Off the Record (June 5, 2019)

BARBARA HOWE, head of Mendo Public Health, has received her walking papers. The highly respected Ms. Howe was summarily dismissed last week in the now familiar Give me your keys and leave massacre style we’ve often seen in Mendocino County. Ms. Howe was given ’16 minutes,’ we understand, to clear out. Dr. Gary Pace has resigned in protest. 

Barbara Howe, Dr. Gary Pace

A READER NOTES: “Of course there’s a story underneath this no-doubt-sordid-action, and it brings to mind others (Diane Curry for one) who have been abruptly forced out. The allied resignation of Dr. Pace speaks to the wrong that has been done here. It’s yet another dictatorial act by Carmel Angelo that harms the functioning of the County workforce. It’s a shameful thing, and one wonders how long the BOS will continue to allow it to happen. It’s the ‘highly respected, long-time employees” who somehow keep the County going through all manner of mistakes and misdeeds by upper management. I wonder if Ms. Howe would offer an interview to the AVA about what really happened here. More folks who leave need to speak-out very clearly about what goes on beneath the surface of County government’.”

MS. HOWE has not only been summarily dismissed from her position as head of Mendo Public Health, she has now been legally restrained from contacting Tammy Moss-Chandler, boss at Mendo Health and Human Services. What the heck is going on? We'll have a look at the TRO and report back.

AND DON’T forget Alan "The Kid" Flora who was also disappeared. I don't understand this kind of management. These people work for the county for years only to be summarily dismissed like they are criminals. I remember when present DA David Eyster got the Friday afternoon heave-ho from then-DA Susan Massini, another person with Liz Borden impulses. Eyster may have even been herded out at gunpoint, but whether his exit was that dramatic I can't remember. Over here in Boonville, a local woman with many years of faithful service at our Health Center was not only suddenly fired but relieved of her office keys and marched out into the parking lot where the hatchet lady watched until the suddenly non-personed former employee had driven off. The whole process took about five minutes, and the offed lady had been at the Center for years. An irate crowd appeared at the next meeting of the Center's zombie-like board of trustees to demand answers for the humiliatingly cruel firing of the popular employee. The trustees, mute, just stared back at the audience. (The trustees were all liberals, of course.) It was positively eerie. But wronged people mostly go quietly, and this kind of thing is routine anymore because the wronged can be permanently ruined for future employment if they don't go quietly. I'm never surprised when a worker bee re-appears at his job site and shoots up the place. Should Ms. Howe appeal to the Supervisors for fair play? Three of them are tethered so tight to CEO Angelo's apron strings their gonads have turned into their eyeballs. Haschak and Williams, I would think, might at least raise an eyebrow or two at the sudden knife in Barbara Howe's back. Dr. Pace's protest resignation should mean something, too. He's a sound, serious guy who wouldn't do something like this unless Ms. Howe's firing wasn't very, very unfair.

BTW, the mention of Massini and Eyster never fails to remind me of what would be a fairly major scandal any place other than here in Amnesia County, but during Massini's wild tenure as DA a couple of crooks burned the heart out of civic Fort Bragg in one night of arson fires. That one night in 1987 the old Piedmont Hotel, the Fort Bragg Library and Ten Mile Court were burned to the ground. The tiny FB police department did truly excellent work in pointing the FBI and the ATF straight at the perps. But....But never so much as an arrest of the low-level boys who did the torching from where the feds could, and perhaps did, work their way up to the people responsible; the wealthy crooks who commissioned the arsons were never touched. The nearly 40 boxes of collected evidence, including all the federal investigations, went to DA Massini for what everyone assumed would be indictments and prosecutions. Never happened, and then the statute of limitations ran out and, the topper, those 20-some boxes of evidence disappeared. Any other place this kind of thing is not acceptable, but we're here, where you are whatever you say you are, and history starts all over again every day. 

ONE MORE anecdote and I'll put my dentures in their overnight glass and let you go: When the late Norm Vroman succeeded Big Red as DA, he told me I should carry a gun whenever I went to Fort Bragg. "There's some people up there who really don't like you." Norm, I said, there are people in the house next door who really don't like me, but this biz is not a popularity contest. Or shouldn't be. Gun people always assume a gun will protect them in all situations, but assassins almost always have the drop, and by the time you get your gat up and firing you're probably already dead. I did carry a gun to FB, however, whenever I went up there at night, and I always carry one east of Highway 101, north of Willits.

A READER sends along "a reality check" re the impact of CostCo on Ukiah-area businesses. From the Ukiah Co-op newsletter: "Sales for 2018 totaled $15,093,494. For the first time in many years, sales growth for the Co-op was a negative 4.46%. Sales began declining in July when Costco opened. Every department with the exception of the Espresso & Juice Bar, had negative sales in 2018. Sales to Co-op member/owners comprised 75% of total sales. An average of 1,257 customers per day shopped at the Co-op in 2018, a drop of 27 customers per day from 2017."

THE CO-OP employees number 97, 53% of whom are full-time, and "3,766 products carried met our definition of local, including produce."

THE CO-OP has certainly come a long, long way from its shaky beginnings, and certainly should be supported. I stop in for lunch occasionally but I'm going to become a member, which I was many years ago until an unhappy encounter with an officious little pest calling him Yep Harmony (groan), one of those annoying individuals who fairly radiate, "Hit me. I dare you." The Co-op was, in its beginnings, oppressively hippie, i.e., half-assed, arrogant, rude, slovenly, kind of like the MEC if the MEC sold organic carrots. These days, the Co-op is a very nice store, entirely pleasant, efficiently organized and managed.

CHEAP SHOT DEPARTMENT: The Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies have apologized for a 'misleading and offensive' Memorial Day tribute video that featured Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. The video, which was shown on the scoreboard between games during Monday's doubleheader, featured several images of United States armed service members. The footage included a voice over from Ronald Reagan's 1981 inaugural speech in which he warned about American 'adversaries' and 'enemies of freedom' During that portion of the video, AOC's image was seen along with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and deceased former Cuban President Fidel Castro. According to a team statement: 'A pre-produced video... was supposed to be a moving tribute [but] ended with some misleading and offensive editing.’ The team added: 'We're embarrassed we allowed this video to play without seeing it in its entirety first. We unconditionally apologize to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez' 

A READER WRITES: “Today we overheard a cashier in a State Street business in Ukiah say the downtown road repair work is scheduled to begin at the first of the year, block by block, and will take five years to complete. The plan is to change State Street from four lanes to three, one lane in each direction with a passing lane in the center (AKA suicide lane). The sidewalks will be expanded and the septic pipes will be replaced (maybe other plumbing too, not sure). The goal is to recreate the look of Healdsburg and Cloverdale, but the cashier said as neither of those towns had competition with box stores like Ukiah does, he didn't think the new look would be a draw and the mess would probably kill all the small businesses. Also, the cashier said there was no info on how this work would be paid for. Sigh. Why does everything that happens in Mendo go so wrong?”

NPR offered a segment last Wednesday morning featuring Nancy Pelosi lamenting Facebook's refusal to remove a slowed-down visual that made it appear she was drunk. I laughed when I saw it, but I also knew that it was a joke because, I think, like most reasonably informed people, I know it's highly unlikely that Mrs. Pelosi would ever appear drunk for a press conference, and I doubt she ever gets drunk anyway. But, sure, millions of people probably thought the video was true. But here it is, the truth! Ready? People believe what they need to believe. Diogenes may have spent his life looking for an honest man, but he was a one-off and he never found one.

THE CRUEL FACT that an odd character like Zuckerberg controls what millions of people all over the globe see or don't see is simply one more sign of the looming apocalypses. Plural. I think any effort to control what people can see or read is always a step towards the mandatory goose step. Of course some things obviously ought to be prohibited, and there is an international consensus on that — snuff films, child porn, animal torture, etc. But Russian meddling or Pelosi portrayed as loaded, and almost everything else, true or untrue, should be green-lighted. (The Rooskies can't fool me!) Anyway, if you can't more or less accurately decode the world around you, well, look what's happened. As the sage said, We're in a race between education and catastrophe, and catastrophe probably has an insurmountable lead.

RANDOM FLITS across a fragged mind screen. The Grand Jury's irrefutably thorough analysis of the severe and perhaps irreversible dysfunction at the top of Mendo's leadership will be absorbed by roughly the same number of people who follow the Supervisors — maybe 30 people total. Few people know or care what County government does, which is why it's as extravagantly awry as it is at the Supervisor-CEO-department head level. 

BUT it's not fair to CEO Carmel Angelo to blame the dysfunction solely on her. Trained as a nurse, it was Angelo’s willingness to wield a lethal scalpel as director of Health and Human Services that got her the boss job she’s held since March of 2010. Angelo inherited a Board of Supervisors with at least two crazy people sitting on it, succeeded by boards also with minorities of more or less functioning 5150s on them. And there has been constant turnover in the County workforce, as workers, when they get some experience, flee for jurisdictions where they can make a living. The Supervisors and department heads giving themselves fat raises while stiffing line workers serves nicely as a metaphor for the leadership's priorities — themselves. 

THE PRESENT BOARD represents the first glimmers of competence and accountability in 30 years, and that hope for more or less capable functioning is housed in new Supes Williams and Haschak with, perhaps, Gjerde joining Williams and Haschak to bring us semblance of true leadership. 

THE LIB'S FAITH in the oracular Robert Mueller is touching, but entirely misplaced. Every time he says or writes something, Wolf Blitzer spins in his big chair in the Situation Room, interpreting Mueller's always self-servingly cryptic pronouncements as grounds for impeachment, reading Mueller like a psychiatric ink blot. Trump is not going to be impeached because impeachment requires both houses of Congress, and Republicans control one of them. The Democrats are screeching impeachment constantly because they don't have any real politics of their own — no ideas, no programs other than continued service to the comforts of the people inside the bubble, not to mention the obvious fact that Trump is their fault in the first place. As I've said before, Trump is actually a perfect fit for the insane culture we have going here — infantile to debauched. The Democrats will put up Biden, the male Hillary, and lose to him again. The candidates assembled this weekend in Frisco came bounding on stage yelling like they were leading a high school pep rally. These people are an alternative to Trump?

PROFESSOR CASH AND CARRY. An academic named David Garrow won prizes for a Martin Luther King biography and, presumably, made himself a big pot of dough. He's back after another big pot of dough with a Brit-published story on King's sex life, a sure fire bestseller in these times and, not really news. We've known for years that J. Edgar Hoover hounded King for years, secretly taping his private life and circulating those tapes to insider circles of elected racists in our doomed nation's capitol. Hoover kept his job in the political police he created by blackmailing prominent people, or attempting to blackmail them. King, a genuinely great man, ignored Hoover's attempt to humiliate him with sex tapes, and Hoover's suggestion to King that King commit suicide. And here we are fifty years later with the FBI held up as the last word in integrity!

BACK IN THE EARLY 1980s my late brother Hugh Scaramella spent his last three years as an attorney working in Delano, California, in the god-forsaken southern San Juaquin Valley, for a legal aid nonprofit group called "California Rural Legal Assistance." Most of his time was spent dealing with minor paperwork brought to his desk by farmworkers who were mostly illiterate and non-English speaking. He wrote responses to overdue bills notices, mediated landlord-tenant disputes, filed the occasional workplace safety complaint, or offered procedural advice for small claims court appearances.

I recently came across the following impressionistic prose poem which my brother wrote during his first year in Delano:

‘Delano, The Pits’

Delano, Delano, full of people barely alive, struggling to survive, hoping for a break or giving up hope and just existing, hoping for death, eating, walking, sleeping, any sign of life.


Nothing coming forth, no art, no music, no sweet touch; tired faces, forlorn looks, lines at the unemployment office, hard fieldwork, carbohydrates, hot sun, contention, tension, fear and unknowing. Filipino brothers, Chicanos and their big cars and their big families working for big agribusiness. Car washes all around. The drive to Bakersfield, 35 miles away is somewhat of an escape, but to what?

Delano, where survival is the goal — but for what purpose?

(via Mark Scaramella)

WEEKEND NEWS feasted on another mass shooting, but for the feel good segment the Chuckle Buddies like to wrap up their catastrophic visual segments with featured the eight winners of the National Spelling Bee, the first tie since the bogus contest began. It's bogus because the little savants get long lists of the mostly obscure words they'll be spelling in advance, which they duly memorize without having the slightest notion of how to use them in sensible context. It reminds me of John Milton teaching his daughters Latin and Greek pronunciations so they could read to him, but prohibiting them from learning what the languages meant.

ON THE SUBJECT of insanely child-focused parents, the other day at a little kids' baseball game — both my grandchildren are participants — most of the parents were recording every at bat of their little prodigies, with one guy yelling at his kid, "Remember, Bobby, five bucks if you hit the ball into the grass." 

THE POINT ARENA City Council has approved conversion of the derelict Sea Shell Inn as a cannabis products manufacturing and distribution center. All this maneuvering around pot legalization, or quasi-legalization, reminds me of the build-up to Tulip Mania — huge investment, big crash.

PETALUMA'S Kenilworth Junior High School has issued a yearbook recall because four student pictures depicted 8th graders flashing white power hand signals. White power hand signals? First I’ve heard. It’s an upside-down OK sign. Given that the offenders are 8th graders they probably had no idea what they were doing other than it was sure to concern whatever adult who recognized it. I didn't, but I remember when male children considered it mondo boffo to get away with a surreptitious Boont Salute (middle finger).

BOONVILLE has a couple of guys who fly Confederate flags from their vehicles, the symbol to most of us representing treason and slavery, and to most of us only slightly less offensive than swastikas. 

ON THURSDAY MORNING I learned that KZYX is celebrating its 30th birthday. I don't expect to be breaking out a bottle of champagne but, as a grudging member most of that time, when the girl-ish voice asked listeners for "favorite" memories I thought immediately to the time Judi Bari, having mobilized every, uh, “activist” in the county, bull rushed the studio’s front door and took over the mike. As a veteran of many demos over the years, that one was totally hilarious and great fun, and definitely one for KZYX’s big book of bummers, er, memories.


[1] Changing weather patterns

Trade wars

Middle East powder keg

Superbugs–failing antibiotics

Open borders–migrations of the poorest, least capable.

Ungovernable populations

Massive reliance on computers

Disastrous economy

Divisions by race, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, agendas

Failed public education system/failed any type of system

Disappearing middle class

Thousands of store closings

Medicare/Social Security broke

Unreliable news media

Ongoing attempt to overthrow sitting president

Opioid epidemic

Obesity epidemic

Suicides dramatic increase

Over half of babies born to single mothers

Divorce rates above 50 percent

Pornography addictions

National debt

Spent nuclear fuel fires

Biowarfare (poor man’s WMD)

Disease pandemic (flu?)

Asteroid strike

Solar flare strike

Activist judges


Endless wars

Talk about a long emergency. It is with us. But don’t worry, be happy. We have a strong military and by gosh we are democracy incorporated. The good news for me is I won’t live long enough to see most of the above come to their end result. Our children and grandchildren are screwed. The critical issue though is tariffs messing with Xmas decorations from China.

[2] Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, last November 2018 was when we got a taste of the hells to come, when the Camp Fire burned up over 18,000 structures, destroying the town of Paradise, California. We usually have fantastically fresh air in San Francisco, but for a two-week period, the city and surrounding counties choked on sooty poisoned air. I hunkered down at home and tolerated the heat as best I could (no air conditioning), but eventually I ventured out — foolishly, without an N-95 smoke mask. My eyes stung, my windpipe tightened and my chest hurt for days after that. And yet what could I do — I had to get on with life, work, family. It was then I realized that some of us may face a calamity where we die like beached fish, simply unable to breathe.

About ten years ago I had a marijuana-induced paranoid daydream, set in the near future. In the dream, I was at a party like the one where I had just gotten so untenably stoned, and we were talking about how hot it had gotten. “Remember when we were learning that global warming was going to change the weather?” “Yeah, and wow that happened really fast. Now it’s hot nearly all the time.” 

After the climate chaos of the past couple years, I have only dread for the years to unfold. I don’t know how we’ll explain this mess to the young ‘uns in our midst… we burned up the planet so we could drive ourselves around in SUVs, fly ourselves around for cheap thrills, stuff ourselves full of cheap meat, entertain ourselves with glowing screens.

My 84 year old mother, born to East European immigrants on a North Dakota wheat farm but who eventually “made it” to the East coast post-war suburbs, hems and haws when we talk about the ecological bind we’re in. How strange it must be to know that her “upward” trajectory, from farm girl to college graduate to suburban household, was part of a pattern that leaves few options for those to follow.

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