Rain & Snow | 7 New Cases | Yorkville BBQ | Navarro Estuary | Boonville Dinners | Booster Meditation | Seuss Controversy | Fort Bragging | Redwood Avenue | School Patrol | Car Thief | Prefab Houses | California Exodus | Vaxman | Favorite Columnists | Lake Storage | Samoa 1891 | Ed Notes | Yesterday's Catch | Larry Ferling | ICC Inquiry | Book Signing | C- USA | Pleasure Business | Bad Press | Water Shortages | Sun Gig | Professor Substack | Hegelian Dialectic | Joint Enterprise | Free Donziger
A FRONT WILL SPREAD PRECIPITATION across the area this morning. Moderate to heavy rain will be possible with the frontal passage this afternoon and tonight. Snow levels will fall to around 2,000 feet late this afternoon and tonight. A period of relatively drier weather is expected much of Saturday, followed by more rain Saturday night through early next week. (NWS)
7 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County this morning.
BBQ SATURDAY 3/6 AT THE YORKVILLE MARKET
This Saturday, we will be BBQing lamb kabobs with couscous salad, tzatziki and pita bread. The price per plate will be $17.00. Looking forward to some good rain over the weekend!
See you soon,
Lisa at the Yorkville Market
BOONVILLE HOTEL: LITTLE BITS OF SPRING appearing, promises of what's to come...we're serving lunch on Sundays if the sun is shining, give us a call to save your table 707.895.2210.
Perry's take out menu for this week is posted below. Orders are placed online at www.boonvillehotel.com and pick up is 5:30-6pm.
Take good care everyone, hope to see you soon.
3.5.21 Friday Dinner-ROASTED DIVER SCALLOPS with CAPERS and GREEN GARLIC, served with a potato puree, simple salad and a sweet finale made by Joansey. $36/meal
3.7.21 Sunday Dinner- GRILLED SIRLOIN with SALSA VERDE, and ARTICHOKE with GARLIC AiOLI- served with a butter lettuce salad and something sweet to finish. $40/meal
JABBING FOR HEALTH & WEALTH
by Jonah Raskin
I received the second jab of the Pfizer vaccine today. It was over in less than five seconds and it didn’t hurt. Ninety minutes later, I don’t feel a thing, though, as is my wont, I am expecting the worst. The woman who gave me the jab suggested I put ice on the spot. That’s what I’ve done. Another woman who was monitoring the whole process, which went smoothly, told me, “We’re not out of the woods yet.” She added, “But when everyone is vaccinated that will be a giant step away from the pandemic.”
Half-a-dozen friends weren’t as fortunate as I. They received phone calls informing them that Sutter had run out of the vaccine, and that they might get a jab in seven to ten days. Anxiety levels shot up. What’s worrisome is that one of the variants of COVID-19 has showed up in the County of Sonoma. That’s one reason that over the last several weeks, The New York Times has called Sonoma “a very high risk area.” A recent headline in a local paper read, “Confused and disappointed, Some Sonoma seniors vaccinated, others wait.”
In a society with deep social and economic inequalities, it ought not be surprising that citizens with money in the bank and extensive connections, are able to work the system and receive jabs before citizens who don’t have influential friends and cash on hand. Last week, a bunch of media pundits discussed whether or not reporters and editors should play up California’s failures to vaccinate or highlight the successes. That just seemed dumb. Why not tell the truth?
But that’s challenging in a society that’s hung up on “success” and “failure,” as though success and failure were the two main ways one should judge and evaluate human lives. Recently, I spoke with a young man whose parents have made millions in real estate. “They’re a success story,” he told me. ” They went from rags to riches.” Then he added, “For me, success is being content with one’s life.” How un-American! Don't our teachers, ministers and parents tell us not to be content! Aren’t we supposed to strive continually, to climb higher and higher up the ladder, and look back with pity at those who are lazy, unfortunate, and just plain dumb.
The problem with the pandemic hasn’t just been the deaths and the illnesses, but also the attack on the whole economic system. Once everyone is inoculated, money will begin to move again, fortunes will pile up and Americans will be happy once more. That’s the idea, anyway. So get your jab, go back to work and invest.
DR. SEUSS, a reader writes: “Censorship. Pure and simple. Powell’s Books, one of the greatest depositories of books in the United States, and a source of pride for Portland, had Antifa thugs outside demanding that a book on Antifa not be sold. 1984. The next stage is book burnings and then Kristallnacht. Right out of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.’ Interesting that a message from Kamala Harris some years ago surfaced wishing Dr. Seuss a happy birthday. Kamala Harris does not fit the image of one engaging in ‘A Conservative Backlash’."
CHRISTIE OLSEN DAY of Gallery Books in Mendocino:
I guess since it's my job, I gotta weigh in.
No one has come for Dr. Seuss. The copyright holder, Seuss Enterprises, has decided to stop printing six of the titles. It isn't "cancel culture," it's individual freedom to stop selling one's own intellectual property.
We have always periodically ordered EVERYTHING in the Seuss list for Gallery Bookshop, and these six titles are among the least popular. 4 of the 6 titles went out of stock in our store more than 5 years ago, and I didn't reorder, and no one has asked for a copy in all that time. The other 2 (Mulberry and Zebra) have been requested once or twice in those years, but haven't sold enough to actually keep on the shelf.
Let's move on!
CHRIS CALDER, FORT BRAGG:
Had some time on my hands today so I tuned in to the City Council's mid-year budget review. Oh yes. I don't let advancing age cut into my appetite for thrills.
But you find stuff out. Like, did you know Caltrans is planning on replacing all the sidewalks between Elm Street (Denny's) and the Noyo Bridge next year? For those not familiar, that is about 90 percent of Fort Bragg's commercial district. All of Main St. At once. There's this thing called “phasing.” So you don't burden places and choke off local retail traffic with your construction project… Never mind.
I know. Crickets. That's what Public Works guy got from the council after his rather dire description of the effects of Sidewalk Project on downtown business. He looked worried.
He should be. Just you wait. When they start tearing up sidewalks up and down Main Street and taking away parking from the only viable retail Fort Bragg has anymore, and people start yelling “Why didn't anybody ask us???" The council said they had full confidence in Public Works guy's ability to deal with pissed off business owners. Seriously. Uh, that's their job.
BTW, there were between five and seven members of the public watching during my brief but enlightening stay. Jacob Patterson was the lone commenter. Very few questions from council members about the laundry list of massive projects - $50 million to totally replace the city's water and sewer systems over the next ten years, says Public Works guy. All coming from FEMA funds, so don't worry water rate payers. That the council is apparently considering Desal. Refitting stuff at C.V. Starr. That's closed and they hope to reopen.
Lindy did make it clear that it's Caltrans, not the council, that you complain to when Main Street is torn up.
I do hope some of this is in the Advocate next week. It's your money.
BTW, there was a meeting last July about this project on the Pudding Creek Bridge that's going to take two years and supposedly improve everyone's lives. Oh, and the City is rebuilding its water main across the bridge, which will open up that whole northern stretch of Fort Bragg past the bridge to new development.
I'm sure it'll all be fine.
SCHOOL PATROL RETURNS TO FORT BRAGG
The Fort Bragg Police Department is excited for the return of students to the various campuses around Fort Bragg and will be resuming their typical school patrol routines. This means you can expect to see an increased police presence conducting traffic enforcement around the schools during drop-off and pick-up times.
The Police Department would like to remind the public the speed limit is 15 miles per hour in a school zone when children are present. Schools zones often extend up to one block past school property and are typically marked with a sign indicating the decreased speed limit, and by crosswalks being yellow instead of white.
This year the Police Department will also be deploying a traffic enforcement officer with a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) device around the schools for increased traffic enforcement capabilities.
DON’T LET THIS WOMAN NEAR YOUR CAR
On Saturday, February 27, 2021 at approximately 11:59 AM, UPD Dispatch received a report of a possibly intoxicated driver, on Talmage Road. The caller advised they saw several violations, which caused them to suspect the driver was impaired. Dispatch obtained the license plate number from the caller and found that it corresponded to a vehicle that had been reported as stolen to CHP’s Garberville station. The caller advised the vehicle parked at the fuel pumps at the gas station located at 1099 S. State Street. Officers responded to the location and once there saw the silver Toyota Corolla was in fact parked at the fuel pumps. They saw the vehicle was occupied by at least one person.
Due to the inherent dangers of apprehending suspects who are in possession of stolen vehicles, a high risk or Felony stop was conducted on the vehicle. In these types of stops, Officers remain in a position of cover (protection) while they give verbal directions to the occupant(s) of the vehicle to exit and come back to the Officer’s location. The sole occupant, Eryka Smith, 26, of Willits, complied with verbal directions and was taken into custody without further incident.
Officers learned Smith was on Summary Probation from this county and one of the terms of her probation was “obey all laws.” Smith was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle and a violation of her probation terms. She was subsequently booked at the MCSO Jail. Officers contacted the vehicle’s owner and released the vehicle to them.
On Monday March 1, 2021 at approximately 9:39 AM, Ukiah PD Dispatch received a report of a vehicle that had just been stolen from in front of 709 N. State St. An Officer responded to contact the victim while other Officers began checking the area for the vehicle. Officers learned the victim left his vehicle running, parked in front of the business and went inside the business to conduct a brief transaction. The victim believed he locked the vehicle. Upon exiting the business, he saw the vehicle was gone. A BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for the stolen vehicle was broadcast to surrounding law enforcement agencies.
Utilizing a cellphone app the location of the vehicle was learned. The vehicle’s location information was provided to Lake County area CHP Officers, as the vehicle appeared to be traveling eastbound on Highway 175.
A Lake County area CHP Officer located the stolen vehicle traveling eastbound on Highway 29, toward Kelseyville and attempted to conduct an enforcement stop on the vehicle. The vehicle’s driver failed to yield and a vehicle pursuit ensued at a high rate of speed. During the pursuit, CHP deployed a “spike strip” (tire deflation device) as the vehicle passed the CHP substation located in Kelseyville. The vehicle continued eastbound and subsequently struck a guardrail and overturned, coming to rest in a construction zone. Eryka Smith, 25, of Willits, was found to be the driver of the vehicle. She sustained injuries and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. Due to her medical condition, she was issued a citation to appear in court for Vehicle theft, Reckless evasion, Grand theft and Unlicensed driver by CHP. Her canine was housed at a local animal shelter. Smith was subsequently released from the hospital.
This was the second time Smith had been contacted in a stolen vehicle within the past three days. UPD Officers had arrested Smith for Possession of a stolen vehicle on 02-27-21.
UPD would like to thank the CHP for their assistance in apprehending Smith.
103 YEARS AGO, Feb. 27, 1918: “290 redwood knockdown (prefab) houses were shipped from Eureka this week to shelter the people of the earthquake-stricken district of Guatemala.”
(Fort Bragg Advocate, History Notes)
BIDDING WARS AND OVERBLOWN FEARS: The Curious Case of the California Exodus
When a strange and deadly virus shut down Hollywood last March, Alexander Shea knew he had to move fast. But to where? The 24-year-old actor and usher at Beverly Hills’ Wallis Annenberg theater was out of work overnight. Soon, the whole economy shut down. When rumblings about closing state borders got louder, Shea piled what he could in his Mustang and left his $1,500-a-month, 390-square-foot Glendale apartment for his hometown.
Just want to let you know how much I enjoy reading the AVA. I always like to know what's going on with the powers that be, wherever I live and thank you Mark, for having the patience to sit through all those meetings (at least on zoom you don't have to drive to Ukiah) and let us know what's happening.
Reading the baseball stories reminded me of when I was growing up in Manhattan in the 50's. My brother was a Giants fan and I was a Dodgers fan. My father, being an equal opportunity kind of guy took us on the subway to the Polo Grounds and to Ebbets Field once a year to see a game. Later when we moved to Queens, I was able to walk to Shea Stadium with friends. We'd buy the cheapest tickets, then grab some empty seats up front until the rightful owners showed up. One time I got to watch Sandy Koufax pitch a no hitter, from right along the third base line. No one had come to claim the seats.
I enjoyed Fred Gardener's stories about the Hallinans and appreciated his article about CBD and the COVID vaccine as someone with multiple myeloma who has been using CBD/THC successfully. It's a shame all the studies come from other countries as the feds are way behind (as usual) in realizing the positive benefits of cannabinoids. The doctors I spoke to at UCSF said 85% of their patients use cannabis medicinally, but they can't recommend it because UCSF receives federal funding.
It's a mixed up crazy world. How's that for an understatement?
But spring is coming. Yesterday walking on Navarro beach we saw two seals frolicking in the river, then watched as they waddled across the sand (mouth still closed - where's the rain?) and made their way back into the ocean.
Katy Tahja, Jonah Raskin, David Yearsley and Malcolm Macdonald are some of my favorite columnists.
Thanks again for persevering!
MENDOCINO COUNTY FARM BUREAU:
Many of you are aware of the current status of Lake Mendocino, but may not be aware of the connection to Lake Pillsbury.
Since the water from Lake Pillsbury diverted through the Potter Valley Project is a critical component of the water supply for Lake Mendocino, MCFB asked Sonoma Water if the graph of Lake Pillsbury storage could be added to their website that is updated weekly. Sonoma Water added the Pillsbury graph and we encourage those of you that are interested in tracking the water supply status to check the website link below for weekly updates.
BOB BRENDLEN has died. Well known as “Fisherman Bob” on the Northcoast for his impressive knowledge of local fisheries, Mr. Brendlen made his home in Boonville for many years, raising a large family here. He also owned a place at Lake Tahoe for a few years and was a familiar figure in the Mattole Valley.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY EYSTER has resolved the no-love-lost dispute between former Supervisor McCowen and County CEO Carmel Angelo. McCowen has agreed to return County computer equipment and Angelo has agreed to return property belonging to McCowen which, it seems, she was holding until McCowen returned County property. Speculation that McCowen's County computer held incriminating material seems unfounded. The agreement, voluntarily brokered by the DA, apparently didn't involve County Counsel, who'd announced in open session that a small claims action was going to be filed against McCowen. The DA's timely intervention has spared taxpayers the expense of a legal struggle over petty issues arising from Angelo's and McCowen's mutual dislike. McCowen is famously unyielding. Angelo? You're either at her feet or she's at your throat.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY EYSTER and Chief Probation Officer Izen Locatelli are planning to appear before the Supervisors next Tuesday to “demand” that County Auditor Lloyd Weer return over $600k of “misappropropriated” state funds to its original purpose. The DA and Mr. Locatelli say the $600k-plus was used for unauthorized purposes and was not presented to the Supervisors or the Board of the local Community Corrections Partnership for re-allocation which is supposed to oversee the programs that the $600k-plus is intended for. When the Supervisors Tuesday agenda was posted just before 6pm on Thursday, however, the agenda was suspiciously free of any reference to the alleged misappropriation.
FORMER UKIAH police officer, Kevin Murray was arraigned today (Thursday) on an array of felony charges involving sex, drugs and guns. Two women allege he extorted them for sexual favors, that he possessed methamphetamine during one of the alleged episodes, and the DA says Murray violated the terms of his no guns bail by secreting a weapon with a relative in Lake County. Murray's bond has been raised from $200,000 to $500,000. Further hearings have not been scheduled while Murray's just hired Santa Rosa-based legal assistance familiarize themselves with his case.
MURRAY'S DEFENSE? The two women accusing him of rape are “prostitutes,” the meth was “evidence” he hadn't yet checked in, and the gun stored at a relative's house was sold or given to the relative, not stored with him. Juries have been hung on a lot less.
BIDEN has yet to hold a formal press conference after six weeks into his presidency. On Wednesday at a virtual meeting of House Democrats, he offered to take questions but was cut off by his handlers. “I'm happy to take questions, if that's what I'm supposed to do, Nance,” he said to Nancy Pelosi at the end of the online meeting. “Whatever you want me to do.” The feed then cuts off. The 78-year-old is coming under mounting pressure to hold a press conference and answer questions. On Tuesday night Kayleigh McEnany, Trump's press secretary from April 2020 until his departure, pointed out that both Trump and Barack Obama had met the press at this point in their presidencies. Obama held one 20 days after he was inaugurated and Trump took questions 27 days in.
CAPTAIN RAINBOW is departing for Iraq to join his partner, Yvonne Dunton. Ms. D is an experienced aid coordinator in the world's hotspots who is presently assigned to that turbulent country. The Boonville-based bon vivant and maestro of the annual Anderson Valley Talent Show, Captain Rainbow was working with Ms. Dunton in Burma a few years ago when they were both nearly lynched by an angry mob that claimed the unwitting couple had insulted their religion. That April, 2014 incident was reported internationally.
THE POPULAR Boonville man, whose given name is Robert Salisbury, had been living and working in Myanmar, formerly Burma, in an area of that country where Buddhist mobs, helped by the military, had been murdering the minority Muslim Rohingya population. He and Yvonne Dunton were affiliated with a German charity called Malteser International in a place called Sittwe where they worked with the persecuted Muslim minority, the Rohingya. In March of 2014, a Buddhist mob accused Ms. Dunton of improperly handling a Buddhist flag.
ACCORDING to foreign press accounts, Buddhist mobs attacked offices of foreign nongovernmental organizations when riots erupted in Sittwe on Wednesday (March 26th, 2014) after Ms. Dunton was seen taking down and allegedly “disgracing” a Buddhist flag flying at her rented house. Anderson Valley friends of Ms. Dunton reported that Ms. Dunton was merely lowering the flag with no intent to offend anyone. But ethnic tensions were running high in Sittwe where Buddhists have lately seized any pretext to attack the area's Muslim minority, since driven from the country into Bangladesh, a great crime defended, incidentally, by Myanmar's president, Aung San Su Kyi. Ms. Dunton was simply trying to maintain her organization's neutrality by removing the Buddhist flag which was not supposed to be placed where she found it.
AN ANGRY MOB soon materialized outside Rainbow's and Ms. Dunton's house demanding Ms. Dunton and Rainbow. Their home was already being pelted by stones, and the bloodthirsty crowd was growing larger, when police arrived to escort the Anderson Valley couple to a secure police guesthouse. Ms. Dunton and Rainbow, the same day, made their way to the relative safety of Yangon, as did the staffs of all twenty-three aid organizations working in Sittwe.
YVONNE DUNTON, in her own words: english.dvb.no/dvb-video/govt-pledges-safety-of-un-ingo-workers-in-sittwe-burma-myanmar/39157
“GROW DOZER.” Now there's a useful term for those over-sized pick-up trucks driven by the dude community everywhere in the back country at unsafe speeds.
GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK, ANDREW CUOMO: “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people uncomfortable.” Huh? How old is this guy? Just now learning basic sexual protocols? And why does he say “people” instead of “young women,” the objects of his lust.
CATCH OF THE DAY, March 4, 2021
JUAN CALVILLO-RIVERA, Willits. DUI, suspended license for DUI, probation revocation.
SHANNON HENSON, Willits. Assault weapon, ex-con with firearm, switchblad in vehicle, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
ADAM KESTER, Willits. Failure to appear. (Frequent flyer.)
GERARDO MAGDALENO, Ukiah. Sodomy-victim under 10 years of age.
JEROME MCMURPHY, Ukiah. Parole violation.
JOSHUA MEDINA, Fort Bragg. Criminal threats, resisting.
KENNETH PARTRIDGE, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, evasion, failure to appear.
TOMAS POOL, Sebastopol/Ukiah. Oral copulation with force, misdemeanor warrant, failure to appear, probation revocation.
MATTHEW WELLS, Covelo. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, vandalism.
TIFFANY WHITE, Ukiah. Robbery, conspiracy, probation revocation.
PHILLIP WINTERS, Willits. Resisting/obstruction, probation revocation.
GARY SNYDER: ON THE DEATH OF LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI
My first night in North Beach, (at 18) roaming the night streets on a layover from Oregon, I heard of "Larry Ferling". He had recently arrived in town it was said, and was looking into buying the little bookstore at the corner of Broadway and Columbus.
I got my ride back to Portland.
I returned to the Bay Area a couple of years later and Lawrence’s place had become “City Lights Books” and had an admirable booklist of current labor politics, Socialist theory, Marxist vision, Rexroth travels, Kropotkin Mutualism, plus much poetry and novels.
I got to know Lawrence and we talked about nature theory and wild ecosystems. I went my way on to work in the high Coastal Mountain trails and then linguistics and languages at Berkeley. My contacts there led to the dedicated Buddhist Imamura Family, to poetry research, and on to living in Japan.
I started writing my own poems and sent a sheaf to San Francisco. Lawrence wrote back to say that if we got the paper, printed and bound them and then sent them to him, he’d sell them. Potter Will Petersen and I did the labor. We sent 500 and they sold.
Through later years I got to know Lawrence better via my friend Allen Ginsberg. We even met and cooked for friends at Lawrence’s little house on the ocean coast. Lawrence came once to do a poetry reading in my home territory in a noble wooden church structure from the gold mining era. In a driving rain.
Summers of drought, bark beetles, and wildfire have come through. I managed to have a last lunch with Lawrence together with novelist Kim Stanley Robinson in a modest restaurant in North Beach the Fall of 2011.
From start to finish, he was the biggest, clearest, most consistent supporter of radical, adventurous, experimental writing on the whole west coast.
— Gary Snyder, (March.02.2021)
ICC PROSECUTOR OPENS WAR CRIMES PROBE IN PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said on Wednesday she launched a formal inquiry into alleged crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, a move strongly opposed by Israel. Fatou Bensouda said in a statement the inquiry will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor.” It is “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”, the PA foreign ministry said in a statement.
THE FERLINGHETTI “SIGNATURE” on his book I reviewed for the Chronicle...
BELOW AVERAGE: US INFRASTRUCTURE GETS C- FROM ENGINEERS
The United States has scored near-failing grades for its infrastructure, thanks to years of inaction from the federal government resulting in deteriorating roads, public transit and storm water systems, the American Society of Civil Engineers reports. Its overall grade for the nation: a mediocre C-. Of the 17 categories making up the overall grade, 11 were in the D range that indicated a “significant deterioration” with a “strong risk of failure”. They included public transit, storm water infrastructure, airports and roads and highways, which make up the biggest chunk of US infrastructure spending at $1.6 trillion, according to the group.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
A thought on the Dr. Seuss “controversy”…this may be a new style of advertising.
The ad mantra has long been “there’s no such thing as bad press”…perhaps they’ve now discovered (amidst the overwhelming maelstrom of people, products and ideas on social) that “bad press is still good, but it’s actually even better than good press”.
Piss people off and you’ll get attention from all sides.
Notice that Dr. Seuss is topping the news cycles for days now. Not that they were in decline in book sales necessarily, but I’d imagine they’ll see a nice spike.
Nike figured out that half the country is annoyed by Kaepernick, but the other half may ante up product support more than before if they took a stance.
Every time some politician tries to ram through gun control, gun/ammo manufacturers and dealers make an absolute killing for the next year that otherwise would’ve likely been one of normal profitability.
And who gave a shit about Mr. Potato Head a week ago?
CALIFORNIA’S SNOWPACK SIGNALS ANOTHER DRY YEAR, PROMPTING CALLS TO SAVE WATER
California will face another critically dry year, and residents will need to adapt quickly to cope with water shortages and a warmer, drier climate that has helped fuel destructive wildfires. Officials with the state’s department of water resources announced on Tuesday they had found that the water content of the overall snowpack for 2 March amounted to 61% of the average. The state’s largest reservoirs were storing between 38% and 68% of their capacity, officials said, meaning that the state would have a lot less water to carry it through the rest of the year.
IN DEFENSE OF SUBSTACK
UCLA professor Sarah T. Roberts mourns the good old days of gatekeeping and credential-worship
by Matt Taibbi
UCLA professor Sarah Roberts, co-leader of something called the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry — media critics whose stated goal is “strengthening democracy through culture-making” — went on a lengthy Twitter tirade against Substack last night, one that gained a lot of attention. I should probably respond since, as one prominent reporter put it to Glenn Greenwald and me this morning, “Shit, it’s like she wrote this for the two of you.”
The main thread:
Dr. Sarah T. Roberts
Substack is a dangerous direct threat to traditional news media. But more importantly? It is a threat to journalism.
“Great!” you say! Journalism needs to be disrupted!”
But here’s the problem. Journalists make their name doing reporting. This is governed by norms and practices and by ethics. Flawed and not always achieved, true. But present and guiding what newsrooms do in every way? Yes.
People not inside journalism or media may not know the specifics, but they often have a nebulous sense that there are norms — independence, disclosure of compromise, editorial oversight and vetting of the reporting. That’s what makes them trust enough to buy and read or watch.
What is much less obvious to them is what it means when there is a reporter who makes her name in a newsroom — traditional paper or fully online outlet — and then leaves for Substack (or any analog). Taking that name, reputation earned from work done in the context I just stated.
In this way, an investigative reporter who has earned her bona fides in a newsroom and under both strict editorial AND journalistic principles, has just cashed out and turned herself into an opinion writer. She likes it because she’s finally got her independence from an editor.
Please, do not write for or pay for Substack. I have to say it. I believe it’s dangerous. Take heed. You read it here first.
A few thoughts in response to what one Tweeter humorously described as “the Tipper Gore of 2021,” who incidentally went on to make sure everyone understood she wasn’t talking “about Substack for basket weaving or 30 Rock fandom or whatever.” No, Dr. Roberts was “talking about stuff purporting to be serious. Opinion can be serious but I believe lines are being intentionally blurred BY SUBSTACK.”
Roberts is making a “stolen valor” argument. As it’s abundantly clear she’s talking about people like myself and Greenwald in particular, she’s arguing that we made our names as reporters in the structure of traditional newsrooms, taking advantage of “norms and practices” like fact-checking and editing that, in her mind, is what first induced readers to trust us. Then we took that trust, that precious thing nurtured in the cradle of mainstream media oversight, absconded with it, and fled to Substack, to hoard unearned profits.
Roberts has things reversed. Greenwald and I (as well as many other prominent Substack writers) got our start as independents. He was a blogger and I edited my own print newspapers. We both built substantial readerships on our own before being scooped up by “traditional” news organizations, in a process identical to the one Roberts denounces when done by Substack.
The experience of independent media — where I did feature reporting that ranged from participatory gigs like laying bricks in Siberia to wiretapping Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff — was where I first learned that audiences will read you or not based upon how careful and accurate you are. To imply that trust is a thing that can only be conferred by a mainstream newsroom is beyond insulting, especially since mainstream news organizations already long ago started to become infamous for betraying exactly those hallowed “norms” to which Roberts refers.
Why did a source like former NSA contractor Edward Snowden choose to come forward to Glenn Greenwald in particular? He surely wasn’t bothered by the fact that Glenn didn’t come up through the ranks of a paper like the New York Times or Washington Post.
The answer connects to one of the primary reasons audiences are moving to places like Substack: the perception that traditional news outlets have become tools of the very corporate and political interests they’re supposed to be overseeing. Roberts complains about lines between opinion and reporting being blurred at Substack (an absurd comment on its own, but that’s a separate issue), but the “blurring” problem at those other organizations is far more severe. Are newspapers like the New York Times checks on power, or agents of it?
Why didn’t Snowden go to one of the big names at the Times? Could it be because one of the senior Times editors back then, Dean Baquet — now the chief — reportedly once killed a whistleblower’s story about a surveillance arrangement between AT&T and the NSA? Or because the Times had a history of sitting on damaging intelligence stories, including one about an analyst who doubted the existence of Iraqi WMDs that the paper held until after the 2003 invasion?
It was bad enough when the traditional newsrooms Roberts so esteems near-universally swallowed the WMD lie, but the real kicker was when the worst offenders in that episode were promoted, and given the helm at major magazines and journalistic supertankers like the Times. What signal does that send to audiences?
Because this is not a bug but a feature, these same types of errors have been repeated over and over, to the point where papers like the Times and the Washington Post eventually became little more than conduits for anonymous intelligence sources spouting unconfirmable fairy tales like the pee tape. The major “traditional” cable networks, as well as many of the bigger daily newspapers, have for years now been engaged in mad hiring sprees of ex-spooks, putting whole nests of known perjurers and Langley goons on their payrolls as contributors, where they regularly provide “commentary” on news stories in which they themselves have involvement. And Roberts wants to lecture us about “disclosure of compromise”?
In the last four years especially, a rift has formed in the news business, an argument primarily about method and approach. Some of us were raised to think the reporter’s job is confined to gathering information and giving it to readers, who should then be free to do with it what they will. A lot of journalists raised in this school were trained to be terrified in the days (and, especially, the nights) after publication, in case a mistake surfaces, but to stop worrying after that.
A new approach, symbolized by a Times column four years ago called “Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism,” stresses choosing and presenting information in such a way as to ensure that audiences make the “correct” political decision with the news they’re given. The fear there is more about impact: are people taking the news the right way?
This argument over method put many journalists in a bind. Some either had to get on board with what they considered a perversion of the job, or they had to find some other place to go. I didn’t have this problem to the degree that many of the other Substack writers did, but avoiding arguments on this score was certainly a factor in my decision to move here last year. The situation was a lot more overt with some of the other Substack writers, especially with Greenwald.
When Glenn wanted to do a story about censorship of the New York Post expose on Hunter Biden suppressed by Facebook and Twitter — like me, he didn’t think the story itself was necessarily that important, but the suppression of it was — he was told by editor Betsy Reed that “even if [the story] did represent something untoward about Biden,” that would “represent a tiny fraction of the sleaze and lies Trump and his cronies are oozing in every day.” In other words, in order for the story about Biden to be newsworthy, it had to meet a bizarre worseness standard vis-à-vis Donald Trump.
Another editor more or less openly demanded that any story Greenwald did on the subject address the issue of “Russia’s hand.” This was a spook-driven conspiracy theory, for which no evidence has ever existed, that the Post expose was Russian propaganda. Virtually every “reputable” outlet ran with the story of intelligence officials saying the piece had “all the earmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign.” Asserting without evidence that even a mildly damaging article about a presidential candidate is foreign misinformation is an ethically dubious endeavor in the best of cases, especially just before an election. But these are the “norms” whose valor Roberts believes we are stealing.
Worse, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out in reported pieces on this site, the new “norms” in the business have disincentivized traditional outlets to care about accuracy, leading to huge quantities of mistakes. When news agencies see their jobs as being primarily about politics, they become more concerned with being directionally right than technically accurate, knowing among other things that their audiences will forgive them for being wrong, so long as they’re wrong about the “right” targets.
As a result, many reporters by last summer found themselves navigating newsrooms where they were being discouraged, sometimes openly, from pursuing true stories with the “wrong” message — the health impacts of the BLM protests, speech controversies in science and media, follow-up news about once-bombshells like the Cambridge Analytica scandal or “Bountygate.” Many of those people weren’t politically conservative at all (in fact, often quite the opposite). They’d just been trained to do the job in a more dispassionate way, and were being pushed by an increasingly monolithic newsroom culture to run with simplistic, hot-taking versions of the news (as one reporter put it, describing the BLM protests, “I’m sympathetic, but every story had to be Viva la revolución”). The choice for many of these people was to go along, or get out, and where a lot of them got out was to Substack.
Lastly, as to the charge that those of us who’ve moved to Substack have cashed out on reputations as reporters to become mere opinion writers:
Even when I was given generous deadlines at Rolling Stone to investigate arcane financial topics, I was doing opinion writing for them online at the same time, presumably to help them pay the bills. The National Magazine Award I won there was for commentary, not reporting. Personally, I think opinion writing is a form of journalism, but even if it were not, it’s simply not accurate to say people like me are pulling a bait-and-switch by moving from the Ivory Tower of Legacy Media reporting to “dirtier” commentary on Substack. You want “dirty” commentary? How about Rachel Maddow speculating that Russia might turn off the heat in the Dakotas?
Substack is not all op-ed writing. I wrote two heavily-researched books on Substack, one (Hate Inc.) about the media business, and the other (The Business Secrets of Drug-Dealing) a collaboration with a never-caught dealer. I also published multiple lengthy reported features about the CARES Act bailout, later wrote up an account from a whistleblower in the Russiagate story, and collaborated with a stringer in Ukraine to check facts and do on-the-ground interviews about the Hunter Biden story (which, again, I concluded was less important than its suppression). I’ve been experimenting with regular reported features about criminal courts, student loans, finance, and a topic Roberts professes to care about, Internet censorship — where I may be the only journalist in the country with an ongoing beat interviewing people removed or suspended from tech platforms. I’m bringing in videographers to make short and long features.
In short, I’m trying hard to prove that the subscriber concept can work as a viable alternative to the corporate press, which has become increasingly, arrogantly dysfunctional as traditional competition in the form of local newspapers and urban alt-weeklies has died out. None of us has the formula nailed yet, but the notion that the handful of us who are trying comprise a “threat to journalism” is elitist insanity of the highest order.
This is a small island of pushback in a vast sea of hackery, and I’d laugh about it, if I didn’t know for certain that sooner or later, these petty Twitter outbursts and snarky features in places like the New Yorker will eventually turn into full-on boycott campaigns, to protect the poor artisans at shops like NBC, CNN, and the New York Times. It’s coming, and we should all prepare for it.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
by Harry Stopes
The British common law doctrine of joint enterprise allows for the conviction of “secondary parties” to a crime committed by another, “principal” offender. It can afford the courts a proper degree of subtlety: the getaway driver can be answerable for the bank robbery, not just a parking ticket. It’s a blunter instrument when the collective nature of the offense – joint enterprise is also known as ‘common purpose’ – is less clear.
It is disproportionately used to convict young Black men. The “gang,” that racialized folk devil, is often invoked to attribute blame for spontaneous violence by a small number of people to a much larger group. In a case in Moss Side, England, in 2016, eleven young men were convicted of murder or manslaughter after a stabbing by one of them. An end to the joint enterprise doctrine is one of the recently published demands of the British chapter of Black Lives Matter.
The ways in which joint enterprise criminalizes other populations have been less studied. Becky Clarke and Kathryn Chadwick, researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University, recently published a report into the criminalization of women convicted under joint enterprise. Most of the ninety women in the study were convicted of violent offenses: murder, manslaughter and attempted murder account for almost three-quarters of the convictions.
Yet, where the researchers had access to sufficient court or media documents to determine the details of events, only 10% of the women had been involved in some kind of physical altercation with the victim, and even then it was mostly a “push,” “shove” or “slap.” In no case did the women use a deadly weapon such as a gun, knife or bottle.
As with joint enterprise convictions of men, the women in the study were overwhelmingly young; four out of ten were under 25, and three-quarters under 35. The youngest, whom the researchers call Anya, was 13. (No one is referred to by their real name.) Like other young people caught up in the criminal justice system, she found the process confusing and scary. “I didn’t know what was happening,” she told the researchers. “I couldn’t hear or understand and no one explained or advised me.”
Carrie, a 15-year-old child, was walking home with her boyfriend, her mother and her mother’s boyfriend when they got into a fight with “another group of local young adults who had also been drinking.” Carrie’s face was cut with a broken bottle. Her mother’s boyfriend killed another man. “We know that a bottle caused the fatal wound,” the judge told the jury in his summing up. “We know who caused the fatal wound because [he] admitted it.” Carrie was “so drunk she did not have the ability to join in a fight.” She was convicted of manslaughter.
Around half the women reported that domestic violence was a feature of their daily lives at the time of the alleged offense. For most of them, the perpetrator of that violence was their co-defendant. Many others reported prior experiences of violence or abuse. They have been repeatedly failed by social services, local authorities and the police.
During her teens, Jenna was targeted for exploitation by older men, and raped several times. Her parents describe the police attitude to her reports of abuse as “box-ticking.” “She was never taken seriously by the police,” her mother told the audience at a Zoom event when the report was launched. “I was desperate for help, and we were let down on every level.”
“Prosecution strategies actively de-contextualize events from the impact of women’s experiences of violence or abuse,” Clarke and Chadwick write. Jenna told the researchers that her abuse “was used by the prosecution to paint a bad picture of me.” In the prosecution’s opening arguments, a reference to her “difficult adolescence, including sexual exploitation,” was sandwiched between her “living a gypsy lifestyle” and being a “regular drug user.”
Gendered “myths and stereotypes still pervade the courts,” as Helena Kennedy writes in Misjustice: How British Law Is Failing Women (2019). Defense lawyers may not respect or trust their clients. “No mention of his violence, the domestic violence to me,” Savannah told Clarke and Chadwick. “The QC [Queen’s Counsel] said it would affect my case … I was disgusted I sat in the same dock as the man who hurt my daughter.” The women are “victims both of an injustice,” Julie Bindel wrote in a discussion of the study in the Spectator, “and of the men that manipulate, coerce and threaten them to collude or provide an alibi.”
It is striking, Clarke and Chadwick point out, how often women defendants play a central role in the prosecution’s narrative of the case, allegedly provoking the violence despite their peripheral hand in its execution. Sexual relationships with the principal defendant are often mentioned, with references to a “honey trap,” an “infatuated girlfriend” or her “blind loyalty.”
“You realized the impact of sexual allegations on the behavior of [your co-defendant] and that you could use such allegations to manipulate him to act violently,” a judge said to Lucy in his sentencing remarks. “My role in the crime was deemed to be as this woman full of hate who somehow managed to convince everyone to end up fighting,” Willow told the researchers. “The focus was on me and the fact I was a woman.”
The misogyny of the judge who condemns the “feckless mother” of “unfortunate children” who will “mercifully not be burdened with you for their upbringing” draws on prejudices about age, race and class as well as gender. “What emerges as central to prosecution strategies in these cases,” Clarke and Chadwick write, “is the combining of such arguments with a wider narrative around ‘bad character’.” References to “lifestyle” are persistent, alongside sexual life, partners, sexual jealousy, addiction or sex work. Media accounts, though they generally follow rather than precede a conviction, feed a well of images and stereotypes on which future cases draw. “Crack addict prostitute guilty of murdering rich client,” runs a typical headline.
The criminal justice system does not operate on the basis of simple principles of fairness. Such an observation can be framed in academic terms, as when Anette Ballinger identifies “the state’s role in the production and reproduction of the gendered social order,” but it can be expressed more plainly, too. John Crilly, a former joint enterprise prisoner, made this connection the first time I interviewed him. “I was just a drug-addict in the dock,” he told me as we sat in the sunshine on Quay Street in Manchester in the summer of 2018. “Like the Black kids and the gang,” people think that “a junkie is just a dirty bastard who’s got no morals. It just seems that in the criminal court you’re labelled as soon as you’re stood in the dock.”
(London Review of Books)
LAWYER STEVEN DONZIGER, a champion for environmental justice and human rights, took on Big Oil and helped to win the largest pollution judgment in history a decade ago, when Chevron admitted to deliberately dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon to save money. Chevron was ordered to pay $9.5 billion in 2011 but has never paid a dime to clean up.
Instead Chevron struck back and targeted Steven and those who worked for justice in Ecuador, claiming it was the victim of a massive conspiracy. Chevron has used its legal might and U.S. government ties to silence Donziger, strip him of his license, his bank accounts, passport, and even his freedom. He has already been held on home detention for 18 months without ever having been convicted of any crime.
The environmental justice community, 54 Nobel Laureates, countless international human rights lawyers, and members of the European Parliament have denounced these acts and called for justice, but as of yet not one member of Congress will act to investigate this abuse.
On March 10th Donziger will argue before a federal appeals court in New York and the world will be watching.
— Nick Brana, National Coordinator, Movement for a People’s Party