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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Feb. 27, 2017

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BRIANA BURNS was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1935 to Charles and Ethel (Bentz) Burns.  From an early age Briana loved nature and science; her parents were ahead of their time in encouraging her to pursue her interests regardless of whether they suited expected gender roles of her generation. The family moved to New York State in 1940, where Briana and her siblings delighted in exploring nearby fields and streams, catching frogs, snakes, turtles, and field mice as temporary pets.

Briana was tough and determined from an early age despite her diminutive size. She loved to relate the story of how, at 10 years old, she won the top award in a student science fair for her collection of preserved fox and raccoon furs, carefully salvaged from road-kill specimens which she skinned and tanned with instruction from her father. The judges announced the prize winner as Brian Burns, obviously expecting a boy scout type to be responsible for the project. Much to the amusement of her parents, the judges were astonished and disbelieving when delicate looking little Briana appeared on stage to collect her prize.

Briana later attended the Putney School in Vermont where her classmate Peggy Seeger introduced her to the music of Pete Seeger, sparking a lifelong fascination with folk music. Briana loved to sing, and enjoyed the challenge of learning new instruments; at various times playing accordion, autoharp, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and piano. She participated in many regular folk music jam groups throughout her life, particularly enjoying the weekly session at the public library in Cross Plains, Wisconsin during her last 10 years.

At the age of 16 Briana left home to attend the University of Chicago on a full scholarship, as did 3 of her siblings. She graduated with a degree in education, and taught elementary school in Chicago for several years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in California to continue her career.

Briana especially enjoyed her work as a reading specialist and special education teacher. She had a unique ability to see each student’s potential and build on their strengths, helping them to not only succeed academically but also to believe in themselves. She taught her developmentally disabled youngest sister to read after Ellie was labeled “unteachable” and expelled from the public school system. With Briana’s encouragement Ellie not only became an avid lifelong reader, but also committed to memory much of the work of Arthur Conan Doyle, along with many other classics. Briana’s greatest satisfaction was seeing students who had fallen through the cracks in conventional education gain reading, thinking, and problem-solving skills.

In the late 1960’s Briana met and married Guy Rowe. Around this time she was hired as the classroom teacher overseeing an experimental program run by Stanford University, the first in computer assisted instruction for elementary education. Her work as one of the early pioneers in this field later led her to jobs for Bay Area companies as a technical writer and editor for computer software during the 1980’s.

Briana and Guy’s daughter Wendy was born in 1971 in the Bay Area. Briana’s wish was to raise a family in the country, to offer her children the same sort of nature based education and adventures she herself had experienced. In 1973 the family moved 150 miles north to an old farmhouse on Peachland Road in the hills above Boonville, purchased in partnership with Briana’s sister and brother-in-law Charity and Morris Hirsch. In keeping with the back-to-the land philosophy of the day, their new home was 3 miles up a dirt road, with no phone or electricity. Briana’s self-reliance and ingenuity flourished there.

Her son C.T. was born at home in 1974. While her children were young Briana temporarily exchanged her career for the role of homesteader: raising poultry, gardening, cooking squirrels and rattlesnakes, canning and drying homegrown produce to feed her family. “Waste not, want not” was her motto.

She returned to teaching at Anderson Valley Elementary School while both her children were attending school there. After her divorce from Guy Rowe in 1981, Briana divided her time between family life in Boonville and working in the Bay Area. She rented a bedroom from a co-worker during the week, but missing the fresh air and outdoor lifestyle she had grown accustomed to, chose to sleep in the back yard in her sleeping bag, even in winter. Throughout her time commuting to the bay area for work, she remained active in the Anderson Valley community and with environmental concerns there. She was involved with the early Navarro River watershed restoration group, participating in water quality monitoring. She also had a strong interest in Mendocino County history and her work transcribing the diary of an early Peachland homesteader is published by the local Historical society.

In the mid 1990’s Briana retired and moved to Cross Plains, Wisconsin, to live with the family of her niece, Jennifer Hirsch, doing childcare for their young sons. She enjoyed the small town communities she experienced in Wisconsin and later moved permanently to the village of Black Earth, close to her extended family.

Briana joined the Freethinkers of Sauk Prairie and greatly appreciated the unique and open-minded fellowship, serving as President of their board of directors. She was very involved in the care of their historic Park Hall, as well as the congregation’s historic library and documents.

Briana continued her volunteer work with many environmental organizations in her later years, including the Black Earth Creek Watershed Association-which oversaw a Class 1 trout stream, the Baraboo Range Preservation Association, the Black Earth Creek Rettenmund Prairie, the Ice Age Trail, and Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. She helped count frogs and birds annually for ecology groups. She was also active with the historical societies of Cross Plains, Black Earth, and Sauk City. Tutoring children was still an important part of her life during her retirement years, as well as mentoring people in need through an adult literacy program.

Throughout her life, Briana never hesitated to reach out to others and do what needed doing. She had a strong work ethic combined with a knack for finding common ground with people from all walks of life.

Briana died of heart failure on February 15th, 2017 with her sister Charity and Agrace Hospice staff at her side.  Ever practical and disapproving of waste, she donated her body to the University of Wisconsin Medical School. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Terence, and sister Elitha, and is survived by her children Gwendolen “Wendy” Rowe and Christopher Terence “C.T.” Rowe, her sisters Persis (David) Suddeth and Charity (Morris) Hirsch, brother Padraic (Ikuko) Burns, as well as many nieces, nephews and their children.

A memorial for Briana, open to the public, will be held Saturday April 15, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Freethinkers’ Park Hall, 307 Polk St., Sauk City, WI 53583.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Briana’s memory can be made to:

  • Free Congregation of Sauk County, PO Box 664, Sauk City, WI 53583
  • The Ice Age Trail Alliance, PO Box 128, Cross Plains, WI 53528
  • Anderson Valley Historical Society, PO Box 676, Boonville, CA 95415

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COAST HOSPITAL FALLS BEHIND

by Malcolm Macdonald

The Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Board of Directors have denied Dr. Peter Glusker's attempt to have his recent censure rescinded. Glusker was censured by his fellow board members in January for hitting Reply ALL on a December 30 email rather than sending a one person message to the Hospital Board's Executive Assistant. The email in question stated, “Closed session agenda does not list the item Mr. Ruprecht [legal counsel to the MCDH Board] said he would report on at this meeting about follow-up on Ellen Hardin's emails and allegations of harassment and possible fraudulent billing problems. I believe the board needs a report at this time on those matters.”

Ms. Hardin was then MCDH's Chief Human Resources Officer. More or less since the time of Glusker's censure in January Ms. Hardin became invisible. Queries posed to reliable sources in and outside the hospital appear to disclose that Ms. Hardin is on some sort of leave at present and that she will no longer be employed at MCDH in the future.

Further questioning here and there reveals that the somewhat ambiguous wording in Dr. Glusker's email means that Hardin's communications (emails) concerned alleged workplace harassment of her, presumably by someone higher up the chain of command at MCDH. The “Closed Session” agenda for the MCDH February 23 board meeting contained the item “Conference with legal counsel regarding personnel claim against the District. Government Code 54956.9(d)(2), (e)(3).” Whether this item has anything at all to do with Ms. Hardin is unknown at this point.

Conjecture regarding the accidental nature or deliberateness of Glusker's email SEND remains split, though it is interesting to note that Glusker sent it from a personal email address and not the MCDH email address often used by board members. Which leads to the question, if Dr. Glusker deliberately sent the email out to more than 50 non-Board member recipients, why would he have done so? Frustration that information was being kept under wraps within MCDH would be the most obvious answer.

We've already alluded to the possibility that the Chief Human Resource Officer at MCDH may have been the victim of workplace harrassment, but the other part of Glusker's December 30 email used the words “fraudulent billing problems.” At the February 23, 2017 MCDH Board meeting, legal counsel John Ruprecht reported that the accounting firm WIPFLI (the title derives the company founder's surname) had found no evidence of fraud in MCDH's practices; however, WIPFLI was nevertheless retained by a vote of the MCDH Board as a consultant for periodic medical record and billing compliance review.

If that sounds like something is out of whack then it's time to take a look back to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon's early November financial report given first to the MCDH Finance Committee then to the full MCDH Board of Directors. In the narrative portion of Sturgeon's report he states, “Unfortunately we are still dealing with some transition pains associated to the switch to EmCare in our ER. At the end of September, we were 60 days post implementation. We anticipate this challenge to be neutralized by the beginning of November. but unfortunately it has taken us about 90 days to get our processes in place working alongside of EmCare.”

If we go back further, to the CFO's report to the Finance Committee on September 27 of last year we find Mr. Sturgeon saying, “Due to complications with the ER transition, we had issues with billing and getting charges into the system. We believe that the initial issue was fixed in September and we will have some charges for services rendered in August that hit the September income statement. The amounts were not deemed large enough to manually input to the August income statement due to the amount of time and effort it would take.”

Remember that phrase “compliance review” was part of the reason MCDH is retaining WIPFLI? Medicare requires hospitals like MCDH to be at an 85% or higher level of compliance in billing matters. For the first seven months of 2016 MCDH had no problem maintaining that standard, but when the outfit known as EmCare began running the MCDH emergency room (ER) on August 1, 2016, and subsequently took over coding and billing practices for the ER that billing compliance percentage dropped to 39% for the month.

Keep in mind that part of the reason EmCare won the ER contract at MCDH was a promise to provide an overall increase in revenue for the hospital to the tune of $4.1 million if EmCare took over coding and billing matters in the ER, resulting in a potential cash collection increase of slightly less than $2 million annually for the hospital. Obviously EmCare's ability to code, especially for Critical Care practices, was a bit lacking. Also keep in mind that CFO Sturgeon knew about the massive drop off to 39% by mid-September, but at the end of that month he told the hospital's finance committee, that “the initial issue was fixed in September,” and “the amounts were not deemed large enough…” These statements create an issue not only of transparency but trustworthiness.

What's at stake monetarily as a result of this sort of 85% slide to 39%? Pretty simple: Medicare can threaten to cut off what are called periodic interim payments (PIP) to the hospital. This can amount to serious money in no time, anywhere from $4 to $7 million yearly at MCDH.

It has come to this writer's attention that by sometime in November both CFO Sturgeon and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards were aware that it would take extra manpower to sift through the backlog of EmCare billing mess-ups, yet these sorts of positions were not created until January.

Speaking of January, 2017, let's take a look at the Finance Committee meeting held on the fourth day of the new year, recalling CFO Sturgeon's remarks from two months earlier that he anticipated the “EmCare challenge to be neutralized by the beginning of November.” In Sturgeon's 4th of January financial narrative he claims, “We have cleaned up the major issues associated to EmCare.”

Yet MCDH is contracting with WIPFLI to oversee a billing compliance review at a cost of $15,000 per quarter minimum. Something smells here. Reports from in and outside the hospital indicate that the kind of errors EmCare made back in August are still occurring, lots of coding errors. Getting the codes correct makes a huge billing difference in dollars. For instance, if someone comes into the ER for an arm injury that requires a splint, but the code for an Ace bandage is recorded instead, the result is a significant dollar difference. You have these errors over and over, then we're talking major amounts per shift, per week, per month.

These errors may not rise to the level of billing fraud; however, if reports that EmCare's billing and coding errors have continued into 2017 prove accurate, contrasting with the CFO's contention that those issues have been cleaned up, then there's some serious explaining to be done.

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PEACHLAND ROAD, about a mile up from Highway 128, is going to be closed for some time. The roadbed has slid away into about a 50-foot drop, leaving another 50 or so feet of air between the two halves of the road.

QUITE a number of people are semi-stranded in Upper Peachland. For now, some of these neo-isolates are parking vehicles on either side of the gulf, walking the sliver of remaining road, and resuming their commutes in and out. Inconvenient, certainly, but not likely to plunge anyone into Donner Party mode.

I WAS SURPRISED to see fresh tire tracks on the remaining piece of road, meaning some daredevil is removing the Do Not Pass barriers to drive on, with one side of his vehicle perilously close to the 50-foot abyss.

ALTHOUGH it's possible to get in and out of Peachland via the Ukiah Road or even Nash Mill, these routes are apparently not being considered as alternate routes in and out for residents. And who knows how long before the road is repaired? It's a big, costly job in a broke county with major damage this rainy season to more heavily traveled roads.

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VERNEY (VERN) GILLESPIE ORNBAUN (JR.)

Born in Woodland, CA September 28, 1931 to Verney (Sr.) and Nellie Marie (Burtis) Ornbaun. Both his parent's families were early settlers to Northern California in the Anderson Valley area of Mendocino County. The Burtis-Phillips family settled in the Grand Island-Sycamore area of Colusa County. Verney (Jr.)'s grandparents were John Shipley and Lucy Ann (McGimsey) Ornbaun who settled in Mendocino County. They had 15 children of which Verney (Sr.) was the 13th child. Verney (Jr.) was John and Lucy's 52nd and last grandchild. Vern, as he was known in later years, attended Grimes Elementary School, Pierce High School in Arbuckle and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. He then joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon returning from Korea he was stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside. He and Marilyn Kelly were married in Arizona in 1954. They later returned to Colusa County where he started farming. He continued farming until his partial retirement a few years ago. He also enjoyed his vacation home at Lake Almanor in Plumas County with family and friends. Vern is survived by his wife Marilyn and his three children, Kelly (Johnna), Clarke, and Carolee Ornbaun, all of Colusa County, and by his 7 grandchildren, Cody, Alison, Colt, Lauren, Lindsay, Logan, and Ashley Ornbaun. Vern passed peacefully on February 14, 2017 in Woodland, CA. A celebration of his life will be Saturday, February 25th, at 2 p.m., at 538 Main Street, Colusa.

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JUST IN FROM ELK

CRAIG MITCHELL is an Elk contractor and the town's fire chief, the only fire chief on the Northcoast who played Major League baseball. Yup, Craig, originally from Santa Rosa was a pitcher with the Oakland A's, middle 1970s.

IN OTHER NEWS from Elk, former 5th District supervisor, Norman deVall, has sold his house and now lives up the road in Mendocino, village of.

NORMAN CONFIRMS:

True; DMV has clipped my wings because of my eyesight. At best I’ll be limited mobil and no night time driving. I’ve anchored at Jose Cross’s former home on Cummings Lane.

As you know Bobby Beacon 86’d me when I brought a Veterans for Peace member by for a drink. (Bobby didn’t want his hat or his T-shirt.) But told me later that if I left the Elk County Water District Board of Directors the prohibition would be lifted. Have to make a visit before I head north.

The Jackson Band of Miwoks are the new owners of the Little Red House with the Green Lawn.

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EMERGENCY PLANS FOR IMMIGRANT HOMES

by Martin Espinoza

Xochitl and Jorge have been thinking a lot about the day federal immigration officials come knocking on the front door of their mobile home.

The couple, who entered the United States illegally more than a decade ago, now live in Santa Rosa with their children, two of them born in the United States. Their 11-year-old son, a U.S. citizen, sensing his parents’ tension and fear, recently told his mother that he wished he was older so that he could help them, somehow.

“I tell him, ‘Don’t you worry about that. You have to live your childhood, be happy,’” said Xochitl, who along with her husband asked that only her first name be used for fear of being targeted by federal immigration agents.

“If something should happen, you have to try to stay together as siblings and know that we’re going to find someone to take care of you. And we’re going to find a way to be together again, whether that’s here or in Mexico.”

Xochitl came to the United States illegally 12 years ago with her oldest daughter to be with her husband, who had crossed the border through the Sonoran desert two years earlier. Like many of the estimated 30,000 undocumented immigrants in Sonoma County, they are living in fear — some in a state of panic — now that they are in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Spurred by the growing fear of unprecedented deportations, undocumented residents such as Xochitl and Jorge are drawing up plans for the worst-case scenario. They ask themselves the same questions: Who will care for their children? Do they have enough money in their wallets? Will they have access to their bank accounts? Do their children have valid passports?

The pained discussions amount to disaster plans for hundreds, possibly thousands, of North Bay families.

“There is a lot of panic. I would say that many of them are terrorized,” said Dina Lopez, senior program manager of immigration services at Catholic Charities, a Santa Rosa nonprofit that provides services to immigrants, seniors and the poor. The fear is real, one Sonoma Valley landscape business owner said last week. Many of his employees are deeply frightened of being deported, said the owner, who is an American citizen but asked to remain anonymous to protect his employees.

“Anybody who is not legal is afraid,” he said, his voice choking with emotion. “There are those of us who are here and are legal and not worried about that. But we will be losing a lot of extended family.”

Immigrants seeking help

Since Trump signed two executive orders in late January promising tougher border enforcement and stepped-up deportations, immigrants, both documented and undocumented, have been seeking help from their employers and groups such as Catholic Charities. Some want to know if they have any rights, while others seek information about what they should do if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents come for them.

Still others seek guidance on filling out power-of-attorney forms to ensure someone will temporarily care for their children should they be swept up in an ICE operation. Some immigrants who are longtime legal permanent residents are finally starting the process of obtaining their U.S. citizenship.

Traditionally, Catholic Charities offered two citizenship courses a year. This year it’s offering eight.

“We used to serve between 60 and 70 students a year,” said Lopez. “Now we will serve about 210 students in Sonoma and Lake County.”

Lopez said the organization’s immigration services used to submit three to six naturalization applications a week. Now, it is submitting 12 to 20 a week.

Last week, more than two dozen immigrants, many of them undocumented, attended a Catholic Charities workshop on civil rights. The once-a-week workshop usually attracts only a handful of immigrants.

There was an unmistakable air of fear and anxiety in the room as Marcela Morales, a Catholic Charities immigration appeals representative, conducted her presentation. Morales tried to keep the atmosphere light.

“Do you know what your rights are?” Morales asked in Spanish. “Anyone?”

“I cannot be detained without on order signed by a judge?” said one young immigrant.

“I can remain silent?” said another.

“Well, it looks like you’ve all attended my workshop already,” Morales said, joking.

The questions and answers followed in waves. Find someone who will temporarily care for your kids. Avoid living with someone who has a criminal record. If ICE has an arrest warrant for someone in the house, find a way to have that person exit the home, but do not open the door.

“What if they have an arrest warrant for someone but that person doesn’t live there but I do?” asked one woman.

“Do not open the door,” Morales said.

“What if they force the door open?” asked another person.

“Then they have committed a crime,” Morales said.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued administrative guidance for Trump’s executive orders on immigration enforcement. The new DHS policies greatly expand deportation opportunities for ICE, establishing several categories that make a broad swath of undocumented immigrants eligible for deportation.

Anticipating new federal policies

While Trump has repeatedly characterized his enforcement measures as an effort to target undocumented immigrants who are dangerous criminals, the new policies may include people who have used fake documents and those suspected of committing a crime but not convicted. The new policies call for enlisting more police officers as immigration enforcers, building or expanding detention centers and greatly expanding “expedited removals.”

“It really is a mass deportation scheme that includes expedited removal,” said Heather Wise, a Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney with specialized experience defending immigrants.

Wise said all immigrants are protected by the U.S. Constitution, regardless of their immigration status. It is difficult, she said, to predict how many of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are likely to be detained and deported under the Trump administration’s new policies. There is a lack of clarity about how the new policies will be carried out, she said.

“That’s huge when you consider the unpredictability of the current administration,” she said.

At La Luz Center in Sonoma, workshops are being held to help immigrant parents fill out “power-of-attorney” forms that will authorize someone to care for their children if they should be detained. Such authorization gives the designated person the right to care for a parent’s children, pick them up from school, take them to the hospital and even travel with them.

Juan Hernandez, executive director at La Luz Center, said power-of-attorney forms offer some “peace of mind” to immigrants who may be experiencing a lot of stress, uncertain of their future.

In a state of ‘hypervigilance’

That uncertainty and fear, said one local mental health expert, is causing many immigrants to experience “hypervigilance,” an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity often experienced by those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Maryellen Curran, director of behavioral and mental health for Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, said patients who are immigrant parents are on “high alert” and talk about the plans they’re making just in case they are separated from their families.

Meanwhile, their children are showing up at SRCHC health centers with somatic complaints, including headaches, stomachaches and anxiety about going to school. They fear that when they return home, their parents will be gone, she said.

For some immigrant parents, their current stress may be triggering previous traumas, Curran said.

“Some of these people have already been through the trauma of crossing the border, they’ve already been separated,” she said. “It’s a repeat emotional experience of separation, or uncertainty and fear.”

Xochitl, the undocumented immigrant parent, said she knows exactly what that separation is like. Twelve years ago, when she crossed the border illegally with her daughter, Citlaly, coyotes placed the 2-year-old toddler in a separate car that was bound for a day care center in San Diego. Xochitl said she didn’t see her daughter for what seemed like an eternity.

“We were separated for about 12 hours,” she recalled. “But for me they were the worst hours. … I said to myself, ‘never again.’ I said ‘if I stay here it will be with her, or if I have to leave, it will be with her but I’ll never do that again.’”

Xochitl said she’ll never let herself be separated from her family again, whether she’s allowed to stay in the United States or not.

“You can’t understand it until you live it,” she said. “It’s … dying alive.”

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A READER ASKS: What on earth was going on in the Andy Warhol Little Dog photo? …

…Especially: the guillotine, the note about women, the young men with livestock on leashes? Am I missing some erudite image/connection here? Arf arf!”

THE MAJOR REPLIES:

You may be sorry you asked.

The process can get kinda obscure at times.

Typically, The Editorial Department comes up with guess at what LD is into for the day. Sometimes those guesses are a bit cryptic, because we depend heavily on animal body language.

Sometimes it's late. Sometimes I've had a couple of shots of Evan Williams. Always, I'm old.

In that particular case there was a mention of "15 minutes" in LD's daily comment. So I simply reached deep into our random image archive for some things that seemed to have had "15 minutes" of fame, such as the Buddhists' smallest cow up on Signal Ridge, our wonderful old rooster Rodney, a sign I saw and snapped a pic of a few years ago out on the Coast at the entrance to a small remote ranch house, our former neighbor's young bull, and the Variety Show's fake guillotine.

They all had "15 minutes." ...(?)

Then I spiced it up with LD himself and a dash of Editor holding off the threat of death, and ... Well, sorry. OK, I got carried away.

Maybe the problem is Photoshop itself which makes such abominations possible…? But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

If anyone would like to submit ideas or concepts for LD and/or his alter ego(s), please fire away.

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THE YORKVILLE pot farm murder case has been partially resolved. Isidro Bernal has pled out and received 25 to life in state prison, as has Edgar Contrerras. They were two of three pot thieves (the case of the third man, Mario Godinez-Gonzalez is still pending) who wound up shooting at each other after one of them shot and killed guerrilla grower Marcos Batista back in the fall of 2015 near Highway 128 and the Hopland Road. Contreras was gutshot by one of his fellow pot garden raiders, Bernal Lopez or Godinez-Gonzalez, and left to die. He called 911 and survived to face murder charges along with the other two.

Edgar 'Bad Boy/Del Diablo' Contreras; Isidro 'Blackie/El Negro' Lopez-Bernal; Mario 'Shorty/Chipparo' Godinez-Gonzalez

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STREWN throughout the Presidio are placards warning about coyotes, although the creatures don't attack people except in those rare cases where people stray too close to a den. And even then the coyote just bares fang in a show of ferocity but seldom attacks unless rabid. (Ditto for people, come to think of it.) They will attack dogs, however, and for the same reason — coming too close to a den. I've seen them drive off dogs, and I've often seen coyotes at all hours of the day in the Presidio, although I've seldom seen them in wild Mendocino County.

They've become accustomed to city life, and unafraid of people. In Mendocino County the cunning critters rightly assume someone will shoot them if they get a good look. The Presidio signs — in the passive-aggressive public prose now characteristic of Frisco — advise pedestrians who feel menaced by coyotes to throw something at them "to frighten, not to injure."

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COAST RENTAL NEEDED. First Presbyterian Church, Fort Bragg is looking for a rental for their interim pastor. She is looking for a 2 bedroom apartment or house. Prefers something on the ground floor. She does have one cat. I can be the contact person, Marcia Williams 961-1385 or email: marcia.williams44@yahoo.com Rentals are really tight right now, so we certainly would appreciate any leads.

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CO-OP RESPONDS TO BOARD MEMBER INELIGIBILITY ALLEGATIONS

Dear Editor,

I would like to provide some clarity about Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op’s bylaws and the reason that Julia Dakin and Halle Brady are not eligible to run for the Board of Directors in 2017.

The Co-op is governed by a set of bylaws. The Co-op’s bylaws specify eligibility requirements for Members wishing to serve as Directors on the Board. The bylaws are voted on by the members of the Cooperative.

In 2011, Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op members voted to align the Co-op’s memberships with the requirements of California Cooperative Law, or CCL. CCL specifies that no member may have more than one vote. We made that change to accommodate members’ life events, such as divorces or deaths. The way we (Co-op staff) comply with that is to issue single memberships in the name of one (primary) voting member. The primary voting member can add other household members to their accounts as “cardholders.” Cardholders receive some of the benefits of the primary member, but not the right to vote in Co-op affairs or make changes to the membership account. Bylaws can be changed by a vote of the membership, as long as the change complies with California Cooperative Law. Each Director on the Board has a legal responsibility to comply with the bylaws of the Cooperative.

Halle Brady and Julia Dakin are eligible to run for the Board of Directors in 2018 because they recently joined the Co-op as individual members. It is not possible for the Co-op Board of Directors to make any changes to the bylaws for elections taking place in 2017.

It is unfortunate that this technicality has been misconstrued by some to mean that the Co-op does not support farmers or the local food system or that the Co-op is discriminating based on gender. In fact, the Co-op currently carries 410 brands from local vendors, comprising 3,497 products. Right now! In 2016 our Produce department purchased products from 23 local farms. Check our website for further information regarding our requirements for becoming a vendor with us.

Currently, one board member is a local farmer, and the board president, general manager, and 5 of 9 department managers are women.

Our board president, treasurer and I had a very productive meeting with Julia and Halle in the spirit of communicating and working out differences face to face. We hope that the community can support us and remember that we are all working toward the same goal — creating a community in which everyone has access to healthy food via a thriving local food system. Let’s work together to make it happen!

In co-operation,

Lori Rosenberg

General Manager, Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op

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TWO WEAPONS, NON-SPECIFIC

On February 24, 2017 at approximately 10:30 A.M. Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were on uniformed patrol in the Covelo. Deputies contacted a male and female subject walking in the 76000 block of Highway 162. The Deputies identified one of the subjects as Britton Azbill, 34, of Covelo, who was determined to be on active Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) in Mendocino County. During their contact with Azbill, he was found to have two weapons on his person, which was a violation of his PRCS terms. The Deputies telephoned a Mendocino County Probation supervisor regarding Azbill's PRCS status and informed probation on the circumstances of their encounter with Azbill. The probation supervisor advised that Azbill was also in violation of the terms of his PRCS for failing to previously report to probation. The probation supervisor authorized a Violation of Post Release Community Supervision flash incarceration hold for Azbill. Azbill was advised and placed under arrest for the PRCS hold without incident. Azbill was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on a no-bail status due to his PRCS hold.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, February 26, 2017

Brown, Carver, Copley

ANIKA BROWN, Ukiah. Drunk in public.

JEFFREY CARVER, Willits. Drunk in public.

LAUREL COPLEY, Garberville/Ukiah. DUI.

Gibney, Gonzalez, Grant, Heppe

SAMUEL GIBNEY, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public.

RAFAEL GONZALEZ, Redwood Valley. Illegal communication with prisoner, conspiracy.

JOSEPH GRANT, Fremont/Ukiah. DUI-drugs&alcohol.

PATRICK HEPPE, Fort Bragg/Willits. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, mayhem, child endangerment.

Magana, Maynard, Morris, Munyeria

CARLOS MAGANA, Ukiah. Vandalism.

ANDREW MAYNARD, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)

DENA MORRIS, Redwood Valley. Probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

GITAHI MUNYERIA, Chicago/Willits. Drunk in public.

Padilla, Peinado, Webb

KEVIN PADILLA, Ceres/Ukiah. Fugitive from justice, false ID, resisting.

ESELLA PEINADO, Willits. Battery.

ANTIONE WEBB, Ukiah. ID theft.

* * *

IS HE NUTS? Trump's possible mental deficiencies are also a troubling question: serious medical professionals suspect he has narcissistic personality disorder, and also oncoming dementia, judging from his limited vocabulary. If one compares his earlier appearances on YouTube, for example a 1988 interview with Larry King, it appears that Trump used to speak more fluently and coherently than he does now, especially in some of his recent rambling presentations. His perseverating about such matters as the size of his inauguration crowd, or the fantasy that three to five million illegal voters denied him a popular vote victory, or, as he told CIA employees, the number of times he's been on the cover of Time, sometimes inflating the actual number has become a joke, but it also suggests that there may be something troubling about his mental state. Numerous eminent psychologists and psychiatrists have written or expressed their concerns about Trump's mental stability.

— Elizabeth Drew

* * *

OVER THE LAST THREE QUARTERS OF A CENTURY, countries of all political hues — dictatorships and democracies, republics and monarchies — have wanted to be an ally of the US because it was the most powerful player in world affairs. It will remain so but the degree and nature of its primacy is changing significantly for four reasons. The US has a leader who appears unhinged to an extent not true of any of his predecessors. Secondly, political combat in the US has reached an all-absorbing ferocity not seen since the 1850s. This does not mean that the last act of this crisis will be a civil war, but American society is more divided today than at any time since the conflict between North and South. From the moment Trump took office he has shown no inclination towards compromise and his divisiveness inevitably makes America becomes a lesser power than it was.

— Patrick Cockburn

* * *

* * *

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

People in other cultures look at Americans and the West in general and look at how we act and think those people yonder have lost their fucking minds.

Maybe how we act comes out of our Judeo-Christian heritage, which tells us that an individual life is invaluable and irreplaceable no matter if the life in question is that of a hopeless psychotic living outside on a warm air grate or that of Bill Gates. In the eyes of the Creator one is as the other and you can’t give them relative weighting. OK, so I’m not a religious scholar. I only went to Sunday School. Nor am I a student of philosophy. But I can’t help drawing lines between things that look connected.

We think that our own lives matter more than any other consideration, that our own wants are the be-all and end-all. Never mind how we impact other people, never mind any notion of family or societal obligation. Forget self-restraint or self-discipline.

I see prosperous moms and dads hand off responsibility for raising their kids to nannies from far-off places. Apparently a high-powered career and self-fulfillment comes ahead of the interests of offspring. Can you trust someone you don’t know to raise your kids, never mind someone who comes from a culture that you are utterly clueless about? Does it matter? High and mighty arbiters of societal values say no, it doesn’t and mustn’t. To ask such questions is being judgmental and racist. Has it got one damned thing to do with race? No, but what’s important is what I want. The parents want to do what they want to do and they’ll look for justifications. Me, me, me.

And so what you get more generally is boundary pushing. Some of this is “look at me”, “look at me” (again the almighty “me”), seeking out the admiration of peers. But it’s mostly what I want and never mind the wider interests of community and family.

For instance, I like that bit of thigh next door. Why can’t I have her? Never mind my wife, why should she object, aren’t we “progressives”, aren’t we open minded? I mean, it’s just sex so what’s the problem? And never mind the woman’s family, never mind her hubby, they’ll be ok, it’s just a shag, there’s no harm, it’ll be discrete and quiet and behind closed doors and between consenting adults. Bottom line, I want her, my dick aches for her.

And the right to look at porn, no matter the harm to performers on that screen, comes before anything else. The right to make porn without consideration of any harm done to young impressionable people also comes before anything else. Don’t we have the right? Don’t the courts say so?

The FDA has rules about who gets to donate blood and who doesn’t. Should gay men have the right to donate blood? Is it an unwarranted infringement to deny them the option? What does science say about this? Aren’t there questionaires and tests on donated blood? Shouldn’t we rely on these? Isn’t this the more enlightened route as opposed to a ban? What about other risky behaviors? What about promiscuous heterosexuals?

Does blood donation policy come from a place of knowledge or is it all blind, unreasoning fear and bigotry? But what about the fact that HIV is lethal, communicable, quickly mutates, and that medical science isn’t an iron-clad predictive field like physics, that screening tests sometimes fail, that mistakes can have deadly and life limiting consequences? Do such considerations trample the rights of the donor? But what about the rights of the recipient? What about public safety? What about simple common sense?

Boundary-pushers tout the supremacy of data and evidence, psychological and sociological studies purporting to show this or that, the unbiased, apolitical eye of the researcher, medical and otherwise, and, most of all, “rights”.

And if you really try you can find judges that stretch provisions in the constitution into places they were never meant to be. Because, you see, to deny such “rights” is un-constitutional. And downright un-American.

In short, we’ve taken the idea of individualism to nonsensical and destructive extremes. Maybe it’s just my own misapprehension, but if there’s a lethal flaw in Western Civilization, maybe this is the one.

* * *

MEANING TO TELL YOU

thanks for the handshake

through open windows

from both sides

of the intact chassis

over the seats

across the interior

ducking our heads in

your cheeky grin

knew what we meant

I walked straight over

soon as you said hi

reaching for

the shortest distance

most direct

and safe enough

for elbows

on doorsills

faces within

the friendly car frame

I like the way your

hand matched mine

we talked about

everything else

keep it going

you are not a yawn

let’s agree you tell me what

on a free afternoon

with tea on a couch

by a big window

looking back

I only can wish

I’d asked

wear your long skirt

draping your knee

to your ankle

a daughter

politely coloring

— Gordon Black

* * *

LOST COAST OUTPOST’S LIVELY COMMENT LINE SUNDAY

Old Fart — The US is a failed state. Heroin, meth, prescriptions destroying our children. Half our kids are obese. Both political parties are selfish corrupt pigs. Bannon doesn't need to do anything. We're destroying ourselves.

Democrats — Fat lives matter! That's offensive! Let's march after we finish our pancakes. I'll watch the march on TV. Get out there! This is my fight song…

Republicans — Mexicans are responsible for all the obesity. No one would be fat in the US without nacho cheese. Build the wall!

Fat and Sanctified —
Obesity is a sign of God's favor. Poor and starving people are not obese because God hates them. American obesity is the surest possible sign of God's favor and approval.

Anonymous —
White sugar, white flour, white power.

Intellectual —
Fake news alert! You can't predict the future of a nation by looking at its kids. That's ridiculous! Only a great nation could produce La La Land!

* * *

STEWARTS POINT STEWARDSHIP PROJECT

Along the rugged Sonoma County coast, the magnificent 870-acre Stewarts Point Ranch property is blanketed with redwood and Douglas-fir forest, with a fringe of beautiful grasslands along its half-mile of dramatic coastline. Steelhead swim in the sparkling South Fork of the Gualala River, which runs the length of the eastern border.

For nearly 100 years, Save the Redwoods League has protected and restored redwood forests and connected people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish. In 2010, the League purchased Stewarts Point for $11.25 million as the first step to protect this majestic landscape from potential subdivision and extensive logging and to provide future public access.

In February 2017, the League took major steps to further protect, restore and connect people to Stewarts Point. First, the League reached an agreement, transferring a conservation easement that conserves 700 acres of second-growth redwood forestland, more than 100 acres of coastal grasslands and a 1.7-mile stretch of the Gualala River. The transaction also includes a trail easement, an agreement that will grant public access along a planned segment of the California Coastal Trail by the end of 2019. Another agreement, a cultural access easement, is being finalized to grant the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians (Kashia) access to their ancestral home.

The League transferred the conservation easement to Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (the District) for $6 million. The District contributed $2 million of the $6 million purchase price; the California State Coastal Conservancy contributed $1 million; and the State of California Wildlife Conservation Board contributed $3 million. The transaction also includes the transfer of the trail easement to the County of Sonoma for the development of the trail along the coastal bluffs.

“This is a truly unique and special occasion,” said Sam Hodder, Save the Redwoods League President and CEO. “The Stewarts Point project brings together coast redwood conservation with social justice and new future recreational opportunities for the public. We are thankful to everyone, from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for major funding toward the original purchase of the property, to all our dedicated donors, to our partners at the District, Wildlife Conservation Board and State Coastal Conservancy, for helping us protect this vibrant redwood forest and spectacular coastline and making this incredible place accessible for everyone to enjoy. It’s also a blessing to work with the Kashia Band to provide them access to this sacred shoreline, their ancestral home.”

Extending inland from the coastal bluffs for about 2 miles to the South Fork Gualala River, 700 acres of the Stewarts Point property is blanketed in a healthy second-growth coast redwood forest with scattered old redwoods, Douglas-fir, bishop pine, and a variety of hardwoods. It’s also home to two sag ponds created by the San Andreas Fault. On its eastern edge, the property winds along approximately 1.7 miles of the steelhead-bearing Gualala River. Thousands of acres of sustainably managed private forestland surround the property, making it an important wildlife corridor.

The conservation easement conveyed to the District protects the property’s forest in two ways. First, 175 acres will be protected as an old-growth Restoration Reservealong the Gualala River. This Reserve will safeguard the old trees, allow younger trees to grow larger, provide habitat to support more species of plants and animals, and prevent erosion, stabilizing the banks of the river. Secondly, the conservation easement provides that the remainder of the forest be managed for ecologically sound timber harvests that protect the creek and wildlife habitat. The easement also requires forest managers to increase the average tree size over time to accelerate the development of old-growth forest characteristics on which imperiled wildlife depends, and which were lost over a century ago.

Eventually, the League plans to sell or exchange Stewarts Point to a buyer who will continue to conserve it.

Extending the California Coastal Trail

The League’s agreements with the County of Sonoma and the District ensure construction of a trail that will traverse the coastal terrace for just under 1 mile, and provide visitors with a gorgeous view of the coastline. The new trail will have a designated parking area along Highway 1, and both will be developed and managed by Sonoma County Regional Parks. When complete, the trail will connect with the California Coastal Trail network, which will ultimately extend 1,200 miles from Oregon to Mexico. The Stewarts Point trail segment will be open by the end of 2019 after planning is completed by Regional Parks.

The Kashia Return to Sacred Lands

The League’s agreement with the Kashia provides permanent access to a sacred site on the coastal bluff, where they can gather for spiritual and cultural activities such as seasonal ceremonies, traditional prayers and harvesting seaweed and abalone.

“Our ancestors took care of these lands for thousands of years. Having access to our sacred site at Stewarts Point is deeply meaningful,” said Reno Franklin, Chairman of the Kashia. The tribe’s Rancheria, a small settlement, is located a few miles inland on Skaggs Springs-Stewarts Point Road.

“Knowing that the Kashia will have access to their ancestral lands and that we will be able to work with our partners at Regional Parks to provide access to this Stewarts Point and educate the public about its important history also makes this a truly enriching opportunity for the community,” said Bill Keene, District General Manager.

“We are thrilled to acquire the Stewarts Point easement from Save the Redwoods League to ensure conservation of these beautiful forests, this critical section of the Gualala River, and the coastal terrace we all treasure,” Keene said. “This fits squarely into our acquisition plan, as it also includes the protection of agricultural lands and an expansion of an existing recreational trail system, in addition to the natural resources.”

(Save The Redwoods League Press Release)

* * *

THE SHALLOW STATE

by David Rothkopf

Summary: The shallow state is in many respects the antithesis of the deep state. It actively eschews experience, knowledge, relationships, insight, craft, special skills, tradition, and shared values and in fact celebrates its ignorance of and disdain for those things

The “deep state” is the flavor of the month for conspiracy theorists, the “black helicopters” of 2017. The idea of career intelligence and military officers and bureaucrats marshaling the institutional power they have spent decades mastering to advance their goals regardless of the whims or wants of elected public officials or the people at large is irresistible, Tom Clancy stuff.

But I’ve seen what there is of a deep state, and let me tell you, based on very nearly 25 years living and working in Washington, it is not the dark fantasy of highly competent government workers that worries me.

No, what worries me is something new, more real, and much more dangerous: the shallow state.

The shallow state is in many respects the antithesis of the deep state. The power of the deep state comes from experience, knowledge, relationships, insight, craft, special skills, traditions, and shared values. Together, these purported attributes make nameless bureaucrats into a supergovernment that is accountable to no one. That is a scary prospect. But the nature of bureaucracies, human nature, inertia, checks and balances, and respect for the chain of command makes it seem a bit far-fetched to me. (The bureaucracy will drive Trump, like many presidents, mad, and some within it will challenge him, but that’s not the same thing.)

The shallow state, on the other hand, is unsettling because not only are the signs of it ever more visible but because its influence is clearly growing. It is made scarier still because it not only actively eschews experience, knowledge, relationships, insight, craft, special skills, tradition, and shared values but because it celebrates its ignorance of and disdain for those things. Donald Trump, champion and avatar of the shallow state, has won power because his supporters are threatened by what they don’t understand, and what they don’t understand is almost everything. Indeed, from evolution to data about our economy to the science of vaccines to the threats we face in the world, they reject vast subjects rooted in fact in order to have reality conform to their worldviews. They don’t dig for truth; they skim the media for anything that makes them feel better about themselves. To many of them, knowledge is not a useful tool but a cunning barrier elites have created to keep power from the average man and woman. The same is true for experience, skills, and know-how. These things require time and work and study and often challenge our systems of belief. Truth is hard; shallowness is easy.

The commander in chief of the shallow state, for example, does not have much use for reading. Or briefings. Or experts. He is famously driven instead by impulse, instinct, and ideology. He and the team around him care very little for facts. (The Washington Post has been tracking his performance, and so far the president has not let a day go by without a major lie.) Indeed, as we have seen, Trump & Co. are allergic to demonstrable, proven facts whether they be of the scientific, political, social, cultural, or economic variety. With leaders like these, the shallow state exists only on the surface, propelled only by emotion and reflex. Therefore, anything of factual weight or substance disturbs, disrupts, or obliterates it much as a rock does when dropped onto an image reflected in a pond.

We have seen shallow leaders before. Abraham Lincoln decried the Know-Nothing party and its adherents, who were a notable movement on the U.S. political landscape in the middle of the 19th century. Recent leaders like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were not seen as leading intellectual lights. But the Trump phenomenon is more extreme. The president of the United States with all the resources available to him wouldn’t offer up major distortions of the truth every day for more than a month absent a deep disinterest in learning or a recognition that lies may be more supportive of his positions than the truth (and that his followers are perfectly happy accepting lies). Or both. In my view, it is both. Further, Trump’s team has seemed much more focused on offering up something that is more like a television show about a president than actual governance. It plays not to newspapers — which it seeks to discredit — but to social media, animated by the belief that the actions of a government can not just be explained in 140 characters but can consist largely of tweets and photo ops and packaged images. When things require real work behind the scenes but are hard to translate to tweets or chat TV, they just don’t seem to be prioritized (like nominating people for the almost 600 open Senate-confirmable positions) or get done (like anything hard with regard to legislation).

It is convenient to blame Trump and write this off as a flaw in his character and that of his acolytes and enablers. But, honestly, you don’t get a reality TV show president with no experience and no interest in big ideas or even in boning up on basic knowledge (like the nature of the nuclear triad — after all, it has only three legs) without a public that is comfortable with that … or actively seeks it. Think about the fact that two out of the last four Republican presidents came from show biz (and a third gained a chunk of his experience as a baseball executive). There is no doubt that the rise of the cage-match mentality of cable news has undercut civility in American political discourse, but it has also made politics into something like a TV show. You switch from the Kardashians to Trump on The Apprentice to Trump the candidate in your head, and it is all one. Increasingly shows are about finding formulas that produce a visceral reaction rather than stimulate thoughts or challenge the viewer. That’s not to say that not much is wonderful in the world of media today … but attention spans are shrinking. Social media contributes to this. But the way we consume even serious journalism does, too. Much of it is reviewed in quick snippets on a mobile device. The average visit to a news website is a couple of minutes, the average time spent with a story shorter still. We skim. We cherry-pick.

When we read the news, most of us do so via the internet, with the majority of those under 30 doing so via social media. That means your Facebook page. It means not only do your friends influence what you see and read (thus creating an echo-chamber effect) but your news pops up in a stream of content that includes baby pictures and cat videos. That’s right — cat videos, among the most popular destinations on the web, are responsible for Trump, too. Because they are the competition of the news, and therefore unless it is as quick, easy to digest, visual, and satisfying as a cat video (or baby pictures), it doesn’t get read.

Much has been written about the dumbing down of America. Some of it has been pretty facile (appropriately enough). But seen in the light of the shallow state of the Trump presidency, the idea needs to be reconsidered. The electorate has not just become less patient with depth (if it mattered in elections, Hillary Clinton would have been the first unanimous winner of the presidency); it now seeks its political discourse in a form that is not that different from a reality TV show. And the consequence has been electing a former reality TV show host as president of the United States.

Life is once again imitating art. Actually, it’s worse than that. Now this president has decided that if he is shallow and his followers are shallow, he shall do what he can to make our society shallower. Perhaps that’s his most ambitious goal given the level to which we have sunk. But he is doing so nonetheless, now offering up a budget that would eliminate those small pockets within the U.S. government that promote depth or real knowledge. Scientific and economic data that undercuts his theories is being suppressed. Dissent, even from within his own ranks, is being met with firings. And he is seeking to defund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. These are small programs by government standards — the NEA’s annual budget is smaller than that required to provide protection for Melania Trump to live in her New York City penthouse each year. But they celebrate those things that add depth to our collective lives, the exploration and contemplation of the human experience, of the nature of our society. And they deliver work that forces audiences and citizens to think.

Art is not an adornment to society. It is not a luxury. It is the purpose of society. It becomes our legacy. It is also, however, our teacher; it helps us consider that which is around us and what we want to be. It makes demands on us that in turn lead us to place demands on ourselves and those with whom we live and work. And that is precisely why these programs have been targeted by Trump. They are the enemies of the shallow state. So, too, of course, are the members of the press whom Trump has mislabeled as “enemies of the people.” The only people they are the enemy of are those who are at war with truth and thought: Trump and his supporters, the champions of the shallow state. That is why, while it is easy to simply be angry or to laugh at a president who doesn’t read or to be distracted by half-baked conspiracy theories like the deep state, we must recognize that the shallow state is much more pernicious. This administration has come to power because America has allowed public discourse, the quality of education we give our kids, and the standards we set for ourselves to decline. Trump seeks to institutionalize that decline. He is at war with that which has made our society great. He seeks to eviscerate the elements of our government and discredit those within our society who are champions of the depth on which any civilization depends.

And we cannot switch the channel. We cannot tweet this out of existence. We cannot unfollow him. We must fight, or we will lose that which is best about ourselves and our country.

(This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy.)

* * *

JOIN JOHN SAKOWICZ AND SID COOPERRIDER with guest Catherine Ross at KMEC Radio on Monday, February 28, at 1 pm. We broadcast at 105.1 FM in Ukiah. We also stream live from the web at www.kmecradio.org

Catherine J. Ross is a law professor at George Washington University and author of Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students' First Amendment Rights. She will be participating in a news conference last Thursday with groups organizing ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org that features a petition of over 900,000 signers urging Congress to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Trump’s corrupt business dealings.

* * *

DOUGIE & THE COUCH

by John Schultz

June 16, 1983, 7:42 AM, Huntington Beach, California — I was dreaming that black helicopters were chasing me, a lone pedestrian through the desert, shooting at me with rapidfire rounds from helicopter mounted machine guns. Great crashing and loud noises of gunfire! Then I awoke. The noises were real, but not the dream. Immediately above my head was a small open window, something that looked like a large colander or kitchen strainer seemed to be attempting to force its way into my room through a small window above my bed. This was soon accompanied by loud bellowing and forceful verbal discourse coming from the alleyway two stories below my apartment.

"Hey, Johnto! Did you get that Thai weed from the Skeleton Brothers?!"

I gazed sleepily out the window down into the alley. There stood Dougie in a new suit and tie, heartily shaking the 12 foot long handle of our apartment complex’s pool cleaning net while enthusiastically trying to force the scooper/net into my bedroom window. He loudly repeated his refrain: "Did the Skeleton Brothers have our Thai weed?"

The Skeleton Brothers were identical twins, age perhaps 24, but strongly resembling desiccated monkeys or more truthfully: skeletons. The Skeleton Brothers lived, it seems, on a steady diet of hard drugs: tranquilizers, cocaine, speed, pills and heroin were their favorite hobby. But the Skeleton Brothers also sold high quality pot from southeast Asia and Hawaii. Their parents had passed away and left them a beautiful Victorian style house, so the brothers lived rent free and allowed me to purchase some of their weed.

Due to their excesses they soon were in over their heads financially and sold the beautiful beach area house for pennies on the dollar. I was sorry to see them go despite their terrible habits and close resemblance to the long dead, i.e., skeletons. I actually liked "The Korpse Kids."

Down below in the alleyway the bellowing loudly continued while the business end of the pool skimmer wedged itself tightly into my window.

"Ha! Ha!" I figured, "How funny!"

Since I didn't quite hear Dougie’s door knocks or respond to them, he had decided to up the ante! After all, he had given me $50 to buy him some pot just the day before and now at 7:42 in the morning it was time for me to deliver! Damn! He's impossible to ignore! I figured he might be drunk and or coked out — or both. Since Dougie had had a religious conversion to evangelical based Christianity via Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel — Jesus forgives you! — Dougie had blossomed into a full on lush, womanizer (he was married with two young kids) and a cocaine enthusiast. Praise the Lord!

“Did the Skeleton Brothers get that Thai weed?!" Dougie continued to yell up to my second-floor residence, waking up the neighbors and thus informing numerous other apartment dwellers about my drug salesmanship.

"Thanks, Dougie! Why don't you walk on up to the front door and come in?"

"No way, dude! I'm on a roll!" he replied.

The pool net, also apparently not just an attention getting device, could also fully double as an entrance highway to my apartment. A genius idea! Why walk around the apartment complex about 100 feet when one can take a convenient shortcut? Although flimsy and very unstable, the frail, tubular structure of the pool skimmer's cheap aluminum handle seemed a perfect highway to my upper floor apartment.

Dougie, at well over 200 pounds, probably intoxicated, of course, surfer dude, knew that this was right! Since the net end of the pool skimmer was now tightly jammed into my bedroom window, would it not seem natural to climb up the 2-inch diameter pool skimmer handle to the upper floor apartment 18 feet off the ground? Yes indeed! This works! The net and a portion of the pool skimmer greatly trembled while Dougie The Large shimmied up the pool cleaning net’s fragile shaft.

What a nut bag, I thought to myself. The guy was known for over-the-top physical stunts and body defying slapstick humor. A couple of weeks previously while myself, another friend and Dougie were vulnerably coming on to an eight button dose of peyote, Dougie, irritated by the persistent and obviously annoying ringing of a wall-mounted telephone in the kitchen, tore the offending noisemaker off-the-wall and flung it across the room into a wastebasket some 20 feet away. About two months previous, Dougie had leapt off of a two-story building while drunk, cheered on by bar patrons to jump. And so he did. "I was wearing wing-tip shoes, so I was hopeful that I would fly!"

Yes, wingtips, the favored shoe of My Three Sons, the 1960s sitcom starring Fred McMurray. Dougie then sailed off the roof wearing his flight friendly footwear and crashed lamely into the parking lot asphalt and sprained both ankles. This dude is anti-learning, I thought. Could he perhaps be dangerous?

Dougie, his tie askew and suit pants bunched up around his calves, inched up the pool skimmer handle. He was completely intent on entering through my bedroom window.

Yes! I had the highly delicious Southeast Asian flower tops! The crusty old green abundantly aromatic sticky seedless buds from Thailand of which Dougie was most desirous.

As somewhat of a soft realist, I saw Dougie’s eager transit up the fragile old net handle as a possible problem. Gravity and physics versus metal tensile strength; a corroded, anodized aluminum pole versus 200 pounds of probably somewhat drunk, pot-hungry, surfer slacker — this seemed a strange and questionable experiment.

I give the old boy credit though! Very bold! But no real wisdom. God forbid! (Shiva or Buddha?).

Dougie was a good 16 feet off the ground, the pool net trembled madly in the window and the handle started to bend wickedly under Dougie’s desperate hand-to-hand ascent up the handle of the aged pool skimmer.

Jesus Christ! The dude was perhaps a foot from the window ledge when the 18 foot handle snapped off from the net portion and the flimsy piece of pipeline to really good pot buckled, bent and catapulted Dougie into the open Tropicana Apartment dumpster.

Business as usual in Huntington Beach!

After a hasty departure from the dumpster, the mangled pool skimmer was cheerfully abandoned in the alleyway. Dougie happily stomped up the stairs. Yes, the Skeleton Brothers had supplied us with flavorful flower tops! Extreme slapstick done, it's now time for a reward!

We packed a bamboo bong with the spicy Thai herb and sat on “the couch.” Although nondescript with saggy springs, the couch had mystical properties. (Or was it the pot?) We smoked our "potsch" and reclined on the couch. Dougie had some minor bruises from his fall. No big deal! The adventure was certainly worth it! The sativa started to kick in with its cartoon creativity.

"I'm stoked. I fell into that soft greasy trash instead of on to that hard concrete alleyway! Sometimes garbage is good! Yes indeed, everything serves a purpose!”

I nodded along sagely. Dougie’s suit was stained and rumpled with unidentified bits and pieces of dumpster effluvia clinging to his framework. There was a mingled scent of Old Spice aftershave cologne and an odor of dumpster emanating from Dougie as he packed the Vietnam war era bamboo bong with the crumbled flower tops. This was a good time to grill him on his activities.

"How come you're not at work but you're wearing a suit and tie?"

He looked like a Jehovah's Witness on a drinking binge!

"Oh yeah! I got laid off from McDonnell Douglas again!"

Dougie’s wealthy, well connected and influential dad who I had named The Senator had pulled strings and got Dougie a plush job as a draftsman at the globally prominent Air Force Defense Department enclave where he enthusiastically recounted his job “copying blueprints for airstrike missiles that blow the crap out of entire neighborhoods!"

For some odd reason Sir Dougie of McDonnell Douglas was not a treasured employee. He received a plump paycheck but was laid off for much of his three-year period of employment and in fact rarely worked while receiving a hefty severance payment.

"I make more money goofing off than most people make working full-time!" he proudly declared.

Even his wife of four years thought Dougie went to work on a daily basis. Nope! Dougie, my high school surfing buddy, was instead intercepting the layoff checks in the mail. With plenty of time on his hands and brain etc., Dougie roamed wild!

"Why work when I can have loads of fun and still get paid?” Dougie had now basically abandoned his born-again Christian wife and two young kids aged four and two for carefree romps with cocktail waitresses and teenager beach surfer hotties. He purchased a red Corvette which I called his Penismobile and had a male midlife crisis at age 26 while his alcohol consumption and cocaine usage reached epic proportions. His faith in the Lord, ironically a person named Jesus who was drug-free and probably non-promiscuous i.e. not a Playboy, was equally intense.

Again, Dougie is forgiven while I and others in our group of teetotalers and nondrinkers but smokers of pot and even more heathenish stuff like occasional use of magic mushrooms, peyote and LSD, were most certainly doomed to an afterlife in hell as we feel an affinity for those bad, blue skinned gods of India that the charismatic leader of Calvary Chapel Church Chuck Smith vehemently warned Dougie to avoid. The fact was we are not forgiven and have not accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior after which it is obvious that one can do whatever one wants and still end up behind the pearly gates.

With great fervor, Dougie then preached this back to me while engaging in bongfests on my couch. The perfumed smoke of burnt Thai weed filled the small apartment while time underwent suspension and we sank into the couch.

Dougie fiddled with the radio dial — "got to find that soft jazz station." Dougie tuned into his favorite music venue, Jazz 101 on the dial. It was 9am by now and harmonica jazz was on. Like Bleep! Blork! Blonk! Bloop! Dougie bounced up off the couch to the chalkboard (a previous tenant had left this behind) and picked up a piece of pastel pink chalk. This is what “bloop” (Dougie’s name for harmonica jazz) looks like!" he began. “We of course could hear the bloop but only I can see it!"

Dougie sketched away, domestically out of control in a Christian family values sense but still a very creative guy. Dougie sketched out some round balloon people floating in space, chubby, blimpoid humanoids or “bloopies” as he called them.

"Can you see the bloop?"

"Yes I can!" I replied.

The pink and blue pastel caertoon bubble people were a perfect synthesis of the audible made visible harmonica jazz circa 1983.

We sank even deeper into the couch as the hours slid effortlessly forward. "Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future," Steve Miller entoned on the radio.

Dougie asked, "Schultz: how long would it take for the planet Earth to squorlsh away, i.e., travel through a Milky Way sized lime green gelatin cow suspended of course in infinite dark energy space? And would this bloopish gelatinous transit be a radical inconvenience for humanity?"

The couch was comfortable, thought was free, I had very few answers, but I gave my two cent’s worth.

"Physics are involved here and some astronomy and so forth. The time it would take for our crowded planet to squorlsh its way through a galaxy sized lime green gelatin cow would of course depend on our planet's speed or forward momentum through the mega-Jell-O bovine — and that is only one factor. Is this a fresh Jell-O cow or a spoiled one, left in the cosmic refrigerator, old gummy stuff, a dried out lime Jell-O cow? Again, the Milky Way is a vast spread! You can be certain that the Jell-O body of the cow would eventually harden, slowing our progress and perhaps even stopping, completely stymieing our evolution as a species. Plus the sheer physical geological effect of our planet being submerged and surrounded by the very thick semi opaque substance would eventually be noticed by our species and found to be tremendously not helpful! We might eventually adapt to this lengthy submersion in the Jell-O cow, but this too seems problematic. You can't breathe through the stuff. It's thicker than water!" I sagely informed Dougie. "Carl Sagan wouldn't like this," I continued. "We would all collectively smother eventually and you, Dougie, as a firmly biblically based adherent to the doctrines of the Christian faith must know that this scenario of yours does not appear in biblical scriptures. Yes, there are the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, multi-headed demon hordes and fire and carnage aplenty in the book of Revelation — but no giant lime Jell-O cows. But again, if Jesus can walk on water, raise the dead etc. then just perhaps it's possible that we may face the gigantic gelatinous cud chewer. But it's highly unlikely. The world is strange enough anyway. Leave it alone!”

Light shifted into the post-surf afternoon. It was already past noon. We had been sitting on the couch for five hours, barely noticing the passage of time. Wind was now blowing briskly onshore and our earlier plans to surf were smokily forgotten. Our rear ends sank gravitationally further down into the matrix of the couch.

Dougie remarked, "Do you notice that the longer you sit on the couch the less you care about the passage of time?"

Yes indeed, the couch did transcend normal workaday time. The music on the soft jazz radio station had slid into squeaky squealing discordance.

Dougie explained excitedly, "Picture this! Clowns in an old 1940s style Buick round body, blimpie sedan! The clowns, all four of them, hold up a liquor store for bottles of seltzer water and exploding cigars. They escape in shiny black getaway cars while the Keystone Kops are in hot pursuit! It's raining. It's night time, their speeding clown car screeches and squeals around the rain-slick corner!”

This was accompanied quite perfectly by the auditory reality from the radio.

“Yes, the clowns madly fishtail up the main drag, neon light rivulets running down the car windows. The lights are reflected from bars and shop windows leaning off of wet surfaces smearing like paint ss the big shiny black Buick slides around another corner in perfect synchronization with the frantically discordant jazz squealing from the beach apartment radio."

We gazed vacantly at the early afternoon sunlight.

“Well Johnto, I gotta get back home and get to the mailbox before my wife does and get my layoff check. It's going to include a bonus payment! Then I'm going to the Tiki Club bar before I attend the Christian youth rally at the Calvary Chapel auditorium in Costa Mesa. There are loads of hot looking girls there that I can pick up! See you later, you semi-inflatable tater tot,” Dougie yelled as his size 12 wing-tip shoes stomped loudly down the stairway into the onrushing night.

22 Comments

  1. chuck dunbar February 27, 2017

    I wish I could claim to have written “The Shallow State,” but not so. The author is David Rothkopf,February 22, 2107, Foreign Policy.

  2. George Hollister February 27, 2017

    “IS HE NUTS? Trump’s possible mental deficiencies are also a troubling question: serious medical professionals suspect he has narcissistic personality disorder,”

    The suspicions of serious medical professionals not required. Trump’s condition is pretty obvious. But we had eight prior years of a version of the same, and survived, though we are not better for it.

    • Bruce Anderson February 27, 2017

      Nobody ever said Obama was 5150, George, however much people, including your hosts here, disagreed with him politically. He was just another conservative Democrat, albeit a class one with a classy family to match. Trump has a nice family but if he isn’t actually certifiable, he’s in wayyyyyyyyy over his head.

      • George Hollister February 27, 2017

        Nobody in the AVA, anyway, said it. But it was said. Thomas Sowell said it, for one. What does one call someone who is absolutely sure they are the smartest person in the room, which they obviously aren’t, have the most talent, which they obviously don’t, and overtly express this belief of themselves like a crowing rooster?

        Trump is in way over his head, but so was Obama. Neither would ever admit this to themselves, either. The worst thing Obama did was vilify cops. Trump’s committed beliefs to nationalism could be much worse.

  3. sohumlily February 27, 2017

    In the DSM-V, we’re *all* crazy.

    What a mixed bag today…

  4. Lazarus February 27, 2017

    Trump won, he’s doing almost exactly what he said he was going to do. That said he is interestingly strange, buckle up, it’s going to be very different for the lefties in the Cally…but the democracy will survive, as will most of us.
    As always,
    Laz

    • Harvey Reading February 27, 2017

      Democracy? With a senate apportioned by state rather than population (50 senators for 85 percent of the population and 50 for the other 15 percent)? With an electoral college? With minority rule when it comes to amending the supreme law document (meaning we need a NEW document), which the upper-class founders designed in a way that insured against their kind ever losing power?

      Gimme a break. What we have is not even a truly representative form of government. And, little-by-little, the country has evolved into a fascist state, the regressive trend accelerating dramatically since the end of the second war. Loyalty oaths abound, including the oath of allegiance before any public meeting or sporting event. Employers have the “right” as a “condition of employment”, to pry into the private lives of employees, through drug tests, subjecting them to searches when they leave work (without paying employees for the time the spend being searched), social media activities, etc.

      • Lazarus February 27, 2017

        Go get a drink or whatever, you’ll feel better…I’ve been hearing that rap since the early 60s. My life is and has been pretty much as I wanted it. You just got to learn the ropes Harv…Sorry for your pain.
        As always
        Laz

        • Harvey Reading February 27, 2017

          Enjoy your dream world, old boy. And, you might read up on what is democracy.

          • Lazarus February 27, 2017

            Least I got one Harv, you just an angry man. Like I say, sorry for your pain, safe travels.
            As always,
            Laz

          • Harvey Reading February 28, 2017

            Lazzie,

            Way to go, old boy, continue to evade the issue: what is democracy? You used the term first, apparently without a clue about what it is, from your context and from your diversionary responses. So, in addition to enjoying your dream world, I suspect you will continue to enjoy your willful ignorance. After all, you’ve already figured out the “important” things … at least if what you say is true.

  5. Russ Rasmussen February 27, 2017

    Nassim Taleb has called out “serious medical professionals” in the field of psychology and their inclusion of almost all behavior in the DSM-V as dubious, due to their shoddy statistics and inability to replicate much of their research. While no fan of Trumper and his antics, I would hesitate to use characterizations from that “medical” field as serious. That’s aside from the question “is he suitable to clean up the mess we’re in?”. Frankly, I don’t see anyone on the horizon that would fit that bill.

    • sohumlily February 27, 2017

      A comment left today on the Mad in America site in response to an article titled, Shrinks: A Self-Portrait of a Profession

      Ffrosti February 27, 2017 at 11:50 am
      “As a freshly graduated MD three decades ago, I was deciding between internal medicine and psychiatry, as career options. Psychiatry prevailed, because it seemed to be up-and-coming and was promising to explain disorders such as schizophrenia, mania, and depression that medicine did not understand. The “diseases” were difficult to treat, med school taught me, but now drugs existed that offered not only effective treatment, but also permanent cure.

      In training the emphasis was on teaching us, residents, how to “elicit” symptoms and observe signs of those diseases. DSM classification made the process appear scientific. Much later, a realization would come; in the absence of objective tests, little else other than my personal judgement and experience qualified symptoms and signs of illness that I was observing. I would decide if, and to what end, the observed and/or reported phenomena should be accepted as evidence of “mental illness” in the person before me.

      Trainee doctors were encouraged to talk to the “mental patients,” of course, mostly as a means of getting at all the symptoms that might be hiding under a thin veneer of pseudo-normalcy, waiting to be unearthed by well rehearsed (leading) questions. Empathic understanding of the patient on the human level, on the other hand, was secondary to the diagnostic enterprise.

      When sufficient “symptoms and signs” were collected and put down on paper, i.e., documented, settling on the “correct” diagnosis was not difficult. And once established, that diagnosis would remain on the record forever, seldom if ever revised downward, though sometimes upgraded, if the patient failed to develop “insight,” i.e., agreement with his psychiatrist on the nature of his illness.

      In my practice, general practitioners would refer patients, expecting me to manage their long-term care. There was a sense of empowerment, solemn responsibility, and accomplishment in this work. After all, I was protecting unfortunate individuals from the ravages of disease that had the potential to ruin their lives. I was eliminating their suffering, or so I thought.

      It did not take long for another realization to dawn on me (and most of my colleagues, I’m sure). The acclaimed psychiatric drugs produced effects that were short-lived at best, or nonexistent entirely once the placebo effect was discounted. Patients would improve, but their “symptoms” tended to return, usually as a result of medication “noncompliance” due to drug toxicity, referred to routinely as “side effects.” If they did comply fully, they could not function and were on the way to chronicity.

      Family or law enforcement agents would often enter the picture somewhere along the way, insisting that treatment be continued against the patient’s will, if necessary. Employers preferred to steer an employee, with psychiatrist’s help, toward a disability status, less likely to be challenged than outright dismissal would be. I soon learned that to stand up to the family and state agents in support of my patient’s autonomy was asking for trouble. Taking the family or government agency’s side was entirely problem-free, on the other hand.

      At some point, the scales of med school indoctrination started to come off from my eyes. Something I was led to ignore became obvious. The diagnostic system I followed was arbitrary and subjective; psychopharmacology had nothing to offer beyond sedative-like drugs for acute states and stimulant-like drugs masquerading poorly as “antidepressants.”

      Emotional suffering was real and had many forms. It responded only to genuine empathy. Time spent with the “patient,” listening and being a sounding board to him, was a form of treatment intervention better than most, I realized. It was liberating for this psychiatrist to “come in from the cold” – the diktat of DSM-style diagnosis and ineffective, toxic, biologic treatments, so called.

      It was liberating, except… Outside my office door, alive and well, lived the dogma that treatment by empathy was not scientific and/or sufficient, unless accompanied by a bottle of expensive pills of the “second generation,” preferably, prescribed as the actual remedy. My newfound freedom collided head-on with expectations of the medical powers that be: I should practice psychiatry “by the book.” Fending against accusations of unscientific practice became part of my own “Psychiatry Reborn” experience, unfolding still.”

      (Apologies to the web editor if this posting is some breach of web-etiquette for it’s word count.)

  6. Pam Partee February 27, 2017

    I am sorry to hear of the passing of Briana Burns. Briana was our Peachland Road neighbor since the 80’s. I have been in touch with her since her move; she continued to be interested in the community and we talked about earlier times up on that Road. I shared my appreciation of her story in the AVA last September about the burning of Lone Pine and encouraged her to write more. She would be dismayed with today’s state of Peachland Road. We had a road closing in, I believe, the early 90’s that inconvenienced the few of us that lived up there then. Now there are far more, most of whom live some 5 miles up–quite a hike. My condolences to Briana’s family.

  7. Bill Pilgrim February 27, 2017

    RE: The Shallow State. It’s not that Trump and his wrecking crew have instantly morphed the cultural and intellectual landscape They are the apotheosis of a process that has been brewing for decades – the dumbing down, the devaluation of community, political apathy, the capture of every department of government by the corporatocracy, the filling up of every legislative body in the land with greedy egotists rather than true servants of the people, and so on.
    I’m compelled to laugh when I see the corporate MSM’s outrage over Trump’s denunciations. (Schadenfreude is best… served lukewarm.) A substantial portion of blame for our current mess can be laid at their door. Like the Democrats, the MSM seem incapable of honest self-reflection and grasping the bitter truth that they have failed us.

  8. Rick Weddle February 27, 2017

    re: Obama 5150…
    [I regret to admit I did vote, twice, for Obama,…as the Least Repulsive candidate on offer] Being a danger to oneself and/or others is a description of several Presidents we could name. Obama’s record of undeclared acts of war – war crimes – including thousands (thousands) of drone-strikes, manifestly has endangered hundreds of thousands of targets and bystanders, but has endangered and positively destroyed wide swaths of Legitimate Government here at home. Don’t we recall something about Obama ‘rescinding’ the habeus corpus (sp?) deal, as if he had such authority from anywhere on Earth? Don’t you think such behavior, making policy of High Explosives, would have negative affect on America’s disintegrating image everywhere? Where would a Terrorist get the notion he could make a point of any sort with bombs? Where would he find the material to go ‘BOOM?’

  9. Harvey Reading February 27, 2017

    Re: “The US has a leader who appears unhinged to an extent not true of any of his predecessors.”

    Huh? Just for the hell of it, let’s start here.

    Kennedy — Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile affair, inability to control his sexual urges

    Johnson — Vietnam

    Nixon — Ditto, plus overthrowing Chile’s elected government and various civil crimes right here at home, which resulting in his taking early retirement

    Carter — Iranian embassy fiasco after sheltering the brutal Shah, getting us involved in Afghanistan’s civil war

    Reagan — lotsa sick (and senile) stuff, including firing PATCO air traffic controllers, war on Grenada and Central America

    Bush I — War on Iraq, based on lies, generated by Miller/Knowlton

    Clinton — getting caught being unable to control his sexual urges, war in Yugoslavia, or whatever it was called then, planned war on Social Security, war on welfare programs, “free” trade agreements

    Bush II — War on Iraq, also based on lies, war on Social Security, giving religious charities public funds

    Obama — Continuation of Bush II policies, letting the bankers off, health care “plan” that was mainly a giveaway to health insurers, continuing Bush II policy of giving religious charities money.

    Get over it, they were ALL unhinged, all the way back to the beginning. Anyone wanting that much power has to be. Singling out one of the clowns over another is ridiculous. People in this country are the ones who are unhinged if a person cares to make that charge. They, after all, put them into office, and, please, drop the ‘Hillary won’ nonsense. After all, the electoral college is still law after all these years, and no one makes any significant progress in changing that, or even makes a significant effort.

  10. Jim Updegraff February 27, 2017

    Bruce: it is time to discuss the important things of the day. What is your assessment of how the Giants and A’s will do this year?

    • Bruce Anderson February 27, 2017

      Giants looking good, very good. I’ll miss Romo, but Cain seems like he’s back. Still frosted about Bochy lifting Moore in the playoff against the Cubs. That game was in the bag until Bochy interfered.

      • Stephen Rosenthal February 27, 2017

        Agree about Moore and that Cubs game. There are $20+ million reasons why Cain is even on the team. He’s done and has been for more than four years. Ty Blach deserves his spot but won’t get it because of the above. Instead he’ll be relegated to long relief until Bochy can’t take Cain’s act anymore. How many wins will that cost the Giants?

        Vegas over/under win total for the A’s is 66 1/2; that’s the lowest I’ve ever seen.

  11. Jim Updegraff February 27, 2017

    Given his age I’m not sure Cain is good for the whole season

    • George Hollister February 27, 2017

      Cain still had good velocity, last year, though control was a problem. The Giants are betting he can get his control back. It is going to be tough. Cain lived with some issues that eventually ended up with him having surgery, multiple times. He had to change his delivery, as a result.

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