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Off the Record (May 20, 2020)

ACCORDING TO MOODY'S — proved wrong and corrupt in 2008 — J.C. Penney, Rite Aid and Petco are insolvent. J. Crew, which employed about 13,000 people before an April furlough program, was the first high-profile retailer to seek bankruptcy protection since the coronavirus. Then Neiman Marcus went belly-up. That giant Rite Aid at Gobbi and S. State in Ukiah, a major eyesore, taking up about half a block, but it may be on the way to Palace Hotel status, a crumbling pile of Used To Be, a kind of  local Ozymandias eternally crumbling at Gobbi and So. State.  Look on me now, hypochondriacs, and despair!

ATTA GIRL, NANCE: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a more than $3 trillion coronavirus aid package, encouraging Congress to "go big" with aid to about to be broke states and millions of already broke Americans. The Heroes Act [sic] provides nearly $1 trillion for states, cities and tribal governments to avert layoffs and another $200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers, another $1,200 direct cash aid to individuals, up to $6,000 per household. And $75 billion more for virus testing. A vote is expected Friday as is opposition from the bad people.

TESS ALBIN-SMITH of the Fort Bragg City Council talked about how good her gardener-maintained home premises looked the other night as the FB CITY Council discussed fining other Fort Braggers for violating quarantine rules. The rules "allow landscaping and gardening work, but only if it is not for purely aesthetic purposes." Albin-Smith, in a nice touch, spoke from her purely aesthetic garden during the meeting.

WHEREVER there’s a hyphenated name I see a high fly ball to deep right-center where Albin sprints over from left field while Smith dashes from right shouting, "I got it, Albin," as Albin shouts back, "No! Smith, I'll take it!"

YOU don't have to be a Trumper to understand that the entire entrenched system went after him the minute he was elected. To me, most fantastic has been the transformation, at least to the libs, of the FBI as pillars of objective integrity. 

THE FBI, from its founding by the paranoid screwball who spent his off time in a cocktail dress, has been a national political police force, hence their pursuit of Trump partly because they also abhorred the thought of him as president, partly because the entire entrenched apparat understood that Trump would probably upend them and all the old ways of doing imperial business. Much of the entrenched apparatus views itself as liberal in the Obama sense of liberal — lip service social justice at home minus econ justice, the usual  mayhem abroad. Hence the entrenched apparatuses failed attempts to nail Trump as everything from rapist to Russian and Ukrainian tool. 

SURE, there’s probably is a Trump-Russia connection, which is why his lawyers are presently in the Supreme Court to keep his business dealings a secret. I'll bet if the Deutsche Bank is forced to cough up, we'll learn that Trump got a lot of his funding for his gold-plated faucets from Russian criminals routed through Deutsche. Finally, though, it's The Plague and Trump's spectacularly incompetent behavior in addressing it that will bring him down.

IF THERE'S AN ELECTION. Trump's mega-creepy son-in-law, Jared Kushner, let that big cat out of the bag as he "was forced to clarify" a remark that he is not trying to change the date of the November election after saying "it was a possibility." Obviously, Team Trump, has discussed how to avoid the November vote.

LA'S MOTORMOUTH MAYOR Eric Garcetti's statement to Good Morning America's neon teeth that LA would stay locked down until The Plague has receded has caused understandable outrage among his constituents. Here we have a national emergency with millions of people without incomes, without money for food and rent, and many landlords, especially the big ones, not suspending rent, and the mayor of LA says, "Get used to it folks. You're looking at another three months of this." Major civil disorder coming right up.

THE ONLY WAY to forestall total disaster in an economy like this one is to get lots of money out there pronto so we can resume buying lots of stuff. Remember when Henry Ford pointed out to his fellow tycoons that workers had to earn enough to they could spend enough to keep it alive?

RECOMMENDED READING: "Deadly Times" by Lew Irwin, "The 1910 Bombing of the Los Angeles Times and America's Forgotten Decade of Terror." Given the givens of the present state of our economy and imploding society, another decade of less organized terror may be beginning, this new terror arising from the terror felt by the many millions of Americans whose lives have been permanently upended. The 1910 terror began as the fledgling labor movement fought the plutocrats for union recognition via the closed shop. These days union "leaders" ride with the plutocrats in the same limos, but in the first decade of the 20th century class divisions were clearly drawn, working people against the owning classes, with unions resorting to bombs to compel owners to employ only union labor. 

THE MOST SPECTACULAR bombing of that period was the one that blew up the LA Times, owned by labor's most implacable enemy, its founder and editorially fulminating publisher, Harrison Gray Otis. "Deadly Times" describes in great detail the lives of the McNamara Brothers, architects of the bombings and as implacable as Otis, with J.J. McNamara, the younger brother, the less grounded of the two. Seldom in the vivid history of this country has a more colorful cast of characters been arrayed in a single courtroom drama after the McNamaras were arrested, with the McNamaras being defending by Clarence Darrow against evidence assembled by the master detective, William J. Burns. Not so incidentally, except for the LA Times bombing, some 200 others were scrupulously carried out to avoid death and injury to scab workers, but the ended with the trial. If you're unfamiliar with the history of that time, this is a good book to begin your investigations with. "Big Trouble" by J. Anthony, another fascinating account of that period, is also highly recommended. 

DR. RICK BRIGHT, demoted by Trump at HHS for complaining that Trump doesn’t have a coherent plan to fight the virus, warned Congress last week  that "2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history" if a coherent strategy isn't followed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Bright said COVID-19 testing should be nationalized and that there should be a national standard of procurement and distribution for medical equipment. Bright also said that "Our leaders must lead by modeling the behavior" of wearing masks, washing hands and practicing social distancing.

FROM BRIGHT'S TESTIMONY: "Congressman, I'll never forget the emails I received from Mike Bowen indicating that our mask supplier, N95 respirator supplier, was completely decimated and he said 'We're in deep shit, the world is, and we need to act.' And I pushed that forward to the highest levels I could in HHS and got no response. From that moment I knew that we were going to have a crisis for our healthcare workers because we were not taking action. We were already behind the ball, that was our last opportunity to turn on that production to save the lives of our healthcare workers and we didn't act."

TRUMP responded to Bright's criticism by brandishing his alleged pandemic plans on the White House lawn, his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnamy doing the brandishing while the increasingly erratic leader of the free world looked approvingly on. Ms. McEnamy pointed out, as she also held the Obama admin's plan, that Trump's was larger by at least a folder.

ANOTHER 2.98 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, a Labor Department report released on Thursday showed, bringing the official total to 36 million, an estimated one in four by the end of Summer.

OFFICIAL MENDO seems to be operating on the dubious assumption that the county will get a magic reimbursement from the feds and/or the state when the still developing fallout from the plague stops falling. Seems from here that prudence would dictate worst case planning, that the bailout may not be large enough to cover Mendo's yawning deficits, that there might not be a bailout for Mendo given our lowly status as a lightly populated dope and booze-driven outback. Over in Fort Bragg, the savvy city manager Tabatha Miller and her supportive city council, are making plans to keep city government afloat on the assumption that magic money may not appear.

LAKE COUNTY is seldom looked to as a how-to kinda place, but both Lake and HumCo have a lot of their workers laboring from home. Mendo? Nope. I asked Supervisor Williams why not Mendo?  

WILLIAMS: "Lack of broadband throughout the county is a limiting factor to employees working efficiently from home. It’s not the only limiting factor. Mendocino’s government is stuck in the past, a relic worthy of placement on the National Register of Historic Government Offices. One could argue the best path to modernization is through leaving one wall standing. Let me give you an example of working at home: I can either respond to email on my phone, thumbing endlessly, or I can use a web based client that shuts off every few minutes. I asked IT to increase the size of my mailbox last week, running into a problem Dan Gjerde once described in open session as time spent deleting old attachments. Moving the county to Gmail or another cloud solution would offer a productivity boost at nominal cost, most of which would be the dumpsters for hauling away old servers. The IT team is actually decent. It’s incredible what they do without budget, some of which includes duct tape.  No matter where we stand on the pandemic, let’s hope it’s a catalyst for efficiency."  

THE TRULY EVIL GENIUS behind international Trumpism, Steve Bannon, has touched off a Get Fauci movement among the Maga-zombos. Bannon claimed this week that Fauci had “set up President Trump for failure in the fall.” Bannon was reacting to Fauci’s testimony before a Senate committee this week, during which Fauci questioned efforts by Trump, some governors and other officials who take their cues from the president, to reopen schools and businesses. “Understand this,” Bannon said, “Tony Fauci has not been around from 1984 because he doesn’t know how to play the game. He is a master game-player,” meaning that Fauci should go.

BABBLING INCOHERENTLY from his basement,  Joe Biden summed up our situation last week: "We're ... in the middle of a pandemic that has cost us more than 85,000 jobs as of today. Lives of millions of people. Millions of people. Millions of jobs. You know, and we're in a position where, you know, we just got new unemployment insurance, this morning, uh, numbers — 36.5 million claims since this crisis began."


35th Anniversary—15th consecutive revival

 Join in the 15th annual revival of the Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration, held heretofore at the Hill House in Mendocino. This year we'll distance by smartphone, and email audio for broadcast on KZYX FM, Mendocino County Public Broadcasting. The deadline for contributions is JUNE 14, and the virtual main event will be aired on JUNE 21, the solstice and first day of summer. Auspices abound.

Wherever you are, you needn’t miss participating. It’s an open poetry reading. Follow host Dan Roberts’ friendly directions below, and send up to four minutes of audio to Dan and me by JUNE 14. This spring harvest of poetry will be broadcast beginning JUNE 21 and in succeeding weeks.

(Gordon Black, producer)


Santa Barbara has received 6.7 million from cannabis tax. Plus another 800k That will be added to their 4th quarter totals. Their Building and planning departments read the California building codes differently than Mendocino county on many issues especially in regards to temporary structures like hoop houses. When a state goes legal the price briefly rises then plummets. Mendocino county has missed the bubble, we are already seeing the concentrate market going soft even though it is a large sector of industry sales. We missed the opportunity to build infrastructure and market share from the boom. This will put individual cultivators at 30% of potential production for the first 5 to 7 years of the legal industry. This will prolong a system of cultivation that uses a migrant work force for large harvests instead of year around production with full time local employees. We had an opportunity to build something great and we missed it. If it was not for Ted Williams we would have less people in the application system today and many permitted farms would have withdrawn their application. The longer we delay the farmers from establishing year around farms the longer it will take before our county can establish a stable income from the new cannabis industry.”


[1] My family has owned the Bunker Hill Ranch in Dos Rios for almost 60 years, and we’ve had friends on the Round Valley reservation for 25 years. One of these friends told me years ago that armed men showed up at a tribal council meeting to intimidate the council members regarding grows on tribal lands. We have also found grows and camps on our ranch.

So Sheriff Kendall, I applaud your efforts. And – I know this may not be popular – but I would support a permanent tax increase to support your efforts. There has been much injustice done in Round Valley (and Dos Rios) over the years, and it’s refreshing to see a public servant supporting justice. Keep up the great work!

[2] A bit of medical history. I’ve had both liver and bone biopsies in the past…both in military hospitals, without anesthetic. I had a broken leg (undiagnosed) by being hit by a car on duty. I’ve had a CAT scan, and have been both X-rayed and Ultraviolated. But today…today I have been STIMULATED!

Yes, today we received a nice check from the Great Father in the East.

Money from home,

The Eagle has landed.

What to spend it on? I cannot, off hand, even think of a current need… I only know I have to get rid of the god damned thing before the currency becomes…diluted. This is just the first check of many I am expecting…a Nigerian Prince will be sending me significant sums in the short term. Ed McMahon will be sending me greetings from Publishers clearing house….

Remember the $500 everyone got back in 2008? Bought a 9N ford tractor with that. Now, I can buy almost five of them….

Thank You Donald!

[3] The mad alt-right are a total humor-free zone, Maj – you know that. They go on a feeding frenzy every day … trawling up and down the corridors of the dark web, looking for lies and rumors about:

1. White people suffering some setback or other – because they’re white

2. Non-white people gaining something (or getting away with murder)

3. People falling for the anti-Trump coronavirus hoax

4. Cast-iron proof that Obama and the Mob are all criminals going to jail

Then they publish all that nonsense wherever they can. Way of the world.

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