- Hot Interior
- Pet Joey
- Mendocino 1880
- Mask Fines
- Plum Bear
- BOS Items
- Log Chute
- Ed Notes
- Reyes Trouble
- Navarro Mill
- Gualala Lawsuit
- Mill Engine
- Lovato Backslides
- Yesterday's Catch
- Coin Shortage
- Wendling Mill
- Writing Thinking
- Navarro by the Sea
- Bleak Picture
- Gualala 1915
- Police Oversight
- Gualala Engine
- Senate Failing
- Gualala Hotel
- China Gulch
- Militarized Budget
- Pottstown Mercury
- Private Washout
- Marco Radio
- Harper's Letter
- Found Object
HOT AND DRY weather conditions will persist in the interior through next week. Ocean breezes and marine air will keep coastal areas much cooler. (NWS)
SOME HIGHS from yesterday: Boonville 90°; Yorkville 98°; Ukiah 101°.
UKIAH SHELTER PETS OF THE WEEK
Joey is a 4 year old mystery breed (Beagle/Terrier/Hound?) who weighs in at 33 pounds. This lucky guy’s been in a foster home since the start of the covid-19 closures, and his caretakers told us Joey is housetrained and knows SIT and DOWN. Joey’s got an independent side to him, or, as his foster person says, a “sassy side,” as a lot of the time he likes to cuddle, but sometimes he wants to be left alone! Joey likes taking walks, laying in the sunbeams and he LOVES swimming. Other pets in his foster home include two cats. Joey’s foster personsays that all in all, Joey will be a great dog for someone without kids, who has the patience to understand some of his quirks.
You can find more about Joey on his wepage at mendoanimalshelter.com.
While you’re there, you can read about our services, programs, events, and updates regarding covid-19 and the shelters in Ukiah and Ft. Bragg. Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/
For information about adoptions please call 707-467-6453.
MASK CHECK, FORT BRAGG
Dear Ms Helenchild,
The Fort Bragg city council adopted Urgency Ordinance No. 961-2020 Establishing Administrative Penalties for Violations of the Mendocino County Public Health Officer's Orders Pertaining to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic on May 11, 2020. The fines for individuals are $25/$50/$75. The city is working on additional signage (regarding the fines) to be placed on the trails and downtown.
We have had this tool in place for 2 months now.
Please also note that county health ordinances apply within city limits and we can only go more stringent than the state or county, never less. That means that mask requirements apply throughout. It is just the ticketing/enforcement that falls on city vs county staff.
Thank you for your feedback.
All the best,
Fort Bragg City Council
I parked at the turn around at the end of the parking lot at the Noyo trail head at the end of Elm St. from 1:15 pm to 1:45 p.m. today. I tallied the number of people (including children) wearing masks vs. the number not wearing masks. 115 wore masks vs. 132 who did not. (Aside: 247 people in a half hour is a lot of people!) Only some people were reading the Mendocino County “Wear Masks” bulletin at the entrance of the Noyo trail. FYI: I posted the Burma Shave posters on the Elm St. and Glass Beach Dr. approaches to the Noyo trail. Conclusion: More needs to be done to instigate everyone/visitors to wear masks!
EVERYONE LOVES THE PLUMS (photos by Dick Whetstone)
HASCHAK THE OBTUSE
by Mark Scaramella
Last Wednesday afternoon, Supervisor John McCowen wanted to know when his as yet undefined proposal to streamline the marijuana cultivation permit program would be up for discussion.
Supervisor Ted Williams agreed that the item should be prioritized:
“I agree with supervisor McCowen's concerns. I realize we are in a pandemic and have limited resources. At the same time cannabis is one of the few revenue sources [we have] during the pandemic aside from the visitor economy which is at risk of closing. We have concerns about the environment which can be mitigated by bringing cultivators into the legal regulated market. And yet in Mendocino County we are up against a cliff. In 2022, there will be no outdoor legal cannabis in this county unless we make progress. Whether that's by addressing ministerial concerns with CDFW (State Department of Fish and Wildlife] and CDFA [Department of Food & Agriculture] or moving to use permits, this should have started six months or a year ago. We are not going to get our people to an annual state license when the provisionals start expiring. We are at a crisis level in terms of the cannabis ordinance. It puts additional strain on law enforcement. We can't ask law enforcement to drive people into the legal cultivation process if there isn't one. And that's where we are today. There isn't an application process in this county. There isn't one in the works. There isn't one planned. We don't know where it's going. I share Supervisor McCowen's concern about kicking it down the road. We do need to address it. Maybe it doesn't need to be an all-day meeting, but we can make some progress."
Board Chair Haschak, still fairly new to his duties but already a master of delay and detour: "I will check with staff and maybe we can have a special meeting just to deal with these issues that are piling up on us. It's going to take staff and the cannabis department and everyone being able to have everything in order for us to make the decisions.”
Williams: “Supervisor Haschak, perhaps can you tell us where that stands today? I think you may have more visibility on it and it would help to have the Board as a whole know which resources are limited and where is the holdup? Is it planning and building? Is it the clerk's office? What are we looking at in terms of moving this forward?”
Haschak: “I have heard that there is a holdup in County Counsel’s office (where action goes to die) being able to come back with those recommendations. There is a holdup in the Cannabis department being able to bring the issues back to us that were brought up in June and there is also a holdup in the staff from the Clerk of the Board's office that there is just so much capacity in this time of a pandemic to deal with more board meetings. So we have a lot of critical issues to deal with according to the pandemic and so we are trying to balance it out and make it work for people. Like you heard from the CEO earlier that people are maxed out and so we are trying to make it work but we need those pieces of the puzzle to come together.”
Williams: “Could we consider outsourcing this rather than using County Counsel? Could we hire outside counsel and pay for it with the cannabis tax dollars? That way it takes 100% of the burden off staff and yet we move forward. Unlike some of our other endeavors, this one has a hard deadline because there is a planting season and if that's missed for a year I worry that we will see more people move into the illicit market because we don't have a legal process.”
Haschak: “My commitment will be to work with the Clerk of the Board and the Cannabis Department and County Counsel to expedite these issues as quickly as possible.”
McCowen: “Would that include a goal of bringing these items before the Board on July 21?”
Haschak: “I said I would work to do it as quickly as possible. Okay?”
McCowen: “I would like to request an update for July 14 to hear what progress we are making on being able to get these issues back in front of the board. They are time sensitive.”
Haschak: “Very good.”
Supervisor Haschak is on record saying he essentially agrees with Ellen Drell of the Willits Environmental Center that streamlining the existing cannabis permit program represents some kind of existential threat to the environment. He appears to be willing to use his position as Board chair and agenda setter to obstruct and delay consideration of permit streamlining based on his vague and unsubstantiated concern that streamlining would somehow lead to a green rush spurred by large well-funded outside pot growing operations, thus overwhelming the proverbial and mostly mythical, mom and pop garden.
However, as we have pointed out before, the county can easily restrict cultivation sizes and locations with zoning rules while eliminating the county's [McCowen’s actually] own redundant, costly, and unnecessary permit processing program in favor of the already severe restrictions imposed and enforced by several state agencies. (Note that in the above exchange, no one asked the departments that Haschak says he’s worried about exactly how and how much they are overworked by the pandemic.)
PS. The July 14 Board meeting agenda shows that Supervisor Haschak’s “very good” response to Supervisor McCowen for an update on the cannabis cultivation permit program has not happened. Instead, Haschak has put an item on the agenda to “terminate various cannabis Ad Hoc Committees and Create One Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee.” Thus making sure that every effort will continue to be made to postpone and delay any discussion of pot permit streamlining and further jeopardizing next year’s legal cannabis cultivation.
NINE MILLION MORE for Schraeder Inc., for six more months of mental health services, billable by the minute, retroactively, no bid, no analysis, no options.
Supervisors Meeting July 14, Agenda Item 5b:
“Discussion and Possible Action Including Approval of Retroactive Amendment to BOS Agreement No. 19-193 with Redwood Quality Management Company to Increase the Amount from $18,976,773 to $27,797,494.06 and Extend the End Date to December 31, 2020 to Arrange and Pay for Medically Necessary Specialty Mental Health Services and Mental Health Services Act Programs to All Ages of Medi-Cal Beneficiaries and the Indigent Population, Effective July 1, 2019 through December 31, 2020 (Sponsor: Health and Human Services Agency)”
Billing/Payment is by the minute: Evaluation and Management: $6.21 per minute and $4.82 per minute; psychotheraoy $3.00 and $2.45 per minute, etc. ($6.21 per minute = $373 per hour.)
Schraeder’s previous agreement was from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 for $19 million (not counting various other add-ons and separate contracts). Or, $9.5 million for six months. Now they’re getting $9 million more for six more months.
PLUS Consent Calendar Item 4o:
“Approval of Retroactive Amendment to Board of Supervisors Agreement No. 18-156 with Redwood Community Services in the Amount of $120,282 for a New Agreement Amount of $402,757 to Provide Intensive Care Management and Coordinated Development of Integrated Individual Service Plans to Finding Home Participants for the Period of April 1, 2018 Through a New End Date of September 29, 2020..End Recommended Action/Motion:
$1.5 MILLION FOR FOSTER CARE TRAINING -- on consent calendar
Consent Calendar Item 4m:
“Approval of Retroactive Agreement with Chabot-Las Positas Community College District in the Amount of $1,500,000 to Provide Trainings for Foster Care Providers, Group Home Staff, and County Staff Serving Mendocino County's Title IV-E Federally Eligible Children for the Term of July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.”
LOG CHUTE, MENDOCINO
AH, YOUTH! Someone called the cops today on kids jumping off the Greenwood Bridge. It is indeed an alarming sight because at a glance it looks like the water is about knee-deep. Deep enough, though, it seems. Nobody injured so far.
TRUMP finally masked up today during a visit to wounded troops at Walter Reed Hospital as the country he is leading over the last cliff topped its personal worst record for new coronavirus cases, with 69,000 new diagnoses reported Friday, bringing the total American case number to 3,184,722, which is more than one million more cases than anywhere else in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Nine states — Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin — all topped their own records for single-day infections. Several states, including Texas, are imposing new restrictions while others, including Florida, are going ahead with reopening plans despite the rise in cases. More than 134,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, more than 50,000 more than anywhere else in the world.
FORMER MENDO COLLEGE SUPE/PREZ IN HOT WATER AT NEW GIG? PERHAPS A FORENSIC AUDIT OF HIS TENURE IS NEEDED
An alert reader sent us this article Saturday (thank you). Reyes served as Mendocino College President for six years and left the position in June of 2019. The reader added, "A forensic audit should be demanded of the College from his tenure at Mendocino College." At the time of his departure "Mendocino-Lake Community College District Board President Robert Pinoli stated, 'The pending departure of our superintendent/president will leave a giant void, so many good things have come from his six years with us'.”:
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT LAWSUIT FILED ON THE GUALALA RIVER
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered Wildlife in California Redwood Forest
GUALALA, Calif — Conservation groups today filed a formal notice of intent
to sue the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and a timber company for failing to protect threatened and endangered fish, birds and frogs from a redwood logging project near northern California’s Gualala River.
Today’s notice from the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of Gualala River argues the state and the Gualala Redwood Timber Company have violated the Endangered Species Act by illegally harming Northern California steelhead, Central California Coast coho salmon, California red-legged frogs, marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls.
“The state is abdicating its responsibility to save these imperiled animals and some of California’s most spectacular redwoods,” said Peter Galvin, cofounder of the Center. “Logging has devastated this region and too many species are hanging on by a thread. We’re in an extinction crisis and we need to protect our wildlife now more than ever.”
The Gualala River ecosystem suffers from decades of abuse, including previous logging projects by the timber company. The proposed logging site, on 300 acres in Sonoma County, contains some of the last remaining mature floodplain redwood forest in the area.
“Friends of Gualala River is proud to partner with the acclaimed Center for Biological Diversity in this important action to stem the losses of our most endangered species and turn the path of our river towards recovery,” said Charles Ivor, president of Friends of Gualala River.
Devastation from logging in the region is well documented and this new logging project will further harm the five species already nearing extinction. The Endangered Species Act prohibits “taking” of these animals, including actions that “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” endangered species.
The 2016 federal recovery plan for Northern California steelhead says logging is a primary contributor to the fishes’ dwindling numbers and the Gualala River is “essential” for its recovery. Likewise, the federal recovery plan for Central California Coast coho salmon lists logging as a major cause of habitat loss and degradation for the species.
The proposed logging project will use heavy equipment to remove redwoods and build logging roads and skid trails in the area. This will destroy the California red-legged frogs’ habitat and is likely to kill or injure frogs. The logging plan itself acknowledges the potential for logging activities to kill slow-moving animals.
Marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls rely on old forest stands with dense canopy cover, a habitat type that continues to decline due to commercial logging operations. In addition to reducing the habitat these birds need to survive, logging leads to increased predation of murrelets and increased competition for spotted owls.
The Center and Friends of Gualala River are represented by Gross and Klein LLP.
The Center for Biological Diversity <https://biologicaldiversity.org/> is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Friends of Gualala River <http://gualalariver.org/> is a local, citizen’s nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of the Gualala River, its watershed, and the species that rely on it.
NAVARRO MILL ENGINE
SORRY DICK, NO BOOZE
On Friday, July 10, 2020, Mendocino County Chief Probation Officer Locatelli learned the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had released an inmate from prison and had placed him in a hotel in Ukiah. This subject, Richard Lovato, 56, of Ukiah, was released on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) to be supervised by the Mendocino County Probation Department.
Chief Locatelli, along with Mendocino County Sheriff Kendall, met with Lovato and provided him with instructions to shelter in place, abide by the terms of PRCS, and follow all orders of the Mendocino County Health Officer. Lovato was also fitted with an ankle monitor, which would show he was remaining where he was ordered to be.
At about 08:30 P.M. on 07-10-2020, Chief Locatelli returned to the hotel to meet with another subject who was released from prison and provide an ankle monitor and instructions to this subject as well. Upon completion of these duties, Chief Locatelli learned Lovato had left the location and purchased alcohol at a local convenience store. Chief Locatelli contacted Lovato as he returned from the store and found him to be in possession of alcoholic beverages. Lovato has a no-alcohol clause as a term of his PRCS release. Chief Locatelli arrested Lovato at the location and contacted the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division, who responded to the location and took custody of Lovato.
Lovato was transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail on a flash incarceration pursuant to his violation. Lovato will be held in custody without bail for up to 10 days.
Matthew Kendall, Sheriff-Coroner
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 11, 2020
EDUARDO AVALOS, Boonville. DUI.
LELAND BEAN, Willits. Elder abuse resulting in great bodily injury or death, domestic abuse, child endangerment, criminal threats.
ROBERT CAMPBELL II, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)
BEJINEZ CHAVEZ, Ukiah. DUI, no license.
ELIANA GUTIERREZ, Ukiah. Kidnapping, resisting.
ALVINO MIRANDA, Fort Bragg. Assault with deadly weapo nnot a gun, failure to appear.
FRANKY ONETO JR, San Mateo/Covelo. Sexually violent predator must register, alteration of vehicle registration, evasion, parole violation.
VIRGILIO SANTOS, Santa Rosa/Willits. DUI, suspended license (for DUI).
ISIAH SILVA-FONNEST, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance, without prescription, sales.
KEVIN STARNES, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
Does any one know why there is a lack of metal coins for change at several stores?
Bob Vance <email@example.com>
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
E. M. Forster, the author of A Passage to India, A Room With A View, etc is quoted as once asking “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?”
This is an important observation to make because it points to the role of writing as being a kind of thinking machine. We scribble down some thoughts, some facts, some opinions, and then in attempting to organize them according to well-known and time-honored patterns, we are able to lay out various ways in which these ideas are possibly related.
When one is unable to lay these ideas out using these time honored linguistic (writing) patterns, one may be confronted with the fact that possibly one is not making sense. So then one rewrites and rewrites until what one is saying does make proper use of these traditional semantic, cognitive and discursive patterns.
This is why we are asked to write paragraphs and essays in school. Our writing proves and improves the ordering of our minds.
Readers look for these patterns in whatever they read. If they are not present, or not sufficiently well-signposted, or are out of place, then readers become confused. They do not understand what point we are trying to make.
What are these traditional patterns? Well, there are lots – we can’t cover them all here – and to name them would require that we look at a piece of discourse at longer and shorter stretches. So for example we could have the patternings of a book, a chapter, a page…and, knowing the genre of a book, or a short story, the reader will read with certain expectations and understandings of the genre – and the writer may play with them and cross-refer them but ultimately must conform to them. Otherwise, there will be only a kind of confused communication.
On the comment page of a blog, many people will paragraph. There are a few ways to paragraph – mainly the choice is whether to organize the paragraph “Claim/Assertion + Support/Evidence” or the reverse. In either case, coherence requires that there be a sufficiently tight relationship between the opening of the paragraph and what follows. Otherwise one is perceived to be waffling. This relationship is most obviously maintained by vocabulary control. In such a case, we find that the words that one finds at the beginning of the paragraph, or similar or related words reappear throughout the paragraph (repetition, synonymy, paraphrase). That is how we know we are keeping to the same topic. And as they say (the fascists!), one topic, one paragraph. That is a pretty good rule of thumb.
Now, maintenance of coherence through vocabulary is of course just one feature of paragraph control. For example, the logic of sentence-relations can be demonstrated by what is known as the “Give-New” Contract” or as the basic principles of “Sentence Information Order”. This is extremely important. The basic principles are that units or blocks of information in a sentence should be ordered as follows:
1. Old before new
2. Short before long
3. Background before detail
4. Less important before more important
Note that when we say short before long, etc, this refers to what precedes or follows the verb, (of the main clause) which is the engine or perhas the fulcrum of the English sentence. And also note that these are principles, not rules. Manipulation of these principles for effect are an intrinsic part of good writing and one must play them off against each other .
This idea of information order relates strongly to vocabulary choices as the re-use of certain words or their repetition through synonym or paraphrase is not only a strong creator of coherence but is also a strong marker of information as old or new, background, detail in the discourse. Among other things, it alerts us to the progress of the discussion as the scanning eye observes that with changes in vocabulary there may have been a change of topic or the introduction of new information. So one slows to read more closely. Vocabulary control is thus very important. Despite what our English teacher may have said, “elegant variation” is not our friend. Consistency is.
Further support to clarity comes from the use of explicit markers of semantic relations, words and phrases like but, so, in contrast, however, for example, in this way, in other words, and so on. Of course, the use of semantic (logical) markers can be overdone. Many semantic relations need not be marked. They are understood. For example, how does this sound?: “It was the best of times. It was also, as it happens, the worst of times”. It lacks the punch of the original, don’t you think?
Still, if we are making arguments, especially if we are making arguments to a hostile audience, it behooves us to make clear the logic of our arguments. I am not saying that we should apply semantic markers to our texts like salt from a shaker, but – contrariwise – if we do not use them at all, it becomes the case that not only will our readers not understand our argument, or see its many fine points, we may not be able to understand and critique our own ideas. And along that path lies not just madness, but perhaps worse, stupidity.
Of course, I could extend this little essay. I haven’t discussed basic issues such as the norms of comparison, chronological organization, description, and so on, but I feel I have written enough on this to make my point. And I do not want to waste too many of this blog’s pixels. So I will leave it here.
NAVARRO BY THE SEA
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY #2
To be sure, the insanity raging in America of our days has a complex diagnosis. Yes, the Dems’ surrender to street mobs (even if Nancy & Chuck are kidding themselves that they’re riding the tiger) seems the more obvious symptom, but beyond that, there is the craziness of everyone else, just as sinister. There is the unreal, ubuesque presidency of Trump who has no way of addressing voters with IQ over 80 (though many of the smarter ones still prefer a grifter as the moral justification for their own money swindles). And then you have the Right political insanity of trying to preserve a Republic where some citizens work full time and cannot afford a room with a private entrance to live while other citizens are allowed to make extra untaxed billions out of the global pandemic. It’s the kind formal equality to which Anatole France quipped that it gives the rich and poor equal right to sleep under the bridges. All that is supposed to become invisible by right-wing bafflegab of patriotism, anti-unionism, hatred of socialized medicine (which Bismarck gave the Gemans in 1880’s), right to own battlefield automatic weapons, and wringing of hands over the horrors of abortion (not just the late ones), anti-tax hysteria, in short, the elements of what C.Wright Mills sixty years ago described as “the successful dodge by America, of many of the civilizing aspects of European 19.century”. It’s a bleak picture with nothing close to rational, common-sense political solutions anywhere in sight.
PROGRESSIVE CALIFORNIA STILL LETS LOCAL POLICE INVESTIGATE WHEN ONE OF THEIR OWN USES DEADLY FORCE
by Raheem Hosseini
If officers shot and killed Sean Monterrosa in Connecticut or New York — instead of in Vallejo, California — a state agency would investigate the June 2 incident, when a police officer reportedly mistook a hammer in the 22-year-old Latino man’s sweatshirt for a gun and fired shots through the windshield of his police vehicle.
If officers shot and killed Michael Thomas in Georgia — instead of in Lancaster, California — a grand jury could investigate a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy’s claim that Thomas reached for the deputy’s gun during a domestic disturbance call inside the 62-year-old Black man’s home on June 11.
If officers shot and killed Sunshine Sallac in Utah, Wisconsin or Illinois — instead of in Lake Forest, California — an outside agency would investigate the June 24 incident, in which Orange County sheriff’s deputies responded to a residential burglary call and opened fire on the 22-year-old woman of Asian heritage, who they said was standing across the street holding a gun.
Instead, in all three cases and in dozens other California cases in recent years, the departments that hired and trained the officers involved in fatal shootings will determine what happens next. It’s standard protocol in this state, despite the fact that many legislators, local politicians, the families of the victims and, in some cases, law enforcement representatives themselves continue to call for greater outside scrutiny.
As the country contemplates the national ramifications of George Floyd’s final nine minutes of life in Minneapolis, California has its own version of the question: If this state is the nation’s laboratory for progressive laws, why has it been unable to keep the police from policing themselves?
“This one is actually embarrassing for California,” said Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, who is trying for the third time in five years to pass a law requiring the state’s attorney general to probe deadly officer encounters. “I think it’s a common sense reform that’s ripe for the taking this year in California.”
Yet California’s past three attorney generals — including former Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s first two attorney generals of color, Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra, all Democrats — have been reluctant to take on this responsibility, despite already having the authority to do so.
“We are neither equipped nor resourced to take over for the 58 district attorneys that role,” Becerra said in answer to a question from CalMatters during a Wednesday press conference. “On a limited occasion, we do. And usually it’s because a district attorney or his or her office must recuse himself, herself, itself from the prosecution or decision because of some conflict. Or because there is an abusive discretion on the part of the office of the DA. Or some other very exceptional circumstance.”
State oversight — by invitation only?
Nonetheless, McCarty‘s Assembly Bill 1506, which the California Senate is to consider when the Legislature returns from break, is more modest than previous iterations he’s carried that have failed. He’s abandoned the idea of requiring the attorney general to oversee inquiries into every deadly police encounter.
Instead this year’s version would create a new division within the state Justice Department to investigate deadly police encounters only if the local policing agency or district attorney actually asked for such an inquiry. The new division would also have the responsibility to prosecute any wrongdoing it uncovers.
The idea is patterned after laws in five other states: Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Thus far, 43 other lawmakers have co-sponsored the new measure and McCarty is confident that, unlike with his earlier attempts, locally elected district attorneys will endorse rather than oppose his legislation, since he sought their input. The California District Attorneys Association was set to take a vote July 9, but put it off for a week to continue working with McCarty on amendments, said Vern Pierson, the association’s president and the DA of El Dorado County.
But what about Becerra, whose department would be responsible for taking on deadly force investigations?
Thus far, he refuses to answer the question. On Wednesday, Becerra said he hadn’t been briefed on the latest version of the bill, “so it’d be hard for me to tell you where we would stand at the Department of Justice at this time.”
The pending bill says that if the Legislature doesn’t create new funding for this, the Justice Department still has to create it from existing funding — likely a more affordable prospect given the limited number of cases in which local authorities would request the state’s involvement.
At least one frustrated local prosecutor would like to see a mandate.
Last month, Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams announced on Facebook that she asked Becerra to take over the review of last month’s Vallejo police shooting of Monterrosa — and that his office denied her request.
According to the police department’s account, its officers responded to looting at a Walgreens, where an officer saw a man in a hooded sweatshirt crouch down in the parking lot and reach for his waist. The officer fired his weapon five times through the windshield of his vehicle and struck the man once. The man, identified as Monterossa, a 22-year-old resident of San Francisco, died at a local hospital. Investigators later found a 15-inch hammer in his sweatshirt pocket, but no gun.
The police shooting of Monterrosa occurred during a fraught moment for American law enforcement. The police killings of Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks in Georgia, and officers’ forceful crackdowns on demonstrations, once again forced the country into a searing examination of police violence, particularly against Black and Latino residents.
It also marked the latest in a series of controversies over the conduct of Vallejo police.
Three days after Monterrosa’s death, the Vallejo City Council asked Becerra’s office to review the shooting. The Justice Department agreed to audit the embattled department’s practice and policies, but declined to take over the shooting investigation.
Police footage shows Vallejo officer fatally shot Sean Monterrosa from truck’s back seat
“Given the totality of the circumstances, it is difficult to discern why the Attorney General’s Office is reluctant to assume the responsibility in this case when both of our offices agree that community trust in the process is of critical importance,” Abrams wrote in the June 23 Facebook post.
A state Justice Department spokesperson wrote in an unsigned email that the department offered to provide additional people to assist with the Solano district attorney’s review, but doesn’t have the funding or the staffing to investigate every officer-involved shooting throughout the state.
“Absent a conflict of interest, an abuse of discretion, or other exceptional circumstances, Cal DOJ does not assume responsibility for local investigations or prosecutions typically handled by local authorities,” the spokesperson wrote. “We have confidence in DA Abrams’ capabilities to fully and fairly complete the investigation before her.”
Abrams contends those “exceptional circumstances” were present due to the outpouring of calls for an independent investigation from the community and state and local officials. “While I am confident that my office can conduct a fair and thorough review of all officer involved shootings, an independent review is needed at this time to restore public trust and provide credibility, transparency, and important oversight,” she wrote.
Becerra reiterated his office’s points on Wednesday.
“We are neither equipped nor resourced to take over for the 58 district attorneys that role.”
— Attorney General Xavier Becerra
“We are prepared, if there is a conflict by her office in trying to handle this matter or if she abuses her discretion, then certainly, the people of Solano County who voted for the district attorney have a right to know that someone else will take over to make sure it’s a fair process,” he said. “But without those standards being met, we would essentially be substituting for the 58 DAs and we don’t have the capacity to do that.”
As for whether the attorney general, as the state’s top elected prosecutor, would come to different legal conclusions than locally elected prosecutors, that didn’t happen last year, when Becerra announced that he, too, would not prosecute two Sacramento officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark in 2018.
Both Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and Becerra determined the shooting of the unarmed Black man was lawful, even though they determined that police officers didn’t announce themselves as they rounded a blind corner in search of a vandal and opened fire on Clark, who was in his grandparents’ backyard holding a cellphone.
Under McCarty’s bill, the Attorney General’s Office would essentially take over the role of locally elected DAs, reviewing deadly force investigations by police and deciding whether to prosecute.
What other states have done
No state has been immune to the historic civil unrest that Floyd’s death and other controversial police killings have touched off, but several have taken steps in the name of holding law enforcement accountable.
Utah, Illinois and Wisconsin require people from outside agencies to investigate use-of-force cases. Connecticut prohibits police departments from hiring officers who were dismissed for misconduct or who resigned or retired while under investigation for misconduct. Colorado requires police departments to share information about officers who committed misconduct or misrepresented themselves with other departments in the state.
While no state has enacted a broad mandate for all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras, South Carolina does demand that police departments require body cams if the state provides funding for them, and Nevada requires uniformed officers who routinely interact with the public wear them.
California only requires that of its Highway Patrol.
Since Floyd’s Memorial Day death, 31 states have introduced 307 law enforcement-related bills, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California is considering six bills, including proposed bans on chokeholds or carotid restraints, and against using kinetic energy projectiles or chemical weapons to break up demonstrations.
California’s powerful law enforcement unions appear resolved to the fact that some changes are likely.
The California Police Chiefs Association has endorsed both McCarty’s deadly force investigations bill and the carotid restraint bill, while the Police Officers Research Association of California, the state’s largest professional federation of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, has even called for a nationwide use-of-force standard similar to what California adopted last year. The state’s oldest professional law enforcement federation, the California Peace Officers Association, hasn’t taken a position on the proposed carotid-restraint ban, but its deputy director acknowledged the governor is likely to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
While neither officers’ organization has taken a position on McCarty’s deadly force investigations bill, they seem largely untroubled by the idea of occasional oversight.
“We have no problem with the AG’s office coming in (which they can already do now) to do an independent investigation, especially at an agency’s request,” Peace Officers Association deputy director Sean Rundle wrote in an email. “What we don’t want to see, is an attempt to shut local agencies out of the process without giving them an opportunity to conduct a [thorough] local investigation. Luckily, AB 1506 doesn’t do that.”
That could be a problem, said George Gascon, San Francisco’s former district attorney now campaigning for the same job in L.A. County.
When he was the DA in San Francisco, Gascon said he established a division within his office to both investigate and prosecute use-of-force cases. He said he hired experienced homicide investigators from outside San Francisco to conduct the investigations and former civil rights attorneys and public defenders to determine if prosecution was merited. The one shortcoming, he said, was the unit still responded to him.
“You have to have it completely decoupled from local law enforcement,” Gascon said. “We came as close as we could.”
The reason, Gascon said, is the public’s perception that prosecutors work too closely with the cops they’re being asked to scrutinize.
Gascon said he’s also skeptical that the voluntary nature of McCarty’s oversight bill would work, as the police who investigate use-of-force cases and the prosecutors who review them are unlikely to request scrutiny.
“It fails to address a basic concern: You have a lot of people who are not going to ask for that,” he said. “You have to take police away from investigating itself much like you have to take away the local district attorneys from making that call” about whether to prosecute.
In almost every deadly law enforcement encounter in California, the agency that has jurisdiction where the killing occurred is responsible for investigating it. While that may make geographic sense, it means that law enforcement agencies typically investigate their own officers’ conduct.
Locally elected DAs then review — but often don’t externally investigate — the completed investigations to determine if officers committed any crime and if that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the initial investigators ask leading questions of witnesses or mishandle evidence, there’s little an external review can do to correct a compromised investigation, Gascon said. “The most crucial time in this investigation … is the first 10, 12, 24 hours,” Gascon said. “If you don’t do that very well in the beginning, it’s very hard to fix it late.”
McCarty said he also wants his bill to give neighboring police departments some role in initial investigations, so the officers who used lethal force aren’t solely investigated by the departments that employ them. But he doesn’t rule out involvement by the police agency whose officers used lethal force. One reason, he said: It would likely take days for a local agency to request the involvement of the Attorney General’s Office — leaving those crucial first hours of the investigation up in the air.
“Granted, it’s still law enforcement,” McCarty said, “but it’s not the same jurisdiction.”
California has seen 65 fatal police shootings in the first half of 2020, according to The Washington Post’s database. More than a third of the victims were identified as Latino, 40% allegedly possessed a gun and nearly half were reportedly fleeing the scene, according to press coverage of police accounts. Yet body camera footage was only available in eight instances, meaning the officers responsible for taking a life were the ones to say what happened.
Even with the passage of landmark use-of-force legislation last year, California is on pace for 124 fatal police shootings this year when factoring seasonal averages. That’s shy of the 135 mark reached last year, but higher than the 114 fatal shootings in 2018.
This doesn’t include other deaths that happen in law enforcement custody, which hit a 10-year peak in 2018 before dipping slightly last year, according to tracking by the California Department of Justice.
Brian Marvel, president of Peace Officers Research Association of California, which contributed $1.6 million during the 2017-18 election cycle, including $1,500 toward Becerra’s reelection, said his group wants to make sure “that the funding is there” for the attorney general to assume the broader oversight role that McCarty’s legislation proposes. As for the bills restricting officers’ use of carotid restraints and tear gas, Marvel said he and his colleagues simply want clear marching orders.
“We just want clear direction from the electeds on what policing looks like,” Marvel said. “If politicians want to say, ‘Let the people burn the buildings down’ … we can work with that.”
Advocates say this year presents an opportunity for bold change. McCarty noted that if a staunch Republican like former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can sign a bill compelling state reviews of officer-involved deaths (although he didn’t immediately provide funding for his new law), “Then why can’t California do it?”
But with lingering questions about whether McCarty’s still evolving bill will provide that bold change, Gascon offers a warning for lawmakers who don’t go as far as this moment requires.
“If you create a half measure, you lose all your wind and then it’s hard to recover,” he said. “You’re dying by a thousand cuts.”
(Raheem Hosseini is a contributing writer to CalMatters. CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.)
SANDERS CALLS ON 'DO-NOTHING' SENATE TO APPROVE $2,000 MONTHLY CHECKS, CANCEL RENT, AND EXPAND MEDICARE
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday slammed the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate for refusing to act to address the coronavirus-induced public health and economic crises that continue to intensify, throwing millions more out of work, overwhelming hospitals, and endangering countless lives.
"As you read this, the number of Covid-19 cases is skyrocketing in this country to levels far greater than at any point in this crisis," Sanders wrote in an email to supporters Sunday evening. "The United States—with just 4 percent of the world's population—accounts for 25% of the world's coronavirus cases and deaths. And the Republican Senate is doing nothing."
“THE BORDER between the State of Israel and the occupied Gaza Strip had always reminded him of the line between Tijuana and greater San Diego. There, too, ragged men the color of earth waited with the mystical patience of the very poor on the pleasure of crisply uniformed, well-nourished officials. Some months before, Lucas had come down for the dawn shape-up at the checkpoint, and he had not forgotten the drawn faces in the half-light, the terrible smiles of the weak, straining to make themselves agreeable to the strong.”
― Robert Stone, Damascus Gate
CHINA GULCH, GUALALA
THE MILITARIZED BUDGET 2020
Democrats & Republicans set to pass huge bipartisan defense bill.
Perhaps most remarkable is the amount of the military budget itself. It is three times more than the planet’s second-highest military spender, China; it is ten times more than the third-highest spender, Saudi Arabia; it is 15 times more than the military budget of the country most frequently invoked by Committee members as a threat to justify militarism: Russia; and it is more than the next 15 countries combined spend on their military. They authorized this kind of a budget in the midst of a global pandemic as tens of millions of newly unemployed Americans struggle even to pay their rent. BTW, 32% of USA homeowners were unable to make their mortgage payment in July 2020.
The Last Reporter In Town Had One Big Question for His Rich Boss
GRATEFUL DEAD GOES TO WAR
MAKE A LITTLE BIRDHOUSE IN YOUR SOUL.
"So a couple weeks later he calls because he played it for the Queen Mother and she kinda got a kick out of it. And I said to Mel, the biggest shiksa in the world loves our record, we're in!" —Carl Reiner
The recording of last night's (2020-07-10) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on KNYO-LP Fort Bragg and KMEC-LP Ukiah is right here:
Except not KMEC this time, again. Further info on the KMEC saga is late in arriving. I’ll blab as soon as I get something concrete on the disappointing state of affairs that I struggle mightily to restrain myself from speculating paranoidly upon. As of press time, their website’s been down for two weeks, their web stream is off, their facebook page appears static and their phone line is dead.
Meanwhile, half an hour into this particular show is the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s first installment of their new project *Tales From The Resistance*, and it’s pretty good. One line of many that stuck in my mind: “The man’s fingers tangled like a ball of indecisive sausages,” and that’s not only because I cut an entire hot Italian sausage into sauce for the spaghetti dinner, or rather breakfast, I cooked while the extra-long Futility Closet podcast, the Galapagos Affair, played to close the show. In between those, a remarkable dreamlike poem about ghostly throat-singing monks of Mount Shasta, by John Sakowicz, Scott Peterson’s questioning the questionable morals and funding of Project Sanctuary, the first two chapters of Jay Frankston’s book *El Sereno*, which I’ll be serializing until October at this rate, selected material from the invaluable Anderson Valley Advertiser, the usual array of edutaining tragi-comic events of our strange times, a fascinating explanation of a promising new theory of the origins of consciousness, and much more. A bottomless fractal landscape of rabbit holes in rabbit holes in rabbit holes. Oh, and Ennio Morricone died, so also there’s his music, for inspirational breaks.
Furthermore, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile educational items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:
Danderine grew Miss Wallace’s hair. And we can PROVE IT. “After using Danderine, my hair grew so fast it fairly /crawled out of my head/.” I guess they made their real money when people discovered the effect couldn’t be turned off, and they were willing to pay anything to stop it. It’s like the Blue Fairy Book story of Why the Sea is Salt. http://www.weirduniverse.net/blog/comments/danderine_grows_hair
Tokyo in 1913, interpolated, colorized, enhanced in every way for historical veracity. https://boingboing.net/2020/07/08/incredible-restored-video-of-t.html
And the National Joy Council reminds you that joy doesn’t last. You get a taste of it and you spend the whole rest of your life trying to get it back. It’s a gateway drug. It leads to harder stuff. I know what I’m doing. I can take it or leave it alone any time. Yeah? Tell us who gave it to you, kid. Do yourself a favor. Be smart. https://laughingsquid.com/baby-laughs-as-mother-bounces-ball-on-spoon/
— Marco McClean, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
“MY OPTIMISM? Where I grew up our principal cultural expression was the funeral. Whatever keeps me going, it isn't optimism.”
― Robert Stone, Helping
A MORE SPECIFIC LETTER ON JUSTICE AND OPEN DEBATE
On Tuesday, 153 of the most prominent journalists, authors, and writers, including J. K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell, and David Brooks, published an open call for civility in Harper’s Magazine. They write, in the pages of a prominent magazine that’s infamous for being anti-union, not paying its interns, and firing editors over editorial disagreements with the publisher: “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”
The signatories, many of them white, wealthy, and endowed with massive platforms, argue that they are afraid of being silenced, that so-called cancel culture is out of control, and that they fear for their jobs and free exchange of ideas, even as they speak from one of the most prestigious magazines in the country.
The letter was spearheaded by Thomas Chatterton Williams, a Black writer who believes “that racism at once persists and is also capable of being transcended—especially at the interpersonal level.” Since the letter was published, some commentators have used Williams’s presence and the presence of other non-white writers to argue that the letter presents a selection of diverse voices. But they miss the point: the irony of the piece is that nowhere in it do the signatories mention how marginalized voices have been silenced for generations in journalism, academia, and publishing.
Some of the problems they bring up are real and concerning — for example, they seem to be referencing a researcher being fired for sharing a study on Twitter. But they are not trends — at least not in the way that the signatories suggest. In reality, their argument alludes to but does not clearly lay out specific examples, and undermines the very cause they have appointed themselves to uphold. In truth, Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black and trans people — can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially; this seems to be the letter’s greatest concern. What’s perhaps even more grating to many of the signatories is that a critique of their long held views is persuasive.
The content of the letter also does not deal with the problem of power: who has it and who does not. Harper’s is a prestigious institution, backed by money and influence. Harper’s has decided to bestow its platform not to marginalized people but to people who already have large followings and plenty of opportunities to make their views heard. Ironically, these influential people then use that platform to complain that they’re being silenced. Many of the signatories have coworkers in their own newsrooms who are deeply concerned with the letter, some who feel comfortable speaking out and others who do not.
The letter reads as a caustic reaction to a diversifying industry — one that’s starting to challenge institutional norms that have protected bigotry. The writers of the letter use seductive but nebulous concepts and coded language to obscure the actual meaning behind their words, in what seems like an attempt to control and derail the ongoing debate about who gets to have a platform. They are afforded the type of cultural capital from social media that institutions like Harper’s have traditionally conferred to mostly white, cisgender people. Their words reflect a stubbornness to let go of the elitism that still pervades the media industry, an unwillingness to dismantle systems that keep people like them in and the rest of us out.
The Harper’s letter cites six nonspecific examples to justify their argument. It’s possible to guess what incidents the signatories might be referring to, and it’s likely that if they listed specific examples, most wouldn’t hold water. But the instances they reference are not part of a new trend at all, as we explain below.
1. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces?
When the signatories claim that “editors are fired for running controversial pieces,” they seem to be arguing it’s a problem that James Bennet, the former Opinion editor of the New York Times, was fired. In reality, Bennet resigned because Black staffers risked their jobs to publicly point out that Bennet had signed off on an opinion piece that called for the use of the nation’s military against its own citizenry for exercising their First Amendment rights. Bennet first defended the piece, then admitted to not reading it before publication. The Times itself admitted that the piece was not up to its own editorial standards and its publisher said in a letter to staff that the piece was emblematic of a “significant breakdown” in the editing process. The signatories of the letter seem to be suggesting that all viewpoints should be published in opinion pages, with no limits on what those viewpoints might be. They never tell us why opinion pages, like the ones in the New York Times, shouldn’t publish opinion pieces by flat-earthers or explicit calls for violence. The answer is simple: Newspapers have editorial judgment and set the tone for what is published in their opinion pages. The Times chose to solicit and amplify a perspective from a senator, and backlash ensued, which is similar to what’s happening in the Harper’s letter — prominent people with huge platforms complaining they don’t have enough latitude to share their views. A large number of Black, brown, and trans editors don’t wield the same kind of power as white editors, because most newsrooms are already led by a primarily white and male workforce.
2. Books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity?
The signatories claim that “books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity.” This could be a reference to American Dirt, a book by Jeanine Cummins — a non-Mexican white woman who recently began identifying as Puerto Rican — about a Mexican bookseller, which was roundly criticized by Latinx writers and authors like Myriam Gurba and Los Angeles Times writer Esmeralda Bermudez. That book was featured as a part of Oprah’s Book Club, despite the fact that Latinx journalists like Bermudez said the story was a far cry from real-life immigrant experiences. It could also be a reference to Apropos of Nothing, Woody Allen’s book that was dropped by Hachette, a major publisher, after employees protested Allen’s history of sexual assault allegations. The book was later picked up by a different publisher.
Manuscripts for books written by nonwhite authors are not given such leniency. A recent Twitter hashtag highlighted that even when Black and brown authors do have book deals, they are not compensated at anywhere close to the same rates as their white colleagues. Additionally, the top ten banned young adult books in 2019 are ones that feature trans main characters, as journalist Katelyn Burns has pointed out. Rainbow Rowell, who wrote a book widely decried by Asian American book critics for its inaccurate portrayal of Korean culture, is now having that book adapted into a movie — with a Japanese director.
3. Journalists are barred from writing on certain topics?
The signatories claim that “journalists are barred from writing on certain topics.”Here, they could be talking about how just last month, at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a Black journalist was told she could not cover protests because she was biased because of one tweet on protests. But if this is the example they are referencing, then they misunderstand the situation entirely. Alexis Johnson’s situation is not unique, nor is it a new phenomenon for a Black writer to be silenced by her editors. Black and brown journalists have been barred from writing on certain topics because of our perceived lack of “objectivity” for decades.
4. Professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class?
The signatories claim that “professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class.” This could be a reference to Laurie Sheck, a New School Professor, who said the N-word when referencing a James Baldwin piece in class. Yet, she is still employed and has classes listed for spring 2021. A similar incident occurred with Princeton professor Lawrence Rosen, whom Princeton defended. He ended up canceling the class, but he was backed by his institution. Black, brown, and trans professors have been harassed by conservative websites, threatened, and had careers ruined for speaking about our own experiences or confronting systemic racism.
5. A researcher fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study?
The signatories claim that a researcher was “fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study.” This is likely about David Shor, who tweeted a summary of an academic paper by Professor Omar Wasow and was then fired from his job at Civis Analytics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm. It could very well be true that Shor was fired for posting the study. The facts of the situation are unclear and the company has said it will not comment on personnel matters. If Shor was fired simply for posting an academic article, that is indefensible, and anomalous.
6. The heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes?
The signatories claim that “the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes.” This is so vague that it seems hard to pick out a specific example, although in New York Times coverage of the Harper’s letter, Willliams cites resignations at the National Books Critics Circle and the Poetry Foundation. The Poetry Foundation’s president and board chair resigned after prominent Black poets criticized its recent four-sentence Black Lives Matter statement, writing that the organization had failed to tangibly support marginalized communities. The board of the National Book Critics Circle was not removed, but resigned after a former president made the racist suggestion that he had seen “far more of white people helping black writers than of black people helping white writers.”
It could also be about Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport, who was pushed to step down after a writer shared a photo of Rapoport in brownface — in a racist Halloween costume as a Puerto Rican — and accusations of creating a toxic work culture by underpaying BIPOC staff. It could also be a reference to the resignation of the CEO of CrossFit or to several CEOs of fashion and lifestyle companies who stepped down after reckonings with racism in their workplaces. The vagueness of the letter confers protection from criticism most especially in this section. You can read a specific list of examples here. None of the CEOs who stepped down made “clumsy mistakes”; many of them were deeply involved in creating racist and exploitative work environments that are just now being unveiled after years in which they collected paychecks and acclaim.
Not only is there no significant evidence of inappropriate censure linking these instances, it’s unclear what examples the authors, some of whom are considered writing icons, are even drawing from to make their point. Exactly as Osita Nwanevu wrote recently in the New Republic: “Viral stories and anecdata that people focused on the major issues of our day might consider marginal are, for [Bari] Weiss and her ideological peers, the central crises of contemporary politics.”
What the signatories are describing are things that have happened to journalists, academics, and authors marginalized by their respective industries for years — just not in the ways the signatories want to highlight. The problem they are describing is for the most part a rare one for privileged writers, but it is constant for the voices that have been most often shut out of the room. When Black and brown writers are hired by prominent media institutes, NDAs and social media policies are used to prevent them from talking about toxic workplace experiences.
The letter talks about none of this.
While the Harper’s letter is couched in the events of the last few weeks, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is actively informed by the actions of its writers, many of whom have championed the free market of ideas, but actively ensured that it is free only for them. It’s ironic that the letter gives highly sought-out space to some of the most well-paid and visible people in media, academia, and publishing. These are the same people who possess the money and prestige to have their ideas shared in just about any elite publication, outlet, or journal. There will always be a place for them to have their voices heard. Some even started yet another publication last week. Most writers and journalists from backgrounds historically left out of the industry are not in the same position.
We recognize a few of the signatories of the Harper’s letter have been advocates of the issues that concern us here, which is, in part, the root of our hurt and dismay. Yet, everyone who signed the letter has reinforced the actions and beliefs of its most prominent signatories, some of whom have gone out of their way to harass trans writers or pedantically criticize Black writers.
In fact, a number of the signatories have made a point of punishing people who have spoken out against them, including Bari Weiss (who made a name for herself as a Columbia University undergrad by harassing and infringing upon the speech of professors she considered to be anti-Israel, and later attempted to shame multiple media outlets into firing freelance journalist Erin Biba for her tweets), Katha Pollitt (whose transphobic rhetoric has extended to trying to deny trans journalists access to professional networking tools), Emily Yoffe (who has spoken out against sexual-assault survivors expressing their free speech rights), Anne-Marie Slaughter (who terminated her Google-funded organization’s partnership with a Google critic), and Cary Nelson (whose support of free speech, apparently, does not extend to everyone) — just to name a few. What gives them the right to use their platforms to harass others into silence, especially writers with smaller platforms and less institutional support, while preaching that silencing writers is a problem?
Rowling, one of the signers, has spouted transphobic and transmisogynist rhetoric, mocking the idea that trans men could exist, and likening transition-related medical care such as hormone replacement therapy to conversion therapy. She directly interacts with fans on Twitter, publishes letters littered with transphobic rhetoric, and gets away with platforming violent anti-trans speakers to her 14 million followers.
Jesse Singal, another signer, is a cis man infamous for advancing his career by writing derogatorily about trans issues. In 2018, Singal had a cover story in The Atlantic expressing skepticism about the benefits of gender-affirming care for trans youth. No trans writer has been afforded the same space. Singal often faces and dismisses criticism from trans people, but he has a much larger platform than any trans journalist. In fact, a 2018 Jezebel report found that Singal was part of a closed Google listserv of more than 400 left-leaning media elites who praised his work, with not a single out trans person in the group. He also has an antagonistic history with trans journalists, academics, and other writers, dedicating many Medium posts to attempting to refute or discredit their claims and reputations.
It’s also clear that the organizers of the letter did not communicate clearly and honestly with all the signatories. One invited professor, who did not sign the Harper's letter, said that he was asked to sign a letter "arguing for bolder, more meaningful efforts at racial and gender inclusion in journalism, academia, and the arts." The letter in its final form fails to make this argument at all. Another of the signers, author and professor Jennifer Finney Boylan, who is also a trans woman, said on Twitter that she did not know who else had signed it until it was published. Another signatory, Lucia Martinez Valdivia, said in a Medium post: “When I asked to know who the other signatories were, the names I was shown were those of people of color from all over the political spectrum, and not those of people who have taken gender-critical or trans-exclusionary positions.”
Under the guise of free speech and free exchange of ideas, the letter appears to be asking for unrestricted freedom to espouse their points of view free from consequence or criticism. There are only so many outlets, and while these individuals have the ability to write in them, they have no intention of sharing that space or acknowledging their role in perpetuating a culture of fear and silence among writers who, for the most part, do not look like the majority of the signatories. When they demand debates, it is on their terms, on their turf.
The signatories call for a refusal of “any false choice between justice and freedom.” It seems at best obtuse and inappropriate, and at worst actively racist, to mention the ongoing protests calling for policing reform and abolition and then proceed to argue that it is the signatories who are “paying the price in greater risk aversion.” It’s particularly insulting that they’ve chosen now, a time marked by, as they describe, “powerful protests for racial and social justice,” to detract from the public conversation about who gets to have a platform.
It is impossible to see how these signatories are contributing to “the most vital causes of our time” during this moment of widespread reckoning with oppressive social systems. Their letter seeks to uphold a “stifling atmosphere” and prioritizes signal-blasting their discomfort in the face of valid criticism. The intellectual freedom of cis white intellectuals has never been under threat en masse, especially when compared to how writers from marginalized groups have been treated for generations. In fact, they have never faced serious consequences — only momentary discomfort.
About this letter
This letter was a group effort, started by journalists of color with contributions from the larger journalism, academic, and publishing community. While a few of us organized the writing process, our role was to facilitate the group’s voice, not set the content or direction. Contributions were seen by all the collaborators and accepted through consensus. There is no particular order to this list of signatories, nor did any one person do the bulk of the work in writing the letter.
Many signatories on our list noted their institutional affiliation but not their name, fearful of professional retaliation. It is a sad fact, and in part why we wrote the letter.
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, NBC News
- Brooke Binkowski, Journalism
- Jonathan Dresner, Ph.D., Academia, Pittsburg State University, Kansas
- Aída Chávez, Journalism, The Intercept
- Joseph Hernandez, Journalism, Bon Appétit
- Ev Crunden, Journalism
- Stacia Ryder, Academia
- Holly Piepenburg, Journalism
- Shannon Clark, Academia, American University
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, NBC News
- Alan Henry, Journalism
- Michael Waters, Journalism, Freelance
- Dawn Rhodes, Journalism, Block Club Chicago
- Sydette Harry, Research/Freelance, USC
- Arionne Nettles, Academia, Northwestern University
- Andrea González-Ramírez, Journalism, GEN
- Solomon Gustavo, Journalism, MinnPost
- Tommy Christopher, Journalism, Mediaite
- Unsigned, Journalism
- Alex Zaragoza, Journalism, VICE Media
- Adriana Heldiz, Journalism, Voice of San Diego
- Wil Williams, Journalism, Podcast Problems LLC
- Rosalie Chan, Journalism
- Janelle Salanga, Journalism
- Gabe Schneider, Journalism, MinnPost
- Joseph Hankins, Academia, University of California, San Diego
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, Verizon Media
- Jasmine Snow, Journalism, Minnesota Daily
- Karen Attiah, Journalism
- Shoshana Wodinsky, Journalism, Gizmodo
- Joan Summers, Journalism, Jezebel
- Marina Fang, Journalism, HuffPost
- Tauhid Chappell, Journalism, Free Press
- Mel Plaut, Author
- Nicholas Trevino, Government Oversight
- Naoko Shibusawa, Academia, Brown University
- Jack Herrera, Journalism, Freelance Reporter
- Carlos Maza, Journalism, Freelance
- Azucena Rasilla, Journalism
- Malaika Jabali, Journalism
- Marzena Zukowska, Nonprofit, Radical Communicators Network / freelance writer
- Mutale Nkonde, Journalism
- Melissa Martin, Filmmaker/Academic, Freelance/Carnegie Mellon University
- Mahsa Alimardani, Academia
- Chia-Yi Hou, Journalism, The Hill
- Joshua Eaton, Journalism, Freelance Investigative Reporter
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, E.W. Scripps
- Sarah Weinman, Author
- Jessica Schulberg, Journalism, HuffPost
- Sarah J. Jackson, Academia, University of Pennsylvania
- Tim Barribeau, Journalism, Wirecutter
- Vasuki Nesiah, Academia, NYU
- Kimber Streams, Journalism
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, Public Radio
- Sarah Jones, Journalism, New York Magazine
- Alyza Enriquez, Journalism, VICE
- Unsigned, Journalism, The Hill
- Siobhán McGuirk, Journalism, Red Pepper magazine (UK)
- Elon Green, Journalism, Freelance
- Razzan Nakhlawi, Journalism
- Brandy N. Carie, Theatre & Film, Freelance Writer & Director
- Pravin Wilkins, Playwright, City Books Writer-in-Residence
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, Wirecutter
- Laura Wagner, Journalism, VICE
- Joseph Hefner, Writer/Filmmaker/Stage Director, Freelance
- Chelsea Cirruzzo, Journalism
- Janet Towle, Author
- Jaz Twersky, Podcaster
- Cassius Adair, Academia and Journalism, NYU Media Culture and Communication + Freelance
- Kimu Elolia, Publishing, Spotify
- Princess Ojiaku, Journalism / Civic Tech
- Unsigned/NDA, NPR
- Nick Guy, Journalism
- Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Academia, University of New Hampshire
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, New York Times
- Sasha Costanza-Chock, Academia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Wendy Lu, Journalism, HuffPost
- Unsigned, Academia, NYU
- Ryan Mac, Journalism
- Lucy Diavolo, Journalism, Teen Vogue
- Lyz Lenz, Author, The Cedar Rapids Gazette
- Unsigned/NDA, Colorado Public Radio News
- Lisa Nakamura, Academia
- Lizz Huerta, Author
- Smitha Khorana, Publishing
- Miho Watabe, Archivism
- Ben Schaefer, Academia, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Callie Wright, Journalism
- Tris Mamone, Journalism, Freelance Writer
- Dawn Ennis, Journalism, Outsports
- Akela Lacy, Journalism, The Intercept
- Alexander Lee, Publishing, W.W. Norton & Company
- Unsigned, Screenwriter
- Angela Misri, Journalism
- Minnah Zaheer, Journalism
- Cordelia Yu, Civic tech, Corgi & Bun
- Maya Srikrishnan, Journalism, Voice of San Diego
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, The New York Times
- Kameron Burns, Journalism, WIRED
- Adrienne Shih, Journalism
- Carrie Gillon, Alt-ac, Freelance
- Daniel Varghese, Journalism, GQ
- Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani, Journalism
- Shelby Weldon, Journalism, Outsports
- Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, Journalism, HuffPost
- Gaby Del Valle, Journalism, Freelance Writer
- Kristine White, Journalism, Freelance Writer
- Marlee Baldridge, Academia, University of Missouri
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, Slate Magazine
- Michael Izquierdo, Journalism, Freelancer
- Izz LaMagdeleine, Journalism, Freelance
- Ella Chen, Journalism , The Triton/UCSD
- Talia Lavin, Journalism, Freelancer
- Ethan Edward Coston, Journalism
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, POLITICO
- Kelsey D. Atherton, Journalism, Freelance writer
- Unsigned, Journalism, Public Media
- Amal Ahmed, Journalism, Texas Observer
- Siri Chilukuri, Journalism, Block Club Chicago
- Dylan Miettinen, Journalism, The Minnesota Daily
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, The New York Times
- Ashley Feinberg, Journalism
- Julia Llinas Goodman, Journalism
- Jacob Sutherland, Journalism, Catalyst.cm
- Lilly Irani, Academia, UC San Diego
- NDA, Journalism, The Hill
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, McClatchy
- Paula Chakravartty, Academia, NYU
- Robert Mejia, Academia, North Dakota State University
- Unassigned/NDA, Journalism, Wirecutter
- Thom Dunn, Journalism, BoingBoing
- Anna Merlan, Journalism
- Hunter Boone, Journalism, Wirecutter/NYT
- Tanvi Misra, Journalism
- Zachary Clein, Entertainment (Theatre/Film/TV), Freelance writer
- Maxwell Strachan, Journalism
- Julie Owono, NGO
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, NPR
- Marie Cruz Soto, Academia, NYU
- Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, NPR
- Ariana Wilson, Journalism, Freelance
- Myra Washington, Academia, University of Utah
- Sameena Mustafa, Journalism, Hand Her the Mic LLC
- Edward Ongweso JR, Journalism Motherboard, VICE Media
- Nicole Cooke, Academia, University of South Carolina
- Kerri Greenidge, Academia
- Noah Berlatsky, Journalism, Freelance writer
- Peter Odell Campbell, Academia, University of Pittsburgh
- Thomas Wilburn, Journalism, NPR
- Minh-Ha T. Pham, Academia, Graduate Program in Media Studies, Pratt Institute
- Ritty Lukose, Academia, New York University
- Unsigned, Journalism, Condé Nast
- P. Claire Dodson, Journalism, Teen Vogue
- Khemani Gibson, Academia, New York University
- Bridget Read, Journalism, New York Magazine
- Shamira Ibrahim, Journalism, Freelance Writer
- Tiffany Bui, Journalism, The Minnesota Daily
- Aria Velasquez, Journalism
- Unsigned, Academia, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
- Naseem Jamnia, Academia/Freelance Writer, University of Nevada
- Anjali Vats, Academia, Boston College
- Jordan Coley, Journalism
- Joshua Lyon, Author
- Kerry Jo Green, Academia, Brandeis University
ED NOTE: Not surprised NPR would hide names, and not surprised that this roster doesn't seem to realize that by withholding names out of fear of retaliation proves the Harper's Letter's point. Locally, of course, Mendo has its own Cancel Culture as we've seen recently in the effort by a Ukiah mob to cancel Tommy Wayne Kramer's column in the Ukiah Daily Journal.