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Off the Record (July 8, 2020)

IT'S BEEN A FEW YEARS since a majority of Mendo voters were compelled to mail-in voting, but then Trump and his lock-step Congressional yobbos began yowling that "ballot harvesting" could steal elections. That would take some effort and savvy organization but it's certainly doable. I don't quite see how mail-in fraud could be pulled off on the scale Trump will need to get himself a second term, or Biden would need to find his way out of his basement and into the White House, but right here in Mendocino County many local races could easily be swayed by five or six hundred harvested ballots — even fewer in down-ballot contests for school boards and other purely local races.

AN INTERESTING DOCUMENTARY FILM about the Oakland Police Department called "The Force" appeared on KQED Television the other night. Much of the focus was on the earnest and highly capable Chief Sean Whent who'd worked his way up from patrol to the top spot only to be removed by Oakland's highly irritating mayor, Libby Schaaf, because, it was alleged, Whent tried to cover up a "sex scandal" involving a number of his young officers. Schaaf, lips righteously pursed, made it sound as if the cops had gang raped and murdered the young woman involved, the oldest young woman, by far, in the entire Bay Area at the time. 

BEFORE AND AFTER WHENT, the Oakland top cop was here today, gone tomorrow, one guy lasting only two days before Schaaf, looking like her dog had just been run over, said he’d "been involved" in an affair with another officer. (Gasp!) Yeah, yeah, cops should be as pure as fresh snow, but so long as they reputably do their jobs in the impossible context of an imploding society, so bleeping what?

USED TO BE an interesting column on ethics in the old Esquire magazine where the author posed an everyday kind of moral dilemma of the type we all face at one time or another. The ethical question required the reader to wonder what he would have done in the same circumstance. The col inspired lots of interesting answers, which inspires me to confess what I'd have done if I'd been mayor of Oakland during the sex scandal that got Whent fired. 

FIRST OFF, I would have considered the town fortunate to have someone of his caliber in the job, maybe "counseling" him to emphasize to his young officers that consorting with a prostitute, no matter how alluring, had got to stop. If they didn't stop, well, they'd been warned. The media, natch, played up the saga of Ms. Guap as if she was Snow White at age 8. Schaaf is still mayor, which seems to me an electoral miracle given her record, and I lost track a long time ago of how many police chiefs Oakland has gone through.

LOOKING at the old photographs of long gone Mendocino County, one photo that stuck with me was the arch at the south end of Ukiah announcing "Gateway to the Redwoods," since moved north on 101 to Willits where, some years ago, I was involved in a stunt that didn't come off. 

GORDON ‘THE TOE’ TOVANI, a former kicker for the Oakland Raiders, tried to get permission from CalTrans and the Willits City Council to boot one over the Willits Arch. I was going to be his holder and a girlfriend of Tovani's, outfitted in a bikini, would be the long snapper. "Wait 'til you see her bend over, Bruce. Hubba-hubba!" Tovani seemed more excited at the prospect of his girlfriend arrayed nearly unclothed in the middle of 101 than the kick stunt. The authorities, predictably, said No. Tovani was very disappointed. "Fug 'em," I argued. "Let's do it anyway. We can get the pictures and get outta there before the cops come." The Toe wouldn't budge. "No," he said. "We better not. CalTrans gave me some bullshit about any traffic interruption being a federal crime, and I'm too old to go to jail."

DR. FAUCI, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and as always swimming against a virtual outgoing tidal bore of nuts and naysayers, including the lunatic in the White House, announced last week that the U.S. could start seeing up to 100,000 infections every day. There are currently about 50,000 reported infections daily. And climbing. A hundred thou would be more than double the current infection rate. "I think it's important to tell the American public that I'm very concerned because it could get very bad," Fauci said.

WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE get their alleged "news" from Facebook these days, and worse, many Facebook readers don't even click to read the whole post, let alone click to read any linked article - they just rush to post their already established opinion based on the first few lines. Facebook couldn't be more divisive, couldn't be worse at spreading "telephone game" type misinformation and encouraging people to be rude and nasty to their neighbors if it was designed that way. There's been some suggestion that all the big corporations pulling their advertising dollars from Facebook right now should instead consider advertising in their local newspapers. Now there's a suggestion I endorse! (Jennifer Poole, Willits Weekly, Willits.)

ANON ON-LINE COMMENT re no coronavirus at Mendo Jail: "Lies, there has been corona virus at the jail. They are not testing so there are no positive tests. It's a farce and manipulative to claim zero cases when the inmates know different. Why doesn't this blog talk to inmates and get the truth. Cut and paste news releases from the Sheriff is just propaganda. How about some real reporting."

THE DEFENDANT COMMUNITY makes a lot of wild charges, but the above is untrue. From the Jail's recent press release: "5/15/20 – Tested 70 inmates for COVID-19. All neg.”

GOVERNOR NEWSOM has ordered all bars, indoor restaurant operations, movie theaters, and museums to shut down in 19 counties on Wednesday amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Mendo excepted.

UH OH. The long, hot summer is beginning to heat up. Clay County, Florida, Sheriff Darryl Daniels announced today that he will deputize lawful gun owners to help police demonstrators "who cause destruction and mayhem."

ASKED by a Fox News reporter if he had been tested for "cognitive decline," Biden barked back at the reporter that he was a "lying dog face," an odd insult that sounded like a bad translation from the Chinese, but additional confirmation that Biden isn't hitting on all cylinders. "I don't have the word recollection that I used to have," Biden said. "I forget my train of thought from time to time. I am constantly tested. All you gotta do is watch me and I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I'm running against." 

ACCORDING to the most recent Census stats, a little more than half of Mendocino County households — 50.3 — have reported to the national data bank, while 62.9 households statewide have cooperated.

ROTE, CASUAL, CONTRADICTORY CRUELTY from Judge Cindee Mayfield of the Mendocino County Superior Court. Take a close read of Mayfield's logic here as she doomed Mark Sprinkle to more years in state prison than lots of murderers do, nevermind Sprinkle has already done 24 years of a sentence that should have ended at 16 years.

JUDGE MAYFIELD: "....whether other states sentence persons convicted of child sexual abuse less harshly than California — is not dispositive (sic) of the issues presented in the petition (habeas corpus). Even if the California Legislature has selected a penalty that is the most severe in the nation of an offense, this would not necessarily establish that the punishment is unconstitutionally cruel or unusual…"

I DOUBT that Mayfield has even read the Sprinkle case particulars. She's not stupid, which makes her casual dooming of Sprinkle even more egregious, because anybody, even a former lawyer for L-P like her, aware of the facts would see how disproportionate Sprinkle's sentence is.

ONE MORE TIME: Three girls, all known to Sprinkle, from the Ukiah trailer park where Sprinkle lived, flagged him down for a ride. One of the girls was the daughter of Sprinkle's former girlfriend whose marriage proposal Sprinkle had just rejected. This girl, who could pass for a 30-year-old pole dancer, testified that she and the two girls with her, on her cue, voluntarily took their clothes off in Sprinkle's car. What ensued was about 90 seconds of sexual touching. No force, no rape, nothing more than a couple of breast chucks and non-penetrating vaginal pats. The alleged vics testified to this account in court. But ever since, Sprinkle has been portrayed, and apparently assumed to be by judges like Mayfield who can’t be bothered with the facts, some kind of playground chomo.

SPRINKLE had been to prison before for an accumulation of petty crimes including setting a dumpster on fire. Ukiah police were tired of him, and wanted him gone. But the guy had always worked as a truck driver and, apart from his late-night escapades, had led a stable life. 

I THOUGHT it was obvious from the outset that Sprinkle's ex-love interest set him up, dangling her irresistible daughter in front of the guy. In fact it was a telephone recording between the girlfriend and Sprinkle that the police used to arrest him, a recording (I've heard it), which is open to interpretation. 

SPRINKLE rejected an offer over the alleged molestation of five years. He would have been out in three with good behavior which, not so incidentally, and another fact ignored by Mayfield, Sprinkle has established over the 24 years he's spent in the state system, most recently at Chino where docile inmates are warehoused in gyms at huge cost to taxpayers.

JUDGE MAYFIELD CONCLUDES in the high-minded prose behind which legal criminals hide their crimes, "…Petitioner Mark Sprinkle is denied on the ground that serving 24 years of a 16 years to life sentence is not disproportionate to Petitioner's conduct and does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as cruel and unusual punishment…" 

NOT DISPROPORTIONATE? Well, this is a judge who thought L-P's clearcuts were proportionate as L-P clearcut Mendocino County out of its timber employment base.

MENDO’S COZY legal club seldom challenges incumbent judges, but some need to be challenged, or at least compelled to defend decisions like Mayfield’s decision in the Sprinkle matter.

HERE IN MENDO, there are fresh covid cases but, because we're a small population of people and naturally socially distanced, and have been very good about masking up, we haven't experienced anything like a sudden increase. We also get comic riffs (unintended) from our $300,000 San Diego-based health officer, as in "People in bars are less inhibited after 8pm," hence the doctor's prescription that bars close at 8pm. 8pm? How about the shots and beer people, who are pretty much blotto after twenty minutes?

AND THE DOC'S latest health edict warns, "This order takes effect at noon Friday." Talk about yer empty threats…


  • Governor of California: $131k per year.
  • CEO of Mendocino County: $215k per year
  • Mendocino Director of Health and Human Services: $191k per year.
  • Ukiah City Manager: $226k per year.
  • Sonoma County Chief Administrative Officer $235k per year.
  • Willits City Manager: $89k per year
  • Fort Bragg City Manager: $125k per year
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci: $335k per year
  • Mendocino County Sheriff: $166k per year
  • Mendocino County District Attorney: $166k per year

AVERAGE INCOME of Mendocino County resident: $23,712 a year. Median income of Mendocino County household is $43,290 a year.

DAVID HELLER WRITES: “At the end of June of 1861, Lt. Edward Dillon left his position as Post Commander at Ft. Bragg to join his home state in the War of the Rebellion and Lt. Orlando Moore, also of the 6th United States Infantry took over. In his letter to Ass’t Adjutant General R.G.Drum of June 25th, Lt. Moore wrote: “I have the honor from patriotic motives to apply for a change of the name of this post”. As a historical note, a previous post commander, Lt. William Carlin fought against Bragg, and Lt. Dillon fought (briefly) under Bragg’s command in the War of the Rebellion. Since the names of Native American slaughterers still dot maps of the landscape in Northern California counties without similar protests, perhaps a step towards “Red Lives Matter” would be to let them name the town, they were there first after all.

A MAN named Ronald (Ronnie) Baumiester died late in June. Notice of his passing was not published, although he was a native of Mendocino County from Comptche. 


I GUESS there was no one left to go to the trouble of an obituary or, as so many people who pass without notice, nobody cared. I tried to visit him in jail but he didn't want to see me. I, for one, am sorry to see him go, not that I'm about to throw on the sackcloth and black armband. But with Baumeister's passing there goes a man who probably knew where two bodies are buried, two bodies whose life trajectories were much like Baumeister's in their marginality, but unlike Baumeister, two men who had families and friends who definitely missed them. I may be assuming too much, but I assume investigators tried to talk to Baumeister during Baumeister's periodic stays in the County Jail for public intoxication. All three men, Baumeister and the two vanished seniors, were employed by James DeNoyer at his Westport mini-ranch. Baumeister and the two old guys tried to care for DeNoyer's horses without their employer furnishing the funds and supplies to keep the animals healthy. The two old guys complained and disappeared. Baumeister kept his mouth shut and lived on. DeNoyer was tried for animal abuse and basically got away with it. Last heard from, he lives in Lake County.

WATCHED some of the president's 4th of July fandango on CNN. Pretty chintzy affair, with a few planes flying over, a half-dozen sky divers, one of whom held Old Glory upside down, and a sparse crowd looking on, many of them, like Dear Leader and Mrs. Dear Leader, unmasked. CNN's talkers, their neon teeth flashing, delivered their cliches through their noses and said nothing at all. The occasion screamed out for comment from The Wolf. "I want Wolf! Give me Blitzer!" At least with Wolfie you get some physical comedy as he scoots around the Situation Room in the big chair. Later on Saturday night, we were promised entertainment by people I've never heard of, not that my ignorance means much since I tuned out at Sinatra.

HE MAY still be with us and might, at his ancient age, be offended by my memory of the story he told me, told me as an aside, whatever the subject may have been, but whatever it was the subject didn't start out to be his wife. "She was a tall gal, almost as tall as me and I'm a little over 6 feet. I was no bargain as a husband. I always had a job but not the kind of job that provided her the luxuries she seemed to feel were her due, although she was from a blue collar family like me and should have known we wouldn't be flying off to Monaco for dinner. For a few years we got along ok, but she was unhappy and it was only a matter of time before we split the blanket. One night I split that sucker in half! What happened was this: I was trying to jolly her up. I admit I'd had a few beers. We'd been watching the X Files on tv, and I was bored, so I started singing Long Tall Sally just loud enough for her to hear. She laughed a little, and believe me the only time she laughed otherwise was when I screwed something up, like the night I fell on my face coming through the front door. She laughed for a week at that one. Anyway, figuring she was in as good a mood as she ever would be I popped what turned out to be my last question: 'Honey, there's something I've always wanted to do, but I'm going to need your cooperation.' She was instantly suspicious, but I figured what the hell, and went ahead. 'Can you stand at the end of the bed tonight and pretend you're an old growth redwood, and I'll pretend I'm a logger and pretend-chop your legs off, and then you slowly fall face-first onto the bed?' She stared at me for quite a while before she said, 'I wouldn't give you the satisfaction.' I moved out the next day. Haven't seen her or even talked to her in forty years.”


by Jim Wagoner, Minivan Traveler, <>


[1] JUST AN ELDERLY WOMAN who has been protesting against injustice against people and the land for most of my long and interesting life. I went to my first protest in 1965 when the US set off nuclear test explosions in the Aleutian Islands, a protest where I was almost run over at the Canada/US border by someone who didn’t like us blocking the border and who really liked nuclear bombs. I’ve protested against every war since then, and I’ve never stopped speaking up when I see unfairness and injustice or inequality and corruption, or when I see the planet we all depend on being ruined for greed and to support the unsustainable lifestyles that most people seem to want. It breaks my heart when I think of all the good that could have been done in this world if trillions of dollars hadn’t been spent on war and weapons used to subjugate people who don’t happen to live the way other people think they should. I think everybody should have healthcare and a decent roof over their heads, and that three people shouldn’t be able to have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the country. I live a simple life, grow a lot of food for myself and our local food bank, used to be an organic farmer before I got too old, and I’ve never been paid by a political party or George Soros or anyone else to go to a protest, even though it sometimes cost me quite a bit of money to get there. I donate whatever I can spare from my very modest income to help the homeless and support organizations that are trying preserve the earth from destruction. I’ve watched as the rich got richer and everybody else got poorer, while those in government of whatever party lived the high life and made sure their pals got to skim off the cream off while everybody else got the dregs. I’ve watched schoolkids go hungry while politicians flew around in private jets, and watched people living in the streets while others own multiple homes in different parts of the world that they fly to in their private jets. I’ve watched indigenous people and people of color and people of various religions and sexual orientations be treated as second-class human beings by those who think they’re superior to them for whatever reason they can come up with. I’ve watched women fight for the right to vote and to be able to open a bank account and get a credit card and own property. I’ve watched a good portion of the planet and millions of species be destroyed for greed and power, and sometimes even just for fun. I’ve seen the human population go from a bit over 2 billion to 7.8 billion as humans have overrun this beautiful planet and claimed nearly all of it for ourselves, with complete disregard for the needs of the other species we share it with. It’s been a long strange trip and I’m at the point where I honestly don’t care if the human species survives because we are probably too stupid to make a go of it on Planet Earth without killing off everything else, and that really wouldn’t be fair or just.

[2] NOBODY GOT SNAGGED in any undertow they did not want to get caught in. Consider: Annie Edson Taylor an American schoolteacher on her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901, became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. After she got out of the barrel she was terrified and said: ‘Nobody should ever do this again.’ The parade of fools never stopped. Including an experienced Kayaker who though he could kayak over Niagara Falls. His body was never found and the kayak took two days to wash up on shore. Then there was the guy who went over in a high tech orange barrel and was going to repeat the stunt in the Houston Astrodome by dropping from the roof of the dome into a pool of water. Once was not good enough. He died trying. So, Who knew civil disorder and civilizational decline could be so much fun? I have other ideas of what fun is and being a rebel without a cause is not one of them.

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