Milder Temps | 22 New Cases | Hoophouse Applications | Aquifer Draining | Redwood Grove | Ed Notes | Carmen Basilio | Outdated IT | Hellsgate Dam | Conflict Reply | Sackcloth | Referendum Deadline | Strawhouse | Weed Portal | Yesterday's Catch | Apocalypse Now | Right Cross | Water Projects | Doggie Diner | Fly Me | Big Eye | Intruder | Rock Outcrop | Comments | Point Arena | Cannabis Careers | Prison Visit | Police Brutality | Rollerville | Bad Trip | Presidential Goals | My 1960s
AN UPPER LEVEL TROUGH passing mainly to our north this week will result in milder inland temperatures through Thursday, while areas of marine layer clouds and northwest onshore breezes keep coastal areas seasonably cool. (NWS)
22 NEW COVID CASES (since last Friday) reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
PUBLIC NOTICE: BUILDING PERMIT REVIEWS
Mendocino County Environmental Health has received 200+ hoop house Building Permit applications from 36 sites within Mendocino County. These reviews were postponed while clarifying Mendocino County Cannabis Program policies and County Code with County Counsel and Planning & Building Services. County Counsel has determined that the review and issuance of these applications should not be delayed, and Environmental Health has commenced reviewing these permits. It is anticipated that these application reviews will be completed by the end of the week. Environmental Health will continue to work with our partnering agencies and regulated community in a collaborative manner to help facilitate moving these projects forward in a timely manner.
WATER, A COMMENT
I live along Rattlesnake Creek in leggett and the creek is at the lowest level that I have seen, and the lowest my father has seen in the 50 years he’s been here.
But the problem is the grows up stream taking all the water. Legal grows included. While they are not pumping from rattlesnake creek directly they are pumping out of every feeder stream, spring and creek. Wells are going dry and they just go deeper draining the water table more. And mcso along with DFW are doing nothing about it. They don’t have the manpower. Yet thousands of juvenile salmonoid and trout are stuck in the little pools left to dry up.
METHAMPHETAMINE and mailbox robberies are synonymous in Mendocino County, with residents of Greenwood Road getting hit twice now, the second series of mail thefts boldly occurring a little after 11am the other morning by a presumed tweaker who looted Greenwood's mail boxes not long after the mailman had delivered the day's post. Matt Wilson told us that in the first raid on his box he lost checks, which he was able to cancel before the thieves could cash them, but the second theft cost the young firefighter his just-issued state identification. Unfortunately, mailbox thefts are only misdemeanors; an apprehended inland thief only did a day in the County Jail. What to do? For Greenwooders in the Signal Ridge-Greenwood Road area it looks likely they'll go to a central key-lock array like the one near the Navarro Store.
DRY LIGHTNING. The tv news readers warned against its fire danger all weekend, and maybe there was some inland and certainly looked and felt like a strong possibility as Monday dawned in the Anderson Valley with strings of rain-pregnant clouds, the morning warm enough to birth them.
THAT BIG CROWD in Boonville Saturday was in town for a Mexican Rodeo, which certainly enlivened the Boonville Fairgrounds for the first time in nearly two years. Mexican Rodeo? From what I can gather, they’re called charreadas and go way back to their rancho origins in old Mexico. (If you haven’t noticed, we’ve got parallel cultures going here in Mendocino County, but over in Point Arena you’ve got the Rednexicans softball team, an admix of self-styled rednecks and young men of Mexican descent recently losing a double header to the Ball Busters. Ball Busters? Yikes! Someone better call Cancel Culture. These fogbest softballers are breaking all kinds of PC barriers.)
JOE WILDMAN LIVES
Editor (the assumed opinionator in the Anderson Valley Advertiser),
Your continual drumbeat about Joe Biden’s mental state, so derogatory, so disparaging, leads me to believe that you are yourself in a state of mental decline and misperception about reality.
I choose anonymity for this communication, considering how judgmental and ill-perceived your “judgments” are.
Go well. Try to take better care of yourself. Try to admit that your ORIGINAL opinion about Biden was flat-out wrong, cease trying to save face, and try to desist from flogging that error into the ground.
Signed, a consant reader, a continuing subscriber.
ED REPLY: On the off chance this is sincere, and not just aimed at winding me up as the Brits say, I take it all back. You're right. My perceptive apparatus has failed, my bullshit detector is broken. It snowed today in Boonville and, hell, seemed to me it was 90 degrees! Then I yelled at The Major that he forgot to mow the lawn, and damned if he didn't deny having a lawn. An old lady dropped by to pay for her sub and got all huffy when I said to her, “Hey, baby, how about a smooch?” But Biden's sound as a dollar? The dollar isn't particularly sound, and neither is the president, a corporate bagman all his years in public “service” from which he has emerged a multi-millionaire and, of all things, president of the SS Sinking Ship. From his mincing little prostate steps, to his slurring of the simple messages written for him by his handlers that he bumbles through on his teleprompters, to his being ordered by those same handlers not to take freeform questions from the media jackals because he's apt to launch into crazy talk, only the Democratic [sic] Party, the same people who put up the only woman in America (maybe the world) who could have lost to Trump, could foist this guy off on the deluded half of the American people. (The other half of the American people is even more deluded, and both halves translate as, in the words of a prior moron inserted into our country's top spot, “This sucker is going down.”) Betcha I could pull twenty people out of the Boonville Senior Center noon chow line more fit than Biden to be running this weirder than weird show.
SERIOUSLY? Biden said today that his chimerical trillion-plus infrastructure spending wouldn't increase inflation, that the most massive spending unlikely to ever be authorized, wouldn't feed price rises if it’s miraculously enacted, that the inflation all of us who do our own shopping can't help but see is “temporary” and “expected” as the nation “bounces back” from the pandemic. (Of course Biden didn't mention that a second pandemic has just kicked off, and it seems we may be in for a state of permanent pandemic. “Some folks have raised folks [sic] that this could be a sign of persisting inflation,” Biden went on to say in a typically garbled White House teleprompter address this morning. “That's not our view… Our experts believe and the data show that most of the price increases we've seen were expected and are expected to be temporary. The reality is you can't flip the global economic light back on and not expect this to happen.”
REMEMBER “too big to fail” a few years ago? How did the government handle that one? They printed up a whole buncha money outta thin air and handed it to the banks, and if you need a clearer picture of our government's priorities than that, well, sorry. Our money is now faith-based, has been for some time.
BUT GIVEN that Biden's spending plan might trickle down to everyday working people, bring it on. At least his handlers are thinking in the right economic direction.
A LADY called this morning to point out that there's a strain of marijuana that doesn't throw you into a kind of Cheeto-torpor. She was referring to our speculation that athletic stamina would be more likely reduced by plain old dope. Or, as a relative of mine once exclaimed, “Wow! This Mendo dope is great! Knocked me out for five hours!” If five hours of ga-ga is what you're after, well, toke on.
WHY do I run Kunstler's columns? I answer, Partly as provocation, partly because his basic theme that the infinite complications of industrial society are unwise and will ultimately collapse, if they don't kill us all first, is correct. I also get tired of party-line opinion which, in Mendo, is oppressively mantra-like on all political-social subjects.
MOST MODERN COUNTIES…
“Mendocino County’s Information Technology (IT) is outdated with 99 Initiatives identified for improvement. The composition and priorities of the Board of Supervisors (BOS) evolved over time and more recently the Supervisors are keenly aware of the need for improvement. Setting priorities, providing leadership, or committing funds to modernize the County’s information systems has been a persistent management challenge”.
F1. The CEO and BOS have not clearly defined the scope, authority or recruitment strategy for the proposed CIO position.
F2. The completion of the 99 Initiatives of the IT Master Plan has been delayed by 21 months due to factors such as a low priority for improving IT, uncoordinated project management, budgetary commitments and demonstrated deficient leadership.
F3. The BOS approves funding for the ITMP but does not participate on the ITMP Steering Committee to communicate priorities, provide leadership and approve resources.
F4. Since some costs are recorded in departmental budgets but not consolidated into the ITMP, the total cost of the Initiatives is possibly underrepresented by millions of dollars.
F5. The SO IS Department has been allowed to operate separately from the County’s IS department which is a detriment to efficient delivery of services and cost effectiveness.
F6. If the IT staff with access to DOJ systems have received clearance to maintain equipment of the SO, there is no legal obstacle that would prevent reporting to a central IT Department headed by a CIO.
F7. Project status reporting is not clearly or regularly represented to the public and the BOS, thus leaving them uninformed of IT’s priorities and project initiatives.
F8. Project Manager position(s) are unfilled, or the need not recognized, which leads to project plans not consistently being prepared for the management of IT Initiatives.
F9. Project managers and process application analysts are critical and unfilled positions in Mendocino County's IT organization, which is already understaffed given the number of Initiatives in the ITMP as well as on-going operational needs.
F10. The County’s efforts to secure its systems has not been evaluated by an independent audit in more than fifteen years which presents a considerable risk of systems compromise or ransomware attack.
F11. The Auditor/Controller has not established the accounting procedure for the mandated funding reserve established by County Policy 35 which is obsolete and inadequately capped at $850,000.
F12. Unlike many modernized California Counties, there are few mechanisms for the public to request most on-line County services or electronically submit forms thus inadequately serving the needs of the public and efficiently processing through County staff.
F13. The County plans to issue an unnecessary and expensive RFP to select an alternative email service to replace GroupWise, when Microsoft email could simply be implemented. The County already licenses all other Office software from Microsoft except for email which is tightly integrated with all other Microsoft products.
* * *
The recommendations and the entire report will be posted to the Grand Jury’s website: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/grand-jury/2020-2021-reports
ON THIS DAY IN MENDOCINO HISTORY…
July 18, 1922 - John Norberry went to Hellsgate logging dam on the Southfork of Big River to increase the height of the dam by two feet and add another gate to the structure. The improvements would increase the volume of water driving logs down the river during freshet time.
Constructed by Norberry in late 1912, Hellsgate was originally 33 feet high and 200 feet wide across the top, with a single gate to release water. The dam backed water up for nearly two miles and took almost five hours to drain.
Hellsgate Dam was last used in 1937 and destroyed in April of 1942.
MCGOURTY’S CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Notice of Intent to File Conflict of Interest Complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission for Supervisor Glenn McGourty (Emailed to recipients July 14, 2021): theava.com/archives/158865#3
COUNTY COUNSEL CHRISTIAN CURTIS REPLIES:
Thank you for your email. As you likely know, my office does not act as personal attorneys for individual supervisors, but as agency counsel we do provide training on conflicts of interest, assist government officials in obtaining opinions from the FPPC, and flag areas of potential concern as we become aware of them.
Your email indicated that you are looking for information related to certain financial interests of an individual board member. Mendocino County lodges its Form 700 financial disclosure statements with the Mendocino County Recorder. You can obtain copies by contacting that office or by submitting a Public Records Act Request through the County's NextRequest portal. If you have any questions about what forms or years are on file, that office can assist you.
With respect to the comments in your email, it is generally correct that ownership of a business or real property can create a conflict of interest under the Political Reform Act. This, in turn, may require disqualification from certain decisions. To determine, however, whether recusal is appropriate (or whether further guidance should be sought from the FPPC) requires information about both the official's financial investment the particular governmental decision at issue. A particular financial interest can create a conflict for certain decisions but not others, even if they touch on the same general subject matter. For example, land owned by a public official may create a conflict as to a decision to rezone neighboring parcels but not a decision to rezone land located miles away.
Unfortunately, I couldn't discern from your email whether there were currently any specific proposals or decisions that warrant concern. In particular, you mentioned water allocations within Ukiah or Potter Valley and membership in any boards, committees, or commissions that may be responsible for those determinations, but I'm not immediately aware of any County body addressing that issue (many of those decisions are made by other agencies). It's possible that your email was meant as a general caution that some future water item may arise that Supervisor McGourty would have to abstain from, but if there was something particular you meant to call my attention to, I want to make sure that we're not missing it. Please let us know if there are any particular decisions that you were concerned about or intended to call out.
Christian M. Curtis
County Counsel, County of Mendocino
LIFE ON AMERICA'S FARMS in the 1920s and 1930s meant hard work and frugal habits. Farm families were used to "making do" with what they had, wasting nothing that could be recycled or reused. With feed sacks and flour bags, farmwomen took thriftiness to new heights of creativity, transforming the humble bags into dresses, underwear, towels, curtains, quilts, and other household necessities.
By the 1940s the bag manufacturers were turning out bags in bright colors and printed designs. It was felt that these designs and colors would boost sales, because the woman of the house would always select the brand with the most attractive fabric. During World War II, there was a shortage of cotton fabric for the civilian population, and the recycling of bags became a necessity, encouraged by the government. After the war, the bags were not only a sign of domestic thrift; they also gave rural women a sense of fashion.
National sewing contests were organized as a way for women to show off their skills, and manufacturers to show off their designs. Women frequently sold their surplus bags to others as a way of picking up cash to aid in running the home. This dress was made by Mrs. G. R. (Dorothy) Overall of Caldwell, Kansas, in 1959 for the Cotton Bag Sewing Contest sponsored by the National Cotton Council and the Textile Bag Manufactureres Association. The dress is made of cotton bag fabric, with an overall design of white flowers on a brown (originally black) ground. The dress is lined with black organdy, and machine quilted with a synthetic silver sewing thread. Mrs. Overall was awarded 2nd place in the Mid-South section of the contest.
REFERENDUMS CURRENTLY BEING CIRCULATED & DEADLINES
Mendocino County Cannabis Ordinance 22.18
Katrina Bartolomie, Mendocino County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder, Registrar of Voters would like to update the public on deadlines for the local referendum petitions regarding recently adopted Chapter 22.18 of the Mendocino County Code, being circulated in our County.
Pursuant to ELECTIONS CODE SECTION 9144, a petition protesting the adoption of an ordinance must be submitted to the County election official before the effective date of the ordinance.
The board of supervisors approved the ordinance adopting Chapter 22.18 of the Mendocino County Code on June 22, 2021. The ordinance will take effect 30 days after approval on July 23, 2021, 12:01 am. Consequently, referendum petitions must be turned in to the Elections office located at 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1020, Ukiah during business hours no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 22, 2021. All signatures for each petition must be filed at one time. No appointment is necessary to bring the petitions in.
Additionally, pursuant to ELECTIONS CODE SECTION 103, if a voter signed a referendum petition and would like to withdraw their name from that petition, they must do so prior to the day the petition is filed with the elections official.
For additional information, please contact the Registrar of Voters office by calling 707/234-6819.
(County Elections Department Presser)
CANNABIS CULTIVATION REAPPLICATION PORTAL
On August 2, 2021, at 12:00 am Pacific Time, the County of Mendocino Cannabis Program will open the Phase One and Two Cultivation Reapplication Portal. The Portal is for commercial cannabis cultivators with applications under review pursuant to Chapter 10A.17 and will be available for 90 calendar days. If you are a Phase One or Two applicant, pursuant to Chapter 10A.17, and have NOT been notified that you are “In Good Standing”, or your application number appears on the Portal List with a “Portal” recommendation status, you will need to submit a completed application through this Portal.
Phase One and Two permit holders do NOT need to resubmit application materials through the Portal and permit renewals will not be accepted through the Portal. Issued permits and applications that have been denied, withdrawn, or canceled, for any reason, are NOT eligible for resubmittal through this Portal.
Failure to provide a complete application resubmittal during the 90-day Portal period will result in denial of your application.
Please note that even if your application is determined to be complete by Program staff, there may still be site-specific aspects of the project that staff will follow-up with you on after the 90-day period that the portal system is available. For example, if your application requires an Administrative Permit or Use Permit for any reason, please be sure to reference this on the Application and Program staff will follow up with you during the application review process to request this additional information.
In preparation for the Portal launch, the Cannabis Program will be hosting two Portal Information Sessions. Both Portal Information Sessions will be accessible via Zoom, provide a walk-through of the Portal, and time for Q&A. Portal Information Sessions will be held from 3:30 – 5:00 pm Pacific Time, on July 21 and July 28. Registration is required. Please select the date below that you would like to register for:
July 21, 2021
July 28, 2021
For more information related to the Portal, please visit the Cannabis Application Portal System Page: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/planning-building-services/cannabis-cultivation/cannabis-application-portal-system
For questions, please contact:
Cannabis Program Staff
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 19, 2021
CARLO BRUNO JR., Scotts Valley/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LUCIAN CANEPA, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LUIS CARRILLO-AVALOS, Nice/Ukiah. DUI, no license.
DUSTIN EARHEART, Manchester. DUI.
MIGUEL FLORES, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
STEPHEN GHILARDUCCI, San Carlos/Ukiah. Suspended license, evasion by reckless driving, failure to appear.
LUIS GOMEZ-GOMEZ, Ukiah. [Booking photo not available.]
NATHANIEL HAYES JR., Ukiah. DUI.
OSAYANDE KOKAYI, Sacramento/Willits. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
COURTNEY MILLER, Gualala. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
DEANNA RENFORT, Willits. Trespassing.
RICHARD STARK, Ukiah. Vandalism, probation revocation.
KATLYNN TAYLOR, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, false compartment, failure to appear.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
This is real life Apocalypse Now. It will continue to “explode” much more slowly than the pacing within our very short attention spans — of seconds to maybe as long as months — and that explosion of catastrophe will continue for decades and even centuries if humanity continues to remain inert before this planetary reality.
The problem — that millions and billions more people have not yet been spurred into action by the all-too-obvious degradation of the climate-weather-biosphere interlocking systems — is far beyond the simple confusion of a deer-in-the-headlights problem. Fundamentally, it is the human inertia of the retreat into reassuring habit to mask the denial of existential fear, rather than a forthright confrontation of it with intelligent action.
Our destiny has been handed to us: either we exhibit triumphs of the human spirit by acting vigorously and cooperatively to counteract global warming, or we perish ignominiously in a degrading piecemeal fashion as willfully ignorant victims of our own stupidity, narcissism and witless folly.
— Manuel Garcia, Jr.
CATCH & STORE
We all know an infrastructure package is coming soon. Just how much real, traditional infrastructure money will be available, we shall see. I know we need road resurfacing, new bridges and maybe a train, but higher on the needs list is water.
California hasn’t built a new large reservoir since 1979, even though the Sites Reservoir has been in the planning stages for years. Funding was cut back last year amid claims the project was too costly. Compared to what? A bullet train to Fresno?
As a teenager, I helped build a half-dozen reservoirs on private land. They weren’t big projects, but they are still catching rainwater in the winter and supplying groundwater in the summer. They are also handy for helicopter “dipping” during fires.
Why there are not more of them is that now they require environmental impact reports, fish and game applications, structural engineering and water diversion permits on top of actual construction costs. In addition, each year the state charges landowners a few hundred dollars for the privilege of supplying water back to the ground.
We need water projects, large and small, to sustain streams and creeks and replenish groundwater. This is an ideal use of our state windfall and federal stimulus money.
FLY ME TO THE MOON
Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like on
A-Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, baby, kiss me
Fill my heart with song and let me sing forevermore
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you
Fill my heart with song
Let me sing forevermore
You are all I long for, all I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words
In other words
I love you
— Bart Howard
by Paul Modic
I opened my door and saw a huddled form working on a project in my back yard. He was shaving a rock and had dragged a small pile of asphalt into the yard. Oh no, the loonies are here!
“Hey, get out of here!” I said, standing halfway behind my door. “Go!”
“It's Jay's place,” he said.
“No, there's no Jay,” I said. “Get out of here!”
He calmly put his shoes back on, gathered up his tools, and turned to the gate.
“Jay Leno,” he said. “It's Jay's place.”
“There's no Jay Leno here. Now go.” But I had to wonder. This was a couple months ago when I was writing bad jokes and was kind of excited about performing comedy after doing a stand-up gig at 'The Church' in Grants Pass, Oregon.
He left, leaving the gate open, and I thought, “And I sold my country place? My sanctuary from the loonies and drug addicts who are dripping off the highway, down the hill, and into my back yard?”
I looked at my flimsy door. A nine-year-old could break the glass, reach in, and unlock it. I've never had a gun or a dog so I bought some pepper spray, rigged up a way to latch the gate from inside, and installed a kick-ass metal security door. None of that would stop the determined fence-climber or house-breaker but it does feel good having some defense from the casual trespasser.
(Last night at dinner here in Mexico all three of my friends said that they have been broken into. “Crystal,” one said. The international scourge?)
NIGHT LIGHT OF THE NORTH COAST: IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE
by David Wilson
(Above) A great rock outcrop rests in a remote river valley beneath the stars on the California north coast. Moonlight illuminated the landscape beyond, while some light from nearby human activity temporarily shone upon the rock itself in this 346-second exposure. July 13, 2021.
For millennia, a formidable rock outcrop has stood massively tall in the middle of somewhere out in the forests of Humboldt County, California. For countless generations, the lonely boulder has outlived the comings and goings of busy humans.
How many names has this massive butte been given by ephemeral humanity in its lifetime? I suspect more than one, and I confess I know of none. But what difference does it make, I wonder? The rock is the rock, whatever humanity calls it, and to it our lives flit by in the blink of an eye. Villages, settlements and towns may fall and rise, and still the rock abides. Cycles of old growth forests on the slopes of the outstretched hills around it come and go as meadow grasses in this rock’s lifetime. No name will stand that test of time.
I will allow the rock now to speak for itself.
(To read previous entries of “Night Light of the North Coast,” go to KymKemp.com. To keep abreast of his most current photography or purchase a print, visit and contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx. David teaches Art 35 Digital Photography at College of the Redwoods.)
ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK
 “Gun sales are booming” Get it! BOOMING. HAHA. Smith & Wesson just had a billion dollar sales year. They’re a couple towns over. I heard my first ever ad on the local radio for a gun company. It was from S&W. Buy American! They’re running 24/7 over there and still can’t keep up with demand.
 Governments are going to become inconsequential over time. Why? Because the problems of today are unsolvable. There are no solutions. Overpopulation, pollution, increasing disease creation rates, fresh water unavailability, Peak oil starting to poke up in spite of fracking, fracking’s chemical pollution, hyper inflation causing wages and prices to skyrocket ( we older folks remember the 70s, you younger generations do not have a clue) ( just announced that SSA is going up 6.1% next year. Thank you.), immigration, which will just increase all the other problems. Not just here, everywhere, medical cost inflation, widening income gap, 15% corporate income tax around the world, Every direction you look there are whack a mole problems that government cannot stop.
 In Humboldt you can steal a $90k car, put five pounds of heroin in it and get caught high speeding with a stolen, loaded firearm and be home in time for bong hits and Family Guy.
 A short synopsis: He has to allow things to get as bad as they can be, where humanity is at the point of annihilating itself, before He acts. And when that happens, humanity will fight Him, sort of like people are thinking “Who are YOU to come here and try to stop us from doing what we want to do? It’s not your business if we want to kill each other off.” Then humanity has its collective ass kicked, the Milennium takes place (and will be a lot different than just enjoying Heaven on Earth, as many pastors say it will be — Jesus is to rule with a rod of iron, plus it’ll probably take all of a thousand years to fix up the mess humans have made of the Earth) and humanity unsuccessfully rebels again before the judgment.
Our rights — ALL of our rights — will be lost. God will not intervene to save them from themselves because we have to learn from our mistakes, and because hardly anyone is asking for His forgiveness and that He will restore our country; we’re too busy being “right” to do what’s right. People in America are used to autonomy, but that’s fast disappearing because so many of us are terrified and want our national daddy to handle everything for us so that we can basically just fuck off 24/7. In the future, we’ll be able to think, but that doesn’t mean we’ll think clearly, or that we’ll be able to succeed in what we purpose to do because trading freedom for alleged security (brought to you by obtrusive government) really means trading freedom for slavery. The majority of people will embrace their slavery, while anyone who doesn’t accept it will be ostracized and/or murdered.
CALIFORNIA CANNABIS, SUMMER 2021: Lindsay Davey, OGs and the Gang at CannaCraft
by Jonah Raskin
Sooner or later, Lindsay Davey, 31, was bound to find creative work in the cannabis industry. College educated and savvy about both business and science, she belongs to a generation of young women that’s remaking the wide-open, rapidly expanding territory of marijuana, now legal in some form, whether recreational or medicinal, in all but five states of the U.S. The prohibition states are: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, South Dakota and Wyoming. At the moment, there is only one place in South Dakota where one can buy cannabis, legally: the dispensary owned and operated by the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe. The dispensary is located in a building that once housed the police station. The prohibitionist federal government still categorizes cannabis as a “Schedule 1 Drug” because there is “a high potential for abuse” and because it has “no currently accepted medical use.”
Millions of Americans, many of them aging boomers, professional athletes and people formerly addicted to Oxycodone, disagree with the federal government, as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) points out. No surprise there. NORML, which has been in existence for more than 50 years, only reports good news about cannabis. The latest good news comes from NORML’s executive director, Erik Altieri, who says, “The days of federal prohibition are numbered.” Maybe so, but I’ve heard those same sentiments expressed for more than 50 years.
In June, the disqualification of the 21-year-old sensational Black sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson, was one of the best things that could happen to cannabis, though it was bad news for the U.S. team. “This is the last time the Olympics don’t see Sha’Carri Richardson,” she said. “This is the last time the U.S. doesn’t come home with the gold in the 100 meters.”
Why is it that Blacks and people of color suffer more often and are arrested more often than whites for violating the cannabis laws? In a word: racism! Marques Cameron, who works at a dispensary in Oakland, tells me, “Arresting Blacks for possession feeds the prison system. It’s the closest thing we have to slavery.” He adds, “I went through 304 companies before I was hired at one. My first job was security, checking IDs. I had to fight for respect. If I was white, it would have been easier.”
Whether they’re athletes or not, religious or atheists, middle class or working class, Americans are consuming more cannabis than ever before, and increasingly in the form, not of a joint, but an edible. Joints were for heads and hippies. They are challenging to roll properly and smoke isn’t good for the lungs.
Call Lindsay Davey a cannabis aficionado. Born and raised in Ukiah, near the heart of the “Emerald Triangle” — the premier marijuana growing region in the U.S. — Davey once had her sights set on a career as a dentist. She took classes that moved her along her chosen path. But she changed her mind, decided she wanted to be in the cannabis field and be a part of CannaCraft, which was founded in 2014, and that calls itself “the pioneers of legal cannabis.” There are many pioneers, including the idealistic 1960s back-to-the-landers who made cannabis their cash crop and survived in the woods, though some were lost to greed and meth.
Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara are also major cannabis cultivation areas in California. Millions of pounds are grown there in vast greenhouses and transported to Los Angeles, a city with a population of about four million. It’s one of the most ravenous cannabis markets in the U.S. CannaCraft products are sold in dispensaries in the city of angels where Blacks, Latinos, whites, and Asians smoke weed, work in Hollywood, and in bars, restaurants, factories and the hospitality industry that caters to tourists who smoke weed while on vacation. Marijuana makes L.A. go around. CannaCraft, which is one of the largest and best-known vertically integrated cannabis companies in California, drives much of the marijuana industry there and elsewhere.
CannaCraft cannabis is cultivated at its “Kindness Farms” in Lake County, also part of the “Emerald Triangle.” At its 36,000-square-foot facility in Santa Rosa—a city increasingly friendly to cannabis because of the tax dollars—workers extract the oils which contain THC and CBD and make a variety of cannabis products. Recently, Forbes magazine noted that the tour of the facility was “the coolest you’ll take.” Indeed, as I learned, it’s an introduction to the state-of-the art-cannabis technology that hippies never dreamed of when they smoked pot. To Davey, that technology is an everyday reality.
When she decided against dentistry, Davey changed her major to humanities, and, after receiving a B.A. from San Francisco State University she earned a degree in business administration from Sonoma State University. Bill Silver, a professor of economics at SSU who was also working for CannaCraft, helped to bring her into the cannabis fold.
Still, by the time Davey met Silver, she was already knee deep in weed. “Growing up in Mendocino County, cannabis was all around me,” she says. “It was part of my roots. But if you told me five years ago that I would graduate with an MBA and use those skills to support California’s pioneering wellness brand, I would not have believed you.”
At CannaCraft, she’s the assistant brand manager for the “Care By Design” line of wellness products. “I use the products myself,” she tells me. “When I’m looking to unwind after a long day, or need some relief after an intense workout.”
CannaCraft founders, Dennis Hunter and Ned Fussell, are both legendary in the industry. OG meets science: a perfect pairing, Davey says. Dennis grew large crops, first in Mendocino and later in Humboldt. He was found guilty of cultivation in Mendocino and served 200 days in the Ukiah County jail. After an arrest for cultivation in Humboldt, he served six-and-a half years in federal prison. “I had to do it the wrong way before I found the right way,” Dennis tells me. He adds, “Still, I wouldn’t take back anything that I’ve done.” He’s one of the Emerald Triangle’s quintessential outlaws turned CEOs. He never became a drug addict and never ended up living on the street, a story often told by foes of marijuana to discredit it.
Sonoma County law enforcement didn’t like the idea of an OG going legit. In June 2016, the police raided CannaCraft, arrested Hunter, charged him with running an illegal drug manufacturing operation and set bail at $5 million. Hundreds of people protested outside the courthouse. Charges were dropped and he was released. The cops had made a mistake. No illegal manufacturing had taken place at CannaCraft.
As Dennis knows there are two kinds of people in the cannabis industry today. Those like himself who are veterans of the outlaw days, and those like his 23-year-old daughter, Cede, who owns and operates a dispensary in Santa Rosa. Her earliest memories include one of law enforcement officers arresting her father and taking him to prison.
Like Cede, Davey doesn’t have memories of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, or Edwin Meese, the U.S. Attorney General from 1985 to 1988, who insisted that marijuana was “the gateway drug” that led to heroin and methamphetamine. But she witnessed raids in Mendocino by law enforcement and the arrest of farmers. She also knows about the many court cases that jammed the criminal justice system.
Davey tells me, “Contributing to the movement that is changing the narrative around plant medicine is definitely challenging, but so very rewarding.”
Scientific evidence to the contrary, those who ought to know better still insist that marijuana is the gateway drug and refuse to believe it has medical benefits. The normalization, decriminalization and regulation of marijuana remains an uphill battle all over the country, including California, where more marijuana is grown than in any other state in the U.S., and where most of the crop, which is black market, is shipped out of the state.
If activists, farmers, growers and consumers succeed in making weed legal by federal law, it will be in part because of the efforts of Davey, and other young women, including Cede Hunter, Erin Gore, Alicia Rose, Annie Holman, Ashley Nelson, Cheriene Griffith and others who have flocked to the industry over the last decade or so and have emphasized science, medicine and moderate use. Young women like them have helped to adjust the long-standing gender imbalance in the macho cannabis world. They have begun to alter the all-too prevalent, albeit beloved stereotype of the Cheech and Chong stoner.
Unlike many of the stoners in the Nancy Reagan era, Davey is out of the cannabis closet and open about her use. “When you talk about your consumption of cannabis all kinds of things happen,” she says. “My own family members who have never smoked a joint are now interested in trying some of the products in the Care By Design line that help you relax, focus, sleep and for relief of pain.”
Davey urges newbies to start with low doses, notice what happens in their bodies and decide whether to take more or not. She’s proud of the fact that the company emphasizes innovation, education and participates in studies such as “Validcare,” which showed that, contrary to rumor, CBD does not harm the liver.
The products from Care by Design are available in drops, gummies, soft gels and a cream for pain. There’s also a new line called “Effects,” which provides focus, relaxation, relief and rest. The idea behind them is that there’s something for everyone and a product for nearly every occasion, from business meetings to sports, camping, hiking and hanging with friends. The other day, I received a care package I thought of as Pandora’s Box. I felt cursed to try the two dozens items it contained. Finally, I settled on a pen with a cartridge that worked all too well.
“Most consumers who go into a dispensary don’t know what product or products they’ll buy and take home,” Davey says. “With so many cannabis brands on the market today, making the right decision can be difficult. We help educate consumers about cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpens and ‘the entourage effect,’ the term used to describe how the different molecules extracted from the cannabis plant work together synergistically.”
While Davey is educating consumers, she’s also educating herself with help from Matt Elmes, the Director of Scientific Affairs at CannaCraft who has a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology. Many of the 200 or so employees at the company volunteer to participate in studies and try new products.
Davey has no regrets that she decided against dentistry and plunged into the world of cannabis. “It’s a good time to be in the industry,” she says. “We’re creating new products, shaping a new vocabulary and learning what cannabis does and can do in the human body.”
Dennis Hunter has not forgotten his outlaw past or the fact that Americans are still in prison for nonviolent marijuana offenses. Indeed, he’s proud of CannaCraft’s “Farmer and the Felon” program which aims to “preserve the countercultural history of the prohibition era while advocating for social justice for the cannabis prisoners in the here-and-now.”
Dennis remembers the time he first went into the hills of northern California and “met people who were cannabis friendly, led creative, interesting lives and seemed to enjoy almost everything they did.” The narrative he has written with others—including Dennis Peron, Jack Herer, Lindsay Davey and CannaCraft’s 200 employees—runs counter to the national and local lies, untruths and misrepresentations about weed, aka, grass, dope, marijuana, pot, ganja, da kine and more. Dennis still uses cannabis. “It opens me up,” he tells me. “When I hike, it takes me into the heart of nature. During sex, it allows me to be in touch with my partner.” What’s not to like?
(Jonah Raskin is the author of For The Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman and American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.)
THE OVERLOOKED FACTORS IN POLICE ABUSE CASES
Cops take most of the blame, often deservedly, but the single-minded media furor of the last year has let other bad actors off the hook
by Matt Taibbi
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know — by Malcolm Gladwell
Seven years ago this past weekend, on July 17, 2014, a Staten Island man named Eric Garner was killed by police in a gruesome scene that went viral and helped launch the Black Lives Matter movement. Press reports usually say Garner was stopped on suspicion of selling cigarettes by plainclothes officers who then choked him to death, but the story I wrote about in I Can’t Breathe was both stupider and more tragic than that. Garner’s death was a confluence of a hundred terrible developments, but above all a grotesque governance failure. It was a classic example of how even the most harmless-sounding ideas can, in the hands of the wrong people, become deadly policy.
Garner’s death was accelerated by policing strategies based on the “Broken Windows” theory. Often attributed to famed Stanford researcher Philip Zimbardo, the theory’s origins really go back to 1963, when criminologist George Kelling took a job running a home for troubled youth in Lino Lakes, Minnesota. Before Kelling’s arrival, Freud-inspired clinicians at the 64-bed facility stressed observing rather than correcting the emotionally disturbed minors in their care. If a resident broke a light bulb, for instance, they would leave broken glass on the floor and just keep taking notes.
Kelling, a former parole officer, ordered staff to clean up the glass. After this and some other changes, violent incidents in the facility declined. He made the same observation most parents understand implicitly, that turning visual noise down and setting clear boundaries lowers anxiety and discourages acting out.
Nearly twenty years later, Kelling and James Q. Wilson co-authored an influential article in the Atlantic called “Broken Windows,” whose central argument was far more ambitious. Kelling and Wilson believed allowing visible signs of disorder in public invited crime. Reformers from there began encouraging a shift in emphasis from reactive policing of criminal violations to affirmative promotion of the more nebulous concept of “order,” which at first meant tackling graffiti, public drunkenness, jaywalking, and, yes, broken glass.
By 2014, police had begun to define a poorly dressed, 350-pound black man like Garner standing on a street corner as a species of visible public “disorder.” Kelling in 2015 told me he was aware as far back as 1982 that this might happen. He’d spent time with cops in South Boston, whose “idea of ‘maintaining order’ was keeping the black people out,’” he said. “So I knew that was a potential problem.”
Kelling is mentioned in Talking to Strangers, a carefully provocative 2019 book on policing by pop-wisdom king Malcom Gladwell, which I read on the anniversary of Garner’s death. It begins by recounting the infamous July, 2015 encounter between Texas traffic officer Brian Encinia and an African-American woman named Sandra Bland. Stopped for the preposterous reason that she’d failed to signal before changing lanes to accommodate the accelerating Encinia, Bland ended up being jailed after the traffic stop turned hostile. Three days later, she killed herself in custody in an incident that may have been the most disturbing of all the police misconduct cases that galvanized America during those last years of the Obama presidency.
Gladwell, who couldn’t have known he was releasing a book a year before the death of George Floyd would once again make police brutality the defining issue in American society, referred to the time between the summers of 2014 and 2015 as a “strange interlude.” Even just a few years ago, it seemed strange when America actually paid close attention to police abuse cases. Gladwell notes that the period that began with the the deaths of people like Garner and Michael Brown and ended roughly with the suicide of Bland was “when a civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter, was born.”
Of course, “we put aside these controversies after a decent interval and moved on to other things.” In the introduction Gladwell announces, “I don’t want to move on to other things,” and frames Talking to Strangers as “an attempt to understand what really happened by the side of the highway that day in rural Texas.”
The English-Canadian Gladwell may be the most bankable writer in the American publishing market. The #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list is as much his home as the Super Bowl is for Tom Brady. There’s an intellectual drive-thru quality to his approach, which takes an idea and draws it out in bite-size chapters built around familiar pop culture episodes. He does this again in Talking to Strangers, a book about police brutality that somehow contains chapters about Amanda Knox, Bernie Madoff, Jerry Sandusky, and the TV show Friends. Gladwell makes it capital-E Easy for the medicine of thought to go down, a talent I once grumbled at, almost surely out of jealousy. I now see it’s a blessing in the United States, a country where a fair portion of the mass audience is capable of losing at tic-tac-toe.
An attempt to take on grim problems of race and violence, Talking to Strangers has more of an edge to it than Blink, “the power of thinking without thinking,” or Outliers, “the story of success.” This book about all the different ways in which strangers misunderstand one another feels like it was written as a way to nudge an increasingly polarized country to consider how things might look from another’s perspective. When he tells the story of the meeting of Montezuma and Cortes, an epic example of mixed signals that leads to one of the bloodiest wars in history, it’s hard not to feel like it’s a metaphor for Trump’s America, two camps of people in different worlds talking past one another. In particular, though, Talking to Strangers speaks to our increasingly dangerous habit of governing according to the panicked impulses of the population.
For years now, the national conversation about policing has been dominated by emotional mob reactions to pebble-bits of information on social media or snippets of video that we debate ragefully and at length, often without even a pretense of trying to learn the underlying context first. Gladwell seems to want to get underneath those reactions, and ends up laying out why knee-jerk takes often don’t work with this issue, beginning with a crucial, oft-overlooked problem that leads to many policing catastrophes: people suck a lot worse than they think at judging people they don’t know.
His thesis revolves around the research of psychologist Tim Levine, who did a series of studies involving subjects given a trivia test. Told they’d win a cash prize if they do well, they’re set up to work on the quiz with a “stranger,” actually a researcher. Midway through the test, their instructor leaves the room, and the “stranger” nudges the subject and points out that the answers have been left on the desk. Why not cheat? In a humorously depressing 30% of cases, they do.
The core of the research rests in surveys of people shown videos of the subjects interviewed after. Some of the liars are terrible. In denying they’ve cheated, they blush and stammer, and look to the side. One was asked if she thought the other subject would also deny cheating. “Probably,” she offered, with amusing hesitancy. Others are good, flatly denying cheating, not hesitating to say their quiz partner would do the same.
When shown these videos, people are terrible overall at identifying who lies and who tells the truth. The average success rate is about 54 percent, barely better than chance. But Levine, and a graduate student named Hee Sun Park, noticed something useful. Most of those surveyed did badly at identifying the liars. But they were far better than chance at identifying the truth-tellers. This is because people have what Levine called a “default to truth.” As Gladwell describes it, this means “our operating assumption is that the people we’re dealing with are honest.” We believe people, and even overlook evidence that something is amiss, when they tell us what we expect to hear.
Gladwell spends much of the book recounting myriad examples of when “default to truth” becomes a problem. A spy for Cuba has a spectacular rise within the Defense Intelligence Agency because even people trained to be on the lookout for traitors have a tendency to accept explanations for curious behavior. The infamous pedophile doctor for the U.S. gymnastics team, Larry Nasser, abused countless girls, often with parents in the room, because victims and parents alike “defaulted to truth,” i.e. they assumed his explanations about the medical necessity of his behavior were true. Bernie Madoff beat back many inquiries simply just because, as one reporter who interviewed him put it in dismissing the idea he was a scam artist, “He’s either the best actor I’ve ever seen or a total sociopath.”
Similarly — we’re getting to how this impacts law enforcement — human beings have a tendency to over-judge people who don’t conform to behavioral expectations. Gladwell brought up Friends to highlight the show’s awesomely unsubtle acting. He had a psychologist named Jennifer Fugate take an episode of Friends and score the facial expressions of the actors using FACS, or Facial Acting Coding System.
You might have seen FACS mentioned here or there; it’s a technique that measures “forty-three distinctive muscle movements” and computes them to summarize the emotion expressed: polite “Pan Am” smile, wide and genuine “Duchenne” smile, anger, confusion, etc. Each muscle movement is given an intensity score from A to E, with E being the strongest.
In a moment Gladwell picked during episode fifteen of season five of Friends, which apparently involved Ross discovering Monica and Chandler were in love, Ross’s facial expression included a string of Es — intense emotions all over! In fact, the FACS scores of all the actors in the scene corresponded more or less exactly to the script, which is why, Gladwell notes, “You can watch the scene with the sound turned off and still follow along… The actors’ performances in Friends are transparent.”
The problem is that in life, people expect others to be like Friends actors, with faces exactly matching what’s going on underneath. When that’s not the case, we either get fooled, as in the case of Madoff, or we overreact in the other direction, as in the case of Amanda Knox, whose weird outward behavior convinced everyone she’d committed murder. It turns out that we only catch liars when we’re wired like famed investigator Harry Markopoulos, whose first instinct was to suspect the worst and to continue trusting his suspicions. His doggedness led him to stay after Madoff until he was exposed.
Eventually, Gladwell comes back to a story involving Kelling. Once upon a time, famous policing theorists like Orlando “O.W.” Wilson were convinced the patrol car would completely eliminate crime. Kelling in Kansas City tested that proposition. He got a grant to divide the city into three sectors. In one, patrols remained the same, in another patrols were doubled, and in the third, patrols were cut off in all cases, with police responding only when called.
The results shocked cops everywhere: there was zero difference between the sectors. People didn’t feel safer with increased patrols. Crime didn’t go up or down. Patrol cars just didn’t matter.
The realization that old-school methods didn’t work became part of the justification for more interventionist concepts like Broken Windows. Police didn’t stop there. Gladwell recounts another influential experiment, conducted by researcher Larry Sherman, called the “Kansas City Gun Study.” Essentially, researchers picked an area in the city with some of the highest rates of gun violence and began aggressively stopping and searching cars, seizing every gun they found.
This was the automobile version of Stop and Frisk, whose ostensible aim was the seizure of guns off the streets. After a program of mass car stops, gun violence in the targeted District 144 of Kansas City dropped in half — a miracle! When the New York Times did a story about the study, Sherman’s phone “rang off the hook” as hundreds of police departments around the country wanted the secret sauce, whether they had severe gun violence problems or not. They all believed Sherman had cracked the code of policing. Patrol cars, they believed, did work after all, so long as cops were empowered to stop as many people as possible and search everyone they could, under whatever pretext was handy.
Just as Broken Windows hugely increased the number of contacts between citizens and street patrol officers, the Kansas City experiment led to a mass increase in vehicle stops. Gladwell notes the example of North Carolina going from 400,000 stops a year to 800,000. The entire United States at the time the book was published two years ago saw twenty millionstops a year, an average of 55,000 per day.
A secondary consequence of all this was that police were now trained to reverse their “default to truth” and become maniacally suspicious. Every car stop became an exercise in looking for “the tiniest clues.”
Air fresheners shaped like little fir trees were a sign of a potential drug courier. Fast food remains on the floor suggested a driver reluctant to leave a vehicle containing valuable cargo. Tools in the back seat might hint at secret compartments. Is the mileage high for that model year? Is there a whole key ring in the ignition, or just one car key? Is there too little luggage, too much? Cops became trained to scan every inch of a motorist and his or her car for “curiosity ticklers,” and the visuals were just the beginning. “The officer in an investigatory stop,” Gladwell wrote:
… is instructed to drag things out as long as possible. Where you from? Where you headed? Chicago? Got family there? Where?
This is the backdrop of the Bland case. Brian Encinia was and is the poster child for the automotive stop-and-frisk policies that took America by storm. His record at the time of the Bland arrest was incredible, having already written 1,557 tickets in under a year. He’d stopped three people just in the twenty-six minutes before he stopped Bland!
He pulled Bland over on the flimsiest of pretexts, then acted by the book in working himself into a paranoid state during the course of the stop. While seated in his car and checking her info, he saw her making the dreaded “furtive movement” downward, and convinced himself she was maybe grabbing a weapon. Gladwell tells us this is why Encinia returned to her car on the driver side as opposed to the passenger side, because, “officer safety training has taught me that it was much easier for a violator to attempt to shoot me on the passenger side.”
Conventional wisdom in the wake of George Floyd’s death is that institutional racism is the sole reason black people get killed by cops. As I learned in writing I Can’t Breathe, it’s doubtless a significant part of the picture. In New York City, the fact of being young, black, and male was an explicit “curiosity tickler” for cops in one precinct, who were openly instructed to choose those men for Stop-and-Frisk searches. One whistleblower officer named Pedro Serrano recorded a precinct superior instructing the troops in how to choose targets for stops, saying, “The problem is what…? I have no problem telling you this, male blacks, fourteen to twenty, twenty one.”
The hot-tempered officer who jumped Garner, Daniel Pantaleo, had a history of bad interactions with black residents in that neighborhood. Even the dealers had businesslike relationships with most of the other area patrolmen, but Tompkinsville locals put Pantaleo on an unofficial list of badges to avoid, the way sex workers keep a bad trick list. I found one black man who was strip-searched by him in broad daylight outside a laundromat and came away convinced the man had a sexual hangup. The city was successfully sued by two other men for similar incidents involving Pantaleo, though nothing happened to him. The fact that problem officers like this almost never get seriously disciplined stinks of institutional malevolence.
Pantaleo’s individual behavior, however, was seriously compounded by policy. Garner would still be alive if not for the precinct lieutenant who drove by Tompkinsville Park on that fateful morning, saw him standing on a corner, and ordered the two plainclothes detectives to move him. The senior officer was probably inspired by pressure Staten Island police were getting from developers of the luxury condos across from the park where Garner sold smokes.
Hours later, the two police showed up, dreamed up the pretext of approaching Garner for suspected untaxed cigarette sales, and tried to arrest him, despite the fact that he’d just broken up a fight and was not selling at that time. From there, a little-publicized Kafka factor worked against Garner. The two cops had no way to prove they’d executed their task without getting a transaction on the books. As one officer put it to me, they needed a “piece of paper” to show the boss, so they couldn’t just tell Garner to walk around the block. They needed a charge. This idiocy is why Pantaleo and partner Justin D’Amico launched a lethal struggle to get the enormous, incredulously angry man in a car.
A secondary theme of Gladwell’s book, though he shows it more than elucidating it himself, is that bad herd press coverage about incidents like this often follows simple human misreads of strange people and situations.
The book’s surprising chapter five, “Case Study: The Boy in the Shower,” was probably meant to highlight how the “default to truth” problem allowed Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky to elude investigation for decades. People like famed college football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State University President Graham Spanier believed Sandusky. They “opted for the likeliest explanation — that Sandusky was who he claimed to be.”
Reading between the lines, though, it’s clear Gladwell found the case against Sandusky to be less clear than he expected. It was certainly not as open and shut as the horrific Nasser episode, which he recounted in contrast. The much-publicized “boy in the shower” story was told to Paterno by assistant coach Mike McQueary not right away as is commonly believed, but five weeks after it happened, and the prosecution seems to have misrepresented what McQueary told them (he denies seeing actual rape). There are some other problems with the way the case was reported as well, including overlooked details about contradictory testimony.
Gladwell doesn’t go so far as to declare Sandusky innocent, but he does say the story turns out to be “complicated,” far more than we’ve been led to believe, from Happy Valley to Paterno. Here, a different kind of “default to truth” has come into play, one in which we tend to believe what we’re told by a confluence of media authorities, especially when they agree on a caricatured story narrative early.
Gladwell published too early to say this, and perhaps he wouldn’t have anyway, but I will: such a caricature happened in the wake of Floyd’s death last summer. The battle cries we heard all over America for weeks and months after Floyd was killed were almost all of a single note, ranging from defund the police (“We are committed to dismantling policing as we know it,” Minneapolis City Council president Lisa Bender told CNN last year) to All Cops Are Bastards (“Four simple words are all you need to show your disdain for centuries of brutality,” wrote Vice). It became instantaneous conventional wisdom that police were just evil, the living legacy of racist slave patrols. In the year since, the debate devolved into something more like a exorcism of historical sin from the body of Derek Chauvin than a layered discussion about what’s wrong with policing.
These caricatures not only ended up boxing Democrats all over the country into a corner — “Defund” was and is a loser politically, including among minority voters — but froze out the opportunity to talk about fixable policing issues.
For instance, one big problem is that as politicians began to feel pressure to make cuts to things like mental health and schooling and economic development, they tend to fall in love with magic-bullet enforcement ideas like Broken Windows or the Kansas City gun experiment. Politicians, essentially, keep trying to rule on the cheap using cops. Police are asked to do the jobs of mental health counselors and ambulance drivers and day care center operators and fill a dozen other roles, but at the same original unit cost. Instead of investing in any of those areas in any real way, policymakers just give police more tools to stop and harass people, close their eyes, and tacitly urge them to get whatever job done by whatever means, figuring the occasional outrages will blow over.
Gladwell’s point seems to be that if you ask police to stop millions of cars and pedestrians, and instruct them to look for pretexts to conduct searches of all of them, police will override their “default to truth” and begin to see threats in innocent people everywhere. He’s trying to be understanding about scenes like the Encinia video, by asking readers to look at the policy context underneath that car stop.
The backdrop of the Ferguson, Missouri case, for instance, involved the strained finances of the city. As the Justice Department later found, “City officials routinely urge [police] to generate more revenue through enforcement,” which meant busting people not just for breaking the law but violating municipal order codes:
FPD officers are authorized to initiate charges—by issuing citations or summonses, or by making arrests—under both the municipal code and state law… [which] addresses nearly every aspect of civic life… housing violations, such as High Grass and Weeds; requirements for permits to rent an apartment or use the City’s trash service; animal control ordinances, such as Barking Dog and Dog Running at Large; and a number of other violations, such as Manner of Walking in Roadway.
The controversy that gripped America in the wake of Floyd’s death overlooked a lot of this. Individual police got most of the blame, and in some cases deserved it, but it’s politicians desperate for revenue or lower crime numbers who artificially heighten stranger contacts, jack up numbers of bogus summonses and tickets, and push people like Brian Encinia to fudge pretexts for thousands if not millions of stops and searches.
A percentage of those encounters will always go wrong, and when they do, it’s not always all about racism. It’s usually also about political stupidity, greed, and laziness, and a host of other problems our habit of reaching for simplistic explanations prevents us from understanding. Saying it’s all about race or white supremacy isn’t just inaccurate, it lets bad actors off the hook — especially city politicians and their upscale yuppie donors who vote for these interventionist policies, and are all too happy to see badge-wearing social janitors from middle-class towns in Long Island or Westchester take the rap when things go bad.
Gladwell concludes that “Sandra Bland is what happens when a society does not know how to talk to strangers,” but I think that doesn’t put it strongly enough. Bland is what happens when police spend too much time talking to strangers, and when the rest of us talk too little about why that is.
THE COUNTER-TRUTHS UNSPIN
by James Kunstler
Back in the day, LSD trips were mostly a matter of personal choice. Today, though, all you have to do is wake up somewhere between Montauk and the Farallon Islands and your senses are overwhelmed with hallucinations. The public used to depend on newspapers and TV networks to suss out reality, but that filter is long gone, replaced by a relentless “narrative” machine, and all it does is spin out one technicolor whopper after another.
The trouble is: narrative is not the truth. Generally, it’s the opposite of the truth. It’s manufactured counter-truth. The more narrative you spin, the faster you must spin off new supporting narrative to conceal the untruth of your previous narrative — until the national hive mind is lit up in unreality where nothing makes sense and the very language that separates humanity from the rough beasts becomes a social poison. And is “Joe Biden” not the perfect gibbering epitome of this mess, a ghost in the narrative machine, beckoning us into chaos?
America is on a bad trip. The country has lost its way psychologically. Two things will be required to bring it out of the fugue state it tripped into five years ago: some significant shocks to the system and the passage of time. Those shocks are in the offing and the “Joe Biden” regime — meaning Barack Obama and his wing-people who run things — are looking more and more desperate as auguries manifest.
Their current tactical hustle is to amp up paranoia over the receding Covid-19 episode. It looks like an attempt to smokescreen the emerging evidence of massive and widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, and the growing eagerness of a few other states besides Arizona to mount audits of what went on last November 3rd. The supposed surge in new Covid cases is really just a tiny blip, considering it comes off a baseline of close to zero cases in many places. 11,140 so far have died from Covid vaccinations, according to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Last week 2,092 deaths from vaccinations were added versus 1,918 deaths from the virus. Countries with the highest vaccination rates are showing the most new Covid cases.
Yet, it’s looking like the idea is to set up the unvaxed for blame as “Joe Biden’s” legitimacy dissolves and the country finds itself in a political crisis because there’s nothing in the constitution that provides for removing a president elected fraudulently, even if the nation is crumbling around him. Vaccine disinformation is killing people, Mr. “B” warned last week. CBS 60-Minutes led its Sunday night show with more Covid scare stories. The message is everywhere that you must get vaxed-up, and, if you don’t, there may be severe penalties. Those likely to opt out of a vax are exactly those people who distrust what the government tells them, meaning probably people who did not vote for the current occupant of the White House. As it happens, though, the number of people who distrust government is expanding even beyond that demographic.
The regime must know that evidence of massive voting fraud and the loss of political legitimacy will coincide with a financial train wreck that looks to be chugging out of the station this very morning with all asset indexes tanking as I write. There are even fresh reports of an asteroid heading directly towards Washington DC this week. (So said Devin Nunes, ranking member on the House Intel Committee, over the weekend.) The asteroid is the long-rumored return from deep space of Special Prosecutor John Durham with some interesting announcements concerning the most poisonous narrative of this era: the RussiaGate collusion hoax finally revealed as a seditious conspiracy by high government officials in the Department of Justice and the Intel agencies. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Obama and his wing-people turned up in that mix. Won’t that be a nice accessory to “Joe Biden’s” presidential flame-out? And won’t that be just the ripe moment for China to move against Taiwan? Lawkes a’mighty… feets don’t desert me now!
The turmoil could get pretty hairy by summer’s end. Money will be flooding the system with the predictable loss of money’s legitimacy, at the same time that a massive debt repudiation gets under way. Hyperinflation and debt default at the same time? Sounds improbable, I know, since the former means too much money and the latter means money is disappearing like crazy. What it really means is that everything gets repriced rapidly and violently, and not necessarily in US dollars. Banks will not like this one teensy weensy bit.
All this will certainly lead to a lot of people suddenly going hungry, because that’s how going hungry works — it only takes a couple of days of not eating. Goodness knows what will be happening in the streets then. These are the sort of shocks we’re facing. Things get very real, elbowing out the hallucinations. The long, strange trip sputters out. And then begins the long hard job of finding a way to live that actually makes sense. Hint: it’s smaller, slower, closer to home, and in many ways better.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
I miss JFK.
Miss my Uncle Walter too.
— Jim Luther