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Off the Record (June 25, 2014)

ROANNE WITHERS HAS DIED at age 61. A long-time environmental activist based for years in Fort Bragg, she died in her sleep at her Ukiah home sometime last Friday night. Roanne is survived by her son, Leiben. Roanne first settled in Elk in the early 1970s where she tended bar. Elk was not then the open air retirement home and oppressively correct place it has since become, and Roanne cut a wide swathe in a place and time when wide swathes were still being cut. As she became more settled, Roanne moved north to Fort Bragg where she met and married the late Ron Guenther, the well-known environmentalist, perhaps best known for filing the first successful challenge to a Mendocino County timber harvest plan. As a couple, Roanne and Ron formed the Coast chapter of the Sierra Club; they were also frequent contributors to the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Roanne was the primary organizer of the 1990 Redwood Summer demonstration in Fort Bragg. Ten years ago, Roanne sold her home on Harrison Street in Fort Bragg and moved to Ukiah where she worked for the County's Department of Mental Health before it was dismantled, then privatized, an insider-finagled move she denounced. At the time of her death, Roanne was employed as an in-home care worker for the elderly.

GOOD NEWS from the First Appellate District Court. Mendo Superior Court judge Ann Moorman's 2012 ruling allowing vineyard owners to help themselves to the Russian River and its tributaries for frost protection has been overturned. Local growers argued, basically, that state rules didn't apply to them. They'd packed the judge's courtroom to whine that the state rules, designed to protect the few fish left in the river, were too onerous.

ALTHOUGH the state had allowed vineyard owners to essentially write their own plans for taking the water, the local wine industry, with typical arrogance, demanded no interference, arguing that they were responsible people who could be trusted to protect the river despite several spring fish kills for lack of water. The fish die-off happened when and because numerous vineyard people in the Russian River watershed all pumped at once on frost mornings.

THERE ARE ROUGHLY 60,000 acres of vineyards in the Russian River watershed, of which better than two-thirds are planted within 300 feet of salmonid habitat.

THE GRAND JURY has found that the animal shelter in Ukiah is “severely overcrowded,” is infested by rats, and is “underfunded and mismanaged.” The GJ says the facility on Plant Road is home of last resort to "100 to 150 dogs and 70 to 80 cats per day" who can be found living in “insufficient housing for this number of animals,” with the overflow animals being housed in crates.

SOME ANIMALS are housed at the shelter for a year or longer, and that “keeping a dog in a four-by-eight-foot kennel or a cat in a two-by-three-foot cage for a year or more is cruel treatment.”

OF THE MANY men and women nominated for Toyota's 'Hometown Heroes' NASCAR weekend, Fort Bragg's Lt. John Naulty was named the winner. The contest was open to active or retired military, police, firefighters, emergency responders or teachers nominated for their acts of bravery and service to their country or community. Naulty was nominated by his daughter, Kaylynn, for his bravery on March 19 when he confronted an Oregon fugitive moments after the man had shot and killed Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino in Cleone. Naulty's fast action prevented the berserk gunman from killing more people.

Lt. Naulty (center)
Lt. Naulty (center)

ODD THAT PRISONS would be trying to keep “oppositional” publications away from inmates at a time there is virtually no opposition or political movement of an oppositional type. But the Bureau of Prisons is agitating for laws to keep selected publications from reaching inmates. Prison staff would do the selecting of course, and whatever other virtues they may possess, wardens and guards aren't know for their powers of literary discrimination. Boonville's beloved community newspaper has occasionally been interfered with by prison authorities — the federal pen at Marion, Pelican Bay a couple of times — but we haven't had any trouble in years. The proposed regs are silly. As some sage pointed out a long time ago, the only way to combat bad ideas is to let them be argued out of existence by better ones.

CASE IN POINT: I once had a friend confined to the SHU at Pelican Bay. He was an Aryan Brotherhood guy, a tough guy. No dummy, though, not that tough guys are necessarily dummies, but in my experience they tend not to be book readers or liberals. Of course in prison, especially in solitary confinement, books, and the liberating re-do of one's psyche that comes with them, has turned more hard guys around than all the prison programs put together. Anyway, my friend wrote a good letter. We argued back and forth about racism, among other things. He remarked that he was a great admirer of Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Klan. As it happened, I'd just read a biography of Forrest, who had to have been just about the fiercest individual ever produced by our savage motherland. I informed my AB penpal that before he died Forrest had renounced racism and died regretting what would now might be called his “false consciousness.” The Bro didn't believe me so I sent him the bio, which turned out to be a pretty good investment — prison inmates can only receive books directly from the publisher — as the Bro did indeed revise his thinking, at least about Forrest. He said the way prison worked he'd had no real choice but to align with his fellow tribesmen, but he'd had to consider the true fact that the man most Americans assume was a race fanatic died a liberal.

WE TRIED to post a link to this website —— but darned if the government (I guess) didn’t bust in and disable it. Apparently they don’t want us reading about cryptography. In any case the blocked site is, I’m e-informed, a “bad gateway” (502 error) and only bad people go there. Computer experts tell us that a lot of sites dealing with government snooping are mysteriously shut down. Big Brother is bigger than ever, it seems.

SPEAKING OF BIG BRO, I had assumed my preferred state of prone indolence one recent afternoon opposite a television screen, a television screen in a house on my nephew's property here in Boonville. I was reading. The TV was off, but I was startled by the sudden appearance in the lower left corner of the screen by a real time young man with a camera of some kind looking back at me. The image of this expressionless person faded in an out. But he occasionally moved a little, especially when I pressed my unwelcoming mug flat up against him and his camera. I watched, fascinated, as he appeared and disappeared until I began to get eerie vibes and pulled the plug on the set. I know these people working overtime "to keep America safe," can break into our computers, and can also use our cell phones to spy on us, but are they also holed up inside our television sets?

THE SUPERVISORS knocked $800,000 off the annual funds allocated to Redwood Children's Services last week. Redwood Children's Services, along with Mendocino County Youth Project and Tapestry Family Services, has been providing children's mental health services for about 15 years with no major complaints. Of course you are unlikely to hear complaints because we're talking about the children of the poor here, upon whose doomed necks are fastened whole apparatuses of well-paid middleclass persons, all of whom claim to be helping. The County used to place and fund disturbed children directly, but essentially outsourced that function to the vultures of the Ukiah non-profits.

THE COUNTY'S Department of Health and Human Services says the non-profits are spending too much money per child. HHSA fears the County is at risk of an audit by the state and that is why they want to continue ratcheting down the funding. Redwood Children says the County is instead at risk of losing matching state and federal dollars that could be used to "grow" the system. Which would also grow the profits for RCS, whose upper staff, natch, benefit directly in bigger salaries.

DAN HAMBURG, champion of the poor and oppressed, sided with staff in knocking back Redwood Children's annual take, while McCowen and Gjerde wanted to take more time to make sure the County was not leaving dollars on the table that could be used to provide increased services to the mentally ill. After scolding RCS for questioning staff's motivations, Hamburg made the motion to approve the Mental Health Services Act plan as presented. The motion passed 3-2 with McCowen and Gjerde dissenting.

MEDIA NEWS GROUP, based in Denver, owns lots of outback newspapers. Prior to the internet, all newspapers returned huge profits. The four here in Mendo sent a couple of mil a year in pure net advertising gain every year, not that you'd know they were capable of generating that kind of money from the look of them. But if you do the math — advertising rates plus the size of the ads minus the pittance they pay their staffs — you'll see that even in their present debilitated state outback papers make money.

MEDIA NEWS GROUP, in our immediate neighborhood, owns four Mendocino County papers and one in Lake County. As print newspapers fade into techno-oblivion, and every other person in America writes his own on-line newspaper, Media News Group continues to gut its antiquated, print-related holdings, squeezing its Mendo newspapers for whatever's left to squeeze. All four of those papers — the Ukiah Daily Journal, The Willits News, and the interchangeable Fort Bragg Advocate and Mendocino Beacon — now operate with skeleton staffs.

AS OF THIS WEEK, the UDJ, the TWN, and maybe the Advocate-Beacon (haven't seen them yet) are being assembled in identical generic format in distant Chico via a process called Saxotech, a dumber, blander version of USA Today.

THE WILLITS NEWS looks like it's screaming at the reader with headlines throughout in oversize caps. “COUNTY SKIMMED $1.2M FROM PUBLIC LIBRARIES” — Oh, really? Somebody embezzled $1.2 million from the Library?

QUALITY OF THE PRINT is even worse, with some of the photos printed in a weird reddish tinge. The type is almost unreadably small as in the old AVA. (We keep the AVA's print small so we can bring you, dear reader, so much riveting material.) The revised Journal and Willits News are about ¼ inch narrower across and the newsprint is so thin that if you open the paper and hold it up, you can’t read page 2 because the huge heads on the front page blast on through.

THE END IS NEAR for Media Group, as production of their papers is more and more centralized and they're slowly strangled. Several properties housing Media Group papers are being sold. Here in Mendo, only the Ukiah Daily Journal works out of a Media Group-owned property. The Beacon-Advocate and The Willits News work in rented space.


UKIAH NEWS in brief: Phil Baldwin will run again for the Ukiah City Council. He also presently functions as mayor. Red Phil takes a lot of abuse from the more primitive sectors of inland opinion, but his positions are certainly more consistent and reasonable than those of his two “liberal” colleagues, Benj ‘Little Benj’ Thomas and Mary Ann Landis. Doug Crane is always a sensible, steady hand on the Council when all about him are galloping off in irrelevant directions. The newest Council member, Steve Scalmanini, was appointed as the only person interested in a vacant seat, and he's been an asset. When the Council was dominated by the departed Mari Rodin, Landis and Little Benj, bad spending and much silliness prevailed.

THERE ISN'T much apparent interest in Ukiah affairs, just as there isn't much interest in County government. Next door in Humboldt there are a half-dozen blogs focused on HumCo affairs with active commentary on most local news items. Here? Well, there's the AVA and then there's a lot of Big Think chat on a couple of listserves where loon-gibber in the norm.

THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL wants to continue a half-cent sales tax to fund the always busy Ukiah Police Department, whose primary task these days is riding herd on the ever increasing number of dope heads, street drunks and unattended-to mental patients. “Liberal” Ukiah, along with “liberal” Mendocino County and a mostly “liberal” Superior Court, ignores the omni-present problems presented by the homeless, choosing instead to leave them to the police to manage rather than consider alternatives that might help some of them get permanently off the streets. We used to have the state hospital system, which is where most of the people regularly in the police logs rightly belong. Instead...


UNSOLICITED PLUGS: Laura Fraser is a well-known writer — a really good one, I should add — based in San Francisco. She's written for all the Bay Area papers and mags and Salon and has a New York Times bestseller, An Italian Affair, on her impressive resume. Laura has begun a website called “shebooks.” The funding effort is described as an “equal writes campaign to fund women writers.” As Laura explains it, “We want to publish great reads by as many women writers as possible...because not enough women are able to get their work published — even the best women writers.”

THE AVA is regularly criticized for being heavy on the testosterone, that we don't have enough female contributors. We don't, but it's not that we exclude them. We don't exclude anyone except for a chronophage here and there. (There's a Covelo guy who bombards with incoherent tracts about the Bari Bombing about which he doesn't even know the non-controversial basics. (Pssst. Don't tell the FBI, but the ex-husband did it. Well, he was in on it anyway. We're not going to know what happened unless he fesses up posthumously.) That, and long think pieces on global affairs by junior faculty is the kind of stuff we toss because we know if it puts us to sleep, you, dear reader, will be comatose by page 3.) Now that all the really, really tedious people have their own websites, we're really, really happy not to have to deal with them. Otherwise, we view the 'net as a net negative.

NOT BEING A GUY to spend any more time on a computer than is absolutely necessary to get out the weekly blasts from Boonville, I came late to Tim Redmond's — “the secrets of San Francisco.” There are lots of them, certainly, and Tim, formerly the main man at the SF Guardian, regularly reveals them here, the best source I know for San Francisco news, especially now that the Chronicle is half way out the door marked “Permanent Exit.”

IT ALL HAPPENED PRETTY QUICKLY last week, but in case you haven’t noticed, Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall over there. The bonehead American news media affects to be too stunned to even ask the pertinent questions, starting with: is that all it took to undo eight years and — what? — maybe $2 trillion in US-sponsored nation-building? Oh, plus 4,000 US dead and 50,000 wounded. So, my question would be: when do the political recriminations kick in? Pretty soon, I reckon, and when they do, expect them to be fiercely perverse. The theme of who lost Iraq? may cost more than who lost Vietnam? (James Kunstler)

THE BEST REPORTING on Iraq that we've seen is by Patrick Cockburn of England's Independent newspaper, also reprinted on the CounterPunch website. Cockburn has reported on Iraq for many years and is stationed in Baghdad. He's by far the most knowledgeable journalist at work on the fluid developments there.

TYPICAL MENDO EVENT on the Ukiah side of Orr Springs Road last Saturday. Local scanners said "Vehicle and field on fire. Ammo popping off near diesel tank. A man described as "5150 (crazy) with dark hair, black shorts, is running around through people's yards and into the words." The fire was confined to the pick-up truck with a CalFire inmate crew cleaning up and on fire watch. No word on the crazy guy.

One Comment

  1. Whyte Owen June 28, 2014

    What deficit in women writers? Our large home (hardbound) fiction library is dominated by female authors, from the gilded age to contemporary, not because we are sex-selective but rather are quality-selective. Getting published is hard for all, and I would like to see some data that support sex bias.

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