- Abundant Smoke
- Martian Landscape
- Oak Fire
- Another Death
- Forest Fires
- Lynda Aubrey
- Apocalyptic Skies
- Two Rocks
- Zoom Rochat
- Place Hotel
- August Complex
- Relocated Pomos
- Ed Notes
- Ring Toss
- $500 Reward
- No Country
- Power Restoration
- Yesterday's Catch
- Fishing Family
- Still Evil
- Left Note
- Say Hi
- Anti-vax Book
- Point Cabrillo
- Oregon Fire
- Peter Sellers
- Assange Defense
- Defoe Pilloried
- Found Object
ABUNDANT SMOKE continues to plague northwest California as numerous large fires continue to burn around the region. Daytime high temperatures will be moderated by the smoke. Coastal low clouds will persist through the weekend. A chance of rain is possible generally north of Highway 36 early next week. (NWS)
Boonville's forecast calls for smoke until 11am then clearing to reach a high of 80°.
YORKVILLE, 3:30pm, Tuesday
CALFIRE – OAK FIRE UPDATE: 7pm Wednesday night: The fire has not grown, still estimated at 863 acres with 25% containment, up from 10% yesterday. Lower than expected temps and light winds allowed crews working in rough terrain to hold fire lines and increase containment. Evacuation orders remain in effect for Brooktrails, Third Gate, Spring Creek, Schow Rd/Rayan Creek Rd and Sleepy Hollow areas. Highway 101 is still closed. Over 400 firefighters, 35 engines, 19 water tenders, 2 helicopters, 10 hand crews and 25 dozers are working the fire lines. Air tanker operations were again hindered by poor visibility caused by widespread smoke.
ONLY ONE NEW COVID CASE reported in Mendocino County. Total now at 778, with 79 active cases in isolation or ICU. 18 deaths reported.
MENDOCINO COUNTY FIRES CONTINUE TO GROW OUTSIDE WILLITS AND COVELO
by Lori Carter
More than 4,000 Mendocino County residents were under evacuation orders and many more under warnings as firefighters battle multiple wildfires, including the massive August Complex on national forestland near Covelo and the Oak fire north of Willits.
The August Complex fires, which began amid lightning strikes during storms around the same time as the Walbridge and Hennessey fires in Sonoma and Napa counties, have now burned 421,899 acres, the second-most on record in the state, with containment at 24%.
Much of that land is rural, wooded hills in the Mendocino National Forest.
Fire activity increased Tuesday with high temperatures and gusty winds throughout the area. Flames moved beyond the Government Flat and Mendocino Pass areas east of the Black Butte River.
Firefighters worked to protect many threatened homes Tuesday and winds were expected to continue through Wednesday, additional resources will be positioned to provide more structure protection across the complex.
The increased fire activity locally and statewide forced the closure of all 18 national forests in California.
Eight forests were closed Monday and on Wednesday, the service announced the closure of the other 10: Mendocino National Forest, Eldorado National Forest, Klamath National Forest, Lassen National Forest, Modoc National Forest, Six Rivers National Forest, Plumas National Forest, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Tahoe National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
“Explosive growth of fires throughout California during the day and late evening of Sept. 8 led to this updated decision,” the Forest Service said in a statement.
The closures will be reevaluated daily as conditions change.
North of Willits, Highway 101 remains closed from just north of State Street to the junction with Highway 162.
The Oak fire, which started Monday afternoon five miles north of Willits grew to 700 acres by nightfall. Local and Cal Fire firefighters slowed its progress to 863 acres on Tuesday.
By Wednesday afternoon, it had spread to 1,125 acres and remained at 10% containment, said Mendocino County Emergency Services Coordinator Brentt Blaser.
Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Van Patten said 4,345 people have been evacuated and 2,275 are under warnings to leave if the Oak fire worsens.
Most of the evacuations affect the township of Brooktrails, which appears to be in less danger than expected early in the fire’s progress.
“Brooktrails is far less than threatened than we initially anticipated it would be,” Blaser said. “They’re not out of the woods, but we are far more confident about it and we are looking at repopulating.”
The August Complex was initially 37 different fires in the Mendocino National Forest that started on Aug. 17. Many have been contained or have merged. The Hopkins fire, at more than 49,000 acres, was recently added and is about 25 miles northeast of Covelo.
Evacuation orders were in effect for portions of the following counties: Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, Trinity and Glenn counties.
Residents should contact their county sheriffs’ offices for more information.
Mendocino County has sheltering options in the Covelo area at Covelo High School at 76280 High School Street and the Covelo Rodeo Grounds for small/large animals/livestock, 77286 Covelo Road.
For help sheltering animals, contact 707-272-2299.
(Courtesy, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat)
GLOWING RED & ASHES FALLING: The National Weather Service Explains the Region’s Apocalyptic Skies
Mendocino and Humboldt County residents have gazed upward over the last 24 hours as their sky has taken on the appearance of the apocalypse glowing with hues of red, orange, and yellow. We spoke to National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Tonkin about the atmospheric factors that have converged to create this phenomenon.
MEET THE AV HEALTH CENTER’S DR. ROCHAT
Monthly Zoom Gathering: Sunday September 13th, 4 to 5 pm
Meet the AV Health center’s Dr. Rochat, who will discuss whether and how members should access regular medical and dental services or alternatives i.e. chiropractic, acupressure and acupuncture, massage, etc, while sheltering in place.
Please RSVP with the coordinator so we can get an idea of attendance, thank you.
Participants will be muted but can submit questions through the chat feature or ahead of time by email (email@example.com).
Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Time: Sep 13, 2020 04:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 434 337 6734
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AUGUST COMPLEX UPDATE
WILLOWS, Calif – Sept. 9, 2020 – The August Complex currently sits at 372,012 acres and 24 percent contained. The current total acreage does not reflect the Hopkins Fire (49,887 acres). There are 1,167 resources committed to the August Complex. Starting Wednesday, the Hopkins Fire in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness will be managed by the Type 1 Incident Management Team, CA Team 5, and will no longer be included in daily updates.
Northeast winds are expected through the afternoon with gusts up to 30 mph. A Red Flag Warning remains in effect until 5 pm. Due to high winds, there is potential for increased fire activity and spread with heavy smoke production.
Fire activity increased Tuesday due to high temperatures and gusty winds throughout the Complex. The fire moved beyond the Government Flat and Mendocino Pass areas east of the Black Butte River. An infrared (IR) flight was not available last night; one is scheduled for this morning that will provide more information on the affected areas.
Structure protection operations were conducted for many homes on Tuesday. As winds continue throughout Wednesday, additional resources will be positioned to provide more structure protection across the complex. On Wednesday, crews will work on a spot fire detected on the northeast side of the Complex in the Riley Ridge area.
Evacuation orders are in effect for the following counties: Glenn County, portions of Mendocino and Lake Counties. Contact the respective sheriffs’ offices for more information.
Mendocino National Forest officials updated the area closure for the August Complex on Sept. 5, 2020. The Forest Order 08-20-12 and map are posted on the forest website: https://tinyurl.com/yykjydbf.
Daily updates can be found on the Mendocino National Forest Facebook page, located at: www.facebook.com/MendocinoNF.
The most up to date information on the August Complex can be found on InciWeb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6983/.
ASH WEDNESDAY didn't dawn so much as it just got lighter, and then commenced a day-long orange-tinted gray, with ash falling like a light snow. Visitors all expressed degrees of unease. “Every day a new apocalypse,” one said. “Welcome to the twilight zone,” said another.
TRUMP isn't always wrong. Yesterday when he suggested that the top military boys dispatched troops to war zones to feed military contractors he was at least half right. An unending parade of service brass retire with fat pensions and move directly into private employment with arms manufacturers. Which is just a fact, but not a fact you're likely to hear out of a president since Eisenhower's famous Cross of Iron speech: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
IKE AGAIN in his Cross of Iron address: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953.”
BUT TRUMP'S NOMINATION for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian fascist seems a little much. The Norski said Trump deserved the big one for helping to broker peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and for trying to cool out North Korea's little rocket man. Well, maybe. I never understood why Obama got it merely for good vibes and world gratitude that an adult was in charge of America for 8 years. And when Kissinger was celebrated by the Nobel committee as a man of peace the prize lost whatever lustre it may have had, and it never had much for me anyway.
AL SHARPTON of all people said the other day that the only people who want to defund police departments are "latte liberals," suburbanites who don't depend for their safety like urban people do on police forces.
TRUMP WATCHERS probably already know this, but dear leader confirmed today that he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus in order not to cause panic after excerpts from a forthcoming book by Bob ‘Watergate’ Woodward. Trump told Woodward that he knew how deadly the pandemic could be: “’I'm a cheerleader for this country’, Trump explained to reporters.’ I love this country. I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic. Certainly I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy. We want to show confidence. We want to show strength, we want to show strength as a nation. That's what I've done.”
COVELO RING TOSS, 1917
WE’LL FIND YOU
To the Editor:
During our recent move from Ukiah, many personal possessions were stolen from our home. Here are just a few of the items that would be easily noticed. First, there was a case of Appleton Estate Rum from Jamaica. It is very doubtful that anyone in all of Mendocino county has a case of this rum, so someone out there has seen this.
There were also two noticeably recognizable watches. One was a Mendocino Sheriff’s Dept. watch that I won at a charity auction, and the other was a Gibson guitar watch in the shape of a Les Paul guitar. This was given to me by an old dear friend. I want this back.
There was also a silver KitchenAid mixer, with all the accessories. This item we had promised to the Ukiah Senior center, so the thieves stole this from seniors in actuality. Also stolen was a bunch of my wife’s sweaters, size medium, including a peach one with sequins that she loved, and whoever the thief is even took four large black planting pots. Someone spent a lot of time shopping through our personal items, as well as taking items from all over the property, including three propane tanks. They also took a large box of assorted small solar lights which were to be a gift to Tom Allman.
I fully intend on catching these criminals and recovering our items, and I do not give up too easily.
We are offering a $500 cash reward for the arrest and prosecution of whomever stole these items. Turn them in, and you can keep the rum, whatever is left, and the $500 if they are arrested and prosecuted, no questions asked. Please contact the Sheriff’s office (Matt Kendall) with any information pertaining to this theft. Just mention Lake Ridge Road Theft.
Or (to the thieves) give the stuff back, and we will waive pressing charges, and not waste our further time and expense in pursuing your apprehension. Drop it off in the Sheriff’s parking lot.
Someone stole from the wrong people and we will make extensive efforts in hunting these thieves down. Someone knows where some of these items are. Turn them in. If they would steal from us, then they would steal from you as well, and I want to know who they are and this is worth $500 to me.
Thanks for your concern.
PSPS EVENT 09/07/20: POWER RESTORATION IS UNDERWAY
Latest update: 09/09/2020, 5:00 p.m.: PG&E crews began conducting safety patrols and inspections where power had been turned off for safety. In some areas where patrols have been completed, we are beginning to re-energize the power lines.
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 9, 2020
RODRIGO AMEZCUA-GONZALEZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LEARTIS CARADINE, Controlled substance, parole violation.
CAROL CURTISS, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
CASEY FALLIS, Chico/Covelo. Probation revocation.
JASON FULLBRIGHT, Ukiah. DUI.
JASON GANT, Ukiah. Burglary.
AMANDA GARCIA, Covelo. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
JOSE GOMEZ, Philo. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
ZACHARIA IVY, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
SHANE JONES, Kelseyville/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JAMES KNOX, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, parole violation.
DAEMON MILLER, Covelo. Burglary.
MIGUEL OROZCO, Gualala. DUI.
EDUARDO RAMIREZ, Moreno Valley/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, Mendocino. Under influence.
MENDO COAST FISHING FAMILY
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Biden’s continued exhibition of cognitive decline will, I feel, cause non TDS dems to really question their ability to vote for a cretin being pushed by their party. The majority of Americans want law/order, the ability to improve their lot in life and feel safe. This does not template well over dem controlled areas, hence Trump landslide. To Trump supporters, this may NOT work out well for the country as Trump’s personal flaws seem to track too close to Cohen’s depiction. The lesser of two evils is STILL evil. Keep training, assess your perimeter to include the neighbors area and have a very flexible plan (Semper Gumby).
ON THIS DATE in 1828, the great Russian novelist Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born as a landed count on his family's Yasnaya Polyana estate near Tula. After serving as an officer in the Crimean War, his sense of social justice began to surface and he founded 13 schools for peasants after serfdom was abolished in 1861. He had a religious crisis in his 40s that caused him to denounce the powerful and corrupt Orthodox Church. Tolstoy called the church an "impenetrable forest of stupidity" and a "conscious deception that serves as a means for one part of the people to govern the other," according to biographer Tikhon Polner (Tolstoy and His Wife, 1945).
Tolstoy, in such books as Critique of Dogmatic Theology, wrote that Jesus Christ was human, not divine, and rejected miracles and immortality. In My Confession (1882) he wrote, "If there is no higher reason —and there is none — then my own reason must be the supreme judge of my life." The books were banned by church censors and Tolstoy was called an "impious infidel." In 1895 he gave up his property, living as a nature-worshipping peasant, like his main protagonist in War and Peace.
In that novel he wrote, "Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges or beliefs." As James A. Haught wrote in 2000 Years of Disbelief, "Many people who reject supernatural Christianity nonetheless embrace Christ's message of compassion. Tolstoy carried this pattern to an extreme. He renounced organized religion and was excommunicated in 1901 by the Russian Orthodox Church — yet he became almost a monk, living in service to others."
He espoused an ethical and ascetic Christianity. In What Is Religion? (1902), Tolstoy wrote, "One may say with one's lips: 'I believe that God is one, and also three' — but no one can believe it, because the words have no sense."
In 1862 Tolstoy married Sofia Andreevna Behrs, daughter of a court physician and 16 years his junior. They had 13 children, eight of whom survived childhood. Their later life together has been described as one of the unhappiest in literary history. Sofia was upset about his attempts to reject his wealth, opposed to his teachings she saw as radical and had grown envious of the attention he gave to his Tolstoyan "disciples."
In 1910 he left home secretly in the dead of night in winter in an apparent attempt to escape her tirades and died of pneumonia a day's journey from home after collapsing at the Astapovo railway station. "The Last Station," a 2009 film about his final year, was based on a novel by Jay Parini. Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as Sofia were both nominated for Oscars.
"Religious superstition consists in the belief that the sacrifices, often of human lives, made to the imaginary being are essential, and that men may and should be brought to that state of mind by all methods, not excluding violence."—Tolstoy, "The Slavery of Our Times" (1890)
NEW BOOK: ANTI-VAXXERS: HOW TO CHALLENGE A MISINFORMED MOVEMENT
by Dr. Harriet Hall
Jonathan Berman’s new book Anti-vaxxers: How to Challenge a Misinformed Movement has two goals: to provide a complete picture of the anti-vaccine movement and to provide a counterpoint to some of the misinformation that has been circulating. It succeeds admirably on both counts.
In addition, it examines and critiques the strategies that have been used to dissuade people from their anti-vaccine beliefs. These fall into three broad categories:
- Reactive: engaging with anti-vaccine advocates with arguments and/or mockery
- Information-deficit strategies: making factual information available to the public
- Community-based strategies that take self-identity and values into consideration; the strategy most likely to succeed.
Anti-vaxxers come in many flavors, and there is often a disparity between belief and behavior. Berman reports that in France, 41% of people disagreed with the statement that vaccines are safe, but 96% vaccinated their children. Vaccination rates are generally high, but there are pockets of resistance that can lead to (and have caused) outbreaks of preventable diseases.
The history of vaccines and anti-vax attitudes
Berman starts by explaining what vaccines are and how they work. He provides an informative history of vaccines, pointing out that Jenner was not the first to vaccinate with cowpox: a farmer named Benjamin Jesty preceded him by two decades, using a darning needle to transfer pus from an infected cow to his wife and children.
Objections to vaccines were immediate, and the early anti-vaccine movement presaged today’s movement by ignoring the obvious success of vaccines and quibbling about scientific issues instead of addressing their real concerns such as individual rights, resistance to government mandates, the “natural order” of things, and social inequities.
In 1905, the US Supreme Court ruled that states could restrict individual liberties to avoid great dangers to public safety, that they could punish vaccine refusers with fines or imprisonment but could not forcibly vaccinate, and that they must allow medical exemptions.
To illustrate the success of smallpox vaccination, Berman says:
If you lined up all the people who have lived since 1980 because smallpox was eliminated and took one minute to greet each of them, you would spend the next 144 years meeting people who did not die of smallpox.
I didn’t check his math, but it’s undeniable that millions of people lived who would have died of smallpox if the vaccine did not exist.
Did you know Gandhi was originally an anti-vaxxer? He called vaccination “a violation of the dictates of religion and morality”. His concern was that an oppressive government was taking away the bodily autonomy of the people he was fighting for. He changed his mind after seeing unvaccinated children die of smallpox.
Vaccine injuries and laws
Berman doesn’t omit vaccine failures, like the two polio vaccines in the 1930s that killed six children and paralyzed ten, and the 1955 pharmaceutical accident when an improperly inactivated virus resulted in 250 cases of paralytic polio and 11 deaths. But he explains that safety precautions are now in place to prevent a recurrence of such disasters. He describes some of the many occasions around the world where vaccine fears led to a decrease in vaccination rates which then predictably led to a resurgence of disease – and where the disease promptly subsided when vaccination rates went back up.
He describes how lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers led to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which created the Special Masters court and provided compensation for patients who met certain criteria and protected the supply of necessary vaccines. The standard of evidence was a legal one, not scientific evidence that the vaccine had caused the injury (and this is still the case today).
Today’s anti-vaxxers love to cite reports of vaccine harms from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). It was set up as an early warning system for identification of possible adverse events, but a report to VAERS does not establish that the vaccine caused the reported event. Dr. James Laidler vividly demonstrated the fallacy of relying on VAERS by reporting that the flu vaccine had turned him into the Incredible Hulk. The report was accepted, although he later withdrew it after he had made his point.
Doctors and others who encourage anti-vaxxers
He covers the Wakefield fiasco in detail (covered by SBM many times). Wakefield’s study was retracted, and he was stripped of his license to practice medicine; but meanwhile he had alarmed many parents who refused the MMR vaccine in the belief that it caused autism. Numerous studies have since shown no evidence that vaccines can cause autism, but many parents are still fearful.
He covers Dr. Robert Sears’ spurious reasons for delaying vaccines, which have no basis in fact (covered here on SBM also); delaying vaccines only creates serious risks for children. An entire chapter is devoted to a devastating critique of the film Vaxxed (which we have done many times here). Another chapter addresses the misinformation promoted by Robert F. Kennedy in his article “Deadly Immunity” and elsewhere, stoking fears of thimerosal (which is essentially absent from the American pediatric vaccine schedule today anyway; addressed by David Gorski).
One chapter covers ineffective “alternatives'” to vaccination, including pox parties, breast-feeding, homeopathy, probiotics, vitamins, essential oils, chiropractic, Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), hyperbaric oxygen, exorcisms, craniosacral therapy, and bogus autism cures including the “chemical castration” advocated by the Geiers.
Religion and other factors
He discusses placebo effects, fake news, social media, memes, and freedom of speech. A chapter on religions finds that nearly every major religion either encourages its members to vaccinate or is neutral on the subject. The so-called “religious exemption” does not reflect actual religious beliefs, but is a smokescreen that gives anti-vaxxers an excuse to bypass government regulations. It is a cynical ploy that exploits the privileged position of religion in society. Berman says:
Freedom of religious belief is not the same as freedom of action based on religious belief…In the rare case that religious beliefs do conflict with vaccination, the state’s interest in public health may outweigh religious privilege.
Anti-vaxxers would have you believe that Big Pharma is guilty of conspiracy and is lying to you for profit. Big Pharma is undoubtedly guilty of many sins, but that doesn’t mean vaccines are unsafe or ineffective.
Who are the anti-vaxxers?
Anti-vaxxers are not a homogeneous group. Some are activists who work to spread misinformation, others are merely vaccine-hesitant: they have heard things that worry them but haven’t entirely made up their minds. And some are willing to vaccinate but have not yet done so because of factors like financial barriers, poor access to medical care, or transportation difficulties. Those who don’t vaccinate tend to have:
a lower level of trust in health care professionals, a lower level of trust in government, a concern that a child’s immune system could be “weakened” by too many immunizations, a belief that immunization requirements abridged freedom of choice and that parents know what’s best for their own children, a greater level of trust in alternative health practitioners, and a past history of having sought information from sources on the internet or alternative health practitioners.
Anti-vaccine parents are deeply concerned with being good parents. They seek out information from sources they trust, like friends and family. They are more distrustful of people they don’t know personally. They are subject to the normal human tendencies, biases, and shortcuts of thinking. They distrust authorities and respond more favorably to stories than to statistics. They worry about chemicals with long names they don’t understand. They fear that putting things into our bodies that are not natural will make them impure.
People do change their minds, but we can’t do it for them. Perhaps a kind stranger answers their questions. Perhaps they connect with someone paralyzed by polio or blinded by measles. Perhaps an illness in their family prompts them to do more (and better) research.
Vaccination is a success story. We should tell that story and should “sing louder than those who sing out of key”. Anti-vaxxers are motivated by the same desires that motivate us all: the desire to be a good parent and do what is best for our children. We can help by understanding the kinds of anti-vaccine arguments and how they are involved with group identity.
Berman says, “We should learn how we can individually respond to the doubts of our friends, neighbors, and family members in a way that is compassionate, well-informed, and correct. Anti-vaccination activism is a local problem that demands local, personal solutions.”
Conclusion: Everything worth knowing about the subject
Berman’s book compiles everything worth knowing about the anti-vaccine movement into one convenient, well-referenced volume. It is well-written, concise (213 pages of text), and conveniently divided into 22 short, easily digested chapters. If you are anti-vaccine, you need to read this book but probably won’t. If you are pro-vaccine, it deserves a prominent place on your bookshelf among your reference books. It is a useful compendium that will help you respond appropriately when you encounter a victim of this misinformed movement. I urge everyone to read it. Even if you are as well-informed as I assumed I was, there is much more to learn and to think about.
POINT CABRILLO LIGHT STATION
WILDFIRE CUTS SWATH OF DESTRUCTION in southern Oregon; Phoenix and Talent ‘pretty well devastated’
A fire that began Tuesday morning in Ashland quickly spread north, carving a path of destruction through Talent and Phoenix and edging into the southern part of Medford by Wednesday.
A BIRTHDAY SALUTE TO PETER SELLERS (Sept. 8, 1925-July 24, 1980).
DAY THREE ASSANGE HEARING—Defense Witness Dismantles Key Elements of Government Case
In the afternoon session, Trevor Timm, a trained lawyer and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, took the virtual witness stand for the defense and in sparring with prosecutor James Lewis QC on cross examination singlehandedly dismantled key parts of the government’s case.
Over the past two days the government has stressed two key points: that it is not prosecuting Assange for publishing but for revealing the names of informants. Timm testified that in fact the indictment is for passively receiving and possessing classified information beyond those documents that revealed informants’ names.
The bigger point Timm made was that it was a consensus view of First Amendment advocates and media organizations that while revealing the names of informants may be unethical, it is not illegal. He said that it was an editorial decision whether to publish such names, and while media organizations might disagree, it was not up to the government to make editorial decisions.
DANIEL DEFOE PUT IN THE PILLORY
by Richard Cavendish
At the end of 1702 Daniel Defoe was in his early forties, a London dissenter born and bred, a married man with eight children, the owner of a brickworks in Tilbury and a government spin doctor, paid to write in praise of the administration’s policies – an activity that aroused the same contempt then as it does now. He also wrote tracts advocating greater toleration for dissenters and at this juncture he made a serious mistake. He wrote an anonymous pamphlet called The Shortest Way with the Dissenters.
Written as if by a foaming High Anglican zealot of the most bigoted stamp, and drawing extensively on high church sermons, the pamphlet argued that the best way of dealing with the dissenters was to banish them abroad and send their preachers to the hangman. The Church of England, it said, is like Christ crucified between two thieves, Papists on one side and Nonconformist sectarians on the other. Very well, let us crucify the thieves. To go on tolerating them is like allowing a plague to continue without medical treatment. Defoe’s intention was to mock the High Anglican position by carrying it to extremes, but several eminent high churchmen, unwarily or perhaps with a sense of humour, gave it their endorsement.
The authorities were certainly not amused, nor were the dissenters. The identity of the person who took the text to the printer was quickly discovered, and from that the identity of the author, and a substantial reward was offered for his arrest. Defoe went into hiding and published A Brief Explanation of a Late Pamphlet to say that he had been misunderstood. In February the House of Commons had The Shortest Wayburned by the common hangman. Betrayed for the reward, Defoe was caught in May in Spitalfields and confined in Newgate jail where he had comparatively comfortable lodgings at his own expense. He was released on bail in June and his trial for seditious libel began early the following month and was quickly over. Pleading guilty, as technically he was, and appealing for mercy on the ground that he had not meant to be taken seriously, he was sentenced to stand three times in the pillory, pay a stiff fine and remain in prison until he could provide sureties for his good behaviour for seven years.
The pillory was used to punish minor offenders including cheats, liars, rioters and homosexuals, by shaming them in public. They were liable to be pelted by the crowd with rotten eggs and fruit, dead cats and dogs, mud and every variety of filth, and in extreme cases with stones, saucepans and other missiles that caused serious injury. Some were killed or maimed for life. Defoe was put in the pillory on the last three days of July, for an hour each time in three of the busiest places in London – outside the Royal Exchange in Cornhill (near his own home), near the conduit in Cheapside and finally in Fleet Street by Temple Bar. It seems to have been raining steadily most of the time, which though uncomfortable would have kept the crowds down, and the experience proved more of a triumph than an ordeal. All that was thrown at him were flowers while his friends sold the spectators copies of The Shortest Way and A Hymn to the Pillory which he had composed for the occasion.
Defoe was sent back to Newgate. His brickworks went bankrupt, he could not pay his fine and he began to feel thoroughly depressed. The government, meanwhile, started to consider whether he might not have his uses. In November, Defoe’s fine was paid out of secret service funds and he was released from Newgate. He called it a miracle. Within a year he was gainfully employed to publish a regular newspaper which showed the ministry in a favourable light and to act as a government spy, and in 1706 he was sent to Scotland to gather political intelligence and further the projected union with England. He continued to turn out propaganda for successive ministries. It was not until much later that he turned to writing fiction openly and produced the work he is best remembered for, Robinson Crusoe in 1719.
(Published in History Today, Volume 53, Issue 7, July 2003)