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ACTING COUNTY COUNSEL Katherine "Kit" Elliot has prevailed in her Prop 172 lawsuit against Tony Orth and three other fire district representatives. The fire district reps filed an initiative petition with the intention to force the County to give a portion of Prop 172 Public Safety sales tax to the fire districts. Once the initiative petition was filed with the County, Elliot had ten days to provide a ballot title and summary after which signature gathering could begin. Instead, on Dec. 15 Elliot sued "as an individual acting in her official capacity" claiming the initiative was an unconstitutional infringement on the budgetary authority of the Board of Supervisors and that it would also be unconstitutional for the Supes to distribute any part of the Prop 172 funds to the independent fire districts.
PROP 172, passed by the voters in 1993, was titled the "Local Public Safety Improvement Act" and was sold to the voters as a way to provide more money for public safety, especially police and fire. But in Mendocino County none of the Prop 172 money goes to the local fire departments which are mostly staffed by volunteers. The fire dist reps (Orth from Brooktrails, Dave Roderick from Hopland, Emily Strachan from Mendocino and Michael Schaeffer from Comptche) filed the initiative on behalf of the newly formed Mendocino County Fire Districts Association, probably because the long established Fire Chiefs Association did not want to risk alienating the Board of Supes.
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Jeanine Nadel, herself a former County Counsel for Mendocino County, agreed with Elliot that the initiative was an unconstitutional infringement on the Supes budgetary prerogatives, but did not agree with Elliot on the constitutionality of the County providing Prop 172 funds to the fire districts. Nadel said she did not rule on that point, but her concluding comments made it clear that she believed Elliot was wrong on that point (as she clearly is — obviously emergency services are part of “public safety”). The Board can direct a portion of 172 funds (or other General Fund money) to fire districts if it wishes to do so, and in fact has done so in the past, both directly and indirectly — although not on a predictable annual basis.
WILLITS ATTORNEY CHRIS NEARY, arguing for the defendants, first tried to bar Nadel from hearing the case, claiming a conflict of interest, but backed down when it was explained that Nadel had no role when she was with the County in deciding how Prop 172 funds were distributed. Neary then claimed that Elliot had no standing to bring suit since she can only act by direction of the Board of Supervisors and there was no record that the Board had authorized the suit. Elliot successfully argued that while she works for the Board of Supes, the duty to prepare a ballot title and summary was hers alone and one which the Supes had no ability to direct or control.
NEARY ARGUED that the questions raised by Elliot could have been settled after the election. Elliot agreed, but stated that was not her way. Elliot argued that because she believed the initiative was unconstitutional it would have been difficult for her to provide a "true and impartial" summary of the measure. She further argued that it would be a waste of time and money to allow the voters to vote on a measure which they lacked the power to enact.
NEARY ALSO ARGUED THAT the initiative was merely a request to the Supes that they consider allocating a portion of Prop 172 money to support the local fire districts. Neary also objected to Elliot's suit, claiming it was an attempt to stop Orth and the other fire dist reps from exercising their first amendment rights to freedom of speech and to petition their government.
THE PROPOSED INITIATIVE would have mandated that the Supes include a line item in their budget for funds that would be allocated to the local fire districts. The initiative would specifically require that the Board consider an allocation of 30% of Prop 172 funds to the local fire districts. The initiative also specified that of the 30% of Prop 172 funds allocated for fire, each of the 21 independent fire districts would receive 2%, with the remaining 58% divided according to the population of each local fire district service area divided by the total population of the unincorporated area of Mendocino County. The proposed allocation was never argued as part of the court case over the ballot title and summary, but the formula obviously would have been a windfall for districts with the largest shares of the unincorporated population.
THE UKIAH VALLEY FIRE DISTRICT and the Redwood Valley Fire District would probably have been the biggest winners. The Ukiah Valley Fire District is staffed full time by paid firefighters and is run by a full time paid chief, John Bartlett, who also cashes a fat retirement check from Cal-Fire. Bartlett, like his predecessor Dan Grebil, is believed to be a driving force behind the push to force the Supes to kick down Prop 172 money to the fire districts.
ELLIOT ARGUED THE INITIATIVE was "fatally flawed" because of the alleged infringement on the budgetary authority of the Supes. Nadel agreed, in part because the initiative referred to "the allocation mandated herein" and also because it would have mandated the Supes to hold a minimum of five additional budget hearings, once in each supervisorial district, if the Supes did not approve the "request" for 30% of the Prop 172 funds. Nadel noted that this would penalize the Supes for exercising their budgetary discretion and that only they had the authority to set their own meetings. The Supes currently hold two off-site meetings a year and the initiative would have mandated an additional four if the Supes disagreed with the 30% funding request.
NADEL, CITING CASE LAW, crisply dispatched the initiative by stating "The proposed initiative in its current form interferes with the Board's legislative responsibility for fiscal management of the county. Where a measure is beyond the power of the electorate to enact or is otherwise unconstitutional, pre-election review is permitted. To allow an initiative which the voters lack the power to enact to be placed on the ballot would be a divisive and wasteful expenditure of funds and effort."
NEARY ARGUED that the severability clause of the initiative was sufficient to cure any defects if the measure went to a vote and was enacted. Nadel said she generally would agree but that in this case the initiative would have no effect since she had ruled that all of the operative provisions were unconstitutional. Nadel, a stereotypical Mendo liberal, then tried to make nice by encouraging "the parties to have an open dialogue regarding the sharing of such funds" considering among other things the language of Prop 172 and a State Attorney General Opinion that said Prop 172 funds could be shared with independent fire districts. In other words, the Supes can share Prop 172 funds if they want to, notwithstanding Elliot's arguments to the contrary. But it is a budgetary decision of the Supes, not a decision of the electorate according to Nadel's ruling.
COLIN WILSON, who preceded Andres Avila as Chief of the Anderson Valley Fire Dept, along with other rural fire chiefs, have advocated for County support for the rural fire districts for going on 30 years, even before Prop 172. The issue has been debated by the Supes a number of times over the years but the issue has never been resolved. About ten years ago the Supes did allocate $200,000, on a one-time basis, to support rural fire districts. The County also pays Cal-Fire about $600,000 a year for emergency dispatch services, which indirectly benefits the fire districts. And last year the Supes directed $180,000 to emergency medical services in Anderson Valley, Laytonville and Covelo to support (part-time) Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance service. The latter was something of a test run for the proposed Exclusive Operating Agreements for emergency medical services that the County is currently considering.
THE FIRE CHIEFS ASSOCIATION, in a series of meetings that began back when former Cal-Fire Battalion Chief Jim Wattenburger was on the Board of Supes, was considering a number of possible sources of additional funding and was leaning in favor of going to the voters for either a parcel tax or a sales tax measure a few years ago. That effort was derailed when the state imposed a State Responsibility Area (SRA) fire prevention fee on all rural residents. The Chiefs decided Mendo voters would not vote to impose a tax on top of the state fee which was on top of existing property taxes and assessments that partially support many of the fire districts, so the idea of going to the voters was dropped.
ELLIOT ALSO ARGUED in her lawsuit that the proposed initiative was misleading because it did not disclose that any money shifted to the rural fire districts would come at the expense of the Sheriff, District Attorney and Probation Department. Transferring 30% of Prop 172 money (which currently totals about $7.2 million) would create a $2 million+ hole in the County budget that would have forced the Supes to find additional sources of revenue or make off-setting cuts of over $2 million. Prop 172 itself was put on the ballot by the state to backfill a portion of the money that cities and counties lost as a result of the 1992 ERAF shift of property taxes to schools.
SUPERVISORS GJERDE AND HAMBURG were appointed to an ad hoc committee in December to meet with the Fire Chiefs, the Fire Districts Association and other interested parties and to recommend to the Board of Supes ways in which the County might be able to assist the local fire districts. Now that the Prop 172 initiative has been torpedoed, it seems less likely that any substantial portion of Prop 172 funds will be diverted from the Sheriff, the DA and Probation.
SUPERVISOR GJERDE, fully engaged on budget matters, says the ad hoc committee wants to know how much money the County lost with the property tax shift that Prop 172 was supposed to fix, how much Prop 172 money was actually delivered to the County, and how much money the fire districts lost as a result of the property tax shift. Gjerde has also signaled that the need for fire funding probably far exceeds what the Supes may be willing to allocate from Prop 172 funding. Gjerde has said the ad hoc has been looking at ideas that might benefit the neediest rural fire districts, like paying stipends for volunteers, paying for insurance (a major cost for some of the smaller districts), or providing staff for billing for emergency services, something that is beyond the capability of most small departments.
WE FAVOR an approach along the lines of the County’s Fish & Game Commission where Fire Districts would apply for supplemental funding each year with specific projects or proposals which would be reviewed and scored by the Fire Chief’s Association and sent on to the Supes as a ranked list, then awarded as funds and justifications merit (with consideration given to the financial condition of the applying District).
NADEL'S RULING is sure to be scrutinized by Sheriff Tom Allman since his proposed initiative for a sales tax to support mental health services may be vulnerable to substantially the same legal challenge. Because the County of Mendocino is responsible for funding and providing mental health services in the County, and the Board of Supes directs how those funds are to be spent, is it possible for the Sheriff to use the initiative process to raise money for mental health and direct how it is spent without triggering the same constitutional questions? The Sheriff, given his huge popularity, may simply roll the dice that no one will dare challenge him. And we do have a history in this County of passing unconstitutional measures and then acting as if they meant something, Measure G from 2000 being the clearest example.
IS WINTER OVER?
From the Jan 21, National Weather Service Long-Term Climate Outlook for the first three months of 2016:
The 2016 precipitation outlook is changed minimally from the prior outlook for that period. Above-median precipitation is forecast from California to the central and southern great plains. … Below-median precipitation is favored for the Pacific Northwest, portions of the northern Rockies, and from the great lakes to the Tennessee Valley. … Since we are now past the peak of the El Nino event in terms of SST anomalies, the relevant questions relate to how quickly the event decays and whether we see a transition to La Nina (ocean cooling), which frequently follows on the heels of El Nino (ocean warming) events. The CPC SST consolidation forecasts a return to neutral conditions by mid-January and a 79% chance of La Nina by next winter. There is a large spread among the constituent models in terms of how quickly a transition to neutral conditions occurs. The CSFV2 maintains anomalously warm SSTs much longer than the other guidance, while the GFDL and Canadian models are on the faster side of the guidance. The CPC/IRI consensus forecast indicates that the transition to neutral is most likely by early summer, and odds of La Nina developing by Spring exceed 40%. So the 2016 precipitation outlook through the early spring continues to favor a pattern that is typically associated with El Nino. Enhanced odds for above-median precipitation are forecast across California, the southwest, central/southern great plains, gulf coast states, and parts of the east coast. … Compared to last month’s outlook for 2016, odds for above-median precipitation are slightly decreased over northern California.
KEMPER MENTAL HEALTH REPORT RELEASED
THE PINIZZOTTO/ORTNER PROBLEM was indeed covered by the just-released Kemper Report on Mendocino County’s privatized Mental Health contracts. (In the following narrative “the former BHRS/MH Director” is Mendo’s former Mental Health Department Director Tom Pinizzotto.) The full report can be seen via the link at the end of this intro.
“With regard to the alleged conflict of interest of the former BHRS/MH Director, it is important to note that the Mendocino County Grand Jury considered the former Director’s role in serving on the ASO selection panel that chose OMG. In its June 2014 report, the Grand Jury found that no legal impropriety occurred although the perception of impropriety was present (see Section II (2) for further information). In our Key Informant interview with the former Director, he stated that he has had no type of financial relationship with OMG since leaving his role with the firm in 2011. From the information we have reviewed and the Key Informant interviews we have conducted, we are comfortable deferring to the Grand Jury’s findings. At the same time, we believe a set of dynamics contributed to the community’s perception of a conflict of interest for the former Director. These dynamics were:
“[Pinizzotto’s] Participation on [contractor] Selection Panel.
“As stated, the former Director served on the review panel selecting the [contractors] to serve Mendocino County. While his background and knowledge of OMG could potentially be considered an asset, it could also be a potential detriment because of the appearance of bias based on the Director’s prior working relationship with OMG. In our opinion, the Director should never have served on the selection panel and the HHSA Director, County Executive, and County Counsel erred in permitting his involvement, specifically because of the importance of avoiding the appearance of any conflict. One or more other county mental health experts from outside of Mendocino County should have been contracted to assist with the ASO selection process.
“Insufficient … Contract Management Structure.
“As outlined in Section III (3), the lack of county organizational infrastructure for [contractor] Contract management and the former Director’s assumed role as de-facto [contractor] Contract Manager – in combination with a lack of documentation of the former Director’s decision process concerning [contractor] implementation – resulted in a lack of transparency about the BHRS/MH decision process that left the former Director open to the charge of playing favorites and being biased in favor of OMG.
Several Key Informants reported that the former Director lacked the ability to clearly and effectively communicate his reasoning and decision-making to county staff, other county officials, including the courts, and the larger community on various matters pertaining to the [contractor] arrangement and specifically with regard to his decisions associated with OMG. As a consequence, the former Director’s communications were widely viewed by community members as vague, lacking transparency, and biased in favor of OMG.
“Director [Pinizzotto]’s Prior Role in Mental Health Staff Reductions.
“Several Key Informants reported that the advent of the [contractor] concept, which called for contracting out the delivery of mental health services, brought a certain degree of animosity to the former Director from some county staff and community members because of his prior role in laying-off county mental health staff. This residual animosity may have played into an argument that the former Director had underlying intentions regarding OMG, his former employer, and their selection as the [contractor] for the adult system.
An argument has been made that OMG has a conflict of interest because, as [contractor], it “self-refers” Mendocino County clients to facilities with which it has business affiliations. For it’s part, OMG representatives stated that they view the inpatient and residential care capacity provided by OMG affiliated providers as a “complimentary component” for adult program service delivery. In this context, we believe three questions should be considered. First, in the absence of OMG serving as the [contractor] for the Adult System, would BHRS/MH be utilizing OMG affiliated facilities (inpatient and residential care) for service to Mendocino County residents? In discussions with the HHSA Director and former BHRS/MH Director, we were advised that BHRS/MH had utilized and would, by necessity, continue to utilize OMG affiliated facilities outside of Mendocino County because of a lack of local crisis, inpatient and residential treatment alternatives. Second, what mechanisms does BHRS/MH have in place, or need to put in place, to monitor inpatient and residential placements and provide public reporting on these placements? We received a copy of a “Point of Authorization Policy and Procedure” adopted by BHRS/MH which defines the process for County review of inpatient hospitalizations, among other services. This Policy and Procedure14 specifies the following:
“Crisis Services,” defined as emergency and urgent care, do not require pre-authorization.
“Crisis Services, the placement of crisis clients, and acute/emergency hospital stays will be managed by OMG and RQMC.
“OMG and RQMC will manage and review charts daily and authorize as appropriate.
“Hospital Charts and Hospital Chart Audit Sheets will be sent to the MC-POA (Point of Authorization) 15 Office for 100% review and signature prior to payment.
“OMG and RQMC in collaboration with MC-POA Office will approve or deny all Inpatient Treatment Authorization Requests (TARs) within fourteen (14) calendar days (9 days for OMG/RQMC and five (5) days for MC-POA) of the receipt of the TAR and in accordance with all Title 9 regulations (unless a qualified exception occurs).
“All TARs are approved or denied by licensed mental health or waivered/registered professionals, employed by the MHP.
“OMG and RQMC will submit a monthly Hospitalization log to MC-POA by the 10th of each subsequent month.
“Based upon this Policy and Procedure, it is clear that BHRS/MH is involved in the review and approval of inpatient hospitalizations and residential placements and maintains data on these placements, although BHRS/MH reported that it does not review and approve specific placement locations. In light of the data available, BHRS/MH is in a position to report publicly on these placements on a periodic basis. Third, what do the placement dynamics look like for Mendocino County residents since OMG has assumed [contractor] responsibility for adult services? We asked OMG for statistics on all placements of Mendocino County residents in inpatient and other residential care. Table 11, on the following page, presents information for FY 2013-14 and FY 2014-15 and part of FY 2015-16. From the data, there is no appearance of increased utilization of facilities with which OMG has a business affiliation (either through partial ownership by an OMG principal or executive management of the other programs). The data show that placements in these facilities are equal to or less than levels in prior years and that a wide variety of other providers have been utilized.
[The chart shows that 159 of Mendo’s 270 Hospital and Residential placements (57%) were at Ortner-connected operations in Yuba City in FY13-14, 130 of 306 (43%) in FY 14-15, and 54 of 129 (42%) in FY 15-16 (so far).]
“On the question of a conflict of interest for the former BHRS/MH Director, we defer to the Mendocino County Grand Jury findings.
* * *
UPSHOT: Yeah. It was bad and the Grand Jury was right, but technically it was not illegal that Pinizzotto steered the contract to his buddies at Ortner and then stayed on to manage the contract he steered there for two more years. Oh well!
* * *
EMERGENCY ROOM PROBLEMS
“Community hospitals outlined a range of difficulties, including:
“For clients pending a 5150 determination, hospitals reported difficulty getting medication lists and diagnoses from OMG, resulting in extended stays in the Emergency Department.
The volume of adult 5150 patients has increased and inpatient mental health options for clients are getting tighter, resulting in clients staying longer in hospital Emergency Departments pending transfer to inpatient care; the absence of a Mendocino County crisis residential setting puts the burden of this care responsibility on community hospitals.
“Many adult clients regularly return to the hospital Emergency Department because there is no warm handoff with OMG or because clients transferred for care outside of the county return to the county without a structured “after-care” plan. (Our emphasis because this has been known by Mental Health staffers to be a serious problem for years.)
“Hospitals don’t have the ability to refer psychiatric emergencies out to community providers because there is a lack of this outpatient service capacity.
* * *
“In most California counties, including Mendocino County, the jail has become a safety net of last resort for individuals with disruptive behavior and a history of severe mental illness. Assessing and stabilizing these individuals in this correctional setting is an essential first step toward their recovery. In Mendocino County, contracted medical staff with the California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG) start psychiatric medications when the clients are in the jail, but when clients leave the jail setting services are reported to drop off. Effective communication between the CFMG medical staff and OMG contracted staff is essential for these clients to maintain the medications that began in jail, and a regular staffing of jail clients between CFMG and OMG contracted staff is needed to promote an effective hand-off. In general, to end the cycle of “jail, release to the street, re-offense and back to jail,” care management services need to begin with clients while they are in custody and follow the clients to their next level of care. Toward this end, many California counties have established care managers or case managers who specialize and focus on high cost repeat offenders and follow clients from jail to outpatient services, a strategy that has shown success in reducing costly recidivism.
“In our opinion, the tension between the parties in this relationship stems from a lack of structure and process for OMG’s relationship with parties to the justice system, as evidenced by the lack of a formal MOU between the parties; and, a lack of BHRS/MH oversight and enforcement of OMG’s responsibility to carry out its contractual obligations which require OMG to “provide or arrange for the provision of mental health services” to LPS clients as required under the ASO Contract. We recommend the County Executive direct BHRS/MH to develop the contractually required MOU between the Public Guardian and OMG, and that BHRS/MH involve the participation of the County Jail (Sheriff) and Courts in this MOU. In general, we believe OMG should begin the delivery of care management services to these clients while they are in jail, prior to discharge, and this should be described in the MOU. Further, the roles of OMG and BHRS/MH for the provision of initial and annual renewal documentation for all conserved clients needs to be described in the MOU, and any change from the current ASO Contract should be incorporated in the ASO Contract by amendment.
* * *
“…OMG and its contractors have no presence in the community. At the same time, informants presented examples of difficulties they have had with both ASOs (contractors RQMS and Ortner) and BHRS/MH responding to local suicides and suicide attempts and other crises affecting their community. They reported that locally based providers deliver most mental health services and identified the following problems:
“General difficulty getting OMG and BHRS/MH to respond to mental health crisis situations with individuals or the community.
“Specific difficulties with the 5150 process for seriously mentally ill adult clients and frustration with 5150 denials by OMG. [Kemper doesn’t address the reasons for the denials nor the reimbursement factor in those denials.]
“Frustration that locally available clinical staff with qualifying training and expertise have not been authorized to make 5150 determinations in the region.
“Lack of communication from the [contractors], notably OMG, following a client’s discharge from a mental health facility, resulting in serious problems with medications.
“Lack of communication by OMG and follow-up for service referral by local providers.
“No Child Psychiatrist and no local mental health providers serving young children.
“No Spanish-speaking mental health providers.
“No county services to address drug and alcohol problems.
“No homeless services.”
* * *
THE LONG AVOIDED CRISIS VAN
“… we understand that BHRS/MH received Intergovernmental Transfer Funding (IGT) through Partnership HealthPlan [Obamacare] for development of a 2-year pilot project to provide “mobile crisis services” in the county. Funding is reported to be available through FY 2016-17 and supports two county staff, a BHRS/MH clinician and a Sheriff’s Department community service worker. In our opinion, the staff delivering this new service need to reach out to the more remote areas of the county, including Gualala and Point Arena, and establish working relationships with health care and community service providers.” [Note, this is still not a true crisis van no matter how much they “reach out.” A real Crisis Van needs to be able to do independent 5150 evaluations, medication stabilization and decide where the “client” should go if it’s not to jail.]
* * *
HIGH ADMIN COSTS.
The Kemper Report says basically that because the contracts contain no clear definition of what “administration” is, the contractors can charge whatever they want for it. And Ortner chooses to charge a lot more than RQMS.
* * *
FULL REPORT (1 MB pdf):
GLORIA & MADELEINE TALK HILLARY.
From Sunday's New York Times, two more reasons to feel the Bern:
While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing the first female president. In a dig at the “revolution” that Mr. Sanders often speaks of, she said that the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution. And she scolded any woman who felt otherwise. “We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
Mrs. Clinton laughed, slowly clapped her hands and took a large sip of her beverage.
In an attempt to explain Mrs. Clinton’s struggles with female voters in New Hampshire, Ms. Albright said during an NBC interview on Saturday that women could be judgmental toward one another and that they occasionally forgot how hard someone like Mrs. Clinton had to work to get where she is.
Explaining how women tend to become more active in politics as they become older on the Bill Maher cable show, Gloria Steinem suggested younger women were just backing Mr. Sanders so that they could meet young men. (!!!) “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie’,” Ms. Steinem said. Realizing that this was potentially offensive, Mr. Maher recoiled. “Oh. Now if I said that, ‘They’re for Bernie because that’s where the boys are,’ you’d swat me.” But Ms. Steinem laughed it off, replying, “How well do you know me?”
With backlash growing, Ms. Steinem issued an apology for her comments on Sunday morning. “In a case of talk-show Interruptus, I misspoke on the Bill Maher show recently, and apologize for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics,” she said in a post on Facebook. “Whether they gravitate to Bernie or Hillary, young women are activist and feminist in greater numbers than ever before.”
UP ON THE ROOF. Three local high school girls, unaware that their beloved community newspaper never sleeps, climbed up on the roof outside our office window early Saturday night where they downed wine coolers (or whatever sweetened booze our nation's future guzzles these days) and giggled for nearly an hour.
There were occasional shouts of "I don't have any more!" and "That's all I have!" When the trio of drunken maidens belatedly realized that an elderly ace reporter was just inside the window, one of them yelled, “Don’t stand up! Don’t stand up!” just before they did stand up and wobble down the steps and on into the keen teen night.
FROM COUNTY PLANNING AND BUILDING: "Highly Visible Violations that have been abated since July include the long standing 'graffiti sheds' on Highway 101 north of Laytonville. Four new cases have been opened which are highly visible, including three on Highway One near Manchester, Rockport, and Caspar, and one highly visible from Highway 253 (Boonville Road)."
WE KEEP a keen eye out for eyesores, and darned if we've seen any on the Boonville-Ukiah Road since the County hauled that shipping container outtahere several years ago. Even the Ukiah end of the road looks pretty good these days.
SPEAKING OF EYESORES, we received this anon note in last week's snail mail: "Yo, Mr. Eyesore. Yeah, Ricard's building is pretty bad, but the two modulars you just threw up on your place next to the Redwood Drive-In are a lot harder on the eyeballs than Ricard's place is. What the hell are you doing?"
PATIENCE, BOONVILLE, PATIENCE. Our project is a work in progress which, when it's fully progressed will have you rustics bursting into song every time you pass by.
SUNDAY'S CHRON from a feature on San Francisco's homeless: "…Last month, Supervisor Aaron Peskin called 911 because a homeless man, naked from the waist down, and his legs smeared in feces, was standing on the Filbert Steps on Telegraph Hill, screaming obscenities and blocking the path of passersby. 'There's no question it has gotten exponentially worse. How the city spends a quarter of a billion a year, I have not figured out. It's not working,' Peskin said."
AND SOMEONE or someones is passing out tents to street people, the result being neighborhood tent cities all over town. And, as Peskin, the sole intelligent voice on Frisco's board of supervisors, says, the problem is "exponentially worse," a fact I can confirm after walking around all over downtown last Thursday for the first time in six months.
WE'LL PROBABLY have a long wait, but none of the candidates have addressed the growing numbers of hopelessly screwed-up people wandering the streets of every town of any size everywhere in the country, especially the warm weather areas. Helping to keep them on the streets is the Homeless Industrial Complex, the people making good salaries for allegedly caring for the homeless. This self-interested bloc of liberal arts majors has pretty much replaced the traditional Christian charities who used to do a lot of the heavy lifting on skid rows. But now that Skid Row is everywhere, the Christians are overwhelmed, pure charity dwarfed by people mining the doomed.
THE PEOPLE out there on the streets, mostly, are not people who've lost shelter because they've lost work or rents are too high. The people out there are drunks, drug addicts and the insane, and a lot of the drunks and drug addicts are, objectively, nuts. San Francisco, Fort Bragg, Ukiah, Willits — wherever — can't house these people and begin to effectively care for the hopelessly damaged without major federal assistance. We need a revival of the hospital system we had before Reagan took it down.
CATCH OF THE DAY, February 7, 2016
JEREMY AUMAN, Laytonville. Driver with concealed weapon, paraphernalia, controlled substance.
RICHARD BARTH, Willits. DUI, misdemeanor hit&run.
JONALEC DEGALLIER, Ukiah. Pot possession for sale, pot sales.
DANIEL DELOSSANTOS, Talmage. Under influence.
EVANGELINE MARTINEZ, Laytonville. Controlled substance, paraphernalia.
TYLER SHIVELY, Willits. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
FUQIANG ZHUO, Daly City/Ukiah. DUI, probation revocation.
A READER ASKS: "What were the best books of 2015? Any suggestions? Are you guys too busy to read making this newspaper every week to have time? Or did you have time for such an old fashioned recreation?"
WELL, SPEAKING FOR MYSELF, reading is my recreation, and if you'll indulge me I'll tell you a quick story of its centrality in my life. Back a ways, the Mendo Superior Court placed me in an iso cell out on Low Gap Road to get me to cough up a piece of evidence I wouldn't cough up. Jail isolation really is isolation. You just sit in the concrete cell by yourself. You can't see anybody else, let alone talk to them. Meals are shoved through a slot in the door, a non-verbal guard takes you outside for an hour to walk around in the sun or the rain. The Jail had been kind enough to let me bring a book in — one book. I thought I'd be out in a day or so and the Chomsky Reader would be enough to tide me over. I never read that much Chomsky before or since. The Reader wasn't enough. I had that sucker memorized by day three and was beginning to suffer for lack of new material. What saved me from serious stimulation deprivation was a second decent jail staffer. He went out of his way to lead me out of my cell and into the mattress room where there was a pile of paperbacks he said I could rummage through. I found several John O'Haras that lasted me until I got a whole stack of stuff directly from a sympathetic publisher. Without the books I would have gone seriously 5150. Iso with books is kind of a vacation. Iso without books is serious punishment. Iso with Chomsky is somewhere in between.
AMONG THE TOMES I enjoyed in 2015 into 2016, were:
Paying the Toll by Amy Louise Nelson (I read a lot of California history. This thing is heavy going in the academic fashion but an interesting political history of the Golden Gate Bridge.)
Steinbeck bio by Jay Parini
Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough about the ultra-rads of the 60's.
Travels in Hawaii by Robert Louis Stevenson
Roethke, The Complete Poems
1927 by Bill Bryson, an informal and witty history of that pivotal year in American history
Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up
Hemingway, Short Stories, a re-read of the master of the form.
Ghettoside by Jill Leovy. A riveting study of police work in LA.
The Kid by Ben Bradlee. Everything you ever wanted to about the Splendid Splinter, aka Ted Williams.
The South by Paul Theroux. Who reports that conditions in parts thereof rival anything he's seen in war ravaged Mozambique as he wonders why the great foundations spend money everywhere in the Third World except America's third worlds.
Tongues of Flame by Mary Ward Brown, a writer I'd never heard of but recommended by Theroux as a master of the short story. She is a master. Great stuff.
The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, Slavo Zizek. A friend sent it along and I just read it, understanding maybe a third of it. I daresay Jeff Blankfort is the only guy in Mendocino County who can fully decode Zizek, so get ahold of Jeff for a full translation.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace. A collection of essays. Wonderful writer who committed suicide at age 46.
Missoula by Jon Krakauer. A study of rape by college football players in that football-crazed town.
Why Read Moby Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick. More of a booklet but lively and informative. I read Moby Dick every few years. It's never tiresome. Marooned on the proverbial desert island etc.…
Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare enough to draw crowds. Eviction riots erupted during the Depression, though the number of poor families who faced eviction each year was a fraction of what it is today. In February 1932, the Times published an account of community resistance to the eviction of three families in the Bronx, observing, “Probably because of the cold, the crowd numbered only 1,000.”
These days, evictions are too commonplace to attract attention. There are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders. Some moving companies specialized in evictions, their crew working all day long, five days a week. Hundreds of data-mining companies sell landlords tenant-screening reports that list past evictions and court filings. Meanwhile, families have watched their incomes stagnate or fall as their housing costs have soared. Today, the majority of poor renting families spend more than half their income on housing, and millions of Americans are evicted every year. In Milwaukee, a city of fewer than a hundred and five thousand renter households, landlords legally evict roughly sixteen thousand adults and children each year. As the real-estate market has recovered in the wake of the foreclosure crisis and the ensuing recession, evictions have only increased.
But there are other ways, cheaper and quicker than a court order, to remove a family. Some landlords pay tenants a couple of hundred dollars to leave by the end of the week. Some take off the front door. Nearly half of the forced moves of renting families in Milwaukee are “informal evictions,” which, like many rentals, involve no paperwork, and take place in the shadow of the law. Between 2009 and 2011, more than one in eight Milwaukee renters were displaced involuntarily, whether by formal or informal eviction, landlord foreclosure, or building condemnation. In 2013, nearly the same proportion of poor renting families nationwide was unable to pay all of their rent, and similar number thought it was likely that they would be evicted soon.
For decades, social scientists, journalists, and policymakers have focused on jobs, public assistance, parenting, and mass incarceration as the central problems faced by the American poor, overlooking just how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty. Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly everyone has a landlord.
— Matthew Desmond
THE ABNORMAL WITHIN THE REALM OF THE NORMAL
by Juan José Millás
(Translated by Louis S. Bedrock)
The offices belong to a hospital — el hospital Ramón y Cajal de Madrid. The man and the woman in the seats have been to a specialist or to visit a sick relative. Or are awaiting the birth of a grandchild; we have no idea. The thing is that they are there, sitting so quietly, involved with their own affairs, without bothering anyone, when a pair of imperial soldiers from the 501rst legion from Star Wars pass through the hallway.
The fictitious soldiers had come to take part in a real marathon for blood donations that the hospital had established at the time. They weren’t there to cause any disturbance, nor to arrest an oncologist, nor to have a check-up, but rather to encourage people to give blood. Praiseworthy, without a doubt. However,
I’m biding my time by the door of the dermatologist and I see two people from the military walk by with the resolve of these two imperial soldiers and I think there’s been a coup d’état. Everyone is a victim of his own history.
—Could we be on that list? —she asks herself.
Her husband, repressing panic, tries to calm his wife with a reasonable explanation.
—It’s the abnormal within the realm of the normal, my dear, and we’ve been through this many times before.
Indeed: how many times in the course of one’s life does the unusual inhabit the usual?
THE WAR IS OVER
by Burt Kimmelman
October 2011, New York City — I meet my friend, my old professor, and we head over to Zuccotti Park, lots of cops and metal fences on the way there, and then the drums in sync, and dancing and signs – scrawled on a piece of green cardboard, “Compassion is the radicalism of our time,” set up against some empty pizza boxes, and another sign, photo of grave stones below the heading “No Corporations Buried Here” and below the graves “Arlington Cemetery,” and then I see a young man and young woman cuddling in a sleeping bag in the middle of it all, trying to rest.
We two old lefties head off to catch our trains back home, and it’s then I remember that heady day when, out of nowhere someone starts chanting “The War Is Over,” 1968 in Washington Square Park, and thousands of us pick up the chant, and then we start marching up Fifth Avenue and shouting “The War Is Over, The War Is Over,” Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso somehow having ended up at the front of the march, and I see two old timers beside us on the sidewalk as we pass them by, as we march by, and they’re shaking hands and laughing, telling one another “Hey, the war is over,” and patting the other on the back in their glee, and in the street we all are headed uptown, tens of thousands of us now, and the police have just arranged themselves alongside of us and they’re letting it all happen, and when we get to 42nd Street, Allen taking half of us west to the Hudson River, Gregory the other half to the UN and the East River, and we all knew what happened.
I wait for the hundred thousand of us to start marching from that downtown little park, heading north, cheering and protesting, and in DC and in all of our cites, and I’ll be there, since now’s the time.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I got to see Dan Hicks in action at CR Eureka in 1971 I believe. Some drunk in the back kept yelling “boogie” during and between scat-jazzy tunes — not what this guy was wanting to hear from the former Charlatans rocker. Dan had enough and right in the middle of a song stopped playing and screamed OK MF, I’ll show you how to boogie and headed into the audience to seek justice. The guy must have run out the door, not a peep after that. I was impressed.
HARVEY READING ON THE SUPERBOWL: I’ve got a real super bowl. It’s stainless steel, holds about a gallon, and will fit inside my pressure cooker, keeping the juices of whatever’s being cooked from splashing onto the interior of the cooker. And, it does its job, quietly, with no brainless hype. The football super bowl always puzzled me, as did the moronic game of football. What reason do I have for giving a damn which crowd of brain-damaged idiots beats the other crowd of brain-damaged idiots in a corporation-funded (with lots of subsidies from common folks’ tax dollars) stadium filled with brain-dead commoners, in the commoners’ seats who oooh and aaah over the militarism?
WHAT TO DO ABOUT WATER
To the Editor:
The rain has finally arrived and it seems at times with a vengeance. It’s been so long since we’ve seen any substantial amounts of rain that a little seems to go a long way. I’m already tired of the mud and have forgotten what a normal year was like. With any luck the forecasted El Nino storm systems will bring Mendocino County back to some semblance of normal. While we are thankful for the rain we should not become complacent, we will see another drought in the future, that my friends is the nature of the area we live in.
We should be preparing for the next dry period. Our County Supervisors should be at the fore front of leading this change, after all it was our past Supervisors that gave our water and dam to Sonoma County to start with.
Lake Mendocino should be one of the first priorities this county undertakes. At present Mendocino County owns very little of the water stored in Lake Mendocino, but that can be changed, the dam itself should be raised to allow more water storage for Mendocino County. Additionally, the lake should be dredged of the sediment buildup that has been created for the last 60 years and if the sediment is indeed “contaminated” as the Army Corps of Engineers claims, the material should be hauled, placed and leveled on one of the partially submerged peninsulas or fingers of the lake. Plant trees on top of the buildup and make a park out of it or make more “wet lands” in one of the shallow bays, after all mosquitos need more habitat. If the lake sediment is “contaminated” why are we not all dying from drinking the water from the lake? What exactly does “contaminated” mean and “contaminated” by what?
The federal use designation of Lake Mendocino should be changed from flood control only, to water storage and flood control, this will allow the lake to be filled to a higher level earlier in the year and remain at a higher level in the advent that there is no rain in the spring of the year. That is what happened three years ago at the start of the current drought.
The next priority should be to insure an ample supply of water to flow into and out of Lake Mendocino for Agriculture, recreation, fisheries, and hydroelectric power. But mainly enough water for our county population. This County Water Plan would have to include Lake Pillsbury and the Eel River Diversion because without the diversion there would be no running water into Lake Mendocino during the summer months.
Dams were originally built to control the water for people, whether for flood control or water storage. The majority of the rivers in Mendocino County dried up or ran at a reduced flow during the summer months. That was before the dams were built on our California wild rivers. The rivers should be maintained at their natural flow rates regardless of a dam. The flows out of dams during the dry months of the year should be equal to the flows into the lakes with the exception of the water needed for our population which includes agriculture and industry.
Several years ago an idea was discussed about building small lakes in some of the drainages around Dos Rios and pumping Eel River water into these lakes during winter rainy season high water events. The plan included building a pipe line on the existing defunct railroad and sending the water south through Willits and over the hill into Redwood Valley where it would be delivered into Lake Mendocino after diverting the water to the local population centers along the way. A hydroelectric power plant could be built at the bottom of the Ridgewood Grade in Redwood Valley to produce hydro-electric power before the water is diverted to Redwood Valley and on to Lake Mendocino. This would be an extensive project but a feasible concept and money better spent than a high speed rail in the middle of nowhere. If water can be pumped over the Grape Vine to Los Angles we can certainly pump it over the Ridgewood Grade.
We need to achieve a balance with our water use and we will all need more water as time progresses and population increases. We need to take more local control of our own local resources and be controlled less by State and Federal Government bureaucracy.
Clyde Blundell, Potter Valley
WE WEAKEN, THE WOLVES CIRCLE
The Ukiah Police Department was searching Saturday for suspects in a home invasion robbery in Ukiah.
According to the UPD, the elderly residents of a home in the 800 block of Mohawk Drive reported that at 6:38 a.m. Feb. 6, two or three males suspects had entered their home through a sliding glass door.
Once inside, the suspects reportedly tied up the 77-year-old woman and 80-year-old man, placing the woman on a couch and the man face down on the kitchen floor.
The suspects disabled the phones at the residence and began searching it, then one of the suspects declared that they were in the wrong house and they left.
The suspects are described as white males, one possibly Hispanic, in their late 20s or early 30s. All were wearing hats and clothing that covered the lower portion of their faces.
The suspects were associated with a dark-colored car that had been parked in front of the residence with its lights on and engine running during the robbery.
Anyone with information regarding the incident is urged to contact the UPD at 463-6262.
PORTRAIT OF THE CANDIDATE AS A YOUNG MAN
FROM THE DA'S OFFICE
Please be aware that there is a constitutional amendment in the pipeline that soon will be thrust in your face across the state by those pesky grocery store signature gatherers.
The Mendocino County DA's current legal analysis of the so-called Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 is that its provisions are CONTRARY to public safety and provides NOTHING additional to enhance rehabilitation programs. Put another way, the title, purpose, and intent of the Act are all misleading.
The reality is that these laws are intended to further reduce state prison populations by authorizing prison bureaucrats to OVERRIDE sentences that have been carefully considered and imposed by local judges, including sentences previously imposed on repeat serious and violent inmates. These changes are coming to you by way of the initiative process in order to circumvent the legislative process in Sacramento because our Assembly members and Senators would never agree to such dangerous changes.
Like was the case with Prop 47, the title is misleading to garner public support; it does not reflect actual provisions of what is being proposed. As an example, releasing back to our local communities (much earlier than allowed by current law) repeat felony offenders and other prisoners ENDANGERS, rather than protects, public safety. Moreover, while claiming one of its goals is to “improve rehabilitation,” it provides NO funds or any other provisions to develop or expand rehabilitative programs.
PLEASE STAY TUNED as we further explore this "wolf" in the weeks to come. Know the REAL facts before you sign a stranger's petition!
WHAT KIND OF DESIGN RECTIFIES INEQUITY?
by Gregory K. Sims
“What kind of design rectifies inequity?” I heard a reporter asking this question of a civic leader who was attempting to manage the influx of refugees coming into his country. His answer specifically addressed meeting the needs of those displaced individuals while not forgetting the citizenry he was representing. I took the question quite personally and asked of myself: What kind of design for the rectification of inequity do I accept so that my life manifests peacefully within myself, with others, other life forms, and the environment?
I can imagine tossing the question around so as to identify a set of design variables which might constitute an answer. At the outset I would select the variables which would seem most likely to identify and resolve my own personal displaced states so that I could then have at least a fleeting awareness of open, life supporting peacefulness to be transmitted outwardly. Next I would turn to science and look at the open ended word design. It can be life affirming as an integrative resource which efficiently manages phenomena such as the metabolic and homeostatic workings of our bodies or the photosynthesis occurring within the flora surrounding us. And if the social system designs are thoughtful i.e. cognitively, caringly representative of phenomena, and contain within them a fluency which accounts for all variables within a life affirming manner, the designs are more likely to be instruments of peace. That is, they will be instruments of increasingly harmonious mutuality.
So Is Personal Peacefulness Reflecting Outwardly the Kind of Design That Rectifies Inequity?
The dictionary definition of rectify, which basically is to correct, isn’t useful in this context. The term rectify as used here is highly influenced by the following word; inequity. Inequity is also difficult to understand as a stand-alone morpheme. I can make more sense of the phrase rectifies inequity than just puzzling over the two words separately.
Webster (1970) uses the word equity as one of the definitions for the term equanimity. In fact equity is comprised of the prefix and suffix of the word equanimity and omits the middle portion animi (a root of animate). Equanimity references the animated integrative coherence of individuals alone and in groups. In existential terms it can be used to reference this coherence in all of existence. Equanimity is a strong correlate of personal peacefulness and peacefulness in all domains. For me this is a more usable term than inequity as an absence of equity - equity being both fairness and personally attained objective value (as that portion of a property owned by an individual or agency). This fairness and its agency value do matter, but at this point it is easier to see an emerging solution to the initial question being addressed if we realize there is no such thing as inequanimity.
Personally, being respectful of existential considerations, I find my way first by realizing that existential equanimity is sustained in the face of all manner of explosions and generative galactic events. In the face of all change, gravity and existence continue. And I observe this to be true of my body as it heroically maintains a plateau of constancy until the physical structure stops living. Then degeneration transforms my biodegradable materials through a process reflective of catabolism. Now returning our attention to equity as fairness; my participation in the peace process is enhanced through understanding that my actions are part of an equanimous design within universes. I’m existentially involved. More directly I am physically involved by my caring action in behalf of others which is independent of and yet also involves personal needs. If my involvement occurs as a result of rectifying my perspective through active engagement or quiet, generous peaceful support, I have found my design for rectifying inequity.
Some people have taken vows of poverty, others are simply content to own very little and there are still others who maintain extensive holdings. In one sense the holdings which are so dear to us, and which we would like to offer to our children, are not likely to be the most or least important foundations for our capacity for peaceful growth and our capacity to share growth with others. What is transpiring through the movement of refugees and immigrants is likely to continue to increase. Very large groups of people are emerging who are permanently displaced by the upheaval in their homelands, just as millions of Tibetan Buddhists and Palestinians have become permanent refugees some time ago.
As we attempt to maintain societal peace in the face of these many changes, our efforts to be of service can be enhanced by our peaceful growth. In order to sustain our peaceful ways of being and to share them with others, it becomes evident that as we develop our secular or religious approaches to life; if we wish to reflect peace outwardly, identifying an ongoing daily personal practice helps us. Caring personal peacefulness which reflects outwardly is biological, psychological, social and either secular or religiously spiritual. And the mix of these peaceful qualities is like finger prints. They look alike. But every set of peaceful heart prints (like each person’s body) is different. Still, it is possible in coming together in behalf of peaceful wellbeing and the development of our abilities to reflect these qualities outwardly in thought, speech and action; we will become more capable of transmitting and receiving our own states of peacefulness into what can be referenced as community peace. This is group centered peaceful caring (beyond our need states) and is derived as products from personal peacefulness manifesting outwardly.
If peaceful wellbeing is possible, and methodologies can be developed which will move individuals from a primacy of needs based awareness to peaceful caring; why isn’t everyone peaceful? As was previously mentioned, as much as we influence each other’s experience, all of our experiences are different. Plus our own experience registers within each one of us, within our own bodies. Even more to the point the perspective from which we view motivations, desires and needs comes to us as if “I, my, mine” are constructs which seem to exist as truth and are sometimes plunged into our bodies with great emphasis.
Most everyone can learn to view life from a perspective that has no agenda…for a few seconds. Living within a world of experiential beingness as our given primal state wherein presence in being is not for me, is not mine and not what I control does not come easily for many of us. The fact is; I do have control, ownership and personal satisfaction as I, me and mine- but these states needn’t eclipse the ongoing presence within which we live. Some individuals who develop a practice of living peacefully and manifesting it outwardly never give it a thought. They simply live peacefully. Others benefit from having a conscious practice, from learning of the physiological and other aspects of peacefulness (and unpeacefulness) that is slowly being investigated and uncovered through many disciplines and agencies.
There is to be a presentation of this material on Personal Peacefulness-Psychological Perspectives (Sims, G., Nelson, L.,& Puopolo, M., 2014 Springer Pub.) by Gregory Sims, which is to take place at the Anderson Valley Grange from 3 to 5 p.m. on March 13th (Spring forward change clock day) The presentation is non-financially sponsored by The Anderson Valley Grange 669 and supported by The Anderson Valley American Legion Post 385 and the Anderson Valley Health Center. The event is free of charge with light refreshments. Please come.
Wed., Feb. 10th, 1:30-4:30 pm
Teens are invited to commiserate & graffiti romance novel cover images, share break-up book playlists, duct-tape broken hearts and black roses, and write blackout break-up poems. Best of all you can hang out in the teen space and lament breakup woes. Snacks and drinks will be provided.
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Live-Streaming Author Talk with Jill Shalvis
Tuesday, February 9th, 6:30 pm
Ukiah Library is proud to welcome a live streaming visit by New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 6:30 pm. Jill will join us via live video chat for a conversation about her bestselling romance novels just in time for Valentine’s Day! There will also be an opportunity for a Q&A from the audience.
The Library Talks is a grant funded project open to all California libraries, with funding provided by the Pacific Library Partnership and proudly sponsored by the Santa Clara City Library.
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Thursday Night is Board Game Night! 5:30-7:30pm
Board Game Night is always a blast.
Join us Thursday nights 5:30-7:30pm and check out some of our games!
Sponsored by the Ukiah Valley Friends of the Library
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Is this Thing Even On?
FREE Tech Help
Bring your laptops, tablets, & mobile devices. Librarians are here to help troubleshoot tech issues.
IT'S NOT TOO LATE to hear last night's (2016-02-05) KNYO (and KMEC) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show.
It's like when you don't like football and it's Superbowl Sunday.
The recording of the show is at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
and it's ready to download and keep or just play with one click.
Sandy Glickfeld came by but was too shy to speak, so you may only psychically sense her presence, but that's better than nothing. Stuart Cohen brought his guitar and played a few new songs, where the mic was in just the right place and the sound quality is excellent. I'll be cutting those out and putting them in my music library to play in future. A pretty good show. I think you'll like it. "Eet ees a styupit game," comes from Jim Jarmusch’s black-and-white film Stranger than Paradise. A Hungarian girl's life is turned upside-down and she goes to America to stay in a bleak apartment in a bleak winter American city with her bleak cousin. He's watching football on a teevee on the folding table. She looks at it for a little while and declares it styupit. (This is before we knew that football causes brain damage, and that it's especially dangerous for schoolkids' brains.) (As well as for their health in other ways. I knew Larry Weldon, the world-class watercolorist; he lived next door when I was in high school. His school-age football injury in the 1940s required him to use braces on his legs and braced crutches to walk and caused him pain all the rest of his life.)
you'll find literally thousands and thousands of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless interesting things to see and hear and learn about, such as:
A comprehensive history of Japan in nine minutes.
The refugees' trip, in text, sound and short videos.
Star Wars as a grindhouse film trailer.
And the view from aboard a sinking ship-- all the way to the bottom.