Off the Record (September 4, 2019)

THE HEBREW HAMMER, aka Jacob Silverman. This guy has been bombarding us with letters out of the County Jail where he's presently confined on drug-related charges. He's also been tried and convicted of various crimes in Humboldt County and other areas of the state. Prior to his arrival in Humboldt and Mendo, Silverman did a stretch at Pelican Bay for an attempted murder conviction. 

WHEREVER he lands Silverman fires his attorneys, none of whom he pays because he's an indigent. We pay for his defense, a defense he never seems to have because he's obviously guilty of whatever he’s charged with. Silverman is on his fifth attorney here in Mendo.

SILVERMAN also presents management problems at the County Jail where he vilely insults staff and other inmates, necessitating his isolation. Recently, Silverman refused to leave his cell for a court appearance, resulting in an unnecessary disruption of the day's court proceedings. 

I'M SURE there have been other memorable inmates confined to the Low Gap jail, but Silverman may be in a class of difficulty all by himself. 

AND NOW THIS. The most recent letter we have from this incompetent career criminal — he's in more than he's out — says previous letters from him are forgeries!

"YOUR allowing falsified fraudulent felonious letter (sic) deliberately processed to misrepresent me! And your racism is oozing with Benjamin Netanyahu's racist doctored add (sic) I've written you my letter. Publish it with my picture please. If you continue to process information without my signature then I know, too, your (sic) involved in some form and will take note of the in another form. (sic). Formally: I request all letters and envelopes be preserved as evidence for prosecution to further acquire each and all fingerprints. So please contact the Sheriff Allman to process the investigation immediately! Failure to honor this action is failure of yourself. Jacob Silverman."

I'VE CONCLUDED after a not particularly close textual analysis, that Silverman is the author of all the letters mailed to us from the County Jail under the name of Jacob Silverman, aka The Hebrew Hammer. Why would he malign himself? As a HumCo psych worker accurately assessed him, Silverman is a narcissist. Even negative attention is a kind of drug to him. He loves it, especially confined as he is with nothing else to do but harass staff and other inmates and write crank letters to newspapers.

COULD some other prisoner be writing fake Hebrew Hammers? Maybe, but that would require the forger to possess not only the resolve to harass a minor irritant like the H.H., but also be familiar with various anti-Semitic tropes and also possess a forger’s literary ability not ordinarily found among persons confined to rural county jails. It would also require that a jail staffer allow a fake Silverman to mail out letters-to-the-editor under Silverman's name, and I seriously doubt a jail staffer, however annoying he or she may find this character, would risk committing a crime simply to complicate Silverman's life. The letters Silverman claims are faked malign Silverman himself, but they are literate and carefully done. Then he follows up the alleged fakes with a crazy man, error-filled text, much of it in big block letters. But the author remains the same.

IS SILVERMAN NUTS? No, although everywhere he goes jail and court shrinks spend hours of public time debating his mental functioning. The guy's simply found a way to make himself the center of minor attention, which he's previously received in the various jails of the Northcoast. Lately, he’s faked insanity because he probably figures the nut house is an easier place to rest up for his next crime spree in the outside world than a state prison, and its staff and inmates perhaps easier to manipulate. Hammer the Hammer, judge. Send him back to the state pen where he belongs.

THE SUPERVISORS spent a lot of time last week discussing ambulance financing in the wake of the collapse of the “Exclusive Operating Area” idea (which some people insist might still be alive outside of Ukiah, which we find highly unlikely.) A possible sales tax increase was mentioned to fund local ambulance service as was expanding the transient occupancy tax (TOT/bed tax) to campgrounds as possible new sources of revenue. Apparently the state has imposed a cap on total sales taxes which Mendo is very close to with the library tax and the Measure B Mental Health Facilities/Services measure on top of other city sales taxes. So even if such new sales taxes — amount unknown so far — could be developed, vetted, put on the ballot and maybe voted up in two years, there will still be a funding gap for local ambulance services which everyone seems to think needs immediate attention — especially in light of the EOA collapse which was supposed to result in better funding (if you believed its promoters), but which has turned out to be nothing but a giant multi-year stall/snow job. 

IF THE SUPES were serious about doing something now for local ambulance operations, they could at least give the locals the $90k back that was not allocated this year because they spread the previous amount into cities this year, reducing the rural allocation. So where could they get a quick $90k?

THE TOURISM PROMOTERS SPEND something like $1.5 million a year to entice tourists to “Visit Mendocino.” The County contributes several hundred thousands of TOT dollars to that pointless effort — an effort which makes no measurable difference in the annual tourist influx that we can see. But even if it did, a significant percentage of those “visitors” need ambulance service when they conk out while enjoying Mendo’s unique attractions… So surely, any reasonable comparison of how to spend those hundreds of thousands of promotional dollars would show that the local ambulances are a much better choice for $90k of it.

AUGUST STUCKEY of Fort Bragg is now Holly Stuckey courtesy of a state prison sex change, but either way he/she has been denied parole. The link below tells the rest of the story theava.com/05/1221-perezcase.html

A shorter version: counterpunch.org/2004/05/29/is-l-wop-truly-forever-the-awful-injustice-to-tai-abreu/ 

And here is a link to another shorter version (scroll down for the items on Tai Abreu): theava.com/04/0526-otr-tai-abreu.html.

PARTNERS GALLERY: “TIME TRAPPED” - PAINTINGS BY VIRGINIA SHARKEY. SEPTEMBER 5 – 30, 2019

First Friday Reception September 6, 5-8pm

In September Virginia Sharkey is showing seven large acrylic paintings reflecting her continuing exploration on the subject of time as codified in daily parlance: dawn, noon, and evening. The artist begins with a feeling tone manifested by color, augmented by the ingredients of space, gravity and energy which when combined produce their own kind of resonance––harmonious or not–– but with a result that is evocative and mysterious. The show opens September 5thand continues through the 30th. There is a First Friday Reception Aug 2, 5-8pm. Partners Gallery is located at 335 N. Franklin Street in downtown Fort Bragg. Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 11 am to 5 pm and Sundays, 11 am to 4 pm., or by appointment. 707 964-6448 or 707 962-0655.

IF YOU WERE TO ADD UP the helping professionals of Mendocino County, excluding the police departments who do all of mental health's heavy lifting, you'd find many more helping pros than helpees. And a lot of unhealthy stuff goes on beneath all those smiley-faces the pros slap on for the unwary public as they go about doing good. Just recently, for example, a helping pro set up shop on South State Street, hooked up with the Ukiah-area helper's apparatus, and proceeded to help himself to his female "clients," taking them for long rides to remote places to therapize them. Rather than file a criminal complaint against this guy, the apparat simply stopped "referring" people to him. 

MY BRIEF HISTORY of early Mendo seems to have twanged more than the ordinary number of sensitivities. I think most of us understand that in the context of pure evil such as the state-funded extermination of the Indians of the Eel River Basin, and the untold numbers of other murders of the indigenous peoples of the Northcoast by the first wave of white settlers, there were also white people who behaved honorably, even courageously given the dominance of ruthless killers of the George White-Walter Jarboe types, not to mention Serranus Hastings after whom the illustrious law school is named. It was Hastings who arranged state funding for Jarboe's death squads. But it was outraged white disgust with the slaughters that compelled the Lincoln Administration to send troops to Fort Bragg, Covelo and other remote areas of the Northcoast to protect Indians from the multiplicities of outrages being committed against them. 

SOME YEARS AGO I received a sputteringly indignant phone call from an elderly resident of the Anderson Valley objecting to my characterization of the mission-era Spanish soldiers who raided the Anderson Valley for mission labor as, essentially, slave raiders, while the padres characterized forced labor as the saving of souls. The caller said I was completely wrong, that the Spaniards had not only befriended the Indians but were also good friends with her ancestors! (The Spanish incursions into Mendocino County have gone, I believe, unrecorded, but there are faint whispers that their soldiers did visit the Anderson Valley, and we know they got as far north as the Ukiah Valley. History can be painful, but delusion is dangerous, and it's the delusion represented by the Grace Hudson Museum, for handy example, that distorts the reality of what happened here. Generations of children annually herded through the Grace Hudson probably come away with the vague impression "That once upon a time the six miles of fast food franchises we've grown up in were occupied by clever brown people who didn't wreck anything and were real good at making baskets. Then, like,  they disappeared and State Street happened."

FAVE BOOK REVIEW, from Field and Stream, November, 1959: "Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley's Lover has just been reissued by Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoors-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion, the book cannot take the place of J.R. Miller's Practical Gamekeeper."

2020 CENSUS MENDOCINO COUNTS

The jobs will last for about a year. Salaries start at $16.50 to $18.00 an hour, with mileage reimbursement and flexible hours. You must be an American citizen, have a social security number, and be able to pass a background check for the past 5 years. Info and application at: https://www.2020census.gov/en/jobs

SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS on the subject of the legal cannabis market in Mendocino County at last Tuesday's board meeting: 

“Trying to control the supply of marijuana in this county to keep prices up just won’t pan out. You are competing against other counties and other states. Not everybody needs to scale up. If quality is really the deciding factor on consumer purchases, there are other ways to attack that problem. A standard rating system to show the consumer that it is a quality product. I have been asking the cannabis community to put together a double-blind consumer test. Take ten samples from the Wal-Mart of weed, Santa Barbara, and ten samples from the finest of small cultivators in this county and mix them all up and show that you can differentiate. If that's the case, maybe we have something to go on with branding and marketing. But if it's not the case and distributors are paying the same price to everyone, we have a problem. Small farms need to think about at what price they can break even today. I don't know what that number is. Is it $200 a pound? $125? $500? There's a price where you are at breakeven. Imagine that price falling below breakeven. You say, Now I need to scale up, you need an economy of scale. The competition around the state and country has lowered the price. It will take local government two years to catch up. For two years you're out of business. Everybody's out of business. I do want to protect the small cultivator and I see us leveraging the larger players to subsidize the program as one way to keep the fees down. We talked about the co-op model in the grows. But we don't know as an [economic development] ad hoc committee if it's ten acres all in one place or is it 10 acres with small cultivators coming in so they can have shared processing? Maybe. Is it a 10 acre farm all by itself on 200 acres? They could do that also. The idea is to keep it open ended and continue the discussion on what we can do in the board chambers and bring ideas back. We don't want to come up with a plan that is not feasible.”

MARK SCARAMELLA NOTES: While you’re at it, do a double-blind taste test of any Mendo 100-point pinot compared to Gallo’s nicest Carlo Rossi jug wine. Funny, nobody’s ever done that to prove much the same thing as Williams suggests for pot. I wonder why?

LAST TUESDAY Supervisor John McCowen updated his colleagues on the status of the sale of the North Coast Railroad Authority Ukiah depot to the State Court system for construction of a completely unnecessary new Ukiah courthouse project that will disrupt all the County’s supporting offices — District Attorney, Sheriff, Probation, Public Defender, support services… and cost Mendo who knows how much to adapt. But nobody in Mendo is talking about how much this preposterous new building to house only judges and their staffs: “Supervisor Haschak and I attended the NCRA meeting in Novato. Senator McGuire's office continues to work with NCRA and the Judicial Council of California to be able to move forward to get the remaining work needed to be done for the infrastructure improvements at the Ukiah Depot out to bid so those can be completed. Unfortunately, based on the threat of litigation the NCRA withdrew its previous valid exception to bid which was the only way the project would have got done this year with the available funds. So that will go over till next year. The project will be delayed. It will ultimately require more money. So we solve one problem and now we have several others to deal with. But I'm optimistic that with Senator McGuire’s help we will be able to complete that project next year.”

MARK SCARAMELLA NOTES: We smell another strong whiff of Oil Can Bosco hovering over this brief status summary. Also note that McCowen mysteriously didn’t name the company that the NCRA (whose general counsel is Doug Bosco) wanted to give the work to without competitive bids. This whole new courthouse show is a grand ripoff orchestrated by the Northcoast Democrats. The present courthouse could be upgraded for far less money than this new limited-to-judges-only eyesore will cost, but the project won’t die thanks to people like McCowen, a Ukiah native who apparently thinks the destruction of what’s left of central Ukiah is a swell idea. Our current crop of life-time judges can be depended on not to resist lush new quarters for themselves, but they’re all lawyers of course, and lawyers dominate the state legislature and Democrats run the state soooooo it doesn’t matter to the self-interested descendants of Judge Hastings that a new courthouse just for them will occur at huge public upset.

AS ONE of the many millions at the mercy of the new technology, I had no idea where these dating ads came from or how to erase them from our serious-people-only website. "Want to meet available women in Boonville?" Uh, no. Be it known, serious-people-who-read-our-website that we're opposed to harlotry in all its manifestations. Better yet, we think we've figured out how to keep it off our serious-people-only site. 

THE MOST FAMOUS recent opioid OD was Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs who died suffocating in his own vomit from a mix of fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol. Skaggs' family has said they believe someone in the Angels organization got the young ballplayer the drugs, someone who has legal access to pharmaceutical drugs.

SHERIFF ALLMAN told us the other day that opioids are "all over the county," a statement confirmed by statewide stats that claim only Lake County has more people, per capita, prescribed opioids than Mendo. 

WHICH, according to a report cited in the Advocate-Beacon, each of us Mendo-groovies, as of 2012, downed sixty-three pills each, a consumption that includes children. But the DEA and Disease Control studies from which this stat is extracted run from 2006-2012, prior to contemporary media saturation emphasizing the extent of yet one more sad indicator that contrary to Good Morning America, many of our fellow citizens need chemical support to negotiate their days. And the Sheriff says these especially pernicious drugs are as prevalent now as when the studies were done, although doctors are now much less likely to write wholesale prescriptions for downers as they were ten years ago. The neo-wave of the oxy-fentanyl drugs come from the South, but without the huge, despairing market for them presented by Gringolandia…

I COULDN'T get all the way through The New Yorker's profile of the thoroughly repellant Mike Pompeo, Trump's bumbling Secretary of State, but I did read that Pompeo's favorite book is Atlas Shrugged, and his fave author is Ayn Rand. Speaking of course from my own experience, I wonder if you out there share it: I have never met a smart person from Mensa or a Randian who wasn't, fundamentally, a fascist. And a dummy. Pompeo's both. And he's America's face to the world. Pass me an oxy, please.

THIS NOTE from the charity, Willits Daily Bread: "We are in the process of turning the dining room at St. Francis in the Redwoods Episcopal Church into a real dining room for the hungry. We are raising money and we appreciate all the help you can give us; please contact me at 707-367-5669."

THE COUNTY OF MENDO, which is you and me brothers and sisters, paid a consultant named Marbut fifty grand to figure out a practical strategy for dealing with the homeless, flexibly defined here in Mendo by the helping professionals whose funding depends on them to include transients unwilling or unable to care for themselves. Marbut advised us to sort out the Mendo-natives from the passers-through, making the small number of hard working local people temporarily down on their luck Mendo’s housing priority. Help the native Mendo people get a place to live even if they're drunk, drugged and nuts, but give the transients a sandwich, if that, and boot them in the ass outtahere. Marbut pointed out the obvious; Mendo is subsidizing drunks and dope heads who rotate up and down the West Coast, and making these bums extra comfy in Ukiah and Fort Bragg. Willits is unwise in encouraging the Episcopalians to subsidize undeserving people.

REFOCUSING GJERDE: LEE EDMUNDSON WRITES: With all due respect, Rex Gressett wildly misrepresents the role Dan Gjerde — and Linda Ruffing for that matter — played in the positive turn around for the city of Fort Bragg, which for years had been plundered by the likes of Gary Milliman, Dominic Affinito, Roy Mitchell, Scott Cochran, Tom Lonegrin and others (pardon any spelling errors).

Fort Bragg was on the verge of bankruptcy, the streets were covered in potholes, Affinito had been allowed to build his “one story too tall” North Cliff motel while a corruption compliant city council went along to get along.

Gjerde was one of the three “clean sweep” candidates to replace the corrupt city council in 1998. In a rather brilliant campaign spear headed the by late activist Roanne Withers, Fort Bragg replaced three council representatives of dubious ethics with Gjerde, Michelle White and Vince Benedetti.

One of their first actions was to get rid of Planner Cochran, replacing him with Linda Ruffing, who at the time of her hiring was chief coastal planner for the County.

It should always be remembered that it was Gjerde, White and Benedetti who stood up to the “good Ole Boy” network that had run Fort Bragg (into the ground) for decades. Budgets were balanced, bankruptcy was averted, pot holes got filled, sidewalks widened, the city became steadfast.

James Madison wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary”.

Dan Gjerde, we are still hopeful, after years of sitting in a minority on the Board of Supervisors, will reorient his focus and actions in light of the fact that he now has — since the beginning of this year — two progressive allies in Supervisors Haschak and Williams. Between the leadership of these three, Mendocino County should begin enjoying more enlightened progressive policies.

I do not recall ever hearing Mr. Gressett’s name, nor reading his byline, back in 1998 when Mr. Gjerde, among many others, was in the trenches fighting to save the city of Fort Bragg.

And what do you now have to show as a result of their hard fought efforts then?

ED NOTE: All true. On the Fort Bragg City Council, Gjerde was backed up by two absolute rocks — Michelle White and Vince Benedetti. As Supervisor, Gjerde began with two certifiably crazy guys and two jelly fish, one of whom, McCowen, occasionally roused himself to do the right thing. Williams has turned out to be an invaluable supervisor who has emboldened McCowen and steered Haschak in the direction of at last making the Supervisors more effective than they've been in forty years. Gjerde now has the equivalent of his former colleagues at Fort Bragg, Benedetti and White, to finally begin reputable functioning. The coming election will probably give us another Potter Valley rep who takes political direction from the retro Farm Bureau, and McCowen may be defeated for re-election by the popular Ukiah City councilperson, Mo Mulheren who, so far, has no discernible opinions on county affairs and has the present state of Ukiah mitigating against her, that squalid drift of a town being best described by Tommy Wayne Kramer in his Sunday columns for the Ukiah Daily Journal. The Farm Bureau has one local issue — cheap water via the Potter Valley Diversion for downstream sons of the soil, especially the rapacious wine industry. Whatever McCowen's electoral fate, and whatever Diversion robot the Farm Bureau elects, the two new Supervisors will still be outnumbered, if Haschak continues to take his cues from the clearheaded Williams. 

THE LATEST MASS SHOOTING, this one in Texas, occurred just as a package of Texas laws loosening gun restrictions went into effect. Passed in August, the laws include one that will prohibit school districts from keeping firearms off their grounds if carried by staff into parking lots. Another one will allow licensed gun owners to take their weapons with them into "places of worship." (The Prince of Peace is certain to be delighted with this one.) Landlords will also not be allowed to prevent residents lawfully keeping firearms on their property. And so on, the whole package was celebrated by the NRA as “protecting your Second Amendment rights.” 

ASK HELOISE. I did but couldn't find advice from the old girl on how to non-violently beat back ants. Yes, I take a positively Hindu position on the unnecessary killing of living creatures, including the amazing ant, captains of industrious insect life. But when they begin crawling all over my work station, even when a couple of them actually helped my punctuation, they've gone too far. Just as I was about to commit mass murder, a visitor recommended cinnamon as an effective non-violent ant deterrent. It worked. I sprinkled some in their path, instantly they were disoriented and began milling around in confusion, discipline in collapse, all-purpose lost. Couple days later, though, they regrouped and came back. It then occurred to me that my housekeeping was the root of my ant problem. Having hit them again with cinnamon and a thorough cleaning of their apparent destination, they again retreated. And came back a third time. More cinnamon and they again disappeared, this time for good, but I'm not about to bet against them. PS. A penny in a vase of drooping tulips takes the droop right out of them, and gargling with vinegar stops hiccups. You're welcome.

KEN RETZER is an old ballplayer, a catcher with the Washington Senators, a major leaguer before the big expansion that propelled a lot of minor leaguers into the bigs. Ken said he made the major league minimum of $3500 a year. "I had to work in the off season but I lived pretty good during the season." The major league minimum for a rookie these days is $550,000. Guys like Ken, and Vern Piver of Fort Bragg, just missed the big paydays.

I got to know Ken when he took up the case of Mark Sprinkle after he read about Sprinkle in the AVA, shaking his head that any person could get as much time as Sprinkle got — 40-to-life — for 90 seconds of sexual touching, an episode initiated when three junior floozies suddenly took their clothes off in his car, and an episode Sprink denies the touching part of. What's most distressing to people like me and the old ballplayer, Ken Retzer, is the casual ignorance of the specifics of Sprink's case demonstrated by the State Parole Board and the prison shrinks, a casual, uninterested ignorance they have demonstrated for twenty years now. And added to by Mendo DA Eyster's dispatch of an assistant to argue against Sprink's parole several years ago, a gratuitous opposition that just happened to coincide with then-Assistant DA's weekend rendezvous with his wife in a B&B not far from Sprink's prison. The old ballplayer and I get despairing letters from Sprinkle who fully expects to die in prison, and here's a guy who was always employed when he was out, and would be employed again if he could get out. No point, other than institutional sadism, that he's still in.

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] I’m no expert on the history of Ukiah but a seismic shift is underway in its economy. The days of pears and sheep ranches are long gone, and wine is an industry that does not develop large swaths of highly paid employees.

Into the dying mix of fruit and mutton, and apart from the vintner echelons, we are now seeing a mighty incoming tide of a corporate marijuana industry. Look a bit north and a genuine pot behemoth, Flow Kana, now stands where the Fetzer family, for generations, produced wine.

Another newcomer, this one supposedly with a Big Tobacco pedigree, will be moving into a new 120,000 square foot home, also north of town, across from Orr Springs Road.

A bit south we note the Redtail Ale brewing empire is gone, replaced by a marijuana facility that will do something, and lots of it, in a building of more than 63,000 square feet. (If you are good at math, add 120,000 and 63,000 together and get back to me. Sounds like a lot of bud, seeds, stems and square footage.)

Meanwhile, back in central Ukiah, we have marijuana outlets in various nooks, crannies and storefronts.

Weed, for as long as a lot of us remember and a fair number of us have been alive, has been a shadow economy that has floated local boats (shops, restaurants, car dealerships, real estate) for decades.

Today, black market marijuana is down with a wasting disease and may not survive.

And in its place we have legal marijuana, hence Flow Kana and the as-yet unnamed other pot-centric behemoths. No one knows what impact these will have on our local economy but just for starters I’d suggest we not anticipate that its employees will be 25-year old guys driving $70,000 pickups, peeling off hundred dollar bills to buy a few items of clothing from a downtown merchant and owning second homes in Belize and Hawaii. That is not the future of local weed.

A bigger, related question is this: How are we preparing for this new world? Until yesterday marijuana was illegal and thus an enterprise run by de facto criminals. Anyone growing it or selling it or carrying it to Kansas in the trunk of a car was by definition an outlaw.  (Tommy Wayne Kramer, Ukiah Daily Journal)

[2] Until a majority of Americans learn and understand mathematics (which I do not think will ever happen) they will continue to delude themselves into believing that they can make $50K a year and spend $200K because they can afford the monthly payments, the decay will slowly move forward. As the losers slide one by one off of the economic treadmill and into their parent’s and grandparent’s basements, the vast majority of remaining consumers will not notice their disappearance. The retailers certainly have, but they too are expendable and easily written off as natural selection to the Cyber-stores and online betting parlors. As governments move in to desperately capitalize on any remaining vices like drug sales, gambling schemes, and probably even prostitution next, they too will feed off of the general public until nothing remains but bare bones.

I especially like the way the Good Book says that the ending act (not actually an end) will come as a total surprise because that is exactly how it is playing out, surprise, surprise, surprise.

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