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Off the Record (Nov. 14, 2018)

DURING the “Economic Vitality” presentation a week ago Tuesday at the Supes meeting, “Visit Mendocino” Director Alison DeGrassi told the Board that the “year over year increase in Transient Occupancy was 5%,” and that, allegedly, was not only a good thing for local tourism but solid evidence that she and her employer, Visit Mendocino, was well worth the million-plus funneled annually to Visit Mendo via our No Questions Asked Supervisors. If Visit Mendo disappeared tomorrow, we daresay visits to the County would continue to grow right along with the population growth to the south of us. We also think Visit Mendo is a waste of public money which, if spending priorities meant anything to the local leadership, the money saved would go to road maintenance, cops and emergency services who really need it.

MS. DeGRASSI invited interested persons to go to the County Assessor’s webpage to verify that “year over year” percentage. Given that an average of 30 people a week attend Supe’s meetings either in person or on-line, how many people are likely to try to decode the unintelligible numbers posted by Visit Mendo? We tried, which is how we know the numbers are unintelligible, not that we’re all that smart but we can pass basic math and reading tests.

SURPRISE! Apart from the minor point that the TOT table is on the tax collector’s webpage, not the assessor’s, the numbers don’t add up. And they certainly don’t reflect that the promotional efforts have any effect whatsoever on the number of people enjoying our Mendo splendors. (Why, just like week, doing my bit as a local ambassador of goodwill, I gave a group of Chinese tourists I encountered at Navarro several copies of Boonville’s beloved weekly. I must confess they shrank back at my approach but, introducing myself as Ang Mo Qui, they laughed and helped themselves. Translation: Ang Mo Qui means long-nosed devil in several Celestial dialects. Anyway, they got the joke and a precious memento of their pause in the redwoods.)

AS Ms. DeGrassi noted, some of the bed tax increase came from increased prices at local B&Bs because people were staying longer, and a good sized chunk was related to people displaced by fires sheltered in our local fleabags, er, motels.

IT TURNS OUT that the bed tax increase over the last three years is about 22.5%, or more than 7% “year over year.” But even then the amount on the Tax Collector’s page doesn’t match the “room occupancy tax” numbers on the Auditor’s spreadsheet. 

But the point that the promotional people never mention is that — apart from the fire displacements — the bed tax is historically highly as measured by the sales tax revenue. However, in the last three years the bed tax increase has been substantially lower than the sales tax increase which was a whopping 36%. (We don’t think that trend is likely to occur this year, btw.)

SO, AS USUAL, we get self-serving stats from the promo gang — stats skewed to justify the million or two dollars (we defy anyone, including them, to produce the true figures) they get every year to fund their jaunts to wine and food events. These dollars should be spent on core services for all of us, not the relative handful of well-heeled gastro maniacs allegedly lured up here by the promo people. Promotional spending is a sanctioned theft of funds from more urgent services. Meanwhile, local fire victims can’t even get a break on their rebuilding permit fees. (Mark Scaramella)

TUNED in the Supervisors last Tuesday just as a lady attorney from, I believe, the Deadbeat Dad's bunker across the street from the County Courthouse, repeated several times that the office "regularly interfaces" with this or that agency. The Deadbeat Dad’s building, incidentally, was a drugstore prior to the conversion of the structure to a kind of jobs program for under-employed lawyers. Next door used to be the City Bakery where it was always 1955, and an elderly couple produced the best brownies ever.

THE DRIFT of the objectively insane Deadbeat Dad’s presentation I was distractedly monitoring seemed to be that another female lawyer should be kept employed because she was a real good interfacer. Former Undersheriff, the portly Randy Johnson who would be well cast as a Mississippi sheriff circa 1960, was seated at the presentation table. He's the agency boss, and how he got the job remains a mystery, but I suppose it's safe to say Johnson is sweetening his retirement pot and anonymous someones didn't have to pull the strings too hard to install him in this particular sinecure. It suddenly occurred to me as I interfaced with my computer screen that at my age I’m on time borrowed from the Reaper, and way behind in my payments. It was a beautiful, pre-smoke morning outside, and here I was interfacing with people and processes representing death itself. I slapped my computer shut, jumped from my chair, flung open my office door, but did an abrupt about face back to my computer and more interfacing.

WE ARE NOT ALONE! Those of you grasping at cosmic straws will be reassured to know that some Harvard University astronomers say a mysterious cigar-shaped object spotted hurtling through our solar system at 196,000 mph last year may have been an alien spacecraft sent to investigate Earth. Scientists have argued about the nature of the object since it was first discovered in October 2017. But researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests the dark-red object, which was named “Oumuamua,” meaning “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past” in Hawaiian, might have an “artificial origin.” The paper explains: “‘Oumuamua’ may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth’s vicinity by an alien civilization.” However, the astronomers admit this is an “exotic scenario” and also suggest it could be a form of advanced technology produced by humans.

FACEBOOK HAS ADMITTED that it didn’t do enough to prevent the incitement of violence and hate speech in Myanmar (Burma) following a report that concluded FaceBook was widely used as a platform for harmful and racially inflammatory content. The report was issued by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Business for Social Responsibility, which found: “Facebook has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm, and posts have been linked to offline violence. Facebook was used to incite violence and coordinate harm in Myanmar—much of which was directed toward the Rohingya, the Muslim minority in that country.” Alex Warofka, Facebook’s weasel-lipped “product policy manager,” said the report showed that “prior to this year, we weren’t doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence. We agree that we can and should do more.” The company said it had hired 100 native speakers to review Myanmar content and that, in 2018, it has already taken down 64,000 inflammatory messages.

MENDO CLERK-RECORDER, Susan Ranochak, has announced that as per local custom, there are ballots left to be processed as part of the official canvass. Mendocino County has 16,730 Vote By Mail ballots to process, and 1,011 Provisional ballots to review and process. Of the outstanding ballots left to count: the Third Supervisor District has 3,288; and the Fifth Supervisor District has 3,210 ballots to process and count. The City of Ukiah has 2,900; The City of Willits has 776; and the City of Fort Bragg has 1,300 ballots left to process and count. “Per State law, we have 30 days to complete the canvass. The Statement of Vote, which breaks down results by precinct, will be available at that time.”

HERE IN MENDO, we weren't surprised that Pinches lost to Haschak but we were surprised by his large margin of victory. Urban Mendolib (Willits), and outback Mendolib (deep Covelo), turned out big for Haschak, and Haschak — give it to him — made himself ubiquitous, going door-to-door and standing on street corners waving at passersby. Pinches usually gets the deep Covelo, deep Spyrock, vote. We were hoping for Pinches because we think his fully functioning bullshit detector always made him a strong voice for commonsense on a board composed of shrinking violets. Haschak is a stranger in the strange land of Mendo politics, a rookie. He got interested when he became a candidate. But he strikes us as a conscientious, sincere kinda dude so… Maybe Haschak, along with the smart and capable Ted Williams representing the 5th (unrepresented the entire Hamburg tenure), may rouse Gjerde from his supervisorial slumber, embolden McCowen, energize Mrs. Brown, and Mendo just may have a functioning Board of Supervisors for the first time since the Scaramella-Mayfield-Banker board of 1970.

THE FORT BRAGG ELECTION results are encouraging, especially the likely election of the reform slate to oversee Coast Hospital. Now that FB has a trustworthy city manager apparently secure enough in her own abilities not to try to pack the council with manipulable ciphers, the rancorous mistrust of prior years may be a thing of the past. FB's failure to pass a sales tax increase was something of a surprise, but citizens everywhere are hit by regressive taxes like these every which way, and in Fort Bragg people just said, "Make do."

WE WERE pleased to see Mendo voters preferred DeLeon to Feinstein, another indication that there is an ongoing insurgency among Democrats to at last move the party in the direction of relevance. Then I read in the WSJ that Hillary is probably going to make another run and I reached for my pint of Jack and broke into tears.

MENDOCINO COUNTY SHOULD NOTE how Humboldt County counts their votes and presents the results. Obviously, they have the vote by mail numbers counted and ready to post before election day, then they have the votes on election day counted quickly, leaving only the “mail ballot precinct” to count, many of which can be quickly tabulated since that’s all that’s left. (They also don’t use that meaningless term Mendo throws around, “Times counted.”)

RANDOM THOUGHTS on the election, and in no particular order: In all the campaigning, I didn't hear much in the way of specific proposals about how to deal with specific problems at any level of government which, I suppose, spares the candidate a deluge of criticism. Keeping it all vague like "I'll bring us all together again" seems to soothe the savage masses. But if the state or national candidate says, for instance, "I will tax the rich to get the halt and the lame off the streets," that person is certain to attract millions from the rich to his opponent. I can't think of a big ticket issue like what to do about the homeless that isn't, or should be, the responsibility of the federal government. Prop C in San Francisco passed by a wide margin. It will shovel millions into the existing Homeless Industrial Project (branches in Ukiah and Fort Bragg) to fund strategies that aren't working.

WE HAD a dead Nevada pimp elected to that state's assembly, and two indicted crooks, both Republicans, Hunter of California, and Collins of New York, re-elected. (Only in America.)

THE ONLY result that surprised us was Prop 10, the rent control initiative. We weren't surprised it lost — hell, Americans have been voting against their true interests since the founding aristos drew up the rules — but we were surprised it lost by such a huge margin.

DID YOU HAPPEN TO CATCH Trump’s sarcastic tweet about being happy that Nancy Pelosi will be the next Speaker of the House? He even said he might give her a few Republican votes to make sure she gets the post (as if they’re his to give, which they are). Pelosi’s daughter was on Bay Area TV Wednesday morning pleased and proud that her mother would be the next Speaker of the House. But Pelosi is the reddest of red-meat to Trump’s base who hate, hate with a passion, Pelosi. Pelosi, who embodies everything Republicans hate about liberals — rich, elite, arrogant, San Francisco, etc. — as Speaker of the House is exactly what Trump and “his” Republicans want and Pelosi and the Dems are so stupid that they’re giving her to them. (Mark Scaramella)

THE THOUSAND OAKS SHOOTER seems to have been something of an intellectual. According to one of his last FaceBook posts: "I hope people call me insane... (laughing emojis).. wouldn't that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah.. I'm insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is 'hopes and prayers'.. or 'keep you in my thoughts'... every time... and wonder why these keep happening..."

WITH THE BODY COUNT still rising from the ongoing Butte County catastrophe, Orange Man has blamed authorities in California for their “gross mismanagement” of the state’s forests. “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump Tweeted early Saturday. Hours after issuing an emergency declaration to provide federal funds to help firefighters, Trump threatened to withhold the funds. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

GLEN MACDONALD is a professor of geography at UCLA whose specialty is wildfires and climate change, the latter inspiring the former. “As, frankly, someone that was evacuated and has visited burnt-out homes, that Trump tweet today blaming the state was an insult and so uninformed. There are no forests to manage here [Malibu]. Coastal trees and shrubs are part of what burnt. It was a statement made with insensitivity and ignorance. You can look at it in different ways. Wildfires are natural here. There are records of early Spanish settlers that used fires for necessary land clearance but times have changed and the ecosystem, and number of people living in California. But there are 30 million people here now. If you look at the 20 biggest fires in the state, 15 of those have happened since 2000. There are now bigger fires, and more and more record breakers coming in. Fire season is getting longer. We are also seeing record-breaking temperatures. It is getting hotter and hotter. Spring starts earlier. Our fire season now goes into the winter."

WE'VE OFTEN WRITTEN about Mark Sprinkle, now 57, once of Ukiah. (His story is linked below.) He's just been denied parole. Again. He can re-apply in three years. Sprinkle was sentenced to 45-to-life for a few seconds of sexual touching, 15-to-life for each chaste maiden he allegedly violated in March of 1995. Sprinkle has steadily denied the charges, and his denials over the years, beginning with his rejection of an original offer of 3-5 years to plead guilty. Which he refused, and has now been imprisoned for 22 years. Steadily employed as a long-haul truck driver when he was free, Sprinkle, assuming he doesn't die in prison, would resume that employment when and if he ever gets out.

IN BRIEF, the voluptuous daughter of Sprinkle's former girlfriend, a fourteen-year-old with the adult figure of Stormy Daniels, arranged for her and her two friends, on the word Go!, to voluntarily disrobe in Sprinkle's car as he drove the trio of jail bait out the Masonite Road west of Ukiah. The girls were pranking the guy, Stormy rubbing her breasts in Sprink's face. Yes, that's right, the three girls shed their clothes voluntarily. Sprinkle's mistake was to remain in the vehicle with them. Sprinkle's vengeful girlfriend managed to parlay the ensuing breast chucks and external vaginal explorations — alleged — as full-on child molestation. There is no indication from the Sprink's psych work-ups that prison authorities are acquainted with the facts of his case. And the State Parole Board has routinely denied parole as if the guy is some kind of playground lurk, the rightly feared cho-mo our porn-drenched society seems to produce in ever increasing numbers. This ancient event costing Sprinkle 22 years of freedom is obviously a one-off occurrence, and why this guy, just as obviously the victim of his depraved ex-girlfriend who put her daughter up to entrapping him, is still in prison amounts to cruel and unusual punishment out of all proportion to the crime alleged. But there he sits.

More info:

EVEN THE PRESS DEMOCRAT SAYS, "Doctors fail kids by abusing vaccination exemption." They sure do, but a dismaying number of Mendo dupes are not vaccinating their children, enrolling their unvaccinated kids in public schools, thus putting all children at risk of communicable diseases like measles that until recently were virtually wiped out. The anti-vaxxers get exemptions from sympathetic physicians for their unvaccinated children to enroll in schools, and if you know who among Mendo's medicos is cooperating with the anti-vaxxers we wish you would give us their names so we can expose them for throwing the rest of us back into the middle 19th century. (Anonymity guaranteed.)

THE PRECIOUS little college town of Arcata has just voted to pull down the statue of President McKinley, which has rested on one end of the town's plaza almost since McKinley's assassination at the turn of the century. By presidential standards, McKinley wasn't all that bad, much less of an imperialist war hawk than recent presidents of both parties. McKinley fought as an ordinary soldier for the North in the Civil War until promoted to officer. He defended striking miners. His belief in protective tariffs was to protect labor from cheap imports. As his killer was being pummeled by other people waiting in line to shake his hand, McKinley, humane to the end, cautioned, "Go easy on him, boys." And McKinley's wife was an epileptic he doted on all their married lives. This guy as a political priority in 2018? The forces of the righteous, Arcata branch, seem awfully desperate for issues. What's next, a re-name for McKinleyville? How about Czolgoszville?

LEON CZOLGOSZ, McKinley's assassin who, unlike the radlibs of Arcata, not only believed in the propaganda of the deed, he did the deed. "I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people, the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime. I am sorry I could not see my father." Czolgosz, aka Fred Nieman, was dead seven weeks after this plaintive statement. The young anarchist was executed by the latest in execution devices, the electric chair, considered in 1901 more humane than hanging.


THE McKINLEY assassination put a serious damper on the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, a huge promotional event by the City of Buffalo to cash in on the new, the bizarre and the personal appearance of the president. It's all brilliantly described in "The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City: Spectacle & Assassination" by Margaret Creighton, which includes wonderful descriptions of the main attractions that would likely confuse Arcata's contemporary "activists." For instance, Geronimo threw a dog feast for the 80 or so of his fellow Plains Indians on exhibit at the Expo, personally shooting some of the entrees (gathered from the Buffalo animal shelter) with a bow and arrow. There's an hilarious passage describing Geronimo and his friends, in their native tongues, insulting the white people who'd paid to gawk at them. Geronimo, a federal prisoner, took in a small fortune selling photos and autographs. And there was the world's smallest woman and the world's largest elephant, the latter surviving an attempt to electrocute him before a paying mob. Another fascinating Expo-related event was an aging woman's desperate but successful attempt to pay for her old age by plummeting over nearby Niagra Falls in a barrel. Today's spectacles hardly measure up.

SEASON TWO of ‘Making A Murderer’ is out on NetFlicks, with a third season in the works. All of it ought to be required viewing by everyone employed by the justice system, from judges to cops. It's been more than 11 years since Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey were jailed for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Avery had already done 18 years for a vicious rape he didn't commit, and was only reluctantly freed by Wisconsin authorities when irrefutable dna evidence identifying another man was put forward by an Innocence Project. As Part Two makes clear, Avery, a simple soul obviously without the cunning and guile required to pull off even a crude murder scheme, is again framed for this second murder after he sued his home county for many millions for his original false arrest. And here Avery is again stuck behind bars as the brilliant and relentless defense attorney, Kathleen Zellner, struggles simply to get new exculpatory evidence into court. Avery and his learning impaired nephew, Dassey, are both innocent, as Zellner's investigations make clearer than clear. But Wisconsin's justice apparatus, a frightful collection of vengeful hacks and straight-up dummies, manages, without counter-arguing, to sustain their non-case against Avery and Dassey through endless appeals still in process. Parts One and Two of this depressing saga are really an indictment of a justice system that long ago said goodbye to justice. (Personal note: Having had direct experience with California's appellate courts, the decisions rendered in my cases would not pass either a beginning composition or logic course. Lots of lawyers are so intellectually impaired they shouldn't be entrusted with anybody else's freedom; it's past time to make bar exams much tougher. Avery's court-appointed defense attorney during the first frame job the guy suffered is not only breathtakingly stupid he appears to be nuts. Thank the gods and the goddesses for these university-based innocence projects. Without them, many more thousands of people would be in jail for crimes they didn't commit.)


[1] Maybe it’s just me but I keep seeing people texting even on the narrow 2 lane parts of 101. They start drifting towards the edge then overcorrecting, it feels super dangerous to be driving behind that. Those console video screens for radio, etc. are pretty damn distracting too. You can’t look away on these narrower areas in particular — wait for a pullout please! There’s nothing between you and a car coming the other way besides two lines of paint and some reflectors. Much of 101 was not designed for high speed driving.

It’s not just the highway, read the comments of the pedestrian hit in Mckinleyville — witness saw driver on phone not paying attention. How do we deal with this problem? For real, does anyone have ideas?

[2] Even in the softest of starlight this has become obvious now. Trump is truly a devious son of a bitch. Much, much smarter than any of his adversaries will ever give him credit for. Trump is sort of a Yankeefied version of the Old Southern Country Lawyer. You know…the fella who has the chops to sit on the SCOTUS, but who never lets on how smart he is to his opponents in the courtroom. Just drawls on and on in a folksy Southern way until he puts the opposing counsel to sleep. Then he cuts their throats.

Trump’s version is more like a NY wiseguy, but it is essentially the same act. Behave like an average to below average schmuck while measuring your opponents for the casket you will bury them in. Whole libraries will one day be filled with books studying Trump’s devious techniques. He is the Sun Tzu of Manhattan.

[3] I am sure that you recall the old statement of being “all thumbs”. That phrase, for the young folk who aren’t learned in the ways of history, was a statement of ineptitude. Of being unable to do anything because the only fingers that were on your hands were thumbs, you know like the Dingleboxers of today. All they can do is tippy tap. They cannot work, they cannot build or solve, all they can do is tap, tap, tap, and there are far too many of them. All they have is thumbs. Those who cannot must have everything done for them and there are less and less of us that still do. Our workloads are huge and getting bigger. One day it will kill us off, but fortunately, at least for me, dying in the attempt is an honorable way to go. Another massive problem that will never be addressed is that in order to build or fix anything it is necessary to “offend" at least a few people in the process. With an agenda of nobody can be offended, well, then nothing can ever get done, or fixed, or even improved. Only the newest, shining Dingleboxes can be perpetrated upon the mindless minions without uproar and in the end, it will be their end, won’t it? Good.

One Comment

  1. Rick Weddle November 20, 2018

    re: McKinleyville
    Good take on Big Mac, but a little kind, I think. After Mark Hanna said of McKinley’s opponent, Bryan, running for President, that, “You don’t think we’d let that fool in the White House, do you? You know you can hire half the people in this country to shoot the other half, and we’ve got the money to hire them,’ McKinley ‘won,’ of course, and would later be quoted as saying, “I probably should have gone to the penitentiary than to the White House.” Both of the books, ‘Theodore Rex,’ (author?) and ‘Living My Life,’ (Emma Goldman’s auto-bio) put some detail on this…

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