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Off the Record (Oct 22, 2014)

THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN weekly newspaper was closed last week without prior notice to its employees. The paper, in its 48th year of continuous publication, was lately owned by SF Media Co. an outside-based vampire media conglomerate. Media Co. also owns the SF Weekly and the farcical San Francisco Examiner. Frisco is now over as a center of dynamic journalism that it once was.

THE GUARDIAN was founded in 1966 by Bruce Brugmann and his wife, Jean Dibble, who ran it until the 2012 acquisition by San Francisco Media. One of California's first alternative weeklies, Brugmann, soon assisted by the able Tim Redmond, consistently revealed the rich and the powerful for the destructive forces they've often been in San Francisco. Brugmann was especially effective in revealing the sleazy machinations of the still impervious Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

CANDY ASS CAPITOL OF AMERICA? Yes, if the reference is to San Francisco. Cases in point. The constant cutesy stuff that goes on these days, like these flash mobs that show up on the Embarcadero for a pillow fight where less than a hundred years ago men died trying to get an honest day's work for enough money to live on. As it happened, just this morning (Monday) the Chron asked in a big hed, "Do grown-ups actually live in San Francisco?" I thought I saw one a couple of weeks ago, but that was a week day when lots of people are dressed in a way that at least enhances nostalgic notions of dignified public comportment and brief thoughts of visual respect. Weekends, however, the city is teeming with people dressed age-inappropriately — old ladies togged out like teenagers, teenagers as tattooed as Dyaks, grown men dressed like small boys, women in tutus, and so on.

OFFICIAL SF functions as a kind of civic enabler of Mass Silly, with a lot of rah-rah bullshit about "San Francisco values," whatever those are, but apparently meaning tolerance of even the most aberrant public behavior.

ANOTHER CASE instance of the general dumbing down, characteristic of public life in what is laughably (but earnestly) advertised as "America's most European city," is a series of Muni ads heavy on purported uplift. Maybe a few illiterates are inspired by Maya Angelou's vapors: "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." But probably not an erection after all that effort. The author seems to be referring more to blind lust than mere affection, and anyone inspired by the gooey sentiment expressed is more likely to find himself down at the clinic getting tested for the clap than he is holding hands with his betrothed at a church picnic.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: “Boss,” a two-season Netflick's production, stars Kelsey Grammer and is based on the life of the mayor of a Chicago-like big city. Grammer is absolutely brilliant. I don't remember seeing him in anything else, but the guy can act, as can the supporting cast. It may have been a little too dark for lots of people, but from here, it faithfully matched known contemporary realities. One caveat: Too many sex scenes, and every one of them goes on wayyyyy too long. On screen sex, seems to me, only has to be suggested; we mos def don't need the full monte. Heck, in this sex-drenched country of ours is there anyone over the age of T-Ball who doesn't know how it works?

THERE’S CERTAINLY BLOOD all over the overburdened back roads of the Bakken play all of a sudden, where $88-a-barrel shale oil doesn’t even allow you to pretend that you’ve got a profitable venture going. The shale oil fairy tale has been at the center of a matrix of lies America has been telling itself about its economic meth buzz. Saudi America and all that malarkey, all in the service of America’s master wish of all wishes: please Lord, let us keep driving to WalMart forever. The ebola melodrama has all the mojo to set the global economy’s hair on fire. And it comes along at a very strange time: just as central bank hoodoo approaches the brink of its own epic fail – as in, accounting fraud, check-kiting, and public relations can only work as a place-holder for authentic economic relations for so long before the ominous shadow of reality sweeps in on black swan wings. The markets were already well into the puking stage of their own hemorrhagic contagion last week. Maybe the S & P starts bleeding from its eyes and ears this week. — James Kunstler

WHILE WE BASK in the inevitable prospect that Mendocino County will ban fracking although the likelihood of fracking here is purt near nil, we might also wonder if the people who went to such great lengths to put the fracking ban on the ballot might also consider ballot-banning much more prevalent industrial practices such as sleep-destroying vineyard frost fans or the looming drone-spraying of pesticides and other life-destroying substances on vineyards.

UC DAVIS, the same academic outfit that brought us the high-density, shallow-rooted vines that demand more water and pesticide applications through drip irrigation, is now seriously exploring the application of pesticides by drone, perhaps as early as next year. “We feel the timing is right to investigate the US market,” said Steve Markofski, business planner for Yamaha who sells a commercial sized drone-helicopter called the RMAX. “We have been doing it the last couple years. We have been focusing on high-value crops, specifically grapes here in Napa.” Markovski added, “We’re quite a bit faster compared to the current method [of tractor spraying].”

UC DAVIS ag professor Ken Giles said that UC Davis continues to crunch data from the Napa County test flights to monitor the drones’ efficiency, productivity and spray drift. But by his lights, so far there have been no red flags, especially in its safety, adding, “It’s a vehicle with potential where we know there are things we can do with it that we couldn’t do in the past — spot treatments, quick treatments, delivery of a very localized payload [sic].”

WRITING in Western Farm Press, Richard Cornett of the Western Plant Health Association was positively giddy: “Imagine some day in the not too distant future utilizing 200-pound motorcycle-sized pilotless helicopters and fixed-winged aircraft to apply products to fields. The RMAX is equipped with one 8-liter tank on either side of the fuselage, giving it the capacity to carry slightly more than 4 gallons of liquid before having to be refilled. At full spray it can operate for about 10 to 15 minutes and cover about four to 12 acres per hour, which makes it obviously faster than a tractor. … Specific protocol for operation of unmanned aircraft could be adopted by the FAA as early as September 2015, experts estimate. If and when this happens, you can expect pest control applicators to go into the business, buy the proper equipment and then provide the service to growers. Seems like a win-win situation all around.”

PAUL McCARTHY of the essential blog, Mendocinosportsplus, has predictably been stiffed by the Mendocino school apparatus for wanting to know the whos and whys of the positively bizarre cancellation of Mendocino High School's homecoming football game for Yom Kippur. A school board meeting in Albion late last Thursday ignored McCarthy's request to get the homecoming cancellation on the meeting's agenda: "We failed to get the arbitrary Mendocino High School ‘homecoming cancellation’ onto tonight's MUSD Trustee meeting agenda. We emailed MUSD Superintendent Jason Morse after the homecoming cancellation ‘primarily’ due to the Jewish Holiday of ‘Yom Kippur’ and objected at the time that public school events were being cancelled (they called it postponed) because of religious observances and asked to make it an agenda item at the meeting.

“FORT BRAGG & Potter Valley had their homecoming that weekend — and the ‘One World Festival’ which celebrates diversity was also held during the Jewish ‘high holidays.’ Nine days ago Superintendent Morse emailed back: ‘The postponement of the MHS homecoming was a site based decision that was made after taking several factors into consideration. This was not a Board decision and nor should it be. This item will not be placed on the October meeting agenda. However, as you know, you are welcome to comment on any item not on the Board agenda each meeting at 6:00 pm under the public comment section.’

“OF COURSE, McCarthy continues, "we emailed back (and never heard back): ‘If you Google “Yom Kippur” school cancellations you'll find it was a school board decision in the rest of the instances. Shouldn't there be a process in place to address event cancellations? I have a few questions I'd like you to answer (at your leisure): 1) In the MUSD one person can cancel/postpone a school event? 2.) The Catholic holiday of “Good Friday” is April 3 next year. I believe Mendocino Schools are in session. Will any school events be cancelled that day in observance of THAT religious holiday? 3) And what of the MUSD Trustee meeting scheduled on the same day as the start of Ramadan (the holiest season in the Islamic year) next June 18? Cancelled or not? It's similar & just as “holy” (for Muslims) as the Jewish Yom Kippur. 4) Could I have a list of the religious holidays that the MUSD will schedule events around? In other school districts, if it appears more than 20% of the school/teachers will be absent due to an ‘observance,’ school/events can be cancelled/rescheduled per (school board) “adopted guide lines.” The ACLU, you'll find, has weighed in on this matter. “Thanks for your time, McCarthy’

A BELATED ANNOUNCEMENT out of Sonoma County informs us that back in August “Detectives seized about $1.4 million in cash along with a trove of gold and silver pieces at a Sebastopol house where marijuana was being grown.” The discovery occurred during an August fire on Blank Road near Highway 116. Along with the cash 1,421 gold and silver pieces were confiscated and, of course, lots of devil weed whose alchemic properties converted its smoke to all that money.

THE HOME INVADERS will certainly be inspired by this news, as will layers of law enforcement who get to keep the loot, assuming the raided party can't account for it.

READING the treasure story, I imagined a cranky old hippie, a ground floor pot guy from the late sixties, a self-taught biology wizard whose dope was, well, dope. Over the years the Sebastopol botanist developed a much sought-after product and developed a solid customer base. He also may have become a kind of survivalist crank as indicated by the gold and silver stash as supplement to his $1.4 mil in cash. All that work…

HERE’S A SHORT EXCERPT from a series of interviews of the five candidates for the Fort Bragg City Council by the Fort Bragg Advocate-News. This particular reply was provided by candidate and former Point Arena School Superintendent Mark Iacuaniello. (Unfortunately, the Advocate-News did not publish the questions they'd posed with the answers, so the entire series leaves the reader unclear about what the candidates were answering.)


MARK IACUANIELLO: “As a school district superintendent, I have extensive training and experience in human resources, public policies, procedures and budgets, legal responsibilities of public agencies, goal setting and accountability reporting. In addition, in my 40 years in education, I have garnered an appreciation of and respect for diversity as well an empathy and compassion for those who are struggling. I have honed my skills at finding common ground and bringing divergent points of view to focus on central goals. I am an effective listener, an innate problem solver, and I am willing to ask and seek out solutions for difficult or uncomfortable questions.”

THIS MUST NOT BE the Mark Iacuaniello who testified under oath back in 2010 during the Matt Murray “fraudulent inducement” case. At that time Iacuaniello was asked: “Do you have a role in solving the problems the teachers had raised?” After a lengthy pause Iacuaniello replied, “It depends on the situation and the nature of the concerns.” After another pause before Iacuaniello added, “Maybe my job is just to be there to listen and to be available to the teachers. … I don't feel my role is to solve problems.”

IACUANIELLO'S entire series of answers to whatever the Advocate-News questions were wrapped in the same obfuscating blather and internal contradictions the guy served up in court. As we’ve said before: This man should not be on the Fort Bragg City Council.

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY Republican Central Committee will meet Saturday, October 25, 2014, 10am-Noon at the Henny Penny Restaurant, 697 S. Orchard Ave (corner of Gobbi), Ukiah 95482. For further information contact: Stan Anderson, 707-321-2592. (I'll bet not a single member of the Democratic Party's central committee even knows where Henny Penny's is let alone eaten there. They never eat east of State Street.)

THE WEASELS of the Demo Central Committee are pulling out all the stops to vilify Lindy Peters. As they do everywhere in the County, from school boards to supervisor, the conservative libs try to make all our elected bodies into self-selected, self-perpetuating jobs programs for themselves and their friends. An independent-minded candidate terrifies them.

STEVE ANTLER and the rest of the “Democratic” Central Committee think Mark Iacuaniello would make a fine Fort Bragg City Councilman. Fortunate not to have been charged with perjury during his testimony in the Matt Murray case, Iacuaniello has never, until becoming a candidate, attended a city council meeting or any other meeting having to do with civic Fort Bragg. Iacuaniello's virtue? Like the “Democratic” Central Committee, he has no discernible principles, political or otherwise.

Lindy Peters

LINDY PETERS, a former Fort Bragg mayor and the guy the Nice People are desperately vilifying to get Iacuaniello on to the FB City Council, also happens to be a lifelong Democrat, but apparently not the right kind of Democrat: Peters recently stated on Coast ListServe: "The latest desperate attempt to defeat my candidacy claims I support offshore oil and fracking and urges anyone who loves the ocean and the environment to vote against me. Here is my response to a letter on the list serve that made these false and slanderous claims":

"DEAR FOLKS: I was on the City Council when we developed an Ordinance to prevent onshore facilities for offshore oil. I attended every minute of the legendary 1987 Oil Hearings. To say I support offshore oil is almost laughable, but typical of the desperate attempts by my opponents to find SOMETHING to rally the troops against me. I am adamantly opposed to offshore oil. Let me say that again, I am adamantly OPPOSED to offshore oil. When I suggested the ocean has minerals, I was referring to ocean water! There are tons if trace minerals in seawater. If we could find a way to extract them in the desal process, it is a double winner. Why on earth would I want offshore oil rigs ruining the very water I want as our water source? Nice try though. These low blows keep coming. I support measure S. Let me say that again, I support Measure S!! Vote for me and you will have an intelligent, effective OPPONENT OF OFFSHORE OIL!!!!! Sincerely, Lindy Peters, Candidate, Fort Bragg City Council."

THE CHP'S SOCO SPOKESMAN, Jon Sloat, announced Thursday that the Gualala teenager who crashed a friend’s car along Highway One near The Sea Ranch in June, killing himself, his brother and his cousin, had been drinking but was not legally impaired at the time of the crash.

SLOAT said the early morning June 29 accident that killed driver Jhovani Gonzalez-Marquez, 18, of The Sea Ranch, his younger brother, Aron Gonzalez-Marquez, 14, and cousin, Jason Alanis Marquez, 18, of Gualala, was probably caused by excessive speed on a stretch of unfamiliar road. “The cause has been determined to be a moving violation because we can’t prove impairment,” Sloat said. “We’ll really never know if (alcohol) had to do with the crash.”


THE BOARD OF SUPES is gearing up for another attempt to give Acting County Counsel Doug Losak a hefty pay raise. (It's being discussed by the Supes as we go to print this week.) A month ago the Supes announced that Losak would be named "Interim" County Counsel instead of "Acting" County Counsel, a title he has held since February. The title shift is worth $36k a year to Losak. Sheriff Allman quickly sounded the alarm that a pay raise was in the works. Chair of the Board John Pinches confirmed that a pay raise would be on the next agenda on the Consent Calendar, usually reserved for non-controversial issues. It was soon confirmed that the raise would jump Losak from his current annual take of $107k to more than $143k, far more pay than any other County department head.

AS THE PUBLIC FUROR MOUNTED, the Supes dropped the consent calendar sneak-a-roo and switched to Closed Session for "employee evaluation." District Attorney David Eyster showed up to tell the Board they better not be discussing a pay raise in closed session. Eyster said doing so would be a Brown Act violation, pointedly adding that his office was in charge of investigating and prosecuting Brown Act violations. He also said the Board lacked authority to grant Losak anything more than a 5% pay increase. And the DA scorched Losak's professional abilities with a vehemence unprecedented in Mendocino County public affairs. (If such candor prevailed elsewhere, American government might begin to work again.)

SO NOW THE SUPES have another Closed Session item to deal with County Counsel, this time under "labor negotiations." An obscure section of the Brown Act apparently allows the Board to secretly negotiate Losak's pay raise, as long as they first identify their "designated representatives" in open session. Then the Supes can meet behind closed doors to instruct their designated reps on how to give Losak his pay raise. A final contract would still need to come back to the Supes in open session for final approval. The hope by the Supes is that by then the public will no longer be paying attention, which at this point would seem to be a vain hope indeed.

THE CONSENT CALENDAR ITEM to appoint "designated reps" is sponsored by the Human Resources (HR) Dept. and recommends that CEO Carmel Angelo and Human Resources Director Tammi Weselsky be appointed to negotiate with Losak.

CEO ANGELO has been on the Supes agenda herself since April for employee evaluation. The Supes seem unable to agree on whether or not she has done a good job and whether or not her pay (frozen at $150k, $30k less than her hapless predecessor Tom Mitchell) should be increased. Angelo, who by most accounts has done an outstanding job within the terms of her position, appears about to be tasked with negotiating a fat pay raise for Losak, who has not exactly distinguished himself, although Supervisor Pinches has claimed that Losak's savvy has saved the County lots and lots money in claims and lawsuits denied.

THE IRONY of the situation seems lost on Supervisor Hamburg and his clueless colleagues. Board Chair John Pinches, usually a rock of common sense and practicality, has been quoted as saying the work Losak has done "is nothing short of outstanding" and seems eager to go along with the pay hike. Hamburg and Pinches need the vote of at least one other Supe to push the pay raise through. Veteran Board watchers are at a loss to guess which of the other three (Carre Brown, Dan Gjerde or John McCowen) might be willing to go along. (We predict Gjerde and McCowen will vote no; Brown has not been heard from on the Losak matter.)

LOSAK WAS APPOINTED Acting County Counsel for the first time two years ago. He'd held the job for two weeks when he was pulled over by Sheriff's deputy Orell Massey and found to have marijuana and an unpermitted concealed firearm stashed under the front seat of his car.

LOSAK has since stumbled on several occasions when asked to advise the Board on their own rules of procedure. As County Counsel, Losak is charged with enforcing employee discipline and instructing them on the law as it applies to ethical professional behavior standards. Many County employees, naturally, find it ironic that Losak sits in judgment of them and leads them on ethical matters. For lots of County employees, the question is not whether Losak should get a pay raise, but why is he still working for Mendocino County?

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY scam-a-rama known as Visit Mendocino County (VMC) may be coming to an end. The way the scam works is that Mendo County lodging businesses agree to tax themselves 1% of room rents (paid for by the customer) which is collected by the County, which then transfers the money to the Mendocino County Lodging Association (MCLA) along with a 50% match out of County funds. MCLA then contracts with VMC to promote the lodging/tourism industry.

ANOTHER JOBS PROGAM is called the Mendocino County Promotional Alliance (MCPA). It is also part of the subsidized tourism cabal. No one really knows which part of the three-headed VMC-MCLA-MCPA beast is really in charge of which purse strings. But all three groups compete to install as many of their friends as possible into do-nothing jobs. They then travel all over the state and nation on the public dime attending wine and cheese shindigs. They claim their jaunts and a few ads in Sunset Magazine somehow benefits Mendocino County.

BUT THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN TENSION among the players in this somewhat forced and oddly configured promotional ménage-a-trois. Two years ago an effort to double the 1% fee (and the County match) was defeated by dissident lodging owners who raised numerous questions about a lack of transparency and the way VMC was operated. Just like the ghouls who run "publicly supported community radio" station KZYX, the honchos living high on the VMC hog don't think anyone should be able to know how much salary they choose to pay themselves. VMC is trying again to increase the fees collected (and the County match) and also cut MCLA out of the decision making loop. But a recent change in leadership on the MCLA Board threatens to upset the apple cart.

THE NEW MCLA BOARD recently voted to sever the contract with VMC effective October 15. The thought of being cut off from the public trough has sent shock waves through the ranks of the VMC staff. It is too early to tell just how this particular drama will play out, but it promises to instantly renew the very bitter and very public infighting that MCLA and MCPA were famous for a dozen or so years ago. Their differences were temporarily pushed into the background based on a tenuous agreement of how to share the spoils ($300,000 or more of public money thrown their way every year by the Board of Supes). But that agreement is fast unraveling. Will MCPA be able to vote MCLA off the island? Will the Board of Supes double the amount of public money handed over to a private outfit to promote their personal business interests? Will the Supes demand greater transparency on how the money is spent? Or will the entire fiasco finally collapse of its own weight and self-interested infighting?

Michael Bitney
Michael Bitney

STILL no specific information on that horrific accident last Friday night (October 17) in Fort Bragg that killed a young mother and injured her 7-month-old infant. The baby was airlifted to Oakland and will survive. The suspect's vehicle smashed into a room at the Beachcomber Motel where the woman and child were staying. Michael Bradford Bitney, 56, of Fort Mohave, Arizona has been arrested by Fort Bragg Police for vehicular manslaughter in commission of an unlawful act with gross negligence; hit and run; and simple battery. Bitney is being held at the Mendocino County Jail on $55,000 bail.

ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: "Why "progressives" are called that is beyond me. Read up on the history of 'progressives.' They are, and always have been, a bunch of self-righteous, intellectual snobs who think they know what's best for society. Back in the early 1900s, they were advocating the elimination of the 'inferior races' by forced sterilization of blacks and other racial minorities. They were the ones who gave us Prohibition and banned drugs such as marijuana. Later on, they were the ones who gave us the 'war on poverty' with its destructive 'entitlement' programs that, for decades, have done nothing but foster the very conditions they were intended to eradicate. 'Progressives' don't operate from logic and experience; they operate from theories cooked up by ivory-tower 'intellectuals' who think they know how the world 'should' work. However, the world continues to operate the way it operates-- and although the 'progressives' have been proven wrong again and again, still they refuse to admit that they are wrong, and instead blame the failure of their 'policies' on anything and everything but the fundamental flaws in their 'thinking.' 'Progressives'? No, they should be called what they really are. Spiro Agnew-- much maligned at the time-- nailed it perfectly when he called them 'an elite corps of impudent snobs.'"

ED NOTE: This is quite a blast and, of course, comes with a distorted and misapplied historical context, but this loon gives himself away with his respectful reference to an adjudicated crook, Spiro Agnew. The eugenics nuts may have called themselves progressives but only as it applied to their lunatic theories. They were mostly of the master race school but, as I recall, advocated the sterilization of "inferior people," including whites, not the eradication of entire races of people. When the term 'progressive' was first applied in the upper Midwest it generally applied to populist economic policies aimed at a family farm-based beatback of the power of banks and railroads, but has lately become interchangeable with 'liberal' which, in turn, and almost certainly in this guy's reading, has become interchangeable with 'socialist.' In Mendocino County, I'd say 'progressive' is what a shamefaced, but right-minded liberal calls himself when he's loathe to be associated with the Democratic Party. The way we look at political terms here at the ava, cynosure of precise definitions, is this way: Tea Party— soft fascism; Republicans — corporate stooges and miscellaneous C students, only occasionally in touch with political realities; Socialists — there aren't any; Communists — there's one we know of in Sonoma County but he votes lib-lab; Anarchist — suburban neo-hippies who like to break windows outside their own neighborhoods; Democrat — low down, grasping, infuriatingly smug co-conspirators with mainstream Republicans in the corporate-high finance destruction of the country, different from Republicans only on dope and sex issues.

TWO SOUTHERN BELLES, one of whom was from Texas, were seated on the porch swing of a large white-pillared mansion talking. The first woman, who was not from Texas, said, "When my first child was born, my husband had this beautiful mansion built for me."

"That's nice," commented the lady from Texas.

"When my second child was born," the first woman continued, "he bought me that fine Cadillac automobile you see parked in the drive."

Again, the lady from Texas commented, "That's nice."

"Then, when my third child was born," boasted the first woman, "he bought me this very exquisite diamond and emerald bracelet."

Once more, the lady from Texas commented, "That's nice."

"What did your husband buy for you when you had your first child?" asked the first woman.

"My husband sent me to charm school," answered the lady from Texas.

"Charm school!" exclaimed the first woman. "Land sakes, child, what on earth for?"

"So that instead of saying 'who gives a shit,' I learned to say 'That's nice!'" replied the lady from Texas.

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