Off the Record (July 15, 2020)

TRUMP said today that the decision to fly the Confederate flag is "freedom of speech" after lashing out at NASCAR for banning the symbol of treason and slavery from its events. "You do what you do. It's freedom of speech. And NASCAR can do whatever they want and they've chosen to go a certain way and other people chose to go a different route. But it's freedom of speech."

STANFORD UNIVERSITY, like all the so-called elite colleges, sits on a huge endowment (upwards of 15 billion), but claims a looming budget deficit exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic forces the school to axe 11 of its 36 sports programs after the 2020-2021 academic year, all of which are, well, extraneous to the advertised purpose of the place. The school had Zoomed the bad news to student-athletes and coaches of the affected departments. The programs being cut are men’s volleyball, field hockey, wrestling, men’s and women’s fencing, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, and synchronized swimming. (Which two mos def aren't sports?)

WE OCCASIONALLY get requests to purge our website of booking photos, which we do if the request is reasonably polite. We don't aim at complicating lives, and since everyone with an income under $50k gets booked at least once during his or her lifetime — I've had my share — we take the merciful approach; ask nicey-nice and down it comes.

BUT ONE GUY, a serial screw-up with a dozen bookings, had the nerve to demand by telephone that we take his picture down "or else." Leaving us no option but to publish all his photos, all the way back to when he had teeth. Soon after Mr. Or Else had given us his ultimatum, a big, shirtless kid came hurtling over the fence from the Redwood Drive-In next door, running straight at our office like some kind of wild mustang fresh outta the Nevada desert. And me without my gat! Turned out to be a friendly dude but seemingly tweeked to the max, hence his highly athletic arrival at our office door. For a panicked moment, though, I thought "Or Else" had arrived to do some serious elder abuse. I can handle anybody over the age of 70 — anybody, you hear me! — but these young psychos....

THE OTHER DAY, I received an implicitly threatening e-mail from what I presumed to be a young woman — and confirmed by her facebook photo — who said she "represented" a guy who often appears for morning portraits at the County Jail. (The booking photos are minor works of art, vivid and fascinating and, of course, a highly popular feature on our website of the lowly schadenfreude type.) The young woman wanted us to take this guy's photos down. I told her sure, but she shouldn't represent herself as an attorney, and she shouldn't lead off her request with an implied threat. She wrote back to say, "I didn't say I'm a lawyer, but I am his agent."

SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: “Project Roomkey has been extended one month. Project Roomkey is a collaborative effort by the State and County to secure hotel and motel rooms for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. Health and Human Service Agency Special Investigation Unit personnel will be enforcing health orders this weekend, including on the coast. If they are unable to resolve concerns, they'll contact the Sheriff for further problem solving.”

“LOANS” to the undeserving. One of Mendo’s biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s forgivable “loans” (under the federal “Paycheck Protection Program funded through the Small Business Administration) is none other than Ukiah’s mental health services monopoly Camille Schrader Inc., who, along with her subsidiary non-profits has gotten millions of dollars in “loans.” (The “loans” are categorized by range of dollar value, not the specific amount).

  • $2-5 million, Redwood Community Services, Inc., 631 S Orchard Ave, Ukiah
  • $350,000-1 million, Redwood Quality Management Company, Inc., 350 E Gobbi St, Ukiah
  • $350,000-1 million, Tapestry Family Services, Inc., 169 Mason St Ste 300, Ukiah
  • $150,000-350,000, Manzanita Services, Inc., 410 Jones St Ste C1, Ukiah

Two high profile local Republican law firms got good sized checks also. (They’re lawyers, after all, so they’ll have no trouble figuring out how to convert their government loans into “forgivable” handouts):

  • $150,000-350,000, Carter Momsen PC, 305 Main St, Ukiah
  • $150,000-350,000, Law Offices Of Duncan M. James, 445 N State St, Ukiah

Several other local Get-Government-Off-Our-Backs types got big handouts too (some of which such as local trucking and logging outfits are legitimately eligible small businesses which we haven’t bothered to list here, but still ) For example:

  • $1-2 million, Retech Systems LLC,100 Henry Station Rd, Ukiah
  • $350,000-1 million, Factory Pipe, LLC (aka Ross Liberty), 1307 Masonite RD, Ukiah
  • $2-5 million, J. A. Sutherland, Inc., 1199 State St., Ukiah (doing business as Taco Bell)
  • $150,000-350,000, Mendocino Private Industry Council,2550 N State St #3, Ukiah
  • $150,000-350,000, Selzer Realty & Associates Re/Max, 551 S Orchard Ave., Ukiah

(Mr. Selzer writes a weekly right-wing realty column in the Ukiah Daily Journal which features frequent denunciations of government help for renters and workers.)

Several other local businesses and non-profits receiving “loans” caught our eye:

  • $5-10 million, Mendocino Community Health Clinic, Inc., 333 Laws Ave, Ukiah
  • $1-2 million, North Coast Opportunities, Inc., 413 N State St, Ukiah
  • $350,000-1 million, Stanford Inn, 44850 Comptche Ukiah Rd, Mendocino
  • $350,000-1 million, The Homestead Exchange Cooperative, Incorporated, 721 S State St, Ukiah (Ukiah Co-op)
  • $150,000-350,000, Cold Creek Compost, Inc, 6000 East Side Potter Valley Rd, Ukiah
  • $150,000-350,000, Community Care Management Corporation, 301 S State St, Ukiah
  • $150,000-350,000, Ford Street Project, Inc., 139 Ford St. Ukiah
  • $150,000-350,000, Patrona Restaurant and Lounge, 131 W Standley St, Ukiah
  • $1-2 million, Sparetime Supply, Inc., 475 E San Francisco Ave, Willits
  • $350,000-1 million, Solid Wastes Of Willits, Inc., 351 Franklin Ave, Willits
  • $150,000-350,000, Mariposa Natural Foods, 500 S Main St, Willits
  • $150,000-350,000, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Corporation, 18220 N Highway One, Fort Bragg
  • $150,000-350,000, Thanksgiving Coffee Co, Inc-Gp, 19100 S Harbor Dr, Fort Bragg
  • $350,000-1 Million, Anderson Valley Health Center, Inc., 13500 Airport Rd, Boonville

MOST of Mendo’s SBA paycheck protection “loans” are administered by the Savings Bank of Mendocino which takes a nice cut of all the loans for their “administration” but Savings Bank takes no risk at all since it’s not their money that’s being, ahem, forgiven. (Mark Scaramella)

VIA THE INDISPENSABLE MSP this morning comes this item about one of my favorite athletes, the great Oregon distance runner, Galen Rupp, as he puts the lie to masks being a breathing impediment: A decorated USATF distance runner, Rupp, in 2011, won the US Nationals 10k while wearing a mask to help with his asthma and the increased pollen count. Dude with asthma won a national race, with a mask on. I repeat this guy ran 10,000 meters (6+ miles) in just over 28 minutes, with a mask on. The same mask you and I are being asked to wear. Yet you can’t put one on to go in the store for 10 minutes because “it’s really hard to breathe in those, I have Asthma. Anyone with asthma would tell you how hard it is to breathe in one of those.”

TRUMP'S QUEEG SYNDROME was in plain view Thursday morning in several paranoid tweets that Obama and Biden “spied” on his campaign, complaining “nothing happens to them," but the Supreme Court ruled that Trump may not be able to continue to hide his tax returns. How darned unfair. Referring to his allegation that Obama-Biden spied on him, Trump said, “This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another President.” Wrapping up, Trump tweeted that he's accomplished “more than any President in history in my first 3 1/2 years!”

MEANWHILE, our sinking ship racked up another single-day high of coronavirus cases, with more than 62,000 people testing positive, while California has reported a record 11,694 infections in a single day last week. And in the Lone Star state another 112 Texans won't be needing their cowboy boots.

SADDEST statistic on the day: One-third of American families missed their July rent and housing payments. 10% fear they could lose their homes in the next six months as the pandemic rages.

THE APOCALYPSE is moving right along, replete with consequences, large and small, no one could have predicted four months ago when the first walls came tumbling down. It hadn't occurred to anyone that one effect of working from home would be the sudden corporate realization that they really didn't need all that expensive central city office space. And if millions of men no longer had to suit up to go to work well, there went Brooks Brothers, the venerable men's suits purveyor, which just declared bankruptcy. Thousands of women's clothing stores have also disappeared, as have all those downtown businesses dependent on the daily in and out tides of office pinkies.

DR FAUCI has apparently been moved off stage by Trump, whose daily Queeg-like messages are ever more irrational. If the so-called Deep State and its generals were as all-powerful as the libs advertise them, Trump would have been removed six months into his disastrous reign.

I CHECK FAUCI every day for reliable plague information. The doctor is not encouraging, which is why Trump has stashed him outtasight. This morning Fauci said that Americans are left waiting for more than a week for coronavirus test results as the surge surges, which means "you might as well not do contact tracing because it's already too late." In Mendo, of course, the lag time is greater, and Governor Newsom said just today that the system can't keep up because the demands on it are too many.

RENT-A-COPS TO GUARD COUNTY ADMIN OFFICES. Heather Corell Rose, Senior Risk Analyst in the County’s Executive Office, reported to the Board on Wednesday afternoon: “Recently in the past week on Thursday before the July 4 holiday we had a threat to our staff guarding the entrance, a threat alluding to gun violence, basically that one of the members of the public would come back with an AK-47 and take care of all of her problems. She apologized afterwards, but this was many in a long line of hostile incidents that the individuals who were working at the front counter have experienced during this crisis. We also had an incident the previous week where a member of the public entered the executive office when he was told that he needed to wear a mask and to call for an appointment. This is kind of an ongoing issue we have had. This crisis is affecting everybody. Government is really an easy target. Those staffers were under so much of the abuse that we have had. We are in the process of getting a security guard by Monday. These staffers are not trained or appropriately vetted to be able to handle these kinds of security issues and enforce these masking policies. These are just regular staff. We want to make sure that the Board is aware that it was for the protection of our staff that we had to shut our doors for a while and regroup. Right now there is just a lot of unrest among the public and among our staff. They are very uncomfortable. Right now we just need to take those extra precautions to protect our staff.”

CEO ANGELO SELF-QUARANTINES, and directs that any employee who leaves the County and comes back for any reasons do the same. CEO Carmel Angelo, Wednesday, July 8, 2020: “I am home in quarantine. This is the first time that I have done this from my family room. I will be on quarantine for another few days and I will have a second Covid-19 test and then I should be able to actually return to the office. This is part of the protocol we are using to keep our staff and our members of the public that actually we serve to keep them safe. Anyone or any county employee who leaves the county for over 24 hours, the direction to the department head is to work with that employee and have that employee work from home for seven days and if they are without any symptoms and they choose to take a Covid test, they can, they may do so, and then come back to work. So I will be taking my second test and hopefully getting out of quarantine within the next few days.”

SIERRA WOOTEN of Fort Bragg: “Because we never talk about protest from the position of what power the protest gives you. The end result is justice. And if we seek justice. And if we put the government on its back and you bankrupt it, you put money on the line you will see white politicians cave quicker than you can ever imagine from some corny meeting you had where people are just playing games (or Dancing!). But if you are costing the city money you are gonna start having people say “we need to get these people out of the street. As long as we are in these streets, these police can’t go to their families and sleep. And in the time of Covid-19, when city and state governments are pinched because they are already allocating resources to healthcare and unemployment that they were not planning to allocate. You could break a system and bankrupt it right now. You could literally bankrupt Minneapolis. You can bankrupt the city by just standing (or Dancing!) in the street. Think people. Think people. Use their greed against them. Use their greed against them.”

MS. WOOTEN says on her facebook page that she’s looking for an “administrative assistant” to help her destroy Fort Bragg.

JUST when I thought Democrats couldn't possibly go lower, the leadership marched on stage in kente shawls to take a knee, Pelosi in color-coordinated pumps, Nadler too fat to kneel without doing a permanent face plant, so he just kinda tilts forward. Friends of mine say, "So, Mr. Negative, you're going third party again to give Trump another four years?" Well, Trump got his first four years because the kente shawls put up the only person in their flatulent party who could lose to him, and this time around they've managed to put up the only other candidate who could lose to him, although I think even Biden, by November forced out of hiding, his full senescence unmistakable, will probably eke out a win in November only to preside over what? The overall situation here in Liberty Land is like every crisis we've ever faced, but all at once, with crazy people and incompetents at the power levers. The high anxiety out there derives from the deep down conviction that it's all going to get worse, a lot worse. Hold my nose and vote for Biden? Not even in a virus-proof hazmat suit.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT will soon resume executions of federal criminals after years of no executions, apart from the annual thousands who get it overseas, of course. So three irremediable scumbags will be hauled out of their cells at midnight and strapped to gurneys, and in will walk a medical doctor sworn to do no harm with a big syringe of elephant tranquilizer that he plunges into the impenitent's arm, and we the people learn exactly what from this secret death ceremony?

FOR capital punishment to do what it's supposed to do the executions should be fully public, because they're supposed to deter the rest of us from committing similarly heinous crimes. But how can we be deterred if we don't see the deterrent in the act of getting deterred? A much more productive way to deter would be public executions with admission charged, the proceeds going to the victim's family. And to be totally fair about state-sanctioned murder the victim's family must not only approve the execution but must carry it out themselves with a weapon of their choice, no torture allowed. There are plenty of other arguments against capital punishment and no plausible arguments for it, other than the particular person being executed will definitely be gone.

TRUMP finally masked up today during a visit to wounded troops at Walter Reed Hospital as the country he is leading over the last cliff topped its personal worst record for new coronavirus cases, with 69,000 new diagnoses reported Friday, bringing the total American case number to 3,184,722, which is more than one million more cases than anywhere else in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Nine states — Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin — all topped their own records for single-day infections. Several states, including Texas, are imposing new restrictions while others, including Florida, are going ahead with reopening plans despite the rise in cases. More than 134,000 Americans have died from COVID-1 more than 50,000 more than anywhere else in the world.

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] With the economy collapsed, the stock market reaching record highs, the young people out partying on the beach and pulling down statues, and a psychopath with dementia waiting to take the reins of power, I’ve got the terrible, foreboding feeling that there is some kind of ignorant, flippant, obtuse evil spirit leading us into the dark deep abyss? It’s a kind of dark mass psychosis…. It’s like the face of one of those ancient Hindu gods on one of those Angkor Wat temples in the jungle in Cambodia….

[2] When Solzhenitsyn came to the U.S., he was shocked at the level of respect, even admiration and emulation, that criminals were held in. Movies, popular books, the casual attitude they had of criminals being justified because they were ‘sticking it to the Man.’

He’d detailed that in his last Gulag Archipelago opus, going over the psychology of jailers and other bureaucratic thugs, but was equally outraged by the so-called petty criminals of those who got sent to the camps for their crimes. Of course, Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner, and they were treated far worse than the criminals by the psychotic guards. But Solzhenitsyn also had to watch his back when criminals and other informers were around.

There hasn’t been enough push-back on the entire psychological profile and lifestyle of criminals in the West. If we’re not praising them for bold and ‘justified’ revenge on an oppressive system, we’re downplaying it as class ‘correction’ and the passing, mild, eternally existing problems of ‘bored youths acting out’.

It’s all bullshit. Go through the crime novels starting in the early 60s (precursor to the ‘free everything and everybody’ movements). Donald E. Westlake (also, pen name Richard Stark) wrote countless novels centered on the protagonist as total shithead who successfully robbed banks, rare emeralds, loaded safes, killing, along with his team, any good guys who got in his way. Occasionally, the bad guys were worse than the protagonist, as if the author were throwing the occasional sop at moral concern.

We’ve been trained to glorify violence and criminality since the 60s. It’s cool, and it’s even righteous, doncha know! (I’ll leave out Black hip hop, which, of course is even more apropos to the current linkages.)

There was a video a week or two ago showing a ‘Yout’ screaming at his wide screen TV, “I need the money” during the end of a basketball game in which his wager was going belly up. He threw heavy shit through the screen, smashed another TV, swore up a blue streak, then started fighting with his bros. My first thought: why wouldn’t he smash everything to shit? All he has to do is head downtown during the next riot (sooner than later) and shop for a better model at the smashed up retailer. Looting pays. Just make sure your mask doesn’t slip during Covid lockdown, and you’re good to go!

[3] The appalling things about all of these BLM “protests” is how they are largely populated by nihilistic college educated white millennials, and how they are aided and abetted by liberal politicians. The elephants in the room are the police unions. Lots of people talk about “bad apples” but they likely don’t appear that way until they’ve been on the force a few years. By that time it’s too late to get rid of them because their union will back them to the hilt. Pols of both parties know this of course, but they’re not about to rein in those who back them politically and financially. As soon as they did that they’d be at risk of losing to the opposing party. These ongoing protests are really a giant game of chicken and a larger version of the dramas that ended in the deaths of unarmed black men. Almost all of them follow the same script of petty crime, resisting arrest, and escalation of conflict resulting in death. The protests are similar. What starts as a peaceful demonstrations turns into destruction of property, looting, arson, assault, and sometimes murder. There hasn’t been much serious pushback yet, but it’s not out of the question that eventually the cops, National Guard, or simply someone defending themselves or their property over-react and protestors end up dead. If that happens you might have a bunch of white millennial “martyrs”. Where that leads is anyone’s guess, but none of it will be good.

[4] E. M. Forster, the author of A Passage to India, A Room With A View, etc is quoted as once asking “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?”

This is an important observation to make because it points to the role of writing as being a kind of thinking machine. We scribble down some thoughts, some facts, some opinions, and then in attempting to organize them according to well-known and time-honored patterns, we are able to lay out various ways in which these ideas are possibly related.

When one is unable to lay these ideas out using these time honored linguistic (writing) patterns, one may be confronted with the fact that possibly one is not making sense. So then one rewrites and rewrites until what one is saying does make proper use of these traditional semantic, cognitive and discursive patterns.

This is why we are asked to write paragraphs and essays in school. Our writing proves and improves the ordering of our minds.

Readers look for these patterns in whatever they read. If they are not present, or not sufficiently well-signposted, or are out of place, then readers become confused. They do not understand what point we are trying to make.

What are these traditional patterns? Well, there are lots – we can’t cover them all here – and to name them would require that we look at a piece of discourse at longer and shorter stretches. So for example we could have the patternings of a book, a chapter, a page…and, knowing the genre of a book, or a short story, the reader will read with certain expectations and understandings of the genre – and the writer may play with them and cross-refer them but ultimately must conform to them. Otherwise, there will be only a kind of confused communication.

On the comment page of a blog, many people will paragraph. There are a few ways to paragraph – mainly the choice is whether to organize the paragraph “Claim/Assertion + Support/Evidence” or the reverse. In either case, coherence requires that there be a sufficiently tight relationship between the opening of the paragraph and what follows. Otherwise one is perceived to be waffling. This relationship is most obviously maintained by vocabulary control. In such a case, we find that the words that one finds at the beginning of the paragraph, or similar or related words reappear throughout the paragraph (repetition, synonymy, paraphrase). That is how we know we are keeping to the same topic. And as they say (the fascists!), one topic, one paragraph. That is a pretty good rule of thumb.

Now, maintenance of coherence through vocabulary is of course just one feature of paragraph control. For example, the logic of sentence-relations can be demonstrated by what is known as the “Give-New” Contract” or as the basic principles of “Sentence Information Order”. This is extremely important. The basic principles are that units or blocks of information in a sentence should be ordered as follows:

1. Old before new

2. Short before long

3. Background before detail

4. Less important before more important

Note that when we say short before long, etc, this refers to what precedes or follows the verb, (of the main clause) which is the engine or perhaps the fulcrum of the English sentence. And also note that these are principles, not rules. Manipulation of these principles for effect are an intrinsic part of good writing and one must play them off against each other .

This idea of information order relates strongly to vocabulary choices as the re-use of certain words or their repetition through synonym or paraphrase is not only a strong creator of coherence but is also a strong marker of information as old or new, background, detail in the discourse. Among other things, it alerts us to the progress of the discussion as the scanning eye observes that with changes in vocabulary there may have been a change of topic or the introduction of new information. So one slows to read more closely. Vocabulary control is thus very important. Despite what our English teacher may have said, “elegant variation” is not our friend. Consistency is.

Further support to clarity comes from the use of explicit markers of semantic relations, words and phrases like but, so, in contrast, however, for example, in this way, in other words, and so on. Of course, the use of semantic (logical) markers can be overdone. Many semantic relations need not be marked. They are understood. For example, how does this sound?: “It was the best of times. It was also, as it happens, the worst of times”. It lacks the punch of the original, don’t you think?

Still, if we are making arguments, especially if we are making arguments to a hostile audience, it behooves us to make clear the logic of our arguments. I am not saying that we should apply semantic markers to our texts like salt from a shaker, but – contrariwise – if we do not use them at all, it becomes the case that not only will our readers not understand our argument, or see its many fine points, we may not be able to understand and critique our own ideas. And along that path lies not just madness, but perhaps worse, stupidity.

Of course, I could extend this little essay. I haven’t discussed basic issues such as the norms of comparison, chronological organization, description, and so on, but I feel I have written enough on this to make my point. And I do not want to waste too many of this blog’s pixels. So I will leave it here.

[5] To be sure, the insanity raging in America of our days has a complex diagnosis. Yes, the Dems’ surrender to street mobs (even if Nancy & Chuck are kidding themselves that they’re riding the tiger) seems the more obvious symptom, but beyond that, there is the craziness of everyone else, just as sinister. There is the unreal, ubuesque presidency of Trump who has no way of addressing voters with IQ over 80 (though many of the smarter ones still prefer a grifter as the moral justification for their own money swindles). And then you have the Right political insanity of trying to preserve a Republic where some citizens work full time and cannot afford a room with a private entrance to live while other citizens are allowed to make extra untaxed billions out of the global pandemic. It’s the kind formal equality to which Anatole France quipped that it gives the rich and poor equal right to sleep under the bridges. All that is supposed to become invisible by right-wing bafflegab of patriotism, anti-unionism, hatred of socialized medicine (which Bismarck gave the Germans in 1880’s), right to own battlefield automatic weapons, and wringing of hands over the horrors of abortion (not just the late ones), anti-tax hysteria, in short, the elements of what C.Wright Mills sixty years ago described as “the successful dodge by America, of many of the civilizing aspects of European 19.century”. It’s a bleak picture with nothing close to rational, common-sense political solutions anywhere in sight.

[6] Vast seas of ignorance resulting from preoccupation with hedonism as far as the eye can see. The only way to deal with it on a social level is abysmally deep denial and distraction.

America is a nation of consumers in search of experience and sad to say, that is all Americans are now. You are what you buy and that is all you are. Americans are addicted to a simulacrum of real life. Identity established through external symbols is a bland existence, if it deserves even to be called existence at all but that is all that is left to do.

Where can you discuss? Where in this society can you find people to discuss with that won’t make any conversation all about them? Where can you find people who even read beyond a bare minimum of functional literacy?

Americans embrace isolation and individualism. Hence America will be a blip in history. Fire and brimstone if only in a metaphorical sense is America’s future. Tyranny of the banal is almost complete in America now. Everybody who comes here knows this. And that fact is important to all of us for different reasons.

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