JACK GESSHEIDT, TREE SPIRIT OPPORTUNIST, INC., will photo shoot his next strip tease for the trees at Strawberry Rock in Humboldt County on Saturday, April 27th. Gessheidt recently staged a photo in the Willits Valley that drew a modest number (35) of immodest people (the kind who should remain clothed except while bathing) who produced a group photo that was scarcely more appealing, to our jaundiced sentiments, than a Caltrans clearcut. Unlike the Willits Valley, the trees at Strawberry Rock are not under any immediate threat as Green Diamond is working out a green washing deal to preserve a few high profile trees in return for environmental stewardship certification. Like Willits, and numerous other locations that form his outdoor stage sets, Gessheidt appeals to tree and forest lovers “to make beautiful art and have an adventure!” Each participant is promised a digital copy of the resulting photo. Meanwhile, Gessheidt's price list clarifies his motivation for the photo stunts: unframed 11"x14” prints can be purchased through his website for a mere $250 each.
COLD CREEK COMPOST owner Martin Mileck was featured in a recent story by Justine Frederiksen in the Ukiah Daily Journal. The story, which highlights Mileck's ability to compost anything “if I have enough chickens,” was a thinly veiled jab at the Ukiah City Council. Mileck currently composts food waste from Humboldt County, the City of Fort Bragg, and the unincorporated areas of Mendocino County and has a standing offer to take all the commercial and residential food waste from the City of Ukiah. But Mendolib, inland branch, which dominates the Ukiah City Council, prefers that the Ukiah foodwaste be trucked outtahere to be buried in a landfill. Except for a tiny amount that is diverted to an implausible “waste to energy” pilot program in Lake County (instead of adding to the local Mendocino County job base at Cold Creek Compost).
THE UKIAH COUNCIL insists on landfilling the food waste because the Ukiah waste hauler, C&S Waste Solutions, a subsidiary of a Nevada garbage conglomerate, wants it that way. C&S is locked in a battle to starve Mileck out by denying him the green waste that he needs to compost all the semi-industrial waste that he accepts, from dead chickens (politely called “chicken mortalities") to grape pomace, to the residual sludge leftover from olive oil and beer processing, to asphalt chunks, sheetrock and other construction debris. Mileck even brags about illegally composting a 75 ton blue whale that washed up on the Mendocino Coast a few years back. It apparently violates state law to compost a whole mammal, but since the beached leviathan was thoroughly composted before state regulators could get wind of it (pun intended) there was no corpus delecti and therefore no evidence of a crime having been committed. It is also illegal to compost whole chickens, but Mileck, who composts 24,000 chickens a week, claims to have found a loop hole in the law that lets him get away with it.
MILECK TURNS THE CHICKENS AND ASPHALT into either a potent soil amendment or a planting mix and says his business is evenly divided between grape growers and pot farmers. Cold Creek Compost was first permitted in 1995 and has been fighting to stay in business ever since, first fending off an environmental lawsuit that dragged on 14 years and cost $1.5 million dollars. Since 2008 Mileck has been battling the Ukiah waste hauler who would like to force him out of business by denying him the green waste he needs to supply enough carbon to provide the proper mix of ingredients. The Ukiah hauler is in the process of seeking approval for an industrial composting operation of their own at the old Thomas pear sheds at the south end of Ukiah. And in the meantime the Ukiah City Council will keep insisting that the Ukiah foodwaste be trucked out to a landfill instead of being added to the chicken and asphalt mix.
THE PALACE HOTEL occupies most of a major commercial block in the heart of Ukiah's so-called historic downtown. Most of the historic buildings fell to the wrecking ball long ago and were replaced by architectural blunders like the present courthouse or the old Rexall Drug building that now houses the county child support services. The Palace, the very definition of “urban blight” has sat vacant and deteriorating for at least a quarter century while Ukiah milked its redevelopment fund to pay administrative salaries instead of spending the money on real projects. The only redevelopment project ever carried out in downtown Ukiah was the building of the $27,000 outdoor dining platform for Patrona's, the favorite restaurant of the west side Ukiah councilmembers who voted to approve it. The dining platform epitomizes the kind of fraud that led to the demise of redevelopment statewide.
THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL threatened over a year ago to declare the Palace Hotel a public nuisance, the first step in a process that could lead to its sale or demolition. Eladia Laines, assumed to be the owner, came forward to say she would restore the Palace but she just needed a little more time. The city council appointed an ad hoc committee to work with Laines, only to discover she could not prove she owned the building. Norm Hudson, a retired contractor, started “cleaning up” the Palace, but without getting the proper permits, especially given the likely presence of lead paint and asbestos. Laines has been serving up non-stop excuses to explain why she can't prove she owns the building and why the clean up work is stalled.
CITY ATTORNEY DAVID RAPPORT reported at the last council meeting that he thought Laines had finally shown sufficient proof of ownership to get a building permit from the city and to start clearing out the large amount of debris from interior cleanup and demolition work that was done earlier. Local architect Richard Ruff has apparently volunteered to draw up conceptual plans for re-building the Palace although many knowledgeable observers believe a date with the wrecking ball is inevitable. Mary Anne Landis, in full Pollyanna mode, commented that “if the debris can get removed, it seems like a conceptual plan is part of what needs to happen in order to get the pro forma together that would be of interest to investors.” The schoolmarmish Landis then summed up the next steps as “the debris, the conceptual plan, then the title insurance.” Which seems to overlook the obvious, which to many people, is that “the debris” includes the entire building.
THIS PARAGRAPH from last Wednesday's edition of the Press Democrat (April 3rd) manages to misstate the Willits Bypass case: “The Willits protest, in comparison, is much more tightly focused. Environmentalists contend the 6-mile Highway 101 bypass around Willits will destroy sensitive grassland, wetlands and second-growth tree stands. Some merchants and residents of Willits also oppose the bypass, but in large part out of fear of economic losses to the community.”
MANY MORE PEOPLE oppose the Bypass because it isn't a bypass, only a partial bypass that doesn't serve the huge daily traffic flow headed to and from the Mendocino Coast on Highway 20. For a total expenditure of $300 million (or more) this massive project doesn't do what it's supposed to do. You will still have to drive halfway through Willits to get to Highway 20.
IT'S CLEAR that Caltrans decided to proceed with the Bypass on a hurry-up basis because Big Orange feared that State Senator Noreen Evans and the pending lawsuit just might bring the whole show to a halt. (Note here that Northcoast's eternal officeholder, Wes Chesbro, has been invisible throughout the controversy.) The more public attention is focused on the ineffectiveness of the project in relation to its cost and stated goal of relieving 101 traffic congestion at the Willits bottleneck, the more frantic the anonymous drones at Caltrans become to get it underway.
THE TREESITTER who threw his waste at the CHP officer has done a huge disservice to the overall effort to stop this boondoggle. He's a roving demonstrator named Katz whose wife was also up a tree.) Ditto for the screeching fools shouting obscenities. It's what happens when there's no demo discipline — nutballs do their thing, public attention is diverted on to them, the greater public is estranged, the issues get lost.
THE WARBLER, Amanda Senseman, 28, of Willits, in contrast to the feces thrower, conducted herself with a dignified aplomb as she was plucked from her pine tree, and she stayed on message for the more than two months she was nesting.
ACCORDING TO THE CHP the “roving demonstrators” (i.e., not from Willits) were Travis C. Jochimsen, 30, of Lancaster who was arrested for trespassing and obstructing a peace officer; Martin R. Katz, 23, of Rancho Palos Verdes, the turd tosser, was arrested for trespassing and assaulting a peace officer; and Scott E. Tenney, 65, of Weott, arrested for trespassing and obstructing a peace officer.
WE WERE TRYING to keep up with events as they occurred based on initial reports on the tree sit extractions, when we realized they were all coming from the crackpot perspective. We watched the video and assumed it was a full portrayal of what happened, but the nut behind the camera who variously calls himself “Emerald Triangle and Gan Ja Farmer,” omitted the fecal flinging that prompted the cop to shoot back with beanbags. Suddenly, all we get is Ganja Farmer screaming obscenities. Listening to him, you would have thought the cops had gone nuts and were shooting the tree sitters with live ammo.
LOOKED at from a historical perspective, events in Willits are just another chapter in legitimate protests being hijacked by free floating trust funders who arrive out of nowhere with phony names and proceed to alienate public opinion. The demonstrators as individuals become the story, and the real issues are lost. As is another local chapter in the struggle for civic sanity.
MR. KATZ, the turd-tossing loon the CHP shot with beanbags, we now learn, was fired upon when he grabbed the cop climbing the tree outside the cherry picker and wouldn't let go. Just before grabbing the cop, Katz had emptied his night jar on him. The cop probably wasn't in danger of falling because he was in a harness and attached to the cherry picker, but he still could have been injured banging into it or the tree. “Also,” we're informed, “I don't believe Katz was shot in response to the shit flinging, but in response to grabbing the cop. The cop providing cover then fired the bean bag projectiles to persuade Katz to let go of the cop, although Katz appears to have struggled all the way. Unconfirmed reports say he has a history of similar behavior.”
IF OPPONENTS of the Bypass allow the nuts to represent the opposition to the project, Caltrans wins. Prediction: When the majority of Willits people, as work proceeds, begin to understand how destructive, badly engineered, conceptually crazy, and expensive the Bypass is to divert a relatively small number of vehicle around Willits, they'll say, “The Warbler was right. This thing is an outrage.”
A READER WRITES: “I agree that Martin Katz, the shit flinger, probably torpedoed any chance for Save Little Lake Valley (SLLV) to keep building the anti-bypass momentum and has probably cost a chunk of the support they already had. A majority of the visible anti-bypass people already tended to be self-marginalizing. Now it will likely be even more so. SLLV appears to be completely lacking in strategic leadership. The day Warbler went up into the tree 90% of their focus shifted to supporting and advertising the tree sit. And now that the tree sits are down, SLLV has no focus and no direction. They also lacked the experience to know that SLLV needed to publicly maintain a reasonably clear line between SLLV and the people doing direct action, in no small part to insulate themselves from the anti-social antics of morons like Martin Katz and the ultra moronic dope grower/videographer who calls himself “Emerald Triangle.” During the Headwaters Forest campaign EPIC [Garberville-based Environmental Protection and Information Center] and the Trees Foundation were very supportive of the on the ground direct action of Earth First! and did tons of legal and political work that supported the objectives of Earth First! There was also huge cross-pollination between EPIC, Trees and Earth First! Despite sharing the same objectives as Earth First!, and being run by an interchangeable pool of activists, EPIC and Trees always tried to distance themselves publicly, at times to the point of banning Earth First! activists from even walking into their offices. The facts about the bypass are compelling enough, but SLLV seems to be largely emotion driven, so facts don't matter. Which is why SLLV can say things like ‘The bypass will destroy the last remaining wetlands in Little Lake Valley.’ SLLV is not totally clueless (just almost) since someone must have told them that the former name which referred to Save Our Little Lake Valley sounded to precious and inbred. So they dropped ‘our.’ And they went from ‘Stop the Willits Bypass’ to ‘Stop the CalTrans Willits Bypass’ in an obvious effort to pick up any generic anti-CalTrans sentiment that might be floating around. But the value of these minor rhetorical adjustments has been swept away by the undisciplined antics of the protesters and the apparent lack of a big picture vision of where they want to go and how they want to get there.”
JENNIFER POOLE WRITES: “A more complete video of Tuesday's removal of tree-sitter Martin Reign Katz, posted Friday by Nomad Films, shows clearly that Katz grabbed one CHP officer's arm — with a pretty good grip as shown by the CHP officer's slight lurch forward — three seconds before the first bean bag projectiles were shot. Nomad Film's video, see link below, also shows Katz thrusting a bucket forward to launch what apparently are feces toward CHP officers in a crane bucket (at 1:35 into the video and again starting at 1:53). The “arm grabbing” moment described above occurs at 11:48 as officers are trying to attach a line to a harness they'd just succeeded in wrapping around Katz. The first shots occur at 11:51. The video documents many moments showing Katz resisting arrest in a combative manner. At 9:11 Katz reaches up from below to try to grab the leg of a CHP officer who is out of the crane bucket (but harnessed). More combative resistance is shown around 10:09. At 2:05, the video, looked at carefully, shows Katz empty and dump the bucket down the far side of the tree where the lower crane bucket with CHP officers is located. It's impossible to see whether any of the CHP climbers were climbing up the tree outside of the crane bucket at that moment. At 7:56 another object that looks like a bucket drops, but that comes from below the CHP crane buckets and the CHP climber, and appears to be dislodged by the movement of the crane bucket with the officers. Willits Weekly called Sara Grusky of Save Little Lake Valley this morning to ask about this “serious breach of the nonviolence code,” that tree-sitters and protesters expecting to be arrested have been trained to follow. Grusky agreed it was a breach of the code, which not only calls for peaceful nonviolent resistance, but also for a “friendly open attitude” to law enforcement and Caltrans workers. “Yesterday at the Rally for the Valley,” Grusky said, “[City Councilwoman] Madge Strong made a statement regarding this breach of the non-violence code, and I've also said on KMUD radio, and will say it to you now: Part of the process we're going through and will continue to go through is to be more organized and more vigilant in the training of everyone who's involved, in terms of having the experience and the commitment to maintaining that nonviolence code, which calls for peaceful nonviolence, no property destruction and a commitment to friendly and open attitude toward Caltrans, CHP and all agencies and public officials. That is our commitment, that was our commitment in the past,” Grusky said. “Going forward, we've had a reaffirmation to that commitment and a recognition that there was a breach there.” Grusky said Katz's tree-sitter name is “Celsius,” not “Caspian,” despite identification of the tree-sitter who combatively resisted arrest as “Caspian” in several reports, including screen text in the Nomad Films video. Note also that the Nomad Films video has been edited for profanity as per this note from Nomad's Facebook page link: “A camera click audio noise has been used to eliminate all foul language, we hope we got all of it!” Thank you to Nomad Films for posting the video so Willits Weekly could see it.” (— Jennifer Poole)
JUST IN FROM Fort Bragg’s indefatigable Laurel Krause, whose sister Allison was one of four young persons shot to death May 4th 1970 during an anti-war protest at Kent State: “On April 3, 2013 Kent State Truth Tribunal’s submission to the United Nations was posted ONLINE at the UN Human Rights Committee website. http://bit.ly/10xZebQ
UN NEWS: The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, Human Rights Committee released their ‘List of Issues’ to be asked of the United States regarding American Leadership’s human rights record. Unfortunately the ‘List of Issues’ does not include the Kent State Truth Tribunal submission for the May 4th Kent State massacre. However, the List does include broad language inquiring about measures taken by the U.S. to address police brutality and excessive use of force, which may serve as impetus for discussions about Kent State later this year. There is still a possibility that the May 4th Kent State massacre will be brought up during the UN Human Rights Committee’s formal review in October 2013. The good news: The 2013 Kent State Truth Tribunal submission to the United Nations is now posted online at: http://bit.ly/10xZebQ Uncensoring the ‘unhistory’ of the Kent State massacre while also aiming toward justice & healing, a chapter from Project Censored: http://bit.ly/RQNUWC
SOMEONE on the Coast Listserve, curious about the ongoing filming for the “Need for Speed” movie production, asked 5th District Supervisor Hamburg, “How much did the film company pay the county for this? And the Highway Patrol? And the people inconvenienced by prolonged road closures and probably losing money as well?”
SUPERVISOR HAMBURG REPLIED: “Need for Speed is bringing approximately $3m into the county, including a significant revenue boost for the county fair which is being used as the 'staging area.' The fair has been cut off from state funding and badly needs the revenue! All law enforcement agencies (county, CHP) and Caltrans are being paid for their time on the roadways of the county. It's the policy of the BOS to promote the film industry in Mendocino County. That's why we have a Mendocino Film Office. This doesn't mean that we would take welcome any film but the fact that Need for Speed is being produced by a reputable company (Dreamworks) and that it's a PG-13 film (as opposed to a 'slasher' movie, for example) were in its favor. Mendocino County competed successfully with Humboldt and Sonoma to host this film. The County will get significant mention in the film credits.”
HAMBURG didn’t answer any of the questions. How much did the film company pay the County? No answer. NFS is paying for some Sheriff’s Department time, and maybe a low-priced permit, so there should be an answer to that somewhere. And, no, it's not a slasher movie; it's a movie about driving at unsafe speeds, which, you could say, is the vehicular equivalent of a slasher movie.
THE SUPERVISOR casually says that NFS “is bringing approximately $3m into the county.” This number was tossed out by the NFS location manager at NFS's meeting at the Boonville Fairgrounds a few weeks ago, after NFS had gotten permits from the County. Nobody challenged it at the time. But it’s not viable on its face.
ACCORDING to NFS’s County film permit, the cast and crew number 150 people, and lots of us assumed they'd be spending lots and lots in Boonville and Ukiah.
THEY’RE NOT THOUGH. There’s a big catering truck at the Fairgrounds that says “Tony’s Catering, Chatsworth, California.” And at least one local innkeeper told us that when asked for rooms for some of the crew, the NFS rep said they wanted the innkeeper to cancel existing reservations to house a bunch of NFS staffers, which he obviously could not do, so most of crew is staying at a corporate chain motels in Ukiah.
LET'S ASSUME Not For Speed drops $200 per day per person on us rubes — way too high, but let’s use that figure for the sake of negativity, er argument. NFS has hauled in all their own stuff — cast and crew, trucks, cars, vans, two helicopters, transportation; even their own welding shop, none of it from Mendo.
SO we have 14 days in Mendocino County (11 days of filming), with 150 people at $200 a day each at the very, very most. 14 days times $200 per day times 150 people. Or, 14 x $200 x 150 = $420,000.
NOWHERE near the “$3m” Supervisor Hamburg cites as if it’s a real number that Mendocino businesses might see. In fact, the $3m is mostly the NFS production expenses of hauling all their people and stuff up here from LA, not the amount of money they’re “bringing into the County.”
MEANWHILE, here in the intoxicants capital of the United States, we learn from the “Mendocino County Public Health Services’ Prevention and Planning Unit,” our heavy hitters based in Ukiah, that “recently assessed alcohol outlets in the County” and found that booze licenses “exceed one for each 2,500 inhabitants....” The press release rumbles on and on to make the windy claim that this stat somehow “corresponds with a proportional increase in alcohol related violence, underage drinking, unprotected sex and driving after drinking.”
NOWHERE in all of this is so much as a mention of the several hundred roadside booze boutiques upon which Mendocino County hangs its tourist welcome. Besides which the evils cited by our Health Department are really ontological in origin — the ongoing collapse of Western Civ.
WE ALSO NOTE that Meredyth Reinhard, “Senior Program Specialist, 472.2614 or email@example.com. ca.us“ apparently wrote the report. She was Mike Sweeney's love interest in May of 1990 when Sweeney's former wife, Judi Bari, was blown up by a car bomb in Oakland. On the off chance that local or federal law enforcement again might think car bomb attacks on former spouses are, as we say in Mendocino County, inappropriate, Ms. Reinhard's dna would be subpoenaed. Why? The person who placed the bomb in Bari's car can be identified via dna, and since Sweeney, among his vague placements of himself at the time of the explosion, says he was at his girl friend's house...... The girl friend was Ms. Reinhard. The implicating dna in this case was not the forensics tool in 1990 it has since become, but it's found on letters written by the bomber who variously signs himself Argus and the Lord's Avenger. Sweeney, of course, presently functions as Mendocino County lead garbage bureaucrat. His current love interest (the guy seems to be catnip to the ladies) is Glenda Anderson, ace reporter for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, presently on the shelf with a back injury. Only in Mendocino County where you are whatever you say you are and history starts all over again every morning could Sweeney get over.
“INAPPROPRIATE,” by the way, is Mendolib's pejorative of choice, applied to everything from bad table manners to mass murder.
THE SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT took Ms. Reinhard's press release and converted it to an hysterical front pager called, “Mendocino County Drowning In Alcohol,” but at least the PD pointed out that the wine biz is one of the County's primary enterprises, the other being weed. But the article (by Martin Espinoza) did not point out that the hundred or so roadside booze boutiques called tasting rooms are also bars in every known sense of the term, and they require NO permit because they're exempt as agriculture-related, wine grapes being ag, you see. Most unfairly of all Espinoza's story drops the venerable South Ukiah bar, the Water Trough, into the discussion, complete with an inflammatory color photo with a couple of kids walking by its front door. He points out that the Trough is next door to a school on whose campus late night revelers drink alcohol, as if the Trough's proximity is somehow responsible, and as if the two kids in the photo just might pop in for a recess highball. The article does point out that the Trough has been at its present site long before the school. The business has been owned for many years by Ted Schamber, now well into his 8th decade. Ted can remember when there were 29 bars between the Trough and Calpella, and that was long before neo-Puritans were writing silly press releases implying that if permits to sell alcohol were less prevalent in the County all the social ills attributed to alcohol would disappear.
A MILDLY FRAUGHT Wednesday in San Francisco began with a dead man and a bomb scare. I'd just footed it out to Baker Beach and was truckin' home along Lake when I couldn't help but see a man crumpled at the foot of a tree, his head hanging over the curb. He seemed to have fallen there; even drunks tend to array themselves more or less comfortably before they black out. This guy looked dead. His shopping cart sat at an oblique on the sidewalk. It look like it had died, too. Lots of homeless people maintain orderly carts with their worldly goods of recognizable utility and neatly sorted. But this cart looked like the guy had simply upended a trash container and called its contents his. A woman walked past willfully not noticing, perhaps mistaking me for the dead man's companion, which would be an honest mistake given my workout duds. Another lady was parking her tiny Fiat Smart Car, carefully maneuvering it into the space without nudging the dead man's head, such is the desperation for parking in the neighborhood. She must have noticed the macabre irony in claiming a parking spot with a dead guy's head in it. I wondered where she would have drawn the line if the dead man's remains had been further into the space. Head and neck? Head, neck and shoulders? But, as it turned out, she was nice person and a good citizen. “Do you have a phone? I think this poor man is gone,” I said. She called 911 and joined me for a two-person vigil over the remains. People walked past. A young Chinese woman asked, “He sick?” “If he's lucky,” I said. “He isn't breathing.” She got halfway in her car, but leaned out to say, “Thank you,” before she drove off. I nudged the corpse's elbow. “If he isn't dead he's doing a good impersonation,” I said to my fellow concerned citizen, an Arab, I judged from her accent, half assuming my ethnic radar was wrong as usual. Soon, we heard sirens. Say what you will about SF's civic services if you call 911 they're on the way immediately, and not only in the sedate neighborhoods. You call for help, they come. And they turn out in force. Soon, a dozen uniformed firemen and emergency services people disgorged from two big red trucks had joined us at the dead man. And just as my 911 companion exclaimed, “I think he just moved.” I pushed the dead man's shoulder. His eyes blinked opened. If he'd been breathing all this time his breath was the shallowest I'd ever seen. He hadn't moved in a full five minutes. Wrapped in layers of rags, he looked like a Taliban flushed from a week-old sniper's hole. As the senior emergency person on-scene, I guess, the formal emergency people let me ask the dead man, “Dude, are you ok?” And the dead man got to his feet — gymnastically got to his feet given that he was fresh back from wherever you go when you suspend your own animation. He tottered a few yards from his shopping cart but was quickly surrounded by the emergency services people who, after a few unsuccessful attempts to elicit a verbal response from the dead man, strapped him onto a stretcher and wheeled him up and away. The City saves these people every day all day and night, saves them until they really do die wherever they fall for the last time.
AROUND THE CORNER, at California and Lake, Frisco's big black bomb squad van, a vehicle the length of two presidential limos with two more limos on top, was pulled across the middle of California Street. A dozen cops had cordoned off two full blocks with yellow crime scene tape. A lingering neighbor explained, “There's a suspicious package on top of a garbage can. They think it's a pipe bomb.” Situations like this, I think the cops should get out a bullhorn and do a running narrative on what's up rather than spend the many idle minutes these little dramas take to play out shooing people away from the tape.
LATER IN THE DAY, the fog having roared in to instantly convert a 72-degree afternoon to the Bering Sea, I biked up to Pacific Heights where Obama was due for a fundraiser. There was an army of cops, reinforced by Secret Service Suits, assembled to protect the President from the sight and sound of the people he allegedly represents. Mega-Security had blocked off the area, keeping a mild-mannered crowd of maybe a couple of thousand at least two blocks away from the $35,000 per plate fundraiser for the “liberal” wing of the two party dictatorship. The Democrats are already raising money for Hillary, Obama having screwed up his going-on eight years and made America even more despairing. Note: This is political San Francisco — wealthy people liberal on race, gender and sexual issues, but as vicious as Republicans on economics. They're interchangeable, Democrats and Republicans, and they've got to go. Yeah, yeah, there's the Progressive Caucus of the Democrats, mostly black members of the House, but you have to drive a few miles east over the Bay Bridge to Oakland to even find one in Barbara Lee, but at election time she and the rest of the “progressives” faithfully vote to keep the money flowing upwards.
THE DEMONSTRATORS arrived with a lively little marching band. Most of them were brandishing identical (and expensively printed) placards expressing opposition to the proposed Keystone Pipeline. I heard lots of comments from the upscale crowd along the lines of “Obama will vote No on it, but sometimes he needs reminding on things.” I'd say so. The more pressing issues were represented by a few people holding banners opposed to the ongoing persecution of mega-whistleblower Bradley Manning, Obama's rollback of habeas corpus law as represented by Guantanamo, his laughably corrupt sign-off on the free pass forever for Monsanto. One couple held up a replica of a drone of the type our government uses to pre-emptively murder “terrorists,” even if they're American citizens and, undoubtedly, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
A LOT of the handmade signs were beyond naive. One read, “Let's cure our addiction to fossil fuel now.” Myself, I could adjust to no fossil fuel an hour from now, but I'd say most Americans, at this point, are in no position to get excited over anything beyond keeping themselves sheltered and fed, maybe even employed. “Greed is killing the middleclass,” another earnest handmade sign said. Narrowly considered, that's true, but greed is the system we have and eventually, as Marx forecast, it eats itself, which it's now doing. So, what's next Mr. Wizard? The economy will go next to widespread “disorder,” and that will inspire some sort of smiley-faced but firm, very firm, fascism with Bill and Hillary up front, I'd guess. I give The Grand Delusion 3-5 more years.
MEDIA HACKDOM was out in force at the demo, the faces you see reading the news on Bay Area television. They circulated through the crowd gathering comments from the protesters, which they'll edit down to a cliché or two whose net message will be, “Isn't it all just so democratically grand. Our president is just two blocks away after flying in on a carbon spewing airplane the size of a football field to eat a marginally edible $35,000 dinner while fleecing a bunch of rich people whose interests he represents.
SUPERVISOR CAMPOS was in the crowd. Natch. Any Frisco demo brings out at least one pwog from the board of supervisors. Campos looked like he was hoping someone would recognize him. He reminded me of that old joke about Howard Cosell spotted eating dinner by himself. “Either everyone recognized him or no one did.”
A WOMAN wayyyy past her pom-pom days was dressed as a cheerleader in a pullover that had “Earth” inscribed on it. Well, hell, good for her, and good for all them for trying. No one knows what to do about The Beast. We all at least sense that things have spun dangerously out of control, that the political class is part of the problem. Mendo's new congressman, Spike Huffman, attended a prelim cocktail party at a billionaire's Sea Cliff house, but didn't make the cut to get into the Getty's.
THE GETTY MANSION, incidentally, is a pair of architecturally mismatched houses, all be them large houses, shoved together to make one architecturally mismatched big house. I have a vague memory of a Chron photo spread on the “mansion's” interior — huge gilt-framed mirrors, random botanical explosions featuring palms and pampas grass, fifi furniture, effete little dogs. Just down the street off the Lyon Street Stairs, rests Dianne Feinstein's bunker. It's architecturally coherent, anyway, the idea being basic Georgian, I think. You can see a portrait of Dianne from the stairs, her bland features illuminated by museum lighting. I haven't been invited in for coffee but you'll be the first to know when I finally get the nod. Apart from killing the country, the problem with our ruling class is that it has no style, no verve. The SF branch of the ruling class seems boring beyond all reason. Of course that could be the Chron's supine reporting, but then, historically considered, our owners have never been very interesting as personalities.
SAN FRANCISCO —Last Tuesday afternoon, as if by magic, signs that read NO PARKING FROM 2 P.M. TO 10 P.M. ON APRIL 3 were plastered to every tree and light pole on the block. No explanation. Not even a number to call for more information. As it became apparent that the signs stretched for a half-mile in all directions, the worst was assumed: a film crew had decided to bless this cement acre of San Francisco with its digital holy water, and soon a smug band of freelance assassins with headsets, clipboards and klieg lights would occupy this peaceful corner, before decamping to more fragrant pastures. But then a neighbor shared that the president was visiting: Hollywood has nothing on the dream factory that is our empire.
Jump-cut to Thursday evening: like a well-orchestrated Kabuki, the street was dutifully emptied of cars, and dozens of policemen monitored an invigorating storm of protestors and anti-tar sands heroes. Songs were sung. Hope was brandished, then politely returned to its dusty scabbard. Metal barricades were erected to keep the people without $35,000 to spend on a chicken dinner from ruining the evening of those lucky few with $35,000 to spend on a chicken dinner. (And you thought that the $14.95 Poultry Plate Bonanza at Olive Garden was highway robbery.) Nonetheless, the republic once again survived this latest brush with manufactured reality.
Friday morning a man was outside the house removing the NO PARKING signs. With arms full of flimsy cardboard signs, he started to walk away but stopped: a fugitive NO PARKING placard slouched defiantly on a tree, like a sullen teenager in the back row of algebra class. With a grimace he reversed course: “God! How many of these things are there?” He pulled the offender from its perch. “What kind of party was this?” he wanted to know. The president, I replied. “Of what?” he asked. When I blushed and told him of the United States, he snorted: “Gimme a break. How big’s his limo? There are signs everywhere, up and down the whole f***ing hill.” He wiped sweat from his exasperated brow. “Don’t get me wrong, ‘cuz I’m getting paid by the hour. But where the hell are people supposed to park!” I explained that a small army of police cars, bomb squad vans and motorcycle cops were stationed here, ready to pounce on any peacenik or delusional believer in Habeas Corpus. A professional, the man shrugged: “Well, I’ll be ready for a six pack tonight.” Then a moment of clarity. “But it’s Friday, right? I’d be drinking beer anyway.” He looked down at his stack of placards. “Here’s to you, Mr. President, whatever your real name is.” Emboldened by our exchange, I offered a hopeful: “Have a cold one for me.” The sign collector grinned from ear to ear: “Your tax dollars at work!” (Z)
THE FOLLOWING QUESTION was prompted by the frequent catch-and-release arrests of a Navarro man: “If the County Jail has empty beds, how come the judges don't keep this guy in for a while?”
THIS PARTICULAR INDIVIDUAL is, I guess you could say, a “quality of life” offender. Wherever he is the quality of life plummets. He constantly commits low-level misdemeanor traffic and drug offenses, mixed with occasional thefts and catch-all low-life stuff like petty assaults on men and women.
IT'S REALLY AN ISSUE of the DA and judges not focusing on him and people like him, and the DA and the judges don't focus because they don't get the complaints directly. Phone calls to the DA's office can help. “Please start putting this guy (insert name of your neighborhood nuisance) away for longer periods of time. He is not taking getting arrested seriously.”
THE JUDGES are monarchically insulated from the pressures of public opinion unless their personal welfare is threatened, while the current DA, much less isolated, will act in response to specific complaints about specific individuals.
THE COUNTY JAIL doesn't decide who gets to stay and who gets to go home. That's a decision made by the judges who set the bail schedule and decide sentences, with an assist from the DA in deciding how hard to lean on this or that miscreant.
IN A RECENT CONVERSATION with Lt. Bednar, the Sheriff's Department man with authority over the Jail, Bednar said that it's true that Jail capacity is 301 and that the Jail has been running at an average capacity of 275, but the 275 figure is deceptive. Inmates are sorted out according to a classification system: minimum security (catch of the day drunk drivers and other non-criminal types); medium security (doing county time for more serious offenses but not hardcore); 3 levels of maximum security (various types of tough guys and persons awaiting trial on accusations of serious crimes); protective custody (snitches, softy-wofties certain to be preyed upon by other inmates); special needs (crazy people who should be in the state hospital system we haven't had in California since Reagan closed it down for community-based care facilities that didn't exist.)
THE COUNTY JAIL POPULATION on any given day depends on how many people need to be housed in the designated units. For instance, there may be empty beds in max units but the Jail doesn't place your generic low rent punks in them because the tough guys would work them over just for the hell of it. Nor could you put a softy-wofty in the max units. Or a crazy guy. Prisoners are sorted out according to how they're classified, and the Jail is very good at sizing up the people entering their infinite embrace.
LT. BEDNAR said he realized “numbers are kind of deceiving” because “it's not a matter of an empty bed you can plug an inmate into; it depends on how the inmate is classified. Some units will be over capacity at any one time, some units under. It depends on who's coming in.” He confirmed that the Jail does indeed house a lot of people who are mentally ill.
THE LIEUTENANT ALSO CONFIRMED that the state's “realignment” policy does not mean that state prison inmates are being sent home from state prisons. “Realignment” means certain categories of convicted persons “are not going to state prison. They are staying here, and they include some parole violators.” Bednar said he expects a small, steady rise in the local County Jail inmate population as a result of realignment, adding that there are already more episodes of inmate on inmate violence because the Jail population now includes persons who would otherwise have been dispatched to state prison.
ACCORDING to a press release from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, some 8,000 child pornography images were discovered in the Bourns Gulch trailer home of 54-year-old Russell Dean Harber of Gualala. Police had found illicit sexual pictures on an iPod believed to belong to Harber last month, which is how the cops got on to Haber in the first place. Haber has now been arrested on suspicion of distribution of child pornography, a felony, because the police learned he was sharing the images with other persons. Bail was set at $15,000. $15,000? Even in the debauched SF Bay Area bail for this particular evil is set much higher. Our 8 (count 'em) Superior Court judges set the bail schedule. You really have to wonder if they're paying any attention.
AVA BLOGGER Jessica Ehlers of Fort Bragg has been appointed to the Mendocino County Mental Health Board by the Board of Supervisors as the “consumer representative” for the Fourth District.
GENIEVIEV KATHRYN ALEXANDER, 30, has been missing since last Thursday (April 4th). Her boyfriend said he last saw her walking away from the couple's home at the Pomo Campground about 3:30pm on the 4th. Ms. Alexander is described as a white female adult, 30-years-old, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a maroon fleece jacket, dark colored pants and dark colored tennis shoes at the time of her disappearance. According to the Sheriff's Department, “It was suspected at the time of Alexander's disappearance that she was having a delusional episode.” During a search of the nearby beach the next day, a pair of pants, identified as belonging to the missing woman, was found floating in the ocean not far offshore. Ms. Alexander, however, has not been found and, informally, is presumed dead.
THE NORTHCOAST'S new congressman, Jared 'Spike' Huffman, told the Press Democrat that he's raised $80,000 in re-election dough only months into his first term. Huffman, once an All-American volleyball player, said he'll need to raise “a minimum of $1 million to defend my seat next year.”
HUFFMAN, a lock-step Democrat, and an empty suit nearly as vacant as Wes Chesbro's, won election with 70% of the vote against a lock-step Republican named Dan Roberts.
NORM SOLOMON, a genuine progressive, challenged Huffman in the Democratic primary but failed to qualify for the general election, as several vanity candidates — plus, it seems, Solomon's decision to resort to movie star endorsements and slick advertising as vacuous as Huffman's — took votes from Solomon and cost the Marin County writer a place in the general election.
SPIKE'S MONEY TREE? The same as former Northcoast rep Thompson — wine people, public employee unions; the party's own money machine; rich people generally.
IF SPIKE has core convictions they are so far invisible. The point of “defending his seat” seems to be getting himself rides in long, black limos and photo ops with Party bigwigs. He was in San Francisco last week hobnobbing with One Percenters as Obama himself swooped into town to lay the clichés on people who paid $5,000 to have cocktails with the President out at Sea Cliff and to eat with him at the Getty mansion in Pacific Heights at $30,000 a plate.
WHY ISN'T JARED HUFFMAN promising to defend Social Security and Medicare? (By Alice Chan, chair of Progressive Democrats Sonoma County.) Last week, a Press Democrat editorial praised Rep. Jared Huffman for refusing to join colleagues who have promised to “vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.” What's going on here? On February 28, I joined a group of a dozen constituents meeting with Huffman's district director, urging the congressmember to sign a letter initiated by Representatives Alan Grayson and Mark Takano. That letter includes a promise to vote against any cuts to benefits in those three vital programs. Why did we request that our congressmember sign this letter? Republicans and some Democrats in Washington are pushing for cuts to Social Security benefits in cost of living adjustments, as well as raising the Medicare eligibility age. Those changes would directly affect the most vulnerable among us — the elderly and others with low and moderate income, who rely on these earned benefits to provide the basic necessities of life. What was Huffman's response? On his Facebook page a few days later, he stated: “I won't be bullied from the left or the right into signing Norquistian vote pledges to outside groups.” I was surprised to see our request characterized as a “Norquistian pledge.” Promising to stand up for the more vulnerable among us is the very opposite of Grover Norquist's extreme conservative anti-tax pledge. I was even more surprised to see myself portrayed as a bully. As a constituent, I and those with me were participating in the traditional democratic process. Why won't Huffman make this particular promise to his constituents? He has certainly made other promises, such as committing to vote against any infringements on a woman's right to choose. Signing the letter would signal in a very strong way to his district that he is committed to fully defending Social Security and Medicare benefits. It's disturbing that Huffman has refused to sign the Grayson-Takano letter. You can ask him to do so at www.pdsonoma.org.
LARGE TURNOUT Saturday morning for the dedication of Fort Bragg's Vern Piver Little League Field, a little jewel of a ballpark in a corner of the high school's playing fields on Fort Bragg's eastside. A number of local people clearly put in a lot of time and effort on the new field whose namesake sign, on a slab of old growth redwood, is a work of art. Vern started the Fort Bragg Little League in 1973 and, as most of us know, was a great athlete and baseball player himself, with a long tour in the high minor leagues before returning to Fort Bragg to work as a logger. If he'd been a few years older Vern undoubtedly would have caught on with a major league expansion team. He coached basketball and baseball for many years in Fort Bragg.
STAN ANDERSON reminds Mendocino County's dozen or so Republicans that the Party of Lincoln's local central committee (wear your beards and top hats) will meet Saturday (April 20th) 10am to noon, at the Henny Penny Restaurant in Ukiah. Info at 707 321-STOP HILLARY. Check that: Info at 707 321-2592.
THE PD PUBLISHED a puffaroo Sunday about how to attend Giants games without taking out a mortgage to fund a day at the ballpark. Probably the best thing you can do is ingratiate yourself with someone who has season's tickets and negotiate for the games that person can't attend. My nephew — all blessings upon him — lays a certain number of day-game Giants tickets on me every season. I pass on night games tickets because I'm strictly a day-game guy. Of course I take my own food. Ballpark prices are beyond extortionate and the food isn't all that good. To get to the ballpark, I either ride my bike down through the Presidio, Crissy Field, Aquatic Park, Fisherman's Wharf, and along the waterfront, or take Muni. I buy a $5 sandwich at Acme Bread in the Ferry Building or I pack in some Clement Street dim sum. When I don't have a free ticket, I attend when the Giants are playing someone like the Astros, when the scalper guy I know is receptive to any and all cash offers. Or, with the Giants “market pricing” policy, I can get a ticket at the window up in View for under twenty bucks. (“Market pricing” means for the big games with the Dodgers, say, the Giants run the ticket price up double, even triple. I operate on the theory that major league baseball is major league baseball, that no matter who's playing you'll see guys making plays no one else in the world can make. And I prefer the seats way up top on the rim of the stadium where, between pitches, you have that panoramic view of the Bay.) Coming in to The City from the north, be sure to take the regular ferry from Larkspur; if you're a geeze or a wheeze, tickets are only five bucks on the regular ferry. The special ballpark ferry is expensive, and you're squeezed in with the most repellant drunks in all the Bay Area — Marin County drunks. If you're driving in from the north, you can park free in the Marina and take the 30 Stockton to within a block of the ballpark. That bus becomes a geriatric Asian mosh pit as it passes through Chinatown, so be prepared to be bullrushed and generally pummeled by tiny old ladies in big bill sun hats. Only take a kid with you if the child has been properly trained. If you take a “I wanna, I wanna” kind of kid you'll have to borrow money to get back home. I have no idea how to get to the ballpark from the south; I haven't been farther south than the airport for 50 years. From the East it's easy access by BART and a short ride on Muni. Play ball!
MOVING ALONG, and curious about the recent allegations that Budweiser is watering its beer, I downed a tall Bud the other day on my way home from the Ballpark, plopping down on a bench beside a street guy near Pier 27, now an horrific eyesore given over by progressive San Francisco to one billionaire so he and two other billionaires can race their boats on the Bay this summer. “Wouldn't want to give me a hit of that, would you partner?” the street guy asked. But he said it, “Woodja wanna gimme a hit o that, woodja pardner?” No, my good man I'm sorry, but I'm conducting a taste test here, I said.
SO? Put me down with the people who claim there's water in the Bud. Something's different, for sure. We get ripped off so many ways anymore, and now the corporations are watering down the beer. That tears it! I'm writing to my Congressman! (An on-line commenter promptly and rightly pointed out that all beer is watered down, but Bud had a certain taste that my unfailing palate detects has been altered, presumably by more water in the recipe.
“HORSEWHIPPING WOULD BE TOO GOOD. We are outraged, as are most of the community and people across the nation who have heard about it, at the story of the two-year old child who was brought to our local hospital with alcohol and methamphetamines in the child’s bloodstream. We are already preparing ourselves for the disgust when our justice system allows the mother of this child to get away with it in return for some promises of rehab and parenting classes. “There is no longer any danger to the child, and she [the mother] does not have a criminal record,” said the mother’s pubic defender in court recently. How can he say that with a straight face? The mother may not have a criminal record — well, she does now — but there is certainly a clear and present danger to this child. That any parent would be so dependent on alcohol and drugs that she would sit partying with a friend and leave enough substances around that her two-year old could ingest any of it, never mind enough to be hospitalized, makes us wonder how our society can continue to put up with this kind of parenting. We know that social workers will tell us that their studies show that children are generally better off with parents, even imperfect ones. But to allow any parent to continue to have custody of a child who has been abused seems like just more punishment for that child. Our foster care system seems not much better. We’d like to hear your ideas about this case, about parenting, about how to keep young drug addled people from having children, about what consequences should arise for the young idiots who can’t take care of and end up abusing their own children? What are we doing wrong? What could we be doing right? Give us your thoughts by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our Ukiah Daily Journal Facebook page and add your comments to this discussion.” (— K.C. Meadows, Editorial, Ukiah Daily Journal, April 7, 2013.)
THE ROUSING EDITORIAL above by Ukiah Daily Journal editor KC Meadows nicely states the frustration we all feel at the combination of lethally derelict parenting that now seems epidemic in the county and the country and the judicial-social services nexus that takes bad and makes it worse. This particular atrocity occurred in the Anderson Valley. I know a lot about it; I wish I knew nothing about it. Grandma could be trusted to care properly for this child, but not mom. The way mom lives, and the men mom lives with, translate as Not Good For The Child, any child. So, what does Mendocino County do? Puts the kid back with Mom. Another case of the judges paying no attention whatsoever.
BUT THE WAY the system works, and it seems even more callous, less responsible in Mendocino County than other jurisdictions, some dingbat social worker, aided and abetted by one or another of the slackjawed crackpots functioning as public defenders, with another sign-off by the lions of the DA's office, has convinced an irresponsible judge that the kid can go home to mom. In other words, the local legal apparatus has placed the child right back in the situation that nearly killed him, and has already killed a Fort Bragg infant this year and is poised to dial down another could-easily-have-been-fatal Anderson Valley child endangerment case to a misdemeanor. By the way, and not that anybody seems to have asked them, none of the Boonville cops would have returned the kid to Mom. And they know the situation better than anyone.
THE FOSTER SYSTEM, locally, has been privatized to a couple of non-profits. These “non-profits” pay the people who run them nice money to sub-lease the dependent kid to foster parents selected by the non-profit. In other words, one court-dependent child of the sub-workingclass, supports a whole apparatus of people in a system that couldn't be better designed to harm that child, a mere funding unit, all things considered.
FACTOR IN the County's child abuse stats — proportionately higher than most counties in the state — add those to the fact that the County's two primary enterprises are alcohol and dope, and one comes away surprised that the incidence of pathological behavior isn't higher than it is.
ON THE SUBJECT of child abuse, we know of an episode when an inland cop spotted an obviously underage girl cuddling with a man the cop knew to be an all-round lowlife. The man told the cop he was the girl's guardian, her foster father. The cop called Social Services to ask what the hell. Social Services told the cop to mind his own business, that the girl was in good hands, that her placement with Mr. Low Life had been court-approved.
JAMES MARMON, a former County social worker hounded out of his job by exactly episodes described above, writes: “A major problem with Mendocino County Child Welfare Services is their staffing. Mendocino County historically has had a difficult time meeting state requirements regarding educated social workers. Each year they have to request a waiver from the state regarding their staffing, they also have to present a plan to the state on how they will rectify the problem. Mendocino County is one of only two counties in the state which have a Social Worker V classification. They developed the classification in order to recruit and retain master level social workers; they have a hard time doing either. Master level social workers don't last long in Mendocino County, and many who have been offered employment do not accept the less than generous pay schedule and lack of benefits that new employees now face. What you get now, is what the Agency is proud to call “home grown'“ social workers. These home grown social workers are usually people they recruit from other departments within social services. As long as they have the minimum college credits they are classified Social Worker I and are immediately handed a caseload comparable to more seasoned and trained social workers. They work at that position for a year and then they become a Social Worker II. Another year, they are a Social Worker III. Because of the lack of educated social workers the Agency made a paradigm shift several years ago from the “social worker recommends” to that of the “agency recommends.” Social workers are no longer responsible for making decisions regarding their cases, instead management makes all decisions and recommendations to the Court. As a result of the Agency making the decisions, they are usually based on politics or funding, not on the facts of the case and good social work.”