Off the Record (March 4, 2020)

LIKE ALL MEDIA we make mistakes, and last week we made a uniquely terrible one in announcing the death of our old friend Lisa Walters. Lisa lives on. It was her husband, Greg Girard, who died, not Lisa. Knowing her these many years she’ll be amused, but we mightily regret the error.

THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE have saddled up and are galloping straight at us. War? Check. Pestilence? Check. Famine? Check. Death? On the way. There have already been 281  wildfires in California this year, including 87 in the past week, covering 200 acres, according to CalFire. At the same time last year, the agency had handled 91 fires scorching 78 acres. The average for the period is 246  fires burning 1,546 acres. The U.S. Drought Monitor last week classified 60% of California as “abnormally dry,” including nearly all of Northern California, with a small segment in “moderate drought.”

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN informed his colleagues and the nine citizens watching Tuesday's meeting on Youtube that Ukiah's graceful old train station had been consigned to history's oblivion bin. This site prep for the new County Courthouse that nobody, apart from retired Superior Court Judge David Nelson and McCowen seem enthusiastic about will house only our nine (count 'em) judges and their servants with, natch, an indoor parking set aside for their honors with a private elevator to their sacristies. Everyone else presently housed in the perfectly serviceable County Courthouse, including the DA, will have to foot it down Perkins for court business, a long three blocks — and back.

I MEANT to include a question about the new courthouse in our candidate's quiz, and can only hope now that some publicly spirited citizen will ask them where they stand on this extravagant boondoggle. The present courthouse could be fixed up and maybe even restored to its early 20th century beauty for less money than this new glass and steel eyesore will cost. It's laughable that despite the constant promotional hoo-rah from the Ukiah City Council about restoring downtown to at least a semblance of its glory days as a coherent, serviceable small town center that Ukiah will soon have a half-empty County Courthouse to go with the eternal wreck of the abandoned Palace Hotel.

MARK SPRINKLE has again been turned down for parole, an act of pure sadism on the part of the State Parole Board given that Sprinkle has racked up a nearly perfect record inside. The guy's another example of personal growth via incarceration, and not the same man he was when he went in on what has always seemed like a set-up by his tweaker ex-girlfriend. Sprinkle's case is linked below, but having known him for years now I can attest to his "getting with the program" as an inmate. He's done everything possible to demonstrate his fitness for release. And, by the way, this is a man who was always employed as a truck driver on the outs, so it's not as if he'll be one more lost soul shuffling up and down State Street with all his stuff in a Safeway cart.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING that oughtta to be required viewing by parents of keen teens, male and female. Which is the excellent ABC News documentary by Dan Noyes on Channel 7 called "32 Seconds: A Deadly Night in Rome." Two wildly over-indulged Marin County boys, Gabriel Natale-Hjorth and Finnegan Lee Elder, travel to Rome where, armed with combat knives, they attempt to buy drugs, and one of them stabs an Italian plainclothes cop — Mario Cerciello-Rega — to death. 

Natale-Hjorth, Elder

Their parents are of course shocked, but one kid, the stabber, has already been expelled from school for sucker-punching a classmate with so much force the kid damn near died. The parents think their little darling's facebook posts celebrating drugs, weapons and criminal lingo derived from the inspirational world of gangsta rap are merely a fad aped by lots of otherwise normal kids, apparently assuming that children raised in the psychotic nexus characteristic of American adolescence in places like Marin County are sanely functioning. 

THE GOOD NEWS! Babylon Berlin, season three, has begun on Netflix.

A READER SPECULATES: “The Corona Virus (Covid19) will not be claimed as a disease of "Pandemic" proportions until it hits the United States, and if so, that will set the Orange Man's hair on fire...Talk about a tan line. I can see it now: Hospitals will run out of masks, ambulance services will be stretched thin, anti vaxers will surface and claim spiritual providence over the whole thing. Market shelves beforehand supplying the population will dwindle in supplies, the Mendocino Board of Supervisors will debate what to do with the homeless who become infected. Gas stations will be in need of fuel, Costco will see a run on toilet paper and paper towels. The ocean will continue to warm (not really related, but add it to the scenario), Kuntsler will astound the populace by saying "I told you so", the striding AVA will hunker down and keep the presses rolling electronically and where possible in paper format, Bloomberg's hair will fall out, Donald J. will be touring some place at the end of the world and continue touting how great things are while sporting a ridiculous MAGA hat, Newsom...Who knows?, Pelosi and Schiff will be in some bunker somewhere trying to figure out who this Bernie character is, and meanwhile Ted Williams will surface as the savior to the county as I am sure he has some really cool N-95 masks stashed deep in the fire department bunker. If this doesn't sound real, then maybe it is not.” 

SUPERVISOR JOHN HASCHACK wrote in his most recent “Third District Supervisors Report” that: “Information is being gathered to figure out the best way to improve emergency medical services in our county. I met with the Sheriff, ambulance services, fire departments and the health clinic in Covelo last week. We are trying to improve the capacity of the Covelo ambulance service. If an ambulance has to go to Round Valley or meet the Covelo ambulance on Hwy 162, it lowers the capacity of the ambulance services on the 101 corridor. We will have a special Board of Supervisors meeting on March 23 from 1pm to 5pm to take an in depth look at how to improve services.”

WHICH IS GOOD TO HEAR, as far as it goes. But Haschak’s mention of “information being gathered,” continues to be dubious because back at the January 21 Board meeting, Coastal Valley EMS (Sonoma County) rep Jen Banks promised to come back to the Board or any applicable committee with financial information about sustaining or expanding inland ambulance services. But so far, Ms. Banks has not presented the information that she “gathered” to the County’s newly (re-)formed Emergency Services Coordinating Committee or the Emergency Services Sustainability ad hoc committee. Maybe she’ll have something by March 23. 

MENDOLANDERS expecting to hear a discussion of mental health service performance data, including, significantly, the Fort Bragg City Council who initiated it, were disappointed late Tuesday afternoon when the item was postponed because the inconclusive pot regulation streamlining review rambled on for the entire afternoon and there was no time left. The item has been rescheduled for March 10 in the afternoon.

A DEAD MAN was in day two of his eternal journey in the next world from where his remains sat on a bench near Johnson Park, Fort Bragg, when someone finally noticed that he appeared to be dead. An on-line commenter opined, "Part of Ft. Bragg's homeless eradication program. Guess he didn't qualify for the get out of our town bus ride. If he'd have been a dog there'd be a GoFundMe account and a thousand concerned citizens up in arms over his plight."

LAST TUESDAY NIGHT'S DEMO DEBATE was, as Trump characterized it, "a mess,” and another one he won by default. Bloomberg was denounced several times as a "racist," as if he'd appeared at his podium in a pointy-hatted Klan outfit. Elizabeth Warren was positively feral as she whacked away at everyone. Mayor Pete was his usual study in passive-aggression, deliberately talking over Bernie when Bernie had the mike. Biden is clearly ga-ga and it amounts to elder abuse to keep shoving him out there to babble incoherently. The two times he was coherent Biden said 150 million Americans had been shot to death since 2007, and that he was running for the Senate. The whole mob of them deliberately painted Bernie as a com-symp, a false charge Bernie managed to refute by pointing out that America has traditionally done big business with all kinds of unsavory regimes, implying, correctly, that he at least knows a dictatorship when he sees one.

THROUGHOUT, the candidates shouted over each other, frantically waving at the ineffective moderators for attention like a bunch of third graders with the right answer. (The two female moderators, who looked like they were togged out for a night at a down market disco, even argued with each other at one point.) All-in-all, a dramatically un-presidential display that again worked to the advantage of the Orange Monster. 

BERNIE was positively heroic when he said, “Sadly, tragically in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist, who is now running that country. What you cannot ignore is the suffering of the Palestinian people.” You won't hear that particular truth from any other Democrat, ever.

CANDIDATE LINDY ON THE WILDLIFE VOTE: “Another important issue to voters in this election is the County’s recent $170,000 contract renewal with Wildlife Services for the continued use of lethal eradication of wildlife predators on County ranches. In this case, County tax dollars are subsidizing the ranchers. The vote was 3-2. Supervisor Gjerde voted Yes. I would have voted No. The issue came up again at Tuesday’s BOS meeting which I attended. The Board wants to look in to the possibility of providing a non-lethal alternative, though it is not clear just who will provide these services. But here is the catch. Should the Board move forward on this, the non-lethal option will cost you. So you have a choice. Pay someone to remove the predator or have the County use the lethal option and come do it for free. Is this proper wildlife management? I prefer non-lethal and here is why. Last week I toured Fortunate Farms in Caspar to better understand how a livestock rancher can protect their animals using non-lethal means. Here is a living example, not a study or a report. My official greeter was a frisky Border collie who led me over to Award-winning farmer Gowan Batist. After a short walk past the barn and up through the trees, the property opens up into a beautiful plotted produce farm that remains hidden from nearby Highway 1. Most of this property is bordered by native wildlife habitat, including an active wildlife corridor with a water source in nearby Jackson State Forest. One gets the feeling you are out in nature, not standing on a working farm. We continued to walk through the fields and soon arrived at a small fenced-in area where I was introduced to a herd of goats. These animals are fenced in an area with an old horse trailer. By day they roam the pen and graze. By night they are fed in that old horse trailer where they are locked in and housed for the evening to protect them from wildlife predators. These goats remain safe. Gowan explained that almost all incidents involving mountain lions and coyotes killing livestock have resulted from not keeping the animals inside overnight. Any type of framed structure works, even this old horse trailer. On we went to where the sheep are kept. Here, the Border Collie is in full work mode. He instinctively surrounds the sheep and keeps them loosely together. They are joined by two other valuable “ranch hands.” A pair of pure white Great Pyrenees stay within a portable, solar-powered electric fence to ward off predators at night. A second smaller enclosure, also fortified with a solar electric fence, is where the Border Collie herds the sheep so the other dogs can easier protect them at nightfall. The small herd is safe. Instead of traps and deadly force, all that is needed here are 3 dogs and some portable solar powered fencing. In case you’re wondering, Gowan does keep a gun. I asked if she’d ever had to use it. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a marine air horn. “One blast from this and the critters immediately run off. I have used it and it works!” So you can ranch in harmony with wildlife. It’s not easy but the rewards far outweigh the risk of disturbing our fragile ecosystem. It involves hard work, dedication and commitment. Truly a labor of love. Next time you need some farm fresh produce, support a local business and an important cause as well. The 4th District is fortunate, in fact, to have Fortunate Farms."

EVERYONE VOTES BLIND for Supervisor because very few people pay attention to what they do. Or don't do, absence of intelligent effort having been the norm for years now. Fact is, Mendocino County has one fully functioning Supe — Williams who, by the way, is being sniped at by his somnolent colleagues simply for doing the job the way it's supposed to be done. If it weren't for Williams, Supervisor McCowen's attempt to install his tenant and pal, Alicia Bales, in a specially created admin job paying upwards of $70 grand a year overseeing the McCowen-created boondoggle called the Mendocino County Climate Action Advisory Committee, the sinecure would have been a done deal. This thing is still funded at $7500, all of it going to a consultant to get it organized. 

BECAUSE the Supe's candidates know little about county business, the elections resemble those we all experienced in the 4th grade — "I like Debbie because she's nice, but Tommy let me ride his new bike." Of course the debate is hardly more edifying at the national level, as we've seen in the run-up to 2020, The Year of Living Dangerously.

KYM KEMP at Redheaded Blackbelt deserves all praise for her dogged reporting on the Rohnert Park Police scandal. As the excellent reporter she is, Ms. K just kept after it, although I think it's obvious there were more people and police agencies involved. You telling me that Rohnert Park cops could set up their little shakedown ops at Squaw Rock without other cops knowing about it, and do it for several years? The badged crooks had a simple plan: stop any southbound vehicle that looked like it might be transporting dope, and take the dope and whatever cash the transporter might have. But unless one of the now fired cops talks — one of whom was paid thousands of public dollars to go away — we're not likely to get the whole story.

HOW TO TRY to sound smart when you don't know yer arse from a hot potato and throw in a lie, too, this one from the Wall Street Journal: "If Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee for president, he’ll have to secure the votes of people like me. He won’t have a chance. A man who sings the praises of Fidel Castro’s Cuba and promises to dismantle the most productive economy on the planet won’t win over America’s moderate middle, even running against an ill-mannered, ignorant and demagogic Donald Trump."

BERNIE hasn't sung the praises of Castro, having made it clear for years that the good stuff the Leninists accomplished in Cuba were erased by the island's being a police state. Even if the "moderates" fail to derail Bernie before he gets anywhere near the White House, universal health care might be unachievable given the composition of the billionaire-funded Congress. Ditto for a Green New Deal. We're already getting a lot of the above from "moderates" in full panic that ordinary Americans might get their first breaks since FDR. 

BIDEN'S GREAT VICTORY in South Carolina? About 200,000 Demo votes cast in total, he gets not quite half of those, and the United States has a population of 300 million-plus.

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] This process of allowing homelessness as an option needs to stop as it is too labor and time intensive for all parties involved. Homelessness is a lose, lose, lose situation for all involved. It's terrible for homeless individuals as they are not getting the help and support they need. It's terrible for communities as it compromises public resources. It's terrible for our community budgets as it drains resources. It's terrible for the environment as there is constant clean up, trips to the landfill and sanitation issues. If an adult cannot provide themselves with a basic necessity like shelter, then they need help. We should not normalize this behavior as a "choice". No rational person would make this a "choice." At this point, our social, environmental and legal contract is that adults work, pay taxes, contribute to their communities and provide housing for themselves. If they are unable to do so, then they become subject to the charity and mechanisms of tax-payer funded resources. Homeless advocates should not be normalizing this behavior and instead should be advocating for mental health resources, job training and shelter beds. I think CAN probably has enough data around costs, crime and public nuisance to make an excellent case. You have an on-going record of how many times people have been ordered services and how many times they have refused and what the economic and social cost has been.

[2] Yes, California is the 5th largest economy in the world. We don't have a wealth problem, we have a tax problem. We need to limit how much money people can sequester into non-taxable family foundations, where they essentially hoard money and fund pet project, have a wealth tax on all income over $5 million and force Apple, Google, Facebook and other large tech companies to bring back the billions of revenue they are off-shoring and pay taxes on it. The founders of these companies and many of their employees have many hundreds of millions of dollars in this state from our infrastructure and they need to pay it forward so the next generation of Californians don't face a state with a collapsed public sphere. We need to stop taxing the middle and working class and start taxing the ultra-wealthy. Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of over $45 billion. We need a progressive income tax in this state and in the nation. We need to have the same tax code they did in the 1950s and 1960s to help stabilize the growing wealth inequality and support the middle class. California is more wealthy than many countries. We have a ton of money here, we just need to redistribute it a bit more.

[3] Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies) is an Internet adage asserting that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1” that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds, the point at which effectively the discussion or thread often ends. Promulgated by the American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, Godwin’s law originally referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions. It is now applied to any threaded online discussion, such as Internet forums, chat rooms, and comment threads, as well as to speeches, articles, and other rhetoric where reductio ad Hitlerum occurs.

Godwin has stated that he introduced Godwin’s law in 1990 as an experiment in memetics.

In 2012, “Godwin’s law” became an entry in the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

[4] If you had any idea of what goes on behind the curtain in the food industry you’d never eat anything again that you didn’t grow yourself.

I have some examples from stories told to me by various friends

– a niece who worked for KFC said that sometimes at night after closing the workers there would get into food fights throwing pieces of raw chicken at each other. In the end it all when back into storage.

– a friend who worked in Stein’s pickle factory cautioned that you never want to eat pickle relish

– a co-worker whose wife worked in a chicken factory strongly advised you never want to buy a packaged cut up chicken. He said you should always be able to see the whole bird. When dead chickens move down the production line where workers hack them into pieces, as chickens with pussy infections and other nasty lesions come along the bad parts are cut away and discarded but the remaining good appearing ones are kept.

– my worse tale came from a friend who was a truck dispatcher where trucks with produce came to discharge their loads. This guy was a big flannel shirt wearing meat and potatoes type who loved hamburgers but would never eat ketchup. One day a truckload of tomatoes dumped its load over the collection hopper. He said there were always left over crushed tomatoes in the bottom of the beds when the trucks were set aside for the remainder of the day. On this one occasion when the truck returned to the hopper so the crushed tomatoes could be scooped into the hopper when they went for use in ketchup he saw that to bottom of the bed had a blue sheen over the entire surface. It was from all the blue bottle flies that had collected and died on the surface during the day. The whole mess went into the Ketchup hopper.

– I’ve seen some awfully disgusting food handling with my own eyes waiting in the back of a tavern where a friend used to work.

– A prosperous restauranteur in our city was once asked where his favorite place to eat was in our town and he replied “The Mongolian Grill because you can see what you eat before it is cooked.”

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