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Off the Record (March 18, 2020)

THE BIG PICTURE, from the Boonville perspective. Events were overwhelming the leadership even before the virus and the economic disaster that will result from it. The globe will continue to warm, millions of people will remain on the move, whole economies will collapse, and even ours will harm more and more everyday people. The preposterously over-valued stock market is crashing to its true value. The County of Mendocino County is heavily invested in the market and has taken a proportionate hit. One tiny example of what's happening that's not so tiny — fracking depends on oil that sells for at least 50 bucks a barrel. The price of oil currently is under forty, apparently because of market manipulations by the Saudis and the Russians. Cheap oil is great for us consumers, bad for the oil conglomerates, in other words a win-win.

TAKE HEART, my fellow Berners! Look at it this way: We don't have to wait to watch the Democrats screw the guy. They've already done it, sparing us months of anxiety. Warren will be the next to stick a knife in Bernie's back, leaving us with an election between two blathering idiots as the house falls down on all of us. (Would fall down on Bernie, too, but he'd at least try to protect working people during the collapse).

MENDO SUFFERS FROM COMPACTION. “Compaction is what happens when something is crushed or compressed. In many places, garbage undergoes compaction after it's collected, so that it takes up less space. The process of making something more compact, or dense and very tightly packed together, is compaction. Geologists (scientists who study rocks and earth) might talk about the natural process of compaction, when sand or silt becomes denser and denser over time, as heavy material presses down on it. Computer scientists might instead think of data compaction, when data is simplified by removing information that's unnecessary or redundant.”

THE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AND STAFF, especially Mendocino County’s new Human Resources Director William E. Schurtz, invoked the word often at Tuesday’s meeting. But they were not talking garbage, nor removing anything unnecessary or redundant — not literally anyway. No, they were talking about the problem of giving raises to lots of people only to find out that some upper level managers are not paid enough more than their highest paid subordinate. This situation was previously described in the Board’s agenda packet as “disparity,” but on Tuesday it had morphed into “compaction,” meaning the “squeeze” created by the ever encroaching raises given to subordinates while not giving proportionately larger raises to their bosses. 

GUESS WHAT THE SOLUTION to this compaction problem is? It cost an additional $140k and the Board voted 5-0 to compact a dozen top Health and Human Services bureaucrats into raises. (Mark Scaramella)

WILLITS hires County's first black police chief. Greg Allen comes from a successful tenure at Morro Bay, but already we've received a video of Chief Allen and another Morro Bay cop allegedly using unnecessary force in February of 2018 to arrest a character calling himself Nasty Nat. Nasty, togged out in paramilitary black, had been filming the inside of the Morro Bay police station and generally conducting himself in a suspicious manner. He refused to identify himself or explain what he was doing. Nasty wasn't injured during the incident and, judging from what we could see in the video, the two cops did not use more force than necessary to get this screwball to stop creeping around the station which, apparently, can be charged as a misdemeanor. From everything we could find about Chief Allen he's a good cop and a good guy.

THE VIRUS is spreading in cluster-outbreaks in different areas of the country. Mendo, so far, is unaffected, but reminders, complete with how-to illustrations, are popping up everywhere on public buildings, although most of us mastered the art of hand washing prior to toddling off to kindergarten. Myself, I've got a couple of bottles of something called 'Purell, 2X sanitizing strength. Kills 99.99% of most illness causing germs." But it's that hundredth of microbe that'll get you, no? Anyway, no more Irish Spring for this kid, except in the shower, of course.

MY LATE FRIEND, Alexander Cockburn, who had theories about all sorts of things, thought we were too clean, that our Tidy Bowl obsessions were making us weaker, less able to withstand disease, that we needed microbes to build up our immunity systems, that antibiotics were throwing off our thigamajigs. 

COCKBURN is hugely missed. He was an adventure all by himself, and his clarity in absurd times like ours is doubly missed. The only alive journalist I know of who even comes close is Matt Taibbi. Anyway, one day we met up in San Francisco for lunch with another vivid journalist, Warren Hinckle, also gone now. Cockburn and I popped into a Market Street camera shop where the Pakistani proprietor jumped to attention, clicked his heels, snapped off a Raj salute and announced, "Alexander Cockburn, gentleman and scholar. At your service, sir." Cockburn, who was always working, quizzed the guy on political developments in his mother country, made a purchase, and we walked on. As one of the most steadfast and influential defender of Palestinians writing in this country, and Palestinians owning many of SF's corner groceries. Cockburn was similarly greeted one night by the Palestinian owner of a deli not far from my place who thanked Cockburn for "your defense of my people." Cockburn insisted, over several minutes, that we pay for the bottle of Irish whiskey we'd set out for. It was a hard sell.

VOTER TURNOUT for the March 4 election was less than 25% according to the County Elections office.

For the latest election results, visit

ON A POSITIVE NOTE, the trees along Ukiah's South State Street are in bloom, a kind of floral version of lipstick on a pig, but if it's possible to make State Street beautiful, see it now before the annual re-set.

AMONG the millions of things I don't get, is Joe Biden. I don't see how it's intellectually-emotionally possible not to see that he's lost it, that he's the weakest Democrat possible to put up against Trump. Not just saying this as an embittered Berner, but trying hard to be objective here. Biden's obvious unfitness was made even more obvious in Sunday night’s debate. If Biden is the plutocracy's candidate, the only way he has any chance against Trump is a total economic collapse, and people turn to him in desperation. 

THIS QUOTE seemed a little too-too when I heard it yesterday, but now… "Life as we know it is on hold" seems about right. And this poignant call to KGO Radio this morning from a distraught woman probably sums up the feeling of millions of paycheck workers: "I was told to go home but without pay. How can I pay my rent? I feel like I've been cast out…"

STILL no cases reported in Mendo as of Monday, which seems to mean that our naturally dispersed population or "social distancing" is keeping the virus to the south. So far.

THE GREATEST IRONY on the week was Mexico's threat to close its border with the United States to keep out diseased gringos.

WITH TESTING KIT production ramping up, the plan is that Americans will be able to get drive-through testing at CVS, Target and Walmart, while Google installs an on-line questionnaire pointing people to care.

PANIC BUYING is epidemic [sic] on the East Coast and most population centers elsewhere. LA cops told locust-shoppers to stop calling 911 over line cutting outside stores. The warning to stop wasting police time came as officers had been called to stop false reports of mass fistfights at an LA Costco.

A READER WRITES: “Not much evidence of virus panic in Ukiah on Friday. There did seem like more than usual toilet paper purchasers, but nothing huge. Three stores were low on TP but none were out. Big Lots had a sign that said, “Two to a customer only.” A few shelves looked like they were low on some items, especially cleaning stuff, but they had most other products albeit in lower than the usual amounts. No crowds. No serious shortages. Casual customers, no complaints. Parking lots looked normal. Traffic seemed a bit light… BUT — I’m not a Costco member and did not get anywhere whatever may have been going on there.”

FORMER SHERIFF and Founding Father of Measure B Tom Allman delivered this update at last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting: “We certainly are very thrilled with the new project manager and how she's handling this and leading the Measure B committee through this. To the citizens who are wondering, Why isn't Measure B doing anything? They are! I want them to actively follow the videos. It certainly started slow, but the momentum is building right now and with this new project manager and with the funds in the bank we are ready to see some projects happen and provide services. This is a good time for Measure B right now.”

DEPARTMENT OF UNINTENTIONAL SATIRE: "Savings Bank of Mendocino County wants you to know that they are taking proactive measures to prepare for Coronavirus (COVID-19). They are closely monitoring developments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local authorities and are aware that COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization."

JUST WHAT AMERICA NEEDS, bankers telling us to wash our hands while they pick our pockets.

WHICH REMINDS ME that the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square, San Francisco, once employed a full-time guy to wash money. Guests got crisp, clean bills and coins so shiny they looked like they came straight from the Mint.

HAS THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION even confused the weather? Sunday's was positively schizo, with alternating periods of sleet, snow, rain, and bright sunshine, with a few rainbows on top.

ITALY really knows how to do catastrophe. Their air force did fly-overs trailing the national flag as Pavarotti belted out Nessum Dorma. At night, sequestered citizens sing to their neighbors from their balconies.

AMERICA'S IMMUNOLOGIST, Anthony Fauci, said Sunday that we haven't seen the worst of coronavirus yet, that it's "possible" that the death toll could near 2 million in the US if all efforts to mitigate the outbreak fail. "Although that's possible, it is unlikely if we do the kinds of things that we're essentially outlining right now." Fauci is the top immunologist and an expert on infectious diseases at the National Institute of Health. He was responding to an analysis released by The New York Times detailing the "worst case scenario" estimation of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and death tolls that could result from the coronavirus outbreak in the US. (Not for an outback editor to challenge His Eminence, but shouldn't a scientist stick to probabilities?)

SHERIFF KENDALL probably knows that the virus is going to mean long hours for him and his department. Even without the plague, in an imploding society it will be the cops picking up the pieces, if the pieces can be picked up. And this sucker is coming apart fast.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN was on Fox News Sunday morning talking to Chris Wallace about the administration’s financial bailout plans in response to the virus-ravaged economy. Mnuchin, like most of the Trump admin, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. While avoiding any specifics about pending legislation, Mnuchin said he didn’t want to get specific because, “The President has drafted a tweet,” which was being reviewed. Huh? This was the first we’d heard that Trump’s tweets were “drafted” and reviewed by others. Our entire economic response to the Corona Virus crisis depends on a Trump “tweet”? The I Ching is a better bet. We’ve descended a long ways from the standard set by FDR’s “day that will live in infamy” address to a joint session of Congress in 1941. (Mark Scaramella)


 [1] A few months back, I happened to run into someone I hadn’t seen in years, and she filled me in on the doings of some people we both knew.

I was saddened to learn of the passing, at a relatively young age, of a friend of mine.

I say friend, but he wasn’t really a close friend, obviously, but he was someone I had always thought I would see again.

He was an odd sort of man, nerdy even, sometimes exasperating; but, as another friend and I had once agreed on about him, he was someone you could count on, even if everyone else had deserted you.

The kind of person you could pick up the phone and just say “I need help” to, and he would be there.

I started thinking, after reading today’s news (but not for the first time), of some of the most reliable and capable friends I have. It’s a funny thing about reliability, it goes hand in hand with self-reliance, and the self-reliant people I know all own guns.

These are people who grow their own food, and now how to preserve it. Some hunt, some do not. They know how to fix their own vehicles.

I’m also just now noticing, one of these people has had trouble with one of his kids, because the kid married a “woman of color” and decided the old man is a racist transphobic xenophobe or something.

I am this very minute realizing the value of the ‘trans’ movement.

It gets harder and harder to allege racism in a society that really doesn’t care all that much about race anymore. So, in order to divide the younger generation from people like I have mentioned, their patriotic elders, they have to come up with a “civil rights” issue so bizarre, repugnant, ridiculous, destructive, and just plain wrong, that the remaining patriots draw a line in the sand.

Now we have become deplorable, and the younger people are morally superior to us. Get it?

[2] Like a lot of the other nonsense inflicted in this nonsense-infused age, such as the incessant quacking about gender fluidity, insofar as it’s allowed to talk about actual gender because then maybe you’re making an implicit assumption that gender differences actually exist. Aren’t you? Can’t have that now can we? You wouldn’t want the twitter mob to ruin you. Would you? 

Regardless, given the exigencies of the coming time of troubles, whether they’re diseases spread by the misconceived notion that borders shouldn’t exist, that as an impediment to free travel and migration, they’re a blight on humanity, or whether the troubles are of an economic variety as unworkable arrangements of the previous generation unwind, there’s tons of other shit that gets flushed. 

Like Drag Queen Story Time, which on its own is just a passing silliness. The problem is that it’s not on its own, it’s part of wider, longer-lived societal patterns of behavior.

There was a shit-disturbing article that I read on-line, which I thought it was on Quillette, itself a shit-disturbing publication, but now I can’t find it. Anyway, it was written by a mom that can’t get with progressive parenting of the type that encourages sexual activity among teen kids. This mother essentially crapped on the modern-day approach saying nothing comes of it but single, crazy cat-ladies and women like Charlotte on Sex and the City bemoaning the fact that she’s been dating since she was fifteen. And she’s exhausted. Nope, this writer’s kids are going to have sex with their one and only. One. Only. From which they will raise families. 

A laudable goal, and a strong antidote to the insane behavior that’s been not much good for anything other than spreading disease and single motherhood. 

But the bigger point is that the practicalities of the future will dictate a whole lot less in the way of personal autonomy in sexual and other matters, and a whole lot more in the way of personal obligation. Mutual obligation that is. That is, if you want to survive in a way that’s more than just staying alive day by day. 

The future world will resemble a world that isn’t long past. It will be a place that won’t give you what you want in two clicks and a yawn. Some physical force might have to be exerted to fulfill some basic desires (like eating) and when that happens, the muscle power of the sex capable of exerting it will come back into vogue. And wouldn’t it be nice if the man behind the plow had some gal cooking while he’s doing the back forty? Wouldn’t it be nice for the gal doing the cooking to have that sturdy specimen doing the heavy lifting? Watch for old-fashioned sex roles and division of labor to follow close in. 

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