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Off the Record 8/26/2009

THE DISGUSTING NEWS that Pol Brennan, Irish Nationalist, has been deported reached Boonville last Friday. Mrs. Brennan writes: “I got a call at 3am this morning that Pol had been taken early in the morning from the detention center in Port Isabel (A for profit Immigration and Customs prison located in Port Isabel, Texas) and put on a large military spy plane with his ICE escorts and flown to Virginia, then on to Shannon airport. He said the plane was frigid and that he was shackled hand and foot for the entire trip despite his shoulder injury (ripped tendons Pol suffered while exercising a month ago). His only satisfaction was that his companions were as miserable as he. The trip took more than 12 hours. He was met without trouble by the Irish authorities and released to his family and they drove 6 hours to Donegal on the west coast where Pol is at a family home. He's exhausted, stunned and suffering from a cold, but grateful to be out of custody. He does not have a phone yet and I don't know the address. Pol's attorney, Marc Van Der Hout, told me that everything was done, that his case went to the highest levels, but that the Department of Homeland Security, after giving him some extra consideration, gave no reason for his ultimate deportation. Marc said that it is possible for Pol to apply for re-entry after some time has past.”

BRENNAN had been granted legal permission years ago to stay in the U.S. by the federal court based in San Francisco. Two years ago, he'd applied for renewal of his green card but it was still in process when he and his wife drove to Texas to visit Mrs. Brennan's mother. The Brennans were stopped at an ICE roadblock and Pol was taken into custody on an immigration hold. That was 18 months ago. And now, after all that time, a time when the famous Irish troubles seem to be a thing of the past, and nobody is demanding Pol's extradition, he's put on a huge government plane all by himself except for his ICE escorts and flown back to Ireland. Kafka couldn't have made this one up.

RULER OF HELL BUSTED IN DOS RIOS! The persons pictured above are identified by the Sheriff’s Department as Daniel Goode, 36; Michael Andrews Church, 44; Eugene Fedorov, 43; and “Luo Yan,” 34, all of Dos Rios, an inland Mendo locale not previously known for its cosmopolitanism. This quartet was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on Tuesday, August 18, on identical charges of growing marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and illegal possession of a firearm. Bail was also identical at $50k each. Mssrs. Goode, Church and Fedorov seem to fit the general Mendo pot grower profile, although we noted that Fedorov's nationality was not listed on his booking sheet. But Ms. Yan? How’d she get mixed up with these characters? Also, Yan Luo would seem to be a phony name, an hilariously phony name that means either “God of Death” or “Ruler of Hell” in Chinese, neither of which are the likely names Chinese parents would choose for a female child. We suspect Ms. Yan was having some fun with the cops who, incidentally, still identify East Asians by the politically incorrect tag, Oriental. With the recent arrests of Bulgarians and Israelis for pot violations, and lots of arrests of Vietnamese and Chinese poachers, with the occasional Hindu drunk driver thrown into the mix, and not to mention Ms. Ruler of Hell, local cops probably should brush up on their socio-geography.

IN MY YOUTH, partly misspent as an agent of imperialism in the Borneo state of Sarawak, I played basketball with Chinese guys who initially didn't care to include me, may never have wanted to include me but who became real good at faking inclusion since I was very persistent. Desperate to play with the very best local hoopsters and, ahem, I could more than hold my own at the time, soaring over the equatorial sun and whole seas of startled faces, a white streak against jungle green as I blew routine lay-ups, I'd have to jump on my motorcycle and drive frantically from playground to playground to find the game. Which my would-be playmates kept moving to keep me out. After literal months of hide-the-hoops, and after literal months of me ferreting them out every afternoon, I finally became a regular, a regular regularly addressed as Ang Mo Qui, which I thought for the longest time was simply a non-English speaker's attempt at “Anderson.” We'd be picking up teams and someone would gesture at me and say, “Ang Mo Qui,” as in “I'll take Ang Mo Qui on my team.” Nobody ever laughed so I assumed I was being respectfully referred to. Belatedly curious, I asked a host national, who also happened to be my wife, what “Ang Mo Qui” meant. She laughed a little too heartily, then said, “It means either long-nosed monkey or, depending on how you pronounce it, red haired devil.”

ACCORDING to a memo from County Treasurer and Tax Collector Shari Schapmire, the County’s investment pool money isn't earning much these days. “Due to the current financial crisis banking fees have substantially increased. A major component of the increase will be the FDIC charges passed through to us by the bank. All banks pay for the FDIC insurance that guarantees the funds within their bank. FDIC is not federally funded. With the major increase in bank failures, FDIC must raise their rates to all banks. On March 10, 2009, a three-year contract was signed with Bank of America to continue to provide our banking services. I do feel we are currently receiving competitive rates. A change in service bank during these difficult times would be a daunting task.” “A daunting task,” probably translates into something like “We realize the rates are too high but the crooks running the Bank of America make it so hard to change and we’re too understaffed to make a change so we’ll just have to live with the crooks we know rather than move to a bank run by crooks we don't know.

THE COUNTY'S investment pool, which is made up mostly of local school district reserve funds, currently has about $158 million worth of market value but is earning only about 1% on average. The single largest component in the County's investment pool is $55 million in the California Asset Management Fund, which earns 0.5%. The second largest item in the investment pool is the Local Agency Investment Fund with $40 million of value earning 1.26%. Ms. Schapmire seems to think that keeping money in the California Asset Management Program and the Local Agency Investment Fund is good because they are “liquid.” “It is anticipated that the state will defer payments to both the county and schools,” said Ms. Schapmire prior to the state doing exactly that. “While the liquidity issue in the markets has somewhat improved, it still remains far from optimal if the need to liquidate a security arises,” she added. Schapmire believes that some investment pool money will be needed to help local schools and other crucial public agencies from making even bigger cuts than they've already made. Therefore, keep the money in funds which can be easily withdrawn on behalf of the schools but keep it in funds which draw less interest. The trouble with this approach is that the single largest pool fund, at $55 million, is earning the smallest amount of interest at about half a percent. But then again, even the medium term bank notes are only earning about 1.5%. If the state ever pays back the money it is “deferring,” the money is supposed to be paid back with interest. Perhaps in three years. Perhaps at more than 1%.

WHICH BRINGS US to Jack Kerouac, one of the last generation of American writers to have a personality. A recent piece in the Chron about Kerouac was called “Kerouac legacy in legal limbo.” The old boy's heirs are still fighting over his estate, a large one although Kerouac made it clear before he drowned in the bottle who he wanted to get his money. “This is Uncle Jack he wrote to Paul Blake in 1969 shortly before he died. “I've turned over my entire estate, real, personal and mixed, to Memere (mom) and if she dies before me, it will be turned to you. I wanted to leave my estate to someone directly connected with the last remaining drop of my direct blood line, and not to leave a dingblasted fucking thing to my wife's one hundred Greek relatives.” Plain enough, but the one hundred relatives sued and sued then sued some more on the basis that Kerouac stayed drunk in his last days and didn't know what he was saying. But finally a judge ruled the money should go where Kerouac wanted it to go, which the article was about. But the piece libeled him anyway in a sidebar called “Six facts you might not know,” where this alleged fact appeared: “Contrary to the belief of '60s radicals like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, who thought him a hopeless redneck, Kerouac actually opposed the Vietnam War. But his reason for opposing it was unique – he claimed it was 'a conspiracy between the North and South Vietnamese to get American jeeps.'”

IF KEROUAC said that he was obviously kidding, and Jerry Rubin, like a lot of so-called 60's radicals, stopped being a radical when the radical fad ended about 1973. What with literary culture now disappeared into Gadget Land and the credulity that reigns there, making up stories about dead writers and even whole eras like the 1960s, has never been easier.

THAT WAS an interesting piece in Thursday's Ukiah Daily Journal by the paper's new local reporter Tiffany Revelle about the rezoning of 30 properties in the recently approved General Plan Update. (Ms. Revelle, by the way, is clearly the best reporter the paper has had in years.) Property owners had assumed that having their properties listed with their requested zoning would be the end of the zoning change process. Wrong. County Planning consultant Patrick Ford told Revelle that the General Plan Update didn't set specific zoning for the projects but only changed their zoning categories. “The General Plan could not address specific zones,” Ford told Revelle. Supervisor Carre Brown said she had been under the impression that properties listed in the General Plan Update would be rezoned as part of the Update process. But Supervisor Brown has also been contradicted by Planning staff. Although the new zoning is indicated on the County's official planning maps, the property does not yet indicate the new zoning on other documents. Mr. Ford said that Planning staff is set to proceed with zoning revisions but there has been “no decision on a course of action.” Ford told Revelle that he “wasn't at liberty” to discuss individual cases and that he could not answer how property owners could get their property rezoned to be consistent with the new planning maps. Hint: it will cost a lot of money – unless the Supes do something, which, given their record of dynamic lassitude, appears unlikely.

WHICH BRINGS US to “An Idiot's Guide to Charles Bukowski,” which I spotted the other day in an otherwise respectable book store. As if there's something that needs decoding in Bukowski? Or the all-time idiot's festival at Woodstock? Lots of varsity hippies are checking in with their memoirs of Hippie Time, but really, didn't you see the Hep C and methamphetamine coming? Wasn't it clear even then that the big naked piles would end in death and miles of human destruction?

PARDON our skepticism at last week's announcement that the Bank of Willits and the Savings Bank of Mendocino County have merged. Ho bleeping hum. According to Savings Bank president Charlie Mannon the merger is simply to enhance banking services for Bank of Willits customers. It's for you, and if you believe that, well, you probably also think banks are charities. Mannon said in a press release that “The addition of the Bank of Willits … adds a tremendous franchise to the existing operation of Savings Bank of Mendocino County. It also adds an experienced and knowledgeable management team that will be an excellent fit with Savings Bank of Mendocino County.” Bank of Willits President Richard Willoughby told the Willits News that “There are no scandals, no sub-prime loans, no government borrowings. It comes down to a matter of scale. The costs involved with the regulatory burden and advanced technology simply cannot be borne by small banks.” Both banks are well over 100 years old yet they chose to merge now, at a time when banks are failing across the country. Assuming that Mr. Willoughby is correct that these local banks were not involved in subprime loans or “scandals,” it's a safe bet that there’s more to the merger than simple efficiencies and modern electronic services since those factors have been in place for years. As best we can tell from standard internet banking sources both banks have satisfactory ratings from government regulators. Truth is they've joined forces to make money, more money, in the face of ever more competition from larger banks. Additionally, more people than ever are doing their banking through non-profit credit unions, the only banking institutions run in the interests of the people who put their money in them.

WHICH TAKES us to Mexico where small amounts of dope – all kinds of dope –are now legal, the thinking being that it deprives crooked cops of a big part of the off-the-books income crooked cops derive from shaking down tourists for possessing a little of proscribed this, a little of proscribed that. Shaking down tourists is not a good way to encourage visitors to venture south of the border. But now, Mexicans and tourists alike can legally possess 5 grams of pot, the equivalent of about four joints, and can also safely carry a half-gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams of crank, 0.015 milligrams of acid.

CALTRANS has announced that the Willits bypass schedule has “slipped by at least six months to one year.” Caltrans probably didn't realize the poor choice of the word “slipped” in their description of the schedule delay since slippage in the geologically unstable Willits area has been a constant problem for big road projects for decades. Caltrans said that the delay was caused by environmental considerations associated with replacing the wetlands destroyed by the new highway bypass. Since there are no wetlands available to be “created” from scratch, Caltrans is now working on “an alternative mitigation plan to purchase a much larger portion of the Little Lake Valley watershed” as a substitute for new wetlands. Another factor mentioned by Caltrans was the statewide budget problems associated with the declining economy and reduced gas tax revenues upon which Caltrans depends. Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie did not mention anything about the cost of acquiring upwards of 300 new acres of land to offset the loss of wetlands. But without these purchases – and the additional imminent domain processes which are involved – Caltrans cannot put the Bypass out to bid until June of 2010 at the earliest.

WHICH LANDS us at Sister Yasmin's besieged door. Someone is tearing down Yazzle's event notices faster than the poor girl can put them up, and she's persona non rasta at Mendocino Public Radio, a tax-exempt but private audio club run out of Philo by exhausted hippies, and the fat guy Yasmin hired to stack her firewood is asleep under a tree. So, for the goddess's sake, be at Yaz's September Dance Party, Sign of the Whale, downtown Point Arena, Saturday, September 12th, 8pm to 2am.

COUNTY EMPLOYEE representative Jackie Carvallo has provided additional information about the problems she and the membership are having with County Management over the County's mandatory time off agreement. Carvallo says the union has negotiated in good faith to reach a savings of about $1.1 million just for her union of county workers and their affiliation, the Services Employees International. The members agreed to that 10% reduction in work and pay by an overwhelming vote of 266 to 57. Since the agreement, however, the County “has implemented the agreement according to their perception. People [department heads] who are changing the terms were not at the negotiating table,” said Carvallo. CEO Tom Mitchell has mandated that workers at the County’s Low Gap Road complex take two more days a month off. “A lot of employees felt coerced into that level of MTO,” said Carvallo. “The CEO changed [the agreement] immediately.” Carvallo added that 124 people were sent home last Monday (August 17) with no notice except by a curt email. “The CEO’s office agrees that there’s a misunderstanding,” said a barely contained Carvallo. “They say it's not malicious. But they are not taking back what they're doing. We are willing to do our part. But the CEO’s motto is, Proceed until apprehended. They are applying as much pressure as possible.” Not a great way to treat employees who are already on pins and needles about their jobs due to continued revenue reductions and budget instability.

WHICH GETS US TO THE SFMOMA where even us codgers have to fork over $14 to see the Avedon exhibit. Well, Avedon plus Georgia O'Keefe and Ansel Adams, in whom I have minus zero interest. The Avedons, though, are worth at least five bucks admission, especially his photos of regular people. One photo of the Warhol gang is enough to last three life times. Ditto for Kissinger and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. But Robert Frank's photos of the 1950's – My people! My people! – made the trip inside The MOMA a net plus, although for pure photographic excitement I think the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department's booking photos represent the absolute pinnacle of American photographic art. Let's get them in the SFMOMA! There were, of course, the usual inane videos on exhibit passed off as art; I sat watching one of a witless German interviewing a boring Italian before I wondered why an American museum had to import tedium when there are school boards everywhere. The problem with the SFMOMA is its trendo-groove-o assumptions. Too much flash and dash, not enough art. How many times can a museum trot out Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keefe? Forever, I guess, because the place was packed. The DeRosa Art Preserve outside Napa is the place in the Bay Area for art. It's the collection of one guy with a good eye, not a bunch of tired stuff assembled by committees of black-clad zombies with art history degrees. If you've never been to DeRosa you're missing a truly memorable art attack. If you've never been to SFMOMA, well, it's at Third and Mission.

THE LAKE COUNTY TRIAL that never should have been has concluded with an entirely predictable not guilty verdict for defendant Bismark Dinius. Two years ago, Dinius was sailing on the big lake at the same time as a drunk Lake County cop, Russell Perdock, careened over the water at speeds estimated at upwards of 40mph. Perdock's water borne missile plowed into Dinius's sailboat, killing Dinius's fiancé. Because Lake County's justice system resembles Mendo's in general inscrutability, Perdock claimed Dinius was sailing in the dark without the boat's running lights on, and Dinius, the victim, was charged with the felonious operation of a vessel. Perdock was never charged at all. A Lake County jury has found Dinius not guilty on all the serious stuff, deadlocking 11-1 for acquittal on sailing under the influence.

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