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Off The Record

DIANE ZUCKER has died. A long time resident of Ukiah, and before Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Diane was perhaps best known as a member of the Mendocino County School Board, serving for many years as a trustee. She passed away on Monday morning, the 28th of October, in San Francisco. Diane had been hospitalized at the California Pacific Medical Center for nearly a month, and had never recovered from a complicated surgery to remove a stomach tumor. Diane was placed in intensive care Sunday after developing breathing difficulties. She lapsed into a coma, her heart stopped and doctors were unable to revive her.

A 12-YEAR EMPLOYEE of the Ukiah Natural Foods has been fired for “insubordination,” but neither he nor the vague entities who canned him can say precisely what his “insubordination” consisted of. The now unemployed married father of a young daughter was also subjected to a denial of his unemployment benefits claim by the store, but he appealed and won his appeal. At least one member of the co-op's board of directors, a founding member, is fighting mad and will make the young man's dismissal number one on the next meeting agenda.

EVAN DICK of Fort Bragg writes the Fort Bragg City Council, the FB Advocate and the AVA: “I am concerned about a rumor I heard regarding the possibility of a Walmart coming into the Fort Bragg-Mendocino area. Has there been a discussion, or have city officials been approached by anyone regarding the establishment of a Walmart in the Coastal Mendocino County. I would appreciate your prompt attention in written response to this inquiry.”

WE CONTACTED 4th District supervisor Dan Gjerde. Gjerde replied, “To start, Fort Bragg is at the end of a cul-de-sac, so to speak, as far as deliveries go. So the Walmart delivery truck, now arriving in Ukiah from Walmart's I-5 warehouse, would need to haul over to Fort Bragg, unload, and head back over Highway 20. That's a logistical possibility, but why would Walmart bother? With a store in Ukiah, Walmart is already capturing customers from all over Mendocino County. Also, when adopting the Fort Bragg Local Coastal Plan, the community made it clear they did not want to see big stores west of Highway One. So the Coastal Plan limits the size of retail stores to less than half the size of Harvest Market, if constructed west of Main Street. As a result, if Walmart wanted to open a store in Fort Bragg, it would need to assemble a number of parcels on the east side of Main Street, between Noyo and Pudding Creek, just as Safeway did. In that location, Walmart or any company would be permitted to open a store as large as the Fort Bragg Safeway, 50,000 square feet. But that's slightly less than half the size of the Ukiah Walmart. Before Walmart could receive it's permit, however, it would need to reimburse the City for its cost to create an independent financial analysis to show the economic impacts of their proposed box store. The analysis, required of any proposed big box store, would be public information prior to the planning commission or city council would vote on a design review permit. To sum, it would be legal for Walmart to build one of its smaller, downtown stores on the East side of Main Street in Fort Bragg. But first they would need to assemble a number of parcels, reimburse the City for an economic impact analysis, and win community support for a scaled-down store. Given that a new store would curtail sales in their Ukiah store and generate uncertain revenues, why would Walmart roll the dice?”

THE RUMOR of a big box store for Fort Bragg that Mr. Dick refers to may have been the Dollar Store proposed for Dominic Affinito's big box structure on South Franklin. Formerly a big income earner for Affinito when Mendocino County housed its social services apparatus in it at exorbitant rent to the County, the 11,000 square foot structure has recently been hollowed out as if in site prep for a Dollar Store, a Fortune 500 corporation synonymous with health and safety violations wherever their stores have been permitted. They don't buy in to their host communities; they lease existing space. Much of the stuff for sale at a Dollar Store costs more than a dollar and is imported from places where consumer health and safety concerns are not primary export considerations. This store would be bad for Fort Bragg, especially plunked down in the Coastal Zone trumpeted by the Coast's thriving tourist industry. Dollar Stores have been bad neighbors wherever they've gotten a foothold. It's up to Fort Bragg's Planning Commission and City Council to stop them. Petitions against this latest menace to the Mendocino Coast are already circulating.

THE DOUBLE MURDER of the Bay Area Chinese couple found murdered at the bark dump off Highway 20 near Fort Bragg, is also being investigated by the Fort Bragg Advocate's ace sleuth, Tony Reed. Reed, we will recall, led the Sheriff's Department to the remains of Mr. Guzman, the 70-year-old Fort Bragg man whose body was belatedly discovered, thanks to Reed, halfway down an ocean bluff north of Westport. Guzman had suffered a gunshot wound to his side, and one round from his handgun had been expended. Reed, looking around the area of Guzman's peculiar death — was it from a gunshot, a fall, murder, or all three? — located items belonging to Guzman which led to the dead man's corpse a week after he died.

REED, reporting in this week's Advocate, has been poking around the site where Cindy Bao Feng Chen, 38, and Jim Tat Kong, 51, were found dead last week from “wounds to the head in Ms. Bao's gray Toyota minivan.” The “wounds to the head” were subsequently identified as gunshots by the Sheriff's Department. “It's unknown,” Reed writes, “if paper and other garbage found in the area is related to the investigation, but some of it raises questions. The wooded area near the former bark dump, which is now owned by the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District, is barricaded with rocks and stumps to prevent off-road vehicle access. However, several trails cut through the trees and allow access to the property from Highway 20 and Summers Lane. The site has been used as an illegal dumping area for many years. Commonly found garbage includes beer cans and packaging, vehicle parts, clothing and tires. Among items found Monday within 100 yards of the scene by this reporter were a computer printout of directions from Market Avenue [sic] in San Francisco to Leisure Time RV Park, just west of the location. [Market Street?] Also found and photographed among nearby trash was a five-inch folding-blade knife with a Masonic emblem and the words, ‘Virtus ionxut mors non separabit,’ which translates to, ‘Whom virtue has united, death will not separate.’ “In and around bags of garbage in the trees next to the location was a great deal of mail, credit cards and personal information belonging to Steven Claus, of Fort Bragg. Claus has been arrested four times this year by Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies…”

AT A MINIMUM, Claus is guilty of illegal dumping. At the max, as Reed puts it, “It is not yet known if any details are connected.” Anyone with information is asked to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office tip line at 234-2100.

CRITICAL MASS COMES TO WILLITS. Inspired by Frisco's monthly commute hour traffic disruptions and the mass motorist Piss Off they inspire, unnamed persons have organized a Willits Critical Mass, the first one occurring last Friday night.

BACK IN AUGUST the dependably fumble bum Point Arena School Board refused to provide the public and the public’s fog belt watchdog, Susan Rush, with a copy of a school-produced document called “Systems Analysis — Point Arena Schools District — Technology Task Force — Technology Insertion Program.” The thing was discussed, on tape, at a Point Arena School Board meeting, meaning it's public info. Withholding the document is a clear violation of the California Public Records Act, an act which is supposed to be enforced by the local District Attorney’s office.

WHEN MS. RUSH filed a Public Records Act request for the document, the PA School Board, on the dependably suspect advice of their legal office in Santa Rosa, cited an obscure court case to declare that the PA Board didn’t have to release it because it was merely a draft, a master work in progress it seems. But it was a draft which discussed at an open Board meeting.

WHY WOULD the Point Arena School Board want to hide a technology report? The California Newspaper Association’s lawyer agreed that the document is public and should be released upon request.

ON SEPTEMBER 9th, Ms. Rush submitted what the Mendo District Attorney’s Chief Investigator Tim Kiely said was a “thoroughly documented” complaint that the PA school board had indeed violated California Public Records Act (6253(b) and Government Code 54954.7. On October 4th, Kiely told Ms. Rush that the complaint was on the District Attorney's desk awaiting his signature so it could be sent to the Point Arena School District for response and correction. To date, however, the complaint and whatever material Investigator Kiely assembled has not made it any further than the DA’s desk.

THOSE OF YOU who assume fascism is the looming form of American governance, can get an idea of what it will look like by attending a meeting of your local school board or any meeting of the trustees of Mendocino Public Radio. Give these people the authority of summary execution and there you have it.

IS HAMBURG LOSING IT? Bruce McEwen writes: “Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg paid me a huge compliment in open court last Friday. I was idling in the courtroom waiting for my colleague Will Parrish’s case to be called when our illustrious supervisor came in and took a seat nearby. Then his gorgeous daughter Laura arrived and took the seat between myself and her father. Matthew Hamburg, the supervisor's troubled son, was on the day's docket. I was taking notes, since a certain Mr. Rupp, the roving whack-off artist I wrote about this week, was in court with his mother and little sister, and Rupp’s is a case I’ve been able to scoop the dailies on. My notes, then, had nothing to do with Hamburg, and so what if they had? But all of a sudden Supervisor Hamburg reached across his daughter and began to shake me very warmly by the arm — my hands being busy in note taking — and saying, “Sick, man! You are so fucking sick!” And clapping me amiably, I thought at first, on the shoulder and back. Now, “sick” is the new slang for cool, as I well know from my years on the streets with the avant garde, so I was sensible of being simultaneously pummeled and complimented, but it being during an open court hearing — involving the Supervisor’s son as it happened — I felt a bit overwhelmed, awkward, even, with the Hon. John Behnke looking on. I blushed and nodded acknowledgment of the praise from his eminence. But the Supe became warmer and warmer in his shaking, and louder and louder in his praise, clapping me on the back as though I was choking on a gobbet of meat, and with so much attention being drawn to myself, I began to blush and smile with embarrassment — although I was keenly sensible of what a great and high-placed compliment I was being treated to… “You fucking suck,” Hamburg shouted, delivering the best praise I’ve heard in months — well, at least since DA Eyster said “Fuck you, McEwen, fuck you…” when I passed Mendocino County's lead law enforcement officer in the hall recently and had complimented him on his spiffy tie. But Hamburg's congratulations had escalated to assault territory. You'd have thought the judge would have said something, but this Hamburg character seems above all reprimand in Mendocino County. Laura Hamburg finally pushed her father back down in his seat, flushing crimson herself. Later, after Supe Hamburg left, Laura apologized to me on her father’s behalf, and this put me at a loss: Why would she feel a need to apologize for her Pops having paid me such a high compliment?”

A BAPTIST, a Catholic and a Mormon are bragging about how big their families are. “I have four boys and my wife is expecting another,” says the Catholic. “One more son, and I'll have a basketball team.” “That's nothing,” says the Baptist. “I have 10 boys now, and my wife is pregnant again. One more son, and I'll have a football team.” “That's nothing,” says the Mormon. “I have 17 wives. One more and I'll have a golf course.”

STATEMENT OF THE DAY: A civilization which for any reason puts a human life at a disadvantage; or a civilization which can exist only by putting human life at a disadvantage; is worthy neither of the name nor of continuance. And a human being whose life is nurtured in an advantage which has accrued from the disadvantage of other human beings, and who prefers that this should remain as it is, is a human being by definition only, having much more in common with the bedbug, the tapeworm, the cancer, and the scavengers of the deep sea. — James Agee

A READER WRITES: Please consider letting Moishe Garson know that sodomy is not confined to same sexers. According to reliable reports, it is popular among Christian Fundamentalist teen girls who consider it good morals to marry with at least their hymens intact. Is Garson on drugs? He reads like a comic grotesque character in a Philip Roth book.

A SANTA ROSA attorney named Don Edgar has suspended his campaign for Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor because his wife went off on him on his Facebook page. Wifey said she not only had no idea Hubbykins was running for public office, she speculated that Hubs seemed suspiciously close to State Senator Noreen Evans. Lori Williams Edgar, in early October, wrote on hubby's campaign Facebook page, “Don, This is NOT the honorable thing to DO! You shared Nothing with Your Wife or Family about this Campaign! Absolutely nothing. … only yesterday a friend brought this to my attention!!??” “Also, what is your relationship with Noreen Evans????? Your [sic[ a Married Man?! What's Going On? You revealed nothing to US!!??! — Lori (your spouse)”

WILD PUNCTUATION, incidentally, is ordinarily not seen as a positive mental health indicator, and one has to wonder if these two are even roommates, let alone joined in holy matrimony.

EDGAR soon released this statement: “At this time I am placing my campaign on hold while I further consider the impact that conducting a vigorous campaign for county-wide office would have on my family.”

THE COY CANDIDATE still has not made a decision to run and has told the Press Democrat that the issue is “a private matter.” “This whole thing is an unfortunate airing of a private disagreement between my wife and myself and is solely about my choice to be in public service,” Edgar said. “It does not involve anyone else.” Edgar declined to address the nature of his relationship with Evans.

ON HER PART, NOREEN EVANS denied anything but chastely vertical relations with Edgar. She said Mrs. Edgar's insinuation was a “very serious accusation that is both false and baseless.... It appears to be a family matter that should be taken up with the Edgars,” Evans said.

MRS. EDGAR certainly seems to have a beef but one she might take up directly with Mr. Evans rather than the prurient public always lying in wait at Facebook. She said that she had not objected to her husband seeking public office, just the way she had to discover he was a candidate. “I think I was just personally hurt a little bit, but I totally support him,” she said. About Senator Noreen, Mrs. Edgar said she didn't think her husband and Evans were Motel 6-ing. “I think it was just continuing on my shock of the actual event,” she said. “It was probably a little exaggeration on my part.”

CASIMIR JANUSZ, the Hopland man who left his dead infant son at Ukiah Valley Medical Center and disappeared early last week, is still missing. The Ukiah Police Department says after Janusz left his dead baby in the emergency room he drove to his family's property in the Hopland area, abandoned his vehicle and hasn't been since since. Sgt. Jason Caudillo of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said an autopsy had been performed on the boy but no cause or manner of death had been determined, and would not be determined until toxicology reports were received.

THE AVA RECOMMENDS the election of Michael Weidner to the Ukiah School Board simply on the basis of Weidner's intriguing statements to the Ukiah Daily Journal. Weidner said he is running for the board because he “cares about how our tax dollars are spent” and wonders why the Ukiah schools are “receiving a failing grade every year from the US Department of Education” while teachers and administrators continue to get raises. So far so good. “As an outsider I will not be afraid to take charge (and I will have a lawyer for advice at all times) so I can bring situations to the boiling point without going over the edge,” Weidner said.

UH OH. Boiling point? Over the edge? On call lawyer? “My first goal is to have all board of education members pass a background check just like all employees, along with a TB test as a precaution.” TB tests for school boards? “I will do away with the Ukiah Police officer at the high school and make school personnel do their jobs.” If schools need cops and metal detectors, Mike, the educational effort would seem to have failed, and your job as a trustee is probably more along the lines of receivership. Weidner described himself to the UDJ as a retired healthcare worker.

JOHN BECKER of Mendocino has filed a $50k claim against the county claiming that County Assessor Susan Ranochak and Tax Collector Shari Schapmire “ignored every letter I sent regarding disputing the outrageous tax bill after three of my parcels were appraised. All letters sent by Tax Collector stating if taxes were disputed respond within 30 days. A response was sent each and every year but I never had any letters responded to until two letters were sent to legal counsel. Inability to sell parcel to only adjoining neighbor who can and has a legal easement to this landlocked parcel.”

NON-RESPONSIVENESS has always been a problem with local government, nevermind state and federal government. Mr. Becker is correct. Ranochak and Schapmire are wayyyyyyy outtaline not responding to what seems like Becker's legitimate complaint.

LIFE WITH THE HUMP: “On October 14th at about 7:00pm, “the press release begins, “Ukiah Police responded to the WalMart parking lot at 1155 Airport Park Boulevard.....” where Travis Humphrey, aka The Hump, and several of his leisure class comrades had gathered for cocktails and loud group discussion, so loud it alarmed WalMart shoppers. The Hump, noting the officer's arrival, raised his beer can in greeting. The Hump had been prohibited from being on WalMart property but that ban had expired along with The Hump's previous probation. The Hump triumphantly informed the officer he could not be arrested for being on the WalMart property and commenced yah-yahing the cop, who immediately deduced that Hump was so drunk he was unable to care for himself. “That's all for you today, Mr. Humphrey,” the officer said taking out his cuffs. Hump, natch, began fighting the cop “but was taken into custody after a brief struggle” and charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest. Six days later, on October 20th at 12:55pm, the Ukiah police were summoned to the Tractor Supply Company at 1248 Airport Park Boulevard where The Hump had slipped on a new pair of boots valued at $180, urinated on the floor, and sauntered on out the door. He was soon spotted in the 700 block of Talmage Road and arrested for shoplifting and indecent exposure. The Hump is 23 years old. Ukiah can look forward to another 30 years with this guy.

HORST LOEFFLER takes [his young sons] Otis and Ziggy down to his new office at the World Trade Center, and they eat lunch at Windows on the World, which has a dress code, so the boys wear jackets and ties…. There happens to be a more-than-moderate wind blowing that day, making the tower sway back and forth in five — what feel like ten-foot excursions. On days of storm, according to Horst's co-tenant Jake Pimento, it's like being in the crow's nest of a very tall ship, allowing you to look down at helicopters and private planes and neighboring high-rises. “Seems kind of flimsy up here,” to Ziggy. “Nah,” sez Jake. “Built like a battleship.” — Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge

A READER POINTS to the relevant section of the Brown Act and wonders why the Supervisors don't bother to report out of closed session in the legally mandated manner. We wonder too. We also wonder why closed session discussions aren't described in at least a cursory manner so the public has some idea what the County leadership is discussing when they retreat behind (Hint: They don't report because they don't have to; that's at least part of the reason. Bureaucratic sloth is probably another part.)

ACCORDING TO THE OCTOBER 8, 2013 AGENDA (the last meeting before County Counsel Tom Parker announced on October 16 that the Board had voted in closed session to release “a limited number of unredacted County records” related to the marijuana cultivation program to the feds), the October 8 closed session agenda items included:

“(a) Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957.6 - Conference with Labor Negotiator — Agency Negotiators: Carmel J. Angelo, Kyle Knopp, Tammi Weselsky, Juanie Cranmer, and Donna Williamson; Employee Organization(s): All

“(b) Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(4) — Conference with Legal Counsel - Initiation of Litigation: One Case

“(c) Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(2) — Conference with Legal Counsel — Anticipated Litigation: Significant Exposure to Litigation - One Case”

. . .

PRESUMABLY the federal subpoena question was item (c), but we don’t know because the agenda is intentionally misleading.

GOVERNMENT CODE 54957.1. (a) “The legislative body of any local agency shall publicly report any action taken in closed session and the vote or abstention of every member present thereon [our emphasis], as follows: (2) Approval given to its legal counsel to defend, or seek or refrain from seeking appellate review or relief, or to enter as an amicus curiae in any form of litigation as the result of a consultation under Section 54956.9 shall be reported in open session.”

THE MINUTES OF THE OCT. 8 meeting (the last meeting before the October 16 press release by County Counsel Tom Parker) were still not posted or published as of October 26. Parker’s October 16th press release announcing the cave-in to the feds doesn’t even say at which meeting the Board voted to turn over the County's pot program records to the feds.

A REVIEW OF THE VIDEO for the October 8 Board meeting shows that Supervisor Hamburg “reported” almost nothing out of closed session with almost no one in the room besides the Board and a few staff people. All Hamburg said was: “The Board met in closed session with its attorney and other members of staff and we gave direction to staff on several items that are on the agenda for all to see.”

“FOR ALL TO SEE”? The agenda didn’t say what the Supes discussed, their individual votes were not reported as is legally required, nor was the nature of the direction to staff mentioned. It wasn’t until October 16th that County Counsel Parker released a self-serving press release announcing that Mendocino County would give the feds “unredacted” County pot program records.

WE SHOULD KNOW, and the Board is legally required to announce, how each supervisor voted on the decision to cooperate with federal subpoena for the County's marijuana program records, although we've learned in a roundabout way that erstwhile Fight The Feds stalwarts Hamburg and Pinches voted to cooperate and McCowen voted to resist because he said he was opposed to the release on a subsequent KZYX appearance he made. How Brown and Gjerde voted is not known because the Supervisors have not reported out of closed session like they're legally required to.

GOD DOES NOT DIE on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason. — Dag Hammarskjold

AS EVERYONE NOW KNOWS, a Sonoma County Sheriff's Department deputy shot and killed a 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy on Tuesday, October 22nd. The boy was carrying an unmarked replica assault rifle. The FBI, and several local police agencies, are investigating the fatal Santa Rosa shooting of young Andy Lopez. Lopez's death has inspired mass protest demonstrations in Santa Rosa, with another planned for today (Wednesday, October 30th), and has become a national story.

A TIMELINE released Thursday by Santa Rosa police shows that 10 seconds passed from the moment the shooting deputy, now identified as Erick Gelhaus, 48, and his non-shooting partner, who still has not been identified, called dispatch to report a suspicious person to the moment they called back to say shots had been fired.

THE TWO DEPUTIES have been placed on paid administrative leave. Assistant SoCo Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas told the Press Democrat that deputy Gelhaus is a 24-year veteran of the department and his partner, who did not fire his weapon, is a new hire but has more than a decade of police experience with another agency. Gelhaus's own life, police say, has now been threatened by anonymous callers.

SANTA ROSA POLICE Lieutenant Paul Henry told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that Gelhaus told investigators he believed his life as well his partner's was in jeopardy. The deputy said the teen didn't comply with commands to drop his replica gun and was turning toward the deputies while raising the barrel of the replica gun in their direction.

THE TWO DEPUTIES encountered the hoodie-wearing Lopez at 3:14pm. Witnesses say at least one of the deputies took cover behind an open front door of the cruiser, and twice yelled, “Drop the gun.” Ten seconds after their initial report to dispatch, one of the officers called in “shots have been fired.” Sixteen seconds later, the deputies were calling for medical help, and Cruz was soon pronounced dead.

THE SONOMA COUNTY coroner said he found seven “apparent entry wounds” in Lopez's body, two of them fatal. Ethan Oliver, who lives across the street from the field from the death scene, told that the deputy continued to shoot at the boy even after he had fallen to the ground. Oliver said he went outside after hearing two gunshots, and by that time Lopez was already down. “Then the cops went at it again and unloaded like six to seven shots,” he said. When asked if he meant that the deputy shot Lopez while he was on the ground, Oliver said, “Yeah. Exactly what I saw.” Authorities haven't responded to Oliver's claims, but it raises the possibility that Lopez was still alive when he hit the ground after the first two shots were fired.

DURING A NEWS CONFERENCE last Wednesday, authorities displayed a real assault weapon and Lopez's pellet gun — which resembled an AK-47 with a black magazine and brown butt — to demonstrate how difficult it is to tell them apart. Federal law requires replica guns to have an orange tip, but Lopez's toy rifle did not have one.

POLICE ALSO REVEALED that Lopez had his back to the deputies, so they didn't realize he was so young. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and shorts. They claim Lopez was about 20 to 30 feet from them when he turned with the barrel of his unmarked pellet gun pointing toward them; the one deputy opened fire because he, at least, feared for their lives. “The deputy then fired several rounds from his service weapon at the subject,” said Santa Rosa Police Lt. Paul Henry, “striking him at least one time. The subject immediately fell to the ground. The deputy's mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot.” It is not known why the second deputy did not shoot at Lopez.

SHERIFF STEVE FREITAS said the shooting was a “tragedy” and that he would do everything he could to ensure an honest inquiry. “The public expects that the investigation will be thorough and transparent. As sheriff, I will do all in my power to see that expectation is satisfied,” he said. “My hope is that we can work with the community to help prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.”

SOME LEGISLATORS have sought to impose restrictions on replica guns in an effort to make sure police don't mistake them for real ones. California law requires “imitation weapons” to look like playthings by being brightly colored or transparent, but a state senator's proposal in 2011 to extend that requirement to air guns failed after manufacturers and retailers opposed it. Rodrigo Lopez, the boy's father, told The Press Democrat that the last time he saw his son was on Tuesday morning as he was leaving for work. “I told him what I tell him every day,” he said in Spanish. “Behave yourself.”

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE VERY RICH. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. — ‘The Rich Boy,’ F. Scott Fitzgerald

ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: “PG&E is spending tens of thousands of dollars hiring PR firms to plant the lie: ‘Solar is unfair to the rest of us.’ It's not true. 1. For about $11,000 you can have a 16-panel system. (Meaning, you don't have to be rich.) 2. PG&E's current gripe is net metering, where it credits homeowners with the retail value of the electricity. PG&E says that the solar homeowner isn't paying their fair share of the grid. Actually, they are, since PG&E sells that extra daytime production to the house next door, and charges that neighbor the complete transmission and distribution fee for the kilowatt-hours that traveled 50 feet. So PG&E's still doing fine. And making money from the solar company with extra production.”

STOP THE PRESSES! This headline appeared in Friday's edition of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “Sonoma Man found with meth in Lake County.”

RANDOM THOUGHTS: As all you sports fans know, the 49ers played in London last Sunday — “London, England,” as we were constantly reminded by announcers Heckle and Jeckle just in case we thought the game was being played in London, Baluchistan. The respective renditions of national anthems was the second reminder that the game was being played in England. The guy who sang it for US got off a jazzy version common now at the ballpark. Any time now I expect to hear “the guest artist” insert “Ooooo baby baby ooooo” right about “the rockets red glare.” By way of contrast, the Brits gave us an opera singer who belted out a stirring God Save The Queen with the passionate brio a national song ought to get, especially our national song when it's being sung fer furriners. It was an uninteresting game, so I'd tuned out by half time which, I'm sure, was the usual oooo baby baby oooo extravaganza.

GYPSIES. They're much in the news in a context that again reminds us how close we are to full return to the tom-toms and the rattling of chicken bones to whammy our enemies. A little blonde girl, about 4, was removed by authorities from a Gypsy family living in Greece because, it was blandly stated, no possible spin of the genetic wheel could possibly have landed a white child with dark parents. It turns out the Greek Gypsies purchased the child from her Romanian mother who, it also developed, was unable to provide for her. Two fair-skinned children in Ireland were grabbed from their Gypsy parents for DNA tests that established the children were indeed the children of their Gypsy parents. The media hummed for a week with blood libel stories pegged to the medieval and, apparently, still prevalent myth that Gypsies steal babies.

AS A KID of twenty or so, I rented a room in a grungy sro hotel at 5th and Brannan in San Francisco. Gypsies rented the ground floor. They called me, a young punk half their age, “Boss,” and were always trying to sell me stuff, including automobile transmissions that they had laying around their storefront. “They're brand new, boss.” I don't have a car, I said. “You need a stereo, boss?” At night, the Gypsy wives and daughters sold corsages down at Fisherman's Wharf. By day the older women told fortunes. I had to go to an encyclopedia to get a handle on who exactly they were; Gypsies were not big players in America's always jumpy subconscious. Right about that time I heard the pioneer comic Lenny Bruce tell a joke about a census taker that went something like this: The census guy knocks on the door, and when an olive-skinned man answers. the census guy begins his questions. “Your race, sir?” “We are gypsies,” the man says. “Bullshit,” the census taker exclaims. “There's no such thing. I'll put you down as Hawaiians.”

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