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COOL AND MAINLY DRY weather expected through today. Another winter storm will build this weekend with heavy snow expected in the mountains along with some interior valley locations. Heaviest snow is expected Saturday morning. Additionally, isolated thunderstorms with small hail are likely. (NWS)
WE RAN A LAYTONVILLE EMERGENCY SHELTER BY OURSELVES And All We Got Was This Lousy Pile Of Laundry
by Jayma Shields Spence
On Thursday, February 23, my husband Rolo, our dog Chiquita and myself had just arrived home from Ukiah around 6:00 p.m. as the great Northern California Snow Storm began. The drive from bottom of Ridgewood Grade to Laytonville was sketchy, but thanks to hanging behind a driver making tracks and my heavy hybrid SUV, we managed to make it home safely. At about 6:15 p.m., I saw Sue Carberry, Laytonville Fire Department’s retired Chief, was calling my cell phone. No offense to Sue, but when she calls, it’s typically not with good news. I picked up, Sue informed me that Highway 101 was closed in both directions and motorists were now stranded in Laytonville and asked if I could open up Harwood Hall to be an emergency shelter. I made a deal with her - I would go down at 7 p.m. (I needed to do some chores first) and I would hang out until about 9 p.m. and by then, I would assume I would hear from the County on officially activating our site as a shelter, or the highway would re-open.
I decided I was going to open my office at Laytonville Healthy Start instead of Harwood Hall, because I leave the heat on low during the night inside my office and Harwood Hall is an icebox and is difficult to heat in the winter.
Rolo and I arrived at Healthy Start by 7 p.m. and there were already a dozen cars out front. We unlocked all the doors, turned on the lights, and welcomed people in. As we were greeting guests, we set up extension cords with power strips for phone charging, gave out the Wi-Fi password and began pulling out extra folding chairs. While Rolo entertained our new guests, I went into the kitchen and began making hot water for tea/ cocoa/Cup O Noodles, pulled snacks from our emergency food stash, and began my duties as a hostess.
By 9 p.m., the snow hadn’t stopped, the highway hadn’t reopened and more guests were arriving. Word had spread that we had opened up. Our guests were attempting to get back to Humboldt County. One family, a mother, her sister-in-law and 3 teens had just returned from a trip to San Francisco and were heading back to Arcata. Another family with a little girl mostly spoke Spanish, so we translated through their teen daughter, they were from Eureka. Others were couples and single people, destination Humboldt County. One woman and her partner were on their way back from Stanford hospital, where she had an emergency heart procedure the day before and as she disclosed “I wanted to leave and be miserable at home, but I should have stayed.” Her partner sheepishly admitted he didn’t check weather/road conditions before they left. The woman was grey and looked ill. This put my anxiety level up a notch as now I wasn’t just hosting a group of strangers, I was officially hosting someone who had a serious medical condition.
Our guests were anxious to know when the highway would reopen and when would the snow stop. We did our best to supply information as we knew it. I had to explain over and over again, I wasn’t technically a shelter, rather, we had just opened our doors out of the kindness of our hearts, and I was waiting to hear if the county would declare us the emergency shelter site. I told our guests, we’re the designated shelter site for our community and the county has its emergency shelter trailer parked on our property, but they have to “activate” us in order to use their resources.
People wanted to know throughout the night “well, when is that happening?” About 8 years ago, our organization signed an agreement with Mendocino County to be the emergency shelter site for our community.
As part of that agreement, our staff had to undergo shelter management training from the Red Cross. The idea was, in the event of an emergency, we would be asked to open our doors, and operate the shelter until our county or the Red Cross could send staff to take over. Last year, we agreed to let the county park the shelter trailer on our property, since it was previously housed at the fire department. The trailer is filled with all the basic supplies you would need to operate a shelter - cots, blankets, coffee pots, etc. and it made sense to have it onsite. The trailer is also locked and I was told after I asked a member of OES (Office of Emergency Services) how we would unlock it, he said “We send a staff person to unlock it”. I thought that was weird, but to bureaucrats who have more rules than I do, I guess that made sense to them.
By about 9 p.m., three of us had made contact with various members of the county to tell them about our situation and asked for access to the trailer. My dad spoke with the Sheriff, Sue spoke with a few members of OES and I spoke with 2 members of OES. We all made a threat that we would use the “Master Key” (bolt cutters) to gain access to the trailer if need be. We were asked “why did you open up?” Easily over 100 people were stranded in Laytonville, about 20 were currently inside my office, the highway was closed due to a heavy snow storm with freezing temps and no sign of stopping but that wasn’t considered an emergency to county officials. We were told that “we will continue to monitor the situation” and that the highway was predicted to open up soon. The highway didn’t open up to south-bound traffic until Friday afternoon and it wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that 101 finally opened up to north-bound traffic.
By 10 p.m. it was obvious to me that no one was coming to our rescue. That we weren’t being given permission to access the emergency shelter trailer. So, we knew that it was up to us to provide a warm and welcoming place for our new guests. I said to myself - if the power goes out, we are screwed. (It would go out, but not until Friday morning around 9 a.m. and come back on about 5 p.m. Friday) Rolo called a buddy who knew a guy who had a stash of cots. Rolo and Taylor Norris, a local health center employee with medical training, went to pick them up. Taylor’s presence with our heart patient made me feel better. Luckily, a few weeks ago, Healthy Start had received a donation of a few sleeping bags, and a few months prior to that, a donation of new fuzzy blankets. I went home and picked up a few more blankets. Everyone at that point received either a blanket or a sleeping bag, and about 6 lucky people got to sleep on cots.
Others slept on the floor. We moved our couch inside the office - a family of 3 slept together on that. The heart patient and her partner slept on cots inside my spare office. I felt she needed a more private room with a space heater to relax and keep warm. A few more leaned back in our office chairs.
Throughout the night, more stranded travelers appeared. We opted to open up the “Community Room” at the old High School. About 6 people hung out there for a few hours to warm up, charge their phones and rest. By around midnight, they had opted to sleep in their cars. One was a patient being driven by a medical taxi.
At our “shelter,” I could see the stress on the faces of our guests as they talked to love ones over the phone and explained the situation. No one had solid answers about the highway or the weather or when they would return home. At that point, people had come to terms they were going to sleep next to strangers in a random office in a town they didn’t know and make the best out of a terrible situation.
Lucky for me, accessing resources and problem solving is my day-job, so I felt comfortable enough to host our guests over-night. It wasn’t the most ideal setting but we made it work. We had lights, heat and Wi-Fi; I figured it would only be for one night. I ended up going into our pantry and seeing what I could cook quickly for a large crowd. Spaghetti it was. I don’t know, it just felt like serving your stressed out guests some comfort food was the best choice. It worked; they were happy to have a hot meal. I could see some tension melt away.
About 2 a.m., more guests had arrived, discovering we were open as they didn’t want to sleep in their car at Chevron’s parking lot. Rolo went to retrieve a futon pad from our upstairs room in our storage barn, he hurt his back in the process. Sleeping on the floor the first night in my office didn’t help his back either. We made sacrifices that night to accommodate a group of about 25 strangers. I didn’t know who these people were. I just hoped no one was a murderer. I didn’t sleep but a few hours I was so stressed about the situation.
Early morning, I made coffee. I walked around quietly setting it up. More people had arrived during the night and were sleeping on our hard office floor with no blanket. One man had opted to sleep inside Harwood Hall with a space heater. A few more were parked outside with their cars running. Our office cat Jax seemed to be the most content of us all as he had 25 new friends and had a choice of whose bed he could sleep on. I felt a sense of relief as the sun came up, we had made it through the night.
As our new office-guests started to awaken, I let them know the latest updates I heard. Highway was still closed with no estimated time of reopening. We began to see the updates from the North and the Confusion Hill mess. We began to get a better sense of the damage the storm had caused. But, still no official word from the County as far as activating our site as a shelter. About 9 a.m., as the power went out, I received a call from a county representative about the trailer. We were finally being given permission to open it. I said it had a combo lock and I don’t know the combo. She didn’t either. She texted me a few minutes later with 3 options. None of them worked. Finally, a 4th option was texted - “that is the combo”, it didn’t work. Perhaps the lock was frozen, I’ll never know as I didn’t ever get into the trailer. By that point, we had gathered our resources and it didn’t matter to me - I needed it open last night.
By mid-day Friday, we had received word the highway had re-opened to south-bound traffic, but no one could get north from Reynolds Highway outside of Willits. I announced this, with some trepidation as I wasn’t 100% certain it was the case. But it turned out by the time about a dozen guests opted to leave for Willits/Ukiah where they could get a motel room, the Highway was indeed open for folks heading from Laytonville south.
A community member, Lisa “Rabbit” Sacks, called our office and said “what can I do to help? Can I make soup?” Lisa made a pot of veggie soup, and Anna Salmeron picked it up on her way to town and delivered it. It warmed up our guests to have another home-cooked meal.
Since the power was still out, we hooked up our generator (Thanks to a grant I wrote to the Community Foundation a few years back. After I applied, one of their grant reviewers called me and asked why I would request funding for a generator if the county was supposed to supply resources in the event we were activated.
I replied, because I don’t believe in relying 100% on the county, and I can imagine there will be times when they won’t be able to get up here and I will be left to run a shelter by myself. I obviously had dusted off my crystal ball back when I wrote that grant, ha-ha).
Also on Friday, a gentleman fairly new to Laytonville came by to check on things, he brought back a few more cots and sleeping bags. Now, we had enough to accommodate the remaining crew we had. We were ready for Friday night.
Rolo pulled the night shift for me, this time he had a cot to sleep on in my office. I went home, took care of chores, made a quick dinner and hit the hay. I woke up early Saturday morning to new snow, later the sun would eventually come out, and after we all had coffee at our “shelter”, plans were being made by the guests to “get out of your hair.” I told the group, I’m not kicking anyone out, but if you don’t mind hanging out in town for part of the day, Rolo & I need a break.
I also told the group I was hearing from multiple reliable sources that 101 North would be opened by Saturday afternoon. I further said to our guests “If I were you - I would head into Laytonville, get gas, enjoy a hot breakfast, and head to Leggett. When they open that highway, you want to be first in line and get through there as soon as possible!” One family was hesitant as they explained through a translator that they had been in an accident Thursday night, punctured their tire and were running on a donut. I told them their best option might be Willits since they had more services than we did.
The guests helped us clean up and put our office back to normal, they made piles of blankets for laundry, swept the floor, and they were packed up and left by about 11 a.m. On their way out the door, I was asked for ways they could donate. A few handed us cash and expressed gratitude. One woman said “I am amazed by what you pulled off.” Another woman said “Words can’t express what this meant to me and my family I will be sending a donation to you.”
As I stayed behind and began to do piles of laundry and clean up even though I was exhausted but I figured it would help ground me from experiencing a solid 36 hours of anxiety and little sleep, I made a mental list of the things I would ask for donations/supplies to get us through the next emergency.
This experience further solidified for me the need to be ready to open my doors and not rely on the County to step up. It’s a further example of what I have come to realize in my 13 years of running Laytonville Healthy Start Community & Family Resource Center: if we want something done in Laytonville, we do it ourselves. We have to take care of our own (or Humboldt’s own ha-ha).
And I believed we proved that. I walked away with an experience I and those 25 + people will never forget.
I am calling on our supporters and community members for the following “Wish List” to expand/enhance in the event we need to open our “Laytonville Emergency Shelter”:
Funding to purchase or donations of 12 folding/easy to store cots, 12 pillows (new), 8 sleeping bags, 6 fuzzy blankets, Volunteers willing to lend a hand with set up, clean up and watching over the shelter, offering relief to our staff, Funding to be placed into a special fund that we could access to purchase food to make meals, buy bottled water, snacks.
We have, thanks to funding from the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, a supply of extension cords, power strips, folding animal crates, cleaning supplies, and a generator to power our office.
My Big Wish is to have a permanently stationed heavy-duty generator hooked up to Harwood Hall 365 days a year that would allow us to run the heaters or a/c along with our refrigerator and freezer in the event of a power outage. PG&E supplies a generator during wildfire season for PPS events since we are their designated PPS site.
I want to thank those that helped us out: my husband Roland Spence, my dad Jim Shields, Sue Carberry communicated with me about the situation and kept us updated more than anyone else, Taylor Norris who came by both Friday night and Saturday morning to lend a hand (she also provided blood pressure check to our heart patient), Michelle Downes from LVHC who offered to put us in touch with Dr. Sam if the heart patient needed to ask questions about the pain she was experiencing, Victor BG for helping us set up and clean up, Martin for the extra cots and sleeping bags, Jeff & Natalie for the cots, Rabbit for making a home-cooked meal and Anna Salmeron for delivering it.
We proved that a little town with limited resources could host a group of stranded travelers and make a difference and I think we saved some lives that first night. I can’t imagine some of our guests in high-risk health situations being left in the cold. I know I wasn’t going to be the one to not open my doors to help those in need - I’d be ashamed of myself if I had the power to help a group of people and I didn’t because of a rule book.
As Kevin Marsh said on this past Saturday’s “This & That” radio show with my dad on KPFN, “Burn the rule book, we gotta stay warm.”
And my dad followed that up “Handle emergencies first, paperwork second.”
Please feel free to reach me if you have questions. My office # is (707) 984-8089 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
EMERGENCY DECLARED FOR FEBRUARY 2023 WINTER STORMS EVENT
On March 2, 2023, the Chief Executive Officer/Director of Emergency Services Darcie Antle proclaimed a local emergency due to severe winter storms.
Extreme Winter Storm conditions of high winds, cold weather, rain, and low-elevation snow caused severe ground saturation, unstable hillsides, downed trees, and multiple power outages across the County. The storm caused a significant impact on the County, community operations, and resources that required the provision of additional public safety, health, and emergency services.
Please remember to stay off roadways unless travel is necessary. Remember to pull over and allow safe passing for roadcrews and first responders.
Further press releases are forthcoming as the February 2023 Mendocino Winter Storms Event continues.
CABIN FOR RENT: Small, very attractive Cabin in Albion for rent 20’x17’, with adjacent shed 15’x 5-1/2’, deck 17’x10'. $1100/month includes propane and electricity. Security deposit required. Call or text 707-684-0141.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Re: “I am sure you are all aware of Robert Marbut and his assessment of our communities and the plan he provided to help us deal with this issue. The City of Fort Bragg took this valuable tool seriously and started implementing his guidelines into our policies. Although his approach was deemed severe by some, or tough love if you will, I am here to tell you it works and the best time to get started is yesterday. But today is not too late.”
Congrats to Fort Bragg officials, citizens and homeless. Glad the Marbut study we all paid for is working somewhere in Mendo Co. UKIAH officials, can we please start using it? PLEASE!
GREAT REDWOOD TRAIL AGENCY MOVES ON SKUNK TRAIN’S CARRIER STATUS—Skeptics Question the Trail’s Economic Feasibility
The Great Redwood Trail Agency, or GRTA, filed a petition this week with the Surface Transportation Board, asking for an adverse abandonment of about 40 miles of track between Fort Bragg and Willits. It’s a procedural step in seeking authorization to railbank the southern portion of the line, which in turn is required in order to build the trail on top of the track, or ballast.
Supporters anticipate economic and environmental benefits of the trail, but skeptics question the feasibility of building and maintaining it. Mendocino Railway, also known as the Skunk Train, which owns that section of the track, is loath to give up the last hope of access to the national rail system. And a member of the Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council has started circulating a petition against railbanking the track, saying his questions haven’t been answered.…
I RECENTLY HELPED IN REMOVING MENDOCINO BUSHMALLOW (Malacothamnus mendocinensis) from the California presumed extinct list. More information on this and other projects I've been working on are available on my Patreon page (patreon.com/keir_morse). All updates there are open access, so check it out.
DISCONNECTS & NON-SEQUITURS
by Mark Scaramella
According to a recently created Facebook Page, Ukiah photographer Carrie Shattuck plans to run against First District (Potter & Redwood Valleys) Supervisor Glenn McGourty in the March 2024 Primary Election under the slogan: “People Not Politics.” (Assuming McGourty decides to run again; unlike Fourth District Supervisor Dan Gjerde who said he wasn’t running again early on, McGourty has not declared as far as we know.)
Shattuck started paying attention to the Supervisors back during the covid lockdown when she objected to mask mandates and didn’t like the way the County was handling the lockdown. Since then she has been educating herself on County issues, becoming increasingly irritated at the Board’s failure to address a broad range of basic issues.
Last Tuesday, Shattuck appeared during public expression again, this time to complain about several ongoing problems:
“I am frustrated yet again with the budget. We are three months away from the budget hearings for 23/24. We still haven't finalized 21/22. This is taking almost a year for the budget. I think the decision by the board to combine this office has completely backfired. Obviously, the goal of the board was to get more timely budgets and get things done. But that's not what's happening. That's not what I see. Where is [former/retired Auditor] Lloyd Weer? We were supposed to be getting support from him. We are paying him a consulting fee. But we don't hear anything about him. I don't know what's going on with him. Maybe he is lost somewhere. How long will it take to close the current budget? Another year after it’s closed? The fact that Chamise [Cubbison, current Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector] says that certain departments are not closed? I understand that she doesn't want to call out departments and throw people under the bus. But she's sitting in the hot seat. I think all of you should know which departments are not closed. Who is holding us up? Why don't we get these answers to these questions? Department heads need to be held accountable for holding up the budget. This is why government is in the state that it's in. No business can run like this! You have to know where you are at with your budget! Especially the year before. Maybe Ms. Cubbison isn't qualified for this office. She's obviously struggling to close things and maybe she needs better direction with the departments. I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out. As far as the health plan fiasco, maybe if it wasn't taking a year to close the books, you would have had a better idea before now what was happening with that. I have recently started following the cannabis program and it is really a disaster in our county. The fact that the board doesn't even want to hear about it in regular session is really concerning. You [i.e., cannabis issues] have to go through the General Government now before anyone wants to talk about it. Supervisor Williams, I know you are tired of hearing about it. And how much is it costing the County? People have been in his program for seven years and they are still not approved and it's taking 200 hours to approve an application? This is extremely excessive. I don't know of any other business that is scrutinized like this. If you look at the revenue for the cannabis department this year, it's $1.5 million. You guys just approved a $1.6 million contract for an outside contractor. What are they doing? They are doing application reviews. We're not doing this in-house? Why isn't the cannabis department doing this? If you look at the amount of money and the hourly rate to process an application: $200 an hour? $190? And how many hours are they spending reviewing these applications? It just doesn't make sense. As a caller mentioned earlier, there is a complete conflict of interest. And this company from Pleasanton? How much experience do they have with cannabis and rural communities and the different growing scenarios that we have? They are reviewing these applications for us? The expenses for the cannabis department this year are $3.2 million. The revenue this year is only $1.5 million. How does that make sense? This program is costing us money.”
Supervisor Ted Williams tried to reply: “I tend to agree that the program is costing us money. This is not the County’s cannabis program, this is the state's program. The County cannot license, only the state can license people. We're straddled [saddled?] with doing the state's dirty work with technical assistance on Site Specific CEQA reviews. And we have a bad ordinance that we can’t change because the deadline is in state statute in the past and we would have to do an EIR which might take four years. You are right in saying that this program cannot possibly succeed. A lot of us recognize that. I don't know of anything this board can do to make it work. This is a state regulatory problem. We are getting the brunt of and a lot of the criticism that comes here should really go to Sacramento. They have devised a scheme that we cannot possibly win. We do not have the technical expertise or the funds to make good on the state’s program. As far as department heads not doing their work so that the auditor can close books, I don't know if that's true, but I think we should follow up and we should be able to provide an answer to the public. If it's true, this board needs to take some action, and if it's not true we need to clarify the auditor's [role] not held department heads [sic].”
Williams’ claim that the state should be blamed for Mendo’s many cannabis program failures is belied by the recent statistics showing how many permits have been approved in other counties. Mendo has just six state licensed pot growers, less than 1%, whereas neighboring counties have upwards of half of them. This Board could have switched to a more workable use permit system two years ago, but when they refused to put a two-acre cap on that proposal as the Planning Commission recommended, local opponents circulated a ballot measure to block it and the Board folded, rather than simply agreeing with the sensible Planning Commission approach. And if Williams “doesn’t know” if departments are delaying the closure of the books, he has only himself to blame. More than five months ago he issued several audit and budget related “board directives” which included finding out if delayed invoicing in the departments was slowing down the closure of the books, none of which have been acted on or followed up on.
But Williams’ specious answers, however arguable, were soon eclipsed by Supervisor and current board Chair Glenn McGourty who couldn’t help trying to respond to the Auditor-Tax Collector consolidation question.
McGourty: “We didn't actually vote to combine the Auditor Controller Treasurer Tax Collector offices, just the officers. We didn't say we were combining those offices, we combined the positions in those offices. That's different.”
No it’s not.
Mendo had two separate and distinct offices: Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector. They consolidated those two offices into one office: Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector with one person in charge. And they did it against the considered and very public advice of everyone else involved and, as Supervisor Haschak pointed out several times, without any plan. This uncalled for and abrupt consolidation also caused three well-respected top senior finance officials involved in the consolidation to either retire prematurely or quit outright, leaving Ms. Cubbison holding the money bag while at the same time having to deal with two large, new financial software systems, the property tax system and the Munis financial system, with a depleted staff and no help from the Board or the executive office.
Lately, the Board’s “Blame Cubbison” rhetoric has diminished somewhat, as the Board has grudgingly become aware that the problems with closing the books are systemic, not with just one senior finance official.
But while they occasionally bemoan the problems and claim to be concerned, they continue to avoid asking pointed questions, setting deadlines, following up, or requiring basic departmental monthly budget status reports.
CEMETERY NOT PART OF CSD
Regarding Brad Wiley’s article (At Susan’s Grave) this week in the AVA; The AVCSD has no authority or control over the Anderson Valley cemeteries. The Cemetery District has a Board to manage the cemeteries and they have a phone number posted at all cemeteries for inquiries.
Thank you, Val Hanelt
KEIR MORSE PHOTOGRAPHY:
No, not the Sierras-just Bell Springs. More than two feet of snow is forecast for this Saturday/Saturday night. Old-timers up here remember past winters and are not surprised. Been there-done that. Now it's time to do it again. Country living.
A READER WRITES:
171 new parcels proposed in Ukiah near SR 253
I clicked through the Planning Commission links you published yesterday. Found one close to the intersection of State Street and 253 that could be of interest on the March 9 special meeting agenda. It has been obvious that something was planned for that area. Here it is: 171 single-family residential parcels with parks, streets, and utilities.
REQUEST: Modifications to previously approved Garden's Gate Subdivision Vesting Tentative Map (S_3-2005) and its associated Development Agreement. The Subdivision Modification (S_2020-0001) consists of an Amended Vesting Tentative Map to subdivide 48.8 ± acres into 171 single-family residential parcels with parks, streets and utilities. The renamed "Bella Vista Subdivision" would include a 39-unit age-restricted Senior Neighborhood and a 132-unit Traditional Neighborhood. In accordance with a modified Inclusionary Housing Plan, 10% of the residences in the Traditional Neighborhood would be restricted for sale to qualifying moderate-income households. https://www.mendocinocounty.org/home/showpublisheddocument/56116/638126803462570000
PS. This is a modification of previously submitted proposals. But it looks like they are close to an actual approval now. It's actually well placed in an area that is no longer reasonable for agriculture, within the existing "urban" footprint of Ukiah, and not requiring new freeway ramps, etc. It will be a major change to us folks arriving from over the hill.
AV SKATEPARK COMMUNITY DESIGN MEETING #2 (OF 2)
Thurs March 9, 4:00pm @ AV High, Room 6
Or join virtually via zoom, with passcode 424242
Frontier Skateparks head designer Mike Greenwald met with students and community members in Boonville on February 16th to gather design ideas for our very own custom-designed skatepark. (Check out photos from the event here!) Mike and Frontier graphic designer Justin Le will meet virtually with community members again on March 9th to present initial draft designs and gather feedback before finalizing the design.
Join us on Thursday, March 9th to help shape AV's future skatepark!
To get involved
- Share our website and encourage others to sign the petition
- Stay tuned for a list of our current needs and sign up to help.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT ON BEHALF OF HUMMINGBIRDS:
This hummingbird is unable to retract her tongue due to fungal spores that have germinated on her tongue or in her gullet caused by folks mixing honey or anything other than plain white sugar with water. She will die because she can no longer feed.
If you have feeders, PLEASE USE ONLY PLAIN WHITE SUGAR in your mixture of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. No organic or raw or brown sugar, no powdered sugar, no honey, no artificial sugar. Use plain white sugar/water mixture which is most similar to actual flower nectar. And no toxic red color liquids!
Change the sugar water mixture every couple of days, especially during high temperatures, as it will start to ferment if it sits out for days on end.
If you can't or won't do this, please do not put out a feeder at all. (Photo credit: Frank Lingohr)
RE: ‘IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU, NOBODY CAN HAVE ME’
Good to read that. I’m sorry it turned out like that for him. It reminds me that in my youth I nearly got caught up in something that would have been disastrous. But For The Grace of God…
GREAT NEW PUBLICATION ON ORR SPRINGS HISTORY
by Sid Cooperrider
In one secluded spot in a narrow canyon on a twisty road, curious folks can find 160 years of recent history and a place special to natives for centuries. Local historian Katy Tahja announces her new publication about a place that has been a site of action and adventure for the ages: Orr Hot Springs: A Brief History is now available at local museums and bookstores.
So what’s so special about this wide spot in the road? The steaming hot waters emerging there have been soothing aches and pains for passersby long before pioneers arrived. Natives regarded hot springs as openings to the spirit world and such places were neutral territory where no hostilities took place.
Claimed by many, including early pioneers and often doctors, the springs came into Samuel Orr’s hands in the early 1860s. Today, Orr Hot Springs could proclaim itself to be the oldest business in Mendocino County, operating under the same name for more than 150 years.
“Taking the Waters” was a Victorian-era tradition of going to a spa, a place to relax and rejuvenate, and soaking in and drinking mineral water to restore health. Mendocino County was discovered to have five such mineral springs, two of which still provide hydrotherapy to this day. Orr Hot Springs is the best.
A trip to these springs was a major undertaking from the 1860s to the 1920s. Health seekers would first travel to Ukiah by train where they'd then load up for a stagecoach ride, which took them over Low Gap Road, then back east on Comptche Ukiah Road before finally arriving at the Springs.
Big, ornate two-story buildings were constructed, but Orr Hot Springs was prone to disastrous fires. In 1867, and again in 1894, the place burnt to the ground but each time was promptly rebuilt. When it burned a third time in 1938, it was rebuilt as individual cabins for camping rather than as stately buildings for hotel accommodation.
The Orrs had big families that intermarried with the neighboring property owners, the Wegers. For 70 years, the two families worked together operating the resort. Criminals liked to hide out at Orr Hot Springs, and Katy Tahja's new publication spotlights some of these stories along with the attendant whispers of stolen wealth hidden in the hills.
The Chinese people always played a part in Orr Hot Springs history. They were the cooks for the resort and appeared in the census records at that location over the decades. Once roads from Ukiah to the coast were improved, more visitors came to what slowly evolved into a family resort in the 1930s. Hunting, fishing, hiking and picnicking for families was publicized with only minor mention of the healing hot springs.
Patronage was declining and in the 1970s the resort was advertised for sale and unlikely buyers were found. A hippie collective of 10 individuals pooled their financial resources, forming an intentional community, the Orr Springs Association. They considered themselves caretakers of a very important piece of land rich in history. The collective maintained the baths, pool, lodge, cabins, and campground and offered workshops and retreats.
By 1993 Leslie Williams bought up the ownership shares of his fellow Orr Hot Springs Association associates and became the sole proprietor. Williams improved and developed the resort to be what it is now: a tranquil 21st century eco-retreat where soaking in the mineral waters is the main attraction. Just a short walk from the tall trees at Montgomery Woods State Reserve and at the headwaters of the Big River, the resort delights visitors just as it did more than a century ago.
To learn more about the history of Orr Hot Springs, author Katy Tahja is available to present lectures with photographs for interested museums and civic groups. Tahja has written five books on local Mendocino County history and has lived just down the road from the springs in Comptche for 47 years. Call 707-937-5854 or email email@example.com for speaking engagements.
Contact Orr Hot Springs directly at 31201 Orr Springs Road, Ukiah, CA 95482 or phone 707-462-6277 or contact them through the website www.orrhotsprings.org to arrange to have a copy of the publication mailed to you.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, March 2, 2023
TIMOTHY CARMACK, Fort Bragg. Possession of obscene matter of minor in sexual act.
SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JEFFREY FRENCH, Fort Bragg. Mandatory supervision violation, offenses while on bail, failure to appear.
ESTEBAN GAETA, Fort Bragg. Vandalism, resisting, probation revocation.
ERIC GARCIA, Redwood Valley. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
KIMBERLY JONES, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
WAYNE HALE, Redwood Valley. Embezzlement over $400.
ERIC KOOYERS, Willits. Failure to appear.
ABRAHAM MARIN-CARRILLO, Willits. Protective order violation.
ANGELA MILLER, Willits. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
OLIVIA RIOS-FABER, Point Arena. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
PEDRO ZEPEDA-SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Cultivation of marijuana and illegal diversion of water.
A ‘MISLEADING’ STUDY
Bret Stephens’ Feb. 23 column in the Press Democrat on the effectiveness of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID brings to mind the line attributed to Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” (“Pandemic mask mandates accomplished nothing.”).
The vigor with which Stephens embraces the Cochrane report that masks were ineffective suggests that he is not a big fan of masks. But I would refer readers to a report by the International Fact Checking Network that finds the Cochrane conclusion “misleading” and notes that “a growing body of evidence … suggests that consistent mask wearing can effectively reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.”
A collection of poorly designed studies (i.e., the Chochrane report) does not result in a high-quality conclusion. Stephens needs to do his homework a bit better or quit passing on his biases as fact.
Dr. Richard Evans
HELLO, POSTMODERN AMERICA, ANYBODY HOME?
Spiritually Unified at The Source Whilst Sheltered in Ukiah, California
It is 1:46PM at the Ukiah, California Public Library on a sunny March 2nd. Listening to Om Namo Narayanaya https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k4LS_ed9Jg
Mind absorbed in the Absolute, no place to go. Let me know if anybody ever wants to do anything again of any radical social & environmental importance. I'm ready. Where's my eco-frontline for intervening in history? I'd like to get out of the homeless shelter and go do something. Does anybody remember "peace and justice"? Hello, postmodern America...
Craig Louis Stehr
THE ‘DILBERT’ FIASCO IS EMBARRASSING FOR NEWS OUTLETS
by Justin Ray
Did “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams really expect to keep his job?
Several media publishers have made the decision to drop Adams’ comic strip after he made career-ending remarks about Black people. On an episode of the YouTube show “Real Coffee with Scott Adams,” he described Black people as members of a “hate group,” adding that “based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people.”
“I don’t think it makes any sense as a white citizen of America to try to help Black citizens anymore,” Adams said. “It doesn’t make sense. There’s no longer a rational impulse. So I’m going to back off on being helpful to Black America because it doesn’t seem like it pays off.”
“The only outcome is I get called a racist,” he continued. “That’s the only outcome. It makes no sense to help Black Americans if you’re white. It’s over. Don’t even think it’s worth trying.”
Adams was responding to the findings of a public opinion poll made by conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports. Its recent report claims to have asked 1,000 American adults: “Do you agree or disagree with this statement, ‘It’s OK to be white’?”
The report says that 72% of the respondents agreed, including 53% who they claim were Black. Meanwhile, 26% of Black respondents did not agree, and the remaining 21% said they were “not sure.” The poll also reported that 79% of all those questioned agreed with the statement “Black people can be racist, too.”
The Anti-Defamation League has said that the phrase “It’s OK to be white” was popularized as a trolling campaign and adopted by white supremacists. Andrews McMeel Syndication, which distributes “Dilbert,” has yet to comment on the matter.
On Monday, Adams said his publisher scrapped an upcoming book and that his book agent dropped him. Amid the backlash, Adams has double-downed on his position, saying his detractors “hate me and are canceling me.” I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering how long it would take for Elon Musk to support him. The answer turned out to be: not long at all.
When news outlets decided to drop Adams due to his comments, that was a step in the right direction. But why didn’t they take any kind of action when he made his past incendiary comments?
He’s made more than a few: He has questioned the accuracy of the Holocaust death toll. He used a mass shooting to promote an app. When the television adaptation of his comic strip was canceled, he tweeted: “I lost my TV show for being white.”
The Chronicle stopped carrying Dilbert in October when he made comics that said reparations — payments made to African Americans to make up for slavery — “can be claimed by underperforming office workers and that to get around efforts to diversify workplaces straight men should pretend they are gay,” said Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor in chief.
In 2022, Variety reported that Adams created his first Black character, an achievement that took pretty long for the cartoonist to accomplish in his career. The character, dubbed “Dave the Black Engineer,” made fun of workplace diversity and transgender identity. The character identified as white, upsetting his manager who wanted to hit diversity goals.
It is embarrassing for news outlets to have carried him for so long. The only difference the current controversy has to others he’s caused is that his recent racist rant went viral. Because this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, it gives the appearance that news outlets were less concerned about his opinions and more concerned about the optics.
The media has a well-documented fraught relationship with African Americans, a fact highlighted in recent years with the death of George Floyd. If the media wants to gain trust within the community, one way news outlets could do so is by being more proactive about severing ties with people known to have racist views.
Before the controversy, “Dilbert” appeared in 2,000 newspapers in 65 countries and 25 languages, NPR reported, citing Andrews McMeel Syndication. Being nationally syndicated gives cartoonists a large platform to voice opinions about political issues. They are also popular among readers because they are entertaining and can convey powerful political statements. This power and influence make news outlets’ failure to act all the more baffling. Why would they continue to give this platform to a person who espoused bigoted ideas in and out of his work?
He demolished his decades-long career for comments that attempted to sell racism as legitimate political discourse, a trick that isn’t even unique in this day and age. Part of me wonders if he thought he could get away with such blatant bigotry, but considering his track record, he might be sadly justified in believing so.
“One of the things I’ve realized about myself: I like attention,” Adams recently said in an interview. My question is: Was it worth the attention?
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ON LINE COMMENTS
 If you push someone into a mud puddle, then ask if they 'like you', you'll probably get responses you don't like. However, refusing to "help" the person is not really the appropriate response. Shouldn't your first priority be repair the damage you caused"? - apologize, pull them out, clean them up, and make good on what you interrupted, and promise not to do that again? You can "help" them, or not, afterwards. * * * Interesting to see the double standard. When Brittney Cooper a professor from Rutgers college said that whites were villains and that she would like to take them out, no one said anything. She still teaches at Rutgers. There is a cartoon on Disney right now (Proud Family reboot) that talks about white fragility, a cartoon. It seems so odd to me that a survey asking if it was ok to be white is not seen as racist. I don't like Dilbert and the artist was way over the top but it bothers me that he is instantly cancelled while others are allowed to say anything.
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 My issue with the cartoonist is that two wrongs don't make a right. "So I’m going to back off on being helpful to Black America because it doesn’t seem like it pays off.” 33M black folks aren't generating anti-white hate and certainly don't subscribe to Brittney Coopers hate. To your general point, their is hypocrisy and within that double standard there is racism and injustice. It's simply illogical to mouth racism towards anyone and expect any group to rationalize it in the way in which the racist wants them to. This is the fatal flaw that "some" black activists illogically thought that they could sustain and a natural pushback is coming. I just hope people can remember that these extremists do not represent ALL black folks.
* * *
 He was not instantly cancelled. Unless you're good with his long track record of racism, antisemitism, misogyny and a host of other isms, Adams should have been cancelled a few years ago.
* * *
 Here are the actual questions from the poll: 1* Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “It’s OK to be white.” 2* Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “Black people can be racist, too.” Rasmussen then went on to publish and article on their own website titled "Not ‘Woke’ Yet? Most Voters Reject Anti-White Beliefs"and then stated "Despite years of progressive activism, a majority of Americans still don’t buy into the “woke” narrative that white people have a monopoly on racism. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 79% of American Adults agree with the statement, “Black people can be racist, too,”including 53% who Strongly Agree. Just 12% disagree, and another 10% are not sure. " This is a poll with a clear bias and agenda.
* * *
 I used to like the comic Dilbert but frankly Scott Adams have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that he's a race baiter, possibly a Holocaust denier, and an insolent boor. The estimated number of Holocaust dead has been pretty well validated by plenty of experts as well as by relatives of those slaughtered. The only people who question the number killed are Holocaust deniers - and Scott Adams has plunked himself squarely among them with his tasteless remarks. Media organizations that dropped Dilbert were way past overdue but at least they finally did the right thing. And for those moaning about free speech, I say go back to your civics classes and relearn the First Amendment - it applies to government agencies not being allowed to censor speech, not private institutions. If that were not the case, you'd be forbidden from telling your children not to use profanity.
WHITE PEOPLE go around, it seems to me, with a very carefully suppressed terror of Black people—a tremendous uneasiness. They don’t know what the Black face hides. They’re sure it’s hiding something. What it’s hiding is American history. What it’s hiding is what white people know they have done, and what they like doing. White people know very well one thing; it’s the only thing they have to know. They know this; everything else, they’ll say, is a lie. They know they would not like to be Black here. They know that, and they’re telling me lies. They’re telling me and my children nothing but lies.
— James Baldwin
I DIDN’T REALLY START TO READ until I went to Graduate School and then I began to read and write at the same time. When I went to Iowa I had never heard of Faulkner, Kafka, Joyce, much less read them. Then I began to read everything ay once, so much so that I didn’t have time I suppose to be influenced by any one writer. I read all the Catholic novelists, Mauriac, Bernanos, Bloy, Greene, Waugh; I read all the nuts like Djuna Barnes and Dorothy Richardson and Va. Woolf (unfair to the dear lady, of course); I read the best Southern writers like Faulkner and the Tates, K.A. Porter, Eudora Welty and Peter Taylor; read the Russians, not Tolstoy so much as Doestoyevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov and Gogol. I became a great admirer of Conrad and have read almost all his fiction. I have totally skipped such people as Dreiser, Anderson (except for a few stories) and Thomas Wolfe. I have learned something from Hawthorne, Flaubert, Balzac and something from Kafka, though I have never been able to finish one of his novels. I’ve read almost all of Henry James – from a sense of High Duty and because when I read James I feel something is happening to me, in slow motion but happening nevertheless. I admire Dr. Johnson’s Lives of the Poets. But always the largest thing that looms up is The Humerous Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. I am sure he wrote them all while drunk too.
From a letter by Flannery O’Connor
HISTORY SHOULD BE A BLACK COMEDY, NOT A MORALITY TALE
Give us the banter, not a lecture
by Ed West
I love history; it is my greatest passion. If I didn’t have to worry about money I’d go and live in a former Templar castle in the Languedoc and spend my afternoons reading 19th-century French historians (pretending to read in the original for my Instagram account, obviously, but actually using a translation).
From a very young age I was obsessed with the subject. The first history tale I remember being engrossed by was the story of Ethelred the Unready and Edward the Martyr. I suppose I felt some sort of nominative solidarity with Edward, the rightful king murdered by a wicked stepmother who then put her own son Ethelred on the throne — and who turned out to be the worst combination of both useless and backstabbing.
Of course, I later learned that the story was more complicated; Edward may not have been murdered, and Ethelred was dealt a very difficult hand. But as a child it sent my mind away to a far off place in a similar way that King Arthur first captured the imagination of many others. Like them, I was first attracted to history via the medieval world, with its kings, castles and sword fights, and its colourful jousts where fair maidens watched heroic knights beat the crap out of each other (although the early medieval had almost none of those things, but again, don’t let that ruin the fun).
There was obviously a very nerdy aspect to this. From nine or so I could memorise all the dates of the kings and queens of England (although I got a bit vague when it got as far as the Edwys and Edwigs), all of which proved hugely useful when it came to impressing the opposite sex in my teens.
Dates are not the most important thing, but for a certain type of mind they make it easier to connect everything. If I learned of an insane pope who liked to torture his cardinals or ‘Wenzel the Drunkard’, the German king fond of throwing enemies off bridges, I could put it in context that this was the time of Richard II, and it is easier to place. If I’m now reading about Chinese emperors or what was happening in the Umayyad caliphate, where the connection with England would be slim or non-existent, my understanding of English dates still makes it easier to understand.
I loved the fantasy and the expanded sense of imagination, but as I got older, I came to better appreciate the most beautiful thing about history, that it’s all one great black comedy, filled with petty emotions and motivations, and the psychodrama and human absurdity is not some side issue, but the whole point.
Yet the subject is never really taught like that, and perhaps can’t be; and the national history curriculum when I was at school seemed structured in such a way as to suck all the life out of it. It’s not just the incoherence or emphasis; everyone complains about what is taught at school, and no one will ever be satisfied. But worse was the way the subject was almost designed to make it as boring as possible. An area of study was introduced, and then almost immediately we were asked to evaluate the primary and secondary sources; the aim was to invite scepticism, but most teens and pre-teens simply drift off at this point.
Just tell us the story — we can deconstruct it later. Personally, I feel that history shouldn’t be primarily an analysis of how hegemonic power structures orchestrate public relations; it shouldn’t be a morality tale about good and evil; it shouldn’t be a means to make society more inclusive; it should be fun, and when done correctly, it’s the most fun subject in the world.
That, of course, explains the popularity of The Rest is History. Like The Times’s James Marriott, I have come to a point of obsession with the Tom Holland-Dominic Sandbrook podcast. It’s a companion when I’m in a hotel room alone, or flying, or just doing the dishes; it’s probably the highlight of my week, and I’m not sure what that says about me.
Holland likes to joke that they’re ‘all about the ‘bantz’, but as Marriott says, much of the popularity is due to the podcast not treating its audience like idiots. They obviously have the advantage of being free from corporate pressure, so they don’t have to worry about audience demographics, about ‘access’ and relevance, all the factors that have helped drag down the IQ of regular documentary making, because everyone feels that they have to both a) appeal to da kidz and b) fulfil the political obsessions of the deeply America-brained British ruling class. Ironically, or perhaps not, The Rest is History does have a large number of younger listeners as a result.
Here is a photo of Claude Rigsby in front of his original Rigsby Station, Waynesville, Missouri on Route 66, circa the late 1920s. Just next door you can see their home. Over the years the station grew and was rebuilt a couple of times. The gas globe on the right says "Wilcox" and we now believe the one on the left says "Phillips Gasoline."
It was on the downtown Square and was formerly the Rigsby Standard Oil Station. Claude and Eva Rigsby bought their house, which stands on lots 6 and 7 in block 4 of the original town of Waynesville, in 1924. We don't know the year of construction, but the foundation is made of rough-hewn logs. For 33 years, Claude operated the Standard Service Station next to his home, serving Route 66 as it passed through town. During the years when Fort Leonard Wood was being built, the Rigsbys rented rooms and beds to construction workers.
At Route 66 and Benton Street, you can see a building that was originally the Rigsby Standard Oil station, serving Route 66 travelers in its heyday. There is a historical marker for the Rigsby House and Standard Oil Station. We believe both buildings are still there.
The photo is courtesy of Delores Swoffer-Wieners, 66 postcards.
WHY IS ASSANGE IN JAIL AND NOT SEYMOUR HERSH?
by Steve Brown
On February 7, Seymour Hersh — arguably the most credible investigative journalist of our era — published a bombshell exposé revealing that the United States was guilty of blowing up the Nord Stream II undersea pipeline that was supposed to deliver natural gas from Russia to the Federal Republic of Germany.
Hersh’s revelations were based entirely on classified information leaked to him by a member of the government with first-hand knowledge of the planning and implementation of the attack on the pipeline — a member of the government who clearly broke the law by violating his fiduciary duty not to reveal classified information to an unauthorized source.
Like Chelsea Manning, who had revealed classified information to Julian Assange, for which she was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison, Hersh’s source, if identified, would surely also be convicted and sentenced to similar long-term imprisonment. But Hersh’s source has not been identified. However — Hersh himself has. According to the same logic under which Assange was indicted for publishing classified information, and now faces up to 175 years in prison, Hersh, too, should be indicted and face comparable long-term imprisonment.
So why is Sy Hersh still free?
Hersh broke the same laws that the U.S. government accuses Julian Assange of breaking. But unlike Assange, a foreigner whom the U.S. has unsuccessfully been trying to extradite from England for years, Hersh is an American citizen living right here in the United States — easy to find, cuff, indict, convict and throw in prison for the rest of his life.
So why is Sy Hersh still free?
Surely the classified information that Hersh has revealed is even more dangerous to the safety of the U.S. than what Assange revealed. Hersh showed that the U.S. had committed an unprovoked act of war against Russia. This gives Russia an absolute legal right to retaliate under Chapter VII, Article 51, of the United Nations Charter (https://legal.un.org/repertory/art51.shtml) , which cites self-defense as an exception to the prohibition against the use of force. Since Russia happens to be a nuclear power, its potential retaliation could trigger World War III and wipe out not just the U.S. but the entire human race. Therefore, in any comparison of who has placed the U.S. in greater danger — Julian Assange is a piker compared to Sy Hersh.
So why is Sy Hersh still free?
The answer is this. Although President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland would love to throw Sy Hersh into a maximum security prison for the rest of his life, as punishment for revealing their complicity in blowing up the Nord Stream II pipelines — they don’t dare to. If they did, it would be tantamount to admitting that what Hersh published is true.
Which would be embarrassing, to say the least, because Biden and Company have spent every day since February 7 denying that Hersh’s revelations are true. In other words, they claim he made it all up — which means, according to them, that he did not publish classified information. Therefore he cannot be guilty of any crime.
That’s the frustrating double bind in which Biden now finds himself. It must drive him crazy. Because the day he sends federal agents to put the cuffs on Sy Hersh, that is the day he and Blinken and Nuland will have to admit that they lied, that Hersh’s exposé is true, and that they did indeed order the destruction of the Nord stream pipelines.
So of course that day will never come, and Sy Hersh will remain a free man. Which is why, at least this one time, I am glad that our leaders are liars.
TWITTER FILES: GEC, NEW KNOWLEDGE, AND STATE-SPONSORED BLACKLISTS
by Matt Taibbi
A new #TwitterFiles thread will be dropping in a few hours, at noon EST. It follows up the Hamilton 68 story of a month ago with examples of state-funded digital blacklisting campaigns run amok.
It’s self-explanatory, but some advance context might help: In 2015-2016, during the brief, forgotten period when Islamic terrorism was fading as a national obsession and Trumpian “domestic extremism” had not yet become one, Barack Obama made a series of decisions that may yet prove devastating to his legacy.
The short version is he signed Executive Order 13271, establishing a “Global Engagement Center to “counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations.” This act got almost no press and even within government, almost no one noticed.
In the bigger picture, however, a lame duck president kick-started the process of shifting the national security establishment’s focus from counterterrorism to “disinformation.” Whether by malfunction or design, this abrupt course change of Washington’s contracting supertanker would have dramatic consequences. In fact, the tale of how America’s information warfare mechanism turned inward, against “threats” in our own population, might someday be remembered as the story of our time, with collective panic over “disinfo” defining this generation in much the same way the Red Scare defined the culture of the fifties.
This is a complicated story and it would be a mistake to jump to simplistic conclusions, like that the Global Engagement Center (humorously nicknamed “GECK” or “YUCK” by detractors in other agencies) is an evil Orwellian mind-control scheme. It isn’t. But for a few crucial bad decisions, it could have fulfilled a useful or at least logical mission, much as the United States Information Agency (USIA) once did. However, instead of stressing research and public reports, as the USIA did when responding to Soviet accusations that Americans had caused the AIDS crisis, GEC funded a secret list of contractors and employed a more surreptitious approach to “counter-disinformation,” sending companies like Twitter voluminous reports on foreign “ecosystems” — in practice, blacklists.
GEC was not conceived as a partisan mechanism to defang conservative media, despite the recent true and damning series of reports by the Washington Examiner, outlining how a GEC-funded NGO in England used algorithmic scoring to de-rank outlets like The Daily Wire and help papers like the New York Times earn more ad revenue. The blacklisting tales you’ll be reading about later today on Twitter also primarily target American conservatives, though GEC and GEC-funded contractors also target left-friendly movements like the gilets jaunes (yellow vests), socialist media outlets like Canada’s Global Research, even the Free Palestine movement. The scary angle on GEC is not so much the agency as the sprawling infrastructure of “disinformation labs” that have grown around it. Underneath America’s love affair with “anti-disinformation” in the Trump years — which expressed itself in the seemingly instant construction of a sprawling complex of disinformation studies “labs” at institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Clemson, UT, Pitt, William and Mary, the University of Washington, and other locations — lay a devastating secret. Most of these “experts” know nothing. Many have skill, if you can call mesmerizing dumb reporters a skill, but in the area of identifying true bad actors, few know more than the average person on the street.
This is described repeatedly in the #TwitterFiles. In one sequence Twitter was contacted by Sheera Frenkel of the New York Times, who was writing a hagiographic profiles of “disinformation” warrior Renee DiResta, who’d achieved some renown as a campaigner against vaccine misinformation. Frenkel wrote Twitter to ask why they hadn’t hired “independent researchers” like DiResta, Jonathan Albright, and Jonathon Morgan — coincidentally, all hired witnesses of the Senate Intelligence Committee — to help Twitter “better understand” its own business.
At the sight of Frenkel’s provocative note, some Twitter execs lost it. “The word ‘researcher’ has taken on a very broad meaning,” snapped Nick Pickles. “Renee is literally doing this as a hobby… Of those three only [Albright] is the most credible, but... the bulk of his work is Medium blogs.” “Like CVE before it, misinformation is becoming a cottage industry,” agreed comms official Ian Plunkett, referencing “countering violent extremism,” a.k.a. counterterrorism.
Today’s thread among other things will detail crude digital blacklisting schemes dreamed up by this new cottage industry. Each features the same design “flaw,” in which giant lists of supposed foreign disinformationists somehow also come to include ordinary Americans, often with the same political leanings.
In one ridiculous case, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), a GEC-funded entity, sent Twitter a huge list of people they suspected of “engaging in inauthentic behavior… and Hindu nationalism more broadly.” You’ll see the list to judge. As was the case with the “Hamilton 68” story, in which a spook-laden think tank purported to track accounts linked to “Russian influence activities” while really following the likes of @TrumpDyke and @TimeForTrumppp, this DFRLab list of “Hindu nationalists” is weirdly packed with real septuagenarian Trump supporters.
One, a woman named Marysel Urbanik who immigrated from Castro’s Cuba in her youth, struggled to understand why a Washington think tank had sent Twitter a letter ID’ing her as either “inauthentic” or a Hindu nationalist.
“They say I’m what?”
“A Hindu nationalist,” I said. “Well, suspected.”
“But I’m Cuban, not Indian,” she pleaded, confused. “Hindu? I wouldn’t even know what words to say.”
Such listmakers are either employing extremely expansive definitions of hate speech, extremely inexact methods of identifying spam, or they’re doing both in addition to a third thing: keeping up a busywork campaign for underemployed ex-anti-terror warriors, who don’t mind racking up lists of “foreign” disinformationists that just happen to also rope in domestic undesirables.
In his book Information Wars, the original nominal head of GEC and former Time editor Rick Stengel explained an epiphany he had that allowed him to tie the fight against “foreign” disinformation to matters domestic. It happened when Stengel watched a YouTube video of Russian nationalist Alexander Dugin:
He castigated Hillary Clinton’s campaign as a bunch of '“storm troopers.” He lambasted what he called the American “obsession with the fake Russian threat.” He said it was an excuse for losers… The production values were poor, the audience was small, but the video revealed an extraordinary mirroring of language and ideas between Dugin and other Russian voices and candidate Trump… The notion that there was some kind of shared rhetorical playbook just seemed too fanciful to believe. While the messages did not exactly repeat each other, they certainly rhymed.
At the same time as Dugin was uploading his video, according to public U.S. intelligence, the GRU—the Russian military intelligence service—began going through the email accounts of DNC officials… Stengel didn’t need to prove an actual link between Dugin, Russia, and Trump. It was enough to imply it, by placing stories about the GRU near Trump’s name, while asserting Trump and Dugin’s ideas “rhymed.”
This is probably what’s going on in the DFRLab list: one assumes many BJP supporters have views that “rhyme” with what one might call the American version of nationalism, #MAGA. Similarly, a GEC report sent to Twitter about “Russian Pillars of Disinformation” stressed that even actors who “generate their own momentum” online should be considered part of a propaganda “ecosystem.” Independence, the GEC report stressed, should not “confuse those trying to discern the truth.” Twitter’s complaints against agencies like GEC and projects like the India list dovetail with what current and former intelligence sources have been calling in to comment on, since the first Twitter Files reports: that though sophisticated methods for detecting true bad actors exist, virtually none of the high-profile “experts” employ those.
Instead, methodologies are often openly absurd. List #1 might target everyone who follows more than one Chinese diplomat on Twitter. List #2 might rope in everyone who’s retweeted a “Peter Douche” video or a “Free Palestine” meme made in Iran. One former GEC staffer laughs about how experts win over the media with impressive-looking “hairball” charts that nearly always come down to some sort of volume or affinity analysis: who retweets whom, whose ideas “rhyme” with whose, etc.
In a key email, Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth is asked in an internal Q&A if outside researchers can really detect “Russian fingerprints” just by looking at Twitter’s public data. “In short, no,” he said, adding that it was really only possible to make “inferences.”
But inferences are enough, for the innumerable “Centers for Countering Whatever” whose real goals may involve deplatforming or disenfranchising domestic groups deemed unworthy of sharing the full benefits of Western civil society (like the unmolested use of PayPal, GoFundMe, Twitter, etc.). With an inference, you can smear, and with a smear, you can do damage.
The Hamilton 68 scam in this sense was perfect. It used digital alchemy to create streams of news stories tying ordinary Americans to “foreign” disinformation. With headlines like CNN’s “Russian bots are using #WalkAway to try to wound Dems in midterms “ in hand, a “Disinfo Lab” or a noble journalistic enterprise like the “extremism” desk at USA Today can finish the important work of calling up strings of Internet companies to “ask” why this or that person is still allowed to use credit cards, advertise on Amazon, etc.
What organizations like GEC and subcontractors like DFRLab do are just subtler versions of those same schemes. They make lists and let the increasingly sophisticated machinery of digital deprivation do the rest. It’s bad enough when this dubious activity is private. But paying taxes for the pleasure? This supertanker needs turning around.
TRAIN DERAILS ON WAY TO LOAD NUCLEAR WASTE
The Brattleboro Reformer reports that a train on its way to load up nuclear waste from the decommissioning Vermont Yankee nuclear power station derailed on February 24, 2023. The derailment involved the “spacer” cars to be coupled between freight cars intended to carry nuclear waste out west. “‘The whole idea of shipping SNF (high level radioactive waste/spent nuclear fuel) all over the country on rail lines is at the heart of what DOE (Department of Energy) wants to start in the years ahead. We should all be nervous about such a development in light of Palestine, OH and many other such incidents,’ said Lissa Weinmann of Brattleboro, the vice chairwoman of the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.”
For years now, so-called “low-level” radioactive wastes associated with the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee have been regularly shipped by NorthStar to its Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) dumpsite in Andrews County, Texas. Orano and WCS would also like to ship highly radioactive wastes, not only from Vermont Yankee, but from all U.S. reactors, to their Interim Storage Partners, LLC consolidated interim storage facility at the WCS site, as well. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved that dump’s license application in September 2021, but resistance to it continues.
This is not the first time an empty radioactive waste transport vehicle experienced a shipping mishap bound for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant site. An empty container for highly radioactive waste storage, bound for VY on a truck, was involved in a mishap — the truck left the road, onto a soft shoulder, and became stuck there.
Nor is VY the only nuclear power plant site where such cautionary tales have occurred. Decades ago, a barge transporting an empty dry storage cask for irradiated nuclear fuel actually lost the container overboard, while en route to the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey.
But of course, the real risk involves radioactive waste containers that are full. These Mobile Chornobyl risks are rearing their ugly head, yet again, given the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of license applications for consolidated interim storage facilities in Texas and New Mexico.
Dear friends and supporters,
I have difficult news to impart. On Feb. 17, without much warning, I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer on the basis of a CT scan and an MRI. (As is usual with pancreatic cancer–which has no early symptoms – it was found while looking for something else, relatively minor). I’m sorry to report to you that my doctors have given me three to six months to live. Of course, they emphasize that everyone’s case is individual; it might be more, or less.
I have chosen not to do chemotherapy (which offers no promise) and I have assurance of great hospice care when needed. Please know: right now, I am not in any physical pain, and in fact, after my hip replacement surgery in late 2021, I feel better physically than I have in years!
Moreover, my cardiologist has given me license to abandon my salt-free diet of the last six years. This has improved my quality of life dramatically: the pleasure of eating my former favorite foods! And my energy level is high.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve done several interviews and webinars on Ukraine, nuclear weapons, and first amendment issues, and I have more scheduled.
As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I *live* better under a deadline!
I feel lucky and grateful that I’ve had a wonderful life far beyond the proverbial three-score years and ten. (I’ll be ninety-two on April 7th.) I feel the very same way about having a few months more to enjoy life with my wife and family, and in which to continue to pursue the urgent goal of working with others to avert nuclear war in Ukraine or Taiwan (or anywhere else).
When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, I had every reason to think I would be spending the rest of my life behind bars. It was a fate I would gladly have accepted if it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War, unlikely as that seemed (and was).
Yet in the end, that action—in ways I could not have foreseen, due to Nixon’s illegal responses—did have an impact on shortening the war. In addition, thanks to Nixon’s crimes, I was spared the imprisonment I expected, and I was able to spend the last fifty years with Patricia and my family, and with you, my friends.
What’s more, I was able to devote those years to doing everything I could think of to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions: lobbying, lecturing, writing and joining with others in acts of protest and non-violent resistance.
I wish I could report greater success for our efforts. As I write, “modernization” of nuclear weapons is ongoing in all nine states that possess them (the U.S. most of all). Russia is making monstrous threats to initiate nuclear war to maintain its control over Crimea and the Donbas–like the dozens of equally illegitimate first-use threats that the U.S. government has made in the past to maintain its military presence in South Korea, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and (with the complicity of every member state then in NATO) West Berlin. The current risk of nuclear war, over Ukraine, is as great as the world has ever seen.
China and India are alone in declaring no-first-use policies. Leadership in the U.S., Russia, other nuclear weapons states, NATO, and other U.S. allies have yet to recognize that such threats of initiating nuclear war–let alone the plans, deployments, and exercises meant to make them credible and more ready to be carried out–are and always have been immoral and insane: under any circumstances, for any “reasons,” by anyone or anywhere.
It is long past time — but not too late! — for the world’s publics at last to challenge and resist the willed moral blindness of their past and current leaders. I will continue, as long as I’m able, to help these efforts. There’s tons more to say about Ukraine and nuclear policy, of course, and you’ll be hearing from me as long as I’m here.
As I look back on the last sixty years of my life, I think there is no greater cause to which I could have dedicated my efforts. For the last forty years we have known that nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would mean nuclear winter: more than a hundred million tons of smoke and soot from firestorms in cities set ablaze by either side, striking either first or second, would be lofted into the stratosphere where it would not rain out and would envelope the globe within days.
That pall would block up to 70 percent of sunlight for years, destroying all harvests worldwide and causing death by starvation for most of the humans and other vertebrates on earth.
So far as I can find out, this scientific near-consensus has had virtually no effect on the Pentagon’s nuclear war plans or U.S./NATO (or Russian) nuclear threats. (In a like case of disastrous willful denial by many officials, corporations, and other Americans, scientists have known for over three decades that the catastrophic climate change now underway–mainly but not only from burning fossil fuels–is fully comparable to U.S.-Russian nuclear war as another existential risk.)
I’m happy to know that millions of people–including all those friends and comrades to whom I address this message–have the wisdom, dedication, and moral courage to carry on with these causes, and to work unceasingly for the survival of our planet and its creatures.
I’m enormously grateful to have had the privilege of knowing and working with such people, past and present. That’s among the most treasured aspects of my very privileged and very lucky life. I want to thank you all for the love and support you have given me in so many ways. Your dedication, courage, and determination to act have inspired and sustained my own efforts.
My wish for you is that at the end of your days you will feel as much joy and gratitude as I do now.