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TEMPERATURES ACROSS INTERIOR portions of northwest California will steadily warm going into the weekend. In addition, mild temperatures will be possible along the coast as marine air is shunted offshore. (NWS)
29 NEW COVID CASES, and another death, reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
60th DEATH: Another Unvaxxed Fatality
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 his family and friends.
A 52 year old Willits man has been confirmed as Mendocino County's 60th 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 not vaccinated.
AVHS GRADUATE, LUIS PACHECO, has opened a school in his hometown and named it Boonville!
ED NOTE: Centro de Idioma means Language Center.
U.S. TROOPS WOUNDED IN TWIN EXPLOSIONS NEAR KABUL AIRPORT
Two explosions have rocked the area surrounding the international airport in Kabul, injuring U.S. troops and throwing frantic evacuation efforts into fresh chaos. Just hours after the U.S. military warned of an imminent terror threat, twin blasts killed at least 13 people and injured 15, according to the Associated Press reported, citing Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
THIS WEEK AT BLUE MEADOW FARM
- Sweet Yellow Zucchini!
- Bulk Discounts on Early Girl & Roma Tomatoes
- Heirloom, Early Girl, Roma & Cherry Tomatoes
- Corno di Toro, Gypsy, Bell, Paprika Sweet Peppers
- Padrons, Poblanos, Jalapenos, Georgia Flame Chilis
- Italian & Asian Eggplant, Zucchini
- Cucumbers, Basil, Purslane
- Sunflowers & Zinnias
Blue Meadow Farm
3301 Holmes Ranch Rd, Philo
CAN MENDO BEAT THE RAIN?
by Mark Scaramella
NO SOONER had we written up the Supervisors Tuesday vote to take bids for water hauling from Ukiah to Fort Bragg than we got a question from a licensed water hauler in Ukiah asking how to sign up or apply. He said he’d gone on the County’s website and could not find anything. So off we went to the County’s website. Of course, there’s nothing about the project there, even though they had days to prepare and everybody says this is an urgent process because nobody on the Coast can buy water and they’re desperate. So we went to the Water Agency webpage, but there was no email address or contact button, just a phone number. The phone number turned out to be Carmel Angelo’s phone number. The nice lady in the CEO office tried several times to forward our call to someone else, but nobody picked up. The CEO office lady then gave us a number to call later. We called later and another nice lady in the Transportation Department said she didn’t know anything about the water hauling project. She gave us the number for a Ms. DiFranco who picked up and asked us to hold for a while. She came back and helpfully said that the hauler had to first register as a county vendor. She had no specific info on the water hauling project. But she did know how to register and walked us through that process. Unfortunately, navigating the County’s extremely unfriendly and mystifying website is beyond the technical capabilities of any normal person like a water hauler. As we tried to follow along, Ms. DiFranco even giggled at the ridiculous complexity as she slow-walked us through the registration process.
THE STEPS ARE: go to County’s main page, www.mendocinocounty.org, find general services in the drop down menu, under that click on central services, then click on “do business with the County,” read a bunch of fine print until you find a sentence that reads “Click here for more information regarding registering as a vendor,” click there, which brings you to the “vendor information” page, read a bunch more fine print until you find a sentence that reads “we ask that vendors begin registering by clicking here” (none of this is highlighted or bold or in menus, you have to read a bunch of unrelated text to find the tiny “here” to click on), Click there, which takes you off to an entirely separate software system called pbssystem.planetbids.com which requires you to prove you are not a robot, which then brings you to the “vendor portal,” where — tada! — you can click on “register as a new vendor.”
BUT nowhere is there any specific info on the emergency water hauling project. There’s nowhere for a hauler to provide their availability, the rate per hour or load, the hauler’s license, their capacity, or the number of trips or trucks they can offer.
EVEN THOUGH the County staff had days to prepare for Tuesday’s emergency special meeting and the urgent and obvious need to get going, they had and have no press release ready to send out, no procedure for taking bids, no trip ticket system ready to go (logging truckers use trip ticket cards which track the pick up, the load, the delivery, and the sign off which then is the basis for the invoice(s)). None of that has been given any thought.
HERE WE HAVE at least one hauler, with a licensed water truck, already registered to deliver water to Calfire for fighting fires, who is ready to start immediately. But he faces a gauntlet of webpages, and a team of completely unprepared staffers who have not been instructed or organized at all on how to get this supposedly emergency hauling project going to help the water starved Mendocino coast.
WE AWAIT THE PRESS RELEASE. The clock is ticking but the water is not moving. As one frustrated Coast resident said on Wednesday, “It’ll probably rain before the County gets us any water.”
* * *
SUPERVISOR MULHEREN WASN’T MUCH HELP EITHER. She wrote on Wednesday:
Add motion to allow the Incident Commander (Howard Dashiell) to waive the competitive bidding process to allow for emergency water hauling due to County drought emergency allowing up to $1.5 million to be spent on water hauling needs until a Grant can be applied for and funded.
Please make sure that you report your dry well to the State. This helps us receive grant funds. Here is the link: https://mydrywatersupply.water.ca.gov/report/
Adding, “After the BOS meeting I went for the first ‘Tidy Tuesday’ of the new ‘Litter League.” Only one other person showed up so thankfully the Ukiah Lions cheerleaders grabbed some bags and pickers and helped out as well!”
TOM MCFADDEN WRITES:
Caltrans Active Transportation Plan
Hi Alexis and Kari (Caltrans staffers);
In July of 2020, after reading about the Active Transportation Plan in the newspaper, I wrote mainly to remind Caltrans that there had been a group called The Valley Trail in Anderson Valley and that $130,000 had been spent to develop a detailed plan for a bike and pedestrian pathway from Cloverdale to the Coast. I wondered, and still wonder, why that amount of money was spent on a plan that has apparently been forgotten. Our group spent all of the money that we had been able to raise locally and failed to get a grant to build one mile to connect our schools here in Boonville. We are discouraged and we have since disbanded and given up our non-profit status. (501C-3). There is a new Highway 128 bridge, wide enough for at least five lanes, on the North end of Boonville, and Caltrans alleged it is not wide enough to have a bike lane. We would have had to build a new bike bridge, estimated to cost one million dollars, although the rest of our one mile proposed path would have had to be on the shoulder of the 2 lane highway.
Although I thought that any bike and pedestrian pathway would be better than none, I was disappointed in the plan for The Valley Trail because it called for the pathway to be on the highway shoulder, perhaps separated from the traffic only by a little fence. Where there was no shoulder one would be constructed…. What I had envisioned was a path meandering along the highway where necessary, but also diverging from the highway to go through Hendy Woods State Park, The Boonville Fairgrounds, Indian Creek County Park and the State owned lands along the Navarro River. There are also numerous logging roads and old logging rail lines that could be utilized. Folks along Highway 128 near the Cloverdale end were offering to let the pathway go through their private property. I thought there might be feeder paths connecting the main trail to Yorkville, Boonville, Philo and Navarro as well as to other locations where parking and trailheads would be established.
Now I am reading the Active Transportation Plan 2021 and I find that I have the same objections. Caltrans seems totally focused on using the existing highway system for bike and pedestrian pathways along with the motorized traffic. I feel that this is terribly shortsighted at best and that it is unsafe as well. You have a photo of a guy riding a bike and about to cross the area where auto traffic will merge onto the 101 freeway. I would not be that guy on that bike! Does Caltrans think that people driving cars and/or trucks and merging onto a freeway are thinking about bikes? People pulling out of parking spaces in Boonville, or out of the drive-in do not think to see if my wife, Kathleen, and I are nearby on our bikes. Does Caltrans seriously think that “share the road” signs will protect folks on bikes from inattentive or outright hostile drivers? I think that you should go ahead with this plan, because it is better than no plan, but I think you should add “bikes beware” and/or “watch out for cars and trucks” signs.
Caltrans' plan to use the highway system in this way may be the least expensive way to go, and it will undoubtedly attract some of the many folks who want to bike or walk to work, or to school, or for pleasure, but I feel that it is shortsighted in that it totally fails to recognize that people wanting to bike or walk do not necessarily want to do so right on the edge of a busy highway with cars and trucks alongside them. I submit that most folks walking or biking would like to do so on a pathway away from the noise and the pollution and the danger they will encounter along a highway.
I would suggest that Caltrans take a look at what Colorado has done with bike and walking paths in Boulder and Denver. Or perhaps someone there should take a ride on the bike and walking path that follows I-70 through Glenwood Canyon. Many such pathways have been built on abandoned, or along not abandoned, railroads. Why is the “Great Redwood Trail” proposed to follow the tracks of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad not even mentioned in your plan? I would like Caltrans to get out of the highway ditch and get creative with this. We have a system of highways designed for cars and trucks – let’s build a system of pathways designed for walking and biking and riding on horses. Is Caltrans up to that?
REMEMBER STEPHEN ANAPOLSKY
A Short Story of a person I didn’t know, but whom I’ll remember for the rest of my life:
During my first term serving as the 5th District Supervisor I received a phone call from Albion asking me to write a letter to the prison system in Geneva, Switzerland requesting that Stephen Anapolsky be released from prison having been arrested for alleged cocaine trafficking. The caller, who I didn’t know, said he was calling on behalf of the Albion Nation. My immediate reaction was that I doubted that no one in Switzerland would pay any attention to any letter I might write, but my caller was adamant - ”You’ve at least got to try”.
Asking the Clerk of the Board for a blank sheet of stationery I sat down to write about a person I didn’t know, who probably had smuggled cocaine - an undertaking I did not support and wrote that he was well known in his community where he was well liked and respected and that, if released, his community would welcome him home. And mailed the letter off to Geneva.
Some time later, it might have been years, but somewhere in the mid-1980’s I visited the US Celluar office, then on the northern outskirts of Fort Bragg. As the Cellular clerk was completing the paperwork he came across my name and stopped, stood up and with great enthusiasm thanked me. Bewildered I wondered why and then, for the first time, I met Stephen Anapolsky, a name I had forgotten. He filled in the missing history and said “We’ve got to do better” and picked up the phone and called US Cellular administration asking for 357.5555 in recognition of my being the 5th District Supervisor.
(Norman De Vall)
MARY DOUGHERTY (Dougherty House, Mendocino) WRITES:
The “Visit Mendocino” advertising on Bay Area television was a shocker when I saw it. I am appalled at the Ukiah-centric tourism council, using mostly tax dollars has been so tone-deaf. I feel like a nearly dead animal being beaten for the purpose of making more money for the general fund.
CONGRESSMAN HUFFMAN VISITED ANDERSON VALLEY THE OTHER DAY where he delivered a few words: "Like the great Mike Thompson, my predecessor in this gerrymandered-for-Demcrats-forever district, (thank you, Willie Brown) I love these by-invitation-only gatherings at cool-o wineries like this here one, the Navarro Winery, because only my fellow middle-of-the-road extremists like Val and Rachel and Bob Bushansky are allowed in. Or even know about it. The Navarro Winery is much loved in the Anderson Valley for their ecologically austere, frost protecting wind fans. Why, a Boonville Democrat told me recently that if he has to lose sleep for a month every year to save Ted Bennett's grapes, well by the goddess he only wished he could sacrifice more for such a great cause! I won't be taking any questions of course because, like our president, I don't have a goddam clue, and anyway I've got to pick up my free case of wine, and the nice check hidden inside. As we say in San Rafael, adios chumps."
UKIAH AND THE UKIAH PD are being sued by a former officer, Isabel Siderakis, who alleges, basically, that she was sexually assaulted by disgraced former Ukiah Police officer Kevin Murray. Ms. Siderakis now works unmolested for the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department.
If the allegations are true, and they certainly ring true, especially regarding Murray, whose sexual predations got him fired in the first place, they raise serious questions about the Ukiah PD's command structure. How can they not have known they had a badged rapist in their ranks?
ONE EPISODE from Ms. Siderakis' suit depicts Murray, nude and erect, forcing the beleagured detective to lock herself in her bathroom! Murray is discovered the next day, still nude, asleep on her bed. She should have called the cops. Oh, they are the cops.
FRONTIERS OF FREE ENTERPRISE: What the fizz! Mountain Dew debuts limited-edition Flamin' Hot CHEETOS soda, which combines the spicy snack with its signature sweet citrus flavor
THE FASCISTI have been howling for months that the Capitol cop who shot dead Ashli Babbitt during the MAGA riot should be publicly named. NBC said he will reveal his identity on Thursday in an interview with Lester Holt. Black cop faced with a MAGA mob coming through the window? He could have justly plugged them all until his ammo ran out.
AMONG WEDNESDAY'S TOP STORIES is a report, confirmed by the State Department that there are 1,500 Americans still desperate to leave Afghanistan. Republican Congressional commandos have claimed that Biden is allowing the Taliban to dictate the terms of the evacuation. Thousands of people are still converging on the airport in Kabul as, some Biden critics allege, Isis fanatics threaten to begin wholesale purges of “infidels.” Democrats and Republicans alike say there isn't enough time to get everyone out by Biden's deadline of August 31st.
THE LATE, GREAT JACK HIRSCHMAN
PROTESTING SHOEMAKER’S POINT ARENA PROJECT
Re: Point Arena Cove Project
I am surprised that the AVA has not been reporting on the ongoing protest over the Cove project in Point Arena, where Richard Shoemaker, the “special projects manager” secured FEMA funding to protect the parking lot at the Point Arena Cove by placing more giant boulders where Point Arena creek meets the ocean. The public was basically not apprised of the project until it was a “done deal.”
Local fishermen, surfers, environmentalists and residents of Point Arena are outraged and are in the process of shutting down the project. It would be great if the AVA would do some investigative reporting on this issue. Bill Arana, a longtime local Point Arena fisherman is leading the effort to shut the project down. There was a City Council meeting Tuesday night where the City Council put the breaks on the project until there is more public input. It’s a good scoop and you should be covering it.
Ed note: We're eternally skeptical of anything involving Shoemaker, who probably took a whack of the grant for himself. We agree with the protesters that the project is unnecessary.
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 25, 2021
ROBERT GOLDSTEIN, Willits. DUI with blood-alcohol over 0.15%.
JUSTIN MOORE, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, paraphernalia.
AMELIA RAMIREZ, Ukiah. Child neglect/abandonment.
LANCE TREPPA, Ukiah. County parole violation.
NORTH COAST MYTHOLOGY, IN A NUT SHELL
To the Editor,
We country bumpkins love a good yarn. The bigger the fable, the more readily it can be swallowed. Trump's death-grip on the white male imagination is a fine example. Here is another: Logging restrictions devastate our rural economy.
It's not devastation, it's a clearcut. It wasn't that in our spree to harvest that we were cutting trees faster than they are able to grow. And it wasn't mechanized production that left too many workers on the bread line. It wasn't that automation in sawmills had any discernable effect on our local economy. Or that offshore log markets or global politics or globalism itself, or tariffs or trade wars had any bearing on rural life. It has nothing to do with the local management decisions made by graduates of the OSU School of Forestry in support of financial paradigms that have never taken local economies into account.
Nope, logging restrictions are to blame. And tree huggers. And that old salt, Captain Traders. And owls and murrelets, and other fuzzy wuzzies. And rising seawater and warming oceans and domoic acid. Not all mudslides are created equal. Our hands are clean. Trees are a renewable resource. It's simple, cut one, and plant ten. Cut ten, and plant one hundred more. Rinse and repeat. What could go wrong; we are safe. We are living in a bubble.
MITCH CLOGG: STUFF THAT UNDERLIES MY THINKING (as far as I understand it)
I’ve studied economics. I study it every day. It’s a “science” that runs against my grain. I’m unhandy with straight-line thinking or acting: “first A, then B, then C, then D, then...”. My poor mind prefers running in circles. Experience with journalism, an awareness that I must consider Logic (regardless of how it’s also against my grain), and my puny efforts at imposing discipline on my unruly mind—these help raise me a few inches above imbecility.
SO, confronted with an article like this one, I have to reread key parts of it and blink away the film that keeps trying to cover my eyes. It’s a review I have to keep reviewing. However much I resist it, this information is essential to understanding what’s going on. However Richard Wolff wants to avoid the jargony language of Economics, if I need to reread certain phrases and go back to see how he defines them, I do it, plodding, unhappy, but compliant. They don’t call it “the dismal science” fer nuthin. Like, say, changing diapers, it’s dismal but essential. I copy this from my daily email, from Counterpunch.org.
August 23, 2021
Explaining 21st-Century Capitalism in a Way Everyone Can Understand
by Richard D. Wolff
Now that so many people have realized that the capitalist system is riddled with problems, they want a clear explanation about the functioning of the system. They are dissatisfied and impatient with how school courses, politicians’ statements, and mainstream media treat the subject. Basic economics literacy is notoriously low in the United States even as its citizens show great interest in the financial aspects of their lives. So this short article aims to present the system’s essentials.
Capitalism is just one particular way of—a system for—organizing the production and distribution of goods and services. It differs from other systems such as slavery and feudalism but also shares some similarities with them. Capitalism, like slavery and feudalism, divides those engaged with the production and distribution of goods and services into two groups, one small and the other large.
Slavery had masters (few) and enslaved people (many), while feudalism divided the groups into lords (few) and serfs (many). Employers are capitalism’s smaller group. They control, direct, and oversee the economic system. The employers use production and distribution to grow their wealth. Capital is wealth engaged in self-expansion. As the systemic agents who are socially positioned to perform that expansion, employers are capitalists.
Capitalism’s much larger group comprises the employees (or workers). As the majority in the system’s workplaces, they do most of the work. Employees are divided into two groups. One group, often called “productive workers,” are those directly involved in producing goods or services. In a company that produces chairs, for example, they are the makers of the chairs (people directly transforming wood into chairs). The second group of employees, often called “unproductive workers,” are not directly involved in contributing to the workplace’s output. Rather, unproductive workers provide the conditions and the context that enable the productive workers to directly produce the output. Examples of unproductive workers in a workplace include clerks who keep records and sales and purchasing departments’ employees who secure inputs and market outputs.
Capitalist employers alone decide the mix of productive and unproductive workers they hire, what each of them does, what technologies each deploys, where their work is done, and what happens to the fruits of their labor. While productive and unproductive workers are excluded from participating in those decisions, they live with the consequences of these decisions.
Productive workers use tools, equipment, and buildings that are paid for and provided by the employers who hire them. Productive workers transform raw materials likewise purchased and provided by their employers.
These “means of production” (tools, equipment, facilities, and raw materials) bought by employers contain a certain value that carries over into the finished product. The productive workers add more value by expending their transformative labor and utilizing those means of production provided to them by the employers. Thus, the finished output of each capitalist workplace contains the values of the used-up tools, equipment, and raw materials, plus the value added by the productive workers.
The key point to grasp here is that the value added by the productive workers is significantly more than the value of the wages paid to them by their employer. For example, an employer may agree to pay a productive worker $20 per hour because—and only because—during each hour, that productive worker’s labor adds more value than $20. That key difference between value added and value of the wage payment is often called the “surplus value.” The capitalist employers receive (or better, take) that surplus value and withdraw from it a portion that they call “profit.”
The simple arithmetic of capitalist production can clarify its structure. First, the value of used-up means of production plus the value added by productive labor equals the total value of the output. The employer receives, owns, and sells that output in the market. Second, the excess of the value added by productive labor, over and above the value of the wages paid to the productive worker, provides employers with the surplus value. Part of that surplus value is used by employers to hire unproductive workers and to provide the conditions that enable productive workers to generate that surplus value. Included in these conditions is the interest paid to creditors who lend to the capitalist and the dividends paid to those who purchased shares in the enterprise.
The rest of the surplus value is what capitalists call profit. They use profit to grow their enterprises and support their own levels of consumption. In the modern capitalist corporation, the capitalists are the boards of directors who retain the profits in their hands and use them chiefly to grow the corporation and enable enhanced consumption by leading corporate officials (such as CEOs) as well as directors.
Capitalists get surplus value while employees get wages or salaries. That difference is crucial. Because employers occupy the dominant decision-making position in workplaces (enterprises), they use that position to ensure that enterprises produce profits as their first priority, their “bottom line.” Employers seek to reduce, as far as possible, the wages or salaries they need to pay to hired workers, both productive and unproductive. The more they repress wages or salaries of productive workers, the more surplus value they can take. The more they repress the wage or salaries of unproductive workers, the greater the share of the surplus they can take in profits.
Capitalism’s high priests—the professional economists—spin the tales (they prefer to call them theories) that justify the system. Thus they seek to persuade us that capitalists’ “profit maximization” achieves the greatest efficiency, economic growth, and the greatest good for the greatest number. We are to believe that the self-serving (profit-driven) behavior of the employer class is, magically, the best for employees. In parallel fashion, earlier priests insisted that slavery and its self-serving masters were the best possible social arrangement for enslaved people. The priests during feudalism likewise praised it and its self-serving lords as the best possible social arrangement for serfs.
Because profit maximization serves capitalist employers, mainstream economics celebrates profits. In recent decades, that mainstream borrowed from mathematics the abstract notion (model) of a simplified system in which maximizing one aspect of it automatically maximizes many of its aspects. They then insisted that such a model captures (adequately represents) how capitalism works. Don’t be fooled; it does not. The mathematical model is simple, but capitalism is not. Maximizing and taking the profits out of each capitalist enterprise is how capitalists accumulate wealth.
That is good for them but not at all for the rest of us. Keeping profits away from employees keeps them needing employment from capitalists. That too is good for employers. The profit system reproduces capitalism over time by reproducing the capitalists at one end and the workers needing jobs at the other. Capitalists and workers have never been equal beneficiaries of the system.
The market is another institution capitalism utilizes to reproduce itself. Markets had existed long before modern capitalism arose to become today’s globally dominant economic system. Slavery and feudalism had markets, but not in a unique way and not to the extent that capitalism does. Capitalism inserts the market into the core relationship between the system’s two major positions: employer and employee.
The employer purchases the labor power of the employee from the latter (who owns it). In contrast, enslaved people were purchased in markets, but their labor power was not theirs to sell. Neither serfs nor serf labor power was purchased by feudal lords. Only when slavery and feudalism declined did some markets emerge for labor power and, thereby, signal some transition toward capitalism.
For capitalism, markets provided the means to secure its crucial ratio: the difference between the value paid for labor power (the wage) and the value added by the laborer’s work effort. That difference is the prerequisite for surplus value to be produced by the productive laborer and then appropriated and socially distributed by the capitalist.
Profit maximization and markets were always carefully limited and designed to serve the reproduction of capitalism. That is how markets evolved once the capitalist organization of production and distribution displaced the systems of slavery and feudalism that preceded it. Those other systems had either rejected markets or else shaped markets to reproduce those different, noncapitalist systems. Only a narrow, ideological fundamentalism raises markets, profits, or capitalism itself to a status above history as if any of them had the power to stop the flow of change.
Capitalism’s profit and market systems do not represent a suprahistorical absolute of maximal efficiency or optimality (favorite words in mainstream economics). Let’s remember that previous economic systems always spawned powerful ideologies insisting that they too were permanent, optimal “ends of history.” That alone ought to have imbued contemporary economists with some self-critical disciplinary consciousness. Instead, most of these economists merely advanced yet another set of absolutist claims on behalf of capitalism. Mainstream economics has had great difficulty including any such self-criticism. Capitalists’ demands for ideological loyalty from their workers may have played a role in that difficulty.
History has not stopped. Every other economic system in human history was born, evolved, and ceased to exist at some point. The most reasonable expectation is that capitalism, having been born and evolved, will also cease to exist one day. Human beings have often been impatient with the economic systems they had and eager for something better. The number of people feeling that way about capitalism is rising globally. Clarifying the basics of capitalism, which is to be superseded, can help move society forward now.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: ANTIFA ATTACKS REPORTER IN PORTLAND
by Matt Taibbi
Antifa's influence may be exaggerated, but it's not a mythical Snuffleupagus, either, as they showed in attacking reporter Maranie Staab from our partner News2Share this past weekend.
This past Sunday, while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon for our video partner News2Share, a reporter named Maranie Staab was attacked by members of an Antifa-affiliated group. After complaining about a report she’d done in Colombia in conjunction with TK News, they maced her, shot paint at her, and threw her to the ground.
The backdrop for this scene was explained to TK readers this past weekend in our latest episode of “Activism, Uncensored” called “The Great American Fistfight.” After a series of violent street clashes between left and right activists in Los Angeles, right-wing protesters planned a “United We Win” rally in Portland, Oregon for this past weekend. Antifa and left-wing groups pledged to “defend Portland from racist fascists.” News2Share’s Ford Fischer predicted violence, and he unfortunately turned out to be right.
The exact sequence of events will be detailed in a longer report Ford has coming — the whole day turned out to be a mess, replete with violent confrontations and ending with an exchange of gunfire, in which a right-wing protester fired first (a Black Bloc protester returned fire but was not apprehended). Staab, it should be noted, was also first sprayed with WD-40 by a right-wing protester. But the more serious incident took place later.
In the relevant sequence, an Antifa-affiliated protester called Staab a kutta (a Hindi word meaning, “dog,” apparently) and “slut.” Then the masked protester demanded that press “get the fuck out” and stop filming, pointing in Staab’s face and making the following bizarre comment about a story we ran in July called “Colombia in Chaos”: "You fucking endanger people by flying to fucking Colombia and endangering everyone by opening them up to Covid!"
Beyond the total incoherence of that comment generally, calling a woman a name like “slut” obviously flies in the face of what antifascist protesters generally claim to be their beliefs about things like misogyny. In any case, Staab then approached the protesters without her cameras out to try to talk things through, at which point they tossed paint at her, maced her, and threw her to the ground. Eventually, they also smashed both her iPhone and the lens for her digital camera. “Out!” they screamed. “How many fucking times do we have to tell you?”
In the coming longer video report on this site, viewers will see that the idiocies of Sunday ranged far and wide, with no shortage of violence from the Proud Boys and other rightist groups that showed up that day. However, only one group saw fit to attack a videographer, and I think it’s time the wider press took more notice, because this is not an aberration with this type of activist.
Having encountered Antifa-type protesters in the past, my impression was always that they were neither organized nor terribly numerous, and I always found them more ridiculous than threatening. I too have had the experience of being ordered not to photograph or film Antifa protesters, instructions that always made me wonder about the intelligence level of these people.
Yes, putting masks on prevents you from being identified, but it doesn’t confer the right of invisibility. Also, if you show up at a publicly-announced protest in a public place in broad daylight dressed like GWAR roadies or extras to a Terry Gilliam movie and start smashing things, one really has to wonder about the sincerity of your commitment to anonymity. Someone is going to film you, whether it’s the right-wing counter-protesters on the other side or the police, and in the case of the press, it’s actually their job to do it in a responsible way. You have a right to wear a mask, they have both the right and the obligation to film you, that’s how this works.
Nonetheless, antifascist protesters have taken their absurd demands of non-coverage quite far in the past, making lists of protester-approved media and going after reporters and videographers from papers like local CBS and ABC affiliates as well as the Washington Post, NPR,the Toronto Sun,and others.Their rationale is that filming hurts their cause by making them vulnerable either to arrest or doxing, a dubious concept one could argue on multiple levels, but again, that’s what masks are for. Moreover — and I know this can be a hard concept — cameras generally help public protests, with the exception being when activists behave stupidly or unattractively in public. If you don’t do things like knock female reporters to the ground, you’re probably not going to end up dealing with negative press.
By general assent many mainstream outlets and politicians have taken the position that “Antifa” doesn’t exist, with outlets like Vanity Fairwriting pieceslike “Sure looks like the right’s Antifa boogeyman doesn’t exist,” and people like Jerrold Nadler calling Antifa violence a “myth.” It does seem to be true that there is no “Antifa” in the sense of a nationally organized phenomenon, and they certainly are not the threat Donald Trump claims they are, but that doesn’t mean they are a completely harmless non-entity either. Too many news outlets have respected the desire of such protesters to remain invisible when they behave atrociously, and this is one of those cases.
If the protesters from this past weekend had any integrity, they would come forward and start with an apology. There’s no excuse for attacking press, especially when your modus operandiis moronic attention-grabbing public stunts. I’ll let Ford and News2Share tell the rest of this story, but to say I’m furious about the events of this weekend would be an understatement. It also doesn’t say a lot about the ethics of mainstream press outlets that they let behavior like this go without comment. How is any of this “progressive”?
REMAKING THE ECONOMY
by David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick
President Biden’s domestic agenda seems to be back on track in Congress.
House Democrats resolved a procedural spat this week, and they and Senate Democrats are now turning to the substantive work of putting together a sprawling bill meant to slow climate change, reduce poverty and expand pre-K, college financial aid and Medicare benefits.
The package represents Biden’s most ambitious attempt to reshape the American economy — more so than either the large infrastructure bill also making its way through Congress or the pandemic-relief law that Biden signed in March. The newest bill is likely to be larger and longer lasting, and would affect many aspects of daily life, like education, health care and perhaps even the weather.
But the bill will need to survive a narrow path to pass. No Republicans are likely to support it. Democrats will thus need to maintain the support of all 50 of their senators, including moderates like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and lose no more than three House members.
Today, we offer a guide to the package, which will occupy Congress for much of the next month and maybe beyond. Daily news coverage tends to focus on the procedural back-and-forth, for the simple reason that members of Congress and their aides are also focused on that back-and-forth. We’ll step back to walk you through the plan’s substance, including the contentious parts and the areas where Democrats seem to have a consensus.
If Biden is going to sign meaningful climate legislation in his first two years — and maybe ever — it will be as part of this bill.
The most significant provision would push the electricity sector to reduce pollution sharply over the next 15 years, which scientists say would have a major impact on carbon emissions. It would do so by subsidizing the use of solar, wind, nuclear and other forms of clean energy while financially penalizing the use of dirty energy like coal, our colleague Lisa Friedman says.
This electricity plan seems likely to be included in a final bill, although Manchin has been vague about his position on it. One unknown: How will it treat natural gas, which is less polluting than coal but more polluting than other energy forms?
The bill is also likely to help families pay for electric cars and energy-efficient homes. Another uncertainty is whether the bill will include something known as a carbon border adjustment tax — a tax on imports whose production was carbon-intensive, like many from China.
“The health care parts of the bill are huge,” our colleague Margot Sanger-Katz says. “There is a lot of health care policy that will have real effects in the lives of people.” And many of the provisions seem likely to survive in the final bill.
Medicare would expand to include dental, hearing and vision coverage for Americans over 65 — an important change, given how many of them struggle to see, hear or chew, Margot says. Medicaid (the federal program focused on low-income people) would expand specifically in the 12 states that have not signed up for the program’s Obamacare expansion. Subsidies for private Obamacare plans would also grow, as would money for home health care, to help more people avoid nursing homes.
Margot says that her reporting on Capitol Hill indicates the biggest uncertainty is how aggressive Congress will be about trying to reduce prescription drug prices. That provision could be very popular — and also reduce Medicare and Medicaid spending, freeing up more money for other parts of the bill. “The House is on board for a big drug price approach,” Margot says. “But there is less consensus in the Senate, and, of course, the pharma industry will not go down without a fight.”
Education and families
The plan includes two major expansions of education. It would make prekindergarten available to every 3- and 4-year-old, likely by subsidizing the state programs that more than half of them already attend. The federal government would also try to make community college universal, by expanding financial aid to cover both tuition and living expenses.
Those provisions have the potential to lift upward mobility by reducing educational inequality, experts say. And several other provisions would immediately reduce poverty. They include:
- The extension of a child tax credit in the pandemic relief plan that sends families up to $300 per child each month but is set to expire in December.
- A national program of paid leave — worth up to $4,000 a month — for workers who take time off because they’re ill or caring for a relative.
- Subsidies for child care.
Democrats plan to pay for the bill’s costs by raising taxes on the affluent. The plan includes increases in the corporate tax rate and the top income tax rate, as well as perhaps a new tax on companies’ overseas profits.
The fight over these taxes is likely to be “the most fraught part” of the debate, says our colleague Emily Cochrane, who covers Congress. Manchin, for example, has said both that he favors a smaller corporate tax increase than what Biden and top Democrats have proposed — but also that he wants tax increases to cover the bill’s full costs. That’s one reason the bill could shrink from its current estimated cost of $3.5 trillion.
One other thorny tax issue: Some House members, especially from higher-tax states like New York and New Jersey, want to restore some deductions that largely benefit higher-income households and that Republicans scrapped during the Trump presidency. Why are Democrats pushing for a tax cut that mostly benefits the upper middle class and above? “It is truly an ‘all politics is local’ issue,” The Times’s Jim Tankersley says.
House and Senate Democrats will negotiate in the coming weeks. Both chambers could then pass identical bills early this fall and send the legislation to the White House for Biden’s signature — if Democrats can remain united.
(The New York Times)
Letter to the Editor,
Several folks asked me how to vote in the current ballot. I said definitely vote NO on the recall, since if it passes the governorship would go to the highest vote getter, which is now a Trumpian Republican. And I voted for Joel Ventresca, a politically experienced, Bernie Sanders-supporting progressive Democrat. I believe he's the 6th name on the list of candidates. I hope this is helpful.
IF YOU WANT to know how the United States wound up with “government by stupid” one need only look no farther than some of the recent propaganda put out by members of Congress, senior military officers and a certain former president. President George W. Bush, who started the whole sequence of events that have culminated in the disaster that is Afghanistan, is not yet in prison, but one can always hope. Regarding the current crisis, former FBI special agent and 9/11 whistleblower Coleen Rowley cited Richard W. Behan who mused over "How perverse we have become. We chastise President Biden for a messy ending of the war in Afghanistan and fail to indict George Bush for its illegal beginning.” She then observed, in her own words on Facebook, "So Rehabilitated War Criminal Bush can maintain his legacy as stalwart statesman as he cutely dances with Ellen DeGeneris and Michelle Obama on television screens. Washington is just a big fact-free political show where the blame game winners are the best manipulators.”
— Philip Giraldi
KNYO's brave little transmitter on the field operating table, its steaming intestines open to the sky.
Five or so summers ago KNYO's transmitter (rack-mounted metal rectangle the size of a briefcase in a little travel trailer next to the redwood tree the antenna is on top of) self-protectively shut off because the cooling fan failed. Bob put a new fan in from an old computer and it's been fine ever since. The fan is the only moving part in any transmitter, the main point of failure, and a couple of days ago the fan stopped again, then everything stopped, but it stopped too late this time; some difficult-to-source parts got hot and the magic smoke got out.
That's a radio/teevee repair joke: It's the magic smoke inside parts that makes them work. You need fresh parts that still have their magic smoke inside.
The exact parts are not immediately available because the last guy remaining at the company who has them just died last week of COVID-19. His partner died a few months ago of COVID-19. I guess they weren't vaccinated. They were in Alabama, so.
Anyway, Bob paid a pretty penny to ship the whole transmitter overnight to Illinois to be fixed in the shop taking up the slack from Alabama. If all goes great, it'll be back, and KNYO back on the air, by Friday night for my show. If all goes pretty well, it'll take till Monday or Tuesday. If somewhat less than well, Bob will have to buy another transmitter, possibly a brand new one, possibly an old one lying around -- they're all over the place. KMEC Ukiah isn't even using theirs; not needing it anymore since the Mendocino Environment Center got their hooks in KZYX -- or rather hooked their hooks in KZYX's hooks -- they unplugged KMEC's transmitter well over a year ago; that's just sitting there in the MEC gathering dust.
Anyway, technicians are working on the problem. And meanwhile KNYO is still streaming on the web fine, everyone doing their shows the way they do, available 24 hours a day via https://KNYO.org (press Listen Live, then, depending on what you're using, you might have to press the play arrow) or http://airtime.knyo.org:8040/128
...and I'll be doing Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio all this Friday night just like I have every Friday night it's been possible since February of 1997. See you there.
OH! And I don't have to tell you: while you're at KNYO.org, click on the big red non-anatomic heart to see how painless and pleasurable it is now to give some of your disposable money to a radio station that really needs it, not being funded by the government, nor being allowed by the FCC to ever turn the transmitter up any higher than 100 watts. Really, you're an angel. Thank you so much. But do it.
And further and even more emphatic OH!: Bob just phoned me. The operation is a success: The transmitter will be whole and well and priority-shipped and wired back in and working by this Friday. Which all costs another pretty penny, so go to KNYO.org and click on the big red heart. You're needed.
IN OTHER NEWS: This morning I dreamed of a crappy hotel/motel room where cosmic forces were reduced down to a vague then violent conflict between Mark McKinney of Kids In The Hall (in a silver leotard priest suit) and a wastebasket-size motorized open-mouthed Jesus/Zardoz plinth that jerked around the room maneuvering for a nose-gun shot at him. Mark, already shot once in the solar plexus, could continue for awhile before collapsing because of being from outer space. A movie puppeteer appeared behind Jesus/Zardoz/trashcan, lying prone, manipulating throttle cables to move J.Z.'s metal snaky manipulating-arm-now-elephant trunk so gradually all the marbles scattered about the shag carpet were collected, and in the next scene, Mark, unshot and okay, exercised the psychic muscles of his space-power by filling, emptying and refilling a small aquarium with colored water from the air by squeezing the holy marbles with pliers. In the last scene a cross between my employer Tim and my stepfa ther waited around patiently while I packed up my things after the movie project. I played for him the answering machine tape I'd cleverly used as a sound effect-- but it just hemmed and hawed ("Um... hold on a minute... uh...") never getting to the sound. Eventually I had all my things in the Chevy Citation I had in the middle 1980s, including fancy brogue bowling shoes the Marci Fosse-like fast-food clerk girl in the previous dream refused in trade for food ("Yuck," she said of the shoes), and it was agreed everyone would meet in Redwood Valley, which in the dream had been moved to the desert somewhere east of San Diego because Mark McKinney's marbles rearranged reality, but only a little bit, like cut-rate Infinity Stones, or rather like the crashed alien terraforming machinery in the teevee show Defiance, which I suddenly would like to watch all three years of all over again because it's superlative storytelling. It's about a lot of things, but mainly about the relationship be tween a tough but goodhearted soldier of the war between the humans and the aliens and the teenage alien girl he rescued as a toddler and is now raising as his own daughter, which he knows fuck-all about how to do. I recommend Defiance.
The teenage alien girl is played by Stephanie Leonidas, who earlier played Helena in the film MirrorMask which is also terrific, having been written by Neil Gaiman.
— Marco McClean, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
Time to leave.
The United States spent $2 trillion and more than 2,400 military lives attempting to democratize Afghanistan. We have failed to conquer the Taliban, just as the Romans, British and Russians failed to conquer Afghanistan. It is time to leave, despite the tragic impact leaving will have on women and girls there.
The people of Afghanistan must resolve their civil war. America faces our own national crises in white nationalist terrorism, depleted public health systems, unattainable higher education, income inequality, homelessness, voter suppression and climate change. It is time to solve our problems at home and cease spending trillions policing the world.
NO ONE CAN WIN HERE
by Tom Laaser
“No one can win here,” I found myself whispering as I looked at the distant mountain peaks surrounding Bagram Airfield. Single file out of the C-130 we came. It was 2013, a point at which we were told the war was all but over. We were not here to fight; we artillerymen were here to train the Afghans to shoot their Soviet-era howitzers and supervise. Most of the younger soldiers were disappointed, feeling as though they’d missed the war and were relegated to cleanup crew. I was one of them, itching to be a part of history, active history. At the back of my mind were the memories of watching the towers fall, watching the news coverage as soldiers entered Afghanistan. The silence surrounding my father’s Vietnam Era service. I hadn’t joined right out of high school, but the urge to be a part of history never went away. The urge to do rather than to speak. I found myself in my mid-20s, with a wife and children back home, surrounded by mountains larger than I’d ever seen, with a duffel bag on my back and an ill-fitting boonie cap on my head half a world away just so I could feel like I did something. I believed in America. I believed in democracy. And a healthy democracy demands participation. This was my service to the country. My civic duty. My moral duty.
“Looks exactly like Arizona!” echoed back and forth between the Arizonians in our platoon. They felt oddly at home. I felt foreign. The terrain very unlike my native New England. Speaking a non-native language. Carrying a gun. I felt a defiance in the mountains. You do not belong here, they were saying in chorus. Nowhere else have I felt a terrain more alive than Afghanistan. The glowing purple mountains, the stark lines in the rocks, the snow that fell so unnaturally slow. Every rock pulsed with a soul. I fell in love with it instantly. I fell in love with the sunsets, the snow, and the defiant mountains. A bittersweet romance from the moment boot touched tarmac.
Equally alive are the people whom the mountains have chosen. A selection of tribes who mirror the mountains in beauty and complexity. Prior to deployment, I had immersed myself in Afghan history and politics. I’d read every book I could. I also received an abbreviated training in Dari, which alongside Pashto are the two official languages of Afghanistan. The idea was that every platoon, regardless of job, would have one Dari and one Pashto speaker. With only so many interpreters and since we were no longer technically fighting, but training, having someone around at all times with a passing knowledge of terms was thought to be helpful. My elementary level Dari proved to be an open door to the Afghans I met. My faulting attempts at speaking with them was always met with surprise and enthusiasm.
I found myself torn between so many differing sides of reality. I was madly in love with Afghanistan – its people, its land, its soul – All of which both embraced me and held me at arm’s length. You do not belong here, said the mountain chorus. Most of my fellow Americans did not share my love. Uninterested in the humanity of the land, they were content to stay to themselves, get the job done, hopefully kill someone, and then get the fuck back to ice cold beer and football on tv. I don’t blame them. My love affair with Afghanistan has given me nothing but heart break. Many nights I would find myself sitting cross-legged in front of a tv watching an Iranian soap opera, drinking chai and chewing sugar candies with the Afghan interpreters. The shows improved my conversation skills and the interpreters were always willing to point things out for me to pick up. These nights like any other night of friends sitting around watching tv. Except the moments they would speak Pashto between themselves, and the M4 carbine of mine I left resting on the door frame, that reminded us of our differences. Of a gap between what could be and what was. I would return to the American side those nights to snide remarks and questions regarding my feelings toward the Afghans. Many of the Afghans I worked with would say of me, “You are not American! You are Afghan!” They said this as a compliment. The truth was, I was neither Afghan, nor American. I was foreign. On all fronts.
I was, and am, a lover. I love people. I love the land. I found myself, much like all of us, trying to grapple with what it was to be a citizen of your country. What it was to be a part of a piece of the Earth. So much gray area. All one human race? One nation helping to build another? Most Afghans aligned more with their tribe than the made up “Afghan” national idea. Were we truly helping these people? Were we avenging 9/11? There were, and still are, no clear answers. An existential crisis distilled in the air of that region.
Our job, as well, was one of contradiction. We were not, as stated, training the Afghans to shoot artillery. There was a team who oversaw the Afghan battery of old Russian D 30 howitzers. On the other side of the base was our guns. When we were fired upon or needed to assist an Afghan platoon out on patrol, both Afghans and Americans would be called up. But only one fired at the enemy. The Afghans would be allowed to shoot, always before us, and never at the target. They were not trusted yet and the consensus from the team overseeing them was that they were a long way off from being ready. Our platoon was left feeling as though we were doing something, while being told we were not to be open about the something we were doing. The Combat Action Badge, that shiny piece of metal non-infantry combat men covet, was denied on the grounds that the Afghans officially engaged, not us.
No end in sight. No clarity. It felt as though, on all sides, there never had been clear cut objectives. The existential paradox of that region radiating off those mountains confused and obliterated any idea of linear goals. Reflecting those mountains, the Afghans were never clear either. Many Afghans we worked with would hoot and holler when our guns went off. They’d cheer and yell “Yes! America!” But, in the quiet of the night, in the glow of an Iranian soap opera, I would hear brief wistful talk over the chai, “Sometimes I do miss the Taliban. At least with them you knew things. No smut around. People did right.” The divide between a religious state and a liberal nation were on display. Even the Afghans were unsure of our intentions, unsure of their own leadership, and unsure of what path would give them what they truly wanted.
I’m sitting on a granite boulder on the edge of a pine forest. Woods and mountains. The only places I feel at home anymore. Only wild areas show any clarity. I’m on my phone, talking with a battle buddy from deployment. He too moved to the woods for clarity. We’ve been watching the American troop withdrawal. Seeing the bodies cling to the same C 130s that brought us there. Receiving the million and one emails from every veteran organization under the sun with links to crisis lines and resources to talk. I think about the Vietnam vets. The support they lacked. How truly on their own they were when Saigon fell. I owe them a lot. Many crying alone. Many sitting at wood’s edge alone. They found each other. They built vet centers. They advocated and lobbied so that soldiers like me would not be alone like them. I sit alone in the woods, a place I wouldn’t have been able to get to had it not been years of help from all those organizations and crisis lines they built. My friend is nonchalant about the Taliban’s quick retaking of Afghanistan. Numb, I feel. Both of us. Numb to all.
So hard to not be cynical. To shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh well, so much death and suffering for nothing.” It would be true, of course, to say that. But it feels so inhumane. However, we just experienced twenty years of people not telling the truth. Not being brutally honest and it only brought more suffering. It feels as though we all wanted a linear story. What is our purpose? How do we get to it? Without those questions answered there’s no winning, whatever winning would mean. What was it we wanted to do with Afghanistan? What is it the Afghans want? Again, we are in an existential grey area. To feel nothing. To feel too much. Maybe my friend and I are just overwhelmed and our brains are protecting us from what could happen if we dwell on it. I am, after all, more content to be alone in the woods. “Fuck it, man, I’m just going for a hike,” my friend says before hanging up. “Me too,” I say, slide off the boulder, and walk into the woods. Only two days later we’re on the phone again, “I’m just so torn up,” he says, “I don’t know what to think or feel.” Me too. I think about the news coverage. The phone calls I’m receiving from concerned people, many of whom I haven’t spoken with in years. Why care now? Why the moral outrage now? Afghanistan’s withdrawal is just the newest outrage of the month for people. Last month was the Uighurs (remember that genocide still happening?) and tomorrow will be something else. And the people of Afghanistan will continue to die and the veterans will continue to mourn. I never much respected moral outrage, less so now. The same inclination against it brought me to serve. I needed to do something. Action. I find that many people love to be outraged, but few are willing to follow that up with action. Moral outrage has its place, it can humanize us animals. Provided we do something to help, even something small. But it can also be addicting. Make you feel good. Feel like a good person. Then go back to your beer and tv – no sacrifice required. Sadly, this is the majority position. I don’t blame them, though. Entering into these things, truly entering into them, requires a blood sacrifice. It requires your time and your effort with no hope of reward. It’s not thirty second videos you watch one after the other, it’s a rich story in which you must be a character and hold out until the end.
And me, and all of those decades of veterans. And all those Afghans. Families. Children. We stand before those mountains having offered our blood sacrifices. Years of it. Palms outstretched, waiting for an answer. For connection and honesty. To feel victory. As though we did something and won.
(Tom Laaser is an OEF veteran, having served with the 10th Mountain Division in Khost, Afghanistan 2013 – 2014, where he was injured and medically retired. His written work has appeared in As You Were, Oxford Brookes’ Anthology My Teeth Don’t Chew on Shrapnel, The Best of Medic in the Green Time, and Hero’s Voices. He is founder of the Salem Veteran Writing Workshop as well as co-founder of the Salem State Veterans Playwriting Festival. He lives in Maine with his wife and three children. Email: email@example.com. (Courtesy CounterPunch.org.))
HIKING CALIFORNIA'S MOST REMOTE COASTLINE
by Ashley Harrell
As the sun dipped behind a row of 4,000-foot mountains plunging into the frothy sea, a seal peeked its head from the surf and the seaweed glowed gold. This was day one’s highlight on our 24.6-mile journey up the Lost Coast, the most remote shoreline in California that we hiked in late August to escape the pandemic. And the fires. And our cellphones. And the possibility of receiving any further news of 2020.
By those metrics, the trip could be considered a success. But as those familiar with this unforgiving wilderness must certainly know, for every problem the Lost Coast solves, a new and unusual one is created.
Before COVID-19 ruined travel, the longest undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States lured outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. You know they were excited because they reserved their permits months in advance to camp along the most popular section of the Lost Coast Trail, the stretch between Mattole Trailhead and Black Sands Beach, in the King Range National Conservation Area. They were well aware of the challenges; arguably they preferred them.
On the Lost Coast, bears and rattlesnakes are common. Storms and fog can move in without warning. The ocean is sometimes violent, with “sneaker waves” claiming more than a few unlucky backpackers. Intimidatingly, the trail weaves in and out of the tidal zone, where wrong timing can leave hikers trapped between sheer cliffs and an encroaching sea.
For these reasons, inexperienced hikers tend to avoid the Lost Coast, or team up with more seasoned trekkers. So when Blu Graham, the owner of Lost Coast Adventure Tours, agreed to let my friend and me tag along, we accepted.
The day before the trip, Graham’s 16-year-old son needed stitches because he crashed into a tree while riding a motorcycle. Then one of the fryers went out at Mi Mochima, the Venezuelan restaurant that Graham owns with his wife in Shelter Cove. He considered canceling the trip, but ultimately decided it was just what he needed.
We knew the feeling.
Between the pandemic, the 600-plus fires that were torching California, my friend becoming unemployed and me working three jobs from a 300-square-foot in-law unit I share with my partner, tagging along with Graham as he hiked the Lost Coast sounded like exactly the right move. A beach adventure in an area so rugged it had to be bypassed by Highway 1 would be our panacea, we believed.
But when the first evening came, we ate tasteless rice (having forgotten the spices) and found ourselves ruminating on what had gone wrong. Hiking north from Shelter Cove on Black Sand Beach in the afternoon heat had melted the glue on my right hiking shoe, and the sole had detached. I had placed one of my socks over the front to keep the shoe together, but eventually the sand and rocks had destroyed it.
Graham — a gruff veteran backpacker — was not impressed. This was going to be a problem, he said. When my friend turned to face him wearing her head lamp, shining it directly in his eyes, he accused her of spraying him with “hippie mace.” He also advised that we move our tent, which we had set up in an uneven area.
Although the campsite was tucked into a valley called Miller Flat, we couldn't find a level place for the tent. All night, strong winds swept through and shook the rain fly. On several occasions I woke up in a panic, thinking it was a bear.
In the morning, my friend said that she hadn’t slept at all. Then she asked if something seemed wrong with her ear, because it felt like there was liquid in it.
“Have you always had an ogre ear?” I asked her, even though we’ve been friends since middle school. She hadn’t. The ear was just really swollen.
After considering for a moment that there would be no option for medical attention or treatment, she said: “You cannot break a broken woman, Ashley.”
When we finally left our tent at about 9 a.m., Graham seemed disappointed that we hadn’t emerged sooner. The water he boiled was getting cold, he said.
After some lukewarm coffee and oatmeal, we packed up and hit the trail, and the sun was already starting to glint off a million fist-sized boulders we would need to scramble over. This was the part of the trip when it became clear that a rescue would be incredibly inconvenient, so we focused intently on our footing to avoid twisting an ankle.
Graham’s pace was faster than ours, and soon his figure disappeared behind a mountain. We passed the time with a game that my friend invented, titled, “How would we kill my boyfriend?” It involved scanning the landscape and figuring out what we'd use not only to murder my friend’s boyfriend, but to get away with it. My friend created this game because she is morbid, but also because she has commitment issues.
Taking note of the rising tide, bear tracks, animal bones, fire-scarred forests and sheer cliffs, we had a lot of ideas.
After a few miles of beach bouldering, we hiked up onto a grassy bluff and I placed a new sock over my shoe. On this section of the trail, we were surprised to encounter a few hunters along with some backpackers carrying surfboards. We also walked by some houses and yurts accessible by airstrip.
The structures were grandfathered into the conservation area when it was created in 1970, Graham told us, and clearly belonged to the sorts of people who anticipated years like 2020. Soon, we stopped at a creek to filter some water, have lunch and wait for the next low tide.
This was pretty much the midpoint, Graham said, so if we had a problem here, it would take as long to go back as it would to keep going. As if testing fate, my friend decided right then that she felt like swimming in the ocean, even though it was obvious that the massive waves and strong undertow were incredibly dangerous.
I followed her into the icy surf where we dunked ourselves and let the waves smack us around a while. The cold water was invigorating, and there was something undeniably satisfying about being in the middle of this thing, having come so far and with so far yet to go, and saying f—k it: We surrender to the sea.
When we returned to the creek, Graham had stitched my hiking shoe back together with duct tape and string he always carries in a first-aid kit. He had let me walk upwards of seven miles before doing this, he told me, just to see how long I could last.
That night, we hiked up from the beach to Cooskie campground, a sandy nook alongside a freshwater stream. We ate overly flavorful miso soup and watched a technicolor sunset, then unzipped the sides of our tent and gazed up at what felt like every star in the galaxy.
We got up late again the next morning, drank our lukewarm coffee and walked upstream to filter some water. As we walked over a low wooden footbridge, Graham started running toward us, yelling. “Rattlesnake! Rattlesnake!” he said.
It turned out to be a small one coiled beneath the bridge, hiding and specifically not using its rattle. And that’s how we learned that Graham did feel at least somewhat responsible for keeping us alive.
He took us off the usual route on that last day, through the tidal zone where parts of wrecked ships still protrude from the sand. Then we visited the Punta Gorda Lighthouse, where a bunch of massive elephant seals were rolling around in the dirt and fighting each other to establish dominance.As we neared the end of the trail, the wind picked up, blowing us back and demonstrating why most people hike this trail north to south. And because of the sloped beach, my right calf muscle ached and so did my friend’s right groin muscle. Still, we finished in good time and started dreaming about a hotel room that we hoped would have a hot tub.
The plan was to get picked up by one of the shuttles Graham’s business runs to return to our car, then to book a hotel in Shelter Cove. But when we got there, every room was taken. People had come from all over California to escape the fires, and even the local fishermen’s motel was fully booked.
Sore and tired we drove the mountain roads through the dark toward home, certain that next time we’d arrange to stay lost a whole lot longer.
(Ashley Harrell is an associate editor at SFGate who covers California’s parks. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Courtesy, SFgate.com.)
WHAT CALIFORNIANS BELIEVED
Once when I was 12 or 13 and had checked the Lynds’ ‘Middletown and Middletown In Transition’ out of the Sacramento Library, I asked my mother to what “class” we belonged.
“It’s not a word we use,” she said. “It’s not the way we think.”
On one level I believed this to be a willful misreading of what even a 12-year-old could see to be the situation and on another level I understood it to be true: it was not the way we thought in California. We believed in fresh starts. We believed in good luck. We believed in the miner who scratched together one last stake and struck the Comstock Lode. We believed in the wildcatter who leased arid land at 2.5¢ an acre and brought in Kettleman Hills, 14 million barrels of crude in its first three years. We believed in all the ways that apparently played out possibilities could turn green and golden while we slept. ‘Keep California Green and Golden,’ was the state’s Smokey the Bear fire motto around the time I was reading the Lynds. Put out your campfire, kill the rattlesnakes, and watch the money flow in.
And it did.
Even if it was somebody else’s money.
— Joan Didion
GREAT MULLETEERS WE HAVE KNOWN