Press "Enter" to skip to content

Off The Record

MY SISTER-IN-LAW, Diane Zucker, wife of my late brother, Ken, died last week. In my non-medical opinion she was killed by negligence at Sutter Health's California Pacific Medical Center, Buchanan and Clay, San Francisco. Diane was 70. She didn't smoke and drank no more than an occasional glass of wine. She walked every day and was a light eater inclined to vegetarian diets. Both her parents lived well into their 90's. Diane had gone into the hospital for a surgery to remove a tumor via a Whipple procedure, and the prognosis was for full recovery. But post-op she suddenly had trouble breathing, later determined to be pneumonia, her heart failed and she was gone. My wife and sister visited Diane a few days before she died. “She was the usual Diane,” they agreed. “She looked great and expected to be back in her Ukiah home by the weekend.” Three days later she was dead. Some medical somebody, or several of them, weren't paying attention. A strong person in good health shouldn't suddenly die. Yes, those admission forms always warn about embolisms getting loose after a surgery and speeding up an artery to stop the heart. It happens, but to develop, of all things, pneumonia, be plunged into ICU and your heart stops when you're as good as out the hospital door?

WHERE'S GOLDILOCKS? Ms. Jacqueline Audet was last seen in June of this year when she and her road dog (traveling companion), Donald Jordan were arrested for drunk in public. Jordan is twice Ms. Audet's age and not a guy most parents would like to see their daughter bring home. “Mom, Dad. I'd like you to meet my fiancé and road dog, Don.” Mom keels over in dead faint, Dad runs for his gun. Anyway, Mendocino County's most intriguing couple told people they, and their giant white beast dog, were headed outtahere, and it seems they went. But where? We began following Ms. Audet's frequent encounters with law enforcement, most of them with the Fort Bragg Police Department who, it must be said, often saved the girl from herself. She was very young, 19 when we first saw her in the booking log, 23 now, and seemed terribly vulnerable to adopt the street as her life path. We soon learned that Goldie had also been noted by many shocked Mendo people who also worried about her. She of course resented the attention, especially the references to her as Goldilocks, and asked us all to butt out in a letter from the County Jail. Maybe, by some miracle, Goldie has pulled herself together. No news could be good news, but it's unlikely in her case. But if you've seen Ms. Audet, who seemed so thoroughly Mendo, we'd like to know.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Let The Fire Burn, a documentary film about the famous, and infamously grotesque, MOVE event in 1985 Philadelphia. A small group of mostly black cultists led by a charismatic “Christian” preacher calling himself John Africa were given a row house by a wacky white liberal in a black workingclass neighborhood smack dab in the center of the city of brotherly love. The group's guiding principles were pegged to natural living and a hostility for modern technology. A rural setting — Mendocino County would have worked nicely for them — but there they were in the middle of big city urban where they were soon blaring round-the-clock loudspeaker denunciations of their black neighbors and the “white mofo-ing power structure. MOVE got close to nature by tearing up sidewalks and walking around nude. The neighbors of course wanted them out. Philly, at the time, was led by a set of cartoon-quality villains who included a policeman become mayor named Rizzo, soon succeeded by a vacillating black mayor named Goode, and a variety of incompetents in the power slots at the police and fire commissions. With this cast of characters in place it was only a matter of time before people got killed. MOVE wouldn't move off outraging everyone they came in contact with except distant libs so the police eventually devised a two pound bomb composed of chemicals impervious to water which they dropped by helicopter on MOVE'S house, which was home to numerous children and adults. The bomb ignited the whole neighborhood with the loss of more than 80 homes, five MOVE children dead, six adult MOVES dead. A white cop saved one child from the inferno. One of his colleagues soon wrote “Nigger Lover” on his locker at the station house, giving us all a pretty clear of the prevailing civic vibe. The film is entirely taken from news footage, and the whole of it a reminder, if one is needed, that we are citizens of a helluva crazy country.

HILLARY CLINTON is the Democrat's choice to succeed Obama as President. What kind of President will she be? Mrs. Clinton is speaking to the National Association of Realtors at the Moscone Center in SF this Saturday, some 22,000 of them. No press of any kind is allowed, but the realtors will undoubtedly cell phone photograph Hill's clichés and upload them and her on YouTube. That night, Big Lib is throwing Hillary a fundraiser at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom, a “Millennial Network” event to benefit the Clinton Foundation. Ticket prices range from $150 to $5,000, and this event is also closed to the media.

A READER WRITES: “I just read CEO Carmel Angelo’s and the Board of Supervisors’ ignorant remarks regarding the County’s implementation of Obamacare. Supervisor Pinches was quoted asking, “We’ve been staffing up for it but we’ve only had eleven calls?”

THE COUNTY has not been “staffing up” for Obamacare — just the opposite, in fact. The County has only recently begun to replace the workers who were lost since the hiring freeze began in 2009 after the Great Recession of 2008. CEO Angelo and the Board enforced a strict hiring freeze on all County positions, even positions that are fully funded by state and federal funds, not out of the County’s precarious General Fund. This policy of freezing state and federally funded positions effectively amounted to throwing away money which could have provided some local jobs and helped the local economy while providing important welfare services and support that the residents of this very poor county need. Clearly, no matter what people might think of Obamacare, there will be a significant increase in Medi-Cal workload beginning on January 2014 when Obamacare really kicks in, and, thanks to Angelo and the Board, the County only has a couple dozen experienced and overloaded workers to deal with them. It will be months if not more before the new replacement hires have anywhere near the grasp on the new, complicated Obamacare rules. If Angelo and the supervisors had even a modest understanding of the effects of their ill-conceived and counterproductive across-the-board hiring freeze, they’d never let a remark like Pinches 'staffing up' go unquestioned.”

WHEN LAST WE VISITED the Board of Supervisors decision to turn over “unredacted” marijuana cultivation records in response to their second federal subpoena, we noted that there was an apparent Brown Act violation because the Supes didn’t report the vote of the individual board members out of the closed session on October 8 when they voted to turn over the records. Toward the end of the October 8 board meeting video Supervisor Hamburg “reported” this way: “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 was being discussed, the individual votes were not reported as is legally required, nor was the nature of the direction to staff reported. It wasn’t until October 16 that County Counsel Parker reluctantly released the nature of the vote in a self-serving press release without even mentioning when the Board voted to turn over the records to the feds.

FINALLY, on October 31, more than three weeks after the meeting, the Board got around to posting the minutes of the October 8 meeting: “Agenda Item No. 9c – Pursuant To Government Code Section 54956.9(D)(2) — Conference With Legal Counsel — Anticipated Litigation: Significant Exposure To Litigation — One Case “Agenda Item No. 9 – Report Out Of Closed Session. Presenter: Chair Hamburg. Board Action: IN regards to items 9(a) — 9(d), direction was given to staff.”

SO THE OCT. 8 MINUTES CONFIRM the obvious Brown Act Violation. (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, 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.”

WE ALL KNOW the credulous walk among us, millions of them judging from election results. But credulity is one thing, lunacy another. 5th District supervisor, Dan Hamburg, a former Congressman, has crossed the line into full-on wacky. He, like lots of other crackpots, thinks 9-11 was an inside job although there is not a shred of credible evidence to so much as suggest 9-11 was anything but what it obviously was — a successful conspiracy mounted by medieval Muslim fanatics to kill a lot of Americans on American soil. If our billion dollar “security” systems had been even half alert 9/11 would not have happened.

THE CONSPIRACY MINDED have been re-invigorated by Italian filmmaker Massimo Mazzucco’s “September 11 and the New Pearl Harbor.” It's a five-hour long repackaging of all the alleged deficiencies of the official version of events surrounding the Twin Towers collapse on September 11, 2001.

SUPERVISOR HAMBURG is so inspired by Mazzucco's nutty epic that he made this statement on the MCN Listserve: “I’m on record re 9/11. ‘The New Pearl Harbor' by Massimo Mazzucco, merely provides further confirmation that 9/11 was a shameless and unspeakably evil hoax perpetrated on the American people and the world. Perhaps most interesting in the Mazzucco documentary is the technical information that explains why the two hijacked planes couldn't have been flown into the WTC buildings at the speed they were traveling. Turns out that when a plane is flying near the ground it must drastically reduce speed or it starts to come apart because of increased air resistance. The planes that hit those buildings were replacements. Quotes from aeronautical engineers at Boeing seal the deal here. Part of the horror of this scam is that they offloaded passengers and forced them to “call home” on their cell phones and read prepared statements. That's how we got the fiction behind “Let's roll". (Latest ‘Loose Change’ [an earlier conspiracy film] reports that Cleveland Airport was evacuated that morning due to ‘terrorist threats’ and that the news media reported that Flight 93 landed there and offloaded passengers to a cleared building.) At the end of one of the recorded cellphone calls (which, you recall, could not have been made from the hijacked plane's reported altitude), a flight attendant whispers ‘it's a frame.’ The cabal didn't notice this. The financial report is devastating. Turns out part of the motive was 220 billion in bogus Russian bonds. Web savvy people have written several articles about YouTube suddenly zeroing out viewing statistics on controversial 911 videos. And the one on ‘911 & Operation Northwoods’ has just plain old disappeared. Dan”

SO, THE HIJACKED victims are, uh, hidden away somewhere? They called home and were, what? herded back on board the hijacked planes to die in the collision with the Twin Towers?

FROM KZYX manager Jon Coate's blog at, “A Day In The Life; 10:30AM: Ron Hoffar is playing ‘Twilight Zone’ by the Manhattan Transfer, one of my favorite records. David has gone down to Boonville to bring the ABC license to the Dark Carnival, which starts at 5 PM tonight. Now Ron is playing Diana Krall singing ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead.’ Wow.”

THAT same day I got up about 5, pounded down two cups of perfecto Gold Rush Coffee while I read the Chronicle, did a lot of push-ups, walked up and down hills for an hour, took out the garbage, worked on the AVA website's daily posts, ate bowl of granola, read Carolyn Cooke's excellent short story collection called Amor and Psycho, stepped outside to say hello to the postman, called it a day at 9pm. You're not the only guy leading an exciting life, Mr. Coate!

STEPPING up the interest level, Coate, apparently only tenuously associated with the reality experienced by the rest of us, wrote on his blog that when (if?) the Open Lines program comes back, “maybe we should rename the show ‘How Do You Know?’ so that all the assertions that get made might be backed up with some evidence.”

JOHNNY BABE, you're on to something here!, and it's certainly doable. You could intro the hour with a snarl from Ms. Aigner demanding, “How Do You Know? Yeah, you, Mr. Wizard, how do you know?” I know you old stoners don't go much for truculence, but it sure makes for lively radio.

MORE PROSAICALLY, Coate, as per ancient KZYX custom, defends the absence of local affairs and news this way: “We have eleven hours of local public affairs programming every week.”

IN VERIFIABLE FACT, the KZYX roster of “public affairs” programs includes exactly zilch about purely local public matters. Sakowicz's hour is almost always about big picture financial stuff with guests from outside Mendocino County. Women’s Voices may be local but men aren't allowed to listen. Jeff Blankfort and Joy LeClaire (formerly Joy Momma Dew) discuss atrocities occurring in the great world outside Mendocino County. Wild Oak Living is a trilling weekly promo about the soporific activities of the lady host's narcoleptic friends. Corporations & Democracy is strictly big think. Mind, Body Health's peculiar host, a daffy Ukiah doctor named Trotter, talks about the random medical neuroses troubling his social circle. Mr. Kisslinger, house husband of Anne Molgaard of the First Five scamarama, lobs softball questions at random County bureaucrats. (He'll have his wife on any time now, and he's probably also angling for some kind of $70 grand a year public job of the type these people are good at — sitting in purple circles talking about how to vampire the poor.) “The Ecology Hour” is mostly tinfoil hat-type updates. Point & Click is techno-nerd chat that has nothing to do with public affairs. We haven’t heard Ms. Werdinger’s “Maps & Legends” show, but she writes a mean press release for the Grace Hudson Museum. Pride Radio is a canned show about far away gay issues, and Open Lines, the only opportunity for any old person to call in and talk about any old thing, local or not, is gone. And we get Democracy Now, and Al Jazeera, and NPR and Gordy Black mispronouncing classical music liner notes.

ZERO DISCUSSION of local issues on Free Speech Public Radio Mendocino. Poor old Paul Lambert, the station's jiffy lube news guy, isn't even allowed to read the Sheriff’s press releases. He tells us what the weather is like in Lakeport and Laytonville, but that's about as topical as Paul can get.

THE COMPLAINT DESK: Jeff Costello writes: “Okay, it's Thursday the 31st and I still haven't received the Oct. 23 issue. But the junk mail arrives right on time. That's where their (the Post Office) bread and butter is since the internet killed personal letters.”

ROVER'S LUMBAGO MEDS. Two veterinarians and an MIT entrepreneur are selling pet health supplements made from the second most common active ingredient in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD). Dogs or cats would take Canna-Pet to help during treatment for arthritis, diabetes, digestive probs, chronic pain, cancer, and so on. Animal studies find CBD has antitumor effects, anti-inflammatory effects, stimulates and regulates appetite, and modulates pain. Canna-Pet is selling the product directly and says it’s completely legal, because they get their CBD from industrial hemp, the sale of which is also legal in the US. Canna-Pet, say its developers, doesn't get animals high, although they don't reveal how they know that.

A DEAD MAN was found in the trash last Thursday morning at the transfer station on Taylor Drive, South Ukiah. According to Captain Greg Van Patten of the Sheriff's Department, the man died from a 40-foot fall while going through the garbage. “They found a flashlight with him, so it appears he was going through the rubbish in the dark,” Van Patten said. He is preliminarily identified as a 47-year-old Hispanic whose car was found nearby. This death, assuming it occurred as reported, is also a statement on an economy that propels people to after hours dumpster dives to supplement whatever minimum wage they're making.

WARREN BUFFET, the liberal capitalist, said recently that Breaking Bad was his favorite show. The Wizard of Omaha is in his middle 70s. His formative years, and everyone else's of our vintage, passed in the predictable stability of postwar America. But in the late 1950s, early 60s, the social contract began default proceedings and, by the late 1960s, the social-political assumptions shared by most citizens were up for interpretation. Because I don't watch any television except for sports, I came in way late on Breaking Bad, hadn't even heard of Mad Men, and just started watching The Sopranos this month. They're all different of course, but their presumption is the same, and that presumption is that millions of Americans are so accustomed to aberrant behavior that it can be artistically exploited for many millions of dollars.

OF THE THREE SERIES, I think Breaking Bad is the most satisfying. The script and the acting are flawless. As for the criticism that it encourages the tweek life, I'd say that no rational person would choose tweek as a career path, either as user or entrepreneur, after watching it. But there are lots irrational people out there, and there are certainly an increasing number of desperate people out there for whom tweek, the product, provides the illusion of instant well-being; it may also beckon as an opportunity to make easy money. If you survive. Breaking Bad doesn't romanticize thug life, but when you offer a scene of a storage unit stuffed with cash a lot of people will think, “Well, I think I'll give it a go. Even if I make manager at CostCo I'm basically screwed over the long haul in this economy, so why not?” But it's mildly shocking that a guy like Warren Buffet completely gets it. One thinks of him, and most tycoons, as so focused on grabbing off more and more money that they're oblivious to the basic fact of contemporary American life — that it's coming apart faster and faster which, in a way, is the foundation for Breaking Bad. But if the point of your life is accumulation, and you're good at it, at least at the more sophisticated levels of understanding like Buffet's, you don't want social chaos, would you? It's bad for business if it reaches critical mass.

THE SOPRANOS is a celebration of Italian gangster life, which is a celebration of the low life such as it is lived only by low lifes with unlimited resources — show biz folks, ball players, random scumbags from the upper echelons of big biz. It, too, comes with great acting, especially the magnificent Edie Falco, and, like Breaking Bad, there's good writing emphasizing lots of funny stuff. It's less plausible than Breaking Bad because the people depicted are too stupid, too brutal to last as long as they do. The drug kingpins we meet in Breaking Bad, by way of contrast to the Sopranos, are smart and sophisticated, which the high level dope magnates of real life seem to also be because drugs, hard and soft, are now part of American life and a handful of crooks are making lots of money providing them. The Sopranos is consistently entertaining, though, but utterly false in the context of everyday American life as most Americans experience it, and a lot of what you see on screen is gratuitously ugly.

MAD MEN is about a late fifties ad agency and, like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, it's an intelligent soap opera that follows office personnel as they “creatively” devise jingles and slogans to create possession-lust in the hearts of every American. As they go about this noble task, they drink heavily on and off the job, and romp with their secretaries, all of whom are improbably beautiful. In the fifties, beautiful women were rare. I remember exactly one in my entire high school, none in college. Maybe if the girls of yesteryear hadn't all been so doggone chaste and covered head to toe in mourning sacks they might have been more beguiling, but looking back all I get are these images of war refugee-looking babes. These days, of course, attractive women are everywhere, and it's the young men who look goofy. Mad Men accurately reflects the casual racism of the 1950s which overlay the murderous racism it ignored and the equivalently casual assumption that women shouldn't aspire to anything more than positions subservient to men. The time frame is America on the lip of the great beatnik breakthrough. You could almost feel the national yearning to get on over to the other side. The lead guy in Mad Men is a go-with-the-flow dude who smokes the first dope, drops the first acid, sit downs at a lunch counter next to a man reading Frank O'Hara poems! (Which would have been ultra-hip in '56; even a totally cool guy like me didn't get into O'Hara until some time in the '70s.) I think Mad Men gets that stultifying era down pretty accurately, and it's a hoot throughout, especially to this child who grew up in it.

TO SUMMARIZE, CLASS: Although we're clearly headed for fascism — I predict a more or less benign general along the lines of Zinni, if not Zinni himself — and the country is coming apart every which way, popular art has never been better.

THESE POTTER VALLEY GUYS would make a pretty good Sopranos episode. “On October 29, 2013, at 1:37am Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a residence in the 17000 block of Van Arsdale Road in Potter Valley, for a reported shooting…” I'll take it from here. Harlan Gentry, 24, of Potter Valley, called 911 to announce he'd just shot William Vaughan, 24, in the leg with a .45 caliber pistol. Arriving deputies soon learned that Gentry and Vaughan “had spent the evening drinking alcohol and shooting firearms at the residence.” At the residence? From inside the residence? The booze and gun play apparently not providing quite enough merriment, Gentry and Vaughan fought each other, with Gentry ending the fight by throwing Vaughan out the door. When Vaughan tried to get back inside, Gentry plugged Vaughan in the leg. Then Gentry “and another man who was at the residence placed Vaughan into a pickup truck with the intention of driving him to a hospital.” Deputies intercepted the pickup as it left Villa Funnsies. Vaughan was subsequently flown to Santa Rosa where he was “treated for a non-life threatening injury.” Gentry was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, being armed in the commission of a felony, possession of marijuana for sale, and cultivation of marijuana and hauled to the Mendocino County Jail where he's being held on $50,000 bail. Deputies came back the next day to confiscate “366 growing marijuana plants with 313 of those plants being from an indoor grow operation.” The cops seized 70 pounds of processed marijuana bud, 150 pounds of drying marijuana bud, three firearms, and approximately $19,000 in cash. John Gentry, 26, Harlan's brother, was at home when the cops arrived for site-visit two. John Gentry was arrested for cultivation and sales of marijuana and booked into the Mendocino County Jail on$15,000.00. If there's a lesson here it would seem to be that dumb guys shouldn't get drunk at harvest time.

THE ABOVE reminds me of a Fort Bragg episode some years ago. In that one, a dope dealer arrives in the middle of the night at the home of a man who hasn't paid his drug bill. An “altercation” ensues. The dope dealer, a Caspar hippie, is shot several times by his creditor who also runs him over a couple of times with his tow truck. After shooting the Caspar hippie and running him over, Caspar Man is thoroughly dead. His dope bill paid in full, the killer winches the dead guy up on the tow truck's hoist and, the dead guy dangling off the hoist, drives the corpse through town to the emergency room where he tells the ER doctor, “I did my darndest to save him.”

ON TUESDAY, November 5, 2013, the Board of Supervisors will consider a “Right To Industry” Ordinance that would effectively tell anybody near any industrial activity in the County to just shut up about it. The proposed ordinance is along the lines of the County’s controversial “right to farm” ordinance from the 1990s which does something like the same thing for people living near farms. Tuesday’s proposal is accompanied by a fact-free backgrounder (by a full-of-himself, not very bright County employee who writes to the AVA website under the name 'Wraith' — natch, this kid is a UC grad) which alleges — without a single example — that people who complain about noise, smell glare or other “annoyances” have effectively made Mendo into an industry-free zone, not only scaring away prospective industries, but forcing existing manufacturing facilities to flee rather than face “overly burdensome” agreements to “change their operations.”

IN OTHER SUPERVISOR BUSINESS, “the board will consider appointing two of its members to an ad-hoc committee that would be tasked with reviewing all currently available information regarding the operation and releases of water from Lake Mendocino as well as downriver diversions in Sonoma County. The ad hoc would look at information that isn't immediately publicly available and make recommendations “on what information the Mendocino County Water Agency needs to fully understand the releases and diversions in the Russian River in both Mendocino and Sonoma counties, and take no further action beyond meeting with Sonoma County officials to request said information.”

WE NOMINATE SUPERVISORS PINCHES AND GJERDE for the ad hoc, two-person water committee; Pinches because he has complained for years about how the wildly unfair-to-Mendocino County water releases are, and we nominate Supervisor Gjerde because he represents the district least affected by inland water policies and is thorough and fair. Supervisors McCowen and Brown, and we're speculating here, are reluctant to take on existing water arrangements because their districts are home to major users who, essentially, have enjoyed virtually free water for a hundred years. That constituency, heavy on wine grape growers, assumes they're entitled to a whole range of freebies, beginning with free water down to tax paid advertising through the indefensible County-sponsored Promotional Alliance.

FORTUNA POLICE arrested a marijuana guy driving a Toyota and pulling a trailer on Halloween. The stop inspired the following exchange on Lost Coast Outpost: “Anybody driving a Toyota truck that is towing is a dope grower. People that work for a living and need to tow don't even consider using a girl's truck to do it with. These silly dope growers profile themselves with Toyotas, stickers on the back glass, smelly pit bulls in the cab, sunglasses on the back of a tap-out hat, and clean carharts on.”

THAT REMARK elicited this response: “Other silly dope growers wear wranglers, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat and drive a flatbed diesel truck. Some wear nice clothes because they work a 9-5 job and drive an Acura. Some drive diesel trucks with headache racks and wear all sorts of different clothes. Some look just like loggers with their cut-off-sleeve shirts and drive toyotas or nissan trucks with dog kennels in the back for bear hunting. Some wear different uniforms and drive government cars. Some wear uniforms and drive company cars. Some dress like grandparents and drive nice cars. Anybody towing a trailer is a dope grower. Anyone seen outside of work on a weekday afternoon is a dope grower. Anyone with short hair is a dope grower."

IT'S ESTIMATED that the latest cuts to the Food Stamp Program, now called Calfresh in California, will cost the average family $36 worth of food a month, or about six meals a month. Republicans, of course, have always claimed that the program was rife with the undeserving, and name a Republican who's ever missed a meal and we'll get the Mendocino Democratic Central Committee to take you to lunch with Wes Chesbro! Which is both a cheap shot and an expensive one since Democrats largely went along with cuts to the Food Stamp Program as they gear up to “compromise” with Republicans to cut Social Security and Medicare.

FACT IS, the largest bloc of food stamp recipients are children, but in the bipartisan war being waged on the poor, children are just more collateral damage. At last count, Mendocino County had about 10,000 people, or 12% of its 90,000 people, receiving food stamps. The available data does not say how many of those 10,000 are children, but you can be sure lots are. According to these same statistics, the 10,000 Mendo food stamp recipients are only about half of the approximately 20,000 Mendolanders living on less than 125% of the federal poverty level of annual income.

SPEAKING of the war on the poor, Ukiah's only homeless shelter, the Buddy Eller Center, has lost a big hunk of federal funding because, according to Tiffany Revelle's story in today's Ukiah Daily Journal, the shelter “no longer provides services for those with mental illnesses, making Ukiah's shelter less competitive in a world where it needed more of an edge -- not less of one -- to vie nationally for a shrinking pot of federal dollars.”

A READER WRITES: “I've been trimming for an old retired couple for about 25 years. They lent me out to a new group where I saw the following announcement on the wall. “If you own and use a cellphone, please leave it at home or disconnect the battery before driving here. If you cannot remove your battery and refrain from cellphone usage while en route, and while working here, we cannot hire you. Never take an active cellphone on your person or in your belongings, to the patch, or trim sites. Taking an active cell phone with you to a work site is like wearing a FED-sponsored GPS, tracking your route. Always remove your cellphone battery while working for us. Please also leave your cars at home; carpool or get a drop-off to work. Have someone drop you off and pick you up at designated pre-arranged times. We work from 10-2pm. When the Sheriffs cruise our neighborhood for the DEA, we don't want our scene seen in cyberspace. Please, for prompt payment, don't be sloppy with the confidentiality of our livelihood. Please refrain from discussion of the nature of our business outside of work, or that you are privately paid to work for us. That extra $5 of your hourly pay is for your silence! Thank you.” That's that WWII mentality for you. A little more careful. And don't hang out and blab at the coffeehouses!”

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: A visualization of drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004

WHIMSEY IN CLOVERDALE? Who would have thought… “The Listener,” a nine-foot green sculpture celebrating the ample version of the female form, now sits on Cloverdale Boulevard in the middle of town. Will the Jolly Green Giant soon join her?

WHAT ARE THE ODDS, PARANOIDS? If you are not exhausted by or indifferent to the endless revelations about the NSA — another week, another code name, another program to vacuum up and analyze the world's communications — then you've probably long since drawn a single general conclusion: we're all being watched, all the time. You may also think this is something we sort of knew anyway. Perhaps you see ubiquitous spying as a function of the post-9/11 authoritarian state, which gathers knowledge by any means possible in order to consolidate its control, and which sees us all as potential suspects. Or perhaps you think that if the state is going to have a chance of keeping us safe from bad guys it obviously has to have the latitude to look for them: it isn't interested in your research into 13th-century frescoes or cheap tights, but it needs to monitor all internet activity so that it can detect that rare occasion when someone searches for the materials to make hexamethylene triperoxide diamine bombs. The trouble with both these responses is that they're answers to a selfish question: are the spies doing what they're doing because they're interested in us? Civil libertarians say yes, and that the monitoring must stop; security advocates say no, not if we aren't doing anything bad. The paranoid reaction — that if I use the word “bomb” in an email to my aunt from the vicinity of a Bali nightclub then I may find black-suited agents descending on my hotel room — is just an extreme version of the narcissistic fallacy that someone is trying to see into my brain. There are seven billion people on the planet, and nearly seven billion mobile phones; six billion emails are sent every hour; 1.2 petabytes of data travel across the internet every minute, the equivalent of two thousand years' worth of music playing continuously, the contents of 2.2 billion books. Even if they don't get everything — the NSA claims, with loving wording, to “touch” just 1.6% of global internet traffic, or about 35 million books' worth of data a minute — the spooks have an awful lot more to be getting on with than worrying about you. And that's just the internet. That the NSA — along with the rest of the Five Eyes, the signals intelligence agencies of the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — has for the past 60 or so years sought to monitor as many of the world's communications as it has been technically possible for it to access is widely accepted. In response to Edward Snowden's leaks, the NSA put out a statement in August to expand on the public description of its mission, defining signals intelligence (SIGINT) — its primary job — as “the production of foreign intelligence through the collection, processing and analysis of communications or other data, passed or accessible by radio, wire or other electromagnetic means.” “'Communications or other data” that is “passed” by “electromagnetic means”; that's anything emitted or received by a phone, computer, fax, radio, guidance system or satellite, or data that travels along any kind of cable, whether dedicated to voice signals or internet payloads or banking transactions or supposedly secure diplomatic, government and military communications. It's anything with a pulse. Asked last month by a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee whether there was a limit to the records NSA could collect, Keith Alexander, the agency's director, said: “There is no upper limit.” He was talking about the phone records of Americans, but since those explicitly fall outside the NSA's foreign intelligence remit, and since many had thought that systematically collecting them was illegal, it went without saying that there was no limit to its ambition or ability to monitor anything else either. So the question has to be not so much “Is Big Brother watching.” but “How in hell can it cope?”

— Daniel Soar

STATEMENT OF THE WEEK: I don't even go to the doctor anymore. From now on, if I get hurt I'm going to the vet. The vet is better than the doctor on so many levels. First of all, a vet never refers you to another vet. Doctors specialize. They have a limited scope of expertise. “I do internal medicine,” or, “I fix bones,” or “I only do ear, nose, and throat.” The vets don't care what SPECIES you are! Anything that comes in the door. He doesn't care if it's a pit bull, a kitten, or a goldfish! He is just, “Lay that stuff on the table. I don't care. I don't care! You got a sick parakeet? I'm ready to go. I do birds. I don't care.” And a vet always gives you options. When you go to a vet, they will be very clear: “Look, this surgery will be very expensive, it's very complicated, there's plenty of risk, I'm not sure it will work. If you want, I could just kill you.” With a vet, that's always on the table. “We have the van out back. I can put your ass to sleep and cart you off to wherever you want to go. It only costs $50. It does not cause your family any grief or anything. We can take care of this right now.” I'm not saying it's the best option, I'm just saying I like knowing that option is on the table. — Alonzo Bodden

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *