- Pashilk Charged
- Five Candidates
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- Destructive Race
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- Aetna Departures
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- Elvis Died
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CLAYTON FIRE ARSONIST SUSPECT CHARGED
Clayton Fire Suspect Charged With 17 Counts of Arson, Defendant Faints Before Court
Damin Pashilk fainted before entering the courtroom, and "could not provide an explanation to being at the ignition site of the fires."
By Jodi Hernandez, Jean Elle and Lisa Fernandez
A suspected serial arsonist was charged on Wednesday with 17 counts of arson and suspected arson, and fainted before he was arraigned in front of a courtroom filled with angry Northern California residents affected by the largest fire he allegedly set.
A two-page probable cause statement alleges Damon Anthony Pashilk, 40, of Clearlake, Calif. was behind a string of mostly small vegetation fires between July 2, 2015 and Aug. 13, 2016 - the date of the 4,000-acre Clayton Fire - and that his car was captured on video surveillance cameras at many of the arson sites. In one case, a witness saw the driver throw an object out the window where flames then erupted. In other cases, Cal Fire investigators watching him and GPS trackers attached to his car linked his vehicle to the fire sites near rural highways both to the north and south of Clear Lake, which gives the city Clearlake its name, documents state.
"He set a fire that caused mass destruction in this county," Lake County Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff told NBC Bay Area.
"We are very confident this is our guy, a serial arsonist," added Cal Fire's Scott McLean, adding, "The year-long investigation will prove that."
In an interview with him Monday, investigators said that Pashilk "could not provide an explanation to being at the ignition site of the fires." Pashilk was arrested earlier that day during a traffic stop.
In addition, Pashilk was charged with possession of methamphetamine and driving with a suspended license.
Cal Fire crews by Wednesday had contained 50 percent of the Clayton Fire, which has destroyed 268 structures, including 175 homes. Officials on Wednesday lifted some evacuation orders in portions of Lower Lake in Lake County.
Prosecutors and Cal Fire investigators did not lay out a possible motive behind the fires, something Pashilk was trained to battle when he was an inmate firefighter serving a five-year sentence starting in 2002 after he had been convicted of several drug and firearms violations. But authorities added that it didn't appear Pashilk was targeting anyone, and that he acted alone.
Just before the San Francisco-born construction worker appeared in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Andrew Blum to face charges wearing a green-and-white jail suit, Pashilk was reported to have passed out before the 1:15 p.m. arraignment. Officials did not have details about him fainting, but those in the court room heard a loud thud before he entered the room.
After keeping his face hidden, Pashilk did not enter a plea and tried to bolt out of the courtroom once the proceedings ended. Pashilk is expected to return to court on Sept. 7. Pashilk faces anywhere from 20 years a possible life sentence if convicted of all counts.
Blum appointed a public defender for Pashilk, who remains in custody on $5-million bail. When the list of 19 charges was read out, Pashilk refused to look up, and only nodded to communicate that he had heard and understood the charges filed against him.
Aware that emotions are running high in Lake County, Pashilk's current attorney David Markham said, "I would just remind them he's presumed innocent until proven guilty."
Markham declined to comment on the suspect's demeanor or state of mind or provide details about the case itself.
For many residents, knowing that a man who lives in Clearlake may be responsible for so much heartache is maddening. And the anger was palpable inside and outside of the courtroom.
"It kinda makes you angry," said Mishta Russell of Lower Lake. "Hopefully he gets what he deserves, and he can't do this again."
For her part, Lake County resident Deanna Marie said she was filled with "disgust" when Pashilk hid his face from news cameras Wednesday.
"You've done all this to people — thousands of people, you've turned their lives upside down," she said. "Face the people."
(NBC Bay Area News)
* * *
CLAYTON FIRE: LINES HOLDING, MOP UP BEGINS
FIVE CANDIDATES FOR FORT BRAGG CITY COUNCIL:
- Bernie Norvell
- Curtis Bruchler
- Will Lee
- Scott Menzies
- Rex Gressett
* * *
MSP LEARNS 5 CANDIDATES TURN IN CITY COUNCIL NOMINATION PAPERS
MSP stopped by the Fort Bragg City Hall today @ 4:15 pm to see who filed papers to run for the two vacant city council seats and learned seven people took out papers, but only five completed them and had them back to the City Clerk's office by the 5:00 pm deadline Wednesday.
The City Clerk is presently verifying the 20 signatures candidates had to submit with their papers - and we asked Ms Lemos to email us the list of eligible candidates after the verification.
PHOTO — MSP ran into one candidate who will be "running" for a City Council seat, Rex GRESSETT, in downtown Fort Bragg today.
THE VERSION I got was that Mendocino College was paying an exorbitant rent for the Ukiah house at 101 South Hortense, corner of West Perkins, Ukiah. The college had rented the house for out-of-town football players. The football players are annoying their immediate neighbors, who include judge of the Superior Court Cindee Mayfield; former Ukiah mayor Fred Schneiter; and the Press Democrat's narcoleptic "Ukiah Bureau," Glenda Anderson.
SOME OF THE NEIGHBORS of 101 South Hortense are privately complaining that the football players are noisy (of course), that their trash is piling up, that their front yard is strewn with unsightly debris that includes a mattress that's been there for a couple of weeks.
EVER SINCE ITS CRUDE beginnings in the early 1970s as a kind of outback Olympic Village where the gym, football field and NFL-quality weight room were built before the library, the college has imported football players from all over the country. And every year about this time, as football season commences, there are rumors that the college administration would like to get rid of football, but every year football continues, although there is little interest in the college team in either Ukiah or Mendocino County generally.
THE PROPERTY on Hortense, Jock House, is owned by a Dr. Gitlin, an osteopath with an office in Redwood Valley.
BUT IS IT EVEN CONCEIVABLE that the college is paying $9,000 a month to rent the place? We asked the college president, J. Arturo Reyes, to break it down for us. And we will try to reach Dr. Gitlin to find out how a bunch of young football players can pay him big rent for the doctor's Hortense Street house. Maybe he's got twenty kids in there who each pay rent, but that would still be a lot of rent for young students majoring in football. Maybe a Ukiah football booster picks up the rent. Maybe the doc is the team doctor and gets the rent somewhere else, some other way.
MR. REYES promptly replied to our request for clarification:
Hi Mr. Anderson,
I appreciate your inquiry regarding the property at 101 South Hortense Street Ukiah. I will be happy to speak with you regarding this matter at your convenience to answer any questions you may have regarding our students and student housing.
In response to your specific questions, the college does not lease facilities for any students. Consequently, I am not familiar with the property and I do not know who owns the property that you are referring to in Ukiah.
In addition, the college does not distinguish between athletes and non-athletes as we consider all of our students in the same manner.
Any agreement regarding housing for Mendocino college students is between the students and the landlord. I would suggest that you speak directly to the landlord if you have any questions regarding the maintenance or cleanliness of the property. Disturbing the peace is a violation that should be addressed by law enforcement. I suggest that you refer to the Ukiah Police Department regarding this matter.
Many Mendocino College students reside in Ukiah and many other areas of our county and contribute greatly to our communities. I am very proud of all our students and of their academic progress. I will be very happy to share with you our student's accomplishments and their many contributions to the region.
If your concerns are substantiated, I remain optimistic that any behaviors by a small group of individual students in the neighborhood you describe will not reflect negatively on the exceptional character of our student body and the excellent academic environment found at Mendocino College.
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Arturo Reyes, Ukiah
AUG 31 FORUM ON MEASURE AG WITH SHERIFF ALLMAN
Dear Editor -
Currently, Mendocino County does not have facilities for inpatient treatment of psychiatric and substance use disorders. People who need these services either don’t get them, or wind up in jail, or must be sent to hospitals several hours away - an ineffective system that is enormously costly to Mendocino County. In an effort to revive mental health services, over 4000 citizens, led by Sheriff Allman, petitioned to put an initiative, Measure AG, on the ballot this Nov. 8. The proposition will:
- Temporarily raise sales tax 1/2 cent for five years to raise $20 million for new facilities that will provide crisis residential and psychiatric inpatient treatment, alcohol and drug treatment, and training for first responders and mental health professionals
- Create a special fund for the money raised, and a commission of citizens and public officials to oversee its use
- Develop facilities that serve all of Mendocino County with the services we need locally, creating jobs
I will be hosting a live call-in forum with Sheriff Allman, Sonya Nesch and more on August 31 at 6pm on MendocinoTV.com.
The live broadcast will be at:
and call-in phone is 964-0101.
Afterwards the show will be archived and comments can continue online. Please join the conversation with your questions and comments. For Naturally Mendocino, Skip Taube, POB 1833, Mendocino. 937-1437
I AM VERY FORTUNATE. I've never been in a shooting situation where I shot a person. If I am, I can only hope that my training kicks in. When a citizen has a concealed firearm, they are not a professional law enforcement officer. So I certainly know that they have not been through the training that I have been through. So their muscle memory is not where mine is. So that's why we encourage them to do regular shooting, to make sure they know what the gun is. Some people will have different guns listed on their CCW permit which I shake my head over, you know, to have a Colt 1911, a .45 semi automatic, right next to a Smith & Wesson 2-inch Chief's Special revolver — I shake my head and say, How silly is that? When you are in a situation where your life is dependent upon you using that piece of equipment to save your life, I don't want you to go through a thought process and say which one do I have today? Oh, it's the Glock so I'm going to aim a little bit high because that's the way it works. I want you to be blindfolded, upside-down, wet and shaking and when you put that gun in your hand you know exactly what you are holding and you know how you're going to use it so you can defend your life.
— Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman
(Courtesy, Barry Vogel's KZYX radio show, Radio Curious, August 18, 2016)
THE UKIAH ANIMAL SHELTER
I have volunteered for almost one year.
Every time I am at the shelter, the shelter is in crisis mode. Working in crisis mode as normal every day procedure, erodes compassion and exposes staff, volunteers and most importantly the animals to toxic levels of stress. A mostly dedicated staff tries to respond to the endless onslaught of often abused, neglected, lost or stray animals that are brought to the shelter every day. Fecal odor is often overwhelming and the noise of 50-70 dogs barking, howling and crying is deafening. Dogs spend most of their time in a small kennel and at best get a 15 minute walk from one of the dedicated volunteers. The rest of the time they are confined in a bare cement floor kennel. No toys, no chews, no bedding, besides a canvas cot. Because the shelter management has been unable to schedule daily play groups for the dogs, they sit in their kennels all day, all night, surrounded by their feces and urine for many hours. There are not enough kennel attendants to keep on top of the poop, so to speak. Now during the summer months all that fecal matter attracts large numbers of flies that sit on every surface. The volunteer force has shrunk to a few die hearts who try their very best to get every dog out every day, but it is often not possible. The cats don't have it much better, most of them confined for weeks and months in cages no bigger than a microwave oven and just about as cozy.
I object to you and others trying to make it personal. It isn't. I am not criticizing or blaming the staff. They mostly do what they can. Supervisor McCowen had asked for job descriptions for shelter staff, a request I have voiced as well in the past. Job descriptions were never updated after animal control and shelter services were separated. How long ago was that? This is more evidence that the shelter has no comprehensive management plan.
My two dogs and my foster dog are family members and are treated as such. Each one of my dogs has a distinct personality. They are sentient beings capable of feeling emotions like fear, pain, joy and yes, happiness.
Your reference to vicious pit bulls and other vicious dogs is uninformed. You can google pages of pages on county laws regarding vicious dogs, what the definition of a vicious dog is and how the public is kept save from such animals. And by the way, statistically speaking, more German shepards bite people every year then pit bulls. They just don't get that hyper media coverage pit bulls get.
Here is what I believe the shelter needs to be as good as it can be: The shelter needs a manager who is well versed in up to date shelter management, can bring "set in their ways staff members" to buy into changing how the animals are treated and to adapt to a more professionally operated shelter.
The shelter needs
A full time veterinarian
A full time dedicated volunteer coordinator.
Who exclusively promote the shelter and reaches out to the community to recruit new volunteers and maintains and communicates with current volunteers.
A full time foster care coordinator. Who makes every effort to recruit more foster families on an ongoing basis.
A full time dedicated adoption coordinator.
Who continuously markets and promotes the animals to the community, connects with veterinarians, local business. Facilitates regular public adoption fairs, approaches affinity groups and in general increases the awareness of our homeless pets.
A dedicated play group leader
Daily play groups are essential to the well being of dogs. It provides the opportunity for them to spend some of their energy and to socialize in a supervised environment with other dogs. Observing dogs in a social environment provides important information about the animals character and disposition and will be very helpful to find the right foster or forever home. It makes cleaning kennels easier and more efficient when an entire row of dogs are out and kennel attendants can quickly and thoroughly clean each kennel. Therefore helping to prevent disease spread among the animals. There are so many more wonderful and positive reasons to have daily play groups, too many to mention here.
The executive office needs to frequently and regularity monitor the shelter activities, supervise shelter management and help management and staff to set realistic goals and establish firm objectives and time lines in which to accomplish the goals.
I am saddened that you and others continuously try to make this personal. Cranky, never happy volunteers besmearing shelter management and staff. This is absolutely not the case. Our shelter needs to be and can be better. The majority of animals, especially animals who are at the shelter for long periods of time are not receiving the physical, medical and emotional care they need and deserve.
Speaking for myself only, because I have spoken out on behalf of the animals, I have been treated by some staff members with hostile glares, avoidance of eye contact, greetings ignored and direct questions related to animal issues reluctantly answered.
In the long term we need to educate the citizens of Mendocino county on the benefits of neutering and spaying their pets. To license their dogs, to make sure their dogs have a collar with contact information in case they get lost. Discourage people from accepting or purchasing dogs from unlicensed backyard breeders and to report such people to Animal Control.
Look around your neighbors, I am pretty sure that most of us know of at least one dog that is always tied or otherwise confined outside, often with no shelter from rain or heat. We need to change the laws that make pets property, for owners to do with as they please. Animal control is very limited by current laws and can only remove animals who show visible physical abuse, being beaten or starved. *Animal neglect is animal abuse*.
Last but not least I suggest to you Bruce that next time you are in Ukiah, you treat yourself to an unannounced visit to the Ukiah Animal shelter and take a walk around the kennels and visit with the animals. Who knows? You might be compelled to join us as a volunteer, we sure could use the help.
Monika Fuchs, Boonville
PS. Attached is a picture of the dog Achilles that I, as you put it, anthropomorphize at the most recent BOS meeting. This poor senior dog has been at the shelter since April in the environment described above. He is a difficult dog to find a home for, he is old, he is fat and he doesn't get along with most other dogs. Achilles loves people and is looking for a loving home where he can rest his weary head and soul. Any and all leads are greatly appreciated to find this guy a proper home.
* * *
BY GUMBO, Monika, I'm going to have a look at the Shelter my own self very soon, but for now, and I certainly did not mean to insult you, I think that the 25-year-old veterinary student who got up and smugly teed off on management, was waaaaayyyyyyy outtaline. (The gossip I hear is that her wealthy family, the Montounas family, wants to privatize the Shelter and install Little Miss Smuggums as boss.)
I'D LIKE to see the whole show returned to the Sheriff, and am pleased that the Supes, badly burned by privatization of mental health, are no longer considering giving the operation to the Petaluma people. Not to repeat myself, but I think the Shelter does the best it can in an impossible situation, that the interim director is obviously a very capable person, that she and County CEO Angelo are not hiding anything from anyone. How could they with whomever walking on in on the Shelter any old time?
OF COURSE the Shelter is crowded and loud and smelly. It's a no kill facility that takes in dogs and cats from everywhere in the County. I was startled at the presumably accurate statistical rate at which the animals are moved through there with only a few being long-term residents. The Shelter staff deserves high praise for doing as well as they do.
YOU CAN'T have dogs dressed up like human-type people on your Facebook pages then complain when a non-anthromorph like me comes along and points out the extreme romanticization of animals. I know women say a man is like having a big, smelly dog in the house but my dog, the late Cough, could not answer the phone or drive my wife to the store. He was otherwise my equal in all-round ability, a fact I have no problem conceding.
AND YOU CAN'T force people to adopt animals. Responsible people know that a dog or a cat is a little like having a kid around. They need constant attention. Responsible people are not going to take on an animal unless they are confident they can provide proper care. What more can the Shelter do to get animals outta there?
OBVIOUSLY, as Tuesday's meeting demonstrated, no one's being silenced. It seems from here the critics have made legitimate concerns more about themselves than the animals. It also is obvious that the Petaluma people are fueling a lot of this so they can take over the operation for Number One Daughter. I hope the Shelter continues to be run by the County, and I'm confident that with a new Shelter in or near Fort Bragg the overcrowding at the Ukiah Shelter will subside significantly.
FINALLY, the Shelter is not the Boonville Hotel, just as the County Jail is not Club Med. Form follows function, Monika. And if were you dissidents, I wouldn't have a coddled rich kid of a 25-year-old walking point for you. I know kids grow up now with No One ever telling them to sit down and shut up, but I thought that kid was about as far outta line as any self-interested person I've seen at a Supervisor's meeting.
PS. YOU'RE RIGHT. Don't know anything about Pits beyond what I read and my own direct experience with the beasts. My dog Cough was half-Pit. He was supposedly well-trained but in real life unpredictable as hell. He'd sneak up on me occasionally and give me a nip at no provocation. And he was only half, and I had to watch him very carefully when strangers were around, turning him loose only when, ah, undesirables were visiting. No one dared come through the gate at night, I can tell you. Cough would hurl himself at the gate separating him from late night visitors. Best deterrent we ever had. As it happens, my new nabes in central Boonville have two pure pit bulls, two of which regularly get loose, one of which is aggressive. With kids walking around the area, this dog presents a clear and present danger to the neighborhood. Why is it, by the way, that Pits are the dog most preferred by the above mentioned undesirables?
A new state mandate requires that all children entering transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and seventh grade be vaccinated, or in the process of being vaccinated, against measles, mumps, whooping cough and other diseases. Children in child care settings must also be immunized. In the rare instance when a child has a compromised immune system, that child’s physician can provide a medical exemption.
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 18, 2016
JACOB BLASS, Ukiah. DUI with priors.
STEPHEN DELATORRE, Kelseyville. Drunk in public.
MICHAEL DONAHE, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JOSH HILL, Westport. Domestic battery.
ANTHONY LOPES SR., Willits. DUI.
DEBBIE MCOSKER, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
THERON NELSON, Fort Bragg. DUI-drugs, domestic assault, burglary.
TOMAS ORTEGA-REYES, Ukiah. Under influence, possession of smoking-injecting device, alternation of an imitation firearm, probation revocation.
ADAM RHODES, Evanston, Wyoming/Ukiah. Domestic battery, under influence, resisting.
GEOFFREY RITTER, Ukiah. DUI-drugs.
BRADLEY SAUNDERS, Ukiah. Probation violation.
KELLY STANTON, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
JASON WILSON, Santa Rosa/Willits. Paraphernalia.
THE KNOWLEDGE TEST
How many words do you REALLY know? Test your knowledge with this viral university quiz - which is harder than it looks
University researchers developed system to test true knowledge of the English language
Over one million people have taken the quiz so far
Unusual words featured include asymptotically, encephalography and pawl
A clever online test lets you work out how vast - or not - your vocabulary really is.
Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium designed the quick-fire quiz that sees users distinguish real words from made-up ones - and the results are quite surprising.
The test, which has been taken more than a million times to date, has found that the average English speaker knows around 42,000 words by aged 20.
To try it for yourself, click on the box below. You fill in your details and 100 letter sequences flash up on the screen. If you know the word press J, and if not press F.
But be prepared as some of the words can be quite unusual - including asymptotically, encephalography and pawl.
Once you're given your score, you'll find a list of the words you didn't guess correctly, along with their definitions.
Professor Marc Brysbaert of Ghent University and leader of this study told Metro.co.uk: 'Our research got a huge push when a television station in the Netherlands asked us to organize a nation-wide study on vocabulary knowledge.
‘The test we developed was featured on TV and, in the first weekend, over 300,000 Dutch speakers had done it – it really went viral.'
WILL HUMAN EVIL DESTROY LIFE ON EARTH?
by Paul Craig Roberts
The World Wildlife Fund tells us that there are only 3,890 tigers left in the entire world. Due to exploitative capitalism, which destroys the environment in behalf of short-term profits, the habitat for tigers is rapidly disappearing. The environmental destruction, together with hunting or poaching by those who regard it as manly or profitable to kill a magnificent animal, is leading to the rapid extermination of this beautiful animal. Soon tigers will only exist as exhibits in zoos.
The same is happening to lions, cheetahs, leopards, rhinos, elephants, bobcats, wolves, bears, birds, butterflies, honey bees. You name it.
What we are witnessing is the irresponsibility of the human race, a Satan-cursed form of life that does not belong on the beautiful planet Earth. The cursed humans are even capable of launching a nuclear war which would destroy the livability of Earth.
God made a mistake when he gave to humans, infected as they are with evil, jurisdiction over Earth. He should have given jurisdiction to animals. Consider what humans do to animals. For example, Defenders of Wildlife report that the corrupt state of Alaska is currently slaughtering wolves and grizzley bears so that the state can sell more hunting permits to hunters to slaughter moose. Every moose taken by a wolf pack or a grizzley is not there to be murdered by a hunter. So the state is killing off the predators that reduce its hunting license fees.
Quail hunters want the bobcats killed so that hunters can shoot more birds. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department voted to establish a hunting and trapping season for bobcats but had to overturn its decision when it became clear that the endangered lynx would be caught in the same traps. Humans regard animals as worthy of protection only when they are on the verge of extinction.
Murder and death appeal to Americans and not only to hunters. How many Americans do you know who are distressed by their government’s murder, maiming, and dislocation of millions of Muslims in seven countries over the past 15 years?
A few years ago there was a scandal involving a NBA star who was a patron of dog fights in which Americans brought dogs to kill or be killed. Americans attend cock fights in which roosters kill or die. The British enjoyed fights to the death between bears and dogs and bred a special dog to fight the bears. The Spanish like to see the death of the bull or of the bullfighter. The blood sport of the Roman Colosseum is very much a part of the human race.
Badly raised little boys tie cans to the tails of dogs and cats and laugh as the terrified animals run, often to their death under the wheels of cars.
Sometimes I go to a gun club with a friend to shoot at paper targets. On one occasion our concentration was disturbed by bursts from a superweapon. I watched the person flinch each time he shot. I suggested that he needed a less powerful weapon with which to practice.
If only, he said. His son had gone to Africa and paid $25,000 to murder a lion. The son had pressured the father to live up to his feat, and the father was adding bruises to his shoulder every time he fired a round of the .375 H&H Magnum. He began to flinch when he pulled the trigger, and his aim was worse by the shot.
He said that he was trying to sight-in the rifle. I offered to do that for him so that the rest of us could go about our business of eye-hand coordination. Observing our disapproving looks, he blurted out that he didn’t really want to shoot a lion, but that his friends and his son were enculturated into a hunting culture in which killing animals was proof of manhood. He felt that he had to do it in order to be accepted.
Then he described the process by which the great lion hunter killed the dangerous beast.
First, he said, you shoot a hippo. Then parts of the dead animal are hung as bait on posts a mere 60 yards from a 20-foot high platform where there are gun rests in the event you are unable to shoulder your own rifle for a shot at such a large animal as a lion a mere 60 yards away. And if you miss, the Great White Hunter guide shoots and you can claim the victory over the dangerous beast.
I remarked that he didn’t seem inclined to participate in this fake hunting scenario. He said that he wasn’t but that he had paid his $25,000. I suggested that he cancel the trip and consider the 25K as the cost of avoiding the shame of participating in cowardly murder.
Elephants are magnificient creatures. Their intelligence is higher than many humans, and their life span, if they are not murdered, can be longer than the human life span. Yet elephants are being murdered at astonishing rates. Nick Brandt documents with his photographs, Across The Ravaged Land, the disappearing animals of East Africa.
The Guardian, a once strong but today weak and Washington-intimidated UK newspaper, reports that in 2014 20,000 African Elephants were killed by poachers. Tanzania and Mozambeque have lost over half of their elephant populations with the same devastation of elephants across east and central Africa.
Faced with the extermination of elephants, what did the corrupt European Union do? The EU refused a ban on Ivory trade! The ban might interfere with capitalist profits.
Free market ideologues have concocted a theory that the way to save animals is to make it profitable to kill them. Therefore, people raise the animals to be killed by hunters. In other words, animals only exist for the pleasure of humans to kill them.
What we are left with is a “western civilization” that is no longer a civilization but an existential threat to all life on Earth. Obama has announced a one trillion dollar US nuclear modernization program. This huge sum, spent for death, could instead be spent for life. It is enough money to fund many large and well protected wildlife preserves around the world.
The evil represented by nuclear weapons is inconsistent with the continued existence of life on Earth. Washington, crazed by desire for hegemony over others, is recklessly courting war between nuclear powers. Only Putin among world leaders warns that Washington is setting an unpromising course for everyone.
Yet regardless of all fact, deluded Americans still regard themselves as the salt of the earth, the “exceptional people,” the “indispensable people.” If this delusion is incurable, humans will murder Earth.
(Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.)
ON LINE EXCHANGE OF THE DAY
(1) I’m reminded of an incident a few months back ; A homosexual, and a stalwart Republican, was asked how he could possibly stand hanging out with a bunch of Bible-thumping fascistic bigots?
And he replied that he would rather hang out with people who told him to his face that they disliked him, rather than hang out with people who claimed to love him, but in reality despised him no less, or even more, but in either case did not even merely respect him.
And I said to myself, That describes me!
What I have seen so much of “liberalism” the past 40 years is endless talk about love, and concern, fairness and dignity. But I see no love in their eyes, no concern in their voice, nothing in their behavior remotely resembling fairness, and not even the dignity and respect imparted by admitting you wouldn’t invite the other to dinner.
The facts are neither here no there, because it is clear they don’t feel anything they claim, no sincerity, even if it is true.
The problem isn’t the script. Even a really bad script can be made into gold if the actors are enthusiastic. But these indifferent actors would make garbage even of Shakespeare.
* * *
(2) “But I see no love in their eyes, no concern in their voice, nothing in their behavior remotely resembling fairness, and not even the dignity and respect imparted by admitting you wouldn’t invite the other to dinner.”
I don’t care one bit about all that romantic bullshit. What I care about is which party is more likely to change national minimum wage to $21 an hour, or more of a living wage.
Elections and political parties are not about getting people to have “love in their eyes, or concern in their voice” … they are about getting public policy changed to get basic human needs met: universal health care, debt-free education, expanded social security, paid family leave, etc.
If food service workers in Denmark can have full benefits (health care, pension, etc.) plus a $21 an hour salary, we can do the same in the USA. But a political party will have to force it to happen. Don’t vote for the political party that whines and makes excuses and tells you that will ruin the economy. Vote for the party most likely to make the lives of working people better.
TRUMP FOCUS GROUP
Triumph The Insult Comic Dog Pranks Trump Supporters With Outrageous Ads
OBAMA CARE TAKES A BIG HIT
Sanders Revs Up 'Public Option' Fight After Aetna Leaves ObamaCare
By Sarah Ferris, The Hill
THE ARCHITECT AND THE ADVISOR of many wars and covert operations is now being flaunted as a trusted and respected statesman by Hillary Clinton, who will most likely be the next president of the United States.
CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN
Surely the Huff will be visiting the AVA...
PANAMA RED & ELVIS
by Ron Jacobs
(Photo by Renee Agee)
By 1977, Elvis Presley was an afterthought for most people. His tours, when they took place, were attended mostly by middle-aged women who wished to relive their youth. Disco was mainstream, Philly soul was smoother than melted butter, Fleetwood Mac was no longer a blues band, and the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station was a great album if not a bit over-produced by the very same producer who had turned Fleetwood Mac into a soft rock hit machine. Weed was in short supply for a good part of the season, although when I first learned that Elvis Presley had died, I had just smoked some pretty incredible Panama Red.
That day had begun with a friend and me deciding to hitch from Wheaton, MD., to West Virginia. I had heard from another friend who knew these things that the psilocybin fungi were popping up in cow turds across the state due to the right conditions of rain, temperature and natural magic that created those little mushroom caps. After cashing out unemployment checks, we stuck our thumbs out and by early afternoon, we were pretty close to Morgantown and the farm where the mushrooms were rumored to be. Our last ride — a country boy with an eight-track playing Pink Floyd — dropped us off in a little town called Bruceton Mills and wished us luck. The place we were heading to was about twenty miles further west near a lake called Cheat Lake.
Since we had been dropped off almost exactly in the middle of Bruceton Mills on the one road that comprised the center of the burg, we set down our small knapsacks and stuck our thumbs out. Soon enough, the sheriff drove by, stopped about ten feet past where were sitting and got out of his car. He sauntered over and asked us how we were doing. My friend was a bit of a paranoid type, so I stepped in quickly and told him we were doing alright.
“Where you boys headin’?” asked the sheriff.
“To a friend’s place near Morgantown,” I told him as I lit a cigarette, trying to be cool, calm and collected.
“If y’all got any money, I’ll let you stay here until dark.” He responded.
“Then you all gonna’ have to camp or somethin’ down the road at the state forest.” There was a state forest about five miles further west. “And while you’re here, I recommend you spend some of that money. Those burgers over there are mighty good.” He pointed at a small diner a couple doors down.
We nodded. He got back in his car and drove off. My traveling partner went to buy a couple burgers. They were mighty good. The sheriff knew his burgers. After eating, we went back to the business of hitchhiking. My friend fell asleep. I sat on the curb, my thumb out. No rides were forthcoming and evening was approaching.
It was probably around five o’clock when my cohort woke up. The evening sun was falling behind the mountains to the west and the shadows were growing longer. A ride did not seem likely. I was getting ready to walk the five miles into the state forest and find a place to camp. I mentioned this to my fellow traveler. In response, he walked to the other side of the road, stuck out his thumb and, within five minutes a car pulled over and offered him a ride going back towards Maryland. He motioned to me to join him. I ran over, found out the driver was going almost all the way to Wheaton, MD., said to myself what the hell and hopped into the back seat. I fell asleep and when I awoke it was time to get out of the car. The evening had turned into night. I began walking towards the apartment I shared with friends in Wheaton. My traveling companion headed in the opposite direction toward his parents’ house. His plan was to hit them up for some food and then go to sleep in his old bedroom.
As I walked down Georgia Avenue, I stuck my thumb out just in case someone felt like stopping. Someone did. I hopped in the front seat and closed the door. The driver handed me a newly lit joint. The smoke smelled extraordinarily fragrant, so I took a nice long toke. It tasted as good as it smelled. I handed the joint back. The driver smiled and said “Panama Red.” We drove around the Montgomery County suburbs for an hour or so smoking another joint. It was near the end of the second joint I noticed the radio had played nothing but Elvis Presley. I was getting ready to ask the driver if he knew why this was so when the song playing ended. I remember it was “Little Sister.” That was then the DJ said in a somber tone:
“For those of you who haven’t heard, the King of Rock and Roll is dead. Elvis Presley died this afternoon at his mansion, familiarly known as Graceland. Details are sketchy, although unnamed sources say the death was due to an accidental drug overdose. We will be playing Presley’s music for the next twenty-four hours in remembrance of the man and his meaning to our culture and our lives.”
Or something like that.
The driver finished the joint, extinguished it and handed me the roach. I took it and stuffed it in my shirt pocket. It was then I realized I was at my destination.
“I think Chuck Berry was the real king of rock and roll,” Said the driver. “Take it easy. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
I thanked him for the ride and got out of the car. Elvis was dead. That had to mean something. Some of us are still trying to figure out what.
(Presley died August 16, 1977.)
(Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: email@example.com.)
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Good luck to little grandson, Oliver, today on his first day of school, August 18, 2016.
I remember so clearly, 34 years ago, my oldest daughter, Zoe's, first day of school at the Franklin Elementary School in Wakefield, MA, which was located just down the street where my first wife, Patricia, and our kids lived at her father's house. Patricia had attended the Franklin School, as did her father. So that was three generations of our family who got educated at the Franklin School — you don't see much of that intergenerational thing anymore in our highly transient, mobile society. It's like we don't have permanent homes. It's like we're homeless in a sense.
The Franklin School was built in 1902 and closed in 2004. It's a Colonial Revival style brick school — very beautiful. It should have historic landmark status, but I think the City of Wakefield dropped the ball, and I'm afraid the school will be demolished. All things pass, I guess.
I remember, too, my son, Ryan's, first day of school 20 years ago at Cheyenne Elementary School in Colorado Springs, CO. Shannon, his mom and my girlfriend at that time (now my wife), held one hand, and I held Ryan's other hand, as we walked from the car to the school. It was hard to let him go.
Ryan's father, Paul, had died in a car crash less than a month earlier on August 13. On his fist day of school, Ryan was sad, fragile. He was quiet. And Ryan was a little afraid, I think, as he walked away from us into a classroom filled with kids he had never met and a teacher, which Shannon and I would later learn, was more than a little mean toward Ryan. Shannon cried as Ryan walked away into that classroom, looking back at us over his shoulder, and I held her. Her body shook with crying.
My little babies were so precious, their faces so open and beautiful. Their faces so bright. Their eyes so full of light.
Zoe and Ryan — and Austin, Vanessa, Marithea, and Arianna (my babies, all) — I remember all of you trundling off to kindergarten. You were gifts from God. You are gifts from God.
Thank you, God. Thank you, God.
Thank you, God, for my only real treasure here on Earth.
The Face Of A Child
In the face of a child,
I see an ocean.
I see an ocean of love.
I see God's love for us.
In the face of a child,
I see all the mysteries
of the universe.
I see wonder of all that is.
In the face of a child,
I see all what was lost
but is now found — I see
my own face as a child.
–John Sakowicz, Ukiah
STAFFING CHANGES AT KZYX
Lorraine Dechter steps down as general manager
Membership Director Diane Hering to serve as interim GM
DATE: August 18, 2016
CONTACT: Meg Courtney, President of the Board of KZYX/Mendocino County Public Broadcasting
CONTACT INFO: Meg Courtney, 707 961-6163 or firstname.lastname@example.org
PHILO, CA. The president of the Board of Directors of KZYX/Mendocino County Public Broadcasting announced today that, by mutual agreement, General Manager Lorraine Dechter has left her post as the station’s top executive.
“We had hoped to offer Lorraine a job in events and news production,” said Meg Courtney, KZYX/MCPB board president. “But it turns out we have no money in the current budget to support a new position.”
Dechter, who maintains a home in Paradise, was promoted from KZYX News Director to General Manager in January. The station hired her as a reporter two years ago. She will be returning to Paradise to work on a documentary television series.
“I want the best for the station,” Dechter said. “KZYX’s greatest resource is its high-quality local programming, particularly related to hot-button environmental issues. I hope the station will find a way to reap some financial benefits from the remarkable content it produces.”
KZYX Membership Director Diane Hering, host of the station’s popular “Lunch on the Back Porch” bluegrass show, is now serving as Interim General Manager.
Hering started with the station in 1990, the year after KZYX first went on the air. She has been a telephone volunteer, board member, interim operations director and interim program manager and served as general manager for three years.
“We are really grateful to Diane for taking the job,” Courtney said. “She knows the station and its systems very well and cares deeply about our staff, programmers, volunteers, members and listeners.”
KZYX/Mendocino County Public Broadcasting, launched in 1989 by a group of community-radio supporters — many from the Anderson Valley — is located in Philo.
More than 100 volunteer programmers produce KZYX’s mix of local music, culture and public affairs with programming from National Public Radio, Pacifica and other media syndicates.
The station can be heard on 90.7 FM in Philo, 91.5 FM Willits and Ukiah, and 88.1 FM in Fort Bragg. For more information, visit kzyx.org.
HARPER'S & OTHER PRESSING COSMIC ISSUES
I realize you have better things to do than deal with my often repetitive letters; however, I wonder if you’ve noticed the decline in Harper’s. Every issue seems worse than the previous one.
The magazine never responded to my cancellation letter and sent me the most recent issue a day or so ago. It’s awful: nothing worth reading except Patrick Cockburn and The Index. The roundtable discussion on American foreign policy seems to include only advocates of American Exceptionalism. “Readings” more often than not seems the realm of untalented women writers. And the reviews at the end of the magazine no longer interest me. This month featured a hatchet job on Ursula Le Guin, who deserves better.
Women keep murdering my favorite magazines. Tina Brown destroyed the old New Yorker; rich little Katerina Vandenheuval’s daddy bought her The Nation and made her editor; now with Rosenbush — and I hate to say this, but also Rebecca Solnit, who is a decent writer — the magazine is starting to reek of identity politics and especially feminism. And its politics have changed for the worse. Tom Wolfe has talent, but is a right wing creep.
Hope all is well. We’re in the midst of a heat wave. Only been able to squeeze in one bike ride in last two weeks.
Am I the only reader of the AVA that despises Flynn Washburne?
Roselle, New Jersey
ED NOTE: I agree entirely about Harper's, not about Flynn.
I always like to look at and think about the mugshots, the different expressions on the people's faces. The state of decay. The level of despair or poise or magnetism or flinch factor. It's not entirely voyeuristic, but there's some of that in there. I feel sad for the wrecked-beyond-repair quality of the frequent flyers, and I get a kick out of how whenever its a woman brought in for domestic violence she so often has a rather proud little quirky smile, as in not sorry, and I'm like, Good for you, honey. Also I imagine myself there in that predicament, being photographed and processed, unable to control my eyebrows, which always have danced around chaotically when I'm confused or in any kind of trouble, the way I can't stop my tongue from moving around in my mouth at the dentist's, following whatever he's doing in there and getting in the way (they just clamp it down with a clamp anymore). The photo would likely catch one eyebrow arched in interest at the process and the other eyebrow scrunched down about anticipating whatever might be coming next: surely something horrible — I've been arrested, after all — and I'd look just like this poor guy, or that one. Sometimes there's blood. There but for the grace of God, you know? As I said, not entirely voyeuristic, but a little.
Anyway, I was reading an article about phrenology in MentalFloss and it occurred to me that you might borrow anything on the subject from anywhere phrenological material appears. It's all a hundred years old. Just choose a few paragraphs at random and print them near the mugshots section. Something like this:
"Some people are of the opinion that heads mean nothing, yet in order to let you judge for yourself, we desire that you compare the two accompanying figures in Illustration No. 37. Fig. 1 is an outline of the head in which the thinking, moral and esthetic faculties stand out the strongest. In fact, all of the higher faculties are more strongly developed. This is exemplified by a high forehead, the high frontal top head, the broad temples, and the expansion of the upper half of the back head. In these portions are located all of the better, unselfish, humane, cheerful, moral and spiritual faculties. When these exist strongly in the individual they shape the head as illustrated. Whatever is the shape of the head so will be the shape of the face. Notice the face in particular and see the happy, tender, true, refined, friendly, generous and cheerful expression."
"Compare Fig. 2 with Fig. 1. Notice in particular the shape of the head. It is exactly the opposite of that in Fig. 1. Observe also, how the face corresponds. Now, which of these two persons would you rather meet on a lonely highway? Your preference, we know, will be for the first one. When it comes to a practical test, a test of life or death, or a test of dollars and cents, then prejudices are immediately dropped and physiognomy and phrenology are at once accepted."
Also I don't know if you listen to my radio show, but I always read aloud a few stories from the AVA. I especially appreciate the weekly Flynn Washburne story.
These comments follow my previous letter of August 13th regarding “World Key Climate Target May be Missed.” The Guardian writer, John Vidal, discussed the findings of Peter Wadhams, former director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and professor of ocean physics at Cambridge who has spent 30 years researching the ice world. In a new book published in July of the year he concludes that the Arctic is approaching a death spiral which may see the entire remaining summer ice cover collapse in the near future. He says we will shortly have ice-free arctic Septembers, expanding to four or five months without ice which will result in the release of large amounts of greenhouse gas methane, accelerating warming even further, a catastrophe for mankind. He writes, "We are taking away the beautiful world of Arctic Ocean sea ice which once protected us from the impacts of climate extremes. We have created an ocean where there was an ice sheet. It's man's first major achievement in reshaping the face of the planet." Mr. Vidal closes by writing "Climate change has been caused by ignorance and stupidity and can not be solved by endorsing more of the same with geo-engineering. The only answer is reducing greenhouse emissions." He speaks my mind. Not mentioned are a couple of other concerns — the accelerating melting of permafrost in the Arctic areas which will result in the release of huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere. I would also suggest reading the New York Times article "As Peat Bogs Burn, a Climate Threat Rises". About 3% of the earth's land surfaces is in peat bogs which dries out as temperatures rise resulting in fires that release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
In peace and Love,
HOW TO WAKE UP
Woke up this morning in my travel hostel bed in San Francisco, Larkin & Ellis in the tenderloin. Before moving, began chanting Krishna's maha mantram: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Not allowing random discursive thoughts to appear, instead only the maha mantram being repeated. Following morning ablutions, went to the coin laundry mat recommended by the front desk, put in a load, returned to Hostelling International for the complimentary breakfast, returned to the laundry mat to load the dryer, finished, folded the happy, clean clothes, went back to my room and put everything away. You might ask: "So what?" I might respond: "Continuous chanting of the maha mantram changes a forgettable mundane experience into an ongoing mystical reality." Checked emails and discovered that my dental appointment has been moved up, due to a cancellation, to tomorrow morning for a crown replacement. This changes everything, in terms of how long I need to be in San Francisco, or how I might be here; staying at travel hostels, or month to month at an inn, or maybe leaving the city for an unknown destination. Instead of dwelling on this, continuous chanting. Instead of worrying about the unknown, continuous chanting. Mailed friends in Honolulu a gift package for the newly designated meditation room at The Plumeria travelers hostel. Picked out a groovy design gift box at Rincon Annex post office. Got back on BART and went to Oakland's The Buttercup for a Spanish omelet and an English muffin. Coffee. Sat at the counter and watched the confusing news report on a big high definition flat screen. No wonder I've called for a boycott of the 2016 American presidential election in the name of "Earth First!". Continuing to chant the maha mantram while eating breakfast and attempting to make sense of the televised news. Went to Berkeley to check my post office box...no mail today. Am now at the Berkeley Public Library on a public computer composing this message, (silently) chanting Krishna's maha mantram, remaining spiritually centered in the fourth dimension, not caring where I go and not having to do anything that is pressing in the third dimension. I invite all creative radical individuals who are aware of the paradigm shift happening on the earth plane to contact me. What would you do in this world if you knew that you could not fail?
Craig Louis Stehr
WESTERN STATES PETROLEUM ASSOCIATION CONTINUES TO TOP CA LOBBYING EXPENSES
Group has spent $14 million lobbying since January 2015
by Dan Bacher
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, continued to dominate the lobbying spending in Sacramento in the second quarter of 2016.
"If you can count on anything, it’s WSPA (Western States Petroleum Association) throwing down some serious cash on lobbying," said Stop Fooling California (http://stopfoolingca.org) in their latest newsletter, the Crude Truth. "And this quarter was no exception."
At the helm of WSPA is President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas in Southern California. The "marine protected areas" created under her "leadership" fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, oil spills, pollution, military testing, energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.
Reheis-Boyd, who continually pushes for the evisceration of California environmental laws and the expansion of fracking and offshore oil drilling in California, also served on the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.
The group broke down some alarming Big Oil lobbying figures for the 2015-16 Legislation Session:
WSPA ranks #1 among lobbying spenders this session, paying $2.2 million to KP Public Affairs, the top-grossing lobbying firm in California.
WSPA has spent over $3 million so far in 2016, and $14 million since January 2015.
Overall, the oil lobby has spent nearly $28 million to date in the 2015-16 legislative session.
"That’s an average of over $50,000 per day since January 1, 2015, and includes the $6.3 million in lobbying expenses reported so far in 2016 (over $1 million per month in 2016)," the group said. "If you’re into math, that translates into Big Oil spending $39 per asthmatic child in California to deny their right to breath clean air."
Chevron has spent $5.5 million so far in the 2015-16 session. Chevron ranks #5 among all lobbyists in the current session. "If there is any doubt that lobbying equals real influence, look no further than SB32, a bill setting a 40 percent emissions reduction target below 1990 levels by 2030, which may be punted into the next legislative session," the group added.
For lobbying "its face off," Stop Fooling California awarded WSPA their latest "Scummy" award.
WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in five major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) getting appointed to positions on and influencing regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: and (5) working in collaboration with media. For my in-depth investigation on the five ways WSPA and Big Oil have captured California politics, go to: www.dailykos.com/…
Powering California: Big Oil teams up with LA Times
Stop Fooling California's previous "Scummy" award went to "Powering California" for its new videos praising oil and attacking green energy.
"You may remember Powering California," the group said. "It’s a front group of Occidental Petroleum’s spinoff company California Resources Corp. (yes, that’s complicated on purpose), which teamed up with the Los Angeles Times’ 'content solutions' team to spread industry propaganda last year."
"Powering California is back, now with a series of videos, at the exact time California is debating critical legislation that will determine our climate future, in California and in other states," Stop Fooling California said.
As Media Matters for America reported: “Powering California is out with a series of new videos praising oil and attacking clean energy sources. One of the videos baselessly asserts that 'renewable energy can’t replace oil,' falsely claims wind energy is 'expensive,' and bombastically declares that 'oil and natural gas are woven into the fabric of America.' Another video features feel-good man-on-the-street interviews with paid actors touting California’s oil and gas industry.” (http://mediamatters.org/blog/2016/07/25/party-conventions-big-oil-s-media-manipulation-strategy-full-display/211879)
Consumer Watchdog: Fossil fuel industry has donated $9.8 to Jerry Brown
Meanwhile, Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based consumer organization, on August 10 released an alarming report claiming that oil, gas and utilities gave $9.8 million to Governor Jerry Brown and his causes, often within days of winning big favors.
“The timing of energy industry donations around important legislation and key pro-industry amendments, as well as key regulatory decisions in which Brown personally intervened, raises troubling questions about whether quid pro quos are routine for this administration,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker, author of the report, in a press release. “While Brown paints himself as a foe of fossil fuels, his Administration promoted reckless oil drilling, burning dirty natural gas to make electricity, and used old hands from industry and government, placed in key regulatory positions, to protect the fossil fuel-reliant energy industry."
You can download the report here: www.consumerwatchdog.org/...
In spite of its reputation as a green state, California under Governor Jerry Brown is the third biggest oil state in the nation and a promoter of some of the most environmentally devastating policies in the country.
The Governor is promoting as his legacy the Delta Tunnels/California Water Fix, the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history that poses a huge threat to the ecosystems of the Sacramento, San Joaquin, Klamath and Trinity river systems. As Brown relentlessly pushes the tunnels plan, his administration is overseeing water policies that are driving winter run-Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other species closer and closer to extinction.
Jerry Brown also oversaw the “completion” of faux “marine protected areas” under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, overseen by the WSPA president and other corporate interests, in December 2012.
Brown has also promoted carbon trading and REDD policies that pose an enormous threat to Indigenous Peoples around the globe; has done nothing to stop clearcutting of forests by Sierra-Pacific and other timber companies; backs the weakening of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); presided over record water exports from the Delta in 2011; and oversaw massive fish kills of Sacramento splittail and other species in 2011.
Brown may spout “green” rhetoric when he flies off to climate conferences and issues proclamations about John Muir Day and Earth Day, but his actions and policies regarding fish, water and the environment are among the worst of any Governor in recent California history. That's why to anybody familar with the real record of Governor Jerry Brown, Consumer Watchdog's "Dirty Hands" report is no surprise.
IN CALIFORNIA’S ABALONE COUNTRY, THE HUNT CONTINUES TO EVOLVE
by Tara Duggan
Floating face down in the relatively calm water off of Van Damme beach just south of Mendocino, my raspy breathing was the only sound as I spotted my prey on the ocean floor, 15 feet down through the sand-clouded water. Its color blended in with the surrounding rocks, but its hulking shell was unmistakable: abalone.
I braced myself and took a deep breath, removed the snorkel from my mouth, cleared my ears and did a duck dive, kick-kick-kicking to get to abalone level before running out of breath. I tried to shove my abalone iron under its large, muscular foot to pry it from the rock. But I didn’t have the strength, or the leverage, to finish the job before a slight panic set in. I returned to the surface empty handed.
“It’s right there,” said my guide, Gregg Shimaura, sleek and professional in a camo wetsuit, when I surfaced. “You just have to get it.”
To be fair, this was about my tenth attempt after an hour in the water. I was in Abalone Camp, an event organized by fifth-generation innkeeper Cally Dym of the Little River Inn, which has perched above Van Damme beach since 1857. Dym grew up diving and helping her grandfather and father serve hundreds of abalone to guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner back when abalone was more abundant and you could still legally sell it. In addition to the dives, Dym also gives lessons in cleaning and cooking your catch with her chef husband, Marc. It’s part of the evolution of the family business in the heart of Northern California’s abalone country.
“We have a responsibility to teach people to dive safely,” says Dym, who still has the glass-bottomed wood box her grandfather, Ole Hervilla, used to locate abalone from his boat. Back then, when Ole spotted one, he would grab the abalone with a pole that had a hook on the end. Later, he hired a team of local high school students to dive for abalone.
Obviously, Dym ate lots of abalone growing up — for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She would watch her father clean and pound more than a hundred at a time, putting some aside for family dinners and taking the rest to the restaurant. There, she started as a busser at age 5, making sure to get her meals, too. “I’d usually order hotcakes from the cranky breakfast cook named Edna,” she says in an email. “But sometimes I’d get abalone and eggs.”
After the local mollusk’s numbers dwindled over the decades, the family removed it from the menu in 1981. That is, until Marc Dym recently announced he would bring it back to the hotel restaurant — but this time, using farmed abalone grown in Cayucos.
I’d been curious about Mendocino’s abalone diving culture since my parents and brother moved to Point Arena, also on the Mendocino Coast, about 15 years ago. From spring to fall, divers from the Bay Area invade the usually quiet local beaches and coves, leaving their trucks and SUVs along the narrow shoulders of Highway 1 as they scramble down to favorite spots.
Just as reliably, the local Independent Coast Observer publishes stories of those drowned while abalone hunting. The latest diver deaths were in May, including one of an Oakland man at a Point Arena beach.
In 2013, divers brought home about 250,000 abalone, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. A quarter-million abalone.
I’ve always wondered: What drives them?
It’s clearly not just the taste. To me, abalone registers like scallops — luxurious but with a mild flavor that could never compete with the briny, juicy sweetness of Dungeness crab or the mysterious complexity of sea urchin.
Yet it’s a sport with deep local roots. A 1941 a travel writer in the New York Times wrote how this “unique sport, one peculiar to the California coast line, brings out each spring the predawn motorcades that carry hundreds of those seeking the thrill of abalone fishing, followed by a succulent breakfast on the beach.” The article describes beaches dotted with smoke fires where families gather to cook their catch after simply wading into the water during a low tide.
Abalone must have seemed endless, but declining populations of the slow-growing gastropod, partly a result of red tides and disease outbreaks, caused the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to become stricter with limits. Though there are still places where you can collect abalone from shore, acquiring abalone of legal size — a minimum 7 inches across the shell — usually requires diving.
The regulations are complex, and ignoring them can result in expensive fines. Only red abalone, not any other species, can be caught, and only by recreational divers without scuba gear, and only north of the Golden Gate. Divers can catch a maximum of three abalone per day and 18 per year, only half of which can come from Marin and Sonoma counties.
That puts more pressure on Mendocino County, where there are protected coves and relative abalone abundance. Farther north, abalone populations are smaller and conditions aren’t as good.
The beach at Van Damme State Park is a different story. It’s the most heavily trafficked site on the coast, with one of the highest concentrations of abalone, and an estimated harvest of 16,000 abalone per year, according to dive instructor Josh Russo. The large harvest led to the creation of Abalone Watch, a group of local volunteers who train binoculars on popular diving spots and alert authorities to possible violations.
A 2013 California Department of Fish and Wildlife survey showed a reduced density of red abalone in Sonoma County after a 2011 algal bloom. In the last couple of years, reduced kelp growth, partly because of warmer water conditions, has meant less food in the water for red abalone and red sea urchin. That can cause abalone to move from deeper water in search of food in more shallow areas, which makes them seem more abundant to the fishers who go there.
That could be one explanation for the situation at Van Damme.
“It’s no given, but they are so plentiful and abundant, you’re almost guaranteed a limit on your first day,” says Russo, who is president of the Watermen’s Alliance, a diver advocacy group. “You can get drunk and fall off a boat and land on three.”
Not that he recommends that.
In fact, Russo is very serious about diver safety, including always using the buddy system. That’s what we did the day we started our big dive. Eric, my husband and a surfer with some diving experience, soon emerged from a dive cradling an abalone, its ruffled black foot making it look very exposed. Within 15 minutes, Eric, deft and slithery as a sea otter, had gotten his limit.
That left me. No one else can catch abalone for you, and I was determined to get at least one. But dive after dive, when I got close enough to the abalone to see its quivering tentacles but didn’t manage to maneuver my ab iron under it, I realized that I was afraid of hurting it. That didn’t make sense since I also shuck oysters and cook live crab and mussels, but this was new kill-your-dinner territory.
I learned to kick down harder and pry more forcibly — and finally lifted my first abalone off a rock. Clutching it tight, I swam back up to the float.
But I wasn’t done yet. We soon drifted to a shallower area where a huge number of abalone nestled next to each other in rocky crevices, and the occasional bull kelp gave me something to hold onto as I pried two more loose. We swam back to the beach and immediately tagged our catch.
Back at the Little River Inn, Dym showed us how to remove the animals from the shell with the ab iron or the handle of a large kitchen spoon. The next step is to cut the innards away from the meaty foot, and to trim off the leathery outer layer and black parts.
Dym cautioned us to cut the meat at least a half-inch thick, otherwise it falls apart when you pound it to the proper thickness. And you do need to pound it to very thin or it can taste like rubber bands.
Marc Dym pan-fried the abalone we caught that night, dipping it first in rice flour, then an egg wash and then crushed Ritz crackers. Never having eaten chef-prepared wild abalone, I finally started to get it: the seafood combines the sweetness of scallops with the satisfying chew of clams, all with a hint of briny oyster in the background.
I thought back to all those big abalone I saw on the bottom of Van Damme cove. Surely Dym’s grandfather saw many, many more in the heyday of the 1940s, when the inn’s abalone specialties attracted movie stars and inspired songs.
As we drove back down the coast the next day, I eyed all the perfect little beaches we passed, wondering what they might hold. I finally understood the thrill of the hunt.
Abalone regulations: Abalone season runs from April through November, with a month-long closure in July. California Department of Fish and Wildlife publishes the complete rules and lists places to buy fishing licenses and abalone cards. www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing
(San Francisco Chronicle)