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Off the Record (July 25, 2018)

YOU’LL get a hoot or two out of Bill Bradd’s YouTube production called, “Precambrian Woodchopper/Writer.”

And if you missed Bradd’s poem “For Big Al, poet laureate of his own river”:

BRADD describes himself as the “poet laureate of the Ten Mile River, meaning my job is to recite the stories that pop from the air bubbles that appear when the river, driven by the wind, is speaking.”

A REAL BACK TO THE LANDER: “Yes! I was here early enough that I had to do various things - firewood, auto and truck mechanics, carpentry, even pulled green chain at Branscomb Mill to fill in the gaps. Always had some plants well hidden to supplement the income. Was weirded out to see my new friends grow huge plots in the sun while they paid others to build their houses and barns, do their electrical systems and fix their parade of new trucks. We took pride in our own self-reliance and loved getting our hands dirty. Weed money allowed us to buy our own land in paradise - a disappearing possibility in modern America - and we were quite happy with simple country living, not baller-style extravagances. I’m okay with the whole greenrush thing crashing down. Sorry to see the worst offenders get permits to mega-grow and act like our betters. It is upside-down. But I’m grateful for a cheap cold beer and a swimming hole on a hot day. Glad to see some others accept our new low-brow reality and get back to the roots. Hope we can simply remain and survive.”

MONDAY EVENING'S meeting (16 July) of KZYX's board of director's at Boonville High School confirmed that the usually impervious cult-like public radio gang is beginning to worry that their income is consistently short of their cash outflow. Overall, and here you're free to invoke tattered metaphors involving icebergs, ocean liners and deck furniture, despite a rosy summary of recent station-related events from general manager Jeff Parker, a more dire report was offered by the board's finance man, Bob Bushansky, and later confirmed by Alice Woelfle, the station's program manager, who read a lengthy announcement stating, in essence, that by rearranging KZYX's daily program schedule more listeners might be lured to Philo, resulting in more station memberships, more underwriting, more income. Long-time programmer Jeff Blankfort heatedly disagreed, describing Ms. Woelfle as short on radio experience while vehemently disagreeing with her plan to reschedule the daily line-up. The average age of the audience of forty or so persons, which included several dissidents was, I’d say, 70-plus.

DURING the recent board elections I’d complained that the station's budget was unreadable. My opponent, the aforementioned Bushansky, said it was perfectly clear to him. Apparently not clear enough. I was pleased to see that Bushansky had produced a transparent, and transparently ominous budget he titled "Mendocino County Public Broadcasting FY 2018-19 Summary Operating Budget." It's obvious at a glance that expenses are outrunning income, although total revenues are tidily identical to total expenses, disguising the very real growing deficit.

KZYX is paying out about half its income to its employees. The general manager and the program director, two positions that ought to be combined because there's no evidence either one is a full-time task, are paid about a hundred thou a year plus perks. The station's tech guy probably makes fifty or so while the several women presenting an uneven daily blurb they call local news are paid who knows how much for productions that experienced reporters could knock out in a few minutes. Presently, no real news is offered, and there's never, and never has been, any real discussion of local affairs. And $29 grand a year for rent of the ramshackle Philo premises?

SEEMS clear enough from here that staff is taking too much out of our stumbling version of public radio while they and previous staffs have managed to alienate so many former station members there is now little enthusiasm in the county for the enterprise beyond the present  club-like cadre of programmers, featherbedding management and an aging membership. Commercial stations on the Mendocino Coast and inland easily outdraw KZYX for local news and, I guess, music programming. Public Radio Mendo has to step up their game but seem not to know what the game is.

GIVEN the intense competition for the public's fragged attention from electronic media, television, other radio, and so on, KZYX has got to go lean and mean. Lean will be hard, but they've always had the mean part down, hence a big part of their prob — a snarling public face.

THE MEETING was civil, by the station’s boorish standards anyway, although the board chairman, John Azzaro, seemed irritated at several speakers and oddly dyspeptic generally. (Dude! Professional distance!)

I WASN'T surprised to learn that the most listened-to program is NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me”, confirming that the NPR demographic, here and everywhere, is mostly comfortable, older, silly people.

GM PARKER did mention that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting report on the Philo operation is still pending, describing it as “collaborative” between Philo and the feds, which it undoubtedly is.

YER THREE MINUTES ARE UP! Marco McClean mops up: “To Jonathan Middlebrook, secretary, Mendocino County Public Broadcasting Corporation (KZYX): I'm just checking in to make sure you did as I asked and inserted the text of my eight-minute address to the board into the minutes of the July 16 meeting and then put it in the KZYX public inspection file. I'll expect to find it there next time I visit. I read a three-minute version at the board meeting, and even so was cut off before I finished. You people act as though it's an inconvenience and a nuisance to deal with the public at all, and that's very sleazy of you. The three frequencies that MCPB squats on are a natural resource that belongs to everyone. Broadcast radio frequencies don't belong to any corporation; you're granted temporary use of them, that's all, and all dealings regarding them should be out in the open and be discussed in public. Keep that in mind. The way you have always done it, the only time the public can interact with the board is during board meetings, and restricting comments to barely enough time to blow one's nose is an insult. You refuse to put the board meetings on the air, and you refuse to engage in dialog on sensitive subjects, and in any case three minutes is not anywhere near enough. Your sour time-monitor guy growling at the old Native American woman who went thirty seconds over time, "So you don't want to play by the rules, eh!" when another person offered to give up her time so the woman could finish a sentence, is typical of your bad attitude as a board. Transparency is a serious issue. I also want all the information that's come up in what Jeffrey Parker called in his report the "collaborative process" of the CPB audit so far. It's more than two months into the process; there must be something. Email it to me at your earliest convenience. Don't procrastinate about this. Putting little things off just means they don't get done. The public has a right to know now, not to be kept out for more months (or years) until you've cooked it into a positive message about yourselves. You don't have to even read it; just collect up all the related emails and files and send them. No-one has any right to keep secrets about this. There is no expectation of privacy. Oh, right, other information I want is the exact nature of Stuart Campbell's current function at the station, in detail. I've heard him described as the Darth Vader of MCPB. I've seen and heard of him tiptoeing around behind the scenes, whispering in the ears of boardmembers and passing secret messages (or instructions?) to the moderator of election forums, and then yez all glance rather deferentially to him, and sheepishly, too, so I rather think of him as Grima Wormtongue. Anyway, shine a light there. And of course give all this information also to your crack news team so they can read it on the air, because that's definitely news. I hope Jeffrey Parker is enjoying the paddleball toy I gave him. I imagine he might be getting bored during those long forty-dollars-an-hour hours with his feet up on the desk, watching a bee on the window, and I remember how energized Mel Brooks looked playing paddleball in the governor's chambers in Blazing Saddles —you know: "We gotta save our phony-baloney jobs, gentlemen!" and when I saw the toy in the dollar store it just clicked; I knew who needed one of those.”

THE CANDIDATES for a Public Defender include, Christiane Hipps, Jan Cole-Wilson, Douglas Rhoades. We're partial to Jan Cole-Wilson simply because we know she's smart and capable. The office has been held for years by a howling incompetent, mercifully retired, who herself ought to be up on murder charges for her handling of the Tai Abreu case alone. In that one, the murder of a gay man committed by a trio of Fort Bragg kids, the PD, Linda Thompson, convinced one of the perps, Tai Abreu, just turned 19, to take his non-case to a jury while the inarticulate Thompson "argued" that he hadn't been properly Mirandized. (!) The jury was out for a couple of hours, came back with a resounding Guilty and Judge Henderson, a Republican hack also mercifully retired, packed Abreu off to state prison for the rest of his life. Thompson called no witnesses for the kid, joined the prosecution in denouncing him, failed to challenge any of the jurors, who included a Fort Bragg man hostile to Abreu. Abreu's co-defendants pled out and got sentences of 20-to-life. One of them is out, the other seems to enjoy prison so much he's undergoing a state-paid sex change. Who did the killing? Maybe no one. The victim was duct-taped to a tree and the evidence was inconclusive. The vic, Donald Perez, was perhaps stabbed in the throat. However Perez died, the Fort Bragg Three were certainly indifferent to his long-term welfare. The sex change defendant was the most likely of the three to have slashed his throat. He'd met Perez for sex prior. Abreu was up on the road as lookout man when the tree-taping occurred. (The plan was to rob the guy, not murder him.) The County prosecutor in the Abreu case, Kevin Davenport, told me he "begged" Thompson to take the same deal the DA gave Abreu's co-defendants, but she refused. I have to say I was mightily pissed off recently watching some portly nuzzlebum from the Public Defender's office praise the retiring Thompson as a "great loss." To whom, the DA's office? Not so incidentally, Abreu has a perfect record in prison — zero violations. He has also taken advantage of every educational program offered. Abreu is highly unlikely to re-offend. He has been in jail since 2001. We are working towards getting his case back in front of a judge for a re-sentencing consistent with the sentences his co-defendants got. Justice is always an uphill slog in the justice system.

RE THE OPENING of Costco in Ukiah from Ukiah's mayor, Kevin Doble to the UDJ: “It’s almost like it puts Ukiah on the map. Just the sheer market area of Costco would bring people to our town that ordinarily wouldn’t come here, and I think that’s always good for a city, when you’re in an area where you can be somewhat remote or isolated. I think it will be a really good thing for our community.”

COSTCO'S manager said he expected some 5,000 shoppers on weekends and 2,500 daily bulk buyers, while the dying City of Old Ukiah anticipates $2 million in annual sales taxes, hence the Big Box-ification of America as small towns everywhere grab the sales taxes generated by the Boxes to fund exorbitant pay for their city manager and ancillary staff at the expense of their civic souls.

WE WERE ARGUING the other day about the lamest local governing body, excluding school boards which, and not to be too harsh about it, are universally lame. (Mark Twain thought similarly about school boards, so we're in good company.) The Ukiah City Council, with Steve Scalmanini all by himself dragging it bottomward, has been weak for years, so weak it has filled seats by appointment, hence Scalmanini. If Ukiah gave a hoot Council seats would be contested. Fort Bragg and Willits seem to function as they should with capable people occupying Council seats who appoint capable city managers. For instance, the new city manager in Fort Bragg, Tabatha Miller, is a large improvement over the authoritarian former city manager, Linda Ruffing, who alienated much of Fort Bragg by installing an LA double dipper as police chief over John Naulty, a local hero who had stopped a rampaging Oregon tweaker who had murdered the popular Coast Deputy Sheriff, Ricky Del Fiorentino. Ruffing also steered the destructive conversion of the Old Coast Hotel into yet another project of purely alleged benefit to the homeless. Point Arena's council functions as an adjunct to perennial local public agency hustler, Richard Shoemaker, who milks Mendocino County's smallest incorporated town for $50,000 a year "part-time" and has installed an old friend, Paul Andersen, as "assistant" city manager to succeed him. The County's Board of Supervisors has at least a theoretical shot at returning to a semblance of effective functioning when two new supervisors are seated the first of the year. As is they simply sign off on whatever's put in front of their uncomprehending pusses by CEO Carmel Angelo.

LONG GRAIN FARMER Doug Mosul's retirement will be a big loss for our area’s small farm movement if Doug can't find someone to replace him. Given our precarious supply networks, the more foods that can be produced and marketed locally the more food-secure we are. Up through the turn of the twentieth century, Mendo, and every other place pretty much fed itself, including the growing of wheat.

ONE BENEFIT of old age is the return to the books of one's youth, memories of which are mostly lost in the recesses of time and failing faculties. I'm re-reading Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory," a book that made a strong impression on me in my callow youth. In callow old age about all I could recall was the "whiskey priest" being pursued through an anti-clerical state of Mexico during a period when Catholicism was outlawed unto death for its practitioners. The book is a lot stronger than I remembered it, but then fictional strength against today's frivolous din can be startling:

"The priest stood not far from his own portrait on the wall and waited. Once he glanced quickly and nervously up at the old crumpled newspaper cutting and thought, It's not very like me now. What an unbearable creature he must have been in those days — and yet in those days he had been comparatively innocent. That was another mystery: it sometimes seemed to him that venial sins — impatience, an unimportant lie, pride, a neglected opportunity — cut you off from grace more completely than the worst sins of all. Then, in his innocence, he had felt no love for anyone; now in his corruption he had learnt…"

A LONG TIME READER wants more "left" in the AVA's depleted pages. Jesus save me from the pure tedium of the lib-pwog catechism. Really, how many more ways can you say Trump is bad? How many more ways can you say Trump is president because the Democratic Party is corrupt, that the whole show is tottering, perhaps in the direction of fascism but more likely in the direction of a kind of disruptive, low intensity chaos, an intensification of what we have now. Americans, fortunately for US, aren't disciplined enough to pull off fascism, and name a general who could get away with declaring martial law and mandatory maga hats. Myself, I don't find very many left political writers interesting. It goes without saying that right writers are not only wrong, they’re even more predictable and boring. Like most lefties, I miss my old friend Alexander Cockburn. There isn't anyone of his ability around now. The only lib-left writer I look forward to reading is Matt Taibbi, more a liberal than doctrinaire leftist, and the Brit, John Lanchester, also not a leftist in the usual sense. I think the detailed reports we get on aspects of real life in this small paper about this small place are far more interesting than political screeds, and from those reports from this small place we learn more about the true state of the nation than we do from a year’s worth of The Nation or CounterPunch.

DON'T TELL the Appropriate Police, but we have a Gringo-Mex softball team on the Southcoast called the Rednexicans, another largely Native American nine called the Savages, and a presumably all-male squad called the Ball Busters.


Consider that during the 2016 election cycle the 20 top individual donors coughed up more than 500 million bucks in donations to political organizations.

Consider also that the 20 top organizational donors also coughed up over 500 million bucks in donations to political organizations.

If you want to know what oligarchy looks like, this is what it looks like.

Consider these amounts of money from these people. Do you think they’re paying all these sums out of the goodness of their hearts?

Look at the lists on These are the shot-callers. If the system is going down the drain, it’s going down the drain in the service of these few interests.

Trump was never intended to be in the Oval Office and they’re trying to get him out by any means short of rifle-shots.

There was supposed to be an Obama-Hillary hand-off. The trouble is Hillary fucked it up.

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