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Off the Record (Nov. 28, 2018)

ROBERT MARBUT is famous among municipalities large and small for evaluating their homeless populations and prescribing specific steps to get people housed. Mendocino County hired Marbut to investigate Mendo homeless strategies. Back on March 15th, Marbut duly reported back to the Supervisors when he presented 28 recommendations, and 15 practical, immediate steps Mendo could immediately take to radically reduced the number of free range drunks, drug heads and unconfined lunatics agitating everyday citizens and occupying the police out of all proportion to their numbers.

MARBUT'S report has not only been ignored by the Supes and our over-large array of helping professionals who profit directly from unhoused, untended human misery — the so-called County "continuum of care" for instance, and related doers of wholly self-alleged good who have actively subverted the Marbut Report by talking it to death, as in meetings that begin, "Presentation: Miles Gordon and Maya Stuart follow up from community conversation working group."

MENDO COUNTY is getting an additional $4.9 million from the state to presumably help the homeless get housed. The money is based on a fraudulent homeless head count conducted by the helping pros themselves, the people who directly profit from inflated counts. The more homeless you count, or pretend to count, the more cash Mendo gets from the state to continue not doing anything about it. Mendo is claiming its latest " point in time count" revealed 1,235 homeless in the County. Marbut said there were maybe 200 indigenous homeless people. He went out himself to search out the homeless. Told there were fifty in Hopland, Marbut found only an abandoned blanket. The counters are people working for the agencies getting the money. Marbut recommended head counts at shelters and free meal sites, weeding out lifestyle transients and focusing helping efforts on homeless people with Mendo roots. Won't happen, can't happen with the present, self-interested apparatus in place and no leadership coming from the Supervisors.

WHERE'S HAMBURG? Has the 5th District supervisor lurched all the way into mental catatonia, or is he simply tired of pretending to be a supervisor? We understand that Hamburg has sold his combination dope farm and home south of Ukiah, that he's presently married to County psychologist, Sara Starks, after a brief union with Point Arena’s Lauren Sinnott that lasted only long enough for her to get medical assistance through Hamburg's lush County health plan. The Hamlet of Mendocino County politics has either moved to Oregon already or will soon. Or he's so totally wigged out and unable to function even to vote yes with his colleagues on whatever is shoved before them every other Tuesday by CEO Carmel Angelo.

COUNTY CEO ANGELO then issued this presser last Wednesday morning: “Fifth District Supervisor and Board Chair Dan Hamburg has been under medical care since October 28th. His wife Sara asks for the public’s understanding and patience during this difficult time. Further information will be released as it becomes available.”

“DEAR MS. ANGELO: Regarding this morning's press release on Supervisor Hamburg’s absence from his official duties, your assertion, without medical confirmation, that he's ill raises the obvious question: What exactly is wrong with him? The second question: Is he still being paid by the County of Mendocino as if he were a functioning County official?"

COUNTY COUNSEL Elliott wrote: "My apologies for not responding sooner. I was out yesterday to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. I am in the office today but have had several last-minute priority requests. The answer to your question regarding Supervisor Hamburg, 'Is he still being paid by the County of Mendocino as if he were a functioning County official?' is yes he is. As a follow up, the County has no additional information about Supervisor Hamburg's medical condition other than what was stated in the press release today. Regardless, the County is prohibited by law from sharing any medical information of an employee. Concerning your question regarding salary, the pay and benefits of County elected officials, like all other County employees, continues as long as they remain County employees. Supervisor Hamburg remains a County employee at this time. We expect the County will be notified as to Supervisor Hamburg's availability for future meetings as soon as that information is known. In the meantime, speaking on behalf of the County, we wish Supervisor Hamburg and his family the best during this difficult time."

A READER WRITES: “Ms. Elliott, County attorney, may have been misleading when she responded to your query concerning handsome Dan. The ordinance cited (check it out) refers to succession concerning sick or missing supervisors not whether or not a supervisor is a county employee. Apparently, looking about the internet at other counties, there is some question as to whether or not elected officials are employees as opposed to appointed or hired officials. Never trust a lawyer.”

A FEDERAL JUDGE has temporarily barred the Trump administration from refusing asylum to immigrants who cross the US-Mexico border without papers. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights sued to stop President Trump’s ban on asylum-seekers. Tens of thousands of immigrants request asylum each year at official ports of entry, but Trump sought to end the practice altogether with a November 9th proclamation that anyone who crossed the border illegally would be ineligible for asylum. The judge said the ban violates international law. Over the weekend, a number of refugees made a run across the border, which Trump closed for a few hours while freedom’s forces fired rubber bullets at the massed, would-be immigrants, including small children, in between dousing them with tear gas.

AN OUTBREAK OF once-extinguished chickenpox has appeared among unvaccinated children in the Asheville, North Carolina area. The state allows "religious exemptions" in addition to children exempted for medical reasons. Religious exemptions from vaccination have risen dramatically in NC, from 871 in 2012 to 2,073 in 2016, stats that mean lots of parents are  faking a religious exemption to risk the lives of their unvaccinated children. The outbreak is mostly confined to Asheville Waldorf, a private school opened in 2009 where tuition is a minimum of $8,000 a year, meaning the anti-vaxx movement is no longer confined to NorthCoast retro hippies where the incidence of anti-science credulity is probably the highest in the United States.

SOME MENDO GRAPE GROWERS want a federal handout for what they claim are smoke-tainted grapes. They've addressed their appeal to Congressman Mike Thompson, also a grape grower, asking that state growers be included in “any disaster assistance bill that may move forward because we have experienced substantial economic losses directly attributable to wildfires.” Other grape growers say their crops were unaffected, but seeing as how the wine industry's reps dominate all levels of Northcoast government, we expect the handout to be approved.

MY FATHER managed a milk cooperative — Danish Creamery in Fresno and later Challenge Cream & Butter Association — for several decades going back to the 1950s. Many ag cooperatives began in the 1930s because producers couldn’t get decent prices from commercial creameries during the depression so they formed cooperatives run by elected members (dairymen) of the cooperative. Milk and milk products are considered essential to public health. But, as with timber or apple juice, the producer or grower is at the mercy of the buyer (be it the timber mill, the bottling plant, the creamery, …) when it comes to the prices the producer is paid.

ALSO DURING the 1930s, thanks to old-school FDR-style liberals, besides cooperatives, government price supports were established for milk because milk shortages were considered to be a threat to public health. Every year since then, using something like what is now called for in the California law, industry and government would negotiate and set the minimum price supports for milk.

BUT NOW here come the wine grape growers asking big government for the equivalent of price supports because the value of their grapes has gone down since some grape buyers won’t pay full retail for “smoke tainted” grapes.

WINE GRAPE GROWERS cannot compare themselves to milk and other commodity producers; wine is not essential for public health; wine is not perishable; wine is not food, and wine has no nutritional value.

NOTE ALSO that none of the local pot growers who lost entire crops to fires have come to the state or federal government asking for hand-outs or subsidies. Most grape growers have crop insurance and will recover most of their alleged losses via insurance, if their insurers go along with the scam.

(Mark Scaramella)

A READER COMMENTS: ”Smoke taint” can be politely called dubious, and is more likely bogus. After listening to vineyard, and wine making people it became apparent that there is no way to chemically quantify what “smoke taint” is. And wine snobs have no idea what “smoke taint” is, either. In fact with the wine snob crowd, “smoke taint” is no more than a figment of their imaginations. What is more likely the case for “smoke taint” this year is an oversupply of grapes. Not much different than with milk in Gene Scaramella’s time. Because of this, it is highly unlikely any fed bailout will materialize. Silly to even ask for one. What is more likely is verbiage in future grape contracts that puts a shared burden for “smoke taint” on both the grower and the winery. That should fix the problem, and the “smoke taint” issue will likely become mostly a distant memory.”

GOOD OL' JER: For years Jerry Brown has talked left, acted right. In a typical Brown move, he's signed a measure allowing utilities to bill their customers for future legal settlements stemming from the devastating 2017 wildfires. Count on him to do the same for the even more devastating fires of 2018. Even the most tentative liberal would be talking about breaking up PG&E and making its pieces the genuinely public public utility it should be.

EVERY NIGHT I denounce myself for watching the national news on CBS, the least offensive of the big three networks but a nightly adventure in the absurd nevertheless. The last few nights all three networks have run cutesy stories on Joe Biden's new dog and a clip of Condoleeza Rice positing her as the possible head football coach of the Cleveland Browns. There is nothing charming or at all interesting about either of these dreary persons, but similarly frivolous news dominates the mainstream media, also very big lately on "surprise" visits by soldiers, the officer class anyway, to their children during student assemblies. The repellant Biden is certain to be among the Democrat's top presidential candidates while Ms. Rice, along with the rest of Bush Gang, ought to doing life for her role in kicking off the endless war on the Mohammedans. The only good thing about the Biden dog story is that Creepy Joe allegedly adopted the animal out of a shelter, where perfectly good dogs go begging.

GRATIFYING to see the Mendo College trustees refuse raises to their two (count 'em)  “academic” vice presidents, both of whom wanted $148,767 annually because, you guessed it, the SRJC and Yuba College drones make that much. Why an outback junior college would need more than an el presidente is one of those questions seldom asked, and good on the Mendo trustees for asking. The education racket could give the mafia lessons.

MISS MANNERS. Or missed manners? A disturbing pattern has developed lately regarding the replies of County officials to questions they don’t like. When Wendy Escobar asked the Supervisors to give uninsured fire victims a break on permit fees, Acting Board Chair Georgeanne Croskey replied only, “Thank you.”

WHEN KZYX reporter Sara Reith asked where Supervisor Hamburg was and when he was coming back, Supervisor Croskey replied, “Thank you.” When the AVA asked CEO Carmel Angelo about Supervisor Hamburg’s status she replied, “Mr. Anderson, I am referring your questions to County Counsel for a response. Thank you." Thank you, in these contexts, translates as, "Go away and die painful deaths."

AS THE LATEST in dna technology leads police to malefactors of yesteryear, no police agency, from the FBI to the Oakland Police Department, are applying the latest science to the "mystery" of Who Bombed Judi Bari? The Press Democrat says it "lost" a key evidentiary letter, but there are others possessed by the feds, although they (the FBI) declared the Bari case closed years ago. Meanwhile, authorities in Santa Clara County arrested a suspect this week in the 1973 killing of 21-year-old Leslie Perlov in Palo Alto — the latest Bay Area cold case to be cracked by investigators submitting a suspect’s DNA to a public genealogical website. The Bari case is unlikely to ever be solved because, I think, solving it would embarrass the FBI and reveal the entire Bari fundraising effort as the scam it was from the very beginning.

ONLY DAYS after Interior Secretary Ryan Zeinke told burnt-out Californians that it’s not time for “finger pointing” as to the cause of the state’s wildfires, he blamed “radical environmental groups” for getting in the way of sound forest management.

THE NBA HAS FINED Warrior forward Kevin Durant $25,000 for “directing inappropriate language” toward a moronic fan, pardon the redundancy. The Texas fan was yelling “Cupcake!” at Durant more than three years after he the basketball star left Oklahoma City where ex-teammate Russell Westbrook tagged Durant as Cupcake, a reference to a cupcake business owned by Durant, and hardly the worst insult suffered by a pro athlete. Durant told the fan to, “Just watch the fucking game and shut the fuck up.” Shutting the fuck up and watching the fucking game is no longer the norm among pro sports fans. Basketball players, because they're so close to the fans, are routinely showered with obscenities to which they occasionally respond to by climbing into the stands to slug the offender. I heartily approve. Some of these loudmouths act like total psychos, yelling abuse the entire game, wrecking the event for everyone around them, many of whom don’t know a basketball from a pineapple anyway but seem to enjoy the half-time shows. (Millions of real fans have been priced out of the gym.) Durant should not have been fined; ‘Cupcake’ is pretty mild as insults go, but if you hear it for five entire seasons wherever you go, and understand the context, well, I can understand Durant's pique.

YEARS AGO, and I mean years ago, circa 1950 or so, I was mildly traumatized, I guess, because I still remember watching a Pacific Coast League baseball player named Carlos Bernier dive into the grandstand at the old Seals Stadium to whale away on a white man who had been heckling him. I couldn't hear what the heckler said but Bernier wasted no time going after him. In the 1940s and through the 1950s, the insults, as all black or hispanic ballplayers have testified to, were viciously racist. Bernier would have been risking his livelihood by climbing into the stands, but it took millions of Berniers standing up for themselves that we've made the tenuous race relations progress we've made. I was saddened years later to learn that Bernier had committed suicide by hanging. He was a wonderful outfielder and a terrific hitter who finally got to the bigs with Pittsburg.

DECEMBER 13 CANNABIS HOUR (Thursday, Dec. 13, 11 a.m., KZYX) Do You Have a Clue? What’s in Mendocino County’s cannabis ordinance? Can you guess which regulations cultivators hate the most? Attorney Hannah L. Nelson, who probably knows more about this county's cannabis ordinance than anyone on the planet, will unravel some of its mysteries on the Cannabis Hour, Thursday, Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. on KZYX.

TRUMP ISN'T ALWAYS WRONG. He tweeted last week, “So called comedian Michele Wolf bombed so badly last year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner that this year, for the first time in decades, they will have an author instead of a comedian. Good first step in comeback of a dying evening and tradition! Maybe I will go?"

MICHELE WOLF is indeed painfully unfunny, as is the annual event where millionaire "journalists" laugh at lame jokes and lamer presidents. The White House Correspondents would most appropriately be hosted by America's lead nuzzlebum, Scott Simon from NPR. He'd be the perfect host for the event. And if Simon isn't available, there's always David Muir of ABC News. But this year's host is historian Ron Chernow. I'm surprised a serious guy like him would even want to attend, but I recommend his biographies, especially the one on John D. Rockefeller.

HOW DOES THAT SONG GO? 'You're so vain, you think this song is about you...." If we had a dime for every person who whined versions of, "You're just bashing me to sell newspapers" we'd have two turkeys for Thanksgiving instead of one. The mere mention of County government is instant chloroform to most readers, not a newspaper seller, hence local government’s ongoing dysfunction because very few people pay any attention to it. If County government did nude cartwheels down State Street it might attract a few gawkers, and the front page photos of the event would undoubtedly sell papers, but even then.... If you occupy a public position you're in for criticism. It comes with the job. It’s easier to dismiss legitimate criticism as “bashing” when it’s really a transparent evasion of response or argument.

THE THEME of Michael Lewis's new book, "The Fifth Risk,” is that Trump, by deliberately sabbing federal bureaucracies by placing flagrantly unqualified people at the head of them, is hastening catastrophe. Whatever’s happening, it seems to be picking up speed.

NOBODY WANTS TO KNOW that contemporary history has created a new kind of human being — the kind that are put into concentration camps by their foes and internment camps by their friends. —Hannah Arendt.

NEARLY eighty years later [after World War Two], the world has come no closer to ensuring the rights of a human without a country. Mostly, governments propose quarantine. Internment camps grow in Tornillo, Texas, in Lesbos, in Zaatari, Bangladesh. It won't work. Each year, the world grows warmer. The oceans rise. Wars are fought for ever-scarcer resources. If the wealthy West worries about one million Syrians, what will it do with millions of climate refugees? The 1,600-plus page document—produced by the National Climate Assessment, a consortium of 13 federal agencies overseen by the US Global Change Research Program—is congressionally mandated and the first of its kind issued under the Trump administration. It’s the fourth volume produced by the group since 2000; the last report was issued in 2014. —Molly Crabapple

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," a Coen Bros movie based on tales from the Wild West, which includes episodes that are the wildly funny, and wildly violent, and wildly wild.

KEEPING ABREAST of the South Coast of Mendocino County is eased via the Independent Coast Observer out of Gualala, a weekly newspaper with a mammoth ad base the rest of us small town pubs can only envy. This week I learned from the ICO that Diane Agee is "semi-retiring" from the Redwood Coast Medical Services Board, which oversees the Gualala clinic. The formidable Ms. Agee ran the Boonville clinic "part-time" for a tumultuous couple of years beginning in 2011, as I recall, on a kind of lend-lease arrangement with Gualala's medical center. During her Boonville reign. Agee force-marched a popular and long-time Boonville clinic employee out of the building into the parking lot, watching as the unfortunate woman drove away, first confiscating the humiliated woman's office keys. Agee later did a peremptory forced march exit of a doctor at the Gualala clinic. We never heard the reason for the Boonville purge or the doc's side of his banishment.

FORCED exit marches of doomed, unsuspecting public employees are also now a feature of County government as the experience of the Ag Department's long-time and highly valued Diane Curry. Ms. Agee also put the fear into the Boonville clinic's board of trustees who, on her instruction, at a packed house meeting of angry Boonville residents demanding to know why their friend and neighbor had suddenly been non-personed, simply stared back at the people asking. The stare-back bordered on the eerie. It was as if the trustees had been zombo-ized, struck dumb, meatballed.

THE STARE BACK as a public meeting tactic has since been adopted by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. Ask them a question or say a few words that basic civility ordinarily requires something of a reply to, and our County's leadership stares back, not exactly uncomprehendingly but as if they can't see or hear you. It's the tail wagging the dog as we so often see in Mendo public life — the un-elected County CEO dominating her cringing elected supervisors; elected school boards totally cowed by their over-paid administrators; health center boards, faithfully Yes-ing their hired manager; KZYX’s self-selecting itself from a small pool of gray, birkenstocked, white-ish males. Why even the Boonville Ambulance Board is a kind of private wine club that meets at a private home in Airport Estates. And so on. As it happens, the Anderson Valley Community Services District Board actually functions as a public board is supposed to function — elections, open discussion of all issues, public scrutiny of all expenditures. Our CSD’s functioning seems to be a democratic one-off in Mendocino County.

IN OTHER NEWS from last week's ICO, we learn that the Sea Ranch Lodge is in escrow, having gone broke, then retrieved from temporary penury, and now sold. An acquaintance recently told me he and his girlfriend had just spent "a wonderful weekend at Sea Ranch" which, I guess, is now one more seaside hive of B 'n B rentals. "Have you ever been there?" he asked. The dilemma presented was the usual one of not wanting to insult the man's obvious enthusiasm by saying revealing my true feeling about the place: "Given the choice of a weekend at Sea Ranch or a weekend under a freeway overpass, I'd go for the freeway." I've never understood the aesthetic pull of a place featuring several hundred glass boxes, but it's not only Sea Ranch, we've got a steady march of glass boxes all the way up the Mendo coast to Westport fouling what was once a truly beautiful panorama of pure land and sea.

THE ICO carried a report of the Gualala Post Office being festooned with swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs. Probably teenagers, one to do it the other to cheer him on. You can almost hear their idiot laughter. Or maybe the culprits are older cretins, slaves to fascist websites. I know there are young-ish people in the Anderson Valley who've been seduced by incorrect readings of history, and I don't mean politically incorrect; the fascist websites are that, too, but their opinions are wrong because they don’t comport with the facts. It's too simple to blame the educational system for learning deficiencies, but I think fascist opinions, thanks to the internet, have never been as available to the young, and the ones I’ve seen aren’t forums inviting cross talk. These people talk to themselves, but there seem to be more and more of them.

SNAPPIEST title on an ICO editorial I can remember: "What's murder among friends?" A rote denunciation of Trump's cozy relationship with the Saudis.

THEN THERE'S "PA city council considers skateboard park." Mendocino County's smallest city, population 453, with the largest government — five person council, two administrators, and a secretary. Plus a few employees. Prediction: The skate park will never happen. They'll talk a lot about it because a skateboard park is "for the kids" and who dares oppose an amenity for "the kids"? But the $50,000 part-time city administrator, Richard Shoemaker, always a guy "for the kids,” and his captive council people, will talk the thing until this crop of would-be boarders and their parents have moved on. When the unctuous Shoemaker functioned as a County supervisor he and his colleagues complained about kids skateboarding outside the Supe's chambers, thus disturbing the mighty deliberations of Shoemaker and Co. But if Point Arena could figure out how to monetize "the kids" Shoemaker would be first in line.


A READER WRITES: I remember how Weston Price traveled deep into the Swiss Alps, about a 100 years ago, to small villages that had yet to be infected with our culture.

Besides the outstanding health of the people, he found a strong comradery among them all. He described it as truly a community of “one for all and all for one.” He was greatly affected by it, and it is reflected in his writing. The point of today’s “culture” is to atomize everyone, pit everyone against each other, break all apart, so to allow the easy domination of the governmental power structure. No one has others to confide in, share their innermost thoughts. Unlike our past history, where you had deep connections with each other in clans, and with the animals and life around you, now there is nothing.

If you remember Dave McGowan, the excellent investigative reporter, wrote about this more than 13 years ago. We are all, purposefully, cut off from each other. And there’s a reason for it. It makes us all weaker and impotent before the leviathan. Traister is a stooge fronting for the “deep state” to maintain the hatred and confrontation between men and women. It’s essential for the powers that the most basic, human relationships be destroyed. And family is target #1.

[2] Can I tell you a secret? I don’t even care if there are undocumented immigrants in this country. I think it’s a non-issue. Without social security numbers they aren’t privy to the welfare people claim they get. The vast majority of them are normal people trying to live a better life. This whole wall, deport the illegals bullshit is just the 1% convincing the working poor to blame a subset of the working poor for the fact that they’re all poor instead of realizing the reason they are all poor is due to vast income inequality and resource price inflation in combination with wage stagnation. Please use your brains. PS. The existence of another poor person is not why you’re poor. It’s because the people who control everything refuse to increase your wages.

[3] During the 1950s we had rampant alcoholism, soul destroying factory work, accepted marital rape, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, rampant racism, and an out of control witch hunt for “communists”. Women had little opportunity in education or c-suite employment. The military industrial complex was gobbling up the national budget, increasing the national debt. Those were the “social norms” and they were the reason for the anti-war, civil rights, and women’s liberation movements of the 60s.

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