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SUNSHINE WITH ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES are expected today for the interior. Coastal areas will remain cool with occasional low clouds and fog today through tonight. A cold front will bring significant interior cooling Thursday through Friday, followed by gradual warming over the weekend into early next week. The cold front will also bring a chance of showers, primarily to Del Norte and northern Humboldt Counties on Thursday. Northerly winds will increase on Friday, with breezy conditions expected to persist through the weekend. (NWS)
5 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
MENDO IS AWASH IN MOOLAH, according to Tuesday’s “third quarter” budget presentation. Not only does the County have the $22.6 million in a PG&E settlement windfall which everybody and their sister now wants a piece of, but the Supervisors were told that Mendo stands to also get about $16 million in CARES Act (aka Biden Bucks) over the next two years. Eureka! And all this time you thought we were just this broke-ass little county somewhere north of Frisco.
RETAIL SPENDING appears to have more or less rebounded and sales taxes are up from the covid low — even more so since California now gets sales tax on out of state, on-line purchases. Next year looks rosy too, the budget team says.
THERE ARE CERTAINLY legitimate things to spend all this windfall on, but some of these people should not be making the spending calls. For example, the Library wants over half a mil for backup generators for all its branches during power shut offs. Is that a priority? The Supes seemed downright giddy at the prospect of giving the half mil to the libraries which, ahem, can simply close when the power is off. What’s next, backup generators for the Air Quality District?
SUPERVISOR JOHN HASCHAK’S latest Supe’s report reminds his constituents that he’s on the Board’s “drought emergency ad hoc committee” with Supervisor McGourty. Haschak’s “first task”? “Ensure that all the water agencies are communicating and receiving proper information. (We live in hope) With 40 water agencies in Mendocino Conty, this hasn’t always been the case. We will be reconvening the Countywide Drought Working Group.”
TRANSLATION: Supervisor McGourty is hoping to delay major winewater cutbacks as long as possible by using the Farm Bureau’s tried and true “Talk & Pump” tactic, which Supervisor Haschak is clearly a perfect choice to be a dupe for. By the time the “Countywide Drought Working Group” issues its “voluntary” recommendations after listening to the lawyers and grape growers from all of Mendo’s little water districts, Lake Mendo and most of its rivers and creeks will be dry. If Haschak and his ad-hoc were serious, they’d already be demanding immediate cut backs by issuing a drought regimen order to the water districts.
THE SUPERVISORS also sit as the County Water Agency, and, although they don’t hold any legal water rights, they can issue conservation orders to the individual water districts now that an emergency has been declared.
MAKING BOARDS IN MAPLE BASIN, 1975 (photo gallery by Dick Whetstone)
FATHER & TWO CHILDREN RESCUED AT PUDDING CREEK
Fort Bragg Police Department’s Captain O’Neal told us two beach-goers witnessed the circumstances and swam out to the trio using surfboards retrieving the father and children and bringing them to shore.
REGARDING YESTERDAY'S COMPLAINT about some persistent detritus along the Philo-Greenwood Road (theava.com/archives/153284#5) comes this message from Supervisor Williams: "409 trailer update: Code Enforcement submitted the tow authorization on April 16th. However, the tow company had some logistical issues with the equipment needed to remove this trailer. I confirmed this morning that removal is scheduled for Wednesday."
Ed Note: Turns out this message is a week old and refers to a trailer abandoned near the intersection of Highway 1 and Road 409 (near Caspar). How long until the Philo-Greenwood hulk gets towed away?
THE LATTER DAY BANDIT OF BLACK BART TRAIL
Joan Vivaldo, the lady who was at home one night and about to go to sleep, when Mr. Douglas Stone, a defrocked firefighter, also of Redwood Valley, entered Ms. Vivaldo's home to rob it. Ms. V has faithfully kept her neighbors abreast of developments in Mr. Stone’s case:
For the last several months, Mr. Stone's preliminary examination (PX) has been scheduled for today, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. A PX is a review to determine if there is probable cause to proceed with a trial.
To ensure that the PX was still on before I drove from SF to Ukiah, I checked the Mendocino County Court Schedule the morning of Monday, May 3. Sure enough, the hearing was still set at 9am, Tuesday, May 4, 20201, Room H. Since the Court Schedule is updated the night before the date of the hearings, at 6pm yesterday, I checked again. The Stone hearing was gone. No trace of it. Of course, it was too late to call anyone to see what had happened.
I drove to Ukiah this morning, and found all Room H hearings had been sent to Room A. Outside Room A, I found the perpetually harried Deputy DA Heidi Larsen contending with the files with which she was waging today's fight. She shared that she had offered Mr. Stone some felonies to settle his case, and he had declined the deal. The PX is to be set for a date in September, Mr. Stone's choice.
Background: "The Unlikely Burglar of Black Bart Trail" (May 6, 2020)
TIM BLAKE on moving the Emerald Cup to LA: "When we moved the Emerald Cup to Santa Rosa many of the Emerald Triangle folks said we were abandoning the community. Many farmers and product makers wouldn’t come down the first year at the fairgrounds. When they saw how well the vendors that did join us did, the next year almost everyone tried to get booths. Where is the best place for a farmer or product company from the triangle to promote themselves? Where is the best place for our contestants to tget their awards? In the largest cannabis market in the world; which is LA. We’re doing this help promote sun grown cannabis, regenerative farming, and our community. We will still have the fall harvest celebration and give everyone the chance to connect with the community, the latest genetics and the best fresh flowers. To me it’s the best of both worlds."
LAMA LUCY REMINDS US: Hey everyone! We're kicking off the first Boonville Farmers' Market this Friday at its new location: the AV Brewery! Join us for fresh produce, meat, eggs, mushrooms and more. 4-6pm Friday May 7th. Hope to see you there!
JOE MOREO got the Ag Commissioner job before the purged Harinder Grewal. Moreo quickly realized that pot seemed to be the agency's sole priority and he left. “Joe Moreo, [Grewal’s] immediate predecessor, lasted five days before departing without explanation.”
CHUCK WILCHER remembers Moreo:
I’ve known Joe Moreo since our days playing little league baseball.
One day, reading a Press Democrat article years ago about the ground squirrel problem in Modoc county, the article quoted a few cattlemen and eventually the county agriculture commissioner about eradication efforts. When they finally got around to the Ag Ccommissioner’s solution they identified him as Joe Moreo. I thought “Joe Moreo”? There’s only one Joe Moreo in this world.
So, I looked up the number for the Modoc County Ag. commissioner’s office and called. I asked to speak to the man himself. I told him I was from the Mendocino County Ground Squirrel Preservation Group and I was protesting his oversight of eradication efforts because ground squirrels have rights too.
To say he remained calm and tolerant would be lying. He went off on an anti-environmental rant before I revealed who was calling. We had a good laugh and caught up on our history covering the last few decades.
The first time I ever saw and smoked pot using a stolen thistle tube from the high school chemistry lab was with Joe Moreo. That was in 1971 at the end of his dirt driveway out in Ohio farm country. A bored county deputy happened to drive by and stopped inquiring with “what’cha boys doing out here?” Busted on the first toke! Geez… How lucky was that?
One of Joe’s goals in life was to see the day marijuana became legal. His offer to become the Mendocino County pot czar was a dream come true. Too bad he experienced managerial dysfunction and exited so quick.
SAPPHIST CONSPIRACY? From the Federal Court case summary of Barbara Howe's case against Mendocino County for wrongful dismissal: “Ms. Howe alleges she was retaliated against for her speech and actions when days later, on May 24, 2019, she was forced under duress to sign a one-page resignation letter by defendant Tammy Moss Chandler. After signing the letter, Ms. Howe also alleges defendants sought spurious temporary restraining orders designed to destroy her reputation, further retaliation for the above activity. Ms. Howe claims she was entitled to a name-clearing hearing. Finally, Ms. Howe alleges she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation (heterosexual), gender, age, and engaging in protected activity, citing comments defendant Tammy Moss Chandler made to Ms. Howe about how ‘older employers are incapable of making good decisions, multitasking, and struggling with technology’.”
HOWEVER it's finessed, the Taliban won in Afghanistan, hence their refusal to show up for peace talks. Why should they? They're three for three against invaders, having defeated the British in the 19th century, the Russians in the 20th, US in the 21st. Thank Bush for destabilizing the Middle East and stranding US in Afghanistan for twenty years and the deaths of nearly 2400 American combat troops. But Condaleeza Rice gets a Standing O everywhere she appears in the Bay Area.
THE NIGHTLY NEWS features worried stories about the fate of Afghan women when the Taliban resume control of the country. Airlift them outta there? There's not much that can be done other than drone-murder the leadership if their persecutions are more egregiously oppressive than they're likely to be anyway.
THE WOODS a few miles east of Mendocino is an up market trailer park for senior citizens, defined at The Woods as anybody over the age of 55. About 2000 people live on 37 quiet acres with a few central recreation buildings. I've had friends who lived there and were happy with the place, although to me it seemed to have definite mausoleum qualities in the way these old person stalags always do, with a million rules and cauliflower topiary and ceramic squirrels in the yard. (Give me the raggle-scraggle tumult of Boonville!) The corporation that owns the place has put it and its residents up for sale. But the residents, most of them safely above the pauper zone, have formed a tentative co-op aimed at buying The Woods themselves.
HIGHWAY 128 through the Anderson Valley is the main conduit to the Mendocino Coast from the Bay Area. Traffic hurtles through Boonville during the daylight hours at an unprecedented volume and speed. Forty years ago the CHP placed a full-timer officer here when traffic was a mere trickle compared to what it is now, but we need traffic control much more now than we needed it then. Monday, it took me several minutes to cross from the ava's headquarters to Boont Berry Farm, and even then a southbound vehicle, perhaps pitying the stranded geezer obviously hoping to reach the other side of the road in this lifetime, stopped to allow me safe passage, but I only got halfway across the highway where northbound cars and trucks didn't even slow down, and I swear the driver of a pick-up grinned manically at me as he sped past. There I was, dangerously marooned half way across 128! A half-dozen piles of speeding steel and chrome passed before I reached the relative safety of Boont Berry. I'd estimated my travel time from my office to Boont Berry, a distance of forty yards, at a full six minutes.
THIRTY YEARS AGO we mounted a traffic-slowing demo in central Philo that persuaded CalTrans to erect theoretically traffic-slowing signage, and that was after a child had been killed crossing the road from the old Philo Post Office to Lemons Market with her mother. We'd made a lot of windy threats at a public meeting that we'd shut down 128 from Cloverdale to Navarro if traffic wasn't slowed. The CHP took note, as did Caltrans, and for a while the CHP was a regular presence in the Anderson Valley. The only time we see the CHP these days is when a patrol car or two races through Boonville on their way to an accident.
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS? Anderson Valley Community Services District trustees? Use your good offices to persuade the CHP to patrol the Anderson Valley on a regular basis.
AMONG the daily provocations of mainstream media none of their blandly false assumptions annoy me more than statements like, “Inflation is under control.” No it isn't, and anybody who goes shopping knows it isn't. The prices of goods and services are rising much more quickly than the economic experts we hear on the news tell us they are. Groceries, household items, gas and electricity are all way up over the last year. The average price of coffee is now up nearly 8% compared to last year, while the price of the inedible bread most of us eat is up 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IT’S AFTER DARK IN MENDO? THE DRUG PEOPLE ARE DRIVING AROUND WITH A TAILLIGHT OUT.
On Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 11:01 P.M., Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were on routine patrol in the area of North State Street and Pinecrest Drive, in Redwood Valley.
While there, they observed a vehicle traveling northbound on North State Street. The Deputies observed a lighting violation on the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop.
The Deputies contacted the driver, who they identified as Shayla Guerrero, 31, of Ukiah, and a passenger. The Deputies performed a records check on Guerrero and learned she was on active formal probation.
As the Deputies were talking to Guerrero, they learned she had drug paraphernalia inside her vehicle. The Deputies conducted a probation search of her vehicle and found three glass pipes. Due to their training and experience, the Deputies knew these pipes were consistent with pipes used to ingest methamphetamine.
The Deputies arrested Guerrero for Felony Violation of Probation and Misdemeanor Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Guerrero was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail.
In accordance with the COVID-19 emergency order issued by the State of California Judicial Council, bail was set at zero dollars and Youngwas released after the jail booking process, on her signed promise to appear in court at a later date.
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 4, 2021
JOEL ALVAREZ-LOPEZ, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
JAMIE ARMSTRONG, Comptche. Failure to appear.
RICKIE CURTIS, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
MATTHEW FAUST, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
WILLIAM HUGHES, Willits. Petty theft, probation revocation.
JODY MCCOY, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
PATRISHA MOODY, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
CHERRI ROBERTS, Ukiah. Contempt of court. (Frequent flyer.)
MIGUEL SANDOVAL-ROMERO, Gualala. DUI. no license, suspended license for DUI, probation revocation.
AUSTIN SUNDBERG, Galesberg, Illinois/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ANOTHER WATER SAVER
There is another obvious water saving tip that should be added to the list published on April 25. During COVID, we are all washing our hands for 20 seconds; perhaps as many as 10 times a day. If we let the water run, billions of gallons could be wasted across the country. So, wet your hands, turn off the water, soap your hands, wash, turn on the water and rinse. This seems like common sense, but I bet most people just let the water run.
DARE WE HOPE? HERE’S MY CAUTIOUS CASE FOR CLIMATE OPTIMISM
by Rebecca Solnit
The Green New Deal, formerly seen as radical, is now in mainstream debate. And renewable energy becomes more efficient every day
MORNINGS IN MAZATLAN
by Paul Theroux
Sunday morning in Mazatlan, no traffic, only a few joggers and dog walkers on the decaying corniche in the centro historico, the old part of town, still too early for anyone to be headed to work. I was welcomed at La Siesta, my seafront hotel (oceanview room, $53). On its facade, a plaque memorializing Jack Kerouac’s visit to the town, to this very spot (not "En memoria a su estancia en estas playas"), with a long quotation.
"La unica gente que me interesa esta que esta loca, la gente que esta local por vivir, loca por hablar, loca por salvarse," it began, and anyone who has read On the Road will easily recognize it as the mission statement of the man who inspired my generation to hit the road: "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved." (The end of the book, seldom quoted, was a soberer reflection: "Nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody, besides the forlorn rags of growing old." A condition that Kerouac was never to know, dying in Florida at the age of 47.)
Kerouac had gone to Mazatlan, like me, from Arizona by bus, the same route, though in 1951 it would have been a slower trip. He did not stay in Mazatlan, he left the same day for Mexico City to see William Burroughs. I lingered for three days of pure idleness, liking the seedy charm of the old city and cheered by the families on the promenade -- and the children, the lovers, the drinkers, the strollers. This end of town, on Olas Altas (High Waves) Beach, was an enclave in which Mexicans themselves were tourists, or else visited from nearby.
"They came from the colonias -- some of them from far away -- for the breeze here," a woman told me, explaining the campesinos seated on the sea wall.
There are two Mazatlans. One is the centro historico, with its market and churches and the Teatro Angela Peralta -- built in 1874, for opera, boxing, movies, and plays; restored in 1992 as a venue for local musicians and dramatists and dancers -- it's all plazas and small bistros hospitable to locals. The other flashier golden Mazatlan, the Zona Dorada, six miles up the beach at the top end of town with its grand hotels and resorts is dismissed by locals as the destination of rich gringos and financed to launder drug money as a man told me with a dismissive laugh: "Dinero lavar!"
It is rare in Mexico to meet someone who has no family connection to the United States. Many Mexicans I met -- working in hotels, restaurants and shops, driving taxis -- had held jobs in the states and been thrown out. In the tale told most often, they had been summoned to Mexico for a family emergency and had been unable to return.
Liliana had slipped over the border and made beds in a hotel in Colorado for a year, then worked in a restaurant for a second year. She told me she'd been paid well and she remembered the generous tips in the restaurant.
"I came home because my mother was dying," she said. "Now I can't get back." She thought a moment -- and looked aged in her reflection. "If I had $5,000 I could get a visa or pay the Mafia to help me cross. But I will never have that money."
Making beds in a good hotel full-time in Mazatlan, Liliana earned 700 pesos a week, about $35. Her husband had left her; her children were grown. She was resigned to a life of poorly paid work, just getting by.
Her mention of the Mafia prompted my next question.
"There are four here." And she shrugged. "They don't bother me." Ellos no me molestan.
"They fight with each other," Miguel told me on the bus, "and with the police."
Because Mazatlan is a busy and important seaport, the cartels contend for control of its port, essential (and notorious) for moving drugs north. Just a few months before, 13 tons of cocaine, hidden in barrels of hot sauce and destined to be offloaded at Mazatlan, were intercepted down the coast at Manzanillo.
THE WORLD CHANGED when the Suez Canal reopened after the Six Day war. The changes in shipping were mainly to do with size. Everything about ships got bigger, and bigger, and bigger again. The need to go round the Cape of Good Hope, and face those legendarily terrible storms was in itself an argument for larger, more capable ships. The growing importance of Arabian oil for Western economies, combined with the closure of the Suez Canal, increased the size of tankers still further: first in the form of very large crude carriers (VLCC), and then ultra large crude carriers (ULCC). Financial innovations were involved in the development of these vessels. Aristotle Onassis, one of the driving forces behind the gargantuanization of ships, would begin by chartering a new ship to an oil company that needed transportation capacity but preferred not to own the assets involved, since it saw itself as being in the oil business rather than the shipping business. Having sold the charter, Onassis would use the promised revenue to ensure the ship; then he would use the insurance as the guarantee that would secure the loan he needed to get the ship built. It is a beautiful little story about capital's ability to generate more capital: you could say that the ship, nonexistent at the start of the process, wills itself into being through the magic of finance.
The closure of the Canal between 1967 and 1975 had many political consequences too. It contributed to the switch from the decolonizing moment of the 1960s to the reactionary petro-politics that followed and it helped end the significance of the Port of Aden. It had boomed because of its utility for the British who maneuvered not very scrupulously on its behalf; in 1955 the British prevented Sharjah from being developed into a port in order to preserve Aden’s pre-eminence. Once the gulf states began to become oil-rich, and the British left, Aden was, from an economic point of view, doomed. "The decline of the port of Aden demonstrates that despite natural advantages, a deep harbor and a strategically fortuitous location, a port can be made to wither and fade away. Jebel Ali in Dubai is now the biggest port in the Middle East and the only one of the world's top 10 container ports not in east or southeast Asia. Dubai Ports World, which bought the historic British firm P&O in 2006, is now one of the biggest port operators in the world, owning, among other many other assets, Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe. Felixstowe, the United Kingdom's biggest, is owned by a Hong Kong-based conglomerate, CK Hutcheson. Global shipping is now dominated by Asia and Asian companies.
Along with oil tankers, the other type of ship that has grown bigger and bigger since the 1960s is the giant Ever Given category: the container vessel. It is difficult to overstate the importance of the container in the modern economy. Containers are the force which has driven the cost of shipping down and then further down and then down so low that it has in effect abolished itself as an economic factor. The remarkable thing about the story of the container is that it is such a simple idea that almost anyone could have had it -- anyone who has ever tidied up children's toys, for instance. The idea is that stuff is more manageable if you shove it into a box. That's it.
— John Lanchester, Gargantuanization. London Review of Books.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Just going from memory Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross second class for protecting a German officer from enemy fire along with a couple of other dispatch runners. That was in 1914.
In 1918 Hitler was given the Iron Cross first class for an act of bravery plus all round great performance, a very rare award for a soldier of Hitler’s low rank.
According to what I read, his commanding officers gave Hitler and another soldier in Hitler’s squad the tough jobs because they knew that Hitler and his comrade would get them done. Hitler was very dependable and an exemplary soldier except that he couldn’t get the knack of standing at attention. His head was always askew. And he couldn’t give brief soldierly answers to questions. And he was judged no leader of men. When offered promotion Hitler turned it down.
He was wounded twice. Once by an artillery shell and once by poison gas and hospitalized both times. In a nutshell, that was Hitler in WW1 as an ordinary soldier.
PEACE ON THE KENT STATE 51ST
by Laurel Krause
Dear friends of the Kent State Truth Tribunal,
Remarkably, May 4th marks the 51st anniversary of the Kent State massacre. As always, the most encouraging part of this annual event is the community we have assembled in remembrance of this day and the enduring commitment to build peace. Thank you for joining me each year to remember those we have lost to take pride in our shared pursuit of the truth about Kent State.
For the 51st anniversary, we have re-launched our website to keep you apprised of our activities with the Kent State Truth Tribunal. The anniversary coincides with my sister Allison’s 70th birthday and the site features a letter I wrote to her for the occasion.
On the 50th Kent State page you will find treasures from many different sources that commemorate the May 4, 1970 Kent State killings - videos, transcripts and stories in which many of you have participated. The Kent State Truth Tribunal continues to explore Kent State’s meaning to you, our core community, and the United States more broadly, then and now.
Our United Nations page chronicles our efforts for accountability and truth at Kent State before the UN Human Rights Committee which, as you may know, compelled the U.S. government to use the term “murder” for the first time to describe the Kent State killings. The UN also acknowledged that the shootings were targeted assassinations, which places a particular burden of responsibility on the state. In the coming days, the Kent State Truth Tribunal will return to the UN for the U.S. 5th periodic review, where we will continue to press for an acknowledgment of responsibility for extrajudicial killings on the part of the United States.
The Truth Tribunal will continue to pursue its work in documenting and memorializing the events that took place at Kent State and your support is very much appreciated.
Thank you for reviewing the Kent State Truth Tribunal website and for joining us in our pursuit of truth and our quest for peace.
With best wishes to all,
Co-founder and Director, Kent State Truth Tribunal
VITAL SOIL ORGANISMS being harmed by pesticides, study shows
Pesticides are causing widespread damage to the tiny creatures that keep soils healthy and underpin all life on land, according to the first comprehensive review of the issue.
The researchers found the measured impacts of farm chemicals on earthworms, beetles, springtails and other organisms were overwhelmingly negative. Other scientists said the findings were alarming, given the importance of these “unsung heroes.”
RESOLVED: THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS DYING
by Matt Taibbi
In April, I joined in a debate with Ben Bradlee, Jr., the estimable onetime senior editor at my hometown Boston Globe and former overseer of the prestigious Spotlight team. For movie buffs who are wondering, Ben was played by John Slattery in the Best Picture-winning film.
The Munk Debates are a project of the Aurea Foundation, a Canadian charity. Their aim is “to help the world rediscover the art of civil and substantive public debate by convening the brightest thinkers of our time to weigh in on the big issues of the day.”
The issue Mr. Bradlee and I respectfully debated came in the form of a resolution:
Be it resolved: the mainstream media is dying, and that’s OK.
I was asked to argue the proside of this debate. I could have argued either way, honestly. But there is something to the idea that the mainstream media is dying for a reason, and innovation is now badly needed, so I tried to explore that angle.
It turned out to be a lively discussion. To hear the audio, click through here: https://twitter.com/munkdebate/status/1385269364157554689
Below, some of the excerpts from the debate have been transcribed. I should note that I have great respect for Ben, so what might have been a nastier exchange with a different media opponent turned into more of a productive, thoughtful discussion. But, still interesting! Some of the key exchanges of the discussion, moderated by Rudyard Griffiths:
Rudyard Griffiths: One of the key public goods that the media provides is investigative reporting, public accountability journalism. It's expensive. It takes time. It takes training. It takes a methodology. And it's arguably critical to the role of The Estate to hold power to account.
Matt, in your universe, with the death of mainstream media and the rise of platforms like the ones you're on, Substack — how is that critical public good function going to be fulfilled and why would we have any faith that it would be fulfilled with the same quality and attention to detail and concern for the facts that traditional mainstream outlets like Ben's former employer The Boston Globe bring to that critical public service of investigative reporting?
Matt Taibbi: For nearly 15 years, I was one of the few people in the country that had a traditional full-time investigative reporting job. I would get an assignment from Rolling Stone and be told to go off and work for two or three months on a story about an arcane topic like credit default swaps, or the ratings agencies on Wall Street. I would have to come back with a 6,000- or 7,000-word story that would have to be fact-checked from beginning to end, every line. These are expensive endeavors. They cost a lot for the companies, and there’s also a lot of logistical work that goes into them.
In the Internet age, when everybody's revenue is tied to content, and people are surfing constantly, it's very difficult to financially justify that kind of work. You can get the same financial return from a 200-word article or a tweet or especially a viral video. Companies are very tempted to forgo that kind of investment. They've figured out that audiences, for the most part, don't require it in the same way that they used to. And so, people are no longer really investing in that kind of work with the same passion. It's a serious problem. Where are we going to find people to do those massive exposes anymore?
You might remember, a couple of years ago, the New York Times did a gazillion-word expose on Donald Trump's finances. It was well done, the kind of thing that once upon a time would've galvanized the entire country for a while, maybe a week, two weeks. But though that piece lit up the internet for about a day and a half, it petered out and was replaced by other stories. That newspapers can't afford that anymore. They can't afford to put that much work in and not get that big of a return.
Griffiths: Ben, in your career, which is a storied one, you were the editor at The Boston Globe, responsible for the paper's really important reporting on the Roman Archdiocese of Boston and its serial cover-ups of children being abused by priests.
How, in this new kind of world that Matt is part of, is any of that public accountability journalism going to happen? Or, do we just accept that it goes away, and we leave this all to law enforcement and the FBI to figure out?
Ben Bradlee Jr.: No, no, we shouldn't abandon it. This stuff is near and dear to my heart. I think this is mainly tied to the lack of resources that newspapers have anymore. I mentioned earlier the loss of half of the nation's newsrooms in the last 10 or 15 years. So increasingly, especially the local and regional papers are viewing investigative reporting as a luxury they can no longer afford, as Matt alluded to.
This takes time. The Spotlight team that I used to oversee at The Globe has four reporters. They're sequestered in another part of the newsroom, and they can often take up to a year on a project. But these days, with fewer and fewer resources and fewer reporters able to put out the paper anymore, I think many editors are viewing investigative reporting as a luxury they can't afford.
Griffiths: Probably the seminal media event of the Trump era was the ongoing investigation of the president and his campaign regarding the possibility of illegal dealings with the Russian government, vis-a-vis, assistance in the 2016 election. There was a lot of controversy around that investigation. What did it actually reveal?
Ben Bradlee Jr.: Well, it wasn't a witch-hunt. I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that the Mueller report came up with the overarching finding of systematic Russian interference in the 2016 election and cited about 10 specific examples of obstruction of justice.
The Mueller report documented dozens and dozens of interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. So just because Mueller didn't sign off on a formal conspiracy blessed by Putin doesn't mean that there wasn't... And Matt has lived and worked in Russia, I know. That's not how it's done. It's outsourced to operatives in troll farms.
Griffiths: Thanks. Matt, your take?
Taibbi: I would disagree with Ben a little on this. I think it was a very damaging episode for the media, even just at the level of the constant predictions that this investigation would result in the end of the Trump presidency.
We heard, over and over again, newscasts leading off with segments saying things like, "Is this the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency?" We had anchors saying things like, "Trump is done. It's over." There was a widespread expectation that was raised in audiences across the aisle that when Mueller delivered his report that it was going to result in Trump leaving office. When that didn't happen, I think it was a shock to a lot of people.
We also saw the spectacle of people in the news business openly rooting for that outcome, which I think was unseemly, especially since we got it wrong. For a lot of people who aren't confirmed Democrats, that situation looked really bad, and I think media people underestimate the reputational damage it caused.
Rudyard Griffiths: One of the features we've seen recently in a lot of mainstream media is intramural warfare breaking out within papers and between journalists around what is permitted debate, what is permitted reporting?
Matt, you're doing a lot of writing on this through Substack and your newsletter. I think it would be interesting for our audience to hear a bit more from you about why you think this is a really pernicious feature of mainstream media today and something that you think heralds its demise.
Taibbi: Some of the best investigative reporters that we had when I was growing up were basically impossible people, but that's how they became the reporters that they were. They were relentless, dogged, distrustful, suspicious, and were not team players. That was part of the character make-up of a good investigative reporter — lone-wolf types who were more devoted to seeking the truth than they were to getting social rewards or acclaim from within the organization.
In modern newsrooms, especially in the last four or five years, the intellectual diversity that I think was normal in a newsroom once upon a time is vanishing, and there is an expectation, especially among younger reporters, that everybody is going to be a team player, that they're going to be devoted to pursuing the same ideological framework.
We've had a lot of controversies within news organizations where one or two reporters will try to report something, and the rest of the newsroom will revolt. We've had episodes in organizations like The Nation where somebody has done a story and the rest of the newsroom will write a letter to the editor. There have been similar episodes at The Intercept and other places.
Reporters feel: if I don't write something that the rest of the newsroom agrees with, I'm going to end up with a problem. That's resulted in a lot of conformity, and an unwillingness to go anywhere near where the perceived line of debate might be. It's also made people unwilling to go near an unpopular opinion.
Take the Bountygate story. There were a lot of people who worked in the news business who thought, "Where's the proof?" If you look at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, they did a story about that right away last year, saying, "We don't see the evidence for this." But within news organizations, the commercial ones, there weren't those voices, because people were probably afraid to be perceived as making a pro-Trump comment. In fact, that isn’t what it would have been. You're actually just trying to be accurate.
It was always been that way on Fox News and in right-wing media, but it's increasingly also a feature of news on the other side now, and that has created a problem.
Griffiths: Ben, let's hear from you on that.
Bradlee Jr.: I think in many cases, political correctness has run amok at some of the bigger papers. Notably, there was the Tom Cotton affair, when the senator from Arkansas wrote an op-ed at The New York Times, which caused an internal uprising and got the op-ed editor fired. That's too much. We can't have the thought police intervening to that extent.
Griffiths: Let's go to closing statements. So Ben, your opportunity, two minutes on the clock just to sum up the key points you want to leave our audience with. Our resolution that we've been debating today is, Be it resolved: The mainstream media is dying and that's OK. You've been speaking against the motion. Let's have your concluding remarks.
Bradlee Jr.: I think eliminating any media or wishing any media dies is wrong. I think the more voices we can get at this point, the better. The business models of the mainstream newspapers will change, and have. I think that the key thing is how do we come together on defining facts, so that there is less of a chasm between left and right on this? And that despite mistakes that are always made, that means trying to make those more and more rare, so that one side can't more easily scoff at the other, and more diligent fact-checking. This is part of the partisan divide that we now live in, and I hope that there can be more of a coming together around what constitutes a fact.
Griffiths: Thanks, Ben. Now, Matt, we're going to give you the last word. Be it resolved: The mainstream media is dying and that's OK. You've been arguing in favor of the motion.
Taibbi: In the best-case scenario, I would hope that the mainstream media didn't die or lose its authority. But I think we're heading into a situation where something has to change dramatically.
We’ve talked about news deserts in this country. We've lost thousands of local newspapers since the early 2000s. The situation has resulted in a major class schism in journalism, because so many of those local news reporters in those smaller papers — these aren't rich people. They're not children of privilege. They don't have a lot of money, but they served a very valuable role in small communities and they reported on things that were important to ordinary people. And also, they were in touch with the people in their own community because they live there.
What's happened with the disappearance of those types of organizations is that the only thing left is the national news media, which increasingly — and I watched this process happen because I've been in the business — it's increasingly made up of people like me who are upper-class white folks from big cities of the coast, of the East Coast and California.
If you go on the plane on the campaign trail, most of the people on the plane now are graduates of Ivy League universities. They live in rarefied areas of expensive, cosmopolitan neighborhoods. Socially, they see themselves as being the same people as the politicians they're reporting on. That's a terrible situation. I think that it's an underrated problem within modern news media. It's lost some touch with mass audiences — in part because they're no longer the people who are covering the affairs of ordinary people.
WHAT WOULD MAKE the current shortlist for the title of World's Most Ludicrously Inappropriate Book? Donald Trump's Guide to Diplomacy? The Art of Protecting One's Privacy by the Kardashian Sisters? Why Marriage is for Keeps by Bill and Melinda Gates? These would all be good contenders were it not for the announcement this afternoon that Meghan Markle has written a book called ‘The Bench’ about the very special bond between father and child. Sorry, WHAT? I laughed out loud when the news broke via her ecstatic publishers, and even louder when I read the accompanying gush-laden statements. Ms Markle has ruthlessly disowned her father Thomas and refuses to have anything to do with him despite the fact they now live just 70 miles from each other. She also spray-gunned Thomas in her lie-packed Oprah whine-a-thon in a manner that was more “ice, rage and irritation” than “warmth, joy and comfort.” As for Harry, he trashed his father Prince Charles in the same interview, moaning about how Daddy had stopped taking his calls or giving him cash, sounding like some needy spoiled brat teenager rather than a 36-year-old multi-millionaire doormat who ditched his family, country and duty because his chillingly controlling and ambitious wife wanted him to. And unforgivably, he did this as Charles was desperately worried about HIS father, Prince Philip, who was lying seriously ill in hospital and later died. How does any of this sit with Meghan's misty-eyed tribute to “the warmth, joy and comfort of the relationship between fathers and sons”? Very, very uneasily, I would suggest. The whole notion of Meghan Markle dishing out advice to anyone about the relationship between fathers and children is absolutely ridiculous given the appalling relationships she and her husband have with their own fathers.
— Piers Morgan
THE LIFE & TIMES OF ALLEN GINSBERG
by Arthur Winfield Knight (1997)
My wife Kit and I met Allen Ginsberg during the Bicentennial Summer. He was teaching at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, but we saw him again in San Francisco, in Pittsburgh and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and — several times — in Boulder again.
Allen also spent three days in California, Pennsylvania, where we were living in the 80s, when he came to a writers conference we hosted at the university where I taught. He had a key to our house and spent hours there, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, being interviewed and talking — with James Drought and Mark Harris and Diane Wakoski — Allen was always talking, and I wondered how well he listened.
Ginsberg said he was surprised I wasn’t an “old graybeard” when we met him that first summer, although I’d told him I was 37 when I’d talked to him on the phone the previous year, and I’d imagined he’d have guessed my age due to the remarks I’d made about growing up during the 50s.
Kit and I probably spent as much time with Allen as we did with any of the Beats, with the possible exception of John Clellon Holmes, but I never felt I knew Ginsberg. And now that I’ve seen Jerry Aronson’s documentary, ‘The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg,’ I still don’t feel I know him.
If you’d asked the “real” Ginsberg to stand up, who would you have seen? Someone in an Uncle Sam suit, a bearded poet or a distinguished full professor wearing a tie with a Levi jacket and sneakers who taught at Brooklyn College? He was an enigma, and he knew how to manipulate people, even his biographers. Perhaps, especially, his biographers.
One book dealing with Ginsberg’s life is titled Dharma Lion, and it’s easy to imagine Allen feeding the author information, telling him, “This is how it was. This is what it meant.”
Driving Ginsberg to the Pittsburgh Airport when the conference had ended, I said I wouldn’t want to interview him, and he wondered why.
It was because he controlled the people who tried to talk with him, and there’s an instance of that in Aronson’s film. Allen’s being interviewed by William Buckley, and when Buckley asks the first question, Allen says, “Why don’t I read a poem?” and he does.
Ginsberg seemed to have a set agenda, a number of topics he liked to address — gay rights, the war in Vietnam, the impact friends such as Burroughs and Huncke had on his work, and the CIA — and I thought he hid behind the speeches he gave. It was as if he didn’t know how to be spontaneous. Although he liked to tell young writers, “first thought, best thought,” I wondered if he ever said anything without revising it — first — in his mind.
I often thought everything he did was calculated, even his walk down to the bank of the Monongahela River, where he knelt and asked for the river’s “blessing,” before he left Pennsylvania. Even the red rose he wore behind his right ear, the one my wife picked for him each morning, was there for effect.
I had the feeling Ginsberg hid behind facts and statistics, but he seemed to hide behind people, too; I don’t think he was ever alone. And when I watched him teach a class, there was almost no discussion; he fed students information, but answered questions warily. Despite his fame and his supposed openness, I sensed he was a private person: shy, vulnerable. But there’s no sense of that in Aronson’s film.
Allen would say things such as, “I’ve been getting a lot of love,” but the comments were always amorphous. What did “a lot of love” mean? When I asked how many unfiltered Camels he smoked each day, he said I shouldn’t be too hard on Kit for smoking (she’s since quit) and I knew that was as much of an answer as I was going to get.
Once or twice, in all our conversations, Allen seemed candid. I know he was annoyed when I asked if he felt contemporary poetry should be more optimistic, even positive. He seemed to suggest that in a letter he’d written Charles Plymell about The Trashing of America, I told him, but his eyes flashed over his drink and he said, “That isn’t what I said.” Maybe not, but it seemed to be the gist of what he’d said. But maybe I’d misinterpreted him, maybe it was just late and we’d all had too little sleep and too much to drink.
The people who talk about Allen on camera — Michael McClure, William Burroughs, Herbert Huncke, even Chogyam Trungpa, Ginsberg’s guru — tend to canonize him. There’s no hint that Allen was anything but a saint.
Curiously, one of Ginsberg’s closest, oldest friends, John Clellon Holmes, is never mentioned. John and Allen met in New York right after World War II, when Ginsberg was attending Columbia with Jack Kerouac, and Holmes was the first writer to use the word “beat” in print, and he wrote ‘Go,’ the first beat novel, so one wonders about his absence in the film.
By the time Kerouac died in 1969, Holmes and Ginsberg had known each other for more than two decades. I thought it was strange when John told me they’d never been photographed together until they were pallbearers at Jack’s funeral in Lowell, Massachusetts on a dismal October afternoon.
The two of them were standing beside Kerouac’s grave, their heads bowed, when Kerouac’s biographer, Ann Charters, snapped the picture, and you can see the pain in their faces. It’s more real, unrehearsed, than anything Aronson shows us.
(ED NOTE: Arthur Winfield Knight was the AVA’s weekly movie reviewer for about two decades in the 90s and 2000s. He is the author of several books and novels including “The Secret Life of Jesse James.” Born in San Francisco in 1937, he died in Nevada in 2012.)