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Off the Record (May 5, 2021)

SAVING HEADWATERS, a look back. Which is probably a look forward to what will happen at Jackson State Forest despite the opposition to logging 500 acres of it. (State reps McGuire and Wood are of course silent on Jackson State.) In 1996, representatives of eight local enviro entities, from Earth First! to the Sierra Club, turned over negotiations for Headwaters to Dianne Feinstein and John Garamendi, leaving the tree huggers hugging thin air, and out of the negotiations completely. DiFi and Garamendi of course worked out a deal for a fraction of Headwaters' trees in exchange for maximum public money — an agreement so disproportionately in corporate raider Charles Hurwitz’s favor that even his usual allies in Congress balked at forking over three quarters of a billion dollars for 9,000 acres of Humboldt County's old growth redwoods, which Hurwitz had come to own via a junk bond deal that gave him all of Pacific Lumber, including the worker’s pension fund. PL had been a privately owned company by the Murphy family of Humboldt County.

IN 1996, representatives of eight local enviro entities, from Earth First! to the Sierra Club, turned over negotiations for Headwaters to Dianne Feinstein and John Garamendi, leaving the tree huggers hugging thin air, out of the negotiations completely. DiFi and Garamendi worked out a deal for a fraction of Headwaters' trees for maximum public money to Hurwitz — an agreement so disproportionately in Hurwitz’s favor that even his usual allies in Congress balked at forking over three quarters of a billion dollars of public money for 9,000 acres of old growth redwoods.

REALIZING they’d been hustled, but never apologizing for or even explaining their huge tactical errors, local enviros protested the deal in a sedate arrest-fest at Carlotta, complete with march and rally monitors who told us not to do or say anything that would upset Pacific Lumber. A couple of famous singers showed up to get their PC tickets punched, and nothing critical of the Clinton Administration and its Hurwitz-friendly environmental policies was said from the platform, not that many people could hear what was being said and sung because the idealist who’d rented his sound gear to the rally for $400 couldn’t get it to work. 

THE RALLY had been shoved onto the margins of Highway 36 because PL wouldn’t allow the 8,000 people who showed up the use of a nearby field, as if 8,000 people could have been stopped from simply occupying whatever rally site they chose, including Highway 36 itself. 

PRIOR to all the capitulations by Northcoast enviros, former Congressman Dan Hamburg was tossed off the enviro team for correctly saying in public that Headwaters wouldn’t be preserved if negotiations for it were turned over to Democrats like Feinstein and Garamendi. Hamburg was right but the so-called radicals of Earth First!, then a regular media presence, badmouthed him for simply pointing out the reality of a very bad deal, and then it was on to Carlotta.

IN 1996, the demo at Carlotta was to rally support for the preservation of Headwaters Forest, which had already been sold out. Darryl Cherney of Earth First!, taking full advantage of the occasion, released an album of enviro songs by famous singers called “If A Tree Falls,” a title amended by cynics to “If A Tree Falls, Two Bucks Fall Into My Pocket.”

ABOUT THIS TIME, and I still have the fax, came this presser called, “Who Bombed Judi Bari? featuring twenty-three selections of her greatest speeches, plus assorted newsclips and songs comprise this 72 minute treasure trove of cutting edge wisdom and with, available on CD, vinyl and cassette.” 

THE JUDI BARI record hype came with a nearly complete re-write of the truth about who she was, what she did and what she accomplished. “Judi didn’t preach from the ivory tower of intellectualism; she talked the language of the streets, the woods, and the working class from which she came.” In fact, Judi was an intellectual who became an anti-intellectual, succumbing to the New Age rituals, time capsule hippie-ism and the pseudo-mysticism of many of her constituents, who she privately ridiculed. JB’s gifts as a speaker and writer inspired Redwood Summer, but she wasn’t enough of an intellectual to get past the adulation of toadies, and not enough of an intellectual to make the movement grow. She was not an environmental Lenin.

NOR DID JUDI Bari come from the working class, loosely defined here as people who work for wages. She was a daughter of securely upper middleclass parents who had been communists in their youth. Nor was she a union organizer. Judi helped organize one wildcat strike among post office workers in opposition to the existing postal union. Most condescending of all to the memory of the old girl is this fatuous statement: “She introduced many to the notion (notion?) that it was the industry owners and not the workers who were responsible for forest destruction. She built bridges to the loggers and millworkers, helping injured sawmill workers start an IWW labor union at a nearby Georgia Pacific mill.” 

EVEN THE DIMMEST enviro understood that loggers aren’t responsible for corporate policy. Judi did try to get past the class snobbery infecting many of the more privileged environmentalists, but bridge-building from trust fund hippies to conventional 8-5 people (5am until the afternoon winds come up for loggers) was much over-rated because it’s impossible to “organize” people from outside the work place. 

JUDI DID WRITE a fine account of an L-P mill worker — George Alexander — who was nearly killed at L-P’s Cloverdale mill when a piece of debris flew off the huge, unscreened sawlog blade at his work site, almost decapitating him. Alexander, a young Hopland guy with a strong sense of himself, refused L-P’s attempts to take him on the road as a professional victim of environmental terrorism. L-P wound up fighting Alexander for injury benefits after they’d loudly put it falsely out everywhere that the debris that had nearly killed him was actually an Earth First! spike. 

WHOEVER wrote the record promo hadn’t even taken the time to get Judi Bari’s best efforts down correctly. Her legacy, for the media mesmerized who think in terms of legacies, is mixed, to put it gently. A serious political person, after all, would have set up her foundation to carry on political struggle, but Judi Bari’s foundation collects money to benefit her daughters, both of them are well protected by the wealthy families of both their parents.

THE BASIC FACT of the Bari decade is that corporate timber made more money than it had ever made on the Northcoast, and then they ran away. Judi Bari’s real accomplishments were always wildly inflated by people trying to make a posthumous buck off the old girl. There are still a few groupie websites out there mythologizing the Bari interlude and lying about the car bomb that nearly killed her in Oakland thirty-two years ago. Check that; “lying” is a little too strong. Let's say deliberately refusing to consider the known facts and leave it at that.

THAT was a particularly gruesome double murder west of Willits last week, about ten miles out Sherwood Road. A Mexican father and son were the victims in an apparent dispute originating in a marijuana grow. The way we hear it, the two men were dumped and set on fire, their immolation strewn contemptuously with beer bottles and dead chickens. The man charged with the murders is Christopher Gamble pictured here in his booking photo. 

Christopher Gamble

Gamble looks like a man suddenly aware his life has also ended, and when you tote up all the lives lost to the love drug up and down the Northcoast…

ON-LINE COMMENT re murder site: “I knew that area in the 80s- First Gate ‘groovy’ 2nd Gate and Troll Ridge ‘ nice people, they may ask why you’re on their road’ 3rd Gate and Beyond ‘Look Out! This is where Crazy starts. Do Not go there w/o an invite!’ I ran out to Timber Ridge on a couple CAMP busts as a solo member of CLMP (Civil Liberties Monitoring Project) as I looked to document any CAMP violations and excesses, protecting my unknown neighbors from those pigs.”

BUT MENDO stumbles on with another jumbled scheme to expand dope grows where they heretofore have not been permitted, not that the Green Rush has ever been deterred by what is or isn't permitted by an authority with almost no ability to enforce the rules. And Mendo never seems to learn from effective marijuana regulating strategies adopted by adjacent Humboldt County, also an area suffering an influx of growers who have arrived to batter the natural world in the hopes of quick cash-ins.

MUST ADMIT that Biden, whomever's doing his programming, has been almost Bernie-quality in the Go Big scope of his thinking. Last week, when the poor old guy's shoved out there in front of the teleprompter, he proposed universal free preschool for kids aged 3 to 4, as well as two free years of community college regardless of income. Good. Just what's needed. Community colleges used to be free, and the old Head Start programs were a clear benefit to millions of children, two of mine included. Overall, Biden’s American Families Plan is said to make up $1.8 trillion in investments and tax credits over the next decade. “The American Families Plan is an investment in our children and our families—helping families cover the basic expenses that so many struggle with now, lowering health insurance premiums, and continuing the American Rescue Plan’s historic reductions in child poverty.” Atta boy, Joe! The plan also includes a tax overhaul focused on the “highest income Americans,” which the White House claims will raise about $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

THE OLD BOY does seem at least partially aware of his robot status, blurting out last week that if he took any more questions than he had pre-made answers for he would be in “trouble.” 

THE CITY OF UKIAH has hired a former Santa Rosa police lieutenant as a consulting expert in the Magdaleno episode. Cop bashers are already complaining that the Santa Rosa consultant is the same guy who defended the SRPD in the shooting death of Andy Lopez, a controversy still hot in the Rose City.

MENDOCINO COUNTY has been hauling cops up from Sonoma County for years to investigate a variety of Mendo police-involved episodes. Farcical, really, given the cozy police relationships with not only SoCo law enforcement but law enforcement throughout the Northcoast. How about an independent police consultant from somewhere other than the immediate neighborhood?

THAT SAID, I'VE WATCHED the Magdaleno episode four times now. Sorry, I don't see excessive force. A large, strong, young man cranked out of his skull is running around naked in the middle of South State Street? Not good for him, not good for the neighborhood. It took half the department to subdue him and, by the way, he was not injured. 

MAGDALENO and his family used to live in the Anderson Valley. Nice people. The kid himself played sports at Boonville High School, then, post high school, seems to have gotten heavily into drugs and the consequent mental illness that come with prolonged drug use. When he's not on street drugs he is not a police problem but, it seems, he is also not a client of one or another of the county's 31-agency continuum of care.

BOTTOM LINE? Mendocino County, despite the annual millions spent on mental health, does not have an effective mental health apparatus.

WITH THE VILLAGE of Mendocino going dry earlier than usual this drought year of 2021, I’ve often wondered why Mendocino hasn’t tapped the Caspar Cattle Company, Oscar Smith proprietor, for a steady supply of water, assuming of course that Smith’s Caspar source is as lush as it is said to be. I know Smith sells water to a commercial water hauler who already supplies many parched customers in nearby Mendocino, why not supply more? This water source, on the east side of Highway One, used to supply the old mill town of Caspar and its huge mill — more than a thousand people and large-scale, steam-driven machinery. Smith also broached a plan a few years ago that would restore the old Caspar mill pond, some of whose waters Smith would then sell to water-starved Mendocino after Mendocino obtained all necessary permits. This scheme fell through because Mendocino’s informal government (it isn’t incorporated) was unenthusiastic. Moreover, people immediately pointed out that the old mill pond was now an entirely new “riparian ecology” which it would be unwise to disrupt. 

RECOMMENDED READING: “Families, A Pictorial History of Round Valley, 1864 to 1938, A Project of The Friends of Round Valley Public Library, Covelo, California.” Anyone interested in the history of Mendocino County will want to have a copy of this very nicely produced book which, apart from its copious and fascinating collection of photos of early Covelo and its residents, also contains many passages from memoirs and newspapers of the time, illuminating the history of a very small place with a very big history. The book was steered to completion by Elmer Bauer and Floyd Barney, Covelo old timers whose roots go back almost to the middle of the last century when the first white slavers and outlaws — since upgraded to pioneer and explorer status — stumbled into Round Valley. I was especially fascinated by excerpts taken from the memories of Judson Liftchild, Covelo’s first doctor who seems to have arrived in town in the 1880s. Of a time when educated people not only were expected to be able to write and talk, Liftchild, as many educated people of the time, wrote in a vivid prose which, like no other I’ve read on local history, enables us to feel what it was like in this unique, and uniquely volatile little community in eastern Mendocino County. 

EXCERPT: “CARTER ROHRBAUGH was the opposition lawyer and indulged in a number of sallies at my expense, in what I thought was rather poor taste, and I resorted to a little sarcasm myself, to the great enjoyment of the spectators, who always expected to be entertained whenever Judge Redwine’s court was in session. To my client’s surprise, as well as my own, as I really believe he was guilty, he was acquitted by the jury and Brad was returned to society, his remaining period of existence being spent in getting drunk and sobering up again. Poor Carter died under mysterious circumstances several years ago, having been shot while riding home one night. It was probably accidental, as he was too passive a character to incur enemies and passed through life as easily as possible, being satisfied with plenty of smoking materials and a book. He received an excellent education but lacked initiative. And there was little in Round Valley to stir his ambition, so he found refuge among his books, becoming a sort of literary hermit.” 

BAUER AND BARNEY made a large contribution to County history with this wonderful book, which used to be available from the Covelo library (and may still be) whose proceeds go to support, the Round Valley Public Library, P.O. Box 620, Covelo, Ca 95428. $41.04 per soft cover copy including postage and handling. 

IN THE LATE 1990’s, Northcoast Democrats, the insiders anyway, were still peddling the lucrative (for them) fantasy that the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad would again run between Marin and Eureka. A Chron story at the time by Jim Doyle revealed not only was the defunct line $5.5 million in debt, it had become a kind of jobs program for people like former assemblyman Dan Hauser, magically appointed to run the train although he had no experience running anything except for public office. The cynical hype included the delusion that the port of Eureka could somehow be revived to ship and offload stuff to Asia, as if the other ports from Seattle to LA and San Diego hadn’t already sewed that trade up. All pretense that trains would again chug up and down the Northcoast just kinda like sort of disappeared from public view, and here came the SMART train along the old Northwestern Pacific easement between San Rafael and west Santa Rosa, a modern electric train deep into immediate deficits and endless public bailouts. Conceivably, SMART, presently doomed, could have one day run from San Rafael to Willits, certainly to Cloverdale, whose city fathers built a neat little train station forty years ago in anticipation. SMART was from the outset a rail version of the heavily subsidized, under-utilized Mendocino Transit Authority, but in any case, dooming a train forever in Mendocino County, our civic-minded Democrats managed to sell off Ukiah’s railroad property to the Mendocino County Superior Court, where our equivalently civic-minded judges plan to build a brand new courthouse for themselves.

ON April 29, “Wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) served search warrants at two locations in the area of Island Mountain……Over 17,000 illegal cannabis plants were eradicated. Numerous environmental violations were documented by CDFW and the State Water Board, which included illegal diversion of surface water for cannabis irrigation, trash, debris and pollutants within 150 feet of waters of the state and unlawful deposition of substances into state waters, which are harmful to fish, plant life, mammals and birds. Two subjects were detained.” 

THE FOLLOWING ON-LINE comments about the giant Island Mountain raid are from Redheaded Blackbelt’s website, but generally represent the comments on dope’s prominence on Northcoast: 

(1) Yaaah. Get these illegals out of the triangle. Legal pot only. 17,000 plants would be at least over a thousand pounds, or almost a million dollars at harvest. Where did all the clones come from? 17,000 clones, at 10 bucks apiece, is how much money? $170,000? And the cloners do not wait for harvest, they get paid up front, where does someone get $170,000 to buy these clones, and where is the facility, an illegal one, a big one, and why don’t they bust these people also? Only legal cloners should be allowed. And the 170,000 for the clones, no taxes paid on it, tax free profit. keep busting these clowns. This had to be a cartel or mafia grow, glad it cost them so much, one good way to take them down. You support illegal grows, you are a bad person.

(2) 17,000 plants, big “white” greenhouses (maggots on the landscape), illegal water diversions, debris, trash, pollutants in close proximity to waterways impacting water quality with harm to wildlife, etc… Same write-up all the time. Throw in the use of illegal rodenticides, and human waste, along with the illegal grading of grow sites and roads, usually located in Oak woodlands and prairies and you have the full story. Environment and community being destroyed by punk scum growers. It’s getting weary, how much more can the wildlife and our community health take?

(3) Blah blah blah. Cry me a river….

Look at these grape fields. Smell that sulfur and toxic insecticides. Look how the Grapes fence out 800 acre patches, look how they fence out all the foxes, bears, deer, bobcats and mountain lions. Look at all those grape fields thousands and thousands of acres. This little grow with high numbers of plants is nothing compared to the grape fields all over Ukiah and Hopland Valleys. Let’s bring this into perspective; are we talking about dewatering of the Eel river, then let’s talk Van Arsdale and Lake Pillsbury. 80% of the headwaters of the Eel River is siphoned off to water those toxic earth destroying grape fields. Put the water back into the Eel river and stop acting like all the water is used by pot growers when in reality it is stolen by Sonoma County to water Grapes in So Mendo and Sonoma.

(4) Let’s be concerned about it ALL, folks.

Quit negating other people’s concerns with bigger shit-show for-instances. It all adds up.

CAN IT BE? Has the Curse of Chesbro at last been lifted? Last we heard, Chesbro, having replaced Patty Berg as our state assemblyperson, a lateral move if there ever was one, finally shuffled off to his home base in Arcata to enjoy a lush retirement. I’ll always treasure Wes’s stirring oratory when he replaced Mike Thompson, another heavy hitter, in the state senate: “Senator Thompson is a tough act to follow. It takes a huge amount of energy to represent the 2nd District. It’s 400 miles long, with 750,000 people. Education is the key to our future. Local tax money should not be taken away from local communities and sent to the state to balance the budget without getting any services being returned.” And so on.

GIANTS strode the Northcoast in those days. Chesbro! Berg! Hauser! Thompson! Bosco! Riggs! Chesbro was born in 1951, making him 70 now. Apparently he’s retired. Last elected office was Assembly 2013-14. Replaced by his ideological twin, Jim Wood.

Patty Berg was born in 1942, making her 79. Her last political run was a losing run for Insurance Commissioner in 2010.

Dan Hauser was born in 42, making him 79. The Internet mentions he has a cardboard recycling hobby. Lives in Arcata, where he owns a mobile home park. He was Arcata City Manager from 2000-2006. Elected to Humboldt Bay Harbor Commission in 2010. Now retired.

A READER WRITES: "Elegant Event & High Honors" (title of a special video on

The dedication of the chi-chi event honoring U.S. Rep Douglas H. Bosco and his “wife” Gayle C. Guynup with a conference room at the Sonoma County PUBLIC Library. The event happened more than a year ago (no masks to be seen) and has had an amazing 25 views since being put out on the Tube.

I'm certain that some AVA subscribers might want to see the now half owner of the Santa Rosa PeeDee and his bride being regaled by members of the Bar as well as the Democratic Party pols who have appeared to have been at the bar too long but are there to kiss Doug's, er, ring, The catered evening's canapes alone appear to have cost more than a month's salary for an essential worker earning the federal hourly minimum wage.

BILL GRIMES WRITES: “Can't believe that for a long time I was vaguely interested in --and hoping-- that reports of UFOs existed and were occupied with a nonhuman species, were completely baseless. And reports in the National Enquirer that our government was hiding information about these objects were completely uncredible. An audience building ploy. Of course I dismissed any such thoughts before blabbing them to others. I'd be showing my WV heritage. A kook, a nut.

Now, based upon this comprehensive article in “The New Yorker” it appears something credibly unexplainable has been happening in the skies of our planet.

In the online audio introducing this story, David Remnick, the magazine's editor, said if someone had told him he would be running a story about UFOs in this august (my word) publication he would have thought them to be crazy.” 

RECOMMENDED READING: “The Devil’s Dictionary,” by Ambrose Bierce. Originally published in 1911. Now out of copyright (but not out of date) and available on-line. 

This is the oft-quoted, oft-excerpted, still current, real deal, the whole thing, the Director’s cut, if you will. Complete with some dated and nearly unreadable “poetry,” some by Bierce, some by others. If you think you know it from the occasional literary reference, you’re badly mistaken. According to the preface the dictionary was produced over a period of 25 years (1881-1906), appearing as items in a regular column by Bierce in several San Francisco-based newspapers. Most people who know of the dictionary have seen some of its funny, biting, sardonic, sarcastic, brief, and yes even “bitter,” definitions such as “Actually, adv. perhaps, possibly,” or “Abuse, n. Unanswerable wit,” or “Harangue, n. A political speech by an opponent,” or “Really, adv. Apparently,” or “White, adj. and n. Black,” or “Fork, n. An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth. Formerly the knife was employed for this purpose…” or “Accuser, n. One’s former friend; particularly the person for whom one has performed some friendly service.” But the real thing is much, much more than the few snippets we see here and there; the complete collection is replete with hundreds of additional gems such as “Handkerchief, n. A small square of silk or linen, used in various ignoble offices about the face and especially serviceable at funerals to conceal the lack of tears. The handkerchief is a recent invention; our ancestors knew nothing of it and entrusted its duties to the sleeve…” Or my father’s favorite, “Wheat, n. A cereal grain from which a tolerably good whiskey can, with some difficulty, be made, and which is also used for bread.”… Some of the definitions betray unhappy aspects of Bierce’s newspaper experience: “Arrears, n. (In deference to the feelings of a large and worthy class of our subscribers and advertisers, the definition of this word is withheld.)” And one more: “Art, n. This word has no definition.” 

The Devil’s Dictionary could stand an update for modern parlance. For example (with apologies to Bierce): “Robust, adj. personal opinion, untested.” “Emoji, n. An on-line pictorial device for bad writers.” “Deep dive, n. A glance at some data to see if I’m is correct. If not, the phrase ‘I’m not 100% sure’ may be substituted.” “Computer Literacy, n. An oxymoron.” (Mark Scaramella)


[1] I agree that Trump could have won easily if he had just put down the phone and shut up. Insulting people who might otherwise agree with your policies, or at least think you were better than the other guy is not the way to garner their votes. His ego got the better of him and he pushed away many many moderates. There aren’t enough hard core republicans or democrats to win national elections. It is the moderates that decide national elections, These are the people that sometimes vote R and sometimes vote D, and Trump’s boorish behavior pushed many of them away.

[2] I’m so tired of all the energy and time our board of supervisors spends on marijuana.

We have a plethora of other problems in this county – a public health emergency that has stricken two large parts of the economy (restaurants and tourism), water shortages and a regional drought, ever increasing wildfire threats to the entire county and every city and locality within it, unaffordable housing, a severe and worsening opioid problem, increasing crime, major gang activity, environmental degradation, a lack of parks and trails inland where most residents live, etc.

The list is long.

One of the best things about this county was our quality of life – you didn’t need a lot of money to be able to enjoy the lake or the forest or the sea. Today the lake is empty, the forest is primed for fire, and the urchin/kelp problem is killing shellfish in the sea. The last time I was in the Mendocino National Forest I heard sporadic automatic gunfire all night long. Not exactly a pleasant place to hang out.

All of these problems do not lie at the feet of this board of supervisors. But the main issue they seem concerned with is pot.

Some signs warning residents and travelers on our highways to be fire safe and to check their vehicles and trailers to make sure chains are secured this summer could help stop a dozen fires. Can any of our supervisors make something simple like that happen, or do we need to have a 9 hour meeting and an environmental review and a safety consultation with Caltrans?

[3] Interest rates on credit cards have been around 22 to 25% for a long time and even if you pay the minimum on the bill every month it will take years to pay it off. If a couple spends $5000 on getting set up for a new baby and puts it on a cc, pays the monthly rate — guess how old Junior will be when the balance is zero? 35. And this racket’s home state is now and has been for a very long time 

— Delaware

[4] The thing about inflation is that they’ve figured out how to narrowly target it by where they target the cash infusions. That’s why it’s mostly confined to necessities (home prices, healthy food (not junk food, which is cheaper than ever), healthcare, nominally education, etc.) and assets owned mostly by the rich (stocks, bonds, financial instruments of mass destruction, collectibles, yachts, high-end cars, etc.). Then they measure the crap that everyone wants but most assuredly doesn’t need (big screen TVs, smart phones, low end clothing, junk food, cheap cars, etc.) and claim inflation is near zero. All accounting sleight of hand, in short. People’s near religious belief in and complete credulousness of official statistics allows them to get away with it all too easily.

[5] These gender confused people are about .06% of the population, and most likely that number has been constant throughout history. But media and popular culture have their own reasons for focusing in on and magnifying this infinitesimal, really pathetic minority. You can pretty much surmise what those reasons are. It’d be like visiting the Nebraska State Fair in 1950, and instead of attending wholesome agricultural events on the midway, you are attracted to the sideshow, more specifically the alley where they kept Side Show Freaks; you take a Kodak snapshot of the freaks and tell everybody back home this is what the Nebraska State Fair was all about.

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