Off the Record
by AVA News Service, June 3, 2010
LAUREL KRAUSE of Fort Bragg has done the amazing. She's managed to breathe new life into the search for truth in the Kent State Massacre of May 4th 1970. And Laurel has done it from her home in Fort Bragg. She's got plenty of incentive. Her sister, Allison, was among those shot and killed on the Kent State campus forty years ago. No one has ever been held accountable. Who ordered the National Guard to appear at the school with live ammunition? Who ordered the shooting? Why wasn't there an investigation? Laurel's Kent State Truth Tribunal is aimed at getting answers; if not the answers, answers that will move us closer to the truth of what happened. Laurel set about this formidable task by lining up some heavy hitters as sponsors, including the late Howard Zinn and the present Michael Moore. She then arranged for a comfortable site in downtown Kent where people could record their memories of that fateful day. No Guardsmen have appeared yet, but the new testimony Laurel and friends elicited is an important step in the direction of drawing some of the truly guilty to talk for the record. “We expected maybe 50 personal narratives,” Laurel said of the commemorative event, “but nearly 80 witnesses showed up to speak their truths.” Much of what transpired was broadcast live on Michael Moore's website and Laurel herself was featured on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now radio program. All of it is available online at truthtribunal.org with follow-up events tentatively scheduled for either Los Angeles or San Francisco in late July and one “in the early fall in New York.”
A YOUNG MOMMY wrote to the Chronicle recently with a child-rearing question: “How do I explain to my children why that man is allowed to pee on the sidewalk and that man is allowed to yell at people and be drunk without getting in trouble?” Short answer: “Daddy sometimes has a real bad day, Jason.” Long answer: Collapse of Western Civ. Intermediate answer: Nobody is allowed to pee on the sidewalk and nobody is allowed to menace passersby. There are laws against it, but it happens a lot because standards of public behavior have disappeared and the cops are so overwhelmed by bad public behavior of all kinds they can hardly be bothered. Hell, I'm old enough to remember when women wore hats and gloves downtown, the men wore suits. Everyone looked very cool, like George Raft and Betty Davis. Even the bums wore suits and fedoras. Today? The cops arrest people all the time for the kind of public boorishness that established itself with the first hippies on Haight Street more than fifty years ago when, to make their mommies and daddies really, really angry, the hippies, all of whom were the illegitimate sons and daughters of a handful of pioneer North Beach beatniks, flaked out on Haight Street's sidewalks. Mommy and Daddy were duly annoyed. There were calls for the cops to “clean up the area,” and the cops duly tried to clean up the area, and a good time was had by all during the riots that duly ensued. The Haight Street sweeps were led by a legendary cop named, as I recall, Art Gerrans, easily the Bay Area's all-time premier hippie basher; he was both a rhetorical and literal hippie basher. Gerrans would personally lead the Tac Squad's charge down Haight, promiscuously swinging his fungo bat baton, smashing everyone slow to move. “Those love beads are going, going gone! Outtahere!” The guy was a case, so extreme his kids probably all grew up into hippies. Fifty years later, the spiritual grandchildren of the 'original 67 exhibitionists are out there. It was a tired act in ‘67, but to most us nothing more than other minor urban irritants like gratuitously rude bus drivers, 40-year-old skateboarders, the tubercular loogies of Chinatown, and the people who pick whole bouquets out of the public parks. Many times, I've stepped over six-packs of yellow-fanged street oafs; a couple of times when fights seemed imminent the bicycle cops arrived to make arrests. To me, taking the long view, I lived in the Haight in 1963 when it was quiet and cheap and convenient to the rest of the city, and I lived there again in 1967 during The Summer of Syphilis and Hep-C when the cheap rents and convenience brought in the hippies. By '67 Haight Street was a round-the-clock mob scene. Which is what it has been ever since. Nothing has changed except the demographics. The city is a lot richer than it was, and the middle-class finds it unpleasant to step over their children to get into the trendo dress shops and groove-o shoe emporiums now characteristic of The Haight. Inevitably, with high end shoppers and shopkeepers complaining about the layabouts, the mayor has introduced a sit-lie ordinance which, if passed into law, and it’s allegedly supported by more than 70% of Frisco’s population, will give the cops the rousting authority they already have via existing law. This thing, though, would give the cops the authority to arrest people doing nothing more obnoxious than lying on public sidewalks in the festering heaps fashionable with some able-bodied young people since '67. But how prevalent is Slobbo to begin with? About as prevalent as the traveling urinator and the doorway defecator, I'd say. It happens but not enough to pass new laws against it. Anyway, given that the jails are full, and given that the cops are usually busy with more menacing criminal behavior, Slobbism, with or without sit-lie, would be a low police priority. The last time the incidence of sidewalk slobs roused mass neighborhood indignation the Hells Angels materialized one weekend with a simple message to the slobs: Leave or Die. That worked for a while but there’s always a fresh generation of derelicts in from the national suburbs, and the vision of motorcycle thugs, often cited with approval by today's sit-lie partisans, is one more tiny piece of evidence that millions of Americans yearn for the jackboot — in someone else's face, of course. The people lying around other areas of the city these days are drunk or immobilized on dope or nuts to the point of incompetence. But on Haight from Ashbury on into Golden Gate Park all the way to the tennis courts, you walk a long gauntlet of people you'd just as soon greet with a flame thrower. The cops, by simply being visible, can instantly dry up the whole show, or at least send it scurrying into Golden Gate Park’s battered bushes. What’s new about the discussion, though, is that some of San Francisco's supervisors, the so-called “progressives,” argue that the proposed sit-lie ordinance is unfairly aimed at the poor and the homeless. Not true. It's aimed at assholes who think it's funny to lunge their pitbulls at passersby. One self-alleged progressive, a dim supervisor named Campos, said the sit-lie ordinance would mean kids couldn’t set up lemonade stands and travelers sitting on their luggage waiting for the airporter could be arrested. This moronic stance, the ancient tactic of reducing even the most reasonable proposition to its absurd max, assumes that most cops are crazy, itching to throw innocent people into the can. The cops in San Francisco these days are a polyglot, multi-ethnic, gender-diverse mix of 5’7” chubs; I haven’t seen a large, psycho-looking, psycho-acting cop in San Francisco for many years, but then I'm not out at night much. There was a time in America when there was a national consensus on standards of public behavior, but these days the slightest misdemeanor interference with the publicly obnoxious is so aggressively resisted by “progressives” you don't have to wonder why they've absent on the big stuff, like money and power in the city. The progressives have built more high end housing than the old pols thought possible but they're right up front that it's somehow humane to allow crazy people to die free on the streets. Anyway. Why is there even an argument about a hostile kid with a barely controlled dog blocking a sidewalk so everyone else has to walk around his fetid ass? Haight Street, regarded from The Slob Factor, seems unchanged to me, although the seemingly obligatory pit bull is a relatively new wrinkle. The real issue in the city, apart from the fundamental one of power arrangements, is the large number of visibly insane people wandering around. What kind of society doesn’t take care of the deranged? Ours, for one. Tiny example: The other morning on Clement Street between 7th and 8th, a crazy guy, about thirty I guessed, was walking rapidly west. Every few yards he shouted out obscenities at invisible provocations. Crazy Guy was angry, and he was large enough to make him doubly menacing, although he was clearly oblivious of his surroundings and seemed unlikely to pause long enough in his forced march to Land's End to choke anybody out. Old ladies, most of them Asian, are out early shopping the fresh fruit and vegetable bins of Clement; they immediately took cover from the bummer-in-transit, shrinking into doorways, and we all watched him go his bellowing way to make sure he stayed gone before we resumed pawing through the snap peas. Objectively, it wasn’t a big deal, but multiply that guy by a few thousand doomed souls wandering San Francisco’s finite neighborhoods, a few pitbull punks on Haight, the usual muggers, and prevalent bad public manners, what you get is a frightened general population, and when people get scared bad political things happen.
THE STORY IN THE CHRONICLE began, “The brash owner of the Point Reyes Light who put his normally meditative readers into a state of high anxiety has sold the newspaper to what essentially is a no-profit company, raising hope among the ink-stained of a new era in financing for print media.” The Bay Area media never liked Robert Plotkin, but Plotkin made the Point Reyes Light into a much better paper every which way, from its look to its content. As a friend pointed out “meditative” in the context of West Marin is a synonym for solipsistic and, of course, Marin is world headquarters for that. I know Plotkin a little bit and sympathize with him a whole lot. He immediately ran afoul of West Marin's herd bulls, including the paper's previous owner, a Pulitzer Prize winner to whom Plotkin not only refused to defer, refused to take seriously which, to me, means Mr. Plotkin was a man of sound instinct. The Pulitzer, by the way, is official confirmation that a paper is harmless. Every once in a while a small paper will get one and everyone else in the media goes, “Aw, isn't that cute.” Besides which the media are like a perpetual Little League banquet, everyone gets a trophy. Sure, a deserving soul occasionally gets one but the thing is so promiscuously doled out it means nothing beyond a lot of log rolling among the kind of “journalists” you see on Sunday morning’s Dead White Man shows. No exaggeration, I’ve never met a single person who watches those things, and the only person I can think of who might find them interesting is Pete Golis of the Press Democrat, that daily dose of print chloroform Golis presides over from his Broder-like Sunday editorial chair. Didn't the PD win a Pulitzer not long ago for a feature story about a toddler and his collie running through a summer lawn sprinkler? Plotkin, I'll bet, got tired of the coffee house unemployables you find clustered like fruit bats in “liberal” communities telling him how to do his paper, so he sold the Light to a committee of investors led by, actually, a very good writer named Mark Dowie. But a committee? We’ll see how long that lasts. West Marin being demographically identical to Mendolib, can you even imagine what a tediously correct newspaper a committee of Mendolibbers would produce? Transcribe a day’s worth of KZYX and you’ve got your answer. Plotkin got a bad rap. West Marin, and the Chronicle, seemed to resent his doing things his way, and all the media gasbags, large and small, ganged up on him from the day he bought the Light. As Plotkin himself put it, “Sadly, West Marin did not want editorial excellence...They wanted a newspaper that would record their births, celebrate their accomplishments and habitually congratulate themselves on living here. But most of all, the neo-romantics of West Marin took themselves too seriously.” From that statement you can see why he annoyed people because it's only partly correct, the correct part being about how West Marin takes itself so seriously. A community-based paper ought to do the little stuff and the big stuff, from birth announcements to the perversion of the tax-supported local public radio station. Newspapers are about to become extinct because they no longer do either one, if they ever did, but Plotkin gave it a pretty good go, snide post-mortems aside.
RECOMMENDED READING: Early last year an insistent local public radio lib got mad at me for refusing to print a long article she'd written on the assassination of Martin Luther King. “I thought you printed everything,” she said while I wondered why she didn't just read the thing on her own air time if she thought her assessment of the case was so important. I didn't print it because it not only would have needed at least an hour of my flagging editorial attentions to get it even into semi-coherent shape, it was also completely wrong put up against the known facts of the case. She thought the King murder was a conspiracy involving (of course) the FBI. Liberals think the FBI has a hand in all political crimes, and that agency, especially under Crazy Edgar, certainly was out to shame and humiliate King. But they didn't kill him. There are several reputable books on the murder of King, all of them pointing to one cunning race man, James Earl Ray, as acting alone. Just out is Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides. It's the best researched book on the case yet, I'd say, and I've read most of them, I think. I gave up on Kennedy assassination lit because there's so much of it, it overwhelmed my pretty little head. I was serially convinced. Each book got me saying, “Yep. That's the way it happened” until I read the next book and put it down saying to myself, “Yep, that's the way it happened.” It finally occurred to me that I was hopelessly lost in the mountains of conspiracy theories. The books on the King case, however, all point to one guy, Ray. Unlike Lee Harvey Oswald, Ray survived long enough after the event to make it clear, despite a lot of primitive references to mystery helpers that Ray rolled out for television shows, that Ray acted alone. Or almost alone. Sides, who grew up in Memphis not far from the scene of the crime, makes it clearer than clear that Ray, probably helped with some of the logistics by one of his brothers, shot King all by himself. The Ray boys were occasional bank robbers; a few months before the assassination it was believed to be them who got away with about $25,000 in a bank holdup in St. Louis, which was a lot of money in '68. It was that cash that got Ray out of the country after he shot King, although later the conspiracy-minded elaborated endlessly on the theme of: “How could a dumb ass redneck, a career jail bird, pull off something that big all by himself?” Ray was no dummy, and he was actively political in George Wallace's presidential campaign and other race-based efforts revolving around the Klan types. Ray also took King personally, right down to inscribing his portable television set with the epithet, “Martin Luther Coon.” But as Sides makes obvious in his meticulously researched and detailed account of Ray's peripatetic life when he wasn't in custody, if Ray was the tool of larger forces the plot would have been a lot slicker than Ray's frenetic, and very lucky, before and after behavior.
LAST WEEK, Ukiah Daily Journal Editor K.C. Meadows reported the results of the UDJ’s request for who gets how much from the County’s pension system. Meadows broke the pensioners down into $5,000 increments starting with those who get less than $5,000 and going up to $50,000. Pensioners getting more than $50,000 were listed by name. As Meadows’ title said, “Most county retirees get less than $15,000” (575 of the 1066 to be exact.) The bottom 400 pensioners get less than $10,000 a year, which, taken together, totals less than the amount taken in by the top 54 pensioners who get over $50,000 a year each. Generally, those who retired years ago, don’t get much pension, and those who retired recently as Mendo Big Shots (or senior cops) get quite a bit. The top 54 pensioners take about $3.7 million per year out of the pension fund, half of which is contributed to by the County and half by the employee during their years of service.
IN ASCENDING ORDER, the top 54 pensions are: Jeff Jacobs $50,443, Julie Thornton $51,201, Ron Caudillo $51,242, Bill Rantala $51,519, Steve Duman $51,960, Barron Hankes $52,318, Charles Boyer $52,475, Dennis Miller $52,874, Joseph Toste $52,918, Jim Kolesar $52,989, Irene Lange $53,095, Richard Wiseman $53,808, Charles Hudson $54,104, Ella Castiaux $55,054, Karen Miltenberger $55,983, Charles Foltz $56,001, Susan King $57,014, Allan Gialdini $57,550, James Miller $57,599, Floyd Lawrence $58,583, Ron Parker $59,468, Al Beltrami 59,825, Darrell Forrester $60,138, Jerome Jacobson $61,163, Ed Walsh $61,752, Charles Bone $62,308, Dave Koppel $63,531, Greg Sager $64,030, Mack Ford $65,238, Laurence McCarthy $65,465, Dave Basner 65,675, Gene deGeyter $66,003, Duane Wells $66,091, Dennis Lucido $67,540, Ray Hall $67,695, Frank Rakes $68,779, Pete Halstad $70,444, Roberto deGrassi $71,697, Carol Whittingslow $72,984, Tim Knudsen $74,267, Don Miller $76,269, Michael Melvin $79,742, Marsha Wharff $85,385, Steve Prochter $88,218, Steve Satterwhite $88,365, Richard Drury $86,081, C Campbell $87,249, Dennis Huey $91,403, Bob McAlister $91,710, Phil Pintane $96,858, Don Miller $100,199, Dave Bengston 106,317, Peter Klein $109,424, Tony Craver $119,643