- Paul McCarthy
- Warm & Dry
- 849 Cases
- National Guard
- Janet Planet
- Pet Noyo
- White Deer
- Intractable Supes
- Coastal Views
- Ed Notes
- Double DeGurse
- Yesterday's Catch
- Midwest Campaigns
- Fire Clouds
- CA Sheeple
- Calculated Risks
- Dammit Jim
- Selling Division
- FB Footballers
- Execution Witness
- Proud Cheerleader
- BS Savant
- Gun Love
- Oregon Firefighting
- Replacing RBG
- Found Object
TERRIBLE NEWS FROM ELK. PAUL McCARTHY HAS DIED.
Shane (his son) just announced his death. He died during the night on Friday.
Whoa, just walked in and saw this post, damn SAD.
I never met Paul, but we had periodic email exchanges when I'd send him tips and such, and he'd occasionally Thank me for some of my posts to the Announce list.
He was a big part of our coastal community, and through his consistent efforts it became much closer knit.
Where Paul found the time to keep MSP vital and timely I don't know, but he did and it was a valuable resource for us on the Mendo coast.
He was our own Kym Kemp/Redheaded Blackbelt, and he'll be sorely missed.
May his family find much love, support and solace during this tragic time.— Derek
I just got the sad news that Paul McCarthy of Elk passed away Friday night, according to a post from his son Shane McCarthy.
Paul lived on the north side of Elk Creek at Hwy. 1. He created and maintained the MendocinoSportsPlus (MSP) news page on Facebook, with multiple posts daily with his own coverage of school sports or news gleaned from scanner listening and his own roving up and down the coast with his camera.
He was a good guy and always sought to serve and help the community. He started MSP as an outlet for his coverage of his son Shane's school sports events, and soon expanded it to include bits and pieces of community news. After Shane's graduation and departure for college, Paul continued to travel to and cover high school sports, but his page was more and more filled with non-sports news.
Paul grew up in New Hampshire, and his accent gave away his roots.— Nick Wilson
WARM AND DRY conditions are expected over the next few days before the next chance of rain arrives mid to late week. (NWS)
16 MORE COVID CASES in Mendocino on Saturday, total now at 849.
SHERIFF KENDALL CALLS FOR HELP
Mendocino County Sheriff Kendall is currently acting in Unified Command with CALFIRE and has recognized that CALFIRE has a 53% decrease in their Type 1 Hand Crews that are staffed by inmates from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
Because of this situation, Sheriff Kendall is seeking assistance from the Governor's Office in obtaining California National Guard resources to assist with fire suppression efforts related to the August Complex West Zone impacting Mendocino County.
The California National Guard is trained to assist CALFIRE Type 1 Hand Crews in establishing and maintaining fire lines and will not be used for any law enforcement related purposes if deployed to Mendocino County as requested by Sheriff Kendall.
BILL KIMBERLIN LOOKS BACK
Just before moving to the Valley, for my high school years, I knew this girl in the photo. Her name was Janet Rigsbee. We went to school together. As you can see, she was very easy on the eyes. I didn't hear about her again until I left the Valley for college. She now had a new name. It was Janet Planet and she was with Van Morrison, who is the fellow in the photo. Van Morrison wrote several songs about her, but my favorite is "Brown Eyed Girl".
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Noyo’s guardian had to surrender her to the shelter, so we have lots of information about her. According to her previous guardian, Noyo is very affectionate but also timid. We have to agree with that. Although she is shy, she often initiates attention and pets and gives kisses. Noyo is also described as being protective of her guardian and wary of new people until she gets to know them. Noyo enjoys going for car rides and likes to sleep with a soft blanket and a pillow (but of COURSE!) A calm environment would be perfect for this very sweet dog. We recommend older children in Noyo’s new home, due to her timid nature around new people. Noyo is 1-1/2 years old and a 55 svelte pounds.
To see our canine and feline guests, and for information about our services, programs, events, and updates about covid-19 and the shelter, visit: mendoanimalshelter.com. We're on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/
For information about adoptions please call 707-467-6453.
WILLITS WHITE DEER
FROM OVER HERE IN BOONVILLE, all we can do is read the marijuana leaves being dropped randomly in the vicinity of the “ad hoc committee” charged with attempting, yet again, to repair Mendo’s unrepairable pot permit program. As best we can tell the John McCowen-Ted Williams Supervisor bloc wants to scrap it in favor of some kind of “use permit” model which would probably be an improvement — but what to do with the more than 800 current applicants already in the system under the old regime who have paid a lot of money to get very little? The Supervisor John Haschak-Carre Brown-Dan Gjerde bloc apparently thinks that the existing wreck of a program can somehow be salvaged. The ad-hoc committee is made up of Haschak and Williams.
AFTER we posted Jim Shields “wishful thinking” report about the pot ordinance last week (which itself followed our transcription of Supervisor Williams comments about the program at the last board meeting — “Mendo We Have A Problem”), Williams commented, “Realistic next steps to cannabis permitting will be on the 9/22 agenda.”
AND INDEED THEY WERE duly posted on 9/22 as expected, although how anyone could call this “realistic” is beyond us:
Item 6b: Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction to Staff on Cannabis Cultivation Permitting Priorities Including, but Not Limited to: County Counsel Analysis of State CEQA request, Digital Portal, Cost Recovery for Work Outside of Application Scope, Interagency Biologist Agreement, Publication of Cannabis Cultivation Guide, Plan for Staffing Increase or Consultant RFP Request for Proposal (RFP), Equity Grant Program Update, Notices to Correct Applications, Request Provisional License Extension from California Department of Food and Agriculture, and Schedule Special Board of Supervisors Meeting for Cannabis Cultivation Phase 3 Zoning Table and Permitting Model
(Sponsor: Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee (Supervisors Haschak and Williams))
Direct County Counsel to opine on whether County has already met the requirements of CEQA in regards to Cannabis Cultivation permitting And whether State's demand for “Appendix G” is a legally supported county obligation and report back within 30 days; 2) Direct the Executive Office and Planning and Building Services to engage with Information Technology consultant to develop a fully digital submission portal capable of instantaneously generating accurate status reports for staff, applicants and the public; 3) Direct Planning and Building Services to implement cost recovery for staff time allocated to cannabis cultivation development discussions beyond existing application scope; 4) Direct Planning and Building Services to engage in an interagency agreement with California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a biologist to assist with Sensitive Species and Habitat Review; 5) Direct Planning and Building to publish and maintain a Cannabis Cultivation Guide, including flow chart, on website; 6) Direct Planning and Building Services to develop a staffing plan to complete processing of Cannabis Cultivation applications within six months or an RFP for outside contractor if county lacks feasibility to perform; 7) Direct Cannabis Program Manager to prepare Equity Grant Program plan presentation; 8) Direct Planning and Building to generate Notices of Correction and establish processing priorities; 9) Direct Executive Office to add Provisional License extension to legislative platform and Direct ad-hoc to engage with RCRC, Assemblymember Wood and Senator McGuire for support; and 10) Direct staff to schedule Special Board of Supervisors Meeting for Cannabis Cultivation Phase 3 Zoning Table and Permitting Model.
LATER, Williams added, “Solutions are simple. Determine how much time is needed to process applications and staff appropriately. Or, pull the plug, but don’t say we’re going to get it done without adequate resources.”
WE commeted, “Note that the agenda item does NOT request an estimated cost of the many proposals mentioned or who would pay for it/them.”
WILLIAMS replied, “Applicants, I would presume. 30k+ hours of contract planners will run in the millions. If applicants don’t pay and the county cannot, let’s affirm our intention to pull the plug, but please, can we be realistic? A permitting process without staffing is like firefighting without firefighters.”
APPLICANTS? Not likely. They’ve already paid millions for mostly nothing permit-wise.
THEN WE SAW THAT WILLIAMS had attached the following hilarious calculations to the 9/22 agenda item:
Staffing Hours Approximation for the 882 [applicants]
Target date to complete November 2021?
40 hours in a week
52 weeks in a year
= 2,080 roughly hours in a work year per planner 75% efficiency = 1,560 hours per assigned person
50 hours per file x 882 = 44,100 hours
40 hours per file x 882 = 35,280 hours
30 hours per file x 882 = 26,460 hours
20 hours per file x 882 = 17,640 hours
4 planners = 6,240 hours per year
8 planners = 12,480 hours per year
10 planners = 15,600 hours per year
12 planners = 18,720 hours per year
16 planners = 24,960 hours per year
18 planners = 28,080 hours per year
20 planners = 31,200 hours per year
22 planners = 34,200 hours per year
24 planners = 37,440 hours per year
26 planners = 40,560 hours per year
28 planners = 43,680 hours per year
A READER who has been following the pot permit program problems commented:
“Most of the Agenda Item's references to CEQA matters are all due diligence items the county should have performed 4 years ago when they began the whole ordinance ordeal. A quick review of the legislative history of state legislation plus the actual statutes themselves confirm that the state has the legal authority to impose all the various “environmental” protections and procedures now under county review. Haschak is holding on tight to the existing failed ordinance because of pressure from Willits Environmental Center and growers currently trapped in the application process. McCowen will hold on equally tight to moving ahead with the ‘state option-land use’ [i.e., “use permit”] proposal. Either way, CEQA compliance will not change but the latter proposal will eliminate all the convoluted, unfathomable rules and procedures found in the existing ordinance.”
SO what to conclude?
IN PREVIOUS MEETINGS, Williams has said he's trying to support “board direction” (i.e., Gjerde, Brown, Haschak) to try to make the existing program work.
BUT GIVEN ALL THE staff work Williams says will be required, he seems instead to be trying to demonstrate how impractical continuing with the current program is by showing the rest of the Board what it would take in hopes that they'll realize how ridiculous it is — what one might call a “rope-a-dope” (ahem) strategy. We suspect his reference to a “simple” solution was sarcasm: Yeah, right: just hire a few dozen planners nobody can find or afford and everything will be fine.
THE PROGRAM seems unsalvageable at this point. Most Mendo growers aren't paying attention to any of this; they're just growing their pot in smaller gardens in more places with bigger plants and selling it at the higher black market prices while they can. The “legalized” program is irrelevant to them.
WILL THE WILLIAMS ROPE-A-DOPE APPROACH WORK? Will at least one of his colleagues in the keep-the-program bloc see the light? We don’t see how anyone could support the impossible staffing requirements Williams describes. But Haschak and Co. have proven to be intractable in their support of the current approach and its captive applicants even though Haschak agrees that getting them — not to mention the rest of Mendo’s thousands of growers — to full permit status requires more staff and money than anybody has. And even that does not offer a guarantee of a permit.
PAUL McCARTHY'S sudden death is a major loss for Mendocino County journalism. Paul was an old fashioned news hawk, a guy who seemed to be everywhere, whose energetic reporting on everything from current events to high school sports — who else would drive from Elk to Covelo to report a high school basketball game? — had become so popular he'd just moved from Facebook to a website, managing to do both. And he was funny, and no one could beat him on breaking stories. We'd often joke, "Let's see if we can get up on this one before McCarthy." We seldom did. Mendocino County is much diminished tonight.
TRUMP: “I’m putting Ted Cruz as one of the people for the Supreme Court. And you know why I did it? Because I wanted to make sure that I had somebody on the list ... We had about 45 unbelievable people… the smartest, the best, the absolute creme de la creme. The best minds in the country, conservative; they believe in the Constitution. I have to have somebody that we’re going to make sure we get approved, and the only one I could think of was Ted because he’s going to get 50 Republican votes and he’ll get 50 Democrat votes." Trump continued, “We will defend the dignity of work and the sanctity of life. That’s why the Supreme Court is so important. The next President will get one, two, three, or four Supreme Court Justices...If you don’t get it right we will not have a country anymore.” Trump is expected to name a nominee to fill Ginsburg's seat in the next few days.
BUT SATURDAY, the orange provocateur said his first preference would be an unbending papist called Amy Coney Barrett. Judge Barrett is a member of the Federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and is the likely front-runner for the job as Republicans see advantages in replacing Justice Ginsburg with a woman. A former law professor at Notre Dame, Judge Barrett has a solid atta-girl rep in neo-fascist circles.
JANESE JUNE has returned to her home on Ornbaun Road, Boonville, after suffering through an emergency surgery and convalescence in Ukiah. Mrs. June has in her possession a safely stored archive of historical items collected by her late husband, Jack June, much of it rare and directly pertinent to the history of Mendocino County. I bring it up in the remote hope of exploring it some time, and further hope it finds an eventual home at either our Anderson Valley museum or the recently expanded Held-Poage in Ukiah.
THE THREAT of an early rain Friday had pot gardeners extremely nervous, as did the light drizzle of the previous Wednesday. I'm told the bud is ready, but there's a dearth of trimmers, the most experienced of whom can demand forty dollars a whatever, hour? Pound? Ask your next door neighbor. Google Earth reveals the Anderson Valley, from Yorkville to Navarro, as a sea of telltale green. Growers are anticipating up to $2,000 a pound.
HAD to laugh at that photo of the guy sporting a "No Habla Libtard" t-shirt, a guy who looks like he's suffered his share of 'tard insults. As our brief civilization hits the skids, if nothing else its descent has inspired lottsa funnies, especially in graphic form.
INSTANT NOSTALGIA: The carefully kept beds of zinnias and marigolds at the Boonville Fairgrounds, planted as always and as if the plague hadn't knocked out this year's Fair, an annual event that doubles as a kind of county-wide reunion where we see people we haven't seen during the twelve months prior, and one more local event gone missing.
FOR YOUR PERSONNEL FILES: Jordan Sequeira, daughter of the memorable Paul, is the new hire at the DA's office. Dad left Mendo to become the top prosecutor for Solano County, and what better place than Mendo for his heir and assignee to learn the job? Crime being just about our last growth industry… This kid is assured of job security.
JOHN ROBERTSON was the young FBI agent who found the messages that led to the Hillary Clinton email investigation being reopened days before the 2016 election. He said the way the FBI handled the case was “not ethically or morally right.” Robertson feared he would be scapegoated when he found the emails in the wake of the revelations that mega-perv, Anthony Weiner, was sexting a minor. The disgraced congressman's wife Huma Abedin was Clinton's top aide. Robertson said the FBI did nothing for a month until he went outside the chain of command and spoke with the US Attorney's office overseeing the case. The only advice from his bosses was to erase his office computer, which meant leaving no record of his investigations, all of which is described in a new book called, ‘October Surprise: How the FBI Tried to Save Itself and Crashed an Election.’
KATY TAHJA wrote last week: “P.S. It was sad to see a dead bear in the road across from the Little Red Schoolhouse in the westbound lane Saturday morning. Remember wildlife may be coming down for what water there is in the Navarro River. Drive Carefully.”
THE UNFORTUNATE BEAST wasn't a bear; he was a giant boar struck by a pick-up hauling a trailer. Ricky Adams has pictures of the pig's mangled remains. “And that pick-up looked pretty bad, too,” Ricky reports.
WE all get regular reminders that we live in a rural area. I got one just the other morning on upper Lambert Lane. Out for some early morning aerobics I apparently startled a skunk doing whatever a skunk might be doing in the middle of a pre-dawn lonely road. But instead of scurrying off into the underbrush as a fox surely would (a raccoon might stand and fight) this skunk starts running along directly in front of me. I stopped, he stopped. I took two steps and stopped. He shuffled forward and stopped. We proceeded in this stagger-step dance for some fifty yards! Human insolence is one thing, but when you're messed with by a member of the animal kingdom… He finally veered off and I moved on unmolested by man or beast.
FELONY FAMILY OUT FOR A MIDNIGHT RIDE AND.....
On 09-10-2020 at 12:30 A.M. Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies stopped a vehicle for a lighting violation in the area of northbound Highway 101 and the West Road off ramp in Redwood Valley.
Deputies contacted the four occupants of the vehicle. The driver was identified as Jerry DeGurse, 65, of Willits, the front passenger was identified as Nathan DeGurse, 22, of Willits, and a rear passenger was identified as Vicki Sandage, 65, of Willits.
A warrants check revealed Jerry DeGurse had three (3) active felony warrants for his arrest out of Siskiyou County and four (4) active misdemeanor warrants for his arrest out of Siskiyou County.
A warrants check revealed there were two (2) active felony warrants for Nathan DeGurse's arrest out of Siskiyou County. Both Jerry DeGurse and Nathan DeGurse were arrested for their active warrants.
A search of Nathan DeGurse revealed a usable amount of suspected heroin. Deputies continued their investigation and found that Sandage was in possession of several packages of suspected methamphetamine.
Nathan DeGurse and Jerry DeGurse were booked into the Mendocino County Jail to await extradition for their respective warrants.
Sandage was cited to appear in the Mendocino County Superior Court for possession of a controlled substance.
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 19, 2020
ROBERT BERG, Ukiah. Controlled substance, mandatory supervision sentencing, probation revocation.
JOHN BOLTON IV, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)
STEVEN CHAVEZ, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Under influence and in possesino of weapon.
SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
KALLYN FOWLER, Probation revocation.
KYLE FUNDERBURK, Santa Rosa/Willits. DUI.
DAVID GARCIA, Hopland. DUI.
DONNA GARCIA, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
OSVALDO GARNICA, Ukiah. Controlled substance for sale, resisting, probation revocation.
ROBERT HUANG, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
BRANDON JIMENEZ, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
JEREMIAH LUNA, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)
LORENZO MARTINEZ, Willits. Controlled substance, protective order violation, county parole violation.
LUIS PINEDA, Fort Bragg. Paraphernalia, probation revocation.
TOMAS POOL, Sebastopol/Ukiah. Domestic abuse, DUI, suspended license for DUI failure to appear, probation revocation.
ANGELA RIVERA, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
GREGORY THOMPKINS, Fort Bragg. Paraphernalia, probation revocation.
ANTONIO THURMAN, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, paraphernalia, no license.
MONIQUE VALADOR, Fort Bragg. Unlawful possession or use of tear gas, controlled substance, smuggling controlled substance or liquor into jail, probation revocation.
SARA WARRAS, Calpella. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
NICHOLAS YADON, Willits. DUI.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Absentee voting began today here in flyover country and absentee ballots were mailed out to those who requested them previously. Coincidently, two presidential candidates showed up on our doorstep, Trump in Bemidji (an outpost about as remote as Saskatoon, but with warmer winters) and Biden in Duluth, a working class town in a beautiful setting that has cashed in recently on the pre-covid tourist boom as industry around it has fallen on hard times. Interesting to compare the media markets of both. Bemidji is a smalltown market for sure, but the Forum News Service out of Fargo in neighboring ND (can you say red state?) pulls a lot of punch in the north. To be fair, they have some excellent writers, especially delving into environmental issues in the northland. Most out-of-staters don’t realize that the Duluth media market is heavily watched in northwest WI, decidedly a swing state. We may have our Minneapolis, but now they have their Kenosha. The difference between Superior, WI and Kenosha is like the difference between night and day. Believe me, I’ve been to both. Superior is a lot like Duluth (they’re called the Twin Ports), while Kenosha might as well be a suburb of Chicago. In fact, many of the Kenosha rioters came from across the border in IL. Anyhow, back to Trump in Bemidji. A local wag covering the event there mentioned that “about a dozen” Bemidji State students marched in support of BLM. Not many blacks at Bemidji State and of course no professional sports heroes or Hollywood actors. Maybe a pro hockey player or two, but they don’t mess their lives w/ BLM. Pro hockey is an almost exclusively white sport in case no one noticed. Meanwhile, back in Duluth, Biden was Biden (yawn), appearing at a union hall in a Duluth suburb and schmoozing with some kids in Canal Park on the Duluth lakefront. Lots of angst on the boom-and-bust Iron Range (which Trump alluded to in his comments, playing the hero of course). The latest big issue is the Polymet mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Touted as big job producer, until the mine either plays out or pollutes the hell out of the environment. But then, the BWCA will be around forever, won’t it, so who cares? Local media continues to try to pique interest by saying both candidates may return to the (not yet) frozen tundra before the election. Better bring warm clothes…it can get a mite chilly by mid-October.
BOBCAT FIRE FROM LAX TOWER
WRONG MOVE LAMENT
Let’s submit to wearing masks, even though we aren’t sick, and make believe it’s for our own good. Let’s submit to no power; it’s for our own good. Let’s submit to the homeless population growing and taking over public places and call it humanitarian. Let’s submit to higher taxes because elected officials are more qualified to spend our money than we are.
Higher taxes haven’t helped the homeless nor fixed our infrastructure. Shutting off power doesn’t make us safer. We’re under house arrest for having committed no crime. We’re supposed to wash and dry our recycling, but it’s OK to defecate on the sidewalk.
I moved here two years ago, and I am baffled as to how Californians became so tolerant that they gave up their freedom. The privileged get their hair done, go golfing — they aren’t subject to the same rules as the taxpayers. Close the beaches, small businesses and churches, but keep Walmart open, for our own good. I don’t understand why Californians haven’t rebelled against the tyrannical leaders who get rich off taxpayers’ labor. Won’t you learn? Stop complying with mandates they don’t follow.
Here I sit alone, surrounded by silence in my beautiful home, sweating in the dark. California, land of the oppressed, home of the sheeple.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY 2
What society needs to realize is that life is about calculated risk. If I want to eat a gas station tuna sandwich I’m taking a calculated risk of crapped my pants. If I want to run a red light I take a calculated risk of getting hit by another car. If I want to put my hand on a hot stove, I’m taking a calculated risk that I’m probably going to get burned. So if you threaten a police officer, or attempt to harm or resist a police officer, you’re taking a calculated risk that force will be used upon you. Most people can’t handle the fact there’s consequences for your actions in the real world. You can’t always hide behind a keyboard and say whatever you want.
THE POST-OBJECTIVITY ERA
Summary Of "Hate Inc: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise One Another"
by Matt Taibbi
(From a speech given this week to the McCourtney Institute of Democracy, Penn State University)
We live in a time of incredible political division. Many of us have had the experience of talking to someone whose idea of reality seems to be completely different from our own. It's become difficult to have an argument in the traditional sense. People with differing opinions are often no longer even working from the same commonly-accepted set of facts. It's a problem that has a lot to do with changes in how we receive and digest information, especially through the news media.
I've worked in the press for thirty years. In my lifetime the core commercial strategy of the news business has changed radically. At the national level, companies have moved from trying to attract one big audience to trying to capture and retain multiple small audiences.
Fundamentally, this means the press has gone from selling a vision of reality they perceive to be acceptable to a broad mean, to selling division. For technological, commercial, and political reasons this instinct has become more exaggerated with time, snowballing toward the dysfunctional state we're in today.
A story that illustrates how the old system worked involves the first major national news broadcast, the CBS radio program anchored by the legendary Lowell Thomas.
History buffs will know Thomas. His was the iconic voice on those old WWII newsreels:
Thomas began doing a national news program in 1930 and noticed something right away. Years later he explained, "I had quickly discovered that my evening program was a perfect way to make listeners angry. You could step on millions of toes at the same time."
Thomas had a creative background, having been an adventurer, explorer, and actor who'd toured the world doing one-man shows. He was excited about the possibilities of radio and wanted to find a way to capitalize on its provocative qualities, planning on publishing a book of listener letters called ‘Making Millions Angry.’
Thomas's sponsors balked. One, the magazine ‘The Literary Digest,’ asked him instead to "play things down the middle." His publisher made him change ‘Making Millions Angry’ to the lifeless title, _Fan Mail.
Thomas committed to the "down the middle" strategy. His news show announced that it sought the widest possible audience through its famous introduction, "Good evening, everybody":
Thomas kept his feelings out of things and let audiences supply the emotion. He later called this "letting your listeners make up their own minds."
We'd call this the "objective" style of reporting today, and it's important to understand, this was not about ethics. It was a commercial strategy. The news made its money by attracting the largest possible audience, then allowing advertisers to court that audience. The thinking was, once you started injecting politics into the show, it reduced the number of potential customers who'd be susceptible to advertising.
This would the template for news for about fifty years. Anchors from Thomas through Dan Rather and Jessica Savitch delivered information in a reserved monotone. Print journalism was written in an even, unemotional, third-person voice.
Beginning in the early nineties, three major changes altered the business.
The first was the development of the 24 hour news network, with CNN launching the first such broadcast:
Instead of one newspaper and one broadcast per day, media companies began to think of news as a continually evolving thing. Although the initial CNN concept was just repeating loops of half-hour broadcasts that changed maybe twice per day, eventually it evolved to capture continuous, live coverage of ongoing events.
This format put enormous stress on media companies to find new ways of creating content. You couldn’t make enough carefully-reported news to fill every hour. Outlets had to find something that could be created and put on air at the speed of thought.
One type of story that worked was putting something visually interesting on screen and having reporters talk while people watched. It could be a coming hurricane, a baby down a well, a car chase, a hostage situation, a sunken submarine, etc.
War was very useful in this respect. An anchor talking over explosions was an easy way to capture audiences. The first Gulf War in Iraq became one of the first true 24-hour stories, making stars out of live news performers like Arthur Kent, the “Scud Stud”:
The other very easy way to generate content was just to put two people on a set together and have them argue about something. News companies didn’t particularly care whether these were good arguments or not. They weren’t interested in arbitrating who was right or wrong. They just new it was an easy way to generate interest, in the same way football or boxing does.
Of course, pro sports is real competition. Crossfire was closer to pro wrestling, where the competition could be semi-scripted to seem more dramatic.
Crossfire, which started as an NBC radio show and moved to CNN, simplified politics for audiences. There were just two ideas shown, “From the left” and “From the right.” An issue would be tossed between two combatants like Tom Braden and Pat Buchanan, and they would spend a half-hour tussling over it, with a few blocs of ads wedged in between.
This side-against-side format wasn’t much different from game shows, except game shows were better TV, from the companies’ point of view. In game shows, people fight to win money and sponsored products, i.e. they’re commercials surrounded by commercials. A lot of television is designed around concepts like this.
Shows like Crossfire were a step down from sports or game shows commercially, but had the benefit of gravitas. People felt they were talking about something real, which they did not feel about Family Feud or Hollywood Squares. A key point is if a product has anything to do with news, there’s a law of diminishing returns that comes into play the further broadcasters move from reality.
As the show becomes more hyped and dramatic, you might get more eyes, but you’ll lose belief, which is essential to the enterprise. Once the audience begins to sense there’s a false element to a news show, forget about the ethical issues involved: as a commercial product, it starts to lose utility. People will just watch soap operas or cop shows instead.
The second major change was the introduction of the Internet, which forced a major alteration to the structure of the news business.
Newspapers and TV stations for decades were almost guaranteed profits, thanks to distribution advantages. Newspapers had their own trucks, boxes, paper kids, etc. If you were a local business owner and wanted to put out a want ad to hire someone, the local newspaper was the only show in town.
Marshall McLuhan, author of The Medium is the Massage, predicted with uncanny accuracy what would happen if classified ads were to be lost to media firms. He said, in 1964:
The classified ads (and stock-market quotations) are the bedrock of the press. Should an alternative source of easy access to such diverse daily information be found, the press will fold.
TV and radio stations leased a limited number of channels from the state. There were only so many broadcast ad spots available.
As one former newspaper owner put it to me during my research for Hate Inc., “These were scarcity businesses. They were licenses to print money.”
Almost overnight, the Internet eliminated the distribution advantage. Worse, it brought floods of new content. News companies were forced to compete not just with each other but with millions of independent voices. If you were a news channel you weren’t just competing with other news channels, but with cat videos, Sasquatch sites and a thousand other things.
The news business went from being from easy money to very hard money, prompting the third change, involving the use of political slant as a moneymaking strategy.
In the sixties, seventies and eighties there began to appear new forms of talk radio, with disc jockeys like Alan Burke and Bob Grant in New York, for instance.
Mainly these were conservative talk shows that hunted big drive-time audiences. These were largely working and middle-class men who responded to content about things that frustrated them, often involving liberal politics.
Then in 1987 under Ronald Reagan, the federal government stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine, which required balance on public airwaves. This, combined with the new economic pressures, led to companies embracing the idea of selling slanted media.
In the Internet/cable era, big TV companies like Fox realized: rather than try to corral an increasingly splintered whole audience, it’s better to pick one demographic and try to dominate it. Fox hunted older, white conservative demographic by feeding it stories that reinforced the idea that America was being overrun by immigrants and minorities and criminals.
Fox chief Roger Ailes famously described Fox’s audience as “55 to dead.” These people were older, white, suburban or rural, had disposable income, and were often retired and able to spend all day watching TV, ready to shop with credit cards – the perfect ad market.
Ailes hunted these viewers by feeding them stories that reinforced their idea that America was being overrun by immigrants and minorities and criminals. They sold a horror story about Happy Days America, old-time, Greatest Generation America, under assault by contaminants out to subvert family values.
They made villains out of characters. Hillary was a perfect TV villain for conservatives – she said she wasn’t baking cookies and even though her husband was president, she wasn’t going to be Tammy Wynette and Stand By Her Man. The more Fox showed Clinton on air, the more the “family values” audience was provoked.
Heartland viewers flocked to Fox by the millions, beginning a sorting process with audiences that continues to this day, with conservatives moving to one side to Fox, and progressive or liberal audiences drifting in another direction.
Since that period in the eighties and nineties, the “objective” news formula has gradually disappeared, and has more and more replaced by Fox-style coverage that courts specific demographics.
There were some holdouts, but the change grew more pronounced over the years. Then Trump happened. I was on the campaign trail in the summer of 2015, when I started to hear reporters talk about a problem.
Trump, it seemed, was making everyone too much money. Worse, the increased media attention was pushing him to the nomination. Media companies were in a pickle. How could they keep the ratings without being accused of helping a potentially dangerous politician?
The Columbia Journalism Review later did a study that showed coverage of Trump went way up beginning in early 2016. Coverage also become significantly less policy-focused and more focused on his personality.
I don’t have any problem with negative coverage of Donald Trump, I wrote a lot of it. The problem was the new formula – described by the New York Times as “copious coverage and aggressive coverage” – fit perfectly into the commercial needs of the corporate press. Trump was the perfect modern media product.
In the post-objectivity era, media companies learned there was a consistent, dependable way to make money. First, identify an audience. Then, relentlessly feed it streams of stories that validate that audience’s belief systems.
The easiest method is to publish stories that present people your audience does not like in a negative light. Fox did this with terrorists, criminals, feminists, liberals, the French, the “New Black Panthers,” and a thousand other bugbears. The more horror stories they showed, the bigger their market share.
With Trump this effect was now easily accomplished with “liberal” audiences. Media companies figured out that all they had to do to secure high ratings was wave Trump at people all day long. This has coincided with a huge surge in profitability: cable news revenues are up 38% since Trump announced his campaign in 2015.
A converse is that media outlets lose revenue and market share when they challenge or confuse their audiences. A case in point that Cenk Uygur talked about in a documentary called All Governments Lie: in 2008, his Young Turks show built up a huge audience of people who’d fallen in love with Barack Obama during his campaign.
But in 2009, when the Young Turks began reporting negatively about Obama’s performance as president – for instance his response to the financial crisis – they lost audience.
Media companies are very aware of this dynamic, but in the Trump era it became possible to avoid this problem with ease. What’s happened since 2016 is the news landscape has split into news for people who love Trump, and people who hate him.
The world as represented in news programs is now almost exactly Crossfire. We only see two ideas. These ideas are shown to be in constant combat. There is no pretense of a hope for cooperation or accommodation. It’s constant combat.
Audiences are completely siloed. A Pew study that just came out showed that of the people who say Fox is their primary news source, 93% describe themselves as Republicans. For MSNBC, the number is 95% Democrats. The New York Times is 91% Democrats. Even NPR is now 87% Democrats.
So one channel is talking almost exclusively to one group of people, while other channels are talking almost exclusively to another group of people.
As a business, the news media was headed this way long before Trump. However, we’ve now arrived at a place where the Good morning, everybody model geared toward delivering information broadly has been switched out a model that more than ever works backwards, beginning with the audience. It’s more like demographic targeting, or audience-framing, than information delivery.
When I entered the business in the nineties, I wasn’t aware of any of this.
My idea of journalism had been informed by watching my father, a TV reporter. He got an assignment and did it and didn’t think much beyond that. At the reporter level, no one from the business suite comes and tells you you have to shape your copy for an audience, to increase sales.
In fact, in the years before money got tight because of the Internet and other factors, most journalists were encouraged to believe they were above business concerns. The sales reps were often tucked away in separate offices or wings, literally out of sight of editorial staff.
Some years into my own career, however, I began to understand that media work involves constant unspoken pressure to highlight some facts over others. You learn to recognize almost more by smell than by thought what is and is not a “story,” what editors will and will not accept.
In my early years, I worked as a correspondent in Russia, and learned that editors loved stories about American culture being introduced into post-communist society, like American-advised elections or stock exchanges, or a KFC opening in Moscow:
Stories that were not as complimentary about the economic policies we’d advised Russia to pursue, for instance about Russia’s loss of public health care or free higher education, or its soaring crime and addiction rates, were not as desired.
In Manufacuring Consent, Noam Chomsky talked about how unspoken press pressures often involved patriotic political imperatives. American reporters could write about communists murdering a Catholic priest in Poland during the Cold War (a “worthy victim”), but not about U.S. client states in Central America doing the same thing (an “unworthy victim”).
As reporters we internalized those biases. In the post-objectivity era, we’ve come to internalize new ones as well.
If you work at Fox, you’re not going to do a climate change or police abuse story. You will do a story about corruption at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If you work at MSNBC, you won’t do a story about problems with NAFTA, or Barack Obama’s drone program.
This sounds obvious, but most people think this is a matter of politics. It is that in some cases, but it’s also very much about money. Once a company has established an editorial approach, and a political tone, departing from that approach will cost it audience, and lots and lots of money – billions in some cases – as well.
This creates an enormous risk of the tail wagging the dog. News companies make more money if they pick stories they know will get you upset, and avoid the ones that are confusing to you. They will make sure they wind you up as much as they can not just every day, but every minute. This can be very damaging to your mental health, to say nothing of what it does to society.
The news is not a public service. First and foremost, it’s a consumer product, like cigarettes or Twinkies. And because we’ve learned that division sells, it can be bad for you, and addicting, in the same way other consumer products can be. We worry about the food we put in our bellies, the air we breathe into our lungs. It’s time to worry about what we put in our brains as well.
FORT BRAGG FOOTBALL (probably the 70s)
POLICE SHOT PORTLAND SLAYING SUSPECT WITHOUT WARNING OR TRYING TO ARREST HIM FIRST, WITNESS SAYS
by Tim Elfrink
When police last week surrounded Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-described anti-fascist suspected of fatally shooting a member of a far-right group in Portland, Ore., the wanted man wasn’t obviously armed, a witness to the scene said Wednesday. In fact, according to Nate Dinguss, Reinoehl was clutching a cellphone and eating a gummy worm as he walked to his car outside an apartment complex in Lacey, Wash. That’s when officers opened fire without first announcing themselves or trying to arrest him, Dinguss, a 39-year-old who lives in the apartment complex, said in a statement shared with The Washington Post.
EVERYBODY UP FOR THE KICK-OFF
A letter in the Mendocino County Today column earlier this month insinuated that Mendocino County didn't need a cheerleader on the Board of Supervisors. I was a cheerleader for Ukiah High School in 1996. I was the Co-Captain and a “flyer”. One can be a champion for their community and a leader at the same time. I would say that Mendocino County needs a leader who is dedicated to the success of her community by moving policies and initiatives forward with passion and dedication. I would invite anyone reading this to visit my website and Facebook page to learn more about me and my vision for Mendocino County.
FALLING BY THE WAYSIDE
by John Arteaga
A couple of years ago, I would never have thought of using the word ‘bullshit’ in a column or letter to editor, but perhaps this is another one of the norms of a decent society that have fallen by the wayside under the Dear Leader. Not being one who is easily shocked by harsh language, still, I had to notice when I heard that our president had used that term in a public address. Unprecedented.
The Nation magazine’s always excellent columnist Eric Alterman recently wrote, “bullshit.” As defined by the Princeton philosophy professor emeritus Harry Frankfurt, these are statements made when the speaker “does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.” There could hardly be a better description of the entire body of one Donald J Trump’s spoken words. How ironic it is to see large placards posted in an otherwise pleasant Westside Ukiah neighborhood proclaiming, “Trump 2020. No more bullshit.” What are they talking about? Bullshit is his stock in trade!
His niece, Mary Trump, recently published a book (after a pitched legal battle from The Donald) about the family, called Too Much and Never Enough, subtitled something like ‘how my dysfunctional family created the world’s most dangerous person’. She was the daughter of Trump’s older brother, Fred, who had been brought up to take over the cutthroat white collar criminal enterprise that his dad Fred Sr. had created. This empire of hundreds of apartment buildings had been built on racist exclusion of renters of color, tax cheating scams that funneled profits on which taxes should have been paid into his toddler’s bank accounts, and who knows what other illegal scams. Apparently it was too grotesque for young Fred Jr, who was afflicted with something intolerable to the Trump clan; a sense of morality and decency. He followed his passion and became an Airline pilot, and in so doing fell afoul of the vengeful control obsession of his father, leading to estrangement from the family and terminal alcoholism.
Brother Donald was the man for the job; he tried to screw his siblings out of their part of Fred’s estate while the old man was on his deathbed. His older sister talks about him as a kid being a brat and that she had to do all his homework for him. Not surprising if you read any of his millions of tweets. The man is functionally illiterate; apparently unable to distinguish between ‘their’, ‘there’, and they’re’, he also manages to misspell the simplest words constantly (wouldn’t you think the president could get somebody to clean up his typos before he posts them?). He also has the annoying habit of, like a crank letter to the editor writer, going off on All Caps, the writing equivalent of yelling at people. She also revealed that the only way that he was able to get into the University of Pennsylvania, home of the famed Wharton school of business, was to have somebody a lot smarter than him take the SATs in his place. Though he often brags about going to Wharton, he didn’t; he may have taken a class or two in it, but clearly he didn’t get much out of it, as he turned out to be an epically terrible businessman. Inheriting a colossal fortune, over and over again he squandered it on ill-conceived plans that crashed into bankruptcy, though he usually came out of each disaster with a pile of ill-gotten gain while his investors, bankers, contractors and everyone else involved ended up getting bupkis.
After a few of these gold-plated fiascoes, the banking community wised up and refused to lend him a plug nickel, but for some mysterious reason, a European bank, BCCI, continued to loan him money even after he burned them on previous loans. This is the same outfit that recently paid huge fines to settle money-laundering charges for drug cartels. Hmmm, think there might be something that the American public should know about that?
Donald Trump is a desperate man at this point; his whole scene cannot survive legal scrutiny! This is why he is so determined to prevent the entirely legal oversight of Congress into his taxes etc. What even the most cursory investigation into his affairs is very likely to turn up is that not only is he not even close to being a billionaire, but that he is history’s most successful bullshit artist; in hock up to his earlobes to some of the worst characters in the world; Middle Eastern despots, Russian oligarchs and other parties with a keen interest in affecting the foreign policy of the world’s greatest superpower.
Mary Trump gives her Uncle Donald credit for being a savant at self-promotion, his single identifiable skill. His reelection campaign is broke, he’s trailing Biden badly even in Fox News polls, and what does he spend his time doing? Golfing!
Clearly the Repugs have rigged the game for them to win unless there is a landslide for the Dems, so maybe he’s just relying on that, along with more Russian meddling, but he must know that if he doesn’t stay in power, he might finally be held accountable for at least some of his crimes, So we can expect to see a real scorched-earth fight to hang onto power even if he loses the election, perhaps even calling out his gun-toting minions who believe any lie he tells them. It could get ugly.
FIGHTING FIRES IN OREGON IS UNLIKE ANY SCENE I'VE EVER ENCOUNTERED
by Juliet Grable
Sometime near midnight on Sept. 8, we drove 8663, our wildland rig outfitted with a 700-gallon water tank, through a gantlet of heat on West Valley View Road in Ashland, Ore. A fierce wind pushed flames into the road. Blackberry vines flared; a creosote-soaked power pole flamed like a torch.
We parked a safe distance away, started the pump and deployed hose. A woman in a minivan pulled up, tears in her eyes. “I can’t decide whether to go back home and try to save some stuff,” she said, voice shaking. “What should we do?” I told her that it wasn’t worth taking the chance, and she drove off, weaving through the emergency vehicles.
My husband, Brint, and I became volunteer firefighters in 2014, shortly after we moved to the Greensprings, a rural mountain community east of Ashland. A fire called Oregon Gulch had just burned more than 33,000 acres in the southeast corner of our district. Although a shift in the wind sent the flames away from the Greensprings, Oregon Gulch was a wake-up call: It made us understand what it meant to move to a community surrounded by forestland. We felt it was our responsibility to become firefighters.
When we joined the Greensprings Rural Fire District’s all-volunteer force, I thought it would be something fun we did every Monday night — a good way to get to know our new community. But being a volunteer firefighter is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The first year I felt like an incompetent fool most of the time. There’s so much to know: How to deploy a fire shelter, which could save your life if you’re ever caught in a wildfire. The correct way to roll up hoses. How to put a cervical collar on a patient with a possible neck injury. Radio protocol. Over time, my confidence grew — but no amount of training could mentally prepare us for an incident on the scale of the Almeda Fire.
We keep fleeing wildfires. Soon, there may be nowhere left that’s safe.
Our district is rural, with homes spread far apart and tucked into the forest; structure fires are rare. But the Almeda Fire was a largely suburban fire, spreading through densely populated neighborhoods along Interstate 5. A wall of flame, fueled by a rare strong east wind that gained velocity as it funneled into the valley, raced up the creek drainage, devouring entire mobile home parks, neighborhoods and shopping districts.
When we were called in on the morning of Sept. 8, Kyle, Brint and I led in 8663, a converted military transport vehicle. Following behind were Chief Gene Davies in his command vehicle, our Type I fire engine and our water tender (essentially a water tank on wheels, equipped with a powerful pump). The freeway was empty, the median charred, guardrails twisted from heat. We could see remnant fires on either side and homesites turned to ash, nothing left but chimneys. It was a scene unlike any I’d ever encountered.
As the fire ripped up the valley, responders’ top priority was helping people evacuate, not saving buildings. The incident command system, which allows multiple agencies to plug in on a large incident, coordinated our efforts; we were under the command of a battalion chief from Grants Pass, with personnel from the Oregon Department of Forestry working alongside us. When we arrived on the scene, we were assigned to a division where the fire had already come through, leaving a checkerboard of charred fields, incinerated structures and intact homes. We focused on protecting structures that hadn’t yet burned and putting out spot fires that could blow up into something more.
An orange pall cloaked the horizon to the northwest. The towns of Talent and Phoenix were ablaze. But we couldn’t think about it. We had to concentrate on our piece of this awful puzzle. Spot fires, sparked by flying embers, were everywhere. All night we deployed hose, started the pump, sprayed water, rolled hose, climbed in and out of the rig. Whenever we ran out of water, we would drive to an intersection next to Bear Creek, where two members of my crew had parked the tender, and fill up. Over the course of our 24-plus-hour shift, we refilled our tank close to a dozen times.
Though exhausting, it helped to be busy, to not think of so many people’s lives reduced to smoking ruins. “I think we saved that one!” we would say when we had put out all the embers near a structure. At other times, it was disheartening work, cooling down foundations where homes had once been. “God---- wind!” one of my colleagues yelled during a break.
Near dawn, we pulled apart a smoldering fence in the yard near a still-standing house. We had just finished soaking it down when we glimpsed a bright orange blaze through the trees to the north. We called it in and rushed over. It turned out to be a van, fully engulfed, burning in an already blackened field. We quickly extinguished it and moved on to our next assignment. And so it went, hour after hour.
Meanwhile, new fires had erupted all over the state. On rare breaks, I tried not to think about the possibility of a new fire starting up at home. With these winds and tinder-dry fuels, a spark could quickly turn into a conflagration. Most of our equipment and personnel were here, down in the valley, a good 45 minutes away.
Late the next afternoon, we were finally relieved. The wind had relented somewhat, and our combined crews had stamped out most of the urgent spot fires in our division. We’d been working almost nonstop for more than 24 hours. All of our handheld radios were dead. Other first responders and firefighters would keep battling, including some from around the state and beyond, from Nevada, Idaho and Utah. The National Guard and firefighters from Ashland’s sister city in Guanajuato, Mexico, also arrived to help with the relief effort. The Almeda Fire was not fully contained until a week after it broke out. It destroyed at least 2,300 residences.
I’m from a long line of California ranchers. Now we flee fires all the time.
After that shift, I recently asked Brint, “If you knew what you know now, do you think we would have moved up here in 2014?” No,” he said, shaking his head. “No way.”
This saddened me: We love our community and our life here on the mountain. And it’s not clear there’s any place in the West where we can live free of wildfire risk; from Canada to Mexico, blazes are darkening the skies, and the fall months will worsen California’s Santa Ana winds. So we will keep training on Monday nights — as will thousands of firefighters across the West, trying our best to prepare for the next call, the next fire season.
On our way home, during the long, sober drive back up the mountain in our rig, I stared at the surrounding hills, carpeted with conifers. Many of them are dead or dying from drought stress and beetle infestation. I kept thinking I saw smoke. Too easily, I could picture all of it on fire.
(Juliet Grable is a freelance writer and volunteer firefighter who lives in the Greensprings, a rural community in Oregon's southern Cascades.)
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, REQUIESCAT IN PACE
Shocking and chilling news.
It does not bode well.
Donald Trump has failed to get one single major bill passed into law, except for the tax cut - the single largest corporate giveaway to wealthy companies and people ever in American history. He failed on healthcare "repeal and replace", and he's failed on every other legislative front.
There is, however, one thing Trump does very well. He appoints federal judges - at all levels. He appointed more judges in his first three years than any other president. Ever.
And then there is Mr. Wonderful, "Gorgeous" Moscow Mitch McConnell. He may look like a wet ghost. But he is in fact a very clever man and a highly skilled veteran far-right partisan political operator. McConnell is the very same water carrier for the far right extremist corporate ideologues that pull his strings as he was when he first arrived in Washington as the junior senator from Kentucky in 1984.
Although Moscow "Mitty" consistently panders to his racist and xenophobic base with anti-Washington rhetoric, in point of fact McConnell has spent his entire adult life in Washington DC as a career hack and politician. He is, as LBJ famously quipped about Nixon, a "chronic campaigner."
And McConnell is very good at what he does. This person - who looks and sounds as though he has spent his life underground in tunnels - is the Republican Caucus leader in the United States Senate. And because his party holds a razor thin majority of the seats in that chamber, Mitch is its Majority leader, and thus utterly and completely controls every aspect of what actually happens in the Senate, including legislation and confirmation of presidential appointments.
GOD BLESS US ALL
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