Mendocino County Today: Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017
by AVA News Service, December 6, 2017
HOMES BURN IN BEL-AIR AS NEW FIRE ERUPTS IN HEART OF L.A.
Multiple fires are raging in Southern California. A series of Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires have destroyed at least 180 structures, forced thousands to flee and smothered the region with smoke in what officials predicted would be a pitched battle for days.
THE BEAUTIFUL MIND OF MICHEL SALGUES
by Tom Stevenson
Michel Salgues was chief winemaker at Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley, and then as a much-respected sparkling-wine consultant. He displayed a rare blend of intelligence and humility.
At 4am on Sunday, October 1, 2017, a legendary figure in the sparkling-wine world passed away at Val d’Aurelle hospital in Montpellier in Southern France. Michel Salgues established Roederer Estate in the Anderson Valley, where he produced the first truly world-class sparkling wine, comparable in quality not merely to Champagne but to an exceptionally fine Champagne. It was also at Roederer Estate that Michel became the first mentor to fellow Ardennais Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon.
Michel was instrumental in maneuvering young Jean-Baptiste to take over as chef de cave at Louis Roederer in Reims, where he has since established himself as one of Champagne’s most gifted winemakers. After nearly 20 years as vice president and head winemaker at Roederer Estate, Michel retired and immediately became one of the most sought-after sparkling-wine consultants in the world.
I am privileged not only to have met Michel Salgues but also to have known him as a very dear friend for more than 30 years. I have come across many bright people in my working life but none who has displayed such an inspiring combination of intelligence and humility. Michel’s greatest asset was, without doubt, his ability to listen intently. When he asked a question, he would cock his head very slightly and turn on a kindly smile. He made the recipient of that smile aware that he would be clinging on to every word of his or her answer. He was one of life’s natural givers.
Michel was born on April 30, 1947, at Vouziers, 30 miles (48km) northeast of Reims, but spent most of his early childhood at Machault, 50 miles (80km) southeast of Paris, where his parents continued to live until they passed away some ten years ago. He was the fourth of six boys (the others being René, Henri, Jean, Laurent, and Pierre), and his penchant for international travel in later life can be traced back to the wanderlust nature of his formative years. Having attended preschool and primary school up to the second grade in Machault, he was sent to live with his grandparents in Noyon (in the Oise département), where he spent two years at the College Paul Bert. Michel then moved to Reims, where he attended the Lycée de Reims for six years before moving to Paris to finish his general education at the Lycée Chaptal.
He graduated in agricultural engineering and oenology from SupAgro Montpellier in 1969 and one year later gained a master’s in agricultural engineering from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. From 1972 until 1985, Michel was resident associate professor at the Department of Enology for Inra-SupAgro Montpellier. During a sabbatical year at UC Davis in 1983, he gained a master’s in food sciences. His research on enzymatic oxidation of phenols at Montpellier led to his place on Dr Singleton’s team at UC Davis, which resulted in the discovery of a hitherto unknown major path of white juice oxidation. In 1986 he gained a PhD in food sciences from SupAgro Montpellier.
Michel so enjoyed his sabbatical in California that he was easily persuaded by Jean-Claude Rouzaud to establish Roederer Estate in the Anderson Valley. “Given my inclination to play the Franco-French card,” Jean-Claude told me, “I did not think for a single second that I should hire an American winemaker. I was out to make a statement, and Michel’s credentials were perfect. To be absolutely honest, before coming to see me, he had an image of Roederer Estate that so resonated with my vision that he almost begged me to let him take the lead. So I did, and in the end Michel was probably more captivated by our Anderson Valley project than I was!”
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, who spent one year at Roederer Estate with Michel, has “lots of memories, and they are all good. What a passionate teacher he was! I remember asking him some theoretical questions about the metabolism of yeast and sulfur, and he answered not only from the practical side but also drew at high speed formulae showing all the enzymatic transformations! Our friendship was strong. Even in his recent work as a consultant, he would often call me. In our last conversations, during his final phase of illness, we developed a new relationship that was deeper and probably more philosophical. It was probably Michel’s way of saying, Go on, do your best, and do it passionately. I remain with you.”
Michel published more than 25 scientific and technical papers and developed and patented a Champagne Pressure Gauge and automatic equipment for measuring grape rot.
His consultancies included the award-winning sparkling wines of Caraccioli Winery in the Santa Lucia Highland AVA of California (2006–17); Arcadia Vineyards Family Vineyards in Turkey (2006–17); Bodegas Pomar in Venezuela (2004–10); and Hundred Hills Vineyards at Pishill, near Henleyon- Thames, in the UK (2012–17), which is where I saw him last, walking through the vineyards together on a bright sunny day in June, and that is as good a last memory as anyone could possibly hope for.
Michel Salgues was more than the sum of his parts, and although he had a burning passion to make the most elegant sparkling wines possible, he was not completely obsessed by it or even by wine in general. His beautifully rational mind was multifaceted, and he possessed more hobbies than you could shake a stick at. His enthusiasm for astronomy was such that he had been building his own telescope for the past ten years. He was also a mushroom hunter extraordinaire and was very much into history, both ancient and modern, with European and Middle Eastern history his favorites. He spent a lot of time rummaging around used bookshops. He collected books and read a lot. He read in German, as well as in French and in English, and was especially fond of Goethe but would read anything from Kurt Vonnegut to Noam Chomsky and everything beyond and between. He was particularly fond of 20th-century art and collected books on art, including any he could find about his father-in-law, who was an artist. He did not believe in any deity, but he read about religion—from the history of the Mormon Church, to the origins of Islam. And of course he devoured everything about science. He was affectionately known by Camilo, the husband of Michel’s daughter Emmanuelle, as The Science Channel. Emmanuelle told me, “You could call him day or night with questions regarding anything from flocculation, to the chemical compounds found in baby oil, and he would know the answer. He was extremely knowledgeable, but he was very humble and always so keen to learn new things. When I was working on my PhD, he learned cuneiform numbers and read up on Babylonian mathematics in order to help me with the calculations and agricultural concepts found in my cuneiform texts!”
Sadly and rather suddenly, Michel was diagnosed with cancer in November 2016, and underwent six months of chemotherapy in Montpellier, after which his oncologist gave him the all-clear. But the disease returned within just two months, and he died before he was able to start another course of chemotherapy. Michel is survived by his wife Sylvie (who has returned to Montpellier), his son Mathieu (46, Alameda), and his daughters Anne (45, Paris) and Emmanuelle (40, Germany). Michel had three grandchildren: Diego and Téo by his son Mathieu, and Zélie by his youngest daughter Emmanuelle, who was so happy her father lived long enough to enjoy the first three and a half months of Zélie’s life. Michel is also survived by all of his brothers except Pierre, who passed away several years ago.
BOONVILLE QUIZZES IN DECEMBER
Keeping to our 'Rules and Guidelines', as laid out in 'The Quiz Masters Bible', because it's the first Thursday tomorrow - December 7th - we shall NOT be having a General Knowledge and Trivia Quiz at Lauren’s Restaurant … We remain are on the same schedule of recent months - 2nd and 4th Thursdays. The next Quiz will be therefore take place on December 14th, and also a special Christmas Quiz on December 28th. So, apart from the rocket scientists amongst you, these evenings might be your last chances before 2018 for vigorous brain exercise coupled with friendly banter, delicious dining, wine-sipping and beer guzzling. Hope to see you there...
— The Quiz Master / Steve Sparks
by Mark Scaramella
In the days before the Brown Act passed in 1953, men (and of course they were all men) ran for County supervisor primarily to make sure that their friends and neighbors got fair (or preferential) consideration for road work and County hiring. In fact the term "supervisor" is a shortened version of "Road Supervisor." Pre-war local politics revolved around roads, where they would go, who got the contract, who benefited along the way, what standards they would be built to, and whether those standards would be enforced, etc. Elections tended toward the clannish and parochial with voting blocs forming in different areas of each supervisoral district in hopes that one of theirs would get elected. In Mendo’s Fifth District prior to the 1950s those areas tended to swing back and forth between Anderson Valley and the south coast with mini-Supervisorial dynasties ebbing and flowing.
Joe Scaramella (my late uncle) was a new breed who didn't represent road contractors or lumber companies or large ranch owners. He was a mechanic who owned a Point Arena garage. He had been watching the supervisors since the first time he ran in the 1930s and thought that a number of reforms needed to be made, primarily in the way of good government such as open meetings, open and competitive bidding, fair hiring practices rather than patronage, more services for regular people, more jobs, and more of an even playing field in agriculture. His advocacy for what is quaintly now remembered as “good government,” caused Mendo’s old timers to label him a “troublemaker.” They kept him out for 20 years during which time Joe Scaramella ran for Supervisor four times and lost each time, setting a record for persistence that stands to this day.
The ONLY other Supervisor since Scaramella who ran with a specific list of objectives if elected was former, recent Third District Supervisor John Pinches who wanted more money spent on upgrading county roads not squirreled away in Transportation Director Budge Campbell’s various slush funds. Pinches also wanted to balance the County’s fragile budget and either get more water for Mendocino back from Sonoma County or at least get some money for all the water that Mendo ships off to Sonoma County.
In his 20 years as Supervisor after finally being elected in 1952, Joe Scaramella eventually accomplished everything that he had set out to do when he was finally elected and a lot more: He created the Civil Service Commission and drafted the first civil service rules. He also got board meetings and budget processes moved out of private lawyer offices in Ukiah and into the Supervisor's chambers. Along with newly elected County Assessor Webb Brown, he raised the assessments on large landholders and timber owners who had been grossly under assessed by the older boards, which increased County revenues for necessary public roads and services. He wrote the first set of Board rules of procedure and he knew them and he insisted they be followed and how to maneuver with them. (Several times when emotions rose on certain issues with a crowded Board room, Joe Scaramella would tacticly use one of his favorite rules, the rule that any one Supervisor can move to have an item continued until the next meeting without a vote of the Board so that people had time to cool off and consider issues more carefully instead of voting in the heat of the moment.) He was Richard Wilson’s only supporter on the board of supervisors in stopping the Dos Rios Dam project, which would have flooded over 20,000 acres of prime agricultural land in Round Valley, taking all that acreage out of the County’s tax base.
Joe’s record of persistance, intention and accomplishment remains unmatched. Only Pinches comes close; Pinches did several things in office that he had set out to do when he ran, including two of the three things he wanted to do and made a good effort on the third.
Scaramella (from an interview with the AVA in the mid-90s):
“When I ran for Supervisor in the 30s and 40s the issues were much more personal than public, more family and clan and locality. Roads were a critical thing. The issues were more about personalities and attitudes regarding representation on the board. The tradition was that you kept the old-timers there. They represented the real true values. That was a thing. I was thought of as a troublemaker because I wasn’t a rancher or timber baron or large landholder and I wanted to change a few things. In the early 50s a man by the name of John Ornbaun, from Anderson Valley was Fifth District Supervisor. He was a good man but he liked to drink too much. That was the only reason I eventually succeeded. If I had had to run against anybody else, I wouldn't have had a chance because I was considered to be a troublemaker. A troublemaker was not desirable. But people were having trouble dealing with Ornbaun because he was drunk a lot of the time. Before Ornbaun there was a man by the name of Bill Lawson from the Anderson Valley. He was there for two terms. And before that there was Frank Reynolds, from Point Arena, he was there a long time. He lived out there as you come down the hill from Boonville, about two miles east of Highway 1. He had a ranch and a team and he moved ties and he wanted to make sure he and his crew got as much road work as possible. For more than ten years in the decades before Ornbaun there was a man named Ed Haehl from Anderson Valley, Yorkville. He was the Board chairman for quite a number of years, mostly in the 30s and early 40s. He was said to have executive power. If you wanted ANYTHING done you had to talk to him. Finally he lost over the issue of the county hospital. A rank newcomer by the name of Joe Hartley from Hopland defeated him. And it had never been done before because Anderson Valley was clannish and they wanted a man from Anderson Valley, period. But then after some redistricting this fella from Hopland came forward and there was a rivalry there. Hartley was endorsed by District Attorney Jim Bush. The DA had quite a bit of political clout in those days. Much more than now. Now the DA has clout in other areas, but not in the political field. And that endorsement somehow swung the election from Haehl to Hartley.”
While we have had some good people as Supervisor — and a number of them worse than today’s sleepwalkers — I can’t think of a single candidate in the last 40 years (except Pinches) who campaigned on any kind of specific reform platform. Why do they bother? Yes, the pay’s a lot better than in Joe Scaramella’s day — but is it worth it to sit through all those pointless meeting hours just to rubberstamp what Carmel Angelo puts on the agenda and never even try to get anything done?
Today, supervisor elections have deteriorated into shallow and vain personality contests similar to elections for high school class president. Candidates don't even bother to show up for board meetings in advance— many persons elected supervisor in recent years attend their first meeting after they’re elected — they pay no attention to the issues, have no agenda whatsoever, do zero homework and run simply on vacuous statements like, “I’m for the environment” and unsubstantiated personal self-assessments: “I’m totally dedicated.” “I’m proactive.” “I like the ocean.” “I used to be a hippie!” (Dan Hamburg actually used a picture of himself as a hippie in his early campaign ads. It worked.)
Which brings us to Willits Spanish teacher John Haschak.
Mr. Haschak first came forward when former Third District Supervisor Tom Woodhouse resigned after suffering a mental breakdown in the job. Haschak was one of a half a dozen or so people who applied to be appointed to finish out Woodhouse’s term. (Woodhouse never attended a board meeting, never took a position on any issue, did no homework, had not participated in any kind local government, and had no idea what he was getting into as a Supervisor. To this day we have no idea why he ran.) Governor Brown picked Willits veterinarian Georgeanne Croskey over Haschak, former Supervisor John Pinches and several other applicants — at least Croskey had the smarts to get through vet school and has acquitted herself adequately since her appointment, although she had never attended a board meeting or expressed an opinion of any kind on County affairs prior to her appointment. But unlike her colleagues, she has shown flashes of independence and she pays attention to the issues, albeit belatedly. Since she’s leaving with her law enforcement husband for work out of state maybe it could be arranged for the promising Croskey to tele-commute.
Why does Mr. Haschak think he should be Supervisor? Like Woodhouse and Croskey, Mr. Haschak has never spoken at a Board meeting, never expressed a public opinion on a County issue, has no political experience on any board or commission, yet here he comes from the perennially failed Willits schools.
According to a recent interview by The Willits News’ Ariel Carmona, Haschak says he’s “familiar with the communities” and is on the California Teachers Association’s (CTA) budget Committee which “makes him qualified to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing Mendocino County including the emergence of the legal cannabis industry, transportation and infrastructure and advocating for fiscal responsibility.”
No it doesn’t. That’s ridiculous, bordering on nuts.
Haschak says he’s “looked at” the Willits schools budget. He was “named Valedictorian” at Willits High School. He adds, completely irrelevantly, that he played a lot of basketball after attending San Francisco State, then graduated from UCLA in history and political science then obtained a teaching credential. He joined the Peace Corps and went to Guatemala for several years then worked for Migrant Head Start. “After a couple of years after that I got a call from Willits High School asking if I wanted to interview for a teaching position teaching Spanish. I took the job,” where he’s been for the last 28 years teaching High School Spanish for 18 years and elementary school Spanish for the last 10. Haschak “guesses” he has “that work ethic of ‘Just get in there and do it, and hope you make a positive change’.” He wants “to look at how we can really diversify our economy and entice well paying sustainable jobs to this area,” and “bring more programs to improve career and technical education into the area.” (Candidates have said that since 1970 and it’s not going to happen for lots of reasons, beginning with poor schools.)
At least he didn’t say, “I’m for the environment.” But then: “It’s all about creating a place that’s sustainable for our economy.”
Haschak boldly declares that he’s for “improved infrastructure and county roads.” He’s for water. He’s for more housing. “It’s looking at what are the roadblocks to creating more housing for people,” Haschak said. “I am not sure what those roadblocks are at this point [sic], but I think it is one of those critical needs for our county.” (Hint: The “roadblocks” are political. We used to have federally funded low interest housing loans in this country, and right here in "progressive" Mendocino County maybe the Supes could invest in low-cost housing, at least partially, rather than the crap shoot of the stock market. But that would require homework and an uphill climb with the rest of the Board and a staff that doesn’t much care what the Board of Supervisors says or does.)
If John Haschak is the best the Third District can put forward, we’re in deeper doo-doo than we thought.
Christmas brings out the atheists, the anti-celebrants with their rote screeds against Christianity, its iconography, its believers, its implausibility, even its music. And of course everyone who goes specifically Christmas shopping is denounced as a sucker. Me, I like this time of year, the stepped-up bonhomie of it, the merry christmases, the strings of night time christmas lights burning out of Anderson Valley's dark hills, even the eggnog so long as you can taste the whisky in it.
I've always wondered at the glee non-believers seem to feel, or fake, at the prospect of stepping into an eternal void. "You fools can believe whatever myths you like, but me? I popped into life outta nowhere and I'll pop off just like I arrived. Nothing miraculous about it, and certainly nothing precious. Random all the way. We come from nothing, we go to nothing."
Maybe, maybe not. I'm hedging my bets.
I like Christmas. I like everything about it. I have no idea what comes next after this life, if anything, but I do like the idea of an eternal day at the ballpark with family and friends, all of us sitting up there at the very rim of AT&T on a warm summer day with the fog's first finger punching through the Golden Gate.
Way back in what seems like another life, a friend and I were hitchhiking up Highway One from San Luis Obispo, the scenic route to San Francisco. As an aspiring beatnik I'd probably read one of the Big Sur novels and wanted to see for myself the magnificent vistas they were talking about. I was also deep into Christian writers, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy particularly, and I knew some young radicals affiliated with the Catholic Workers, an organization I've always admired. (Young feminists, on the off chance they're taking in any new information from non-psychotic sources, might profit from a look into the life of Dorothy Day.)
At Cambria, a Mendocino-like tourist destination not all that far from Hearst Castle, we got picked up by a middle-age man who said he was a Benedictine monk and a friend and neighbor of Henry Miller. (The best Catholics really are catholic.) He quizzed us on our beliefs. Nobody had ever asked me. Before I got into Russian novels I hadn't even thought about the meaning of it all. Preliminarily, life seemed chaotic, often crazy, but just as often, fun and funny. I had to confess that about all I knew about religions was that the Catholics ate fish on Friday and everyone else weren't Catholics. My brief exposures to church services as a child didn't leave me hungering for more.
As we drove north, the Benedictine explained that he and his fellow monks had been headquartered in Italy, but their order had come to America to build a retreat on a ridge in Big Sur. I didn't want to sound dumber than I was so I didn't ask him what a "retreat" was. I thought retreat was what you did when you lost a battle. As I recall the area in '62, everything north of San Simeon and south of Carmel was called Big Sur. I don't remember a town called Big Sur.
The monk said he did the talking for all the monks up on the ridge where they were building their “retreat.” He said they'd taken vows of silence the better to focus on their mission, which was to pray for the sins of mankind as a way of atoning for them, the biggest, most futile task I'd ever heard of. He said we were welcome to stay with them. "We'll trade you work for food and a place to stay," he said.
I stayed for almost two weeks. One of my jobs was to deliver the food trays to the doorsteps of the monk's cells, which were one-room cabins. They spent their days in study and prayer, emerging as a group of thirty or so to conduct chanted services whose intervals were announced by bells. These days, I think, New Camaldoli, as it's called, looks like a kind of high end spa where wealthy drunks come to enjoy the ocean views while they dry out. My experience there still resonates with me. This late in my game, if I were going to be anything I'd be a Catholic. They have room for everyone, and perpetual sinners get to start all over again every week.
SLOB-ISM, THE MENDO FRONT. A reader writes:
You know, for years I've read with a bit of amusement and semi-disagreement your occasional diatribes about the increasingly slovenly state of dress displayed by American males in public. "Styles change," I would think. "Get used to it."
Now I find myself crossing the Rubicon and fully coming to your side.
A few nights ago my wife and I drove to a well known restaurant & inn near Mendocino to celebrate her birthday. We dressed smartly and well for the occasion, as we rarely can afford to eat out. We were seated in the formal dining room with the linen table cloths and napkins, the full silver service, classical music… All of that.
Not long after we were seated, in comes the maitre'd leading a couple probably slightly older than us, but appallingly attired. The husband (if that is what he was) was wearing a tatty, striped, knit pullover shirt (untucked) above cargo shorts and sandals. Cargo shorts, no socks, sandals…on a cold, dark, December night! He looked like a surf slob.
I know it's the off-season for tourists, and business is business but, were I the m'd I would've said upon seeing them walk in: "You're welcome to sit at the bar for your meal, or at a table in the bar room, but no long pants & no shoes = no dining room. If that's not acceptable, there's a Mickey-D and Jack-In-The-Box a few miles up the highway." (I was tempted to suggest that to him when we left.)
Alas — no such thing.
The guy had what was obviously an expensive haircut, a well-trimmed salt & pepper goatee, and soft looking pink hands with clean, manicured fingernails.
While we sat there mentally counting our coppers to make sure we could afford a mid-range entrée, no drinks, no dessert, and a generous tip for the waitress, I noticed he bought the most expensive bottle of wine on the list and ordered a couple of the most pricey entrees, plus the appetizer works.
The comparison couldn't have been more ironic, or pathetic. He had the fat wallet, the money, and absolutely no decorum. We had little money, but all the style and class. (I'm betting he left a lousy tip, too.)
Oh yeah — it's time to eat the rich.
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 6, 2017
Ceja, Driver, Fuller, Hanson
SEBASTIAN CEJA, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
KEITH DRIVER, Ukiah. Second degree burglary, vandalism, probation revocation.
ROBERT FULLER, Fort Bragg. Community supervision violation.
BRANDON HANSON, Ukiah. Petty theft, burglary tools, stolen property, loitering.
Hawkins, Lawrence, Newell
CANDICE HAWKINS, Covelo. Probation revocation.
JEFFERY LAWRENCE, Cloverdale/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
VINCENT NEWELL, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
Ortiz, Roberts, Zynda
RICHARD ORTIZ, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
CHERRI ROBERTS, Ukiah. Camping in Ukiah, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
WILLIAM ZYNDA, Willits. Domestic battery.
DITTO FOR MENDO
Slow Down — After the fires, the wine industry needs to change
by Pamela Singer
Since the October fires, I have read periodicals and listened to the news regarding accounts of the catastrophic fires and the tragic aftermath, but nowhere has there been any mention of water use by the wine industry.
Vineyard owners sink wells hundreds of feet into aquifers, divert water from rivers, streams, creeks, and seem not to care about how their practices affect the environment. If wineries keep extracting ground water and diverting water from natural sources, the environment will become drier leading to more extensive, catastrophic fires than the North Bay fire.
Sonomacounty.com states, “Sonoma County stretches from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Mayacamas Mountains in the east, and is home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 425 wineries.” In 2016, 62,136 acres of grapes were irrigated.
Since so many people have to start over, it is time for people involved in the wine industry to become introspective, to take a long, hard look at their practices and change them in a way that respects people, animals and the natural world.
It is time for the wine industry to be accountable to the people who live in Sonoma County and to stop catering to tourists. While I understand that the county needs the revenue generated by the wine industry, too much is too much. Too many vineyards, wineries, tasting rooms, event centers. Too many mountains, hills, woodlands, meadows and fields destroyed in order to plant grapes. Too many animals dead on our roads because what once was their habitat is fenced off to protect vineyards. Too much traffic and inebriated people driving county roads that they do not know.
Due to the catastrophic fires, thousands of people have lost homes, belongings, businesses and animals, so I say to the people in the wine industry, “Slow down.” People in this county are suffering and will be in shock for a while. Nothing is normal in Sonoma County, and no one will ever be the same. We are a changed people. Please change your winery practices to something that involves the whole, not just the few.
(Pamela Singer is a poet and teacher who lives in Occidental.)
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “I can't tell you how angry I am about that deadbeat cat criticizing my politics. If I'm not a Mendo progressive in the same unassailable tradition as Dan, Meg and NPR, words have lost all meaning!”
TRUMP’S ERROR ON JERUSALEM IS A DISASTER FOR THE ARAB WORLD — AND THE US TOO
by Rashid Khalidi
Every time it seems Donald Trump cannot outdo himself, he does it again. Now he has announced that his administration will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing nearly seven decades of American policy. This step will have multiple negative ramifications, many impossible to predict.
Jerusalem is the most important of the so-called final status issues that have been repeatedly deferred during the Israel-Palestine negotiations because of their extreme sensitivity. Trump has ploughed into this imbroglio like a bull in a china shop, zeroing in on the most complex and emotional issue of all those connected to Palestine.
Jerusalem is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the entire Palestine question. It has been central to the identity of Palestinian Muslims and Christians as far back as the founding moments of both religions, and has become even more so as the conflict over Palestine has become fiercer.
The rivalry over this holy city is exacerbated by the fact that the same site – the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, the Temple Mount to Jews – is sacred to both. Because of its explosive nature, this is an issue that no Palestinian politician, and few Arab leaders, would dare to trifle with.
For someone such as me, whose family has lived in Jerusalem for hundreds of years, Trump’s announcement does not just mean that the US has adopted the Israeli position that Jerusalem belongs exclusively to Israel. He has also retroactively legitimised Israel’s seizure and military occupation of Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 war, and its imposition of discriminatory laws on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living there. The damage he has done will be permanent: the US cannot undo this recognition.
This act completely disqualifies the US from its longstanding role as broker, a position that Washington has monopolised for itself. So much for the pitiful “peace plan” that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was cooking up and hoping to impose on the Palestinians.
Trump’s action signals disdain for the opinion of the whole Arab world. Whatever Arab dictators and absolute monarchs may tell the Americans they depend on, the Arab peoples are unanimous in supporting the Palestinian position on Jerusalem. Their inevitable reactions to this move will impinge on vital US interests all over the region. As secretary of defense James Mattis noted in 2013: “I paid a military security price every day as a commander of [Central Command] because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.”
For someone like me, Trump's announcement has also legitimized Israel's 1967 seizure of Arab East Jerusalem.
This latest diplomatic fiasco is another instance of the administration showing utter contempt for the views of the rest of the world. Not one country recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There is a global consensus that until a settlement is achieved, it is illegitimate to prejudge or predetermine the outcome of negotiations. The US formally assured the Palestinians on this score in inviting them to the 1991 Madrid peace conference.
Of course, there is a lengthy American track record of bias in favour of Israel. No one should have expected fairness on this issue from them or from their boss.
It is now hard to see how a sustainable Palestinian-Israeli agreement is possible. True to Trump form, this is an entirely self-inflicted wound that will long echo in the annals of diplomacy. It will further diminish the already reduced standing of the US, complicating relations with allies, with Muslims and Arabs – and with people of common sense the world over.
Trump, who was warned against this step by Arab, Middle Eastern and European leaders, has now made resolving the conflict over Palestine much harder, even as he has brought joy to his friends, and to their dangerous, extremist soulmates in Israel. Far from ushering in the “deal of the century”, as he boasted, with this foolish move Trump may usher in the debacle of the century. This is a sad day for international law, for Palestine, and for everyone who cares about peace in the Middle East.
(Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. Courtesy, The Guardian of London.)
THE BIG TENT APPROACH
With time and options dwindling, it now appears the Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition will zero in on finding land where people can safely camp or stay in a large tent.
The widening campaign to out power males for past inappropriate sexual behavior has gone ballistic. I mean, Garrison Keillor fired for a cop-a-feel condolence? Who's next, Pope Francis? Scott Simon? Charlie Brown? Elmer Fudd? Porky Pig? The Seven Dwarves?
In the past, most mashers were chastised by a slap on the face. Persistent ones were dealt with more creatively. Back in the day, I was assigned the big brother task of teaching my three attractive, athletic, younger sisters the fine points of self defense: If harassed, emit a blood-curdling scream, then assure that your oppressor takes a knee — to the groin (the "Nut Cracker Sweet"). My sisters never had trouble from recreational mashers.
Of course, archaic techniques may be ineffective in these torrid days of turbocharged sexual harassment. At a minimum, women should by encouraged to carry cattle-prods or tasers. These are ugly times. Comic Senator Al Franken will be thrown under the bus by his craven, anal liberal Congressional colleagues forcing Big Al to run for president in 2020 as the "Green For All Party" candidate with running mate, Jill Stein.
It must be true, I heard it on the Internet.
Ghost town, Willits
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I am an old democrat who has been abandoned by his party, an event I date to the triangulating Clinton’s time in the White House. I first voted for a president in 1976, when I voted for grinnin’ Jimmy. Haven’t picked a winner since.
I voted for Jill. I never want her to be president, but I believe a stronger Green Party can split off votes from the Dems and weaken them.
I don’t like Trump, at all. I don’t mind the Twitter stuff. I don’t care that he doesn’t “act Presidential.” He’s a lifetime rich fucker so I don’t trust him. I will never go fishing with him. I will give him his due, however. He knows how to play the press, the rubes, and his adversaries. He makes everything personal, which gets folks all spun up. Good fun.
I don’t like the impeachment nonsense. There will be another election soon enough. Ballots, not bullshit.
WAS THIS YEAR'S NORTH COAST ABALONE SEASON THE LAST FOR A WHILE?
'There's so many people who find real joy in abalone fishing, and we hate to shut it down. That's a given,' says state Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar, but that's what officials are recommending due to dwindling stocks.
JUMPER TALKED DOWN
The following press release was issued by the Ukiah Police Department Tuesday at noon:
"On Tuesday, December 5th, at about 9:28 am, UPD officers were dispatched to the 101 Gobbi Street overpass, on multiple reports of a male subject hanging off the overpass.
Upon arrival, officers found the male subject sitting on the overpass, in a position to jump into the path of northbound traffic. Officers calmly approached and spoke with the adult male, who was upset and conveyed to the officers he was thinking about jumping.
Through conversation, the 23-year-old male subject was talked off the ledge and detained. The male was transported to Ukiah Valley Medical Center, where he was turned over to a local Mental Health professional.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible."
STEINLE JUROR SPEAKS OUT
by Phil Van Stockum
I was an alternate juror in the Kate Steinle murder trial in San Francisco. I didn’t get a vote, but I saw all of the evidence and the jury instructions, and I discussed the verdict with the jury after it was delivered. Most of the public reaction I've seen has been surprise, confusion and derision. If these were among your reactions as well, I'm writing to explain to you why the jury was right to make the decision that it did.
I’m not a lawyer, but I understood the law that was read to us in this case. Defendants in this country have the right to a presumption of innocence, which means that if there is a reasonable interpretation of the evidence that favors a defendant, the jury must accept that interpretation over any others that incriminate him. This principle is a pillar of the American justice system, and it was a significant part of our jury instructions.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the undocumented immigrant who was accused of killing Steinle, was charged with first degree murder and the lesser included offenses of second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
When the prosecution rested its case, it seemed clear to me that the evidence didn’t support the requirements of premeditation or malice aforethought (intentional recklessness or killing) for the murder charges. After having heard the evidence, I agreed with the defense’s opinion that the murder charges should not have been brought. The evidence didn't show that Garcia Zarate intended to kill anyone.
These are some of the facts that were laid out to us: Zarate had no motive and no recorded history of violence. The shot he fired from his chair hit the ground 12 feet in front of him before ricocheting a further 78 feet to hit Steinle. The damage to the bullet indicated a glancing impact during the ricochet, so it seems to have been shot from a low height. The gun, a Sig Sauer P239 pistol, is a backup emergency weapon used by law enforcement that has a light trigger mode and no safety. (The jury members asked to feel the trigger pull of the gun during deliberation, but the judge wouldn’t allow it, for reasons that aren’t clear to us.) The pixelated video footage of the incident that we were shown, taken from the adjacent pier, shows a group of six people spending half an hour at that same chair setting down and picking up objects a mere 30 minutes before Garcia Zarate arrived there.
There is a reasonable interpretation here that favors the defendant: He found the gun at the seat, picked it up out of curiosity, and accidentally caused it to fire. As a scared, homeless man wanted by immigration enforcement, he threw the gun in the water and walked away. The presumption of innocence, as stated in the jury instructions, required the jury to select this interpretation because it is reasonable and favors the defendant.
But why the manslaughter acquittal? Most of the confusion I've encountered has been over this part of the verdict, and it does seem to me personally that manslaughter is the appropriate charge for Steinle’s killing. However, given the evidence and the law presented in this trial, it is clear to me that the jury made the right decision.
The involuntary manslaughter charge that the jury was read included two key requirements: 1) A crime was committed in the act that caused death; 2) The defendant acted with "criminal negligence"—he did something that an ordinary person would have known was likely to lead to someone's death.
The jury members were not free to select the crime for part (1)—they had to use the one chosen by the prosecution, and the prosecution chose that crime to be the "brandishing," or waving with menace, of a weapon. As a juror, I found this choice puzzling, because the prosecutor presented absolutely zero evidence of brandishing during the trial. I don’t think we even heard the word “brandishing” until it was read as part of the charge during the jury instructions at the trial's end. No witnesses ever saw the defendant holding a gun, much less brandishing it. Given that baffling choice by the prosecution, the manslaughter charge was a nonstarter for the jury. Had a different precursor crime been chosen—for instance, the unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon—the outcome might have been different.
Even in that case, however, it is not clear to me that part (2) of the manslaughter charge was proved. Only a single particle of gunshot residue was found on the defendant’s hands, which seems to support his repeated claim that the gun was wrapped in some sort of fabric when he picked it up and caused it to fire. If he did not know the object was a gun, it is a stretch to claim that it was criminal negligence for him to pick it up.
The jury did convict Garcia Zarate of the separate charge of illegal possession of a firearm, which indicates that the members felt it to be an unreasonable conclusion that he didn’t know he was holding a gun. He was in the seat where he claims he found it for about 20 minutes prior to the shooting, and he made some statements during interrogation that seemed to indicate that he had known what the item was. Without the benefit of being able to re-examine the evidence during deliberation, I’m not sure that I would consider that evidence to constitute proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but knowing these jurors, I would trust them to have made an accurate judgment if the manslaughter charge had survived the first requirement.
I have come away from this experience with a strong sense of respect for the jurors and their objective handling of a sensitive case under the national spotlight. I hope that I would have acted with the same level of maturity.
(Phil Van Stockum is a mechanical engineer who lives in San Francisco and occasionally writes at abinitioblog.com. He is not a lawyer.)
GOT AN EXTRA FRIDGE?
The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is looking for a donation of a working refrigerator to store our seeds. Any full size fridge will do, preferably one on the smaller side. Please contact Sophia Pisciotta, the Nursery Manager: 964-4352 x 12 or email@example.com. Please note, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are a registered not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization; donations are tax-deductible as allowed under the law.