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Off the Record (July 3, 2019)

RANDOM OBSERVATIONS. Off Thursday night's "debate," I'd say Trump is 2-0 so far, with Bernie and Elizabeth Warren looming large over the rest of an unimpressive Demo mob. Thursday's introduction of ten more Democratic candidates translated to us here at the Boonville bunker as mostly a panel of moderate, misplaced Republicans. Bernie was on message as always and did manage to look spryer and less confused than Biden, but got lost in much of the cross talk. But the previous night, it was Warren, a Republican until she was midway into her forties, but woke all the way up when she finally awakened, has so far outshone the rest of the Demo pack, a lackluster crew tending to the outright wacky.

BUT WE'LL SOON be down to Liz, Bern, Biden, Harris, Booker, maybe Gillibrand, with longshot Mike Gravel, the Alaskan wild man hopefully somehow included. Since the finalists are determined by how much money they’ve raised, it looks like Buttigieg, whose appeal eludes me, might be among the candidates to make the final cut.

SEATS for the two events went for $1700 and up, not exactly people's prices but designed to keep the rabble out of what is now a for-profit event that used to be put on free by The League of Women Voters.

BIDEN was on message as Trump Lite, Swalwell is obviously cuckoo, the rest of them were simply tiresome, even Bernie who tends to seem he's on auto-pilot because we've heard the same message from him for so many years, the correct message, however, that finally seems to be penetrating the daily din as the only rational path forward. Whether or not he (or Warren) can beat Trump, or even have a real shot at the nomination with all the middle of the road extremists and the big money ga ga over Biden, well, as Lenny Bruce famously said about Chicago, "It's so corrupt it's thrilling." Our politics is Chicago squared.

I MANAGED to feel the first pity I've ever felt for Biden when Kamala Harris teed off on him like he was the Klan's candidate. Not that he doesn't deserve it, but I remember Kamala, just before she announced as a candidate, saying, "I love Joe Biden," that she would never attack him, which, I'd say, indicates a rather large character deficit in Ms. Harris. "I love you but I have to kill you because I need the votes." She also lied about integrating the Berkeley schools, which were already fully integrated by the early 1960s when she went to school there. Biden did the only thing he could do in that situation by denying Kamala's charges as a "mischaracterization" of his record. Which it wasn't, but then Biden, like Trump, is synonymous with untruth.

NOBODY, including Harris, pointed out that poor people of all races would be much better off with the socialist programs Bern-Liz are putting forward, especially in the context of a badly, nay irretrievably, balkanized country, seemingly organized to drive its citizens 5150. Biden, along with most of the Democrat candidates, really belongs in the Republican Party. Nixon was better on the issues than most of these self-alleged liberals running as Democrats.

ODD that climate change went virtually unmentioned, given that the debate was held in Miami, a city on-schedule to slip permanently beneath the waves in another decade. And of course illegal border crossing should be decriminalized, but what's wrong with standing up for orderly borders with humane treatment for everyone detained for violating the rules? Denounced as hopelessly nuts in the post-debate comment on-line, candidate Williamson broke through the rhetorical fog with this reality-based question, "Where have you been, guys? I haven’t heard anyone on this stage talk about the consequences of American foreign policy in Central America.” 

PANDERING to the Hispanic vote by speaking Spanish during the debates is so obviously phony it manages to insult everyone, and couldn't be better designed to help Trump to another four years, which another four years’ worth just may bring down the curtain on the whole show.

GILLIBRAND talks a pretty good ball game, but she was inserted into national life by Hillary who anointed Gillibrand for Hil's old New York senate seat. Ms. G comes out swinging against the One Percent while taking heaps of money from Wall Street.

WHEN KAMALA said climate change is an "existential threat," a claim the other candidates seconded, it translated as climate change as an abstract threat, not the real, existing threat it is. Biden would address extinction with "500,000 electric charging stations." 

SWALWELL managed the most mawkish, phoniest comment on the evening with, "When I’m not changing diapers I'm changing America," going on to make the windy, pandering generational claim that he and it are "the can do generation."

CANDIDATE Bennet, another obvious crackpot, began one of his dubious statements with "My mom…"

HICKENLOOPER said he has "transformed Colorado" into a model state, emphasizing that socialism, i.e., the tax reforms to pay for public services, would destroy the country. Socialist programs and World War Two saved capitalism under Roosevelt, but Bernie's probably the only candidate familiar with American history

YANG, the tech wizard, wasn't bad, and his ridiculed idea to send us all a cool grand a month from the stolen stash of the One Percent is a good idea that has worked out on an experimental basis, but an idea unlikely to be endorsed by anybody except him. And me. Yang's characterization of the economy as "trickle up" was also right on. 

BUTTIGIEG was vague on the issues but he's coolly glib under pressure. Every other place I've seen this guy or read about him he was talking about how smart he is. So? There are millions of smart people in this country who have specific, viable ideas about how to right the sinking ship while Buttigieg says cliched stuff like, "We need climate solutions instead of endless war…" Of course, but Bernie and Liz are the only candidates likely to get us there.

BERNIE closed perfectly: "These [the other candidates] are good people but how come nothing ever changes? We have got to have the guts to take them on or we'll have plans but nothing changing."

THERE was the usual Trump bashing, especially by Biden, whose final shot was positively Trumpian, "We must restore the soul of this nation, the backbone of America. God bless you all and may God bless our troops." 

EXCEPT for the always smart and gracious Lester Holt, the debate moderators were awful unto offensive. 

UNTIL I READ Jim Kunstler's column on the second debate I thought I had mis-heard candidate Castro's lunatic statement about abortion rights for transsexuals. So I looked it up, and there it was: "Just because a woman—or let’s also not forget someone in the trans community, a trans female—is poor, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to exercise that right to choose.” Assuming I understand the mechanics that might be involved, what exactly are the odds? 

THE ONLY DEMO candidates who offer anything new are Bernie and Liz. As one big example of how stale Demo thinking is, Biden kicked off a fast round of Cold War Retro when he said he wanted to beef up NATO and return to Russia as our perennial enemy. Four of the other candidates held out for China as a better candidate for primo menace status.

ALSO TIRESOME in the extreme was the cross talk about how to fund single payer. As Ms. Warren explained, and explained clearer than clear, the money would come from a fair rate of taxation on fortunes worth more than forty million.

BUT, BUT, BUT… What would happen to private insurance? Those who can afford and prefer it would of course keep it, but if the entire parasitic industry is destroyed in favor of single payer we'll all be better off for it. 

W.W. KELLER has been following the Measure B Advisory Committee for the Gualala-based Independent Coast Observer from the beginning. In the current edition of the ICO Keller summarizes the recent Grand Jury report which complains about the slow progress of the Measure B Committee and the overall lack of much progress on developing some crisis and psychiatric health facilities. Keller then asked Measure B Chairman Dr. Ace Barash of Willits what he thought of the Grand Jury’s report. 

HOW do you think Dr. Barash responded? Did he say they’re doing the best they can? Did he disagree that there’s been slow progress? Did he agree and say they were trying to do better? Did he say, Sorry about that? Did he say he couldn’t respond until the entire committee had a chance to look at the Grand Jury Report or that they’d be preparing their own response later? 

NO, none of that. Dr. Barash told Keller: “The report is nonsense. What does the Measure B Committee and the Board of Supervisors know about these matters? We are not a human relations board. Our job here is to hire a project manager, an expert who knows how to proceed and can report to us. We are not the ones to make technical decisions.”

IN EFFECT, Dr. Barash says it’s not their fault, implying that the rules are the rules and the County is the County and how dare anyone complain?

DR. BARASH went on to unquestionably describe the convoluted processes that get in the way of starting a facilities project in the 21st Century, adding, “The Measure B Committee cannot address policies, procedures, and job descriptions during construction. This must be done by the project manager and/or county mental health personnel.”

DR. BARASH ignores the Measure B Committee’s year long foot dragging on even suggesting a project manager be hired, much less getting going on interim steps or evaluations of the alternative sites. He seems to think that the Committee’s role is to sit back and let things happen whenever they happen and not worry about the timing. His total lack of concern for the lack of any progress on the facilities that the Measure B voters wanted to see in place demonstrates nicely why nothing significant has happened so far and isn’t likely to move any faster in the future. 

NEXT LIKELY STEP: When the County/Board of Supervisors get around to answering the Grand Jury report, they’ll say they haven’t done anything because they didn’t get any recommendations from the Measure B Committee.

(Mark Scaramella)

WORKING in one of Mendocino County's top jobs seems awfully harrowing. You can be fired any old time for no stated reason. Likely as not the bad news will suddenly descend while you're at your desk. As you're absorbing the news that you are no longer employed, "security" appears to perp walk you off the premises, an added bit of sadism that seems unique to Mendo. Whatever happened to counseling, the taking aside of an errant employee to warn him or her of the thinning employment ice he or she will surely plunge through if the boss is again displeased? Instead, it's the sudden pink slip and the escort out to the parking lot. If this management style persists… Well, fired employees go berserkers on a daily basis somewhere in our unhappy country every day.

MY FRIEND NANCY MCLEOD objected to my complaint about movie sex scenes. The reason I complained is that they exhibit a lack of imagination on the director's part and, to the rest of us — excluding committed voyeurs — a visual cliche since few contempo movies are without them. Two handsome young people meet early in the film, and when the inevitable occurs a half hour later you groan to yourself as the actors feign carnality while you wait for the narrative to resume. Given the innocent peasant-comes-to-the-debauched-city theme of ‘Windows on the World,’ I would have begun the obligatory boff like every other sex scene begins then, suddenly, the girl would say, "Time out. I've got to carb-load before I work out. Wait here. I'll be right back."

IT COULD HAPPEN HERE! A Brazilian series on Netflix is about a killer cult of anti-vaxxers. It could be set in Mendo, but only if all the humor was expunged. 

LAST WEEK the Supreme Court ruled that gerrymandering was a local matter. The Libs moaned that Republicans were doing it all over the place. But how about us here in the 1st and 2nd Districts of California, carefully rigged by the Demo-controlled state legislature to ensure there is never an alternative to the blandly corporate reps we have in people like Huffman, Mike Thompson, Woods, McGuire et al.

LAST WEEK, we asked County CEO Carmel Angelo if Ag Commissioner Harinder Grewal had been placed on administrative leave, which is what we'd heard from a reliable a source in the County Administration. Ms. Angelo replied: “I am referring this to [Human Resources Director] Heidi Dunham. The Ag Commissioner does not report to me. Thank you.” 

That was funny, because if Grewal doesn’t report to the CEO, who does he report to? 

So we asked Ms. Dunham about it. 

Ms. Dunham replied, “This is a confidential personnel matter and I cannot discuss it.” 

If Mr. Grewal had been formally terminated, we would have been told that he was no longer employed by the County. If it’s “a confidential personnel matter,” then the likelihood is that someone has accused him of something “inappropriate,” and the County Counsel’s office is probably going to pay an expensive outside attorney to conduct “an independent investigation” while Mr. Grewal remains on the County’s payroll until the matter is resolved. 

There's precedent. 

READERS may recall that in May of 2016 Mendo’s Chief Probation Officer Pamela Markham was placed on paid administrative leave for on-the-job boffing. She remained on paid admin leave for months while the investigation proceeded. In that case, since Mendo’s presiding judge was her boss, Mendo County was stuck with her because the judges wouldn’t terminate her. (We assume she hadn’t boffed them, but stranger things have happened in official Mendo.) But when Probation Department employees asked official Mendo about the apparent office hours lust their workplace had become infamous for, they were told to contact the presiding judge or Human Resources Director Heidi Dunham "if you have questions or concerns." 

ALL INQUIRIES about County employees, especially at the admin level of Mendocino County officialdom, are "personnel matters" or "under investigation." Mendocino County routinely puts highly placed employees on administrative leave with opaque or info-free announcements. Administrative leave with full salary and benefits at taxpayer expense — a typical fate for a fallen, upper level palsy-walsy — typically drags out for months until everyone forgets about it. Then the person who’d been put on administrative leave quietly resigns or retires, usually after being paid off or bought out with a confidential settlement. 

AN INVESTIGATION was begun at the same time Markham was put on administrative leave. It was quickly determined that the allegations of in-house “inappropriateness” were credible. But Markham lawyered up, which always makes the judicial types squirm. A lot of money is then spent on outside attorneys while the accused draws full salary and benefits at taxpayer expense, long after any rational investigation would have been concluded. 

IN GREWAL’S CASE, we assume that the Assistant Ag Commissioner will become Interim Ag Commissioner and will have to make do without an Assistant. 

LOTS OF HIGH-LEVEL STAFF TIME is consumed in County offices like Human Resources, Chief Executive Office, County Counsel and so forth as these allegations are tossed from ditherer to ditherer. Much of this expense is buried in the budgets of “risk management” and the impenetrable murk of the County Counsel’s office. But just the hard costs of paying the Ag Commissioner to sit at home during the investigation will add up to a pretty penny paid out of the Ag Department budget. The taxpayers will never know the true total cost, including any confidential settlement that will probably be negotiated. 

THE COUNTY'S SLUGGISH bureaucracy can move quickly when it has to. Some of you will remember Tanya Ugrin-Copabianco, who the Superior Court discovered was keeping close watch on their honors' personal lives and idiosyncrasies. Tanya got the heave-ho muy pronto. (Tanya! Wherever you are, and assuming you kept a copy, we'd love to see your Mendo diary.) 

AS MOST of us know by now, much of Mendocino County's social work obligation has been privatized. The Mental Health Contract is worth about $20 million a year, and includes responsibilities for dependent persons, including children. The franchise is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Schraeder who, near as we can tell, pay themselves somewhere around two hundred thousand a year to administer the helping programs the County of Mendocino gifted them. The Schraeders are a for-profit business with a cover-all-the-bases board of directors consisting of Ukiah law partners Brian Carter and Brian Momson; Nancy Borecky of Selzer Realty: and Donna Wright Gradek of the Savings Bank of Mendocino. But how effective are these privatized programs? No telling because there's no public reporting, although public money funds them.

BUT WEDNESDAY morning, Ms. Dunham wrote: "Good morning. I read your article today and I would like to clarify that the Ag Commissioner reports directly to the Board of Supervisors."

WE WROTE to the Supervisors and received no response.

If Mr. Grewal had been formally terminated, we would have been told that he was no longer employed by the County. If it’s “a confidential personnel matter,” then the likelihood is that someone has accused him of something “inappropriate,” and the County Counsel’s office is probably going to pay an expensive outside attorney to conduct “an independent investigation” while Mr. Grewal remains on the County’s payroll until the matter is resolved. 

BY WEDNESDAY NOON these anon comments were received: 

(1) "Consider this an unsolicited, confidential observation, and opinion: Harinder Grewal has instituted a regimented and demanding work environment in the Ag Commissioners office. The workers there are pushing back. This has nothing to do with sex. It likely has more to do with nagging, questioning, and pressure from the boss to do more in less time. This has created stress and a disruptive work environment. Remember, working in an AG Commissioners is not new to Grewal. It is what he does." 

(2) "Harinder Grewal was placed on administrative leave because there is a discrimination lawsuit (as well as many grievances about his behavior) going forward. This shouldn’t be a surprise as EVERY woman who worked in the Ag department left – quit or transferred to another department. His behavior towards the women on his staff was unbelievable. Even more importantly, he was incompetent. This is why the CEO took the cannabis program away from the Ag department. From the cannabis program to mental health to social services to public health to Human Resources to the Probation department – this county is being grossly mismanaged and the Board of Supervisor’s need to take back control. Fire Carmel Angelo and Tammy Moss Chandler. We did not elect them. Ms. Angelo and Ms. Chandler have done real damage to this county, and wasted millions in tax payer dollars. Promote people who have demonstrated abilities to lead. Barbara Howe was such a leader, and Anne Molgaard is such a leader, but both women have either been fired or sidelined by Ms. Chandler. We believe Ms. Howe was fired for doing her job, rather than contracting out services the way Janine Miller does – another one who needs to go. Most county workers care deeply about this community, but it is very hard to want to keep going under the burden of this incompetency and nepotism. I hope the Supervisors are listening." 


Representatives from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will be presenting to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors at the July 9, 2019, Board meeting about PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program which the company is implementing in response to the devastating wildfires California experienced in 2017 and 2018. 

The Community Wildfire Safety Program is made up of three categories: real-time monitoring and intelligence, new and enhanced safety measures, and system hardening and resiliency. PG&E will also be providing a presentation on their Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) program to reduce wildfire danger by turning off electric power during forecasted extreme weather conditions.

Interested parties and the public are encouraged to attend. The presentation will begin at 1:30 or soon thereafter.

Tuesday, July 9 at 1:30 p.m. 

Board Chambers, 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1070, Ukiah, CA 95482

Representatives from PG&E

This presentation will be streamed live on the Mendocino County YouTube Channel. 

For more information, please contact the Executive Office at (707) 463-4441. 

A READER WRITES: Saw the second Dem debate, which I thought was more mind-numbing than the first, partly because de Blasio wasn't there dropping his verbal bombs. He's a weird dude but he did say some surprisingly wonderful things during the first debacle.

The biggest problem, besides the curious slate of candidates, is the context of these things. NBC's owners don't want a real discussion about our condition to take place, so we instead are subjected to endless droning about immigration, "socialism," how in the world can you possibly pay for single payer?, Mitch McConnell, Trump, China...topics around the periphery. That's where the moderators want to keep the discussion, and it seemed like they were instructed to reign in the off-script bombshells that managed to slip through the first night.

The measure of how lost this party is was the number of references to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as if this fantasy were still true. It would have been exciting if one of candidates had addressed it.

Overall I thought Lizzy Warren was the biggest winner, demonstrating a coherence and passion that surprised me. Bernie, I thought, at least managed to hold his own. Those two now look like the frontrunners to me. I wish Tulsi had started better (she found her voice later) and it is a shame Mike Gravel didn't make this first cut. He would have been fun.

In spite of all the drawbacks, it was still interesting to see these twenty on stage, and get a sampling of who they are. The moderators did a terrible job of giving candidates equal time, and they should have cut the mics on some of the boors as they kept trying to cut in. The good news is that these debates may have signaled the end for knuckleheads Biden and Beto. Time to start clearing the deadwood!

A FEMALE READER on movie sex scenes:

What I find most ridiculous in the sex scenes from the last 20-ish years is the sudden leap of hormones just seconds after two sets of eyes entwine. How many people, in real life, throw each other around and rip off their clothes and fling the cooking utensils off the kitchen island chopping block, the staplers and laptops from their office desks, the dirty dishes from the kitchen counter, etc etc ad nauseam. I was no prude in my younger days, but this kind of choreography just doesn't happen. I think it makes most folks watching feel they've really missed out.  I find most sex scenes totally gratuitous, even if they’re well filmed. I applaud the films that fade away after its been made clear that some action is gonna ensue. We all basically know the mechanics, no need to see any more women shoved up against the wall, thank you very much. 

TOTALLY AGREE. The only two I can remember are Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling around in the surf in "From Here to Eternity" and the truly shocking rape scene in "Last Tango In Paris."

ON LINE AD: "Westfall Property Concierge is looking for two hard working , detailed,  meticulous diligent and responsible house cleaners. I have a lot of business And my standards are high." We pity the pair who responds to this one.


It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,

A beautiful day for a neighbor,

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood,

A neighborly day for a beauty,

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,

Since we’re together, we might as well say,

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please,

Won’t you please,

Please won’t you be my neighbor?


Now, it case somebody thinks things can’t possibly turn kinetic, we have the spectacle in Oregon, where a Democrat governor is threatening to have state police do a round-up of recalcitrant Republican state legislators. And, guess what, militia groups are giving the Republicans armed protection.

Don’t say I didn’t tell ya, because I did tell ya, that these armed fellas out there in the vast expanse between the coasts would become a factor to be reckoned with. And now it appears they’re taking their first tentative steps out of the shadows. It was just a matter of time. People don’t get gunned-up because they’re happy campers, they do it because they’re not. For one thing, moving people’s livelihoods overseas and ruining their lives and then pissing on them and insulting them is just a sure-fire way to get trouble of the high-velocity type.

So, where does this take us? It takes us to a place that was easily avoidable, but wasn’t avoided. As I’ve been saying, economic class is one fracture line, another is the age-old fissure between North and South, but we have to give reality its due, so is the racial divide lovingly stoked lately especially by “wokesters” for the purposes of their own self-glorification but especially their own power.

It really is like somebody said not long ago on this site, sooner or later you’ll have to choose sides. And it won’t be a surprise that I have one in mind but I would prefer that it not be racially segregated because that falls into the hands of people that would divide and conquer, people that I have no time for given that they ruined not only the US but much of the formerly prosperous West.

You can’t replay history. It would have been better that slaves weren’t taken. The conquest by Mexico of the west and southwest happened and so did the conquests by the USA of 1848 or thereabouts. All these things left effects still evident today, none of which can be wished away. All you can do now is make the best of it. But choosing sides based on race is in my view making the absolute worst of it.

One Comment

  1. Jonah Raskin July 3, 2019

    Trump raises more money than anyone else. He has more loyal followers than any other single candidate. He sets the tone for the national discourse. The Democrats mostly react to him. They are pitifully divided. It does seem that even if he loses the election he will not give up the White House. The only thing to do is to resist and rebel and defy. And tell the truth and not have wishful thinking.

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