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Off the Record (March 17, 2021)

JUDGE BRENNAN has recused himself from the Caspar dog shooter case. Judge Moorman is now in charge of the grisly matter that managed to outrage animal lovers as far away as England. Brennan has apparently succumbed to both community outrage and the wrath of his long-time nemesis, DA Eyster, and stepped aside. Judge Moorman has taken over. 

Katie Smith

HERE'S the background: If you came in late, real late, a Caspar woman named Katie Smith became regionally infamous not long ago when, instead of taking the dog she no longer wanted to the Coast Animal Shelter in nearby Fort Bragg, she took him out into some nearby woods and shot him several times, having intended to kill him, but badly wounding the otherwise healthy animal.

DUBBED ‘Thunder the Wonder Dog’ by the woman who found him and nursed him back to health, Ms. Smith was soon identified as Thunder's would-be assassin. Animal people and non-animal people alike were shocked and dismayed at Ms. Smith's callousness, but even if she'd neatly dispatched the poor beast with a single well-placed shot, one has to wonder at her sloth in not simply driving her dog a few miles north to the shelter to give him a chance at life with a new family.

MEANWHILE, at the DA's lair behind the office's junta-like one-way glass at the County Courthouse in Ukiah and undoubtedly besieged by outraged animal lovers, the DA charged Smith with serious, jail-quality felonies that Ten Mile Court Judge Clay Brennan subsequently bundled up into a misdemeanor and no jail time. The judge did impose several years of probation with the usual restrictions and conditions.

DA EYSTER was so unhappy at Brennan's… Well, you could call Brennan's decision way too soft or you could call his decision simple humanity, a recognition that Ms. Smith, rightly denounced far and wide for her unintended cruelty — she wanted to kill her dog, not maim it — had already made herself a pariah in her community.

HAD THE JUDGE thought she'd suffered enough? Whatever Judge Brennan thought, DA Eyster, never too keen on Brennan in the first place, denounced the judge and vowed to avoid bringing cases before him. Everyone thought that was the end of it.

BUT THEN the DA had his forces of law and order visit Ms. Smith's Caspar home to see if she'd violated the terms of her probation, the primary one being that she could not own animals, not even the six chickens the probation search revealed happily scratching away in their pen on Ms. Smith's place.

Gotcha! Judge Brennan. Gotcha again, Ms. Smith. Those six chickens will force the Judge to put you in jail.

DA EYSTER would have his pound of flesh after all — several pounds — if you think the DA has temporarily lost his sense of proportion.

IN A CAESAR-LIKE blast out of his Ukiah bunker, the DA thundered, “If I conclude that the animals found today constitute a failure by the defendant to obey all laws, specifically a failure by her to obey the statutory prohibition that she cannot be around animals, we will initiate proceedings to violate her probation.”

IF THIS DOUBLE PURSUIT of Judge Brennan and the Coast pariah, Ms. Smith, is concluded according to the DA's apparent desire for twofer vengeance, Ms. Smith will be packed off for a year in County Jail for violation of the no-animals condition of her probation, and Judge Brennan will absorb another big Gotcha lobbed at him by the DA.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: The BBC crime and cop series, Happy Valley. I've watched it on KQED Television, of all places, surprised that the purple frisco positives would go for something this strong. I tuned in following a promo for “Benise, man of strings,” Yanni with a guitar. Happy Valley's acting is beyond good, as is the writing by Sally Wainright and the superb performances by Sarah Lancashire, James Norton, and Siobhan Finneran.

LAST WEEK we posted the DA & Chief Probation Officer’s demand letter that some $600k in Community Corrections Partnership money be restored to that program’s budget.

WE’D NOTED that this dispute has become even weirder. To summarize: The DA and the Probation Chief are convinced that the Auditor misallocated over $661k plus $28k in interest. Both appeared before the Supervisors to repeat their request that the money be reallocated to them, where it is supposed to go in the first place, according to them. But the Supervisors apparently believed it was being worked out and said nothing. We had assumed that the Auditor wouldn’t reallocate money on his own authority and had shifted the funds at the CEO’s behest. But DA Eyster said last week that CEO Angelo had asked Auditor Weer to reallocate the funding as the DA and Probation had demand, but Weer has so far refused without giving a reason for his refusal. The March 5 deadline in the DA’s letter has already passed without a written response from Mr. Weer. We have an email request in to Mr. Weer asking why he shifted the money the way he did and if he’s going to respond to the DA.

COUNTY AUDITOR (an elected position) Weer responded:

A written response was not sent since the DA's request was already included in the CEO Recommendations for the mid-year adjustments going to the board for their approval on March 9th. This item was posted to the county website on Thursday, March 4th.

I was surprised that the board decided not to discuss this item and instead quickly passed the entire list of CEO Recommendations without seeking input from the Auditor, CEO or the County Counsel.

There are no funds that belong to the CCP. The funds that the DA is referring to are the “2011 Realignment Revenues” that are deposited into the county's sub-account titled “Local Community Corrections” (LCC). These funds belong to the county and are under the authority of the board of supervisors, not the CCP. The CCP does submit an annual “recommended” plan of expenditures each year but ultimately, it is the board who controls how these 2011 Realignment revenues are budgeted and spent in our county departments.

And finally, these funds were not “taken” as has been stated. The funds were claimed out of the LCC sub-account by the MCSO for AB 109 Correction Deputies, AB 109 SO Deputy Liaison, and the AB 109 SST support staff. Returning these funds to the LCC sub-account means that the county's general fund will have to absorb these eligible AB 109 costs instead of using the available 2011 Realignment revenues intended to cover them.

Thank you. Lloyd B. Weer, Auditor Controller

VIRGIL NUNNEMAKER makes the irrefutable point:

Mendocino County has received $22,651,737 from PG&E in settlement for damages from The Redwood Complex Fire October 2017 that destroyed a substantial portion of Redwood Valley and parts of Potter Valley. The Board of Supervisors just began the discussion of what to do with the money.

I am appalled how many are coming out of the wood work for their pet projects to be funded with this money. This money is a pittance compared to what we lost. 36,000 acres burned and over 500 structures, about a quarter of the homes in Redwood Valley were destroyed. 9 people lost their lives. Many are still in the process of rebuilding and some will never rebuild. 

A large portion of this money needs to go to support Redwood Valley and Potter Valley. Many struggle to do the necessary fuel load reduction to make our homes safe. Our fire departments need equipment upgrades. Some of our roads are not adequate for safe evacuations or for fire personnel to access when there is another fire. After what we have been through, we deserve to feel safe again.

Please write your supervisor and the board of supervisors to be heard. bos@mendocinocounty.org

BIDEN'S $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed last week and the checks are in the mail. The Republicans were unanimously opposed, claiming they were not welcomed to the negotiating table and had no say in the massive package. Georgia's crackpot Q'Anon congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, gratuitously stalled the final vote by forcing a roll call vote on a motion to adjourn so her colleagues could “pause” and consider the legislation further. “There is no need to enslave the American people… in more debt,” she said. The American people need money now, Marj, even if it's funny money. The national debt is so vast it will never be paid. 

BUT WHERE is the $1.9 trillion bailout coming from? And won't it have to keep on bailing US out given the millions of Americans financially underwater? Don't ask, and nobody who knows will tell, but money is faith-based as the consortium of big banks known as the Fed simply punches in the numbers for whatever amount is needed to keep US believing that the ship isn't sinking.

ON THE SUBJECT of money, how is it that the County maintains a staff of at least nine lawyers, known collectively as County Counsel, but all these wrongful termination suits against the County are sent off to distant private law firms to defend? The sudden firing of Harinder Grewal alone is costing the County $350,000 for outside attorneys. Really? Is there something extra-complicated about a simple he said, she said? He said / she said is not medical malpractice or even computer fraud. And Grewal is only one of several wrongful termination suits working their way to big losses for the good ship Mendo despite the fancy private law firms allegedly defending Mendo. And from what we know of them, these firings were totally unwarranted, so no matter how much money is shoveled south to Frisco lawyers the County is going to lose anyway.

JUST IN: The Woods on Little River Airport Road is up for sale. The parent SF organization, Sequoia Living, is selling mini-development of more than 100 home sites on a relatively small plot a short distance north of the Little River Airport.” Three on-line comments:

(1) Well, they closed the Lodge and left the residents high and dry. So sad. Maybe someone else will do something positive for the coast with the Woods. We need senior facilities.

(2) Everyone buys into a Resident owner share cooperative. Stop paying rent and fees and start growing equity.

(3) Doesn’t this all violate the original agreements with the people who bought in to tiered senior living with the understanding of future assisted living when needed? Wasn’t that the original deal? This could be a major disappointment and mess.

IF THE PULITZER’S weren’t rigged, Kym Kemp of the essential Redheaded Blackbelt web site would get one for her revelatory stories on Rohnert Park’s pair of rogue cops robbing southbound traveler on 101. A then-HumCo man, Zeke Flatten, went to Kym with his account of being stopped in December  of 2017 near Squaw Rock by two apparent policemen wearing  generic “police” vests claiming to be with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The badged bandits took three pounds of marijuana from Flatten’s vehicle without citing him for any crime or leaving him with documentation of the stop. Flatten, who has since moved from California to Texas, turned to the fearless Ms. Kemp with his story which, in turn, inspired a bunch of similar claims from other travelers along 101 that they’d been robber by Rohnert Park cops. Flatten subsequently won a substantial claim against RP, the cops, their boss and other culpable RP bureaucrats were fired and await trials for their crimes.

BIDEN delivered his first prime time address last week, declaring that all American adults would be able to have their first vaccine dose by May 1. In his speech, Biden claimed that Covid-19 has taken more American lives “than World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined.” According to the CDC, 527,726 Americans have so far died from coronavirus — a number less than the 580,000 lives lost during the murderous events mentioned. Biden touted his administration's work with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to speed up production and roll-out of the shots. But Biden did not mention Trump's Operation Warp Speed — an initiative that many on both sides of the aisle agree has helped speed up the process. For a guy who made “unity” his speech's theme, Biden should have given the Orange Monster his share of the credit for getting the vaccines out there, one big irony being that a majority of Magas say they won't take it. 

I SUPPOSE the president has to give “unity” a nod, but the “bonds of mutual affection” that allegedly bound US as one great big happy American family prior to Trump have never, ever existed, but came close in the Roosevelt era and to some extent, Kennedy's brief reign, at least judging from the genuine national mourning at Kennedy's assassination. A feeble, not-long-for-office character like Biden isn't an inspirational figure even among the Democrats who elected him solely because he wasn't Trump. When he slurs into his teleprompter that we're all one big family, well, it's the most dysfunctional family in the history of national families, surpassing even Yugoslavia.

RECOMMENDED READING: On the Plain of Snakes by Paul Theroux, the best book I've read on Mexico, not that I can say I'm much of an authority on the literature. Like most book readers of, ahem, quality lit, I've read some Mexico-based fiction — B. Traven; DH Lawrence; Graham Greene; Malcolm Lowry; Roberto Bolano, although only Bolano's middle section on the femicides in Juarez of his trilogy, 2666: A Novel, and that one… Well, not a book for the fainthearted but brilliantly brought off.

BECAUSE Theroux is also a very good novelist, On the Plain of Snakes is like being there, better than being there because the book is like a guided tour by the best docent ever. The author is also daring, hazarding a horizontal trip across the US-Mexico border, from Tijuana to Matamoros before he begins his full plunge deep into that mostly failed state of a country, including the author's harrowing experiences with Mexico's legendarily predatory police. And he drives his own car everywhere! When Theroux isn't driving his own vehicle, he's on busses, and his Spanish is good enough to get around efficiently to meet a variety of everyday Mexican citizens, all of whom are menaced from every direction by their own government. If more Americans were aware of Latin conditions they might be more sympathetic with the people seeking sanctuary here, and this book is as good a familiarization tour as you're going to get.

MEMENTO MORI — remember you must die — is the subtext of Mexican life, and no wonder. Consider the shocking statistics of Mexico's homicides — in 2017, around thirty thousand, the greatest number of annual murders in modern Mexican history. This was exceeded by the murders in 2018, when I was winding up my Mexican trip. No one shrugged at these statistics: the wise ones kept their heads down, they whispered advice, they stayed indoors at night, they locked their doors; the vulnerable ones headed for the border, and safety; the others — the vast majority — continued to live and work as before. The medieval theme was “death comes to all and makes a mockery of us all.” And in the street theater and cemetery crapulosities — borracheras — of those Days of the Dead, the Mexicans return the compliment: they dress as skeletons, they parade in skull masks, they make gifts of sugar skulls, they engage in macabre dances, they mock death. — Paul Theroux

GOT totally vaxxed yesterday (Friday), a rare departure from the usual totally bleeped. Ushered into a side room past the fascist art one finds in motels, medical offices, and SF MOMA, one young woman led the way to two more young women, one of whom said, “Please roll up your sleeve, Bruce.” You can call me Mr. Anderson, I said. Hell, we're old friends by now, but I can't roll my sleeve past my massive push-up biceps so I'll have to take my shirt off, and we're unchaperoned here… Can't you just jab me through my shirt because… “Well, Mr. Anderson, you can take your shirt off. Take your time.” OK, but as you can see, ladies, I wear these arthritis gloves because even with them the buttoning processes are quite difficult… “Take your time, Mr. Anderson.” OK, I said, but please avert your eyes, ladies, I was raised modest. And just as they began to turn from me, I fessed up. Sorry, I'm just messin' with you. They laughed, but I do think the needle went in with more emphasis than necessary.

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] “Pay close attention to events unspooling. Get ready for trouble. It’s coming every which way…”

It’s hard to pay attention to anything when one is oxygen-deprived from wearing pieces of cloth over one’s breathing holes for the last 12 months while looking down at the little black box of joy and ecstasy with mesmerizing pixels while bobbing one’s head to-and-fro to degrading noise and dissonant racket coming from ear buds while masquerading as today’s modern musical soundtrack of personal, moral, and social degradation.

Add to that the contemporary standard of losing our ability of any kind of reasonable attention span beyond seven seconds before one’s cognition begins to fully shut down and dissipate into nothingness. 

Close Attention gives way to Ignorant Bliss… the soundtrack of our times.

[2] In the early blooming of the financial crisis in late 2007, Arianna Huffington said “In America we used to make things, now we just make things up.” 

One significant attribute of our collapsing empire is its dithering into abstraction, ungrounded in reality and ruled by blockheads who mistake words for concepts–all of them the product of a clerical oligarchy whose whole existence is derivative: without something to destroy they too collapse. Fitting, then, that our president by fiat shuffles listlessly through his sad days, muttering and grimacing in a simulation of the punchy second-rate car salesman he used to be.

Time and nature are the implacable authorities that check faulty abstraction and crush foolish fantasy.

[3] “Does anyone seriously believe that the husk of Joe Biden will remain in office more than another few weeks? It’s obvious that he doesn’t have the mental mojo to work an authentic press conference, and surely not the customary address to a joint session of Congress. Even the news media may seek to know who is actually in charge of the executive branch before much longer”

People who do not know, are either not paying attention, or are fearful of being marginalized as a conspiracist for speaking the truth that not only the executive branch, but the entire U.S. government, is lead by an entrenched elite straddling the executive offices of bureaucracy (most importantly the CIA with the Department of State a close second), 501c/3 and 501c/4 bill-mills AKA “think tanks”, consultants, lobbying firms, and the C-suites of business and finance (the revolving doors at Goldman, JP Morgan, Boeing, Monsanto/Bayer).

Presidents who did not capitulate to this arrangement (FDR, JFK, Trump) either died before they were killed, murdered on parade, or found themselves a victim of a relentless 4 year long coup involving the aforementioned along with the 4th estate (also controlled by the aforementioned). 

Does anyone seriously believe that Biden is making decisions? Does anyone believe that he is making the decision to bring onboard the people that are making the decisions?

Sustain your disbelief, just like bad theatre, or a bad film, you lack the courage to stand up and leave and it’s so much easier to endure, to hold out a little while more.

[4] Biden’s speech was bizarre, and rambling. It had many points, that weren’t always congruent with each other.

A major theme throughout Biden’s speech (again, under 30 minutes) was his strident call for “unity”, and in one extraordinary case stated

“We need to remember the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s us. All of us.”

When there are more troops deployed around the US Capitol, then the nation of Afghanistan, then yes– this is an action of an occupying power– not a republic.

More I think about it, the speech was an argument for a kind of soft totalitarianism, trotted out by a misty-eyed grandpa, against the US public at large.

[5] Cue up Country Joe and the Bloodfarmers

Plenty of Covid lockdown inspired MAYHEM so far this weekend, almost too much to list.

But why focus on the negative?

Lead story “Man released from hospital after 9 months of Covid treatment” that’s pretty heartwarming. His family was on hand to greet him. Here he comes, weighing in at 350 lbs, an improvement over the 500 lbs from when he went in. And the infection positive rate has improved, from 2.75% to 2.74% … it’s this kind of human interest and statistical minutia — SIGNS OF HOPE — that will get us thru.

As an aside, on our drive to the coast my wife wanted to stop at a little shopping mall to check out a kitchen supply shop she likes. I’m not much of a mall guy but this one isn’t too bad as far as it goes, an outdoor shopping center from the 1980s. For some reason when we have guests from Europe this is the one they want to visit. It’s well maintained, not too big, easy to get to off I-95. Well the day we went hardly any cars in the lot … the place was like a ghost town. 3/4 of the stores were vacant, including our kitchen supply company. It was pretty much dead, and I don’t see it coming back.

[6] An aspiring monk asked to enter a temple and attach himself to a guru.

“Very well,” said the guru, “but all students here observe the vow of silence. You will be allowed to speak only once in every 12 years.”

After the first 12 years, the student said, “The bed is too hard.” 

After another 12 years, he said, “The food is not good.” 

Twelve more years later, after 36 years of hard work and meditation, he said, “I quit.”

“Good,” snapped his guru, “all you have been doing is complaining.”

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