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Off The Record

FERNDALE HIGH SCHOOL'S football program has been put on probation for next season by NorCal's high school sports honchos. A few of Ferndale's more oafish fans have pelted visiting teams with what the school bureaucrats are describing as “racial epithets,” pronounced by them as “epitaffs” or “epilauts.” McClymonds and Salesian high schools both complained about Ferndale fan behavior which, it seems, boiled down to the behavior of one or two racists inflamed at the sight of black kids playing football. Ferndale's hard-hitting school management is putting together a plan pegged to banning repeat offenders from the hometown fan base.

“THE SEA SHELL INN, Point Arena, is closed until further notice. At approximately 3 p.m., Friday, March 16, 2012, following two days of through inspections by a team of City Officials, Licensed Building Contractor, Structural Engineer and County Officials, the County of Mendocino Building Official has red-tagged all structures. Notices of “Substandard,” “Unsafe” and “Dangerous Buildings” were posted to all exterior walls of the five buildings owned by Kenneth LaBoube in the City of Point Arena. The building were found to be unsafe to occupy, the premises to be vacated immediately. The buildings cannot be occupied until repaired and approved by the County’s Building Official. Subsequent to posting notices, official notification has been made to Pacific Gas and Electric for power disconnect of all structures today, March 19, 2012. It is understood that the water and septic services to the properties will be terminated in the next day or so. The Point Arena City Council is looking into future rehabilitation options for these properties.” — Hunter M. Alexander, Point Arena Administrator/City Clerk

THE SEA SHELL has long been regarded by law enforcement as a nest of dopers, mopers and gropers despite the best efforts of the motel's owners, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth LaBoube, to maintain order. There are certainly more dilapidated structures in Point Arena, and the South Coast, for even more of a certainty, possesses a distribution of unsavory citizens as menacing as any the Sea Shell might muster. Judged solely by its exteriors, the Shell wasn't bad at all. Maybe you had to be there after dark to understand why so many people wanted to see it closed down. An acquaintance told me recently that his overnight there a couple of years ago “was just about the scariest goddam night I ever spent anywhere.” He said the nests of tweekers in the rooms on either side of him were “up all night, fighting and yelling and blasting music,” which is what they do when they aren't perpetually taking carburetors apart and putting them back together again during daylight hours.

PROMINENT LEFT ECONOMIST, Doug Dowd, writes: “ For several decades — the USA in the lead — the main economies in the world have become dominated by their financial sectors, and they in turn have been transformed from being the most conservative to the most reckless sector of the economy and have also come to dominate politics. Far from being a coincidence, in those same years the U.S. economy was lurching toward recessions which are likely to become part of a global depression. Moreover, as the USA has weakened, so too have the societies whose best customer we have been; a process already under way in Europe (and which has worsened the weakness of nature's disaster in Japan). The oncoming election threatens to push an already precariously situated system over the cliff. Perhaps 'we the people' are too few to slow and reverse that tendency? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Now in my 93rd year, I was involved directly and indirectly in the efforts to reverse what is all too likely to be a repetition of the horrendous economic and military disasters of the interwar period. The positive efforts of 'ordinary people' in the USA which began to take hold after 1934 in the USA also reduced their hold and, after 1937, Wall Street regained its influence over the White House and the Congress. In Europe, in those same years, matters were worse: militaristic totalitarian nations which, along with Japan, brought about World War II. Now? The world — still led by the USA militarily, if not economically — is all too close to entering those same suicidal realms economically and militarily. It may or may not be too late for us to become seriously involved in prolonged political efforts working for democracy and peace. Perhaps, but the spread and deepening of the “Occupy” movements in the USA are a strong indication of the felt need for substantial economic, political, and social reforms; nor are such movements confined to the USA. Once more, we are on the way, indeed faced with, toward social-economic disasters. Those who created and profited from those developments still occupy the seats of power in the USA and elsewhere. It is not only our 'turn' to occupy those seats, it is our need to do so if we are to have decent and safe lives. If we work seriously and hard, we might get on our way to a safe and sane society; and we may fail. One cannot predict anymore than anyone predicted “Occupy.” If we win? Marvy. If we lose? It will be better to know we tried and lost than just sat back. No?”

FLIP OUT of the week: A 23-year-old Ukiah woman identified as Shanoa Ann Mitchell, 23, was in a drunken dispute Tuesday with her significant other when she allegedly tried to stab him with a cork screw. Sig Other took shelter in the bathroom but Ms. Mitchell again tried to uncork him the instant he emerged. Ms. Mitchell is also accused of attempting to rip a wall-mounted television set from its perch but, failing that, hurled a chair at her home entertainment center. All of this, uh, multi-tasking, occurred as Ms. Mitchell held her two-year-old child. She was booked into the County Jail on an array of domestic abuse and child endangerment charges.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Anyone who wants to know what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about need only look at the way Bank of America does business. It comes down to this: These guys are some of the very biggest assholes on Earth. They lie, cheat and steal as reflexively as addicts, they laugh at people who are suffering and don't have money, they pay themselves huge salaries with money stolen from old people and taxpayers – and on top of it all, they completely suck at banking. And yet the state won't let them go out of business, no matter how much they deserve it, and it won't slap them in jail, no matter what crimes they commit. That makes them not bankers or capitalists, but a class of person that was never supposed to exist in America: royalty. Self-appointed royalty, it's true – but just as dumb and inbred as the real thing, and every bit as expensive to support. Like all royals, they reached their position in society by being relentlessly dedicated to the cause of Bigness, Unaccountability and the Worthlessness of Others. And just like royals, they spend most of their lives getting deeper in debt, and laughing every year when our taxes go to covering their whist markers. Two and a half centuries after we kicked out the British, it's really come to this?” — Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone Magazine


GOVERNOR BROWN will join two groups gathering signatures for a timid state tax measure aimed at the wealthy. The California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign want to get their versions of a “millionaire” tax initiative on the November ballot. The Gov has his own tax initiative in the works but rightly fears that more than one tax measure on the ballot would cancel his out. The new proposal would be a hybrid of the two. It would increase the sales tax by a quarter of a cent instead of Brown's proposed half a cent. Personal income tax would go up by 1 percentage point for individuals making $250,000 a year or couples making $500,000 a year. Individuals making $300,000 a year or couples making $600,000 a year would see an increase of 2 percentage points. And, individuals making $500,000 and couples making a $1 million or more would see a tax raise of 3 percentage points. The personal income tax increase would last seven years, and the sales tax increase would expire after four years. The millionaires proposal has received far more support than the governor's plan in early polling and was a major focus of a rally of thousands of college students at the Capitol last week. The California Chamber of Commerce and the California Business Roundtable have stayed neutral on the governor's plan but opposed the millionaire's tax. Voters may still see more than one tax initiative on the November ballot, as millionaire civil rights attorney Molly Munger is pushing her own plan to raise income taxes on all but the poorest Californians.

THE WAR IS OVER, the War is Lost, Bring Them Home: “Any person who…with intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, refuses, in concert with any other person, to obey orders or otherwise do his duty or creates any violence or disturbance is guilty of mutiny.” — Article 94, Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military uprisings among the lower ranks have a long and fairly honorable tradition. The famous mutinies include Bligh’s HMS Bounty, the Indian Sepoy rising, Russian battleship Potemkin, British sailors’ strike at Invergordon, and lesser known mass revolts by French infantry divisions at the failed 'Nivelle offensive' in 1917, Port Chicago in 1944 by African-American sailors refusing to unload dangerous cargo, U.S. soldier strikes in the Pacific against General MacArthur, and of course widespread GI resistance in Vietnam that broke the back of the war. Afghanistan is an army mutiny by another name – on both sides. In 'green on green' killings, Afghan soldiers have been on a spree killing American and NATO soldiers. Now an American sergeant, on his fourth combat tour, with previously diagnosed Transitory Brain Injury, has “gone postal” to murder 16 Afghans including women and nine children. Yet the army doctors at the killer sergeant’s home base, Joint Fort Lewis-McChord, considered him 'fit for combat duty' and as for his brain injury was 'deemed to be fine.' Fort Lewis-McChord, in Washington state, is notorious for its cruel handling of returned combat veterans. Its forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Medical Center had two doctors fired for mistreatment or otherwise ignoring soldier complaints. The two included lead psychiatrist Dr William Keppler under whose leadership 285 diagnoses of PTSD were reversed because “we have to be good stewardships of the government’s money.” Since 2010, 26 GIs from Fort Lewis-McChord committed suicide. In this crisis of violence the command’s response was to lay off mental health caseworkers. This latest GI mental explosion by the staff sergeant was preceded by increasing acts of American troop indiscipline – Marines pissing on Afghan bodies, the Koran-burning fiasco, units loudly cheering indiscriminate Hellfire drone attacks on a village, etc. – that an increasingly demoralized junior and midgrade officer corps has neither the ability nor will to stop. The troops are protesting “by any other means” their entrapment in a no-win landscape where Washington politicians and career-crazy senior officers keep a war going beyond the limit of sanity. It’s no stretch to suggest that GI suicides, domestic violence by returning soldiers and their self-harm by narcotics are a depoliticized form of protest against the same despair that was felt by General Westmoreland’s cannon fodder at Hue or World War One poilu at the Chemin des Dames allied massacre when they refused to fight any more. The Afghani war is over. Yet the President, his cheerfully on-message advisors, and most of the stenographic media refuse to call it a night when the situation on the ground, with its secret night raids and fucked up soldiers, can only get much worse. Mitt Romney, who never served and has five military-age sons likewise, wants to stay there presumably forever and fight it out. Rick Santorum wants to hang in until 'mission accomplished' whatever that is. Yet even Newt Gingrich, from the militarized state of Georgia, says that 'we have lost' in Afghanistan and 'the mission is not doable'. What are we waiting for, an engraved invitation to leave? It will never come as long as Karzai and his crooks-in-government and our U.S. contracting corporations can keep milking the American taxpayer. A Rand Corporation study estimated that one in five veterans of fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers from major depression or PTSD. After years of struggle, at last the public sees PTSD as a serious illness that must be attended to. How long will it take us to recognize that what’s happening in Afghanistan is mutiny by another name?” (— Clancy Sigal, the author of the classic ‘Going Away.’ His most recent book is ‘A Woman of Uncertain Character’.)

A COUNTYWIDE plastic bag ban is on the Board of Supervisors agenda for March 27. Kind of. The Supes will first consider an environmental impact report in preparation for a bag ban. Similar ordinances are under consideration in Willits, Fort Bragg and Ukiah.

“TWITTER is unspeakably irritating,” novelist Jonathan Franzen told the London Guardian recently. “Twitter stands for everything I oppose. It's hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters. It's like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it's like writing a novel without the letter ‘P.’ It's the ultimate irresponsible medium. People I care about are readers, particularly serious readers and writers; these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves.”

FRANZEN also dissed Facebook: “We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery. And, since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don't have to have contempt for its manipulability in the way we might with actual people. It's all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To ‘friend’ a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.”

THE WILLITS BYPASS. Is it really a go? As we wrote a couple of days ago, Phil Dow, the local highway and biway guy, noted recently that the project will no longer be seeking funding from CMIA (corridor mobility improvement account) money, which is bond money. Dow told his bosses at MCOG (Mendocino Council of Governments, among whose duties is the disbursement of transportation funds), that “the rules are changing.” Really? Skeptics think it sounds more like CTC staffers and other insiders who thought they could go after CMIA funds because the Willits bypass project did not make the January 31 deadline for the Feb. 8 STIP hearing belatedly realized they couldn't get away with it. Prop. 1B bond money was supposed to go toward the most congested areas in the state. Bay Area transportation bureaucrats complained back in 2007 about using CMIA money for the Willits Bypass, and they’re undoubtedly still complaining in 2012. As of March 8, it's back to funding the bypass with STIP [State Transportation Improvement Program] money.

BUT THE STIP funding recommendations released by California Transportation Commission on March 8 show the Willits bypass as funded with “prior year” STIP money. Hmmm, that prior year money was pulled. It hasn’t been sitting there. And if there are extra funds from prior year programming that haven't been spent, it shouldn't be CTC staffers deciding where to re-direct it.

ANYWAY, the CTC staff's recommendation document, and other documents from the CTC regarding the 2012 STIP monies are all full of language about because there are more projects than there is money, projects can expect delays in funding, and how even previously “programmed” (i.e., funded) STIP projects will be “unprogrammed.” And how important it is that projects be “cost-effective.”

SOME THINK the federal transportation bill currently gridlocked in the US House of Representatives will mean plenty of immediate extra money for state transportation budgets, but the latest news is that the best that might be expected before mid-April is a short-term bill maintaining current funding. It's hard to believe all the other local transportation agencies in the state will put up with this Willits boondoggle this time around, either.

ADD TO THAT, the recent Caltrans announcement that the costs have gone up yet again — an extra $14 million just to build phase one. The extra costs are $6 million more for “mitigations” and $8 million more for structures. Caltrans says they’ll put up $11.9 million of the $14 million and MCOG will put up another $2.1 million in future local transportation dollars, further depriving Mendocino County of other long-overdue local road improvements for years into the future.

CALTRANS has already spent somewhere between $70 million and $130 million (it’s hard to get good numbers out of Caltrans) on the Bypass project (planning, design, development, environmental documents, rights of way, permits, major mitigations, etc.) and not one shovelful of dirt has moved. CalTrans and Mendocino County are committed to the project in lots of ways, chief among them the possible loss of the millions of dollars already spent if the Bypass isn’t built — for technical, financial or bureaucratic reasons. The current estimate for the construction of bypass is between $140 million and $150 million. But escalating costs are just one of several possible reasons that could stall the project in mid-construction, leaving Willits without a bypass and the taxpayers without hundreds of millions of dollars.

A STORY in Sunday's Chron asks, “How do you tell if someone is too stoned to drive? States that allow medical marijuana have for years grappled with how to determine impairment levels… Driving while impaired by any drug is illegal in all states. Authorities want a legal threshold for pot that would be comparable to the blood-alcohol standard used to determine drunken driving. But unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the blood long after the high wears off a few hours after use, and there is no quick test to determine someone's level of impairment — not that scientists haven't been working on it.” And there's this assertion: “One recent review of several studies of pot smoking and car accidents suggested that driving after smoking marijuana might almost double the risk of being in a serious or fatal crash.”

A READER immediately wrote in to say, “I've read several thousand accident reports in my career as a road safety inspector (from 1983-2003), so I consider myself somewhat informed when it comes to statistics about DUIs (when accidents are involved). Alcohol was responsible for approximately 90% of all DUI related accidents, next was prescription drugs, and then meth. Marijuana use, as far as DUIs were concerned, was less than 2%. And by the way, in that period of time, I've never read a report about a vehicle fatality caused by someone high on pot. In other words, this article is pure BS.”


AND PEBBLES TRIPPET is unhappy with the AVA for what Pebs describes as “You've said nothing good about me or marijuana people in so long, it would give you more balance to give someone credit, because of your known bias.”


THE PROB I have with pot's propagandists is that they downplay or ignore the drug's downside, especially in the way young people get the idea that marijuana is better for them than alcohol, not that young people seem to be much deflected from either substance. And the propagandists neglect to mention how much stronger the drug is than it used to be or how premature use by the young can cause adult schizophrenia in persons with a genetic predisposition to mental illness, the most convincing account of which is “Henry's Demons” by Patrick and Henry Cockburn. Cockburn's and Henry's account of Henry's long fight against schizophrenia coincides with my experience right here in Mendocino County where I've watched the children of stoners and non-stoners alike veer permanently off the rails from early pot dependence. There's also the smugness factor as nicely described below by former multiple substance abuser and AVA writer, Jeff Costello:

“NOT ONLY have pot smokers traditionally believed themselves righteously above drinkers, but there was/is a hierarchy of drug use. Cokers are 'better' than meth freaks, who are better than the winos while pill heads were and are divided into upper-and-downer camps. PCP was for the crazy bastards. Acid turned everyone a little weird for a while but most of us 'came back.' I turned to booze after meth and heroin each nearly killed me. I have to say that in my day, the crank was real. Had a croaker in Oakland to dispense scripts for the pharma version, too. Then alcohol nearly killed me.”

AMONG THE MOB assembled deep in the bowls of the County Courthouse for jury duty was the well-known actor Mathew Broderick. As often happens, everyone waited around for several hours until Judge Behnke finally appeared to tell the throng that both cases had settled, and that they and Ferris Bueller were free to resume their days off.

FROM THE MENDOCINO COUNTY Sheriff’s Office, an especially ominous report, especially to us seniors as we grow old and frail and the wolves circle: “On 3-17-2012 [Saturday] at approximately 2302 [11pm] the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Dispatch Center received information that an unknown type of assault had taken place in or near an address on East Hill Road in Willits. Deputies responded to the location and learned some type of physical assault had taken place at the location between the suspect (who was caretaking for the victim) and his grandfather (the victim). Deputies learned from family members that the victim was missing from the location and they could not find him. Deputies then started looking for the victim and eventually located him deceased, downhill, off the side of Mariposa Creek Road. Mendocino County Sheriff’s Detectives, with the assistance of District Attorney Inspectors, are continuing the investigation into the death of Richard Mel Wilkinson. Suspect Kenneth Wilkinson was arrested and booked into the Mendocino County Jail for a charge of First Degree Murder. His bail is currently set at $500,000. A forensic autopsy will be conducted sometime in the coming days. Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at 707-463-4086.”

HOLY MOTHER of God spare us all! You mean to say this kid beats up grandpa then shoves the old boy over the side? We all understand that Willits is Willits, but isn't this a little much even by North County standards?

JUG HANDLE SPARED. Or its execution stayed for a year, depending on your stores of relative optimism. $19,000 gathered by Alden Olmsted of Cotati will keep the state park open for another year. Jug Handle is located between Mendocino and Fort Bragg off Highway One. It was established by the late John D. Olmsted, Alden Olmsted's father. The California State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit campaigning to keep state parks open, put up about half the $19,000. The money will fund trash removal, and restroom and trail maintenance. Jug Handle was one of 70 state parks to be closed July 1 in a $22 million state budget-cutting move. It is now among 11 parks that have been saved by donations or other funding arrangements. In 1972, Olmsted's father fought the establishment of a motel on Jug Handle Bluff, which led to the property becoming part of the state reserve system. 59 more parks are scheduled to be closed with locally-based movements underway to keep 23 of them open, including Hendy Woods State Park near Philo.

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