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Mendocino County Today: Sunday, March 14, 2021

Cold Rain | 4 New Cases | Pet Willy | Potato Part | Senior Health | Big Hands | Sheriff Byrnes | New Surcharge | Tier Equity | Suburban Coyote | Lady Cardinals | Old Paver | Phase 3 | Posted Rules | California Code | 101 Gauntlet | Ed Notes | I'm Yours | Snipe Hunt | Yesterday's Catch | Corpse Bandages | Colonel's Reckoning | Kitchen Shop | Donor Card | World Rivers | Second Growth | Broken Dream | Progressive Agenda | Barbaric Practice | Smart Juniors | Unsafe Refuge | Integrity Benefit | Like Dogs | Royal Racism | Information War | America First | Useful Idiots | Wills Trucking | Marco Radio | Shortest Day

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RAIN will spread across the area later this morning, with snow levels falling quickly this afternoon into tonight. Showers will continue into Monday morning, with some likely containing small hail. Drier weather will prevail from Monday afternoon through the middle of the week. (NWS)

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4 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.

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Willy is a big ol’ handsome dog! He’s happy and curious. One thing we noted is that Willy is a fence jumper—so tall, secure fencing will be a must in his new home. To minimize his chance of escape, it will be important that Willy is inside with his new family a lot, which is exactly where he will want to be! Shelter staff unanimously agree: Willy wins the shelter CUTEST MUZZLE AWARD! 

For more about Willy and the shelter’s canine and feline guests, visit While you’re there, read about our services, programs, events, and updates regarding covid-19, as it impacts Mendocino County Animal Shelters in Ukiah and Ft. Bragg. Visit us on Facebook at: For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453.

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What the Health Center Offers Seniors, Sunday March 14th, 4 to 5 PM

Join us for a chat with Chloe Guazzone-Rugebregt, Executive Director at Anderson Valley Health Center. Please RSVP with the coordinator  so we can get an idea of attendance, thank you. Looking forward to seeing you soon! BYOB for a more enjoyable event!

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 434 337 6734

Passcode: avv

One tap mobile: +16699009128,,4343376734#,,,,,,0#,,490940# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location: +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)


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by Mark Scaramella

The fascinating account of early 20th Century Mendocino Sheriff Ralph Byrnes in Zack Anderson and Deborah Silva’s history of the Herman Knaesche case brought some praise from several on-line readers, but not everyone in Mendocino County at the time was a fan of Sheriff Byrnes who was County Sheriff for a record breaking five terms, 20 years from 1910 to 1930.

The article describes Sheriff Byrnes in 1919 as “Mendocino County's celebrated law man, Sheriff Ben Byrnes…”

That description, certainly justified by the available historical evidence, wouldn’t be the first time an elected Sheriff made sure he received due credit for high-profile arrests like the Knaesche case.

Former Mendo Sheriff Tom Allman commented, “The Mendocino County Museum in Willits has (had?) a great exhibit on Sheriff Byrnes and his ability to find alcohol stills in the county.”

Deborah Silva added, “Sheriff Byrnes was amazing. He served as the Sheriff for 20 years, by far the longest tenure of any sheriff in this county. I’d love to check out the Willits Museum exhibit once we open back up.”

George Hollister added, “Sheriff Byrnes has a number of family descendants still living, and owning property in this county. Some read this paper.”

The period 1910 to 1930, most readers will recall, will be remembered as the Prohibition Era. In Mendocino County, in the years before national prohibition, the “pro-hi’s” (prohibitionists) as they were called, were dominant in inland Mendocino County, while the saloon owners and their many patrons, friends and supporters were in the majority on the hard-drinking Mendocino Coast.

As former Sheriff Allman notes, part of Sheriff Byrnes’s celebrated reputation was “his ability to find alcohol stills in the county.”

In other words, Byrnes was an ardent pro-hi. So ardent that feature articles like the following appeared on the front page of the Ukiah Republican Press on August 9, 1922 as candidate Byrnes was running for his fourth consecutive term as Sheriff: “MENDOCINO COUNTY NEEDS SHERIFF BYRNES.” The piece was accompanied by a large portrait of the dashing Sheriff.

“Dear Mr. Byrnes: It is with much satisfaction that I endorse your candidacy for Sheriff of Mendocino County.To one familiar with your unparalleled record in that office and with your statewide reputation as a fearless, capable officer, it seems out of place that there would be any other contenders for the office. This is not said in disparagement of the others seeking the position, but because throughout your tenure of office you have displayed those qualities which peculiarly and pre-eminently qualify you to discharge its duties. Your fearless, efficient, capable and impartial enforcement of the law commends you to the responsible, law abiding people of your county who should give you their whole hearted undivided support. 

“To all criminals, and particularly to the ‘bootleggers’ who profit by violating the law, your candidacy is unwelcome for the faithful performance of your duties interferes with their illicit traffic and reduces to the minimum their ill-gotten gains. It has come to my notice that the ‘bootleggers’ are using every means at their command to defeat you. This is evidence enough that you are doing what you are paid to do, that the oath so solemnly taken by you as an officer ‘to support the constitution of the United States and of California and to perform the duties of sheriff to the best of your ability' has no idle form. 

“These men are fighting you, Mr. Byrnes, because you have done your full duty. The opposition of the ‘botleggers’ and the methods they are using to beat you guarantees your election. I know this because the keen sense of justice of the Mendocino voters will cause them to rebel at the thought of turning down a faithful officer because he has done his duty. 

“Commending you to the law-abiding people of Mendocino County, I remain, Sincerely yours, J. E. PEMBERTON. (Attorney for Anti-Saloon League)”

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This blatant political endorsement was not published as a simple letter to the editor, it was the lead, front page story for the Ukiah Republican Press a couple of months before the election and it was written by the Attorney for the Anti-Saloon League, obviously representing their enthusiastic support for Sheriff Byrnes’s anti-bootlegging crusade, a common stance among lawmen of the time who saw the ravages of alcohol close-up, much as lawmen of today oppose the loosening of drug laws because they see the damage drugs do, and occasionally as a default charge when they’re having trouble proving underlying crimes.

The “bootleggers” that Sheriff Byrnes was after didn’t get much positive press in those days as the prohibition movement grew during the 1910s as most of Mendocino County went “dry” in the years leading up to national prohibition.

My uncle, the late, great Fifth District Supervisor Joe Scaramella wasn’t a fan of Sheriff Byrnes. Joe wasn't a bootlegger, although his Italian Point Arena family had been in the saloon business. The saloonkeepers were so popular on the Coast that they were the prime agents for incorporating Fort Bragg and Point Arena so that they could stay “wet” while inland and unincorporated Mendocino went dry before national prohibition in the 20s.

Scaramella family lore has it that my uncle Charley Scaramella, Joe Scaramella’s younger brother and a long-time dairyman and sheep rancher on the Coast, was in some kind of boundary line dispute with a neighbor in the Manchester area where Charley’s dairy was located. One day, Sheriff Byrnes’s deputies arrived to inspect Charley’s barn where they found a piece of copper tubing — a remnant of a still! they soon concluded. The next thing Joe knew, his brother Charley was charged with felony bootlegging based on that tubing and, presumably, a tip from the neighbor alleging that Charley was making booze in his barn.

Charley was not a schooled man. So Joe, who was by that time the owner/operator of the Point Arena Gas Station and Garage, took up organizing Charley’s defense. After weeks of long trips to and from Ukiah and lots of paperwork and lawyer costs, the charges were eventually dropped for insufficient evidence. Joe Scaramella later told me that he had heard numerous other similar stories from other coast residents over those years, mostly Italian and Irish and other immigrants.

Joe Scaramella didn’t dispute that some “bootlegging” was going on — the Mendocino Coast certainly didn’t stop drinking booze during Prohibition — but that Sheriff Byrnes’s ardent anti-booze crusade was sweeping up a lot of ordinary citizens based on less than solid evidence for political reasons. Byrnes' Ukiah constituents, among them few Italians, approved and Byrnes was re-elected again and again.

From an interview with Joe Scaramella the AVA conducted in the mid-90s:

”The County had always been a fairly hard-drinking area, especially in Fort Bragg and in a little burg like Point Arena. I can remember when there were nine liquor establishments at the time when Point Arena incorporated. So there had to be some drinking. The law enforcement attitude that was prevalent then exists today [the mid-90s during marijuana prohibition] — selective law enforcement. The impression was that certain people who were enemies, or on the outs, would be targeted by law enforcement. Ben Byrnes was the ‘wonderful’ Sheriff -- they thought. I didn't think so. Because he got things done. In order to get things done he would trample over everybody's rights. That's what makes the difference. Hell, might makes right, and he had the might. It was rumored, it's beyond proof I suppose, that there were certain people that he would ignore... It was difficult. 

“There was certainly money to be made with illegal booze, but how much was a matter of speculation. It was profitable for a lot of people and they made good money, and afterwards they moved on and out to bigger and better things. Very little of the illegal product was exported to my knowledge. To this day [in the 1990s] there is still some moonshine made ‘out back.’ 

“There was a man who went to Fort Bragg with his meat for his butcher shop. He'd take the moonshine which he hid down amongst the stuff he was taking to Fort Bragg. Nobody ever bothered him. One time the Feds got suspicious and went out there to check him out. They went into his cellar. In those times you were allowed to make 200 gallons of wine for home use, not sale. So he had a bunch of barrels around there. He had a whole barrel of grappa right under the tree and they passed that one. So that's as close as they ever got to him. 

“There was a dairyman who had specially made milk cans with false bottoms near the top of the can. When he made milk deliveries to Fort Bragg sometimes some of the cans would be mostly booze but if you lifted the lid all you’d see is milk. They had a plug in the false bottom that they used to fill and drain the booze from the cans. 

“There was also some smuggling. Matter of fact there's a spot down the coast they call ‘Smuggler's Cove.’ There used to be liquor from Canada which would come down. It landed all along the coast here. That was serious criminal activity, some real thugs involved in that. The characters involved in that kind of thing had very few scruples that you and I would recognize. If you got into trouble with them, you were in serious trouble. Hell, they killed one man down here, about a mile south of Point Arena. He was coming up with a load of stuff and they thought he was a squealer or something. They shot him dead. He was from out of the area. He was involved in whatever transaction was transpiring. 

“There were some Italians in the Yorkville hills who were bootlegging. That was well known. But it was all small scale. I don't think they even broke even. You had to go and get it — it was quite a trip and they only sold to people they knew. It was never really big money. Mostly grappa, just a distilled wine by-product. Strong stuff though.”

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Customer Service in Kelseyville, CA

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Yes, it was the best idea given the circumstances. Explain to me the “equity” in a healthy 18 year old doing an Instacart banana run for a neighbor to qualify under the tiers while a 63 year old twice cancer surviving grandmother with present practical comorbidity does not?

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My greatest moment in journalism: this photograph, not kidding, is the peak of 30 erratic years of hard-at-times work.

The Mendocino High School girls varsity basketball team rocked the sh*t out of the Vern Piver Holiday Memorial basketball tournament in 2014 by wearing warm-up t-shirts that said “I can't breathe” to honor Eric Garner. They got themselves banned from the tournament when they wouldn't not wear the shirts (before, not during games… it seems so silly now.) It became a national thing for about a week, left the Fort Bragg High school officials (good people under tremendous pressures) picking their jock straps up off the floor, and everybody learned something. I took this picture of them warming up. Here it is in the Des Moines Register, which got it from USA Today. I owe it all to the Lady Cardinals.

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Old Road Paving Machine

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There is a photo going around on social media about Phase 3 and expansion with a ton of hoop houses. During my campaign a friend let me use a picture of her cannabis garden next to her vineyard. 

We all have different ideas about what cannabis in Mendocino County can look like. The Planning Commission will hear the Phase 3 proposed ordinance on Friday and I will be listening closely just as I am reading all of the emails that come to the Board. I have not prepared formal comments about the ordinance because I want to hear from everyone. I’m looking for solutions. If not this… then this. We need to find some compromises within the industry, with environmentalists, and with the community. Enjoy your Saturday and think bigger than your own backyard.

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California Government Code Section 54956.8 (2016) (


This is the code that the supes referenced on the agenda for going into closed session on this issue. It appears the County is in violation of this code in a number of their property purchases.

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Motorists drive along Highway 101 around Frog Woman Rock near Hopland, California, on Thursday, June 28, 2018. The stretch of freeway was part of a bottleneck known as “the gauntlet” to people who transported marijuana. (Alvin Jornada/ Press Democrat)

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BIDEN delivered his first prime time address on Thursday night, declaring that all American adults would be able to have their first vaccine dose by May 1. In his speech, Biden claimed that Covid-19 has taken more American lives “than World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined.” According to the CDC, 527,726 Americans have so far died from coronavirus — a number less than the 580,000 lives lost during the murderous events mentioned. Biden touted his administration's work with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to speed up production and roll-out of the shots. But Biden did not mention Trump's Operation Warp Speed — an initiative that many on both sides of the aisle agree has helped speed up the process. For a guy who made “unity” his speech's theme, Biden should have given the Orange Monster his share of the credit for getting the vaccines out there, one big irony being that a majority of Magas say they won't take it. 

I SUPPOSE the president has to give “unity” a nod, but the “bonds of mutual affection” that allegedly bound US as one great big happy American family have never, ever existed, but came close in the Roosevelt era and to some extent, Kennedy's brief reign, at least judging from the genuine national mourning at Kennedy's assassination. A feeble, not-long-for-office character like Biden isn't an inspirational figure even among the Democrats who elected him because he wasn't Trump. When he slurs into his teleprompter that we're all one big family, well, it's the most dysfunctional family in the history of national families, surpassing even Yugoslavia.

RECOMMENDED READING: On the Plain of Snakes by Paul Theroux, the best book I've read on Mexico, not that I can say I'm much of an authority on the literature. Like most book readers of, ahem, quality lit, I've read some Mexico-based fiction — B. Traven; DH Lawrence; Graham Greene; Malcolm Lowry; Roberto Bolano, although only Bolano's middle section on the femicides in Juarez of his trilogy, 2666: A Novel, and that one… Well, not a book for you happy faces.

BECAUSE Theroux is also a very good novelist, On the Plain of Snakes is like being there, better than being there because the book is like a guided tour by the best docent ever. The author is also daring, hazarding a horizontal trip across the US-Mexico border, from Tijuana to Matamoros before he begins his full plunge deep into that mostly failed state of a country, including the author's harrowing experiences with Mexico's legendarily predatory police. And he drives his own car everywhere! When Theroux isn't driving his own vehicle, he's on busses, and his Spanish is good enough to get around efficiently to meet a variety of everyday Mexican citizens, all of whom are menaced from every direction by their own government. If more Americans were aware of Latin conditions they might be more sympathetic with the people seeking sanctuary here, and this book is as good a familiarization tour as you're going to get.

GOT totally vaxxed yesterday (Friday), a rare departure from the usual totally bleeped. Ushered into a side room past the fascist art one finds in motels, medical offices, and SF MOMA, one young woman led the way to two more young women, one of whom said, “Please roll up your sleeve, Bruce.” You can call me Mr. Anderson, I said. Hell, we're old friends by now, but I can't roll my sleeve past my massive push-up biceps so I'll have to take my shirt off, and we're unchaperoned here… Can't you just jab me through my shirt because… “Well, Mr. Anderson, you can take your shirt off. Take your time.” OK, but as you can see, ladies, I wear these arthritis gloves because even with them the buttoning processes are quite difficult… “Take your time, Mr. Anderson.” OK, I said, but please avert your eyes, ladies, I was raised modest. And just as they began to turn from me, I fessed up. Sorry, I'm just messin' with you. They laughed, but I do think the needle went in with more emphasis than necessary.

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by Tommy Wayne Kramer

Episode 28: An old man, his dog, and one of their many conversations when no one else is around:

ME: Well if you ain’t just about the biggest crybaby scairdy-dog ever. I mean it. Soon as the ol’ wife goes out the door you start running to the front window to look and whine and worry. She’s goin’ to the beauty shop parlor is all, would ya relax?

You doing all that pacing around and getting worked up is more or less an embarrassment to the entire dog profession if you ask me. Oh never mind. Forget it. Change the subject. 

You know I saw your boyfriend Ken today. Oh yes he is. I see the way you look all dreamy at him. Surprised Millie don’t take a bite out of your ankle the way you moon around him. Anyway, me and ol’ Kenny Edmunds figured we’d take you and Millie on a nice Snipe Hunt sometime soon. 

Snipe Hunt? Well, hunt snipe, obviously. Or you and Millie do. Cow Mountain’s supposed to have a good snipe crop this year, nice big fat ones. Gotta be careful about the fangs and sharp quills. 

No, no, nothin’ to worry about catchin’ a snipe. I’ll show you both once we get out in the wilderness. If we start by midnight or so we’ll be back by breakfast, and there’s hardly anything better than fresh snipe in the morning.

Of course we’ll eat ‘em. You’ll love it. Well just how do you know if you haven’t tried one, especially the way I cook ‘em, all boiled up nice and soft like asparagus fresh out of the can! Careful ‘bout the quills though, like I said. 

Umm, now about this next thing, I don’t know how to bring it up, exactly. Whew. Uhh, anyhoo, the wife and me was thinking a while back about maybe having you getting to have a special opportunity to go live with some friendly other dogs, learn to know different type cultures and things. Whole exciting new world.

What could be better than meeting a big bunch of new dogs, right? Well, France dogs, just for instance. Poodles du Francois is how they call ‘em in Paree, I do reckon.

Or a Chihuahua outta Mexico, that’d be another fine dog to meet. Play and stuff. Bulldogs from England, Pit Bulls from Pittsburgh, Collies in Colorado maybe. Trust me, it’ll be an enlightening experience for you, being around new dogs all the time every day.

Well, at the animal shelter down on Plant Road. Hot diggity, huh? I mean we’d miss you and all but it’d be in your best interest, a genuine growing experience. A dog pound is sorta like going off to college where you get exposed to lots of different types. You’d benefit in the long run, far as character development and what-not.

It’s worrisome, I know. Tell you what, I was about to pour me a medicinal dose of that brandy Santa Claus brought and if you’d like a dollop or several in your water bowl I’d surely understand. Take the edge off. You’re welcome old friend. Now then.

Us? Oh don’t go worrying about us, we’ll be just fine. Why I suppose we’d miss you. Sure we would, of course we would. But see, the wife is already planning on bringing something new home, and believe me you’d rather be elsewhere. Life at the animal shelter’d be a real relief.

Well first of all lemme just say I argued for a hamster, which is mostly just a mouse with nicer fur, but the wife wouldn’t hear of it. Had to have her way. You know how she is. And really now, I’m not allowed to say what new pet she went and decided on to replace you. Well gee whiz already, OK:

A snake. 

Well I couldn’t agree with you more. Oh I know, I know. Doesn’t seem a good tradeoff at all you ask me, a nice dog like you for a snake, but she’s got her mind made up. Don’t know what type or breed. I’d tell you if I knew. Well of course it ain’t gonna be no rattlesnake, what’s wrong with you? 

Something warm and cozy is what she’s planning on, more like your python snake or your boa constrictor which wraps itself around you in friendly fashion like a big ol’ comfy scarf or something. Don’t tell me, tell her, but just remember you ain’t gonna be here anyway so it’s not like your opinion counts much. 

Unless you want to vote for the hamster. Could name it Puppy if that’d make you feel better. 

Ooops, you hear that? The car door slam? Here, chew these cat treats, freshen up your breath from the V.S.O.P. And remember to let her think she looks real good with that fresh new haircut and all. Oh I know, but it’s best to tell her anyway, easier over the long haul.

(TWK waited overnight before telling Puppy the dog he’d only been kidding about the snipe hunt and the animal shelter stuff, which is more than Tom Hine used to do after warning his kids about juvenile hall and orphanages.)

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CATCH OF THE DAY, March 13, 2021

Burns, Crippen, Delacruz, Diaz

DAVID BURNS, Fort Bragg. Grand theft, burglary, stolen property, controlled substance for sale, transportation-sale of organic drug, conspiracy, probation revocation.

JOHN CRIPPEN III, Ukiah. Possession/purchase of narcotic-controlled substance for sale, sale of organic drug.

ANGELA DELACRUZ, Ukiah. Domestic battery.

CELINA DIAZ, Redwood Valley. DUI.

Knight, Marrufo, Miller, Smith


SHAREEN MARRUFO, Covelo. Addict with tear gas weapon, paraphernalia, vandalism.

JASON MILLER, Fort Bragg. Stolen property, controlled substance for sale & transportation, possession/purchase of narcotic/controlled substance for sale, sale of organic drug, county parole violation, conspiracy.

JENNIFER SMITH, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.

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The established ruling elites know there is a crisis. They agreed, at least temporarily, to throw money at it with the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 bill known as American Rescue Plan (ARP). But the ARP will not alter the structural inequities, either by raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour or imposing taxes and regulations on corporations or the billionaire class that saw its wealth increase by a staggering $1.1 trillion since the start of the pandemic. The health system will remain privatized, meaning the insurance and pharmaceutical corporations will reap a windfall of tens of billions of dollars with the ARP, and this when they are already making record profits. The endless wars in the Middle East, and the bloated military budget that funds them, will remain sacrosanct. Wall Street and the predatory global speculators that profit from the massive levels of debt peonage imposed on an underpaid working class and loot the U.S. Treasury in our casino capitalism will continue to funnel money upwards into the hands of a tiny, oligarchic cabal. There will be no campaign finance reform to end our system of legalized bribery. The giant tech monopolies will remain intact. The fossil fuel companies will continue to ravage the ecosystem. The militarized police, censorship imposed by digital media platforms, vast prison system, harsher and harsher laws aimed at curbing domestic terrorism and dissent and wholesale government surveillance will be, as they were before, the primary instruments of state control.

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Cue up Country Joe and the Bloodfarmers

Plenty of Covid lockdown inspired MAYHEM so far this weekend, almost too much to list.

But why focus on the negative?

Lead story “Man released from hospital after 9 months of Covid treatment” that’s pretty heartwarming. His family was on hand to greet him. Here he comes, weighing in at 350 lbs, an improvement over the 500 lbs from when he went in. And the infection positive rate has improved, from 2.75% to 2.74% … it’s this kind of human interest and statistical minutea — SIGNS OF HOPE — that will get us thru.

As an aside, on our drive to the coast my wife wanted to stop at a little shopping mall to check out a kitchen supply shop she likes. I’m not much of a mall guy but this one isn’t too bad as far as it goes, an outdoor shopping center from the 1980s. For some reason when we have guests from Europe this is the one they want to visit. It’s well maintained, not too big, easy to get to off I-95. Well the day we went hardly any cars in the lot … the place was like a ghost town. 3/4 of the stores were vacant, including our kitchen supply company. It was pretty much dead, and I don’t see it coming back.

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I will give my full support to the Great Redwood Trail as long as it's funded by federal funds that had been diverted from military spending and a tall thick hedge is planted on both sides of the trail as it passes through Willits. Willits is the crummiest town on Highway 101 between Canada and Mexico, ain't it? 

It's bad enough that we have a white trash party, but now we have white trash assholes. Senator Ron Johnson, Senator Ted Cruz, an asshole who was elected and reelected by those sainted folks of the one “Ya’ll come back now" Star state. 

Now some state legislators are passing laws to make it more difficult to vote if you are a Negro. To counteract that I propose that the AVA print out a list of warnings of how not to make mistakes when voting and throw bundles of AVAs off the top of tall buildings in Negro neighborhoods. Just watch and see the Republicans in Congress who fought against the covid relief bill be nicely reelected during the next election. The United States of Stupidity.

At age 86 Ralph Nader has not lost a step. Now that Babe Ruth is dead, Ralph moves into the top spot. No matter what the subject, Nader seems to have the answer. How can anyone argue with him? An American in Britain shouted “[Bleep] the King” The Englishman shouted back, “[Bleep] Babe Ruth.” 

A lady wrote about Jefferson's black girlfriend the other issue. Her name was Sally Hemmings. A horse breeder in Paris, Kentucky had a two-year old filly he wanted to take to the race track. He had named her “Sally Hemmings.” An outfit named the Jockey Club makes the rules at race tracks including vetting the names of horses. “No horse named Sally Hemmings will be allowed entrance to any racetrack in the United States.”

Rivers — two things I have always wanted to do: explore the great cities of the world on foot which I largely accomplished except for Australia, India, Cairo and Scandinavia. The other was to travel up the Amazon. I have read a lot of books about the Amazon area, the last being “River of Doubt.” Teddy Roosevelt reached the Amazon flat on his back, barely alive. In the spring when the river is high the Moore-McCormac Steamship Company sends a couple of ships up the Amazon to Manaus. For several years I try to snag a berth on one of them but failed. A part of Colombia touches a tributary of the Amazon at a place called Leticia. When I was in Bogota during my Gabriel Garcia Marquez pilgrimage I tried to get some information about this place. I found that a plane went there once a week and turned around and came back. I had no idea whether I could get transportation to Manaus, Brazil, one way or Iquitos, Peru, the other way. So that ended my Amazon quest.

The River Planta. Very wide. You can't see either shore. Dirty white-gray. Must be very shallow in places as there are wooden targets everywhere. There are no river facilities in Buenos Aires. Tugboats pull ships through locks into basins like big bathtubs and close the gate behind them. Buenos Aires is like a European city. I like Argentina better than Brazil. 

The river going up to Guayaquil, Ecuador. I don't know the name. Real jungle. River full of debris, anything that will float. When the tide comes in it all goes upstream. Guayaquil is two degrees below the equator but very cold at night. 

The 40 thieves (Customs and Immigration) wear heavy coats. This is where most of Willits’s bananas come from. 

Rio Magdalena, Colombia. The main commercial river from the Caribbean to Central Colombia. Major port is Barranquilla. Large Barrio Chino. Do you know what Barrio Chino means? 

Germany: the Elba runs past Hamburg. Just after the war we took a load of potatoes from Maine to Hamburg. When a bag of potatoes broke open everyone from three-year-old children to grandmothers chased after those potatoes. People were hungry.

The Limeys bombed in the living crap out of Hamburg, but somehow missed the St. Pauli district. Girls sat behind windows at street level. They would turn a trick for one pack of cigarettes or a bar of Ivory soap. (I think you can still buy St. Pauli girl beer around here.) In France where the girls lifted up their skirts and sat on their underpants (if any) the Seine River was fairly small and mooring lines were clean. I took a load of coal from Baltimore to Rouen. The tide comes in rapidly so you have to adjust mooring lines each change. There was a temporary wooden foot bridge across the Seine so I put a new carton of cigarettes in a bag and while they were discharging coal into barges (with living quarters) I took the train to Paris for several days. I knew I was going to get fired when we got back to Houston along with having my pay docked. 

In England the Thames is a big dirty river. As soon as a ship gets tied up in London, a Port Authority dude comes on board and locks up all the toilets. They don't want anybody shitting in their river. I'm too busy looking for all of the locations I read about in Charles Dickens novels. The children in England seem to be much smarter than their gringo counterparts. (Rena Lynn Moore of the Willits News went to New Zealand and told me that the children seemed to be much more intelligent and polite than those in this country.)

The limey-juicers leave the lights on during performances in concert halls. The cheapest seats at the Royal Albert Hall are the most expensive in this country. 

In Portugal a large river meets the sea at Lisbon. The interesting thing is that all of the working vessels are under sail.

In southwest Spain Rio Guadalquivir River passes Sevilla on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It is very shallow, narrow with lots of twists and turns. Ships must be nearly empty. Propellers kick up lots of mud. In the port of Sevilla ships load cork rolls stripped from trees. 

Over on this side of the Atlantic the St. Lawrence is a useful river connecting the Atlantic with the Great Lakes. The Columbia has a bad bar, everything must be stowed away. The ship does somersaults coming over the bar. The pilot comes out in an eight foot boat with an outboard motor. 

Most people drift down the Mississippi. I drifted upstream. Shipping was slow in New Orleans and, like Ishmael, I had no money in my pocket. New Orleans is no place to be broke. I went across the river and signed on to a riverboat pushing barges. You may recall who wrote in the New Yorker several years ago. John MacPhee wrote about a river boat up the Illinois River to Chicago. You don't see anything but water and trees. I think I saw one city, Memphis. You are kept busy dropping off barges and picking them up. Six on, six off. 

When you get to the Ohio River there are a number of locks so you must bust up your tow and go through the locks single file. You may let the barges adrift and then go and catch them or just shove them into the bank. Most of the crew on these riverboats are from Kentucky and Tennessee. I was surprised to find a couple of dudes who could not read or write. 

By the time we reached Louisville I had had enough of this hard work and discovered some good news. For working 12 hours a day I received four hours overtime and 12 hours overtime on Saturday and Sunday. That's all the information I have on rivers.

Coming up next, “A trip to the South Pacific,” and some anecdotes about Alexander Cockburn and The Nation magazine and some stories about the Catholic Worker. Price: one cent.

Ralph Bostrom


PS. Anybody who was around during World War II knows what “You speak Joe?” means.

* * *

Mendo Second Growth Forest

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THE 'AMERICAN DREAM' of upward mobility is broken. Look at the numbers. 

The US has far less mobility and equality of opportunity today than almost the entire European Union.

* * *

THE TRUTH IS that the crises we face in this nation are enormous, and we have got to think big, not small. What history has told us is that two years after President Clinton won in 1992, Republicans did phenomenally well. And the reason they did so well was because Democrats had the power, and they did not exercise that power to help working families. We cannot make that mistake again, which is why it is imperative that we come together around a bold, progressive agenda. We must join every other major country on earth and grant health care to all of our people as a basic human right. We must take on the incredible greed of the pharmaceutical industry and not force the American people to pay higher prescription drug prices than everyone else. We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour and guarantee equal pay for equal work. We must combat systemic racism and pass comprehensive immigration reform. We must make public colleges and universities tuition-free and forgive student debt. We must create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and confronting the climate crisis. This agenda is not some kind of wild, radical idea. It's what the American people want, and it's where the Democratic Party has got to go.

We have made tremendous progress in recent years in our efforts to transform this country, but it is a fight that is far from over. 

PS. I have invited Jeff Bezos to testify in the Budget Committee next week to explain to the American people why he thinks it's appropriate for him to spend a whole lot of money denying economic dignity to workers at Amazon, while he has become $78 billion richer during the pandemic.

(Bernie Sanders)

* * *

* * *

HE FOUND THE COLLECTION of men he met waiting about in wholesale establishments in Wood Street and St. Paul's Churchyard (where they interviewed the buyers who have come up from the country) interesting and stimulating, but far too strongly charged with the suggestion of his own fate to be really joyful. There were men in all degrees between confidence and distress, and in every stage between extravagant smartness and the last levels of decay. There were sunny young men full of an abounding and elbowing energy before whom the soul of Mr Polly sank into hate and dismay. "Smart Juniors," Mr Polly said to himself, "full of Smart Juniosity. The Shoveacious Cult." There were hungry-looking individuals of thirty-five or so, that he decided must be "Proletelerians" — he had often wanted to find some one who fitted that attractive word. Middle-aged men, "too old at Forty," discoursing in the waiting-rooms on the outlook in the trade; it had never been so bad, they said, while Mr Polly wondered if "De-juiced" was a permissible epithet. There were men with an overweening sense of their importance, manifestly annoyed and angry to find themselves still disengaged, and inclined to suspect a plot, and men so faint-hearted one was terrified to imagine their behavior when it came to an interview. There was a fresh-faced young man with an unintelligent face who seemed to think himself equipped against the world beyond all misadventure by a collar of exceptional height, and another who introduced a note of gaiety by wearing a flannel shirt and a check suit of remarkable virulence. Every day Mr Polly looked round to mark how many of the familiar faces had gone, and the deepening anxiety (reflecting his own) on the faces that remained, and every day some new type joined the drifting shoal. 

— H.G. Wells, 1910; from "The History of Mr Polly"

* * *

* * *

SCOTT OSTLER: Speaking of the un-woke, all 32 NFL teams continue to not employ Colin Kaepernick.

Am I beating a dead horse, as many insist? No, the horse is alive, and champing at the bit to return to the chalk-lined NFL pasture.

Kaepernick’s name came up on March 7, when Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote about the Seattle Seahawks’ options if Russell Wilson is traded away.

Florio wrote: “(The Seahawks) could finally give Colin Kaepernick (who is only one year older than Wilson) a full and fair workout, undeterred by the possibility that Kaepernick would divide the locker room on the question of whether he or Wilson should play. (In 2017, given the lingering presence of veterans who resented Wilson, that was a very real possibility.)”

OK, that’s legit speculation. But let’s take a look at the on-going spread of questionable info. Lindsey Wisniewski, writing on NBC Sports Northwest, noted Florio’s suggestion and added that when the Seahawks had Kaepernick in for a visit in 2017, they chose not to sign him “because the parties were too far apart on money.”

Who says? The quote above from Wisniewski’s story was hyperlinked to a 2017 tweet by NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo, referring to Kaepernick and the Seahawks: “They’re apart on money.”

However, that commonly uttered “fact” — that the Seahawks and other teams have been scared off by Kaepernick’s salary demands — is disputable. I have heard the opposite from a source close to Kaepernick, that he and the Seahawks never got to that point, nor did Kaepernick and any other team.

Where is the truth? You judge. But the salary thing has become one of the anti-Kaepernick talking points, which range from easily debunkable to laughable. It’s the latest fad: Say something enough times and it becomes the truth.

I know this: If an NFL team signed Kaepernick, there would be backlash by some fans who disliked his protests and the cut of his jib. But that team would gain millions of new fans instantly. They could pay Kaepernick’s salary out of jersey sales.

In 1947, the Dodgers took a lot of heat but did not go broke after they signed a player considered by many to be a disruptive force — bad for the team, the sport, and society.

Well, the Dodgers survived. In fact, they continue to reap dividends — financial and cosmic — from that move. Integrity isn’t always bad for business.

* * *

* * *


by Laura Flanders

Shock, horror! There is racism among the royals. I know sarcasm is the laziest form of humor, but is there something about a hereditary white monarchy that we don’t yet understand?

In what’s being called a “hand grenade” interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex let rip about the misery they’d endured as the royal family’s first mixed-race couple and alleged that someone — not Queen Elizabeth or her husband — even questioned the likely skin tone of their yet-to-be born baby.

Now the who-said-what-to-whom racism chase has started. This was always going to be a clickbait cash cow for commercial media, and so it has been. Even as much of the world tried to mark International Women’s Day, March 8th, the media closed in on one woman, Queen Elizabeth, and her entourage.

A palace under pressure and a game of high-profile “gotcha” is good for clickbait and ratings, but it doesn’t help us understand racism.

In the context of the Divine Right of Kings, the “who-said-what-to-Harry and Meghan” question is most certainly missing the white supremacist forest for the trees.

In fact, the whole Meghan vs the Monarchy episode is only worth talking about because of the way it illustrates just what we as a society have been doing wrong when it comes to talking about racism.

Understood as a personal attitude problem, the utterly unscientific assertion that human beings are different on account of their skin tone is a nasty phenomenon that we uproot by upbraiding individuals. There’s no excuse for racist words or acts in our multicultural society, we mostly agree.

But looking at racism as a personal problem, we miss the bigger picture, which in this case is a twelve-hundred year-old system by which a single family holds unaccountable power over the United Kingdom’s parliament, its military and its church. That includes Scotland, Wales and a hunk of Ireland. The Queen is also titular head of 14 other countries, including many Caribbean and Pacific islands.

When the British Empire was at its height, the Crown ruled lucratively over 412 million people across one quarter of the globe. There’s nothing democratic, secular or multi-cultural about that.

So, while Queen Elizabeth the person may be off the hook for asking about Archie’s complexion, the monarchy’s not off the hook for colonialism or white supremacy.

And while we’re talking about systems, for International Women’s Day, UNICEF reported that ten million additional child marriages of girls of color may occur before the end of the decade, threatening years of progress. Did you see that headline anywhere?

(Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species. She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media.

* * *


Journalists Start Demanding Substack Censor Its Writers: To Bar Critiques Of Journalists

This new political battle does not break down along left v. right lines. This is an information war waged by corporate media to silence any competition or dissent.

* * *

* * *


Katie Halper and I are moving the podcast to Substack

by Matt Taibbi

Useful Idiots, the podcast Katie Halper and I started in the summer of 2019 at Rolling Stone, is moving. After eighty episodes that included interviews with the likes of Tulsi Gabbard (our first guest), Roger Waters, Andrew Yang, Erin Brockovich, Michael K. Williams, Noam Chomsky, Marianne Williamson, Adam McKay, Bernie Sanders, Nadya Tolkonnikova of Pussy Riot, Tim Robbins, Adolph Reed, Chris Hedges, and many others, the show that was created with the idea of being a home for voices shut out or shouted down in traditional media outlets is moving, appropriately, to Substack.

Katie and I have already cut the first installment of the show, which will be coming out in the upcoming days. Our on-line trailer is from an episode that features an interview on the current state of speech freedom and nuclear safety with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

When it became clear we’d be leaving Rolling Stone, we ran into a dilemma. Neither Katie nor I was anxious to ask anyone to pay for content they were used to getting for free, though the show would cost something to produce. The solution we ended up hitting upon was more content. Roughly speaking, we’ll be generating as much free content per week as we did at Rolling Stone. There will be a few paywalled segments, but the bulk of the show will be free, especially in the early going. Subscribers to TK on Substack will also have access to some of the paywalled segments.

For those not familiar with the podcast, Useful Idiots was formed at a time when we were beginning to see more and more people tuned out of the mainstream press for having unpopular views on issues like censorship, Russiagate, and the presidential campaign. The conceit of the show was to allow guests to talk about controversial or taboo subjects, especially if they were in the process of being smeared as “Useful Idiots” or worse.

When a campaign to have the Michael Moore-produced movie Planet of the Humans removed from the Internet got started, we had Moore on to explain. When sleazy politicians tried to smear cancel congressional candidate Alex Morse out of his race, he came on to tell his side of the story. We had Julian Assange’s partner Stella Morris on to talk about his extradition case, invited future Substack supernova Glenn Greenwald to explain his departure from The Intercept, called writer Thomas Chatterton Williams in Paris up when everyone was going bananas about his Harper’s Letter, and talked with Shahid Buttar, a congressional challenger to Nancy Pelosi, when opponents tried to cancel him.

Katie and I also tried to cover everything from the presidential race to the search for a Covid-19 vaccine to last summer’s protests from an offbeat, or even just flat-out drunk, point of view. The Substack version of the show will continue that dubious tradition of drinking games, “Test Your Knowledge” quizzes (e.g. who said it, Biden or Trump?), unpleasant/irrelevant discussions about necrophilia and sharks, and other features. We’ll also be taking more listener questions, in a regular mailbag feature.

Followers might notice some changes from the Rolling Stone version of the show. Although you’ll able to access the podcast through Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, and PocketCasts as before, the show will be released in a different format. On the show’s YouTube channel, we’ll be releasing shorter segments and excerpts, so the different segments of the program — whether from the interviews or our discussions together — will be more accessible. And we will be doing occasional livestreams. At any time during the week, you’ll be able to find all the show’s content (which will also include transcripts and written content) at its new home, at UsefulIdiots.Substack.Com.

We want to listen to any suggestions, including what types of guests you’d like to hear from in the future, or if there are any topics you’d like us to explore more.

Lastly, both Katie and I are very grateful to Rolling Stone for its support of the show. We will miss very much our former producer Dan Halperin, and camera and sound editors Reed Dunlea and Elvis Metcalf. Now, we’ll have to ask for some listener and viewer support, to help fill their places. If you choose to subscribe, you can do so at UsefulIdiots.Substack.Com, for $5 a month or $40 per year. No matter what, we’re most thankful for everyone who listened to or watched the show in the last two years, and we hope to be able to do more for you in the future.

* * *

* * *


“The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with more blood for the Blood God. Preferably astronaut blood, because of all the zero-G and low-air-pressure training. It's really rich, like pudding. Peruvian and Himalayan blood are also favorites, though anybody's blood, really, is acceptable. He is, after all, the Blood God.”

The recording of last night's (2021-03-12) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on KNYO-LP Fort Bragg is right here:

A lot of dead people this show. Nearly the whole first hour. There's a lot there, but the part that mainly sticks in my mind was learning that Lenny Laks, who just died Tuesday, had been the one first to come upon his long-time music-mate John Chamberlain dead on the highway in 2013 and then four months later he was also the one who found other long-time music-mate Antonia Lamb dead. I repeat what one of Lenny's eulogists said about that: “Jesus! Poor Lenny!”

Also, at there's a fresh batch of not-necessarily-radio-useful but worthwhile items that I set aside for you while gathering the show together, such as

A sweeping bird's eye view of a place with everything: bar/restaurant, bowling alley, theater. Add a radio station and you're looking at my fantasy of what to build with a lottery payout, except the bar would be a soda and ice-cream bar. And the place would have a bathroom. You have to have a bathroom in a bowling alley or a rollerskating rink, for kids to smoke cigarets and for people to comb their hair with water from the sink. This kind of shot was impossible just a short while ago. Toy drone tech has literally leaped and soared in very recent years.

The ghost bird. It has a dignified air and every right to think it's invisible; it very nearly is. Its egg, though. I hope the people left that alone. Oh! It only just occurred to me: was it straining to lay that egg the whole time, nose in the air, motionlessly squinching and pushing? Was it surreptitiously, silently laying an egg as big as its whole body? Or is it somebody else's egg.

And stunningly beautifully edited weather.

PS. Email me your written work and I'll read it on the radio on the very next MOTA. That's what I'm here for.

Marco McClean,,

* * *


Please explain why this must be.


  1. Marco McClean March 14, 2021

    Correction re: Hard reset. Nick Wilson and some others corrected me about Lenny having found John Chamberlain dead. I was going by what I read, but apparently the person had it wrong and that wasn’t Lenny, though he did find Antonia dead; that part was right. I’m ready to press /send/ to add Nick’s detailed email of good information to correct the info on my weblog (and here), except that Nick ended his email to me with a line saying it was a private email to me and not intended for publication, so.

    I don’t mind waiting, though it sets a weird precedent to be told an interesting story and told not to tell and not see any reason why. I hear a creepy, rueful voice in my head from the end of a film I saw fifty years ago: /”See how it starts?”/ I expect Nick will change his mind, say okay, and then I’ll press the button.

    • Stephen Dunlap March 14, 2021

      What did Lenny die of and when did Anotonia die ? I had lost track of them.

  2. Lee Edmundson March 14, 2021

    According to readily available sources (via Internet) 53 thousand American troops died in combat in World War One. An additional 45 Thousand troops died of what’s erroneously called the Spanish Flu by the end of the war.
    420 thousand American troops died in combat in World War Two.
    60 thousand American troops died during the Viet Nam debacle.
    So, subtracting the deaths of American troops from the Flu from those who died in combat in WW1, Sleepy Joe was not all that far off in his numbers. Just sayin’.
    Also, I distinctly heard him credit all those scientists who contributed to the rapid development of the vaccines. The vast majority of this research and development occurred with little-to-no Federal funding. Operation “Warp Speed (Scotty!) was a PR gimmick, little more.
    NB: “Quotations taken from the Internet are often inaccurate”. — Abraham Lincoln

    • Cotdbigun March 14, 2021

      So we agree , he exaggerated and the number he made up is a lie.
      Just sayin’ .

      • Cotdbigun March 14, 2021

        The mumble bumble slurry vs. distinctive seems open to interpretation.

  3. George Hollister March 14, 2021

    The period of Sheriff Byrnes and prohibition was a relative time of innocence regarding laws. Many truly believed that a law could fix a social ill. To a great extent the only thing that has changed is many now think a social program, not a law, will fix a social ill. The result is the same, though. The unintended consequences of laws, or social programs to fix things that can not be fixed is to make matters worse. Much worse. Does anyone truly believe our current generation of substance abusers, and the damage they do are being made better by the social welfare programs we have enacted to fix their problem? Yes, we do have the true believers today, just like the true believers we had in the days of Sheriff Byrnes. They write letters to the editor, and speak out in support of all the good that is done, and how much more could be done with more government money. Now it is not the Republican Party of true believers, but Democratic Party true believers. The results are the same.

  4. Lazarus March 14, 2021

    RE: Biden’s dog issues

    So you take Champ and Major, Major being a feel-good, look at me I rescued a shelter dog. And Champ, who lived his entire life in Delaware, and move them to a new place. Not just any new place, that White House place.
    Then you expose them to dozens, if not hundreds of testosteroned up Secret Service Agents, ruthless political operatives, and snooty servant types. And then you expect Champ and Major, which on a good day have the intelligence of a 2-year-old kid, to be cool.
    Anyone with any dog experience at all would know you’re asking for trouble. Then when the dogs get snippy with some likely asshole, it’s back to Delaware and never to be heard from again.
    Here’s hoping the dogs got a second chance and weren’t, as some requested, put down.
    Hey Joe and Jill, if you want a dog in the White House, get a pup and raise it there.
    As always,

  5. Malcolm Macdonald March 14, 2021

    Sheriff Byrnes’ first name was Ralph, not Ben.

  6. Stephen Rosenthal March 14, 2021

    Lee is 100% correct.

    I’m no lib-lab but I have to say I’m getting a little tired of what has become the AVA’s daily Biden bashing. To quibble about the proper numbers versus dead from Covid (which all legitimate scientists agree would be lower if the former guy just said wear a mask from the very beginning) and all the wars is ludicrous. And to say Biden needs to give credit to the former guy for having the vaccines is even more ridiculous.

    “My shots” [as Trump calls them] came from a joint effort by a German company and an American multinational that didn’t take one cent of US government money for development and didn’t seem all that happy with the former guy.

    Just saying.

    • Marmon March 14, 2021

      BULLSHIT! Although Pfizer didn’t receive government funding last spring toward research and development of the vaccine but they did get a $1.95 billion deal in July with the government’s Operation Warp Speed to rush their vaccine to market, to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine in which they did during President Trump’s administration, not the JoBiden administration.


      • George Hollister March 14, 2021

        Who was or is president makes no difference. Trump streamlined the regulatory process to get a vaccine approved as soon as possible. Would a Democratic president have done the same? Most likely. The distribution planning set into motion by Trump is the same one Biden is using, and the only choice there is. Trump lied to the general public, “so they would not panic”. A Democrat would have done the same. The White House staff person, Dr Fauci, lied about the wearing of face masks in order to avoid a run on face masks that were in short supply in hospitals. It appears he is continuing to use deception in his presentations. This is government, Democrat, or Republican.

        All in all, the Covid-19 response has been a good one, as I have said before, compared to almost everything else government does. Do I need to show examples? There is not enough space. A year ago, government went from zero to sixty in a month to act on Covid-19. Mistakes were made, and that is expected. Mistakes were corrected, mostly. The problem with grade school teachers seems intractable, and there have been some other problems that will not be corrected, but by the middle of next month most of this will be behind us.

        • Marmon March 14, 2021

          Spoken like a true “Never Trumper”


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