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Off the Record (April 11, 2018)

CHILD THEFT? If what is alleged, child theft is what it is, and we have no reason to disbelieve what we've been told because it's the kind of CPS story we've often heard versions of.

THE MAN telling us the story is a grandfather. His two grandsons, now 2 and 5, were removed from the drug-crippled home of his son nearly three years ago by Mendocino County's Children's Protective Services.

OVER THE INTERVENING YEARS, the offending parents have recovered themselves and have fully complied with the original conditions demanded of them by CPS. They want their children back. But the two boys are still in foster care after innumerable court hearings and despite several thousand dollars paid by the family for a private attorney to help them regain custody of their children. The grandparents have also been denied visits with the children.

UNTIL RECENTLY, the grandparents enjoyed court-sanctioned visits with their grandchildren three days a week, but when their Fort Bragg CPS worker was fired, the custody case reverted to Ukiah and they lost all access to their grandchildren, which can't have been good for the two contested children. Ukiah CPS has resisted all the family's efforts to get the kids back.

IT GETS WORSE. The family alleges that their two boys are now in the foster family of the son of CPS boss, Bryan Lowery. Reportedly, the two kids were removed for a month from the Lowery family for allegations of child abuse but returned to the Ukiah foster family after the family underwent “training.”

THE DISTRAUGHT FAMILY of the two boys says they understand the Lowerys now want to adopt their two boys.

MENDOCINO COUNTY Judge Reimenschneider has rejected all the parents' and grandparents' pleas for fair hearings while he simply rubberstamps CPS’s arbitrary decisions, claiming that the family has missed appointments. The family says these alleged missed appointments were scheduling mix-ups complicated by the distance they must travel from Fort Bragg to Ukiah. (Mendocino County residents living far from Ukiah can verify the difficulty of coordinating court appearances with Ukiah authorities.)

THE CHILD CONFISCATION process in Mendocino County occurs outside public scrutiny "to protect the best interests of the child." The only way the secrecy can be penetrated is for the families suffering from it to tell their stories to the public and hope the resulting pressure on this deeply flawed system gets them justice.

LOW-COST HOUSING. That phrase gets an exhausting workout every election, especially at the Mendo level. Everyone’s for it, but apart from candidate Pinches no one has the faintest idea of how to even begin accomplishing it, and even Pinches is vague beyond “a trailer park” on the County-owned land north of Willits where Caltrans’ pharonic removal of earth for the north end of the Willits Bypass created a suitable building site.

THE COUNTY could take a portion of the public money they presently throw at the combined crap shoot and ponzi scheme known as the stock market and erect County-run trailer parks on County-owned parcels throughout Mendo. The County would get a more reliable income from our trailer parks than we do from Wall Street. Of course the parks would have to be rigorously managed to keep scumbaggery to a tolerable level, but the only difference between scumbaggery at the poverty level and scumbaggery at the secure levels of income is that the well-to-to keep theirs in-doors.

THE "REDWOOD COAST DEMOCRATS" are advertising "another event sponsored by Redwood Coast Democrats," this one a 5th District Supe's candidate's forum, 2-4pm, Gualala Community Center, Saturday, April 14. I can't remember any other event put on by the group, but it seems kinda exclusionary to picture only the three candidates who are registered Democrat since the job is non-partisan, at least in theory and, presumably, the forum also includes hometown Gualala candidate Arthur Juhl, and Hopland candidate, Dave Roderick. In local practice, however, the County's active Democrats, much like the nationally active Democrats, represent the secure sectors of the middle-class, especially lawyers, non-profit administrators, public employees and administrators, trust funders, school teachers, and other white collar fortunatos. Blue collar people, if they bother to vote, vote against themselves for Republicans. Hispanics and other ethnic minorities vote Democrat, not because the Democrats do anything for them, but because the Republicans brag about being their enemies. The overall situation in our fast fading land resembles Weimar Germany without the classy art and entertainment of the Weimar period. There is no America anymore, only mutually exclusive interest blocs, as The Money moves inexorably upwards.

THE SUN comes out, I think of baseball. As a child we marked the seasons by sports — football, basketball and baseball, but played baseball year-round, weather permitting and it usually did. I gave up going to pro football and basketball games about twenty years ago, even with free tickets, because I didn't want to devote an entire day getting to and from the Niners, most of the night getting out to the Coliseum to watch the Warriors and sitting through hours of bad music and gyrating hoochie koochie girls into the non-bargain. My secret to getting to the Giants ball games is to park at the North Beach garage, either the one next door to the police station or the one across the street, hop on the 30 Stockton bus which runs straight to and from the ballpark. The parking costs $12, the bus two bucks coming and going. At the park, I buy a "dynamic pricing" ticket for under ten dollars for a seat at the very top of the stadium where I can gaze out at the Bay between pitches. (“Dynamic Pricing" means to see the Giant's play the Dodgers you pay about fifty dollars, for a ticket to see the Giants take on, say, the Marlins, you pay eight dollars. I prefer the Giants but I never care who wins; I just like watching the game played at the highest level it's played, and even the Marlins are worth the price of admission at 8 dollars.

THERE ARE CERTAIN WORDS that cause me to wince when I hear or read them. "Party" as a verb is one, the adjective "appropriate" in whatever part of speech it's used, especially as the pejorative it's wielded as by the libs, drives me nuts, or further nuts. And "history buff" is all over the place to describe people interested in it, people like me, for instance, and my interest is genuine, not superficial as implied by the insulting "buff." The mere mention of "objectivity" is good for a sneer from anyone who understands there's no such thing, but also understands there is such a thing as fairness." (Class dismissed!)

CALLING JOHN PINCHES! What does former Supervisor John Pinches think of this idea from Fifth District Supes Candidate Dave Roderick, as described in an interview on MendocinoTV by Skip Taube recently: 

Roderick: People say that it's $1 million a mile to pave a road. But it depends on how you are going to repave. Are you going to redo the base? Basically if you do a 2 inch lift that comes out to 70 transfer loads of asphalt. At about $150 a ton that's about $225,000 in asphalt. And where are you trucking it from? Asphalt is the medium we make our roads out of today and I don't see a viable replacement at this point. The problem with asphalt is asphalt plants. No one wants an asphalt plant near them. Just today in Fort Bragg they are repaving the parking lot at Starbucks and that company is actually from Santa Rosa and the trucker is also from Santa Rosa. I'm not sure where the asphalt itself is coming from. How do you repair roads if you don't have asphalt? Asphalt has to be kept at a certain temperature and then you have to maintain a certain capacity to be able to do it for paving. We are talking about county roads now. There are county roads and there are state roads. The state roads are not our jurisdiction. If we want to pave or repair large sections maybe the county should invest in a mobile asphalt plant that we can break down and move so it is not erected in someone's neighborhood forever. And we wouldn't have people complaining about living next to an asphalt plant. I don't want to live next to one either. But if we can say it's going to be here for two weeks and we will bring in all the raw materials and pre-stage everything and get it done — come into an area, pave it or repair it, and move. And prioritize. It has to be cost-effective. But you would save on the trucking costs, you are not paying another company to sell you the asphalt at markup. With the number of miles of road we have in the county it might be a reasonable investment. It also depends on the specifications for fixing the road. Are you going to just put on a 2 inch asphalt layer or are you going to deal with a layer below it? Are you going to put down geo-fabric to support the pave? There are lots of ways to do it. But a 2 inch lift, two lanes wide a mile-long is about $350,000 that way compared to the $1 million people talk about.”

ONE OF THE MAJOR reasons for supporting Pinches is that the County’s bigwigs dread his return. He’s the only supervisor likely to hold their plump little tootsies to responsibility’s fires. As presently constituted, the Mendo supervisors are a textbook case of the tail wagging the dog. No, they aren’t the dog. They’re getting wagged by their CEO, Carmel Angelo.

RECOMMENDED READING if you can find a copy: John Marsh, Pioneer by George Lyman. A friend lent me the copy I'm reading. It's a biography of the first medical doctor to practice in California, circa 1836. Landing in a violent pre-LA community of drunks and drifters barely housed in mud huts, Marsh, a Harvard grad with zero medical training, announced himself as a fully qualified healer. Once he'd accumulated some capital sawing off gangrenous limbs with whiskey as the only anesthetic, Marsh bought Mount Diablo, well, a vast rancho at the foot of the mountain running darn near to Stockton. His nearest neighbor was General Vallejo 50 miles to the north. Still practicing medicine Marsh took small herds of cattle as payment for hundred mile house calls, and it wasn’t long before he was the primary, pre-Gold Rush economic engine in California, second only to John Sutter to the north.

ALTHOUGH the book was published in 1930, there's nothing chaste about the telling of the tale of Marsh's turbulent life. Of course there was nothing chaste about the louche characters who'd washed up in Mexican California almost twenty years before the Gold Rush. Many of them were on the run from the settled areas of the United States where they'd committed serious crimes.

VISITING the museums of latter day Mendocino County, the visitor gets a highly romanticized version of the first Americans to descend on the Northcoast, particularly lawless Mendo. The intro to the Marsh biography nicely sums up the reality of that initial interface of first wave drifters with the graceful culture of Spanish and Mexican California:

"I can almost recall the day and hour that I first heard the name John Marsh. It was at a little hillside town in California. I was talking to a neighbor, an old wizened woman, one of the earliest settlers. We were standing on the brow of a hill, looking across the Santa Clara Valley, and discussing the pioneers and the reasons that brought them to California when that country was still a Mexican province.

"‘At that time California was a place for hunted men,’ she said. ‘They came here to hide and be forgotten.’ She pointed a bony finger over in the distance toward Mount Diablo. ‘Over there,’ she said, ‘in an adobe at the base of that mountain, lived the most mysterious of California's pioneers. His name was John Marsh. He was a doctor, a hermit, a misanthrope. He hated men. Most of the early settlers in these parts were fugitives,’ the old woman continued. ‘They were hiding from themselves or from someone else. Many of them were outlaws: forgers, deserters from the sea. Even murderers hid in these redwoods. Practically all of them had been driven out of some more settled community. They were all afraid of something or somebody. Fear brought them here. Fear kept them hiding. But no one ever figured out why. Marsh hid in the shadow of Mount Diablo’."

"WHERE THERE'S SMOKE: The Environmental Science, Public Policy, and Politics of Marijuana," April 19. 9 a.m., on the Cannabis Hour, KZYX, Thursday, April 19 at 9 a.m. Host Jane Futcher will be joined by Pomona College Professor of Environmental Analysis Char Miller, editor of WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, and by contributor and cannabis policy expert Amanda Reiman. Stream the show live at or listen to an archived version at

AS FIRST reported by MSP, Anna Shaw, the controversial director of the even more controversial Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center, aka Hostility House, has resigned.

I STEER AWAY from comment on The Big Picture because (1) I'm not particularly well-informed on national and international affairs and (2) even when I think I'm informed someone else has said better what I would have said. With this statement of my pundit qualifications as preface, I can't help but tell all of you that Trump's appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor moves the Doomsday Clock a full minute closer to midnight. Bolton and the rest of the Bush Gang managed to destabilize the entire Middle East by going after Saddam Hussein on the laughably false pretext that the dictator had nukes. The Obama-Hillary Libs, accepting the Bush Gang's policies without demur, added considerably to the expanding Middle East disaster by destroying Libya, adding drone murders of, in several cases, American citizens. As usual, these international crimes have been a bi-partisan effort.

BOLTON, of course, evaded the draft during the Vietnam era, as did most of the tough talkers on Fox News, not to mention Commando Trump with his "bone spurs." People who do a lot of tough talking are, in my muy macho experience, which includes lots of quality time with gen-u-wine tough guys, are invariably wimps at show and tell time. Which makes them so dangerous in the power slots. People who've been shot at are ordinarily more circumspect, but the Bolton-Fox News Brigades will fight to your last man, and they have no prob unleashing horror from the comfort and safety of their air conditioned bunkers.

YEAH, YEAH, appearances can be deceptive, and it isn't fair to judge a person's mental health by how he or she looks, but the woman who shot up YouTube the other day? Visibly deranged, and not a person you should sell a gun to. Of course if gun sellers went by appearances, few Americans would ever get their trigger fingers on so much as a bb gun.

WHEN THE HART "FAMILY" took their liberal stage props out of public school after the beating of their smallest female child was noted by someone at school, they went on the run, moving clear across the country where they could brandish their rainbow family as if it were genuine, and not the cynical funding apparatus it was. The agencies that are supposed to be safeguarding dependent children should have intervened and taken the children back into custody when maltreatment of the children first was evident, but.... But despite the perpetual mantra from children's agencies that their first priority is the safety and well-being of dependent children, they operate in total secrecy, with oversight supposedly exercised by the courts. Bad things are inevitable in conditions of secrecy, especially where children are involved. What few people are likely to point out is that black children often get short shrift among foster children because (1) there are so many of them that placing agencies grab any adult willing to care for them with little scrutiny of that person or person and (2) once dependent children are in the system, well, with the Harts we had children from Texas being moved first to Minnesota, then to the West Coast, world headquarters of purely symbolic liberalism where the two psychotic mommies murdered all six of them after brandishing them at demonstrations.

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. Where did that phrase come from? I’m no expert, but I think it came from the old puzzle with nine dots, 3x3, in a square shape. You’re supposed to connect the dots with four straight lines without lifting up your pencil. Supposedly, figuring out that this puzzle can be solved by drawing the lines “outside the box” is supposed to be an indication that the solver is some kind of clever creative thinker. Trouble is, it’s not. It’s just a little kid’s game.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I still remember one of the questions on Dr. Donaldson’s Heat, Light & Radiation physics class at Fresno State in 1964. It was a pop quiz of ten difficult questions which our class of about 15 science majors was supposed to tackle one day after we arrived in class. All ten of the questions were roughly like this:

“A flashlight has fallen into a river at [a certain depth] with [a certain flow rate]. (Dr. Donaldson provided us with the particular numbers.) The flashlight’s beam forms a conical section and is resting on a rock, pointing upstream but wobbling, forming a moving conical section with [a specified oscillation rate] forming [a range of angles] formed by the oscillating and constantly changing conical shape. Question: How much water is illuminated in an hour?”

There were ten similarly difficult questions which were to be graded at up to ten points per question. Show your work.

Although the class was small, the class was held in one of those large college lecture halls with hundreds of theater style seats. So my fellow students and I did not sit close to each other. But as I read the impossibly difficult questions, I looked around the room at my fellow students to see that we were looking at each other with flabbergasted expressions.

Another of Dr. Donaldson’s ten questions I vaguely recall had to do with calculating how long it would take for a hot brick to cool off, given its size, density starting temperature, room temperature, etc. (I worked with an engineer in San Jose in the 80s who could calculate the diameter of a spool of rope of a certain length and thickness when spooled up in a cartridge off the top of his head.)

Where was I? Oh, right, Dr. Donaldson’s quiz. Of the 15 people in our class, 14 of us, including me, got a total of 0 (zero) on the pop quiz. One guy, my near genius friend from high school, Norbert Ensslin, got 12 points out of 100 for coming up with partial solutions/set ups for two of the ten questions. Norbert really could “think outside the box.” (Norbert later went on to get his PhD in Physics and became a top nuclear scientist at Los Alamos.)

Dr. Donaldson later told us the quiz was his idea of a prank, and would not count for anything; it was just a jolting experiment to measure our ability to deal with seemingly impossible problems.

Norbert later told me that the key to solving the flashlight question (and others like it) was simplifying it: breaking it down to a fixed, non-moving cone and figuring out the “simple” cone volume (via a formula), then multiplying the cone volume times the flow rate to get a reasonable approximation of the volume of water illuminated. Dr. Donaldson gave him six points out of ten for getting that far on that one. (Mark Scaramella)


Immigrants from Central America work harder than native-born citizens. They start their own businesses doing work that citizens don’t want to do. They earn money. They pay taxes. They pay their own way, just like the Irish, Polish, English, German, and Chinese immigrants before them did. Nobody has to “invite” them into their home. They have their own families to raise. They want their own homes… and eventually they get them. They create jobs for others, for citizens. It’s called the American Dream and it has worked for millions and will continue to do so. Trump cannot kill the American dream. Trump cannot stop immigrants by sending the military to the border. And the Democratic Party would have more success and legitimacy if it tried to establish its political base among the hardworking American middle class. If they would do that it would expose Republicans as the plutocrats they have become.

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