Off the Record (May 11, 2016)
by AVA News Service, May 11, 2016
WE'VE WATCHED Mendocino TV's film of last week's KZYX board meeting. It wasn't as wild as first reports described it, apart from a certain Mr. Wright's flip-out. It would help if Wright would write down his complaints so the rest of us could evaluate them for ourselves. His unhinged public behavior is, to say the least, off-putting, whatever his beef is.
WRIGHT'S COMPLAINT seems to be about Robert's Rules of Order, violation thereof. First off, Bob's Rules of Order are unknown to everyone except, apparently, Wright, and members of the United Nations for their plenary sessions. Second, it's simple to conduct a lightly attended public meeting without imposing 18th century parliamentary procedures to ensure that everyone gets heard. A small organization like KZYX ought to be able to conduct legal business without a lot of barely understood fol de rol.
KZYX'S new station manager, Lorraine Dechter, is a smart, capable person who has made it clear that the station's books are open to anyone who wants to look. She inherited a large deficit and years of ill will accumulated by her predecessors, among them a vaguely repellant character called Stuart Campbell, who was mercifully passed over for the manager's job he was desperate to get. Ms. Dechter will undoubtedly have to deal with this guy's attempt to undermine her, but she seems like she can fend off the creeps that seem synonymous with public radio. The station's sad history and present difficulties are not her fault, and why Wright felt he had to disrupt the board meeting as he berated her and her trustees seems way out of line, and calling the police to eject him was certainly the wright (sic) thing to do.
KZYX is indeed in a deep fiscal hole, thanks to the prior management of the enterprise, but it's unlikely to re-build membership and replenish it's depleted treasury if the public continues to have the impression that the whole show is a rolling outpatient program. Ms. Dechter just got here, for god's sake. Giver her a break.
USED TO BE that public lunacy got you sent to the time out room, the one with the outside lock on the door. Today, the asylum is open air and, in Mendocino County, lots of inmates have their own radio shows.
TINY CASE in point: I clicked on Public Radio Mendocino County the other morning as I tidied up my room to Marine Corps specs — bed tightly made with no Irish pennants visible; walls unadorned save for a single depressing poster of mankind strapped to a nuclear bomb as mankind gnaws at his bloody wrist to be free, and artistically-rendered Christian crosses, the whole of it cell-like and perfect for rest. Kinda crazy, I confess, but comfortable.
SO, the program was Dr. Richard Miller droning on with a guest chronophage about the kind of non-dilemmas faced by narcissists — 24 steps to self-knowledge, 11 and a half steps to therapeutic group gropes etc, the kind of advice only people with endless time on their hands might possibly find useful. Or interesting.
THE CALLS were varieties of crackpot-ism, the kind of remarks that make you want to put on your hiking boots and kick the caller in the arse through the phone line. And kick yourself for turning the sound up to hear how wacky this or that comment might get. Mostly, the calls to Dr. Miller that morning weren't crazy enough to be interesting.
BUT ONE CALL was fascinating. The guy said he was 78 years old and that he'd just discovered he suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder and was now on a "ritalin-like" drug to help him focus.
I WAS SUSPICIOUS. The guy sounded a lot younger, and nobody I've heard of at age 78 would be put on speed to help them pay attention, although for all I know half the Boonville Senior Center is on prescription Tweek. Hell, I'm 76 and I can't imagine anyone even noticing or caring whether I'm paying attention or not. Few people, in my experience, pay any attention whatsoever, a fact of life you can prove for yourself in any social situation by mumbling insults like, "Glad to see your wife is still trying to keep up appearances." If the other person happens to be one of the rare payers-of-attention and truculently snaps back, "What'd you just say?" Come right back with, "I said your wife looks wonderful."
SO I'M LISTENING to this radio geezer saying how Ritalin is helping him pay attention as I wonder if the caller is just having some fun, having us on, as the Brits would say. But I know that's impossible, that in Mendocino County only someone with a refined and spirited sense of fun would call in an irony-free program like Miller's claiming to be an old man on an ADD drug. BTW, Miller's guest blandly remarked that non-medication might be better for the old boy's self-alleged condition, but whatever.
COMMENT REGARDING our recent Hemingway movie review passed along to us by a loyal reader: “My father Rene Villarreal worked for Papa Hemingway in Cuba for more than 20 years. In the new Hemingway film there were a lot of creative liberties taken with the story and perhaps 'Based On An almost True Story' or 'There May Be Some Truth Here,' would be a better way to introduce it. Hemingway’s support group and friends in Cuba were ignored because 'they' did not fit the story line. Hemingway’s long-time friends in Cuba were an intricate part of his every day life and activities on the island. The best part of the movie for me was being able to see the [Hemingway] Finca, where I grew up and played with my brothers. It was also great to see the scenes of Hemingway on his boat Pilar in the bay of Havana. I have seen those images in my private family collection of Hemingway photographs as well as in numerous books and documentaries, but never in color film." — Raul Villarreal, Gainesville, Florida”
IN MAY 2014, Senator Elizabeth Warren talked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. “From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is: Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill. I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me, ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.'"
FORT BRAGG SCHOOL people are so unhappy with Superintendent Chuck Bush and three members of his school board that they held an early morning demo at the district office last Friday. To emphasize parent and staff unhappiness, lots of parents will keep their children at home Friday, which will cost the district a big slug of ada (average daily attendance) money. Few staff dared demo as they fear retaliation from Superintendent Bush, but they say they were with the parents in spirit, if not the flesh.
THE COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, Ukiah, seems to have stabilized under interim director, Mary Jane Montana, who told the Supervisors last week that she has developed goals and made changes that have begun to allay the widespread fear among animal people that the Shelter was a shambles, the dogs and cats not properly cared for.
THE BEST Shelter discussion was definitely saved for last. Ms. Mountanos (the Mountanos' hoped to become non-profit proprietors of the Shelter) went well over her allotted three minutes, and when the Supes gently invited her to please wrap it up, she refused, rambled on, and finally handed the board clerk a thick sheaf of paper buttressing, she apparently thought, her remarks.
THE LAST SPEAKER was Mr. Mountanos, a large, bald man who bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Clean. Since the Shelter really is improving, Mr. M's latest inquiry concerned missing Shelter funds — where are they, why is no one being honest about them, who took them, how much was taken? Mr. Clean put the amount at north of a hundred thou, a preposterous number given the modest cast flow at the Shelter.
WHEN rhetorically challenged by Supervisor John McCowen and CEO Carmel Angelo to produce evidence of large amounts of missing money, there was silence from the Mountanos claque. Ms. Angelo tried to explain that an investigation had taken place, was completed, but the County was "not at liberty" to talk about it — being a public entity. Supervisor McCowen commented that Mountanos was not helping his case — “whatever it was” —and that an impromptu public debate was not going to take place at the Supe's meeting.
BY THEN, everyone was ready to make for the exit. But before that happened, the Supes encouraged Shelter staff to keep on keeping on. Mention of the need to begin examining the possibility of re-opening the Coast Shelter was made, but Supervisor McCowen repeated that requests for proposals was closed and no new would be considered.
STEVEN JOHNSON, an attorney with the Mannon-King-Johnson law firm in Ukiah, appeared before the Supervisors last week. Johnson claimed that Mendocino Redwood Company had been wrongly taxed by the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District. (The County collected the fire protection tax for the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District and is thus in a legal position of possibly having to return it if it wasn’t kosher.)
LAWYER JOHNSON arrived at the podium during public expression and asked for ten minutes to argue his case. Board Chair Dan Gjerde, after consulting with County Counsel, said he preferred ordinary procedure, i.e., three minutes and routine denial of MRC’s claim — followed by whatever legal procedure MRC chose to follow up with. Johnson, deliberately oblivious, launched into a high-speed recitation of County regulations, reading them outloud as he followed the text of a series of arcane regulations in front of him with his finger, spraying the room with “pursuants” along with “code section” this and “code section” that as he went.
JOHNSON might as well have been reading from an Albanian wedding manual. Lawyers are always appearing before elected bodies to rattle off legal citations that may or may not apply. Johnson ran way over his allotted three minutes when Chair Gjerde finally intervened. “I get your point. We have your declaration.”
UNDETERRED, Johnson kept firing pursuants and code sections, finally seeming to wind down with a lucid threat: “If the claim is denied, we will file a suit against you,” but, having startled everyone awake with the threat, resumed firing pursuants and code sections.
Gjerde: “Your time is up, sir.”
Johnson: "Pursuant to section 28..."
Gjerde: “Your time is up.”
Supervisors John McCowen and Dan Hamburg, in unison: “Mr. Johnson, please!”
JOHNSON had exhausted his pursuants and, sputtering a final code section, sat down.
MRC says the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District overcharged them $9,834 for parcels that Johnson (and MRC) insists are not taxable by the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District. He may be technically correct. But, (1): MRC still expects firefighting services from the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District on mutual aid; (2): The billionaire Fisher family could afford $9,834 for fire protection and the friendly community relations with their local fire department the write-off would buy them (3): Johnson’s pursuant attack on the Supervisors at several hundred dollars per hour will eat well into whatever MRC may get back from the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District, and (4): the nicey-nice public relations image MRC is trying to project in the outside world is being undermined by really dumb pr out of what looks like petty retaliation against the fire district that initiated the initiative that would declare MRC’s hack-n-squirted trees to be a fire danger and public nuisance.
INTERESTING story in the ICO of 29 April where we learned that Point Arena is broke. Among America's smallest cities at 449 citizens, few of them entirely sober — and with a minimum 3 (count 'em) persons remaining on the city council, only one of whom was elected, it's difficult to reliably turn out a legal quorum to do business, let alone deal effectively with fiscal crises. With a budget running $130k in the red, and the tiny town's sewage treatment plant requiring major sludge removal also estimated at $130k, for a total of $260k in red ink, and a part-time city manager that costs PA $50,000 a year, and an underused commercial pier also running a deficit, Point Arena's future is sobering, so to speak.
POINT ARENA was incorporated during Prohibition as much of the rest of Mendocino County went dry. PA and Fort Bragg went on pounding it down, but unless PA incorporated the good times were over. The fog eaters quickly organized as a town with its first city council voting unanimously to keep on drinking. Both towns, incidentally, also boasted several maisons de joie, institutions that guarantee a lively after hours life. Have a few drinks, visit the girls, and call it a day well-lived.
SO, CLASS, PA was determined to keep the County's blue noses at bay while the veins on their own noses throbbed bright red and turned purple. They incorporated, and the little town did just fine until Mendolib's first wave, most of whom made their way in the drug trade, and here we are today with 234 registered Democrats out of 256 registered voters — Billeryville!
INTERESTING historical note: Point Arena's sludge pond had to be fenced in 1970 because one rare warm afternoon a gang of disoriented hippies was spotted skinny dipping. (You could look it up.)
FORMER FIFTH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR Joe Scaramella remembered Point Arena’s incorporation from the time he grew up there: “Mendocino County was voting dry. The saloonkeepers in Point Arena felt that if the county went dry and Point Arena was not incorporated, Point Arena would be dry like the rest of them. My father wasn't a saloonkeeper then. He was involved in other things. But he was totally sympathetic with the notion of incorporation. He wasn't a citizen yet, so he couldn't vote or participate politically or officially. The saloonkeepers circulated the required petition. They brought some alcohol drinking workers in to live in the local hotels to establish residency and they got everyone who was sympathetic to sign up. Mendocino did go dry. There were no saloons in Mendocino County. So if you wanted a drink you pretty much had to go to Fort Bragg or Point Arena. "
LAST WEEK there was a brush fire at the neo-hobo camp south and a jog east of Fort Bragg's Noyo Bridge. It's a beautiful spot overlooking the picturesque Noyo Harbor. If the city established a sanctioned campground at the site the city would never lack for paying customers. As is, well, the "homeless" have open air rooms with million dollar views.
"HOMELESS" is how Mendocino County (and America) defines the free range drunks, drug addicts, petty criminals, and untreated mentally ill who live outside. None of the boys and the occasional girl enjoying the Noyo overlook, for instance, one or more of whom undoubtedly started last week's fire, is homeless out of misfortune stemming from the ruthlessness of free enterprise. They are homeless because their behavior is beyond even the loosest standard of social acceptability.
THE CLINICALLY insane among the homeless should be hospitalized and treated. The drunks and drug addicted should also be sequestered in hospital settings that might wean them from the substances that have destroyed them. Instead, we have an array of non-profits run by highly paid "helping professionals" that provide just enough sustenance to ensure that the ever increasing numbers of people unable or unwilling to help themselves are allowed to destroy the public commons.
THE LEAST that mercenary charities like Ukiah's Plowshares and Fort Bragg's Hospitality House could do for the "homeless they are presently helping to remain drug and alcohol dependent, would be to require that the "homeless" earn their freebies by working as public clean-up crews a half-day or so, at the end of which they get a free meal chit. A requirement like that would send the most shameless deadbeats on the road outtahere. In lieu of mandated treatment for craziness, drug addiction and alcoholism, which we are unlikely to ever see again in this country, small towns like Fort Bragg and Ukiah ought to get at least a little something in return for the conversion of their towns to open air outpatient clinics. No work, no food.
BRUCE McEWEN WRITES: As a veteran of Hospitality House, I can tell you it is a program that I am grateful for. But as a transient from another state, I think it’s useful to note that I was the only one at the shelter who had, much less even wanted, a job. And all the others, save one, were locals. One other out-of-state guy was there, and he ended up being hired by Hospitality House, and still works for them. They new better than to hire any of the locals, it seemed. Very few street people want a hand up. A hand up to what? Some shit job that pays so little you have to struggle, scrape, worry, and scrounge every waking minute of your life just to pay the exorbitant rent and utilities — with absolutely nothing left over? People are smarter than that. The attitude of everyone I knew at Hospitality House was fatalistic but pragmatic: “If I’m never going to get anywhere in this system of rackets and users, then screw it, let’s go sit under the Noyo bridge, crack open a stovepipe and light a joint!” There are no decent jobs in Fort Bragg or anywhere else. They all went to places like Utar Pradesh and Islamabad. And where is this restaurant where you can earn enough to live on, Ms. Grace? Geesh, you couldn’t rent the basement of an outhouse on what they pay a prep cook or dishwasher. And after you work your way up to line cook after three years (waiting for the guy ahead of you to die, because he can’t afford to retire), you’d have to steal food from the restaurant to eat because rent would take all your pay. It’s all over, the myth of the “productive member of society” has been blown up, and those who continue to struggle and strive are soon to hit the streets as well. Better to have a facility to handle them, and since they will be downtown anyway — where else can they go? — The cops roust them out of every other place — might as well be the old hotel.
WHEN THE 9 MENDO judges pushing the new County Courthouse nobody but them needs or wants, they suggest that it won't cost anything, like the hundred mil the thing will cost will fall from the sky. We predict the new County Courthouse nobody wants or needs will cost more like $2 mil by the time their majesties are ensconced in it. But judicial construction money doesn't fall from the sky. It isn't free money. Most of it is public money derived from court fees, traffic fines and fines imposed by the courts for this or that infraction.
THESE FINES and fees have become exorbitant, and a lot of them are obtained by jailing people (holding them for ransom, essentially) while they scramble to pay them. Or they simply remain in jail until the debt is written off.
EVERY DAY there are several people booked into the Mendo County Jail for "probation violation" or “failure to appear” or “failure to pay.” Which means they haven't paid a ticket or fine. This is how new courthouses that nobody wants or needs are financed.
A MARCH 16, 2016, “Dear Colleague” letter from the Office for Access to Justice of the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, addressed to state and local courts lays it out: “Recent years have seen increased attention on the illegal enforcement of fines and fees in certain jurisdictions around the country — often with respect to individuals accused of misdemeanors, quasi-criminal ordinance violations, or civil infractions. Typically, courts do not sentence defendants to incarceration in these cases; monetary fines are the norm. Yet the harm caused by unlawful practices in these jurisdictions can be profound. Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape. Furthermore, in addition to being unlawful, to the extent that these practices are geared not toward addressing public safety, but rather toward raising revenue, they can cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal and erode trust between local governments and their constituents.”
CINCO DE MAYO is the kind of ethnic celebration the Santa Rosa Press Democrat can really get behind: [Headline] “Where to find the best margaritas just in time for Cinco de Mayo”
RECOMMENDED READING, kind of. Although most of us know generally what happened to the California Indians, few of us have gotten the grisly specifics as scrupulously documented by Benjamin Madley in "An American Genocide — the United States and the California Indian Catastrophe."
HERE IN MENDO COUNTY, site of the state’s most appalling and systematic slaughters, the prevailing impression is probably the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, repository of the happy papoose paintings brilliantly rendered by the eponymous Grace herself. The net impression is, "Once upon a time, long ago and way before State Street and the Ukiah City Council, a race of smiling brown people lived here. They were very good at making baskets. And then, like, they, like, kinda disappeared."
THE UNTOLD part of the unhappy first interface between ol' Whitey and Mendocino County's Native Americans that frosts me every time I read it is Hastings School of Law, origins of. (The first pale faces to arrive in Mendocino County were heavy on criminals on the lam from other parts of the country. They were not liberals.) Every day we read about campus demos demanding the removal of statues memorializing men who did bad things to black people and Indians. Why Serranus C. Hastings is still honored as, of all things, a law school, ignores his true legacy as mass murderer. Would the University of California dare call its hospital the Joe Goebbels School of Medicine if Goebbels had left a hefty bequest?
FROM the chapter of An American Genocide called Perfecting the Killing Machine: "…Serranus C. Hastings gave Governor Weller a petition drawn up by Round Valley colonists. It requested militia support against local Yuki Indians… Major Johnson reported to Weller that 'the Yukas have not been, for the last two years, nor are they now, at open war with the whites; but the whites have waged a relentless war of extermination against the Yukas’."
"AS WELLER pondered his options, stockman Walter S. Jarboe organized 'the Eel River Rangers.' Jarboe engaged men to hunt Indians, promising them payment from the state, or if Sacramento failed to pay, from the operation's extremely wealthy mastermind, Judge Hastings, who owned an Eden Valley ranch and may have wanted to eliminate the Yuki in order to protect his stock…" (Jarboe lived on to become Ukiah's first cop)
THE ABOVE IS A SANITIZED version of Hastings’ true role in Jarboe's year-long campaign to ethnically cleanse the Eel River drainage. (And well-documented elsewhere in less scholarly works.) In living fact, Hastings, California's first state Supreme Court judge, had appropriated all of Eden Valley (south and a little west of Covelo) where he raised fine horses, having disappeared the native people who had made the valley their home for aeons prior to Hastings' catastrophic arrival.
HASTINGS EMPLOYED a 6'7" psychopath called Texan Boy Hall as his Eden Valley ranch foreman. Hall had promised a group of Indian men that if they carried Hastings' household goods from Mendocino to Eden Valley the Indians would get the rough cloth shirts they coveted. Humping the judge's stuff over the old Indian trails from the Coast through what is now Laytonville and on over to Round Valley and then Eden Valley would not have been an easy gig. But when the Indians had completed the move, and Hastings had his ranch house nicely furnished, Texan Boy Hall told the Indians, "Thanks, fellas, but no shirts. Beat it."
IN RETALIATION, the Indians killed Hastings' brood stallion. Hastings quickly got his pal, Governor Weller, to hire Jarboe and his "rangers" to kill every Indian they could find from Covelo to Eureka.
UPON HASTINGS DEATH in 1900, the old killer donated a million dollars to the University of California. The university then named its law school after him.
OSCAR DE LA HOYA, the great boxer now retired, says Trump cheated during a golf game at Trump National Golf Club in LA. "Yes, I caught him,” De La Hoya said. “It was unbelievable. Donald, what he does, he tees off first, so we go off to our balls and what do we see but Donald Trump right in the middle of the fairway. He said, 'Hey look, I found my ball.' On the next hole, Trump hit into some bushes and went ahead in his cart. When the rest of the group got to the green, Trump's ball was 3 feet from the hole."
TWO MONTHS AFTER Coastal Commission Director, Charles Lester, was fired, staff abruptly changed course and recommended approval of a plan to build almost 900 new homes and a hotel near Newport Beach. Staff had recommended rejecting a larger version of the project and, four months later, Lester was outta there.
A RUSSIAN-BORN GANJAPRENEUR named Malenkov was arrested and I asked a few people if he was related to the former Soviet premier, and not one person had heard of Georgi M., Stalin’s successor, Khruschev’s predecessor. It’s good to have a memory, but it’s lonely. — Fred Gardner
COAST HOSPITAL will delay a parcel tax increase ballot initiative until June of 2017 to avoid appearing on a ballot with a bunch of other tax proposals. Hospital management promises fiscal austerity until then.
DECRIMINALIZATION of marijuana will be on the November ballot as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. (Lt. Gov Newsome is the main force behind it.) If the Act becomes law it will be legal for adults, arbitrarily defined as persons 21 or over, to possess, and/or sell and transport less than an ounce of pot.
ASSEMBLYMAN JIM WOOD, the middle of the road extremist from Healdsburg, seems to have been loaded himself when he came up with a silly measure that would enable landlords to exile pot smokers much as they do the Nicotine People. Wood says it would spare families from smelling reefer smoke. Wood's AB 2300 magnanimously excludes pot-infused edibles and oils.
FRESH OFF saving his constituents from marijuana smoke, our hard-hitting solon announced that he was creating a "legislative task force with the authority to quickly come up with statewide strategies and policies for curbing the use and misuse of painkillers."
WAY TO PRIVATIZE, MENDO! $46.8 MILLION is the figure the Supes will mull over. It's the amount the County has spent on its privatized mental health services over the past three years.
HELL, call it $47 mil, but also call it an irrefutable argument for Sheriff Allman's proposed central psych center, our very own in-County nuthouse, not to put too fine a point on it. Obviously, for the spectacular amounts of money being spent annually on invisible services for the mentally ill, a County-run facility could be accomplished for much less.
OBSTACLES? The existing top heavy existing mental health apparatus for sure and, perhaps, the Supervisors themselves who will be reluctant to battle the existing apparatus.
DEPARTMENT OF UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR: The lead story in last week's ICO by my old pal Chris McManus, is called, "Cinco de Mayo sign defaced by vandal with political agenda." The horror, the horror! Someone had scrawled "Trump" on the poster! The indignant remarks cited by Ms. McManus in her story of the atrocity are hilarious. "Can't believe it happened in this community!" "Immature." Norma Orozco took it even farther: "This should be treated as a hate crime and investigated. This is not OK and I am saddened and scared for my community." Hey, me, too. It's sad and scary that people can be terrorized by an insouciant "Trump" scrawled on a poster for a silly holiday in lieu of, say, celebration of the Mexican Revolution, a serious event that warrants real celebration.
IF THE MENDOCINO REDWOOD COMPANY has spent the $197,000 they confess to spending to prevent passage of Measure V, where are they spending it? Apart from a few ineffectual ads in local publications (except this one, of course) MRC's anti-V effort is invisible.
MEASURE V is on the June ballot. It will pass easily as voters will agree that it's bad mojo to leave standing hundreds of chemically-killed, non-commercial trees. Enhanced fire hazard, poison runoff, imperiled firefighters and so on make the practice untenable for the neighborhoods surrounding MRC's vast holdings. The irony here is that apart from their commitment to industrial chemicals, MRC's forest practices have been otherwise far superior to their predecessors, L-P and G-P.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING, kind of, maybe, like, one thumb up: Hologram for the King, based on the novel by Dave Eggers, the movie starring a lethargic Tom Hanks. I liked the novel because I like Eggers' work generally, and I liked the novel for the same reason I kinda liked the movie because you get a travelogue-like look at Saudi Arabia, about which I, like most people, know little-to-nothing. The movie, filmed in the Kingdom of Saud, provides lots of interesting visuals which, of course, do not include the weekly executions for violations of the King's law. (Steal something? There go your hands. Love the wrong person? Both of you get your heads lopped off. Political objections to The Great Satan? Here come the Saudi hijackers and there go the Twin Towers.) The movie is faithful to the novel but goes from one episode to the next without much, or any, explanation of how we got from trying to hustle the Arabs for a big techno-contract to a love affair between Hanks and an improbably beautiful Saudi doctor. (Hey! It's an American movie. Everyone is improbably good looking.) I thought the scenes shot in the Saudi palaces and some of the desert shots were worth the follow-the-bouncing ball of the story line.
I MIGHT BE the last person to know about two excellent documentaries produced by ESPN, 30 for 30 and Fantastic Lies. 30's about the insane heir to the Dupont fortune who murders an Olympic champion wrestler named Dave Schultz. (This documentary film serves as a factual answer to the fanciful Hollywood version of the same events called Foxcatcher. Dupont, a frustrated athlete, created a miniature Olympic Village on his Connecticut family estate for wrestlers and swimmers and, as time passes, gets crazier and crazier, his paranoia apparently exacerbated by cocaine. When Dupont starts carrying guns around the estate and shooting at imaginary menaces he also begins complaining about Schultz, a true friend to him and obviously nice man who you wish would have gotten the hell outta there when it was clear that Dupont was over the side. Dupont finally wigs out completely and shoots Schultz, a family man with a young wife and two small children. Schultz thought he could handle DuPont's craziness, but… It's a fascinating story of how much more dangerous rich nuts can be than poor nuts, the largest example of dangerous rich nuts being our government.
FANTASTIC LIES is another ESPN doc that tells the depressing but emblematic story of the Duke University Lacrosse team falsely accused of racist rape. A totally unprincipled DA teamed up with the usual campus "activists" of the malignant type who are on perpetual red alert to hurt someone, and anyone will do, especially white males. Duke's spineless president and faculty jump on the accused even before charges are filed, and jump harder when a corrupt cop and the lunatic DA finally bring charges based on falsified dna evidence. The three falsely accused Duke lacrosse players are nearly destroyed, and would have been destroyed if they were poor. (Only one lady journalist eventually said Sorry.) The DA was eventually disbarred and sent to jail for a symbolic day. The corrupt cop had the integrity, finally, to kill himself. The sorry chain of lynch mob-like events was set in motion when a deranged black woman claimed she was raped by the rich, white, privileged degenerates, youth division, who'd hired her to "perform" naked. The young woman's aunt is on film all along warning anybody who would listen that the young woman is "not right in the head." Natch, nobody, least of all the great speakers-of-truth-to-power on the Duke campus. My only beef with the film is that it didn't question any of the lacrosse jocks about why they thought hiring a black stripper (or a white one) was an acceptable way to amuse themselves. The stripper, by the way, went on to prison for shooting and killing her boyfriend. Duke paid a fortune in damages to the falsely accused.