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Off the Record (Oct. 5, 2022)

READING THE EMINENTLY READABLE ‘Medium Raw’ by the late Anthony Bourdain, and what a big loss that guy is. The book's subtitle is “A bloody valentine to the world of food and people who cook.” It's the first book I've read about a totally foreign world to me, but he's such a good writer that he makes food and cooking interesting even to a person like me who has zero interest in the subject.

ALONG THE WAY, Bourdain does a long riff on how he'd like to see the schools make the basics of food prep mandatory for all students. “Everyone should know how to cook the basics.” I agree, says the guy who isn't even allowed in his kitchen to prepare anything more complicated than toast — and, as Bourdain points out, learning the basics would enable people to eat better and cheaper, which is more important than ever with half the people in the country either fully diabetic or on their way there, not to mention the millions of people who are “food insecure.”

SAN FRANCISCO REAL ESTATE MOGUL Hamid Moghadam wrote this letter to SF officials after he was mugged in front of his Pacific Heights home.  “I am writing you today as, I am sure, only the latest San Francisco citizen and business owner to ask for your immediate attention and action around crime in our city.

Sunday evening, I was held up at gunpoint and robbed outside my home in Pacific Heights. I recognize we live in an urban environment, but the level of crime, including violent behavior, has become absolutely unacceptable. Obviously, the majority of voters feel this way, which is why they voted to recall our district attorney earlier this month.

I run one of the highest market cap companies in the city, which I founded here forty years ago. Over the years, I have invested in this city and recruited talent to move here to work in our global headquarters at Pier 1. Ten years ago, we acquired a larger company that was headquartered in Denver, but I insisted we keep our headquarters in San Francisco.

Today, I am not sure I would make the same decision. It is now difficult for me to tell potential candidates that they should move to San Francisco. We pay some of the highest taxes, local and state, in the nation yet we have no sense of security. Protecting public safety should be the government’s top priority – that is the foundation to a successful city. Only in a community where people feel that they and their families are safe will jobs and culture flourish. I am deeply concerned that our city may be so far down the path toward decline that we may never recover – or at least not for a long, long time.

I am an entrepreneur and a problem solver. I would like to help you. I don’t believe that money is the problem. Earlier this year, the Chronicle reported that the City has only spent about a quarter of the Prop. C funds it has available, yet we continue to have a substantive homeless problem, which is not the cause, of course, but contributes to the crime issue.

We need a change in how criminals see our city. Do they see a city where we look the other way when crime rates rise, and law-abiding citizens don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods? Or do we want a city that is safe because we enforce the laws on the books and put public safety over political correctness?

I was frustrated by my long wait when I called into 911 to report the crime. I do want to call out Officers Gaetano Acerra and Kevin Lynch, who responded to my call and were exemplary in their handling of the situation. Their superiors should know that these two officers represented the Department and the City in the best way possible and gave me the help and information a victim of crime needs.

Never in my life have I ever had this kind of life-threatening experience. It is simply unacceptable for any resident of our city to experience something like this. We must make a change now.”

THIS MAN'S VERY REAL EXPERIENCE can serve as a metaphor for the looming return of Trump or, worse, because he's younger and smarter, Desantis. Those of us fortunate to live in serene neighborhoods where violent crime is rare-to-nonexistent, tend, I think, to not understand that to millions of Americans violence or the threat of it is an immediate daily concern. 

NOTHING WORSE than feeling physically threatened all the time, and the political response to that feeling is presently spelled Republican. They promise they'll crack down. “We'll cut taxes, launch a War On Drugs, build new jails, and blah blah blah.” Ask a Democrat about crime and you get an unending load of, “Well, you see, it's like this.... If we take some money from police departments and use the money saved for drug rehab and to buy better tents for the homeless and blah blah blah.” To me, an old man way past his pull date, the quality of the leadership — clowns and hustlers — translates as, “You're on your own, my fellow Americans.”

DOOMERS make collapse seem sudden and apocalyptic, but it's more a matter of slo-mo decline via phenomena like inflation, people unable to feed and shelter themselves, widespread disorder, random violence, hard drugs, with fascists mobilizing everywhere. 

SO YOUR WORLD has collapsed. You somehow get yourself to Boonville where you present yourself at a local farm. “I'm a survivor of San Francisco. You'll take me in and feed me, right?” What are your skills? “I don't have any.” Can you weed, use a shovel and hoe? “I've got chronic back trouble.” The farmer reaches for his shotgun. “Sorry, you'll have to move on.”

I REMEMBER ASKING a criminal how he was preparing for the social collapse of midnight, 2000. There were a couple of months of worried talk on KZYX with the local hysterics calling in to talk about stockpiling toilet paper and rice. The criminal, not worried in the least, said, “Me? I’m getting an extra box of shotgun shells. My neighbors have everything I’ll need.”

MR. AND MRS. ERIC TRUMP were in the news Wednesday for their child-rearing practices. Like their patriarch, they live in Florida where, as we know, a hurricane is raging. The Trumps posted a video of their son, Luke, age 5, shielding his eyes and clinching his knees together as he drives his toy vehicle in the heavy rain as Mrs. Trump comments, “Thought we had a clear window, turns out we did some character building instead.” The boy seems frightened, but at a minimum he's unhappy and not getting his character built.

I HAVE A MEMORY of my father and a friend of his, plus me at about age five, as the two drunks rowed a very small boat across Tomales Bay. Since I still remember it, I guess I was traumatized. The Trumps seem to think their kid crying in the rain is so amusing they posted it for the world to see.

Luke Easter

THE ONLY OTHER memory I have from early, very early, youth is the old Seals Stadium where Luke Easter, then with the Triple A San Diego Padres, later with the Cleveland Indians, pumped one ball after another during batting practice clear out of the ballpark and across 16th Street. 

EASTER DRIVING those baseballs clear outta there was the most marvelous thing I'd seen. Old timers of that era said Easter was the only ballplayer alive who could hit the ball harder and farther than Babe Ruth. Years later, I felt like weeping when my friend, Tommy Wayne Kramer, who'd worked as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, told me that Easter, a union shop steward, was shot and killed at age 63 in 1979 during a payroll robbery when he refused to hand over the money. 

AN ON-LINE COMMENT: “One thing about Jimmy G is that he makes the same mistakes game after game, year after year and does not improve. Tiger works on his golf shot. Steph works on his shooting. Jimmy stays the same mediocre quarterback, underthrowing, overthrowing and making bad decisions throughout the game. How many times did Deebo Samuel search up, down, to the right and left looking for the ball? Jimmy seems incapable of putting the ball where the receiver is. I'm amazed he's still playing in the NFL, making a ton of money for this level of mediocrity.”

IT WAS NOAM CHOMSKY who pointed out that if Americans devoted the hours of close scrutiny and analysis to their political situations that they devoted to sports, we might not suffer the dysfunctional governments dragging us all down. “Sports offer people something to pay attention to that's of no importance, that keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives, that might give them some idea of doing something about. And it's striking to see the intelligence that is used by ordinary people on sports. Listen to radio stations where people call in, often with the most exotic analysis and information!” — Noam Chomsky, “Manufacturing Consent”

THE ALAMEDA COUNTY Sheriff’s Office has stripped 47 deputies — 10% of the force — of their guns and arrest powers because they failed psychological exams, although they'll continue to be paid while they rehab their mental health.

I'D LIKE to see that test, but according to what I can gather it tries to assess the candidate's overall sanity: 

  • Impulse control
  • Judgment
  • Reasonable courage
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Lack of bias
  • Ability to tolerate stress
  • Dependability
  • Ability to deal with supervision
  • Appropriate attitudes towards sexuality

REASONABLE COURAGE? What's unreasonable courage, and what's the diff between honesty and integrity? Most elastic of all, “appropriate attitudes towards sexuality,” which is a tough category to keep up with these days given the rapid expansion of sexual practices. 

AN INTERESTING CASE of officer misconduct is raging in San Rafael. In brief, a male and female cop roll up on three Mexican guys drinking beer well away from a nearby apartment complex in the Canal neighborhood, where Marin's labor lives ten to two bedroom slum apartments like those in South Ukiah. The female cop, who speaks Spanish, tells the men in a non-hostile voice that they're in violation of the open container laws. 

WATCHING the video of the ensuing violent physical take down of one of the Mexicans by the male cop you wonder, “What the hell?” The three open containers had not been defiant, just a little slow grasping what they're being told to do — empty their beers. Which was wacky in the first place because they were just sitting on a log far from the nearest habitation quietly having a beer after a day's labor that you know was tough and underpaid. They hadn't been bothering anyone. 

ONE of the beer drinkers winds up with a broken nose and is placed under arrest on a bunch of bogus charges, including assault on the peace officer who had clearly assaulted him

BUT ALL THREE happen to have influential connections among the wealthy Marin-ites whose landscaping the three beer drinkers do, and every limo lib in town is immediately on the phone with San Rafael's police chief demanding the cops' heads, both of whom had been caught on camera laughing about what amounts to an assault on a much smaller man who was obviously trying to do what he'd been told to do — empty his beer. That there episode is such bad judgement you have to wonder how the two badged louts got on the force in the first place.

STEPHEN DUNLAP of Fort Bragg: “I have friends who live on the south Florida gulf coast, here are 2 days of first hand reporting:

Day 1: Took a direct hit. 3 mph short of Cat 5. Hurricane Ian is a beast. Terrifying. Winds howling, shutters still on but dang it, the caulking on some windows failed. Water pooling. Mopping then duct taping the leaks. Hope it holds. Downed trees, uprooted monsters, one big one took out our fence and others snapped in half like toothpicks. Its ungodly here. Florida will be a disaster for a long time. Flooding, storm surge, tornadoes pose threats now. More rain coming over several days.

Our generator is running our fridge, stove, ac, lights. We have water, food. Not sure of anything else right now.

We cannot see through the shutters because they are solid but when the eye passed, winds and rain took a pause. I ran outside with Tig who needed to peep desperately. He did his thing and I took a gander. Neighbors are missing shingles, some entire roofs, junk everywhere. It’s not safe to go out yet.

More news tomorrow! We are glad to be alive. Casualties are expected. Shocking to be in this mess.!

Day 2: We live in Punta Gorda. Fort Meyers is 40 minutes south, Sarasota 60 minutes north of us. We had a Cat 5 after all. This is a bad. No power, cell phone towers, internet, cable tv, we do have water. Fort Myers is decimated. Bridges to barrier islands gone. People stranded. Coast Guard will be doing search and rescue. We were told that many people drowned inside their shuttered and locked down homes due to horrendous storm surge. We are shocked at the tragedies unfolding... We are alive, grateful beyond belief. We hope to get through this situation as does everyone. People are helping each other. God bless the good people here who care!

Our house has missing soffit, gutters, downspouts, a smashed chain link fence from a humongous tree that snapped in half and landed on it, uprooted trees, shrubs and bushes denuded of foliage, yard debris everywhere like a greenhouse exploded or something, neighbors are missing the roof AND TRUSSES so you can look up from inside their family room and see lots of sky. People are missing their pool cages, some pools are wrecked. I have lots of dirt that blew into mine. Our generator is performing well but if we run out of propane in a week or so, we will have to wait for a delivery. We were able to get through to Ferrellgas to place an order. It took over 7 hours of waiting on the phone to get a claim going on our insurance. We have, as many homeowners here do, large beds of pebbles with a palm tree or two in the beds or islands. Our palms are like sticks pretty much. I just learned that 90% of Fort Meyers is underwater and demolished. Bridges to barrier islands are gone. I may be repeating myself. The worst I am hearing is that the number of people drowned by storm surge is over 100 so far. It is sobering.

“UKIAH MAN SENTENCED TO NINE YEARS in State Prison for Lighting Occupied Group Home on Fire,” announced the DA's office last week. “Defendant Travis Joseph Humphrey, age 32, generally of the Ukiah area, was sentenced in the Mendocino County Superior Court Thursday afternoon to 108 months in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.”

TRAV is a familiar face to us, often in the Sheriff's log. We've seen him around Ukiah for years, as has law enforcement. The guy's not homeless. He's a drop-fall drunk with roots in the Ukiah Valley. Trav is one of ours. Arson is quite a departure for a habitual drunk, but 9 years in state prison for a guy who's been non compos probably since he was in high school? I know of several drunk drivers who've killed people on the road who didn't get this much time. Humphrey belongs in a hospital program, not prison.

NOT TO BELABOR the obvious, but we'll belabor it anyway, when Ukiah's badged crime wave, a crime wave that included multiple rapes, charges that the accused, former officer Murray, didn't contest, Murray got off with probation. DA Eyster and Judge Moorman better hope Murray doesn't re-offend.

THE DISPOSITION of the Murray case is simply inexplicable. Eyster's been a good DA, saved the county a lot of money by fining instead of prosecuting the numerous people charged with marijuana offenses, makes mostly rational charging decisions, usually available for comment, maintains his lawn. Moorman is formidably smart, runs a fair courtroom. Then, suddenly, Murray, and both the DA and the judge look like a couple of… Eyster can hold his own with the bigshot defense attorneys from Down Below, but he took a pass on Murray, shoving poor old Heidi Larson out there to pretend she was in charge of the prosecution, and the whole justice apparatus worked overtime to keep their travesty away from a jury. 

MENDOCINO COUNTY dreads outside attention. Our elected people easily cordon off the local media, a big hunk of which would rather be loved than report anything that upsets anybody. The kind of cases likely to get the network tv trucks up here are few — the Fort Bragg fires of '87 were covered in detail by the ava and, kind of in an inaccurate piece, by the LA Times (see below), whose writer tried to tie the arson fires to unrelated crimes. But that was it for outside media. So long as they can keep Dave Muir outtahere, they assume they have no real probs keeping things in-house. (BTW, you know how serious the recent hurricane was? Dave reported from there in his t-shirt.)

THE MEDIA TRUCKS did show up some years ago in Boonville to report on three little girls who put rat poison in another little girl's sandwich. 

THE '87 FIRES in Fort Bragg, with town big shots burning down the town library, justice court and the venerable Piedmont Hotel in a virtual celebration of in-your-face arson all in one night, didn't draw any other media, but did draw a small army of ATF and FBI personnel whose findings — 39 boxes worth — were turned over to DA Massini who dithered until the statute of limitations expired, and the crooks got clean away. 

THERE ARE PEOPLE close to these events who are still afraid to talk about them and, in my opinion, there was at least one associated murder — Kenny Ricks. The day before he was to testify before a federal grand jury in San Francisco, Ricks allegedly shot himself. His death was ruled a likely suicide, but the young man, newly married, allegedly placed a shotgun between his legs and pulled the trigger with his big toe. Maybe, but he owned at least one handgun, so why the doable but the acrobatic last act?

 WHICH REMINDS ME of my favorite player in the big Fort Bragg event, the logistics man, the guy who delivered cans of gasoline to the torches, a 400-pound character named Pete Durigan. Durigan had relocated to Fort Bragg from the Bay Area where he'd worked for a county coroner retrieving bodies — while he and his colleagues helped themselves to the belongings of the deceased. The former corpse robber was a natural for Mendocino County, where you are whatever you say you are, and every day history starts all over again. 

MR. BODY SNATCHER, no questions asked, started a midnight janitorial service with locally prestigious clients including the Mendocino Savings Bank (one of whose loan officers was up to his eyeballs in the arson schemes) and the Fort Bragg branch of the phone company. As a side gig, Durigan delivered cocaine and, as mentioned, served as logistics man for the young men who set the fires for the engineers of a series of arsons-for-profit up and down the Mendocino Coast.

EXCUSE ME, MR. ANDERSON, is there a point to these sanguinary reminiscences? Yes, the DA him or herself should prosecute high profile cases. The spectacular ones don't come very often. Massini should have prosecuted the Fort Bragg case herself rather than let it ride on into oblivion, and, except for the incompetent story in the L.A. Times, it didn't draw outside attention. (When I tried to look at the Fire evidence boxes they couldn't be found. But since there'd been no prosecution, I guess they could legitimately be destroyed. How convenient for the DA, how sad for Mendo history.)

MASSINI ALSO should have prosecuted the famous Bear Lincoln case instead of farming it out to an inexperienced young guy who was easily overwhelmed by Tony Serra's Traveling Legal Show, and DA Eyster should have prosecuted the former Ukiah cop, Kevin Murray, with at least the zeal with which he went after the forlorn Travis Humphrey.


“Dissolve the District! Give the taxpayers their money back ! The District cannot and will not build housing for staff; it will not raise $100 million for a new hospital. Adventist will not contribute any money for a new facility.”


[1] As the supply chain and energy distribution network continues to crumble, those living without anything put away may find themselves in a precarious situation.

See, I have family in Italy and those progressive socialists thought it odd that I left a glamorous city and home at the beach for a forgotten-about rural area. They didn’t seem impressed by my garden, wood stove, solar rig and water harvesting. They thought it a silly waste of time by a misguided prepper. After all, how can I attend all the pride parades living out in the woods as I do?

Guess what? Now their electric bills are more than they earn. Now they sit in the dark and use just enough energy to charge up their phones. It won't get cold enough for them to freeze but it certainly will be an uncomfortable dark Winter.

I know that what is happening to friends and family in Europe will soon be happening here and I think the majority of our young people would gladly march into a camp if they were told that there were cell phone charging stations there.

I’m convinced of it.

[2] “Elsewhere an old pair of sneakers was listed and a collection of swizzle sticks. Why he would keep such things is a mystery that a psychiatrist might have an opinion about.”

My response: I actually collect old swizzle sticks, especially if they are from interesting old bars, casinos, restaurants, airlines, etc. They are an interesting piece of ephemera from the great days gone by of America that should be saved and preserved. 

I hope that these were not simply tossed into the dumpster.

[3] When I was growing up folks used words like “durn,” “doggone,” and “dadblame” as adjectives. “Shoot!” and “Durnit!” were common ways to express frustration. When my granny got particularly upset, she would say “Fiddlesticks!”

Words such as these are called “minced oaths.” They are socially permissible substitutes for similar words that are considered vulgar or profane. 

Until the late 19th century, most English language expletives (“cuss words,” as l learned to call them) were profanities—irreverent uses of words taken from religion or the Bible, words such as “God,” “hell,” or “damnation,” for example. Of course, it was coarse and socially unacceptable to use such words irreverently (profanely), so minced oaths such as “gosh,” “heck,” and “tarnation,” arose as substitutes. One of the most common early minced oaths was “Zounds!,” used to express surprise and a substitute for the profane “God’s wounds!”

By 1900, as blasphemy became less shocking, obscenities and vulgarity began to replace profanity as the expletives of choice, with the most commonly used expletives/swear words being derived from words for body parts, bodily wastes, and sex. Naturally as these expletives became more common, so did minced oath substitutes like “shoot,” “shucks,” “flip,” and “fudge.”

An observer of language in the 21st century might reasonably wonder whether we are witnessing the end of minced oaths. Nowadays, more than at any time in prior history, there seems to be little aversion or adverse consequence to the use of expletives that not long ago would have been considered outrageous and offensive vulgarities. With the normalizing of such words, the need for minced oath substitutes diminishes. So perhaps minced oaths are becoming a thing of the past. If so, I’m going to miss them, doggone-it.

[4] I think this winter will tell us how sheepish or not modern people really are. If it’s a rough one and food and fuel grow scarce, then even the most subservient are going to be angry. I don’t have much hope for we Swiss. We may refuse to yodel if things get bad, but that’s about it.

[5] A long time ago in my youth, I received great pleasure from traveling around from state to state on long distance touring trips via motorcycle. I rode smaller displacement bikes, nothing larger than 500 cc. A 250 cc cruiser bike can ride the two lane back roads with no problem, and if you ride conservatively, can get you up to 80 mpg. 

I still ride dirt bikes, but have had too many close calls on the highways and I don’t ride asphalt anymore. I’d love to ride the roads again, but I won’t until most of the idiots are removed from the roads and their cars either parked or shipped off to China. If things turn out right, our car culture will change to a motorbike, bicycle, and public transportation culture due to widespread poverty and fuel rationing. That would mean I get to enjoy motorcycling again without worry of being mangled by a teenage girl squawking on her phone or texting. Some clouds do have silver linings.

[6] HIGHWAY SPEEDS, two on-line comments:

(a) 80 is the new 65. I set my cruise control at 68 and my speedometer is certified accurate. At least 1/2 of the cars pass me very quickly and since in California, we don’t realize what blinkers are for, we never see them. I am thinking of hiring someone just to ride shotgun. I see the police on the road and they also pass me but it seems what’s going on in town keeps them too busy to worry about driving idiots. Gosh, do you think it might be related to all the accidents with deaths and injuries that we have? (b) Many drivers, especially the ones driving big 4X4', are actually 2-year-olds in soggy diapers.

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