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Off the Record (January 22, 2020)

LISTENING to Alicia Bales' deft interview with Sheriff Matt Kendall this morning (Tues week) on KZYX, I learned that "marijuana" is a racist term, but the highly evolved woman calling in with that startling piece of information didn't tell us what term we should substitute for it if we want to be all the way woke. 

I THINK marijuana — oops! sorry — propagandists have never made it clear enough how strong devil weed is and how bad it is for the adolescent brain. As I've said before, and it occurs to me there is little I haven't said before, every young person I knew (who got into marijuana at a young age wound up as an adult mental case. Medical opinion agrees that premature stoners risk adult schizophrenia. And still prevalent is the dangerous idea that weed is harmless, and then comes the inevitable parade of invidious comparisons, that pot is better than alcohol, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, coffee, and so on, as if sucking any kind of smoke into your lungs is good for you. 

WHICH REMINDS ME of a debate I took part in 2000 at the Ukiah Civic Center. It was me and the superintendent of the Ukiah schools, Gary Brawley, versus Dan Hamburg and Peter Keegan. The Supe and I opposed Measure G, a wimpy advisory measure promoted by the pot brigades that would have made personal use of marijuana a low law enforcement priority, not that personal possession was exactly a high priority by that time. The upshot? The measure passed with a 58% majority vote, Peter Keegan murdered his wife, Dan Hamburg went nuts and moved to Oregon with his therapist.

MY FELLOW LIBS have always gotten on my case for my marijuana stance out of, I guess, the misguided notion that dope approval is just one more station of the pwog cross, along with being against whatever the government is cooking up, serene race relations, environmental sanity, medicare for all, gender equality, pure foods, and bike lanes. But if you're opposed to dope, well, next thing we know you'll be ordering Klan robes.

IF YOU WANT the straight skinny on the Middle East, Patrick Cockburn is your man. Cockburn has been reporting from there for years, and is by far the best source of up-to-date information about developments in the region. He appears regularly in the Brit newspaper, The Independent, and on the CounterPunch website.

WEDNESDAYS are delivery day for the paper-paper version of the "mighty ava," as my late friend Alexander Cockburn always called it. It is, too, in its way, but I'm not here today to sing the praises of Boonville's beloved weekly, I'm here to talk national politics. Traveling from Boonville to Navarro on my weekly route I asked eight citizens if they'd watched last week’s debate among Democrat candidates for president. Answers ranged from simple No's to an emphatic Hell No. Then I asked if they'd tuned in the impeachment hearings. Answers ranged from simple No's to one Who Cares?

EIGHT PEOPLE are hardly a statistically valid sample, but I'll bet I'd get the same answers in Arkansas, Maine or Los Angeles. Or maybe it's just me, groaning this morning when I tuned in National Government Radio to accompany me on my morning three-mile lurch down Anderson Valley Way. Here comes Nancy Pelosi stumbling through endless intros of the unimpressive Democrats who will quiz the Trumpians in the Democrats’ endless quest to bring down the orange monster, which began the hour the election results were in, continued through the heralded Mueller Report, apparently unread by its author, which anyway failed to nail Trump, and now a lengthy impeachment process with hours of repetitive, tiresome rhetoric from all the iron hairs, after which the process ends with Trump's acquittal by his mob-fearful Republican majority in the Senate. No wonder Pelosi was reluctant to bring all this forward, knowing it was an exercise in futility. Did Trump threaten to withhold aid to the Ukraine to get damning info on Biden, a guy who's almost as corrupt as Trump? Obviously. Is that an impeachable offense in the context of modern presidents of both parties who've done similar things? One wouldn't think so, but here we are. The whole show is a tedious process conducted by people so unappealing that if any of them showed up at your door you'd get out your pepper spray.

RAYMOND DEREK HENDRY has been promoted lieutenant at the Willits P.D. Formerly of the MCSO, for umpteen years, and close to a decade wearing the black uniform of Willits' finest, it's hard to picture a more able candidate for the job -- which entails a lot of PR these days -- and one media party (myself) would like to give you joy, Sir, of your gold bars. (Bruce McEwen)

CEO CARMEL ANGELO may finally be feeling some pressure to do something about the ridiculously expensive continued operation of Mendo’s Juvenile Hall which, at last report, housed a mere dozen or so delinquents at a cost of about $2 million annually: “ At this time, the Executive Office is not recommending closure of Juvenile Hall. In partnership with Chief Probation Officer Izen Locatelli, concepts are being developed [that may improve outcomes for delinquent youth while reducing the General Fund cost of operating the facility. Information will be shared with the Board of Supervisors after additional research confirms viability of one or more innovative concepts.”

“…are being developed”? Why put this on an Board agenda if they’re not yet “developed” so the Board can consider them? 

SOME AVA READERS may recall in 2018 when County School Superintendent Michelle Hutchins appeared before the Supervisors offering to work with her fellow school superintendents to prepare options for juvenile hall in context with other juvenile/school problems, but the Board and the CEO chose to ignore that offer and keep the Hall open at well over $2 million per year. What are the odds that Ms. Hutchins’ offer will ever be explored, much less raised as a source of “innovative concepts”?

AT THEIR JUNE 2018 meeting, the Board discussed Juvenile Hall’s excessive cost. At that time we wrote: “By the end of the discussion, the Board, wringing their hands at the cruel fates visited upon them by unsympathetic gods, did what they always do — punted. They formed an ad hoc committee of two supervisors (Gjerde and Croskey) to like, uh, well, meet some time with some people and report back. [The Hall had been leaking hundreds of thousands of dollars per year unbeknownst to the CEO until Lake County suddenly said they didn’t want to pay Mendo’s outrageously high day rates which is when the CEO first raised the issue and started exploring “innovative concepts.”] PS. No date was set to solve the million dollar shortfall. For now, they’re just going to continue leaking money. After all, it’s for the good of ‘the kids.’ They can’t even bring themselves to say out loud who these ‘kids’ are which, and sorry to be the bearer of bad news, is Nice People code for ‘entry level criminals.’ Most of them anyway.”

THAT AD HOC COMMITTEE, lead by Supervisor Dan Gjerde, later came up with the “innovative concept” of eliminating the separate kitchen at the Hall and have the main jail kitchen supply meals to the Hall, saving a few thousand dollars a year — barely a drop in the leaky bucket. But nothing else was ever proposed and the Hall has been leaking more millions for going on two years now — all for a dozen or so delinquents. Money that more and more people are saying could be much better used for, say, improving the sorry state of ambulance services in the 101 corridor. 

ACCORDING TO A PRESENTATION SUMMARY FOR this week’s Supervisors meeting concerning the County’s “cybersecurity” measures, the County gets 10,00 -30,000 emails per day on average blocked for spam or other malicious intent, and 50+ viruses and malicious files on average per day are blocked and quarantined.”

So, guess what the cybersecurity consultants conclude?

“Threat level and number of incidents has drastically increased in 2019. We expect this trend to continue. Threat prevention spending will need to increase.”

MARTIN LUTHER KING. Best biography remains Marshall Frady’s Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life, Penguin edition. 

SO THE SCHOOLS and the government take a day off to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday. The in-school discussion, if there is one about King will emphasize his commitment to non-violence as a tactic to achieve full citizenship for Black Americans. Memorial editorials will leave out King’s commitment to economic justice. King was routinely denounced in the mainstream media before his martyrdom as a Com-dupe, a libel fed the media by the FBI, these days rehabbed by the Democrats as an a-political police agency whose disinterested Trump files will slay the Orange Monster. King was murdered just as he became outspokenly critical of the War on Vietnam, American imperialism generally and the multi-ethnic, color-blind class structure of poverty. The way King is remembered these days is as the guy who made corporate faves like Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell possible.

WHERE IT ALL becomes sinister is in the schools, because not only are the lives of pivotal figures sanitized for political reasons — the typical Mendoland teacher does not participate in the political life of his community or even, from what I can see, take any interest in it — young people are discouraged in many ways from attempting to emulate the great figures, even as a troublemaking foot soldiers.

MIKE TYSON is probably a better gage of the state of race relations in the country than the innumerable MLK memorials. underway across the country. The local remembrances seem to me to miss most of what the man stood for, consisting of a lot of weepy declarations of brotherhood — not that group hugs can hurt, but now that all white people are liberals on race — at least in public, there’s a widespread tendency to ignore the ongoing class and economic realities of the country, a basic fact of American life Martin Luther King seldom failed to point out and probably gave up his life for saying out loud. King persisted in demanding that wealth be fairly apportioned among all citizens. He emphasized that a country as rich as this one should not tolerate deprivation whatever the color of the people going without. The primacy of economics in King’s vision of a color blind society is left out of the rote celebrations of his remarkable life. 

MOST OF US would settle for simple ethnic tolerance without the appended instruction to love one another. And some of us are also aware from bitter personal experience that the bigoted personality type is as plentiful among liberals as it is among conservatives. The truth is that race relations are the one area of American life where progress is a matter of verifiable, objective fact. Race relations are a lot better — a lot better — in America these days and getting better all the time, not that you’d know it from the rhetoric of the professional racialists. 

REWRITING HISTORY: It’s 7pm on Martin Luther King’s birthday and I still haven’t heard a true word about the guy, the last truly progressive national figure our odd country has produced. The waves of pure mawk coming at me from the television set and (of course) pseudo-public radio KZYX reminds me that no one voted for Nixon, everyone was for the civil rights movement of the 1960s, no one supported the war on Vietnam, and Martin Luther King wanted people of different races to be nice to each other. In fact, by the time King was murdered in Memphis, the mass media had turned against him big time and had never been too keen on him in the first place because he was connecting too many dots for too many people. He was aggressively opposed to the war on Vietnam, pointing out it was the latest chapter in a long history of imperial murder of non-white peoples and he was for democratic socialism and had even gone so far as to speak the forbidden S-word on national television. So long as he stuck to preaching racial harmony even the closet Klan types of the rightwing of the Republican Party couldn’t denounce King who, after all, was certainly preferable to the scowling leather lugs in dark glasses who were thrilling the white suburbs with a lot of wild talk about how they were going to off the national pig. As great waves of pure bullshit rolled over America in 1968, Martin Luther King was calmly pointing out that a few fundamental social guarantees would make America a much less violent place and a far more ethnically harmonious country. If people were guaranteed food, shelter, work, health care, and education they would be less inclined to harm other persons. Once achieved, social and economic justice would cool everyone out. It would, too, and Martin Luther King was murdered for preaching it, not that much of anybody seems to remember the most important two-thirds of King’s message.

Dr. Benjamin Spock, tall white-haired man, and Dr. Martin Luther King, third from right, are among the leaders in a parade on State Street, protesting the Vietnam conflict in Chicago, March 25, 1967. (AP Photo)

YOU’LL never hear it said by the kind of weepy liberals who dominate the national and local media but it was Jock World and the Armed Services where the greatest advances in race relations were made in this country. It was at the ball game and in boot camp where lasting and loyal cross-ethnic friendships were first made in this country. Since, as a trip to any downtown area in any town in America makes obvious, millions of Americans of all races enjoy loyal and affectionate relations where virtually none existed in 1950.

RACE RELATIONS aren’t bad at all considering that we’ve moved in less than 80 years from wholesale lynchings and a nearly South African and Israeli-quality apartheid to un-harassed inter-marriage and generally non-lethal relations among America’s rainbow family. What isn’t better is economic relations, not that you’d know it from most of the media. Average income folks find it harder and harder to get by in what is universally billed as capitalism’s finest hour, with magic money everywhere except where much of the real work gets done. 


[1] My own clan has more than a glancing acquaintance with fascists, i.e., those from the 1920s and 1930s. From what they’ve told me of their own experiences, what we have on this side of the pond is nothing fascistic, not even close. 

I’ve found “fascist” to be an all-purpose slander designed to distract from material issues that directly impact the lives of many millions of people. So is “populist”.

Having said that, if one is really convinced of this “fascism” I would strongly advise a re-think. Misdiagnosis and misapprehension are not adaptive responses. They can lead to serious trouble. For decades the intelligentsia touted neo-liberal agendas as the best thing for everyone and for a long time a lot of people were convinced. The returns are in and the results calamitous. Time to re-evaluate, which is what the Trump win and this Brexit business are all about. Same with the gilets jaunes movement in France, to take just a few examples.

[2] I would love to see both loathsome, corrupt parties replaced, but there will always be wolves, and the Republicans would just be replaced by republicans, however renamed.

The unnatural thing is that there is no longer an opposition party of sheepdogs to at least try to protect the people from the wolves. Replacing the Democratic Party might not be sufficient, but it is absolutely necessary to even attempt to rebuild this nation.

[3] Homelessness: We are in new territory here; as more people give constructive input, better solutions will evolve. All of this is very new. We haven't experienced this level of homelessness since the Great Depression. We're in an economic system of great income inequality combined with a failing social safety net. We have working people paying a higher percentage of their income to taxes than people who live off investments. We have our state and local taxes being consumed by creating this hopscotch social safety net of temporary shelters and temporary hires while our schools, roads, libraries and parks go underfunded. We're in a moment of great social immobility where if you're born poor, you're likely to stay poor. So we're going to have to put our minds together to figure this out. Homelessness is not going to get better - many seniors do not have ample savings for retirement, 30% of Americans don't have $500 for an emergency and many people become bankrupt and lose everything if they have a major medical crisis.

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