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Off the Record (April 15, 2020)

THE BRIGHTEST MOON I can remember seeing shone down on battered Boonville Tuesday night as I stepped outside at 9pm to howl my appreciation for the people whose work doesn't allow them to socially distance. My howl was an hour late because I was engrossed in a PBS documentary on the Roosevelts. As usual a chorus of dogs howled back. It's beyond trite to say that America's present leadership is less than Rooseveltian but probably belligerent enough to satisfy Teddy. I hadn't known much about Eleanor Roosevelt other than she was the daughter of Teddy's dissipated brother, making her and FDR cousins. Very smart and capable, and a kind of tragic figure given the huge losses she suffered over her life, Eleanor became nearly as popular for her good works as her husband. It's striking how much more socially responsible the old patrician class was, a minority of them anyway, than the billionaire savages who comprise today's ruling class. Both Roosevelts stood up to the great malefactors of wealth, today's career officeholders bail them no matter their great crimes against the public interest, and stay in office running errands for them. 

ALL YOU SHUT-INS looking for tips on interesting viewing? Two that I found compelling appear on Netflix, one being the most talked about documentary in years, maybe ever, and that is ‘Tiger King,’ a low life saga featuring a gifted psycho who calls himself Joe Exotic. Talk about truth in advertising! This guy is exotic squared. He presides over an alleged tiger rescue operation, staffed by people so marginal that if they vaporized on screen it wouldn’t be any more startling than anything else that happens in this memorable film. My wife headed for her garden after a few minutes of it, but as something of a connoisseur of aberrant behavior, I watched on, riveted to the end. Tiger King is the kind of true life story that makes you think that Isis may have a point. If things have deteriorated to the point where people like this are not only possible but may now number in the millions, and even celebrated, well, Sharia Law may be necessary to restore some balance.

ANOTHER GIFTED PSYCHO is Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who isn’t really nuts in the clinical sense, but his attempt to unravel industrial civilization one bomb at a time was certainly quixotic unto insane. The Netflix doc on Kaczynski is called, “Unabomber in His Own Words,” which includes the only live interview with Dr. K (he’s a PhD in math) ever achieved, and it’s by a former editor of the EarthFirst! Journal, with whom Ted shares a philosophical affinity. The live interview is interesting but is only a small part of a straight bio-pic on K’s unusual life, including a segment on his being subjected to a sinister 50’s Harvard mind control experiment that practiced personality destruction techniques on under graduates. The precocious K was admitted to Harvard as a 16-year-old. Remarkably, the crackpot professor, apparently under contract to the newly formed CIA, didn’t shake K, who quite brilliantly argues back in a vigorous defense of himself and his youthful opinions. The professor’s destructive tactics were later applied to the Taliban and other fundamentalist Muslim prisoners while the more recalcitrant were (and probably are) subjected to physical tortures including water boarding. The film speculates that K’s adult loathing for professors began with the Harvard mind control experiments he was subjected to.

HAD TO LAUGH when the lead FBI guy on the Unabomber Task Force — the bumbling feds would still be searching for K if K’s brother hadn’t told them where to look — said he agreed with a lot of K’s thesis as published in the Washington Post. Me too. Lots of people agree, and here comes the coronavirus to bring it to life, so to speak. K’s idea? Boiled way down it’s that industrial civilization is not only destroying the earth it’s driving, and has driven, most human beings absolutely bat shit nuts. Despite his loathing for academics, K’s prose style is turgidly academic, but he makes his case. Where he lost me and most other people — except green fascists who consider mankind a scourge and good riddance — was his bomb placements, one of them on an airliner! Ted’s a ruthless bastard for sure, and I’m glad he’s locked up, but his poor family, two of whom, his brother and his sister-in-law, present their anguish in the film. Ted’s mom’s mortification, a word that couldn’t begin to cover her pain, can only be imagined. His father, fortunately, was already gone by the time of his son’s notoriety. One thing’s always puzzled me about Kaczynski and that’s the complete set of Dickens discovered in his Montana cabin. It doesn’t compute with K’s fanatic personality that he would love one of the most rollicking humanists ever and then go out and murder people. 

BERNIE'S CONSERVATIVE SOCIALISM has now been formally waived by the Democratic Party, which means another four years of Trump, although events are moving so fast that Trump may soon be history anyway when the generals make their move to save capitalism from itself, and if the system does "rebound" it will be socialist programs that save it, as FDR did during the Great Depression. 

WILL THE MILLIONS of Berners go for Biden? No, hence another four years of Trump in the context of unprecedented "civil disorder." I love that phrase. It always sounds like a thousand jaywalkers, or a college riot. The looming civic disorder will arrive a few weeks after the $1200 checks that the people who need cash the most won’t get, and for those who do get them they’re not even a fifth of what even the thriftiest American needs a month to get by on. 

CALL ME POLLYANA, but I thought right from the beginning of the plague that we here in the deep outback would mostly be spared the sudden surges of the seriously ill suffered in other parts of the country. California got out in front, and Governor Gavin Newsom should get major credit for what preparation we have had. Mendo will be spared the worst of it because we were naturally dispersed anyway, with only 90,000 of us spread out over a vast area. But even the people clustered in the towns of Willits, Fort Bragg and Ukiah have gotten with the program, faithfully distancing themselves and proceeding cautiously when they leave their bunkers for the markets, drug stores and takeout meals. 

THE COUNTY OF MENDO, where entropy goes to die. The homeless discussion among staff and supervisors on Tuesday was like a couple of acts from Waiting For Godot. Even Ukiah's usually invisible government has said it would like to move the homeless to the Ukiah Fairgrounds, a logical site designed to accommodate large numbers of people. The Ukiah-area homeless aren't a large number of people, a fact confirmed by Mr. Marbut, the consultant hired by the county to advise it on how to logically and humanely deal with a couple of hundred drug and alcohol addicted people who prefer to do their things free range, often in clusters with other thanatoids. Marbut, now Trump's homeless czar, said the home grown homeless should be housed and therapized while the professional mooches get a couple of free meals then a boot in the arse outtahere. The homeless who make demonstrable efforts to regain themselves can stay. The county's nicely paid helping professionals talk about the homeless like they're all versions of Mother McCree and her orphaned children when, in living fact, most of the homeless are people who used to be hospitalized or jailed because there was a national consensus that a small percentage of people are always hopelessly screwed up, but you don't allow them to lie around downtown getting loaded all day, let alone subsidize them while they destroy themselves. Mendo's current approach is to talk about the homeless for two straight years while taking money to deal with them but taking the money and not dealing with them. And here we are. And will be. I think the reason the county doesn't move the homeless to the Ukiah Fairgrounds is because the county, with its jive "continuum of care" scamming doesn't want to turn over the homeless grant money to the City of Ukiah while squandering it on their own helping professionals and government donut eaters. When Ukiah-area supervisor John McCowen lamented that the homeless would refuse to stay at the Ukiah Fairgrounds, he was narrowly correct. They'll stay, though, if they're arrested for leaving and refusing all assistance offered there. All the public time and money spent on a small population of incompetent, dependent people is crazy. Time to act. 

PHOTO: RandolphBisson here


MR. RANDOLPH BISSON’S booking photo is a portrait of perfect and understandable anguish. He’s 65 and looking at an attempted murder charge, assault on the police officers pursuing him as he made a mad dash up the Mina Road that runs north out of Covelo, and just may be the most historically rich stretch of back road anywhere in Northern California. There’s something beguiling about it. I’ve always thought of it as the outlaw’s alternate route to Highway 101. The Mina not only leads to the ranches of some of the wealthiest families in America, there are also the lonely homesteads of a wide variety of people who just want to be left alone. They include estranged combat veterans, dope enterprises, doom preppers, and old fashioned hermits. Eventually, the Mina Road traveler comes to Alderpoint, having paused at the triparte county junction of Trinity, Mendo and Humboldt, from which you can see the Pacific to the west, miles of forest everywhere else. Alderpoint was once a thriving stop on the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad line, complete with three hotels, and a little farther north is Fort Seward, an odd expanse of open field and an odd neighborhood of suburban-looking homes. The long gone fort at Fort Seward recalls that soldiers were stationed there as late as 1880 to subdue the Wylackies who, if they’d had guns and horses when the first palefaces showed up, wouldn’t have been defeated for many years later. I’m looking forward to Mr. Bisson’s version of events. His adventure is in the tradition of the Mina.

(THE LATE VIVIAN WEATHERHEAD was raised at Mina where her father ranched and ran the Mina Post Office, all traces of which are gone although I recall a tumbledown shack at the location that once served enough of the area to warrant a post office. Vivian taught school in Berkeley and retired to Boonville. She had many happy memories of her youth at Mina.)

NPR annoys this old crank no end. I hear it every morning as I walk, its provocations prodding me to pick up my pace. Those provocations include, of course, America’s premier nuzzlebum, Scott Simon, but fortunately for what’s left of my mental health he’s only on on Saturdays. People complain about the dumbing down of our fine, fat population without realizing how much of the systematic infusion of pure stupidity is tax-funded. Take this one tiny example: NPR news, every morning, mentions the birthday of a celebrity whose fame derives from dumb television or movies or even dumber music. Madonna? Really? Why not note the birthday of someone of real achievement like Dr. Fauci? Marie Curie anyone?

NATE COLLINS: "Re NPR. Holy cow I heard the absolute crowning jewel of phony bullshit. They had David Brooks and EJ Dionne on talking about coming together getting past the blue/red divide and David Brooks starts crying to EJ Dione, well really to the massive audience, and saying how much he loves him. I have never heard anything as sappy syrupy fake phony farce in my entire Life." 

I'M HAPPY not to be alone in my opinion of National Government Radio. It's really just one long insult every hour it's on. Used to be even here in this retro county with its wholly undeserved rep as some kind of "progressive" bastion, that KMFB, Mendo-Fort Bragg, offered a morning talk show featuring as hosts the incomparable Ed Kowas and his faithful sidekick, Lindy Peters. And KUKI in Ukiah also featured talk on local matters, the only matters that most of us who live here care about. Now it's all canned stuff of the NPR type and the tamest, locally-generated talk imaginable. So local radio is merely one more distraction added to the daily deluge of on-line chatter. 

THE NEW RHETORIC in the audible media is also like taking steady tap-taps to the skull from a ballpeen hammer. When did we go from people to folks? I’d rather be a ‘people’ than a ‘folk.’ We all have folks but they’re none of anybody’s business beyond family. 

I’M ALREADY missing baseball. I’d hoped to take in a few Giants games this season, looking out at the San Francisco Bay between pitches from my preferred seat at the very top of the ballpark. I don’t miss the NBA because unless the Splash Bros are playing I don’t like the freelance hoops style characteristic of most NBA play. The Warriors, when everybody’s healthy, are thrilling because they play a team game. I don’t care how great a player like Lebron is, watching him fly coast to coast for a slam isn’t nearly as exciting as Steph getting off an amazing pass that only he sees, and we marvel at after he’s brought it off. The Niners? O yea. Count me in, mos def. But I watched through all those lean years, too, so my Niner credentials are in order, bub.

BY APRIL 5TH, 31 percent of apartment households nationwide had not made any rental payments, according to data released by the National Multifamily Housing Council. And won’t be able to make rent for many more months to come.

A BAY AREA READER WRITES: "I noted in ALL the grocery stores around here that NOBODY has a single bag of flour. Even went to several online sites to order some — no dice. Strange. Why flour? I doubt the mainstream fast-food generation all turned into bread makers overnight. I spoke with Zach Schat in Ukiah and he told me that if anyone locally really needs flour he'll sell them some as long as he has it but he isn't having any problems getting flour from his Dawn Foods supplier in Union City, one of his two suppliers. He theorized that the major sellers - General Mills, Cargill, Kellogg, may be buying up the smaller supplies. I called, in rough order, Dawn, General Mills, and Ardent, and not one gave me a call back. Even called 7 on Your Side, which also did not call me back. I smell a rat but don't have nearly enough information to even speculate about the whys of it. Haven't figured a way in and may not in today's corporate climate." 

CHRIS CALDER: “Danilla Sands is moderator of the Redwood Valley/Potter Valley emergency info Facebook hub, which unfortunately has had a whole lot of experience dealing with life and death chaotic situations (fires), government response, the whole thing, in the last few years. She gave her thoughts today on the overall situation with COVID-19 in Mendocino County. As she says, she is immersed in this stuff morning to night, and she is a level headed person: Here’s my thoughts, seeing that I read about COVID-19 from morning to night every day for months now. I believe Dr. Doohan (public health officer) has been very kind in her mannerisms. She informed us she talks to other PH Officers, and knows days ahead what they are deciding. She said she will follow Bay Area as an example not because she cannot come up with orders herself but because they are leading in numbers. She also said she modified our orders to allow construction due to our rural area and fire survivors. Originally parks were allowed but due to visitors and large crowds they were closed. At this time there is NO proof that this virus was here in December. Every winter there is the flu and the flu changes every year. Most were not in ICU with their chest feeling like it's being pressed on and coughing. The symptoms are different. But if they decide to test and have the ability to test for COVID19 antibodies here in Mendocino County and someone comes out positive it could also mean they had COVID19 after January. There is still a lot to learn there. I know that many people are scared and worried about their businesses not making it, and if not working, worried about rent and food. I'm sure with WW1 and WW2 and the Spanish Flu all those families were worried too. Today, We have a lot more resources, social media, and advanced science. We are more lucky here in California or the US than other countries right now that are not allowed to work and depend each day on pay for each days meals. Our numbers are low, with this pending peak. At this time we have had NO deaths. Most have done their part to protect themselves, their family and others do to the advisements of others. I'm personally thankful we had this guidance and information to work with. My family has not caught this virus. I also know this virus is not going away, it will hit more people in our county over time. It will he scary times when we get a cough and have to worry if it's this new virus. Or if we feel like we have the flu and lay down but can’t get back up. Yes, many recover. The four here did. But many die too, and I'm not going to ignore that. And attacking Dr. Doohan for being honest about her travel them discrediting everything else? I don’t think that is wise right now.”

 AND WE’RE NOT QUITE A MONTH IN: Food banks across America are warning that they cannot cope with the huge surge in demand caused by mass unemployment during the coronavirus. With tens of millions of Americans unemployed, cities across the nation are struggling to meet the demand for food as long lines form outside the nonprofits who are feeding those hardest hit by the pandemic. Food banks from Maine to Washington have warned that donations have plummeted while demand has surged by many multiples etc.

FROM KAREN RIFKIN’S story in Saturday’s Ukiah Daily Journal called, ‘Coronavirus: Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op continuing to serve the community’: “I never imagined, in all my 34 years with the Co-op, that I and my staff would be considered essential service workers, putting our health at risk, serving the community while performing our grocery jobs,” says Lori Rosenberg, general manager of the Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op.

Weeks ago, prior to the news of the outbreak, with the onset of a potential pandemic, there was an onslaught of purchasing. People were buying vast amounts of food; sales were tripling. In preparation and in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve, the store purchased a pallet of bulk bags of dried goods available for pickup and purchase. They were gone within days.

“Our clientele was purchasing in such huge quantities—canned food, bulk food, toilet paper—that our suppliers were not able to keep up. Their trucks have weight limitations; there are only so many workers available,” she says. “The supply chain has been seriously impacted for us and for stores throughout the nation.”

A READER REPORTS FROM GUALALA: "I went to the grocery store in Gualala a couple of days ago. It's the only time I've been out in the last 10 days. Gualala Supermarket has the hours between 9am and 11am set aside for seniors and they give a 10% discount during those hours. They have a person stationed at the entrance who counts the number of people going in the store, if there are too many, you have to wait until someone comes out. They also wipe down the carts after each person puts their groceries in the car and returns the cart. Some things are well stocked, others not so much. I haven't seen toilet paper on the shelves in nearly a month. The papergoods aisle is pretty much empty except for some napkins. The first couple of weeks of the stay at home order the grocery store did not receive deliveries of refrigerated and frozen items. But those things have since been restocked except for a few things like hot dogs and other stuff like that I rarely buy. There is no flour, eggs were in short supply this week. You could buy a flat of 2 1/2 dozen eggs for $15 or a half dozen eggs for $5, nothing in between. Bread is getting delivered only on Mondays and Fridays for now but the bread guy comes late so I haven't gotten any fresh bread recently. I'm pretty much stuck buying the leftovers! Bottled water cases are the store brand, no more name brand. Cleaning supplies that contain antibacterial properties are gone. But thankful that the grocery stores are still open and are being proactive about sanitizing. I've never been that crazy about Gavin Newsom but have to give him praise for what he has done so far with the stay at home orders. California is way ahead of the pack in keeping the numbers down. I'm pushing 70 years old and have COPD so it's a major concern for me."

DON McCLEAN on today’s top tunes: “It’s a single note or three or four notes repeated over again with a chorus that's drummed into your head or it makes you want to hang yourself. We have kind of a nihilistic society; no one believes in anything, no one likes anything, no one has any respect for anything and the music shows that. Music does not exist – there's some form of music-like sound, but it's not music.” Amen, bro.

BERNIE. Makes two consecutive capitulations for the old socialist, this second one to Biden even more shameful than the first one to Hillary. Can anybody even imagine the great American socialist Eugene Debs stepping aside for Woodrow Wilson or Taft? Biden is barely a lateral move from Trump, and as usual us pwogs are asked to waive everything we think we stand for to vote for a guy (and a political party) that represents everything we’ve always opposed. Dr Stein? Jill? White courtesy phone, please.

BEEN WATCHING the excellent PBS documentary on the Roosevelts. Teddy R was no liberal but, ironically, he was more of a liberal than most libs today, especially the libs who think Biden is an alternative to Trump, the kind of alternative the Democrats have had on offer for fifty years now. When Roosevelt broke away from the Republicans to run against incumbent Repug Taft, his platform was pegged to a promise “to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics.” Sound like Biden to you? But Roosevelt, for all his Kipling-like bellicosity saw that his party no longer represented what he thought it should represent; Bernie says he sees the same corruption in the Democrats he claims not to belong to but, when it’s time to stand up to corruption, he says, “Well, gosh, he isn’t Trump so what’s a guy to do?”

EVEN IF we got the all-clear tomorrow to re-start capitalism’s faltering engines, it’s already too late to spare millions and things could get real ugly. Trump can’t be blamed for all of this rolling catastrophe, but he’s made it worse, and his bumbling will make it even more unnecessarily painful in the weeks to come. Dr. Fauci revealed Sunday that he and other immunology experts recommended shutting down early February, which would have prevented the spread we’ve seen since.


[1] Yesterday I learned that Linn County, among the 99 counties in Iowa, has the most Covid 19 cases with 184 patients testing positive for the virus that causes the disease. Of those 184, there are 77 in a single long-term care facility, that is, a nursing home. This confirms what I have known since my 10 days in a nursing home following my heart surgery in November 2018. We should all do everything we can to go directly from our own home to the funeral home. Avoid going to a nursing home unless you want to be given “care” by incompetent staff who hate their work. Avoid going to a nursing home unless you enjoy losing your dignity. Avoid going to a nursing home if you want to keep any of your money. After 10 days as an inmate in a long-term care (nursing) facility, I had to be readmitted to the hospital that did my surgery for another week, to get 14 lbs. of fluid removed from my tissues. The weight gain resulted from the nursing home botching my medication. There’s a lot more to tell, none of it good. Stay away from nursing homes, everyone.

[2] A Banquet of Consequences— I was visiting with my sister’s in-laws when at the conclusion of a fine dinner I picked up a crust of bread or some such and began to eat it. Her mother-in-law, who happened to be Russian, became agitated and exclaimed, in Russian, “A hungry man is a dangerous thing!” We had to calm her down and assure her that I had indeed had my fill and my interest in the morsel was of no consequence. Obviously, the memory of the Nazi invasion of Russia was still clear in her mind, as was that of her husband who, upon our meeting, made a point of showing me the scars from a dive bomber attack.

There’s a saying that might be attributable to a Russian. The revolution is only nine meals away. There’s another attributed to Lenin that goes something like, ‘decades of history can happen in a few weeks.’ We’re not out of the woods on this coronavirus thing. The so-called leadership has dropped the ball. Upon hearing of it and it’s character they should have pounced with everything at their disposal to contain it. Things that spread exponentially have a way of getting out of hand very quickly. However, they chose to err on the side of indolence. Churchill said the Americans will do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else. This current crisis is not the sort where delays play out well. It should be obvious they’re not in control. They had the chance and they lost it in bureaucratic inertia and inane bravado.


  1. Property of... April 19, 2020

    Shelter-in-place advice:
    Best movie you never saw:
    Antonio das Mortes, an acid Western from Brazil, 1972.
    YouTube has it.

  2. Debra Keipp April 23, 2020

    No sports: I hear folks talk about the roar of the crowd being the “missing team member” of any professional sports team: the games are nothing without the roar of the crowd accentuating the excitement. In the movie, The Last Movie Star”, Burt Reynolds reviews the history of an old movie star – somewhat his story – but at one point in the movie he returns to his college football stadium and talks about that very thing. The excitement of the roar of the crowd being the most exciting thing he remembers in his entire life. I enjoyed this movie. Almost as much as I enjoyed his centerfold!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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