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Off the Record (Sep. 12, 2018)

UKIAH THEN AND NOW, A DIALOGUE. Harvey Reading, commenting on old photos of Ukiah, kicked off by commenting, “Old Ukiah: Almost as dismal as new Ukiah.”

MARK SCARAMELLA: Oh no, new Ukiah is much more dismal. Have you been to new Ukiah lately? I remember driving through old Ukiah with my father on one of his famous (to us) creamery tours in the 50s on old 101. All those dusty old towns at least had some character, some individuality of a sort. We lived for several years in Willows and someone had shot the giant SHELL station neon sign way up above the town in huge neon yellow letters so that at night it said “Welcome to your neighborhood HELL station.” A true landmark. Ukiah wouldn’t tolerate anything like that nowadays.

READING: Last time I was there was probably 2000-01 for a work meeting. The area possessed no attraction for me then. I suppose I shouldn’t be so biased toward a place, but there you have it. While living south of Sonoma during the 70s, hearing all the tales of “organic” flower children alighting in Mendo (plus the firing of the Ag Commissioner for telling the truth that everyone outside Mendocino County already knew) completely turned me off concerning the place as a possible abode, something I have yet to overcome, nor at this stage, do I even plan to try. I quite fully expect to die here in the land of the broomstick cowboy … a whole state which contains only about 6 times as many people as Mendocino County, assuming I’ve calculated properly.

SCARAMELLA: My brother started coming to Ukiah (and other NorCal county seats) in the early 70s as a Welfare Administrative Hearing officer (hearing benefits appeals from applicants who were denied benefits by county eligibility staffers). He told me that he reversed more than 90% of the denials by county officials in the dozen or so rural counties which were on his beat because they simply didn’t follow the law. His impression of this area even back then was that Mendo was a “cow county” like all the rest of them, with penny-pinching nitpicking welfare officials who prided themselves on keeping a lid on benefits, meager as they have always been. But, again even back then, Mendo was different rhetorically, with lots of “liberal” talk about how “progressive” they were while beneath the rhetoric they were just like all the other “cow counties.” As John Pinches once said (I think) Mendo has a lot of “Pickup truck cowboys” who have never seen a cow or a horse. The thing that makes Ukiah so dismal now is the sickly sweet syrup of fake liberalism poured over the same dry pancakes — still a cow town in a cow county — but with more retirees, more wine, more pot and more pretense. The Supes meetings are good metaphors for this dismal state of affairs. Not once since the “flower children” moved in and produced this lib-lab overlay have these new arrivals proposed a single liberal thing, as they vote for the hack Democrats 2 to 1 year after year. We get KZYX, personal use pot initiatives, hippie shack building code exemptions, no spray on me and my body-temple, no clearcuts or gravel plants in my viewshed, no GMOs, and other essentially libertarian me-first and NIMBY proposals — but never do we see childcare vouchers, living wage for local contracts, local preference, sunshine and open government proposals, oversight over helping agencies, etc. which would benefit the general public. So your “land of the broomstick cowboy” doesn’t sound so different after all…

READING: No, Mark, it isn’t different at all, except for fewer trees, colder winters and lots of public land that some cow or sheep farmer or extractive corporation can’t force me leave … so far (not to mention people who have their headlights adjusted far too high … on purpose I suspect, perhaps thinking that illuminating the sky rather than the roadway is beneficial while driving at night). Public lands and small population are the ONLY things that attracted me here to the Midwest (they even have a town north of Casper named just that). The fear of martial law and overpopulation are what drove me from the state of my birth out West after 52 years. I would take slight issue with your brother’s assessment of cow counties. Calaveras County was kind of an exception in terms of its welfare department during my years there (1955-1968). It was headed in those years by a Miss Florence (Flossie) Deveggio, and she insisted on that formal form of address unless you knew her well. She was a strong believer in the rights of her clients and ensured that her staff did everything they could to provide services to them, including legal advice regarding the various welfare statutes. She was a strong woman who could back down the county supervisors, too, most of whom reflected the cow-(and sheep-)farmer mentality your brother described. My mom, a socialist cum New-Deal democrat, loved working for her. I shudder to think how things may be there now. 

UPDATING GUALALA REDWOOD, an old logger tells us: "Gualala Redwoods Incorporated became Gualala Redwoods Timber after the purchase by the San Jose-based Burch family; New owner, new manager, same old environmentally devastating activities. CDF: go look at Stanley Ridge near Annapolis, and if that is sensible sedimentation prevention logging, then I am Martin Luther King's grandmother."

UNLIKELY TO HAPPEN HERE, but Oakland gets to vote in November on a measure whacking absentee property owners with a big annual tax on houses occupied fewer than 50 days a year, a tax that could go as high as $6,000 per parcel annually. There are a lot more non-property owners in Oakland than there are gentry, but it will take two-thirds of them to smack back at AirBnB. 

HELL'S HALF-ACRE, the editor's old home on Anderson Valley Way in Boonville, used to house an average of ten local persons. No more. It now rents to well-heeled AirBnB transients at some preposterous per-night charge, although I understand a couple of locals do rent permanent rooms there.


(Because they make a lot of money providing invisible and/or failed services and never have to account for how many people "served" and how much money is spent "serving" them?)

MENDO’S 2016 CROP REPORT IS OUT, 20 months after 2016. The report is trimmed down to a bare minimum compared to earlier reports, as if someone at the Ag Department suddenly woke up. And the numbers themselves are of essentially no value being as dated as they. PS. The word “cannabis” or similar terms does not appear in the report.)

GOTTA GO with Orange Man on this one, or go this far anyway — it is gutless for an anonymous Team Trumper to write anonymously the truth about the chaos inside the White House while keeping all the perks thereof at no risk whatsoever to the anon ones. And it is gutless for the self-certified newspaper of record to print it simply because they loathe Trump, a fact they've made clear on a daily basis since Trump was a candidate. For all anyone knows, the NYT wrote the mystery blast at the Trump White House. If this insider cabal is so fearful that Trump will go totally bonkers, they should all resign and make their fear public. Or poison his Big Mac. (Nixon was a lot crazier throughout his presidency, and Cheney ran the Bush government, facts that the NYT managed to mostly ignore even after the incapacity of these commanders in chief became public knowledge.)

OF COURSE Trump is crazy as hell, or an Alzheimer's case, and totally out of his depth even if had all his marbles. But he's likely to go full-Queeg now. It's already hilarious watching his top aides claim that they aren't the leakers, that they remain loyal, that they never said what they reportedly said about Orange Man's obvious incapacity.

STILL, as the Boonville weekly has said from the beginning of the Trump ascendency, and as you can verify for yourself by simply stepping out your door or watching Good Morning America, Trump perfectly reflects and embodies our culture as it now exists — loud, stupid, relentlessly vulgar, unjust and unfair. There isn't a working person under the age of fifty who isn't totally screwed every which way, millions of people with absolutely no hope of a life without the wolf forever at their door. And almost zero political representation at either the state or federal level.

AT LAST a sustained look by Hastings Law School at their founding Indian killer. The Law and Politics of Commemoration: the Legacy of Serranus Hastings Symposium

This all-day conference on the campus of UC Hastings College of the Law [San Francisco] will examine the legacy of the school's namesake, Serranus Hastings, who is credibly alleged to have promoted genocidal acts against Native Californians in the nineteenth century. Leading scholars and activists will consider the Hastings legacy, and, in light of the experience of other institutions grappling with questions of commemoration, what should be done about it.

THE CROOKS are always a step ahead: To remove “The Club” you cut through the steering wheel and slip off the club. Then you can use the club to break open the collar on the steering column and access the key tumbler – on older cars. The new fangled electronic key fobs are hard to defeat. For those vehicles you simply use a flatbed trailer and haul it away to a garage.

DRIVING PAST Drake High School the other afternoon as classes let out, my wife gasped then laughed. I looked over where a gaggle of inappropriately-dressed girls giggled their way down the sidewalk, two of them with about half their butt cheeks on full display. I had to wonder what the parents of these girls could be thinking to allow their daughters go to school looking like teen prostitutes, although I'm not surprised that the Marin schools allow short-shorts and see-through tights given the general collapse of basic standards. This much nubile flesh exposed in a coed classroom is obviously a major distraction to teenage boys. The schools, especially in Marin where parents, teachers and children are all on a first name basis, and the faculty looks like they just walked in off the beach, all standards were chucked years ago, from academic to attire.

AT THE DENTIST in Fairfax, I'm asked to fill out an exhaustive, only-in-Marin pre-drill questionnaire. "Are you happy with your smile?" I don't recall ever seeing it, but people don't scream and run the other way when I turn on the brights, so, yeah, I guess I'm pleased with it.

ALL I HAVE to do anymore to empty a room is begin a sentence with, "The Bari Bombing Case...." A close relative even told me, "You know, pops, you're getting to be like one of those conspiracy crackpots who walks around with his whole beef stuffed into a cardboard box just waiting to pounce on the polite and the unsuspecting."

ANYWAY, and on the off chance not everyone has fled the room, the infamous California Killer was finally arrested recently via a heritage/ancestry website where the psycho killer's dna was fed into the heritage maw, a couple of his close relatives quickly identified, and the psycho killer himself soon betrayed by a match to his own precious bodily fluids

SOME OF US became optimistic that the "mystery" of Who Bombed Judi Bari could be similarly un-mystery-ed via dna but, and here we run straight into another mystery, or gross incompetence or pure journalo-cowardice, I suspect both, from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. 

WITHIN DAYS of the two Mendo Earth First!ers — Bari and Cherney — being blown up by a car bomb in downtown Oakland in May of 1990, a letter addressed to reporter Mike Geniella arrived at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. It described the bomb in the detail only the manufacturer or a person close to the manufacturer could have known. The author of this letter to reporter Geniella called himself "The Lord's Avenger" and wrote in a thunderous, faux Old Testament style, a transparent attempt to make himself sound like a Christian fanatic of some kind and, of course, to divert attention away from the Mendo source of the plot. At the time this Lord’s Avenger confession was written, 1990, DNA had not yet kicked in as the slam dunk investigative tool it is today.

MIKE GENIELLA, stationed in Ukiah, was the Press Democrat's newspaper's lead reporter on Northcoast events at the time. Geniella met with Bari on a regular basis and knew all the players on both sides of the timber controversy raging in 1990. But rather than assign Geniella to the Bari Bombing and give him the resources he would have needed to nail the event in all its uniquely peculiar particulars, the Press Democrat put him on to other matters of much less consequence, and very soon the War on Iraq pushed the Bari event out of the media all together. (Geniella, incidentally, was subsequently removed from the timber beat altogether. Why? The PD’s cringing editors caved in to complaints from Big Timber’s executive suites that his reporting was “unfair.” Which it wasn’t, but BT thought any mention of their rape and run logging policies complained about by environmentalists was unfair. Almost thirty years later, the timber industry on the Northcoast is a shadow of its former self, and the worst offenders G-P, L-P and Charles Hurwitz are no longer in business here.)

(A YEAR after the Bari Bombing, Steve Talbot of PBS came along and, with one full-time investigative assistant, and a mere month's funding, Talbot made a documentary for KQED called "Who Bombed Judi Bari," identifying Bari's ex-husband, Mike Sweeney, as the bomber. Bari herself, before she died in 1997, also identified Sweeney as the bomber to Talbot, a revelation Talbot made public on a subsequent KQED news show in 2002. 

SWEENEY, at the time of his attempt to recycle his ex-wife, had already begun his thorough self-reinvention as Mendocino County's lead trash bureaucrat, a reinvention simplified by mere residence in Mendocino County, where history starts all over again every day and you are whatever you say you are.

SO THE PRESS DEMOCRAT turns the Avenger Letter over to the FBI as the feds commence an investigation aimed at NOT finding the bomber and, after a few years of NOT investigating, the FBI declared the case closed. "Nobody would talk to us," the G-Men whined, as if police investigations cease because perps and people close to the perps, as in this case, stop talking. In fact, lots of people asked the Hoovers, "How come you aren't looking at the ex-husband here?" But that's where it all ended, a solvable case with zero interest in it today except here and among a few writers who include Talbot and Susan Faludi.

THE CASE being closed by the FBI and no interest in it by either the authorities here in Mendo (of course) or Oakland, the FBI returned the Avenger Letter to the Press Democrat. Where it now can't be found. The paper says it "lost it." That's what staffers at the Rose City daily are claiming, and this is a fairly large-scale publication with a newspaper morgue and a full-time librarian to preserve and file everything. Lost it?

HOW is it possible a document as important, nay crucial, to a famous Northcoast event, can be lost, and the people at the paper who lost it, from all accounts, not be frantic to find it?

THE DNA on the stamp and the envelope containing the Lord's Avenger Letter would reveal the person or persons who tried to murder Judi Bari. And it's lost, as is almost all interest in finding out Who Bombed Judi Bari.

(ON THE OFF CHANCE anybody is interested, the whole story, complete with documents, can be found on the AVA's website at

A READER COMMENTS: "Liked your Bari piece, btw. Appalling news about the PD "losing" the Avenger letter. Another wrinkle to this, of course, is Glenda Anderson, being girlfriend to suspect and employee at said paper. If Mike was the bomber (and the Lord's Avenger), disappearing that particular piece of evidence would be a key to securing one's future, and having a girlfriend inside the PD would be uniquely advantageous toward that end."

SWEENEY was (and is) a great one for covering all his bases. He hooked up with Glenda before the bombing and, from the outset of their romance, Glenda, then working at the Ukiah Daily Journal, saw to it that Sweeney's press releases about what a great job he was doing as a recycler regularly got published as news. She was also a convenient person for our hero to have in place at the Press Democrat, although that paper has always regarded the bombing as journalo-kryptonite, and what a sad commentary on what passes for journalism on the Northcoast that it’s largest paper has never pursued the story. As a PD staffer Glenda would certainly have unquestioned access to the paper's archive, but assuming the paper has in fact lost the Lord's Avenger Letter, a loss occurring, I believe, after Glenda had retired and, according to the paper, before the letter made it into the paper's archive, it is probably the one crime associated with the case unattributable to Sweeney. 

WHAT’S ALWAYS been distressing about the so-called mystery of the bombing is the lack of curiosity it has aroused in the great world outside the Northcoast's media desert. Television is rife with cold case shows where current and retired cops, including federal cops, investigate unresolved crimes, but there's no interest in this one, although Susan Faludi has spent huge amounts of time on it and may yet produce a book. It will take someone with her abilities, I'd say, and even she must find it daunting given that it remains (I hope) a work years in progress. 

MY OPINION is that Sweeney is and always has been federally protected, hence his unique exemption, from the very day of the bombing, as the obvious, primary suspect. And he's an ex-husband with bombs in his history all the way back to the 1960s when he was a member of a Maoist cult that murdered people, including a cop, and placed bombs all over the Bay Area! Yet when his ex-wife is blown up, the FBI just can’t locate the biggest elephant in the smallest room ever? With a pedigree like that the guy was a natural for Mendocino County, and now, please rise and join me for the Mendo Mantra: Mendocino County is the only place in America where history starts all over again every day, and you are whatever you say you are.

MR. WENDELL WRITES: Re: ‘Who Needs Supervisors?’ We do! But we need new supervisors who will do their job and ensure that county staff does theirs. It has become so bizarre. Watching the current board members sit there silently as the CEO and department heads speaking in their now-common obfuscatory manner is infuriating. Thank you for keeping this problem in the spotlight. It will be a good day for Mendocino County when staff is required to use real numbers and dates and names in their reports as they would in any other organization and when the privatization of our county is discontinued. What has been happening here is similar to what’s happening in the national politics. Where is the outrage? And what happened to Dan Gjerde? He was outspoken and held staff accountable while on the Fort Bragg city council but now he rarely speaks. He could actually be formidable if he would speak out.

THE ON-LINE COMMENTS about County dysfunction at the Supervisor level include speculation about MIA Supervisor Gjerde, especially given his lonely, brave and tenacious pursuit of corruption in Fort Bragg when he was a City councilman. Why has he gone silent? We've wondered the same thing, but now think Gjerde may be biding his time, waiting for firm allies. As presently constituted, Gjerde's only possible ally on the Supes is McCowen, and it takes three votes to compel the ruling gynarchy in the direction of reputable local government, in this case fiscal transparency (and prudence), and regular reporting from department heads, including the County Counsel's office. In the present County government context these amount to radical demands.

WE'RE HOPING Ted Williams as 5th District supervisor will be the needed third vote on the board of supervisors for serious reform. And if Pinches is reinstalled as 3rd District Supervisor he will arrive with a long history of holding admin's pudgy little tootsies to some serious explanatory fire. Pinches will make four votes for good government. The only remaining auto-yes vote for the present unaccountability and general fiscal profligacy will be Carre Brown, whose political mission has always consisted solely of virtually free water forever for Potter Valley "ranchers."

IN THE LINE OF FIRE. “In my travels recently I was rumbling south on Interstate 4 in my truck, 387,000 miles now, in the Upper Sacramento River Canyon near Shasta Lake when a giant plume of smoke rose in the sky in front of me. It was the start of the Delta fire. Before the CHP and Calfire could get there, southbound traffic stopped at LaMoine, and we watched the sudden firestorm engulf the canyon and trees explode along the road, right in front of us. Seeing this was as frightening as living through the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake in the Bay Area where you felt helpless and trapped. We escaped when a CHP patrol car nudged an opening in the concrete center-divide barrier and we were able to get through into the northbound lanes. In my video, I originally called it the “LaMoine Fire” after I heard a first responder call it that and it made sense, from our view, it was just south of the LaMoine exit. While I processed my video I found out later that the fire was named the Delta Fire. I left my video title intact as original, though it confused a few people, to capture an unrepeatable moment in time.” (Tom Stienstra in Sunday’s Chronicle)

MARK SCARAMELLA ADDS: I have no doubt that Mr. Stienstra’s right in comparing his reaction to the inferno he almost drove into with the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. I happened to be living in San Jose in 1989, just a few miles north of the epicenter. I had just come home from work (less than a block away from the apartment complex where I was living at the time). It was a little after 5pm. The building suffered a major jolt followed by almost a minute of rumbling and bouncing. In those few seconds it was definitely “frightening.” You knew something very bad had happened. The difference was in the general attitude. As bad as it was, we knew we’d recover over time from the damage the earthquake inflicted on the entire Bay Area. Hell, even the World Series between the As and the Giants was soon back on track. While I was in the Air Force at Keesler AFB in 1969 we were hit by Hurricane Camille, still one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the US mainland. It was also “frightening.” I was a minor player in that recovery effort, organizing work crews to do clean up which took weeks. I could rattle off several other disasters I happened to have experienced before returning to Mendo. (Massive Missouri River flooding where I participated in frantic efforts to fill and place sandbags to prevent overflow, partially successful); three major ice-storms followed by near zero-degree weather for weeks causing absolute paralysis of all traffic (in St. Louis, Long Island and Boston); a days-long white-out level blizzard (outside of Rantoul, Illinois), a couple of major military aircraft crashes…) In all those cases, everybody knew the difficult recovery effort would pay off and there was a sense of optimism about it in the face of the destruction. But with these “frightening” fires now, I don’t sense any expectation that things are going recover or improve. In fact, it’s seems to be getting worse. It’s only a question of how much and how fast. It’s much easier to get through a disaster if you believe that things will somehow eventually return to something like pre-disaster. I hope I’m wrong, maybe we’ll dodge this slo-mo bullet somehow. But I just don’t see things moving in that direction these days. Bigger disasters are on the way and we as a country are not well prepared to deal with them.

STATE SENATOR MIKE MCGUIRE is getting some totally undeserved positive press for his recent introduction of a bill that “targets pot growers who illegally clear forestland, a practice that pollutes water and threatens wildlife…” McGuire is apparently worried about “storm water runoff that no longer has an ocean-bound path safe from pollutants.” And, “the area’s animal life finds itself under threat.” 

HOW would the bill "go after" those “rogue growers”? It would “extend the statute of limitations for illegal timberland conversions from one to three years, giving Calfire investigators more time to investigate…” 

THAT’S ALL IT DOES. Nothing else. And even that is after the fact. Nothing about before the fact. 

TO READ the press surrounding McGuire’s proposal you’d think it would lead to a dramatic improvement in local environments. McGuire’s press release also talks about “poisonous rodenticides” that pot growers use which “endanger the pacific fisher, a small mammal that was nearly listed under the endangered species act,” and of course the spotted owl. 

BURIED in a recent story about the proposal by Eureka Times-Standard reporter Shomik Mukherjee is this note: “Although the bill targets primarily unlicensed cannabis growers, most growers in compliance still clear forestland to produce cannabis — except they do so with a permit.” 

HEZEKIAH ALLEN, Director of the California Growers Association, commented, “The difference between illegal and legal timberland conversion is really just doing paperwork. There’s nothing about cutting down trees that’s really going to be different.” 

THAT COMMENT also applies to grapes and on a much larger scale, of course. And if you include oak woodlands and rangeland, you don’t even need a permit to legally scrape the land clear of all vegetation down to two feet, dose it with insecticide, and densely plant grapevines on every available square foot, then water them with diverted run-off and apply as much poison and sulfur as you like (which do not require permits, just use of licensed applicators and notices to the Ag Department). 

BUT MCGUIRE’S CONCERN about forestlands being cleared, and pollution and runoff and poisons and endangered species mysteriously doesn’t extend to the grapes that cover much more acreage than pot. 

SOMETHING TELLS US that McGuire’s bill is meant more to improve his image than the environment. (— ms)


It seems to me that we are already in a Dark Age. As Nietzsche so accurately predicted, the 21st Century is a time of collapse in values. When values and norms are no longer operable in society, then relationships and behaviors break down and you are in an age of fierce struggle for meaning and purpose in life. That is dark, my friends, very dark. We pontificate on these electronic devices as if it actually means something, but it really doesn’t. The struggle is real and must, inevitably, take forms of violence and conflict until some other value system imposes itself. Nietzsche proposed that the ‘ubermensch’ would impose his rule because the weak would have to submit. If this is true, and I doubt it, then the strong man should soon appear and I doubt his name starts with T.


  1. John Sakowicz September 12, 2018

    Why are these women laughing?

    Especially because they make a lot off money.

    They make bank.

    Anne Molgaard and Camille Schraeder are part of an executive class in Mendocino County for which we are infamous — poverty pimps.

    Poverty pimps: Obscenely overpaid executives who run local non-profit agencies that provide invisible and/or failed services to the county’s poor, and who never have to account for how many poor people are “served” and how much money is spent “serving” them.

    • james marmon September 12, 2018

      Anne Molgaard and Camille Schraeder have this little threat game going against Angelo and the BoS, that’s why you’ll never see any accountability. What would happen if Camille took her ball (RQMC) and went home? Who would distribute all the money “with no questioned asked” to all the non-profits if that happened? Angelo’s whole privatization scheme would collapse and the BoS would look like a bunch of fools, not that they don’t already. I think its safe to say “they painted themselves into a corner.”

      “I would like to be your partner, but”

      -Camille Schraeder

      • james marmon September 12, 2018

        I would like to use the cliché that the “power pals” have the Angelo and the BoS by the balls, but none of them have any.

  2. John Fremont September 12, 2018

    Unless Sweeney was a faux Maoist, why would he be ‘federally protected’? Rather, he could charm the socks off boys and girls alike. Besides, he’s reinvented himself in New Zealand, I believe.

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