Off the Record (February 19, 2020)

THE HEADLINE in last week's Advocate-Beacon read: "Meadows taking the helm at newspapers." Not just any newspapers but the Mendocino Coast's two interchangeable publications owned by the same distant hedge fund which also owns the Ukiah Daily Journal and The Willits News. The terse announcement continues: "A change of leadership is afoot at the Advocate-News and The Mendocino Beacon. Kate Lee, who has been publisher since Sharon DiMauro’s retirement three years ago, is herself retiring on Jan. 31. KC Meadows, the veteran editor of sister papers the Ukiah Daily Journal and The Willits News, will be the coast papers’ new general manager. Meadows has been managing editor at the Ukiah Daily Journal since 1997 and a reporter since 1991. She’s a former radio newswoman and congressional staffer." 

THE HED shoulda been, "KC at the Bat," but I doubt the papers' remaining staffers, as they await their final execution, are in any mood for whimsy. The hedge fund ghouls, having sold off the real estate that once housed their four Mendo papers, don't replace departed staffers, but still squeezes enough ad revenues out of their local skeleton crews to pay the rent and keep the lights on. KC Meadows now oversees the whole Mendo show, as the distant hedge boys get another whole salary out of her.

FUTCHER ADRIFT. Jane Futcher of the North County outback, is a writer and KZYX talk show host. Ms. F has recently been a tangential victim of the coronavirus when her cruise ship was forced to drift aimlessly in the South China Sea when Asian ports refused to let it dock. She writes: “My wife Erin and I are passengers on the Holland America ship Westerdam, which has been chugging around the South China Sea for ten days now looking for a place to land. The first two weeks of our cruise, which started in Singapore, January 15, were fantastic, with tours and stops in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. We landed in Hong Kong Feb. 1 to let off passengers and take on new ones for the second leg of the trip to Manila, Taiwan and Japan. Since then the trip has been something of a disaster but great fun. We have no known cases of coronavirus aboard, but fear is so great in Asia that no port has been willing to let us land save for one small city, Kaohsiung, which kicked us out after one night. Since then all of our host countries and ports have cancelled on us and we have been cruising the South China Sea looking for a port where 1500 or so passengers can disembark and make our ways home. After days of uncertainty cruising through vast blue stretches of the South China Sea thinking ports were accepting us and then being told we’d been turned away, Captain Smit finally announced two days ago that the port of Bangkok would let us disembark. But he said on the P.A. system yesterday that Thailand’s minister of health had said on Facebook that he refused us entry. Meanwhile, the ship is still traveling in the direction of Bangkok with hopes of landing tomorrow morning. It has been very interesting. Still lots of food and shipboard activities but clouds of uncertainty hovering over us. Guests are desperately trying to access the ship’s overwhelmed phones and Wi-Fi system to change tickets, get news, and keep family, friends and dog sitters posted. We are still very well fed and have lots of shipboard activities. Holland America has kept the food flowing but does not give us very regular news about what’s really happening. We have read more in the news media about our fate than we have heard from our captain. The most critical shortages I have noticed are absence of soy sauce in the dining room, Nutella for crepes and bananas. The cruise line is refunding our money for this trip and offering 50% off on a future trip. The staff of the ship is incredibly nice and very international, many from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Many popular songs come to Our minds such as “Magical Mystery Tour,“ “Long Strange Trip,” “Row, Row Row Your Boat,” and a Sweet Honey and the Rock song with the lines, “We are going, Heaven knows how we are going. We will get there, Heaven knows how we will get there…. Well, Thailand said “no” to our ship after days of negotiations so we are landing tomorrow in the small and poor Cambodian town of Sihanoukville, one of our first stops on the cruise. Holland America Line is going to hire planes to fly us to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. From there they will fly all 1500 of us to our homes, which should be interesting since no American or European airlines fly into Cambodia. None of these advanced transport logistics are starting until February 14. We are disappointed because we had flights home booked for tomorrow out of Singapore. All good. And we are healthy and extremely well fed and mostly happy. We are docking at Sihanoukville as I write this. Holland America is booking charter flights to get us all to Phnom Penh and from there booking everyone’s flights home. It will be several days before any of us get home….. The president of Cambodia arrived at our dock in Sihanoukville this morning with great fanfare to greet the first passengers off the M.S. Westerdam. The captain awakened us at 6 AM on the ship’s P.A. system asking all of us to get out bed quickly and proceed to the promenade deck to wave our thanks to him. Cambodia is the only Southeast Asian or Asian country that was willing to let us land even though we have no known coronavirus cases aboard. We have had our temperatures taken often. There were dozens of reporters and TV cameras and military officials on the dock as President Hun Sen arrived in a helicopter, with a second helicopter and several naval ships in the harbor to protect him. As the first 100 or so passengers came down the gangplank, he greeted each of them with flowers. Erin and I are still on board and cannot wander into town yet. We may be here for several more days as we await news from the ship and Holland America as to when a chartered flight from the port of Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and from there to our homes, can be arranged for all 1400 of us or so still on board. Could be a few days. But we are safe and happy and healthy. And, as always, very well fed. If they don’t let us off soon we will be unable to fit in any of our clothes! Jane Futcher updates: At Sihanoukville airport headed for Kuala Lumpur and hopefully SFO one of these days.”

A READER WRITES: "We finished watching the Malcolm X series on Netflix last night and I was struck by the similarities to our local story of Who Killed Judi Bari — the loudest echo being the widespread disinterest for actually solving the crime and uncovering the real perpetrators. The primary reason for this judicial inertia seems to be the deep involvement of law enforcement, such as FBI Cointelpro operatives, embedded throughout each movements' organization (in the Malcolm case, there were nine FBI infiltrators present at his assassination, and the head of his security team was a police informant). That complicity wants to stay hidden, of course, but the surprising thing is how much the general populace ends up adopting the same disinterest in justice, for various reasons of their own. I found the Malcolm Series to be endlessly fascinating, for the history, for the story, and for revealing the myriad quirky and surprising facets found in human nature. For example, two of the subjects in this Malcolm story who displayed the most depth, integrity and decency were a couple of the men who did time for Malcolm's murder. One was a self-confessed shooter, and the other was falsely imprisoned for twenty years." 

WHICH is pretty much what happened in the Bari case. Law enforcement, including the FBI, showed no serious interest in solving the case. Why? In my careful, informed and unapologetically obsessive-relentless opinion, the FBI couldn't afford to find the bomber without revealing their Redwood Summer snitch apparatus headquartered at the Mendocino Environment Center, 106 West Standley, Ukiah, in premises owned by Supervisor McCowen. Without going off at length here, the entire case from the ava perspective can be found on our website at theava.com/archives/1235. Judi Bari, like Malcolm before her, was murdered, albeit in slow motion, by the same malign nexus that murdered Malcolm.

POPULAR AMERICAN HISTORIAN Harlow Giles Unger (known as “America’s most readable historian,” a moniker we agree with after having read several of his fascinating US history books) was an educator and the author of the three volume “Encyclopedia of American Education” before becoming an historian. Unger was speaking at a recent book tour event promoting his latest bio of Tom Paine recently. During the Q&A, someone in the audience asked why Paine and his amazing life and writing got so little coverage in American history textbooks. Unger replied that one big reason is that American school students spend less than half of their already abbreviated school day in an academic classroom setting than their European counterparts do, so everything is reduced to minimal soundbites. Unger added that America is the only country in the world where athletics are considered part of the school day. The number (half the European school day) seemed very low to us so we asked County School Superintendent Michelle Hutchins what she thought. Hutchins replied that if you deduct athletics and other non-academic activities on top of the usual classroom admin, testing and attendance rigmarole from the approximately six-hour school day, Unger is probably right. “We have a lot of work to do,” said Hutchins, acknowledging, however, that there’s no mention of an increase in the school day or classroom hours on any state or national edu-reform agenda. http://harlowungerbooks.com (Mark Scaramella)

FLIGHT ETIQUETTE. Among the info-deluge pouring in this morning, one item especially resonated with me, an infrequent airline passenger. A video circulated by an indignant woman identified only as 'Wendi' filmed a man sitting behind her on a flight from New Orleans to Charlotte. She kept reclining her seat and the imposed upon man kept shoving her seat and her back upright. I had a similar experience on a short flight to Portland a few years ago, when the guy in front of me tried to recline his seat several times before I shoved him so violently upright I thought he'd complain. "Here's a parachute, Mr. Anderson, you're off the flight." I have zero sympathy for 'Wendi." There you are, wedged in so tightly that people like angular me have no space between my knees and the seat in front of me. If the person occupying that seat, knowing full well the person behind him or her will have to somehow splay his legs right and left to even remain seated, and with no room to stand, well, we're beyond reasonable endurance here. The guy whose seat I shoved, another geezer, stayed shoved, but gave me a death glare as we disembarked, which rewarded him with a big smile and a thumbs up. “Wendi” was totally in the wrong on her flight, and has had the nerve to circulate what she thinks is her victimization, but I'm sure we're talking self-entitlement here, one more of that army of Me Me Me's out there.

JOHN DALTON is back at home on his Branscomb property after twenty-two years in federal prison on a marijuana conviction. Prior to his arrest, a DEA agent seduced Dalton's wife, entertaining her with rides in a police helicopter and arranging for her to place a tape recorder beneath the Dalton's marital bed, finally moving the woman, to whom Dalton thought he was still married, to the state of Washington without Dalton's knowledge. This behavior by the DEA was not, according to a San Francisco-based federal judge, “egregious government misconduct.” One has to wonder what the hell is egregious government misconduct. We're working on an interview with Dalton about his life inside and what he's found now that he's out. 

DENIS ROUSE WRITES:" You got my head swimming after reading "To The Finland Station". How did socialism and communism (Marxism I guess) become conflated? Got a neighbor whose grandfather was John Howard Lawson, one of the Hollywood black listed ten. His bio seems to suggest his communism came from his immigrant family's experience with anti-semitism as well his personal travail with the government's attempts to crush his freedom of expression in the days of "Un-American" paranoia. Last night's "American Experience" segment on PBS dealt with capitalism-in-extremis during the early days of American industrial food production when various poisons were being utilized to preserve foods which led to the successful efforts of a heroic chemist (his name escapes me at the moment but he's buried at Arlington) of the Pure Food and Drug Act during Theodore Roosevelt's administration. Is that not an example of socialism in its finest hour? When I think of communism I can't help but think of the human costs of what eventuated with Mao's and Stalin's ascendancy. When I think of capitalism I think of how it seems to replicate what we know about nature, human nature of course included, and the need to control its worst aspects. Last question, professor, is there an example of a successful communist state in history's blueprint? Or should we just have another drink? "

THE GREAT HEROES of food safety, if you'll permit me to play Ask Mr. Wizard, food safety began to be a government priority with chemist Charles Wetherill, first appointed by Lincoln. With the Teddy Roosevelt era there was the great Harvey Wiley, the true father of national food safety.(Roosevelt and his Rough Riders found their canned beef to not only be inedible but occasionally lethal.) And, of course, there was Upton Sinclair, who shocked the world with the news of what really went into sausage via "The Jungle." Capital has always deliberately conflated socialism and communism, as it's doing now with Bernie, who, in any other context, is more of a social democrat than socialist. Even FDR, scion of the ruling class, was denounced by the old money as "a traitor to his class" and, natch, a “communist” for the modest social reforms that helped lift America from The Great Depression. The older I get the better I understand why Diogenes spent his life on the hunt. People believe what they need to believe, facts be doomed, but America would be a much happier, less violent place if working people had the same active understanding of economics which, say, the European working class has. 

McCLATCHY, basically the venerable Sacramento Bee, is now at the mercy of the hedge fund wolves. The publisher has been plagued by financial problems ever since a $4.5 billion takeover by rival Knight-Ridder in 2006, worsened by the decline of print newspaper sales. “The problem is that as of 2015, Google and Facebook make up about 75 percent of the digital ad dollar in U.S. markets,” said Penny Abernathy, a professor of journalism somewhere, and could have added that misinformation is now universally pervasive.

ODD to think that "journalism" began as a bunch of drunks hanging around police stations who called in their atrocity stories to a re-write desk where a literate spinster made it fit for print. Hundred years later… professors! Schools of journalism! Print newspapers are dying everywhere as the whole festival of misinformation moves on-line. In my experience, there's a direct correlation between formally trained "journalists" and bad journalism, by bad I mean dumb, boring, inaccurate, tailored to the boss man out of necessity for continued employment. 

NOTE: Years ago, when print still reigned, a friend invited me to speak to a class at the UC School of Journalism at Berkeley. The room was organized as a tv studio, and most of the students seemed to hanker after a job at Live At Five. Note 2: Earlier, another friend of mine, the late Roy Trumbull, the chief tech guy at KRON Television, gave me a tour of the station's Frisco premises whose news office was all young people, very young people, busily typing out the day's events. "Frightening, isn't it?" he said. I agreed at the time, but thinking about it, for mainstream media, what's the diff? Anybody, any age can do it.

KQED TELEVISION brings us lots of interesting stuff, if you can beat back your nausea at the endless testimonials to the foundation tax dodgers bringing you the goods — "brought to you by the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Burger King "— and those terrifying ads for an upscale senior stalag called Aegis Living. Can you even imagine a worse fate than your last days spent in compulsory group sing-a-longs? I'll bet I speak for a lot of the elderly when I say I'd rather dole out my last days under a freeway overpass than at Aegis Living.

LIBERAL MEDIA at its finest was KQED's fawning and constantly bleeped tribute to the great comic, Dave Chappelle, recipient of the lib's Mark Twain Award, nevermind that KQED would never ever, not even at 4am, show a Chappelle performance. Or Twain’s political writing either, for that matter. So, maybe once every couple of weeks we get a Frontline or an interesting bio in between cooking shows and feeble-minded tours of foreign countries led by a chuckling fool in a purple sweater, all brought to us by this or that foundation tax evader.

McKLANLEYVILLE? That casual slur the other day re the HumCo town got a laugh outta easily amused me.

POLICE NEWS: the Willits PD is so under-staffed that the Sheriff's Department is toting a lot of the Willits load, and it's considerable.

SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE, literary division. A friend of conservative disposition lent me a "book" called Bronze Age Mindset by Bronze Age Pervert. Friend said it was all the rage among the bros, a subset of Americans ordinarily not associated with bibliophilia. Anyway, this thing is a barely readable mishmash of Nietzschean, I guess, superman fantasy pegged to the assumption that males have been de-balled by modern civ. If men were to be re-balled they could again drag women around by their hair. Excerpt: "In Stone Age man appears, very strong shoulders, with club in hand." Coupla hundred pages of this, which seems to recommend that young men inspired by the good old days of Cro Magnia return to it as best they can in the computer age. For the hat-backwards boys too dumb even for Ayn Rand, Bronze Age Mindset is just the thing. 

ELECTION NOTES: The Boonville ballot is pretty skimpy this time around. Of the twenty Democrats, I’m going for Bernie with Elizabeth Warren as my second choice. The rest are definite No Go zones. I think Trump would have the most difficulty with Bernie, especially considering that a lot of Trump voters were for Bern before he was jobbed out of the nomination by the She Beast and then went for Trump because he at least sounded like he was on their side. Bernie would make life a little easier for what’s left of the middleclass, which is how most Americans in the $35-$100,000 income range classify ourselves. For most of us, though, the squeeze is on, and every other candidate other than Bernie represents the people doing the squeezing.

CONGRESS: Here’s where the AVA takes flight from most Californians, probably most of our fellow citizens everywhere: We don’t vote for professional officeholders, especially the ones foisted off on the Northcoast by Demo Central. So we’re going for Rachel Moniz, whoever the hell she is, over incumbent Jared Huffman, a conservative Democrat who gets his positions directly from the Pelosi wing of the party. Name a single major benefit conferred on the Northcoast by any Democrat in modern times, and if you say The Great Redwood Trail we would like to see you disenfranchised as too damn dumb to vote. $4.5 million so far for not quite three miles running from Ukiah’s sewage treatment plant to the south, nowhere to the north. Because of the way the state is gerrymandered for incumbents, mostly Democrats, means we’re stuck with these interchangeable empty suits for the foreseeable future. (The last real Demo for this office in this area was Clem Miller who died in a plane crash but still managed to beat his live Republican opponent.) 

STATE ASSEMBLY: Charlotte Svolos. Ol’ Char, the ballot says, is a Republican who works as a special ed teacher, who may actually be a special ed student herself if she’s a Republican, but she’s the only opposition to Jim Wood. Svolos? Hmmm. The old San Francisco Seals had a pitcher named Eli Grba, “the Serbian Slingshot.” I’m going for Svolos because she reminds me of Eli, which is as good a reason as any when the alternative is a guy who opposed single payer for California.

PATRICK PEKIN is unopposed for Superior Court Judge, but from his record as a private attorney he’s a smart, conscientious kinda guy unlikely to make crazy decisions. There’s not much to judging anymore since almost all the people being shuffled through the system ought to be locked up for their own safety, but it’s still important that judges bring some basic humanity to that grim, nearly rote process.

PROP 13. No, not that Prop 13 that relieved corporations and the wealthy of their fair share of the tax burden! This Prop 13 is another of our state’s endless bond measures, so many out there already they’ll never be paid off before the entire economic Ponzi collapses like the unsupportable souffle it is. Because school districts seldom, if ever, put anything aside for deferred maintenance and classroom construction, shoveling about 90 percent of funding to staff and admin, they don’t save for repairs or new classrooms. We’re of two minds on this one: on the one hand you don’t want the little bas — er, kids at their grueling regimen of study and ball games if the rain is coming through the classroom ceilings. On the other hand, an attractive, functional school hasn’t been built in this country since World War One. No diff in school architecture between WalMart and, for handy example, the factory design of Ukiah High School. If it’s “for the kids” I suppose we’ll be dragooned into voting for more debt, but some time, somehow, something’s got to give.

MEASURES D & E would impose a 10% bed tax on private campgrounds in unincorporated areas of the County along with an advisory measure asking the Supervisors to allocate 75% of the proceeds directly to the county’s far-flung fire departments (presumably in equal shares, which works out to maybe $35k to $40k per department), and the remaining 25% to the Fire Chiefs Association to spend on county-wide firefighting. This “advisory” approach is supposed to allow the Measure to pass with 50%+1 instead of two-thirds (if it was specifically earmarked for fire fighting). However, given their history, we’re concerned that since the revenues will still go into the general fund, the Supes and/or CEO can still spend it on whatever they feel like (e.g., themselves) and shortchange the fire services. We’re reluctantly in favor of the measures, but until the County Auditor sets up and tracks the revenues like he does with the Measure B funds, there’s still a chance the Supes can siphon off some of the funds if choose to. 

WE’RE of course following the three races for Supervisor. We’re inclined to go for Lindy Peters over Dan Gjerde in the 4th District because he advertises with us. No! How can you even suspect that we’d peddle our opinions that cheap? Up the ante some and, well, we’ll talk. Anyway, we think Gjerde has been a disappointment as Supervisor, although in his defense he’s sat on a board ranging from the inert to the certifiably nuts, with CEO Angelo running the show with her five elected automatons signing off on whatever she shoves in front of them. Gjerde has only come alive lately because he’s opposed for re-election and, if re-elected what’s to prevent him from resuming his highly paid (certainly by Mendo standards) snooze. Too bad. He’s a smart guy who knows how it all works, but….This one is too close to call.

Gjerde, Peters

IN THE FIRST DISTRICT (basically Redwood and Potter valleys) we’re still on the fence and may stay there. Ironically, the best informed candidate re county business is John Sakowicz, but uh, well, gee, how to put it? On the upside he’s smart, articulate, puts severe fear into the portly ladies dominant in the county bureaucracy. (Jars of hard candy on their desks at all times!) But Sako is polarizing, like North and South poles with no one in-between. Not necessarily a bad thing, but in a non-partisan position maybe not so good. Whatever else you might say about the guy, he’s a fascinating study, and mos def Only In Mendo. We’re partial to Kennedy because he’s been a successful supervisor before, albeit in Plumas County, where he was highly regarded for all the good reasons. We like his candor, his answers to our over-long questionnaire. We’ve had differences with Glen McGourty over ag policies but think he’d be a responsible supervisor, and we don’t know Mr. Green who seems a bit gush-gush for our tastes. A guy looking to be loved is a fatal flaw in a politician. But Green must have something going for him because he got KC Meadows’ important UDJ endorsement. No idea how this election will go, but we know the Farm Bureau candidate and well known McGourty is running strong. 

Kennedy, Green, Sakowicz, McGourty

SECOND DISTRICT The two women running for the seat have both sat on the Ukiah City Council and, as we’ve said before, Ukiah isn’t what you’d call a Swiss watch of civic functioning. Anybody who has had some responsibility for Ukiah can’t plausibly cite it as a recommendation for higher office. It’s like Mayor London Breed exclaiming, “Look what I’ve done for San Francisco!” So far, we’re partial to the third person in this race, Joel Soinila. And darned if a female visitor didn’t comment when we happened to begin talking about our election picks, “Of course you’d go for the man. You oinkers stick together, don’t you.” Excuse me, but Ms. Mulheren and Ms. Rodin sound like they’re running for chief pom-pom girl, not one of five persons responsible for wisely supervising a $313 million annual budget. Crimeny, Ms. Rodin hadn’t even heard of Measure V. But given the low bar of Mendo elected office…

Mulheren, Soinila, Rodin

FORMER SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN suffered a stalker when he was wearing the badge, and he seems to still be the object of Adam Aldrich's obsession, which has now morphed into lawyers and court appearances, with the former Sheriff taking out a temporary restraining order against Aldrich, and Aldrich postponing the restraining order hearing while he lawyers up. 

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] And in Spain, they have sturdy shutters on the outside of windows, which they wisely use to shield themselves from hot summer suns. Air conditioning — as ever, fueled by poison-producing fossil fuels — is a luxury we should adapt to living with less of. 

But instead, we get new high-rise buildings plated in dark glass, or even more awfully, clad in black. At the moment we desperately need our buildings to reduce their draw of energy, and lessen their contribution to urban heat islands, we get a doubling down on bad forms: an architecture that directly degrades our environment, for years to come. 

Kind of like the current truck & SUV craze that’s made our roads deadlier, our carbon emissions higher, and the money pots of petrostates fuller. All for the sake of men’s egos, which we’ll never overcome, and which is the death of us all.

[2] What we’ve seen is sedition, but of the most hilariously incompetent sort, the might of American institutions bearing down on a duly elected official, going at it hammer-and-tongs, but regardless, not laying a glove on the rock-star himself, only his roadies for infractions not remotely connected to the originally alleged misdeeds. 

Imagine, a lifetime spent in mobbed-up businesses like real estate and casinos and the Mueller crew couldn’t find a thing. Astounding. How can that be? Is Trump that smart? Is he that clean? Was the Mueller gang that useless? 

No matter, because what all this represents is an unwillingness to abide by election results. Too bad for American democracy, this unwillingness, and also an unwillingness to ascribe legitimate interests to wide areas of the populace. 

It’s not just what they’re doing to Trump, it’s what they’re doing to Bernie. This Iowa thing reeks of dirty deeds, i.e. another effort to hobble Bernie. If you’re looking for corruption, look to the Democrats. They are rotten with it. 

(3) DOPE, an on-line comment: If everybody grew some cannabis for personal use, perhaps the government would give up trying to tape-measure everyone’s garden… I don’t personally care, as I need no weed, at all… And, attempting to regulate big, corporate grows, at this point, would be ridiculous. The Humboldt Brand has been sold, and, even the Hopland Hippies have cashed in and now Flow Cana even owns the Hippie Living Center… Vertically integrated cannabis providers are not gonna back up for “small farmers.” But if individual end users grew their own product, the point would be moot. Plant some public pot today! Marijuana should be free, and available everywhere, and then maybe everyone would get bored with it and move on to the next thing.

I am quite sure I could easily grow a year’s supply of flower, in a 10x10 area, and have done so in the past, prior to 2010 when I gave the shit up.

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