Off the Record (January 29, 2020)

TENS OF THOUSANDS of gun nuts converged in the streets of Richmond, Virginia, last week to protest that their right to bear arms is somehow imperiled by pending legislation, some really draconian laws like prohibiting mental patients from buying weapons. The gun nuts started arriving before dawn - army veterans, stay-at-home-moms, attorneys, welders, democrats, republicans - united under banners defending the second amendment and, they believe, their version of the constitution under attack. And many of them came with their guns: AR-15s, long-guns and handguns. Trump fanned the flames of the already simmering tensions by tweeting: 'The Democrat Party in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia are working hard to take away your 2nd Amendment rights. This is just the beginning. Don't let it happen, VOTE REPUBLICAN in 2020!'

AND millions of Americans will vote Trump in 2020 while the Democrats scratch their hundred dollar haircuts and wonder why. Let me take a whack at that one: Trump will get another four years because the Democrats, via the endless impeachment hearings, have managed to make Trump a victim, and who else but the Democrats could manage that? Also, millions of average citizens, especially those outside the comfortable bubble housing career officeholders and their corporate paymasters, look at the Democrats as the people who’ve not only insulted them for years as deplorables or simply as unthinkable, but have force fed them everything from tax-funded sex changes to intractable homelessness. The only way the Democrats can beat back the forces of reaction is to return to the basic bread and butter issues that are the primary concerns of most people — affordable housing and medical care, living wages and decent work conditions, improved schools, and so on through maybe even re-introduction of hospitalization for the insane and the drug and alcohol addicted. Bernie’s the only for-sure candidate likely to at least work in this direction, and he is definitely on the side of working people. Warren? Maybe. The rest, and certainly Trump, represent more of the same — chaos.

BASEBALL took not enough of a big hit during its steroid period, when ballplayers' inflated upper torsos threatened to engulf their shrink-wrapped heads. It annoyed me no end when everyone in the ballpark stood in noisy tribute to roided-out Barry Bonds when his chemical additives jacked another one into McCovey Cove. But, as some pitcher noted recently, "I'd rather throw to someone on steroids than to someone who knows what's coming." High tech sign stealing is worse than Pete Rose betting on games whose outcome was unpredictable. At the big league level knowing ahead of time if the pitch will be either a fastball or a breaking ball gives the hitter even more of an advantage than when steroids made the pitch look like a basketball floating up to home plate. Sign stealing has always been a part of the game, kind of, when it was low tech, but the recent scandal is above and beyond. Throw 'em all out of the game. 

THE STATE OF EMERGENCY declared in Virginia on MLK Day seemed only prudent given that ten thousand armed paranoids showed up to rally against the state's sensible proposed gun laws. None among the mob went off, so to speak, and it was all-in-all another demonstration of just how severely rent our social fabric is, with no consensus on much of anything. I speak, incidentally, as the owner of three guns, an ownership I rationalize as, "Well, jeez, I get threatened a lot." But I don't get threatened a lot any more. (My peak threat year was 1990) I’ve never worried about threats anyway because invariably they're only bluster from long-distance warriors, the kind of people who wouldn’t dare in person. Guns or no guns, if they're going to get you, and they're sneaky, you're probably going to get got, no matter how many guns you have. And everyone in the news biz gets threatened, and gun people, like non-gun people — everyone — is apprehensive about The Great Unraveling. 

WHICH INCLUDES a lot of wild talk about civil war, especially from the political right. Better stick to your fantasies, boys. Government is too well paid to turn, as the Koresh case should have established even in your febrile heads. Then we had the welfare rancher takeover of the Oregon desert, with the FBI Swat team ready to swat those crybabies, and would have swatted them if it weren't for the still fresh memory of the federal raid on the women and children at the Koresh compound. (The work of liberals, natch, specifically the Clinton government.) Civil unrest on a scale threatening business as usual will be crushed, and crushed fast by the well-paid forces of law and order including the armed forces. 

THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS are like some weirdly national practical joke, an unnaturally prolonged farce aimed at discrediting President Tanning Booth, a man way beyond all known shaming strategies. And the Democrats involved look like some kind of adult special ed class. To say that they lack even a semblance of the gravitas one might expect from such an — their words — "historical event" — understates their reality as the repetitious, tiresome, hacks that they are.

A READER WRITES: I thought I'd thank you for this book recommendation, "To the Finland Station." It's not an easy read given the gaps in my own reading experience and the obvious great breadth of [Edmund] Wilson's on the seemingly impossible quest for a society of freedom, equality and justice. The early chapters got me thinking about the convulsions of the American Revolution and the French Revolution, and the courses that each followed. It'd make a great university class, and might spark lively discussions about Napoleon and Trump, a time warp of course, but inescapably leading to the power and corruption of the ruling class and moneyed interests. Here comes Section II, The Origins of Socialism. I'm interested, thanks again for the push."

IT OUGHT to be required reading, especially now with people popping off all over the place about the isms. "To the Finland Station" is a crash course in the history of each ism, and en route you learn the diff. As it is in this country, the rightwing — synonymous with ignorance — conflates a social democrat like Bernie with Bolshevism. Come to think of it, Bernie is probably the only national figure we have capable of making the ism distinctions, but those distinctions are basic and crucial, not that Republicans or the many demagogues among conservative Democrats would make the distinctions even if they knew them since they represent the biggest of big money. For instance, even a reform like MediCare For All is seen as a threat to the big money both parties represent, hence the hysterical opposition to it from both of them. In brief, communists murder socialists and anarchists and liberals, at least that's the history of how it's all played out since 1917. The constant din from the talking heads about "the left" is a combination of delusion and ignorance; there isn't any left in this country, and when there was there was also a communist party of what, 20,000 people, max? And their politics were reform not revolutionary. And they looked to Russia for instruction, which is why they never got anywhere with Americans. 

WHOLE LOTTA GOTCHA going on.

 (1) Persons hostile to the Supe's candidacy of Ukiah's Mo Mulheren are circulating a 2018 suit against Mulheren brought by Dr. Marvin Trotter and his wife, Cassandra Tanning-Trotter, alleging that Mulheren had under-insured their Redwood Valley modular. When that home was lost to the big fires the Trotters bought a new modular, apparently only then discovering that the insurance on their former home was about two-thirds short of paying for the new one. The Trotter's suit also claimed that since Marvin Trotter was over the age of 65 he was specially protected as an insured person by California law, which would seem to suggest that Trotter was also claiming that it was his advanced age that perhaps made him unaware of how much his home was insured for. Trotter is among the listed supporters of one of Mulheren's opponent for 2nd District supervisor, Mari Rodin. I was unable to reach Ms. M to ask her how this suit came out, but off the top it seems implausible that the Trotters were unaware that modular structures are valued less than conventional stick houses.

(2) Zohar Zaid is a corrections officer at the Mendocino County Jail. He was recently in the news when an on-line entity called BadCop found that Zaid, then a sergeant, had been demoted for tazing a handcuffed inmate. It was due to fairly recent enabling legislation that media were allowed to see police disciplinary files, and this was the only gotcha BadCop found in the Mendo files. It was also to the credit of Zaid's fellow officers who complained about his excessive use of force. Before the taze episode and since the taze episode Zaid's record is unblemished. So we received a batch of legal papers from an anonymous person which included a civil suit against Zaid by the Redwood Credit Union for $21,821.69 owed on a credit card issued by Redwood Credit. And there's cover sheet from a case brought by Zaid against Realty World, Ukiah, which found for Realty World, Ukiah in "a motor vehicle accident." The County, incidentally, paid a hefty sum to the taze vic who sued for millions but settled for a mere 50k.

WE'D DEFEND Zaid, whom we don't know, by pointing out that one loss of control in reaction to the undoubtedly foul insults emanating from the tazed inmate, Zaid deserved to be demoted but not permanently doomed by losing his job. The Sheriff — Allman at the time — did the right thing in demoting him. Police behavior depends a lot on reputable leadership. If the top people wink and nod at bad behavior, we’d all get tazed. It's to the credit of the Mendo cops that BadCop could find only this single case of bad behavior. According to the anon-delivered court documents, Zaid also appears to be a poor money manager, and he contested and lost a traffic matter. Added up, not the worst record around, but somebody is going to a lot of trouble to Gotcha him.

ABSOLUTELY MUST walk the Haul Road every few months, Mendocino County’s grandest amenity, second only to the multiple nearby charms of Fort Bragg, which remains much as it has over the years. Where else can you walk for unimpeded miles along the Pacific in California? But today, have to say, I did suffer two impediment-type encounters, the first mildly irritating when the male half of an older couple walking a raggedy, coyote-looking dog greeted me, “Good morning, O bearded one.” I shuffled past, mumbling, “Fuck all the way off.” He couldn’t have heard me clearly, but he said truculent-like, “Excuse me?” Picking up my pace, I said over my shoulder, “I used to have a dog named Cough.” 

THE SECOND was simply embarrassing, and I’ve strode the very rim of this sea for years without meeting a soul I know. Here comes an elderly woman shuffling along from the opposite direction. “Bruce, is that you?” “Sometimes, depends,” I said, a little joke to put the old dear at ease. “You look exactly the same!,” she said. “Probably the uniform,” I replied, racking my brain for the name of the apparently pleased senior. “You don’t remember me, do you?” She said her name, which I still didn’t recognize. “Yes, of course,” I said. “Very nice to see you.” She said, “We’ll have to have coffee some time.” I said, “Count on it,” and we walked on.

CANDIDATE GJERDE seems to have more signs up around Fort Bragg than his challenger, Lindy Peters. Gjerde’s say, “Results For Us,” which is a stretch given his invisibility during his two supervisor’s tours. “Results For Me” would be truth in advertising. In Gjerde’s defense his colleagues have ranged from certifiable to inert, but still, given the probs the County faces, he might have occasionally seized the initiative. He’s a smart guy who understands how it all works, or doesn’t work. It wasn’t until Williams arrived, and then Peters announced he’d challenge Gjerde, that Gjerde came alive. For a guy who’s seeking his third term in a job that pays more than twice the Mendo average salary, plus perks most Americans can only dream of, Gjerde’s record is thin; make that emaciated.

BUT THEN Fort Bragg has suffered a series of wildly defective supervisors, probably because Fort Braggers don’t pay much attention to what happens over the hill. They’ve got city government. Of course metropolitan FB is the bulk of the 4th District vote, so…

FORMER 4th District supervisor, John Cimolino, was a smart, capable guy whose dislike — to put it mildly — for the counterculture was palpable, propelling the guy into occasional irrationality. He was all for “bulldozing” what he called “hippie shacks,” for instance and, presumably, hippies with them. When board meetings began with what was designated “From the public,” the late Richard Johnson, who appeared without fail at every meeting to take advantage of his three from-the-public minutes, would yammer away at whatever was on his fraught mind. But one morning, Cimolino blurted, “Do we really have to listen to these nuts?” Given the pertinence and quality of the from-the-public presentations, Cimolino’s annoyance was at least understandable. 

HEARING RETIRED SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN identify himself to the Board of Supervisors as “private citizen” last week, got us thinking about the Third District Supervisor’s position. Allman lives in the Third District and knows it and its voters as well as anybody. Allman is easily the most popular politician in Mendocino County. He has clear objectives that he’d like to see advanced: reliable ambulance services, effective mental health services, non-redundant fully-functioning emergency communications system, and so on. Allman seems to have good relations with County department heads. We recall that the popular retired Willits Police Chief, Jerry Gonzalez, successfully transitioned from top cop in Willits to Willits City Councilman and major where, from all accounts, he was also successful. It’s too early for Allman to make anything official if he's thinking about going for it. But as far as we can tell, if Allman entered the Third District race he’d be an immediate odds-on favorite to win it. Unlike Satchel Paige who famously said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you,” Haschak better look back, and he better pick up his pace because he could be outta there after one term. 

YOU SEE THAT STORY about China building a 1,000-bed coronavirus hospital from scratch in one week? So, here's my idea for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, appropriated, stripped of its assets and destroyed by Democrats lead by former Congressman Bosco with Supervisor McCowen personally assisting in the raffling off of the Ukiah station: Hire the Chinese to build high speed rail from Sausalito to Eureka along the right of way destroyed by the Bosco Gang. Give the Chinese one year to get 'er done and, presto-magico, we've got a Real SMART train like we had in 1910. (Come to think of it, the Chinese did the tunnel work on that one, too.)

REAL GENTS, these guys: Mike Pompeo accused NPR's Mary Louise Kelly of breaking an “off the record agreement” after she revealed he swore at her and said, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” The boorish Secretary of State denied none of the content of what Kelly said, which included Pompeo's demand that she point at Ukraine on a blank map. Which she did, undoubtedly placing her knowledge of world geography many rungs higher than most media could manage, not to mention Trump's. Pompeo's statement said “Ukraine is NOT Bangladesh,” implying that Kelly, a veteran foreign correspondent, did not know — although raising the possibility that he doesn't. Pompeo claimed she was trying to smear the un-smearable Donald Trump.

ENJOYED a lunch at the revived Thatcher Hotel in Hopland Thursday, marveling at the beauty of the restoration work, which obviously cost some serious money. 

There was a time prior to its irremediable decrepitude that Ukiah's Palace Hotel was still salvageable, but the cocaine cowboys who might have brought it off of course flamed out, literally, in a couple of lucrative arson fires. If Ukiah had a plan it might look for one to its little sister at Hopland a few miles south on Highway 101 where, even on a wintry day, visitors kept the restaurants and wine shops busy. While we ate our tasty mystery sandwiches — some kinda cheese jobs — tourists wandered in for a look, as did I while waiting for my friend to appear. The bar, which used to be crowded from noon on in days gone by, and drew people from all over the County, has been sleekly re-done but is still not fully open. The adjacent library has also been restored. A library? Yes, a library, and a sure sign the Thatcher dates back to much less frenetic times when the Northwestern Pacific Railroad off-loaded visitors at its back door. This library is also unique in that it has been curated, meaning a book person was hired to select the books, meaning no Reader's Digest Condensed Novels or Dean Koontz epics. Real books! Think of it! 

From my cursory inspection of the shelves I'd say whoever did the selecting knows his stuff, including some new books on California and some local histories. Odd, though, that about half the 2,000 or so volumes were placed with their spines to the wall so I couldn't read their titles. Maybe the library remains, like the bar, a work in progress. The Thatcher's dark gray exterior is reminiscent of the Addams Family, but whoever and whatever awaits inside, the Thatcher is worth a look and a simple, reasonably priced lunch. (Didn't get upstairs for a look at the rooms, but I understand they're also to the standard of the most exacting bourgie.)

THE 27 JANUARY edition of The New Yorker contains the strongest short story I've read in a long time. It's called "You Will Never Be Forgotten" by Mary South. Not to give anything away but the writer manages in a few thousand words to indict everything that needs indicting — modern romance, esp among the trendo-groovies, to tech world. Here's what the author says about her story: "Here’s a sentence I’ve dreamed of writing for most of my life: I have fiction in the @NewYorker. It's about a woman who screens traumatizing videos while surveilling her rapist online and in the real world. (It may be emotionally difficult to read.)"

AS MOST OF US KNOW, court schedules are arranged for the convenience of judges and those who serve them. But this notice from their majesties, casually appended to their on-line notices, neatly puts their priorities in frank perspective, and you, Mr. and Mrs. Shlub, are barely a consideration: "Parents, have parenting time/custody mediation coming up in court? Make sure you set aside the FULL day to be in court, as your mediation may take a few hours and could be in the morning or afternoon, even if your court papers say 8:30 or 9:30 a.m." 

TABLOID STORY: "Why the US is NOT a good place to raise a child: Gun violence, sky-high cost of living and lack of paid parental leave make America the 18th choice for bringing up kids behind Canada, Australia and much of Europe."

PLEASE. What are the odds of your little Americano getting gunned down at school? And if you class angle the proposition, taking into consideration the new American fact that the wealthy long ago abandoned the public schools even in small towns like Boonville, gun play is much more likely at prole schools than it is at private schools, and unlikely there, too. I'd say the internet kills more kids, a lot more kids, than guns do, and kills them no matter where they are on the globe. At a tap of his finger the international ten-year-old sees what the worst of humanity has on offer, and that depraved daily deluge does him more harm than random gun fire does. 

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

 [1] The Dems are like a piker putting their last chips on one final spin of the wheel. But there is a logic to it:

Do our backers (donors, media/entertainment/academic elite, etc) want Trump to not have a second term?

Do our backers (donors, media/entertainment/academic elite, etc) really want Trump to not have a second term?

If yes, then any lie, misrepresentation, manipulation, or subterfuge will be accepted and repeated ad nauseam to make this happen.

Also, the Dem screeching for new witnesses is simply a convenient bridge to a second impeachment once this one predictably fails, especially if they don’t get all their witnesses – “See, there’s even more (imagined) crimes when need to press that the Republican held Senate denied.” 

They’ll do a second impeachment in any event; they won’t be able to help themselves – “See, Trump is so bad that he’s the only president in history that’s ever been (falsely) impeached twice!”

Thrice would be overkill, but back to the gambling analogy, I’d put even money on twice.

[2] In an overcrowded environment, disease comes out of nowhere. This Corona virus has attacked a populace that is carrying on business as usual. Personal space is non-existent. Imagine trying to control an airborne vector in NYC subway. A source of concern regarding viruses, they are finding old viruses from thousands of years ago in the thawing tundra in Canada and Alaska. That makes them new viruses. Did this corona virus come from Siberia? What is out there waiting? 

[3] Tough to beat Bogart as Phillip Marlowe in “The Big Sleep.” Dick Powell was a good Marlowe in “Murder, My Sweet.” Robert Mitchum and Robert Montgomery were pretty good also.

Those earlier private eyes from the 40s and 50s had “it” in spades. Hard boiled and usually a move ahead. Tough nuts to crack, better bring a black jack.

Mitchum in “Farewell, My Lovely”:

“I was having lunch in a Chinese restaurant when a dark shadow fell across my chop suey.”

“I sparred with the night clerk for a couple of minutes, but it was like trying to open a sardine can after you broke off the metal lip. There was something about Abraham Lincoln’s picture that loosened him up.”

“This car sticks out like spats at an Iowa picnic.”

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.” 

“I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin.”

Priceless. Reminds me of Melanie Griffith’s line in “Working Girl”: “I have a head for business and a bod for sin.”

 “The wet air was as cold as the ashes of love.” 

“The coffee shop smell was strong enough to build a garage on.”

Thanks to Raymond Chandler.

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