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SHOWERS HAVE DWINDLED almost completely very early this morning. Drier weather with mild temperatures are anticipated for today and tomorrow. An unsettled weather pattern will arrive by mid to late next week with heavy rainfall, mountain snow, and strong gusty winds. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): Yesterday's showers that didn't happen left a scant .03" of precip. 55F under clear skies this Sunday morning on the coast. Warm & dry is forecast until Tuesday evening. Up to 4" of rain is forecast Tuesday night thru Friday. Clearing for next weekend so far.
SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS (responding to our note that he had suggested that local fire districts enact their own sales tax measures to keep the County from holding on to the Measure P money that is not legally mandated to be disbursed to fire districts):
“Not quite. If the county ever enters bankruptcy, it’s expected the COURT would allocate existing general taxes to cover county expenses. The concern stated was not in regard to the current or future boards maintaining commitment to public advice to gift the money to fire districts.”
Mark Scaramella comments: Good to know; however the Supervisor didn’t mention the bankruptcy angle at the time. Remember, the Board has never honored Advisory Measure AH which the voters approved allocating a significant portion of the marijuana tax revenues to “emergency services.” Not one cent of that more than $20 million has gone to “emergency services,” so the Supervisor might understand how the few people who follow such things do not trust the Board’s “commitment.”
NEW CDPH GUIDELINES FOR ISOLATION AND TESTING
As the COVID-19 Pandemic changes, CDC and CDPH have re-evaluated the current situation and have released new practical recommendations to keep our community healthy. These do NOT apply to Healthcare Workers (who continue to be covered by AFL 21-08.9) and employers/employees should continue to comply with Cal-OSHA in workplaces.
While COVID-19 continues to be circulating and can be deadly for some, there is more immunity in our communities from past COVID infections and vaccinations. The currently circulating dominant variants continue to be susceptible to the newest vaccines and treatments. Even with the concurrent Influenza and RSV yearly epidemics, the risk to our communities is under better control. Therefore, recommendations now focus on prevention (vaccination and hygiene), early treatment, limiting exposure to the most vulnerable due to age and other medical conditions, and basing duration of interventions more on symptoms -- minimizing disruption of most activities in our community.
CDPH has released these recommendations to maximize effectiveness of our interventions…
SUPES SPEND HALF AN HOUR debating how to save time by not responding to Public Comments
by Mark Scaramella
Near the start of last Tuesday’s Board meeting, Supervisor Mulheren cited the Board’s Rules of Procedure, Rule 19 to prevent Supervisor Dan Gjerde from responding to a public comment about animal care services. But of course Rule 19 says nothing about Board member responses to public comments. In fact, there is no Board rule about board members responding to public comments. Gjerde shrugged off Mulheren’s odd quasi-censorship and then went on to make his short remarks. Nobody else mentioned the incident at the time.
Hours later, near the end of the meeeting, Supervisor John Haschak and his colleagues finally got around to commenting. Haschak disagreed with Mulheren, albeit by going out of his windy way to praise Mulheren censorial intention in her misguided attempt to restrict board member comments.
Haschak: ”What happened this morning regarding public expression, I was kind of surprised by that. I understand that there is a need of not having a back-and-forth, back-and-forth. But at the same time I think when people come for public expression and they have something… make the effort to make a comment and a lot of times they do want some kind of recognition from the board. They don't want to have to wait until 4:58 [in the afternoon] or whatever it is to get a comment. I don't see it in our rules of procedure that we cannot have any kind of interaction with the public. I think that the public deserves some kind of recognition or some kind of dialogue, not ongoing, but I guess I would like to see what the board thinks about this. We have heard comments this morning like what Supervisor Gjerde said about the animal care services and those comments. I would like to make sure that the board is on track. If we don't comment with people who make these comments, I think we are doing a disservice to them and it will come back to reflect negatively on us.”
Mulheren defended herself by claiming that, out of “fairness,” Board members responding to some comments but not others creates “an interesting dynamic,” forgetting Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Mulheren waxed dreamily: “I think that… I hear your point and Supervisor Gjerde’s point that when we have people that are coming for public expression that not everybody gets a response. When one person gets a response and others don't that is also… a kind of an interesting dynamic that happens in that way so as we move forward and try to figure out, we can have brief comments, I think, um, some supervisors may be interested in certain things and not others and that can be challenging as a member of the public to have one member engaged by the supervisor and other members not. So it's really a matter of fairness if items are brought forward as agenda items or brought up later. But we will continue to work, I am happy to continue to adjust that process.”
In other words, according to Mulheren, responding to some public comment is unfair to those who are not responded to. Best not to respond to anything.
Supervisor Glenn McGourty also disagreed, again slathering on some syrup about Mulheren’s intentions: ”I appreciate that Supervisor Mulheren wants to keep the meeting moving because we can get bogged down in public expression, it goes after 10 o'clock and we are still in public expression which happens sometimes. You know, we, we, we feel like we are not making progress, but I think it's also important sometimes to acknowledge people who come, to find a balance of fairness if they get an issue, I appreciate that too and I think it's something that we need to work on and come up with good policies so I am in favor of allowing a board member, especially if someone has something really interesting and compelling to share with us that we are able to have a quick interrogation or exchange to find out what the issue is and how we can find out more information. It shouldn't be lengthy, but there should be an opportunity.”
Supervisor Williams gave a nod to meeting “efficiency” too: ”I think there is a lot of pressure on the chair to keep the efficiency of the meeting and also let everybody speak and be fair and I think you are starting off with a good foot. I am with my colleagues on people drive really far to get here and I don't think we should have a policy that we don't respond. We can't turn it into an agenda item but sometimes what they're asking deserves a response. We have the answer. We know it. Rather than waiting until after the meeting it makes sense just to explain. People are watching and I think… I don't think the public looks favorably when we there is a public comment and we don't respond. If we need a policy of no member of the public left without a comment I would happy to be the catchall to respond. Democracy is messy. It's nice if we want our meetings to be efficient. I think a lot of the discussions that we have that seem like they're going nowhere but sometimes take much longer are valuable and it is doing policy in the long term. This morning we talked about the reality that we can't get anything done and we are broke and we don't have the staff or resources to delete part of an ordinance, if we don't have that discussion we are never going to solve problems. The first step in solving them is to identify the problem. And I think we do that together.”
Fortunately, nobody took Williams up on his offer to be the Board’s Catchall Responder.
But none of this prevented Supervisor Mulheren from concluding the meeting by apologizing for not having a proposed agenda item and resolution ready concerning Human Trafficking Awareness Month, choosing instead to read her entire unprepared resolution anyway “to raise awareness on the awareness of Human Trafficking Awareness month” which she plans to put on next month’s agenda.
So much for efficient meetings.
After this show of efficiency, First District Supervisor candidate Carrie Shattuck commented: ”As someone who has attended numerous meetings over several years I think it is important for the board to address the public even if not everyone is addressed for different reasons. I think it shows that the board is engaged and listening. And I think that's really important.”
But, of course, none of the Board members responded to Ms. Shattuck. Not even Williams.
AS STAFFING GAPS GROW IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT, RURAL COUNTIES, INCLUDING MENDOCINO, STRUGGLE TO COMPETE
With less of a tax base to fund government as is, rural counties such as Mendocino, struggle to compete with other employers in the race to recruit new workers.
by Emma Murphy and Martin Espinoza
Many of the hiring solutions that local governments use to make inroads when they are understaffed cost extra money.
Popular measures include hiring bonuses or higher compensation to offset inflation and the rising cost of living. However, some counties may not be able to afford such moves, said Kailyn Dean, legislative advocate for the California State Association of Counties (CSAC).
“It's important to call out that rural counties tend to feel the challenges the most due to already limited financial resources, and, frankly, more have a limited number of staff positions to begin with,” Dean said.
Cherie Johnson, deputy chief executive officer for Mendocino County, agreed.
“We don't have the revenue that Sonoma County has,” Johnson said. “Our biggest struggle is revenue, we have property taxes and some other things too … but there's other revenue we just don't have compared to bigger counties.”
Mendocino County’s vacancy rate in October was 27%, Johnson said, more than twice what Sonoma County saw last year. Mendocino County implemented a hiring freeze in November for most positions but is still recruiting for essential jobs including sheriff’s deputies.
County governments have increasingly resorted to recruiting — or poaching, as it’s known — workers from neighboring counties.
In Mendocino County, the practice of “train and trot” where early career workers gain experience and then leave for higher-paying, better-resourced counties, has brought county government there to a near-breaking point, said Patrick Hickey, a field representative for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which has thousands of county workers in both counties.
Mendocino County’s transportation department and child protective services agency are being particularly hard hit, he said.
“The county up here in Mendocino has sort of written off being able to take care of all the county roads,” Hickey said. “They basically recognized that they don’t have the resources or the staffing to fill potholes and chip seal all of the roads that they need to. They haven’t really put forward a solution.”
“Photograph of the year” should go to Kent Porter’s photo on Page A8 of the Jan. 19 Press Democrat: a luxurious vineyard home in Healdsburg with two Secret Service sharpshooters sitting on the veranda with their high-powered rifles. Jill Biden’s two hours in Sonoma County shaking hands and collecting money, accompanied by aides and assistants, bodyguards, sheriff’s deputies and the Highway Patrol, and Secret Service agents crawling all over the place. Must have cost us, what, a half-million dollars?
ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE: Events Calendar
Rendering from the Ukiah Haiku Walk
Stark leafless trees
Beneath winter’s grey sky
Gold fleck of sun
— Craig Louis Stehr
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Sly is confused and scared being at the shelter. He was most likely a beloved family pet before he found himself here. Sly has good walking manners, but can startle easily. He will need a patient guardian who can help him understand that everything’s going to be okay. When Sly is in the Meet & Greet room, he likes to hang out under the desk and watch everything going on around the room. Sly will need a secure fence because he will be a flight risk until he is comfortable in his new home. Sly is a mixed breed 3 year old, weighing a very handsome 43 pounds. For more about Sly and all our adoptable dogs and cats, head to mendoanimalshelter.com.
For information about adoptions, call 707-467-6453. Check out our Facebook Page and please share our posts!
Letter to the Editor:
I always appreciate your coverage of the life and death of Jim Cummings, but defining him as “ruthless” only presents a fragmented picture of the man. I can understand him being called “ruthless” to those who thought he ought to help finance their lifestyles and ignore the debts they owed him. He was not one of the good old boys of the self-styled Fort Bragg elitists, many of whom envied his accomplishments, but would rather sit around drinking and patting each other on the back rather than working day and night as did Jim.
He would work during the day with his crew, personally running heavy equipment developing his Noyo Harbor properties and then return after showering to commandeer his Wharf restaurant until it closed, often not until after midnight.
I often wondered if he ever slept more than a few hours a night.
The Wharf, where I worked for 25 years, was by far, the largest and most successful restaurant in the county. It was where I learned and refined my public relations and business skills watching and being tutored by him as he took care of his many and diverse customers, community members and businesses.
One of the indelible lessons that I learned from him was not to take advantage of your patrons, but to facilitate them reasonably so that they would return to him over and over again (and again). I saw that the “average” people respected him while it was the elitists who labeled him “ruthless” because they weren't able to outdo him or achieve his level of monetary success.
Jim was a man who knew how to take care of his crew. If you worked for him, he would be sure you had housing, a job you could depend on, and a vehicle or financial support if you needed it. Although one always knew he was the boss, rare was any employee who didn't respect or appreciate him.
True, he also had skeletons in his closet as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, but calling him “ruthless” I feel has to be more clearly defined. Although he could be as tough as they come, he also could be the ultimate gentleman. He was as down to Earth as the pioneer family he came from, yet also a complex man who would make for an interesting biography of his extraordinary life. He was truly an Irish Godfather who didn't let pretense tarnish his image.
CAN'T CITE the source, but these sentences resonated with me because I, along with most old guys, have had the Prostate Experience. Mine didn't quite get me into that Last White Tunnel, but I was told my chances were fifty-fifty. First, the resonant statement from a fellow sufferer:
“As a family, we were moving home when my own prostate problems began. This was in the middle of the pandemic and our landlords had decided rather uncharitably that they wanted their property back. I had been working as a volunteer on an ambitious Covid project and was exhausted anyway. (One well-known British newspaper recently ran a story on what landlords must do to survive. Well, ours simply didn’t return the deposit.) Meanwhile, I couldn’t pee. I was like a unmilkable goat in the Swiss Alps with a potentially exploding udder. My urethra was being so tightly squeezed by my enlarged prostate that only two days after moving into our present place I found myself in Accident and Emergency where I was swiftly made a member of the Catheter Club.”
* * *
ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL: A LOVE LETTER
by Bruce Anderson
The morning of July 23rd, 2011, I woke up with a stomach ache. By noon the stomach ache was bending me in half but, like a true child of the 50s — no blood, no injury — I thought it would simply go away. All I had to do was wait it out. I also couldn't help but notice that I was unable to evacuate, and I don't mean evacuate in the sense of emergency exits.
Finally, about five in the afternoon when the stomach ache had gone from painful to excruciating, and as my poor wife threatened to call an ambulance if I didn't go to the hospital right now, I drove myself to the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital on Stanyan, a quick couple of miles from our then-apartment.
The waiting room was full, but the nurse responsible for sorting the poly-ethnic, multi-lingual sufferers seemed the equal of a medical Napoleon. Almost at a glance she had us accurately assessed.
There was an ancient Chinese woman groaning in a wheelchair, a stoic Mexican kid in painter's coveralls with blood oozing out of one of his boots, two stoic black men of my vintage, an elderly white woman, her son vigilant by her side, and a young Chinese man, perhaps a frequent flier, who the RN generalissimo quickly sized up as a psychosomatic case. “Honey,” the black woman doing the sorting said to him, “the best thing you can do is go home and get some sleep.”
This intake RN radiated good-humored authority, which, while I was there, was not disputed. St. Mary's promises a free pizza to anyone who has to wait more than 30 minutes in its emergency room. I wondered if anyone ever re-appeared to claim one.
Madam General soon had each of us preliminarily diagnosed and cubicled, although it was so crowded I was laid out next to her office where I could listen to her work her assessment magic. I'd never seen anyone do high pressure work with such intelligent dispatch, and mentally kicked myself for not having my notepad to memorialize her by name.
A male nurse appeared bedside. “You need to be drained,” he said. “Your bladder isn't working.” He explained that he was going to insert a catheter into that organ that causes strong men to cringe at the very thought of its violation. “Whatever you do,” he warned me, don't grab me.” The nurse explained that men often reflexively lunge for the person doing the inserting. I assured him I wasn't a lunger. The pain of the insertion was mild and over in an instant, but the relief it provided me from my treacherous bladder was instantaneous.
For the next two weeks I was urinating through a penile tube into a see-through bag strapped to my leg. The nurse told me that bladder dysfunction was common to lots of older men including, as it happened, my two black contemporaries I'd met in the waiting room. They were also catheter cases.
The place was hopping. Another nurse said the emergency room would stay busy until 2am or so. People groaned from the wall of cubicles. An Aargh (street drunk) petulantly demanded, “Now you tell me exactly how I'm supposed to get from here to there.” The police bring lots of Aarghs to the emergency room from nearby Golden Gate Park and, it seems, lots of Aarghs make their own way to temporary succor before resuming their headlong plunges to extinction. I heard an exasperated staffer exclaim, “And they all have cellphones!”
My urologist, a jolly young man named Dr. Grady, put me on some meds that he thought might get my middle kingdom fully functional again. Avodart! Flomax! Is there a male over the age of 60 unfamiliar with these frontline prostate prophylactics? I'd be on the catheter for two weeks until I saw Dr. Grady again.
And when I saw him, the catheter came out. I went home optimistic that the Avodart and the Flomax had freed me. I did some celebratory push-ups and went for a bike ride in the Presidio. But my waterworks remained jammed, so jammed I again hit the road for St. Mary's emergency room, this time at 3:30am. Other than an Aargh strapped to a gurney in one of the cubicles, I had a doctor and a male nurse all to myself. The nurse pointed to a stack of catheter apparatuses. “We keep a stack of them right there. That's how common this is.” And he got one down for me and in it went.
The meds having failed to unblock me, Dr. Grady scheduled me for laser surgery at St. Mary's sister hospital in Daly City called Seton, named after the famous saint Mother Seton, as is the Catholic church in the Anderson Valley at Philo. During the check-in I was asked my religious preference. Noting the pious iconography everywhere around me, I said with all the authority I could muster, “Catholic!” I half expected one of the statues to fly down from its creche and crack me in my lying head, but the Filipina clerk simply checked the Catholic box.
The laser expedition up my penile canal took almost an hour. As I probably misunderstand it, the laser chips away at the overgrown prostate to restore one's flow. I thought of it as removing the dams on the Klamath. A pair of tiny Asian nurses shoved me one way then another as they stuffed me into a paper hospital gown, a simple task I was unable to accomplish on my own. “Good thing this isn't an IQ test,” I said. “Happens all the time,” one of the nurses said. The anesthesiologist, wearing a Cal headdress, explained he'd be putting me out for almost exactly the time it took Doctor Grady to steer the laser to the prostate's coal seam face, so to speak.
I felt zero pain during and zero pain afterward. There was some blood in my urine for a mere two days before my stream was again running into my catheter bag as clear and true as Jimmy Creek high in the untouched east hills of Boonville.
I was home by noon, me and my post-op catheter, and god how I'd come to hate those things. My wife, much more anxious about all this than her lout of a husband, became the equivalent of a live-in nurse.
A week hence Dr. Grady would remove the catheter for the last time and I would be free. I was weak after the operation and slept a lot, but I anticipated full recovery, and a fast one, too, fast enough to get me back to Boonville in a week.
But then something went terribly, almost fatally awry.
Dr. Grady was going to retire the catheter at 9am Tuesday, a week after the successful laser surgery. I was almost home.
But at 9am Monday, after a night-long malarial assault on my entire operating system, I was so weak I couldn't get off the floor; I was alternately suffering from a teeth-chattering chill and sweats so severe they soaked through my blanket. I was vomiting and I'd lost all control of my bowels. I seemed to be passing in and out of consciousness. I couldn't stand, and soon my apartment was filled with EMTs.
“Shoot me, please,” I half-joked to one of them. It was all so embarrassing, so purely pathetic I couldn't quite believe it was happening to me. I'd never been so completely powerless, so systemically deficient that I couldn't stand or even get my feet under me to begin to stand. My years of daily hill hiking and push-ups had been negated in a few hours, although the doctors would later tell me that for my age I had “a very good foundation. No pre-existing medical conditions, no diabetes, no nothing. That helped you a lot.”
As the Korean lady across the street at her coffee shop stood on the sidewalk with a shocked hand to her mouth, her loyal customer was lifted into the meat wagon and carried off to St. Mary's Emergency.
When I arrived at the emergency room, I was pretty much out of it but still oriented, as they say, as to time and place. I still had a firm grasp of my name, age and address. But I was getting sicker, weaker. A young nurse commented, “You old guys always think you can tough it out, don't you?” I had to plead guilty. “Yep, another old fool lies before you.”
Soon, I was hooked up to an array of IVs and other mysterious apparatuses. One multiple distribution center had been inserted into my collarbone. The doctor explained it was a rather delicate procedure that required him to accomplish it so deftly that it avoided my heart, a piece of information I really didn't care to hear. Another distribution center was inserted into the area of my left elbow. My doctor told me that over the next few hours they put “more than twenty pounds of liquids” into my ailing bulk.
I wasn't sure how much I was understanding, but I certainly understood that two female Asian nurses were pulling my toxic clothing off, pushing me up on my side one way then the other as they swabbed my unexplored regions with cleansing salves. “I apologize,” I said, “for exposing you to these grisly vistas.” They laughed. “Grisly vistas,” one said. “I've never heard that one.” I'd never seen those remotest of areas myself, and now total strangers, and whatever they're paid it isn't enough, were not only risking permanent visual trauma, they were gently scouring the fetid regions with great soothing strokes of antiseptic cloth.
When my trousers were finally off, one of the nurses said, “Are you aware there was a stool in your pants leg?”
Bob? My god you haven't killed him!
I was not aware of that, I said, mildly irritated at the question. Surely she didn't think I maintained a pet porta-turd. For all I was aware the Boonville Chamber of Commerce was holding a wine tasting in my pants leg. I was debilitated way past knowing or caring how fetid I'd become.
So commenced three days in ICU. The first night, as I learned the next day, it had been touch and go. All my vital signs were way off — white blood cell count ominously high; blood pressure ominously low. In the middle of the night a nurse had come in and read the numbers posted behind me where I couldn't see them. “This guy is very, very sick,” she said to herself. The next day the same nurse said, “I thought about you driving home. I was worried. You look so much better today. You're going to make it.”
My primary physician, Dr. Yoss, soon appeared. “That was a sleepless night for me,” he said. “Someday I'll tell you how close you came.” Close as I may have come to buying the store, at no time during my prone helplessness did I ever hear the tumult of angel wings, the harps tuning up or those long bright white avenues the almost dead say they enter.
There isn't much time to think morbid thoughts in the hospital because every few minutes, even if you've managed to fall asleep, little nurses with big needles are perpetually injecting mysterious antidotes, taking your blood, your temperature, your blood sugar, your blood pressure; and there's always someone, or a group of someones, clustered at the foot of your bed reading the numbers. Several times, suddenly waking to a cluster of doctors staring in on me, I felt like the Macy's display window.
The doctors said there are a lot of fancy terms for what had happened to me but they all added up to old fashioned blood poisoning, probably from the catheter backing up.
Promoted from ICU to a room upstairs on the 8th floor with a kaleidoscopic view of the Golden Gate Bridge towers to the blue Pacific, the round-the-clock poking, puncturing and prodding continued as if I were still in ICU. But these people had saved me and I wasn't about to complain. My appetite gradually returned and I was not only finally able to totter around the room, I began to fully appreciate just how good the St. Mary's staff was. “Can I get some ice water?” Coming right up. “Extra pillow maybe?” How many do you want?
In ICU, a saintly little bundle of energy, Aeme, had even relayed the Giants scores to me. I'd never experienced anything approaching such a level of genuine concern, and all of it delivered with an unfeigned cheerfulness from the busy men and women charged with caring for a whole floor of very sick people, some of them senile and quite demanding, especially at night. I often heard one old boy demand, “I want a cop now!” Then a soothing voice, “Now Mr. Smith. Everything is fine. Would you like some juice?”
One afternoon I could hear a Russian-accented voice approaching my door. He was talking to himself, I discerned, about “Getting da hell outtahere.” And darned if he didn't walk straight into my room. “Who are you?” he demanded. I said I was Count Brusco of Upper Mendonesia just as two nurses hustled in to retrieve him, and I could hear him complaining all the way to his room far down the long hall.
I don't see how a hospital could be more accommodating. The doctors and nurses were angelic, the superlative that best fits my experience at St. Mary's. They saved me and then they made me strong again, and I knew that soon I would be back in Boonville in plenty of time to get my winter garden in.
ON THIS DAY IN MENDOCINO HISTORY…
January 27, 1899 - Mendocino High School senior Sam Ware was swept to his death at the Mendocino Shipping Point by a large swell. He was by himself gathering mussels for fish bait on the rocks at the south end of the Point, when the wave suddenly rolled in carrying him out into deep water. Fernandez Lima, who was nearby, immediately threw a rope to the struggling young man. “The rope struck within easy grasp, but he did not see it and made no attempt to take hold of it, although Lima called to him to do so. The probability is that he was dazed by the force of the wave. Although he was a very poor swimmer he managed to keep afloat, and he was last seen going into the blow hole on the crest of a wave.”
Lima’s shouts attracted the attention of William Wallace, who “arrived just in time to see Sam disappear in the blow hole. The two men immediately went to the other entrance of the blow hole near the town and in a minute or two his hat appeared,” but his body was never recovered.
Sam was born in Virginia, and his family moved to Inglewood when he was a small child. Sam had lived in Mendocino for the previous three years while attending high school, and he expected to graduate that summer. His survivors included his parents, three brothers, and four sisters.
Sixty years later, Auggie Heeser, son of Beacon founder William Heeser, remembered Sam as “an associate and fellow worker on the Mendocino Beacon when we were young chaps and fellow students in the first days of the Mendocino high school. We set type by hand before and after school hours and distributed it into the cases Saturday morning after the paper had been printed Friday night. Sam Ware had a particularly matured and cultivated mind as the result of extensive reading; had a keen sense of humor, and was a delightful companion in most of the ventures the office force undertook in their off hours.” Gone, but not forgotten.
Photo: Mendocino High School Football team, c. 1898.
Rear (L-R) : Joseph Corrigan, Alden Milliken, Jack Breen, Jack Suffeth, Joe Patton, George Marshall
Center: Ewing Dartt, Dana Gray, Sam Ware, Rodney Phillips, John Byrnes
Front: Benton Scott, Harold Gray, ? Escola.
HUMBOLDT HISTORY: The Incomplete Story of Blind Annie, a Wiyot Woman Who Lived by the Mouth of Elk River a Hundred Years Ago, as Told by a Boy Scout Who Needlessly Attempted to Take Care of Her
by Wally Lee
This story will have no great, if any, impact on the history of Humboldt County for it is a simple one. Yet for 50 years it has haunted my memory, and to the best of my knowledge it never has been told until now.
Besides, back there was a lovely and even then ancient Indian lady who lived a lonely and almost incredibly heroic life and thus deserves more, if only this bit more, than the nameless pauper’s grave to which she must have been consigned.
It is the story of Blind Annie. What her true name may have been, or her age, none of us ever knew. She could have been 80 or she could have been 120. Her sculptured face, weathered by sun, wind and salt spray to a rich and beautiful mahogany, kept her secret, and it is probably true that she herself did not know the number of her years, Annie reputedly was one of the few survivors of the atrocity of Indian Island in Humboldt Bay — the Massacre of the Innocents — of 1860. This, though unprovable, is not improbable, since legend held that “a young girl” had escaped the wanton slaughter by means of throwing herself into the bay and drifting with the outgoing tide on a log, or other flotsam, to the sandy beach just north of the point where Elk River enters the bay south of Bucksport.
Since our encounter here occurred during the mid-1920s, Annie’s apparent age would come well within the span of years to make that a possibility.
She lived in a rude one-room cabin perhaps a dozen yards above the high tide line, and legend also held that she had built it herself. This, too, bears weight because the principal construction was of vertical log slabs much in the fashion of the older Indian homes along the Klamath and Trinity Rivers, I clearly remember the shallow-ridged roof, and how she could have managed that is part of the mystery, for Annie was a tiny woman. One could see daylight through it from the inside, in many places, yet when it rained not a single drop came through. There was no floor, and a small wood fire inside a circle of stones in the center kept her reasonably warm and served her for cooking during inclement weather. Otherwise, she cooked outside, within a similar circle of stones. She had few utensils, needed nearly none. That, then, sets the basic picture.
So, why did we not simply ask Annie if she truly was a survivor of the white mob’s massive brutality back there on Indian Island? We did, on several occasions. And in each case, the soft spoken lady became totally mute, the dim light in her eyes retreating into their darker depths. And she would speak no more that day. We soon stopped asking.
Now — who were “we,” of all the previous references herein? “We” were the members of Troop 20, Boy Scouts of America. The writer was a Second Class Scout in the Owl Patrol. We had “adopted” Annie. In the beginning she was what then was called a Troop Project. In a very brief time, Annie became a Love Project for each and all of us. The project was to keep her well supplied with firewood and kindling, which we garnered from up and down the beach, sawed and split, and stacked against the wall of the cabin within easy reach, with the kindling placed inside in a corner, out of the weather.
Annie soon come to know each of us individually, by passing her hands over our faces, our hair, asking its color and the color of our eyes, and measuring our heights against her own. One of her almost incredible accomplishments was that she came to identify each of us when we walked alone, past or near to her, by our footsteps — in the sand. For a long, long time she delighted in not telling us how she managed this, but she finally yielded. It was by sound, faint as it was.
“You no weigh same,” she grinned.
The ancient lady was self-sufficient so far as sea foods, then plentiful on the long, sloping shore, were concerned. She caught crabs simply by wading out in little more than ankle- deep water and feeling for them. These she cooked in a small galvanized wash tub, which she filled with salt bay water from a finely woven basket. She was adept with a fishing line, using tube worms and clam necks for bait.
Clams she dug with an instrument which she herself devised, and I have never since seen another like it. It was, basically, a tree limb about five feet long, with one short branch for her foot near the digging end. The blade she had fire-hardened, then flattened and polished with stones, so that it was as good as any shovel ever manufactured. Annie in fact spurned the “real” shovel and most other implements we brought her. The clams she cooked simply by placing them on the hot sand near the fire, the fish on stocks set at an angle over the coals. The eggs we brought her periodically she simply buried in the same hot sand.
A big treat for Annie, whenever we could get them in season, was fresh berries, domestic or wild, although she managed well with some nearby wild blackberries herself, , judging by feel when they were ripe.
Her bathing and what little laundry she had were done in the waters of the Elk River mouth, regardless of the weather. And then we grew older, and went our ways, and when I returned to Humboldt County many years later, all trace of Annie, and even of the old cabin, had vanished.
As I said, this story is no epic, but whoever the kind and lovable old lady may have been, she now shares a tiny niche in the history she shared and, to this degree, made.
Annie was far from blind. She was only sightless.
(Ed. note: Annie’s sister, Jane Sam, told her story of surviving the the Indian Island massacre. Historian Jerry Rohde refers to this story in this article. This story was originally printed in the May-June 1976 issue of the Humboldt Historian, a journal of the Humboldt County Historical Society. It is reprinted here with permission. The Humboldt County Historical Society is a nonprofit organization devoted to archiving, preserving and sharing Humboldt County’s rich history. (Courtesy, lostcoastoutpost.com)
CATCH OF THE DAY, Saturday, January 26, 2024
JULIE BAILEY, Willits. Suspended license.
MARCOS DIAZ-HERNANDEZ, DUI.
ANDREW HAWKES, Ukiah. DUI, resisting.
MAUDELO LOPEZ-RENOJ, Boonville. DUI, no license.
DENA MORRIS, Ukiah. Under influence, parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)
SHEILA OWENS, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
KRISTOFF SUBA, Willits. Probation revocation.
FORREST WILBERGER, Leggett. Domestic battery.
HUFFMAN AND COULOMBE, LIKE LOST SALMON, ARE FLIPPING AND FLOUNDERING ON SCOTT DAM
To the Editor:
Regarding the Jan. 17 letter to the editor by Chris Coulombe, I must say how unfortunate it is that the important issue of Scott Dam has become mired in election-year politics.
We should be celebrating the fact that water agencies, native tribes and environmentalists, after years of hard work, have found a way to ditch the seismically challenged dam and help the Eel River’s salmon thrive while maintaining water flows into the Russian River.
Instead, we have Republican Chris Coulombe, eager to score points in his quest to replace Jared Huffman, declaring that the District 2 representative is “promoting the destruction of our regional water infrastructure.”
Two things can be true at the same time: Water storage is good, and Scott Dam is near the end of its useful life. We can acknowledge the latter without denying the former.
It may be that Coulombe, who announced last year that preserving Lake Pillsbury was a “critical” issue and one of his campaign’s top four priorities, feels that he has no choice now but to double down, even though the rest of the world has moved on.
I’m not going into the details of this saga here. If you are interested, you can read my op-ed on my website.
The destruction of old, small dams has been a fact of life in this country for many years. In 2022, 65 dams were removed, according to the nonprofit group American Rivers. Four dams are being destroyed on the Klamath River.
There are two ironies here.
One irony is that Coulombe is demanding the preservation of Lake Pillsbury at the exact moment that almost all parties have agreed, after years of debate, on a plan that includes the elimination of the lake.
The other irony is that Coulombe is blaming Huffman for something for which Huffman is trying to take credit.
The new plan isn’t Huffman’s; he had an older plan that failed. Perhaps because that older plan generated some good foundational work on the Scott Dam problem, the wily Democrat is seeking kudos for the new plan, known as the New Eel-Russian Facility.
Many details are still to be worked out. If we lose Lake Pillsbury, that will be a shame. But we cannot ask PG&E to maintain a 100-year-old dam forever just for the sake of the lake.
I want to thank everyone who has worked on this issue over the years. Fish advocates, tribes and water agencies all have different priorities. We owe them a debt of gratitude for reaching this historic compromise.
— Tief Gibbs, Republican, is running against Jared Huffman for Congress.
MEMO OF THE AIR: Romeo and Juliet.
“Rudeness is an expression of fear. People fear they won't get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved and they will open up like a flower... I am reminded of a verse: The painter's brush touched the inchoate face by ends of nimble bristles, and with that blush of earth color rendered her lifeless cheek livid...” -M. Gustave, of The Grand Budapest Hotel
Here's the recording of last night's (Friday 2024-01-26) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA) and KNYO.org (and, for the first hour, also 89.3fm KAKX Mendocino): https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0577
I'd like to read your writing on the radio. Just email it to me. Or send me a link to your writing project and I'll take it from there.
Besides all that, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not-necessarily-radio-useful but worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together, such as:
Part 2 of the Lost in Space Forever documentary begins with an arresting six-minute pitch of the original series, addressing advertisers and network affiliates. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS_wX-PliKU
The United States has thousands of restless-leg nuclear weapons that just need to get out for some fresh air sometimes. Here's how. https://www.mentalfloss.com/posts/how-us-government-transports-nuclear-weapons
Why legal immigration is nearly impossible anymore. With chart. (via Kottke.org) https://www.cato.org/blog/why-legal-immigration-nearly-impossible
Rerun: “J. Edgar Hoover has said, sex-mad magazines are creating criminals faster than we can build jails to house them.” https://misscellania.blogspot.com/2016/01/pages-of-death.html
Romeo and Juliet on a National steel guitar. Look up covers of Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet on YouTube. You'll find dozens and they're all terrific. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAiaLQCEbVY
And this question was deeply emotionally explored in Farscape, in the story arc where John was copied and Aeryn and John finally really got together, or rather Aeryn and one of the Johns got together when away on a mission, and John died horribly of radiation poisoning while Aeryn had to sit there and watch. Then Aeryn returned to Moya and the surviving John who knew nothing of all this, and it breaks your heart, but they can't relate. Though the Johns are identical, this one isn't the one she went through all that trauma with, and she can't stand to look at him, so their relationship is back to square one. Worse than square one. https://misscellania.blogspot.com/2024/01/clone.html
Marco McClean, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
DETROIT’S AMAZING MASCOTS
I know I know, you guys are die hard 49ers fans. However, I thought you might enjoy these amazing photos being shared of the Detroit Lions' former mascots: Roary and Roary's sidekick Cub. Not only are the costumes amazing, but the mascots were brought to life by a woman who apparently worked for the Lions from 1938-1977!
I hope you can access this link from the Corktown Historical Society (Corktown is Detroit's oldest neighborhood) with the photos and with info:
49ERS’ JOB? EMBRACE BEING THE BAD GUYS, CRUSH UNDERDOG LIONS, GO TO THE SUPER BOWL
by Ann Killion
The San Francisco 49ers have played “America’s Team” more than any other opponent in 18 appearances in the NFC Championship Game.
But Sunday will be the first time they’ve played America’s team. For real.
The Detroit Lions come to Levi’s as the nation’s darling David to the 49ers’ Goliath. The gritty underdogs. A team that has been irrelevant for most of the modern NFL era and one of only four teams to never make a Super Bowl is now four quarters away from a fairy-tale ending,
Outside of the Bay Area, America is rooting hard for the Lions. There are even pockets of strong Detroit love locally, thanks to Marin County native and Cal alumnus Lions quarterback Jared Goff. Unlike the Dallas Cowboys, who force-feed us the “America’s Team” nickname even though half the nation always hopes they lose, most of the country will truly be in the Lions’ corner on Sunday.
Never in their NFC Championship appearances or their seven Super Bowl appearances will so many be rooting so hard against the 49ers. But the team that was the cute underdog 42 seasons ago is now a staple of the postseason, and the rest of the country isn’t really fired up about its presence in the championship game yet again.
My advice to the 49ers? Lean into being the villain. Be the arrogant, dominant team. Channel your inner Bill Belichick. And set out to methodically destroy this Motor City magic.
The matchup provides a delicious contrast for football fans. The blue collar, emotional kneecap-biters from the Midwest going against the cool, overly-analytical Californian tech bros. Simplification? Silly stereotypes? Absolutely.
But there’s no doubt the Lions are embracing their hardscrabble roots.
“We’re talking about gritty. That’s who we are,” said Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. “Listen, we know exactly who we are. Are we the fastest? Are we the most talented? No. But we’ll bite somebody’s face off if you’re going to play us.”
These Lions like to roar and they like to bite, all sorts of things. Head coach Dan Campbell famously, and weirdly, talked about biting kneecaps in his introductory news conference in 2021. He also embraced the challenge the hapless Lions offered. We laughed at him then. Nobody’s laughing at him now.
On that first day he said his team would take on the identity of the city.
“This city has been down and found a way to get up,” he said three years ago. “To overcome adversity.”
Under his guidance, the Lions have overcome adversity. Campbell echoed his original sentiment recently.
“It’s harsh winters, right? Blue collar. Things aren’t always easy,” Campbell said. “That’s what we’re about. You want something the city can be proud of. You can look at those guys and say, ‘I can back that team.’… They’re kind of salty. They don’t quit. They play hard.
“These guys have a kinship with this city and this area. They love it.”
The Lions truly do have a fairy-tale feel. The franchise is one of the oldest in football, founded in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1928, becoming a member of the NFL in 1930 and relocating to Detroit in 1934. In comparison, the 49ers — founded in 1946 and absorbed by the NFL in 1949 — are relative youngsters.
But for much of their history, the Lions have struggled, save for a few of quarterback Bobby Layne’s teams in the 1950s. Only four current NFL teams have never made a Super Bowl: the Lions, the Cleveland Browns, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans. But aside from the Lions, those others are basically in some form or another expansion teams. (The original Browns had their own long history of futility, but the franchise that moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens has won two Super Bowls — one at the expense of the 49ers.)
The 49ers are a tough, physical team and have their lunch-pail work ethic. But they come in with the same kind of wine-and-cheese reputation that used to be unfairly hung on late coach Bill Walsh’s teams. They score lots of points, they’re generally front-runners, they’re loaded with superstars all over the field, they have an analytical coach who is lauded for his cerebral game plans. And they sit smack in the heart of Silicon Valley, tech bro central.
They are a far cry from their own underdog roots that propelled them to their first Super Bowl in 1981. The 49ers are in their third consecutive NFC title game, fourth in five years. They’re trying to win their sixth Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.
That’s not exactly the compelling drama America’s new favorite team offers in trying to reach the Super Bowl for the first time ever. The Lions have nothing to lose and will likely play aggressive and fearless, taking their cue from that famous Detroit son, Marshall Mathers: “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”
In contrast, the opportunity has come often for the 49ers: this is their 19th NFC Championship Game. They are hoping for an eighth Super Bowl appearance, a sixth Super Bowl win. They are the heavy favorites. They are the villains in this script.
Lean into it. Embrace it. And try to crush America’s team and dreams.
THE MYRIAD VULGARITIES of Donald Trump—examples of which are retailed daily on Web sites and front pages these days—are not news to those of us who have been living downwind of him for any period of time. I first encountered Trump more than 30 years ago. Back then he was a flashy go-getter from an outer borough eager to make his name in Manhattan real estate. Which he succeeded in doing in the only way he knew how: by putting his name in oversize type on anything he was associated with—buildings, yes, but also vodka, golf courses, starchy ties, and even a sham of a real-estate school. Most people who own private planes include their initials as part of the tail number. Not Trump. On his campaign jet, a Boeing 757, his name runs from the cockpit to the wings—in gold letters, 10 feet high.
Like so many bullies, Trump has skin of gossamer. He thinks nothing of saying the most hurtful thing about someone else, but when he hears a whisper that runs counter to his own vainglorious self-image, he coils like a caged ferret. Just to drive him a little bit crazy, I took to referring to him as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in the pages of Spy magazine. That was more than a quarter of a century ago. To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him—generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby. The most recent offering arrived earlier this year, before his decision to go after the Republican presidential nomination. Like the other packages, this one included a circled hand and the words, also written in gold Sharpie: “See, not so short!” I sent the picture back by return mail with a note attached, saying, “Actually, quite short.” Which I can only assume gave him fits.
— Graydon Carter, "Steel Traps and Short Fingers" (2015)
THE OGRE GORGING ON AMERICA
by Maureen Dowd
If you can imagine the lobby bar of the Manchester Marriott as an Anglo-Saxon mead hall, I can explain how it felt to cover the New Hampshire primary.
I will need the help of the late Seamus Heaney, who described what it was like to be quaffing in Heorot Hall while Grendel lurked and swooped through the frost-stiffened north.
In his lyrical translation of “Beowulf,” Heaney described Grendel as “the terror-monger,” the “captain of evil” and “the dread of the land.”
He wrote that the fiend “ruled in defiance of right” and was “malignant by nature, he never showed remorse.”
The “powerful demon, a prowler through the dark, nursed a hard grievance,” he said, adding: “Grendel waged his lonely war, inflicting constant cruelties on the people, atrocious hurt,” pursuing “vicious raids and ravages.”
The New Hampshire primary felt like a chapter of that Old English saga: Donald Trump, the ogre who keeps coming back to terrorize us, was stomping around that lovely little snow-covered state, devouring his foes.
Unfortunately, Nikki Haley was no Beowulf. She was not mighty and canny enough to rescue us from the brute. Not a single mead bench was broken in the battle. Her blade made slight cuts, but she was tentative, hoping not to drive away Trump supporters. She was on defense, not offense. She needed more of that adamantine quality that Nancy Pelosi showed against Trump.
Haley did not say what needed to be said: Donald Trump should not be president because he tried to overthrow the government. We can’t have someone guiding our democracy who is undemocratic, claiming that every contest he loses is rigged. We can’t have a president who encourages violence, vomits misinformation, campaigns by humiliation and smears and, lately, portrays himself as divine.
Engorged by his victories over Haley and Ron DeSanctimonious, the Mar-a-Lago Monster grew stronger.
Haley was able to get under his skin by taking a page out of his book on election night. She took her second-place finish and boasted that it really counted as a win of sorts. And that sent Trump into a scary “Caine Mutiny” monologue.
All he had to do Tuesday night in Nashua was be gracious in victory and say he was going to focus on the general election.
But he is so frightened of being cast as a loser that he was totally thrown for a loop by Haley bragging about taking the silver medal. He thinks he’s the only one who’s allowed to spin election results.
“I said, ‘Wow, she’s doing, like, a speech, like she won,’” Trump said. “She didn’t win. She lost.” How removed is he from his own reality that he can say that with a straight face? That he doesn’t know he’s talking about himself?
He was befuddled by the effrontery of Haley continuing her challenge to him. He couldn’t stop his Captain Queeg rant.
Ah, but the strawberries.
“We’ve won almost every single poll in the last three months against Crooked Joe Biden, almost every poll. And she doesn’t win those polls. And she doesn’t win those. This is not your typical victory speech, but let’s not have somebody take a victory when she had a very bad night. She had a very bad night.” (Needless to say, Haley does win some polls.)
Ah, but the strawberries.
“I said I can go up and I can say to everybody, ‘Oh, thank you for the victory. It’s wonderful.’ Or I can go up and say, ‘Who the hell was the impostor that went up on the stage before and, like, claimed a victory?’ She did very poorly, actually.” He added: “I don’t get too angry. I get even.”
Ah, but the strawberries.
“But I felt I should do this because I find in life you can’t let people get away with bullshit. You can’t. You just can’t do that. And when I watched her in the fancy dress that probably wasn’t so fancy, come up, I said, ‘What’s she doing? We won.’”
What does that bitchy line about Haley’s pretty blue flowered dress even mean? It’s as if he can’t even summon a sexist insult that makes sense. No wonder Haley called him “totally unhinged” on Friday.
He kept going with his demented rant on Truth Social two days later: “I heard BIRDBRAIN totally ‘bombed’ last night in South Carolina. Why the surprise, she just bombed in Iowa and New Hampshire in a very big way, and lost both States.”
He has really lost the thread of how a democracy works. This was evident again in his outrageous endorsement of a plan to short-circuit the primaries and have himself crowned the presumptive nominee by the Republican National Committee. After a backlash, he backed off and disavowed his own desire.
Trump was still acting erratically in a federal courtroom in Manhattan on Friday, stalking in and out. After the jury returned a verdict ordering him to pay $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll for defaming her, he blasted out a screwy screed on Truth Social, ending with, “THIS IS NOT AMERICA!”
Fortunately, it is. But it won’t be if Grendel terrorizes his way back into the Oval Office.
Ahh, but the strawberries that's... that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with... geometric logic... that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I'd have produced that key if they hadn't of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers...
(The Caine Mutiny)
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
People go out of their way to insult female public figures. Do you remember “Mann Coulter”? It’s low hanging fruit. (And don’t even start with the scrotum jokes)
THERE ARE THINGS my kids like that I don’t quite grasp, but that is the natural flow of life. Things seem crazy sometimes, and unrecognizable, but I’m 70 years old. It’s perfectly natural that they seem unrecognizable because part of the thing of aging is, as Linda Loman said in Death of a Salesman, “Life is a casting off.”
— John Malkovich
KIRN AND TAIBBI
Walter Kirn: I had a relative who visited me in Montana over the holidays and flew back east through O’Hare Airport in January. And came across while transiting O’Hare, hundreds of migrants camped out in the airport, shot a little film of it, was surprised. That’s America’s busiest airport at the holidays. How many people had that experience? See, when talking about politics, I’m always particularly alert to issues which caused people to change sides. Because in the end, what governs politics is people changing sides, everything else is talk. But what decides elections and decides the course of events is when people who are just acting by programming, suddenly break out of their programming. And this is the one issue, maybe the Palestinian cause too, where people who otherwise move in a rather predictable fashion politically might change. And so whenever there’s that kind of an issue, I tend to focus on it more than others. And this is one where I’ve seen people change their mind.
Matt Taibbi: Unless I forget that the Bernie Sanders wing of the party once had a very different view about this, not that long ago. In 2013, Bernie said, “It does not make a lot of sense to me to bring hundreds of thousands of those workers into the country to work for minimum wage and compete with American kids.” And why did he say that? Because the whole Sanders concept of a government with at least a minimal social safety net, programs that can allow people to live with some dignity and worker protections and all that, you can’t have that if you don’t have borders. And Bernie talked about that explicitly for a while up until basically the 2016 presidential election when suddenly he stopped saying that. I think that was when he switched.
Walter Kirn: And this issue is interesting in that it defines the MAGA or populist segment more clearly than almost any other, because the traditional Republican Chamber of Commerce view is probably that more workers the better.
Matt Taibbi: Hell yeah, bring them in.
Walter Kirn: This keeps wages down. I’m sure those factory owners and those people who need large labor forces are-
Matt Taibbi: Tyson Chicken.
Walter Kirn: ... quite happy with this. And then you have the more human rights oriented liberal argument for it. But in the middle, you have people who feel that they’re bearing adverse economic effects, crime effects. What we’ve seen in Chicago, I think it’s real, is some splitting of the Black community traditionally a democratic block over this issue. Because if some of the interviews and so on, I’ve seen are to be believed, life in poor Black neighborhoods is deteriorating. The services are being soaked up. There’s some degree of competition for housing and so on.
Matt Taibbi: Well, you can see it in New York where immigrants are being parked in places where schools— their free lunch, their school lunch programs — All this stuff that was sustaining some communities by threads are now imperiled by the new arrivals. And I’m not taking any stance on this one way or the other.
Walter Kirn: Sure.
Matt Taibbi: I’m just saying that it’s changed some minds.
Walter Kirn: But I am suggesting that this influx of people, which I think everyone can agree, is quite substantial in numbers probably affects first those in the more vulnerable working class and working poor neighborhoods and areas of America, whether they be rural or urban. And the quote “elites” tend not to notice these populist issues until they’re almost forced to. And so I tend to think it’s a little underappreciated only because the person who’s going home to Scarsdale from their job at NBC or whatever isn’t dealing with this.
Matt Taibbi: I don’t want to make too big of a deal about this, but there’s an even bigger way of looking at you talking about this, how this is the defining issue of the modern populist era. I recently read this book called Renovating Democracy, which was written by the co-heads of this something called the Berggruen Institute. I read it because these folks, there’s an indirect connection to this transition integrity project thing that I’ve been laboring over. But anyway, it’s a book basically about how we can fix democracies so that we can eliminate what they call populist eruptions and the upstarts of populism and do a little bit of rethinking whether representative democracies still suit today’s realities. It’s a remarkable 40,000-foot level view of how certain kinds of people look at democracy. And there is a passage in it that just blew me away. They’re quoting former German Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel’s description of backlash politics.
And I’m just going to read this, “As the average citizen sees it.” Gabriel said, “First, the authority spent billions on bailing out the banks, and now are spending generously on refugees from war-torn Syria and elsewhere. Meanwhile, cutting back on pensions, unemployment payments, and other social benefits through austerity policies. What about us? They ask.” And then the quote ends and the authors interject, “When people retreat into their own suffering, better angels lose their wings.” Basically, what the authors are saying is when people bitch about how they’ve been displaced by all these new policies or upended, the better angels of their nature depart and they vote for the Trumps of the world, or they vote for Brexit or whatever it is. And look, if everybody in the world read that passage and were told that they were being castigated for retreating into their own suffering at the ballot box, you would have everybody in the world reaching for a pitchfork.
Walter Kirn: And in America, don’t forget, the migration issue is also linked to the fentanyl issue and the feared incursion of cartel crime into the United States. And I can tell you in Montana over the last two years, I’ve seen mounting stories about cartel busts and cartel violence and cartel activity in one of our most northern states that is proliferating through the news and becoming a real concern for people. And we just had a story that jumped out of the headlines two days ago about six people killed in some kind of gangland violence out in the desert in California. I don’t know if you saw that. I think it happened yesterday. So insofar as migration, crime, fentanyl and cartel corruption of the United States polity merge into one. You’ve got a hell... And on top of this feeling that people sort of on the bottom are bearing the brunt of the diversion of services and money, you’ve got a hell of a populist issue.
Matt Taibbi: And I go all the way back to the ‘80s with this. There was a moment when we weren’t going to have NAFTA, we weren’t going to have... The Democrats were still basically a labor party for at least nominally up until a point. Then we had the DLC come in, they decide, “We’re tired of losing elections, we’re going to have a new kind of person run for office. We’re going to be more competitive on the fundraising front. We’re going to have a new covenant.” And we get Bill Clinton who runs for president and completely changes the whole dynamic of Western politics by greenlighting NAFTA.
And what was that really about ultimately? This is about the very upper classes in the most powerful countries making a really, really significant decision to fundamentally reorder how all life is going to work. We’re going to move the entire manufacturing economies of Europe and the United States to what Lawrence Summers used to call the vastly under polluted countries of Africa, South America, Southeast Asia. We are going to make use of Chinese industrial capacity. We’re going to make use of cheap labor in Indonesia. This is going to cause mass job displacement in Western countries.
And we had politicians come up on TV like Bill Clinton and say, “Yes, we know this is upsetting, but it’s okay. We’re going to retrain you for different kinds of work and it’s all going to work out in the end.” But they lied about that and there was no... The second part of the bargain never happened. And now, we’re seeing the fruits of all these people who kind of in this doctor knows best style decision to, “Let’s all get together and just kind of change how the world works without asking anybody’s permission to do it.” Now we’re seeing some pretty pointed ends of that.
THE REAL REPUBLICAN POSITION ON UKRAINE
by Benjamin Wittes
So let me make sure I’ve got this straight:
1. Even Republicans who support Ukraine funding don’t support it enough to pass this funding without winning, in exchange, punishing changes to immigration rules;
2. And even those Republicans who favor trading Ukraine funding for such punishing changes to immigration rules now don’t want these punishing changes to border policy, because that would involve giving President Biden a win concerning the border in the run-up to the election;
3. And by “a win” here, what I actually mean is a loss, insofar as Biden would have to accept policy changes beyond those he actually wants, since if he agreed with Republican proposals, there would not have to be a protracted negotiation over them in the first place;
4. Which is to say that Republicans don’t want a win against Biden if it would mean passing a bill they purport to want along with Ukraine aid they purport to support, as such a win would deprive them of the ability to criticize Biden for not capitulating in precisely the fashion that he now wants to capitulate;
5. So in other words, not even the tantalizing prospect of fucking over migrants can induce even those Republicans who purport to support Ukraine not to fuck over the Ukrainians;
6. And for that matter, not even the tantalizing prospect of fucking over migrants and achieving a policy victory over Biden (by forcing him to accept migration policy changes he does not want) can induce Republicans actually to accept that victory if it means depriving themselves of the ability to campaign on the Biden administration’s border policy failures;
7. All of which means, if I understand the current Republican position correctly, that the combination of uncontrolled migration over the southern border and Putin’s slow mastication of under-resourced Ukrainian lines is preferable to the combination of arming the Ukrainians and controlling the migrant flow over the border if the latter would in any way undermine Donald Trump’s electoral position;
8. Or to put it slightly differently, Republicans who purport to support the Ukrainians and to support fucking over migrants, in fact, support fucking over the Ukrainians in order to leave border policy unchanged.
Am I missing anything?
(Dog Shirt Daily)
THE CASE AGAINST ISRAEL
by Selma Dabbagh
Finally, something shifts. The ruling by the International Court of Justice is said by public international lawyers to be a game changer. For starters, the vocabulary has been reset. Out with the references to “self-defense,” bandied around as an excuse for the inexcusable; in with the cogently argued case that the US and UK’s greatest ally in the Middle East is committing genocide.
The judges first dismissed Israel’s claims that the South African legal team lacked the jurisdiction or standing to bring the case, and then by a vast majority (in each instance, either 15 to 2 or 16 to 1) ordered a series of six provisional measures.
The state of Israel is now required, according to the ICJ, to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide. The judges threw out the Israeli legal team’s claims that the Palestinian people do not constitute a “protected group,” and that there is no specific intent to destroy the Palestinians “in whole or in part.” As evidence of that intent, the judges quoted the statements of Israeli politicians: “we are fighting human animals … we will eliminate everything”; “we will fight until we’ll break their backbone”; “they will not receive a drop of water.”
The provisional measures call for Israel to stop killing Palestinians in Gaza and to “submit a report to the court on all measures taken to give effect to this order within one month.” One fairly rare requirement was for the evidence of genocide to not be destroyed. The panel of judges stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire, to the disappointment of many Palestinians, but the measures are arguably impossible to achieve without one.
The shift in focus from Israel’s “self-defense” to its capacity and intention to commit “genocide” is no small thing. The claim that the Israeli government’s military onslaught is self-defense has been repeated by Western government officials and press secretaries ad infinitum, to obfuscate their legal obligations to stop the killing. Vaughan Lowe KC of the South African legal team dispensed with that smokescreen on January11. The UN Security Council had recently “affirmed yet again,” he said, that Gaza is “occupied territory.” The Israeli government controls “access by land, sea and air, and over key governmental functions and supplies of water and electricity.” Following on from this, Lowe said:
“What Israel is doing in Gaza, it is doing in territory under its own control. Its actions are enforcing its occupation. The law on self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter has no application. But that is not the main point.
“The main point is much simpler. It is that no matter how monstrous or appalling an attack, or provocation, genocide is never a permitted response. Every use of force … must stay within the limits set by international law, including the explicit duty in Article I of the Convention to prevent genocide.”
The siege of Gaza began in 2007. The following year, according to Wikileaked communications, the Israeli government was assuring the US that it would keep Gaza’s economy on the “brink of collapse” while avoiding a “humanitarian crisis.” They’ve pushed it over the edge now. In the words of the South African legal team:
“Israel has reduced and is continuing to reduce Gaza to rubble, killing, harming and destroying its people, and creating conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction as a group.”
In the early years of the siege, the Israeli government was exposed by an Israeli human rights organization, Gisha, to have been counting the number of calories it would provide for the Palestinian population of Gaza. The magic number they decided on was a very precise 2,279.
Now the people are starving. At first they survived on unpopular supermarket product lines, drinking Schweppes or fruit-flavored milk drinks in the absence of clean water, while Israeli hostages and their guards ate the same low fat cottage cheese that no one else wanted.
My friend Professor Ghassan Abu Sitta, who worked at Shifa hospital in Gaza, is coeliac. Unlike many people, he had money, but there was nothing left to buy. He lived on one tin of tuna at lunch and one tin of beef for supper. “Does it ever start tasting better?” I asked him after he got back to London, “like when you get really hungry?”
“No,” he said, holding his nose while making a spooning gesture with his hand. “It never gets better.” At night he would wash the blood off an operating table with Dettol before climbing onto it to sleep. Doctors say his stomach will take time to recover from his monochrome diet of tuna and beef. He was in Gaza for the first 43 days of the onslaught. Most Gazans have been living with more severe shortages of food and clean water for more than 110 days now.
The importance of the judgment in favor of South Africa under the Genocide Convention and the awarding of provisional measures to curtail, if not suspend fully, Israel’s military operations in Gaza are profound. All states have standing to intervene, or to support South Africa in its attempt to uphold the Genocide Convention of 1948. Everyone is under an obligation, as the South African legal team argued, to prevent the serious risk of acts of genocide that aim to wipe out the Palestinians in Gaza in whole or in part.
This obligation to act applies to all 153 state parties to the Convention, including South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, and agents under their control, most notably arms exporters and manufacturers who are profiting from the carnage. The countries supporting South Africa’s case to date include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Malaysia, the Maldives, Namibia, Pakistan and Turkey. Many others have indicated a willingness to add their support.
Gaza today is far more of a living hell than anywhere else on earth. More than 25,000 people have been killed and more than 500,000 face catastrophic acute food insecurity. There have been more than 100,000 cases of diarrhea, 150,000 upper respiratory infections, and hepatitis is on the rise. The earth is poisoned with raw sewage and the sky is ablaze with missiles from naval vessels, F-16s and tanks, while also filled with the incessant buzzing of drones: children wish for fog because it makes it harder for the drones to follow them about.
And a population used to sayideyah, freekeh, rice, zaatar, mujadarrah, mulukhiya, chicken and tabooleh prepared in well-equipped kitchens, has been reduced to dry biscuits sold at twenty times their value, to be eaten in leaky tents. If you don’t like it, the Israeli government says in word and in deed, then head south to the border, where the visa hustlers will take $10,000 from you for the vague promise of an entry permit into Egypt, and you can forget about ever seeing your kitchen again.
Israeli papers have reported that Netanyahu’s government is in talks with Congo, among other countries, on the “voluntary resettlement” of Palestinians from Gaza. Social media reveals first-hand the gloats of Israeli soldiers as they share videos on Tiktok of the beachfront properties they look forward to occupying when the war is over. “Listen, Bibi,” one of them says. “We found [the Gazans], we expelled them, and we settled.”
South Africa and the ICJ have taken steps to challenge the hubris, the killing, the cruelty and the lies. May others follow their lead.
(London Review of Books)