Hard-right, tea party activists are seated on our Civil Grand Jury

"Elaine Meckler presents Barry Pruett with a birthday cake while we all sing Happy Birthday! (Photo credit: http://www.mcguiresplace.net/Events-Nevada%20County%20Tea%20Party%20Party%20Jan%202010/

“Elaine Meckler presents Barry Pruett with a birthday cake while we all sing Happy Birthday!
(Photo credit: http://www.mcguiresplace.net/Events-Nevada%20County%20Tea%20Party%20Party%20Jan%202010/

We are winding down our vacation in Italy, but I wanted to thank Yubanet for publishing the County Grand Jury’s response to my Freedom of Information request, mailed before we left. It is waiting in our mailbox, according to our house sitter.

The letter confirms my speculation (which I reported in comments) that Elaine Meckler, Tea Party co-founder Mark Meckler’s mom (see photo), and Gregory Marks, a longtime hard-right politico with the local GOP leadership, are Civil Grand Jury members. Dottie Ray Souter also has been active in local conservative politics.

I do not recognize any other names being political activists for the “left.”

I would hope that none of these people would let their politics creep into their Civil Grand Jury reporting, but they have been very politically active in our community for years. It’s a fact, and we ought to have a community-wide discussion about it.

Our community has a right to know who’s writing and researching these reports, which have justifiably come under scrutiny.

I also remain concerned about this “Americans for Good Government” development, courtesy of the tea party, hard right, the Tom McClintock contingent and Mark Meckler — targeting supposedly nonpartisan board and commission seats with like-minded people.

Stan Meckler also is lobbying to join The Union’s editorial board.

I hope our community is starting to realize that the few could wind up leading around the many by the proverbial political nose. It’s wrong, because our politics are diverse, as the voter roles show. But we’re also vulnerable, because few people volunteer.


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Our region’s “Beer Barons” show local craft beer boom

From the Summer issue of SierraFoodWineArt magazine:

From the Gold Rush to Prohibition, our region was the West Coast beer capital. With easy access to mountain spring water, locally grown hops and barley, and refrigerated rail cars for shipping, it’s easy to see how Sacramento once was home to the largest brewery west of the Mississippi.

Now craft beer is booming in the foothills. Auburn’s Knee Deep Brewing Co. just started selling its beer in Hawaii. Nevada City’s ol’ Republic Brewing Co. is expanding, so it can bottle beer. And Three Forks Brewery & Baking Co. is opening its doors in Nevada City this summer.

You might be surprised to learn our region also is home to some of the nation’s most influential beer experts and aficionados. Meet some of them:

Charles Bamforth
Bamforth, who has written several books about beer, began his work in the brewing industry in 1978 and joined the UC Davis faculty in 1999. He is Distinguished Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences on campus. His current research program focuses primarily on the wholesomeness of beer.

Professor Bamforth’s Intro to Beer Brewing was voted best general education class by UC Davis students. The UC Davis Master Brewers Program is a unique, 18-week program that provides an in-depth understanding of brewing science and brewery engineering.

Tom Dalldorf
As publisher and editor of the Celebrator Beer News, a “brewspaper” in Nevada City, Dalldorf’s words quick-witted and impassioned—are nearly sacred to his readers, as the San Francisco Chronicle wrote.

Dalldorf can be seen tooling around town in his ‘59 Triumph roadster, stopping at Matteo’s Public or Jernigan’s Tap House & Grill, where Bamforth recently spoke at a luncheon (see photo).

You can find the CBN magazine at Matteo’s and Jernigan’s, among other places. “The trend toward better beer is simply undeniable,” he says.

Tom McCormick
Tom, who lives in Nevada City, is executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, a trade association representing the state’s craft and specialty brewing industry.

Referred to as the “Secretary of Defense for craft beer,” Tom has devoted his work to the industry’s issues at the state level. “California is the birthplace of the craft brewing industry,” says Tom. “It has transformed and revolutionized the brewing community.”

Our “Ale Trail,” highlighting the craft beer in our region, is here.

(Photo: Jernigan’s owner Sean Cox, with Bamforth and Dalldorf; by Pam Biery)

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When abroad, it’s hard stay informed with The Union and its curmudgeon columnist

page-3-photo-11-300x200Our towns have outgrown The Union, as I’ve written before. When out of town, it’s easier to keep up with the local news reading Facebook, SacBee, YubaNet, Moonshine Ink and others.

I was astounded to read this column by George Boardman this morning about the effort to “Save the Bridgeport Bridge.” He writes: “For the most part, our elected officials at the state, county and local levels were following instead of leading.”

Huh? In fact, the local “electeds” worked together with the nonprofits such as SYRCL as far back as Fall 2011 to first “Save the Yuba River State Park” and then “Save the Bridgeport Bridge.” It culminated in Gov. Brown and the legislature budgeting money for the bridge repair.

All told, it was an excellent example of nonpartisan collaboration: Hank Weston, a staunch conservative, working with SYRCL, for example. Here’s a photo of Weston and Robert Bergman in Sacramento to “Save the Yuba State Park” in February 2012.

What an uninformed writeup. The Union needs to step up its game well beyond the “Hemig photos” on Facebook. It keeps drawing a smaller and smaller circle around itself. And it needs to dump Boardman, the curmudgeon columnist. The management should be embarrassed.

(Photo: Michael Weissenborn and SierraCulture.com)

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Rome: Selfies in the Sistine Chapel

 Raphael's handiwork

Raphael’s handiwork

ROMA – We are thoroughly enjoying our Roman holiday, walking the neighborhoods, sampling the food and wine, and enjoying the arts & culture scene.

Our hotel, a gem called the Majestic, is on a tree-lined street of cafes, restaurants, book stores and other shops in Via Veneto and Piazza Berberini neighborhood. The Majestic’s rooftop terrace was meant for sipping a Campari and soda or “Italian Mule,” a refreshing locals version of the “Moscow Mule” (Cynar & Punt & Mes, lightly flavored with ginger).

The neighborhood was a swinging place in the ’50s, attracting the likes of Frank Sinatra, Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, even King Farouk. Via Veneto reminds me of neighborhoods we’ve visited in Paris or Buenos Aires in the past.

We walked to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain from our neighborhood. It also is close to the Metro and a short cab ride to the train station, where we arrived from Perugia and Florence. We also left for a day trip to Pompeii on the train.

Rome is more like three cities wrapped into one: The city itself, the Vatican and the ancient Rome, including the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. It instantly became a hit with our family.

Via Veneto neighborhood

Via Veneto neighborhood

Vatican Rag

We spent hours at the Vatican Museums. “You are entering one of the most important sites for the history of human civilization,” reads a note from the Director Antonio Paolucci. “The greatest artists of all time will welcome you: Raphael in the Stanza, Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and van Gogh and Matisse in the area dedicated to modern religious art.”

We also enjoyed the surrounding gardens of the Vatican, green and meticulously well kept.  Pope Francis is extremely popular, “not stiff” like some predecessors, one local told us. “The pope enhanced his reputation as a man of the people when he surprised Vatican workers by popping in to dine in their humble canteen,” as the Daily Mirror reported this week. This week Time magazine reported the Pope will visit America next year. (I snapped up a refrigerator magnet of the Pope across the street from St. Peter’s square as a souvenir).

Selfies in the Sistine Chapel

I have wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel forever, and it was marvelous. We found a spot to sit down and gazed up at the handiwork of Michelangelo for almost half an hour. I pointed out some highlights to our son: “The Last Judgment” (including St. Bartholomew holding his flayed skin),” and “Creation of Adam and Eve.”  The flayed skin intrigued  our son (who is at that age where he enjoys macabre things). Needless to say, he is eager to visit Pompeii.

There’s no photography or video allowed in the Sistine Chapel, and we abided by that rule. But I did notice the couple next to me sneaking a “selfie” photo of themselves and the frescos with an iPhone.

We’ve been enjoying the Roman food. One of our favorites was a restaurant within walking distance of our hotel called Osteria Barberini. We enjoyed handmade pasta, fresh fish and a bottle of local wine. A display of truffles, with a truffle shaver, greeted you at the door. We are going to spend the day in Pompeii before returning to Rome for another full day.

Italian Mule cocktail at Hotel Majestic

Italian Mule cocktail at Hotel Majestic

Truffles at Ristorante Osteria Barberini

Truffles at Ristorante Osteria Barberini

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Three Forks Bakery & Brewing “breaks bread” with Joan Baez

From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

We are excited about the opening of Three Forks Bakery & Brewing in Nevada City. It is featured in our summer issue. We also write about the owners, David Cowie and Shana Maziarz, in a feature called “We’ve Got Talent.”

“Dave and Shana are the co- owners and visionaries of Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co., opening this summer in Nevada City. Dave is the craft-beer brewer and Shana is the baker. Both are longtime residents of the region, fulfilling a dream to open their own small business. Places on the ‘Coast’ such as Della Fattoria in Petaluma, Boot & Shoe Service and Pizzaiolo in Oakland and Wild Flower Break Bakery in Freestone (Sonoma County) inspired them. Along with others, such as Amy Cooke of Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli, Ike Frazee of Ike’s Quarter Cafe and the ‘dean,’ Peter Selaya of New Moon Cafe, we think Dave and Shana can bring more exceptional dining experiences to our mountain towns.”

Now this week, Three Forks was invited to cook dinner for singing icon Joan Baez when she came to Grass Valley to perform, thanks to The Center for the Arts. We’ve met Joan several times in the Bay Area; she had been married to David Harris, who wrote a book called “The Last Stand,” a topic that I covered extensively at the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We had the incredible opportunity to make dinner for Joan Baez and her crew, along some of our favorite local folks, at the river,” Dave and Shana reported on the Three Forks Facebook page.

“We served grilled wild-caught salmon and black cod and wood-oven roasted chicken and salads and cold cucumber soup and grilled corn and fabulous fresh bread and bruschetta and cake and more.”

We look forward to the opening of Three Forks. Good going!

(Photos: Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Facebook page)

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Umbria: A room with a view

IMG_1198PERUGIA – We ditched cars for this vacation and have been walking or riding trains. The train from Florence to Perugia, in Umbria, is about a two-hour ride through a countryside that is redolent of western Sonoma County. My grandfather was born on the Swiss-Italian border and he wound up in Sebastopol, and it’s easy to understand why.

From the train you can see vineyards and olive orchards but also rows of corn and sunflowers. You also see small farms, with rolled bales of straw, and lots of sheep.

IMG_1183The train makes a lot of short stops. Some of the towns have old castles and other interesting architecture. One of them is Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis.

The train climbs into the mountains, passing through short tunnels, and it also passes by Lake Trasimeno, whose waters are good for swimming. “I was so taken by this splendid vision that I never forgot it, and it has become the stay or, at least, the setting for most of my paintings,” wrote Gerardo Dottori, the Italian Futurist painter.

We spent the night in Perugia (about halfway between Rome and Florence). It covers a high hilltop and is crossed by the Tiber river. The history goes back to the Etruscan era. It also is a universities town — and, yes, the home of the infamous Amanda Knox murder trial.

The views to the valley below are astounding, and you could spend days exploring the region. We sat in our hotel room with a glass of wine and admired the sweeping views, with the sound of church bells (and Vespas) below.

10402992_10152627251372948_4842600984997830284_nThe swimming pool at our hotel was one-of-a-kind: “”Floating in the crystal-clear water of the pool you find yourself swimming over the age-old remains of an Etruscan settlement which are protected by glass.”

We are going to Rome next, where we’ll wrap up our trip visiting the Vatican, the Colosseum and Pompei. We fly home via Stockholm.



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Our local world-class fiddler Fraser joins “James Bond” in supporting an independent Scotland

Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas at Fairgrounds in July, by John Taber, Live Shots (http://www.liveshots12.smugmug.com/)

Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas at Fairgrounds in July, by John Taber, Live Shots (http://www.liveshots12.smugmug.com/)

From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

Forget about the State of Jefferson. I’m reading an article in the “International New York Times” while on vacation in Italy this week titled “The stars collide over Scotland”: Eight weeks before a referendum on whether Scotland should break away from Britain and become an independent country, the Yes and No camps have stepped up their campaigning – not just down at the grass-roots but also among the stars.”

Sean Connery, Annie Lennox and Alan Cumming all favor independence, while Emma Thompson, David Bowie and J.K. Rowling all want Scotland to stay, as the Times reports.

As it turns out, our local resident and world-class Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser is in the independence camp, along with “James Bond”. Back on June 9, I was listening to a KVMR interview with Fraser. (Pssst….rumor has it that Alasdair Fraser is going to be in studio on the Monday Morning Show, 9am hour, 89.5 fm, kvmr.org streaming, to tell us all about fiddle camp. He may even bring a fiddle or violin into the studio. Violin? Well, he’ll also be talking about a Music in the Mountains event… Make a date to Alasdair about Monday, probably 915ish.”

I’m a big fan. We’re Facebook friends and Twitter friends, and we attended his recent Fiddle Camp concert at the Fairgrounds, hosted by Music in the Mountains. Alasdair is featured in our magazine’s Summer issue, under an article “We’ve got Talent.”

I enjoyed the interview on June 9 and wish KVMR had archived it on a podcast (at least I couldn’t find it), because he made news in discussing his support for an independent Scotland.

Since then Fraser has Tweeted regularly for the “yes” campaign:
•Independence is a reflection of our confidence as a Nation.. #indyref #VoteYES #yesscotland #indyreasons #YES2014
•Strange its okay to have a discussion on ‘British values’ but talking of ‘Scottish values’ seen as problematic. Some consistency helpful.
•#indyref gives @scottishlabour voters a chance to “reclaim their party” by backing independence

“Scotland has been England’s junior partner in Britain since 1707. But three centuries is no time at all in the view of many Scots, who have demanded self-determination, on and off, ever since,” as the Times reports. “That prospect is now nearer than ever, with a vote on Sept. 18. So far, polls give the stay-united camp a near consistent majority of the vote, though many of them show that at least 10 percent of voters have yet to make up their mind.

“Mr. Connery, 83, who reportedly has a ‘Scotland Forever’ tattoo and says he might move back to Scotland if it secedes, recently wrote in the New Statesman that ‘the opportunity of independence is too good to miss.'”

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