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Mendocino County Today: Sunday, April 25, 2021

Unsettled Weather | Pet Hogan | Official Warnings | Soiree 1907 | Sated Ukiah | Extended Forecast | Water Crisis | Bathers 1907 | Pillsbury Alliance | True Science | Air Tankers | Mental Gibberish | Denim Day | Ed Notes | Seigler Springs | Covelo Focus | Yesterday's Catch | Schell Novel | Minimum Greed | Pure Light | Puritanism | Tunney/Dempsey | SALT Cap | Protest Film | Fistic Instruction | Injury Adjustment | Constant Distraction | Obedience Problem | Pop Quiz

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UNSETTLED WEATHER will continue today and tonight as a cold low pressure system moves across the region. Drier and warmer weather will return by Tuesday and last through much of the week as high pressure rebuilds aloft. (NWS)

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Hogan is very much a Husky, and he’s quite the talker! A person familiar with the breed would be ideal for Hogan’s new home. Hogan will need daily exercise and basic training. This good-looking dog is happy to hang out, but seems to prefer being outside and doing his own thing. He would be the perfect dog for an active guardian who enjoys hiking or running and would welcome a canine companion. Secure fencing will be important in his new home. Hogan is one year old and a very buff 50 pounds. 

Visit us at to see all of our canine and feline guests, 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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IF PRESS RELEASES from local water officials about what they might do about the drought were wet, we might not be in a drought. Yesterday (Saturday) the Russian River Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District issued a presser saying that they and other local water suppliers in the Ukiah Valley Basin “will consider passing mandated water use reductions due to two years of significantly below average rainfall in the area and historically low levels at Lake Mendocino. The potential actions by the water suppliers follow a Drought Declaration [with no mandates] from the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on April 20th and Governor Gavin Newsom’s Drought Emergency Declaration [with no mandates] for the Russian River watershed on April 21st. The Governor’s declaration includes directives to bring drought assistance funding to the Mendocino and Sonoma County areas.” 

“The time is now to implement extreme water conservation measures at home and work to reduce the demand on the critically low reservoir,” said Elizabeth Salomone, General Manager of Russian River Flood Control, as she proceeded not to implement any. “The coming months will become increasingly difficult for many communities as the drought continues to worsen. Coordinated responses are being developed among local, regional, state, and federal leaders to secure supply for public health and safety and, if possible, keep vines and orchards alive for future year production.” 

Vines and Orchards — just one teensy step below public health and safety with whom the public is expected to “coordinate.”

The presser then goes on to ask people to conserve by — sigh — “turning off your faucet when brushing teeth, taking 5-minute showers, fixing leaks, and consider letting your lawn go brown.” Low flow showerheads and bricks in your toilet tank are good too!

Funny, they didn’t have any conservation advice for vines and orchards. 

(Mark Scaramella)

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Cloverdale Gathering, 1907

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ANOTHER DROUGHT PRESSER came from the City of Ukiah which claims they don’t need to conserve because: “The City of Ukiah’s Recycled Water Project: Supports our vibrant agricultural region [since when is that the City’s responsibility?]; Reduces diversions from the Russian River; Helps Ukiah Valley conform to State water conservation objectives [of where there are none]; and Protects vineyards with a sustainable water source for frost protection. [How nice of the City of Ukiah to provide frost protection water to vineyards outside the city limits with a $36 million water project paid for in part by city residents!] 

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NO WATER TO WASTE: Sonoma and Mendocino counties brace for renewed restrictions as drought deepens

Dwindling supplies, looming cuts make region an epicenter for wider state water crisis

by Mary Callahan

It has taken until the end of the second straight historically dry winter, but California and its vast network of urban and agricultural water suppliers, including those on the parched North Coast, are now ramping up to confront the drought that is tightening its grip on the state.

Sonoma County supervisors are set on Tuesday to proclaim a drought emergency, becoming the first local government to take formal action on a burgeoning water crisis that Gov. Gavin Newsom highlighted Wednesday. From the receding shoreline of Lake Mendocino, he made Sonoma and Mendocino counties first on what is certain to be a growing list of California locales where drought has become formally entrenched.

Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, the region’s other main reservoir, are lower than they have ever been at this time of year — at the close of the wettest months of the rainy season.

“There’s just no water to waste, period,” said Brad Sherwood, government and public affairs manager for Sonoma Water, the region’s largest supplier.

Mendocino County supervisors declared a drought emergency last week, and the same move by their counterparts in Sonoma raises another official alarm about the region’s severe water shortage, a deficit deepened after another winter of less than half of average rainfall.

In Santa Rosa, the scant share by Saturday was 38% — a meager 12.77 inches since Oct. 1. Even a substantial spring rainstorm, as forecast for Sunday, offers little replenishment.

The ramifications for hundreds of thousands of local residents, farmers and ranchers, summertime recreation and wildlife are expanding as the arid season arrives.

“Whether a mandatory conservation request is made, anyone who looks at a Lake Sonoma or Lake Mendocino can see it,” Sherwood said. “Anyone who is a dairy person whose wells are going dry is living it. We’re all living it.”

Sequel to state’s worst drought?

The cities of Santa Rosa and Petaluma are scheduled to consider similar drought declarations in the coming weeks while asking residents for voluntary cuts in water use of up to 20%. Healdsburg and other cities are expected to follow suit, treading a worn path all-too-familiar to local residents.

We have been down this road before.

It was only a few years ago that the region and state broke free from the restrictions of the last, worst-ever drought — a five-year ordeal that began in 2012. For many, it drove home the reality of climate change, triggering sharp reductions in water use and penalties for noncompliance while depleting reservoirs and stoking a new era of devastating wildfires in the state.

Many of the same restrictions, fees and conservation measures are now on tap and likely to come in the weeks and months ahead.

Hundreds of land owners and small community water districts along the upper Russian River already are on notice that state regulators might suspend their rights to draw water from the river as supplies diminish.

Hundreds of thousands of urban residents will be next in the region. Officials are waiting on word of how much water is available for each municipality before informing consumers of the conservation steps that will be necessary to make it to the next rainy season. The Marin Municipal Water District, which serves central and southern Marin County, is the exception at this point, having already imposed water-use restrictions on its customers.

Local agencies have so far been reluctant to move immediately in that direction, holding out hope that March would bring a miracle round of storms. They never appeared, and it’s clear now that “mandatory rationing” eventually will be needed, said Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt.

“I think the truth of the matter is we all need to reduce our usage, and we all need to conserve every drop of water,” Rabbitt said. “Conservation efforts aren’t just going to be for the residents of the Russian River watershed, but for agricultural, commercial and industrial users.”

Start saving water now.

But while residents may feel they are in limbo, awaiting specific marching orders, they shouldn’t delay taking action, officials said.

“I hope our community doesn’t wait for their local retailer to have to pass a resolution to start conserving water,” said Jay Jasperse, chief engineer and director of groundwater management for Sonoma Water, which supplies more than 600,000 consumers in Sonoma and northern Marin counties.

“Everyone should be mindful of that and not waste a drop of water,” Jasperse said. “While the cities and district are going to take action, let’s not wait.”

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins said the urgency of the situation should be evident in recent, stark images of lakes Mendocino and Sonoma, the two main reservoirs for the Russian River basin.

“I don’t think we need to set (conservation) targets” to convey the reality of the crisis, she said, given the signals that nature is providing.

“I think people receive information in different ways,” she said.

The reservoirs supply water to most of Mendocino and Sonoma counties, as well as serving agricultural needs, sustaining aquatic life and providing recreational opportunities. Both reservoirs have never been lower at this time of year, with the dry months of high water use still to come.

The receding shorelines — shifted in places by hundreds of yards — have revealed expanses of parched and cracked lake bed, with barren embankments etched by lines from more plentiful years in the past.

“I will say it could be the drought of record,” said Jasperse. “It’s right there with 1976-77, depending where you get your rainfall data. It’s a severe two-year drought.”

Lake Mendocino, the far smaller reservoir, is holding about 44% of what it normally stores. Lake Sonoma is at about 62% of normal. Its supply, if carefully managed, should last through the year into next, water managers said.

“I think it’s very clear we all need to be conserving now,” Hopkins said Friday. “I recognize that there are analytical processes going on, in terms of the hard numbers right now, but my biggest message to the public is: ‘Yes, it’s a drought. Yes, it’s urgent, and we all need to conserve.’”

Deeper cuts more difficult as historic use drops.

Sonoma County residents have become fairly adept at cutting back where it is easy, as demonstrated by significant conservation efforts during the last drought.

In 2013, the average consumer in Sonoma and northern Marin counties was using 128 gallons of water per person, per day, compared to 107 gallons in 2019-20, according to the Sonoma-Marin Partnership annual report.

In Santa Rosa, residents managed to save so much water they were using only 86 gallons per capita, per day in 2016. The numbers had inched up by last year, but still remained well below a 129-gallon state target, Santa Rosa City Water Director Jennifer Burke said.

There are some encouraging signs that early conservation messages are sinking in. Since January, when Santa Rosa began messaging aggressively about dry weather and the need to conserve, municipal customers cut their water use across the first three months by 15% compared to the first three months of 2020, Burke said.

“Our community is responding,” she said.

Sonoma Water also is delivering 25% less water to local cities and water companies than it did more than a decade ago. The biggest drop overlapped with the last drought, going from about 54,000 acre feet in 2014-15 to about 45,000 in 2019-20. (An acre foot is roughly the amount of water needed to cover a football field one foot deep.)

“Use has gone down because of conservation,” Sherwood said.

Rabbitt and Hopkins said mindful consumers have mastered the “low-hanging fruit” — the easy things like washing full loads of laundry and dishes, taking shorter showers and turning off faucets while brushing teeth.

Changes in landscaping and land use come next.

“It becomes a little more difficult to conserve water here on out,” Rabbitt said.

Call for earlier action, lasting changes

Still, Russian Riverkeeper Don McEnhill, whose organization is focused on stewardship and advocacy, said he wishes more robust conservation messaging and measures had been employed last year, before waiting for a second dry year, “when there was a chance to keep some water in the lake.”

Lake Mendocino is so small, it can really only store a year or two worth of average rainfall, so having a year with only half of normal precipitation or less translates to significant supply impacts. Some of those dependent on releases into the upper Russian River also have wells and reservoirs to supplement withdrawals, but not all of them.

“We’re really all just looking around to see where we put the next foot forward,” said Dennis Murphy, co-owner of Murphy Vineyards in Alexander Valley.

McEnhill said the entire watershed needs to readjust how it views water supply and efficiency, given the extremes of dry and wet weather are going to be more pronounced as climate change advances.

“We’ve got this massive change in the availability of water, especially in the upper Russian (River) but our water use patterns are static,” he said. “We haven’t adjusted them to this new reality.”

Newsom made a similar point about climate change and California’s imperiled water supply in his visit to Lake Mendocino last week.

“The hots are getting hotter. The dries are getting drier,” he said. “We need to disenthrall ourselves with old ways of managing water supply and distribution.”

Vexing challenge for complex system

The ripples of this new drought are growing in magnitude for the region’s drinking and irrigation water, recreation and wildlife, setting in motion a host of complicated moves to stave off the worst effects.

The Russian River water supply includes diversions from the Eel River through the Potter Valley Power Plant and is primarily rain-fed, but for a small amount of snow melt that finds its way into Lake Pillsbury and eventually into Lake Mendocino.

That reservoir east of Ukiah is near the top of the system and sends its water downstream through the river to Sonoma County. Lake Sonoma, which lies west of Healdsburg, is drained by Dry Creek, which enters the river near Forestville, the hub of the region’s water supply system, with pipelines stemming out to municipal suppliers.

Releases from the two reservoirs are governed by the state under an old system of historic water rights and rules that differentiate several kinds of claims landowners can make and give priority to senior right holders over junior ones.

Sonoma Water, which manages the two reservoirs in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, holds rights to divert 75,000 acre feet water released from Lake Mendocino into the river each year. That’s well over twice what’s in the lake at present, some of which also can be claimed by others along the main stem of the upper Russian river.

The water agency already has received permission from state regulators to release less water than is normally required for minimum protection of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout in the upper river. It is now is working on a new petition for lowered in-stream flows throughout the length of the river, stretching from Mendocino County to the Sonoma Coast at Jenner.

The negotiated agreement will also help establish how much water Sonoma Water has to provide to its retailers, including city agencies, some of whom may have alternate sources to bring into play, including wells or reservoirs, to offset reduced wholesale supplies.

But the bottom line is it could be some weeks before those thresholds are established.

Farm Bureau officials in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, the Russian River Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District outside Ukiah, county officials and others are trying to work out a shared solution to propose to the state. It would ensure senior and junior right holders could acquire some limited water from the river without anyone having to give theirs up entirely.

It’s an effort to “maybe spread the pain a little bit more,” rather than “all or nothing,” said Erik Ekdahl, deputy director for the Division of Water Rights at the State Water Resources Control Board, who has been working with them.

Absent sufficient voluntary reductions, the state water board could take action to curtail water use as early as the next one to three months, a spokeswoman said.

Devon Jones, executive director of the Mendocino County Farm Bureau, said cooperating stakeholders have to develop a proposal that’s both acceptable to the state and palatable enough for junior and senior rights holders to buy in.

But she said she’s hopeful of success in both areas. A changing environment means the kind of collaboration at play now will be needed in the future, as well, she said.

“The alternative is pretty much 100% curtailment, which will create some pretty significant impacts in the Russian River watershed,” she said.

“It’s the something-is-better-than-nothing mentality,” she added. “I think this is a good model not just for this year ... (and) this is something that could be applicable to not just the Russian River watershed.”

Grim outlook for North Bay water supplies:

Storage as of April 23 and capacity for this time of year

Lake Sonoma: 152,474 acre feet (about 62%)

Lake Mendocino: 36,740 acre feet (about 44%)

Annual rainfall Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 at Sonoma County airport

2019-20: 19.35 inches

2020-21: 12.77 inches (year to date)

Historic average: 32.26 inches

Source: Sonoma Water

(Courtesy, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

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Russian River Bathers, 1907

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Dam removal advocates believe that there are hundreds of miles of pristine habitat for salmon and steelhead above Scott Dam. They base this on GIS data collected for the area in comparison to other “like” watersheds and literature reviews rather than hiking the area to ground truth their conclusions. It is rugged terrain and hard to access, but given what’s at stake, it matters.

Locals will tell you that there may be 40 river and tributary miles of habitat and that most of it is far too warm in the summer months to maintain deep cold water pools to support the fish.

There is no reporting on the number of salmonids that actually reach Scott Dam after traveling 196 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Cold water releases from the base of Scott Dam help endangered fish with spawning and migration in the Eel River and the diverted water from Lake Pillsbury helps sustain flows for endangered fish in the Russian River. 

This video footage was taken of the Eel River from the Lake Pillsbury lakebed in December, 2020 

Without Scott Dam, there will be no fall back, no stored water to provide controlled releases for fish, water supply reliability for families or fire suppression for Lake County and the Mendocino National Forest. 

Please help us fight to save Lake Pillsbury! Donations welcome thru Facebook and our website. 

Lake Pillsbury Alliance

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WITH THE FIRE SEASON FAST APPROACHING, a quick response to fires is of the essence. Air tankers could get to fires faster than the ground crews, especially to remote areas with few roads. More air tankers seems to be a good solution. With the passenger airplane industry at a low ebb because of COVID-19, it might make sense to retrain unemployed airline pilots and re-purpose smaller passenger planes. They could be stationed all over California and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Initial costs might be high, but would be offset by lives (human and animal) and property, saved.

Alex Oppedyk, Forest Knolls

An air tanker drops retardant on the Olinda Fire burning in Anderson, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. The blaze was one of four fires burning near Redding that firefighters scrambled to stop as high winds buffeted Northern California.

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by Mark Scaramella

We found the following cheery but info-free “mental health update” in last week’s CEO report. (This kind of gibberish is what passes for “reporting” in Mendocino County):

“Mental Health programs are entering spring with an eye toward the future! Budgets have been reviewed and submitted for the next fiscal year. Contracts are in the final negotiation stages for the next fiscal year. We have celebrated several retirements of long-standing employees and are working on filling vacancies. Behavioral Health service providers [sic, there’s only one, really] are prepared to lessen restrictions related to improved COVID-19 conditions and expect to resume service deliveries based on current Public Health Orders and precautions. Spring kicks off several Awareness Raising Campaigns, and we look forward to being more visible in the community!”

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LAST WEEK we reported on the “surprise” announcement that Camille Schraeder’s Redwood Community Services had been “selected” as the operator for the new Crisis Residential Treatment facility next door to the Schraeder’s current admin offices on Orchard Avenue, Ukiah. Although Dr. Miller had coyly refused to answer any questions by Measure B stalwart (and Fort Bragg Electrician) Mark Mertle about the pending contract a few months ago, she offered a little more info — after the fact, no input from the Supes or Measure B of course — when a couple of Supervisors had a few idle questions about the “surprise” RCS announcement.

DR. MILLER told the Board that the County only got one “qualified proposal.” She later conceded that in fact that particular proposal was the only proposal they received. The RFP was issued on August 20 of last year and soon after that the County held a bidder's conference where, Dr. Miller noted, “four or five firms attended.” The contract is estimated to be worth about $935k per year. Supervisor Glenn McGourty wondered if the County was putting too many mental health eggs in one RCS basket, asking, “Isn’t there an operational risk of having only one contractor for all this? Why does RCS have so much? Weren’t there other bidders?”

THE REPLY from Dr. Miller? It’s hard to staff for such contracts because of the County’s housing shortage.

CEO Angelo added, “We have been unsuccessful in recruiting other providers.”

In the past, Supervisor Williams has suggested — without follow-up or further discussion — that the $20 million mental health contract at least be broken down into smaller parts so that each one can be put out to bid with a smaller, more manageable scope of work that might attract more bids. Of course, nothing like that has happened and Williams didn’t mention it last week, saying only that he has “capitulated” in trying to get meaningful mental health reports.

(THIS pathetic charade has inspired our creativity. Ladies and Gentlemen, the AVA presents:

OUT FOR BID or YOU GOTTA A PROBLEM WITH THAT, MR MAN?, a short play in one act starring Carmel Angelo, Camille Schraeder and Jenine Miller. 

Scene Set: Conference Room C, Mendocino County Admin Center, 501 Low Gap Road, Ukiah, California. Sometime in the fall of 2020.

CEO Carmel Angelo is seated at the head of the conference table. To her right is Mental Health Director Dr. Jenine Miller. To her left is Camille Schraeder. A large jar of hard candy sits on the conference table within handy reach of the conferees.

Well dressed representatives of four or five NorCal mental health service provider companies file into the room.

Angelo: “Welcome to the Crisis Residential Treatment Services Bidders Conference. We hope you’ve all had a chance to read our RFP. Our Mental Health Director, Dr. Jenine Miller here, will begin by summarizing the services we would like bids for.”

Dr. Miller: (Describes RFP provisions, points out that prospective bidders will have to finance their own services for at least the first two years because the state is so slow in reimbursing counties for MediCal mental health services. Miller provides estimates of how many staff will be required for round-the-clock coverage and security. She then passes out artists' renderings of the intended $5 million county facility — a glorified four bedroom house — and notes the location on Orchard Avenue.)

Bidder Representative: “We've seen in the news that RCS already has a facility next door to this new building under construction. We understand that RCS is already receiving over $20 million a year for similar and related services for the much of the same clientele. Is that correct?”

Dr. Miller: “Camille…?” (referring familiarly to Mrs. Schraeder by her first name).

Camille Schraeder: “Yes, that's correct.”

Bidder Representative: “So let me understand this: In our bids, you expect us to prepare comprehensive qualified proposals that require us to cover almost $1 million a year for two years or more out of our own pocket, find staffing when most of the available qualified staff in the County already work for RCS, which already provides all the other mental health services in the county and does not need to cover $2 million because it’s a small percentage of their $20 milllion per year they’re already getting?”

Dr. Miller: “Yes.”

Bidder Representative: “And if we don't do those things while at the same time meeting all the other technical requirements, our bids will be considered non-qualified?”

Dr. Miller: “Yes.”

Bidder representatives (in unison): “Thank you.”

The five bidder reps quietly rise from their chairs and start to file out of the room. 

Dr. Miller asks, “How about some candy before you leave?”

Bidder representative, grumpily: “We’ve heard enough.”

CEO Angelo, Dr. Miller and Camille Schraeder are left looking at each other. … After a pause, CEO Angelo says: “Well! That was easy! I guess you two better start negotiating! You have until April of next year, so no hurry!”

Dr. Miller and Camille Schraeder in unison: “Okay!”)

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NEXT in the Mental Health discussion agenda was an item proposing to hire a consultant to prepare a “strategic plan” for Measure B facilities money with financials. Supervisor McGourty opened the discussion by asking, “Do we even need a PHF?” Apparently McGourty thought the need for a Psychiatric Health Facility had evaporated with the imminent opening of the new Crisis Residential Treatment Facility and the “operationally risky” RCS operator.

CEO Angelo reminded Supervisor McGourty that Measure B specifically calls for a PHF and the voters fully expect to get one.

SUPERVISOR Williams thought it was too late in the game to hire another consultant. “We can just approve the Kemper report,” said Williams, three years after the $60k Kemper Report was delivered, widely praised, and accepted. “We’ve waited too long. What if a new consultant recommends something other than what we’re already doing, especially the PHF?”

THE BOARD then voted unanimously to approve the Kemper Report and use it as their Strategic Plan and nobody bothered to make the recommended motion for another consultant. Nobody suggested asking the Measure B committee about it. In fact, the Measure B committee wasn’t even mentioned during this discussion. (Last month Supervisor John Haschak had told the Measure B committee that he’d be happy to be their conduit to the Supervisors, and that he would remind the Board that it would be nice if the Board would ask the Measure B committee for input before making any Measure B-related decisions.)

DR. MILLER then told the Board, “We have one provider interested in operating a PHF in Mendocino County.”

HMMM. Who could she possibly have in mind? Surprise us, again, Dr. Miller.

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OFFICERS WEARING JEANS to protest sexual assault and support victims— 

From today through next week you may see any of our officers wearing jeans as part of the uniform. This is in support of Denim Day on 04/28, in protest of sexual assault and part of our support of victims and our partners at Lake Family Resource Center.

Join us in this effort.

(Lake County Sheriff’s Office Presser)

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WHATEVER HAPPENED to the Duke and Duchess of Oil? Ed and Marcie Davies were a Coast couple ubiquitous on local radio call-in shows in the 1990s, so ubiquitous they were eventually banned because they’d robo-call the few stations that took calls from the random public leaving no air time for the less obsessed. Ed and Marcie believed Americans were being deliberately poisoned by our government in vast, complicated conspiracies when, then and now, the poisoning, psychic and tangible, was obvious enough to most of us without laying it at the feet of the malign individuals who own our government. The one time I saw them in person they were dressed like duck hunters in camo tarps and rubber boots. And then, like so many Mendo characters, they disappeared.

FRIENDS OF THE EEL have been fighting a futile battle to restore the mighty river’s natural flow for years now, hoping to return it to its full unimpeded flow as it was in the last century, when the Eel was diverted south at Potter Valley for the modest purpose of the electrification of Ukiah, the diverted overflow waters then channeled on into the upper Russian River which, historically, was dry above Healdsburg in the summer. In the middle 1950s, the diversion filled the newly-constructed Coyote Dam to form Lake Mendocino, whose waters were and are mostly owned by Sonoma County, whose developers persuaded SoCo government to put up the money to build the dam and the lake behind it, thus getting ownership of most of the water stored there forever. Ever since, SoCo has made millions selling that diverted Eel water while generations of Mendo politicians have not dared even discuss re-negotiating the worst deal in local history, a deal that began with the seemingly inconsequential desire to illuminate Ukiah, but whose downstream dependencies are now so huge there is no option but to continue looting the Eel.

“FORWARD EVER, backward never.” Sister Yasmin told me some years ago that was the international Rastafarian motto. I thought she’d said, “Pass the pasta,” and wondered why Rastafarians had adopted a culinary slogan. But Yaz and I had always seemed to suffer a kind of fractured communication, so when she called up to deliver her usual ritual denunciation of “you and the rest of the morons at the AVA” we at last were on the same page. 

AS I DIMLY RECALL, the episode that finished off Mendocino County’s psych unit in Ukiah known as the Puff, a locked facility where the violently flipped out could be held for as long as three days while they were “stabilized,” occurred when a young, rather physically imposing man, age 27, was brought to the County’s psych unit by his family. The young man was distraught at the break-up of a romance and was threatening suicide. When he learned that he would be held for 72 hours for “observation,” he tried to climb over the wall surrounding the place, badly cutting a hand in the process. His family had calmed him by the time the ambulance and a couple of EMT’s, backed up by three Ukiah police officers. And right there was the nut of the prob. The Ukiah cops were always being called out to the PUFF to restore order. Most facilities employ muscle called “orderlies” but, Mendo being Mendo. forceful restraint, then as now, was left to the police while the bringers of peace and light debated “non-violent” tactics in subduing rampaging psychotics.

ON THIS OCCASION, at the sight of Ukiah’s finest, the allegedly love-mad kid announces he’s a martial arts expert who can easily take out the cops, and he jumps up and assumes some kind of half-assed karate stance while wrapping his belt around his uninjured hand as if he’s going to war with the Ukiah PD, one of whose trio of officers tried to pepper spray the kid but missed, his spray billowing outwards in a room-size cloud, disabling the kid’s family, the cops themselves and the EMTs but energizing the karate kid. 

IN THE ENSUING MELEE, with everyone crashing around in a small space, the cops finally got the kid spreadeagled on the floor, and from there hustled him down the hall and out to the cop car where, fearing that the patient, still highly agitated and threatening the world with lethal karate strokes, might kick out the windows of the squad car, they hogtied the kid. 

IT ALL WENT to court where the on-duty psychiatrist at the Psych Unit testified that he was only vaguely aware of a disturbance thirty feet from his office which, translated, means he was hiding under his desk. The verdict? A misdemeanor conviction related to getting in the way of a police officer in the performance of his official duties. The cost to taxpayers? Lots.

THIS FARCE played out in court because the kid charged everyone involved with excessive force. A member of the jury, an older woman retired from one of the psych units at the old state hospital at Talmage, remarked to her fellow jurors that in all her years on the job at Talmage with extremely violent people her unit never once had to call the police to subdue a patient. Some people reassure the disturbed, others ignite them, she said. 

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Seigler Springs, Lake County, 1910

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WE NOTICED what seemed to be an uptick in Covelo area bookings in recent weeks. In April of 2019, there were 12 Covelo bookings. In April of 2020 (during the early stages of the Pandemic) there were only five Covelo bookings. But in April of 2021 there have already been 23 in just the first three weeks of the month. We asked Sheriff Kendall if our impression that more of Covelo's scofflaws were being rounded up was correct. The Sheriff confirmed that he has begun an increased law enforcement presence in Round Valley in advance of a summer offensive when a larger police presence will focus on the worst crooks without being distracted by “the low-hanging fruit,” i.e., run of the mill mopes (and whatever weapons they may have) of the type who've been arrested lately. 

THE SHERIFF SAID he’s been authorized to hire at least three new patrol deputies to focus on Round Valley and he’s actively recruiting for those positions now. He’s also arranging to bring back some (carefully selected) recent law enforcement retirees on month-to-month contracts to supplement the Covelo push. Kendall says he’s arranged with the DA to expedite any necessary search warrants, some of which are already drafted and ready to be presented to a judge with blanks ready to be filled in.

(Mark Scaramella)

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CATCH OF THE DAY, April 24, 2021

Banks, Flinton, Gruber

KRISTEN BANKS, Fort Bragg. DUI, assault with deadly weapon not a gun, misdemeanor hit&run.

SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

JULIUS GRUBER, Willits. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance without prescription, paraphernalia, suspended license.

Langenderfer, Lopez, Macias

BRANDON LANGENDERFER, Willits. Saps/similar weapons, paraphernalia, mandatory supervision sentencing, county parole violation.

PEDRO LOPEZ-GARCIA, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, trespassing/refusing to leave.

JESUS MACIAS-SILVA, Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, suspended license (for reckless driving), disobeying court order.

Magana, McGee, Whisman

CARLOS MAGANA, Ukiah. Domestic abuse.

MICHAEL MCGEE, Ukiah. Resisting, probation revocation.

JESSICA WHISMAN-FRIDAY, Laytonville. Paraphernalia, false ID, failure to appear.

* * *

ORVILLE SCHELL’S CULTURAL REVOLUTION: From Johann Sebastian Bach to Mao Zedung

by Jonah Raskin

“You say you want a revolution,” The Beatles sang in 1968, near the height of the cultural revolution in the U.S., when sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and rebellion mingled and gave birth to a sense of unreality rarely equalled in the twentieth-century. The kicker in The Beatles’ song comes near the end: “But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.” The lads from working class Liverpool weren’t talking to or for the Red Guards, Mao’s shock troops who traveled the length and breath of the Peoples’ Republic of China, turning things upside down, sowing the seeds of chaos and punishing in any way they saw fit, those deemed to be “capitalist roaders.” The Beatles had their eyes on self-styled insurrectionaries close to home, including Black Panthers, SDSers, members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and other cadre organizations who quoted chapter and verse from the Little Red Book, displayed posters of Mao on communes and in collectives and thought of themselves as the vanguard of the future. Borrowing from another nation’s insurrections and upheavals can be inspiring. It can also be perilous.

China hand Orville Schell brings to life the Chinese cultural revolution in his new 601-page novel, My Old Home (Pantheon; $29.95) which, he insists, doesn’t have “a snowball’s chance in hell” of publication in China, where the Communist Party runs a capitalist economy and tries to tell citizens what to think, see, read and feel in the age of Instagram, McDonald’s and Starbucks. 

This year, 2021, marks the 55th anniversary of the start of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which lasted for a decade, but that seemed to go on longer than ten-years. It didn't end until the Chairman died at the age of 82 and the Gang of Four, including Mao’s fourth wife, Jiang Qing, aka Madame Mao—the ringleaders of the cultural revolution—were charged with treason and sentenced to prison. Jiang apparently hung herself in her cell, not a proper death for a genuine revolutionary. She had also been a movie star and perhaps cast herself in the role of a heroine in a pseudo Hollywood melodrama. 

Schell’s novel—which begins soon after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and that runs to the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989—may not be as subversive as the author thinks it is. Indeed, publication in Chinese in Shanghai and Beijing is not inconceivable. After all, Schell expresses admiration for the Chairman, who makes a brief and not unflattering appearance in the novel. Granted, that’s after several hundred pages punctuated with condemnation of Mao and the Chinese Communist Party. But Schell takes a long view of history and aims to put Mao in perspective. That’s what his protagonist, “Little Li,” does and Schell seems to echo Li’s views. In Tiananmen Square, Li thinks of “the larger-than-life role Mao had played on China’s historical stage.” He adds that Mao, like Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler, were “tyrants, but one nonetheless grew accustomed to them as national icons…For better or worse, Mao had become an ineradicable feature of the modern Chinese landscape.” 

Schell and Li are both dyed-in-the wool Maoists in the sense that they have an unerring eye for the kinds of contradictions that the Chairman emphasizes in his pivotal essay, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.” Li has read the essay and digested it. Indeed, he borrows from Mao who distinguishes, he explains, between “contradictions among the people,” which can be “resolved through negotiation and compromise,” and “antagonistic contradictions” which can only be resolved through “confrontation, struggle and violence.” In the pages of his novel, Schell keeps coming back to Mao. Indeed, he quotes some of the best known passages in The Little Red Book, such as “a single spark can light a prairie fire,” which the Weather Underground borrowed for its Maoist manifesto, Prairie Fire, subtitled “Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism.” 

I had a brief phase as a Maoist, but the Beatles helped wake me from my reverie. I knew instinctively that they were right when they sang “if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.” Still it took me time to divest. I remember visiting two self-styled revolutionaries in the Bronx in the early 1970s, where I saw a poster of Mao on the wall and thought they were lost souls. And while the same folks bemoaned Nixon’s meeting with Mao, I thought, “right on,” if you’ll excuse the expression. 

In My Old Home some of the dramatic conflicts, including those between Li and his musician father, are worked out amicably, but on the whole the novel is fueled by the clash of opposites, not compromises. Xi Jinping and fellow members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party might view Schell’s novel as a Maoist work of literature that mixes art and propaganda and tells a riveting narrative about China in the second half of the twentieth-century. My Old Home traces the epic journey of Li, whose life is meant to be emblematic of the whole society and a celebration of its diversity, resilience and flexibility. If the Chinese have from time to time integrated western pop music, fashion and fast food into their own culture they ought to be able to make room for Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S. China Relations at the Asia Society in New York and the former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, once home to lefty groups such as “The Red Family.” 

After steeping himself in Chinese literature, including novels like The Dream of the Red Chamber and stories like Lu Xun’s brilliant “A Madman’s Diary”—and writing and publishing eight books about China, including The Mandate of Heaven, Discos and Democracy and “To Get Rich is Glorious”—it would take a cultural revolution of sorts for Schell to disentangle himself from Mao’s world. Like the Chairman, Schell embraces certain rigidities, though he also aims to be flexible and to allow for paradoxes, ironies and contradictions. 

“I adore music,” he recently noted. “I would suggest that music, particularly religious music and the music of Bach, is as far as you can get from what the Chinese Communist Party, Marxism, Leninism and that whole world represents.” One of the epigrams for My Old Home comes from cellist, composer and conductor, Pablo Casals, who noted, “Music will save the world.” Thank you, Pablo. Perhaps no one thing will save the world, though I have heard it said that “Trees will save the world,” “Bicycles will save the world,” and “Hemp will save the world.” Add music to the long list. 

Bach provides the soundtrack for the novel and gives it much of its energy. “Mao Zedong and Johann Sebastian Bach, what a collision of different sensibilities,” Schell writes in the novel. “Mao believed the world needed to be remade by outward politics and violent revolution, whereas Bach believed in the curative powers of music to help people accept life’s travails and the inevitability of death.” But isn’t there a place in the world for both Bach and revolution? And wasn’t Bach himself an innovative if not an outright revolutionary performer and composer who pushed dissonant chords to the very edge of sound?

Parts of the last sections of My Old Home take place in San Francisco where Li is a kind of latter day Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield whose adventures take him into run-down hotels, menial jobs and the arms of beautiful California women. These sections are entertaining in a journalistic kind of way. Still, the heart of the book follows Li during the cultural revolution to which he is repelled and attracted in about equal measure. His journey takes him from the city to the countryside and from the company of urban intellectuals to nomads who exist on the fringes of Chinese society. 

Even in the most horrific days of the cultural revolution, when, as one character observes, “we’ve been taught to despise ourselves by being despised,” Li and his friends laugh and love and nurture one another. Always, always there’s the enduring presence of the Chairman. “If Mao’s famous portrait ever came down,” Li tells himself, “he’d feel dispossessed.” At 601-pages, My Old Home isn’t a novel to be read in one sitting. Nor are its key passages meant to be chanted in the manner of Mao’s saying. I suggest it be read and savored a bit at a time, and that Schell’s ideas send readers back to a time when The Beatles supplied the soundtrack for a generation that sometimes listened to Timothy Leary who urged followers to “Tune in, turn on and drop out,” a recipe for an American cultural revolution.

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

* * *

* * *


Help is on the way. Fear not, friends. A race of higher beings all made of pure light are coming to Earth. (They’ve been busy visiting countless other races in our galaxy who are sunk in the mire of darkness like us, hence their delay.) Once they arrive they will open our collective inner eye and enable us finally to realize and hence to leave behind the folly of our present way of life. This will release vast reserves of spiritual energy hitherto locked away deep within our inner being, and the energy will bring about a great cleansing and healing on this planet. All will be restored to the original condition in which it was meant to exist: as an expression, a manifestation, a vessel of the Light of Pure Spirit. All the terrible things we face today will fade away like a bad dream; love and peace will finally prevail. Om Shanthi. (P.S. Please don’t tell me all that I’ve said above is rubbish. I don’t want to know, what with the sorry state of affairs in which we all now find ourselves. It’s all I’ve got going for it now. Okay?)

* * *

* * *

TALE OF THE TAPE for the first fight between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight title at Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia, 1926.

* * *


A handful of Democrats want to hold up a $2 trillion infrastructure bill to save a choice tax deduction for the wealthy, not that you'll hear it described that way

by Matt Taibbi

Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey, made an inspired plea recently. The Harvard man and Alpha Epsilon Pi brother is a member of the so-called “SALT caucus,” a group of congressfolk threatening to hold up Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill if it doesn’t include a full repeal of a Donald Trump-imposed $10,000 cap on deductions of state and local taxes. 

“It is high time that Congress reinstates the state and local tax deduction, so we can get more dollars back into the pockets of so many struggling families,” intoned Gottheimer, one of 32 members of the SALT caucus, which includes 8 Republicans.

Pressure on Biden to repeal the SALT cap has been amping up, mainly from tri-state Democrats like Gottheimer, fellow New Jerseyan Bill Pascrell, and Tom Suozzi of New York. “No SALT, no deal!” the trio power-tweeted a few weeks back. Just a few days ago, Gottheimer even came up with a new way to argue the plan, offering to pay for the repeal of the SALT cap by increasing audits.

“There is a way to do this by going after what people owe already,” he said. 

The effort by the “SALT caucus” to hold a $2 trillion relief bill hostage in order to help what they’re calling “struggling families” in the “middle class” is just the latest development in a years-long saga revealing Congress at its phoniest and most shameless.

This issue that “means so much to the American people,” according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is really a niche matter concerning a sliver of the most well-off Americans in a handful of blue states, who were made the target of a political prank of sorts by the Trump administration in 2017.

There are a lot of people who own homes in blue states, could use the deduction, probably don’t think of themselves as rich, and would balk at the idea that repealing the cap would be a luxury giveaway. The story has been framed in the press as more of an everyman issue, and the fact that most of the money at stake involves people at the very top of the curve has been obscured.

The start of this story was classic Trump. Looking for ways to help pay for his own monster tax break at the end of 2017, the Donald decided to poke Democrats with a long stick, via the cap on the unlimited state and local tax deduction.

“He did it for all the wrong reasons,” says David Sirota of The Daily Poster, “but it was the one progressive thing he ever did.”

Economist Stephen Moore, who advised Trump, called the cap “Death to Democrats.” On October 11th, 2017, Trump explained to an approving Sean Hannity that he, Trump, was just trying to help states with fiscal problems help themselves. Note the loving repetition here of the word, “borrowing”:

You know, you have some really well-run states that have very little borrowing. Some have no borrowing, very little borrowing. And it's unfair that a state that is well-run is really subsidizing states that have been horribly mismanaged. I won't use names, but we understand the names. But there are some states that have hundreds of millions and billions of dollars in borrowing.

However, the SALT cap didn’t so much go after “Democrats” as “affluent Democrats.” It only applied to people who itemize their taxes, which meant the 90% of Americans who take the standard deduction were unaffected. The deduction raised over $70 billion in just the first year, and roughly 56% of that money came just from the top 1% of taxpayers, living in a few states in particular.

The tax nastygram seemed directed at Trump’s hometown delegation. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in April of 2017 complained about the cost of protecting “Trump and his family here in NYC”; the SALT cap affected 19% of Maloney’s constituents in Brooklyn and on the Upper East Side, and taxpayers in that 19% each lost an average of $100,405 in breaks. Chuck Schumer, one of Trump’s fiercest critics, personally took over $58,000 in SALT deductions just in 2016. 

Overall, 39 of the 40 districts most affected by the SALT cap were represented by Democrats. Of those, 28 came from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Also affected: Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district, where residents lost an average of $53,471 of write-offs. Trump’s campaign promises to take on “elites” proved phony, except when he was able to effect this targeted partisan strike at the people he knew and hated the most: rich, socially liberal Democrats, especially ones from the tri-state area.

The joke ended up being on them, but at the time, the gloat factor in the Trump White House was enormous. The administration’s vermian Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin, boasted that he was using the SALT caps to hoist blue states on their own fiscal petard. “I do hope this sends a message that, perhaps, they should try to get their budgets in line,” he said. 

Politically, the SALT cap was like a kids’ prank, putting a dogpile in a paper bag and setting it on fire on a neighbor’s stoop: you can’t let it burn, but you don’t want to step in it, either. For Democrats, letting it go would draw hell from top donors, while fighting back would surely invite accusations of prostituting for the wealthy. What choice would they make?

Almost universally, Democrats united behind a repeal, arguing with a straight face the SALT cap did not benefit the affluent, but “families,” the “middle class,” and “working people.”

A common theme was that even if the tax break didn’t directly affect most, it indirectly hurt everyone, since ordinary people would be denied “essential services” as a result of overall decreased tax revenue (a “backdoor hit to every taxpayer around the country” was how Chicago congressman Danny Davis put it). Beyond that, Democrats cried, the plan was unfair. Pelosi’s formulation was that the SALT cap was not just “devastating” (!), but “mean-spirited” and “politically motivated.”

Within a year after the cap was imposed, a quartet of states led by New York filed a 52-page federal lawsuit — State of New York, State of Connecticut, State of Maryland, and State of New Jersey v. Steven Mnuchin — challenging the cap’s constitutionality. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo led the fire-and-brimstone brigade. 

“The federal government is hellbent on using New York as a piggy bank to pay for corporate tax cuts and I will not stand for it,” Cuomo said, adding that he was “proud to announce that New York is the first state in the nation to take legal action against Trump’s tax plan that benefits the 1 percent at the expense of middle-class families.”

That was an odd way to put it, since the SALT cap overwhelmingly affected the 1%. As the Brookings Institute pointed out, the SALT cap in its distribution of benefits was actually more regressive even than Trump’s infamous Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which Democrats denounced as a handout to the rich. After the midterm elections of 2018, members on the Hill whispered to any reporter who would listen that the Democrats’ success had been driven by popular outrage over the SALT fiasco. The cap was “one of the major reasons the House flipped from Republicans to Democrats,” said Chuck Schumer, and the data bore him out: Democrats picked up 15 seats in the 50 districts that had the highest rate of voters claiming the deduction, while picking up just two in the bottom 50 such districts. 

But what did that mean? Was there widespread popular anger about the SALT cap, or was this just another demonstration that “Democratic support has been increasing for years in higher-income, highly-educated areas,” as the Tax Policy Center noted? 

It’s not outlandish to think the SALT episode played a role in speeding what’s been a long-developing transformation of voter bases, with Democrats more and more rapidly taking over the Bill Buckley bedroom communities that Republicans used to dominate. At minimum, the SALT issue inspired mindfreak rhetorical spectacles like Mitch McConnell arguing against a tax on “wealthy people,” and Ted Cruz defending the caps by saying, “The only people whose taxes are going up are the really rich.”

The new Democrats elected in 2018 ended up providing the core of the “SALT caucus” with California’s Katie Porter and Mike Levin, New Jersey’s Mike Sherrill, Andy Kim, and Tom Malinowski, and Lauren Underwood from Illinois among the members. Since Biden’s win, the SALT warriors redoubled efforts for repeal, with the impressively shameless Suozzi denouncing the cap as an “existential” problem and a “body blow to New York and middle-class families throughout the country.” Other caucus members similarly went all-out in describing a repeal of the SALT cap as something like the second coming of the Tennessee Valley Authority. 

“The SALT cap penalizes working-class Long Islanders,” said New York’s Andrew Garbarino. “From firefighters to police officers, to teachers, to nurses, and small business owners, I hear from people every day about what a crushing blow the SALT cap has delivered them.”

“SALT does in fact make a critical difference in helping make ends meet for our middle-class residents like teachers and law enforcement officers,” said Sherrill. 

“The cap on the state and local tax deduction hurts middle-class California families,” said Porter. 

All this propaganda put the national press in a bind. According to Trump-era custom, mainstream publications rarely use words like “lie” in conjunction with Democrats, and never phrases like “open political whoring.” The bulk of coverage of the SALT debate therefore relied on euphemisms and weasel words, with one outlet after another reaching for headlines that didn’t describe a transparent effort to lower taxes at the top of the top income bracket. 

A popular take was to depict the SALT dilemma as a “challenge” or “risk” for Democrats. “California Democrats should make gutsy move on taxes,” wrote a columnist for the San Jose Mercury-News. “Democrats Get Clout Needed for Risky Bid to End Trump’s SALT Cap,” added Bloomberg. “California Democrats have a chance to flex some muscle and work to restore deductions for taxpayers,” wrote the Los Angeles Times. 

The New York Times was most creative. “SALT Tax Increase That Burned Blue States is Targeted by Democrats,” read an effort from 2019, noting the party’s effort to restore a “popular tax break.” The Times later went with “Pelosi Floats New Stimulus Plan: Rolling Back SALT Cap.”

They were also one of many outlets to describe the Democrats’ position on SALT as “uncomfortable” or “awkward,” as in, “The state and local tax issue is in some ways an awkward one for Democrats, because they are trying to restore a tax break that primarily benefited relatively high earners.” 

My personal favorite came from Wall Street’s Old Faithful, Andrew Ross Sorkin, who hosted a debate on Squawk Box between Suozzi and onetime antitax crusader Mick Mulvaney. Reading off a question to Mulvaney from what Sorkin called an “astute” viewer, he suggested paying state tax was like paying tax to a foreign country:

If a U.S. citizen pays income tax today to a foreign state, to a foreign country, they get an uncapped foreign tax credit… to their federal tax liability. However, if they pay to a domestic state, right, like New York, they get capped. Does that make any sense to you in the world?

Missing most from coverage has been any indication of the sheer size of the amounts at stake. Even in light of the news that the Biden administration is “eyeing” a capital gains increase that could generate $370 billion over ten years, that’s still way short of the $600 billion in revenue over ten years that would be sacrificed if the SALT cap is repealed. 

The Biden administration, incidentally, has yet to line up behind Pelosi and Schumer and back a repeal of the cap, and a lot depends on their decision. Among New York’s congressional delegation, just a few members have not backed the SALT cap repeal, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who called a potential repeal a “gift to billionaires”).

In yet another example of the upside-downness around this issue, some of the only attempts to speak in plain language about SALT have come from the financial press, where Forbes wondered if Democrats would cut taxes “for the rich” and Yahoo! Finance said this was one tax break the Democrats should “grant the wealthy.”

Beyond that, only a handful of voices like Richard Reeves at Brookings and Sirota from the Daily Poster have evinced much interest. Democrats have mostly succeeded in painting the matter as an assault on partisan dignity. 

Sirota, who worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2020, tells a story about getting an email from a Long Island-based finance professional who was furious about the SALT cap, adding, “I have the courage to wear my Bernie hat on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.” Sirota tweeted: “We are in hell.”

In one Poster piece, Sirota talked about how the SALT debate arose in the context of messaging that appears with increasing frequency in pop culture and the press, about how hard life is in the top tax bracket. The classic of the genre was a Times piece from 2009 entitled, “You Try to Live on 500K in This Town,” but, he notes, it started earlier:

In the lead-up to the financial crisis the Washington Post insisted that a family making $300,000 is just “squeaking by.” Fast Company has told readers about a family supposedly living “paycheck to paycheck” on $325,000 a year. CNBC insists that it costs $350,000 to be middle class in a big city. And the New York Times has insisted that earning only $500,000 a year makes it difficult to live in a Big Apple where the median annual household income is $60,000. 

There are legitimate reasons to be in favor of restoring the full deduction, but instead of talking about them, Democratic leaders and pundits have mostly been trying to sell the public on an absurd lie: that a tax break for which only 1 in 10 Americans even qualifies, and overwhelmingly benefits those in the highest-earning percentile, is a “middle-class” benefit. No one seems to mind that this is the same take Democrats blasted when used by Republicans to argue for the Bush tax cuts or the repeal of the estate tax.

After the midterms in 2018, former CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider said the Democrats were “becoming a party dominated by educated, upper-middle-class, liberal whites,” analysis that was borne out in 2020, when gains among that exact demographic helped Democrats win back the White House from Trump. It would be surprising if they didn’t develop economic policies to match, and the “SALT caucus” is a big step in that direction.


* * *


Vietnam veterans protest film

Fifty years ago this month, Vietnam vets came to Washington, DC to protest the war in Vietnam. It remains the most dramatic, memorable demonstration I ever experienced. With my close friends David Davis and Deirdre English, I (age 22) made a short, scrappy, 16mm, B&W documentary, DC III*, about these protests. I revived it for a Notre Dame-sponsored webinar this week on the anniversary of the protests. 

You can see the film here:

Stephen Talbot, Director

The Movement and the Madman (in production):

* * *


Thanks for this, Steve.

I spent my anti-war demonstration time stateside often in my “utilities,” it turned out to be a transformative moment in my life when I belatedly learned in 1971 of the death of a childhood friend.

Eleven of his Army unit were killed in an ambush in Vietnam in 1969. Kenneth Walter Miller was only 19 when they perished in 1969. Kenneth had only been “in country” for less than 30 days.

Kenny was a great kid, I used to hike and hunt with him on the farmland near my grandparents' home in Speed, Kansas. His parents only child, Kenneth is buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Phiilipsburg, Kansas. 

* * *

TOO MANY AMATEUR INSTRUCTORS have forgotten entirely that the purpose of boxing lessons is to teach a fellow to defend himself with his fists, not to point him toward amateur or professional competition with boxing gloves. To a menacing extent, the purpose of fistic instruction has been bypassed by amateur tutors, who try to benefit themselves financially, indirectly or directly, by producing punchless performers, who can win amateur or professional bouts on points.

Jack Dempsey

* * *


The sawmill nearly took the arm of a high school football player. Now the young man looks forward.

* * *

IN PREPARATION FOR READING ‘FAHRENHEIT 451,’ my class did a little social experiment. While they were working at their desks, I had them quietly move to the board and make a tally mark each time they got a notification on their phone. Grand total for today: 1,678 notifications. That’s 1,678 interruptions to learning caused by cellphones. One of the central ideas of F451 is that constant, mindless distractions prevent people from developing authentic relationships and suppress deep thought. Hmmm...

— Julie Holland Griggs

* * *

* * *


There are no wrong answers but most are less correct than others. All responses evaluated by licensed officials, scores published, attitudes analyzed, consequences likely. 

1) Would you rather

A) Be suffering from a serious wound

B) Have spent years in a horrid place

C) Parents be jihad terrorists

D) See your dog run over by truck

 2) On 23 hour turbo prop flight to Colostomystan, your choice:

A) Drunken pilot

B) Sit next to man in filthy clown suit trying to fondle you

C) Next to jabbering lady with rabid lizard on lap

D) ‘Ishtar’ your inflight movie

3) Best sunscreen option for July in Ukiah:

A) Coppertone SP 60

B) Revlon Ultrascreen

C) Rite-Aid SunBlock II

D) The Forest Club

4) Your dream life (rockstar, President, billionaire, etc) in exchange for:

A) Cancer, dead at 39

B) Allowing typhoon to annihilate island, thousands die

C) Sell parents into slavery

D) Spend final 40 years at San Quentin

5) Most trustworthy?

A) Gypsy fortune tellers

B) Hedgefund managers

C) Spouse’s divorce lawyer


6) Recent California disasters taught you:

A) Go to church

B) Get a gun

C) Trust your neighbor

D) Move to Indiana

7) Best advice to a child:

A) Get a good education 

B) See the world 

C) Make $$$ (YOLO!)

D) You’ll make a fine hermit

8) In two minutes you address crowd of 3000. Your choice:

A) Talk one hour, no prep, on Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930

B) Take stage naked, televised by CSPAN, your kids watching

C) Fire breaks out, several die; you emerge unscathed

D) Attacked by murder hornets, vomit on self; hospital staff speaks Tagalog 

9) Trapped on a desert island with 

A) OJ Simpson and half-ton of cocaine.

B) Brother in-law who talks only of college sports, intestinal distress.

C) Same filthy clown you met on airplane

D) Endless loop of ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’ over loudspeakers

10) You can be any of the following:

A) Retired, homeless, living in burned-out van 

B) Employee of Month at Hormel slaughterhouse 

C) School teacher in Ukiah

D) Terminally ill, but took Gold at ’84 Olympics

11) Post-funeral you uncover $10 million in parents’ attic. Next move?

A) Report earnings to IRS 

B) Spend it on friends, like you always promised if you won lottery

C) Leave cash in attic, avoid negative carbon footprint

D) Move, change name, don’t tell siblings

12) Northbound express leaves San Rafael at 8:20 a.m., to arrive in Cloverdale:

A) Local voters OK indentured servitude via big rail tax hike 

B) Subject of next special Twilight Zone episode

C) Same day Pt. Arena-to-Seattle rail service starts

D) Hypothetical: If Garberville southbound also departs at 8:20 a.m., each at 58 miles per hour and trains collide in Cloverdale, will anyone hear the sound?

13) Baby Boomer realizations in 21st century:

A) Never trust anyone under 70

B) Tune Out, Turn Off, Wise Up

C) If it feels good you took too many meds

D) Tweet the Rich 

(Tommy Wayne Kramer)


  1. Craig Stehr April 25, 2021

    Kuei-shan asked Yun-yen
    “What is the seat of enlightenment?”
    Yun-yen said,
    “Freedom from artificiality.”
    – Kuei-shan (771-854)

  2. Michael Koepf April 25, 2021

    For “little” Bruce McGwen, who seldom awakes before 4 PM.

    I’m Nobody! Who are you?
    Are you – Nobody – too?
    Then there’s a pair of us!
    Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

    How dreary – to be – Somebody!
    How public – like a Frog –
    To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
    To an admiring Bog!

    Emily Dickinson Unknown and un-admired during her lifetime.

    • Bruce McEwen April 25, 2021

      Little Bruce McEwen
      Never knew what he was doin’
      — No, He never had a clue,
      Our little Bruce McQ!

      His wits were dull and simple,
      On a reporter’s arse
      he wouldn’t make a pimple.
      But to the mighty AVA he went
      (a courthouse hack was his bent)
      A here he made a life (of sorts)
      Between the bar and the courts.

      Methinks he never drew a sober breath
      (He smelled like beer, looked like death)
      Yet he somehow managed,
      For a little while,
      To make some deranged
      Readers crack a smile.

      • chuck dunbar April 25, 2021

        Thank you, Master Bruce. Cool poem that did in fact make this “this deranged reader crack a smile.”

      • Michael Koepf April 25, 2021

        That was good up to the last stanza. Somehow, deranged and little breaks the rhythm and slows your poem.
        Yet he managed,
        For a while,
        To make a reader crack a smile.

        Little Bruce, qualifiers. How many times do I have to tell you. (adjectives and adverbs) Learn to use them sparsely. Or not at all. One may think they add intellectual weight, but they slow and drag things down, when trying to make a point. Create every sentence naked before you dress it up. That will help you a lot.

        • chuck dunbar April 25, 2021

          And yet “deranged” readers help us remember that it’s the AVA, and so many of the readers–or at least those who comment–are just that!

          • Bruce McEwen April 26, 2021

            “Any puny scrub can belittle others and bandy insults; it takes a bigger man to make light of himself and treat his opponent with respect.”

            — Grandpa McEwen’s Compendium of Useful Epigrams

        • Bruce McEwen April 25, 2021

          I’ll make a note of it, thanky kindly, Professor Koepf.

          Do you still want to see me after class?

          If not, I think I’ll cut along to the taproom and have a few draughts w/ Chuck & Bob.

          • chuck dunbar April 25, 2021

            It’s good, I think, that you are amenable to instruction/supervision, Mr. Bruce. I myself– kind of dour, dissatisfied with life, even a bit deranged– might have bit back hard in such circumstances… See you for those drinks…

      • Bob A. April 25, 2021

        That, right there, was $25 well spent.

      • James Luther April 25, 2021

        Whether cool or biting,
        I miss his courthouse writing.
        Please bring back McEwen a-fighting.

  3. Lazarus April 25, 2021

    RE: Covelo
    As a resident of the north county, the Covelo issue has become unacceptable. I spent time there back in 2013-14. Even then, the residents felt abandoned by their government and law enforcement. I was speaking with some men at the local butcher’s place one day, and when I ask about the law in the area, they laughed at me. One young man who had recently returned from a tour in Iraq said he could not believe what had happened to his hometown and the surrounding countryside. Another guy said the hills around Covelo are checkered with holes filled with bodies.
    When I naively mentioned the previous sheriff, they scoffed and called him unflattering names. At the time, I was surprised at that, but now, knowing what I know, I’m not.
    I hope this sheriff can save what’s left of Round Valley. But he needs more than three new deputies. They need military action to take back the Valley. But with Biden’s and Newsom’s government, good luck with that…
    I wonder how many other small rural towns are in the same situation as Covelo? Taken over and controlled by thugs, cartels, the mob, and left lawless and hopeless.
    Be safe,

    • Betsy Cawn April 25, 2021

      It’s not quite that bad in Lake County, but the general opinion of local residents has traditionally been that the “government” is at the very least overwhelmed by the pervasive presence of unstoppable assholes.

      Overall our heads of government (county-level elected and appointed officials) have chosen to endorse and fund programs that benefit the business operators (if they are members in good standing in approved social organizations, otherwise . . . not so much), and the machine that brings in general fund revenues, over the public health and safety responsibilities they pay lip service to.

      Neighborhoods in Lake County census “tracts” with minimal public services (in 2003, the County BoS approved an ordinance titled “Code of the West,” that explains to owners of private roads and parcels within subdivisions that require property-owner maintained utility corridors) suffer levels of petty crime, vandalism, domestic violence, assault (and attempted or successful murder), elder and child abuse, profound illiteracy and social ignorance, and less “compliance” with COVID-conscious personal etiquette “ordered” by the state and local public health departments — not unlike other poor rural counties anywhere, really. What makes our situations most untenable is the blatant knowledge of these horrors, not unlike the long-standing awareness of California’s drought-driven battles for life-sustaining water barely acknowledged by ag-dominated government honchos put in office by wine barons.

      Adoration of Mendocino’s Sheriff-Saints has been documented in several recent historical essays, and the existing Sacred Cow Club includes the creator of Measure B (to “solve” the county’s mental health institutional problems), Tom Allman, and Jim Tuso and his girl gangs in the helping industries who “empower” your oh, so well-meaning elected officials to live in that bubble they seem to occupy where these realities are not their direct responsibility. *

      We appreciate Sheriff Kendall’s forthright efforts in these matters, but have little hope for the solution to be squarely faced by your Board of Supervisors, who do swear an oath to uphold the California Constitution, which — in Article XIII, Chapter 35, California Constitution — prioritizes spending of public tax revenues for public health and safety.

      *When it comes to protecting the vulnerable populations, this particular mafia is most egregiously neglectful; basic health care supportive services to assist disabled persons to live economically and safely at “home” (instead of building high-dollar institutional care facilities — the objective of the 1965 Older Americans Act) are barely recognized as assets worth investing in, with untapped capacities to respond to the many emergencies we now suffer as a consequence of living in a very-high-risk natural environment. The two counties share responsibility for the “Area Agency on Aging,” which has chosen to remain as totally passive as possible in the role of implementing the Older Americans Act, the Older Californians Act, and many programs developed by the state Department of Aging. Vulnerable environmental assets are treated with equal disdain by this government, with the results we have today — addressed on this side of the Cow by new Board of Supervisor commitments to “rebrand” the County of Lake. Don’t tempt me.

  4. Betsy Cawn April 25, 2021

    First time reading the word “vermian” as an adjective, but looking it up cannot find the nuance I’m sure that Taibbi intended. If anyone would like to explicate, I’d love it. [This particular subject is well-elucidated in today’s Taibbi screed; I’m really enjoying his prose and the fine points he includes in providing context of his supporting arguments.]. This is the medical explanation, from which I assume that Matt means that Mnuchin is mentally malformed in some fashion (sounds right to me):

  5. Professor Cosmos April 25, 2021


    Help is on the way. Fear not, friends. A race of higher beings all made of pure light are coming to Earth. (They’ve been busy visiting countless other races in our galaxy who are sunk in the mire of darkness like us, hence their delay.) Once they arrive they will open our collective inner eye and enable us finally to realize and hence to leave behind the folly of our present way of life…”

    Oh, LORDY…
    I know that those sweeping from the central Asian steppes into Iran and India 4000 or so years ago brought with them their high gods, aka “the shining ones”, so we don’t have a need for more savior help from light beings.
    Such help would in fact be disempowering, a form of cultural colonization, if the source is not from our own ranks, executed in the course of natural relationship free of status and ranking. (ALSO, the medieval guru model of devotional alignment that was imported here in the 70s is dead now as a viable way. Artists are the new Gurus.)

  6. Craig Stehr April 25, 2021

    Featuring singer Anuradha Paudwal…this is just excellent for individual spiritual empowerment, destroying the demonic in the present abominable dark phase of Kali Yuga, and for realizing a spiritually focused direct action team! >>> <<<

    Contact me at:
    Craig Louis Stehr
    Snail Mail: P.O. Box 938, Redwood Valley, CA 95470-0938

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