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Off the Record (May 19, 2021)

RUMOR awaiting a yea or nay from the KZYX politburo says the semi-public radio station is leaving Philo for new headquarters in Ukiah. At its murky beginnings thirty years ago by a hustling Boonville Republican called Sean Donovan, and staffed mostly by pliable liberals from Anderson Valley handpicked by Donovan, Ukiah backers of Donovan's enterprise wanted the station placed over the hill with them at Ukiah, the logical site for a radio station offering prudent news and prophylactic interviews with local luminaries. But Philo won out, Donovan collected a then-hefty $30 thou fee for bringing semi-public radio to Mendocino County and moved on, and here we are.

THE CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL Garberville office has identified the driver of the 2019 Hyundai Accent that struck and killed 41-year-old Paul Brown of Fort Bragg. Brown died in the early morning hours of Friday, May 7 on Sherwood Road outside of Willits. Aaron Lee Manning of Willits, having initially left the scene, surrendered to the CHP voluntarily the next day. The case is under investigation.

HOW TO BEAT MY RECALL, by Gavin Newsom. The Governor is proposing that millions of “poor and middle-class Californians” get tax rebates of up to $1,100 as part of a “broader pandemic recovery plan” made possible by the $75 billion state budget surplus. Taxpayers making between $30,000 and $75,000 a year would get a $600 payment. Households making up to $75,000 with at least one child, including immigrants in the country illegally who file taxes, would get an extra $500 payment. “We believe people are better suited than we are to make determinations for themselves on how best to use these dollars,” Newsom managed with a straight face.

AND NOW LOCUSTS. The Apocalypse seems right on schedule, what with the cicadas reawakening after their 17-year sleep to provide background music for drought, plague, wars in “the cradle of civilization,” mass shootings, and fifty million Trumpers. Boonville, however, slumbers on, which is what those of us who love the Anderson Valley like most about our detachment from the chaos beyond. 

WE KEEP a close eye on Northcoast crime, not because we're any more morbid than the next person, but because crime represents a handy daily report on the state of the economy. Drugs and drug-related arrests by far outstrip arrests for property crimes. 

JUST this week in the small town of McKinleyville, Humboldt County, a raid on an ordinary-looking tract home revealed “five pounds of methamphetamine, a digital scale, and packaging. Agents also located a stolen .357 revolver that had been reported stolen to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department during a residential burglary on Highway 36 in 2017. Agents also located and seized approximately $6500 in US currency pending an asset forfeiture investigation.”

THAT'S a lot of crank for a small town, and $6500 is a lot of cash, so business seems to be booming. The brief respite from despair that fuels the mass resort to substances which, for a day or so, puts the despair on hold, has caused woe upon woe, and not a family in this country has been untouched. Thus spake the editor of an outback weekly who may or may not know what he's talking about, but does despair himself at seeing so many young people wrecked way before life throws all of us up on the rocks. 

MY DRUG EXPERIENCES were mild alongside a lot of those I read about. I took those white cross speed pills a few times back in college, mescaline and LSD in '68 with the rest of the lemmings, never liked the groggy fog induced by marijuana, never had any desire for downers, and still remember the first and only time I snorted cocaine. That was on an afternoon with a friend whose name Mendo people would recognize; we were about ten miles up on the road to Ukiah from Boonville where, looking south, you could often see that small herd of wild goats that used to roam the Feliz Creek watershed. The sensation I remember was the sudden clearing of my nostrils, and the second sensation was the sight of Deputy Squires giving us the fisheye as he drove past the turnout where us two junkies furtively did a line, my one and only, although cocaine was all over Mendocino County at the time, circa '75. 

END TIMES UPDATE: Gas stations from Florida to Atlanta and Virginia were still reporting shortages at the pumps over the weekend, and a state of emergency was declared by the governor of North Carolina, as the effects from the four-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline continued to be felt. The 5,500 mile pipeline, running from Texas to New Jersey, carries 45 per cent of the fuel for the East Coast, and was shut down from Friday until Monday. Atlanta was among the first to report shortages, with motorists reporting on social media their frustrations as they went to three gas stations looking for fuel. Patrick de Haan, an energy expert who runs Gas Buddy gasoline tracker, tweeted: “Conserve, conserve, conserve.” A Russian-based hacking group, DarkSide, on Monday apologized for the hack, saying they were not political and did not seek “societal consequences.” They said they were only in it for the money. Which they apparently got, and Colonial’s spigots are again in the on position.

MEDIA NOTE: The Press Democrat's story on the plane retrieval from Lake Mendocino was single-sourced — Justine Frederickson's story in the Ukiah Daily Journal but not Justine. At least the Journal got credit.

ALL THE EXCITED MEDIA talk about this fire season will surely ignite the pyros, a dozen or so of whom are already on the Sheriff's watch list. Additionally, local police departments have their own fire bug watch lists, Ukiah's PD for sure where bums — the homeless, if you prefer — have set fires in retaliation for their camps being broken up. Only yesterday a voluntarily homeless guy torched the Noyo bluffs in Fort Bragg. The upside of that incident? He was observed by other house-less people who turned him in.

WATER, WATER… Not everywhere, for sure, but there sure are a lot of people hauling water and it's only May. Many of these haulers are unlicensed, some of them are stealing water from municipal sources. Others pump out of battered creeks.

HOW FAR out of control is the Green Rush in Round Valley? I was shown a night time cell phone photo of just one neighborhood of Covelo taken from a hillside. If I hadn't known what I was looking at I'd have thought I was looking at nocturnal San Francisco. But there they were, acres of illuminated hoop houses, lighting a vast campground of bad boys from virtually every state in the union and more than a few foreign countries.

LAZ OF WILLITS: “I don’t know why the four Supervisors who support Phase 3 don’t come clean. Everyone knows the County thinks doing business with Big Tobacco, or Flow Kana, or whoever’s like them, is easier than dealing with many of the small growers.

Imagine, County dope inspectors driving miles on lonely dirt roads, entering through locked gates. In some cases, chained and trained guard dogs growling and lurching at anything that moves. Sketchy individuals, vibing the county’s dope inspectors. The county can’t pay enough for any sane person to do that job.

On the other hand, with Phase 3 the County believes there will be clean-cut, buttoned-down facilities.

The well dressed employees will meet the county officials with a cup of coffee or a cold drink.

The check or cash will be waiting, with a firm handshake and a smile. Automatic gates will open as the county car drives up or down the paved driveway.

Sorry to say, but in most cases, the small grower’s days are numbered. It may take a few years, but Big Dope is coming. In fact, it’s already here.”

RED BEARD, the Elk-area burglar, almost got himself killed last week when the entire night shift of Coast law enforcement descended on him. Red Beard is a young man unlikely to ever draw a social security check. Judging from his plaintive shout to "leave me alone" as a fleet-footed deputy closed in on him near the Cameron Road home he'd just robbed, or at least entered, he may also be mentally ill. But emphasizing his request to be left alone by firing several shots in the direction of the pursuit, he's now the object of an area-wide manhunt likely to end badly. For him.

LAST SEEN on Cameron Road near Elk where he initiated gunfire with deputies pursuing him on foot, Red Beard is reminiscent, in this early stage of his saga, of Aaron Bassler. Red Beard apparently roams the vastness between west Ukiah and the Mendocino Coast, and seems to know the area fairly well. He could be out there for a while, but now that he’s come up shooting we could have a reprise of the Bassler affair. 

IN 2011, Aaron James Bassler was shot to death a little after noon on a perfect fall day not far from Sherwood Road, Fort Bragg. The 35-year old Bassler had shot and killed two Mendocino Coast men before disappearing into the woods north and east of Fort Bragg where, for 36 days, he successfully eluded a multi-agency police noose that slowly, inexorably tightened around his doomed neck. Bassler was spotted as far north as the southern edge of the Lost Coast and, to the south not far from Sherwood Road. 

ON HIS FINAL DAY at his last hour, the troubled Fort Bragg man was walking south on an old logging road, not two miles from his mother's house and about four miles east of downtown Fort Bragg, when a three-man specialized police hit team from Sacramento ended Bassler's life with seven shots to the fugitive's upper torso, and at least two high powered rounds to his head.

THE LATEST lopsided fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians has followed the usual script; Hamas responds to an Israeli provocation, Hamas brings down hell on the heads of the people they say they represent. Then, whomever's the American president duly says something like Biden said yesterday, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” And, as implied, Israel also has the right to operate an apartheid system for Palestinians more thoroughly oppressive than South Africa’s apartheid ever was, while Jewish fanatics, many of them of American origin, throw Palestinians out of their houses and off their land based on an Old Testament claim that they own the whole area.

CONSCIENTIOUS persons, aka ava readers, will want to inform themselves of these distant events in the land where the prince of peace was born, and might best do so by reading these two books, the first a brilliant novelistic exploration of the forces involved in Israel by the late Robert Stone in his novel, “Damascus Gate,” which might be more accessible to the average reader, and certainly more entertaining, than Israel Shahak's, “Jewish History, Jewish Religion,” but the latter is also accessible and invaluable as an introduction to the ongoing wars. 

CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: “The blues today seems to resemble rock & roll more than real blues. The old blues had subtleties. Today they just want to beat you over the head with volume and technique. As if being able to play fast had meaning. It has no meaning if you’re not saying something and today it seems like most people don’t really understand the feeling of blues so they have nothing to say and there sure ain’t no feeling like it used to be.”


Dear Brookside Families,

At the end of our 2nd through 5th grade recess period today, an adult came up to the fence, remained outside of the fence and play area on The Alameda and began to speak to a small group of students. Staff supervisors immediately guided students away from the fence to begin their return to classrooms. As staff were walking to the fence to speak with the adult, they observed that a police officer was speaking with the adult. Police spoke to him for a short period of time and he left the area. Brookside staff followed safety protocols for any adults who approach students. Occasionally, we need to remind neighbors to not speak to students through the fence. If you have any questions about this incident or our safety protocols, please reach out via email.


Judith Barry-Gougeon

Brookside Elementary School, San Anselmo

AS IT HAPPENS, I'm a Brookside Family via my two grandchildren. The school is two blocks south of my weekend sepulcher. There is a facebook-like presence for the area called Next Door on which everything from garage sales to “suspicious persons” are posted. “Suspicious persons” are few, and the police seem to be about three minutes away when, as in the incident above, they appeared almost immediately as the school as the surrounding neighborhood and the school went on full perv alert. 

I’M REMINDED of an episode in my old Frisco neighborhood near Spring Lake where a male bird watcher was confronted by an angry posse of young mommies who claimed he was taking photographs of their children. In the San Anselmo incident described above by the hyper-vigilant (warmly yours) school lady, it seems safe to conclude that the man chatting with the children was not a perv or he would have been detained by the responding officer. Turns out the suspect guy lives across the street and was simply tossing a soccer ball back over the playground fence. Bottom line? Social relations in this country are poisonous. Chomos? Registered sex offenders? Virtually unknown sixty years ago. Of course Marin was much less warmly then.

THEY SAY the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but Liz Cheney never fell from the tree at all, always her father's political daughter, magically become a liberal heroine lauded by the NPR-CNN-MSNBC Axis for standing up to Orange Man. Political talk having been shoved so far to the neo-fascist right, a medium warm fascist like Liz is held up as a beacon of principle!

A UKIAH READER COMMENTS, re: Possible use of the Ukiah Adventist ER as Psychiatric Health Facility: “Adventist management is suspect in many quarters. It will suck every dollar out of anything, with only the barest regard for quality care, and then slam the community with even more reimbursements when costs escalate. The staff is largely competent, but the managers are out of town Adventist hacks. They milk everyone - patients, vendors, government agencies, whomever. Camille Schraeder is a lightweight in comparison.”

IF YOU NEED another reason to love the legal profession, you'll be heartened by a KQED report that roughly 90% of PG&E's court-ordered Fire Survivor Trust expenditures for 2020 went to “overhead” — $51 mil went to lawyers and administrators, $7.2 mil to survivors. There's $13.5 billion in the fund set aside when the courts determined that PG&E negligence killed a number of the power monopoly’s customers and burned thousands of people out of their homes. 

THE LAWYER in charge of the fund is paid $1500 an hour while another $38.7 mil has been raked off by “financial professionals” and the usual contingent of consultants. The attorney representing several thousand claimants said he didn't think any of these expenditures were improper, lest his clients be stuck in the payout pipeline forever.


[1] Complexity is also a ruse.

Do you really understand your phone bill?

Ever argue with an auto mechanic?

Medical – pullllleease.

These are the diminishing returns of technology. A world so complex, only the high priests of technology (the current fascists) can understand and explain it all. Only the high priests of medicine can understand and explain it all. Only the high priests of government can understand and explain it all.

It’s how they pull the wool over our eyes, every single time.

At this point, a world made by hand is more a prayer than a novel.

[2] Many things that I purchased from the Dollar Store ten or fifteen years ago look like high-quality items, and of course are no longer available there. The folding bookcase I sent my daughter off to college with was $15 at the time. Last time I looked online they were about $75. When I take the glass candle-holder that I paid a dollar for to outdoor craft events (as a paperweight), people swoon over it and ask me where I got it. Things you thought were makeshift items for poor people now look like quality stuff.

[3] “The whole Dope Growing Game has been a cat and mouse shit happens with the cops scenario from the very beginning in the 70s.

You take your chances and see what happens. In the modern era of illegal growing you have the added factor of permitted growers jumping thru hoops to survive who are not so happy to see their illegal grower neighbors getting away with harvests with no permits. It’s enough to piss anyone off. The upshot is some illegal people get turned in. They also could have gotten turned in by neighbors that were just tired of their antics or the cops could have detected them all on their own.

It’s all part of the triangle growing game now, it is what it is. To cry about every bust, no matter how egregious, as an outright injustice is wacky. And so what if a permitted grower turned them in, it’s the chance they took growing illegally.

Shit happens.”

[4] Is Liz Cheney the last sane Republican?

She’s the most outspoken one, but I’m sure there are many sensible Republicans (no, not entirely an oxymoron) who agree that Trump is batshit crazy and an inveterate liar.

But they remain scared that the Fat Elvis Phase still has a bit of juice in it, and they don’t want to be primaried out of their careers. So the party has gone full tilt anti-fact, anti-science, anti-election, anti-worker, and anti-truth.

The scary thing is that there are still 40% of the populace who will vote for these people because of Orange Man. Amazing stuff. 8 November 2022 will be a watershed, I feel.

[5] The lawyers and government employees listed in the article are all sipping margaritas in the same giant hot-tub together. It’s located in DC and they know they can do exactly as they please — including deleting election results, forgetting the passwords, and giving the voters of Arizona, and by extension, the US voters, the middle finger. 

They know that we know (making only the most gullible really believe they’re in any sense patriots) the system is corrupt and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. Their arrogance and thinly veiled contempt directed at the people who disagree with them or don’t hold the same views are not even disguised anymore. 

For years, 70% of the public in poll after poll wanted a form of public health insurance for everyone yet what did we get? The Orwellian Affordable Care Act which jacked up premiums and the cost of medicine to stratospheric levels. And the Republicans are no better. They accept plenty of loot from medical lobbies.

[6] I've supported the science all along, and will continue to do so. Now we're divided into those who are protected (vaxxed) and those who just don't give a shit. At this point just open it all back up? Options are to continue to require masks due to the stubbornness of some, or have vaccine passports. Neither option works. I'd definitely be in favor of higher insurance cost/deductible for those who simply refuse, and then become sick. That's a way to have the rest of us med insurance payers not indirectly bear the cost of vaxx-deniers through overall higher premiums.

[7] Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to send $600 checks as California has a $76 billion surplus. Instead of a gift to some, how about addressing the major problems affecting the state? We have the highest state income and sales taxes, the second-highest gasoline tax and housing prices, education ranked No. 29 (with teachers third in salaries), the largest homeless population, a drought and the middle-class leaving the state.


  1. Rye N Flint May 19, 2021

    Goldminers make bad drivers

    A couple pulled onto Hwy 101 with a new Chevy pickup, hauling a loaded dump trailer. I pulled onto 101 from across the highway, and sped up in my car to get in front of them. They apparently took offense to this, and felt it necessary and justified to tailgate me at speeds up 70 MPH. I brake checked them, which only upset them further, to the point they were cutting off drivers and swerving in and out of traffic to follow me to work at speeds up to 90 MPH. They followed me all the way to my work parking lot in Ukiah, they felt it necessary to tell me I cut them off, and I was the one who “almost caused a wreck”. We exchanged some heated words about speed limits with trailers, and told each other we took pictures of each other’s plates. I took additional video footage, and am going to see if I can pull rear backup camera footage off of my car. Please just take your trash to the dump like a normal person, gold miners, don’t get all agro in your new grow dozer because someone is in a hurry to go to a real job.

  2. chuck dunbar May 19, 2021

    That’s a nasty start to the work day, Rye. Glad you are ok–some folks are just nuts, and it was your bad luck to happen upon them that day….

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