Off the Record (Oct. 17, 2018)

THE FOLLOWING ITEM on the Supe's consent agenda will undoubtedly be unanimously approved Tuesday without discussion. It serves nicely as a metaphor of how Mendocino County is presently functioning. Supervisor Croskey was appointed to the board to serve out Supervisor Woodhouse's term when Woodhouse suffered a nervous breakdown. The appointed Mrs. Croskey is leaving the area for a new home Ohio when the Woodhouse-Croskey term is up in January. But before she leaves she's getting a tax-paid junket to DC with, presumably, a stopover in her new home state. We wrote to the Supervisors and CEO Angelo asking them if this expenditure is defensible. Predictably, none of them replied:

“BOARD of Supervisors Consent Calendar, for October 16 meeting, Item 4c

“Approval of Out of State Travel for Supervisor Croskey to Attend the White House Conference with California Local Leaders and Authorization of Expenditure of Airfare and Lodging Expenses. (Sponsor: Supervisor Croskey)”


LAST OF THE SETTLER KILLERS PLEADS. Gary Blank, the last arrested ax and knife man of the seven perps who killed and ripped-off Laytonville pot grower Jeff Settler back in 2016, has agreed to do 14 years in State Prison for his role in Settler’s murder. Settler was an out-of-state (Texas) grower killed at his farm near Laytonville by his trim crew November 11th of ’16 while his wife and infant slept nearby. The trimmers had demanded either a payday... or else. Settler found out the eternal way what they meant by ‘else.’ Blank was the trim crew’s leader. He ordered Settler to fork over, at which point the doomed Settler struck Blank with his fist; and then one of the perps, Michael Kane, who was standing by with a camper’s hatchet, struck Settler in the head, and the other love drug workers fell upon their boss with knives. Fortunately, we were spared a jury trial and all the gruesome details. Following the dispatch of Settler, the trim crew liberated many many pounds of the marijuana they’d assiduously trimmed, took the booty to a commercial park between Garberville and Redway, and sold it for ready cash, which they split more-or-less evenly, and sped off in separate directions. Of all the killers in this case, only Gary "Cricket" Blank sounded the least bit contrite, choking back a tear when he pled "Guilty, your honor." Like hatchet man Kane, Blank will get 14 years for voluntary manslaughter and robbery in concert, with the special allegation, that while Kane used a hatchet, Blank used a knife. Judgment and sentencing was set for November 2nd, 1:30, department H. (Bruce McEwen)

JOHN KRIEG WRITES: “Re: Election picks: Hope you get past your bias against hyphenated names to see Albin-Smith and Morsell-Hayes are the strongest candidates for FB City Council. Just watch the recent candidate forum. Tess was the organizer of the soccer tournaments that brought around 12,000 visitors a year to town. Until the city let the playing fields become too unsafe for her to do them. Jessica is part of the team behind the new life brought to downtown with the revival of the Golden West Saloon, and the newly opened General Store next door.”

I'M AS AWARE as the next oinker of my biases and usually manage to see past them. Usually. I'm down to one standard on Mendo electoral politics: Is the candidate likely to put the interests of the wider community before the interests of his own self and/or management? Almost everywhere you look you find the managerial tail wagging the elected dog, typically with the dog volunteering assenting arf-arfs. The County Board of Supervisors is the most egregious example of five highly paid elected people, with the occasional exception of McCowen, simply ratifying whatever the highly paid but un-elected CEO puts in front of them, but the craven practice is almost universal in the county. Fort Bragg happens lately to have a truly functioning city council, a blessing almost unique in the county. (cf all school boards, KZYX, Point Arena, Ukiah, and so on for examples of Rover’s tail wagging the rest of his body)

THE TWO FORT BRAGG hyphenates' commendable community work doesn't necessarily mean they are capable of functioning as the kind of board members who will put the community's interests ahead of management's when the two collide. But people believe what they believe, or need to believe, and often vote against their true interests, as Trump bears daily witness.  What I think is especially unfair in "progressive" Mendocino County, however, is the tendency to damn candidates on the basis of their perceived political opinions on the much grander issues facing our doomed land. Because a guy is a conservative Catholic does it mean he can't possibly be a responsible Coast Hospital trustee? Because a man of Mexican descent thinks it’s good that ICE helps root out the Mexican gang yobbos who prey on Mex immigrants, especially the young, that man shouldn’t be a member of the Fort Bragg City Council?

RUBEN ALCALA thinks an ICE presence to root out Hispanic criminals is a good thing. Alcala's opinion on this particular subject is likely to be more reflective of Fort Bragg's Spanish-speaking population than that of a white liberal. I'd be more concerned about his views on how to sensibly manage Fort Bragg, and whether or not he can look paid staff in the face and oppose them when he thinks it's wise.

AN ALCALA SUPPORTER puts it this way: "Ruben in my opinion is the best person to sit on the Council because he knows the town needs a lot of work and is willing to work toward getting the infrastructure into shape to last for years to come. Tess and Mary Rose want more Parks…really…after the Coastal Trail was finished the City found out there is no one to care for it. Fort Bragg has Otis Johnson Park, Bainbridge Park, North Trail and the South Trail. Seems like a lot of parks for such a small area. Let's not forget the parks just down the road…MacKerricher, Russian Gulch and Van Damme. I realize all the other candidates said the PD should not assist ICE and Ruben said he believes they should. Isn't it odd that these Caucasian folks think they know what is best for the Hispanic community?  Ruben's reasoning behind his answer is this: (he had to make the statement about why he said "no" later because it was a "yes" or "no" question. They couldn't give their reason. "Thank you for inquiring. Statistics from the DOJ on race and violent crimes indicate that Hispanics biggest threat are other Hispanics, by almost double to that of any other race. To suggest that we ignore this fact and say we are protecting them is a deception. This decision could harbor criminals in our community.  Immigration-related arrests are not a priority, violent criminals are. To have the FBPD not perform its only duty to the community would jeopardize its integrity." Let's not forget the question could only be answered with a "yes" or "no". Ruben was referring to the criminal element, not the working, law abiding people who may happen to be undocumented. I also think Ruben is right on the mark about following the Marbut report/solutions in that we should care for those who are willing to help themselves. Care for our elderly and young families who may need a helping hand should be our helping priority. Ruben isn't an ass kisser who will say one thing and do something else. If he says it he means it and will stick by his words. Ruben isn't campaigning for what is below his belt but instead is campaigning for what is above his shoulders. Let's remember; having a long list of degrees and jobs doesn't mean you have any common sense. That is a learned trait and Ruben, in my opinion has common sense."

IAN BURUMA is the editor of The New York Review of Books. He recently left his position amid an uproar over the magazine’s publication of an essay by a disgraced Canadian radio broadcaster who had been accused of sexually assaulting women. “Ian Buruma is no longer the editor of The New York Review of Books,” Nicholas During, a publicist for the magazine, wrote in a terse email.

EYES ONLY, HIGHBROWS. (If you can pronounce “paradigm” and know what it means, you qualify.) Anyway, a famous Canadian talk show guy called Jian Ghomeshi made himself infamous when he was charged with sexual assault in 2016. He was acquitted, but more than twenty women came forward to report that Ghomeshi, of Iranian descent, had attacked them, making it clear the guy is a fairly major creep. He was fired by the Canadian broadcast network where his show had featured lots of famous people, making him famous in turn. Recently, the neo-pariah wrote an essay for the New York Review of Books describing his fall from grace and how he is “constantly competing with a villainous version of myself online.” The essay, which we've linked, caused the largest controversy at the mag since the late sixties when a how-to illustration of a Molotov Cocktail appeared on the cover. Publication of Ghoimeshi's essay got editor Buruma, also an eminent writer and author, fired, which seems to me and lots of other of the mag's subscribers as unfair. I thought the essay was quite interesting but clearly self-serving and incriminated the guy not exonerated him. I was startled that the milquetoasts at NYRB fired Buruma over it.

WHENEVER I’M LOOKING for an intelligent opinion on a big-league controversy like this one, I turn to Eleanor Cooney of Mendocino, who writes on the above:

“So I went and read an article about the firing of Buruma. This quote from it (by a woman) kind of sums it up: ‘Letting people in Mr. Ghomeshi’s position have a platform did not exonerate them,’ she said. ‘It’s hearing what somebody has to say in the position of suddenly being exiled from social life, and sentenced to a nonexistence.’ I think Ghomeshi's piece was very damned interesting. I mean, isn't that why we read? To experience the interior of another person's head? I've never committed murder (that I know of), but I've read True Crime and fictional accounts that put me eerily close to getting a ‘taste’ of what it's like. I want to know everything there is to know about the human race, sickening, terrifying or disgusting though the facts may be. I want to know about the species I'm a member of.

Ghomeshi hardly committed murder, and I think what he wrote is valuable on a lot of levels — he's seriously engaging in self-reflection, making a real effort to peel back the layers, but also defending himself where he needs to — like where he says: ‘I cannot confess to the accusations that are inaccurate.’ He speaks for all of us when he says that.

Would Trump or Brett Kavanaugh or Bill O'Reilly or (shudder) Bill Cosby ever make the effort Ghomeshi is making? I think not. None of them would ever even murmur the slightest acknowledgement of their crude deeds, let alone write a confessional piece. So, even if we deplore Ghomeshi's behavior, we should laud him for a good faith serious try at ‘owning’ his behavior, for at least attempting some humility, analysis and forthright truth. Compared to bully-crybabies like Trump and Brett, who sneer, lash out, deny and lie, Ghomeshi's pretty damned "evolved." And what he tells us about the behavior of other people is highly educational, too. I see no reason at all why he should be censored.

As for what he did, once we venture into the murky, tangled world of sexual fetishes and shifty, chimera-like "consent," all bets are off. No "rule book" yet written is going to be remotely adequate. "Consent" can happen on a pheremonal level, No really can mean Yes, and here we are trying to put the wild beast of human sexuality into captivity. In some cases, that's good (rape, etc.), in some cases, bad--criminalizing what many of us have tiptoed close to, crave, toy with ourselves. St. Augustine (that prig) correctly observed that our sexual selves are quite separate and alien from our everyday selves.

There's a broad-stroke backlash, a lot of stored-up female pain erupting. That's valid, too, but each and every case MUST be considered on its own merit, because no two are exactly alike. To equate Louis C.K. with Bill Cosby, for example, is just wrong, stupid and destructive. I'm glad Louis C.K. is making a comeback. And losing Kevin Spacey was a major bummer. Cosby, of course, belongs in the slammer. Too bad it didn't happen years ago. BTW, I sure wish Dr. Christine Ford hadn't sounded so squeaky and pathetic. How I wish she'd spoken in a voice like, say, Hillary Clinton's. However much we dislike Hillary, she has a good strong well-modulated fearless vocal delivery. I'd like to have seen Ford testify in a voice like that. I believe everything she said, but cringed at her weepy, quavery, little-girl tone. I think Kav would still have wound up on the Supreme Rethuglican Court, but Ford would have made a much better impression."


AN ARMY GENERAL said recently that too many of his troops are out of shape, not mentioning that the actual combat in the Middle East is performed by elite soldiers who are definitely in shape, especially the boys and girls puffing up and down mountains in Afghanistan. The General laid out the basic conditioning standard he wants his Army to meet. He calls it "the 50-minute test" and includes: a strength dead lift, throwing a medicine ball overhead, a set of push ups that require hands to come off the ground, a 250-meter “spring, drag, carry,” and a two-mile run. Easy peasy. The General said soldiers in Korea had a hard time pulling the hills, leaving out that a lot of them were peace time troops shoved into an emergency combat breech. I don't remember physical fitness as an issue with Vietnam-era soldiers and Marines.

CONSIDERING that lots of modern warfare consists of nothing more strenuous than pushing a button, or sitting in an Iowa bunker knocking off distant Arab wedding parties via drones, other than proportionate people look better in uniforms than the disproportionate, why does the average soldier need to be able to heave medicine balls and do a few push-ups? Still and all, the young 'uns ought to be able to pass this test, no problemo.

A NEW STUDY in The American Journal of Psychiatry finds that teens who use marijuana cause more damage to their brains than those who drink alcohol, the ancient invidious comparison of the two intoxicants that young people ought to be heavily propagandized against.  According to the study, marijuana use showed signs of short and long-term effects on the teens’ cognitive brain functions, including problem solving, long-term memory, short-term memory and manipulation. Keen teens are hardly going to confide in a geezer like me, but my impression from the bits and pieces I pick up from random young ones is that Mendo stoners, youth division, in pure numbers, are considerable.  (A guy who knows says that he’s seen people shooting that aerosol stuff used to clean keyboards straight up their noses! Not a chardonnay bouquet I should think, but jeez…)

SAN FRANCISCO, always on the cutting edge of the absurd, is in the news because the president of the San Francisco School Board has substituted multi-cult pieties for the Pledge of Allegiance. Why not eliminate the Pledge, period? Political democracies, even the theoretical ones like ours, shouldn't require loyalty oaths, especially one with "under God" inserted back in '54 at the insistence of rightwing demagogues. Early in my deformative years, all us little kids not only had to repeat the Pledge but also sing America the Beautiful every morning first thing. I remember that daily patriotic ritual as a regular opportunity to revise the lyrics to amuse classmates.

MARK SCARAMELLA ADDS: For a long time in my youth I thought the last line of God Bless America was, “…stand beside her and guide her in the night with a light from a bulb.” I’m pretty sure I heard that version in church once and it stuck for a long time until somebody laughed at my singing. Later in life when I was asked to fill in for a friend who was a very good singer and pianist at a Biloxi, Mississippi piano bar (even though I never sang) the bar owner asked me to sing something and let him be the judge. I sang a pop song popular at the time, clearly not very well, and he walked up to the piano after the performance, laughed and said, “You’re right. You sound like asthma set to music. Stick to the keyboard.”

THE FOLLOWING is from a man named Al Nunez, the kind of deserving, hard-working Mendo guy who could use some help. A skilled man like Al would be an asset to any property owner on the Coast. He writes:

"I need a new place to stay being the place I am at now is for sale and I was told I need to be off the property by January 9 2019, I would have never moved there if only I would have known this. I am a self-employed handyman and at the moment I am doing carpentry construction on an old house that was lifted at Redwood and McPhearson. I was thinking to buy a vacant lot to live on to get away from renting but none are safe and livable for my tools and motorhome. I am a clean organized 59 year old male with skills tools and a work truck. I wish to find a place in or around Fort Bragg area being most people I work for live in the area. I have $5.000 saved up so I can pay rent for awhile if rent can be $400 a-month. If I don't find a place I may have to sell everything I own even all my tools of my handyman trade thus ending my handyman career and my way of survival, 25 years worth. Please Help Me, I don't want to lose anymore. 707-409-4147. AL"

IF YOU'RE WONDERING why Gavin Newsom has no candidate statement in the sample ballot, it's because he has too much money. In California, there are voluntary expenditure ceilings for candidates running for statewide offices, $14.5 million for gubernatorial candidates. “But, but, but…Does this mean our system is for sale?” Gav has more than $20 mil stashed away, most of it from Big Democrat. Only those candidates who stay under the spending limit are permitted to purchase a 250-word statement in the sample ballot.

“LAST WEEK: I promised to explain IHiJY! to you.–Recent Itsalls end with that acronym. Each of the 3 syllables rhymes with ‘sly.’ Slightly more stress should be placed on Hi –suggesting expressive force without staccato emphasis. –‘Performed’ (at high volume) may be a better verb choice than ‘pronounced’.” — Jonathan Middlebrook, Ukiah Daily Journal

COMRADE MIDDLEBROOK commits sins against meaning twice a week in the Ukiah Daily Journal, but his latest crime is a felony departure from his usual misdemeanors —it's murder. Someone please make a citizen's arrest before he strikes again.

BACK IN SEPTEMBER OF 2013, the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District filed a formal claim against the City of Ukiah for $16 million going back to the 1960s. According to the claim, the City of Ukiah has knowingly miscalculated the number of sewer connections in the City vs. the number of sewer connections outside the City (aka the District) which determines the percentage of sewer system costs allocated to the Sanitation District since late December 1966. The claim stemmed in part from a Grand Jury report which also noted Ukiah’s miscalculations which conveniently benefited Ukiah.

According to the claim, the miscalculation is primarily caused by skewed “projections” showing an inflated number of future sewer connections in the District; these figures were never recalculated to reflect the actual (lower) number of connections as called for in the agreement between the Sanitation District and the City.

According to the agreement between the Sanitation District and the City, not only does the City of Ukiah operate the Ukiah Valley sewer system and the treatment plant, but Ukiah also does the books for the system, including the Sanitation District’s books. This in turn would have increased the costs for the Sanitation District which, although not stated directly in the claim, caused increased sewage service costs to ratepayers outside the City of Ukiah.

WHY DID THE PROBLEM FESTER for so long? According to the 2013 claim, prior to 2008 the Sanitation District Board was made up of three appointees, two from the Board of Supervisors and one from the Ukiah City Council who, presumably, didn’t take an interest in the annual allocations — projected or actual — of sewer connections which increasingly favored the city and added up to lots of money in the city's favor over time.

Then in 2008, the Sanitation District was reorganized into a five-member elected board and that “independent” board began looking into the sewer connection allocations only to be stonewalled by the City of Ukiah which, the claim alleges, refused to provide the Independent Board and staff with access to the sewer system books — “even though numerous requests have been made.” The Claim says that Ukiah told the District that the records were “lost or otherwise destroyed,” even though the City had a fiduciary duty to maintain them.

THE CLAIM alleged that the annual reviews and re-allocations as called for in the City-District agreement would have corrected the projected number of non-City (District) connections to the actual number of non-City (District) connections. But the reviews were never conducted, and therefore the ratio of City-to-District hook-ups was skewed in favor of Ukiah, costing the Sanitation District millions of dollars over the years, most of it accrued since the 90s.

IT ALSO ALLEGED that the City has over-billed the Sanitation District for the District’s share of the $75 million sewer system/treatment plant expansion project in the mid-90s, based on a similarly skewed calculation of sewer hookups.

WHICH turned out to be essentially true, because last month Ukiah “settled” the claim by paying essentially the amount the District’s 2013 claim demanded.

According to the Summary provided by the District’s Ukiah attorney outfit, Duncan James & Associates:

Sonoma County Superior Court case number SCV 256737

Summary Of Damages:

$16,416,296.49 - Total Amount Of Damages

$ 9,996,246.03 - Net Recovery after all litigation expenses

$6,420,049.97 - Total District litigation expense.

THAT’S RIGHT: the City of Ukiah has to pay basically the original $16 mil-plus, while Duncan James gets $6.4 million of that. In other words, the City of Ukiah has been using the Sanitation District and its ratepayers as a slush fund to backfill the City's budget deficits for years (presumably intentionally because Ukiah benefited from the convenient miscalculation, but intentionality was not disclosed in the settlement), in a manner similar to the way the City of Ukiah used redevelopment money, but which stopped when the State of California put an end to redevelopment in the early 2010s.

THE CITY OF UKIAH ends up paying a couple of million in their own attorney fees plus the Sanitation District’s attorney fees of about $6.4 million, meaning the Sanitation District will net about $10 million after Duncan James’s huge fees are deducted. Of course, Ukiah could have offered to settle the case soon after the claim rather than fighting it all these years only to end up paying the $16 million-plus original claim. The courts could have saved everybody a lot of money if they’d ordered the parties into court-overseen settlement conferences right away and saved the City and the District lots of fees. But Mendo courts have never seen fit to order such cost-saving conferences until after the attorneys have milked their clients for as much as they can first.

THE OTHER WINGTIP SHOE WILL DROP when Ukiah area sewer system ratepayers, both in the City proper and the District outside the city, find out what their new sewer rates will be next year.

(Mark Scaramella)


 [1] My liberal friends’ heads explode when I assert that the worst thing that could happen next month is for a “Blue Wave” to convince the DNC that it has been right all along and should just stay in bed with Corporate America. I hate Trump and the Republican Party – two very different entities – as much as they do, but I keep insisting that if Liberals want to defeat the Conservatives they need to be better than they are. Surely recommitting to defend the working class constituency that it has betrayed for over a generation now would be easier than all of these machinations, but the Democratic Party will have none of it. Consorting with those grubby lower-class folks might keep them out of the right country clubs.

 [2] If Christine Ford really was traumatized that night, that’s unfortunate. But she lives in the United States of the Privileged in 2018, and women like her aren’t oppressed. Some people suck, sometimes bad things happen, but grow a backbone, Blasey, and get over it. If this precious wuss is what the mighty feminist movement has produced, then clearly feminism has set women back centuries. These radical feminists still have a cause at all only because they’ve moved the goalposts. It’s not about liberation and equality; it’s not fair treatment and just wages and strong, independent women. No, it’s just a full-fledged assault on masculinity where women can compete only by eliminating the competition, which means expanding their own rights beyond all reasonable proportions and terminating men’s completely. Now we’re equal! And of course, safeguarding the “right” to have sex however they want it and then murder the consequences—this is the essence of feminism in 2018. Yeah, don’t forget—this is all about abortion. My father wanted me aborted because I was an unplanned pregnancy. My parents were young and unwed and not Catholic, so my mom could have easily been persuaded, but she didn’t go through with it. I don’t think I need to mention how grateful I am. I’m here today because of a strong woman—my mother, a single mom, a survivor. As a victim of abuse, it’d be a cold day in hell before I’d side with Dr. Ford. In fact, between the two of them, Kavanaugh and Ford, I’ll stick with the pro-life judge. I think he’s got my back a little more than the volatile and unhinged feminists do, or than their willing accomplices in the media which would use my story and that of so many victims to promote their own agendas, without asking any of us what’s actually best for us or what we really want. Because it’s not about us, not really. It’s about them. If #MeToo gives me a voice, then here’s what I’d like to say: I don’t hate men. I hate BS. I hate manipulation and exploitation. I don’t need to get even with anybody. The man who hurt me is a pathetic loser. But I’ve moved on with my life, grateful for the good men who stood by me when my own father wasn’t there. I don’t want to be angry, I don’t want to stay broken. I want to live in a country where moral standards are respected—standards which exist in the first place to protect innocence and decency and where the victims of the worst abuse of all—abortion—are given a chance to live, even as I was. I want to live in the security and freedom which come with a God-centered society, and one which regards life as the greatest prize, and every soul as equal. This would be justice for victims. Vindictiveness, polarization, rage, protests—that’s for manipulative men…and women oppressed by their own propped-up victimhood.

No thank you! Time to move on, ladies. As a woman and an actual victim of sex abuse, I stand with Judge Kavanaugh, and I refuse to be represented by Dr. Blasey Ford or any of the other angry activists our pro-abort politicians might trot out to make fools of us all.

 [3] Except there isn’t enough innovation that will put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Tech isn’t magically going to innovate us out of the coming horrors because tech relies on the very things that we will no longer have for it to work.

If supermarket and fuel deliveries become permanently interrupted we are going to be left with a lot of dead wood on our hands and nowhere to clear it out to.

I guess some people may get creative with their cuisine. I remember reading that people would use mummies for firewood -maybe we can find a way to dry out well enough all of the dead that will be littering the streets so they will burn – we will have to be innovative in order to keep warm during the colder winters that are on their way.

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