Off The Record
by AVA News Service, November 16, 2011
IF YOU BUY one book this year, the book you won't go wrong paying cash money for is Frank Bardacke's just released “Trampling Out The Vintage,” the first book I've read in years that lives up to every pre-release superlative applied to it. It got me right from the first page, and it's been years since I read anything that has captured my scattered attentions so thoroughly as this history of the United Farm Workers, not that “history of the United Farm Workers” even begins to describe this riveting book's fascinating contents. If Bardacke had introduced himself as Ishmael and proceeded to write in the first person we'd be talking about a novel right up there with Moby Dick. Trampling Out The Vintage is not only the best all-round book ever written about farm labor that I'm aware of, and I've read all of Carey McWilliams and the rest of the factories in the fields books, this one is the kind of true history that reads like a great novel, with a large cast of fascinating and often improbable characters, plus the first detailed descriptions of farm work ever written, and intimate portraits of large figures like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, the late Walter Reuther, the Kennedys, Chuck Diedrich and the so-called human potential movement, Catholic mysticism, campesino theater, and on and on. Everything related to this great movement is in this book, including it's entirely readable history of farm labor struggle pre-dating Chavez. Bardacke, fluent in Spanish and a former farmworker himself, has devoted his life to Trampling Out The Vintage, and he really has achieved an absolute masterpiece, an accessible masterpiece, too, not a dry history that has you nodding off at the introduction (Bardacke's intro is worth the price of admission by itself) and dead asleep a couple of pages in. If you think I'm wrong about it I'll refund your purchase price.
LAST WEEK we published another story having to do with Fort Bragg's burgeoning gang problem, that goes with the gang footholds in Ukiah, Willits and even Point Arena. Here in Boonville, we have an effective program at the elementary level that counsels little kids on not having anything to do with these mopes, many of whom these days are not Hispanic but detached young white boys. Anyway, the family of one of the persons involved in serious criminal activity in Fort Bragg bombarded us with complaints that the story has exposed them to retaliation, failing to mention the serious crimes committed by their kid that has allegedly made them vulnerable. Who would have thought that a small, relatively isolated town of 7,000 people would see gang-related shootings and beatings, at least two of the latter life-threatening? Fort Bragg's thug prob will only get worse if the thugs don't get full exposure, which is what we'll continue to provide whenever we can. That hard-working every day people have to live in fear of a small group of full-time criminals simply is a very sad state of affairs. DA Eyster and the Fort Bragg Police Department are working to put the gang recruiters away, but it's a tough case to nail down because the bad guys put the fear in witnesses, and even attempt to put the fear in our intrepid reporter, Bruce McEwen, shooting him with courtroom death glares as if their felonies are his fault for simply reporting them. Yo! Tough guys! Drive-by heroes! You beat someone nearly to death in a public place people will notice. You shoot up an apartment building filled with women and children you're going to get some attention. Shooting a kid in the shoulder will raise eyebrows. And when one of your gang girls attacks another girl with an ax in downtown Fort Bragg, even the Fort Bragg Advocate might take note.
MEASURE A, the 1/8-cent sales tax add-on to fund the County Library, passed easily. The teensy tax boost, incidentally, applies only in the unincorporated areas of the County. Measure A passed by about 75% of the vote, putting it well over the required two-thirds majority and putting the County library system in the pink for many years to come. The Yes On A Committee was certainly well organized; they raised some $60,000 to get 'er done. Yes On A signs festooned every area of far flung Mendocino County, and the Yes people were personally indefatigable getting out the Yes vote.
A UKIAH GUY asked us what we thought of him paying $20 a month for garbage pick-up he never uses. We said we were happy he was paying the twenty and not us, but we agreed that the Ukiah City Council surely can't be considering a 15-year contract extension with Ukiah Waste Solutions with four years to go on the present contract?
AND SURELY the Ukiah Planning Commission won't approve that mega-expansion of a third-larger WalMart into a 24-hour affair that would destroy another large swathe of locally-based businesses?
COUNTY AG COMMISSIONER Tony Linegar has been hired as Ag Commissioner for Sonoma County. He replaces Cathy Neville who was fired by Sonoma County last March just after she was arrested for driving under the influence and had proceeded to fire her popular Animal Control chief. Ms. Neville, having righteously rolled on the lady at Animal Control, soon found her own uneven personality under close scrutiny for what was chastely described by the Press Democrat as “misconduct and incompetence, erratic behavior and disparaging subordinates” none of which, unfortunately, was revealed in their specifics.
THE $138,000 A YEAR JOB in Sonoma County is a big step up for Linegar, 45, who has been Mendo’s Ag Commissioner since long-time Commissioner Dave Bengston retired back in January of 2009. SoCo’s Ag Commissioner’s position also includes Sonoma County’s Animal Control Department; Mendo’s does not. SoCo's top Ag position gets a lot of pressure from Sonoma County’s zillionaire grape lobby, and what zillionaires want zillionaires get from mere civil servants. Linegar doesn't strike us as the kind of guy who'll take on the industrial wine lobby dominant in Sonoma County as it is in Mendocino County.
PRESUMABLY, Linegar’s Assistant, Chuck Morse, former Assistant Ag Commissioner in Lake County, will take the Mendo Ag Commissioner job, if not permanently, then at least for the time being.
(CHUCK. Whenever I hear or read that name I think of unevolved white males. Hum baby, Chuck baby. Round the horn, Chuckie kid. Don't forget to wear your galoshes, Chuckie. The only all-the-way-together-and-grown-up Chuck I've known is Chuck Wilcher, the Comptche computer wizard. All the other Chucks remind me of 1957, flat-tops, incompetent second basemen, assistant credit managers, and Rotary lunches.)
AS A BIG FAN of Tommy Wayne Kramer's Sunday column in the Ukiah Daily Journal, reading him is almost as much fun as the inevitable denunciations that roll in from outraged libs. Check that: pseudo-libs. There are after all a handful of real liberals of the non-prig type in the county. But the worst sectors of Mendolib, the self-certified ones, the censorious ones, the real stupid ones, and there are a lot of them, are very big on free speech so long as it's their speech, which consists entirely of heavily clichéd PC statements that never stray from the stultifying boundaries of received opinion. “Gosh, Obama sure is disappointing” and “Golly, war sure is bad.” But when the libs roll on TWK they're briefly interesting, their prose suddenly funny in the way unhinged prose can be funny. Obviously it's TWK's always amusing descriptions of Inland Lib's more striking follies that set off people unaccustomed to defending their jive selves existing, as they do, in an impermeable little society of lock-step opinion. It never occurs to them, of course, how oppressive they can be, how boring they are inside their tidy little righteousnesses. They don't get it, and it's the most pathetic kind of not getting it, as TWK's critics invoke their own transparently fake erudition via mentions of Mark Twain and even J. Swift, unaware that Twain's outraged essays about America's slaughters in the Philippines and Nicaragua, never mind his religious opinions, couldn't be published until long after he was dead. And Swift wrote under pseudonyms or he would have been lynched. But TWK is somehow beyond the lib pale, and here come the Warm Wonderfuls with their torches and pitchforks, and a whole lot of pretentious moral preening — “See what a high minded person I am? I'm personally offended that TWK doesn't care if the libraries close.” Emphasis on “I,” natch. Then we get the predictable allusions to the only satirists the would-be censor has heard of. “Well, gee, at Chico State my remedial English prof told me that Mark Twain and J. Swift were satirists, so this guy couldn't possibly be a satirist.” TWK is a very good writer putting down in print funny opinions about local matters that the libs would rather not read, and because they'd rather not read them they'd be delighted if none of the rest of us could read them either because, you see, they are good and you are inappropriate. TWK is a Ukiah guy known to everyone in town because he identifies himself as Tom Hine every Sunday. He's not hiding from anyone, and long may he wave, and where does that nut get off walking around Occupy Ukiah with a placard calling TWK a Nazi while badgering TWK's wife?
SPEAKING OF SATIRE — in this case beyond satire, we have a press release from the Mendocino Transit Authority telling us that MTA's boss, the perhaps mythical Bruce Richards, unseen in any public venue, including his buses, for going on thirty years, has received, “very deservedly,” the Transit Leadership Award. Reading along we discover Jim Mastin, who just happens to sit on MTA's board of directors, telling us that “Bruce has led the Mendocino Transit Authority with vision, courage and leadership. This award is recognition by his peers of his work and spotlights the MTA as a well run, forward looking authority.” Excuse me. Courageous? Well-run? Forward-looking? This thing smacked on for three nuzzlebumming pages!
FACT IS, MTA is another of these incestuous Mendo outfits consisting of the usual array of tightly affiliated non-profit hackaroos “serving” on its board of directors, the bunch of them sitting on huge public subsidies to run empty buses to places no one wants to go at times inconvenient to everyone even if they wanted to go to them. The mere drivers and mechanics are, of course, paid a pittance while Richards, Mastin and Co. erect a Taj bus barn with, of course, a big view window office for the courageous Richards. I know these are the End Times, but really...
ATTENTION TIN HAT and 9-11 Conspiracy Brigades! Congressman Mike Thompson has requested that our nation's intelligence apparatus track marijuana grown on public land because, apparently, Thompson says the pot is not only being grown by furriners, it's outta hand. Bring on the spy satellites, says Congressman Mike, and by golly watch 'em run! “We don't know what they're doing with the money, where the money goes, whose bank account it ends up in,” Thompson said of the Mexicans assumed to be doing the grows on public land, and a remark that also applies to the bankers who got the big Thompson-approved bailout the bankers are just sitting on while millions of Americans lose their homes. “They're (Mexicans) here ruining our national resources, and they're putting our citizens at risk,” a remark that might also apply to the CIA now that you mention it, Mike. David Prince, assistant special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in San Francisco declared without a shred of supporting evidence, declared, “The amount of money being generated by this activity can't possibly be happening without Mexican cartels wanting to get their hands on it,” Prince said. “My presumption is money can't be made without cartels knowing and taxing at a minimum.” Of course billions are stashed overseas by American corporate cartels so they don't have to pay taxes on it. Why not sic the CIA on them then go after the poor shlebs farming the Mendocino National Forest?
NATIONAL media critic Jeff Cohen will make a campaign stop in Caspar for his old friend and colleague Norman Solomon, who is running for Congress in the new North Coast congressional district that stretches from Marin County to the Oregon border. Cohen is the founder of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), which produces the long-running “CounterSpin” radio show, heard locally on KZYX and KMUD. He co-wrote (with Solomon) the nationally-syndicated Media Beat column and has written investigative articles for Rolling Stone, The Nation and Mother Jones. Do not miss this rare opportunity to hear Jeff Cohen talk about the rapidly changing political and media landscape and why it is important to elect a strong voice against corporate power to the US Congress. Call 964-1323 for more information.
SEVERAL YEARS AGO, the Willow County Water District, South Ukiah, issued a “will serve letter” promising to provide water for the delayed-unto-extinction Garden's Gate subdivision. Willow has now notified the County Department of Planning and Building that the deal is off, not that the proposed subdivision was ever really on. When it was finally approved the housing market had collapsed and the developer had relocated to Argentina. The subdivision, however, lives on, at least in theory, but without water it will be about as marketable as a Sahara sand concession. By the way, and depending on how you count them, there are at least nine water authorities in the Ukiah Valley as defined by Redwood Valley to the north, Hopland to the south.
WE POINTED OUT at the time that the “will-serve” letter was five years old by the time the County got around to considering the Garden’s Gate application. But the County's former Chief Planner Frank Lynch, fired in May of 2010 when he and another pathetic shlub named John Heise were found using office time and computers to watch strangers bump uglies, talked the Supes into thinking there was water for a major subdivision of 200 homes in South Ukiah when there obviously wasn't. And isn't. Nobody even bothered to check out the date on the bogus “will serve letter.”
THE RUSSIAN RIVER FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT has approved a negative declaration ("neg dec") for the increased sale of water to the Millview County Water District, currently under a moratorium prohibiting new water connections. The neg dec flew under the radar when it was circulated for comment, with not a single comment being submitted. Lifting the moratorium would make the Ukiah Valley's finite water infinitely available for development whenever that might occur in an imploding economy.
THE COUNTY WATER AGENCY WORKSHOP, continued from June, was held last week. The Scout Lake project (Willits) would expand the lake to provide a more reliable water source for the North County town, and the Lake Mendocino Feasibility Study (raising Coyote Dam) both remain alive but without any identified funding. The Mill Creek Dams east of Ukiah remains a top rehab priority. The County faces significant liability for the sediment release several years ago when a gate valve malfunctioned. The County has not taken any action to develop a long range management plan for the ancient dams now past a hundred years old. The cost to “remediate” or remove the dams would be huge and the County has no funds to pay for either fixing them up or removing them.
THE BOARD AGREED TO DROP its share of funding for the Navarro and Noyo stream gauges maintained by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). A number of downstream water rights are tied to the data collected by the gauges. The Board reasoned that those who benefit should pick up the tab.
FOLLOWING THE COUNTY'S IMPOSITION OF A 12.5% PAY CUT on the roughly 600 of its workers represented by SEIU, a bunch of those workers are talking “regime change” by voting out the incumbent Supervisors. SEIU hardliners have been emboldened by the results of the Ukiah Unified School District race where the lone incumbent was voted out and a teacher-backed slate headed by Anne Molgaard was voted in. The insurgents have promised to reduce class size by using the district's reserve funds. Superintendent Lois Nash, who pushed for building the reserves at the expense of class size reduction and a new taj mahal of an administration building for herself and her sub-drones, is probably a goner.
SUPERVISOR KENDALL SMITH, who is now the only County employee not to take at least a 10% pay cut, has announced she will not run for re-election. She decided to step down in the face of a challenge from Fort Bragg Councilman Dan Gjerde. Stand by for a gratuitous comment. Ready? Go! If Coastlib paid even the slightest attention to the Supervisors, Smith, and Patti Campbell before her, both of them grossly incompetent, would have been one-termers. Of course it's nearly impossible to pay attention to local politics in a County where there's exactly one media following it.
AN ELDERLY MAN was walking home one night around 2am when a police officer stopped him and inquired where he was going. “I'm on my way to a lecture on alcohol abuse and the effects it has on the body and soul, plus some additional information about smoking and staying out late,” he said. The cop was skeptical. “And just who might be giving such a lecture at this hour?” he asked. The man replied, “That would be my wife.”
OCCUPY SAN FRANCISCO, unlike Oakland and New York, occupies a swathe of concrete that nobody cares much about, if anybody cares at all other than the descendants of Justin Herman, after whom the alleged plaza is named. A bulldozer and pavement guy all his days, the site is appropriately named after the man who brought us the freeway stretches of Geary Boulevard. The Occupiers' orderly camp of a hundred or so brightly-hued tents is an aesthetic enhancement of the otherwise dank and unwelcoming first but final block of Market Street before arriving at the indoor mercantile splendors of the Ferry Building. Give the devil his due: Willie Brown got some good things done as mayor, the Ferry Building and the re-done marvel of City Hall among them. The new mayor, of course, is the joint creation of Brown and a Chinese battle axe called Rose Pak, the latter the driving force behind a jaw-dropping boondoggle of a subway project running a mere 1.7 miles from Union Street on the north end of Chinatown to the Caltrain station south of Market. The economy will have collapsed before this thing gets fully underway, and in the mean time tough it out on the 30 Stockton, and if there's anybody tougher than an elderly Chinese woman it's two elderly Chinese women, and the 30 is pretty much a mosh pit of the old girls during daylight hours. But that's no excuse for building a whole subway extension to get them the easy walk to CalTrain faster. Occupy SF is pretty sedate put along side Oakland, but new mayor Mr. Nice Guy will probably sic the cops on it pretty soon. The other day I joined a circle around a young, articulate Egyptian woman (our young tend to be verbally handicapped with their glottises repetitively stuck on the adverb “like") in a half-hijab who was lamenting the half-stifled Egyptian spring as the army and the fanatics tighten their grip on her country. I began to ask a question when the woman next to me said, “You'll have to be empowered first” and handed me a stick as I flashbacked thirty years to a Green Party meeting here in Mendo where I wound up grappling with a fascist hippie for an asparagus fern that would have “empowered” me to speak if the meeting's “vibe watcher,” another goose stepping counterculturist armed with a flute hadn't tootled me into silence before I'd won full possession of the fern. Saturday, a larger Occupy Frisco gathering was bogged down in a call-and-response session with the speaker getting out half a sentence then pausing while his or her half sentence was chanted back at him or her. I noticed that the grey beards of both genders soon drifted off in frustration, as I did. Yo! Occupy San Francisco! Call and response does not enhance communication. It frustrates it. Do I need to repeat that a couple of times? Oakland has, or did have before the cops broke up the camp, amplification systems and, from what I hear, no call and response. Overall though, I'm all the way for the Occupy Movement, and with fresh provocations every day I'm confident it will grow. But I think it's time now to work out a statement of what we're after and then, when the weather turns, gear up for an all-out Occupy offensive, occupying government at all levels to bring the beast to a halt until the 99% are satisfied. There's already a broad consensus on The Prob, and soon it will time to do something about it.