Rainy | Dark Clouds | David Colfax | Stehr Recovering | Panther Basketball | Capsized Boat | Hospital Raid | Skunk Maintenance | 101 Fatality | Suspect Arrested | Thomas Shoemaker | Sloppy Board | Thanksgiving Meal | Sako Hyperbole | Chip Pile | Denis Johnson | Ceramic Sale | Pets Mural | Vocational Education | Mushroom Symposium | Dalton Story | 1942 Schoolgirl | Rainbow Commune | Yesterday's Catch | Cyberworld | Great Failures | Comfort View | Contest Winners | Weaponized AI | Warren Spahn | Censor Targets | Giving Notice | Ukraine | Tlaib Support | Beyahad Nenatzeach | Girls Front | War Crimes | Close Attention
PERIODS OF LIGHT RAIN will continue through the week as the upper level low off the California Coast stalls and eventually moves east. Moderate rain is possible again Friday night and Saturday with dry weather returning late in the weekend. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): On the coast this Humpday morning I have 54F under cloudy skies. Mostly steady rain yesterday brought .52". More rain is forecast to start later this morning, maybe a bit more Thursday, then bigger rains into the weekend. Next week is looking dry at this point.
RAINFALL (past 24 hours): Yorkville 0.60" - Willits 0.58" - Hopland 0.53" - Leggett 0.52" - Laytonville 0.47" - Boonville 0.44" - Ukiah 0.26" - Covelo 0.23"
FORMER SUPERVISOR DAVID COLFAX. Former 5th District supervisor David Colfax died at his Boonville home on Sunday. Full obituary to follow.
CRAIG STEHR ON THE MEND! Is recovering well after surgery, today. He has been moved to the Heart and Vascular Unit at St. Helena where he can be reached at 707 963 6502, ext. 2553.
PANTHER JUNIOR HIGH BASKETBALL off to a fast start with Boys and Girls teams taking wins in Potter Valley!
PLEASURE BOAT CAPSIZES OFF FORT BRAGG COAST; TWO DEAD
On Friday, November 10, 2023 at approximately 3:41 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies responded to the report of a deceased adult male (identified as Charles Case, 58, of Lake County) washed ashore near the Ten Mile Dunes, north of McKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg.
Deputies arrived and determined that Case had been aboard a small pleasure craft that had capsized and also washed ashore, approximately one-half mile north of where Case was located.
Deputies developed information that a second person, identified as Kenneth Silva, 61, of Lake County, was also aboard the vessel when it was launched from Noyo Harbor less than two hours prior.
Over the next 24 hours, the ocean area was searched by the US Coast Guard and the shoreline was checked by California State Park Rangers and Mendocino Sheriff's Search and Rescue volunteers, which was unsuccessful in locating Silva.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies are continuing daily searches with limited in-county resources when they are available.
ISRAELI MILITARY SAYS TROOPS HAVE ENTERED AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL IN GAZA CITY.
The Israeli military said early Wednesday its troops were raiding Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, a complex of buildings where thousands of people have taken shelter and conditions for patients have grown increasingly horrific in recent days as fuel and medical supplies have run out.
In a statement posted on social media, the Israel Defense Forces said it had launched “a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa Hospital.” It remained unclear how many troops were involved in the assault or what their immediate objective was.
MAN KILLED IN MENDOCINO COUNTY CRASH ID’d
The vehicle was trying to avoid a crash when it struck the man, according to authorities.
by Madison Smalstig
Authorities identified the man who was struck and killed by a vehicle trying to avoid a crash Saturday in Mendocino County.
Gary Baughn, 81, of San Jose, was driving a Toyota Tacoma north on Highway 101 (on the Willits Grade between the Golden Rule property and the CalFire station) when about 4 a.m. he crossed into the southbound lane and came to a stop.
An approaching Subaru swerved to miss the pickup truck and hit Baughn, who had exited his vehicle.
He was pronounced dead on scene and identified Monday by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
The road was wet and foggy at the time of the crash, according to California Highway Patrol. Drugs and alcohol did not appear to be factors.
Anyone with information on the crash is encouraged to call the CHP-Ukiah office at 707-467-4420.
MARIPOSA COUNTY MURDER SUSPECT ARRESTED IN WILLITS
In early November 2023, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was contacted by the California Department of Justice Fugitive Apprehension Team regarding a wanted subject, (Justin Bolton, 42, of Modesto) believed to be in Mendocino County.
Sheriff's Office personnel were informed Bolton was a wanted fugitive out of Mariposa County related to an active homicide investigation.
After being contacted, members of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office and the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force began to assist in identifying Bolton's whereabouts in Mendocino County.
On 11-13-2023, Bolton's whereabouts were determined to be in Willits.
Based on the nature of the investigation and information known, the Mendocino/Lake Multi-Agency Regional S.W.A.T. Team was activated to assist in the apprehension of Bolton.
At approximately 12:24 PM, Bolton was observed entering the passenger side of a vehicle on Della Avenue in Willits, which subsequently left the location. The vehicle was followed onto Blosser Lane, where it was intercepted by several members of the S.W.A.T. Team who performed a high-risk enforcement stop.
The driver of the vehicle, later determined to be a family member of Bolton, exited after he was given verbal commands to do so.
Bolton, seated in the passenger seat, was also given verbal commands to exit the vehicle but he refused to comply. Several more verbal commands to Bolton were given, which he ignored.
A Sheriff's Office K9 was deployed into the vehicle to assist in taking Bolton into custody. Bolton had to be physically removed from the vehicle and was ultimately taken into custody without further incident.
Bolton was subsequently transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail on a felony murder arrest warrant pending extradition to Mariposa County.
The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office is the investigating agency which resulted in the issuance of the felony arrest warrant.
THOMAS SHOEMAKER, Albion, R.I.P.
The woman from social services who helps my mother said her good friend Thomas Shoemaker crashed his truck up past Middle Ridge Road at what she called The Donut Shop. I asked her why they call it that; she didn't know; she said it's a wide place of the side of the road. She said his truck rolled three times. She said he was a pretty good musician and he cut wood. She's a bit shaken up.
And just like every time somebody gets killed on the ridge in or by a vehicle, whether they take somebody else with them or not, the cause is speed. The safe speed all the way from the highway to H Road, in perfect conditions, is 30mph; past that it's not much more than that. The road is narrow, bumpy, there are ditches, there are other people who use the road besides you, some of them on foot or on bikes, and there's no room for error. Also there's a grammar school. And a dump, where people pull on and off the road in loaded vehicles that can limit their view. And every year half a dozen trees fall into the road, and telephone poles and wires fall into the road when someone flies off the road into them and knocks them over. I imagine that with telephone poles the problem isn't just speed but probably also alcohol. And there are deer and other animals to run into, of course, and they might as well all be drunk too.
Also just like every time, as soon as everybody's heard that somebody tragically died, people will slow down to 30 for a day or two or maybe a week, and then everybody will forget about it again, and be tearing around curves past blind driveways at 50 or 60 miles an hour again as though nothing happened. Six miles at 30mph takes 12 minutes. Six miles at 45mph takes 9 minutes. That's three minutes' difference. When I was a kid, I could hold my breath underwater longer than that.
I read a story a long time ago about a visitor from a foreign country. His friend picks him up at the airport. They're driving home. The road crosses a railroad track and there's a train coming. The driver steps on the gas pedal, they're tearing along, the driver sees that the passenger is terrified, so he says, "If we don't beat that train we'll have to wait five minutes."
They just barely get across in front of the train. Nobody says anything for awhile, then the passenger says quietly, "What will you do with /your/ five minutes?"
One time years ago I was going home from work at one or two in the morning and there was a fancy expensive-looking SUV parked with its butt sticking out into the road. I stopped, put my flashers on. The guy told me that he was having a very weird night. He took some acid; it started coming on, so he decided to leave where he was and go somewhere else in the car, and he's out on the road and the car just stopped going. I helped him push it off the road. I offered to drive him home, but he said he was sure his friend would come to pick him up in a mobile home. He seemed okay, just a little spacey, the car was out of the way, so I went home and forgot about it. Not long after that, days, I think, a couple of cars crashed head-on into each other very near that spot and everybody got killed. The picture on the news website looked like that guy's SUV, but, you know, they all kind of look alike. He told me his name. Kip, or Piff, or something. I wrote about it at the time, but I can't find that.
— Marco McClean
WHEN THE CEO PROPOSED SLASHING THE SHERIFF’S BUDGET
by Mark Scaramella
In December of 2010, in the aftermath of the “Great Recession,” when the County faced a budget crunch similar to today’s (but for different reasons), then-newly appointed CEO Carmel Angelo boldly proposed that six of the Sheriff’s clerks, three deputy positions and five sergeant positions be eliminated. Ms. Angelo said these cuts would reduce the Sheriff’s $1.35 million deficit by about $600,000 for the rest of that fiscal year, through June 30, 2011. The CEO didn’t even try to deal with the rest of the Sheriff’s estimated $1.35 million budget gap just for that current year.
Angelo, who had been recently promoted to CEO specifically to make some tough decisions to balance the County’s budget, was the only person in the County with the moxie to bring up the unpopular idea of major cuts to the Sheriff’s budget, and she’s now gone. We can’t imagine anyone in the current bunch at 501 Low Gap even mentioning the possibility of substantial cuts to the Sheriff’s budget. But there it was; the numbers were the numbers…
Then Sheriff Tom Allman disagreed, declaring Ms. Angelo’s list of proposed cuts to be “illegal” because he, the Sheriff, had not prepared it.
But then-County Counsel Jeanine Nadel disagreed, saying the Board was within its authority to eliminate positions in the Sheriff’s office, the Sheriff being elected, the Supervisors controlling his purse strings.
Allman complained that although the Board had ordered Ms. Angelo to work with him in preparing the list, “the phone never rang.”
Ms. Angelo replied that she had had a lot of trouble figuring out which Sheriff’s positions were funded out of which fund and which were vacant and which weren't. She'd sent her layoff recommendations to the Sheriff the week before but but hadn't heard from him.
Allman then asked for a 45-day stay of execution because the CEO's hit list didn’t account for looming resignations and retirements.
Angelo said the list did include those she knew about, but that if the Sheriff had more, fine.
At one point Allman said if the Board went through with the proposed layoffs he’d be forced to sue the Board on grounds that public safety would be jeopardized.
Seeing that the CEO and the Sheriff still had “issues,” the Board took a lunch recess to give the Sheriff and the CEO an opportunity to address their differences.
After lunch Allman said he could re-allocate about $257k in asset forfeiture funds currently earmarked for a new digital phone system to offset the cost of the clerical workers on the layoff list, bringing the deficit down to a still very large $1.1 million. Allman also wanted to swap two deputy positions for corrections officer positions, meaning that two deputies would be transferred to funded vacancies at the jail.
Most of the rest of the Board discussion revolved around whether the Board would impose the position eliminations on the Sheriff or if they’d “trust” the Sheriff to make the necessary cuts himself.
Allman wanted to retain flexibility to see if new revenues came in by the end of January and if more resignations or retirements might further reduce the number of layoffs required.
Ms. Angelo and County Auditor Meredith Ford said that the County’s overall budget picture was actually much worse than just the Sheriff’s still-large budget gap.
For example, there were still three bargaining units (one of which is the largest: Service Employees International Union) which have expired contracts and were still in negotiation. The County hoped to get some wage concessions from those three unions but any savings would have to go to replacing reserves and special funds that have already been “borrowed” from to balance the budget.
The only new source of revenue mentioned last Tuesday was the County’s relatively new marijuana dispensary program (pre-legalization).
An acupuncturist-turned-Medical Marijuana compliance inspector named Julia Carrera reflected a certain pollyannaish view then prevalent in some sectors that pot could well be a “miracle” solution to the County’s budget problems.
“I have some general numbers that marijuana could generate at minimum $600k to $700k in one year. That’s the very minimum. None of us know the maximum. Allow the process. There could be from 100 to 500 new permit applications next year. And more the year after that when people realize that the biggest growers are safe.”
The dispensary permit process was the brainchild of Supervisor John McCowen who predictably said he agreed with Ms. Carrera. Pot could not only solve all our medical problems no matter how loosely you define “medical,” it can also solve all our budget problems too! Even the Sheriff’s budget problems! Nevermind that the process is long and complicated and nevermind that the federal pot policy remained zero tolerance.
“All the reports are that the program is working,” insisted McCowen, “and it’s moving toward compliance, not ways to penalize.”
“Yes — and they’re pleased to do it,” chirped Ms. Carrera, “and every single one will do it and have a record of doing it.”
Sheriff’s Captain Kurt Smallcomb rose to throw a little cold water on the idea. “Just to respond,” said Smallcomb. “I’m a medical marijuana supporter, but just for the record, Prop 19 [an earlier attempt to legalize marijuana in California] was voted down in the County and the state.”
County Auditor Meredith Ford threw more cold water.
“I’d like to remind the Board that unless there is some legal excuse to not do cost recovery, the County can only recover what’s spent. You can’t make a profit. I don’t know what they’re using [as a basis for financial projections] but if we don’t expend the money we can’t recover it. ”
McCowen was undaunted.
“My numbers are based on cost recovery,” said McCowen. “We can raise the price [for permits and zipties] and still be within actual cost.”
Ford said that would be splendid if true, not that she said “splendid.”
Supervisor Kendall Smith sagely disagreed.
“Pot money isn’t going to solve the total problem,” declared Smith, repeating herself four more times. “Expected pot money can’t balance the budget. You can’t base it on that. Pot money is funny money. You can’t balance the budget on that.” (As usual, she went on at much further length, but we'll spare you that.)
Further depressing the big picture budget was Auditor Ford’s assessment of the County’s overall budget situation.
“The 2010/11 budget was balanced on a wing and a prayer,” Ford said. “We wiped out the general reserve and borrowed from designated reserves. We expected that through labor negotiations we’d be able to restore some of those reserves. So to restore the reserves, every department has to come in at assigned net county cost. Public safety already has the bulk of the net county cost. So there already is an emphasis on public safety. But there isn’t enough money to pay what we’d like to pay. If we postpone longer than today we just dig the hole deeper and we can’t afford to do that.”
Ford veered off into techno-talk about the County’s borrowing procedures, which she refers to as “Trans” borrowing. “That would become questionable,” continued Ford referring to what would happen if the layoffs were not made. “Cash flow would be insufficient to demonstrate that we could pay back the Trans if we got it. This year we borrowed $24 million to operate during the dry period from July to December before the property tax money comes in. It’s horrendous. The process is already hard. To compound it with more outgoing cash flow makes it worse. I don’t see how we can continue to qualify, or to refinance [some bonds] which would save us more than $2 million. If we can’t qualify, then we have to pay the higher bond interest rate. That’s $70k we could be saving if we could qualify for a refinance, but we can’t, given our dire financial straits. Unless we got some big savings from labor negotiations, we’re going to be in horrible financial straits come 2011. We have to have some reserve restoration to go into next year. And every department must live within its budget. We have to eliminate the [Sheriff’s] $1.3 million deficit and then have everybody else stay in budget and use savings from labor negotiations to restore reserves. We should have had a hiring freeze in place earlier.”
But Mendo being Mendo where entropy is a way of life, nothing was done “earlier,” and now the Sheriff and the rest of the County finds itself painted into a budgetary corner.
Ford concluded that any new revenues would have to go toward restoring reserves.
The upshot of all this was that CEO Angelo reverted to her original hard-line proposal of laying off all 14 Sheriff's Department people, emphasizing that it’s important to get started now because the layoff process takes 45 to 60 days. If some pot funding “miraculously” became available, the layoff notices could be rescinded.
At the end of the day, as the lives of more than a dozen County employees dangled like so many empty Christmas stockings, and after much stumbling wordsmithing, the board voted unanimously to approve a motion to accept Allman’s $257k asset forfeiture (aka pot) money and his offer to swap two corrections layoffs for two deputy layoffs, then leave the rest up to Allman to sort out.
“If it's deputies I lay off,” said Allman, “I will demote sergeants. At this point my command staff and I are going to regroup.”
According to the motion, Allman’s position eliminations are supposed to be decided on by December 20, 2010. The next Board meeting after that, of course, isn’t until early January. So Allman actually got a reprieve of almost a month, over the holiday break — a month of continued spending and postponed savings.
The overall picture remained bleak. The Sheriff was already applying $200k of asset forfeiture money to overtime and part of this latest precarious offset arrangement involves covering $257k worth of budgeted overtime with the additional asset forfeiture money, then applying the $257k of overtime money to fund the clerical staff that was slated for layoff.
“If the pot money comes in there’d be a revisit,” said Allman, “but the turnip is running dry. If sergeants are demoted, five deputy sheriff’s will lose their jobs per civil service [bumping] procedure. So five deputies is the same thing. I will demote sergeants to deputies.”
“But,” added CEO Angelo, “this is only half way there. I don’t know where the rest [of the approximately $600k of deficit reduction money for the current year] will come from.”
“If this doesn’t achieve the savings,” promised Allman, “we can deal with it then. I ask you to trust the Sheriff’s Office and our command staff.”
Supervisor John Pinches agreed with Ms. Angelo.
“We still have to solve the $1.1 million problem by the end of June. This is just a good start, but not a solution.”
“Thank you for putting the trust in the Sheriff’s office,” concluded Allman. “You’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
“Pleasantly,” however, probably would not be a word anyone would apply to that day’s dismal proceedings.
* * *
KZYX REPORTER SARA REITH asked a good question of Supervisor John Haschak on Mendofever.com recently in response to Haschak’s skimpy “Supervisors Report.” Haschak “reported”: “The County received a $25 million grant from the State to build the [new jail] wing. The County’s cost was to be $1 million. The State’s contribution stays the same while our County must pay for all increases. The latest, and supposedly last, overrun is $6.8 million. That is why the Board decided to borrow that amount from Measure B funds. This will be repaid. Former Sheriff Allman, author of Measure B, supported this approach.”
Reith: “What is the basis of your belief that the county will repay the Measure B fund? There has been no public discussion of a repayment plan. There has been no public discussion of any analysis of what it would cost not to build the new jail, nor has there been any public assurance that this last $6.8 million is the last time the costs will rise exponentially.”
MS NOTES: Supervisor Haschak was on the ad hoc committee that came up with the idea of “borrowing” the Measure B funds. His committee’s task was to work with staff and determine the amount of Measure B funds that were available to begin with. But there was no such accounting. All they said was that there were millions available. They did not start with the estimated total amount nor did they calculation the ongoing 1/8 cent tax receipts. Nor did they work up a proper spreadsheet showing the amounts already spent, already committed or earmarked, held in reserve, or to be allocated to “services” as Measure B specifically calls for. The Board did seem to want to pay it back, albeit vaguely, but as Ms. Reith notes, there’s no plan to do it and given the County’s financial condition and the Board’s insubstantial response to it there’s very little chance that it will be repaid. Supervisor Ted Williams has suggested raiding the Measure P funds that the Board promised to allocate to fire and emergency services as well. If they do — and nobody on the board disagreed with Williams when he brought it up — they’ll probably promise to pay that back too. This is the most irresponsible and sloppy board I’ve seen in Mendo history.
GOOD LUCK, TED
To the Editor:
Bowtie Ted Williams is running for State Rep? Are you kidding?
Bowtie Ted's “leadership” has failed and failed miserably. Let me count the ways:
Mendocino County has a current structural deficit of $17 million and counting. Our financials are in such a chaotic state that we don't know how much red our budget is bleeding.
Mendocino County is being audited by the State of California. Until such time as our financials achieve are unqualified by state auditors, we can't apply for new federal and state grants. This will be disastrous, since most of the county budget is non-discretionary and comes from federal and state funding sources.
Our county budget process will have to be contracted out, yet again, because no one in-house can do the job.
The various anonymous 30-somethings in the Executive Office who are now running virtually every county department are too young, too experienced, and just too plain stupid for the level of responsibility foisted upon them.
Our Accessor's Office has fallen behind in collecting taxes, catching up, but still behind.
Our Auditor-Treasurer was made the target of malicious prosecution, and the BOS went along with the gag by suspending the Auditor-Treasurer without pay or due process, effectively, a wrongful termination. It will cost the county millions of dollars in legal fees, and millions more in settlements.
No monthly financial reports are being generated for any county department; hence the BOS is effectively flying blind.
Measure B monies, which are stipulated, are effectively being dumped into the General Fund and “disappeared,” just like PG&E wildfire settlement monies and federal COVID relief monies, and soon, very soon, Measure P monies. Any one of these illegal transfers can trigger a taxpayer lawsuit. (Jared Carter, Ross Liberty, Ken Fowler, John Mayfield, and Dick Selzer, are you listening?)
Our county's unfunded pension liability is pushing $260 million.
Given all the above, our county's credit rating is sinking like a stone.
Recently, Natalie Ramos, a lead analyst with Moody’s, filed a public records request for the fiscal 2022 audit or adequate draft financial documents that Mendocino County needed to respond to. Without those materials, she wrote, Moody’s would “consider placing the district’s rating under review for possible withdrawal due to lack of sufficient information.”
County CEO Darcie Antle is clueless. She conceded to the rating agencies that the county struggled with completing the fiscal year 2021-22 audit and the preparation of Annual Comprehensive Financial Review.
Moody’s is one of three credit rating agencies, along with Standard & Poor and Fitch Ratings, that score the county’s financial viability, a measurement that is essential to investors or lenders as they calculate their financial risk in their willingness to lend money to the county. A lot of lending is in revolving credit to finance payroll and other such short-term obligations.
The county's credit rating is also important in determining the interest rates on bonds, which many public institutions rely on to pay for specific projects.
Blow your credit rating and you're screwed.
Market dynamics are a cruel beast. Market dynamics are unsympathetic to public systems, like our own, that can't back up their expenses with a broader source of easily identified, easily audited, dedicated taxes.
Mendocino County will have deteriorating financials and increased operating risks. The budget gap will widen. We will have major service cuts. We will lose residents, especially younger people. Development will slow. There will be water shortages. Maintenance will be deferred. Technology upgrades will lag. We will default on some debt. Statutory liens will be placed on county assets.
Good luck, Ted. You've done a wonderful job here in Mendocino County. Let me know if you need help writing your campaign literature. You'll pretty much find the highlights in the above.
One request: Take Mo Mulheren with you. She blew up daddy's insurance brokerage. Then, she helped you blow up Mendocino County. Maybe she can blow up Sacramento and get a federal bailout.
Remember, states can't declare bankruptcy. For that to happen, Congress would have to pass a law allowing it. The primary reason for the lack of state bankruptcy provisions is the U.S. Constitution. "Under the Constitution, states are ‘sovereign’ entities, and the federal government has limited power to act on them directly."
You and Mo will have a blast in Sacramento. It will be like having a blank check!
In John Sakowicz’s letter complaining about Supervisor Williams and the County’s financial situation Mr. Sakowitz makes several dubious and exaggerated statements. Perhaps his intense disapproval of Supervisor Williams has clouded his memory.
Sako said the County’s structural deficit is $17 million.
The most anyone has said is $10 million. It could be more, but there’s nothing to suggested that it’s $17 million.
Sako said Mendo is “unqualified” for state grants. That has been threatened, but no official statement to that effect has been made.
The CEO’s bloated staff is running too many departments, yes. But it’s nowhere near “virtually every county department.” There are competent people running a number of departments, especially the larger ones.
He called the Assessor’s office the “accessor’s” office.
Sako said the Cubbison suspension “will cost the county millions of dollars in legal fees, and millions more in settlements.”
We doubt it will be in the millions. And whatever it is it will be mitigated by insurance. (But whatever the amount may be, it’ll be a big waste.)
Sako said, “No monthly financial reports are being generated for any county department.”
Not true. Most County departments have decent budgets and tracking. They’re just not being passed along to the Board or the public. The Board has never even asked for them.
Sako said, “Measure B monies, which are stipulated, are effectively being dumped into the General Fund and ‘disappeared’.”
Not exactly. The board has “borrowed” several million from Measure B and has not properly accounted for the funds. But the money has not been “dumped into the General Fund.”
Sako suggested that Jared Carter, Ross Liberty, Ken Fowler, John Mayfield, and Dick Selzer should consider a taxpayer lawsuit.
Pure fantasy. Unfortunately, none of them have shown any serious interest in County affairs. If they had any such inklings they’d have done so long ago.
Sako said that the County’s unfunded pension liability is pushing $260 million.”
Sako said, “Our county's credit rating is sinking like a stone.”
Not yet it hasn’t.
Sako said, “Blow your credit rating and you're screwed.”
Sako concludes with a laundry list of bad stuff that could happen.
Much as we criticize County management, alarmism like Sako’s isn’t helping anything, including Sako’s credibility.
If Sako wants to be taken seriously he needs to keep his rhetoric within reason.
RICHIE WASSERMAN: Your mention of Denis Johnson, in comparison to Hemingway was apt, although both often iliustrated the dark underbelly of human behavior. Denis partially wrote the novel ‘Already Dead” in the mid 1980s while living on my property on Eureka Hill, near the Point Arena radar station. We connected through his ex-wife, Lucinda Johnson, then married to Raven Earlygrow, a good friend and ex-mayor of Point Arena. The novel was set in Northern California and Denis drew some of his characters based on locals that he knew here. One was Bill Winkelholtz, a real life giant (he was 6’10”). Denis was one of Bill’s caregivers as he succumbed to liver cancer, which also claimed Denis a short time after, while living at The Sea Ranch in 2017.
GET INTO THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT AT MENDOCINO COLLEGE'S CERAMIC HOLIDAY SALE
The festive season is fast approaching, and Mendocino College is proud to announce its much-anticipated Ceramic Holiday Sale, set to take place on Friday, December 1st from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Join us for a day of holiday cheer, exquisite ceramic wares, and community collaboration!
Hosted by the Mendocino College Ceramics Club, this event promises a delightful experience for all. The ceramics on display will feature a wide array of options, including beautiful holiday gifts, kitchen and dining wares, and collectibles, each uniquely crafted by our talented student artisans.
What truly sets this event apart is the spirit of community and collaboration. In addition to the Ceramics Club, several other Mendocino College organizations will be participating. The Mendocino College Horticulture Club will offer crafted holiday wreaths to enhance your seasonal ambiance. The Textile Club will showcase their handmade textile creations, adding warmth and comfort to your home. And don't forget to visit the NCO’s Caring Kitchen Project booth, where you can indulge in delicious homemade treats.
This Ceramic Holiday Sale will be a joyful gathering, celebrating the spirit of the season with an array of artistic creations and a welcoming atmosphere. So, mark your calendars for December 1st, and join us at Mendocino College Lowery Student Center from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM to start your holiday shopping and festivities in style.
Event Details: Date: Friday, December 1st, 2023 Time: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM Location: Lowery Student Center, Mendocino College Campus. 1000 Hensley Creek road, Ukiah CA.
We look forward to sharing the holiday joy with you at this exciting event. Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to find unique, handcrafted ceramic treasures while supporting your local college community.
For more information or press inquiries, please contact: Wesley Wright, email@example.com
About Mendocino College: Mendocino College is a vibrant and diverse community college located in the heart of Mendocino County, California. Committed to providing a high-quality education, Mendocino College offers a wide range of academic and vocational programs to meet the needs of its students and the community.
FRANK HARTZELL ON VOC ED
Q: What do you think about vocational education?
Check this program out.
I just wrote a story for Mendocino Voice, linked at the end about one of my favorite subjects, vocational education being funded. But I was sad.
Things have not changed for the better in this area. Let's go back. One of the best vocational educators in Fort Bragg history is Mr. John Skinner, the ageless seeming former shop teacher who always runs the Paul Bunyan Days logging show.
Vocational education was largely killed off by No Child Left Behind and other misguided efforts by Wall Street consultants to redo our education system to create the workers they think it should which would not include construction workers, mechanics, or the butcher, baker or candlestick maker, those small town heroes that gave America the strength to save the world from countries where local power was killed off in favor of giant corporations and dictators.
The Nazis were funded and largely created by two giant corporations I.G Farben and Krupp, who met with him and promised him support and whatever dollars he needed. Hitler, in turn, would destroy all trade unions, stop the government from enforcing any regulations that kept these two giants from destroying all their smaller competitors and Hitler would crush communists, socialists and those who wanted to sue corporations or vote against their interests.
In America at the same time, our country was run from its small towns, not by global conglomerates. Now we are where they were. I have written a story for the Mendocino Voice about how Sen MIke McGuire has brought a million bucks to our county for a grant program through a non profit to get students from the school into a boot camp where they actually work for construction companies or like the young man from Willits featured in this story, operating heavy equipment in the woods.
True congrats to McGuire for pushing this. And big congrats to Gov. Newsom, who has pushed state agencies hard to eliminate red tape that keeps vocational education and much else in education from doing what it is supposed to do.
But the old way was better. Having Mr. Skinner inside the school was much better. Grant programs like chain stores suck money out of the community and think communities are full of dunces who will work as volunteers for highly paid consultants. The old way created Mr. Skinner and many others like him to be role models and teachers who lived in the community, not consulted from LA or Sacramento. McGuire and Newsom are doing their best and should be praised for that, but its not good enough. All these programs that demand locals volunteer while they get big bucks are doing the same thing as the old logging companies from the Deep South, taking the dollars that rightly belong to the community for themselves. Give us back the tax dollars not through consultants and grants, but through hiring people like John Skinner. This man took his work as an educator to become a top historian and a guy who has worked his butt off for the town. We dont happen to agree on politics like I would with Sen McGuire perhaps, but Ill take a Mr. Skinner anyday. We just arent creating new ones anymore.
So here is my story. I did the best I could with what we have to work with in 2023, but I wish I could describe a Transition Towns like revival of schools, the railroad, sustainable forestry and biomass and the town selling products I actually need downtown, like shoes that last a lifetime or making clothes to fit like the old Haberdasher. This system we have cant last, we will need to go back to conservative, small town ownership, which ironically are opposed by chain loving light thinking folks who call themselves conservative and the issue of small town and small business empowerment never makes it onto the political or media radar, in favor of daily lunacy.
WILLIAM JOHN DALTON was 44 and living in Redwood Valley when he was found guilty by a federal jury in San Francisco of growing marijuana. Dalton was looking at life in prison for running what the government claimed was a “continuing criminal enterprise” that allegedly took in millions off a pot patch in Branscomb, west of Laytonville.
WHICH WASN’T THE HALF OF IT. The feds convicted Dalton on a snitch-built case which must have cost as many tax dollars to construct as the big money Dalton was accused of generating. Teams of dope cops followed Dalton around for five years without nailing him for anything until they stole his wife.
A MARRIED DEA AGENT named Nelson seduced Dalton’s wife. Nelson had no trouble persuading Mrs. Dalton to place a tape recorder in the Dalton bedroom, hoping to record Mr. Dalton’s alleged activities in the drug biz. Agent Nelson tape recorded nothing of evidentiary value. He was soon reinforced by FBI agents, and the feds then moved Mrs. Dalton to the state of Washington as Mr. Dalton wondered where his wife went. DEA agent Nelson also arranged for Mrs. Dalton to see a divorce attorney to shed Mr. Dalton while taking Mrs. Dalton for a joy ride in a cop helicopter, getting drunk with Mrs. Dalton in a tax paid so-called “safe house” in Ukiah, funded Mrs. Dalton’s move to the state of Washington with $4,800 in tax money while the government of the United States placed Mr. Dalton in federal prison for two years without bail, confiscated all his property as he was without charges until he finally got into court.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston, appointed by Clinton as recommended by senators Boxer and Feinstein, presides in San Francisco. IIlston ruled that the government's police state pursuit of Dalton did not amount to “egregious government conduct.” And Dalton spent the next 23 years in federal prison.
* * *
JOHN DALTON, 23 YEARS LATER
By Bruce Anderson (February 26, 2020)
(Ed note: After 22 years in a variety of federal prisons, John Dalton is at home in Laytonville picking up the pieces of his shattered life. His case was the worst example of egregious/outrageous government misconduct we know of. So far as we know, Dalton was held longer on marijuana-related charges than any other Mendocino County resident. We spoke to him about his unbelievable case and the aftermath last weekend.)
* * *
AVA: How did your case become a federal case and not just a Mendocino County matter sorted out on the local level?
Dalton: I don't really know. It's been a long time. There was the burglary mentioned in your earlier AVA articles, I think one of the local cops got ahold of the DEA agent in the area after that.
AVA: So the DEA just took it over and made it a federal case?
Dalton: That's right. They thought there were assets involved and they had more power to steal them.
AVA: When did you realize they were after you? Was it when shots were fired at you at your place near Branscomb?
Dalton: That was just the local cops back in 1986. Just county deputies. That was basically the first time I realized they were after me.
AVA: You were living in Redwood Valley. You were working. Life was going reasonably well. You had a stormy relationship with your wife, Ms. Horstman…
Dalton: That was well after that initial 1986 timeframe. When those shots were fired I was living on the mountaintop near Branscomb. That was back in the 80s. Horstmann got involved with the DEA in 1993 or 94.
AVA: Ms. Horstman was romantically involved with at least two DEA agents for whom she placed a tape recorder beneath the marital bed. Did you suspect that she would be as treacherous as she turned out to be?
Dalton: Not even. She was a demon in disguise, I kid you not.
AVA: The feds arrest you…
Dalton: Yes, and I was at Dublin Jail for almost four years, then Oakland County Jail for about 11 months. Over four and a half years, fighting my case. I went to court many times. I filed motions and I was trying to overturn this indictment. Fighting it left and right, one way or the other, any way I could. Several attorneys. They all seemed to be on the side of the government, to be truthful about it. I was denied bail before my conviction. When they arrested me, they didn't have anything on me. I knew I would be out of jail within two weeks on bail so I could defend myself. But that never happened. Four and a half years went by before I even went to trial. Then they sentenced me.
AVA: It was a jury trial?
Dalton: My trial was a jury trial. As it should have been. But it was more like a circus, not a trial. By that time they had already stolen my defense from me because months before the trial when we had an evidentiary hearing for outrageous government conduct we thought the judge would allow us to bring in all this ridiculous government conduct, the tape recordings, my wife flying around in a DEA helicopter, etc., and let the jury hear it. That part was just before the judge. The judge ruled against me. She said, 'You have brought all this out at the evidentiary hearing but we are not going to allow the jury to hear any of it. So the jurors who convicted me knew that something was being hidden from them but they did not know the extent of what was being hidden. We were not allowed to say anything about Agent Nelson and my wife, making a double agent out of her and getting into her head and screwing her over — they wouldn't allow any of that to be presented to the jury. The jury was out for two and a half days. If they had been able to consider what we brought up in that evidentiary hearing two or three months before trial — but they were never able to hear any of that. If they had, they would never have convicted me.
AVA: The jury look ok?
Dalton: The jury was about half men and half women. There were two or three young people on it. My trial attorney, Tony Serra, I have respect for the man. And Sherry White also. Very much. But before the evidentiary hearing on the outrageous government conduct I told him, Hold on a second. If we put all this evidentiary hearing evidence in front of them now about this agent with my wife in this case — will they let us put it in front of a jury? And he did not say anything. He just looked down. I thought for certain we would be able to bring it up. But he knew at that point that we probably wouldn't be allowed to bring it up. After the judge denied us, Tony never even told me that that was the ruling. It was about a month later. There was a ruling and she denied it. It killed me. I had to find out for myself a month later after the ruling.
AVA: And now, twenty-two years later…
Dalton: I was incarcerated from the time I was imprisoned in Dublin to October of 2019 when I walked out the door and my son was outside to pick me up. That was my son John. Josh Corrigan was Victoria's son.
Dalton: Being in prison is another life. A terrible life. You're just trapped in there. You can look beyond the fence and know you never can go out there or anywhere. The only time we went out was for some medical reason or from one prison to another or a plane ride across the country to another prison. Shackled and chained all the time, well over 100 times in those 23 years on different occasions. They still call it bus therapy.
AVA: Your exact conviction?
Dalton: I was convicted of a continuing criminal enterprise and that is a very high charge for the feds. I know of one other case out of this area that was handled like that. Eddie Lepp. He just got out of a few of years ago as well. He did a lot of years in the federal prison system too for marijuana. I'm pretty sure he was out of Mendocino County. But he's in some other county down south now. He was a big-time dude. I wasn't into anything like that. I was a small-time marijuana grower that they made out to sound like a big one. They convicted me of 9,000 plants over a three-year period. That's nothing compared to what's going on in this county today! I was just a simple grower.
AVA: How many prisons were you held in?
Dalton: I was in seven different federal prisons in those 23 years. Beaumont, Texas was the worst, probably. There are a few variations in the food and medical help, which is lacking in all of them actually, but some are little better than others. Nobody ever messed with me. I didn't have to gang up. I weight lifted and I was in good shape and nobody ever messed with me. A lot of racial politics in the federal system between races and gangs. Oh yes. You have the black shot callers and the white shot callers and one-shot caller will go and talk to the other shot caller and cool things out. Some prisons it's much worse than others. You don't want to get into that.
AVA: Are you a Mendo native?
Dalton: I had lived in Mendocino County since 1983. I moved up here from Porterville. And by the time I finished 11th grade I had been to 26 different schools in four different states. My father was a truck driver and we seemed to always be on the road from the get-go. I've always been mechanically inclined, I've worked at several diesel truck companies, picked it up pretty easily. I was considered to be the top-notch mechanic and an up and comer in the mechanic world. I built hot rod engines there in Redwood Valley. Doing fine until these people came into my life. It didn't take long for the word to get around in those small towns that the federal government was on my case. It put a real cramp on any business coming in. At one point they even rented a house behind me to spy on me in Redwood Valley. They did that while Victoria [Horstman] was living with me.
AVA: How many times did you go up for parole?
Dalton: I was never up for parole in my 23 years. They don't have federal parole anymore. They stopped that 25 or 30 years ago. I had to do all my time, complete all my time, every day of it. There was a point when Obama was President in 2016 when they were considering reducing sentences for all drug crimes. But if you are convicted of a criminal enterprise, that was not included in the eligibility. They commuted everybody else with a drug crime and gave them a two-point reduction in their sentence. But I could not get that. I watched all these thousands of people getting reductions but I couldn't get a thing. I kept appealing with the courts and I was denied and denied and denied, time after time.
AVA: Did you have any representation while you were inside?
Dalton: Most of that time I was in the federal system I did not have an attorney. I had an appellate attorney who did my direct appeal. He messed that up. Dan Horowitz, from the Bay Area. He tried to bring up the outrageous government conduct in my appeal and it was still denied. They were going out of their way to convict me. I had a $48 million lawsuit against these people. It was a dead-bang winner. But they had to convict me in order to get past that and they had to make sure on appeal that I did not overturn my conviction. I think they would have been more lenient if I had not filed that suit and it's possible I might have won my trial.
AVA: I know the feds took most of your property. Do you have anything left?
Dalton: I have about 80 acres out in Branscomb that my son lives on. And my brother. That's about it. I now live in Laytonville with an old friend and his wife who stuck with me throughout this entire fiasco. They were nice enough to let me locate a little trailer here where he lives. True friends.
AVA: How’s your health?
Dalton: My rib injury is feeling a little better. Sciatica in my left leg. Herniated disc. Several crushed vertebraes. Bulging discs. I’m 64 years old. I'm on SSI right now.
Dalton: All my brothers and my sister are still alive. I have two grandsons from my daughter who passed away in 2014, an 18-year-old grandson from her and a 10-year-old. The oldest is in Florida and is about to go into the military. I have not seen him since he was real small, maybe six or seven. I've never seen my 10 year old. I'm in contact with him by phone all the time from Carson City, Nevada. He's going to visit pretty soon. I’m looking forward to that. He's looking forward to it too.
AVA: Computer world?
Dalton: Just the phone. No computer. Can't afford anything like that right now.
AVA: Any contact with local cops? Deputy Bone?
Dalton: Bone lives over in El Dorado County now somewhere. All those guys are getting up in age. Those guys don't want anything to do with me and I certainly don't want to see any of them. They got me dirty. Every single one of them knows that they screwed me around worse than anybody that they've ever screwed around. I'm the last person they want any contact with. And I don't want anything to do with them. I don't want to talk to them. I don't want to even see those sons of bitches. I'm trying to live a clean life. I'm on probation and just trying to get on with life. I've put all that past stuff behind me and I just want to go on with my son and my grandson and just live. I was 41 years old when they arrested me and I'm 64 now. Took the best years of my life. I'm starting to break down physically now.
AVA: A lot of people are following in your case. It's been online. A lot of interest.
Dalton: I'm struggling out here. We will make it, but it will be slow for a while. I wish we had more money coming in. But it's going to be this way for awhile. I may have to start cutting some trees on my property before long
* * *
The Dalton Case: Egregious Government Conduct
by Tim Stelloh (April 2010)
It was a little over a decade ago [from 2010] that John Dalton, formerly of Redwood Valley, was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for growing large amounts of marijuana in the rugged hills near Branscomb. He received the sentence after the DEA agent investigating him amassed a mountain of on-the-job improprieties — including a romantic tryst with Dalton's alcoholic, drug-using, unstable wife, Victoria Horstman, who the agent had cultivated as an informant and who was found dead in 2007 under mysterious circumstances in Montana.
Those improprieties were the spine of a civil lawsuit filed late last year by Dalton in San Francisco Federal District Court for $44 million against Janet Reno, the DEA, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, Mendo’s pot raiders (COMMET) and everyone in between.
The agent, Mark Nelson, met Horstman in the summer of 1994. She had long harbored law enforcement ambitions, so she began aiding the drug cops in their investigation against her husband. It started with Horstman handing Nelson bank deposit slips from her husband's machine shop. The agent subsequently made her a snitch (and allegedly threatened that she could be prosecuted for money laundering if she refused). In an effort to collect more information on her husband — and with Nelson's encouragement — Horstman placed a DEA recorder behind the headboard of their bed, a violation of marital privacy rights. It was around then that things turned romantic between the agent and his informant. When it came time to fingerprint Horstman — who was now officially a “source of information” — Nelson blindfolded her and drove her to the county drug cops' secret “safehouse.” Then he gave her a beer.
“Soon after, he put his head in my lap as if nothing was abnormal,” Horstman later wrote in a letter to prosecutors. “I froze up out of disbelief of what was happening to me. Soon after he then turned over on his side on the couch and swung me down and over facing him and began kissing me while he took my left leg and pushed it into his crotch area.”
In Horstman's telling, Nelson tried, over the course of their relationship, to have sex with her multiple times — though she refused — and he even drove her to a divorce lawyer and “forced” her to leave her husband (which she did). During Dalton's trial, a close friend of Horstman's testified that it was far more than fondling, kissing and “trying” to have sex, however — she said that Horstman and Nelson were having an affair.
In those letters to prosecutors, Horstman said that all that DEA pressure had damaged her irreparably — that she'd filled her garage with exhaust in a suicide attempt. In the years following Dalton's eventual conviction, in 1999, Horstman moved first to Potter Valley, then to Montana, according to her son, Josh Corrigan, who testified in Dalton's trial but soon after left Mendocino County for Oakdale, near Modesto, to live with his grandparents.
“She went up there because part of her heritage is Blackfoot Indian,” said Corrigan, now 31. “When we were kids, she talked about going back there, about knowing her roots. One of her favorite movies was ‘A River Runs Through It.’ But she couldn't handle it. I felt so sorry for her.”
Corrigan kept in touch with his mom through letters, and occasionally they talked on the phone. Then, several years ago, she sent family photo albums — the only possessions she'd taken with her up north — to Corrigan's sister. On the evening of July 5, 2007, her body was found floating in the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula. Horstman was taken to the hospital and placed in intensive care — but she was already brain dead. She died 15 days later.
The medical examiner found that Horstman had drowned, and classified her death as undetermined. Detective Chris Shermer, who investigated the case for the Missoula Police Department, said her apartment — which was at an Elk's Lodge — was nearly empty, save for a few jugs of wine, some bottles of anti-depressants and recently purchased bed sheets. Neighbors described a troubled woman to Shermer: On one occasion, he said, Horstman was seen crouched in the lotus position outside her apartment, a bottle of booze beside her. She'd been screaming. Other times, she told neighbors that she worked for the DEA and that the KGB was watching them through their televisions.
“They drove her insane,” Corrigan said. “When my sister visited my mom, she was really paranoid, especially with TV screens. She thought the DEA was watching her.”
When agent Nelson was questioned about Horstman's allegations during Dalton's trial, he denied some, admitted some, took the fifth on another, crucial point — and was accompanied by a non-government lawyer to the witness stand. Yes, he'd taken Horstman to the safehouse. Yes, he'd given her a beer. No, he didn't know she was an alcoholic. Yes, he'd kissed her — but only once, at the safehouse. No, he'd never fondled her. Yes, he knew he'd broken DEA rules. Yes, he'd driven her to the divorce lawyer. No, he'd never forced her to leave her husband. Maybe he'd threatened her with prosecution. When Nelson was asked about the precise day he'd taken her to the safehouse, he took the fifth. Nelson, prosecutors told the court, had falsified the date on Horstman's fingerprint cards so as to conceal when he'd taken her to the safehouse.
Tony Serra, Dalton's attorney at the time, tried getting the government's indictment dismissed based on Nelson's “outrageous” conduct (he also argued that Nelson's search warrants were based on bogus info). While the judge, Susan Illston, found that the agent exercised “poor judgment,” and that what he did was “highly inappropriate,” she didn't find his behavior so “grossly shocking” that it violated the “universal sense of justice” and tainted the government's entire case.
She barred the bedroom recordings, but allowed the prosecutors to proceed. Though they had no physical evidence linking Dalton to the pot gardens the DEA said were his, the government got a conviction based on the testimony of several informants, including Horstman.
Dalton — who filed the same civil lawsuit in the late '90s but voluntarily withdrew it in 2000 due to lack of access to a law library — says despite potential statute of limitations problems with his case, he's confident the judge will agree to hear it. “The lawsuit is a dead-bang winner,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I just basically need someone with some balls to go after the government and hold them accountable for what they have done.”
THOUGHTS FROM A FORMER RAINBOW COMMUNE MEMBER
The first winter brought feelings of freedom and liberation and an intense connection to the land. I lived in a tipi for the entire winter of ’72-’73 with around 75 inches of rainfall, one of the largest on record. Social life was always available at the “pantry”’ a 12’x16’ building that served as kitchen, living room, and gossip chamber for the 15 or so brave souls who stuck it out for the first winter at Rainbow: Jack and Kay, Sam and Judy, Mark and Laurel, Jim C., Jerry B., Crazy Patti, porn star Ken S. from time to time, Ron K. a crusty New York Jew who was funny and very intellectual with a thick Brooklyn accent, and Erik K., a bamboo and shakuhachi flute maker from New York who looked like Allen Ginsburg.
No shortage of entertainment from this motley crew. Mornings and evenings in the pantry were always lively, especially when a jug of Red Mountain vino or DeKuyper blackberry brandy was around when someone could afford it. But this was no party scene. It was an intense work scene. We pretty much worked from 7am or at the latest 8am until dark most every day sometimes taking Sunday off for a day of rest. Jim and I were respected right off because we knew how to work. We had learned organic gardening on our own in Berkeley and took immediately to planting the garden at Rainbow, an ambitious venture given the enormity of the task and the expectation of the early communards whose place we were visiting, not yet accepted fully as new members. For me it was an incredible education in hard knocks after four years in the Berkeley “ivory tower.” Even with Berkeley’s street education in People’s Park, Stop the Draft Week, MLK and RFK assassinations, the tail end of FSM, etc.
To be living on 300 acres in the wilderness, learning how to pump water, carrying gravel down steep hillsides, making shakes with a froe, building the “Main House” from the ground up with redwood rounds for foundations, learning how to snap a chalk line and hold a plumb bob… These were all new and exciting life skills of which I relished every moment, despite the relentless and exhausting efforts thereof – most of all it was real. There was something about all the very hard toil and sweat that bonded us early communards tightly together. And the connection to the land was unequalled in anything else I’d ever done up to that point. I was truly in love with this new life and figured out early on, certainly before the end of the summer of 1973 that I was bonded to the land and city life could be no more for me. My heart and soul were firmly entrenched with the land and the endless night sky. This was before cell phones, google, the internet, fax machines, and even calculators – in fact I remember buying the very first calculator I could find at Value Giant in Ukiah for about $29 and amazing everyone at the commune.
I remember when I was 10 years old, I came across the Sunset House catalog that was the first catalog I’d ever seen with great gadgets and the fascination never ceased right up until I started Real Goods – a catalog for land dwelling off-the-gridders like myself who had become entranced with this lifestyle I loved so much. I remember buying from that Sunset House catalog a “magic brain calculator” a forerunner of an electronic calculator – a fancy abacus of sorts that led to hours of enjoyment for me accentuating my fascination and talent for numbers and all things mathematical.
Back to the night sky: In college I’d developed a great love of both astrology and astronomy – the former came likely from my maternal grandmother, who founded “the First College of Astrology and Numerolgy”’ in Santa Monica in the early 1920s around the time when Rudolf Steiner was developing the Biodynamic Principals, Krisnamurti (her friend) was starting his Self Realization Fellowship in West L.A. by Pacific Coast Highway 101, and when my grandmother knew Manly Hall and Dane Rudhyar, accomplished occultists and astrologers in their time. She had willed her natal and progressed astrological charts to me, figuring out through my double-Scorpio laden horoscope, that I was the one in the family most likely to appreciate her occult legacy.
I read a lot in Berkeley and dabbled into the Tarot, and discovered that both of these disciplines were a handy way to gain favor with a young woman’s heart by providing the focused attention and deep understanding that these “sciences” brought to communication. My love of astrology led to learning about astronomy and a fascination with the stars where I learned the names and positions of all the constellations as well as the names of probably 100 or more stars like Zuben-el-junubi and Zuben-es-schamali, the two stars of Libra, Shaula, the stinger of Scorpius, and the relationship between the constellations: follow the tail of the big dipper for an “arc to Arcturus” and a “spike to Spica” – the center of Virgo. I ate up astronomy and took great pleasure in spending countless hours at night in the incomparable beauty of the Rainbow nights void of any city light pollution, star chart in hand, learning all the stars I could. I saved up and bought a Celestron 8 cassegrain telescope which furthered my penetration ever deeper into the night sky.
Once again, here, being an early 20’s healthy young male, I soon discovered that the stars, knowledge of the cosmos, and a “come and look through my telescope” approach was quite successful at wooing young women to my domain. And being on the commune which ranged from a population of 12-15 over the winter to maybe 20-30 in the summer, having company with a woman could be rare, and the influx of lovely and interesting female companionship was the subject of some competition among us single men.
Earlier I digressed from talking about the early lack of technology where I was going to mention that our only form of communication in the early 70s was CB Radio. I quickly purchased one and used it to talk to locals including Dennis Podden, who was the caretaker of Allen Green’s vineyard, before Allan moved up to the ridge. My handle became “Big Dipper” reflecting my love of the night sky.
The social/political life on the commune was intense. Jack H. was a good 10-20 years older than the rest of us, born I think June 3, 1933, making him 81 today. Jerry B., Mark J., and I were all 1949ers and Jim C. a 1947er so naturally Jack at 40 years old in 1973 had elder status. In addition he and his friend Jim C. as well as Mark J. had put the small down payment on the land, leaving the rest of us with a balloon payment due in 1978 for $60,000. The cost of the land was only $200/acre back then. But in addition to Jack being the oldest of us, he also had a big ego, an Italian/New Jersey strong personality and a wicked temper.
We weren’t a religious commune, and we really had no common vision other than the fact that we all loved the land, nature, sought alternatives to the capitalistic society we’d all been raised in, and we had all been radicalized in the ‘60s and were somewhat political. Finding that common vision was problematic and elusive, and of course, Jack thought his vision was the vision.
Our vehicle for discussing such heady topics was our “Sunday Morning Meetings” which took place at 10am after a nice pancake breakfast and ran for a couple of hours. Topics ranged from who we would allow to come and live at Rainbow, to who washed the dishes and made dinner, to goat husbandry, chicken husbandry, who wasn’t working hard enough, and in Jack’s words, “who was obsessed by their own personal bullshit trip.” These meetings generally were not particularly fun, and often turned into Jack pulling rank and demanding his way. Nevertheless, these were the closest family times we all had together and we tried to work through the issues and the aches and pains of a bunch of suburban mostly privileged kids living for the first time in community with no rules whatsover to speak of. It was at once frustrating, energizing, and fascinating as the world was our oyster and everything was possible. We were a “lord of the flies” group learning how to live together apart from the society in which we’d been unwillingly bred into. And I loved it.
LETTER FROM MY SISTER
An excerpt from a letter written to me recently by my sister:
I just read John’s musings on Rainbow that he wrote a couple of years ago, and it made me think of how little I appreciated the profound work that went into its creation. It’s not surprising that we have such disparate recollections as our ages were so far apart; John had just graduated from U.C. Berkeley, and I was just a young girl fresh from the Mediterranian.
Unlike John’s joy at discovering the pleasure of living off the land, my memories of living at Rainbow were anything but idyllic. They were colored by a sense of deprivation and utter despair. I hated the place, the grungy lifestyle, the dirt. I was ashamed of our plywood dome-shaped house with its plexiglass windows and aphid infested tree growing out of it.
The lack of water, lugging plastic jugs up the hill to sleep on hard floors with nothing to cover us but flimsy sleeping bags. Braving the cold to use the shitter, toilet paper hidden in a rusty coffee can. Privacy was another luxury none of us were afforded. We had no choice but to live in a one-room house and listen to our mother have sex with a man who said he wanted to suck my toes, something that only made me long for the day when I would never have to endure such misery.
Was it because we were late to the scene and all the hard work had already been done or was it that we were just kids who just wanted to have friends over without being ashamed of who we were? That I held no appreciation for the ideals of communal living? Was it the horror of our first visit where we were greeted by a group of hairy, half-naked men in the dark, dirt-floored pantry in the stifling heat of summer that made me think my Mom had lost her fucking mind? Is it any wonder we didn’t want to live there?
Mom never gave us a logical reason to appreciate communal life, she was never much for spouting the ideology of back-to-the-land movement, and I suspect, even if she had, we would have dismissed it as a selfish desire to continue her drop out regardless of how it affected us. She didn’t owe us an explanation, nor did she feel a reason to give us one; just that we should shut up and get over it because we didn’t have a choice in the matter. As she was so fond of saying, “If you don’t like it – leave,” adding, “and don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”
CATCH OF THE DAY, Tuesday, November 14, 2023
BRADEY ALBERNI, Ukiah. Domestic battery, child endangerment.
DEAN AMMONS, Lakeport/Ukiah. Parole violation.
JUSTIN BOLTON, Modesto/Ukiah. Murder, witness intimidation, controlled substance.
CHARRISE BURNS, Fort Bragg. Obtaining personal ID info without authorization.
ANNETTE DONOVAN, Gualala. Probation revocation.
JOSIE LATHROP, Ukiah. Disobeying court order, failure to appear.
MANUEL LOPEZ-GALVEZ, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
ABIMAEL SERNA-CASTILLO, Ukiah. Probation violation.
TAMMY SLOAN, Willits. Under influence.
KRISTOFF SUBA, Willits. Probation revocation.
RONALD VALENTINE JR., Ukiah. Paraphernalia, failure to appear. (Frequent flyer.)
NICHOLAS ZUNO, San Jose/Laytonville. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
JEFF GOLL: gotta like the London Review of Books piece "Keep Those Pencils Ready." Cyber attacks are coming to a neighborhood near you. Nice touch that the British Library and the Alan Turing Institute was hit during an AI summit that was being held nearby. Cyber technocrats, not the meek, shall inherit the modern world. So maintain that Library Cathedral so there's a little more time before the "Fahrenheit 451" boys arrive.
NIETZSCHE WAS THE ONE who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called 'the love of your fate.' Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, 'This is what I need.' It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment--not discouragement--you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.
Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.
— Joseph Campbell (Reflections on the Art of Living: https://amzn.to/3slp7Vr #ad)
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
From my own circle, I’d estimate that America is still working very, very well for about ten percent of the country. 25 percent, almost there and trying/dreaming of the lake house…someday. The rest are utterly defeated and hopeless, maybe pretending that they’re enjoying their run on this earth. In many cases, the defeated are fully at fault for their own situation, but I would say in more cases, it’s just the luck of the draw. Oh, you’re talented? Too bad, you should’ve made X decision instead of Y back twenty years ago. Ya dumbass.
That’s the way it’s viewed by the folks I know who are too comfortable. And they’re good people, too. Just not capable of seeing the picture that so many others see, through the nature of comfort. Very similar to a couple getting fat when they feel secure that the other will never leave them.
The powers know this full well, and realize that only a shock to the system will make these people fall in line. They’ve tried it many different ways, to varying success. They’ve had time to do their homework, after all.
Once the mortgage payment is in jeopardy and little Billy realizes Dad isn’t really all that he thought, all bets are off and people will get angry. After all, they deserve everything they ever dreamed of, right? And not those other people. They should learn to code, naturally.
Well, those other people are pissed off. Popcorn, please.
WORD OF THE YEAR
The Collins Dictionary has chosen “AI” — artificial intelligence — as its word of the year. AI may be important as a driver of search engines or devices, but in reality, it just denotes a black box that takes human input and automatically generates a result.
My choice for the word of the year is “weaponize” where it defines an interaction wherein one uses something as a means to attack another. In 2023, one has read that Democrats weaponized courts against Donald Trump, that Russia weaponized energy supplies against Europe and that the GOP weaponized Hunter Biden’s prior addiction against him and his father.
What convinced me to select weaponize is a usage I recently discovered, “weaponized incompetence.” This is a behavior where one party claims to be bad at a task to avoid a shared responsibility. Weaponized incompetence is associated with phrases such as “I’m no good at that” or “You know I’ll just screw it up.” Saying these puts the onus back on the requester.
I think AI has proven its importance as a tool; as a word, weaponize is a more useful choice for the word of the year.
WARREN SPAHN earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, a battlefield promotion, and a Presidential Citation. He is the most decorated ballplayer in WWII. Despite missing over three years in service to his country, he still found time to become the winningest LHP ever. (via Ryan M. Spaeder)
"UK FILES" REPORTS SHOW: BOTH LEFT AND RIGHT CAN BE TARGETS OF CENSORS
American audiences may struggle with the particulars, but leaked Labour Party documents detail how "anti-disinformation" can be weaponized in all directions
by Matt Taibbi
Just as some denizens of George Orwell’s Animal Farm were more equal than others, Britain’s Center for Countering Digital Hate stands out among the fast-growing list of organizations dedicated to the global elimination of wrongthink, commonly described using terms like disinformation, hate, and lies.
Recently the target of a lawsuit by X, the CCDH was and is a conspicuous recurring character in the Twitter Files, where among other things it organized a relentless campaign against Robert Kennedy, Jr. and others deemed purveyors of vaccine disinformation. Recently, they also appeared in articles bemoaning a judicial decision enjoining the government from engaging with platforms on digital censorship.
CCDH reports and correspondence are distinguished by a unique tone of fevered indignation, as if members were consumed with rage at a world that hadn’t yet deleted disfavored accounts. Their methods, issuing bullhorn demands for total social defenestration through a vast and cleverly courted network of mainstream press allies, represent a perfected template for the modern “anti-disinformation” organization: moral absolutists unafraid to use accusations of bigotry as a political weapon.
When British investigative journalist Paul Holden approached Racketwith a story based on leaked documents showing the secret history of the CCDH, I was intrigued, but it wasn’t until I saw the first drafts that I realized the story’s importance. Holden is in possession of a wealth of internal correspondence about Britain’s Labour Party, in character and politics a near-exact analog to our Democratic Party. These “UK Files” detail the relationship between Britain’s leading “centrist” political faction and one of the most aggressive pro-censorship organizations in the Western media world, and offer insight into Labour’s intramural campaign to label former leader Jeremy Corbyn guilty of antisemitism.
Holden, who has experience diving into document-heavy public corruption investigations, discovered in these files communications going back years about a series of high-wattage British news controversies which, I must warn Racketreaders, will not mean much at first glance to American audiences. But they hold enormous significance even for us, as they detail how the CCDH, its lead organizer/hatchet-man Imran Ahmed, and key figures in the conservative wing of the Labour Party learned to get ahead by pushing dubious news scandals against political enemies.
What you’re about to read is correspondence between British political operatives who discuss how to use fake news to destroy opponents, while hiding behind a disguise as an operation supposedly fightingfake news. Three tactics stand out:
- Accusations of bigotry and homophobia, used to silence political opponents on the group’s left;
- Use of guilt-by-accusation narratives to attack the reputations of both conservative and leftist politicians;
- Close coordination with dependably incurious mainstream media organizations.
The first cases you’ll read about in Holden’s reports involve a Tory parliamentarian named Grant Shapps, who was falsely accused of being caught doing sock-puppet editing his own Wikipedia page.
Later, the same group that pulled off that media deception targets left-wing supporters of Corbyn in Liverpool, who are accused of attacking a centrist holdout MP named Angela Eagle with homophobic slurs and tossing a brick through her window. The stories are false, but effective in the short run in defaming and de-fanging a group of Corbynites.
These episodes are the proof of concept these same actors will eventually use to crush Corbyn, whose seemingly inevitable rise to Downing Street would ultimately be derailed by accusations of antisemitism and bigotry.
It's crucial to understand that the affairs detailed here weren’t obscure back-page events in England, but serious scandals Fleet Street made instantly recognizable to the average Briton, using headline catchphrases like “Brickgate.” An analogous tale here might be the furor over supposedly abusive tweets by Bernie Sanders supporters, the alleged preference Vladimir Putin had for Sanders, or the coordinated wipeout of Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.
Throughout the Twitter Files period, it’s been a great source of frustration that a lot of the information we released that in normal times would have been alarming to people of all political persuasions, was easily dismissed as just more fodder for culture war. The importance of certain revelations could have been driven home to wider audiences if we’d found more documents in the Twitter Files showing suppression of movements like the Sanders campaign. However, it was and is just inescapable fact that rightist populist movements attract the bulk of the attention of the “anti-disinfo” sector in America.
That’s part of what makes Paul’s series so important: he proves that these techniques can be used in all directions.
Groups like the CCDH often paralyze left-leaning political figures and media commentators by making them afraid to be lumped in with anti-vaxxers or Trump supporters. Only a few sharp reporters like Branko Marcetic of Jacobin, have had the vision to understand that “They’ll come for us next.” Marcetic noted that the Ahmed, who’s spent years accusing others of conspiracy theories, once asserted an incredible Unified Field Theory of bigotry in a 2019 Mediumpost, claiming everyone from Donald Trump to Jeremy Corbyn to Leavers to the gilets jaunesand the “alt-right” were a single “political movement” allied by “hate,” describing Boris Johnson and Corbyn as “two privately-educated white men with a history of bigotry.”
It’s just a coincidence that all of the very different actors and parties Ahmed named happen to be critics of the same brand of neoliberal politics Ahmed and his Labour cohorts represent. Marcetic correctly pointed out that the CCDH method depends on quantity of media attention, that for instance “amid the tidal wave of media coverage” about Corbyn’s alleged antisemitism, “it must have meant there was something there.” The same tactics have been used repeatedly in the States through other organizations targeting figures ranging from RFK Jr. to Trump to Bernie Sanders to Joe Rogan, but with a few exceptions, left-leaning figures have tended to genuflect to these reputational a-bomb tactics rather than take them on.
Stripped of partisan wrangling, the tale of groups like the CCDH is less about censorship than new forms of authoritarian politics, enabled by a sophisticated digital smearing machine, dissected in Holden’s reports. I hope that Americans seeing irrefutable evidence of a Labour faction’s cynical use of “anti-disinformation” against their own will help break the illusion that this is solely a right-wing issue.
We’ll make sure any idiosyncrasies of British politics that appear in the text are explained for New World audiences, and make Paul available for Q&A at some point. Until then, thanks to Racketreaders for their patience while we work on these releases.
UKRAINE, TUESDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER
The Biden administration on Friday laid out the details of a $105 billion national security package that includes military and humanitarian assistance for the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel.
The supplemental request would provide security support to Israel, bolster Israeli efforts to secure the release of hostages and extend humanitarian aid to civilians affected by the war in Israel and Gaza, according to a White House fact sheet.
It would also provide training, equipment and weapons to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion and to recapture its territory, as well as to protect Ukrainians from Russian aggression, the fact sheet said.
The package would also include additional funds to support US-Mexico border security, including more patrol agents, machines to detect fentanyl, asylum officers and immigration judge teams. Plus, it would provide funding to strengthen security in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan.
JEFF BLANKFORT: I just contributed to Rashida Tlaib's re-election campaign, it being the very least I can do to defend this valiant Palestinian woman who has been a non-stop target of the people who took over her mother country 75 years and now control this country. Please do so, as well, and let her and those wishing to victimize her know that we have her back!
WHY IS ISRAEL BOMBING GAZA HOSPITALS AND AMBULANCES? IT’S ALL ABOUT “WINNING”
by Neve Gordon
Across Israel, huge billboards tower over central highways, while large placards have been placed in front of schools, supermarkets, and government buildings. They all feature a new slogan: “Together we will win.”
The slogan is short and sharp (in Hebrew, it is made up of two words, “beyahad nenatzeach”) and has been embraced by large segments of Israel’s Jewish population. Part of its attraction is likely due to its ambiguity, allowing each viewer to interpret the word “win” differently.
Despite different interpretations of what victory would look like, however, there appears to be wide consensus among Israelis that a victory of any type can only be achieved through unleashing lethal violence on Gaza.
Otherwise, how do we explain that when fleeing residents, traveling on a road Israel identified as a “safe route” to the south, are hit by a deadly air strike not a single voice on mainstream media is heard criticizing the assault? Nor do we hear any outrage when bombs are dropped in the middle of one of the most crowded neighborhoods in Jabalia refugee camp or when missiles strike a convoy of ambulances. For most Israelis, “winning” currently seems to justify almost any violence.
As the past month demonstrates, most Israelis appear to have had no qualms about the military dropping 30,000 tonnes of explosives on Gaza, damaging around 50 percent of all housing units throughout the Gaza Strip, and rendering at least 10 percent of these uninhabitable. Almost 70 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has been forcibly displaced from their homes due to bombing and raids. Half of the hospitals and 62 percent of primary care health centres are effectively out of service and one-third of all schools have been damaged and about nine percent are now out of service.
This, many Israeli Jews believe, is part of what is needed to “win” and, thus, the Palestinians will just have to suffer thousands of civilian casualties, including the deaths of the more than 4,000 children killed to date. They seem to accept that “winning” entails killing on average six children every hour since October 7, and transforming Gaza into a “graveyard for children,” as UN chief Antonio Guterres put it.
The kind of indiscriminate bombing we have seen in the past month is undoubtedly part of Israel’s effort to assert deterrence in relation to Hamas, as well as Hezbollah. The message is clear: look at the destruction in Gaza and beware.
Yet even the wholesale bombing of Gaza needed for this kind of deterrence is not really the end goal. What “winning” ultimately means for most Jewish Israelis is the complete annihilation of Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Considering that Hamas is an ideology, a social movement and a governing apparatus that includes a military arm, the scope and feasibility of this goal are unclear, but it will definitely entail killing thousands of combatants, including their political and military leaders, demolishing the tunnel system Hamas has created, and destroying the weapons the group has amassed. And the killing of thousands of civilians, the massive displacement of the population, and the extensive destruction of civilian sites are considered legitimate “collateral damage”. But if the destruction of Hamas is the end goal, then “winning” also entails a regime change in Gaza as well as creating a new reality on the ground where Israel controls not only the borders surrounding the Gaza Strip, but also what happens within these borders. It is only at this point, however, that the current widespread consensus in Israel about the need to annihilate Hamas becomes fractured and “winning” is interpreted differently according to the political group to which one belongs.
For the religious right, the heinous Hamas massacre is considered an opportunity to resettle the Gaza Strip with Jewish settlers. The blanket bombing and the displacement of more than a million Palestinians make it possible to slice the Strip into different parts and to create Palestinian-free zones where Jewish settlers can take over land and rebuild settlements. Resettlement of the Gaza Strip is, however, part of a larger plan to Judaise the entire region – from the river to the sea. At this very moment – and under the cover of Israel’s violence in the Gaza Strip – settlers belonging to this political group are expelling Palestinian communities from the hills east of Ramallah, the Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank. “Winning” for them is completing the Nakba once and for all by replacing the indigenous population with Jews throughout the Biblical land of Israel.
For the Israeli political right and many on the political center, “winning” means transforming parts of northern Gaza and a large perimeter around the Strip’s northern, eastern and southern borders into a no-man’s land. It means the permanent removal of populations from the north to the south and from Gaza’s borders inward while confining the Palestinians into an even smaller prison than the one they have lived in for the past 16 years. It entails creating a puppet government responsible for running municipal tasks, not unlike the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and it means Israeli soldiers will periodically enter the Gaza Strip to “mow the lawn,” similar to what the military does in Jenin.
The remaining political center and many Jewish Israeli liberals do not really know what “winning” means beyond the exertion of horrific violence to “destroy Hamas.” Trapped in a militaristic and now retributive paradigm, they seem to think that Israelis and Palestinians are locked in a fatalistic zero-sum game where only the application of violence against Palestinians will somehow ensure Jews are safe. Not entirely sure about what victory means, but desiring this end result, nonetheless, they, too, support the violence. Thus, whether the vast majority of Jewish Israelis admit to it or not, “winning” involves a widescale eliminationist drive that is directed against the Palestinian people and not merely Hamas.
Only a tiny segment of Israel’s Jewish society is refusing these forms of “winning” and is calling for an immediate ceasefire. For them, then, winning entails a complete and total paradigm shift, transforming Israel into a single democratic state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea where Jews and Palestinians can live together as equals.
For this group, the “together” in the slogan “together we will win” is not the Jewish exceptionalism that reigns in Israel (and in many quarters around the world) but a Jewish-Palestinian alliance, something that today seems like a far-fetched dream. This prophetic vision, however, is the only notion of winning worth fighting for. And our only hope for a peaceful future in this historic land.
(This article was first published in Al Jazeera English. Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.)
BIDEN NO HELP
The US is not just “standing by Israel” as our Administration spokesmen from Pres. Biden through Sec. of State Antony Blinken and others say. Already the bombing and ground force intrusions of the Israeli military of Gaza have killed over eleven thousand Palestinian people, a third of whom are children. Hospitals, like Al Shifa, in Gaza City, are under siege. Many hundreds of patients are dying daily due to Israel’s brutality and war crimes.
While it is true that our president has asked the Israelis to stick to the “rules of war,” and that he is stuck in a hard place, his actions are not likely to lead to any lessening of tensions, much less to a cease fire. In fact, not only Palestinians and patients are being killed at Al Shifa Hospital, doctors and other medical staff are being targeted by Israeli snipers when they are trying to bury some of the dead. Obviously Israel is guilty of war crimes.
Attacking hospitals must stop. I join NY Times journalist Tom Friedman in calling on Israel to make it clear what is its long term aim for all of Gaza.
Frank H. Baumgardner, III
I HAVE A THEORY that the moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. I have tried this experiment a thousand times and I have never been disappointed. The more I look at a thing, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I want to see. It is like peeling an onion. There is always another layer, and another, and another. And each layer is more beautiful than the last.
This is the way I look at the world. I don't see it as a collection of objects, but as a vast and mysterious organism. I see the beauty in the smallest things, and I find wonder in the most ordinary events. I am always looking for the hidden meaning, the secret message. I am always trying to understand the mystery of life.
I know that I will never understand everything, but that doesn't stop me from trying. I am content to live in the mystery, to be surrounded by the unknown. I am content to be a seeker, a pilgrim, a traveler on the road to nowhere.
— Henry Miller