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Off the Record (June 20, 2018)

THE DA HAS DROPPED the felony kidnapping charge against the lead suspect in the disappearance of 23-year-old Khadijah Britton, citing a lack of evidence. Mendocino County District Attorney spokesman Mike Geniella said prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to charge Negie Tony Fallis IV with kidnapping his girlfriend, Britton, who remains missing and is presumed dead. Fallis is still being held in the Mendocino County Jail on two felony charges: possession of a firearm by a felon and prohibited person in possession of ammunition. Britton, of Covelo, hasn’t been seen since Fallis, 37, pulled her from a friend’s home at gunpoint the night of February 7th. Britton’s abduction occurred soon after Fallis had attacked her with a hammer

Britton, Fallis

Fallis, whose bail was reduced from $400,000 to $35,000, is set to appear in court Wednesday on the two remaining charges.

INTERESTING ARGUMENT from PG&E as the semi-public utility begins to defend itself against the deluge of negligence suits arising from the catastrophic October fires. PG&E is saying that they met the tree and brush clearance standards mandated by state law, that the horrific fires resulted from climate change, that PG&E, under current state law, could not possibly have kept their lines and transformers from sparking the fires. "We cleared tree and brush hazards in full compliance with the law but Global Warming we can do nothing about."

CRUISING THE LIBERAL commentary on Trump's breakthrough meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, it's almost all negative, as if the libs are hoping denuclearization fails. Even the possibility of peace talks with North Korea were inconceivable under Obama, and even more unlikely under Clinton if she had won the presidency. Orange Man deserves a standing O for this remarkable diplomatic achievement, not the carping he's getting from the libs. True to form, though, and virtually in the same breath OM does major de-nuke good, he kicks off a crazy trade war with, of all countries, Canada. Trudeau must have annoyed Trump on a very personal level because there's no rational accounting for Trump's unreasoning hostility for Canada's pious prime minister. Maybe that's it, Trudeau’s piety, his overweening sanctimoniousness. And Orange Man does tend to lash out, doesn't he?

TRUMP. We were discussing the national leadership today when a visitor said, "It looks like he's trying to dismantle the whole Western Alliance." I don't think so because that suggests Trump has a plan, and anyway who cares except the tycoon class? If Trump was even a jv fascist of some kind he might have some grand White Man scheme in mind, but it seems clear he just gets up every morning and wings it, and the people around him are as scattered as he is when it comes to coherent world views. How many of Trump’s people would you hire to do anything? Overall, though, friend and I agreed that there was an obvious shortfall of inspirational leaders out there. From here it all looks like one vast School Board.

ACCORDING to the Wall Street Journal, Trump "stunned" fellow leaders at last week's gathering of the heads of the world's wealthiest countries when he told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he could send Japan "25 million Mexicans" to help Abe understand the migration problems facing Europe and America. Trump also told French President Emmanuel Macron that "all the terrorists are in Paris" as the leaders were meeting.

TRUMP'S praise of Little Rocket Man as "a great guy with a great sense of humor" elicited predictable howls from liberals who launched into rote denunciations of the North Korean dictatorship with an emphasis on North Korea's "gulag" prison system. “Gulag” is often applied to our American prison systems, although gulag, in the Stalinist sense, makes our prisons seem like resorts. But still, our class-based justice system is hardly anything to brag on. It could, with a political flip of the switch, go full gulag simply by removing prisons from public scrutiny which, strictly considered, they nearly are anyway. A day in any courtroom in America sees an unvarying parade of defendants drawn from the working classes and the sub-workingclass. I could recite cases for the rest of the day of people I know personally who would not be in prison if they'd been able to afford a capable defense. And separating children from parents? Happens every day all over the country at crime scenes, evictions, accidents, social worker invasions of private homes.

AFTER going deep with discussions of Trump and global affairs, the ava’s brain trust returned to the question that has obsessed it for months: Who is phonier, David Muir of ABC News or Scott Simon of NPR?

Simon, Muir

STAND BY for an extreme generalization. Ready? Here it is: I've never myself met a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism who was any better than average at the work of journalism, work which can be adequately brought off by anyone armed with the basic reading and writing tools available free to high school graduates. We get letters to the editor all the time that are better written than the stuff churned out by most J-school graduates. If you can write a lively letter you can do journalism.

SOMEHOW I've been comped a subscription to the Columbia Journalism Review, whose contents…? Soporific is the adjective that arrives first. I was astonished to read what a degree from “prestigious” Columbia costs $105,820 for a ten-month program, $147,418 for a 12-month program or $108,464 per year for a two-year program! And I'm sure there are some young people who take out loans for a bogus diploma they'll be paying off for years, and doing it at a time when the future of conventional journalism is seriously in doubt, and the number of good paying jobs is shrinking.

BOONVILLE'S BELOVED WEEKLY, way back, was the subject of areal dumb "profile" by some guy from Columbia JR who probably picked up big bucks for it. Boonville's beloved weekly has been written up in lots of different contexts by lots of big time newspapers and mags. I'm sure all the authors of these smash and grab pieces were the work of graduates of "prestigious" journalism schools and their error-packed pieces edited by another layer of prestigious journalism school grads. But the only one that was really smart, really well written was one in the Wall Street Journal. (Why all the attention? You really need to ask? Because this is America, where if you stray in the slightest from the norm, which in Mendo is NPR and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, every journalo-slave in the country comes running.)

THOSE HYENA PACKS of reporters you see on tv bull rushing famous people are all graduates of “prestigious” journalism schools, most of them anyway. Why any self-respecting person would want to shout dumb questions at politicians and celebs… Well, degrading your journalo-self like this pays well, and good pay is the literal bottom line of diplomas from “prestigious” colleges.

UKIAH POLICE CHIEF Chris Dewey is retiring to take a non-cop civilian job with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department. The popular lawman will manage recruiting and hiring for the Sheriff, which has been difficult for years in Mendocino County because as soon as a young recruit gets a little experience he or she tends to move on to a department offering better pay. I was surprised to learn recently that our county's lawmen aren't included in the county's comprehensive health care coverage, which probably accounts for a lot of older cops retiring from jobs that don't include health coverage to pay for private health coverage.

ASSUMING the next Board of Supervisors consists of incumbents John McCowen, Dan Gjerde, Carre Brown, plus Ted Williams, and either Haschak or Pinches, there might be a 3-2 majority for simply tossing the County's cockamamie pot licensing scheme and starting over along the lines suggested by Oaky Joe Munson and Pebs Trippet, both veterans of the Northcoast’s pot wars.

DITTO FOR MENTAL HEALTH, which is even more unlikely to happen since most of that annual nearly $30 million comes from the federal government, money spent locally like it’s free money dropped from the sky, hence the annual fiscal year rush to make sure it’s all spent to get more free federal money next fiscal year. One has to wonder if anyone at the federal level ever looks in on Mendocino County to ask, "Hey! What in the way of mental health services is Mendo providing for all that money?" Uh, well, er, look around.

ABOUT $25 MIL of that state and federal mental health largesse will be handed this week to a private business operated by Mr. and Mrs. Schrader of Ukiah and Potter Valley via the Supe’s consent calendar, meaning the multi-millions are not even worth discussion. The enterprising Schraders provide mostly invisible mental health services to the people of Mendocino County, but who’s checking? How much do the Schraders rake off for themselves? Hey! None of your beeswax. How much we make is proprietary information. We’re a private business, and this is free enterprise.

IT WAS at the end of a very hot afternoon as a bustling road construction crew was finishing up for the day in the suburban crypt of San Anselmo. Two big guys, one black, the other Hispanic, were sweating through some last-minute shovel work when an angry-looking woman approached them. "I'm very upset about the quality of this work," she began, as the two guys ignored her and continued to shovel. "Are you listening to me?" They had to have been listening to her because she was standing about three feet from them, but they stayed on task, shoveling away. "Well, I can see you don't have any manners," the angry woman declared. Both guys started to laugh but continued shoveling. "I demand," she says, "that you tell me who I should talk to about the work you're doing here." The two guys laughed harder, and finally one said, "I dunno, the government?"

IF THE SUPERVISORS were serious about establishing low-cost housing, examples of which exist in ingenious amplitude as close as a finger tap on Google, might also tap into the hard-earned expertise of Mr. Bruce Ledford, whose Circle Trailer Park in the center of Ukiah manages to unobtrusively house a vividly various population of people who would otherwise be homeless. This guy, assisted by his incongruously (in the context) lovely daughter, could give lessons that an army of housing consultants couldn’t possibly. The modest Ledford has done it, continues to do it, and manages to do it without anybody noticing. We nominate him as Mendocino County's Housing Czar.

COSTCO UKIAH is by far the most eagerly anticipated big box opening in County history, not that big box openings are that many or much anticipated before they throw open their doors. WalMart began to no particular fanfare but much dread among the snootier consumer classes as the beginning of the end of rural life for Mendocino County which, unless you're off the grid and deep in the hills, is pretty much like life anywhere else in the country. But Costco’s Mendo arrival has some real buzz going, and the store's savvy management even has pre-opening sign-up offices in Ukiah and Fort Bragg, complete with promises of good deals for getting your membership card early. Ukiah's big day is Thursday, July 19th, 8am. We expect a scene like something out of Day of the Locust. The traffic jams will definitely be a Mendo first.

SPEAKING of the American class system, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's tribune of the everyday citizen, was in San Francisco on Friday to speak to the girls at the Hamlin School, annual tuition about $50,000. As in any old banana republic, Hillary arrived at the posh private school in a cavalcade of sleek black vehicles amidst a phalanx of armed guards, as San Francisco cops blocked off the street. England has their royal family, we have ours.

NEAR as we can tell from the available stats, an average of 20-25 persons commit suicide every year in Mendocino County. That statistic has been about the same for the last twenty years and, of course, doesn’t include the many people killing themselves in slow motion via, as they say, "bad choices." Emile Durkheim, considered the father of sociology, wrote a whole book on the subject of suicide, explaining that he thought wholesale and rapid social change left millions of people adrift in new social norms they are unable to adjust to. He called this stranded, isolated personal state, anomie. Durkheim's book on suicide was published at the end of the 19th century, a period of rapid industrialization and social change. This anomie he described lead to various kinds of self-destruction which, Durkheim said, can only be understood if we fully grasp social structure and act to negate or adjust to its isolating factors. Later thinkers, Chomsky for one, calls anomie atomization, the untethered person isolated from the society surrounding him. Our society has been undergoing rapid change since the 1960s, leaving more and more people alone with their confusion. Even in a lightly populated area like Mendo one doesn't have to look too far to find people adrift and suicidally depressed in a society seemingly organized to drive its population crazy.

GEORGE DORNER NOTES: "Somehow, 57 other counties get the votes done sooner than Mendocino, despite the tedious excuses given by Ms. Ranochak. Our only conclusion can be a suspicion of incompetence or indifference."

DIRK LARSON should have been elected Clerk Recorder Assessor, our 3-in-1 County office whose tasks include the vote tabulation. Larson is a no bullshit guy who promised to speed up the count which, incidentally, could be done by simply swearing in 15-20 temps to get 'er done as the temps pick up a little pocket money. Which the Supes have said they would fund. But nooooooo! Nobody paid attention to the County Clerk election, which has been badly in need of a shake-up for years, which Larson promised to do. And here we are again with the slowest vote in the state.

RETIREES would be perfect help with the vote since they probably know how to count. Ms. Bartolomie, who just won elevation to the County Clerk's top spot, is a both a Nice Person and a nice person, perfectly capable and so on, but she learned the vote-count process from the retiring Susan "Sue" Ranochak. We understand that under Ranochak the vote was indeed partially tabulated by part-time ladies from Ranochak's mahjong club or wherever — Sue's buddies hired at election time to help out. Which is fine with us, but Sue always needed more help than a few palsy walsys. We'll be talking about a slow vote count again in November. Count (sic) on it. (cf Jim Shields in this week’s paper.)

RECOMMENDED VIEWING, which I'll amend to riveting, binge-inducing viewing, as I spent most of a Saturday in the grip of the true crime series The Staircase, a French-produced documentary 16 years in the making about a repellant character called Michael Peterson, a novelist living in Durham, North Carolina, on trial for the murder of his wife Kathleen. Peterson claims his wife died in a staircase fall in the couple's up-market home mostly funded by Mrs. Peterson. Peterson also claims his marriage to Kathleen was "perfect" and "loving" while he meets gay caballeros on-line for perfect and loving sodomy-thons. And whaddya know, a woman friend of Peterson’s died in an almost identical staircase fall 16 years prior to Kathleen's fatal fall. The killers expensive mouthpiece does a remarkable job making his creep of a client plausible, at least to some people.

THE FILM covers the case from every possible angle, including the bogus (my opinion) "science" of blood spatter analysis. The Peterson case has garnered national and international attention; it is similar to the Peter Keegan case here in Mendocino County in that the women the smarmy, insufferable narcissist Peterson dispatched via dual staircase homicides, both suffered repeated blows to the tops of their heads, as did Susan Keegan bludgeoned to death in the Keegan home by the late Peter Keegan, her husband of thirty years.

A SMART GUY misses it completely. Carl Jung on Ulysses: "Ulysses is a book which pours along for seven hundred and thirty-five pages, a stream of time of seven hundred and thirty-five days which all consist in one single and senseless every day of Everyman, the completely irrelevant 16th day of June 1904, in Dublin — a day on which, in all truth, nothing happens. The stream begins in the void and ends in the void. Is all of this perhaps one single, immensely long and excessively complicated Strindbergian pronouncement upon the essence of human life, and one which, to the reader’s dismay, is never finished? Perhaps it does touch upon the essence of life; but quite certainly it touches upon life’s ten thousand surfaces and their hundred thousand color gradations. As far as my glance reaches, there are in those seven hundred and thirty-five pages no obvious repetitions and not a single hallowed island where the long-suffering reader may come to rest. There is not a single place where he can seat himself, drunk with memories, and from which he can happily consider the stretch of the road he has covered, be it one hundred pages or even less… But no! The pitiless and uninterrupted stream rolls by, and its velocity or precipitation grows in the last forty pages till it sweeps away even the marks of punctuation. It thus gives cruelest expressions to that emptiness which is both breathtaking and stifling, which is under such tension, or is so filled to bursting, as to grow unbearable. This thoroughly hopeless emptiness is the dominant note of the whole book. It not only begins and ends in nothingness, but it consists of nothing but nothingness. It is all infernally nugatory."

I'M NOT GOING to pretend I ever sat down and read it straight through, but I'll tell you that Ulysses is (1) often very, very funny (2) always brilliant in even the smallest observation, and is a book I've read around in for years, kinda like many of us read around in the Bible, the New Testament anyway.

SHERIFF ALLMAN told a Gualala audience a couple of weeks ago that he has issued 3,000 concealed weapons permits this year. 3,000? 3,000. About one in twenty adults here in wowee zowee land are carrying a rod. Most places a cwp/ccw is almost impossible to get because the cops rightly assume there are already enough crooks and homicidal maniacs walking around with unregistered guns without permitting everybody and his bro to carry weapons. The Mendo licensing process includes formal training in the use of firearms, but count me among the many people who think more guns is 5150.

SUNDAY’S PD ran a story based on CHP reports purporting to show that most DUIs are the result of people drinking at home or at a friend’s house, not bars, restaurants, tasting rooms or brewpubs. The story was teased as “The answers may surprise you.” But it’s not a surprise at all. How many drinkers can afford to drink tasting room wine or craft beer or bar-tab booze? The PD story completely ignores the cost angle. How many drunks can afford a limo with a tour guide/driver to get safely drunk? Of course most drunks get drunk on cheap booze at home. Duh. Throwing those numbers into the stats to demonstrate that tasting rooms et al are not much of a DUI problem by comparison produces skewed results. All the story really proves is that well-off people seldom get DUIs. Of course the PD would want to downplay wine boutiques drinking because they derive much of their revenue from that industry. (— ms)

RIGHT ON, ART! (You’re not alone in your bewilderment.) “When will the BOS take control of the county? The voters made a decision to vote for you as leaders of Mendocino County. Why do you let the CEO control it when in my humble opinion she is only qualified to treat patients as a nurse? Why don’t you investigate how a surplus was discovered? And how many managers or CEOs of other counties earn $310,000 per year? I think all the BOS should take simple courses in basic accounting so you can understand where the money comes in, and where it goes out! And not rely on the CEO or auditor. If you can understand the budget for a population of 97,000 people you can see why I am disgusted! — Arthur E. Juhl”


Trump’s ranting about ‘unfair’ trade is so much bullshit. The fact is that it wasn’t ‘foreigners stealing our jobs’ – it was US corporations fleeing high wages, taxes & collateral costs of doing the core manufacturing work in the US that got everyone to this state of affairs. The ‘trade imbalances’ appear to be wealth going to another country, but as likely as not, those profits are being booked by US corporations that are domiciled offshore – viz, Google, Apple etc. who all sit on mountains of cash that they do not wish to expose to the US IRS. Then Trump goes and does things that ‘look great’ to his idiot base, without bothering to understand the consequences & collateral damage. For example tariffs on imported solar panels making them so expensive that demand drops precipitously & thousands of people working in the installation & maintenance businesses associated with a sweet, clean renewable energy are out of work, while there’s been no huge return of the ‘coal jobs’.

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