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Off The Record

BILLY MAYFIELD, formerly of Willits, will be out of prison by Friday. Sentenced in 1985 to 17-to-life for the murder of Mark Snyder, also of Willits, Mayfield was held nearly ten years past his release date although he'd amassed a literally perfect record as an inmate. Successive governors had refused to release Mayfield out of fear they'd be seen as “soft on crime.” Mayfield is now 54. He went to prison when he was 28. The late Mendocino County District Attorney, Norm Vroman, described Billy “as a Department of Corrections poster child for what a prisoner can do.” Mayfield has completed his college degree through UC Davis, and he's compiled the nearly miraculous prison record of not a single disciplinary write-up in all the years he's been confined. Billy is the lead man of the prison's optical lab, a prison-run business generating upwards of $3 million a year.

A READER COMMENTS: “Watching the news on Channel 5 last night (Monday) there was a Chevron ad boasting of their competence and safety-consciousness amidst the reports of the fire... This morning (Tuesday) on Channel 2 news a restaurant fire in SF (common as mud, happens at least once a month) is getting more play than the disaster in Richmond. It's obvious that Chevron is in charge of the coverage... Here in Alameda the air was discolored and smelled like car exhaust.”

JUST IN FROM BILL HARPER: “An internet search for; “radiation test results on fish and seaweed since Fukushima' reveals that the test results showed elevated levels until May when both the US and Canada quit testing. Instead the US, Canada and Japan are seeking to raise the “acceptable” levels. Official sites claim the danger is “probably unlikely” and they “don't believe” the short life radionucleotides. Short life nucleotides give up all the radiation much faster therefore radiate at a higher rate than the same amount of longer lived isotope. Last weekend the largest protests ever held on the Hiroshima anniversary were held. Complete news blackout."

UPDATED INFORMATION NOTICE from the Sheriff's Department: “ On 8-6-2012 The Mendocino County Sheriffs Office sent out an original press release which stated the vehicle traffic monitoring device boxes installed within the Ukiah and Lansing Street area belonged to Cal-trans. The devices were actually installed by the Mendocino County Department of Transportation, in order to evaluate traffic issues in the specified area, at the request of Mendocino Residents and business owners.”

MAN BEATERS of the week: Ms. Kamile Magnone of Comptche still looks hacked off even after being hauled over the hill and booked. You have a right to be hacked off, Kamile. Just because you smack El Wimpo one, which he undoubtedly had coming, he calls the cops and points to the teensy red spot on his cheek as evidence that you hit him? Case dismissed! Then there's the more resigned-looking Jamie Marie Kapitan, 22, of Fort Bragg. At 5'2” and 110 pounds it's hard to imagine Ms. Kapitan doing much damage to her significant other, but crimenently, Jamie Marie, if Sig Other's calling the cops on you for popping him one it's time to make him permanently insignificant.

EXPLAIN TO ME, SOMEONE, why this thing needs a taxpayer sign off? The Supervisors have signed a deal that sells $10 mil in bonds on behalf of Vintage Wine Estates, Inc., a private company, so Vintage can "expand into Mendocino County for the acquisition, rehabilitation, construction, improvement and equipping" of a 40,000-square-foot wine manufacturing facility on 37 acres in Hopland.

MENDOCINO COUNTY is not investing any funds and has no liability, or so it has been explained. But why involve the County at all? And you can be sure that if a public entity signs off on a public-private arrangement, if the private part goes broke creditors will lay siege to the deep pockets county. In this particular deal, for signing off on $10 million in booze bonds, the County is supposed to get $6,000 for the General Fund and a similar amount to be donated to a local non-profit.

HOW MANY of Mendo’s 700 or so members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) (mostly County employees) know that SEIU is considered by many critics to be run by one of the most, if not the most out-of-touch leadership groups of any union in the United States? David Moberg, long-time senior editor of In These Times, a labor friendly weekly magazine, recently published an investigative piece titled “Wrong Union For the Job: SEIU wants to lead a campaign against the 1%. Critics wonder if it can.” A few even wonder if it even wants to.

SEIU IS AT LEAST as important as fund-raising arm for the national Democratic Party as it is for their members. And many of SEIU's newest members have not been obtained by old fashioned organizing. They're the result of “mergers” (i.e., pirating) existing unions. SEIU now claims to have about two million paying members. Mendo's County employees pay between $25 and $40 each in monthly dues for which they get, well, not much of anything, but do the math. The Mendocino County local sends far more to SEIU headquarters than it gets back in representation, with a lot of that money going to professional corporate Democrats.

UNTIL RECENTLY, SEIU was run by uber-Clintonion Andy Stern who never saw a Democrat he didn’t like, no matter how anti-union they might be. In 2009, Stern famously took a plane ride to China in WalMart’s private jet with WalMart CEO Lee Scott. In 2010 Mary Kay Henry was elected President of SEIU after a bitter “executive board fight," and no fight is more bitter than one among grasping liberals. Ms. Henry's SEIU spout slogans like creating “member organizers” and “member leaders” who will be “champions of the 99%” and “change the national conversation.”

THE LEADERSHIP basically champions itself and hack Democrats. SEIU is a top-heavy, topdown union which gives very little autonomy to its locals and which is willing to conspire with management in organizations (both government and corporate) if they see an opportunity to snag more paying members.

A RECENT PRESS RELEASE from SEIU headquarters gives a hint of how top-heavy they are: “Eleven New International Executive Board (IEB) Members Elected; Two Executive Vice Presidents Named. Also at this week's meeting, the board elected four new vice presidents: Edgar Romney, Noel Beasley and Alex Dagg from the Workers United conference and Kim Cook of SEIU Local 925, who was already a member of the IEB. Seven other leaders were also elected to the board, including Neal Bisno (SEIU Healthcare PA), Laphonza Butler (SEIU Local 6434), Marge Faville (SEIU Healthcare Michigan), Mark Fleischman (Workers United), Lynne Fox (Workers United), Sergio Salinas (SEIU Local 6) and John Tanner (SEIU Local 721). The IEB also elected two new Executive Vice Presidents: Workers United President Bruce Raynor and SEIU Director of Property Services Mitch Ackerman.”

AND THIS DOESN'T even count all the well-paid “executive vice presidents” at the larger locals.

MS. HENRY is co-founder of SEIU's “Lavender Caucus,” a gay and lesbian group. She and her partner, Paula Macchello, a "senior strategic organizer" with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, are advocates for LGBTQRS@TUVXYZ rights, an acronym that would seem to include every sexual practice known to human kind. (We were lost after LGBT. What's a QRS? Is TUVXYZ mean sex with someone at KZYX?) Most unionized workers, a shrinking minority of all persons who work for wages, now face an economic squeeze not seen in this country since the 1930's are more worried about food and shelter than they are the lavender issues.

WITHIN DAYS of Stern's resignation announcement, four of SEIU’s multitude of Executive Vice Presidents fired off an e-mail announcing their support for Henry: “Mary Kay's greatest strength is her ability to build consensus and create a highly effective team around shared goals and responsibilities. Mary Kay is the type of leader who motivates rather than demands.” the Big four went on to say that Henry should get Stern’s job “to return to organizing as our top priority” and “to restore our relationships with the rest of the union movement and our progressive allies.”

WORKERS AT KAISER hospitals testified before the National Labor Relations Board that management had helped SEIU defeat the smaller National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) in a 2010 election battle between the two unions to represent 43,000 Kaiser employees. The NLRB found SEIU guilty of unfair labor practices, citing instances of management collusion in those acts, and ordered a re-run of the election. The collusion involved making promises to management that if management stayed neutral while SEIU tried to recruit the healthcare workers away from the NUHW union, then the SEIU would be a much more malleable negotiator when the time came.

WHEN WE GOOGLED “SEIU accomplishments” the only website with a substantive response about successful union gains in specific labor-management disputes was for a Canadian SEIU local. Everything else is generalized bragging about organizing and recruiting and the wonderful bigness of SEIU. Ms. Henry and her executive staff, of course, pull down annual salaries of better than $200k.

SEIU EXECUTIVES also make it clear that criticism is unwelcome. “It’s time to have more dialogue,” said one SEIU member quoted by Moberg. “There’s a top-down mentality. It has to be bottom-up.” And Roxanne Sanchez, president of California SEIU Local 1021, who was outraged by SEIU-UHW’s actions on behalf of hospital managers, said, “SEIU is going to have to be on one page [about standing with the 99%] and not have this contradiction where the public asks, ‘What are you really for?’”

MOBERG finishes his piece with the line from the old union ‘Which side are you on?’ But a more literal interpretation of Ms. Sanchez’s question might be in order: “What good is a union that’s primarily interested in recruiting more members and not fighting for better pay and working conditions?”

MS. HENRY, like her predecessor, doesn’t exactly follow in the footsteps of former Longshore Union President Harry Bridges. As Bridges biographer Luke Crafton wrote: “Harry Bridges understood the importance of approaching both the rostrum and the bargaining table with clean hands. On the East Coast, the longshore union was notorious for the corruptibility of its leadership, but Bridges, based in San Francisco, couldn't be bought. He was as clean as any trade union leader in the history of the country. In more than 40 years as leader of the ILWU, Bridges never took a salary higher than the highest paid member of his union.”

GORE VIDAL has died at age 86. He was a populist in the old sense of the term, in that he always tried to represent what he saw as the best interests of perpetually besieged ordinary citizens. Vidal saw that the country had been taken over by a weird cabal of rightwing nut cases acting on behalf of concentrated capital. And he said so. He was also, of course, a very good writer who could be stingingly witty: “The three most terrifying words in the English language are Joyce Carol Oates.” A writer of any standing in these blanded down times, and give me a few days and I might be able to think of one, wouldn't dare thump on the eerily prolific Ms. Oates who seems to turn out an unreadable book every couple of weeks or so. Probably like a lot of people, I liked Vidal's essays better than his fiction, which I thought was as wooden as that of Ms. Oates. He was certainly matchless as an outspoken public figure, never giving in to the popular political sentimentality as merchandized by our ruling circles. He wrote the screenplays for “Suddenly Last Summer” and much of Ben Hur, managing to sneak a lot of homo-erotic humor into the latter epic. (Watch it again if you missed it first time around.) In 1960, Vidal was the Democratic candidate for Congress in upstate New York, but was defeated despite Eleanor Roosevelt's active support and a campaign appearance by Harry Truman. In consolation, he noted he received more votes in his district in 1960 than did the man at the top of the Democratic ticket, John F. Kennedy. In 1982, Vidal came in second in the California Democratic senatorial primary. He was the last of the giants on our side.

A RECENT STORY in the Wall Street Journal on biomass plants invoked Blue Lake (HumCo) as a representative example of everything that's wrong with the heavily tax subsidized “green” technology. Critics say the plants habitually violate clean air and water standards. The one proposed for Willits some years ago was shot down by environmental critics before it began.

TWO RATHER STARTLING posts by Hank Sims on his excellent Lost Cost Outpost website. The first describes the recent history of a dangerously violent crazy guy who somehow made his way to Humboldt County directly from jail in Arizona where he did time for stalking and threatening local officials. Some of the threats were written from jail. HumCo deputies bagged the guy in Eureka so he's at least temporarily sequestered. But the question is what brought him here? And the second of Hank's post is a photo essay featuring an aerial shot of an industrial-size pot gro under the heading "Goodbye, Mom and Pop."

AB 1812 (CHESBRO): Alcoholic beverages: beer.

“Existing law defines ‘beer’ for purposes of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act and specifically includes ale, porter, brown, stout, lager beer, small beer, and strong beer within that definition. This bill would revise the definition of ‘beer’ for purposes of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act to also provide that beer aged in barrels previously used to contain wine or distilled spirits shall be defined exclusively as ‘beer,’ as specified..."

THAT’S RIGHT. Local Assemblyman Wes Chesbro issued a proud press release last Wednesday announcing that he had succeeded in his months-long quest (the bill was introduced in February) to get Governor Brown to sign an amendment to existing law to add a provision to state law which allows beer maestros to age their product in barrels that formerly contained other varieties of booze.

BACK WHEN Chesbro was a state senator — he moves seamlessly from one public position to another — he proposed a bill that would benefit one (1) person — Francis Ford Coppola — by describing “certain” wine-selling restaurants so narrowly it just happened to apply only to Coppola. When the Sacramento Bee noted that Chesbro was running errands for the rich and famous Chesbro quickly withdrew the Coppola bill.

CARLOS SANCHEZ, brewmaster at Six Rivers Brewery in Humboldt County, was positively giddy at Chesbro's masterpiece: “I think it's the smartest piece of legislation related to craft brewing in quite awhile,” Sanchez gushed. “The craft brew industry in California is big. It's a growing thing that should be treated with the respect that the wine industry has been.” (Translation: Northcoast politicians have been pandering so blatantly to the wine industry it's about time beer got some special attention.)

EVEN if you’re skeptical of California’s taxation staffers, it’s very hard to believe that they’d actually try to get away with reclassifying beer aged in old whisky barrels as whisky. Never mind that California is in economic freefall as millions if not billions of dollars are sitting around in secret bureaucratic cubbyholes, social safety net programs are being gutted or unemployment is high… Your assemblyman is putting his nose to the legislative grindstone — by pushing through a new beer law that 1. Shouldn’t be necessary in the first place, and 2. Isn't a problem.

CORRECTION: In the AVA of July 18th, civil court bailiff Marty McCue was confused with an unruly spectator. We regret the error, which was committed during the editing process, and not by the writer of the piece, Bruce McEwen.

IFILES! STEVE TALBOT WRITES: Friends and fellow news hounds: We have liftoff. Today, we launched The I Files, the first investigative news channel on YouTube. We are showcasing 10 videos — including three original stories from the Center for Investigative Reporting — and several video playlists. After the first week, at least one new video will go up every day. I recommend the animated Hamburger story and the heavy Jane Doe story, among others. If this interests you, please subscribe to the channel. It's free. Thanks, Steve Stephen Talbot Senior Producer The I Files

THE TRANSFER of the more tractable inmates from state prisons to county jails has had an unintended consequence. Some 4,000 men do much of the state’s annual firefighting, especially the onerous work of digging containment lines. But that 4,000 figure could shrink to as few as 1,500 as the men trained to beat back wildfires serve out their sentences in their counties of origin.

IN THEIR familiar orange protective clothing — Cal Fire firefighters wear yellow — inmate firefighters were crucial in the defeat of July’s stubborn Robbers Fire, which burned 2,650 acres in the American River canyon in Placer County. The steep Canyon walls made for an inaccessibility that prevented the usual array of bulldozers and other mechanized equipment from reaching the front lines; the work had to be done by hand.

CHEMICAL flame retardant couldn’t be dropped on the blaze for fear its poisons would make their way into Folsom Lake, part of California's water system. 800 prisoners wielding chainsaws and hand tools finally contained the fire.

BUT WITH MANY of these trained men re-assigned to county jails, and counties being so cash-strapped they can’t afford to fund inmate firefighters, it appears that this most valuable program is doomed.

THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL has again voted unanimously to put off another vote on a resolution that would abate the abandoned Palace Hotel. The thinking seems to be that so long as the once-elegant old structure’s apparent owner, a Marin County woman named Eladia Laines, seems to be making progress towards eventual rehab, everyone will pretend that the building can be saved. Ms. Laines says she’s talking to an asbestos contractor, she anticipates approval from the County’s obdurate one-man Air Quality agency, that she’s in possession of a “qualified written estimate for patching” the roof, that she’s ordered material to cover the windows, and that she’s hired someone to clear title to ownership of the building. These Micawber-ish assurances satisfied the City Council that maybe, just maybe, someday, somehow the Palace Hotel will again be up and humming.

LIGHTEN UP, TIFFANY! You'd think the Pinches' were the Kardashians, and maybe they're Mendo's Kardashians from the front page attention they get in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

SUPERVISOR JOHN PINCHES' daughter, Angela, was arrested months ago on pot-related charges when Angela's toddler was found wandering around the Redwood Valley road where Angela lives. Angela had left the child with her 9-year-old while she ran to her father's house to pick up her third child. The cops were called by neighbors who spotted the wandering toddler. And the cops subsequently found a lot of marijuana at Angela's house when mother and child were re-united.

FEW PARENTS can honestly say they haven't briefly lost track of a kid, but from the local media attention this episode has received you'd think a major crime had been committed. Why all the attention? Angela's father is an elected official. And he, like millions of Americans, thinks marijuana should be legalized because the laws prohibiting it can't be enforced, but the prohibitions themselves cause crime — lots of it. But the Journal's Tiffany Revelle takes this very old story over the top with this line: "Ms. Pinches, whose father, John Pinches, has spent his political career advocating for the legalization of marijuana, had a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana.”

SUPERVISOR PINCHES has spent his political career advocating for lots of things besides sensible strategies for dealing with devil weed. His colleague, Dan Hamburg, can fairly be described as a pot guy on both ends of the industry, production and consumption. I doubt that Pinches even smokes the stuff. He looks more like a whiskey and steak man than a stoner. But as an elected official, Pinches has been a consistent voice for fiscal restraint and a commonsense approach to County management. And he's supported local efforts to deal reasonably with marijuana. It's unfair to pound away at Cowboy John just because his daughter has run afoul of the law.

TOM GANG, 45, the former athletic director and football coach for Mendocino College, was arrested Tuesday, July 31st, on suspicion of domestic violence, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Department. Bail was set at $75,000. The charges include assault with a firearm and false imprisonment. When Gang, a married man with several children, was at Mendocino College, he was accused of assaulting Christine Risch, a security guard at the college, as Risch was filming "a security breach" at the athletic department. That security breach consisted of Gang opening up the college gym so football players could work out in it. Gang, a former college lineman, allegedly grabbed the camera out of Risch’s hand and twisted her arm behind her back. Gang denied assaulting Risch but conceded he had grabbed the camera out of her hand after repeatedly asking Risch to stop filming. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office declined to charge Gang and Risch was not granted a protective order. Soon after that incident, Gang took a job at Sierra College as associate dean of athletics.

PREDICTABLY, REPUBLICANS are using the State Parks scandal as an argument for privatization as two more Parks bigwigs resign. Ann Malcolm has quit. She had been chief counsel at the Parks Department for two years and, before she went to work for State Parks, she was Fish and Game's top lawyer. Jay Walsh, special assistant to Parks director Ruth Coleman, has also resigned, as has Coleman.

THE STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE has set up a phone hotline and email address to collect tips as it investigates the State Parks. People with relevant information are urged to call (916) 324-7561 or email It wants information only on the surplus funds, not the vacation buyout, which it already investigated.

REPUBLICANS have urged Democratic budget leaders to repeal $15.3 million in annual funding for state parks passed in June. The money is in a new "incentive" account for projects that generate more revenue, such as adding improvements at campgrounds and credit card kiosks to collect entrance fees.

THURSDAY, the California State Parks Foundation, a longtime nonprofit partner with the state, asked for a separate investigation of State Parks by the state auditor to assure an "autonomous and unimpeded audit" of state parks. It urged lawmakers to appropriate the surplus to keep parks open and to fund new revenue generating programs.

A CEREMONIAL Indian basket has been stolen from the Lake County Museum. Curator Linda Lake told Lakeport Police the basket was discovered missing from its display case on July 26 and is believed to be worth more than $1,000 to collectors. The finely wrought artifact is six to eight inches in size and made of mallard and meadowlark feathers, quail plumes and shell beads. Anyone with information is asked to call Lake County police at 707-263-5491.

JAMES BIELA was convicted of the 2008 rape and murder in Reno of Brianna Zunino Denison. Miss Denison was 19 when she was abducted and killed by Biela. She was the daughter of Bridgette Denison of Reno and the granddaughter of Bob and Barbara Zunino of Mendocino. Brianna had attended Mendocino schools for six years, from third through eighth grade. Biela’s death penalty was unanimously upheld Thursday by the Nevada Supreme Court.

WITHOUT REVISITING the grisly details of Ukiah's recent garbage deal, it has been made clear that the City entered into a 15-year-contract that ratepayers will regret for the 15-year life of the thing. The Grand Jury has confirmed what the contract's critics complained about when the contract was being drafted.

THE CITY COUNCIL'S invincibly righteous Landis and Rodin, not to mention City attorney Rappaport and City Manager Jane Chambers, have a lot to answer for but, predictably, they're complaining about the Grand Jury's prose! If they'd devoted as much attention to the garbage deal's stipulations as they have to their fatuous responses to the Grand Jury's right-on criticism, the people they allegedly represent might have been saved thousands of dollars in garbage fees.

WITH ONLY LANDIS AND RODIN voting "yes," the Ukiah City Council last Wednesday approved a response that says the Grand Jury's criticism was not only factually wrong (which it wasn't and if it was Landis and Rodin didn't bother saying how it was wrong), but the GJ hadn't objectively considered "the entire public record." (Which is also not true given the GJ's lengthy and knowledgeable criticism.)

THE GRAND JURY found 46 instances that added added up to a lack of oversight by the City. And, the GJ concluded that Ukiah had been "outclassed" by the garbage company's negotiators, as is self-evident in the deal the City reached.

BUT UKIAH, with Landis and Rodin leading the charge, characterized the Grand Jury's accurate and subdued descriptions of City incompetence as "less-than-professional" and the "allegedly hidden business transactions" that had gone down as a "conclusion without substantive support."

UKIAH, for one instance of foolish obligation cited by the GJ, is now obligated to fund a food waste processing facility for a private entity when Cold Creek Compost in Potter Valley already exists. Ukiah's response? "Contrary to the factually flawed accusation in the Grand Jury report, the City Council elected to move quickly but responsibly toward developing a food waste program and to require its franchised waste hauler to propose a full range of options, taking into account the latest technologies as well as the impact on the ratepayers."

TRANSLATION: "We are the true and the good. How dare you question our judgment, our due diligence? We went for the big boys over the local guy in Potter because that's what we did.

COUNCILMAN CRANE has always exempted himself from this discussion because of a stated conflict of interest. The ineffable Benj Thomas, the fuzz-think male version of Landis and Rodin, was absent. Phil Baldwin voted not to support the City's response to the Grand Jury, meaning Baldwin agrees that the GJ report is accurate and that Ukiah's garbage ratepayers are on the hook for 15 years of unnecessarily inflated trash fees.

"I DISAGREE with some of the responses, so I'll be voting no,'" said Red Phil. "I voted against both contracts, so I think it would be hypocritical of me to approve this response at this time." But the ineffable Landis said, "I think the response is very good and I'm proud of it. I stand behind the decisions that were made regarding the contracts, and I think the grand jury was a little less than professional at times in how they stated their remarks. I think we did good work, and I stand behind our decisions." Rodin of course seconded Landis: "I do believe the city acted with due diligence." According to the Ukiah Daily Journals' Justine Frederickson, Vice-Mayor Doug Crane had recused himself from all of the discussions and votes regarding the contracts and recused himself from voting on the response, and with Council member Benj Thomas absent, that left three members to vote. City Attorney David Rapport said the response could be approved by a majority of the members remaining, so the response was approved with Baldwin voting "no" and Landis and Rodin voting "yes."

THE HIDEOUS McDONALD'S that greets Ukiah's visitors at the 101 off and on ramps at North Orchard and East Perkins will be replaced by a slightly less hideous McDonald's if the Ukiah Planning Commission approves. The new McDonald's would not include that garish fish tank-like play area attached to the old McDonald's into which few children are known to have ventured in the 40-year history of the restaurant even if they survived their Happy Meals. The new McDonald's, CRM Architects claim, will include more trees and “…will take a major corner and entry to the city of Ukiah that currently has little landscaping, an outdated building and challenging site access and flow, and the end result will be an attractive project that has gone through multiple design stages using sound architectural design strategies.”

OUR FRIEND IZZY WRITES: "Here’s an idea – turn that big glass box into a thriving grow room! Now that would solve the landscaping problem with a truly indigenous plant, and be an appropriate “entry to the city of Ukiah”. As well as give a whole new meaning to the notion of Quarter Pounder."

ROCKY ANDERSON has dropped out of consideration for California Peace and Freedom nomination president apparently out of deference to the emergence of the Roseanne Barr-Cindy Sheehan ticket. Ms. Stein of the Green Party will also be on the California ballot as another soft left alternative to the disastrous Obama.

NORM DeVALL shares our mystification at “organic” as now applied by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department to confiscated marijuana. When Mr. Jesus Chuy Martinez of Covelo was arrested Thursday, among the charges was “sale/transport/furnish organic drug.” CCOF certified?

LOIS KAZAKOFF of the Chronicle pointed out in Friday's edition of the paper that “Many states (most notably Texas) post checkbook-level financial transactions on state websites and aggregate the data so anyone can see how the state spends. California does make financial data available online, but the documents are scattered across department websites.” It could be done here but for now, and probably for eternity, we'll depend on scandal and after-the-fact audits of hundreds of individual department budgets. Texas achieved total state fiscal transparency for $310,000.

JOHN REDMAN of the Californians for Drug Free Youth cited a California study that found that about 3% of people using medical marijuana had a chronic disease like cancer or AIDS. However, the average medical marijuana cardholder in California is a 32-year-old white male with a history of alcohol and marijuana use. Redman concludes: “Selling joints to anyone with a pulse and $200 cash was never the bill of goods that the voters were sold.”

AND THE REV. SCOTT IMLER, who co-wrote Prop 215 and is an advocate of the limited medical use of marijuana said in the wake of the federal crackdown on pot dispensaries, “We created Prop 215 so that patients would not have to deal with black market profiteers. But today it is all about the money. Most of the dispensaries operating in California are little more than dope dealers with storefronts.”

CONGRESSMAN MIKE THOMPSON rolled out in Sunday's Chronicle against fair application of the inheritance tax. “People spend a lifetime building a winery and vineyard, and then they have to end up selling either the winery or the vineyard to keep the rest of the property,” Thompson, said without naming the grape unfortunates who allegedly find themselves with one foot in the Poor House.

THOMPSON said he wanted to exempt all farmland that remains in farming, which was too extreme even for Republicans. “If I leave you $50 bazillion in gold bars, that's a whole different thing,” Thompson said. “But to put somebody out of business I just think is terribly wrong.”

OBAMA wants to return the estate tax to its 2009 level, a 45% rate on inheritances over $3.5 million or $7 million per couple, which is far below the 55% rate on inheritances over $1 million before the Bush tax cuts were imposed.

BUT THOMPSON, citing an unnamed wine family (himself?) and a private individual who allegedly owns “30,000 acres of Humboldt County ranchland” (Names! you lying hack, names!) said that the descendants of these entities would be driven to the poor house if they have to pay 45%.

THE CHRON'S Carolyn Lochhead wrote, “Only 1,335 California estates paid the tax in 2010, the latest year for which the Internal Revenue Service provides data. Because the figure reflects deaths in 2009, that's about how many Californians would pay the tax each year under the Democratic plan. Those estates forked over more than $3 billion in taxes.”

THE DEMOCRAT'S PLAN: raise the tax to 45%, with the first $3.5 million, or $7.5 million per married couple, exempt. Nationwide, 7,200 estates would pay $21.3 billion next year.

THOMPSON'S SAYING that a couple of his constituents, most of whom have very little or nothing to pass along to their heirs, think they should be exempt period because they're allegedly land rich and cash poor.

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