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Off the Record (Feb 10, 2016)

YEAH, I watched the Super Bowl. Bad habits don't die hard or die at all if you're happy with them. The game was boring, the ads infantile, the half-time show bizarre. All-in-all a perfect visual for the true state of the union.

DURING the half-time show, the hoochie koochie dancers held up signs reading "Justice for Mario Woods." Woods is the San Francisco man gunned down by a multi-ethnic posse of San Francisco cops a month ago. (The lead shooter was black.)


THE MAN Woods stabbed to get himself killed by the police was interviewed the other night on Channel 7 television. So far as I'm aware, Woods' victim has otherwise been completely ignored as Woods, a life criminal, is elevated to martyr status.

WOODS' VICTIM was a young black man whose face was obscured on tv because he said he feared further harm. From who he didn't say, but he seemed to imply that since his attacker is being hailed as a national victim of police violence by the kind of unthinking band wagon jumpers who think he's a hero, the race demagogues might come looking for him, an unknown, a mere prop for his assailant.

THE ANONYMOUS VICTIM said Woods had stabbed him for no reason, that Woods appeared to be in full raging drug maniac mode when he did it. Woods' anonymous victim said he didn't call the police himself. The police were called when he appeared at SF General for emergency treatment and was asked what had happened to him.

THE VICTIM said he has received no calls from anybody in San Francisco's civic power apparatus asking him how he's doing or even to say they're sorry for what happened to him. Instead, the SF supervisors unanimously passed a resolution declaring Mario Woods Day.

SHOULD THE COPS have shot Woods? I'd say no, which is easy for me to say after the fact and in complete safety from random knife attacks. Woods, although he's seen in the video waving a knife around and almost certainly would have stabbed some other unlucky passerby if he hadn't been suppressed, he hadn't lunged at or otherwise threatened any of the cops who shot him.

WHAT SHOULD THE COPS have done? Waited him out? Fired at his legs? Chanted Buddhist peace vibes at him? I don't know. It's always easy to second guess cops. What I do know is the posthumous honors conferred on Mario Woods are as grotesque as his execution.

IF ALL THE FOULLY MURDERED buried in the hills of Mendocino County were to rise from their forgotten graves and start walking down 101, there'd be a spectral parade stretching from Piercy to Hopland.


AT SHERIFF ALLMAN'S presser last week, the Sheriff announced something of a forensics miracle when he revealed the identities of two long unidentified young girls whose remains were found off Highway 20 between Willits and Fort Bragg in July of 1979. Kerry Ann Graham, 15, and Francine Trimble, 14, had set out from their homes in Forestville, West Sonoma County, in December of 1978 for the Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa, and were never heard from again.

THIS VERY COLD CASE had become the focus of national missing persons programs, and even the BBC spent a small fortune trying to discover who the girls were and how they had died, neatly solving the case from London.

SHERIFF ALLMAN said the task now is to find the fiend who killed the two girls. Unlikely, and certainly unlikely in Mendocino County where Susan Keegan, a long-time resident of Ukiah, respected by everyone who knew her, can be bludgeoned to death in her home with her cause of death reading HOMICIDE and the only other person in the home at the time Susan died was her husband, Dr. Peter Keegan. If our hard-hitting cops and DA can't bring themselves to bust the known killers, the odds are against them finding the unknown monsters who murder children and throw them off the sides of rural roads. Dr. Keegan walks smiling around town with his new girl friend, the very picture of nonchalant respectability. There's also the pipe bomb killer and former member of a cop-killing cult who enjoys a cush job with the County of Mendocino where, as we wield our own mantras like the Keegan bludgeon, we repeat that here in Amnesia County history starts all over again every day and everyone and anyone is whatever he says he is.

WHAT TO DO about the County's Animal Shelter might be answered (by the time you read this) at the Supe's meeting on Tuesday, February 9th. Long-time Shelter boss, Sage Mountainfire, was placed on paid leave three weeks ago, some volunteers have been banned from the Shelter and Petaluma Animal Services wants our Supes to hand the whole Ukiah mess over to them. The expansion-minded Petaluma foundation presently enjoys contracts with Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Petaluma, and Calistoga. The supes seem wary about privatizing a second County function. Their prior adventure in privatization of the County's mental health services has turned into an ongoing disaster. Tuesday's meeting will be, so to speak, a real dogfight. (Just sayin', but a retro hippie monicker like Sage Mountainfire, fifty years after the days of naked Solstice parties, reads "Dingbat" to most people. Whatever Sage's birth name was, she should re-embrace it. She'd probably get her job back if she was Sally Smith.)

A READER WRITES: "Bill Maher had a great line several weeks ago regarding the Flint Water Crisis….'The Police Department in Flint is up in arms regarding the current crises…a spokesman for the police said that ‘pumping lead into blacks is our job’….”

MENDO DA DAVID EYSTER can justly claim that his office is, by far, the most transparent in the state. Marin County, for instance, as most counties, posts only a booking log, although some counties don't even manage that most basic public information. LA County will let you see who the sexually violent predators are as they are foisted back off on unlucky communities after too brief prison stays. Napa County provides a Megan's Law link. But Mendo? With the Mendo DA you can find on-line, a "lifer" defendant inventory; prison commitments; sexually violent predator inventory; prelim and trial schedule; jury verdicts; officer involved shootings and in-custody deaths; asset forfeiture filing stats. And if you don't find what you're looking for you can roust DA spokesman Mike Geniella from Schat's Bakery across the street from the DA's office and he'll give you the info you seek.

AS ALWAYS prone at the feet… Mendocino County has ponied up $10,000 for a study on behalf of the wine industry, which will highlight "the economic impacts related to water use from Lake Mendocino." The purpose of the study, quite explicitly, is to justify an investment by the US Army Corps of Engineers in raising Coyote Valley Dam and enlarging Lake Mendocino. The Mendocino County Agriculture Department and Mendocino County Inland Water & Power Commission, both public agencies, are partnering with the Mendocino County Farm Bureau and Mendocino County Winegrape Commission to produce the report. Robert Eyler, the Sonoma State University professor and private consultant who is conducting the study, is a go-to guy for wine industry junk science. In 2012, he published a report on how extremely modest State Water Board frost protection regulations would cause economic losses to the Sonoma and Mendocino county wine industries of "up to $2 billion" per year. The study was funded by New York investment tycoon John Dyson, owner of a SoCo winery, and best known perhaps as the New York City Chamber of Commerce executive who created the "I [Heart] New York" bumper stickers. Dyson is a right-wing extremist. No doubt, the Mendo-funded study for the grape growers will be used from now on to assist the industry in warding off regulations, justifying their enormous water use, etc.

SEEMS KINDA TIGHTY WHITEY of the Ukiah Fire Marshall to demand closure of the winter homeless shelter on Mazzoni Street out of "safety concerns." Like the winter streets are safer?

SUPER THURSDAY, having berthed the Silver Bullet in the North Beach Garage, I walked straight up and over Vallejo, marveling at a familiar but unremarked sight in that neighborhood — elderly Chinese women lugging their shopping bundles home up that steep hill which everyone, except the people who live along it, mostly avoid ascending. I wondered if the legions of sickly, chairbound Occidentals would benefit from two long blocks a day up and down a steep hill, concluding the affirmative. At the waterfront end of Vallejo, still a few blocks away from Justin Herman Plaza, it was evident something very big and very stupid was underway across the street from the Ferry Building. (Justin Herman was one of the city's most destructive persons ever, and the man responsible for the destruction of the old Fillmore District and the installation of Geary Boulevard in place of that vibrant, functioning neighborhood. Of course the city named a plaza after him, the architectural irony being that the "plaza" is an appropriately joyless skein of pavement and concrete whose centerpiece is the waterless Vaillancourt Fountain, the ugliest piece of public art in the country.)

AND THERE IT WAS, Super City, a hideous collection of corporate logos and un-inviting booths massed behind prison fencing, around which heavily armed men were driving in high speed golf carts. It isn't clear if the security boys, and they're almost all boys, were there to keep us saps in or out. O yeah. Terrorists. The black jump suits are protecting us from terrorists, and it was indeed terrifyingly funny to watch the jump suits frisking passengers disembarking the Larkspur Ferry, probably the least menacing people that could be found anywhere in America. "Don't mind all the guns, folks, go on inside and have a good time drinking $8 cups of Bud."

I BOUGHT a five dollar salami sandwich at the Acme Bakery inside the Ferry Building and sat down outside to enjoy it and to gage the public mood, which was upbeat and heavy on visiting football fans in their hometown jerseys. A bum was fast asleep up against a sidewalk abutment. I wondered what his dreams could be like. The mayor said he was going to get all the street people indoors for the Super festivities, a football game between two out of state teams played forty miles south of San Francisco.

ACROSS THE STREET loomed Super City, that corporate excresence — four blocks of walled-off bummers, out of which a CNN platform loomed up over the rest of the No Fun. Any mayor who could think that this thing is a real whoop de doo for visitors is a mayor who has lost his noodles.

THE COUPLE sitting next to me were debating whether or not to go in. They were youngish and mannerly, from Raleigh, South Carolina, hence the manners and soft accents. They said they'd saved up all year to come out here. They were big Carolina Panther fans. "Excuse me, sir, have you been inside?" I confessed I had. "Should we go, or should we give it a pass?" I suggested they catch a westbound bus, any bus, and vacate the area. "The real Frisco is all out there on the other side of this, this, this abomination," I said. Which I immediately regretted because… well, because, I'd probably wrecked their morning. These nice people were visitors, and who do they encounter but some alienated old coot who goes all negative on them.

JUST AS IMMEDIATELY I un-regretted myself when the man said, "I was hoping to see Anderson Cooper up there on the CNN platform."

IN MOMENTS of extreme provocations like this I've found the Jesus Prayer very helpful: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It's a kind of metaphysical way of counting to ten. I repeated the prayer to myself before recommending, "Get one of these pedi-cabs to take you up to North Beach. It's only a few blocks from here and there are things to see, like the beautiful church where Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe. You can have a nice lunch at the new Original Joe's and maybe see the bookstore where the beatniks kicked off." The woman said to her husband — they both wore wedding bands — "We can do both, hon," and they got up and, bidding me goodbye, headed across the street for Anderson Cooper.

I WALKED OVER to Mission Street and headed west for the California Historical Society's latest exhibits, which turned out to be centered on the Halprins, the dancer and the architect; the latter designed Sea Ranch, which... well, I'll spare you. A street guy, mumbling to himself, staggered in ahead of me. To say he was disheveled would be unfair to the disheveled. This poor guy was a total mess, but not, I'd thought, on booze or dope. He was simply out of it, a free range mental case. As he stood at the sign-in desk he presented me with an engrimed butt cheek.

SAN FRANCISCO has never been sadder, never less humanely managed. This man belonged in a hospital. On every block between the corporate kryptonite at the foot of Market and Van Ness I probably passed thirty people like him — mentally ill, unattended.

THE GUY asked the young woman at the desk, "Is Joe here?" She said Joe was not here. "Joe Montana? Is he here?" the street guy persisted. The young woman said, "I think you want the Moscone Center just up the street and to your left. I think all the football people are up there." He shuffled out the door. "We get them all day long," she said. "Sad, isn't it?"

BTW, Sonoma County Wines had a big booth inside the armed compound set up to welcome visitors to San Francisco. No sign of Mendocino County.

CHRISTOPHER POTTER, Ukiah, has managed to set a new local interdiction record. Wheeling a Chevy pickup south of Cloverdale near Geyserville, a CHP patrolman thought Potter's window tint was too dark and pulled him over. The officer said he also smelled marijuana coming from Potter's equipment trailer. A pot dog was soon on-site and went immediately into yipping conniptions. Inside was 1600 pounds of bud. Potter, 33, was arrested "on suspicion of possessing of marijuana and transporting it for sale." No more information was immediately available.

Packers halfback Donny Anderson (44) running against the Chiefs (photo by Ben Olender / Los Angeles Times).
Packers halfback Donny Anderson (44) running against the Chiefs during the first Super Bowl (1967). Photo by Ben Olender / Los Angeles Times.

THE EDITOR GOT A HUGE JOLT from this photo. His name is Reg Carolan. I played football and basketball against him when I was in high school. He died at the age of 47 in 1983 when he drowned at Lake Phoenix at Ross as he was jogging. The speculation was that Reg suffered a seizure, tumbled into the water and.... He was a nice guy, even as a kid, and a great athlete, obviously, since he made it all the way into pro football and the Super Bowl.

Reg Carolan in the Chiefs locker room during halftime. Photo by Bill Ray—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.
Reg Carolan in the Chiefs locker room during halftime. Photo by Bill Ray—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

RON CHESTNA, 89 years of age, was stopped by the police around 2am and was asked where he was going at that time of night. Ron replied, "I'm on my way to a lecture about alcohol abuse and the effects it has on the human body, as well as smoking and staying out late." The officer asked, "Really? Who's giving that lecture at this time of night?" Ron replied, "That would be my wife."

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.

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 a cage. 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'd 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 rejoiced to find several John O'Haras. They lasted me until I got a whole stack of stuff directly from a sympathetic publisher. Without the books I would have gone silently 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 remember enjoying in 2015 into 2016, were:

Paying the Toll by Amy Louise Nelson This thing is heavy going in the academic fashion but an interesting political history of the Golden Gate Bridge anyway.

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 know about the Splendid Splinter, aka Ted Williams.

The South by Paul Theroux. Theroux 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. 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.…

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?

BIG ORANGE got out this press release over the weekend: We have been hearing too many stories lately of "close calls" by our crews out there on the roads. One of our workers in Humboldt County had to run out of the way while flagging this past week as a car plowed into the car in front of them who was stopped at a workzone cue. The vehicle was inches away from hitting our flagger as he sprinted out of the way. We want you ALL to please remember that our crews are out there working to keep the roads safe for you. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents and someones child. SLOW DOWN and pay attention, their lives are more important then whatever you might be doing to cause you to be distracted while driving. Please watch this video as a reminder of who we are because we are much more then men and women in vests and hard hats. Thank you.

A SONOMA COUNTY READER WRITES. " Our midnight rambler, Efren Carrillo, cashed his political chips the night he took his personal "welcome wagon" to the streets of late night west side Santa Rosa, only to have his dressed-in-his-underwear advances dismissed followed but duly noted by SRPD. As much as "Captain Underpants" tries to play it down, there's just no way a guy this clueless can remain in office. He didn't learn that you have to wait till you get to Sacramento to start ramping up the "benefits schedule" via your constituents. Next time, Bosco and his crew will be more discerning in their plug and play political game and install someone a bit more subdued, a bit more patient. Notice that that big ham headed dude Gore , a total product of the Dem machine, keeps his personal life in far. Irv Sutley and I are plotting. Be unconcerned. Be VERY unconcerned."

THE SUPERVISORS have been busy lately, and so has the Major. His extensive coverage of the recently released Kemper Mental Health Audit Report, plus the big Promotional Alliance tax giveaway, Judge Nadel's ruling that the proposed Proposition 172 Initiative is unconstitutional and must be withdrawn or resubmitted, and some pointed complaints about AT&T's poor local service is too long for print but can be found on the ava's ultra-cool website at:

Kemper Report:

Promo Giveaway:

Prop 172:


One Comment

  1. Nate Collins March 3, 2016

    Okay I was looking for the context in Off the Record to make this comment about homelessness. Here it is. Okay if someone is passing out tents which is exacerbating the problem then they are a troublemaker. Who is to say that this or any other pressing social issue doesn’t call for some creative troublemaking? The status quo is obviously not working and we couldn’t sweep this under the rug if we tried. So is it good for this inequality to be in our face everyday? That is the question, “Is it good to have the issue of inequality in our face all of the time? Well I think in some ways yes. The truly unfair thing in the whole equation is that the really wealthy will always have their neighborhood clean and tidy while the rest of us suffer the brunt of the dregs and the grime. If your “commons” is private and exclusive well then maybe you don’t care about the public commons. It’s the rest of us whose quality of life goes way down.

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