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DRY WEATHER will return tonight and last through through Wednesday after a moisture starved front moves across the area this morning. Some rain is expected to return toward the end of next week and next weekend. (National Weather Service)
PET OF THE WEEK
Ginger is a shelter staff and volunteer favorite. She's been waiting patiently for her new home, and we're hoping the new year will make our wishes come true for this sweet dog. Ginger's spending time at The Casa de Laura--the home of one of our dedicated volunteers, and Laura's given us lots and lots of information about her. Laura told us that Ginger has pretty good indoor manners, she's crate trained, knows sit, wait, go lay down, and she's perfecting her roll over. Ginger comes when called and rides well in a vehicle. Ginger can be cautious and shy, and she's learning to trust people.
And as you can see, Ginger loves kids. There's much more information about Ginger on her web page: mendoanimalshelter.com/dogblog/ginger
The Ukiah Animal Shelter is located at 298 Plant Road in Ukiah, and adoption hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and Wednesday from 10 am to 6:30 pm.
To see photos and bios of the shelter's adoptable animals, please visit us online at: mendoanimalshelter.com
For more information about adoptions please call 707-467-6453.
ON THE INSIDE: Two Inmates and Two Officers Describe What It’s Like, Day-in and Day-out, In the County Jail
by Ryan Burns, Lost Coast Outpost
On any given day, the Humboldt County Correctional Facility is home to about 400 people. Most live in general population dorms — large, open rooms where a single correctional officer keeps watch over as many as 75 inmates.
Others, including the most violent, the severely mentally ill, and gang members who’ve informed on fellow inmates, spend their days in the maximum-security unit, locked inside small cells for up to 23-and-a-half hours per day, minus about three hours per week in the rec room.
Thanks to AB 109, California’s 2011 Public Safety Realignment initiative aimed at reducing prison overcrowding, people convicted of certain non-violent, non-serious offenses wind up serving their prison terms in county jails. Along with 2014’s Proposition 47, which reclassified certain non-violent felonies as misdemeanors, realignment succeeded in reducing the state’s prison population, which had grown so bloated (the state’s 35 prisons housed roughly 180 percent of their design capacity at the peak) that the U.S. Supreme Court found the conditions violated the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
But these laws have also had some unintended consequences. With inmates serving longer terms in county jails — for offenses that formerly would have seen them shipped off to prison — jail culture has come to resemble prison culture, with increased violence and rigid social rules defined by gangs and by race.
And with the Humboldt County Jail almost always filled to near capacity, more people are getting cited and immediately placed back on the streets, especially perpetrators of property crimes.
The Outpost recently visited the jail, interviewing two corrections officers as well as a pair of inmates — one male, one female — serving long-term sentences in the facility. We hoped to learn a bit more about what day-to-day life is like inside the “Pink House” for inmates as well as correctional deputies.
The officers, Captain Duane Christian and Staff Lieutenant Jason Benge of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, described a more violent jail, with increased assaults on staff as well as among inmates. They listed a host of rehabilitative programs on offer but also described an atmosphere ruled by gang affiliation and strict racial divides, with power exerted through intimidation and coercion. Mental illness among inmates is prevalent, their behavior unpredictable. And with 12-hour shifts, the job can be so stressful that it’s difficult to shake off once they’re back home.
The inmates, meanwhile, offered mixed messages about life inside. The food’s not bad; there are opportunities to improve yourself; and the staff is generally friendly and helpful, they said. And yet being confined, cut off from friends and family (and perhaps the substances they’d come to depend on), leaves them alone with their thoughts for hours on end. Both vowed that upon their release, they’ll never be back.
Christopher Dahl, 35, is soft-spoken to the point of seeming bashful. Seated behind a folding table in a small, windowless room on the jail’s ground floor, Dahl kept his eyes aimed downward, raising them only fleetingly as he described his daily routine and the path that landed him here, with three months remaining on a two-year sentence.
If you only heard the details of his daily routine you might assume that Dahl doesn’t mind living in the Humboldt County Correctional Facility.
“As far as jails go this is one of the — what’s the word for it? It’s not a very scary place,” he said. That’s at least partly due to which section he’s housed in. “I’m in the workers dorm now, and they generally don’t put problematic people in the workers dorm,” he said. Plus, he managed to get on kitchen duty, working both the breakfast and dinner shifts. Not only does this help pass the time, but the kitchen jobs are coveted because you get to eat while you work.
There’s also coffee. “Whether you’re doing kitchen or laundry you get to just drink as much coffee as you can stomach,” Dahl said with a shy smile. “That’s about the only drug in here is caffeine, so people have at it. It’s funny.”
The food’s not bad. He especially enjoys spaghetti night when the portions are big. He exercises and reads in here (Chuck Palahniuk books are his favorite). These are activities he doesn’t do on the outside. Plus he’s taking courses offered to inmates through College of the Redwoods, including one on career guidance.
But when Dahl considered the big picture — after being asked straight-up, “What’s it like living in here?” — his demeanor changed. His voice got even quieter and he went still.
“If you’ve never been here you got no idea,” he said. “And if you’ve been here, soon as you leave here you tend to forget, you know? Like, when I walk out of here usually I try to blank this out as all just a bad dream.”
Dahl has been in and out of jail for the past two-and-a-half years, mostly for violating probation by failing to check in with his probation officer for a conviction on possession of methamphetamines for sale. He and his girlfriend have been homeless in Arcata, and he had trouble getting rides to the probation office in Eureka.
Now, though, he’s serving what’s called a “terminal sentence,” meaning he’ll have no probation or parole once he’s released. He sees it as an opportunity for a fresh start. He doesn’t want to forget again what it’s like living in jail.
“But some people? Some people like it here,” he said. “You’re indoors. You’re fed. Some people have that kind of mindset.”
Not you? we ask.
“No,” he answered quickly. “No no no no. No, I can’t wait to get out there. I’ve been nothing but worried sick about my girlfriend and where she is and how she is and what she’s doing and who’s around her. So I cannot wait to get the hell out of here. The Ides of March is my release date right now. March 15.” The thought seemed to make him happy, but a moment later his face dropped. “It’s a long time,” he said.
Niamh Underwood (her first name is Gaelic, pronounced “Neve”) also works in the kitchen, reads during downtimes and takes classes through CR, even ones she doesn’t need. For example, she’s taking a class for inmates hoping to earn their GED even though she’s a high-school graduate. Why?
“For me, when I’m in here, I have to not think,” she said — not think about being incarcerated, that is. “’Cause there’s things that bother me, like my boyfriend not coming to visit me right now. … He lost his ID so he can’t come visit.”
While Dahl was reserved, Underwood was amped up, talking rapidly and answering questions before they were even finished. “I’m nervous what to say,” she confessed at one point.
Underwood has also been in and out of the jail for the last few years, and like Dahl she’s serving a “terminal sentence” for an offense that would previously have landed her in state prison. She might have preferred being sent to prison, she said, if only because she’s heard there are more activities to fill the days.
After getting busted for possession of stolen property three years ago, Underwood was given a three-year prison term but managed to avoid long-term incarceration by agreeing to attend a 90-day drug treatment program through Humboldt Recovery Center. What she didn’t tell authorities was that she had no intention of seeing the program through. “I ran from the first 10 minutes of being there,” she said. “I made it 15 months on the run. So I made it from November 2016 ‘til February of this year on the run.”
She got busted again in April, and after serving a couple months in jail she was again given the option of release on the condition of attending a drug treatment program. She agreed again, though she still had no intention of seeing it though. This time she made it six months on the run before getting caught.
Remarkably, she was offered drug court yet again. “They were gonna give me a third chance — and I said, ‘No. I just want to sit all my time out and get out with no probation, no parole, absolutely nothing. I just get out free.”
Underwood found her time on the lam exhausting. “It’s so stressful,” she said. “The stress of walking to the gas station — every second you’re looking over your shoulder. Every person whose car I get in [I ask], ‘Is your car registered? Can you slow down? Can you put your seatbelt on?’ It’s just nonstop.”
Like Dahl, Underwood said she’s planning to remain free after her release this time, though jail could be worse, she said. “It’s not that bad here. Honestly, everybody I know is here. It’s really not that bad.”
A few minutes later, though, Underwood started squirming as she considered the suffocating helplessness of being locked up. “For me, if I’m sitting down and not keeping busy I’ll start thinking about the things [on the outside] that are bothering me, and then I just dwell on it,” she said. “You can’t deal with those things in here. There’s nothing you can do. When people don’t answer the phone you can’t do anything. You know what I mean?” Here she mimicked a pre-recorded voice: “‘Your call was not accepted,’ and you want to smash the phone ‘cause it’s just really frustrating, and you just don’t know.”
* * *
Neither Dahl nor Underwood said they’ve been affected much by gang influence, one of the benefits of being housed in the workers dorm. But Captain Christian, who has worked at the jail for the past 18 years, said the cultural change post-realignment was dramatic. Inmates facing long prison terms used to remain on their best behavior while in the county jail so they could maintain their privileges — phone calls, family visits, etc. — before being shipped off to prison.
“Now those guys, they’re not waiting,” Christian said. “They know they’re gonna do their time here, so they basically, from day one, they come in the door [and] they start those prison politics.”
This change is reflected in the jail’s assault stats. From 2010 through 2013 there were fewer than 50 inmate-on-inmate assaults per year. The numbers increased steadily after 2011, the year AB 109 was passed, reaching a high of 106 assaults in 2016.
Assaults on staff have grown more frequent, too, jumping from a half-dozen or fewer in 2012, ’13 and ’14 all the way up to 34 assaults the following year and 37 last year, though Christian doesn’t attribute that increase to gangs. (More on that below.)
Christian said the older inmates tend to control things, using the power they’ve accumulated during their years of incarceration to control younger inmates, giving them orders as prerequisites to joining their group. Often those orders involve assaulting a fellow inmate.
Active gangs inside the Humboldt County Correctional Facility include Norteños and Sureños as well as the HCG (Humboldt County Gangsters) and CWB (Crazy White Boys).
Lt. Benge, who’s been working at the jail for close to 24 years, estimated that only about 10 to 20 percent of inmates are directly affiliated with these organizations, but they rule the roost nonetheless. “Gangs work off of intimidation and violence,” he said.
Young inmates in particular are susceptible. The classic case, Christian said, the scenario he sees again and again, is a young drug addict, 18 or 19, who resorted to burglary to support his prescription drug habit. Maybe his parents kicked him out of the house because he burned too many bridges, or maybe he never had much of a family to begin with. He arrives in jail scared and lonely. Gangs offer him community and protection.
“People are always looking for that comfort, something to belong to,” Christian said. “So that’s a natural transition, and these gangs prey on that.”
The staff is constantly trying to combat these dynamics, but it’s difficult, Benge said. It’s also tough for inmates to stay above the fray, unaffected by gang affiliations or race-based social segregation.
“You can try to walk a straight line but it’s difficult not to get caught up in it,” Benge said. He outlined a scenario in which a black guy and a white guy who may well be friends on the outside make the mistake of sharing a bag of potato chips in one of the open dorms.
“These older, more influential guys will go up to [one of them] and say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that. You can’t be offering or taking a chip,’” Benge said. “Or they may not even give ‘em a chance to explain. They’ll send somebody after to assault ‘em in the bathroom.”
Staff doesn’t separate inmates by race or gang affiliation — Norteños, Sureños and Crazy White Boys may all be housed in the same dorm, bunking right next to each other — but according to Christian, they coalesce into separate groups anyway.
“If you go look in a dorm at mealtime, every table is typically segregated by either a gang or race,” he said.
There’s often an “other table” as well, occupied by those who don’t fit into any of the strictly defined groups. It could be white guys who don’t associate with the white power gangs, or it could be people suffering from mental health issues.
“They all gravitate to each other because none of the other groups want ‘em,” Christian said.
The mentally ill inmates present a whole other set of challenges for jail staff. Christian said that almost all the inmate assaults on staff he’s seen in his career were due to mental illness. He estimated that about 10 percent of the population — 40 of the 400 inmates on a typical day — suffer from a severe mental illness.
Some have been deemed incompetent to stand trial and are waiting to be sent to a mental hospital. Others are awaiting a determination on their mental capacity. Still others have come back from the mental hospital and are being held while they await trial or conservatorship
The situation is less than ideal, for staff and the mentally ill alike.
“We’re the largest mental health facility in the county,” Benge said. “But we’re the jail. So you take somebody who has a mental health problem … and you stick ‘em in a cell. What’s gonna happen? That’s just gonna compound their issues.”
Sempervirens, the county’s in-patient mental health facility, has one four-bed unit for patients suffering psychiatric emergencies, but if a juvenile or female patient gets admitted to that unit, the rest of the beds must be left vacant.
What options does that leave law enforcement when they respond to a disturbance call involving someone with mental health problems?
“It’s not against the law to have a mental issue,” Benge said. “It’s not against the law to be crazy.”
Still, officers also don’t want to abandon someone who’s in crisis.
“Where can they take ‘em that’s secure in the community, where they’re gonna be safe?” Christian asked. “The jail. So they charge ‘em with disorderly conduct [or] public intoxication,” even if the officer is unsure about the patient’s sobriety.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of people we get brought in for public intoxication that there’s really no way of knowing,” Christian said. “Someone under the influence of methamphetamine will present very much like someone who’s in a severe mental crisis and doesn’t have any drugs onboard.”
So they get placed in jail, where at least they have a bed and shelter. These folks are typically released in relatively short order.
Christian admitted that this plays into the revolving-door problem and leads to more crimes, “but most are minor in nature,” he said — property crimes, generally. He considers this the least-bad alternative given the constraints of the system. The mentally ill can’t all be institutionalized.
“Even someone with mental illness has rights,” he said. And when the choice is between housing a homeless man who repeatedly trespasses at McDonald’s and giving that bed to someone who just burglarized a house, the more serious crime takes precedence, Christian said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
Benge said these issues aren’t unique to Humboldt County. “Mental health is one of the biggest issues with corrections right now, statewide,” he said.
Another big issue, he said, is Prop. 47. Many in law enforcement — and the general public — have a dim view of the recent changes to the state’s criminal justice system.
The L.A. Times recently reported that while California’s crime rates remain near historic lows, overall crime spiked in both 2012 and 2015, the years immediately following the passage of AB 109 and Prop. 47. “Those jumps were mainly driven by increases in property crimes, particularly thefts from motor vehicles,” the Times noted.
Prop. 47 reduced certain felonies to misdemeanors, including some drug possession charges, petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging checks in the amount of $950 or less. Christian feels that was counterproductive in the long term.
“Now that [those crimes] are all misdemeanors we can’t possibly keep [inmates] in jail long enough to get them any beneficial services to correct that behavior.”
That’s just one of the frustrations of the job. The typical schedule for a compliance officer includes 12-hour shifts, working three days in a row followed by four off, then four days at work followed by three off, etc. Benge said it takes a toll.
“Dealing with the stress of in here, the mental stress, it wears on you,” he said. Not many employees work in the jail for as long as he has, and Benge understands why. “You can just imagine … you’re dealing with the worst of society, 12 hours a day.” People locked in sobering cells kick, pound and yell for hours on end. “Your patience wears thin. You go home and it affects your home life, because when you get home you don’t want to hear yelling and pounding. Well, if you’ve got a young kid, what do kids do?” They yell and pound, of course. “You lose your patience with that,” Benge said.
In his off-time Benge is a basketball coach, and he has taken to thinking of himself as a coach when he’s on the job, too. “Yeah, that’s what I do to survive,” he said. “You see a lot of people who go into law enforcement, they become cop 24/7 — not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you need to give your body a break. You need to give your mind a break and live with people in the general society that can bring you back to [feeling like] the human race is good.”
* * *
People tend to view incarceration primarily as a means of punishing criminals and keeping them sequestered from the rest of society. But is that really the point? County jails are called “correctional” facilities; state prisons are run by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (Ironically, that redundant second descriptor, “rehabilitation,” was added in 2005 as the state’s rate of warehousing prisoners was skyrocketing to unsustainable and inhumane levels.)
In both name and theory, then, the purpose of holding people captive, within our criminal justice system, is to correct them somehow, to alter their mindset and behavior so that when they’re inevitably released back into society they don’t reoffend.
Does it work? Sometimes, yes. More often, no. California has long had one of the highest recidivism rates in the country, with about 65 percent of the people released from prison returning within a year. Humboldt County doesn’t track the rate of repeat offenders, but no one disputes the jail’s “revolving door” reputation.
Dahl and Underwood spoke highly of the jail’s staff and the available programs. Dahl had his few belongings, including his birth certificate, Social Security card and some clothes, locked in a storage unit in Arcata, and he assumes the unit’s contents will be auctioned off before his release. So he asked the jail staff for help, and they’ve already gotten his important documents replaced.
“The jail here helps with a lot of stuff like that,” Dahl said. “It’s pretty cool.”
The facility has a wide range of services available to inmates, including a unit dedicated to rehabilitation, with an administrative sergeant and a programs coordinator. The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services employs a substance abuse counselor and a case manager, full-time, at the jail.
The jail offers résumé classes, some vocational classes, and staff is working toward a program that will allow inmates get their food handler’s license, helping them find jobs in restaurants, Christian said. Job fairs are held for inmates twice a year.
“We have learned that locking people up and throwing away the key is not going to be successful because at some point, no matter how long you throw that key away, they’re going back to the same community that you and I live in,” Christian said. “The only way to be successful is to rehabilitate, to give [inmates] the tools they need to be successful.”
But jails and prisons can be tough places to accomplish that task. Humboldt County’s former chief probation officer, Bill Damiano, once described the effects of incarceration as being dipped in “antisocial goo.” An environment dominated by gang intimidation, violence and racial divides doesn’t seem like the most fertile ground for getting one’s life on track.
Asked if the Humboldt County Correctional Facility works to rehabilitate people, Underwood said, “I think it’s up to the person themselves.” Both jail staff and inmates agree that social connections are key. Underwood has many friends locked up with her, and a history of returning to the jail. But her fiancé is on the outside, and he’s on a Suboxone programdesigned to ween him off a heroin addiction.
Underwood hopes to move in with her fiancé and his grandma once she gets released, and she plans to take advantage of addiction treatment programs, too.
“I have a good chance of succeeding when I get out ‘cause I have those things waiting for me,” she said.
Dahl said his time in jail is working to rehabilitate him as well, “Because I do what they offer and they offer enough to keep you on task. … So if you want it and you’re willing to not be shy, to go all in, you can get them to work for you, and you can stay out of trouble when you get out of here, I suspect.”
Asked what he plans to do upon his release on the Ides of March, Dahl said he’ll get on a city bus (the jail offers bus passes), head to the welfare office and get his food stamps lined up.
“Then I’ll go to the DMV, get a new ID. That’ll be a good start,” he said. “Then I’ll go back to Arcata and I’ll try to find my girlfriend.” He looked lost for a moment, his eyes aimed at the floor. “That’s about the extent of my plans. I don’t have a place to go. I don’t have a home.”
Maybe he and his girlfriend will head to South Dakota, where Dahl was raised. Or maybe they’ll move somewhere else entirely. But he’s optimistic, he said, because he’ll be done with probation and done with jail.
“Having that monkey off your back is going to change everything for us, I think,” he said.
IMAGES OF AMERICA
There are a series of history books about towns, cities, communities across the United States -- "Images of America" -- and they have San Anselmo and Fairfax versions which I just bought. You can get them at Barnes & Noble, Copperfields, and Book Passage. They are about 130 pages long and cost $21.99. They're mostly photos with information-laden captions. But there is a good amount of information as well.
There is also a San Anselmo history book by a local author named Barry Spitz which came out in 2003. It's a coffee table sized book and it is quite detailed with lots of text and photos.
I'm guessing that the "Images of America" series would not have an Anderson Valley book but maybe Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg versions. Their website is: www.Arcadiapublishing.com
Hoping you’re having a good holiday season.
Ed note: Yes, there is one of Anderson Valley. Done in conjunction with the local historical society. Also of Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg. All available in local bookstores, last we checked.
ON BEHALF of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Boonville, California, I accept this heartfelt tribute:
New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square will be dedicated to freedom of the press: Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, will have the honor of initiating the ceremonial ball drop at midnight on Monday, the Times Square Alliance revealed this week.
YEAR END REPORT FROM DA DAVE EYSTER
As the final jury trial of calendar year 2018 has been called and decided, the District Attorney first thanks the hundreds of local citizens who take time away from work and family to objectively listen to evidence and deliberate on important legal issues being decided almost every week in the criminal courtrooms of Mendocino County.
With District Attorney Eyster's third term in office about to begin in just a few days, we thought we would let the public know that the DA and his deputies have a weighted 85% success rate -- spanning the eight years DA Eyster has been serving as the county's chief law enforcement officer -- at being able to prove to jurors the guilt of defendants charged with local crimes and demanding their constitutional right to a jury trial in the Mendocino County Superior Court.
This high jury trial success rate is the result of hard work by the individual prosecutors, support staff, and the deputies and officers who ferret out crime, gather important evidence, testify in court, and ultimately provide protection for all of us.
As we reflect on the recent tragedy in Newman, the DA once again thanks all local law enforcement deputies, officers, and investigators for jobs well-done in 2018. As we look forward to 2019 with hope for good health and prosperity, please take a moment to say a prayer for the safety of those among us who serve and protect.
THE FLYNN SITUATION, a reader writes:
“Hi All, Maybe I missed it but - Can we get an update on Flynn? I saw that he violated parole. Are you going to do a story on it or let him write his own story? I sure will miss his column if he stops writing. I wish him well and hopefully a quick return to the outside!”
Ed note: We assume he'll be writing up his latest chapter himself. The Editor will be visiting him Tuesday. We think, though, Flynn got himself 90 days for parole violation, but we await his own clarification. Not easy to write out of the County Jail but it can be done, and if it can be done Flynn's the guy to do it.
PERSONS of a certain age will remember being herded down to the local bank where a portly, suited gentleman explained that one dollar deposited with him would magically became ten dollars in ten years. "Yes, boys and girls, it pays to be thrifty." (I accumulated maybe six bucks over three months before I withdrew it to buy a basketball or whatever it was I hankered after at age 10.) The entire concept of thrift has disappeared, and the banks, not to put too fine a point on it, are run by people who think like criminals. We now pay them to keep money in the bank, those of us lucky enough to have some. So, Wells Fargo's thefts are so egregious they get caught bilking their customers, and the media are reporting the government fines levied against the bank as proof of something or other, other than accountability since no one is going to jail for committing these crimes, least of all the bank president. He'll probably leave soon with a $40 million bonus for "steering this fine institution through difficult times." Not one dime will go to the vics, so what's the point in a federal case that punishes no one, benefits no one? The government gets the fine money. And some career officeholder will send out a zillion pressers about what a great job he's doing protecting the public from the wolves.
* * *
BOONVILLE, EYES ONLY: Friend of mine said he did ALL his Christmas shopping at the Boonville Mall, that's the Rail Yard mini-mall next door to Boont Berry Farm that seems to just keep going east. You could buy a bike or a piece of property on the way in, proceed to AD Jones' fascinating collection of jewelry and interesting stuff, then on to Mrs. Ballantine's bookstore, Torrey Douglas's graphics, Debra's massages. This is probably a stretch, but the Rail Yard is vaguely reminiscent of one of those floating Indo-Asian villages where every home seems to be a specialty shop, every one of them intriguing in its way.
* * *
CANNAVINE has sold medicinal marijuana at 1230 Airport Park Boulevard, Ukiah, for a couple of years, but now committed stoners won't have to get their doctors to write up phony bad backs to get high because Cannavine has just been approved by Ukiah, always on the cutting edge of free enterprise, to also sell plain old whoop de doo dope!
CATCH OF THE DAY, Dec. 29, 2018
WILLIAM BETTS JR., Willits. Battery, false imprisonment, disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ANDREW DIDWAY, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol
JILLIAN FERGUSON, Redwood Valley. Fugitive from justice, controlled substance.
JEFFREY GRITTEN, Laytonville. Failure to appear.
JUSTIN MAXFIELD, Petty theft, paraphernalia, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
MARIA ORTIZ, Ukiah. DUI.
JOHNNIE TAPIA, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
MOTECUHZOMA VAUGHN, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, community supervision violation, probation revocation.
DARRIN WILLETT, Fort Bragg. Domestic abuse, assault with deadly weapon not a gun, tear gas, resisting, probation revocation.
IF YOU EXPECT NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, maybe a few happy days will turn up. If you expect happy days, look out.
— Billie Holliday
REFLECTIONS OF AN AGING ANTI-IMPERIALIST
by Jonah Raskin
Last year at Jamia Millia Islamia Central University in New Delhi, India I met students and teachers who thought that it was cool that I’d written an anti-imperialist book and that it was still in print nearly fifty years after it was first published. It was easy to be an anti-imperialist at Jamia Millia. After all, the students and the teachers were anti-imperialists and all worked-up about U.S. drones, U.S. air strikes and about the Syrians on the ground who had been battered and bombed.
It was also relatively easy to be an anti-imperialist in the late 1960s and early 1970s when anti-imperialism was a red badge of courage in SDS, the Venceremos Brigade, in anti-war circles and even among the Yippies, who were far more internationalist in their outlook than many on the Left assumed. Once upon a time, Jerry Rubin went to Cuba to check out the revolution, and later to Chile with singer and songwriter, Phil Ochs, to see what Salvador Allende was doing.
But here in the U.S. in 2018, is it still possible to be an authentic anti-imperialist, an anti-imperialist in more than name? I thought about that question recently when a former comrade explained that he was still an anti-imperialist and wondered if I was one, too.
It wasn’t the first time that my politics were questioned. In 1980, soon after Reagan was elected president, Professor Edward Said asked me if I was still on the Left and hadn’t drifted to the right like that former radical, David Horowitz, whom Alexander Cockburn dismissed as a “whiner.” A plain “Yes,” or a “No” answer wouldn’t do, nor a “Maybe.”
Am I now and have I ever been an anti-imperialist? It’s really nobody’s business but my own!
I don’t know anyone in my part of northern California who calls himself or herself an anti-imperialist, though friends and neighbors claim to be against racism, sexism, patriarchy and ageism.
U.S. anti-imperialism has a noble lineage. Mark Twain was an anti-imperialist and so was his friend and fellow writer, William Dean Howells. They both belonged to the American Anti-Imperialist League that was founded in 1898 to oppose the U.S. annexation of the Philippines and whose members included an odd assortment of individuals such as Jane Addams, Josephine Shaw Lowell, Henry James, David Starr Jordan, Grover Cleveland and Andrew Carnegie.
The League, which didn’t oppose U.S. entry into World War I, disbanded in 1920 just as U.S. imperialism was flexing its global muscles more than every before, though from its founding the American republic aimed to go West and become a continental empire.
Then, in the twentieth-century, the nation began to shrink the globe big time, to extract labor from peasants and workers in Asia and Africa and export American light bulbs, American Gatling guns, American lingo—“Kilroy Was Here”—and American movies.
Cultural imperialism always bugged me more than any other aspect of imperialism. I hated to see U.S. cultural commodities supplant indigenous cultures. That sight still rankles me, whether I see it in India, Mexico or the American South West. Every time I see and hear about the survival of ancient myths, legends, dances and music I’m ready to cheer.
Membership in an anti-imperialist league or organization makes sense, but to be an anti-imperialist of one in a sea of California anti-intellectualism and provincialism—“We’re number one”—has little or no meaning to me. Why be an anti-imperialist in name only? No, thanks! I don’t mean to live off past glory, though it was a thrill to meet students in India who had studied The Mythology of Imperialism and who told me it was the first book they’d ever read in which they could hear that the author was angry. That was me! I was pissed.
At 77, it’s not possible to be angry with the same intensity that I was angry at 27 when I wrote my anti-imperialist book in-between rioting in the streets, spray painting slogans at Times Square at midnight, going to jail and having the cops kick the shit out of me. I don’t know of any other way to be an anti-imperialist except the way I was an anti-imperialist during the War in Vietnam.
Indeed, it’s no easy feat to be an old anti-imperialist. Che died at 39, Lenin at 53 and Mark Twain at 74. The author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which takes a big swipe at weapons of mass destruction, noted near the end of his life, “I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolute.” Thanks, Mr. Twain. I’m glad you said that.
Today, there are so many oppressive and intolerable conditions the world over, and so many different imperialisms: the Chinese, the Russian, the India, the Israeli, the Brazilian and the U.S. It was comforting in the 1960s and 1970s to recognize that the American Empire was in decline and that the Soviets, the Vietnamese and the Chinese stood up to the Pentagon. Gratifying, too, that crowds in Paris, Rome, and London denounced the U.S. invasion and occupation of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Now, who stands up to the White House, the Senate, Google, Facebook and Amazon? Precious few citizens! Empires have proliferated and reinvented themselves. The American Empire is still in decline, though as George Lukas noted in 1980 it did “Strike Back” with Reagan, and later with Bush I, Bush II, Clinton and Obama.
An empire in decline—whether Roman, British, or American—isn’t a pretty thing. It can take decades to fall apart. I saw that when I lived in England. An Empire in decline isn’t really anything to cheer about. Indeed, the fall of empire makes life miserable for migrants, serfs, slaves, refugees, prisoners, pensioners and even for aging anti-imperialists. Maybe it’s a cheap shot. I don’t care. I’ll say it here, “Goodbye and Fuck you, American Empire.”
(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.)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
What did the ruling elite do after Trump’s win? They had an almighty nervous break-down, trying every lie in the book, inventing narratives, making shit up, covering up the most howlingly laughable malfeasance, all to invalidate election results that pointed to what a large segment of the populace already knows.
What do they know? Look to Theresa May, she said they’d try in the UK to make a country that works for everybody. Words to live by, as the USA doesn’t work, not even remotely for a huge and ever growing slice of the citizenry. This is what Trump’s win pointed to, a recognition by more than 60 million voters that it ain’t working.
Are all these sixty million on the same side? If they can be knitted into a national force they could be. As it is now this group of malcontents is disaggregated, their will as expressed via the ballot box thwarted by Republican and Democrat and their moneyed masters.
It’s not just the US that has got this percolating societal movement, it’s the same in France where they’re a tetch more vocal in their discontent, and in the UK, which just told their betters to stuff it, and in Germany and other places. Can THESE forces be knitted together? My gut sez no, they’ll live or die isolated in their own national enclaves. Which, I think, is probably a good thing, as what this is all about is the re-establishment of national boundaries. These movements either justify themselves to their own compadres or they don’t.
Please, please, please, can we retire the cliché that Einstein said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity?
It may be one symptom of mental illness, but it’s certainly not the definition (and anyone who has come into contact with a mentally ill person knows this).
I believe doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result is an indication of stupidity or learning disabilities — not learning from mistakes or experience. But it could also be an indication of optimism.
For instance, I play the lottery, hoping to win a huge jackpot. It hasn’t happened yet, but I keep buying tickets. So am I crazy, stupid or just optimistic?
BETSY CAWN WRITES: I wonder what the fires do to the natural insect populations. On this side of the Cow, long-applied chemical treatments to eradicate the Clear Lake Gnat began in the 50s with 12 years of DDD, followed by who-knows-how-many decades of Malathion (as prescribed by UC Davis “scientists”). So much vineyard pest management nearby, hardly see a bug any more — and yes, Virginia, that is scary.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
DOPE, an on-line comment:
Lawlessness brings scumbag ripoff criminals. Nobody will ever cut your gate chain, with a rifle in hand to steal your (enter name of vegetable here) stuff. Now, if you booby trap your grow, you are setting yourself up for a lawsuit. If you grow dope, you put out the welcome mat for douche bags. Grow enough to get you high, and call it a day. Don’t tell ANYONE, keep it away from prying eyes, and for god’s sake don’t sell dope to anyone, ever, just because you don’t think it is “illegal”, it is not legal. On the fed level, sales, possession, distribution, cultivation, and use, is 10 years in the clink! If you feel that is unjust, change federal law! I could give a rat’s rump about any drug you want to smoke, ingest, shoot up, snort, or shove up your bum, it is you that will be the recipient of said use. But in the end, call it what it is, DOPE! Don’t yell “Medicine!” to justify selling weed (tax free, mind you), just admit you are a dope grower, and agree to roll your dice and take your chances. And by the way, I believe all thieves should be shot on site. And, before you break out the flame throwers, I smoke weed, to get high. I don’t say it’s “medicine” because I want to get high. I say it’s weed, because I want to get high. Call it what the fuck it is, and quit jammin’ yourself…
“Ocean Reflections” January Feature in 6 Coastal Galleries
Our beautiful Ocean is the January focus at 6 Galleries including Fort Bragg: Partners, North Coast & Glass Fire; Mendocino: The Mendocino Art Center, Artists’ Coop & the Elk Cooperative. You are cordially invited to visit these venues for diverse Media Ocean inspired Art! Come & enjoy with your friends, neighbors & visitors!
IN THE HOLLYWOOD OLD WEST, wagon trains are invariably encircled by savage Indian hordes. In the real West, among 250,000 whites and blacks who journeyed across the Plains between 1840 and 1860, only 362 pioneers (and 426 Native Americans) died in all the recorded battles between the two groups. Much more commonly, Indians gave the new settlers directions, showed them water holes, sold them food and horses, bought cloth and guns, and served as guides and interpreters. These activities are rarely depicted in movies, novels, or our textbooks. Inhaling the misinformation of the popular culture, students have no idea that Natives considered European warfare far more savage than their own.
— James Loewen
In 1969 Pete Townsend of The Who produced the only album by a little-known band called Thunderclap Newman with the hit song, "Something’s in the Air." The lyrics declared the revolution had arrived and spoke of calling out the fomenters and handing out guns and ammo. It perfectly captured the hunger for change. The song became a fixture for the films “Easy Rider,” “Strawberry Statesmen," and “The Magic Christian.” The rhythms on the ghetto streets of Fillmore and Hunters Point in San Francisco and West Oakland in the fall, winter and spring of 1973-1974 were more akin to the funky calls of Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power, and the Pointer Sisters than Townsend’s “Something’s in the Air” yet the sentiment was the same, driven by promise after promise failed in the 1960s and the desire, as Malcolm X. put it, to change the system by any means necessary.
The world was caught up in political chaos, bloodshed and violence. Native Americans clashed with the FBI at Wounded Knee. Chile fell to Pinochet’s fascist junta. The Yom Kippur war raged in the Israeli town of Ma’alot. The IRA, Basque separatists and the Red Army Faction took on institutions in Europe as the Symbionese Liberation Army and Black Liberation Army did in the same year in the United States. The president stood naked as the scandal of Watergate brought down his administration at his feet.
The dramatic terrorism in the history of the United States was not one single event, rather it was a random wave of terrorist attacks. The United States was on the brink and President Trump had nothing to do with it.
In the wake of 911 people in their efforts to come to terms with the catastrophe compared it to Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of JFK, the Oklahoma bombing, and the World Trade Center bombing. Undercover conservatives passed as liberals and cause homelessness in the richest country in the world. California threw a Supreme Court justice under the bus and a three-star generals under the bus.
Nowadays they are trying to blame everything they can on Trump. It's open season. Trump said he would make the United States great again and clean up the swamp of corruption which is deep as hell as he is showing who they are for the world to see. The Democrats are mad that they are not the ones doing what Trump is doing. Trump shut the whole world down, not the United States government as you can see. Corruption in the world is deep and US is at the top of that heap. Obama bankrupted the United States for the world to see. We were the weakest at that point. For 16 years chemical weapons were used in the Middle East. For sixteen years, Bush through Obama, did not stop it.
As soon as Trump got in office he dropped the mother of all bombs on ISIS and all chemical weapons stopped. If the homeless voted Democrat they would not have the thousands of homeless communities in America. Mexican immigrants, many thousands of which are illegal Mexicans, are now California prisoners and United States prisoners. California has run out of the prison programs just for the overflow of Mexicans from Mexico who are three strikes convicts who will never get out of prison.
So yes, we need Trump to show the world the ugly head of the United States corruption that we have become and nothing more.
I could go on and on but I think I've said enough thanks for Trump.
Republicans are just as corrupt as Democrats and this nanny-run California is Governor Brown's prison system. All state correctional officers union members voted for Trump. At least someone has their eyes open. Everything Trump does or does not do the Democrats blame him. If he farted, Nancy Pelosi would catch it and paint it green and say Trump did it. He started the California fires, he's to blame for the pollution, the ozone layer depletion, the homeless, climate change and on and on. He is exposing the corrupt politicians and they don't like it. Trump changed 80 years of corruption in two years and he will win four more years. That's a given. If he doesn't the United States will be stronger than it ever was. So let's hope the next president stops the corruption as well as Trump has.
God bless the AVA for keeping it rolling and fanning the flames of discontent.
Dean ‘Dino’ Stevens, from an isolation cell in the Mendocino County Jail, 951 Low Gap Road, Ukiah 95482
ALONG CAME OBAMA. Obama didn’t prosecute anybody on Wall Street. He took more money from Wall Street than John McCain. He sold $60 billion worth of armaments to the Saudis and more armaments to the Israelis and said, “Well, that’s because of Iran, and it creates jobs in our country.” That’s Barack Obama. And Trump looks at that on TV and says, “You know, I can get away with that too.”
— Ralph Nader
OHIO MAN ALLEGES Apple iPhone XS Max Exploded In His Pants Pocket
A man from Ohio claims he was twice burned by Apple, first by an iPhone XS Max that allegedly caught fire in his pants pocket and injured his "buttocks region," and then again by poor customer service, both inside an Apple Store and over the phone.
GOOD NIGHT RADIO/MEMO OF THE AIR
Goodbye to all that and hello to all this
The recording of last night's (2018-12-28) KNYO Fort Bragg and KMEC Ukiah Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show is available by one or two clicks, depending on whether you want to listen to it now or download it and keep it for later and, speaking of which, it's right here:
Also, at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you can find a double-size fresh batch of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile educational items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:
The life and times of Ernie Kovacs.
"The women then disagree on who is crazy."
The fabulous Nicholas Brothers. Superhuman geniuses of tap-hop.
Five years later. "Those boys are terrific. They oughtta be on the stage.” “Yeah, they're swell, all right."
Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
DURING THE FLURRY of George H.W. Bush’s death, funeral and canonization, it was impossible to escape the photograph of George and Barbara Bush at their house in Maine, in their PJs, sitting up in bed surrounded by a mob of grandchildren. First published in 1987 in Life magazine, it’s a candid shot meant to show that, in their homey, comfy setting, the vice-president and his wife were just regular folks: doting grandparents, game for anything, unfazed at being awakened early (reportedly, 6 a.m.; “Poppy” does look a tad dazed) by an invasion of grandkids, stuffed animals, and – oh! hi there! come on in! – a photographer.
Behind the vice-presidential bed is a reassuringly messy bookcase, stuffed not only with photos, a clock, coffee mugs and various doodads and tchotchkes, but actual books. My fifth novel, Duet, is at the top of a stack of them, just above the veep’s head.’
Kitty Burns Florey on her best shot at immortality: lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/12/18/kitty-burns-florey/duet-with-the-bushes/