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Off the Record

LAST WEEK'S COVELO pot sweep netted more outsiders than Covelo people at modest grow sites. Included in the lengthy roster of arrests were a German national; two Vietnamese; a Laotian; a couple of dudes from Boonville; a group of growers from San Gabriel; several Native Americans from Covelo growing on rez land (charges which will disappear when the DA figures out she doesn't have jurisdiction); a Senior Citizen from Santa Barbara, and a nice girl from New York named Bethany. There were also a couple of these guys arrested, bush hippies, as they're known, both of them from Mendocino County.
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YIKES! I didn't know that the Koch brothers own the former G-P mill site in Fort Bragg. I didn't even know the two billionaire screwball funders of the Tea Party movement owned G-P itself, having purchased the mammoth wood products firm for $21 billion in 2005. These unencouraging facts of local life had somehow eluded the all-seeing eye of the Boonville newspaper. With 600 acres of primo ocean front land owned by fascist-oriented cranks like the Koch brothers, we just might see a mile high statue of Sarah Palin out there on the ocean bluffs before we get the parks, walking paths and hiking trails most of us are hoping for.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: The Tillman Story, a documentary detailing the life and death of the exemplary Pat Tillman, the anti-war patriot who shocked Jock World by giving up his life as an NFL free safety, then his life itself, to so-called friendly fire in Afghanistan. Bring your hankies. This thing is tough to watch, and downright repulsive as you see the ghouls of the Bush Administration frantically try to spin Tillman's death to promote its lying pretext for the, unfounded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tillman's family, however, refused, and continue to refuse to be used by the warmongers as recruiting posters. Tillman's parents, and his two brothers, are particularly admirable in their contempt for Bush and his repellant cabinet and a comparably repellent Congressional panel where the Tillmans are blown off by a dozen blow-dry fools, one of whom Mr. Tillman says he was very tempted to punch in the mouth when the guy, oozing the transparently fake commiseration these clowns manufacture for sad occasions, comes up and tells the devastated father how very sad he is "at your loss." Bush himself is on-screen the day of 911 cowering like the whey-faced wimp he is. To think that people of Tillman's caliber are giving up their lives for people of Bush's caliber is beyond disgusting.

LAST THURSDAY, as a cruel late summer wind drove a dense fog down California Street, I hopped on the Muni 44 to get across the park where I would catch the N-Judah for the ballpark. I had my Giants ticket and I had my lunch, three VietCong rice balls I get for less than a buck each from the Korean lady at 7th Avenue. The 44's door is open, the driver, a Chinese guy, behind the wheel. It's a safe assumption, ordinarily, that a bus with open doors and a driver behind the wheel is in service. "No! No!" the driver shouted as if I'd pulled the pin on a fragment grenade and was about to lob it at him. "No power! Get off!" A couple of years ago I had a similar encounter, that one at the foot of Market as I tried to board a fully operable Number 2 Clement. That time the driver was just sitting there, doors open, engine idling. He was merely power-tripping me and a subsequent parade of old ladies and their shopping bags. Thursday, though, the batteries on the bus had died, but the driver's English, as I was to discover, wasn't good enough to explain the prob so he'd resorted to command mode. I retreated into the wind and the fog, as did several more thwarted travelers. A pair of elderly Chinese women, the ultimate in pure human force fields, climbed aboard, and there followed a violently high decibel exchange in Chinese. The old ladies were clearly demanding that they be allowed to sit down out of the wind whether or not the bus was mobile. Their demands continued for several minutes. The driver yelled back at the old ladies, and every time he did they double-teamed him. He seemed to wince a couple of times. I bet the old ladies invoked all kinds of Confucian trumps having to do with the traditional Chinese respect for old age. What I wouldn't have given for a translation! The three of them were still yelling at each other when another 44 pulled up. The black woman driving it asked me, "What's up?" I explained the situation as I interpreted it. She approached the Chinese driver. "You've got to remember," she told him, "that you're a human being before you're a bus driver." The two old Chinese women launched a parting verbal salvo at the driver, now thoroughly defeated and looking it, and we all got on the operable 44. Four hours later the Giants had won 4-2 and the whole city was happy.

LAST TUESDAY the Board of Supervisors approved spending $14,000 of “unanticipated asset forfeiture funds” for "training supplies and materials" for the “Sheriff's SWAT team.” According to the Sheriff’s proposed purchase order the money will buy "11 Upper Receiver M4A1 Flat Top 14.5 inch bbl w/ 2 mags ($675/each); 150 boxes of FX marking cartridges 5.56mm M16, Red, 20/bx, 1000/CS ($13.20/each; 40 boxes of FX marking cartridges, 9mm, red ($27.50/each); 10 FX 9000 masks ($175/each); 5 FX 9002 Blue Helmets with nasal seal ($143/each), plus freight and tax adding up to 14 grand.

IT TURNS OUT that an “upper receiver M4A1 Flat Top 14.5 inch bbl w/ 2 mags” is a conversion kit to turn an M-16 type assault rifle into a paint-ball gun. It replaces the top half of your assault rifle with a light-weight barrel and a plastic magazine to hold the paint-ball cartridges. The “marking cartridges” are the paint balls and the masks and helmets are protection for those who get hit by a paint-filled bullet. The converted rifles even have a recoil that feels like live rounds.

THE ENTIRE PACKAGE comes from a subsidiary of the giant defense conglomerate General Dynamics called “Simunition” which makes these products for the military and police forces for combat training, aka “force on force” training. We’re not convinced of the practical value of paint ball games as cop training. As we used to say in lifeguard school, if you have to make contact with a drowning victim, you’ve already screwed up. Not that training isn’t necessary, but training like this assumes you haven’t done a very good recon job scoping out the area before you take on, presumably, armed pot bandidos. According to the manufacturer the kits are for “force on force, interactive, live-fire training scenarios” and “Basic firearms familiarization and skill development, tactical scenarios, counter-terrorism, close-quarter battle (CQB), urban fighting (MOUT/FIBUA) and VIP protection.”

ANOTHER PROBLEM with this particular purchase is the label requirement provided by the manufacturer: “Users are required to wear Simunition® approved head, throat and groin protection and to avoid any exposed skin when using 5.56mm, 9mm and .38 cal. FX® Marking Cartridges.” To protect one's pills, Simunition sells dual gender super reinforced Kevlar jockstraps for about $50 each.

HEALTHCARE premiums for non-Medicare County retirees will to rise to $819 per month starting in January. The Supervisors voted 4-1 to raise the County’s portion of the premium to $288 per month, meaning the retirees still have to come up with $531 per month.

BUT HEALTHCARE INSURANCE for current county employees will actually go down. According to the County’s comparative healthcare insurance rate chart, a single employee with the least coverage now pays $302 per month, of which his contribution is $75. As of January, 2011, that same plan will cost $257 a month with a $64 contribution from the employee. At the top end of the County employee insurance continuum is Plan I for an employee with a domestic partner and children; he goes from $1426 a month to $1212 a month with $182 from the employee.

MENDO’S HEALTHCARE consultant, a Mr. Borden Darm of Mercer Consulting in Sacramento, said healthcare costs for current employees had gone down over the past year, but added he didn’t know why. “It could be people are healthier,” said Darm. “Or, it could be that, because of the economy, people are putting off getting health care. What we know is our healthcare costs for current employees are declining.”

A READER WRITES about last week's bear story: "Finally! As a Laytonvillian well acquainted with the Gravier family and neighbors, I have to say its about time! This article was a whitewash of what's truly going on in this neighborhood. For years, people have had tens of thousands of dollars in damages to their homes, properties & pets due to this woman and her self-serving actions. She may think she's being kind hearted to the animals, but she clearly doesn't give two cents about her neighbors and the community. She is an antisocial elderly woman who walks with a cane living in "filth" with giant predators and 17 cats. Why are her loving children allowing this? Her son is a prominent and affluent member of the community, and her daughter pretends to be important while she eagerly awaits her inheritance. How could they just stand by while their decrepit old mother wades through fecal matter and garbage everyday? There are plenty of natural food sources in Mendocino County for bears to eat without her help. She is responsible for more than 50 bear deaths."

THE MARINES have landed at the Mendocino Art Center, as villagers reel at the dually patriotic sight, they wonder if mandatory close order drill is next. Whatever, as the young people say, and as we used to say in the Marines, no matter what happens "Every day's a holiday, every meal a banquet."

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