- Temperate Weather
- Redwood Classic
- Recent Deaths
- Little Dog
- Domestic Altercation
- McTreatment Center
- Opaque Government
- Trevor Sentenced
- Winter Shelter
- Cannabis Regs
- Yesterday's Catch
- Orient Express
- Bread Riots
- Show Pony
- Crypto Currencies
- MCBG Events
- Community Chorus
- Cartoon Men
- Melania Christmas
- Ceramics Sale
- More JFK
- Eternal Witness
- Unconquered Sun
INTO THE 30s MONDAY NIGHT, cloud cover returns Tuesday so next few nights not as cold, 40s at night, 50s daytime. Rain likely next weekend.
HERE'S HOW the National Weather Service puts it: "A weak front will bring a chance for rain primarily northward of Cape Mendocino for later this morning into the afternoon. Then building high pressure will bring mostly dry conditions through the remainder of the work week before another frontal boundary impacts northwest California this weekend."
THE 2017 REDWOOD CLASSIC kicks off Wednesday, November 29 and will run through Saturday night. The games tend to be uneven until the Saturday playoff rounds but the event, as an event, is a lot of fun and highly recommended. This year’s tournament, the 60th annual, will begin at 4:30 Wednesday with a mismatch between Tomales and perennial Marin County powerhouse Branson. (Marin has turned out excellent basketball and baseball players for a hundred years. Look for a Marin high school team to take the floor with a bunch of skinny, unathletic-looking little guys who proceed to shoot your eyes out in fundamentally perfect basketball. Ditto for the girl’s teams. Marin sponsors baseball and basketball teams for children ages 4 and up. Football has long been the exclusive franchise of Marin Catholic High School. Look for Marin Catholic to run all over Cardinal Newman this Saturday night in Cotati for the regional championship.) At 6pm Valley Christian will take on an always strong Cloverdale quintet which, depending on how good the Christians are, just might be a game worth the price of admission. At 7:30 Fort Bragg will play home-team Anderson Valley, and right here is probably an interesting game given that Anderson Valley, brilliantly coached by Luis Espinoza, will lack shooting ability but make up for their serial offensive bricks by playing a ferocious, full-court man-to-man defense. Old school fans will absolutely love to watch defensive basketball as it should be played. On Thursday Round Valley will play Argonaut, whoever they are, but here’s to Covelo, once upon a pre-dope time, a small school force the equal of schools three times its size. Hoopa will play Clear Lake at 3:30. Always a well-coached squad out of the far reaches of Trinity County, one year Hoopa featured a giant German kid out of Argentina, arguably a youngster with a fascinating but perhaps unspeakable pedigree. It remains a mystery how this lad came to be enrolled at Hoopa High School. Laytonville v. Woodside Priory (monks play basketball?) is at 5pm. Tulelake, known solely as the site of a World War Two Japanese internment camp and duck hunting, plays Stuart Hall at 6:30. And California School for the Deaf (CSD) will play Pinewood at 8:00. On Friday commence the elimination games until the championship game Saturday night. Hoops note: The best all-round high school basketball performances this ancient fan has ever seen were those of the Oropeza Brothers for Point Arena High School back in….
THE RECENT deaths of Kay Clark, Jim Colling and Bob Kirkpatrick saddens everyone who knew them, me included. I looked forward to annual conversations with Kay at the Boonville Fair, and her husband Burton before her, too, and ongoing but periodic association with the Clark’s logger son, Brian. The Clarks were long-time residents of the sunny side of Navarro at Nash Mill, Brian a resident of Albion. Kay was a native of Finland, managing to cheerfully recount tales from her youth in that perpetually Russian-menaced country. I recall Jim Colling’s efficient installation of the miraculously transformative Monitor heater at my previously frigid wood and coal-heated house on Anderson Valley Way. He sold and installed many Monitors in The Valley with nary a complaint from a single customer. Bob Kirkpatrick made his home in Willits but was known throughout the county for his work with school districts. He won my admiration when he became superintendent of the County Schools when that agency functioned as an edu-kleptocracy; Bob managed to re-establish its reputability in the teeth of opposition of its remaining kleptos. Bob’s brother, Don, was superintendent of the Mendocino schools for many years. The both of them were true old school gentlemen of the type long-gone from school systems.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Skrag got a cut near his right eye recently. He won't say how he got it, but knowing him I bet it was a jealous husband.”
On 11-24-2017 at approximately 8:22 p.m., Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies received a radio call for service regarding a domestic related verbal altercation occurring at a residence in the 31000 block of North Mitchell Creek Road in Fort Bragg. Deputies arrived at approximately 8:27 p.m. and initiated an investigation into the reported incident. During that investigation Deputies learned that a 54 year-old female and John Biasotti, 56, of Fort Bragg were cohabitating partners and involved in a romantic relationship.
Deputies determined the adult female and Biasotti were engaged in a verbal argument that escalated when Biasotti physically assaulted her by head butting her in the face. The female sustained minor visible injury to her face as a result of the assault. Deputies arrested Biasotti for felony domestic violence battery and also seized a short-barreled rifle in Biasotti's possession that was determined to be a felony violation of the Penal Code. Biasotti was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be booked and held in lieu of $25,000 bail.
WE’VE DONE PRETTY WELL here in Humboldt County at keeping the big chain stores at bay. Arcata has an ordinance against them, and public outcry keeps Walmart cowering in the back of the mall. Obviously we value our local culture, and our local economy. However, our State Senator, Mike McGuire has gone ahead and invited a new big chain store to open a franchise here in Humboldt County, and he expects us to be happy about it. At a recent “Opioid Crisis”-themed town meeting, State Senator McGuire announced that Aegis Treatment Centers would be opening its 32nd drug treatment clinic here in Humboldt County. Clearly we need more drug treatment here in Humboldt County, but do we really need the “Taco Bell” of treatment centers? Has Aegis been offered incentives to locate here in Humboldt County? Were those incentives also offered to the Open Door Clinic, which has been treating everyone’s medical needs here for decades? What about our local health care districts, or Redwoods Rural Health Center? Were they offered incentives to offer drug treatment locally? Do we need a big company from out of town to suck money out of our community, just so we can have a methadone clinic in Humboldt County? (John Hardin)
BETSY CAWN of Lake County Writes:
"Alan 'The Kid' Flora, Mendocino County's answer to Leon Trotsky." True that! Consummate bureaucrat, greaser of skids, doer of done deals, keeper of twisted terms and conditions. MendoCo wooed him away from Lake with a hefty salary boost, taking with him barely known (by the chosen few) inner sanctum spending schemes using actuarial alchemy written in invisible ink. My guess is he was a tad too Machiavellian for Mendo's emasculating management madames et fils. Either that or he jumped ahead in line once too often.
As for the "mental health" reality concealed behind budgetary double dealing and lack of competent oversight, Mendo's internecine contract con game — blamed on third and fourth party actors in public service systems — never sees the light of day, does it? In Lake County, records of the Mental Health Advisory Board from prior to 1998, 1999, and 2000, and up to 2015+, cannot be found. Records of the MHAB's statutorily-required oversight of department practices (Welfare & Institutions Code Â§5604) are "unfindable" for any of those years except 1998-99.
"Accountability" (for "evidence based" "results") is rendered in the most minute registration of "activities" and "visits" to "resources" for delivery of our meager share of the Prop. 63 Mental Health Services Act funding; numbers related to population served and costs are visible only in the projected annual "budget" — which never gets reviewed against key performance measures. Most of the funding for services to assist the "severely mentally ill" (aka, 5150/5152 qualified, extreme need individuals), is billed to MediCal; if you are not eligible for MediCal or stark raving mad, you're on your own.
And Lake's current Mental Health Advisory Board is a perfect recreation of the Mad Hatter's teaparty; like Mendo, however, our board of supervisors seem to have forgotten its obligations to the paying public. Until the aftermath of our 2015 wildfire disasters (and ensuing catastrophes), the absence of mental health public services for traumatized and bereft community members went virtually unnoticed, while relying on "first responders" (law enforcement and medical services) to keep the guts and riffraff off the streets.
If the paying public has a beef with this status quo, there is an "Issue Resolution Process" required by the Mental Health Services Act contractors,* but there is no procedure for ensuring compliance with the process (http://www.co.lake.ca.us/Assets/Departments/Mental+Health_AODS/docs/MH/IssueResolution.pdf) — you're not even invited to have some tea.
[*Not to be confused with the legal grievance procedure for subjects of 5150/5152 "temporary holds," for which there is a quarterly public meeting for mandatory bean-counting updates.]
While the Mental Health Services Act requires the local "process," the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission requires the "exhaustion of administrative remedies" at the local level before it will deign to have a look at the "issue" reported. If the complaint involves the local board of supervisors' oversight body (advisory committee) and/or the local board of supervisors responsibility for its appointed committee's statutory compliance, the process begins inside the department and never sees the light of day.*
[*Apparently; to date only one complainant has attempted to initiate the "Issue Resolution Process," beginning in the middle of 2017; thus far, there has been no action taken by the Lake County Behavioral Health Department to respond, let alone address the "issue," which is the missing MHAB oversight.]
Meanwhile, we're more than happy to be Mendocino's debris dump, which will ease the chafing wounds of unreimbursed 2015/2016 disaster response expenses on this side of the Cow.
TREVOR GETS PACKED OFF
UKIAH, Monday, November 27. - A persistent and violent thief — Trevor Michael Jackson, age 34, formerly of Redwood Valley — appeared in Department H for judgement and sentencing this morning on three separate criminal matters. When all was said and done, the tearful defendant collected a state prison sentence of 25 years.
Jackson was convicted of and sentenced today on his most serious case, which involved convictions for kidnapping, 1st degree robbery in concert, vicarious use of an assault weapon, a prior Strike conviction, and two prior prison commitments. These convictions flow from a marijuana robbery on Covelo Road in July of this year.
The defendant was also convicted of and sentenced today on another case involving burglary in the 2nd degree, a marijuana burglary that occurred in March 2016 in an unincorporated area of Ukiah.
Finally, the defendant was convicted of and sentenced today on his third case which involved a vehicle theft, a crime that occurred in August of this year while the defendant was on the lam as a fugitive from justice.
Because of the violent nature of the kidnapping and robbery convictions, the credits the defendant may attempt to earn during his period of incarceration is limited to no more than 15% of the 25 years, or no more than 3 years, 9 months. As part of the overall disposition, the defendant was also required by the prosecution to waive all pretrial credits from the date of his arrest until today's sentencing.
District Attorney David Eyster has been the prosecutor handling all of the defendant's cases and appeared this morning to handle the sentencing hearing. The investigating law enforcement agency on all three cases has been the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. Mendocino County Superior Court Presiding Judge John Behnke imposed today's sentences.
MENDO COAST 'EMERGENCY WEATHER SHELTER' STILL CLOSED
Number Of Days It Should Have Opened - 10
Number Of Deaths (So Far) From Exposure - 0
Once again, on a rainy night with more than an inch of rain falling, the Fort Bragg Emergency Weather Shelter was closed thanks to the heartless "business decision" of the Hospitality House not to run it this year - a decision, it should be noted, made at the very last minute. In fact, announced two days before it was supposed to open November 15.
MSP has learned, however, the Hospitality House decided it WILL run the winter shelter this year. A decision made, no doubt, after outrage was expressed about their "business decision."
The Fort Brag City Council has it as an agenda item tonight at their meeting - after some type of "assembly" permit is applied for & granted.
Why it will take until DECEMBER to open it is just downright cruel. Basically, all that needed to be done was to have a new location for the homeless to gather to be taken to the "rotating" shelter provided by the generous faith-based Fort Bragg community.
It has been said County officials will not release the $50,000 to anyone BUT Hospitality House - so if they don't run the emergency shelter no one can. The 11th-hour decision not to run the shelter by the "profit-obsessed" non-profit has been viewed by many as retribution for them getting called on the carpet by the City of Fort Bragg planning commission for code violations that nearly saw them shut down. Modifications to their use permit included not allowing the homeless gather at their property to be transported to the emergency winter shelter.
The Hospitality House allegedly wanted $137,000 to run the shelter this winter - the county gave them $50,000.
The Hospitality is expected to run through the $50K from the county over three months then simply shut it down and walk away. It WAS supposed to be open from Mid-November to April.
One can only hope a new entity will be tasked with running the shelter next year. The Hospitality House has proven, after more than a decade, they are not capable of running it.
MSP has said it before and will say it again: The management of the Hospitality House, as well as their board of directors, (and the City of Fort Bragg for allowing this to happen), should hang their collective heads in shame at the present situation. It's not like they didn't know winter was coming. It's an inhumane disgrace.
* * *
WHEN SHELTER SHOULD HAVE BEEN OPEN
(Greater than 30% chance of rain or 40F or lower)
- Wednesday, November 15 - 0.11"
- Thursday, November 16 - 0.67"
- Friday, November 17 - 0.19"
- Monday, November 20 - 0.26"
- Tuesday, November 21 - 0.39"
- Wednesday, November 22 - 0.02"
- Friday, November 24 - 0.11"
- Saturday, November 25 - 0.10"
- Sunday, November 26 - 0.70"
- Monday - November 27 - 1.01"
* * *
GOOD TO SEE UKIAH HAS THEIR WINTER SHELTER ACT TOGETHER
Meanwhile, the less fortunate in Fort Bragg are outside battling the elements due to Hospitality House backing out at the last minute - then, due to public outrage, grudgingly agreeing to run it this winter. (MendocinoSportsPlus)
CA’S STRINGENT NEW POT REGS
by Jim Shields
Last week we discussed the new rules adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board), establishing strict environmental standards for cannabis cultivation in order to protect water flows and water quality in California’s rivers and streams.
The Water Board and other state agencies are planning on restricting or capping the number of cultivation licenses that can be issued, most likely based on an “environmental impact calculation” of how many grow sites and/or plants are allowable per watershed. According to a Water Board staffer, the plans include limiting the “number of plant identifiers and licenses issued by the various entities, and so those folks that come forward earlier are going to be in a better position than folks that may stand on the sidelines and wait for a while.”
That’s a great idea that local officials should take note of, immediately. It’s a much-needed regulation and would address the issue of the out-of-control expansion of pot production, especially here in Mendocino County. It also would address the major issue concerning the economic survivability of the small cottage grower who has seen the selling price of marijuana plummet because the market (black, gray or legal) is flooded with surplus pot primarily due to the failure of local governments enforcing natural resource provisions in their own ordinances
For example, Mendocino County has an ordinance that prohibits removing a single tree if the purpose is for growing marijuana. There is little evidence the County is enforcing that strict rule, especially in the view of CALFIRE who this past summer admonished the BOS for its failure to do so.
It’s the same case with water-related issues. The county doesn’t have a clue if cultivators are in compliance with water codes and regulations regarding water sources, diversions, pond building, road construction, etc.
The Water Board’s regulatory approach should be emulated by all local governments involved in the cannabis legalization process because what they’ve done so far, sure isn’t working.
This week, California’s other three state cannabis licensing authorities announced that they have rolled out proposed emergency licensing regulations for commercial medicinal and adult-use cannabis.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Cannabis Control, Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, and Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division each developed the new regulations to reflect the law as found in California’s Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA).
The licensing authorities expect the just released emergency regulations to be effective sometime later in December. However, the implementation date for the issuance of the state commercial cannabis licenses remains the same: January 1, 2018. Keep in mind that the state will only be able to license those businesses that are in compliance will all local laws.
On another front, the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency will hold a workshop with state-chartered banks and credit unions in December to discuss regulatory and compliance issues, as well as look at the sticky issue of potential approaches to banking cannabis-related businesses. This is a potential important development due to the federal restrictions on banks handling funds generated by marijuana activity.
The state Department of Food and Agriculture issued its emergency regs this week and here’s a summary of what becomes effective next month.
Mirroring State Water Board rules regarding water issues, CDFA will require cultivators to file plans indicating which part of the property is the proposed premises and what the remaining property is used for, including all roads and water crossings on the property. If the grower is proposing to use a diversion from a “waterbody, groundwater well, or rain catchment system as a water source for cultivation,” they have to include the following locations on the “property diagram with locations also provided as coordinates in either latitude and longitude: (1) Sources of water used, including the location of waterbody diversion(s), pump location(s), and distribution system; and (2) Location, type, and capacity of each storage unit to be used for cultivation.”
This provision is the first step in nailing down numerous regs dealing with very tough water rules that will be tightly enforced by the State Water Board and its co-enforcer partner, the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Here’s the basics of CDFA’s regulatory framework:
License Application Fees. CDFA will charge a one-time fee to review an annual cultivation license application. Application fees are scaled based on the average annual production of the license type and range from $135 to $8,655.
Annual License Fees. The license fee schedule has been updated based on an economic analysis of CDFA costs. License fees are scaled based on the average annual production of the license type and range from $1,205 to $77,905.
Temporary Licenses. Applicants must present a local permit, license, or authorization to be considered for a temporary license, which will allow cultivation before an annual license is issued.
Processor License. An additional license type not included in the original statute has been added for processors, permitting them to trim, dry, cure, grade, and package cannabis. Processors may not grow cannabis under their license.
Track-and-Trace System/Requirements. Covers the requirements for licensees and/or designated track-and-trace account managers, including training, registration, plant tagging, and inventory tracking. The track-and-trace system will record the movement of cannabis and cannabis products through the state’s supply chain—from cultivation to sale.
Applicant Track-and-Trace Training Requirement. Requires applicants to complete a training session for the track-and-trace system within 10 days of receiving notice that their complete application has been received and approved by CDFA.
Cannabis Waste Management. Requires licensees to comply with current state waste-management laws and include requirements for on-site composting, using a waste hauler, or self-hauling.
Renewable Energy Requirements. Renewable energy requirements allow a phase-in period. Beginning in 2022, licensees will need to provide details regarding energy use and sources. Beginning in 2023, licensees must meet the average electricity greenhouse-gas-emissions intensity required of their local utility provider.
Generator Requirements. Specifies allowable generator types and use restrictions. For example, generators rated at 50 horsepower or greater must demonstrate compliance with California Airborne Toxic Control Measures. Generators rated below 50 horsepower will have to meet compliance measures by 2023.
Inspections, Investigations, and Audits. All inspections, investigations, and audits of the licensed premises shall be conducted during standard business hours or at a time mutually agreed to by the Department and the licensee. For the purposes of this section, standard business hours are 8:00am–5:00pm Prior notice of inspection, investigation, or audit is not required.
Record Retention/Sales Invoice or Receipt Requirements. Governs the maintenance of records and sales invoices for licensees.
Licensing Actions. Enforcement actions may be taken for any violation(s) of license conditions or requirements. The Department may take any one of, or a combination of, the following actions for all of the licensee’s cultivation licenses:
Suspension for a specified period of time;
Issuance of a probationary license with terms and conditions; and
Order an administrative hold of cannabis and nonmanufactured cannabis products.
Administrative Fines. Violation Classes: minor (fine range: $100 to $500); moderate (fine range: $501 to $1,000); serious (fine range: $1,001 to $5,000). Repeat violations may result in an escalation of the violation class.
Administrative Hold Procedure. Details procedures for establishing administrative holds on cannabis and nonmanufactured cannabis products.
Annual License Fees. An annual license fee shall be paid to the department prior to issuance of a license or renewal license. The fee schedule is as follows:
- “Specialty Cottage Outdoor” is an outdoor cultivation site with up to 25 mature plants. $1,205
- “Specialty Cottage Indoor” is an indoor cultivation site with 500 square feet or less of total canopy. $1,830
- “Specialty Cottage Mixed-Light Tier 1 and 2” is a mixed-light cultivation site with 2,500 square feet or less of total canopy. Tier 1: $3,035; Tier 2: $5,200
- “Specialty Outdoor” is an outdoor cultivation site with less than or equal to 5,000 square feet of total canopy, or up to 50 mature plants on noncontiguous plots. $2,410
- “Specialty Indoor” is an indoor cultivation site between 501 and 5,000 square feet of total canopy. $19,540
- “Specialty Mixed-Light Tier 1 and 2” is a mixed-light cultivation site between 2,501 and 5,000 square feet of total canopy. Tier 1: $5,900; Tier 2: $10,120
- “Small Outdoor” is an outdoor cultivation site between 5,001 and 10,000 square feet of total canopy. $4,820
- “Small Indoor” is an indoor cultivation site between 5,001 and 10,000 square feet of total canopy. $35,410
- “Small Mixed-Light Tier 1 and 2” is a mixed-light cultivation site between 5,001 and 10,000 square feet of total canopy. Tier 1: $11,800; Tier 2: $20,235
- “Medium Outdoor” is an outdoor cultivation site between 10,001 square feet and one acre of total canopy. $13,990
- “Medium Indoor” is an indoor cultivation site between 10,001 and 22,000 square feet of total canopy. $77,905
- “Medium Mixed-Light Tier 1 and 2” is a mixed-light cultivation site between 10,001 and 22,000 square feet of total canopy. Tier 1: $25,970; Tier 2: $44,517
- “Nursery” is a cultivation site that conducts the cultivation of cannabis solely as a nursery. $4,685
- “Processor” is a cultivation site that conducts only trimming, drying, curing, grading, packaging, or labeling of cannabis and nonmanufactured cannabis products. $9,370
As I’ve been warning folks for sometime, if they think the county’s rules are onerous, wait until they see what the state does. Well, now they’re seeing it. State regulators understand that the key to a successful regulatory framework is a system of cohesive and coherent regulations and the means and will to enforce them. These are plans, approaches, and strategies that local governments with cannabis ordinances should replicate.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 27, 2017
YULIAN CHAMBERLAIN, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ELIFONSO FLORES-LOPEZ, Fort Bragg. DUI, suspended (by previous DUI) license, probation revocation.
RICKEY LEWIS III, Ukiah. Under influence.
JASON RESS, Ukiah. ID theft, forged driver’s license, paraphernalia, controlled substance, alteration of access card account information, making equipment for counterfeiting access cards, burglary tools, receiving stolen property, resisting.
IT’S AGATHA CHRISTIE TIME, AGAIN
by Jonah Raskin
Whether you live in Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Santa Rosa, Berkeley, San Francisco or almost anywhere else in the world, you can be sure that Murder on the Orient Express will be in a movie theater near you this holiday season. Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name is also surely in a local library or bookstore, and if it’s not, then it’s available in paperback on Amazon. In fact, the new edition offers on the cover an image of a locomotive and a series of passenger cars, along with the words, “Look for the major motion picture coming soon.” In the era of the SUV and the 747, trains appeal to the romance of travel that was spawned by the railroad industry itself. In Christie’s day, the Orient Express, which went from Paris to Constantinople and back the same way, was advertised as an exotic and luxurious mode of transportation, though her Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot says to himself at the start of the novel, “The train, it is as dangerous as a sea-voyage.”
Indeed it’s dangerous for a despicable American gangster named Cassetti who is traveling under the name, Ratchett (sounds like “rat shit”). He’s running away from two murders he committed in the U.S., along with a kidnapping and a suicide for which he’s responsible. Christie was inspired by the accounts of the kidnapping and later the murder of aviator Charles Lindberg’s 20-month-old son. She also borrowed from Edgar Allen Poe, often described as the father of the detective novel, whose short story “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” introduced readers to a Parisian detective named C. Auguste Dupin who solves the mysteries no one else can. Not the butler, but an orangutan originally from Borneo is the murderer. Ratchett is an orangutan in a suit and tie, or as one of the characters explains, “a wild animal.”
Christie’s “international detective,” as he calls himself, speaks French as well as English. Unlike Dupin and unlike those two notorious detectives, Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Poirot does not go into the world to seek suspects and gather clues. He doesn’t have to go anywhere. All the suspects and all the clues are with him on the Orient Express. All he has to do is ask questions, go through the luggage, then sit and think orderly and methodically and put the pieces together.
Murder on the Orient Express, which was first published in 1934, and that has sold millions of copies – far more than Hammett’s The Maltese Falconand Chandler’s The Big Sleep—simplifies everything for the reader. It avoids any kind of moral ambiguity, paints the characters in black and white, and provides the author herself with a platform to express her dislike of Eastern Europeans, her discomfort with Jews and her disdain for Joseph Stalin. All the characters are defined by their ethnicity; the Italians are “swarthy,” the Americans “loud,” the English “neat.” Make no mistake about it, Christie had most of the prejudices of the English upper classes in the period between World War I and World War II as the sun began to set everywhere on the British Empire.
Not surprising, Raymond Chandler in an essay titled, “The Simple Art of Murder,” pooh-poohed Murder on the Orient Express, along with Agatha Christie and her detective, Poirot, who assembles the pieces, Chandler says, as one would assemble “an egg beater.” Murder might be simple, Chandler allowed, but writing about it and writing it well was as difficult as writing a masterpiece of fiction. Not surprisingly, Chandler also praised Hammett because he took “murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley,” and also because he wrote for people who “were not afraid of the seamy side of things.” One might say that Christie wrote for people who were squeamish and that she took murder out of the alley and planted it back in the Venetian vase, or at least in the first-class railroad car crossing the Orient.
In Chandler’s world “gangsters can rule nations,” “restaurants are owned by men who made their money in brothels” and “a screen star can be the finger man for the mob.” (Those words, which sound as contemporary as today’s headlines, were Chandler’s.) Hammett’s world was no less corrupt, which explains in part why he joined the American Communist Party and went to jail rather than name names.
Hammett published his masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon in 1930. By then he had already published Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. The Glass Keycame after The Falcon. The Thin Man was published the same year as Murder on the Orient Express. By then Hammett’s career was largely over. Christie’s career was just beginning, though she had launched Poirot in 1920 in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Christie had a formula; she was disciplined enough to apply it in 66 detective novels, that featured Poirot and Miss Marple, an elderly spinster and amateur sleuth, who appealed to readers who enjoyed the English countryside and the upstairs-downstairs world of servants and aristocrats.
The 2017 cinematic version of Murder on the Orient Express is all about Kenneth Branagh, the actor, producer, director and screenwriter who was born in working class, Protestant Ireland and who seems determined to show the world that nothing will keep him down. As Hercule Poirot, Branagh is cerebral, comic, icy cold and given to making speeches to the camera, which goes over as well as a cop among the kinds of eccentric criminals that Hammett and Chandler created. Christie didn’t care for what she called the “American crime novel” because it seemed unreal. When she created an American detective in Murder on the Orient Express she called him “Mr. Hardman.” Poirot isn’t hardboiled, but rather soft, sentimental and old-fashioned. “I find the American woman less charming than my own countrywomen,” he tells Hardman. “The French or Belgian girl, coquettish, charming—I think there is no one to touch her.”
Like her detective, Christie thought in terms of types: the American man, the American woman, the French girl and more. But perhaps her types are the secret of her success. Perhaps they’re what readers and viewers really want and not complex characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe who live among criminals for so long that they come to think and act like them. “Me, I was part of the nastiness now,” Marlowe says at the end of The Big Sleep. That kind of psychological insight was beyond Christie, though she created characters as nasty as Chandler’s. Hers are wealthy and well mannered. So their nastiness comes across as old-world charm that alas, was doomed to be destroyed by “the great civilization” of America that Christie would have traded any day for the glamor of the orient express.
AN ILLUSTRATION PUBLISHED IN MAY 1863 OF THE RICHMOND BREAD RIOTS (Library of Congress)
Caption: “Southern women feeling the effects of rebellion, and creating bread riots”
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
My first blush is to discount assassination rumors on the ground that it would simply be unnecessary given Trump’s current trajectory and the fact that it would roil the sacred financial markets for no good reason. But if a financial meltdown is being planned anyway, which I believe it is, an assassination has many benefits.
First of all, it would enable yet another expansion of the national security state, which would likely even put the aftermath of 9-11 to shame, and it would also no doubt be blamed on Russian sympathizers or even the Russians themselves, and enable the long sought after nuclear showdown that DC has long been itching for. It could even enable a false-flag US nuclear attack on its own soil (mark my words, it’s coming!) just to enhance the dramatic effect and to get rid of a few million useless breathers.
Either way, Trump is largely a show pony at this stage, who is only being propped up for the distraction effect. Nothing good has or will come from his presidency, other than the total discrediting of his faux “populism,” an idea so preposterous that only Americans could have ever been stupid enough to believe it.
by James Kunstler
Shoeshine boys in airports ‘round the world must be whispering about Bitcoin as the crypto-currency coils upward to tickle the $10,000 line. Ethereum’s roaring up, too, along with most other cryptos, from Byteball Bytes to Tattoocoin (Limited Edition). Whatever else you think about it, this action is sending a message, perhaps several.
One would be Get Rich Quick, of course. Eight months ago, you could have copped Bitcoin for a mere $1000, and around Labor Day it touched $5000, which seemed, well, figment-ish. In the last two weeks it went all out hockey-stick, doubling. To a certain sort of mind this must seem irresistible. The result: a good old-fashioned mania. Digital tulip bulbs.
Another message probably goes something like duck-and cover. Some nervous nellies are seeking shelter in Bitcoin as they detect tremors in the more traditional markets creeping ever-higher to new records. To some degree, Bitcoin may be doing the job that gold used to do, providing the aura of a “safe haven” from a possible global financial mega-storm. The last time such an event came out nowhere (ha!) after the “permanent plateau” of 1929 collapsed, the government confiscated as much physical gold as it could get its paws on. So who wants to be there? (Echo answers….)
These days, the zeitgeist also points to new-and-improved government monkey business for shoving global populations into cashless monetary regimes where the authorities could monitor and control (and collect a vig on) all transactions — and there is the theory, at least, that Bitcoin’s block-chain computer math would be secure from any government’s clutches.
I’m not so sanguine about Bitcoin’s supposed impregnability, nor about many of its other appealing claims. The Mt. Gox affair of 2014 must be forgotten now, but back then some sharpie hacked 850,000 Bitcoins (valued over $450,000,000) out of the exchange, which was processing almost two-thirds of all the Bitcoin trades in the world. Mt. Gox went out of business. Bitcoin tanked and then traded sideways for three years until (coincidentally?) the Golden Golem of Greatness was elected Leader of the Free World. Hmmmm…..
Not many readers understand the first thing about block-chain math, your correspondent among them. But I am aware that the supposed safety of Bitcoin lies in its feature of being an algorithm distributed among a network of computers world-wide, so that it kind of exists everywhere-and-nowhere at the same time, a highly-valued ghost in the techno-industrial meta-machine.
However, the electric energy required for “mining” each Bitcoin — that is, the computations required for updating the block-chain network — is enough to boil almost 2000 liters of water. This is happening world-wide, and a lot of the Bitcoin “mining” is powered by coal-burning electric plants, making it the first Steampunk currency. If Bitcoin were to keep rising to $1,000,000 per unit, as many investors hope and pray, there wouldn’t be enough electric power in the world to keep it going.
Pardon me if I seem skeptical about the whole scheme. Even without Bitcoin bringing extra demand onto the scene, America’s electrical grid is already an aging rig of rags and tatters. There are a lot of ways that the service could be interrupted, perhaps for a long time in the case of an electric magnetic pulse (EMP). I’m not convinced that crypto-currencies are beyond the clutches of government, either. Around the world, in their campaign to digitize all money, there must be a deep interest in either hijiking existing block-chains, or creating official government Bit-monies to seal the deal of total control over financial transactions they seek.
Anyway, there are already over 1300 private cryptos and, apparently, a theoretically endless ability to create ever new ones — though the electricity required does seem to be a limiting factor. Maybe governments will shut them down for being energy-hogs.
My personal take on the phenomenon is that it represents the high point of techno-narcissism — the idea that technology is now so magical that it over-rides the laws of physics. That, for me, would be the loudest “sell” signal. I’d just hate to be in that rush to the exits. And who knows what kind of rush to other exits it could inspire.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/JamesHowardKunstler)
MUSHROOMS, GALA, FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS!
There is something for everyone this week at the Gardens!
TODAY at 1:30PM, Mushroom Walk
Join Mycologist and Naturalist, Mario Abreu for an identification walk.
Learn mushroom lore with a local fungi expert. Walks begin at 1:30pm, leaving from the Plaza at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Free with regular Gardens admission.
WEDNESDAY from 5:30PM to 8:00PM, Festival of Lights GALA
You are invited to a woodland wonderland of enchantment and frivolity. Visit the forest primeval and share in the mystical allure of all that resides there. Prepare for a charming of your senses through a combination of music, drink, and flavorful fare that will beguile you through the evening. Stroll the paths of the Gardens that have been transformed into a sylvan setting of light and color for your delight and pleasure. Unique and tasty bites will be provided by Tsunami Nacho. Sway to live gypsy jazz music by Swing Noodle. Also included in this enchanting evening: door prizes, bubbly, local wine, local craft brews, and delectable dessert. Tickets are $100 each (limited supply) and can be purchased at the Gardens or by phoning 964-4352 ext 10.
FRI, SAT, SUN from 5:00PM to 7:30PM Festival of Lights Join us at the Gardens for an unbelievable show of glittering color, live music, drinks, sweet treats, and fun in the big tent each evening of the Festival. Adult tickets are $10 each, children age 16 attend for free! Tickets are now available for purchase at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Harvest Market, Visit Mendocino, or Out of This World. This weekendâ€™s live music includes: Chuck Tourtillott (Dec 1), Fort Bragg High School Choir (Dec 2), and Business Casual (Dec 3).
SAT from 10:00AM to 3:30PM Mushroom ID Workshop What are mushrooms, how and where do you find them, and which species are safe to eat? What visual features are used to identify mushrooms? What role do fungi play in ecology? Should you be worried or happy about the mushrooms sprouting in your yard? If these questions come to mind when the rains start to fall, this class is for you! Students provide their own lunch. Class cost is $35 for general public and $25 members of the Gardens and Master Gardeners. Only a couple spaces left for this weekendâ€™s workshop but a number of spaces still available for December 16. Call 964-4352 ext 16 to sign up ASAP!
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Opening weekend of the “gun” part of deer hunting season here is very informative. You see actual men and cartoon men.
Actual men: rusty old truck, well-worn but well-cared-for rifle or shotgun that may have belonged to dad, mismatched but carefully chosen clothing, a mix of blaze orange, surplus, and a bit of hunter-type camo. Stanley thermos with some coffee and a lot of scratches. Quiet, joking a bit, downplaying any venison they’ve culled.
Cartoon men: giant lifted new truck with tons of stickers for products + Salt Life stupid sticker, $2000 rifle with $1000 scope, treebark-pattern camos just gotten from Cabela’s. Yeti cooler with all the matching goodies. Full of loud stories that are all fake.
You cannot buy maleness. But a lot of men try. FWIW, with high winds the deer were nowhere to be seen, but I enjoyed some time sitting alone in a tree.
MELANIA! MELANIA! COME TO MENDO. We can help you. We have places you can hide, people who will defend you, keep you safe.
CERAMICS CLUB ANNUAL HOLIDAY SALE — Dec. 1st at College
The Mendocino College Ceramics Club presents its annual holiday sale, Friday, December 1st, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Lowery Student Center at the Mendocino College main campus in Ukiah. Advanced students from the Ceramics Club will have works on sale, along with live music from the Recording Arts Club, holiday wreaths for sale from the Horticulture Club, and food and drink for purchase from the Culinary Club. For more information please call 468-3087.
More on JFK
I appreciated your comments on Jim Douglass's book and now I am three quarters of the way through another "must read" book on the same topic but with a very different its approach. It's "The Last Investigation" by Gaeton Fonzi, an investigator first for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and then for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1976.
His work took him deep into the anti-Castro Cuban community of Miami, gaining the confidence of key players, including meeting men who had fought with Castro, then turned against him (some of whom were already working for the CIA), meeting with Castro's former lover who had made a failed attempt to kill him, and finding that his efforts and those of other investigators to obtain and tell the truth about the assassination were blocked by the CIA at every level, with the agency intending to shift those who questioned whether Oswald was the assassin, into believing the assassination was a Mob hit.
It is a real page turner, broken into short chapters, calmly laid out in not overly dramatic fashion. But like a spy thriller, as David Talbot, author of "The Brothers" described it, it makes you not want to put the book down.
Jeffrey Blankfort, Ukiah
3 WHEELED PROTEST
The Eternal Witness
When I was performing karma yoga at the Yogaville Community in Buckingham, Virginia in the fall of 1993, the "guru who opened Woodstock", namely Sri Swami Satchidanandaji Maharaj was answering questions in Sivananda Hall. A woman visitor asked, "What is God?" The guru replied, "God is the eternal witness." Twenty four years later, today was spent riding around on San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit trains with no particular destination. Deboarding on to buses and visiting various east bay locations at random, resulted in a wonderful afternoon, enjoying the light rain and frequenting bookstores and coffee houses. Continuously watching the mental factory produce thoughts, not attaching to any of them, while observing the activity all around me. Additionally, I am wearing a large silver pendant of Jesus Christ crowned with thorns and radiating light, the ultimate symbol of non-attachment! My Catholic rosary beads are skulls carved from ox bone, reminiscent of Saint Francis contemplating a skull and pondering the inherent emptiness of all phenomena. Mind absorbed in the Absolute, no place to go. Everyone on the earth plane is welcome to stop identifying with the body and the mind. All sages and saints recommend identifying with the eternal witness, and thus be free from rotting in the quagmire of samsara. Spiritual masters of various traditions whom I have asked, shared with me that if you really want to save this world, then liberate yourself first. It's just a matter of having the courage to be what you are.
Craig Louis Stehr, San Francisco, Email: CraigStehr@inbox.com
ANNUAL CHRISTMAS DIATRIBE
by The Infidel Bedrock
FreeThought Today, the monthly newspaper of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is running a contest. Entrants must provide a caption for an illustration of a couple passing a cemetery. One headstone is labeled “God”.
My entry has the girl saying to the boy,
—Yeah, He died of tertiary syphilis. It seems the conception was not all that immaculate and Mary was no virgin.
The first symptoms of the mass insanity that is Christmas are upon us: cloying Christmas music in drugstores and supermarkets, hideous lights and decorations on houses and buildings, and announcements for sales everywhere.
There’s a Spanish word for all this: Hortera. It means, “trashy, tasteless, vulgar, garish, crude, crass, cheap, or offensive. It may refer to things or to a person. Trump supporters are personas horteras. Clinton supporters are horteras. Christmas is hortera.
Christianity is mythology—a derivative mythology. Cookie cutter Christs include Inanna, Mithra, Attis, Adonis, Isis, and Dionysus. Jesus scores a 19 out of 22 on Lord Raglan’s list of traits for mythical heroes. There are no non-Christian sources that support his existence. And the gospel story does not appear in the epistles of Paul of Tarsus: His Jesus lived and died (at the hand of demons) in an other-than-earthly realm.
Michael Paulkovich, an aerospace engineer and freelance writer observes,
—I discovered that many prominent Christian fathers believed with all pious sincerity that their savior never came to Earth or that if he did, he was a Star-Trekian character who beamed down pre-haloed and fullgrown, sans transvaginal egress. And I discovered other startling bombshells.
An exercise that struck me as meritorious, even today singular, involved reviving research into Jesus-era writers who should have recorded Christ tales but did not. John Remsburg enumerated forty-one “silent” historians in The Christ (1909). To this end, I spent many hours bivouacked in university libraries, the Library of Congress, and on the Internet. I terminated that foray upon tripling Remsburg’s count: in my book, I offer 126 writers who should have but did not write about Jesus… . Perhaps the most bewildering “silent one” is the super-Savior himself. Jesus is a phantom of a wisp of a personage who never wrote anything. So, add one more: 127.
Among the Jesus era writers who never mention Jesus, according to Mr. Paulkovich’s list, are Epictetus, Josephus (excluding Christian forgeries), Juvenal, Lucianus, Nichomachus Gerasenus, Phaedrus, Philippus of Thessalonica, Philo of Alexandria, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Plotinus, Plutarch, Tacitus, Thallus, and Tiberius. And this is just a fraction of the list.
Religion predates philosophy and science. It was a primitive attempt to explain the world by people who knew nothing of atoms, molecules, cells, genes, DNA, microbes, the Copernican universe, or the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter.
They conceived spirits, ghosts, angels, bogeymen, and gods. Religion is an anachronism, but still inspires gullible people to caress beads, wail in front of wailing walls, and to utter and mutter magic incantations: Hail Mary, full of grace…
And to go shopping. Christmas is a fusion of medieval superstitions and modern capitalism and incorporates the philosophies of Albert Lasker and Edward L. Bernays.
Britannica defines the Enlightenment as a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries in which ideas concerning God, reason, nature, and humanity were synthesized into a worldview that gained wide assent in the West and that instigated revolutionary developments in art, philosophy, and politics. Central to Enlightenment thought were the use and celebration of reason, the power by which humans understand the universe and improve their own condition. The goals of rational humanity were considered to be knowledge, freedom, and happiness.
We could do quite well without God or gods, but our civilization could not survive without reason, knowledge, and science.
The reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25 remains uncertain, but most probably the reason is that early Christians wished the date to coincide with the Pagan festival marking the “birthday of the unconquered sun” (natalis solis invicti); this festival celebrated the winter solstice when the days began to lengthen and the sun begins to climb higher in the sky.
(Encyclopedia Britannica, volume 3, page 283. 15th edition from 1992)
Screw Christmas, screw the gods, and screw the prophets, including Paul of Tarsus and Mohammed.
Screw all of them.
Feliz Natalis Solis Invicti.