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Off The Record (Jan 22, 2014)



Everyone knows where they were, etc., when JFK was shot. I'm interested in your stories of where you were, what happened, what you thought, etc., when MLK was shot.

As an example, here's mine.

Also sending this to people who weren't around then, maybe they'd be interested.

I was a “student” at Duquesne U in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The “campus” of mud and old warehouses sat on a bluff near the Triangle, above the Monongahela River. The south and west sides were precipitous. The east side was a quiet Italian/”ethnic” area, kept that way by the Pittsburgh mafia. The north side, the Hill District, a crown of land above the triangle, was the black neighborhood. The school and the Hill District were separated by Forbes and 5th Avenues, the old roads east, a melting-pot honkytonk area of cheap bars, streetwalkers, and slums.

When the news spread that King had been murdered, the black residents started rioting and burning their neighborhood that they owned little of. This immediately got out of control of the local cops and fire department, and we watched the Hill burn from the dormitory windows all afternoon. Oddly, there was no curfew, or we ignored it, so a bunch of us went down Bluff St. and holed up in a basement apartment listening to gunshots and running feet all night. In the morning a big convoy of Army trucks carrying the National Guard rolled up the Boulevard of the Allies and occupied the area. I walked back to the U past a burning gas station and crowds of soldiers spreading out. They established themselves along Forbes and 5th, then moved up to the Hill District and suppressed the riot. They were on the streets for a few more days, then left.

Most people I knew were pissed off about the murder but some of the more out racists said the usual racist stuff. Nothing much seemed to change. The city went back to “normal.” But 1968 was a year we don't need more of, with Tet, King, then several weeks later RFK was killed, all by the usual “lone nut,” nudge nudge, wink wink. To cap it all off, Richard Nixon got elected President in the fall. That's enough!

— Jay Williamson, Santa Rosa

WELCOME TO DISASTER, in this case a perfectly democratic disaster affecting us all — drought. We never quite believe it can happen to us, although the mini-drought of 1976 ought to have prompted us — Mendocino County — to prepare for the three consecutive dry years we've suffered with 2013-14 being the driest of all.

IT HASN'T RAINED, really rained, since December of 2012. Now that it's likely that the summer months will begin with no water reserves anywhere in the County, the full array of drought-caused catastrophes will be unleashed, from large-scale wildfires to much higher food prices to the death of this year's fish runs. The crisis is much more ominous along the inland Mendo corridor, much of which is dependent on the Russian River. Fort Bragg has developed its own water supply, albeit one that requires constant upgrades and the development of new sources, the latest being a proposed well off Highway 20 a little east of town. The South Coast has grown in population but it, like much of rural Mendocino County, is primarily dependent on wells and springs. Point Arena, however, has a privately-owned water system that serves that town's small population of less than 600 people. Elk has a little water system to match its size as does the village of Mendocino, but the Town of Mendocino’s water supply is already stretched thin.

MUCH OF MENDOCINO COUNTY'S population, which occupies the inland 101 corridor, depends on an extremely precarious water delivery system known as the upper Russian River, which, before Lake Mendocino was built in the middle 1950s, was mostly dry from its trickle of a headwaters at Potter Valley south to Healdsburg.

THE UPPER Russian itself depends on Lake Pillsbury for its year-round flow. Pillsbury is a man made lake that depends on the Eel River. And everything everywhere from the Eel to Sausalito depends on more than thirty inches of rainfall every year, but even in wet years over the recent past, and especially considering how many downstream people are dependent on it, the system that begins in the north at Lake Pillsbury, is diverted at Potter Valley through an old mile-long tunnel, then stored at Lake Mendocino, and sold all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, is a very precarious system.

SAUSALITO, and other Marin water districts, buy Lake Mendocino water from Sonoma County, which also sells Lake Mendo water to its thousands of customers in SoCo. Sonoma County has made literal millions selling water that mostly originates on the Eel River border between Humboldt and Mendocino counties. It uses very little of its own water stored at Lake Sonoma near Cloverdale, much of whose water also originates in Mendocino County.

WATER STORED at silted-up Lake Pillsbury is presided over by PG&E, which is regulated by FERC, a federal agency. Releases require a whole lot of bureaucratic sign-offs, none of which occur in Mendocino County, at least occur by Mendo authorities. When it comes to water, Mendocino County is like an orphan child peering in a bakery window.

PG&E and the comparably anonymous FERC people decide how much water to send a few miles downstream from Lake Pillsbury to the Potter Valley Diversion. The Diversion, in decrepit reality, is a mile-long tunnel held up mine-style by old redwood timbers. The tunnel is about the height of a six-foot man. The water flowing through the tunnel flows on down to Lake Mendocino whose water is mostly owned by Sonoma County because Sonoma County put up most of the money to build the Lake.

LAKE PILLSBURY, piled up behind Scott Dam, is an early 20th century creation designed to provide electricity to Ukiah. The Diversion powered a couple of big turbines and presto! magico! the lights came on in Ukiah circa 1920.

PILLSBURY AND THE DIVERSION were not intended to supply a million downstream people with water in 2014. The water that generated electricity for Ukiah wasn't supplied to anyone but a few lucky Potter Valley sons of the soil, but it did make the upper Russian River a year-round stream and it did eventually keep Lake Mendocino full for Sonoma County to sell to its multitudes of customers. And there was enough every year — at relatively cheap prices — for the ever more grape farmers along the Russian River from Redwood Valley to Ukiah to Hopland.

YEARS AFTER THE DIVERSION tunnel was built, it became clear that fish were being chewed up by the turbines. PG&E, who'd bought the area including the Diversion and the little power plant at the Potter Valley end of the tunnel, installed a contraption they called a “fish ladder.” The first time I saw it I burst out laughing.

IT'S AN Archimedes Screw that's supposed to lift the fish safely past the tunnel and the masticating machinery at the other end. A guy was standing there counting the fish entering the “ladder.” No fish entered in the hour I looked on, and if a fish had dared enter the thing it probably would be a duck by the time it got to the other end.

JUSTINE FREDERICKSON, reporting for the Ukiah Daily Journal, wrote Thursday, “At Monday's meeting of the Russian River Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District, General Manager Sean White discussed how low Lake Pillsbury had gotten, and that some were concerned that releases may be stopped from Scott Dam for the first time in nearly 100 years.”

THERE ARE NO immediate plans to do that, but without rain this tiny straw of a water delivery system will mean a lot of thirsty people from Redwood Valley to Southern Marin, and spell disaster for hundreds of acres of vineyard.

REDWOOD VALLEY, north of Ukiah, draws its water directly from Lake Mendocino. The lake has shrunk to where RV's intake valve is poised just about at water level, and that level is dropping every day as a mere trickle of water dribbles into the lake via Potter Valley and the Potter Valley Diversion. Some 4,000 households and 200 ag users, many of them vineyards, are served by Redwood Valley's water system. Redwood Valley may be given permission to keep its straw in the water, but strict rationing is likely soon. Willits is already limiting its citizens to 150 gallons a day, a figure that will probably have to be lower if it doesn't rain soon.

ACCORDING to the Army Corps of Engineers who run Coyote Dam behind which rest, or used to rest, the water of Lake Mendocino, if there's no rain the lake will be completely dry “in 230-670 days.” (670 days assumes significant rainfall before June.) If there's no flow out of the lake, Ukiah is in serious trouble because its water is drawn from aquifers fed by the Russian River which, as repeated above, draws its water from Lake Mendocino.

Lake Mendocino, January 2014
Lake Mendocino, January 2014

MENDO AG AND VINEYARDS have been synonymous in the County for the past 25 years. The drought poses serious problems for the County's grape growers not only because very few of them dry farm. Dry as last year was, the arrival of some late rain in March after 2013's mostly dry year, was hailed as the “March Miracle” by Northcoast grape growers.

RECORD DROUGHT. New satellite images show the true extent of the record drought hitting California, as the state declares an emergency and seeks federal aid. The NOAA images show how the state's landscape is parched with minimal snow cover and the land dried out compared to the same time last year. The dry year California experienced in 2013 has left fresh water reservoirs with a fraction of their normal reserves and slowed the normally full American River so dramatically that brush and dry riverbed are showing through in areas normally teeming with fish. 'We can't make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California's drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,' Governor Jerry Brown, said. 'I've declared this emergency and I'm calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible,' he said, in a move that will allow him to call for conservation measures and provide flexibility in deciding state water priorities.


DROUGHT FALLOUT. A reader comments: “This may be the year when the majority of local growers learn basic math, if they haven't already: (Gallons per day per plant) X (number of plants) X (days of irrigation) = how much water you need to store. The slow learners are going to go bust. I do a lot of water work in SoHum and all the springs I have been keeping flow records of for years are at record low flows including my own, but I have enough to fill my tanks. There simply won't be any water and growers will only be able to plant what they have the water for. The smart ones are putting in winter water storage or have done so, but will there be enough rain before June to fill the big tanks and ponds? The cost of hauling water for the entire season is simply not economically feasible. Last year growers were forced to haul water just to finish their crop and that cuts into their bottom line seriously, but it was better than losing the whole crop.”

THE STATE'S historically dry weather is expected to last for at least another three months, federal scientists said Thursday. The dire forecast for the rest of the state's winter rain season came as federal officials classified much of California as being in “extreme drought.” And the Obama administration declared 27 California counties, including most of the Bay Area, as “natural disaster areas,” eligible for emergency federal loans for farmers. Computer models based on data from satellites, buoys in the Pacific Ocean and other sources favor below-normal levels of rainfall for California, much of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas until April, according to a new report from the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center. “There will be a few precipitation events, but we're looking at drier-than-normal conditions in February, March and April,” said Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist with the agency based in College Park, Maryland. “Right now we are saying the odds do not indicate a Miracle March, which is not a good thing.” To be sure, long-range forecasts are not as accurate as short-term weather forecasts. The 90-day precipitation outlook for the West has turned out to be right about 60 percent of the time over the last 20 years.

WILL PARRISH, perhaps best known as a writer with the AVA, os schedule to appear in court on Tuesday, January 28th, (subject to change) where he faces a wild array of misdemeanor charges — 17 of them — for three arrests in protest of the Willits Bypass.

ONE OF THE CHARGES arises from the eleven days Parrish spent 60 feet aloft where he'd locked himself to a piece of construction equipment. Represented by Omar Figerora, Parrish has demanded a jury trial.

THE DA'S OFFICE did a lot of woofing about putting Parrish in jail to do disproportionately improbable jail time as he also somehow paid off a half-million in Caltrans’ estimated “restitution.” The DA has been making conciliatory noises over the past week.

CALTRANS, of course, claimed Parrish's demonstrations had cost Big Orange a lot of money in lost work time because the leased equipment Parrish had nested in had to be paid for whether or not it was operating. And the over-large and handsomely compensated CHP contingent also had to be reimbursed for standing around for days at a time telling hippie jokes.

THE DA'S LEAD PROSECUTOR, Paul Sequeira, now says the DA only wants Parrish to do some community service along with probation and agree to not interfere with Bypass construction.

ONE OF PARRISH'S arrests occurred as he stood across 101 merely looking at the Bypass construction when a couple of CHP officers hustled out from the site, charged across the highway and threw Parrish on the ground and arrested him for allegedly violating the terms of his release from custody for previous arrests.

BANNING PARRISH from proximity of the six mile swath of destruction being wrought by CalTrans at Willits, means Parrish can't do his job as a reporter, further meaning he's being denied a whole bunch of theoretically inalienable rights he's been born into as an American.

DEPUTY DA Shannon Cox is presently assigned to the Parrish matter. She told Linda Williams of the Willits News, “We are not trying to chill free speech. We are trying to resolve this case.”

WHICH IS A LOCALLY unprecedented case. Parrish has refused to settle and demands a jury trial, which he might well win, hence, probably, the DA's neo-reasonableness — that and the notoriety DA Eyster's demand for years of jail time and a half-million in fines Eyster wanted when Parrish turned down a guilty plea deal. Most people saw Eyster's demand as wildly out of all proportion to the offense. Even with Parrish strapped to one piece of equipment, construction simply moved away from him and continued other places.

CALTRANS has given the DA what it claims is a “detailed breakdown” of the money Parrish has cost them — over $480,000. How that preposterous figure was arrived at will be an interesting courtroom discussion.

PROSECUTOR COX told The Willits News: “To date we have had discussions, but so far, no meeting of the minds. It will be best for everyone if we are able to resolve this without a trial. We are trying to resolve it.”

ON HIS PART, PARRISH says he rejected the original plea deal from the DA because he “was unwilling to accept the uncapped restitution stipulation” and, as reported, was also adamant about his right to a jury trial.

DA EYSTER is doing the usual DA thing, which, as he might put it, “The first offer is the best deal you're going to get. Turn that down and I'm going to try to max you out.”


REMEMBER PHIL TYMON, the litigious former station manager at KZYX Philo in the mid-1990s? Tymon was in federal district court, San Francisco on Thursday (January 16th) to answer to charges that he failed to reveal his public radio background in his capacity as a hearing officer stemming from that famous KPFA takeover case. Tymon was appointed as a FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) arbitrator, although his experience and obvious biases should have excluded him from acting as an impartial referee.

TO SIMPLIFY: People by the name of Georges, allied with the infamous Pat Scott, tried to take over the Pacifica Network to commercial ends. They spent a lot of money to do that but were unsuccessful. They appealed their loss, and who should pop up as hearing officer but Phil Tymon, the Zelig of public radio. Tymon doesn't mention his his rocky tenure at KZYX.

QUOTING FROM THE BRIEF: “IN ORDER to capitalize on dramatically rising radio station values in the mid 1990s. During her tenure from approximately 1994 to 1998, Ms. Scott [Pat] rolled out a strategic plan called Vision for Pacifica Radio Creating a Network for the 21st Century — A Strategic 5-year Plan. The strategic plan and Ms. Scott’s leadership were extremely contentious and controversial and has since become known variously as a “coup”; “an anti-labor campaign”; “union-busting”; noted for the “Contract from Hell”; and “purges”. The tumult Ms. Scott started with her efforts to restructure Pacifica’s radio assets, assisted by Mr. George, is marked as the beginning of what has later been variously described as “the 7-year struggle for the soul of Pacifica”, “botched” management, and “feather ruffling.” Scott’s tenure became so controversial that demonstrations were held at the KPFA-FM studios, and were marked by gunfire and death threats. Ms. Scott has since been described as “probably the most hated manager KPFA has had”. (Exhibit 14, p. 7) Following Ms. Scott’s departure, Pacifica and its supporters began a long organizational and legal struggle to “restore democracy at Pacifica,” including the attempted termination of Scott’s hand-picked successor. To this end, an open letter advertisement was purchased in the New York Times with signatures that included Angela Davis, Daniel Ellsberg, Danny Glover, Helen Caldicott, Jerry Brown, Joan Baez, Juan Gonzales, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Pete Seeger, and Tymon’s CDC co-founder and fellow former Pacifica National Board member, Peter Franck.

“IN A 2005 public letter from Peter Franck, Tymon’s business partner, fellow CDC founder and allied non-commercial radio advocate, Mr. Franck, pointed to the Pat Scott era, stated, “I was involved with the lawsuits that got us Pacific back. I was not one of the attorneys of record because if any of the cases had gone to trial, I would have been a witness…

“TYMON'S WORK as a FINRA arbitrator and his failures to disclose/efforts to hide his background as: 1. Co-vice-chair of the national board of directors of the Pacifica Foundation (“Pacifica”), headquartered in Berkeley, California. 2. Member of the local board of directors of KPFA, Berkeley, CA, a Pacifica owned radio station. 3. One of three founding members of the National Lawyers Guild Center for Democratic Communications and Low Power Radio 4. General Manager for KOWS-LPFM in Guernville, California. 5. Full-time staff counsel of the National Citizen’s Committee on Broadcasting, a Ralph Nader organization. 6. Managing Editor of Access magazine 7. Chair of the Russian River Community Trust Advisory Committee. 8. In addition to the foregoing undisclosed employment and background information, Tymon filed under penalty of perjury with the FCC the following background information: a. Director and owner of Dragon Fly Communications. 8 Oath of Arbitrator publicly available at: bitrator/ b. Announcer, WTUR (FM), Tufts University, Medford, MA. c. Announcer, KLME radio, Laramie, WY d. Announcer, and news department, KFJC radio, Foothill Junior College, Los Altos Hills, CA e. Announcer, and news department, KPOO (FM), San Francisco, CA f. account executive, KVRE/KRVE (AM), Santa Rosa, CA. g. Consultant to KRCB (TV), Rohnert Park, CA. h. Coordinator, East Bay Media Center.

“WHEN IT CAME to disclosing his background to those he would sit in judgment of, making life altering decisions, Tymon missed the mark of full disclosure by a very wide margin. Had Tymon’s true background been made known to the Georges when the Georges were ranking prospective arbitrators from the list of available arbitrators provided by FINRA, they would have struck Tymon from the list, a right prescribed in FINRA Rules. If Tymon had made even a late full disclosure, the Georges would have moved FINRA to have Tymon removed as an arbitrator.

“MR GEORGE advised and worked with Patricia Scott, Executive Director of The Pacifica Foundation, to sell-off and restructure Pacifica’s radio stations during a period that has come to be known as the Pat Scott Era or Pat Scott Reign,. Ms. Scott organized dissidents at Pacifica and formed alliances with outside consultants, like Mr. George, in her efforts to dramatically change the way Pacifica was run, change its by-laws and to sell off or restructure Pacifica’s radio stations.

“OUTSIDE the hearing room, Tymon made clear his disdain for those who had worked with Pat Scott while she was the executive director at The Pacifica Foundation, referring to her supporters as “usurpers” and their actions “illegal”. Tymon also made clear his anger toward commercial broadcasters and their lobby, the NAB, who opposed his agenda to legalize Low Power FM radio stations, something he fought to overcome for nearly twenty years. Inside the hearing room, Tymon remained deceptively quiet about his undisclosed background as Mr. George unwittingly connected the dots for Tymon with his testimony. Tymon quietly let his biases against the Georges play out through his prejudicial rulings.”

Debbie Clark (Photo, courtesy, the Willits News)
Debbie Clark (Photo, courtesy, the Willits News)

DEBBIE CLARK, long-time publisher of the Willits News, has announced she is retiring, one more sign that the chain-owned Mendo papers, all of them overseen out of Chico, will soon be down to even more skeletal crews within shouting distance of cadaver status. The Ukiah Daily Journal, the Mendocino Beacon/Advocate, and Ms. Clark's The Willits News, like most print newspapers, are struggling to stay solvent as more and more people move to the internet for their daily misinformation, and when they get there millions are looking for the latest on Kim Kardashian. All these Mendo papers, incidentally, are owned by the Denver-based MediaNews Group.

HMMMM. Last Thursday's SF Chronicle front pagers included a piece called “California GOP's hope — evolution of a new brand.” The new brand is represented by a guy calling himself a “conservatarian” as he magnanimously let's us know, “It's your body. I'm not here to tell you what to do with it.” Bold stand there, bub, but what's new here?

THIS GUY is one of a minority of Republicans who've apparently figured out that to a majority of Californians Republicans seem crazy while, of course, the ominous drift of things is sponsored, nay encouraged, by both parties.

MOST STORIES in the mainstream media are pegged to the assumption that Democrats are “the left,” Republicans “the right.” Liberal Democrats are the party's “extreme left,” the rightwing of the Republicans is gently dubbed “ultra-conservative.” And, it's further assumed, all of us identify somewhere on this spectrum, although less than half of eligible voters don't bother to vote, rightly assuming that both parties don't do any practical good for most of us.

PEOPLE ASK ME what I am, and I say, “That's between me and my physician.” Seriously though, I gave up explaining myself years ago, mostly out of boredom, because it's tiresome to haughtily reply, “Why of course I'm a libertarian socialist.” Or Green socialist. Or non-Stalinist socialist. I answer to them all. But Americans are educated to not understand these distinctions, so it's usually pointless to even try unless some reactionary Democrat of the type dominant on the Northcoast claims that he or she represents “progressive” positions while the AVA doesn't. We're not lockstep lefties, though, and that's one of many ways we part company with lots of pwogs, especially the Mendo ones.

LEFT ARGUMENTS simply aren't heard in most media; they're heard in audio ghettos here and there but that's it. The Democratic Party, local, state and national, is hostile to any political impulse to the left of Jared Huffman, Pelosi and the rest of the limo apparatus. (Last week I read in the Chron that Gavin Newsom is the only possible “left” candidate who might oppose Jerry Brown for re-election! Newsom a leftwinger. Who would have thought)

ANYWAY, the left-right distinction isn't much use anymore. We're all mixes of opinion on the issues. If, for instance, a Catholic opposed to abortion is a socialist on economics, I have no problem with the Catholic. Everything bad comes from unregulated capitalism.

“2014 SEEN AS BIG YEAR FOR STATE'S WINE.” Wine and marijuana being Northern California's primary work product and income earners in an area that not long ago produced lumber, sheep, fish, apples, and other essential products, stories on wine and dope, especially wine, are in the news every day. In casual conversation the other day with a pot farmer, he said prices for marijuana are so low right now he's sitting on 30 pounds of bud until the market improves. Which it may soon given the drought, even though every year more people get into the drug business, hence the present pot glut. Lots of grows are dependent on stream diversions, but the streams and springs are likely to be drier this growing season than they were last year, and they were very dry last year. Vineyards, especially those dependent on the Russian River, also face major water supply shortages. But water issues are seldom mentioned in connection with vineyards, and mentioned in relation to marijuana only as one more negative — outback marijuana farming is bad for the environment because illegal water diversions destroy the natural world.

MEDIA LOVE RACE STORIES. Ever notice how often the suburban Santa Rosa Press Democrat runs heavy on “news” of Bay Area shootings, the latest on Dennis Rodman and endless stories about the legal problems of black celebrities? The subliminal message the PD passes along on a daily basis is, “Gosh. Aren't us nice white people lucky to live here in the Rose City where we're safe from all this low-rent behavior?” Meantime, Mexican kids are shooting at each other and central Santa Rosa teems with white tweekers. But the PD seems to think black gangs and Dennis Rodman are the dual heads of one problem.

SO, THE MORNING HEADLINE SCREAMS, “Latinos set to pass whites in numbers.” Poor ol' beleagured Whitey not only has to worry about Rodman playing basketball in North Korea, he reads that “the present average age” of Mexicans is 28, that stat alone translating as “Jesus! They're breeding like rabbits!”

THEN WE LEARN that of California's 38.2 million people there are slightly more Hispanics than white people, with Asians picking up steam at 13 percent of the population, while a mere 6.6 million citizens are black. Bringing up the rear of the ethnic demographic are 1.7 million Native Americans.

THE MOST ALARMING of the race stats, to me anyway, is the one that tells us that a thousand wheezes a day become Senior Citizens and “older voters aren't as supportive of youth-specific policies.” The huge amounts of public money devoted to so-called seniors over the relatively paltry amounts devoted to the non-voting young seems to fairly scream that young people aren't getting any kind of break while we're still around. . MAIL THEFT is a mainstay tweeker crime, a simple path to making a few quick bucks to buy more tweek. The Sheriff's Department says it's on the rise in the rural areas of the County, especially Ukiah and Redwood Valley where residents maintain their mailboxes at the end of very long driveways.

BOYFIGHT, THE AFTERMATH: Or, the Wrath of Steinberg! The Los Angeles Times tells us that our state senator, Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) is right now feeling the pain for picking the wrong side in the late, lamented boyrace to succeed her. You see, Evans is a Mike McGuire fangirl. That don’t fly with Emperor Caligula State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, boss of the Senate Dems, who very early and publicly backed the candidacy of our boy Chris Lehman. Well, we know how that turned out. Lehman/Steinberg have lost; McGuire/Evans have won. But Evans still has a full year to serve before freeing herself from the $100,000-year pittance she receives from the public, and Steinberg is ready to settle scores. You come at the king, you best not miss. Evans, the Times tells us, can kiss her sweet committee appointments goodbye. (Hank Sims, courtesy,

IN THE NINETEEN-THIRTIES, one in four Americans got their news from William Randolph Hearst, who lived in a castle and owned twenty-eight newspapers in nineteen cities. Hearst's papers were all alike: hot-blooded, with leggy headlines. Page 1 was supposed to make a reader blurt out, “Gee whiz!” Page 2: “Holy Moses!” Page 3: “God Almighty!” Still, you can yank people around for only so long. Wonder ebbs. Surprise is fleeting. Even rage abates. In 1933, Hearst turned 70. He started to worry. How would the world remember him when he could no longer dictate the headlines? Ferdinand Lundborg, a reporter for The York Herald Tribune, was beginning to work on a book about him; no one expected it to be friendly. Hearst therefore did what many a rich, aging megalomaniac has done before and since: he hired a lackey to write an authorized biography, preemtively. In 2010, one in four Americans got the news from Fox News. That year, Roger Ailes, its head, turned 70. Gabriel Sherman, an editor and reporter for New York magazine, was beginning to work on a book about him. Sherman interviewed more than 600 people for “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” (Random House). Ailes, who is known for menace, was not among them. “Take your best shot at me,” Ailes is said to have told another New York writer, “and I'll have the rest of my life to go after you.” (—Jill Lepore)

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer.” Probably like a lot of people I laughed when I heard the name of this Russian band and then became vaguely aware that the Putin government had put them in jail. I didn't know why Pussy Riot had been arrested for “hooliganism,” that handy, catch-all Rooskie charge, until I watched this fascinating documentary made by two men, one English the other Russian. The all-female band, three of them anyway, that got itself arrested arose from a feminist art collective whose purpose is to get rid of Putin by outraging major sectors of his support — the Russian Orthodox Church, police and the military, and conventional people generally.

THESE GIRLS are plenty provocative, for sure. Watching it, I thought about the difference between them and American punk provocations like, say, the Naked Guys, here in San Francisco and Piss Christ, is these particular Russian art provocateurs are a lot smarter than their Anglo-American equivalents seem to be, and much more articulate as they wrap their actions in a political analysis that claims by shocking the squares they make the point that Putin is a dictator who has to go before Russia can become any kind of cool, tolerant society. You see Americans trying to rile the conventional and you think, “You know what? You're real boring. There's a difference between exhibitionism and an artistic political statement.”

I WAS UNABLE to follow Pussy Riot's logic. I don't see how having group sex in Red Square and jumping up on the altar of a church while singing a song called, “Mother of God, chase Putin away,” that one followed up by a treatise on “God's shit,” accomplishes much of anything beyond making a congregation of old ladies cry. The group also runs up on uniformed female cops and lays big, deep kisses on them, an act that would probably get you shot if you tried it here in Gun Land. The upshot was that Putin comes off as reasonable, pointing out that one of the Bolshevik's first acts was to bulldoze that church for a public swimming pool, and the first thing a lot of believers did when the Soviet Union collapsed, along with its currency, was to somehow scrape together the money to rebuild it. As Putin points out, cynically in his case, I'm sure, is that a truly democratic society begins by tolerating most perspectives short of incitements to race hatred.

MOST INTERESTING, to me anyway, were the scenes of the Russian courtroom and the interviews with the girl's parents. The Russians seem to be eating well, maybe as well as our fatso-watsos, and I have no idea how they recruit their cops, but the faces on a lot of them would stop most American crime in its tracks. Russian cops, male and female, are some big, scary-looking hulks.

Russian Police
Russian Police

MOST AFFECTING were the interviews with the parents of the provocateurs, especially the mystified mother of one of them. She's reminiscent of the parents you used to see interviewed when Hippie got rolling here on a mass scale back in '66-'67. But unlike our serenely oblivious population, Russians still live with the fresh memory of real deprivation and mass dislocation, not to mention a government that ruled by disappearance and the midnight knock on the door. “I don't know where we went wrong,” this uncomprehending mother cries. “We did everything for her, lived for her. Now people call me at night and say they are going to kill her and rip the arms off our granddaughter.” The American equivalent used to be, “God knows I tried. He (or she) was such a happy child, trotting off to school with his little dog following along after him. Why he became a drug addicted communist I'll never know. Rock and roll maybe.”

ONE PARENT of a Pussy Rioter says he did indeed raise his daughter to be an artist of the provocative type. He says of seeing her on television in a starring role in Pussy Riot's public sex demo, something like, “If I saw people I didn't know having sex in the streets I would stop to watch. But my daughter? I don't think so.”

CRIME OF THE WEEK Victims Of Texas Pot Rip-Off Arrested for Being Ripped Off...

Maxfield, Gonsman
Maxfield, Gonsman

On January 13th at about 7:50pm Ukiah Police responded to the 1000 block of South State Street for the report of a subject possibly armed with a firearm, near a hotel. The suspect was then reported to have left in a vehicle, which officers located parked in the 100 block of Talmage Road. Officers contacted 39 year old Charles Dale Maxfield and 28 year old Christopher Michael Gonsman, both of Ukiah, neither of whom had a firearm. Officers did locate a knife with a large wooden handle inside the vehicle, as well as numerous bags of loose marijuana, some bud marijuana, and over $8000 in what was later determined to be counterfeit US Currency. After obtaining statements from both suspects and witnesses, officers determined Maxfield and Gonsman had sold an unknown amount of marijuana to two subjects from Texas at a nearby hotel. Maxfield and Gonsman left but soon determined they had been paid with counterfeit money, and returned to the hotel to find the buyers had left. Maxfield and Gonsman were seen leaving the hotel and one of them likely had the knife in his waistband, the large handle of which was likely mistaken for the handle of a firearm. Maxfield and Gonsman were arrested for sales of marijuana and criminal conspiracy, and Maxfield also with possessing counterfeit money.

THE DOORBELL GOES AROUND NOON. I'm expecting Antony Crolla, the photographer, so don't look through the window and open the door to find what I take to be a builder with a loose piece of flex in his hand and what could be a meter. He says he's working at a house nearby but needs to check our drain which may have a hairline crack. He makes to come in, but I say that if there is any work needs doing we have a builder of our own and in any case my partner deals with all that. He then claims to have spoken to my 'boyfriend' who says it's OK. I shut the door on him and telephone R, the so-called builder meanwhile banging on the door. R, of course has never spoken to anyone, so I go back to the door where, as soon as I open it, the caller gets his foot in the door (literally). Bridget, who's downstairs, now comes up and at the sight of a third party he takes fright, retreating to a white van waiting opposite with its engine running which drives off so quickly I fail to get the number. Thinking about it afterwards, where he went wrong was in not being ingratiating enough or trying to explain what the 'drain problem' was and graduating straight to the frenzied banging on the door; 'your boyfriend' didn't help either. Like all crooks he was affronted when his honesty was questioned, if only because it implied a criticism of his performance. (— Alan Bennett)

RICHARD KARCH WRITES: CALL TO ACTION: We learned on Wednesday that the College of the Redwoods administration plans to eliminate 3 of the 4 remaining full-time faculty members of our local College of the Redwoods campus. Only the woodworking instructor would remain full-time. Clearly this is a crushing blow to our campus as we have known it. If you believe a fully functioning community college is essential to our community, please let the college administration know how you feel about this. There is a board meeting this Saturday, January 18th, at 10 am in Eureka at which you can make public comment during the first few minutes of the meeting. Also on the agenda is a discussion of CR?s ?next 50 years.? Public comment can also be made when that agenda item is addressed, probably around noon. No official action will be taken at this meeting. If you can attend the meeting in Eureka, please do so. If not, please write to all of the CR trustees:

Rick Bennett - ;

Colleen Mullery - ;

Tracy Coppini - ;

Bruce Emad - ;

Richard Dorn - ;

Tom Ross - ;

Sally Biggin - ;

Barbara Rice - ;

Mohamad Alnakhlawi - ;

Kathy Lehrner -

ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: The sad truth of the matter is that there are too many people who were born into this “Consumer Lifestyle” that is heavily promoted by all industries and even tens of decades of leadership. It now drives our economic system. We have a momentum that will be, in my opinion, impossible to stop with any brevity. For Christ’s sake, we wrap vegetables individually in plastics, we sell water in plastic bottles! We order anything we can imagine via computer and it is delivered to our doorsteps within a few days. This machine is not going to stop, regardless of the specter that looms over us. Our two major political organizations are for sure bought and sold daily by the very companies that cause global warming. We even allow nuclear power plants to exist on the shores of our life giving oceans! In a nutshell, we are screwed. Can we do something? Anything? Sure... but will we? Not likely, my friends.


LOCAL AUTHOR PEG KINGMAN’S LATEST NOVEL is in the offing, and should be out later this year. It’s the third and final installment in her contract with W.W.Norton for a trilogy set in the 19th Century. Her first book in the series, Not Yet Drown’d, follows the plight of an abruptly widowed Scottswoman and her stepdaughter who, together with a runaway American slave girl, flee Scotland and sail to India to search for the protagonist’s lost brother — purportedly drowned in the Punjab. The story is filled with narrow escapes — by coach out of Glasgow, a desperate race between sailboat and steamship across the Firth of Fourth, and winds up on a caravan of elephants in the exotic reaches of Northern India. Her second novel, Original Sin, takes up the lives of the stepdaughter and slave girl, both subsequently grown adults, and is set in New York — where the onetime slave is now a rich freewoman with a silkworm business — and where Virginia, the stepdaughter — now the protagonist — has inherited a tobacco plantation. This second novel is subtitled A Novel of Slavery and Freedom and both books are remarkably engrossing. Ms. Kingman comes from a family of chemical engineers and she has a background in technical writing. This vast body of experience and knowledge informs her literary work — she even has diagrams of the steamship the protagonists escape on, and as the plot advances we meet characters from shipyards in the Clyde, and learn how the technology evolved and did away with the use of sails in commercial and military seafaring. Coincidentally, Kingman’s editor at W.W.Norton is the same fellow who edited Patrick O’Brien’s popular historical novels about the Royal Navy and the tall ships back at the turn of the 18th century. For those who haven’t read Patrick O’Brien, it’s Jane Austin for boys; think of Austin’s Persuasion from the groom’s point of view, a sea captain who blows into Portsmouth only to find that the most accomplished virgin in the British Isles has her net set for him. There you have it! The Romance of the sea, and sex, too. Mr. O’Brien was married to the novelist and historian Mary Renault, whose masterpiece, The Nature of Alexander, filmmaker Oliver Stone made into such a brilliant flop. A pity, because Renault’s study was thoroughly excellent, and her historical novels of Alexander were as inspired as her countryman Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. They were all of the same generation and experimenting with the form, innovating a fresh style of historical fiction. O’Brien sat in the Admiralty’s library for years studying ship’s logs and letters home, and said, “Authenticity is a jewel.” Peg Kingman’s novels pick up, with the advent of steamships, where O’Brien left off, in a sense, and she is advancing the bar up a peg from where O’Brien and Renault and Graves left it, as they’ve all been dead and buried these many years. It is Kingman’s genius, as was the case with Renault, that she can write historical fiction from a woman’s perspective and not have her work dismissed as Romance Novels; or chick-lit, as the current vernacular would style it. Back in my days at Ranch & Coast Magazine in Rancho Santa Fe, Peg Kingman wrote regularly remarkable full-length feature articles in San Diego Magazine. In 1984, as Dennis Connor was famously losing the America’s Cup trophy to the wicked old Aussies, I went out on the tender with my photographer, John Dickinson, where we were fed dried-up sandwiches, flat champagne, warmed-over coffee and stale press releases; meanwhile, the correspondent from San Diego Magazine — probably Peg Kingman, though I don’t recall for certain — went aboard Connor’s Spirit Of America for a sumptuous dinner and personal interview. The point is Kingman’s background is not entirely in technical manuals. In fact, her literary talent is considerable; her prose style elegant, her plot turns entertaining; and her dialogue between characters eminently educational. If you haven’t read her first two novels, you have just enough time to get them read and be up-to-date when her next one comes out later this year. Peg Kingman divides her time — when not traveling to research novels — between her home in Point Arena and her tea plantation in Potter Valley. She travels through Anderson Valley on the MTA bus, generally, twice a week. Her novels are available at local bookstores and the County library in Ukiah. — Bruce McEwen

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