Partial Clearing | 22 New Cases | Vaccine Supply Problem | Spini Brothers | Yorkville BBQ | Grange Food | Chief's Report | O'Brien's House | Local Housing | Eel River | Retroactive Contracts | FB House | Streetscape Update | Yesterday's Catch | Cupid Hustle | Conviction Stand | Max Baer | Complicated Grief | Swinging Bridge | Ponzi Journalism | Homeschooling | Woke Inquisition | Stopping Brady | Marco Radio | Public Flogging
SHOWERS will gradually diminish later today and tonight with partial clearing over parts of Lake, Trinity and Mendocino counties. The next episode of beneficial rainfall will arrive on Sunday, with showers lingering into Monday. A period of mainly dry and milder weather will follow under high pressure Tuesday into Wednesday. (NWS)
22 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Friday bringing the total to 3681.
California Officials To Allow Covid-19 Vaccinations For High-Risk Individuals Ages 16 And Up Starting In March
Note: as of Friday afternoon, the county has not been notified of any increase in supply. Although another group will become eligible, we don’t actually have the doses to implement new terms.
BBQ THIS SATURDAY 2/13 AT THE YORKVILLE MARKET
Hello Yorkville! and the Valley!
In addition to our Sunday Valentine's Day dinner we will also be BBQing Tri-tip with a black bean, corn and avocado salad tomorrow for our weekly BBQ. The price is $15 per plate, and we will be serving from 12:30ish until 4ish.
There are no new Take-and-Bakes this week, but we do still have a few from the previous weeks in our freezer.
Wishing you all a very happy Holiday weekend!
Lisa at Yorkville Market <email@example.com>
FOOD BANK THANKS THE GRANGE
The AVFB thanks the AV Grange for offering us space to continue feeding those hungry in our community.
(Photos by Pam Scommegna)
ANDERSON VALLEY FIRE CHIEF ANDRES AVILA’S MONTHLY REPORT to the Community Services District Board:
Community Covid 19 Vaccination
AVFD has assisted the AVHC six times over the last with their efforts to provide AV community COVID 19 vaccinations. Our second ambulance (A7421) was placed on standby during their drive-through vaccination events just in case any patients were to have an allergic reaction needing medical care and transport. The EMS crew provided parking control after the patients receive their shot. This provided an observation period for our EMTs to monitor patients for any side effects while they were parked for 15 minutes. The AVHC executed a very well-run program and we are very pleased to assist our community in this historical effort.
Autoaid Agreement With Calfire
As reported last month, CalFire intends to stop responding to emergencies in Anderson Valley through our long standing Automatic Mutual Aid Agreement. As I was looking into reasons for this unexpected change to find any possible solutions for the situation, I was again surprised by CalFire when they contacted me to expedite the dissolution process for an implementation date starting March 1st, 2021.
During a recent Chief’s meeting last month we learned that other local fire departments are also having difficulties with Mendocino CalFire Unit as well. Reportedly, some departments are not receiving full payment for their extended services in assisting CalFire during this last fire season. Others have stated that they are not being allowed to receive their portion of the Assistance By Hire Agreement (ABH) during their deployments. This recent change and lack of cooperation triggered a response from the Mendocino County Fire Chief’s Association (MCFCA) to write a letter to the CalFire Region Chief, our Assembly Member Wood, and to our County Board of Supervisors. The letter is attached below.
AVFD has a good volunteer fire and EMS crew and I believe we can hold the load but we will need to hastily modify any response gaps that will occur after March 1st. My guess is that we will see our largest impact at night when volunteer responders are at home. CalFire’s Boonville station is staffed at night which gets a unit responding within 3 minutes of a dispatch. AVFD’s volunteer model will cause extra time at night for the first out engine due to personnel traveling from their residence to the fire station. Again, as I stated in last month’s Chief’s report, this is coming from [CalFire] upper management and not our local engine companies or local Battalion Chief. I could only imagine it would be difficult for the CalFire crews to listen to calls nearby without being allowed to respond and make a positive difference.
Community Foundation Grant
Thanks to Director [Francois] Christen, AVFD has formally finalized the Community Foundation radio grant process. In our ultimate goal to upgrade all our department radios with the State standard, we were able to purchase several new portable and mobile radios. We are on the last leg of the replacement project with an anticipated $20K of radio purchasing remaining. Grants like these are the only way that a small department like ours can keep up with these large mandates.
The office improvements are coming along good. Olie Erickson has been working on moving the office storage closet and laundry appliances to new locations in the department. The new space will allow our Training Officer (Angela) to have a formal office space downstairs with the rest of the staff. She is currently using the upstairs crew quarters and a portable table. The office area will be fully operational in the new arrangement for both FD and CSD staff by March 1st.
Fuel Agreement With AVUSD
AVFD is currently working on a draft fuel use agreement with the Anderson Valley Unified School District (AVUSD). Thanks to the Superintendent’s offer for a trial agreement, we will be allowed to get fuel from a much cheaper source. Several issues are being looked into and worked out; Child safety, site access, card lock system for billing, and setting up an account with Redwood Coast Fuels.
From Last month’s Fire Chief’s Report:
Autoaid Agreement With Calfire
Over the decades CDF/CalFire has helped serve the Anderson Valley community by sending an engine, if available, to assist AVFD on all incidents within our jurisdiction. This mutual aid relationship is formally written out in an auto-aid agreement to delineate each agency’s jurisdictional responsibilities and reciprocal commitments. AVFD’s jurisdictional authority is based on Health and Safety Code and includes emergency response such as; medical aids, structure fires, traffic collisions, search and rescues, hazardous conditions, etc. CDF/CalFire’s jurisdictional authority is based on Public Resources Code and their firefighters are intended for wildland fire suppression within the state responsibility area (SRA). Since there are normally two fully staffed engine crews at the Boonville CalFire station during the fires season, an auto aid relationship between our agencies has been beneficial to their crews by staying active and to our community in an augmented emergency response.
Two years ago, our auto-aid agreement expired and AVFD drafted a new version with no significant substance changes to renew the agreement. For unknown reasons it has not been signed by the current CalFire Unit Chief. Last week I received a newly drafted agreement that would exclude all CalFire emergency response to Anderson Valley “unless it was a fire or an auto accident with extrication”. After contacting the CalFire’s Assistant Unit Chief, I was told that this was due to avoiding firefighter fatigue.
There are many red flags here. I am looking into the details in an attempt to identify the actual issues and ensure our community does not lose any services that have historically benefited our small community. Our local CalFire station engine crews have always been great to work with and I have no reason to believe this is a crew level issue. New policies being pushed from the State level and our local ranger unit are likely the sources of these new changes. I will continue to keep the CSD Board and Fire Protection Committee updated as things progress in this area.
January 29, 2021
Subject: Mendocino Unit (MEU) Assistance by Hire (ABH)
TO: Michael Bradley, CAL FIRE Northern Region Chief
The fire departments, fire districts, and volunteer fire companies of Mendocino County have historically enjoyed a great working relationship with the Mendocino Unit (MEU) of CAL FIRE. This working relationship has traditionally worked well both administratively and operationally and has proven to be an amazing asset in emergency response to the residents of our county. We are starting to see some changes from CAL FIRE on both the administrative and operational side of things that are placing large fiscal and response burdens on our departments.
The County’s local fire agencies have always benefited CAL FIRE by assisting them with completing their statutory responsibilities through the use of an agreement commonly called the Assistance by Hire Agreement (ABH). Until roughly four fire seasons ago, this agreement was made directly between the local fire agency and the MEU Battalion Chief serving that area. The agreement was based upon the salary survey on file with Cal-OES as seen in the California Fire Assistance Agreement for reimbursement of personnel of that particular fire district and the rate for the type of apparatus providing the assistance. The county fire departments were all very happy with this process. It was easy, accurate, and the invoices were paid in a timely manner through the local unit (MEU). During the last four fire seasons the ABH agreement has been transformed to an ABH policy set forth from the MEU Fire Chief with set reimbursement modules. With the use of standardized modules there are some departments that cannot recover their costs for the service provided. To add to the confusion, the process for submitting ABH payment has changed multiple times over the past four years to a point where the local Battalion Chiefs and Station Captains are unable to assist with proper documentation. The original 2020 ABH policy was delivered in May, then we received another “different” policy in June, only to be revised and changed for a “new” policy in August. All of these problems have accumulated to create the most serious problem for the 2020 fire season. The problem is that not a single fire department that provided service to the Mendocino Unit under the ABH agreement has been reimbursed for any agreed-upon ABH responses. This adds up to well over $1,000,000.00 county-wide. It has put many departments in fiscal uncertainty since we are now in the last half of the fiscal year. Please keep in mind the engine crews and apparatus provided by local agencies are required to meet all of the standards set forth in CAL FIRE’s ABH policy. The local fire departments have done their part and CAL FIRE is failing on their end.
During the discussion of the above ABH issues the County Fire Chiefs were appraised of another major issue that will affect a vast majority of local fire agencies for not only the upcoming fire season but for multiple seasons to come. The local unit (MEU) has changed how and for what incidents they will respond to as assistance to the local fire districts within long standing mutual aid agreements. While previous agreements in some areas had CAL FIRE responding to all incidents, the new mutual aid agreements provide that, in these same areas, CAL FIRE has said they will only respond to fires and vehicle accidents involving extrication. This leaves a major response hole that will be very tough to fill for local volunteer and paid agencies.
It seems there has been a negative shift in attitude towards helping local agencies from the current administration of the Mendocino Unit (MEU). We are using this letter as a way to inform CAL FIRE administration above the local unit, and our local elected officials that our fire districts are in need of help. We need our ABH Agreement invoices paid in full and our mutual aid agreements strengthened not weakened within our county. With your help we should be able to straighten out our current issues and efficiently move forward in the years to come. Please contact us with suggestions on how to move forward to resolves these issues.
Respectfully Submitted on behalf of the Mendocino County Fire Chiefs Association,
Dave Latoof, Chief Mendocino Fire, President MCFCA
PO Box 901
Mendocino, CA 95460
DON’T JUST BUY LOCAL, SELL LOCAL TOO
Several years ago I was informed by a realtor that around 30 percent of our housing inventory was second homes or vacation rentals. I often wonder where that number stands today. We are currently unable to provide housing for our necessary workforce. Sadly we are losing the talent and professions that this community so desperately needs because they are unable to find housing. It does not help the situation that we have local realtors marketing their listings as “the perfect vacation home.” We now have working families who will never own a home and will be forever subjected to permanent instability. At any moment their home could be sold to “Susan from Sacramento” who “always wanted a vacation home on the coast.”
If you are considering selling your home and have multiple offers, please consider the local one first even if they are unable to offer “all cash.” Request that the potential buyer include a letter of intent. If you care about the future of this community it will allow you to choose the buyer with the best intentions.
If you currently own a vacation rental or second home in the area, I encourage you to put community first, we are in an absolute crisis. If you cannot find the altruism within yourself to do something for the greater good then you are not allowed to complain about the inability to find a housekeeper, doctor, plumber, veterinarian or that your fish and chips took too long.
THE RETROACTIVE ATTEMPT TO RETROACTIVELY DEAL WITH RETROACTIVE CONTRACTS.
by Mark Scaramella
At last Monday’s (February 8) General Government Supervisors standing committee meeting, the subject was “Agenda Item Quality.”
Supervisor/Committee Chair Ted Williams asked CEO Angelo what she thought about the retroactive contracts that are presented to the Board for rubberstamping.
Williams: “Should we be looking at why retroactive contracts are being brought to the board? I understand that in HHSA a lot of times we don't know until after the fact just the convoluted nature of state and federal financing of human services. What about some of the other departments? I see there's an item on tomorrow's (February 9) agenda, there is a retroactive agreement. Should this be happening? Or should we bring a recommendation back to the full board that we don't want to see retroactive contracts except where it saves the county money in very specific narrow areas?”
CEO Angelo: “Retroactive contracts are something that has been problematic not only here but other counties as well. This board has given direction on retroactive contracts. A contract that would normally go on the consent calendar may go on a regular agenda because it's retroactive. And the reason that it's retroactive does not appear to be substantial enough. So that department does have to speak with the board about why the contract is retroactive. Maybe that's an area that we certainly could look at before we get into individual departments— retroactive and what the reasons for retroactive are. Many times when we are negotiating a contract and it takes a little longer to negotiate -- I think the retroactive contracts -- what the board said last year, there was some validity there. When you get a retroactive contract essentially you -- you know, you basically just rubberstamp it because the contract is already in place. A large contract, let's just say like RCS (Camille Schraeder’s Redwood Community Serivces), that has provided services for over 20 years, something like that may take a little longer to negotiate and it comes in retroactively, but we know that they will still get the contract because they are the only service provider. It would be a good idea to focus on what a retroactive contracts is and why it's retroactive, what that means, and are there ways to mitigate that. … For the next meeting, I would like to bring in a small group of department heads that consistently have multiple contracts that are retroactive. I want to make it clear though that there are ways to approach this. This is not a public shaming of the department heads because they have a retroactive contract. Let me be real clear. There are times that something happens and you just can't help it. You get money or whatever.”
“You get money or whatever”? That’s the reason for retroactive contracts presented to the Board. “Oh! Look! Money! Hurry! Spend it! Fast! Ask the supes later! They’ll approve it. They always do!”
Deputy CEO Darcie Antle: We do have an enorm— an unusual amount of retro [sic, now it’s so common it’s got its own shorthand: “retro,” as in “Looks like this’ll have to be another retro for the Board.”] this year in particular. The pandemic and emergencies, we are always going to have retro contracts. But also the workload that has been placed on the department, and in particular HHSA this year, we are seeing a few more retros in that area. We worked really hard last year to clean it up but the pandemic has caused some more delays this year but I think we can get back on track.”
Ms. Antle “thinks” they can get back on track. Some serious commitment there.
Supervisor Mulheren then asked for more information to accompany the agenda items in general — “Not to publicly shame anyone, of course,” she felt obliged to add. Oh dear, no. We’d never want to “shame” staff by asking for more information with agenda items.
The finally boldly decided to request: “Staff to return at the next General Government committee meeting with additional information and department heads to dialogue with the committee around the quality of the agenda summaries.”
And after the dialog, we’ll meet again and “try” to “think” about “cleaning it up” a bit. But be careful because staff is under great strain and has so much work to do and they’re easily upset.
Williams and probably everyone else at the County Admin Center has probably forgotten about CEO Angelo’s formal declaration in her CEO Report of October 3, 2017:
“Retroactive Start Date Contracts Require Board Approval.— On September 27, 2017, a memo was sent out to all Elected Officials and Department Heads reminding them that all contracts must adhere to Mendocino County's Purchasing, Leasing & Contracting Policy, Policy No. 1. Effective immediately, any contract that has a retroactive start date will need Board of Supervisors' approval, regardless of the dollar amount of the contract; and requires noting ‘Retroactive’ on the top of the routing sheet.”
So CEO Angelo knew that this was a problem which needed attention more than three years ago.
In June of 2018 Acting HHSA Director Ann Molgaard told the Board, “I do realize that this is quite a consent calendar and this has to do with the fact that an edict came down from our former chair of the board of supervisors [i.e., Supervisor John McCowen] that there will be no retroactive contracts. So we have worked very hard. … The fact that they are all being done in the month of June is what is different. I see that that is kind of overwhelming. But we can certainly come back and give more detail on anything that you would like.”
SO MOLGAARD also knew that there was an “edict” that the Supervisors had ordered that “there will be no retroactive contracts.”
Of course, there have been plenty of retroactive contracts since then, many of them sizable and many of them on the consent calendar.
The Grand Jury noted a version of this problem back in 2018 as well. “The BOS Consent Agenda often includes items of a controversial nature, for example, salary increases and cost overruns. This routine inclusion of controversial items in the Consent Agenda prevents debate and public input. While a supervisor can pull any item from the agenda, it would be more efficient to simply follow the established guidelines that determine which items should be included and which should be excluded.”
The fact that CEO Angelo thinks that asking Department heads to explain retroactive contracts might amount to “public shaming” and that Supervisor Mulheren felt obligated to repeat it shows how sensitive these poor babies are to even the most ordinary of inquiries.
But the problem is more than just retroactive projects being presented to the Board after they’re already awarded. It goes to the deeper problem of a complete lack of Board and public involvement in the contracting process. For major projects and contracts, the Board and the public should be involved in the scoping of the project/contract, how it’s packaged and segmented, what services should be included and when and where the work should be done. As it is, contracts, retroactive or not, are just plopped on the agenda as is for automatic approval, with no options offered and no time for reconsideration.
A perfect example is the secret activity going on now for services at the gold plated Crisis Residential Treatment house on Orchard Street next door to the Schraeder’s Redwood Community Services offices. When this last came up at the Measure B meeting, Mental Health boss Dr. Jenine Miller dismissed all questions, even a question about how many bids they got, saying that they were still “negotiating,” presumably with RCS so nothing could be disclosed. But nobody has even seen what services are being planned or why there’s so much secrecy. Soon, the Mental Health staff will present this contract, like all the others, as a package deal for Board approval. The pitch will include a short deadline which will require Board approval right away, they’ll insist, to meet the late fall start date the state demanded when they agreed to provide $500k of the $5 million they’re spending. The Board will not only approve it, but they’ll thank staff for all their great work.
PS. We also couldn’t help but notice Deputy CEO Antle’s on-the-fly backtracking on the number of Mendo’s retroactive contracts in the last year. First she said the number was “enorm—“ before quickly swerving to “an unusual amount” and then a few words later it was “a few more retros.” So obviously, they’re not paying attention to them; it’s just another casualty of that handy all-purpose excuse: “the pandemic and emergencies” and the associated “workload that has been placed on the department.” Never mind that the problem went unaddressed years before the Pandemic and Emergencies excuse arose.
Will Williams and Mulheren succeed in reforming the retroactive contracting problem? Of course not. They’ll dialog and analyze and prioritize… The only way this problem could be solved is if the Board took the position that Pope Francis did when he first became Pope and discovered that work was being done at the Vatican without proper contracting procedures. Pope Francis simply declared, in that case, “WE DON’T PAY.” If the Supes simply denied a couple of the inexcusable retroactive contracts or refused to pay for work they hadn’t approved, rather than grumbling but rubberstamping them as they always do, this nonsense would stop immediately. But they never have.
WE WERE NOT SURPRISED that the Supervisors approved about $10k in retroactive Albion-Little River Fire District parcel taxes to the Calverts at last Tuesday’s Board meeting.
“Recommended Action: Approve Tax Refund Claim in the amount of $4,220.40 by Karen A. Calvert, pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code sections 5096 and 5097, regarding certain taxes paid to the Albion Little-River Fire Protection District.” (Plus another similar slightly larger one for Mr. Calvert.)
The wealthy Calverts, like the even more wealthy Fisher family, owners of Mendocino Redwoods, had piggybacked on a Mendocino Redwoods appellate court ruling that said their parcels were “commercial” and not strictly in the Albion-Little River Fire District and therefore they paid an expensive lawyer to get their money back from the big bad over-reaching government — i.e., the Fire Department they depend on to respond to their parcels in an emergency. As Albion-Little River Fire District Attorney Terry Gross noted in her letter to the Supervisors, “When the 911 dispatch call comes, local fire districts do not know the zoning of the parcel, simply its location. They are the first to show up at the site, prepared to suppress the fire or rescue the injured or contain the fire until additional help arrives, regardless of the parcel’s zoning. By excluding commercial timberland from the local district tax, the costs of maintaining equipment, training and keeping these volunteer individuals safe is borne by the remainder of the residential and other property owners in the district. This is true even though most of the property lying within the district boundaries is commercial timberland. Today, volunteer districts are even more pressed, given the heightened fire season and the unavailability of the State to respond to local fires.” (Not to mention other emergencies and incidents such as missing persons, accidents, medical calls, etc.)
WE WERE SURPRISED, however, that nobody brought up what the Anderson Valley Community Services District does for rural properties in their response area, but outside their official district boundaries. The AV CSD politely notifies these neighboring parcel owners (several dozen in Anderson Valley) that since they are not taxpaying members of the district, they are liable for a bill for any response on their property. We called the always approachable Ms. Gross and suggested the Albion-Little River District send similar letters to their out-of-district but in-the-response area parcel owners out there and Ms. Gross said she’d follow-up. Which we’re sure she will. Hopefully, the Calverts and MRC will think about more than just their own petty financial interests and chip in for some de facto insurance as their fair share of the VOLUNTEER firefighter department’s expenses, a department that has to respond when the call comes in.
UKIAH STREETSCAPE PROJECT CONSTRUCTION UPDATE - FEBRUARY 12
We’re having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the rain these days. We all know we need it, but it definitely puts a damper on construction activities. Contractors are working to get through this project as quickly as we possibly can, which is why we’re continuing to work through the winter. However, that means lots of starting and stopping. We always do our best to estimate the next week’s work based on the weather forecast, but we appreciate your patience and flexibility as we trudge through this season.
Perkins to Mill Street
Wahlund Construction (Clay – Mill):
Monday: Holiday; no work
Tuesday-Friday: Joint trench and conduit work between Seminary and Mill, but primarily in the area of Mill, weather permitting. State Street will remain open in both directions, but Mill Street between Main and State and State and School may be closed intermittently to through traffic. (Access to driveways will remain open.)
Construction hours: 7am – 5pm
Ghilotti Construction (Perkins – Clay):
February 16-19th : Continued work on the east side of State Street between Clay and Perkins Streets, including excavating for new curbs and digging out the bio-retention areas..
Monday : Holiday; no work
East Stephensen Street will be closed to through traffic for the next few weeks – Community Care and The Maple will have access to their parking lots from Main Street.
East Church will be closed intermittently during this phase.
Construction hours: 7am – 5pm
Have a great weekend!
Shannon Riley, Deputy City Manager, City of Ukiah, w: (707) 467-5793
CATCH OF THE DAY, February 12, 2021
MELISSA BECK, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JOHNNY CASTANEDA, Redwood Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, failure to appear, probation revocation.
JULIANNE ERKENBRECHER, Cambria/Ukiah. DUI.
ADRIAN FLORES-RODRIGUEZ, Covelo. Pot possession for sale, pot sales, false ID, conspiracy.
ERICK FLORES-RODRIGUEZ, Covelo. Pot possession for sale, pot sales, false ID, conspiracy.
ALEX KEITH, Lake Arrowhead/Ukiah. Domestic battery.
RAYMOND NORMAN, Ukiah. Parole violation.
RYAN OLSON-DAY, Fort Bragg. DUI.
WESLEY THAXTON, Upper Lake/Willits. DUI, suspended license, toluene, probation revocation.
NEIL WALDRON, Covelo. Paraphernalia, concealed dirk-dagger, probation revocation.
“Surprise — you’re in love with a tree now. To upgrade your partner, subscribe to my program. To remain in love with a tree forever, do nothing.”
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
As a retiree who doesn’t much give a damn about what others think, it’s easy for me to defy these people. I don’t stand to be ruined professionally and I’m old enough to be regarded as harmless, rather than risk being fined or imprisoned.
Nonetheless, I offer this observation: the Wokesters have been permitted to put us on the defensive. At the first suggestion that we may have transgressed some redefined new boundary we cower in abject apology, in hopes of defusing their wrath.
Instead, we must defend our rational turf. When accused of taking a position of which they disapprove we must get in their face and stand by our convictions with no apology.
Individually these people are not formidable; they derive their courage from their pack. Before balance can be restored to society we must reassert ourselves with them one-on-one.
'IF YOU GET BELTED and see three fighters through a haze, go after the one in the middle. That's what ruined me - going after the other two guys.'
— Max Baer
On this day in 1909, Former heavyweight world champion and International Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee, Max 'The Livermore Larupper' Baer was born.
Along with his ferocious punching power, Baer will forever be remembered as one of the most charismatic and likeable individuals to ever hold the heavyweight crown.
His battles with the numerous fistic legends such as Joe Louis, Primo Carnera, Max Schmeling and Tommy Loughran have assured his name remains in the history books as well as his loss to James 'Cinderella Man' Braddock being widely considered as one of the biggest heavyweight title upsets of all-time. The 1935 battle that saw Braddock capture the heavyweight crown was the basis for the 2005 box office hit movie, 'Cinderella Man,' starring Russell Crowe as Braddock.
His final professional record stands at 66-13 (51 wins by KO). Baer died of a heart attack in a Hollywood hotel on the 21st of November 1959 at just 50 years of age.
Happy Heavenly Birthday Champ, Rest in Peace.
by Jude Wanga
Covid-19 has taken more than 100,000 lives in the UK. Restrictions mean that no more than thirty people can go to a funeral. But a funeral is not supposed to be a small, intimate affair, in the way a wedding or baptism can be. There’s a Congolese saying: “A family doesn’t bury its dead on its own.” But what do you do when a community can’t come together, whether financially or spiritually, to aid a mourning family?
When a friend’s mother died early in the first lockdown, she told me how not being able to sit shiva left her feeling blocked. I sympathized, but didn’t really begin to understand until a few months later.
My mother’s sister, my aunt Marie, died last summer. My uncle, who had never met his sister, having left before she was born, was unable to fly back to Congo for the funeral as he had been shielding in place in London since lockdown began. The funeral directors said they could set up an internet video link for the family abroad. When this idea was floated to me, I recoiled in horror: a funeral isn’t an episode on Netflix. On the day, the stream failed after a minute. I was quietly relieved.
So when my father passed away at the end of last year, I had a false sense of preparedness for the Zoom funeral.
By Congolese custom, a family comes together to mourn for seven days before a burial. But our family is split between two continents. Unable to fly back to Congo in time, I was stuck. Away from my mother, away from my siblings. Arranging a funeral in Covid times is no easy feat. Sitting through my father’s funeral service on Zoom, I realized exactly what my friend had meant about feeling stuck. My father was being buried, but instead of the warmth of the church congregation to hold me and help me through the tears, I was met with pixelation. A disjointed eulogy for the man who gave me life as the internet connection dipped in and out. My tears falling as I watched my father’s body carried to his final resting place, then a blank screen. Five seconds of darkness, then back to the stream. But my father had already been lowered into the ground.
In some Christian traditions there is a forty-day mourning period for the family and friends to process their loss, with a memorial mass on the fortieth day. My father’s forty days were reached last week, but to me it feels as if he only passed away last week. My brother’s forty days will be in two weeks’ time, but we only buried him this week.
How do you complete the mourning process when the first step is so disjointed and stuttered? I fear you don’t. I fear for all of us around the world who have lost a loved one during this pandemic – whether to other causes, like my father, or to Covid-19, like my brother, who passed away a week after our father’s burial – the process of mourning will never be complete. To call it traumatic is not an exaggeration.
In medical terms, complicated grief occurs when the grieving process is prolonged because the bereaved person avoids or is unable to have a successful mourning period, often resorting to avoidance or being unable to cope with the consequences of loss. It is not depression, as grief is not depression, but it presents in similar ways. Some seven per cent of people are diagnosed with complicated grief.
What can we call the process of mourning through a pandemic but “complicated grief”? What to call the disjointed sensation of watching the funeral of a loved one on a blurry computer link, other than traumatic?
Post traumatic stress disorder occurs when the brain can’t process a traumatic event into memory. Rather than fading with time, it remains current and live. Think of a record playing. When it’s running as it should, a song finishes and the needle plays to the next song and on to the end of the record. With PTSD, the needle is stuck, skipping and scratching, the song unable to finish.
My father’s death could not be called unexpected. He had, after all, just turned 85 (we had been supposed to spend Christmas together in 2020, to celebrate our birthdays). And it was always going to be a difficult bereavement process for me, when we had missed so much of one another, living a continent apart. But I find myself in uncharted waters. The pain and anguish just about propelled me through the administrative nightmare of finding him a burial plot in a race against the clock, as the morgue would only hold his body for a limited number of days.
I’m at the funeral home where my brother’s body is lying. I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to go in. This seems weird, given that one of my first jobs was at a coroner’s office, but there I never actually had to touch or even see the bodies. Resolve sets in once I go through the doors. I know I’m going to go inside, even though I am terrified. Maybe it’s because my mother asked her daughters to go this morning as she couldn’t, stuck as she is on the other side of the world. Maybe it’s because I was denied a chance to say goodbye properly, and this is my only opportunity. He looks peaceful. This is the closest I have been to a dead body, ever. And it’s my brother. The man who bought me my first guitar, and would begrudgingly drive me wherever I asked him. To college, to the railway station, to Staines to visit a boyfriend. I’m flanked by my sister and my aunt. I start crying immediately. There is no comfort for me. He’s there. He looks like he’s sleeping, but his chest isn’t moving up and down. His snoring, long a joke in our family and among his friends, is missing. The silence. I sit in a chair, afraid to get any closer. My family are praying and I join them, but at the end under my breath I am whispering: ‘Please wake up. Please wake up.’ My brother shouldn’t be dead. I get a few seconds alone with him at the end. I tell him I love him and I thank him for being my brother and loving me back. That’s it. My father and my brother. Both gone.
But it doesn’t feel real. The mourning feels disconnected, staccato. I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. I eat but don’t really taste the food. Sometimes I’m even able to laugh, with my best friend or my sister, or my godchildren, but I don’t feel that warmth inside.
I’m standing at my brother’s graveside. The snow is falling, an inclement day for a burial. My mother’s sister is by my side. My sister on the other. Behind me, my brother’s best friends. It’s the most comfort I have had since the pandemic began. I feel their love and security, and for the briefest moment, I’m able to let go. I feel the tears falling and my body heaving with sobs.
NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns lost seven members of his family to Covid-19. He said he no longer remembered who he was before his mother died. “If I can be honest with y’all for a second, I mean, I don’t really recall or really care. I only know what happened from April 13 on. Because you may see me smiling and stuff, but that Karl died on April 13. He’s never coming back. I don’t remember that man. I don’t know that man. You’re talking to the physical me, but my soul has been killed off a long time ago.”
His words have stuck with me. There are now two Judes. The Jude before my father and brother died, and the Jude after. The before Jude wasn’t a complete product, it would be foolish to pretend. But she was a work in progress. She smiled. She found a way to get past pain. Occasionally, she had hopes and dreams.
I’m not sure what the after Jude looks like. It’s early days yet. But I know that a part of me has been buried with my father and my brother. Those parts will never come back. New parts might grow. But I have been fundamentally changed. There is no closure. No final chapter. No poignant moments of holding hands with my loved ones and letting them know I loved them as they take their final breaths. No family sitting with me for a week, to bring food, care, love, hugs. No hugs at church, or at the cemetery.
There’s just nothing. There may never be anything again. I am broken. I am a skipping record, a stutter in time.
This is grief, interrupted.
(London Review of Books)
THE BOMBHOLE ERA
by Matt Taibbi
In the Bush years, the conservative political universe was distinguished by unity of purpose. From Tom Delay’s Congress to the Bush/Cheney White House to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News to the bulk of the country’s megachurches, conservative institutions functioned like one organism. Collectively, they produced identical rhetoric about the iniquity of everyone from Muslims to campus leftists, environmentalists, and immigrants, and until the Iraq War went south they looked poised to rule America for a generation, thanks in part to the ironclad discipline of message.
By the time Trump came along, discipline was a fading memory. Trump was seldom perfectly in sync either with traditional Republican media like Fox, or his own White House press office. Moments in which all three pushed the same message were rare as pearls. The disconnect between Trump and his official spokesteam often played out like an intentional slapstick routine.
For example, when Kayleigh McEnany said in July 2020 that Trump was tested multiple times per day for Covid-19, Trump himself was saying he was tested on average once every two days, and he “didn’t know” if he’d ever been tested more than once in a day. When Trump actually got the disease, both Trump and his doctor were proclaiming he was “doing very well” at the exact moment his press team was saying his health situation was “very concerning.” And so on.
“I might as well be a member of the public,” a nameless Trump aide seethed.
The real White House press office was Trump’s Twitter feed, which flowed from Trump’s head at all hours and often contradicted not just other conservative institutions, but itself. The feed had 88 million followers at the moment it was shut down by Twitter in January, 2021, and far outpaced traditional Republican mouthpieces like Fox as a source of aggrandizing, inciting, or factually wrong statements.
The bulk of the most extreme messaging about movements like “Stop the Steal” took place in the media equivalent of dark pools: message boards, chats, Facebook groups, etc. Icons of Republican media like Fox were often followers to the party, beaten in the rush for ever-crazier conspiratorial explanations by outlets like OAN and Newsmax, which were less squeamish about catering to audiences horny for culture war.
Stations like Fox improbably became sometimes-dissenters to the Hate Inc. formula during the Trump years, presenting points of view sure to disappoint core audiences. One of its top anchors, Chris Wallace, was a constant critic of Trump’s, and the station played a huge role in what Trumpists later denounced as conspiracy by calling the Arizona presidential vote early. In fact, it was Fox’s “early” call at 11:20 p.m. that triggered the first Trump tantrum that night. Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson, a much-loathed figure in blue America, was denounced in late November by Trump fans for pooh-poohing the stolen election tales, saying Trump attorney Sidney Powell had not provided evidence.
Trump, especially in his final period, pushed polarizing rhetoric to places where the commercial conservative press was not willing to follow, leading to profit-disrupting scenes of real intramural disagreement. Fox lost 6 percent of its audience in November alone as Trump urged followers to move to rival sources like OAN. The post-Trump conservative movement was rudderless, half-underground, and almost totally incoherent, united on only one question: its loathing for the cultural mainstream on the other side, which increasingly appeared as the united front conservatives used to be.
The blue-state media landscape once featured a broad-ish diversity of opinions. In the Bush years especially, online media created many new institutional homes for left-leaning audiences, especially for people who identified as more progressive than traditional Democrats.
The Huffington Post, The Young Turks, and Daily Kos won audience as more strident opponents of the Iraq invasion and promoters of ideas like single-payer health care. They joined existing publications like Mother Jones and The Nation to create a more labor-friendly, less militaristic counterweight to the Clintonian centrism that reigned at larger papers like The New York Times. In the Obama years, after the revelations of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, The Intercept appeared as yet another oppositional source, applying pressure on issues of war, privacy, and surveillance especially.
When Trump won, the distinctions between these outlets vanished almost overnight. Content increasingly was organized around furious opposition to Trump. The theme of unending crisis — not just crisis but emergency, a distinction expressed by news agencies via blaring chyrons screaming descriptors like BREAKING — was central to the new coverage concept. The hyper-intense tone was a deliberate strategy. A slow news day was understood as normalizing Trump’s presence in the White House. It was not politically possible for nothing to be terribly wrong, even for a moment. This had to be felt in the voices of newsreaders, which meant fewer sunny asides, fewer cat-in-tree stories, fewer one-liner-laden tosses to weathermen, and — more crises.
Nearly all of institutional America joined in the howling section, from Hollywood to Wall Street to Silicon Valley to NATO and the intelligence community. Trump was described by all in tones remarkably similar to the coverage of the likes of Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milošević, and Manuel Noriega. For the first time, America’s own president was in the infamous “Hitler of the month club,” that union of adversaries of the American state battered in our media until the public assented to invasion or whatever policy objective was being sought against them at the time.
News in the Trump years became a narrative drama, with each day advancing a tale of worsening political emergency, driven by subplots involving familiar casts of characters, in the manner of episodic television. It worked, but news directors and editors hit a stumbling block. If you cover everything like there’s no tomorrow, what happens when there is, in fact, a tomorrow?
The innovation was to use banner headlines to saturate news cycles, often to the exclusion of nearly any other news, before moving to the next controversy so quickly that mistakes, errors, or rhetorical letdowns were memory-holed.
The American Napoleon generated controversies at such a fantastic rate that stations like CNN and MSNBC (and Fox too) were able to keep ratings high by moving from mania to mania, hyping stories on the way up but not always following them down. The moment the narrative premise of any bombshell started to fray, the next story in line was bumped to the front.
News outlets paid off old editorial promises with new headlines: Ponzi journalism.
This technique of using the next bombshell story to push the last one down a memory-hole — call it Bombholing — needed a polarized audience to work. As surveys by organizations like the Pew Center showed, the different target demographics in Trump’s America increasingly did not communicate with one another. Democrats by 2020 were 91 percent of the New York Times audience and 95 percent of MSNBC’s, while Republicans were 93 percent of Fox viewers. When outlets overreached factually, it was possible, if not likely, that the original target audience would never learn the difference.
This reduced the incentive to be careful. Audiences devoured bombshells even when aware on a subconscious level that they might not hold up to scrutiny. If a story turned out to be incorrect, that was okay. News was now more about underlying narratives audiences felt were true and important. For conservatives, Trump was saving America from a conspiracy of elites. For “liberal” audiences, Trump was trying to assume dictatorial power, and the defenders of democracy were trying to stop him.
A symbiosis developed. Where audiences once punished media companies for mistakes, now they rewarded them for serving up the pure heroin of shaky, first-draft-like blockbusters. They wanted to be in the trenches of information discovery. Audiences were choosing powerful highs over lasting ones.
Moreover, if after publication another shoe dropped in the form of mitigating information, audiences were disinterested, even angry. Those updates were betrayals of the entertainment contract, like continuity errors. Companies soon learned there was a downside to once-mandatory ethical practices. Silent edits at newspapers became common, and old standards like the italicized editor’s note at the bottom of the page letting you know this or that story had been “updated” began to disappear.
The political impact of all this was that the news watcher in the Trump years became more addicted to the experience of being outraged, while retaining less about specific reasons for outrage. Audiences remembered some big stories and big themes, but stopped digesting each story on its own, rarely bothering to look back at the meaning of various manias after they’d died down.
As George Orwell understood when he created the “memory hole” concept in 1984, an institution that can obliterate memory can control history. In the Trump era, news audiences volunteered to stop the disobedient act of remembering.
They brought a pure, virginal belief to watching news, and agreed to unquestioningly accept any new versions of the past put forward. This was Hate Inc. brought to its logical conclusion. Fox and MSNBC already knew how to monetize anger by setting audiences against one another. The innovation of the Trump era was companies learned they could operate on a sort of editorial margin, borrowing credibility for unproven stories from audiences themselves, who gave permission to play loose with facts by gobbling up anonymously-sourced exposes that tickled their outrage centers. Mistakes became irrelevant. In a way, they were no longer understood as mistakes.
Conservative audiences had already long ago been pushed to become story addicts, and were used to having the rhetorical ante constantly upped, making them susceptible to tall-tale artists like Trump and Internet fairy tales like Q.
Blue state audiences now gobbled up the same formula. Coverage of Trump was so constant and full-throated that all other topics stopped having news value. The first stories to be memory-holed were the ones that preceded Trump’s entrance into politics: war crimes in Iraq, drone killings, financial inequality (destined to be re-christened a mockable fictional problem called “economic insecurity”), the failure to close Guantanamo Bay, lack of enforcement of white-collar crime, and a dozen other things.
Bombholing generated errors at a fantastic rate. There’s no way to truly understand the depth of how badly this phenomenon infected media in 2016-2020 without going through each story step-by-step, but even a sample of stories that dominated news cycles but later fell apart is instructive.
For instance, before Trump became president, Yahoo! cited a “well-placed Western intelligence source” in telling us that former Trump aide Carter Page was a “possible back channel” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Years later it would be revealed that the “Western intelligence source” was actually ex-spy Christopher Steele, a paid researcher of the Clinton campaign, who provided the never-confirmed information to authorities. He was also the source of the “pee tape” and countless other bombshell themes.
The Yahoo! story itself ended up being used as part of an improper warrant application for secret FISA surveillance on Page. Writer Michael Isikoff told me he later came to understand that Steele’s report was “flawed,” and moreover that he didn’t know at the time he wrote the report that Steele was working for Clinton.
In late October, 2016, Slate also told audiences of a mysterious server tied to the Russian Alfa-Bank that had been communicating with the Trump organization. Over the course of years, dozens of stories came out of this “revelation.” Significantly, most were published well after the FBI determined in early 2017 that there were no links between Trump and Alfa Bank, which means many official sources stayed quiet as news they knew to be false circulated. The latter fact came out in the report of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
In the early Trump years, reporters were very concerned with the origin story of Trump’s conspiracy with Russia. When papers like The New York Times were told that a Trump aide named George Papadopoulos triggered the probe after repeating a tale from a mysterious Maltese professor about the Russians having “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Papadopoulos became front-page news as the Patient Zero of the conspiracy. The first Times story on this figure came out in October of 2017.
Years later, Congress would release testimony from then-deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe to the effect that the Bureau concluded as early as August, 2016 — over a year before the Times story — that evidence “didn’t particularly indicate” that Papadopoulos had any links to any Russians. In fact, McCabe testified that the reason the FBI moved on to Carter Page as a target was that Papadopoulos was understood to be a dead-end (Page proved to be a similar dead-end).
Yet Papadopoulos was the predicate for the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” probe into Trump’s relationship with Russia, the probe that became the Mueller investigation. Blue state audiences were essentially never told that this investigation was at best grounded in erroneous information.
On the day the Horowitz report blew up the pee tape, the Carter Page story, and countless other once-hot scandals, the front page of the New York Times read, REPORT DEBUNKS ANTI-TRUMP PLOT IN RUSSIA INQUIRY. Beneath the banner were two smaller headlines, each with its own story. Another headline on the same page noted that Trump possibly faced two impeachment articles, “Ukrainegate” by then being the more urgent breaking news fixation.
This showed the whole Bombhole formula. A series of inaccurate stories began running in 2016, introducing audiences to the idea that candidate Trump had an elaborate, secret relationship with the Kremlin. When these stories were later debunked, in the context of a report that also detailed an improper (and perhaps illegal) surveillance campaign, the press mostly ignored that angle and quietly reported the Trump-Russia investigation had been further legitimized, while keeping the bulk of audience attention on the new bombshell topic in Ukraine.
There were more mundane screwups not directly related to Trump, like the colossal error in the New York Times “Caliphate” podcast. The paper of record did an entire series based upon the storytelling of a Canadian Muslim who claimed he had committed atrocities for ISIS, including crucifixions. But when Abu Huzayfah was arrested by Canadian authorities for perpetrating a hoax, the Times refused to take the full hit, instead claiming that their series had in part been about exploring whether or not Huzayfah’s story was true. Another story involving a group of high-school-age Trump supporters from Covington, Kentucky who supposedly accosted a Native American man in Washington, was massively misreported, creating a huge swell of cultural resentment among conservatives, while mainstream audiences mostly didn’t hear the story’s flip side.
The extreme danger from the beginning of the Trump era was not just that the White House might be occupied by an unfit person, but that American institutions might follow him into disrepute. This happened with institutional media, which responded to a hyperbolic, unreliable president by taking on those same qualities to an extreme degree. Their permanent crisis doubled as a political campaign to prevent Trump’s “normalization” and a scheme to boost profits by addicting audiences to a never-ending narrative of moral mania.
To keep it up, elite media made the same request of audiences that Trump regularly made to his own fans, that what was said and done ten minutes ago be forgotten in a world where only the present mattered. Memory became taboo, present conflict the only allowable orientation: a utopia of division.
(TK News by Matt Taibbi)
THE TRIALS OF WOKERY
by James Kunstler
How do you like the party you supposedly voted into power so far? Or is it perhaps too much to say they were actually voted into anything? And if so — if there was something, let’s say, a little irregular with the ballot tabulation, maybe even more than a little — have they not succeeded splendidly in pissing-off more than half the people across the land? And then attempted to rub that half’s faces into the squishy, fetid loam of the DC Swamp?
I’d say that every move they make, every breath they take, seems calculated to spark a new civil war. Yesterday’s spiteful exercise in cognitive dissonance was a humdinger: Mr. Biden threatened to cut off travel to Florida for flouting his regime’s policy on Covid-19 lockdowns, while over in Texas (and several other states), he ordered a general unlocking-down of the border with Mexico, permitting the unchecked illegal ingress of thousands of possible Covid-19 carriers a day. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, responded, saying — if I may paraphrase — see you in court, asshole.
Meanwhile, the cancellation reign-of-terror among the regime’s self-appointed guardians of Wokeness rages on. In the name of diversity and inclusion, no one in the USA is allowed to publicly question the Woke narrative of the moment, or else be deprived of your livelihood. The New York Times fired forty-year veteran science reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr., for using the freighted word “n*gg*r” while answering a student’s question about the history of the word’s usage, just as I am explaining his use of it in the incident at issue — that is, academically.
Though Mr. McNeil’s intent was incontrovertibly innocent as viewed by persons not insane — including, only briefly, the paper’s executive editor Dean Baquet — the decision to not sack Mr. McNeil provoked a reflexive uproar among the Times’s staff, as something in the wind might provoke a flight of grasshoppers transforming into a swarm of locusts, and Mr. Baquet reversed himself, forcing Mr. McNeil to choose demotion or resignation. Then, to make matters worse, the Times’s publisher, AG Sulzberger, spiked a column by nominally “conservative” op-ed writer Bret Stephens that attempted to argue some legalistic points about intent in the conduct of a witch hunt, an apparent affront to the Times’s witch-hunters, who seem to prefer their witch-hunting as a straight-up blood sport.
How strange it is to see the group formerly so avid for social and sexual transgression, and the artistic subversion of norms, turn into the most viciously censorious species of bluenose. But, of course, you must understand that Wokery is not about principle, not even a teeny-weeny bit. It’s simply about coercion and punishment, which is exactly why apologizing for supposed counter-Woke errors never avails. In other words, you are not dealing with a mere extreme type of moralist, but rather dedicated sadists. They’re not in it to correct injustice, but for the pleasures of vengeance alone, the torturing of their quarry, and the glow of power it confers.
And the motive is no different among the Democratic Party’s Wokesters in government. How else explain the idiotic impeachment of former president Trump, like the trial of the cadaver of Pope Formosus in the year 897, seven months after his death, for provoking the Carolingian Duke Arnolf to cross the Alps into Italy and seize the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. That episode took place in the heart of the Dark Ages, of course, but have we perhaps not entered a new Dark Age with the Woke Inquisition against — let’s just face it — Western Civ, and all its (for some) difficult-to-comprehend achievements?
Like the trial of Formosus, the trial of Mr. Trump is strictly in the service of laying out a story, a narrative, for validating the continued persecution of Woke heretics — that is, “insurrectionists,” indeed anyone not ardently on-board with transforming the USA into a Woke tyranny of race-and-gender hustling and the endless extortion of cash penalties for the crime of whiteness. What cat-turd box of Satan’s own law school are the leaders of this despotic hysteria hatched from: Pelosi, Swalwell, Adam Schiff, Schumer, and their accessories in media and tech, Jack, Zuck, Cook, and Bezos, and their numberless priests in higher ed? How much longer will it be before the substantial and obdurately not-insane of this country refuse to roll over for these rampaging maniacs?
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
CHICK COREA. (AND) MEMO OF THE AIR: GOOD NIGHT RADIO ALL NIGHT FRIDAY NIGHT!
About Chick Corea, who is dead now... I'm not sure I'm smart enough to understand his music. Nonetheless, paired with Bobby McFerrin even aimless noodling worms its way through my thick skull. From all accounts Chick Corea was a kind, generous, brilliant man who nobody has a bad word to say about.
Here's Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin: Armando's
Rhumba No. 2.
Hi. Deadline to email your writing for tonight's (Friday night's) MOTA show is around 7pm. After that, send it whenever it's ready, up to 6pm Friday next week, and I'll take care of it then. There's always another time. There's no pressure. And if there are swears or explicit erotica I'll have to wait to read it until after ten p.m., that's all.
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio is every Friday, 9pm to 5am on 107.7fm, KNYO-LP Fort Bragg as well as anywhere else via http://airtime.knyo.org:8040/128 (That's the regular link to hear what's on KNYO in real time, any time.)
Any time of any day or night you can go to https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com and hear last week's MOTA show. By Saturday night the recording of tonight's show will also be there, in the latest post, right on top.
Also, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com there's a box of Valentine candies to open and play chess with until showtime, not to mention between shows, such as:
Shaolin mantis. https://imgur.com/gallery/3FwwyO9
The white model girls look abused. Clearly they've been crying. And is it uh-VAV-vuv or AV-uh-vav or what? Oh, wait, the black girl took her sunglasses off; and she too has been crying. They're all way too young to be crying about their choices in life. It must be something that's being done to them, some private horror, or possibly a boy's casually cruel remark, or it might be simple hunger. https://avavav.com/
And what it means. (This is really what happened between Freud and Jung, who started out so good together.) http://existentialcomics.com/comic/380
Marco McClean, firstname.lastname@example.org