Heat Ahead | 7 New Cases | Water Hauling | Mill Creek | Mask Guidance | Toad Rescue | County Closures | 10% Referendum | Country Women | Skunk Ahoy | Directive Ignored | Airport Waiting | Driver Killed | Human Library | Ed Notes | Early Pinata | Window Doggie | Pomo Kids | Covid Protocol | Rail Audit | Restrictions End | Yesterday's Catch | The Prevention | Opening Mistake | Saucer Lift | NATO Expansion | Cancel All | Cheaply Corrupt | Southern Justice | Water Crisis | Cuckoos | Meier Interview | 2x4 Seeds
HIGH PRESSURE ALOFT will build across the area from the four corners region during the last half of the week, bringing triple digit interior heat for the latter portion of this week. Dry conditions are expected. (NWS)
7 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
RUMOR MILLS & WINDMILLS
by Jim Shields
According to an AVA post by Rye N Flint, “Local rumor mill has it that Jim Shields permitted 24 out-of-county water trucks to fill up in Laytonville last year and supposedly drive our water to Humboldt? Any truth to that?”
First I’ve heard of it, so it better not be true.
Secondly, in the 20 years I’ve been with the Laytonville County Water District, I don’t believe we’ve ever had even 24 Mendocino County water trucks on our water hauler roster, let alone 24 water tenders from Humboldt County or any other county for that matter. On a temporary basis ranging from a single day to several weeks, we do have a few extra water trucks for highway and road construction, dust suppression, general construction, wildland fires, specialty entertainment events and festivals, and well drilling.
This year there are 15 water trucks on the water hauler roster, which is the approximate historic average over the years.
At the Laytonville County Water District we actually enforce our rules, one of which is our water cannot leave Mendocino County. If any water hauler violates that rule, their water hauling privileges are permanently revoked. If anyone has information regarding this issue please contact our office at (707) 984-6444 or email me at email@example.com. I will also re-post a notice reminding water haulers of the rule and the penalties if violated.
We also investigate complaints from citizens regarding water haulers and take corrective action including suspension, revocation, and issuing cease and desist orders. In fact, we still have a prohibition order on water deliveries over a bridge south of Laytonville that was issued last Fall. Unlike the County we actually enforce our Ordinances.
To the best of my knowledge, there are only two water agencies in this County that provide regulated, i.e. legal, water deliveries on a regular basis, the city of Willits and my agency, the Laytonville County Water District. It’s my understanding that Willits currently provides reclaimed wastewater for its haulers, while my agency provides treated water. We’re in a fortunate situation because our aquifer is recharged with only one-half of our annual historical rainfall of about 66 inches. We use approximately 1.5 percent of our aquifer annually or about 60 million gallons, including approximately 5 million gallons of delivery sales.
I want to take a moment and point out that during the historic 2012-17 Drought, the District was not ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) to impose mandatory minimum water cuts of 25% on our customers because the District provided evidence of a reliable source of water from an aquifer that recharges annually. However, during that period the District approved two separate water conservation plans that impose year-round restrictions on outdoor irrigation and watering. While one set of rules, the “Two-Day Rule” is more severe than the “7-Day Rule”, both were employed at different times during the 2012-17 Drought.
However since 2017, restrictions on outdoor irrigation/watering remain in effect permanently, with the so-called “7-Day Rule” in full application year-round. Both rules result in substantial water conservation with the 7-Day Rule at approximately 10%-plus and the 2-Day Rule in excess of 20%.
As I’ve written in many columns and discussed numerous times on my radio show, even though I don’t grow or smoke pot, my private sector newspaper, the Mendocino County Observer, benefits from pot revenues, as does the public sector water agency that I manage. On an annual basis, approximately two-thirds of Water District income is derived from cannabis-growing residential customers, a number of pot-related commercial businesses, and out-of-district weed cultivators. Again these are all things that I’ve written and spoken about very frequently over the years. It’s one of the main reasons I want to make sure this County has a workable Cannabis Ordinance.
Probably close to ninety percent of water trucks on the road are bootleg operations that obtain their water illegally. These outlaws are responsible for nearly all of the illegal activities and damaged infrastructure associated with the “trucked-in water” complained about by the public. The County is aware of this situation but has always “looked the other way,” just as they’ve recently admitted they’ve done all along with illegal grows.
To a large degree this whole issue of water deliveries was created by the County because they have allowed parcels to be developed without any proof of a water source except in the instance of a major use permit where the owner/developer is required to “estimate” daily water usage. If that estimate exceeds 1,500 gallons per day a hydrological study is required. If the estimate is below that, presumably no study is required.
Remember a couple of years ago, when most likely in response to several columns I had written about “you can’t grow weed without water,” Supe Carre Brown said, “We have enough checks and balances on water.” I then wrote a follow-up column asking, “Just what exactly are these checks and balances?” The question, of course, went unanswered.
Just as a side note, one of the reasons our Small Is Beautiful Referendum coalition is not attempting to repeal the entire Pot Ordinance, as the so-called Drell Referendum would do, is because about 90 percent of it is a workable Ordinance with numerous needed protections, including there has to be a proven water source on the property or a hydrological study must be performed prior to drilling a well to determine if it will impact neighbors’ water sources.
We agree with the vast majority of County residents that the Ordinance’s main flaw obviously is the 10 percent Expansion provision which our Small Is Beautiful Referendum will repeal. Eliminate expansion, you eliminate the water use that goes with it. Enforce the Ordinance by eliminating the thousands of un-permitted and the outright illegal grows, and you eliminate the water use that goes with them. Of course for that scenario to succeed, it assumes — always a dangerous practice — that the County actually enforces a Referendum-cleansed New Ordinance. Even at that, it will take approximately five years to complete the job.
In response to Kirk Vodopals’ question about whether I have ever proposed waiving taxes for mom and pop growers, no I haven’t proposed that, but I have long proposed waiving all fees and charges for applicants seeking a County permit. Here’s why.
Twelve years ago, the Laytonville Water District stopped charging for so-called hook-up fees, which amounted to several thousand dollars. We had lots of property owners who had wells so they refused to be connected to city water because they didn’t want to pay hook-up fees, which were actually pretty reasonable. I told our Water Board if we eliminated our hook-up fees, most of the property owners would connect to the town system. While we’d lose that income in the short term, we’d gain income long-term because the former non-customers were now permanent, year around paying customers. The initial loss of income was more than made up after two years, if not sooner depending on water usage. The same thing would occur with the County’s Pot Program.
Initial application fees and charges would be lost but they would be made back over a short period of time because as legal, permitted cultivators they would be paying annual taxes instead of hiding out as non-compliant growers put off by pricey fees and charges.
I’ve always believed you can give a thousand reasons not to do something, but you only need one reason to do it.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)
KEEPING MILL CREEK ALIVE. Kathy Bailey writes:
“On Monday, June 14, I peered over the Steve Williams Bridge on Nash Mill Road to observe what the flow looks like in Mill Creek.
In years past it might have looked like this in September, but considering the epic drought, I was happy to see that it was at least flowing some. This view is upstream from the confluence with Little Mill so it may be a little bit better downstream from there. Or not. Linda MacElwee of the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, along with partners from the Nature Conservancy, have been spearheading a multi year effort to keep flows connected in Mill Creek, which haas documented coho salmon presence. Their efforts have included helping residents get off-stream storage tanks to fill from rainfall or during the rainy season, and a voluntary cooperative effort last year to stagger diversions, so those who do pump from the creek weren’t all doing so at once.
The project has stream-flow monitors in place in several locations. These efforts are, no doubt, helping to keep water flowing in Mill Creek. But there’s only so much one can do in the face of multi-year extreme drought.”
PUBLIC NOTICE: MENDOCINO COUNTY FACE COVERING ORDER GUIDANCE
The risk for COVID-19 exposures and infections will remain in California beyond June 15th, and the continued use of face coverings helps prevent COVID-19 transmission. California’s updated Face Coverings Guidance is summarized below. The purpose of this guidance is to protect those members of our community who are still vulnerable (those who are not vaccinated, children less than 12 years old, and those who are immunocompromised). For those people, wearing a face covering properly protects themselves and others, particularly in indoor settings.
Current Orders for Mendocino County follow the state guidelines:
• Everyone must wear face coverings in the following settings:
o On public transit and in transit hubs
o In hospitals
o In nursing homes and long-term care facilities
o In homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers
o Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare, and other youth settings
- Unvaccinated individuals are required to wear face coverings in indoor public settings and businesses such as retail, restaurants, theaters, meetings, and state & local government offices serving the public
- Fully vaccinated people do not need to wear face coverings in these settings. Any business may still require face coverings if they choose
Business owners/operators and venue operators have 3 choices to comply with this Order and they should post whichever method they use:
1. Require everyone to wear face coverings
2. Allow vaccinated people to self-attest that they are vaccinated
3. Use a method of verification for vaccinated people such as showing their vaccine card, a photo-copy or digital proof
No person can be prevented from wearing a face covering. People who are exempt from wearing face coverings include:
- children less than 2 years old
- people who have a medical or mental health condition or disability
- others (including hearing impaired) for whom a mask would cause an increased risk
In workplaces, employers are subject to Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Standards, and should consult those regulations for additional requirements.
ANDERSON VALLEY'S LAST FROG?
Rescued today (Tuesday) from our water tank.
“Good luck, Froggy. Stay out of the sun, and away from the chemically-soaked vineyards, and you might make it.”
MENDOCINO COUNTY DEPARTMENT CLOSURES
As of today, June 15, 2021, the Mendocino County Elected Officials and Department Heads are authorized to continue to close their departments to the public, as the most appropriate means of protecting the health of their employees while still providing essential public services. Cal/OSHA regulates the safety requirements for the Mendocino County workplace and has not lifted the current requirement for masking and social distancing regardless of vaccination status or the state reopening. Further guidance by Cal/OSHA is anticipated after June 17, 2021.
Below are the office closures as of Tuesday, June 15, 2021 at 12:00 p.m.:
|Agriculture||Limited public access/by appointment.|
|Air Quality||Open for both appointments and walk in with masks and social distancing guidelines are still in effect.|
|Animal Care Services - Ukiah||Limited public access/by appointment.Limited volunteers allowed at this time.|
|Animal Care Services – Fort Bragg||Limited public access/by appointment.Limited volunteers allowed at this time.|
|Assessor/Clerk-Recorder||Limited public access/by appointment.|
|Auditor-Controller||Limited public access/by appointment.|
|Child Support Services||Limited public access.|
|County Counsel||Closed to public.|
|Cultural Services Agency||Library Branches are open 6 hours daily from Tuesday through Saturday:The Bookmobile is open according to the COVID schedule with limited capacity while the windows and doors can remain open.Curbside pickup at all Library Branches is available upon request for those who don't want to wear masks or enter the libraryMendocino County Museum - open 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Wed - Fri, and 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm Sat & SunAll visitors to the Library Branches, the Bookmobile, and the Museum are required to wear masks and social distancing is requested.|
|District Attorney||Currently open for all services.|
|Executive Office||Limited public access/by appointment.|
|Health & Human Services Agency(HHSA)||All HHSA reception areas have limited public access/by appointment.|
|Human Resources||Limited public access/by appointment.|
|Retirement Association||Limited public access/by appointment.|
|Planning & Building Services||Public counter is closed except for appointments arranged by telephone or e-mail for essential services.Public can schedule an appointment, call, e-mail or mail applications and documents for processing.|
|Probation||Front doors will be open to the public. Only essential or legally mandated appointments will be allowed into the Department Lobby.Non-essential appointments will be handled by telephone as much as possible.The Willits office is not accepting appointments inside the office, however is open via appointment outside.Fort Bragg office is subject to the Ten Mile Courthouse protocols.|
|Public Defender||Currently open for all services.|
|Sheriff-Coroner||Main office in Ukiah is closed to public. Staff are working in the office. Customers can use the night lobby phone to reach staff, who will determine if services can be provided.Fort Bragg office is closed to the public.|
|Transportation||Open to the public “curbside” by appointment, arranged by phone or email from 8:00 am - 4:30pm, Monday – Friday.Appointments conducted outside Department of Transportation buildings implementing COVID-19 mitigations.Lobby drop in – drop off of mail & plans.|
|Treasurer/Tax Collector||Currently open for all services.|
|UC Cooperative Extension||Closed.|
For more information, please contact the Mendocino County Executive Office at (707) 463-4441 or email@example.com.
COUNTRY WOMEN ALBION
Deborah Silva alerts us to a major past blast: "I received an email from Beat Books, a UK website that sells a lot of hippie dippy publications and whatnot. One of the magazines offered this time is something called "Country Women" published in Albion 1973-1979. I'd never heard of it but then I've been in Amnesia County for only 17 years. With a little online searching I found that Independent Voices website has archived all but the first two issues of the magazine and they are available to read online.
REMEMBER THAT SILLY DISCUSSION the Supervisors had on Tuesday, June 9th about holding department heads personally responsible for budget-overruns in their departments?
AT THE TIME, SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS wanted the Board to simply adopt the idea on the spot since state law requires it. CEO Angelo agreed, but added that there should be some kind of appeal process. The CEO offered the example of the Sheriff being overbudget by $1.6 million, so he would get a memo from the Auditor saying that Sheriff Kendall owed the County $1.6 million, due and payable to Mendocino County forthwith. But the Sheriff should have an opportunity to appeal his $1.6 million invoice. After bouncing the idea around a while, with the vague awareness that it wasn’t as simple as just sending a bill to the offending department head, Board Chair Dan Gjerde “directed” that the question of billing the department heads for budget overruns and devising an accompanying appeal procedure be referred to the Board’s standing “General Government Committee” which, coincidentally, is made up of Supervisor Williams (chair) — the same Supervisor Williams who wanted to implement the personal responsibility for department heads policy immediately — and Supervisor Maureen Mulheren.
BY FURTHER COINCIDENCE, the General Government Committee met this Monday, June 14 and guess what was NOT on their agenda: That’s right, the personal responsibility for department heads policy question. In fact it was never even mentioned. After a ho-hum discussion of the County’s entirely irrelevant and purely academic “legislative platform” and a decisionless review of the County’s “social media policies,” the meeting was abruptly adjourned without discussion of the personal responsibility for department heads policy, nor a mention of it being on the next General Government Committee agenda — which won’t meet again until August 9, if then. (The General Government Committee has a habit of cancelling its meetings fairly often.)
OF COURSE the idea of holding Sheriff Kendall or any other department head responsible for departmental overruns is idiotic and an indication of how poorly Mendo and particularly CEO Angelo and the Supervisors manage and report on their budgets. But you’d think that at least if direction was given to refer it to “General Government,” that “General Government” would acknowledge that direction and start working on it, or at least realize how stupid it is and refer it back to the full Board. But Mendo has never taken “board direction” seriously and keeps very little track of their own “directives,” to the point that they accumulate on a list maintained by the CEO herself which has no due dates and almost all of which are listed as “in process.”
DRIVER KILLED IN ‘DEVASTATING’ HEAD-ON COLLISION on notorious stretch of Highway 101 north of Cloverdale
by Austin Murphy
Dan Norfolk lives about six miles south of Hopland, on a hillside a quarter mile above a winding stretch of Highway 101. Early Tuesday morning, from inside his house, Norfolk heard — and felt — a tremendous crash.
“I thought something heavy fell off the shelf,” said Norfolk. “Then I heard a couple booms after that.”
About 7 a.m. a motor home traveling north on the highway began drifting left, across the median, and into the southbound lanes of Highway 101, where it collided head-on with a big rig.
The motor home “basically exploded,” said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Erich Paarsch, standing on the shoulder of the highway several hours later. “The impact pushed it backwards, into the center divider.” The driver, ejected onto the roadway, died instantly, as did his dog, a pit bull mix. He was not identified by Tuesday evening.
The big rig left the roadway, rolling 80 feet down a steep embankment — those were the follow-up “booms” heard by Norfolk — coming to rest in a dry wash of the upper Russian River.
The semi driver was airlifted by Calstar ambulance helicopter to a Santa Rosa hospital with major injuries, said police. CHP had not released the name of the deceased driver by Tuesday evening.
The collision occurred just south of the volcanic outcrop known as Frog Woman Rock, which rises over the Russian River on a stretch of the highway with no barrier between north- and southbound lanes. The 15-mile stretch of highway in southern Mendocino County, between Hopland and Cloverdale, has been the site of numerous serious car wrecks over the past dozen years, several resulting in deaths.
State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, described Tuesday’s crash as “devastating — one of the worst on that highway in some time. “Our hearts go out to the families” of the deceased and injured drivers, he said.
McGuire’s office reached out to Caltrans Tuesday, gathering information after the collision. After receiving the CHP’s report on the accident, Caltrans will complete its own investigation, said the senator, focusing on potential traffic safety measures that could be implemented “to prevent another horrific accident like this from happening.”
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, he said, options could include speed radar, enhanced signage, rumble strips or “permanent or temporary barriers.”
Asked why there is no barrier on the 15-mile stretch of Highway 101 from Commisky Station Road to Hopland, Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss explained that decisions on where to place barriers are based “on statistics. We always analyze accident rates, injuries and fatalities, to see which areas warrant improvements.”
“We’re taking care of all of California, so there’s a lot of competition.
“A lot of times we’ll get calls asking us to do something about a particular area, and it’s not always an area that is, statistically, that bad.” If there’s another area that has higher fatality rates, “we would do that first,” he said.
In 2018, Caltrans spent $2.85 million to complete a 2.2-mile concrete and metal barrier to divide the four-lane highway a few miles south of Frog Woman Rock, after what Paarsch described as a series of “nasty fatals.” Data from 2009 to 2012 showed a fatality rate 3.5 times greater than the state average for comparable roads on that stretch of highway.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, southbound traffic on Highway 101 was backed up to Hopland, and beyond. By 11 a.m., traffic was once again moving in both directions, one lane for southbound, one for northbound.
Although the debris field stretched some 75 yards long, there was no hazardous waste, fortunately, said Paarsch. Neither of the big rig’s fuel tanks ruptured. Before the truck could be pulled up to the roadway, the diesel was pumped out of its tanks.
Performing that task was Ron Roysum and daughters Alisha Roysom and Erica Franklin. Ron is a battalion chief at the Hopland Fire Protection District. All three are co-owners of Rescue Solutions. They are, according to its website, “confined space rescue specialists.”
“Crazy stuff happens on this stretch of 101,” said Alisha, recalling the three cows that fell off a cattle truck onto the freeway a two months ago. The truck’s back gate had come open.
“We’ve had some dramatic” accidents, agreed Ron. “It’s a bad stretch of road.”
(courtesy Press Democrat)
THE COUNTY paid roughly $2 million or so out of covid money for an abandoned (and hugely depressing even when it wasn't abandoned) former medical rehab structure for the county's psych unit, the long awaited PUFF (PHF). The building is in severe disrepair. The CEO estimates it will cost Measure B money to the tune of up to $25 million and four years to build for use as a 16-bed psych facility. This building will basically be a jail for the mentally ill. The following are two comments about the Whitmore Lane site:
(1) Hey, I have a co-worker friend who works for the maintenance department. He has told me that Whitmore Lane’s entire roof is collapsed. The building is filled with food for the disaster operation Centre (doc) Stuff that's never been used. Tons of food and water and supplies. There's a golf course putting green in there right now. If you can get anybody in to get some pictures. Apparently it is so bad and it was known that this was going on before they purchased the building.
(2) The previous owner knew of the dilapidated repair of the building. That is why the building was closed and not used for so long. It needed so much for repairs they could never be done and there was never an inspection given before the hurry up purchase was done. I really question whether that's one of Carmel's friends. And Who the hell's going to be the construction crew that's going to deliver for us to put $25 million into that building? They're talking about these other agencies and they don't want any new or in better shape building or what the hell about the RCS Monopoly. It's the same thing. Everybody talks in goddamn circles.
IF BIDEN is left alone with Putin, the two of them will emerge from their secret session to announce that Russian is now the official language of the United States. It's surreal that the entire lib media present Biden as if he's a fully functioning person, a viable president for “the richest nation on earth.” Of course Biden succeeds the least plausible person in the history of the country, if not the world. But still…
THE LIB MEDIA was on Trump 24-7 while Biden, more implausible if you ask me, gets a pass. While the rest of us try to re-connect, the disconnect of a guy so clearly past it he's not allowed by his handlers to answer any questions other than those he's been prepped for, and even then he constantly screws up, here he is presented as the second coming of FDR. We joke about the Last Days and the End Times, but could the global stage be better arranged for major catastrophes?
TOOK a quick poll today, today being Mask Liberation Day. I asked random Boonville people, “How do I look without my mask?” The replies ranged from, “Better with it on,” to, “I'm going to need to see some ID.”
HIGHLY AMUSING story in last week's Independent Coast Observer called, “Uproar at Arena Cove over parking lot repair project” by reporter Bryan Cebulski. Mr. Cebulski is a new name to me, a new guy who may not be aware that the meeting he wrote up was typical of hurry-up Mendo meetings, in that many of the truculent attendees claimed not to have known the project was under consideration.
TYPICAL? Yes, Mendo people seem to require personal notification of all matters even remotely affecting them, otherwise they show up as a mob claiming they've been had. Posters and repeat newspaper announcements are insufficient notification, although this particular project has been underway for four years.
BUT SOCIAL MEDIA, that fountain of perpetual misinformation, finally roused a significant portion of PA's fog-bound population to show up in person to say that they didn't like the project which, basically, is another expensively futile attempt to shore up the Arena Cove parking area against storms, sea rise and the occasional tsunamis like the one that wiped out the previous pier area, a romantic cluster of old structures and pre-War nostalgia that many of us still miss.
ONE EXASPERATED ATTENDEE quoted by reporter Cebulski said of his experience, “It was like talking to a fucking third grader.” (The chaste editors at the ICO printed the f-bomb as “f---ing,” thus sparing everyone under the age of five major trauma.) The half-million-dollar project will go forward unless the city council steps in to stop it, which is highly unlikely given that the project manager is Richard Shoemaker, who has milked Point Arena for years, most recently as part-time city manager at $50k annually, with an assistant city manager yet! (Who has now succeeded Shoemaker.)
POINT ARENA'S population is about 450 persons. Prior to getting majorly hustled by Shoemaker, who is also a retired county supervisor out of Ukiah, Point Arena got by just fine with a town clerk.
ED NOTE: The following song, all by itself, kicked off the youth rebellions of the 1960s.
How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie's for sale
I must take a trip to California
And leave my poor sweetheart alone
If he has a dog, he won't be lonesome
And the doggie will have a good home
How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie's for sale
I read in the papers there are robbers
With flashlights that shine in the dark
My love needs a doggie to protect him
And scare them away with one bark
I don't want a bunny or a kitty
I don't want a parrot that talks
I don't want a bowl of little fishies
He can't take a goldfish for a walk
How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie's for sale
HEALTH OFFICER ISSUES UPDATE to Emergency Isolation/Quarantine Orders for COVID-19
County Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren issued new Emergency Isolation and Quarantine Orders for COVID-19 for those who test positive or are likely to have COVID-19. The updated isolation/quarantine orders go into effect June 14, 2021, and will be in effect until rescinded.
All individuals in Mendocino County diagnosed with COVID-19 or are likely to have COVID-19 are required to self-isolate themselves and follow all instructions in the Emergency Isolation Order. A person is considered to be diagnosed with or likely to have COVID-19 based on receiving a positive test result for COVID-19 or have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or have been informed by a healthcare provider are likely to have COVID-19. For a list of symptoms, please see: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/community/novel-coronavirus/health-order
The new order now requires you to communicate, cooperate and respond to calls from County Public Health Case Investigation/Contact Tracing and provide names and contact information for all close contacts.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Mendocino County Health Officer requires the above individuals to immediately self-isolate for at least 10 days in their home or residence and away from other household members as much as possible. Do not leave the place of isolation and go to private or public places, except to seek medical attention.
Individuals with a positive test who never develop symptoms must isolate for 10 days after the date of sample collection for a COVID-19 positive test. Individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must isolate until at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared or the date of sample collection for COVID-19 positive test, whichever is later. Individuals are released from isolation by individual's health care provider and/or informed they are released by Mendocino County Public Health.
Inform all close contacts to self-quarantine for 10 days after their last contact with you and refer them to home quarantine orders. People who were fully vaccinated (2 or more weeks have passed since receiving final dose) at the time of recent contact and who have not had any symptoms are not required to self-quarantine.
CALIFORNIA COVID RESTRICTIONS END WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS.
by William Miller, MD; Chief of Staff at Adventist Health – Mendocino Coast Hospital.
This week, California ended much of its COVID related restrictions bringing the state in line with the recommendations from the CDC. This is certainly a time to celebrate the success we have had in reducing the pandemic in California through these measures as well as the success in getting large numbers of the population vaccinated. However, at the same time, we should keep in mind that the pandemic is not over and that it is still going unchecked in most parts of the world due to significant limitations on vaccine availability. As a result, new variants are still developing and we may need to modify our vaccines as a result. Lastly, we may see another surge this winter and that might require reinstating some of the old restrictions. With that said, let’s look at the new changes.
Perhaps the biggest change is the removal of all capacity restrictions on businesses including restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, gyms and other entertainment venues.
Fully vaccinated persons will no longer be required to wear masks in most public settings and will not be required to social distance. Unvaccinated persons will still be required to wear a mask in indoor public settings. Fully vaccinated is defined as being at least two weeks out from getting the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
There are some important exceptions to the above. All persons, regardless of vaccination status, will still be required to wear a mask in hospitals, schools, day care, airports, airplanes, trains, buses and bus/train stations.
While the new rules remove restrictions on mask wearing and capacity limits, businesses still have the right to require masks of everyone if they choose. Businesses also have the right to require proof of vaccination as a means of entry without a mask. It is likely that this will further encourage the implementation of so called digital vaccination passports, a topic that was covered in a previous Miller Report.
Of course, anyone who is vaccinated may still wear a mask if they so choose. Mask wearing remains the most highly effective means of avoiding COVID and other respiratory viruses such as influenza.
All previous Miller Reports are now available on my website at www.WMillerMD.com.
(The views shared in this weekly column are those of the author, Dr. William Miller, and do not necessarily represent those of the publisher or of Adventist Health.)
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 15, 2021
RAFE BJORKLUND, Ukiah. Resisting, probation revocation.
JUAN DAVILA-ESQUIVEL, Covelo. Domestic battery, damaging communication device.
JAY JACKSON, Ukiah. County parole violation.
CODY LADD, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, parole violation.
JOSHUA PERDUE, Ukiah. DUI.
ROBERT VARGAS JR., Fort Bragg. Probation violation.
WAR ON SCIENCE NORMALIZES MASS COVID-19 DEATHS
by Dr. Nayvin Gordon
Only 42% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, which leaves over 150 million people, including all children, unprotected. 10,000 people are still dying of Covid-19 every month. As of 5/25/21, the risk of infection for the unvaccinated is high to extremely high across most of the country.
To reduce viral spread and diseases the science of public health demands: isolation, quarantine, social distancing, masking and avoiding nonessential travel. Tragically this science is being thrown to the wind by the politicians. As reported in the New York Times, 6/1/21, “…the nation opening back up..,” and the public health restriction are being abandoned leaving over 150 million Americans at increased risk for disease. As the pandemic rages out of control around the world, creating more contagious variants, and before 70%-90% of the population is fully vaccinated, Americans are being encouraged to “return to normal.” Lifting public health restrictions while vaccines are being delivered puts millions at risk. This social policy decision will result in tens of thousands more preventable, infections, illness and deaths.
Such governmental policy has been described by the British Medical Journal as “social murder.” https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n314
Those responsible must be held accountable.
(Dr. Nayvin Gordon writes about health and politics. firstname.lastname@example.org)
SLEEPWALKING TO ARMAGEDDON?
In comments that got past editors in the Western news media, President Vladimir Putin in a recent Russian television interview accused the West of abusing what were good relations at the time (1999-2004) to expand NATO up to Russia’s borders.
CORRUPTION IS PROFITABLE. BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE THIS PROFITABLE?
Aduhlem, a drug that is supposed to slow Alzheimer's effects, had failed to show efficacy in two trials. It showed some reduction of plaques in the brain which may or may not be significant.
Ten of the eleven advisors of the Federal Drug Administration voted "no" when asked if there was enough evidence that the drug is useful. One voted "uncertain". Last week the FDA approved the drug and claimed that the plaques reduction effect is somewhat meaningful.
Three of the advisors resigned.
The cost per patient per year for the drug will be some $56,000. There are some 6 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer's. Medicare and Medicaid, which will have to pay for the drug because it is FDA approved, will have to bear the costs. The company which makes the drug, Biogen, will gain ginormous profits from it. As will physicians who prescribe the drug, administer the infusions and bill 6% of the drug's price for it.
The above is a portrait of a deeply corrupt system in which all incentives are set in the wrong direction.
Now, corruption in national medical systems is not unusual and can be found all over the world. But what I find astonishing with the U.S. system is how little money companies like Biogen actually have to pay to get deals done that will make them billions.
The man who pushed for the FDA approval was no other than President Joe Biden. As the American Conservative, linked below, writes:
Less than two weeks prior to the approval, President Joe Biden said that “if we don’t do something about Alzheimer’s in America… every single [hospital bed] will be occupied in the next 15 years with an Alzheimer’s patient.” Guess which 2020 candidate was the largest recipient of campaign funds by a large margin from Biogen and affiliated parties? Joe Biden, with $76,241.
How cheap is that?
Within the next few years Biogen will make a million times more money than it paid to Joe Biden's campaign. Couldn't he have asked for 10%, 1% or an already cheap 0.01%? It would still have been a great deal for the company. But Biden is so downright cheap that he sold out for 0.000001% of Biogen's gain.
What a lowlife.
STUMBLED UPON this by accident today.
Was utterly blown away to discover that Norman Rockwell, the King of Kitsch, was capable of creating a work this powerful and politically engaged. The painting, titled “Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi),” depicts the 1965 murder of the three civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. Note how the killers appear only as shadows.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CALIFORNIA’S WATER CRISIS
by Joshua Frank
“Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”
– Mark Twain
It doesn’t take too long once you’ve left the greater Los Angeles area, away from all the lush lawns, water features, green parkways, and manicured foliage to see that California is in the midsts of a very real, potentially deadly water crisis. Acres and acres of abandoned farms, dry lake beds, empty reservoirs—the water is simply no longer there and likely won’t ever be back.
What’s happening here in California is far more than a ‘severe drought’ as the media labels the situation. The word ‘drought’ gives the impression that this is all short-lived, an inconvenience we have to deal with for a little while. But the lack of water isn’t temporary, it’s becoming the new norm. California’s ecology as some 39.5 million residents know it is forever changing—and climate change is the culprit. At least that’s the prognosis a few well-respected climatologists have been saying for the last two decades, and their predictions have not only been accurate, but they’ve been conservative in their estimates.
UC Santa Cruz Professor Lisa Sloan co-authored a 2004 report in which she and her colleague Jacob Sewall predicted the melting of the Arctic ice shelf would cause a decrease in precipitation in California and hence a severe drought. The Arctic melting, they claimed, would warp the offshore jet stream in the Pacific Ocean. Not only have their models proved correct, Prof. Sloan told Joe Romm of ThinkProgress she believes “the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire” than their study suggested.
As they anticipated fifteen years ago, the jet stream has shifted drastically, essentially pushing winter storms up north and out of California and the Northwest. As a result, snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas, which feeds water to most of Southern California and the agricultural operators of the Central Valley, has all but disappeared. Winters are drier and springs are no longer wet, which means when the warm summer months roll around there’s no water to be cultivated.
The Los Angeles basin is a region that has long relied on snowmelt from mountains hundreds of miles away to feed its insatiable appetite for sprawling development, but that resource is rapidly evaporating. It is, perhaps, a just irony for the water thieves in Southern California that their wells are finally running dry. Prudence and restraint in water usage will soon be forced upon those who value the extravagant over the practical. It’s the new way across the West as climate change’s many impacts come to fruition.
Not that you’d notice much of this new reality as you travel along L.A.’s bustling boulevards. Pools in the San Fernando Valley remain full, while sun-baked Californians wash their prized vehicles in the streets and soak their green lawns in the evenings. A $500 fine can be handed out to residents who don’t abide by the outdoor watering restrictions now in place, but I’ve yet to see any water cops patrolling neighborhoods for water wasters. In fact, in Long Beach, where I live, water managers have actually admitted they aren’t planning to write any tickets. “We don’t really intend to issue any fines, at least right now,” said Matthew Veeh of the Long Beach Water Department.
Meanwhile in 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown called on all those living in the state to reduce their water use by 20 percent. That’s almost one percentage point for every California community that is at risk of running out of water by the end of the year. Gov. Brown’s efforts to conserve water have fallen on deaf ears. A report issued in July by state regulators shows a one percent increase in water consumption across the state over the past 12 months, with the biggest increase occurring in Southern California’s coastal communities.
“Not everybody in California understands how bad this drought is…and how bad it could be,” said State Water Resources Water Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus when the report was first released. “There are communities in danger of running out of water all over the state.”
Perhaps there is a reason why people don’t understand how bad the water crisis really is—their daily lives have yet to be severely impacted. Unless the winter and spring bring drenching rains, California only has 12-18 months of reserves left. Even the most optimistic of forecasts show a rapid decline in water resevoirs in the state in the decades to come. To put it in perspective, California hasn’t seen this drastic of a decline in rainfall since the mid-1500s.
“This is a real emergency that requires a real emergency response,” argues Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “If Southern California does not step up and conserve its water, and if the drought continues on its epic course, there is nothing more that our water managers can do for us. Water availability in Southern California would be drastically reduced. With those reductions, we should expect skyrocketing water, food and energy prices, as well as the demise of agriculture.”
While it’s clear that the decline in the state’s water reserves will have a very real economic and day-to-day impact on Californians in the near future, it’s also having an inexorable and devastating effect on the environment.
The distinctive, twisted trees of Joshua Tree National Park are dying. The high desert is becoming even hotter and drier than normal, dropping nearly 2 inches from its average of just over 4.5 inches of annual rainfall. The result: younger Joshua trees, which grow at a snail’s pace of around 3 inches per year, are perishing before they reach a foot in height. Their vanishing is a strong indicator that the peculiar trees of this great Park will not be replenished once they grow old and die.
After analyzing national climate data The Desert Sun reported, “[In] places from Palm Springs to Tucson, [we] found that average monthly temperatures were 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter during the past 20 years as compared to the average before 1960.”
This increase in temperatures and the decrease in yearly rainfall are transforming the landscape and vegetation of California. Sadly, Joshua trees aren’t the only native plants having a rough time surviving the changing climate. Pinyon pines, junipers, and other species are being killed by beetle infestations as winters become milder. Writes Ian James in The Desert Sun, “Researchers have confirmed that many species of trees and shrubs are gradually moving uphill in the Santa Rosa Mountains, and in Death Valley, photographs taken decades apart have captured a stunning shift as the endangered dune grass has been vanishing, leaving bare wind rippled sand dunes.”
Plants aren’t the only living organisms being dealt a losing hand. “[California’s] Native fishes and the ecosystems that support them are incredibly vulnerable to drought,” Peter Moyle, a professor at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, noted at a drought summit in Sacramento last fall. “There are currently 37 species of fish on the endangered species list in California—and there is every sign that that number will increase.”
Of those species, some eighty percent won’t survive if the trend continues. Scientists have also attributed the decline in tricolored blackbirds to the drought, which are also imperiled by development and pesticide use.
Salmon runs, however, may be taking the brunt of this human-inflicted mega-drought. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, coho salmon may go extinct south of the Golden Gate straight in San Francisco if the rains don’t come quickly. As environmental group Defenders of Wildlife notes, “All of the creeks between the Golden Gate and Monterey Bay are blocked by sandbars because of lack of rain, making it impossible for salmon to get to their native streams and breed. If critically endangered salmon do not get to their range to spawn this year, they could go extinct. This possible collapse of the salmon fishery is bad news for salmon fishermen and North Coast communities. California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity annually and about half that much in economic activity and jobs in Oregon. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon.”
And it’s not just the salmon fisheries that may dry up, so too may the real economic backbone of California: agriculture.
If you purchased a bundle of fresh fruits or vegetables in the U.S. recently, there’s nearly a 50 percent chance they were grown in California. And while we’ve become accustomed to paying very little for such goods compared to other Western countries, that is likely to change in the years ahead.
A study released in by the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California reported the ag industry in California in the first six months of 2014 lost $2.2 billion and nearly 4% of all farm jobs—some 17,000 workers. As we’re only three years into what many believe is just the beginning of the crisis, those numbers are sure to increase.
“California’s agricultural economy overall is doing remarkably well, thanks mostly to groundwater reserves,” said Jay Lund, who co-authored the study and directs the Center for Watershed Sciences. “But we expect substantial local and regional economic and employment impacts. We need to treat that groundwater well so it will be there for future droughts.”
The pumping of groundwater, which is being treated as an endless and bountiful resource, may be making up for recent water loss, but for how long remains to be seen. Until 2014, when the state passed The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, California was the only state in the country that did not have a framework for groundwater management. For decades farmers sucked the desert’s groundwater supply dry, so much so, that the entire sections of California ag country sunk by 60 centimeters.
“We have to do a better job of managing groundwater basins to secure the future of agriculture in California,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “That’s why we’ve developed the California Water Action Plan and a proposal for local, sustainable groundwater management.”
Nonetheless, without significant rainfall, groundwater will not be replenished, the state’s agribusiness and the nation’s consumers will most certainly be hit with the consequences. Rigid conservation and appropriate resource management may act as a bandaid for California’s imminent water crisis, but if climate models remain accurate, the melting of Arctic ice will continue to have a severe impact on the Pacific jet stream, weakening winter storm activity across the state.
It’s a precarious situation, not only for millions of people and the nation’s largest state economy—but it could be the death knell for much of California’s remaining wildlife and iconic beauty as well.
(JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, is ‘Big Heat: Earth on the Brink.’ He can be reached at email@example.com. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org, 2013)
INTERVIEW WITH BARRY MEIER, AUTHOR OF "SPOOKED"
Throughout the Trump years, it made sense that reporters chased sexy-sounding Russia stories. What journalist with a pulse wouldn’t? These were riveting tales about the president of the United States, under investigation by the FBI and other agencies, who was apparently really suspected of traitorous dealings with a foreign dictator.
A lot of the loudest headlines grew out of the private “dossier” of a British ex-spy named Christopher Steele, whose reports told of a “well-developed conspiracy” between Russians and Trump, who was supposedly being blackmailed for cavorting with peeing prostitutes. News organizations devoted mountains of ink to portraits of Steele and serious examinations of his allegations. But when Special Counsel Robert Mueller first and then Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz returned damning verdicts on Steele, journalists weren’t mad about being taken for a ride.
Barry Meier, in his new book Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies, fires back on behalf of his profession at the private oppo hounds who fed so many of these dicey stories into the public conversation. He also wonders about the reporters who were “in the car that crashed” and still haven’t said anything, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on in their heads.”
Below, an interview with the author on the Steele Dossier, the reaction within the business to his book, and the problem of checking sources in the digital age:
TK: There’s a line in the book about private research firms like Fusion-GPS: “The big money is made not by exposing the truth, but by concealing it.” Is private spying the same business as journalism, except to a different end? Or is it something fundamentally different?
Barry Meier: I would argue that within journalism, that mission is singular. Our mission is to collect facts, to ascertain the truth as best as we can. One of the things that I was always struck by with Fusion-GPS, the firm that Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch formed, was ... Just to digress a little bit, I decided to focus on them not simply because of the dossier. I was really interested in them because here were two people, particularly Glenn Simpson, whom I knew by reputation. I didn’t know Peter Fritsch at all by reputation, but I knew Glenn’s reputation. I had read some stories he had done, when they came out in the Journal, when he was a reporter there. I thought, “It’d be really interesting to kind of take someone who does or did what I do for a living, and kind of follow them into this world and see what happens to them in this world, how they change, how they deal with these conflicts, etc.” Their motto or Glenn’s motto that he adopted was so called “journalism for rent.” They say, “We apply the same standards and ethics that we would use as a journalist, but they’re available to the private sector. But we really don’t do anything different than we would do as a journalist. We’re truth seekers.” But journalists do not rent out their services. People who think of themselves as journalists and rent out those talents are no longer journalists.There’s a bright line here, and regardless of whether you think this journalist is good or not good, or whatever the case may be, these other folks, while doing research, while doing the superficial work of journalism, are guided by very different incentives. We, as journalists — or I’ll speak for myself, but I always liked to believe, and maybe fool myself in that belief, that I had a sense of morality, what was right, what was wrong, that my work was aimed at serving some sort of public good, service. Exposing a bad drug, or a device, or a bad actor, or whatever the case may be. That doesn’t play in this area, because that’s not what you’re being hired to do.
TK: You note that a lot of journalists assumed that Steele’s sources were MI6 sources. Do you think that the veneer of his career allowed the story to spread a lot more than it would have if people knew who the sources were actually?
Barry Meier: Absolutely. I mean, there’s no doubt about that in my mind. I have this image of Christopher Steele. He’s got a beautiful suit on, he has this beautiful coiffed hair. He looks and acts like a former MI6 agent, which he was. He talks the talk, walks the walk in England. He’s very calm and collected. I mean this is based on descriptions that people are giving to me. I kind of had the sense of ... You know those Russian stacking dolls?
Barry Meier: Right. The outside that you see is Christopher Steele. You’re thinking, “Wow, I’m impressed. Here’s this ex-MI6 guy, and he is sharing this incredibly explosive intelligence with me.” You’re flattered by that. You think, “I’m being made part of a secret. This guy is opening up this secret world to me, and he’s my guy.” But you start pulling out other dolls inside of it, and at the very bottom is this guy, Igor Danchenko, who was his helper, and got into Russia and was speaking to his buddies over drinks, and gathering this stuff.
I’m not knocking Igor Danchenko, but think about what would have happened if this same crew of journalists had gone to the Tabard Inn, and instead of meeting Christopher Steele, met Igor Danchenko. Most of them would have said, “Thanks, Igor. Great meeting you, good luck.”
TK: There’s a really interesting part of the story in which the FBI attempts to hire Steele and compensate him significantly to help with their investigation. But, he doesn’t go for it. What’s your take on why that was? It seems connected to the question of why Fritsch and Simpson didn’t drop what you call their “October Surprise” about the FBI investigation. They all knew about this Crossfire Hurricane investigation, correct?
Barry Meier: They knew about it. There’s no dispute about that, because they write about that in their book. I remember reading that thinking, “Wait a minute, maybe you didn’t have great stuff in the dossier. If you really wanted to mess with Trump’s head or mess with their Trump campaign, you had this basically loaded gun in your hand, but you didn’t pull the trigger.” They were claiming in the book, “Well, we didn’t want to mess up the FBI investigation. We didn’t want to blah, blah, blah.” You’re getting paid to do whatever you can to hamstring somebody, and they didn’t.
TK: But why Steele doesn’t go for the FBI offer? From the outside, it seems like one obvious answer is he didn’t have anything, and that would have come out.
Barry Meier: I wouldn’t stop anybody from speculating about that. The other possibility is he’s worried that disclosing his collector, I’m sorry, revealing the identity of his collector, is going to jeopardize his collector. That’s on the positive side. On the negative side: “Okay, they’re going to go interview my collector, and they’re going to come back and tell me, â˜What the fuck is going on? What are we supposed to make out of this? He’s telling us a different story than you’re telling us in these memos.’” You can take your pick as to what his motivation was, or whether he had multiple reasons not to do it.
TK: What about Simpson and Fritsch? What would be the other explanations for why they wouldn’t go public with that story?
Barry Meier: I really don’t know. I would love to ask them, “Why didn’t you do this? You had a real piece of news in your hands.” Unless they had an agreement. The only rational explanation I came up with is they had a deal with Steele, under which they would only reveal things if Steele approved them. They weren’t involved in this approach, the FBI approached Steele. Steele has a relationship with the FBI, so if they were going to publicize this meeting, absent Steele’s approval, they would essentially be violating whatever trust or agreement they had with him. I could see that being a potential reason. I mean I’m trying to give as positive a view as possible.
TK: Your book is obviously very critical of how the media in general dealt with this material. What have some of your colleagues said about it? What have been some of the reactions from people in the business?
Barry Meier: Personally, the reactions have all been positive, from people that I know in the business, who know me, or are friends of mine. Obviously your friends are going to lie to you half the time. There has not been a single person who I’ve interacted with, who I have respect for, even if they’re not a friend, who has called me up and said, “You know, Barry, you’re an asshole,” or, “You know, Barry, I used to respect you, you’ve blown it.” Nothing like that whatsoever. The Times ran the excerpt of the book. New York Magazine ran an excerpt from the book. I think in terms of kind of news people, it’s been personally a very, very receptive response. I know you wrote about this a little bit in the column, and Mike Isikoff pointed this out, that I wasn’t doing a lot of television on MSNBC or CNN. As to why, they’re better judges of that than me. I once wrote this book Painkiller, that was the first book about the opioid crisis and the Sackler family. When Beth Macy was writing her book Dopesick, which came out I guess about four or five years ago, I didn’t know her, but I got a call from her. She was gushing about the book, and she was saying, “Everyone in medical school should read your book. We should understand the power of the pharmaceutical industry, and how its potential to affect and corrupt the practice of medicine.” I’m not saying that my book should be read by anyone or everyone, but I do think — this book in many ways is not simply about the private intelligence industry, it’s about journalism, and how we as journalists go about doing our work. I was sort of surprised that people that write about journalism, that are media critics, for the lack of a better word, didn’t and haven’t, or at least haven’t thus far paid more attention to the book.
TK: It’s really a huge cautionary tale about sourcing, isn’t it?
Barry Meier: Yes, and how you go about scrutinizing material that’s being presented to you. I told this story before, I’ll repeat it very quickly. When I first started working on the stories about Oxycontin for the Times, this is going back to 2001, Purdue Pharma, in their promotion of the drug, kept pointing to these three critical studies that they contended showed that this drug was safe at very high dosages, and could be used in a patient ad nauseum. Journalists who were writing about this kept repeating that there are these three studies, and blah, blah, blah. I kind of said to myself, “What the fuck’s the deal with these three studies?” In the book I call them the Holy Trinity. I went in, and they were very obscure studies. I had to go to the National Library of Medicine to find them, and when I finally found them, I realized they have nothing to do, number one, with the long-term use of opioids, narcotics. In many cases or in several cases, they argued against the long-term use of narcotics, and basically Purdue Pharma had cherry picked either data points or slight passages from these studies, to try to make their case.
But when you read the stories, you don’t get that. It’s like saying, “Whoa, this book has really great details,” that’s in the blurb, but then it gets cut off, but the next sentence says, “But the book really sucks.” It was mainly, “This says this,” but then the next five words say, “You should never use this drug under any circumstances.” It’s only good when you go back and you look at the real source material. Can you, as a journalist, assess the claims that are being made, that are based on it? For me, working as a reporter largely in the area of medicine and health, there is kind of an evidentiary basis that you can go back and examine. Once you get pulled into this realm of intelligence, there’s no evidentiary basis, it’s hearsay. It’s like, “Do you trust your source? Do you have this from enough people to be able to go to the bank on it?” It’s like you wrote about with the WMDs. Do you buy into what your sources are saying, without anything factual or evidentiary to support it?In some way, this is what happened here. It was kind of a replay of that, in the sense that people were being presented with claims, and were unable, unwilling, or whatever, to scrutinize the underlying evidence behind those claims, or even scrutinize the people, because probably they couldn’t scrutinize that, but they were not even willing to scrutinize the people who were bringing them this material.
For example, did they scrutinize Fusion GPS, or did they just open the door and say, “Hey Glenn and Peter, great to see you guys. What have you got for us today?” Right? Or did they go back and look at the type of people that Fusion GPS was working for in the run up to the dossier, and the types of tactics they were using when they were working on behalf of those people? Did they swoon when they saw Christopher Steele, because he fit their model of what an ex-MI6 agent should look at, or did they scrutinize what they were being told about him, which was that he was a big wheel in the FIFA investigation, and he had worked to help crack the poisoning of Litvinenko in London?
I took the trouble of calling up a reporter by the name of Andrew Jennings who actually was the person who broke the FIFA story. He’s even older than I am. I call him up, and I’m on Skype. It’s like I’m being transported back into a Dickens novel. This guy with white hair is sitting in this office with bookcases that are sagging behind him, so we’re talking. He’s telling me exactly what Christopher Steele did, which was some things, but not something really spectacular. Then I asked him, “Have any other reporters called you up?” The answer was no. To me, that became very telling.
That, to me, is exactly what reporters shouldn’t be doing. I’m not saying Christopher Steele misled people, but he was being presented by other people as having done certain things, as a way of fluffing up his reliability, and his access. Why would you believe that? If a chemical company or a drug company came to you and said, “This thing works, it’s fantastic, there are these studies that prove it,” wouldn’t you as a reporter want to look at those studies before you wrote about it? But here we have a situation where Fusion GPS, these hired operatives come in and say, “We’ve got this great stuff. We may not be so sure it’s right, but it’s fantastic, and here’s this guy who got it, and he’s got this incredible source in Russia.” Wouldn’t you want to apply that same level of scrutiny to Fusion GPS, Christopher Steele, the claims, or anyone else. I’m not singling them out, just that why did reporters not apply the same level of scrutiny to this, as they would normally do in other circumstances? That’s what I found most troubling.
TK: When this subject comes up, a lot of reporters will say, “Well, we didn’t technically do anything wrong, because all we were doing was reporting on something that’s true. The FBI did take possession of the Steele dossier at some point. They were investigating.” For instance, Michael Isikoff’s story, on the facts was mostly correct, right?
Barry Meier: Correct.
TK: What’s the response to a reporter who says, “Well, what’s wrong with that? I was writing something that was technically true.”
Barry Meier: Mike made that point that he felt comfortable doing his story because he was able to confirm that the FBI was investigating Carter Page, and they were. That’s a fact, that they were investigating Carter Page. But I felt that the Horowitz report did a great job in justifying, or at least giving a basis for the FBI, probable cause for the FBI to begin the Russia probe. Similarly, it was fair in its criticisms of how it acquired the FISA warrant on Carter Page. I’m not saying that in any way, shape, or form, that people were wrong to report on an FBI investigation. However, that’s not what most of this reporting was about. Much of this reporting was using the kind of fig leaf, if you will, of the FBI investigation, to keep promulgating stuff that was in the dossier.I think the FBI has been very clear that the dossier played no role in the launching of its investigation, and that yes, they did take things from the dossier and used it in the Carter Page FISA warrant, and used it improperly, according to Horowitz. They began their investigation independent of Christopher Steele, and their investigation continued independent of Christopher Steele. But the only thing that was out there for news organizations to latch onto was the dossier. It sort of became a rider, or rode along with the FBI investigation, and it did it, remarkably enough, for three years, up until the point when Muller’s going to make his report, and there’s nothing in it essentially about the dossier. It’s like nothing. More importantly, there’s actually information in it that disputes what’s in the dossier, specifically in the Michael Cohen trip to Prague.
One of the things that was kind of mind boggling to me, again as an observer, because like everybody else, when the dossier comes out, and I knew nothing about it before Buzzfeed posted it, I’m going like, “Holy fuck, this is good.” Your immediate knee-jerk reaction is, “Oh my God, that Trump!”
TK: Because it’s Trump, it’s not totally unbelievable.
Barry Meier: Yeah. I’m a New Yorker, so I watched this guy in action forever. What we come to learn, not through the dossier, but through the testimony of Michael Cohen, is that Trump was lying about stuff. Like he did have interests in Russia. He was trying to get a hotel built there, and Michael Cohen was negotiating with someone in Russia during the 2016 campaign. Because no one, including Trump, ever thought he was going to win. To me, that provided a far better explanation for Trump’s kowtowing to Putin, it was just mercenary, his pecuniary interest and greed, than some crazed conspiracy. But we didn’t know that. My feeling was, again, and this is through the benefit of hindsight, is that there’s a lot of time and energy wasted chasing the dossier, that could have been better spent examining the real problems of the Trump administration.
TK: Do you think there’ll ever be a full blown reckoning within the business about any of this? There obviously was, to some degree, over the WMD affair.
Barry Meier: I’m not anticipating miracles, that’s for sure. I know some individual reporters who have said to me, “I’m really going to think about this differently, a little bit differently going forward.” The Poynter Institute has not called me up and said, “Let’s have a symposium, and talk about this.” You know this, I know this, anyone who’s worked as a journalist knows this — we’re very thin skinned. We hate being criticized. We hate acknowledging mistakes. I mean I’ve certainly made mistakes in my career. Fortunately, they tended to be more in the realm of typos than carrying false narratives forward, but — I don’t know.
I do hope — I think if there’s one thing that does come out of it, is that there’s less of an open door to these operatives at mainstream media organizations. That next time a firm like Fusion GPS comes in to shop them a story, they go, “Hey, wait a minute. You guys were involved in this thing. See you around.”
Or, “Yeah, well we’ll look at it, but if we do anything with it, we’re going to name you. If you don’t like that, go somewhere else.” When you set the dossier story aside, and I don’t know what your experience is on this, but my dealings with these types of firms is pretty limited. I have to say that the stories that they’re shopping by and large are kind of one day wonders. It’s like a quick hit on somebody that their client wants to muddy up or embarrass, or whatever the hell it is. I guess there’s probably a good reason to say, “Why the fuck do we need to do any of this? Whose interest is being served? Is the reader really being served? Is the viewer really being served?”
TK: In other words, “Why do we even need to deal with these kinds of organizations at all?”
Barry Meier: Yes. Can’t we go out and get our own, do our own reporting?
TK: Do reporters always know when a story is originating from one of these firms?
Barry Meier: That’s a very good question, because they will not come to us directly.
One technique that’s frequently used is to send in a whistleblower, someone who is a former employee, former employer, employee, someone who is disaffected, whatever. That’s been done in the past. But that really has to do with scrutinizing people, and trying to figure outâ¦ I mean most whistleblowers are problematic for one reason or another, but most of them have motives that are readily discernible, but that may not always be the case, and they may be delivering material to us that has been hacked or has been gathered in some way that we would want to know about before using it.I’d like to think that most reporters are diligent. Certainly in my experience, in my years of journalism, was yeah, there were some yahoos, but most reporters were diligent, and honest, and well-meaning.
TK: Also afraid of being burned.
Barry Meier: Well, that’s a good thing, right? Someone having anxiety, well anxiety can be a very good thing, because it prevents you from doing stupid stuff.
Anytime I made a mistake as a reporter, it could be like a typo, it was a horrifying, humiliating, and humbling experience. I have no idea what would have happened, how I would have felt about myself had I been involved in something like this. But I’m afraid that for some people it just bounces off of them, it’s not their fault. They just carry on with business, or editors protect them, or whatever the case may be. But it’s not good, it’s not good.
TK: Is that a generational thing? Because a lot of reporters who came up before, they say the same thing: on the night before you publish something, you have that knot in your chest, because you’re terrified you got something wrong.
Barry Meier: Yeah, you wake up in the middle of the night, you call the copy desk. You re changing all over here and there because you’re freaking out. Yes. I don’t know. I hate to think it’s a generational thing, I really do. That would worry me, if I thought it was a generational thing. Our profession attracts all kinds of people, and there are people that care. There are people that pretend to care or think they care, and there are people that dodge bullets for a very long time. You have people like Mike Isikoff, who to his credit says, “I should have been more skeptical. I really do. I really do.” Regardless of what you think of Mike, he’s acknowledging he made a mistake. And he’s in the minority. He’s in a minority. Then you’ve got other people who will say to me, “Thank God I never wrote about the dossier. Thank God we’ve had a pass.”
They’re just saying to themselves, “I avoided that. I wasn’t in the car that crashed.” Then you have the people that were in the car that crashed, and I don’t know what’s going on in their heads. People, and it’s not necessarily unique to our profession, but there are people out there with very hard carapaces, hard shells.
TK: What’s the ultimate lesson in this book for journalists?
Barry Meier: You’ve written about this, and it’s crystal clear that we’re living in an era of hyper partisanship, where media’s concerned. People are just talking to their constituents, and telling them what they believe their constituent audiences want to hear. That’s a very unfortunate situation. It’s also a situation that private operatives thrive in, because they’re usually working for an entity that wants to feed that hyper partisanship. It’s not just, as you know, it’s not just on one side of the political spectrum, it’s on both sides, and maybe working its way towards the middle.
I quoted you in the book, when you’re kind of ripping on this being a repeat of WMDs. I forgot what your exact line is, but the idea is, basically, when are we going to learn? When are we going to learn? When are we going to demand to see the evidence? That’s the same thing here. Why didn’t we demand to see the evidence? Why didn’t we demand to be introduced to Steele’s source? Why didn’t we demand to know more about him, even if we weren’t being introduced to him? Why did we accept these things on faith, and without scrutinizing them? These are the questions we have to ask.