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Off the Record (Feb. 20, 2019)

GIOVANNI THADDEUS DEMURI, 52, of Fort Bragg, previously of Albion, has been identified as the man found dead at the foot of the Noyo bridge on Thursday, February 7th

Demuri’s body was discovered on the south bank of the Noyo directly under the bridge. No official cause of death has been determined although Fort Bragg police say that Demuri appeared to have injuries associated with a fall with no obvious signs of foul play. An autopsy is being conducted.


WE JUST STUMBLED ACROSS Mendocino County’s Facebook page. In the photo section there’s a collection of unidentified County officials giving each other awards. And a few pictures from last fall of a “frightening” display of tame Halloween jokes positioned in front of the Supervisors/CEO office. But not so much as a scenic vista from anywhere in a county synonymous with natural beauty.

A FRIEND WRITES: "My dad was a cook in the Coast Guard in WWII. He spent a lot of time on the west coast, much of it in the greater Santa Cruz region. This, of course, meant the peninsula and all those lonely service wives were waiting just over the hill. My dad told me their motto was, "In the barrooms and the bedrooms, it's the Coast Guard two to one!" I have never found another old Coasty who knew of that slogan." 

I USED TO pick up 5-lb. blocks of medium cheddar (sharp is too crumbly for our purposes) cheese for Diamond and me from a particular refrigerated bin at Walmart. The bin was one of those open affairs that you reach down into for retrieval of the item you want. They have since relocated the cheese to another cooler in the store. But, at the original location, there was a mirror built into the interior of each end of the bin. Why they had mirrors I do not know. Maybe it was to direct reflected light on the products in the bin; maybe it was to make the bin look longer, thus giving the impression that it was filled with even more wonders of kaputalist agribusiness than it could possibly hold. I just don’t know. Anyway, one day I couldn’t find my cheese–plenty of mild, but no medium–and was searching the darker back reaches of the bin for it, placing me in a rather preoccupied state. I glanced up and saw a stranger staring at me, and a rather odd looking cuss at that it seemed to me. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was staring at my own reflection in the mirror. It amazed me, since I was used to seeing myself in the bathroom mirror, but at those times I am expecting to see myself and have certain expectations as to what I am likely to see. The unexpected image was completely unrecognizable to me for several seconds. It was shortly thereafter that it really began to sink in that I was getting old. Now, that happened probably about 9 or 10 years ago. Imagine my shock if the same thing were to happen now … I might simply keel over dead. Which, given the current prognosis for the planet and its species, might not be such a bad thing. (Harvey Reading)

TRUMP'S speech last Friday morning was even more incoherent than usual. He just lumbers out and wings it, like some barely informed drunk awakened from a near stupor and shoved out in front of the microphones to address world. The absurdity of this guy is funny and frightening at the same time. But he's only the least capable among a crew of national "leaders" who inspire zero confidence, and things lurch along from disaster to disaster, adding more calamity every day to the larger rolling catastrophes that is life in the early years of the 21st century.

NOT THAT MORE evidence is needed that Trump isn't wed to democratic principles, but the admiration he expressed last week for China's drug-fighting strategies — summary execution — is a repeat of his warm endorsement of the fascist president of the Philippines whose police forces have murdered thousands of drug dealers and drug users without even the pretense of trials. And the bi-partisan consensus right here in Liberty Land that the enormous market for drugs wouldn't exist if people like El Chapo weren't bringing them in by the ton neatly ignores the widespread despair prevalent in the country, the "malaise" Jimmy Carter famously described. Millions of Americans look at the hopelessness of their situation and say to themselves, "What the hell. Gimme that crank. At least it makes me feel like I'm coping." Or they zone out totally via the downer dope.

AS THE SAGE of Boonville has pointed out a zillion times, and is again confirmed with the Trump experience, the FBI is a national political police force. Has been since that old cross-dresser, J. Edgar. Now we have confirmation that the FBI was working to elect Hillary, and that there never was any Russian "collusion." The entire "intelligence" apparatus of the United States (13 of them? 14 separate agencies?) got behind Hillary and mounted what amounts to a coup attempt to remove Orange Man.

TRUMP'S NATIONAL EMERGENCY DECLARATION. Did he ever get around to declaring one last Friday morning during his free association presentation? It can work both ways. I imagine President Ocasio-Cortez's 2020 inaugural speech. "And listen up all you Magamen. You have 24 hours to give up your guns or we bomb your houses. We know who you are and we know where you live, thanks to our wonderful intelligence services. Stack arms, mofos!" 

THE CITY OF UKIAH pays a lot of money for its government, probably more, proportionately, than Fort Bragg and Willits combined. How then to account for the sorry condition of many of Ukiah's streets, including State Street, the town's main drag. Check that: I may have answered my own question. Maybe Ukiah pays its management so much there's nothing left to fill the potholes with. 

TALES OF THE CITY, tale of the times. A friend lives on a normally sedate block of Hyde Street in San Francisco. The neighborhood consists of low-rise apartment buildings, conveniently arrayed on either side of the cable car line. The area boasts modest restaurants and mom and pop groceries, with commercially bustling Polk Street a short walk away. It's reminiscent of San Francisco before the gold rush made much of the city unaffordable for people of ordinary means, and seems apart from the homelessness and petty crime characteristic of many areas of the city. Most of the people on this block have lived there for many years in family-owned buildings. They know each other and look out for each other. Bad things may happen elsewhere in the City but not here. 

Until now. Many of the residents of this normally uneventful stretch of Hyde Street are feeling great anxiety lately because one building has been taken over by squatters led by a menacing, 32-year-old street person named Darien Black. Black says he is a Native American and, therefore, the rightful owner of not only the structure he apparently rents to other transients but deed holder for the entire American continent stolen from his ancestors.

Black's grand claim is unanimously rejected by the mostly Asian residents of the neighborhood, but Black has focused his ire on the only person on the block who has led the effort to get him to go away, my friend, a 75-year-old white man, and the only visible person on the block to try to negotiate the demagogic Black's exit.

The police have been called on Black and his tenants many times. They know that Black and his squatters tenants have repeatedly broken into the seemingly abandoned building but, as in many other urban areas of our crumbling country, there is little the police can do beyond ordering them to leave. They leave while the cops are standing there but return as soon as the cops leave. Black and his fellow occupiers is merely a minor nuisance in the daily sea of petty criminality the police spend their work days occupied with. (As they do in Mendocino County and most other places. The police have been in triage mode for years now.) 

The elusive East Coast man who owns the neighborhood nuisance on Hyde Street has stonewalled numerous pleas to either sell or rent his building. "Many of us have written to him, called him to do something with his building. He has never answered any of us,” my friend laments.

By default, my friend has become the designated spokesman for the neighborhood. He has tried to talk with Black to get him to leave. Everyone else is afraid, doubly afraid of the guy. One man who took Black's picture was chased down the street by Black who clearly intended to harm him. 

This chief of all he surveys has focused Hyde Street's lack of reverence for him by attempting to intimidate his only visible critic, camping out in front of my friend's apartment and arraying this display directly across the street.

“When your ancestors were starving in the rain my family fed them and gave them shelter. When they were done eating they waited for my family to rest and they slaughtered them in their sleep. Generations later the apple still falls near the tree. You are evil, lying, hate-filled lying breed of symbiotic parasites and like the eucalyptus tree are an invasive species that has destroyed my home again and again.”
“Your looking fat how is dinner? Your pink hide really glows at night. That's amazing, kimo sabe.”

Last week, five neighborhood residents agreed to go downtown to get a court order preventing Black from squatting on their block. Out of fear of retaliation, four of the five, at the last minute, said they couldn't make it.

My friend says he sympathizes with his tormenter in some ways and, like most of us, regrets the ongoing plight of Native Americans, a plight Black is adept at exploiting to make his own exploitive way in the world. 

The city should condemn the problem building, but that's a long process conducted by comfortable people who live in bully-free neighborhoods, neighborhoods where effective police response is fast and effective. As Trump has said, “How about the wall around Nancy Pelosi’s house?”

I hope this one ends well, but in the very mean time, an interval where a street thug has managed to make a whole neighborhood miserable, I hope my friend and his friends can somehow regain the tranquility they've lost to the City of San Francisco in February of 2019.

RECOMMENDED READING: "Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy," by James S. Hirsch. There's an oblique local angle to this appalling and, until fairly recently, unknown atrocity of 1921 during which white mobs destroyed the thriving black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma, murdering as many as 300 black Tulsans during the rampage. The local angle? Mendocino County's renowned Pebbles Trippet's father (uncle?) was mayor of Tulsa during the 1950s and one of many well-placed Tulsans instrumental in discouraging any mention of the riots as bad for the city's image. Only in the 1960s did the depressing story begin to be told in detail, and the details, awful as they are, make fascinating reading.

"KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON," by David Grann is another tribute to the Sooner state in its formative early years, this one a detailed account of the systematic murders of wealthy Osage Indians to steal their invaluable oil rights. Officially, the count of the murdered full-blood Osage reaches at least 20, but author Grann suspects that many more may have been killed because of their ties to oil. The book indicts a cattleman named William Hale as the mastermind standing behind the murders. Hale is finally brought to justice by J. Edgar Hoover's fledgling FBI, before J. Edgar went rogue himself. Corruption is nothing new in America, but Oklahoma's corruption included payoffs to cops, judges, legislators, and governors. Put the accounts of the Tulsa race war and the thefts and murders of Osage, all within a few years of each other in one state, and even by America's bloody standards Oklahoma stands out.

ASKED where Mendo was on the elusive path to Broadband, Supervisor Williams replied: "Our historic approach has produced nearly the results one would expect by doing nothing at all. We need a strategic plan with clear, actionable milestones, one that can be vetted for feasibility before execution begins. I see this as the role of Supervisors and staff, not another consultant. Before I joined, the county contracted with EDFC to author a broadband plan. EDFC has worked hard to produce a document, but in the big picture, we gave them an impossible task. Broadband is part economic development, part essential ingredient for quality of life. It can’t be solved in a vacuum. EDFC cannot write an adequately actionable plan with so many unknowns about commitment from various county departments. It’s too early to say when Anderson Valley will benefit, but I’m intent on attempting to shift our trajectory toward actual deployment instead of studying who doesn’t have it. Concurrent with building a plan, we need to boost efficiency. The latency in data has and will produce poor policy decisions. A local newspaper can quickly generate a P&L, yet as a county, we don’t know what the cannabis program costs us. Sometimes economic development has upfront costs which can be justified by projections, but we don’t even have projections. An investment in modernization now has potential to benefit roads, broadband and more in the coming years." 


[1] And, all the while, we have a choir of soi disant intellectuals bellowing about fascism resurging. But, lest we forget, this beastly thing had roots in the same squalor, and those tootling that particular tune are as much on the wrong song-sheet as those singing about socialism. 

If what’s afoot out there in Deplorable-land is an expression of the dire necessity of re-localization, that being the re-shaping of community and economy on a more geographically constrained level, this one thing would be the opposite to what the fascists of a life-time ago were fighting for. Hitler was all about lebensraum – “empire” to you and me – and so was Mussolini and so was Hirohito. 

But fascistic expansionism isn’t what we’ve got taking shape now, at least, in my humble opinion. The daily brawls in Washington are in part the reflection of a large contingent in the American polity that want to reclaim control over what happens to them, opposing the borderless world of free movement of money and people that suits the upper economic strata. But Washington is just show biz, the actors there at the beck and call of the donor class, that handful of people and businesses that coughed up a billion or so for the 2016 campaign to both Republican and Democrat. And, as sure as we sit here, the agenda of the donor class ain’t the Deplorable agenda. The reconfiguration of life will either come with the founding of political parties not in the pockets of the Davos people, or it comes outside the political and institutional apparatus of the country altogether. The former might be preferable to the latter.

[2] When I was a kid, two Institutions that I dreaded were the Institution of marriage and the institution of the Alabama State Fair. Like the American Institution of Marriage, the Alabama State Fair was a huge disappointment since the games of skill were always rigged. For example, the basketball toss was an illusion to create the impression that the basketball could actually go into the basket when in reality the diameter of the basket was smaller than the diameter of the basketball and at an angle so that the basketball would invariably roll out. The ball toss game was also rigged. You could knock down one or two ceramic jars, but never all 3 jars since the Carnie would lock the third jar in place with a wooden peg. So even if you knocked down two of the ceramic jars, the best that you could do for your $5 bucks was to win some cheap 5 cent pink crap toy. This is basically what the US election system is like. It’s just like the Alabama State Fair.

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