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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Nov 16, 2015

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Letter to the Editor

Suspect 501c3 Foundation

My 2 cents...

The Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation's Winesong fundraiser brings in hundreds of thousands annually and has millions in brokerage accounts, yet does close to nothing significant for the hospital. Ah, yes— new imaging equipment in the radiology department. Three years ago, the foundation made no attempt to rescue the hospital from bankruptcy.

I had three meetings with the Executive Director, Jeri Erickson, about a year ago. My repeated request for IRS records, MCHF meeting minutes reflecting amendments and changes to the by-laws, Winesong's detailed expense accounts, were ignored and I finally gave up. By law, a 501c3 is required to produce the above listed documents to anyone who requests them. On the MCHF's website are suspect audits.

As community members, I urge you to petition the MCHF to step up to the plate and support the hospital in its time of dire need.

To learn more about the questionable operations of the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation, go to: and type in Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation.

Margaret Paul

Fort Bragg

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EVEN THOUGH TOM PINIZZOTTO was promoted out of his position as Director of Mendocino County Mental Health Director it appears he’s still got his hands firmly on the reins, whatever his new title may be.

ACCORDING to the minutes of the 10/21/2015 Mental Health Board Meeting meetings, “HHSA Staff Present: Tom Pinizzotto, MSW, HHSA Assistant Director Health Services, Stacey Cryer, HHSA Director, Bev Rae, BHRS Program Administrator, Heidi Poor, Office Assistant III, Larry Ainbinder, Compliance Manager, Todd Storti, Administrative Service Manager, Bekkie Emery, Deputy Director Social Services.” Ms. Cryer who got the new title of Mental Health Director was not listed as such in the minutes.

ALSO PRESENT were members of the “Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Stakeholder Committee”: Mark Montgomery, Psy D, Vice President of Operations, Ortner Management Group, Susan Wynd Novotny, Executive Director, Manzanita Services, Anna Shaw, Executive Director, Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center, Tim Schraeder, Chief Executive Officer, Redwood Quality Management Group, Camille Schraeder, Chief Systems Director, Redwood Quality Management Group, Tom Pinizzotto, MSW, HHSA Assistant Director.”

Listed last were “Members of the Mental Health Advisory Board.”

IN THESE MINUTES, we are told that “Effective 10/19/2015 Integrated Care Management Solutions (iCMS) [an Ortner subcontractor with offices on Dora Street in Ukiah next to all the other care facilities over there] has entered into a contract with Integrated Psychiatric Services, Inc. (IPS, Inc.) to provide Medication Management and support services.” Integrated Psychiatric Services is a Connecticticut based outfit, which, according to its website “is made-up of Licensed Clinicians; APRNs, MDs, LCSWs, LMFTs, LPCs. Integrated Psychiatric Services was founded on the principle of treating individuals with varying needs within the community.” The “services” IPS provides are: “Genetic testing, Medication management, individual and family counseling, couples counseling, psychological assessments, and psychiatric evaluation and with medication management as well as TELE-counseling for you [sic] convenience and privacy.”

IN OTHER WORDS, Ortner has farmed out a chunk of their work (along with another layer of administrative cost and overhead) to a separate for-profit outfit run by a Yuba City-based member of the Ortner Management Group, Mr. Jeff Payne, MBA, which in turn has sub-contracted out to a Connecticut outfit that obviously will do some kind of remote TV-psychiatric "counseling," known at the County Jail as "doc in a box." No one will ever know anything about what this involves, who it allegedly helps, or how much these multiple layers of admin will pull down from the County's mental health budget. The web of contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors here is beyond belief, not to mention beyond Mendocino County. And it further complicates the already shady arrangement Mendocino County has with Ortner. If Ortner was to lose his lucrative deal with Mendo, the new contractors would have a real mess to unravel.

WE ARE ALSO TOLD of another tenant in the Old Coast Hotel, a tenant probably not anticipated when the sweetheart deal to buy the building from the Carine family was completed. “Mendocino County Hospitality Center and iCMS will co-locate in the Old Coast Hotel when renovations are completed in December or January to centralize services.”


SO THE Old Coast Hotel conversion will be mostly office space for mental health administration and overpaid contract managers. Which means that they didn’t need the Old Coast Hotel for "services" at all; all they needed was office space, as this arrangement clearly indicates — office space that could have been easily obtained without turning the Fort Bragg landmark into another government-funded administrative operation.

ACCORDING to the attached data charts provided by Ortner and Redwood Quality Management Services in the Ocotber meeting minutes we find out who is — and is not — getting the alleged crisis services and an explanation of why the County’s more difficult mental health “patients” (the ones who end up cycling in and out of jail) are not getting much “service.” Ortner reports that less than 10% of their “clients” are “indigent.” RQMS reports that just over 1% of their under-25 patients are “indigent.”

UNFORTUNATELY, none of this — Pinizzotto’s continued involvement, the decision to sub-subcontract through an Ortner business associate to IPS, the services being denied to the indigent, the misuse of the Old Coast Hotel, and many more important subjects — was discussed by the Mental Health Board and its numerous self-interested hangers-on, er, “stakeholders.” If you are curious about the reason for such non-discussion, simply go back to the beginning of this item and re-read the list of who was present.

ATTENTION DAN GJERDE: This administrative layering with sweetheart subcontracts to Ortner’s friends and associates in Yuba City is the main reason Ortner’s administrative rates are so high.


According to Ortner’s website:

“Jeff Payne is founder of Payne and Associates, an organization providing social and mental health services in northern California. Mr. Payne has over 20 years of experience in the social services and behavioral health field, as an executive, a consultant and in administrative services, operations management and clinical programming. Mr. Payne received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Chico State University and his Master’s Degree in business administration with emphasis in healthcare and hospital administration from Regis University in Colorado. Mr. Payne worked for Crestwood Treatment Center in Eureka, California in recreational and clinical programming. Mr. Payne then worked for the Sterling Corporation in Yuba City, California, providing acute psychiatric inpatient care and programming services to children, adolescents and adults. Mr. Payne has spent the last 16 years serving several behavioral health agencies including the Walnut Grove 
Treatment Center, Rosewood Care Center, North Valley Behavioral Health*, Willow Glen Care Center, and Priorities Incorporated, providing operations management, strategic planning services, licensing and certification preparation, consulting and executive services for crisis residential, long-term residential and acute psychiatric care for adults and the elderly. Mr. Payne is a co-founder of North Valley Behavioral Health and currently serves as Executive Director of Priorities, Incorporated, an organization dedicated to serving individuals with developmental and mental health disabilities. He is also a co-founder and Chief Operations Officer for the Ortner Management Group. Mr. Payne also serves on several non-profit boards including Chairman of the Board for Rosewood Care Center in Yuba City, California; Secretary for Counseling Solutions in Chico, California, and Vice President of Finance for the Capital Thunder Youth Hockey Club. Mr. Payne has been successfully self-employed as the founder and owner/operator of his consulting firm since 2003. He has participated in the development and management of several social services and behavioral health entities. Mr. Payne has also served as co-founder and managing partner of multiple entities dedicated to providing mental health services.”

Mr. Payne is also listed as owner of North Valley Behavioral Health, 1721 Claire Ct, Yuba City, CA 95993. Contact: Jeff Payne, Manager, 530-514-1494. North Valley Behavioral Health was the outfit that Mental Health Director (or Assistant Health and Human Services Director) Tom Pinizzotto worked for before coming to Mendocino County and engineering the privatization of Mendo’s Mental Health Care to Ortner Management Group which owns and operates North Valley Behavioral Health.

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LAST NIGHT'S DEBATE was at least available to everyday people on television via CBS. Prior debates have been on cable television although millions of Americans don't buy cable. Those debates have been regularly interrupted for commercials advocating boner meds, fat pills, insurance, and so on. "The future of the world is being brought to you by Cialis. If your erection lasts more than three days, please see a medical professional."

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS? Thank you for asking. As a guy who feels the Bern, I was delighted to see him take a couple of real punches at Hillary who, I must say, coolly turned them right around with some fast demagogic footwork. Bernie pointed out that she has always gotten huge funding from Wall Street. Hil replied with a breathtakingly demagogic comeback immediately invoking 911, that as the senator from New York at the time, and Wall Street being at Ground Zero, she was simply doing what she could to help business get back on its feet. All Bernie could do was laugh.

I THOUGHT it was striking that Bernie brought to a mass audience the basic facts of American life that ordinarily go unheard — that regular people are getting screwed by the radically under-taxed oligarchy busily destroying the country. He pointed out that the very rich were taxed at 90% "by that great socialist, Dwight D. Eisenhower." And now, they basically go untaxed, hiding their money in overseas accounts. Bernie was on-task, saying things seldom heard out loud in this country.

O'MALLEY was pathetic. He presents like a guy at his first Toastmasters. And he's pretty much full of it. He tried to make Baltimore, presently leading the country in murders, and Maryland as some kind of paradise, all because of his grand leadership as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

HILLARY'S ADVISORS ought to warn her against her forced laughter. Every time I hear her trying to yuk it up, I think to myself, "Someone's going to die here tonight." I was only truly startled once all night by Hil's defense of her and Obama's work on Libya as some kind of foreign policy triumph, presently a country now in the hands of bandits and warlords. American policy has managed to destabilize the entire world, although it was Republicans and Bush who shoved the globe over the cliff, but Hillary made it clear she would only be more of the same vis a vis the rest of the world.

LAST NIGHT'S DEBATE, though, was at least an argument adult-type people could take seriously. Unlike the clown show underway among Republican candidates, and I speak here as a reluctant, nay hostile Democrat, with Sanders us lefties finally have a candidate we can get behind (with a lot of reservations, natch) with some enthusiasm. He offers a real alternative to Clinton who seems to me a much more formidable, much smarter version of her husband, but she's wrong about everything and is basically a moderate Republican when there used to be moderate Republicans. I'll say it again, and you read it here first: Hillary will be the nominee because the process is rigged, but she will lose to Rubio because millions of Democrats like me, all us Bernie enthusiasts, will not vote for her.

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In the Division 6 volleyball playoffs, all the lower seeded teams won last night to advance to the semifinals — including defending champ and #1 seed SF Waldorf. #2 seed Anderson Valley will host #3 seed St Bernard Catholic on Wednesday night. St Bernard took four sets to beat Contra Costa Christian and advance.


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…Homelessness in Portland isn't primarily a problem with local roots -- that is, the result of residents losing their jobs and being unable to pay their bills. It seems, on the contrary, a result of transients from elsewhere flocking to our city, and that is an important distinction. Portland has become a magnet for the homeless, and if this is the case, the relevant question seems to be, why?

It would be easy to fault our clement weather, but I think that's misleading. The problem, it seems, has more to do with our collective attitudes than anything else. Let me explain.

Portlanders embrace permissiveness. Many see condemnation, in any form, as a fault; censure is itself vilified. But what this amounts to is a liberalism that has gone too far.

It's also an attitude that is easy to abuse. The result has been an influx of homeless and a rise in public drunkenness, unsafe parks, unsanitary conditions in said parks, even litter. No matter your ideas about permissiveness, that's not a good thing. Occasionally, ideals need to be tempered with reality, and I think that's the case here.

— Eben Pindyck, Southeast Portland

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CATCH OF THE DAY, November 15, 2015

Armstrong, Benoit, Campbell
Armstrong, Benoit, Campbell

SARAH ARMSTRONG, Lakeport/Ukiah. Battery, drunk in public.

SUSAN BENOIT, Willits. Preventing or dissuading person from making a report, arresting, or assist in prosecution.

WAYNE CAMPBELL, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

McGranahan, Ramos, Ramsing, Underwood
McGranahan, Ramos, Ramsing, Underwood

JUSTIN MCGRANAHAN, Sparks, Nevada/Ukiah. Unlawful sexual intercourse with minor who is more than three years younger than perpetrator.

TODD RAMOS, Redwood Valley. Domestic assault, probation revocation.

RUSTY RAMSING, Willits. Domestic battery, court order violation, probation revocation.

DAMIAN UNDERWOOD, Ukiah. Domestic assault, child endangerment, probation revocation.

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NOVEMBER 20, 1965 — Nov. 20: A bill of unsavory particulars by attorney Melvin M. Belli against his estranged wife, Joy, was revealed yesterday in San Francisco Superior Court. Belli’s 12-page accusation charged his wife with a long list of sins from adultery and keeping company with “a rather unusual interior decorator” to throwing worldwide tantrums and making “indecent suggestions” to comedian Jerry Lewis. Belli also claimed that his wife said that she despises him and that “all he is good for is to make money.” He also charged that she had an affair with an unnamed airline pilot while denying Belli for the past six months. Belli said his wife became intoxicated at parties and created scenes to embarrass him in New Orleans, Houston, New York, Hollywood and Vienna. In Vienna, he charged, she “deliberately extinguished a cigarette” on the back of the hand of their cute guide. Belli also charged that his wife “became drunk and abusive” at a party at Tony Curtis’ home in Hollywood and made “indecent suggestions” to Jerry Lewis. Other charges were that Joy Belli never sewed a button on his clothes and never cooked, shopped or cared for their Twin Peaks home. Not only that, Belli said, but she also told him she was going to stay married to him because he “is older and would die first.”

— Jerry Burns (Courtesy, the San Francisco Chronicle)

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A READER WRITES: Lots of terrible stuff in here, but do check out pages 20-21.

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Semper Fi! Right here in the USA there is a large gang of killers that takes every recruit and makes them go through hell, as it trains them to kill. The purpose of training is to rip every recruit down, and when I say “down” I mean to the level beneath the dirt; and then to rebuild them, reshape their thinking. It is a brainwashing to make sure there is absolute loyalty to the gang.

Here is the testimony of one of the gang members: “I was treated like shit and I was one of the top recruits! They made me pay everyday for my decision to join, made me bleed on sand, and made me wish every bone in my body would break. But the day that I received my Eagle, Globe, and Anchor I cried so hard, and my DI’s were the first ones there to say “Welcome to the Family, Marine!"

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By day the bat is cousin to the mouse.

He like the attic of an aging house.

His fingers make a hat about his head.

His pulse beat is so slow we think him dead.

He loops in crazy figures half the night

Among the trees that face the corner light.

But when he brushes up against a screen,

We are afraid of what our eyes have seen:

For something is amiss or out of place

When mice with wings can wear a human face.

— Roethke

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Dearest Editoria,

To the author of the explanation of the Retirement Board situation (in today’s AVA), my greatest appreciation for conversion of a very tedious and multiply-influenced matter into a thoroughly readable discourse on the actual situation and how it was created, by individuals with typically invisible associations to the purportedly innocent chauvinism of their group.

After reading it through a couple of times, I realized that the information compiled in these dozen paragraphs cannot have been afforded the author (or the author’s sources) if it were not somehow of public record. That the Retirement Board has publicly accessible meetings, that it maintains records and policies, has me green with envy (okay, and slightly cross-eyed).

We don’t even have a Retirement Board in Lake County (the closest we come is a "compensation and classification committee" — run by a County Supervisor and the Human Resources director -- appointed by the County Administration, with no public meetings, let alone policies you can see).

In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find anything resembling a “policy” in Lake County. Thus, many policies must be inferred from decisions taken according to obviously constructed scripts, usually following something that is indelicately called “deliberation” — no debate needed or allowed — such as the “consideration” given to sludge disposal rates for the solid waste landfill, without ever explaining the reasons for the sludge needing removal in the first place.

If you ask the staff of the County administration, you may be told that there is a book of policies, but you may also be told that the staff isn’t sure if the public has the right to see it. If you persist, you will find a binder full of fiats, none of which are codified by local ordinance (only by adoption of some sort of “resolution” — if you squint). There, now don’t you feel better?

You can go on line to the Lake County web “portal” and look up the boards, committees, and commissions listed on a subordinate page, but very few of those have any kind of link to supporting information. Likewise, you may view the list of annual Board of Supervisors' “committee assignments” (no relation to the committees in the previously-referenced list), but these also provide no further information or connection thereto.

So, whoever you are, obviously you have done more than your “due diligence” (presumably attending meetings, obtaining agenda and minute packages, digesting voluminous regulatory and ministerial documentation, and otherwise observing the individuals in the larger context of their appointed roles). Thanks so much for that level of work, and kudos for a fine piece of writing.

Betsy Cawn

The Essential Public Information Center

Upper Lake, California

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Bruce, Mark,

I saw your blog post in the AVA's "Mendocino County Today" (November 15, 2015). It seemed mean-spirited, inflammatory.


As a member of the Retirement Board, I am -- and will remain -- a strong steward of MERCA and its beneficiaries. Also please know that my colleagues on the Retirement Board -- without exception -- are equally committed as stewards of the public trust.

You write in the blog post that I am "a compliant lap dog"...really? I think not. I probably ask more questions during Retirement Board meetings with the possible exception of Ted Stephens, especially on investment policy issues, which is my area of expertise.

And those "numerous conferences at taxpayer expense" which you write about in today's blog...again, really? Many of my "conferences" were trainings given by California Association of Public Retirement System (CALPRS). The other "conferences" were trainings given by the State Association of California Retirement Systems (SACRS).

It may interest you to know that the last SACRS training I attended was in Monterey, CA, in November of 2014...a year ago.

And I paid for that training in Monterey out of my own pocket. I can hardly afford to do that...I have two kids in college at California Maritime Academy, CSU. Two college tuitions. But such is my commitment to training. I paid for the Monterey training out of my own pocket.

Incidentally, I'm probably one of the best trained fiduciaries that the Mendocino County Employee Retirement Association (MCERA) has ever had. I graduated from the CALAPRS three-step trainings in pension fund management at Stanford Law School, UC Berkeley's Haas School, and UCLA's Anderson School.

Finally, about my "alleged" Wall street background at a "high-flying hedge fund"...I'll post a snapshot of my FINRA file to my website, which I'm now developing. The website, incidentally, is being developed in anticipation for a foundation grant that I hope my public affairs show on KMEC will soon be receiving. We'll see.

As I said...whew! What's up, guys? Your blog post today was mean-spirited and inflammatory, but, worse, it missed the point entirely.

And what is the point? The main point is that the Retirement Board does not set benefits policy. The Board of Supervisors sets benefits.

The current Board of Supervisors is very responsible, very conservative, but past Boards of Supervisors committed the Mendocino County to benefits that the Retirement Board must now pay. Remember the Slavin study?

We at the Retirement Board play the hand that we were dealt. Meaning that our unfunded pension liabilities are structural in nature.

I would also add that almost every other public pension system in the country, and almost every public pension system at every level -- federal, state, county, and municipal -- are all dealing with the same structural issues. That said, MCERA is healthier than many, if not most, systems its size.

Some larger systems, like the City of Detroit or the State of Illinois, are so grossly unfunded that they may be characterized as insolvent.

MCERA is in good shape, especially with regard to managing our investment portfolio. The RV Kuhns Public Fund Performance Study for 2015 easily ranks MCERA in the top quarter of the 78 systems polled in the 5-year and 10-year surveys.

See link to the 2014 study:

Again, our investment returns -- as good as they are -- are not the same thing as an asset/liability study. But asset/liability studies, typically done by actuaries, are as much art as they are science. Something as simple as using deterministic assumptions versus stochastic assumptions have big implications, Also, asset/liability studies they look outward over a 30-year or 50-year time horizon.

MCERA is in good hands.

John Sakowicz, Ukiah

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A READER WRITES: "If Sako and his colleagues on the Retirement Board are equally committed as 'stewards of the public trust' then why did they vote down Supervisor Gjerde's very modest proposal to adopt a COLA that was realistic for Mendocino County instead of the same as the San Francisco Bay Area? Because the five other retirement board members who plan to collect a pension want to make sure they get the highest COLA possible. Padding their own personal retirement check is more important than protecting the solvency of the retirement system. Knudsen's manipulation of the phony “excess earnings” is well documented, but Sako praises him as a steward of the public trust. And they are doing such a great job that the unfunded liability keeps increasing during the same time the stock market has moved steadily up. If they can't make any headway when the market is up, I wonder how well they will do when the market crashes?"

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by Patrick Cockburn

The Islamic State (ISIS) has always massacred civilians in large numbers to show its strength and instill fear in its opponents. In the West, people notice these atrocities only when they take place on their own streets, though ISIS suicide bombers killed 43 people in Beirut on 12 November and 26 more in Baghdad on 13 November. These attacks are almost impossible to stop because they are directed against civilians, who cannot all be defended, and the bombers are willing to die in order to destroy their targets.

ISIS has claimed the Paris attacks, saying that France was targeted because of its air strikes in Syria. The use of eight suicide bombers and gunmen in a national capital, guaranteeing maximum coverage by the media, has all the hallmarks of an ISIS operation. One ominous difference from the killings earlier in the year at Charlie Hebdo magazine and in a Jewish supermarket, is that the attacks, presumably because of ISIS involvement, are getting more sophisticated and better planned. Recruiting, arming, coordinating and keeping hidden the Paris killers until the last moment implies good organisation. The same was true of the smuggling of a bomb on to the Russian plane before it left the ground at Sharm al-Sheikh on 30 October.

What is the explanation for this recent intensification of ISIS suicide bombings outside Syria and Iraq? The killing of civilians as complicit in the acts of their governments was always part the ideology of al-Qaeda, an approach most famously demonstrated on 9/11 in New York. The softest of targets is destroyed by bombers or gunmen intent on killing themselves along with their enemies as a demonstration of religious faith.

But there is a further reason why ISIS may be intent on showing that it can strike anywhere in the world: for the first time in two years, a period during which ISIS has created its own state in western Iraq and eastern Syria, it is being driven back by military pressure on a number of fronts.

In the past, it would deal with its numerous but disunited enemies one after the other, but now it is facing attacks on a number of fronts at the same time. The Syrian army backed by Russian air strikes last week ended the siege by IS of Kweiris Airbase west of Aleppo. It was the biggest Syrian government victory for two years. The Syrian Kurds, in cooperation with the US Air Force, are advancing south around Hasaka, while the Iraqi Kurds, again with American air support, have captured Sinjar city west of Mosul. ISIS will find it difficult to travel between Raqqa and Mosul and may lose its grip on the oilfields of north-east Syria, from which it has derived revenue.

These developments on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria may seem distant from the butchery in the heart of Paris. But it is important to understand that ISIS is an effective fighting machine because its military skills, evolved during years of fighting, are a potent blend of urban terrorism, guerrilla tactics and conventional warfare. Its blitzkrieg advances in Iraq in the summer of 2014 were preceded by a wave of suicide bombings using vehicles packed with explosives in Shia districts of Baghdad and central Iraq. The aim was to keep its enemies frightened and off balance and to show to potential supporters that ISIS was a power in the land.

Nobody in the outside world paid much attention to the thousands of Iraqi Shia who were killed then and have gone on dying because of ISIS terrorist bombings in Iraq. The number of civilians killed in Iraq jumped from 4,623 in 2012 to 9,473 in 2013 and to 17,045 in 2014, according to Iraqi Body Count, an independent website; a high proportion of these killed were Shia victims of Isis bombers and executioners. This savagery is now being repeated in the streets of Paris and Ankara, where 102 demonstrators for peace were killed by two suicide bombers on 10 October.

It is part of ISIS’s tactical manual to retaliate against any opponent by any means, with the aim of showing defiance in some spectacular way guaranteed to dominate the international news agenda. Thus, it reacted against US air strikes, which it could not prevent militarily, with videos of American journalists and aid workers being decapitated with horrific deliberation. When cutting off heads ceased to have its previous shock effect, IS burned to death a Jordanian pilot in a cage.

It claims that the killing of civilians is not mindless murder but vengeance: an ISIS-related group saying it was behind the destruction of the Russian plane and its 224 passengers showed pictures on the internet of the aircraft’s wreckage interleaved with shots of buildings in Syria shattered by Russian bombs. ISIS is making clear that, if any country bombs them from the air, it will reply in kind on the ground, using the methods of urban terrorism backed by a well-organised state. It is difficult to think of any example of this happening before.

These acts of terror require some resources, but no high degree of training since targets chosen are defenseless, such as the British tourists lying on a beach in Tunisia or the people in Paris who were murdered as they attended a rock concert. Not a great number of Islamic fanatics are needed to carry out these monstrosities, the impact of which echoes around the world. ISIS has had a great number of foreign fighters pass through its ranks and it can usually find committed supporters within the countries it intends to target.

There is a further reason why ISIS may find it more easy to find and use potential suicide bombers outside the caliphate. One of the setbacks it has suffered this year is the loss of its main border crossing between Syria and Turkey at Tal Abyad, which was captured by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in June. Half the 550-mile frontier between the Tigris and Euphrates is now held by the YPG, so ISIS access to the outside world is much more limited than before. The US has put intense pressure on Turkey not to allow ISIS and other Salafi-jihadi groups to cross the border into Syria west of the Euphrates. Volunteers who might previously have travelled through Turkey to join IS in Syria will now stay at home and provide a pool of committed manpower for use in suicide operations.

ISIS is under unprecedented military pressure in Iraq and Syria, but this does not mean it is going to implode. It can fight defensively as well as offensively. It looks as if it will not fight to the finish in battles in which enemy ground troops are supported by the US or Russian air forces. ISIS commanders are reported to believe that they made a mistake in fighting for so long at Kobani, where they may have lost more than 2,000 fighters to US air strikes. Instead, they will rely more on guerrilla tactics in Syria and Iraq and expand the zone of conflict by carrying out terrorist attacks abroad like those we have just seen in Paris.

(Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.)

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WAR: A song that says all that needs saying on the subject.

War, huh, yeah

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, uh-huh, uh-huh


War, huh, yeah

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, say it again, y'all


War, huh, good god

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, listen to me


Oh war, I despise

'Cause it means destruction of innocent lives

War means tears to thousands of mothers' eyes

When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives


I said, war, huh, good god, y'all

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, say it again


War, huh, whoa-oh-whoa-oh, Lord

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, listen to me


War, it ain't nothing but a heartbreak

War, friend only to the undertaker


Oh, war, is an enemy to all mankind

The thought of war blows my mind

War has caused unrest within the younger generation

Induction then destruction, who wants to die?


Oh, war, huh, good god, y'all

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, say it, say it, say it


War, huh, uh-huh, yeah, uh

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, listen to me


War, it ain't nothing but a heartbreaker

War, it got one friend, that's the undertaker


Oh, war has shattered many a young man's dreams

Made him disabled, bitter and mean

Life is much too short and precious to spend fighting wars these days

War can't give life, it can only take it away


Oh, war, huh, good god, y'all

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, say it again


War, huh, whoa-oh-whoa-oh, Lord

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, listen to me


War, it ain't nothing but a heartbreaker

War, friend only to the undertaker


Peace, love and understanding, tell me

Is there no place for them today?

They say we must fight to keep our freedom

But lord knows there's got to be a better way


Oh, war, huh, good god, y'all

What is it good for?

You tell me, (nothing) say it, say it, say it, say it


War, huh, good god, yeah, huh

What is it good for?

Stand up and shout it (nothing)

War, it ain't nothin' but a heartbreaker

— Edwin Starr

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WHAT ABOUT THE KEYSTONE XL CLONE -- on KMEC Radio -- Monday, November 15, at 1 p.m., Pacific Time

Monday, November 15, 2015

KMEC Radio, 105.1 FM, in Ukiah, presents a special edition show on Monday, November 15, at 1pm, Pacific Time, that we're calling "What About the Keystone XL Clone?" Steve Horn is our guest. Horn is a Madison, WI-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog and a freelance investigative journalist. He previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. His writing has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, Vice News, The Nation, Wisconsin Watch, Truth-Out, AlterNet and elsewhere. John Sakowicz and Sid Cooperrider are our hosts.

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He got 19 years but...


by Bruce Anderson

(Ed Note: This story appeared in 2002. It still strikes me as one of the more grotesque miscarriages of local justice.)

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Martin "Tate" Laiwa remembers the day he was formally accused of the murder of Joe Poe.

"David Eyster saw me in the jury box prior to being arraigned that day back in 1992, and he comes up to me and says, 'Tate, I read the case and they want me to take it. I told them no, and from what I read there is no evidence and I know you did not do it.' I broke down and started to cry, and he says, 'I believe you and you should be home as soon as the investigation is over.' I believed him, and I was surprised to hear that come from his mouth because he didn't like me and I didn't like him much. I was sure that the truth would clear me, and I would be home soon. Even a man who didn't like me could see that I was not the one who killed the man, and he read the reports!"

David Eyster was Mendocino County's famously tenacious lead prosecutor at the time, and not a man known to sympathize with persons he even suspected were on the other side of the law. Eyster was also the office's major crime guy, and murder is a major crime, but Eyster passed on this one. A less scrupulous fellow named Robert "Bob" Hickock was tapped to prosecute Tate Laiwa, and a uniquely evidence-free case proceeded against the 31-year-old Point Arena man as if the people had caught him in the act.

Writing from his cell at Folsom Prison, Tate Laiwa is ten years older and a thousand years wiser.

"The day it happened back in August of '92 I was on my way to finding out the harsh realities of how the justice system works in Mendocino County. I, like a big dummy, was always led to believe that the truth would always be brought out in a criminal trial no matter what, and that if you were in fact charged with a crime that you did not commit then the court would, through investigations and lawyers, seek out the right party to the crime and free the wrongfully accused. Almost ten years later I'm still trying to do just that -- trying to prove to the courts, Hey, you have the wrong man here! But they answer back, You had your day in court. Do your time. No, I have not had my day in court, and I'm not going away and I'm not keeping my mouth shut until I get justice."

Who Killed Joe Poe?

It's about four in the morning of August 15th, 1992. Seven men are sitting in Tate Laiwa's trailer on reservation land northeast of Point Arena. All of the men in the trailer have been drinking. Five of the men are Indians, two are white.

The Indians know each other or of each other. They are either related by blood or by marriage or have relatives living on the Point Arena rancheria.

One of the white men is Jerry Fleming. Fleming's aunt is Tate Laiwa's mother. Fleming, then, is his host's cousin. Fleming knows most of the people on the Point Arena res because he has often visited his aunt, Mrs. Laiwa, and, as roughly the same age as Tate, has grown up with the Laiwa boys.

The other white man, and odd man out, is Michael Stewart. Stewart has been driven to Point Arena from Windsor by his friend and Windsor neighbor, Fleming. Stewart doesn't know anybody in the trailer except for Fleming. He later says that he thought some of the people in the room didn't seem too hospitable, although the host, Laiwa, was amiable enough.

Michael Stewart is an alcoholic and a diabetic. He travels with an insulin kit and a blood machine. Stewart claims to be affiliated with the Hells Angels and tells his new acquaintances biker tales his fellow guests don't find particularly believable or interesting. All the men in the room have their own stories, and they're plenty adventurous enough without inserting the Hells Angels into them to boost their excitement quotient.

Stewart is the kind of man that law enforcement describes with terse understatement as, "He's known to us." Stewart once did 13 years in state prison for a shooting; his life outside prison had been, well, eventful, to be diplomatic about it, and has since died of medically unwise exertions, specifically, drop-fall drinking and drugging on top of terminal diabetes.

This diabetic, alcoholic ex-con and self-alleged Hells Angel, became the people's primary witness to the 4 am murder of Joe Poe in Tate Laiwa's Point Arena living room.

Here we are then, on the Point Arena rez, very early the morning of August 15th, 1992. The seven men are gathered in the Point Arena trailer home of Tate Laiwa, a 31-year-old Pomo Indian of the Manchester-Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians. It's about four a.m., maybe a little earlier, and Joe Poe is about to take his last breath.

Poe was sitting on a bucket talking about fishing with Jerry Fleming when a man with a deer rifle walked up to the seated Poe and shot him dead, point-blank, the big bullet entering Poe's unsuspecting head just under his left eye.

Poe died instantly. His head, the coroner wrote, "was extremely deformed."

Jerry Fleming had been sitting next to Poe when the shooter stuck the rifle three inches away from Poe's face and pulled the trigger. Fleming said the shooter wore a red shirt. Fleming also said that he'd received "bad vibes" from the man in the red shirt, and the vibes got so bad after Poe's head exploded, Fleming assumed he was next and ran for the door.

Fleming said he saw "a rifle come up from the side or something like that. I just seen the barrel, a pair of legs and it come up, and that was it. When the gun went off, I jumped up in front of the guy holding the rifle." But, Fleming said, he "wasn't sure who it was. I'm not positive. All I remember is just jumping up and heading for the door... I just have a red shirt sticking in my mind and that's about it. Like I say, I don't know if it was my cousin or the boy that was wearing the red shirt."

Poe's blood was everywhere in the room.

None of it would be found on Tate Laiwa -- not on his clothes, not anywhere on him. Tate says he was in the bathroom to the rear of the trailer when the shooting occurred. Almost immediately after Poe was shot, he remembers, a man in a red tank top ran out the door with the murder weapon.

The man in the red tank top was a famously violent man named David "Hippy" Bechtol. Bechtol would later deny he was the man in the red shirt. He would not deny he ran out the door with the murder weapon.

At the time, Bechtol was on parole for an armed robbery. Ten years later he's fresh out of prison on parole for another crime. He's a very tough guy with a violent history.

Only hours before Joe Poe was murdered, Hippy Bechtol, the un-flower child, had twice rammed Poe's unoccupied car as it sat not far from Tate Laiwa's trailer.

Five days after the murder, Bechtol at first told the police he'd simply run out the door because, as a parolee, he knew he'd be a suspect and, besides, he'd violated the conditions of his parole by drinking. Then he said that he had taken off with the gun but had thrown it into "a pond" at the bottom of the hill near the rez pump house. Bechtol said the man with him, Eldon Miller, was passed out drunk in Bechtol's car while Joe Poe was being murdered, and that Miller was still passed out in Bechtol's car when the rifle was thrown into the pond at the bottom of the hill.

The rifle never has been found, but it's said to be alive and well in Lake County.

When the gun went off in Joe Poe's face, the man who would become the people's primary eyewitness, Michael Stewart, was double-drunk, if not half-dead. He'd been soaking his diabetes in wine coolers, beer, whiskey, and maybe even shots of tequila for fifteen hours, beginning his medically suicidal binge the previous morning in Windsor.

Stewart says he'd been drifting in and out of sleep and "insulin shock" when the shooting occurred, but that he was wide awake at the moment of Joe Poe's summary execution. Stewart said his diabetes and all the strangers in the house had combined to disturb his sleep. Fifteen hours of drinking, to hear Stewart describe his state of being at the time of the murder, had left him unimpaired, his powers of observation undiminished.

Stewart said he saw Tate Laiwa shoot Joe Poe.

The man who ran out the door with the gun, Hippy Bechtol, said he saw Tate Laiwa shoot Joe Poe.

And Jerry Fleming said he thought he saw somebody in a red shirt who might have been his cousin shoot Joe Poe.

Although Poe had been shot in the face by a high-powered rifle from three inches away, no blood from Poe's exploded head was found was on Laiwa or his clothes. A man just out of state prison for an armed robbery went out the door with the gun, lied about it to the police when they caught up with him five days later, tried to run out the back door of his Upper Lake house when the police knocked on his front door when they did catch up with him, and never did explain why he took off with the murder weapon.

And the man who would become the people's sole disinterested witness against Laiwa was a half-dead diabetic who'd been drinking since the morning of the previous day.

The implausibilities kept on piling up, all of it unaccountably falling on the head of the least likely man on the premises to have killed anyone.

The police said Tate Laiwa confessed to killing Poe five hours after Poe died. The investigating officer, Tim Kiely, said Laiwa asked him to turn the tape recorder off so Laiwa "could tell him what happened." Kiely said he turned the recorder off, Laiwa confessed, Kiely turned the tape back on but did not confirm on tape the confession he said he'd just heard.

Tate Laiwa says he asked Kiely to turn the tape recorder off so he could tell the officer who had killed Poe without people thinking he was a snitch which, in the context of the Point Arena rez in 1992, was a sensible precaution to take when discussing rez events with law enforcement. It had not yet occurred to Laiwa that the cops had homed in on him as the responsible.

The prosecution's case was simple, if not simpleminded. It would claim that Laiwa shot and killed Joe Poe in the living room of Laiwa's in-the-process-of-being-remodeled house trailer on the Point Arena rez, that he'd committed the murder because he wanted to be a Hells Angel, that an ex-con-drop-fall-drunk- of-a-terminal diabetic said he saw Laiwa do it, that Laiwas and Poes didn't like each other from way back, that Tate Laiwa had confessed to all of it while the cop's tape recorder was off.

Reasonable people would see reasonable doubt begin about a mile back, which is why prosecutor Eyster, the Javert of the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, refused to have anything to do with the case.

Laiwa said right along he didn't do it, but his public defender, Ron Brown, didn't seem to believe him. Brown advised Laiwa to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter, telling Laiwa that his sentence would be 3-5 years in state prison if he'd roll over and say, "I killed Joe Poe."

But Laiwa refused. He said he wouldn't confess to a crime he hadn't committed. He'd take his case to a jury of his peers.

The jury of his peers turned out to be 12 white people, most of them elderly, one of them a man who'd lost a relative to murder, none of them partial to the outlaw Indians conjured for them by the prosecution.

A guilty man, in these circumstances, would be likely to opt for three to five years in prison. An innocent man would be more likely to take his case to a jury. A defense attorney, one would think, could easily establish reasonable doubt in the minds of fair-minded jurors, given the known facts of People v. Laiwa.

Tate Laiwa thought there was no way a jury, once they heard the non-existent case against him, would come back with a guilty verdict.

But they did.

Tate Laiwa's public defender, Ron Brown, now Judge Ron Brown of the Mendocino County Superior Court, was unable to convince a single juror that there was, at a minimum, reasonable doubt that Martin Laiwa shot and killed Joe Poe. He couldn't manage to convince a jury that there was only one witness to Laiwa's confession, and that confession was made while the witness’s tape recorder was turned off,

Death In a Beautiful Place

How could such an ugly event occur in such a beautiful place?

Bad things have been happening in Mendocino County's beauty for 150 years, longer than that even, if the hazy accounts of 18th century Spaniards and Russians passing through small settlements of Northcoast Indians. But bad things accelerated by 1850 when white settlers began arriving in California in significant numbers, and by 1900 it is estimated there were about a quarter of a million Indians remaining in the all the United States, and not many Indians at all in Mendocino County.

Census figures for early Mendocino County were not reliable until about 1910, but it is known that local Indians were killed nearly to the point of extinction.

But they weren't killed off, and as the years rolled by Mendocino County Indians, their terrible histories passed on down through the generations from elder to child, have reappeared, making their way back to the land the old ones remembered as theirs.

By the millennium, there were two million Indians in America, and there were Indians throughout California, the state whose official policy it had once been to hunt Indians with state-reimbursed bullets for state-paid bounties.

Some Indians never left Point Arena, perilous as their stay must have been in the last half of the 19th century.

Having survived the white onslaught, today's Indians, stuck away on rural parcels of mostly unwanted land, tend to turn on each other, and there isn't a reservation in Mendocino County where Indians aren't at each other's throats.

The reservation system as it exists in Point Arena and elsewhere in the county, made the event that sent Tate Laiwa to prison almost inevitable. That system, and Tate's place in it, is expressed accurately and well by a white Point Arena old timer named Dorothy Halliday.

"I am of the fourth generation of the south Mendocino Coast. For more than 50 years I lived on a ranch that was neighbor to the Point Arena Indian Reservation on Windy Hollow Road. Many of its members were my good friends, as well as my neighbors.

"There have been many changes in the world during my lifetime, and I've seen changes and additions to the Indian affairs in our area. Yet, in my opinion, one thing that does not change is that these 'set aside' facilities are more a 'ghetto' than a 'community.' The good people who live there are 'set aside' from the main stream of society.

"I am particularly concerned with the mental and social effects on the youth who are gathered there. They must struggle, not only with the effects of discrimination from the outside circle of society, but from the reservation and the degradation that too often comes with it. The whole reservation and, especially the youth, are badly affected by the collection of persons who are entitled to live on this reservation.

"Too many of the angry and the wicked, who may not survive in the outer economy, come back to the reservation. They pour fuel on the troubled 'inner fire' which always burns beneath the surface of this segregated place.

"Consequently, little good can be accomplished by the hard working, caring folk who live there. The young people, growing up in this troubled atmosphere, are hard put to thrive there, and many of them show the effects of this separated society.

"Martin Laiwa Jr. was one of those youth!

"Among the reservation friends whom we knew best was the Laiwa family. They were well-respected in the community as local, long-time citizens. Martin and his two brothers were sometimes hired on our neighboring ranch to help fix fences, cut weeds or brush, or other jobs that needed extra hands. They were 'good kids' to have around.

"Martin was the oldest of five and he had an especially hard time growing up, having extra pressure from all sides of society.

"At a crucial time in Martin's life his mother became ill. For a time the children were separated from her and from one another. (One sister never was brought home again.)

"Their father, also Martin Laiwa, was a good man, loyal and caring of his family. He was an expert gardener and landscaper. He was doing well with his own business in Santa Rosa. Yet, because of the family's need for more help, he gave up this good work and moved them back to the Point Arena Reservation where his parents lived. Although this did bring his family back together, it was far from a 'trouble free' situation.

"Prejudice is not a one-sided affair and because the children's mother was NOT INDIAN these children were 'put down' by both some Indians and some whites, and Martin, being the oldest was pushed around the most. It is no secret that many young folk, especially males in the process of growing up, are likely to be on the edge of trouble. When they are 'out together' they may be led to doing acts they would not do alone. Neither is it a secret that these 'young folk in trouble' are, too often, treated according to their 'CLASS.' Where boys from 'the Res' were 'taught a lesson,' the sons of 'higher class' citizens were merely lectured to 'go and sin no more.' Consequently, these 'lower class' boys, after time served in Juvenile Hall, would now have a 'bad name' and therefore a 'prior record.'

"Their risk of a repeat offense would be greater and their trouble more likely to continue.

"In Martin's case this record would be distorted and used against him by both 'whites' and 'Indians.' Martin is presently in Folsom Prison. He struggled and fought his way there and now he needs and is working hard to 'fight' a very different and better way to be out and to build a life.

"There was a drinking party and a scuffle of some sort where a man was shot and killed. This is not an uncommon event of these reservations, which are like any other ghetto.

"This death was not a 'cold blooded murder' in any event, and, it is not unknown in these cases for the 'Reservation People' to 'clump together,' and answer the legal questions 'Indian fashion.' They let the 'white law' puzzle out the possible details. It is not unlikely that Martin was 'framed' by both sides. He has, in any event, served a considerable time and it is high time he was released and enabled to live a real life.

"One of the black marks against him was that he ran away and hid. This would not necessarily be an act of guilt. It could just as well be of fear. For some years Martin and I have corresponded and I have great respect for his effort to educate himself and his attempt to work his way out to freedom. He has educated himself and he is, like his father, an expert gardener and landscape man.

"He needs to be given a chance to build a new life while he still has time and strength to use for this effort. I would like to begin a 'Free Martin Laiwa' movement and begin a fund to help accomplish this."

Mendocino County's justice system doesn't like the people it sees as outlaws costing it a lot of time and money in jury trials, especially a jury trial for first degree murder because the law says a murder defendant has got to be provided with every reasonable form of assistance.

It's also hard to get a jury together these harried, hectic days, let alone a jury in Mendocino County composed of people who might be considered peers of a 31-year-old Indian from Point Arena. Just about the only people who can take a month or two off to be jurors are retired white people, and they tend not to be very understanding of young male pot growers stuck away on an outback Indian reservation. What could a sedate jury of mostly senior citizens possibly make out of a case involving a bunch of Indians and a white lowlife who says he's a Hells Angel sitting around in a trailer on the Point Arena res getting drunk on a Friday afternoon? And most of the drunks ex-cons and tough guys at that?

Pick one and send him away for half his life.

Tate Laiwa got picked.

* * *

Tate Laiwa did more than 17 years in state prison for a crime there was zero evidence he committed. He was paroled in 2009 and is now married, living in Santa Rosa, and working as a chef in Petaluma. Here he is displaying an impressive catch off the Sonoma Coast recently.



  1. Craig Stehr November 16, 2015

    I am voting for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, for the office of the U.S. presidency, understanding that she is not electable. Voting for Bernie Sanders is ridiculous, because he has publicly stated that he will support whomever is nominated by the Democratic Party, (which will be Hillary Clinton), rather than run as an independent if he loses; and no, she won’t choose him as a running mate. I suppose that one could vote Republican, but they never have an environmental plank, and are thus seriously out of touch with the times. I ask this question: “Would you rather have the post-Monica Lewinsky Clintons back in the White House, or another Republican administration?” You have about a year to mull all of this over.

    • Keith Bramstedt November 16, 2015

      Doesn’t Jill Stein have to win the Green Party’s nomination first?

      • Mike November 16, 2015

        Dr. Stein is the only declared candidate.

        Someone who had been identified as a potential candidate could be seen sitting faithfully behind HRC as she testified before the Benghazi special House committee. And, who posted this on Facebook afterwards:

        Cynthia McKinney, PhD
        November 1 at 12:35am ·
        Hillary’s Performance at the Benghazi Hearing Probably Set Her Up for a Nobel Peace Prize.”

  2. Jeff Costello November 16, 2015

    Inflammatory? Is it possible Sackowicz has not seen a copy of the AVA, which still carries the phrase “Fanning the Flames of Discontent”?

    Also, Les Schwab sponsoring sports teams? The “free meat with tires” place? I made the mistake of getting a battery there. Free replacement. I gave up after the third one died within weeks.

  3. Lazarus November 16, 2015

    With the bajillions of words exercised here and elsewhere about Ortner I have serious doubt that anything is going to change.
    The fix is in, two supervisors have stated openly that they think everything is just fine…the other three likely know that it’s either Ortner or the County, what a choice. Two of those three may know as many do, there is no fix for the mental health situation, to many people and not enough money.
    The Ortner’s of the world tread the water, put on the show and behind the curtain is Tom Ortner and fam counting their money.

  4. james marmon November 16, 2015

    This whole thing was a mess from beginning to end. The day the contract was approved Stacey Cryer told the BOS and the public that the County would continue providing the administration of services and that the two ASOs would be providing the “direct services.”

    “HHSA Director Stacey Cryer noted that the county will keep its administrative oversight of the mental health services, and will work with the two new contractors, who will directly provide the services.”

    Now we all know that Cryer was wrong. OMG and RQMG are management groups and provide virtually no “direct services.” “Direct services” are provided by one of their other companies and/or subcontractors who then bill MediCal and other funding sources for payment.

    The discrepancy between what RQMG charges the County for administrative services compared to what OMG charges is because their sister company RCS is already getting paid for administration from other sources, primarily through the Katie A. Program and Title IV-E funding. The largest percentage of RQMG clients come through the Child Welfare System either as foster children or at risk of foster care placement.

    OMG and RQMS are nothing more than shell companies.

    Shell Company.

    NOUN inactive company used as a vehicle for various financial maneuvers or kept dormant for future use in some other capacity.

  5. John Sakowicz November 16, 2015

    Fact check: I voted for Supervisor Dan Gjerde’s proposal to adopt the more conservative COLA calculation. Dan and I were joined only by Ted Stephens. The three of us lost out to the majority of Board members who voted for the more generous COLA calculation.

    After that Retirement Board meeting, some county employees approached me to say how disappointed they were with my vote. My vote was clearly unpopular with the rank and file of our county’s collective bargaining units.

    In explaining myself to them, I said that, acting as a fiduciary, my overall commitment is to the plan’s solvency. My commitment is to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries — and I interpret that to mean that our retirees get their pension checks in full and on time. Trimming extras, like the COLA, is less important to me.

    The discussion about the COLA is a distraction.

    The fact remains that most public pension systems are underfunded. This means that the plan sponsor — in our case, Mendocino County and its Board of Supervisors — must make difficult decisions at its level to ensure solvency. This would include making higher levels of contributions to the retirement system. This would also include creating new tiers of retirement plans that shift liability by offering newly hired county employees retirement plans that are more heavily weighted toward Defined Contributions (DC) plans than Defined Benefits (DB) plans.

    As with more conservative COLAs, this shift toward DC plans will be unpopular with county employees..and rightly so.

    But know this much: Plan sponsors, whether in the public or private sector, are increasingly becoming concerned about the affordability of DB plans. While corporate plan sponsors use a corporate bond yield as the discount rate, public plans use the required return assumption as the discount rate.

    The calculations underlying an important study — “The Distribution of Investment Return Assumptions, Fiscal Year (FY 2010) in the Public Fund Survey of the NASRA and the NCTR — show an average annual return on assets of 6.4% from 1997 to 2011, while the present value of liabilities increased by an annual average of 2.8% during a time of declining interest rates.

    What does this mean?

    It means that when the public plan sponsor is making contributions based on a required return, actual returns of 6.4% per year will lead to declining funded ratios over time.

    Incidentally, since I’ve been on the Retirement Board, we’ve lowered our target required rate of return by 50 basis points to 7.25%. As painful as this decision was, it was the right thing to do, because it demands more in the way of contributions from both the county and its workers.

    Another thing.

    Regulatory changes, at least in the United States, are also making DB plans less attractive.

    The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires that corporate plans disclose the plan’s funded status to plan participants. The Act also requires employer contributions to be commensurate with the funding status, with underfunded plans requiring greater contributions. Underfunded plans must increase required contributions by an amount that projects the plan to be fully funded within seven years.

    There’s more bad news for Corporate America.

    The funded status of pension plans for the private sector is now required to be disclosed on corporate balance sheets. Companies with large pension deficits may trade at lower multiples of earnings and book value, exhibit higher betas, and may experience higher stock price volatility.

    The higher beta caused by pension risks can increase the firm’s weighted average cost of capital by up to 2.7%, which makes it more difficult to find profitable
    operating investments.

    What does this have to do with public sector plans?

    Well, here in Mendocino County we have our own day of reckoning. It’s called Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statements No. 67 and 68.

    On August 2, 2012, the GASB published accounting and financial reporting standards that improve the way state and local governments report their pension liabilities and expenses, resulting in a more truthful representation of the full impact of these obligations.

    The guidance contained in GASB 67 and 68 will change how governments calculate and report the costs and obligations associated with pensions in important ways. It is designed to improve the decision-usefulness of reported pension information and to increase the transparency, consistency, and comparability of pension information across state and local governments.

    For example, net pension liabilities will be reported on governments’ balance sheet, providing citizens and other users of these financial reports with a clearer picture of the size and nature of the financial obligations to current and former employees for past services rendered.

    Specifically, GASB Statement No. 67, Financial Reporting for Pension Plans, revises existing guidance for the financial reports of most pension plans for state and local governments. This Statement replaces the requirements of Statement No. 25, Financial Reporting for Defined Benefit Pension Plans and Note Disclosures for Defined Contribution Plans and Statement 50 as they relate to pension plans that are administered through trusts or similar arrangements meeting certain criteria.

    GASB 67 builds upon the existing framework for financial reports of defined benefit pension plans, which includes a statement of fiduciary net position (the amount held in a trust for paying retirement benefits) and a statement of changes in fiduciary net position.

    Statement No. 68, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions, revises and establishes new financial reporting requirements for most state and local governments that provide their employees with pension benefits.

    GASB 68 replaces the requirements of Statement No. 27, Accounting for Pensions by State and Local Governmental Employers and Statement No. 50, Pension Disclosures, as they relate to governments that provide pensions through pension plans administered as trusts or similar arrangements that meet certain criteria.

    GASB 68 requires governments providing defined benefit pensions to recognize their long-term obligation for pension benefits as a liability for the first time, and to more comprehensively and comparably measure the annual costs of pension benefits.

    Taken together, GASB 67 and 68 have far bigger implications for Mendocino County than tinkering with a few basis points on our COLA calculations. That’s what the discussion should be about. The County and its employees, and the Board of Supervisors and the Retirement Board, all need to be having a common discussion and working together.

    Please, let us work together.

  6. John Sakowicz November 16, 2015

    Thank you, Ms. de Castro.

  7. Mike November 16, 2015

    Unless someone steps up here as an advocate for HRC, all these discussions here about the Dem side of the race are simply going to be boring one note affairs. There’s got to be someone out there, hopefully all fired up and ready to go!, to speak up for her. (Not me, I’m not a good method actor type.)

    • Lazarus November 16, 2015

      Not to worry, who’s really going to beat her, under the situation as we know it? I yea Trump…right!

      • Mike November 16, 2015


        Thanks for the reminder. Will sleep like a baby now.

  8. Jim Updegraff November 16, 2015

    Refusing to vote for either of the GOP or Democratic parties candidate is acting like a spoiled child. The minor parties on the ballot offer very little. Just some of a One Spot Johnny. Might as well vote for the Flat Earth Society.

  9. Jim Updegraff November 16, 2015

    Patrick Cockburn’s comments are a good take on the ISIS situation.

  10. james marmon November 16, 2015

    What It’s Like

    By Everlast

    We’ve all seen a man at the liquor store beggin’ for your change
    The hair on his face is dirty, dread-locked, and full of mange
    He asks a man for what he could spare, with shame in his eyes
    “Get a job you fucking slob,” is all he replies
    God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
    Cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues

    Then you really might know what it’s like
    Then you really might know what it’s like
    Then you really might know what it’s like
    Then you really might know what it’s like

    Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom that said he was in love
    He said, “Don’t worry about a thing, baby doll
    I’m the man you’ve been dreaming of.”
    But three months later he say he won’t date her or return her calls
    And she swear, “God damn, if I find that man I’m cuttin’ off his balls.”
    And then she heads for the clinic and
    She gets some static walking through the door
    They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner
    And they call her a whore
    God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
    Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose


    I’ve seen a rich man beg
    I’ve seen a good man sin
    I’ve seen a tough man cry
    I’ve seen a loser win
    And a sad man grin
    I heard an honest man lie
    I’ve seen the good side of bad
    And the downside of up
    And everything between
    I licked the silver spoon
    Drank from the golden cup
    And smoked the finest green
    I stroked the fattest dimes at least a couple of times
    Before I broke their heart
    You know where it ends, yo, it usually depends on where you start

    I knew this kid named Max
    Who used to get fat stacks out on the corner with drugs
    He liked to hang out late
    He liked to get shit-faced and keep the pace with thugs
    Until late one night there was a big gun fight and Max lost his head
    He pulled out his chrome .45, talked some shit, and wound up dead
    Now his wife and his kids are caught in the midst of all of this pain
    You know it comes that way
    At least that’s what they say when you play the game
    God forbid you ever had to wake up to hear the news
    Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to lose

    Then you really might know what it’s like
    Then you really might know what it’s like
    Then you really might know what it’s like…to have to lose

  11. Jim Updegraff November 16, 2015

    Comment of the day re Marine Corp being a gang of killers. All military – marines, army and air Force are a gang of killers. I did my time with the 3rd Infantry Division in Korea in 1952-1953 and the things I can not stand is people thanking me for my service, belonging to a veterans organization and taking part in Veteran Day’s activities.

  12. Randy Burke November 16, 2015

    Send Ortner to take care of ISIS. Talk about hiding the ball “over there’

  13. Jim Updegraff November 16, 2015

    This morning on Morning Joe’s show Trump, once again , said he would considering closing mosques if HE thought they represented a danger. Mr Trump apparently is unaware we have freedom of religion in this country. Of course, the bigots and Tea Party folks no doubt would support Trump. I just closed my eyes and suddenly I was getting a vision of Hitler.

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