Rain Showers | Vaccination Events | AV Vaccinations | Vaccine Strategies | Boonville Hills | Desperately Trying | Blaylock Claim | Quake Damage | Not Sneaky | High Fever | Hot Springs | Advisory Board | Oil Well | Locked Entries | ATT Lazy | Intoxicated Ramirez | Castro-Rossi Apprehended | Phone Scam | Island Brothel | Ed Notes | Falling Giant | DC Failing | Illegal Squared | Abe Bashing | Red Sky | Farming Life | Wishy-Washy | Arbitrary YouTube | Empire State | New Paradigms | Modern Warfare | Avoid Pottery
RAIN SHOWERS and some lower elevation snow to linger today into the afternoon. The upper-trough will be progressing south-eastward, allowing for a brief quiet weather day for most of Friday before light rain chances increase again. On Sunday, a stronger system will bring chances for more heavy rainfall through Monday. (NWS)
COUNTY SCHEDULING THREE VACCINATION EVENTS
The County of Mendocino is announcing three vaccination events.
A “first-dose” event for In-Home Supportive Service workers is taking place at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds in Ukiah from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm on Friday, January 29th.
Another “first-dose” event, also for In-Home Supportive Service workers will be held on Tuesday, February 2nd at the Mendocino High School Gym from 11:00-1:30 pm.
For each of these events, individuals must bring their identification as well as a current pay stub to confirm their membership in the proper vaccination tier.
A “second-dose” event is scheduled for Wednesday, February 3rd. This event is specifically for those who received their first Moderna vaccine on January 4th at either the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds or at the Donovan Room, located at the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department. The event also includes those who were vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine on January 7th at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. The second-dose event takes place Wednesday, February 3rd at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Those receiving their second-dose vaccine must bring their vaccination card along with identification.
Please note these events are all appointment-only and are open only to those in the qualifying professions and tiers, or those who have already received their first vaccine.
To schedule an appointment, visit the county’s Vaccinations Page or go to https://www.mendocinocounty.org/community/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-vaccinations. Links to appointment calendars specific to each vaccine event will appear on this page. If your event calendar is not appearing, please keep checking. It will be uploaded shortly.
For those with poor or no Internet access, please phone (707) 472-2663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive assistance with appointments.
FROM THE AV HEALTH CENTER'S FACEBOOK PAGE:
Hi All, we have been receiving inquiries regarding the Covid vaccine. We are currently receiving vaccines for tiers 1a and 1b, therefore we would like our community members to please pre-register using the Survey link below and we will contact you when you are eligible.
Please ensure to select what tier you fall into.
If you need help or support registering please contact us at 707-895-3477.
Keep up to date with the AV Health Center's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Anderson-Valley-Health-Center-195663507115652/
And the County of Mendocino:
COVID Testing sites in the county: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/community/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-testing/local-surveillance-testing-opportunities
Mendocino County Vaccination Hotline: 707-472-2663
Mendocino County Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mendocinocounty
County of Mendocino Public Health Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PublicHealthMendocinoCo
Note from the county Facebook page: How will I know when my group can get vaccinated? We are establishing an online appointment system. Until then, we will let you know about county-hosted vaccination events and vaccine eligibility updates by means of our website (mendocinocounty.org), radio, newspapers, and social media.
SASHA GRAHAM WRITES:
Reading the posts and frequently asked questions on this [Fifth District] Facebook page, there seems to be a lot of confusion about the strategy of vaccine roll out and rationale behind the tiers. The goal of the distribution is based on an important public health concept. Do the most for the greater good, or get the “most bang for your buck.” (think of Medicare for all.) Not only do we want to prevent overburdening our medical system, but also to keep our society running in the midst of a pandemic. What are these essential and vital services we need to continue no matter what? Think back to the shut down here, in Italy, and other parts of the world, which industries continued? Which businesses stayed open?
The food chain. We need to gather, make food and distribute it to the public. Agricultural workers and grocery store employees make this happen. Garbage service, postal system, and social services. Public health, law enforcement, jails, transportation and EMS. Resources for the at risk population, like the food bank and homeless shelters. Wine tasting, clothing stores, salons, hotels ( etc.) while vital for our local economy/people’s livelihoods, they are not essential to society if we are overwhelmed by covid, or another crisis. (tourism will stop.) Hospitals, clinics and doctor offices have to stay open. Not just doctors and nurses, but janitors, receptionists, x ray technicians, food prep, and people that handle the billing. These folks all keep our hospitals and clinics running smoothly. Teachers are essential. We need schools to resume. Not only are kids mental health suffering, but some are missing crucial services like counseling, food, and social workers. Online teaching isn’t working for anyone, the kids teachers or parents.
If any of the above workers are too sick to do their jobs, our lives are disrupted and society can’t function. They are “essential workers” for that reaon and need to be vaccinated. We have to minimize their risk of falling ill, because they are each play crucial part in our ability to continue our lives at a more basic level and still provide care for each other.
Vaccine distribution by age makes the most sense, if the supply has to be rationed. The concept is give the shots to the most vulnerable of the population. In this context, vulnerable means those at risk for needing extended hospitalization, life threatening / severe complications or long term problems needing a lot of care. This is not to say healthy young people don’t get sick. They can get very sick, be hospitalized and be intubated. But they are at lower risk for dying and tend to have a better outcome. People over 75, if they get sick with covid, they get extremely ill, and at higher risk of being hospitalized and on a ventilator. Their hospital stays are longer the younger people. These patients take up a lot of resources, staff, supplies, and space. This leads to stressing the healthcare system so that strokes, car accidents heart attacks can’t be treated. Surgeries cease, and ERs, hospital beds and ICUs filled. Oxygen tanks, syringes, and IV tubing is hard to find. We saw that happen in S. California. This is why nursing homes are a priority. Others in this age group can’t “ shelter in place”. They have to shop, take care of their grand children or are caretakers for each other. In the 65+ group, many of these people are still in the work force, which can increase exposure. This population tends to have more chronic medical conditions like heart disease which puts them at higher risk for serious covid complications. Therefore using up more resources than younger people.
There are always exceptions, or other vulnerable people. A 45 year old diabetic, a 30 year old morbidly obese smoker, some one immuno-compromised, are all very high risk. Until recently, people with high risk medical conditions were at the very beginning of the line. But public health is about doing the best for the most people, not the exceptions or the smaller groups in the most efficient and quick way possible. As it became clear that the supply of vaccine currently very limited, the strategy had to change. Also, as distribution happened it was more difficult and confusing than anyone expected. As a result, all the complications slowed down the process. There are all kinds of rules in place to keep people’s health info private. These regulations are good and necessary. But, difficult when organizing mass vaccination clinics with unpredictable amount of vaccine available. Clinics and pharmacies are limited about what information they can share about a patient, without their permission. A clinic can’t give a list of all their diabetes patients to the government, without each individual agreeing to it. This is just one example of the challenges facing public health and local, state government. The current plan is easier to implement, immunizing those that would burden our medical system, and people that crucial to keep society running. This can be accomplished by just a birthdate or a paystub showing you are an essential worker. Science and public health are both disciplines that have built in flexibility, and that a good thing. If something isn’t working out, adapt to the circumstances and conditions, and continue. For the public, the constantly changing policy is extremely frustrating, scary and confusing. It also undermines trust that government has all of our best interests in mind. Please be kind and patient with our local government, public health, administrators and hospital workers. They are doing the best they can. If you made it to the end of my rambling post, thank you for reading it. I am not an expert in anything. Just observing the hurt, the fear, and confusion in my friends and community. This is the way I think about our current situation, and thought it might help someone else. There are no perfect solutions or answers, but rest assured many are working day and night on these issues.
* * *
John McCowen Notes:
Very well said! And especially be kind to the people, both paid and volunteer, who are working in the vaccination clinics. Unfortunately, the higher ups making the decisions don't rate so well. As you said: “The constantly changing policy is extremely frustrating, scary and confusing. It also undermines the trust that government has all of our best interests in mind.” By age, I stand to benefit by the change but I'd give priority to the essential worker age 50 with a compromised immune system or a person age 60 with severe lung damage. There is apparently no flexibility in the latest arbitrary edict from the ruling elites as they keep flipping one flawed program or policy for another, all without data or science to support it. If I were a cynic I would say the Governor was reminded by his political operatives that old people vote but essential workers, many of whom are young or undocumented, don't.
TUESDAY in the Boonville Hills
ON TUESDAY, Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren told the Supervisors that an amazing 11,000 adult Mendo residents, representing about 14% of the adult population, have been vaccinated, including 70% of school staff. Coren added that four local nursing homes (presumably patients and staff) have been vaccinated by pharmacy companies under their federal contracts. Coren also noted that in Mendocino County, only 308 of the approximately 3300 cases so far have occurred in people over 65, though most of the 36 deaths are among senior citizens.
ASSISTANT PLANNING DIRECTOR Adrienne Thompson told Supervisors Tuesday that the County is “desperately trying to get our website caught-up and up-to-date. We’re trying to make the Covid section and vaccine tab more user-friendly, and adding buttons for the public so they can go straight to vaccines, or straight to the scheduled vaccination events.”
KEY WORD: “…trying…”
FORMER WILLITS POLICE CHIEF FILES CLAIM AGAINST CITY OF WILLITS
Alexis Blaylock was hired by the City of Willits as the Willits Police Department (WPD) Chief on Aug. 26, 2020. She resigned from the position less than 47 days later. Although the City issued a statement on Oct. 12, 2020, the explanation was vague and community members began to speculate about why Blaylock resigned after less than seven weeks on the job.
According to the press release written by now former City Manager Stephanie Garrabrant-Sierra, Blaylock “resigned from her position as Chief of Police for the City of Willits for personal reasons.” Garrabrant-Sierra had enthusiastically announced the hiring of Blaylock in August, and stated that in the press release that she was “sad” to announce that Blaylock was leaving so soon. Garrabrant-Sierra stated specifically in the press release, “The City will not be issuing any further statements on this matter,” and not a peep has been uttered since.
Shortly after her resignation, Blaylock wrote a letter to the Willits community and said that residents had welcomed her “warmly” and she originally “planned to stay long term.” She described her goals of bringing the WPD “up to date in training, technology and staffing in order to provide better service and make the community safer.” She went on to say that she had encountered “roadblocks” from day one, but could not be specific about details because her “professional ethics and standards of confidentiality” prevented her from speaking out.
“Just know that I explored every angle before arriving to the conclusion that I would not be granted the ability to provide you, the people of Willits, the service you all deserve,” wrote Blaylock.
A few community members wrote letters to the City asking for an explanation, while others engaged in lengthy discussions on Facebook. Some people were shocked and dismayed, but many were not surprised that a woman and person of color did not last long at WPD due to an (unspecified) “undercurrent” that may exist in the City.
As one Facebook member commented, and most agreed, “The city owes it to its citizens to give a factual account of the police chief’s departure.” However, a few commenters felt that public speculation was starting rumors and casting negative light on the City. “The public is not entitled to know exactly what went wrong! Maybe nothing went wrong and someone made a choice! Maybe another job came up maybe it wasn’t a fit for her.” Regardless, nearly everyone agreed that Blaylock was more than qualified for the job and “her resume was impressive,” but maybe her ideas were a bit too progressive for Willits. “This county, is either afraid of change or doesn’t want things to change and that’s a shame,” wrote another commenter.
Fast forward to January 2021, when a “claim for damages” filed by Blaylock against the City of Willits appeared as a closed session item on the Jan. 13 City Council agenda. Item number 13a reads, “Conference with Legal Counsel Pursuant to Government Code §54956.9(e)(3) — Anticipated Litigation (One Case — This matter relates to a claim for damages from former Police Chief Alexis Blaylock).”
When asked prior to the meeting for more information about the claim, City attorney Jim Lance said, “I’m sorry but I really can’t comment about this.” When asked after the meeting to report out on the closed session topic, he said, “Alexis Blaylock resigned from her employment, but I can’t comment about the closed session.”
Although there currently is no public information about why Blaylock filed the claim, a general legal explanation could be that some sort of “damages” occured while she was employed in Willits, and she is seeking financial compensation from the City of Willits.
(Aura Whittaker, Courtesy, the Willits News)
VALERIE HANELT WRITES:
Hello, we [the Community Services District] have been accused by Deb Cahn and her attorney Scott Morris, of being “sneaky” by putting the “permission to test” item on the Supervisors’ agenda. We remind everyone that the vote to engage the County in exploring the feasibility of the Fairgrounds site was passed at our November 18, 2020 regular meeting of the CSD. The engagement with the County resulted in the procedural step of being on the January 26, 2021 Supervisors’ agenda. It was placed on the consent calendar as a “non-controversial” item to proceed with data collection in order to decide whether the Fairgrounds is a viable site. Because Deb Cahn and her attorney Scott Morris submitted letters in opposition, the item was pulled for discussion. This was fine as we were ready in case there were any questions (along with the CSD Water Projects team, our engineers, and the Environmental Health officer and the Chief and two other senior planners for the County). Thus, we had the opportunity to explain the project in more depth and gauge the Supervisors’ support. The Supervisors’ voted unanimously to allow testing.
The County, as the owner of the Fairgrounds property with sole jurisdiction, is now preparing documents that allow testing to proceed. We are also testing another site of interest and have tested other sites in the past.
ATTA BOY, FEVE: MendoFever.com reached a milestone Tuesday night: over 5,000 people have liked this Facebook page! Your support, readership, and interest sustains my energy. Thank you. If you value MendoFever and the news we provide, please consider liking our Facebook page, sharing this post, writing a review, and checking out our website at www.mendofever.com where you can donate if you are willing.
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS & FRIENDS
On Tuesday, I voted (with Mo) against an ordinance to create a Public Safety Advisory Board. As the Supervisor who brought the initiative to the board last year, I hold concern that the specific language structures the effort to be ineffectual from the start. AB1185, signed by the Governor last year, allows an inspector general to be appointed with the power to issue a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum when deemed necessary to investigate a matter within their jurisdiction. The language as presented yesterday explicitly limits the advisory board to not allow subpoena of documents or witness related to “Sheriff's Office or any County department.” My colleagues passed the item for good reason. I voted against, because I believe the language should be aligned with AB-1185 from day one.
John McCowen: It also sounded like there was a lack of clarity on the purpose and scope of the new board. It sounded like one of your colleagues thought it would be dealing with everything from roads to abandoned vehicles to mental health. As the maker of the motion that appointed the ad hoc committee for this issue, it was my mistake not to include you on the ad hoc.
Williams: It's an advisory board for review of all departments? Sounds sort of like “Board of Supervisors.”
Tennille Kilcrease Calvino: Why did you [McCowen] resign when you are so obviously still involved and knowledgeable of what’s going on?
John McCowen: Thank you for your kind words. The job of County Supervisor has become exponentially more demanding with every passing year and every new disaster. We may agree or disagree on any particular issue but those who serve deserve our gratitude. … I didn't resign but chose not to run again when my term expired. But I still care about my community. And having served on many boards and committees over the last 30+ years I think I still have something to contribute. It's up to the Board of Supervisors to measure my comments against their own knowledge and experience, the same as they would for any other public comment.
HOW NOT TO BE HOME-INVADED, an on-line comment: "“Their” M.O. is a widely discussed play out of the criminal play book because it is usually more often than not successful. Since all the hardened criminals know the play, its probably best all you normal folks know how it usually goes down too. Just keeping your doors locked deters most of these P.O.S. They come early in the morning when there’s just enough light to see and not need a flashlight. There are few people awake in the hills or cops on duty at 7a.m. They walk right in through an unlocked door and before you know what’s going on, you’re already getting pistol whipped in the face and arms bound. They then grab one of your own pillow cases and put over your head. Getting caught off guard while you’re in bed makes it incredibly difficult to identify the suspects. Once they have control, its amazing how much stuff they can steal in 15 minutes. They usually steal your vehicle so they can load more of your stolen shit into it and its an easy car to ditch if a high speed chase ensues. It also takes away your possibility of chasing them down if you’re feeling like rambo. They will take your cell phones and chuck them out the window as they drive down the road so you can’t call for help, giving them more time to escape. Keeping your doors/windows locked takes away the key component of surprise away from these home invaders. If they force entry, it at least gives you time to call a neighbor or the cops or take a defensive/offensive position. I bet 99% of the time, if all entry points are locked, they will probably leave and go look for an easier target. Forcing entry dramatically increases the risk for these guys and they know that. Stay safe everyone, hope this helps someone."
TROUBLE WITH AT&T
To the Editor:
I would like to let your readers know about issues I have been having with trying to practice medicine in rural Northern California in our decades old practice in Redwood Valley.
The most recent issue: ATT has kept us in our state of not having a phone system; going on our third week now. The tech who came today stated that the ‘guys in SF are too lazy to come all the way up here so they called me even though I do not know your system…. it will probably be 4-6 weeks before it is fixed because they sent the wrong part today’. What would the hospital do without a phone for hours, let alone days…or weeks??
They are effectively closing my practice, placing a patient community that is collectively suffering from PTSD from the wildfires and COVID duress under undue stress and leaving me open to liability. This whole world would be running a little smoother if people just did their job….this is insane!
I am wondering if other people out there are also having problems with ATT.
Robert Gitlin, DO, Medical Director, Redwood Valley Health Clinic
On Sunday, January 24, 2021 at around 8:07 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a disturbance at a restaurant in the 32000 block of North Harbor Drive in Fort Bragg.
Deputies were advised that an intoxicated male, later identified as Alexander Ramirez, 28, of Fort Bragg, had been at the location yelling and refusing to leave.
Deputies arrived in the area minutes later and located Ramirez north of the restaurant laying in the traveled portion of the roadway. Upon contact with Ramirez, Deputies were able to safely get him out of the roadway and began an investigation into the call for service.
Without provocation, Ramirez took up a fighting stance and approached a Deputy. Fearing an imminent assault, the Deputy took control of Ramirez and placed him on the ground.
Ramirez was quickly overpowered and was arrested for Resisting with Violence.
After being arrested, Ramirez kicked at the Deputies and made verbal threats toward them.
After a records check, Deputies learned Ramirez was on Post Release Community Supervision (County Parole) for a prior resisting arrest case. Based on Ramirez's parole status he was additionally charged with Violation of County Parole.
Ramirez was transported to a local hospital for a medical clearance and then was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $30,000 bail.
On Sunday, January 10, 2021, Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a reported burglary of Pacific Woods Glass in Gualala.
Over the course of the investigation, Deputies were able to identify a suspect vehicle related to the incident.
On Saturday, January 23, 2021 at around 11:00 AM, Deputies received information that the suspect vehicle was observed in the area.
Deputies arrived and located the vehicle in a driveway, within a mile of the burglarized business.
Deputies contacted Santiago Amado Castro-Rossi, 27, of Vallejo, who was standing near the vehicle. During the contact with Castro-Rossi, Deputies observed a large amount of construction tools in the rear of the vehicle.
The vehicle was searched and the majority of the items reported stolen from the Pacific Wood Glass burglary, over $6,000 in value, were subsequently recovered.
During the search of the vehicle, Deputies also located a loaded pistol, suspected heroin, Xanax tablets, and possible fentanyl.
Castro-Rossi was arrested for Burglary, Possession of Stolen Property, Looting During a State of Emergency, Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person, and Possession of Ammunition by a Prohibited Person
A Mendocino County Superior Court Judge was contacted and a bail enhancement was requested, due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency “ZERO BAIL” for non-violent offenses. The Judge ordered that Castro-Rossi be held in lieu of $50,000 bail. Castro-Rossi was transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail.
Additional charges for possession of controlled substances will be sought through the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office when the suspected narcotics are laboratory tested.
As of Wednesday, January 27, 2021, Mendocino County Sheriff Matthew C. Kendall has received several reports from the public about a fraudulent telephone scam that is occurring in Mendocino County.
This telephone scam is in no way associated with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and has no legitimate law enforcement purpose.
The telephone scam is reported to be a caller who is posing as a Customs Agent advising they have intercepted a drug package and are asking for a return call.
The public is urged against engaging in this fraudulent telephone scam and immediately report any such behavior to their local law enforcement agency.
In an effort to combat identity theft during this type of telephone scam, please do not provide any personal identifying information over the telephone to include social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or your personal address.
FOR YOUR BARBARIANS-AT-THE-GATE FILE: San Francisco's school board has voted 6-1 to rename schools honoring George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. The name changes follow a vote among school board members on Tuesday to rename 44 schools as Frisco's contribution to The Great A-Wokening. This kind of a-historical fascism would have been unthinkable back in the day, especially in San Francisco, a town synonymous with free speech.
CURT SCHILLING was a great pitcher. Now, he's a world-class crackpot of the extreme nutball Q-Anon type, but he sure as hell belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Schilling is lashing out at “coward” baseball writers after his ninth Hall of Fame rejection, and now he's demanding to be removed from the ballot in 2022. Can't blame the guy. The baseball writers have obviously blackballed Schilling for his political views, not his unimpeachable baseball record.
THE SHERIFF'S DEPT REPORTS: The Brooktrails Subdivision in Willits received at least 14 inches of snow last night during the winter storm that is passing through Mendocino County. The storm has caused power outages and road closures in Brooktrails because of fallen trees, fallen power poles/lines and vehicles stuck on the snowy roads. Mendocino County Transportation Department and PG&E are working diligently to clear roadways and return power to Brooktrails. Please avoid the area if all possible at this time to allow for workers to expedite their mission for public safety.
TUESDAY NIGHT'S howling storm combined heavy, wind-driven rain and snow that closed the county's major roads, but Derek Wyant of the Boonville Caltrans station deserves high praise for freeing the Ukiah-Boonville Road of stranded motorists, effectively marshaling his hard-working crew in a valiant, all-night effort to get the road clear of the unexpectedly heavy snow and the rocks and tree limbs that always accompany heavy weather. Ditto for J.T. Johnson of the county road crew. J.T. and his team labored much of the night on Anderson Valley's battered biways, finally succumbing to Mountain View, which had to be closed at 10pm when snowfall made it impassable.
HOW CAN ANYONE lose a check for $27,000? Ask Andrew Scully, an occasional contributor to this newspaper, who managed to lose that in the County offices on Low Gap. The county guy who found it called here wanting to know how to reach Mr. Scully. Scully was surprised, writing, “Well that's very interesting. I did indeed lose a check yesterday in a howling maelstrom of sleet and snow in the assessor's parking lot. I already replaced it, but it's good to know there's an honest person out there...” (Maybe a hundred bucks or so reward for the undoubted underpaid county guy?)
PRETTY SURE the Adventists and Mendo County Health won't covid-test us using anal swabs, but the Chinese are doing their recent testing that way because they claim it's more accurate. “Swabs are inserted about an inch and rotated several times…" And we thought the nasal test was intrusive!
AMNESIA COUNTY has often been a refuge for the self-re-invented, but why go to the trouble when you've landed in a place where you are whatever you say you are and history starts all over again every morning. Take triple-dipper Fabian Lizarraga, a professional cop out of LA who picked up a few more retirement points by functioning as Fort Bragg's phantom interim chief, managing the town's law enforcement in between commutes to his home in Los Angeles. Fresh off his lucrative stint in Fort Bragg, and shaving a good hour off his weekend trips to LA, Lizarraga is now serving as interim chief in Willits, that position becoming available when another LA cop, Ms. Blaylock, didn't last two months in Willits and is now suing the broke ass “Gateway to the Redwoods” for undisclosed reasons but, it can be surmised, her legal beef probably has to do at least partly with her being black in a small department of white male cops in a town with few attractions for a single woman outta LA. Also, Willits' master criminals aren't nearly as challenging as LA's. Lizarraga's red squad backstory, incidentally, is movie material, and can be found here: ladailymirror.com/2012/12/12/millennial-moment-investigation-of-lapd-spy-unit-sought/
MEANWHILE, in Ukiah, we have Officer Murray of the Ukiah PD charged with what amounts to using his badge to extort sexual favors from a woman forthrightly described in court papers as a “prostitute.” We understand that she identified Murray by describing his penis, an ID that could make for some interesting testimony if Murray's attorney, Marci Baldock, subpoenas all the Ukiah Police Department penises for purposes of positive identification.
BIDEN’S PRESIDENCY HAS ALREADY FAILED
by Ted Rall
Donald Trump may soon look back at his defeat as the best thing that ever happened to him. The former president has been disgraced, double-impeached and faces criminal prosecution. Fortunately for him, he slipped out of D.C. just in time to avoid the blame for an economic catastrophe no one can fix.
No one inside this political system, anyway.
5.2 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment over the last month. The key civilian labor force participation rate is 61.5%. Those are staggeringly bad numbers, comparable to the Great Depression. And this is following a year of atrocious job losses. “It’s literally off the charts,” Michelle Meyer of Bank of America said in May. “What would typically take months or quarters to play out in a recession happened in a matter of weeks this time.”
A little history: The last time the economy tanked was at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, during the 2008-09 subprime mortgage crisis. We were seriously freaking out by the time Barack Obama was sworn in. The Great Recession was the worst meltdown since the Great Depression. Tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs and/or their homes, many to illegal bank foreclosures.
Yet the Great Recession, bad as it was, was nothing compared to what we face now. In January 2009 first-time unemployment filings totaled 600,000. We were terrified! And rightly so.
It’s nine times worse now.
And in January 2009 the labor force participation rate was 65.7%. About 7 million Americans have been unemployed so long that they have given up looking for work since 2009. They’re not in the official unemployment rate, but they’re jobless in all the ways that matter. They’re broke, they’re not paying taxes and they’re a burden on the welfare and healthcare systems.
Obama’s first-term economic stimulus package was anemic. It bailed out Wall Street, not Main Street. So it took seven years to dig out of the hole—nearly the entirety of Obama’s two terms as president. Insufficient stimulus led to big Democratic losses in the 2010 midterm elections, the Occupy Wall Street movement on the left, and Trump’s populist takeover on the right (interestingly, Trump carried counties where it took longer to recover).
Every intelligent Democrat looks back in regret at Obama and the Democratic Congress’ decision not to go big to put people back to work. “The Obama stimulus was too small and too subtle,” Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic. “It was too small because the Republican opposition was intransigent, and the Democratic coalition was uncomfortable with the multitrillion-dollar deficits necessary to close the GDP gap.” Joe Biden faces exactly the same situation.
Now it’s worse—much worse. “The magnitude of the crisis in 2008 was enormous, but this time we’ve got multiple overlapping crises,” Biden’s senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan remarked in September.
It’s a six-alarm fire. But help is not on the way. “Key Republicans have quickly signaled discomfort with — or outright dismissal of — the cornerstone of Biden’s early legislative agenda, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes measures including $1,400 stimulus checks, vaccine distribution funding and a $15 minimum wage,” The Washington Post reported on January 24. “On top of that, senators are preparing for a wrenching second impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, set to begin Feb. 9, which could mire all other Senate business and further obliterate any hopes of cross-party cooperation. Taken together, this gridlock could imperil Biden’s entire early presidency, making it impossible for him to deliver on key promises as he contends with dueling crises.”
Even if Biden were to pull a miracle bunny out of his hat by convincing Congress to pass his stimulus package intact, those $1400 checks won’t be nearly enough to pull the economy out of a tailspin. Obama’s stimulus, worth $950 billion in today’s dollars, was half the size of Biden’s. But Biden has a hole nine times bigger to dig out of. In relative terms, then, Obama’s stimulus was 4.5 times bigger than Biden’s—and everyone agrees it was way too small.
Progressive economists, the same experts who were right about Obama’s mini-stimulus 12 years ago while Very Serious Pundits were dead wrong, calculate that Biden should spend two to three times the $1.9 trillion he is requesting from Congress in order to save the economy. “Congress is debating a stimulus package right now that would leave our estimate of true unemployment still hovering around double digits,” says Mark Paul, political economist at the New College of Florida and the coauthor of an analysis report by the progressive thinktank the Groundwork Collaborative. “We have the tools to put the economy back on track. Unfortunately, Congress lacks the political will to act.”
The painfully slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, exploding infection rates and soaring unemployment point to a brutal winter followed by a long hot summer, 1968-style. Biden isn’t asking for enough, Congress won’t approve the little bit he’s asking for and the failure of American democracy to address our crises will soon be evident to everyone.
As rage boils over from far left to far right, the January 6th coup attempt at the Capitol may soon look like less of a historical anomaly than a precursor to collapse or revolution. If I were Biden, I might call The Donald and ask him if I could hide out at Mar-a-Lago.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. CounterPunch.org.)
SAN FRANCISCO’S SCHOOL BOARD NEEDS TO DO ITS HOMEWORK ON ABRAHAM LINCOLN
by Charles Burress
As a distant cousin of Abraham Lincoln, I have a small stake in the San Francisco Board of Education’s decision on whether to remove his name from Lincoln High School. He stands accused by the board’s school-names panel of being unworthy of honor because of his treatment of Native Americans.
I hope the board will pause and examine the actual history — recorded by historians in all its context and complexity — not just activists’ selection of some facts and Wikipedia history with its mishmash of bits of real history mixed with over-simplification and misinformation.
Lincoln is accused, for example, of hanging 38 Dakota (Sioux) warriors in 1862 in Minnesota. Military authorities originally sentenced 303 men to hang, for the massacres of hundreds of unarmed settlers and raping of women and girls.
Absorbed by the Civil War, Lincoln could hardly divert his attention from the threat of Confederate victory — it was eight months before the war’s turning point at Gettysburg. Yet he agonized over the Minnesota sentences and requested full trial records. He found insufficient evidence for the vast majority of convictions, while also confronting outrage from Minnesotans and warnings that vigilante groups threatened even worse vengeance if any executions were blocked. Even so, Lincoln reduced the number to the few cases where he found adequate evidence of a massacre or violation of females.
“Viewed in context, Lincoln’s actions were relatively humanitarian,” wrote historian David Nichols in his acclaimed book, “Lincoln and the Indians.” “Given the demands of the war for the Union, there may have been very little else he could do.”
James Giago Davies, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, wrote in 2019 in the “Native Sun News Today”: “The attempt by historical negationists to paint Lincoln as a villain is not borne out by the record or by the tenor of the time.”
Another accusation against Lincoln is his approving the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, which supported a transcontinental railroad that further displaced Native Americans. Lincoln had little power to stop the railroad, whose planning preceded his presidency. Congress passed it with far more votes than needed to override a veto — 35-5 in the Senate and 104-21 in the House.
Of course, we must never lose sight of the great injustice suffered by Native Americans and the brutal, inexcusable massacres committed by white settlers as well. But tragically, the history of human migration is filled with bloodshed and misery. Imagine a fast-forward film. Watch Huns ravage Europe and Germanic Anglo-Saxons conquer England. See Columbus and those who followed him nearly extinguish the Carib Indians — after the Caribs wiped out large numbers of Arawak Indians. Watch the Sioux, before their clashes with Minnesota settlers in 1862, wiping Kiowa and Crow Indians off the Northern Plains.
Thankfully, our values today are more humane, as the world’s democracies gradually evolve toward protecting populations against forcible displacement. In Lincoln’s time, however, he had little power to stop Indian removal amid the ongoing “Manifest Destiny” westward expansion of European Americans. He could only buffer it slightly.
Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Few people have helped bend that arc as much as Lincoln did — in not only ending slavery and preserving the Union but also serving as an honest, compassionate leader of integrity who inspires us to heed “the better angels of our nature.”
I believe he will be long honored in the hearts of the American people, with his memorial retaining its deserved place anchoring one end of the National Mall facing the U.S. Capitol.
Charles Burress, a former staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, is a freelance writer.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
“Working on a farm will be one way to make sure you get enough to eat”: Not necessarily.
A small farm, say under 10 acres, worked using only hand tools, compost and animal manures with no weed and pest control chemicals may or may not feed more than a family or tribe of less than 10 people depending on the season. Of the 10, half will be savvy and strong enough to do the farming, the other half probably children and older people that will have plenty of chores to do, but won’t be producers per se.
I’m not talking of monocultures, a field of potatoes with nothing else. I have some experience with that too, but will leave it for another time. What I’ve been doing for years, and still know very little about, but more than most average joes, is sustainable farming. 10 acres that will provide a tribe with 3 meals a day year round plus some surplus to sell, store or barter.
The first need for sustainability is diversity. Can’t bet it all on a good crop. You need seasonal and perennial crops, fast and slow crops, high and low shelf life crops. A mango season may be good, but prices will be down for a month, then the fruit is gone. Honey is also harvested seasonally, but has an extended shelf life (decades) without refrigeration. At the same time, salad greens will fetch a high price during mango season as they’re difficult to grow in the high summer. Hens also stop laying in the tropical heat, so there will be less eggs to eat or sell, but you can replace that protein by slaughtering a batch of the older hens.
This is all delicate clockwork. Parceling the hours on the fields assigning each one the necessary task to ensure not just a good week but a good year too is the most difficult art. Everything needed be done years ago if you don’t have compost ready to spread on the fields, the fruit trees were not pruned and now are starting to bud, no forage has been planted for the rabbits, chickens and bees, and the beehives not inspected for months and are now full of mites and a loss. Those are the errors teach their harsh lesson. Those lessons are better learned in the fat years. The fat years are drawing to a close.
Anything can go wrong at any time. And that is counting on the world as is today, without further complications. I categorically affirm, from knowledge and experience, that most people, even the starry eyed young people that muse about the romance of living and working in an organic farm cannot be farmers, not even agricultural workers or serfs. Mr K says farms will ALL be organic at some point out of necessity, as they used to be before we were 7+ billion. So you go figure. No energy inputs means a lot of elbow grease. And you need a brain, knowledge and discipline to farm, too, not just muscle.
I have had people seriously ask me if I was getting an app to do my farming remotely when the virus started. I have had young men pushing a broom and checking their phone in the shade while my 40-something wife ran the walk-behind rototiller (a TroyBilt as old as I am: 1971). I have had snowbird cretins from Michigan try to negotiate the price of my perfect, ripe, just harvested tomatoes because “they’re cheaper at walmart” (“you get what you pay for – maybe your walmart pharmacy bill would be smaller if you didn’t get your food there as well”).
My point is, none of those idiots will eat from MY farm. Eating, creating the possibility of eating tomorrow, is intense hard focus and concentration, insane punishing work at all hours in all seasons, reading, learning, keeping statistics and logs, being miser with $ and chuck most luxuries and entertainments. At this point, very few have all that, the know how, grit and accrued value of plots of land they know and have been improving for years. It is Mr Kunstler’s hope, and mine, that this can change in a generation or two. But there will be trouble first. Big trouble.
A sweet potato, an egg, a thin bean and veggie soup, a piece of grilled rabbit or squirrel, some berries, a mint tea with honey per day. Per day. Best case scenario. Anyone who “works” for me and expects that better be good enough to earn it. With the right attitude, too.
I’ll stop rambling here for now, but surely will come back to this most welcome post, as food and farming are the one subject I may have 2¢ to share with this group of thinkers.
“Just for fun, let’s make what is and isn’t constitutional kind of wishy-washy.”
MEET THE CENSORED: STATUS COUP — Silicon Valley is shutting down speech loopholes. The latest target: live content
by Matt Taibbi
On January 6th, Jon Farina, photographer and videographer for Jordan Chariton’s Status Coup outlet, captured horrifying images. At the Capitol, a pro-Trump mob tried to burst into the building, and a police officer who attempted to intercede was caught in a door. He cried out in pain, but the crowd was indifferent, chanting, “Heave, ho!” as they tried to break in. Farina, in the middle of the physical mayhem as photojournalists often are, caught the scene up close while 30,000 people watched the live feed.
Farina’s footage rocketed around the world, and major press outlets celebrated his work as an example of hard-hitting reporting. CNN did a laudatory story about the freelance photojournalist, with Pamela Brown asking Farina to “bring us inside the mayhem.” Other outlets like USA Today quoted his recollections of that day, and the likes of Steven Colbert on CBS, as well as ABC News, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Post, the Daily Mail, and others used it as fodder for outraged coverage of the riot:
For a week or so, Status Coup was feted for service on the front lines of responsible journalism.
Nearly two weeks later, on January 18th, another Farina live stream was shut down by YouTube, thanks to policies that will make it very difficult for non-corporate media going forward to do live reporting. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that if the incident from the 18th happened earlier, we may never have gotten the Capitol pictures.
On the 18th, Farina was in Richmond, Virginia, where a significant rally of pro-gun protesters was expected. There had been widespread reports warning of unrest. CBS relayed FBI fears of “credible threats of violence,” while the Washington Post said officials were “on edge” ahead of the Martin Luther King Day protest, gearing up for a full-scale assault:
“Members of the National Guard are on standby. Plywood covers the windows of the State Capitol. Tall metal barricades surround Capitol Square, with police vehicles idling on pathways just inside locked pedestrian gates. Downtown streets will be closed; signs warning against carrying guns have gone up around the city.
“The violent, lawless insurrection and assault on democracy and its institutions that unfolded last week in Washington, D.C., will not be tolerated in the city of Richmond,” Mayor Levar Stoney warned on Thursday.”
The threats may have been credible, but when Farina began live-streaming to an audience of 6,000, the event turned out to be peaceful and unremarkable, though not without interest from a news perspective.
“Frankly, there might have been more press than protesters,” Status Coup’s Chariton said later. “And while it was live, it was pretty informative. Jon talked to 4-5 people, and they pretty much all made it clear that they weren’t Trump supporters, that they didn’t support what happened in the Capitol. They were pretty relaxed compared to the propaganda ahead of time.”
Despite the seeming unremarkableness of the event, it shut down abruptly mid-feed. Chariton assumed something happened on Farina’s end.
“Then I got an email from YouTube, telling me we’d violated their ‘Firearms Policy.’ I wasn’t aware they had a firearms policy.”
Now @YouTube @TeamYouTube just REMOVED @StatusCoup & @JonFarina's Livestream reporting from PEACEFUL Virginia gun rights rally bc
"we think it violates our firearms policy."
HOW ARE JOURNALISTS SUPPOSED TO CHRONICLE HISTORY IF YOUTUBE-AND OTHERS-ARE OUTLAWING IT?
January 18th 2021
1,989 Retweets 5,883 Likes
Chariton went onto Twitter to announce what happened, and after a few well-known media figures like Krystal Ball and Ryan Grim complained, YouTube restored the content. Other independents covering the rally, however, like Andrew Kimmel, never had their content restored.
The serious consequence of the Virginia episode was not so much the lost coverage of the rally, but what Chariton had to tell Farina after the event. Well-known for covering labor issues, homelessness, and especially the Flint water crisis, Status Coup had been growing, in large part because of live stream content. Now, however, the possibility that YouTube might issue a strike against his channel, or take it down altogether, forced him into a difficult decision. “I had to tell [Farina] not to go live anymore,” he says.
One person at the same rally wasn’t surprised by what happened. Videographer and well-known protest shooter Ford Fischer of News2Share, the first profile subject of “Meet the Censored,” was also in Richmond to shoot the event. He didn’t get taken down by YouTube, but only because he didn’t bother trying to go live.
“I was there on January 18th and didn’t stream it, because I knew it’d get banned,” Fischer says. “I filmed basically the same rally on January 17th and it did get banned.”
The January 17th rally Fischer referenced was a pro-gun rally in Columbus, Ohio, that in the wake of the Capitol riot garnered significant advance media coverage. Once again, headlines like “FBI warns of Potential Boogaloo Violence During January 17th Rallies” primed audiences to expect the worst, and also to make a direct connection with the January 6th events. In fact, Twitter cited the coming Ohio rally in its post announcing the closure of Donald Trump’s account, describing the Ohio event as a possible “secondary attack”:
“Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.”
According to Fischer, the Twitter announcement didn’t exactly make sense, because the protesters in Ohio were more of a libertarian ilk, and, as Farina and Chariton discovered in the Virginia crowd, not so clearly aligned with Trump as Twitter and other media outlets may have imagined. Fischer has frequently covered events involving the gun-toting Boogaloos, whom he describes as anti-authoritarian and less likely to be Trumpists than to profess a pox-on-both-houses attitude to Trump and Joe Biden both (“You might hear something like, ‘Unless you put Ron Paul on the ballot, I’m not voting,’” he says).
Although there’s significant national interest in the group, both among supporters and detractors, Fischer says “I’ve basically stopped trying to live stream rallies involving Boogaloos.” Back on July 4th, 2020, he shot a live stream of a joint armed rally of Boogaloos and Black Lives Matter, protesting together against police violence — here again, we see the significant political differences between Trump supporters and some of these pro-gun groups — only to have the live stream interrupted, on the same grounds that it violated Google’s firearms policy.
Nonetheless, Fischer attempted to shoot the January 17th rally, among other things because of the obvious public interest in the event, which was heavily covered by the mainstream press. Local TV affiliates associated with networks like ABC and CNN covered the January 17th rallies in Columbus and in other locations, even broadcasting live. However, when Fischer tried to live stream, he was cut off in short order by a notice identical to the one received by Chariton. He was reminded that YouTube “does not allow live streams showing someone holding, handling, or transporting a firearm.”
The policy presents obvious head-scratching issues. For one, as Fischer points out, virtually all police carry a firearm, so “there’s obviously some subjectivity in what’s being enforced.” Furthermore, the rule doesn’t seem to apply to major corporate outlets, a double-standard problem that’s a constant in this universe.
In an even more bizarre recent incident, YouTube this past weekend removed video Fischer shot on January 6th — not live footage, but still — of the crowd listening to Donald Trump before the Capitol riot. This time, the grounds were that the content advanced “false claims that widespread fraud errors or glitches affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.”
Fischer supposes the issue has to do with the fact that the unedited, single-shot video — which is focused mainly on the crowd reaction — caught Trump’s own words. This might make sense, except that Trump’s speech that day is still on YouTube, as broadcast by several CBS affiliates, among others. As with Farina, Fischer’s Capitol protest footage was picked up by numerous major outlets, including CNN, NBC, CBS, BBC, and others, but the system seems to incentivize independent shooters to distribute footage through corporate outlets only, rather than conveying directly to their own audiences.
“I absolutely think there’s a campaign against independent content creators, especially live,” Fischer says. “Major outlets face no such technical issues.”
This makes any attempt to build an alternative news outlet a steep uphill climb, even when there’s a positive audience response, as Chariton has found out. Formerly with The Young Turks, Chariton’s niche is national news from a left/progressive perspective, with special emphasis on the area where corporate outlets once had a near-monopoly, e.g. on-location production of images and reporting.
Typically, alternative media outlets can’t afford to travel much and often have to rely on wire services and commercial coverage for primary source material, especially for expensive beats like the presidential election. Chariton emphasizes going to hot spots like Flint and to election campaign events to generate original images and video interviews, an innovative alt-media take on national news coverage. Live stream coverage had been a major part of their formula.
The Ohio and Virginia incidents underscore two developments involving platforms like YouTube/Google, Facebook, and Twitter in recent years. The first is the campaign to stress what Google calls “authoritative content,” which up-ranks articles and videos issued by major corporate news outlets like CNN or CBS, while decreasing traffic for independent sites on the left, the right, and in between.
The second has been an effort to close loopholes in the platforms’ content moderation regimes. In the wake of the Capitol riot, this trend intensified. After the “insurrection,” a series of trial-balloon stories appeared in the press, suggesting that Internet nooks and crannies where conspiracy theory and misinformation proliferate might need more aggressive cleaning.
The AP warned that “Apple and Google, among others, have left open a major loophole for this material: Podcasts.” The New York Times meanwhile reported on an exodus of millions of users who, fearing a Big Tech crackdown, jumped to encyrpted sites like Signal and Telegram.
The Times quoted the head of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, Louis Grever, as saying such sites allow “groups that have an ill intent to plan behind the curtain.” Noting the situation “worried U.S. authorities,” the piece suggested the migration might “inflame the debate” over encryption.
Podcasts, encrypted apps: how about live programming? Pundits had long worried that live stream capability was allowing the broadcast of violence and hate speech. In the hands of alternative media, however, the tool posed another problem, in the form of simply showing offensive reality.
In the cases of people like Fischer and Chariton, however, it’s unclear how platforms like YouTube understand the documentation of political demonstrations. If you film a neo-Nazi running his mouth, should you be banned for covering his hate speech? If you show a gun-rights activist carrying a gun, are you yourself engaging in pro-gun activism?
For independent outlets like Status Coup, these questions pose a serious problem. Because they’re dependent financially on platforms like YouTube to reach subscribers, they can’t afford to take the risk of being shut down. But how can alternative media operate if it doesn’t know exactly where the lines are? Also, how can such outlets add value when its one advantage over corporate media — flexibility, and willingness to cover topics outside the mainstream — is limited by the fear of consequences from making independent-minded editorial decisions?
“It’s pretty horrible,” Chariton said, “if we have to consider not doing our jobs, out of fear that YouTube is going to remove our content, or remove our channel without warning (like they’ve begun doing to other, smaller channels)."
The standard response to complaints about incidents like this is that YouTube and Google are private companies, and no one has a right to a platform on a private space. Chariton acknowledges this and concedes there are alternative platforms, like Rokfin, a video-sharing alternative to YouTube.
For the foreseeable future anyway, however, it would be nearly impossible to build a successful alternative video-based channel without the assent of the small handful of major tech platforms that dominate media. “People live on YouTube and Facebook,” is how Chariton puts it.
I asked him a few more questions about the future of live content, and what happened on January 18th:
MT: How has the ability to produce live content affected your business?
JC: Status Coup was up 20,000 subscribers since November, in large part because we were covering stories like the “Stop the Steal” movement and other issues related to the election. I’d say 95% of that content was live content. We’ve done a lot of stuff, from coverage of GM’s decision to lay off 15,000 workers to the epidemic of homelessness in Seattle, to repeated reporting trips in Flint covering the ongoing water crisis. It’s a major part of the business. It costs two to three grand for us to take a trip somewhere, and it’s already tight, but if we’re restricted in any way from doing live, that’s a blow because it brings in a significant amount of our revenue (which we need to then fund future in-the-field reporting trips).
MT: What happened in Virginia to affect your decision-making about live content going forward?
JC: I had to tell my cameraman not to go live… They’ve already shown they’re willing to take down some outlets entirely, without warning. The email YouTube sent me, I felt they could consider that a warning, and the next time, they could either give us a copyright strike, or remove us. I just can’t afford to take that risk.
MT: Do you see this as part of a wider effort to close informational loopholes at these platforms?
JC: It’s already documented that YouTube has been hiding independent channels in a cave, while elevating “authoritative” channels like — according to YouTube — CNN and Fox News. That’s Silicon Valley basically just saying outright, “We’re elevating some sources at the expense of others…” Unless you’re a major outlet that has a line to YouTube, you don’t have any way of clearing up these episodes. It’s easier to talk to someone at the CIA than it is to actually reach a human being at YouTube.
MT: What are the implications of an incident like this for alternative media?
JC: First of all, it’s worth pointing out, the only reason my content was restored is that I threw a shit-fit on Twitter, and people like Krystal Ball and Ryan Grim complained. But people like Andrew Kimmel did not have their content restored, proving there’s basically no rhyme or reason to this. It’s arbitrary. We’ve come to a place where you’d almost have to clear your decisions with YouTube ahead of time to feel completely safe.
I understand, there must be some limits. If someone like Alex Jones is saying, “Go get your guns, get out there,” that’s really dangerous.
But this, this is beyond a slippery slope. It’s a cliff. If they start pulling live streams or issuing strikes like this, it’s basically a death sentence for outlets like ours.
by Debra Keipp
The first time I heard of “new paradigms” it was through Michael Harner at the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The new paradigm journey was a crucial part of his teaching and was often reviewed because new paradigms are all about the atmosphere (frame-work) of change. He was giving a workshop on campus at UCB in one of the old wood-paneled Maybeck buildings so I attended because he was the guy who had survived living with the head hunters of the Amazon when he still had hair on his head, and lived with them peacefully, researching the Jivaro culture. I figured he had something to say.
Michael Harner was a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley when in 1956-57 the University of California sent him to undertake field research on the Jivaro (Shuar) culture of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Thus, began Michael’s pursuit of his career as an ethnologist; a cultural anthropologist who generally studies societies by living among the people, observing, interviewing, and participating in their cultural activities, among them, exploration into psychedelics grown and used in the Amazon for spiritual soul searching and healing.
When you search engine, “Which government leader is burning down the Amazon?”, you get: “The reason the Amazon is burning is because Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who followed Donald Trump’s populist, anti-establishment playbook to win election last year, wants it to. He thinks the Amazon should not be protected, and that lands reserved for indigenous peoples should not be recognized – all in the name of economic growth.”
Does it bother you that every tribal chief of the Amazon has been systematically hunted down and brutally murdered in the taking of the Amazon? Like the Romans burning out the German tree dwelling druids with the catapult, their dense indigenous jungle environment decimated for the lumber and the land by bigger and better weapons?
Michael could be rolling in his grave over what’s happened to his old friend and teacher, the Amazon, and the cultures he knew there, now nearly entirely extinguished by Bolsonaro’s racist greed.
Dr. Harner often spoke of the Jivaro, indeed describing them as, the head hunters they were often profiled to be, by the civilized world. However, Michael would respectfully say, “It was their form of war, like governments throw missiles today.” Then he’d apply a thought-provoking slant asking which culture was more civilized: Indiscriminately air-bombing villages full of innocent people? Or, capturing the soul of an enemy for an eternity by collecting heads, one at a time?
As Harner’s field research preserved knowledge of the Jivaro culture, his earliest work became the very curriculum still used in the U.C. Berkeley anthropology department today. Harner’s first book originated from his doctoral dissertation, "Machetes, Shotguns, and Society: An Inquiry into the Social Impact of Technological Change among the Jivaro Indians" (U California-Berkeley 1963). The subsequent book, entitled, “The Jívaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls”.
In 1960-61 Michael, as he was addressed by his many students of core Shamanism, experimented with the Amazonian plant medicine ayahuasca (eye-wasca), which has enjoyed a resurgence in contemporary psychedelia today. Out of that field research, Michael produced two written works, "The Sound of Rushing Water" (1968), and the historical, "The Role of Hallucinogenic Plants in European Witchcraft" (1973).
I first studied with Michael in Berkeley around 1989, and continued my association with teachings through the Foundation until shortly before his death in 2018. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, co-created with his wife, Sandra, was instrumental in researching and teaching core shamanism to the grassroots community world-wide.
Primary among the Harner’s world travels in shamanic research was Lapland and the native indigenous Sammi culture of Siberia, who used the amanita muscaria (fly agaric) mushroom for astral travel to help locate herds of reindeer, their life source out on the frozen tundra.
Siberian indigenous Sammi culture experientially originated and actualized the Santa Claus myth thus: flying reindeer; Santa’s costume was a mere metaphor of the red and white toadstool mushroom itself; the “little elves”, a nickname for the purely white dwarf amanita shrooms which pop up at the base of the primary Santa colored red and white mushroom; an infectious overall sense of good cheer spread by Santa; and remember the expression, “Don’t eat yellow snow”? The latter being reindeer urine in the snow after ingesting amanita muscaria while foraging in deciduous timber for food. (Seems human consumption of yellow reindeer snow is one way to fly high without hurting the human liver. The reindeer already processed the fly agaric once through their liver.)
Nicholas of Flue was a Swiss Mystic who lived through much of the 1400’s. Eventually, because he was a Santa-like man of high moral integrity, even though he left his wife and ten kids high and dry to become a hermit after ten years of marriage and one child born each year of their marriage. She probably let him go so she’d be able to quit being pregnant most of her adult life. Nicholas of Flue was eventually granted Sainthood by the Catholic Church because they liked his visions. A hermit who got around, he robed himself, in the manner of Santa’s red and white furs. For such flamboyancy, it is said he led a contemplative life. Alot of his history is contradictory. I’m guessing the mother of his children and wife, Dorothy Wyss, probably made his outfits. Spotted ermine was used as the speckled collar fur, in imitation of the white, water-soluble freckles on the top of the amanita muscaria mushroom; metaphor huge in costume design, even in the mid-1400’s. Those little spreckles are the psychoactive component of the mushroom. No wonder Flue had visions.
After the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom is boiled, however, it is edible without consequence, according to expert mushroom enthusiast, David Arora, author of the encyclopedia-sized, “Mushrooms Demystified”, and “All That the Rain Promises, and More...”. Both books are Bibles of the wild mushroom identification hobbyist. One of the best things about Arora’s 1991 book is, it fits in the back pocket of your jeans for easy reference while you’re hiking and hunting fungi.
Today, it is said that there are no more wild reindeer in Northern Sweden where in 2020, they were all now said to be domesticated. Whole herds were killed like Mustang horses in America, in depletion of indigenous territories. Recent statistics count 14,600 Sammi in Sweden, many of the women having suffered forced sterilization at the hands of the Swedish government, and decimation of their hunting, as population growth escalated. Their original name was Phinnoi. I’ve seen Siberian Sammi similarly spelled, Saami, and Sami. Sammi territory covers the northern steps of Siberia: Russia, Sweden and Norway. The indigenous native Sammi are among the most expert frozen tundra survivalists, and that’s saying something for Siberia. The indigenous Siberian Sammi have endured and survived through white mans’ wars and conflict since the beginning of keeping time, largely due to the reindeer providing meat; hides for yurts, clothing and drums; deer antler tools and buttons; lamp oil and transportation (both astral and actual). Reindeer are everything to the indigenous Sami, as well they should be preserved as such.
As with the Sammi, cultures world-wide make use of the drum for healing spiritual practices. One of the basic instruments of core shamanism as taught by Harner was the sound of the monotonous drum beat. It is a scientific fact that when studying brain waves in sleep studies, the sound of a monotonous drum beat changes the brain waves from:
beta (13-40 Hz – active, strongly engaged, walking around in the world mind);
to alpha (8-12 Hz – relaxed wakefulness, sometimes also alertness);
and then to theta (5-7 Hz – occurs in a range of different mind states such as drowsiness, threshold between wakefulness and sleep but also meditation or, more relaxing, solving mathematical tasks).
Thus, creating a relaxing meditative state conducive to an altered state of consciousness. No personalized rhythm or words to sort through their meaning or interpretations influenced by the thoughts of another soul. Just listening to the monotonous drum beat, slips one into an altered state, while taking, for instance, a one hour uninterrupted meditative journey to the spirit world, stepping up in discovery of self.
Michael would send us off to find our own spiritual guides and teachers, with a well-formed question not requiring the simplicity of a “yes” or “no” answer. Through experience, we learned archetypes along the way. He encouraged dialogue through the spiritual realms while searching for answers to our own questions starting with the nouns, “who, what, where, when”. Questions starting with verbs, “Is” and “Are”, most often require only a “yes” or “no” answer, like polygraph questions. I consider the development of the well-formulated question, a most surprisingly effective life skill. It took me years to formulate that into the habit of my first response, especially when forced to converse with difficult people who lack the ability to reason well. The feeling of combativeness doesn’t come from the same spot in the brain as when you are open to hearing answers to a question.
During the time in which we still find ourselves among the political upheaval of hate-mongers in elected positions of office, holding hostile, bitter governance over the masses, it is important not to “hate the hater” as anger rises to extreme measures regardless on what side of the political spectrum we find ourselves being pinched. Forceful pronouncements and declarations will not right wrongs. I find, though, asking a question rather than making a statement, is often a better route to wisdom. I not only want to hear peoples’ answers; I want people to hear their own words. It’s a great skill to use with teenagers and immature prehensile politicians, alike. So simple, and kinda zen leaving a non-combative opening hanging in the air.
For the simplicity of the work he’s shared with the grass-roots community his life-long, Harner was once compared to Suzuki of Zen (Haiku). For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into the details of experiential journey work. It’s work that takes practice, time, focus, openness and humility. Labeling yourself an automatic shaman because you’ve had psychedelic experiences, learned to journey, or you like to wear furry animal skins complete with horns reminiscent of Liver-Eating Johson? I used to spend Halloween in San Francisco. I’ve seen that costume before. No shock there. But calling yourself a shaman lacks humility, and carries with it huge ego-responsibility, especially if it’s not your calling. That’s why it is wise to study with an experienced, wise Shaman, not a wise-ass self-proclaimed shaman.
For instance, in the spirit world, I imagine the terrorist who stormed the capitol in horned animal skins, calling himself, Q-Anon-Shaman, might be a disturbed soul with a fragile ego, a lost boy wanting nothing more than to belong, or be noticed. It’s much like gang members who want to “belong” by joining gangs. It might not always be a healthy option, the neediness of belonging… looking for that external thing to make yourself complete - trying to find that “power” outside yourself – instead of searching the dark night of the soul from within, using a more meditative method. Sorting life takes focus. Openings are a good place to start. The Zen of simplicity is not a new paradigm, and still, difficult for most to grasp in a world of excess. I believe it’s helpful to deliberately slow down, and use another part of your brain to get there.
Regardless of practicing Shamanism or not, reflect on this: Need is your past. Want is your future. Need is every metaphorical shit sandwich you ever ate and never want to taste again. Focusing on neediness is dwelling in the past. When is the last time you invested serious thought into what you truly want in your future? That’s how you shape a healthy life: You’ve gotta give attention to what you want. Want is your future. When striving for change, it is good to rough out a manifesto of what you really want. Specifics are more important that you realize. A divination technique requires several crucial re-writes to be accurate. Accurate? When you think you have it all hammered out, did you leave room for the trickster?
One of my favorite movie clips is from when Captain Kirk and Dr. Spock are in San Francisco to save the whales. They get on the MTA bus without a cent, and after disembarking immediately from the bus because they had no bus fare, Spock looks at Captain Kirk and says quizzically, “What is exact change?”.
Michael Harner returned to the West Coast many times before finally moving to Marin from Connecticut. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies offered journey workshops on: basic shamanic drumming circle; divination; and death and dying, to name a few. At one of those drum circles, when Michael often drummed for us for an hour, he sent us on a journey for the meaning of new paradigms, a common theme in his teachings. We all wondered what new paradigms would look like when we met them. It was difficult to imagine at the time. So we journeyed. Meditated.
How’s the old Irish blessing go? “Don’t boil your cabbage twice?” No, that’s not it…
“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you’re going, and the insight to know when you’re going too far.”
Or, the serenity prayer by Reinhold Neibuhr, used by AA as their pledge, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Both blessings about respectfully developing our own healthy limits and meeting them wisely with humility, fairness and the kindness for all, so sorely lacking in the world, I wondered if any of us knew the difference, or when we’d gone too far in a world whose cultures seem to thrive on excesss.
After our collective meditative journey, several seemed baffled by “new paradigms”. Nothing “new” jumped out of the box at me. Many uttered messages so simplistic, we may have passed them off as insignificant at the time, and probably did. I first considered it a familiar, safe attachment, journeying with the cartoon characters from my childhood; which changed in time, as it goes with maturity. Many of the circle’s messages had to do with what seemed like going back to a simpler time: to nature, growing gardens, using less gas, living off-grid, buying second hand clothes and thrift shopping… Messages like, “What you want is already here”, were written in my journal. Many of the ways I had adopted as my return to the old way of life - basic life skills people lived decades previously before the world went hell-bent on overproduction to support over population (or vise-versa).
I kept a journal, and noted that I returned from the drumming having drawn an image of Ronald Ray-gun’s new paradigm when he took office. It was significant of removing the solar panels from the White House roof, which Jimmy Carter had installed. It spoke hugely in metaphor of a changing paradigm to what I considered worse and wasted. Definitely a shift to a new paradigm, tho, although not one I liked. Not all new paradigms are good.
Michael Harner frequently related metaphorical lessons. He related when he had drummed for a group, and a man at the back of the room let out a “woop” during the regularly silent meditative journey. After meditative call back was sounded, the journeyer said he let out a startled sound when he was surprised at feeling a shift inside his pocket. He then pulled a couple of coins from his pocket, exclaiming, “20 cents! Just two shiny dimes”.
Gifted at using storytelling as a vehicle for teachings, Michael had a great sense of humor and often thought and taught leaving room for surprise, using humor to break through, always respectful of the trickster. And so it was when Michael responded, “New Pair-a-Dimes!”
Miriam Webster’s third definition of “paradigm” is: a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, generalizations and the experiments, performed in support of them, are formulated.
I no longer wonder about what that new paradigm will look like when it gets here. The new paradigm is here. We’re here now. And COVID-2019 is the only vehicle that could have spawned that much change at once, forcing us into the new paradigms we live presently. I try not to think Zuckerberg planned it all with the ex-demander-in-chief to bolster his zooming empire.
And in all those ways we uttered to Michael about how to find new paradigms and how they would appear to us, much of it was going back to healthy parts of the old paradigms. Not the white guys getting richer. Not the racism and bigotry. Getting re-acquainted with nature, finding closeness again, enjoying our homes by staying in-home instead of going out to socialize, appreciating our egg laying hens, and growing our own gardens like the post WWII victory gardens, working remotely from home, instead of burning gas driving to work, thus cutting down dramatically on environmental pollution. Hitting the reset button and going back to basics: Self-sufficiency and self-realization, humbly focusing inward instead of looking for distractions outside ourselves.
We all have to learn how to go it alone, which is what and who we are in the first place: individuals. Connected, and separate. What specifics do you want in your new paradigm? How many re-writes will it take you to plan your future?
This is your brain on drumming:
WHAT DID THE POT SAY TO THE....
MOLLYBEE WROTE (Coast Listserve):
And finally: A friendly reminder to avoid all pottery while the outbreak is going on. They say the virus originated in China.
* * *
Molly, I thought of one:
Q: What do you call a bear who makes pottery?
A: A hairy potter.
But then I looked up jokes about pottery and they're all better than mine, especially this one. Here:
There was once, in a small town, a man named Don. One day Don was walking on top of a fence, and he slipped. When he slipped, the fence split him in half, right up the middle, but miraculously, each half of Don survived! Each half got up, started hopping away, and essentially started living separate lives.
The left half, more prone to rational thought, spent most of its time in libraries, and got an accounting gig. The right half, more creative, picked up painting, and taught pottery at the local community college.
On top of the spectacle of a man split in half, the townsfolk could not believe how rarely they saw both halves of Don at the same place. Indeed, nobody could think of even one occurrence of this happening.
Now, one day, half a man walks into a bar. The left half of Don, always punctual, walked into the local watering hole at precisely 8:00, and ordered a shot of whisky, which the bartender poured for him.
At 8:01, the right half of Don wandered in, sat down, asked for a beer, and nodded to his other half, which nodded back. As the bartender poured him the beer, the left half of Don took his shot, left just enough to cover the bill, and left at precisely 8:02.
The bartender was astounded-- he was the first person to see the two halves interact since the accident. As it dawned on him how rare this was, the bartender exclaimed, a little louder than he wanted to, “Whole Don here for just one minute!”
--Which reminds me of Half A Man by Randy Newman, because half a man, and Louis Quatorze by Annabella Lwin, because, “Honey, close your eyes and think of England, just for one second!”