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GUSTY SOUTH WINDS AND LIGHT RAIN will gradually diminish today. However, another storm system will yield additional rain and wind across the area Saturday and Sunday. Drier weather will then develop across the region early next week. (NWS)
CORB LEE FLICK
It follows that as the sun sets in the west and the day ends with its setting, so too does a pilot fly into the sunset of his days.
Corb Flick, a 43-year resident of Yorkville and a private pilot out of Boonville for 40 years “flew west” into the sunset and over the horizon on October 4, 2022, at 85 years of age.
He was a man who possessed many skills, a sharp wit, and a fierce independence. He was instrumental in helping John and Dee Pickus build the Yorkville Post Office. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Bob and Jim, and his daughter, Taf. He is survived by Marcia, his wife of 53 years, his daughter, Terri, and his three granddaughters, Josie, Paige, and Delaney.
I didn’t want him to go, but I couldn’t ask him to stay, so I stayed behind and said good-bye as he “flew west” on a course I could not follow, as much as I wished I could. We had many adventures together and I am proud and grateful to have been a big part of the story of his life. He gave me a lifetime of love, joy, excitement, and contentment.
A man well loved, a life well lived, and a rest well deserved was his reward, a reward richly deserved.
Dear Mr. Anderson,
The Junior and Senior High staff has been working SO HARD to get ready for our WASC accreditation visit. Here is the website that outlines the DRAFT report and identifies our areas of strength and need. The highlights page is a great recap of improvements staff have created over the past two years post-Covid.
We invite ALL community members to join us at the Boonville Hotel on Sunday, March 26 at 3:00 p.m. to provide support and input to the WASC visiting committee. This is an important accreditation that we must achieve. HUGE thanks to WASC coordinator Julie Honegger for her tireless and meticulous efforts on this report. Click the tabs at the top to see the various report sections.
Louise Simson, Superintendent
Anderson Valley Unified School District
Every Student • Every Possibility • No Matter What
LOCAL GARDEN STARTS from Natural Products of Boonville
I will be growing garden starts for direct sales to locals again this year.
l also have small quantities of some not-commercially available seed potatoes. I grew them organically, but they are not certified. I plan to post a list of cultivars and availability next week.
I already know there’s enough Ozette (sometimes available commercially) & Gunter Blue for me to sell up to a few pounds of each.
Also some Criolla rosada and Skagit Valley Gold that are ready to plant now since they both have very short dormancy periods and many have already chitted. Both are early producing “Papa amarilla’ types. Between their short season and very short dormancy it’s possible to do at least 2, if not 3 successive crops per year locally with both them.
I’ll also have seed tubers of several Ulluco and Oca root cultivars. Because neither crop begins to set tubers until days are down to 12 or so hours late in September, they are only suitable for gardeners who have a long fall with late frost - like mid-November or later. This year I learned they can be kept going longer using row covers to improve the yield. Both are crops developed in South America many centuries ago, along with potatoes. Due to their cultural limitations they’ve never become popular in the USA - although Oca is grown commercially in New Zealand.
Anyone with interest in garden starts or seed tubers should email me at email@example.com
Gotta love the National Weather Service website
On the past three mornings between 8 and 9:30 a.m., when I checked the website for Boonville, it showed current temperatures WAY higher than one would expect. So I checked the "3 day history" and discovered the last updates for current temperature each day were at 4:50 p.m. THE PREVIOUS DAY! At the moment (9:37 a.m., Thursday 2/2) the current temperature according to the webstie is 57 degrees.
I hope they fix this soon.
AT THE JANUARY 24 BOARD DISCUSSION of the budget deficit, Supervisor Dan Gjerde complained about the continuing increases in the Jail Expansion project.
We’ve written about this before starting last July when the Board seemed to agree that the state should be covering the lion’s share of the jail expansion cost increases because it’s a state project and the delays are attributed to the State Fire Marshal’s office month-long foot dragging in approving the expensive architect’s designs and specifications.
Last July we wrote:
“According to a recent status report to be presented to the Supervisors next Tuesday, the jail expansion project is now expected to cost between $27.3 million (low end) and $29.3 million (high end). (They have not yet selected the contractor.) The state is providing $25 million (a number which was thought to be plenty until costs started going up). This means the general fund may have to cover up to $4.2 million more than initially projected to finish the project for a total local cost of about $6.8 million, an unreasonable amount that in a normal world should be mostly picked up by the state since local jails are now forced to house prisoners that were previously the state’s responsibility. If we had responsible state solons instead of the ciphers we have — Assemblyman Jim Wood and State Senator Mike McGuire — they’d have already been working to spend a small amount of the state’s surplus on this jail cost overrun. And the Board would have been pressuring them. But no, instead we get silence from our supposed representatives, and budget whining from the Supervisors.”
But despite that general agreement back then, nobody followed up.
Gjerde’s remarks finally provided some clarity that the Board hadn’t previously understood:
Gjerde: “Each time the cost of the jail expansion project has gone up, and I’m not even necessarily directing this to anybody in the room right now, the presentation to the Board has been, ‘Here’s the new incremental extra cost. It’s just another $blank; it’s just another $blank.’ And it’s only been in the last six months, mostly because some of us on the Board have been articulating this, that, Wait a second. Take a step back. Let’s look at the big picture. This is a state program to realign state prisoners into County jails. I’m glad that we are finally getting our act together and preparing a timeline and a budget showing the cost increase and how much of this is attributed to state inaction and how much is County inaction. It looks like the vast majority is on the state side. But I feel that County staff who are responsible for projects like this that balloon out of control, we need to step it up and not just throw this on to the Board’s lap and say, Just come up with another $blank million out of the General Fund. We do not have those dollars in the General fund.”
With Gjerde’s assessment as a prod, the Board finally got around to directing Board Chair Glenn McGourty to write a letter to the state including Senator McGuire and Assemblyman Wood, telling them that the State should be picking up a larger share of their project and not just accept the architect’s insistence that there was a cap on the original jail expansion grant. Unfortunately, as usual, no dates or deadlines were imposed.
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COUNTY CEO DARCIE ANTLE made a positive impression on the Unity Club women during her appearance Thursday afternoon. According to our sources Antle was blunt in extemporaneous remarks about the problems she inherited from her predecessor and told the Club members that the County was too top-heavy in administrators while being understaffed at the line-worker level in several departments; adding the County’s high vacancy rate was worsened by the Mendo-version of the “Great Resignation.” Antle also said there she was having to deal with a lot of institutional inertia making things hard to improve. She singled out disaster preparedness as one subject that needs immediate attention. “We are not ready for an emergency,” Antle declared. Antle also said that she was frustrated by the individual agendas from members of her Board of Supervisors who seemed to want things which are at cross purposes to other Supervisors. No budget or management questions were asked. But the impression CEO Antle gave most of the attendees was that she’s an improvement over her predecessor and seems willing to deal with County-related problems that may arise from Anderson Valley.
COUNTY OF MENDOCINO ADDED TO MAJOR DISASTER DECLARATION For The 2022-2023 Winter Storms. Public And Individual Assistance Approved
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in partnership with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), and Mendocino County Disaster Recovery and OES have been tracking, documenting, and verifying storm damages for several weeks with the goal of bringing additional recovery resources to Mendocino County.
As of February 2, 2023, the County of Mendocino has been added to the major disaster declaration for California’s severe storms and flooding. The County has been approved for both Public Assistance and Individual Assistance to support recovery efforts related to damage and/or losses from the storms that began on December 27, 2022.
The County is currently working with State and Federal partners to establish Disaster Recovery Centers. FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are accessible facilities and mobile offices you can visit to learn more about FEMA and other disaster assistance programs.
Additional information will be released as soon as specific details become available.
BONNIE RAITT is an artist with deep ties to the North Coast. Her younger brother David Raitt came to Mendocino County in 1972 and quickly started performing in the local music scene. He ran a successful yurt-building business, and on occasion toured with big sister playing the harmonica. David Raitt and his band the New Mendocino All-Stars became widely known. Sister Bonnie was a frequent visitor. She sang at protests to protect Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County and performed at campaign fundraisers for then Congressman Dan Hamburg, D-Ukiah. (Mike Geniella)
BETH BOSK: We have to start taking the elections for KZYX board members more seriously. Last month, the candidate for the 5th District seat on the Board (Dina Polkinghome), ran unopposed, without any indication to 5th district members, of her intention to collaborate with the soon-to-be-out-of-here station manager, to get rid of Alicia Littletree. The station manager cancelled the election. Polkinghorne was immediately seated, became Board Chair, and within days, Alicia was sacked. During the first Open Lines discussion of Alicia's firing, (which of the two women hosted together ) the pair giggled about the fact "regulations prohibited them from talking about "why" Alicia was abruptly fired by the station manager. This manager is a carpetbagger: she's has been on the job 3 years and she's off to somewhere else next month. And unless there is another uproar, we are stuck with Dina Polkinghorne representing the 5th for another 4 years. To contact 5th district chair of the KZYX Board of Directors, you can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org … I'd appreciate a telephone number for her.
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The only thing that is really important here - and the one thing you repeatedly leave out - a well respected member of our COMMUNITY radio station, was suddenly fired without notice and without appeal and now has has no way of earning a living.
And how, in the name of all things Sacred, do you alone know it was necessary? Please share your inside info.
And a word to the Wise: Telling people to calm down when they feel someone they care for is being hurt is the most incendiary thing you can do.
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During the KZYX zoom Board Meeting on Monday night I was anxious to respond. I tried to get on the public input list. Somehow I was not able to get on. Afterwards I realized that it was a blessing of a kind, since my initial reaction to the public response was somewhere between deep disappointment and outright rage. Having had a few days to think, I am in a better place to respond: Once again, as with the MCN listserv, I heard people making assumptions, accusations and personal attacks entirely directed to Marty Durlin without, again, any real knowledge of what occurred that inspired the dismissal of Alicia. Did anyone notice that no one offered a defense, no board member, not Marty, no one from the public? To be fair there were a few statements of appreciation, followed by disappointment, anger and outrage. The reason is the system is designed to protect people (Alicia) and their (her) privacy. This is the appropriate and correct protocol. This is also designed to protect Admin staff as well. Please remember that Marty hired Alicia, supported her, encouraged her and has acknowledged the good work she did on many levels, and when it became necessary, let her go. At the same time Marty guided the station through numerous fundraising campaigns, the search for a new location (because trees do continue to grow), and managed all the other huge responsibilities that have brought us to the place we were, before the firing of Alicia. Marty did not do this alone, of course. To hear longtime programmers attack her made me furious, seemingly forgetful of the height of positive response, funds raised and general progress in programming, as if -- since Alicia was an important part of the progress -- now that she is gone, all this will disappear. Based on What? There is no reason to think that KZYX will now abandon the Hispanic community, the Native American community, the emergency/fire/weather reports, etc, that people depend on and enjoy. Or perhaps they think they can go to The Coast, or The Skunk for this kind of programming. Don't know. We have a wonderful, vibrant, powerful radio station. Let's all calm down and move forward. Please.
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RESPONSE TO KZYK BOARD OF DIRECTORS PUBLIC MEETING
Liz Helenchild wrote:
Beth [Bosk]: While I join you & many other KZYX listeners/members/supporters in feeling shock, anger, & sadness re the abrupt firing of Alicia Bales (the name she now uses), also in exasperation with the lack of transparency re personnel/personal decisions, I think your assumption of collusion is unreasonable. Can you, a seasoned journalist, share any inside information? The problem is structural, I think. We need serious inquiry into changing the game toward more open communication between KZYX deciders & the public. Though distressed & mystified that a GM on her way out would make such a radical change, I object to name-calling. On every level of public discourse, we see that divisiveness does not further, only creates more heat than light.
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MARCO MCCLEAN here. Beth can't share information she can't get, and she can't get it because, as you're right in implying, Mendocino County so-called Public Broadcasting Corporation is opaque. Two pages of faked-up lists of numbers once a year is not financial disclosure. Twenty minutes of kindergarten-teacher-moderated open lines every three or four months is not open engagement, nor is an answering machine for suggestions to the manager, nor is an email address for the secretary of the board any substitute for two-way communication with decisionmakers, nor is private communication with anyone with any power any good at all. Three minutes of tinny, staticky expostulation on a Zoom board meeting is not a freewheeling conversation on the air with anyone interested in sharing secrets with the public.
Either it's a public organization or it's a private one. If it's private, why keep pretending it's not. Advertisements are advertisements even if you call them underwriting. Last time I looked, the KZYX website is still suggesting that underwriting shows gets your business' name and message out there. They're not going to put anything on the air that pisses off the money. They're only going to allow things on the air that they're sure can never piss off the money. How is that different from commercial radio, where they're at least honest about it. You pay them to say nice things about you and never confuse you as to nuance, and they say nice things about you and that's that. Same thing. Radio can be much more than that, and should.
And if it's public let's see the books. Every electronic and paper page of them. For a third of a century Mendocino County Public Broadcasting has been vanishing two or three times the money it really costs to maintain the place. That amounts to at least ten or twelve million dollars by now that nobody has any idea where it went except the people who squirreled it away and retired early on it. It might be in failed weed farms or the stock market, or bitcoin anymore. It might be anywhere. Probably a lot of it is in a couple of wine cellars in the form of spoiled grape juice.
This latest firing kerfuffle is just like all the other kerfuffles in the past. There was the manager/newsguy who had a nervous breakdown, the comic-noir screaming office three-way romance blowup, the child molestation in the deejay-chair scandal, the new-age cult promotion, the manager who billed the corporation for her collection of old records she didn't wanta take with her when she moved, the weed-talk censorship purges, Gordon Black blocking the door against the Bari hordes, the way managers sit on the bubbling situation as long as they can stand it and then flee like the wind every six months or a year or two and the machine sticks in another one just like the other one. How long has the latest manager lasted, two years? three years? That might be a record for the place. And people who have their hobby show that they like to do or like to listen to, who have things the way they want them, go, shut up about that; be nice! This is our community station, not the offensive pissers' and moaners', just shut up! and people who want to add features or put something experimental and alive on the air, something that might be a little edgy, something that might let some light into the dark cobwebby corners, get walled out and shut out until they get tired and go away. And nothing ever changes. A handful of people in the office keep sucking hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the station for themselves every year; another couple of hundred thousand dollars vanish in a puff of smoke every year; the really quite small expenses of radio are covered by government grants and the largesse of rich self-greenwashing corporations and families. And the airpeople, the ones doing what the station is there to do in the first place, or at least going through the motions of it, are paid nothing for all their essential work, the real work, doing radio, which has always been an afterthought, if that, to MCPB Corp. And so KZYX goes on being just so much harmless dumb genially-stoned-sounding happy bullshit for old trust-fund babies, sucking up all the local public radio money, lying to paying members that they have any voice at all in decisions, squatting on three frequencies, blanketing the county, breathing up all the air in the room, a perfect example of the message and last page of Animal Farm.
Liz, the story is that Alicia got a bum deal. But look at her history. Did she really? Suppose this is that part in the 3D chess game where she does end up being the next manager of KZYX, the way she got in charge of the MEC and KMEC, and look at how she screwed those pooches. The cabal behind her, just as manipulative and oppressive and authoritarian and censorious as the people they imagine they bravely oppose, will self-destruct from the cognitive dissonance and glee of it, and that'll be the next kerfuffle, in 2024 or '25. Someone like Beth or Sakowicz will tell the tenth of the damning truth that was left dangling outside when the door slammed, like the tip of a dirty sock, and you and Sally and A.M. Stenberg will tell them to be civil and sweet and knock it off with the meanness, and someone flicks the lights off and back on and it all starts all over again, and I sit here for ten minutes and write this.
I was driving Juanita to work today. She was doing her calligraphy project and periodically psychically reading the road and telling me which lane to get in, in case I was daydreaming and might miss the offramp, and I was daydreaming-- partly organizing my sleep dreams of last night to type them quicker later, partly humming a Tim Minchin song from one of his live shows that's been playing in my head lately when I wake up, that I'll be playing for a break in my KNYO show Friday night, but also thinking about a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon from forty years ago, where there's a herd of cows in a field, placidly, dully grazing. One cow looks up, startled, and shouts, “Hey, this is grass! We've all been eating grass!” There isn't anything after that, but one can imagine that none of the other cows so much as twitched at this revelation and the cow who spoke put its head back down and resumed eating grass. Speaking of which, the microwave just pinged. Ramen (and included flavor packet), with lots of added red onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers, spinach, meatballs; and you put the frozen peas in last so they pop when you chew. Yum, it's so good.
While I'm here, I might as well mention: KNYO-LP Fort Bragg has had a disaster. We're still on the air, just not as high in the air, because the early January storm flattened our organic tower. KNYO needs $5,000 to get back up to full height and reach which, being a low power (LP) station is not far to begin with, so that's important. Unlike any other radio station you know of, at KNYO not a single penny of what you donate goes to someone running the station. It all goes to keep the station on the air. Please go to KNYO.org and click on the big red heart and help out. Whether you help or not, I'll be reading all kinds of stories all Friday night there, just like I have for the last 26 years at KNYO and, for awhile, KMEC, and before that, KMFB. Email me anything you want me to read on the radio, and then tune in and hear what it sounds like. This is a method of unfolding the writer that you are. And there are other shows. Go to KNYO.org and look at the schedule. Consider doing a show of your own. It's easy and fun.
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LARRY SHEEHY: I'm a Sustaining Member of KZYX and I totally agree with Beth.
And I feel there should be a campaign to convert the station's operation to a democratically run non-profit, which the Sustainable Economies Law Center has resources to help make it happen. I've shared a lot about this need (for non-profits to operate democratically) here on FB and will add a link in comments soon.
Another local (Mendo Co) non-profit I'd like to see do this is the Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op....
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BRUCE ANDERSON: I didn't hear any giggling from Ms. Durlin or Ms. Polkinghorne during their open lines discussion of recent staff events, although the only event a small minority of people is interested in is Ms. Durlin's firing of Alicia Bales. KZYX was structured to be self-selecting by station founder Sean Donovan. Since the station is majorly tax-funded, why not make its elections open to everyone in the county, a truly democratic means to at least a partially democratic end? But KZYX is a closed shop, always has been and always will be. Try to get a true budget outta the place, or an answer to the basic question of why a small radio station needs a boss and a program person?) The few exchanges I've had with Ms. Polkinghorne I've found her to be responsive, candid and friendly, which has rarely been my experience with the rest of the church mice who've dominated the thing over the years. Not relevant here, but I've also admired for years Ms. Polkinghorne's work with Project Sanctuary.
ANDERSON VALLEY BEER FESTIVAL, APRIL 29, 2023
Coming to the Mendocino County Fairgrounds
Annual Beer Fest -Saturday- April 29, 2023
Camping available at the fairgrounds!
This is a 21 and over ONLY Event
No Reservations, first come first serve
Cost – Cash Only: $25 per night, per person
Campers, Trailers & RV’s - $70 per night, includes 2 people
For Beer Fest information go to avbc.com
FOLLOWING up on an intriguing rumor that ‘The Land’ was about to host the homeless, I wondered if ‘The Land’ was ‘The Land’ as I dimly recalled a property thus designated in Albion. Checking with Supervisor Williams who promptly clarified that there was ‘The Lord's Land on Navarro Ridge,’ a Christian retreat, and there was ‘The Land’ at the west end of Ray's Road, Philo. I can easily imagine Christians trying to help the homeless, but the Philo ‘Land’ seems much more representative of contemporary narcissism, up-market division, than a likely charitable operation:
“Sophisticated stays nestled in nature, farm-to-table food, 162 acres to explore, new yoga studio, and a world-class caring staff. The Land is the ultimate place to re-boot, connect, and create.”
I LOVE that claim of a "world-class caring staff." Who's in that contest? What are the standards?
AL SHARPTON'S EULOGY Wednesday in Memphis for the police murder of Tyre Nichols was quite moving, the old shakedown artist at his best. But the murder of a harmless, non-thug young guy raises questions about how urban police departments go about their daily business of policing neighborhoods dominated by minorities of violently estranged black people, adrift in a crumbling society that leaves lots of people scrambling for all the cool stuff they see other people enjoying.
THE MEMPHIS COPS who beat Nichols to death were a specialized unit called the Scorpions, and you can be sure the Scorpions had been knocking the crappola outta people since their inception, the implicit instruction given to them by department supervisors being, “Goddamit, get out there and do what you have to be to keep these punks from taking over. They're outta hand. The mayor and the city council are on my ass to do something about street crime.”
ALL CITIES have versions of the Scorpions, because when violent push comes to violent shove, large, violent men are required to deal with equivalently violent people. San Francisco has a unit like the Scorpions, so does Oakland, although neither city is likely to admit it. As it unravels, late stage capitalism is more and more dependent on overt violence to protect itself, correct?
SAN FRANCISCO'S VERSION of Memphis's Scorpions used to be called the Tac Squad, maybe thirty to forty large, badged psychos who truly relished beating people up, wielding hardwood fungo-like clubs to do it. Why, they almost converted me into a long fly ball several times when I was part of peaceful (mostly) demonstrations in Baghdad by the Bay. Men, women, elderly, handicapped demonstrators — didn't matter. If you didn't move fast you got clubbed, and often not even arrested. I saw an obvious tourist — suit and tie, camera around his neck — get it one night out in front of the posh Mark Hopkins Hotel when he came outside to watch the mayhem. Frisco paid a lotta claims for the excesses of the Tac Squad, which undoubtedly still exists under some harmless euphemism like “Community Harmony Unit.”
A RETIRED SF policeman told me that he'd been invited to join the Tac Squad. “I turned them down. I didn't want to drive around all night with a bunch of fat guys beating people up.”
ESTHER MOBELY: In case you hadn’t heard (but I’m sure you have, if you’re reading this newsletter), the wine industry is having a tough time attracting younger drinkers. In North Bay Business Journal, Jeff Quackenbush reports on two instances in which wine companies have successfully bucked this trend. One examples is Wente Vineyards in Livermore, which has expanded its customer base beyond just the boomer generation by changing its marketing strategy. Another wine counterfeiting operation has been brought down, reports Suzanne Mustacich in Wine Spectator. Law enforcement discovered more than 40,000 fake bottles of wines such as Penfolds and Chateau Lafite Rothschild in warehouses in China’s Fujian province.
MARIJUANA, 3 ON-LINE COMMENTS:
(1) The truth be told is that Humboldt and Mendocino Counties waged a 50 year cultural genocide against the back to the land movement and cannabis cultivators exclusively. How many crying babies were ripped from their mothers arms, how many children were stolen away from their parents and placed in the local pedophile foster cares programs by social services just because their parents grew a little cannabis. How many people had their doors busted down by paramilitary predators who would point guns at children and families and our local elderly. How many peoples constitutional rights were violated by these same paramilitary forces who would break down our doors and steal our money and valuables, rob us of our safe’s, cut up our water lines and drain our water tanks in the middle of a drought. How many times their helicopters scared and spooked our livestock, scared our children and left our hearts racing. They are predators. They are violent aggressors. They are child abusers and abusers of elderly and animals. They have no morals, scruples or real community values. They do not care about our community, their only goal was to rob and steal and fill their pockets with our hard earned money which they would steal from our houses during their raids. How many people had the aggressors drain their diesel tanks on the ground contaminating the soil and streams then they were charged with environmental crimes, and these aggressors will lie in reports, lie to the judge for search warrants, and lie in court under oath. The politicians who deep deep down hate cannabis and hated cannabis culture and hated the back to the landers all had their hand in this aggression. They gave the men with guns badges, they gave these low life thieves badges to protect them while they stole and looted from our families and destroyed our local economy. They ended the war on cannabis? No, they just found administrative means to harm the community more and extract every last dollar they could out of the people they persecuted for 50 years. The Humboldt County Government and the Mendocino County government are pure evil and purely out to rob our local cannabis farmers and cannabis community. They don’t give a damn about us, and even more they hate us and want to destroy our culture economy and to force us out of the hills from the subdivisions in the mountains they never wanted us to live in to begin with. The Supervisors are the worst kind of cruel, now they are doing the same thing to our areas poor and financially disadvantaged, look at that shit show at Creekside Cabins north of Willits, they County chose the most expensive way with no heart or love to handle an emergency situation, then they are now going after the natural disaster victims property.
These Supervisors are scum and there is a special place in hell for people like them.
(2) Cultural genocide? You mean the culture where ex-cons, meth addicts and wannabe marijuana millionaires flocked to the Emerald Triangle to grow as much weed as they could while trashing the environment? Or the culture where wage theft, sex trafficking and murder were all ignored or covered up? The original back to the landers had an environmental and community ethic that was often not shared by succeeding generations and newcomers.
(3) An old hippie who has been here since the 70’s once told me something funny. He said that as a weed grower, you will always encounter haters, even if you’re the nicest, most giving person in the world. Do you know why? Because they hate our lifestyle. They hate our freedom. They are jealous whether they know it or not. Once you have your own land, you grow your own food, provide your own living, and do what you want when you want, then you are free. They are stuck in their 9-5 as a cog in society and despise our freedom. So be careful who you tell things to, you don’t know when a hater will drop a dime.
RIDING SHOTGUN INTO MENDOCINO
by Wilma Tucker
Until the 1870s, the Mendocino coast was isolated except for the schooners that sailed between San Francisco and Eureka. Travel inland was on foot or by horseback over narrow ridge trails worn by the local native peoples. During the 1860s, roads began to be built between Mendocino and Ukiah and Mendocino and Cloverdale. According to Elsa E. Thompson’s 1973 Early Settlers of Comptche Along Its Many Roads, “The Low Gap Road was built in 1874 by William Heeser of Mendocino, owner of The Mendocino Beacon.” It was first called Heeser Road and it was said that Mr. Heeser walked the entire area in order to determine where the best location and grades were.
By 1886, several stagecoaches arrived in Mendocino each day. Early editions of The Mendocino Beacon tell us that the stages were the large four-seated variety drawn by either four- or six-horse teams. They seated 12 people, with two riding on top with the driver. A later Beacon article reported that “The Mendocino and Ukiah Stage Company commenced this week to run two-horse stages instead of four as heretofore, and as a consequence, stages arrived later.”
As for passenger comfort (or lack of it), besides the closeness of the quarters, there was the ceaseless rocking of the coach. It rested on a suspension system of two long leather straps that were anchored to the coach at the front and rear axles; this created a ship-like motion as the stagecoach heaved and plunged along steep roads that had little grading. The passengers rode three abreast, squeezed into back and middle rows, both facing forward, and into a forward row, facing rearward. The facing passengers in the forward and middle rows had to ride with their knees dovetailed. The passengers rode with baggage on their laps and mail pouches beneath their feet.
Because the stages carried gold, there were many robberies in Mendocino County during these years. In fact, the county has sometimes been called one of the lawless parts of the West. Interestingly, according to Laura Hopper Sankey in Mendocino Beginnings, the last shooting holdup in the county, in March of 1903, was on the Ukiah Road about 26 miles east of Mendocino. The coach was attacked by a lone highwayman who shot and killed one man, but the driver, Harry Owsley, drove the horses to a gallop and carried the treasure box to safety. The robber was never caught.
Driving three or four sets of horses over the narrow, bumpy mountain roads was no easy task. Added to that, the driver had to manage his team in all kinds of weather. In summer, the air was so clouded with dust that driving was dangerous. In winter, the roads were full of mud and the stagecoach wheels might sink up to the hub.
Stagecoach drivers were highly respected for their ability to handle the horses and, although many were regarded as characters (some enjoyed that role and took pains to live up to it), all were well aware of their responsibilities. They had to have sound judgment and a capacity for quick decisions. Was there a highwayman just around that next bend?
Some “rules of the road” when traveling by stagecoach were:
- Don’t grease your hair because travel is dusty.
- Don’t swear or flop over your neighbors when sleeping (if you can sleep).
- Never shoot on the road as the noise might frighten the horses.
- If the team runs away with the coach, stay put and take your chances. If you jump, you will get hurt.
- If you have anything to drink in a bottle, pass it around.
- But in very cold weather abstain from liquor because you will freeze twice as quickly when under the influence.
- Don’t complain about the food at the way station.
- Spit on the leeward side.
- Expect annoyances, extreme discomfort, and possible holdups.
(The Kelley House Museum is open from 11am to 3pm, Thursday-Sunday. Questions or requests for appoitnments for Curator: email@example.com. Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Museum regularly. Tour schedule and more at www.kelleyhousemuseum.org/walking-tours/)
CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, February 2, 2023
CIMARRON AYERS, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
SHANE BRITTON, Covelo. Rape with force, violence, duress or menace, assault with intent to rape, burgalry, criminal threats, false imprisonment, witness intimidation.
SOPHIA GONZALES. Lakeport/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
CHAD HAKE, Willits. Burglary tools, appropriation of lost property.
JOSHUA HARDAGE-VERGEER, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
SHANNON KIDD, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, parole violation.
ERIC KOTILA, Fort Bragg. Grand theft, vandalism, conspiracy.
JAMES LANIK-SMITH, Temecula/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
JONATHAN SANCHEZ, Fort Bragg. Grand theft, vandalism, conspiracy.
TORREY THURMAN, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, parole violation.
MAYA WINEBRENNER, Ukiah. Domestic battery, cruelty to child-infliction of injury, protective order violation, petty theft.
I want to thank journalists Marisa Endicott and Andrew Graham for their human story about the possession and impounding of a van from a young couple who now need $3,000 they don't have to get it back ("Homes towed away," Jan. 22). As Stalin was supposed to have said, a million deaths are a statistic; one death is a tragedy.
We live in a place where single-family zoning remains unchallenged and ends up in a building policy that satisfies the needs of the top 20% of the income market; where 3,000 unhoused people get rained on for 24 days; where a young teacher will apparently never be able to buy a home here; where satisfied NIMBYs shout down any proposal to build low-income housing because of fears "the wrong element" will threaten the resale value of their homes; where the police are used to forcefully remove the unhoused from encampments, or have their single means of safety (vans) hijacked to satisfy some kind of legal, but clearly immoral goal.
It's more than sad; it's about a broken housing policy and lack of leadership — supervisors, the business community, NIMBYs, our religious institutions remain silent. We've seen a recent president who displays no shame. Leave Florida, Donald, come visit Sonoma County and Santa Rosa.
HOW A SMALL LAKE COUNTY FARM BECAME NORTH AMERICA’S LARGEST SAFFRON PRODUCER
by Diane Peterson
Peace & Plenty Farm, located in the shadow of Mt. Konocti just 4 miles outside downtown Kelseyville, is a bit off the beaten track.
Even so, it had everything Melinda Price and Simon Avery were looking for five years ago when they decided to become first-time farmers of saffron, a niche crop worth its weight in gold.
“This was a 7.3-acre horse ranch,” said Price, looking every bit the farm girl in brown overalls and boots on a drizzly mid-October day. “I moved from San Francisco and Simon moved from Chico. I was looking for quiet and good air.”
Saffron is the dried stigma of an autumn-blooming purple crocus, Crocus sativus. The bright red threads growing out of each flower’s style have been prized since antiquity as a dye, a health remedy and a culinary spice.
“The first people to use it were the Persians, and they used it to dye textiles,” Price said. “And then someone smelled it or drank it and started cooking with it. … There are also theories that this strain of crocus only grows wild in Crete.”
The ancient Greeks used the spice to scent and purify their temples. Alexander the Great is said to have bathed in saffron water to heal battle wounds during his campaign through Persia. Buddhist monks in India began wearing saffron-colored robes more than 2,000 years ago.
As a culinary spice, saffron is often crushed and pressed into service in the places where it is harvested, including Spain, Greece, Morocco, Iran, India and Pakistan.
The Spanish use its golden color in seafood broths and in their national dish, paella. It is essential to the tagines of Morocco and the cherished rice dishes of Iran, and it is equally at home in classic European dishes like Italy’s risotto alla Milanese and Marseille’s bouillabaisse.
Although the Peace & Plenty grows saffron in just two small fields that add up to a quarter acre, the farm is the largest producer of saffron in North America. As a result, the farmers have gotten a lot of publicity for their unusual venture.
Martha Stewart magazine published a “Maker” piece about the farm in the October 2020 issue. This fall, the farmers played host to a PBS film crew who shot the saffron fields for a series that will air this March through May.
“People are surprised we grow saffron,” Price said. “We thought it would help us grow other crops. Now we make a living growing vegetables, and the saffron just gets us attention.”
The Kelseyville farm’s name came from a big wooden quilt above the barn door painted in warm hues of saffron yellow, orange and red. The Amish quilt pattern is known as Peace and Plenty, which seemed perfect to Price, who had been dreaming of becoming a farmer for two decades while working in San Francisco and raising her daughter.
“Meeting Simon was the key,” she said. “He worked in conservation and was an ornithologist for The Nature Conservancy. He also did some construction and land management.”
Amish and Mennonite immigrants, fleeing persecution in western Europe, brought Crocus sativus 300 years ago to the U.S., where its unique flavor became a mainstay of the hearty noodles, dumplings and cakes scenting their kitchens in Eastern Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
“They put it in porridge and bread rolls, and they believe in its health benefits,” Price said. “There are lab studies and research that says saffron helps with mood, fights Parkinson’s disease and cancer and helps with macular degeneration.”
In bloom when everything is dying off Saffron crocuses yield a very limited crop in the first season. But over time, the corms, like bulbs, multiply. Eventually, each corm can push up as many as 18 flowers.
“The one corm you plant in August will become 10 in the spring,” Price said. “All the leaf growth is in the fall and winter. Then it channels the energy into making multiple corms. ... They lose leaves and stay dormant in June, July and August, and then bloom when everything else is dying off.”
But home gardeners should beware: some uneducated gardeners have been posting #saffron photos on Instagram showing other varieties of crocus, so be sure you buy your corms from a trusted source.
“You can only grow the Crocus sativus for culinary use, and the flowers are always purple,” Price said. “The others are poisonous.”
In its first season, the farm produced only 25 grams of saffron, which Price put to good use in her own kitchen, making her favorite winter stew with garbanzo beans swimming in a rich chicken broth flavored with saffron.
“I constantly cook with saffron,” she said. “I love the saffron aioli, as an appetizer with roasted beets ... and I also love saffron with orange vegetables like carrots and butternut squash.”
Although it has a soft flavor profile — floral and sweet, earthy and bitter at the same time — saffron’s taste is highly concentrated. When making soups and stews, you only need a small pinch, crushed and dissolved in hot broth.
The labor-intensive harvest
On that mid-October day, Price was excited as she led a tour of her saffron fields and pointed out a few periwinkle buds already poking their heads out of beds rimmed with gopher wire.
“Rain is great,” she said. “They like moisture starting in the fall, and they need cold nights to get woken up.”
Although growing the flower is fairly simple, the harvest of its tiny threads requires a strong back, precise motor skills and plenty of patience.
This year, Price and Avery started picking at the end of October from the two fields that are now home to about half a million plants. The harvest continues for a few weeks, as new flowers pop up from the corms.
The harvest usually lasts until Thanksgiving, when everyone in Price’s family descends on the Kelseyville farmstead for a homegrown Thanksgiving feast.
“The first year we had everyone here, we ate in the farmstand,” she said. “This year, my plan is to rent heaters and eat early.”
What: Winter Celebration for the end of saffron harvest includes refreshmens such as saffron cookies and saffron hot chocolate and shopping for a selection of farm-grown gifts and goodies. Visitors can walk back to the saffron fields and try to spot a late saffron crocus flower.
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 28
Where: Peace & Plenty Farm, 4550 Soda Bay Road Kelseyville
Information: peaceplentyfarm.com or the farm’s Facebook page. Although the farm welcomes visitors throughout the year, the couple cannot afford to open their doors during the labor-intensive harvest. However, they will invite visitors to the farm for a Winter Celebration on Nov. 28.
During the busy harvest season, the crew starts picking the flowers by hand before dawn, starting as early as 3 a.m. and continuing until 9 a.m., in order to preserve the spice’s strength.
“We pick the flowers when they are closed,” Price said. “As soon as the sun hits the flower, the petals open and the rays leach out the potency. … Saffron losses its potency the longer it sits in the sun.”
The harvest crew must pluck the stigmas from the flowers that same day, either under the walnut trees or in the separate kitchen located next to the house.
“That takes a long time,” Price said. “Then we dry the stigmas in a machine (for about 20 minutes), and we put them in big Mason jars and store them in a dark cupboard (for a few months) to let them cure.”
The curing process helps intensify the flavor, so that by the time the threads are packaged in small glass bottles — half gram bottles are $25 and whole gram bottles are $50 — the spice is at its peak potency.
Peace & Plenty Farm sells the saffron to locals at their farmstand and online across the country. The Boonville Hotel, where chef/partner Perry Hoffman uses it to flavor paella, aioli and other savory dishes, also stocks it on its shelves.
“We’re close to selling out (the 2020 crop) this year,” Price said. “This year’s crop will be ready to sell by February. People can pre-order the 2021 harvest, but I don’t recommend using it until February.”
Why it’s such a pricey spice
Once dry, the saffron threads lose 80% of their weight. That means it takes 150 - 200 flowers to produce a mere gram of spice. That wispy weight and the heavy labor involved in the harvest make the tiny threads worth their weight in gold.
According to The North American Center for Saffron Research and Development at the University of Vermont, saffron fetches about $5,000 per pound retail, making it the most expensive spice in the world.
The farm also includes a walnut orchard that, like the saffron, is certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers. Behind their house, a field of fragrant lavender helps fill the gap between the winter and summer produce.
“It’s a big draw in the summer,” Price said of the lavender. “I make it into sachets, lemonade and cookies to sell at the farmstand.”
In October, the rustic farmstand is lined with jars of pickles, honey, flowers and a few winter vegetables like collards and butternut squash. It also showcases the Peace & Plenty line of loose tea: Golden Slumbers, a soothing blend of chamomile and saffron; Lovely Day, an energizing, mood-boosting blend of cacao and saffron; and Plenty of Peace, a refreshing blend of lavender, chamomile and mint.
“I love making tea,” Price said. “It’s such a nice ritual, and the loose tea is so much better. ”
To help with the farm’s bottom line, the couple also rents out a vintage Airstream trailer with an outdoor shower for farm stays during the warmer months and a small cottage that is dog-friendly.
Meanwhile, when they aren’t digging or watering, Price and Avery enjoy cooking and relaxing in the cozy 1870s farmhouse at the heart of the farm that boasts a soaring ceiling but not much insulation. The home’s kitchen is tiny, but chefs who cook farm-to-table dinners in the summer and fall can work in the bigger work kitchen next to the farmhouse.
The last farm dinner of the season took place Oct. 16, when Chef Arnon Oren of Richmond prepared saffron deviled eggs, a chicory salad with saffron aioli, slow cooked chicken brined in saffron, a ragu of fall vegetables topped with a saffron compound butter and a poached pear galette with saffron ice cream.
“It was perfect,” Price said. “There were about 100 people sitting on hay bales at long tables under the walnut trees.”
In January, the farm will start to slow down a bit, after the busy harvest season. That’s when the couple start planning their new crops and dreaming up the next beautification project. They hope to add a reception area next to the house, with a formal allée lined with crape myrtles.
After that, they have big plans to renovate the historic barn with a new roof and a concrete floor so they can host a handful of weddings each year under its tall rafters.
“We have a resident barn owl, Sleepy Pat,” Price said. “I call it my ag cathedral.”
Crocus sativus, commonly known as saffron, is a perennial stemless herb.
It is in leaf from October to May and in flower in October and November.
The flowers are hermaphrodite (with both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees and butterflies. The plant prefers sandy and loamy soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil.
The flower is made of the three parts that must be separated before drying: the red threads (stigmas), yellow center (stamen) and purple petals. Each part may have monetary value. The stigmas are the saffron; the stamens and petals are sometimes used as a dye.
Records of saffron cultivation and use for culinary and medicinal purposes date back to the Minoan time (3000 - 1450 B.C.) in Crete.
The Pennsylvania Dutch brought saffron to the U.S. 300 years ago, and it is enjoying a renaissance in North America today. Growers across the U.S. and Canada are growing saffron, some for the first time.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world ($5,000 per pound, retail).
Over 25 tons of saffron were imported to the U.S. in 2013.
The North American Center for Saffron Research and Development at the University of Vermont estimated the net revenue per square foot from saffron at $4.03, compared to $3.51 for tomatoes and $1.81 for winter greens.
Saffron is also known for its medicinal properties as an anti-carcinogen and to combat depression and reduce cholesterol.
Three important compounds have been identified in saffron: crocin, which produces the yellow-orange color; picrocrocin, which imparts the characteristic bitter flavor; and safronal, which is responsible for the smell. The goal of the drying process is to maximize these three compounds.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
WHAT COULD MAKE A PERSON DIE FOR TREES?
by Richard Howard
About five years ago, I published a novel called “The Overstory,” the tale of several characters who come together to protect an old-growth forest.
The book follows these characters as they put their lives on the line in increasingly aggressive confrontations against powerful interests in the hope of saving trees. In the story, decent and principled people cross over the edge into retaliatory violence while trying to defend the living world.
Now a similar story is playing out just a four-hour drive from where I live. Atlanta has been shaken by an apparent shootout that occurred two weeks ago when law enforcement officers tried to clear protesters from South River Forest, a wooded area just outside of the city that has been designated as the site for a controversial new police and firefighter training center. A Georgia state trooper has been hospitalized with a bullet in the belly. A 26-year-old protester, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, is dead, gunned down by law enforcement in what they are calling an act of self-defense.
South River Forest is one of Atlanta’s largest, richest and most enjoyable urban woodlands. It borders a predominantly Black, underprivileged neighborhood. The battle for its future erupted over a year ago when the City Council, in a decision met by much public resistance, approved plans for a $90 million, 85-acre training center in the middle of the woods. It would be one of the biggest centers of its kind anywhere in the country, containing not only a shooting range and driving course for practicing high-speed chases, but also an entire simulated village where police would train to conduct raids.
The choice of site could not be more politically charged. The Indigenous Muscogee people, from whom the land was taken 200 years ago, revere that forest, which they know as the Weelaunee. The training center is slated to be built over the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, in operation for much of the 20th century, where decades of human rights abuses took place. And the forest has long been part of an ambitious plan to piece together an ecologically rich greenbelt of protected parkland stretching across southeastern Atlanta and neighboring southwestern DeKalb County, a project that would provide numerous environmental benefits to an increasingly heat-stressed city.
After the City Council approved the project, local environmental and social justice groups joined forces to oppose the decision. Destroying part of South River Forest, they rightly argued, would harm Atlanta’s residents, especially those in the mostly Black neighborhoods nearby. The lush tree cover of South River Forest helps clean and filter Atlanta’s air and water. It provides defense against storm water surges. The trees cool the concrete and buildings that make Atlanta hotter than its surroundings, and they raise the value of surrounding real estate. The diversity of wildlife and the ancient quiet of the groves improve the health of city dwellers in profound ways.
These local activists, joined by protesters from around the country, then took action. Over the past year, they have mounted a largely successful defense of South River Forest, resisting the proposed training center through tree-sitting, blockades, demonstrations and direct confrontation that at times has caused property damage. Two weeks ago, increasingly frustrated law enforcement agencies swept into the woods and tried to shut down the forest defenders. Predictably, the violence spiraled into tragedy.
The kind of fictional disaster I wrote about in “The Overstory” is playing out in fact.
Following the shooting of the state trooper and the death of the protester, the atmosphere in Atlanta is tense. Property in the downtown area stands damaged and dozens of people have been arrested, some held without bond. Idealistic young people building barricades and living in tree houses face charges of domestic terrorism, with the possibility of spending decades in prison. Last Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia declared a state of emergency, empowering him to bring in a thousand National Guard troops who could further escalate the crisis.
The battle over South River Forest is our national crisis in microcosm: environmental anxiety, racial tension and ethnic animosity, the growing gap between rich and poor, concern for public safety, suspicion of the police, the reckoning with our symbols of historical injustice. The issues are complex and do not lend themselves to easy answers.
But there is a solution to the city’s immediate crisis: put the issue of the training center to a public vote. In the short term, a referendum would allow both sides to cool the conflict. In the long term, it offers the best hope for restoring trust in the city. Those who breathe Atlanta’s air and walk its public spaces must decide whether the southeast of their city should remain a living greenbelt or become a state-of-the-art training center.
A citywide vote might seem like an obvious answer to the citywide turmoil. But it could be a hard pill to swallow for both sides. Would a passionate, loosely organized protest movement really stand down if a majority of voters were to decide that they don’t care about the fate of the forest? Could City Hall, keenly aware of the vast amount of outside money committed to the training center, be big enough to walk back its prior decision and accept the wishes of Atlanta at large?
The issue of a police training center in the South River Forest could be put to a public vote.
A referendum is a risky approach for all parties. And the practical challenges would be considerable: Not only would the City Council have to suspend its approval of the plan, but the referendum also would have to bridge two counties — DeKalb, where the forest and the neighborhood bordering it are, and Fulton, home to most of Atlanta. But in a city divided by fatal confrontation, only the will of the majority has the moral force to resolve the showdown.
A character in my novel “The Overstory” comes to realize that nothing in this living world has an independent existence. As she puts it, “Everything in the forest is the forest.” Atlanta will always be a wild mix of people whose interests could not be more different. And yet everyone in Atlanta is Atlanta. All those whose city is at stake should be allowed to choose what happens to South River Forest. As with America at large, the only way forward is into that tangled woods we call democracy. It’s still alive. Use it.
(New York Times)
UKRAINE, THURSDAY, 2 FEBRUARY
Kramatorsk received a fresh barrage of Russian missiles on Thursday — after a strike Wednesday killed at least three people in the eastern Ukrainian city. CNN heard the first incoming strike and saw the second attack, with two impacts about one minute apart.
Ukrainian officials are warning that Russia is preparing a renewed offensive, mobilizing troops and ramping up its bombardment, to mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion.
Ukrainian authorities have conducted anti-corruption searches across the country and Volodymyr Zelensky has promised "new reforms," as the president prepares to meet with Ursula von der Leyen and other EU officials in a Kyiv summit Friday.
KYIV, Ukraine — Andrew Milburn, a former American Marine colonel and leader of the Mozart Group, stood in a chilly meeting room on the second floor of an apartment building in Kyiv about to deliver some bad news. In front of him sat half a dozen men who had traveled to Ukraine on their own dime to work for him.
“Guys, I’m gutted,” he said. “The Mozart Group is dead.”
The men stared back at him with blank faces.
One asked as he walked toward the door, “What should I do with my helmet?”
The Mozart Group, one of the most prominent, private American military organizations in Ukraine, has collapsed under a cloud of accusations ranging from financial improprieties to alcohol-addled misjudgments. Its struggles provide a revealing window into the world of foreign volunteer groups that have flocked to Ukraine with noble intentions only to be tripped up by the stresses of managing a complicated enterprise in a war zone.
“I’ve seen this happen many times,” said one of Mozart’s veteran trainers, who, like many others, spoke only anonymously out of concerns that the Russians might target him. “You got to run these groups like a business. We didn’t do that.”
Hundreds if not thousands of foreign veterans and volunteers have passed through Ukraine. Many of them, like Mr. Milburn and his group, are hard-living men who have spent their adult lives steeped in violence, solo fliers trying to work together in a very dangerous environment without a lot of structure or rules.
The Mozart Group thrived at first, training Ukrainian troops, rescuing civilians from the front lines and raising more than a million dollars in donations to finance it all. But then the money began to run out.
After months struggling to hold itself together, Mozart was plagued by defections, infighting, a break-in at its office headquarters and a lawsuit filed by the company’s chief financial officer, Andrew Bain, seeking the ouster of Mr. Milburn.
The lawsuit, filed in Wyoming, where Mozart is registered as a limited liability company, is a litany of petty and serious allegations, accusing Mr. Milburn among other things of making derogatory comments about Ukraine’s leadership while “significantly intoxicated,” letting his dog urinate in a borrowed apartment and “diverting company funds” and other financial malfeasance.
The State of the War
In the East: Russian forces are ratcheting up pressure on the beleaguered city of Bakhmut, pouring in waves of fighters to break Ukraine’s resistance in a bloody campaign aimed at securing Moscow’s first significant battlefield victory in months.
Mercenary Troops: Tens of thousands of Russian convicts have joined the Wagner Group to fight alongside the Kremlin’s decimated forces. Here is how they have fared.
Sidestepping Sanctions: Russian trade appears to have largely bounced back to where it was before the invasion of Ukraine, as the country’s neighbors and allies step in to fill the gaps left by Western restrictions.
Military Aid: After weeks of tense negotiations, Germany and the United States announced they would send battle tanks to Ukraine. But the tanks alone won’t help turn the tide, and Kyiv has started to press Western officials on advanced weapons like long-range missiles and fighter jets.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I’m flawed,” said Mr. Milburn, who acknowledged in an interview that he had been drinking when he made the comments on Ukraine. “We all are.” But he denied the more serious allegations about financial improprieties, calling them “utterly ridiculous.”
When Mr. Milburn showed up in Ukraine in early March last year, the capital, Kyiv, was seemingly on the precipice. Russian forces were blasting their way in from the suburbs and Ukraine was rushing thousands of inexperienced soldiers to the front.
That’s when, through a mutual friend, Mr. Milburn, 59, met Mr. Bain, 58. Also a former Marine colonel, Mr. Bain had been working in media and marketing in Ukraine for more than 30 years. “The Two Andys,” as Mozart employees would come to call them, shared a vision of doing whatever they could to help Ukraine win the war.
Mr. Milburn, whose career has tracked America’s wars of the past three decades, from Somalia to Iraq, had both the combat experience and the contacts. He counts Marine heavyweights like the author Bing West and a former defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, as friends.
Mr. Bain had the organization. For eight years, since Russia invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, he had been running the Ukrainian Freedom Fund, a charity he set up that turned donations into desperately needed gear for the Ukrainian military.
The two founded Mozart, the name a saucy response to the Russian mercenary force that uses the name of another famous composer, the Wagner Group. They also ran a short-lived podcast called “Two Marines in Kyiv.”
But they had very different styles. Mr. Milburn is gregarious, comfortable in the spotlight — he wrote a searing memoir — and by his own admission, hot tempered. Mr. Bain, who studied classics at Yale, is more reserved and cerebral.
The U.S. says Russia isn’t complying with the two countries’ last remaining nuclear arms control treaty. From the beginning, there were tensions, both said. “For 30 minutes he’s the most charming man in the world,” Mr. Bain said of Mr. Milburn. “But at minute 31, you’re like, ‘Wait, something’s not working back there.’”
Mr. Milburn said that while he did not want to insult Mr. Bain, “the facts speak for themselves, and I can’t give any more insights into his character than what he’s done.”
With the Ukrainian military desperate for all the Western support it could get, Mozart quickly expanded from a handful of combat vets to more than 50 employees from a dozen countries. The group’s two specialties became last-chance extractions of civilians trapped on the front lines, which was extremely dangerous work, and condensed military training.
As spring passed to summer, more Ukrainian military units asked Mozart for training. But the Ukrainians could not pay for it, leaving Mozart reliant on a small pool of steady donors, including a group of East Coast financiers with Jewish-Ukrainian roots and a Texas tycoon.
Everyone involved said it became stressful just making payroll. And several employees said that the way the money flowed into the organization, which was overseen by Mr. Bain, was opaque.
“I can’t tell you how many people would come up to me at a party and said, “Hey, Marty, I love what you’re doing. I want to give you $10,000,” said Martin Wetterauer, one of Mr. Milburn’s old Marine friends and Mozart’s operations chief. “But we would never know if the money actually came in.”
Mr. Bain said he did absolutely nothing wrong and provided financial information whenever it was asked for, which was rare.
On top of that, the people Mozart hired were not the easiest to manage. Many were grizzled combat vets who admitted to struggling with PTSD and heavy drinking. When they weren’t working, they gravitated to Kyiv’s strip clubs, bars and online dating.
“There was a lot of cursing, a lot of womanizing, a lot of things you wouldn’t want to take to mass,” said another trainer, Rob.
In September, they lost an important funding stream when a charity called Allied Extract decided to use less expensive Ukrainian teams to rescue civilians. By November, Mozart was so short of cash that Mr. Milburn, Mr. Bain and Mr. Wetterauer gave up their salaries of several hundred dollars a day.
Mr. Bain, who owned 51 percent of the company then approached Mr. Milburn, who held the other 49 percent, about separating, both men said in interviews. Mr. Bain asked Mr. Milburn to pay $5 million to buy him out but Mr. Milburn refused, saying there was no way he could come up with such a sum. The two soon stopped talking.
On Dec. 11, a Sunday morning, Mr. Milburn and a couple of employees went to the company’s headquarters, housed in a Kyiv building Mr. Bain owns, to retrieve winter jackets, body armor and some personal luggage locked in a storeroom.
When a security guard refused to let them in, one of Mr. Milburn’s men pinned him against a wall while Mr. Milburn kicked down the door. He later said they needed the gear for missions in Donbas, the eastern Ukraine region under relentless Russian attack. Image Members of the Mozart Group trying to convince residents of Soledar, in eastern Ukraine, to evacuate during intense shelling last summer. Members of the Mozart Group trying to convince residents of Soledar, in eastern Ukraine, to evacuate during intense shelling last summer.Credit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times
Not long after that, a clip of Mr. Milburn disparaging Ukraine’s leadership circulated widely on social media. “I happen to have a Ukraine flag tied to my bag, but I’m not, ‘Oh my God, Ukraine is so awesome,’” he said. “I understand that there are plenty of screwed-up people running Ukraine.”
The clip was taken from The Team House podcast, in which guests are invited into a living room setting to drink hard liquor with the hosts. “Of course I shouldn’t have said that,” Mr. Milburn acknowledged.
As soon as Mr. Bain filed the lawsuit on Jan. 10, an internecine social media battle exploded. Mr. Bain published the allegations on Mozart’s Facebook page, which he controls, and Mr. Milburn fired back nasty comments about Mr. Bain from Mozart’s LinkedIn page, which he controls.
“It was like a domestic dispute,” Rob said.
But of more than half a dozen employees interviewed for this article, all expressed sympathy for Mr. Milburn. Even after the final meeting, on Tuesday, several said he was an inspiring leader and they were waiting to see if he could raise the funds to put them back to work.
Mr. Milburn has rented a new office in Kyiv and says he is determined to resurrect the operation.
“I dream of going back to Donbas,” he said. “When you’re out there, and you’re scared, everything else shrinks into the shadows. You’re not thinking about money. You’re not thinking about your reputation.”
But he’s not going back to the front anytime soon.
Wearing a gray sweatshirt, black sweatpants and running shoes, he spent hours this week in front of his laptop. He’s scouting out new business, such as training courses for hostile environments. He’s writing emails to donors.
And he’s talking to his lawyers.