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RAIN AND HIGH ELEVATION SNOW will spread inland this morning, with all areas expected to see precipitation today. Cool and dry conditions are expected Monday, with some light precipitation expected late Tuesday through potentially Wednesday. Dry conditions are expected the remainder of the week. (NWS)
MEASURE B COMMITTEE APPROVES THE $3.3 MIL
by Mark Scaramella
Used to be that applicants for professional positions did a little homework on the organization they were submitting their resume to. These job seekers sometimes even read up about the project(s) that their desired organization had going and offered their opinion on how hiring them might help the outfit to succeed.
For example, an applicant to oversee Mendo’s Measure B mental health facilities project might have been expected to have read the Kemper reports, the text of Measure B, the minutes of the Measure B committee meetings… Why, they might even stoop to reading some of the AVA’s detailed coverage.
But newly hired Measure B Project Manager Isabel Gonzalez introduced herself at last Wednesday’s Measure B Committee meeting as: “100% Mendocino illiterate.”
Thank the goddess we've found you Ms. Gonzalez. You're a natch for official Mendo!
We've learned that Mr. Kemper has told CEO Carmel Angelo that he wants nothing more to do with Mendocino County. CEO Angelo said that Kemper’s stated reason was that he was “powering down” (an unfortunate metaphor in light of last fall’s PG&E fiasco). We were expecting CEO Angelo to also add that Kemper “wanted to spend more time with his family.” However, we suspect Kemper’s reasons for declining any more Mendo work have more to do with Mendo than him.
Measure B Committee Chair Dr. Ace Barash (who works for Adventist-owned Howard Hospital in Willits) read the letter the County has received from the Adventists’ Mendo Honcho Jason Wells, which basically said that with their anticipated operating agreement with Coast Hospital next year, the Adventists expect they could provide the equivalent of Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF/“Puff”) services at their old, recently vacated emergency room in Ukiah and at Coast Hospital: Ten beds on the Coast and six beds in Ukiah (eight if they did more extensive remodeling) for a total of that magic number of 16 beds — which has something to do with optimal reimbursement, of course. (Christ may have given the money changers the heave-ho, but they seemed to have landed comfortably at modern altars.)
There was some question about whether the County could use Measure B tax funds to finance construction/remodeling at a privately owned facility like the Adventists. County Counsel Christian Curtis said he’d look into it and get back to the Committee and Board of Supes.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wells has been asked to go ahead and submit a formal proposal in 60 days, spelling out what the Adventists would do for a few million Measure B dollars.
Board member Jan McGourty noted that she was happy to hear that the Adventists were willing to accept Mendolanders with the most severe mental problems. Coincidentally, severe mental illness is the only category of Mental Illness that the County and state reimburse for! Treatment of lesser categories of mental illness — moderate to mild, not to mention drug or alcohol related mental problems — are the responsibility of the County with its limited funds (perhaps supplemented by Measure B money, but nobody knows by how much).
Gotta hand it to those Adventists. Their apparent delayed realization that there’s millions to be made by skimming off the most lucratively reimburseable mental patients may seem a bit late, but then given the snail’s pace of Measure B activities, maybe not.
The committee also predictably rubberstamped the expenditure of (up to) $3.3 million for a feasibility study and architectural design services with the toney Sacramento-based Nacht & Lewis Architectural Services, the same firm that Sheriff Allman has been happy with for their work on the jail expansion project now underway to house another subset of mentally ill people: those with criminal charges. (The Supes voted 3-2 to approve this waste of money earlier this month, but nobody on the Measure B Committee expressed any interested about why Supervisors Williams and Gjerde had objected to the Nacht&Lewis contract. So the Committee’s “approval” vote was basically mandatory.)
There was a teensy bit of skepticism from Committee member Ross Liberty who noted that using what he thought was a standard multiplier of 10% for architectural work would translate to a $33 million dollar facility which is more than Measure B can afford.
But Sheriff Allman pointed out that the $3.3 million was a “not to exceed” amount — and, like Mendo’s other projects and programs, will be oh-so carefully stewarded by the County and the Measure B Committee so that not one penny more than is necessary will be spent, and that any attempts by the pricey Sacramento design and project pros to plump up their hourly billings toward the $3.3 million target over the next few years will be stoutly resisted by the County so that as much money as possible can go to services if Mendo ever builds anything…
Well, the Sheriff didn’t actually say anything like the words in the prior paragraph after the word “amount,” but we’re pretty sure that’s what he meant.
The Committee, including the vaguely skeptical Mr. Liberty, then voted unanimously to approve the spending of (“up to”) $3.3 million that the Supes had expected them to approve.
So maybe next year we’ll find out how feasible all of this is.
River watcher Nick Wilson writes:
Hwy. 128 NOT likely to flood
State Route 128 is unlikely to flood this weekend despite heavy rain and a Navarro River gauge forecast of a rapid 9 foot rise all day Sunday to a predicted crest of 12.8 ft. around 7 PM Sunday evening. That's the National Weather Service forecast, which is subject to revision as new data comes in. There will be heavy rain and winds Saturday afternoon and overnight that may cause rock slides and downed tree limbs, so it's not a great time to be traveling. The Navarro River channel through the sandbar has been opening and closing for the past week, but the sandbar is neither high enough nor strong enough to cause highway flooding during the surge on Sunday. The bar will quickly give way to the increased river flow. Drive safely, stay warm and dry, and have a great Winter Solstice Saturday, the shortest day of the year.
MARI RODIN WANTS TO REPLACE JOHN MCCOWEN
Former Ukiah City Councilmember Mari Rodin has filed to run for Mendocino County 2nd District Supervisor.
Ms. Rodin moved to Ukiah from San Diego in December 1991, was a partner with Hopper and Rodin Associates, a consulting firm specializing in writing grants for various public agencies and private non-profits. The business obtained millions of dollars in funding over the years and helped design and evaluate programs in Mendocino County in the social service, public health, and education fields.
Rodin testified several times before the California State Legislature and became a board member of CharterVoice, a statewide charter schools advocacy organization. As a city council member, Rodin was involved in many other community organizations including, Ukiah Players Theatre, Economic Development Finance Corporation, Russian River Watershed Association, Greater Ukiah Chamber of Commerce, and Ukiah Main Street Program.
After 11 years on the Ukiah City Council, she left Ukiah for a job working with Monterey County's LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) in 2013. Back in Mendocino County once again, Rodin is looking toward continued civic leadership.
This brings the number to 3 candidates running for retiring Supervisor John McCowen's seat: Maureen "Mo" Mulheren, Mari Rodin, and Joel Soinila.
A BLAST FROM THE PAST
(Mari Rodin resigned to take a job working for the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) of Monterey County back in 2013. Rodin, as her parting civic contribution, timed her resignation from the Ukiah City Council to preserve her taxpayer funded healthcare, which meant her replacement, Steve Scalmanini, could not be elected in November. The City Council dithered over whether to appoint her successor, or hold a special election in March, the earliest opportunity after missing the cut off for the November election.)
FROM THE AVA back in 2013
THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL held a special meeting last Wednesday to decide if they should hold another special meeting Friday to discuss the replacement procedure for Councilwoman Rodin, who has said she would be stepping down on August 16. Councilmember “Red” Phil Baldwin was absent Wednesday, so the council decided to hold another special meeting Friday to decide the issue. Baldwin was absent again. There seemed to be lots of confusion about the timing of an election, which must be called not less than 114 days before a regularly scheduled election, but not until the seat is actually declared vacant or until the person resigns or blah, blah, blah ad infinitum. Mayor Crane said that Rodin could resign that day to clear the way for an election in November. Rodin, who appeared by conference call, presumably from Monterey, said she might not resign after all, that she might change her mind. The council decided again to wait until Baldwin can be present for the decision.
THE COST OF A SPECIAL ELECTION was raised as a concern. If the election was combined with the November election, the cost was estimated to be $15,000-$20,000. If the council waits until March, the cost is estimated to be an additional $10,000. If Rodin wanted to facilitate an election, she could easily have timed her resignation (which she now seems to be hedging) so the election could be held in November. Now, after missing the deadline for November, it is predictable that the council will choose to fill the vacancy by appointment, on the grounds that the city can't afford to spend the money on a special election, or be without representation from August to March. Since this is the same group of councilpersons that spent $30,000 on the dining platform, $45,000 for some jive landscaping, and millions on garbage giveaways and bloated city admin, any handwringing over the modest cost of an election will be the purest form of hypocrisy. The reality is, the city council thinks they are better qualified than the public to decide who should sit with them. And they sure don't want to sit with anyone who will utter a discouraging word about the slo mo dismantling of city services and finances that is currently underway.
COUNCILWOMAN MARI RODIN, who may or may not be departing [she did], will be honored Thursday for her “many accomplishments” at a private reception at the home of City Manager Jane Chambers. Previous departing councilmembers have been recognized at simple public receptions held in the foyer of City Hall immediately before their last meeting. Councilwoman Rodin's “record of accomplishments,” which she apparently does not want celebrated by the un-washed public, includes the following:
1) HI-JACKED REDEVELOPMENT of upwards of $1 million dollars annually for ten years to pay administrative salaries with money that should have gone to fix “blighted conditions” like crumbling streets and boarded up storefronts. Now that the state has pulled the plug on redevelopment, Ukiah is left with a $1 million dollar annual structural deficit because the Rodin-led city council has refused to cut the bloated administrative overhead;
2) SCHEMED with the other feebs on the Ukiah city council to boost the pay for City Manager Jane Chambers from $150,000 annually by secretly agreeing to pay her $16,000 in “merit pay” and $8,000 in “executive pay,” which, along with a hefty car allowance, health insurance, retirement and other perks, tops out at a cool quarter of a million dollars in annual compensation. When the sordid arrangement came to light, the council made a show of cutting Chambers' indefensible merit and executive pay while leaving the door open to restore the cuts if Chambers can convince the employee bargaining groups to take a 10% cut in their salaries, thereby exhibiting leadership of the Kendall Smith variety;
3) ELIMINATED THE CITY AMBULANCE service and $650,000 in annual revenue that went with it, causing the lay off of six firefighter/EMTs, thereby reducing fire department staffing to its lowest level in 45 years;
4) STRUCK A DEAL with the Ukiah Valley Fire District, to make up for the resulting staffing shortages, that has resulted in stationing the remaining Ukiah firefighters outside the city limits, thereby reducing response time for any in-town emergency calls;
5) SQUANDERED almost $30,000 in public funds to eliminate three parking spaces and build a dining platform to benefit Mari's favorite restaurant, Patrona's, so that she and her council cronies, Little Benj Thomas and Polly Anne Landis, can dine al fresco within a fenced enclosure that keeps the public who paid for it carefully at bay;
6) SQUANDERED another $45,000 in public funds to “landscape” the new city electrical substation with about twenty trees and shrubs, which works out to about $2,500 per oleander;
7) SIGNED OFF on a sweetheart deal with the Ukiah garbage hauler, handing over millions in public dollars and forcing increases on the ratepayers;
8) JOINED Little Benj and Polly Anne in passing a meaningless resolution in support of “Zero Waste” although for the last two years they have successfully blocked the diversion of food waste from the Ukiah waste stream, preferring that it be trucked outtahere to be landfilled at high cost to the ratepayers, instead of hauled to Cold Creek Composting at no charge to be converted into a valuable soil amendment;
9) JOINED CITY MANAGER CHAMBERS in withholding information and dissing the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District, so that instead of providing information and working out their differences, the District now has two or three lawsuits going against the city;
10) IN SHORT, throughout her career, Mari Rodin has functioned as a reliable shill for the City Manager, always siding with the interests of city administration instead of representing the interests of the people she was elected to serve.
A READER WRITES: “Is Mari Rodin really taking a job as an analyst with Monterey County LAFCO? All I can say is, the applicant pool must have been pretty thin. Rodin, who is a genuinely good-hearted person, but not exactly rocket scientist material, never impressed me as the analytical type. As a self-described grant writer, Mari has made it into her late-40s without ever having a real job. You know, the kind where you are expected to show up at the same time every day and work a set number of hours. It will be interesting to see how well she adjusts to that.”
UPDATE: Turns out Ms. Rodin didn’t adjust very well. As best we can tell from the minutes of the Monterey LAFCO meetings, Ms. Rodin was there for less than a year.
WE ARE THE HOLLOW MEN, HEADPIECES STUFFED WITH STRAW
by Rex Gressett
Absolutely nobody in Mendocino County’s fourth District expects anything from Supervisor (Silent Dan) Gjerde. Honey Bear don't care. That’s how he rolls.
Dan Gjerde is as close to "nothing" as a politician can get.
For Silent Dan, "nothing" is NOT an accident. It is not an omission — and it is not anything as innocent as mere incapacity. Dan truly believes that doing nothing is his real job. He works at achieving nothing. He is good at it and proud of it. His supporters — and there are some who strongly support the Fourth District Supervisor — appreciate calculated nothingness.
What they understand, and what we have been missing, is that in some powerful political circles “systemic nothing” is extremely useful. Indeed, it is the ultimate tool for keeping the people of the county and the process of governance at a convenient distance.
Dan gets that. What looks to an honest person like vacuity is the most effective tool of an arrogant administrative state. What the self-perpetuating power apparatus understands, and what Dan Gjerde understands so perfectly, is that doing nothing in representative governance is the firmest foundation of unchecked power.
Dan Gjerde has never held a town hall meeting. Ever. He actually can’t. There is nothing to discuss, and if there was — he couldn't discuss it. In his regime of emptiness, there is nothing to question or protest. Nothing is nothing if not effective. Gjerde won't answer emails (at least he won't answer mine).
He has ONE rule. Vote with the majority. He does it himself and he expects it of the other Supervisors. To the best of his ability, he does what he is told to do and calls obedience the substance of virtue. Silent Dan has proposed no policy that was not handed to him gift-wrapped by the CEO. He makes a painfully minimal contribution to the discussion — and above all things, he avoids any suggestion that he believes anything at all, cares about any issue or, God forfend, has any identifiable ideological convictions.
Last Monday morning, at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, he slipped a bit. It was very brief but in a way, he spilled the beans. In a fit of pique and likely to his own surprise, Dan made an eloquent expression of his foundational ideology. Why Oh why, lamented the Fourth District Supervisor, can’t new supervisors Ted Williams and John Haschak do what I do and just vote with the majority?
We must forgive him. Debate and dissension are such an annoyance. Innovation and representation of the people’s interest is uncomfortably disruptive. From Gjerde’s point of view, Williams and Haschak have been bad little boys and Dan Gjerde — as the County's premier good little boy — just couldn’t take it anymore. All that voting of conscience, all that damn representation. Why can’t they just vote with the majority? It was a cry of real pain and an eloquent expression of the doctrine of governance by a brain-dead rubberstamp.
The uncritical consensus is Dan Gjerde’s foundational principle. If you were not paying close attention, you might well have missed it. It happened very late in the day-long meeting when virtually everyone from the public had left the chamber and the online viewers were lulled into somnolence. Dan Gjerde naturally raised his flag where it was least likely to be seen.
The routine business of the various city councils — and even more the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors — is almost entirely an elaborate unwrapping of state and federal regulation. The County CEO and her staff read the regs that come down from above and proceed to lead the supervisors by the nose.
When it gets excessively complicated, the Supervisors hire consultants to interpret the will of the state and package it for public consumption. In this system, voting as a block is the very signature of happy face governance.
Those of us who follow local governance in any depth know this, as an axiom. In any issue of importance, at any elected board or council, there is inevitably a divergence of opinion. When a matter of importance comes before our elected representatives the very fact of its significance almost always divides the representatives and splits the vote. It happens every time.
Ted Williams of the Fifth District has made the outrageous presumption of repeatedly advocating for the interests of his constituency, indulging in common sense, and promoting innovation. Dan has it right — Ted Williams has not always voted with the majority. Dan Gjerde is fed up with it. Ted Williams is the new man on the board. Like an underdog prizefighter, he has been throwing punches ever since his arrival on the scene. Ted has battled against the economy-killing pot overregulation, pushed hard and successfully to introduce zero-based budgeting and relentlessly challenged the supine board to discuss, to debate, and not infrequently — to innovate.
You can see how that would piss people off.
Never underestimate the power of nothing.
Since Dan Gjerde first ascended in glory from the Fort Bragg City Council to the Mendocino Board of Supervisors he has never faced an electoral challenge. Nothing kicks ass. This year, long-serving city Councilman Lindy Peters has decided to run against him.
Recently, I asked Lindy Peters what exactly he was running on. I naively assumed that Lindy would have put together some sort of campaign or would be presenting some platform of opposition to the incumbent. Silly me.
Lindy Peters told me that he and silent Dan had spoken together and had it all worked out. He told me they had agreed not to “go after” each other.
Wow. Should be a boring campaign — and in the old fashioned democratic tradition — a bit of a blasphemy.
“Nothing” on this scale is a new thing in American politics. Perhaps in the next Fourth District supervisorial election, nothing will prevail. On the other hand, maybe nothing will.
Mark Scaramella notes:
In 2010 during the run-up to the Fifth District Supes election just before Incumbent David Colfax formally announced that he was quitting after blurting out in a fit of pique that “The problem I have is once again joining with the Ukiah Daily Journal and certain segments in the County [i.e., the AVA and its readers] that are fascinated, intrigued by the abuses, perceived or otherwise, including the Grand Jury in that at the very top of the list. I am sick and tired of taking crap from these people and these organizations! … I ran on a platform eleven years ago saying we need to increase the compensation of members of the board of supervisors. And that has been opposed by some of the worst elements in this community for all those years. … [To John McCowen] So I think that it's a pet peeve. I'd rather see you [McCowen] work in behalf of advancing the interest of the members of the Board of Supervisors. … I've had too much of an investment in this organization and wasted too damn much time bickering over a crappy salary connected to a not terribly rewarding job. … I don't like having my contribution to workmen's compensation added into the line item about what I get out of this organization either. That's not what it's all about at all! It's what I see in my paycheck. It's not terribly, terribly exciting, to put it very mildly.”
Earlier that year I wrote: “As proof of the continued lameness of Mendocino politics, take the somewhat nebulous start of the campaign season last Friday, when former Fifth District Supervisor Norm deVall had Fifth District Supes candidate Dan Hamburg as his guest on his KZYX “Access” show. DeVall at least noted that, with the possible exception of Supervisor John Pinches’ increasingly frustrated attempts to get some water storage along the Highway 101 corridor, the current board hasn’t done anything for Mendocino County in recent memory. Candidate Hamburg replied that he didn’t want to “slam” any of the current board members, including the totally ineffectual one he was sort of running against (David Colfax, who still hadn’t decided if he’s running for re-election).
Of course, nobody had asked Hamburg to “slam” anyone. The underlying message Hamburg was giving was: “It’s bad political form in Mendocino County to make even the mildest criticism or complaint about anything or anyone. If you do it, you’re sure to lose.”
And that’s the prevailing mindset.
But, as my uncle, former Fifth District Supervisor Joe Scaramella, once pointed out to me, “Hell, Mark. If you don’t criticize, how can anything improve?”
So, unfortunately, what Mr. Gressett has noticed in Supervisor Gjerde is not new — in fact, with very few exceptions, it’s the Mendo Model.
BEFORE LOS ANGELES WAS LOS ANGELES. The intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, 1904.
JONAH RASKIN AND GREG SARRIS on “A Sense of Place” at Rohnert Park-Cotati Library January 29, 2020
Jonah Raskin, longtime contributor to the AVA, will be in conversation with SSU professor Greg Sarris, the Tribal Leader of the Graton Rancheria. The topic of conversation is “A Sense of Place.” Sarris and Raskin have both written extensively about Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Mountain. Sarris’s award-winning book is titled How a Mountain was Made. His collection of short stories, Grand Avenue, was made into a movie for TV directed by Daniel Sackheim. As the tribal leader of the Graton Rancheria Sarris played a major role in bringing The Graton Resort and Casino to Rohnert Park and making it a major destination for tourists in the North Bay. Raskin is the editor of The Radical Jack London: Writings on War and Revolution, and the author of Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating and Drinking Wine in California. Autographed copies of Sarris’s Grand Avenue and How a Mountain Was Made will be given out gratis as long as supplies last. The event is free and open to the public. There will be time for questions and an opportunity to meet and talk one-on-one with Sarris and Raskin. The event takes place January 29, 2020 and starts at 6 p.m.
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Handsome as all get out, Strider is a dog who's always ready to play. Strider is a big dog with lots of happy energy so an active guardian who will take him out and about would be ideal. Strider is a 1 year old, neutered male Shepherd mix who currently weighs 77 pounds.
The Ukiah Animal Shelter is located at 298 Plant Road in Ukiah. Visit our website for information about our canine and feline guests, our services, programs and events, at http://www.mendoanimalshelter.com For more information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453. The Shelter will be closed for the Christmas Holiday Tuesday and Wednesday, December 24 and 25. We will open on Thursday, December 26 with our normal hours.
ESQUIRE MAGAZINE COVER, DECEMBER 1963.
Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston became the first Black Santa to appear on the cover of a national magazine, and: “All hell broke loose when that cover came out.” — George Lois, Esquire graphic designer
WHO WAS BILLY EATON?
ACE RESEARCHER DEBORAH SILVA NOTES:
Billy was the homeless man found dead under a bridge in Ukiah recently. The article in MTC today says he did not have any relatives. You know I can't leave things like this alone! Billy has a daughter who apparently lives in Arizona. She probably hasn't seen nor heard from him in many years, who knows? In 1976 Billy married a woman named Sonia Perez, in 1977 Victoria Ann Eaton was born and in 1982 Sonia and Billy divorced. Billy had an arrest for attempted rape dating back to 1979. I do not know the outcome of that arrest. I've attached a bunch of stuff, maybe you could pass it on to the appropriate people. Both Sonia and Victoria have the previous last name of Eaton on their background reports.
JEWISH & NON JEWISH DICKS AND CRIMINALS
A Contemporary Detective Story
by Jonah Raskin
Cops are one thing. PIs or “dicks” are another. I’ve rarely met a cop I really liked, but I know a bunch of PIs or private investigators I admire. We’re in the same line of work: investigating. A few years ago, at a party in Hollywood I attended when I was working for Warner Brothers, Jane Fonda walked up to my friend, Stew Albert, and told him, “So, you’re now a dick.” Stew took the comment as a compliment. After all, he was a dick and dicks are cool in movie land. Fonda plays Brie, a movie call girl investigated by a detective named John Klute in a role made memorable by Donald Sutherland. As in many detective films, Out of the Past and The Maltese Falcon, Klute becomes romantically involved with the woman he’s shadowing. Those kinds of entanglements rarely happen in real life, though Fonda and Sutherland became lovers.
Until the early 1960s, Stewart Albert was a Brooklyn-born Jewish, Trotskyite and a bodybuilder. After he moved to California, he became a hippie and later a Yippie, and after Watergate, he reinvented himself as a private investigator in San Francisco, a city famous for PIs, a profession that often seems to be the last refuge of both angels and scoundrels. Sam Spade is a “blond Satan.” Philip Marlowe starts off as a knight in shining armor and ends up as part of the nastiness he abhors. In San Francisco, a lot of ex-cops become dicks.
As a PI, Stew Albert obtained FBI files under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which Congress passed in 1967 and that enabled private citizens to read the reports, usually redacted, that G-Men wrote about them. FOIA didn’t exist during the time of Dashiell Hammett, the father of modern detective fiction and a Communist Party member who went to jail rather than name names. He was romantically involved with Lillian Hellman, the New Orleans-born Jewish anti-fascist playwright (Watch on the Rhine) who is portrayed by Jane Fonda in the feature film Julia. Hammett is played by Jason Robards.
Before Hellman met “Dash,” he snooped and spied for the anti-union Pinkerton National Detective Agency and later poured his gumshoe days and nights into noir novels such The Maltese Falcon. “Most things in San Francisco can be bought, or taken,” Spade says.
No one knows that better than my brother, Adam, a San Francisco PI, licensed by the State of California, with an M.A. in sociology, and a long record of working for criminal defense lawyers like Tony Serra. My brother insists that he has learned more about criminality and its detection from reading Hammett and Raymond Chandler than from anyone else.
I’ve been reading and rereading those two authors for most of my adult life. For years, I also taught a college course titled “The Mysteries of College Composition.” Students were required to create a fictional detective. They also watched movies like The Big Fix, the detective flic based on Roger Simon’s novel of the same name with a Jewish detective named Moses Wine.
There’s no movie version of The Jew Detective (1891), a dime novel in which Alvan Judah appears as the first Jewish PI in fiction.
Hey, Jews wanted to read about detectives who belonged to their own tribe. After all these years, there’s no really famous fictional Jewish PI, and no really great Jewish murder mystery either. Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth and Saul Bellow didn’t write detective stories because they belong to genre fiction and they aimed to write Great American Novels.
In the crowded field of contemporary Jewish-American fiction, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen's Union stands out because it’s comic and set in a futuristic version of Alaska, with a Jewish homicide detective named Meyer Landmans, a name that sounds like Meyer Lansky, the arch criminal and Jew who worked with the U.S. government and with Lucky Luciano to defeat fascism in World War II. He was also a racketeer. Chabon pays homage to his literary ancestors, but his novel often feels like a parody. His Israeli-born wife Ayelet Waldman carved out her own unique territory in the Mommy-Track Mysteries, which appeals to mothers. Waldman’s own girlhood, which she describes as “a very specific kind of Labor-Zionist Judaism,” suggests the complexities of contemporary Jewish experience that refuse to be typecast, though that hasn’t discouraged Jewish writers.
In an essay titled “Is This Any Job for a Nice Jewish Boy?“ James Yaffe, himself a writer of detective fiction, argues that God was the first detective and Adam the first criminal. That sounds right. God entraps Adam with the apple and the snake and Eve plays the part of the femme fatale. As in almost all crime stories, the perpetrators or “perps,” as dicks call them, are punished severely, but we’re supposed to believe the punishment is for their own good.
Yaffe believes that Judaism provides the kind of fundamental understanding of justice, truth and critical inquiry that’s necessary for murder mystery. But the same could be said for Christianity and Buddhism. All religions provide a moral basis for understanding crime detection and punishment.
My brother Adam is a kind of non-Jewish, Jewish detective. He’s not religious but he’s infused with Jewish culture and he’s also not a nice Jewish boy. Dicks aren’t nice guys, or if they are they’re not nice guys all the time. They can’t be nice when they visit men condemned to serve life sentences. Go into San Quentin and Folsom, as my brother does, and you have to have a thick skin, though you might also feel compassion for the condemned. That’s my brother’s weakness, though it’s also his strength. He empathizes with men behind bars, though not all of them. Child molesters rarely if ever elicit his sympathy, but he believes everyone has the right to a fair trial.
Ever since 1980, I’ve followed Adam’s adventures as he has unraveled crimes and solved mysteries, not with ballistics, forensics, or “ratiocination” — the method Poe’s detective Auguste Dupin uses in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” — but rather by accumulating mounds of information and sorting through it. “Not everyone is guilty of the crime that they’re accused of committing, but everyone is guilty of a crime,” my brother tells me. About cop testimony, he has a healthy dose of skepticism. In the trade it’s called “testalying.”
While Adam can be decidedly Jewish in his gestures and expressions, and though he’s a detective by trade, it’s not fair to call him a “Jewish detective.” I could just as well call him an Islamic detective or a Zen PI. He can pass for an Israeli and spout Hebrew, impersonate a Brazilian and speak Portuguese, or hang with newly arrived Russian Jewish immigrants in San Francisco, trying to scam their countrymen. Adam’s job suits his personality. A few years ago he studied Yiddish with a Berkeley professor. Now, he converses with old Jews and keeps the language alive.
I once hired him to obtain San Francisco police department files on Natalie Jackson, a woman who was Jack Kerouac’s girlfriend in 1955 and who died in a fall from the third floor of a building in San Francisco. When I expressed surprise when my brother handed over the files, he said, “You can get any information you want if you’re willing to pay for it.” And if you’re persistent.
Professor Laurence Roth, the author of the scholarly study, Inspecting Jews: American Jewish Detective Stories, doesn’t feature any real Jewish detectives in his book, but rather Jewish writers such as Stuart Kaminsky, Faye Kellerman and Harry Kemelman.
“Most of the books I wrote about in Inspecting Jews are concerned with the Holocaust, Jewish pasts, and what it means for Jews to have power.” Like every other ethnic group Jews abuse power once they have. While Professor Roth doesn’t think that there’s a great Jewish detective novel, he likes the work of Jonathan Dunsky, an Israeli author who created the Adam Lapid series of mystery novels in the hard-boiled vein.
Roth also admires the work of Rochelle Krich, who was born in Germany in 1947, the child of Holocaust survivors, reared in the U.S. and a teacher at Yeshiva University, a private high school in L.A. Readers of Krich’s fiction don't learn that her LAPD detective, Jessica Drake, is Jewish until Angel of Death (1994), the second book in the series. “Krich’s books are classics,” Roth says. “They will last.”
Perhaps they will. But I don’t like the real LAPD or fictional detectives who work for the department. Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are private eyes, unaffiliated with any government agency or institution. Detectives at police departments usually protect the established order and seek convictions, often at any price, as shown in the book and movie, L.A. Confidential, which features corrupt cops as violent as any criminals. One of the characters is based on the real Mickey Cohen who was born good but became a gangster and died in his sleep in 1976.
Crime fiction tells truths that don’t make the mass media, which rarely explains why crimes are committed, though the who, what, where, when and how can be found in the lead. Journalists abhor mysteries. Detective story writers love them. And don’t forget that at the start of The Godfather, Mario Puzo quotes Balzac who said, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 21, 2019
JOSE BARRIGA-BARRERA, Ukiah. Domestic abuse with priors, special allegation: prison prior.
EUFEMIO HERNANDEZ, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
AUGUSTE JACKSON, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, paraphernalia, resisting.
ZANE KRAKOWSKI, Point Arena. DUI.
AARON MUDRICH, Petaluma/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
SHAWN MUHAMMAD, Ukiah. DUI.
JOSHUA NIX, Lakeport/Ukiah. Disobeying court order.
ANTHONY OAKLEY, Mendocino. Battery with serious injury, assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
JOHN OAKLEY, Albion. Battery with serious injury, assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
KRISTO OUSEY, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting. (Frequent flyer.)
MICHAEL PIMENTEL, San Francisco/Ukiah. DUI.
RASEAN POWELL, Ukiah. DUI causing bodily injury, probation revocation.
JOSE SANUDO-TORRES, Atwater/Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JACK TOWERS, Redway. Under influence in possession of weapon, felon-addict with firearm, evasion by reckless driving.
ADAM VASQUEZ, Hopland. Failure to appear.
A READER WRITES about the Oakley arrests: "These pictures were taken last night. Father and son jumped this man. Father was on top, holding the victim's head up with his hair, while the son, hit and kicked him in the face. These two men are dangerous!"
PS. As recently as 2016 the father, John Oakley, was listed as “assistant chief, engine driver, ex-EMT" for the Albion-Little River Fire Department. Also on that department list was recently convicted murderer Andrew Crowningshield. And the Chief of that Department was Ted Williams.
PPS. Given the brutality, Let me speculate. I'll guess the father-son are vigilantes of some kind taking revenge for some perceived offense by the victim having to do with a female relative of the Oakleys.
A PRESS RELEASE from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office provided more details:
On 12-20-2019 at approximately 6:30 p.m., Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies received a call for service regarding a physical altercation in progress at a residence in the 5000 block of Albion Little River Road in Little River, California.
After Deputies arrived on scene the involved parties were separated and an investigation was initiated. During that investigation, Deputies learned the altercation resulted from a civil dispute over property.
A 32 year-old adult male arrived at the location in order to return property to the resident, Anthony Oakley.
Deputies reviewed video footage of the incident and observed a verbal confrontation quickly ensued between Anthony and the adult male after he arrived at the location.
The confrontation escalated when Anthony’s father, John Oakley, and the adult male became entangled in a physical struggle that led to the adult male being taken to the ground.
While John pinned the adult male to the ground, the adult male was struck repeatedly in the head by Anthony with several strikes being delivered by both hand and foot.
The adult male was transported from the scene to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital by ambulance due to injuries sustained from the assault.
In addition to several minor injuries to the adult male's face, Deputies determined he sustained a severe laceration to the right side of his head that would require suturing.
Deputies arrested Anthony and John as principals to the listed charges as the battery resulted in serious bodily injury and the adult male was kicked in the head several times.
Both Anthony and John were booked into the Mendocino County Jail where they each were to be held in lieu of $30,000.00 bail.
* * *
JASMINE WILSON WRITES: Last night Chris and I were over at Anthony’s picking up my belongings he’s held from me for a year after a court order was established and John jumped out of the bushes across the street and attacked Chris and held Chris on the ground while Anthony repeatedly kicked and punched him in the face. Chris did not swing once and was not the aggressor. John and Anthony both had knives on them, and Chris had nothing. I tried to tell Anthony to stop and he turned around and threatened to hurt me if I didn’t back off. All the while, Ashlynn was inside the house watching from the window. If you see these two around town and they give you some made up story trying to make them sound like they were doing what was deserved, it is not true. This is fucked up and people should know the truth about these two. They are facing two felonies one being assault with a deadly weapon. They got out on bail, so please watch out for these men. They are not safe to be around.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Life is relatively short and brutal. The seeds of our death are sown the moment we’re born; we all end up dead. In spite of claims from many people, not one person has ever produced hard evidence of an afterlife.
Once we’ve passed on, we cease to exist. That’s not bad because we’ll never know that we were once alive; we’ll never feel the weight of eternity. We will not be aware of all the love and struggles we experienced because we will not be aware of anything.
I’m sorry if this is too bleak for you to consider, but someone like me has to – I’m 74. How many years do I have left? My parents lived to 96 and 101, but the oldest any of my uncles or aunts lived was 86, so I can’t be sure how long I’ll live – I’ve already lived longer than 3 uncles and 3 grandparents. So I have to at least face up to the inevitable. I won’t be scared of death. I’ve already experienced non-existence – the 1st 13.7 billion years of the universe, and I don’t feel like that was bad, so how can I be afraid of the next 13.7 being dead?
Then why should people here be so emotionally invested with the impeachmentraciously, joyful process? You all will be dead soon enough – at least compared to eternity. Since we’re only here for such a short time, isn’t it logical to live with as much joy as possible? Being upset with Pelosi, who doesn’t know you exist, or Trump? Really? Chill and live your life gratefully, gracefully and joyfully.
WHY WESTERN MEDIA IGNORE OPCW SCANDAL
The credibility of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is on the line after a series of devastating leaks from whistleblowers has shown that the UN body distorted an alleged CW incident in Syria in 2018. The distortion by the OPCW of the incident suggests that senior directors at the organization were pressured into doing so by Western governments.
Copies of the doctored OPCW reports are seen to have suppressed important evidence casting doubt on the official Western narrative claiming that the Syrian government was to blame. That indicates the OPCW was engaged in a cover-up to retrospectively “justify” the air strikes by Western powers.
This is a colossal scandal which implies the US, Britain and France wrongly attacked Syria and are therefore guilty of aggression. Yet, despite the gravity of the scandal, Western media have, by and large, ignored it. Indicating that these media are subordinated by their governments’ agenda on Syria, rather than exposing the truth as independent journalistic services.
SOME OF OUR FAVORITE WRITERS ON THE BEST BOOKS THEY READ IN 2019
Lydia Davis, Barry Lopez, Tommy Orange, Valeria Luiselli and Other Freeman's Contributors Share Highlights From Their Year in Reading
ISRAEL SET TO BE INVESTIGATED FOR WAR CRIMES IN PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, ICC ANNOUNCES
Probe is expected to look into alleged crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians, including militant group Hamas
A BOHEMIAN LULLABY.
"When any worthwhile thing is done in the world, it's usually done by somebody weird." -John Sandford
The recording of last night's Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on KNYO-LP Fort Bragg and KMEC-LP Ukiah is available by one or two clicks, depending on whether you want to listen to it now or download it and keep it for later and, speaking of which, it's right here:
Holly Tannen, ladies and gentlemen, first 40 minutes of the show. Eleanor Cooney didn't make it; she says next week for sure. Things pretty much ran to plan otherwise, unusually to plan, you might think, if you were of a suspicious nature or had one, nature or plan. Also Jerry gave me a recording to play of Bob Boler reciting holiday Dylan Thomas in that lower-register pipe organ voice he had. I'll never forget his part in MTC's Curse of the Starving Class where his character, a generally deadbeat absent father, drunkenly corrects the inflection of his little girl's angry swear delivery. He could sing too, that guy.
I'd like to slip in a plug for Gloriana Opera Company's Snow Queen. This is the last weekend for it. Eagles Hall, corner of Alder and Corry, Fort Bragg, 7:30 tonight, 3pm Sunday and that's it, so now's your chance.
Anyway, at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you can find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile educational items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:
The Venezuelan jungle parrot. (via b3ta)
A clever way of smoothing delivery of erratic power.
And two-thirds of a full Janko, the smarter music keyboard than never caught on, thanks to corrupt Big Piano.
Marco McClean, email@example.com,
RAISE THE WAGE!
by Dan Brook
Minimum wage workers are being hit hard by low pay and rising costs. It’s been over 80 years since the United States introduced a minimum wage and over 10 years since it became a measly $7.25, while the cost of living has increased 18% since 2009 (26% for food and a whopping 65% for education). The minimum wage is a poverty wage, not keeping up with the economy – let alone corporate profits, stock prices, worker productivity, and CEO salaries – and it continues to lose purchasing power due to inflation.
If a minimum wage worker works 40 hours a week for the whole year – without any paid time off – she would earn a maximum gross income of $15,080 for her hard work. Most of these workers are women, many are people of color, some of whom have children. With an average one-bedroom apartment in America going for about $1000 a month, many even live in cars. The minimum wage is a feminist and social justice issue, in addition to an economic one.
Inequality in America is at record levels and over three-quarters (78%) of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet. Giving the working class a raise is not only morally right to reduce poverty and economic anxiety, it is also financially right, as it would boost our economy.
“When the minimum wage is too low”, according to Holly Sklar, CEO of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, “it not only mires workers in poverty, it undermines the consumer demand at the heart of our economy.” States with higher minimum wages tend to have higher economic growth. Minimum wage earners and other low-income workers have unmet needs and wants and therefore spend their higher earnings quickly and locally. This benefits their families and increases our economy, which is 70% dependent on consumer spending.
Studies show that increases in the minimum wage have not led to significant job loss or inflation, as many capitalists claim, but do lead to higher morale, higher productivity, lower absenteeism, less turnover, lower recruitment costs, less anxiety, less poverty, less homelessness, less suicide, more spending by workers, and faster job growth. These are good for the workplace and the country. A July 2019 report by the Congressional Budget Office concludes that the benefits of a $15 minimum wage far exceed the costs, as it would “increase the wages of millions of low-wage workers, increase the average incomes of low and lower-middle-income families, reduce poverty, shift money from corporate profits to the wages of low-wage workers, and reduce inequality.”
The bubble-up approach of giving more money to the lower class has about 700% more economic impact than the failed trickle-down approach of the last 40 years. Giving more money to the already wealthy, vainly hoping that the “invisible hand” of the “free market” will distribute the gains downward, only helps the rich, rarely the poor and middle class.
While rich people are more likely to invest or spend their gains on luxuries, the poor are much more likely to spend their extra money on unmet needs, spend it quickly, and do so locally. This would be good not only for those workers’ families, but also for local businesses.
I teach at a large public university, where too many of my working-class students of color experience hunger and homelessness. At San Jose State University, in Silicon Valley, over one in eight students (13.2%, or about 4,300 students) have experienced homelessness and about half of students are “sometimes skipping meals due to cost”. Higher minimum wages could make a dramatic difference in the day-to-day lives of students struggling to get a higher education by reducing food and housing insecurity.
Several states now either have or are on a path to $15 an hour. House Democrats passed a bill in July to slowly raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which nearly all Republicans opposed. The minimum wage should actually be considerably higher than that, perhaps (gradually) raised to $20 - $25 an hour and then indexed to inflation, as Rep. Rashida Tlaib suggests, perhaps with profit-sharing and decision-sharing, as well. In this 2020 presidential election campaign, consider supporting a candidate who supports raising the minimum wage to a living wage and giving workers more control over their lives!
(Once a minimum wage worker himself, Dan Brook, PhD teaches sociology at San Jose State University, a working class university in Silicon Valley.)