Off the Record (May 6, 2020)

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans,” available free now on YouTube. Nothing new, really, for the eco-attuned and unfair to Bill McKibben, but interesting. Moore himself moves around in a limo and lives splendor life, but most of us can hardly avoid, as inhabitants of industrial civ, contributing to its destruction. Of course some people are far more destructive than others, which is the point of the film.

NOT INTENDING to add to the prevalent, and justified anxiety about everything, but Adam Schiff has confirmed the mighty ava's prediction that Trump probably won't leave office peacefully in November. And if he does leave via a lost election to the only person in the country more unfit than him, he'll stir the Maga's to open revolt. Asked recently on MSNBC Sunday about Joe Biden’s concern that Trump would try to delay the November election because of coronavirus, Schiff said the president didn't have the authority to postpone the election, but “I’m more worried he will try to disenfranchise millions of Americans than that he will try to put off the election. He’s already talking down absentee voting, making false claims about the reliability of absentee voting even when he votes by absentee himself,” Schiff said. 

NANCY PELOSI, adding to the prevalent sense of unreality, declared Monday, “Today I am proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States because he will be an extraordinary president. He knows how to get the job done.”  Later in the week there was a news clip of Nancy declaring how difficult her life is when she can’t buy $15 pints of ice cream. Not quite Marie Antoinette’s dismissal of the starving, but one more provocation on the way to the large explosions we’ll soon see.

THE BIG SHUTDOWN has worked to the advantage of the Democrats in that they can plausibly keep Biden out of public view and, more importantly, hearing. They’ve got to know Biden is out of it. The debates, if there are any, just might be the final absurdity before we all find ourselves in roving bands of gleaners. 

A DATA ANALYTICS firm called FactSquared found that 216 large businesses pocketed a total of $854,740,825 in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program intended to help small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. 

GOVERNOR NEWSOM is facing intense lobbying from both business and labor as he weighs an executive order that would make it easier for essential workers such as nurses and grocery clerks to get workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19. Organized employers, predictably, are opposed. 

THE STATE has already received 1,527 COVID-related claims, according to a spokesman for California’s Department of Industrial Relations, which oversees workers’ compensation cases. 

BOTH the California and U.S. Chambers of Commerce have urged Newsom to restrict any executive order to only some essential workers because their claims could cost employers and insurers billions of dollars. Unions want Newsom to include as many workers as possible because they often are required to work with inadequate protective equipment. 

ALL THESE YEARS the secondary school people have been telling us that they're teaching "critical thinking." It seems that millions of US flunked. Anti-vaxxers are selling misinformation about coronavirus vaccines before one even exists, doing their lunatic best to undermine confidence in what could be our best bet to beat back the beast.

AMONG THEIR wilder claims, anti-vaxxers are claiming that Dr. Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, is blocking cures to enrich vaccine makers. And Bill Gates is alternately planning to use vaccination as cover for his scheme to microchip everyone and/or murder millions of people to relieve population pressures. 

MY FAMILY came down hard on me, me the very cynosure of reason, for "not taking the virus seriously" when I merely pointed out that the odds of getting it are very long given our addresses. I've revised my opinion with the ominous news that the infection is popping up in unexpected places and among populations previously thought naturally resistant, people like the young and healthy. Without tipping all the way into teeth-chattering paranoia, I'm washing my hands many times a day and religiously masking up whenever I enter a store. What I find scariest of all is the widespread notion, thanks to the chuckle buddy media especially, that we'll bounce right back at some point to our prior lotus-eating state. The social-economic ramifications of this one are going to be a lot worse than we anticipate. (Please excuse the pontificating. Just saying what it looks like to me.)

DR. FAUCI, for those of you who prefer medical science over the internet equivalent of rattling chicken bones in coffee cans, has said the emergence of a highly infectious disease such as the coronavirus is a nightmare scenario that "keeps me up at night." If he's worried, everyone should be, and everyone should get with the social distancing and isolation programs wherever they are. "What keeps me up at night is the emergence of a brand new infection, likely jumping species from an animal, that's respiratory born, highly transmissible, with a high degree of morbidity and mortality. And, lo and behold, that's where we are right now. And the reason it's so unprecedented, it exploded upon us."

THE GOOD NEWS. The FDA may approve emergency use authorization of Ebola drug remdesivir after Dr. Fauci praised the results of one study as "proof that a drug can block this virus." Which it did with a guy in Washington state who was on the way out when he agreed, in desperation, to allow doctors to try it with him.

THE BAD NEWS. FEMA has ordered 100,000 more COVID-19 body bags to prepare for "worst case scenario" of a second deadlier wave of coronavirus this fall.

THIRTY MILLION Americans have filed unemployment claims; coronavirus deaths are closing in on 60,000; about 250,000 people have recovered from the beast.

THE "INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY" has reached a consensus opinion that while this round of the plague began in Wuhan, it didn't escape from a lab and certainly wasn't deliberately inflicted on the world, news certain to disappoint Sino-phobes and the millions of conspiracy nuts. One visual I can't remove from my memory bank, however, is a trendy-looking young Chinese woman chowing down on a deep fried bat.

FRIEND OF MINE has a mortgage from Redwood Credit Union, which has given him a three-month break from his payments. Banks really have no choice since so many people are suddenly unable to pay for shelter. But mortgage holders can get a 12-month payment break with the payments simply tacked on to the end of the payment schedule. Check the federal Cares Act. And you may have seen the report that insurance companies are not paying "interruption of business" claims that many small businesses pay through the nose for.

I SEE BIDEN as a lateral move from Trump, but I'm tending not to believe the sexual allegation against him because of its alleged circumstances, that Biden, just out of the lavish Senate gym and sober, was so far out of control, that he'd assault a young woman in a public corridor, at least public to the other degenerates in the Senate at the time, that he'd commit a rapid fire rape. Other women have come forward with accounts that Biden was inappropriately handsy with them… To me, Biden has the face of a man who will do anything and, politically, has.

SOME GREAT RUMORS floating around the web. My fave is the one that says Putin has loosed 500 lions on the streets of Moscow to keep everyone indoors. In China, many of the elderly believe that their government unleashed the virus to get rid of them. And in Spain, where walking your dog is a valid reason for being outside, people are renting their pets to dogless shutins. 

GRAB SOME PINE, MEAT! That's a baseball ref for you puzzled non-sports fans. (Mike Krukow says it about twenty times a game.) Anyway, two dozen meat processing plants across America have been forced to close over the last two months while others have slowed output after workers got sick. Shortages of poultry, beef and pork have appeared around the country despite stores limiting how many hormone-laden chickens and feed lot beef patties each person can buy in order to prevent hoarding, hoarding having exacerbated the shortages. So far as I'm aware, no shortages yet in Mendo's big markets. Trump's invocation of the Defense Production Act to force plants to stay open won't kick in until the end of May, and look for massive worker resistance from the minimum wage people who do this grisly work. So far around 20 meat and poultry factory workers have died with another 5,000 hospitalized with the virus because they work at such close quarters and work at such a furious clip. If they were better known, the processes and conditions in these meat factories would makes lots more vegetarians. 

TAI LEVENTHAL WRITES: “How do we support local businesses and stop them from closing down permanently during this? I have spoken to many business owners and a surprising amount do not think they will survive past this summer of heavily reduced income. Three have already planned on closing. And telling them to "think outside the box" is not going to cut it, it’s HARD to survive on a good day, so ingenuity was already a part of their program. This is meant as a heartfelt question, through genuine concern for the town and people we love. If we all agree that tourism is the lifeblood of the town, then of course it will die without it. It’s not greedy of local business to point this out. Not putting economy over health, I'm putting community alongside health. How do we save Mendo?”

THE AVA BUNKER lies literal feet from two excellent food sources, the Redwood Drive-in for excellent Mex, and Boont Berry Farm for, I dunno fusion, eclectic, who cares? It's good. And not expensive. Both places have managed to stay alive during the Great Lockdown, keeping their people employed. The other day I shuffled across 128, keeping an eye out for the vehicles that hurtle through town at all hours, remembering the deaf old boy in Yorkville mowed down by a log truck he never heard or saw coming as he tottered for the last time across the highway. I always imagine digging a tank trap in the middle of 128 some night, but it’s easier to conjure roadblocks at Cloverdale in this odd time with none of us able to anticipate what's coming. A hundred feet portal-to-portal to buy a pint of a tasty tofu brew I at first mistook for chicken giblets and a couple of broiled chicken breasts at Boont Berry. Fifty feet portal-to-portal to the Redwood Drive-In for really, really good Mexican. On Boont Berry’s picnic table lay a box of books, one of them quality lit by Annie Proulx, as good a writer as any our doomed country has produced. I was surprised to see it there for free,  placed, I supposed, by Ms. Ballantine, proprietor of the nifty little book store, Hedgehog, to the rear of the box car complex. Annie Proulx is best known for the movie version of ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ which she wrote as a long short story for The New Yorker, and one of the few movies you'll see that's true to the fiction it's based on. She's one of the few writers I go out of my way to read, meaning I buy her books but had not read the free one on the table outside Boont Berry called, "That Old Ace in the Hole." Like all her work this one has everything from wildly funny passages to capsule histories of rough outback areas, in this book, the Texas Panhandle and rural Oklahoma. The story is based loosely on a young guy hired to scout out hog farm sites which, to the locals, are about as welcome as nuclear waste dumps. The fuzzy-warms — NPR, Oprah, book roundtables and other lit chat feeb-a-thons — ask Proulx questions like this one, although she’s wayyyyy too real, wayyyyy too strong for Oprah and NPR: "You have been criticized by some for overemphasizing the bad luck and failure of your characters—for not finding the mitigating factor in their lives, if only in the way you frame their stories."

PROULX: “It is difficult to take this as a serious criticism. America is a violent, gun-handling country. Americans feed on a steady diet of bloody movies, television programs, murder mysteries. Road rage, highway killings, beatings and murder of those who are different abound; school shootings—almost all of them in rural areas—make headline news over and over. Most of the ends suffered by characters in my books are drawn from true accounts of public record: newspapers, accident reports, local histories, labor statistics for the period and placed under examination. The point of writing in layers of bitter deaths and misadventures that befall characters is to illustrate American violence, which is real, deep and vast.”

ONE more quick opinion re Annie Proulx: She knows what she's talking about because she didn't come from the prose death camps of writer's workshops or university English departments. She's been married and divorced three times and raised three boys by herself. She's worked as a waitress, a postal worker and, before she tried fiction, a freelancer on all sorts of subjects. In other words, she has lived with the wolf, and the way things are going there aren’t going to be enough wolves to go around, but American lit might get a boost.

GEEZ. I know literacy standards have slipped, but some of the facebook comments about Sheriff Kendall's commonsense statement last week don't correlate with the statement he made. I found no room for interpretation, and certainly did not see, implied or stated, a threat to lock people up who don't comply with our Health Officer's directives which, of course, anyway originate in the Governor's office. The ongoing prob among the more hysterical sectors of Mendolib is Blue Meanie Syndrome, the assumption that the cops are just itching to arrest people. As if. 

THE ASHA KREIMER case is a perfect argument for Measure B. She was the young Australian woman living in Albion who disappeared in the fall of 2015. When she was clearly losing her way, her boyfriend took her to Coast Hospital where she resisted all care and treatment and, at breakfast near Point Arena, sprinted off and forever away. The details can be found in the excellent account on Cold Case Mendocino. At Coast's emergency room, Asha, obviously suicidal, had had to be physically restrained, but there being no facility in the county capable of holding her for the time necessary to restore her mental balance, "On September 21, 2015, [boyfriend] Jamai and Sally Scales, the childhood friend, thought it beneficial to get Asha out of the house, sight-see, and eat a meal at a local restaurant. The trio went to Point Arena’s Rollerville Cafe for breakfast. Asha did not touch her plate, engaged little in conversation, and told Gayle she was going to use the restroom. This would be the last confirmed sighting of Asha. Her disappearance would become one of Mendocino County’s most notorious cold cases spawning YouTube videos, podcasts, and documentaries. Five years later, Asha Kreimer’s fate remains a mystery to loved ones and law enforcement…" Measure B, if the money miraculously reaches its intended destination, would build an in-county psych unit that might have saved Asha.

PAGING DR. DOOHAN. “We all heard the news and we all feared the worst last week when several new cases were reported among our COVIDiot friends up in Covelo. Was it the work of the Mad Chino State Prisoner released into our midst? Had he visited a casino? Was it spreading?"

As we anxiously awaited information and, hopefully reassurances, Health Officer Dr. Mimi Doohan was carefully composing a press release to address the biggest and most serious outbreak yet in Mendocino County’s COVID crisis.

This was her response:

“I am grateful for the opportunity to collaboratively work with the Round Valley Indian Tribes and the Round Valley Health Center and applaud the clinic staff for the exemplary manner in which these cases were cared for.

“Thank you to Congressman Jared Huffman, Senator Mike McGuire, Assemblyman Jim Wood and California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Donia Angell for their rapid response and assistance in mobilizing addition resources. I deeply care about our tribal communities and we are here to respond and provide support to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Translation: At a time when the county is experiencing its most frightening surge in Coronavirus cases, Dr. Doohan uses the opportunity to plant large, moist lipstick prints on the butts of every powerful state and federal official she could think of.

Because an aspiring job-seeker never can tell when fawning, obsequious flattery might someday be remembered by politicians when she applies for her next taxpayer-funded position. “ (Tommy Wayne Kramer, UDJ)

FORT BRAGG RESIDENT ANDREA LUNA commenting on the Fifth District’s Facebook page Sunday morning: “Re ‘How to help local businesses survive’ being discussed: Maybe there’s another important issue: What kind of businesses support a sustainable community economy and the well-being of residents? The tourist economy is unstable and dependent on many very low paying jobs while exploiting local housing stock conversions to visitor serving. Transient tourists use local services that we pay for but the benefits of tourism are not really shared equitably by all residents. Many locals can’t even afford the goods and services geared to tourists. Businesses unfortunately will close in this economic crash, as in the 2008 crash (Ft Bragg still has stores empty since then). How can we produce more goods to meet our needs in a post-petroleum economy? How important are goods produced cheaply in China and shipped here ? Long term? How can local food production and marketing of Coastal branded goods be supported? What is the new vision, the paradigm to replace the flawed “tourist” economy? We are facing a painful transition period, it’s an opportunity to think beyond simply a “bail out”.

IN THE MIDST of a deepening health and economic crisis, what would you expect Ukiah’s top realtor to be writing about? Showing houses with social distancing impositions? Market contraction? Declining property assessments? Sales activity? Finding a remodeling contractor? County planning and permit processing? Financing and mortgage rates under new banking restrictions? Housing shortages and prices? Infrastructure limitations in Mendocino County? The many failures in the County’s “housing element” of the General Plan? Second unit permit problems? Escrow requirements? The endless “studies” that developers must conduct before their permit applications will even be accepted…?

No, Ukiah uber-realtor Richard Selzer went to great pains last week to whine about what he called “rent control” laws.

According to Selzer’s own summary of the recent “rent control” legislation:

“Assembly Bill 1482 or the ‘Tenant Protection Act of 2019’ went into effect January 1. It prevents residential landlords from raising rent more than 5%, plus the local rate of inflation, in a single year. State Senate Bill 329 prevents landlords from considering the source of a tenant’s income; specifically, landlords cannot discriminate against renters who use Section 8 housing vouchers. Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent extension of Penal Code Section 396, the anti-gouging rule that went into effect after wildfires ravaged the state. Section 396 prevents landlords from raising the rent on all housing types, including vacant units, more than 10 percent above pre-emergency levels.”

This so-called “rent control” allows landlords to charge anything they want for new rentals or when new tenants move in.

In effect, these faux restrictions limit rent increases for existing tenants to not more than 10% per year and even then only if the tenant objects and goes to court over it since there’s no effective enforcement mechanism. What kind of greedy landlord would even want more than that per year? 

But Richard Selzer says these laws, even including the anti-gouging law, are bad because…?

Selzer: “Is there anything in these laws that makes developers want to build more homes? No. Given the reduced [sic] income, do you think these laws could dissuade people from building and/or investing in rental properties? Yes. Basically, rent control removes the impetus for developers to build new houses, which makes our housing shortage worse, not better.”

“These laws” may not contain anything that “makes developers want to build more homes” (and why should they?), but California’s current budget includes almost $2 billion in new housing subsidies:

• $500 million in one-time cash for local governments to combat homelessness—of that $300 million will go towards regional planning, and $200 million as awards for cities that build new shelters or permanent supportive housing.

• A quintupling of ongoing cash (from $80 million to $500 million) for the state’s most important low-income housing financing tool, the low-income housing tax credit.

• $500 million in one-time cash for “moderate-income” housing production, or the so-called “missing middle” of housing for California’s middle class.

• $25 million to get more homeless Californians on federal disability programs.

That’s not all, of course, because these latest handouts are on top of what was already in place at the state level and what cities and counties are already doing.

Selzer insists that the mythical “free market” is the only way to get more housing built. But the “free market” in housing, similar every other modern industrial sector — is a myth in the first place since the entire housing market is dependent on “socialized” government-funded streets, sewers, water, schools, fire services, law enforcement, etc.) 

To realtors like Selzer and his many acolytes in Mendocino County who take a sizable whack out every transaction based on its “market value,” (which, Selzer fails to note, raises the cost of housing) unless the rent “control” laws themselves include “incentives” to landlords and developers, these nearly non-existent controls will only make the housing problem worse. 

(Mark Scaramella)

THE INNOCENCE FILES is a fascinating documentary currently packing 'em in on Netflix that ought to be required viewing by law enforcement (and everyone else) because, among other lessons taught, it demonstrates that the forensic "sciences," especially forensic odontology, are frequently wrong. One bite marks expert and ubiquitous prosecution expert is a spectacularly incompetent Mississippi forensics dentist whose nutball testimony sent a slew of innocent people to prison and a few to death row. The series is broken into three sections, according to the three predominant causes of wrongful incarceration: misuse of forensic evidence (or, more simply: junk science), false eyewitness testimony and prosecutorial misconduct. Since 1989, there have been 2,578 exonerations in the US. “By and large, we have an adversarial legal system where the whole idea is to win, and each side stepping up to the plate against each other,” said Alex Gibney, an executive producer who directed an episode on prosecutorial misconduct. “The problem is that it becomes all about winning rather than finding the truth or real justice.” 

THE REVOLT of the Camo Buddies. Anti-lockdown protesters run the American nutball gamut, from the Klan to anti-vaxxers. They’re demanding an end to stay-at-home orders put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. Dozens of anti-lockdown rallies among the Limbaugh demographic have taken place across the country as more than a million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 63,000 have died. Not keeping one's distance is risking the lives of Gramps and Grams and, given the preponderance of fatso-watsos in these demos, each other. 

MENDO PAYS ALMOST $32k PER MONTH for an unused (so far) vacant nursing home for six months (or more)?

FROM CEO ANGELO’S CEO REPORT, April 28, 2020:

Whitmore Lane Alternate Care Site Update 

In March, 2020, the Chief Executive Officer, acting in capacity as Director of Emergency Services, issued an order commandeering a vacant skilled nursing facility located at 131 Whitmore Lane, Ukiah. This facility establishes surge capacity as an emergency protective measure related to the COVID- 19 pandemic for emergency congregate shelter and housing for members of the public, including but not limited to housing individuals awaiting test results or in quarantine due to having the virus. The site is leased for six months, with an option to extend. The monthly lease rate of $31,550 is approximately $415 per bed, per month. The building had been vacant for an extended period of time, and work has been completed to re-establish utility services and ensure full functionality. After-the-fact authorization to establish a Capital Improvement Project for this work will be brought to the Board at a forthcoming meeting. 

Whitmore Lane

The owner is a pair of doctors from India based in Modesto who apparently own a chain of California nursing homes, Dr. Joseph Pallivathucal and his wife Dr. Teresa Pallivathucal. We can’t tell how many of their nursing homes are active. Their base nursing home in Modesto, Acacia Park Nursing and Rehab Center, is state licensed for 99 beds. The US News ratings website gives their Modesto unit a below average score.

The lease agreement requires the Pallivathucals to upgrade, remodel and maintain the building, with several substantial repairs and remodels. It looks like Mendo is obligated to pay the $31.5k per month no matter how much the place is used or not used for virus case isolation purposes, but CEO Angelo did include an equivalent $415 per bed-per day rate in her note about the item (for 76 bedrooms), perhaps implying some kind of usage rate, although there’s no reference to any other payments in the lease besides the $31.5k per month. Presumably, Angelo also expects at least 75% of the cost to be reimbursed by FEMA or the state whether it’s used or not. But from here it looks like Mendo is paying for upgrades and repairs that will make the building much more marketable to the Pallivathucals in the future. Unfortunately, none of the Supervisors expressed any interest in this high cost item or what lead to it, what options were considered, or how it will be paid for.

(Mark Scaramella)

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

 [1] Ladies and germs;

Consider a compass. 360 degrees.

There are as many opinions on the Covid-19 issue as there are degrees on a compass. Every pro and con argument can be found with a quick internet search. Every nuance. Every scholarly report, every half-assed opinion.

Here is what we currently know about the virus;

Not a God-Damned thing. We all have opinions, and we all can find argument on the internets that support and affirm those opinions. But opinions are not facts. The virus is called a novel virus for a reason, and the past 5 months of intense research is not gonna give us facts that we can make considered, correct decisions upon. 

In one month, maybe two, your opinions will be unrecognizable compared to those you hold today. I have come to the position that I have no opinion that I would consider reality based, and while I consider daily the veritable shit-storm of conflicting reports of all issues virus, I will view the issue with attention, but will withhold any thought of absolutes. There just aren’t any.

[2] I literally cannot believe that anyone could say with a straight face that the daily Trump clown show (a) reflects a president “working hard”, or (b) is anything other than shameless TV time. Even the timing is cynical … 5-7 PM to cut into the evening news peak, and to dampen any fact-checking or criticism. It hasn’t saved one life, and probably cost many. It’s laughable – but I guess to the cult he walks on water – or behaps bleach. And UV light shines out of his butt.

[3]

Locking down a country was a ridiculous stunt.

“Social distance” is bullcrap too.

Yes … we think we understand you don’t like the pandemic. And no-one else likes it either. But the point is, without lock-down, social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine, the whole country could have been as bad as NYC.

Because these measures were effective, they are being attacked as “unnecessary” – the logic is deeply flawed. And to keep the numbers really low, masks are part of the future.

Along with more testing, continued social distancing, temp tests, hand-washing, and support for the isolated. All of this until there is a treatment or a vaccine.

[4] Joe [Biden] do you remember yesterday is the better question I suspect he remembers 1993 better than he does the last ten minutes.

That’s the crazy thing about dementia.

My mother in law got the dementia actually Alzheimer’s we did the best we could to take care of her ourselves after her husband died of a heart attack in my couch.

We paid out of pocket for a nice lady to come take care of her while we were at work and this went on for months. Her mood steadily soured she became suspicious and angry even combative. The dementia took her sweet quiet demeanor and replaced it with a dark brooding person who wanted to know where her husband was.

Then one day she became angry and actually took a swing at the nice lady we hired to essentially baby sit her and took to crapping on the floor next to the toilet.

We then had to concede defeat and found a home for her. In that home were a bunch of other ladies with worse cases of dementia. Some so bad they were literal lumps of breathing flesh and nothing but occasional grunts and farts to express they were even alive. Dementia sucks I feel bad for Joe and anyone else who has it or gets it it robs their loved ones of the person they love and eventually leaves an empty shell were a human once sat, loved and lived.

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