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GUSTY NORTHERLY WINDS will continue along the coast and increase over the interior areas this afternoon and evening. Cooler temperatures expected today through before a warming trends returns for the weekend. Otherwise, mostly clear skies with cool nights and mild to warm days are expected. (NWS)
8 NEW COVID CASES (since last Friday) reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
STEVE SPARKS WRITES: “Natalie Matson, sole owner of Lauren’s for the last year, is in escrow to buy The Buckhorn building and surrounding property from Gary Island. She plans to combine the best of both establishments, with Lauren’s food driving the way. She will also have a full liquor license. I must emphasize that I am not in any way involved financially and would like my name to be kept out of any discussions both regarding that topic and also any staff positions — none of which I am interested in taking. This is entirely Natalie’s project and, apart from offering general restaurant/pub advice based on years of experience and being her bookkeeper, I shall not be involved at all in the day-to-day running of the establishment. I do however, with the Major’s assistance, plan to start The Quiz up again and, even more importantly, hope to visit often to enjoy copious amounts of Guinness and spicy wings with a Lauren’s Burger and fries.”
TWO HOT BUTTON ISSUES were before the Fort Bragg City Council at Monday night's meeting.
1) A pair of items that would put a 45-day freeze on two applications for chain grocery stores — Grocery Outlet and Dollar General — within city limits were up for a vote. City Manager Tabatha Miller said the item was suggested by council members Jessica Morsell-Haye and Lindy Peters, and that without a “yes” vote on the moratorium, both applications stood a good chance of being approved. Without specific local guidelines, which Fort Bragg does not have, it is very difficult for local governments to deny legal applications from chain stores, even if there is local sentiment against them. A moratorium would give the council time to consider local rules, Miller said.
2) Also on Monday night's agenda: the city's wildlife is the focus of a proposed ordinance to discourage feeding of beasts, especially on the Coastal Trail. Ravens and ground squirrels, especially ravens, sometimes take advantage of the public's good intentions — the situation has “escalated,” according to the Mendocino Coast Audubon Society, so that ravens have now become a threat to other bird populations on the trail. The council is being asked to step in, mostly by telling people to stop feeding the birds.
SUPERVISORS TO CRACK DOWN ON POT?
Former Supervisor John McCowen reports that after hearing multiple interrelated code enforcement items at their special Monday meeting this week, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to: 1) Encourage denial of non-compliant Phase 1 cannabis cultivation applications; 2) Approve an increased scope of work for outside legal counsel to assist with Phase 1 application denials; 3) Obtain a satellite imagery subscription for the Cannabis Program and Code Enforcement with budget approval to return at a later meeting on the consent calendar; 4) Require Phase 1 cannabis permit and embossed receipt holders to demonstrate a State Provisional license or attest to cultivation within 45 days; and 5) Direct Code Enforcement, the Cannabis Program Manager, and County Counsel in coordination with the Sheriff to return with an enforcement plan aligned with Humboldt County.
BILL KIMBERLIN: If you live in Anderson Valley, or just visit here, I would suggest walking over to the Boonville Hotel and sitting in the garden. I did this today, and as our weather warms the experience will only get better.
ED NOTE: I remember sitting in the shade of that area when the remarkable Stephanie and Chris Tebbutts created that garden, marvelling at both their horticultural wizardry and the pace at which they went about their tasks. I was exhausted just watching them.
CITY OF FORT BRAGG HIRES NEW POLICE FORCE MEMBERS
The City of Fort Bragg is pleased to announce the recruitment of new members of its police force. Jarod Frank, Antoinette Moore, and volunteer Patrick Smith received their Oaths of Office this morning by the Honorable City Clerk, June Lemos as official City employees. City officials, staff and the newest recruits’ family and friends gathered at the exterior of City Hall early this morning to witness the swearing in of our newest City employees. Below is a bit about each of them.
Patrick Smith is volunteering his time to be Police Chaplain. While the City has had a chaplain in the past, it has been quite a while since we have had someone in this position. Patrick went to Peace Officer Standard and Training course to become POST certified, is a veteran, and trains dogs. Mr. Smith is very excited to offer his services to our Police Department, and has completed several rides with members of the department. Mr. Smith has been spending time since the fall getting to know our personnel and definitely has some firsthand knowledge through his son, Fort Bragg Police Officer Tanner Smith who pinned the badge on his father.
Our newest Police Officer, Jarod Frank, joins us from Sacramento and has some prior law enforcement experience. He is coming to Fort Bragg from Elk Grove, CA. His immediate prior role was with Los Rios Police Department as a Campus Patrol Officer where he served for several years. He obtained his POST certificate from American River College located in Carmichael, CA and has taken college coursework centering on psychology at Folsom Lake College in Folsom, CA, at Cosumnes River College and at Sacramento City College. Jarod definitely has a ton of family support as well as the support of his new community here in Fort Bragg. He is already known by the community as he was spotted even before his first day on the job!
Community Service Officer Antoinette Moore joins us from Santa Rosa, but has worked in Ukiah. She definitely has a community service oriented background as her previous roles have included working at several food/winter shelters, working as a hospice care worker, working at Mendocino County AIDS and at Viral Hepatitis Network. She will be an asset during natural disasters as she has spent significant time serving as a Wildland Firefighter with Mendocino National Forest. Ms. Moore has earned an Associate of Science degree in Administration of Justice, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification and a human services certificate from Mendocino College. In addition, Antoinette has a Phlebotomy Certificate from the Mendocino Office of Education. This unique skill set will be a great asset in her role as a Community Services Officer.
THE SHERIFF’S CHALLENGES
by Chris Calder
Since Matt Kendall took office as Mendocino County Sheriff in January 2020, the unprecedented has become pretty standard, yet he usually brings an easygoing, confident humor to even the toughest shocks.
But events over the past month on the North Coast clearly have Kendall disturbed.
The backdrop: sustained social protest, whether public demonstrations or calls to his cellphone; the enforcement issues around COVID which has put American law enforcement and government power generally into areas of American life never envisioned; the drumbeat of crisis events, most on the national level that have elected officials and especially elected sheriffs waiting for the next shoe to drop.
In Ukiah, on April 1, a group of Ukiah police officers severely beat a naked man, Gerardo Magdaleno, in the course of arresting him after he ran into traffic on a busy Ukiah street on a Thursday afternoon. Parts of the violent arrest were videoed by a number of passersby.
Ukiah now has its own full blown police scandal. So does Eureka after its police officers were shown, in an investigation by the Sacramento Bee published in March, to be texting each other things like “face shoot the fucker” — that from Sgt. Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez — and “I'm going to beat those hippies down” at a Black Lives Matters protest scheduled for the Eureka courthouse steps (Officer Mark Meftah).
These events clearly disturb Kendall. But in an interview last Tuesday, he didn't find villains or quick fixes— the “young officer,” who first responded to the Magdaleno call, he said, was probably scared, and put in a position of having to act quickly, since Delgado was running into traffic.
“What do you tell people when he gets hit by a car?,” Kendall asked.
Kendall talked about the legal and moral duty to “do something” once an officer engages with a situation. The pressure is always to act, he said, because the officer has become responsible for the outcome.
Kendall didn't address how the other officers acted as they converged on a prone Magdaleno and subdued him with multiple taser charges and “distraction blows” to the head and body. The Ukiah police department, in a press release, without going into specifics, described what the officers did as part of their training.
“Why is it that police officers are still the ones who are dealing with this?,” was Kendall's core answer last week. “We aren't the ones who should be dealing with this.”
Kendall wasn't idly complaining or passing the buck. He has pushed the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors for two years to create “Dual Response Teams,” — what the AVA’s Mark Scaramella calls the “crisis van” — combining law enforcement and mental/behavioral health workers to go on calls exactly like Magdaleno's. The idea is along the hammer-nail analogy. If you bring more than a hammer to a problem, you don't have to treat everyone like a nail.
But in the real world, these things take time. In the real world, the county's mental health bureaucracy is said — though not by Kendall — to be unenthusiastic about Dual Response Teams because the insurance reimbursement the agency gets for your typical drug abuser is very low.
But three mental health workers, even in this lightly populated rural county, will just barely begin to address this raging problem, and no one in their right mind is talking about doubling or tripling funding, much of which is coming out of the money Mendocino County voters approved in 2016 as part of Measure B, to build a better local mental health system.
Kendall is disturbed by local politics too. He said his predecessor, Tom Allman, met with County executive officer Carmel Angelo every week. Kendall does not, by his choice. The relationship, he says, is not a trusting one.
The message Kendall says he keeps trying to deliver to the county bureaucracy is: “I am really good at keeping people safe. I am no good as a counselor.”
County sheriffs across California have found themselves on the hot seat over the past couple of years. They are the only local elected law enforcement officials around. They are also responsible for the morale of their departments. Some of their constituents (State of Jefferson separatist types) want them to help overthrow the U.S. government. Other constituents (call them Nanny State Overdrive) want to see sheriffs crack down hard on every violator of every Public Health order.
Meanwhile, violent, racially charged police confrontations keeping showing up on screens across the country. Kendall points out, in Mendocino County, his deputies are facing an armed and organized black market marijuana industry like they have never experienced before. Last summer saw full-on gun battles in Round Valley — no one arrested — and eerily empowered weed growers hijacking water trucks that were supposed to be headed for the wildfires.
All this combined has Kendall focused on another statistic: the number of new law enforcement students at the academy at College of the Redwoods in Eureka is at record lows.
“There used to be 30-50 applicants every year,” he said. “Last year's class, I think, there were 13-14.”
The job of law enforcement officer is changing very quickly, Kendall points out, in any number of ways. It has become in large part a social worker's job, and at the same time quite a bit more dangerous. It's also on candid camera now. It is not the job that the young men, mostly, who have signed up for the College of the Redwoods police academy in the past, really want to sign up for now.
Kendall did not say this, but the job of a Mendocino County deputy doesn't pay very well, especially when compared to more populous counties to the south.
As a sheriff in the face of pretty relentless change these days, that particular statistic seemed to disturb Kendall as much as anything else.
NO RESPECT FOR MA EARTH
On Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 3:30 P.M., a Deputy from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of illegal campers throwing trash into the creek located at 905 City Well Road in the Ukiah.
Upon the Deputy's arrival, he saw a male subject walking away from the creek. The Deputy recognized the male subject as Edward Two Feathers Steele, 31, of Ukiah.
The Deputy knew Steele to be wanted on a felony arrest warrant for Post Release Community Supervision violations (PRCS).
The Deputy contacted Steele and confirmed his felony warrant with Sheriff's Office Dispatch. Once the felony warrant was confirmed, the Deputy placed Steele under arrest without incident.
Steele was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $30,000 bail.
ONE TWEAKER KEPT, ONE PROMISES TO APPEAR
On Thursday, April 8, 2021 at about 10:15 AM, a Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle in the 22000 block of East Side Road in Willits.
The Deputy contacted the occupants of the vehicle, driver David Mairs, 29 of Clearlake Oaks, and passenger Caytlin Collicott, 23, of Willits.
The Deputy conducted records checks on both subjects and learned Mairs had a $80,000.00 felony arrest warrant out of Sonoma County for fail to appear for possession of illicit drugs for sale while being in possession of a loaded firearm. Mairs also had to Mendocino County misdemeanor warrants for his arrest.
The Deputy was further advised that Collicott was on California Department of Corrections state Parole.
A search of the vehicle was conducted and the Deputy located a glass methamphetamine pipe that belonged to Collicott in the vehicle that contained a usable amount of suspected methamphetamine.
Collicott's Parole Officer was contacted and responded to the scene. The Parole Officer issued a violation of parole hold on Collicott.
Both Collicott and Mairs were arrested and transported to the Mendocino County Jail. Collicott was to be held without bail due to the parole violation.
In accordance with the COVID-19 emergency order issued by the State of California Judicial Council, bail was set at zero dollars and Mairs was released after the jail booking process, on his promise to appear in court at a later date.
CATCH OF THE DAY, April 12, 2021
TYLER ELZA, Willits. Probation revocation.
KEEGAN KNIGHT, Ukiah. Controlled substance, county parole violation.
MELISSA LANCE, Fort Bragg. DUI, suspended license for DUI.
RAYMOND MARTINEZ, Laytonville. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
AMADO PACHECO, Healdsburg/Ukiah. DUI.
SWEETMOLLY RIOS-ADKINS, Eureka/Ukiah. Under influence, controlled substance, paraphernalia, tear gas as weapon, false ID, probation revocation.
NORMAN DEVALL alerts us to...
Proposed poisoning of the Farralones, this new short film from Richard Charter:
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
You have waves of destruction of demand as per-capita oil decreases, EA. 2008 destroyed the idea that you could buy a house 60 miles outside LA and drive to work in a pickup truck; the additional cost for gasoline made the lower house prices untenable. So that temporarily removed one segment of the population from oil consumption.
When people drop out of the oil-demanding economy, prices will drop. But as more and more people cannot afford oil (that’s what dropping per-capita consumption means), they live poorer and more stressful lives. Those homeless you see who aren’t mentally ill? Their non-participation in intensive oil use left oil for you to use, and their removal in bidding for supply kept your price lower.
Throw them a buck next time you speed past in thanks.
CULTURAL DIVERSITY COMMITTEE MEETING with a focus on services for Native Americans
The Mendocino County Mental Health & Recovery Services Cultural Diversity Committee public meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 from 3:30 pm-5:30 pm. This meeting will take place via Zoom: https://mendocinocounty.zoom.us/j/83240965934?pwd=UnAyRTNEZEd5dUUwQWh2cW1sbkxLZz09
Meeting ID: 832 4096 5934
This meeting is an opportunity to provide suggestions, ideas, and feedback around Mendocino County BHRS cultural responsiveness. Everyone is welcome to attend.
For further information, contact: Karen Lovato Ethnic Services Manager: Behavioral Health & Recovery Services (707) 472-2342 firstname.lastname@example.org
MEDIA COALITION DECLARES THAT JOURNALISM SHOULD REFLECT ‘CLIMATE EMERGENCY IS HERE’
Lead partners of a global consortium of news outlets that aims to improve reporting on the climate emergency released a statement on Monday urging journalists everywhere to treat their coverage of the rapidly heating planet with the same same level of urgency and intensity as they have the Covid-19 pandemic.
GROWING OLD UNGRACEFULLY: Pampas Grass — Love It or Hate It
For some, they’re “old dishrags on sticks,” an ever-growing threat to native plants, the poster child for invasive species. For others, they’re a boon, healing the scars wrought by fires and clear-cut logging, softening the blemishes left by quarrymen, soothing the blight of naked road cuts. Usually and generically referred to as “pampas grass,” Cortaderia selloana, what we usually see around Humboldt is actually a different species, Cortaderia jubata, aka “jubata grass” or “Andean pampas grass.” Or “that damn weed.” Save your wrath or pleasure for jubata, not pampas grass.
WHY THE AFFECTION FOR POT?
I’m amazed at the apparent love our local governments have for cannabis. Not for their personal use, of course, but for the whole industry: cultivators, processors, dispensary builders and owners.
The most recent demonstration of their willingness to bend over backward for cannabis is the proposed county ordinance that would allow expansion of land use for all aspects of the cannabis industry. Project approvals would become “ministerial,” that is, by a planning employee’s decision, unannounced to the public by hearings and environmental reviews that normally alert neighbors to coming changes near them.
Unstudied questions about water usage would not be considered, either project-by-project or in a cumulative way, relating to total water usage in this drought-prone county. Also unstudied would be neighborhood nuisance effects. Law enforcement doesn’t yet have instruments for testing drivers impaired by being stoned, as alcohol use can be assessed.
I understand this new profit-making industry pleases a lot of potential investors, local entrepreneurs and landowners. But at what cost to all people of the county? Please tell your supervisors that they should reconsider such widespread expansion of this nonessential industry.
Anne E. Seeley
CALIFORNIA BRACES FOR EXTREME 2021 wildfire season - it's very dry out there
by J.D. Morris
The chamise plants that blanket California’s shrubby chaparral should have grown new sprouts by now, flowering after winter rains before baking in the arid summer heat.
They are highly flammable and abundant in wildland areas — and, for that reason, a bellwether to wildfire researchers. This month, a San Jose State University team analyzing moisture levels was shocked at what it found at study sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
At two locations researchers found no new growth to cut from the shrubs. It’s an ominous sign of just how dry the vegetation is around California, where boundless numbers of plants and trees have been starved of life-sustaining water thanks to an entire winter of paltry precipitation. Those dry plants are fuel for wildfires, and they’re primed to burn explosively.
Craig Clements, director of San Jose State’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory, said it was the first time he had ever found no new chamise growth to study. The plants are about as dry as they would normally be a few months from now, he said.
“The chamise was really, really problematic,” Clements recalled. “They’re not bringing enough soil moisture up into their woody stems to grow. They’re remaining somewhat dormant.”
To him, the implications are clear.
“We could have more intense fires earlier in the season, is what it suggests,” Clements said.
California is barreling toward its driest and most fire-prone months, with many locations around the Bay Area and Central Coast having seen about 50% or less of their average precipitation levels for this time of year. And the time for improvement is rapidly ending, as the state’s Mediterranean climate leaves essentially zero room for any substantial amount of rain or snow once April ends.
All but a small slice in the state’s northwest is in some level of drought or, at a minimum, abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The parched conditions result from two consecutive winters of abysmal precipitation. State officials have already warned of water supply shortages and pleaded with the public to conserve. At last one Bay Area water district is considering imposing restrictions.
The persistent dryness has already provided ample room for unusual fire activity. A spate of small fires started around Northern California in January, when Pacific Gas and Electric Co. also initiated its first-ever wintertime power shut-offs to prevent blazes. From the start of the year through April 4, firefighters in the state have fought 995 fires that burned 3,007 acres — a huge increase from the 697 fires that burned 1,266 acres in the same time period last year.
It’s the opposite of where the state’s fire-weary residents would like to be after the unceasing flames that burned last summer and fall, at one point turning the Bay Area skies deep orange because so much smoke had blocked the sun. A record 4.2 million acres burned in California in 2020.
April’s outlook suggests little reprieve is in store during the warmer months ahead.
“It’s extraordinary that there’s any fire risk in a lot of California right now, and yet here we are,” said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain. “Normally, this would be the least flammable time of year throughout most of California.”
Swain said the 2021 fire season is unlikely to surpass the severity of 2020, given the particularly unlucky combination of factors — little rain, a freak August lightning storm and unrelenting autumn winds — that made last year so bad.
“It was just such an extreme, anomalous outlier,” he said. “I think it’s statistically unlikely that we achieve that level, partly because it took a bunch of things coming together in the worst possible way.”
Scientists broadly agree that climate change is elevating California’s wildfire risks, as rising temperatures dry out vegetation and shift precipitation patterns. Of particular concern to Swain is recent research showing how California’s wet season is starting later, thereby extending the tail end of peak fire season.
In a February commentary in Geophysical Research Letters, Swain wrote that the “growing correspondence” between the projections of climate models and actual precipitation in California “increasingly suggests these trends are unlikely to have arisen by random chance, and will likely continue in the future with further climate warming.”
Swain said he’s not yet worried about the intensity of wildfires over the next two months or so, but starting around mid-July, the risk of extreme fire behavior could escalate. The threat could be compounded if autumn rains are again delayed into November or even December — especially when fast, dry winds blow from the northeast. Those conditions have given rise to some of California’s worst wildfires, including the November 2018 Camp Fire that virtually leveled the town of Paradise in Butte County.
In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the 2020 fire season never truly ended. The area was hit hard in August by the 86,000-acre CZU Lightning Complex fires, which killed one person and destroyed about 1,000 homes in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. Some of the anomalous January fires were within the footprint of the CZU burn scar, suggesting that winds whipped up embers that had smoldered into winter.
Another “sleeper spot” in the CZU burn scar was responsible for one of five fires extinguished by Cal Fire since the end of March. Several others were started by escaped controlled burn piles, officials said. Some required aircraft to suppress — a step not normally needed until June.
Though the blazes burned just a handful of acres, the fact they were able to gain any traction at all alarmed firefighters, who have now sped up their seasonal staffing increases.
“With the lack of precipitation, it’s very concerning,” said Ian Larkin, unit chief of Cal Fire’s San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit. “We are a month ahead of schedule on our staffing.”
The state government has tried to get ahead of the looming threat by adding 1,400 firefighters and unveiling a $536 million plan to fund vegetation thinning, forest health initiatives, grants to make homes fire resistant and other measures.
Speaking about the plan on Thursday at Fresno County’s Shaver Lake, where the monstrous Creek Fire ignited in September, state Natural Resources Agency Director Wade Crowfoot said, “We are just getting out of our second consecutive dry winter, and what we can expect this summer in wildfire conditions is more of the same.”
That’s an unsettling reality for parts of the state that have been repeatedly battered by fires in recent years. One of them is Sonoma County, which was hit by major wildfires in 2017, 2019 and 2020. Santa Rosa, the county’s largest city, had by early April recorded just 40% of its average rainfall for this time of year.
Another indication of the widespread dryness: County water managers said reservoir capacities are lower than they were at the height of the last drought.
“The general trend is, nothing is looking good,” said Marshall Turbeville, chief of the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District
100 DAYS OF JOE
by James Kunstler
America’s first animatronic president outside of Disney World routinely does a disappearing act every weekend. Where does he go? Does his management team plug him into a recharging station? Does he rest on a catafalque in some sub-basement of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue like one of the fabled undead from the Hollywood crypt classics? Or do they just stuff him into a closet where the rolling podiums and teleprompters are stored?
It’s unclear exactly what his duties were in eight years as vice-president, besides running interference for his busy son, Hunter, who followed the Veep around the world like a Roomba vacuum cleaner picking up nickels and dimes, but Joe did have to answer to the then-Bigger Guy, Barack Obama, and one wonders if that is not still the case. Does he actually meet regularly with go-between Susan Rice, or just wait for instructions, go where he is told to go, and read what has been prepared for him to read?
The executive regime, whatever it actually consists of, has rolled out an impressive first hundred days agenda of orders and acts designed to obliterate whatever remains of an American common culture and a US economy based on the transactions of free individuals. The easiest, and most readily damaging, was to simply reverse the previous administration’s policy of controlling our border with Mexico. All you had to do was order the border agents to do nothing — and let the restless folk to the south hear that the welcome mat was laid out. Voila! An out-of-control border! Just what you want!
It worked so well, it almost became an embarrassment, except that news media which used to function as the nation’s conscience, has turned sociopathic and is incapable of embarrassment or shame as it bombards the confounded public with narratives that, in any other era, would be easily recognized as rank propaganda. For instance, the apparent fib that Veep Kamala Harris has been placed in charge of managing the situation on the border. In the month since her assignment, she has been seen nowhere near the US-Mexican border, and somehow not a single reporter has asked her to account for that.
The other part of that deal, of course, is to make sure that the newcomers here illegally become Democratic Party voters by demolishing any process that would require proof of citizenship for filing a ballot. That is HR 1, the deviously styled “For the People Act,” wending its wicked way through Congress. The proposed law would attempt to abrogate the constitutional prerogative of the fifty states to craft their own election rules. It couldn’t possibly stand up to a Supreme Court review, and may not even survive its journey through the federal legislature. 75 percent of actual Americans polled favor voter ID, probably for the excellent reason that not requiring ID would be insane.
Is the Democratic Party determined to drive the nation insane? Kind of looks like that. They certainly seem bent on fomenting a race war. That would be insane, but the Democratic Party’s will to punish the nation eclipses all its other hopes, dreams, and aims — and such a degree of sadism tends to indicate a mental health problem. Prior to 2020, they had already destroyed at least a dozen US cities via sheer mal-administration, and the George Floyd riots across the country successfully wrecked much of what bad governance plus the Coronavirus lockdowns had left behind.
Wouldn’t you think that things are already bad enough, for instance, in Minneapolis, what with the Derek Chauvin trial about to entertain the defense’s case, and the courthouse secured like Fort Apache? And so, a fresh incident occurred on Sunday involving one Daunte Wright, 20, shot during a traffic stop. Apparently, there was a warrant out for Mr. Wright, meaning he was a suspect in a crime. When the police tried to detain him, he got back into his car against their clear instructions, raising the possible inference that he might be going for a gun. The officer shot him. A riot ensued, of course. In the chaos, some looting occurred. Black Lives Matter turned out in a matter of minutes, along with members of Daunte Wright’s family. Is another martyr being manufactured?
What message do you suppose the Minneapolis city council sent last month when it settled $27-million on the family of George Floyd — before the trial in the matter even began? It looks more and more like a high stakes hustle: Whatever the truth is about an incident that involves the police, the city will burn and large cash settlements await. Calling personal injury attorney Ben Crump….
And so, the riot season has arrived, as if right on schedule. If Minneapolis and other cities start burning again, will Mr. Biden be positioned to ignore it as he’s ignored the now-lawless situation at the border? Will his managers wind him up to inveigh against “white supremacy?” Or have they set a dynamic feedback loop in motion that is fast running beyond their control — making it clear that perhaps nobody is in charge?
Update 2:pm Monday: Minneapolis police release body-cam video of the Daunte Wright traffic stop. Mr. Wright, standing outside his car, disobeys instructions to be taken into custody on an outstanding warrant, then slips away from an attempt to handcuff him and back into the driver’s seat. Officer on the driver’s side declares intent to use taser, but grabs handgun instead and fires. A lot to sort out there — except the fact that Duante Wright resisted arrest and attempted to escape the scene.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
BEST KNOCK KNOCK JOKE EVER
Three brothers, age 92, 94 and 96, live in a house together. One night the 96 year old draws a bath, puts his foot in and pauses. He yells down the stairs, “Was I getting in or out of the bath?” The 94 year old yells back, “I don’t know. I’ll come up and see.” He starts up the stairs and pauses. Then he yells, “Was I going up the stairs or coming down?” The 92 year old was sitting at the kitchen table having coffee, listening to his brothers. He shakes his head and says, “I sure hope I never get that forgetful.” He knocks on wood for good luck. He then yells, “I’ll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who’s at the door.”
AM I A GOOD PERSON? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person? Or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I’m bullshitting myself, morally speaking?
— David Foster Wallace
DON'T COOK SEUSS'S GOOSE!
by Steve Heilig
“McElligot's Pool” was my fave Seuss book
So I thought I'd take another look
Why did they discontinue this one?
That underwater story is so much fun
I'm told it was due to “Eskimo”
That's now a bad word, dontcha know
I guess I'm not supposed to question
So will just make this one mild suggestion
Read his “Lorax” and “Butter Battle Book” instead
Ecology and anti-warmonger thoughts will fill your head
Some called him lefty and soft on commies
In kids' books such topics were strictly naughties
He also mocked Nazis, bigots and such
Then nobody seemed to complain too much
Yes bad words and pictures have few places
But the world will never be all safe spaces
We learn from the past and try to improve
Tho slow true progress hardly seems to move
Now old art and words cause too much stress
I do not like you, cancel mess
I know it's really not for me to say
But will less Seusses bring a better day?
Is it OK to support freedom of speech
Even if it makes us screech?
Even Bob Dylan used the N-word to open our eyes
Should we now retract his Nobel Prize?
What might the Cat in the Hat now think?
He'd laugh that he has caused more stink
But in the end those who cared were few
Too charmed by “Horton Hears A Who”
So let's not obsess over the symptoms
Of what are really much bigger problems
One fish, Two fish, both down the sink
Climate change pushing all extinct
Violence corruption poverty Trump
Enough to make anyone a grump
Who is woke and who is not
Is one big picture I've not yet got
But one big lesson, seems to me:
Don't become your enemy!
Tear down statues, cover up art
If that reduces pain of the heart
And don't get me wrong, just mean to say
but that won't make bad things go or stay
Keep books in print, candidly updated
'teachable moments' can leave us elated
So apologies to you, good Dr. Seuss
I'll just go read “Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose”
And if my “McElligot” first edition stash
Is suddenly worth a lot more cash
Might sell them to you and you and you
And donate to the ACLU.
INTERVIEW: Noam Chomsky
by Matt Taibbi
On Biden vs. Trump, his new book, and why manufacturing consent “is much easier now.”
Noam Chomsky has been a central figure on the American left for over five decades. His New York Review Of Booksarticle from 1967, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” was called “the single most important piece of anti-war literature” from the Vietnam period. That helped launch him on a course to being “the most widely-read American voice on foreign policy on the planet,” as the New York Timesdescribed three and a half decades later, in 2004.
Chomsky’s academic field is linguistics, where he’s won numerous prizes for work developing theories like universal grammar, but he’s famous mainly as an anti-propagandist. A chief attraction to his work for readers across the spectrum is his relentless, Cassandra-like habit of calling out official untruths, especially American ones, be they about war or domestic politics or the subject he seems lately to care most about, the environment.
Chomsky calls himself a “libertarian socialist,” which he defines as a belief that “enterprises ought to be owned and managed in a democratic fashion by the people who participate in them.” The left has always claimed him as a champion and some on that side of the aisle regularly appeal to him to settle disputes, as something like a Papal authority (humorously, he seems to intensely dislike this). I’m not so sure any particular political label fits him, however.
He’s certainly an internationalist — even in the interview below he argues for “citizens' international solidarity.” One of the things that mainstream American pundits have always loathed and resented about Chomsky is his habit of blithely judging America as one would any other country. Ask him about al-Qaeda after 9/11, and he pivots to the “far more extreme terrorism” of American foreign policy in the third world. Ask him about China’s repression of the Uighurs, as Katie Halper and I do here, and he asks, “Is it as bad as Gaza? It's very hard to argue that.”
What grinds critics of Chomsky is that he seems to push the rejection of geographical chauvinism to unbelievable degrees. Phil Donahue once asked him, seriously, if he liked sports. Chomsky replied he didn’t really get it. What did he care which group of professional athletes won a game? None of them had anything to do with him.
Donahue pressed: come on now, you really don’t get it? Don’t you remember being a kid, rooting for the home team, the smell of the field, the memories? “Why wouldn’t you celebrate that?”
Chomsky offered the following reply:
“I did the same thing. I can remember the first baseball game I saw when I was 10 years old, I can tell you what happened at it — fine. But that’s not my point. See, if you want to enjoy a football game, that’s great. You want to enjoy a baseball game, that’s great. Why do you care who wins?”
Note the use of “fine” there, a staple of Chomskyian argument! When Donahue later tried to tweak him with a comment about how it was “no wonder you grew up to be such a radical who doesn’t like high school football,” Chomsky doubled down: “Unfortunately, I did like it,” adding, “I’m sorry for that.”
Chomsky’s Spockian insistence that his adult self is immune to such temptations has led some fiercer critics to scoff at his habit of batting away questions about atrocities committed by other countries as a kind of reverse chauvinism, a calculated pose rooted in some unknown pathology, leading to overcorrections back in the direction of America’s bad behavior. Surely he doesn’t really believe the U.S. government is worse than al-Qaeda?
Then you watch “Collateral Murder,” or film of American cluster bombs dropped in the cities of Yemen, or our Air Force dropping thousands of tons of bombs on civilians in North Vietnam — speaking of sports, one such bombing campaign was called Operation Linebacker — and Chomsky becomes harder to argue with. Suddenly we’re glad he’s no flag-waver, because who else is going to point these things out?
This is why I’ve always admired Chomsky a great deal, even if I sometimes disagree with his politics (or his takes on sports for that matter!). Unafraid of criticism, few people of his stature in American life are willing to do what he does. He is clearly a man of principle, a character trait that might have gotten him in even more trouble had he come of political age in the Internet era. His defense of the speech rights of Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson is still brought up by critics and sticks to his name like flypaper on Twitter. He doesn’t care.
More evidence that he’s honest broker lay in the fact, as Christopher Hitchens once noted, that over time, “the more Chomsky was vindicated, the less he seemed to command ‘respect’” from mainstream pundits. His fame has grown in inverse relationship to the quantity of his green room invites. Although American political life has moved toward him, as noted below, he’s still largely an unperson to the networks and the newsrooms of the great dailies like the Times, who’ll never forgive him for being right about everything from the civil rights movement to Vietnam to Iraq. Even his views on Russiagate (“farcical,” he said) identified him as an outside-the-tenter, confirmed in his shameful lack of deference to the manufacturers of consent.
Chomsky has other, little-remarked-upon qualities that mark him as a true egalitarian, like his habit, still, of trying to answer every serious query sent to him. Although not a fan of tweets — “If you thought for two minutes… you wouldn’t have sent it” is his mordant assessment of a lot of Twit lit — he gives nearly every other kind of correspondence generous consideration. He’ll prioritize responding to an obscure blogger over a major daily newspaper if the blogger has the better question.
Chomsky’s stubbornness is clearly his great strength, but it can make interviewing him a challenge. When I approached him before writing Hate Inc.,which I initially tried to model after his great book of media criticism, Manufacturing Consent, I tried over and over to get his take on how the press had changed since he and Edward Herman first started looking at the subject forty-odd years ago. What about the role of Facebook, Google, Twitter?
In the age of data mining and push notifications, couldn’t a company like Facebook — which has completely taken over the distribution authority regional newspapers once claimed for themselves — individually shape the news-reading habits of billions of people in ways never imaginable previously? I thought the new algorithm-fueled emphasis on divisive media was a truth-smothering innovation that fit with his famous propaganda model, but Chomsky wasn’t having any of it.
“Take a look at the Facebook phenomenon,” he said. “Where are they getting their news from? They don’t have any reports. They’re just getting it from the New York Times, so it’s the same sources of information.” I tried again in the interview below, but he dunked on me quickly. Some issues are no-fly zones. But there are plenty he loves talking about.
His most recent book, Chomsky for Activists, traces the aforementioned undeniable truth, that the arc of American politics has moved in his direction, thanks in large part to activism. Chomsky wrote The Political Economy of Human Rightsand Manufacturing Consentaround the same time that Howard Zinn was writing The People’s History of the United States. At the time, all three books (and especially Zinn’s) were almost universally denounced as scandalous anti-American provocations. Today there’s a debate over whether the Zinn/Chomsky view of American history has become too hegemonic in academia. I’m not sure The 1619 Projectisn’t a clever subversion of Chomskyan politics rather than an affirmation of it, but the influence of his mode of thinking in modern American culture is clear from any angle.
Noam Chomsky at 92 is voluble, energetic, and quick. Except for the werewolf beard, which gets a big yes vote from me, he’s still the same far-ranging, defiant thinker he was twenty or thirty years ago. In a recent interview with Useful Idiots, he offered his thoughts on Joe Biden, Donald Trump, a rising nuclear threat, the media, and other topics:
Matt Taibbi:Can you tell us a little bit aboutChomsky For Activists, and what prompted you to do this book now?
Noam Chomsky: Well, actually, I was prompted by a friend who is editing it, and he thought it might be a good idea to put together some discussions, and interviews and back articles, or the things about activism. So I went along.
MT: The book is very optimistic in tone. You talk about the distance that people have traveled since the sixties. How do you account for the improvement in the level of engagement in political activism today versus, say, back in the early sixties?
Noam Chomsky: Overall, it's probably greater today. There were peaks in the sixties. There was a brief peak, and with regard to the civil rights movement, and roughly around 1963, a couple of years before that, and that terminated. Then there was a brief peak in the late sixties and early seventies, with regard to the antiwar movement. It was a couple of years. Meanwhile, other things were being developed, barely developing.
You got the bare beginnings of what became later the feminist movement, the beginnings of environmental concerns, some labor concerns, a couple of others. A lot of them flourished later, the seeds were laid.
But today it's much broader, much more extensive. But one of the reasons for the book is there is a sense among young people that everything's hopeless. It's just, “You can't fight City Hall. It's too big.” That partly comes from not understanding what's happened in the past. If you look at the differences that activism has made, just in half of my life, the fifties, sixties, to the present, that's enormous. You go back earlier, it's even more.
MT: Especially since Trump was elected, there's been a lot of this rhetoric that democracy doesn't work, that people left to their own devices make bad decisions, etc. As a result of this pessimism, a lot of people believe the road to progress is lobbying big companies like Facebook and Google and PayPal, and even MasterCard and VISA, to create the society that we want. How do you feel about that kind of corporate-based activism, lobbying corporations to exercise their power?
Noam Chomsky: Lobbying corporations is activism. If corporations are doing anything, it's because they're under pressure to do it. A corporation has one purpose, to profit. There's variation, but very generally the fact is, that a corporation is following the principle that it should maximize its own gain and market share. Now, corporate executives are not stupid. If they realize that they're losing a customer base, they're facing what they call reputational risk, meaning, “The peasants are coming with the pitchforks, we better do something.” Then they'll react and maybe do something, sort of generally decent, within limits. But to ask them to do it on their own, makes no sense. It’s like asking a totalitarian state to be nice. The corporations are sort of being dragged along slightly, but the real activism is having other effects. I mean, take the most important issue we face, by far, destroying the environment.
Well, change is not going to come from corporations. In fact, take a look at this morning's papers. Even with the pandemic and the reduction of economic activity, methane and carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere has increased. Because, for example, as oil prices have gone up, you're getting the automatic reaction, the fracking industry revives.
One of Trump’s great deeds was to eliminate the regulations on controlling methane release, which is extremely dangerous, in the short term, much more than carbon dioxide. So they do that. They can make more money that way. You're getting more releases of poisons into the atmosphere, which reduces the time span that we have to try to deal with this. Well, that's the way businesses are going to behave. They can make more money doing something, they'll do it. You put plenty of pressure on them, or on the banks that finance them.
But if you do things like what Sunrise Movement did, a young activist group, sit in, occupy congressional offices, get some support from the progressive legislators who came in, kind of on the Sanders wave, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in this case, pick up some support from a long term Democratic Senator who was interested in the environment, Edward Markey, then you can get the idea of the Green New Deal, which is essential for survival, in some form.
You can get it from way off in the outer space somewhere, to the legislative agenda. Keep the pressure up, you can get something done. We can see it happening right before our eyes. Biden's environmental program, climate program, it's not what's needed, but it's much better than anything that preceded. And it's not because he had a sudden revelation. There are pressures constantly.
MT: How about on the antiwar front? Is there progress there?
Noam Chomsky: If you want to take, say, the protest about the Vietnam War that began in the late sixties, it became really substantial in the late sixties. 1967, 1968, you're getting huge demonstrations.
Early in the sixties, couldn't get a whisper. I was giving talks in somebody's living room, you'd get three neighbors together, that's other people doing the same thing. When we'd try to have a meeting at the university, to bring in Vietnam, we had to have ten other subjects to bring somebody in. Well, it takes a lot of work like that, by lots of people, before anything finally breaks through.
You may not see it for a long time, you may forget the people who were involved, but that's the way things happen. The same is true today. And it is happening on a lot of fronts. Take, say, the demonstrations that took place after the Floyd murder. Pretty astonishing. There's never been anything like that before.
I mean, there was some real dedicated solidarity, black and white, all over the country, all over the world, in fact, enormous public support, way beyond anything that Martin Luther King achieved. That didn't come because one black man was murdered by the police. It came from years of activist organizing and education. The New York Times published its 1619 series. That wouldn't have happened a couple of years earlier.
Katie Halper:In a recent interview, you emphasize that there wasn't that much of a difference between Biden and Trump on foreign policy. You specifically go over the narratives about China and Russia, and the threat they do or don't pose to the United States. What do you think the United States should be doing, in terms of cooperation? And also, if you think that having a kind of a multipolar world, in which the United States is not the most powerful, if that's something that's better for the world?
Noam Chomsky: It's better for the world to have less concentration of power than more concentration of power. The kind of multipolarity we need is citizens' international solidarity. I was talking about China and Russia, because that was the question that was asked. But what we need today is international solidarity, at the public level, on the major issues that confront us. There are major issues. They're all international in scope. The great powers aren't going to deal with them.
Take, say the immediate one, the pandemic. There are no borders. Everyone understands. So understand, on all sides, that unless we control the spread of the disease in the poorest countries in the world, not only will they suffer severely, but so will we. Not to do so is suicidal, but it's not being done.
So, to take ourselves, the United States happens to have a surplus of AstraZeneca vaccines, a big collection of them, because they haven't been authorized yet, so they're sitting there. Biden actually did distribute them to some other countries, which ones? Africa? No. Asia? No. Canada and Mexico.
Canada has one of the biggest surpluses drugs of any country, and Mexico, it was kind of a payoff for keeping people from our border, who were fleeing from disasters that we were mostly responsible for. That's not the way to do it.
KH: How far apart, or not, are Biden and Trump on foreign policy?
Noam Chomsky: Take nuclear weapons. Fortunately, Biden was able to renegotiate to agree, to agree with the Russian requests to maintain the new START treaty. Managed it, literally, by hours. It's going to run out on February 5th. Trump vacillated, and refused to sign it. That's the last of the arms control regime.
But now we're engaged in provocations provocative of NATO, military actions, right at the Russian border, not at the US border, in the Arctic. Russia responding with its own actions sharply increases the danger of some accident happening. It's not the way to deal with the threat of nuclear weapons.
Same is true elsewhere. There are lots of threats, but one of the most severe is in the Middle East. There’s this supposedly great concern, I would say alleged concern, about Iranian nuclear programs, that's considered in mainstream circles the major threat to world peace, so what are we doing about it? Exacerbating the threat.
There was an agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The Trump administration, in 2018, pulled out of it, violating Security Council orders that all states are committed to observing, and imposed very harsh sanctions on Iran. It's harmed the population, and our effective leadership, the way sanctions were insisted on, revoking the treaty altogether, and imposing a different one, with much harsher terms.
US allies are totally opposed to this. They made it very clear, to the Security Council and elsewhere. It doesn't matter. We're the boss. Greatly increases the threat of confrontation.
On the day in which the new negotiations began in Vienna, the Israeli Navy attacked an Iranian ship run by the Revolutionary Guards, which is hard to imagine that that wasn't a signal to try to undermine the negotiations. All of this is going on.
What are we doing? Basically taking over Trump's program. The Biden administration has some nice words about wanting to renew the negotiations, but what does it mean? We pulled out, we're imposing the sanctions. They have to make the first move. And we insist on Trump's version, not the JCVOA.
Biden's not calling for going back to the joint agreement that we pulled out of. What he's saying so far, at least according to Tony Blinken and the guys who talk for him, that we're insisting on the Trump version. “Let's negotiate to get to the harsher version, that we're not going to stop the sanctions, until you agree to that.” Is that the way to reduce the threat of tensions in the Middle East, possibly leading to general war?
Well, there are things like this all across the board, and those are the things that popular forces should be working on. You can't trust the major power centers do it on their own. They go in different directions.
KH: I know you signed a letter recently about Syria. What is your position about the U.S. intervening abroad? Is that ever appropriate? Is it appropriate now?
Noam Chomsky: Depends on what kind of intervention. Biden just made a very good intervention, I applaud it.
With the extraordinary savagery characteristic of the Trump administration, Trump withdrew all aid to Palestinians. Two million Palestinians in Gaza are facing some of the worst conditions anywhere in the world.
The area's becoming unlivable. They're constantly under attack. The sewage system's been destroyed, the power system. There's no food, there's no drinkable water. So what did Trump do? Withdrew the US aid to UNRWA, which was some sort of a slight lifeline, same in the West bank.
Why? He said, because Palestinians weren't treating him with enough respect. Okay. Biden did renew, he intervened, if you want to call it intervention, and renewed the US funding to UNRWA, that's the right kind of intervention. And you can do things like that everywhere.
KH: A lot of people criticize China's human rights abuses, or will criticize the Assad regime. What should the United States government be doing around those two countries, if anything? What’s the American role in alleviating human rights abuses in other countries?
Noam Chomsky: With regard to human rights violations, the US should be doing everything it can to alleviate and overcome them. What's the easiest way to do that? Very simple, stop the ones we're responsible for.
That's the easiest way to do it. So take Gaza again. There are severe human rights violations against the Uighur population in China. Is it as bad as Gaza? It's very hard to argue that.
They're not under the kind of attack that Gaza's under constantly. If we're concerned with human rights violations, we can stop them right away. Namely, stop participating in them. Easy way.
With regard to the Chinese rights violations, it's much harder to do anything, just as they can't do anything about our human rights violations. We can protest. Makes sense. We should try to raise international commitment, to pressure China to end them, lots of things we can do. But it's limited.
Suppose that China or Russia or anybody was imposing sanctions on the United States, because of the way American client states are treating people, say, in Gaza, because we're talking about that. I could pick many other cases.
How would we react? Would we say, “Okay, good. I'm going to stop doing it?” No, no, we'd make it harsher. If we really care about human rights violations, we'll try to do something to alleviate them.
Now, the real protest is fine, it should be protested. We should be accurate about it. Not make up charges on the basis of very dubious evidence, but keep the things that are well supported, same with Iran violations. We don't look at Russian propaganda to find out what violations we are carrying out. We look at our own evidence, which is ample, and do something about it. Do something, do the things we can do, very easily.
Take another example. There was just an interesting article that appeared by Helen Epstein in the New York Review of Books on Uganda. Major atrocities being carried up by the government, with our support.
It's not the main part of the article, but if you read it, we continue to support it. Do we have to? That's a way to alleviate atrocities. There's plenty of things like that all over the world.
We can do the best we can with other people's atrocities, but we should do it to whatever extent we can, and in a constructive way, not a way that's just going to increase them, because you can get propaganda points that way. Not that.
MT: Your famous media book is entitled Manufacturing Consent, which stressed the idea that the media can organize the population behind official deceptions. Now, it’s become harder and harder to organize “consent,” because the country is so divided, and the media has an enormous role in that. Is that a change in your model? And who benefits from all of this division that is now such a central feature of how the media operates?
Noam Chomsky: Well, actually, manufacturing consent is much easier now. And it goes on at a level that's never happened before. Fox News, Breitbart, the rest of them have succeeded, along with the administration and the GOP generally, in creating a large mass of the population, almost half of it, which is living in another universe.
I mean, take a look at the poll results. They believe things that are just so far from reality, that it's even hard to talk about. That's very effective. The mainstream media, CNN, New York Times, the rest, have done the same on other issues.
Take what we've just been talking about. Take, say, the so-called Iranian threat, the return, the efforts to deal with it. This is described everywhere as, “Iranian nuclear weapons is the greatest threat to world peace. We've got to do something about it.” Where'd that come from? What makes them a threat to world peace?
I mean, is it the reports of US intelligence? No, not at all. What they tell us is, if Iran is developing nuclear weapons, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Well, the US government doesn't like a deterrent strategy, nor does Israel. That's why they're attacking Iran constantly.
The countries that rampage in the region don't want deterrence. How about telling people that? Anybody read that anywhere? How about simple ways of solving the problem, if you think it's a problem?
There's a very simple way, if you think Iranian nuclear weapons are a problem. Let's move to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region, with intensive inspections, which we know work very well.
US intelligence agrees that the inspection regime under the JCPOA was working perfectly. So let's extend it, and make it a total weapons-free, WMD-free zone in the region, get rid of nuclear weapons.
What's blocking that? The United States, period. Everybody else is in favor of it. Iran's strongly in favor of it. The Arab States have been in favor of it for 25 years, with no protests from Europe.
Every time it comes up, the United States, most recently from Obama, it's coming up again in a couple of weeks. It'll be vetoed again. What is that? Everybody knows the reason. It's just, you're not allowed to say it.
The reason is, the United States will not permit Israeli nuclear weapons to be inspected. In fact, the US does not recognize their existence, even though everybody knows they've got a huge arsenal. And there's a reason for that, US law.
According to US law, countries that have developed nuclear weapons systems outside the international framework, cannot receive US aid. Nobody wants to open that door. How about that for the triumph of manufacturing consent?
Here's what's called the greatest threat to world peace, an elementary way to overcome it, we can't carry it out, and nobody can talk about it. That's way beyond the WMD story in Iraq. I mean, there, maybe some of them actually believed it? Okay. Here, there's nothing.
I mean, there are things like this all the time. That's manufacturing consent at such a level, that you can't even see it.
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