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DRY AND MILD conditions will be likely across the region through Monday. Thereafter, cooler weather and periods of rain will become increasingly probable during middle to late portions of next week. (NWS)
RAINFALL TOTALS for the 2020-21 "wet" season (Oct-Oct):
Boonville (16.71" total)
0.1" Oct 2020
4.8" Jan 2021
Yorkville (21.56" total)
0.0" Oct 2020
5.9" Jan 2021
YEARLY RAINFALL TOTALS from the past seven seasons:
29 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
COVID CASES / DEATHS (Month): Mendocino County
229 / 9 (Jul)
392 / 8 (Aug)
260 / 2 (Sep)
210 / 2 (Oct)
420 / 2 (Nov)
964 / 4 (Dec)
876 / 11 (Jan)
382 / 5 (Feb)
131 / 3 (Mar)
82 / 2 (Apr)
194 / 1 (May)
164 / 1 (Jun)
323 / 2 (Jul)
1365 / 12 (Aug)
1107 / 20 (Sep)
HIT-AND-RUN DRIVER GINA BEAN CONVICTED
UKIAH – A Mendocino County judge on Thursday convicted a Fort Bragg woman of a felony in the 2019 death of a young skateboarder.
Gina Rae Bean, 43, was found guilty after a trial in front of Presiding Judge Ann Moorman. Bean was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in the death of another person, a felony violation. The state Vehicle Code mandates that the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury or death of a person must immediately stop the vehicle and render aid including summoning emergency help. State law also requires a driver to report the accident without delay to the nearest law enforcement agency.
Criminal charges accused Bean of failing on the night of July 18, 2019, to stop, render aid, or notifying law enforcement of an accident on Highway 1 at the intersection with Little Lake Road. Calum Pulido [Hunnicutt] was skateboarding with a friend at about 10:45 p.m. He was heading west on Little Lake Road when he was struck and killed by a northbound vehicle driven by Bean.
Court proceedings were delayed for a year because of a variety of reasons including COVID restrictions. Eventually Bean and her private attorney waived her right to a jury trial and agreed to a trial before Presiding Judge Ann Moorman in Mendocino County Superior Court. The court trial began on Sept. 20 and over a total of five days prosecution and defense witnesses testified in front of Judge Moorman.
Bean testified on her own behalf at the court trial. Judge Moorman heard final arguments on Tuesday and took the case under submission. She announced the guilty verdict on Thursday.
Sentencing of Bean is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 3.
Bean faces up to four years in state prison. Bean also could be placed on supervised probation for no more than two years. Under law, however, Bean must serve county jail time. With credits, Bean could serve between 45 and 180 actual days in jail.
The California Highway Patrol and the state Department of Justice crime laboratories in Eureka and Sacramento developed evidence after the vehicle involved in the fatal accident was found hidden, and already under repair.
District Attorney investigators assisted prosecutor Eloise Kelsey in the trial preparation and developing additional evidence.
Judge Moorman found co-defendant, Ricky Faustino Santos, 37, also of Fort Bragg, was not guilty of being an accessory after the fact. Santos faces no further court proceedings.
Background: "Gina Bean Turns Herself In, Then Posts Bail." (December 2019)
SUPES UPCOMING SPECIAL-MEETING AGENDA
Subject: [MCN-Announce]- Special 10/5/21 BOS meeting
From: "Kathy" <email@example.com>
A special 10/5/21 BOS meeting agenda includes a workshop on the sheriff's budget, an Application for up to $18,084,837.00 in Local Jurisdiction Assistance Program Grant Funding, and changes to the cannabis equity grant program.
BENEFIT FOR RAQUEL FLORES
Please join us next weekend, Saturday October 9th from 11am until the food runs out! And Sunday October 10th 9am and on! We will be selling food to go, Tacos, Carnitas, Pozole, Birria, Menudo and more!! The menus will be different both days! We are fundraising to raise money for a local community member who was recently diagnosed with cancer!
Raquel is a loving wife and mother of 4 who needs our help!
Any questions feel free to contact me or Estela Espinoza who’s information is on the flier!
If you can not attend but would like to make a donation please let me know! Thank you all!
Estela Espinoza, 489-0160
ANOTHER OLD AV POSTCARD FROM EBAY (via Marshall Newman)
NOEL MANNERS WRITES: The old postcard of horse riders in Hendy Woods brought memories of when I worked as a teenage “wrangler” at Highland Ranch. In the 1970’s. I was fortunate to lead up to 20 persons horseback each Sunday for a ride in Big Hendy Grove, always stopping for a break near the river.
The hermit, Petrov, lived in a redwood tree goosepen on the periphery of the grove. One day while on a solo ride, he came up to me and was very upset and angry. Leading my horse, I followed him to where his “house” had been and was recently logged. He was so upset that he was gesturing that he wanted my rifle which I politely refused. Later, I came back with another wrangler and helped him resettle his belongings in the same goosepen, which was now a stump.
C'MON HOME TO EAT 2021
The pandemic and the drought have illustrated the importance of local food all year ‘round. If the farming, packaging, trucking, and distribution system of food from California’s central valley, Florida, Nebraska, China--or wherever--is slowed or stopped, where would we obtain our food without local sources? Fortunately, Mendocino County has a relatively robust system in place that can survive—even thrive—with your support.
Local food has the strong advantage of heightened nutrition with reduced use of fossil fuel and packaging. The consumer has the opportunity of knowing not only where it is grown, but who grew it and how--to hear first-hand about the life story of the food you eat. Spending your dollars locally also girds our local economy and provides jobs.
Even though the Boonville Farmers’ Market has completed its season, other farmers’ markets in the County are still going. Another direct connection still in full swing are AV’s many farm stands like Blue Meadow, Brock, Filigreen, Gowan, and Petite Teton. Many of our AV restaurants use local ingredients. The Mendo-Lake Food Hub has expanded its weekly all-year distribution of produce and value added products to serve individual families or buying groups.
AV Health Center’s Wellness Committee has one more Tuesday afternoon produce exchange set up for Tuesday, October 5th at the Community Park. The remaining produce goes to the Health Center staff and the AV Foodbank. See the bottom of this Update for contact information on all of the above.
So why is October called C’mon Home To Eat month? With harvest season at its peak the summer fruits and veggies abound, not only for fresh consumption, but you can enjoy bulk prices for freezing, canning, and drying. You can also stock up on winter squash for storage, as well as nuts, flour, olive oil, grains, poultry, and meats. With the pandemic, AV Foodshed hasn’t organized any big celebrations for October, but watch for announcements in the Foodshed’s Weekly Update about restaurant specials, a final produce exchange, school activities, and the Chestnut Gathering.
C’mon and join the Foodshed and the Health Center’s Wellness Committee and eat locally all of October and beyond.
The AVHS boys soccer game won their first game at home today against Credo 6-1. Sophomore Eric Perez scored the first goal early in the first half followed by two consecutive goals from junior Stephen Torales. Junior Juan Luis Orozco scored the third goal before the end of the first half. Randal Ferreyra scored two goals in the second half while Credo was able to sneak one by our keeper, junior Jose Pereda. We will be hosting Calistoga this Friday, October 1st at 4:30. (AD Arthur Folz reporting.)
THERE'S FUTBOL and there's football, and the latter, in full fall glory, can be viewed Saturday noon at the Boonville Fairgrounds when the revived AV Panthers, coached by John Toohey, take on the Tomales Braves.
JUST DOWN the street, the Flynn Creek Circus has pitched a tent at the Boonville Brewery, under whose big top the now venerable Circus will delight the young and the young at heart. Boonville, Mendocino County's most happening community!
WELL SHUT MY MOUTH if the Northcoast's Prufrockian Congressman, Jared Huffman, hasn't joined the progressive Democrats to oppose the chintzy version of Biden's proposed spending bill. Dare he eat a peach? Go ahead, Jared. Have two peaches on me, one of your seldom delighted captives, er, constituents.
HOW MUCH RAIN do we need to get back to pre-drought liquid comfort? Jeanine Jones of the California Department of Water Resources says, “We are going into winter with depleted storage in many reservoirs and very dry antecedent conditions. One interesting factoid is that using something called the USGS Basic Characterization Model, we’re anticipating it would take 140% of average precipitation to get to average state runoff.”
BUT, BUT, BUT, MADAM. A woman called this morning to snarl that Clow Ridge was not named after Norman Clow. “Get yer facts straight,” she demanded. Click. Fond as I am of ol' Norm, it's beyond my authority to name a chunk of the Coast Range after him, which I didn't do in the first place. There's a slew of Clows, past and present and, obviously, Clow Ridge was named after the first Clow to claim it, run sheep on it, gaze at it with proprietary pride. That man was, I believe, at least three generations of Clows prior to Norman.
MENDOCINO COUNTY'S defendant community is delighted with the pending federal case against the two rogue Rohnert Park cops moonlighting as highway bandits, pulling over southbound dope shippers to relieve them of bud and bucks. The defendant community, Mendo branch, hopes this case will also ensnare certain of Mendo law enforcement. The DC points out that the two badged bandits wouldn't have been as productive as they turned out to be if they randomly stopped southbound vehicles — “That guy looks good. Stop him.” Too inefficient. The two RP bandits might have had foreknowledge of who to stop, and that foreknowledge could have been provided by… But we won't know for a slam dunk fact until the federal case against the two Rohnert Park cops is revealed.
AS WE KNOW, Zeke Flatten, has also filed a suit, also pending at the federal level but originally filed in Mendo, alleging Mendo involvement in these illegal interdictions, but it's the federal suit against the two Rohnert Park cops that's likely to reveal if they acted alone or had help from deeper in the Emerald Triangle.
IN THE FORTY YEARS we've been at it at the Boonville weekly, we've never been able to verify a single accusation of theft against anybody in Mendo law enforcement. We've listened to lots of vague accusations but not a single one panned out.
HERE'S A COUPLE of useful descriptives for on-line compulsives: “Stream of no consciousness” and “fingertip diarrhea.” You're welcome.
A READER WRITES:
Sorry, but personally, and with some knowledge of how the Auditor's Office works, I think you and Mark are off base in glorifying the interim auditor.
She does not have the required qualifications to hold the job for starters. Neither did Weer. She wants to be grandfathered in like he was.
Why are we rehiring Weer at $12,000 extra expense to do work that the acting auditor should be? Apparently, because she doesn't know how.
The whining, snarky comments she made as attributed in the AVA are an embarrassment and underscore her lack of professional abilities.
Good fiscal management belongs in the hands of qualified people, which is why creating an independent Chief Finance Officer who reports to the Board of Supervisors and not the CEO makes good sense.
Stop the whining, and do the job. If you can't get out of the way.
This should not devolve into a personal or personnel dispute. If Ms. Cubbison isn't qualified let the Human Resources department weigh in. In most county jobs the position description usually says “or equivalent experience,” or some such. So someone must have determined that before she was hired as Assistant Auditor. And if you want to get into “qualifications,” let's talk about the qualifications of the CEO’s so-called "finance team" which the CEO wants to replace the Auditor with.
We were not “glorifying” Ms. Cubbison. we’re just agreeing with her that the situation has not been handled well.
Obviously, somebody has to be in the position so that the various required Auditor's Office tasks get done. If you want to propose a more qualified candidate, let's see them. We know that finding independent Auditors for any such work in Mendo these days is very difficult and expensive. There are not many candidates to begin with. The state has requirements and deadlines that Auditors must meet and they can't fiddle-fart around with them while you and others argue minor points about qualifications and travel reimbursement requests.
As Supervisor Haschack noted, Mr. Weer does seem to have left the County in the lurch by retiring before his term was up. We don't know what work was in process at the time, but we assume that some of the things Mr. Weer was doing were left incomplete and it's reasonable to expect that Ms. Cubbison would need help finishing them. The big property tax system upgrade alone is a huge challenge all its own and should not be relegated to minor training arguments.
The Auditor is not responsible for “good fiscal management” of the County and you will not find that in her job description. The CEO is. The CEO already “reports to the Board” and we have yet to see her make good on her promises to provide the most basic budget reports. Creating a Finance Director under the CEO will do nothing for “good fiscal management” because the CEO refuses to do that. The Auditor's job is much more narrow and particular. And it should remain independent of executive or political influence.
We disagree with the reader’s assertion that her remarks were “snarky” or “an embarrassment.” Faced with deadlines and foot-dragging by the CEO and the Supervisors she was simply explaining why she needed some help from Mr Weer to finish necessary tasks. Remember, the request was put forward a month ago and nothing was done as deadlines approached.
The reader’s reference to an “independent Chief Finance Officer who reports to the Board of Supervisors” is a contradiction in terms.
Every week we have to provide an impressive collection of detailed jargonized paperwork to the Postal Service just to get our papers mailed out. If the Major suddenly “retired” tomorrow, we'd need to ask him to come back and help crank it out because, like the Auditor's office, we're small, have no extra time and staff sitting around idle to undergo training, and the Post Office will not let us “pause” while someone new figures out how to do their tedious paperwork every week.
WHEN MENDOCINO DIED, an on-line comment:
I think the answer to the question “Is Mendocino becoming a tourist trap?” was answered in the affirmative before the 1980s. We saw it coming. Bumper stickers and pins saying “Don't Carmelize Mendocino” were printed as early as 1977. Some of the first McMansions were going up during a building boom - but mostly for homes for the moneyed. Second homes, vacation homes, retirement homes. But not much for us low- and middle-income folks. Many of us were still living in converted chicken coops, school busses, or shared houses then.
But, we all took a collective sigh of relief during the rainy season when there were few tourists. November to Easter pretty much belonged to the locals. Work like hell the dry half of the year and kick back a little in the wet half. Now? There are a few slow weeks during the year, that's all.
Our family gave up on Mendocino about ten years ago and moved to Fort Bragg. And frankly, I hardly have reason or desire to go to Mendocino anymore. I find it more annoying than pleasant. Yes, I hold onto sweet memories of how it was there before but probably won't be collecting any nice new memories.
The truth is the beaches and trails around Fort Bragg are less populated. Parking is easy. I love hearing the sound of children playing in the playgrounds in town, and knowing I can get to the library or hospital in 5 minutes. More and more of my friends have moved here. And we have running water in the house year-round!
I just wish there was more affordable housing so the hospital and schools could attract full-time employees with families. It breaks my heart to hear about people with jobs unable to find housing here and leaving. It's wrong, just wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
Drawing attention to this problem is crucial to finding solutions. HAT (HOUSING ACTION TEAM) "advocates for low and middle-income housing, educates and informs the community about the region’s housing needs, challenges and opportunities”. Please check out: https://www.hatmendocoast.org
NOTES ON SUPERVISOR MULHEREN’S LATEST ‘UPDATE’
by Mark Scaramella
On her Supervisor’s facebook page Supervisor Maureen Mulheren made the surprising claim that any member of the public can pull an item from the consent calendar. Really? (We thought it was only the Supervisors who can do that.) Oh well. Glad to hear it. Ok, I pull all future proposed pay raises for senior county officials so that each Supervisor has to vote on them individually.
In that same Facebook video, she also chided “some local reporters” (hmmm…who might that be? And why not name him?) for incorrectly claiming that budget impact info was not included with agenda items. She helpfully walked viewers through the process of finding the consent calendar on the County’s agenda webpage, then scrolling down and clicking on a consent calendar item, then scrolling down and clicking on “full text,” then scrolling down to “Fiscal Details.” We did that and, by golly, she’s right!
For example, we looked at the fiscal details for the agenda item raising Assistant CEO Darcie Antle’s pay and found:
source of funding: Budget Unit 1020
budgeted in current f/y: Yes
[Who “budgeted” it and why was it “budgeted” before being approved?]
current f/y cost: $19,061 Increase (Incl. Cost of Benefits
annual recurring cost: $302,272 (Incl. Cost of Benefits)”
Supervisor Mulheren then claimed that consent calendar items are “non-controversial and routine.” Committing the County to over $300k a year for an assistant position who bears no real responsibility and has no executive experience is “non-controversial and routine”? But $12k for extra help for the Auditor requires lengthy board discussion ending in a split vote? Maybe Supervisor Mulheren should reconsider what qualifies as “non-controversial and routine.”
* * *
Supervisor Mulheren also posts a regular “update” on her website listing the Board's agenda items and her summary of what was discussed/decided. Normally, her posts are simple and minimalistic, not worthy of mention. But this week there's plenty to comment on:
Monday Supervisors meeting
Item 3a) Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction to Staff Regarding 1) Define Directives; 2) Prioritize Directives; and 3) Review of Existing Directives Issued by the Board of Supervisors (Sponsor: Executive Office) Recommended Action: Direct staff regarding 1) definition of directives; 2) prioritizing directives; and 3) review existing directives issued by the Board of Supervisors. 2017-2021 In Process Directives 2017-2021 Completed Directives 2017-2019 Completed Directives.
Supervisor Mulheren: “Has to be majority consensus to be included as a directive. Nadia and Clerk of the Board are in charge of keeping track of the items. McGourty said he won't be able to work on Oak Woodlands until 2022. General Government can look at the directives at the next meeting. If a directive is referred to an ad hoc it is marked as completed.”
ms: What is a “majority consensus” besides an oxymoron? What does “keeping track” mean? Why is an individual grape growing Supervisor responsible for preparation of an ordinance that would fly in the face of his grape growing pals who do things like this and call themselves “environmentalists”?
(We assume that the cozy reference to “Nadia” is to another one of CEO Angelo's rotating crew of deputies.)
Continuing with questions: What does “look at the directives” mean? Why is a referral to an ad hoc considered “completed”? (This only came out from the CEO when Supervisor Mulheren herself noted that some Board “directives” of her own initiative were listed as completed but were not completed.)
* * *
Item 5c) Discussion and Possible Action Including Acceptance of a Presentation Related to New Jail Facility Including Update on Timeline for Completion and Construction Costs; and Direction to Staff Related to the $3.6 Million in Estimated Additional Funding That Will be Necessary to Award Construction Contracts for the Project (Sponsors: Executive Office and Sheriff-Coroner) Recommended Action: Accept the presentation related to the new jail facility including update on timeline for completion, construction costs; and provide direction to staff related to the $3.6 million in estimated additional funding anticipated as necessary to complete this project. MENDO 844 Milestone Sched 20210823 version_1 2021-09-28 BOS Project Update Mendocino SB 844 Final Attachments:
Supervisor Mulheren: “Possible funding to come from the fund balance, staff direction to find the additional funds ($4 million)”
ms: “Possible funding”? “Find the additional funds” is considered “staff direction”? Is “Find the additional funds” the latest way to cover overruns?
* * *
Item 5d) Discussion and Possible Action Regarding the Employee Health Plan Current Financial Status and Renewal, Recommending the Employee Health Plan Funding/Premiums Increase Employer/Employee Contributions by 12% for Calendar Year 2022, Effective January 9, 2022, and Provide Direction Regarding Funding for the Incurred But Not Reported Claims (Sponsor: Executive Office) Recommended Action: Receive update regarding the Employee Health Plan Renewal current financial status and renewal, recommend the Employee Health Plan funding/premiums increase Employer/Employee contributions by 12% for calendar year 2022, effective January 9, 2022; provide direction regarding funding the incurred but not reported claims; and authorize Chair to sign same. Attachments: 2022 Health Plan Renewal_BOS
Supervisor Mulheren: “Move the recommended action and direct staff to inform employees about the need to increase the contribution to the health plan.”
ms: How much are employees going to be “informed” that their increased contributions will be? The same as the County, 12%? Why didn't you ask how much more the employees are going to be expected to contribute? This kind of off-hand mention just creates confusion and concerns in County staff.
* * *
Item 5e) Discussion and Possible Action Including Approval of the Use of Measure B Funds in the Amount of $240,000 Per Year for a Period of 4 Years to Contribute to the Operations of Crisis Respite Services in the City of Fort Bragg for Coastal Residents (Sponsor: Behavioral Health and Recovery Services) Recommended Action: Approve request to use Measure B funds in the amount of $240,000 per year for a period of 4 years to contribute to the operations of Crisis Respite Services in the City of Fort Bragg for Coastal Residents. City of Ft Bragg Respite Center Letter of Support Crisis Respite Facility. Ehlers FBPD Letter Measure B CRT Respite revised 08162021.
Supervisor Mulheren: “Crisis Respite is an in between measure generally not for someone that needs a 5150 hold, and it’s not for someone who needs a long term stay of up to 30 days. A couple of days for someone to get stable and be reconnected to the community with the intention of getting them out of the ER and make sure they are safe.”
ms: A long-term stay is 30 days? What’s the difference between the length of stay at the under-construction Crisis Residential Treatment facilty next door to Mrs. Schraeder in Ukiah and the “Crisis Respite” length of stay? As we understand the 5150 hold rules, they can’t exceed 72 hours without a doctor’s referral anyway.
* * *
Item 6b) Discussion and Possible Action Including Acceptance of Update Regarding the Strategic Planning Process (Sponsor: Strategic Plan Ad Hoc Committee of Supervisors Haschak and McGourty) Recommended Action: Accept update and provide input regarding the next steps in the Strategic Planning Process.
Supervisor Mulheren: “Williams - we need to make compromises to be able to plan for the future. Think big picture of what can be accomplished over the next five years. Four pillars: Effective County Government Organization, Safe & Healthy County, A Livable Economy, A Prepared & Resilient County CAO/CEO conversation is scheduled for late October to compare the models as well as the Chief Financial Officer vs individual elected officials and OES Models.”
ms notes: You’re paying $75,000 for this pablum? PS. Do not ask a Sonoma County Consultant about the CEO’s end-around the Auditor. You and the County need an independent Auditor, not another CEO lackey who can be manipulated, cajoled, undermined, hired and fired at the whim of the Board or the CEO.
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 30, 2021
SHANNON ARNOLD, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
EZEQUIEL HERRERA, Miami, Florida/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JASON KREUZ, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, probation revocation.
JOSEPH LEGGETT, Willits. Probation revocation.
TONY MCELROY, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JUAN MONTERO, Homestead, Florida/Santa Rosa. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.
JULIO PEREZ, Ukiah. Protective order violation, probation revocation.
CARESSE PORRIDGE, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
NIALL VANNUCCI, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
SCIENCE… Think of the vaccine like a shield. If you have a strong healthy warrior holding that shield, COVID is going to have a hard time getting past it. If you have an elderly nursing home inhabitant with several comorbidities holding that shield, the virus spread from the unvaccinated is a powerful opponent. (KymKemp)
A READER WRITES: Can you make a living? For much of the population the answer is no. At least not under the current multi-decade regime of minimum wage-ization. That’s how you have the entire staff of fast food restaurants quitting, you’ve seen it, en masse, bye-bye, so long, take this shit-hole job and shit-hole wage and shove it.
Wage theft, you know, a half hour here, a half hour there, getting jerked around by a jerk-off of a boss and people say fuck it after years and years of hoping for something better and trying to tough it out. Who wants to literally work their fingers to the bone in a meat plant or an Amazon warehouse for a wage that barely pays the rent?
I hear that Amazon warehouses burn out people after a few months and have literally gone through every formerly eligible prospective employee in the towns they’re located in and can no longer find enough bodies. Bezos allegedly said that long-term employment is a march to mediocrity. Ok, he’s richer than me so he can have it his way.
Not enough truck drivers? Try paying something decent for a change and you’ll get enough. I know because decades ago I knew a fair number of long-distance truckers through my job. And back then you could make good money. I saw the numbers so I knew that for a fact.
A business based on working people half to death and paying them crap, in fact an entire economy based on such a model is one more arrangement without a future. We see in this pandemic that future drawing to a close.
SHOTS, HISTORY OF
My father served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, so I moved around a lot as a child. In 1960, my mom, brother and I were preparing to join my dad in Okinawa. Before we could go, we had to be immunized against cholera, typhus and typhoid. Each of these required a series of three shots. I was also due for my normal boosters. The last of these was given on my sixth birthday. It was a birthday present of sorts, knowing that I would not have to get any more shots for a while. It was not fun, but I understood, even at that age, that these shots protected me from getting a bad disease.
Prior to the COVID vaccine mandate for military personnel, there were 17 different types of vaccines that service members could be required to accept. COVID becomes the 18th. Should be a no-brainer. Yet Tucker Carlson’s latest conspiracy theory is that this vaccine mandate is Joe Biden’s way of “purging” the military of “those who love Trump.” Really? How did we descend to this level of craziness? Unfortunately, there are those who will actually believe this nonsense.
by Blaine Greteman
It’s now a commonplace that a “woke” mob of “snowflakes” are ruining campus life in the US. In the past month, the NY Times has covered the story of an American academic who claims he was forced from his job by “wokeism”; The Economist has fretted over “wokeness” at “elite schools”; and the Netflix show The Chair has dramatized the story of a bumbling professor whose hypersensitive students destroy his life.
In Iowa, where I’m a bumbling professor, state legislators tried to pass a “Suck it up, buttercup” bill taking aim at anti-Trump and BLM protests. But the most easily triggered students on campus this year are the ones who think we’re violating their rights by asking them to wear masks or get vaccinated, even as the Delta variant has overwhelmed local hospitals.
These are the same students who last year sported T-shirts emblazoned with “Trump 2020: Fuck Your Feelings” and “Trump 2020: Make Liberals Cry Again.” But it’s out of respect for their feelings that, as in many US states, the legislators who told the buttercups to suck it up have passed a law against mask or vaccine mandates on campus. And university administrators have obeyed, sending out guidance warning us not to “penalize or criticize students for not wearing face masks; provide tangible incentives, such as extra credit or a higher grade, to students who wear face masks; or direct students to sit in different areas of the classroom based on whether they are wearing face masks.” Even by the repressed standards of Midwestern politeness, a ban on “criticizing” students on a university campus is sweeping and bizarre.
But the students who won’t wear masks still complain any time they feel “pressure,” and call their parents, who also complain. Administrators get regular lists of these complaints from the provost’s office. They then have to track down the complaining men – and they are almost always men – and try to placate them. This has created obvious tensions on Iowa’s campus, just as it has in Georgia, where faculty facing similar bans have been protesting.
One of my colleagues with a high-risk medical condition has been advised by her doctor not to be in a room with unmasked individuals. She told her students this and reminded them that the university “strongly encourages” them to wear masks. She was met with smirks, eye-rolls and groans from the men who continue to sit in the front row with bare-faced grins.
Gender and race play a part in all this. In my classes, students dutifully follow my lead and don their masks; I’m a white man who teaches Milton, who may be the whitest poet who ever lived. But I supervise a large program, with 40 instructors teaching around 1500 students, and in classroom after classroom I observe a different scene: unmasked white men staring down female instructors and instructors of color. It’s a matter of policy, not accident, whose feelings we’ve decided to protect. If you’re an immunocompromised student or instructor who doesn’t want to sit surrounded by a bunch of unmasked, unvaccinated people? Well, fuck your feelings.
The sense of bro-grievance has metastasized beyond masks. At a recent Faculty Assembly meeting, we were told that the students who refuse to wear masks are also complaining loudly when instructors move classes temporarily online because of Covid exposure or infection. This apparently violated the “advertisement” of in-person teaching.
Another instructor described a student as a “raging asshole who doesn’t read anything except mask mandate” legislation. One disturbing side effect of the situation is that some faculty have started turning against their students or seeing them as threats. Teachers have always dished on their students, and vice versa, but the level of hostility strikes me as entirely new.
My department recently endorsed and published a statement affirming that “a university that teaches critical thinking and promotes the advancement of scientific knowledge as part of its core mission has an obligation to its students, staff and faculty to follow public health guidelines to offer a safe, equitable and collegial learning environment.” But few of us feel we’re fully honoring that obligation.
The notion of wide-eyed students sitting rapt at the feet of their bespectacled, tweedy professor was always a fantasy and is now hopelessly out of date. But it contains a grain of truth: universities are built on the idea that knowledge, and even wisdom, can best thrive and be communicated in an environment – call it “collegiality” – that fosters trust and respect. Anyone concerned about the tyranny of the “woke” should be far more frightened by the way this truth is being sacrificed to protect students’ right to feel good about being wrong.
CALIFORNIA RENAMES PATRICK'S POINT STATE PARK at request of Yurok Tribe
California parks authorities voted Thursday to rename a popular park in Northern California to include its traditional Yurok name after a request from the state’s largest tribe.
The state Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to change the name from Patrick's Point State Park to Sue-meg State Park after hearing testimony from tribal leaders about the cultural importance of the site.
Until the pandemic struck, Yurok families held brush dances at Sue-meg Village, a site within the current park boundaries, every year that was attended by hundreds of tribal members, Chairman Joseph L. James told the commission.
“This genuinely historic decision represents a turning point in the relationship between tribes and the state,” he said. “I’m so glad that Sue-meg will now be referred to by its correct name.”
Sue-meg Village is on a prominent bluff in Humboldt County, on the far Northern California coast about 25 miles north of Eureka. The village was recreated and built by the Yurok more than 30 years ago and includes redwood plank family houses, sweat houses, a dance structure and changing houses that are used for cultural and education activities for area tribes.
The park’s former namesake, a homesteader named Patrick Beegan, was accused of murdering multiple Native Americans, according to the state parks agency. The Yurok were subject to violence and exploitation as settlers moved into the area during the Gold Rush of the 1850s.
The Yurok Tribe is the largest tribe in California with more than 6,300 members. Its ancestral territory comprises more than 7% of the California coastline, spanning from the Little River to the south and Damnation Creek to the north.
CALIFORNIA FARM BUREAU PRAISES BILL SIGNING TO HELP LOCAL MEAT PRODUCERS
California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson today praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing Assembly Bill 888 to help small meat producers gain access to markets and provide safe and reliable food to California residents.
“The governor’s signing of this important legislation builds community resilience by supporting local meat production,” Johansson said. “While consumer meat preferences continue to change, this bill provides greater flexibility for California’s livestock ranchers who provide fresh, locally-grown and raised products to those Californians preferring a different animal meat product.”
AB 888, by Assembly Member Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, will provide an exemption from animal slaughter inspections for mobile operations that provide services for owners of sheep, goats or swine. The measure was sponsored by the Farm Bureau.
A recent report by the Food Systems Lab at the University of California, Davis, found that small and midsize meat producers face a lack of access to slaughtering services. The study said that factor, combined with market concentration favoring major meat companies, makes it hard for small producers to stay in business.
The availability of mobile slaughter operations will also help address systemic weaknesses in the food supply chain for California and the nation, which have been exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Johansson said.
“This bill is not a vehicle for replacing any of California’s brick-and-mortar slaughter operations,” Johansson said. “AB 888 will help address meat processing bottlenecks by providing more options to safely slaughter goats, sheep and swine locally. By allowing for diversification in ranch revenue streams, this bill ensures that small ranchers can stay on the land, bringing down fuel loads while feeding families. We thank Assembly Member Levine for his leadership in helping ranchers and shepherding this bill to passage.”
The California Farm Bureau works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 32,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 5.6 million Farm Bureau members.
THE NEWS IS AMERICA’S NEW RELIGION, and We’re in a Religious War
When political narrative replaces faith, truth becomes heresy
by Matt Taibbi
We'll tell you anything you want to hear. We lie like hell! We'll tell you Kojak always gets the killer, and nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker's house… We'll tell you any shit you want to hear! We deal in illusion, man! None of it's true! But you people… do whatever the tube tells you... This is mass madness, you maniacs!
— from Network, 1976
After a few days away from the news I watched Network, a movie about a mad prophet whose prophesies come true. Anchorman Howard Beale’s seminal speech described how America could commoditize anything, even the awful truth that its mass media had raised an illiterate populace that followed The Tube as the word of God. “Turn them off!” Beale screamed, just before collapsing in religious fervor, but one eye peeked out to see how his revelation was selling. True to form, even Network made a pile of money and won four Oscars.
Forty-five years later, the film’s predictions still look right, but too optimistic. Back then, a few networks dominated, and the trend was the One Big Lie: the Missile Gap, the Domino Theory, 4 out of 5 dentists recommend Trident. What could be worse? Ambrose Bierce once said there were only two things more horrible than a clarinet — two clarinets. The only thing darker than Network’s dystopian future with television as the national religion is the world we’ve got: two religions.
The last week has been typical of life in the news-as-doctrinal-squabble era. On Sunday, September 19, a freelance photographer named Paul Ratje based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, shot pictures of U.S. Border Patrol Agents chasing Haitian migrants trying to cross the border. In several photos, the agents appeared to be carrying lengths of leather cord. The next day, a former aide to onetime presidential candidate Julian Castro named Sawyer Hackett tweeted, “Border patrol is mounted on horseback rounding up Haitian refugees with whips,” and “This is unfathomable cruelty towards people fleeing disaster and political ruin.”
In reality, as poor Ratje would later point out to local news interviewers, there were no whips, just reins, and “I’ve never seen them whip anyone.” But by then, the story was a viral sensation that had gone all the way to the top of American society.
On that same Monday, September 20th that Sawyer Hackett tweeted about “rounding up refugees with whips,” a reporter asked White House spokesperson Jen Psaki if the administration viewed “border agents on horseback using what appeared to be whips on Haitian migrants” as an “appropriate tactic.” Psaki said no, it was “obviously horrific,” but this apparently wasn’t a good enough answer for the faithful. MSNBC/NBC contributor and proud Moral Majoritarian Yamiche Alcindor demanded to know if action would be taken on a double-conditional: “if this is true,” if anyone would be disciplined for “using what seems to be whips on migrants.” When Psaki finally suggested waiting to comment until she actually knew something about the incident, Alcindor pressed: “Why won’t you say fired?”
In a flash, the word “whip” was in headlines across media and social media, and the idea that Border Patrol agents had hit Haitian refugees with actual whips was ubiquitous. (To my embarrassment, even I screwed this one up, making a joke about it on the Useful Idiots podcast).
Look, this happens in media, and the only thing you can do is a) try to avoid it, and b) own up to it when it happens. However, that’s where this story got weird. Well after it became clear there were no whips in the story, a parade of politicians lined up to double down, with Kamala Harris saying the pictures evoked images of “slavery,” Representative Maxine Waters saying the pictures were “worse than what we witnessed in slavery,” and even President Biden himself promising his own agents would “pay” for “strapping” refugees. An investigation was ordered and some employees were removed to administrative duties.
Even the New York Times, five days after the photograph was taken, reported that Border Agents were “in some cases using reins to strike at running migrants.” They almost immediately issued a correction, saying they’d “overstated what is known” about the Agents’ behavior. Meanwhile, the Fox/OAN wing of the press put out a string of stories about the “whips” mistake, going after everyone from Brian Stelter to CNN’s Victor Blackwell to Axios (which deleted a tweet using the word “whipping’) to Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler to a host of others.
Larger questions, like what happened to the 15,000 migrants who were removed from an encampment — some were flown back to Haiti right away, others will likely be flown back later, with the Biden administration essentially continuing Trump-era policy — faded into the coverage background. Most people following the news emerged knowing a tiny bit about the relevant border-tightening policies like Trump’s Title 42, and a lot about a single, apparently misinterpreted image that became the latest moronic proxy for a culture war debate.
A more significant media screwup was exposed via the release of a book called “The Bidens“ by Politico correspondent Ben Schreckinger. Schreckinger showed the New York Post’s Hunter Biden expose was not, as widely reported last year, Russian disinformation, with many of the more controversial emails involving the president’s son now proved authentic. This too was also roundly ignored by a press corps more worried about a big picture message, i.e. that Biden is less awful than Trump. Even NPR kept mum about Schreckinger’s new information, despite having insisted cheekily at the time that it non-covered the story because it didn’t want to “waste its time” on things that are “not really stories.”
News in America used to be fun to talk about, fun to joke about, interesting to think about. Now it’s an interminable bummer, because the press business has taken on characteristics of that other institution where talking, joking, and thinking aren’t allowed: church. We have two denominations, both as fact-averse as real churches, as is shown in polls about, say, pandemic attitudes, where Americans across the board consistently show they know less than they think.
Surveys found a third of Republicans think the asymptomatic don’t transmit Covid-19, or that the disease kills fewer people than the flu or car crashes. But Democrats also test out atrociously, with 41% thinking Covid-19 patients end up hospitalized over half the time — the real number is 1%-5% — while also wildly overestimating dangers to children, the percentage of Covid deaths under the age of 65, the efficacy of masks, and other issues.
This is the result of narrative-driven coverage that focuses huge amounts of resources on the wrongness of the rival faith. Blue audiences love stories about the deathbed recantations of red-state Covid deniers, some of which are real, some more dubious. A typical Fox story, meanwhile, might involve a woman who passed out and crashed into a telephone pole while wearing a mask alone in her car. Tales of each other’s stupidity are the new national religion, and especially among erstwhile liberals, we take them more seriously than any religion has been taken in the smart set in a long, long time.
In the eighties we made celebrities out of televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, but none were believable as religious authorities. They were too interesting: they dressed like Vegas club acts, humped everything that moved, and had the enormous balls to stare at cameras and ask for money so the minister and his wife could be driving the right fully-loaded Caddy when Christ returned. By the Reagan years no one believed in miracles or divine retribution anyway, not even Catholics, whose priests had all read Nietzsche and would quietly concede the church’s whole act was a well-meaning metaphor, if cornered by an adult. (Their rap to kids was obviously different; insert your own joke here).
Yuppie intellectuals back then thought evangelicals were hilarious, but the joke was about to be on them. As church-raised boomers stopped going to mass, they spent more and more time fixated on The News, which started dying the instant the Internet arrived. Marshall McLuhan once said that if alternatives to classified ads appeared, “the press will fold,” and those ads were the first to go, when firms like Craigslist and Backpage came along.
First Google and then Facebook devoured most of the rest of advertising revenue when they arrived, leaving news companies scrambling for new ways to make cash. People outside the business likely don’t remember how desperate things got. It was a scandal the first time CBS got caught superimposing its logo over NBC’s in a shot of Times Square during Dan Rather’s New Year broadcast, an early experiment in altering reality into a commercial. By 2000, political spots were one of the only dependable sources of revenue for TV stations: the first four months of that year saw 151,000 political ads worth $114 million in the top 75 markets, despite the fact that in some cities, viewers saw as little as six seconds of reported campaign content per night. Newspapers spent much of the early 21st century experimenting with ever-bolder types of advertorial content, eventually reaching the point of open whoring (my current favorite is sponsored content in the Washington Post from Philip Morris, which tells us, “We can drive positive change if we fast-track truth, facts, and science”). None of the myriad innovations cooked up by media marketing genuises solved the basic problem of the business, that no one wanted to pay for news.
By the time Trump arrived, there was only one route left: putting content behind a paywall. Essentially, news companies passed a hat and asked for donations, just like churches. Also like churches, they began to sell belief instead of fact. They turned viewers and readers into congregationalists, people who’d be less interested in news than calls to spiritual battle. Fox had already proven this revenue model could work. In the Trump years, led by the New York Times — which lost other forms of income but went from 1.2 million digital subscribers in 2016 to 7.5 million in 2020 — the rest of the commercial media followed suit.
This is how news people sounded before that switch:
For decades, TV news readers gave off that Ron Burgundy-esque vibe of, “This copy was literally just handed to me. I barely know what this shit says, and certainly don’t care enough to lie about it.”
By the Trump years, though, news readers started to sound like preachers. They used every traveling-revivalist trick in the book to pull in the faithful, from predicting the End was Nigh (or at least, the “Beginning of the End“ was Nigh) to conferring Sainthood (Robert Mueller was depicted as Jesus, Batman and Superman in media profiles) to public deliverance of the gospel (remember when Annette Bening, John Lithgow, and Kevin Kline held solemn public readings of the Mueller report?) to dramatic altar calls to give “testimony” (e.g. Michael Avenatti coming on set to deliver an unvetted new rape accusation against Brett Kavanaugh live on the Rachel Maddow show), and even witchcraft (how about a former CIA chief predicting indictments of Trump on the “Ides of March“ on MSNBC?).
America is a now a nation of warring media faiths, with Fox/OAN/Newsmax preaching a heretic Savanarola-style gospel of corrupt elites lying about everything from election results to vaccine efficacy, while the rival Church of the Mainstream, which describes itself as the (literally) true faith and exclusive arbiter of such things as “fact” and “science,” preaches a coming fascist apocalypse. Its pundits openly rejoice in Covid-19 as an instrument of vengeance against “denialism“ and those who don’t “believe science,” and it’s not an accident that people who watch them too much do things like wear masks alone in cars.
By the time Trump’s first impeachment trial rolled around, anchors were pulling out the Howard Beale routine without irony:
The news became a series of gospels that get told and re-told for the faithful, who responded accordingly. It was weird when we started seeing votive candles sold with Mueller’s image, weirder still when Democratic legislators responded to the police killing of a black American by kneeling in ad-hoc religious ceremony dressed in Ghanian scarves, and completely nuts when JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and five employees took a knee in front of the altar of a Chase bank vault in apparent solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and were taken seriously.
It was once a given that early reports, a.k.a. the “first draft of history,” tended to be wrong and would need to be tweaked as new information arose. Questioning gospels, however, is heresy, so mainstream reporters in particular avoided taking second looks at universally accepted initial takes. This phenomenon is why we seldom saw skeptical responses to questionable themes in big stories, like that Trump and Vladimir Putin must have been talking treason in Helsinki in 2018 (it turned out they weren’t), or that the Floyd incident showed that racism was at an “all time high,” or that Georgia’s voter-restriction law was worse than “Jim Crow,” etc.
January 6th turned into a gospel for both camps. After an initial period in which channels like Fox seemed unsure of how to cover the riots, those imprisoned soon became holy figures. Republican House members started calling them “political prisoners,” Fox began to focus on alleged incidents of beatings of the accused in Washington jails, and Ashlii Babbitt, shot dead by police, became the ultimate martyr, with Maria Bartiromo calling her a “wonderful woman” and Trump himself wondering why her death didn’t become “the biggest story in the country,” a la George Floyd.
Blue-state media also made a gospel — with many revisions! An initial choice for a Christ figure was Capitol officer Brian Sicknick, who was beaten “to death with a fire extinguisher,” as MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace put it, or “died after being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher” as Anderson Cooper said, or “bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher,” as CNN’s Ryan Lizza explained (bludgeoned was a popular word in coverage). After the medical examiner ruled Sicknick died of natural causes, most outlets again swallowed the update in silence, and moved on to other Holy Writ. It’s become mandatory to describe the riot as an “insurrection,” with accounts often describing the “desecration“ of our “cathedral of democracy,” one of the “country’s most sacred ceremonies,” that was “worse than 9/11“ and similarly committed by “terrorists.” MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid even used the word “jihad“ to describe House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s opposition to the January 6th committee investigation.
The pandemic, however, has become the ultimate religious argument. The instant Trump mentioned he was taking hydroxychloroquine, conservative media figures — including Sean Hannity, who half-jokingly dubbed himself “Dr. Hannity“ — began hyping it as a miracle cure. Just as quickly, and with just as little reason or evidence, mainstream press figures began denouncing the drug as “snake oil.”
The battle lines quickly came to stress a fight between those who “believe science” and “believe authority,“ and those who have an “anti-science bias” (these are the words of Anthony Fauci, who quickly got his own votive candle). The Gospel According to Fauci changed repeatedly, whether on the subject of masks or pandemic origin, but friendly fact-checkers decided accusations of inconsistency were “partly false“ or needed “context.” Fox did lots of stories about these flip-flops, while Church of the Mainstream outlets did identical pieces about Tucker Carlson’s changing stance on masks.
This pattern has continued for more than a year now. Fox News anchors misled audiences when they said there was solid evidence ivermectin “works,” but MSNBC anchors were somehow worse, intentionally misleading followers when they said it was a “parasitic de-worming agent for livestock,” not a treatment for human diseases. Fox hosts misled audiences when they talked about vaccine side effects without comparing them to problems suffered by unvaccinated patients, but blue state media repeatedly conflated opposing vaccine mandates with opposing vaccines, lied about when Republican governors implemented vaccine programs, and bit hard on a phony story about nonexistent horse paste eaters blocking nonexistent gunshot victims from an Oklahoma E.R., all in service of a weird fatwa against evil science apostates living in places most city dwellers will never even drive past. During the kind of emergency that would seem to justify an at least temporary embargo on partisan bullshit, groups are despising one another for real, because The Tube commands it more than ever.
Every time I turn on the TV now, I want to jump off a cliff. I went into journalism precisely because at the time, it was one of the only professions to encourage actively godless people to apply, with standup comedy and state executioner being some of the only other choices. Now, after three decades, it turns into this? To paraphrase Mike Myers, I didn’t spend six years in Evil Medical School just to join a church. This really is mass madness, and it might be time to turn it off for real.
TAIBBI ON TELEVISION
TK on HBO Tonight: I’m headed to L.A. to join Real Time With Bill Maher this evening, for a discussion that will include Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward. Katherine’s also a staunch defender of speech rights, and has written about a lot of other themes touched on in this space, so it could be interesting. Since it might come up, I’m curious to know any thoughts you might have on immigration - is there anything obvious the U.S. could or should be doing differently, policy-wise, something we maybe don’t hear from pundits? Anyway, back soon, and apologies for going dark for a few days.