Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018

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DIVERTED RIVER SUSTAINS CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY, BUT IT’S KILLING SALMON

Utility PG&E’s Potter Valley Project includes two dams on the Eel River that are up for relicensing. Water diversions into the Russian River for power generation are in jeopardy as salmon and steelhead remain at risk of extinction.

by Matt Weiser, NewsDeeply

Few people outside northern California have heard of the Eel River. But if you’re a wine lover, there’s a good chance you’ve enjoyed its water in the form of a golden chardonnay or a rich red merlot.

The Eel River was once home to one of the largest salmon populations on the West Coast. But for nearly a century, a large share of its flow has been diverted for hydroelectric power and irrigation, helping build Northern California into a world powerhouse of winemaking. Much of the wine produced in Mendocino and Sonoma counties would not exist without that diverted Eel River water.

So it should come as no surprise that the prospect of ending those water diversions is stirring concern across the region.

The water diversions are part of the Potter Valley Project, a 9.2-megawatt hydroelectric facility owned by utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E). It includes two dams on the Eel River and a hydroelectric powerhouse in the headwaters of the Russian River.

In a quirk of geography, the two rivers flow past each other only about a mile apart, separated by a ridge. A mile-long tunnel built through the ridge in 1908 diverts Eel River water into the Russian River, which then flows south into Mendocino and Sonoma counties. The Eel turns north and flows through Humboldt County.

The powerhouse was originally built to provide electricity for the town of Ukiah. For about 80 years, it’s been part of PG&E’s vast Northern California energy portfolio.

The Potter Valley Project is up for relicensing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a once-in-50-years process that is prompting a hard look at whether the dams still make sense.

A key issue is fish passage. Like so many hydroelectric facilities of its era, the Potter Valley Project was built with no regard for migratory fish. Scott Dam, the largest of the two dams, is a 130ft-high concrete monolith with no fish ladders to allow fish to get around the structure. It was built on the Eel River in 1922, forming Lake Pillsbury about 12 miles upstream from the diversion tunnel.

Scott Dam

Scott Dam has cut off salmon and steelhead from more than 280 miles of habitat for nearly a century. Logging, erosion and other land disturbances, such as vineyard development, have contributed to habitat loss for the fish as well.

The Eel River once spawned as many as 1 million salmon annually, making it the third-largest producer among California rivers, after the Sacramento and Klamath, said Scott Greacen, Conservation Director of Friends of the Eel River. Today, salmon returning to spawn in the Eel number fewer than 1,000 fish.

Greacen’s group is campaigning to remove the Eel River dams. A key reason is that most of the habitat upstream of Scott Dam is on U.S. Forest Service land and remains relatively undisturbed. It still offers cool water temperatures that could serve as a refuge for salmon and steelhead as downstream temperatures warm amid climate change.

“One of the things we really, really treasure about the Eel is that our fish seem to be wild fish,” said Greacen. “There’s a real possibility of recovering them as wild fish and not depending on hatcheries. It could be the Eel is a fairly significant chunk of the wild fish left on the West Coast.”

The prospect of losing the dams is terrifying to farmers who depend on the Russian River. The diverted water has created a thriving agricultural economy. The Eel River, in reality, is the lifeblood for hundreds of wineries, artisanal fruit and vegetable growers, and livestock producers along the upper reaches of the Russian River.

In much of this region, the Russian would go dry in summer and fall without Eel River water. This is particularly true in Potter Valley itself, the farming region closest to the powerhouse, which has no viable groundwater available.

“The Potter Valley Project provides the only source of water we have,” said Janet Pauli, a board member of the Potter Valley Irrigation District. Pauli’s farm, a sixth-generation family operation, grows wine grapes, pears, hay and cattle – all thanks to diverted Eel River water.

“It changed the economy, it changed the crops we grow and the livestock we raise. It has been a boon,” Pauli said. “We are completely dependent on this water supply for our quality of life and for our economy. It is critically important.”

PG&E last year filed a formal notice with FERC that it intends to proceed with relicensing, a complicated process that takes at least five years. This triggered initial comments from other federal agencies that have a regulatory role.

One is the National Marine Fisheries Service, which hinted it may require PG&E to build some type of fish passage at Scott Dam. Similar requirements have been imposed on many dams up for relicensing over the past decade.

Fish passage could take many forms – from a basic concrete fish ladder to a new-fangled “salmon cannon,” which sucks fish through a tube and shoots them back out. Another option is a trap-and-haul program, in which fish are collected in tanker trucks and driven around the dam. All are expensive, raising the possibility that PG&E may not want to continue operating the dams.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, recently convened regular meetings with the players to discuss the future of the Eel River dams. In a recent video posted by the group CalTrout, Huffman said PG&E has “indicated they no longer want to operate that as a hydroelectric project going forward.”

PG&E officials would not confirm that position. But David Moller, PG&E’s director of portfolio strategies in power generation, said decommissioning the dams is one of many options on the table. He emphasized the relicensing process is at a very early stage, and no decision has been made.

“We always are continually evaluating our power generation facilities as to their economics, how they fit in with our forecasted future power demands,” said Moller. “Certainly, potentially not continuing on with the project would be an option. But it’s certainly not the exclusive option.”

The economics of the Potter Valley Project are not what they once were. In 2007, PG&E was required by the National Marine Fisheries Service to divert less water through the tunnel and powerhouse to leave more water in the Eel River for migratory fish. This reduced power generation by around 50%.

It also slashed diversions to the Russian River from 160,000 acre-feet per year to around 77,000.

“That was a huge, huge change in the project,” Moller said. “It significantly reduced the power generation.”

This could shift the economics of the issue. Friends of the Eel River recently hired a consultant who found that just 5 acres of solar panels could generate more electricity than the Potter Valley Project now produces.

So it could work out that the water diverted for Russian River agriculture is the primary economic benefit of the Potter Valley Project. One solution, therefore, is to find a way to continue those diversions while also removing the dams.

An option is to raise Coyote Valley Dam to increase the capacity of Lake Mendocino, a 122,000 acre-foot reservoir on the Russian River about 5 miles downstream from Potter Valley, at the intersections of Highways 101 and 20. Owned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, it was originally designed with a 36-foot rise in mind. This would increase the water storage by about 75,000 acre-feet – roughly equaling today’s diversions from the Eel River.

The Potter Valley tunnel could remain in operation to divert excess winter flows into the Russian River, helping to fill that additional capacity at Lake Mendocino.

All that could satisfy demand downstream of Lake Mendocino, which includes the vast majority of the Russian River’s agricultural water users. But it would leave Potter Valley – the original beneficiaries of Eel River diversions – high and dry in the summer.

The Potter Valley Irrigation District has studied the idea of building its own new reservoir somewhere in the surrounding watershed, Pauli said. Several possibilities were investigated, but none was big enough to make economic sense.

Still, Pauli is optimistic that some compromise can be reached to protect both the water supply and the fisheries.

With a PhD in zoology, Pauli also has a deep concern for the salmon, steelhead and other wildlife in the two rivers. She notes, for instance, that the Russian River is home to western pond turtles and foothill yellow-legged frogs. Both are endangered species that depend, to some degree, on the same Eel River water diversions that built Potter Valley’s farm economy.

“We will have to be very, very wise about how we protect this shared resource,” Pauli said. “We’re on a ride, and nobody knows exactly what the destination is.”

(Courtesy, NewsDeeply.com, WaterDeeply.)

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A FRAMEWORK FOR MEASURE B

by Mark Scaramella

Sheriff Tom Allman’s Measure B Advisory Committee got off to a faltering start Wednesday of last week. It appeared that none of the eleven “commissioners” had come prepared, even though they all supported Measure B and supposedly had strong interest in Mendo’s very own psych unit and associated facilities. No one, apart from Allman, seemed familiar with the core provisions of the ground-breaking Measure.

Allow me, class, to summarize what we’re supposed to be after here:

First: Provide supplementary mental health services “by developing: 1) a psychiatric facility and other behavioral health facilities; and 2) a regional behavioral health training facility.”

Second: Develop “the necessary infrastructure to support and stabilize individuals with behavioral health conditions.”

Third, supplementary services: “For a period of five (5) years a maximum of 75% of the revenue deposited into the Mental Health Treatment Fund may be used for facilities, with not less than 25% dedicated to services and treatment; thereafter 100% of all revenue deposited into the Mental Health Treatment Fund shall be used for ongoing operations, services and treatment.”

That’s all. Very simple. Those three things: facilities, infrastructure, and supplementary services (associated with those facilities). Nothing else. (The rest of the measure is about oversight, accounting, audits, taxation, legalities, etc.)

Sheriff Allman said that he still wanted Mr. Kemper (whose “Kemper Report” a couple of years ago formed the basis for dumping the widely criticized Ortner of Yuba City’s private mental health services, to whom Mendo’s severely mentally ill had been dispatched for dubious services rendered), or someone like Kemper to do a “needs assessment.”  Behavioral Health Board Chair Jan McGourty duly made a motion to recommend a Needs Assessment to the Board of Supervisors.

But more cautious Measure B commissioners thought they should take a breath and wait a month before jumping to a needs assessment.

If the “commissioners” had given their mandate any thought, we think they would have first drafted an outline or framework to achieve the Measure’s specific objectives to present at the first meeting. But they didn’t. (One commissioner, Fort Bragg electrician Mark Mertle, proposed that each commissioner prepare their own “mission statements” for the Commission, even though their mission statement is right there clearly spelled out in Measure B.)

So, again, allow me to offer a framework or roadmap:

First prepare an inventory of existing facilities for the five categories of mental health facilities in each supervisorial district/area. (I.e., Fort Bragg, North County, Willits. Ukiah, AV/South Coast.

Those five facility categories are:

Five Levels of Care – Locked and Unlocked Psych Facilities

  1. Acute Inpatient (for 5150s); Locked facility.
  2. Sub-Acute. Also a locked facility. For conservatorships where someone else is calling the shots, which can be the Public Guardian (PG) or a family member.
  3. Institute for the Mentally Ill (IMD). Also a locked facility for patients that are higher functioning than a sub-acute level, but still require a locked setting. Conservators still make decisions for them.
  4. Enriched Board and Care. An open setting. Not locked. Not necessarily conserved (i.e., voluntary or court ordered).
  5. Regular Board and Care – Open setting. Basically, transitional housing for some number of days. Less intense treatment.

Facilities to be inventoried and assessed would include hospitals, clinics, care homes, etc. for their current capacities and capabilities. Added to the existing resources, would be facilities in the pipeline such as the pending jail expansion and the planned new crisis facility on Orchard Avenue in Ukiah.

Next: Population estimates of people to be served in each facility category with forecasts of future numbers.

1: Existing clients (which Mental Health Director Jenine Miller says is five times larger than when Ortner was the County’s mental health care service provider).

2: Currently unserved clients (uninsured, drunks or addicts who might voluntarily or be court ordered to come in).

Presumably, most of this initial survey or inventory data is available from existing county sources. In fact, Commissioner Jenine Miller, Mendo’s Mental Health Department Director, specifically confirmed when asked that most of this information is available from County records.

To save time, the Measure B Commission should break up into parallel sub-groups with specific tasks and deadlines to complete this inventory and survey.

Then come up with a list of the types of facilities in each of the five main county districts, what kinds of people they would serve, how many, where… (One could imagine a table listing the types of facilities down the left, and Supervisorial districts across the top with numbers/forecasts of beds or clients in each cell showing how many in each category in each district.)

Last would be a list of facility recommendations and descriptions (i.e., number beds by category, types of services) in each district, sized according to the numbers in the table.

The likely resulting initial report would probably show fewer beds in the first three (higher, locked) facility categories, and more beds in more places for the bottom two categories. No one facility should be that big; the objective should be dispersal of lower level facilities. (Obviously some facilities could house more than one category, with probably two or three locked facilities, in Ukiah, Fort Bragg, and/or Willits.)

Options for “infrastructure” would include:

What training programs and accompanying facility(ies) (presumably at one of the two or three locked facilities) would support the facilities and services and where.

Where to put crisis vans, with a minimum of one inland and one on the Coast.

Necessary transportation requirements between facilities with accompanying maps and routes. (Here one could imagine a hub-like arrangement with locked/training facilities in central locations.)

How much extra capacity should be developed for future expansion or other county imports as space/services permit.

Once this basic framework is laid out, questions of what levels of services should be provided within the framework at each facility could start being addressed. And possible locations or existing buildings in each category and area could be identified.

One could take this several steps further, but a decent initial outline in this format would get them off to a good start and insure that the recommendations stay focused on those three primary purposes of Measure B.

At all times and in all meetings, the commissioners should focus primarily on what those facility and infrastructure recommendations would look like and what information would back up those recommendations. At every meeting Commission Chair Allman should ask, “Where are we on the facilities list?” and “What’s the facilities and services map looking like?” And constantly remind his fellow commissioners not to drift off topic.

If not, he runs the risk of his beloved Measure B Committee devolving into another aimless chat session like the current Behavioral Health Advisory Board, at which point his creation would be co-opted by the CEO-Molgaard Axis, and absorbed into the existing ineffective mental health apparatus.

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LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Skrag didn't show for breakfast this morning, not that I'm worried about him. He probably found some other saps to feed him. But, heck, he is part of the family here and… and… Excuse me, I think I'm going to cry.”

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ED NOTES

SUSY BARSOTTI, Laytonville resident and long-time member of the Hog Farm at Black Oak Ranch, has tossed her hat in the ring for third district supervisor.  Having been strongly urged on by family and friends to run for office, Susy is excited to offer the skills in collaboration, community building, and intuitive leadership she has acquired from 44 years of cooperative group living.  She has been married to Bob Barsotti for 31 years, and together they have produced events at Black Oak Ranch, including The Pignic, Earthdance, and the Kate Wolf Festival.  Her deep love of Mendocino County fuels the commitment she feels to those who live here, and she’s exhilarated to represent the third district with all she’s got.” Bob Barsotti is a former partner of the late Bill Graham's Bill Graham's Productions.

SEVEN PERSONS are now in the race for the 3rd District Supe's seat: Cyndee Logan of Willits: Johnny Pinches, who has held the seat twice before; John Haschak; Brian Kunka; Tony Tucker; and Pam Elizondo.

MANY YEARS AGO I ran for different offices simply to raise issues that would otherwise not be raised. I was still registered with the Peace and Freedom Party whose wild founding convention I attended as a representative of the Noe Valley area of San Francisco. When, from my Boonville HQ, I ran for the Assembly seat then held by Dan Hauser, whose base of support was Arcata, a bastion of delusional lib-lab-ism. I, a founding father of P&F, discovered myself opposed in the P&F primary! Pam Elizondo of Laytonville had registered P&F to oppose me. Which was unprecedented among P&Fers who were always beating the bushes for candidates. A remnant group of NorCal commies had gotten Pam to do it! It was the first time in NorCal that a P&F primary was contested. The final humiliation occurred when she beat me! (Excuse me while I weep at the memory.)

Elizondo

WHERE WERE WE? Oh yes, I believe that election was around '92. Us lefty-wefties were trying to move the Democrats in the direction of progress. A couple of years prior, I'd pulled about 12% of the vote running for Assembly against Hauser while Darlene Commingore, also a P&F candidate, pulled about 18% of the Congressional vote, knocking out corporado incumbent Doug Bosco.

NORCAL Democrats have looked over their shoulders ever since, although the left, as an organized force, was over in NorCal, buried by the domination of NorCal electoral politics by the wine industry. That industry, comprehensively far more destructive than corporate timber ever was, came up with Mike Thompson and Thompson spin-offs like Huffman, Berg, McGuire, Wood, etc. Presently, there is zero progressive momentum on the Northcoast. By the way, when the commies put up Elizondo against me, someone, I suspect the Democrats, also gave her a $600 lump sum donation, the only donation she got. (The NorCal left of that time might have spent 6 bucks hassling me but not 600 bucks.) But please don't get the idea I'm angry at the old girl, Laytonville's first and only com-dupe. I get a kick out of Pam truly, and always look forward at election time to see her name somewhere on the ballot.

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COMING SOON! Blood Moon

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BLUE MEADOW FARM, OPEN THIS WEEK

3301 Holmes Ranch Rd, Philo, 895-2071

  • Lettuce, Spring Mix
  • Red Russian & Lacinato Kale
  • Broccoli & Broccoli Raab
  • Narcissus & Daffodils
  • Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme

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WHO’S THE REAL CRIMINAL?

Seems everyone is complaining about Trump’s 30% solar tariff. Obama implemented a 30% to 500% solar tariff! Why is nobody mentioning this? The real problem is neither one of them put a tariff on thin film panels — toxic, not efficient, but government supported. Hmmm. And why would anyone even get a solar utility interface system anymore? Now that PG&E is totally in control and they now require ALL grid-tied inverters MUST be programmed so that PG&E can control them. And how about the criminals in Sacramento? Every time you go to a gas station they steal from you around $1.00 per gallon of gas or diesel you use. Even though they have already totally screwed you on property tax, everything you buy they tax, everything you do they want to control & tax — can’t use paper bags, can’t use plastic bags and now can’t use straws. If that is not enough, now they want to tax you per mile you drive. And where does the money go???? Look at their salaries.

We have been manufacturing our solar panels in the US for many, many years. So the tariff will have very little effect on us. We saw all this coming. We also saw what PG&E is doing. Why spend your hard-earned money on a solar utility interface system that is really ONLY a utility company support system — that they control! DISCONNECT. Turn them off. Why not screw them for a change? Stand alone power systems are the future and the future is here now. 13 kW to multi MW.

Pete Gregson, Advance Power, Calpella

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CATCH OF THE DAY, January 30, 2018

Adelman, Aparicio, Butler

LESLIE ADELMAN, Ukiah. Failure to appear.

PEDRO APARICIO, Hopland. DUI.

SHERRIE BUTLER, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

Cox, Donahe, Hanover, Knight

ZACHARY COX, Kneeland/Willits. DUI.

MICHAEL DONAHE, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)

THOMAS HANOVER JR., Ukiah. Paraphernalia, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

JOHN KNIGHT JR., Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, controlled substance for sale, transportation of controlled substance, saps/similar weapons.

Maynard, Spitsen, Thornhill, Worley

ANDREW MAYNARD, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

MARK SPITSEN, Incline Village/Ukiah. Failure to appear.

JUSTIN THORNHILL, Ukiah. Disobeying court order.

CARL WORLEY JR., Ukiah. Probation revocation.

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ACCORDING TO THE GOVERNOR'S BUDGET, The Adult Use of Marijuana Act is expected to bring $643 million in excise tax revenue to the state of California in its first year.

While the amount is much lower than the $1 billion in revenue anticipated by some analysts, California still finds itself with a hefty $6.1 billion surplus for the next fiscal year.

The New York Times reports that Brown will use most of the surplus to bolster California’s “rainy day” fund, used to prevent layoffs and ease budget cuts during economic downswings.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which went into effect on January 1, levies excise taxes on the cultivation and retail sale of recreational and medical cannabis.

The budget proposal states that under Prop. 64, cannabis is being taxed in the following ways:

The cultivation tax is $9.25 per ounce of flower, $2.75 per ounce of leaves, and $1.29 per ounce of fresh cannabis plant to be paid on all recreational and medicinal cultivation of cannabis. In addition, there will be a 15-percent tax on the retail price of cannabis.

(Click to enlarge)

Some marijuana industry advocates like Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Association, say the taxes are too steep.

“Proposition 64 set the tax rate too high, and everyone I talk to knows it,” Allen told the Los Angeles Times. “We definitely think the state Legislature should put a cannabis tax reform measure on the ballot in 2018.”

Governor Brown meanwhile, said he will defer all cannabis-related budget proposals until the May Revision.

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TRUMP COULD HUMILIATE HIS WIFE by being a big, horny pig, but he is the one who comes off as the embarrassment. He’s an embarrassing husband and an embarrassing president and an embarrassing leader of the free world. Barack Obama was always calling to our better angels. Donald Trump is paying off porn stars and denigrating struggling countries that send minorities to the US as “s---holes.” How did we drop so far and so fast from class to crass?

—Michael Tomasky

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MORE, MORE, MORE

Editor,

Every morning my email is full of requests for money. It’s insulting that they want me to answer a survey such as “Do you approve of Donald Trump,” yes or no? If I answer, it’s followed by a request for money. Lately, instead of simply deleting them, I’ve been replying thus: “We can’t outspend the GOP. If Democrats don’t know who to vote for just by looking around at the news, we are in deep trouble. Instead, I suggest you use every available platform to say: “Don’t send money. Vote.”

Obviously, no one reads my response, because the answer I get is “Thanks for responding,” followed by yet another request for money.

Jessie Gordon

Sonoma

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THIS HAPPENED here in our town. A friend of mine — we were on the cheerleading team together — married a local farmer, and right away they wanted to have a baby, though the doctor said she shouldn’t. She was a bleeder, he said, and if she started he might not be able to stop it. But she didn’t listen. She went ahead and got pregnant, then bled to death during childbirth and was buried out by the farmhouse, under a crabapple tree. It was very sad. I cried for a week. But the baby survived, a pretty little boy; his dad called him Dickie-boy, but I don’t know if that was his real name.

His dad was a hard worker and a nice guy — I went on a movie date with him once when we were young — but he sometimes drank too much and he was hopeless at ordinary household chores and raising babies. So pretty soon he found another wife, either through a dating service or else he picked her up in one of his bars somewhere, because none of us girls knew her. She was a tough, sexy lady, a hooker, maybe. She made no effort to be one of us or to make us like her. I guess she considered us beneath her. We called her the Vamp. She got around, and it was said that she’d taken half the men in town to bed, my own ex included. They all denied it, like cheating husbands do, but, when the subject came up, little shit-eating grins would appear on their faces and their eyes would glaze over as if they were remembering the wild time they’d had.

—Robert Coover

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SOUTH FROM POINT OF MOUNTAIN ROAD

(Click to enlarge)

(Photo by Harvey Reading)

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DEDUCTIBILITY OF MORTGAGE INTEREST

Anne Fashauer’s article in your Jan. 24th paper stated/suggested that interest paid on residential real estate mortgages is no longer deductible for federal tax purposes.  I do not believe this is true.  My understanding is that existing mortgages are unaffected by latest tax law changes.  New mortgages up to $750,000 face value will still be eligible for interest deductibility.  Check out what The Motley Fool says about this as shown below.  Maybe there is some fine print that limits this deductibility.  Maybe Anne could clarify any discrepancies   between her source of info and general media sources.

Hope this second opinion helps anyone thinking about buying real estate.

Neil Darling

PS. From The Motley Fool:

The mortgage interest deduction: You may have heard that the mortgage interest deduction was affected by the new laws, and that's true. It used to be that you could write off the interest on a home loan of up to $1 million, but under the new rules, this limit drops to $750,000. But make no mistake about it: The majority of U.S. homeowners who choose to itemize on their tax returns will still get to claim a mortgage interest deduction. Furthermore, the updated rules apply to new mortgages only; existing home loans are grandfathered into the old system.

ANNE FASHAUER REPLIES: He is correct. I was writing about future sales and how the tax changes could affect those.

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TURN OFF MESSENGER KIDS, HEALTH EXPERTS PLEAD TO FACEBOOK

At the age of 6, a child is full of imagination and may not distinguish reality from fantasy. She is beginning to read and can’t grasp nuances in written communication. She also doesn’t understand privacy. Citing those reasons and more, dozens of pediatric and mental health experts are calling on Facebook to kill a messaging service the company introduced last month for children as young as 6.

nytimes.com/2018/01/30/technology/messenger-kids-facebook-letter.html?ref=todayspaper

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PALE RIDER

by Gavin Francis, M.D.

I can’t remember the last time, before the current outbreak, when one of my patients died from flu. The strain involved in the last flu pandemic, the swine flu outbreak in 2009, was highly infectious, but milder than other pandemic strains have been. Of the 61.7 million people living in the UK in 2009, 457 died from it – comparable to the usual annual death toll for flu. The 1957 Asian flu and the 1968-69 Hong Kong flu pandemics were more serious; the death toll in each case was estimated at around a million worldwide.

I first found out about the current outbreak when I was called to a nursing home to see a patient in his nineties who had suffered two days of cough and fever. I knew Mr. Wedderburn well; I used to visit him in his own home, before the slow creep of dementia made his life there untenable. He used to talk with me about his favorite books and music, but for the last couple of years he had been confused and distracted. Frail elderly people often have a less robust systemic response to infection than the young and fit, but even so, Mr Wedderburn was flushed with a temperature of 101, and was breathing much too quickly. As I listened to his lungs with my stethoscope, his fingers picked at the bedcovers, and his feet knocked against his cot-bars. When I took a viral swab from his nose, he screwed up his eyes and muttered “Oh dear, oh dear.”

I phoned his niece: no, she didn’t think he’d want to be admitted to hospital if he were to deteriorate. “He’s an old man,” she said to my relief, “I think he’d prefer to take his chances.” That was Friday afternoon. Over the weekend I was on call for the GP night service, and visited three more nursing homes to assess cases of flu. A message came through from the health board: the swabs GPs were sending in were testing 74% positive for influenza, but there was no evidence yet of a spike in deaths. When I returned to my own clinic after the weekend there were two papers on my desk: a lab report confirming Mr. Wedderburn’s influenza, and a note reporting that he’d died.

“It can’t just be flu,” patients often say. “I feel absolutely dreadful.” Sweats, fever, headache, muscle pain, breathlessness, cough: for many fit young people, a bad dose of the flu is their first intimation of mortality. Flu virus hijacks airway tissues, forcing the cells lining them to reproduce copies of themselves. That process irritates and inflames; sneezes and coughs spread new generations of the virus. Bacteria reproduce more easily in flu-debilitated, inflamed lungs, so if the flu itself doesn’t give you pneumonia, other micro-organisms might – and this secondary infection can be more dangerous than the virus itself. You can do something about the dehydration and fever, but beyond that there’s little effective treatment once the illness is established.

Every autumn the fridge in my consulting room is stacked high with vaccines, and every October my colleagues and I jab hundreds of shoulders. Of the 3700 patients registered at my practice about a thousand are eligible for a flu vaccination, because of age, lung disease or some other infirmity. We don’t vaccinate just to protect the most vulnerable: the hope is that raising the background level of immunity among a selected population will slow the spread of seasonal flu among the rest. Usually just over a quarter don’t take up the invitation; this year we ordered 750 vials.

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ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

Russian meddling by the numbers:

$100,000 spent on facebook ads by Russian troll farms vs

$81 million spent on facebook ads by Clinton and Trump together vs

$1 billion on campaign ads during 2016 presidential campaign vs

$2.5 billion in total for the campaign vs

$28 billion in yearly facebook ad revenue.

The numbers are self-explanatory. So let’s don’t be fucking ridiculous.

Believe your own eyes, this is exactly what it looks like, an attempt by the Deep State to unseat a duly elected president first by invalidating the win by alleging aid from a supposedly hostile foreign power and then alleging collusion with this power and then miring the Administration with ceaseless investigative harassment, and then bringing it down when either the President or someone close to him steps on a legal booby-trap. Because sooner or later somebody will.

In short, this is a coup by men with briefcases and law degrees. This time they’re bothering with appearances of legality and due process.

But what about next time? Men with guns and tanks? Or will it be like last time, rifle shots at a motorcade?

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PUDDING CREEK

(Click to enlarge)

(Photo by Judy Valadao)

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BEND’S WOMEN’S MARCH

by Bruce Patterson

“Jesus was the child of God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with it.”
—Sojourner Truth

During last year’s Women’s March in Bend, the weather was fit for neither man nor beast. Still at least 3,000 people, including Trisha and myself, braved the wind, sleet and snow in order to petition for redress and that was encouraging. Since the weather for this year’s march was about as pleasant as a January 20th ever gets up there in the ponderosa pines—clear, cold and breezy enough to freeze unprotected ears but not noses—I expected at least twice the crowd this time and I do believe I got my wish. Nothing like the touch of evil to awaken sleepwalking souls. If the price of Liberty is vigilance, then this putrid Wall Street cracker kleptocrat cabal is a wakeup call: the proverbial dead skunk in the middle of the road stinking to high heaven.

Bend’s was a generationally diverse crowd reflecting the local demographics, which means the marchers were mostly affluent white people. I noticed a few Indians, but no black people and just a sprinkling of young “Mexicans,” the first because they’re mighty scarce in these parts and the second because they’re used to hiding out in plain sight. I didn’t see many young men or schoolboys on their own, either. I suppose that’s to be expected given the obsolete gender roles issued by proclamation under our decadent patriarchal autocrats. Then it occurred to me that any wise young boy looking to meet girls would be here at the march given the sunshine and the abundance of courageous and “liberated” schoolgirls. But then remembered this ain’t 1962. Nowadays young people are a lot more regimented, and having to keep step in what could be an endless military parade shrinks one’s horizons. You’re too busy keeping time since, if you make a mistake, you destroy the beauty of the formation and incite the wrath of the gods. You’ll be down on your palms and tiptoes pumping out pushups while getting tongue-lashed before maybe having to show up at the mess hall at sundown for some Extra Duty. Some Extra Duty to help you pull your head up out your ass so you can start paying attention to what’s important.

And you looking to do some “fraternizing” with some private no class member of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps? Forget about it, kid, don’t even think about it. Military prisons ain’t for the faint-hearted. Besides, come payday, there’s whores downtown waiting on the likes of you.

Want to get yourself in trouble in 2018? Be young and have some laughs with a co-worker of the “opposite sex.” Better yet, be bold: cross the Color Line. You won’t need to flaunt it: others will know that’s what you’re doing even if you don’t. So Eyes Right, Soldier, and be snappy about it. Eyes Right like you’re seeing something; like you mean it, like you get it!

Excuse me but I suppose I’m still a little bitter about, in the summer of 1967, having my battalion within America’s Guard of Honor (the 82nd Airborne Division) chosen to greet, be “reviewed” by and to perform for, out on the tarmac of Pope Air Force Base outside Spring Lake, NC, prez-dant LBJ his self. Yup, the Prez-dant of these United Confederated States, our unquestioned Military Commander-in-Chief and the Leader of the Free World live and in the flesh. While I can’t recall how many hours we spent synchronizing our moves till we got them down to just snaps, crackles and pops, I do remember waiting and waiting before finally being informed that LBJ had stood us up. “Unforeseen circumstances,” we were told. Shit happens, in other words, so sorry. Ya’ll catch your buses back to base and then you’re dismissed till Reveille tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of the day.

Anyway, there were plenty of elderly Senior Citizens marching with the “middle-aged” ones. Plenty of school girls and fired up young women, too, some chanting, some singing, some pumping clenched fists. And plenty of their hubbies, of course, though some probably weren’t all that wild about being seen there, the word maybe getting around and him having to take some ribbing from there on out.

One thing that struck me was that, even though the gathering point was at the Band Shell at Drake Park beside the old mill pond on the Deschutes River in downtown, Old Town Bend, there was no PA system (again). There were no women speakers to announce upcoming events and make demands. No women with a plan, you might say.  Maybe it’s because I’m a writer that I attach so much liberating power to humane and truthful words, but I don’t think so. I’m an American and so of course I see the genius in the 1st Amendment. Its beauty has always seemed self-evident to me. I’m also old enough to know what’s worth fighting for and what ain’t.

There were plenty of homemade signs. Many more signs per capita than in the old days if I recall right. Trisha, who is the activist of the house, made a half dozen signs and had no problem giving them away. (Her own sign said: “We’re all immigrants. Sanctuary everywhere. We will defend each other”). A small sampling of the others: “Impeach the leech.” “If I incorporate my uterus, will you quit regulating it?” “Stop using America’s children as bargaining chips.” “Justice for all and not just Ya’ll.” “Planned Parenthood is not the enemy.” “Women’s rights are human rights” “My body, my future” and “Dreamers are Americans, too.” Throw all the signs together and you’ve got the makings of a patriotic program of cultural/spiritual renewal.

Atop the old riverbank was a sunny grassy swath and Trish and I sat down to watch the crowd shuffling up the park’s curving sidewalk and filing into Old Town, their chants bouncing off the back alley’s brick walls. By and by I saw three longhaired, string-bean looking young girls sporting fancy threads and carrying “Resist” signs. After a flush of hopeful pride, I felt ashamed. Will there even be another election in this country now that the worst among us are dictating to us policies and goals as wicked as they are self-destructive? What kind of future are these proud young girls looking forward to under this Bible-thumping, gun-toting mob getting incited by dirty old megalomaniacs determined to keep young girls pure, barefoot, pregnant and subservient? Girls like TV’s sweethearts back in 1960 living in decent, Anglo-Saxon, Christian Communities like Need Not Apply, Alabama and Shithole City, South Carolina down there where the swamps give off gases and the alligators play golf for gunnysacks full of live chickens. Back when America was great and poor white girls of a tender age got married off to start cooking, keeping house and suckling babies. Once proud, freedom-loving white girls who, after birthing child after child for some no good “breadwinner”, finally died “in labor” in their raggedy beds in pools of rich red blood.

If men could get pregnant, access to affordable and reliable birth control would be guaranteed nationwide. If men could get pregnant, getting an abortion would be as easy and inexpensive as visiting a dentist. Abortion has been an American woman’s Constitutional Right for decades, and reliable birth control was, in terms of facilitating a young couple’s pursuit of happiness, the greatest invention of the 20th Century. On these points there is no dispute. Of course people have the right to cling to their illusions, delusions, superstitions, fears, phobias and bigotries. But that doesn’t give them the right to invent facts. And such people — the loudest minority — have absolutely no right to make laws for the rest of us to live by.

The Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of American Ideal — human equality equals human liberation — and those willing to bend a knee to those striving to subvert the American Ideal are nobody’s friends. Having betrayed the best in our human heritage, they are doomed to rattle the bars of cages of their own making. They can be pitied or shunned but never followed. That way lies doom.

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Rainy Windows (click to enlarge)

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OUR VERY REAL IDIOCRACY

Editor,

I recently watched the movie Idiocracy for the second time. In the movie, two characters are accidentally sent to the United States of America of 500 years in the future. It is the most dystopian place imaginable.

Because of the reluctance of intelligent people to have children and the enthusiasm of dumb people to have as many as possible, the United States has deteriorated into a hedonistic paradise of junk-food eating, television watching, egotistical, uninformed morons—“a dumbed-down world of mediocrity in which stupidity and sloth are the dominant human traits and anyone who uses sentences instead of monosyllabic grunts to communicate is considered ‘faggy’.”

In Idiocracy, the President of the United States is a former smackdown champ (Terry Crews), who rules over a country “that has grown so stupid as to know nothing about growing crops or dealing with garbage.” The Department of Agriculture has been sold to a sports drink manufacturer: crops are irrigated with the sports drink instead of water. We are appalled to listen to the President Camacho’s State of the Something address:

—Shit. I know shit's bad right now, with all that starving bullshit, and the dust storms, and we are running out of french fries and burrito coverings.

But I got a solution.

 

Then the camera draws back and we see that the President is reading the speech from a teleprompter.

At least President Camacho can read. And his entourage consists of mostly beautiful women of all races and colors. He is friendly and charming—and he seems to actually care about his fellow citizens.

Idiocracy’s United States of 2500 is dystopian—but then again, it’s not very different from the United States of 2018. Terry Crews’ President Comacho would be exponentially preferable to the moronic jerk that now occupies the White House. And I know at least four people who scribble comments in the AVA daily who would comfortably fit right into a dumbed-down world of mediocrity in which stupidity and sloth are the dominant human traits and people communicate with monosyllabic grunts.

Louis S. Bedrock

Roselle, New Jersey

 

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