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IN THE WAKE OF A COLD FRONT, scattered showers will linger across northwest California with lighter southerly breezes. An area of low pressure and associated cold front will approach tonight and pass by Monday, with another round of steadier precipitation and locally gusty winds. Snow levels will lower late Monday through Tuesday morning, as precipitation winds down. Another winter storm will arrive on Wednesday. (NWS)
LAST NIGHT'S RAINFALL: Laytonville 2.1" - Leggett 1.7" - Willits 1.3" - Yorkville 1.2" - Covelo 0.9" - Boonville 0.8" - Ukiah 0.6" - Hopland 0.4"
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS at the Coast Botanical Gardens
Have you ever seen how the lights glisten and glitter with the addition of some much needed rain? Just a few days left for this year’s Festival of Lights.
Tickets and details at gardenbythesea.org/FOL
GO SEE IT!
Mendocino Dance Project
We went and saw the dance performance at The Mendocino Theater Company last night and it was incredible! Just wanted to let folks if you are looking for something to do tonight to support the Arts this performance will not disappoint.
Jack Sibbald <firstname.lastname@example.org>
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Fletcher thinks he’s a lap dog…we learned that right away during his evaluation! He was perfectly content sitting next to someone on the couch and occasionally inching his way closer, closer, CLOSEST! Fletcher appears neutral with other dogs. He’s not reactive, but also not engaging. Fletch seems more people-oriented and would probably be perfectly content being the only canine in his new home. Fletcher is 2 years old and a very handsome, svelte 58 pounds.
For more about Fletcher, visit mendoanimalshelter.com While you’re there, check out all of our canine and feline guests, our services, programs, events, and updates. Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/ For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453.
COYOTE COWBOYS: 41 YEARS OF ENTERTAINMENT
The Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show Board of Directors would like to express our deep appreciation to the Coyote Cowboys for their long-standing support of the Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show.
The Cowboys have played as regular entertainment at the Fair since 1980. Their first performance at the Fair was on a lowbed trailer in the rodeo area while the old June Hall was being torn down.
This local group of fine musicians always provides a good show and a good time. These friends and neighbors have contributed to our enjoyable evenings for 41 years.
A big Thank You to: Dean, Craig, Eddie, Guy and Susan
Wayne Hiatt, Jay Newcomer, Eva Johnson, Lindsey Clow, Sophie Bates, Derek Wyant, Morgan Baynham, Jim Brown
AV WINE NEWS
by Mark Scaramella
The local wine association forgot to send us the announcement of their Feb. 19-20 Anderson Valley Winter White Wine Weekend, but 2022 marks the 15th year of the Big White Wine Weekend featuring the Valley’s “Alsatian and sparkling roots.”
These Alsatian roots are known for being grown in “cool climates,” by the way. So they are the primary reason most of Anderson Valley can’t sleep at night when the Alsatian growers crank up their giant wind blowers to keep the “cool climate” from doing much damage to their Alsatian roots.
For a mere $130 bucks White Wine visitors can enjoy “sumptuous food and wine pairings like smoked trout salad, Dungeness crab, paella, cheese fondue and much more.”
Participating wineries will include: Baxter Winery, Bee Hunter Wine, Boonville Road Wines, Brashley Vineyards, Domaine Anderson, Fathers & Daughters, Foursight Wines, Goldeneye Winery, Gowan’s Heirloom Cider, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lichen Estate, Lula Cellars, Maggy Hawk Vineyards, Maple Creek Winery, Meyer Family Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Pennyroyal Farm, Phillips Hill Estates, Roederer Estate, Scharffenberger Cellars, Seawolf Wines, Seebass Vineyards & Family Wines, Toulouse Vineyards, Twomey Cellars, Weatherborne Wine Corp. and Witching Stick Wines.
IN OTHER LOCAL WINE NEWS, we were surprised to learn that the AV Winegrowers Association has a new boss, Courtney DeGraff. Apparently there’s been a good bit of turnover in the top spot, not to say confusion, because in just the last few years the Association has gone through John Cesano, Sarah Wuethrich, Alisa Nemo, Jacqueline Rogers, Janis McDonald and Kristy Charles, all of whom are listed as either “President,” “Director,” or Executive Director” of the Association at one time or other.
Ms. DeGraff says she “was bitten by the wine bug in college.” She arrived “sight unseen” in Anderson Valley in 2017 after leaving a career in the financial services industry in Boston and accepting a wine business internship with Boonville-based Foursight Wines. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and photography and has offered many of her images to the association to help share the story of this unique wine region. Ms. DeGraff says her most memorable wine experience is a 1947 Chateau d’Yquem and a 1978 Ridge Montebello.
But not all is well in the local wine biz.
“Farmers are reporting that crop yields were lower than average last year,” according to their website.
“In November 2020, a few days of below-freezing temperatures shocked some vines that had yet to go into dormancy.”
Not only that but they shocked hundreds of vineyard neighbors awake with their frost fans, not that they care about that.
“Spring frost in 2020 had some lingering impact on bud break this spring of 2021, followed by several days of rain in May 2021 that disrupted flowering and fruit set.”
The grape growers suffered some “lingering impact” from the “disruption” of having planted their cool climate loving grapes in a cool climate. But locals suffered a lot more from sleep disruption.
“Water has been the hot topic of the year,” the grape growers declare, but only as it affects grapes, of course. “The lack of winter rain means that the soil profile did not fully recharge leaving less water available to the grapes.”
Less water for people too, but again, unimportant.
“Making the situation worse, the lack of rainfall also meant that water storage ponds often used for spring frost protection and in season irrigation were far from full.” Oh no, no frost protection water? No matter, power up the fans!
But the freeze had an upside for the grape growers, if not for their sleepless neighbors.
“Apart from the winter freeze that may have damaged some young or unhealthy vines (and may require replanting), lower yields can potentially benefit winemakers. When water is scarce, the vines dig deep in search of it, this journey develops character along the way. Striking a balance at time of harvest is always difficult, and the conditions of the year lead to a concentration of flavor, sugar, and acid. The early reports from winemakers are that they are excited about what the vintage has yielded.”
Just a little holiday reminder that the Secrets of Salsa cookbook makes a great gift! All proceeds go to supporting adult education students in the valley.
Pick up a copy at local stores like Boontberry, AV Market, Lemon’s, the Mercantile, Boonville Hotel, the Navarro Store, Goodlife Café in Mendo, and more
UKIAH UNSAFE FOR WOMEN
I've been locked down now 21 months in solitary confinement at the Mendocino County Jail. What is my crime? If DA C. David Eyster has his way nobody will ever know, including me! DA Eyster has zero evidence to prosecute me, so he is attempting to stall me into insanity. Several years in solitary has been deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court as the opposite prescription to a mentally healthy life.
We now have at least 5 female judges here on the Mendo county bench that I know of. What, if anything, are they doing about the rampant woman beatings and very violent rapes committed every single day in the Ukiah area? I live on the streets when out and observe this happening. This is not an exaggeration. With the amount of women in law enforcement in the area you'd think these crimes would be deterred. Not so. As a daddy of several very lovely daughters I don't even allow my girls to come to Ukiah. That's my personal feeling about how dangerous Ukiah is for innocent women, young girls and little old ladies.
What is to be done about this? Keep locking up woman defenders for diddly? I say enough is definitely enough. Out of respect for my mom, grandma and aunties I've promoted women's rights in the past. So now we are back to square one with woman beaters and rapists running free?
I do have respect for Sheriff Matt Kendall and policeman Justin Wyatt. I would like to encourage them both to develop a squad to investigate violence against women and to protect our women folk.
ANDY BOWMAN, via Ernie Branscomb: Andy Bowman, the all time enduring hero of Laytonville. His prowess as a hunter is only one aspect of this great man. Many tales were told to me by my family who knew him well.
From the Healdsburg Tribune, Number 87, 14 February 1936
Former Sonoman Has Ridden Range Seventy Years, State Hunter
Andrew Bowman of Laytonville is the oldest paid employee in the predatory animal control department of the state and is one of the oldest active employes on the state pay roll. Since the department was organized 12 years ago “Andy Bowman has ridden the hills and valleys of this county searching out and destroying the animals that prey on the flocks, says the Redwood Journal of Ukiah. With a faithful horse, and at the present time, seven dogs, this pioneer is on duty from morning until night hunting the haunts of wild animals, tracking them to their lairs or killing them in the chase. Bowman went to the ranch near Laytonville in 1869 and before that time lived in Sonoma and Humboldt counties with his parents. Since a boy of eight years of age he has ridden the range and knows no other life. In twelve years of service to the state he has destroyed more than 600 bear, coyotes, panthers and wild cats. Wild animals are getting scarcer in Mendocino county according to Bowman. When he first hunted in this county bears were plentiful, coyotes ran in packs and wild cats and panthers were familiar sights on the road. Now only an occasional bear preys on some farmer’s flocks, and the howl of coyote pack is never heard. Even a litter of seven or eight is watched and killed before even a one-family pack can be formed. Bowman’s district stretches from Longvale into the southern part of Humboldt county and from the Eel river on the east to the shores of the Pacific, He has served at times in Trinity, Glenn and Sonoma counties but it is Mendocino county which he knows and loves best. In all probability no man in the county knows practically every foot of it as does Andy Bowman who has forded the rivers and ridden the hills and canyons for three score years and ten. Bowman has been in Ukiah General hospital for ten days or longer recovering from a light accident suffered in line of duty. He returned home Sunday night and the wild animals in his district will be on guard for this familiar figure on horseback.
More about Andy: "The Eliza Bowman Story (Part 2)"
THE UKIAH PLANNING COMMISSION this week approved a mixed-use development project at a long-vacant corner of South State Street and Observatory Avenue, with some members praising the change as both welcome and long-needed. “I think the opportunity to use that property and make it into something that actually contributes to the community is well overdue,” said Commissioner Mark Hilliker, describing Ukiah Car Wash as “an attractive project.” (Ukiah Daily Journal)
THE CURRENT SUPES are the weakest lineup in memory, possibly in history. They perform on cue for the CEO like trained poodles. Which results in new outrages at nearly every meeting.
WE HAVE TRIED TO COVER the worst of the outrages, like the pointless and petty but expensive dispute with the Sheriff, the hasty and personality driven push to consolidate the top two financial positions at the county and the outrageous proposal to boost the pay of the underperforming County Counsel.
BY ALL ACCOUNTS, and judging from the “minutes” of the last two ex parte hearings, Judge Moorman is quite peeved at County Counsel Christian Curtis, and is likely to rule in favor of the Sheriff picking his own lawyer. Those minutes and transcripts of the endless ex parte hearings in the case — they go back to July now — indicate she is likely to chastise County Counsel for attempts to game, if not intimidate, the court. And now the Supes want to pay this guy $190,000+ annually, more than the DA?
CONSOLIDATION of the financial offices is set for approval Tuesday despite a total lack of background info on what the offices do or how the consolidation would help. The only relevant info comes from Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire and Interim Auditor-Controller Chamise Cubbison who together make a compelling case that consolidation would not only be be a colossal mistake, but will set up a significant opportunity for embezzlement, or other financial shenanigans.
THE SUPES were criticized last Tuesday during public expression for hiding behind their computer screens, not representing the people who elected them and failing to provide leadership. The caller took the Supes to task for not providing a public forum and complained they were not following the constitution by locking people out of the meetings.
SUPERVISOR HASCHAK reported that open meetings had been a topic of discussion at the weeklong California State Association of Counties (CSAC) conference in Monterey. Haschak said there was talk about “updating” the Brown Act and the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act. He said there was talk about promoting greater participation in meetings and respecting people’s free speech rights. With no apparent sense of irony he concluded by saying: “I think we're all concerned about that. We are trying to find the path forward in this time of covid and pandemic and open up the process and make sure people have their free speech opportunities and keep the democratic process going.”
TALK IS CHEAP but the Consent Calendar for the same meeting had a resolution (adopted unanimously with no discussion) justifying the continued exclusion of the public (and the Supes) from the Board chambers which have been off limits since March, 2020 on orders of the imperious CEO Angelo, abusing the Governor’s Brown Act exemption at the beginning of the pandemic. When restrictions on meeting in public places were lifted earlier this year Angelo kept the chambers closed saying they were being remodeled for safety and would open in September. More recently she said they’ll be closed until next year.
LOCKING THE SUPES (and the public) out of meetings and offices has given Angelo even more control of the process. The Supes, increasingly disconnected and disinterested, seem content to zoom in to occasional meetings to rubber stamp whatever’s being shoved in front of them. Angelo, who likes it that way, seems determined to keep the Supes and the public locked out until she cashes in her lucrative retirement chips and returns to San Diego in the fall.
SUPERVISOR MULHEREN also reported on her time in Monterey (Mendocino County Today, Dec. 9 – The Grueling Work Of A Mendo Supervisor) where she reported attending well over a dozen meetings, receptions, breakfasts and other events, all in person. Of course, everyone is wearing a mask except when they’re eating or drinking (which is all the time at these plush receptions and meals). Supervisor Williams was also on board for the weeklong junket to Monterey (plus an unknown number of County staff) all riding on the taxpayer’s dime.
WHAT’S STRIKING about the Monterey meetings (aside from the squandering of public funds) is that at least three Mendo Supervisors and numerous staff had no fear of covid as they attended the CSAC Super Spreader event. Our intrepid Supervisors bravely attended in person meetings and receptions with strangers from all over California with dozens to hundreds of people present at any one gala meeting or event. Then on to the next meeting rubbing shoulders with a different set of strangers. With more opportunities for close contact in the hotels, bars, restaurants, gyms and spas not to mention sightseeing excursions around town.
OUR BRAVE SUPERVISORS had close contact with a greater number of complete strangers in one week than they’ve had with all of their constituents in the last two years. Why take the risk since they just passed a resolution confirming the danger of in person meetings? Were they willing to expose themselves to disease so they could bring new ideas and inspiration to Mendo? Or do the Supes know that locking the public (and themselves) out of public meetings is a bogus ploy that serves no public health purpose?
AT LEAST THREE SUPERVISORS (Williams, Haschak & Mulheren) have shown they have no problem rubbing shoulders with hundreds of strangers at public meetings in Monterey. And Haschak claims they are trying to find a way to open up the process. A good start might be to tell their imperious CEO that it’s time to open the Board chambers and welcome the Mendo public back into the process.
THE MURDER OF CAIN
by Malcolm Macdonald
In 1859 Mendocino split off from Sonoma, forming a county of its own. In the first year of its existence marauding militias, like the one led by Walter Jarboe, murdered hundreds of Native Americans in the vicinity of Round Valley. Of course, Jarboe and his killers were not prosecuted. Quite the contrary, they billed the state for more than $11,000 in expenses.
In a bit of historical irony, during the next twenty years Mendocino County would apply capital punishment to only one man. That occurred amid a period in which as many as five dozen murders were reported to authorities. Of course, that number does not reflect the frequent and sometimes barbarously random acts of lynching deaths that befell Indians throughout the county.
In the 1860s locals deemed certain specific areas in this county to be infested with outlawry—to the extent a civil citizen faced more danger than a gunman or robber. One such place existed south of the Sanel township, in the canyons below Hopland and north of Cloverdale, on the east side of the Russian River. Even those native to the locale for generations began to say the region was cursed by the presence of an unknown murderer.
Right around the time Mendocino earned its separate county identity, folks found a woman murdered in that rocky, desolate canyon region. The killing remained an unsolved mystery.
In 1863, sheepherder Jerry Cain sold his land that bordered that of fellow Sanel sheep man Francis Holmes. Cain moved south in the canyon to a new homestead within three miles of A.C. McDonald's considerable spread, a scant few miles above the Sonoma County line. In the autumn of that year Cain's eye turned toward hunting. He made a plan with an acquaintance a week or so ahead of time to do just. The hunt was to commence bright and early on a Thursday morning, so the acquaintance arrived at Cain's cabin Wednesday as dusk settled in. The fellow hunter found the door padlocked and no sign of anyone about the place. He called Jerry's name, but no answer. Cain's horse was nowhere in sight either, so the fellow hunter assumed Jerry had ridden off for a short visit elsewhere.
The hunter, having waited outside until plumb dark, eventually forced open the door to the two room abode. He built a fire, hoping to have the place warm for Jerry's return. More time passed, so he cooked and ate his supper there in the front room. By the time his yawns overcame him, the man ventured into the back room, looking for blankets or a spare mattress to sleep on near the fireplace.
He found the blankets and a mattress from the bed strewn on the floor. Upon dragging them toward the front room he discovered the lifeless body of his hunting companion. A bullet had been shot through Jerry Cain's back, the ball passing through near his heart. Holding a lantern for closer inspection showed bruises all over Cain's head, indicating that the gunshot did not kill him instantly. He fought for his life, but the assailant beat him after firing, beat him to death and beyond.
The hunting companion saddled and rode his horse through the dark, six miles to Cloverdale, where he reported what he'd found. Law enforcement discovered no other physical clues at the scene of the crime. Other circumstances that related to the murder included Cain's sale of his sheep ranch near Sanel less than a month before his death. Friends knew that the victim possessed three to four hundred dollars on his person or in his home. On the Sunday or Monday preceding the murder, Cain hired a complete stranger to do work about his new home. On Tuesday morning, that stranger passed through Cloverdale riding Cain's horse.
The Cain case remained unsolved into 1865. On June 13th of that year Francis Holmes, the former neighbor of Jerry Cain, was reported missing by neighbors who dropped in and could not find the middle-aged sheep and cattle rancher.
Did a connection between the two cases exist?
* * *
THE CAIN MURDER & MR. HOLMES
Last time we briefly touched on the wanton murders of Native Americans in the early days of Mendocino County, with no punishment rendered. In a tidbit of historical irony, from the time Mendocino became a county in 1859 through to the 1880s, despite sixty reported white on white murders, only one man was hanged for the offense. We took a specific look at the area between Hopland and the Sonoma County border that seemed to be cursed with one unsolved case after another, such as the shooting and bludgeoning of sheepherder Jerry Cain in 1863. That crime remained unresolved into 1865 when Cain's former neighbor Francis Holmes disappeared.
The search for Francis Holmes took several days to reach its grisly conclusion. In those same cursed canyons, south of Hopland and north of the Sonoma County line, the search party finally discovered Francis Holmes's body. He had been shot in the head then beaten about the skull with a blunt instrument to the point of decapitation.
The nearest neighbors of Mr. Holmes and all those living permanently in the entire region viewed the victim as a man without enemies. Suspicion fell on a lone interloper, George W. Strong. He had arrived at the Holmes ranch as a sheep shearer that spring then stayed on as a laborer for a spell. At the time of Holmes's disappearance Strong at first professed a lack of knowledge as to the rancher's whereabouts then later claimed Holmes had sold the ranch to him and departed for San Francisco. The friends and neighbors of the deceased expressed disbelief that he would abruptly sell his seemingly prosperous piece of property. They demanded to see a bill of sale. Strong failed to produce any evidence validating the transfer of property rights then he himself vanished from the ranch.
Messages went out to law enforcement in various counties of northern California with a description of George Strong, no more than in his mid-twenties, possessed of a charming smile and quick wit. Late in June, Marshal Knowles of Petaluma spotted the fellow in question.
Stopped on the streets of the Sonoma County town, Strong freely provided his name. The marshal asked if he knew Francis Holmes. Strong answered in the affirmative, that he had made a down payment on the ranch and was now on his way to the City to complete the transaction. Strong produced a scribbled receipt for payment of $2,570, grinning as he stated he would be paying off a balance of $426 in San Francisco prior to the sailing of a steamer Holmes planned to board on his way to the East.
Marshal Knowles didn't care for the contradictions between Strong's story and the information passed on to him from Mendocino County. Strong pulled out a gold watch as if to blithely check the time. The message from up north indicated that the neighbors claimed Strong to be near penniless and possessed of no worldly goods.
The Marshal arrested Strong on the spot, placed him in handcuffs, and escorted him to the Ukiah jail. A judge fixed bail at $2,000. The prisoner, not offering any such sum purely of his own, was remanded into custody.
The case went to trial in mid-November of 1865. The twelve man jury included Abner Coates who two years later would take part in the infamous shootout between members of the Frost and Coates families on the streets of Little Lake. Abner's shotgun would inflict the only mortal wounds on a Frost that day. Abner survived with a shoulder wound, but five of his relations died on the dusty street outside Baechtel's store.
The proceedings commenced on a Monday and ran throughout the week, the courtroom packed each day. More and more women attended as the week wore on, supposedly drawn by the good looks of the defendant. What they most often witnessed in the defendant proved similar to an air of exuberance; a spirited young fellow frequently whispering what appeared to be instructions to his attorneys. During pauses between the twenty witnesses who took the stand, Strong hummed or sang rhyming ditties. While in custody he had let his hair, beard, and mustache grow out so that he looked more like an officer in the recent War Between the States than a defendant on trial for his life.
Throughout much of the week one piece of evidence rested on display in front of Judge J.B. Southard. That material evidence was none other than the severed skull of Francis Holmes.
While Strong remained cool, calm, and self-possessed if not collected, only one of the many witnesses took the stand for the defense. That person did little if anything to contradict the connected thread of circumstantial evidence District Attorney T.B. Bond laid out for the jury.
During summation, Strong's lead attorney, L.D. Latimer (who would go on to be a U.S. Attorney), did his darnedest to turn the tables on behalf of his client. “I am but an instrument, an humble officer of the court, the representative before them of the defendant, and stand here to do whatever I can in my humble capacity, and with my feeble ability for the protection of his interests. Gentlemen of the jury, sitting here as you do, the sole and exclusive arbiters of his fate, standing as it were between this young man and eternity... This is an extraordinary case; extraordinary in the enormity of the offense charged; extraordinary in the seeming mystery that surrounds it; extraordinary in the great popular excitement it has produced; and extraordinary in the seeming extreme desire and determination of some of the witnesses in the case to convict the prisoner.
“The testimony is entirely circumstantial, and consists of many isolated facts that are attempted to be fastened together as a chain of evidence, but many of the links of the chain were wanting; and, therefore, it could not be conclusive. They spoke of the murder of Cain in that vicinity a year ago, and now the murderer of Cain doubtless still lives there, and if Holmes has been murdered, show me the murderer of Cain, and I will show you the murderer of Holmes. Cain was killed in his cabin, shot with a revolver or pistol, and if that be the skull of Holmes [Latimer gestured toward the crushed skull]... the means of death was the same in both cases.”
Again, Latimer referenced the skull. “[It] was found secreted in a canyon with those marks of violence upon it; but none but He who reigns omniscient above, knows how those marks of violence came. I do not know, [Latimer spun and faced the jury] you do not know, for the evidence fell far short of convincing the mind of any reasonable man that they came through the agency of Strong.”
Latimer continued, reminding the jury of the difference between a civil case in which a simple preponderance of evidence may sway the jury to the necessity for a criminal case jury to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt. “There is a great danger in this class of cases, and this kind of evidence should be taken with the utmost caution, especially when, as in this case, great popular feeling existed against the accused.”
Latimer proceeded to go through the circumstantial evidence, questioning particular by particular. “The identity of the body has not been established by the proof. Why were not the clothes found on the deceased brought into court?”
The defense attorney asserted Strong's basic alibi: that he purchased Holmes's ranch, that Strong had said as much to others. “Strong could not have murdered him to obtain property he already owned and possessed. He could not have murdered him for the money, for all the money found on the defendant was accounted for. A guilty man would have secreted the watch....”
Latimer detailed a chain of the circumstantial evidence that he claimed could just as well point to others as much as to the defendant. He concluded by citing once more the inherent prejudice evident in the demeanor of the prosecution witnesses. “I hope the jury will carefully consider … the contradictions and inconsistencies in their testimony, and return a verdict that will satisfy your consciences, so that in after life, when thinking calmly over the circumstances of the case, you may have no occasion to regret your actions.”
The summations ran late into Friday night. The judge sent the jury to their chambers between one and two a.m. Saturday morning. Eleven of them agreed on their first ballot. It took nearly four hours to convince the lone holdout. At six in the morning they returned to a sleepy-eyed courtroom with a guilty verdict.
Court recessed until four in the afternoon. At that hour Judge Southard pronounced sentence: death by hanging at the county jail on December 29th.
A motion for a new trial was denied, but an appeal was made to the state supreme court. That auspicious body granted another trial to Strong. The locale was the same, the county courthouse in Ukiah with Judge Southard presiding. During the sweltering days of July, 1866, not only did onlookers cram the courtroom, the case excited such interest the entire town jammed with visitors. Beds rented at a premium, even balconies and outhouses served as cheap dormitories of rest.
This second trial of George Strong ran its course in three sweat-streaked days. The jury deliberated forty-three hours. The result proved the same, guilty as charged. The crowd inside and out shouted their approval.
Less than two months later a scaffold had been erected outside the county jail. On the eve of execution day it is said that Strong confessed to Sheriff Warden of Mendocino and Sheriff Clark of Sonoma that he had killed Holmes. He supposedly directed them to points where Holmes's missing hat, shoes, and belt could be found. The only man executed for his crime in Mendocino County between 1859 and the 1880s, George W. Strong went to his death without a word mentioned about the murder of Jerry Cain.
A FEW BANALITIES for you on a quiet Saturday: Got my life preserver on in preparation for the second atmospheric river of the season, and since when is a couple inches of rain an “atmospheric river”? Since fog became “marine layer,” I guess
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: ‘Ladybuds’ on Amazon Prime, a close documentary look at Mendo-HumCo women, and one Oakland woman, struggling in the aftermath of legalization, which has made the little guy grower just about ready for The Last Hippie Museum. That legalization followed by the corporate sharks spreading enough money among our state reps (alleged reps) to get the one-acre max garden size lifted, and here they came, the green rushers, rushing in like a biblical locust infestation with their massive hoop houses, slick marketing, fast-talking hustlers with their MBAs, thug cartels, and there went an entire way of life for the hardy, ingenious people who'd made three-generations of healthy, robust lives for themselves in the otherwise unforgiving hills of the Emerald Triangle.
ALSO RECOMMENDED VIEWING, and also on Amazon Prime, ‘Freeland,’ a brilliantly acted story of an aging woman memorably played by Krisha Fairchild whose pioneer gro years are ending, as so many have ended, in flurries of impossible local rules and the marijuana glut wrought by the corporate jackals. ‘Freeland’ is also filmed in the more attractive hilltop venues of Humboldt County. (Even scruffy Garberville comes off as habitable.)
AS IF THE CORPORATE green rush wasn't destructive enough to what's left of small pharmas, there's the drought, the plague, major fires, and the onset of Trumpian fascism, but only the Potter Valley Fire appears in ‘Ladybuds,’ but appears in a tellingly Mendo cameo where a young woman trying to get back into the fire area to check on her plants is turned away at the checkpoint as wine grape planters are allowed in.
POPPED into the Grace Hudson Museum the other day, not to see Grace's paintings, which I've seen so many times over the years I've memorized them, but to really, really, really enjoy the wildly imaginative ceramic sculptures of Potter Valley's Mac Magruder, worth a visit all by themselves. (Art in Potter Valley? Who would have thought…) The paintings of the late Wayne Knight are also worth a long look, one of which features a large canvas depiction of representative Mendo people including the late Judge Broaddus, if one can say there is a representative cross-section of Mendo people.
The photographic arts are a lesser art in my admittedly limited view, especially abstract photography, but Tom Liden's photos are probably of interest to people who take photography more seriously than this philistine who thinks most photography he sees is inferior to the work of the booking photographer at the Mendocino County Jail, as riveting a daily gallery as there is.
SERGE TO GIBBONS:
Hi Mr. Gibbons.
I ran on your Cross Country team back in 84 and 85. Thank you so much for coaching us.
PS. Just so you know, Bob Colvig was one of the best influences in my life and at 54 years old I can still quote the rules from the wrestling room. George Davis had his issues and in the end the demons got him. I hope you are doing well and I will always be running to Summer Lake and getting to take a swim in late September.Serge Anderson
GIBBONS TO SERGE:
I remember you. Thanks for taking me back to the good old days. Glad to hear your still moving. BTW, if you’d like to read about those days I’ve published two books in the last five years. ‘Flashbacks: A Memoir’ and ‘A Jog Down Memory Lane.’ They’re both at the Willits Library.Jim Gibbons
15,000 CANNABIS FANS TURN OUT To Celebrate All Things Weed At Emerald Cup In Sonoma County
by Bill Swindell
As he methodically rolled a large marijuana cigarette of 8 grams just outside the gates of Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Robert Zapien said he was amazed at how cannabis culture has become such a part of the mainstream.
A Shasta County resident, Zapien was attending his first Emerald Cup Harvest Ball, Northern California’s largest annual cannabis festival, slated to attract 30,000 enthusiasts over the two-day weekend event. A single-day admission ticket on Saturday was at $75.
He noted the Santa Rosa police car nearby, which in years past would have triggered an instant reflex by Zapien to bolt from the scene
“Compared to five or 10 years ago, we would have been freaking out,” Zapien said of the posted officer as he prepared to smoke the cigarette with his friends.
The event had been held six straight years at the fairgrounds before it was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19. Attendees were glad to be back under health protocols that included vaccination verification or rapid tests to confirm they were negative for the coronavirus.
The festival now resembles part county fair with food trucks; part music festival with members of the hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan scheduled to perform; and an educational seminar with a significant focus on public policy given tax and regulatory issues that cloud the industry.
But mostly it's a vast marketplace of all things cannabis that has become decidedly more commercial in recent years because of investor money that has flooded into the industry since it was legalized for recreational use by California voters in 2016.
That retail influence could be seen at the booth for Stiiizy, a Los Angeles-based cannabis company that now has 20 dispensaries across the state and its own product line. The company had young women handing out promotional bags to attendees and its booth at the fairgrounds resembled more of a corporate tent at a PGA golf tournament.
Customers could buy their products, inhale a concentrate of Apple Mintz cannabis through a contraption called a dab rig and then chill on the second-story deck to relax. The Apple Mintz product was touted to bring on a euphoric, uplifting feeling.
“This is my first big event like this. I’ve been smoking cannabis for most of my life,” said William Valencia, a brand ambassador for Stiiizy. “This is a great culture.”
This year’s festival featured one big change as organizers moved the awards program honoring the best marijuana strains and other cannabis products to Los Angeles for an event held in March. The move was intended to obtain more media coverage in the nation’s entertainment capital. Organizers then renamed the Santa Rosa festival the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball.
This weekend’s gathering also was held at a time when many small growers in the state are struggling amid what they contend is exorbitant state and local taxation. They are pressing elected leaders for a reduction on those levies. At the state level, growers face a cultivation tax that will go up on Jan. 1. They also pay local cultivation taxes, which are not assessed on other agricultural products.
“In Sonoma County, you would be hard pressed to find a parcel where you can grow cannabis,” said Joanna Cedar, a board member with the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, a trade group.
Echoing others involved in the local industry, she blamed inflexibility from the county government, singling out zoning rules that have limited where new cannabis farm operations can go outside city limits.
Many rural residents have called for those limits to be stronger, citing Impacts on their neighborhoods. But cannabis representatives say the regulations are hampering business growth.
“It’s really quite sad,” Cedar said.
The Harvest Ball established a special program this year for almost 30 small growers from across the state who were able to sell their crop to visitors through a special distributor established just for the event. State law does not allow them to sell directly to consumers.
That opportunity was a financial lifeline for Ben Grisso of Flower Lady Farms in Lake County, which grows on a 10,000-square-foot plot near Cobb. The farm was allowed to sell a total of 2 pounds to customers at the festival over the two days.
“The retail prices are so much higher than wholesale, it’s potentially huge,” Grisso said. “Allowing us to retail any amount and get the kind of publicity and exposure is a godsend.”
The event continues Sunday, when gates open at noon for those with general admission tickets. For more information, visit theemeraldcup.com.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 11, 2021
IRVING ACEVES-LIZARRAGA, Willits. Battery, resisting, probation revocation.
BRETT ADAME, Ukiah. Community supervision violation.
MAUREEN AUSTIN, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-intoxicating drug with alcohol.
JENNIFER BOWMAN, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
MADISON CARTER, Nice/Ukiah. DUI.
DUSTIN CAVINO, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation violation.
MIGUEL ENCISO-GARCIA, Ukiah. DUI, no license.
AGUSTIN ESPINOZA, Port Hueneme/Ukiah. DUI.
WILLIAM GOFORTH, Willits. Suspended licence, failure to appear, probation revocation.
JAMES HARNETT, Ukiah. Controlled substance and transportation.
MYLO HOLLINGSWORTH, Willits. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
ELIZABETH HOLM, Ukiah. Domestic abuse, use of tear gas as weapon.
SUZANNE LINKER, Branscomb. Under influence, probation revocation.
FABIER MELENDEZ-CRUZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
TERRY OMLER, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
DANIEL PEREZ, Ukiah. Concealed dirk-dagger, parole violation.
JAMES SIMMONS, Ukiah. Parole violation.
BOOKS & THE CITY
by Nami Sumida
There’s no shortage of books set in San Francisco, nor lists that compile and rank these books. These critic-made lists typically include classics like “The Maltese Falcon,” “Tales of the City,” as well as more recent bestsellers like “The Joy Luck Club” and “The Circle.”
But beyond critics lists, there is now another way to find San Francisco-based books: crowd-sourced data. The Chronicle collected and analyzed data from Goodreads on hundreds of San Francisco-based books to see which books receive the most ratings and rate most highly. While many of the old standbys show up in the data, there are also a few fun surprises. Goodreads is a book recommendation and cataloging website, where users track, rate and review books. The site has over 130 million users worldwide and includes most widely-published books in its database.
For this analysis, The Chronicle looked at books that list San Francisco as its setting, which is information that is crowdsourced from the platform’s users. We excluded books with fewer than 1,000 Goodreads ratings — a proxy for readership since Goodreads users typically rate books that they have read, though some people rate highly-anticipated unpublished books.
The most popular book is the 2010 fantasy adventure novel “The Lost Hero” by Rick Riordan, the first of the five-volume “The Heroes of Olympus” series. It has over 700,000 ratings, with a 4.3 average. The book, however, does not entirely take place in San Francisco — the city is just one of seven locations listed as a setting on Goodreads.
The 1908 classic, “Martin Eden,” by Jack London is the highest-rated book on our list. Based on over 30,000 ratings, it has an average of 4.5, which, based on Goodreads’ criteria, is between “I really liked it” and “it was amazing.”
But it’s not just the classics that get all the attention. The most popular books — i.e. books with the most Goodreads ratings — are a mix of old and recently-published books. The classics include Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Amy Tam’s historical fiction novel “The Joy Luck Club” and two of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novels, “The Man in the High Castle” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Of the more recent books, there’s James Patterson’s mystery thriller “1st to Die,” as well as three romance novels “Ugly Love,” “The Language of Flowers” and “Wallbanger.”
These three romance novels are examples of San Francisco-based books that are both popular and well-liked. All three have at least 190,000 ratings, with an average 4.0 rating or higher.
Like “The Lost Hero,” not all of these books take place solely in San Francisco — or the Bay Area for that matter. But for something almost fully in San Francisco, there’s “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by local author Robin Sloan — #10 on our list. The book is centered around a fictional bookstore located on Broadway Street, which, according to Sloan, pays homage to the independent bookstore City Lights Booksellers in North Beach.
Though most of the action happens inside the bookstore, Sloan takes readers to other Bay Area locales, including the Google campus and through the streets of Telegraph Hill. And aside from the physical location, Sloan’s characters and cultural references are quintessentially “San Franciscan” — the protagonist is a web developer who uses data visualization to solve the novel’s mystery.
Sloan has lived in the Bay Area for years, which, according to him, is the reason for setting his two novels and two novellas there. “I want to set these stories in the world that I’m walking through, so it was always going to be San Francisco or the Bay Area,” he said.
“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” and Sloan’s second novel, “Sourdough,” have science fiction or fantastical elements which reflect how he views the city and its residents. “There are a lot of people here operating with a level of intensity and ambition that is way above average, and often, what these people are doing is poking their nose 15 minutes into the future, finding out where we’re all going to be in a little while,” he said.
To non-native Alice Clayton, author of romance novel “Wallbanger,” San Francisco is a romantic and enchanting place. Clayton, who chooses to write under a pen name and lives in St. Louis, grew up in the Midwest and first learned about San Francisco as a child by reading Beverly Cleary books. As an adult, she often traveled to the Bay Area for work and soon fell in love with the city. When it came time to write “Wallbanger,” setting it in what she considered a romantic city seemed like the perfect pairing.
“I absolutely adored being in the city and seeing it through Midwestern eyes,” said Clayton. “Everyone seemed glamorous. Everything was heels, chic, posh and pulled together, but with a California casual flair.”
Our analysis found 371 commonly-read books that take place in San Francisco, making the city well-referenced compared to most other major U.S. cities. We found roughly 450 popular books set in Los Angeles, 411 in Chicago, 326 in Washington, DC and 290 in Seattle.
But none compares to the literary prominence of New York City. We found over 1,300 popular books that take place there, including classics like “The Great Gatsby” and “The Catcher in the Rye,” as well as recent bestsellers “The Glass Castle” and “A Little Life.”
Most San Francisco-based books were published in this century. About 20% of books analyzed were published before 2000, like the mystery thriller “The Maltese Falcon” and classic tragedy novel “McTeague.” The oldest book is a Sherlock Holmes mystery published in 1891.
Because data used in this analysis is crowdsourced from Goodreads users, our list is not comprehensive. There is a separate list for Bay Area-based books, as well as other user-compiled lists that specify genre and audience.
When asked about his favorite San Francisco-based books, Sloan listed three that he described as off-the-beaten-path: “The Abortion,” “Our Lady of Darkness” and “The Ministry for the Future.”
To Sloan, what makes a good place-based fiction book is the ability to change the way a reader experiences a place. This happened to Sloan after reading a passage from Fritz Leiber’s “Our Lady of Darkness” that takes place in San Francisco’s Corona Heights Park. Now, every time he goes to the park, he can’t help but think about the scene in the book.
“What’s cool about writing about real places is you almost get to haunt (the readers’) experiences of the world,” said Sloan.
CIVILIAN DEATHS MOUNTED AS SECRET UNIT POUNDED ISIS
A single top secret American strike cell launched tens of thousands of bombs and missiles against the Islamic State in Syria, but in the process of hammering a vicious enemy, the shadowy force sidestepped safeguards and repeatedly killed civilians, according to multiple current and former military and intelligence officials.
The unit was called Talon Anvil, and it worked in three shifts around the clock between 2014 and 2019, pinpointing targets for the United States’ formidable air power to hit: convoys, car bombs, command centers and squads of enemy fighters.
But people who worked with the strike cell say in the rush to destroy enemies, it circumvented rules imposed to protect noncombatants, and alarmed its partners in the military and the C.I.A. by killing people who had no role in the conflict: farmers trying to harvest, children in the street, families fleeing fighting, and villagers sheltering in buildings.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Fast food and high fructose corn syrup, combined with a more indolent lifestyle, is mostly to blame. I remember when a McDonald’s first opened in our town. You could get a hamburger, fries, and a shake for $1. We went there once, as a treat, and ate in the car. It was a big deal. I can count on one hand the number of times we ate out when I was a kid. My mother fed us three meals a day at home, packing our lunches for school, and baked every other day. My dad kept a big garden, and she canned the excess. It is true that sometimes, just before payday, we got potato soup, and on fridays, as we were forbidden meat, it was usually a vile thing called creamed tuna on toast (which I haven’t eaten since I left her household more than 50 years ago, though I actually like tuna). There was always a roast on Sunday, and we had meat most nights. None of us had weight problems. Few people did.
JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR IS PLAYING FOR KEEPS on the Texas Abortion Law.
You don't bring John C. Calhoun into it if you aren't.
by Charles P. Pierce
On Friday, the Supreme Court decided, you should pardon the expression, to split the baby on the draconian Texas anti-choice law and its oh-so-clever use of citizen posses to finesse their way past the federal judiciary. The Court said that women’s health providers in Texas can get their suits before the federal courts, despite the law’s clever-dick formulation, but it also refused to strike the law down. Which means the providers remain at the mercy at carefully cultivated federal courts. And, with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health still in the Court majority’s back pocket, it’s hard to see Friday’s half-measure as any kind of encouraging. From the New York Times:
The development was both a victory for and a disappointment to supporters of abortion rights, who had hoped that the justices would reverse course from a Sept. 1 ruling that had allowed the law to go into effect, causing clinics in the state to curtail performing the procedure and forcing many women seeking abortions to travel out of state.
Back in September, Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out the Texas law remains a direct challenge to well-settled precedent and to the Supremacy Clause itself.
The court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.
The court has rewarded the state’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state’s own creation. The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.
This time, even Chief Justice John Roberts called out the assault against the primacy of the federal courts that was embedded in the Texas law, quoting Marbury v. Madison and accusing Texas of flirting with, if not exactly engaging in, nullification.
The clear purpose and actual effect of S. B. 8 has been to nullify this Court’s rulings. It is, however, a basic principle that the Constitution is the “fundamental and paramount law of the nation,” and “[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Indeed, “[i]f the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery.” The nature of the federal right infringed does not matter; it is the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system that is at stake.
But, it should be noted, Roberts wasn’t sufficiently exercised by the assault to stop it in its tracks. Sotomayor, on the other hand, had no intention of being so delicate.
The Court should have put an end to this madness months ago, before S. B. 8 first went into effect. It failed to do so then, and it fails again today. I concur in the Court’s judgment that the petitioners’ suit may proceed against certain executive licensing officials who retain enforcement authority under Texas law, and I trust the District Court will act expeditiously to enter much-needed relief. I dissent, however, from the Court’s dangerous departure from its precedents, which establish that federal courts can and should issue relief when a State enacts a law that chills the exercise of a constitutional right and aims to evade judicial review. By foreclosing suit against state-court officials and the state attorney general, the Court effectively invites other States to refine S. B. 8’s model for nullifying federal rights. The Court thus betrays not only the citizens of Texas, but also our constitutional system of government.
Then, she dropped the A-bomb of all Supremacy Clause arguments.
This is a brazen challenge to our federal structure. It echoes the philosophy of John C. Calhoun, a virulent defender of the slaveholding South who insisted that States had the right to “veto” or “nullif[y]” any federal law with which they disagreed. Lest the parallel be lost on the Court, analogous sentiments were expressed in this case’s companion: “The Supreme Court’s interpretations of the Constitution are not the Constitution itself—they are, after all, called opinions.”
The Nation fought a Civil War over that proposition, but Calhoun’s theories were not extinguished. They experienced a revival in the post-war South, and the violence that ensued led Congress to enact Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C. §1983. “Proponents of the legislation noted that state courts were being used to harass and injure individuals, either because the state courts were powerless to stop deprivations or were in league with those who were bent upon abrogation of federally protected rights.”
You start tossing around ol’ Crazy Eyes from South Carolina in a case like this one and you’re clearly playing for keeps. And Sotomayor is, because the other side is, too. It’s not hard to get from the Texas law, through Dobbs, to a generalized attack that reaches so far as to defang the 14th Amendment.
(Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976. Courtesy, Esquire Magazine)
While serving in the Soviet army in the closing days of World War II, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a letter to a friend, in which he was critical of Josef Stalin and Stalin’s conduct of the war. The letter was discovered by Soviet intelligence authorities and Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to eight years in a work camp. When his term ended, Solzhenitsyn was sent to internal exile in rural Kazakhstan. While there he would experience a philosophical and religious transformation that informed the rest of his life’s work.
In 1956 Solzhenitsyn was released from exile and permitted to return to Moscow, where he taught high school and secretly began writing his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, describing life in a Stalinist work camp. In 1960 Solzhenitsyn risked showing the manuscript to a Soviet editor. Because Khrushchev was attempting to purge the Soviet Union of Stalinism, he personally approved the book’s publication, and it became a smash hit. But Solzhenitsyn didn’t remain long in favor. Subsequent works were prohibited as being “anti-Soviet” and after Khrushchev was removed from power, Solzhenitsyn was deemed a “non-person” and the KGB raided his home and seized his manuscripts.
During this time, Solzhenitsyn was secretly writing his Gulag Archipelago, a three-volume examination of life in Soviet labor camps, hiding portions of the manuscript at the homes of various friends. In 1973, after the KGB had located and seized one of the three copies of the manuscript, Solzhenitsyn had a microfilmed copy smuggled out of the country and in December it was published in Paris.
The Soviet authorities felt somewhat constrained in what they could do to Solzhenitsyn, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 and was an international celebrity. The Politburo considered sentencing him to life in prison, but instead deported him to West Germany. Solzhenitsyn made his way to the United States where he lived and worked for almost 20 years. While he praised and admired Western liberty and democratic values, Solzhenitsyn criticized the West for underappreciating, devaluing, and misusing them. He also criticized the West’s cultural weakness and its loss of religious and spiritual grounding.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia, where he was received as a hero. He died in August 2008, at age 89.
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born on December 11, 1918, one hundred three years ago today.
“(T)he line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years…. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
MARLON BRANDO did not memorize the majority of his lines for his role in the 1972 film, The Godfather. Actor Robert Duvall is wearing a large cue card placard for Brando.
LOUDOUN COUNTY, VIRGINIA: A CULTURE WAR IN FOUR ACTS
by Matt Taibbi
Part One: “The Inconvenient Minority.”
November 2, 2021, Election night, town of Sterling, Loudoun County, Virginia. Thanks to a years-long media furor over what one former school official here described through a fatalistic laugh as “all the things,” this wealthy northern Virginia county is ground zero of the American culture war tonight. The nation’s most-watched race this evening is a fight for the Virginia governor’s office between a favored Democrat, longtime Bill andHillary Clinton aide and oft-flummoxed oratorial liability Terry McAuliffe, and the Republican underdog, an aw-shucks private equity vampire turned earnest education advocate named Glenn Youngkin. The contest between the two will be decided at places like this little polling station, at Lowes Island Elementary School.
Democratic and Republican volunteers flank the school entrance, waving YOUNGKIN – GOVERNOR or MCAULIFFE AYALA HERRING signs while attempting to hand out sample ballots. Voters look in foul moods, meeting most of the pamphlet offers with road-rage stares or no-look, “talk to the hand” pleas for space, with one conspicuous exception. The fourth or fifth time I see the same thing happen, a Youngkin supporter standing nearby comments.
“See that?” whispers Raj Patel. “Another Indian who would never vote Republican before just took the Republican ballot.”
A tall, slim, dark-skinned man in a plain tan shirt and tan corduroy pants is indeed standing in the school entrance, examining a sample ballot pulled with two hands close to his face. He’s either nearsighted or really, really interested. Patel, whose father immigrated from India in the late fifties to work for Bechtel, indicates him with a nod and begins talking about the novel experience of standing in the crater of a smoldering national controversy.
“My sister lives in Pennsylvania. She says, ‘I'm watching the news and they're talking about Loudoun County!’ And I say, ‘Yeah, who’d have believed it?’ You know, that our county was going to be on national news over this issue.” He shakes his head. “You watch. Indian and Chinese immigrants who typically vote Democratic will vote the other way because education for children is their number one issue. It’s why they came here.”
Patel is one of the switchers. He was “pretty liberal” after graduating from UC-Berkeley many years ago, then steadily became more moderate in his views, which did not mean voting for Donald Trump. “Honestly, I voted for Hillary Clinton,” he says, clarifying that he’s for “common sense,” not being “right-wing” or conspiratorial, “none of that garbage.” Eventually, he returns to the subject of education. “When you start messing with schools, that’s when you’ll get typical Democrats to flip.”
Within a few hours, networks begin delivering the verdict: Youngkin, not long ago down ten points in the polls, is going to cruise to an upset win. Panic commences.
A fascinating feature of modern America is that corporate commentators will sometimes artlessly blab out bald truths in the first minutes of breaking news events, before anyone higher up the chain has had time to cook up counter-narratives. After midnight in this case, CNN’s Van Jones freaks out a panel that includes the likes of Anderson Cooper and former Barack Obama aide David Axelrod, offering a clearly unwanted doomsaying take on the Youngkin vote.
“This is a big deal. These numbers are bad,” Jones says. “These are our voters. These are voters who came to us in 2018. These are voters who came to us in 2020, and have abandoned us in droves in… states that should be in our column.”
The open use of terms like “us” to refer to the Democratic Party on CNN grates, but the rest of what Jones says feels on the money. The Virginia race does represent a significant shift. Since Trump came on the scene, Democrats have dominated the most affluent communities in America, winning all 13 of the richest congressional districts (mostly by wide margins) in 2018 and 41 of the top 50. Republicans as recently as 1992 regularly won over half of these districts. Lately, though, in places where voters have money and college educations, Republicanism has become a stigma on the order of bestiality or syphilis as upscale readers gobble literature like Fuck Trump: An Adult Coloring Bookand the blank-paged epic, Why Trump is a Great Leader, leaving Republicans bereft of upper-class arguments and flatlined in their neighborhoods — until now, in enclaves like northern Virginia, where the tide has apparently begun rolling back.
Not that you’d know, however. By the morning after Youngkin’s win, outbursts like the Van Jones bummer-gasm disappeared, as coverage now pitched the Virginia results as a cookie-cutter rerun of a seventy-year-old Dixie segregation story. According to new national legend, the Jim Crow demons of places like Loudoun, a onetime “hotbed of Confederate resistance,” had been so brilliantly revived by a Republican-concocted tinfoil-hat panic over something called Critical Race Theory that it thrust even the unremarkable Youngkin to the governorship. To pundits, there was no doubt what happened. The blithe declaration of CNN legal expert Jeffrey “Zoomin” Toobin perfectly summed up: “It's about white supremacy.”
This media shorthand — that the furor that helped elect Youngkin is just a repackaged dog-whistle, with Republicans hiding a wide-scale movement against “teaching about slavery and racism” in a Trojan Horse marketing scheme based around a phantom depiction of obscure social justice theory — sounds ominous indeed.
Unfortunately, it’s totally incorrect, which is one reason local conservative organizers have seized on these pundit caricatures with such success. “One of the things that I find most comforting about the last election is that Democrats and Republicans got together to protect the rights of parents,” the highly visible leader of Fight For Schools, Ian Prior, would say to a crowd of triumphant Youngkin-supporting parents a week later. He added: “Education is the new code word for white privilege and white supremacy. That is the most insane thing I've ever heard in my life.”
Blue-leaning analysts may not be impressed by this kind of talk, but they should be. It would later come out that Youngkin gained a 15-point swing versus Trump’s 2020 Loudoun results, mirroring numbers in nearby Fairfax and Prince William Counties, as well as others across the state, even around the country. The reason wasn’t any unsolvable Scooby-Doo mystery, either.
Democrats have traditionally owned the education issue, leading by twenty, even thirty points in polls for decades. But recent surveys have shown slippage to something closer to a dead heat nationally. Among other things, this means Prior is likely right that Youngkin’s win was due to new coalitions of Republicans and defecting Democrats forming over education. These are not necessarily alliances of white voters, either. In places like Loudoun, where roughly a fifth of the population is Asian or South Asian, the reason for at least some of those defections is not so hard to figure, if you bother to ask.
Of course, few asked. The Loudoun mess had a lot to do with race, but it was no simple sequel to old civil rights battles. This was a brand-new tale about multidimensional racial tensions, beginning perhaps with the impatience of affluent intellectuals toward a quiet immigrant community whose chief crime, as ham-handed as this sounds, was believing the American dream. For that offense, they were sentenced to the rudest of awakenings. Loudoun doubled as the ultimate media malpractice story, in which the public across years of salacious controversies was told everything but the most important bits.
If you followed it, you likely heard a series of sensational culture-war flashpoints, including everything from a fight over a new transgender policy to a “runaway slave game” to a viral video involving the arrest of a man whose daughter had been raped in a school bathroom. A lot of these tales turned out on closer inspection to be, factually, almost perfectly opposite to how they’d been portrayed. Up close, the months leading up to Youngkin’s election end up reading more like an Evelyn Waugh satire about high-priced academic hucksters let loose on a small community, followed by a parade of blind Washington Post apostles, feverishly recording their heroics on goatskin parchments.
For all those twists, the core narrative was simple. A commonplace fight over suburban tax resources ended in radical reforms that primarily impacted one small nonwhite minority whose story mostly never got told, its members perhaps paralyzed by the irony of watching their complaints dismissed as white racism. There’s no way to understand any of the later Loudoun madness, without first knowing the backstory of the group that essentially started the fire by studying too hard.
Ashburn, Virginia, May 8th, 2018. As Loudoun Now put it, “A debate that has been percolating for years in Loudoun County reached a boiling point,” at a boisterous meeting of the county School Board. Because Loudoun’s public hearings would later become the stuff of viral legend, the culture-war version of wrestling GIFs, these old 2018 sessions now look tame in comparison. But they were significant at the time.
In addition to its own prestigious gifted programs, which include a new “Academies of Loudoun” campus as dazzling in its design as any modern liberal arts college, Loudoun has long maintained a contract with neighboring Fairfax County. The area annually sends hundreds of kids to nearby Alexandria’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the top-rated public high school in America.
If you’re looking for a highway directly to the Ivy League (and from there, to the upper class), “TJ” is the most consistent launching pad in the most affluent region in the country. In the three years between 2015 and 2017, students from Thomas Jefferson High produced an absurd 79 graduates from Harvard, Princeton, and MIT alone. In the shrinking opportunity zone that is the modern United States, where debt and privation spread like cancer and even wealthy parents fear their children can’t afford to waste their time having childhoods, the competition to put kids in pipelines to top feeder schools like TJ as early as possible is ferocious.
It’s also expensive. Loudoun taxpayers in 2018 spent $4.3 million to bus 269 children across county lines to “TJ,” which worked out to $17,435 per student, plus an additional $2,074 from each to chip into a renovation plan. Because of this enormous cost, local pols and School Board officials often debated the idea of curtailing or ending the Fairfax contract, ostensibly with the aim of pouring the savings into the county’s own specialty programs, like the new Academies of Loudoun.
For years, however, every time the School Board even thought about cutting back the “TJ” contract — usually in the spring, during budget discussions — they got immediate, voluble pushback from one demographic in particular: the region’s population of south Asian residents, particularly first- and second-generation immigrants from India, many of whom are technical experts from the booming IT-centered regions around Bangalore and Hyderabad (colloquially known as Cyberabad).
In another of the innumerable million-pound ironies in the Loudoun mess, many of these immigrants came to America in flight not just fromracism, but from a true white supremacist legacy. Back home, many experienced discrimination from a northern population that looks down upon them, among other things, for having darker skin, a direct echo of India’s colonial past. Mention “blacks” to some, and they might think you’re referring to them, since that’s an operative slur there as well. “If we were racist, why would we have the south?” a parliament member from India’s ruling BJP party said a few years ago. “Why do we live with them? We have black people around us.”
“One of the reasons a lot of these immigrants don’t want to talk about this, is they don’t like to wear their grievances on their sleeve,” says Asra Nomani, veteran journalist and onetime colleague of murdered reporter Daniel Pearl, and now Vice-President of an advocacy group called Parents Defending Education. “These are people who have been looked down upon for having dark skin. A lot of the kids at TJ, for instance, are darker than black Americans. But it’s something they don’t talk about.”
Many Indian families came to Loudoun specifically with the public schools in mind. They were attracted by the idea of winning their children tickets to affluence denied them by a different caste system, via supposedly open competition for spots in places like TJ or the Academies of Loudon.
“My dad came here in 1960 for his PhD, and that's the story of so many of our families,” says Nomani. “They faced prejudice, and came here wanting to figure out how to advance through the one thing that they know, which is hard work and education.”
In 1990, according to the Washington Post, Loudoun had fewer than 400 Indian residents. The number would soon be well above 30,000. Beginning in the Clinton years, the area that would come to be known as the “Silicon Valley of the East” began to fill up with Indian engineers and programmers, recruited for work in the region’s many federal agencies on a variety of projects, including the millennium computer bug scare. They became the parents and grandparents of a generation of American-born babies some call the “Y2K kids.” Born in the early 2000s, these are the children now dominating gifted programs not just in Loudoun, but in places all around the country.
It’s impossible to overstate the cultural dynamic at work with such families. Writer Zaid Jilani lives in northern Virginia and works as a tutor there, with Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Pakistani children making up the larger proportion of his students.
“They're usually not very wealthy, but their parents are first-generation immigrants who typically came to the U.S. to study, and they are very culturally focused on formal education,” he says.
How focused? In 2018 and before, when the admissions process in Loudoun was blind with regard to race or identity and weighted toward quantitative measures like test scores and grades, “Asian kids were completely kicking everyone’s asses,” as one former Loudon school official put it. This was true at both TJ and at Loudoun’s own gifted programs.
Thomas Jefferson High’s population in 2018 was 70% Asian, a staggering number considering that in both Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, Asians are only 20% of the residents. According to the most recent Census data, the rest of the population in Loudoun is 67% white, 8% African-American, and 14% Hispanic. The gifted admissions numbers for Loudoun’s own programs had long been similarly lopsided. More on that in a bit; for the moment, focus on the response at the May 8, 2018 meeting about the TJ contract.
A parade of Indian parents advanced to the podium. Many were soft-spoken men in shirtsleeves who seemed unused to the grandstanding tradition of American public meetings. Local officials routinely massacred the pronunciations of their names when calling them forward, but it didn’t occur to any to take offense, instead offering effusive thanks to the Board before politely listing complaints.
“I came from India twenty years and exactly two days ago,” said a man named Ravinbar Palla with a smile. He described looking up Loudoun from afar and deciding, happily, to choose this “picturesque area.” Depending on your outlook, it’s either touching or ironic that the South Asian commenters during this time were often not aware that patriotism and praise of the American experience did not always go over well in public forums. Palla in any case turned serious as he began to speak about his seventh-grade son.
“If you want to go to TJ, it doesn’t start six months ago, it starts a year, a year and a half ago, even more,” he said, adding in an imploring voice: “He has to build resumes!” Brandishing a paper curriculum, Palla said Loudon’s own gifted programs just aren’t the same. “If you want to study artificial intelligence, you can’t do it at AOS…”
An alarm beeped, meaning his public speaking time was up. Confused, Palla tried to keep going. “So please, don’t…”
“Sir, please,” said Board chair, Jeff Morse. “Your time is up. Thank you.”
Palla walked backward, shuffling his papers. Another parent took his place, then another, and another.
“Personally, I think this is a grave mistake,” said Kartik Patel.
“As a parent of a child who has been preparing for this exam for months now, it’s our suggestion… that we should plan the change years from now,” added a mother named Shilpa Shanbhag. Otherwise, she said, “That would be really unfair.”
“We are the richest county in the country, I am sure we can find ways to fund the TJ program,” said Tejas Mehta.
As several former Loudoun officials explained it, such scenes were a nearly annual feature of Board meetings around budget time. The county’s Asian community was not content with mere access to “gifted” programs. They expected their kids to annihilate the standardized testing requirements, get As in all the most advanced courses offered, and continue taking advantage of their county’s unique access to a feeder school feted in national publications as the best of the best. Speakers from this community rarely evinced concern over budget questions and seemed to have a similarly conspicuous disinterest in the county’s long-term goal of building its own version of “TJ,” a tendency that grated on some non-Asian local pols.
The TJ contract presented a dilemma for other groups. Taxpayers invested heavily in the “Academies of Loudoun” program, and there was thinking that clinging to the TJ contract undercut that investment. As then-Board member Tom Marshall later explained, “There are people out there who… do not support us sending our tax dollars to Fairfax County.” It was also a massive expense whose benefits were increasingly redounding to one demographic.
A legend that consistently infected later national coverage of Loudoun was that the old race-blind admissions system was somehow gamed in favor of rich white kids, when anyone familiar with the local numbers knew that a) a lot of Loudoun’s affluent white families long ago began sending their kids to private schools, and b) the county’s remaining white students by at least some metrics were among the worst-performing demographics, and potentially stood the most to gain by eliminating the old system.
Coverage in papers like The Washington Post usually got around these inconvenient facts using astonishingly dishonest phrases like, “White and Asian children together made up the majority of accepted students,” but in both the Loudoun gifted programs and at TJ, the statistics upon closer review told a story whose meaning was impossible to miss.
For instance, Loudoun Schools would eventually be forced to review the data for their own Academy of Engineering and Technology (AET) from the Fall of 2018. They reported that Asian students were 42% overrepresented, African American students were underrepresented by 4%, and Hispanic students were underrepresented by 12%. Meanwhile, “Caucasian students in the applicant pool were underrepresented by approximately 23%,” is how a later report by the Virginia Attorney General’s office phrased the LCPS data.
Results for Thomas Jefferson admissions were different, but still not exactly screaming evidence of white supremacy. The numbers for 2018:
Race/ethnicity, Applied, Percent, Admitted, Percent
White, 870, 27.5, 110, 22.9
Black, 220, 7.0, 10, 2.1
Hispanic, 276, 8.7, 23, 4.7
Asian, 1,633, 51.7%, 316, 65.2%
White kids certainly fared better getting into TJ than the black or Hispanic applicants, which may reflect a variety of issues from economics to, yes, systemic racism. However, the big picture pointed to a more overwhelming dynamic: Asian students not only consistently applied to gifted programs at a higher rate than the other populations, they were also unfailingly overrepresented in terms of acceptance rates. In other words, they were still crushing the testing process relative to all other groups, and showing no sign of letting up, not even having the decency to follow the example of most American immigrant populations by getting dumber with assimilation time.
In the end, the county followed the example of everyone from the University of California to the New York City School system under Bill de Blasio, replacing race-blind admissions and standardized testing with a new, “holistic,” “equity-based” system that would be described in media in a hundred different ways, but never as what it actually is: a mercy rule to stop Asian kids from demolishing the field.
The group of Indian parents who petitioned the School Board in 2018 would be the last whose worries would be confined to budget proposals. They would soon be introduced to more creative reform ideas designed to severely limit their kids’ ability to go to advanced schools, not just at “TJ” but the once scoffed-at “replacement” programs at the Academies of Loudoun.
The coming ideas would be a lot harder for these residents to follow than the cost of bus routes. They were about to be introduced to modern American social justice thinking, in the context of a classic example of nut-cutting back-room politics, a juggernaut combination if there ever was one. They had no answer for either dynamic — until Election Day in 2021 when people like Raj Patel finally got to register their displeasure. When McAuliffe stood up in a debate and said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach” — the political equivalent of using a toe to shoot your face off with a shotgun — he may not have been speaking directly to the admissions issue, but it was still a last straw for certain voters.
“You can get the best grades, highest scores and you won't get in,” says Patel, referencing the “TJ” issue. “Of course we want to let in more disadvantaged kids. I get that, being Berkeley-educated. But to do it so dramatically and radically, and without consulting the parents, that’s why you see this pendulum swing.”
These issues aren’t easy. The argument over “gifted and talented” programs, be they in Loudoun or New York, requires asking if these programs really and truly provide higher-quality educations for students who need them. Research on the question is mixed.
After all, what if they don’t work? What if these programs are just a big, inefficient drain on resources from the larger student gen-pop, benefiting a handful of kids with the economic or familial resources to succeed anyway? What if “gifted and talented” programs are really just an expensive (and ultimately ineffective) ploy at keeping the most affluent kids in every district from accelerating a long-ago-begun flight to private schools? If either thing is true, abolishing such programs might make both fiscal and cultural sense for the bulk of voters.
But there would also seem to be plenty of logic in rewarding immigrant families whose kids consistently bust their asses in class while showing a faith in the public school system native-born Americans often don’t, if they can look up from their super-size bags of Cheetos long enough to think about it. If these aren’t the families who get to thrive in America, what are we about? What’s our pitch to would-be immigrants around the world? Come here, work like mad — and hope for a break?
One can see merit in arguments for and against gifted programs. The problem is, the path Loudoun County ended up choosing represented neither sensible option. They rushed instead to indefensibly crazy-ass door number three, in a seeming conspiracy with all the county’s most uncompromising, irrational, preeningly self-important social arsonists. Future Tik-Tok stars all, they took a small opportunity to amuse national reporters at the county’s expense and rolled it into a flaming hot sun of avoidable civil unrest that continues roaring to this day.
National media figures helped the process along by the least subtle means imaginable. The chief tactic involved pumping the airwaves full of “angry white parent” caricatures and editorials about the evils of racism and white supremacy, deflecting attention from the nonwhite demographic at the actual center of the controversy. Their experiences for decades having been dismissed as a right-wing prop, as a “model minority” whose achievements were paternalistically lauded by conservatives only as part of a cynical argument against social safety nets, Asian immigrants now found that in a changed environment, their successes rendered them politically toxic with onetime political allies in the blue party. “We were the inconvenient minority,” says Nomani. “We didn’t matter.”
By the end of 2018, Loudoun would begin moving toward a slew of drastic changes. In significant part, this would be thanks to a complicated maneuver that involved leveraging a scandal-plagued Attorney General’s office into a sweeping reform settlement, using as a battering ram the “assessment” of an ultra-woke, luxury-priced West Coast equity consultancy imported in the midst of a transparently manufactured media panic. It was an “only in America” kind of tale, and of course, the people who lost out most were the area’s newest Americans. They could compete in the classroom, but as the next installment shows, they had a lot to learn from the rest of the county, when it came to being crazy.
(Next: “The Incident”)
”And remember: the more packages you deliver, the more spiritual energy you'll receive. You. You want your son to beat that cancer, don't you? And you. You. And you, and you. There are the packages, you silly old creatures. Get going! They're not going to deliver themselves!”
The recording of last night's (2021-12-10) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA) is right here: https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0466
Email me your writing on any subject and I'll read it on the radio next week. That's what I'm here for. If it's more than plain text, please provide a link to the media you want me to see or hear, rather than attach it.
FURTHERMORE, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering that show together. Such as, for instance:
Info about a new documentary film for the generous, prolific musical genius and graph paper aficionado who composed, among 10,000 other things, Scheming Weasel, that I use for intro and outro music for MOTA on the times when I do the show from Juanita's place. His name is Kevin MacLeod (say muh-CLOWD).
I like this because this is the world. It's the way the world works. It isn't sad. These accomplishments are no less because of imperfections in the materials or a suppressed sneeze or a micro-flinch from a stray thought. These kids did amazing things and got amazing results. I remember doing tiny towers of wooden blocks in preschool for no reason at all, and again 25 years later at the Albion Whale School to make meeting times go faster. Whatever it is you pile up, it's going to fall sooner or later. When it falls it falls. You did what you could.
Speaking of which: An elaborate halftime show of old. High schools don't go all out the way they used to. Kids are all on the phone all the time anymore, or doing a chaotic solo gun massacre, or bullying each other into doing one. Where's the whole-field, whole-school choreography anymore? Where are the flaming rollers of yesteryear, the shrieking sword-swingers, the glowering imperious horse-sitters and the chopees and stabees and brave bleeders all in one big insectile dance? ...We did have that thing on January 6, I guess. And the tiki torch racist thing in Charlottesville a few years ago. I suppose you could count Chinese military parades, and Texas hip-hop trample concerts and Macy's Thanksgiving and Burning Man and disease-soup motorbike conventions... Sure, okay. A little perspective.
And Fark.com gave a link to a twitter thread beginning with a courtroom artist's color drawing of pedophile drug pimp-to-world-leaders Ghislaine Maxwell during the proceedings. In the drawing Ghislaine Maxwell is staring directly back at the courtroom artist, drawing a picture of /him/. Scroll down to where someone posted a photograph of Jeffrey Epstein, back when he was alive and on top of his worm-riddled empire, and he and Ghislaine Maxwell are nuzzling side-faced and smiling for the camera. In the context of the current court drama, the caption on that image is, "Love is finishing each other's sentences." Ahhhh.
— Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
THIS WEEK AT ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE
December 12 - 18, 2021
Free Entry to Hendy Woods State Park for local residents
Sun 12 / 12 / 2021 at 7:00 AM
AV Grange Holiday Pancake breakfast
Sun 12 / 12 / 2021 at 8:30 AM
AV Village Monthly in-person Gathering: Festive Bonfire Gathering
Sun 12 / 12 / 2021 at 4:00 PM
Where: Anderson Valley Senior Center - Outside (rain or shine), Boonville
Tai Chi Chen (form 23) with Karin Difalco
Mon 12 / 13 / 2021 at 9:00 AM
Where: Anderson Valley Grange, Philo
Strength Training Class on Zoom
Tue 12 / 14 / 2021 at 8:30 AM
AV Village Walking Group - all welcome
Tue 12 / 14 / 2021 at 9:30 AM
Where: Meet at the Community Park (near the AV Health Center), Boonville
Senior Center Lunch
Tue 12 / 14 / 2021 at 12:00 PM
Where: Anderson Valley Senior Center, Boonville
AV Library Open
Tue 12 / 14 / 2021 at 1:00 PM
Where: Mendocino County Fairgrounds, Boonville
Bookmobile in Boonville
Tue 12 / 14 / 2021 at 1:30 PM
Where: Mendocino County Fairgrounds, Boonville
AV Village Book Conversation: "Tightrope - Americans Reaching for Hope"
Tue 12 / 14 / 2021 at 2:00 PM
Where: meeting place TBD
Tai Chi Chen (form 23) with Karin Difalco
Wed 12 / 15 / 2021 at 9:00 AM
Where: Anderson Valley Grange, Philo
Wed 12 / 15 / 2021 at 5:30 PM
Where: SOBO Studio, Boonville
Valley Resilience Council Call
Wed 12 / 15 / 2021 at 7:00 PM
Equity in Aging Advisory Committee
Thu 12 / 16 / 2021 at 10:00 AM
Senior Center Lunch
Thu 12 / 16 / 2021 at 12:00 PM
Where: Anderson Valley Senior Center, Boonville
AV Library Open
Sat 12 / 18 / 2021 at 12:30 PM
Where: Mendocino County Fairgrounds, Boonville
Anderson Valley Village