- 2017 Deaths
- FB Celebrates
- Alderpoint Murder
- Greenwood Extrication
- Boonville Celebrates
- Suarez Popped
- Navarro Watch
- Awaiting Parker
- Mantynen Demise
- PD Obit
- ICO Salute
- Frostfan Henderson
- Little Dog
- PG&E Dividends
- Sandbar Scratching
- Shelter Stats
- Yesterday's Catch
- National Contraction
- Hitting Bears
- Checkpoint Challenge
- Listen, Lefty
- The Philosopher
- Margolin Apology
- Gun Control
- O'Brien Book
- 2018 Forecast
- Fall Salmon
GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN, 2017
Anderson Valley & Other Notable Deaths This Year
- Steven Hulbert
- Roger Hanes
- Briana Burns
- Grace Gertrude Williams Pinoli
- Verney Gillespie Ornbaun (Jr.)
- Linn Bottorf
- Helen E. Dain
- Michael Lawrence Shapiro
- Donald R Schmitt
- Bernadine Ruth
- Thoreson Turner
- Dorothy Marie Cagle
- Charles Henry Martin
- Dr. Jack Power
- Candelaria Galindo
- David Lee Lampert
- James Jarvis "JJ" Nuttall
- Yvonne Maurer
- Bobbie Lee Tucker
- Jim Cooley
- Dan Tower
- Graciela Torres
- Robert Mandel
- Gloria Ross
- George F. Lee, MD
- Bob Kirkpatrick
- Helen Bernice Clow
- Robin Lenore Lindsey
- Barry Wood
- Jim Colling
- Jean Anderson
- Mary Cesario Weaver
- Sandra Pronsolino
- Vicki Geneva (Crawford) Flaherty
- Raymond Ennocente ‘Ray’ Pinoli
- Judy Waggoner-Isbell
- Carl Shapiro
- Ross Murray
- Kay Clark
- Don Bissattini
- Robert Kirkpatrick
- Luis Miguel “Mikey” Ferreyra
A POIGNANT FORT BRAGG NEW YEAR'S EVE
by “Derek” writing on MCN ListServe
Hmmm, let's see how this goes.
I don't drink, so I'm alone tonight, but don't really want to be alone tonight, but didn't realize it until now.
So does anyone want to join me in celebrating CA entering into a Cannabis legal state at Midnight?
At the corner of Redwood and Franklin streets (the empty lot).
Bring a chair and a coat, and whatever smokable you have, but please... no tobacco.
I'll arrive about 11:30 PM.
Hope to see someone else.
Wishing you all, a fruitful and happy new year.
All of the replies were extremely nice, and supportive, some don't even partake themselves, but many couldn't make it to FB for the historic moment, and have asked for a report.
So for those who don't partake and get aggro about such things, chill out, and go read something else (or take advantage of our new law and enjoy a relaxing toke).
It was such a nice night that I walked, unfortunately, picking up a drunk guy 50 feet behind me at Harrison Street. He was blotto, yelling at the sky, sounding kind of angry, so I walked faster.
I arrived at the appointed corner shortly before 11:30 PM, setting up my camp chair in the empty lot. A perfect location for people watching, I could see the intersection, the Tip Top Lounge and down Redwood and its two bars, um, saloons.
The drunk was distracted by other pedestrians, so he didn't get to me for a few minutes, but he came over, like I knew he would.
I Hate drunks, due to bad personal experiences with drunk drivers, but decided to play it cool and see where it went. He walked up behind me, slurring somedamnthing, and then stood to my right, slurring again.
I told him in a friendly demeanor that he must have started partying early, because he was really drunk and I couldn't understand him.
Amazingly, he started speaking much clearer, still wasted, but more understandable, and he asked (wait for it...) "What are you doing sitting in a chair?"
I knew he was going to ask that. Really, I did. So I told him it was New Years Eve, and I wanted to watch all the action downtown.
He thought that was a dandy idea (sitting there), so much so, that I got the “I'm really fucking drunk” Hug. How sweet. But I took it like a Man, and he told me his name was Daniel, and he asked mine (which he'll never remember), and then he doddered across the street toward the Tip Top, to bother folks there.
The FB police presence was thick, cruising by in their shiny black & whites regularly from all directions, but the crowd was pretty darn cool, it was nice to see. Downtown was crowded, that was also good to see people out and about, mingling on the sidewalks.
But I was sitting there alone. Then someone I know walked over and we had a nice chat for awhile. Then Al (the nice guy I know from the listserv, who doesn't partake anymore) walked up and visited for awhile, and two more friends walked up, so we had a small group of non and smokers alike, a nice visit was had by all.
While we were visiting and awaiting Midnight, someone set off a skyrocket behind the Golden West Saloon, a nice green chrysanthemum affair, blooming about 60 feet above the skyline with a loud Boom. And several minutes later, after it was clear the PD wasn't responding, they set another one alight, this time, a nice blue chrysanthemum and BOOM!
Not too long after the nice aerial display, Midnight occurred, the bars got LOUD, and I fired up my combustible to celebrate the historic moment.
But very oddly, nobody came outside the bars to yell or otherwise celebrate; it was an indoor affair. It wasn't until 10 or more minutes before folks started filtering out, some switching venues, other walking home or to their vehicles.
Nobody was really drunk, everyone was friendly, saying "Hi, Happy New Year" as they walked by. It was cool.
About that time a FBPD SUV pulled up and parked across the street from us, my friends were slightly concerned about that. But as the officer walked towards us, I said "Hi Sgt. Lopez, how are you this fine evening"?
And since we've worked together on public safety things, he stopped to talk for a bit. The slight breeze shifted slightly and I accidentally blew smoke in his direction, so I apologized and warned him to move upwind.
It was cool, he was cool, all was cool, I quite like this new law.
Soon enough, there was a minor commotion at one of the watering holes, so he wandered over to make his presence known, and they all quieted right down. Great police work.
While I was sitting there in my chair, it must have looked like a throne, because a nice woman walked up and said, "Here, you look like you need one of these." And she put a pink, diamond bling, Happy New Year tiara on my head.
My friends got a good laugh, and I left it on, because why not? I did get funny looks from some folks though.
And shortly after that, another nice woman walked up, handing me a red stick and said, "Here, you look like you need one of these." The red stick was attached to a bottle rocket! But that’s another story…
So, for those who missed this historic event, let's do it again sometime (without the fireworks). Email me off list, and let’s have a meet up somewhere, it was so cool to have smokers and non alike, supportive of this idea.
Happy New Year
Derek - yawn... okay, I go bed now.
FIRST MURDER OF THE YEAR
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a homicide that occurred early this morning in Southern Humboldt.
Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Jerald Phelps Community Hospital just before 5:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018 for the report of a male gunshot victim. The victim was found lying on the side of Alderpoint Rd., between Bell Springs Rd. and Alderpoint, by a passerby driving in the area. The passerby transported the victim to the hospital. The victim succumbed to his injuries while en route.
The victim has not been identified. He is described as a dark-complected male, approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall, in his mid-20s to early 30s.
Anyone with information regarding the identity of the victim or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.
(Humboldt County Sheriff Press Release.)
CAR HITS TREE ON GREENWOOD ROAD; EXTRICATION NEEDED
The scanner & CHP Traffic "incident" page reported (1:43 pm) the Anderson Valley Fire Department & ambulance were dispatched to Greenwood - Philo Road, about 1.5 miles up from Hendy Woods State Park, for the report of a "silver sedan into a tree, five party's in the vehicle, extrication needed."
Air ambulance REACH 18 & CalFire units were also dispatched. It sounded like they were going to have the helicopter "landing zone" at the Gowan property on Highway 128.
PERIODIC BURSTS of gun fire and firecracker poppings began about 8:30pm New Year’s Eve in Boonville, and continued at random intervals until the first minutes of 2018. Much of the explosive merriment seemed confined to South Boonville, perhaps coming from the Confederate Army headquarters off Hutsell Lane, but North Boonville (NoBo) held up its end with occasional explosions.
NEW YEAR’S MORNING the only places in Boonville to grab a pastry and a cup of coffee were Pic ’N Pay and the Redwood Drive-in. Same-same on post-Christmas Wednesday in Boonville, with Mosswood and the Boonville General Store both shuttered. When the Anderson Valley sleeps in, not a creature stirs.
A CARAVAN of Mendo cops descended on the property behind the Redwood Drive-In last Thursday morning where they spent much of the day, at the end of which one man, Ricardo Suarez Jr. was arrested. The raid team drove off with him and a dump truck load of pureed pot. Suarez, four days before legalization, was charged with possession for sale and several gun violations. The irony here is that probably one in ten Mendocino County households would have yielded modified firearms and dope of all kinds.
THE IMMOVABLE OBJECT at the mouth of the Navarro, reports MSP, has backed up the river for months now. “A look at the upstream USGS Navarro River gauge found the Navarro at 3.68' - still trending downward. The sandbar hasn't breached, water is just filtering through it. Thanks to the lack of rain, the ‘discharge rate,’ the amount of water flowing towards the mouth, has also decreased — it was 272 gallons per second at the gauge — 16,320 gallons per minute or 979,200 gallons per hour. King Tides are coming Monday & Tuesday with high tides of 7.1' — it may be enough to beat the sandbar into breaching — or alternately, the surf could hurl sand on it to make it higher.”
MY LETTER to Jeffrey Parker, KZYX General Manager asked the GM:
“Trying to get up to speed as a candidate for your board of directors. Want to know the number of paid station people, including contract workers, and also if John Coate and Stuart Campbell are compensated employees of one sort or another.”
PARKER eventually replied:
“Warmest holiday greetings. KZYX currently employs five full-time staff, two part-time staff and two part-time contractors. John Coate has not been a paid staff since leaving the station in mid-2015. John is a member and occasional volunteer, generally during pledge drives. Stuart Campbell has not been a paid staff since briefly serving as interim GM in late 2015, after John’s departure and before Lorraine’s recruitment. Stuart is a member and dedicated volunteer programmer, though he’s announced on air that he’ll stop producing "Consider This" from February. We expect he’ll continue as an active volunteer in other roles. I’ve copied this response to Ed Keller, who is coordinating this election. All the best, Jeff”
ENCOURAGED by the first civilized response I’ve received from KZYX in a quarter century, and never one to let sleeping dogs snooze, I immediately wrote back:
“And while I have you… A friend of mine, a retired banker, has some questions which I hope you can pass on to the station's money person for a reply. (Ed note: I have no idea who composes the budget, but it raises more questions than it answers. The Anderson Valley’s CSD Budget, by way of contrast, is hashed out in public where no expenditure goes unscrutinized. CSD’s is a model of clarity and directly applies to KZYX in that the AV CSD spends less than the $600,000 annually that KZYX spends, but CSD funds ambulance and fire protection while KZYX spends more while claiming a perfectly balanced $600,000 budget containing several unexplained categories of expenditure.)”
THE FOLLOW-UP QUESTION is more than a week old without a reply. I’m not trying to harass Parker, but the reason I’m running for a seat on the station’s perennially rubber stamp board of trustees is to bring some candor, for the first time ever, to station operations. In brief, I think KZYX could be much better in every way than it presently is.
A BAD CHRISTMAS for this Joseph and Mary. Mrs. Mary Mantynen was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in the bathroom of the Sunrise Motel, Ukiah, on the evening of Thursday, December 21st. Her husband, Joseph, was arrested uninjured. The couple is charged with a residential burglary the day before in the town of Sonoma. At least one Sonoma County detective trailed the Mantynens to the Ukiah motel where, about 8pm last Thursday, the couple refused to exit their motel room. Mantynen is alleged to have pointed a .22 rifle at Deputy Elmore during the ensuing, hour-long standoff at which point one or more officers commenced fire. How exactly Mrs. Mantynen died is not yet known. Joseph Charles Mantynen has been charged with murder in the death of his wife, Mary Elizabeth Mantynen, also known as Mary Elizabeth Windham and Mary Elizabeth Valentine.
Mantynen is also charged with assault with a firearm on a peace officer, Deputy James Elmore. The back story of this particular tragedy implies money on her side of the family while his side suggests a steady life as a blue collar worker before he descended into drugs, then meeting her as she also took the chemical path to perdition. They leave three young children between them.
THE BIG COLOR PHOTO accompanying TJ Nelson's obituary was up for weeks on the Press Democrat's website, so long that if he were family to me I'd think the paper was making fun of the poor guy, gloating over his passing. Careless obituaries in all the local papers are too often a serious embarrassment to surviving families, and why papers, especially the PD where obits cost a small fortune, don’t take extra trouble over the feelings of the departed’s family and friends is, I suppose, simply one more sign of the callous times.
J. STEPHEN McLAUGHLIN announced last week in a thundering editorial in his Independent Coast Observer that Chris McManus is now the paper's editor while he "will continue as Publisher and owner." Steve led off with, "For nearly 50 years, we have dedicated our efforts toward community journalism and its powerhouse media presence, the community newspaper. This commitment is above the fold on our flag on every issue."
STEVE, I want you and Chris to know, that over here in Boonville, I have stood and faced southwest, and raised my palsied, liver-spotted hand for as vigorous salute as I can manage at my age, in silent tribute to the Gualala weekly. Godspeed, my intrepid colleague!
HAVING NOTED retired judge Henderson's corporate-friendly insult to Redwood Valley as he ruled against prevalent Redwood Valley sentiment for the Dollar General Store chain, we previously noted Henderson's specious rulings in Mark Scaramella's windfan lawsuit. Henderson refused to allow introduction of the AV Wine Association's website claim that fans do indeed require permits which duly consider noise (they don’t but Scaramella wanted their official position on the record), placement etc. because it wasn't signed by anyone. (!)
THE JUDGE also said Scaramella hadn't proven the fans were too loud, even though the County and grape growers never argued that they were not too loud.
HENDERSON claimed that the County's noise rules are in the zoning code and are not a practical limit, just a planning consideration.
AND HE REFUSED to send the parties into a settlement conference early on, saving everybody a lot of time and money, which would have worked because Scaramella did settle.
THE JUDGE never did rule on the Right To Farm issue, which the County claimed gave the grape growers a pass because wind fans were used 50 years ago for pears in Ukiah, hence they're a "pre-existing practice," even though they were newly introduced in Anderson Valley and had no claim for a Right To Farm exemption.
THE WIND FANS, no exaggeration, come with noise levels to immediate neighbors the equivalent of a combat troop-carrying helicopter hovering over one's roof for up to ten hours at a stretch, with the window-rattling din commencing before midnight and only relenting around 8am. They disturbed the sleep of hundreds of Anderson Valley residents for a solid month in 2014. They haven't been used extensively since. But this year, 2018, with rains coming late if at all in any quantity, is shaping up much like 2014, with early Spring rainfall followed by the frigid mornings just as the buds break on the vines. The fans come on to protect the buds from frost destruction.
THE WINE MOB turned out for court in force to ensure that Henderson ruled for frost fans, which of course he did. As Philo wine impresario Ted Bennett put it in a local public meeting of people complaining about the noise, "My grapes are more important than your sleep."
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “New Year's Eve party at this place? Me and old Bud had a great time!”
PG&E SUSPENDS DIVIDEND PAYMENTS;
PUC Drops “Reasonable Rates” Objective
by Jim Shields
There have been more developments regarding PG&E and its potential liability growing out of October’s fires here on the Northcoast. In a Dec. 20 press release, the utility giant announced that it is suspending dividend payments to shareholders out of concern for any finding of financial liability in Northern California's devastating wildfires.
In the statement, PG&E board chairman Richard C. Kelly said utility officials decided temporarily halting the payments “is prudent with respect to cash conservation” for the state's largest utility.
The utility paid $921 million in dividends last year and had paid out $754 million through the first nine months of this year, regulatory filings show.
According to the Wall Street Journal, PG&E's stock plunged 9 percent after the announcement. Bloomberg reports the company now has lost one-third of its market value — a drop of $11 billion — since the October wildfires.
The state Insurance Department estimates that insurance claims from the Northcoast fires now stand at $9.4 billion and that total may reach $12 billion according to insurance industry estimates. Already the “Wine County” fires are the deadliest and costliest in California history. The fires killed 44 and destroyed thousands of homes.
A phalanx of lawsuits have been filed against PG&E, specifying that the utility’s poorly-maintained power poles and lines were to blame for the catastrophic October fires. Fire investigators are examining whether power lines or other electrical equipment sparked the fires. Some witnesses say they saw sparks flying from wind-whipped power lines, including an MCSO sergeant who was on routine patrol in Potter Valley the night the fires broke out.
Things look even bleaker on the legislative front for PG&E attempting to shift the burden of its potential liability to ratepayers.
PG&E is dreading the January opening of the state legislature because a group of state lawmakers have announced that they will introduce bills to prevent electric utilities found culpable in wildfires from passing the costs for claims not covered by insurance as well as fines or penalties onto their customers.
Recently the “B-word”, as in bankruptcy, is being whispered in financial circles and on Wall Street. Investors’ stomachs started churning when a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing by PG&E disclosed that its liability insurance coverage is only $800 million for any losses from the fires. $800 million won’t go very far given the estimated $9 billion to $12 billion in damages.
That’s why it’s going to be all out war in Sacramento on proposed legislation cutting off utilities from recouping uninsured costs from ratepayers.
PG&E and the state’s other two utility Goliaths — Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — will probably set records for lobbying expenditures once the ratepayer-protection bills hit the floor of the legislature. The “Big Three” will argue that if enacted the laws will force the electrical giants into bankruptcy. That in turn will set in motion the call invoking of another “B-word”, as in taxpayer-funded “Bailout.”
You don’t need a crystal ball to see this one coming.
One other interesting development from the California Public Utilities Commission.
Keep in mind, that since 1996 when the state legislature, in a rare bipartisan vote, deregulated the electrical energy market, the PUC has been the pliable lap dog of the Big Three. It’s no surprise that the alleged utility regulators are under criminal investigation for backroom dealings with the Big Three, and are embroiled in numerous class action lawsuits alleging they have failed to protect the interests of the ratepayers they are statutorily obligated to serve.
Earlier this month, a consumer watchdog organization, Water Rate Advocates for Transparency, Equity and Sustainability (“WRATES”) issued a statement concerning a behind-the-scenes change made by the PUC. Here are excerpts capturing the gist of this change:
The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) has failed to protect ratepayers from investor owned utilities for many years. But it still came as a shock when — without public or legislative participation — the CPUC quietly changed its mission statement.
The change is subtle but alarming.
For decades, the regulatory agency’s mission statement read as follows:
The CPUC serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy.
It now reads:
The CPUC regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians’ access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services.
Gone from the mission statement are any references to reasonable rates. Rather, it appears the agency is distancing itself from consumers and further aligning itself with price-gouging utility companies.
When we asked CPUC Executive Director Timothy Sullivan about the new language, he said it came as a result of public discussion.
“The modification of the mission statement arose from a very public strategic planning process conducted by the commissioners acting as a governance board," he told us, calling it “the first such effort in over 20 years.”
Despite editing out the reference to reasonable rates from the CPUC mission statement, Sullivan assured us that the agency will protect the interest of consumers.
“One driver of the change was the fact that the previous mission statement failed to embrace the major programs we fund to provide low income, rural and handicapped Californians access to the state's infrastructure,” he said. “Our statutory obligation to ensure that energy [and water] rates are just and reasonable remains unchanged.”
What Sullivan apparently fails to understand is that the CPUC does not, actually, fund these programs. Ratepayers do. Removing “reasonable rates” from the core mission statement does not help “embrace” these other major programs … the new verbiage signals that the CPUC considers ratepayers a lesser priority than its relationship with investor-owned utility companies.
All Californians serviced by investor-owned, CPUC-regulated gas, electric, (and) telecom giants should be very concerned with the CPUC’s past practice and currently articulated direction in aligning itself even further with industry interests.
Of course, the PUC explanation begs the question of why delete language protecting ratepayers if nothing has really changed. Why not leave it as is?
I think you know the answer to that question.
(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)
MAN TRIES TO BREACH NAVARRO SANDBAR SUNDAY
MSP and coast photographer Nick Wilson were parked in a Highway 1 turnout on the Navarro grade discussing the possibility of the sandbar breaching late Sunday afternoon when we watched a lone subject appear, walk to the area just east of Pinnacle Rock and, it seemed on a whim, started to carve a canal in the sandbar with his hands and a small piece of driftwood he fished out of the flotsam at the mouth of the river.
We had to leave as the sun set, but from photos taken by Wilson's "drone," the attempt was unsuccessful.
Next time, he should pack a shovel.
Of course, the man was probably unaware he would be in "deep trouble" for attempting to relieve the flooding on Highway 128 from the backed-up waters of the Navarro thanks to the "Sacred Cow" sandbar.
While they routinely "manually" breach the sandbar at the mouth of the Russian River when it threatens to floods - the Navarro sandbar is strictly "hands off." They prefer Nature to take its course which resulted in a 36-hour closure of Highway 128 last November and a 128-hour (5.3 day) closure of Highway 128 in November of 2016.
KATHY SHEARN WRITES: It was good to see a positive letter about the Ukiah Animal Shelter in the AVA blog on New Year’s Day. Last year the shelter helped 2,091 animals find their homes. Here are the end-of-the-year stats:
DOGS: 453 adopted; 368 transferred; 508 RTO (returned to owner)
CATS: 360 adopted; 331 transferred; 34 RTO
BIRDS: 2 adopted; 2 transferred
LIVESTOCK: 21 adopted; 5 transferred; 7 RTO
The work never stops at the shelter; as soon as one dog or cat is adopted, several more enter the system. So, a big thank you to the staff and volunteers at the Mendocino County Animal Care Services Shelter, and a Happy New Year.
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 1, 2018
CIMARRON AYRES, Fort Bragg. DUI causing bodily injury.
ANTHONY BEWLEY, Potter Valley. DUI, controlled substance, paraphernalia.
ARRON BROWN, Fort Bragg. DUI.
TASHA CRAIG, Willits. DUI, resisting.
MICHAEL DONAHE SR., Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)
DANIELLE LOGAN, Willits. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
MAURO MARTINEZ, Ukiahi. Domestic battery, false imprisonment.
FRANKLY MORRIS, Ukiah. DUI.
ARTURO RESENOSTELLO, Sea Ranch/Gualala. DUI, controlled substance.
IAN RODGERS, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, failure to appear.
RICKY VALASCO, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
AUSTIN WALLACE, Ukiah. Fugitive from justice.
DANIEL YEOMANS, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK
The annihilation of several layers of the middle and working class and the creation of an impoverished under-class could have dire consequences that the Davos plutocracy and their perfumed bi-coastal clerisy are too arrogant and self-assured to see. FDR saw what was going on with the Bolshies and Mussolini and Hitler. And I think it was FDR that told immensely wealthy Americans in the 1930s that they had a choice ahead of them, they could enact reforms that would take away some of their wealth for the general good of the country, or they could risk upheaval and lose it all. The people that are nowadays so fact and evidence based seemingly can’t see the facts and evidence laid out before them, not only stuff directly underfoot, but that provided by history, a lot of which is within living memory and a lot of which is just outside of it. The Russian and Chinese revolutions and the rise of fascism and Nazi-ism didn’t come out of nowhere. There were multiple factors behind these massive bloodlettings but without dire living and economic conditions I think that none of them would have come to pass. Hence FDR’s warning. What happens on this side of the pond may have some surface similarities to what happened overseas. So while guys like Hedges prattle on and on about incipient fascism (I mean, what effrontery to tar people who have justified and legitimate grievances) I doubt that what takes shape here will be anything much like fascism though it could be nasty and may have guys doing straight armed salutes. But fascism was imperialistic and genocidal. I don’t see imperialism but rather its opposite on this side of the oceans, a national contraction and fragmentation. Neither is the massive Stalinist butchery nor anything like what happened to European Jewry in the cards. That’s not to say that a lot of heretofore smug people won’t find themselves hanging from lamp-posts. Too much in-your-face flouting of the law (Wall Street and the Clintons), too many farcical miscarriages of justice (the Comey debacles, Holder-ist too-big-to jail-ism) and that’s what could happen.
SLOW DOWN, PLEASE
Bears being killed by fast cars in Yosemite is an atrocity. And it’s cruel the way they are left to saunter off into the woods, suffering.
Cars, slow down! The roads need to be slower anyway — everywhere. It’s insane the way big, bulky loads of steel rocket around on our roads, threatening everything, including ourselves — for dear life.
And as for Yosemite: Just put up big signs that light the night saying, “slow down or pay.” Give the people who go over a low speed limit tickets. A few hundred dollars might wake them up.
DOWN WITH CHECKPOINTS!
Every time I read of a planned DUI checkpoint, it makes my blood boil. One of our basic rights is the freedom to move about without interference unless we have committed a crime or unless police have probable cause to believe we have committed a crime. At checkpoints, neither is the case. We are simply detained against our will so that our “papers“ can be checked. Just as if we were going from one country to another.
Allowing this was one of the worst decisions ever made by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it needs revisited. I’m glad we weren’t told to do this when I was a police officer. Even though it provides overtime and drives up retirement benefits, I would have fought to not violate the Constitution that I hold so dear. I’ve yet to encounter a checkpoint but plan to refuse to provide my license if I do. This needs to get back to the court. Maybe the so called conservative justices will do the right thing this time.
Gig Harbor, Washington
Fast away the old year passes
here where quasi-legal grass is
the big story. What a glorious reform!
“Afghanistan and Syria—“
Spare me your hysteria
Got my vape pen to keep me warm.
THE PHILOSOPHER must have the courage to criticize all the false teachings that have been inculcated in us, and among these is the absurd respect for old age, as if youth were not the greatest good and the highest merit. Tell me frankly: when a young man is capable of conceiving, judging, and acting, is he not perhaps more skilled in managing a family than some sexagenarian dullard, with snow on his head that has frozen his imagination? What we honor as prudence in our elders is simply panic in action. Would you be subject to them when laziness has weakened their muscles, hardened their arteries, evaporated their spirits, and sucked the marrow from their bones! If you adore a woman, is it not perhaps because of her beauty? Do you continue your genuflections after age has made a phantom of that lady, now apt to remind you of the imminence of death? And if you behave thus with your mistresses, why should you not do the same with your old men? You will say that this old man is your father and that Heaven promises you long life if you honor him. Who said so? Some ancient Jews who realized they could survive in the desert only by exploiting the fruit of their loins? If you believe that Heaven grants you a single additional day of life because you have been your father's lapdog, you are deceived. Do you believe a respectful greeting that causes the plume of your hat to sweep the ground at your parent's feet can heal a malignant abscess or help you pass a stone? If that were so, physicians would not then prescribe their ghastly potions, but to rid you of the Italian sickness they would instead suggest four bows before supper to your lord father, and a kiss to your lady mother at bedtime. You will say to me that without that father you would not exist, nor he without his, and so on back to Melchizedek. But it is he who owes something to you, not you to him: you pay with many years of weeping for his momentary tickle of pleasure.
"You cannot believe what you are saying."
Well, no. Hardly ever. But the philosopher is like the poet. The latter composes ideal letters for an ideal nymph, only to plumb with his words the depths of passion. The philosopher tests the coldness of his gaze, to see how far he can undermine the fortress of bigotry. I would not have your respect for your father diminished, for you say he taught you well, but do not let memory make you melancholy.
— Umberto Eco, 1994; from "The Island of the Day Before"
FRED GARDNER WRITES: I thought it was very big of Bruce Margolin to apologize to Pebbles Trippet in his recent comment on the AVA site. Margolin is sort of the Tony Serra of Los Angeles (widely viewed as the dean of the aging pot lawyers). And Trippet, responding, stayed right in character.
As for the white cat episode, my song said “take who takes you.” Like what somebody yells when you’re walking the ball up at the start of a pick-up basketball game. You’ve only heard it said a million times… I think I’m in cognitive decline, too. But I’m not complaining. I feel like I’m playing with house money.
FROM STEVE SPARKS’ 3-DOT REGULAR at the Three Dot Lounge in Boonville, The Old Buzzard, comes another in his insightful series – ‘Signs that the Apocalypse is Approaching.’ Buzzard reports:
“At least 117 people have died in mass shootings this year, more than any other in recent decades. But despite the severity of these attacks, no substantive legislation to curb America’s gun problem should be expected. The slaughter of 26 church-goers in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in November came just over a month after a gunman killed 58 at a Las Vegas concert. Despite lawmakers’ vows to ban “bump stocks,” devices used by the Las Vegas shooter that enabled his semi-automatic rifles to fire automatically, no legislation has yet been passed. President Donald Trump repeated the Republican Party’s standard line on gun violence in America, saying the mass shooting in Texas was not “a guns situation,” and argued that the death toll would have been worse had there not been an armed bystander present to shoot back… I think he is missing the point and this inaction is one more sign that the Apocalypse is approaching.”
MAJOR TOM AND THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY IN SPACE
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I have just finished my first novel, Major Tom, and published it on Amazon.
Here is the description from the back cover of the print version:
“Fellow delegates, our mission is nothing less than to restore that hope, to give the people of our planet a future they can believe in. To counter the despair of war and violence and neglect. We have a unique opportunity to set an example and create a new future for humanity, to build that shining city on a hill that will light the way for all.” — Major Tom Liping, from her speech to the Space Treaty Conference advocating adoption of the Moon Treaty.
Major Tom is a realistic, near-future story of two Chinese taikonauts and their U.S. counterparts who get caught up in the race to establish the first permanent human settlement on the Moon. Their idealism conflicts with national leaders who want their own country’s economic system and political philosophy to dominate. At stake is humanity’s destiny as we leave our home planet and begin our journey to other celestial bodies. Who will prevail?
Major Tom is one part political thriller, one part science fiction, and one part romance. It entertains the reader while exploring the future of space exploration and commercial development. A must read for those interested in the next great conflict - and the next great cause."
I have attached the first seven chapters, plus the full address of Major Tom Liping to the San Francisco Space Treaty Conference.
The address is a stand-alone legal/policy analysis of space law and space commerce. That, and Chapter Four ("Conflict") will be of the greatest interest to those working in the field. Those wishing to read the rest of the narrative can purchase the complete book from Amazon. Thank you for your interest, and a special thanks to those who are already working for a better future for humanity.
As Major Tom says at the conclusion of her speech: "There will be only one time when humanity leaves its home world, only one chance to create a new pattern that will lead each of us, and all of us, to our best destiny. That time is now. Please join in this effort to restore hope and create a better world — and a better universe —for all of us. "Thank you very much for your time and attention. May we all find the wisdom, strength, and courage to do what is right."
FORECAST 2018: WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
by James Kunstler
If you take your cues from Consensus Trance Central — the cable news networks, The New York Times, WashPost, and HuffPo — Trump is all that ails this foundering empire. Well, Trump andRussia, since the Golden Golem of Greatness is in league with Vladimir Putin to loot the world, or something like that.
Since I believe that the financial system is at the heart of today’s meta-question (What Could Go Wrong?), it would be perhaps more to the point to ask: what has held this matrix of rackets together so long? After all, rackets are characterized by pervasive lying and fraud, meaning their operations don’t add up. Things that don’t comport with reality are generally prone to failure so sooner or later they have to implode.
Financial markets have been surging supernaturally on “liquidity” since 2009 — and by “liquidity” I mean “money” (digital credit from thin air) supplied by the Federal Reserve, in rotation with the other sovereign central banks, BOE, ECB, BOJ, PBOC, from whence it pings ‘round the world, wherever the lure of the main chance sparkles. Trillions wafted into the stock and bond markets, levitating them as a sort of stage-managed misdirection from the sickening spectacle of wobbling real stuff economies. In 2017, The Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded an astounding 5,000 point year-on-year upzoom, with 12 months of gains and no loser months, and a string of 71 record highs.
America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, acted as if pumping up the stock markets was the only thing that mattered. The result was a Potemkin economy, a glittering Wall Street false-front with a landscape of “flyover” squalor and desolation behind. The Fed now works at cross-purposes with itself by raising the Fed Funds rate a quarter-point every few months, and supposedly “shrinking” (ha!) their balance sheet — dumping bonds onto the market plus “retiring” termed out bonds, which allows the Fed to disappear the principal paid by the borrowers, namely the US Treasury, or the quasi-governmental werewolf called Freddie Mac (The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation), which bundles all kinds of janky mortgages into giant bonds the Fed buys in order to artificially pump up the real estate market. Did your eyes glaze over yet? That’s the great thing about finance: it’s bewildering, so that when shit goes wrong, nobody notices until its way too late.
What could go wrong with that program? Well, if you dump billions of bonds on the market, you will change the supply-and-demand equation in the direction of too much supply, and interest rates will have to rise when there isn’t enough bid from the demand side — especially if the US Treasury is creating ever more new bonds to make up for ever-greater deficit spending at the same time the Fed dumps bonds into the market. And if, for instance, the interest rate on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury bond goes up past 3.00 percent, well that may be all she wrote for the US government’s ability to service its monstrous debt. And it may be tits up for the real estate sector, too, because mortgage rates will rise, and fewer people will buy houses. The Fed’s latest actions boil down to a lame attempt to have some maneuvering room to once again lower interest rates and refill their balance sheet via a QE-4 orgy when the economy heads south in a way that even the US Bureau of Labor Statistics can’t obfuscate.
The ECB and the BOJ have already made noises about curtailing their vacuuming up of securities, so the liquidity rotation may end altogether. The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has at its centerpiece the lowering of corporate income tax from 35 to 21 percent. The hidden agenda may be to hope this can act as a substitute for the dwindling central bank liquidity injections. The tax cuts and other new gimmicks would increase the federal debt by at least $1 trillion over a ten year period (and, by unofficial estimates, probably much more) paving the road to national bankruptcy with good intentions. But, of course, quite a few wise men in this culture have declared that deficits don’t matter. My own view is that they don’t matter until they do, and then you’re pretty screwed.
In the background of all this is an array of perilous real world events playing out that include especially potential conflict around North Korea and the Middle East. China’s banking system is a fun-house of scams and dodges that don’t add up anymore than ours do. The whole wicked pottage of EU / Brexit issues simmers away, along with the EU’s fatal flaw of lacking any fiscal discipline among member nations, so government spending has no relation to sovereign borrowing. NATO’s aggressive military posturing on Russia’s borders is pointless, stupid, dishonest, and provocative. Nobody knows what kind of gambit Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia will try next. Iran demands to be recognized as the regional hegemon. And our dear exceptional nation, with its restless Deep State black box “assets,” is capable of all sorts of mischief at home and abroad.
Any of these things could shove American markets into criticality, as if they don’t have enough built-in fragility already. Manipulation of the markets by the Fed and its water-carrying Too Big To Fail partners have deprived the markets of their chief function: price discovery, the ability to discern what things are really worth. Markets are therefore functionally useless and their uselessness is a giant hazard. No society that depends on money can work for long if nobody knows the true value of things, including the value of money itself. The price of attempting to live in a culture of pervasive dishonesty is that a re-set is inevitable. When it happens, it will be hugely destabilizing.
I expect the DJIA to move down sharply before the third quarter, rebound a little, and eventually bottom at 14,000 or lower by this time next year. I’ll call the S & P to settle in under 1,000. The NASDAQ may be the weakest, since its FAANG members — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google (aka Alphabet) — are among the most mis-valued stocks, and the most based on vaporous products and services. Call NASDAQ to land at 2,700. Calling for a US dollar index (DXY) of 79 by December. Calling for gold $2,500 and silver $60 twelve months from now. There it is, like so much meat on the table.
Bitcoin and other cryptos have a superficial appeal as a wealth safe haven supposedly out-of-reach of avaricious governments — if you don’t consider everything else that’s wrong with it. (Yesterday, Dec 31, Australia’s biggest banks froze the accounts of Bitcoin investors.) I think the safe haven idea will prove fallacious. Governments are already finding ways to interfere, using taxation schemes and shutting down exchanges. Bitcoin’s other claims on “moneyness” look bogus as well. It’s too unstable to be a medium of exchange, and too difficult to even access when need to sell, and you certainly can’t price anything in it as it shoots up and crashes every day. Bitcoin went way up because people — or maybe just algorithms — saw it going way up, so they hitched a ride. The rush to the exits will be brutal. Its final resting place will be zero, but perhaps not without a trip or two to nosebleed levels in 2018, especially as other markets wobble in the first half of the year. Bitcoin $50-K wouldn’t surprise me. But I’m not among the buyers. Enjoy the show.
2018 is the year that fragilities in the shale oil industry challenge the narrative of the “miracle.” The industry hasn’t made a net red-cent since it ramped up ten years ago. It’s been running on debt, a lot of it junk financing (high-yield, high-risk, covenant-lite). The producers have been fracking and pumping all-out for several years to maximize their cash flow to service their loans. But these shale wells deplete by 80 percent on average after the first three years, and have to be replaced by expensive new wells, which require ever more debt financing. The truth is that shale oil and other “unconventional” oils just don’t pencil out economically. Their success in recent years was part-and-parcel with the central bank credit flood. As that credit flow gets choked down in 2018, oil companies will go out of business at an impressive rate. If the price of oil goes up to $80-a-barrel, as a result, it will be very damaging to what remains of the US economy of real stuff.
Donald Trump survived in office a whole year. Imagine that! After the 2016 election, I figured that the top military brass would give him the bum’s rush inside of three months, in short a coup d’état. Their action actually has been much more subtle: they just ring-fenced him with generals. Since he seems to regard them as his generals (“my generals”), then he’s apparently okay with that, like a boy in the nursery with his toy soldiers. And apart from the fact that the constitution calls for civilian control of the military and not vice-versa, I’m okay with that… for now. He’s got chaperones, at least. This is admittedly not the ideal disposition of American political power.
I did not vote for the Golden Golem, and I don’t esteem his abilities, but the incessant and rather hysterical attacks on his legitimacy, especially by members of Consensus Trance Central, display a mendacity out of George Orwell’s direst dreams. I never believed in the ludicrous Russian collusion fantasy, and find it difficult to believe that the editors of The New York Times do. So far, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted two high-profile grifters (Manafort and Gates) on financial shenanigans involving business dealings in Russia dating from years before the 2016 election, plus one National Security Advisor (Michael Flynn) for speaking with the Russian Ambassador (who, exactly, are foreign ambassadors supposed to speak to if not government officials? And otherwise what are they here for?), and one entry-level foreign policy wonk (George Papadopoulos) who never even met Trump. I believe the grave and solemn Mueller is on a fishing expedition. Aficionados of DOJ tactics know that prosecutors can always fetch up the proverbial ham sandwich to indict, if there’s nothing else at hand.
Then there is the very troubling behavior of FBI employees (Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe), plus some members of Obama’s inner circle (Susan Rice, Samantha powers) in the twilight months of his term. And remember, Robert Mueller has been the erstwhile James Comey’s mentor and true-blue friend going way back. It just looks flat-out like a bunch of Deep State lifers are out to get the Golden Golem. The so-called “optics” are terrible.
Since crashing stock markets are liable to turn Trump into a mad bull, at the same time that Mueller will have to put up or shut up, I predict that long about the vernal equinox Mueller will come up with some Mickey Mouse charges against Trump, or his people, and be promptly fired by the president. General Flynn and the baby foreign policy wonk will be pardoned, and perhaps others. Probably not Manafort and his chum (though their prosecution might fail). Democrats will go apeshit and batshit both, with talk of impeachment and constitutional crisis, but I don’t think any of that will stick. Congress may have more to worry about with tanking markets and other symptoms of an incipient economic train wreck. The effort to dump Trump would aggravate the tanking markets.
It is also plausible after the disclosures of recent months that the Russian meddling investigation could blow back on Hillary, the Clinton Foundation, Clinton allies, and possibly even some of Obama’s people (maybe even the former president himself). The evidence for Obama-era FBI involvement in the Christopher Steele file is already out there. There is yet to be a satisfactory elucidation of the Loretta Lynch / Bill Clinton Phoenix tarmac meet-up, nor to the circumstances around HRC’s lost emails and private server, nor the Anthony Weiner laptop, nor to the Uranium One matter. The casual observer sees much more circumstantial criminality in these matters so far than any Trump collusion-with-Russia hypothesis provides.
I venture to predict that ex-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resigns her House seat in disgrace as the case of her Pakistani grifter IT aide, Imran Awan, moves into the courts.
Trump firing Mueller will drive his Dem-Prog adversaries to new heights of hysteria but their wrath may be so ineffectual that they will fall back on their stock-in-trade, ginning up more sexual panic. This calls into question the pathetic state of the Democratic Party leadership. It’s so sclerotic these days that it makes the Whigs of 1856 look dynamic. They have no program for the compound emergencies the nation faces. The party machinery is in the hands of bought-and-paid-for errand boys, gender crybabies, and race hustlers. Their allies at The New York Times and CNN look ever more ridiculous peddling daily paranoid fantasies and styling themselves as advocates for “the Resistance.” Their cadres in the Ivy League outposts have turned into the most shamelessly illiberal gang of intellectual despots since Mao’s Red Guard roamed the earth.
I’m not persuaded that the Dems will necessarily stomp Trump’s Republicans in the 2018 congressional and state races, as seems to be widely assumed for the moment. I’ll predict, rather, that in 2018 we get the first stirrings of a new party forming to battle both tired old clubs. Trump now “owns” the fate of the stock market and the economy it wags, having bragged on it all year. He and the Republicans will be blamed if it falls out of bed. But my gut feeling is that the voters are even more sick of the Democrats and their victim-mongering. Their coffers are empty, despite jumping through every hoop that Wall Street held out for them. (Did all the money disappear into the maw of the Clinton Foundation?) Finally, on a personal note, I blame them for driving a stake through Garrison’s Keillor’s heart with their reckless sexual witch-hunting, and I don’t forgive them for that, no matter how many tits he may have tried to touch backstage.
Elsewhere on This Planet
Economic savant and international man-of-mystery James Rickards says that Trump and his generals are going to whap North Korea upside its big chunky head soon after the winter Olympics are concluded in South Korea on February 25. But as Trump averred in the election campaign, he is not inclined to state in advance exactly what we might do in a military situation. Maybe the rumor is true that we have interesting new weapons capable of turning Little Rocket Man into a Post Toastie without harming the mass of innocent North Koreans. I’d have to give 50 percent odds that whatever we do in Korea turns out to be an epic illustration of Murphy’s Law, since our track record in foreign military adventures since VJ day in 1945 is pretty scant in the “win” column. The Balkan War, maybe… Bush One’s Gulf War sort of… Grenada (for Godsake)… what else…?
Kim Jung-un may not be able yet to deliver an atomic blast to Rodeo Drive, but he can likely lob one into Tokyo on a five minute flight path. Look at the map. The Japanese must be nervous about it. They were once a world-class military power, in case you don’t remember the banzai era. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution — engineered by US advisors during the post-war occupation — to allow for a robust military. I wouldn’t be surprised if something lethal jumps out of a lacquered black bento box in the direction of Pyongyang around the same time the US goes for that whap upside NK’s head.
And there’s Seoul, of course, less than 20 miles from the DMZ and within range of a supposedly huge array of North Korean heavy artillery. The theory is we have a slim window of opportunity to deal with this rascal before he equips himself to do some major mischief in the world. I don’t believe this is just a bunch of shuck-and-jive cooked up by the arms merchants and their friends. It’s real and existential and very messy. Something is going to happen there.
China has a pretty firm mutual defense treaty with North Korea, and perhaps a reason to want to keep the regime up-and-running as a buffer zone. But do they really want to jump feet first into World War Three defending Kim? I guess we’ll find out. In the meantime, China’s president Xi Jinping has got enough on his plate trying to safely land the high-flying, but wobbling, debt-saturated Chinese economy. Odds are that it’s going to be a rough landing. In which case, maybe war is the answer, as a way of distracting the Chinese public’s attention. But what sort of war? Cyber-sabotage? EMP blackouts? Good old-fashioned mutual nuclear destruction? Grinding old-school land campaigns? Naval battles? It’s a dangerous game and Xi does not look like a risk junkie — more like prudent ole Uncle Xi. So I’ll predict that whatever blows on the Korean Peninsula, China will try to stay out of it, even if it makes faces and jumps up and down a bit.
Russia can only benefit from steering clear of war, though its recent offer to act as an intermediary between Kim and Trump was a smart move. (Maybe they remember how Teddy Roosevelt negotiated a peace settlement in the Russo-Japanese War of 1907.) They have little to lose and prestige to gain. Despite what you hear about the unholy thuggery of Vladimir Putin, it seems to me that what he wants most of all for his country is to attain the condition of a politically and economically normal nation — after the 75-year-long misadventure with communism. I suspect Putin and others in Russia would have liked the country to become more fully Europeanized in tone and style than it has been allowed to be, with NATO playing war games on Russia’s border, and US monkeyshines in Ukraine, and sanctions against it for really no good reason. So, Russia has been shoved back into its cubbyhole as a nation not quite of Europe, with sinister Byzantine overtones and ancient exotic Mongol influences.
This quasi-isolation has some benefits for Russia, for one, the imperative to develop businesses and industries for import-replacement, that is, for becoming more self-sufficient. Russia has a lot to work worth, with the world’s highest oil production, lots of ores and minerals, untold hydropower, and endless timber. It can make its own stuff, and Russian citizens are free to try starting businesses. The country may even benefit from climate change with expanded croplands. Russia is already approaching food self-sufficiency after the long catastrophe of soviet farm collectivization.
Meanwhile, Europe desperately needs Russia’s oil and natural gas, so they must know that using NATO troops and armor to make threats is a hollow gesture. Notice that Russia is stockpiling gold reserves, where the USA is just selling the stuff off. (China is stockpiling, too. Like mad.) When other currencies implode, there is reason to believe the world will be introduced to a gold-backed Ruble and Yuan, “money” backed by money. They’ll be able to buy stuff they need. Will we? Will a gold-backed currency shove aside the US dollar as world reserve currency? The precursor to that will be China’s effort to establish oil trade in its Yuan.
Europe has stumbled along economically for several years on Mario Draghi’s promise to “do whatever it takes” to keep the EU’s member nations from falling into the black hole of debt deflation, namely, buying every bond that the sovereign governments and corporations issue. That kept the game going, but the structural imbalances in EU banking are now so extreme that it is hard to see a way out besides an EU crackup. The Merkel-led immigration-and-refugee policy looked like a bad bet from the get-go and is liable to get worse when the whatever-it-takes liquidity dries up and the EU member countries fall into recession (or depression) and there’s no more money to pay for all those refugee settlement centers and the social services that have been provided. There won’t be enough gainful employment for Germans, Belgians, Frenchmen, and Swedes, let alone for immigrants and refugees.
I’ll predict that starting in 2018 we’ll see efforts to ramp up deportations of these newcomers. Racist? That will be the knee-jerk hue-and-cry. But the epithet is losing its punch as the effects of Merkel’s open door policy are felt on-the-ground in the obvious hostility, xenophobia, and aggression, displayed by Islamic settlers. The defeat of ISIS on the Middle East battlefields in 2017 suggests that they will be ramping up terror operations to Europe. European nationalism movements will grow in 2018 and gain intellectual respectability as the defense of European culture is taken seriously. Middle European states such as Hungary and Poland have not given in on the EU’s demand to accept immigrants and refugees from Islamic lands. Their example will be followed. Politicians in the rest of Europe will consider the “Just Say No” option.
The United Kingdom enters 2018 especially vulnerable to economic travail. The estimated cost of Brexit at tens of billions of pounds sterling, and the potential loss of business, especially banking, is one mighty headwind. The other, less talked about, is the dwindling of the UK’s oil and gas reserves. The equation is simple: fewer energy inputs equals lower economic activity. The only way around that is the popular central bank strategy of recent years: money-printing and accounting fraud. You can’t base an economy on that, and the truth will become painfully self-evident this new year in Great Britain.
Suddenly this last week of 2017, anti-regime demonstrations are busting out all over Iran. They are said to be protests over poor economic performance and the regime’s squandering of resources sponsoring mischief in other lands (Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, etc). Folks are getting killed in the streets. The Revolutionary Guard — the zealots who took our diplomatic personnel hostage in 1979 — have promised to squash the protest. Many Iranians must be good and goddam sick of mullahs and ayatollahs running the joint.
Otherwise, it’s beginning to look like Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia (KSA) would like to rumble with Iran to beat back their influence outside their borders in the region. Iran has had plenty of opportunity to play with its military hardware in recent decades: in the Iran-Iraq War, arming Hezbollah to battle Israel, in support of Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, and lately in Yemen’s civil war. KSA, on the other hand, has been buying jet planes and bombs from the US for decades, with nary a chance to put them to use. MBS seems eager to test-drive this schwag.
A real dust-up between the principals would put a lot of the world’s oil supply at risk if oil tanker shipping in the Persian Gulf were interrupted. China and Japan would bear the brunt, but the whole world would feel it. Kicking the clerics out of government in Iran might tone down the unnecessary religious hostilities between Sunni and Shiites that has played such a big part in the creation of failed states throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Iran has plenty of economic problems inside its own borders.
The disarray in other areas of the vast MENA region will continue in 2018, whether regime change in Iran happens or not. Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan are permanently failed states, with Egypt ever on the verge. Syria will stabilize as a much smaller economy, propped up by payments from Russia for hosting naval and air bases there. This part of the world has suffered ruinous population overshoot in the industrial age, especially the states that produced oil. The desert ecology can’t support all these people as the industry falters and shrinks. Even as the situation worsens, the swollen populations will generate more children. When they can no longer decant themselves into Europe, the real misery starts.
You may have forgotten there is a place called South America. Its many nations have been in a pleasant political coma for a decade or so, except Venezuela, which is in cardiac arrest, organ failure, and brain death. There will be a bloody revolution there this year, and Venezuela’s oil industry will be crippled, adding to the world’s oil supply problems.
The Closing of the American Mind
2017 was a spectacular year for intellectual collapse among the political Left, but especially for its subsidiaries on campus. The trauma of Donald Trump’s election victory put this faction into a fugue state in which no opportunity for coercion and persecution of imagined enemies could be missed. The victim-oppressor politics spawned by the critical-theory-for-lunch-bunch has produced an ideology in which “inclusion” means segregated dorms, racially separate graduation ceremonies, and (at Harvard) closing down age-old men’s and women’s voluntary social associations. And “diversity” means as long as you express the exactly same ideas we do. The presidents, deans, and faculty of colleges around the country have turned into the most obdurate enemies of free thought since the Spanish Inquisition, a gang of cowards and villains who disgrace the meaning and purpose of higher Ed.
Highlights of the year in Social Justice Warrior Land include the violence around Charles Murray’s lecture at Middlebury, the Antifa riots at UC Berkeley, the “Day of Absence” ritual at Evergreen U in Washington State where white people were banished from campus, and the Lindsey Shepherd star chamber tribunal at Laurier University in Toronto (I know, that’s outside the USA). In all of these cases, college presidents, deans, and faculty acted contemptibly, supporting coercion, persecution, antipathy to due process of law, the willful betrayal of common decency, and a folio of shockingly stupid ideas — such as the proposition from the chair of the Purdue University Engineering Department (one Donna Riley) that academic rigor is a symptom of “white male heterosexual privilege.”
As it happens, higher education is approaching its own state of implosion, since college has become, most of all, a money-grubbing racket tuned to the flow of exorbitant student loans for exorbitant college costs. Higher Ed’s fate is tied to the financial sector, especially the bond market, since college loans are lately being bundled into janky bonds just like the NINJA mortgages of 2007 were. The entire US college industry has been in a hypertrophic blow-off for decades, and the gross expansion of facilities, programs, and costs has developed an inverse relationship to the value of a college education. I predict that a shocking number of small four-year colleges will go out of business this year. Students who had not completed their degree requirements will just be shit out of luck.
2018 will be a tumultuous year of shake-outs and loss. The watchword for the year should be “lean.” Individuals will be shoved into leaner modes of living. Companies will suffer despite the new lower tax. Financial rewards will be lean. Nations will have to seriously start planning to get by on less, to downscale, and jettison programs that don’t jibe with the mandates of reality. 2018 is the year that the world comes un-stuck from the past ten years of pretending that it’s possible to get something for nothing. For 2018, it’s full speed ahead into the long emergency.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/JamesHowardKunstler)
RECORD STEELHEAD RUN ARRIVES AT COLEMAN FISH HATCHERY, FALL SALMON RUN FALLS WAY SHORT
by Dan Bacher
The final couple of weeks of the salmon season produced surprisingly good fishing for late fall Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River in the Jelly’s Ferry and Red Bluff areas – and for those targeting steelhead as a record run of sea-run rainbows returns to the Coleman National Fish Hatchery.
Unfortunately, the fall run of Chinook salmon at the hatchery has fallen 6 million short of producing their annual goal of 12 million juvenile salmon needed to provide mitigation for the spawning habitat blocked by the construction of Shasta Dam.
The king salmon season on the Sacramento, American and Feather rivers ended on Saturday, December 16, and won’t resume next year until July 16.
“This year we saw probably the best late-fall salmon season in years,” said Robert Weese of Northern California Guide Service. “There were a lot of salmon showing and the weather conditions allowed us to fish.”
I fished with Weese and four anglers – Richard Keffer, Roger Rondeau, Kerie Keffer and Garry Keffer – on Thursday, December 14. We hooked eight fish, landing three salmon to 15 pounds and one steelhead. We fished both sardine-wrapped plugs and salmon roe in the Barge Hole.
We launched in the pre-dawn darkness at the Jellys Ferry access on the Sacramento. Although it was in the mid-thirties, there was no ice or frost on the boat or the ground and we made our way upriver. We were the only boat that apparently launched at the ramp that morning.
When we arrived upriver at the Barge Hole, several other boats were fishing. We started off the day fishing Flatfish with sardine wrappers. Richard started the day off right by hooking a big salmon on the lure, but it came off right near the boat. Kerrie followed up by hooking a jack that she also got right next to the boat, but it came off.
Finally, Richard hooked the next fish on a plug. Being careful to set the hook hard, he fought the spirited fish for several minutes until it neared the boat. Weese netted the fish and put it in the boat. It was the first fish in the boat that day, a beautiful bright, silver and fat Chinook in the teens.
Roger was the next to hook up as the morning proceeded, landed two bright jack salmon, his limit for the day.
Kerie Keffler hooked a couple more fish that looked like they were good-sized by the way they were running, but both fish came off. I landed the last fish of the day, a scrappy steelhead, that I hooked on salmon roe, after losing another salmon right at the boat.
On the next day, two anglers fishing with Weese landed four salmon weighing 28, 15, 8 and 8 pounds in the same hole. The wind made fishing tough on Saturday, but Weese still ended up with one 12 lb. Chinook caught on roe.
Now that salmon season is over, Weese will be targeting rainbow trout and steelhead in the same river stretch. “We’ve been averaging 1 to 2 steelhead per day while salmon fishing this season,” he noted.
Weese will be drifting salmon roe for the steelhead, as well as trolling Hot Shots.
The fall run Chinook run was down significantly from previous years, but the late fall run appears to be up from previous years and record numbers of steelhead are showing.
Overall 8,200 salmon, a mixture of fall and late fall Chinook salmon, were collected between October 3rd and December 12th at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery (NFH).
“Of the known 5,424 fall chinook salmon, 5,094 were 2 year olds and 329 were 3 plus year olds,” said Brett Galyean, Project Leader, at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery Complex. “From the fall Chinook salmon, the hatchery collected 4.2 million green eggs.”
He said it is too early to estimate the run size for the late fall Chinook, since late fall spawning operations started the week after and run through March.
However, the hatchery’s fall Chinook salmon program will fall short this year and will not meet the 12 million smolt release goal, falling 6 million fish short.
“Currently we have on hand 6 million eyed fall Chinook salmon eggs/fry,” he said. “We all could sure use some wet weather this spring and have turbid high flows in Battle Creek and the Sacramento River when the fall Chinook salmon fry are released in April 2018.”
Why the low fall Chinook return? “You also have to remember the salmon runs are made up of 2, 3 4 and 5 years old fish,” said Galyean. “So even though the state might be out of the drought and had 2 wet winters, a large percentage of the salmon that are returning this year went out at as fry in 2015 and were trucked (all 12 million falls Chinook salmon) or were released with low flows (400K late fall Chinook salmon) in the Sacramento.
“The take home message is the salmon runs are still dealing with the drought impacts,” he said.
The best news is the good showing of steelhead at the hatchery. During the same collection period of Oct 3rd through Dec 12, the hatchery collected 9,800 steelhead, the largest return ever to Coleman.
Spawning on the steelhead had not started yet. “The hatchery will start spawning steelhead next week through the end of February,” he noted.
“It has been a great surprise having all of the steelhead return,” noted Galyean. “We had several days during fall Chinook salmon spawning operations, where the hatchery collected over 900 steelhead. There have been years here at Coleman NFH where we have not had 900 steelhead return between October-December.
Why the great steelhead return? “Most of these steelhead were released during the first week of January of 2016. When we release the steelhead smolts, we truck them to Bend Boat ramp on the Sacramento River, just north of Red Bluff, CA. During the first week of Jan 2016, river flows started at 4,000 CFS. went up to 30,000 CFS and then hovered for the remainder of the week around 20,000 CFS. My thoughts are the high turbid flows help push the steelhead smolts out, and provided cover from predators,” said Galyean.
Robert Weese conducted two snorkel surveys recently at four spots, the Jellys Ferry Riffle, the Stewart ‘s Plant Riffle, below Lake California, and the new riffle that formed below the old mouth of Battle Creek with the high flows of the past winter.
“During my surveys, I saw no spawning salmon at all, four striped bass, and 6 or 7 rainbow trout. There weren’t many pike minnows or suckers either. In the last week of October, there should have been hundreds of salmon spawning. That is 8 acres of prime spawning habitat,” said Weese.
Weese, a longtime leader of the NorCal Fishing Guides and Sportsmen’s Association, said there are solutions to bringing back natural spawners to the river.
First, keep the flows conducive to habitat. He showed me new side channels that were dry. “At the minimum flows, this habitat is not accessible to spawning salmon – unless they’re up to 6,500 cfs,” he noted.
Second, he recommends that they take the carcasses from the fish hatchery into the riffles to recreate a microbial food chain.
“The river has a lack of carcasses. The river is dying because there are no salmon spawning. A lot of other species depending upon the salmon carcasses,” he noted
Third, he recommended that some hatchery juveniles be released as soon as possible on the gravel bars to repopulate the river. In the past, fishery biologists have argued against releasing fry or doing injection of eggs into the gravel because they would compete with natural fish for food and habitat.
“That’s an argument when you have an overabundance of natural spawning fish, but that’s not the case now. Right now, we have plenty of clean gravel from last winter’s storms. There are just no fish. We want to do a pilot program for 3 to 4 years on the riffles to see what returns,” said Weese.
I agree with Weese. We need to start engaging in creative solutions like those he has suggested to bring natural spawners back to the river. Recent scientific studies show that not only do steelhead, trout, suckers and other native species depend on salmon eggs and salmon carcasses for food, but the entire food chain from microbes, to insects, to wildlife such as raccoons and otters, to riverside vegetation, depends upon salmon carcasses to spread the ocean nutrients to riparian ecosystems.
For more information, call Robert Weese of Northern California Guide Service at (530) 755-7196.