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Off the Tops (December 1, 1999)

RANDY COLLENBERG and his wife died last weekend when their van left the road not far from Reno where Randy and his family were headed for some R&R. He’d just begun contributing his columns about his experiences driving a cab in the Arcata-Eureka area. I admired his work very much. It was lively and funny. I’d just received an e-mail note from him that he was going to drive down to scope out the AVA and meet us all. But he’s gone just when he was looking forward to publication of his first book. From everything I hear about him, Randy was a great guy. “The shock of his death is almost palpable here in Arcata,” Kevin Hoover of the Arcata Eye told me Monday. “Everyone knew him, everyone liked him. He was a local boy born and raised here on a farm just outside town.” I don’t know anything at all about Mrs. Collenberg, but Hoover said she was also well liked in the community. fortunately, the Collenberg’s three boys emerged from the wreckage uninjured. A long-time friend of the family was driving when the van apparently hit an ice slick on a curve and sailed off the road with three fatalities the result.

DOMINIC  AFFINITO gave the DA and the courts the middle finger in last week’s Fort Bragg Advocate. Affinito was supposed to have published a public letter of apology to Fort Bragg City Councilman Dan Gjerde by November 1st for having been found guilty of assaulting Gjerde last year. In last week’s Advocate, three full weeks past the letter of apology’s due date, this message appeared far back into the paper, among the classified ads:  (insert ad)

HUH? Interesting use of language here. “Spoke” — in Affinito-think — is shorthand for shouted obscenities and death threats. “Acted” — in Affinito-think — describes a physical assault, during which the unsuspecting Gjerde was knocked to the floor from behind then punched  numerous times. All of this occurred in Fort Bragg City Hall on an early afternoon on a work day in front of a dozen witnesses. 

AFFINITO  is also supposed to perform a number of hours of public service in Fort Bragg — very public public service. He hasn’t done so much as a minute of that yet either.

DA NORM VROMAN said Monday that the DA’s office has completed the paper work necessary to schedule Affinito for a violation of probation hearing. That hearing will be held in about two weeks. “I wanted a full-page ad of apology from Affinito,” Vroman said. “He’s circumvented the intent of the conditions of his probation and he’s playing games with us. We’re not going to let him slide.”

IT SEEMS to have been lost in the blizzard of Affinito news that he’s also suing the City of Fort Bragg to prevent council-persons Gjerde and Fort Bragg mayor Michelle White from voting on any matters having to do with him. They’re biased against him, you see.  A Santa Rosa attorney named Momsen is handling this cry baby legal gambit for Affinito. Affinito and his attorney are trying to get the Fort Bragg Advocate to give them Dan Gjerde’s personnel records from the time when Gjerde wrote for the paper. Affinito’s phony suit alleges that Gjerde was fired by the paper for “biased” reporting, the implication being that the biased reporting was aimed at Affinito. Unfortunately for the Fort Bragg scofflaw, Gjerde quit the paper; he wasn’t fired. Was his reporting biased? No. Over the years the Advocate has been the developer’s best friend.

IN RECENT MATTERS Affinito has been represented by Jone and Jim Jackson. Jone Jackson sent a whining letter a few months ago to the Fort Bragg City Council alleging that the City’s request to Affinito to move equipment stored by a construction company on property he owns near the North Cliff amounted to “harassment” of her client. In fact the interim FB City Manager merely reminded Affinito that storage yards weren’t permitted in that area of town. It didn’t matter who owned the property. To Affinito and his lawyer, Ms. Jackson, now a candidate for judge of the superior court, simply asking the guy to comply with the zoning laws translates as harassment.

JACKSON is also representing Robert Affinito, Dominic’s son, on a drunk driving charge. Naturally Affinito the younger has entered a not guilty plea.

IS SHE or isn’t she? Will Patti Campbell, 4th District supervisor run for re-election? Personal problems have apparently set off the crying jags that have startled persons attending recent meetings of the board of supervisors. If Campbell decides not to run, look for Jere Melo as the candidate of the Affinito-Baxman-Mitchell axis.

PG&E has its Potter Valley power plant up for sale. Everyone is nervous about it. More than 5,000 acres surrounding the plant and the famous Eel River diversion that feeds it will also be sold if PG&E gets its way. If the diversion is shut off to hopefully revive the Eel as a fishery, downstream users as far south as Marin County will be squawking. If the 5,000-plus acres are sold what amounts to a natural park may fall into clearcutting hands. About 160,000 acre-feet of water flows from the Eel into the power plant an on into the headwaters of the Russian River via a thousand-foot tunnel hand dug by Chinese labor at the turn of the century. PG&E has never logged its acres surrounding the diversion and power plant. The new owners might log it. Water flows through the diversion are federally controlled so it’s unlikely that the summer Russian river, fed for a hundred years now by diverting a lot of Eel River hot weather water to it, will be cut off. It is likely to be reduced, however, in the interest of fish habitat. Any reduction in present warm weather flow is naturally being resisted by downstream interests. This odd project, begun a hundred years ago to bring electricity to Ukiah and Potter Valley, has supplied the water for much of Sonoma County’s pell mell growth. 

TROUBLE in Potter Valley. The school district is hemorrhaging students; the superintendent has departed unexpectedly and no one will say why; a student football player who seems to have inherited uncharitable opinions about certain of his fellow students was suspended for calling them “niggers”, “fags”, “dykes,” and “chinks” was suspended from school then, supported to the max by his parents, indignantly transferred to Ukiah where he almost immediately got in trouble for continuing his teenage bigotry campaign; the wood shop teacher has been charged with assault on a student and fighting in public — he objected to an offensive lyric boomed out in his hearing by a student who was singing along to some rape and rapine melody popular with young people these days. One thing led to another and apparently the shop teacher wound up rassling with the kid, finally subduing him in a headlock. The school board has hired Don Kirkpatrick and Ralph Paulin to restore order. The pair of now retired school administrators not only have years of experience between the two of them, they’re smart and reasonable, and it sounds like PV Unified needs an infusion of both qualities.

MASON COOK, the owner of Big O Tires in Willits and one of the persons leading the Recall Vroman charge, has been represented in the past by none other than Al Kubanis. Al, we will recall (sic) came in a distant third to Vroman in last year’s race for the DA job. Surely Al the K wouldn’t have inspired his Willits client to go after the man who thrashed Al the K at the polls? Cook, by the way, had hired Kubanis to defend him against charges he’s assaulted the former owner of Big O. Cook lost. And a Willits neighbor of Cook’s is still shaking his head about the day Cook bought a couple of new tow trucks. That same week his employees’ pay checks bounced. 

ANOTHER  FATUOUS  editorial blast — unsigned of course — at DA Vroman appeared in the Press Democrat last Friday. The nut of it was that Vroman’s crime stats didn’t add up. Why, the anonymous author wanted to know, had Vroman asked the supervisors for more money when he says crime is down? And where, former DA Susan Massini, wanted to know, did all those felonies busted down to misdemeanors disappear to? The PD certainly isn’t about to try to find out, but let’s put on our thinking caps and see if we can. The request for more money?  Competent prosecutions of real crime is expensive and Vroman inherited an office that was both fiscally and ethically bankrupt. The money he requested, adjusted for inflation, new hires, raises and so forth is roughly equivalent to Massini’s budget requests. (Massini, we will recall, used the Fort Bragg arson investigation to justify her budget increase requests and then let the statute of limitations run out on the case.) Second, Massini routinely over-charged crimes, most famously in the Bear Lincoln case. (Other crimes weren’t prosecuted at all as in the instance of Massini’s twice-busted wife-beating political ally, Peter Richardson of Rainbow Construction.) The alleged discrepancy between cases filed as felonies and then not re-appearing as misdemeanors is probably due to the fact that they were fatally flawed to begin with, besides which in a county the size of Mendocino where there’s relatively little crime to begin with, the  statistical argument can be skewed by a dozen or so cases. Additionally, crime is down everywhere in the country and, at last look, Mendocino County was still affiliated with both the state of California and the United States, so crime is also down in Mendocino County. Under Massini, the Ukiah PD and Tuso Inc. saw all their arrests filed. It made the cops look busier than they were and it made it seem as if Massini and Co. were processing crooks on into prison within hours of their apprehension. Literally hundreds of these cases were tossed after they’d served their purpose as statistic enhancers. Vroman sorts cases out, which means the cops have to work harder preparing them. 

THE DA is never going to get a fair shake from the PD no matter what he does. Their editors are as lazy as their reporters. In the case of Vroman they’ve not only misrepresented his record they’ve created part of it to suit their mourning clothes for Massini. Will the PD do an in-depth on the Vroman recallers? A look at Mason Cook, perhaps? Of course not.

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT is a newspaper whose editors and writers hide from the public. They don’t do talk shows, they don’t argue in print. The whole mob of them, including Gaye LeBaron, who in some ways is the worst of the bunch for pure sanctimony quotient, take their shots then go to the mattresses as they did in the recent contretemps over who said what to SoCo supervisor Tim Smith. The PD, including LeBaron, lied about an exchange between a West Sonoma County woman and Smith. The paper said the woman had injected Smith’s late wife into an argument about the hazards of vineyard pesticides in West Sonoma County which, even if she had, is hardly an occasion for gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair since the poor thing has been dead for ten years. The transcript of the meeting revealed that the woman had made no reference to Smith or his late wife but had merely invoked the high incidence of breast cancer in Sonoma County. But LeBaron used the non-occurrence to tee off on Ann Maurice the West SoCo environmentalist and the gutless wonders in editorial chipped in with a couple of reams of bushwah about the need for civility at public meetings. The PD office on Mendocino Avenue in the Rose-free City, if you’ve never had the pleasure, is like a vertical bunker. You’ve got to get past a receptionist wrapped in bullet-proof plexi-glass to be buzzed into an elevator to get upstairs to where the lions of Northcoast journalism tap away at their word processors. Smug, stupid bastards they are, too.  As in this typically errant editorial cartoon from the PD of Sunday, November 21st:  insert cartoon

HOW MANY MORE WAYS  could this idiot drawing be wrong? Dissent is the province of hippies, aka lunatics. Protesters are hypocrites and frivolous besides because opposition to apartheid, the war on Vietnam and support for civil rights has been successful and now all that’s left for hippies to protest is ATM fees. 

ONE MORE ILLUSTRATION of the PD’s abdication. The paper has killed at least three stories on new developments in the Bari Bombing case, referring to the primary suspect, Bari’s former husband Mike Sweeney, as Bari’s “former associate.” When Sweeney called radio KSRO a couple of weeks ago to tell the station manager he would sue the station if Mary Moore and I went on the air to talk about the case, the guy laughed and said, “Sounds like great radio.” Sweeney also tracked down the station owner and threatened him with legal action if we were permitted to talk. That guy told Sweeney to buzz off. And talk show hostess Pat Thurston told us in the studio if they hadn’t backed her invitation to us “I was going to quit.” This is what principle looks like. It’s so rare among a mostly self-congratulatory media it’s almost startling.

FOR REAL WIT let us turn to the personals in the latest issue of the London Review of Books. “Please, no Blair-ites. Man hungry for intelligent political and cultural conversation seeks like-minded female. Call me pedantic, but Guardian readers need not apply.” And “Raconter tout serait impossible. And I’m not just looking for excuses. Female, 48, would love to meet intelligent male.” My favorite: “Sinister looking man with a face that only a mother would love: think of an aging Portillo with a beard and you have my better looking twin. Sweetie at heart, though. Charitable women to 50.” 

THIS SCHIZOPHRENICALLY plaintive press release from the Symphony of the Redwoods arrived last week after our deadline: “Symphony of the Redwoods opening concert on Saturday, November 20th at Cotton Auditorium was a stunning success! A large and appreciative audience heard an excellent performance. Then disaster struck. The proceeds from the box office were stolen on the night of the concert. Approximately $2,000 was taken. the Symphony needs to recoup this loss. If you attended the concert and wrote a check that evening, please call the Symphony at 707 964-0898. Thank you.”

THIS just in from Wolfgang Schubert of San Francisco: “There is indeed a place where you can get great cocoa without traveling to Mexico. Try XOX Truffles at 754 Columbus (SF), where Jean-Marc makes what I consider the best hot chocs. In addition, he gives one of his delicious, cocoa-dusted hand-made truffles and cocoa the way the French love it, with dark chocolate, strong and rich. You’ll be hooked in no time.”

ANOTHER  reason for voting for Tom Ammiano for mayor, as reported by F.J. Gallagher of The Independent: “On November 25th, 1997, John C. McCutchen wrote to Ammiano: ‘I am a gay San Francisco voter, an attorney who has been active in Democratic politics since I was eight years old. I have lived here for 20 years. I am appalled at your opposition to Supervisor Newsom’s resolution thanking General Powell for his fund-raising work for children in this community. Your tenure on the board has been characterized by a myopic and irresponsible focus...Your representation of the community at large and of the gay community is becoming an increasing embarrassment, especially to me, who has consistently voted for you each time you have stood for re-election. This may well change. Please forward a copy of this letter to Supervisor Newsom.’ To which Ammiano replied: ‘I pity you. You are full of self-hate. Forward it to Newsome yourself, and embarrass yourself further.’”

I WAS STARTLED by this headline in the latest edition of Richard Johnson’s Mendocino County Grapevine: “Whose Side Are You On, Bruce.?” I was even more startled by the bizarre editorial beneath written by Rudy Knoop, which begins “Dear Bruce Anderson” and then goes on to complain that the AVA has “ignored” the Remco mess in Willits and ends with a long rant about a caustic quote we ran a couple of months ago from a woman who had sat in on a Remco-Willits meeting, a quote that was highly critical of the lawyers now stonewalling the community on behalf of Remco and its insurance carriers. Rudy rites: “Telling them (Willits’ neighbors of Remco’s polluted former premises) it’s their fault anyway because their brothers-in-law probably worked for the armsmaker (sic) did not help them, nor does belittling their champion who worked for years as a toxic investigator for Greenpeace, the original fearless and committed Greenpeace, but maybe you didn’t like them either. Whose side are you on, Bruce? It’s really hard to tell, you know. Do you have any love for your nieghbors (sic) here, or just a lot of bitter, misanthropic venem (sic) to spew? Peace, brother. Rudy Knoop, Grapevine staff reporter.”

WE WILL NOTE here for the millionth time the violent prose the self-described warm, wonderful human beings of Mendoland write as they showcase their own splendid selves in contrast to the bitter, misanthropic venem spewers who tend not to take the warm wonderfuls at their own inflated valuation. Also note the falsification of the AVA’s long history of writing about Remco, most recently a piece by Jennifer Poole. Note, too, please, the failure to recognize some very good reporting on the issue by Mike A’Dair of the Willits News. And note that poor Rudy sends the letter to the wrong address. Yoo-hoo, Rudy. Over here. Boonville. Send the letter to the person it’s addressed to. In the same issue is Tanya Brannan’s cretinous letter calling me a liar which I’ve slam-dunked so many times now my arms are tired. Pretty sad bunch, these Mendo pwogs.

NOTE to Beth Bosk and that character who was with her the other night but waited until I was gone before he started the insults. Bosk was grabbing anybody she could to tell them I was a misogynist who had hurt many women doing good work in Mendocino County. Name one. (Against my better instincts because I know how awful she is to deal with, I’ve defended Bosk herself numerous times.) This particular canard is tiresome but irritating. It goes like this. The AVA, i.e. me, is so hard on Mendocino County’s self-anointed but unelected “progressive” leadership that they go home and pull the covers up over their heads.  If I would just shut up the forests would reappear, the streams would again be lush with fish, every pretentious remedial reader in the County would have his or her own talk show on KZYX. Who are these people who have been driven under their beds by the pitiless AVA? One either has principles one fights for or one doesn’t. No excuses. And again I invoke Willie Brown in the Bay Area media market. Do you hear any sniveling out of him even though he’s attacked round the clock by the gamut of media? The prob here in Let’s Pretend Land is that the pretension is on the other side of the world from performance. Hey! You want to pretend that KZYX is a public radio don’t get on my case because I argue that it isn’t. You think the MEC is a valuable center of environmental and social policy activism? I think it’s a joke and actually retards activism. Always has. Inquiries into the Bari bombing represent an attack on her “legacy”? Stumps care? Remember what Groucho Marx said about legacies? Legacy shmegacy. What did posterity ever do for me? We have political differences, little ones. Always have. That’s the long and the short of it. 

BEST STUNT so far up in Seattle at the WTO festivities was last week’s sabotage of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (and it’s at least a hundred years post intelligence for a fact). A group of creative somebodys wrapped four-pages around an edition of the daily paper indistinguishable in format from its usual servings of corporate propaganda. However, the wrap contained headlines reading, “Boeing to move overseas” by Joe Hill (the Wobbly executed by a firing squad in Salt Lake City in 1915 for allegedly murdering the owner of a grocery store. There was no direct evidence Hill had committed the crime, but he was not only an anarchist, he was the author of a lot of radical songs the West’s bourgeoisie hated because the tunes held the owning classes up to ridicule. Other headlines read “Clinton pledges help for poorest nations”; Monsanto patents food chain”; and “Economists fear global epidemic of underpollution.”

ATTENTION KC MEADOWS. KC, will you pleassssssssssse stop whoever it is at the paper who titles almost all the letters “More on” this, that or the other issue? The other day there must have been a half-dozen consecutive letters with titles on them that began “More on,” which translates to most of us more ons as moron; as in extremely stupid; as in the more ons who administer Mendocino College, for instance.  The “More on” approach to letter titles is quite upsetting to us morons. It’s like the Ukiah Daily Journal is blaming us for everything.

SPEAKING of bigotry, that was quite a speech Charlie Walker unburdened himself of the other day down in San Francisco. Walker, a good friend of Willie Brown’s, began by saying the current investigation of him by the FBI over rigged contracts at the perpetually-under-construction SF International Airport is racially motivated. Perhaps. e FBI isn’t exactly a liberal organization and the Perhaps. e FBI isn’t exactly a liberal organization and they seem to take a suspiciously intense interest in relatively petty Bay Area public contracts whose beneficiaries just happen to be black. On the other hand, Walker did three years in the mid-1980s for documented improprieties having to do with his manipulation of programs designed to help members of ethnic minorities get a fair shot a construction contracts. Walker said the FBI was going after him to get at Willie Brown, another perennial object of FBI attentions. That may turn out to be a true statement. “You guys want to discredit Willie Brown because he’s got two nigger friends, but you never ask how many white people made money off Willie Brown — how many white people have made millions. Once white people put Brown in a white position, he’s supposed to totally ignore his black friends and be like Amos and Andy. And the minute he doesn’t, you (the media) go on a rampage — We got to find out something on that nigger!....The fair white man never breathed breath in the world. Racism drives this country like gasoline drives a fucking car....We came in the ass-bottom of a slave ship. That’s different from a person leaving China to get away from the tyranny of Mao.... or jumping the fence from Mexico. We are not a minority, we are ex-slaves...Everybody is white in America but us, don’t kid yourself.” Walker went on to point out that white women have benefited most from affirmative action and that Chinese -Americans benefit from minority contract set-asides even though they join Whitey in discriminating against blacks.

MUCH  of what Walker says is true, although John Brown was and is a consensus fair white man among black people. But thanks to the liberals of the Clinton type, the plan to assist people who, as a group, had indeed been brought here as slaves and violently oppressed right on up through the 1960s when the oppression put on a tie and went discreet, have been shoved aside by people whose historic passages have been a relative walk in the park. J. Edgar Hoover, the spectacular closet case and all-round nut pie who founded the FBI and recruited his G-Men from among constituencies hardly synonymous with sophistication — primitive Catholics and even more primitive Mormons — was a hardcore racist. Walker has grounds for suspicion, I’d say. The whole idea of advantage based on race, gender and now even sexual practices is a literal dead end street that couldn’t be better designed to cause ill will. I’ve never understood why means testing was the first consideration then some kind of point system based on the immutable facts of race and gender. Looking around Mendocino County, members of ethnic minorities are invisible in the good jobs. 

A READER sends along this item: The U.S. government in the form of the FBI has ordered a private Web site taken off-line without a hearing, a court order or other legal authority. The Web site is called ISP. ISP’s removal was noted by the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table. What’s ISP?

THE PRESENT FBI Louie Freeh’s FBI, has its headquarters in the ‘J. Edgar Hoover Building.’ So, he asked innocently, “are we really expected to believe that the FBI has given up their bad old ways if it still honors the old bastard by naming its headquarters after him?  Sort of like if the present German state police named its headquarters the ‘Martin Bormann Building’ do you think maybe we might be justified in not believing they had changed much?”

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