Mendocino County Today: Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018

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RAIN ON THE WAY, starting Monday. Warm and clear over the weekend with light rains beginning Monday and continuing through the week.

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FORT BRAGG PLANNING COMMISSION FINDS OUT WHO THEY WORK FOR

(Spoiler Alert: It aint you.)

by Rex Gressett

The Fort Bragg Planning Commission met Wednesday night to give the ax to the last remaining structure on the Mill site. Unless the matter is appealed in 10 days the last structure on the mill site, the 75,000 square foot dry-shed #4 is coming down.

Community participation was hot for the normally sparsely attended Planning Commission meeting. It included a surprise appearance by Mike Hart, CEO of the Skunk Train. Robert Pinole the operating officer of the railroad was there to provide emphasis. They begged and they pleaded with the dazed, disconnected Planning Commission. They brought checkable statements and reasoned arguments. No dice, The Commission already had their minds made up when they walked in the door. Marie Jones, Fort Bragg Development Director, was there as choir director to give the poor Planning Commission any information or instruction from the Koch Brothers that they might have missed. Her statements were crudely inaccurate and distorted, but her humble loyalty to the Koch Brothers and her unwavering contempt for the city that employs her, were expressed perfectly.

Mike Hart told the Planning Commission that the Skunk Train infrastructure was falling apart and that a good wind would blow down the principle building they use for rail car maintenance. One look confirmed his estimate. The dry-sheds were less an option than a necessity for the decomposing railroad. The Skunk infrastructure looks like a bad dream. Everything is rusting away, the CEO informed us. The Marine Environment is devastating to old industrial equipment. According to Hart, the railroad was already in and had been in contact with an all-cash offer for GP, but some profound mystery regarding the city, was mysteriously holding up the deal. He claimed to have no idea what that might be. Public comment illuminated the mystery, but the stolid, amateur, out-of-their-depth and deeply frightened Planning Commission was not paying enough attention to public comment to understand anything that was said to them.

Actually it is not that much of a mystery. As the AVA recently reported the Mayor has received a flat statement from the GP corporation that they had done as much cleanup of the mill site as they intended to do. The dioxins in the millpond are not their fault and they are definitely not going to do anything else. Desperate secret negotiations between the Fort Bragg city staff and the DTSC (California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control) has generated 68 formal questions from the council about the intentions of the department. DTSC is working on it. While the council talks to the state agency, pressure on the City Council from the $800 billion financial giant intensifies. Any concession to Fort Bragg public sentiment was nowhere on the GP map.

First things first. There could be no progress or even discussion of the mill site until the city sucks it up and accepts potentially deadly toxicity as reasonable under the circumstances.

Until the city caves, Mike Hart’s plans for the dry-shed are road kill.

Marie Jones walked the Planning Commission through the GP talking points and kept the ball rolling. The whole meeting was crudely brief. There wasn’t much new information presented but even simple questions were treated as incidental and irrelevant.

Wednesday night the unelected planning commission used their office to circumvent public interest, pander to the Koch Brothers and make it clear that they took their marching orders from the Development Director. Marie Jones thanked them for the difficulty of their high office like a girl scout leader commending her troupe.

Sixty-six thousand people ride the Skunk every year. On average the Skunk Train visitors to the city spend 2.5 nights and $600 bucks in our little town. The bumbling, ineffective enterprise to promote Fort Bragg taken to its most optimistic extreme, does not touch the importance of those numbers for our dying city.

The Planning Commission did not care, and was not very polite about it. They made the point that there had been plenty of discussion about the dry-sheds before this. Five meetings on the dry-shed were more than enough for any one issue. Most of those were red herrings, contrived by Jones to muddy the water with a spurious historical designation that really has no bearing on any aspect of the decision to tear the building down. That none of the Planning Commission contributed anything to that discussion, understood it, or cared was the substance of their brief, largely incoherent, remarks.

Marie Jones stood like a lighthouse of information beaming certainty over the dimly lit coastal shoals. The lost and inept Planning Commission did nothing, asked nothing, thought nothing, and said nothing she did not approve of. They must have gone home and hid their heads under the pillow.

As the audience watched, stunned at the grotesque abdication of responsibility, they shouted questions. Outrage. Mr. Hammon squared right off and declared that the hearing was completed, damn-it. Jacob Paterson remarked to them that they could quite properly take questions and ask them of the audience. This was a stunner and an unprecedented innovation if it is true. Commissioner Mark Hannon has pretended that he could shut down the discussion at will and loves to sneer at the audience out of the excess of his malignancy. Now we know he is and always has been full of beans on one crucial point of public process.

As I sat in the audience and watched the Planning Commission get railroaded, I wondered what we are thinking letting these rank uninformed, disengaged, amateurs decide the future of our city. And they are deciding it. Abandonment of the public interest Wednesday night was as casual for these folks as slurping an ice cream cone. The sneering anti-community arrogance of Mark Hannon is no surprise. Mr. Hannon delights in high handed arrogance. It is very much his trademark. No one has any reason to expect anything else. Mr. Hannon is a public embarrassment to the city and a direct contributor to the deep public disapproval of Dave Turner who for some incalculable reason appointed him. Nancy Swithenbank, Curtis Bruchler, and Stan Miklose were appointed by supposed City Council reformers. Alas, they were always way out of their depth. They find the job exceedingly confusing and were simply unable to parse the complexities of having a public dialogue, forget about making a real decision. In the void of incomprehension and irresponsibility the Development Director ran the ball for the Kochs. Business as usual.

The community has ten days to appeal the decision, I would be very surprised if that does not happen.

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MENDOCINO BREWING TO CLOSE UKIAH TAPROOM AMID FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

For more than three decades, the Mendocino Brewing Co. taproom has served as a mecca for beer lovers and a place where pioneers of the American craft beer movement visited to learn more about a beverage that has now become ubiquitous across the country.

pressdemocrat.com/business/7864684-181/mendocino-brewing-to-close-ukiah

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CAN THE F-BOMBS be far behind? Listening to the NPR version of events this morning I was surprised when one of their glib news readers said "vulgar language" was ahead, then almost immediately said that Trump had wondered aloud why so many people from the "shithole" countries of Africa, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were coming into the country instead of people from Europe, especially Norway.

YES, NORWAY. You'd think the Norwegians would be desperate to escape their socialist hell, but they seem happy with it as thousands of them soon made clear in reaction to Trump's invitation. Just a few examples:

NORWAY RESPONDS:

TRUMP LATER DENIED saying what he said: “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings — unfortunately, no trust!”

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT'S comment line overwhelmingly approved Trump's shithole remarks, as later in the morning Trump blithely appeared to pay tribute to Martin Luther King! Later in the day, we learned that a Trump lawyer had paid a porn actress more than $130,000 hush money to keep quiet about their relationship.

NIXON was crazy his last year in office and, Trump-like, positively seethed with animosities for whole categories of people, a fact confirmed by the Nixon Tapes, some of which still haven't been released. But Nixon was careful who he said psychotic things to, but ultimately careless when he taped them.

HERE'S NIXON'S take on the old All In The Family show: "Archie's Guys."

“Archie is sitting here with his hippie son-in-law, married to the screwball daughter. The son-in-law apparently goes both ways. This guy. He's obviously queer — wears an ascot — but not offensively so. Very clever. Uses nice language. Shows pictures of his parents. And so Arch goes down to the bar. Sees his best friend, who used to play professional football. Virile, strong, this and that. Then the fairy comes into the bar. I don't mind the homosexuality. I understand it. Nevertheless, goddamn, I don't think you glorify it on public television, homosexuality, even more than you glorify whores. We all know we have weaknesses. But, goddammit, what do you think that does to kids? You know what happened to the Greeks! Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a homo. We all know that. So was Socrates."

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ON SHOOTING THE INFAMOUS PHOTO OF THE TRUMPS IN 2006:

“It was done for Vogue and I was working with Phyllis Posnick, who is one of those legendary stylists who worked with Irving Penn and Helmut Newton. She brought that gold bikini. You have to understand Melania loved taking that picture. Trump was passé about where he should be. I didn’t make it up. I met them on the tarmac, the plane was there, and I saw the graphics of the stairway and I put Melania in it and the rest is what it is. They loved that. It wasn’t like there was anything wrong.”

Annie Liebowitz

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LITTLE DOG SAYS, “I try to be sociable. I told one of these guys my favorite joke this morning. Cracks me up every time. But the guy says, ‘Just say good morning, please, you cornball’."

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MARCO MACLEAN WRITES:

"Re: CHARLES HENSLEY, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)

I don’t understand this. He keeps getting arrested every week, and then, what, they just run him through the system and dump him back on the street?

For Christ’s sake, somebody help him. He’s more mangled and misshapen every time they take his picture. Is he being beaten? Or is someone crashing into him with a car over and over? Imagine what a nightmare his life must be.

Whatever help he needs, how could it possibly cost more to determine that and actually help him than what they’re doing now?"

POOR OLD HENSLEY has been rotated through the system for years now. I doubt if he's ever held long enough to completely sober up. There are about a dozen habitual drunks in the County who pop up regularly in the County Jail. Used to be they'd be packed off to the State Hospital at Talmage where, one would expect, a few of them were held long enough to re-take possession of themselves. There's nothing for them now beyond the County Jail.

HENSLEY is an inland guy. Ms. DeWolf, also a frequent flyer, is rounded up most often in Fort Bragg. She apparently is a fighten' drunk, often turning up in the booking log as she's found this week, looking like she's been dragged along the pavement on her face.

MY VOTE for Measure B assumes that the new County psych facility includes Hensley, DeWolf and Company. Drinking this hard is certainly an expression of mental illness, one would think.

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FIX OUR ROADS

To the Editor:

Something needs to be done to fix the quickly deteriorating county roads, especially in Potter Valley and the Van Arsdale/Oat Gap area. In many places there are no ways to avoid the potholes that are becoming more frequent. Far too many of us are having to have our vehicles in near constant repair. Some of the potholes are three feet wide and more than a foot deep at this point.

There has to be a quicker way of getting them filled. Maybe a joint public/private partnership?

Wendie French-Grimm

Potter Valley

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FORT BRAGG'S $168,000 GARDEN

The “Giving Garden” – Vocational Services Program funded by CDBG – Final Report Report Date: 12/22/2017
Report Author: Paul Davis, Operations Manager

The Giving Garden Program ran from June 2015 through October 2017. The CDBG Giving Garden was operated at three of the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center (MCHC) locations over the term of the grant: Transitional Housing, Hospitality House and Hospitality Center. The project at the Hospitality House was terminated after several months because it was logistically difficult to maintain the garden at that location while continuing to provide the normal everyday services that happen at the Hospitality House. However, the gardens at the other two locations ran smoothly and MCHC now has functional organic gardens at those locations, which continue to provide fresh produce and offer our clients the opportunity to take advantage of the educational and therapeutic value of gardening.

The three locations became operational in planned phases. Phase 1 saw the raised beds become fully functional at Hospitality Center, providing regular baskets of vegetables to the Hospitality House kitchen. Phase 2 was the planting in the raised beds at the Hospitality House. Phase 3 focused on Transitional Housing, where ten raised beds were constructed as well as a greenhouse for producing starts.

The Giving Garden program included horticultural classes provided by Noyo Food Forest, and of equal importance, vocational classes. A full binder of the MCHC vocational class materials is maintained on site. Before Noyo Food Forest started teaching, work was done to prepare the locations and to build the raised beds that were recommended by Noyo Food Forest. MCHC vocational classes are taught by the MCHC Vocational Services Coordinator, who has previous experience as a Job Coach and through running her own business in the private sector.

The CDBG total budget for thirty months was around $186,000 = an average of $6,200 per month.

Noyo Food Forest provided the horticultural management of the Giving Garden while MCHC predominantly provided the vocational aspects.

The initial months of this grant utilized expensing against administrative staff costs as the Giving Garden was developed and established. Substantial amount of administrative & staff time was spent developing the large binder of materials for the evidence-based vocational training classes. These classes are a fundamental element of the program as the Giving Garden seeks to provide entry level job skills useful to anyone, not solely within the horticultural field. As the program got into full swing, the administrative costs diminished. During the winter months, the utilities expensing was higher than average as the vocational classes were taught indoors.

Expenses:
- Garden installation: $9,543
- Garden maintenance: $8,500
- Noyo Food Forest staff: $20,458
- MCHC staff: $116,557
- Office supplies and marketing: $6,365
- Client stipends: $8,620
- Utilities: $9,357
- Operations (Telephone, Internet, Insurance, Etc.): $6,600

The City of Fort Bragg’s CDBG-funded Giving Garden program provided an opportunity to improve mood and social functioning, while being outdoors involved with nature -which has an evidence base as being beneficial for mental health - as well as providing soft-skills jobs training and horticultural classes. Therapists and Care Managers working in MCHC’s Specialty Mental Health Clinic were able to involve some of their eligible clients in the program in conjunction with the client’s care plan, and the results were favorable.

Over the course of the program, nine people left the Giving Garden program into employment. The program is a soft skill, basic-level vocational program for people with many additional needs related to homelessness and mental illness, rather than a direct job re-entry program, so it is extra exciting when participants gain full time employment. Participants have told the MCHC Vocational Services Coordinator that they used techniques and skills that were learned in Giving Garden Vocational Training classes at their interviews, which helped promote their own success.

Client Stats

  • Unduplicated Clients Served: 88
  • Females: 38
  • Males: 50
  • Elderly: 5
  • Chronically Homeless: 28
  • Clients Left to Employment: 11
  • Program Stats Approximate Produce Harvested: 698 lbs.
  • Total Vocational Classes Attended: 485

cityfortbragg.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=5714525&GUID=99E9B3EE-1F12-4EA4-AE03-713EB246A364

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PLEASE NOTE THAT THE MENDO COURTHOUSE IS NOT ON THE LIST. HOORAY! HOORAY!

(According to this story, Mendocino is not on the list of 10 courthouse projects to be funded in the new state budget. Hmmm.)

pressdemocrat.com/news/7862929-181/governors-budget-seen-as-green

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"I THOUGHT THAT'S WHAT SENIOR CENTERS WERE FOR." — [Ed Notes, January 11, 2018, reflecting on Dr. Shepard Bliss’s essay about Death Cafes.]

The 1965 Older Americans Act anticipated the need for a large number of older adults (the so-called “baby boom” generation) to receive assistance to maintain their independence — for as long as possible, in their homes — through federally-subsidized nutrition and preventive care programs delivered by Senior Centers.

The best of them retain licensed social workers to assist individuals in managing their lives during the final phases of adult life, and provide access to resources for healthy living under increasingly constrained conditions. In a way, the subject of death and dying is antithetical to the emphasis on longevity and active aging “lifestyles.”

Once in a while, our senior center will host someone from Hospice (recruiting volunteers and offering berievement “classes”) or a consortium of medical/legal professionals encouraging the use of “Advanced Directives” or “Estate Planning,” but the pre-ordained reality of one’s post-mortem carcass disposal remains shrouded in the privacy of one’s “pre-arranged” funeral services — if one has recognized that responsibility and has the means to fulfill it.

The hardest question of all, for many older adults in my “community” (about 15-20 thousand friends and neighbors in Lake County), is who will help us to navigate through the final passage and beyond — to protect our wishes, our rights, and our wills — in lieu of immediate family? In a system so rife with abuse and errors (from the lowliest “in-home supportive service worker” to the highest paid medical professional), what practical assistance is available to help us individually secure our safe passage on the final frontier?

One thing you can do is create an “advanced directive” registered with the Secretary of State (http://www.sos.ca.gov/registries/advance-health-care-directive-registry/ <http://www.sos.ca.gov/registries/advance-health-care-directive-registry/>), but without a person to designate as your “agent” (or “alternate agent”) who is “authorized to make health care decisions for you as indicated in your advanced directive,” there is no mechanism to ensure that your end-of-life care is appropriate to your needs.

Creating an advanced directive — also known as a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health” — is also enabled by the California Medical Association’s bound publication that can be purchased on line at: http://www.cmanet.org/resource-library/detail?item=advance-health-care-directive-kit-english <http://www.cmanet.org/resource-library/detail?item=advance-health-care-directive-kit-english>. Making decisions ahead of time, and making sure they are documented for all involved (physician of record, family, caregivers, and your designated “agent”), is fortified by having this document legally notarized.

Even then, without an advocate to demand adherence with your legally recorded decisions, you can be screwed by a neglectful medical institution or record-management breakdowns. Note that “first responders” (paramedics and EMTs) must obey legal protocols and procedures for applying catastrophic care in the field. There is no mechanism for requiring emergency medical technicians to obey your “advanced directive” in any event.

Perhaps the Death Cafe “movement” will help raise consciousness about the need for systemic and institutional solutions to eliminate unnecessary anguish in one’s final transition. Crafting passable legislation to protect the roughly 29% (13.3 million) “noninstitutionalized older persons who live alone” (also known as “elder orphans”) — by the California Senior Legislature, sponsored by Senior Center participants — would surely benefit from such thoughtful consideration.

Betsy Cawn, The Essential Public Information Center, Upper Lake

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MY EXPERIENCE

Re: Barbara Bybee

I have been misdiagnosed at this and other Emergency Rooms both in the US and Spain. As I have tried to understand these phenomena I can now understand the limitations of the ER environment. It can happen and it happens in far better financed and far larger institutions than our hospital.

In my own case, the ER at the Coast Hospital has, literally, saved my life and if I had to drive over the hill to an emergency room, the delay would possibly have resulted in my death. I had a serious infection that was just caught in time by our emergency room. The care I experienced was the very best I could have expected. It saved my life.

What upsets me more than this problem of misdiagnoses is the problems we have with the management of our hospital. We have a seriously deficient MRI at our hospital making it virtually unusable for people who must take MRIs to other caregivers. These problems are well known throughout Northern California hospitals and in my own case, I've had doctors in Santa Rosa and Stanford Hospital refuse to accept MRIs from our hospital. Every one of my friends who have had MRIs ordered by doctors outside of Fort Bragg have had these doctors say "don't get your MRI at the Coast Hospital, save your money and have it done elsewhere."

I've raised this issue more than once in the imaging department. My concerns have been "wiggled around" and not been dealt with. This is the kind of behavior that reduces my trust of the hospital.

I was a "resident" patient at the hospital for almost three weeks (I occupied a room for that entire time) and when I complained about the dirty conditions in my room, I had my complaints dismissed by the manager who was in charge of this part of my care. I have since spent two months in a hospital in Bilbao, Spain, with a broken back and observed a virtually opposite approach to cleanliness and safety as that used in our hospital. It is this type of response I got when a patient that reduces my trust of the hospital.

My wife and I continue to contribute money to support the hospital and we continue to support the need for a hospital on the coast. But this hospital with this management?

Mark Slafkes

Fort Bragg

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DOCTOR NAMES AT COAST HOSPITAL

Someone calling themselves Mdefarge@mcn.org (an apparent reference to the classic vengeful and bitter revolutionary Madame Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities), posted on the MCN listserve:

Has anyone had any experience/contact, positive or negative, with any of the new medical professionals in the area…Dr. Danhash, Dr. Flelming, and/or Lilo Fink, FND?

Marco McClean replied:

I love these doctor names. They're good enough as they are, but I'd change the first one to Dr. Dishnash.

Lilo Fink FND would be a great title for a teevee show about whatever kind of doctor FND means. And Dr. Flelming? Imagine any emergency shouted medical question with him in it. See? Perfect.

They're like names Steve Martin would make up. Dr. Hafarrh-ha-harrh.

"Hafar?"

"No. It's Hafaarrh-hh-haarrhh."

"Oh."

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CATCH OF THE DAY, January 12, 2018

Anderson, Barry, Beck, DeWolf

JAMES ANDERSON JR., Clearlake/Ukiah. Failure to appear.

WILLIAM BARRY, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. Disoderly conduct-Lodge without owner’s consent.

DYLAN BECK, Ukiah. Controlled substance, failure to appear, resisting, probation revocation.

HEATHER DEWOLF, Fort Bragg. Shoplifting with intent to commit larceny, public nuisance, probation revocation.

Hensley, Hernandez, Hoaglen

CHARLES HENSLEY, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

TEYA HERNANDEZ, Hopland. Receiving stolen property.

MERCEDEZ HOAGLEN-LOCKART, Hopland. Receiving stolen property.

Raines, Rodriguez, Williams, Yeomans

CHARLES RAINES, Laytonville. Stalking and threatening bodily injury, offenses while on bail.

RICHARD RODRIGUEZ, Lower Lake/Ukiah. Probation revocation.

BRYAN WILLIAMS, Ukiah. Under influence, probation revocation.

DANIEL YEOMANS, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct. (Frequent flyer.)

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ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

I had a surgery a while back which genuinely hurt like heck for the best part of a year after - they prescribed several types of the strong stuff to mitigate it a bit - and not even stuff that had a fun purpose to help make me dependent even if used as prescribed (which I didn't think I was but it turned out you get withdrawal regardless...). It served the purpose at the time quite well so all was OK until it was time to stop - the doctors were fairly content to continue prescribing but I wasn't so I insisted - holy crap - when you stop, even with a taper, it hurts way worse than the original issue - and the pain is way more widespread as the brain will do whatever it has to to persuade you to feed it again - and that was on a modest dose. You don't just get over it in a few days I found - it lasted for months and takes a heck of a lot of willpower to stay the course - you can't even be sure which pain is which any more and the stuff clouds your thinking - a perfect storm. I wonder if she was in the very long withdrawal period after being cut off as not everyone can handle what will happen when you stop.

I do understand the need for opioids but they do need to be seriously controlled and limited to short periods - which is a quandary for those with genuine chronic pain - to stay on them for life or what? There just doesn't seem a realistic alternative (and, no, cannabis is not it).

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IT COULD HAPPEN HERE!

So because the cinnamon challenge wasn't hardcore enough, teenagers are now putting laundry pods in their mouths and uploading videos to social media.

Yes, laundry pods.

The "Tide pod challenge" has become so popular that Tide's parent company, Procter and Gamble, had to release the following statement:

"Our laundry pacs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes and they're used safely in millions of households every day. They should be only used to clean clothes and kept up, closed and away from children. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if it is meant as a joke."

Eric Ting (SF Chronicle)

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WORMWOOD AND A SHOCKING SECRET OF WAR:

How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett

by George Burchett

We see a wall with murky brown floral wallpaper and a door with a peephole and the number 1018A. A man is talking on the phone. He says: “See you tomorrow. I love you, Alice.” The camera pans out and reveals another man, sitting on the twin bed next to the first man. He’s smoking a cigarette and watching a boxing match on an old black and white TV set. The first man gets up and turns off the TV. He returns to his bed and starts reading a passage from the Holy Bible he’s holding:

“And the Third Angel sounded; and there fell a great star from Heaven, burning as if it were a lamp; and it fell upon the third part of the rivers and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood; and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

Someone tries to open the hotel room door. The first man goes to the door and looks through the peephole. He goes out into the corridor. There’s no one. He returns to the room.

A window shatters. The first man bursts through it head first and begins falling in slow motion, while Perry Como sings “No other love have I, only my love for you” and the opening credits roll.

Thus we are sucked into Wormwood, Errol Morris’s mesmerizing new six part docu-drama.

1953 appears on the screen and a voice asks, “What were you told at the time of your father’s death?”

A blue-eyed elderly man answers: “I was told that ‘Your father has had an accident. He fell, or jumped out the window. And he died’.”

The voice asking the question is that of Errol Morris. The man answering it is Eric Olson, eldest son of Frank Olson, the man who fell or jumped from the 13th floor window of the Statler Hotel in New York, at 2.33 a.m. on 28 November 1953.

Frank Olson was a scientist working on the secret biological weapons program at Fort Detrick, Maryland, a US military research facility. He was also closely involved in two top secret CIA programs. One, code-named Artichoke, was developing special interrogation techniques. The other, code-named MKUltra, was experimenting with mind-control methods, including the use of LSD.

Wormwood tells the story of Eric Olson’s lifelong investigation into his father’s death. Did he fall? Did he jump? Was he pushed? Was it an accident? A mind-control experiment gone wrong? Was it murder? Was it an execution?

To get to the truth, Wormwood also re-enacts the last ten days of Frank Olson’s life. Thus, about 18 minutes into the first episode, Frank Olson is being driven to a lakeside lodge for a meeting with his Fort Detrick and CIA colleagues. He turns on the car radio and the newsreader’s voice says:

Just released films lay bare the shocking truth behind communist charges of germ warfare in Korea and the so-called confessions of captured US airmen. Confiscated films show the red press conferences where the captured flyers admitted dropping germ bombs on civilian territory, statements broadcast by the communist propaganda machine throughout the world, and even carried into the halls of the United Nations. These confessions form the basis of a blatant symphony of hatred…

As the voice speaks, this footage briefly appears on the screen. I recognise it. I rewind and pause the film. The man on the far right in the white shirt is my father, Australian journalist, Wilfred Burchett.

I’ve seen this footage before. It’s from a 1952 Chinese film recording “Captured US airmen Kenneth L. Enoch and John S. Quinn, interrogated by the Joint Interrogation Group of Korean and Chinese specialists and News Correspondents” in which the two airmen repeat what they had already said in their “voluntary confessions”: that the US was waging germ warfare in Korea and that they had personally dropped germ bombs. In fact, the “interrogation” looks more like a press conference and, as the voice-over says, “Wilfred Burchett, correspondent of the Paris Ce Soir, also joined the work of the group by invitation.”

Other footage, used later in Wormwood, shows the International Scientific Commission, led by one of Britain’s most distinguished scientists, Joseph Needham, a fellow of the British Academy, who travelled to China and Korea to investigate the allegations and attended the “interrogation” of the captured US pilots.

Allow me to freeze this historic moment, in which two narratives converge from opposing sides of the Korean War and the Cold War.

My father, journalist Wilfred Burchett, was accused by the Australian conservative establishment of fabricating the germ warfare story, of torturing Allied POWs – including Australians – brainwashing them and extracting confessions. He was branded a traitor and denied Australian citizenship for 17 years. These accusations are repeated to this day. What is certain is that he reported the conflict from the North Korean-Chinese side.

When Korean War ceasefire talks were announced in July 1951, he was in China collecting material for a book. The French newspaper Ce Soir asked him to cover the talks for them. They were expected to last three weeks, but ended up lasting two and a half years. Among many other stories, he also reported and investigated allegations made by the Chinese and North Koreans that the US had used germ warfare. Just as he was the first to report on the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and just as he would be one of the first to accuse the US of using chemical defoliants in Vietnam, facts no one now denies. Most people have heard of Agent Orange and its devastating effects on humans and the environment. But the use of bacteriological weapons in Korea is still a contested issue.

The subject of Wormwood, Frank Olson, was involved in secret CIA interrogation and mind control experiments. He was also working on germ warfare programs for the US military at Fort Detrick. As Eric Olson says in the film “This conflation of things, biological weapons on one hand, covert operations on the other, was what brought Fort Detrick and the CIA together. And my father was in the centre of that. He was arguably in the most dangerous spot in the whole Cold War.”

His mother had told him that his father was very upset about Korea. As he tells Morris: “She thought he was certain that the United States had used bacteriological weapons in Korea. He was very upset and angry because the United States was denying it constantly.” And when his father’s body is re-buried after exhumation, Eric states: “Frank Olson didn’t die because he was an experimental guinea pig who’d experienced a bad trip. He died because of concerns he would divulge information concerning a highly classified CIA interrogation program called Artichoke and concerning the use of biological weapons by the United States in the Korean War.”

So scientist Frank Olson, who worked on biological weapons development for the U.S. military and secret interrogation and mind control programs for the CIA was convinced that the U.S. was conducting germ warfare in Korea. He was so tormented by this, that the CIA was afraid he’d reveal its darkest secrets. And they killed him. Dropped him out of a window and claimed it was suicide.

To this day, the US government dismisses the allegations of germ warfare as communist propaganda. Some scholars argue that the germ warfare “hoax” was concocted by Stalin, Mao and Kim Il-sung to tarnish the image of the United States and its Allies in the eyes of world public opinion.

Really? I have in my files a letter from Joseph Needham to my father, dated 23 February, 1969. It says “I agree entirely with your formulation of ‘large scale experimentation in delivery systems,’ basically insect vectors, and I have in no way changed my opinion since the report was issued. Nor, so far as I know, has any other member of the International Scientific Commission expressed any doubts about the findings.”

Wormwood is meticulously crafted and every image and frame is meaningful, like a masterful painting where every brush stroke is in the right place. So I’m wondering why Morris included Wilfred Burchett in his film, even if only for a few seconds. The film from which that segment was extracted clearly introduces him as Wilfred Burchett, correspondent of the Paris Ce Soir. I don’t believe anything is left to chance in Wormwood.

So I shall indulge in some speculation. Only one other journalist appears at length in the film: legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. He first reported on the Frank Olson case in 1975, after the Rockefeller Commission into the CIA’s illegal activities concluded that Olson had jumped to his death because of a CIA experiment with LSD that went bad. The CIA was forced to admit responsibility. President Ford invited the Olsons to the White House and apologized. They also received monetary compensation after agreeing not to push the matter any further. Hersh also accepted the Rockefeller conclusions and took it no further.

But Eric Olson wanted to find out what exactly happened in the New York Hotel room on 28 November 1953. So he kept digging, literally. In 1994, he had his father’s body exhumed. For some reason, the body had been embalmed and was remarkably well preserved. A team of forensic pathologists, led by prominent forensic scientist Dr James Starrs, found no traces of laceration from broken glass on the face, contradicting the original medical report. But there was evidence of a heavy blow to the head from some hard object. They thus concluded that Frank Olson didn’t jump, but had been defenestrated. They described it as “murder most foul”.

In 1997 the CIA Assassination Manual was released with a trove of documents pertaining to the coup in Guatemala. In its first edition, that of 1953, Eric Olson, sitting at the kitchen table from where he saw his father for the last time, read that the CIA’s preferred method of assassination was to push somebody off a high building or out a window. As he says: “The verb finally came, after all these years. It wasn’t FALL, it wasn’t JUMP, it wasn’t DIVE. The verb is DROP.” And before dropping the subject it was desirable to give them a blow on the head to render them unconscious.

He was now convinced that the LSD-induced defenestration was a deliberate distraction from the real story. But what was the real story, then?

The answer was provided by a former colleague of his father’s and old family friend. A 2001 New York Times article about the case prompted him to drop Eric Olson a note: “Eric, you got everything right, except one thing. The historical context. Your father had become convinced that the United States was using biological weapons in Korea and he was pissed.”

If Frank Olson believed biological weapons had been used, it would be very difficult to discredit him. So the CIA had to act.

By 2014, Eric Olson had collected enough compelling evidence to prove that his father was killed by the CIA. It was not an accident, not an experiment gone wrong, but a planned, cold blooded execution.

He takes his evidence to Seymour Hersh and asks him to publish it. The LSD story is a decoy to throw everyone off track. Hersh is initially reluctant to revisit a case that should have been closed long ago, but is challenged and agrees to contact one of his “deep throat” informants. His “deep throat” contact provides him with the information he wants. But Hersh can’t reveal it. He won’t publish the story. He must protect his sources.

The truth about Frank Olson’s execution by the CIA remains locked in some deep vault. The world’s most famous investigative journalist has reached the limits of what journalism can do. As he tells Morris: “The fact that you can’t get closure in this thing will be of great satisfaction to the CIA. The old timers, they’ll love it. The trade-craft won. ‘We got away with one. Even though a few people may know what happened, so what? Nobody else does’.”

It’s a moment of breathtaking cynicism. Should the CIA be allowed to carry on its criminal activities just to protect Seymour Hersh’s sources? Should the truth about germ warfare be buried for ever behind a shield of deniability?

Eric Olson ends on a bitter note: “Wormwood. It’s all bitter.”

I’d like to quote Wilfred Burchett here: “I think that as a journalist, there’s a very great responsibility, particularly journalists reporting on international affairs, as I do, to get the facts right and to be absolutely free of any doctrine or of any ideological optical devices. To be free and really seek the truth, get the truth and publish the truth” (in Public Enemy Number One, a film by David Bradbury, 1980).

Wilfred Burchett told the truth about Nazi Germany when the Australian government was courting Hitler and helping arm Imperial Japan. He told the truth about Hiroshima, as the first Western correspondent to report from the city one month after the atomic bomb was dropped. He reported the truth about germ warfare in Korea and the use of chemical defoliants in Vietnam and the many other atrocities of both wars. None of this endeared him to the Australian or US governments of the time. He was accused of treason, denied an Australian passport, was vilified and is still vilified as a communist propagandist, KGB agent and so on.

So, Mr Hersh, I challenge you to tell us the truth about Frank Olson’s murder by the CIA, about germ warfare in Korea and the other dark secrets that led to his elimination by the CIA. You owe it to his son Eric and to the rest of us. You say you know the truth, so please share it with us.

I would like to thank Errol Morris for telling this important story in such a brilliant, masterful and compelling way (and for including my father, no matter how fleetingly, in the narrative). He is a filmmaker who has spent most of his career examining how film and photography reveal and conceal truth and reality, and in our current epoch, so obsessed with the idea of “fake” news, his work is very much of the zeitgeist.

And I want to express my admiration and profound esteem for Eric Olson’s sticking by his father, for seeking the truth about his death and for unpeeling the layers of deceit that protect the dark secret at the heart of the matter. I hope that one day the bitterness washes away, the secret is released and light prevails over darkness.

(George Burchett is an artist who lives in Hanoi. CounterPunch.org)

* * *

'THE POST' PAYS TRIBUTE TO A FREE AND POWERFUL PRESS

Dalton Delan, The Unspin Room:

berkshireeagle.com/stories/dalton-delan-the-unspin-room-the-post-pays-tribute-to-a-free-and-powerful-press,529224

* * *

MENDOCINO COLLEGE CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM OFFERS HANDS-ON TRAINING IN LAKE AND MENDOCINO COUNTIES

Lakeport, CA — People in Lake and Mendocino Counties can get affordable, hands-on training through the Sustainable Construction and Energy Technology Program at Mendocino College. Semester-long classes begin January 22.

Program coordinator Jennifer Riddell says, “Given the number of structures that burned in recent fires, construction workers of all skill levels are in high demand in our area, and will be for the foreseeable future. Our program teaches people the skills they need to start a career in construction, or to work on their own homes.”

Riddell noted that because the name of the Mendocino College program includes words like “sustainable” and “energy technology,” some people have been under the mistaken impression that the program focuses primarily on solar panel installation; when in fact, it includes all aspects of basic construction. This semester, courses include Safety Standards for Construction, Construction Documents I & II, Residential Remodel and Repair, Construction Management, Introduction to Clean Technology, Advanced Construction, Introduction to Residential Electric, Residential Solar Thermal, Building Performance, Occupational Work Experience, and Sustainability Overview.

Two courses will be offered through the Lake County campus this semester: Construction Fundamentals and Residential Electric. Ben Hittle is enthusiastic about his upcoming Construction Fundamentals course (SCT 180). He says, “We’ll start with houses for birds, bats and bees, then move on from there.” Hittle will incorporate his 20+ years of experience as he teaches students about the tools and materials commonly used in construction, as well as safety practices so students do not harm themselves or others. He will blend classroom instruction with experiential learning to teach students how to build small structures like birdhouses, bat houses and beehives. Once students master basic construction skills on a small scale, they will take on larger building projects. Hittle also plans to introduce alternative building materials such as straw bales and “hempcrete”—a concrete-like substance that includes fibrous material, making it more durable and lighter-weight than concrete. Hittle said students do not need prior experience, and he welcomes students of all backgrounds and ages.

The Residential Electric course (SCT 186) will be taught by longtime Lake and Mendocino County electrician, Craig Bach. Bach has been a licensed electrician since 1983, working as an independent contractor since 1991. He teaches students about the tools of the trade and “how not to electrocute yourself,” he explained. He compared electrical safety with aviation safety, saying, “It’s much like flying—you want to be about three mistakes above the ground at all times.” He said one of the first rules he teaches about electricity is to “turn it off” before you start working. Like Construction Fundamentals, the Residential Electric course is also an introductory course. Bach said, “You’ll not be an electrician after you complete the course, but you will know the basics.” Bach’s meticulous approach provides students with information on how to troubleshoot electrical problems and safely wire residences. The course includes lectures as well as hands-on practice. For students who are motivated to seek a career in this field, Bach recommended online certification courses through the Western Electrical Contractors Association (weca.com).

Riddell said Mendocino College began its Sustainable Construction and Energy Technology program in 2011 to help industry professionals who wanted to expand their skills and keep up with California’s ever-changing regulations, including Title 24 regulations that will go into effect in 2020, affecting “everyone in the construction trades.” The program was also intended to support students who wanted to pursue the building trades and homeowners who wanted to do their own repairs and remodels. Today, the program has grown beyond Ukiah to offer classes in Lakeport, Willits and Laytonville, as well as anywhere people have an internet connection (some classes are offered online).

Riddell credits the program’s success to its “extremely knowledgeable instructors” who use a step-by-step approach to demystify everything from plumbing and electricity to reading blueprints. Students can take individual courses or sign up for certificate programs in Construction <https://www.mendocino.edu/program/sustainable-technology-construction>, Renewable Energy <https://www.mendocino.edu/program/sustainable-technology-renewable-energy>, and/or Residential Performance and Efficiency <https://www.mendocino.edu/program/sustainable-technology-residential-performance-and-efficiency>.

“Our instructors really are amazing. Most of them have been in the business for decades and they share that experience with the students. In Lake County, we’re lucky to have long-time instructor, electrician Craig Bach, and our newest instructor, Ben Hittle, who has more than 20 years of construction experience repairing and remodeling homes,” Riddell said.

Although the program is primarily intended for those 18 years and older, Mendocino College collaborates with local high schools to provide “dual-enrollment” classes, allowing high school students to get college credit at Willits High School, Laytonville High School, and Ukiah High School. The classes are unusual compared to other courses taught on those campuses because the classes include both high school students and community members.

The increasing focus of public schools on Career and Technical Education (CTE) makes the Mendocino College Sustainable Construction program a perfect fit. Because of their practical, hands-on nature, CTE courses provide students with an environment that encourages learning in a more kinetic way, and the practical skills students gain can help them eventually earn a living doing work they enjoy.

Riddell, who is both the program coordinator and an instructor, encourages anyone interested in taking construction courses to visit www.mendocino.edu/sustainabletech. To register, students should visit mendocino.edu

Classes begin January 22.

* * *

THE TRUE DOPE ON LEGAL DOPE

Ten things that suck about recreational marijuana in California, and how to beat ‘em:

emeraldreport.com/recreational-marijuana-sucks-in-california/

* * *

KANT, ROUSSEAU, THE ARCHBISHOP USHER, AND OTHER IDIOTS

by Rosa Montero, translated by Louis S. Bedrock

I have the depressing sensation that stupidity is spreading over the earth in a geometric progression. It would seem that there are more and more fools although there also exists the disturbing possibility that the fools are now better positioned: that they have ascended upon the back of their buffoonery to the highest social positions and are now so highly visible that they appear more numerous.

Whatever the case, one should not be optimistic as the economist Carlos M Cipolla warns us in his witty essay, “The Fundamental Laws of Human Stupidity” (included in his book Allegro ma non tropo) when he wrote his First Fundamental Law:

—Every one of us constantly and inevitably underestimates the quantity of idiots in the world.

Stupidity is certainly one of the quintessential human attributes, a benchmark of our specificity, a universal value that transcends sex, age, eras, and borders. With your hand on your heart, who among us has not behaved like a complete imbecile at least once?

Obviously, transient stupidity isn’t anything to worry about. What is terrible and atrocious is structural stupidity: the stupidity that is part of what defines a person. And even then, within this class of integral stupidity, distinct subspecies can be distinguished.

For example, one of the most annoying specimens is the flagrant imbecile, who is the one who calls a lot of attention to herself. She doesn’t know much about anything, but argues stridently about everything—and when she’s not arguing, she stirs up her audience with scrambled balderdash about her train of thought, which is feeble because she is an idiot.

Then there are the solemn idiots who, in the end, are perhaps the most dangerous because they tend to reach high positions in society. They don’t speak much but they act. And may Heaven save us from their actions because these actions may provoke authentic disasters.

The solemn idiots are pompous and hierarchical, harbor a craving for a pedestal, and possess a vanity of marble along with their who-knows-what academic or clerical credentials.

For example, the Archbishop Usher and the Doctor Lightfoot from Cambridge University definitely belong to this group. At the beginning of the 19th century, they made certain learned calculations and determined that the creation of the world took place at exactly nine o’clock a.m. on the morning of October 23, in the year 4004 BCE.

This spectacular folly, one of the most mind boggling I know, was included as an indisputable truth in numerous bibles and circulated for some time.

(Desmond and Moore speak of it in their biography of Darwin.)

There are also the lazy idiots—those who have a certain level of gray matter (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt) but who are too lazy to use it; or perhaps they are afraid—because thinking for yourself puts you in a difficult and lonely place.

These people are, therefore, pusillanimous, self indulgent, and accommodating: they get on the ideas of others as if they were getting on a bus. They are fervent defenders of common ground, of dominant values, of bureaucracy, of routine. This class of idiots swells the ranks of lynch mobs.

Pedro Voltres assembles several acts of gross stupidity in his educational and entertaining book, The History of Human Stupidity. I was especially fascinated by the old, widespread practice of putting animals on trial. For example, for many centuries, when an individual was caught in the act of committing bestiality, the poor animal which was sodomized was tried, tortured, and burned alive alongside the human perpetrator.

What I have not yet found out is whether court records tell us anything about the animals’ declarations.

With all of this, one of the most widespread and disturbing barbarities is the impenetrable darkness of prejudice. This is because prejudice is like an eclipse of the brain, an aspect of our thought which submerges in the darkness of an eclipse and remains completely zombified. And this happens even in the sharpest minds—and that’s why this syndrome is so dangerous.

As an example, I shall cite the male chauvinist prejudice, which, as you may suppose, interests me very much and which has toasted many illustrious heads.

For example, Rousseau, as revolutionary as he was, would say,

—a female wit is a scourge to her husband, her children, her friends, and to everyone else.

Kant, who was no fool in other matters, insisted:

—laborious learning or painful pondering, even if a woman should greatly succeed in it, destroys the merits that are proper to her sex.

And the philosopher Locke, defender of the natural rights of man, believed that neither animals nor women shared these rights but, to the contrary, were subordinate to males.

If such brilliant thinkers can produce such murky nonsense because of prejudice, you can imagine the damage that this evil might provoke in common minds.

Luis Otero offers some examples of this damage in his hilariously funny.

He aquí la esclava del Señor (Behold the Slave of the Lord), a volume that gathers together the sexist nonsense of Franco’s regime. I will reproduce merely a few pearls:

—The married woman that does not wish to fall into the aberration of onanism—nor that her husband fall into the same vice, should never deny her husband her conjugal obligation; and for that she is favored by the special structure of her organs which require neither preparation nor even the presence of desire to carry out intercourse —said Doctor Algora Gorbea in 1964.

—In general, all work that requires theory, reflection, refined judgement, or a spirit of initiative and enterprise, is incompatible with women—sustained the Jesuit, Francisco Peiró in 1955.

—If you establish a kind of telepathy—at the time when you are thinking about what to prepare for a meal—between your thoughts and those of your husband: I mean, if the man, upon arriving home at noon or in the evening, finds the meal he had been yearning for on the table without having spoken to his wife about it, then you have dramatically advanced on the path toward happiness. —gluttonously inveigled the writer Alberto Pedrosa in 1956.

The parade of imbeciles is interminable.

I said before, at the beginning of this essay, that stupidity is more abundant than air. All in all, it’s something so common that even my growing irritation toward idiots is beginning to look suspicious: perhaps it is but one more manifestation of stupidity.

—I have the impression that Nature’s attempt to create a world of sentient beings has failed —said Max Born, one of the most important physicists of the twentieth century.

And these words from an old Nobel Prize winner are one of the few things that don’t sound stupid.

* * *

Translator Bedrock adds:

I love this woman.

I wrote to her once and received an ebullient, affectionate, handwritten response.

When I responded with a rather formal thank-you note, she gently tweaked me with another response mocking my formality.

Both of her handwritten notes were signed, “Con un besón”—with a big, fat kiss.

She was—and still is, an important voice of the Transition—the changes in Spain after the death of Franco.

She attained a column in El País, Spain’s most prestigious newspaper, when she was in her early 20s.

She once cause a firestorm—and an avalanche of angry letters to El País when she wrote in one of her columns,

—it recalls the sad, old question of whether a country is ignorant because it’s Catholic or Catholic because it’s ignorant.

Like Oriana Fallaci and Abby Martin, she has more balls than the U.S. Senate.

* * *

FIRE RECOVERY COMMUNITY MEETING

Rebuilding 101 and Trees/Vegetation Management

On January 17, 2018, the Mendocino County Fire Recovery Team will hold a community meeting to support fire survivors impacted by the Redwood Complex Fire. The County will provide an update on the debris removal process and provide important information on rebuilding and tree and vegetation management. Mendocino County Planning and Building Services will discuss the rebuilding process steps, including permitting. We will be joined by the Contractors State License Board, who will share information on hiring a licensed contractor. Following the rebuilding presentations, the UC Davis Cooperative Extension will have a Wildland Advisor present to provide information on trees and vegetation management.

When: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Where: Eagle Peak Middle School Cafeteria, 8601 West Rd, Redwood Valley CA 95470

Who:

  • Mendocino County Planning and Building Services
  • Mendocino County Department of Transportation
  • Mendocino County Environmental Health
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Cal OES
  • FEMA Hazard Mitigation
  • Contractors State License Board
  • Mendocino County Resource Conservation District (MCRCD)
  • National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • PG&E Vegetation Specialist

Live Online: This media briefing will be streamed live on the Mendocino County YouTube Channel.

Residents can submit question in advance at ceo@mendocinocounty.org. For more information please contact the Executive Office at (707) 463-4441.

* * *

MEMO OF THE AIR

Hey, the deadline to email your writing to be read on MOTA is always about 5 or 6pm the night of the show, no matter where I'm doing the show from. So as of this writing you have plenty of time to get that together for tonight, and even more time regarding next week and ever after that. Just whenever you're ready, paste it into an email, check that it's going to me and not to the whole group, unless that's what you want, and press send.

If you want to talk in person about your project or read aloud your own writing in your own voice, or bring your instrument(s) and/or fellow instrumentalists and play a short set, or try out your stand-up act, you can drop by 325 N. Franklin, next door to the Tip Top bar, after 9pm and just wade in. Head for the lighted room at the back and clear your throat or clap your hands or something.

But that will have to be next week, the 19th, because tonight I'm doing the show by live remote from Juanita's place, not from Franklin Street. It's pretty consistent lately: one week here, one week there. I'll let you know when that changes.

Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio: Every Friday, 9pm to about 4am on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg, and 105.1fm KMEC-LP Ukiah. And also there and anywhere else via http://knyo.org or if that doesn't work for you try http://TuneIn.com and look up KNYO-LP. Also, by the way, you can have /your own whole show/ on KNYO and never have to depend on me at all, though I'm happy to help you get started: Contact Bob Young: bobb@poetworld.net and introduce yourself; you'll be on the schedule with Speed-Force speed, confounding your Anti-Flash nemesis, and won't /that/ be a thrill?

Marco McClean
memo@mcn.org
http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com

 

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