- Willits Murder-Suicide
- Expect Rain
- B Circles
- Supes v PPPP
- Rescue Horses
- Help Flynn
- fLake County
- Suggested Hike
- CJ Portland
- Street People
- Murder Mountain
- Beach Dog
- Caltrans Work
- Yesterday's Catch
- Wall Topography
- Xmas Lights
- Life Game
- Coffee Watch
- On Working
- Skin Color
- SF Attire
- Sjursen Interview
- Bargain Fence
- PG&E Proposal
- Marilyn Etiquette
- Solomon Interview
TRIPLE HOMICIDE MURDER-SUICIDE IN WILLITS
Three people were found dead in a Willits home Thursday afternoon in a suspected homicide. The Sheriff’s Office said it received a report from a neighbor who saw a large amount of blood on the floor after looking through the window of a home in the 5000 block of Hearst-Willits Road. Deputies responded and found the bodies, along with “evidence suggesting the incident was homicide related." The Sheriff’s Office has not released any additional information.
UPDATED PRESS RELEASE (01-11-2019):
Sheriff's Detectives have concluded scene investigations which included interviews and collection of physical evidence at the residence located in the 5000 block of Hearst Willits Road in Willits, California.
Sheriff's Detectives were able to determine the incident was the result of a murder-suicide wherein a 49 year-old male killed a 32 year-old female and 8 year-old male before committing suicide.
The murder-suicide was accomplished by use of a firearm determined to be stolen during a burglary of a nearby neighbor's residence (the caller requesting the welfare check).
The male adult and female adult were identified as having a romantic relationship to include being the biological parents of the male child.
The Sheriff's Office has no documented domestic violence case involving the individuals outside of this specific case.
The identities of the deceased individuals are not being released at this time due to the pending notification of the next of kin. Forensic autopsies are scheduled for 01-15-2019.
Anyone who might have information that they think would be beneficial to Sheriff's Detectives are urged to contact the Sheriff's Office Tip-Line at 707-234-2100 or the WE-TIP anonymous crime reporting hotline at 800-732-7463.
RAIN WILL RETURN THIS AFTERNOON, heaviest south of Cape Mendocino. Occasional light rain will be possible Sunday and Monday, mainly in Mendocino county. More significant rain is expected across the area starting Tuesday. (National Weather Service)
DURING TUESDAY’S discussion of legal service support for the Measure B Mental Health Facilities committee, Supervisor John McCowen noted that “quite a bit of time has gone by and not much has been decided yet.” The Board of Supervisors agreed to let County Counsel Katherine Elliott sit in on Measure B deliberations without explicitly charging Measure B for it. Ms. Elliott would then advise the Board as the B meetings go on (and on) if additional or outside counsel will be necessary at separate expense.
But the attitude expressed by Supervisor Williams that Ms. Elliott’s presence will somehow “make sure the Measure B Committee stays on track and does not veer off course” shows that Williams has not been paying much attention to either the County Counsel’s office or the Measure B meetings. Ms. Elliott’s main contributions to the Measure B meetings so far have been either statements of the obvious or an opinion that she didn’t have an opinion.
County CEO Carmel Angelo agreed that “at times it seems like we’re going in circles and we’re not making decisions and we’re not taking action,” adding, erroneously, that “at every meeting we spin around and it comes back to legal advice.” Angelo emphasized that the Committee is “not the Behavioral Health Advisory Committee,” implying that the group drifts off into Mental Health Service questions, instead of whatever Measure B is supposed to address (facilities). But a lawyer on hand isn't likely to accelerate progress or add to the clarity of the discussion, because that’s the function of the Committee chair, not a lawyer.
Actually, the delays stem more from a lack of preparation from the members of the over-large B advisory board (Eleven of them plus a clerk, and now a lawyer) who are gabby, not very articulate and who don’t arrive with thought-out positions or draft proposals. Most of them seem to want the County to a) implement the widely admired Kemper report — which someone could simply propose directly item by item — or b) turn crisis management facilities over to Camille Schrader’s private mental health service company and wash their hands of it.
The legal question that has gone unanswered is what requirements would apply to remodeling old Howard Hospital — and Ms. Elliott has already made it clear that she won’t issue an opinion on that until somebody formally proposes to remodel it — turning the issue into a chicken-egg question that can only be resolved if Elliott herself steps up and issues a legitimate opinion (unlikely), or finds a competent outside attorney whose credibility is solid enough to allow the Measure B committee to decide what they want to do with Old Howard Hospital. Since this will take yet more months to resolve, it looks like Sheriff Allman and his committee are in for a lot more of “going in circles … not making decisions … and not taking action.”
THE ONLY RAY OF HOPE seems to be that newly seated supervisors Williams and Haschack are now quite aware of how much money is going to locked out-of-county board and care facilities for conservatorships and other mental health services, and they have made it clear that they want to start cutting that outlay back and spend more of the money on in-county facilities that don't presently exist. But will they actively push for it? Time will tell. (Mark Scaramella)
THE SUPERVISOR VS. THE POT PERMIT PROGRAM PROCESS
(Supervisor loses — for now.)
Newly seated suit Fifth District supervisor Ted Williams got a taste of how hard it is to get a direct answer out of some county staffers — particularly the pot permit people — last Tuesday when he asked newly hired pot program manager Sean Connell to define some of their terms and also explain what's taking so long to process the pot grower permits.
Like the baffle-gabbing helping professional officials, the pot permit people tend to reply with punishing streams of vague filibuster instead of simply answering the question in hopes that if they drone on long enough the Supervisor will give up. Unfortunately, stream of consciousness-style speech works most of the time.
Williams: What is the most common reason for permits being in review status?
Connell: The under review status is a combination of a multitude of different areas where it could be whether it’s initially at the first onset in the Agriculture Department or as we have referred it out to other agencies -- being our Planning and Building, going through our property protocol. That's where you're getting that capture of in review, it is somewhere in the chain of review that is necessary for us to be able to issue out a permit.
Williams: Okay. ‘In queue’ the application has not yet been assigned to an agricultural inspector, 190. It seems like it's been stuck somewhere around that number. What would it take to assign all those applications?
Cannabis program administrator Chevon Jones: Essentially because the volume of literal paperwork has been so great, particularly at the end of last year’s close of our application process we have a bit of a backlog. What we tend to do is not assign a location to an inspector until all the documents have been uploaded into our system. Over the winter break the primary cannabis administrator was able to increase that to about 100. So at the end of this month when we return to the Board you will see that there is a significant change there because essentially we have been playing catch up.
Williams: Are there any staff recommendations on how we can process the queue faster? I would like to hear, What can the supervisors do to make sure we are getting everyone into the system where the application is kicked out and not stuck in a holding pattern where month after month we see a large number still in review.
Connell: We are currently doing the work in order to provide that. We are going to — we think that we are going to address that much more on the 22nd [of January] when we can have enough time to comprehensively understand all the aspects of that and I do plan on bringing this to you and this board on 22nd of January.
. . .
Williams: I see that some other counties, Santa Barbara and Humboldt County come to mind, they seem to be racing past us in terms of revenue generated for their counties and applications approved. What is the key difference? What are we doing that is making this process so slow? This is not a criticism in any way of staff, I'm just wondering what we can do to enable you? If the applications are coming in in paper form, do we need to add a digital submission only with some validation so you are not having to do that at a late stage? I would like to know what those hurdles are and I would like to hear from staff what we can do to help you.
Jones: There are a number of suggestions and recommendations that would help sort of change the tempo at which we review applications. [But, of course, none were mentioned.] But I want to go back to your question regarding why are we so far behind comparatively to the other counties? I would like to offer the board a bit of a snapshot of the way in which this panel of people have collaborated and engaged with our additional other agencies and stakeholders in order to make sure that we are all on the same page. Our strategy has always been to know, for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing and to create those relationships, develop those pathways, and get to the point where we are now where we are conducting regular multiagency inspections and we are receiving and also issuing recommendations to other agencies in order for us to all have the same idea of what's going on and then our primary focus because one of the things that we learned in 2017 was that if you don't doublecheck you may issue something that later turns out not to be the true or correct information from a different agency. A part of it has been parsing through the documents we are receiving from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and we are receiving from the state Water Board because all of those programs can change as well and so part of what I have observed in Mendocino County is the utmost in absolute care in order to make sure that when we issue a permit it is properly issued and it will stay issued and active. So I cannot speak for Humboldt or Sonoma County but I can tell you that we know what's going on on our grows. We know what our applicants need and we are working to make it to where we are moving them into their state process because ultimately that's how they move forward, so I think what I would offer you is we have worked very hard to make sure that the playground is level and equal and now you will see us in general moving forward because we have the correct information and I think for a very long time we did not and it was because all the agencies continue to change and the cultivators gave it their best, they have done as much as they can in order to keep up, but it has taken a couple of years to be squared away and you'll see all of these numbers changing over the next few months, I guarantee it.
“Guaranteeing” that “these numbers will change over the next few months” is not much of a realistic goal or objective which Ms. Jones could be held to. Given the history, the January 22 update is likely to be more of the same kind of stagnation we’ve seen for the last two years now. (Mark Scaramella)
JUST A REPLY TO TED WILLIAMS POST in regards to the 19 rescue horses.
The situation we are in today with the 19 rescue horses didn’t happen overnight. It is an issue that has been neglected by the county for years. The county has a duty under the letter of law to care for neglected animals. This burden is offset by the ability to collect fees. Fees has been successfully collected even after appeal in many counties. If memory serves me correct in another county on one such occasion $230k was collected for two sheep and one goat. In addition to being reimbursed it is a strong deterrent to others.
Years ago the Sheriff’s department was in charge and when they collected an animal it would go into a foster care situation with the people caring for the animal getting about $45 a month. Hay was about $10 a bail then so it would be $100 a month at today's rate. I would guess the county is paying $250 a month per horse today which if I’m correct would be a good price when you take into account the cost of doing business and all the extra time meeting with vets and potential new owners. But the old system of locals fostering horses was terminated. This termination was not done gracefully. The county had animosity towards the caretakers. I don’t recall if this happened under the Sheriff’s watch or Animal Control because there was a changing of the guard back then. When Animal Control was in charge Mr. Denoyer of Westport had his horses taken away. If I recall there were 36 of them. Volunteers rallied to take care of the horses and the county sat on their hands. We had a big meeting to try to get the county to do its job. They dug their heels in so that was the last straw. I notified them of their duty and that by law they had to have a plan in place. I wasn’t asking for them to take 36 horses; I was asking them for a plan. They said they were looking into making a plan. But could offer little help. I said I have had enough and will no longer assist the county in horse rescue. Mind you I never took a penny from the county. I pointed around the room and asked the other horse owners whom had been rescuing and placing horses for decades if they would help the county in the future. Unanimously NO was the answer. We said the ball is in your court you are on your own with future horse rescue and foster care. This is why the horses are not in foster care and are in a professional stable. Care of an equine is very expensive and can go on for years. I have seen many horses live between 30 and 40 years. Placing these horses is difficult because there are so many more rescue horses now that California is a no slaughter state, the number of horse owners has severely declined and the tax write offs are no longer available like they were in years past. Horse owners who neglect animals are not being held accountable criminally and are not being asked to take responsibility financially for their actions. Moving Mr. Denoyer’s horses was difficult because there was a new huge diesel flatbed, like the lumber yards use, loaded with hay blocking access to the starving horses. Now the DA, who was gung ho to prosecute, died and I don’t know how the next DA handled the case. But there was hurt feelings from the volunteers because the county let some valuable breeding horses go back to Mr. Denoyer. To make a long story short the county now seems to have a plan. But this plan is without community support. I wish them well.
Attorney James King
GEORGE HOLLISTER OBJECTS:
"Unlike the unorganized marijuana business, the in-County wine people jealously guard what they assume are their political perquisites,"
Really? Did the wine industry literally take over the community political forums in the last Supervisor race? The marijuana business has been politically organized since it's inception. And you know that. What did the last four 5th District supervisors, and now this one, all have in common? Black market pot. Was that some accident? Take black market pot money, and the people it supported, out of the political equation in Mendocino County what would have been different here in the last 40 years? Quite a bit.
All thanks to President Nixon, and his “War On Drugs.”
ED REPLY: I meant in the land use sense. I doubt if I complained about a pot garden in my neighborhood the entire dope brigade would turn out in court to support the garden, besides which, George, when's the last time you heard of a "liberal" supervisor even whispering a criticism of the wine industry, although the wine industry has negatively affected Mendocino County every which way. 75 years ago we had a real economy in Mendocino County consisting of timber and lumber, fishing, sheep, cattle, and a little tourism. Now we have dope, booze, tourism, big box stores, government. We've gone steadily backwards.
FLYNN’S GOFUNDME PAGE
To the AVA readership at large, and fans of the Stoney Lonesome and Flynn Washburne in particular:
I am going back to rehab — rather a longer term and more serious place than the cuddle party passing for treatment here, to accommodate the robust and persuasive monkey astride my aft parts trying to kill me.
I have established a GoFundMe page trying to raise $1000 to handle some debt and bills while I am gone, and while I hate to beg, I’m asking for your help, in whatever amount you feel comfortable with, and I thank you in advance for your assistance.
Looking for a new hiking spot in 2019? Check out the ridge top trial at Mill Creek Park. No matter what time of year you visit, you will appreciate the breathtaking views of the Ukiah Valley! #hiking #trails #millcreekpark #mendocinocounty #visitmendocino
SHOUT OUT to all my old friends in the Anderson Valley and Ukiah from Chris CJ Jones. I've moved from Eugene, Oregon to Portland, Oregon where I live in the downtown Portland area called the Pearl District.
A VIDEO CIRCULATING among local voyeurs shows a homeless woman defecating at the door of a brightly illuminated Ukiah business. Since she's not identified no one can say for sure if she's homeless, but in general form and demeanor she looks homeless and not young. Whatever her housing status and access to modern bathroom facilities, most of us agree that defecating anywhere in public goes into the big book of aberrant behavior. This particular portrait of aberrant behavior has been circulated as one more visual argument for somehow, someway, getting the homeless and their depressing behavior off the streets. It's bad for them, bad for public morale.
MENDOCINO COUNTY is spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year to rein in the gamut of socially unacceptable and self-destructive behavior whether it occurs in public places or not. Most of that $20 mil pays for helping professionals, many of whom appeared at a public meeting to denounce the Marbut Report commissioned by the Supervisors, a solid indication that the County's helping pros, who are also getting in the way of the Sheriff's Measure B mental health proposals, are a primary obstacle to homeless solutions.
ASSUMING the Supervisors have been resuscitated with the two new additions to their board, we can only hope that at long last homelessness in Mendocino County can be addressed in realistic ways, beginning with the full activation of Marbut's suggestions which, boiled down, said, "Full care for people with roots here, a coupla free sandwiches for lifestyle transients and nothing more. The freebies are encouraging a lotta bums to hang around Fort Bragg and Ukiah." I suggest that the County fund room vouchers for the local homeless at Ukiah's down market motels, and people without local roots encouraged to keep on moving outtahere.
BUT, BUT, BUT… I thought you were a liberal! What's liberal about allowing a hundred or so full time drunks and drug heads to live on the streets? And you say, "Well, why should we pay for rooms for drunks and dope heads?" And I say, "Because it's better to have them drunk and loaded inside a motel room than wandering around defecating in the streets and on the banks of local creeks and the Russian River." And cheaper than shoving $20 million a year at an apparatus in the way of homeless solutions. One more time: Persons unwilling or unable to care for themselves can't live on the streets. I think that's a consensus opinion. The Supes, and Ukiah's somnolent city council, have got to act in practical ways to get the homeless inside.
BTW, many of the homeless who present the most distressing visuals are already on government assistance via SSI. And they qualify for food stamps. They can pay towards their own care and maintenance. It's not as if the County has to pick up the entire fiscal load. But when you factor in all the money in police time — the County's law enforcement and the staff at the County Jail are presently doing much of the heavy social services lifting — and ancillary expense that goes into dealing with a very small group of people that Marbut estimated at about 300 Countywide, it shouldn't remain impossible to get them settled indoors.
BRIT TABLOID DOES MURDER MOUNTAIN
‘Marijuana mecca known as Murder Mountain: Former hippie commune behind California's Redwood curtain that has 'produced 60% of US weed' for decades became blighted by violence, disappearances and cold-blooded KILLINGS’
BIG RIVER BEACH IN THE RAIN AT MIDNIGHT, WITH SURELY
Surely is my dog. He’s maybe forty pounds, white with big black spots, short hair. He’s supposedly a breed, with a funny name—I’ve lost the papers from the dog pound—he’s supposed to hunt foxes. I got him because our mobs of foxes, skunks and raccoons kept running off with my chickens. It worked. I close the chickens in their wire-mesh run at night, and they peck around the property during the day. The other day, a hawk attacked, and I ran outside to see it engaged in a noisy three-way, the hawk, its intended quarry, the littlest hen and her gallant cock--a kaleidoscope of bursting feathers. No Surely. I guess I forgot to put that in his contract. I shouted, hawk gave up, chickens went into deep hiding, the luxuriant pile of feathers stayed where they were, and things returned to accustomed quiet.
Surely’s named in honor of movie actor/comedian Leslie Nielsen. In 1980’s “Airplane,” a fellow actor says to him, “Surely you can’t be serious.” Nielsen: “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” Nielsen got lot of mileage out of that joke, and my dog owes his name to it. There’s a teensy difference in the sound of the two words, and I stretch and flex my mouth to make it audible, to no particular purpose.
In the negative ions of the beach, in the rain, Surely gets giddy and does some quick spins like he’s chasing his tail, then dashes around, grinning, until he has his joie de vivre under control.
It’s dark. There’s no moon. And, before we left the house, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told me there were three layers of clouds overhead, more than five thousand feet in thickness. Here by the breaking waves, there’s heavy mist. The beam of my headlamp doesn’t go far. It’s dark.
I’m comfortable, layers topped by waterproof clothes, my stout walking staffs to keep me balanced in the sand and drive away any beach-monsters. Surely’s hair is thin. When he shakes the droplets off, I hear his floppy ears slapping the sides of his head. It’s a sound I’m familiar with and part of a little suite of things he does when we’re out in the dark to let me know where he is.
Surely’s a smart dog. I apologize to him often. He should have a boy. It bothers me that he has so much potential for learning and only a distracted old man to teach him stuff and have good times with.
The ocean’s up. Storms out there. The waves lapping up near our feet have bright white collars, in my headlamp beam. There are immense trees on the beach. Winter storms bring lots of them, but these are bigger than usual. There’s a cut redwood tree that looks 150-ish feet long, sawn square at both ends. What happened? How did it get here? It represents thousands of dollars worth of lumber. I could come down with my chainsaw and my stupid little portable mill and get enough lumber to redo every deck in town, but they won’t let you. Dozens of big trees. Park property until the next big storm takes them to another landfall.
I’ve been on this beach after an intense storm drove waves clear under the Highway 1 bridge and took the Catch-a-Canoe shop off its hillside perch and scattered it up and down Big River Beach. There were parts of boats here and there after that one. I stepped on a fiberglass stern transom that said “Have A Nice Day.”
There are no beach-monsters, no seagulls, seals or sea lions. The lions are not out at the buoy, barking at each other. The lights of Mendocino and the near hillsides are lost in the dark mist. Shirley’s and my solitude is complete. No park ranger chides me to keep my dog on a leash.
The periodic cave is gone. Big River Beach is a plastic thing. The river’s thalweg (“tall-veg,” its deepest channel) shifts constantly with changing weather, tides and waves, and, in Mendocino Bay, what was water yesterday is beach today, was beach yesterday is lagoon today. These giant trees are way up on the beach. I can’t recall a recent storm with so much power, but here they are. Mendocino Bay and its shores are fluid, yesterday’s layout completely gone. The cave that opens onto the beach and goes under the headlands is a great feature. Kids delight in it, lovers. Occasionally homeless people sleep in it, not realizing that it might not stay above water, not realizing that sleeping on the beach at night is almost an oxymoron, the dampness being so thorough, inches from the Pacific Ocean. And, often, the cave disappears. Sand transports up and down the coast in the teeth of storms. Combers come in Mendocino Bay, sometimes that look like mountains, that justify that overused word “awesome,” spindrift flying backward off the tops of them, sharks, porpoises, seals and sea lions sometimes visible inside them like bugs in amber, one roller after another, hissing, then thundering. They can plug that big cave tight shut and bury the entrance. Then another storm from a slightly different angle will clean it out in a jiffy, like some giant jovian dentist.
Surely and I proceed in the dark to where Champy and I used to get mussels. Champy, a yellow lab, was the celebrated dog of a busy realtor. Like my Surely, his owner didn’t have the time and youthful energy for such a dog, and Champy was more than content to be your dog-for-a-day, hanging with you while you recreate on the beach and around the village. This particular slab of cliff, quite denuded now, used to have crowds of mussels on it, and—I swear by this—Champy would pull one off with his front teeth, crack open its shell with his back teeth, chew up the mussel and spit out the unwanted calcium. I always laughed and congratulated him when he did this, him unimpressed by my enthusiasm.
That rock is sometimes underwater (hence the mussels) and sometimes above it, so you can sometimes walk around it dryshod and sometimes not. In the mist and rain and dark, I watched the foam collar of incoming waves a bit before I walked around it with Surely. (He’s in no way a “water dog,” and shows no attraction to it, but he is tipsy in this storm of negative ions, and the roaring sea suits his exuberance.)
I grew up around the Atlantic, which, in Maryland summers, gets a hell of a lot warmer than this chilly ocean. It has a more robust “salty” smell than the Pacific here, but the Atlantic’s temporate-zone water is always gray. Here it’s always some shade of blue except around near-shore rocks. Waves break on them and the quick-vanishing white foam streaks the water, which, in that context, is a gorgeous green-marble green. You don’t get that in the Atlantic of Maryland’s latitude.
The ocean has a hundred times more life in it than the land supports, but so strange is this world that Surely and I saw no other live thing as we walked. Doubtless he could smell things; his nose is wondrous, but my dull human senses caught nothing, not a thing. Big River Beach in winter, at night, is like walking into a dream.
(The dog below looks like Surely, only paint the brown parts black.)
CALTRANS DISTRICT 1 ROAD INFORMATION BULLETIN — Mendocino County
As of: Thu, January 10
Route 1 (62/65) - AT&T has been granted a Caltrans Encroachment Permit for utility work from Elm Street to Mill Creek Drive on Friday and Saturday, January 11 and 12. One-way traffic control will be in effect from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Motorists should anticipate 5-minute delays.
Route 1 (75) - Emergency work at Blue Slide Gulch will continue. One-way traffic control will be in effect. Motorists should anticipate 5-minute delays. Route 101 (34.5/39.4) - Emergency work from Reeves Canyon Road to Ridgewood Ranch Road will continue. One-way traffic control will be in effect. Motorists should anticipate 10-minute delays.
Route 101 (67/81) - Pavement work from Steele & Davidson Lane to Bell Springs Road & Road 324 will occur Friday and Saturday, January 11 and 12. One-way traffic control will be in effect 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Motorists should anticipate 10-minute delays.
Route 175 (8.5/9) - Emergency work at Lake County Line will continue. One-way traffic control will be in effect 24 hours a day. Motorists should anticipate 10-minute delays.
Route 271 (17.9) - Bridge work at McCoy Creek Bridge will continue. One-way traffic control will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Motorists should anticipate 10-minute delays.
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 10, 2019
ALFONSO AYALA, Ukiah. Driving without a license, license suspended (for DUI), probation revocation.
MICHAEL BOONE, Ukiah. Disobeying court order.
JASSLYNN CRITCHETT, Clearlake/Ukiah. Disobeying court order, probation revocation.
PATRICK HAFNER, Glenwood Springs, Colorado/Ukiah. Burglary, attempted burglary, stolen property, probation revocation.
DAVID RAMKELAWAN, Ocala, Florida/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
ANTHONY RHUBART, Calpella. Domestic battery.
KIMBERLY RINEHART, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.
MIRA TORRECILLA, Redwood Valley. Domestic battery.
CHAD TURLEY, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
STEVEN VANCLEAVE, Point Arena. Failure to appear.
CHECK THE TOPOGRAPHY
President Donald Trump reveals a very limited comprehension of one of the most salient features of the western United States. Mountain range extensions of the Rockies and Sierra extend into the great ranges in Mexico.
To build a border-hugging wall from El Paso, Texas, construction must begin at 3,740 feet elevation. Once the continental divide has been overcome, the border traverses mostly mountainous terrain rather than flat sandy desert.
Arizona border towns Douglas, 4,006 feet, and Nogales, 3,829 feet, are situated where passage is possible, and that is why they are established ports of entry and already fenced locally. Even in California, the Tecate border town that is 45 miles from the Pacific Ocean is situated in hilly, boulder-strewn terrain.
And a wall east from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico along the north bank of the Rio Grande would cede our shared river possession to Mexico.
The continuous wall that Trump champions is untenable. There can be a rational debate about improving border security but not without guidance from topographers and civil engineers.
To the Editor:
A good friend of mine lost his father a few weeks ago – no, it’s a month ago, now, a month ago – and as one result I can’t bring myself to include in any Holiday invites or thank-you’s or wishes this year the general group hug of “and spouses.”
Because not everyone has “and spouses.” Some people you know have this year or in the past “lost spouses.” Or “divorced spouses,” which can be as bad or worse.
Some people you know are like the two women I know who lost spouses ten years ago and who still grieve with the loss still there behind the pretty eyes, the loss needing only a quietness to draw it to the surface of the green or the black or the brown, the hazel or the blue.
My friend Barbara is like that.
My friend Larry who lost his father a month ago, has a sister-in-law who is like that, also.
They don’t play the American game of Burial very well. They don’t begin to move on less than three hours after getting the news their loved one is dead, the body right there in front of them on the hospital or the emergency room bed, the whitening body in white. They stink at Burial, actually. They hold on with gentle finger tips as if the words loved one and soul-mate and beloved actually mean what the words say: Loved one. Soul-mate. Beloved.
Father. Father of our children. Father of my children. Father of me. The one whose death shocked me to the core, rocked me 9/11 style, brought me down. Blew up in the air a second time, a tenth time in the thirty days. And that dust – that dust – has yet to settle. It hovers in the gentle wind and somehow never quite settles to the ground to become dirt that will not take to the air again with the next well-meaning wind. Dust with weight, enough to hold it down.
And the divorces, the new and old divorces with their diverted dreams and the parenting schedules that if re-purposed could manage the launch of the moon-landing, the entire program, Von Braun V8 rocket to the “one small step for man,” the footprints and the fallen flag still there to this day in the dust of the moon, that piece of the Earth that was blasted free and caught again…caught again in the distance of time.
All around us is the pain of others and ourselves, the reminders in the eyes, that mote in the heart and the blood that collapses the passage, triggers a heart attack of regret and relief, pure emotion, pain and determination, going backward and forward on some imagined path all in an instant.
My friend who lost his father a month ago is reading “On Grief and Grieving,” Kubler-Ross’s new book that follows “On Death and Dying” of years ago.
My friend is dealing with sudden loss, the news an unreality, a thing difficult to understand, a thing to make one say into the phone, “Wait, what? My father is what? Are you sure you….I don’t understand. Wait… Wait…
“Can’t we just go back to last Tuesday? Tuesday a month ago? Tuesday a month ago will be fine. Everything I wanted and lacked last Tuesday a month ago can be put on hold. Cancel wanting anything more. Everything I had Tuesday a month ago: the busy schedule, the lack of sleep, the same guy not showing up for work, the car needing brakes, the bank account being not so much…all that’s suddenly fine.
“Yeah. Last Tuesday a month ago is suddenly fine. In fact, it’s more than fine. It’s suddenly great. OK? OK? Hello?”
That’s what my friend would say about the sudden loss of his father a month ago. What his sister-in-law would say and what my childhood friend would say about the sudden losses of their husbands, one way to go on the path through the suddenness of only years ago.
ART OF DESPAIR
Man is a frivolous and incongruous creature, and perhaps, like a chess player, loves the process of the game, not the end of it.
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground.
NURSING A COFFEE AND WATCHING
Having spent intermittent minutes today watching the complicated dances of a crew of three as they replaced two old electric water heaters with one slightly larger in a closet just off my kitchen. It's a long story, irrelevant here. The image makes a plausible transition to a matching image of the latest in a seemingly endless parade of white men being rushed into retirement or discussing military or political stuff with reporters in a temporarily abandoned hallway in an office building somewhere, all carefully choreographed to make it somehow seem more sensible than it plainly is.
Trying to find the fulcrum of whatever there may be of my grit, it seems somehow more crucial this time to find some way to make an undeniable difference, at least in something modest in whatever days may be left for me. The miasma of stupidity and preposterous 'solutions' is a present day plague as pitiless as any dangerous carnivore when it's hungry. For starters, break out the handcuffs. There's a bunch of us, just nursing our coffees and watching . . .
WHAT ARE WE WORKING FOR?
by Edward Curtin
“One also knows from his letters that nothing appeared more sacred to Van Gogh than work.”
– John Berger, “Vincent Van Gogh,” Portraits
Ever since I was a young boy, I have wondered why people do the kinds of work they do. I sensed early on that the economic system was a labyrinthine trap devised to imprison people in work they hated but needed for survival. It seemed like common sense to a child when you simply looked and listened to the adults around you. Karl Marx wasn’t necessary for understanding the nature of alienated labor; hearing adults declaim “Thank God It’s Friday” spoke volumes.
In my Bronx working class neighborhood I saw people streaming to the subway in the mornings for their rides “into the city” and their forlorn trundles home in the evenings. It depressed me. Yet I knew the goal was to “make it” and move away as one moved “up,” something that many did. I wondered why, when some people had options, they rarely considered the moral nature of the jobs they pursued. And why did they not also consider the cost in life (time) lost in their occupations? Were money, status, and security the deciding factors in their choices? Was living reserved for weekends and vacations?
I gradually realized that some people, by dint of family encouragement and schooling, had opportunities that others never received. For the unlucky ones, work would remain a life of toil and woe in which the search for meaning in their jobs was often elusive. Studs Terkel, in the introduction to his wonderful book of interviews, Working: People Talk About What They Do all Day and How They Feel About What They Do, puts it this way:
This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence – to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations. To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us.
Those words were confirmed for me when in the summer between high school and college I got a job through a relative’s auspices as a clerk for General Motors in Manhattan. I dreaded taking it for the thought of being cooped up for the first time in an office building while a summer of my youth passed me by, but the money was too good to turn down (always the bait), and I wanted to save as much as possible for college spending money. So I bought a summer suit and joined the long line of trudgers going to and fro, down and up and out of the underground, adjusting our eyes to the darkness and light.
It was a summer from hell. My boredom was so intense it felt like solitary confinement. How, I kept wondering, can people do this? Yet for me it was temporary; for the others it was a life sentence. But if this were life, I thought, it was a living death. All my co-workers looked forward to the mid-morning coffee wagon and lunch with a desperation so intense it was palpable. And then, as the minutes ticked away to 5 P.M., the agitated twitching that proceeded the mad rush to the elevators seemed to synchronize with the clock’s movements. We’re out of here!
On my last day, I was eating my lunch on a park bench in Central Park when a bird shit on my suit jacket. The stain was apt, for I felt I had spent my days defiling my true self, and so I resolved never to spend another day of my life working in an office building in a suit for a pernicious corporation, a resolution I have kept.
“An angel is not far from someone who is sad,” says Vincent Van Gogh in the new film, At Eternity’s Gate. For somereason, recently hearing these words in the darkened theater where I was almost alone, brought me back to that summer and the sadness that hung around all the people that I worked with. I hoped Van Gogh was right and an angel visited them from time to time. Most of them had no options.
The painter Julian Schnabel’s moving picture (moving on many levels since the film shakes and moves with its hand-held camera work and draws you into the act of drawing and painting that was Van Gogh’s work) is a meditation on work. It asks the questions: What is work? What is work for? What is life for? Why paint? What does it mean to live? Why do you do what you do? Are you living or are you dead? What are you seeking through your work?
For Vincent the answer was simple: reality. But reality is not given to us and is far from simple; we must create it in acts that penetrate the screens of clichés that wall us off from it. As John Berger writes,
One is taught to oppose the real to the imaginary, as though the first were always at hand and the second, distant, far away. This opposition is false. Events are always to hand. But the coherence of these events – which is what one means by reality – is an imaginative construction. Reality always lies beyond – and this is as true for materialists as for idealists. For Plato, for Marx. Reality, however one interprets it, lies beyond a screen of clichés.
These screens serve to protect the interests of the ruling classes, who devise ways to trap regular people from seeing the reality of their condition. Yet while working can be a trap, it can also be a means of escape. For Vincent working was the way. For him work was not a noun but a verb. He drew and he painted as he does in this film to “make people feel what it is to feel alive.” To be alive is to act, to paint, to write. He tells his friend Gauguin that there’s a reason it’s called the “act of painting, the “stroke of genius.” For him painting is living and living is painting.
The actual paintings that he made are almost beside the point, as all creative artists know too well. It is the doing wherein living is found. The completed canvas, essay, or book are what is done. They are nouns, still lifes, just as Van Gogh’s paintings have become commodities in the years since his death, dead things to be bought and sold by the rich in a culture of death where they can be hung in mausoleums isolated from the living. It is appropriate that the film ends with Vincent very still in his coffin as “viewers” pass him by and avidly now desire his paintings that encircle the room that they once rejected. The man has become a has-been and the funeral parlor the museum.
“Without painting I can’t live,” he says earlier. He didn’t say without his paintings.
“God gave me the gift for painting,” he said. “It’s the only gift he gave me. I am a born painter.” But his gift has begotten gifts that are still-births that do not circulate and live and breathe to encourage people to find work that will not, “by its very nature, [be] about violence,” as Terkel said. His works, like people, have become commodities, brands to be bought and sold in a world where the accumulation of wealth is accomplished by the infliction of pain, suffering, and death on untold numbers of victims, invisible victims that allow the wealthy to maintain their bad-faith innocence. This is often achieved in the veiled shadows of intermediaries such as stock brokers, tax consultants, and financial managers; in the liberal and conservative boardrooms of mega-corporations or law offices; and in the planning sessions of the world’s great museums. Like drone killings that distance the killers from their victims, this wealth accumulation allows the wealthy to pretend they are on the side of the angels. It’s called success, and everyone is innocent as they sing, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go.”
“It is not enough to tell me you worked hard to get your gold,” said Henry Thoreau, Van Gogh’s soul-mate. “So does the Devil work hard.”
A few years ago there was a major exhibit of Van Gogh’s nature paintings at the Clark Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts – “Van Gogh and Nature” – that aptly symbolized Van Gogh in his coffin. The paintings were exhibited encased in ornate gold frames. Van Gogh in gold. Just perfect. I am reminded of a scene in At Eternity’s Gate where Vincent and Gauguin are talking about the need for a creative revolution – what we sure as hell need – and the two friends stand side by side with backs to the camera and piss into the wind.
But pseudo-innocence dies hard. Not long ago I was sitting in a breakfast room in a bed-and-breakfast in Houston, Texas, sipping coffee and musing myself awake. Two men came in and the three of us got to talking. As people like to say, they were nice guys. Very pleasant and talkative, in Houston on business. Normal Americans. Stressed. Both were about fifty years old with wives and children.
One sold drugs for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies that is known for its very popular anti-depressant drug and its aggressive sales pitches. He travelled a triangular route from Corpus Christi to Austin to Houston and back again, hawking his wares. He spoke about his work as being very lucrative and posing no ethical dilemmas. There were so many depressed people in need of his company’s drugs, he said, as if the causes of their depression had nothing to do with inequality and the sorry state of the country as the rich rip off everyone else. I thought of recommending a book to him – Deadly Medicines and OrganizedCrime: How big pharma has corrupted health care by Peter Gotzsche – but held my tongue, appreciative as I was of the small but tasteful fare we were being served and not wishing to cause my companions dyspepsia. This guy seemed to be trying to convince me of the ethical nature of the way he panned gold, while I kept thinking of that quote attributed to Mark Twain: “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”
The other guy, originally from a small town in Nebraska and now living in Baton Rouge, was a former medevac helicopter pilot who had served in the 1stGulf War. He worked in finance for an equally large oil company. His attitude was a bit different, and he seemed sheepishly guilty about his work with this company as he told me how shocked he was the first time he saw so many oil, gas, and chemical plants lining the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and all the oil and chemicals being shipped down the river. So many toxins that reminded him of the toxic black smoke rising from all the bombed oil wells in Iraq. Something about it all left him uneasy, but he too said he made a very good “living” and that his wife also worked for the oil company back home.
My childish thought recurred: when people have options, why do they not choose ethical work that makes the world more beautiful and just? Why is money and so-called success always the goal?
Having seen At Eternity’s Gate, I now see what Van Gogh was trying to tell us and Julian Schnabel conveys through this moving picture. I see why these two perfectly normal guys I was breaking bread with in Houston are unable to penetrate the screen that lies between them and reality. They have never developed the imaginative tools to go beyond normal modes of perception and conception. Or perhaps they lack the faith to dare, to see the futility and violence in what they are working for and what their companies’ products are doing to the world. They think of themselves as hard at work, travelling hither and yon, doing their calculations, “making their living,” and collecting their pay. It’s their work that has a payoff in gold, but it’s not working in the sense that painting was for Vincent, a way beyond the screen. They are mesmerized by the spectacle, as are so many Americans. Their jobs are perfectly logical and allow them a feeling of calm and control.
But Vincent, responding to Gauguin, a former stock broker, when he urged him to paint slowly and methodically, said, “I need to be out of control. I don’t want to calm down.” He knew that to be fully alive was to be vulnerable, to not hold back, to always be slipping away, and to be threatened with annihilation at any moment. When painting, he was intoxicated with a creative joy that belies the popular image of him as always depressed. “I find joy in sorrow,” he said, echoing in a paradoxical way Albert Camus, who said, “I have always felt that I lived on the high seas, threatened, at the heart of a royal happiness.” Both rebels, one in paint, the other in words: “I rebel: therefore we exist,” was how Camus put it, expressing the human solidarity that is fundamental to genuine work in our ephemeral world. Both nostalgic in the present for the future, creating freedom through vision and disclosing the way for others.
And although my breakfast companions felt safe in their calmness on this side of the screen, it was an illusion. The only really calm ones are corpses. And perhaps that’s why when you look around, as I did as a child, you see so many of the living dead carrying on as normal.
“I paint to stop thinking and feel I am a part of everything inside and outside me,” says Vincent, a self-described exile and pilgrim.
If we could make working a form of such painting, a path to human solidarity become a mode of rebelling, what a wonderful world it might be.
That, I believe, is what working is for.
(Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/ Courtesy, CounterPunch.org.)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY #1
I don’t put a lot of stock in skin color given that we were sold out by people whose skin color is white. I’ll take someone who makes common cause with me regardless of pigmentation. But that’s just me.
There’s this Korean girl that plays the Sibelius Violin Concerto. The first time I saw it it grabbed me by the throat. In this vid she’s 15 but plays like a 40 year old that survived the Russian Front. I’ll take her, she plays my music, and I’ll take people that subscribe to what I hold dear and I don’t give a shit about their color. These folk preserve what my European forefathers created. Indulge me and give a listen, especially around the 4 minute mark if you don’t want to bother with the musical foreplay: youtube.com/watch?v=tsEDH93OAfg
PHIL BALDWIN WRITES: Fantastic, Vital Interview with Major Danny Sjursen. Friends, I believe I've sent some of you articles by Danny Sjursen. Here's Jeff Blankfort's important interview with this active duty Mideast combat vet and former history prof @ West Point, his alma mater. Please devote thirty minutes to this interview; if you do you'll agree this fellow should be considered by TG & BS as a top advisor. Phil (Most of you know one another, but the BCC protects each from ending up in email thread of response.)
BARGAIN BORDER RUNNING FENCE?
THIS SOUNDS like a really good idea, especially in comparison to all expensive but not necessarily effective proposals coming out of PG&E. In an order, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco also proposed that PG&E be required to reinspect its grid and "remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines."
WHEN THE COOK IS OUT, I get up early and fix Arthur’s breakfast. I think a man should never have to fix his own meals. I’m very old-fashioned that way. I also don’t think a man should carry a woman’s belongings, like her high-heeled shoes or her purse or whatever. I might put something in his pocket, like a comb, but I don’t think anything should be visible.
— Marilyn Monroe, 1960
INTERVIEW WITH NORMAN SOLOMON
Norman Solomon is a leading thought leader, journalist, author, activist, and grassroots organizer.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fduZ3ObiZAk