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COLD OVERNIGHT TEMPERATURES and dry weather will remain through the weekend. Light precipitation chances increase beginning Monday, with more chances late next week. (NWS)
JEANNE NICKLESS you will always be remembered.
Jeanne passed away few days ago at the age of 92.
I learned a lot from her!
She was active, kind, lovely, sweet, always smiling and always positive.
I lived in her house as a guest for years, and years later I bought her house to live her memories and I have never seen her frowning or upset. She practiced yoga till the last day of her life. She taught me that life, no matter how tough it gets, is not worth worrying about. She also taught me that age is nothing but numbers.
You will always be remembered as a good mother as a good patient and as a good friend.
Rest in peace Jeanne, I love you and you will be missed.
A GOOD QUESTION:
I woke up the other morning in my queen-sized bed with down comforter and 3 inch memory foam topper, imagining what it must be like sleeping out in the cold these days. Is there a church or something taking those folks in now? If I wanted to donate who would I contact?
VELMA'S FARM STAND AT FILIGREEN FARM, AV Way, Boonville
We are opening the farm stand one final time this Saturday, December 17th from 12pm-4pm. And even better, we will be popping up with our friends from Boonville Barn Collective and Wilder Ferments!
A COLOSSAL WASTE OF DOLLARS
$2.6 mil for an ‘elusive’ Joint Powers Authority?
by Mark Scaramella
Last Tuesday, Supervisor Dan Gjerde complained about the allocation of $2.6 million of PG&E settlement money to an “elusive” Joint Powers Authority (JPA) for ambulance services in the inland area of Mendocino County.
“We have rural districts that need subsidies and we have the Ukiah metro area that has more than enough revenue,” Gjerde began. “But the revenues are not being shared in the outlying population areas. Everybody knows there’s surplus revenue in the Ukiah Valley that could be redistributed to Anderson Valley, Laytonville and Covelo which would not require County general fund dollars. It's been almost nine years and this still has not been fixed. We just threw $2.6 million of PG&E settlement money to Coastal Valley [SoCo Emergency Services Administration Agency which already gets $600k a year for whatever they do] expecting them to solve it. It's a critical problem that needs to be solved. Probably an ad hoc committee with two supervisors meeting with two city council members in Ukiah and the city manager and the County CEO and hammering out a deal. No consultants need to be involved. Just negotiating a redistribution of a little bit of those profits to Anderson Valley, Laytonville and Covelo. No general fund subsidy. No $2.6 million to Coastal Valley. And I don't see that $2.6 million on this list” (of funding that could be shifted to cover the deficit).
Gjerde was referring to a list of possible funding re-allocations prepared by the CEO’s budget staff to close the $6.1 budget deficit. The list included a couple of other PG&E settlement allocations which could be redirected to the General Fund, but it did not include the Coastal Valley allocation.
None of Gjerde’s colleagues picked up on the idea and nothing else was said about it. Gjerde did not propose an ad hoc committee. Nobody even suggested that the $2.6 mil be added to the list of funding reallocation options.
The County allocates almost $200k a year to Covelo, Laytonville and Anderson Valley for what they call an ALS assistance grant (Advanced Life Support). But in practice, because of the difficulty of hiring and staffing paramedics in outlying areas, the general lack of funding, and the somewhat lower call volume, the money is used to beef up shift coverage for volunteers.
In theory, a JPA could allow for a fairer allocation of ambulance service revenues which are a crazy-quilt of seemingly arbitrary sources which barely cover expenses: Medi-Cal (about 5¢ on the dollar), MediCare (about 10¢ on the dollar), private insurance, private payments (for those who can afford it), donations, memberships, bake sales, etc. It could also allow rural ambulances to get reimbursed for “hand-off” transports (at present they only get paid if they deliver a patient to a medical facility, but not to another ambulance further transport), and it could make it easier to apply for grants and program funding from state and federal sources.
Gjerde is probably right that if the right officials sat down and ironed out an agreement (which should obviously include reps from Laytonville, Covelo and Anderson Valley), they could get things set-up sooner and save most of $2.6 million being “wasted” on Coastal Valley EMS.
But given the lackadaisical attitudes that prevail in the positions Gjerde mentioned for another ad hoc committee, there’s about as much chance of that happening as the JPA itself.
It’s truly astonishing. Here’s yet another practical way to solve several significant Mendo problems by simply deciding to do it and then doing it, and local leadership isn’t interested in following through.
* * *
For another indication of the upside-down priorities of this Board of Supervisors, take Tuesday morning’s discussion of an item to submit another application for California’s equity grant program to help pot growers who say they suffered damages in the past from the “war on drugs.” Previously, County Counsel Christian Curtis had speculated that the state’s pot-grower subsidy program might violate federal prohibitions on pot by handing out the state’s money for pot growing. Nobody agrees with Curtis, not the state, not the DA, not several much more experienced local pot attorneys. Nevertheless, Curtis succeeded in frightening our timid Supervisors, convincing them that they needed another opinion of the state’s program either by paying $25k or so to an outside attorney or, even more pointlessly, asking the State Attorney General if he approved of the state’s program that the state enacted a couple of years ago.
Remember, the item in question was for a grant application, not for handing out any money to pot growers. After about 20 minutes of round and round, it fell to the County’s pot permit program director Kristin Nevedal to point out that this was just a grant application, not any cash handouts.
Everybody finally woke up with a figurative, “Oh never mind.” And the application was approved. A pointless discussion.
* * *
In his first year as a Supervisor, Ted Williams tried to untangle the County’s pot permit mess. After lots of effort he failed. The program is unfixable, except perhaps by a use permit process. But that approach was stymied when the Board insisted that a use permit process should include a large expansion in pot garden size. They retracted that flawed approach after a measure to prohibit larger gardens garnered thousands of signatures for submission to the Elections office.
Ever since then, Williams has made his disdain for pot, the pot program and the pot permit applicants abundantly clear. He obviously wants nothing more to do with it. His big accomplishment recently was pushing the program off to the “General Government” committee where he hoped he’d never have to hear the word “cannabis” ever again. It kinda worked. But even as Board Chair, Williams has been unable to completely stifle pot talk in regular board meetings.
Last Tuesday, Williams brought up the Ag Department’s hilariously low response to the Ag Department’s pot cultivation survey; they got a whopping two (2) responses out of 1300 they went out. Williams was annoyed. How could the pot growers be so unresponsive? How dare they not respond to the County’s survey? How can pot growers or the general public expect Williams to do his job as Supervisor when the pot permit applicants won’t respond to a survey about the program that he and his colleagues have inflicted on them?
In previous public comments, Mendocino Cannabis Alliance honcho Michael Katz has tried to maintain a polite and agreeable tone in his comments to the Board. But on Tuesday, Katz was unusually caustic.
After pointing out that his organization had submitted a couple dozen additional cannabis survey forms — without names or addresses (probably because they were highly critical and the commenters were afraid of retaliation) — besides the two that had been received by the Ag Department, Katz offered his opinion of the pointless discussion of the legality of the application for the latest round of equity grant funding.
“That was an embarrassing conversation that happened earlier related to the legality of our equity program. A local expert cannabis attorney [Hannah Nelson] has already provided you with plenty of federal law references as to why our program does not violate federal law. Considering that you have dozens of employees in here every week telling you that they can't afford to pay their bills, I think that spending $25,000 for an attorney to tell you something that is already known is an incredible waste of money! It just shows further where this county's priorities are. It is completely unreasonable to think that the equity program which is designed to support those who were harmed by the war on drugs would somehow be federally illegal but that the money the County receives from the operators for their fees and taxes and permits would not also be illegal. The whole purpose of the California program and the federal requirement that there needs to be a robust state program in place for the federal government not to interfere — that is what we have here. It's embarrassing that County Counsel has not been able to determine this on his own by this point. It's confusing that when RFPs for the county take 6-9 months, yet here you already have a firm ready to be hired to provide this opinion. This entire conversation points to how some of the board members feel about the cannabis industry and how they would like to see this community devastated and destroyed. I hope the board reconsiders this approach because Mendocino County is already viewed as a problem child in this state and this type of activity and behavior is only going to enhance that reputation. Please do something to benefit our local community before it is too late.”
Ignoring the substance of Katz’s statement, Supervisor Williams plowed ahead, asking Katz why the response to the survey was so low.
Katz tried to be polite: “The County’s approach to engaging with operators is not generally a collaborative and supported one,” said Katz with obvious understatement. “So the tension that exists while these folks are trying to protect their livelihood, being told that the vast majority of them are going to lose their licenses and there's nothing they can do about it and the county simultaneously does not say we are going to do everything in our power to stop it -- people have lost a lot of hope and faith in this governmental system. There is a desire for the County to have a more proactive relationship with the cannabis community. You need to do more to support that community. In addition, this was presented in any very short window of time during harvest when people were being asked to provide tons and tons of required information without which they might lose their licenses. When they are faced with mounting pressures from the state and local authorities, from other state agencies and all the different places and were asked to respond to a survey among many others that was not mandatory — this does not take a priority. This is a community in crisis. Asking them to let you know about their sales when you are also saying to them that you are not going to protect them is not going to produce the desired results. If the county takes steps to engage with its local stakeholder cannabis operators and takes steps to show them that the county will support them and keep as many as possible in the program and the cannabis community feels supported by this Board, they will provide support in return.”
Katz then complained that the board had not been receptive to the Cannabis Alliance recommendations in the past.
Williams, again ignoring what Katz said, again asked what Katz could to do more to get more survey response — “because cannabis isn't an economic driver anymore,” added Williams.
Katz: “The crop report of 2020 show that there was $30 million of economic activity related to 290 acres worth of [permitted] cannabis. How much more proof does this board need? That's a very significant number. That's $450,000 an acre, compared to $5000 an acre for 17,000 acres of grapes. Find me a larger economic driver in this county than that, or on that scale. We are happy to help. In fact, we are the only group that got some additional information, but the board needs to support the community.”
Of course 2020 was before the bottom fell out of the local pot market. But still…
Williams, realizing that Katz wasn’t likely to promise better survey response, concluded with the usual insincere “thank you,” and that was it.
FORMER CAL FIRE AND FORT BRAGG FIREFIGHTER Will Serve Three Years In State Prison For Sexual Violence
William Larry Hill, known to some as ‘Willy’, was charged with a litany of sexually violent crimes in May 2021. Over a year later, Hill accepted a plea deal yesterday, December 15, 2022, in the chambers of Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder. He pled guilty to felony attempted sexual penetration with a foreign object and assault with intent to commit rape.…
SHAME ON THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL
To the Editor:
What I learned from the reporting of last Wednesday’s Ukiah city council meeting is that councilmember/mayor Jim Brown is a class act, even as he leaves his office. What a gentleman! I congratulate him on his years of service and admire his kind and generous comments. The city will miss his dedication and strong commitment to the betterment of the community that he loves so much. Great job, Jim.
I cannot say the same about the incoming bunch. As a city property owner and 50-year observer of the local political scene, I am appalled by the obvious slight to the councilmember next in line to be mayor. While I recognize that there is no fixed line of succession, I cannot help but point to the obvious discrimination against a person with a disability that should have been accommodated. That a sitting councilmember willingly admitted to organizing the railroading of another for the office of mayor is reprehensible. One more co-conspirator would have been a clear violation of state law. Shame on you. I look forward to better decision-making from those in power.
FIVE YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, Police Officers Robbed A Texas Man In Mendocino County; One Suspect Now Faces New Charges
by Kym Kemp
On December 5, 2017, two men claiming to be ATF agents stopped Zeke Flatten, a former undercover officer, just north of Frog Woman Rock in Mendocino County and robbed him of three pounds of Humboldt County marijuana. Yesterday, one of the men alleged to have been involved, a former Rohnert Park police officer, Joseph Huffaker, was back in court facing new federal charges that could add up to over 90 years in prison.
Flatten told us in January of 2018, just a month after he was robbed, that, at the time he was stopped, he first thought the men were pretending to be officers but were actually criminals and he worried that his life might be in danger. “For probably the first 30 seconds I wondered, ‘Do I need to break out and run on foot,’” he explained. “I knew it wasn’t right. There was not any kind of identification.”
But then he saw something that he said reassured him. “…I saw their license [plate] was California Exempt,” he explained. “I felt relief. These are cops.”
He said he could tell the plate was authentic. “I never once doubted the plate,” he said. “I knew that it was real. It wasn’t paper. It wasn’t cardboard. It had screws…It was on a police [type] car…I think my nervousness or anxiety decreased when I knew that at least one of them was a legitimate cop.”
Having been an undercover investigator in Texas for several years when he was in his twenties, Flatten said he instinctively trusted law enforcement and believed that at the worse he was facing paying an attorney because he was operating in a legal gray area.
But, the officers acted oddly. “They never ran my name to see if I was wanted nor did they search any other part of the vehicle, or my person,” he told us at the time.
That stop, our subsequent articles, and the attempted coverup that followed have already led to one officer, Sgt. Jacy Tatum, former Rohnert Park officer of the year and head of a drug interdiction team, pleading guilty to tax evasion, making a false report to a federal investigator, and conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of law.
Huffaker, however, continues to plead innocent to all the charges against him. (See here for the most recent indictment from the FBI.) In the indictment, the the US Attorney explains to the Court, “After the publication on February 11, 2018, of two articles [by Redheaded Blackbelt]…Tatum, in the presence of HUFFAKER, contacted his and HUFFAKER’S supervisor to get approval to issue a press release… .” The Attorney alleges that Tatum then issued the press release which contained information about another person carrying Humboldt County cannabis south who was also stopped by Tatum and Huffaker and seized “at least 23 pounds of marijuana…while failing to provide a citation or any other
documentation related to the stop… .” and they falsely alleged it to belong to Zeke Flatten in the press release in an effort to cover their theft of Flatten’s cannabis. (Read more in this detailed account of how we uncovered the falsifications in their story here.)
Flatten told us in an interview yesterday that though he understands that Huffaker is entitled to the presumption of innocence, he’s frustrated that the former officer is costing the taxpayers so much money.
“He’s switched attorneys four times,” Flatten stated. He said he was disgusted that a former officer who “took an oath to protect the people” would continue to slow the process down as much as possible. Flatten said that he respected former Sgt. Tatum for at least standing up in court “with a straight back” and accepting responsibility for his crimes.
The new charges and the extended sentences faced by Huffaker are an indication of how how bad the crimes he committed are, Flatten alleged. “He’s a pretty hard core criminal,” Flatten told us. “Not many people face 93 years in federal prison.”
The entire charges and possible sentences against Huffaker are listed in this screenshot of the indictment below.
AV VILLAGE MONTHLY GATHERING: MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN OUR COMMUNITY
Sunday, January 8th, 3 to 4:30 PM, Anderson Valley Senior Center
Refreshments served. Door Prize awarded to the lucky winner!
Come and get acquainted with several of the wonderful nonprofits in our Valley, some you may know and some you may not. Each organization will give a brief overview of what they do and how you can pitch in, if you feel so inclined. The following organizations will be participating: Anderson Valley Adult School, AV Foodbank, AV Grange, AV Historical Museum, AV Lions Club, AV Parks and Recreation, AV Senior Center, AV Unity Club and Hendy Woods Community. There are a lot of nonprofits in the Valley and we hope to host another one of these with a whole new group later in the year, stay tuned. Help make this community building attempt a success!
Please Note: Our gatherings are open to everyone, but COVID Vaccinations are now REQUIRED - please bring your vaccination card (one time) as proof. Masks are required inside - thank you in advance for your understanding.
Please RSVP with the coordinator – thank you!
CHRIS ‘CJ’ JONES WISHES ALL HIS OLD FRIENDS In The Anderson Valley And Ukiah A Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year! “I love it here in Portland, but I miss Mendocino County.”
COUNTY OF MENDOCINO And The Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department Hosting A Public Meeting Regarding The Redwood Valley Early Warning Sirens Project
On Saturday, January 14, 2023, the County of Mendocino, Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department, and CTC Mass Notification will be holding a public meeting at the Redwood Valley Fire Station (8481 East Road, Redwood Valley, CA 95470) from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM to discuss the Redwood Valley Early Warning Sirens Project.
The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the early warning sirens project, provide input, ask questions, and see a demonstration of an early warning siren. The meeting will kick off at 10:00 AM with opening remarks from Mendocino County CEO Darcie Antle, First District Supervisor Glenn McGourty, Chief Kerry Robinson, and others with a structured agenda. Staff and the vendor will be onsite in the afternoon for anyone that was unable to attend the more formal morning activities but would like to learn about the project and provide their input.
The Redwood Valley Early Warning Sirens Project is funded through PG&E settlement funds from the 2017 Redwood Complex Fire as allocated by the Board of Supervisors.
Residents should be aware that CTC Mass Notifications will be in Redwood Valley with a mobile siren conducting sound studies to determine the most effective placement of the new sirens for several days before and after the public meeting.
For meeting information, please contact Disaster Recovery at: (707) 234-6303 or email@example.com
For technical information, please Contact CTC Mass Notifications directly at: (509) 630-6266 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ANOTHER INTERNET FIND, Peterson Apple Dryer, Philo, California
The postcard was from 1975, but the picture is earlier.
— Marshall Newman
CERAMICS CLASSES FOR LOCALS Starting in January!
Mendocino Art Center
Weekly & Twice Weekly Adult & Youth Classes
Wheel Throwing 101 For Adults
Local MAC members: $176 â¢ Non-members: $198
Tuesdays & Thursdays, January 10-February 2 (6pm-8pm)
Mondays & Wednesdays, February 6-March 1 (2pm-4pm)
Tuesdays & Thursdays, February 7-March 2 (6pm-8pm)
Handbuilding Pottery For Adults
Local MAC members: $176 - Non-members: $198
Mondays & Wednesdays, February 6-March 1 (6pm-8pm)
Youth Ceramic Arts
Wednesdays, January 11-February 1 (3:15pm-5pm)
Wednesdays, February 8-March 1 (3:15pm-5pm)
See all our class offerings:
ROEDERER, NV ANDERSON VALLEY BRUT SPARKLING WINE AT $30
by Peg Melnick
Arnaud Weyrich said Roederer Estate offers “affordable luxury.”
Weyrich is behind our budget-savvy sparkler of the week winner — the Roederer, NV Brut Sparkling Wine, Anderson Valley, at $30. Elegant, it has yeast, hazelnut aromas and pear notes on the palate. Layered and complex, with a nice mousse, it’s impressive.
What’s surprising is that there are at least five vintages of wine used in the Roederer Estate non-vintage blend. Some of the oldest wine in the bottle is seven years old.
“We carefully craft all our wines and use some reserve wines aged in large oak casks in all of the Roederer Estate bottlings,” Weyrich said. “The non-vintage brut is a blend of 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir, aged on average 30 months on the yeasts before disgorging.”
When harvesting the grapes for sparklers, the most challenging part is perfecting the pick.
“Harvesting grapes for sparkling wine is a very narrow window to keep the acid and avoid over ripeness,” Weyrich said. “Some years this amounts to sending a rocket to the Moon and puts a lot of stress on the team to pick everything within the time frame.”
Fine-tuning the house style also is a complicated endeavor, the winemaker said.
“Sparkling wine is a fun wine to share, but it’s built as a serious wine that can withstand food pairing, too,” Weyrich said. “(It’s) refreshing and layered, textured but not overwhelming and delicate and enjoyable in many occasions.”
Born and raised in France, Weyrich, 53, went to college there at Ecole Supérieure Agronomique de Montpellier. He graduated with a master’s degree in vineyard management and enology. The winemaker said one of his college professors piqued his interest in wine.
“Denis Boubals, a viticulture professor, was a figure larger than life,” Weyrich said. “He was extremely knowledgeable and made us want to discover and travel the wine world.”
Today Weyrich’s title at Anderson Valley’s Roederer Estate is winemaker and senior vice president of production. He initially worked as an intern from 1993 to 1995, then came back to work at the winery in 2000, replacing his predecessor Michel Salgues in 2003. That makes Weyrich the second winemaker since Champagne Louis Roederer founded Roederer Estate in 1982.
The first Roederer Estate MV (multi-vintage) sparkler debuted in 1988, and the vintage cuvee called L’Ermitage was introduced in 1993 with the 1989 vintage. The winery farms 620 acres of estate vineyards and produces 100,000 cases of sparkling wine of a brut and a brut rosé MV, as well as a vintage cuvee L’Ermitage Brut and brut rosé.
Sparklers groomed from Anderson Valley fruit, Weyrich said, show well.
“The Anderson Valley is a cool-climate American Viticultural Area where pinot noir shines by keeping its bright acidity while developing delicate aromas and texture,” he said.
What people find most surprising about the winning sparkler, Weyrich said, is that “it’s so good and so affordable.”
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
CATCH OF THE DAY, Friday, December 16, 2022
ALBERTO CEJA-CEJA, Ukiah. DUI, suspended license for DUI.
REGINA FABER, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JUSTIN HIETALA, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
TARA HILL, Ukiah. Controlled substance, offenses while on bail, probation revocation.
LEE LICHLYTER, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
CARLOS OGAWA, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
DIANA QUINIANILLA, Oakland/Ukiah. Stolen vehicle, attempt to retain stolen property.
CURTIS ROBERTS, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, addict driving a vehicle, paraphernalia.
DALE SILVEY, Fort Bragg. Disobeying court order, failure to appear.
DAVID TORRES, Ukiah. Domestic abuse, domestic battery, criminal threats, child endangerment.
CYNTHIA VEGA-AYALA, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-intoxicated with drugs & alcohol.
YOU WANT ME TO STAY, MENDO? FORK OVER!
Between the Worlds…
Awoke at the Building Bridges homeless shelter in Ukiah, California December 16th, 2022 Anno Domini, with the mind reciting the Catholic Hail Mary prayer; none the worse for a previous evening stop at The Forest Club, having enjoyed a couple of pints of Sierra Nevada's Hazy plus a shot of 12 yr. old Glenfiddich, Also played an assortment of tunes on the juke box. Left early because we could not get through to the shelter by phone, due to their faulty phone system, and thus did return there by 8PM so as not to get "rolled up", and have to move out of doors.
Morning ablutions were followed by a walk to Plowshares dining room for a free pork lunch. Left there at noon and walked to the Ukiah Co-op for more coffee. That propelled me onward to the Ukiah Public Library. Somewhere in all of that, the mind's activity changed to chanting Om Namah Shivaya, which was serene and appropriate with the surrounding hills and the bright sunny day. This chant from the Sanatana Dharma has huge magical properties, and will thoroughly cleanse karma. In the way of Integral Yoga, in which "paths are many and the truth is one", the jiva has a lot to work with. Given the incalculable amount of chaos on the planet earth presently, plus the propensity for the humanity to rival "worms in excretia", one having a full array of spiritual tools in the one's divine tool bag is essential.
Although the Anderson Valley Advertiser Publisher this morning encouraged me to live in Mendocino County permanently, I had to respond that 1. money and 2. housing WITHOUT OBLIGATION is a requirement. Anybody interested in my offering to stay on here longer term, please send money to Paypal.me/craiglouisstehr, and let me know when I can leave the homeless shelter for a more socially integrated housing situation, at Building Bridges (707) 234-3270.
I am willing to make a commitment, but I have to receive something, other than the world's problems. Is that clear? Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, as the earth spins around the sun! ~Peaceout~
Craig Louis Stehr
NBC BAY AREA INVESTIGATION of rogue Rohnert Park Cops
A former Rohnert Park police officer accused of stealing cash and cannabis from drivers along the Sonoma-Mendocino County border is facing new federal charges. A superseding indictment returned Tuesday by a grand jury added four new criminal counts against Joseph Huffaker, including impersonating a federal officer and falsifying records in a federal investigation. Prosecutors say Huffaker and at least one other officer posed as ATF agents during traffic stops where they illegally seized weed from drivers on the side of the highway, and later falsified records to cover up the corruption. …
MICHAEL RIVERO: “Most people prefer to believe that their leaders are just and fair, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen acknowledges that the government under which he lives is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it. To take action in the face of corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one’s self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice. Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all.”
ELON MUSK AND BARI WEISS’ fast friendship may be on thin ice after the journalist said she opposes Twitter’s recent ban of several prominent journalists. Thursday night, Musk banned the journalists who had reported on him under the unproven pretense that those journalists had doxxed his “real-time, exact location.” Weiss, of “Twitter Files” reporting fame, took to the social media app to call out the “new regime” for falling to the same flaws of the old. “And I think those journalists who were reporting on a story of public importance should be reinstated,” she added. The chronically online Musk snuck into Weiss’ replies to ask her, “What should the consequence of doxxing someone’s real-time, exact location be? Assume your child is at that location, as mine was.” “Bari, this is a real question, not rhetorical. What is your opinion?” he continued. Musk crawled back into her replies a third time to accuse Weiss of “virtue signaling to show that you are ‘good’ in the eyes of media elite to keep one foot in both worlds.” Weiss has yet to respond to any of his tweets. (Daily Beast)
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
It’s not about the truth. It’s about the public’s acceptance of the lies.
Kennedy and King murders
911 and Iraq
As long as most Americans have fast food, an iPhone, and multiple distractions they don’t give a rats ass for the truth. They just shrug and go on with their lives, kinda like we thought the Russians did in the previous century.
“Me and my precious Mother hung clothes out to dry on a line just like this. We used a big wooden stick in the middle of the clothes line to keep the clean clothes off the ground. Loving memories”
— Carol Patty
MALDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH SEEN IN PAY RATES OF MEDIA
by John Arteaga
Ahhh, what a relief, that the historical norm of massive losses in congressional seats for the president’s party did not occur in this mid-term election. What a pleasant surprise! It almost restores my faith in the good sense of the American people.
I mean, you might well expect the burgeoning throngs of this nation’s educationally deprived, bereft of any kind of critical thinking skills, to succumb to the extraordinarily well-funded, sea of propaganda within which we are all treading water. The Koch brothers, the Bradley, Olin and Scaife foundations along with hundreds or thousands of other like-minded far-right ‘malefactors of great wealth’ all turned out to make full use of their post-Citizens United freedom to pour unlimited amounts of money into cajoling or deceiving the hapless rubes, perhaps agitated by the recent escalation of fuel prices (still well below what other first world democracies are paying) into voting against their own interests, urged to take out their carefully cultivated pique on ‘The Libs’.
Never mind that the alternative they are gulled into voting for has their interests so much less at heart that it doesn’t even register on their busy agenda of dreaming up more ways to transfer ever more money from those who create it with their sweat, creativity and labor to those in the ownership class who can never seem to take enough when the pie is being cut.
Nowhere is the insane maldistribution of wealth in this country more dramatically illustrated than in the pay rates of different voices in the media. On the left we have media personalities such as the brilliant Thom Hartman, whose educational and insightful program, often with noteworthy guests, can be heard in the middle of the night a few nights a week on KZYX (I often go on their kzyx.org/jukebox and listen to it during the day).
After producing his program for decades and having created a national distribution network, I would be very surprised if Thom is making more than a modest middle-class income. Similarly, Chris Hedges, a passionate writing hero of mine who, after many years of intrepid reporting from war-torn countries all over the world for the New York Times, was suddenly non-personed, when he decided to write critically about the planned invasion of Iraq. Bravely soldiering on with his brilliant, but now largely uncompensated, reportage, I don’t know how he does it, but I’m glad he still brings his bold political analysis to his readers, despite such crushing setbacks as Facebook suddenly making his whole archive of articles and videos disappear!
Then, of course, there are world-class intellectuals like the great Noam Chomsky, said to be the most cited living author worldwide, who has been basically banned from any exposure in any significant US newspaper, magazine or especially television news program for decades. Now in his 90s and still sharp as a razor, at least he has college professor’s income to keep the wolves away from his door.
Contrast this simplicity with the vast fortunes raked in annually by such comparative mental midgets as Sean Hannity and his ilk on the right. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just the invisible hand of the market, and that more people just naturally want to listen to far right propagandists distort reality for them every day; the story of serial sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly is instructive. Rupert Murdoch’s media juggernaut lost half a billion promoting him over five years before he turned a profit for Fox. After going on to bring in large viewerships for them, he was finally undone by his outrageous behavior.
In much of the country, right-wing mega corporations dominate the airwaves and the only thing on the radio dial is either bible-thumping right-wing nonsense, or Alex Jones type neo-fascist insanity.
There can not be a real democracy without a semi-well informed populace. The fact that one side has the almost infinite resources of the .01%, pouring unlimited ‘dark’ money onto their side of the scale of public opinion, while the other side, committed to the rule of law and fair play has to go out begging their humble supporters for $20 contributions, makes it a pretty unfair fight.
Layer on top of that the OUTRAGEOUS suppression of the votes of black and brown voters (who tend to vote Democratic), enabled by a deranged right-wing Republican supermajority on the Supreme Court, which has recently held that there is no longer any need for oversight by the Voting Rights Act, since racism no longer exists (immediately followed by an avalanche of voter suppression measures in historically racist states). Apparently it is fine with them if states pass laws criminalizing such things as providing food or water to the voters of color now made to wait in hours-long lines to exercise their franchise.
God bless the long-suffering brothers and sisters of Georgia for refusing to go quietly into disenfranchisement, for being damned if they would yield to the racist intent of the voter suppression efforts and for suffering in the freezing lines for hours to cast their votes. The country owes them all a huge debt of gratitude. One can only imagine the landslide that the good Rev. Warnock would have had if it were as easy for a black or brown person to vote there as a well-off white person.
I don’t see any way to maintain any kind of true democracy without some leveling of the playing field by means of big tax increases on the billionaire class with major subsidies for the barely subsisting media outlets that are devoted to publishing truth in the public interest, so that they can speak up against the very profitable business of disingeniously convincing people to vote against their own interests to promote those of the .01%.
This column may be viewed at inarationalworld2.blogspot.com/2022/12/midterm-relief.html, along with previous columns.
(John Arteaga is a Ukiah resident)
YOUR FELON FOR MY FELON
by Marilyn Davin
Openly gay, black, 32-year-old American Brittney Griner walked away free as a bird from a Russian gulag seven hours east of Moscow in a prison swap with Russian Viktor Bout (pronounced “boot”) who, according to the New York Times, was “…an illegal arms merchant to some of the world’s most violent forces, including some intent on killing Americans.” Bout had served 4 years of his 25-year prison sentence. Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA basketball star caught red-handed with cannabis vaping cartridges in her luggage at an airport outside of Moscow, and had served nearly 10 months of her 9-year sentence.
Russia apparently really wanted to swap Griner for Vadim A. Sokolov, who was arrested in Germany’s Kleiner Tiergarten Park in August 2019 when two witnesses saw him throw his bike and bag into the Spree River and shoot a Chechyan separatist commander, but Sokolov was inconveniently imprisoned in Germany serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Perhaps a bit more principled than the U.S. about returning murderous felons who want to kill you back into the world for political Brownie points, Germany took the high road and refused to release Sokolov under any circumstances. The U.S. then settled on the lesser felon Bout, who was convicted of espionage in the U.S. and had served over 14 years of his 25-year sentence at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary, Marion.
What’s wrong with this picture?
As usual, American exceptionalism raised its hoary head. From the White House, Biden thundered that Griner was “unjustly detained in Russia under intolerable conditions.” Really? Ever heard of Gitmo? Abu Ghraib? The cherry atop this hypocrisy confection is the hard fact that, according to worldpopulationreview.com, the U.S. has by far the largest number of imprisoned persons on Earth. It was astounding that Biden could keep a straight face while delivering this hypocritical nationalistic nonsense.
Unjustly detained? There are Americans who believe, for some unfathomable reason beyond even hubris, that the long arm of U.S. law can somehow magically extract them from their legal misadventures abroad. T’ain’t so, and in hindsight it might not have been such a bright idea to replace all those formerly required high-school civics classes of yesteryear with math, science, and tech.
Fact: Drugs are illegal in Russia. No U.S. medical marijuana prescription will keep you out of gaol if you’re caught. It is not your right to possess them, anymore than it is your right to drink beer at an international soccer match in a country where alcohol is illegal. Different country, different rules. You’re not in Kansas, anymore.
But the naïve expectation of leniency on Griner’s part isn’t the worst of the deal. Trading an athlete, however high-profile, for a convicted international arms smuggler likely responsible for the deaths of many Americans, was nuts. Worse than that, it was cynical; the PR payload for bringing an openly gay black American basketball star was way higher than for the hapless middle-aged, white male American Paul Whelan, who was initially thought to be part of the prison swap but was ultimately dropped from a potential deal and remains imprisoned in Russia since his conviction for espionage by a Russian court. We probably won’t ever know what went on behind closed doors in the negotiations for both Griner and Whelan, but in the end it was Griner who grabbed the brass ring and boarded that homebound plane.
When I was 19 and heading home after living six months on a kibbutz in Israel, I was pulled out of the boarding line in Haifa for a ship bound for Piraeus after chatting with a couple of other young Americans in line behind me. It turned out that the Israeli police suspected them of drug smuggling and my chatting with them had ensnared me in their suspicions. I was taken to a windowless room where a female Israeli cop ripped open the seams of my clothes looking for drugs. I was lucky, especially since another American at my kibbutz had tried to slip a joint into my pack of Marlboros that morning when I said goodbye. (When I was 19 almost everyone I knew still smoked.) In retrospect, handing that joint back to him was probably the most consequential decision of my life.
The official line of most western countries is that they do not negotiate for hostages; a prisoner swap is a subset of such a negotiation. The reasoning is that high-profile kidnappings and other detentions would increase with greater opportunities for greater returns – like getting one of your top arms dealers back in the saddle, for example.
But because this is America at this point in time, the rich, the powerful, and other high-profile, PR-rich individuals get a leg up to the head of the line. If Griner had been a student on holiday in Russia when she was caught with the goods, nobody would know her name.
‘CATASTROPHIC STAFFING SHORTAGE’ HITS RURAL POLICE HARD
by Nigel Duara
Under a low, heavy sky threatening sleet or snow, State Route 36 twists and turns along tree-topped ridges. In many spots, there’s no guardrail — just a spit of dirt between a driver and a thousand-foot drop.
This is a county where people are expected to take care of themselves, and in the last month, Tehama County itself has been operating without its own guardrail: Outgoing Sheriff Dave Hencratt said last month that deputies would no longer patrol during the day.
“This added reduction of services is necessary to manage a catastrophic staffing shortage throughout the agency,” Hencratt said in a Nov. 8 press release.
On a recent December morning, lots of people’s faces hung low and heavy as the clouds.
The sheriff frowned when he met a reporter at midday on the edge of his property, dressed in barn clothes, declining to comment. The county administrator frowned because the sheriff’s abrupt decision threw his office into chaos. The tavern owner frowned because he works 23 miles outside of town and hasn’t seen a patrol car in weeks. The elected leaders, the motel owners, the rural residents left to their own devices — everyone, it seems, in this stretch of land between national forests, is unhappy with the circumstances, and they each have a different idea for how to solve it.
Some gave up on the sheriff’s office a long time ago.
“When we called 911 even before they stopped patrolling, they’d say ‘Sorry, we can’t make it, handle it yourself,’ ” said Catherine Gasper of the tiny town of Mineral. “That’s not what someone wants to hear when you’re getting beat up. But most people are armed up here, so we don’t worry too much.”
Low pay and a higher bar
The decision to end daytime patrols — which generated sensational headlines and coverage from tabloids in New York City and London for a county whose entire population could fit inside Levi’s Stadium — was rooted in twin problems plaguing law enforcement across California and the country: There aren’t enough qualified new recruits to fill open positions, and a small, rural sheriff’s department like the one in Tehama County doesn’t pay its deputies enough to keep them long.
The state, meanwhile, isn’t making it any easier to hire police officers — particularly those who leave larger departments with shoddy disciplinary or criminal records and find employment at smaller organizations. New laws have raised the minimum hiring age of law enforcement officers to 21 and require the community college system to create a “modern policing” degree program by 2025, laying the groundwork for a statewide officer education minimum.
In Tehama County, tensions had been building for months, if not years. Hencratt told the Red Bluff Daily News in February that other law enforcement departments were treating his office like a “supermarket of employees.”
“When (the) Redding Police Department says, ‘You know what chief, we’re down officers,’ ‘Well go down to Tehama County, go down the officer aisle and pick some,’ and that’s what they do. They’re cherry picking our people,” Hencratt told the newspaper.
Tehama County usually makes its hires from newly graduated applicants, said Tehama County Administrator Gabriel Hydrick. Since the county pays so poorly — about 22% below market rate, according to a county-commissioned compensation study from August — the new recruits don’t stay long. The police department in the county seat of Red Bluff pays better, and law enforcement in the nearby city of Redding and surrounding Shasta County both offer higher salaries and hiring bonuses of several thousand dollars.
The system operated well for decades: Sheriff’s deputies left for higher-paying jobs, and their roles were filled by new recruits. But the labor market is tight and policing isn’t what it once was. Scores of incidents filmed on cell phones across the country have revealed the casual brutality of so-called bad apple cops, which legislators and civil liberties advocates argue drives potentially qualified applicants away from policing. Applications for policing are down, according to the Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training. Fewer applicants means smaller graduating classes. Their absences show up first in places like Tehama County.
Since 2012, the Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training, or POST, has certified on average about 3,200 officers each year. A basic certificate means that the applicant passed both the POST academy and a field training program, then completed a probationary period at the agency that employs them. The entire process takes about two years.
In 2022, however, the agency issued just 2,424 basic certificates as of Dec. 13, the lowest number of basic certificates issued since 2013, and well below the 10-year high of 4,530 issued in 2020.
“I would agree that it’s harder to be a police officer now than (in years past),” said Hydrick, the county administrator. “There’s a lot of disincentives to being an officer. The culture isn’t behind you anymore. We have more laws about policing and being a police officer than other states.”
But Hydrick also blames the working attitudes of the new generation making up the youngest ranks of law enforcement — or, in this case, not making up that new generation.
“We can keep throwing money at it, but if there’s a generation that’s not willing to work or apply for jobs, the money’s not going to fix that,” Hydrick said. “The younger generation wants to be gamers and YouTubers; maybe they cobble an income together from being an Uber driver.
“We’re not seeing people want to become professionals anymore.”
Is it time to increase police funding in small counties?
One of the architects of California’s push for tougher regulations on police and policing is Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Los Angeles Democrat and chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee. He said he doesn’t see a conflict between police hiring problems and the state’s stronger hand in hiring officers and the practice of policing.
“It’s almost like, if you’re saying the regulations are too stringent, you’re saying we can’t get people who are not racist, who do not want to brutalize people of color,” Jones-Sawyer said. “We’re not the ones making police officers look bad. It’s the bad police officers who are discouraging the good ones from applying.”
But Sawyer-Jones said it may be time to consider having the state send money to the smallest departments, like the one in Tehama County, to make sure they can afford to pay competitive rates.
“We probably do need to look at subsidizing smaller police departments so they can level the playing field,” he said.
The Tehama County Sheriff’s Office didn’t respond to dozens of emails and phone calls seeking comment. Hencratt, the sheriff whose term is expiring in January, did not return calls, and told a CalMatters reporter who approached his property that a press release would be the extent of his comments.
“Over the past decade, police lobbying organizations have said that any measure that increases transparency or accountability for officers will either increase crime or make people not want to be police,” said Peter Bibring, senior counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
“They said that about the measure to strengthen the ban on racial profiling in 2015, about the transparency over disciplinary records, changes to use of force law. So this is just, you know, the latest.”
But, Bibring said, those portents of doom haven’t come to pass. If law enforcement agencies are having trouble recruiting a new generation, he said, they should probably look to the misconduct within their own ranks.
Police departments nationwide are calling for more officers, but in the smallest offices covering the largest geographic areas, the situation is more dire. In Shasta County, north of Tehama County, the sheriff’s office closed one level of the jail and blamed a lack of deputies. Sacramento has had a police officer shortage since the Great Recession 15 years ago, and in Los Angeles, the police department has no staffing problem, and is instead requesting more helicopters.
It’s not like policing pays badly in California — sometimes the opposite. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a Beverly Hills assistant police chief earned $716,284 in total compensation in 2021, making him the highest-paid municipal employee in the state. But Tehama County is no Beverly Hills: The entire county drew less than one-half the revenue that Beverly HIlls did in the 2020-21 fiscal year, the latest year for which numbers were available
One recruiter who works with police departments said that law enforcement has been slow to change its recruiting practices, and that’s reflected in the smaller number of people joining the profession.
“This isn’t 1997,” said Epic Recruiting CEO Sam Blonder. “You’re not going to get 1,000 people signing up for the (policing exam).”
The issue isn’t just pay, Blonder said, citing research showing that the newest generation of recruits looks for work-life balance ahead of pure compensation. But policing’s issues also extend to intransigence among the old guard. His work to recruit new officers, Blonder said, is as much about convincing police brass to do the recruiting.
“Among command staff there’s this attitude that I shouldn’t have to do this,” Blonder said. “Ask 150 high school kids who wants to be a police officer — you won’t get one that will raise their hand. It’s not for me to say why that’s happened, but sometimes an industry needs a shakeup like that.”
That shakeup is happening in real time in Tehama County.
“People have expressed to me fear and concern based on the lack of the daytime sheriff’s office patrol,” said Tehama County District Attorney Matt Rogers. “Simply put, if they pick up the phone and dial 911, is someone going to come?”
Any Tehama County officials wishing for tax hikes to generate more county revenue watched those hopes fizzle in March 2020, when voters rejected the county’s 1-cent sales tax increase. And it didn’t just fail, it was crushed, 84% to 16%.
Tehama County is also setting aside money for about 30 vacant sheriff’s office jobs, eight of them for deputies and 13 for deputies in the county jail.
Hydrick, the county administrator, said the sheriff’s hope was to eventually fill those positions and restore the sheriff’s office to its 2017 size of approximately 84 deputies.
But in the meantime, all of those vacant positions “encumber,” or put a hold on, the salaries those positions would be paid. That, Hydrick said, amounts to about $3 million each year in unused money by the sheriff’s office, which then reverts to the county’s general fund.
In place of the absent deputies will be the California Highway Patrol, which has 14 officers for the 15-county region that encompasses Tehama County.
“Since Nov. 20, the CHP has received numerous requests for assistance (from residents) to calls in Tehama County that don’t include their usual duties,” California Highway Patrol spokesperson John Crouch said in an email.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, whose county borders Tehama and whose office pays more, said background checks are as much an obstacle to making new hires as the recruiting process is.
MUSK FACES GROWING ANGER OVER TWITTER BAN OF JOURNALISTS
The suspensions, which were criticized by U.S. and European lawmakers, could raise the regulatory heat on the social media platform — and Elon Musk’s other companies.
by Bernhard Warner
Elon Musk faced a growing backlash on Friday from lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic, with threats of fines and sanctions, after Twitter suspended the accounts of at least eight journalists on Thursday without warning.
The suspended accounts included those belonging to Ryan Mac of The New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN and Drew Harwell of The Washington Post. It was unclear what the suspensions had in common.
The silencing of prominent voices could raise the regulatory heat on Twitter, and possibly Mr. Musk’s other companies, including Tesla and SpaceX, which is a big recipient of government funding and projects. It could also hurt his push to get reluctant advertisers back onto the platform.
The action set off a wave of protests. News organizations, including The Times and CNN, have demanded that Mr. Musk explain his rationale. Supporters of the journalists argued on Twitter that the move was overly punitive.
Lawmakers in the European Union may go on the offensive. Vera Jourova, a vice president of the European Commission, said the move violated the E.U.’s Digital Services Act and its Media Freedom Act.
“There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” she tweeted Friday morning.
The recently ratified Digital Services Act serves as a kind of rule book on moderating content for firms operating in the bloc. It goes into effect next year, and carries a fine of 6 percent of global revenue for companies that run afoul of the rules.
Representative Lori Trahan, Democrat of Massachusetts and a member of the House committee on electronic communications and the internet, also expressed dismay over Twitter’s move. She tweeted on Thursday that she had received assurances this week from the company that it had no intention of retaliating against journalists or independent researchers who cover Mr. Musk and Twitter critically.
“Less than 12 hours later, multiple technology reporters have been suspended. What’s the deal, @elonmusk?” she wrote.
The moves came a day after Twitter suspended more than two dozen other accounts, including an account belonging to Jack Sweeney, the 20-year-old college student behind @elonjet, which tracked the movements of Mr. Musk’s private plane. Each of the suspended journalists had written about the plane-tracking account or tweeted about it.
The billionaire tech mogul, who has described himself as a free speech absolutist, introduced a new red line this week after he claimed that a car carrying one of his children was accosted by a “crazy stalker.” The rule: Any Twitter user who publishes the live location or other personal information of someone else — an act known as doxxing — will be taken offline.
In a Twitter Spaces discussion, Mr. Musk defended the decision to block the journalists. “You doxx, you get suspended, end of story,” he said, and then abruptly left the call.
It’s unclear how long the suspensions will last. On Friday, Mr. Musk polled his 121 million followers, asking them to vote on when accounts that shared his location should be reinstated. As of 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, nearly 60 percent had voted “now.”
FROM THE TWITTER FILES: TWITTER, THE FBI SUBSIDIARY
The latest documents show, in bulk, the grotesque master-canine relationship between the FBI and Twitter
by Matt Taibbi
The Twitter Files has to be the craziest story in the history of journalism. There’s new drama every three minutes, it seems. The latest development had my phone blowing up with queries from multiple outlets. These included the New York Timesand the Washington Post, two papers which didn’t call after the original story (although the Post,amusingly,did take time to temporarily label me a “conservative journalist”) but are suddenly hot for comment now.
The new controversy is over the apparent banning of a series of high-profile journalists, including Middlebrow Retweet Specialist Aaron Rupar and the post-ESPN, post-MSNBC, Fangoriaversion of Keith Olbermann. I’m against the banning of journalists and will be happy to say so in this case once I’ve had time to look at it — I haven’t — but I’m beyond puzzled that media writers seem to think this has anything to do with me. I don’t work for Elon Musk, and I’m not his keeper. I’m just a journalist working a story, and the piece published today — “Twitter, The FBI Subsidiary” — I think moves the needle forward significantly on an unrelated, more important topic.
A few housekeeping notes. One, the weekly America This Weekpodcast with the incomparable Walter Kirn is coming, later tonight (we discuss the FBI story). Also, I’ll be posting today’s Twitter thread tomorrow morning (please excuse me for not having it ready tonight, I feel like I haven’t slept for a year). Lastly, I’m hoping sometime this weekend to have another story out, explaining in greater detail what we’re finding and what we think it means.
I started working on the “Twitter Files” story just over three weeks ago, after receiving an incredible invitation to examine “censorship and manipulation of opinion at a global level” at everyone’s favorite bird site.
After countless fits and starts, and enough plot twists to fill a dozen pulp novels, I’m finally comfortable enough reading the documents to see the outlines of the animal I came to hunt. Every day, the Twitter Files reveal more about how the machinery of state censorship works. We learn more and more every day about how the government collects, analyzes, and flags social media content in a neverending, cyclical process. The state isn’t a bit actor in a mostly-private “content moderation” movement. It’s the central player, clearly the boss of the whole operation, and clearly also the driving force in its expansion, a truth we can show in pictures.
I hope to flesh this out more in a coming piece, but a rough picture might show information traveling in a giant circle. The journey begins when rivers of “firehose” bulk data pour out of the back end of companies like Twitter and — either traveling directly or via middleman private contractors like Dataminr — end up in the possession of a smorgasbord of enforcement and intelligence agencies in Washington. There, these colossal data piles are analyzed for all sorts of predictable purposes, from tracking terror suspects to making economic forecasts.
We’ve long known about those analytical processes, but the Twitter Files show something new. We now have clear evidence that agencies like the FBI and the DHS are in the business of mass-analyzing social media activity — your tweets and mine, down to the smallest users with the least engagement — and are, themselves, mass-marking posts to be labeled, “bounced,” deleted or “visibility filtered” by firms like Twitter. The technical and personnel infrastructure for this effort is growing. As noted in the thread, the FBI’s social media-focused task force now has at least 80 agents, and is in constant contact with Twitter for all sorts of reasons.
The FBI is not doing this as part of any effort to build criminal cases. They’ve taken on this new authority unilaterally, as part of an apparently massive new effort to control and influence public opinion.
These agencies claim variously to be concerned about election integrity, foreign interference, medical misinformation, and monitoring domestic extremism, among other things. As crises wax and wane, the building out of the censorship infrastructure to ever-bigger and broader dimensions has been constant, suggesting that creating and deploying the tool to manipulate opinion was always the real end.
The Twitter Files don’t allow us to see inside the agencies. What we can do however is map the different points of re-entry at the end of the circle, when information returns to a company like Twitter flagged for moderation.
Is the request coming directly from the FBI or DHS? Is it coming from the government of a state like Colorado or California? Is it coming from a quasi-private entity like Stanford’s Election Integrity Project, a partner of the Center for Internet Security, which in turn is a partner of the DHS? Does a request arrive as a personal email sent to someone like very-former Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker, whose previous job involved being the FBI’s top lawyer?
We’ve seen government-flagged requests entering Twitter from at least a half-dozen routes, and we just started looking. We’ve seen flags on factually incorrect material, flags on material more controversial than wrong (DHS flagged a Trump tweet saying “Big problems and discrepancies with mail-in ballots all over the USA), and flags where the tweet was right and the government was just wrong. We’ve seen chatter where the FBI or DHS is cited openly, and other discussions where Twitter personnel refer mysteriously to the flags coming from parties variously called “our stakeholders,” “the escalators,” “partners,” and other names.
So far, the chief characteristic of the modern digital censorship regime seems to be the way public agencies and private contractors collaborate so smoothly on the project. Follow the journey of any particular piece of content, and you’ll find it may have moved in and out of the private sector multiple times on the way to being zapped at the finish line.
A lot of this was known before, but we’re seeing how it works at most every link of the chain now. It’s exciting, and I have every hope we’ll know twice as much by next week. Until then, thanks to all for hanging in there. This has been a difficult time in some ways, but it’s always a good sign when you get to see things — lots of things — agencies like the FBI would rather you didn’t.
LAUGHING IN THE FACE OF DANGER
by Peter Kuras
It’s easy to poke fun at Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuß. ‘The German “prince” involved in the coup plot looks like he was radicalised after being sacked from a mid-morning BBC antiques programme,’ David Broder wrote on Twitter. Zack Budryk said he ‘looks like if Wes Anderson made a movie about Bernie Madoff’. And when people weren’t making fun of his clothes, it was the absurdity of his title – every male Reuß for eight hundred years has been named Heinrich, the numbers reset either once a century or with the hundredth Heinrich, depending on the branch of the family. Or else it was the piddling size of the Reuß estate. Or the fact that Heinrich XIII is seventeenth in line to be head of his own family.
Some commentators in Germany have criticised the impulse to poke fun at the Reichsbürger (‘citizens of empire’), whose plot to overthrow the federal government was revealed last week. ‘While we were laughing at the crude, muddled and outdated ideas of the Reichsbürger,’ Alexander Jürg wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, ‘we overlooked the fact that they had begun collecting weapons and had started networking more and more with other enemies of the state.’ He isn’t wrong. Germany’s domestic intelligence service estimates that there are more Reichsbürger with possibly terroristic intent than there are potentially violent Islamists.
The biggest danger of political violence in Germany today comes from right-wing extremists. The group around Reuß was typical of the Reichsbürger in that many of its members had connections to the state security apparatus. There were enough current and former special forces, police officers and politicians that they might well have succeeded, for a while at least, in their plan to shut down large parts of Germany’s power supply and storm the Bundestag. The death toll would almost certainly have been high.
The internal security services believe there to be as many as 23,000 Reichsbürger, but say that only around 5 per cent are right-wing extremists. This is baffling. How can there be a moderate version of the claim that the peace agreement signed after the Second World War was illegitimate? What would a centrist version be of the position that German democracy is prima facie invalid, and either the National Socialists or the monarchy should be restored to power? It may be true that only a small percentage of the Reichsbürger are potentially violent terrorists, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t all right-wing extremists.
As dangerous as they may be, however, we should keep laughing at the Reichsbürger. Reuß’s beliefs are both so absurd and so terrifying that to argue against them is to grant them a dignity they don’t deserve. What do you say to someone who believes that the Rothschilds and the Freemasons were responsible for the First World War, that the British assassinated Rasputin and the US financed Hitler’s rise to power? How do you argue against someone who believes he is destined to rule because of his superior bloodline? How do you argue against people who believe they have found a legal technicality that invalidates the last seven decades of German political life?
Less criminally inclined segments of the German aristocracy (like their British counterparts) are funny too. ‘For 850 years,’ the head of the Reuß family told RTL, ‘we were a tolerant and cosmopolitan dynasty in East Germany’ – which can only be true if you overlook a couple of crusaders and a Nazi or two.
Or take the the Hohenzollern. The Franconian branch of the family has spent the last decade in a legal quest to see its property restored. The result has been a glut of historical research proving repeatedly that the family were instrumental in the Nazis’ rise to power. The head of the Swabian line meanwhile is too busy playing jazz with his band Royal Groovin’ – ‘high-carat musicians’ who provide ‘entertainment with a royal warrant’ – to concern himself with his relatives’ lawsuits.
Perhaps because the language of aristrocracy has dropped out of German public life, the recent coup attempt has been described as ‘bourgeois’ by several commentators, as if the plan hadn’t been to reinstate a system of dynastic, hereditary power based on historical military strength, which always understood itself in opposition to bourgeois economic power.
The Reichsbürger movement at first sought to reinstate the Third Reich, not the Second. The origins of the movement are usually traced to the neo-Nazi Manfred Roeder, who approached Admiral Karl Dönitz in 1975. Hitler had appointed Dönitz Reichspräsident in April 1945, and Roeder saw Dönitz as the legitimate head of the German state. Roeder was rebuffed, though that didn’t stop him from appointing himself the ‘administrator’ of the German Empire.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, the most visible representative of the movement was the former Red Army Faction lawyer Horst Mahler, who converted to right-wing extremism in prison, and laid the framework for the ‘arguments’ used by Reichsbürger today (more or less, that Hitler was a charismatic monster who charmed the innocent German people into complicity with a terrible crime; now he is gone, Germans can go back to being German).
Their views have been getting a wider airing recently. At anti-lockdown protests, the flag of Imperial Germany flew alongside posters advocating homeopathic medicine, while speakers who called the efficacy of vaccines into question were followed by speakers who relativised the Holocaust.
The terrorist intent of the plot that Reuß allegedly masterminded is no laughing matter. Right-wing extremists represent a serious and growing threat in Germany, as elsewhere. The rage-fuelled bundling of disparate ideologies has strong overtones of the Nazi era. There are good reasons to be very concerned. But neither earnest argument nor passionate condemnation stands much chance against the anger that motivates the Reichsbürger. Laughter might. Whatever the upcoming investigations reveal, it already seems clear that Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuß is a terrible man, but also a deeply laughable one. Mocking him is a political duty.
(London Review of Books)
UKRAINE, FRIDAY, 16TH DECEMBER
A wave of explosions and missile strikes was reported across Ukraine Friday — from the capital, Kyiv, to Kharkiv and Sumy in the northeast and Poltava in central Ukraine. Critical infrastructure across seven cities took another wave of hits.
Reporters with The Washington Post heard blasts in Kyiv and the central city of Dnipro. Kyiv officials said the city had experienced “one of the biggest missile attacks” since the beginning of the war. A Ukraine air force spokesman said that Russia had launched more than 60 missiles at the country in the latest barrage.
At least three people were killed and 13 injured when a residential building was hit in the central city of Kryvyi Rih, local officials said. Meanwhile, Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s energy operator, said emergency shutdowns were taking place in all regions of Ukraine as a result of the strikes.
Friday’s strikes come after the United States and the European Union announced additional measures to support Ukraine. The Pentagon announced Thursday that it will begin training large formations of Ukrainian soldiers beginning in January, while the European Union approved 18 billion euros ($19.1 billion) in financing for Ukraine next year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a video posted to Telegram Friday, issued a message of assurance that the missile strikes “won’t change the balance of power in this war.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning a visit next week to Belarus. There is rising concern among Ukrainian officials that Russia may attempt another incursion into Ukraine from the north — not necessarily to retry its failed attempt to seize Kyiv but perhaps to hit from behind at Ukrainian forces pushing east. The Pentagon has acknowledged Ukraine’s concerns but says it sees no signs that such an attack is imminent.
The vast majority of Russians would not support the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, although three-quarters continue to support the Kremlin’s war, according to a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Moscow-based Levada Center.
MEMO OF THE AIR: Good Night Radio all night tonight!
Deadline to email your writing for Friday night's MOTA show is about 7pm. If you miss that, send it whenever it's done and I'll read it on the radio next week. There's always a next week.
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio is every Friday, 9pm to 5am on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg as well as anywhere else via KNYO.org. Also the schedule is there for KNYO's many other even more terrific shows.
Any day or night you can go to https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com and hear last week's MOTA show. By Saturday night I'll put the recording of tonight's show there. And besides all that, there you'll find a funhouseful of funtastic technological funfomation to sashay among until showtime, or any time, such as:
How to terraform Mars with giant Jewish space lasers.
Subtitles for real life. It's made for all-the-way-deaf people, but it's useful for everyone else. No more "Wha?" nor "Say again?" nor "Speak up, sonny, speak up!" Except there are plenty of people who will shoot someone when it gets a crucial word wrong, and then be sorry, but it's too late, a life is lost. Maybe the kind of people who have guns everywhere ready to shoot someone are the kind of people who shouldn't have a gun.
Speaking of which: The revolutionary new FDM L5 5-bore single barrel rifle, which now that it exists you'll totally be able to walk into any Walmart and buy soon, because it's your God-given right. I remember a guy who called himself Mad Dog on Redwood Free Net in 1995, who argued that if the gubment can have an atomic bomb, /he/ should be able to have an atomic bomb to fight off the gubment if they ever came to take our atom bombs away. (You might have to click the sound on.)
Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com