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FROST ADVISORY in effect until 9am this morning. A frontal passage will yield light rain across Northwest California this afternoon and evening, with additional post-frontal showers expected on Saturday. Thereafter, dry weather will be probable from Sunday through middle portions of next week. (NWS)
BOONVILLE POLL WORKER Kathleen McKenna reports:
The Boonville precinct, which is formally named “Bear Wallow,” includes Boonville and Philo and has 1065 registered voters. There were 300 ballots available on election day, even though all registered voters had been mailed a ballot. There were 68 ballots voted at the polls. Of those, about half were people who brought their mailed ballot with them to surrender before being issued a fresh ballot. The rest were people who lost, forgot or never received a mail-in ballot. For those voters, we had to call the office in Ukiah, so they could verify the voter's identity and suspend the ballot that was mailed to them. There were 14 provisional ballots issued to voters who were not in our precinct. A few of these were same-day voter registrants. There were 320 vote-by-mail envelopes in the box at the end of the day. This included around 70 from the drop box that had been at the fairgrounds office for a few weeks. One ballot had no envelope and will not be counted.
ARTISTS OF ANDERSON VALLEY OPEN STUDIOS TOUR Veteran’s Day Weekend, November 11, 12, & 13, 2022
by Marvin Schenck
Have you ever looked at a work of art or a finely crafted piece of jewelry and wondered how the artist made that? You can can get the answer to such questions while visiting the studios of some of Anderson Valley’ best artists throughout the Veteran’s Day Weekend, November 11th, 12th and 13th, 11 am to 5 pm. The Artists of Anderson Valley Open Studios event includes eight locations stretching from Boonville north to Navarro. This self guided tour is free to the public and open from 11 am to 5 pm. An online tour map and signs along Highway 128 will guide the way. This twentieth anniversary of Anderson Valley Open Studios again offers the unique opportunity to meet the artists and see the personalized environments in which their art is made.
This year’s tour showcases the work of eleven artists working in a variety of artistic media, including: ceramics, jewelry, photography, textile, painting, printmaking, collage, and sculpture. The artists participating this year are in Boonville and along Hwy.128 between Philo and Navarro. In Boonville, follow the map to the studio locations for Rebecca Goldie (paintings and found object sculptures) and Martha Crawford (collage works). Next, going north on Hwy. 128 take the second turnoff for Anderson Valley Way (at the history museum red schoolhouse) then turn left to visit the studios of Antoinette von Grone (paintings and photographs of animals, people, nature and whimsey) and Saoirse Byrne (intriguing one of a kind cordage works). Heading north past Philo, the action fans out from Hwy.128 at the intersection with Clark Road and Holmes Ranch Road. A turn onto Clark Road quickly brings you to the historic barn studio of Colleen and Marvin Schenck (jewelry, collage, painting and printmaking). Nadia Berrigan (photography) is also showing with them as her own studio is too isolated. Across the highway, about a mile up Holmes Ranch Road the visitor will find the marker for the forested driveway that takes you over Mill Creek to Jan Wax and Chris Bing’s porcelain and stoneware pottery studio. Back on Hwy.128 again, head north, after a mile, start looking to the left for Rebecca Johnson’s big studio barn filled with sculpture and paintings. A little further north on the highway, also on the left, Doug Johnson’s Pepperwood Pottery is marked by a large colorful ceramic mural.
For the artists, opening their studios is an opportunity to showcase their creativity and share the studio spaces lovingly developed to foster the creation of their art. Hopefully, you will take some of that creative energy home with a special new artwork for your own collection.
FORT BRAGG UNIFIED IS HIRING for the following open positions:
- Substitute Teachers (all grades)
- Speech Pathologist
- School Bus Drivers (flex schedules and overtime available)
- Custodial Staff
- Classroom Instructional Assistants (English only or Bilingual)
- Secretary II
- Transportation Mechanic
Salaries have increased in the last month and training is provided. If you are looking for a great job and possible new career with great benefits and retirement, please go to the FBUSD District Website at sites.google.com/fbusd.us/district
AV HIGH SCHOOL NEWS
Dear Anderson Valley Junior Senior High Community,
It has been a jam-packed week. I hope you and your students enjoy your holiday tomorrow for Veterans Day. We appreciate those family and community members that served our nation.
We have applied for a $115,000 after school state grant to provide programming for the next 4 to 5 years in grades 9 to 12. If awarded, this program would roll out in the Fall. We are excited to provide more opportunities for our youth after school.
Congratulations to our boys soccer team on their playoff win. We appreciate the efforts of the coaching staff and all family members that came out to support the team. We are looking at removing gate fees next year for regularly scheduled games. Our business manager, Leigh Kreienhop and I will be exploring that in the budget process as a way to increase engagement in our after school athletics programs.
Congratulations to the Service Learning Team students, Noor Dawood, the many community members who came out to support, and the students to request the school board for their thoughtful decision to allow the waiver process to proceed on the community park area to transfer ownership. I am hopeful this development provides new opportunity for youth and families in the valley.
I have had a few calls this week relating to the tax invoices. Again, please note that the county is issuing corrected bills this year because the tax bills were under-billed last year. We brought that to their attention during the campaign and also notified families. This is a one time correction due to the county's error, not the school district. I know it is upsetting.
Construction drawings are well underway for the first wave of bond work. We anticipate septic construction within the next nine months and the high school renovation for the science and library waiting to begin in summer 2024.
We have heard your feedback that parents would like involvement in supporting elective scheduling choices. For the 2023 school year, we will have appointments available with Mr. Howard for those parents who would like to be part of the scheduling process. Please look for emails from me in the Spring. The district will also be switching to a hybrid block schedule in the 2324 school year. I appreciate the collaboration of the teachers on this. We simply had to add longer periods at least twice a week in order to properly prepare our students with extended learning in science labs in core subjects. This hybrid schedule met the needs of the most teachers. We will also be changing our early release day back to Tuesday. This is important as there are many students that play sports that are missing more school on Tuesday with our current early release day on Wednesday. Your understanding is appreciated.
I hope you have a wonderful day.
Louise Simson, Superintendent
Anderson Valley Unified School District
JOHN TOOHEY: “I thought I would send you a note about this year's Redwood Classic.
We are bringing it back this season - we are unofficially dubbing this the “half-classic” as we are having an 8 team tournament rather than the usual 16.
Next year we plan on returning to the 16 team format and bringing it back to its former glory (and hopefully beyond).
Here’s how the teams and brackets line up this year:
Basketball season is fully underway now that Soccer has completed their season with the NCS Division 3 Championship. One cool thing I heard from San Francisco Waldorf's Athletic Director: “There's something about this field - everyone knows you don't travel to Anderson Valley and win a soccer game. Ever.”
I will send the basketball schedule soon. It is still being ‘finalized.’ (They are never truly final.)
ACCORDING TO The Week magazine there were 6,800 fires in the Golden State this year, which seems to assume that every cigarette burn roadside scorcher is included in that stat along with the big acreage fires.
EVERY DAY a MoveOn plea to help Democrats wafts out of cyber-space and on into my computer. Why, darned if Joe Biden himself didn't ask me for a donation! Today, MoveOn asked me to “Help stop Herschal Walker.” I had to explain that I'm too old and Herschal is too big and too fast for me.
A READER ASKS, “Wonder if you've read John Fante's ’Ask The Dust,’ which is my all time favorite novel. Too bad San Francisco never had a chronicler like L.A.'s Fante, there's never been a love story better written.”
YEAH, I liked “Ask The Dust” and “Brotherhood of the Grape,” too. I liked this passage from Ask so much I've kept it:
‘I hate you,’ she said.
I felt her hatred. I could smell it, even hear it coming out of her, but I sneered again. ‘I hope so,’ I said. ‘Because there must be something pretty fine about a guy who rates your hatred.’
Then she said a strange thing; I remember it clearly. ‘I hope you die of heart failure,’ she said. ‘Right there in that chair.’
I AGREE about the odd absence of a big novel about San Francisco, but there's a lot of non-fiction that's a pretty good substitute, all of Herb Caen, for instance, and Gary Kamiya, to name two non-fiction writers who consistently and accurately give the reader a real feel for the place. I thought McTeague was an interesting fictional rendition of SF in the early part of the 20th century. Some of Jack London, too. London's “Tales of the Fish Patrol” set on San Francisco Bay are a wonderful read.
DON'T READ much fiction these days other than an occasional — very occasional — short story in The New Yorker. I picture their fiction editor as a neurasthenic young woman with an eating disorder and a gay boy friend she doesn't realize is gay. She would be from an elite college where writers like Fante and Bukowski, the latter inspired by Fante, are unknown, and if they are known, despised for fashionable political reasons. I sent a story to The New Yorker once, not expecting it to be accepted but to see if I'd get a response. I did. In a teensy, tight-assed script a woman I assumed was very young and probably an intern, wrote: “If you send us another story please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope with it.” Once every few months they'll publish a readable story, but most of the mag's fiction is fashion driven. And terrible. (“Sasha loved her dog Rimbaud more than she loved her husband, Josh, she thought as she ordered her morning decaf latte…”
THE OTHER DAY, at the Friends of the Library store in San Anselmo, I picked up a giant tome called, “The Best American Short Stories of the Century,” edited by John Updike, whose Rabbit books ought to be required reading on the off chance there are still teachers out there who read and recommend crucial fiction to the oddball kid who might be interested.
I PLAN to plow through all the stories in this collection, which begin with a 1915 story called “Zelig” by Benjamin Rosenblatt. As a guy with OCD tendencies, I too often feel compelled to finish whatever I've started. Zelig was kinda interesting as a portrait of immigrant life of that period but pretty weak as imaginative lit. It held my interest but just barely. But the next story from 1916, “Little Selves” by Mary Lerner, knocked me out. It's about an old lady, assumed on the edge of dementia by her family, who's abrupt with them simply because she wants to get back to retrieving, re-imagining, the best moments from her childhood. Not what you would ordinarily consider a guy story, but old guys would be likely to be as moved by it as I was because it propels the elderly reader irresistibly back to his childhood. It did that to me, anyway.
I LOST the exact question, but a reader had asked what exactly is the origin of the problem with the consolidation of the Auditor and Tax Collector offices.
THE ORIGIN OF THE PROB is one more land mine left behind by former County CEO Angelo, of whom her five captive supervisors were so terrified they didn't dare ask her questions likely to enrage her, which was any question suggesting she was not infallible.
“I would like to know: From where is this animus against the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector originating? Knowing the origin may provide some insight about the motives behind it. But from what I can see, the Board of Supervisors has failed to adequately justify their actions. And their actions may have happened in the past, but the consequences of those actions continues haunt them.”
MY COLLEAGUE, MAJOR USAF (RET) Mark Scaramella relayed not only the history of Angelo's and the Board’s unwise consolidation of the two offices but put that disaster in an understandable overall context: Major! Take it away!
We’re into some serious tea-leaf reading here. But here are some tentative observations based on watching the Supes pretty closely for quite some time.
CEO Angelo once told the Board that she, and she alone, managed the budget by keeping a firm lid on hiring and vacancies. The weak boards during her time as CEO were mostly happy with that because it meant they could jabber about other stuff and not worry much about the budget. Angelo then used the vacancies as a de facto slush fund, without any concern for whether work got done, and at the end of each year she balanced the budget with the unspent staff money and put whatever was left over into “reserves” which she liked to brag about.
After Angelo’s retirement a snowball of events brought the situation to a head.
Auditor Lloyd Weer retired.
Ms. Cubbison was denied the “Interim” Auditor position because of some petty gripes from the DA in response to which Cubbison pushed back. Instead of simply promoting Cubbison because the DA’s gripes were minor, the Board punted and started the consolidation process of merging the Auditor with the Tax Collector, a crazy idea to begin with because it’s unwise to put the same person in charge of revenues and expenses.
Relations between Cubbison and the Board became strained and the Board chose the path of least resistance in the wake of Angelo’s retirement by trying to hold Cubbison responsible for the Board’s own negligence in not requiring financial reporting under the Angelo regime.
Added to that was a perfect storm of complications which exacerbated and intensified the problems created by the historic lack of financial reporting.
A new property tax system was installed with time-consuming implementation problems.
Abnormally high inflation.
Employee contracts expiring.
A new CEO.
Several inexperienced and irresponsible new supervisors.
Resignations and retirements from the Auditor and Tax Collector offices.
Unplanned, accelerated and unjustified consolidation of Financial Offices and election of Cubbison as combo Auditor-Controller-Tax Collector-Treasurer.
These developments were in addition to many underlying, unattended-to pre-existing problems like local housing limitations, hiring delays, uncompetitive salaries, on top of Angelo’s carefully engineered long-standing staff shortages and vacancies.
These expanding problems would have been challenging for even a competent and cooperative management team. But instead the Board got off on the wrong foot with Ms. Cubbison, creating a superficial and childish need to try to blame her for the financial shortcomings which have put the Board on the spot with their employees as months and months of delay go by, in turn putting the Board under more pressure from employees and outside agencies.
But, lead by Williams and Gjerde who continue to insist that they bear no responsibility for the rift between the Board and Cubbison, the Board continues to try shift the blame to Cubbison who, correctly, refuses to accept it.
Unless Williams and Gjerde and McGourty stop pestering Cubbison about problems that she bears no responsibility for, this situation is not likely to improve.
At the moment we’re supposed to get some very belated budget carryover info at the end of this month when last Fiscal year’s books close (five months after the fiscal year ended). If, as the union suspects, the systemic vacancies have created any budget cushion, the problem might ebb some. But if there’s no/not enough cushion, no COLA, no new employee contracts with somewhat competitive raises, the pressure on the Board will increase and, if history is any guide, the “Get Cubbison” tendency will only worsen.
UPCYCLE YOUR CLOTHING: STITCH BY STITCH
Free class at the Mendocino Art Center for Mendocino County residents!
An in-person class with Vicki Fraser
December 3—4, 2022; 9:30am—4:30pm
More information & registration: mendocinoartcenter.org/classes/upcycle-your-clothing
In this free workshop you will learn all the possibilities of applique, fancy embroidery embellishments, and drawn thread work. In addition to learning how to personalize and enhance new apparel, you will learn how to revitalize your look by resurrecting your threadbare jeans and other no-longer-wearables. The instructor will give you individual guidance as you enhance your projects. You will have “new looks” to take home with you, as well as techniques you can apply on other garments.
This class is presented free to Mendocino County residents through a generous grant from The Community Foundation of Mendocino County.
Space is limited and prior registration is required.
Mendocino Art Center
45200 Little Lake Street at Kasten Street, Mendocino
MENDO COUNTY MANAGEMENT, an on-line comment:
Absolutely disgusting. The reason that Mendocino County held on to their own insurance for so long was supposedly to “cut costs and to keep healthcare costs controlled.” But, when you look a little deeper there’s a lot of long-term senior employees who have left in the last 5 years or so that have massive health expenses, absorbed by all the insured. A vast majority of the employees at Mendocino County cannot even see a doctor with their Mendocino County Insurance because many local providers won’t accept it or they are full, not accepting any more patients. So there’s a learning curve here. CEO Darcie Antle only knew what Angelo told her. Now she in turn must figure it out for herself and only tells what she wants to to paint her picture. The Board of Supervisors — so much of this is so out of their cerebral scope that there is no way to rectify it. They need to start doing their jobs instead of running on and on with the dialogue. We got to walk and chew gum at the same time or else we’re doomed in perpetuity. Oh goody… more of the same old same old. Honestly, this is just be the tip of a massive iceberg as it rapidly melts.
POOR SUPERVISOR JOHN HASCHAK can’t get any respect. His instincts are frequently better than his colleagues but he has a disturbing tendency to wilt at the slightest twist or pushback. When he suggested that the Board follow the pot tax advisory measure and allocate some of it as the Measure called for couple of months ago, he listened to Supervisor Gjerde’s and Williams’ transparently false claims that business as usual constituted compliance. Instead of persisting, Haschak caved and went along with this underhanded idea. Haschak also objected to the unplanned ill-considered consolidation of the Auditor-Tax Collector office, and has seemed sympathetic to the predicted/predictable problems that resulted from that terrible idea and tried to ask Auditor/Tax Collector Cubbison what can be done to mitigate them. But again, when the Board does nothing time and again, Haschak sits by, uncomplaining. Hashack has tried in his way to represent the well-meaning pot growers trying to get legal in his district by bringing some of their problems and complaints to light, but when his ideas are not followed up on, he caves. Haschak has taken some responsibility for attempting to set up some kind of arrangement for “non-lethal” wildlife exclusion services which has been stalled now for over a year. When nothing happens, instead of telling County Counsel to fix the RFP so that qualified people can bid for the services, or introducing an agenda item to put his colleagues and staff on the spot, he simply repeats again and again that “we’re working on it.”
The latest example was last Tuesday when Haschak asked County Counsel Christian Curtis about the status of the well water extraction rules and whether anything can be done to speed it up.
Haschak: “Supervisor McGourty and I worked on this water extraction ordinance and there’s a lot of questions about where it is and what the hold up is. I think we dealt with it as a Board in July. And we’re hearing that it won’t go to the Planning Commission until maybe February. And it’s in County Counsel. So can you give us an update on where it is and if we can do anything to move it along?”
Curtis: “At this point, I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done to move it along. It is something that will require some more analysis and drafting and additional work before we’re able to go to the Planning Commission.”
Haschak, deflated, caved again: “Ok. Thank you.”
And, as usual, none of his colleagues, including McGourty, chimed in with any support or follow-up questions.
PETITIONS FOR TEMPORARY URGENCY CHANGE IN MENDOCINO AND SONOMA COUNTIES
On October 31, 2022, Sonoma County Water Agency filed petitions for temporary urgency change under water right Permits 12947A, 12949, 12950, and 16596 (Applications 12919A, 15736, 15737, and 19351). Pursuant to the existing water rights, water is diverted from the Russian River stream system in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. To view the notice, please visit the Division of Water Rights website under Temporary Urgency Change Petitions at: 2022 Notices waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/petitions/temporary_urgency.html
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Ken Emanuel by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!
Make new friends and help a good cause. No experience is necessary, but an enthusiastic spirit is much appreciated! Volunteers are asked to contribute about 48 hours per year, typically about 4 hours per month. Opportunities include:
- Museum Docents
- Walking Tour Guides
- Community and Educational Programs
- Board Membership
Contact email@example.com for more info!
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
“I believe Jury Duty is a civic responsibility that should be undertaken with pride and professionalism. Yes, it is disruptive to one’s normal schedule and can have long periods of boredom while waiting to be called to a jury pool.“
On October 10th I left early to make the trip over the hill to perform my duty. Having confirmed my group number was required to show up the Friday before I sucked it up and rearranged my schedule.
Once I arrived at the court house I found the jury room empty and a lone woman explaining that all trials were vacated for the day. Asked for an explanation she replied that the powers that be never informed the people who make the recorded announcements that trials wouldn’t be held. No reimbursement for time and travel costs were offered.
The only benefit to the wasted day was a fine meal at the Redwood Drive In.
— Chuck Wilcher, Comptche
CANNABIS CROP REPORT, 2022
by Jonah Raskin
As always there’s both good news and bad news to the story. In the world of weed, the good news is that this year small farmers have harvested some of their best crop ever in terms of quality. The bad news is that they’re on the ropes and taking an awful beating. Jason Gellman, an Emerald Triangle farmer, tells it like it is. In the 2022 Cannabis Harvest Report from Leafy, the most reliable source in the industry, Gellman is quoted as saying, “Prices this year are at an all time low and honestly pretty tragic for all the craft farmers. Lots of people will not be able to afford to keep their farms going. Our community as a whole is in a bad financial place.”
Notice please that he uses the word “honestly.” He doesn’t just give honesty lip service, though it’s challenging to speak honestly in an industry that’s like many others in which hardworking, dedicated individuals want to put a smile on their own faces and offer good news to a public that’s eager for positive, hopeful stories.
In 2022 in the world of cannabis those stories are hard to come by, though more Americans than ever before believe that cannabis ought to be legalized by the federal government and that cannabis can be good medicine.
I have been writing about cannabis for 46 years, going all the way back to the late 1970s. I also grew marijuana and sold marijuana and transported marijuana. Some of my closest friends grow and sell marijuana now, both legally and illegally. The outlaw growers in California are doing better financially than legal growers like Jason Gellman.
Mike Benziger told me the other day that 2022 was “one of his very best vintages.” He has been growing and harvesting marijuana for 45 years. Before 2015, he was in his own words, “under the table.” Before he turned to cannabis as a cash crop he grew grapes biodynamically and made excellent wine. The story that he tells about marijuana is the same in its essentials as the story that Gellman tells, though they’re separated by hundreds of miles and by climate geography and topography, which have often worked for the benefit of growers since the 1960s.
“In 2022, there’s an oversupply,” Benziger told me. “Prices took a tumble. Not long ago farmers were able to get $2000 a pound. Now, they’re lucky if they get $300 a pound.” He added, “Some will have good pot but no one will buy it. There aren’t enough outlets. We need more dispensaries.” Benziger is able to survive in part because Solful, a popular dispensary in the well-healed town of Sebastopol, buys a big chunk of his crop at a price that’s decent and that “keeps the lights on.” If you have read so far and you still want to get into the cannabiz, Benziger has advice for you. “Don’t have a mortgage or overhead,” he says. “Love what you do and have experience.”
Early in November, Benziger played host at his farm in Glen Ellen to a small group of farmers and reporters who cover cannabis. There were more reporters than there were farmers. Cannabis continues to be a hot topic and a compelling story. Editors and readers want to know which way the wind will blow: toward more legalization and normalization of the industry; the removal of cannabis from Schedule I as a drug with no known medical benefits; and the end of the nearly 80 years of the federal cannabis prohibition. Time will tell.
At Benziger’s farm, the growers, who came from Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma, talked about their best practices, their collaboration with the plant itself, their small is beautiful philosophy, and their commitment to “craft cannabis” or what others might call “boutique weed.”
According to Leafy, and to David Downs, Leaf’s star reporter and savvy editor who attended Benziger’s confab, more growers in more states in the U.S, grew more marijuana in 2022 than ever before. A glut on the market, and bottlenecks, too. Many of the new growers are far closer to big city markets in LA, NY, Chicago and elsewhere than the growers in the Emerald Triangle. Once, remoteness from law enforcement helped them; now it’s a hindrance.
One of the growers at Benziger’s remembered the days when he and others had to deal with helicopters and cops; now they have to deal with bureaucrats and bureaucracy. Take your pick. One could sometimes negotiate with a cop; now there’s no wiggle room to negotiate with a man or a woman behind a desk with a computer that knows the rules and regulations and doesn’t understand negotiation. The Emerald Triangle, where I once grew, was the Wild West; now it’s Kafka territory and can be crazy making. I’m glad I got out when I did. I’m not going back. But I sure would like to smoke some of Benziger’s 2022 buds. I’m not looking for a freebee. I’ll pay the market price.
VELMA'S FARM STAND AT FILIGREEN FARM
On Anderson Valley Way in Boonville
We are open Friday 2-5pm and Saturday 11am-4pm. The farm stand will be stocked this week with: chicories, leeks, celery, winter squash,carrots, apples, pears, kale, chard, potatoes, napa cabbage, green/red cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli (limited), onions, garlic, herbs, dried fruit (prunes, apples, raisins, peaches), olive oil, quince apple butter, and everlasting flower bouquets/wreaths! We will also have a few evergreen wreaths for sale.
We have an incredible inventory of dried flowers grown from the farm this season and are excited to offer beautifully hand-crafted wreaths, bouquets, and single variety bunches at the farm stand for the fall/winter season. If you would like to custom order a wreath, bouquet, and/or arrangement please contact Annie for more details! Same goes for evergreen wreaths!
Multiple flavors of Wilder Kombucha available as well. All produce is certified biodynamic and organic. Follow us on Instagram for updates @filigreenfarm or email Annie at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. We accept cash, credit card, check, and EBT/SNAP (with Market Match)!
My new book, Mendocino History Exposed, will be a topic of discussion with host Michelle Blackwell on her KZYX radio interview show, “Upwelling,” on November 30th at 9 AM.
In the meantime, you can pick up your copies of Mendocino History Exposed at local independent book sellers like Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino or in Fort Bragg at The Bookstore on Laurel St. as well as Windsong on Main St.
gallerybookshop.com offers an easier online way to order than through the impersonal corporations.
If you already have your own copy, Mendocino History Exposed's tales of our county, from pre-Gold Rush to “the tire baby” make a wonderful gift.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, November 10, 2022
TRINITY AMADOR, Willits. Probation revocation.
IRA BOWES, Ukiah. Ammo possession by prohibited person.
ALEXANDER JACKSON, Ukiah. Stolen vehicle, suspended license.
EDWINA NIDEROST, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
RYAN PEPERA, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JOAN REYNOSA-ORELLANA, Ukiah. DUI.
KAYLA SALLIS, Ukiah. False ID, failure to appear.
LYDELL WILLIAMS, Ukiah. Burglary, probation revocation.
SHANNON WILLIAMS, Laytonville. Failure to appear.
RETURN TO PHILLY (Corrected version)
Thank you so much more in the lovely account by Terry Sites of her trip to Philadelphia. When she returns, I urge her do go in the spring. I lived in that beautiful city for over 13 years and also in several other eastern and midwestern ones and I must say that no other city has such a glorious spring as does Philadelphia. Californians deny it, but they don't know spring. Plants bloom here year-round. In Philadelphia, in January, all is pearly gray. No color at all. Then one day you see a slight green haze in tree branches. And then it begins! Like an orchestra warming up. Blips of color here and there, crocus first, and one by one it builds: hedges of forsythia, Eastern redbud, pussywillows, weeping cherries, white and pink dogwood, daffodils, banks of azaleas and rhododendrons of all colors (four acres around the Museum of Art) on and on, and carpets the violets!
One reason Philadelphia is so lush is that it has the largest landscaped park system in the United States, over 60 parks: 9200 acres, 10 times the size of Central Park (843 acres). Philadelphia does have horrid heat some summer weeks, but it's less than an hour's drive to beautiful ocean swimming: Long Beach Island, New Jersey, with great farmers markets lining the road.
Well okay, this is a promo for Philadelphia (go Phillies!). And yes, I would have moved back decades ago but my guy didn't want to deal with winters anymore which in eastern Pennsylvania aren't really “bad.” (I love winter and as Norwegians say there's no bad weather, just bad clothing.)
So thanks to Terry. As a final note I do have Welsh mining ancestors; mine settled in western Pennsylvania. I urge her and others to look up the hilarious Xenophobes guidebooks and she could check out the one on Wales. (Yes, I have the Norwegian one, too!)
MIKE GENIELLA: We love Mendocino County. It is our family's home. Still, I recognize as the years go by that I am a Sacramento Valley boy at heart. In my youth, the surrounding landscape was anchored, always, by the Sutter Buttes. Here's the latest great photograph by Michelle Zearfoss of the iconic little mountain range.
Supermarkets that were cited for selling alcoholic beverages to underage customers now penalize all customers by asking if they are 21. Driver’s licenses are not demanded, just their ages.
“I have ties in my top drawer older than you are,” one elderly man said to a checkout youth after being asked his age for a six-pack of beer. A gray-haired woman was recently overheard saying, “My phone number is unlisted and so is my age,” after being asked about a bottle of wine. “It’s the law,” they assert.
It is not.
Restaurants and bars rarely ask a patron’s age unless the customer appears underage. Yes, there are Dick Clarks and Reese Witherspoons here, but not many.
Another insult is handing back in pennies, nickels and dimes for an inflated bar or restaurant bill. This too is defensively called “the law” when in other cities and counties they round the bill off saving the hassle of pennies, nickels and dimes.
Bartenders, checkout clerks and waiters hate these “rules” as do customers. Common sense, please? If a person appears elderly spare them the embarrassment of an age request. And handing back pennies, nickels and dimes for a $150 lunch bill is bad for business. Round it off, please.
FINAL ELECTION RESULTS: HURRY UP AND WAIT
Don’t hold your breath waiting for California election results — it’s going to be awhile. As my colleague Ben Christopher pointed out in this informative Wednesday tweet thread, not only do we not yet know how many ballots are left to count — local elections officials are set to share their first estimates today — we can’t confidently predict whether they’re likely to favor Republicans or Democrats. That’s due to a bunch of factors ranging from recent changes in GOP voting behavior to inclement Election Day weather.
Although the outcome of all of the statewide ballot measures and almost all of the state officer races were clear soon after polls closed on Tuesday night, many of the most competitive contests are too close to call — and could remain that way for days or even weeks. Among them: the battle for Los Angeles mayor, expensive contests in the state Legislature, and closely watched California House races that could help determine which party controls Congress.
One thing that was clear, however: Voters resoundingly rejected Proposition 30, which would have levied a new tax on multimillionaires to fund electric vehicle rebate programs and other climate initiatives. This came as a surprise for some observers, given that California is a deep-blue state whose voters are known for supporting ambitious endeavors to combat climate change — and haven’t been shy about taxing high earners in the past. So what gives? Ben takes a closer look at how and why Prop. 30 went down in flames — and what the result might signify for California moving forward.
* * *
Californians pessimistic about state economy
More than 11,000 employees of Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, are losing their jobs after CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday the Silicon Valley-based tech giant is slashing its workforce by 13% — the latest round of mass layoffs to rattle the California economy. Salesforce, San Francisco’s largest private employer, laid off hundreds of salespeople on Monday. Meanwhile, new car and truck sales in California fell by more than 16% in the first three quarters of the year compared to the same period in 2021, the California New Car Dealers Association reported Tuesday. And California’s persistent drought is withering tomatoes, pushing inflation-impacted grocery prices even higher.
Given all this, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a whopping 69% of Californians predict bad times for the state economy in the next year — a key finding of a Public Policy Institute of California poll released late Wednesday night. Other takeaways:
67% of Californians say children growing up in the Golden State today will be worse off than their parents, and 71% say the gap between rich and poor is growing. 57% say they or a household member drove less due to the cost of gas, while 1 in 3 cut back on meals or food and 1 in 5 put off seeing the doctor. 43% worry every day or almost every day about the cost of gas and other transportation, and 28% fret about the cost of housing. When it comes to policy solutions, 73% of Californians say the government should ease permit requirements and build more housing so lower- and middle-income people can buy a home. And 61% say they support increasing government funding so more people can afford electric or hybrid vehicles — but apparently not through the mechanism of Prop. 30.
* * *
Gov. Gavin Newsom will begin his second gubernatorial term with a new team of top advisers, marking the latest big shift in an administration that’s experienced considerable turnover over the past few years, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Dana Williamson is set to start as Newsom’s executive secretary next year. Williamson — a longtime Sacramento political strategist and former cabinet secretary for Gov. Jerry Brown — will replace Jim DeBoo, who served as Newsom’s top adviser for two years after replacing the governor’s first chief of staff, Ann O’Leary. Analea Patterson will step into the role of cabinet secretary, replacing Ana Matosantos in what’s seen as the No. 2 post in the administration charged with translating Newsom’s ideas into government policy and action. Jason Elliott, Newsom’s top adviser on housing and homelessness, will become deputy chief of staff.
JACK DEMPSEY on fighting: explosive punching and aggressive defense.
Rule 8: Watch Your Opponent’s Wrists.
“Never close your eyes; no matter what kind of a punch is coming at you, and no matter what kind of a punch you are throwing. Keep your eyes riveted on his left fist. After you develop the habit of watching punches, you'll discover that even though your eyes are focused on one threatening fist, you'll be noting from the corners of your eyes every other move your opponent is making.”
IF YOU NEEDED A DIPLOMA or a G.E.D. to collect unemployment, then you’d see a hell of a lot more kids staying in school.
— Wayne Knight, 1995
GINO & CARLO PACKS THEM IN FOR ITS 80TH ANNIVERSARY IN S.F.’S NORTH BEACH
by Sam Whiting
The 80th anniversary didn’t officially start until noon, which seems early for a bar party but not for a bar party at Gino & Carlo, a traditional 6 a.m. bar in the North Beach. By 11 a.m., they were two deep and before noon the creaky old joint was at capacity and spilling out into the harsh sunlight of Green Street and the adjacent alley.
“Everything in North Beach has changed, but Gino & Carlo stays the same,” said Mark Rezente as he sat outside with his morning beer on a waxy tablecloth and counted off the nearby bars and restaurants that have died of old age. “With things changing this much you need to come back here and get centered.”
Given the Sunday morning start time, many of the customers described the place with religious fervor.
“Gino & Carlo is a church,” said Rudy Colombini who, like so many products of the old North Beach Italian tradition, snuck his first beer here at age 17 or 18. “I’ve been coming ever since.” He was there Sunday to plug in beneath the TV screen and perform with his cover band, the Unauthorized Rolling Stones.
Inside the church bells were ringing, in the tone of a cash register drawer banging closed. No credit cards are accepted and anybody who tries to pay with an app is in the wrong place. The three owners — Frank Rossi, his cousin Marco Rossi and Ronnie Minolli — do it exactly the way their three fathers did it. This year, they added a fourth partner, Brett DiFeliciantonio, who is also a cousin, but he had to serve an 8-year apprenticeship as a bartender before he made partner.
“Our parents wouldn’t put any money into the bar,” said Frank Rossi, known to his parents’ generation as Junior. “They put tape on everything to fix it and we haven’t changed. That’s our whole thing. Not changing.”
That extends to the selections on the jukebox — you can still find Dean Martin and Louis Prima — and a morning clientele which is still largely cops and firemen after a shift change. It is the same milieu that drew in Chronicle columnist Charles McCabe, who would sit at the end of the bar and craft his column, “the Fearless Spectator,” before rewarding himself with his daily quota of four “Green Death” Rainier Ales, each in a fresh glass that had to be wiped with a clean cloth to get rid of any soap residue.
“I’ve seen it go through a few generations over the years, but the characters who work there feel like family in the old Italian way,” said Kerry Egan, a bar aficionado who always hits the monthly luncheon on the first Thursday. That and Thanksgiving are the only regular food service.
Years ago, Rezente found himself far from his San Leandro home on a holiday and wandered into Gino & Carlo, where Frank Rossi, Sr. was working the plank. “There were a few people at the bar and Frank welcomed me in,” said Rezente. “Then the turkey and stuffing comes out. They set it all up on the pool table. It was the best Thanksgiving ever.”
There were stories like that at every bar stool and at every outdoor table.
Kathy Prunty moved out from New Hampshire 18 years ago because she heard, erroneously, that there were no mosquitoes in San Francisco. She landed in North Beach and didn’t know a single person on the day she timidly poked her head into Gino & Carlo.
“It’s a place you can come in by yourself and feel comfortable sitting at the bar,” she said. “It’s a lovely place. They’re like family.”
Kat Woolbright came out from Kansas 12 years ago and within three days she found Gino & Carlo. She only lives three blocks away now, but arrived late Sunday for the festivities. The crowd was so thick it was hard to get close enough to the front to look in, but she was determined to pay push her way in and pay her respects.
Fifteen minutes later she had a Jameson on the rocks and was back outside with it. “One and done,’’ said Woolbright, who had lasted inside just long enough to confirm that nothing had changed since the first time she walked in.
“If it ain’t broke,” she said before heading up the alley, “why fix it?”
BIDEN MADE IT HARDER FOR DEMOCRATS TO WIN. HE’D BE AN ALBATROSS ON THE 2024 TICKET.
by Norman Solomon
No amount of post-election puffery about Joe Biden can change a key political reality: His approval ratings are far below the public’s positivity toward the Democratic Party. Overall, the Democrats who won the midterm elections did so despite Biden, not because of him. He’s a drag on the party, a boon to Republicans, and—if he runs again—he’d be a weak candidate against the GOP nominee in the 2024 presidential campaign.
While the electorate is evenly split between the two parties, there’s no such close division about Biden. NBC reported its exit poll on November 8 “found that two-thirds of voters (68 per cent) do not want Biden to run for president again in 2024.”
This is nothing new. Biden’s low public-approval ratings have been longstanding. A chart showing chronic disapproval now has him at a dozen points underwater—53 per cent “disapprove” and only 41 per cent “approve.” The gap between approval of Biden and of his party underscores what a leaden weight he is on Democratic electoral prospects.
As for how he’s apt to govern next year, Biden has offered a willingness to compromise with the right-wing Republican leadership. A New York Times headline after his November 9 afternoon news conference summed up: “Biden Promises Bipartisanship After a Red Wave ‘Didn’t Happen.’”
But “bipartisanship” is exactly what we don’t need, in the face of extremist Republican demagogues who are determined to keep dragging the goal posts—and the country—further rightward.
In contrast to the current fad of adulation for Biden in much of corporate media, Politico offered this sober assessment of his impacts on the midterms: “It’s hard to argue that Democrats over-performed on Tuesday because of Biden rather than in spite of him. His approval rating, hovering around 41 per cent, is dismal—and has been all year. He’ll turn 80 this month, and earlier this year, a majority of Democrats polled said they’d prefer someone else to be the party’s nominee.”
The article added: “But one thing Biden did have going for him was the calendar, and the reluctance of Democrats to do anything that might hurt him—and, by extension, the partyahead of the midterms. That imperative is gone now. And though no prominent Democrat is likely to run a serious campaign against Biden, there will be increasing pressure on him, especially from the left, to step aside.”
It will be crucial to boost that pressure in the months ahead, which is why I’m glad to be part of the Don’t Run Joe organizing team. On Wednesday, the campaign launched digital ads reaching Democratic voters in New Hampshire with the message that “we need strong leadership to defeat Republicans in 2024.” And, while beating the fascistic GOP will be absolutely necessary, moving ahead with vital progressive policies will also be of paramount importance.
In New Hampshire, which has long hosted the nation’s first presidential primary, Democratic State Representative Sherry Frost said this on Wednesday: “I am eager to support a candidate who understands the fatal dysfunction in our economy and is willing to hold the ultra-wealthy individuals and corporations to their obligations to the rest of us, who is going to actively champion meaningful civil rights and voting protections, and who will spearhead a shift away from the military-industrial complex and oligarchy and toward a culture that works for the most vulnerable of us first. I am not confident that Biden is that candidate, and while I appreciate his rescuing us from another Trump term, I believe we need someone else to champion the big and systemic changes we need to continue to strive toward our more perfect union.”
What does all this mean for people who want to defeat Republicans in 2024 and to advance truly progressive agendas? Joe Biden should not be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. If he runs for re-election—representing the status quo—the outcome would likely be disastrous. Grassroots activism will be essential to create better alternatives.
(Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of “War Made Easy.” His next book, “War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine,” will be published by The New Press in Spring 2023. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)
EVERY TIME BIDEN DEFIES EXPECTATION, TRUMP’S STRENGTH WEAKENS
by Patrick Cockburn
Democrats are understandably cock-a-hoop at the results so far of the midterm elections to Congress so far, which show them to have avoided the electoral massacre they had feared and the Republicans hoped for. Instead, they stand a better than even chance of holding onto the Senate while their probable loss of the House will be by a far lesser margin than many had predicted.
One result of the outcome of the midterms is that President Joe Biden will be more likely to stand for re-election in 2024 and former President Trump, who will soon announce if he will stand again for the presidency, has been weakened. Republican candidates who got his full and active support have generally fared poorly or failed to get a boost from his backing.
The final outcome of the midterms will take time to emerge, particularly in closely fought Senate races in Georgia, Nevada and Arizona.
The Democrats had hoped that the threat to abortion rights and to democracy itself from Trumpian Republican populists would be a vote winners and the election showed that this calculation was largely correct. The NBC exit poll shows that 27 per cent of voters said that abortion was the main issue for them and three quarters of these voted for Democratic candidates.
There were good reasons why the Republicans expected a “Red Wave” or “a Republican Tsunami” to engulf the Democrats. President Joe Biden looks frail, elderly and unable to get a grip on challenges facing America. Some 45 per cent of voters strongly disapprove and 10 per cent somewhat disapprove of the way he is handling his job. Inflation is high and is identified by 31 per cent of voters as their main concern, with some 20 per cent saying that it has caused them severe hardship and 59 per cent moderate hardship.
Yet the economy turned out not to be quite the killer issue that the Republicans had hoped for, perhaps because the economic news is not all bad. Prices may be steeply up in the shops and at the fuel pumps, but so too are job numbers and real wages.
Republicans benefit from a supposed crime wave, heavily publicised by Fox News and the Republican media. In reality, however, violent crime has declined sharply since the 1990s. From 1993 to 2021, the rate of violent victimisation declined from 79.8 to 16.5 victimisations per 1,000 persons aged 12 or older, according to Bureau of Justice statistics.
Yet from a Republican point of view a victory is still a victory, even if it is smaller than they might have wished for. Control of the House, even by a few seats, will enable them to hobble the Biden administration and launch inquiries into issues where they think the Democrats are vulnerable.
The failure of Republican candidates to do as well as former President Donald Trump might have hoped is combining with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s easy re-election by a 20 per cent margin to produce a new political landscape for Republicans. DeSantis is the most likely to succeed of any rival to Trump, supposing the former president decides to stand as the Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election, something likely to provoke a Republican civil war to the advantage of the Democrats.
Simply not being roundly defeated will improve the morale of the Biden administration as once again Biden has defied low expectations that his age and fumbling performance would produce an election defeat. Keep in mind that the young and vigorous President Bill Clinton lost 54 seats, and with it control of the House in his first midterm election in 1994. President Barack Obama did even worse in the 2010 midterms when the Democrats lost seven seats in the Senate and 63 seats in the House.
The Democrats have escaped a similar disaster this year, despite historic precedents supplemented by Republican gerrymandering of electoral boundaries in their favour. But the Democrats cannot afford to be too pious about this because their inept attempt to gerrymander seats in New York state blew up in their faces and a fair redistribution ordered by the courts has cost them at least one seat. Republicans will hold post mortems about why their great victory never happened and who and what is to blame for it.
Clearly, the reversal of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court this summer resonated with voters much as Democrats had hoped it would at the time of the court decision, though more recently they feared that the right to choose was being submerged as an issue by price inflation.
But in states where abortion rights were directly on the ballot like Kentucky and Michigan, and not just in culturally liberal California and Vermont, voters favoured the right to abortion. Republicans will now fear that the reversal of Roe V Wade will lead to a continuing haemorrhage of votes from them to the Democrats, a reversal of the previous direction when anti-abortion activists were more likely to go to the polls.
The rebuff to Trump may be not be an entirely unmixed blessing for Democrats because, as in 2020, as Republican presidential candidate he might prove to be the one opponent whom Biden could beat as he did in 2020. Trump has already begun to train his rhetorical guns on DeSantis, nicknaming him “DeSanctimonious” in the sort of personal attack which saw off many of his over-confident Republican rivals in 2016.
At that time, however, Democrats had an exaggerated idea of the benefits to them of Republican fratricide, failing to note the advantages to Trump of leading the television news every night. Trump may not have had the success he was after but the constituency loyal to him and his views is still vast with 35 per cent of voters interviewed for the exit poll this week accepting his view that Biden was unfairly elected in 2020.
One final point about the midterm elections – they are not over. Fights over the most closely fought contests will go on for weeks if not longer.
A GENTLEMAN is someone who is never rude by accident.
— Kingsley Amis
DEMOCRACY OF THE VOTE without democracy of information is not democracy. It doesn't matter if people are able to vote as long as the media-owning class are able to manipulate how they vote. "One person, one vote" is meaningless if influence and control of information is highly concentrated in an elite few. And it is.
Mass media propaganda, internet censorship, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, government secrecy and the war on journalism are all anti-democratic in nature, because they restrict the information the citizenry are allowed to access to inform their vote. And none of those instruments of narrative control have any influence from, or accountability to, the rank-and-file public. This means that while everyone gets a vote, how those votes are applied is subjected to aggressive and ubiquitous manipulation by the ruling class.
The US empire's unprecedented investment in soft power control systems has given rise to the most sophisticated propaganda system that has ever existed. Human thought is being manipulated at mass scale like never before. If you control how people think, you control how they vote.
Most of the propaganda people consume every day is not to manufacture consent for any one specific agenda, but to manufacture consent for the overall political status quo which keeps our wildly dysfunctional systems in place. That's what maintains the false two-party puppet show. Without copious amounts of propaganda, it wouldn't be possible to keep two evenly divided political factions impotently playing tug-o-war and never ever actually changing anything. The entire status quo is built upon the ruling class's ability to manipulate minds at mass scale.
— Caitlin Johnstone
ELON puts rockets into space — he’s not afraid of the F.T.C.
— Alex Spiro (Elon Musk’s personal lawyer)
UKRAINE, THURSDAY, 10TH NOVEMBER
by James FitzGerald, BBC News
The Ukrainian army says it has made major gains over the last day around Kherson, after Russia said it was withdrawing from the southern city.
Ukrainian troops say they have taken back the key town of Snihurivka, 50km (30 miles) to the north of Kherson.
Kyiv has also claimed big pushes on two fronts near Kherson, including advances of 7km in some places.
Russia says it has started to exit the city - its top gain in the invasion - but the process could take weeks.
Wednesday's announcement was viewed as a major setback for Moscow's war effort, though Ukrainian officials were sceptical - warning that the manoeuvre could be a trap.
There was no immediate evidence of any mass-scale Russian withdrawal from Kherson.
Ukraine's commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhny said on Thursday that he could not confirm or deny the pull-out - but said his own forces had made important advances.
Gen Zaluzhny said his soldiers had driven forward on two fronts on the western bank of the Dnipro river - an area of land which encompasses Kherson - taking control of 12 settlements.
It was not possible for the BBC to independently verify the details of the latest territorial gains and losses - but the reports come after weeks of steady advances from the Ukrainian military.
Kherson was the first - and only - regional capital to fall into Russian hands after it invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
From late September, it was viewed by the Kremlin as Russian territory - following so-called “referendums” in occupied areas of Ukraine that were widely discredited by the international community.
On Wednesday, Moscow said it was no longer possible to supply the city, saying it would step back from the western bank of the Dnipro - a river which bisects Ukraine.
Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not take part in the televised announcement. Ukraine's Gen Zaluzhny said Russia was left with no option but to flee, after its supply lines were destroyed and its command systems disrupted.
Later on Thursday, Ukraine's defence minister said it would take Russia at least a week to withdraw and that it was not easy to predict the actions of his enemy.
THE FBI'S TRANSFORMATION FROM NATIONAL POLICE TO DOMESTIC SPY AGENCY. Part One: “Disruption”
A Florida FBI agent blows the whistle on a Bureau that's stopped worrying about making cases, shifting resources to a vast new mission: domestic spying without predicate. Part one of a series
by Matt Taibbi
Late on an October morning in a quiet neighborhood near Daytona Beach, Florida. FBI agent Steve Friend sits in his kitchen, fidgeting. He’s a wiry, energetic man, built like a marathoner, not muscled up but exuding fitness, not a sitter. This is not a person meant for desk work, much less staying home all day. But as a whistleblower whose name has been all over media after a complaint about statistical manipulation and other problems in the January 6th investigations, this will be his lot for a while.
By that morning, the first rush of news stories about Friend’s case already passed. CNN and MSNBC demonized him, Fox hailed him as a hero, but the furor was beginning to die down. What a whistleblower talks about in this inevitable moment will say a lot about his or her motivation. Looking out a window into the stillness of his suburban neighborhood, Friend shook his head.
“I love my job,” he said, sighing. “I was living my best life as an FBI agent. I was coming home every day, and my kids were my biggest fan club. Like, ‘Daddy, did you put the bad guy in jail?’ And I thought, ‘Man, this is it.’”
It’s not the tone of a disgruntled malcontent, but someone who made a reluctant journey to whistleblower status, beginning with a whirlwind series of events that brought him and his family out of the Midwest to north Florida less than two years ago. He worked a child pornography detail before being transferred to the assignment that would upend his life: investigating J6. The FBI not only took Friend off vital work chasing child predators to pursue questionable investigations of people maybe connected with the Capitol riots (often in some misdemeanor fashion), they used dubious bureaucratic methods he felt put him in an impossible spot.
Essentially, the FBI made Friend a supervisory agent in cases actually being run by the Washington field office, a trick replicated across the country that made domestic terrorism numbers appear to balloon overnight. Instead of one investigation run out of Washington, the Bureau now had hundreds of “terrorism” cases “opening” in every field office in the country. As a way to manipulate statistics, it was ingenious, but Friend could see it was also trouble.
As a member of a dying breed of agent raised to focus on making cases and securing convictions, Friend knew putting him nominally in charge of a case he wasn’t really running was a gift to any good defense attorney, should a J6 case ever get to trial.
“They’re gonna see my name as being the case agent, yet not a single document has my name as doing any work,” Friend says. “Now a defense lawyer can say, ‘Hey, the case agent for this case didn’t perform any work.’ Labeling the case this way would be a big hit to our prosecution.”
Friend ended up refusing the arrangement, which led to his suspension. He followed procedure, making protected disclosures to superiors and the FBI’s Office of Special Counsel (OSG). He then reported his suspension to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson and whistleblower-whisperer Chuck Grassley of Iowa. They sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, detailing Friend’s procedural objections, including that “agents are being required to perform investigative actions” they “would not otherwise pursue,” at the direction of the Washington Field Office (WFO).
When Friend first complained to his Assistant Special Agents in Charge (ASACs — the FBI is an acronym hell worse than the military), he told them, with regard to J6 suspects: “I’m not a Trump voter. I’m not sympathetic to those people.” The message didn’t get through, however, and leaks from the Bureau have almost universally painted him as an insubordinate MAGA conspiracist.
In fact, most of the press Friend attracted reduced his story to a referendum on the Capitol riots, as if his only complaint was being asked to investigate J6 at all. Big guns were brought out to sell the idea. Former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence-turned-talking-head Frank Figliuzzi blasted Friend on MSNBC as a “self-styled FBI whistleblower“ (Figliuzzi, a lawyer, should know better: Friend made protected disclosures by the book and is legally a whistleblower), implying he simply didn’t follow “valid” orders, instead “running to Trump-loving Congressmen” to complain.
But Friend’s complaint is only partially about J6. His concerns began in his first days in Quantico, and continued across years of watching the Bureau collect intelligence or open cases for non-operational reasons. Whether they involve J6 or not, a consistent theme of his stories is the FBI using its authority to “disrupt” or intimidate targets as an end in itself, as opposed to collecting evidence with the aim of prosecuting.
One example involved a British doctor who’d been at J6. The suspect was not exactly Pablo Escobar. He did enter the Capitol, but surveillance showed he meekly stayed behind velvet ropes once inside, and under questioning was practically shaking with guilt over having taken a free Capitol tourist brochure as a souvenir. Though he seemed unlikely to be charged, he was booted from his medical practice after being interviewed, and Friend wondered if this even indirectly had been the point.
“I worried about the process being the punishment,” Friend says. “He lost his job. What does he get from us, if we don’t charge him? ‘Hey, you’re clear? The FBI found no wrongdoing, go pick up the pieces’?”
In the incident that led to Friend’s suspension, the FBI wanted to execute a SWAT raid on a subject who’d been communicating with the Bureau through an attorney and almost certainly would have come in voluntarily. Or, Friend thought, he could have been picked up in another, less dangerous way. The FBI however wanted a show.
“We’re gonna hit this house at six o’clock in the morning and throw flash-bangs and knock the door down and drive a Bearcat up on the front lawn,” recalls Friend, who had extensive SWAT experience and even worked the raid of Michigan militia members suspected of plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
He recounts a detail straight out of the movie Idiocracy: the armored Bearcat vehicles the FBI uses in SWAT raids are fitted with special battering-ram-type devices agents call dongers. (No joke. Washington Field Office agents even nickname their Bearcat accessory “DOJ,” for Dong of Justice). Friend describes the lunacy of a federal posse riding into the suburbs to take a door in one of these phallic tanks. “You’re driving down the road with this long extension pole on the front,” he says, laughing. “And I’m thinking, ‘These things were built by the lowest possible bidder.’”
He didn’t laugh so much, however, when he started to get the sense the FBI was opening cases, knocking on doors, and using tactics like SWAT for reasons other than operational necessity.
“I was a little kid and a smart kid in school and I got bullied, bad. That’s one of the reasons I went to law enforcement, and joined the FBI.” He pauses. “My attitude toward the FBI was, ‘You guys are the NFL of police work. You’re supposed to be fighting bullies. I think we might be becoming the bullies here.”
Though he’s been denounced by pundits and Figliuzzi types as an insurrectionist “sympathizer” with nothing legitimate to say, Friend’s complaints in fact track with those of a number of FBI whistleblowers who came before him. Since 9/11, many complain the FBI is hurtling back in time, toward its darkest days under J. Edgar Hoover, when it was a vast, unchecked domestic political spying operation, swinging under a fig leaf of legitimizing law enforcement activity.
The Hoover-era FBI plunged into such infamous excess via snooping programs like COINTELPRO — from trying to blackmail Martin Luther King, Jr. into suicide to opening intelligence files on as many as 500,000 Americans, including a list of 26,000 “to be rounded up in the event of a national emergency” — that Congress in 1975 was forced to intervene. Led by Idaho Senator Frank Church, a Senate oversight committee uncovered deep rot, finding the FBI secretly went “beyond its law” to “disrupt, discredit and harass groups and individuals.”
The Church hearings led to reforms that checked the Bureau’s worst instincts, for a time. Now the beast is back. The FBI not only is deep into the domestic spying game again, it’s accrued broad new powers, including authority to collect intelligence on Americans virtually without limit.
“I would like to think the point of all the intelligence analysis is to create products that are going to help crack a case,” Friend says. “But they’re not. In some cases, there’s no crime. We’re just intelligence, intelligence, intelligence.”
What does an FBI that stresses intelligence, intelligence, intelligence for its own sake look like, in day-to-day practice? No matter your politics, you’ll probably be shocked.
Mike German, also an FBI agent until 2004, tells a story illustrating a Bureau problem.
“I worked undercover in neo-Nazi and militia groups,” German says. “There were a lot of people who were ideologues. They would put an arm around me and say, ‘You seem like a smart kid. Why are you hanging around with those idiots?’” He laughs. “They’d say, ‘You don’t have any tattoos. We can put a suit on you. We can run you for the school board. That’s how we’re gonna challenge the system.’”
German pauses. “That distinction, between people who believe bad thoughts and people who do bad things was completely lost on our counterterrorism enterprise after 9/11,” he says. “In fact, they adopted a fraudulent radicalization theory that’s been disproven over and over again, that bad ideas lead to bad acts.”
German is also a whistleblower, forced out after reporting a problem involving an illegal wiretap. FBI higher-ups not only didn’t listen, but tried, absurdly, to cover up the incident by using Wite-Out to change the date on a key document. They took him off undercover work and threw picayune counter-accusations at him, none of which stuck but led to his departure. “Whistleblowers who reasonably believe they’ve witnessed abuse or mismanagement,” he says, “should be able to report those episodes without retaliation.”
German, who later went to work for the ACLU, has been following the news about FBI whistleblowers like Friend and Kyle Seraphin, who’ve been prominently featured in conservative media. “I’m sure if I sat down with them, I’d have sharp disagreements,” he says. “But I’m glad they’re pointing to real problems.”
German has spent nearly two decades tracing the FBI’s transformation. In his excellent 2019 book Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide, he describes how the FBI for most of its early history essentially had free rein to become a thought-policing operation. “Under Hoover, there were no guidelines,” German says. “There was no centralized list of authorities that described and circumscribed FBI powers.”
The Church revelations led to then-Attorney General Edward Levi establishing a set of operating guidelines for the FBI in 1976 that required agents to connect investigations to a criminal predicate, or “specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that an individual or group is or may be engaged in activities which involve the use of force or violence.”
The Bureau of course never stopped political snooping, but its emphasis shifted some until 9/11, after which it was denounced for a failure to act on multiple specific warnings. The government responded to this appropriate criticism with a bigger error. Assuming the problem was a lack of authority, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued new guidelines that re-introduced the idea of investigating without predication. On October 25, 2001, Ashcroft candidly explained his bureaucratic rationale. Should something bad happen again, he essentially said, the FBI will be blamed. So, gloves would come off.
“Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department, it is said, would arrest mobsters for “spitting on the sidewalk,” he wrote. “If you overstay your visa—even by one day—we will arrest you… We will use every available statute.”
“They sometimes call this the Al Capone strategy,” German explains. “If Al Capone is the head gangster, but we can’t get anybody to testify against him, we can at least charge him with income tax evasion.”
Ashcroft and others insisted the FBI had been held back by post-Church rules restricting its ability to collect information, but evidence suggested the exact opposite. In one of America’s most famous whistleblower cases, the Chief Counsel of the Minneapolis Field Office, Coleen Rowley — who would eventually make the cover of Time magazine as one of three “Persons of the Year” — wrote a letter to Mueller in May of 2002 explaining that the FBI had key advance information about al-Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui, arrested weeks before 9/11 in Minneapolis. The office even got a call from a local flight school with concerns about Moussaoui, leading agent Harry Samit and supervisor Mike Maltbie to ask Washington for permission to seek a warrant.
Washington analysts, however, didn’t think field agents had enough for either a criminal or a FISA warrant and rejected the request, in one of the biggest intelligence failures in history. As Rowley explained, a major reason wasn’t that the FBI had too little intelligence, but too much.
“Increased vigilance must be encouraged when needed,” she wrote, “but the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces can easily get bogged down in attempting to pursue all the leads engendered by panicky citizens. This, in turn, draws resources away from more important, well predicated and already established investigations.”
Rowley at the time was describing how the FBI was hampered even before9/11. Today, she recalls how the Minneapolis office was paralyzed after the attacks.
“They put everybody chasing all these millions of leads that were coming in,” she remembers. “It was crazy stuff. Someone would call in and say, ‘I saw someone in a robe.’ We had leads that every single person who had gone to a certain website to look at the Quran was supposed to be investigated.” Rowley notes that management in her field office had enough sense to avoid getting bogged down, but other offices were overwhelmed.
An irony for Rowley was that in her early days in the Bureau, she’d been warned about this exact problem by old-timers from the days of Hoover and COINTELPRO, some of whom got into hot water thanks to the Church revelations. “New agent, 27 years old,” she says. “Once in a while I’d be alone with one of them in a car or something. And they’d say, ‘Just a piece of advice, young kid. Don’t get carried away.’”
Yet Rowley saw the Bureau get carried away repeatedly. Regarding the complaints of agents like Friend about the J6 investigations, she sees their stories as the latest in a line of “overkill” episodes, from obsession with communists in the Hoover days (“Chasing Pete Seeger and Burl Ives,” she says, laughing) to fixations on the mob she saw as a young agent, to 9/11. The higher you go in the organization, the more likely FBI officials are to be driven to chase the political bugbear of the moment, while field agents have to be at least somewhat grounded in evidence and reality.
“If we got crazy tips, we’d throw ‘em in the trash because we were in a field office, and everybody in our field office had common sense,” she says. “But in DC they can’t. When you’re in that belly of the beast, where the pressures and the perverse incentives exist, you’re far less likely to maintain your common sense.” She pauses. “Analysts, they get their points and kudos by producing this stuff. If it’s the flavor of the day, it gets rubber-stamped and sent out to the field. The groupthink is huge.”
Toward the end of the Bush years, an extraordinary moment passed with little notice. In December of 2008, the FBI formalized a new “baseline collection plan“ that, together with radical new Attorney General guidelines pushed by Bush’s last AG Mike Mukasey, vastly enhanced the Bureau’s powers. Not only could the Bureau now initiate investigations called “assessments” based on no little to no predicate, but the “collection plan” urged agents to focus on data sweeps for their own sake.
Agents were pressed to fill in a long list of data fields when conducting assessments. Does the subject have a commercial driver’s license? Does he or she make enough money to transfer funds for “terrorism or criminal purposes,” and if so, where does the money come from? With what other adults does the subject live? Who are the subject’s close associates, and what’s their deal? (Specifically, “Does the U.S. Intelligence Community have any relevant information regarding the subject's close associates?”). Has the subject “been known to make statements that would be generally consistent with a desire to commit terrorist acts”? And so on.
Toward the end of the “collection plan,” agents are asked: “Does the FBI have a strategy to disrupt any plans to commit acts of violence or other criminal conduct associated with the subject and the terrorist organization?”
Understanding the concept of disruption is central to grasping the direction of the new FBI. To this day — this is part of Friend’s story as well — FBI agents get credit for an internal metric called “disruptions,” which could mean anything from an arrest to interviewing a subject to let them know the FBI is onto them.
On one hand, as in the famed Al Capone/tax evasion example, the strategy makes sense. On the other hand, giving the Bureau a free hand to make judgments about which individuals should be extralegally “disrupted” invites all sorts of mischievous possibilities, especially if the Bureau’s DC management is in one of its “overkill” modes, and hyper-focusing on Italians or Muslims or Burl-Ives-socialists or, yes, conservatives even.
Friend, who joined the FBI just as controversies over the Bureau’s 9/11 failures were dying down, was about to get a firsthand look at the new bureaucracy.
Just before he left the famed Quantico academy in the summer of 2014, Friend was treated to an ominous parting message from Bureau instructors.
“The night before we finished our training, we all had to go to a mandatory meeting,” Friend recalls. “We were all upset because our families were arriving and we all wanted to go meet them at the airport. And they said no, everybody had to go.” Friend remembers four Bureau’s intelligence analysts up on stage. He laughingly recollects that another person, a supervising analyst from headquarters, was moving through the crowd “like Rikki Lake,” taking questions.
“They said, ‘This is your opportunity to ask these analysts questions, to learn what their role is in the organization,” he recalls. The impatient audience was not exactly a font of questions. It was a weird vibe. “We all had to sit there for two hours as they pontificated about how important they are,” Friend remembers.
A former cop from the Savannah and Pooler police departments in Georgia, Friend was old-school law enforcement and grew frustrated. It seemed to him the analysts were trying, as a going-away present, to put field agents in their place, and he didn’t understand why.
“I raised my hand and asked, ‘Hey, did some crusty old agent ask an analyst to get a cup of coffee once, and we’re making amends?” he said. “Is that what’s going on?’”
Awkward silence descended. One of the analysts said no, that’s not what happened. Moreover, he said, you’re really going to value analysts wherever your destination is. Friend doubted it. He knew he was being posted to Sioux City, Iowa, where he’d mostly work on Native American reservations, what the FBI calls “Indian country.”
“Well,” he said, “I’m headed to Indian country. There’s not much of a terrorist threat there. So I doubt I’ll be working much with analysts.”
“You’ll be surprised,” they told him.
Fast forward a few years. Friend was indeed posted to Sioux City, where he did as close to pure police work as an FBI assignment gets, handling “domestic violence, sexual assaults, aggravated assaults, drugs, death investigations,” and other cases alongside tribal police. He was nothing if not busy. “25 cases was considered fully assigned,” he says. “I typically had 30 to 40 cases at a time.”
Despite the remoteness of his posting, a portion of Friend’s job was answering questions for Washington analysts, dealing with so-called RFCs, or “Requests for Collection,” which often involved asking agents to put questions to confidential sources. As far as Friend was concerned, it was a one-way relationship. “They weren’t important for me to do my job,” he recalls. “I was important to them, to produce their intelligence product.”
In one episode, they wanted him to question a Native American woman about pipeline attacks, because the Bureau was concerned about the Dakota Access protests. The only problem was, Friend’s source was a member of the wrong tribe, lived in the wrong state, and had no history with environmental activism.
“I said, ‘There’s not a pipeline that goes to the reservation here,’” he recalls. “They said, “Yeah, but she’s a Native American and there’s this Standing Rock protest.”
He pushed back, gently suggesting that the analysts consider that the question was offensive, that even he was offended on her behalf, etc. No go. “They were basically like, ‘She’s an Indian, she’ll know. They’re probably hearing it in the spirit world,’” he says now. “It was one of the most racist things I’d ever heard. I thought, ‘Are they really going to force me to make this gross generalization?”
The answer was yes, not because the analysts had it in for Friend or his informant especially, but because new policies stressed a dragnet approach to all intelligence matters. A DC analyst has a question? Let’s pose it to every source in the country, whether it makes sense or not, even if it might harm the CI relationship. You’ll get a lot of useless information and even more wasted time for field agents, but it was a win-win for analysts, who got lots of new data for what one agent calls “the term papers.”
For his part, from his first days on the job, Friend was taught “the reason that 9/11 happened was because there was a failure of having adequate intelligence.” But he too soon came to wonder if the Bureau was more focused on producing reports than catching crooks. Like Rowley and others, he was also concerned that generating so much intel might make solving crimes harder.
“The analysts are drafting these reports. They’re like doctoral candidate papers, and they’re often extremely well-written and well-researched,” he says. “But ultimately it comes down to, ‘Bill here deems with moderate level of confidence that X is going to happen.’ But what does that do?” He pauses. “I would counter that you end up with so much stuff, cutting through it is a problem.”
Friend was somewhat isolated from Bureau weirdness in Sioux City. Once he and his wife moved to Florida in mid-2021, and he was transferred to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, he was suddenly more exposed to the Bureau’s habit of using intrusive methods, even in cases of people not connected to any crime.
The city of Daytona Beach for instance annually holds an event called Biketoberfest, where motorcyclists ride in from all over. The FBI uses the opportunity to take taxonomic surveys of groups, photographing license plates, patches, who was hanging with whom, etc. Friend recalls one set of bikers held a cookout at a lodge, surrounded by FBI.
“We’re just posted up in every direction, and as they’re driving away, we’re following them,” Friend says. “Look, I’m under no delusions that these outlaw motorcycle gangs are doing charity work. But even if they’re bad dudes, they’re not doing anything bad right then.” He pauses. “If I have a reason to believe that they’re currently involved in a crime, maybe I could get on board. But if not, we’re just making lists. It’s like, what?”
Worse, he often got the impression the Bureau was more interested in checking bureaucratic boxes than doing real investigative work. In a case that sounded promising at first, a man overseas with suspected terror ties was going into chat rooms and trying to encourage young Americans to mass shootings. The Bureau wanted Friend to do an interview for an assessment on a young Florida woman, maybe 20, who was hanging in the chats.
He felt she had mental health issues, and the local Sheriff should be informed about her, but didn’t see a threat. In fact, he thought she could be an informant. “I thought, ‘Why not invite her to work for Team America, see if she wants to be my eyes and ears?’ He pitched the idea to superiors, who went to Washington with the idea. The answer that came back surprised him.
“They were like, ‘Steve, they want you to open up a full investigation on her.’ When he asked why, he was told, ‘They think she’s completely deceived you and used tradecraft to fool you.’” Friend, who thought he read people pretty well, didn’t think so, but more than that, he was concerned about Bureau motives. It seemed to him their main incentive was to have an open ISIS case in Jacksonville. “The amazing thing was, nobody was like, ‘Is ISIS about to attack Jacksonville?’ It was more, ‘Way to go, guys, opening up an ISIS case.’”
The J6 cases were strange in their own way. In one, the Bureau got an anonymous tip from a state in New England (how such tips are mass-processed in Washington is the subject of the next article). The informant believed a certain person living in Palm Coast, Florida, south of Jacksonville, was one of the J6 persons of interest. Washington however had already done facial recognition and cell phone analysis and failed to connect the person to the case, meaning: agents had nothing to go on but an anonymous call contradicting their own databases.
Friend didn’t think the interview was warranted, and worried the feds showing up at someone’s door without cause “might do more harm than good” in a part of the country where government was unpopular already. He sucked it up and did the “knock and talk” anyway.
“I said, ‘Hey, were you at the Capitol?’” Friend recalls. “And he said, ‘No, that was my son’s funeral that day. I wasn’t there.’”
He shakes his head. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought, I can’t believe I just made this guy relive that. And for what? Even if he’d admitted to being there, if he said, ‘I was there, I don’t wanna talk about it,’ I couldn’t even charge that.”
After he was suspended, 30 agents signed a letter of support for him. He remains the subject of media attention, but despairs somewhat at being pigeonholed as a zealot. Friend is politically conservative, and like other agents in conflict with the Bureau also had issues with its vaccine policy, but his most conspicuous quality is that he lovedbeing an agent. He would have done pretty much anything to keep being one, including arresting boatloads of J6 suspects, so long as those arrests were by the book. But they weren’t. He signed up to catch bad guys, not intimidate, disrupt, harass, or whatever it is the Bureau does now.
“I don’t care about the politics of it. Whoever I’m arresting, it doesn’t matter to me, if they broke the law,” he says. “If they go into the capital and we’re gonna charge ‘em with a crime, I’ll charge ‘em with crime. But we’ve gotta do it the right way. And we aren’t.”
What is the FBI doing? In part two of the series, we hear from sources with a scary answer: becoming a domestic CIA.
Next: The Washington tip factory