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CLOUDY WEATHER is expected today as frontal conditions arrive on the north coast, though light in magnitude. Another brief reprieve this weekend with mild conditions before a much more robust system arrives early next week. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): On the coast this Thursday morning I have 40F under clear skies. We have a chance for some rain later tonight in to Friday morning then cool & clear for the weekend. The forecast for next week is evolving but it does look very wet at this point.
DA A NO SHOW IN RACE FOR SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE
by Mike Geniella
District Attorney David Eyster failed Wednesday to follow up on his planned run to unseat a Mendocino County Superior Court judge that he has tangled with since being elected the County’s top prosecutor 13 years ago.
Eyster in recent weeks informed key members of the county’s legal community, other judges, and his staff that he intended to run against incumbent Superior Court Judge Clay Brennan who presides over the Ten-Mile Branch on the Mendocino Coast. But by the 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline for the DA to file a formal notice of intent, he was a no show.
“Today was the final day to file a declaration of intent to run for a judicial post,” said Katrina Bartolomie, the Assessor/Clerk Recorder/Registrar of Voters for Mendocino County.
As a result, Bartolomie said Brennan will automatically be elected to a third six-year term. Fellow Superior Court Judge Carly Dolan is unopposed for a second six-year term on the bench. Because of no opposition, Brennan and Dolan’s names will not appear on the March primary ballot.
Judge Brennan, after being informed by Bartolomie there would be no contest for his seat, said he was gratified by the outpouring of support in recent weeks.
“For the last 17 years it has been my honor and privilege to serve as a judge on the Mendocino County Superior Court. The outpouring of support I have received over the last several weeks has been both gratifying and humbling. My heartfelt thanks go out to my colleagues on the bench, the attorneys who appear in my courtroom, and most of all to the hundreds of people in the community who stepped forward to offer their support. I look forward to continuing to serve the community I am so fortunate to call home,” said Brennan.
Brennan’s colleagues on the bench rallied to his side after learning of Eyster’s intent to challenge him, as did retired judges and a long list of civic leaders.
Bartolomie said as of Wednesday there are nine candidates for three seats up for election in the March primary for the county Board of Supervisors.
The board races promise to be spirited given the state of county finances, a forced consolidation of two independent county financial offices, and the abrupt suspension without pay of County Auditor/Treasurer Chamise Cubbison after Eyster charged her with felony misappropriation of public funds in October.
The backlash to Cubbison’s ouster seems likely to have played a factor in Eyster’s decision not to seek election as a judge. How the current Board of Supervisors managed Cubbison’s suspension without notice, and Eyster’s role in the controversy, has roiled county politics.
On October 13 Eyster filed charges against Cubbison and the County’s former Payroll Manager Paula June ‘PJ’ Kennedy stemming from a board-triggered investigation into an alleged $68,000 in improper pay received by Paula June Kennedy during the Covid pandemic. Cubbison has said she allowed the payments because Kennedy had reached the salary agreement with now retired Auditor Lloyd Weer, who has not been accused.
Eyster’s possible campaign to unseat Brennan was a reality before the public backlash about the Cubbison case. His announced intentions to run for judge sent shockwaves through the county courthouse when insiders first learned of his plan several weeks ago. Contested elections for judges are rare.
Eyster has earned a reputation as a hard-working, pugnacious prosecutor who regularly takes cases to trial along with a stable of deputies. But Eyster also has been tagged as a bully unafraid to use his wide legal discretion enjoyed by District Attorneys to go after critics in and out of the courthouse.
Judge Brennan earned Eyster’s enmity when he publicly questioned from the bench a marijuana restitution program the DA implemented shortly after he took office in 2011. Eyster used a section of the California health and safety code intended to reimburse police for the cost of cleaning up meth labs and pot grows and reshaped it for use in fast-tracking marijuana related prosecutions. It allowed first time offenders to pay fines rather than be criminally prosecuted for operating illegal growing operations, which were widespread then and creating a lengthy court backlog.
Brennan said during a court hearing on one of the program’s first plea agreements, “To put it bluntly, it looks like a criminal defendant charged with serious conduct can simply buy a misdemeanor disposition if he gets caught and has the money set aside to cover for that contingency.”
Critics were harsh about a program that eventually generated $7 million in new revenue for county coffers, and cemented DA’s role as a key player in politics at the county administrative center. The program was nicknamed the “Mendo Shakedown,” labeled extortion, and blamed for creating what appeared to some as an unequal justice system. A federal grand jury took a look at Eyster’s unique program, as did major news media statewide like the Los Angeles Times. Eventually, the furor subsided, and the DA’s controversial program quietly faded after California voters legalized marijuana in 2016.
While legalization quieted courtroom battles over Mendocino County’s infamous underground marijuana culture, Eyster harbored his grudge against Brennan for years after. The DA regularly demeaned the judge internally, and warned the bench that he would exercise his authority to oppose Brennan from presiding over cases at the Ukiah courthouse. In one momentous public showdown, Eyster personally appeared in court and blocked Brennan from hearing a calendar of scheduled hearings.
A few years later Eyster went after Brennan again for his handling of a celebrated animal abuse case. The DA bellowed that the judge’s sentencing was “too lenient” on the defendant, who had pled no contest to shooting a dog known as “Thunder” and leaving it to die in the woods. Thunder survived and returned to health under new care. In 2020 the defendant entered a guilty plea to felony animal cruelty. Brennan sentenced her to unsupervised probation for 36 months, court imposed counseling, and a ban on owning animals during her probation. She also was required to serve 500 hours of community service.
Eyster refused to give up on his efforts to publicly embarrass Brennan. Even after Eyster lost his bid in a state Court of Appeal to overturn the judge’s sentencing, he brashly claimed victory in his failed “Hail Mary” legal challenge. Eyster pledged then to keep the “bright lights” on Brennan.
Eyster was unopposed for a fourth term in 2022 as DA but within months he was embroiled in controversies over his handling of a string of police misconduct cases. In the highest profile case Eyster agreed to a plea deal that dropped felony sex charges against a former Ukiah police sergeant, a move that triggered public protests and widespread news coverage that summer.
Now the DA is at center stage again with his criminal prosecution of elected County Auditor Cubbison.
During his long tenure, Eyster has been challenged by three County Auditors, who have questioned his use of asset forfeiture funds for routine office costs, travel reimbursements, and whether he violated county policies by hosting office parties that he labeled annual “training sessions.”
Citing Eyster’s pending criminal case against Cubbison, the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 17 took the extraordinary step of suspending her without a public hearing and before the accused Auditor had a chance to enter an expected not guilty plea. Two weeks after the fact Cubbison was given the opportunity to present a defense to the board, but her attorney instead appeared with her and ripped county supervisors for violating the elected official’s rights to due process. A legal challenge to the board action is expected.
Attorney Chris Andrian, a noted Sonoma County defense lawyer, at the time told the board Eyster’s case was “very weak,” and appeared more politically based than legal. “We will mount a vigorous defense,” said Andrian.
The Cubbison case and the chaotic state surrounding county finances are certain to play a role in next March’s election for three seats on the Board of Supervisors.
As of Wednesday, there are five candidates to succeed 1st District Supervisor Glenn McCourty who is stepping down after only one term on the board. They are Carrie Shattuck, Adam Gaska, Trevor Mockel, Madeline Cline, and David Goodman.
In the 2nd District, incumbent Maureen Mulheren will be challenged in her re-election bid by newcomer Jacob Brown. The district is Ukiah, the county’s largest population, retail, and government center.
On the Mendocino Coast, Supervisor Dan Gjerde has declared he’s not seeking re-election to his 4th Supervisor District seat. Current Fort Bragg Mayor Bernie Norvell has filed to replace Gjerde. Georgina Avila-Gorman is the second candidate to seek election in that district.
TWO COVELO MEN ARRESTED FOR MURDER Of The Man Found Dead In The Burned Car Found Last Week
On Tuesday, October 31, 2023 Deputies responded to a vehicle fire where suspected human remains were located. The location was a private parcel at the end of Refuse Road, with a county address in the 78000 block of County Road 337L in Covelo.
Severely burned human remains were located in the rear of the vehicle. One license plate on the vehicle survived the fire and Sheriff's Detectives were able to determine the registered owner.
The Sheriff's Office requested the assistance of Professors from the Chico State University Forensic Anthropology Department to assist in recovering and identifying the burned remains.
While this was occurring, a male adult reported to the Sheriff's Office that his adult son was a possible missing person, which was the same person as the registered owner of the vehicle. When the missing person's report was made, Detectives were learning the missing person had been working on an illegal cannabis farm at a residence in the 23000 block of Hopper Lane in Covelo.
Sheriff's Detectives went to that location, and in checking the missing person's living structure adjacent to the cannabis grow, they located an obvious crime scene.
Two people who reside at that same location were identified as being Lawrence Allen Joaquin, 35, and Iran Lee Hoaglen, 42, both of Covelo.
Joaquin arrived at the location while Sheriff's Detectives were present, and he was arrested on unrelated drug charges and violation of CDC Parole.
Hoaglen, arrived at the location while Sheriff's Detectives were present, but left prior to being identified as a suspect in this case.
Sheriff's Detectives continued investigations and established probable cause to identify both Joaquin and Hoaglen as suspects in this case, resulting in the issuance of warrants for their arrest.
Joaquin was still in custody at the Mendocino County Jail and was subsequently booked on murder related charges on Tuesday, November 6, 2023.
Sheriff's Detectives engaged in attempts to locate Hoaglen and on Wednesday, November 7, 2023 they learned he was possibly at a residence in the 15300 block of Hudson Avenue in Clearlake (Lake County).
With the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Lake/Mendocino Multi-Agency Regional SWAT team, Hoaglen was arrested at that residence during that Wednesday evening. Hoaglen was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on a No-Bail status.
BACK IN APRIL OF THIS YEAR, former Supervisor John Pinches wrote a letter proposing the construction of two fish hatcheries, one at Alderpoint and the other at Piercy. One is on the main stem and the other is on the south fork. Both of these towns have abandoned mill sites adjacent to one of the branches of the Eel River that could be easily and economically remodeled as hatcheries. Pinches noted that burdensome CEQA rules could be waived because of the importance of saving these iconic fish and it could be funded from the state’s still underutilized 2014 $1.5 billion water bond. “By putting these hatcheries on the Eel the salmon will be re-imprinted with the Eel River water which will guarantee that most of the salmon will return to the Eel River after approximately seven years. Once these salmon go out to the ocean and return they are wild salmon and Fish and Wildlife can achieve its goal,” said Pinches.
Pinches said Wednesday that he had seen a recent Chronicle article about a “last ditch” effort to save salmon on the Tehama river with a UC Davis temporary holding facility project that anticipates the subsequent creation of a native hatchery program to breed fish for release back into the wild. Only a few hatcheries operate in California to boost the number of salmon, including spring-run salmon.
Pinches adds that these two hatchery projects alone would create some good jobs for the remodeling as well as a boost for the struggling local fishing industry.
Ernie Branscomb added that, “John Pinches knows more about the Eel River and northern Mendocino than anybody alive. Indian Creek in Piercy once had a large mill pond. It is an ideal place for a fish hatchery. Cedar Creek in Leggett has proven to be an ideal fish rearing creek. Several other clear water pristine creeks exist on the South Fork. The Garberville Rotary Club had phenomenal success rearing steelhead. Fish and Game stopped them because they were afraid that the steelhead would eat salmon fry. Mendocino made a big mistake not reelecting John Pinches.”
Pinches told us that he thinks some creek restoration groups are more interested in fish-related restoration grants than they are in actually repopulating the region’s endangered fish because, like homeless grants, if they solved the problem, even partially, their grant funding would be reduced.
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IT’S UNFORTUNATE that the “Independent” Coast Observer has joined the Supervisors in their bogus “Get Cubbison” project. In their November 3 edition, the ICO’s Supervisors reporter Susan Wolbarst again reported false claims about Cubbison’s tenure as Auditor-Controller / Treasurer-Tax Collector. The front page headline said, “Mendocino County acting auditor drops bombshell at supervisors’ meeting.” Wolbarst went on to quote Acting Auditor Sara Pierce’s remarks at the October 31 Board meeting and her “numerous concerns” including some supposed bank accounts that Pierce said had not been disclosed to the Auditor. Wolbarst admits that “these accounts seem to be legitimate at first review,” and goes on to say that a review is underway, but that didn’t stop her from her sensationalistic headline. Wolbarst didn’t mention that these accounts were known to the Auditor staff and were not, as Pierce implied, some kind of secret slush fund. Then this week Pierce confirmed that the accounts were indeed fine and were set up at Coastal banks for the County’s various Coastal operations to save having to drive to Ukiah to deposit cash or checks. It’s not a problem, never been a problem, and is hardly a “bombshell” worthy of front page headlines. Wolbarst, who has not mentioned anything about Cubbison’s or her attorney’s defense, has done the ICO’s readers a disservice and has been very unfair to Ms. Cubbison. It will be interesting to see if she reports on Pierce’s update this week now that Pierce has said there’s no problem, no bombshell.
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NOT MANY PEOPLE remember that back in 2018 CEO Carmel Angelo and her staff, including current CEO Darcie Antle, then the Senior Budget Officer, promised to do some real budget management and reporting.
From the CEO Report, August 21, 2018
Although the Board of Supervisors passed a balanced budget for fiscal year (FY) 2018-19 on June 19, 2018, the budget team is ramping up their efforts to improve the budget process for FY 2019-20 and ensuring good financial stewardship in FY 2018-19 by implementing the following departmental budget administration and management practices and reporting methodologies.
Budget Management trainings will be held once per month for department budget staff.
Topics will include; Budget Management 101, Budget Metrics, Monitoring 1000 [General Fund] series, Budget development practices, Quarterly Reporting, just to name a few.
A Metric Dashboard has being created for each department to report on their progress each month to the Budget Team including such metrics as:
• Adopted Budget to Actuals (detail vs summary).
• Vacancy rate with department projected savings to the end of fiscal year.
• Three efficiencies from each department/division (this allows for sharing of best practices).
• Grant funding opportunities explored/awarded during the month.
• Other metrics will be added during the year such as Contract Management and Administration reporting.
All required budget forms will be reviewed for necessity, efficiency and duplication. Budget update reports will be presented to the Board of Supervisors every other month in addition to the regular quarterly and mid-year reports.”
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Guess how much of this was “implemented.” (Spoilier Alert: None.)
The point of this look back is to note that CEO Angelo and Assistant CEO Antle knew full well what proper budget management was and is. They did not pretend the Auditor was responsible for it, in fact the Auditor wasn’t mentioned. They also properly noted that the best way to squeeze the budget if it needs squeezing is to require the departments to come up with budget cutting ideas, not to turn the question over to Supervisors who are ignorant of County operations.
Of course, none of this stuff came to pass because Angelo soon realized that to do it might 1) create questions that she didn’t want to be bothered with, and 2) cause her staff to do some real work for a change.
No Supervisors at the time or since followed up on these promises or asked what happened. As a result, more than five years later with no budget management or reporting, predictably, the Board, the public and the (remaining) employees find themselves disengaged from the budget and ignorant of the general operations of the County’s departments, producing the administrative malaise that the Supervisors and the CEO’s office now find themselves in. Instead, they thrash hopelessly in the dark, discussing impractical and entirely theoretical budget options that are not grounded in managerial knowledge.
‘I AM VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY OF THE COUNTY’: Mendocino Leaders On Rising Costs and Sinking Revenue
by Sarah Reith
At Tuesday’s first-quarter budget review, the Board of Supervisors heard some unwelcome news about an addition to the deficit, while another attention-grabbing piece of information appeared to fizzle into mundane legitimacy.…
FREE ENTRY TO HENDY WOODS STATE PARK FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS
Hendy Woods is resuming the Free Days On the Second Sunday of every month in 2024, the Hendy Woods Community is covering the Hendy Woods State Park's Day Use fee ($8) for local residents from the following communities: Yorkville, Boonville, Philo, Navarro, Comptche and Elk - Know your zip code. Enjoy a free visit to the park on us and stroll the old growth redwood groves and beautiful meadows, hike the trails, and unwind along the river! Note: Day use is from 8:00 AM to Sunset Want to join our great team and support your wonderful park? We are always looking for motivated Volunteers for the Hendy Woods Visitor Center, remove invasive plant species and lead forest walks! Interested?
SPORTS PHONE SUNDAY: THE AV SKATE PARK PROJECT
The Sports Phone will interview Noor Darwood regarding the AV Skateboard Park on Sunday, 11/12/23 at 7PM live on kzyx and z, Mendocino County Public Broadcasting. This is a call in show and invite listeners to call. KZYX is 90.7 FM or online at www.kzyx.org
Jim and Jerry Young,
The Sport Phone
AV FOOD BANK NEWS
Important scheduling note: We will be changing the second food distribution in November to Wednesday the 29th due to Thanksgiving.
The Anderson Valley Food Bank (AVFB) would like to reach out to you and let you know how our year has gone. Through Covid and beyond we have continued to provide quality food for folks without enough means to keep ahead of rising food prices and economic challenges.
During the pandemic shut-down many sources of funding from various levels of government were expanded and AVFB was able to expand our program. We relocated and acquired larger space, including a pantry and cold storage. Since the start of 2023 some of this funding has diminished, along with outside programs that were putting help directly into the pockets of those in need. The need is still great and we hope you will consider helping us feed the community.
We are an all volunteer group, relying on donations from local businesses and individuals to fund the acquisition of healthy food for our twice-monthly distribution. We distribute at the Grange on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month from 2:30 to 5:30pm. Your help will make a difference to people you know in our community and is greatly appreciated.
- Distribute 100 to 140 sets of groceries on each distribution day.
- Serve up to 900 individuals monthly.
- Provide a box of staples from state or federal programs.
- Offer two additional shopping bags of produce and groceries per family of four.
- Include fresh seasonal foods.
- Provide nutritional items like dried legumes, frozen meat, and healthy snacks.
- Gather and incorporate client feedback for personal and cultural preferences.
- Occasionally receive food donations from local farms and ranches.
- Notable event: Local school Food Drive contributed canned goods and brought young helpers.
All of these efforts allow us to continue to provide food security to a range of neighbors, friends and community members from young agricultural workers to cherished retirees. The need is not always visible but it is real and continues to impact people in our community that we work and socialize with.
Consider Donating or Volunteering Today!
Every donation, big or small, helps feed someone in need. Thank you for your continuing support.
Anderson Valley Food Bank Team
P.O. Box 692, Boonville, CA 95415
BILL HOLCOMB TURNING 90. Bill's got six years on me, but we share memories of much American history, and for a decade now I've had special regard for people close in age to me because there are fewer and fewer of us. Bill's memories of the Korean War would be more vivid than mine because he would have had friends who went off to fight there. I remember it from newsreels and a handful of neighborhood tough guys who got in trouble doing dumb drunk stuff when they got home, but our memories of the great world outside would have commenced about then.
PAUL THEROUX says it best for me: “…It means we grew up in the same world, in the austere aftermath of World War II, that we knew the same terrors and tyrants and heroes, as well as the same cultural touchstones, certain fashions, banned books, forbidden words, items of slang, the music of the fifties — rock 'n' roll and jazz. We were in our early twenties in the tumble and conflict of the sixties: the civil rights movement, Vietnam, women's lib, a new way of looking at ourselves and the world, the hope we felt seeing oppressive institutions shaken up; we shared a bellicose mood, too, thanks to guerrilla wars and decolonization in Africa. We had lived through an era when authority was challenged by people like us…”
DENNIS ROUSE WRITES: Your report of your SF walkabout is terrific but made me wonder why you don't do it in the natural splendor of Anderson Valley. Me too with OCD pushups and the weight training I can still do as an 82 oldster. I too loved Roth's ‘I Married a Communist’ which I think I read he wrote in response to his ex-wife's (Claire Bloom's) novel ‘Leaving a Doll's House’ in which she, however ineptly, attempts to trash Phil. The reviewer concluded, never try to outwrite a master of the craft. Regarding the Israel/Hamas horror show, I heard a conspiracy enthusiast opine recently that Israel's security lapse that led to the carnage on the Gaza border was purposeful to achieve exactly what's going on now, more land for Israel including valuable Med coast real estate. It's a horrible thought but brings to mind Hitler's liebestraum (living space) aims that pushed the German war machine eastward. Thanks again for getting me off the dime with Theroux on the China express, wonderful stuff, some of it reminiscent of my motorcycle tour over there too many years ago.
ED REPLY. Big events always bring out the paranoids. This horrific war isn't plain enough in itself, there must be some plot behind it. Much as Israeli fascists like Netanyahu would like to disappear the Palestinians, he can't come right out and say so because our ineffective government would have to issue statements like, “Well, gosh, we don't approve,” all the while sending Israel the means to commit the great crimes they are in the act of committing. Yes, October 7th was a great crime against the Israelis. Yes, Hamas is a barbaric political entity using the Palestinian population as human shields. Barbarity creates barbarity, and the Palestinians have historically been treated barbarously, as have the Jews. And here we are with a criminally disproportionate response by Israel for a criminal assault on them. Beyond blind revenge on the entire population of Gaza in the grandest war crime since WWII, the Israelis don't seem to have a plan, only the hope that maybe the Palestinians will be so thoroughly defeated that what's left of them will straggle into Egypt and stay there. The international affairs desk at the Boonville weekly is pretty sure this war will expand with even more severe consequences for that part of the world and even for the US in crippling fuel prices on top of the unchecked inflation we now suffer as two unfit men, one senile, the other demented, run for president.
WALKING in the Anderson Valley, at least the Boonville end of The Valley, is pretty much confined, for me, to a couple of miles along Anderson Valley Way and a couple of miles along Lambert Lane, although I see a few of my early morning cohort striding through Boonville to the high school and Airport Estates, the constant traffic buzzing past mere feet from them. I prefer the peace of Lambert Lane running west of Highway 128. I try not to go out too early — before first light — to avoid startling the occasional vehicle on Lambert by suddenly looming up out of the dark like some horror movie creature. But that dusty stretch of lightly settled dirt road is perfect for a walk, tree-lined, the first light golden on the hills.
A MAJOR advantage of old age and semi-senility is being able to re-read books you read in your uncomprehending youth, much of English lit being beyond young people to fully grasp. I remember sneers at Thomas Wolfe as being “just right for 19-year-olds,” but I loved his books as a kid and recently re-read ‘You Can't Go Home Again’ and was knocked out by it all over again. Like most of popular culture, American literature passed me by about 1970. The fiction I see in The New Yorker… Well, I did like the story in the current edition of Junot Diaz, but I stick to non-fiction mostly.
WRECKER (2022) - WILLITS MAN FILMS MOVIE IN MENDOCINO COUNTY
by Justine Frederiksen
You can discover some amazing things about your town when you start filming a movie there. Like, say, that someone has an actual dungeon full of hanging cages and shackles you could use.
“I thought I was going to have to build a dungeon in my garage,” said Willits resident Bryan Petersen, who filmed his movie ‘Wrecker’ nearly entirely in Mendocino County. But one evening while talking in a bar about the locations he needed, Petersen said a friend told him he knew a guy who just happened to have a dungeon near Ukiah.
“And when I contacted that guy (whom he declined to name to protect his privacy) and casually mentioned I needed a dungeon, he said, ‘Oh, hey, I have a dungeon you could use’,” recalled Petersen, who then found himself driving many miles on winding roads until he reached the man’s property, where indeed there was a huge dungeon featuring four rooms.
While one of the rooms was padded, another was perfect for a scene featuring Petersen and Carlos Amora-Mora, whom Petersen described as a “classically trained Shakespearian actor who just happened to be living five minutes north of me when I was writing the film,” because it had chains with shackles that could be used to tie Petersen and Amora-Mora to the wall.
And while he can’t be any more specific about where the dungeon is located — he described it only as being tucked “into the hills west of Ukiah — Petersen can say that the opening scene of his movie was filmed in the empty lot across the street from the Ukiah Costco, and other scenes were filmed in the Brooktrails Lodge in Willits.
Other local actors featured in the film are Bryan Arnold and Billy Hetherington, whom Petersen described as “acting teachers at Willits High, and together they run the Willits Shakespeare Company.”
Though he could not afford to pay his actors and extras, Petersen said he had no problem finding people willing to appear in his movie.
“For one scene, I needed 12 people, and 44 people showed up!” recalled Petersen, explaining that most of the people in the movie are people he either asked for favors, or who “begged to be a part of it, because there aren’t a lot of roles in this area for them.”
Despite all the free labor, Petersen said it still took him years to make the film, pausing production multiple times until he saved up more money. “Once I had enough to pay for food and beverages, I’d invite people to film another scene.”
Once he completed the film, which he called ‘Wrecker (2022)’ “because there is another film named Wrecker made in 2015 that is completely unrelated to mine,” Petersen said he submitted it to 16 film festivals, including the Mendocino Film Festival, but it was only accepted into one in Seattle.
The plot synopsis is given on IMDB as: “John, a construction worker, moonlighting as a vigilante, grieves over the recent abduction of his wife. A detective friend, sympathetic to his plight, feeds John information about released criminals in hopes of serving them justice outside the system. After leading the bust of a drug lab containing a mysterious substance, the Kingpin of the affected cartel kidnaps the detective’s girlfriend who is held ransom until the mysterious ‘weapon’ is returned.” The film is available to watch on Amazon Prime, Tubi, Google Movies and YouTube Movies.
As for his next film, Petersen said he has already found the perfect location — a winery in Napa “with these great tunnels” whose owner offered him use of the site for free.
(Ukiah Daily Journal)
On Sunday, November 12, a special program at the County Museum will present, 'Her Story Mendocino County,' featuring discussion, reflection, and dramatized readings from special guests and exhibit contributors. Community guests will include Mendocino County Museum Curator, Lindsey Dick, Grace Hudson Museum - Sun House & Wild Gardens Curator, Chelsee Boehm, Anderson Valley Historical Society, Guest Curator, Sheri Hansen. Theatrical guests, Norma Hanson and Jane Camp will recite and incorporate, selected writings, poems and stories authored by Mendocino County women. In addition, author and educator Kim Bancroft will provide insight into her literary work and read excerpts from her latest novel, Writing Themselves into History.
In the old days, CDF unit chiefs would be around for many years, and most of the personnel this is back in the 60s and 70s, would be around for more years than I can remember, it was not a revolving door of the management within the system, but today it seems to be, the revolving door where people work their way through the system and then retire out early, you just get to know somebody can become your friend, your next-door neighbor, and a fellow firefighter was more experience, you need to learn over the years, in my past I sat down to dinner with so many of the great individuals ran the local Mendocino Ranger unit, and I've gone to way too many, retirement dinners, usually held at the broiler steakhouse, in the old days most of the upper management would hang on , for many years and we are all and have been grateful for the experience, many of my old friends, moved out of state, because our government likes to get their money back anyway they can, and they should not be taxing retirement money from our public safety people, should be tax-free dollars, the only way my old friends could keep more, of their retirement money is to leave California, it is sad when the state, looks to find a way to squeeze money out of people who protected and defended the state of California, for many years, but most of us know that California's government by and large, are broken, if upper management in Sacramento really cared about public safety agencies, they would make them exempt from all taxes when buying new equipment items for the department, neither the sheriff, local police, fire services should pay any taxes of any kind, and as long as their members the officers, and their personnel working for these agencies should they should be, tax-exempt as well, any money that is achieved and generated by the work they do, should be tax-free dollars both state and federal, many of our people, that serve our great nation whether they're in law enforcement or fire protection, should be exempt from all taxes on the monies they make while there defending, the communities they serve, and this should extend even to the military each and every one of them, although we know governments broken and it will not give incentives to the workers, but public safety whatever type it may be should be exempt from taxation for it would give, future workers more of an incentive to join the ranks of law enforcement and firefighters if they knew their dollars were not taxable.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Wednesday, November 8, 2023
CARLY CASTAGNOLA, Willits. DUI, controlled substance, paraphernalia, no license, resisting.
STEVEN CLAUS, Fort Bragg. Felon-addict with firearm.
MICHAEL DEATON, Willits. Controlled substance for sale, probation violation.
ALLISON FULLBRIGHT, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance for sale, conspiracy.
IRAN HOAGLEN III, Covelo. Murder, special allegation-controlled substance, special allegation-murder for financial gain, special allegation-burglary, special allegation-lying in wait, habitual criminal, arson of property, prior felony conviction.
MARK NIELSEN, Ukiah. Suspended license for DUI, county parole violation.
DALE NIELSON, Eureka/Ukiah. DUI.
JESSICA NORTON, Ukiah. Controlled substance, tear gas, false ID, probation revocation.
ELIAS RUTHERFORD, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance for sale, conspiracy, county parole violation.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I shred all my fallen leaves with a riding mower using mulching blades. Instead of blowing and raking leaves I grind them up into fragments and they help enrich the soil in the lawn. As for leaves for veggie gardens I get leaves for free from the city, and they deliver the stuff for free and by the dump truck load. Composted leaves will greatly enrich your garden soil and make it more acidic. So to compensate I spread all my wood heater ashes in the garden. Wood ashes will sweeten your soil and reduce acidity if needed. They also add a lot of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium minerals to your soil along with lesser amounts of other vital trace elements. Growing veggies on your garden soil will eventually deplete the minerals unless you add more.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Please find attached the "NO MORE WAR" story I had filed with the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun reporting on Sunday's protest in Santa Rosa calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. At the very last minute, it was spiked by editor Daedalus Howell and publisher Dan Pulcrano. After no discussion with me about the story, Howell and Pulcrano pulled it, and then offered this explanation:
On Nov 7, 2023, at 9:31 AM, Daedalus Howell <email@example.com> wrote: "Borrowing from some recent discussions, the piece, as is, does not place the war in context of factors including the hostages, the massacre, the tunnels, the use of civilians, hospitals and ambulances as human shields, the explosions caused by stored explosives in Gaza, the unreliability of statistics, etc."
I subsequently pointed out to them, to no avail, that the story was accepted and edited as as news story on a local protest calling for a ceasefire, not as a comprehensive analysis of the entire war. In my opinion, pulling the story after it had been copyedited and formatted for publication was an overtly political, not a journalistic act. It was suggested by the publisher that rather than report on the protest, I should write about how fearful Jewish people are of being attacked in America; and while that may be a worthy story, it is not this story.
After 18 years of writing national award winning investigative reports, columns, and features for the Bohemian and Pacific Sun, I have terminated my relationship with the the organization and will be migrating to a new publishing platform, to be announced. Bohemian/Pacific Sun news editor, Will Carruthers, who had commissioned and edited the Gaza protest story, has resigned his staff position effective today. Will can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The good news is that COUNTERPUNCH will publish NO MORE WAR this week, stay tuned.
Colleagues, please feel free to re-publish this story, but only in its entirety and with no changes
RE: Letters and complaints to the publisher and editor of the Bohemian/Pacific Sun:
I can be reached, as below, for further discussion.
Peter Byrne Ink
ISRAEL RAISES ALARMS BY SUGGESTING ‘INDEFINITE’ ROLE IN GAZA
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken quickly pushed back, but what exactly comes next is far from clear.
by Steven Erlanger & Isabel Kershner
By saying that Israel will maintain security control over Gaza “for an indefinite period,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set off alarm bells in Washington and questions at home.
The Biden administration, trying to manage severe criticism among Arab and European allies about the death toll in Gaza — now at more than 10,000 Gazan officials say — was quick to push back.
“We’re very clear on no reoccupation, just as we’re very clear on no displacement of the Palestinian population,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Mr. Blinken did leave open the possibility of a “transition period” after the war ends, he said, but eventually Gaza’s administration “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”
But everyone is vague on how that might happen, given the current weakness of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which is limited to parts of the occupied West Bank. Mr. Abbas is deeply unpopular, and the Authority is widely criticized among Palestinians for corruption and its collaboration with Israel. That collaboration helps Mr. Abbas tamp down dissent in the West Bank, including from members of Hamas, while Israeli settlements continue to expand there.
So, in a real sense, Mr. Netanyahu was just saying the obvious.
After the killing of so many Israelis by Hamas a month ago — about 1,400, officials say — Israel will want to ensure its own security so that such an invasion from Gaza can never happen again. The presumption is that Israel will control Gaza until some new arrangement can be made to govern the strip and patrol it, which could take a long time.
Even then, it is highly unlikely, Israeli officials say, that Israel will ever completely trust any Palestinian or even international peacekeeping force to keep Israel safe.
Israel is prioritizing its security, these officials say, and will maintain what it calls “operational flexibility,” which is understood to mean the ability to enter Gaza whenever it feels its security is at risk.
Israeli officials also say that they intend to create a new buffer zone inside Gaza, which logic says could include an area at the Egyptian border, as well, which would give Israel total control over all Gaza’s land borders.
Mr. Netanyahu set off the debate when he told ABC News that Israel would “for an indefinite period” have the overall security responsibility in Gaza “because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it.”
But even if Israel dismantles Hamas in Gaza, who will govern Gaza after the war and how the territory will be policed are listed in Israeli planning as “tbd.”
As in the West Bank, where Israeli troops are in charge of security in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Netanyahu seems to be imagining something similar for Gaza. At the same time, he and other senior Israeli officials say they have no intention of “reoccupying Gaza,” by which they seem to mean once again being responsible for civilian administration, too.
It is too early to decide these matters, Benny Gantz, a former defense minister who is part of Mr. Netanyahu’s small war cabinet in the emergency government, told reporters on Wednesday.
Once Gaza and other areas are safe, “we will sit down and review an alternative mechanism for Gaza,” he said. “I do not know what it will be. But I do know what cannot be there — an active presence of Hamas with governance and military capabilities.”
There may be a role for a multinational force to help stabilize Gaza, restore civil order and eventually usher in the Palestinian Authority, said Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution. But there is bound to be a budding insurgency in Gaza after the war, he said, “and in terms of counterinsurgency, there is no alternative to a hardheaded approach.”
Egypt will refuse to do it, and the Palestinian Authority can only do it with help from Israel, he said. “The thought that the Israelis would just evaporate is crazy,” he said. “It’s hard to see how anyone other than Israel can do that counterinsurgency work. As unappealing as the return of a partial Israeli presence is, chaos is worse, but ideally with as light and short an Israeli presence as possible.”
Israeli officials have spoken of dividing Gaza into “areas,” like those in the West Bank, where Israeli forces have freedom of action, supposedly in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, in areas of Palestinian control.
The hope would be, Mr. Sachs said, with the help of international forces, to have Gaza be as close to the West Bank’s Area A as possible — where the Palestinian Authority is supposed to have full control but where Israeli forces enter and leave when they consider it necessary.
Ghassan Khatib, a lecturer at Bir Zeit University and former minister and spokesman of the Palestinian Authority, said he believed that Mr. Netanyahu was thinking of the West Bank. “In the West Bank he is leaving the administrative functions to the Palestinian Authority and keeping for Israel the overall security responsibility,” he said.
Asked if he meant Israeli forces going in and out, Mr. Khatib agreed. “Israel gives itself the right to do anything it sees as necessary security-wise and has someone to do the dirty work.”
But in Gaza, the Authority will be less likely to agree. “I doubt very much, after the experience of the West Bank, that there will be anyone willing to repeat that experience on the Palestinian or Arab side,” he said.
Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian analyst, suggested that what Israel was discussing represented occupation, whatever it’s called.
“Either you are permanently there or you will not be there,” he said of Israel’s future role in controlling Gaza. “Either you stay or you don’t stay. Overall security control means being everywhere, in every corner. It means taking on social, educational and health needs and assuming responsibility” for the enclave, which is precisely what Israel says it will not do.
Despite Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, by most legal definitions, it still occupies the territory, since it controls Gaza’s airspace, its coastline, all the land borders except with Egypt, the vast majority of goods allowed to enter and the Gazans allowed to leave. Lawyers call this “functional occupation,” said Michael Sfard, a lawyer who specializes in the laws of war.
Even before the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, Israel held “all the layers of control,” including the population register for births and deaths in Gaza, Mr. Sfard said. “The test for occupation is the level of control,” which is why Israel is judged internationally as continuing to occupy the strip, even if it is not responsible for collecting the garbage, he said.
And if Israel does choose to treat Gaza even like Area A in the West Bank, where it is free to enter and leave with its troops as it sees fit, that would mean an even clearer reason to call it an occupation, Mr. Sfard said.
Mr. Gantz, however, said that for Israel, defeating Hamas came first, and security for now was trumping everything, even if peace with the Palestinians remained his ultimate goal.
“Hamas started this war, but Israel will win it,” he said. “It will take some time and there will be casualties, and though we are trying as much as possible to move the Gazan people south and people are dying, we are doing what we can,” he insisted, despite the unprecedented number of civilian deaths.
He would not be drawn on the length of the war, saying that “there are no limitations” for a fight “for our existence and for Zionism.”
LETTER FROM LONDON: POLITE NOTICE
by Peter Bach
The world has lost its manners. Sometimes described as socially acceptable ways of behaving towards people, they seem to have fallen away. In other words, if good manners are about treating people well, often in public, it doesn’t tally at all with what we are seeing today, though at least some of the young here in London seem more civil than their elders. If manners show respect for people’s comfort and feelings, there is little of that coming from the grown-ups here. Home Secretary Suella Braverman, at it again last week by saying homelessness was a lifestyle choice, is a case in point. Now planning to actively restrict the use of tents by rough sleepers, she is like someone who wakes up each morning with a pair of binoculars by her bed ready to find yet another person vulnerable enough to take a pop at. Thankfully, there are still one or two lasting slip roads entering or leaving this expressway: ‘It is a great mistake for men to give up paying compliments, for when they give up saying what is charming, they give up thinking what is charming,’ said Oscar Wilde once. For me, even when manners fail, they grant good grace.
It was at an early age for me that manners first impressed. Without parents, I was shifted around a lot, having to read every situation quickly, without the requisite skillsets. Only by the age of four did any instincts kick in. I discovered that young children are far more perceptive and resilient than people give them credit. Don’t for a moment believe the children being bombed in Gaza right now are unaware of what is going on. At one railway station aged four I remember a giant picture of pop star staring down, their spiky hair full of danger. Strangers in the foreground lugged heavy, belted suitcases. People in uniform blew loud whistles. A man selling newspapers kept shouting about the world. I could have been angry with the world myself, but what would that have resolved? Why curse the ground we walk upon? Why hiss at the sky we love? Only when we can do something about something should we stir. Besides, it was not in anyone’s interests to cause a scene, especially with those tasked to look after one.
People say it is rather old school and English to believe in manners. They say manners are like the management of emotion, but a luxury all the same. They call them cute, not bold. If so, there was not much sign of any such luxuries or cuteness at the Covid inquiry here in London last week. All I saw were mostly Oxbridge people tearing into mostly Oxbridge people, with all the savagery of supercilious insects. This week will no doubt be the same. The misogyny in some of the ranks at the hearing was enough to develop in viewers, even passive observers, a hatred, dislike, or mistrust of men. Dominic Cummings listened to his own expletive-driven messages being read out by offering back slightly skittish, viperish glances, left and right and left again, delivered without any insight. It made me realise that the reason for the malevolent sweeping away or lining up against the wall of manners in this country has been a direct result of the people most recently in power here in Blighty, and not really from anywhere else. I feel sure I will write about Covid one day, as I did at the time speak directly to various government officials, as one member of a team of volunteers. This included having several group chats with senior Cabinet Office officials, whose exhaustion, it must be said, seemed not from partying but brutish long hours. The whole Boris Johnson thing appeared elsewhere, like a giant dog being fed raw steak in an adjoining room. Occasionally, you would hear across the ether the moral equivalence of blood-licking, which you just put down to eccentric government, little knowing it was, in fact, pure anarchy.
I am probably biased but I do find myself believing the Scots well mannered. In England it can seem as if the more educated we are, the less tolerant we become of another person’s point of view. In Scotland, erudition is a right not a badge. As a member of the Colony Club in London, I used to tire at the amount of times people gleefully called called one another ‘cunts’ at the bar as if thinking they were being incredibly funny, when, in fact, they were just being incredibly dull, something, ironically, they claimed to despise. This seemed especially the case among very rich members pretending to be slumming it. Conversely, manners for me have always been about social mystery and a kind of ripe discretion. They exist as a cloak of finesse over a light and gentle breeze. I have also always believed for example that keeping the peace is the true essence of good manners. Notice the absence of peace today. Notice the absence of manners. In addition, we are forever told to take sides, as if the middle ground, that great unloved cropland of peace, must be deserted forever, made into a kind of No Man’s Land.
That all said, I was telling a Chinese friend in central London last week that I long believed that when we show respect to others, we always get it back — unless something is out of control and like an aberration something we simply must move on from. We spoke about the great Tang dynasty poet Li Bai, said to have died trying to embrace the reflection of the moon in the Yangtze River, when in fact he was drunk and simply fell into the cold water and drowned. Our discussion prompted all sorts of literary allusions, including the controversial American poet Ezra Pound, the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, and Maxim Gorky’s non-fiction writing on his childhood. We both agreed — polite at all times — that Li Bai’s work was so clear and accessible as to belong to everybody: “Your footprints by our door, where I had watched you go / Were hidden, every one of them, under green moss / Hidden under moss too deep to sweep away.”
If the world has indeed lost its manners, I wonder where they went. Is there any merit in still looking for them? I was trying to work out if Blighty’s present loss of them began — however unwittingly — with the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics and the ‘Isles of Wonder’ extravaganza that took place at the Olympic Stadium. This was a beautiful celebration bristling with good intention. What it did not realise however was that by repackaging patriotism in this way, by rating our national story as somehow above everyone else’s, as if a lesson to the rest of the world, this would one day unleash the darker side of nationalism. This is because a lot of Brits who had otherwise never really thought about nationhood suddenly found themselves voting affably enough — or so they thought — for Brexit. That small group could well have been what pushed us over the edge. For Brexit, read Trump. For Trump, read insurrection. For insurrection, read Putin. For Putin, read Iran. For Iran, read Hamas.
Finally, soon by simply undermining the UK, people can be branded extremists. This is according to documents seen last week by the Observer, suggesting government officials have drawn up proposals to broaden the definition of extremism. This means anyone who ‘undermines’ our darling institutions and so-called values could soon be charged with ‘extremism’. On a bad day, perfectly legitimate groups and individuals — such as journalists — can be branded extremists if they do not toe the government line. It sounds to me like the official death of all manners.
‘THE GOOD GUYS DON’T ALWAYS WIN’: Salman Rushdie on peace, Barbie and what freedom cost him
What can the great myths (and the summer blockbusters) tell us about peace? The writer, who has turned to fables all his life, weighs their wisdom – and considers the price he himself has paid for liberty
by Salman Rushdie
To begin with, let me tell you a story. There were once two jackals: Karataka, whose name meant Cautious, and Damanaka, whose name meant Daring. They were in the second rank of the retinue of the lion king Pingalaka, but they were ambitious and cunning. One day, the lion king was frightened by a roaring noise in the forest, which the jackals knew was the voice of a runaway bull, nothing for a lion to be scared of. They visited the bull and persuaded him to come before the lion and declare his friendship. The bull was scared of the lion, but he agreed, and so the lion king and the bull became friends, and the jackals were promoted to the first rank by the grateful monarch.
Unfortunately, the lion and the bull began to spend so much time lost in conversation that the lion stopped hunting and so the animals in the retinue were starving. So the jackals persuaded the king that the bull was plotting against him, and they persuaded the bull that the lion was planning to kill him. So the lion and the bull fought, and the bull was killed, and there was plenty of meat, and the jackals rose even higher in the king’s regard because they had warned him of the plot. They rose in the regard of everyone else in the forest as well, except, of course, for the poor bull, but that didn’t matter, because he was dead, and providing everyone with an excellent lunch.
This, approximately, is the frame-story of On Causing Dissension Among Friends, the first of the five parts of the book of animal fables known as the Panchatantra. What I have always found attractive about the Panchatantrastories is that many of them do not moralise. They do not preach goodness or virtue or modesty or honesty or restraint. Cunning and strategy and amorality often overcome all opposition. The good guys don’t always win. (It’s not even always clear who the good guys are.) For this reason they seem, to the modern reader, uncannily contemporary – because we, the modern readers, live in a world of amorality and shamelessness and treachery and cunning, in which bad guys everywhere have often won.
I have always been inspired by mythologies, folktales and fairytales, not because they contain miracles – talking animals or magic fishes – but because they encapsulate truth. For example, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, which was an important inspiration for my novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet, can be told in fewer than 100 words, yet it contains, in compressed form, mighty questions about the relationship between art, love and death. It asks: can love, with the help of art, overcome death? But perhaps it answers: doesn’t death, in spite of art, overcome love? Or else it tells us that art takes on the subjects of love and death and transcends both by turning them into immortal stories. Those 100 words contain enough profundity to inspire 1,000 novels.
The storehouse of myth is rich indeed. There are the Greeks, of course, but also The Norse Prose and Poetic Edda. Aesop, Homer, the Ring of the Nibelung, the Celtic legends, and the three great Matters of Europe: the Matter of France, the body of stories around Charlemagne; the Matter of Rome, regarding that empire; and the Matter of Britain, the legends surrounding King Arthur. In Germany, you have the folktales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
However, in India, I grew up with the Panchatantra, and when I find myself, as I do at this moment, in between writing projects, it is to these crafty, devious jackals and crows and their like that I return, to ask them what story I should tell next. So far, they have never let me down. Everything I need to know about goodness and its opposite, about liberty and captivity, and about conflict, can be found in these stories. For love, I have to say, it is necessary to look elsewhere.
And what does the world of fable have to tell us about peace? The news is not very good. Homer tells us peace comes after a decade of war when everyone we care about is dead and Troy has been destroyed. The Norse myths tell us peace comes after Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods, when the gods destroy their traditional foes but are also destroyed by them. The Mahābhārataand Ramayanatell us peace comes at a bloody price. And the Panchatantra tells us that peace is only achieved through treachery.
But let’s abandon the legends of the past for a moment to look at this summer’s twin legends: I’m referring of course to the movie double-header known as Barbenheimer. The film Oppenheimerreminds us that peace only came after two atom bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man, were dropped on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; while the box-office monster called Barbie makes clear that unbroken peace and undiluted happiness, in a world where every day is perfect and every night is girls’ night, only exist in pink plastic.
And we speak of peace now, when war is raging, a war born of one man’s tyranny and greed for power and conquest; and another bitter conflict has exploded in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Peace, right now, feels like a fantasy born of a narcotic smoked in a pipe. Peace is a hard thing to make, and a hard thing to find. And yet we yearn for it, not only the great peace that comes at the end of war, but also the little peace of our private lives, to feel ourselves at peace with ourselves, and the little world around us. It is one of our great values, a thing ardently to pursue. There is also something decidedly fabulist about the notion of peace prizes. But I like the idea that peace itself might be the prize, a whole year’s supply of it, delivered to your door, elegantly bottled. That’s an award I’d be very happy to receive. I am even thinking of writing a story about it, The Man Who Received Peace as a Prize.
I imagine it taking place in a small country town, at the village fair, maybe. There are the usual competitions, for the best pies and cakes, the best watermelons, the best vegetables; for guessing the weight of the farmer’s pig; for beauty, for song, and for dancing. A pedlar in a threadbare frock-coat arrives in a gaily painted horse-drawn wagon, looking a little like the itinerant confidence trickster Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz, and says that if he is allowed to judge the contests he will hand out the best rewards anyone has ever seen. “Best prizes!” he cries. “Roll up! Roll up!”
And so they do roll up, the simple country folk, and the pedlar hands out small bottles to the various prizewinners, bottles labelled Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Goodness, and Peace. The villagers are disappointed. They would have preferred cash. And in the year following the fair, there are strange occurrences. After drinking the liquid in his bottle, the winner of the Truth prize begins to annoy and alienate his fellow villagers by telling them exactly what he really thinks of them.
The Beauty, after drinking her award, becomes more beautiful, at least in her own eyes, but also insufferably vain. Freedom’s licentious behaviour shocks many of her fellow villagers, who conclude that her bottle must have contained some powerful intoxicant. Goodness declares himself to be a saint and of course after that everyone finds him unbearable. And Peace just sits under a tree and smiles. As the village is so full of troubles, this smile is extremely irritating, too.
A year later when the fair is held again, the pedlar returns, but is driven out of town. “Go away,” the villagers cry. “We don’t want those sorts of prizes. A rosette, a cheese, a piece of ham, or a red ribbon with a shiny medal hanging from it. Those are normal prizes. We want those instead.”
I may or may not write that story. At the very least, it may serve lightheartedly to illustrate a serious point, which is that concepts we think we can all agree to be virtues can come across as vices, depending on your point of view, and on their effects in the real world.
My fate, over the past many years, has been to drink from the bottle marked Freedom, and therefore to write, without any restraint, those books that came to my mind to write. And now, as I am on the verge of publishing my 22nd, I have to say that on 21 of those 22 occasions, the elixir has been well worth drinking, and it has given me a good life doing the only work I ever wanted to do.
On the remaining occasion, namely the publication of my fourth novel, I learned – many of us learned – that freedom can create an equal and opposite reaction from the forces of unfreedom. I learned, too, how to face the consequences of that reaction, and to continue, as best I could, to be as unfettered an artist as I had always wished to be. I learned, too, that many other writers and artists, exercising their freedom, also faced the forces of unfreedom, and that, in short, freedom can be a dangerous wine to drink.
But that made it more necessary, more essential, more important to defend, and I have done my best, along with a host of others, to defend it. I confess there have been times when I’d rather have drunk the Peace elixir and spent my life sitting under a tree wearing a blissful, beatific smile, but that was not the bottle the pedlar handed me.
We live in a time I did not think I would see, a time when freedom – and in particular, freedom of expression, without which the world of books could not exist – is everywhere under attack from reactionary, authoritarian, populist, demagogic, half-educated, narcissistic, careless voices; when places of education and libraries are subject to hostility and censorship; and when extremist religion and bigoted ideologies have begun to intrude in areas of life in which they do not belong. And there are also progressive voices being raised in favour of a new kind of bien-pensantcensorship, one that appears virtuous, and which many people, especially young people, have begun to see as a virtue.
So freedom is under pressure from the left as well as the right, the young as well as the old. This is something new, made more complicated by our new tools of communication, the internet, on which well-designed pages of malevolent lies sit side by side with the truth, and it is difficult for many people to tell which is which; and our social media, where the idea of freedom is every day abused to permit, very often, a kind of online mob rule, which the billionaire owners of these platforms seem increasingly willing to encourage, and to profit by.
What do we do about free speech when it is so widely abused? We should still do, with renewed vigour, what we have always needed to do: to answer bad speech with better speech, to counter false narratives with better narratives, to answer hate with love, and to believe that the truth can still succeed even in an age of lies. We must defend it fiercely and define it broadly. We should of course defend speech that offends us, otherwise we are not defending free expression at all.
To quote Cavafy, “the barbarians are coming today”, and what I do know is that the answer to philistinism is art, the answer to barbarianism is civilisation, and in a culture war it may be that artists of all sorts – film-makers, actors, singers, writers – can still, together, turn the barbarians away from the gates.
On the subject of freedom, I thank all those who raised their voices in solidarity and friendship after the attack on me some 15 months ago. That support meant a great deal to me personally, and to my family, and it showed us how passionate and how widespread the belief in free speech still is, all over the world. The outrage that was expressed after the attack was in sympathy with me, but it was also, more importantly, born of people’s horror – your horror – that the core value of a free society had been so viciously and ignorantly assaulted. I am most grateful for the flood of friendship that came my way, and will do my best to continue to fight for what you all rose up to defend.
This is an edited extract from Salman Rushdie’s acceptance speech for the German peace prize awarded to him at the Frankfurt book fair last month.
LEE, PREFERABLY; PORTER, MAYBE; SCHIFF, NEVER
UKRAINE, WEDNESDAY, 8TH NOVEMBER
Moscow and Beijing are not forming any military alliances reminiscent of “Cold War associations,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said as he made another thinly-veiled swipe at NATO.
Putin met Zhang Youxia, the deputy chairman of China’s Central Military Council on Wednesday as a wider delegation of Chinese defense officials visited Moscow.
“Russia and China are not building any military alliances following the example of the Cold War,” Putin said, alluding to coalitions like NATO — a Western military alliance formed after World War II that Russia heavily criticizes and repeatedly blames for stoking conflict.
Earlier, Russia’s defense ministry said talks with the Chinese would focus on “increasing bilateral cooperation in the defense sector.”
Announcing the visit, the ministry stated on Telegram that relations between Russia and China “are an example of strategic interaction based on trust and respect.”
Zelenskyy thanks Japan and G7 for ‘strong statement’ reiterating support for Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Japan and other G7 nations for their “unwavering support for Ukraine even amid other global developments” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Zelenskyy made special reference to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who he spoke to in order to “thank Japan for taking the lead in supporting Ukraine during its G7 presidency.”
The leaders reportedly discussed further financial support for Ukraine and work toward Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan.
— Hannah Ward-Glenton
Zelenskyy says 43 Ukrainians have been evacuated from Gaza
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that the first group of 43 Ukrainian nationals had been evacuated from Gaza.
In a post on social media, Zelenskyy said the group are now in Egypt. Alongside them are 36 Moldovan citizens who Kyiv also helped to transfer, he added.
— Karen Gilchrist, CNBC
THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK: CASE NOT CLOSED
This piece was first published in 1993 years ago in a slightly different form in the Anderson Valley Advertiser. I republish it in memory of President Kennedy on the 60th anniversary of his assassination.
The points I make about our servile mainstream media and the evidence—particularly the Single Bullet Theory—are still valid.
* * *
JFK Case Not Closed
by Rob Anderson
It’s a remarkable state of affairs: 30 years after the event and people of goodwill can agree on only the bare facts about the assassination of President Kennedy. It’s even more remarkable when you consider that, in effect, the whole world has witnessed the crime, since everyone has seen the Zapruder film of the assassination.
The November, 1963 events in Dallas are like a national “Rashomon,” the Kurosawa film that portrays a single event from the perspectives of different witnesses and participants. Or Antonioni’s “Blow-up.” Or is it Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”? In spite of the Zapruder film, however, the Kennedy assassination has been the subject of wildly different interpretations.
Polls consistently show that most Americans doubt the official version of events as set forth in the Warren Commission Report of 1964. This is both a great annoyance to our rulers and a tribute to the critics of the official, Oswald-the-lone-nut version of the event. Supporters of the Warren Commission often complain about the undue influence of the crackpot assassination writers who have supposedly been polluting the clear waters of American political discourse for decades.
Given all the books, TV shows, information and disinformation in the intervening years, can anyone be objective about the assassination of President Kennedy? This is the question raised by Gerald Posner’s “Case Closed,” a bad book that has been embraced with a sigh of relief by the mainstream media. Confirming establishment doctrine and defending the 1964 findings of the Warren Report, Posner’s supposedly definitive book allows mainstreamers to believe what they’ve wanted to believe all along, that there was no conspiracy to kill the president, and those who persist in thinking otherwise are ignoramuses, liars, profiteers, sensationalists, and cranks.
The uncritically favorable reception of Posner’s book has been almost unanimous: US News and World Report (“an unshakable case”), The Nation (“patiently debunks every canard about the assassination”), The New York Times (“more satisfying than any conspiracy theory”), and the Washington Monthly (“a tremendous job”). Even cartoonist Gary Trudeau in Doonesbury was unable to resist a post-Posner sneer at the critics of the Warren Report. Posner himself has appeared on several anniversary television specials as a so-called expert to counter critics of the Warren Report.
Jonathan Kwitney’s review of “Case Closed” in the Los Angeles Times is the only negative review I’ve seen, though the facetious head (“Bad News: Your Mama Shot JFK”) undermines the serious contents of his piece. Whoever writes the heads got another opportunity with a later exchange of letters between Posner and Kwitney: “Assassination Without End,” sighed the head this time, implying that serious people have more important things to think about than the crime of the century.
In spite of the complaints of those who peddle the official version of the event, those who persist in criticizing the Warren Report have long been marginalized. Mainstream journalists are by definition not people who challenge the basic tenets of national life. Those who have such tendencies are weeded out long before they achieve syndication or reach the anchor desk.
After “Case Closed” liberals and conservatives can with bipartisan smugness now safely assume that writing about JFK’s assassination will be permanently relegated to the margins of the already marginal, like those who insist on writing about animal rights, another issue that draws scorn from across the political spectrum.
In an "interview" of Wesley Liebeler, who talks about his job as a staffer for the Warren Commission, in the Nation (March 9, 1992), leftist Alexander Cockburn is running with the pack. Cockburn, who usually has a healthy contempt for the US political consensus, thinks the Warren Commission essentially got it right. Like his center-right brethren, Cockburn is coasting intellectually, since his writing on the subject is suspiciously lacking in specifics.
He fails to cite Posner’s book as the source of his recent pro-Warren Commission items, though his debt is apparent. Cockburn’s interview with Liebeler shows an ignorance he’s failed to remedy in the intervening months. He lobbed a few uninformed questions at Liebeler, who proceeded to defend the official version without challenge from Cockburn.
Unlike his establishment colleagues on the issue---Dan Rather, Tom Wicker, George Will, Anthony Lewis---Cockburn implies that JFK had it coming anyhow due to his immoral policies in Latin America and Vietnam, not to mention that he and brother Bobby, with the help of the Mafia, tried to knock off Fidel Castro. Besides, Cockburn argues, maybe we should at least give Oswald, a “well-informed” leftist---he read the People’s World, The Militant, and Time Magazine, after all---credit for doing a competent job, which isn’t what those on the American left have a reputation for.
As an admitted crank on the assassination for years, Posner’s book caused me to reflect on the history of my involvement with the issue. I turned 21 the month before Kennedy’s assassination, and even at that callow age I was no Camelot liberal, having been radicalized by the frightening Cuban missile crisis the year before.
The first few days after the assassination, along with everyone else, I didn’t question the official story: According to both the press and the electronic media, Kennedy had been shot in the throat and the head, the assassin had been apprehended, and was in turn assassinated by another lone gunman. To be sure, the Ruby business seemed weird, but no fundamental questions were raised in my mind in the first days after the assassination.
The first critical piece I read was Staughton Lynd’s article in The New Republic (a visit to the library to re-read the piece reminded me that Lynd co-authored the article of Dec. 21, 1963 with Jack Minnis). Lynd and Minnis raised still unanswered questions about both the direction and the number of shots fired at the president.
At the brokerage firm where I performed menial tasks for $1.25 an hour in 1963---the same wage Oswald was making at the Texas School Book Depository---a co-worker spotted me reading the New Republic and asked what I was reading. I told him about the questions being raised about the assassination, and I can still recall being surprised by his annoyed reaction: “Well, who did do it, then?” He had me there; I still don’t know, and no one else knows for certain, in spite of claims to the contrary.
As an idealistic young fellow, I asked myself, “Why would someone not want to know the truth?” A good, though naïve, question. The answers vary with the individual, but people obviously value many things over the truth. Mainstream media types place a high value on their careers, while many liberal and radical intellectuals, already on the periphery of American life, seem to fear being labeled as cranks. Most people simply prefer the truth in neat, reassuring packages.
Those too young to remember may find it hard to believe, but thirty years ago most Americans tended to believe what the government told them.
The much-maligned Mark Lane checked in next, with a special edition of the leftist weekly, The National Guardian, devoted to this critique of the official version of events[Later: Actually, Lane's Guardian piece was published two days before the New Republic article]. Lane raised some of the same questions as Lynd and Minnis. He also tried to function as a defense attorney for the dead Lee Harvey Oswald. Hence, his writing has always read like a defense attorney’s brief, just as the Warren Report was essentially a prosecutor’s brief.
After the release of the Warren Report in the Fall of 1964, I attended a “debate” on its findings at the Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill in San Francisco between Mark Lane and famed defense attorney, Jake Ehrlich. The large audience included a number of law school types leafing through copies of the Warren Report as Lane cited page, chapter and verse. That evening established a pattern for such exchanges: Critics would make specific points while defenders of the Warren Commission responded with rhetoric and hot air.
As Posner points out, critics of the Warren Report have often been wrong and foolish. Though little of the material is original, his critiques of various assassination theories and writers is one of the strong parts of "Case Closed." But, regardless of the ultimate value of his work, Lane had at least done some homework for the encounter with Ehrlich, who had evidently done none, making a completely rhetorical attack on Lane and those who challenged the official story: “Earl Warren is a friend of mine…”
Except for reading an occasional book or magazine article on the subject, I put a low priority on the issue until 1990. I went on to other concerns, particularly Vietnam, since the US invasion of Indochina was gearing up after “peace” candidate Lyndon Johnson was elected president in 1964.
In retrospect I got off easy. Jim Moore (“Conspiracy of One,” 1991) claims he began studying the assassination when he was 8 years old and continued his obsession for 23 years. Or David Lifton (“Best Evidence,” 1980), who was hooked on the subject in 1966 and is still at it, with a new book expected shortly.
When Oliver Stone’s movie, “JFK,” brought the subject back to the forefront of national consciousness, I began to read about the subject again (much to my then-girl friend’s disgust, by the way). I found two things remained the same about the issue over the years: Supporters of the Warren Report almost always engaged in empty rhetoric in its defense, and the Single Bullet theory is still preposterous.
“JFK,” which is a good movie, didn’t really provide any new evidence, fudged on the facts and fictionalized freely. More importantly, however, Stone showed a mass audience what assassination researchers---if you don’t like the critics, you call them “buffs” or worse; if you respect them, you call them “researchers”---have been talking about for years on two crucial issues: the Zapruder film, which shows the fatal head shot knocking President Kennedy violently backwards; and a clear exposition of the Single Bullet Theory, the heart of the Warren Commission’s explanation of the assassination.
But what impressed me most about “JFK” was the mainstream media’s hysterically negative reaction, based apparently on pirated versions of early drafts of the movie's script, a reaction that started months before the movie was even released. The lack of intellectual integrity of those vilifying “JFK” surprised me, which shows my continuing naivete, I suppose, considering how many other atrocities some of the same people and publications have rationalized over the years.
True to form, the attacks on Stone were mostly rhetorical. George Will wondered if Stone was “an intellectual sociopath”; Senator Daniel Moynihan thought the movie might “spoil a generation of American politics just when sanity is returning”; and Ellen Goodman accused Stone of an “attempted coup of American history.”
I don’t consider myself an expert on the assassination, but I’ve done enough reading on the subject over the years to at least know what the issues are. I was a little surprised to realize that, over the past 30 years, I’ve read 18 of the books in Posner’s bibliography for "Case Closed." But I’ve never pored over the 26 volumes of the Warren Report---just the single volume version---and I haven’t kept up with the small periodicals that specialize in the subject.
But Stone’s critics rarely addressed any of the crucial issues raised by “JFK,” like Oswald’s political associations before the assassination, the Single Bullet Theory (aka the Magic Bullet Theory), or, perhaps Stone’s most important contribution, the sequence that shows Garrison/Costner running, over and over, that portion of the Zapruder film that shows the fatal head shot. This allowed millions to use their eyes and common sense to judge the origin of the shot: Was it from the front or from the back?
The Zapruder film, kept under wraps by Life Magazine for years, was first shown on network TV in 1975, but there’s nothing like Stone's 35 millimeter print on the big screen to make the point that the shot came from the front.
Unlike most defenders of the Warren Report, Posner at least discusses important aspects of the assassination in detail, which makes "Case Closed" the biggest challenge to critics of the Warren Report since the publication of the report itself in 1964 (another challenge to critics is Jim Moore’s “Conspiracy of One,” but Moore’s book is neither as ambitious nor as well-written as Posner’s). The 600 pages of "Case Closed" bristle with scholarly apparatus, and its pages are crowded with footnotes, as Posner seems eager to cram in every scrap of information regardless of relevance.
He raises suspicions early, however, when he makes some large claims in his preface:
Despite a seemingly intractable quagmire of conflicting evidence, it is possible to find reliable and accurate information about the assassination and, by so doing, answer the riddle of what really happened as well as what motivated Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby…The troubling issues and questions about the assassination can be settled, the issue of who killed JFK resolved, and Oswald’s motivation revealed. Presenting those answers is the goal of this book.
Making these claims and using them as the title of the book was no doubt good marketing strategy, but a more modest estimate of his achievements would have more accurately reflected its contents. Of course Posner doesn’t succeed in settling the matter, except for those who already believe the case was essentially solved by the Warren Commission. Instead, “Case Closed” is an updated brief for the prosecution, re-investigating issues covered by the Warren Commission, unconvincingly trying to apply new technology to old evidence, and cross-examining witnesses who raise doubts that Oswald was the lone assassin.
In fact most of “Case Closed” is about Oswald, whose short, unhappy life is recounted in painful detail. As a friend of mine points out, it’s almost as if Posner started out to write a biography of Oswald and tacked on a few chapters about the assassination itself to make the book more commercial on the 30th anniversary of the event. At any rate, Posner’s assumption seems to be that once Oswald’s life is examined in all its madness, we’ll be persuaded that he had the means, motive, and opportunity to do the deed.
Proving that Oswald was an unhappy, unbalanced person, however, is hardly the same as proving that he was the lone assassin. Based on his behavior after the assassination, Oswald was surely involved on some level, since his panicky, post-assassination movements are not those of an entirely innocent man.
Posner is also convincing in claiming that Oswald killed Dallas cop J.D. Tippit, though his contributions on Oswald’s movements and the Tippit killing are not original, since David Belin, Jim Moore, and the Warren Report itself went over the same material and cited the same evidence long before the publication of “Case Closed.”
The big question is, Was anyone else involved? Hence, the hundreds of pages devoted to Oswald’s early life only provide detail to the well-known outline of his short life. Posner states the obvious in his preface, that Oswald is the “key” to the assassination, but he also claims that his life has been neglected in favor of “technical” details and issues, like, presumably, the number and direction of the shots that killed JFK and wounded John Connally.
Posner gives Jack Ruby the same treatment, leading readers to the same conclusion about the tormented life of a man who may have been literally insane. He brushes off Ruby’s possible Mafia connections. Instead we get “evidence” like this:
“People that didn’t know Jack Ruby will never understand this,” [former Dallas assistant district attorney] Bill Alexander told the author, “but Ruby never would have taken that dog with him and left it in the car if he knew he was going to shoot Oswald and end up in jail. He would have made sure that dog was at home with [roommate]Senator and was well taken care of.”
Posner offers this as evidence that the shooting wasn’t premeditated and that Ruby wasn’t tracking Oswald!
Strangely enough, “Case Closed” also wastes a whole chapter on Victor Nosenko’s defection to the United States on the apparent assumption that whether Soviet intelligence was involved with, or had some knowledge about, Oswald and the assassination is a major issue.
This may have been a question of some urgency immediately after the assassination at the height of the Cold War, but few in 1994 think the Soviets had anything to do with JFK’s assassination. As it turns out, Nosenko argues convincingly that the Soviets immediately tagged Oswald as a nut and had nothing to do with him, merely keeping him under surveillance while he was in the Soviet Union.
Finally, after the minutiae of Oswald’s life and the irrelevant padding of the chapter on Nosenko, Posner devotes a whole chapter to the “technical” Single Bullet Theory (historian Stephen Ambrose on the book’s jacket: “Mr. Posner’s chapter on the single bullet is a tour de force, absolutely brilliant, absolutely convincing”), which will only convince the already convinced and the uninformed that a single bullet did what the Warren Commission claimed it did.
Defenders of the Warren Commission have been trying to sell the single bullet idea for thirty years. Since it goes to the heart of the official explanation of what happened in Dealey Plaza, it’s worth examining in detail, along with Posner’s contribution to the debate.
The Warren Commission quickly ran into a problem: The Zapruder film seemed to show that JFK and Governor Connally were hit by two different bullets, since Connally doesn’t react quickly enough to a shot---soon to be reborn as the Single Bullet---to which the president is visibly reacting. On the other hand, Connally is reacting too quickly to make a separate shot from the same rifle plausible, since it has been determined that it took 2.3 seconds to operate the bolt on Oswald’s rifle.
These calculations are fairly precise, since it's also known that the Zapruder film was made by a camera that took 18.3 frames a second. Since JFK and Connally appear to be hit by two different bullets in less than two seconds, they would have to have been wounded by two different rifles firing from behind, which means there were at least two assassins.
An open-ended investigation of the issue would have lasted well beyond the 1964 presidential campaign, much to President Johnson’s distress, and supposedly fostering international doubts about the stability of US leadership at the height of the Cold War.
The problem was solved creatively by, among others, Warren Commission staffer Arlen Specter---recently famous for bullying Anita Hill on national TV---with the invention of the Single Bullet Theory, which requires that the bullet that hit JFK at least a full second before it hit Connally is the same bullet that caused Connally’s wounds. Frame 230 of the Zapruder film, for example, shows JFK reacting to the impact of the Single Bullet and Connally clearly not reacting.
The Warren Commission concedes that JFK may have been struck as early as frame 210, while Posner argues for 226, which naturally helps his argument. In fact, Connally doesn’t show any signs of being hit by a bullet until frame 234 at the earliest, though Connally himself told Posner he thought he was hit between 231 and 234. If a bullet traveling at more than 1,900 feet per second did what Specter claimed it did, Connally would of course have reacted to its impact virtually simultaneously with Kennedy.
Posner does some fancy footwork on the issue to try to show that what we see isn’t what it seems to be: “Watching the Zapruder film at its normal speed, or looking at photographs of still frames, provides a misleading impression of when the Governor was hit.”
Instead, Posner cites a “computer enhancement” that supposedly shows that Connally’s jacket lapel moves just when it needs to move to prove the Single Bullet Theory. Connally and his wife both maintained for years that he was hit with a separate bullet, though Posner, after working on Connally for hours, claims that he got him to concede that he might be wrong.
But if the enhancement shows what Posner claims it shows, why not include it in the book? After all, he found room in the book to include an illustration of what he calls “grain structure analysis” to authenticate one of the disputed pictures of Oswald, along with a number of other irrelevant photos of Oswald as a child.
Posner also found room in the appendix for graphics so crude they could have been done by any kid with a Macintosh. This presentation implies an obviously circular argument, as he traces the shots backwards from what he assumes to be the location of the wounds, as if the location, number, and point of origin of the shots aren’t the heart of the controversy in the first place.
The simplistic graphics are presumably based on the high-tech studies Posner invokes to buttress his claims about the Single Bullet. We’re told that these studies involved a technique called “reverse projection,” using a “sonic digitizer” to create an animation of a car in motion: “At that point the computer was ready to answer two questions. The first was whether one bullet could cause all the wounds and the answer was yes.”
Surprise! The second question is, Where did the shots come from? From the sixth floor of the book depository. Surprise again! Posner simply assumes the location of the wounds and draws lines back to the presumed sniper’s nest.
Posner insists that this is conclusive evidence that the Single Bullet was fired from behind, then exited above the knot of Kennedy’s necktie, and continued on to inflict all of Connally’s wounds. The problem is---always has been---there’s convincing evidence that the entrance wound in the president’s back was lower than the alleged exit wound in the throat, which was probably an entrance wound anyhow.
Like other defenders of the party line---and the Warren Report itself---Posner fudges in his description of the entry location of the Single Bullet, referring to it as on the “neck” or the “base of his[JFK’s] neck.”
We do have an exact idea of where this bullet entered, since both the president's jacket and shirt have bullet holes in the back about 5 ½ inches below the collar line. The entry wound was clearly in Kennedy’s back and nowhere near the back of his neck. The pictures of Kennedy’s shirt and jacket weren’t published in the Warren Report, but they can be seen in Edward Jay Epstein’s excellent book “Inquest,” published in 1966.
Of course Posner doesn’t include these important pictures in “Case Closed,” either. Though he has a more honest discussion of this problem in “Conspiracy of One,” Jim Moore still places the entry wound on Kennedy’s back on his “right shoulder,” without explaining how a bullet that entered the shoulder could exit in the middle of his throat.
Posner fudges the issue again in his graphics by picturing a hunched-over Kennedy, his jacket riding up near his earlobe, to convey the impression that everything lines up properly to confirm the Single Bullet Theory. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t reproduce the Zapruder frame that shows the president in this position since there is no such frame, because he never was in that position.
Posner cites the testimony of a panel of forensic experts, who, in turn, rely on “enhancements of the original autopsy photos” for the proper alignment of the wounds. Unfortunately, he doesn’t reproduce either the x-rays themselves or the enhancements. If there is a bullet hole in the back of Kennedy’s neck that lines up with the exit wound on the front of the throat, why not push for the release of the conclusive evidence or even provide a simple diagram illustrating his argument?
And what about the notion---an untutored notion, fostered by one’s admittedly flawed eyesight---that this shot was actually fired from the front, since Kennedy seems to be grabbing in the direction of his throat? Posner explains that, once again, things aren’t what they seem, that the president is really experiencing something called Thorburn’s Position due to the injury to his spine by the bullet that exited from his throat.
The problem is not only that the entrance wound in Kennedy's back is 5 ½ inches below his collar, it was also to the right of his spine. Posner tries to explain this by having one of his experts assure us that if a bullet passed close enough to the spine it would cause “blast injury” and the Thorburn’s Position reaction. Again, it would help his argument if Posner had printed the x-rays or autopsy photos that illustrate the damage to the spine.
What about the fatal shot to Kennedy’s head highlighted in Oliver Stone’s movie that clearly knocks him violently backward and to the left? According to Posner and his experts, this shot also came from behind, and the backward motion of the president’s body is due to a “neurological spasm” resulting from “a massive discharge of neurologic impulses from the injured brain.”
Now, this may all be true, but I tend to be skeptical when someone insists that what I see with my own eyes is something else entirely. Posner is engaging in something akin to intellectual McCarthyism with his high-tech “evidence,” which, like McCarthy and his list of Communists, he waves around with great fanfare but never lays on the table for examination. Posner's argument is based on evidence the reader never gets to see.
Anyone familiar with our legal system knows that lawyers can always find an “expert” to provide whatever testimony they need in a case. The issue of expert testimony is an ongoing problem in our legal system, since both sides in court often present experts giving contradictory testimony.
Lawyers would be the first to admit that their profession doesn’t require a disinterested pursuit of the truth. Instead, lawyers provide their clients with the best possible legal advice and/or case in court. Gerald Posner, a lawyer before becoming a writer, handles both the evidence and witnesses in “Case Closed” like a zealous prosecutor making a case.
Some examples of Posner as prosecutor:
* Lee Dannelly, a Selective Service employee, says that someone claiming to be “Harvey Oswald” came into her office in Austin, Texas on Sept. 25, 1963. According to the official story, Oswald was on the way to Mexico on that day. If it was Oswald, or someone impersonating Oswald, Posner has a problem. Hence, he assumes that Dannelly, like Governor Connally, must be wrong. Since she sticks to her story, Posner petulantly concludes that “Dannelly refused to admit she might be mistaken.”
* Sylvia Odio testified that two Cubans and a man called “Leon Oswald” showed up at her apartment in Dallas when Oswald was supposedly in Mexico. Odio said they told her they had just come from New Orleans, and Oswald was introduced as someone friendly to the anti-Castro cause. According to Odio, one of the Cubans even called her the next day and talked about Oswald and assassinating President Kennedy. Odio’s sister confirmed the visit by the three men, though she didn’t remember Oswald specifically.
To discredit Odio, Posner brings out the dirt: Odio has “a history of emotional problems,” was seeing a psychiatrist in 1963, lost custody of her children in a divorce proceeding, and had a nervous breakdown after the Kennedy assassination. Posner even cites the anonymous testimony of a “confidential FBI informant, who was an Odio friend” as to her poor emotional makeup. Posner describes this inconvenient witness as coming from “a wealthy and pampered background.”
* Dr. Charles Crenshaw, in the emergency room in Dallas shortly after the assassination, has the temerity to claim he saw frontal wounds to JFK, along with a gaping hole in the back of his head, which he assumed was an exit wound (See Crenshaw’s book, “JFK: Conspiracy of Silence,” 1992). Posner enlists an anonymous doctor, allegedly a friend of Crenshaw’s, who says of this inconvenient witness, “We are not dealing with a normal individual…He has had a stroke and can’t operate anymore.” Dr. Perry, another emergency room doctor, says “I feel sorry for him…He is a pitiful sight.”
* Both Jim Garrison’s staff in 1967 and author Anthony Summers (“Conspiracy,” 1980) ten years later, interviewed people in the small town of Clinton, Louisiana. Six people claim they saw Lee Harvey Oswald, David Ferrie, and Clay Shaw (or Guy Bannister) drive into town in the Summer or Fall of 1963. Oswald supposedly waited in line to register to vote, got a haircut, and applied for a job in a local mental hospital. Posner tries to discredit this testimony by citing inconsistencies in the stories, though, even from his account, it’s clear that the witnesses---a barber, a voting registrar, a parish representative, a local black leader, and the town marshal---still haven’t recanted.
Posner claims that the only reason they are able to maintain coherent stories is that they were coached by Garrrison before the Clay Shaw trial in 1967. An alternative explanation: they are all telling the truth. One would like to hear a defense attorney re-examine the witnesses. Jim Garrison also claims (“On the Trail of Assassins,” 1988) that the marshal checked the license number of the car and traced it to the International Trade Mart in New Orleans, which was where Clay Shaw worked. Posner doesn’t mention this. It may be untrue, but its omission is suspicious.
* Posner goes completely over the top in his chapter on Jim Garrison, even though Garrison himself supplies his critics with ample ammunition. It’s apparently not enough to accuse Garrison of bribing witnesses, falsifying evidence, and being in league with the Mafia. He also claims that Garrison was discharged from the Army because of psychiatric problems and is probably a child molester in the bargain. Even if true, those charges are completely irrelevant to Garrison’s investigation of the assassination. Like the material on Nosenko, the question is again, Why waste a whole chapter on Garrison? Probably because he couldn’t resist trashing Garrison, which has already been done by others, and thereby further discrediting critics of the party line.
On the other hand, Posner is tantalizingly brief on matters that could use some fleshing out, like the "three tramps" issue, which, with unaccustomed brevity, he disposes of in less than a paragraph. The three tramps are the men found in a railroad car near Dealey Plaza shortly after the assassination. There have long been several clear pictures of the rather well-dressed and clean-shaven “tramps” in circulation. Garrison himself once brandished one of the photos on the Johnny Carson show. As Posner points out, for years there’s been speculation about their identity, and it seemed suspicious that the Dallas police had supposedly not identified them.
It turns out that they were booked by the Dallas police after all, according to records released in 1989. Posner even provides their names---two are still alive---and claims that they were tramps who had spent the previous night in a Dallas rescue mission. After a sneer at the “conspiracy press” for allegedly not coming clean on the issue, Posner ends his brief discussion.
His sneer is inappropriate, since he probably got his information from the “conspiracy press” in the first place, though he credits unidentified “researchers” and his footnote cites a Dallas police report. Why did it take so long for the Dallas police to release this information? Did Posner himself check out the story? Exploring who these men were and what brought them to that particular boxcar would have made a more interesting chapter than those on Nosenko and Garrison---and would have been just as relevant.
In spite of Posner’s prosecutorial zeal, his bullying of witnesses, and his high-tech hocus pocus on the Single Bullet Theory, “Case Closed” is a challenge to critics of the official version of the assassination, since he at least makes an effort to engage on some of the issues, even if in the end he fails to convince.
It’s just peculiar that defenders of the official version of the assassination still can’t even convincingly line up the bullet holes.
But Posner’s political bias is evident, though not as obvious as that of Jim Moore, who thinks critics of the Warren Report are pond scum who do the Land of the Free a great disservice. Instead, Posner somewhat breathlessly assumes that the composition of the Warren Commission is impressive, calling it a “prestigious” body of “ranking” senators, powerful members of Congress, and “prominent” attorneys.
The political composition of the commission is apparently of no concern to Posner, though it was composed entirely of Republicans and Southern Democrats, including, incredibly, the former CIA head Allen Dulles, who President Kennedy fired in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. For public relations alone, President Johnson should have put a token liberal on the commission.
The problem with the media’s eager embrace of “Case Closed” is that by insisting that we know the answers to all the important questions on the assassination, more information is less likely to emerge. Future researchers may ask, Why devote time and energy to a case that’s “closed”? And recent pressure on the government to release all its files on the case could be reduced.
I can live with uncertainty, but what I find unacceptable is the formation of a great, gooey, bipartisan consensus on an important issue. If the past 30 years have taught us anything, it’s that when both political parties and the major institutions of American society agree on an issue they are almost always wrong. The assassination of President Kennedy is no exception to the rule.