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Off the Record (Dec 10, 2014)

THE DEADLINE for grape growers to submit self-drafted water management plans is February 1st. The State Water Board attempted, three years ago, to bring some control over the grape industry's unregulated, blank draw on the overdrawn waters of the Russian River. In the state's opinion fish couldn't live without water. In the wine industry's opinion the fish would have to learn to love wine.

THE INLAND MENO booze industry whined and stomped their little feet so hard and so long that the always flexible local court, this time in the form of Judge Ann Moorman, ruled that the state had no jurisdiction over Ukiah and Hopland's sons of the soil and that the Water Board had overreached by requiring them to prepare their own plans.

BUT THE STATE SUPREME COURT recently upheld an appellate court ruling that the several hundred grape growers strung out along the river will have to take water with a view to protecting it as a fishery. Obviously, the simplest approach would be for someone — perhaps the so-called “fish friendly farming” certification group — to develop an umbrella approach (establishing minimum flows, gages, monitoring, etc.) which individual growers would then either join (with membership fees to cover the costs of implementing the umbrella plans) so that regulators would have an easy way to check — or forego frost protection pumping altogether.

ONE POSSIBLE UNEXPECTED RESULT — depending on the extent of water availability next April and May — could be that more Russian River grape growers will resort to vineyard fans instead of water as frost protection, or some combination thereof. Neighbors of Russian River vineyards should keep a wary eye open for the installation of frost fans; if you wait until the growers turn the ear-shattering, sleep-depriving infernal machines on, your only recourse is the law, and in Mendocino County when it comes to the wine industry, the law won't be on your side.

CHRIS ROCK ON RACE: "I stopped playing colleges. They’re too conservative. Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of 'We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.' Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say 'the black kid over there.' No, it’s 'the guy with the red shoes.' You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive. … There’s always going to be people that don’t know that the war’s over. I’m optimistic, maybe because I live the way I do. I just have a great life, so it’s easier for me to say things are great. My brothers drive trucks and stock shelves. They live in a much better world than my father did. My mother tells stories of growing up in Andrews, South Carolina, and the black people had to go to the vet to get their teeth pulled out. And you still had to go to the back door, because if the white people knew the vet had used his instruments on black people, they wouldn’t take their pets to the vet. This is not some person I read about. This is my mother. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense… White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before. So to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years… The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people. … It’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for."

THE LATEST CHAPTER in “Citizen O'Brien's Complaint,” ends this particular book on a happy note, not only for Citizen O'Brien but for all of us. Dennis O'Brien, arrested outside a Ukiah supermarket for collecting qualifying ballot signatures for Measure S, sued the County and has now won. The store manager objected to the presence of signature gatherers and called the police to claim that the sig gatherers were trespassers. O'Brien doggedly argued that signature gathering in essentially public places, i.e., supermarkets, was a dangerous infringement on Constitutionally-protected free speech. Measure S — to prevent fracking in Mendocino County— also won and won big, by a 67% Yes vote. The County does not want to disclose the actual approval of the settlement by the board of supervisors. According to Acting County Counsel, this is standard practice, but in this case no news is good news.

AN ON-LINE COMMENT accurately assesses the true state of the homeless: "Most are estranged from family. They are typically anti-social, mentally disabled, mentally ill, drugged, druggies, alcoholics, felons. Most are incapable of ever being a part of any system that people who are simply poor would value. They aspire to nothing more than where they are. They need housing and toilets. They need food. They will never be able to pay for anything. They will not conform or work. They will never be productive. Accepting this is important. It's just a cycle for them. Round and round and round they go, pushing the some total of their belongings in a cart, until they succumb to the elements and then someone else takes their things and it goes on like that — their cycle. Moving them to a new area, dispersing them, etc., it is not in any way going to help them find a way out. Theirs is a true living hell, tormented by the state of their being. There is no place for them."

JOAN H. TURNER, a lawyer formerly employed by the County Counsel's Office, has filed notice via a damages claim that she will sue her former employer, namely the County of Mendocino. Ms. Turner worked mostly in juvenile court. The looming litigation is likely to cost the County a lot of money, despite County propaganda that County Counsel Doug Losak is an ace litigator, so ace he saves us a lot of money by fending off litigants himself rather than gulling the supervisors into hiring outside attorneys. That claim, largely mythical, recently got Losak a big raise, so the County will undoubtedly farm this one out to outside legal eagles for big money. The County Counsel's office, historically considered, would rather settle than fight. (“What the hell, it's not our money.”) And Ms. Turner has hired a hotshot firm of attorneys herself, which means double incentive for County Counsel not to take her on themselves.

MENDO ROLLS OVER FOR CALTRANS — AGAIN. “At its meeting Monday, December 1, the Mendocino Council of Governments unanimously approved Caltrans request to commit a share of funds to cover increased costs to complete construction of the US 101 Bypass of Willits project. MCOG’s share, at the long-established rate of 15%, is approximately $9,705,000. With all members present the Council deliberated, and heard several public comments, for over 90 minutes before taking action. Caltrans District 1 Director Charlie Fielder answered numerous questions. It was generally agreed that this was a tough (our emphasis) decision made at the expense of other planned projects in Mendocino County; however, the magnitude of the issue and the Council’s long standing commitment outweighed other options…”

A "TOUGH DECISION" in official Mendocino County means the decision is arrived at in a room without jelly donuts. At $111,000 per minute the above toughy must have been excruciating, broken furniture, blood on the walls? Nope. The board listened to 90 minutes of Caltrans bullshit and forked right over. (The days when public officials spent public money like it was their own ended 50 years ago.)

SO, if you have any complaints about Mendo’s badly deteriorating roads, blame it on MCOG’s captive board, which has rolled over for Caltrans falsehoods, lies, misrepresentations and exaggerations for decades, turning over tens of millions of local road dollars to the completely unnecessary Willits Bypass in whatever amounts Caltrans asks, no matter how transparently wrong or false the Caltrans claims are.

THIS LATEST giveaway of badly needed local road money was “justified” by Caltrans propaganda that was so transparently skewed that Willits News' ace reporter, Linda Williams, deftly proved them false in a few hours research.

TIME AND AGAIN Caltrans has deployed straight-up lies and misrepresentations to pressure local officials to roll over and now, despite Caltrans well documented history (false traffic levels, failure to deal with simple restriping, failure to consider a truck route, elimination of the promised Highway 20 interchange, numerous permit violations, refusal to honor known Native American burial sites, refusal to consider a scaled back northern interchange, etc. etc.) MCOG has rolled over again. As Ms. Williams reports, “…there is no guarantee there will be any money allocated to Mendocino County in the 2016 or 2018 cycles. The Willits bypass project will have claim to all future RIP (Regional [Transportation] Improvement Program) funding until the debt is paid back.”

PS. HERE’S WHO TO BLAME for your potholes and busted axles, all but one elected officials: Dan Gjerde; Doug Hammerstrom; John Pinches; Susan Ranochak; Benj Thomas; Larry Stranske; Trevor Sanders; and Brag Mettam, appointed by MCOG directly from Caltrans.

WHEN IT GETS DOWN TO IT, Orwell said it best: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

HOW MANY ENCOUNTERS a day do you suppose the rough men, and now rough women, sort out every day? Many thousands, many thousands which necessarily involve varying degrees of physical restraint from which almost all of the physically restrained emerge among the living. That's saying something in country as unhinged as America has become over the years, and doubly amazing considering the millions of guns in the land. And is there any need to point out that this society's free-range lunatic quotient is huge, all of the above occurring in a country divided from the beginning along class and race lines. It's surprising that cops don't shoot a lot more people.

YOUNG PEOPLE may not believe it, but the rough men, fifty, sixty years ago, were a lot rougher. Any veteran of 60s demonstrations will tell you that if you got arrested, male or female, you could expect a nice pummeling, and if you popped off, you got a full beatdown. Bar fights and other belligerent interfaces between cops and citizens where the citizen didn't instantly obey police commands to cease and desist, saw the cops immediately go to full body slams and fungo bat blows to the head. Back in the day, most Americans duly stopped whatever they were doing when the cops told them to stop.

ETCHED IN MY MEMORY under "Bummers, minor type," is my first encounter with law enforcement. As I dimly recall the venue it was on the walk home from school with my childhood pal, Al Boland. Al was a premature disrespecter of constituted authority, always in trouble at school, always suspect number one for minor acts of neighborhood vandalism, petty thefts, assaults on other children and so on. He was lively company, though and I often marched beside him. That day we were walking down the street, a pair of ten or eleven year olds, when a police car rolls past. Al instinctively gives the cop the finger. The cop drives on to the end of the block as if he hadn't seen us. Chortling at Al's insouciance, we walked on. But when we got opposite the police car the cop jumped out at us, grabbed us simultaneously by our quavering throats, and gave us each a brisk slap in the face. “But I didn't do anything,” I whined. “You laughed though, didn't you?” the cop said. When I got home I complained to my mother about what had happened. “That's what you get when you associate with bad people,” she said, waving me off.

I'LL BET most children of the 1950s would say that my mother's attitude prevailed in their families, too. No matter how arbitrary authority might be, the authority was to be obeyed. And, of course, authority was presumed not to be crazy or vicious.

SOME YEARS AGO, I was fortunate to hear a lecture by historian Shirley Moore at the California Historical Society, San Francisco. She'd just published a history of black Richmond called To Place Our Deeds. Dr. Moore pointed out that Richmond hired black cops to police black neighborhoods, adding that those black cops were not apostles of the Mahatma. But for most of the West Coast white cops policed all neighborhoods and, of course, were quick to resort to violence in already estranged black areas. And most police forces remain predominantly white. In a country as fractured as this one, the only hope for a reasonable level of domestic tranquility is multi-ethnic police forces, and even they will be unable to cope as the social collapse accelerates.

WATCHING the choke-out video that killed Eric Garner after reading accounts of it, it seemed obvious to me that Garner was murdered. Four cops, with a fifth hovering nearby, should have been able to keep Garner down and secure without Officer Gym Biceps continuing to choke him. By the time Garner was down what was the point of the chokehold?

EACH OF THE RECENT POLICE-RELATED deaths is different. Ferguson seems to me at least understandable if regrettable and, perhaps, unnecessary if the cop had carried a taser along with his gun. That was a taze situation, not one that called for lethal force, but all the cop had was his gun and he was getting hit by the now deceased who was also reaching for the cop's gun. The shooting in Cleveland was most shocking of all. The cops drive up, one jumps out and shoots the kid because the cop said he thought the boy's toy replica gun was a real gun. I tried to imagine myself in that situation, and the best I could come up with was, first, I think I would have seen how young the kid was however big he might be and, second, have waited to see if he seemed likely to shoot at me. All of this depends on lightning assessments, of course, and in the Cleveland case it looks like the cop simply jumped out of the car and opened fire on the kid. That cop has turned out to be a mental case determined unfit by the police force he'd previously worked for. Turns out psycho-cop shouldn't have been a cop in the first place.

IN THE CURRENT context of media hysteria, race demagogues, a deteriorating society generally, and the ancient fact of human life that most people believe what they need to believe regardless of the evidence, race relations will probably only get worse unless, of course, the millions of existing affectionate cross-race relations prove to be the foundation of many millions more.

A READER WRITES: "This probably sounds crazy to you, but… I'm no lib lab. I haven't paid too much attention to the news lately because it is so difficult to watch over and over again. But today I watched the video of the police assault on Eric Garner and the unfathomable Grand Jury process. If you don't think we are headed toward a very scary police state then this is the case for it. It may be black on white, but no matter. What happens when things are really out of control as the culture drifts? The adversary position of egregious and uncontested police violation of the rights of people is all over this country. The news everyday. Everywhere. Have our laws come to condone the strong over the weak and helpless? This big Black guy had no gun, and violating a tax law warrants a death sentence by choking because five policemen are so threatened? Video speaks louder than excuses. Can the police be excused because they needed to protect Themselves, plural? From what?

"Well, welcome to the face of fascism. He had no ability to defend himself. It was horrifying. What is our country coming to? Why do the police need to put this kind of violent, killing act on a citizen of this country for selling illegal cigarettes?! What if this was your child? Your cousin? Your family? He was not threatening them. Every American must ask themselves this question. What would happen to me? Aren't we all the same people of this country? I think race should be removed from the equation. This is about police violence, supreme authority, and the uselessness of a Grand Jury and the justice system. We all need to understand that something has gone really south in this country. There seems to be afoot the existence of a kind of disparate divergence between the power of inviolate military-like authority and the man on the street. Guantanamo here we come. And you can publish this."

ON JUNE 11, at about five minutes after midnight, Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Correctional staff assigned to work Building One of the Mendocino County Adult Detention Facility entered the cell of an unresponsive male inmate. Deputies found him unconscious and not breathing. Jail medical staff was present and evaluated the man. No pulse or respirations were detected, and life-saving measures were started. Emergency services were summoned and ultimately transported the man to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. The 55-year-old inmate was the sole occupant of the cell. He had been arrested on June 10, 2014 for being under the influence of a controlled substance by Willits Police Department and has since been identified as 55-year-old Steve Neuroth of Ukiah. Autopsy results are pending.

JOHNNY'S LAST STAND. Third District Supervisor and present board chairman, John Pinches, will be honored at Tuesday's meeting as he heads into retirement. Pinches was first elected in November of 1994, and represented Mendocino County's Third District and the rest of the County's more thoughtful, locally focused citizens for 12 years from 1995 to 1998, and again from 2007 through 2014.

STEADILY PURSUED AND OFTEN VILIFIED by liberals of the Clintonian type, Pinches' last board meeting will be December 16th. Libs seemed to object to Pinches' plain spoken cowboy style — he's been a cattle rancher all his life — more than his substance, and that substance has been an enviable record of fiscal prudence and a steadfast commitment to the welfare of the entire county. There was never any doubt where Pinches stood on issues, and even when he was disagreed with or criticized, Pinches was always open to debate and always remained affable. Unlike the recent crop of liberal supervisors foisted off on Mendo by the 4th and 5th Districts — a grasping, vindictive crew of hustlers and, well, criminals, Pinches has served honorably. He'll be missed by lots of us, and official Mendocino County will miss him and likely suffer his absence, although supervisors Gjerde, McCowen and Brown comprise a solid core of conscientious public servants in the Pinches mold.

I'M NOT VOTING out of apathy. I'm not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now, and which has now reached fever pitch where you have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system. So voting is tacit complicity with that system. —Russell Brand

A READER NICELY SUMS UP today's 49er loss to the Oakland Raiders: “This is what I wrote Dec. 01, 2014: 'That's the worst loss I've ever seen by a Raider team. Nobody showed up. Just what the 49ers need, a team embarrassed, at home against a rival.' Stick a fork in the 49ers. I don't know if I will be able to watch the brutal beating they are going to take against Seattle next week. Poor Kaep. He is completely lost. Confidence gone. His throws are so full of fear it's sad. The rest of the team on Offense are just as bad. Today the Defense played their poorest game of the year. They had zero pass rush. I could have got back there in a wheel chair and completed passes. Two weeks ago I said the 49ers were at best a 8-8 or 7-9 team. That looks pretty close.”

One Comment

  1. Rick Weddle December 10, 2014

    Turning to the homeless…
    Perceiving ‘the homeless’ as a clearly defined substrate of homo sapiens is actually turning away from the homeless deal. Once wrapped in a tidy definition, they’re thought of as a group, not as People, as individuals. The simplicity of this handle hides the complexity and the Humanity of Homeless, making it easier to wad ‘the homeless’ up and move them toward the recycle bin. The categories of ‘elements’ among their legions, a few of these pigeonholes listed above, are names of gateways through which each became incapable of fending for themselves and/or became an intolerable pain in the ass for others. But this describes equally well just about any politician you can name.
    Which reminds me: We didn’t even have a word ‘homeless’ until the avuncular and witless politician, Reagan turned ’em loose on the streets, in one of his brilliant moves, solving the Mental Health Problem overnight for the lucky State of California.
    Another vast subgroup of homeless ones, usually ignored even here, are American veterans of undeclared Wars of Military/Industrial Crime. I don’t know current numbers, but for some decades, Big Percentages of all the homeless in all major American cities, were those used up ones barely able to stand in lightest breeze, with the thousand kilometer stare, neither foot able to take another step. This modulates smoothly from the little magnetic rubber ribbons ‘supporting ‘our’ troops?’
    Plus single moms who’s homes were stolen by the looting thieving bankers whose increased performance bonuses would then pay the National Goddamned Debt. Single parents with kids in school and still working 2 or 3 (two or three) part time jobs…living in their car if they’re lucky.
    It’s often been said, ‘…you got your homeless, and you got your rich…’ More accurate is: ‘…you got your rich BECAUSE you got your homeless…’
    Just think: The next time one of these homeless ones comes up on your porch to bed down for the night, dribbling, screeching and reeking, he might very well be one who has the Idea for saving the planet from our customary ‘policies,’ if you dusted him off and put a suit on him. Could he do worse than presently? Not likely.

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