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Off the Record (Jan 20, 2016)

WONDERFUL ANECDOTE by Alan Haack from the MCN ListServe: Calexico and Mexicali are twin cities on the border of Mexico and California. Calexico, on the California side, has the clean American look with lawns and streets and big motels with lots of neon. The Mexicali side has an unpaved field back quite a ways to some old buildings. I was there to take the train from Mexicali to Mexico City, which left each morning around 11. Now it was evening and I needed to find a place to stay for the night. Prudence spoke first and said "Stay in the bright Best Western on the Calexico side with its lawn sprinklers and neon and take a taxi across the border to the train station in the morning." In twilight, the other side was dark and mysterious and, frankly, very inviting. Adventure argued with prudence, "Well, you came to go to Mexico, so why don't you go in?" The entrance into Mexico consisted of a little turnstile that turned one way only. I did it and had started across the field toward the buildings on the far side when a Mariachi Band! came walking by. Five guys all dressed like in the movies. They stopped, very coolly stepped backward, pointed at the instrument I was carrying and said, "What's that?" "A dulcimer." "Can you play it?" "Yeah." "Play it." So I did and they started playing, too and we all started smiling and did a little jam right there in the shadow of the fence. I had been in Mexico less than five minutes. "What are you doing here?" "I am taking the train to Mexico City in the morning and need a place to stay tonight. Do you know of any hotels?" Big smiles. "Our friend owns a hotel. Come with us, we'll take you." So we start walking together toward the buildings. The streets are unpaved, the sidewalks are wood and the lights are yellowish brown. It felt very comfortable. When we got to the hotel, we all went in. There was a great deal of conversation in Spanish that I didn't follow but felt ok about. I was handed a huge key and started to say good-bye to the musicians when I realized they were all coming upstairs with me. I do a quick When in my head, put the key in the door, open the door and in we all go. There is suddenly quite a scene, yelling and then everyone is running back downstairs. I follow, totally mystified. More yelling and carrying on at the desk and finally I understand that the members of the band had come upstairs to inspect my room. They didn't like it and were now demanding a better room for me, their musician friend! A new key was handed over and we all raced upstairs again to look at the new room. It passed inspection, literally, as these guys checked under the bed, in the bathroom, tried the faucets and looked out the windows. Then, they said in lovely careful English "Tonight we play at a birthday party but we still have some time. Will you come downstairs with us and sit outside on the porch and play some songs?"

THE AVA is looking for this mother-daughter pair. We think they might in the Laytonville area. If you can tell us the whereabouts of Natasha (Queenie) and Christine (Fulmer), please contact us. We want to talk to them in relation to the Mark Sprinkle case.

WITHOUT REHASHING the whole story, Sprinkle is the Ukiah man who got 45-to life for 90 seconds of "sexual touching." The underage girl allegedly touched was the voluptuously mature Natasha. She and two other underaged but over-experienced girls voluntarily took their clothes off in Sprinkle's car then, at urging of Natasha's mother, claimed Sprinkle "molested" them.

MOM, an aging tweeker, had been Sprinkle's "fiancé," and had vowed to get Sprinkle when he refused to marry her. If Natasha would at last tell the truth about her alleged molestation, Sprinkle might at last be released from prison.

JAMES MARMON, in his capacity as County social worker, knew Mark Sprinkle, a frequent AVA subject. (We've linked a summary of the Sprinkle saga for those of you who may be interested.)

MARMON, a reliable guide to the louche history of Mendocino County: "I won't say that Mark deserved all the time he's served, but he certainly deserved some of it. The charges against Mark came after I found Natasha hiding out in his tiny travel trailer out at The Forks; she had been missing for two weeks. I returned her home to her mother and that was the end of it for me. They both denied having any physical relationship, but I've always had my doubts. What I do know is that he had groomed this little girl for several years and that she was absolutely in love with him, wanted to marry him. She was a very attractive young lady and I couldn't believe that Mark would put himself in that kind of danger. No wonder he's in prison. It's my opinion their relationship was unnatural and that he was asking for the big trouble which he eventually found. Mark was really stupid and he walked into this thing eyes wide open. He had his chance to get out of it and stay out of it when I intervened. He didn't do it. He wouldn't stay away from her. I was an outreach crisis worker for the Youth Project and worked with both the young girl and her mother. I was not involved in the specific incident that Mark was finally convicted for, but I wasn't surprised when I heard about it. I knew Mark, but he wasn't a friend or foe, I just knew him. He was a long time friend of my ex-wife."

OBAMA'S STATE OF THE UNION, a rustic's view. Most real people would say the state of the union is precarious. A real person is described here as those not reflected by the audience at Obama's blandly unreal remarks. Reality looks different to the leadership and their limo pals. The President's presentation Tuesday night was the usual cheerleading and uplift he's good at, but it didn't reflect what, I'd say, most people would recognize as objective reality. But put me down among the many people disgusted by the abuse heaped on Obama. He's not a hateful figure, unless, of course, you're racially inappropriate. I think he's too soft, in a good way, which would be a virtue in anybody else but a conservative liberal president. Policy? Nothing new in the speech, all rah rah, no specifics. "Make our children safe." Big standing O for that one from the assembled lizards and corporate bagmen. "Sensible gun control." "Fight drug abuse." And on it went, with Speaker of the House Ryan smirking the whole way, then analysis by jive-o's like Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper. Obama will be the last Nice Person in the job. We can count on that.

HOURS BEFORE the Democratic presidential debate Sunday night, during which Bernie mopped up Hil, Sanders revealed the details of his plan for a single-payer healthcare system. According to the Vermont senator’s “Medicare for All” plan, individuals would pay a 2.2 percent “premium” and employers would dole out a 6.2 percent payroll tax to fund it. Individuals who make $250,000 to $500,000 would pay a tax rate of 37 percent and those making more than $10 million would pay a 52 percent tax rate.

SAGE NON-PERSONS HER CRITICS: "After getting no response from the shelter supervisor about her actions on a government public forum, I have decided to make this public. I am very concerned about the lack of transparency at the Mendocino County Animal Care Services. I have been volunteering and fostering dogs at the Ukiah Animal Shelter for over a year now. Apparently, I made a "mistake," I asked the wrong question regarding their Facebook post showing adoption totals for dogs and cats. As we all know showing adoption numbers is only one side of the story. I was curious to know the whole story. So I asked a simple question. My comment read, "Will you also be showing your live release rate?" Not only did my question go unanswered, my comment was deleted (along with a few other people's similar comments) and I was immediately blocked from the Shelter's Facebook page. Rather than give me an answer of any kind on Facebook they instead decided to silence and block a dedicated volunteer for asking a question. I have also fostered over 15 dogs for the shelter in the last year. Yesterday Sage also decided to take away my fostering "privileges." Because I spoke out on Facebook she says I can no longer foster the many dogs that need help, the dogs sitting at the shelter in dirty, wet, cold kennels. It is a big price for the dogs to pay for her pride. But Sage Mountainfire has decided to go out of her way to punish me for speaking the truth! The message sent by trying to silence the public speaks loud and clear. Until adoptable dogs and cats stop being euthanized at the Ukiah Animal Shelter, I will not be silenced." (Becca Edwards, Ukiah)

AMONG THE CHARGES roiling the Animal Shelter, count sexual harassment — female on female. The Shelter has never seemed sexually stimulating particularly, but it apparently was in this instance, with the alleged harasser reassigned to other animal-related duties but forbidden from entering the premises.
Thanks to outside funding from the Sonoma County non-profit hoping to take over management of the Ukiah shelter, the Care A Van spay and neuter operation was restarted this summer. It's a valuable service because, Shelter critics say, the Shelter takes forever to spay and neuter dogs and cats. As one puts it, "They don't like to do it unless the animals are getting adopted. It's ridiculous how long dogs wait if they are not getting adopted. But they would be expedited much more quickly through adoption and transfer to rescues if they were all spayed and neutered immediately upon impoundment." Critics estimate a thousand dogs came through the facility in 2015, but how many of those left alive was not included in boss lady Sage Mountainfire's annual stats. One volunteer, Becca Edwards, got herself banned from the Shelter's premises for asking why the numbers were excluded.

COUNTY CEO CARMEL ANGELO on the pending privatization of the County Animal Shelter: “Per previous Board direction, the Executive Office and the Health and Human Services Agency released a Request for Proposals (RFP) regarding the provision of animal care services on June 29, 2015. The RFP submission deadline was August 4, 2015. The Executive Office and HHSA are working collaboratively on the final evaluations and anticipate recommendations to be presented to the Board in February 2016. As previously reported to the Board, staff from HHSA, Executive Office and Human Resources met with staff at the Animal Shelter to discuss potential impacts and process. Staff is fully aware that the Board will make the final decision in open session once the competitive process is complete.” Translation: The Shelter will become the responsibility of the Sonoma County non-profit.

ON LINE COMMENT: "Thousands of Canadians of all races are streaming over the porous northern United States border. Some of those crossing the border could be terrorists, some say they are “visitors” but could just decide to stay and apply for welfare, some say they are crossing the border to buy lottery tickets in advance of Wednesday’s record Powerball drawing. When will this invasion by foreigners stop?"


SPORTS NOTE: CHIP KELLY is a great head coach hire for the 49ers, and probably good news for Colin Kaepernick, Kelly's kind of run and gun quarterback. Kap suddenly lost his mojo this season under the confused direction of the Niner's incompetent, meddling ownership. Interesting thing about Kelly is he's got about six years missing from his cv. Where was he, what happened? Nobody knows, and the guy isn't saying. If the owners leave him alone, Kelly will revive the franchise as he restores Kap's confidence.

THE REVENANT, the movie. I had to look the word up, vaguely recalling that revenant had some re-born associations. Boing! That's what it means — back from the dead. As is my memory, it seems. Anyhoo, a rainy day in Fairfax, so into the Fairfax Theater I went. This thing is certain to win big Academy Awards because it's wholly improbable, the dialogue and story line are childish, the acting consists of a single facial expression — the grimace — the writers throw in some noble Indians with the obligatory villainous white boys raping and murdering them, and we get lots of ultra-vi including a death fight with a guy in a grizzly bear suit. I'd recommend Revenant for 9-12 year old males. So, like, why were you there, Mr. Man Boy? Three hours after the show I was still asking myself that question. I guess because I liked the scenery, which looked like some place in frozen Alaska. But The Revenant is so dumb, so gratuitously violent it is certain to clean up at the Academy Awards.

EVERY YEAR as Martin Luther King's birthday approaches, I offer the opinion that the very best King bio is Marshall Frady's in the Penguin edition. Not to be too much of a geezer about it, but I was there, so to speak, a foot soldier of the left when King was generally criticized for his non-violent strategies and ridiculed for his Christianity. He was also of course vilified in the daily media as a communist and for demanding too much, too fast. He was certainly among the very bravest figures of those low times, beginning his every day without police protection for himself and his family and not knowing if it would be his last. Frankly, I think these latter day celebrations are hugely hypocritical but, I suppose, harmless. Gets the libs out of the house for a while. From what I can gather the way King is memorialized in the schools leaves out entirely his social-economic radicalism and winds up a kind of big bowl of luke warm wuv wrapped in multiculti-bullshit.

THE DAY AFTER KING was murdered, I was leafletting for a protest rally on Market Street when a young guy walked up and started screaming vile insults about how happy he was that King was dead. I thought I was going to have to fight the great white knight, but when I went into ultra-vi mode he walked away. (Ultra-vi mode is a raised right fist and a cocked but muted left to hit the adversary with while he's mesmerized by the right.) That guy was the only negative on a whole day. Everyone else who took a leaflet and stopped to talk was sympathetic. I still remember the encounter as emblematic of the times, emblematic of how twisted so many white tribalists are. The race nuts now have a half dozen or so presidential candidates led by that bellowing fool with the bobcat on his head. And San Francisco back in the day was not at all the liberal bastion it has since become. Sort of. The City was strictly, militantly segregated up through the 1970s.

DOWN, DOWN GOES THE PONZI (and Mendo's retirement “system” with it.) American stocks suffered another bad week after oil prices plunged below $30 on Friday and worries over China's shaky market continued to mount. The S&P 500 saw a 3% loss last week, while the Dow Jones and NASDAQ saw 3% and 4% losses, respectively. The Mendocino County retirement system is getting hammered, too, because it's heavily invested in the market. In 2008, Mendo's losses were about 25% of an already dangerously over-subscribed pension plan.

I'LL HAVE the crab cocktail, hold the domoic acid. As of January 8, the state's Department of Public Health says the level of toxicity in crab taken from the Mendo coast has increased from 17% to 33%. You can get real sick if you eat crab with high readings, hence the ban this season so far on Mendo crab. I don't want to get anybody killed, but a fisherman told me crab is safe if you stick to its meat. But if you down the whole show, guts and all, when acid readings are high, and you eat a lot of it, you're at risk.


POOR OLD CHARLES HENSLEY is tossed into the County Jail an average of four times a month. Hensley made it into the booking log last week on two consecutive days. He's never in long enough to really sober up, and when he's released he immediately drinks himself into another stupor. I'd say the Superior Court of Mendocino County is torturing the guy to death. Hensley needs to spend months in jail. Maybe if he could get completely sober he might give life another chance. As it is, the black-robed dispensers of justice are killing him one court appearance at a time.

THE REDWOOD VALLEY COMMUNITY CHURCH specifically excludes gay persons from employment and any volunteer work with its thriving congregation. Responding specifically to the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage, the Redwood Valley Christians cited the Old Testament's edict that marriage "has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union as delineated in Scripture…"

REDWOOD VALLEY is the only church in the County, so far as we know, to boldly announce its opposition to gay marriage.

HOW BROKE is Mendocino County? Mendo of course says it has an $80 million balance, but it's at least $56 million in the hole. Unfortunately for Mendo, the state counts unfunded retirement payment obligations against balance sheets. The County's pension obligations amount to at least $135 million with an unfunded obligation of as much as $166 million. Any way you tote it up, Mendocino County is broke.

HUMBOLDT State University is sponsoring two studies to determine if the Eel river can be better managed for fish health. The Potter Valley Diversion (of the Eel) depends on Scott Dam, which is in the relicensing process. The aim of the research isn’t about removing the dam, but how to restore fish habitat. The two studies look at how Pacific Gas and Electric's Potter Valley Project affects water hydrology and habitat for Chinook and coho salmon.

IF SCOTT DAM, and the diversion tunnel were removed, it would go a long way to returning fish runs to the Eel. That diversion — a mile-long tunnel hand dug by Chinese labor early in the 20th century for the purpose of turning turbines to electrify Ukiah, now diverts so much of the Eel River that Lake Mendocino depends on it for life. The waters of Lake Mendo are mostly owned by Sonoma County, which sells the diverted water to downstream customers as far away as Southern Marin County. The whole show is the very definition of tenuous.

IF YOU'VE never visited the diversion at Potter Valley, you're in for a negative treat. Survival of many fish depend on a cockamamie corkscrew-like fish lift into which fish enter as fish and exit as ducks, if they survive the ride.

Archimedes screw similar to the one in the fish ladder at the Potter Valley Diversion
Archimedes screw similar to the one in the fish ladder at the Potter Valley Diversion

SATURDAY (16 January, at 1:04 AM, deputies were dispatched to a home just north of the Fort Bragg city limits where, quoting the Sheriff's press release, "a reported burglary and assault" had just occurred. "A white male suspect, with long dark hair, wearing a red t-shirt, and armed with several knives, had entered a residence where he assaulted the 33 year old female resident."

DEPUTIES found the woman lying on the floor of a neighbor’s house. Lucky to be alive "from multiple puncture wounds to her upper torso," the woman said she had been asleep in the upstairs area of her house when she heard someone enter her home downstairs. The intruder walked up to the woman's bedroom "where she turned on a light and observed the suspect who was armed with a large kitchen style knife in each hand."

Although beaten and suffering from numerous knife wounds, the woman was able fight off her attacker and run to her neighbor's house as her assailant pursued her.

THERE IS NO association between the victim and her assailant. He just walked out of the night near Highway One and attacked the woman.


WHEN THE NEIGHBOR opened his door and confronted the attacker, shielding the wounded woman from further assault, the intruder fled west through the brush. Deputies and an ambulance were quickly on scene. The injured woman is now recovering at a distant hospital, if one ever fully recovers from a nightmare like this. Approximately 45 minutes later, the intruder, hiding in brush a short distance north of the home where he'd committed his mayhem, was found by deputies and arrested. Identified as Nicholas Merrell, 28, he has been booked into the Mendocino County Jail on charges of attempted murder, burglary, and for being a fugitive from justice from the state of Montana.

Nicholas Merrell

ALICE CHOUTEAU points out: "Regarding the attempted murder in Fort Bragg yesterday— if FBPD and Sherriff’s Dept routinely ran background checks on transients, they would have learned that Merrell is on the Most Wanted Escapees list in Montana."

GOVERNOR BROWN'S proposed $171 billion budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, for the first time ever, sets money aside for the regulation of medical pot. The new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act is made up of three bills rolled into one law signed by Brown late last year. They are the first official rules regulating the medical marijuana industry, $5.4 million worth. That scrappy little lead off hitter from Healdsburg, State Senator Mikey McGuire, wrote one of the trio of bills that eventually became law.

MALCOLM MACDONALD packs 'em in! Malcolm's Gallery Bookshop reading and signing Saturday evening was Standing Room Only. He writes: "Too many to accurately count (yet) books and Outlaw Ford tee shirts that made their way to the check stand and out the door. The audience was very appreciative to learn some of the true stories of Mendocino County history that link to the tales told in Outlaw Ford. Especially appreciative were those who won tee shirts and home made apple cider from the Macdonald Ranch. Visitors from as far as Anderson Valley (!) and Lake Shastina, near the Oregon border. Next up a similar event at Four-Eyed Frog Books in Gualala, 4 P.M., February 6th"

IT COULD HAPPEN HERE! The head of a mental health agency in Michigan is going to prison for nearly 3 years for using public money to hire a fortune teller. Ervin Brinker sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to embezzlement and a Medicaid fraud conspiracy. He had been the CEO at Summit Pointe in Battle Creek. He was accused of spending more than a half million dollars on a palm reader. Now he has to pay double that amount in restitution plus a civil penalty.

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