knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don’t stare at him, don’t smile at him, don’t talk to him. He doesn’t like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don’t run too slow, don’t run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don’t charge the mound, because he’s a Gold Glove boxer.’ I’m like, ‘Damn, what about my 17-game hitting streak?’ That was the night it ended.” – Dusty Baker
Three years ago, the greatest competitor in baseball history passed away. RIP Gibby!
CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY POWERS 49ERS’ SURGE WITH ANGER AND AUTHENTICITY
by Michael Silver
Christian McCaffrey’s sizzle reel has always been thrilling, but this year he’s performing like a man aggrieved.
McCaffrey’s unremitting ferocity has defined the San Francisco 49ers’ emphatic start to the 2023 season and put him squarely in the early MVP conversation, as he has infused his multifaceted skill set with a surprising supplement.
Where did this salty streak come from? He’s running angry — angrier than a 5-foot-11, 210-pound man should be running on an NFL field. Is he simply an angry dude?
McCaffrey laughed when I posed that question during a one-on-one interview at Levi’s Stadium last week, at first rebuffing it like he would a cornerback chasing him down the sideline.
Then the 27-year-old running back considered the head space he enters when playing a brutally physical sport and a position that requires equal parts precision and sincerity. He pondered the game he loves, and the perfectionist personality that helped him reach its highest level — and then he tried to make it all make sense for those who marvel at his aggression.
“I think when you’re running, you have to respect the game of football and what it requires,” McCaffrey said. “This sport is not for the timid, that’s for sure. At the same time, each play has a life of its own. And some plays require you to be angry.
“I feel free when I’m playing football. I feel like I can completely be myself. And sometimes I am angry, if the play calls for that. But sometimes you need to be patient; sometimes you need to be calm; sometimes you need to be light on your feet and move swiftly. If you’re angry at certain points, running with your head down and pissed off, you could miss the cut. When you’re free you’re able to access every emotion that’s required with the play. I think the beauty of football is it brings out natural emotions that you don’t have to force.”
Four games into the season, McCaffrey is provoking joy among his teammates, coaches, Niners fans and those fortunate enough to have him on their fantasy teams. He leads the NFL with 459 rushing yards (95 more than second-place D’Andre Swift of the Eagles) and 23 rushing first downs, and he’s averaging an incredible 5.7 yards per carry. Throw in his 141 receiving yards on 18 catches, and he’s also atop the league in yards from scrimmage with 600.
A non-quarterback hasn’t been voted NFL MVP since 2012, when running back Adrian Peterson got the nod. It’s early, but the most productive player on the league’s best team already has a hell of a portfolio.
McCaffrey has spent so much time in the Levi’s Stadium end zone that he’ll probably have to start paying local taxes. In Sunday’s 35-16 victory over the Cardinals, which pushed the 49ers to 4-0, “CMC 23” scored four touchdowns; he has seven on the season, tying him with former Niners running back Raheem Mostert of the Dolphins for the league lead. It was the 13th consecutive game, counting the postseason, in which McCaffrey has hit paydirt, breaking Jerry Rice’s team record.
“There are a handful of players that take you back to Pop Warner football when you were younger, that could score every time they touch the ball — he is one of them,” said Giants defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, whose team gave up 119 total yards to McCaffrey — his lowest output of the season — in a blowout loss to the Niners on Sept. 21.
It has been nearly a year since the 49ers acquired McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers for draft picks in the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds. At the time, it was seen as a high-risk move, given McCaffrey’s recent injury history and the vulnerable nature of his position.
Now? It looks to have been the best Bay Area swap since Apple acquired NeXT — and brought back Steve Jobs — in 1996.
On Sunday, 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk jokingly questioned whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should have blocked the Niners from acquiring McCaffrey in the name of competitive balance, as then-NBA Commissioner David Stern did when the Lakers tried to trade for Chris Paul 12 years ago.
“It’s insane that it was legal for him to be traded to us,” Juszczyk said. “They should have banned that trade.”
Yet, as much as McCaffrey has thrived in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s cutting-edge offense — and as seamlessly as he has been assimilated into the locker room’s hyper-competitive culture — the night he was traded does not rank among his most pleasant memories. McCaffrey is still peeved that the Panthers, who drafted the former Stanford star eighth overall in 2017, let him go.
“There are so many emotions that come at you at once,” he said, “because you have a home there, you feel like you’re a part of the city, you got drafted there, and I was playing relatively well. We weren’t on a good team, but I felt like I wasn’t messing up enough to where (they’d think), ‘We’ve gotta get rid of this guy.’
“I guess I don’t necessarily know the difference between cut or traded. All I know is they’re getting rid of you. … Like, you guys don’t think I’m good enough, you don’t think you need me here anymore. That would piss anybody off. … I think it would be weird if I was all happy about somebody getting rid of me. I think that would be more of an unnatural reaction than being angry.”
It’s hard to overstate McCaffrey’s impact on the 49ers. He has played in 18 games and they have won 16 of them, losing only his debut against the Chiefs (when he suited up 48 hours after his arrival and made a cameo appearance despite limited knowledge of the playbook) and January’s NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia. On that Sunday, after starting quarterback Brock Purdy suffered a torn elbow ligament, McCaffrey gave the Niners brief hope against the Eagles by scoring a game-tying touchdown run that ranked among the most epic in franchise postseason history.
Afterward, McCaffrey said he blacked out while juking, jumping over and running through a quintet of would-be tacklers. That defeat, sealed when the 49ers essentially ran out of functional quarterbacks, brought a brutally abrupt end to an otherwise storybook season.
An experience like that can make any team surly, and it seems to have carried over for the 49ers and their star running back. This season McCaffrey, whose vision, balance and suddenness make him an elusive target, has initiated contact when he believes defenders can be beasted. He has been about as subtle as a Taylor Swift appearance at a Chiefs game.
In a Week 2 victory over the Rams, McCaffrey raced 51 yards down the left sideline before finally being tackled by former Niners cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. McCaffrey bounced up and started jawing with the defender, helmet to helmet. He already had scored on a 14-yard run on which he delivered a vicious stiff-arm to Rams defensive back Jordan Fuller, knocking him to the SoFi Stadium turf.
“I think when you have a better grasp of the offense,” McCaffrey told me afterward, “it allows you to play more physical.”
On a team with so many violent players, including stars on both offense (wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle) and defense (edge rusher Nick Bosa, linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner), McCaffrey has managed both to blend in and stand out.
“He’s a fool in pads,” Greenlaw said admiringly. “I think he fits right in. He’s one of those f—d up people. When you’re a f—d up person, you can tell when someone else is. He wants to be part of that 49er culture. You come in here and see a bunch of crazy guys. Join the club.”
McCaffrey’s membership status is a point of pride.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “I think when you see a guy like Deebo who’ll break 10 tackles in a run, that’ll pump you up, and you want to do the same thing. When you see George, who’s been blocking his ass off every play and all of a sudden he gets the ball, trucks two dudes, stiff-arms a guy — you want to be a part of that culture. Tape doesn’t lie.”
Said Juszczyk: “He plays angry. He plays like he’s been disrespected. I do think it is typical of guys when they come here to want to match the mentality of guys around you. You see guys like (Brandon Aiyuk), Deebo and George Kittle and you feed off that. You don’t want to be the guy who gets taken down on a single tackle. (Running backs coach) Bobby Turner, he’ll use Christian as an example. He’ll say, ‘He’s got blonde hair, blue eyes; he’s a good-looking guy, he’s polite. But he’s got s— in his neck when he’s out there.’”
Though McCaffrey’s average annual salary of $16 million makes him the league’s highest-paid running back, he bristles at the depressed market for his position, as accomplished peers like Jonathan Taylor (Colts), Saquon Barkley (Giants) and Josh Jacobs (Raiders) have been unable to land similarly lucrative long-term deals.
“They’re way more valuable than they’re getting paid,” said McCaffrey, whose contract runs through the 2025 season. “It’s something that to me doesn’t make sense, because I know what the position means to a team.”
McCaffrey landed his hefty payday after a monster 2019 season in which he became the third player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving, joining former Niners great Roger Craig (1985) and Rams Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (1999). After that, McCaffrey missed 22 of 33 games over the next two seasons with an onslaught of injuries to various body parts, including his ankle, shoulder, glute and hamstring.
Those injuries provoked the skepticism following his trade to the Niners, who outbid the rival Rams for his services. McCaffrey, who is harder on himself than any critic, has done everything in his power to reframe the conversation.
“That’s something that I love about myself — the edge, and finding different ways to get better,” McCaffrey said. “I think as soon as you try to chill out on that, you become complacent. And I just never want to be (that). It’s something that’s driven me my whole life, that chip on my shoulder, and knowing I can be better.”
Said Kittle: “All he does is try to be great. He has an expectation of himself and his ability. You can see it on the practice field. If he makes a mistake, there is no one angrier on the football field than him.”
To McCaffrey, that’s just authentic emotion, something he strives for off the field as well. Such was the case in April when he proposed to model and reality TV star Olivia Culpo, and almost everything went as planned.
“That’s actually a great example,” he said. “You’re prepared for it, and you know exactly what you’re gonna do and say, and you set it up perfectly — and then in that moment you’re like, ‘Dang, I think I might be crying right now.’ But I didn’t plan to cry; sometimes things like that just happen. That’s when life’s the best, when you just live completely in the moment and you let these emotions come to you as they are. You don’t force them. You don’t try to act like someone you’re not.”
The emotions McCaffrey displays on the football field can be similarly unrestrained, albeit far less tender. He prepares relentlessly, learning his assignments down to the tiniest detail — and then, come game time, tries to free his mind and let it rip.
“I think the beauty of football is it brings out natural emotions that you don’t have to force,” McCaffrey said. “I hate forcing emotions. I hate acting. I hate being inauthentic and having to force myself to be someone I’m not. That’s why I love football, because any emotion that you have is real, and that’s what it requires.
“Sometimes when you’re out there you might black out and start talking s— to somebody, and it’s real. That’s actually happening. That’s why it’s the best sport in the world, ’cause there’s not really another canvas where you can do that. You can’t go into an office and just hit somebody and stiff-arm someone in the face.”
Fortunately, McCaffrey found football. Right now, it’s a joy to watch him work.