Off the Record (November 13, 2019)

THE BRITISH have a useful phrase to describe phonies: "rum characters." The rummest character ever happens to be our president. But most of the Democrats pursuing him are also rum characters. Beto O'Rourke is among the rumm-est characters on the national stage, with Little Rum, Mayor Pete, running a close second. Anybody whose Rum Detector is fully operational would recognize the following statement from Beto as Instant Rum: “Our campaign has always been about seeing clearly, speaking honestly, and acting decisively. In that spirit I am announcing that my service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee.” Pure Rum. Beto, shorted out the Rum Meter every time he opened his mouth.

ON THE SUBJECT of definitions and pigeon holes, and because I've been asked a lot, I admire Kunstler's writing because he's (1) a very good and often very funny writer and (2) his world view coincides with mine and, perhaps, yours. That view assumes that Industrial capitalism is killing everything and it's going to kill us, too. That grim fact trumps all other issues. I also agree with Kunstler on the utter bankruptcy of the Democratic Party and their bogus pursuit of, in Kunstler's wonderful description, "The Golden Golem of Greatness." We have a situation where two hopelessly blinkered political parties are at the power levers, one denying that climate change is real, the other putting all their energy into the pursuit of GGG who just, as promised, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, setting back even the discussion of what to do about the climate catastrophe. And the political system itself has achieved a perfectly entropic immobility. We may truly be doomed as a species. Kunstler's the only political writer I know who addresses that grim fact directly. Do I agree with him all the time? Of course not. Why just this morning he described people like me as “collectivists” for supporting Bernie who Kunstler says reminds Americans of their 9th grade math teacher, a description of The Bern I find funny. But the notion that a few necessary social program promoted by Bernie, like medical care, food, shelter, and education amount to “collectivism” is silly.

WILL GOVERNOR NEWSOM’S tough talk about “the greed and incompetence” of PG&E result in the monopoly for-profit becoming, at last, a public utility run in the primary interest of the public it “serves”? Add to PG&E’s list of wildly overpaid executives, the millions of our dollars they’ve doled out to shareholders, and the many millions they’ve distributed to our professional officeholders and, now, their arbitrary power shut-offs PG&E is practically begging to be de-privatized. If Newsom’s just woofing he’s through as a viable officeholder. 

WE’LL be telling stories about this catastrophe until the next one which, people who study these things say, will occur regularly from here on. The “new normal,” they call it.

IT'S NOT POSSIBLE to argue productively with people who are uninformed but, the editor said, choking down a sob, "It's my duty as a media mogul to beat back the forces of darkness wherever I find them and however I can."

"TO THE FINLAND STATION" is a book by Edmund Wilson, a very good book, an essential book, a book that will teach even the educationally handicapped the difference between communists and socialists and anarchists and social democrats and the political goats from political elephants generally. That's assuming of course the ignorant feel any responsibility to the truth of things. Another good book on the basics, and a much funnier one, is George Bernard Shaw's "The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism" which, as you can see from its title, assumes that women, being smarter than their repro partners, are more generally educable than men. I'm tired of posting the diffs myself, having done so to no effect on the dunderhead community or, in another brilliant phrase, the "confederacy of dunces" for too many years.

CONTINUING WITH TODAY'S LESSON, here's the basics about Israel, the very basic basics. Israel was founded by terrorists who expelled the Arabs who'd lived in Palestine from the beginning of recorded history. This forceful expulsion naturally created a terrorist counter-attack from the expelled and persecuted people, aka Palestinians. The last reasonable Israeli politician who tried to make a decent accommodation with the expelled people, aka Palestinians, was Yitzhak Rabin, and he was murdered by an Israeli extremist identical in psychological make-up to, say, Isis fanatics. And here we are. To repeat: the Palestinians are the victims in the relationship. There are pertinent, truthful books on this big subject, and don't let anybody scream anti-semitism at you for simply checking them out of the library: Israel Shahak's Jewish History, Jewish Religion and anything by Norman Finkelstein. 

BACK TO LILLIPUT: Linda Ruffing, former Fort Bragg city manager, enjoys an undoubtedly lush contract with Mendocino County as a consultant to our Planning and Building Department. Her hire seems to have eluded our normally eagle-eyed scrutiny of the Supes' agenda consent calendar, via which the connected get this and that employment plum from County leadership. 

A LITTLE HELP FOR THE RAYS…

For those concerned and wishing to help Bill and Judith Ray after their home and possessions were destroyed by fire during the PG&E outage, when there was no electricity and therefore no accessible well water on their property, the Savings Bank of Mendocino County, Ukiah and Willits branches, have offered a means to assist. Going in person into either bank, simply ask to deposit a donation in the William Ray account — not Bill Ray account, please. Their computer does not comprehend nicknames. Mailings are also accepted. This arrangement will be temporary. The tellers have been notified about the circumstances. The Rays wish to extend their gratitude for the community concern about their loss and future.

HIT MAN GUILTY AT LAST! Chinese organized crime comes to Mendo…

It Took Four Years But… As soon as you get off the pavement in Mendocino County you can find yourself in another country, a kind of United Nations of dope growers that includes Bulgarians, Chinese, Mexicans, Russians, Italian and Spanish nationals, to name a few of the representatives of foreign countries arrested recently in Mendocino County, the one we’re talking about a Chinese hitman deployed by Chinese gangsters, few of whom ever get caught. The hitman has finally been convicted. Here’s the story:

A TOYOTA mini-van was only a few hidden feet from the pavement off Highway 20 near Fort Bragg, not far from the area locals call the "bark dump” on the mild fall afternoon of October 17th, 2013. The van hadn't moved in a couple of days, a fact noted by residents of the nearby trailer park. Inside the otherwise spotless vehicle, Sheriff's deputies found two dead Chinese. Cindy Bao Feng Chen, 38, of San Francisco was dead in the driver's seat, Jim Tat Kong, 51, of San Pablo, was dead in the passenger's seat. They each had been professionally dispatched with bullets to the backs of their heads, one shot per victim.

MS. CHEN was a wealthy San Francisco property owner, Kong a gang affiliated gambler. Why the respectable Ms. Chen was with Kong is not yet known. Murders are common enough in Mendocino County, but murders of Chinese aren't. What could this have been about? It was about a lot of things, but specifically about Mendocino County marijuana gardens owned and operated by Chinese gangsters based in San Francisco.

FOUR YEARS after the executions of Ms. Chen and Mr. Kong near Fort Bragg, and many hours of inquiries by gang task forces, federal investigators, and Mendocino County officers, Mendocino County police and FBI agents arrested Wing Wo Ma, 50, at his Oakland home a month ago. Ma has been charged with the murders of Chen and Kong, plus drug trafficking charges. Ma has finally been convicted in federal court for a variety of crimes, including murder.

MENDO DA Eyster says the case is “all very simple. Rivalries and suspicions in the tong [gang] spilled over to include their marijuana business here in Mendocino County."

"Kong,” Eyster says, “had been running several marijuana growing operations in the county, including an outdoor garden in Redwood Valley, as well a 150-plant garden raided by a narcotics team earlier that year [2013] also in the Redwood Valley.” DA Eyster himself had prosecuted the Redwood Valley dope case — twice — but the prosecutions failed because the local court ruled that the original law enforcement entry onto the property — in follow-up to the fire department's entry to put out an illegal garbage fire — through the unlocked, but closed driveway gate was a search and seizure 4th Amendment violation.

“KONG,” Eyster says, "had been spending more time in Mendocino County because he was in bad standing with some very powerful Chinese gangsters in the Bay Area.”

Federal investigators said the apparent hitman, Ma, was acting as a double agent — getting paid to build greenhouses and other infrastructure for illegal cultivators as he tipped off detectives about who he was working for, in which case he’s lucky he didn’t get a bullet in the back of his head himself.”

MA had told a detective he was heading to Mendocino County with Kong to look at properties to acquire for additional marijuana operations. The investigator didn’t outline a precise motive in the killing. But Ma, in a statement to investigators, admitted he’d "followed Kong and Chen in his truck the morning of October 17 because he was concerned Kong was visiting a marijuana farm without him."

FAST FORWARD to November 7, 2019 — A federal jury in San Francisco convicted Wing Wo Ma, a/k/a Mark Ma, a/k/a Fat Mark, of murder, drug distribution conspiracy, weapons, and bribery charges. According to the evidence submitted at trial, Ma, 53, of Oakland, shot and killed Jim Tat Kong and Cindy Bao Feng Chen on October 17, 2013, in Fort Bragg while the couple was seated in their minivan. Beginning in January of 2013, Ma had borrowed money from Kong for several business ventures including a marijuana grow and a real estate scheme in Mendocino County. Fearing retribution from Kong upon finding himself unable to repay the money, Ma met with Kong and Chen on Chen’s birthday. While seated in the car, Ma shot each of the victims with a single gunshot to the head and then left their bodies in the minivan parked in a secluded, wooded area in Mendocino County….

FURTHER, Ma was convicted of bribery. The evidence demonstrated that Ma bribed Harry Hu, an inspector employed by the Alameda County District Attorney and a former Lieutenant in the Oakland Police Department. Ma bribed the inspector with airfare for multiple trips to Las Vegas, free accommodation at high-end suites and hotel rooms at Las Vegas casinos, meals and entertainment in Las Vegas and San Francisco, female hostesses at private room bars in Las Vegas and San Francisco, music concert tickets, use of a new Mercedes Benz, and labor for the remodel of the DA investigator’s personal residence. Ma bribed Hu in an effort to protect himself from prosecution and investigation by Hu and other law enforcement agencies. Ma also collected money from criminal associates for the purpose of bribing Hu and represented to criminal associates that Hu was an investor in Ma’s fraudulent investment projects. As part of the bribery scheme, Ma used Hu’s name and reputation to attract investors to Ma’s fraudulent schemes.

HALLUCINATIONS? FANTASY? Last week's Supes' discussion under "Affordable Housing" was apparently pegged to the delusion that loosening up the rules on Coastal Zone second units, euphemized as "accessory dwelling units,” would somehow work towards housing the houseless. Excuse me, but the Mendocino Coast's sprawling, ocean view dentist's complexes are unlikely to ever erect "affordable housing." At some point, the Supervisors will have to actually initiate something in the way of truly affordable housing rather than endlessly discuss it. It's not as if there aren't innumerable creative housing ideas out there. Hell, their travel and conference budget alone could build a coupla tiny houses.

WITH THEIR HONORS Behnke and Reimenschneider shuffling off into "retirement," it occurs to me I've lost track of how many Solomons Mendo has out there polishing their lush golden years as visiting judges up and down the state. Last time I checked that re-entry hippie, Richard Kossow, for one, a guy who emerged from a couple of years of stoned grab ass in the hills above Philo to jump on Mendo’s judicial gravy train, was still out there picking up the big per diems. The conversion of Mendocino County's mostly once-a-week justice courts to superior court status, with all the perks of that go with that lofty position in an outback county whose the average wage is short of forty grand a year was a huge swindle. The magic upgrade was only the beginning of Mendo judicial bunco with 9 highly paid judges for a population of 90,000 people where there were two judges prior. By now there must be twenty or so retired Mendo judges presiding from San Diego to Crescent City. Then we were sold the Ten Mile Justice Court in Fort Bragg on the promise that Coast matters would be heard on the Coast except, like, when they were inconvenient to the judicial apparatus. And here comes another grand scheme by the Robes to replace the present County Courthouse with a glass and steel eyesore three blocks south of the present Courthouse which, of course, could be re-modeled to re-create the truly beautiful original County Courthouse and accommodate present operations all in one go for a lot less money. If you came in late, the new Courthouse will house only the judges and their gofers. (Please keep a close eye on Supe's candidates and vote against any of them who are for this massive boondoggle. Uh, how do you know, Mr. Negative, the new Courthouse will be an eyesore? Name one new courthouse erected anywhere in America after 1945 that isn't a glass and steel eyesore. I refer you to the federal courthouse in Eugene, Oregon, for the archetype. And, much closer to home, check out the squalid and mostly abandoned courthouse in Willits.)

A READER WRITES: Re: Redwood Coast Medical Services in Gualala — “I just got a garbled word from someone in RCMS (Redwood Coast Medical Services) that our hospice program has been discontinued. As a hospice volunteer, and assuming this is true, this is not the way end of life issues end (no pun intended). When considering death, which we all want to deny, our main resource here on the coast is hospice. To allow us to end our lives in dignity at our homes has always been the consideration of Hospice of RCMS. But if you dig deeper , a lady by the name of Cerruti donated $4 million to the hospice effort on the coast. Somehow, RCMS assumed the windfall, and all was good, until RCMS has run into the financial grim reaper. I worked diligently alongside the hospice head nurse (Vicci Marcotte) while the power was out, and she was stellar in her efforts to ascertain all patients were covered, as well as others unaccounted for… And now I hear the program is suspended… I sure hope I don’t need care tonight. It is my opinion that due to RCMS’s difficulties of cash flow that Doric Jemison-Ball and the board have decided to cancel the hospice program here on the coast, and assume the $600,000 reserve benefit. All I gotta say to Doric and the board members is, “Hope you got nobody to offer.” 

DON CRAWFORD OF UKIAH WRITES: “For all candidates for supervisor. Please review the loophole that allows the county auditor to write and sign checks to the UVSD's [Ukiah Valley Sanitation District] lawyer without an annual audit of the documentation. Millions have been paid based on the assumed audit by the UVSD chairperson of these documents. It should make any auditor's skin crawl to sign checks based on this flawed assumption.”

AS ONE MORE EXAMPLE of how the mainstream media either hides of ignores truths inconvenient to the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, take Eric Ciaramella, 33, the “whistleblower” upon whose secret testimony in the pursuit of the Great White Whale depends. Ciaramella is a CIA employee. Small wonder that Schiff and Co. are keeping him hidden with, of course, a big assist from MSM. The guy’s name has been all over the credible sectors of the internet for weeks.

NOT MANY CITIES can boast two public defenders and no DA, but San Francisco has done it with Chesa Boudin. For years, Mendocino County managed with one DA and no public defenders, an imbalance nobody outside Boonville seemed to notice. The San Francisco Police Department, which lives in Novato, spent well over $600,000 to defeat Boudin on the assumption that a liberal as DA will make SF's civic chaos even more chaotic. But Frisco's been on the skids for years, and the suicidal nexus of anything goes introduced by the flower children in 1967, and the gross deterioration of the liberal political class that made room for people like Jim Jones, and throw in the ever-widening class chasm and voila! here we are.

MONOPOLIZATION of essential services used to be assumed a bad thing, and not in the public interest. The recent power outage by the PG&E monopoly, a for-profit business, seems to have re-awakened public awareness that this particular monopoly has to somehow be brought under public control and run in the public interest. Ditto for hospital monopolies. The looming for-profit Adventist takeover of Coast Hospital gives the vegetarian cult-church a Mendo medical monopoly that means higher medical prices for all of us. Nothing against Adventists, and nothing against Christians in general who, as most of us know, tend to be, ah, more socially reliable than, as Tommy Wayne Kramer has put it, the folks at the Mendocino Environment Center. Hospitals, as essential as utilities, also oughta be publicly owned.

SPEAKING of Mr. Kramer, he's got a new book out, and a rollicker it is. "Happy to be Here — Tall tales of fact and fiction" is not a collection of the writer's essential Sunday columns, which all Mendo people of sensibilities better than a stone pounce on every Sabbath as the unique journalo-jewels they are, no sir, these essays are new. And inimitable. And mostly fall defiantly outside the flabby Mendolib consensus, that oppressive amalgam of Billary politics and faux social concern that ends when the grants run out. This is good stuff. Truth in 500-word servings including much, dare I say, heartfelt reflection on family, aging, several great essays on baseball as it was, and even pets. I haven't purely enjoyed a book more in some time. Available, I hope, at both Ukiah book stores and on the Coast's, too. Not just log rolling here, but this book is worth a lot more than the cover price of 14 bucks. 

SPEAKING of gratifying essays, look up "Aromas of Black Plum & Licorice with Lingering Notes of Roundup” by Alastair Bland in October 9-15 edition of East Bay Express. Mr. Bland used to write for the mighty AVA before he moved on to more remunerative publications, but the kid can put the words together, and these words confirm that the jive juice industry is heavily chemically-dependent, a grim fact borne out by the wine-blitzed ecology of the Anderson Valley. (The former boss man at Roederer, the late Michelle Salgues, was trained as a chemist.) 

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Dave Chappelle’s latest stand-up comedy special on NetFlix called “Sticks and Stones.” Great stuff and consistently close to the bone throughout, which is why every collection of the perpetually offended has denounced it as "Tone-deaf" and "Hurtful." The only prob I had with it was that some of the sexual passages seemed gratuitous, but they were seldom, and Chappelle spares no one, least of all himself.

ALSO RECOMMENDED is the absolutely riveting Netflix documentary called "The Devil Next Door" describing the prosecutions, plural, of John Demjanjuk, aka Ivan the Terrible, a Ukranian death camp butcher for the nazis during World War Two who, post-war, settled in Cleveland and quietly went to work for Ford. I came away thinking they got the right guy, then let him go because Israelis thought he might not be the right guy. Then, of all people, the Germans got him again as the right guy and he finally died a peaceful death at 91 in a German rest home when, given the evidence against him, the Israelis should have hanged him years before. Demjanjuk was only one of thousands of East European nazis, big ones and little ones, admitted to the U.S. after the war, including an eager nazi called Werner Von Braun who ran our rocket program. (The Russians wanted him, too.) The admission to the country of these unrepentant fascists was pegged to their militant Cold War anti-communism, which was then in America the political trump card cancelling all other political concerns and, of course, tacit recognition that there were and are millions of latent native fascists here in the land of the fearful. And they vote. (cf Trump) Nobody was about to oppose these righteous new citizens who did their bit for mass murder, of whom this guy was only one of thousands, distinguished from the other killers only by his viciousness.

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK 

Most Americans have never heard of Bloomberg (will probably confuse his name with the department store Bloomingdale’s) and Trump had high name recognition before he came down the escalator and declared war on Mexico. What does this man even think he has to offer the country? The self-importance this announcement implies is staggering.

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