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RAIN AND MOUNTAIN SNOW will taper off today as an atmospheric river exits to the south. Precipitation will increase again early by Saturday morning. Rain and mountain snow will continue through the weekend before a second atmospheric river storm system impacts the region by Monday. (NWS)
YESTERDAY'S RAINFALL (past 24 hours): Yorkville 2.96" - Leggett 2.48" - Laytonville 2.31" - Willits 2.14" - Covelo 1.62" - Hopland 1.53" - Ukiah 1.29" - Mendocino 1.20"
BELL SPRINGS ROAD, THURSDAY (photos by County road guys)
MANZANITA WELLNESS CENTER CLOSES
Mendocino County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) was notified by Manzanita Services, that after many months of addressing administrative turnover and staffing challenges, sadly the Manzanita Services Board decided to close the agency as of March 10th, 2023. BHRS staff have been working with Manzanita to discuss the transition and BHRS has opened and will operate interim Wellness Centers while a longer-term solution is sought. Wellness Centers are a safe space for individuals with behavioral health concerns to participate in classes and activities related to mental health and wellbeing.
Wellness Centers in Ukiah is at the BHRS/Public Health Building, 1120 S. Dora St. via the far entrance to the building in Room 249 (Group Room 3), and in Willits at the Veteran’s Memorial Building 189 North Main Street. Hours of Operation are 10-2:30 at both locations. Groups and activities are being scheduled to mirror what was provided at Manzanita to the extent possible and will be adapted based on participant input. These Centers opened March 7, 2023, and will operate until further notice.
For further information, contact Rena Ford at 707-472-2724 or email@example.com
READY FOR WHALE WALKS!?
11:00AM and 2:00PM every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this March!! Meet at the Ward Avenue Parking Lot, located North of MacKerricher State Park. Join us to celebrate Whale Festival! Binoculars will be provided!
Ever wonder why a marine mammal, like the gray whale, would leave the warm lagoons of Baja and migrate North to the frigid Arctic Seas? Well, it's solely so that we can get a great view of them with their newly born calves... ok maybe it's not the sole reason, but we'd like to think so. As grey whales are bottom feeders, they set off on this annual journey, bound for their feeding ground just as the long days of summer offer them an all-you-can-eat buffet of arthropods. Hugging the coastline allows them to protect their young from predators along the 14,000 mile yearly trip, and the bonus... we get to see them! So come on out and join the fun!
LENGTHY INVESTIGATION LEADS TO NARCOTICS SEIZURE & ARRESTS IN FORT BRAGG
The Fort Bragg Police Department has had an ongoing narcotics sales investigation since December 2022. On Wednesday, March 8, 2023, officers developed enough information to obtain search warrants on two apartments in the 300 block of Walnut St.
During the service of the search warrants, Kole Parker, 21, was found with over 50 grams of suspected methamphetamine, 17 “M30” pills believed to be fentanyl, digital scales, cash and other paraphernalia. The second search warrant was served simultaneously in the same apartment complex. Officers located Steven Jones, 75, with over 120 grams of suspected methamphetamine, over 2 grams of fentanyl, about a quarter pound of marijuana, digital scale, packaging materials, cash, cutting agents, and other narcotics sales paraphernalia.
Parker was arrested and booked into the MCSO jail on several charges including Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Sell and Intent to Furnish Fake Narcotics.
Jones was arrested and booked into the MCSO jail on several charges including Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute, and Possession of Cannabis with Intent to Unlawfully Distribute.
A third subject, James Duffy, 21, of Fort Bragg, was arrested and booked into MCSO jail for Delay/Resist/Obstruct a Peace Officer, Probation Violation, and Conspiracy.
Chief Neil Cervenka said, “We’ve received several tips about sales of narcotics and we investigate every one. Often, these investigations take time to build a solid case. Fort Bragg Police Department is committed to the safety of our community. This extensive investigation resulted in getting this poison off the street and away from a vulnerable population.”
Anyone with information on this incident is encouraged to contact Officer Frank of the Fort Bragg Police Department at (707)961-2800 ext 139.
This information is being released by Chief Neil Cervenka. All media inquiries should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: Mendocino has been added to State of Emergency for Feb/March storms. Governor Newsom added 21 counties (9 are in Coastal) to his State of Emergency for the storms: Butte, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Lake, Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Yuba.
Thank you to ALL who DONATED eggs for incubation.
We have an amazing 243 eggs in an incubator!
All but 14 were donated. The 14 were from our Speckled Sussex Bantams.
There was only one egg dropped.
They are all numbered and weighed on a spread sheet by who donated the eggs.
Now we wait.
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2023 WINTER SNOW EMERGENCY - DAMAGE SURVEY
The County of Mendocino has begun the transition from response to recovery for the February-March 2023 Snowstorms emergency.
The County is seeking assistance from the public to self-report damage resulting from the severe weather and snowstorms that occurred from February 21, 2023, to the present. This information will be used to assist the County in understanding the severity of the private property damage and request assistance from state, and federal partners.
The survey can be found here: surveymonkey.com/r/SnowRecovery
Please complete the survey by no later than close of business on Friday, March 17th, 2023.
At this time FEMA has not authorized individual assistance to private property damaged by the snow emergency. Damage reported via the survey will help support County requests for state and federal assistance.
As more recovery resources become available, we will publish the updates on the county’s social media below.
AV GRANGE PANCAKE UPDATE: It might be wet this Sunday March 12! It might be wild from 8:30-11:00! But you can count on Pancakes with all the fixings, eggs, bacon, coffee, tea and juice at the AV Grange. It's the monthly 2nd Sunday AV GRANGE PANCAKE BREAKFAST, and remember to set your CLOCKS an hour ahead on Saturday night or you might be an hour late for breakfast!
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS recently issued a grand proclamation on the occasion of “grand jury awareness month,” “recognizing” the importance of grand juries which “identify problems and offer ways to improve government operations and enhance responsiveness.” The Supes say they are aware of seven generic whereases — seven more than former Supervisor John McCowen got for his twelve years as a supervisor. The proclamation doesn’t say “appreciation,” but simply a bland “awareness.” As if the Supervisors only recently became “aware” of the existence of the Grand Jury. The proclamation conspicuously stops short of pointing out that the Supervisors mostly just shine on the Grand Jury recommendations, “disagrees” with most of them, agrees with some but does nothing, and in some cases outright insuts the Grand Jury. The proclamation doesn’t list a single recommendation which resulted in any County improvements. But, given the nice-person-ism that prevails in Mendocino County, we expect that the Grand Jury will accept the generic “awareness” proclamation and issue an equally vacuous “thank you” in response. Kabuki acts have more substance. (Mark Scaramella)
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In the matter of a proclamation recognizing February 2023 as Civil Grand Jury Awareness month in Mendocino County.
Whereas, every year in each of California’s 58 counties, 19 ordinary citizens take an oath to voluntarily serve a term of one year as Grand Jurors; and
Whereas, the Grand Juries have been in existence since the adoption of California’s original Constitution in 1849-1850; and
Whereas, grand juries conduct their investigations under the auspices of the Superior Court of California and have broad access to public officials, employees, records, and information. One of the most important functions of a grand jury is to review the operations of the officers, departments, and agencies of local government; and
Whereas, the grand jury’s fact finding efforts result in reports that contain specific recommendations aimed at identifying problems and offering ways to improve government operations and enhance responsiveness, and
Whereas, the hard work done by grand juries has a great effect on our communities and makes California a better place to live; and
Whereas, the reward of being a grand juror is the satisfaction received from working with fellow residents and community members to improve local government for all; and
Whereas, it is appropriate to recognize the efforts of those jurors, both past and present, who have volunteered their time and service to the Mendocino County Grand Jury.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Supervisors of the County of Mendocino, hereby proclaims February 2023, as: “Grand Jury Awareness Month.”
HEAVY-HANDED FORT BRAGG NAME CHANGERS
This divisiveness needs to stop. The strong-arm tactics of “name changers” to manipulate and control need to stop. Contrary to their inference that the essay contest is tied in with Fort Bragg schools, the School District announced emphatically that it has no connection to the contest. Now, there is talk of boycotting businesses on Redwood Avenue. This is unacceptable. It needs to stop.
Our personal lives are “tossed salads” of experiences and perspectives. This country is a conglomerate of millions of those unique lives: grief and celebration, trauma and healing.
Plot Twist: Focus and celebrate the small community of Fort Bragg’s historically diverse cultural legacies: Pomo and Coastal Yuki, and the immigrants searching for better lives for their families including Italian, Finn, Chinese, Portuguese, Croatian, and Latinx.
JEFF BURROUGHS: Remember back in the day when we had winter rains and winter snow in AV? Here is what it looked like about 47 years ago on Ornbaun Road.
Laytonville Healthy Start really stepped up for Mendo and Humbolt residents when Highway 101 was shut and emergency disaster relief from the county failed to respond.
I’m sure a lot of people would like to see some funding go to that program to help at least make the community service whole again, even if we can’t compensate the volunteers themselves somehow, beyond recognition of their completely selfless efforts. Ted Williams: Is the county's emergency disaster equipment (like the locked trailer at Healthy Start Laytonville) tied to the state's disaster declaration? Or does authorization lay within the county officials? I know you aren’t the northern county Supe. You are however (imo) the most responsive representative in decades and this event struck me as a big stumble for our emergency response.
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The county does not open warming centers, only evacuation centers. The trailer has supplies for declared evacuations. Nonprofits run warming centers and are supposed to be able to maintain for 72 hours. Protocol allows local fire departments to request evacuation from the County's Office of Emergency Services. This did not happen. Rather, at 8:30pm, a request came, with roads already closed, not from the fire department, to open the container for warming supplies. Office of Emergency Services, Department of Transportation and Mendocino County Sheriff's Office are spread thin in equipment and personnel. By all means, if people are trapped and need out, that's a top priority and local government will act. Requests for food and supply delivery likely cannot be met with available resources. With coordination between local and state, during the current snow storm, CalFire has been distributing hay by helicopter.
ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE VOLUNTEER TRAINING
Wednesday, March 15th, 10 to 11 AM, Anderson Valley Senior Center
Been thinking about giving back to the elders of our community? Now’s your chance, join us for a short volunteer training and learn more about the Anderson Valley Village. The work of our volunteers is vital to our mission of supporting seniors as they age in place, they provide all manner of help, from basic chores, transportation, tech support and errands to check-in calls and visits to skilled services. It’s up to you how, and how often, to volunteer. Because we are working with a vulnerable population, we require our volunteers to have the COVID vaccine, thank you (please bring your card). And if you would like to be a volunteer driver, please bring your Driver's License and proof of insurance card. Please fill out the volunteer application before the training, if possible, they are available at the Senior Center, Health Center and/or our website.
Please RSVP with the coordinator - Hope to see you there, thank you!
AV VARIETY SHOW? Who remembers the Variety Show??The ANNUAL Variety Show! Oh yeah…It's been 2 years…whats with that? How did we survive??
March is the traditional date for the show, but we've moved the date to May 12-13th. You still have 2 months to perfect that double flip off the grand piano so SAVE the DATE for Fri-Sat, MAY 12 & 13th at the Anderson Valley Grange. Mark your calendars and spread the word!
Get in touch with Abeja 707 621-3822 or Capt Rainbow 707 472-9189 to sign up or get more info.
37TH ANNUAL MENDOCINO COUNTY SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING FAIR & S.T.E.A.M EXPO
The 37th Annual Mendocino County Science and Engineering Fair & S.T.E.A.M Expo is calling all families and science enthusiasts to come together for a day of fun and learning. The event aims to showcase and reward the achievements of 3rd through 12th grade Mendocino County student scientists, promoting and encouraging their interest in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M).
Taking place on March 18th from 10 AM until 3 PM at Mendocino College, admission is free for all. This year’s Science and Engineering Fair has expanded to include a S.T.E.A.M. Expo, centered on the theme of “Mendocino Resilience.” Visitors will enjoy a student art gallery, participate in hands-on activities for all ages, and explore informational booths from educators, students, and community organizations.
Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Nicole Glentzer said, “As a parent, I'm always looking for fun activities to do with my children, and the Science Fair’s S.T.E.A.M. Expo is the perfect activity for families to enjoy together. Families can come and take part in games and interactive activities and see amazing student work on display.”
Student projects will be judged during the Fair, culminating in an awards ceremony at 4:00 PM. This ceremony will announce Mendocino County students who qualify to advance to the 72nd California Science & Engineering Fair, held virtually on April 11th.
MCOE Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services, Kim Kern, emphasized the importance of the event, saying, “This Fair is such an exciting and inspiring annual event. Opportunities for students to practice and share problem-solving and inquiry-based learning are incredibly valuable. Science and engineering are portals to the future.”
The Science and Engineering Fair & S.T.E.A.M. Expo is made possible through the support of Mendocino College and the Mendocino County education community, community organizations, and businesses who recognize the importance of promoting science education and opportunities for students.
“Mendocino College faculty and staff are excited to host the MCOE Science Fair. We believe introducing kids to STEAM programs early, and welcoming them to the college campus, opens doors for them to pursue a future in the sciences,” said Rebecca Montes, Dean of Instruction at Mendocino College. “We hope to see them back on campus as Mendo students in a few years!”
For more information about the event, please visit the Mendocino County Office of Education’s event website: https://bit.ly/mendoscifair2023.
MAGGY HAWK WINES: Winemaker. Friend. Wife. President of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. Foodie. Mother. Illustrator. Climate Advocate. Woman. The face, heart, and soul behind our label. She makes magic in our vineyards, leaves a bit of herself inside every bottle, and is the reason our wine shines with every sip. This #InternationalWomensDay (and every day), we're raising our glass to our very own Winemaker Sarah Wuethrich.
Cheers to all of the women out there CRUSHING it
Learn more about Sarah at maggyhawk.com/team.
DON'T RAILBANK THE NORTHWESTERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
by Adam Gaska
Historically the Northwestern Pacific Railroad ran from Eureka south to San Rafael moving freight and people. It's heydays are over. The northern section of the rail has been railbanked from Commercial St in Willits north to Humboldt Bay. That section of the line has historically been expensive to maintain and is no longer financially feasible.
The section south from Commercial Street in Willits needs repairs but could be cost effective to revive. Sonoma Marin Rapid Transit (SMART) has been diligently working to restore the southern most section. They are moving people from Larkspur to Sonoma County airport in Santa Rosa with plans to continue service north to Cloverdale.
The Skunk Train is running tourist rail on a small section of rail between Willits and Ft Bragg but their parent company, Mendocino Railway, would like to revive service between Ft Bragg, Willits and south. The Great Redwood Trail Agency is seeking to have the Surface Transportation Board, the federal agency that regulates rail service, deem adverse abandonment of the stretch of line being used by Mendocino Railway. This would allow the stretch of rail from Willits to Cloverdale to also be deemed as abandoned which would then allow The Great Redwood Trail to be built on top of the rail instead of along the side.
It has been closed to rail service since 1998 despite many attempts by by the North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA) to revive it. The past attempts were to revive the entire stretch from Eureka to San Rafael but the northern section which runs through the Eel River Canyon is unfeasible. Past attempts did not try to reopen just the southern stretch. Now the GRTA is attempting to abandon the entire line so they can build their trail.
SMART is having success repairing and reopening service from Larkspur to Santa Rosa. It seems premature to abandon the stretch of rail from Cloverdale to Willits. Considering our state's goals of lowering carbon emissions, it seems like we should be looking at any and all opportunities to alternative modes of transportation for people and freight.
Let's not be hasty in abandoning the opportunity to reopen rail service that would connect Mendocino county to Sonoma and Marin counties as well as the national rail system. While it may not entirely regain it's historic function, it does hold a lot of possibilities and opportunities to once again serve an important function for the North Coast.
Please join me in signing this petition that will be presented to the Surface Transportation Board opposing abandonment of the lines owned/operated by Mendocino Railway and the southern section of the North Western Pacific rail line from Willits to Coverdale.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, March 9, 2023
CLIFFORD ARMS, Ukiah. Criminal threats, contempt of court.
KEITH BOWLIN, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
OWEN BROCKETT, Potter Valley. Domestic battery, adult possessing marijuana on school grounds during school.
JEFFREY CARVER, Willits. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
KELLY CHARLESWORTH, Willits. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
SKYLAR DAUSMAN, Ukiah. Assault with firearm.
JAMES DUFFY, Fort Bragg. Conspiracy, resisting, probation revocation.
FABIAN GARCIA, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
MONIKA GONZALES, Citrus Heights/Ukiah. Battery with serious injury, battery on peace officer.
STEVEN JONES, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance for sale, marijuana for sale, paraphernalia.
ABEL LANDA-CASTANEDA, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
KOLE PARKER, Fort Bragg. Saps or similar weapons, controlled substance, paraphernalia.
LEWIS PERLL, Willits. DUI.
RACHAEL SEIVERTSON, Ukiah. Parole violation.
CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
THE DRAMATIC PLAN TO SAVE COWS STARVING TO DEATH IN THE SNOW: DROP HAY FROM THE SKY
by Tara Duggan
Cattle are dying in Humboldt County for a reason that’s usually unheard of in coastal California: They’re completely snowed in. That’s led Cal Fire and the U.S. Coast Guard to take part in an unusual emergency operation.
Helicopters usually reserved for water rescues and wildfires are transporting hay bales to stranded cows. The constant storms and cold weather have added up to deep accumulations of snow, even at low elevations, making it impossible for the cattle to graze and for ranchers to reach them to drop off feed.
“I can’t go to sleep at night worrying about my animals. They’re cold, they’re hungry,” said Michelle Bushnell, a rancher and Humboldt County supervisor who has been helping coordinate the effort, which started Sunday. She has 85 head of cattle that she has been able to feed using a bulldozer to get through 3 to 4 feet of snow, but the snow is several feet higher at other ranches.
On Tuesday the airdrop operation had to be put on hold due to more snow, though they resumed Wednesday. Bushnell said she felt lucky to have gotten some hay to her animals: “It’s every rancher’s worst nightmare, not being able to get them food.”
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has received “multiple reports of cattle dying off,” said Sheriff William Honsal in a video announcing the airdrop initiative, because both snow and downed trees are blocking roads. “If we don’t act, there’s going to be way more that die and it will be a catastrophe for our county,” he said.
The Sheriff's Office later said that several ranchers reported losing 10% of their herds, but most don't know the exact damage because they haven't been able to get up to their animals.
While the Coast Guard helped out in the beginning, it’s now Cal Fire, soon to be joined by the National Guard, that is working to assist 40 to 50 ranchers with about 2,500 free-range cattle spread over many miles — mostly in eastern Humboldt County and a few parts of Trinity and Mendocino counties. There are 15 to 50 cattle clustered in any given area, said Tran Beyea, fire captain at Humboldt-Del Norte Cal Fire.
“We’re going on eight, nine or even 10 days where cattle haven’t been able to feed,” he said.
For now, the transport is being funded by the state Office of Emergency Services, while ranchers will cover the cost of the hay itself.
The most snow is in higher elevations in the eastern part of the county, but the operation is taking place close to the coast, too, where snow is piling up even at 1,000 feet of elevation. Though the county’s ranchlands may get a few inches of snow this time of year, it usually melts off quickly.
“With a little bit of snow, you don’t worry too much,” said Jack Rice, a rancher in Fortuna who works with the California Cattlemen’s Association. “The cattle make their way down lower and find grass.”
It’s also calving season — a calf was born on Bushnell’s ranch this week — and it’s difficult for the cows to provide enough milk for their newborns.
“It’s supposed to be spring,” said Bushnell, who has run out of hay that usually lasts through August.
The idea for the rescue came about when Bushnell spoke with a longtime rancher who remembered that the National Guard assisted in a similar situation in 1989, though there was less snow then, she said. “Never in my lifetime have we gotten this amount of snow,” she said.
Beyea said it’s part of the agencies’ role to help in all types of extenuating circumstances.
“This snow and this weather are not a common thing for us in Humboldt,” he said. But “for us to get tasked with something other than fire emergency is not uncommon.”
The ranchers appreciate the work being done to save their animals, Rice said. One rancher who built her herd all on her own is “totally distressed that she may lose a portion of it or a lot of it,” he said.
“People pour so much into their animals,” he said. “There is a real concern for the animals’ welfare, and you’re frustrated because you can’t do anything about it.”
CATCH AND RELEASE
It is truly horrifying to read about the pair of individuals who were arrested in Lakeport with possession of large amounts fentanyl, methamphetamine and tear gas (“Police: Pair had enough fentanyl to kill 18,000,” March 1).
One suspect, James Biocca Jr., had six prior felony convictions. In fact, he had been arrested as recently as three weeks earlier in possession of tremendous amounts of fentanyl and meth. For his February arrest, he spent one night in jail and was released on bond the next day. It’s awfully hard to not feel cynical when there seems to be no effort to keep such dangerous individuals off the street.
We have giant billboards on Highway 101 warning the public about the dangers associated with fentanyl in Sonoma County. Yet this is how we handle individuals who we know are trying to sell it.
Must Watch! Strange that I missed this a month ago, given my criticism of Democracy Now! (which some time ago joined AIPAC in rejecting my subscription to their sites after criticizing the program on this page!). Here Max Blumenthal, Aaron Mate who once worked on the program, and Randy Credico, let fly on how Amy and Juan have sould (sic) out and particularly their sandbagging of Julian Assange and submitting to a funder who demanded she no longer interview John Pilger. [I checked the DN! site and found his last interview with DN! was Dec. 15, 2010! The headline for the story was ironic: "John Pilger: Global Support for WikiLeaks is “Rebellion” Against U.S. Militarism, Secrecy!"]
My problems with Amy go back to 1999 when she didn't have the guts to say a word of support for those on Pacifica's KPFA and KPFK stations who had been sacked by an executive director who had been a member of the a CPUSA and apparently, the FBI, until the network came for her.
OAKLAND'S ENCAMPMENT EVICTION BETRAYS THE HUMAN RIGHT TO HOUSING
by David Bacon
The words “housing is a human right” used to appear in bright colors on a painted placard at the gateway to Wood Street Commons, which until recently was the largest unhoused encampment in northern California. But this February, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) demonstrated how vehemently it disagrees with the placard’s assertion. Caltrans, which owns the land under an enormous freeway interchange called the MacArthur Maze, has evicted more than 300 people who had lived there for years. The U.S. Constitution does not recognize a right to housing, Caltrans asserts…
LONELY? TAKE A HIKE!
Santa Clara Prosecutor Sends Criminal to Jail, takes Women into The Great Outdoors
by Jonah Raskin
“Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight,” Roy Orbison sang on his hit single that has never gone out of style. In the greater San Francisco Bay Area, as in many other parts of Northern California, the lonely have always been a tangible presence. Perhaps now more than ever before, though loneliness is not an open and shut case, according to Olivia Mendoza, once a Miss Lonely Hearts herself.
When I've been lonely, the natural world has sustained me, all through COVID; mostly I walk in Golden Gate Park and along the Pacific at Ocean Beach in The City. If I were a woman I'd join Mendoza's organization. Since I'm not, I walk with anyone and everyone who will walk with me, no matter what their ethnicity or gender. Still, I know women who feel more comfortable walking in the company of other women, not in a group with guys who can be competitive on long distance hikes, though the women are as physically fit as can be.
A prosecutor in Santa Clara and in her mid-30s, Mendoza is the brains and the heartbeat behind the “Bay Area Adventure Gals Facebook Group” which launched on Valentine’s Day 2022. Yes, she sends convicted criminals to prison; on weekends and in her spare time, she leads the confined and the cooped-up into the Great Outdoors. Is that ironic? Perhaps. Mendoza's adventure group is fast growing, free and private. The average age is 25-34. To join, you have to be healthy enough to walk on your own two feet. The Internet is merely the springboard that brings women together face-to-face in real time.
Mendoza has a host of sensible and practical suggestions for the lonely. "Above all," she says, “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and reach out to others. Take the same leap of faith I took.” She adds, “The first and scariest leap is letting others know that you’re open to making meaningful friendships.”
Perhaps you’ve made it through a week without a meltdown and want to take a journey that will bring you to happiness and maybe even a touch of ecstasy. The Adventure Gals might offer what you’re looking for. Mendoza has created 60 or so "Community Chats" that, she says, have, “provided a safe and welcoming space to address feelings of social isolation and loneliness and build new friendships.”
Mendoza admits that during the on-going pandemic she has experienced a profound sense of sadness and loneliness, but that the pandemic has also prompted her “to turn things around.” Shestarted with 15 hikers; that core group expanded until the Bay Area Adventure Gals Facebook Group now numbers 11,000, 3,000 of them living in San Francisco, and with Community Chats for women of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+.
How does it work ? Lonely souls in search of connections go to Facebook, click + Join Groups, read and agree to the guidelines and be approved by Mendoza, who serves as the gatekeeper. If okayed the next step is to join an existing event or a chat, or create new ones. “It’s like picking up your phone and texting a few friends,” Mendoza says, though it’s not always that easy. Sometimes, she says, a lone post gets lost in a blizzard of posts and there’s a break down in communication.
But all is not lost. Mendoza adds that, “you always have your community and connections accessible to you.” Outdoor activities, especially hikes, are the lifeblood of the organization. The “gals,” as Mendoza calls them, have trekked at Castle Rock in Saratoga, on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, at The Pinnacles National Park which straddles San Benito and Monterey counties, the Marin Headlands, and Portola Valley in San Mateo County as well as Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. Her favorite is probably Yosemite. Women also get together for bingo, food and drink. You don’t even have to be
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I had two witch hazel trees at my previous house. Witch hazels bloom in February: clusters of tiny yellow flowers. I drive by the old house occasionally, and the witch hazels were blooming in mid-February (a little earlier than usual for here).
I don’t know if you’ve seen those little miniature irises–about three inches tall. They had them at Walmart last year, so I planted some. They also started blooming around mid-February this year.
There is nothing as pretty as when all the trees start to get little leaves on them. The woods are just heart-breakingly beautiful at that time. They look like an Arthur Rackham painting (fairyland).
JONAH RASKIN: This Black Panther poster I saw last Sunday in an art gallery in San Francisco on Minnesota Street. Most of the Panthers I knew thought they were making propaganda. Of course, they also believed that propaganda could be art. Now the emphasis especially in art galleries seems to be on the art, not on its connection to any movement for freedom, justice, peace and more. Some of the Panther art I viewed reminded me that the Panthers were everywhere, some of them in prison where they spoke out even when they were in solitary.
IRRESPONSIBLE REPORTS CREATE ELECTION MISTRUST
Back in the days before cable television service and streaming channels, “broadcasters” (an old term for content providers using “the air”) had an annual public renewal for their license to present programming and news. Broadcasting information for the public good, public service announcements and, of course, the truth were required for the emerging technology.
Although on-air networks fought cable, the Federal Communications Commission did allow a slow growth that has metastasized today. With hundreds of content providers, legacy networks now have grandfathered licenses without review. In a 2019 decision, the FCC eliminated the posting of network standards and practices, assigning it to the internet. In doing so, it surrendered all government standards to the Supreme Court.
Rupert Murdoch’s confirmation that his commentary luminaries at Fox News have lied to the public with claims of stolen elections and unreliable voting systems highlights this national crisis. The allegations against Fox News have created national strife, public unrest and mistrust of elections.
This is a travesty of the public’s trust earned by legacy networks. It is an unpatriotic fascist grab to control an unwitting and trusting public. This is not protected speech under the First Amendment. It is sedition.
WHY I BROKE MY RESOLUTION TO NEVER WRITE ABOUT ‘SIDEWAYS’
by Esther Mobley
For years, I resisted writing about “Sideways.”
The 2004 movie famously changed the U.S. wine market, catapulting sales of Pinot Noir — the favorite wine of protagonist Miles Raymond, played by Paul Giamatti — and devastating those of Merlot, the wine he abhors. In what is probably the film’s most quoted line, he exclaims: “If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am not drinking any f— Merlot!”
It was certainly interesting that a single Hollywood movie could change American wine sales so dramatically. But news of that phenomenon — the so-called “‘Sideways’ effect” — has been so exhaustively rehearsed in the news, over and over again, that I never saw any reason to write about it myself (even as other news outlets, for reasons beyond me, kept coming out with new versions of the same story). It’s been 19 years since this movie came out. I was pretty sure people didn’t need to hear about the “‘Sideways’ effect” anymore.
Well, I’m eating my words now, because this week I published a story about “Sideways.”
It came about after I talked to Rex Pickett, who wrote the novel that was adapted into the movie. While chatting with him, I realized that there was a different “Sideways” story I’d never heard before, and which was unfolding in real time: Pickett felt ripped off, he told me, by the way his movie and book deals went down. Now, he’s trying to capitalize on the notoriety of his creation to finally make his own fortune off of it.
Over the course of our conversation, Pickett also revealed some tidbits about “Sideways” that were new to me. And I thought there wasn’t anything new to learn about “Sideways”! So, for those of you who aren’t completely sick of hearing about this movie, allow me to share a few “Sideways” fun facts.
Pickett never intended to dig Merlot’s grave — in his view, it was already dug. Ultimately, the movie probably got too much credit for the downfall of Merlot in the aughts. This has actually been borne out by an academic paper, and Pickett himself agrees. “By the time I got serious about wine, if you liked Merlot it was tantamount to admitting you were a philistine,” Pickett said. Merlot had become very popular in the 1990s, thanks in part to an influential “60 Minutes” segment about the French Paradox, the observation that French people have lower rates of heart disease while maintaining a diet rich in things like butter and wine. Merlot, one of the two main grapes in the most famous French wine, Bordeaux, benefited from the publicity. But a subsequent overproduction of Merlot in the U.S. had led to a glut of “$5 plonk,” he said. Pickett wasn’t trying to influence the wine market based on his preferences; he was simply reflecting a trend already in motion.
Contrary to popular belief, Pickett’s ex-wife was not a Merlot drinker. There’s a widely held theory among wine geeks that Miles mostly dislikes Merlot because it was his ex-wife’s favorite wine. (If he really disliked Merlot, they point out, he wouldn’t be drinking a bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc, a Merlot-based wine from Bordeaux, in a climactic scene in a fast-food restaurant.) Since Miles is very much an autobiographical character, I assumed that Pickett’s own ex-wife (the Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Schock) was a Merlot fiend. Turns out that wasn’t the case, at least while they were married. “She only drank white wine,” Pickett said. “Thought red wine gave her rashes.”
The Maya character was based on a real person, but Pickett greatly exaggerated the scope of their relationship. In the book and the movie, Miles’ love interest is Maya (played by Virginia Madsen), a waitress at the Hitching Post restaurant. The restaurant is real, and so is the woman who inspired Maya — but nothing ever actually happened between her and Pickett. “There was a woman who worked at the Hitching Post, this beautiful server who knew wine,” Pitckett said. “I’d go up alone. At the end of the night I’d be hanging out there, drinking wine, she’d sit down at the bar and light a cigarette.” But, he clarified, “there was never any intimacy.” According to Pickett, the real-life Maya was not happy about that leap of imagination when the movie came out.
Two of Pickett’s sequel “Sideways” novels were funded by foreign wine-trade associations. After the original “Sideways,” which was set in Santa Barbara County, other wine countries throughout the world wanted their own version of that publicity — a romantic comedy set among their vines. First, Pickett traveled to Chile, funded by Chilean wineries; the result, “Sideways: Chile,” is a somewhat meta account of that experience, depicting Miles as a wine writer on a sponsored trip to Chile. Next came New Zealand, whose support allowed Pickett to spend six months traveling from the south island to the north island in a camper van. “Sideways: New Zealand” will be published later this year. So far, there are no plans to turn either into a movie, but Pickett is hopeful that could change.
Miles’ most grotesque moment in the movie was not a fictional invention. Pickett admitted it: “I have drunk from a spit bucket.”
ROWLING ADDRESSES the costs not just to biological women but to young kids. Here she shares her own private torment as a confused young girl and adolescent: 'I grew up in what I would say was quite a misogynistic household,' Rowling says. 'Like all young girls, I grew up with certain standards of beauty and ideas of femininity, and I felt I didn't fit into either of those groups. I didn't feel particularly feminine . . . I looked very androgynous at 11 and 12. I had short hair.' She says she felt the very common anxiety young girls do as their bodies change, as they develop and get their periods, as their bodies become something boys and men observe in new ways - ways that can carry shame or ambivalence, a wish to stop what's happening. 'It's very difficult to cope with that,' Rowling says. 'I questioned my sexuality. I'm thinking, 'Well, I can tell my friends are pretty - does that mean I'm gay?' Which I think is very common. I grew up to be a straight woman, but I've never forgotten that feeling of anxiety around my body . . . Having felt like an outsider in several different ways in my life, I have a real feeling for the underdog. And I have a real feeling for people who feel that they don't fit. And I see that, hugely, particularly, among younger trans people. I can understand that feeling only too well.' You'd think this would generate headlines - JK Rowling, public enemy number one of the trans community, countering her critics. But no.
— Maureen Callahan
ISRAEL’S LIBERAL SUPPORTERS ARE TAKING THEIR DENIAL TO A NEW LEVEL
by Norman Solomon
This week, when the New York Times featured an opinion piece by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, it harmonized with a crescendo of other recent pleas from prominent American supporters of Israel. Bloomberg warned that Israel’s new governing coalition is trying to give parliament the power to “overrule the nation’s Supreme Court and run roughshod over individual rights, including on matters such as speech and press freedoms, equal rights for minorities and voting rights.” Such a change would, Bloomberg added, undermine Israel’s “strong commitment to freedom.”
Strong commitment to freedom? That would sure be news to the more than 5 million Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.
The pretense is that what’s happening now with Israel amounts to a surprising aberration from its natural state. At times, the denial even rests on the tacit and absurd assumption that Jews are less inclined to commit atrocities than any other people. But recent events in Israel are continuing a long Zionist process that has been propelled by mixtures of valid yearning for safety and extreme ethnocentrism, with terrible results.
Three widely esteemed human rights organizations — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem — have rendered a clear and convincing judgment: Israel operates a system of apartheid against Palestinians.
When Israeli officials are confronted with such truth — as shown in a recent video of a Q&A session with Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely at the Oxford Union in Britain — the responding demagoguery is pathetic and outrageous.
During the last few weeks, Israel’s government has grown even more dangerous in rhetoric and oppressive in deeds, with its soldiers protecting Jewish settlers rampaging as they terrorized Palestinians with horrible violence.
Israel has been the fruition of a Zionist dream, but at the same time a real-life nightmare for Palestinian people. The occupation of Gaza and the West Bank that began in 1967 has been nothing less than an ongoing, large-scale crime against humanity. Now, early 2023 has brought an unprecedented flood of concern from Israel’s supporters in the United States. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government has made clear its fascistic contempt for Palestinian lives, while even taking steps to curb some rights of Israeli Jews.
Since mid-February, the leading liberal American Jewish organization J Street — “pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy” — has been sounding frantic alarms. The group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, warns that after taking power in early January, “the far-right . . . is now firmly in control of the government of Israel.” And “they are moving at lightning speed to enact their agenda, threatening to make Israel unrecognizable to millions of Jews and others in the United States who care deeply about the country and its people, and who believe in the democratic values on which it was founded.”
In a typical email alert, J Street declared that “Netanyahu is subverting Israel’s democracy” while advancing “a plan to completely strip the independence of Israel’s Supreme Court.” J Street went on to criticize the new government for policies not unlike those of Israeli governments going back decades; the new administration has “moved forward plans to build thousands of new settlement units in occupied territory” and “approved ‘legalization’ of at least nine West Bank settlement outposts that were previously unauthorized by the Israeli government — acts of de facto annexation.”
And yet, after decrying these ominous developments, the J Street action alert just told recipients to merely “contact your representative in Washington and urge them to speak out and stand up for our shared interests and democratic values.”
Early this month, J Street lamented that “terrible violence and conflict on the ground continue to escalate — as this year has seen deadly terror attacks on Israelis and the highest monthly death toll for Palestinians in over a decade.” But J Street refuses to call for a cutback — let alone a cutoff — of the massive subsidy of several billion dollars in military aid that automatically flows every year from the U.S. Treasury to the Israeli government.
Far from being a “Jewish democratic state,” Israel has evolved into a Jewish supremacist state. In the real world, “Israeli democracy” is an oxymoron. Denial does not make that any less true.
(Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy. His next book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, will be published in June 2023 by The New Press.)
MY STATEMENT TO CONGRESS
In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee about the Twitter Files, a few words about why state-funded "anti-disformation" and free speech can't coexist
by Matt Taibbi
Editor’s note: at around 10 a.m. EST this morning, Michael Shellenberger and I will be testifying at the“Hearing on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on the Twitter Files” for the House Judiciary Committee, in the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Just before, around 9:00 a.m., we’ll also be releasing a TwitterFiles “Statement to Congress” thread, which will be submitted to the record. It contains some surprises. My opening:
Chairman Jordan, ranking member Plaskett, members of the Select Committee,
My name is Matt Taibbi. I’ve been a reporter for over 30 years, and an advocate for the First Amendment. Much of that time was spent at Rolling Stonemagazine. Over my career, I’ve had the good fortune to be recognized for the work I love. I’ve won the National Magazine Award, the I.F. Stone Award for independent journalism, and written ten books, including four New York Timesbestsellers. I’m now the editor of the online magazine Racket,on the independent platform Substack.
I’m here today because of a series of events that began late last year, when I received a note from a source online.
It read: “Are you interested in doing a deep dive into what censorship and manipulation… was going on at Twitter?”
A week later, the first of what became known as the “Twitter Files” reports came out. To say these attracted intense public interest would be an understatement. My computer looked like a slot machine as just the first tweet about the blockage of the Hunter Biden laptop story registered 143 million impressions and 30 million engagements.
But it wasn’t until a week after the first report, after Michael Shellenberger, Bari Weiss, and other researchers joined the search of the “Files,” that we started to grasp the significance of this story.
The original promise of the Internet was that it might democratize the exchange of information globally. A free internet would overwhelm all attempts to control information flow, its very existence a threat to anti-democratic forms of government everywhere.
What we found in the Files was a sweeping effort to reverse that promise, and use machine learning and other tools to turn the internet into an instrument of censorship and social control. Unfortunately, our own government appears to be playing a lead role.
We saw the first hints in communications between Twitter executives before the 2020 election, where we read things like:
Hi team, can we get your opinion on this? This was flagged by DHS:
Please see attached report from the FBI for potential misinformation.
This would be attached to excel spreadsheet with a long list of names, whose accounts were often suspended shortly after.
Following the trail of communications between Twitter and the federal government across tens of thousands of emails led to a series of revelations. Mr. Chairman, we’ve summarized these and submitted them to the committee in the form of a new Twitter Files thread, which is also being released to the public now, on Twitter at @ShellenbergerMD, and @mtaibbi.
We learned Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other companies developed a formal system for taking in moderation “requests” from every corner of government: the FBI, DHS, HHS, DOD, the Global Engagement Center at State, even the CIA. For every government agency scanning Twitter, there were perhaps 20 quasi-private entities doing the same, including Stanford’s Election Integrity Project, Newsguard, the Global Disinformation Index, and others, many taxpayer-funded.
A focus of this fast-growing network is making lists of people whose opinions, beliefs, associations, or sympathies are deemed “misinformation,” “disinformation,” or “malinformation.” The latter term is just a euphemism for “true but inconvenient.”
Undeniably, the making of such lists is a form of digital McCarthyism.
Ordinary Americans are not just being reported to Twitter for “deamplification” or de-platforming, but to firms like PayPal, digital advertisers like Xandr, and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe. These companies can and do refuse service to law-abiding people and businesses whose only crime is falling afoul of a distant, faceless, unaccountable, algorithmic judge.
As someone who grew up a traditional ACLU liberal, this mechanism for punishment without due process is horrifying.
Another troubling aspect is the role of the press, which should be the people’s last line of defense.
But instead of investigating these groups, journalists partnered with them. If Twitter declined to remove an account right away, government agencies and NGOs would call reporters for the New York Times, Washington Post, and other outlets, who in turn would call Twitter demanding to know why action had not been taken.
Effectively, news media became an arm of a state-sponsored thought-policing system.
Some will say, “So what? Why shouldn’t we eliminate disinformation?”
To begin with, you can’t have a state-sponsored system targeting “disinformation” without striking at the essence of the right to free speech. The two ideas are in direct conflict.
Many of the fears driving what my colleague Michael Shellenberger calls the “Censorship-Industrial Complex” also inspired the infamous “Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798.” The latter outlawed “any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against Congress or the president.”
Here is something that will sound familiar: supporters of that law hundreds of years ago were quick to denounce their critics as sympathizers with a hostile foreign power, at the time France. Alexander Hamilton said Thomas Jefferson and his supporters were “more Frenchmen than Americans.”
Jefferson, in vehemently opposing these laws, said democracy cannot survive in a country where power is given to people “whose suspicions may be the evidence.” He added:
It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism.
Jefferson’s ideas still ring true today. In a free society we don’t mandate truth, we arrive at it through discussion and debate. Any group that claims the “confidence” to decide fact and fiction, especially in the name of protecting democracy, is always, itself, the real threat to democracy.
This is why “anti-disinformation” just doesn’t work. Any experienced journalist knows experts are often initially wrong, and sometimes they even lie. In fact, when elite opinion is too much in sync, this itself can be a red flag.
We just saw this with the Covid lab-leak theory. Many of the institutions we’re now investigating initially labeled the idea that Covid came from a lab “disinformation” and conspiracy theory. Now apparently even the FBI takes it seriously.
It’s not possible to instantly arrive at truth. It is however becoming technologically possible to instantly define and enforce a political consensus online, which I believe is what we’re looking at.
This is a grave threat to people of all political persuasions.
For hundreds of years, the thing that’s distinguished Americans from all other people around the world is the way we don’t let anyone tell us what to think, certainly not the government.
The First Amendment, and an American population accustomed to the right to speak, is the best defense left against the Censorship-Industrial Complex. If the latter can knock over our first and most important constitutional guarantee, these groups will have no serious opponent left anywhere.
If there’s anything the Twitter Files show, it’s that we’re in danger of losing this most precious right, without which all other democratic rights are impossible.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear, and I would be happy to answer any questions from the Committee.
UKRAINE, Thursday, March 9, 2023
A barrage of Russian missiles struck cities across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, the Black Sea port of Odesa and the second city of Kharkiv, killing at least six civilians, according to officials.
Russia says the wave of attacks were in retaliation for a border incursion last week that Moscow blamed on Kyiv. Ukraine denied responsibility.
— Al Jazeera
* * *
RUSSIA HITS UKRAINE HARD: Vladimir Putin's pre-dawn missile barrage targeted energy infrastructure in capital Kyiv, the Black Sea port of Odesa and Ukraine's second-largest city Kharkiv, knocking out power to several areas, regional officials said. The power supply to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was also lost, officials said. Other targets hit by pre-dawn strikes stretched from Zhytomyr, Vynnytsia, Rivne and the Lviv region in the west Dnipro and Poltava in central Ukraine , and the northern city of Chernihiv - as well as in the cities of Dnipro, Lutsk and Rivne. Explosions were also reported in the western regions of Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil. Ukraine said its air defences shot down nearly three dozen Russian missiles across the country. It said Moscow's forces had launched 81 missiles - including six rare Kinzhal hypersonic missiles and eight drones - from different bases in a coordinated attack. Four people were killed in the Lviv region after a missile struck a residential area, Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi said. Three buildings were destroyed by fire after the strike and rescue workers were combing through rubble looking for more possible victims. A fifth person was killed and two others wounded in multiple strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region that targeted its energy infrastructure and industrial facilities, Gov. Serhii Lysak said. The missile barrage struck as Russia pushed its advance in Ukraine's eastern stronghold of Bakhmut, where a grinding fight between the two sides has gone on for six months and reduced the city to a smouldering wasteland.
— Daily Mail
THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FBI’S BIGGEST BOMB
by James Bovard
Thirty years ago last week, the largest terrorist attack in American history up to that time occurred when a 1200-pound bomb exploded beneath the World Trade Center in New York City. It was sheer luck that the explosion did not topple the entire skyscraper and kill thousands of people. On the anniversary, politicians held solemn ceremonies but made no mention of the FBI’s role in that disaster.
On November 5, 1990, Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated at a New York hotel. Kahane advocated banishing all Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories, and his political party was banned from the Knesset for “inciting racism” and “endangering security.” Kahane was shot by El Sayyid Nosair, a 36-year-old Egyptian immigrant, who was part of an anti-Israeli cabal of Muslims in the New York area. When police searched Nosair’s residence, they carried off 47 boxes of documents, paramilitary manuals, maps, and diagrams of buildings (including the World Trade Center).
No one in the New York FBI office could read Arabic, so those documents – labeled “a road map” to the 1993 bombing – were left in storage for more than two years. A 2002 congressional report noted that the New York Police Department “resisted attempts to label the Kahane assassination a ‘conspiracy’ despite the apparent links to a broader network of radicals” because they “wanted the appearance of speedy justice and a quick resolution to a volatile situation.” Nosair’s legal defense was reportedly financed by Osama Bin Laden.
The trial, which began in late 1991, was “marked by rioting outside the courthouse, death threats against the judge and lawyers, calls for ‘blood’ revenge against the defendant and cries of ‘Death to Jews!’ from his Moslem supporters,” the National Law Journal reported. The FBI placed an informant named Emad Salem, a 43-year-old former Egyptian military officer, in the midst of the Muslim protesters. Salem insinuated himself and became the bodyguard for Sheik Abdul Rahman, a radical Muslim cleric. Despite stark evidence, a New York jury bizarrely found Nosair not guilty of murder.
In mid-1992, Salem repeatedly warned the FBI that radical Muslims were planning to carry off a catastrophic bombing in New York City. FBI supervisors were convinced he was concocting tall tales and ceased paying him $500 a week. On February 26, 1993, a massive bomb in a van exploded in the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center, killing six people, injuring more than a thousand, and causing half a billion dollars in damage. If the van had been parked a few feet closer to one of the pillars, an entire tower of the Trade Center could have collapsed.
An Immigration and Naturalization Service snafu contributed to the success of the bombing. One of the key plotters, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, was stopped at JFK International Airport in September 1992 after an INS inspector recognized that his Iraqi passport was a fraud. Yousef applied for asylum. Because the nearby “holding facility” the INS used for illegal immigrants was full, the INS permitted Yousef to enter the United States. A 1998 ABC News analysis noted, “Yousef was living in a guest house in Pakistan paid for by bin Laden at the time of his capture – a connection that lead the FBI to investigate whether bin Laden was also the mysterious source of money behind the bombing.” Yousef slipped out of the United States immediately after the bombing.
The FBI “cracked the case” when a knucklehead plotter demanded a refund for his $400 deposit for the Ryder rental truck used for the bombing. Time noted that the FBI “looked supremely capable in speedily rounding up suspects in the World Trade Center bombing.” Federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy later bragged to a New York jury that the first World Trade Center attack was one of the FBI’s finest hours: “To the rest of the world out there, the explosion in all its tragedy was actually a high-water mark for the FBI.” FBI director William Sessions declared, “Based on what was known to us at the time, we have no reason to believe we could have prevented the bombing of the World Trade Center.”
Bull. After the bombing, the FBI quickly rehired Salem and promised him a million dollars to develop evidence of additional terrorist plots. Salem didn’t trust the feds to pay so he secretly recorded his conversations with FBI agents. In August 1993, as the case was heading for trial, news leaked that Salem had made tapes of more than a hundred hours of his conversations with FBI agents and handlers. Those tapes portrayed the FBI as co-conspirator with the terrorist plotters.
In a call to an FBI agent shortly after the bombing, Salem complained,
We was start already building the bomb… supervising, supervision from the Bureau [FBI] and the DA [district attorney] and we was all informed about it. And we know that the bomb start to be built. By who? By your confidential informant. What a wonderful great case. And then he [the FBI supervisor] put his head in the sand and said, oh no, no, no that’s not true, he is a son of a bitch, okay.
In another taped call, Salem anguished to one FBI agent, “You were informed. Everything is ready. The day and the time. Boom. Lock them up and that’s that. That’s why I feel so bad.” On another tape, Salem asked an FBI agent, “Do you deny your supervisor is the main reason of bombing the World Trade Center?” The agent did not deny Salem’s charge. FBI agent Nancy Floyd confided to Salem that her supervisors had botched the case: “I felt that the people on the squad, that they didn’t have a clue…. That the supervisors didn’t know what was going on. That they hadn’t taken the time to learn the history.”
So how did the FBI exonerate itself? The New York Times published a “correction” noting that the FBI claimed to be unsure which building the terrorists were going to blow up: “Transcripts of tapes made secretly by an informant, Emad A. Salem, quote him as saying he warned the Government that a bomb was being built. But the transcripts do not make clear the extent to which the Federal authorities knew that the target was the World Trade Center.”
Before the bombing, Salem offered to substitute harmless powder for the deadly explosives and thereby preventing any catastrophe. The FBI spurned his offer. Salem complained to one FBI agent that an FBI supervisor “requested to make me to testify [in public] and if he didn’t push for that, we’ll be going building the bomb with a phony powder and grabbing the people who was involved in it. But … we didn’t do that.” “Tapes Depict Proposal to Thwart Bomb Used in Trade Center Blast,” headlined the New York Times report on this stunning revelation.
What is more shocking than an FBI informant planted amidst the most deadly terror plot in American history? Two FBI informants in the same plot. As Newsday reported on October 29, 1993 that
The FBI had a second confidential informant who infiltrated the Jersey City mosque where the sheik preached. According to law-enforcement sources, two months before the Feb. 26 Trade Center bombing, the informant was on a military-style training exercise in a New Jersey park with other suspects when he was asked to obtain dynamite for an attack. After the informant told FBI officials, they met for nearly an entire day to consider providing the suspects with inoperative, counterfeit dynamite. But, to avoid the possibility of an entrapment charge, FBI officials instead pulled the informant off the assignment the next day, sources said.
“Instead of trying to stop it they just waited for it to happen, then swooped in and arrested everyone,” said an investigator. “It was incredible.”
The feds considered Salem credible enough to pay him that million dollars for his 1995 testimony to convict Muslim conspirators before they carried out further attacks on New York City landmarks. Those court victories permitted the FBI to continue pirouetting as national saviors.
But the trial revealed that Salem was far more than a passive collector of dirt. informant. As Time magazine reported just after the trial: “It was Salem who consulted [blind sheik] on possible bombing targets; rented the ‘safe house’ in Queens, New York, where the conspirators gathered (and in which the FBI installed the video cameras); and had the only key to the garage where the explosives were prepared. Moreover, he even bragged to Barbara Rogers, his wife at the time, that he was the leader of the group. ‘I am the shepherd,’ Rogers recalls him saying. ‘They are the sheep.’” The defendants in the trial got fleeced when they tried to claim entrapment.
There were no congressional investigations of the self-confessed role of the FBI informant in the most destructive bombing in American history. Instead, Congress continued boosting the FBI budget, which presumably would solve all the problems exposed in the 1993 bombing case.
In 1997, FBI Director Louis Freeh promised Congress that he would “double the ‘shoe leather’” for counterterrorism investigations. But walking was no substitute for thinking.
FBI debacles in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing foreshadowed far worse antiterrorism failures in the following decades. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the FBI again dismally failed to connect the dots of terrorist plotters inside the U.S. An FBI agent groused in 2002 that the bureau’s ethos was that “real men don’t type. The only thing a real agent needs is a notebook, a pen and gun, and with those three things you can conquer the world…. The computer revolution just passed us by.” The FBI’s gross negligence “contributed to the United States becoming, in effect, a sanctuary for radical terrorists,” according to a 2002 congressional investigation. The Bush administration suppressed the full details of FBI failures to detect the terrorist plots that left thousands of Americans dead.
Since the 1993 bombing, neither Congress nor federal courts have put the FBI on a leash, and the media continues kowtowing to G-men who serve up juicy leaks. The FBI responded to its 9/11 failures by vastly increasing its entrapment operations but it continues to blunder against real threats. When judging the FBI, never forget comedian Lily Tomlin’s maxim: “No matter how cynical you get, it’s never enough to keep up.”
(James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books. Bovard is on the USA Today Board of Contributors. He is on Twitter at @jimbovard. His website is at www.jimbovard.com This essay was originally published by Future of Freedom Foundation. CounterPunch.org)