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DRY WEATHER AND MOSTLY SUNNY SKIES are expected across the area today. Another chilly night is expected tonight with widespread near freezing or freezing temperatures. Monday a strong storm system entering the region early next week. Rain, heavy mountain snow, and gusty south winds will spread across the area Monday and continue through Wednesday. Mainly dry weather is expected Thursday with additional rain possible late in the week. (NWS)
AV FIRE CHIEF’S REPORT (excerpts from the Minutes of last Wednesday’s Community Services District meeting)
Water Tender: Our new water tender has finally been delivered by Kenworth to Fouts Brothers Manufacturing for final buildup. This order was originally paced in November of 2021 with the anticipation of being put into service for fire season of 2022. Nationwide manufacturing and logistical issues have been the primary reason for the delay. Now that the vehicle has been delivered, we have a 90-day buildup timeframe and we can expect to pick up the vehicle in early to mid-May. This will put the new water tender in service for the upcoming fire season.
Winter Storms: We have endured several storms over the last two months from both rain and snow. The worse storm impact so far this season was from the February 23 winter storm putting several inches of snow in the upper elevations and throughout Yorkville. Numerous trees created road closures (Hwy 128, Hwy 253, Fish Rock, Mountain View, Peachland, Yorkville Ranch, and many private roads). Our new 4x4 ambulance proved to be an invaluable asset.
Dad told mom he would be right behind her, he kept his word. He passed away barely over a week after mom.
Winfred Golden lived in the valley from the late 40's until 1973. He worked in sawmills, logged, built roads and ponds in the valley. He used to do the BBQ at Buckaroo Days and him and mom would make the sauce.
He was 95, preceded in death by his wife of 76 years, Emogene, son Gary, his brothers Charlie, Clark, Cecil and Curtis, his sister Bea Coffman, his parents, John and Nancy Golden. Survived by his 2 daughters, 4 granddaughters, 4 great grandchildren, 3 great-great grandchildren and 1 on the way.
by Mark Scaramella
Even third-rate Mendocino County knows that inflated or bogus numbers seem more credible when they’re gathered and assembled by a computer, then stuffed into a PowerPoint presentation. That’s probably why Mendo is spending about $45k for a cellphone app called “Counting Us!” (the exclamation point probably cost an extra $5k) to “Automate the 2023 Point-in-Time Count and Conduct Surveys with People Experiencing Homelessness in Mendocino County, Effective January 11, 2022 Through a New End Date of December 14, 2023.” According to the app developer, Counting Us! lets the Counters conduct cellphone “unsheltered surveys when a person can be engaged, and Observation Tally forms are used for times when that is not an option.” Another fancy feature makes sure that children are not asked if they are veterans! (Such a waste of time!) Built in GPS “captures the exact location of each survey interaction,” etc. But there’s nothing in the app about duplication prevention or incentives that might artificially increase counts or any of the other Point in Time Count flaws identified by the Marbut Report which said that Mendo’s point in time counts significanly exaggerate the number of homeless persons in Mendocino County. There’s also no mention of whether the app helps in determining if the countee is a local or a traveler.
* * *
Remember the “veg mod hell” problem some pot permit found themselves in because of the arbitrary strictness, rigidity and cumbersomeness of the rules about tree removal for pot grows? At the same time that the Supervisors claim to be trying to “streamline” the pot permit process, they asked County Counsel Christian Curtis to “clarify” the veg mod rule. Here’s the proposed clarified new rule:
“Prohibition on Tree Removal. Removal of any commercial tree species as defined by Title 14 California Code of Regulations section 895.1, Commercial Species for the Coast Forest District and Northern Forest District, and the removal of any true oak species (Quercus sp.) or Tan Oak (Notholithocarpus sp.) for the purpose of developing a cannabis cultivation site is prohibited. This prohibition shall not include the pruning of any such trees for maintenance, or the removal of such trees if necessary to address safety or disease concerns. For purposes of this Section 10A.17.040(K), ‘for the purpose of developing a cultivation site’ shall mean the alteration, grading, removal, or other development of land to create, or expand, a cultivation site, as that term is defined in Section 10A.17.020.”
* * *
Meanwhile the pot permit processors (aka Mendocino Cannabis Department, MCD) provided an “update” as part of next Tuesday’s Board agenda packet.
“Annual Permit Renewal Update
Department staff is currently focused on reviewing renewal applications and has 168 renewal applications in the review queue, of which:
77 applications are under final review, and
31 need compliance plans,
14 are non-responsive,
15 are under vegetation modification review,
20 are under sensitive species habitat review,
55 are in need of inspection,
7 need DCC license alignment, and/or
3 need administrative permits.
The department recently implemented an updated tracking system to gain insight into compliance and processing issues as they come up during renewal application.”
* * *
Notice that the “update” does not say how long these applications have been under review. (Most were submitted four or five years ago.) Nor does it say how many are not being reviewed and why. However, according to this chart…
…applications are taking 4 to 9 weeks to conduct and the 182 applications (total Priority applications, a few more than the intro stated, but whatever…) will take a whopping 54,000 hours of staff time to review (equivalent to 27 full time equivalent staff years), for an average of around 300 hours per. At an average of say, $100k per staffer (salary & benefits), that’s almost $3 million to review (and possibly approve?) 182 clean applications, or about $150,000 per review.
These numbers are ridiculous, of course, but that’s what we’re told by the MCD and nobody at 501 Low Gap seems dubious.
These are the applications that have made it this far and are presumbly relatively clean and reviewable. There’s nothing in the pot permit update about streamlining even as the Supervisors consider eliminating some steps or having the state do some or all of it.
In fact, the Pot Permit Department has grown to 22 high paid/funded staff positions (not all of which are filled, of course).
This does not include code enforcement staff nor does it include the 8 outside consultants the County recently hired (also without mentioning any streamlining).
And, like all the other County departments, there’s no budget info, other than, at last count, the Pot Permit department is at least about $700k over budget. Grants cloud the Pot Permit Department’s budget picture, however.
ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE: Events Calendar
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Diva has an exuberant, puppy-like personality, and she’s very playful. This gorgeous girl really likes her toys! Diva has a good start on her basic training and knows sit, down, and catches treats in the air like a pro! When she’s out walking on-leash, Diva has a tendency to pull—so leash manners could be her first post-adoption training. Diva cannot live around chickens. We are also recommending no young kids in Diva’s new digs, as she may steal their snacks! Diva would enjoy a canine playmate in her new home. Ms. Diva is a 2 year old Alaskan Malamute. She’s 63 pounds and spayed--ready to rumble right outta the shelter and into your life! Head over to mendoanimalshelter.com to read more about Diva. Visit us on Facebook at: facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter
For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453 in Ukiah, and 707-467-6453 in Ft. Bragg.
LOUSY LEGAL ADVICE LEADS TO LOUSIER PUBLIC POLICY
by Jim Shields
Apparently, only in Mendocino County is the question to copy or not to copy.
Kate Maxwell, publisher of the Mendocino Voice, reported this week on something I thought was resolved way back in the mid-90s when yours truly and others (I believe the UDJ’s KC Meadows was involved also) challenged outrageous Superior Court fees for copies of public records. I’ll return to that history in a moment.
Maxwell wrote, “Last week was ‘Sunshine Week,’ when government transparency organizations, freedom of press advocates, and news outlets around the country highlight the importance of public transparency and access to government records — and this year, Mendocino County made the list of top villains in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s ‘Foilies Awards’ for our new local public records fee ordinance. Since it was first proposed last June, we’ve advocated at multiple public meetings for Mendocino County to overturn this outrageous ordinance, which requires residents and news outlets to pay exorbitant fees, in advance, for access to records that should be free through a public records request. As part of this effort, we put together a letter from media outlets across the region along with state and national free speech advocacy groups, asking the supervisors to reconsider this unlawful ordinance.”
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “The Foilies regularly recounts outrageous public records fees that seem clearly aimed at discouraging specific records requests. … This award to officials in Mendocino County, Calif., is based on their creation of a fee system that appears designed to discourage everyone from requesting public records. The ordinance lets officials charge you $20 per hour to look for records if you fail to ‘describe a specifically identifiable record.’ … Mendocino County's ordinance is on shaky legal ground. The California Public Records Act does not give state and local government agencies the authority to assess their own search fees, review fees, or even fees to redact records. The law only allows agencies to charge the public what it costs to make copies of the records they seek.”
Just how preposterous is this ordinance that was conjured up out of whole cloth by the County Counsel’s office and then unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors? Well, listen to Maxwell’s experience: “Since the ordinance passed, I personally have had responses to my requests with estimated fees for amounts including $66,660, $28,200, and $16,856.22 — the first two for a single records request related to current supervisors discussions on cannabis regulations and CAMP raids. As a small, locally owned outlet, we don’t have the budget for these kinds of fees.”
The Mendocino Voice also reported, “Attorneys for The First Amendment Coalition (FAC) notified the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors that Ord. 4507 is unlawful in advance of its passage, and an open letter urging the board to reconsider was cosigned by almost every media outlet in the region. But on the advice of County Counsel Christian Curtis the board passed the ordinance in a unanimous vote. … ‘It’s one of the votes that I really regret making,”(Supervisor John) Haschak said … Haschak recently found out that officials from other government agencies share the FAC’s legal opinion, and has since had second thoughts. Ord. 4507 went into effect in August, 2022, and a staff report on its implementation was placed on the consent calendar agenda for a regular meeting of the board on Feb. 8 7. Haschak had it “pulled” for further discussion, saying he no longer believes these fees to be on ‘solid legal ground.’ According to Haschak, officials from Orange County informed him that counties are legally authorized to recover direct costs of document reproduction — but not staff time — during a presentation to the California State Association of Counties (CSAC). ‘Charging when we shouldn’t be charging puts us at a risk [of a lawsuit] I think, so I would like to have the board reconsider this ordinance because it could be detrimental to us in the long run,’ Haschak said. His motion died later in the meeting for lack of a second, however.”
I agree with Maxwell, EFF, FAC, and anyone else with half their wits about them, that the County’s ordinance is on shaky legal ground because as I said at the top of this column, I thought this issue was resolved years ago and was settled law.
Here’s my recollection of the issue.
Back in mid-90s, the Superior Courts started charging some ludicrous document copying fee like $3 per page when other county departments and agencies were charging only a nickel or a dime (or nothing at all for just a few pages). I was involved in that legal fight. At the time of that controversy, the Supervisors were John Pinches, Liz Henry, Seiji Sugawara, Charles Peterson, and Frank McMichael. The then-County Counsel, was Peter Klein I believe, and he agreed with our position that only the actual cost related to the photo-copying process could be charged. All five supervisors concurred that the Courts’ copy fees were not in line with the California Public Records Acts.
Astonishingly, the Black Robes’ administrator claimed that what they were charging was the actual cost of the photo reproduction of a document.
McMichael, who at the time was the 2nd District Supervisor from Ukiah, replied, “If that's the case, then we really can't afford to have those copy machines.”
Bringing things back to the present, Haschak’s four colleagues now need to join him in rescinding this on-its-face illegal ordinance, and tell County Counsel Curtis, “We really can’t afford to have this kind of legal advice.”
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)
I SENT this on-line comment re Building and Planning to Supervisor Williams for his reaction:
”Their [Mendo] building and planning department is just as screwy. All working from home and don’t seem to have access to their own records. Even the realtors can’t call to get info on properties for sale. People are not supposed to be able to go there in person without an appointment but they never answer the phone, never call back or reply back to emails. So, you can’t get an appointment! Word is you just have to go down there in person and hope someone, anyone, happens to be in the office that day and that they feel like letting you in in order for you to get any information at all out of them. Seems like the entire county government isn’t functional. I wonder if the court system is working.”
WILLIAMS REPLIED: “Date, time, location? This hasn’t been my experience when walking in unannounced recently.”
BEFORE HE BECAME a big time music producer. Lawrence Livermore lived in Spyrock where he produced one of America's first 'zines, The Lookout, a wonderfully readable mix of reporting, unpopular opinion and music reviews, some of the content angering his outlaw neighbors who felt the brilliant little mag brought unwelcome attention to the neighborhood. Later, when the renowned band Green Day kicked off, I mentioned to an otherwise disinterested kid that Livermore was a friend of mine. The kid came alive, looking at me suspiciously. “Wow! Really?” Etc. Which is when I realized Livermore had moved gloriously, lucratively on from his humble years as a Mendo outlaw. Having tuned out forever at Sinatra, I wouldn't know Tre Cool from Taylor Swift, the latter my granddaughter's fave, but I'm always happy to see Larry when he revisits his Mendo haunts, among them his place up on Spy Rock.
THE DEMOCRAT'S perpetual efforts to get Trump have always involved local, state and federal agencies all the way up to the FBI, but the net effect of these clumsy Get Trump obsessions have only made the Orange Monster more popular among the deplorables than when he was president. The Democrats could give lessons on their genius for making the most implausible political figure in American history an actual victim of government persecution.
BOONVILLE'S beloved weekly is four square for Bernie Norvell to become 4th District supervisor. The popular mayor of a revived Fort Bragg, a town not long ago synonymous with criminality when, in 1987, a leading citizen got away with burning down the heart of the city in one splendid night of triple arsons and perhaps a murder to top it off, Norvell has done an impressive job helping make Fort Bragg a model of civic functioning.
STANDARDS of civic functioning being pretty low in Mendocino County, especially in the battered county seat of Ukiah, Fort Bragg has been especially effective at managing its homeless population, homelessness being the euphemism these days for free range dope heads, drunks, psychotics, and old fashioned bums, while Ukiah, with its army of helping professionals and clusters of non-profits, not to mention its wildly over-compensated town manager, Seldom Seen Sage Sangiacomo, leaves its police department to keep the town's streets reasonably safe.
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, she's always a changin', as we see in this sentence from the Press Democrat's sports page. “In the win over the Tigers (3-6), Ukiah plated four runs in the first and then had three pitchers combine to finish the job…” “Plated”? As in scored?
JIM ARMSTRONG writes: “About 50 years ago, Beacon [Bobby] fired a shot over our heads and threatened to shoot my dog for chasing livestock on 'his' beach. There was no livestock present and the beach was not posted."
MY SOLE BEACON experience also occurred fifty years ago, and I'm here to say the guy's alright with me. A couple of us starry-eyed do-gooders took a half-dozen delinquents on a hike from up around the Rossi Ranch on Signal Ridge, Philo, due west to the Pacific. With the delinquents demanding we call for rescue helicopters about a hundred yards from our starting point, we plodded on all afternoon when suddenly this large, armed man roared up on an ATV, shouting dire threats and the news, to us, that we were trespassing. Even the delinquents seemed cowed. We apologized. The large man turned out to be the famous Bobby Beacon who, when he wound down, invited us to follow him to his house down the hill where he laid on a most generous array of soft drinks and showed us the way to Highway One.
14TH ANNUAL EARTH DAY CELEBRATION, April 22, features activities, workshops, great food, and lively local music
Noyo Food Forest’s 14th Annual Earth Day Festival will be held Saturday April 22 from Noon-4pm at The Learning Garden on the Fort Bragg High School campus at 300 Dana Street. This year’s festival will include a plant sale, a farmers panel, artisan crafts, mural painting, community nonprofits, delicious food, live music, and our famous bicycle-powered smoothies – all with a focus on regenerative gardening/farming and cultivating community.
Local nonprofit organizations will host information tables, many with fun projects for kids of all ages, and vendors will offer earth-friendly, handcrafted wares. Gardening workshops will include topics such as Growing Succulents and Seed Sovereignty, and local farmers from Mist Farms, Wavelength, and Noyo Food forest will speak on an educational panel. In addition, this year’s local commemoration will feature a land acknowledgement ceremony. Food offerings include: Taqueria Los Primos, Noyo Food Forest’s famous Smoothie Bike Bar, a dessert table from Engel & Völkers, plus bagels and pretzels from Hard Head Bread. Live music all afternoon by 2nd Hand Grass, Keeter Stewart, and Lavender Grace and the Honey Hive Ensemble. The event will be MCd by Dred Scott.
Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a “national teach-in on the environment,” and is now an international celebration. Our multicultural, multi-generational event brings people and organizations from all across our community to celebrate the earth. The Earth Day Festival has been the signature benefit event for Noyo Food Forest since it was founded in 2006. This year’s community sponsors include Mendocino Solar Service and Harvest Market.
This event is open to all, no entrance fee, adult donations encouraged. Please observe school campus rules: no dogs, no alcohol or drugs, and no smoking. More information at noyofoodforest.org.
COMPTCHE NATIVE JAMES “JIMMY” CIRO TURNS 100
by George Hollister & Rowan Kawczak
Comptche native, James “Jimmy” Ciro, turns 100 on March 27th. Ciro’s noteworthy life transcends a period of time in the Mendocino Redwood region that began in an economy of large sawmills, local railroads, steam donkeys, lumber schooners, hand logging, hand woodworking tools, logging camps, small profitable family farms, wood cook stoves, tan bark harvesters, bootleggers, and railroad split tie makers. In his hundred years this rural old growth redwood economy evolved to see the Great Depression, World War 2, the emergence of tractor logging, log trucks, lumber trucks, small independent sawmills, chainsaws, commuting in a car to work, rural electrification, refrigeration, propane, tourism, grocery shopping, radio, television, and a second growth redwood economy. Jim Ciro experienced most of these changes directly and can speak with some knowledge about all of them. He is the last person living who can remember the 1931 Comptche Fire.
Jim’s parents were immigrants from the rural Lake Como area in the Lombardi region of Italy and were one of a large number of rural Italian families that came from there, to work in the Redwood logging economy of the Mendocino Coast going back into the 1800s.
Jim Ciro is a very private person, but graciously granted the following interview to Rowan Kawczak in 2014 for Rowan’s American History class at Mendocino High School:
WWII & GREAT DEPRESSION INTERVIEW SUMMARY WITH JIMMY CIRO
by Rowan Kawczak Mod. Am. Hist. April 20, 2014
It was just like any other Tuesday morning for young Jimmy Ciro, as he got ready to embark on the mile-long walk to the nearby Comptche Schoolhouse. Little did Jimmy know though, that later that day there would be a devastating stock market crash that would forever change and influence his life for better or worse. The day that this stock market crash took place in the US, would eventually become commonly known as Black Tuesday, would ultimately leave millions homeless, and their life savings most likely lost forever due to the shutdown of a multitude of banking companies across America. This wasn’t the only horrible event to take place in Jimmy’s life during the next few years, the small town of Comptche, which wasn’t home to a single well-known person, was soon hit by the destructive Comptche Fire. This blazing fire followed soon after the crash, destroying his family’s home and most of his remaining possessions in its wake.
Jimmy’s childhood was unlike any normal one you would experience in this day and age. At the age of 13, he could be found on Don Philbrick’s property, “…watering and feeding the turkeys, while about 200 eggs were being hatched in the incubators,” he told me. His work wasn’t close to finished there though, as he also had to pick two pounds of huckleberries almost every day of the week, along with other children from his school. Once they had been picked, he would “put them in a machine that would sort out the ripe ones, and take off all the leaves from the branches.” “It was just work, work, work,”
Jimmy said, and if he returned home with less than his quota for the day, he was sent back to pick up the rest before he was given dinner for that night. “If you came home and griped about what was on the table, you went to bed and that was what was warmed up on the table the next morning,” he explained.
When the fire struck his hometown of Comptche, everyone was hit hard, and he lost everything, save for “the clothes on [his] back, and a redwood fence post” his father had set in their backyard. Jimmy told me that each and every time he needed his clothes washed, he had to “wait inside the bathroom until they were dry,” so he had something to wear when he came out. Everyone in Comptche felt the harsh effects that the harsh rampaging fire left behind, as it raced across the entire area surrounding young Jimmy Ciro’s house. There was a bright side though, to this bleak and seemingly hopeless scenario that closely coincided with the Great Depression. As we were talking about this subject, Jimmy told me that this unimaginably difficult period of time actually brought their community closer together. He said that people would help one another rebuild their previous lives, as he said for example, “one day you would come down and help me work on my house, and then the next day I’d come work on yours.”
When it came to the topic of WWII, Jimmy described his time serving on Mare Island near Vallejo with a deep insight into small yet important details. When I inquired about his wife(Caroline), he told me that he got married at the age of 19, and if she “had stayed alive for five more years, [they] would have been able to spend [their] 80th anniversary together.” Jimmy stated that he only served four years as a mechanic (welder) on Mare Island though, as “it wasn’t the right fit” for him. His answer on the topic of his personal views towards the Japanese was extremely surprising. Jimmy told me that he didn’t actually have any type of hatred or prejudice against the enemy soldiers, and the only emotions he recalled had been extreme fear and insecurity. This may be attributed to the fact that he was never sent to fight overseas, so Jimmy didn’t ever get the chance to interact face-to-face with the enemy. Regardless, I was still amazed at this, and with further questioning, he said that he really didn’t have the time to worry about racial prejudice and political happenings. “There was just too much work to do, to worry about things like that,” Jimmy finally said.
Currently, Jimmy lives in a small blue house on his and his son’s 80-acre property, where they raise herds of longhorn cattle together. He doesn’t have anyone tend to him on a daily basis, and when I offered to simply help him carry in a couple of pieces of firewood, he politely refused and told me that “he needed to do it himself, for the exercise.” Amazingly, throughout all the pain and suffering he’s been forced to endure over the years, he’s recently reached the age of 91, his birthday being the day before our interview.
After our interview, we shook hands, and all I could think about was how immensely disparate people’s lives were back then, compared to those that many Americans live in today. In our daily lives, I believe that we are constantly losing sight of how privileged many of us are, and how what we take for granted in this day and age is extremely far from what most people had during the Great Depression and WWII. Personally, I think the people who survived this unfathomably cruel era, are in some ways unsung heroes, who have been hidden behind the dusty curtain of history for much too long. This interview helped me piece together a more in-depth picture of the things that people during his lifetime were forced to live through, and how difficult it would have been to simply survive during the Great Depression and WWII. I was overwhelmingly surprised at how many hurdles Jimmy had to leap over in his lifetime, simply for a chance to live his days out in peace. It looks to me as if Comptche truly does have a celebrity in its midst after all.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Saturday, March 23, 2023
DANIEL CHAVEZ, North Las Vegas/Ukiah. DUI, no license.
CODY FURLINE, Fort Bragg. Indecent exposure with priors.
ROSARIO GAXIOLA, Covelo. Domestic battery, DUI-alcohol&drugs, suspended license for DUI, failure to appear.
YURIY GOLOVEY, Citrus Heights/Ukiah. DUI. (No booking photo available.)
WILLIAM JANUSZ, Hopland. DUI.
JORGE LOPEZ-GOANA, Willits. DUI, suspended license for DUI.
BRIAN MCVEIGH, Sonoma/Ukiah. DUI.
MICHAEL OLVERA-CAMPOS, Hopland. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, parole violation.
IVAN SALGADO-PICHARDO, Calpella. Grand theft, vandalism, controlled substance, no license.
ERNEST SALO, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
KRISTOPHER SPARKMAN, Boonville. Probation revocation.
JAMES WALKER, Potter Valley. DUI, suspended license, probation revocation.
TOBIAS WOOD, Ukiah. Disobeying court order, failure to appear.
THERE GOES MAMMY
The New York Times' Spelling Bee game just erased “mammy” from my list of answers (03/25/2023). Al Jolson spins in his grave while censors of all stripes smirk.
There have been 2 letters in the PD in the last 2 days about the word “woke.” Both letters are very supportive of the word, and the authors assume it means being aware or awake.
However, conservatives use the word to describe political correctness. They even have anti-woke bills. It would be a good idea to abandon that word completely, and use more precise language, which both sides could agree meant the same thing.
Another suggestion for my liberal buddies out there is to also abandon the word “cisgender,” which was used in one of the pro-woke letters. It’s a relatively new and misunderstood word, meaning “a person whose gender identity corresponds with their sex assigned at birth.” So, do we really need to force it into the language for the benefit of the 0.5 percent of the population that is transgender? Apparently so.
Meanwhile, our country is waiting to see if Trump will ever actually face criminal charges, the world has never been closer to a nuclear war, climate change continues to wreak havoc everywhere, banks are failing, and our fragile democracy hangs by a thread. Good thing all of us are so woke — we can appreciate the reality of what is actually happening.
FACTS ABOUT CUCUMBERS
1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.
3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.
4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.
5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!
6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!
7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.
8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.
9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!
10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber will react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.
11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemicals will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.
12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your taps, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.
13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!
BREATHING IN, BREATHING OUT
Sahaja Samadhi Avastha Here Now Forever
Awoke early, and following taking an expanding list of remedies for chest congestion without any other complications, proceeded to morning ablutions, with optional chest clearing in the hot shower. Dressed, and tidied up the trash & recycling area at Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center. Moved on to the co-op for a breakfast egg and bean burrito, and coffee. Dropped into the hospice store looking for a bargain. Nothing. Pushed on to the Ukiah Public Library, and am now on computer #4 tap, tap tapping away. Breathing in and breathing out. No mind.
Craig Louis Stehr
MEMO OF THE AIR: Waters of March.
“All the world old is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer.” -Robert Owen
Here's the recording of last night's (2023-03-24) eight-hour-long Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA) and KNYO.org: https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0533
Email /your/ written work and I'll read it on the very next Memo of the Air on KNYO.
Besides all that, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:
“The dream of a beautiful home has vanished. The day’s toil ends in a sordid tenement amid noise and dirt.”
Lives of the monster shoes. (via NagOnTheLake)
And the eerie Mister Trololo as he was meant to be, uh, experienced.
Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
EVEN IF EVERYTHING US PUNDITS AND POLITICIANS ARE SAYING ABOUT TIKTOK is true (and of course it isn't), it's still far less scary than what the US government does to us with American apps, and it's still far less scary than giving the White House massive new censorship powers. If you live anywhere under the thumb of the US empire, then any information-gathering or censorship policies the US government sets for itself have real relevance to your life, because the US government has actual power over you. The Chinese government does not. This is obvious to anyone who doesn't have soup for brains.
It's crazy how the First Amendment explicitly says "Congress shall make no law" abridging freedom of speech or freedom of the press, and yet congress is preparing to do literally exactly that with all American TikTok users.
It's also crazy that US congressmen who don't understand any technology more advanced than a shovel and think the internet comes from magic beans are making decisions about online platforms that affect everyone.
— Caitlin Johnstone
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
A solution to crime and drugs in America.
I offer you, without a shred of humor or exaggeration, the solution to our moral issues, criminal issues, racial issues, and drug issues in America today. My solution is doable, politically viable, and would pass muster in the Supreme Court if challenged…it could even be considered humane. Before moving to Oregon, I had mostly completed my Masters Degree in Administration of Criminal Justice Systems, and If I’d have continued to the Doctorate Program, would have offered this as my Thesis.
The process is simple. Monetize citizenship. The law allows one to renounce your citizenship with an oath. Just trot over to the Federal Building and tell them you want to renounce your citizenship…easily done.
Offer (let’s suggest) $50,000 for an individual, and $200,000 for married couples with children. Provide a list of countries that would accept former citizens, sign on the dotted line, economy tickets provided for a flight at government expense, and receive your check upon wheels up.
Who would qualify? Any US citizen that wants to leave and start a new life with a bit of starting capital. The prisons would, of course, empty first. Anyone arrested or under indictment for a crime would be probable candidates. Narcotics users needing a fix. Anyone unhappy with their station in life. Even the unlucky, needing a second chance at life…including the desperate and the stupid.
There WOULD be a list of countries that would accept the US dollars with humans attached…a few African Countries, Haiti, Cuba, maybe even a few 2nd World countries willing to accept this issues that come with the dollars…they might have…different rules of engagement, and other cultural rules regarding crime and stupidity.
Convince me that this would not work.
BIG BOXES GOING FAST, but all we need anyway is CostCo: Over the last month, several prominent retailers, including Walmart, Amazon, CVS, Foot Locker and Macy's, have announced a swathe of store closures. In total, nearly 850 stores are set to shut by the end of 2023, with many forced into desperate cost-cutting measures amid rampant inflation and declining bottom lines.
At least 416 US Bed Bath & Beyond stores have been identified for closure and each of its 65 stores in Canada are also set to be shuttered.
California will be impacted the most and will see 35 stores close, while Florida will lose 23. New York will lose 23 and Illinois will lose 18.
* * *
CVS will close at least 300 stores a year for the next three years
CVS CEO Karen Lynch said earlier this year that it plans to close 900 stores nationwide by the end of 2026, with at least 300 stores closing annually for the next three years.
However, it does still have roughly 9,600 stores throughout the country, according to Best Life.
Retail expert Neil Saunders of Global Data warned in 2021 that 'too many stores are stuck in the past with bad lighting, depressing interiors, messy merchandising, and a weak assortment of products.'
* * *
Walgreens has more than 9,000 stores but, like CVS, is closing them across the country
In a similar vein to CVS, Walgreens will also be closing a number of its more than 9,000 stores.
In April 2022, it announced the rolling out of its first major drone delivery operation, in Dallas-Fort Worth, symbolic of its push towards online retail.
This year it closed stores in New York, Minnesota, Vermont and Alabama.
This month, two Walgreens outlets in Orlando, Florida, have already closed their doors, and in February, more stores were shuttered in Ridgewood, New York, and St Johnsbury, Vermont.
* * *
In its annual elimination of underperforming stores, Walmart will shut a total of eight
The largest retailer in the US said in February it would close 12 stores in nine states and Washington DC due to poor financial performance.
States to lose a Walmart are: Arkansas, Hawaii, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin.
The change conforms to a recent trend in which Walmart has carried out an annual culling of its underperforming retail stores.
Its CEO Doug McMillion said in 2022 that record-breaking retail theft was a major factor in the company's economic performance and could lead to store closures.
'Theft is an issue. It's higher than what it has historically been,' McMillion said at the time. 'Prices will be higher and/or stores will close.'
* * *
Target, like Walmart, said it will close four stores in three metro areas due to poor footfall
Target will close four locations in three metro areas including two near Washington DC, one in Philadelphia, and one in Minneapolis, Insider reported.
The company cited declining foot traffic as its primary reason for the closures and said most store employees would be offered positions at other locations.
All four stores are smaller-format locations of around 20,000 square feet, which the the company began rolling out about a decade ago to reach shoppers in urban areas.
The closures are slated for May 13.
* * *
Big Lots is shifting its focus away from urban centers and will close seven stores before the end of the year. Pictured is a Big Lots outlet at the Lycoming Mall in Muncy, Pennsylvania
Big Lots! is closing stores in urban centers as part of a strategy to target towns and more rural areas, the company's CFO Jonathan Ramsden said during an earnings call in December.
Ramsden announced the imminent closure of at least seven stores, three in California and four in Colorado, before the end of 2023.
* * *
JCPenny is in the process of closing stores in Indiana, New York and Minnesota. It has closed 200 since the pandemic. Pictured is a store in Orlando in the process of closing after the department store chain filed for bankruptcy in 2020
The 121-year-old retailer has faced massive challenges in recent years, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020, closing 200 stories after the pandemic.
As of March 6, 2023, the retailer still had 669 stores in the US.
However, it is now reported to be closing additional stores in Indiana, New York and Minnesota, according to Best Life in January. Also rumored is a closure in California, according to the outlet.
The most common place in New York for jumpers is the Brooklyn Bridge. In my honest opinion, people go to the bridges not really intent on jumping. There’s statistical information on how many, why, what season, what time… But for most people it’s finance and relationships. There are seasonal things with suicides. Springtime, the anniversary of tragic events in people’s lives, the holidays, Thanksgiving — things where families come together and they feel they are not in a family environment.
Most of the bridges that people climb in New York are suspension bridges with cables like the Brooklyn Bridge. You can easily hook into the guide cable on the side — like hand rails — and walk up. If height doesn’t affect you it’s basically a simple process, if you slip you are hooked in and can’t fall off. The Queensboro Bridge and a few smaller bridges are the cantilever type bridge. They use trusses, beams, and girders. Parts of the Queensboro Bridge don’t allow the rescue climber to hook in so you free climb. You have to give complete attention to holding on.
As much as most rescuers want to help the victims, they are also concerned about their own safety. In some rescue operations I found myself thinking more about not falling than about the victim. It happens on difficult jobs. If you get into an accident then you can’t give aid to the person needing it. If you don’t think about your own safety in getting to the victim you may not make it to him and then you become a victim also.
— Gary Gorman, Retired NY Police Officer
UKRAINE, SATURDAY, 25 MARCH
At least 16 people have been killed in the latest wave of Russian strikes on Ukraine, Kyiv's military said Saturday. The Russian shelling has hit more than 100 settlements across the country.
Ukraine says fighting around the eastern city of Bakhmut has "stabilized." Russia is pushing hard to capture the city and land a rare — but largely symbolic — victory.
More than 5,000 prisoners have been pardoned after serving with Russia's forces, the chief of the Wagner mercenary group says. Wagner plays a key role in the fighting and has relied on convicts to bolster its forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed optimism that cooperation with European allies could bring victory by the end of the year, but warned of delays in the delivery of armaments.
PUTIN RATTLES HIS NUKES
Putin announced plans on Saturday to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, a warning to the West as it steps up military support for Ukraine.
Putin said the move was triggered by Britain’s decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. The Russian leader earlier made a false claim that the rounds have nuclear components.
He subsequently toned down his language, but insisted in a state television interview broadcast Saturday night that the ammunition posed an additional danger to both troops and civilians in Ukraine.
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield, unlike more powerful, longer-range strategic nuclear weapons. Russia plans to maintain control over the ones it plans to Belarus, and construction of storage facilities for them will be completed by July 1, Putin said.
Putin didn’t say how many nuclear weapons Russia would keep in Belarus. The U.S. government believes Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, which include bombs that can be carried by tactical aircraft, warheads for short-range missiles and artillery rounds.
SELLING THE IRAQ WAR: A HOW-TO GUIDE
by Jeffrey St. Clair
The war on Iraq won’t be remembered for how it was waged so much as for how it was sold. It was a propaganda war, a war of perception management, where loaded phrases, such as “weapons of mass destruction” and “rogue state” were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience: us.
To understand the Iraq war you don’t need to consult generals, but the spin doctors and PR flacks who stage-managed the countdown to war from the murky corridors of Washington where politics, corporate spin and psy-ops spooks cohabit.
Consider the picaresque journey of Tony Blair’s plagiarized dossier on Iraq, from a grad student’s website to a cut-and-paste job in the prime minister’s bombastic speech to the House of Commons. Blair, stubborn and verbose, paid a price for his grandiose puffery. Bush, who looted whole passages from Blair’s speech for his own clumsy presentations, has skated freely through the tempest. Why?
Unlike Blair, the Bush team never wanted to present a legal case for war. They had no interest in making any of their allegations about Iraq hold up to a standard of proof. The real effort was aimed at amping up the mood for war by using the psychology of fear.
Facts were never important to the Bush team. They were disposable nuggets that could be discarded at will and replaced by whatever new rationale that played favorably with their polls and focus groups. The war was about weapons of mass destruction one week, al-Qaeda the next. When neither allegation could be substantiated on the ground, the fall back position became the mass graves (many from the Iran/Iraq war where the U.S.A. backed Iraq) proving that Saddam was an evil thug who deserved to be toppled. The motto of the Bush PR machine was: Move on. Don’t explain. Say anything to conceal the perfidy behind the real motives for war. Never look back. Accuse the questioners of harboring unpatriotic sensibilities. Eventually, even the cagey Wolfowitz admitted that the official case for war was made mainly to make the invasion palatable, not to justify it.
The Bush claque of neocon hawks viewed the Iraq war as a product and, just like a new pair of Nikes, it required a roll-out campaign to soften up the consumers. The same techniques (and often the same PR gurus) that have been used to hawk cigarettes, SUVs and nuclear waste dumps were deployed to retail the Iraq war. To peddle the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell and company recruited public relations gurus into top-level jobs at the Pentagon and the State Department. These spinmeisters soon had more say over how the rationale for war on Iraq should be presented than intelligence agencies and career diplomats. If the intelligence didn’t fit the script, it was shaded, retooled or junked.
Take Charlotte Beers whom Powell picked as undersecretary of state in the post-9/11 world. Beers wasn’t a diplomat. She wasn’t even a politician. She was a grand diva of spin, known on the business and gossip pages as “the queen of Madison Avenue.” On the strength of two advertising campaigns, one for Uncle Ben’s Rice and another for Head and Shoulder’s dandruff shampoo, Beers rocketed to the top of the heap in the PR world, heading two giant PR houses: Ogilvy and Mathers as well as J. Walter Thompson.
At the State Department Beers, who had met Powell in 1995 when they both served on the board of Gulf Airstream, worked at, in Powell’s words, “the branding of U.S. foreign policy.” She extracted more than $500 million from Congress for her Brand America campaign, which largely focused on beaming U.S. propaganda into the Muslim world, much of it directed at teens.
“Public diplomacy is a vital new arm in what will combat terrorism over time,” said Beers. “All of a sudden we are in this position of redefining who America is, not only for ourselves, but for the outside world.” Note the rapt attention Beers pays to the manipulation of perception, as opposed, say, to alterations of U.S. policy.
Old-fashioned diplomacy involves direct communication between representatives of nations, a conversational give and take, often fraught with deception (see April Glaspie), but an exchange nonetheless. Public diplomacy, as defined by Beers, is something else entirely. It’s a one-way street, a unilateral broadcast of American propaganda directly to the public, domestic and international, a kind of informational carpet-bombing.
The themes of her campaigns were as simplistic and flimsy as a Bush press conference. The American incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq were all about bringing the balm of “freedom” to oppressed peoples. Hence, the title of the U.S. war: Operation Iraqi Freedom, where cruise missiles were depicted as instruments of liberation. Bush himself distilled the Beers equation to its bizarre essence: “This war is about peace.”
Beers quietly resigned her post a few weeks before the first volley of tomahawk missiles battered Baghdad. From her point of view, the war itself was already won, the fireworks of shock and awe were all after play.
Over at the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld drafted Victoria “Torie” Clarke as his director of public affairs. Clarke knew the ropes inside the Beltway. Before becoming Rumsfeld’s mouthpiece, she had commanded one of the world’s great parlors for powerbrokers: Hill and Knowlton’s D.C. office.
Almost immediately upon taking up her new gig, Clarke convened regular meetings with a select group of Washington’s top private PR specialists and lobbyists to develop a marketing plan for the Pentagon’s forthcoming terror wars. The group was filled with heavy-hitters and was strikingly bipartisan in composition. She called it the Rumsfeld Group and it included PR executive Sheila Tate, columnist Rich Lowry, and Republican political consultant Rich Galen.
The brain trust also boasted top Democratic fixer Tommy Boggs, brother of NPR’s Cokie Roberts and son of the late Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana. At the very time Boggs was conferring with top Pentagon brass on how to frame the war on terror, he was also working feverishly for the royal family of Saudi Arabia. In 2002 alone, the Saudis paid his Qorvis PR firm $20.2 million to protect its interests in Washington. In the wake of hostile press coverage following the exposure of Saudi links to the 9/11 hijackers, the royal family needed all the well-placed help it could buy. They seem to have gotten their money’s worth. Boggs’ felicitous influence-peddling may help to explain why the references to Saudi funding of al-Qaeda were dropped from the recent congressional report on the investigation into intelligence failures and 9/11.
According to the trade publication PR Week, the Rumsfeld Group sent “messaging advice” to the Pentagon. The group told Clarke and Rumsfeld that in order to get the American public to buy into the war on terrorism, they needed to suggest a link to nation states, not just nebulous groups such as al-Qaeda. In other words, there needed to be a fixed target for the military campaigns, some distant place to drop cruise missiles and cluster bombs. They suggested the notion (already embedded in Rumsfeld’s mind) of playing up the notion of so-called rogue states as the real masters of terrorism. Thus was born the Axis of Evil, which, of course, wasn’t an “axis” at all, since two of the states, Iran and Iraq, hated each other, and neither had anything at all to do with the third, North Korea.
Tens of millions in federal money were poured into private public relations and media firms working to craft and broadcast the Bush dictat that Saddam had to be taken out before the Iraqi dictator blew up the world by dropping chemical and nuclear bombs from long-range drones. Many of these PR executives and image consultants were old friends of the high priests in the Bush inner sanctum. Indeed, they were veterans, like Cheney and Powell, of the previous war against Iraq, another engagement that was more spin than combat .
At the top of the list was John Rendon, head of the D.C. firm, the Rendon Group. Rendon is one of Washington’s heaviest hitters, a Beltway fixer who never let political affiliation stand in the way of an assignment. Rendon served as a media consultant for Michael Dukakis and Jimmy Carter, as well as Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Whenever the Pentagon wanted to go to war, he offered his services at a price. During Desert Storm, Rendon pulled in $100,000 a month from the Kuwaiti royal family. He followed this up with a $23 million contract from the CIA to produce anti-Saddam propaganda in the region.
As part of this CIA project, Rendon created and named the Iraqi National Congress and tapped his friend Ahmed Chalabi, the shady financier, to head the organization.
Shortly after 9/11, the Pentagon handed the Rendon Group another big assignment: public relations for the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. Rendon was also deeply involved in the planning and public relations for the pre-emptive war on Iraq, though both Rendon and the Pentagon refuse to disclose the details of the group’s work there.
But it’s not hard to detect the manipulative hand of Rendon behind many of the Iraq war’s signature events, including the toppling of the Saddam statue (by U.S. troops and Chalabi associates) and videotape of jubilant Iraqis waving American flags as the Third Infantry rolled by them. Rendon had pulled off the same stunt in the first Gulf War, handing out American flags to Kuwaitis and herding the media to the orchestrated demonstration. “Where do you think they got those American flags?” clucked Rendon in 1991. “That was my assignment.”
The Rendon Group may also have had played a role in pushing the phony intelligence that has now come back to haunt the Bush administration. In December of 2002, Robert Dreyfuss reported that the inner circle of the Bush White House preferred the intelligence coming from Chalabi and his associates to that being proffered by analysts at the CIA.
So Rendon and his circle represented a new kind of off-the-shelf PSYOPs , the privatization of official propaganda. “I am not a national security strategist or a military tactician,” said Rendon. “I am a politician, and a person who uses communication to meet public policy or corporate policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager.”
What exactly, is perception management? The Pentagon defines it this way: “actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning.” In other words, lying about the intentions of the U.S. government. In a rare display of public frankness, the Pentagon actually let slip its plan (developed by Rendon) to establish a high-level den inside the Department Defense for perception management. They called it the Office of Strategic Influence and among its many missions was to plant false stories in the press.
Nothing stirs the corporate media into outbursts of pious outrage like an official government memo bragging about how the media are manipulated for political objectives. So the New York Times and Washington Post threw indignant fits about the Office of Strategic Influence; the Pentagon shut down the operation, and the press gloated with satisfaction on its victory. Yet, Rumsfeld told the Pentagon press corps that while he was killing the office, the same devious work would continue. “You can have the corpse,” said Rumsfeld. “You can have the name. But I’m going to keep doing every single thing that needs to be done. And I have.”
At a diplomatic level, despite the hired guns and the planted stories, this image war was lost. It failed to convince even America’s most fervent allies and dependent client states that Iraq posed much of a threat. It failed to win the blessing of the U.N. and even NATO, a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington. At the end of the day, the vaunted coalition of the willing consisted of Britain, Spain, Italy, Australia, and a cohort of former Soviet bloc nations. Even so, the citizens of the nations that cast their lot with the U.S.A. overwhelmingly opposed the war.
Domestically, it was a different story. A population traumatized by terror threats and shattered economy became easy prey for the saturation bombing of the Bush message that Iraq was a terrorist state linked to al-Qaeda that was only minutes away from launching attacks on America with weapons of mass destruction.
Americans were the victims of an elaborate con job, pelted with a daily barrage of threat inflation, distortions, deceptions and lies, not about tactics or strategy or war plans, but about justifications for war. The lies were aimed not at confusing Saddam’s regime, but the American people. By the start of the war, 66 per cent of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and 79 per cent thought he was close to having a nuclear weapon.
Of course, the closest Saddam came to possessing a nuke was a rusting gas centrifuge buried for 13 years in the garden of Mahdi Obeidi, a retired Iraqi scientist. Iraq didn’t have any functional chemical or biological weapons. In fact, it didn’t even possess any SCUD missiles, despite erroneous reports fed by Pentagon PR flacks alleging that it had fired SCUDs into Kuwait.
This charade wouldn’t have worked without a gullible or a complicit press corps. Victoria Clarke, who developed the Pentagon plan for embedded reports, put it succinctly a few weeks before the war began: “Media coverage of any future operation will to a large extent shape public perception.”
During the Vietnam War, TV images of maimed GIs and napalmed villages suburbanized opposition to the war and helped hasten the U.S. withdrawal. The Bush gang meant to turn the Vietnam phenomenon on its head by using TV as a force to propel the U.S.A. into a war that no one really wanted.
What the Pentagon sought was a new kind of living room war, where instead of photos of mangled soldiers and dead Iraqi kids, they could control the images Americans viewed and to a large extent the content of the stories. By embedding reporters inside selected divisions, Clarke believed the Pentagon could count on the reporters to build relationships with the troops and to feel dependent on them for their own safety. It worked, naturally. One reporter for a national network trembled on camera that the U.S. Army functioned as “our protectors.” The late David Bloom of NBC confessed on the air that he was willing to do “anything and everything they can ask of us.”
When the Pentagon needed a heroic story, the press obliged. Jessica Lynch became the war’s first instant celebrity. Here was a neo-gothic tale of a steely young woman wounded in a fierce battle, captured and tortured by ruthless enemies, and dramatically saved from certain death by a team of selfless rescuers, knights in camo and night-vision goggles. Of course, nearly every detail of her heroic adventure proved to be as fictive and maudlin as any made-for-TV-movie. But the ordeal of Private Lynch, which dominated the news for more than a week, served its purpose: to distract attention from a stalled campaign that was beginning to look at lot riskier than the American public had been hoodwinked into believing.
The Lynch story was fed to the eager press by a Pentagon operation called Combat Camera, the Army network of photographers, videographers and editors that sends 800 photos and 25 video clips a day to the media. The editors at Combat Camera carefully culled the footage to present the Pentagon’s montage of the war, eliding such unsettling images as collateral damage, cluster bombs, dead children and U.S. soldiers, napalm strikes and disgruntled troops.
“A lot of our imagery will have a big impact on world opinion,” predicted Lt. Jane Larogue, director of Combat Camera in Iraq. She was right. But as the hot war turned into an even hotter occupation, the Pentagon, despite airy rhetoric from occupation supremo Paul Bremer about installing democratic institutions such as a free press, moved to tighten its monopoly on the flow images out of Iraq. First, it tried to shut down Al Jazeera, the Arab news channel. Then the Pentagon intimated that it would like to see all foreign TV news crews banished from Baghdad.
Few newspapers fanned the hysteria about the threat posed by Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction as sedulously as did the Washington Post. In the months leading up to the war, the Post’s pro-war op-eds outnumbered the anti-war columns by a 3-to-1 margin.
Back in 1988, the Post felt much differently about Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction. When reports trickled out about the gassing of Iranian troops, the Washington Post’s editorial page shrugged off the massacres, calling the mass poisonings “a quirk of war.”
The Bush team displayed a similar amnesia. When Iraq used chemical weapons in grisly attacks on Iran, the U.S. government not only didn’t object, it encouraged Saddam. Anything to punish Iran was the message coming from the White House. Donald Rumsfeld himself was sent as President Ronald Reagan’s personal envoy to Baghdad. Rumsfeld conveyed the bold message than an Iraq defeat would be viewed as a “strategic setback for the United States.” This sleazy alliance was sealed with a handshake caught on videotape. When CNN reporter Jamie McIntyre replayed the footage for Rumsfeld in the spring of 2003, the secretary of defense snapped, “Where’d you get that? Iraqi television?”
The current crop of Iraq hawks also saw Saddam much differently then. Take the writer Laura Mylroie, sometime colleague of the New York Times’ Judy Miller, who persists in peddling the ludicrous conspiracy that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
How times have changed! In 1987, Mylroie felt downright cuddly toward Saddam. She wrote an article for the New Republic titled “Back Iraq: Time for a U.S. Tilt in the Mideast,” arguing that the U.S. should publicly embrace Saddam’s secular regime as a bulwark against the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran. The co-author of this mesmerizing weave of wonkery was none other than Daniel Pipes, perhaps the nation’s most bellicose Islamophobe. “The American weapons that Iraq could make good use of include remotely scatterable and anti-personnel mines and counterartillery radar,” wrote Mylroie and Pipes. “The United States might also consider upgrading intelligence it is supplying Baghdad.”
In the rollout for the war, Mylroie seemed to be everywhere hawking the invasion of Iraq. She would often appear on two or three different networks in the same day. How did the reporter manage this feat? She had help in the form of Eleana Benador, the media placement guru who runs Benador Associates. Born in Peru, Benador parlayed her skills as a linguist into a lucrative career as media relations whiz for the Washington foreign policy elite. She also oversees the Middle East Forum, a fanatically pro-Zionist white paper mill. Her clients include some of the nation’s most fervid hawks, including Michael Ledeen, Charles Krauthammer, Al Haig, Max Boot, Daniel Pipes, Richard Perle, and Judy Miller. During the Iraq war, Benador’s assignment was to embed this squadron of pro-war zealots into the national media, on talk shows, and op-ed pages.
Benador not only got them the gigs, she also crafted the theme and made sure they all stayed on message. “There are some things, you just have to state them in a different way, in a slightly different way,” said Benador. “If not, people get scared.” Scared of intentions of their own government.
It could have been different. All of the holes in the Bush administration’s gossamer case for war were right there for the mainstream press to expose. Instead, the U.S. press, just like the oil companies, sought to commercialize the Iraq war and profit from the invasions. They didn’t want to deal with uncomfortable facts or present voices of dissent.
Nothing sums up this unctuous approach more brazenly than MSNBC’s firing of liberal talk show host Phil Donahue on the eve of the war. The network replaced the Donahue Show with a running segment called Countdown: Iraq, featuring the usual nightly coterie of retired generals, security flacks, and other cheerleaders for invasion. The network’s executives blamed the cancellation on sagging ratings. In fact, during its run Donahue’s show attracted more viewers than any other program on the network. The real reason for the pre-emptive strike on Donahue was spelled out in an internal memo from anxious executives at NBC. Donahue, the memo said, offered “a difficult face for NBC in a time of war. He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.”
The memo warned that Donahue’s show risked tarring MSNBC as an unpatriotic network, “a home for liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” So, with scarcely a second thought, the honchos at MSNBC gave Donahue the boot and hoisted the battle flag.
It’s war that sells.
There’s a helluva caveat, of course. Once you buy it, the merchants of war accept no returns.
This essay is adapted from Grand Theft Pentagon.
Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3. CounterPunch.org)
AS IS WELL KNOWN, most things originate in other countries and only in time find their way into the Argentine. That now so unjustly forgotten school of painters who call themselves concrete, or abstract, as if to show their utter scorn for logic and language, is but one of many examples. It was argued, as I recall, that just as music is expected to create its own world of sound, its sister art, painting, should be allowed to attempt a world of color and form without reference to any actual physical objects. The Dallas art critic Lee Kaplan wrote that the school’s pictures, which outraged the bourgeoisie, followed the Biblical proscription also shared by the Islamic world, that man shall make no images of living things. The iconoclasts, he argued, were going back to the true tradition of painting which had been led astray by such heretics as Darer and Rembrandt. Kaplan’s enemies accused him of being influenced merely by broadloom rugs, kaleidoscopes, and men’s neckwear.
—Jorge Luis Borges, 1964; from ‘The Duel’
FIFTY DEGREES C IN THE PERSIAN GULF
by Tom Stevenson
(Ed note: 50°C = 122°F; 60°C = 140°F)
The first time I experienced 50°C was in the middle of the Algerian Sahara. It’s hard to describe how it feels; the best I can do is compare it to carrying a very heavy burden. In the the open desert such extremes of temperature at least make a kind of sense: inhospitable conditions are to be expected. It’s worse in a city. The second time I felt 50°C was in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, outside the palatial headquarters of the Talabani family. The building, a neoclassical folly known as the White House, was full of guards in suits carrying assault rifles, but since it had air conditioning it felt like a sanctuary.
You can’t escape the heat by dodging between patches of shade. It’s more a case of driving between climate-controlled buildings, and better not to move around at all. Around the Persian Gulf, fifty-degree days are no longer aberrations. In Iraq and Kuwait they have become routine. Further west, even cities on the Red Sea such as Yanbu have seen 50°C. The Gulf is both at the centre of global hydrocarbon production and at the fore of its climatic effects. The average temperature rise in the region is already well over two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The most extreme heat is often in the north of the Gulf, in Kuwait, Basra and Khuzestan, near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab. In summer 2021, the temperature hit 53.2°C in Kuwait City. News reports described birds dropping out of the sky and sea horses being poached in the shallows. Kuwait is occasionally the subject of wild predictions of much worse heat (up to 60°C) to come by the end of the century. Even if that doesn’t happen, the present combination of long-term drought and sea-level rise is bad enough. Unbearable heat, dust storms, rising tides: this is the climate maw.
Besides the obvious reliance on air conditioning for survival, other adaptations have become necessary. Oil storage tanks need to be able to withstand not only very high temperatures but also high humidity and the occasional sandstorm. Some have floating roofs that rise as the tanks are filled. Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) is kept in pressurised spheres that are temperature controlled. The hotels that dot the Gulf coast are products of geo-engineering: the effort to build and maintain them seems an exercise in both fury and futility. But the conquest of geography is business as usual here. The South Pars/North Dome gas field, split between the waters of Qatar and Iran, has wells that are three thousand metres deep.
Oil and gas aren’t the only things for which the states around the Gulf dig deep. Historically, most of the drinking water came from wells. But the underground reservoirs are drying up, and they are replaced only by desalination plants. The Gulf accounts for almost half of global desalination. The plants are monstrous mazes of pipes and towers. Some run on solar power. In Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, desalinated seawater is now the source of more than 95 per cent of the drinking water.
It was not always so. The Gulf as we know it started to form at the tail end of the Pleistocene, when global sea levels were a hundred metres lower than they are today. About fifteen thousand years ago, as the northern ice sheets melted, the sea came in through the Strait of Hormuz. The Gulf filled fast (within a few thousand years), a sudden inundation that coincided with the appearance, in the Levant, of the first human villages, and later the invention of agriculture. The land around the Tigris, the Euphrates and the head of the Gulf was exceptionally fertile and the population of Southern Mesopotamia exploded. Mollusc fossils show that the Gulf came further north then, reaching as far as present-day Nasiriyah before it started to recede. It’s possible that shifts in the water were among the factors that drove people into concentrated irrigated settlements with elaborate hierarchies: the first cities and the first states.
The earliest accounts of war come from this time, between the Sumerians and the Elamites. The Sumerian king Enmebaragesi invaded the Iranian plateau and subjugated it, at least according to the Sumerian records. The Stele of Vultures, which dates to about 2500 BC, depicts soldiers marching in formation, carrying spears and overlapping rectangular shields. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Uta-napishti – the legendary king of Shuruppak who survived the Flood and has become immortal – says to Gilgamesh (in Andrew George’s translation):
Ever do we build our households,
ever do we make our nests,
ever do brothers divide their inheritance,
ever do feuds arise in the land.
Ever the river has risen and brought us the flood,
the mayfly floating on the water.
On the face of the sun its countenance gazes,
then all of a sudden nothing is there!
Imagining the deep past is fraught because what we know of the present so often intrudes on what we think of the past. Can we really imagine the Mediterranean as a giant salt flat, even when we know that fifteen million years ago that’s what it was? To compare ancient wars around the Gulf with more recent conflicts is to yield to the tyranny of the present: the Gulf was another Gulf, its shores and inlets in different places and with different shapes. Still, the conflicts continue. In September 2019, after five years of war in Yemen, the Houthi movement used drones to bomb Abqaiq, the largest oil processing plant in the world, owned by the Saudi national oil company. Saudi Arabia claimed Iran was behind the attack. Last March, the Houthis hit an oil storage facility near Jeddah. The fires sent up a murmuration of black smoke over the gold and white of the city.
The Gulf has been rising about three millimetres a year since the 1990s. The water is getting hotter too, and bleaching the coral – which Uta-napishti tells Gilgamesh will restore his youth – as it does so. The coral has always shared the water with natural islands and salt domes, not to mention the hundreds of offshore oil and gas platforms. Desalination plants and oil terminals sit on top of what were once mangrove forests. The dragon snail and the green sawfish are among the endangered species.
Occasionally there is news of surprising resurrections. In 2021, there were sightings in the Gulf of the tentacled butterfly ray (Gymnura tentaculata), previously thought to be extinct. The patterns on the ray’s skin remind me of satellite maps of unexplored terrain. Who knows how long they’ll last.
(London Review of Books)
According to the Board of Supervisors March 27, 2023 meeting agenda materials the Mendocino County Cannabis Department is taking 166 – 200 hours to review a 20 page MINISTERIAL cultivation permit application. That works out to 8 – 10 hours review time per page.
Maybe it takes them that long to find something they don’t like.
“…our fragile democracy hangs by a thread.”
What democracy? Once I grew out of the conditioning and lies that were grammar and high school history, social studies, and civics, the place always seemed a plutocracy to me, run by the robber barons who fund “both” political groups that call themselves parties.
I am beginning to wonder if many of the perceived bottlenecks and snafus presently encountered in all kinds of county government actions might be a function of the quality of legal advice and direction received from county counsel. I have been following a trend of which I was first aware with the non-enforcement of Measure V (I believe that was the label) regarding the voters’ initiative to halt the “hack and squirt” method of commercial timber management. That initiative went nowhere, after years of delay. Now we have all these complex and time consuming reviews of ministerial cultivation permit applications in an attempt to comply with a badly written, flawed local cannabis ordinance from a few years ago. Why was that ordinance so messed up? It is my view now that some of the problems were with county counsel and how the ordinance was crafted. How about abatement of the leftover trash from illegal grows which were busted? There is no effective coordination between Code Enforcement and County Counsel to follow up on clean up. Just a “Notice of Violation” and no further legal work such as a judgement, fines, liens and eventual forfeiture. That’s how you get this place cleaned up, but is that too much work for county counsel? And then there is the completely wrong policy of charging fees for public records. And how about these expensive settlements for interdepartmental squabbles? Who is running the county anyway? Who is in charge here? Is county counsel following the direction of the Executive Office, or the Board of Supervisors, or just creating these expensive, debilitating situations all on their own volition?
“Why was that ordinance so messed up?”
John McCowen and Carrie Brown’s hatred towards legacy growers. In their mind, “once a criminal, always a criminal.
In the case of Measure V non-enforcement, I suspect the real problem is the money power that MRC (Mendocino Redwood Company) wields, which ends up translating as threat of legal bullying from a well-heeled force (owner Fisher scions are billionaires). The Fisher family is also well-connected in state politics. Hence, after making us wait two-and-a-half years, the California State AG’s office refused to offer an opinion on the matter “in order to avoid a risk of a conflict of interest arising.” How’s that for backing out on a mealy mouthed exit? Then Mendocino County Counsel Curtis surprised many of us by writing an opinion that countered and dismissed the legal noise MRC attorneys proffered (after they lost the vote) suggesting they were exempt from the people’s initiative. However this wasn’t enough for our Board of Supervisors, who, I think, are afraid of the economic/legal power of MRC, and have chosen to let their constituents suffer the consequences instead. For anyone who follows the news, this will not come as a surprise, as it’s simply business as usual in America.
When you hear the Chamber of Commerce types braying about shrinking government, this is what they were ultimately after, Rule by Money. They do not want “the people” meddling in their greedy pursuit of dollars, and “government” is “the people’s” only real collective force and representative to counter and regulate the power of money. This is what the Powell Doctrine was about, what Grover Norquist meant when he said he wanted to drown gov in the tub, what the Reagan revolution was all about. Call it oligarchy or plutocracy, what it isn’t is democracy. They won that battle a long time ago — this is their hellish world we’re living in — and now it is time for the pendulum to swing back our way.
Mammy, along with other clearly bigoted terms, has never been in the Spelling Bee word list.
” the Pot Permit Department has grown to 22 high paid/funded staff positions (not all of which are filled, of course. ”
This should be an easy one. Obviously, the Director and those immediately below her are not directing. What is the BoS afraid of, these lackeys suing the County for wrongful termination? Oh, but wait…they do have a County Council problem.
In the private sector, all of this would have been dealt with long ago.
This deal is beyond incompetent.
A general reply, not necessarily aimed at Laz:
Out of curiosity…are county road funds still being used to prop up the Cannabis Dept? As I recall, this very paper pointed out a budgetary raid for $1,500,000 of road funds. After that report, nothing. Which leads to the natural follow-up question.
“Date, time, location? This hasn’t been my experience when walking in unannounced recently,” says the man
who is a County Supervisor and Planning & Building department staff know it as soon as he walks through the door. Teddy Bow Tie: more unlikeable by the day.
I conduct business at Planning and Building weekly. I have not had to make an appointment for the last 8 months.
“FACTS ABOUT CUCUMBERS” (Does this really matter?)
An absolutely amazing, hard-to-believe array of 13 uses for this lowly vegetable (though it’s got more merit than the common dandelion). I never knew the true value of this little guy. I’ll add yet another to this list of cucumber feats:
#14. Feeling like your cats are stand-offish, not really caring much for you, their faithful human caregiver. Slice up some cucumber, put it in the kitty bowl. Watch kitties turn away, meowing loudly in a kind of pissed-off way, going off to sulk. But don’t lose heart. Later, throw the cucumber bits away, add 1/2 can of tuna to their bowl. Watch them snarf it all up, then come purring to you, all happy now. See—it works, all credit to the miraculous cucumber.
Every cat feeding trick or regime will work for 15 minutes.
I have great cat (Axle), but I sometimes miss the mindless voraciousness of dogs.