Off the Record (Sep. 11, 2019)

THE WINDOWLESS FORTRESS on Low Gap Road called Ukiah High School launched into lockdown for half an hour one afternoon last week because of a vague student comment involving a weapon. School architecture itself was weaponized by Ukiah and most American communities in the 1960s, as a comparison between any new school anywhere compared to schools prior to World War Two clearly demonstrates. The educational mission back in the day assumed that learning was enhanced if it occurred in aesthetically pleasing circumstances, hence the little red school houses and high schools of yesteryear with their arched entries and carefully wrought windows, the better to light the learning theoretically occurring inside the room. Hard to believe now, but it used to matter to Americans what their public buildings looked like. Buildings, even the most humble, used to be erected as points of community pride. The County Courthouse in Ukiah of 1880 was an architectural delight; the County Courthouse of 2019 hides the delight round back where, if you look carefully, you can still see some evidence of it, but the rest of the structure is slathered in stone and, on the ground floor, one way totalitarian glass. Ukiah City government appropriated for itself the town's sole remaining public structures that can be said to embody grace and beauty, and it was once a school house! It's depressing to know that people born after, say, 1960, have grown up in civic surroundings of unrelieved ugliness, and these desensitized millions are duly "educated" in concrete and sheetrock bunkers like Ukiah High School (which is also windowless), designed by people who seem to have hated the young. I guess the good news is that Ukiah still hasn't installed metal detectors in the halls of learning, merely settling for years now for an armed policeman. 

VIRTUE SIGNALING has long been a Frisco export, a regular San Francisco bi-product right up there with Rice-A-Roni, It's-Its, and Tony Bennett riding cable cars halfway to the stars. But the San Francisco Board of Supervisors managed to achieve a new low in pure posturing righteousness when it passed a resolution Tuesday declaring that the National Rifle Association is a domestic terrorist organization. Please. The NRA is for sure a gang of yobbo paranoids, but the violence that is the American birthright and characteristic now of the average American's daily experience, especially if you factor in the prevailing social vibe, can hardly be blamed on a gun club. But the resolution is typical of both contemporary San Francisco politics and the in lieu of politics that we get from both political parties. The SF Supervisors can pass pointless resolutions but outside the splendors of their chambers the city's streets are a mass of seething despair, and all they can do about it is shovel upwards of $350 million a year to their soul mates and fellow highly paid Democrats who run the city's "helping" agencies. But the NRA is the prob, right? Heaping on the hypocrisy, Frisco’s supervisors have offered to buy PG&E’s Frisco infrastructure for upwards of $2 billion, begging the question, If you’ve got that kind of money wouldn’t the money be better spent on restoring at least a semblance of civic order?

OCCASIONALLY, an elected rep does something in the public interest. Less occasionally, a Northcoast rep does something in the public interest. Assemblyman Jim Wood, a dentist out of Healdsburg prior to being tapped for public office by Big Lib, those mysterious entities that select our officeholders for us, has introduced AB 290, legislation aimed at preventing dialysis companies from tightening their monopolistic hold on dialysis patients.

YOU MAY HAVE SEEN the toxically manipulative television ads funded by the dialysis companies showing a pathetic old guy in a wheelchair saying he's going to die if 290 passes. The truth is, as recognized by Wood's legislation, the two largest dialysis corporations controlling most clinics have been funneling money to a few patients to help them fund their life-saving care, not to save the lives of these fortunate few but to.... Take it away, Woody: 

“WHEN unscrupulous dialysis companies, through a third party, steer patients away from Medicare or Medi-Cal by indirectly paying a patient’s premiums, for the company’s own financial benefit, these companies are price gouging and it’s a scam. It doesn’t improve care for patients and increases the cost of health care premiums for everyone.”

"THIS SCAM reveals itself when companies that provide dialysis treatment, like DaVita and Fresenius, donate $265 million, as they did in 2016, to the nonprofit American Kidney Fund (AKF). In turn, AKF, which gets approximately 80 percent of its funding from these two companies, steers kidney dialysis patients into private health insurance by paying for the patients’ monthly premiums. For every $1 these dialysis businesses donate to AKF, which in turn pays for a patient’s health care premium, the dialysis companies reap a 350-percent return through increased reimbursement rates. This practice has been a key factor in the $4 billion profits these dialysis companies experienced in 2017."

FIFTH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: “In the period ending March 2019, Mendocino County had 39,555 residents on Partnership HealthPlan, the non-profit community based health care organization that contracts with the State to administer Medi-Cal benefits through local care providers. If you use the 2019 population number of 87,697 that equates to 45% of the entire county population on MediCal. When we talk about ambulance services and Mendocino Coast District Hospital financials, it's important to keep the significant MediCal number in mind. I recently heard Medstar (ambulance service) describe the significant increase in MediCal transports within the past few years. MediCal reimbursement is less than from other insurance. With the proportion growing, keeping services afloat becomes difficult. (Thank you Paula Cohen, former Executive Director at Mendocino Coast Clinics, Inc. for data)”

ED NOTE: Those of us fortunate to live inside the bubble, or are old enough to get MediCare, we tend not to know how poor at least half of our Mendo neighbors are, as the Supervisor's MediCal statistic confirms for us. Even the vaunted MediCare requires a couple, like me and my Missus, to pay another $400-plus monthly for "gap" insurance, the stuff MediCare doesn't cover; that $400 is an impossibly large amount to pay for the millions of Americans on Social Security. And don't even talk about dental insurance, which runs us another hundred-plus bucks and unaffordable for most Americans who go without dental care. (And it only covers the basics of dental care.) Single Payer, on the off chance Bernie is elected and can get it through Congress, would be of enormous immediate value to a solid half of our population, and it should include dental care. Mean time in Mendo, and in most of the country, people lie awake at night wondering how they're going to stay sheltered, eat, get to and from their low wage work, and keep their children clothed. Small wonder so many people turn to drugs, or dive all the way into the bottle.

ON THE SUBJECT of despair, I saw a notice for a forthcoming mental health discussion in Caspar. (It's a month or so away.) It includes the usual "stakeholders" — a couple of supervisors, several helping pros, maybe a therapist or two — everyone but a cop or a line social services worker, the two reps best equipped to tell us how this county's mental health efforts are really doing. We don't need a police chief or a social services bureaucrat participating in this discussion, but a cop who answers 911 calls and the social services person who deals with the poor as they walk through the door looking for help. (And who better to tell us about the true state of the inland homeless than the legendary Mendo lawman, Pete Hoyle, presently in charge of rousting them?) The police and the intake social services people know first-hand how effectively the millions annually spent by Mendo on mental health are being spent. 

OFF THE TOP I can't remember ever sitting in on a serious Mendo discussion characterized by true adult give and take. Listening to local discussions of public affairs, say on KZYX, is, intellectually, like treading water in a vat of lukewarm piss. And public meetings of whatever type may be seething beneath the smiley surface, and often are, but for public consumption what you get is bland stupification, all of it dispensed by people nicely paid to dispense it..

INSTANT CHLOROFORM: From the intro to NPR's Terry Gross interview show, a show of almost pure showbiz fluff: "Today's guest plays a porno film actress who became a prostitute and…" I tuned out at "and." A woman who survived those experiences might be interesting, but the actress pretending to be her is not, at least to me. I think actors and musicians are boring as hell. They're so practiced at being interviewed they have their inoffensive patters down and simply recite them. Quick! Tell me from memory one, only one, interesting thing you've heard on the radio from a musician or an actor. If any of these people had something out of the People Magazine parameters to say, Terry Gross and NPR wouldn't be talking to them. It's no accident that Dean Witter and Google bring us NPR. (KZYX, Philo, just raked in a cool hundred grand from Witter, a brokerage house grandee. The ruling classes don't fund their critics. Doubt if Witter would write a big check for Counterpunch or the ava.)

THE NEWLY EXPANDED POT REGS that the Board discussed last month are on next Tuesday’s Supervisors agenda.

One of the modifications being proposed is to allow pot growers to sell their grow sites, including the permit, a long-standing request that we assume will be welcomed by permitted pot growers. We say “assume” because the language, as usual, is legalistic and confusing: “The Planning Commission … recommended that the Board allow for the transfer of existing cannabis cultivation permits issued on parcels located within CA Combining Districts.” [our emphasis]

What does that mean?

Oh, here we are. County Counsel clarifies: “The language regarding assignment of CA Combining District parcels was changed in section 10A.17.070, but corresponding language in section 20.242.040 was inadvertently not amended at the August 15 Planning Commission hearing. The redline version of the ordinance attached to this agenda packet deletes language on page 17, in paragraph (E)(3); the deleted language is highlighted and in strikethrough. This deletion removes the clause regarding the CA Combining District in essentially the same way as the language was deleted in section 10A.17.070. The clean version of the ordinance prepared for today’s meeting incorporates this deletion. It also deletes surplus language at the end of the paragraph, which is also highlighted and in strikethrough.”

And that, Dear Mendoland, is a perfect example of why Mendo’s pot program is such a failure. They can’t just say that permits can be sold with the property. They have to lard it up with bafflegab. Your basic pot grower who wants to go legit enters the system only to discover that he's faced with reams of this kind of gibberish. We’ll have to wait until Tuesday to see if this insider planner/lawyer language is clarified but turning to the County Counsel's office for clarity is to dive head first through the looking glass,

MENDO IS SETTING UP YET ANOTHER COMMITTEE, this one a committee called the “Emergency Medical Care” committee. An existing committee with that title has existed for years; the re-make seems to be made in the hope that official-status will increase its influence with "formal roles and responsibilities.” (It could also give the Supervisors a convenient excuse to avoid urgent issues like the collapse of [ambulance] Exclusive Operating Area proposal that died last month when Ukiah withdrew. The impending end of the contract with Sonoma County’s Coastal Valley Emergency Medical Services which has become so unhelpful and expensive might also be referred to this committee for who knows how long. We’d like to think the Committee will not let themselves be used as a delaying tactic, only to be ignored like the rest of the County’s advisory committees. Among the likely members are AV Fire Chief Andres Avila and Medstar senior paramedic Terry Gowan, both of whom fully understand the problem facing Mendo’s fragile emergency services system and are not going to be easy for the Board to ignore.

IT ALSO LOOKS LIKE MENDO has finally figured out a way to buy back the Orchard Avenue property from Redwood Quality Management Company, which bought the property a few years ago with a special grant from the county that was aborted mid-grant before any construction began. The site is one of two primary sites under consideration for an as-yet undefined Measure B-funded mental health facility.

Consent [sic] Calendar Item 4i: “Ratification of Purchase Agreement, for the Purchase of Real Property in the Amount of $423,000 Located at 631 South Orchard Street, Ukiah; and Authorization for the Purchasing Agent or Designee to Sign and Execute Any and All Agreements, Amendments and Other Documents Related to the Purchase of Real Property at 631 South Orchard Street, Ukiah (APN No. 002-340-44-00), and Authorize Chair to Sign Same”

The item does not indicate where the $423k will come from. (Measure B?) Nor does it explain why the County has to pay for the property at all since it was paid for with tax dollars to begin with. But Mendo has never missed an opportunity to hand over large chunks of unaccounted for cash to Redwood Quality Management before —why stop now? 

(Mark Scaramella)

JAMES MARMON WRITES re the County proposed Orchard Avenue (Ukiah) buy back: 

“The Shraeders bought the Orchard Ave. property for $2,550,000 on 06/06/17. They used $500,000 gifted to them by the county for the down payment. I wonder if they’re going to keep the existing building or give that back to the County as well. The County had previously leased that building before the Shraeders bought it. The Schraeders had to get out from underneath that property because they did not get the 5 million dollar grant that they promised the County they would receive to build a CRT and CSU with. Lots of questions need to be asked. I hope one of the Supes pull this consent item, even at the risk of pissing off Angelo and Schraeder.

“friends don’t question friends”

Also the Schraeders found out that they couldn’t bid on operating the PHF, CSU, and CRT combined if they are the owners of the property because they would have an unfair advantage over other bidders.

PS. There’s actually 3 lots on that property, 1 empty and two with the existing building built on the two. 

ED NOTE: If this transaction is approved — on the consent calendar no less — on Tuesday, we will submit a Public Records Act request for all documents related to this suspicious buy back.

“WHEN I WAS GROWING UP in Mobile, there was no such thing as an eccentric because individuality was permitted. It's only with the moment the dollar became God and the flattened-out culture of the mass media which has happened since World War II that the people who formerly might have been called — at the most — colorful or opinionated, now are thought of as eccentric or something. Somehow the television has created a race of morons. People in Mobile just sit around and blink like lizards do. And sex in America. In Europe they take it for granted. That's one of the things God has created to keep us from being bored in our stay on this planet. In America they still haven't decided what it is. The Catholics think all of it’s alright. Episcopalians think you can do anything as long as your fingernails are clean. But the fundamentalists think it's all perverse and they are trying to take over the country. The Europeans laugh and never talk about it and do it all. I'm telling you, when I came back here I had to adapt to life in a barbarian country. Barbarian.

But I'm glad to get back and into the traditional American mock battle: artists versus Philistines. In Europe the arts are considered something usual, for daily consumption. In America there is still the old Puritan suspicion that it's all hothouse stuff. So I'm back where I started, sharpening my pen, my brush, my spade, my scissors, my pruning shears, my cheese parer, and the taps on my new tap shoes.”

— Eugene Walter, “Milking the Moon"

CORRUPTION? ON THE NORTHCOAST? I'M SHOCKED, SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. The only shocking thing about it is how little has been verified. But more verification may be in the offing. The FBI has announced that they are actively pursuing leads as to funny business in the still mostly outlaw cannabis industry. As the G-People put it, “States require licenses to grow and sell the drug—opening the possibility for public officials to become susceptible to bribes in exchange for those licenses. If you suspect a dispensary is operating with an illegally obtained license, or suspect public corruption in the marijuana industry," call us…. It’s our role as the FBI to help to ensure that the corruption doesn’t spread in this new industry. The corruption is more prevalent in western states where the licensing is decentralized—meaning the level of corruption can span from the highest to the lowest level of public officials.”

I MOSTLY WATCH the BBC Television's World News, switching to ABC with the appalling David Muir the last few minutes of the half hour to see if Muir has outdone himself in the pure mawk he concludes his nightly hysteria with. The deliveries of Muir's correspondents — perfectly formed Kens and Barbies with big, white teeth — pose themselves as if bracing against a hurricane wind and wildly gesticulate no matter the content of their presentation. Muir's concluding mawk is always about something "positive," at least as defined by the evilly manipulative like Muir’s sponsors — a kid with no arms playing high school football, a soldier back from Afghanistan "surprising" his kids at a school rally, a dog rescue lady exchanging soul kisses with beagles. The BBC rarely descends to manipulative sentimentality, and their correspondents are plain-looking people who can talk without scripts, and include a fat, blind guy who would never be up front in an American newscast. And the Brit news isn’t constantly interrupted by ads for drugs whose side effects are more lethal than the disease allegedly being fought. 

ANYHOO, the other night I was struck by a clip on Brit prime minister Boris Johnson, a deeply cynical and buffoonish individual but, like Trump, another perfect guy to usher in the looming catastrophes. Johnson, or BoJo as the tabloids call him, was walking down some London street with what appeared to be a single body guard and, here's the surprising part, getting in running arguments with passing pedestrians, one of whom was so aggressively hostile that in the American context he would have been gang tackled and packed off to a secret service basement for a week of interrogation. The British PM is very unpopular, but there he was virtually unprotected in a public place fully engaged with random hecklers. I believe Coolidge was our last president to regularly appear in public without a small army of security. Now, any time a president goes anywhere, such as Obama  a few years ago to San Francisco, the Secret Service cordons off two or three surrounding blocks and posts snipers on neighborhood rooftops. 

HERE on the "progressive" Northcoast, our alleged reps are unlikely ever to simply announce a time and a place where they are available, unfiltered, to the Great Unwashed. And I can't even imagine any of them holding their own in open debate as, I remember, and remember vividly because it was memorably hilarious, the time then-Congressman Bosco convened a genuinely open session (the only one since by any of them) in the auditorium at the State Building in Santa Rosa. During Bosco's opening remarks, which were met with open derision, a long line of critics formed to denounce him on this or that issue. (He was terrible on all issues, and how in hell he wound up as shot caller for what's left of the old Northcoast Railroad… Well, it's unlikely the FBI will take that one on.) The very first person to question Bosco teed off on him. As did the next two speakers. That day Bosco got mad and started hurling insults back at the audience. "Well, if you don't like it, get a new Congressman." Etc. Which we did, a lateral move called Frank Riggs. But Bosco losing it was his finest hour, and probably the only hour in his years of pure, hustling self-aggrandizement that we saw that whiney, self-righteous guy whole.

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK

It boggles the mind, so much destructive power in so few well-manicured corporate hands. You wonder how this could have been allowed to happen. For all the manly jaw-clenching of tens of millions of gun-owners purporting to defend the America, none did. What good were all those rifles? Did they defend the borders? Um. no. Wall Street ruined the country and much of the world and nobody lifted a finger, let alone fired a shot. Nor did I to my everlasting shame and disgrace. Mea fucking culpa. As for tyranny, if you don’t like the tyranny of an oppressive nation state, there’s the corporate alternative. You want to know what it’s like to live in an authoritarian regime? Go to work for any large company. It’s not like this is just so much verbal blithering, the demolition of the US economy outside of coastal enclaves is eyeball proof, eminently visually verifiable. It’s right under our nose. And it’s not like the societal consequences are unknown. The litany of calamity is right there for all to see; throngs of homeless, half of them gone nuts, a host of precariously employed and therefore unmarriageable young men, the prevalence of family break-up and of unwed motherhood and the disasters that by itself spawns. And the tens of thousands of yearly deaths by suicide, alcoholism and opium-derived drugs.

And so it’s not like the concept of “collapse” is the fantasy of dystopian writers, it’s the reality in the here-and-now. The irony, of course, is that the destroyers of the nation state themselves need that same nation state to survive. Yes, madness, gender confused and otherwise. Good way to put it. Yes, we’ve slipped a gear or two along the way. To say the least. 

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