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MCT: Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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GENERALLY PLEASANT, sunny conditions are expected across the area for the next few days. Chilly morning temperatures will continue to produce localized frost and freeze concerns in the interior valleys. (NWS)

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE says nothing but sunshine until December. October is the traditional first month of the official rain year, but this October has been drier than dry.

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COMMENTS on this website will be unavailable for a short spell (technical issues). We will be implementing a major upgrade to the site, which will appear after the upcoming election. In the meantime, you can email your submissions to

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THE MENDOCINO COUNTY ELECTIONS OFFICE located at 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1020 - Ukiah, will be open this Saturday, October 31 from 9 am to 3 pm. We will be answering your phone calls, issuing ballots, accepting your voted ballots and allowing voters to vote in our office, we will also offer Conditional Voter Registration / Voting for voters not registered in Mendocino County. If you have any questions please call our office at 707 234-6819. Because the Administration Center is closed, please call when you get here and we will come and let you in. (707) 234-6819.

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SIX NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Tuesday, bringing total to 1142.

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IT’S ABOUT TIME: Mendocino County Enters the State’s Red Tier

Mendocino County Public Health was alerted today by the State that our county has officially entered the Red Tier 2. Moving from Tier 1, or “widespread” COVID-19 community risk status, to the Tier 2 “substantial” risk category allows more businesses to reopen tomorrow, October 28, 2020.

“We’ve made a lot of progress to move into the red tier and further reopen our economy,” says Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo. “Thank you to our residents for doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we continue to be proactive and follow the guidance from Public Health, we can continue to reduce transmission and gradually reopen.”

"I am thankful, and cautiously optimistic that the state is allowing us to re-open further," says Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren. “While this is good news, we cannot allow this to make us believe we are in the clear. Many regions in the country have been experiencing recent spikes in COVID-19, so we all must individually maintain protective measures against this virus.” In alignment with the state’s Red Tier 2 category, the following industries are now permitted indoors or expanded operations in Mendocino County:

 Restaurants may now open indoors with modifications in place, which include facial covering use by all employees and guests (except when eating) as well as socially distanced tables. Each restaurant has a maximum of 25% capacity or 100 people, (whichever is less).

 Gyms may now open indoors with modifications, which include facial covering use by all employees and guests, as well as socially distanced machines and guests. Each gym has a 10% maximum capacity.

 Places of worship may now open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people (whichever is less) and with modifications, which include facial covering use by all in attendance, and social distancing between household units. Additionally, activities like singing and group recitation dramatically increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Therefore, singing and chanting activities must be discontinued at indoor services, and congregants engaging in group recitation should wear facial coverings at all times.

 Retail stores may now have a maximum of 50% capacity, and must still follow facial covering and social distancing orders.

Skilled Nursing Facilities may now have limited indoor visitation of residents, which include facial covering use by all employees and guests.

The State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy lays out a clear picture of what the different tiers mean to each business sector. For a complete list of allowable activities under the Red Tier 2, please visit As a reminder, all businesses must complete a COVID-19 Self-certification process prior to opening for the first time at

Per state regulations, Red Tier 2 counties that maintain Tier 2 data for at least two consecutive weeks may reopen schools to classroom-based learning, with modifications. For Mendocino County, that could be as early as November 12.

Mendocino County must spend at least 21 days in the Red Tier 2 and meet the Orange Tier requirements for two consecutive weeks before advancing to the next less restrictive tier. Most notably, Mendocino County may have to tighten back up and move back to a more restrictive tier if we experience a rise in cases. To help continue the progressive re-opening process, the public is encouraged to wear a mask, social distance, practice frequent handwashing, stay home when sick and avoid gatherings.


California health officials updated the state's color-coded COVID-19 risk assessments Tuesday, promoting seven counties to less restrictive tiers. Glenn and Mendocino counties improved from the most-restrictive purple tier to the red tier. Santa Cruz plus three Bay Area counties — Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo — went from red to orange. Calaveras County was promoted from orange to the least-restrictive yellow tier.

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Uncle Abe’s Landing

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WHEN WE LAST discussed the lawsuit filed by Chris Gurr and Ann Borges against Mendocino County and Fish & Wildlife, we thought their claim sounded good against Fish & Wildlife, but kinda weak for Mendocino County’s role.

The Gurr-Borges property on the Ukiah end of the Boonville Road was raided in August of 2017 by Fish and Wildlife on allegations that they were growing pot with creek water. Gurr-Borges have paperwork proving otherwise. F&W ripped out the entire Gurr-Borges grow, while holding them in handcuffs as they watched the wardens take everything in the grow, including several hundred plants and their permit official paperwork. Gurr-Borges were near the end of their permit process at the time, but had not received final approval. The wardens didn’t care about any steenking paperwork nor did they check with Mendo before yanking out the plants. 

As we mentioned in our August report, Gurr-Borges filed suit in July in federal court, listing several Mendocino County employees and officials as instrumental in the disputed August 2017 raid. 

But that first filing didn’t offer much about Mendo’s role in the “conspiracy” to deny Gurr-Borges a permit and ultimately have their pot garden raided.

But in a recently amended complaint, the plot thickens. 

Gurr-Borges and their attorneys, John Scott of San Francisco and William Cohan of Rancho Santa Fe (Southern California), provide some intriguing new allegations under a heading entitled “Additional Facts Re Conspiracy Claim.”

“The conspiracy was initially formed between defendant Anzilotti and co-conspirator Steve White [of Fish & Wildlife] for the purpose of depriving the plaintiffs of their property (cannabis) under false pretenses, i.e., suspected water diversion from a local creek. Thereafter, the conspiracy evolved to include members of the Board of Supervisors, John McCowen and Carre Brown, with the goal of depriving the plaintiffs of a permit to cultivate cannabis approved by [then-Ag ]Commissioner [Diane] Curry as the final decisionmaker for the County. In furtherance of the conspiracy, John McCowen recruited Assistant County Counsel Matthew Kiedrowski to prevent the permit approved by Commissioner Curry from being delivered to the plaintiffs. The conspiracy then evolved to also include defendant [former Third District Supervisor] Georgeann Croskey. The goal was to change the County zoning plan to create an ‘opt-out’ provision targeting the plaintiffs. As a result of the new ordinance, plaintiffs were the only qualified persons in the County who were prohibited from cultivating cannabis in an agricultural zone.”

[ms notes: We had heard that there were some pot growers in the Westport Area that would also have been denied permits under an “opt-out” approach.]

“Defendant [and neighbor of Gurr-Borges] Sue Anzilotti was politically connected to members of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, John McCowen and Carre Brown. When Sue Anzilotti began to complain publicly against the Plaintiffs to various state and local agencies she also complained privately to many officials — including John McCowen and Carre Brown.

Co-conspirator John McCowen played a leading and influential role among a majority of the Board of Supervisors. With that apparent authority he formed a special relationship with Deputy County Counsel Matthew Kiedrowski, another co-conspirator. Matthew Kiedrowski was assigned by [then-] County Counsel Kit Elliot to oversee the Cannabis Program that was under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture.

Sometime after the Plaintiffs submitted their application in May 2017 Commissioner Curry was informed by Matthew Kiedrowski that John McCowen would never allow the Plaintiffs’ project to be approved.

After the Plaintiffs amended their application to include an inland site in Willits to satisfy the prior cultivation requirement, Commissioner Curry decided to issue the (B)(3) permit and informed the Plaintiffs of this decision. However, co-conspirator Matthew Kiedrowski intervened and prevented the permit from being delivered. He claimed the permit could not be delivered until the Commissioner received proof that cultivation had ceased and would not be resumed at the origin site.

The Plaintiffs hired an attorney and the requested “Agreement Not to Resume Cannabis Cultivation” was provided to Matthew Kiedrowski. See Exhibit D attached. Nevertheless, the approved permit was now being held hostage, under color of state law, by Matthew Kiedrowski in furtherance of the conspiracy between Sue Anzilotti and John McCowen. In addition, co-conspirators McCowen and Kiedrowski were acting as de facto final decision makers for the County of Mendocino improperly negating the decision of the [Ag] Commissioner.

Beginning on or about November 2017, and in furtherance of the conspiracy, John McCowen and Carre Brown, at the request of defendant Anzilotti and other neighbors of the plaintiffs, participated in a process to create an “opt-out” zone designed to prevent the plaintiffs from cultivating cannabis on their property notwithstanding plaintiffs’ permit being approved by Commissioner Curry.

In March 2018 Commissioner Curry retired from her position as Interim Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture. This is not the only case where members of the Board of Supervisors attempted to influence Commissioner Curry through Deputy County Counsel Matthew Kiedrowski.

Commissioner Curry was ultimately succeeded by Harinder Grewal. [Ag] Commissioner Grewal signed a letter prepared by Matthew Kiedrowski dated July 9, 2018. The letter was sent by the County of Mendocino on or about that date officially notifying the Plaintiffs their application for a permit was denied with the purported reason for the denial.”

[ms notes: Exhibit G essentially says that the prior cultivation requirement must be at the same location in the current permit application.]

“The reason proffered for the denial is both false and pretextual.

The “opt-out” amendment included as part of Ordinance No. 4420, (Exhibit H attached), Section 11, at page 24, targeted only two neighborhoods in the entire County. Of the two, the plaintiffs’ property was located in the Boonville/Woodyglen CP District, an area zoned agricultural. This unprecedented political experiment gave a right to plaintiffs’ neighbors to decide whether to “opt-out” of the zoning plan and thus prevent plaintiffs from exercising their right to cultivate cannabis on their property. Plaintiffs were the only qualified persons in an agricultural zone in the County adversely affected by the ‘opt-out’ amendment to the zoning plan.

In furtherance of the conspiracy, on December 4, 2018 a new ordinance was passed by defendants John McCowen, Carre Brown and Georgeanne Croskey. It created an ‘opt-out’ zone designed to prohibit the plaintiffs from cultivating cannabis on their property. This zoning decision was made for no legitimate reason and was based on impermissible motives. On information and belief, this was the first time a County in the State of California created an opt-out zone in the zoning plan that prevented a property owner from cultivating cannabis based solely on the vote of neighbors.”

We assume attorneys Scott and Cohan have a documentary basis for this alleged “conspiracy.” There are certainly other ways to spin the now-defunct and unworkable “opt-out” zone idea which wouldn’t necessarily make Gurr-Borges an intentional target of the bumbling pot permit program’s wasteful and haphazard development and management. (If the Board had simply used the existing zoning/permit process, the opt-out approach would be pointless.) 

The County has already authorized expensive outside attorneys to represent them in the Gurr-Borges case. If the case isn’t settled in the mean time, it will be interesting to see the relevant emails and depositions of the parties involved. If the case reaches that point, next year at the earliest, McCowen and Brown will be former Supervisors.

(Mark Scaramella)


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Community Altar for Dia De Los Muertos

Contribute to Our Community Altar!

Join us in building a Dia de los Muertos altar. These altars are an important part of celebrating Mexico’s most famous holiday, Day of the Dead. Traditionally, families will build altars in their homes during the weeks leading up to November 2nd, as a way to celebrate and remember loved ones who have passed to the other side. Together we will remember our loved ones and those who are no longer with us, in creating a Community Altar. We invite you to be a part of the Ukiah City Hall Community Altar, please bring pictures, objects, fabrics or an altar offering. Items should be limited 16 inches or less and no flames/candles will be lit. You may bring the items between October 31, 2020 - November 2, 2020 during the hours of 8am-6pm All items should be picked up by 6p on Nov 2 Please call Mo Mulheren 707-391-3664 with questions in English Please call Josefina Duenas 707-234-9237 with questions in Spanish.

Here is the Facebook event:

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Elk residents, Kira Brennan and Pele Clark, along with Anne-Marie Praetzel from Berkeley and Sydney Harris from Santa Cruz are heading to Arizona to join the the Fuera (Get OUT!) Trump Caravan. They will go door to door in Phoenix to encourage people to Vote in this historic election. On November 3rd, They will volunteer with Election Defenders on Election Day for polling station observation and voter support. 

Pele and Sydney (17 and 18 years old) are joining this effort as first time election activists. They are sure to meet young people from all over the country, there to defend democracy. Our team says: “Wish us well Mendocino County! We are all hoping for a positive turnout and outcome!”

And please make sure everyone you know is voting!

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MARIJUANA, an on-line comment: "Another pathetic romanticized account of the marijuana industry!! For shits sake folks, wake the f*#@k up. These grows are absolutely and without question ruining our community. The illegals are destroying our environment and community without any regard to others. The legal grows are not much better, putting greenhouses on our local ridges with grow lights 24/7, generators running all hours, traffic from employees on roads not intended to be used all year long. The most hilarious one is the trucking of huge amounts of “soil” into our remote areas to grow an agricultural crop! Now that is ridiculous, how can the Board of Supervisors and Planning Department approve of and permit a grow to be agricultural when you have to import the soil to raise the crop? What a bunch of loons, to think this is sustainable and that it is a good thing for our County and community."

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BYRON SPOONER updates the pig from Pig Hunt:

At tonight’s screening of Pig Hunt at our local cinema. Robert Mailer Anderson’s 3000 lb pig was hauled out of mothballs. I don’t think this thing weighs 3000 pounds, but the giant pig in the movie is supposed to be and it’s fun to play pretend. There is room inside for two people, called puppeteers. It came in its own trailer. Robert rented it to a Korean movie production and they changed the head and never replaced it with the original, which was scarier. The original head was capable of doing 165 different functions (not sure that number is exactly right or even very close), I don’t know what this Korean Replacement Head can do but it looks like not very much. The movie is still as funny as ever, is available on DVD and is of special interest to aficionados of juvenile humor.

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MENDOCINO COUNTY, where the excitement never ends. The presser begins, “The County of Mendocino is excited to announce that part one of the Small Business Recovery Grant Program funding will soon be available to eligible for-profit micro-businesses in Mendocino County. The grants will be administered through West Business Development Center…”

$500,000 won’t go far even if the geniuses of free enterprise at West Business Development Center didn’t take a big whack. Two on-line comments neatly sum up the excitement:

• First, Mendocino County kills all of our small businesses, then Mendocino County offers businesses pennies to try to save them? Screw the Board of Supervisors, Screw the County Health Officials. Your reaction to the pandemic did way more harm than any perceived threat of the bs lab made virus. You can go eat your masks, lametards.

• Mendocino not making what they think they should. How do we fix that? More loans! Invite small businesses to register so we can track and tax you! Average income in Mendocino under 30gs. Elite few make tons preying on the less financially solvent folks.

• Want a better community… training, job shadowing. Not grants and loans that get quickly spent and or misappropriated.

• Get some affordable housing for people.

• $20 an hour you do not meet the 3x the rent standard all realtors adhere to around here.

• It’s way more broken in Mendo than what this little bandaid can fix. It sadly exsanguinated long ago.

ACCORDING to a fresh British study, the proportion of England’s population with the antibodies that form an immune defense is falling, and falling sharply, not rising, and leaving more people open to a second infection by the highly contagious virus. 

HERD IMMUNITY? Graham Cooke, co-author of the report, said: “As a whole, these data suggest the possibility that decreasing population immunity will lead to an increased risk of reinfection as detectable antibodies decline in the population.”

KEITH RANIERE, the NXIVM cult guy infamous for branding — yes, branding them like cows —his dingbat followers, among them actors and millionaires, was sentenced to 120 years on Tuesday for sex-trafficking. Raniere, inevitably described as "brilliant" and a "genius," although try as I might as I watched the over-long documentary film on him called "The Vow" on HBO, all I saw was a short fat guy spouting fortune cookie platitudes to audiences of rapt feebs. There’s an unintentionally hilarious scene where Raniere, shaking in his Birks, meets the Dalai Lama, who instantly spots Raniere as the phony hustler he is. The documentary is way too long and way too focused on the post-cult neurotic dupes seduced by Raniere; their dupe-dom is hard to sympathize with because this guy is so transparently fraudulent you come away wondering whatever happened to basic survival skills. Raniere charged these pathetic sheep thousands of dollars for invitation-only self-improvement courses, meaning only people with thousands of dollars to spend on the scam could afford it, and who knew there were so many airheads around who could?

MENDOCINO COUNTY has its own sordid cult history, most of it back in the late sixties-early seventies, and an occasional pseudo-mystic hustler wanders through with a smooth enough patter to fleece the untethered. Most of these would-be gurus manage to skirt overt criminality, but we had some doozies back in the day. Why even I, savvy dude that I am, circa ‘72, bought a dozen laying hens from the Unification Church, then operating a brainwash center in the hills east of Boonville not far from the junction of 128 and 253 or, among old timers, the Ukiah Road and the Cloverdale Road. The Moonies had erected a beautifully carved sign at the driveway now leading to Sheep Dung Estates that read “New Ideal City.” A major prob with this city was its lack of infrastructure, having been a sheep ranch. Little water, no septic system, a thousand or so zomboid recruits perched on 600 bare acres. We wondered at the logistics, since the only structures were sheep shacks. The Moonie who sold me a dozen chickens assured me the hens were all young. “You’ll get fresh eggs for years,” he said. Being fresh outta the city I knew as much about poultry as I knew about spring boxes, discovering one morning that no water was flowing from the tap, and to restore the flow meant walking the line back into the hills to find the prob. The guaranteed laying hens never produced a single egg, and when a critter got ‘em all one night it seemed a cosmic squaring of accounts. On clear, still nights, you could hear the Moonies chanting for miles around. The Mendo authorities finally shut the place down after about a year for the obvious reason it presented a health hazard to them and us. But the Moonies didn’t abandon the property, oh no, they moved some refrigerated trailers up the hill and set up shop as, of all things, a chinchilla farm staffed by a German national married to an Italian national in one of the Rev’s mass weddings. But next thing we knew, the Moonies had bought a major Washington DC newspaper and, showering our reps with millions of dollars, no one dared called them Moonies any more.

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On Monday, October 26, 2020 at 10:43 P.M. a Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy observed a vehicle conduct two traffic violations on Road N in Redwood Valley.

The Deputy conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle with it yielding in the 8600 block of West Road.

The driver of the vehicle, Jeannette Long (a.k.a. Jeannette Perez), 28, of Ukiah, was contacted and was determined to be on active California Department of Corrections (CDC) Parole.


Long’s Parole Officer was contacted and a Parole Hold was placed on Long due to her failing to report to the local Parole office after being released on parole.

Long was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where she was booked on the charge of Parole Violation.

Long was to be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

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ACCORDING TO MAULDIN’S HISTORY of LAKE COUNTY (available at the Lakeport Museum), during the early 1860s, 65 Indians of the Yuki Tribe were massacred at Bloody Rock by a ruthless group of settlers (about 8 to 10 stockmen) from Upper Lake who accused the Indians of stealing cattle and murder. However, the story as told by the settlers, when they returned to town, was that rather than surrender, the Indians sang their death song, joined hands, then jumped off the rock and were killed.

No Indians escaped or were captured, and many years later the bones of the Indians were still in evidence at the bottom of Bloody Rock.

And the Indian name for Bloody Rock was not remembered. The name for the Bloody Rock Indian camp was also not remembered but it means "backed up against the rock" or nearly that.

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A READER WRITES: You’ve written something a couple of months ago about Supervisor John McCowen being banned from talking to staff. You said you asked the CEO about it and got no response. Have you heard anything more? Did you ever ask McCowen? You’re always taking shots at him, but he says what he thinks. He and Ted Williams are the only ones to do.

And they are the only ones willing to take Angelo on. Ted does it matter of factly in a way that doesn’t ruffle feathers but watching the meetings you can see Angelo gets triggered when McCowen speaks out. And you can see Haschak is Angelo’s lapdog always trying to shut McCowen up. Did you watch the covid update from the last meeting? It’s a good example. McCowen keeps asking questions and Haschak keeps trying to cut him off. I’ll take a dollar for every time Haschak said "Is that it?," or "We have to wrap this up," or similar.

I’m retired now but still hear from friends and nothing has changed since Angelo first took over at HHSA. There used to be an independent clerk of the board with a staff that worked directly for the supervisors. Now Angelo is the clerk of the board which means she controls the agenda and flow of information. It’s the classic GIGO as Ted Williams would know from programming — “garbage in, garbage out” — control the information and you control the outcome.

The best example of that was a couple of meetings ago, I think the first one in October. There were a bunch of sets of minutes on the agenda. There is an interesting memo from McCowen that proves the control of info comment. The last time staff recorded a directive from the board was in March! I could recap that memo for you but you might want to print it as a Memo of the Week.

You can see it online for the October 6 agenda item 4b.

ED NOTE: Supporting documents were attached to this reader’s note including the McCowen memo in question. We’ve pointed out several times that CEO Angelo’s take-over of the Clerk of the Board’s function back in 2009/2010 — for alleged cost savings/consolidation reasons (no money was saved, of course, essentially the same staffing is in place minus Board Clerk Christy Furman). Not only does the CEO fail to properly record Board directives, but the ones they do list are poorly worded and don’t have deadlines nor clear responsibilities. And nobody ever follows up on them anyway, accepting the generic “in process” status for months or more.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, October 27, 2020

Bengston, Bernal, Campos-Diaz, Cornwall

BRET BENGSTON, Ukiah. County parole violation, failure to appear.

OSCAR BERNAL, Ukiah. Felon with stun gun, paraphernalia, county parole violation, probation revocation.


BRINDAL CORNWALL, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

Delgado, Donovan, Faust, Lara

RYEN DELGADO, Ukiah. Controlled substance, probation revocation.

ANNETTE DONOVAN, Gualala. Probation revocation.

MATTHEW FAUST, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

KEONO LARA, Fort Bragg. Possession of over 600 obscene images etc. minor in sexual act, possession of obscene matter of minor in sexual act.

Long, Paschal, Tovar-Sevilla

JEANETTE LONG, Ukiah. Parole violation.

RONNIE PASCHAL, Willits. Stolen vehicle.

JUAN TOVAR-SEVILLA, Ukiah. Failure to appear.

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DIANE DI PRIMA (August 6, 1934 – October 25, 2020)

It is with much sadness that City Lights notes the passing of one of the greatest and most characteristically revolutionary poets associated with our press, Diane di Prima. Diane died yesterday due to never-resolved complications stemming from a fall a few years ago. She began her work as a poet in New York City, where she started publishing the stapled mimeo magazine The Floating Bear with co-editor LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) in 1961, the same year she co-founded the New York Poets Theatre. She would go on to attain notoriety with her Olympia Press novel, Memoirs of a Beatnik (1969), a fictionalized account of her bohemian life in Manhattan at the turn of the ‘60s. Relocating to San Francisco and becoming a stalwart member of the late ‘60s counterculture, Diana published her signature volume Revolutionary Letters in 1971 as part of the City Lights Pocket Poets Series. She would continue to add to this volume—part poetic manifesto, part how-to guide to rabble-rousing and avoiding arrest—for the rest of her life. Her later work with City Lights included such volumes as Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems (1980) and The Poetry Deal (2014), a book commemorating her tenure as San Francisco Poet Laureate. Other important works include her ongoing serial poem Loba, published as one volume by Penguin in 1978, and Recollections of My Life as a Woman (2001), a de-fictionalized account of the period first chronicled by Memoirs of a Beatnik. 

Diane’s distinctive voice and all-around toughness will be sorely missed during these trying times. A fiery personality, Diane could excoriate the powers of systemic oppression in this country like no one else, but we also wish to acknowledge her penchant for enchantment and wonder, as seen in "Revolutionary Letter #46": 

And as you learn the magic, learn to believe it. 

Don’t be "surprised" when it works, you undercut your power. 

City Lights sends our love to her husband Shep and her entire family.

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Dear Editor,

We progressives have gathered online and have collectively decided to give up. We have talked ourselves hoarse, and have not gotten anywhere. So, our education system can go on teaching right wing gibberish for all we care, and the kids today can all become followers of Q-anon. The masses can go on voting GOP and continue to believe the fairy tales spread by Fox News. People can go on allowing the right wing to slowly dismantle what’s left of our democracy. Slowly, so that we won’t notice any big changes that might inspire us to hit the streets in waves of protests. So, have at it, GOP, and do your darnedest, because we know that it’s all you are good for. 

Ken Ellis

New Bedford, MA

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I had to explain to my youngest daughter (B.S. from Georgetown, M.A. from Cambridge) the difference between primary sexual characteristics (penis or vagina) and secondary sexual characteristics (breasts for women, beard for men) and how people confuse the two. If a man who claims he’s really a woman, has breast augmentation & hormone therapy but doesn’t have his penis and testicles removed–he’s still a man b/c his primary sexual characteristic has not been changed. And doctors “assigning” gender at birth is complete nonsense. Doctors document the baby’s sex based on — you guessed it! — primary sexual characteristic. The medical field has been shamefully silent by allowing this idiocy to perpetuate. Once again, the power of woksterism picking and choosing “facts” that suit their purpose and screaming insults at anyone who challenges them.

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by Caroline Fraser

As a child in the 1960s I once rode a trolleybus in Seattle with my grandmother, and when it rounded a corner looking out over industrial land south of the train station and west toward container ships on Elliott Bay, she said, “That’s where the Hooverville was.” Close to a thousand unemployed men had camped there for a decade during the Depression, in improvised shacks and lean-tos built from scrap, boiling clothes in barrels and cooking food in blackened cans over open fires. Women facing homelessness were forced to move in with relatives or squat in doorways. Housing density in Seattle skyrocketed. Burned down twice by police, the Hooverville was rebuilt both times.

One of sixteen children, the daughter of Scandinavian immigrants, with only a few years of education, my grandmother was fortunate to have escaped such a fate. She worked all her life, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her household, but the only paid job she ever had was taking tickets on a streetcar. Her husband, wounded in World War I, was employed sporadically as a carpenter, railroad worker, shipyard worker, and manager of a state liquor store. Despite these humble circumstances, during the lean years of the 1930s they were able to buy a modest house at the top of Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, with two small bedrooms and a tiny bath, valued at $2,000 during the 1940 census, the equivalent of around $35,000 today.

Sold long ago, the house still stands, now with four bedrooms and three baths. It’s currently worth close to $1.2 million, well above Seattle’s recent median price for a single-family home, $760,000. Driven by ballooning growth at Amazon and other Seattle tech employers, the city’s housing costs have risen by around 10 percent annually in recent years, with home values rising 85 percent since 2012. Were they living now, my grandparents, laborers without much education, could never afford to rent or buy a house in their old neighborhood.

Seattle’s latest Hooverville is everywhere and nowhere, with the homeless population rising steeply over the past decade, reaching a high of over 12,000 in 2018, with more than half living “unsheltered.” (The total dropped to 11,200 last year.) People crowd into encampments next to highways, railroad tracks, or train trestles, under bridges, on city sidewalks, in their cars. They stay temporarily in shelters or sleep on park benches and in doorways, parking lots, alleys, abandoned buildings, campgrounds, and beaches.

And this time it’s men, women, children of all ages, infants, the disabled, people with jobs, and those who work in the gig economy. It’s those who have suffered a job loss or an unexpectred medical crisis as well as those who simply can’t afford the rent (averaging over $2,000 a month), a situation also found in major cities thoruhgout the west — Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego — and thoughout the country. In Manhattan, the median rent is currently $3,167; in Queens, $2,424, in the now cratering pandemic economy, with tens of millions suddenly unemployed, many are facing eviction in coming months, despite Trump’s executive order establishing a moratorium thorugh the end of 2020. That only delays the inevitable as landlords continue to find loopholes and press for evictions. Without drastic action, the housing crisis is about to get unimaginably worse.

Caroline Fraser’s most recent book, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Her first book, God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, was reissued last year. (November 2020)

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by Lynn Hunt

Lock her up! In this case, they not only locked her up but also cut off her head. It is not often that a queen is arrested, tried, and publicly executed. Henry VIII had two of his wives beheaded, one after a trial, the other by bill of attainder, but their executions took place in the privacy of the Tower of London. Marie-Antoinette’s problem was not her husband, Louis XVI, who was tried and executed for treason in January 1793. At the time of her own trial nine months later, she found herself the former queen in a year-old republic. Although the prosecution of the king could be justified by the revolutionaries on legal and political grounds, the proceeding against his queen raised more eyebrows, since in France a woman could never hold the throne in her own right.

Marie-Antoinette suffered her fate because of her reputation as a heedless spender of public funds, behind-the-scenes manipulator of ministers, counterrevolutionary conspirer, and, not least, unbridled libertine. She had been a controversial figure almost from the moment she set foot in France in 1770 as the 14-year-old daughter of the Habsburg empress Maria Theresa, for the Austrian Habsburgs had long been sworn enemies of France. The diplomatic and military realignment that had taken place during the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), in which France and Austria were allies, had not pleased everyone at the French court, and those who opposed it did not hesitate to feed the rumor mill against Marie-Antoinette. Later, the revolutionaries had only to mobilize this often pornographic pamphleteering to their own ends. In death she became for some a martyr of a dazzling age now tragically darkened, for others a reprehensible symbol of aristocratic arrogance, as conveyed by the apocryphal remark “let them eat cake” (when there was no bread). Over time, the queen perhaps got the last word, as she gained an enduring celebrity as the embodiment of youth, elegance, and taste.

* * *


by Matt Taibbi

How do you call something “Russian disinformation” when you don’t have evidence it is? Let’s count the ways.

We don’t know a whole lot about how the New York Post story about Hunter Biden got into print. There are some reasons to think the material is genuine (including its cache of graphic photos and some apparent limited confirmation from people on the email chains), but in terms of sourcing, anything is possible. 

This material could have been hacked by any number of actors, and shopped for millions (as Time has reported), and all sorts of insidious characters — including notorious Russian partisans like Andrei Derkach — could have been behind it.

None of these details are known, however, which hasn’t stopped media companies from saying otherwise. Most major outlets began denouncing the story as foreign propaganda right away and haven’t stopped. A quick list of the creative methods seen lately of saying, “We don’t know, but we know!”: Our spooks say it looks like the work of their spooks.

A group of 50 “former senior intelligence officials” wrote a letter as soon as the Post story came out. Their most-quoted line was that the Post story has “all the classic hallmarks of a Russian information operation.” 

Note they said information operation, not disinformation operation — humorously, even people with records of lying to congress like James Clapper and John Brennan have been more careful with language than members of the news media. 

Emphasizing that they didn’t know if the emails “are genuine,” these ex-heads of agencies like the CIA added “our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case,” noting that it appeared to be an operation “consistent with Russian objectives.” 

Politico, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, and many other outlets ran the spook testimonial.

It was prophesied.

The Washington Post needed four reporters — Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey — to tell us that “four former officials familiar with the matter” spoke of a long-ago report that the would-be source of the Post emails, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, had been “interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence” in Ukraine. As such, any information he “brought back” from there “should should be considered contaminated by Russia.” Therefore, by the transitive property of whatever, the New York Post story should be dismissed as part of an “influence” operation. Authorities are investigating if it might be Russian disinformation.

“The FBI is probing a possible disinformation campaign,” announced USA Today, citing the omnipresent “person familiar with the matter.” Officially, of course, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said, “Hunter Biden’s laptop is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign,” to which FBI spokesperson Jill C. Tyson officially said the bureau had “nothing to add at this time.”

Many of the outlets who covered this sequence of events described the F.B.I. statement as “carefully worded,” inviting us to read in things left unsaid. Thomas Rid in the Post went so far as to say Tyson was “hinting that actionable intelligence might yet be developed,” which is technically true but also technically meaningless.

Another neat trick was to discuss the Post story and in the same sentence refer to a present-tense description of an apparently confirmed operation to discredit Joe Biden. CNN’s construction was like this: “The FBI is investigating whether the recently published emails that purport to detail the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son in Ukraine and China are connected to an ongoing Russian disinformation effort targeting the former vice president’s campaign.”

That “ongoing Russian disinformation effort” is a story again sourced, as so many stories of the last four years have been, to assessments of intelligence officials. Thus, the essence of these new headlines comes down to, “Intelligence officials are checking to see if the new story can be connected to prior claims of intelligence officials.”

Even if it isn’t a Russian influence operation, we should act like it is. Johns Hopkins “Professor of Strategic Studies” Thomas Rid came up with the most elegant construction in a Washington Post, stating bluntly: “We must treat the Hunter Biden leaks as if they were a foreign intelligence operation — even if they probably aren’t.” Err on the side of caution, as it were. As the bosses in Casino put it, why take a chance?

The Biden campaign says it’s Russian disinformation (even though they can’t say for sure it’s disinformation at all).

The press has elicited from the Biden campaign a few limited, often contradictory comments about what is and isn’t true in the New York Post story. For instance, the campaign’s chief communications officer Andrew Bates said about allegations Joe Biden met with Burisma executive Vadym Pozharski, “We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.” In the same article], reporters noted, “Biden’s campaign would not rule out the possibility that the former VP had some kind of informal interaction with Pozharskyi.” So no meeting took place (although we’re not saying no meeting took place).

The campaign continues to not take a concrete position about the veracity of the emails, but allows people like “senior Biden advisor” and former Assistant Secretary of State Michael Carpenter to say things like, “This is a Russian disinformation operation… I’m very comfortable saying that.”

The natural follow-up question there should have been, “If it’s disinformation, are you saying the emails aren’t real?” But we haven’t seen many questions of that sort, probably because no one wants to be the member of the White House pool six months from now wearing the scars of interactions like this: Accuse anyone who asks questions about the story of being in league with Russia.

Reporters who merely retweeted the story or even just defended its right to not be censored, like Maggie Haberman of the New York Times or Marc Caputo from Politico, were instantly blasted as accomplices to foreign disinformation plots. As a result, many backed away from asking even basic questions about the piece (including to question seeming inconsistencies in the Post report).

The poor fellow who asked Biden about the story on the tarmac, Bo Erickson of CBS, got raked over the coals by the most aggressive Heathers in the giant high school that is America, fellow media members. Remember that the press consistently cheered as brave defenders of truth professional gesticulators like CNN’s Jim Acosta when they hit Trump with “tough” questions, but Erickson was reamed by colleagues for his mild query of Biden.

Matthew Dowd of ABC snapped, “Lordy, you ask someone about an article that has already been proven false and having Russia propaganda as its basis? I would suggest taking a look in the mirror.” 

Ben Rhodes, former Obama Deputy National Security Adviser and MSNBC contributor — a member of the growing spook-to-on-air-personality club — made the accusation more explicit: Adam Schiff says it is!

For the last four years, whenever the Democratic Party has sought to make unsupportable claims, it’s usually combined anonymous leaks to legacy outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post with public statements by a party spokesperson willing to say things on record without evidence. 

That person has often been California congressman Adam Schiff. Sometimes hinting that he’s seen intelligence he can’t speak of publicly, Schiff has repeatedly made statements that later proved false.

In March of 2017, he told Chuck Todd, “I can’t get into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now” that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. He would continue making statements like this for nearly two years, until information was declassified showing that Schiff early on had been told in secret testimony, by people like the aforementioned Clapper, “I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election.” 

In January of 2018, Schiff dismissed claims of FBI malfeasance in obtaining secret surveillance authority on Trump aide Carter Page: “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign." He was later proved incorrect] on all of these points by a report by Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out], Schiff “fabricates accusations… the way that other people change underwear.”

Of course, no one ever brings up Schiff’s record of wrongness. He gets a clean slate each time, and is rarely asked to substantiate anything he says, as was the case in this exchange last week with Wolf Blitzer, when he used the word “Kremlin” 14 times in one segment:

SCHIFF: The origins of this whole smear are from the Kremlin, and the president is only too happy to have Kremlin help and try to amplify it.

BLITZER: It’s not like Rudy Giuliani is peddling this information in a vacuum, Congressman. Take a look at this picture of the president in the Oval Office holding up a copy of the New York Post touting this conspiracy theory. It’s made its way all the way to the commander in chief with a big smile on his face.

SCHIFF: Yes. Well, look, I think we know who the driving force behind this smear has been all along and it’s been the president and the Kremlin. 

This reminds us of that other time!

One of the first reactions by press was to note how the release of the Burisma emails reminded them of 2016, when “Russian hackers and WikiLeaks injected stolen emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign into the closing weeks of the presidential race.”

The New York Times went so far as to say it had spoken with “U.S. intelligence analysts” who “contacted several people with knowledge of the Burisma hack,” claiming they’d heard “chatter” that stolen Burisma emails would be released as part of an “October surprise.” These people, the Times wrote, expressed concern that the Burisma material “would be leaked alongside forged materials… a slight twist on Russia’s 2016 playbook when they siphoned leaked D.N.C. emails through fake personas on Twitter and WikiLeaks.”

Politico, meanwhile, said the Post story “drew immediate comparisons to 2016, when Russian hackers dumped troves of emails from Democrats onto the internet — producing few damaging revelations but fueling accusations of corruption by Trump.” (Actually a lot of the accusations of corruption came from supporters of Bernie Sanders, but who’s counting?). Just say it!

One of the beautiful things about the post-evidence era in media is that pundits can simply say things willy-nilly, provided it’s the right thing. David Corn and Mother Jones, who this time four years ago were publishing some of the first pebbles from the towering Matterhorn of bullshit that was the Steele dossier, ran a headline proclaiming, “Giuliani and the New York Post are pushing Russian disinformation.” Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer declared] the Post story “reads as if it came straight from Russian propaganda playbook 101.” Ken Dilanian of NBC employed a creative double-negative, noting that Ratcliffe’s statement “didn’t say the FBI has ruled out the possibility of foreign involvement.”

My favorite, however, was probably former lead impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman, who noted that while the laptop might not be foreign disinformation, it was “part” of foreign disinformation, which feels like the Twitter version of a Magritte painting.

Everyone quote everyone else!

Donald Trump has taken a lot of grief — deservedly — for his “a lot of people are saying” method of backing up public statements. The response to the New York Post story has been the same kind of informational merry-go-round. Each of the above methods has often been backed up by others on the list, using A=A=A style rhetorical constructions.

The “50 former senior intelligence officials” letter cited “media reports” that “say that the FBI has now opened an investigation into Russian involvement.” They cited the USA Today story that cited the “person familiar with the matter” in making that claim, adding that, “according to the Washington Post, citing four sources, U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of an influence operation.”

The Washington Post in the person of professor Rid then turned around and cited the 50 former intelligence officials, while David Corn cited Rid in warning the whole story was “highly suspicious behavior,” especially against the “backdrop of 2016,” and so on. In other words, this is a story about media commentators citing intelligence sources who in turn are citing media commentators citing intelligence sources.

Of course it’s possible there’s a foreign element to the Post expose. But there’s nothing concrete to go on there, which has forced the press to levitate the claims through such propaganda spin-cycles. It’s amazing how quickly these machines get built now.

* * *

* * *

RURAL CALIFORNIA IS DIVIDED, armed for revolt. What’s the matter in the State of Jefferson?

by Ryan Sabalow, Lara Korte & Jason Pohl

Carlos Zapata has a message for any government official who shows up at his Tehama County restaurant and tries to enforce California’s pandemic shutdown orders.

"I’ve made it very clear that if they come to shut us down, I’m going to call 100,000 people that’ll be there with guns, and what happens happens, you know?" Zapata said Tuesday. "I’m hoping that they’re not stupid enough to want that kind of a fight over a restaurant being open, but if they want it, we’ll definitely give it to them."

It’s not the first time the Red Bluff restaurant owner and U.S. Marine combat veteran has made those kinds of threats. A few weeks ago, he told the Shasta County Board of Supervisors to expect trouble if they enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 restrictions on local businesses.

"Right now, we’re being peaceful," he said in a short speech that has since made Zapata a celebrity among far-right groups. "But it’s not going to be peaceful much longer."

Just about anywhere else in California, that sort of talk would have been widely condemned. But here, in what’s arguably the capital of the State of Jefferson — a decades-old movement to break off conservative northern counties from Democrat-controlled California — many have shrugged Zapata off as commonplace.

In Jefferson, the sweeping pandemic edicts out of Sacramento are the latest in a long line of grievances about California’s liberal policies, from new gas taxes, to minimum wage hikes, to environmental restrictions, to gun control.

Indeed, the rebellious sentiment behind Zapata’s threats briefly carried its way to Shasta County’s elected leaders who considered this week rebelling against California on their own.

Despite having one of the highest per-capita rates of COVID-19 infections in the state, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors spent the last several weeks hearing calls to ignore state public health orders that would force restaurants, gyms and other small businesses to stop serving customers indoors.

At board meetings, business owners spoke at times through tears at the prospect of closing their shops permanently if the shutdowns continued. Dozens of others also brought up every manner of internet-driven conspiracy theory about the pandemic — vaccines are a health hazard, masks are a form of government control, the pandemic is a hoax to sway the election against Donald Trump, who won State of Jefferson counties by margins of up to 72% in 2016.

At one point, an anti-mask activist in a Grim Reaper mask stood at the microphone and tried to set a face mask on fire. A man announced he was placing the entire board under citizen’s arrest. Activists read out the county health officer’s home address, prompting police to step up patrols in her neighborhood.

As the country approaches a contentious election and the coronavirus shutdowns continue to hamstring the economy, the State of Jefferson may seem primed to explode.

But how much of this revolutionary talk needs to be taken seriously? How much is over-hyped by outsiders? And how much of it just comes with the territory? This is a place that has long resented its stepchild status in California’s strongly Democratic household — a place where grousing about Big Government is as fundamental as buying a new gun or putting a campaign sign for a local Republican on your lawn?

On Thursday, more moderate voices broke through the chaos. The Shasta County board heard from dozens of members of the community, including at least three physicians, urging the county to follow the state’s rules.

"I understand that these people for some reason call themselves ‘The silent majority’ even though they come in there and scream at you guys every week. They want everything to just be open," one man told the board in a recorded message. "Don’t let the Carlos Zapatas of the world intimidate you from making the right decision. Because that’s all they’re trying to do."

Ultimately, the supervisors decided to back away from a full-blown revolt from the state, after members said top state health officials were willing to consider easing the restrictions that went into effect on Friday.

For an afternoon at least, the conspiracy theories and calls for rebellion in the State of Jefferson were muted. But with the pandemic still surging, and the possibility of a new Democratic president, the same potent mixture of resentment and alienation from the rest of California remains.

The local militia gains support

For Woody Clendenen, defiance has been good for business. Clendenen owns a barbershop in the small Shasta County community of Cottonwood, which has enjoyed a steady stream of customers for months because he refused to stop cutting hair even when the state told him not to.

"People are starving for courage and leadership right now. And that’s why guys like Carlos, a lot of people are gravitating to them," he said, referring to Zapata, the Red Bluff restaurateur warning of violence.

"That’s why I have people traveling from four hours away to get their hair cut. It was a four-hour wait to get in here for four months, people were waiting outside, 15, 20 people out there."

It also helped draw in a particular type of clientele that Clendenen is the leader of the local company of the California State Militia. The group made its presence felt during the small, peaceful local protests that followed the George Floyd killing this spring.

Members stood guard outside buildings in Red Bluff and Redding in early June after seeing the reports of riots and looting in major cities across the country.

Unlike some other militia groups elsewhere in the country, they didn’t openly carry rifles, though Clendenen said many of his members have concealed weapons permits.

"I’m carrying right now. I mean, if I’m out of the shower, I’m carrying, so it was nothing out of the norm," he said as he trimmed a man’s hair inside his small shop festooned with "Don’t Tread on Me," "Make America Great Again," gun-rights and State of Jefferson swag.

He said they were especially worried because someone had "a trailer load of bricks delivered," a sign that people were going to riot and toss them through windows.

Similar tales popped up in rural towns across the country in the aftermath of rioting in major cities. Most turned out to be unfounded, fueled by social media hoaxes. Redding’s police chief said his officers heard about those bricks as well as reports of piles of rocks left in the city’s alleyways, but they were never able to confirm them.

Either way, Clendenen said the militia’s appearance was never intended to intimidate activists — they were just there to be a deterrent against violence.

"I said to one of the guys at the Black Lives Matter protest, ‘Hey, if law enforcement tried to make you stop having your protest, we would be on your side. You guys have the right to protest. As long as you just keep the protest (peaceful), we’re totally on your side.’ That’s the freedom of assembly, you know, one of the rights that we believe in.’"

Like Zapata, he said he’s ready to fight if the government tries to close his business. "You better be ready for a scrap if you’re going to do that," he said.

But he said he’s not worried, because he has wide support in Cottonwood and good relationships with local law enforcement and community leaders.

Shasta County Supervisor Les Baugh, who has been among the most vocal Shasta County elected officials bristling at the state’s shutdown orders, is among Clendenen’s clients.

"I know some will say this is wrong and that somehow I’m killing someone by getting my haircut," Baugh wrote on Facebook under a picture of Clendenen cutting his hair in early May when barber shops were supposed to be closed. "Here’s the way I see it ... The Barber Shop is open. Woody, a free man, a barber, working, earning an honest living, supporting his family, is cutting hair. I needed a haircut. No one forced me to come through the door."

Baugh, a local pastor, was the one who introduced the motion this week calling for Thursday’s emergency meeting to consider defying the state’s shutdown order.

‘She should be afraid’

Patrick Jones, a Redding gun store owner and former city councilman who’s running for the board of supervisors on an end-the-shutdowns platform, said he understands why some are threatening violence. The thought of losing their businesses because of a state mandate they don’t support is a prospect that would never sit well in Jefferson, he said.

"I mean, it destroys a person’s life and what they’ve built up," Jones said sitting in his shop where gun and ammo sales have boomed since the pandemic began.

"All because the government said you’re not essential, but those guys are .... And in (Zapata’s) eyes, you know, he fought for freedom. And he might have to do it again, in a manner that he had not anticipated. And so there’s a lot of anger there. Will he act out on that? I don’t know. I doubt it. But that’s how he was feeling."

Doni Chamberlain, a former newspaper columnist who now runs a local news website with a liberal bent, doesn’t think it’s all talk.

She has been following the tensions the last several months and has published articles critical of the militia’s appearance in the George Floyd protests, as well as the threats against local government officials over masks and shutdown orders.

She said she’s worried that at some point Zapata or one of the others saying they’ll shed blood might actually act on their "tough guy" talk. Equally concerning, she said, is someone being triggered by what they read or hear.

"I picture some guy in his mother’s basement, in a pair of grimy underwear under a lightbulb and is reading all this stuff and owns guns and thinks he’s going to help, you know?" Chamberlain said.

"The ones I’m concerned about are the guys in the corners who we don’t know who are lurkers and who are feeling impotent and helpless and angry and they want to do something to help and maybe they admire these guys."

Chamberlain’s concerns aren’t abstract threats in Jefferson. There have been at least three mass shootings in north state counties in the last six years.

A woman in 2014 shot six people at a tribal office in Modoc County, killing four. Three years later, a gunman shot up a school and killed five people during a drive-by rampage in Tehama County. And earlier this year, an ex-employee shot up a Walmart distribution center near Red Bluff after he’d been fired for missing work, killing one and wounding several others.

Those shootings were apolitical. But right-wing extremists from Shasta County have resorted to violence at least once before.

In 1999, Benjamin and James Williams, white supremacist brothers from Shasta County, murdered a local gay couple and firebombed three synagogues and an abortion clinic in Sacramento.

Asked if he is worried about someone hearing his talk of armed insurrection shooting someone like the county health officer, Zapata said he’s "not afraid, but she should be afraid."

"If I’m an appointed or elected official and I’m doing something bad enough that people are threatening to kill me, I might rethink my approach because something I’m doing is very unreasonable and it’s causing great harm," Zapata said.

"I think every elected official and appointed official ... should fear the people they serve in a very healthy manner, you know?"

Reopen movement breeds conspiracy

Conspiracy theories and fights over public health safety measures have long been a part of the public discourse in Jefferson, particularly Shasta County’s corner of it.

Vaccination rates at Shasta County schools have long been among the lowest in the state, in part because so many parents believe in the widely debunked conspiracy theory that vaccines are harmful. In the early 2000s, Shasta County anti-fluoride activists successfully passed a ballot measure to stop Redding from putting fluoride in the public drinking water system. Redding, population 91,000, remains one of the few cities of its size to not fluoridate its water.

More recently, activists have swarmed local boards demanding Shasta County do something about contrails — water vapor from jet engines — that they claim are part of a nefarious global "chemtrails" plot to rain toxins from the sky.

Not long after the lockdowns started, a Facebook page was born under the title "Reopen California." The pitch was tailor-made for the Jefferson state of mind: "We are residents of California that stand for The Constitution and demand our officials Reopen California no later than April 29, 2020."

COVID-19 became the new fear, but the messaging was out of the Tea Party movement of 2009: Less government and more freedom. Members used the page to organize protests across California demanding Gov. Newsom ease state-ordered shutdowns intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Facebook said it shut the page down in September for violating rules about "harm and misinformation." Another page was born Sept. 24 called "Reopen California Reloaded." With 1,200 members so far, the page doesn’t yet have the membership heft as the original "Reopen" page.

It traffics in many of the same lies and conspiracy theories as months ago. One this week touted a ludicrous conspiracy theory about Joe Biden hiring a hitman against his late-wife and daughter.

Less than two weeks after the page started, Shasta County found a home on it. A user posted a video recorded from the gallery of a Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting. It was the man attempting to make a "citizen’s arrest" against the board of supervisors.

For his part, Redding Police Chief Bill Schueller said he’s not particularly worried about someone acting on the threats or of protests turning violent after the election.

But, he said, Zapata "concerns me."

Schueller said his anger at local officials is misplaced. Law enforcement agencies, including his, aren’t enforcing health orders at local businesses so long as "people aren’t getting infected and they’re causing no harm or risk to the community." Shasta County’s health officials also urged the state not to move the county into the most restrictive COVID-19 restrictions, but the Newsom administration initially declined.

He said authorities in Tehama County, where Zapata’s restaurant is located, aren’t itching for a fight with him either.

"I think there’s some concern there that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze in trying to shut him down because of the potential for violence," he said.

Instead of threatening local officials, Schueller said, those frustrated need to call on state leaders in Sacramento to change their policies.

"I understand that they’re tired of this," he said. "But they need to take their frustration at the state level and getting to where this is coming from, ... because our local officials have little, little control."

‘Doubled-crossed’ in ‘ocean of misinformation’

Since California’s founding, talk of breaking off parts of Oregon and California into their own state have popped from time to time. During the Gold Rush, a short-lived effort to create a State of Jefferson was introduced in Congress.

The movement died out until the following century, when it emerged as mostly a tongue-in-cheek effort for locals in Southern Oregon and Northern California to express displeasure with their states’ leadership.

In the 1940s, a group of local activists attempted to set up roadblocks on Highway 99 near the Oregon border to collect tolls from motorists. "This State has seceded from California and Oregon this Thursday, November 27, 1941," read the group’s "The Proclamation of Independence" printed in a local newspaper. "Patriotic Jeffersonians intend to secede each Thursday until further notice."

That’s when activists invented the Jefferson logo — a green flag with a yellow circle and two black X’s — now seen as car decals and as roadside banners in north state counties. (The flag’s double X’s stand for being "doubled-crossed.")

But it was the Tea Party movement that swept through conservative regions during Barack Obama’s presidency that reignited the fight. Local Jefferson activists have since become a small but vocal faction in Republican-dominated local politics across far Northern California.

Lately, the Jefferson activists have turned instead to the courts, suing in the hopes of creating more local legislative seats to combat the Democrat supermajority in Sacramento.

"We are not known. We are not well understood. And we feel totally unrepresented. Particularly now that California is a one-party state," said Janet Chandler, one of the Jefferson activists from Shasta County.

"We recognize that we don’t even have much state control at all. Nothing we do in the state of California is going to make any difference. We have no power."

The rising tensions are somewhat predictable in the context of California being, essentially, a one-party state, said Michael Latner, professor of political science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

"We don’t have a level of political competition in this state that gives voice to a lot of people," Latner said. "And that I think that’s a legitimate problem with democracy in California, is that it’s not working for a lot of people."

The belief that the government is not only ignoring peoples’ concerns, but is actively fighting against them, is a sentiment that has been growing amongst conservatives for years. The cries of COVID-19 tyranny coming out of the State of Jefferson are an outgrowth of that, said Lawrence Rosenthal, chair of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies and author of "Empire of Resentment: Populism’s Toxic Embrace of Nationalism."

There has long been a notion that the liberal world — the Democratic Party, Hollywood, university professors — looked down on common, conservative Americans, and tried to impose their own beliefs upon them, Rosenthal said. Trump capitalized on the lingering resentment, and amplified the idea that there was a battle for liberty between "Blue America" and conservatives, Rosenthal said.

One thing that has really transformed this political climate is the "ocean of misinformation" people are living in, Latner said. In rural communities like northern California, falsehoods spread quickly and take hold in a social media echo chamber among a group of people that, otherwise, wouldn’t have connected.

"This stuff just festers," Latner said. "And people are literally living on different planets and living in a different world than the rest of humanity."

Misinformation may have played a major role in the protests and general resistance to pandemic health orders in Jefferson, but so did the fierce resistance to Big Government control over people’s daily lives.

"This country was founded on independence, and not having the government tell us what to do and say, to take away things," said Carl Bott, a retired U.S. Marine Lt. Colonel who owns a radio station in Redding that features a talk show called "The Jefferson State of Mind."

"So the idea of people not wearing masks, I think is in our DNA. However... a vast majority of us up here wear masks, because you know what? If this is going to help somebody, that’s the way we are."

So far actual violence, nationally, has been rare from those rebelling against the pandemic restrictions. One notable exception was in Michigan, when a group of men associated with an armed far-right group was arrested after the FBI uncovered an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Even if some Californians feel the state government isn’t listening to them, it doesn’t give them a right to intimidate anyone, Latner said.

"The very idea that somehow, the Constitution legitimates rebellion against a democratically-elected government is absurd on its face," he said. "Certainly, protest and demonstration are very much protected by the First Amendment, but there is no constitutional right to intimidate someone with a threat of violence."

(Courtesy, the Sacramento Bee)

* * *


It was women.

Women who were seen as

Too beautiful

Too outspoken

Had too much water in the well (yes, seriously)

Who had a birthmark

Women who were too skilled with herbal medicine

Too loud

Too quiet 

Too much red in her hair

Women who had a strong nature connection

Women who danced

Women who sung

or anything else, really.

Sisters testified and turned on each other when their babies were held under ice.

Children were tortured to confess their experiences with “witches” by being fake executed in ovens.

Women were held under water and if they float, they were guilty and executed.

If they sunk and drowned they were innocent.

Women were thrown off cliffs.

Women were put in deep holes in the ground.

The start of this madness was years of famine, war between religions and lots of fear. The churches said that witches, demons and the devil did exist and women were nothing but trouble. As we see even today, there is often a scapegoat created. Everything connected to a women became feared, especially her sexuality. It became labeled as dark and dangerous and was the core of the witch trials through out the world.

Why do I write this?

Because I think the usage of words are important, especially when we are doing the work to pull these murky, repressed and forgotten about stories to the surface. Because knowing our history is important when we are building the new world. When we are doing the healing work of our lineages and as women. To give the women who were slaughtered a voice, to give them redress and a chance of peace.

It was not witches who burned.

It was women.

One Comment

  1. John Sakowicz October 28, 2020

    Chris Gurr and Ann Marie Borges are salt-of-the-earth people, and I think they’ll win their case against Mendocino County. They were singled out for malicious prosecution.

    Former Ag Commissioner, Harinder Grewa, has a good case against Mendocino County, too, as does former Public Health Director, Barbara Howe.

    Those meters are running on legal bills for the county. The bill will be huge, to say nothing of the inevitable settlements.

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