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Off the Record (March 31, 2021)

SIGNS OF THE TIMES, add this one found under a Ukiah bridge on an abandoned diner seat cushion: “My name is Kam. I'm really lost! Someone, anyone, come find me at North Cow Mountain. Please bring  $$$, marijuana, and a crack pipe. I wanna bleep!” A person named Ashley responded: “Hey, Kam, I went looking for you but couldn't find you. Get a hold of me! I really love and miss you. [heart symbol].” 

WATCHING THE SUPERVISORS stumble through their bi-monthly doings of the people's business, is hours of jargon-ridden presentations and often irrelevant discussion, as millions of unaccountable dollars are allocated here and there, I wonder where the taxpayer associations are. Most places you've got a small group of elderly people from the last generation to remember when words had meaning challenging every nickel of public spending, often invoking the old saw, “Government is supposed to spend public money as thriftily as if it were their own.” That approach to government spending flew out the public window with all the public money years ago. 

THE MOST EGREGIOUS local spending of the unaccountable type is on Mental Health. Twenty annual millions, now privatized, allegedly making life supportable for a range of dependent persons. Plus almost $10 million more for mental health administration and other associated “help.” If anybody has any idea how effectively this money is spent on a very small segment of a total county population of fewer than 90,000 people, let's hear it. We never will, of course, because a lot of this spending isn't defensible,  and it’s spent on services for people whose identities and lives and fostering and alleged rehabilitation are not known because their identities are “personnel matters” to spare them embarrassment, so the theory goes.

A READER WRITES on just this subject: “…. There is too much motivation for the government to profit, and little/no motivation to provide a functional program that attempts to put people back on their feet. There needs to be a division between mentally ill people who are inherently that way, and mentally ill people who are that way because of substance abuse. The substance abusers need to be required to clean up as a prerequisite to getting any government service. It used to be that way, and it was much better. What we are doing now, making money to pay bums, drunks, and drug addicts to live on our streets is perverse, and it is a lot of money down a rat hole to boot.” 

HOW DOES a guy “known to the FBI” buy a military combat rifle? What's the point of keeping track of lunatics if you're not checking them for weapons? Of course the Colorado shooter opened fire on the supermarket only a week after he bought the military-quality assault rifle so maybe the feds weren't up on him. But still… Of course every loon in the country is already locked and loaded so the predictable weeping and lamentations is simply part of the mass murder ritual we’ve become accustomed to. Biden would never dare, but he could declare a national emergency and ban assault rifles and all their related gear.

I THINK McCOWEN — former supervisor John McCowen — has been shabbily treated by his former colleagues. Twelve years of service and not even a single Whereas as he retires? Fault him however you like but there was never any doubt that McCowen was always committed, sometimes in his own mind, to what he saw as the best interests of Mendocino County. To first humiliate the guy with that cockamamie public declaration that he was going to be sued in small claims court for public equipment worth about ten bucks re-sale was CEO Angelo again taking her personal revenge on a guy she came to dislike, and then the supervisors signed off on her personal pique by booting McCowen out the door like a stray dog. Every other retiring supervisor, among them certifiable nut cases and petty thieves, got at least a dozen or so Whereases. All McCowen got was a nice pat on the head from Mike McGuire which is like a double boot in the arse as he was kicked out the door.

IF YOU MISSED IT, a federal judge overseeing Pacific Gas & Electric's criminal probation said last week that he may order the stumbling monopoly to turn off the juice in rural areas much more often during fire season. Which means us here in Mendo among other affected rural counties. U.S. District Judge William Alsup is overseeing PG&E’s safety precautions as part of the utility’s criminal probation after it began murdering its customers back in 2010 when it blew up a San Bruno neighborhood. The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E, is opposing the additional power shut-offs, which it contends would impose undue hardship on about 900,000 people who live in the mostly rural counties of Trinity, Placer, Shasta, Tehama, Madera and Mendocino.

WATCHING OL' JOE'S presser the other day, I, and probably millions of others, wondered how much longer can “they” keep propping him up, occasionally shuffling him out there, ol' Joe doing his darndest to look spry but belied by his stiff-legged prostate strut. Even with those big print, cheat note-answers to questions almost any old current affairs maven could answer with the required cliches, the old guy had a difficult hour. 

ON THE OTHER HAND, whoever's “advising” him, the old guy is getting sound input from his puppeteers. The recent bailout is getting us closer to the necessary universal basic income this sucker is gonna need to keep it from going permanently off the rails, farther off the rails than it has already careened. It's an odd time, odder by the day — a Potemkin president, a faith-based currency, widespread disorder, an increasing incidence of natural disasters, both halves of the political divide contemptuous of the other, millions of Americans having zero confidence in their leaders.

LITTLE PETE, Secretary of Transportation, floated the idea of a tax on vehicle mileage to pay for a revamp of the nation's infrastructure. Buttigieg said a tax on miles driven “shows a lot of promise. The gas tax used to be the obvious way to do it. It's not anymore, so a so-called vehicle miles traveled tax or mileage tax, whatever you want to call it, could be a way to do it.” Biden says he has a $3 trillion infrastructure plan, with proposals to fix roads and bridges while also funding “social infrastructure” to fund pre-K programs and childcare. The tax on miles would be a way to get around shortages in the nation's highway trust fund, which is funded by taxes on gasoline. 

THE REACTION to Pete's idea ranged from shock to horror, but can serve as a kind of metaphor for where we're at in the pillow fight over climate change. Everyone agrees we’re doomed if we don’t move seriously to reverse global warming, but when specific strategies are floated they’re hooted down. This proposal would increase the already intolerable economic burden toted by people of ordinary means, but it would help reverse global warming and might be acceptable if, say, private jets and the many other decadent practices of the rich were also included in the strategy. 

MEANWHILE, as catastrophes large and small accumulate, down south at the border we've got rival press conferences between the Nice People and the Not So Nice People on what to do about the poor and the desperate knocking at prosperity's door. Fifty years ago there'd have been basic agreement about how to make an orderly and humane immigration process work. Not now. Now we get political posturing as desperation and disorder grows at the southern border. 

HAD to laugh at this hed from the Press Democrat: “20 best restaurants in Cotati.” I know my age is showing, but I remember when there were no restaurants in Cotati. 101 north wound through all the then-little towns between San Rafael and Eureka, but the only restaurant I can recall in the Cotati area was the then-famous Green Mill, whose remnant roadside sign can still be seen crumbling on the east margin of 101 near Petaluma. 

COVID'S MASS HOUSE ARREST has its benefits. I've never watched so many movies. Used to get to a couple a month in theaters during bad weather, and all that time always wondered why I got some knock down flu until I learned to stay away from winter crowds. A helpful reader sent along a list of films he thought readers would like, including one called “Shot Caller” about a guy who goes from sanctioned criminal behavior as some kind of salesman to the non-sanctioned crime he takes up in prison for self-defense of the ethnic, color-coded type common in prisons. ‘Shot Caller’ is a very good, high energy, marvelously acted movie even if the narrative is confused and the guy playing the eventual shot caller wears the same flannel shirt the length of the film where he not only consorts with the felon community, he kills a few of them. In prison, he's implied as a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white prison gang that teams up with Mexican gangs to attack “toads,” black prison gangs. I've known real-life white shot callers, a couple of whom were and are from Mendocino County. From what I gathered from them their primary task was keeping the peace, preventing younger men from doing stupid, self-destructive stuff certain to get them more time inside. The creators of this movie version of real life shot callers seem to have the look and the talk of prison tough guys down, although who knows for sure without going to prison for on-site tutorials. Locally, the Mendocino County Jail is very astute at keeping the bona fide tough guys away from the natural born victims, placing the state and federal prison boys in one unit, the vulnerable, including goofy guys, chomos, and the non-volatile crazies in another unit, while the run of the mill, non-dangerous screw-ups doing county time pay their debts to our crumbling society in a third unit. The fightin' boys, the guys who don't play well with others, are housed singly in iso cells. It's been years since anybody was seriously hurt in the Mendocino County Jail, and please don't bring up Steve Neuroth who basically killed himself. Maybe one of our many imprisoned readers will fill in the blanks or correct errors here, but I believe the tough guys of the relentless type depicted in “Shot Caller” are housed at Pelican Bay and Corcoran. Best movie about criminals I've seen since ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ not that I'd have seen this one if it hadn't been recommended. (If you watch movies with your sig other, she will probably pass on ‘Shot Caller,’ as mine did about two minutes in. “Ohhhhh nooooo,” she said as she trotted off to play mahjong on-line.)

HAPPENED on another film, this one of the television type called ‘The Con,’ this recent con segment being “The Wine Con.” It describes a gifted young crook calling himself Rudy Kurniawan, in real life an Indonesian Chinese here illegally who becomes so quickly adept at forging prize wines he singlehandedly drives up world fine wine prices! Rudy travels the world buying up expensive wines while creating his own fake fine wines. In 2006, his fake wines raised $24.7 million at an auction, the largest ever total for a single distributor at the time. Moreover, even though Rudy was in America illegally, he managed to obtain a California liquor license not once but twice. He was good at schmoozing the easily schmoozed in the high end wine world, swapping superficialities with superficial people who don't seem able to distinguish the good stuff from Two Buck Chuck, maybe because there isn't a diff, but we'll leave that to the experts, if there are any. If this guy can achieve immediate, unquestioned status as a wine maven… The best thing Rudy did was rip off of one of the Koch Bros. But not for long. Koch sued, and Rudy's amazing fraud collapsed. Rudy was packed off to the federal pen for a fairly long stretch and presently awaits deportation by the INS. He says he's had many offers of work as a wine consultant. 

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

[1] I saw an elderly man attempt to go bounding up a very steep flight of what looked liked carpeted stairs, a well-known safety hazard. For some reason he had a piece of cloth affixed to his face, just under his eyes. This cuts off your lower field of vision, which is necessary for depth perception, something many elderly people have trouble with anyway, which is one reason they are more prone to falls.

The hand rails are there for a reason, safety.

I also saw a number of younger men, presumably responsible for the older man’s safety, ignore what was happening.

As the older man was the reputed leader of the free world, perhaps a little more attention should have been paid to what he was doing?

[2] I can’t recall a single mass shooting in the US over the last decade where a good guy with a gun has been around and stopped X number of deaths by being on the spot, armed, and ready. There may be one or two – but in general – having an armed populace has not lowered the body count in the overwhelming percentage of events.

[3] My dad has always been a go against the grain kind of guy way ahead in not accepting group think.

He is turning 73 next month and he rolled up his sleeve.

Twenty years with his progressive girlfriend has taken a toll on his freedom of expression as well as his ability to see through groupthink.

I asked him why he was worried about covid since he is in exceptional physical shape, rarely ever gets sick and lives in the hinterlands of Ventura county. He actually could not or would not answer me.

I let it go with a your body your decision. I just hope you're around to surf Malibu on your 100 birthday like we promised we would.

Until he took that Job I was 100% sure he would be there for me not so much.

He still works way too hard. I caught him on a ladder twenty feet off the ground wielding a chainsaw to cut down a tree that was about to fall on his horse corral. I asked him why he was doing that when he could hire a person to assume the risk.

He had the ladder tied to the tree as well as the chainsaw but not himself.

I just shook my head and said, Dad you're 70; a fall from that height and a busted hip equals you dead in a couple of months.

He did not get it still.

Several months later we met at Malibu for a surf and as he was putting his board on his car he used the tire to climb up and I said get a step ladder before you fall and hurt yourself he all but told me to mind my own business this is how he has always done it.

Flash forward six months he fell off the car and damn near ripped his pinky off. Being the good son I try to be I refrained from saying I told you so. Instead he admitted I was right. 

A sad day when a man must admit he is in decline.

[4] Everyone will be somewhere. Which simply means that every unhoused person will spend the night somewhere. It might be in a doorway, a vacant lot, a parking lot, or any number of places on public or private property. But the last place people should be camping is in the most sensitive areas of our environment. I've dedicated the last 20 years to preventing and cleaning up trash from homeless encampments and I can tell you it's easier to prevent encampments than it is to clean up the trash after they are established. Can we agree no one should be allowed to camp in our creeks and rivers?

[5] The comment about running again in ’24 was interesting. You’d think a 78 year-old could take things a day at a time…tough when you’re a politician and an aging one at that. Possible prez at 86? First things first. Will he make it to tomorrow??

Note to Georgia voters…next time you line up at the polls, be sure to bring food and water. It’s now a crime for anyone to offer them to you as you’re queued in the hot Georgia sun. After all, there might be a thought-controlling microchip in that frosted donut…heh, heh.

[6] That Biden press conference was absurd. I can’t believe that the man who stood behind the podium is acting in any executive capacity. His inability to form coherent thoughts or ideas was on full display. 

The US isn’t really in a serious crisis yet. What do you think will happen when the trillions of funny money that is artificially maintaining the economy is spent? 

The US economy is in shambles. State Media was reporting that over 100,000 restaurants alone have gone out of business in the past 12 months. This equates to millions of job losses. It’s not only the cooks, managers, and servers at the restaurant. It is all the people who supply those restaurants. It’s people who make products for that industry. That’s just one of the industries that were hammered by the forced shutdowns. There are many others. 

When all the stimulus is gone, you will start to see some actual troubles. Like stock market collapse. Like people starving to death trouble. Millions of people evicted and homeless trouble. 

Stuff like that.

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