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Mendocino County Today: September 30, 2012

WE NOTICED in a recent District Attorney website update that a Mr. Johnny Jackson was found “not guilty” on a charge of “escape/run away.” Which raises the question: Did he run away or not? How could someone be found “not guilty” of running away or escaping? Something very interesting or unusual seemed to be going on. So we asked the District Attorney’s office about the verdict.

Johnny Jackson's booking entry from last June

PROSECUTOR RAY KILLION EXPLAINED: “A neighbor of the Woodland Fire Station called the camp commander at Chamberlain Creek and said he'd run off two inmates from his property, which is about 300 yards from where an inmate crew was working. The neighbor identified Johnny Jackson and fellow inmate Noe Aguilar from camp identification cards. Aguilar pled guilty before trial and was sentenced to three years consecutive to the sentence he was already serving. At Jackson's trial, the Cal-Fire captain in charge of the work crew that day testified he performed a head count every 15 minutes and never noticed Jackson missing. Also, the neighbor testified when he looked through the ID cards that day he saw two black inmates among the 13 cards; in fact there were four. I didn't get a chance to speak with any of the jurors so I don't know if they relied on these discrepancies or if they just figured no harm-no foul (since Jackson made it back to camp without anybody noticing.) At any rate, they deliberated for about 45 minutes before coming back with the not guilty verdict. Note that the legal definition of ‘escape’ is ‘an unlawful departure from the limits of an inmate's custody.’ In this case he was charged with escape even though he was only alleged to have been gone from his assigned work area for 15 minutes or less.”

ACCORDING TO CAPTAIN Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, at least one person is dead in a suspicious house fire Saturday morning across the street from the Potter Valley Fire Department. The fire was reported just after 8am when the home seemed to be instantly engulfed in flame. One body, still not identified, has been discovered. Firefighters from Potter Valley Fire Department, CalFire, Redwood Valley Fire Department, Ukiah Valley Fire District, Hopland Fire and Ukiah Fire Department fought the blaze for an hour and a half before it was declared fully contained.

Cooper

A EUREKA MAN was arrested Monday for attempted kidnapping after allegedly threatening and following a woman on Talmage Road, the Ukiah Police Department said. According to the Ukiah Police Department, a woman was walking to work around 10am on September 24 in the 300 block of Talmage Road when a man headed in the opposite direction snapped at her, then turned and began following her, shouting, “I'm going to get you.” When the woman walked faster the suspect did as well, so the victim ran across the street. The UPD learned later that two people had been watching the interaction and were preparing to intervene before the woman crossed the street. A description of the man was broadcast and responding officers located a suspect, identified as Jesse D.C. Cooper of Eureka, in the Walmart parking lot on Airport Park Boulevard. Cooper was booked into Mendocino County Jail on suspicion of attempted kidnapping and criminal threats.

SEVERAL THINGS WERE MISSING from the recent AP story about California dairies going broke because costs are going up while prices aren’t. The main thing missing is why California’s price supports for milk coming directly from the state’s dairies are so low.

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-09-29/calif-dot-dairies-strained-by-feed-milk-prices

All the story offered was this misleading quote from a California Department of Food and Agriculture named Steve Lyle who said “the reason for lower prices is that milk supply exceeds demand in California.”

WRONG, STEVE: Section 62062 of the California Food and Agriculture code says that milk is an essential commodity that must be priced to make sure it’s available, healthy, and ensures that milk producers don’t go out of business. (I happen to know this because my father, Gene Scaramella, was a career cooperative creamery manager who specialized in milk price stabilization and price supports.) “Each stabilization and marketing plan shall contain provisions whereby the director (of CDFA) establishes minimum prices to be paid by handlers to producers for market milk in the various classes. The director shall establish the prices by designating them in the plan, or by adopting methods or formulas in the plan whereby the prices can be determined, or any combination of the foregoing. If the director directly designates prices in the plan, the prices shall be in reasonable and sound economic relationship with the national value of manufactured milk products. If the director adopts methods or formulas in the plan for designation of prices, the methods or formulas shall be reasonably calculated to result in prices that are in a reasonable and sound economic relationship with the national value of manufactured milk products. In establishing the prices, the director shall take into consideration any relevant economic factors, including, but not limited to, the following: (a) The reasonableness and economic soundness of market milk prices for all classes, giving consideration to the combined income from those class prices, in relation to the cost of producing and marketing market milk for all purposes, including manufacturing purposes. In determining the costs, the director shall consider the cost of management and a reasonable return on necessary capital investment.”

AND SO ON. For more particulars, see the CDFA’s own website which breaks down the prices and price supports. http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/dairy/prices_main.html

IF, as the AP article says, the prices are too low for milk producers to stay in business, something’s gone seriously haywire in the price support process, which includes the producers, the milk-buyers, the state regulators, and the state legislature.

MY FATHER managed a milk cooperative — Danish Creamery and later Challenge Cream & Butter Association — for several decades going back to the 50s. Many ag cooperatives began in the 1930s because producers couldn’t get decent prices from commercial creameries during the depression so they formed cooperatives run by elected members (dairymen) of the cooperative. Milk and milk products are considered essential to public health. But, as with timber or wine, the producer or grower is at the mercy of the buyer (be it the timber mill, the winery, the creamery…) when it comes to the prices the producer is paid.

ALSO DURING the 1930s, thanks to old-school FDR-style liberals, besides cooperatives, government price supports were established for milk because milk shortages were considered to be a threat to public health. Every year since then, using something like what is now called for in the California law quoted above, industry and government would negotiate and set the minimum price supports for milk.

WHEN MY FATHER was in the business, he — being hired by the coop members to manage the cooperative’s creamery and thus to manage the prices the creamery paid to the producers — made a point of going to Sacramento to make sure that the price supports kept his coop members from going out of business.

BUT NOWADAYS (basically since the Reagan era and broadscale “deregulation”), most producers are stuck with vertically integrated production schemes which are controlled by retailers — i.e., the big grocery store chains, most with their own milk brands who either own the dairies outright, or own enough of them to set their own artificially low prices for the state’s remaining independent dairies. So the producers (the independent dairies and the dairymen), if they’re organized at all, have very little political clout when the time comes to set price supports. The retailers obviously don’t want to pay more for milk and they don’t really care if dairies go out of business They assume, wrongly, that there will always be some place to buy raw milk — a classic example of one of the many contradictions of capitalism.

AND WE CAN TELL very easily from that one very dumb statement from the CDFA “spokesman” that the big retailers are calling the shots when it comes to milk pricing. In my father’s day, the regulating agencies would never say anything so ridiculously simplistic as “milk supply exceeds demand in California” to explain pricing. Because in those days, the regulators and politicians cared about public health and the dairymen who produced the milk, and they listened to people like my father who represented the dairymen and knew what they were talking about. (— Mark Scaramella)

COMMENT OF THE DAY: “Last time I was in Garberville, looking for abandoned VWs, I turned around at the south end and headed back through town and saw about 10 or 12 people sitting on the edge of a planter near a coffee shop. I couldn't believe how tweeked they all were, typical meth folks talking to themselves, yelling at each other and two of them (apparently a couple), actually injecting something — right there on the street with people driving and walking by. As someone who frequents Eureka and sees freaky stuff all the time, I was shocked by my experience in G-Ville. — Phillip Hooker”

CHAPTER ONE OF A MEMOIR IN PROGRESS.

Half Hour Adventures Of The Disappearing Boy, by Flynn Washburne

Here's what I've learned about doing time: you can't do years. Well, in retrospect you can, easily — that is, after you've done 'em. They're a snap. Looking back they don't seem a huge deal. Two years here, four years there — after they're over they seem a lark, a blip, a hiccup, a mere trifle weighed against the infinite span of a lifetime. Stand at the front end of eight years, though, and try to come to terms with the boundless ocean of time stretching before you. The effectively infinite span between now and freedom, and the attendant ineffable despair? That'll grind the teeth right off your sprockets.

So, you do days. Days you can do, and they will accumulate and form more meaningful manageable, mountable blocks of time from which you will one day be able to glimpse those first faint fringes of freedom as the horizon resolves into landfall. Until then you get up in the morning and try not to look forward to anything more distant than mail call.

I have thus far accumulated, prior to this term, 9.5 years in the following increments: one, four, one, one, and 2.5 years, in the span from Summer 1991 to Summer 2011.

Throw in a couple of rehab and several county jail stints, that's well over half of my post-30 life spent in durance vile.

No wonder my sexual conquests dropped off so sharply. I had graphed it out and was attributing the precipitous decline to celestial phenomena or affirmative action. This actually explains a lot.

So yeah, for me the old in-out has of late referred more to my passage through jail doors and not the other, far more pleasant portal.

However, despite spending a shameful amount of time in prison, I have thus far resisted being of prison. That is, I've not acquired the gritty patina particular to the convict class. I have two small, tasteful, professionally rendered tattoos, honoring Howard the Duck (the Marvel comics version, not that filmic abomination) and my favorite band, ALL my senses of humor and irony remain intact. I attend to my manners and grammar and my sensibilities are comparatively refined. Don't get me wrong, I'm no pinky-waving aesthete, but at a time when the “Frasier” TV program had a more significant cultural presence, my prison nickname was “Niles.”

Thus, whenever those doors clang shut behind me the soul-searching begins and the questions fly fast and furious, most notably, “Who am I?”

Am I really a career criminal? I honestly don't feel like one, but my 11 felony convictions make a good case for it. A tweaker being led around by the nose by the lamest drug ever? Again, doesn't sound like me, but my many nights spent skulking around town with a backpack full of porn and electronic debris would belie that.

To me, I'm a fairly regular guy. Somewhat neurotic, definitely with tendencies some may consider weird. Not scary or dangerous or creepy. Weird, mostly. Goofy weird. No genius, but definitely above average. I am acutely attuned to, truly discerning of, and extremely sensitive to art of all kinds. I like punk rock music, speculative fiction, yoga, Quentin Tarantino movies, Cezanne paintings, Victorian literature, evolutionary biology, existentialist philosophy, and Chopin's mazurkas, to name a few things. I like to play guitar and write limericks. I'm an excellent cook and a good dancer.

That nut job who thought “planning” and executing a bank robbery in the space of 10 minutes using a bicycle as a getaway vehicle, without a disguise in a tiny town where he is on a first name basis with every lawman in the county, a bank where he had an account, would be a good idea? I don't think I'd even like to hang out with that guy. Seems a tad sketchy. And the fiend who would walk into a bookstore — the closest thing to a sacred place in my worldview — waving a gun around demanding money, upsetting and frightening people, I think I'd like to knock that guy around a little, teach him some respect for books and other people's property.

But we all contain multitudes, right? Who among us has not entertained fantasies of illegal, immoral, unacceptable, insane behavior? You think. Therein lies the rub. We here on the outside of the bars have the sense to leave those desires in the realm of fantasy. And sure, you're right, but I'm not just an id-driven hedonist obeying the dictates of my lizard brain. Nor am I an addict so single-minded that my personal ethos can be boiled down to two words: get dope. Not all the time, anyway.

I've been known to act civilized on occasion, to work for a living, to engage in recreational pursuits both productive and salubrious. I understand right and wrong (from a societal perspective, anyway) and cause and effect, though philosophically I am a pragmatist of the most fundamental sort and believe that societal constructs and human endeavor are but frippery, ornamentation, diversion, window dressing over the base fact of the biological imperative.

Not that I'm diverted and amused too. I like SpongeBob and fireworks and halos and football as much as the next jackass. But I'm painfully aware of my role on this planet which is not necessarily to engage in anything my mind (or anyone else's) can conceive, but to be a vehicle for a very determined and selfish gene concerned only with spawning copies of itself willy-nilly around the globe.

But I digress. My point is, I have no idea who I am, why I do what I do, where I'm headed or how it'll all wind up. Not only that, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter, even to myself.

So why initiate this exploration? Why not? At worst we will both have wasted some time. You, a matter of minutes; me, substantially more. And I can certainly afford it. I'm lousy with the stuff.

I am a child of rape. Not my mother; my father. A young airman stationed in French Morocco, he was at liberty one fine evening in the city of Rabat looking for black-market jazz records for use in his capacity as Armed Forces Radio DJ. He was directed to a dark alley in a disreputable neighborhood by a skeezy bazaar where he found not the Chet Baker disk he was promised, but a knot of angry Berber spinsters. They set upon them with weighted calabashes and cudgels of gopherwood. He had no chance. Spirited away to a remote ziggurat outside of town, he was plied with hashish and a crude fig brandy crafted by Moslem reprobates in filthy basements. One by one the bitter Berber bimbos befouled my poor papa. His screams went unheard, echoing off the empty minarets and dissipating off into the dunes. Perhaps a camel paused a moment in its rumination. We will never know for sure. What is known is that no one came to his aid and when the vile viragos were sated, they tossed him unceremoniously into a trough and skipped away, giggling and high-fiving.

My father awoke in that trough the next morning to the call of the muezzin and made his addled way back to the base, determined to forget the night's horrors.

And gradually he did, settling back into his military routine, making do with Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby and rarely venturing off US government property.

Until the day, right around nine months after the incident, when a burqa'd woman showed up at the barracks and tossed a wriggling bundle at my father.

“This belongs to you, airman infidel,” she snapped, and flounced out in a cloud of patchouli and variegated silk.

Since Air Force regulations forbade enlisted personnel from keeping pets or babies on base, my father took me to the bazaar and offered me up for sale. A brisk business was done in that time in babies in North Africa and my half American parentage guaranteed a quick sale and a hefty price. After a day of haggling my father secured a price of 100 dirhams for me, nearly $35 American.

Can he be blamed for feeling relief as my new adoptive parents lashed me to their camel? I think not. I was stolen from his loins and spat from those of the rapist, unasked for, unwarranted.

Perhaps in my new life I would find a place to belong, to grow and to flower. Only time will tell.

* * *

Dear reader, I sense your skepticism. You think my tale is fanciful and suspect. I sport with you, do you not? “Unhand our legs, knave,” you think, “and cease this japery. Respect this forum and give us the straight dope, you felonious jamoke. Rustic we may be, but chumps we are not.”

To which I say: I? I?

Well, okay, none of that happened. Not to me, anyway. But I warn you that as I continue this narrative this sort of thing is liable to happen from time to time.

There is a germ of truth in my whimsical tale. In 1953 my father, James Mair Washburne, was in fact an Armed Forces radio DJ in French Morocco. He caught the ear of a 15-year-old colonel's daughter (the daughter was 15, the Colonel was in his majority) whose eye had already been caught by that selfsame lass, hostess of an afternoon dance party program on Armed Forces TV. The two fledgling media types found one another and by all accounts were quite gaga from the get-go. But as we all know, the course of true love is often beset by potholes, speed traps and angry colonels.

Colonel F.C. Schnackenberg, Army Intelligence, was a rigid man with neither patience nor tolerance for (for instance) musicians, beatniks, Californians, the Air Force, Turks, or enlisted men. All of which applied to my father. He wasn't much for Democrats, women's suffrage, colors besides olive drab, communists, socialists, humanists, etc.. You get the picture.

Somehow, my father won the right to court the underage dependent. I like to imagine a showdown between he and the kernel played by Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs and George C. Scott as General Patton. (“You pup! I'll have you horsewhipped!” “Whoa, cool it, daddy-o!”)

Over the next seven years some things happened. A discharge, a marriage, education, the birth of my sisters — stuff, you know? Not necessarily interesting stuff except insofar as it led to the introduction of your humble narrator.

Which occurred in 1960 in Erie County, New York. We weren't there long, though. As an up and coming disc jockey, my father bounced us around the country as he was hired by progressively larger markets. By early 1966 we were living in a cantilevered house on the hill in Mill Valley and dad was doing the morning show at KYA. It was at this time too that my father's love of strong liquor and sports cars ended predictably with him taking an unplanned exit off the Pacific Coast Highway and into the abyss early one morning.

It is around this time when Pops went to sleep with the fishes that I began to have a cogent, linear memory path. Prior to that it's mostly vague, spotty vignettes.

For instance, I'm pretty sure now that I wasn't abused in underwater satanic sex rituals with Anton LeVay and Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Still, you never know.

Anyhow. It's early 1966 and there we are — me, 5; sister Deidre, 8; brother Nathaniel, 2; left to the tender mercies of perhaps the most irresponsible, self-involved person ever to draw breath. My mother's approach to child rearing was utterly laissez-faire. We could expect to be clothed, fed and watered. Anything else, you're on your own, bucko. Love? Affection? Sentimentality, and therefore pointless. I imagine it was like being raised by Ayn Rand.

Washburne

She wasn't completely dismissive of us, I guess, if you caught her at the right time of day she could probably tell you two or three of our birthdays.

While we children usually felt as if those endless bottles (later boxes) of wine were her real offspring, they certainly merited more attention than us — the meals were regular and our clothes were clean. Things could have been worse and before long, they were. Much.

(Next: I am dragged kicking and screaming into hippiedom.)

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