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A WEAK COLD FRONT will impact northwest California today and aid in light rain for locations mainly north of Cape Mendocino this afternoon through Wednesday morning. Otherwise, cooler weather and occasionally breezy conditions are expected during the remainder of the week, with additional periods of light rain spreading across the region Friday into the weekend. (NWS)
48 NEW COVID CASES (since last Friday) and two more deaths reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
TWO MORE DEATHS
Public Health was notified of two Mendocino County residents who passed away due to COVID-19. Our thoughts are with their families and friends. In total, 86 residents have died from COVID during the pandemic.
Death #85: 81 year-old woman from Fort Bragg; fully vaccinated.
Death #86: 51 year-old man from Ukiah; not vaccinated.
Public Health asks all Mendocino County residents to think about the ways they are protecting themselves and their families from COVID-19. When in doubt, consult with and follow all CDC and CDPH guidance. Vaccination, masking, and social distancing remain the best tools for combating COVID-19.
Fully vaccinated people (with Pfizer) over age 65 (or over age 50 with certain health conditions) are recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster to improve immunity that may have waned over time. Boosters should be given at least 6 months after completion of the initial Pfizer series. If you have questions about boosters, speak with your doctor, or call Public Health at 707-472-2759. To find the nearest vaccine clinic in your area, please visit the Public Health website at: www.mendocinocounty.org/covid19
JAMES WHETSTONE PLEADS GUILTY to murdering his father
As potential jurors were reporting in Monday morning for jury duty at the Ukiah courthouse, defendant James P. Whetstone, age 30, formerly of Willits, was in an upstairs courtroom waiving his right to trial.
After waiving his trial rights, the defendant withdrew his not guilty plea and, in its place, entered a no contest plea to second degree murder, a felony.
A no contest plea to a felony is the same as a guilty plea for all purposes.
As background, the defendant murdered his father October 9, 2020 on the father’s property in Willits as a result of an argument regarding who could or should be using certain garbage cans at the location.
After strangling the 69-year old victim with a belt, the defendant then buried his father in a shallow grave and attempted to clean up the crime scene in an effort to cover up his patricidal act.
A conviction for second-degree murder refers to a conviction for an intentional killing but without premeditation and deliberation. In other words, the underlying facts suggest the defendant’s mental state at the time of the killing was a willful, yet impulsive intent to kill.
After the defendant’s no contest plea was accepted by the Court and entered into the court records, the matter was referred to the Adult Probation Department for a background study, pre-sentence credits report, and other information that will be needed when the defendant is transported to and received at state prison.
A sentencing hearing is now scheduled for November 2, 2021 at 9 o’clock in the morning in Department B of the Ukiah Courthouse.
There is only one penalty listed in the California Penal Code for a conviction of second-degree murder – 15 years to life in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
Any person interested in this case is welcome to attend the November 2nd hearing date. Please be aware that masks are still required in and about the courtrooms.
The law enforcement agency that developed the evidence underlying today’s conviction was the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
The prosecutor handling this matter is Deputy District Attorney Luke Oakley.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder accepted the defendant’s change of plea Monday morning and will be the judge who imposes the life sentence on November 2nd.
Background: "Missing Man Murdered By Son" (Oct. 2020)
BODY FOUND IN TRUNK OF VEHICLE NEAR COVELO
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the discovery of a body found Sunday afternoon in the trunk of a parked vehicle near Covelo. The body was found in the 27000 block of Mendocino Pass Road by a warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Capt. Greg Van Patten, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman. The warden was checking on the parked vehicle when he discovered the body, which was decomposing, Van Patten said. The body has not been identified. The Sheriff’s Office is set to perform an autopsy this week to determine the cause of death.
(Matt Pera, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
HARRY WILLIAMSON WRITES:
Ha ha! Had to laugh at ma and pa, driving from Georgia to Wyoming and back. “I vacillate between despair for our country and encouragement when I encounter the thousands of normal folks out there who just want to live in peace. Can we?” she asks. Well, Ma, probably not, when people like you enable their paranoid idiot husbands, who can’t even wear a COVID mask without going ballistic, who can’t leave their Magaland home without a truckload of artillery and ammunition in case some socialist squirrel or other non-American crosses their path, who try to alter their itinerary to avoid gun-grabbing police trouble in the communist state of Illinois, and who think that THEY are normal. It’s too bad that they’re probably right about that.
RE: MORE EXPANSION OF UKIAH’S EMERALD SUN (Online Comment by Rye N Flint)
Expansion? How? I have 2 friends that told me last week, they have had 50 lbs of legal cannabis sitting at Emerald Sun unsold, for the last 6 months. Emerald Sun can’t even produce a receipt for how much they sold it for to dispensaries. How is that allowed in this day and age of “White market” cannabis. Must mean the local cannabis regulators are only concerned with the rules that apply to farmers. Apparently processing and distribution still get free passes to operate in the grey area, aka the black market. Good luck taxing these A-holes.
THANKS FROM MOONBERRY IN FORT BRAGG:
I just wanted to thank everybody who has come in to Moonberry on Main Street in Fort Bragg to try our smoothies and treats. We have new frozen yogurt smoothies and smoothie bowls. Also, we are now on foodrunners and for a limited time offering free delivery.
K. Morgan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
TRENT JAMES is a former deputy with the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department and the Willits Police Department. He wanted to rejoin local law enforcement but was denied. He has started posting a youtube series he calls “Confessions of an ex-cop: Lies and hypocrisy in the law enforcement world.” In March of 2019 the Mendocino County Deputy Sheriff’s Association congratulated James when the “Covelo Resident Deputy” was named Deputy of the Year.
“Confessions of an ex-Cop: This is the first video of my new channel, which will be directed towards exposing upper ranking Command Staff Personnel in law enforcement, for the massive amount of dirt they have in their backgrounds. More specifically those that I personally worked with or for, during my time in law enforcement. This episode briefly outlines my law enforcement career up until this point and sets the tone for future videos to come.”
REMEMBER GEORGIA MOSES
The attention being paid to the young murdered woman, Gabby Petito, is as it should be. But in 1997, Georgia Lee Moses, a beautiful 12-year-old African American girl, went missing and was found dead sometime later along Highway 101 in Petaluma by a Caltrans worker.
The police investigated and found nothing. The great local artist Tom Waits wrote a song about her in an attempt to keep her memory alive. Twenty-four years later she is gone and forgotten here in Sonoma County. Her life meant nothing to the people and police. She wasn’t blonde, an athlete or the daughter of someone famous. She was the caretaker of her family. And it’s hard to believe that with technology nothing has come up.
I’m sorry for the family of Gabby Petito, but the whole country is looking out for her while we have long forgotten our own Georgia Lee Moses.
CATCH OF THE DAY, October 4, 2021
THOMAS BASALDUA, Ukiah. DUI, suspended license for DUI, failure to appear.
JESUS CARO-LOPEZ, Ukiah. DUI.
ALFREDO CHI, Fort Bragg. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, special allegation: victim over 70 years old.
MADISON HEIBEL, Ukiah. Grand theft, taking vehicle without owner’s consent, controlled substance, failure to appear.
DAVID THOMSEN, Hopland. Elder abuse resulting in great bodily harm, criminal threats.
JOSEPH TITUS, Willits. Domestic battery, child endangerment, damage to communications device.
JUAN VELASCO-TOVAR, Willits. Domestic battery.
MAXAMILLION VINOCUR, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
CESLEY WILLIAMS, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, no license.
WEST SIDE STORY Wednesday night in Fort Bragg
West Side Story screening at Coast Cinemas in Fort Bragg on Wednesday Night at 7pm. Tickets are $15 and available at the door or in advance on eventbrite.com.
TWO MONTHS AGO, Katie Couric retweeted a tweet from a health researcher named Ahmed Ali which contained photos of me, Donald Trump and conservative activist Charlie Kirk and the words: 'Bullying successful women is a coping mechanism for a lot of mediocre men.' Couric commented: 'A friend sent me this. Hmmmmmmmm.' The clear implication was that she endorsed the message Ali posted after I, Trump and Kirk criticised gymnast Simone Biles for quitting in the Tokyo Olympics. Ms Couric wanted her 1.7 million Twitter followers to know she has no time for awful mediocre men like me who 'bully' successful women. I had a flick through her tweets since then, and they follow a similar pattern of endlessly virtue-signalling pro-women, anti-bullying rhetoric. So, I was excited to read extracts from her new autobiography, Going There, expecting to read yet more inspiring proclamations of supportive sisterhood. But imagine my surprise when in fact I found the complete opposite? It turns out that Katie Couric isn't a pro-women anti-bullying icon at all. Ironically, she reveals herself to be a nasty piece of work who chews up female colleagues and competitors like a hungry hippo gorging on watermelon. Her idea of feminist trailblazing is to bully, intimidate, abuse and damage other women. She froze out Ashleigh Banfield, one of the nicest people I've ever worked with, when she perceived her to be a threat so refused to help. The bitter experience tarnished her rising star career and still hurts. Her constant attacks on other women that make such a mockery of her pro-women stance. Couric, after all, is the person Taylor Swift credits with passing onto her the famous words of sisterly wisdom from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: 'There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.' After 'Going There' is published, the Devil may need to reserve a seat for the ghastly author.
SEEMS TO ME to be the perfect excuse to live at least for the next several months in DuckDuckGo, if and until Chrome stops being a source of direct internet attack.
But let's be completely honest. Google, the company that started off with the corporate mooto "Don't be Evil", has been swallowed whole by folks who do a whole lot of questionable crap. That whole Merck-Pfizer comparison springs to mind... Google isn't Facebook... Facebook, a company which we're now finding out during Congressional Testimony, has done intensive internal research. Only to discover they're killing babies, destroying young people, slowly gutting democracy world-wide, and promoting the enterprise of some of the most disgusting human monsters on the planet... and they're okay with that, as long as it's profitable. So Google isn't that place, but it ain't exactly an NPO either. Google still does a lot of good things to muster good public will, but when the chips are down, the buck still wins, and ethics take a serious back seat to short term gain.
I personally use Chrome, because I write web content, and since most of what I write is going to be presented on Chrome (still the most popular browser), it has to be compatible. That said, Chrome is probably now among the least secure web platforms and equally important, purposely insecure because Google is collecting insane amounts of data on you. Safari and Edge are far more secure (but still not great), and their Incognito Modes are tremendously better than Chrome's. DuckDuckGo is good. Firefox, Brave, and Epic, are awesome with security built in from the bottom up. Pick the security level you're comfortable with. Google provides a lot of wonderful web technology, email, phone service, Office Automation Tools, Collaboration-ware, on and on, and all it costs is them collecting every atom of information you generate, and every person with whom you interact. If you're good with someone knowing that much about you, then by all means indulge.
I find it so funny that people are so worried about being chipped by Bill Gates, when they own and use an Iphone and Chrome... It's like being concerned about receiving a pin prick with a 30 ft. flagpole sticking out of your chest...
— Marie Tobias
PS. A major news story has hit the wires on something called the Pandora Papers;
Looking out how the top billionaires in the world shelter their wealth, avoid taxes, manipulate governments the world over, and slowly bleed the rest of the world dry and build stronger tools for draining the remaining wealth from the rest of the planet. Shocking, appalling, and darkly fascinating... like watching a slow motion car crash. This is why we are nailed to rails screaming full tilt boogie towards our own extinction.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
As I have discovered personally through my last six years in governance of my own small municipality, corruption is definitely rampant everywhere which is a problem. The bigger problem is that so many of the American people have accepted it as a way of doing business that there can be no hope that it can ever be turned around. When shown how easy and how prevalent it is to lie, cheat and steal and tolerate those who do, a majority of people here say, “Hey, I’d do it too and so would you if you could!” Seriously, I am not exaggerating.
IMHO our nation is thoroughly collapsing because it replaced God with Money and the pursuit of it by all means possible. If it can make you money, it has to be good. If it can make you stinking rich, it is even better. He who dies with the most toys wins. Once these became the new American Religion, we were doomed. So what if half or most of the people on the planet are killed off as long as someone gets stinking rich! Maybe they’ll throw me a crumb or two if I survive.
Good luck with that America sorry to see you go. One upside to this all is that they will have finally found a way to turn lead into gold – you know what I mean, don’t you?
DEB SILVA WRITES:
Re: Free Broadband
There is a free broadband offer from the FCC for those who qualify. The requirements seem fairly broad and I suspect that many in the county could benefit particularly if they have kids in school or are on another government assistance program like Medicaid. I think the trick around here would be finding a participating provider. If you have satellite internet you are probably out of luck but the main providers are on the list including US Cellular.
The FCC website to apply: https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit
SLOWLY, THEN ALL AT ONCE
by James Kunstler
You can start to wonder what, if anything, will be left standing of the life we once called “modern” when Christmas 2021 rolls around. Shopping? Motoring? Working? Mingling? Eating? Sleeping? Waking…? Suddenly, everything is coming apart.
The supply lines are wobbling and many will go down. No stuff, no parts, before long, no food. Energy supplies are shaky everywhere. China’s electric grid is going dark from insufficient coal. Russia lacks the surplus NatGas to keep Western Europe warm. Global shortages drive up US oil and gas prices while people lose jobs and incomes over vaccine mandates — meaning families will freeze as the daylight dwindles. “Joe Biden’s” dark winter is coming on fast.
Ol’ White Joe might be going soon, too, before his vaunted dark winter even arrives. Guess what’s on his schedule this Monday morning. Answer: an airplane ride from Wilmington to Washington, some remarks at 11:15 about the debt ceiling, and then… nothing. Calling “a lid” on the day. The “president’s” mental mojo has sunk so low that his handlers won’t allow him to gab freely with the Democratic Party’s congressional caucus. They hustled him out of the room on Capitol Hill last week after he attempted a pep-talk to that posse in their deranged effort to pass a $3.5-trillion “social safety net” package that is just a giveaway to ward-heelers in “blue” cities.
But then, who can imagine Kamala Harris in the Oval Office? Surely not Kamala herself, who has been cringing out-of-sight for weeks as the situation worsens. No more trips to Texas to pretend to care about the foreign invasion at the Mexican border that she was assigned to manage. No more anything for Ms. Harris, except hunkering down in the old naval observatory in a paralysis of anxiety and nausea. Do they dare even letting her pretend to head the executive branch? Or does she just resign in tandem with Ol’ White Joe, propelling Nancy Pelosi into the job? That will light up our dark winter, won’t it?
The daunting fact is that the country is leaderless, and at quite a bad time. But the vacuum will be filled, sure enough, and perhaps by means that America has not seen before: an unscheduled transfer of power. And to whom? There has been an awful lot of chatter on the down-low about one Donald Trump having engineered a setup in late 2020 whereby he used the continuity-of-government provisions to declare that year’s election invalid and clear a path through the legal minefields to resume governing. Sounds wild. Sounds kind of like the political back-story of my own novels… but need you be reminded again that life imitates art? Gives me the creeps, I confess.
So, while America strangles its economy to death, seemingly on-purpose, do you suppose the capital markets will not notice? You bet they will, and that means big trouble for Wall Street, probably soon. This is their season of the witch, you know, and just last week they twitched up-and-down five hundred points a day. Looking a little shaky.
Is it a coincidence, by the way, that four officers of the Federal Reserve have been outed for trading stocks and bonds in a pattern that looks an awful lot like front-running the Fed’s own “guidance?” Robert S. Kaplan, head of the Dallas Fed, and Eric Rosengren, head of the Boston Fed announced their “early retirements” last week over stock-trading ethics issues. Fed Vice-chair Richard Clarida’s financial disclosure statement indicated that he dumped millions of dollars in a Pimco bond fund and jammed them into a Pimco stock fund the day before Fed Chair Jerome Powell announced emergency interventions to battle the Covid-19 epidemic in early 2020. Mr. Clarida was involved in deliberations leading to the change in fed policy. And Richmond Fed president Thomas Barkin is under scrutiny for voting to bail out the corporate bond market while sitting on a portfolio of corporate bonds. In his past role as CFO of McKinsey & Co, a global consulting firm, Barkin advised Purdue Pharma L.P. on maximizing sales of its painkiller OxyContin, the infamous scourge of the US opioid epidemic.
There are your chieftains of America’s central bank, a dumpster fire riding the garbage barge of our nation’s economy into a blood-red sunset. That cursed vessel is sailing past epic disorders like the container ships idling offshore of California and New York, full of stuff going nowhere. The country marinates in the fetid exudations of institutional rot, waiting for the lights to flicker out.
ANOTHER MAJOR OIL SPILL HITS THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COAST!
by Dan Bacher
It was only inevitable that another oil massive spill would hit the California coast, as offshore oil drilling continues off Southern California and Big Oil continues to capture the Governor’s Office, Legislature and state regulatory agencies and commissions.
The inevitable happened Saturday when a major oil spill off the Orange County coast reportedly dumped at least 126,000 gallons of oil into coastal waters and local wetlands.
The source of the 13-square mile spill was apparently from a leak from a pipeline connected to Platform Elly, located five miles off the Huntington Beach and just over 7 miles off Long Beach. The offshore rig is one of three operated off the coast by Beta Offshore, a Long Beach, California-based unit of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation. Royal Dutch Shell PLC installed the platforms in 1980.
On Sunday morning, the oil, along with dead fish, birds and other marine life, began washing up on Orange County beaches.
“The spill is believed to be coming from a broken pipeline connected to an offshore oil platform about five miles off the coast,” according to a statement from the Sierra Club. “Oil has been flowing since last night, and has begun washing up onshore and seeping into the Talbert Marsh.”
The Coast Guard received an initial report of an oil sheen off the coast of Newport Beach Saturday at approximately 9:10 a.m.
The CDFW Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) then responded to reports of oil in federal waters off Huntington Beach.
“Multiple reports of sheen were made to Cal OES,” wrote OSPR on Twitter. “OSPR crew on water surveilling area. Source, volume & oil type under investigation. Cleanup contractors being mobilized. More to come.
A unified command was then established to respond to the oil spill approximately 13 square miles in size, 3 miles off the coast of Newport Beach.
The unified command consists of Beta Offshore, the Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW-OSPR). Supporting agencies are the cities of Long Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“Members of the public are asked to avoid any oiled areas. Trained spill response contractors are working to clean up oil. Public volunteers are not needed and could hinder response efforts. We request that members of the public stay away from the area,” according to a statement from the unified command. “The cause of the spill, volume and type of oil are under investigation.”
In response to the spill, Monica Embrey, Senior Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, released the following statement:
“How many of these oil disasters do we have to witness before our elected leaders understand that there is no safe way to drill or transport dirty fossil fuels? This spill is yet another reminder that we can have healthy and safe communities, thriving coastal economies, and a stable climate — or we can continue drilling for oil. We can’t have both. It’s long past time to choose a transition away from dirty oil drilling and toward a healthier, safer, clean energy future.”
Andrea Leon-Grossmann, Director of Climate Action – Azul, also responded to the massive oil spill.
“We must stop treating the ocean as a profit center with an extractive economy that rewards polluters and hurts the most vulnerable,” said Leon-Grossman. “Protecting biodiversity and demanding a just transition to 100% renewable energy would not just help our climate, it would help protect people’s health and give us an opportunity to have an equitable future.”
Governor Gavin Newsom responded to the oil spill by stating, “We are working closely with federal partners, the @USCG, and others to monitor the oil spill in Orange County. If you are in the area, please heed local warnings and stay away from unsafe areas.”
CDFW-OSPR is monitoring for oiled wildlife. If anyone encounters oiled wildlife, do not approach. Call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926.
I will update this report as more responses and information comes in.
Background: Big Oil exerts enormous influence over California regulators
Big Oil is the biggest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento — and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the biggest and most powerful lobbying organization. Big Oil, along with corporate agribusiness, developers, big water agencies, timber companies, and other Big Money interests, has captured the regulatory apparatus in California.
Just four oil industry lobbyist employers alone — the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), Chevron, Aera Energy and California Resources Corporation — spent $10,192,047 lobbying the Governor’s Office, Legislature and regulatory agencies to advance Big Oil’s agenda in 2020, according to data posted on the California Secretary of State’s website by February 1, 2021.
The Western States Petroleum Association, the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying organization in California, spent a total of $4,267,181, less than half of the $8.8 million that it spent in 2019. 2020’s lobbying expenses included $1,084,702 in the fifth quarter, $1,220,986 in the sixth quarter, $1,116,397 in the seventh quarter and $845,096 in the eighth quarter.
The San Ramon-based Chevron, a beneficiary of many new fracking permits this year, spent $4,091,501 in California 2020, less than the $5.9 million in spent in 2019. Chevron spent $1,644,943 in the fifth quarter, $1,009, 322 in the sixth quarter, $752,437 in the seventh quarter and $684,799 in the eighth quarter.
Another big spender and beneficiary of large numbers of new fracking permits this year, Aera Energy, spent a total of $795,099 on lobbying California officials in 2020. Aera pumped $290,926 into lobbying California officials in the fifth quarter, $191,660 in the sixth quarter, $200,082 in the seventh quarter and $112,431 in the eighth quarter of the year.
Aera Energy has close ties with the Governor’s Office. In November, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on how Governor Gavin Newsom didn’t follow his own COVID pandemic guidelines when he attended a birthday party for Jason Kinney, a close friend and advisor, at the French Laundry Restaurant in Napa. Kinney is a lobbyist for Axiom Advisors, who lobbies for Aera Energy and other energy corporations.
Jointly owned by Shell and ExxonMobil, Aera produces nearly a quarter of California’s oil and gas production. Aera paid Axiom Advisors $200,000 during 2019 and 2020 for lobbying on oil and gas permitting issues and other matters, according to Donny Shaw and Eric Seidman in Sludge: Newsom Delivers for Energy Clients of Lobbyist He Celebrated at the French Laundry
“As journalist Steve Horn reported for Capital & Main last June, Aera received the first new batch of fracking permits from the Newsom administration after a months-long moratorium. Newsom had placed a temporary ban on new fracking permits in California in November 2019 following a series of scandals at the state’s oil well regulatory agency, the state’s conservation agency’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, or DOGGR (now Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM),” Shaw and Seidman wrote.
Finally, the California Resources Corporation, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, spent $1,038,266 to influence state officials in 2020. The corporation spent $310,198 on lobbying in the fifth quarter, $344,960 in the sixth quarter, $146,543 in the seventh quarter and $236,565 in the eight quarter.
The oil companies were amply rewarded for the over $10 million that they spent on lobbying last year. In a year of record fires and an unprecedented pandemic, California oil regulators more than doubled the approval of permits in 2020 to drill new oil and gas production wells.
The California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) of the Department of Conservation, the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, approved more than 1,700 new oil and gas production well permits in 2020, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance reported.
“Largely because of a moratorium on high pressure cyclic steaming—a dangerous technique burning carbon-emitting natural gas to make steam used to coax stubborn oil out of the ground– permits for all types of drilling dropped 14%. Very few drilling permits were used to drill new wells — only 60 new wells were drilled in 2020,” the groups noted.
Lobbying is just one of the seven methods that Big Oil uses in California to exercise inordinate influence over California regulators. WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in 7 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups; (5) working in collaboration with media; (6) creating alliances with labor unions; and (7) contributing to non profit organizations.
The oil industry exerts inordinate influence over the regulators by using a small fraction of the billions of dollars in profits it makes every year to lobby state officials and fund political campaigns.
For example, Big Oil spent an amazing $266 million influencing California politics from 2005 to 2014, according to an analysis of California Secretary of State data by StopFoolingCA.org, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to “mislead and confuse Californians.”
The industry spent $112 million of this money on lobbying and the other $154 million on political campaigns.
The inordinate influence by Big Oil on California politicians and regulators has resulted in widespread air, ground and water pollution with huge health impacts on mostly Black and Brown communities living near oil and gas wells.
Between 2008 and 2018 alone, oil and gas companies created a statewide total of over 1.3 trillion gallons of oil and gas wastewater in California, enough liquid to fill over 17.6 million household bathtubs, according to a report released by Earthworks, along with allies VISION California and Center for Biological Diversity.
The report reveals that California, often portrayed by the state’s politicians and national media as the nation’s “green” and “progressive” leader, is actually one of the worst states in the U.S. when it comes to regulating the oil and gas industry’s waste.
The regulatory failures range from allowing crops to be irrigated with potentially toxic and radioactive wastewater to storing waste in unlined pits or injecting it into protected groundwater aquifers, according to Earthworks.
(Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher email@example.com.)
by Angelique Richardson
On 31 August at Leicester Crown Court, Judge Timothy Spencer handed down a two-year suspended sentence to Ben John, a 21-year-old student, for possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist. He had downloaded bomb-making instructions along with 67,788 documents containing white supremacist and antisemitic material. Judge Spencer ordered John to read Dickens, Austen and Shakespeare, and also to think about Hardy and Trollope, returning to court every four months to be tested on his reading. For one commenter on the Mail Online, it was ‘worse than a prison sentence!’
The Telegraph and Guardian both expressed concern about the sentence. The campaign group Hope not Hate, among others, appealed against undue leniency, deeming the ruling obscene. The attorney general last week referred it to the Court of Appeal. Whether the sentence is thought to be too liberal, because it keeps John out of jail, or to be itself racist, because the recommended authors are all white, the judge has been roundly disparaged.
The sentence presents a specific challenge to those on the left who believe in the power of education to change minds and lives but who also know that the reading list is narrow. Some media reports have implied that Judge Spencer may be keen to keep only privileged white supremacists out of jail. Last year, however, he gave a suspended sentence to a burglar without the advantages of John’s university education, on condition he looked for work and stayed off drugs. In 2017, giving a suspended sentence to a Manchester United fan who had intimidated a witness, he explained that the witness had a job to do, just like Marcus Rashford or David De Gea. ‘We could go through the whole team,’ he said. But he didn’t. His choice of a black player and (following a post-referendum spike in Europhobia) a Spanish one deflates the accusations of racism levelled at him for his more recent sentencing.
Many of Judge Spencer’s sternest critics would, in other contexts, be lobbying for prison reform or abolition rather than harsher sentences, and with good reason. Almost everyone who ends up in prison does so because somewhere along the line they have been failed – by systems and by people. Some high-risk prisoners will, exceptionally, never be released into the wider community for reasons of public protection. The brutalizing effect of prisons isn’t an inevitable argument for their abolition but it is an unanswerable one for reform.
Alternatives to prison have long been articulated in the UK, the US and elsewhere. There are sufficient reasons on grounds of race or sex alone. As many as 95 per cent of children (16,000) affected by maternal imprisonment in England and Wales are forced to leave their homes. Black Britons make up 3 per cent of the general population, but 12 per cent of adult prisoners and more than 25 per cent of children in custody.
The idea of the irredeemable criminal gained ground in the 1860s, intensified by emergent eugenic views and an increased emphasis on punishment. A left that finds itself agreeing, for whatever reasons, with this fundamentally right-wing perspective, even in relation to a right-wing criminal, might think again.
As recently as 2014 the UK government set out to prevent prisoners from receiving books. The judiciary intervened, seeing ‘no good reason’ to restrict access, but personal testimony suggests that the book ban, instigated by Chris Grayling, is still in place. It has a long and transatlantic history. William Joseph Snelling, who wrote The Rat-Trap, Or, Cogitations of a Convict in the House of Correction (1837), declared the prohibition of books in a Boston jail (along with letters and papers) to be ‘abominable’. In 1876, the New York Prison Association published its Catalogue and Rules for Prison Libraries. David Copperfield and Little Dorrit were thought most suitable, along with Trollope and Julia Ward Howe. A recent list of more than ten thousand books banned in Texas jails includes work by Alice Walker, John Updike, George Orwell and Joyce Carol Oates. Officials at an Ohio jail banned a biology textbook. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (2010) and Race Matters by Cornel West (1993) are often outlawed.
Academics in the humanities can be curiously reluctant to lend credence to the idea that books can change you. Perhaps it starts to sound a bit Leavisite in its appeal to morality, though it doesn’t compare with today’s spirals of ideological purity. Besides, the judge’s list has Hardy, the anti-imperialist son of a builder and a domestic servant, to recommend it. Leavis cut Hardy from his Great Tradition (1948), and he has barely made it into newspaper coverage of John’s case, but hunger, homelessness and political activism run through his work. Dickens, for all his championing of domestic social justice, came out in support of Governor Eyre’s authorization of the killing of 439 unarmed men, women and children in Jamaica. Leavis came to accommodate him.
Sarah Martin, the Prison Visitor of Great Yarmouth: With Extracts from her Writings and Prison Journals (c.1847) records five boys at Great Yarmouth House of Correction being presented with illustrated moral tracts and fables, and responding: ‘Oh, what beautiful books!’ Convicted of breaking a shop window, stealing chickens and absconding from a spinning apprenticeship, by adulthood they had ceased offending. The correlation between education in prison and reduced reoffending rates is well established. But as an ideological commitment to hereditarianism, often driven by racism, increased during the second half of the century, so the belief in the value of reading – which forms part of nurture, not nature – declined.
It isn’t difficult to find former criminals who are less cautious about the value of books than academics often are. Erwin James, who served twenty years for murder, observes that ‘reading can change the way you think about life’. Reading groups where, in the words of one prisoner, ‘you don’t always know what you are supposed to think,’ bring particular benefits. What has happened to books in prisons, and to funding for academics to work long-term in prisons, when 50 per cent of prisoners either can’t read, or struggle to? Should schools and universities be doing more to teach – and reach – students such as Ben John, before they become isolated white supremacists?
Looking back from 1885 to the middle of the century, Edmund Du Cane, the chairman of the new Prison Commission, set up to bring prisons in line with a harsh new penal regime, had mockingly observed that hard, heavy labor had been forbidden ‘in order that whole attention might be devoted to literature – the establishment was a criminal university, and acquired the name of the “read-read-Reading Gaol”.’ By 1862 stone breaking had replaced reading, as Oscar Wilde recorded in ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’, though some learning was retained.
As for Judge Spencer’s reading list, it may be more helpful for questioning white supremacy than his critics seem to think. But then, ideological commitment can produce blindspots: decolonizing can slip into, or be co-opted by, corporate capitalism or an authoritarianism that ends up centering whiteness. Hardy had a fair bit to say that is internationalist and anti-racist, and in 1918 wrote scathingly of ‘western “civilization”’. He challenged the late Victorian criminalization of poverty, biologistic and essentialized notions of criminality, and essentialism more generally (some of his women do the work of men, better than men, and he advised one of his friends that she take up plumbing, ‘plumbers being the most expensive workmen of any’). As for Shakespeare, several of his plays explore the othering of strangers and questions of racism.
What Austen has to say about enslavement is not to be dismissed. In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price (who is working-class) has this conversation with her cousin Edmund:
‘Did not you hear me ask him about the slave-trade last night?’
‘I did – and was in hopes the question would be followed up by others. It would have pleased your uncle to be inquired of farther.’
‘I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence!’
It is open to discussion – and worth discussing – whether Mansfield Park blithely seeks to maintain and entrench the racial, social and economic injustices on which Mansfield Park is founded, or offers a challenge to them. But is there a risk, in the context of academic ‘no debate’, of new silences two centuries later?
The judge’s list may be limited, but it is not hopelessly so. There is little that is all good, or all bad. In the short term, though, the psychoanalytic process of splitting makes things easier, presenting us with simplistic choices as a means of (and defense against) coping with complexity. It is the root of all binary thinking. Literature provides a space for exploring ambivalence and ambiguity, but a bifurcating media culture increasingly places us either in intense opposition to or bonded identification with a person or position.
Radicalization needs to be looked at in relation to the algorithmic aggregation of online populations (including isolated individuals, which many of them are). Hostility, division and enmity generate clicks. And clicks generate capital.
Books draw you into imaginative worlds; social media draw you into their annihilation, pushing you into groups, or positions, predicated on binary exclusions (even in the name of inclusion). This is the antithesis of entering into empathetic identification with someone not you, who may be like you, or not like you, or both.
(London Review of Books)
ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK
 I want to know why boys in general are not having it crammed down their throats from even a young age that you never force unwanted attention onto women or girls it’s never ever ok! Being too drunk is not an excuse! I bet you there’s not one woman in probably this entire world that doesn’t have at least one uncomfortable story about a boy or man that has crossed their boundaries and did something completely out of line! I know I have and every last one of my friends has multiple stories and we are not meek or shy women! it’s wrong and disturbing this is still the response from family/school and community members! I call on all fathers with sons to step up and do your job!! make sure your sons are very aware that touching anyone inappropriately is absolutely not OK and it doesn’t matter how drunk and horny you are if you cross that line there will be consequences! It won’t get better till men are afraid to do it because they don’t want what comes with the price they will have to pay! Learn to use your voices very loud now young ladies because there’s a whole world out there and a lifetime of having to encounter Inappropriate people! The earlier you start The fiercer you will become and the less bullshit you will put up with! Rise up girls your voices are stronger together! No means No!
 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.
 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.
 Re: Feral pigs. Back 35 years ago near Philo, feral pigs were a reoccurring problem on my family’s property, one which we addressed by shooting them at every opportunity. When the main portion of the property sold, the mindful “back to the land” new owners soon called my father to ask how we dealt with the problem. “We shoot them,” was my father’s reply. Aghast, the new owners said they could never do that. However, after additional damage to the landscape, they opted for an alternative: they hired a professional hunter to shoot them! (Marshal Newman)
 As you rise up the Pyramid, you cease to identify with the people back in the old neighborhood. You start to feel more comfortable with people on your own tier. Union official who goes to work in a suit? Maybe if you worked in the shop for twenty years, you’re inoculated against this. But if you just study labor politics in college, you’re going to end up identifying with the Corporate guys far more than the workers.
The Pyramid goes inwards to a point. The higher tiers become closer and closer together. You begin to identify with your peers in other countries, more than those peons far below in your own. All that rises must converge! The higher you go, the more you feel drawn to go up higher. Nothing else matters but the will of the Unseen Masters. You know that all money is theirs. They create and destroy it at will. You are nothing without them. You laugh at their great joke: In God We Trust. You trust in Them and wish to join them in that Peak above the clouds.