Press "Enter" to skip to content

Off the Record (April 29, 2020)

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans,” available free now on YouTube.

COUNTY CEO ANGELO asked the Supervisors today to consider diverting some Measure B money to Camille Schrader's psych programs, the CEO cryptically mentioning "somewhat of a disaster" without identifying which disaster she was referring to. Not to be too harsh about it, but we exist these days in a sea of disasters at all levels of government. Measure B was sold to the voters as funding for an in-county psych center, not as a slush fund for existing programs whose effectiveness remains opaque to say the least. The Schraeders already get some $20 million a year to provide psychiatric help to… Well, here's where the math gets fuzzy. How many people are providing what services to how many of the psychologically needy? Why is Measure B money needed?

DR. DOOHAN, the county's health officer, veered off into the deep weeds in a discussion of un-quarantining Mendocino County businesses when she said restaurants would have to be especially careful with their salt shakers, implying whole new hazards in the simple request, "Pass the salt, please."

AS WE ALL KNOW, many small businesses are in danger of disappearing. Many of them could be safely re-opened right now without endangering the great unwashed, i.e., the public by limiting seating and/or the number of persons allowed in at a time. Really, when's the last time you saw a mobbed book store or coffee cafe? While the small businesses remain closed by government fiat, the big stores, despite social distancing guidelines and other mandatory edicts, are teeming with shoppers, many of them unprotected.

GOVERNOR NEWSOM said today that the rate of California infection is beginning to flatten but has not yet peaked. 1200 people have died from the virus, 3200 are hospitalized and of those, one third are in ICU. “Deaths continue to rise, hospitalization numbers modestly continuing to rise and ICU numbers beginning to flatten,” Newsom said. “But we’re not seeing that downward trend we need to see in order to provide more clarity on that roadmap to recovery which we rolled out last week.”

YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW: "I regret to inform you that I've taken a passing interest in one of your paper's more chaotic and notorious sideshows — Wanda (Tom? Hawkins? Pynchon?) Tinasky. I've read Factor's publication, and, of course, Foster's, as well, but was curious as to your thoughts/personal account of the matter. How much of a stir were these letters causing at the time? Did anyone ever guess at Hawkins, or even know the guy? Did the 87-90 protests/arsons/murders/fistfights feel like the manifest of a mass psyche terror in the back end of the Reagan years? Do you feel the tensions between EF!'ers and log-laborers were intentionally exacerbated by G-P to protect their class interests and general hold over industry? Those are my questions — feel free to ignore them and focus on whatever you please, I'd appreciate any nuggets. Hope you and yours are well. —Terrence Borage-Knightley, Sacramento" 

ED REPLY: Well, T-B, you may doubly regret the length of this reply and, perhaps, its disillusioning content. Beginning with the Tinasky affair, I would say the letters, as they appeared in Boonville's beloved weekly and the Coast Peddler, the latter sometimes called The Coast Pervert in a rather harsh jest at the polymorphous sexual practices prevalent out there on the edge of the Pacific, caused quite a stir, at least among the local literati, defining Mendo's literary intellectuals in the Khmer Rouge sense — anybody wearing glasses. Because Wanda/Hawkins was wittily critical of local poets, those poets, accustomed solely to mutual affirmation, were in particular deeply offended and spent much time trying to figure out who had betrayed them. I loved the letters, and assumed they were the work of a hyper-literate old beatnik holed up in the hills somewhere who amused himself taking pot shots at the Mendo culture, one of America's larger rural targets. I didn't know Hawkins but I was right about his pedigree; he was indeed an erudite old beatnik — and, in Frisco beat circles, quite well known. (Some people will recall that beatniks comprised a small literary movement but, unfortunately, also inspired millions of shaggy libertines called hippies, also now extinct.) Hawkins was a talented writer and friend of poets who were not yet famous, people like Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Ferlinghetti and so on. Speculating here, I think Hawkins, who retired to Fort Bragg from the SF Post Office with his wife, a talented sculptress, and not to put too fine a point on it, viewed the local talent as a gang of pretentious buttheads. Anyhoo, and as the world turned, and the Wanda letters continued, it happened that Thomas Pynchon had been in the area at the same time, eventually publishing a novel called ‘Vineland.’ Because the Wanda letters arrived meticulously composed on a manual typewriter and bore a striking stylistic resemblance to typewritten letters of the mysterious Pynchon, I made what turned out to be the unfounded surmise that Wanda and Pynchon were one in the same. It seemed to me, that Hawkins had gone to brilliant lengths to insinuate himself as Pynchon, which I still think he did. However, a perpetually aggrieved old battle axe calling herself TR Factor parlayed my incorrect surmise into book-length error. Hawkins came to a shocking end; as you seem to know. I say shocking because his letters were so much fun we all assumed he had to be a fun guy in real life. But, jeez, he murdered his wife, mourned over her remains for two or three days, fired his house as her funeral pyre, and drove himself into the ocean off the cliffs near Westport. Nope, never met the man. Few people beyond his Fort Bragg neighbors and Bay Area literary lights knew him. Mrs. Hawkins was known to people at the Mendocino Art Center where her work was much admired. Foster discovered the whole story in about a week's investigation, although the battle axe referred to above probably still thinks she unearthed the truth of this odd matter.

AS FOR THE POLITICAL TUMULT you refer to, it all seemed to me merely the rural version of the Great Unraveling that began in the 1960's. Reagan was the lead swine at the time but look what's happened since. The Fort Bragg Fires of '87 were the work of organized crime affiliates who took over Fort Bragg as a cocaine hub when they realized that there was an authority vacuum here in Mendo County that they could depend on to leave them alone, a calculation that proved correct although the arsonists were identified by local police whose work in identifying the perps was ignored by then-DA Susan Massini. The FBI and ATF were also in Fort Bragg bumbling around town in their identifying windbreakers but all the files amassed on the case by all of the investigations have since disappeared from the DA's office. Mendo, at the time, was not a reputable jurisdiction but never dull. The county's been radically blanded down since but still interesting. (A full account of the fires and those involved is available on the ava’s website, theava.com.) The timber protests began wholesomely enough but ended in media slut-ism and legal scamming by the Bari-Cherney sectors of Earth First! Yes, I think the outside timber companies benefitted greatly by successfully portraying the protestors as nutballs and unemployable dopeheads, which was only partly true, but then, as you also probably know, mention the environment in any context and the druids come running.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING, the PBS documentary on mental illness called "Bedlam," both a history of mental health strategies and recurring contemporary segments on the painful hopelessness of several patients. The upshot? The lack of long-term custodial care. The reality? Increasing numbers of the mentally ill living on the street where they are periodically arrested and recycled through short-term emergency facilities, with the cops left to deal with the mentally ill as best they can via incarceration. With the plague shutting down much of the economy, the mentally ill, always a low civic priority so long as they're invisible, will receive even less attention. The movement away from long term care has been a bi-partisan political effort beginning with JFK through Reagan on up until today. 

LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, I've had my share of bad colds, some of which were probably a flu virus. I've fought them off with liberal shots of whiskey and fruit juice chasers with a dose or two of Theraflu. The whiskey cure seems to be contra-indicated for this corona thing and, at my advanced age, if I got it I suppose I'd have to check in at the Adventist Kill Factory in Ukiah. I would much prefer Coast Hospital where patients are spared diet lectures and the other advice the Adventists pass out via the intercom when you're trapped with them. Other than age, I don't "present" the rest of risk factors that carry off the poor souls struck down by this virus, almost all of whom are aged and sick. Everyone else beats it. But its ramifications have been terrible, and much trouble lies ahead, and will lie there for a long time.

GOVERNOR NEWSOM said to stay inside, wear masks when you're outside and stay away from other people in so far as it's possible. And, of course wash your hands and stay out of your nose. He said restrictions can't be lifted just yet pending expansion of testing. Tests, he said, will inform him and the virologists which areas of the state can come out of hiding. He said he's fully aware of the economic damage being done with the shutdown order but to lift it too soon risks wider catastrophe.

THE BANKS have so far made a cool $10 billion processing emergency bailout money, most of which have gone to large businesses.

DISNEY laid off 100,000 people while slathering executives and shareholders with $1.5 billion in bonuses and dividends. 

A READER WRITES: "It is irresponsible for the AVA to editorialize about the million dollars the Measure B committee voted to 'support and expand mental health services' without doing any research of their own as to the specific places that money will end up. The AVA seems intent on making 'the Schraeders' their current target. While RQMC and its subcontractors should be subject to the same sort of monetary auditing as any other entity that receives county money, the AVA has assumed (and usually assumptions turn out to show the assumers to be the asinine ones) that the majority of this Measure B million is going to end up in the hands of RQMC or its immediate subcontractors. It is far more likely that the Community Foundation Fund will dole out the majority of the million to programs like Project Sanctuary, food banks, clinics, and resource centers. I do not know that for a fact, but it is a more likely scenario than the assumption made by the AVA, which seems to be nothing more than an 'out of left field' corollary derived from a sideways interpretation of Supervisor Ted Williams' agenda item of a couple months back.

In this uncharted time and territory we need to gather all the real doers and thinkers in a room to find a way to minimize the fallout of Covid-19 for Mendocino County. Leveraging and strategic thinking are important skill sets. Let's support those who are trying to minimize the impact for our communities. 

At this juncture, during the Covid-19 crisis, it might behoove the AVA to take a step back from editorializing about a subject they clearly are not fully informed on.

Perhaps they should actually sit down with the Schraeders and do a real interview rather than taking ill-informed potshots. Maybe a teleconference with one of the Schraeders, Carmel Angelo, Jason Wells from Adventist Health, and Supervisor Williams along with one or two of the boys from the AVA would prove valuable in sorting things out. 

In the meantime, sniping from a platform of ignorance, partial truths, and assumptions does no good for the real citizens of this county. The AVA is read by a lot of people in positions of influence in this county. Mr. Anderson and his cohorts can take some pride in that. Don't throw away that credibility by guessing at what is happening with Measure B or the overall system of mental health in this county. There is a lot to learn on the subject of mental health services as it is currently operating in Mendocino County. Go out and learn more about it then editorialize. In the meantime, show some discretion and learn when it's time to keep one's yap shut."

ED REPLY: We watch the entire meetings and read all the attachments generated therewith and therefrom, never failing to notice the info-free Behavioral Health Board minutes in particular. The Schraeders are welcome to as much space as they think they need to explain our eternal questions, which are basically these: How many people do they pay to "serve" how many people out of the twenty mil they get annually from the county? They might also condescend to tell us — rough guess — how many people get their psychological ships righted? The reader is awfully hazy on his/her own specifics, ignoring the obvious fact that the Measure B Committee's majority is drawn from the same helping professional axis as the Schraeders, the so-called Continuum of Care, the directors of the Mendocino Community Foundation, and so on. 

Our CEO and the five supes, alone, cost us a mil a year in salaries and benefits. Add all the salaries of the helping pros and non-profit buccaneers, nevermind social services and the county apparatus dedicated to serving the walking wounded and… and there’s at least a million that could go to mental health services right there. It’s insulting, truly, that these constant draws on the public purse are always wrapped in altruism, as if the entire apparatus weren’t comfortably secure themselves, drawing three times (and above) the annual salaries of the average Mendo resident unaffiliated with government. Funny, we don’t hear any calls for their lush compensation to be reduced to finance the organizations you seem to think are under-funded.

Tom Allman breathed Measure B into life and, as he said, is “vehemently” opposed to diverting its funding which, of course, would also betray the people who voted for it. Note that the people opposed include County auditor Lloyd Weer, the city of Ukiah's rep Shannon Riley and Mark Mertle, an independent Coast business owner. 

Pompous lectures on the nature of assumptions aside, Anon's faith in county leadership is quite touching but, we think, unfounded. (The truly dire period we’ve entered does indeed require honest, intelligent leadership, which we think is missing at that level here in Mendo. One would think they’d at least offer to slash their own lush take as an example of the belt-tightening they’ll soon be demanding from their line employees and the rest of us.) That leadership for now has made a series of indefensible economic decisions sure to be exacerbated by the implosion of the wider economy. Maybe you'd like to sit down with the Schraeders so they can tell you what a swell job they're doing. BTW, how much do they pay themselves to do all that good? Oops. Sorry. That's proprietary info because their business is their private business, although every nickel of it derives from public money. Tell you what: We'll write the questions to the Schraeders for you and they can answer at their leisure: 

What are the combined annual salaries and benefits of the three top people at RQMS?

How many unduplicated people do they serve and how many of those served have been successfully returned to the community according to post-release plans?

How many people are turned down for service because their problems are not “severe” enough or they are not “reimbursable” from state or federal programs?

How many of the obviously mentally ill “frequent flyers” we see in the Sheriff’s booking log have received services from RQMS?

How many of the people receiving psychiatric medications or services at the jail were previously seen by RQMS?

Surely the Reader has noticed the recent Fort Bragg letter to the County and the Schraeders asking for meaningful reporting on mental health services that has been dithered to death by the Supes and the CEO; and the Schraeders continue to insist that the meaningless info they already provide is all anyone could possibly want.

We certainly wouldn’t oppose some funding for Project Sanctuary, or the local clinics, or even some targeted funding to reduce the mental health load on local emergency rooms. But given the near total lack of accountability and oversight of these funds so far, what are the odds that the people who get most of the funding now (i.e., the Schraeders) won’t continue to get most of the additional funding siphoned away from Measure B?

PS. FROM MARK SCARAMELLA: Remember Measures D&E? Measure D was advertised as an important new funding source for local emergency services. The Measure was approved comfortably and imposes a 10% “bed tax” on private campgrounds. It was estimated to raise over $1 million for cash-strapped local fire departments. There was an accompanying “advisory measure,” Measure E, which “advised” the Supervisors to spend the new money on emergency services, but Measure D itself does not specifically require it. Now we find that private campgrounds are essentially closed and the new revenue will mostly dry up and will never get anywhere near the original estimate. Then we see that CEO Angelo has no hesitation in suggesting that some Measure B mental health money which was specifically approved for new facilities and services is now fair game (“just sitting there”) for, oh, she doesn’t know, hey! Why not snag a cool million outta Measure B to sort of backfill declining mental health revenues? 

IN THE RUN UP to the Measure D vote in February we wrote about the County’s “credibility problems” regarding the advisory measure which called for fire service help. With nothing but an advisory measure in place, what does anyone think will happen to whatever minimal campground bed taxes may come in when the county is facing a budget crunch?

IF THE BOARD ignores the voters on this recent blatant raid on Measure B, they will be declaring again that when it comes to local tax measures their stated purposes can be set aside if the County’s own priorities prevail.

Albion People’s Fair, 1975

THIS MESSAGE turned up in our in-mail: "Wondering if anyone out there has any historical stories they would like to share about The 1970's Albion People's Fair and/or the Albion Azalea Acres property with us. Good or bad. We, the new owners, are very interested in the property's history. You can email us at melaburgess@gmail.com"

YES, I retain a rather vivid memory of that sordid event billed of course, as a “people’s fair,” at which some hirsute hustler was collecting admissions. My take away image was of naked hippies wallowing in a mudhole billed as a pond. Ringing the mud pit were crude booths selling macrame and dope gear. A mob of voyeurs wandered the dilapidated grounds, among them criminals and hard drug salesmen. It was a grim event and unrelievedly awful, and I’d made the mistake of hauling a van load of delinquents out there from Boonville. They loved it, of course.

4.4 MILLION MORE Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, according the latest figures from the Labor Department. That means some 26 million people have applied for aid since the novel coronavirus lockdown began six weeks ago. It’s by far the largest and most sudden surge in jobless claims since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in the 1960s. 26 million people are suddenly unemployed over the last month.

ACCORDING to Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, Trump's handling of the Covid-19 crisis has left the US "looking like a third world country and on course for a second Great Depression." Stiglitz said millions of people were turning to food banks, turning up for work due to a lack of sick pay and dying because of health inequalities. “The numbers turning to food banks are just enormous and beyond the capacity of them to supply. It is like a third world country. The public social safety net is not working.” Stiglitz pointed out that 14% of the population was already dependent on food stamps and predicted the social infrastructure could not cope with an unemployment rate that could hit 30% in the coming months. “We have a safety net that is inadequate. The inequality in the US is so large. This disease has targeted those with the poorest health. In the advanced world, the US is one of the countries with the poorest health overall and the greatest health inequality.” Stiglitz said Republicans had opposed proposals to give those affected by coronavirus 10 days’ sick leave, meaning many employees were going to work even while infected. “The Republicans said no because they said it would set a bad precedent. It is literally unbelievable. The safety net is not adequate and is propagating the disease. There is very weak unemployment insurance and people don’t think they can rely on it.”

MORE FEDERAL FUNDING for every darn thing is going to be needed to stave off serious civil disorder. Food banks (not in Mendo yet) are beginning to run out of food and supply lines are breaking down.

ANON CALLER: "Can't you say anything good about McCowen?" Well, sure, he took good care of his elderly father, and he spends much of his free time cleaning up after the homeless. He may have other virtues I'm unaware of.

CHRIS CALDER NOTES: “Everybody's in the Noyo Harbor docks because nobody's buying fish. SF restaurants and rich overseas folk are who buy a big part of the fresh/live catch from Noyo Harbor. Did you know a good part of California's crab catch gets flown to China...alive??? That ain't happenin now. Nothing reminds you about people knowing how to make it, no matter what, than talking to fishermen. Their wives take things to a whole other level.”

PETER GLUSKER, MD. Only learned of his death last week, and was deeply saddened by it. Both he and Dr. Graham, via Coast Hospital, were very kind to my late sister, who suffered from a barely contained epilepsy that landed her at Coast many times. And Fort Bragg's EMTs, the hospital staff, all of them combined delivered a level of care that Bill Gates couldn't buy. Doctor Glusker, 83 when he died, lived a long and, presumably, happy life. He was always jolly in my experience of him and, it's got to be said, for a long period he was just about the only responsible member of the hospital's board of directors. As a purely community hospital, Coast was a jewel, especially by the cash and carry medical standards prevalent today, which amount to Pay or Die. (Somewhere, way back, someone had told me that Glusker's mother had served as a secretary to Trotsky during Trotsky's exile in Mexico. When I asked the doctor if that was true he just laughed and never did answer.)

I CONTRASTED THE CARE afforded my sister at Coast Hospital with the mercenary un-care she got at the Adventist complex in Ukiah. One especially grueling episode began when I found her writhing from serial seizures requiring hospitalization. The Boonville emergency crew hauls patients to Ukiah because it's closer to Boonville, and that's where my sister was taken. And un-taken almost immediately when I got a call to come and get her. "She's stabilized." She wasn't. When I got to Ukiah she was already strapped in a wheelchair at the door to the emergency room. I drove her straight from there to Fort Bragg where it took Glusker a month to get her up and more or less functioning again. I know the Adventists had given her the bounce because her MediCal didn't cover the true services her illness required, which is what you get in a privatized medical system, cum monopoly, like we have going in Mendocino, that and its highly annoying "Christian" overlay. 

MUST add here that Anderson Valley's doctor, Mark Apfel, was and is, of equivalent Glusker-Graham commitment. He came out to our place several times late at night to help with my sister, and I know he's made many mercy all-hours visits in the Anderson Valley in his many years at our clinic.

THE PEOPLE who aren't stepping up to see US through include the major credit card companies who are busily lowering the limits on our cards. (Run 'em, America! Max those babies out and do it fast and as far over your limit as you can go before they yank them. Get everything you'll need before there's no credit available, and not much to buy with it even if you have it.) 

GAP's in trouble. Stores closing all over the place. The GAP family, Fisher by name, also owns large swathes of Mendocino and Humboldt counties called The Mendocino Redwood Company.

GOOGLE JIM KAVANAGH for a neat and irrefutable summary of all the reasons not to support Biden and the Democrats. Commit to memory as all your lib-lab friends go purple in the face. Sample: "Really, register this: The principal immediate goal of the Democratic Party in this primary (and when I say “Democratic Party” I always include “its allied media”), in the midst of a pandemic, was to kill single-payer healthcare, the most basically humanistic and politically advantageous social policy—indeed, as the present pandemic makes clear, the most obvious social necessity—one can imagine. The Party strangled it, and smothered any other such initiative, by coalescing around Joe Biden, who has vowed to veto Medicare-for-All even if it passes congress, has long sought to cut Social Security, and promises his billionaire donors that, if he’s elected, “nothing will fundamentally change.” No Republicans necessary."

THE ROLLING DISASTER rolls on. The number of Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings rose 18 per cent in March from a year earlier, a dramatic swing from the 20 per cent decrease in February. A month later… No stats yet for April, but even if the Great Sequestration ended tomorrow, the damage to millions of Americans, many of them already on the edge of insolvency, has been huge. Seems from here, nerve central Boonville, that the left economists are correct in saying we should go big, very big, and get cash-money directly into the hands of people, not filtering it through banks and bailouts for large businesses.

A READER WRITES: "21.7% return rate for Point Arena. A nearly 60% return rate in the USA. No wonder no Federal or State support comes to us here on the Coast. It looks like no one actually lives here based on the census data we submit (or do not submit). We have only ourselves to blame."

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] Conspiracy theorists always resonate with some people … they just so wish to believe such piffle. The “data” presented is at best hugely cherry-picked, and at worst totally laughable.

And totally socially inept – a young person with previously undiagnosed leukemia dies after catching Covid-19. Had they not caught the virus, they would still be alive, and might well have led a full life. How does that not count as a Covid-19 death? The reality is that deaths from Covid-19 are probably woefully under-reported, rather than over-stated, as the conspiracists like to exclaim. And the conspiracists can never answer one thing: who is the “they” that benefits from a pandemic, from an economic crunch, from a lockdown program? Where is the pay-off?

[2] Show me one spot where white guys do actual 300 plus acre farm labor working for someone else and living in shanty towns. Please. For years now in CA farmers have watched their crops rot due to lack of workers even after putting out a call nationwide. There are many articles online about pear farmers in that situation. Immigration “reform” has nothing to do with all the rhetoric. The big ag companies want all of our food to come from out of country as it’s cheaper and easier to get around rules. So by deporting all the people who work in that industry makes it so there are no workers left here. In my 20’s, 4 of my guy friends who were in great shape went to work the fruit picking circuit. They lasted a month and said they couldn’t keep up with the 50 year old mexican guys. It’s hard work and is seen as low class so it’s entirely true that white guys don’t work those fields. The pay is not good. Most farm owners use machines. It’s not racist. It’s just how it is. We’re not talking about home gardening or farming, we’re talking about factory farming, the people out harvesting acres and acres of food working long days for low pay and living in camps. I went to the camp Pacific Lumber used to keep its illegal workers at on the river, it was so sad to see how these guys had no way to clean up after spraying all those nasty pesticides and herbicides all day. Do you all not get that the largest group of welfare recipients are low income white folks? 

[3] When the complexity is unraveled, think of the land that can be reclaimed from abandoned interstate highways, the 50,000 mile concrete ribbon running coast to coast, border to border. I knew an old guy who worked on building those roads back in the day; he explained to me how it was done. Apparently just the concrete runs 11″ deep, then there’s rebar, crushed stone, sand etc. What can be done with all that concrete? I wouldn’t be surprised if traces of those interstates are still around 2000 years from now, like the Appian Way outside of Rome.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

-