Letters to the Editor
by AVA News Service, December 28, 2010
THE EAST COAST BLIZZARD
What a glorious, glorious old time blizzard!
It is sooooo beautiful, and the plows can't keep up with the drifts.
In returning from Manhattan, where I went to see the film “Social Network” with Howard B., I boarded the D train around 8:45 pm which then decided to go on the N tracks. And then, just before arriving at my station (Bay Parkway) where I was to switch to a bus under normal circumstances, it came to a stop. And we sat. And sat. Two hours later, with people in my car starting to grumble (and none more than the great conductor, Joanna) she was finally able to get through on her failing radio — they prohibit cell phone calls to Control (I thought I was in “Get Smart”). They said the switches were frozen stuck (it wasn't THAT cold out). I offered to pee on them to steam them up and sought volunteers.
Suddenly the announcement came that the train would move slowly up to the next of the 9 trains stuck in a line, and after another 1/2 hour we were all able to walk through our train and into the next one (surprisingly, no one fell through the gap!) and walked the gauntlet through the entire train to the very last door which just barely reached the back edge of the station.
And so I ran to the bus stop to catch the #6, but of course there were no buses running. So we walked, our small D train army — after using the toilet in a friendly Chinese restaurant. And walked, and walked. As I said, it was cold and windy, but glorious! Cars strewn all over the roads and abandoned, plows unable to clear the streets fast enough, the burning stench of rubber — or is it polyvinyl something-or-other? — filling the air from the futilely spinning tires.
Around 2 miles of trudging later I made it home -- 1:30 a.m.
Here's a poem I wrote years ago, as fitting today as ever, from my book “The Permanent Carnival”:
Plowing The Snow
In Brooklyn, snow is plowed soon as it falls. Uninspired monitors measure every inch.
What is the name for snow, you who so adeptly sweep aside the beauty as though there's nothing to be learned?
Do you know the true names of things? What is it that gushes but does not weep?
In Brooklyn, moon is clogged with drizzling soot. Beneath the boardwalk, a man stares up between the cracks.
What is the name for touch, you who so adeptly sweep aside all warmth
as though there's nothing to be learned? Do you know the true names of things? What is it that dies but is reborn?
In Brooklyn, rush-hour milieu crushes into the trains, transport to boredom MetroCard Gold
What is the name for movement, you who so adeptly sweep aside revolt
as though there's nothing to be learned?
Do you know the true names of things? What is it that moves but goes nowhere?
In Brooklyn, Giuliani sweeps the streets of loiterers. If you are not at work you are arrested.
What is the name for freedom, you who so adeptly sweep aside the homeless as though there's nothing to be learned?
Do you know the true names of things? What is it that produces but never owns?
In Brooklyn, it snows too quick to be removed at once. Alternate side of the street parking suspended today.
Mitchel Cohen, organizer with the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party, currently Chair of the WBAI radio (99.5 FM) Local Station Board*. (*For ID purposes only)
Brooklyn, New York
NUTCRACKER IS BETTER
Re Eric Bergeson's “Bad Christmas Music,” one question: Does Bergeson only open his ears at Christmas time? It ain't any better the rest of the year. The answer is to close yourself off at home with your own records or iPod or whatever. Besides, all those default Christmas songs are best sung yourself with friends or family, the ones who don't mind all the Christian symbolism. I recommend as an antidote any good orchestral rendition of the NutCracker suite. You won't hear Tom Petty trying that.
PS. Everything is iconic now. Thanks to media abuse, the word has gotten diluted, become almost meaningless. A similar thing, in 1988 when my friend's 13 year-old son was tapping away on the Mac Plus, I complimented his typing speed. He turned to me and said, “I'm an awesome typist.” When I suggested that “awesome” might be best reserved for things like a supernova or a 7.9 earthquake, he just looked blank and went back to his typing.
Superlatives in general have been ruined. You can't even get “small” or “medium” size eggs any more, just large, extra large and jumbo.
“Iconic” is coming to mean merely famous or well-known, or even, just “known.” But that's not the essence of my annoyance. It's the remarkable lack of creativity and awareness that now characterizes what calls itself journalism. NPR is especially irritating on this because it purports to speak to and for smart people, when in fact, it caters to a smug yuppie element that thinks it is smart but echoes these clichés without question.
Is there anything or anyone out that is not “on the ground”? At the end of the day, on Wall Street or Main Street, that is? Iconic phrases, If you will.
It was with some amusement that I read Mark Scaramella's article, “4850, 5150...187?” in the 15 December 2010 edition of the AVA.
True, I could have been more brief in my remarks before the Board of Supervisors. But the truth remains that the two issues I raised should be serious concerns for both the Board of Supervisors, who are struggling to rein in a runaway budget, and the Retirement Board, that heretofore had been the private fiefdom of former, long-time county treasurer and pension fund administrator, Tim Knudsen. And there's nothing funny about that.
My first concern is for a forensic audit of our pension system.
Our pension system, also known as the Mendocino County Employee Retirement Association (MCERA), illegally diverted $9.6 million in county contributions from the late 1990s to 2006. This 9.6 million was written off as a complete loss during the 21 July 2010 meeting of the Retirement Board.
Additionally, the $9.6 million was added to about $40 million in previously undisclosed liabilities that the Retirement Board manufactured out of thin air in an accounting scheme known as “excess earnings.” The IRS has other names for excess earnings... “capitalization of expenses” and “improper revenue recognition.” Theses schemes have landed the likes of Bernie Ebbers, of MCI Worldcom, and Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, of Enron, in federal prison for long sentences.
Taken together, the $9.6 million in diversions and the $40 million in excess earnings adds another $50 million to our county's unfunded pension liabilities. In other words, that's an extra $50 million that taxpayers will have to pay for twice.
You read right, twice! In the future, when Mendocino County issues more Pension Obligation Bonds to fund an approximate $130 million in unfunded pension liabilities, $50 million of that $130 million will have been paid twice by taxpayers.
And that's a crime, which is why I would like to see a forensic audit.
The other alternative is to file a taxpayer lawsuit. Either way, taxpayers and the people of Mendocino County deserve some justice. This is an especially critical issue as the Board of Supervisors cuts essential services, like public safety, public health, and mental health, in a desperate effort to balance its budget.
For more information, go to www.yourpublicmoney.com .
My second concern, as noted in my interview before the Board of Supervisors for the vacant Retirement Board seat, is for reform of those cases known as 4850 (after a relevant section in the government code) that come before the Retirement Board. These cases are known as “medical retirement due to a service-related injury.”
With all due respect, Supervisor John McCowen was naive in thinking that these cases are decided by the Retirement Board strictly on the basis on statute and case law, or strictly on the merits of the case, like medical evidence.
In truth, they are often political favors.
Sheriff Tony Craver got his medical retirement because of hemorrhoids and weak knees — an “injury” sustained because he weighed over 300 pounds and sat at a desk for most of his career. Meanwhile, it is rumored that Interim Sheriff Kevin Broin was medically retired due to the “stress” of being defeated by Tom Allman in the general election for Sheriff, and having to work as a subordinate after the election under Tom, when once, in fact, Tom had worked under Kevin for many years.
Currently, Undersheriff Gary Hudson has applied for medical retirement due to the “stress” of being fired for beating up his girlfriend last June. Yup, you read right. Gary Hudson is saying that his employment at the Sheriff's Office caused all his troubles.
Sounds sociopathic, doesn't it? Spend some time in the Mendocino County Courthouse, and you routinely hear rationalizations and excuses like Gary Hudson's all day long, especially in domestic violence cases. Blame the victim. Blame the kids. Blame your employer. Blame your financial circumstances. Blame your drug or alcohol habit. Blame anybody or anything, but don't blame yourself. Perpetrators rarely blame themselves. They rarely take responsibility.
And yet, I've heard that our Undersheriff is now threatening to sue the county if the Retirement Board doesn't give him his damn 4850. For crying out loud, Gary Hudson pulled his girlfriend's hair out by the roots. I saw the UPD police report.
Bruce Anderson? Mark Scaramella? Readers of the AVA? Are you mad yet?
Me? I'm madder than hell.
Thank you very much for the article on California's wine country. This will provide me more information in my campaign to inform others about the industry's impacts on the environment, and the price the rest of us — including plants, animals, soil, water — really pay for those impacts. I've lived in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties most of the past 30 years, and the impacts have been devastating — entire ecosystems destroyed. One such area is the sprawling industrial vineyards along the west slope of Mt. St. Helena, vineyards that wiped out many rare plant populations and contributed pollution to the Maacamas Creek and Russian River watersheds.
As you note, this might be a bit more palatable if all that wealth were somehow returned to the communities, but really, not much of it has been. And politicians like Mike Thompson are as corrupt and deceitful as politicians can be — touting free trade yet making certain that he and his millionaire vineyard-owning cronies make obscene profits at the expense of the North Coast environment.
POT CARDS A BARGAIN
The day before Christmas, yesterday, I received my Cannabis Cards that I'd ordered from Mendocino. I got them for $10/set — wholesale price. Each set is supposed to retail at $20, but I'm not sure how that will go.
I wanted the cards for myself because I like Fred Sternkopf's Dr. Doo, the cartoon that appears every week in the Advertiser. My plan was to keep one set, give one for Xmas, and take the 4 remaining sets 3 blocks up the street to sell for $15 each and get my $60 back. But I changed my mind when the order came.
The Priority Mail envelope was addressed to me in Sternkopf's handwriting — I recognized it from Dr. Doo. The envelope contained seven sets of cards even though I'd paid for only six. Included was a letter from Fred. The un-creased 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper had a gold seal of a marijuana leaf at the top. His note below kept a straight-edge line but the lettering had the same organic bounce as his lettering in Dr. Doo. I'm framing it.
The Cannabis Cards are brilliant — 9 color caricatures — portraits, really — of historic figures including Queen Victoria who enjoyed cannabis, and Pancho Villa who enjoyed it as much as she did but he also used marijuana to get through the revolution. Queen Victoria had been using it for menstral cramps and she never quit.. Every person in the set had had a healthy relationship with cannabis. The 11 cards (2 cards for a portrait list, plus cannabis facts and ordering info) came in 3X4 zip-lock baggies with an embossed gold seal of a pot leaf to fold over the top of the baggies with some class. The individual cards themselves are encased in indestructible plastic that is immune to coffee stains — or bong water for that matter. The cards are made to last.
It's not only Fred's dead-on caricatures of famous people that made the cards for me. On the backs of each card is stuff Pebbles Trippet dug up about the person on each card — notes she wrote about their lives and about the association they had with marijuana. I like this quote Pebbles found for the Lenny Bruce card: Bruce died from an overdose of police.
If it sounds like I'm pushing these cards, it's because I am. In his note to me (part of the reason I'm framing it), Fred invited me to be a San Diego rep for the Cannabis Cards and that's what I plan to do. I'm going to take the cards around to the various dispensaries in San Diego. That may be it, rep-wise, even though my wife keeps telling me to get a job. I tell her I've never been good at sales and she says I'm just plain lazy and using that as an excuse. I had to admit I'd never tried selling anything legal.
I'm keeping the sets of Cannabis Cards Fred sent me — one one set for myself, one to show the pot dispensaries, and I'm giving the rest to friends. They're too good to flog. They are something.
Lots of publications — NY Times, Smithsonian, Berkeley & SF freebies — feature links to share articles via the internet. Mr. Parrish’s wine industry expose has the potential to go viral and needs wide distribution. Santa Cruz has many organic craft vineyards. But plenty of kowtowing wine snobs give Napa-Sonoma and San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles in the South Bay far more admiration than these politcally connected megacorporations are due.
Thank you for the spotlight on Wine Inc. and their rapacious practices.
I recently read in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat of a man convicted of his 19th Driving Under the Influence charge. He was sentenced to six months in jail or a six-month rehabilitation live-in program. He was sent home for the holidays only to be arrested a few days later for possessing alcohol.
I was recently convicted of my fourth driving under the influence charge, my first felony. I was sentenced to two years in state prison, suspended for 180 days +90 days for violation of probation for a total of 270 days in county jail. Upon release I am required to participate in a six-month rehabilitation program. Then after completion of that 18 more months of Alcohol and Other Drug Program participation and 18 months of Lucky Duece, multiple Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week, one year of electronic monitoring bracelet which detects any alcohol in my system including mouthwash, deodorant etc. and 5-1/2 years felony probation which includes drug testing.
I was willing to do this. However, since I am not a marijuana grower or independently wealthy I cannot find a rehab center to accept me due to my being an insulin dependent brittle diabetic. There is no way in hell I would be able to work, attend these meetings and pay rent. Therefore I must go to prison for my two-year term.
I know what I did is wrong. I am perfectly willing to accept the consequences of my actions. I'm very lucky that no one was ever hurt by my actions. I thank God every day for that. I was pulled over for my latest DUI for not having mirrors on my doors.
My point to all this is: how can one man get a rehab offer for a six months in county jail for a 19th DUI and another man be forced to prison for his fourth DUI, a man who has a disease he has no control over (diabetes)? The consequences need to be the same for this charge. Another woman killed two people while driving under the influence and got three years in prison, one more year than I'm getting. And I never hurt anyone in my “careless” escapades.
Willits/Mendocino County Jail
One of my sons sent me a few copies of the AVA for Christmas. I have some comments about news reporting. The Kent State Incident could have been reported as “Protesters attack National Guard.” Since I was in the USAFRes, I guess that there were more students in the National Guard than there were among those protesting.
News folks love to tell of the “Pepper Spray Case.” Why wasn't it reported as the “Illegal Sit-In Case?” In the several trials the video showed that the police said that they didn't want to injure anyone by using metal cutters or torches. The video also showed that the protesters were given a half an hour to consider that pepper spray would be applied to their eyelids. The protesters said to go ahead. They were removed from their illegal sit-in. In the last trial the protesters were given a whole dollar in damages. Meanwhile, the city of Eureka and the County of Humboldt got stuck with the expense of the shakedown attorneys.
Oh, how newspeople loved telling about the Rodney King beating. They never said that a huge man, high on PCP attacked the police. When the case went to trial the video was shown. It included the attack by Rodney King. It also showed that the other occupants of the vehicle complied with the police. The jury saw the whole truth and the policemen were released. Then came the riot. It was caused by the news folks who refused to tell the whole story.
If you choose to tell a story, please tell the REST of the story, like Paul Harvey used to say.
Ed reply: Bullets for rocks most places is considered an unfair exchange as is permanent eye damage for inconveniencing a political office holder. Rodney King pounded with fungo bats by a half-dozen cops AFTER he was subdued was considered excessive force by most people. Where's your sense of proportion, dude?
1) to make or cause to appear foolish or ridiculous, 2) to render absurdly or wholly futile or ineffective, 3) to allege or prove to be of unsound mind.
I had no idea; I thought it meant something like emotionally blocked or quashed. One of my most literate friends had never heard it used the way Websters has it. There is this scene in the Social Network where Zuckerberg is upset that someone is showing a video of Niagara Falls at a Caribbean-themed party--he feels stultified. I am convinced this nerd is on a mission to stultify the world with Facebook, as a projective reaction formation, creating what he abhors, as some kind of revenge for whatever made him neurotic. Think of all the scams and spams, double clicks to no where or an unwanted destination, false choices you don't want or don't know what you are choosing, pop-ups you can't click out of, vague, nonsensical and nonexistent directions. Where do I send my bill for all my wasted time. I'm calling for an anti-stultification campaign, starting with committing Facebook suicide. My 16 year old niece did, telling me it was stupid and a waste of time. Think about it.
US v. THOMPSON
There was a curious “Letter to Editor” in last week's paper (self-titled “Tax Cuts for the Rich”). I say “curious” because it was so right about the craven idiocy of extending the Bush Tax Cuts for the obscenely wealthy and yet so wrong about thanking Representative Mike Thompson for his utterly meaningless no vote on the final bill.
The writers were apparently unaware that Mike Thompson voted against the initial House bill, which was the real attempt to end Bush's tax cuts for the financial elite. This was before Obama capitulated to Republican threats, when the Democratic majority in the House was trying to do the right thing. But back when it mattered, when there was a chance to actually do something about it, Mike Thompson voted with the Republican bloc, against this attempt at fiscal sanity. (Thompson was one of only 20 Democrats to vote against the corrective bill, Ron Paul was one of three Republicans who voted for it. Ron Paul is a lot better on the issues than Mike Thompson.)
Grover Norquist, the Kochs, the Cheneys — all the greedy sociopaths who got exactly what they wanted, yet again — these are the types who should be thanking the tassel-loafered somnambulist from St. Helena. The rest of us need to smarten up about who is really on our side. The first step to breaking the chains of oppression is to correctly identify your oppressors. Mike Thompson is the problem, not the solution.
Beyond the Deep End (Navarro)
PETS FOR VETS
Do you know someone who feels lonely or isolated or perhaps is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome? Oftentimes pills and counseling don't help. But canine therapy does. Indeed, a companion dog can be the best medicine.
Mendocino County shut the doors at its Fort Bragg animal shelter last August. My volunteer group, Support Our Shelter (SOS), rescued several dogs whose very lives were threatened by that closure. We have them in foster care now, but they deserve permanent homes. One such canine is “Bernie.” I believe he would be a perfect four-legged prescription, a partner in helping someone heal psychological wounds.
Bernie is a 60-pound black and tan Heinz 57 — youthful, confident and well trained. He walks well on a harness, loves any kind of exercise and is kennel trained. He's outgoing and affectionate with everyone. But for some reason he doesn't like unaltered male dogs.
If you call me at 937-4837 I will be very pleased to arrange a meeting with Bernie. He'd be overjoyed at the chance to find his own person to live with and love.
PS. I am the founder of the Mendocino Coast Humane Society, the State of the Ark thrift store and I work as a registered nurse at the Mendocino Coast Hospital in Fort Bragg. I served five years in the US Navy's Nurse Corps.
Ye Editor of Ye AVA:
A word to Diana Vance (whose letters I find amusing and interesting) and to your readers re Catherine the Great, or Catherine the Second, as she always corrected people.
Yes, Catherine ruled Russia and Potemkin, for a time, ruled Catherine’s passions. But in the end it was Miz Catydid who gave the orders and called the shots. The problem was that Catherine was Great (Mae West’s immortal take) at least partly because she was at her desk and on the job, with one cup of coffee in her, by 7:30 or 8am at the latest, but that meant early to beddy and Potemkin was keeping her up balling till all hours and Sweet Cate need her sleep. So she rustled up a very important job some distance away (I believe in the newly-acquired Crimea) that could only be done via his massive organization and administrative talents and she appealed to his patriotism and loyalty to help out. He did, but he got her to allow him to select the “secretary” who would keep her company while he was away, selecting (approved) a nice young fellow who could secretary and also be sociable and be counted on to fade when Potemkin was occasionally in town.
So mostly everybody, as usual, lived mostly happily ever after.
Always happy to be of information.
PS. I particularly enjoyed “The Statue of Nathan Hale” by Mark Twain. If he were alive he’d be writing for the AVA. Or perhaps he’s being channeled.
Memo of the Week
A Message from your CEO
To All Staff
2010 has been an exceptionally difficult year with reduced wages and benefits, lay-offs and overall service reduction. Throughout this time, all of our County staff continue to work even harder serving our clients and the community. It is your energy, caring and commitment that makes this County so special.
I think we can count on more tough times ahead this next year. County administration will do everything we can to update you as we learn about changes to our overall budget and county services. Please know we continue to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
In closing, I would like to express appreciation for all you do on a daily basis. May your holidays be rich with family and friends. May next year bring a stable, sustainable and more enjoyable workplace for all.