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Mendocino County Today: Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021

Three Storms | 19 Cases | Vaccine Signup | My Turn | Hendy Woods | Yorkville Feast | Bouquets | Ginger Interest | Boonville Takeout | Starlink Network | Pennyroyal Smorgasbord | Grapes Smoked | Little River | Old Flame | Mendo PO | Drewry Investigation | Big River | More Trash | Good Mom | Cannabis Phases | Pot Pitfalls | Joyride | Ed Notes | Yesterday's Catch | Cultural Engineers | Danny Ray | Ultimate Truth | Corporate Journalism | We're Aware | No Tomatoes | Goopy Artist | Boozefighter | Society Benefits | Rennie Davis | Unknown Shopper | Psychopathic Amazons | Shield Up | Dumb Dems | Magritte 1956 | Great Love | Passing Fancy | Most Pretentious

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THREE STORM SYSTEMS are forecast to impact the region during the next five days. The first will arrive today, the second on Saturday, and the third on Monday. Widespread beneficial rainfall will occur with each system, along with gusty winds along the coast and light mountain snow. (NWS)

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19 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Tuesday and Wednesday bringing total 3631. 

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ADVENTISTS TAKING VACCINE SIGNUPS

We have been holding mass vaccination clinics around Mendocino County to help protect our community. Want to be notified of upcoming vaccine clinics? Good news, we've created an easy way for you to be on our database. Go here to sign-up to be on our email list: http://bit.ly/ahmendo_notify

If you've signed up via email before, you're good to go. You're already on our database. 

Please note that signing up using this form does not automatically make an appointment for you.

You will be sent an email to notify you of upcoming vaccine clinics and for what tier/age group it's for. In that email, there will be a link to make an appointment. 

At this time, we don't have first dose appointments as we wait for more supplies from the state. You will get notified when we have an event. Please share with friends and family and sign-up for notifications on behalf of those who do not have access to a computer or internet.

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BETSY CAWN COMMENTS on the vaccination sign up mess:

The results of my attempt to sign up for “vaccine information” from the State’s new centralized tracking system, “My Turn,” were not pleasing. The user is initially invited to find out whether they are “eligible,” by filling in fields in an automated survey. Minor confusion appeared on the first “page” of the survey, where I was required to select an employer (from a list of various choices). I am not “employed” — having my own full time public service enterprise that rewards me with not one dime, and depending on my retirement income for sustainable living.

To resolve that “employment” question, I called the toll-free phone number and, after stepping through the instructions (if this, press that, etc.), spoke with a pleasant person who directed me to select “other.” Okay, on to the next “page,” where I entered my email address but could not supply a required “mobile phone” number. My second call to the toll-free number resulted in an impasse — the second pleasant person who answered could not find a way to get around the automated survey’s requirement that the field be filled in, and was not sure what to do to help me. I finally suggested that we give up on that pass, and ended the call.

My next action was to report all that to the local Public Health Department (Lake County, in this case). Less than an hour later, a press release was issued by the Lake County Administration, providing a local online registration hyperlink, with the additional message: “Residents 65 and older who do not have the ability to schedule online can call 707-993-4644 for assistance. Staff at this number do NOT have access to any additional appointments. Do not call this number if appointments are filled.” There is another option for educators or healthcare providers who “missed earlier opportunities” to sign up with the local Public Health Department, which will contact them “when a spot is available.”

Nothing I have found so far indicates that there is a “coordinated” system, anywhere. Anecdotal stories abound on Facebook, of individuals getting themselves and their family members vaccinated, so the system is working at some level, right?


JAMES MARMON ADDS:

Here in Lake I’ve been trying to get a vaccine appointment for my 89 year old mother and my 70 year old brother with COPD. I also fall in the at risk group by being a fat bastard over the age of 65. There’s too much competition and the appointment slots fill too fast. Why in the World is Lake County making us compete with “healthy” farm workers, food workers, educators, and care givers who have been placed in the same tier as us.

I’m about ready to start stirring up some shit here, I almost called into the BoS meeting yesterday.

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FREE HENDY WOODS PARK ACCESS THIS SUNDAY AT 7 AM PST

Free Entry to Hendy Woods State Park for local residents.

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YORKVILLE MARKET: Valentine's Day Take-out Dinner

This Sunday, 2/14, Amy and I will be preparing a Valentine’s take-out feast for you and your loved one(s). The meal will include the following courses:

-Winter greens salad, with citrus, fennel and roasted pistachios

-A main course of prime rib with homemade horseradish sauce, potatoes. Pommes Anna, and caramelized carrots

-Chocolate orange truffle cake and cardamom madeleines for dessert.

The price per person is $40.

This meal is RSVP only and all orders need to be received by Thursday, 2/11 at 5:00 pm. Pick-up will be between 5:00 and 6:00pm. Please call us at (707) 894-9456 or email me at Yorkvillemarket@gmail.com to reserve your spot.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday weekend!

Best,

Lisa

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THE AVHS FLORAL DESIGN CLASS will have arrangements, dozen rose bouquets, and single roses for sale at AV Market Friday afternoon until they are gone. Thanks for your support AV Market!

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GINGER INTEREST

The Sheriff's Office is currently investigating the burglary/vandalism of several cabins in remote areas of Pine Ridge Road and Low Gap Road over the last several weeks. Anyone who knows the identity or sees the person depicted in this post is urged to contact the Sheriff's Office by calling the Dispatch Center at 707-463-4086, the Tip-Line at 707-234-2100 or by posting a comment.

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FEBRUARY BLUE SKIES are filling our cups. Perry is cooking up take-out meals on Thursday and Friday this week. Orders can be placed on line at: www.boonvillehotel.com 

Pick-up from 5:30-6pm. Enjoy & take good care everyone!

2.11.21 Thursday Dinner - MEYER LEMON ROASTED CORNISH GAME HEN (1 hen per person) - served with a creamy potato puree and broccolini with bagna cauda, and a joansey sweet too! $36/meal

2.12.21 Friday Dinner- WOOD GRILLED TOP SIRLOIN with GREEN GARLIC SALSA VERDE- served with a grilled artichoke and winter herb aioli and a joansey sweet too! $36/meal

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STARLINK

The Starlink satellites are launched in batches of 60 from a reusable rocket. They are initially in very low orbit, but each satellite has an ion propulsion system that lets it gradually move to its assigned orbit and stay there. When you see a string of them in the twilight sky they are still very low and clustered together. As they gain altitude and spread out they will be higher up, further away and no longer visible to the naked eye. There are over 1000 already in orbit, and Starlink's plan calls for two more launches per week, with 60 satellites apiece. 

When their useful life is over they are signalled to use their thrusters to slow and drop out of orbit. In case the thruster system or control system fails, they will gradually de-orbit due to the drag of the thin upper atmosphere. This natural orbital decay happens in just a few years, much, much sooner than the geostationary satellites that provide communications, weather, satellite TV and conventional satellite Internet, which orbit at an altitude 22,236 miles above the earth. In contrast, the Starlink orbit is 340 miles up. 

The Starlink network will serve millions of people worldwide with access to the Internet with connectivity currently available only in large metro areas. 

As of Monday, for the first time, Starlink is now offering limited service to our area. The company claims over 10,000 customers connected now, and surveys suggest over 50% of Americans are ready to sign up for it when offered. 

Links below provide further information

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlink

https://www.starlink.com

https://news.google.com/search?q=Starlink

— Nick Wilson

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FOR OUR LOVERS OF THE SMORGASBORD, 

Pennyroyal Farm is doing a super special Farmstead Spread + tasty add-ons for pick up, now through Feb 23. Order online or give the tasting room a ring. + Announcement of the outdoor patio re-opening will be coming soon! We miss y'all.

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VALUE OF NORTH COAST’S 2020 GRAPE HARVEST CUT IN HALF by wildfires, pandemic

by Bill Swindell

The value of the North Coast’s 2020 grape harvest plunged by almost half to $940 million, primarily due to fruit damaged by wildfires and left on the vines, according to federal agriculture data released Wednesday. Last year’s crop was worth 47% less than the $1.7 billion harvest in 2019, according to a preliminary California harvest report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More significantly, growers in this four-county region, where they produce some of the finest grapes in the country, sustained the first drop in prices wineries paid for their fruit since the 2010 harvest. The average price per ton for grapes picked in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties declined by 21% last year to $2,765, from a record $3,516 in 2019. The region’s growers lost $833 million in revenue in 2020. 

Meanwhile, North Coast growers harvested 340,150 tons of wine grapes last year, a 33% decline from 2019. A smaller and less valuable harvest amid the pandemic was expected. But after picking started in August, soon the Walbridge fire and then Glass fire disrupted picks. Fruit was damaged by smoke and the season ended early. This further reduced expectations for the 2020 crop. After disastrous 2020, Many growers were hurt because wineries rejected their fruit, deeming it of poor quality due to smoke taint.

(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

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LITTLE RIVER, 1866

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PENETRATION BY A FOREIGN OBJECT

On Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at about 9:50 AM the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a call for service regarding a possible sexual assault which occurred in the 2100 block of Black Hawk Drive in Willits, California.

When Deputies arrived they contacted an adult male and an adult female at the location. The Deputies learned there had been a party at the location starting the evening before, where alcoholic beverages had been consumed.

Deputies were told a 28 year-old female had gone into a bedroom at the location alone on Tuesday Feb. 9 and closed the door. This adult female fell asleep fully clothed and was awoken by someone touching her body.

This person was identified as Cody Martin, 27, of Ukiah, who the female had previously dated a couple of years ago.

Martin

Deputies learned Martin removed his clothes and had gotten into bed with the female. Martin also removed the female's clothing and began penetrating her genital area with an unknown object or body part without consent.

Martin was contacted at the location and was subsequently arrested on the charge of sexual penetration with a foreign object while a person was unconscious, based upon probable cause.

Martin was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

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Mendocino Post Office, 1866

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MENDOCINO COUNTY SHERIFF DETECTIVES ARE ASSISTING HUMBOLDT COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT INVESTIGATING BELL SPRINGS HOMICIDE

According to Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Captain Greg Van Patten, MCSO detectives are currently assisting Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in their investigation into the January 26 homicide of 85-year-old local rancher Richard Grayson Drewry.

mendofever.com/2021/02/10/today-mendocino-county-sheriff-detectives-are-assisting-humboldt-county-law-enforcement-investigating-bell-springs-homicide/

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Big River Mouth

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ROUND VALLEY TRASH TALK

Editor,

Round Valley has witnessed a growing problem with trash everywhere, on the roadsides, in the ditches, in the creeks, in the yards of households, with a visible blight of hoop houses and related plastic fencing, broken down cars and a refuse transfer station not up to the task.

Last spring and summer the transfer station was forced to close early, often leaving people who had loaded up trash with then nowhere to go other than back home, or someplace else, to offload the garbage. View the property on Rifle Range Road immediately across from the county transfer station: garbage perhaps three feet deep, accompanied with assorted burnt cars and the vestiges of a busted marijuana grow.

Drive up the hill from Rifle Range, stop by Heenan’s Opening, and view a growing trash pile of household waste. Often entire truckloads of debris is found at any relatively secluded spot in the valley, Barnes Lane, Cemetery Lane, Short Creek, all over the place.

This level, this volume of trash dumping is unprecedented, and I am certain that it is somehow related to the explosion of marijuana cultivation here in the last three or four years. Marijuana cultivation became legal and supposedly regulated about three or four years ago, maybe more, I haven’t exactly kept track. However I am aware that at about that time there was a price collapse in the wholesale market, with pot no longer worth $1600, $1200, $1000 a processed pound. It got down to around $600, even less. My naïve supposition was that this enterprise would no longer be particularly profitable and maybe, hopefully, it would just go away. Not.

Growers just grew more, and more, and more, with all the support stuff it takes to grow more and more. More fencing, more imported soil, more imported agricultural workers, more land converted into pot farms. Along with all this “more” came a lot more trash.

More trash partly because there is a lot more stuff brought into the valley in the last three or four years. More trash because the transfer station can’t handle the volume.

More trash because a lot of the people brought here to grow dope don’t care, don’t know, and there is no downside to just dumping it anywhere.

There have been no rules or penalties for creating a nuisance on a property, filling it up with garbage, abandoned cars, broken down camp trailers, or plastic hoop houses degrading with the seasons.

Recently the County of Mendocino, finally, passed some ordinances providing fines for code violations. This is a first here. Now the land owner, upon receipt of a notice of violation for unpermitted cannabis cultivation, faulty erosion control, unpermitted grading, cutting down oak trees to create a grow spot, putting up crappy shelters, the list goes on and on, the land owner will start being actually fined, real money, daily fines for each violation. I think it is about time. We will see if there is actually any enforcement.

None of the above rules or potential actions affect Tribal properties. As far as I know and can see, there are no enforced ordinances, basic principles, or downside for making a big mess on tribal property. Nothing happens, and everybody knows nothing happens. Nothing happens about trash anywhere, on Tribal land, on private property, in the creeks, in the mountains, nothing is done.

We in Round Valley are concerned, more than concerned, we are basically fed up and want to do something. Just walking down the road and picking up beer cans and plastic bags will not solve our problem.

Here’s what I think we need to do: first, decide that the situation in which there is no accountability for trash has to stop. Bust people, fine the property owners, let it be known that you just can’t come here, try to grow a bunch of dope, and make a big mess. Get organized and coordinated. County Government, Tribal Government, the State of California, the US Government BIA and EPA all need to wake up, address this issue and do their job.

The State of California has received millions, maybe billions, of dollars with the regulation and taxation of cannabis. A fair share of this money needs to be returned to the areas which are suffering the brunt of the environmental degradation so that people somewhere else can have a legal smoke. The State made this situation, and the State needs to rectify the problem. We need money here, money to clean up all this trash, get the broken down cars out, have the transfer station work better, get some cops here more often to bust the worst offenders. I think the solution to the trash is mostly, not all, about where the money goes. Some of the trash problem is just about people who either don’t know or don’t care, but a lot of it is just a function of scale.

All this new growing, with all the imported materials and imported people, and the place is just overwhelmed.

So that’s it: money from the state to clean up the trash we have to deal with because this is where the dope, now legal and now a lot more of it, comes from. The Feds need to sort out what are the rules on the reservation now that the county is beginning to get it figured out. Some kind of coordinated land use policy. Is that so hard to do? And we all need to focus on solutions, not just whine and complain any more.

Lew Chichester

Covelo

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SUPERVISOR MULHEREN on Pot Permit Program Problems

At yesterday’s BOS meeting the Phase 1 cannabis item started off in a very pessimistic tone. With both the Cannabis Ad Hoc and the P&B staff declaring that there wasn’t a path forward for most of the 1100 cannabis program applicants. Watching from the outside over the years I think there isn’t anyone that doesn’t know that the Phase 1 ordinance was fatally flawed from day one. My goal is to get as many of those applicants through as possible. The legacy farmers of Mendocino County have held up our economy for decades and they should not be left behind. By the end of the meeting the Board voted to have the new hire of a Cannabis Manager go directly through the BOS and focus on the Phase 1 path forward. We need to hire staff that is interested in this specific project. Having the roll out of this ordinance in the Ag Dept or P&B has led to an exodus of staff that either don’t want to work on cannabis at all or are frustrated with trying to roll out the incredibly clunky Phase 1 ordinance. Phase 3 will remain in P&B as it is a land use process and needs to go through the P Commish and then back to the Board. It is incredibly important that the Phase 1 cannabis applicants get their files in order. It’s clear that the County has not had success in asking applicants to return/submit items that may be missing from their files. Either through the Phase 1 Cannabis Manager or the use permit process of Phase 3 applicants will/may need to submit their full application at once. I didn’t want to beat around the bush on this one. Be prepared to submit your complete package. Now without the checklist published yet for Phase 3 I know this is a little challenging but the more prepared you are the easier you will be able to get through the new process. It’s important to remember that I am only one person out of five and not all of the Board members see things the same way. There is a cannabis ad hoc town hall today at 4pm. I recommend you bring your questions/needs to the Ad Hoc. Ask them to work with the industry to support getting the Phase 1 applicants through, to find a path to continue cultivating during this process of hiring a new manager and the implementation of Phase 3. Whether that’s through whatever means Mendo can do or advocating at a State level for extension of provisional licenses.

Also I will post to this page when the Cannabis Manager position goes live. I encourage interested parties to start feeling out the market right now for people that would be qualified and passionate about moving the industry forward. That could be consultants, people in other agencies that have had a successful roll out, think outside the box and make calls.


Christian Luiz comment:

The meeting went into closed session in the afternoon no further info available to the public I agree cannabis regulation and permitting is an important issue. But the current pandemic and how it EFFECTS our community should be a priority providing up to date accurate Clear and understandable Data should be priority # 1 TRANSPARENCY PROCUREMENT & SIMPLIFIED PlAN TO Vaccinate all our county. Mendocino has a population of 85,455 people county wide with 15,000 people in the Ukiah Valley. The ukiah valley is a major artery of California Highway 101 runs from Eureka to our southern boarder in California it would make sense for the county to request enough vaccines to fully vaccinate Ukiah Valley to develop herd immunity from all the outsiders that stop on highway 101 please make this a priority and do whatever is necessary to raise awareness that rural California is important part of California’s economy and the citizens of Ukiah and outlying cities and towns need to be protected. The Vaccination plan should be #1

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SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: Cannabis Cultivation throughout California requires a State License. Cultivators are applicants of the *state* in pursuit of a *state* license. County staff does not have authority over the state criteria or even absolute visibility into what will be accepted by the state. Each site and history is quite unique, so specific responses are always difficult and best addressed by the State or licensed land-use professionals. As with an increasing number of project types (housing, VMT, cannabis, coastal issues), control and decision making is increasingly beholden to State agencies and not the local jurisdictions.

Objective criteria recommendation for those who want or can pursue the CEQA Checklist to meet 8102(r)(1) for purposes of obtaining a State Annual License to cultivate cannabis:

1) Do you have ALL of your building permits? This is critical, as it can change the project description and lead to a failure to complete the CEQA checklist.

2) Do you have ALL of your State required documents? Again, this is a State CEQA document. There is little point to even attempt the checklist if you don't have all the documents, including the LSAA. 

3) Most importantly, have you disturbed new areas for cultivation? This relates back to the SSHR document. If new disturbance was engendered, it is unlikely the site can move forward with the SSHR or CEQA Checklist, as that disturbance was not explicitly understood or captured by the MND. 

4) Has the intensity of the operation changed? For example, did you switch from outdoor to mixed light? If changed, it should be in the same or similar footprint as the original POP.

5) Are all of these things (Building Permits, State Documents, and Disturbance) aligned? This is difficult given the disjointed timeline. Sites with minimal changes fare best. For example, does the LSAA match the site plan and align with the building permits? If all those questions can be answered positively, then a CEQA Checklist can be considered, but as pointed out at the BOS session last night, there are many pitfalls, including existing sensitive species of CNDDB hits. That being said, these are documents that can be produced, but the review burden to County staff needs to be minimized.

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“I really appreciate this, guys. I don’t know how much longer I could have taken being cooped up in my apartment.”

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ED NOTES

RANDOM OBSERVATIONS: The Supervisors spent an hour yesterday on a contract worth around $15,000 to Liz Barney. Her sin? A personal opinion on a lib-kryptonite website. While they did a thought-police number on the poor woman, it occurred to me that I've never seen the Supes ask a single question ever at the annual $20 million public money mental health contract awarded to Mr. and Mrs. Schraeder, a private business.

NEVER COMPLAIN, never explain, as me dear old mum counseled me, so I won't ask Supervisor Williams if yesterday's NO vote he cast on the Barney contract was cast after three of his colleagues had correctly voted to approve it. Pretty cagy of the 5th District solon. Williams' no vote keeps the nutballs concentrated in his and Gjerde's districts off his case, while the Supes, as a body, managed to do the right thing after an hour of inane back and forth, made even more inane by an impenetrable (and endless) opinion from County Counsel. Gjerde has always been good at keeping the screaming meemies content, at least with him. But then Fort Bragg and environs seem barely aware that they have a Supervisor, which has worked to the advantage of years of, ahem, light representation at the county level.

I STILL MISS Frank Zotter at the County Counsel's Office. A great comic figure of Dickens quality, Zotter confidently offered up wrong opinions on whatever subject was referred to him. He even appeared in Boonville to mislead our CSD board a few times, us rubes deferring to the legal eminence from over the hill. Zotter prosecuted me once on behalf of Mendo County. He didn't seem to see several jurors chuckling to themselves as he repeatedly denounced me and my newspaper as “scurrilous,” the only pejorative he was able to come up with. Zotter was apoplectic, but the jury was out less than an hour and found for me. Zotter was incredulous, but got his pound of flesh when the Mendo jury was reversed by the Frisco-based appellate court. (You taxpayers should take a look some time at court headquarters in the Civic Center. King Farouk never enjoyed comparable comforts.) Zotter's now an education attorney with that Santa Rosa-based seraglio that provides all of Mendo's stumbling school districts with tax-paid legal protection whenever an uppity teacher or student or parent tries to privately sue one of them. 

MENDO'S VAXX program is a mess almost as messy as the County's dope policy. I did a little poll here in Boonville, asking exactly eight people where they got their covid information. No one answered, “Mendocino County.” Five said they got their updates on where things stood from the Bay Area's television news, the other three said all they knew was that the vaccination was not available here yet.

I'M WAITING for Johnson & Johnson's (Buy American!) one-shot vaccination, which I heard from the Bay Area television news will be generally available some time late summer. The one-time I sought, as directed, vaxx info from the County, I was unsuccessful as, I understand from on-line commentary, many Mendo people are. I suppose, at my age (81), I might even get priority access if I kept calling County offices until someone answered the phone, maybe even a taxi cab dispatched from Ukiah with Dr. Coren in the back seat brandishing a syringe. “What's in that syringe, doctor?” Nothing to fear, Mr. Anderson. You won't feel a thing ever again.

A COUPLE of locals wondered at the Sheriff's squad cars in Boonville the past few days. The Sheriff told us Wednesday afternoon that his department is training rookies. Boonville, as per ancient custom, is fertile soil for moving violations, and what better place to show new deputies how to make safe stops? Myself, I'm in total awe of people whose job it is to walk up on a stranger's vehicle. All the cop-bashing lately ignores the obvious fact that almost all the people who do this impossible job in this crumbling society do it humanely.

NOTICED THIS on-line comment about my fave site of all County sites: “Don't repair the Haul Road they said…now not only is the Haul Road gone but so are the days of freshwater fish in the little lake… Did I mention the bathrooms had to be removed also? Why keep piling the sand up? It's fucked up anyway… just let it do whatever it's going to do. It's a shame this beautiful spot has turned into this mess.” The beautiful spot referred to here is the Mackerricher oceanside spot. I haven't been out there lately, but all of us who love the Haul Road (Fort Bragg) know that the battle to hold off the ocean's pounding seems way beyond State Park's ability.

THE SNOWFLAKES and snowflake-ism are dangerously out of control. New York Times staffers are fighting in private and in public after veteran reporter Donald McNeil Jr. was ousted on the say-so of teen snowflakes for using the N-word during a company-sponsored school trip to Peru in 2019. The Times had allowed McNeil Jr. to keep his job after complaints regarding the racist slur surfaced — but he was forced out after 150 Times employees out of a global staff of 4,500 signed a letter slamming the decision. Since then, writers and staff have been engaged in a battle in a private Facebook group and on Twitter with McNeil's supporters saying management were “bullied by a vocal minority” and he should have been given the “benefit of the doubt.” Former Times labor correspondent Steven Greenhouse hit out at those “far more willing to sympathize with these privileged 15- and 16-year-olds than with a long time colleague,” while others said his career shouldn't have ended over “one word.”

IN WHAT RATIONAL WORLD would anybody be damned on this basis? According to McNeil, he used the N-word after a student on a Times-sponsored educational cruise to Peru had asked him “whether I thought a classmate of hers should have been suspended for a video she had made as a 12-year-old in which she used” the N-word. McNeil then repeated the N-word as he tried to determine the context of the original use by the classmate.

THAT'S IT. The guy's fired after 30 years on the job.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, February 10, 2021

McCann, Oneto, Ragan, Timberlake

ROBERT MCCANN, Willits. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, vehicle theft by extortion, purchase or receipt, felony prior, controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.

FRANK ONETO, Redwood City/Ukiah. Failure to register as sex offender with priors, ammo possession by prohibited person, transient registration, stolen property, suspended license, evasion, resisting, parole violation.

ETHAN RAGAN, Novato/Ukiah. Failure to appear.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.

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CAPE MAN

by Alex Abramovich

Danny Ray, who died last week, spent forty-odd years as James Brown’s valet and body man. Off stage, he was in charge of the band’s uniforms. On stage, he was Brown’s master of ceremonies and “cape man.” It was a job that didn’t exist until Ray joined Brown’s entourage, in 1960 or 1961. When they recorded Live at the Apollo in 1962, Ray’s work with the cape may or may not have been a centrepiece of Brown’s act. By the time they appeared on the T.A.M.I. Show in 1964, it most certainly was.

The T.A.M.I. Show was directed by Steve Binder, who went on to make Elvis Presley’s 1968 “Comeback Special.” Shot at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and released in cinemas, the concert featured, among others, Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys, the Supremes, and a few British Invasion acts. Brown had just scratched the Top Twenty, and then only once, a year earlier, with a cover of the old Russ Colombo song “Prisoner of Love.” Still, he expected to close the show. “Nobody follows me,” he said. “Actually,” Binder said, “we’ve got the Rolling Stones.”

It was one of the best things to happen to Brown. The Stones were fresh-faced; they’d played in America for the first time that year, while Brown had been kicking around the chitlin circuit for more than a decade. “We had to follow James Brown, the tightest machine in the world,” Keith Richards recalled. “That did make me a little tight. Thank God the audience was mostly white.”

Brown’s band, the Famous Flames, opened with their newish single, “Outta Sight.” Midway through their second song, “Prisoner of Love,” Brown screamed (on key) and fell to his knees. “I want you so bad,” he sang. “I want you to try me. I want you to try me. ’Cause you got the power. You got the power.” He was singing the titles of his other songs – telling his audience which records to look for – but doing something less explicable, too.

“His songs are the articulation of his need, the elaboration of his great theme, the definition of a man on the verge of abandonment,” Douglas Wolk writes in his book about Live at the Apollo:

“His declaration of abjection will not be denied. He is bewildered, crushed, half-wrecked by thinking you might leave … James Brown screams and sweats and implores … His path is a jagged slash … Nobody else in his band can even break a sweat: they are required to work impossibly hard, too, but they are not to be seen with a hair out of place. James Brown is a vector of chaos, and chaos only means something in comparison to order …

“He falls to his knees half a dozen times in every show: on soft wooden floors like the Apollo’s, on hard concrete stages, on carpet, on stone, on metal, on earth … Imagine James Brown falling to his knees for the audience tens of thousands of times, probably hundreds of thousands of times. Imagine the scar tissue, inches thick, on the knees of James Brown.”

On the T.A.M.I. Show, the frenzy and drive that Wolk describes coalesce near the seven-minute mark. Back on his feet, Brown sings “Please, Please, Please” – the title of the Flames’ first single, released nine years earlier. A minute later, he’s on his knees again. The backing singer Bobby Bennett walks over and pats Brown’s back, as you would a baby’s. Dressed in a dark, immaculate suit, Ray walks out of the wings and drapes a long cape over Brown’s shoulders. “You’ve done enough,” the gesture says. “You’ve done more than enough.”

This is high drama: Brown takes nine or ten steps away from the microphone – and throws the cape off. The show must go on! Bennett leads him back to the mic, where he sings a few bars and collapses again. They repeat the process time and again. In the background, the audience loses its mind.

“Night Train,” which ends the performance, is a showcase for Brown’s dancing. Prince copied his splits, Michael Jackson the moonwalk. Presley watched the show over and over again. Jackie Wilson – a former boxer, like Brown – was around at the time, and much more popular. Like Brown, he was a phenomenal dancer, right down to the knee-drops and splits. But Wilson was polished; his athleticism went into making it look like he was floating. Brown turned the formula inside out – the work was all on the surface, and part of the point. Brown knew church and jail, poverty, backbreaking labor. He was incredibly hard on his band. He later stumped and voted for Nixon. “You had to be watching him at all times,” Ray said. “He would tell me the color of the suits, the color of the capes, only a little before the shows … I kept them safe with me and never let them out of my sight, because I knew what they represented.”

In 2005, the year before Brown died, Jonathan Lethem followed him on tour and spent time with Danny Ray. “There’s something so marvellous about the cape ritual,” Lethem said the other night. “It’s an attempt to provide care that isn’t wished for.”

James was the only one on stage who seemed to know that he had to give more. And Danny Ray, attempting to pat him down and secure him and console him with the cape, stood in for all of us – our amazement and our own exhaustion. Our sense that the crisis had passed – that James could finally rest. And James’s refusal. His saying: “No. I have to deliver more. It’s urgent.”

Brown described the cape routine as a homage to Gorgeous George, the wrestler. But in J.R. Smith’s biography of Brown, published several years after the singer’s death, Ray told a different story:

Brown & Ray

“Back in the chitlin circuit days, there wasn’t no dressing room, there was an outside and an inside, and when you wanted to go off the stage, you went out the door and you were standing outside. I used to catch him coming off singing ‘Please’ and he’d just be drenched in sweat, and one thing I was supposed to do was hand him a towel. That’s all it was. I put the Turkish towel on him. Places were so small, you had to go outside before you come back on the stage. It was, like, our little joke, at first. I put the Turkish towel on him; he’d kick it off and run back in and sing it some more. Folks could see from their seats. People started noticing and it became a thing.”

Thanks to Ray, the Flames always looked good. And he, too, was an immaculate dresser. Smith paraphrases the guitarist Keith Jenkins: “Ray would save up a perfect, glorious suit for the final days of a long tour; when the rest of the band was down to dirty laundry, Ray would emerge from the bus in a shining, cream-colored coat, defying all understanding.”

“He was very small,” Lethem said.

“He was the pilot fish at the shark’s mouth. The remora. He slipped between things; ... I think he was a talismanic being for the band. For what they had suffered at Brown’s hands. He was, literally, the person who’d held Brown’s coat the longest ;... He was so loved by that band, such an emblem of the compromises they’d made to be in that brutal, magical aura of Brown’s use.”

In the end they all left, but not him. In 1977, Brown and Ray took a Learjet to Memphis. They were given a police escort to Graceland and a private audience with Presley’s corpse. (“Elvis, you rat,” Brown said, “I’m not number two any more.”) In 2006, dressed in an immaculate suit, Ray draped the cape over Brown’s casket in Georgia. It was Brown’s daughter Deanna who found Ray last week, dead of natural causes. “There was a science in the way he threw the cape,” she said. “When he did it, it just nicely laid on the back of my father.”

(London Review of Books)

* * *

* * *

MATT TAIBBI: 

* * *

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

Was not the Super Bowl nearly an insuffereable deluge of shameless, pandering dreck? It was like watching the Oscars these days. Everyone trying to one-up the next guy to be the most tolerant. I just wanted a damn beer or pizza commercial. Instead we got run-on awareness training and 14 promos for CBS’ new hit show starring Queen Latifer on skis. I’m not averse to the awareness concept for important issues, but can we possibly be more friggin aware than we already are? It’s the only topic allowed to be discussed. We’re aware. It’s enough already.

Also noticed the not-so-subtle lack of diversity in the back-up performers behind the half-time “star”…far as I can tell, a 100% lack. How’s that for a mindfuck?

* * *

* * *

GLOOP & GLORY

Jason Farago in the NY Times:

...Frank Auerbach, the British artist of oily, encrusted paintings that teeter between durability and disintegration. Auerbach, who turns 90 in April, is the last surviving member of a pathfinding generation of postwar British figurative painters, and 25 of his industrious paintings and drawings, made across four decades, each the hard-won product of months or even years of labor, are on view at the Manhattan gallery Luhring Augustine....

...these paintings are definitely not the sort you love at first sight — but they are so rewarding to fathom in person....

It might have a particular value for young artists who are living through a revival in the fortunes of portrait painting, though of a safer kind that translates seamlessly from canvas to Instagram. In Auerbach’s dense, congealed surfaces, they may discover how even the most compelling of portraits has to come up to the edge of failure....

....It hardly looks like a portrait at all. Julia [his wife, above] appears to be just a dense knot of thick golden strokes. The impasto is both a veil and a mirror, and much of the pleasure and challenge of these paintings comes from the tension between the careful observation in the dusty studio and the thick, fossilized surfaces of the finished paintings. 

You looked at someone for a whole year and saw....this? (The Gloopy Glory of Frank Auerbach’s Portraits)


Rob Anderson comments:

That's a question Julia may have asked after sitting in his studio for a year. Or maybe she was diplomatic and said, "Yes, that's me! I don't know how you do it, darling!" One wonders about their relationship.

But "young artists" can take heart from Auerbach's example. If you can't draw or paint--some house painting in the past might help--and want to be an artist, you can still make that dream come true!

* * *

* * *

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY #2

Sigh. The effort to transfer funds from “hard” police response, i.e , responding to crimes that have been or are being committed, to “soft” societal protections, i.e., social services, mental health interventions, social benefits such as adequate food and housing, i.e., preventing crimes from happening when people are desperate, means that a problem such as someone experiencing a mental health crisis will not be treated like a violent criminal but like someone experiencing a mental health crisis. If you look at cities where this more sophisticated approach has been adopted, you will see a significant reduction in crime. Let cops do cop work and social workers do social work, and society benefits. It’s a better use of taxpayer dollars. If you want to educate yourself, check out the reports on Denver’s approach. It has made the city substantially safer for residents, reduced crime, and significantly reduced crimes of opportunity – muggings, break-and-enter crimes, street petty crimes. Or don’t, and stick to your assumptions. Now, let the shrieking begin

* * *

RENNIE DAVIS: NOT THE BOY NEXT DOOR

by Jonah Raskin

Rennie Davis sometimes seemed to be the all-American boy who lived in the house next door that came with a lawn and a picket fence. In some ways he fit the stereotype.

Unlike Abbie, Jerry and Tom, Rennie’s roots were patrician. Born in Michigan and raised in Virginia, he belonged to a 4-H Club as a boy. His father worked in President Truman’s administration as chief of staff for the Council of Economic Advisers. I remember him as boyish, with a certain naivete.

Still, the more one looked, the less all-American he appeared to be. Something was going on beneath the surface that even he didn’t recognize. The Vietnamese did.

After Rennie’s death on February 2, 2021, Bui Van Nghi, the secretary general of the Vietnam-U.S. Society, wrote, “We will always remember Rennie’s goodwill, affection and contribution to Vietnam as one of the most known peace activist/leaders and organizers of peace-loving and student/youth forces/movements in the U. S. during the American War in Vietnam.”

Rennie Davis

Bui added, “Rennie Davis will never be forgotten and he will forever be in our hearts and minds.”

Rennie was a man with a deep moral consciousness who aimed to follow the dictates of his heart and his head no matter where they might take him.

Did he take a wrong turn? I am not here to judge him. We shared too much history together as anti-war activists, especially during Mayday in 1971 for me to sit back and take him to task for what he did or didn’t do.

The first time I met Rennie was in the early 1960s, before the advent of SDS, when he was at Oberlin and I was at Columbia. Along with our contemporaries, we wanted to bring activism to college campuses.

The last time I saw Rennie was in 2015 in Berkeley, when he appeared on a panel wth Judy Gumbo and Frank Joyce in the public library. The topic: Vietnam. It was the 40th anniversary of the end of “the American War,” as the Vietnamese call it.

After all, they also fought against the Chinese, the Japanese and the French. Listening to Rennie, and watching him, too, I felt that he was two different people: the passionate anti-war activist; and the starry-eyed spiritualist and follower of the Guru Maharaji Ji.

“My name is Rennie Davis,” he began, as though he need not say more. He paused for a moment and went on: “At the beginning of the 1960s, millions of young people were about to come together to change the world, though they didn’t know it. We’re about to do it again.”

He added ominously, “We’re headed for a perfect storm, politically, environmentally, economically. Events like the drought will drive citizens from their regular lives. They will leave society and transform everything.”

Davis was right on, to borrow a Sixties cliche. The world was and still is headed for a perfect storm, politically, environmentally and economically. But it wasn’t so much climate change and the drought but rather police brutality, sexism, patriarchal power and the corruptions of the Trump White House, that brought millions of citizens, old and young, into the streets to call for democracy and social and economic justice.

Moreover, citizens didn’t abandon their lives and turn their backs on society, as Rennie would have liked. All through the pandemic, they have aimed to keep their jobs, their homes, and their families. At the same time, they have gone into the streets of America to protest, as they have rarely done since the Sixties.

The danger of prophecy is that the future rarely turns out the ways that prophets predict, though it usually turns out as dark as anyone imagines. (See Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and dozens of dystopian novels that have appeared over the past half-century.)

By the time that Rennie hooked up with his teenage guru, the Maharaji Ji, the 1960s were over and antiwar protests were mostly a thing of the past, though the war didn’t formally end until 1975.

Sixties folk scattered: Abbie became a cocaine smuggler, was arrested and went underground where he turned into an environmentalist. Jerry Rubin joined the self-help movement, went to Wall Street to make money and recreated himself as a Yuppie. Tom Hayden went into electoral politics in California, married Jane Fonda and rediscovered his Irish roots.

The fact that Rennie changed wasn’t unusual. But turning to an Indian guru and claiming that he had seen “the light” seemed at the time more radical than anything Abbie, Jerry and Tom did.

There was a certain logic to Abbie’s smuggling, Jerry’s adventures in pop psychology and Tom’s role as a California politician. Rennie’s path seemed to come out of nowhere and to lead nowhere, except into a wilderness with few followers.

I worked with Rennie in the months and weeks leading up to Mayday 1971, when tens of thousands of Americans flocked to the streets of Washington, D.C. I was among them. Our slogan was, “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.” To the best of my recollection, Rennie was, more than anyone else, the author of the slogan. He meant it, too.

After he joined his guru, he held a press conference in New York. I attended and listened attentively as he tried to explain his turn toward spirituality in terms of science. When one mediated and entered into another state of mind, he said, the human brain released a chemical and one saw God. I found that concept intriguing, but I didn’t buy it.

Later that year I wrote a novel titled The Animal Kingdom whose main character was based on Rennie. It was never published, though I never forgot the novel or Rennie. So, when I heard he would be speaking in Berkeley with Yippie Judy Gumbo and with Frank Joyce, a long time director of public relations for the United Auto Workers (UAW), I knew I had to go. I wasn’t sorry I did.

Wearing a purple shirt, his white hair drawn behind his head in a ponytail, Davis stood at the podium, looked straight at the audience and spoke without notes. A New Age was dawning, he told his listeners, many of whom were veterans of the anti-war movement. They were joined by a contingent of 20 or so Vietnamese-Americans, all of them women and all of them first-year students at the University of California at Berkeley, enrolled in an Asian-American studies class.

When their teacher informed them that millions of Americans had protested the war in Vietnam, they were shocked and impressed. Davis seemed to speak directly to them, especially when he explained that he had reached out to, and met with, refugees from Vietnam who had fled from communism and their own country and settled in Orange County, California.

In the question-and-answer period that followed the formal presentations, Davis explained that when he traveled in Vietnam he was treated like a hero.

“I’m a democrat with a small d,” he added, lest anyone mistake him for a communist. He added, “This is an opportune time to work with the Vietnamese because the White House wants to wean Hanoi from China and to persuade the government to become our ally.”

With his heart and soul, he was still linked to Vietnam.

Frank Joyce and Judy Gumbo were less messianic than Rennie, though no less passionate. Joyce wore a Detroit Tigers sweatshirt. “I’m from Motor City,” he told the audience. “We know about paradigm shifts.” Of the anti-war movement, he added, “We were naïve. We didn’t learn the lessons of McCarthyism.”

Judy Gumbo listened attentively to Joyce and Davis. When it was her turn to speak she described her visits to Vietnam in 1970 and again in 2013 when she observed what she called a “developing socialist-orientated market economy.” Wearing hippie garb and a jacket from her most recent trip to Vietnam, she said, “We fought for independence for Vietnam, and if the Vietnamese want to choose socialism that’s up to them.”

She looked at the audience and raised her voice a tad. “The message that we brought back from the Vietnamese on our recent trip was ‘thank you for helping to halt the war,’” she said. Gumbo looked in the eyes of a Berkeley undergraduate and said, “A Vietnamese man told me something I really remember. ‘Go slow, so you don’t fall down.’”

All through the American War, Rennie went slow and steady never fell down, never carried a gun or fired a shot. He was poorly served by Aaron Sorkin’s film The Trial of the Chicago 7. Not surprisingly, he didn’t like the way he was portrayed: as a nerd. Rennie Davis deserved much better than that.

(Jonah Raskin is the author of For The Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman and American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.)

* * *

* * *

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF PYSCHOPATHIC CEOs and the wealthy owners of the U.S.

No corporation in the world has profited more from the COVID-19 pandemic than Amazon, as so many of us have relied on online shopping and deliveries to maintain social distancing.

But the Federal Trade Commission just revealed that Amazon withheld nearly $62 million in tips from delivery drivers in order to pad its own bottom line.

The tip-stealing scheme apparently went on for years: the company would lure delivery drivers in with promises of a high base pay and tips, and then it would lower the base pay unbeknownst to the driver and siphon off part of the tips to make up the difference. Jeff Bezos may be stepping down as CEO, but he will still pull the strings as Amazon’s chairman of the board, and the company is still abusing its workers. We’re not letting up on our campaign to get Amazon to change its terrible practices.

Amazon’s tip-stealing is just one of the anti-worker scandals that made news in the past week alone.

Amazon also tried to block unionizing efforts in one warehouse by forcing workers to vote in person -- in the middle of a pandemic. Then they went to court to try to delay the union vote entirely. Meanwhile, Amazon has forced warehouse workers in another location to make a terrible choice -- sign on to work “megacycle” shifts, from 1:20 am to 11:50 am, or lose their jobs.

Jeff Bezos has announced that he will soon no longer serve as Amazon’s CEO, but he is still very much in charge of the workplace culture of Amazon. And there are some signs that his replacement as CEO, Andy Jassy, could be even worse. He is a protege of Bezos’ who was in charge of Amazon Web Service, and is known for making a “tough” workplace.

As Amazon builds warehouse after warehouse in California, we need to fight for protections for workers.

* * *

* * *

DEMS DISARM THEMSELVES BEFORE TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT TRIAL

by Ralph Nader

Donald Trump, has with luck, eluded the consequences of being a failed gambling czar with no respect for the law. But his luck has reached a new level with Congressional Democrats refraining from holding him accountable for breaking the law and violating the Constitution as regularly as the rising and setting of the sun for four years. (See: December 18, 2019, Congressional Record, H-12197).

Now the Democrats are moving forward into an impeachment trial, using only a fraction of the voluminous incriminating evidence against a president who incited insurrection against Congress and the Constitution. Trump directly incited an armed mob, bent on mayhem, against both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate who were gathered to count state-certified electoral votes under the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act. The Joint Session of Congress heard the vile mob chant the chilling phrase “Hang Mike Pence,” the Vice President who had fallen from Trump’s favor by refusing to compromise his constitutional duty to count rather than to second-guess the state-certified votes.

The Democrats know if the Senate neglects to convict Trump (requiring a two-thirds majority), and prohibit him from running for the White House ever again (requiring only a simple majority) they will be unleashing a vengeful monster, loaded with cash for a 2024 presidential run. Republicans should fear that prospect to avoid the risk of internecine warfare.

So, wouldn’t you think with the election over the impeachment managers would go full throttle before the national television audience and conduct a trial for historical accountability, the rule of law, and protection of posterity?

Instead, Democrats are signaling failure by prejudging how Republicans will vote before seeing what should be gripping trial evidence and the rising outrage of the American people. Trump’s polls are steadily falling already.

Prejudgment leads to another Democratic mistake – settling for a short trial. Even Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have said they want a truncated impeachment trial so the Senate can focus on the Covid-19 driven stimulus bill. This legislation is already moving quickly. Besides, the Senate can drop its routine of working three days a week and start working five days a week or more just as do most Americans.

There are other self-inflicted constraints. Democrats should have subpoenaed Trump and Pence immediately after the House impeached Trump on January 13, 2021. Trump has spurned an invitation to testify voluntarily under oath by lead House manager Jamie Raskin (D-MD). House and Senate Democrats should know the hazards of declining to issue a trial subpoena to Mr. Trump because special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was compromised by his failure to do so. Why follow a losing playbook?

The courts have no jurisdiction over impeachment questions the Supreme Court said in Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S.224 (1993). The Senate runs its impeachment trial as it chooses, including holding Mr. Trump’s lawyers in contempt if they attempt to disrupt the proceedings or continue to argue issues they have lost, like the absence of jurisdiction over a former president. As a no-show in a civil, not criminal proceeding, Mr. Trump’s defiance of a subpoena would justify an adverse inference of guilt by the Senate.

There is also no sign the Democrats are seeking other witnesses such as Garrett Miller who has said he and others were operating at the direction and approval of President Trump. The liar-in-chief had just told his supporters at the notorious rally on the Mall, “We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you,” before Trump the betrayer retreated to the White House to witness on television the violence he provoked and incited.

Families of victims deserve to be heard. And members of the Senate and the public should hear of the detailed thuggery by Trump in Georgia and at the Justice Department. The prosecution must go deep, starting with the testimony of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and then acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

The Democrats are not subpoenaing Mike Pence to testify about Mr. Trump’s bullying him to reject state-certified electoral votes in violation of the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act in key states that would deny Joe Biden’s electoral vote majority. Pence’s refusal angered Trump who then resorted to an insurrection against the Capitol to accomplish by force and violence what he was unable to accomplish by bullying.

Given their penchant for a short trial, the Democrats seem unlikely to highlight Trump’s pattern and practice throughout his presidency of flouting the Constitution and duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, including protections for all Americans. Trump’s former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has declared that obstruction of justice was “a way of life” at the White House.

The House impeachment managers are under the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As in the first impeachment of Trump, she believes the American people have a short attention span and proceeds to prejudge the vote by Republicans in the Senate. Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy – assuring failure by holding back the full hand the Democrats possess – an Ace of Spades – under the Constitution?

Do the Democrats want to convict or just impeach a president who brazenly asserted “Then I have article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” He produced four years as proof of such lawbreaking. Will Trump overcome the Democrats on this last clear chance for our Constitution to prevail and for the assault on Congress, its legislators, staff, and other employees to be answered with justice?

Do you know how weak and spineless the National Democrats are? They almost blew the Presidential election to the worst, most delusional, lawbreaking, incompetent president in U.S. history. Less than 100,000 votes in four swing states saved the country from a second despotic Trump term. The Democrats also lost House and Senate seats to the most crazed, cruel, anti-people, corporate-indentured, militaristic, and monetized Republican Party in history.

If the Democrats do not go full throttle in this trial – this last clear chance to exercise the Constitution against Tyrant Trump – they will be remembered as profiles of infamy. If the Party of Jefferson and FDR fails to meet this fundamental challenge, history will show them as betraying the people’s trust, abdicating their constitutional duties, and setting an awful precedent ready for use by any future president to annihilate the Constitution.

* * *

Magritte, 1956

* * *

GO FULL MAWK FOR YOUR VALENTINE!

WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA

“For one human being to love another,” Rilke wrote to a young friend, “that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks…the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

Two generations later, the Polish Nobel poet laureate, Wisława Szymborska (July 2, 1923 – February 1, 2012) — another visionary poet with uncommon insight into the human psyche — examined the forbearance and hardiness of heart that great love requires.

Szymborska wrote a beautiful short piece simply titled, “Great Love”.

It's found in her book, Nonrequired Reading — a collection of Szymborska’s short, soaring essays inspired by various books she devoured during one voracious reading binge in the 1970s.

Every Valentine's Day, I think about Szymborska's "Great Love".


How did Wisława Szymborska come to write about great love?

Well, I'll tell you.

After Szymborska read the extraordinary memoir of the love of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anna Grigoryevna Dostoevskaya (his second wife) — the record of one of history’s truest and most beautiful loves, during the course of which Anna buoyed Fyodor through their inordinate sharing of the hardest of hardships that would have destroyed any other couple — Szymborska reflected on Fyodor's and Anna's marriage and considered how true love seems to wrap its bearers with a superhuman resilience of spirit:

Anna was pregnant during one particularly trying period. It was an exceptionally difficult pregnancy and she almost lost her baby time and time again. Fyodor, meanwhile, was having his own problems...political, literary, and personal problems. But Anna was happy. She chose to be happy. She managed to be happy. She couldn’t even conceive of greater happiness. And she made others happy. 

This is the phenomenon of "great love".

With an eye to the unseeing cynicism with which people often view what they don’t understand — especially the private universe of any great love, incomprehensible to the outside observer and often incomprehensible even to the lovers who inhabit it themselves — Szymborska likens great love to the blind optimism of plants.

Szymborska writes:

Detached observers always ask in such cases: So what does she see in him? Or what does he see in her? But such questions are best left in peace: Great love is never justified. It is never expected. It is not rational. Great love is like the little tree that grows on the side of a high rocky cliff: Where are the tree's roots? What water does it get? What soil nourishes it? What miracle produces those shrill-green leaves announcing the tree's inexplicable presence to an unbelieving world?


So every Valentine's Day, I come back to Szymborska.

I read her poem, "Great Love", of course.

But I also read her other meditations: why we read, the necessity of fear, and our cosmic destiny. They all strike a chord in me.

Szymborska also writes about Anna Dostoyevskaya's secret to a happy marriage.

And she writes about Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s complex relationship with compatriot Leo Tolstoy and their relationship's paradoxical demands.

She writes about the Lebanese-American poet, philosopher, and painter, Kahlil Gibran.

She writes, too, about weathering the uncertainties of love.

Szymborska writes on how our certitudes constrain us. Her ode to the number pi is wonderful. Her poem, “Possibilities”, is breathtaking.


Finally, the 2020 Noble poet laureate, Louise Glück, is a bit more dreary on the subject of love. 

"Why love what you will lose?" she asks. "It all ends in death."

Then she answers her own question, "Why? Because there is nothing else to love."

I disagree with the premise of Glück's question.

And I think Szymborska would disagree, too, because love is what affirms what is eternal in us. Love is the answer to death.

Surely, love recoils from death; love recoils from oblivion. But human love reflects divine love. 

Daresay, love affirms our divinity. 

There is no obstacle to true understanding -- true consciousness -- if we love, if we are loved.

John Sakowicz

Valentine's Day, 2021

* * *

* * *

ONE OF THE MOST PATHETIC ASPECTS of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun.

— Reinhold Niebuhr

8 Comments

  1. Maureen Mulheren February 11, 2021

    Good morning, it appears as though you’ve grabbed one of my Facebook posts (of which I have many, many, folks can check it out at @Mo4Mendo), just wanted to let you know that third paragraph is a comment from a local resident “Christian Luiz” and not my comment. Hope you’ll be able to draw that distinction in your …. blurb, or article or post whichever you’d like to call it. TIA

    • AVA News Service Post author | February 11, 2021

      Thank you for the clarification.

  2. George Hollister February 11, 2021

    Reinhold Niebuhr should take note, some civilizations have done quite well. Egypt lasted for close to 3,000 years, Rome for close to a 1,000 +, and China for 2,000 +. They were certainly not immortal, but can be excused for thinking they were/are. In contrast, the USA is still relatively young in the tooth.

    • Harvey Reading February 11, 2021

      Yeah, but those old failures didn’t have facebook and weren’t powered by petroleum, or by lithium, if robber barons like Leon Skum get their way, and they didn’t have nuclear arsenals. Humans cannot help failing. It’s in their genes. In fact, it’s something at which we excel.

  3. Gary Smith February 11, 2021

    Can anyone tell us why Tom Brady doesn’t eat tomatoes? They seem healthy to me.

    • Stephen Rosenthal February 11, 2021

      Just a guess, he may suffer from GERD – Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease. The four verboten items can be triggers for GERD flare-ups in some people.

  4. David Gurney February 11, 2021

    What happened to Justin Timberlake? Arrested for Disorderly Conduct & Resisting but it looks like from the picture, whoever did the arresting got carried away. Another case of “almost all the people who do this impossible…do it humanely?” You should change your name to the Anderson Valley Apologizer.

  5. Craig Stehr February 11, 2021

    Warmest spiritual greetings,
    It is raining in Mendocino county and the big trees are lovin’ it. The ranch critters are enjoying the weather, particularly the duck, two roosters, and a fat Pilot the Pig. Chomsky the German Shepherd ranch dog is snoozing on a couch on the front deck. Following morning yoga sadhana, beginning at 4AM (Brahma Muhurta), fed all and then lit some Tulsi incense, and went back to sleep. Awoke much later to find that last night’s partiers had all gone home, the outside sauna door was open, empty kombucha cans were left for recycling, and a light was left on in the new artist studio, which may double as a separate guest house.
    Awaiting the next stimulus check to hit my checking account, while continuing to network with everyone for upcoming spiritually focused direct action. Ignoring the absolute absurdity of the second impeachment of America’s 45th president elect, the COVID-19 latest news because I do not require any further updates, the weather report, and the constant barrage of information about the lives of Hollywood celebrities.
    For those of us not tripping our brains out and heading for rehab or a long term situation in a mental institution, please stay in touch with me for spiritually focused direct action, in response to global climate destabilization, before the 130 degree summer days arrive. I am thanking you in advance for your ongoing cooperation. 😀

    Craig Louis Stehr
    Email: craiglouisstehr@gmail.com
    Blog: http://craiglstehr.blogspot.com
    No phone

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