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HOT INTERIOR TEMPERATURES will return on today and continue through the rest of the work week as high pressure builds in. Later in the week, there is a slight chance of thunderstorms over mainly in Trinity County. (NWS)
132 NEW COVID CASES (since last Thursday) reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon, along with two more deaths.
PUBLIC NOTICE: Mendocino County Public Health has been notified of another Mendocino County resident who has been lost to the COVID-19 Virus. We send our condolences to her family and friends.
A 77 year old Fort Bragg woman has been confirmed as Mendocino County's 54th death. At this time Public Health asks all Mendocino County residents to exercise caution when placing themselves in situations that could expose them to COVID-19, especially considering the new more infectious Delta variant. Mendocino County Public Health asks that you follow all CDC and CDPH guidance’s at this time. Vaccination, masking and social distancing remain the best options for combating the Covid-19 Virus.
The individual in question was fully vaccinated but had multiple underlying comorbidities.
— Dr. Andrew Coren, County Health Officer
DROUGHT FORCES WATER SHUT OFF AT CAMPGROUND
Covelo, Calif., August 9, 2021— The Mendocino National Forest will be shutting off water to the Eel River Campground in Covelo beginning Monday, Aug. 10. The spring that supplies water to the Eel River Campground and the Eel River Fire Station is drying up.
To help prolong the delivery of water to the firefighters living at the Eel River station, the water to the campground will be turned off. As a result, visitors to the campground will need to bring their own water.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to turn off water to the campground,” said District Ranger Frank Aebly. “But even with mitigation, I suspect water delivery from the spring will cease very soon, and we will need to truck in potable water just to supply the firefighters that live and work at the Eel River workstation.”
(Forest Service News Release)
JOHN MCCOWEN WRITES (in response to our “Wine People vs. Us” piece yesterday):
Mark Scaramella wrote: “Back in 2009, when the State Water Board told Russian River Grape Growers…they would have to prepare their own frost protection water plans to prevent them from turning on all their frost protection pumps at the same time thus stranding endangered fish in what’s left of public rivers and streams, the Mendo wine mob screamed bloody murder at having to prepare their own plans to coordinate their pumping….”
In fact, frost protection plans that protected fish were successfully implemented prior to the hearing you describe. Following a single instance of stranding, the upper Russian River water diverters, under the umbrella of the Upper Russian River Stewardship Alliance (URSA) quickly agreed on protocols for staggered diversions coordinated with releases from the dam. The dispute had more to do with the Water Board targeting frost water, a recognized beneficial use, regardless of the source of the water.
The comment that upper Russian River grape growers diverted 220 acre feet a day is also inaccurate. That was the total released, a good portion of which is required to meet instream flow requirements of 25 cfs at the Healdsburg gauge. In addition to Ag use, several cities have approved diversions for municipal uses. Evaporation and evapotranspiration, although relatively minor, also play a part.
The previous curtailment order only affected appropriative water rights. The most recent one applies to riparian and pre-1914 water rights. Then there’s the issue of surface water vs. percolated groundwater. It’s tempting to boil water rights issues down to soundbites but reality is far more complex.
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MARK SCARAMELLA REPLIES:
If, as McCowen claims, “frost protection plans that protected fish were successfully implemented prior to the hearing,” why did the Mendo wine contingent drive to Sacramento to screech at the State Water Board? And why did the Wine Whine Mop later sue to put a stop to it? Then McCowen adds that “the dispute had more to do with the Water Board targeting frost water.” Which is what McCowen said was already in place. Get yer contradictions straight, McCowen.
“A single fish stranding” — fails to address the fact that the grape growers would not allow Fish & Wildlife biologists onto the upper reaches and tributaries of the Russian River watershed without a warrant. That “single” stranding was the only one they could prove in court — they had anecdotal reports that there were more during that cold snap but couldn’t even get an opportunity to take a look.
As to the 225 acre feet per day being “inaccurate” because “a good portion” was for fish flow: How much of that release made it to Healdsburg? We don’t know because the grape growers will not allow metering of instream and underflow pumps — never have. Yes, some downstream cities received some of that water, but as you euphemistically put it, we know that a lot of it was for “ag use” and the cities didn’t have hundreds of empty ponds to fill in the rush to beat the cut-off deadline.
McCowen’s attempt to muddy the water with hairsplitting legalities about what kinds of rights and which kinds of water doesn’t change the fact that the Wine People rushed to grab as much as they could before the Water Board’s order was official.
PS. Don’t get me started on the state’s contorted definition of “beneficial use.”
Lightning fast response. Five planes and local ground crews on a Lake County fire within 45 minutes yesterday. Stopped at 20 acres. CalFire rocks.
Danilla Sands does too. She is the go-to for inland Mendocino County/Lake County emergency info: m.facebook.com/MendocinoActionNews/
MENDOFEVER GOES DEEP (but it falls incomplete):
"A Naked Homeless Man Sleeping in Ukiah’s Pear Tree Center Reminds Community of the Work Left to House the Houseless" (mendofever.com, August 9, 2021)
MARK SCARAMELLA REPLIES:
Mr. LaFever might want to look into how the Mendo Continuum of Care’s annual $20 million homeless money is spent on pretty much nothing but themselves, as they say in their own report: "Revenues Down" (theava.com, April 29, 2020)
Then he might want to look at what the County is doing with upwards of $33 million of Measure B money. Mr. LaFever says “Mendocino County residents have hoped Measure B funding would go towards bolstering” homeless services. To be blunt: It has not, not at all, and after years of following that sad fiasco we never once heard the word “homeless” in the context of Measure B funding.
Also, Mr. LaFever says, “Just this year, after receiving funding from California’s Project Homekey, the County of Mendocino announced $10,000,000 would be used to renovate a Ukiah motel to bolster transitional housing opportunities for the homeless population.”
Not exactly. Most of that money was for the outright no-option no-discussion purchase of the motel itself, a small percentage of which has been spent on remodeling (not renovation; the motel was perfectly serviceable) to accommodate a few dozen local people who are nowhere near the situation of the Pear Tree naked homeless man. The County itself went out of its way to explain that the former Best Western motel would house people who can already pay a big portion of their rent (via Section 8 and other existing government program funding) and would not need much in the way of homeless assistance. People like the Peachtree naked man are not being helped by any of these local millions and millions of dollars. And never will be.
I ALREADY LIKE IT, that interesting new structure rising on the east side of 128 at the Yorkville Olive Ranch near the nexus of the Pronsolino and Burger ranches.
TIME to stop indulging the anti-vaxxers. Time to ban, fine, fire, jail them. And about half the Mendo population is un-vaxxed, even as the variant spreads into the children of the un-vaxxed in other areas of the country, which is likely to also happen here.
ASKING around Mendo about vaxx policy, Fabiola Cornejo, Operations Director at the Anderson Valley Health Center, replied: “Per our latest meeting with Dr. Coren and California Public Health Officer’s order announced on the 5th, all health care workers will need to be completely vaccinated by September 30th. Below is the link to the state’s order. I would assume that the County will be releasing their orders soon.”
PRESIDING JUDGE of the Mendocino County courts, Anne Moorman, said all persons entering either the Ukiah or Fort Bragg courts will have to be masked. This order takes effect today, Monday the 10th of August.
MICHELLE HUTCHINS, COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS: “The short answer is no, there is no state or county mandate requiring school personnel to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Public Health Officer Dr. Andrew Coren recommends weekly surveillance testing for all unvaccinated school employees and students when the county case rate is higher than 14 per 100,000. As of August 9, the daily positive case rate is 28.11, well over that threshold. Right now, we know about 80% of teachers have responded to our survey about who is vaccinated, and of those, 80% are vaccinated. I’m hoping more will choose to get vaccinated before school starts.”
AND SUPERINTENDENT SIMSON of Anderson Valley Unified, answered:
At this time, mandatory vaccinations are not required per the guidance of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). However, I will state that the health center shared with me exceptionally high levels of staff vaccination participation, community participation, and student participation for those 12-17. We also have a free vaccination shot clinic for ANYONE on Friday, August 13 from 2-5 at the High School. I shared with you that my schools were fully open last year. It was a challenge, especially prior to the vaccine being available, but we did it, and the students were safe and educated. The state is requiring schools to reopen but we are offering a required independent study model if parents feel their students cannot return due for health reasons. They should reach out to their school prinicpal for more information. I am very mindful that we cannot eradicate Covid, but what we do is manage and mitigate it in the event we have a positive case. This is a combination of people recognizing symptoms and staying home, and following precautions such as masking to the best extent possible, and effective cleaning practices. Kids need to be in school for mental, social and academic growth, and we will do our very best to ensure a safe and effective learning environment. My cell phone is always available to answer questions at (707) 684-1017.
Here are some of the precautions in place:
Mask with fidelity all adults and students regardless of vaccination status except outdoors.
Distance as best as possible.
Message to families that parents need to make their child’s decision to vaccinate 12 and up NOT LET THE STUDENT DECIDE.
Wash hands frequently.
Testing available weekly at the fairgrounds. ALL STAFF AND FAMILIES ENCOURAGED TO PARTICIPATE ON FRIDAYS.
POOL testing protocol underway through the State. (We have registered for this on-site testing protocol). This is a new program that the State is rolling out and will be providing the staff and the equipment. It is voluntary for all students and staff. It will take a little time to set up.
Cohorting has ended per CDPH.
Masks on the bus.
Eat outside as best as possible.
Send kids home when they are sick. Do not come to school if sick. Self-monitor daily.
Independent study available for kids that have to self-quarantine or need an alternate path.
No field trips right now.
THE UN HAS ISSUED A REPORT it titles, “Code Red for Humanity.” It says global warming is already causing extreme weather, and that the world will heat up by 2.7 degrees F by 2040 — a decade earlier than previously forecast. Here in Do Your Own Thing Land we've suffered more than 3,000 wildfires, over $8 billion in flood damages and more than 3,000 people killed in heatwaves.
JUST as the leadership, cough-cough, assembles at Obama's house for a birthday, the whole dreary gang flying in in chartered jets, Mr. Climate Change, Kerry, arriving on his big private plane. Not a single person in a position of authority, from our preposterous president all the way down to Mendo's proportionately preposterous Climate Change Committee, or whatever this particular group of public money delusionals calls itself, is doing a single specific thing to arrest global climate change.
* * *
THE COMPLAINT: "McGourty's Conflict of Interest" (theava.com, July 22, 2021)
I FOUND MAJOR SCARAMELLA, USAF ret, weeping bitter tears on his keyboard. “Look at this, boss. They didn't even give me a reason! Can you believe this?” he demanded, gesturing at his computer screen where a terse paragraph from the state's jive Fair Political Practices Commission informed him that Supervisor McGourty had no conflict of interest in discussing and voting on Russian River water issues although he and his wine pals benefit directly from what's left of Russian River and the century-long swindle of the Potter Valley Diversion. “I mean,” moaned the Major. “There’s no question that there’s an APPEARANCE of a conflict!” I comforted the Major as best I could, explaining that Sacramento had so many bogus boards like the FPPC that state government leases property all over town to house them all. “There's an army of them vaguely walking around with their coffee cups, medicated grins on their insensate faces. The marginal lawyer who wrote this wouldn't dare put her “reasoning” in print because… Well, because she doesn't have to. There's no recourse, no one supervises these drones, all of whom got their do-nothing patronage jobs from entrenched Democrats. Have a shot of Maker's, my son, and chalk it up to one more reason for revolution.”
DRY MENDOCINO TO GUESTS: ‘PLEASE CONSERVE’
MENDOCINO, Calif. (AP) — Tourists flock by the thousands to the coastal town of Mendocino for its Victorian homes and cliff trails, but visitors this summer are also finding public portable toilets and signs on picket fences pleading: “Severe Drought. Please conserve water.”
Hotels have closed their lobby bathrooms and residents have stopped watering their gardens in the foggy outpost about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of San Francisco after two years of little rain sapped many of the wells Mendocino depends on for potable water.
Mendocino’s water woes were compounded in recent weeks when the city of Fort Bragg a few miles to the north — its main backup water supplier — informed officials that it, too, had a significant drop in its drinking water reserves after the Noyo River recorded its lowest flows in decades.
“This is a real emergency,” said Ryan Rhoades, superintendent of the Mendocino City Community Services District, which helps manage the water in the town’s aquifer.
Eric Hillesland and his wife normally wouldn’t need to buy water until late July or August to supply the Alegria Inn, their 10-room oceanfront bed and breakfast. But the property’s well started pumping little water early in the year, and by February they were ordering 3,500 gallons (13 kilolitres) a week.
Then the couple stopped watering the gardens and switched from glass to paper plates to serve welcome cookies. They plan to start using microfiber bed linens, which take less water to wash.
“We’re also asking our guests to be cognizant of the severity of our water shortage and to not take the extensive showers they might be used to at home,” Hillesland said.
Mendocino relies on groundwater accessed through a network of about 400 privately owned wells, many of them dug by hand when the former mill town was established in the 1850s. Residents and business owners keep their water in storage tanks, including some perched atop historic redwood water towers.
The town has about 1,000 residents, but its economy depends on about 2,000 people who visit each day during the height of the tourist season, from May to October, Rhoades said.
Businesses have traditionally had to haul in water in the fall. But after a second dry winter, many have had to order more, much earlier than before.
Because of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, there were few visitors last year when town residents began noticing their wells were producing less. Now the weekend getaway destination for people in the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay areas is teeming with guests.
That has forced residents and business owners to find drinking water sources that are farther away, which has doubled the price of water. Some restaurants are cutting back their operating hours to reduce costs.
In February, Hillesland was paying $300 for a 3,500-gallon delivery. Now it costs $600.
If it gets worse and they have to start closing rooms, “then we are in a situation like at the beginning of the pandemic — no income but still plenty of mortgage and insurance,” he said.
Many longer-term solutions are being considered, including bringing water by barge, plane and train and adding community storage tanks that can hold up to 500,000 gallons (1,900 kiloliters), asking the U.S. National Guard or the Army Corps of Engineers to set up a mobile desalination treatment unit, and even capturing fog. But all of them are expensive, and the town would need the support of the state and federal governments, Rhoades said.
A company that developed new technology to capture moisture in fog proposed setting up a testing site in Mendocino at no cost and selling the water to the community. But Rhoades said the infrastructure would affect the town’s scenic views, and getting a permit would be a challenge. A desalination plant would face similar permitting and environmental hurdles.
“Transporting water that is treated, and is known from an inland source, might be a faster solution, even though it’s expensive,” he said.
Robert Pinoli, president of Mendocino Railway, which operates the historic Skunk Train, said he is ready to help. Since 1885, the train has been running from Willits through redwood forests and river canyons to Fort Bragg.
Pinoli said he could find tank cars quickly, attach them to the locomotive and deliver up to 200,000 gallons (760 kilolitres) each trip. He identified a source for tank cars in 2015 when Fort Bragg went through a water shortage and considered buying inland water to transport it to the coast. Officials scratched those plans after it rained.
He said if Willits decides it wants to sell its water and Fort Bragg wants to buy it, “we become a logical vehicle for transporting water on a pretty large scale.”
Willits officials recently decided against selling their water to the parched town.
For now, Mendocino residents are relying on people like Brian Clark, who has been selling water from his well outside town and trucking it in. Clark said he can’t keep up with the demand.
“I’m really hiding from the phone, because I’m getting way more calls than I have water, and I’m hearing from people I’ve never met, never heard of, and I can’t help them,” he said.
Clark, a longtime resident, said Mendocino hasn’t had such water storage issues since the 1970s when California faced the most severe drought on record.
County officials’ short-term solutions include waiving permit requirements for storage tanks that can hold up to 5,000 gallons (19 kilolitres) and identifying wells with excess water near Mendocino. Officials are also asking the state to help finance the bigger private tanks, Rhoades said.
“I want residents to be able to store more water now, while their wells are still somewhat productive, to make it through the next four months. And if they have to purchase water, you get the most bang for your buck,” he said.
ALARMING CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT resonates on parched, fire-scarred North Coast: ‘We know what we have to do’
A devastating report on the future of the planet released Monday by a United Nations science panel paints an alarming portrait of a deepening crisis as Earth’s surface temperatures continue to rise.
BATH SALTS BELL
On Wednesday, August 4, 2021 Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatch to a location in the 3000 block of Spy Rock Road in Laytonville.
Deputies were advised an unknown subject had vandalized the victim's vehicle and entered her residence without permission.
Deputies went to the location and found a Toyota truck parked in front of the residence that had been damaged in excess of $450.
The victim described the suspect to include his tattoos, and stated he had entered her unlocked residence without knocking. The victim was able to get the suspect out of the residence and a neighbor chased him off her property.
The neighbor identified the suspect as Robert Bell, 38, of Laytonville, who lived in the area. The victim advised the suspect had bleeding cuts on his hand caused by the vandalism to the truck. Deputies noticed blood inside and outside the truck and residence.
Deputies learned Bell was on formal probation and they spoke to his probation officer. Deputies went looking for Bell and learned from a neighbor that Bell was seen earlier in the day unclothed running around while screaming.
Deputies located Bell in the 3000 block of Spy Rock Road with two fresh cuts on his hand. Bell was acting strangely, sweating profusely, wearing the same clothing described by the victim, and was talking but not making any sense.
Bell was placed under arrest without incident for felony vandalism and violation of probation.
Bell was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on the above charges and he was to be held on a No Bail status.
FRANCISCO & HIS GHOST GUN
On Saturday, August 7, 2021 at approximately 10:40 PM, A Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy conducted a traffic enforcement stop on a vehicle driven by the sole occupant (Francisco Duenas, 38, of Gualala) at the intersection of Baechtel Road and Shell Lane in Willits.
The Deputy observed symptoms of controlled substance influence and later determined Duenas was under the influence of a controlled substance.
A search of the vehicle was conducted and a loaded unregistered semi-automatic pistol with no serial numbers (Ghost Gun) and an attached loaded 30 round magazine was located in the vehicle.
Duenas is a convicted felon and prohibited from possession any firearms or firearm ammunition by California law.
Duenas was arrested for the listed violations and booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $35,000 bail.
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 9, 2021
JOHN BIASOTTI, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, paraphernalia.
KATHERINE CAMPOS, Willits. Domestic battery.
DANIEL CAULEY, Ukiah. Controlled substance, failure to appear.
JOSEPH CASEY, Willits. DUI causing bodily injury.
SKYLAR HENDERSON, Willits. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
REMO MCOSKER, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)
ARTEMIO ORTEGA-REYES, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JESSICA OSBORN, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
LINDA REYNOLDS, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
BIANCA SCHOFIELD, Gualala. Protective order violation, failure to appear.
AARON SHANNON, Albion. Assault with deadly weapon with great bodily injury.
AMY SLAUGHTER, Willits. DUI with blood-alcohol over 0.15% hit&run with property damage, second offense within ten years, probation revocation.
JARED TITUS, Ukiah. Controlled substance, failure to appear.
RUSSELL WRIGHT, Vista/Ukiah. Resisting.
ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE
I've been walkin' in my sleep
Countin' troubles 'stead of countin' sheep
Where the years went I can't say
I just turned around and they've gone away
I've been siftin' through the layers
Of dusty books and faded papers
They tell a story I used to know
And it was one that happened so long ago
It's gone away in yesterday
Now I find myself on the mountainside
Where the rivers change direction
Across the Great Divide
Now, I heard the owl a-callin'
Softly as the night was fallin'
With a question and I replied
But he's gone across the borderline
He's gone away in yesterday
Now I find myself on the mountainside
Where the rivers change direction
Across the Great Divide
The finest hour that I have seen
Is the one that comes between
The edge of night and the break of day
It's when the darkness rolls away
And it's gone away in yesterday
Now I find myself on the mountainside
Where the rivers change direction
Across the Great Divide
— Kate Wolf
ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK
 There’s a great lot of stuff than doesn’t add up, plus stories that don’t compute, and configurations that make no sense, the preponderance of these head-scratchers pointing to a monumentally corrupt and incompetent American ruling class that’s been foisting stupid shit now on the USA and the world for at least a couple of generations. Hardly matters where you look, it’s so thick on the ground you don’t know where to start shoveling. But maybe start big instead of small and so look to where there’s numbers that we can look at and that would be the national coffers, stuffed to the brim with Fed Funny Money because it seems that the people most able to pay tax really don’t want to. If Bezos, who is supposedly worth $200 bil, give or take, had to cough up let’s say 199 bil he’d still be worth a billion. IOW still a billionaire. He could cough up hundreds of millions more and still be a centimillionaire. And then look at the other obvious guys like Gates and Buffet – or you could just go down the donor list for the Democrat and Republican parties – and scrape up some serious loot. And then put the gun to the heads of overseas banks and leaders of tax havens where a lot of rich Americans stash their money and see how much more you can rake in. I know, I’ve heard it said many a time, that there aren’t enough rich people to fund the annual deficit never mind the national debt. But has it ever been tried? In any case we have to start somewhere. And that’s where the money is.
 “…I am angry that the tragic scenes of prior surges are being played out yet again, but now with ICUs primarily filled with patients who have chosen not to be vaccinated. I am angry that it takes me over an hour to explain to an anti-vaxxer full of misinformation that intubation isn’t what “kills patients” and that their wish for chest compressions without intubation in the event of a respiratory arrest makes no sense. I am angry at those who refuse to wear “muzzles” when grocery shopping for half an hour a week, as I have been so-called “muzzled” for much of the past 18 months. I cannot understand the simultaneous decision to not get vaccinated and the demand to end the restrictions imposed by a pandemic. I cannot help but recoil as if I’ve been slapped in the face when my ICU patient tells me they didn’t get vaccinated because they “just didn’t get around to it.” Although such individuals do not consider themselves anti-vaxxers, their inaction itself is a decision — a decision to not protect themselves or their families, to fill a precious ICU bed, to let new variants flourish, and to endanger the health care workers and immunosuppressed people around them. Their inaction is a decision to let this pandemic continue to rage. I am at a loss to understand how anyone can look at these past months of the pandemic — more than 600,000 lives lost in the U.S. and more than 4 million worldwide — and not believe it’s real or take it seriously. But the unhappy truth is that there are people who do not. They did not in the beginning and many are doubling down now.” (Thanh Neville, M.D., M.S.H.S., is an ICU physician and researcher at UCLA Health.)
 “It’s been said here by a bunch of commenters that the political center has been displaced by the extremists on both left and right. “Actually I have noticed for a long, long time that the artificial two-party system in the USA means that millions of citizens cannot find a channel for meaningful political participation; they cannot find or create a party that reflects their views and for which they can work to get their candidates into government. This is not the case in a parliamentary system, where small parties can fight their way to the fore by gaining enough votes (say, 5% of the votes) and then forming coalitions.
(Of course what happens after that is still up for grabs—viz. the Green Party in Germany.) But note the creation of a new party in Germany, Die Basis—hopefully they will be able to get a few candidates into local govts and start to influence the political landscape. There seems to be no chance of that in the USA.
IMO—-or, it is my speculation that— it is this two-party stranglehold that has driven more and more movement to political extremes.
 I’m 62 years old, and I guess I’m not gonna get the comfy retirement as “promised.” Actually, I’m not as bummed out as you might expect. If I play my cards right, I still might be able to enjoy the show, in a twisted kinda way. But try as I might, I just can’t see even a bumpy landing, let alone a soft one. Mentally, at least for me, that’s very hard to deal with. Is that why we’re all here, talking it out, searching and hoping for some light at the end of this tunnel? I haven’t done it yet, but I must choose a new path. The one I’m on ain’t gonna pay off, I’m afraid.
 Recent history looks to my eyes like a succession of lunacies each of which may have been unable to topple Western Civ on its own given built-in social inertia and maybe resilience plus the raw survival instinct of ordinary people, but each following on the heels of the last may have the cumulative momentum to put this thing to where vanished civilizations go ie, dirt mounds.
Consider the miseries of the Industrial Revolution which had a hand in creating both communism and fascism, and the two world wars with tens of millions dead and wounded, and then the rise of neo-liberalism which ruined the lives of huge swathes of people of the formerly developed West. And now what one guy deems a step back to pre-Enlightenment authoritarian modes of thinking coming out of university campuses, of all places. How far can we be from witch burnings? But what would we expect? I mean our best and brightest brought us viral gain-of-function research. Just between us, does this look to you like the product of disturbed minds? Because that’s how it looks to me.
Our allegedly best and brightest hatched all this craziness and now they’re back to incubating more. They don’t believe in reality? Well, their grip on it has been pretty weak for a while now, accommodating only what conforms to their own self-justifying narratives. The trouble of course is that reality doesn’t give a shit about narratives.
 VISITORS. Went to an estate sale this morning. Met a lovely family from Idaho, who were apparently here selling grandma’s estate. When I got out of my vehicle, I asked if they would like me to wear a mask and stated that I’ve been vaccinated. The woman replied, “Oh no, we’re from Idaho and we don’t do that.” Now, I know better to engage in that conversation, but I should have told her that my niece visited Idaho early on in the pandemic and contracted COVID-19. What is wrong with people?!! So, just a reminder - our hospital has 25 beds to serve the entire coastal community surrounding FB, and only 6 max of those beds are for intensive care. So, be safe out there as we have visitors who may be contagious, and, in this case, are planning to go to the botanical gardens today.
 Phew! Glitterati from all over the world flying into Martha’s Vineyard on private Gulfstream IVs for Obama’s unmasked Birthday Bash. The NYT explained everyone invited was “sophisticated, vaccinated.” Meanwhile, in Obama’s Hometown, Chicago, at least 50 people already shot so far this weekend, including 2 police officers, one of whom is dead, one critical. Apparently Obama’s $15 million mansion was built on water’s edge, so apparently nobody is worried too much about ‘Sea level rise’. Many of the Honored Guests arrived on massive motor yachts the size of WW2 Navy Destroyers. Those things are powered up by diesel fueled turbines that really suck up the juice. I don’t know if the Climate Czar — John Kerry — sailed over from Nantucket in his impressive yacht. Eventually the guest list will be released. Springsteen’s daughter has been competing in equestrian events at the Olympics. My brain started mulling around how much it must have cost to raise an Olympics level equestrian. It got to 7 digit numbers, and I gave up with a couple conclusions: the expense of transporting the horse to Tokyo and back was a mere drop in the overall cost bucket; and her daddy’s working class hero routine paid off really, really well.
ON GOOD PEOPLE & BAD PEOPLE
by Matt Taibbi
In the Trial By Headline era, we're quick to judge, and slow to spot real evil…
I reread Lolita this weekend, as I do every few years or so, usually when I’m down or uninspired or feeling like I’ve forgotten why people choose the writing life. I revere the book for a hundred reasons, most having to do with its extraordinarily savage humor, but this time around, affected by depressing thoughts I’ve had reading news of late, I found myself asking a new question: how can I like Humbert Humbert?
Vladimir Nabokov was obsessed with puzzles, tricks, and ploys. All his novels make treasure-hunts out of his effusive wordplay (“We had breakfast in the township of Soda, pop. 1001”), and his fascination with chess is such an overt theme that one starts to feel the logic of the game everywhere. When protagonist Humbert incautiously dismisses the danger of recording his pedophilic fixations in a diary by saying, “Only a loving wife could decipher my microscopic script,” and a short time later comes up with his too-clever-by-half plan to rape the daughter by way of marrying the mother, it hits us like a discovered check when Charlotte Haze really does discover, and read, the devastating journal — the twist was sitting there all along. Humbert was a laughably clumsy criminal, but a flawless narrator whose confessional is a succession of such devious gambits and traps, in which he exults in thinking nine moves ahead of his reader-judges. Is conspiring to trick us into sympathy with the unforgivable another of his ruses?
It isn’t. In a story that piles word-games atop word-games — the whole subplot involving Humbert’s Dostoyevskian opposite Clare Quilty is a chess match, in which Humbert loses his queen — the most confounding plot device of all, the question of how we can not only tolerate but become fast friends with the book’s demonic narrator, is no manipulation. Humbert Humbert is nearly a purely evil character, who not only kidnaps and rapes his “darling” twelve year-old Lolita but conspires to have a baby with her and rape that child. His “confession” is nothing of the sort. He’s not retelling his breathless story to expiate guilt, in the Christian sense (the idea would have bored him to neuralgia). That he presents his appeal to the “winged gentlemen” of his cosmic jury as such is another of his chess-ruses, and a particularly disgusting one. He recounts the vilest scenes of his crime spree in such ecstatic slow motion that we realize he’s conned us, like a serial killer who, having led police to his burial ground, pants and grabs at himself with pleasure.
But we’re repulsed by that character, while we don’t feel the same way about Humbert. Even after we realize his game, we keep reading and, worse, keep laughing at his jokes. After the first rape, he describes an imaginary mural he’d have painted in the dining room of the Enchanted Hunters hotel, which to him is no crime scene but a Sistine Chapel of predatory ecstasy. “There would have been a sultan, his face expressing great agony,” he writes, “helping a callypygean slave child to climb a column of onyx. There would have been those luminous globules of gonadal glow that travel up the opalescent sides of juke boxes…” We don’t balk at all that absurd self-congratulatory over-alliteration, which Humbert flaunts as a way to convey his excitement in reliving the moment; it’s that same panting. No, we just imagine it, feeding his perversion by providing the enthralled audience he craves.
No story can survive an unlikable narrator, especially if you employ the high-flying, 360-tomahawk-dunking form of English Nabokov uses. Oddly enough this was a problem with other Nabokov books with more conventional protagonists. It’s a quirk of literature that readers will cheer the Acapulco polysyllable dives of a child rapist but find the same style pompous in the diary of an inoffensive emigre professor. Nabokov, who famously despised the “literature of social intent,” might have puzzled at the effectiveness of Humbert as a narrator but surely didn’t worry about it. He wrote that the only “discomfort” he experienced in writing Lolita was sitting “in my workshop among discarded limbs and unfinished torsos,” i.e. he only cared about whether or not his creations were alive, and Humbert was. The fact that the story worked wasn’t a trick but just had some mysterious thing to do with human nature, and who cared what — it wasn’t his job to worry about why.
Was he wrong to create Humbert? The woke perspective would say yes, but both the book and the author have oddly escaped cancelation (Nabokov would have roared with laughter to see a titan of middlebrow entertainment like J.K. Rowling set upon by moral mobs while his cackling portrait of tumescent evil continues to be taught in universities). As I read the book this weekend, it occurred to me there might be another reason Lolita survived. In the social media age, our conception of both good and evil has been dulled to the point where the horror the book represents, and what it says about the absurd nature of human morality, has become invisible to modern readers. The flip side of the woke revolution is that it’s so trivialized the idea of evil that a generation is growing up unable to see and understand the depths of the real thing.
Scan Twitter this morning and you’ll see a smorgasbord of news stories superficially concerned with human villainy. The news for years now has been obsessively interested in taxonomic surveys of Good and Bad people, constantly separating one from the other and galvanizing the former to attack the latter, who are identified and attacked with machine regularity: R. Kelly, Bret Kavanaugh, Trump, Flannery O’Connor, Chris Pratt, Trump again, the unvaccinated, etc.
The villain du jour is Andrew Cuomo, whose crimes have been set out in a 165-page report by Attorney General Letitia James, which I had the misfortune to also read last week. In the context of Cuomo’s career, it’s a bizarre document. There are 2-3 flash allegations of genuine crime — a hand up a blouse to grab a breast, an apparent improper promotion of a female trooper as a come-on — surrounded by a mountainous chronicle of gray-area dickishness/inappropriateness/cluelessness, from referring to female staff as “sweetheart” or “honey” to “allowing senior staff members to sit on his lap” and holding “discussions about the age differences of partners.”
When Cuomo meets his maker I seriously doubt more than a handful of these episodes will make the first draft of what assuredly will otherwise be a lengthy case for hell. Morally, almost none of it compares to the other things we already knew he’d done: deliberately undercounting rest-home Covid-19 deaths to head off a federal civil rights investigation, taking money from Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers before halting an investigation into the handling of Weinstein’s case, keeping a right-hand man who took hundreds of thousands in bribes, or any of a dozen other episodes reflecting calculated transgression as opposed to generalized, anachronistic horniness.
With Cuomo as with anyone else in the Internet age, the important issue isn’t right or wrong, but whether or not he’ll survive. Bad People news stories now inevitably devolve into Twitter math contests, where the goal is to topple a career once the right ratio is reached. We see public opinion shifting against Cuomo, with 70% of New Yorkers calling for his resignation. If he quits, he goes into disgrace, a one-size-fits-all afterlife which is always permanent now — Al Franken and Louis C.K. get disappeared down the same chute as Weinstein and Cosby, and almost no one comes back from the other side.
Morality in this sense has become a pass/fail exercise, with everyone divided into just two categories, viable and disgraced. Which of the two one lands in depends entirely on how high levels of public disgust and emotion reach at the peak of viral mania, versus how entrenched the target is or isn’t. The thing about someone like Cuomo is he could easily choose to stick out the furor and beat back the bureaucratic assault on his position. If he does, bet on it, public opinion will change again soon, and he’ll be back on cable giving his own insights into the next Bad People controversy six months or a year from now.
Contrast this with the experience of Amy Cooper, also in the news this week. The infamous Central Park dog-walker became the poster child for cosmopolitan racism when video of her calling police on a black man, coincidentally named Christian Cooper, went viral in the middle of America’s post-George Floyd meltdown. Reporting by Kmele Foster has since uncovered that important background to the Cooper story may have been left out, perhaps even intentionally, by news media hot for a fitting villain during a national furor. Among other things, there appears to have been testimony from other dog-walkers, including a 30 year-old black man, that Christian Cooper was a self-appointed leash police oddball who threatened to pick up other people’s dogs.
It’s bad enough that in the Internet age the presence of a functioning cell phone camera during 15-30 seconds of lamentable judgment can consign one person to a life of infamy while someone who traffics in genuinely evil choices on a daily basis, dumping deadly toxins or doing PR for dictators or governing the State of New York by tribute, can still win Man of the Year or a key to a city with a donation or two. Worse than that, we don’t even fact-check our pass/fail reactions to those 15-second outbursts, and when information surfaces suggesting a mistake, we tend to double-down instead, with headlines like, “Central Park ‘Karen,’ Amy Cooper, Remains Unrepentant About Central Park Karen-ing.” Not only are we totally uninterested as a society in concepts like redemption, we revel in the careless, emotional quality of our judgments. People are just Bad or Good, and the Bad are all Bad.
Nabokov despised these tendencies. His mock introduction to Lolita by the tendentious pseudo-intellectual “John Ray, Jr., PhD” even quotes a “Dr. Blanche Schwartzmann” as a not-so-subtle dig at duncecap moralists who see the world in black and white. Nabokov even anticipated the preposterous hand-wringing of the safe-space era with the conclusion to “Ray’s” preface:
“Lolita” should make all of us—parents, social workers, educators—apply ourselves with still greater vigilance and vision to the task of bringing up a better generation in a safer world.
You have to have a well-developed fear of hell, and some consciousness of what it takes to fully deserve it, to appreciate the humor and poetry of a book like Lolita, and we’re clearly no longer the kind of society that thinks much about such issues. Cancelation is a poor replacement for damnation, and for a society that spends so much time judging, it’s pathetic that we’ve lost sight of the difference…
WHERE DO THEY FIND THESE PEOPLE?
Will Larry Elder, ultraconservative talk show host, participate in debates with other Republican gubernatorial candidates? Of course not. Why? He and his handlers want to rely on his name recognition and don’t want blue state, progressive, California voters to know how completely unfit he would be for California leadership.
Despite the need for vaccine mandates and mask mandates to stop the rampaging delta variant, and reduce probabilities for even more lethal mutations, Elder is avidly opposed, tweeting in all caps: “One has a right not to wear a mask.”
He also contends that “If I win, you won’t be forced by the state to get a vaccination.” Apparently he’s unaware of laws that already exist for the responsible protection of everyone, like helmets for motorcycle riders or the seatbelt requirement or that your 5-year old can’t start kindergarten unless she’s had required shots.
He argues that “racism isn’t a problem,” wants to get rid of all gun regulations, eliminate the IRS and get rid of welfare (at least “social’ welfare.” He seems to be OK with “corporate” welfare, which is several orders of magnitude greater).
Where do conservatives even find these guys?
“NOW FOR THE UNVACCINATED who say I don’t really care, I’m young and healthy, if I get infected, it is true that, statistically, it is unlikely that you will have a serious outcome. If you were living in a vacuum, that would be fine, but you’re not living in a vacuum. You are living in a society. And if you become the vehicle for the virus to go from you to someone else to someone else, you are helping to propagate the virus. There’s a very firm tenet that a virus cannot mutate, unless it is replicating, and, if you allow the virus to freely replicate chronically in society, it will mutate. Now many mutations have no relevance functionally, but every once in a while you get a mutation like delta, where the mutations cause a variant. And the variant has a real functional consequence. With delta, we have a virus that spreads much more rapidly than the original alpha variant. What happens if over months and months and months you allow the virus to replicate, it is conceivable, not guaranteed, but conceivable, that we could get a variant that eludes the protection of the vaccine.”
“The reason that you get vaccinated is to save your life, not so that you can go around without wearing a mask. So please separate the two. Someone says, “Why should I get vaccinated?” Well, because we don’t want you to wind up in the ICU in a hospital, and I can guarantee you 99% that if you get vaccinated, you are not going to wind up in the ICU.”
— Dr. Fauci
CORPORATE LIBERALISM IS NO MATCH FOR TRUMPISM
by Norman Solomon
An affirmative program for progressive change—to substantially improve the economic and social conditions of people's daily lives—will be essential for mobilizing voter turnout and preventing the Republican Party from seizing control of the federal government.
Jane Mayer's article in The New Yorker last week, “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie,” starkly illuminates how forces aligned with Donald Trump have been upping the ante all year with hyperactive strategies that could enable Republican leaders to choke off democracy, ensuring that Trump or another GOP candidate captures the presidency in 2024. The piece runs close to 10,000 words, but the main takeaway could be summed up in just a few: Wake up! Core elements of U.S. democracy really could disappear soon.
Anti-democratic ducks are being lined up in Republican-run state legislatures to deliver the White House to the party nominee. Driven by Trumpian mindsets, it's a scenario that could become a dystopian reality.
In early June, the New America organization issued a Statement of Concern, signed by 199 eminent “scholars of democracy” in the United States, warning that “Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.”
A vital challenge for progressives is to not only block Republican agendas but also to effectively campaign for policy changes that go far beyond the talking points of current Democratic leaders offering to tinker with the status quo.
The statement included a sentence that flagged an ominous, even fascistic, cloud on the horizon: “Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes.”
New America, which calls itself “a think and action tank,” deserves praise for issuing the statement. Yet, overall, the organization typifies a political establishment that arguably does more to fuel Trumpism than hinder it.
The CEO of New America, Anne-Marie Slaughter, did her part to oil the Democratic Party's machinery of neoliberalism as the State Department's director of policy planning for the first two years of the Obama administration. Later, she wrote and spoke widely to call for U.S. warfare in Libya and in Syria. Like Hillary Clinton, who was her patron as secretary of state, Slaughter has been a prominent promoter of what is sometimes glibly labeled a “muscular” foreign policy.
Slaughter's zeal for U.S. military intervention—boosting Pentagon budgets that enrich war contractors while shortchanging domestic social programs—fits neatly with an overall neoliberal model of reverence for maximizing corporate profits. It's a sensibility that Slaughter presumably brought to her stint on the board of directors of the McDonald's Corporation before getting to the State Department.
Members of New America's board of directors, such as media foreign-policy darling Fareed Zakaria and ubiquitous pundit David Brooks, have long echoed pro-war conventional wisdom. But hawkishness from elites has worn thin for working-class communities in the wake of combat deaths, injuries and psychological traumas. Research indicates that Clinton's militaristic persona helped Trump to defeat her in 2016, with “a significant and meaningful relationship between a community's rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” More than four years later, the liberal establishment's support for endless war is unabated as the U.S. continues to routinely bomb several countries.
As for the ongoing class war at home, the current Democratic brand of mild liberalism still refuses to forthrightly answer a pivotal question: “Which side are you on?” The party's usual answer, in effect, is “both sides”—or, more commonly, to pretend that class war isn't really happening. (“Can't we all just get along?”)
Certainly the Biden administration has taken some important steps—such as expansion of the child tax credit and regulatory moves against corporate monopolies—to reduce extremes of economic unfairness. And it's true that Biden has turned to Keynesian public investment. But the structures of neoliberalism are still largely in place, and the inroads against it have been incremental. With a closely divided Congress and a very likely GOP takeover of the House in 17 months, the advances are temporary and precarious.
An affirmative program for progressive change—to substantially improve the economic and social conditions of people's daily lives—will be essential for mobilizing voter turnout and preventing the Republican Party from seizing control of the federal government. GOP obstructionism on Capitol Hill is no excuse when Democratic leaders, as happens all too often, fail to clearly set imperative goals and go all-out to achieve them in tandem with grassroots movements. A prime example is Biden's refusal to use his authority to cancel student loan debt.
Meanwhile, Trump and associates are raising plenty of cash. During the spring, some news reports claimed that Trump was losing his hold on devotees—a Washington Post headline in May flatly declared that “Trump is sliding toward online irrelevance”—but such wishful thinking has been eclipsed by recent information. Trump's online fundraising brought in $56 million during the first half of this year, and his political committees report having $102 million in the bank. Those figures “underscore the profound reach of Trump's fundraising power,” Politico reported as this month began. Trump is maintaining “a massive online donor network that he could lean on should he wage a 2024 comeback bid.”
A vital challenge for progressives is to not only block Republican agendas but also to effectively campaign for policy changes that go far beyond the talking points of current Democratic leaders offering to tinker with the status quo. Merely promising a kinder, gentler version of grim social realities just won't be enough to counter the faux populism of a neofascist Republican Party.
(Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” (2006) and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State” (2007).)
Ooh my liver and my lights
And my legs and my lungs
They’re painin’ me they’re painin’ me
My heart is sad
And my breath is bad
And I think I’m goin’ crazy
— Burl Ives (1959)
Letter to the Editor
Think Big for the future!
We have an infrastructure plan passed by Congress! The region South of us here in Mendocino County is growing. The main 2 lane highways (128 & 20) other than HWY 1 are now heavy with traffic with big rigs, other large delivery trucks, double load gas trucks, logging trucks, Fed Ex, etc. all competing with locals & tourists in cars, in campers, in huge motorhomes with vehicles hitched and in tow. We have become a tourist’s mecca here on the Coast and these roads are not cutting it! We need to think about rebuilding rail from Cloverdale to Ukiah to Willits to the Coast. Also we need Light rail or free electric buses in our main towns and tourist areas paid for by the TOT. It can be done! We had rail before!
My Best Regards,
Mary Rose Kaczorowski