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HIGH PRESSURE will allow for one more dry day Wednesday, with partial sunshine and mild temperatures after a chilly early morning. Another dose of beneficial rain will arrive for Thursday, with some mountain snow in Trinity County. Periods of showers will continue through Friday night, with colder air moving in. High pressure will return with dry weather for most of the weekend and early next week. (NWS)
11 NEW COVID CASES, plus another death, reported in Mendocino County Tuesday.
We are transitioning to myturn, the state's COVID-19 vaccination appointment database. I recommend you sign up. The county will register mass vaccination events with myturn and the state system will do the criteria matching. (If only it had been ready weeks ago...)
This will soon supersede all other lists. The website advises people without email addresses or a mobile phone to call the state's COVID hotline at 833-422-4255. Blue Shield is taking over California's coronavirus vaccine distribution.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAN KUNY
FROM CHRIS CALDER
Alden Global Capital - where newspapers go to die.
"The acquisition has long been expected and feared internally after the hedge fund became the company's largest shareholder in 2019 with about 32% ownership. Hundreds of Tribune employees signed a letter to protest the ownership, citing the hedge fund's “well-documented history of extracting short-term profits from already-lean operations by cutting newsroom jobs and denying fair wages and benefits. Shortly after Alden took control, Tribune offered buyouts to employees for the second time in two years.” Hedge fund Alden Global is buying newspaper chain Tribune Hedge fund Alden Global Capital will acquire the rest of what it does not already own of Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and other local newspapers, in a deal valued at $630 million.
Fort Bragg, Mendocino. Willits, Ukiah, Lakeport, Woodland, Vallejo, Vacaville, Contra Costa Times, East Bay Times, SJ Mercury News, Chico, Redding, Eureka, Oroville — all Alden papers. Sacbee and the other Bees are a New Jersey hedge fund since last year. Howya like your free press now, NorCal?
TULE TOYMAKING VIRTUAL WORKSHOP--SATURDAY
On Saturday, February 20, from 3 to 3:45 p.m., the Grace Hudson Museum will host a Pomo tule toymaking workshop with Native artist Meyo Maruffo.
Participants will make traditional toy dolls and birds, and learn why tule is important, both culturally and environmentally. Maruffo is Eastern Pomo from the Clear Lake Basin, tribally from Robinson Rancheria.
Craft kits to help build toys will be available at the Museum this week between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., or on Saturday from 11 to 2. Go to the Grace Hudson Museum website, www.gracehudsonmuseum.org, to access the link to this virtual workshop. The Museum is located at 431 South Main St. in Ukiah.
On Sunday, February 14, 2021 at about 1:50 AM, a Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy conducted a traffic stop on a pickup truck, for a vehicle code violation, in the area of mile marker 2 on Highway 162 in Willits, California.
The Deputy contacted the driver, Timothy Davis, 42, of Covelo, and a passenger. The Deputy knew both subjects from prior contacts and Davis advised he did not have a driver's license.
The Deputy requested a records check on Davis and the passenger. The Deputy was advised by Sheriff's Office Dispatch that Davis was on county parole (PRCS) with numerous terms to include submit to search, and obey all laws.
Pursuant to Davis' search terms, he and the truck were searched and the passenger consented to a search of his person.
The passenger was found to have a holster for a firearm on his person but no firearm was located on him or in the vehicle.
Davis was found to be in possession of US currency on his person and five individually packaged containers of suspect methamphetamine with a total weight of 16.4 grams gross field weight, a digital scale with a white crystal residue on it, and a used glass pipe commonly used to ingest methamphetamine was found in the vehicle.
Probable cause linked Davis to ownership of the items and the passenger was released at the scene.
Davis was arrested for violation of the terms of his parole, possession of a controlled substance for sale and transportation of a controlled substance for sale.
Davis was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $25,000 in bail.
MARMON, THE EARLY YEARS
HIPES SPIED, ARRESTED
On Monday, February 15, 2021 at 4:09 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies observed Joseph Hipes, 43, of Willits in the 1700 block of South Main Street in Willits.
Deputies knew Hipes to have a felony warrant for his arrest (Violation of County Parole - PRCS) and was arrested on the warrant without incident.
Hipes was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $15,000 bail.
ANOTHER OLD MENDOCINO PHOTOGRAPH FROM 1863 by famed photographer Carleton Watkins. (via Marshall Newman)
UNCLE DV’S HOUSE
Since I've referenced him and it, here's a pic. Actually, a couple. Taken at Uncle DV's house in Ponte Vedre Florida, circa 1956.
Stay Well. Keep up your good works.
Keep us honest.
MARIJUANA WORKERS GET PRIORITY for COVID-19 vaccine before teachers in California's rollout
by Joshua Bote
Medical marijuana workers — including delivery drivers and retail employees — are being pushed to near the front of the line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Cannabis industry employees are included in Phase 1a for medicinal cannabis," reads a notice from the California Department of Public Health issued Saturday. Growers, producers and others involved in the distribution process will be included in Phase 1b — where food and agricultural workers are currently placed.
But some essential workers, namely teachers, are expressing concern over the prioritization of cannabis dispensers — especially as the debate to reopen schools rages on in the state. Teachers are currently in Phase 1b of coronavirus vaccine distribution.
The state is inoculating individuals who qualify under Phases 1a and 1b. That said, individuals in Phase 1b are being vaccinated "as supplies allow," according to the state.
"Cannabis delivery drivers before school bus drivers and teachers?" asked Austin Beutner, Los Angeles schools superintendent, in a tweet. "Makes no sense to me."
Some Southern California counties, reported the Orange County Register, are not adhering to the state mandate, either. A representative from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment from SFGATE.
Cannabis advocates, per KOVR in Sacramento, explained that their placement on Phase 1a was due to working with seniors and other vulnerable communities to dispense medicinal marijuana.
"We have been open, we have been working with the public," Kimberly Cargile, CEO for a Sacramento dispensary, told KOVR.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed out guidelines for safely reopening schools — especially among lower grade levels — teachers still prefer vaccinations and reduced caseloads before coming back to campus. California Teachers Association president E. Toby Boyd also emphasized the caveat that the CDC "strongly encouraged states to prioritize teachers and other school staff to get vaccinated."
"[W]e have to get shots in the arms of employees who are required to report in-person and before the students return to campus," Boyd said in a statement. (The CTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from SFGATE.)
Last week, the San Francisco Unified School District and its staffers negotiated on a proposal to re-enter campuses when the county has reached substantial COVID-19 spread, or the Red Tier, with a vaccine, or the Orange Tier, indicating moderate spread, without one. (Currently, San Francisco is in the Purple Tier, indicating widespread risk of spread.)
In California, more than 6.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered — at a rate of more than 200,000 a day, per Bloomberg's COVID-19 tracker.
The California Cannabis Industry Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment from SFGATE.
THE COVELO SITUATION, Lew Chichester writes:
"What are we supposed to do with this guy? He gets arrested, released on no bail, comes back to Covelo and does it all over again, wandering around town, randomly vandalizing buildings, gets caught, and then comes back and does the same thing, again. This has been going on for a couple of years now. He has on various separate occasions trashed the library, the grocery store, the convenience store/gas station, the co-op coffee/lunch shop, and an entire block of town was destroyed by arson this summer. Did Neil burn down the tire store, the North Fork Cafe, and the old post office/Center for the Arts? Who will ever know for sure. Likely candidate, though. Covelo is really taking it hard these days and we have this obviously disturbed and dangerous, mentally ill, drug addled individual on the loose. Is this really how our society unravels, with lunatics uncontrolled and garbage everywhere?”
COVELO, as Mr. Chichester says, is "taking it hard these days." The uncontrolled drug life is killing the town. Factor in an outsized population of thugs and their female auxiliaries tucked away in a valley an hour east of spread-thin law enforcement… and what to do?
THE SUPERVISORS have got to focus on getting real help for Covelo. Does it even have to be said that the present lawlessness is unfair to the non-thug sectors of the population? At a minimum, the money incentives for resident deputies who, with backup from the DA and the courts, make it their mission to clean up Dodge.
WHAT TO DO with the county's proliferating Waldrons is an even bigger prob because they're so irremediably screwed up they need full-time supervision, and how do you do that outside full custody? What's the difference between, say, the Westside of Ukiah and Covelo? On the Westside, the Waldrons and free-range thugs aren't tolerated. In Covelo they are.
FOR YOUR Barbarians-at-the-gate files: Writing in the January issue of School Library Journal of all places, Amanda MacGregor, a Minnesota-based librarian, bookseller and freelance journalist, asked why teachers were continuing to include Shakespeare in their classrooms. “Shakespeare's works are full of problematic, outdated ideas, with plenty of misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism and misogynoir,” MacGregor wrote, perhaps coining “misogynoir” to refer to a hatred of black women.
THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION has issued a directive to stop immigration workers from using “alien” and “illegal alien” in official communication, and replace it with “non-citizen.” I'm sure the tough guys of the political right will snicker that it's just more PC euphemizing, but “non-citizen” manages to both avoid stigmatizing non-citizens while accurately describing their legal status.
MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN TEXAS are still without power as a record-shattering and life-threatening winter storm blasts their state—and they’ve been told that there’s no fixed end in sight. Bill Magness, president of ERCOT, the nonprofit that oversees the state’s electric grid, appeared on NBC 5 on Tuesday to explain himself as he faces mounting criticism. While he said bringing people back online is his top priority, Magness admitted that he doesn’t have the info to tell people when they can expect to have their power back and be able to heat their homes, saying he cannot “tell you honestly that it’s going to be ‘X’ number of people on a certain date.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hit out at ERCOT, saying it had “been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” and adding: “They are not providing clear answers to me or to the public... And the public has a right to know.” Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune reported that parents in Texas are being forced to burn their belongings in fireplaces to keep their children warm. (Daily Beast)
CALIFORNIA AND FLORIDA are by far the warmest places in the entire country with the Arctic Blast extending all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and Louisiana.
— US StormWatch - twitter.com/GreatWinter2017/status/1361387445787394049/photo/1
FAILURES across Texas’ natural gas operations and supply chains due to extreme temperatures are the most significant cause of the power crisis that has left millions of Texans without heat and electricity during the winter storm sweeping the U.S.
From frozen natural gas wells to frozen wind turbines, all sources of power generation have faced difficulties during the winter storm. But Texans largely rely on natural gas for power and heat generation, especially during peak usage, experts said.
Officials for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages most of Texas’ grid, said the primary cause of the outages Tuesday appeared to be the state’s natural gas providers. Many are not designed to withstand such low temperatures on equipment or during production.
By some estimates, nearly half of the state’s natural gas production has screeched to a halt due to the extremely low temperatures, while freezing components at natural gas-fired power plants have forced some operators to shut down.
CATCH OF THE DAY, February 16, 2021
GERALD DIGGS, Willits. DUI-alcohol&drugs, taking vehicle without owner’s consent, stolen vehicle, controlled substance, paraphernalia.
JOSEPH HIPES, County parole violation/warrant.
TERRY KELLY, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
ADAM KESTER, Willits. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
KEEGAN KNIGHT, Ukiah. Narcotics for sale, controlled substance for sale, transportation, sale of organic drug, ammo possession by prohibited person, probation violation.
MICHELLE PERRY, Lakeport/Ukiah. Arson-unlawful burning during emergency, possession or manufacture of combustible or incendiary device, arson of structure or forestland.
SAVING PACIFICA RADIO IS CRITICAL TO BUILDING A PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT
"We are in a battle for the heart and soul of Pacifica."
by Larry Bensky & Conn Hallinan
Radio is the oldest and most-used mass communications medium. In its infancy radio helped FDR forge consensus behind the New Deal. The non-profit Pacifica Foundation was formed in 1946 to foster peace through informed dialogue. For over 70 years Pacifica has served as a commercial free venue for progressive ideas and voices potentially reaching over 60 million people today.
Pacifica’s reporting on the social movements of the ‘50s, ‘60, and ‘70s helped reshape the American political landscape. The network’s unflinching, unapologetic coverage of: the HUAC/ McCarthy to the Iran-Contra hearings, the Women’s, LGBTQ, environmental, civil rights, and anti-Vietnam war movements are a testament to the network’s legacy of informing the public and speaking not just truth to power, but about power.
For over 70 years Pacifica has served as an incomparable media hub of ideas, culture, debate, and talent – providing a model for future public broadcasting endeavors. Sadly, in the last decade Pacifica has lost its way. Despite having stations in five of the largest media markets in the country, listenership hovers under one quarter of one percent. Its donor base has cratered from over 120,000 donors in 2007 to about 40,000 today. Pacifica now stands at the brink of insolvency. Despite the consistent audience growth for publicly funded stations, progressive podcasts, and online news outlets, Pacifica is fracturing, its listenership is cratering, and its credibility is shot.
The Orchestrated Decline of Pacifica Radio
The current crisis can be traced to events in the late 1990s and early 2000s when contentious fights over programming and governance came to a head. The victors of this struggle, unfortunately, were largely unqualified and ill-equipped to run a radio network, let alone keep pace with the emerging communications technologies of the digital age.
Rather than adapting to this new world Pacifica chose to drastically change programming, compromise Pacifica’s mission statement, and squander its integrity by implementing new bylaws that defied common sense, and elected unqualified Board Members that have brought the network close to collapse.
Imagine turning your Pacifica station on only to hear Holocaust deniers, conspiracy shills calling the children of Sandy Hook crisis actors, nuclear war proponents, and for cancer and AIDS. It sounds like something you might hear on Alex Jones or in a QAnon chat room. But such bizarre, unhinged, and highly offensive programming is now a mainstay of Pacifica’s weekly programming lineup at several of its stations.
We all should have seen this coming. For decades gross mismanagement and infighting by fringe sectarian groups – including Green Party disrupters, holocaust deniers, conspiracy shills, and the Workers World Party – has diminished a once powerful tool for social change and turned it into a punchline. Dark money millionaire-backed 501c4’s has sponsored Pacifica Board Directors that reflect their interests, resulting in increasing alternative health and beauty product pledge programming instead of the vital news and analysis that draws audience and support.
Therefore, Pacifica has lost hundreds of thousands of weekly listeners, and almost a hundred thousand donors. In an era dominated by media controlled giant corporations and right-wing power brokers, it befalls on us to return Pacifica to its former self as one of the nation’s most respected, objective, and most of all, independent sources of news.
Saving Pacifica and Maximizing the Power of Radio
National Program Host of “Rising Up with Sonali” Sonali Kolhatkar recently said “We are in a battle for the heart and soul of Pacifica…At stake is whether Pacifica represents the highest standards of journalistic integrity, or a mix of snake oil quackery and fake radicalism.”
This fight is winnable. A treasure trove of damning records, internal communications, audio recordings, devastating independent audits, and warnings from the California Attorney General expose in painstaking detail the gross incompetence and alleged financial conflicts of the National Board of Directors. This growing body of evidence has prompted Pacifica supporters, listeners, and a Board Director to take legal action against members of the National Board for misfeasance and malfeasance, negligence, unlawful conduct, and the gross dereliction of their fiduciary duties.
Returning Pacifica To Its Rightful Mission
Pacifica has been an essential resource for the survival of our democracy, and it must return to its original mission to report on and analyze the political, social, and cultural forces in the US and globally. It was never intended to be a vehicle for individuals shilling their questionable health and beauty products or advancing their personal or political party’s politics (which as a non-profit foundation it is not allowed to do).
Radio engages, persuades, and informs—and, when done right, builds trust. Pacifica must build that trust back by telling the truth and covering the social movements and political dynamics that the corporate media ignore.
When armed with the truth, informed humans will become more active, caring citizens about the issues that really matter—to all of us. If we fail in this endeavor, odds are this once great network will be acquired by right wing extremist groups or evangelical Christian stations. If we want to effectively counter the relentless spread of hard-right ideology we cannot lose Pacifica.
(Larry Bensky was the National Affairs Correspondent (retired) for KPFA. Pacifica, and winner of the Polk Award in 1988.)
(Conn Hallinan has been a journalist for over 50 years and is currently a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, a part of the Institute for Policy Study. He formerly ran the journalism program at the University of California at Santa Cruz and served as a provost of one of UCSC’s colleges. He also served on the KPFA Listener’s Board and chaired the Board for two years.)
ONLINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The problem with no school is nothing will be taught to the majority of children. How will they learn basic skills like reading or simple math? The schools in many places are already doing a poor job of it but what is the alternative? Most parents either can’t or won’t take the time or have to work, to be able to fulfill this role. Homeschooling takes at least one parent full time (and hopefully) some skills in teaching kids.
My maternal grandparents only went to the third grade in rural Kentucky but I still remember them reading the paper and the old Reader’s Digest. No, it wasn’t Dickens or Tolstoy but what would have happened if they had not had even minimal exposure?
Public education with all its faults is better than no education or one where the child is plopped in front of a computer with no help or direction. It’s unfair to the kids too.
SHIT PUBLIC DEFENDERS SEE: THE GREAT COVID-19 JURY CHARADE
by Matt Taibbi
In response to the pandemic, one New Mexico County convened grand juries to indict, but eliminated preliminary hearings and jury trials. The result? More indictments, fewer speedy trial rights
When the world ground to a halt a year ago thanks to Covid-19, Americans quickly worried over the important questions. Will we still get to go to basketball games? Will McDonald’s only be Drive-Thru now? Do manicurists deliver?
The parts of the country that were already out of sight to most receded further from view. Covid-19 struck hard at the elderly in rest homes, but the population that took perhaps the toughest hit was behind bars. By June, the rate of infection in America’s jails and prisons was seven times that of the general population. By this month, 612,000 cases had been reported in correctional facilities, with at least 2,700 deaths among prisoners and corrections officials.
In news reports, we mostly read that prosecutors and corrections officials were trying to find ways to reduce the risk of disease both in jails and in court, another institution that traditionally required people to congregate indoors. Many districts suspended jury trials indefinitely, a serious problem for those awaiting trial, and one that raised a question: if officials were too worried about the safety of jurors to schedule trials, what did that mean for grand juries?
In other words, was the pandemic too dangerous for speedy trial rights, but not dangerous enough to slow indictments? Were there places where jury trials were canceled, but grand juries were not?
In some select jurisdictions across the country, the answer appeared — and appears — to be yes.
“It highlights the way in which the pandemic is being used selectively,” says Scott Hechinger of Zealous, a national public defender advocacy organization. “In some places it’s used to perpetuate the system, in some places, to make it worse.”
The significance of jury trials is obvious. Defendants have a right to them, and they also have a constitutional right to a speedy trial, i.e. the government is not allowed to charge a person and leave them under suspicion indefinitely.
Cases must be adjudicated in a reasonable period of time. In some jurisdictions, the satisfaction of speedy trial rights means getting a defendant to trial within a concrete number of days, though the calculation is often complicated (in The Divide, a trick used by New York prosecutors to legally keep defendants in jail far beyond the supposed limits of speedy trial rules is detailed).
During the pandemic, however, jury trials were suspended in many jurisdictions. In some of those places, it was understood that speedy trial rights simply had to be put on hold until officials could, as Donald Trump would say, figure out what the hell is going on. This left a lot of people who had not even been convicted of a crime but couldn’t afford bail in a purgatory-like state of open-ended detention.
However, official concern for jury safety seemed limited in some places to trials. Police continued to arrest people and prosecutors continued to use grand juries to indict.
“The speedy trial rules only worked in one direction,” explains Hechinger. “Officials basically said: because we’re still arresting people at the same rate and need to keep prosecuting them, we’re just going to have jurors risk their lives in a way we said we really cared about, in order to have them vote on new indictments.”
Grand juries are secret proceedings, usually consisting of 16 to 23 grand jurors, whose purpose is to investigate crimes and, ultimately, decide whether or not to indict. Every state has provisions for using grand juries, but only about half of them do. How states and localities use grand juries varies. In New York, for instance, grand juries have to approve all felony indictments. In other jurisdictions, officials can choose between grand juries and preliminary hearings to secure indictments.
The rub is that grand juries are essentially a home-court advantage for the prosecution. The rules vary, but a brief list of some of the prosecutorial advantages you might find include: the use of hearsay evidence, no right to appear for defendants unless invited, no right for defendants to present evidence on their own behalf, no judge presiding, secrecy, etc. For this reason, the notion that a grand jury will “indict a ham sandwich” is widely understood by prosecutors and defense counsel alike.
Conversely, preliminary hearings, which are overseen by a judge and allow the accused to introduce evidence, are much preferred by defense counsel for obvious reasons. However, in the jurisdictions where there is a choice between prelims and grand juries, the District Attorney’s office often has discretion over which to use.
What has that meant during the pandemic? Anecdotally, public defenders and advocates like Hechinger have heard many tales of officials using the disease to tilt the field in their favor. In Oakland, the Alameda Superior Court System is trying to use Covid-19 to institute a change rejected two years ago following a public outcry, one that would open the jury pool for cases involving Oakland defendants to all of Alameda County (effectively, this would put more black defendants in front of more white jurors). In some places, recognition by defendants that jury trials might be delayed indefinitely is leading to more guilty pleas.
In one particular jurisdiction — New Mexico’s Twelfth Judicial District, a mostly rural area encompassing Lincoln and Otero Counties, and including the city of Alamagordo — defendants at least for a time had the worst of all worlds: no jury trials, no preliminary hearings, and full steam ahead for grand jury indictments.
According to Matt Chavez, District Defender for the 12th, and Dayna Jones, Supervising Attorney for the Alamagordo Public Defender’s office, the New Mexico Twelfth is the poster child for the dualistic approach to jury selection. Public defenders around the country share horror stories, but this little enclave of New Mexico manages to raise eyebrows even among those who think they’ve heard everything.
“I'm not just saying this, but I don't think that anyone is dealing with it like we are here,” says Jones. “It's terrible when you talk to someone, they're like, ‘Oh my gosh, it's bad, but at least it's not like it is for you.’”
TK talked with Chavez and Jones about their experiences. The District Attorney’s office has not yet responded to requests for comment.
TK: What exactly was the situation in the twelfth with jury trials and grand juries?
Jones: Our jury trials were paused from... what was it, November until February 8th?
Chavez: It was from March to June, and then from November to February 8th.
Jones: We've resumed now, and we’re like hell on wheels doing trials. I did two felony trials this week… Our chief judge has said we're doing trials every single day now, to catch up, which is another completely another problem for a different day. (laughs) Do you want to talk about attorney burnout? I'm not sure how we're supposed to do felony trials every day for months to catch up on the backlog.
But before that became the issue, I just found it extraordinarily problematic and hypocritical that we were bringing people in for grand juries while we had no jury trials. We could indict somebody, but we couldn't acquit them. We couldn't get them in front of a jury for an acquittal.
Also, they just stopped doing preliminary hearings, which I think are a really valuable part of the process. So there was the health portion of it: why are we bringing in people for grand juries when it's unnecessary? And then there was also the due process part of it. Why are we just completely blanket canceling these proceedings for no reason at all?
TK: So not only did they not halt grand juries, they halted preliminary hearings?
Jones: Everything is going to grand jury. Everything. Whereas most districts are going the opposite. Most districts stopped doing grand juries, because you don't want to bring people into a room unless it's necessary. But our district, the 12th, we stopped doing jury trials, and all the bind-overs were done by grand juries.
TK: It’s usually understood that prosecutors have an advantage with grand juries, as opposed to preliminary hearings. Do you feel this was part of the rationale?
Chavez: Yeah, definitely. Preliminary hearings are preferred, because prelims are like a little miniature trial, and the defense side has due process. We have the right to cross-examine witnesses. The rules of evidence do apply to those hearings. We do get discovery disclosures, and we get to test the prosecution's case early, and so do the prosecutors. They get to actually test the law enforcement account of what happened, and the law enforcement investigation.
A grand jury, as the saying goes, can indict a ham sandwich, because they’re basically secret proceedings, run by the prosecution… The grand jury is its own constitutional animal, and even the court has limited authority to intervene in a grand jury. But it's just tremendously easy to indict someone through a grand jury, especially if you have like our district, a chronic work overload crisis at the public defender's office. And so it's just an easier path for the prosecutor to get these indictments and keep the prosecutorial machine going.
TK: Who decides whether to go to a grand jury or to a preliminary hearing?
Chavez: It is entirely up to the prosecutor.
TK: If the advantage is so great with a grand jury, why would a prosecutor ever choose a preliminary hearing?
Chavez: The bottom line answer is because it’s a more accurate process for examining the evidence, because both of these are probable cause hearings, and so the prosecution is attempting to establish that there’s probable cause that this criminal offense occurred, and that the person that's being accused is the person that allegedly perpetrated this alleged crime.
A sensible prosecutor will say, "My job is not just to win, my job is not just to incarcerate, but it is actually to do justice." And so if law enforcement brings me a case that’s garbage, it's easier to throw out the garbage in a prelim than in a grand jury.
Jones: A grand jury is a lot more reasonable for instance in sex cases, where you have vulnerable victims. You don't want to put them on a stand in a prelim, maybe that's really traumatic and unnecessary. Or, cases where you have child victims, same exact thing. I think there’s a place for the grand jury proceeding, and that's the kind of place.
But you have an embezzlement-of-a-motor-vehicle case, that's not necessary. You can bring that victim up, and bring the cop up, and you go through and you find out whether or not the elements of the crime are even legitimately there, in a prelim. And before, a lot of times, the prosecutor would be happy to get rid of their garbage cases also, through the filter of a prelim.
TK: Has this dynamic resulted in some people staying in jail longer, awaiting trial longer than they normally would? Are people getting sick?
Chavez: One of the scary things is that we don't know how many people are getting sick, being hospitalized, or dying because of these jury trials. And I'm thinking mostly about the jurors themselves, because they go and do the trial, a few days later they get symptoms. We don't have any contact tracing or follow-up, and so I try to tell the judges about this. This is one of those spooky, semi-imperceptible concerns that we try to raise with the court. So I guess the basic answer is, we don't know.
Jones: The local newspaper, the Alamogordo Daily News*, recently did a story that involved how we just can't even get the records from the Otero County Jail. We're trying to find out if our clients have Covid-19 in order to get them out, or limit our contact with them, or do whatever we need to, to advocate for them medically, and the jail refuses to give us their records. That reporter actually did an IPRA request [an “Inspection of Public Records Act” request in New Mexico is similar to a FOIA request]to the jail to try to find out how many people have been infected since they've been there, and the jail told her three times, three times — and she actually put this in her page — that they have no access to the records.
They don't have records of who's contracted COVID and who hasn't at the jail, which I believe is not true. I do not believe that the jail is not reporting positive COVID tests to the health authority that they should be. I think they don't want to share that information. But because they don't share that information, we can't protect ourselves. We go to the jail, we talk to people. We're having trials right now, so it would be really nice to know what's actually happening, but we don't. We just flat out don't.
TK: Does the 12th District have a relatively high volume of cases?
Chavez: We do more trials than Albuquerque, and we have a fraction of the population.
TK: Is that because of a higher crime rate?
Chavez: Just an antiquated approach — where they're just going after indictments. They don't care about treatment. The jails don't have treatments. It's like a throwback to, I don't know, some other era. I don't even know what era to pick.
Jones: There's a very high meth issue here. We're a very poor area, so you get all that quality-of-life stuff that comes along with it, which is sad, because then we have habitual offender time here, so you get picked up and convicted of meth a few times, then all of a sudden you're looking at eight years just in habitual offender time, just because you're an addict.
TK: And the idea is, they push as many cases as they can?
Jones: The trial I took yesterday was a fourth-degree felony. The guy had borrowed his roommate's car. He was supposed to bring it back that night, he didn't. The roommate told him he'd give him two hours to bring it back, called the cops 15 minutes later. They picked up the car in like 30 minutes, and that was it. That was the case.
So I asked the complaining victim on the stand, just because I knew they didn't want to be there, I said, "And you didn't even want to press charges in this case, did you?"
And he said, "No." And I said, "You didn't even want to testify?" Again, "No." Then it was, "You don't even want to be here, but you're here because the DA subpoenaed you, isn't that right?" "Yes."
And I mean, we won in that case, but my guy was in there for nine months.
TK: What happens to speedy trial rules during the pandemic?
Chavez: The running theory among all attorneys, all criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors, is that during the pandemic, the Supreme Court, or the District Court and then the court of appeals, as the argument moves its way up, will be analyzed, and they will say, "It was the pandemic. It was like an act of God. We're not going to say that the defendant's right to a speedy trial was violated by the court or the prosecution, or the defense. We're just going to say it's a wash."
So it's almost like the rules took a pause. It's not actually written anywhere, but that's what people anticipate, because we’re going to argue this. I mean, there are cases that have been delayed an additional year, that were already delayed a year or two, or three. So it's a little bit complex, but it's going to be a fight.
TK: How will they sort this out?
Chavez: It's very complicated because there are a lot of cases on it, but the presumptive trigger for speedy trial analysis is basically when the court says, "We will presume that the defendant's right to a speedy trial has been violated is 12 months for a simple case, 15 months for an intermediate case, and then 18 months for a complex case." And then they define all that stuff. They unpack it all.
TK: So there's an unspoken thought that all those analyses are going to go out the window with this time period?
TK: What would you say to the argument that, “Well, all of this is necessary, to put criminals away!” Some people will say, hey, why not indict as many people as possible?
Chavez: We have this enormous prosecutorial punishment machine, almost like an automated terminator machine. But they lose all the time. We really do have way too much success than we should have at trial. The kind of anecdotal number people throw out is that for prosecutors who take cases to trial, they should be winning 70%, 80% of the time. But we've crunched the numbers now for three years in a row, and we win either more than half, or somewhere around half, of the cases that we take to trial.
So truly, these are garbage cases. And it's wasteful. The taxpayers don't know about it. They're just kind of going about their day, living their lives, but if they knew just the amount of waste that this style of prosecution and law enforcement creates, I think they would be really shocked. Especially now.
WE ARE PAPER THIN. We exist on luck amid the percentages, temporarily. And that’s the best part and the worst part, the temporal factor. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You can sit on top of a mountain and meditate for decades and it’s not going to alter a thing. You can alter yourself into acceptability but maybe that’s wrong too. Maybe we think too much. Feel more, think less.”
— Charles Bukowski
CUOMO AND NEWSOM SYMBOLIZE THE ROT of Corporate Democrats -- and the Dire Need for Progressive Populism
by Norman Solomon
The governors of New York and California -- the most populous states led by Democrats -- now symbolize how slick liberal images are no substitute for genuinely progressive priorities.
After 10 years as New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo is facing an uproar over revelations that his administration intentionally and drastically undercounted the deaths from COVID in nursing homes. Meanwhile, in California, the once-bright political glow of Gavin Newsom has dimmed, in large part because of personally hypocritical elitism and a zig-zag “middle ground” approach to public-health safeguards during the pandemic, unduly deferring to business interests.
The political circumstances differ: Cuomo has been in conflict with New York progressives for many years over key policy matters, whereas Newsom was somewhat of a golden boy for Golden State progressives -- if they didn’t look too closely at his corporate-friendly policies. But some underlying patterns are similar.
Both Cuomo and Newsom know how to talk progressive, but they’re corporate Democrats to the core. On many issues in the state legislature, Cuomo has ended up aligning himself with Republican lawmakers to thwart progressive initiatives. In California, where a right-wing petition drive is likely to force Newsom into a recall election, the governor’s moderate record is hardly cause for the state’s huge number of left-leaning voters to be enthusiastic about him.
Anyone who thinks that the current Cuomo scandal about nursing-home deaths is a recent one-off problem, rather than reflecting a deep-seated corporate orientation, should take a look at investigative reporting by David Sirota that appeared nine months ago under the headline “Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing Home Execs After Big Donations -- Now People Are Dying.” Sirota wrote:
“As Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign. Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association, Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.”
On the other side of the continent, Newsom is second to none in sounding the alarm about climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels. But Newsweek reports that during his first two years as governor, Newsom’s administration “approved more than 8,000 oil and gas permits on state lands.” He continues to issue many fracking permits. (As the Wall Street Journal noted days ago, fracking is now “the source of most oil and gas produced in the U.S.”)
Gov. Newsom’s immediate predecessor, Jerry Brown, became fond of crowing that he governed the way a person would steer a canoe, paddling sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right. The metaphor did not answer the question of where the boat was headed.
It may be relevant that Cuomo and Newsom grew up in the nurturing shadow of extraordinary privilege, making them ill-positioned to see much beyond the comfortable bubbles surrounding them.
Andrew Cuomo’s father Mario was New York’s governor for three terms. At age 35, the younger Cuomo was appointed to be assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Clinton, who promoted him to HUD secretary four years later. Such powerful backers propelled him toward the governor’s mansion in Albany.
From the outset, Newsom has been enmeshed with power. As longtime California journalist Dan Walters recently pointed out, “Gov. Gavin Newsom wasn’t born to wealth and privilege but as a youngster he was enveloped in it as the surrogate son of billionaire Gordon Getty. Later, Getty’s personal trust fund -- managed by Newsom’s father -- provided initial financing for business ventures that made Newsom wealthy enough to segue into a political career as a protégé of San Francisco’s fabled political mastermind, Willie Brown.”
It’s possible to transcend such pampered upbringings -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt certainly did -- but failures to show credible concern for the working class and serve their interests have put both Cuomo and Newsom in today’s political pickles.
Like all politicians, Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom are expendable as far as the corporate system is concerned. If their individual brands lose appeal, plenty of other corporate-power servants are eagerly available.
When elected officials like Cuomo and Newsom fade, the solution is not to find like-minded replacements with unsullied images. The problem isn’t the brand, it’s the quality of the political product.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. And some trends are encouraging.
Genuine progressive populism -- insisting that government should strive to meet widespread social needs rather than serve the special interests of the wealthy and corporate elites -- is threatening to disrupt the complacency of mainline Democratic leaders who have long coasted on merely being better than Republicans.
More than ever, many entrenched Democrats are worried about primary challenges from the left. Such fears are all to the good. Progressive activism and shifts in public opinion have strengthened movements that are recruiting, supporting and sometimes electing candidates who offer far better alternatives.
(Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of many books including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)
To the Editor,
I noticed recently that the Democratic Party made the statement that they were not trying to steal the 2020 election, but that they were trying to fortify the 2020 election.
Now to me, fortify seems to be a rather odd choice of words because, if you happen to have a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus handy, look up fortify and it will refer you to category 796, group 12 which states that the meaning of fortify is adulterate, corrupt, contaminate, debase, denaturalize, pollute, denature, bastardize and tamper with, among other definitions, all of which accurately describe what the Democrats tried to do to the election.
If the Democrats are as smart as they think they are, you’d think they’d make better word choices to describe their actions.
“Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” Voltaire wrote. We witnessed the truth of these words. Donald Trump lied about the election results. He incited deadly violence, enacted on Jan. 6 by people duped by his lies. We know Trump is guilty as charged in his second impeachment. Too many Republican senators failed in their duty to us and to our democracy. They cared more about their future popularity than their moral and constitutional duty. This is one of the darkest moments in our history. May we all pray that truth and justice will prevail.
Theresa R. Melia
A couple of years ago I was in an examination room at the Anderson Valley Health Center, waiting to see the doctor. While there, an emergency happened which took the attention of the doctor, so I was left in the room for quite some time. Out of boredom, I read everything in sight. One of the things I read was this poster, affixed to a wall.
Look at this immunization Chart - please print it in your paper so that people can read it in its entirety. Why do babies need all this? Perhaps if their mother will be doing a lot of traveling? But the average baby will be staying at home with Mommy. Why not do these later? Why am I maligned if I just ask these questions?
There are, in fact, plenty of health professionals who do not believe this schedule is necessary, or that it is even advantageous to all babies. But can there be any discussion about it? No, because anyone who disagrees is vilified, and given the label, said with great disgust: ANTI-VAXXER!
According to the "Pro-Vaxxers" there are only 2 kinds of people: Pro-vaxxers and Anti-vaxxers. But I say there are 3 categories: Pro-vaxxers, Anti-vaxxers and Responsible-vaxxers: those of us who do not take everything BigPharma throws at us as sacrosanct.
The Pro-vaxxers denigrate the Responsible-vaxxers genuine concerns; the Pro-vaxxers unwillingness to engage in any discussion by cutting them off and scornfully denouncing them as "anti scientific"/Anti-vaxxers" shows they have a fundamental misunderstanding of legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. Responsible-vaxxers are not against all vaccinations. Responsible vaxxers do question why the pharmaceutical companies cannot be held responsible for any defective products they might put into the marketplace; why there is no oversight of them. (Actually, there is supposed to be a review by Congress every 2 years, but it is rarely enforced.)
Have you seen the movie "The Constant Gardener"? It is based on a true story of the machiavellian machinations perpetrated by a large pharmaceutical company where profit is more important than anything else. And unfortunately, the case in the movie is far from the only case of malfeasance by pharmaceutical companies.
People have a right to know exactly what is going into their bodies, and the bodies of their children, and they have a right to see all the studies done, not just the ones the companies are willing to let people see. There is a lot of money at stake, and where there is a lot of money, there is, sadly, a lot of corruption.
I am not particularly worried about the Covid-19 vaccine, and will undoubtedly get it. There seems to be enough scrutiny of it that I expect it will be safe, even though not enough time has elapsed for typical testing for long term side effects; apparently, with so many people involved, the results are equal to fewer tests over a longer period of time? (If I understand Dr. D. Colfax correctly.)
Pharmaceutical companies typically use government funding for research, then they retain all the rights, keeping their technology secret so they can charge high prices.
People have been so systematically manipulated and propagandized by Big Pharma, they've succeeded in "deputizing" the average person into "Pro-vaxxers", condemning anyone who has questions about any aspect of vaccinations. We believe that it is irresponsible to disallow any discussion on the subject.
Please do not print my name.
I have been vilified enough!
5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR FRIENDS WHO PLAN TO GET THE COVID VACCINE
Many of us have friends or family who plan on getting the vaccine. Maybe they truly believe they are in danger. Maybe they think it’s better safe than sorry. Maybe they just want to be able to go to the pub again.
KEEPING THE DARK SIDE OF HUMAN NATURE IN CHECK—the Paradox of the Mountain
Ever since humans have walked the earth, history has revealed the dark side of human nature - the human propensities for rage, violence, aggression, unscrupulousness, domination, and tyrannical behavior. All previous forms of social organization have demonstrated the truth of this fact.
Many philosophers, economists, and scientists from Karl Marx to Stephen J. Gould have agreed that human nature is determined in a specific social and historical formation as well as being in part biological. This fact has too often been neglected or given insufficient attention. The human brain, transmitted through evolution, is the biological basis for human nature:
The famous scientist Stephen J. Gould commented, “Violence, sexism and general nastiness are biological since they represent one subset of a possible range of behaviors. But peacefulness, equality, and kindness are just as biological…” Gould believed that humans are a peaceful species and that the commonplace human tendencies are cooperation, empathy, and kindness. The dark side of violence and aggression are unusual, rare, and contrary to our everyday nature. This asymmetry is in our human nature. “The problem is… how to put commonplace human tendencies firmly and permanently into the driver’s seat.” https://condor.depaul.edu/mfiddler/hyphen/gould-humanature.htm
The commonplace tendencies of cooperation, empathy, and kindness have been in the driver’s seat of most hunter gather societies, which are generally egalitarian, with equality of members and no centralized power. The rank and file, the 99%, enforces equality through, exposing, limiting or punishing those who exhibit the dark side of humanity and wish to dominate, bully, control, and manipulate. Equality is enforced through reverse hierarchy, the constant vigilance of the rank and file. https://books.google.com/books?id=ljxS8gUlgqgC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
On the other hand, violence, and aggression have been in the driver’s seat of social status hierarchies with centralized decision making--chiefdoms, and states. The resulting positions of leadership “open the door for a plethora of injustices and cruelties that come with warfare, slavery, and other types of exploitation by unchecked power-wielders. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237066826_Beyond_War_The_Human_Potential_for_Peace
S. J. Gould states--“But the center of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days. What can be more tragic than the structural paradox that this Everest of geniality stands upside down on its pointed summit and can be toppled so easily by rare events contrary to our everyday nature—and that these rare events make our history.” https://condor.depaul.edu/mfiddler/hyphen/gould-humanature.htm
Understanding the paradox requires seeing the essence within. Contained within the upside down mountain is another mountain standing right side up-the mountain of status hierarchy. The few at the top, the 1%, have centralized power and decision making, allowing the dark side of human nature greater ability to expand its power and influence, and then topple the desires of the 99%.
Resolving the paradox requires that the inner hierarchy of centralized decision making be reversed so as to become a “reverse hierarchy” where the vast majority, the 99%, becomes the decision makers, thus conforming to the geniality of human behavior. The mountain can now remain stable, standing upside down on its pointed summit.
Discouraging, limiting, restraining; and punishing tendencies of the dark side of human nature, requires a militant egalitarianism, a society of economic, political; and social equality. Through eternal vigilance and control by the rank and file, equality can flourish, while the dark side of human nature is kept in check.
(Dr. Nayvin Gordon lives in Oakland and writes on health and politics. firstname.lastname@example.org)