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Off the Record (March 1, 2017)


KELISHA ALVAREZ, now a legendary street person in the Ukiah valley, came to court last Wednesday under double guard, and dressed in the day-glow chartreuse coveralls that the jail uses for violent, unpredictable inmates. Ms. Alvarez carries 300-plus pounds on a five-foot frame. Her bulk is deceiving; she’s quite nimble and very strong, as the Ukiah Police Department knows from hard experience arresting her, as does her punching bag of a boyfriend, Scotty. Kelisha’s lawyer, Patricia Littlefield of the Alternate Public Defender’s Office, was on hand to defend Kelisha. Well, not exactly. Littlefield was there to get the best possible deal for an impossible defendant, a person nobody knows what to do with. Deputy DA Elizabeth Norman said the charges of first degree robbery against Kelisha were being amended to second degree robbery. Her bail was set at $100,000 and the judge signed a stay-away order naming one Alisha Tuttle, with whom Kelisha is to have no contact. A preliminary hearing for the robbery was set for two weeks ahead. The combustible Ms. Alvarez was also being held on other charges, namely that she violated the terms of her probation by returning to Ukiah from Oklahoma. Oklahoma exile was a futile attempt by the DA’s office to unload Kelisha on the unsuspecting Sooners. But she soon made her way back to uber-tolerant Mendocino County. The bail in the prior case was set at No Bail. (Bruce McEwen)

NBA BASKETBALL is closing in on pro wrestling. We're way past the days when the game was the thing. Now the game is maybe half the thing. The All-Star game the other day was run at less than half-speed with a lot of Globe Trotter-like stunts, as the best athletes in the world managed to be boring. I know — we all know — there has been major cultural slippage, that the under-60's have had their brains re-wired to where they are undisturbed by the frenetic din of sound and motion of half-naked hoochie-koochie girls, idiot tunes at full blast, a sea of debauched faces looking on — but I miss the game when there was only the game.

BASEBALL fans are more sensible, but just barely. Giants fans drove out Crazy Crab, throwing stuff at him and otherwise abusing the thoroughly unamusing cartoon construct. The Giants had to make a fiberglas reinforced suit to protect the guy inside from flying objects and drunken punches. They abandoned the infantile project because (1) people hated the thing and physically attacked it every game, and (2) the guy inside was getting hurt.

THAT was at Candlestick where baseball fans tended heavily to booze and anarchy, as anybody who watched a game from the left field bleachers can tell you.

BUT WHEN the Giants moved to 3rd and Townsend and a new ballpark, they introduced a new cutesy-wootsy figure, Lou Seal, along with a very strict code of fan conduct, right down to No Swearing, a good thing in my opinion because fan behavior was so bad at Candlestick — often menacing, in fact, you didn't want to bring the wife and kids to the x-rated affairs. At the new park, which is heavy on non-fans because the cyber-rich can afford the new ticket prices, and corporations buy up huge blocs of tickets. Lou Seal, as the culture dumbs steadily downward, seems popular, although you'll hear a heartening boo out of a sensible fan occasionally.

STILL AND ALL, and apologies to you non-geezers for going on like this, but I like my ball games straight. No choreographed pole dancing, no jumbo-thron or whatever they call the gargantuan scoreboards, no music at all, and no kiss camera for god's sake.

BRUCE McEWEN reports on the sad matter of a pregnant Covelo woman, age 20, who keeps getting in trouble:


JOSEPHA BASURTO, of Covelo, was sentenced to a term of probation and 180 days in jail for attacking a game warden, Lieutenant White, with a fire extinguisher. Her lawyer, Patricia Littlefield argued for probation and a reduction in the jail time, saying that Ms. Basurto’s drug use was a mitigating factor in the crime. The 180 days means she’ll get out in about a month before her baby is due.

Deputy DA Scott McMenomey said, “In my view this is a prison case. Virtually every rule does not favor putting her on probation. The aggravating factors greatly outweigh the mitigating. Just before this incident she’d pled to a 10851 [car theft] and here we are. She’s a public safety danger, and I just can’t go along with a grant of probation in a case that cries out for the mid-term of three years in prison. I’ll submit it on that.”

Ms. Littlefield said, “Well, she’s never been on probation before.”

Judge Moorman said, “She was supposed to be, but she didn’t show up!”

Littlefield said, “Yes, but she might respond well to it and her goal of moving to Utah where there’s a little more structure will be helpful.”

McMenomey countered, “Actions speak louder than words. She’s had plenty of opportunities to go to Utah and benefit from the structure – if she really wanted to.”

Moorman concluded, “I’m really surprised by this report. Have you read it, Ms. Basurto?”

Basurto: “Yes.”

Moorman: “What would you say to the warden if he were here today?”

Basurto: “I’m sorry.”

Moorman: “You know, if it weren’t for your age I’d give you the three years – but that doesn’t mean I’m cutting you loose, not at all. The first time you screw up it’s coming down [the suspended three-year sentence]. Do you understand?”

Basurto: “Yes.”

Moorman: “So, over the objection of the prosecutor and with some reluctance I’m suspending the prison term. Is the warden here?”

McMenomey: “No, your honor.”

Moorman: “Okay, as soon as you are released from custody you are to report to probation. Oh, yes, and Term 10 of the conditions of probation will be changed to read No Marijuana. You are pregnant. You shouldn’t be using marijuana. Restitution will be reserved for the warden. And you are ordered to acquire your high school diploma or a G.E.D. You have 60 days to appeal.”

THE CASE OF JOSEPHA BASURTO was also discussed on the AVA comment line the other day. The young Covelo woman, Ms. Basurto doesn't seem prepared for motherhood. Used to be there were viable options for unwanted children — not sayin’ Ms. B’s is unwanted, but hells bells, if we can’t give kids a good start…. Now, fifty years after we lost our way, young lives are twisted and doomed by formative years spent in the chaos of drug houses and in the company of people with bad attitudes, the result being an enormous population of criminals and psychological cripples.

COINCIDENTALLY, Lytton Springs was just in the news. It's the grand structure you see west of Highway 101 not far from Healdsburg. It was designed as an orphanage and functioned as one for many years. Like St. Vincent's in Marin, and the Albertinum in Ukiah, people incapable of raising children could, no stigma attached, place their children with religious orders who raised them up in safe and healthy conditions.

THESE DAYS, the orphanage option is gone, replaced by a haphazard and extremely unstable foster home system or, in a minority of cases, adoption, and the even the latter is typically preceded by a ricochet early childhood in the foster chaos. The present American "system" couldn't be better designed to create criminals and adult dependency.

COMMENT by a reader: "The tragedy here is that Josepha is an indigent substance abuser that will be paid by the state to parent a child. Am I wrong? I certainly hope so, but doubt it. What chance does the child have? Like no chance? But we regularly do this. This is a case where adoption at birth, or an orphanage would serve the child best. And doing what is in the best interest of the child, in this case, is all that really matters. “

SHERIFF ALLMAN on Immigration Policy: “Immigration policy is a complex and sensitive matter and this has been highlighted in recent days and weeks. The Sheriffs of California serve to protect the public safety above all else. Sheriffs are not inclined, nor do they have the resources or personnel, to conduct front-line immigration enforcement duties. Sheriffs do not wish to discourage members of their communities from seeking protection and assistance from law enforcement. While Sheriffs see the necessity in communicating with federal law enforcement regarding dangerous criminals or persons alleged to have committed serious and/or violent offenses that are housed in county jails, this comes from a desire to protect ALL members of our communities from those who pose a threat, not to enforce immigration law on a day-to-day basis.”

ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: “A significant point is the paucity of even semi-objective news available today. Eighty to ninety percent of the news is so hysterically, rabidly anti-Trump, that he could come out with the formula for clean cold fusion, and unlimited cheap, ecologically friendly energy tomorrow, and still be regarded as an insane troglodyte, while the extreme right wing news regards him as the Second Coming, who can do no wrong. The Chris Christie meatloaf story last week epitomized this. I gave up after finding twelve mainstream media stories relating in breathless earnestness the absolute, conclusive proof that President Trump was a ruthless psychopath because he ordered meatloaf for Christie (which Christie apparently isn’t overly fond of). I don’t recall even the kookiest ‘Obama is going to take all true patriots guns, put them in FEMA camps, and make them wear rouge and eye shadow’ kooks going quite so far in the previous eight years. If anyone can suggest a reasonably fair news source, I sure would like to know!”

YOU RANG? There aren't any. For the big stuff, try the BBC and the Brit newspaper, The Guardian. Anyway, objectivity is in the eye of the reader, and usually means opinion that agrees with his. Truth to tell, for breaking news the Daily Mail, the on-line Brit tabloid, is quite good, and always a fun read, although as a whole it translates as confirmation that these are indeed, The Last Days. Television news is a bad joke. No argument there. For intelligent discussion of current events, Michael Krasny's morning show on KQED out of San Francisco is the smartest and the least biased. He presents all perspectives on the issues of the day presented by knowledgeable, people. My political biases are dependably confirmed at CounterPunch, and a couple of programs at KPFA, especially Doug Henwood’s. James Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation has become a must-read for me because he’s a lively writer in a sea of term paper prose, and he’s the only national writer I know of who pegs his opinions to what seems to me the obvious — industrial civ is not only not sustainable, it’s killing all of us. I think the smartest, most objective discussion of what’s happening is found at the London Review of Books, and among American magazine journalism at Harper's, The New York Review of Books, the Atlantic.  No, I don't pay any attention to Democracy Now. It's like already being dead and eternally forced to listen to verbatim piety as read by the nasal passages and fingernails on blackboard, all of it droned out in a predictable catechism of political correctness unleavened by even so much as a hint of irony or humor. I think it's also obvious that Amy Goodman, now a millionaire several times over, has wrecked the Pacifica Network, which is about to go under from a combination of infighting and financial drains, especially the one funneled to Democracy Now. Local news seems a perennial work in progress at KZYX, but the new boss, a print news guy, may be able to strengthen it. Jeff Blankfort's program is usually a learning experience, as is Jane Futcher's, but I don't hear the other talk programming often enough to judge it. Mendo Public Radio (a private club of entrenched programmers, actually) has always needed a regular, at least weekly, discussion of LOCAL events if it's ever to break out of its hippie-thumbsucker rep among conventional Mendo people. If I want BIG THINK I head for the quality mags, not outback global affairs experts. Local, incidentally, is covered quite well by the Ukiah Daily Journal, the Willits Weekly, the AVA (of course), and on-line by Mendocino Sports Plus, Lost Coast Outpost, Red-Headed Blackbelt, and Mendocino View, the newest on-line publication (funded by pot money), and the AVA on-line. The ICO out of Gualala has its moments, as does the Advocate-Beacon when it goes long with Chris Calder, Frank Hartzell and other experienced reporters.

PREDICTABLY, the Democrats have installed More of the Same at the top of the party: "I know that Tom Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity," Obama said, "and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much."

A PARTY HACK and big Hillary backer, Perez has worked in the Justice Department and ultimately as an Obama Cabinet officer. Biden endorsed him as did Valerie Jarrett.

ORANGE MAN has announced that he will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Dinner this year, while The New Yorker and Vanity Fair had previously said they wouldn't host their usual parties for the usual collection of awful celebrities.

THIS COZY EVENT is, as most of us know, hosted by millionaire "journalists" who listen to an alleged comedian insult the president. The alleged comedian is easy on liberal presidents. Obama always got a pass, as did Bill Clinton. The alleged comedian teed off on W, the most destructive president yet — Trump squared — but the "roast" was painfully unfunny, especially given that it was a series of insults the craven media wouldn't dare say themselves, so they pay the alleged comedian a hundred grand to do it for them. The thing is televised because, apparently, lots of people think it's interesting, funny even. (Probably the same people who think Jerry Lewis is funny.) You can hardly blame Orange Man for not showing up. He’s despised by these people who are themselves gloriously despicable.

DEPUTY MASSEY'S account of Marine Corps book camp brought back my memories of the same experience. Massey's account is the first I've read, other than my own, of what's really involved. Or was involved. I've asked kids coming out of boot camp if the Marines are still beating recruits as part of the training; they say No. Thing of the past. Here's Massey:

"Boot Camp was tough. Almost a third of my platoon didn't even make it through. You are kicked and beaten and set to ridiculous tasks and you really had to perform. Some of the guys in my platoon were in the Marines because otherwise they would have gone to jail. I've always been a physical person, born and raised in the woods, ran around a lot. So it wasn't as difficult for me as some of the others. But there were certainly times when I said to myself, this is the most tired I have ever been in my life, on the verge of collapsing. But then you find that one little breath to keep going. The obstacle course. The confidence course. The mud, the ropes, the crawling under the boards and the wires, up and down, people shouting ‘Move! Move! Move!’ We also had to fight other guys with pugil sticks and in hand-to-hand combat. Basically how to kill people…"

YEP. It was a monstrous experience, like suddenly being plunged into 15 weeks of physical torture you had no idea was part of the program. You expected to be constantly insulted and pushed to the limits physically, but you weren't prepared to be beaten up most days, and we all were. (The insults were funny, but it was dangerous to laugh. Californians were routinely "California queers," and one day staff sergeant Wells called us "a bunch of syphilitic misfucks sent to sabotage my Marine Corps." Waterboarding is worse, to name a popular modern torture, but imagine having to stand at attention while a psychopath beats on you and assaults you in ways you'd never heard of, let alone experienced. For me, and the other tall guys in the platoon, the worst was being knocked unconscious by a drill instructor twisting our collars until we couldn't breathe and dropped at his feet. And knowledge knocks. They were applied by repeated knuckles to the forehead until your head swelled out like a goose egg. (Now you had more room for brains, get it?) It was twice as bad for the tough guys in the platoon. They had to fight tough guys from other recruit platoons at night while the DI's bet on them. The lack of sleep, the constant running long distances in all your gear, push-ups all day, were exhausting, but it was the beatings that put murder in your heart, and it wasn't the murder of the enemy we dreamed of. The point, as it has been explained, is to instill instant, robotic obedience to orders. Like Massey's experience, we started with 77 guys, at the end of the process there were 33 of us who'd started out together. Most of the 44 dropouts had to do whatever part of the training they’d failed, meaning some of the poor souls spent months just trying to get out of boot camp. A few were driven nuts and got “310” psychiatric discharges.

STREWN throughout the Presidio are placards warning about coyotes, although the creatures don't attack people except in those rare cases where passersby stray too close to a den. And even then the coyote just bares fang in a show of ferocity but seldom attacks unless rabid. (Kinda like people, come to think of it.) Coyotes will attack dogs, however, and for the same reason as they’ll go full fang on people — 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 a hunter or a rancher gets a good look at them. The Presidio signs — in the passive-aggressive public stance now characteristic of Frisco — advise pedestrians who feel menaced by coyotes to throw something at them "to frighten, not to injure."

One Comment

  1. Ernest Jones March 1, 2017

    My time in Marine Corps Boot Camp was not as bad as Massey described, but it was tough enough for a 20 year old to grow up. I am thankful for the experience, and proud to be a former Marine. Served 1968-1971.

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