- Sturgeon Resigns
- Wet Ahead
- FB Cost Overruns
- Prop 172 Money
- Debris Cleanup
- Pot Permits
- Little Dog
- Crab Season
- Candidate Haschak
- Yesterday's Catch
- Rebuild Better
- Mothers Rock
- Just Accuse
- Fordham Return
- Full Moons
- Santa Claus For Adults
THIS JUST IN – Malcolm Macdonald reports: "The result of a closed session meeting of the Mendocino Coast District Hospital Board of Directors: Wade Sturgeon has resigned his post as Chief Financial Officer at the hospital, effective December 1st."
RAINY & WINDY WEDNESDAY, RAIN THURSDAY, clearing over the weekend. Then another string of moderately rainy days expected next week starting next Monday. Temps mostly in the 50s.
THE FORT BRAGG REPORT
by Rex Gressett
It's hard not to like this Fort Bragg City Council, at the least on a visceral level. Although there is a voting majority theoretically proof against the stuffed shirt, pragmatically vacillating, painfully predictable, knee-jerk, status quo advocates (Dave Turner and Mayor Lindy Peters), our boys are still somehow intrepid underdogs always doing the very rightest things and bravely ignoring predicted disaster.
There sure are a lot of people waiting in the wings to remark on how bad they screw it up, if they do. I don’t think they are going to screw up at all, but if they try to, last night’s regular City Council meeting lowered the competence bar to an astonishingly new low level. They will have to work diligently to make a bigger mess.
The $500,000 in excess expenditures, bad planning, inept management and unscrupulous allocations were apparently the consequence of endemic mismanagement in every one of the Streets and Alleys projects. You have to get up very early in the morning to do worse.
Tom Vargas, Fort Bragg’s public works guy, has the City Manager helping him. When City Manager Linda Ruffing’s old, now terminated, wholly owned City Council (informally known as the flattering, obsequious, know-nothing style council) was leaving office the City Manager presented them with the final bill for narrowing Chestnut Street and putting in sidewalks. The public works overseers from the City, and the contractor, had worked together to overrun their budget by $700,000.
That was Vargas’s project also. I remember how shocked the incoming city council was over the smug absence of contrition and the smiley face acceptance of cash hemorrhages. That’s never going to happen to us, the insurgent council muttered, and with conviction too, as they took their seats.
But now it has.
Precisely. Councilman Will Lee, in particular, is an institutional administrator in his day job, so he clearly understood blowing a budget by that much and the hutzpah of presenting the bill after the completion of the work. Now here it is again.
Once again the City Manager delivered up a grim autopsy, this time of Streets and Alleys. City Manager Ruffing made the announcement of fiscal fumbling with giggles and eye-rolling as she announced the project was done but at roughly 30% more than what they told us it would cost. Little things kept coming up. In a rather fine gesture of institutional loyalty, Ruffing herself covered for her comrade, the glaringly absent public works director Tom Vargas.
Monday night, manager Ruffing looked around for someone to blame, only to find everyone was looking at her. In the end, she confessed, still giggling at an invisible joke of “big problems” with the communications between departments. Walking down the hall to talk to the person responsible is so time-consuming. As a result of the communications difficulty, and the universal and inherent awkwardness in communication generally, thousands of dollars were wasted in proper ways and the project just got done before anyone down the hall could be notified it was costing too much. They overspent by exactly $485,000 bucks to be exact. Ruffing smiled and smiled looking around, I guess, for sympathy. She did not get it from the council.
We recall that the Granite Construction contract for the 2017 Streets and Alleys projects came to us as a one-bid option, straining the regulations when it was awarded. The paving community and their construction industry colleagues seem to have sit things out for some reason when Granite is bidding. The original Granite estimate was 9% over the recommended bid maximum; now it's 30% over that.
The stunned City Council found itself caught between the ethical requirement to protect the taxpayers' money and the legal obligation to pay for work already completed. When this happened on Chestnut the inconvenience did not make the old council mad. They accepted the terms of their bondage to City Manager Linda Ruffing absolutely. No quibbling and no unpleasant recriminations. Just pay up and move on.
If Ruffing thought that in bygone days the council had to spend $700,000, it did. End of story. The new council, which has recently fired the City Manager — she leaves in February — Councilman Mike Cimolino did not take the news of a half million in red ink quite so well. With his 39 years of hands-on city construction experience, he dissected the mischances and bungled decision-making with surgical precision. Will Lee studied the physical losses, a bleeding wound hitherto unreported, and then spoke forcefully with gravitas of the indignity to the council and the irresponsible, indeed intolerable, mismanagement.
In the end, the Council voted the money. They had to. If they could have they would have fired Ruffing a second time.
THOSE DELAYED PROP 172 CHECKS for local fire departments were finally discussed Tuesday. Supervisors Dan Gjerde, Carre Brown and Dan Hamburg all thought that “this year’s” checks were supposed to have gone out already using “last year’s” formula that was agreed to by the County and over 20 local fire departments. But Board Chair John McCowen said he thought the formula was flawed because cities didn’t get their fair share based on population and that he didn’t remember voting on “this year’s” payments because he would have objected had it come up. McCowen thought the issue had been referred to the Public Resources Committee but after several awkward moments of confusion nobody could find “the referral,” much less the decision to make the second allocation that the Board made when they approved the current year’s budget. In the end, seeing as how there’s already been months of delay, the Board decided to put the question on their “next available agenda” — their version of a speedy process. But, oops, their agenda is full and, as CEO Angelo noted, the question will take some time because lots of fire chiefs are likely to be on hand to gripe, er, comment. So it will be set for Dec. 5 if possible, and Dec. 13 if not Dec. 5. Ms. Angelo said her office would notify all the Fire Districts which day it would be set for soon. Meanwhile, as Ms. Angelo said, the fire departments want their money.
THE BACK END of the fire debris clean up project — e.g., what happens to the dump trucks once they leaves the debris sites with full loads, and can they really work effectively over the winter with wet and damaged roads which might be further damaged by heavy debris removal vehicles — was discussed briefly Tuesday after local contractor rep Lee Howard told the Board that the County hadn’t properly factored in winter weather when they set their target completion dates and dump trucks were being delayed for hours at the big NorCal dump in Novato meaning they can only do one load a day instead of two. US Army Corps of Engineers rep Laura Ortiz told the Board that they had recently added a second scale at the Novato dump and that it had significantly reduced those long delays. Ms. Ortiz also said she would bring the winter operations issue to her regional boss in Sacramento and get back to Mendo ASAP (Dec. 5? Dec. 13?). For now, the County and the Corps of Engineers has set a rather arbitary Feb. 1, 2018 as the completion date for debris clean up (mainly because the Army Corps wants to be able to move on to the next mess soon and predictably). But there are a lot of people who don’t think that Feb. 1 date is realistic and will have to be pushed out.
IN POT PERMIT NEWS, County Ag Commissioner Diane Curry told the board that the state’s “emergency regulations” are supposed to be out this week. Delays and regroupings have resulted in the “emergency” regs (i.e., not the “preliminary” regs) because Prop 64 kicks in on January 1 and the state’s burgeoning army of pot regulators have not been able to complete the “preliminary” regs, having suffered two false starts already. Ms. Curry reported that two of her marijuana permit processing staffers had moved on to “bigger and better things,” and she is in the process of trying to replace them. (There’s a boom in the pot regulation business for county and state staff as well as a back-up army of consultants, Fish and Wildlife officials, water staffers and experts, lawyers, engineers, inspectors, etc. and Mendo seems to have become a good training ground for wannabe regulators.) Ms. Curry said she has completed 403 pre-site inspections of permit applications and issued 50 approvals. (Nobody asked what was still taking so long but the loss of the two staffers didn't help expedite the process.)
COUNTY CODE ENFORCEMENT CHIEF Trent Taylor said his workload has decreased and about half his staff is working the state department of toxic substances control (DTSC) in the wake of the big fire disaster. Taylor got a few giggles out of the sparse crowd when he said that of the 148 complaints (of 331 total) that had been “resolved,” a significant percentage of the 148 were “resolved by way of harvest.”
LOCAL ATTORNEY Hannah Nelson told the Board that the State Water Board’s regs — (way) over and above the “emergency” regs the California Department of Cannabis Control is working on — were just released and that they are “detailed and stringent.”
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Skrag's always trying to torque up my anxiety levels. He says to me yesterday, ‘I heard them talking in the office about getting you de-barked. You're too yappy, getting on everyone's nerves.’ False alarm of course. I couldn't do my job if I lost my voice. The Boss told me he's against de-barking, de-balling, de-tailing — the works. ‘I don't mess with God's handiwork,’ he said. I gave him an extra yap for that one.”
CRAB SEASON UNDERWAY
by Mary Callahan
The commercial crabbing season will start on time off the Sonoma Coast this fall for the first time in three years, putting fresh Dungeness crab in local markets by week’s end and restoring long-held autumn and holiday traditions.
Commercial crabbers around Bodega Harbor hustled Monday to load boats with gear and bait and leave port in time to start soaking crab pots off the coast by early Tuesday morning.
Their clocks were set for 6:01 a.m., the first moment by law at which they are permitted to put gear in the water. They can start pulling full pots and landing crab at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, the official start of the season.
“It’s a big deal,” veteran Dick Ogg said by phone Monday from the Karen Jeanne, as he motored to his favored crabbing grounds off Point Reyes with 239 metal crab cages on board. “It’s a very competitive fishery in the beginning.”
The season traditionally starts Nov. 15 in coastal waters south of the Mendocino County line. North of the line, the seasons opens Dec. 1, though the opener can be delayed if samples show that the northern crab still need to mature and reach an established threshold for meat content.
Such is the case this year, and it’s unclear how soon the northern fishery will open, though the volume of northern crabs is reportedly very high.
About 3.3 million pounds, more than $10 million worth of sweet, meaty crab, were landed in Bodega Bay last year despite a delayed local opening and a midseason strike that kept crabbers up and down the West Coast at docks in solidarity. Statewide landings reached nearly 22.5 million pounds worth $71.4 million to the California fleet, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
But the above-average haul masked problems in the fishery because of elevated levels of a naturally produced neurotoxin that have spelled trouble for the industry and for consumers over several recent seasons.
Algae-related domoic acid closed the Dungeness crab fishery throughout the normally lucrative holiday season in the fall and winter of 2015, depriving those accustomed to having succulent crab at their Thanksgiving table, as well as at Christmas, New Year’s and Chinese New Year, the period during which the bulk of fresh crab are sold.
The curtailed season was disastrous particularly for those who traditionally depend on crab and salmon, given very poor salmon production in recent years.
Then last fall, isolated pockets of elevated domoic acid levels prompted regulators to open the California crab season on a piecemeal basis that disadvantaged smaller boats and the Bodega Bay fleet in particular, crabbers said.
A few crab samples from north of the Mendocino County line have revealed slightly elevated levels of domoic acid this year.
The California Department of Health has advised people to refrain, for the time being, from consuming the guts, or viscera, of crab caught between Laguna Point, north of Fort Bragg, and Humboldt Bay, and between the Klamath River and the Oregon border.
So-called “crab butter” is more likely to have concentrated levels of the substance.
Even after several years of delays and disrupted seasons, crabbers up and down the North Coast contemplated whether to keep their vessels tied at dock for a few more days and hold out for something better than the $3 a pound wholesalers have been offering as a starting price.
Fuel and bait prices continue to rise, yet the commercial crabbing fleet has started at $3 a pound since 2013, without so much as a cost-of-living increase, Ogg said.
But during concurrent Monday morning votes in Half Moon Bay, Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg, the consensus of the commercial fleet was to go fishing, despite some continued dissension in the ranks, said Lorne Edwards, president of the Fishermen’s Marketing Association of Bodega Bay.
“They just left the meeting hall here at 100 miles an hour,” Edwards said in the minutes after the vote was settled.
Not everyone is choosing to fish right away, though.
Even though the opening date for the far northern California fishery is still up in the air, word among crabbers is that the crustaceans are much more bountiful up toward Crescent City and less abundant around Bodega Bay and the Bay Area.
Because fair-start regulations require that anyone who has fished south of Mendocino County must wait at least 30 days before they fish in the north, some locals, such as Edwards, have decided to hold off dropping their pots until northern waters open.
Those who start crabbing off Bodega Bay and points south now, they reckon, risk having the bulk of the crab scooped up in short order and then having to wait a whole month before they can move to more plentiful fishing grounds in the north.
“Most of our boats are going,” veteran Bodega Bay fisherman Stan Carpenter said as he readied to launch Monday. “I know three pretty good-size boats that are not going.”
Windsor fisherman Ben Platt said he thought about waiting for the northern fishery but was worried it would mean starting the season in midwinter and bad weather.
Plus, like Ogg, he wants to land some seafood so he can pay his crew, which already has put in three weeks of unpaid work getting the boat ready for crab and waiting for a cut of the proceeds.
Ogg said, “I can’t have my crew wait another two months to get a paycheck.”
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
Longtime Mendocino County and Willits resident and public school teacher, John Haschak, has announced his candidacy for 3rd District Supervisor. Haschak has taught in Willits public schools for 28 years and has been an educational leader and involved in community activities for many years.
Haschak sees a need for strong leadership, especially after the recent devastating fires and pledges to make public safety and disaster preparedness a priority in his campaign and in office.
“We can count on seeing more such devastating events in the future, with the realities of climate change combined with our rugged and forested terrain,” said Haschak. “What we love so much about our County — its natural beauty, wilderness and rural atmosphere — also contribute to the danger of fires and other natural disasters.”
Haschak also wants to focus on creating greater opportunities for jobs, protection for our natural resources, common sense cannabis regulations and keeping a sharp eye on the budget.
“All of these things go together” says Haschak. “If we build a more sustainable and ultimately stronger community, we’ll be better able to work on disaster preparedness and create a strong tie between our local government and our citizens.”
Former Supervisor Hal Wagenet, spoke enthusiastically about John’s run: “Native son John Haschak is already a leader who listens and gets positive results in the school system. He will be a real asset to Mendocino County as our Supervisor.”
Echoing that sentiment, Blosser Lane Elementary Principal Nancy Runberg said, “John has been great for the kids and parents of our school district; warm, compassionate and a fierce advocate.” Willits Unified School District Trustee Chris Neary agreed, saying, “John’s skills will translate seamlessly into the job of County Supervisor. He cares.”
Haschak lives in Willits with his wife, Janice, also a public school teacher, and their two rescue dogs. They have two adult children, Flor and Ricardo. Haschak is active with the Willits Teachers Association, where he has served as President for 15 years, and with the California Teachers Association, serving as Vice Chair of the Budget Committee. Locally, he has been active in his church, PTO, coached basketball and track, and volunteered with Hospice.
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 14, 2017
FORREST COVEY, Potter Valley. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, resisting.
TIMOTHY FISCHER, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, indecent exposure.
ERNIE SALO, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, Calpella. Parole violation, probation revocation.
When we build our homes on the coast, there is a risk from tsunamis and hurricanes. When we build in flood-prone areas, there is an obvious risk from floods. When we build on the sides of canyons, there is a higher risk of devastating fires.
Every year in Southern California, in the San Bernardino Mountains, homes built on the side of canyons burn with predictable certainty.
When the Tubbs fire broke out near Calistoga, it started as an explosion of fire. No amount of resources could stay ahead of it. The first responders were running for their lives.
The letter saying there weren’t enough firefighters is misplaced. When we elect officials solely on the basis that they will not raise taxes, we have to expect and accept the risk that, at some time, money will be lacking for emergencies.
Cal Fire cannot be on standby 24/7 during fire season. Catastrophic firestorms don’t happen often. When they do, it’s tragic for the whole community. When we rebuild, let’s rebuild better.
SF’S HIDDEN WWI WAR VET MEMORIAL
by March Norton
Gold Star Moms, the Great War, the Russian Revolution – and a memorial that nobody seems to remember or notice.
Veterans Day, November 11, 2017. This is the 100-year anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War I. It is also the 100-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, at root an open mutiny against that war. Hidden away in Heroes Grove, an almost-forgotten part of Golden Gate Park, is the Gold Star Mothers Rock. This monument is a memorial to U.S. veterans who died in World War I, and has a surprising relevance to the Russian Revolution.
The Great War
World War I began in 1914. Known at the time as the Great War, it became the most brutal and destructive war in history, up to then. Millions of soldiers and civilians died. It was a barbarian struggle by the imperialist powers of Europe – Britain, France and Germany chief among them – over their respective spheres of influence in Europe and control of their colonies in Africa and Asia. If there ever was a “rich man’s war” that was in reality “a poor man’s fight,” this was it.
On the eastern front, the decrepit Czar Nicholas II allowed Russia to be dragged into the war on the side of Britain and France. Russia’s troops, poorly led and even more poorly equipped, were killed and wounded by the millions. In March 1917, a spontaneous revolt against the war spread throughout the country. The Czar was forced to abdicate and a new “provisional government” attempted to take power.
President Woodrow Wilson, who had won re-election in 1916 by promising to keep the U.S. out of the war in Europe, went before Congress in April 1917 and demanded a declaration of war against Germany. Congress obliged and declared war on April 6, 1917.
Before Wilson’s “war to end all wars” was over, well over 100,000 U.S. soldiers died. At least twice as many were wounded. Over four million soldiers were mobilized, despite widespread opposition to the war and the draft.
In October 1917, with the Great War still raging, the Russian people rose up again. This time they overthrew the “provisional government” that had maneuvered to continue Russian participation in the war. The Russian people had had enough, and put the Bolsheviks – firm opponents of the war – in power.
The slaughter of the Great War ended when a revolt spread throughout Germany, forcing the Kaiser to abdicate. Germany surrendered on November 11, 1918. The war officially ended in June 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. We know now that this treaty only laid the basis for the even greater slaughter of fascism and World War II, and the wars that followed.
On Memorial Day on May 30, 1919, thousands of people gathered in Golden Gate Park to dedicate a 15-acre plot as the “Grove of Heroes,” in remembrance of the U.S. dead and wounded in the Great War. Many of the estimated 12,000 mourners were dressed in black. The mourners created what the San Francisco Chronicle described as a “towering obelisk of flowers and wreaths.”
The Chronicle also reported that Mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph “committed the grove to the protection of the United States Army, Navy and Marine Corps.” Officers of the Army, Navy and Marines accepted that charge.
Today, there are no markers to tell the visitor to the park where or what Heroes Grove is. There is a dirt footpath through the grove, but the only signs are a couple of “Stay on Path” warnings.
On Armistice Day (now known as Veterans Day) on November 13, 1932, there was another assembly in Heroes Grove. This time the gathering was to dedicate a new monument to U.S. war dead. The monument is an 18-ton granite boulder, reportedly quarried from Twin Peaks. The monument is inscribed with the names of 748 men and 13 women, all local soldiers and volunteers who died in the Great War.
Before the list of names is a simple inscription that reads:
The fighting in the Great War supposedly ended in 1918. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. So what does the 1921 date on the Gold Star Mothers Rock mean? More on that later, along with its relevance to the Russian Revolution.
So, where are Heroes Grove and the Gold Star Mothers Rock?
Transport yourself to Fulton Street and 10th Avenue. Here you will find the entrance to the park’s underground parking lot (a controversial pet project of the late Warren Hellman of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass fame). Behind the sign to the parking lot you will find an obscure, unmarked and unpaved footpath. This path will lead you into Heroes Grove.
Alternately, you can walk along the paved path on the north side of John F. Kennedy Drive, the northern road through the park, until you look down into the drive into the garage. Across the street is the obscene de Young Museum tower. Just to the west of the drive into the garage you will find another unmarked, unpaved footpath that will also lead you into Heroes Grove.
Whichever way you enter the grove, a little way along the path, look to your left. There you will see the Gold Star Mothers Rock.
You could walk along Fulton Street or John F. Kennedy Drive and just barely glimpse the Gold Star Mothers Rock through the trees, if you pay close attention. Thousands of people pass by every week and never notice. Think on that. This is a memorial to 761 people who died in World War I. Heroes, or perhaps victims, in the “war to end all wars.” This is their public marker. This is the glory that they have been granted.
You can also find the Gold Star Mothers Rock from an even more obscure, informal, unpaved footpath that enters the park from Fulton across from 11th Street, if you do not want to be bothered with any unnecessary steps through Heroes Grove.
My grandfather on my mother’s side fought in the Great War. I have heard stories of gas attacks, and of him floating in the Atlantic awaiting rescue after his ship was sunk. He is long gone, and I don’t know what was true and what was not. He was from Illinois, so he was never a candidate for the Golden Gate Park monument, and in any event he survived. If he had not, I would not be writing this. If my grandfather had not survived, my mother would not have married another veteran, who served honorably in the next war, that one a just and necessary fight against fascism. He also survived and amazingly enough is still alive today at the age of 100.
Nor, if my grandfather had not survived, would I have had an opportunity to tell the masters of war to go to hell when they attempted to put a gun in my hand and send me to Vietnam. War seems to have been the constant in the 20th century, and looks to be the same in the 21st.
Once you have spent some time with the Gold Star Mothers Rock memorial, remembering the veterans of World War I, you can return to the footpath, and continue west. You will walk through the forest for a little distance, and perhaps (or perhaps not) heed the warnings to stay on the path. Eventually you will come to the end of Heroes Grove and encounter the freeway-like Park Presidio Bypass Drive through the park. Here you can exit Heroes Grove, turn left and enjoy the Rose Garden, a much better-known and more-accessible feature of the park.
Outside Heroes Grove: The Doughboy Statue
After passing through the Rose Garden you can return to the John F. Kennedy Drive path, and walk on until you come to the Redwood Memorial Grove, across from the entrance to Stow Lake. In a clearing to your right you will see a more prominent World War I memorial, the Doughboy statue.
The Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West planted 39 saplings and this statue in 1930, to commemorate some of the U.S. soldiers who died in the Great War, and in the Spanish-American War (the 1898 war in which the U.S. took possession of the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico). The 39 saplings matched the 39 names memorialized on the plaque below the statue, all of whom were members of the Native Sons. This is a subset (not counting the Spanish-American War dead) of the hundreds of dead memorialized two years later on the Gold Star Mothers Rock.
In 1951, the names of 16 members of the Native Sons who died in World War II were added to the Doughboy plaque. No one has added any names of the many dead from the many wars the U.S. has fought since the end of World War II. I expect that there were some Native Sons killed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
You can now retrace your steps back to the de Young Museum tower. You can enter the tower for free. From the 9th floor, you can look out to the north over Heroes Grove. But, unless you already know what you are looking for, you will have no idea what you are looking at. There is nothing in the tower that even hints at the existence of Heroes Grove right below your feet. Nor can you see the Gold Star Mothers Rock from the tower, as it is hidden below the trees. After you enjoy the view, you can go downstairs and spend umpteen bucks to look at art from all over the world.
U.S. Fights The Russian Revolution
If you go back the same way you came, and pass by the Gold Star Mothers Rock again, you can contemplate why the inscription marks the end of the Great War as July 2, 1921.
The reason is that the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Many senators were opposed to U.S. participation in the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, that was established by the treaty. The result was that it was not until 1921 that Congress passed a resolution officially ending U.S. participation in the war. President Warren G. Harding signed that resolution on July 2, 1921.
This would be only a historical footnote but for the fact that some U.S. troops continued to fight long after Germany had surrendered. But they weren’t fighting Germany. They were fighting Russians, in a useless attempt to overthrow the new Russian government and defeat the Bolsheviks. Wilson ordered two strategic armed interventions against the Russian revolution.
One such intervention has been dubbed the Polar Bear Expedition. A force of 5,000 troops were landed at Archangel in Northern Russia in September 1918, in support of British and French expeditionary forces that hoped to raise a White Army to defeat the Red Army organized by the Bolsheviks, and restore the eastern front. Some sources report that up to 8,000 U.S. troops were ultimately involved. It soon became obvious that the mission would fail, but the U.S. continued fighting through July 1919. Estimates are that nearly 250 U.S. troops died in this campaign.
The other intervention was in Siberia, the extreme eastern part of Russia. Here another 8,000 U.S. troops fought – along with troops from Britain, Canada, China, Italy and Japan – in the same vain attempt to kill the Russian Revolution in its infancy. This campaign started in August 1918, and went on until April 1920. Close to 200 U.S. troops died on this futile battlefront. Japanese troops stayed on fighting the Red Army until late 1922.
You don’t hear about Wilson’s war on Russia in your history class. If it were taught, it would help to explain the Russian Revolution’s antipathy to the U.S. and the Western powers in general. But, no, we learn instead that the U.S. represents the good guys and the Russians the bad guys, then and forever.
Were any of the U.S. soldiers killed in these Russian campaigns from the environs of San Francisco? Do their names appear on the Gold Star Mothers Rock? I don’t know. Maybe some family members know, or used to know. Maybe in this day of the internet somebody could research the 761 names on the memorial and find out.
But what matters is that the 1921 date on the Gold Star Mothers Rock takes on a new meaning because of these failed interventions. The Great War did not end in 1918, or even in 1919. It went on in a very literal sense. Soldiers died, Russians died, and the unremitting hostility of the U.S. toward the nascent Soviet Union led to many thousands and millions more deaths – enough for many, many more Gold Star Mothers memorials.
War Memorial Veterans Monument
The mothers who instigated the creation of the Gold Star Mothers Rock had hoped that the monument to their sons and daughters would be installed at a place of prominence in the City, specifically on Van Ness Avenue between the War Memorial Opera House and the War Memorial Veterans Building. Cornerstones for both of these buildings were laid in 1931, and the buildings themselves completed in 1932. The expansive open space between these two buildings must have seemed like the obvious and natural place for the Gold Star Mothers Rock.
But, as ABC Channel 7 news later put it, “money and other priorities got in the way.”
There is an unsigned, undated, two-page lament in the archives at the San Francisco Public Library that reads in part:
There is another memorial spot set aside for the veterans of 1917-1918 which I visit on Memorial Day… We start at 10th Avenue and take a horse path going west among a group of trees. We proceed about 100 yards and presently to our left is a block of stone… [I]s this not a strange place for such a memorial?
Surely their mothers, who brought them into the world, did not select this place on a horse trail in Golden Gate Park… Originally, when the Golden Star Mothers contracted for this memorial and paid for it, the idea for its final resting place was the beautiful little park on Van Ness avenue between the War Memorial Opera House and the Veterans of World War I Building…
The Gold Star Mothers naturally assumed that since the citizens of San Francisco had voted bonds to the amount of five million dollars to erect these two buildings as a joint memorial to their sons and daughters, their memorial would be welcome.
But it was not to be. It seems the powers then in authority ruled that the Veterans Memorial did not want it, and said so. They declared it crude and inartistic. By no stretch of the imagination could that unsightly block of granite conform to the artistic pattern of these two gems of architecture. The poor little broken-hearted mothers evidently had no friends to plead their case, and so their precious little memorial was trucked off to the park and there it rests.
It was another 82 years before the “powers in authority” got around to placing a memorial to veterans in the space between these “two gems of architecture.”
In 2014, a memorial was dedicated after a private fund-raising campaign led by none other than Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of State George Shultz.
Prior to going to work for Reagan, Shultz was President of Bechtel Corporation, the country’s largest construction and engineering company, which does business in every corner of the world. Bechtel, a private firm based in San Francisco, is widely considered a war profiteer for reasons far too numerous to detail in this article.
Shultz presided over the Reagan administration State Department from 1982 to 1989, throughout the period of the Reagan administration’s support for the illegal and savage Contra war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, who had overthrown dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Shultz returned to the Becthel Corporation as a director and senior counsel after he retired from the State Department. Schultz was an early and strong backer of George W. Bush’s campaign for the Presidency, and actively supported his 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2012, the American Academy in Berlin awarded Shultz with the prestigious Henry A. Kissinger Prize.
The words “war criminal” easily come to mind when thinking about Schultz.
According to San Francisco’s El Tecolote newspaper, $1.5 million of the $2.5 million raised by Shultz for the 2014 veterans memorial came from the Stephen Bechtel Fund. Stephen Bechtel is currently the co-owner of the Bechtel Corporation. El Tecolote called this “blood money.”
The understated new veterans memorial sits on the eastern end of an expanse of grass, facing City Hall. There are no names of any veterans, alive or dead, on the memorial.
Actually there is the name of one veteran on the memorial, that of Archibald Macleish. Macleish was a poet and writer who saw action in World War I. He later found himself in the crosshairs of J. Edgar Hoover and his pal Joseph McCarthy. Macleish’s name appears under a poem inscribed in the center of the memorial, titled “The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak.”
As Macleish says in his poem, “Our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean what you make them.”
And so the “powers in authority” have chosen to give meaning to these deaths by naming the drive that surrounds this memorial on three sides the “Charlotte & George Shultz Horseshoe Drive.” This is certainly as ironic a memorial as naming Embarcadero Plaza after the racist Justin Herman. But unlike that tragic name, Shultz Horseshoe Drive remains like a bleeding scar in the heart of San Francisco.
Between the veterans memorial and Franklin Street lies an open sward of green grass. On the other side of Franklin Street is the eastern end of Fulton Street. It is a nearly-straight shot of about three miles up Fulton to the Gold Star Mothers Rock, hidden and nearly forgotten.
We forget the soldiers who have died in U.S. wars at our peril, and at the peril of the lives of our sons and daughters.
The grassy area next to the War Memorial veterans monument seems to be used these days primarily as a dog park. There is plenty of room on the grass there for the Gold Star Mothers Rock, which actually has names of veterans who died in the “war to end all wars.” Maybe someday the “powers in authority” will acquire the political will to move the Gold Star Mothers Rock memorial to the place where it should have been for these last 85 years.
(All photos by Marc Norton.Copyright © 2017 by Marc Norton. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org.)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I don’t know much about the law, but these accusations against Judge Moore concerning events that allegedly happened 40 years ago just one month before the election … It looks like he’s already been convicted, by Republican Senators no less. Is there still such a thing as due process, confronting your accuser, hard evidence? Or is it you just accuse somebody of anything in your head and its accepted at face value? No need for any kind of inquest, investigation or trial before your peers, just level an accusation, the more salacious and disturbing the better it is.
PHILLY & NEW YORK TRIP RECAP
by Anne Fashauer
I had a wonderful trip to Philly and New York. It started out a little rough as I missed my flight out of SF at 8:30am – there was a lot more traffic than I expected. However, I did safely make it to Philadelphia around 11:30pm. I took my first Lyft ride with a nice woman named Cynthia. She drove a little slow, but safe and got me to my destination despite a slight detour when we went to Walnut Lane instead of Walnut Avenue.
I spent my first night with my friends who recently moved to Berwyn, outside of Philly. Her kids woke me up at 8:30am and it was so good to see them! It was a brief visit as they were heading off to school. Erin and I spent the rest of the day visiting. We went to a wonderful coffee shop/bakery called Malvern Buttery. It’s a large open space with benches and table inside and outside, plus sweet living room-esque seating areas inside. We settled into two chairs and I enjoyed a coffee and Erin a hot chocolate; we spent an hour enjoying the ambience and each other’s company. After finishing coffee and a croissant we headed out to Valley Forge.
Valley Forge is a huge open area; it was purposely restored for its historical interest. The houses and businesses were removed and the place looks more like it did when Washington camped there. We toured a redoubt, several bunk houses and an arch that is a tribute to the military. After sitting so long on the flights the day before it felt good to get out and walk.
From there we headed over to a suburb called Wayne for lunch. We both had catfish po’boys which were delicious. After eating we walked around the absolutely enchanting downtown – a great bookstore, an even nicer consignment furniture store (I’d have done some damage to my bank account had the shipping not been out of the question) and a fantastic French bakery. At 3pm I caught a local train into Philly center; my friend Darcy met me and the second part of the trip began.
We hit the road around 5pm and headed north, aiming for White Plains. It was a good ride, without too much traffic. I heard about Darcy’s new home; after renting for years she and her husband decided to put down roots and buy a house. We had another snafu with the address – we ended up in a different town with the same address; fortunately, it was only a short distance to the correct town and our hotel.
We met up with four of the others at the hotel’s bar; they were one drink up on us and we didn’t try to catch up. We had a passable meal and retired to one of the rooms and opened up a bottle of Witching Stick 2011 Cerise Pinot noir. I had dragged two cases of wine across the country with me – one for the Philly friends and one for the eight of us to enjoy in New York. I had the west coast time advantage – while they all stayed up late, hitting the hay at 1am, it was only 10pm for me.
Saturday we met up at 9am for coffee downstairs. It took a while, but we finally decided on a breakfast spot in Tarrytown, just down the road. It was a pleasant diner with quite good omelets and other items. After breakfast we walked around the very cute town, window shopping, though we did spend quite a bit of time in one store. We walked a way, then turned around and walked in another direction. After a bit we decided to go back to the hotel, let the new arrivals check in and grab some more wine. We did that then drove around until we found a lovely water front park where we sat and enjoyed the afternoon. We had an early dinner at a nearby restaurant and went back to the hotel to put on warmer clothes.
We then drove out to Sleepy Hollow for the Pumpkin Blaze. It’s somewhat like the Festival of Lights that the Coast Botanical Gardens puts on, only it’s entirely made up of pumpkins. It was amazing; one of my favorites was the Statue of Liberty.
Sunday we met in the hotel restaurant for dinner, then headed to Fordham for the alumni mass at the church on campus. The campus looked great – all the fall color, plus a lot of work has been done in the 30ish years since we attended. I haven’t been to mass in a few years and it was nice to attend with good friends – and the daughter of one of them who is currently at Fordham.
We walked across the campus and over to Little Italy, Bronx version, where we ate an entirely wonderful meal at Ann & Tony’s, enjoyed with a lovely bottle of Chianti. Another treat was walking to Egidio’s bakery and eating cannoli.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and Darcy and I had to drive back to Philly. We had a good drive and got back in time to do some shopping for her week and for our dinner (she made delicious spaghetti squash with a marinara sauce). All too soon it was time for me to get some sleep as I had another early flight.
Overall, it was a great trip to Philly and New York. The flight home was uneventful – I made the flight, we landed about an hour behind schedule and I was home by 5pm.
This week I’ll be in Maui. Van’s niece is getting married mid-week and his whole family (almost) is flying out. I’m looking forward to some sunshine, some pool and book time and enjoying the aloha spirit. More on that when I return.
“It must be a full moon,” colleagues remark when a night in the emergency department is particularly blood-soaked or there are an unusual number of psychiatric admissions. It’s an ancient and widespread belief that the moon has a transformative effect on the mind. A 1995 study in the US found that 40% of the general public were convinced the moon had an influence on the mind; an earlier survey put the rate for mental health professionals at 74%. But statisticians haven’t been able to substantiate the claim: the number of admissions for trauma, or for mania or psychosis (“lunacy”), are unaffected by the phase of the moon, and there is no connection between a full moon and the frequency of suicide attempts, road accidents or calls to crisis support telephone services. My colleagues in emergency medicine, and those 74% of American mental health professionals, are all wrong.
In a study from 1999 entitled “The Moon and Madness Reconsidered,” three California pyshiciatrists suggested that before the advent of effective artificial lighting in the 19th century, the full moon probably did affect those whose mental health was precarious, by depriving them of the sleep they needed. They cited evidence that resting in the dark for 14 hours a day can bring to an end or prevent episodes of manic psychosis, and that even a mild reduction in sleep duration can aggravate mental health problems or cause epileptic seizures — something patients of mine with bipolar illness and epilepsy have confirmed.
Before artificial lighting, people took advantage of the nights around a full moon. The light was powerful enough for them to be out and about. The Lunar Society of industrialists and intellectuals in 18th century England named itself not for its object of study but because its members found it easier to meet on evenings when the moon was full. But moonlight was also shadowy enough to give a prompt to the fearful imagination. “The insane are more agitated at the full of the moon, as they are also at early dawn,” the French psychiatrist Jean-Etienne Esquirol wrote: “Does not this brightness produce, in their habitations, an effect of light, which frightens one, rejoices another, and agitates all”?
— Gavin Francis, MD
NOTHING FAILS LIKE PRAYER: God is Santa Claus for Adults
by Louis Bedrock
“Today, attended mass at St. Patrick's and received Holy Communion. Although I have certainly gotten a lot of wisdom from other spiritual pathways, there is still nothing quite like being blessed by Christ.”
(Craig Louis Stehr)
—Thank you for testifying to your foolish credulity, Craig. You consistently inspire despair about the human condition.
Here are a few responses:
”Christianity: The belief that some invisible cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.”
* * *
“The most preposterous notion that Homo Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all of history.”
(Robert A. Heinlein)
* * *
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”