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Off the Record (October 20, 2021)

RE THE BLACK BART BANDIT, Joan Vivaldo writes: 

Stone

Today, Tuesday, 10/12/2021, was the long postponed Preliminary Examination (PX) of Douglas Stone at the Ukiah Courthouse. All law enforcement officers involved with the case(s) were to testify. Mr. Stone, Mr. Runfola, defense attorney, Mr. Hermann, defense investigator, and I were in courtroom H at 10am.

The Prosecutor for the People, Ms. Heidi Larsen, was taken ill Monday. She brought the Stone files home with her over the long weekend to study them. Knowing on Monday that she would need to seek medical attention on Tuesday, and thus unable to attend the PX, on Monday she notified the witnesses that they need not attend Tuesday, thus foreclosing the possibility of retrieving the files from her and assigning the PX to someone else to act for the People on Tuesday, when all the law enforcement officials were available to testify.

Mr. Stone appeared trim and competent in a dark blue suit and medium brown shoes. He flexed a slim black attache case as the possibility of the PX fizzled.

A new date of 11/23/2021 was set. Although Mr. Stone had flown from Arizona for the PX, he took the delay calmly, and appeared poised to flip his sunglasses from his shaven occiput to his eyes and return to Arizona after a coffee at Schat's. Mr. Runfola and Mr. Hermann, old hands at courtroom snafus, prepared to return to San Francisco and Sacramento respectively.

Mr. Hermann hinted to me that the 11/23 date would probably be changed in court on 11/23 as it was unlikely all the law enforcement officers would be available to testify then because of the proximity to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Mr. Stone waived his right to a speedy trial long ago. 

We go on.

Background: "The Unlikely Burglar of Black Bart Trail"

MS. VIVALDO and everyone else involved in the case of rogue firefighter Douglas Stone turned  Redwood Valley tweeker-bandit had assembled promptly at 10am in the County Courthouse for the endlessly postponed preliminary hearing for Mr. Stone. Everyone was present but the prosecutor, Heidi Larson. According to Ms. Vivaldo, whose home was broken into by Stone one night just as she was about to turn in, retreating when Ms. Vivaldo boldly confronted him,

“The Prosecutor for the People, Ms. Heidi Larsen, was taken ill Monday. She brought the Stone files home with her over the long weekend to study them. Knowing on Monday that she would need to seek medical attention on Tuesday, and thus unable to attend the PX, on Monday she notified the witnesses that they need not attend Tuesday, thus foreclosing the possibility of retrieving the files from her and assigning the PX to someone else to act for the People on Tuesday, when all the law enforcement officials were available to testify.”

UNACCEPTABLE, and one more of the endless examples of the casual way the County of Mendocino does business. The case is almost two years old, and we're just getting around to a prelim? And the prelim is all set and the prosecutor suddenly comes up with a suspicious reason she can't make it? (Doctor's note, please.)

MS. VIVALDO drove up from San Francisco where she now lives. Everyone else involved was similarly inconvenienced. 

I SUSPECT all these delays are headed to no more jail time and probation for Stone who, apparently, has gotten off the white powders and had enjoyed a solid rep as a dependable sort prior to his adventures in substance abuse. However, Mendo being Mendo, where everyone at the County offices is at least a second cousin to everyone else in the County offices, and Stone being a good ol' boy before he ran off the rails… This farce next rolls up State Street on November 23rd.

LIKE THOUSANDS of other Bay Area front runners I watched  the Giants vs the Dodgers, at first recognizing only the three players of yesteryear's triumphs — Posey, Crawford, Belt — but am now about halfway through a familiarization tour of the new guys. I like the new manager who, I understand, has brought back the bunt and junked the pitch count. Question: When's the last time anybody stole home? We think Jackie Robinson did it a few times but that was 70 years ago. (Since informed a guy did it thirty years ago. None since, though.) Suicide squeeze? What happened to that one?

FRUSTRATING end to the playoff game between the Giants and the Dodgers Thursday night. A checked swing that really was checked short of a swing? We'll always wonder if the guy would have hit the next one out. And here come the demands for mandatory replays and, for the National League, designated hitters. Noooooooo! Leave the game alone. In fact, take it back to 1950 — no batting gloves and no sliding gloves for god's sake! No flyovers, either. No giant electronic scoreboards. 

SO MUCH OF SPORT beyond the sport itself is so cliched you can almost see and hear millions of tv sets going off when the post-game corks pop and the apparently mandatory clubhouse celebrations begin. Champagne sprays are ritualistic now that the boys of summer (and endless fan-gouging playoffs) don special plastic eye protectors before the "fun" commences. I remember the Giants dousing each other with Roederer one year, a primo example of wretched excess if there ever was one. And the football coaches getting doused with GatorAde. How many times have we seen that one? Finally, cease all live interviews with athletes who, coached to never say anything that might even be close to interesting, faithfully never say anything close to interesting. For interesting go to the many excellent sportswriters where the writing is good and candid. (You will have noted that sports writing is much livelier than the rest of the newspaper and much smarter than the political talk on the big tv networks.)

AS WE'VE NOTED over the years in many local contexts, whenever controversies involving state agencies arise, our state reps are suddenly invisible. State Senator McGuire is highly visible promoting fanciful projects like his Never Happening Great Redwood Trail, and the even more Never Happening coal train scare, but when it comes to protecting Jackson State Forest or PG&E's preposterous line-clearing assault on the Emerald Triangle McGuire is see-through invisible. Assemblyman Jim Wood hasn't been visible on any subject since he stepped up to help knock down a tentative state single-payer plan.

THE TIMES ARE A'WEIRDIN'. And getting weirder by the day unto high anxiety for millions of US. The consumer price index rose 5.4% in September from a year ago, up slightly from August's gain of 5.3% and matching the increases in June and July. And that's the government talking so it means, as most of US know who have to shop for our daily sustenance a big underestimate. The prices on food stuffs are wayyyy up and seem to climb every week.

EXACERBATING the general anxiety over the very real economic squeeze people are suffering is the absence of credible leadership, and the absence of a credible mainstream media to explain what's happening. Poor Old Joe is clearly past it, and when he wasn't past it he was a reliable vote for policies that got us to the oligarchical apparatus that's got US in its vice. Whenever he totters forth to read a few cliched lines off his teleprompter, rapid-shuffling off without taking equivalently cliched questions from Big Media, POJ adds to the national anxiety that things are getting worse and no one is in charge. No one among the msm would ever dare say, “Joe, when's the last time you had a cognitive exam. You seem kinda out of it.” At which the reporter would be bull rushed by security and stripped of her/his White House credentials. 

NO SOONER had I complained that state senator McGuire and assemblyman Wood are dependably among the missing in local controversies such as the one raging over logging at Jackson State Forest than I read in a Chron piece on Jackson State..... “McGuire and Huffman have not responded... But Wood wrote back....”

WOOD WROTE BACK! My heart soared! Had I rushed to judgment that the Healdsburg dentist cum state official was merely one more mealey-mouthed officeholder?

NO.

BUT WOOD would have been wise to keep his molars clenched because here's what he said re Jackson State: 

“The circumstances that existed when the demonstration forest concept was created have changed,” Wood wrote in the letter shared with SFGATE. “We are in a climate crisis.” While Wood agreed that it was time to re-examine the way California manages demonstration forests, he said that a new strategy would need to “meet conservation goals but also overcome many hurdles, including significant opposition, which will require a tremendous amount of time and effort. For this reason, I am unable to take (sic) on this issue." (talk?)

GIVEN THAT THE GOVERNOR has steadily advocated for big trees as agents of carbon sequestration one would think that the big redwoods in publicly-owned Jackson State, would be spared the chainsaw. And one might reasonably expect state reps Wood and McGuire to intervene to prevent state public-agency CalFire from cross-cutting the Governor's planet-saving campaign to keep big trees vertical.

CHECKOUT LANE, SAFEWAY.

Clerk: Lemme guess: you're a lawyer.

Me: Worse, journalist.

Clerk: You're right.

ERNIE BRANSCOMB:

Dog stories… Why do they always have to be so heartbreaking?

I am descendant from a long line of country pioneers, ranchers, and farmers. As you might guess, dogs are a very big part of our story. All of the dogs that we have had were of the McNabb/Terrier stock. They were smart, fast, and resourceful. 

My grandfather had a dog named Jack that in the evening would wait patiently for my grandfather to tell him, “Okay Jack, go get the cows.” Jack would take off like a shot out of a gun and go up the hill after the cows. If he missed one he would go back and find it.

My Dad had a little black dog called Speed that he would use for hunting. He would go up on the hill and tell Speed, “Bring me a deer.” Speed would take off and find deer. He would chase them past my Dad. If he didn’t shoot one, Speed would be very disgusted and pout. Dad said that the dog finally figured out to only bring the ones with horns. I’m not sure how true that was, but Dad loved that dog and he swore it was true… So I’m going to have to go with it.

The dog that we have now was so cute as a puppy that all the girls would pick him up and hug him. So, he is spoiled and useless, but he has wormed his worthless little self into my wife’s heart and he knows how to work it.

MENDOLIB, at least that part organized and active in the Democratic Party, is fearful that the “village” of Mendocino and its consignment of auto-pilot Democrat voters will be shape-shifted from the 5th District into the 4th District (Fort Bragg, mostly) where by the basic gringo value standards of net worth and psychology Mendocino rightly belongs. 

US AMERICANOS are trained not to consider social class, but applying a loose class angle to Mendo and Fort Bragg, the two areas are more demographically and politically alike than different, hence the appeal of the conservative liberalism dominant in both places, and the dependable elections of supervisors in both districts that reflect the prevalent inside-the-bubble delusions common among people who don't (and never have) live with the wolf at the door while the large majority of Mendocino County people have the wolf sitting at the dinner table with them. 

AND THEN there's Mendolib's audio branch, KZYX, where all of the above is reinforced round the clock, a “community radio station” that leaves out most of the community, where never ever in its droning, predictable history has a single dissenting word ever been heard. “Politics, A Love Story” hosted by station trustee, Bob Bushansky, says it all. Bushansky, incidentally, like many tiresome old socks before him, bought his way onto the air and onto the station's board of directors, rounding out a perfect pitch of audio entropy. The programming, for 32 years now, has been like someone sneaking into your house and slapping a chloroform-soaked rag over your face when you turn your radio on. The Democratic Party is on the air!

DAVE CHAPPELLE'S latest stand-up on NetFlix is called ‘The Closer.’ How funny is it? Well, NPR hated it so you know it's funny. $24.1 million funny? I guess so if the calculation is viewers, and Dave packs 'em in.

THE OBJECTIONS to Chappelle are summed up by NPR this way: “The content of Dave Chappelle’s controversial stand-up special The Closer—the dangerous transphobia, the gaslighting, the false equivalence of marginalized communities, the erasure of intersectionality—wasn’t shocking so much as it was pedestrian, the most basic, unenlightened kind of ‘humor’ about the LGBTQ community.”

UH, kind of like sorta, but the whole of it was really a plea for tolerance as summed up by Chappelle's touching tribute to a trans comic friend of his. The only caveat I have, which is the old one for me, is that Chappelle always tosses in gratuitously vulgar remarks. Maybe I'm just too old school but with him there's always a few comments that make me wince. “Jeez, did he have to say that?” But Chappelle is very, very funny, busting up the “smelly little orthodoxies” of these intellectually stifling times. 

A READER WRITES: “We also enjoyed the Chappelle special last night. I still consider Dave to be America's most honest and courageous social observer but I think his humor has lost a step recently. Raging success will do that to you. There are many great comics out there, even though they fall short of Chappelle on social critique. (I think Carlin was even better as he also fearlessly attacked politics head on — Carlin said he educated himself by reading Counterpunch.) I'd rate Bill Burr as the closest second. Tom Papa and Brian Regan (earlier stuff is better, he's also lost a step) are great observers of human nature but don't go nearly as deep on socio/political commentary."

CHILDREN AS WEAPONS. California parents, cretin branch, opposed to the Governor's vaccine mandate, plan to keep their children home from school October 18 in protest. Event flyers are circulating everywhere electronic, although we haven't seen one in the Anderson Valley whose cretin population exists but is minimal.

BETH BOSK with a sensible re-districting idea:A better solution than any of those maps: Move Caspar back to the 5th. Subtract Hopland: add Hopland to the 1st where it belongs. For the next 10 years make the numerical adjustment needed between the 4th and the 3rd, keeping in mind the population in Fort Bragg will increase very rapidly once new housing development is permitted on the G-P lands now blocked by the Skunk train fiasco.”

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: COLONIA DIGNIDAD, a revelatory Netflix documentary about a German sect run by a Nazi pedophile under “Christian” auspices that settles in the Chilean outback where it becomes a combination staging area for the overthrow of the elected Allende government, then a torture center and killing ground for the Pinochet regime. BTW, it doesn't seem to be widely known but there are international war crime warrants for the arrest of Henry Kissinger for his pivotal role in the coup that removed Chile's democratically elected government and establishing Pinochet's fascism in Chile, Of course here in Amnesia Land Kissinger is regularly feted as some kind of elder statesman cum wizard. 

The docu-series is based on the testimonies of people who went through the torture camp. They relate how the sect functioned and describe the scandals that were unleashed there, such as cases of pedophilia, arms trafficking, murders, kidnappings and slavery.

The interviewees say that at that time, Schäfer was a friend of the last Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, who knew what was going on in southern Chile.

Between forced labor and torture, some of the victims explain some of the chilling scenes to which they were subject to at the hands of the preacher and his sympathizers.

“I had always thought he was like Adolf Hitler,” explained a German woman. In the trailer, viewers see another victim who reveals that “there are hundreds of people” who were murdered. 

The “Colonia” case was uncovered years ago and is generating a stir thanks to new pieces of visual media that denounce what happened 50 years ago.

IS JOE ALL THERE? Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, responding to a reporter who asked for Biden's health records, “I promise you they will be made available.” Psaki repeated her previous promise that once the president gets a physical — which she said in May would be before the end of 2021 — the administration would be “transparent” about the exam's findings. The obviously impaired Biden has not released a medical report since the last update in December 2019.

FOR YOUR FEEDING TRUMPISM FILE: Katie Couric, tv chatterer, reveals in her new memoir — which muy sophistico ava people will refuse to read on principle — that Couric chose not to air controversial comments made to her five years ago by sacrosanct Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG, Couric reveals, was critical of NFL players like Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Couric says she was “conflicted” because she was a “big RBG fan,” so she only aired some of what RBG said about football players refusing to stand for the national anthem. Couric said after talking with New York Times columnist David Brooks (pause here for at least one quick recitation of the Jesus prayer) Couric concluded that Ginsburg—who was on the Supreme Court at the time—was “elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.” Couric writes that she “wanted to protect” Ginsburg and felt that the issue of racial justice was a “blind spot” for her.

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

 [1] It has been many moons since any American has had to fight off hostile primitives or blue-belly invaders, or even have to have any concern about where their next meal will come from. The complacency that the easy life bred into our citizens has so many of them so lackadaisical these days that they are angered by the idea that they even have to think for themselves. Much easier to let someone else do your thinking, mow your lawn, or even raise your children so you can concentrate on the most important business of chasing the buck or entertaining yourself into oblivion. 

Many of us believe that we are very close to finding out whether this decay was all part of a conspiracy or simply just the way the empire crumbles. If it IS conspiracy we will soon be meeting the new owners I would think. If it is not, well then it will simply collapse into chaos. A real shame that there does not appear to be a more acceptable end to it all. Perhaps I am missing something.

[2] “Mendocino Farms” [downtown San Francisco] is total make believe and has nothing to do with Mendocino. The use of the name Mendocino is strictly a marketing ploy. Their laughable claim is that they chose the company name because they wanted to “tap into the ethos of Mendocino County”. The company was started in Los Angeles by an executive from L.A. that worked for Accenture, which is multinational spinoff of the giant accounting firm Arthur Andersen. They opened their first store in L.A. and none of their stores are even remotely close to Mendocino or its neighboring counties. I’d be completely surprised if even one of the ingredients on their menu is sourced from Mendocino county.

[3] Hallelujah. CA Gov. Newsom just announced a total ban on gas powered lawnmowers and weed-whackers.

Gavin Newsom is going places, which is remarkable. In one fell swoop he is signaling we are going to turn the Titanic around, against the momentum of the latter half of the 20th century. 

Nothing is dumber than a gas powered garden implement. The instant you pick it up, your IQ drops 10 points. When running it is a full 25 IQ points lower. After you’ve turned it off, the deficit remains. 

What is to be done about all this obsolete trash- referring to the literal mountain of junk gas-powered implements the public is going to be shoving off with the garbage? A bunch of toxic materials, rotting away, a million gasoline tanks emulsifying plastic and metal, bolted together. 

For all the supposed benefit of these machines, nothing remains but a population sick of them, and a landscape indifferent except for where “wise” planners figured there would be an infinite supply of brown people, and infinite demand for some visual feedback that says something like, “Dog Toilet Here” or a receptacle to catch bits of plastic film as it blows across. 

Still, there will be an attempt to leverage a solution in the chemical and material space. Battery powered mowers, to keep that 1950s aesthetic going. The robots are coming- autonomous units, like the robot vacuum cleaners that proved so popular with floor owners, are here. (Cowbell81, check the mainstream news for the special feature.)

This sort of technological advance isn’t inevitable. Since fossil fuels are so heavily subsidized, and brown people so cheap to operate, everyone thought it would just be an unbeatable combination forever. Almost correct. 

As it turns out the robots will do it cheaper, safer, and quieter.

[4] We currently own and drive a Toyota RAV 4 hybrid, which we had purchased new from a local large Toyota dealer. We have been doing business with this particular dealership for about 17-18 years. My wife – not me- went in to see the new RAV 4’s. Now this place is always bustling. She was shocked when she walked in. There were only 3 cars in the showroom, when in the past they always had 15 or so (it’s a very large showroom). There seemed to be very few sales staff, whereas you used to bump into one of them every 10 feet.

Turns out they got rid of most of the managers and salespersons, and have only kept a handful of old timers who had been there for years. They even got rid of their cashier who handled payments for car servicing (now the mechanics have to collect and handle payments).

When we bought our current RAV4 a few years ago, we had to wait 6 weeks for the dealership to receive the new car from the factory. My wife said today she was told if she ordered one today, it would probably take 5 or 6 months to get it delivered.

I don’t really want to buy a new one now. Why bother when the future is so much more uncertain? We’re currently getting about 42 or 43 mpg. We don’t spend that much for gas, as we don’t drive that much, and have about 20k miles on the car. My biggest trips are to Foxwoods Casino every several months, a round trip of 180 miles. 

Anyway, it just feels like things are obviously falling apart. I’m hoping what we are experiencing is just change due to rapid technological advancement, where a lot of the traditional ways of 20th century living are being replaced by 21st century values, causing a lot of strife until we get used to new living arrangements. We shall see.

[5] Podcasts: The trick is finding the good stuff. 

There's two avenues (ignoring the popular catalog or algorithm ranked).

1. Competent hosts. If a host is good, he can squeeze gems out of the densest guests. Look for the competent host, but also, I would argue, don’t dismiss amateurs- you can’t hold it against them, and consider if any misses are circumstantial. Nobody is perfect.

2. Excellent guests. Probably easier. Find the cast that has the guest you are looking for. 

I guess there is a hidden #3: don’t be a dumb asshole who only looks for perspectives he wants confirmed. Don’t be that schizoid, one-man Glee club who just wants to cheer-lead their side’s public relations talking points, and sing along with the canonical bullshit.

Of course your results have a lot to do with your personal taste. Many don’t understand the appeal of listening to people talk just like many don’t read books. 

It also helps to have the right equipment. For example, I mentioned wireless headphones. A real game changer, over the old wired headphones. Any old second hand cellphone with bluetooth is as good as an iPod. Fill that baby up and charge it from the solar panel. You are going to want company when the lights go out.

[6] FALLING POT PRICES, an on-line comment: 

We are only seeing the very beginning of what will be very desperate times. First we invited all kinds of shady people here through our allowances of bad behavior, our easy grow money (or at least tales of it) and our court system’s lax penalties. Now the money rug is being yanked out by the mega-grows both corporate and greedy. Guess what happens next? It’s not rocket science. Get locked and loaded because we are about to see an onslaught of burglaries, robberies and various rip-offs. Even otherwise decent people will be driven to desperate measures. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

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