Small Town, Big Smears, No Rebuttal Allowed

UPDATE: Yesterday, July 5, Publisher Jack Mitchell posted 
both my open letter and the Amador Fire press release online, 
and featured both links on the front page of the Ledger Dispatch. 
Thank you, Jack. 

Given the many questions posed in Mr. Frank Moreno's OpEd  
and by many others privately, I am calling on the Ledger 
Dispatch and its owner the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk 
Indians to hire an independent investigative reporter, someone 
without personal connections to the people involved, to answer 
the "Who, what, where, when how and why" of this very 
important story. Fire safety is the single most important issue 
of our time in this rural county, and we deserve the best public 
service we can have. Certainly there are excellent reporters close 
by who have worked for McClatchy news' The Sacramento Bee 
who would be willing to take this on, or perhaps given the state 
implications, someone from CalMatters. 

Let your light shine, Ledger Dispatch. 

I'll say a bit more, please see my comments below.

UPDATE 10:15 AM July 4: Still nothing online as promised, 
except a second hit piece is featured. 

UPDATE JULY 3: Publisher Jack Mitchell tells me that my letter and 
the Press release from Amador Fire are both featured in today's July 3 
print paper. As soon as I can link to the stories I will revise this post.
 July 3, 2020
      From my Facebook page:  "Our local newspaper, the Ledger 
Dispatch is mounting a witch hunt and refuses to allow the entire 
story to be told. Such is the danger of living in a community that 
has only one news source. So I have published "Small Town, 
Big Smears, No Rebuttal Allowed" on my blog as it 
is the only means to provide the other side of the story.

Original Story:

I have written a lot over the years about the danger of 
relying on a single news source in one community, but for 
the first time, this has hit home with me.  

Jack Mitchell, the publisher of the only newspaper in 
Amador County, has engaged in a witch hunt against the 
Fire Chief of our local Fire Department. My readers who 
focus on media accountability will be shocked with his 
obvious bias and inattention to facts in his initial  
piece, to which I responded.  Rather than printing my 
open letter to the Board of Supervisors correcting the 
facts, he has doubled down with more accusations, yet 
he provides zero opportunity for comments or rebuttal. 

I am publishing my letter below, as this is the ONLY 
means I have to color in the picture made yellow by 
someone who apparently cares more about an agenda than facts. 
Will it reach as many people as his paper does? Doubtful. 
But you know what to do.


June 30, 2020 
An Open Letter to the Board of Supervisors
Dear Amador County Board of Supervisors,
I am writing to you in response to the many misstatements 
and unstated facts in Jack Mitchell's recent article about 
the Amador Fire Protection District in the Ledger Dispatch, 
especially the allegation that AFPD is trying to destroy 
volunteer fire fighting in this county. Here is what I know 
based on my personal dealings with Fire Chief Walt 
White and AFPD about volunteer staffing in Fiddletown.
After seeing three family members lose homes in Paradise, 
and after last summers' long power outages and numerous 
red flag warning days, I joined with others to find ways 
to keep our community in Fiddletown safer from fires.  
We held Town Hall meetings in the Community Center, and 
quickly ascertained that we no longer have any volunteers 
firefighters left in Fiddletown. Suddenly, staffing our 
station became job one for the Fiddletown Fire Safe Council.
By chance, I met Chief White at a meeting at Assemblyman 
Frank Bigelow's local office, and brought up this need to 
him.  He told me that if he could find a way to build a 
shower and create sleeping quarters in the fire station, 
he could staff it with volunteers 24-7. I responded that 
I thought the Fiddletown community would be willing to 
raise funds for such a task, and I am happy to tell you 
that the community has stepped up and, with the aid of 
the local Passport Rotary and the Plymouth Foothills 
Rotary Clubs and Rotary International, we have raised more 
than $9,000 toward this goal. As a result of this project, 
I have spoken with Chief White several times. Kayla Dale, 
AFPD's community outreach representative, came to one of 
our meetings and gave a presentation on evacuations during 
emergencies. I have spoken with her many times as well.
The one thing that I heard over and over again is that 
AFPD is committed to building a lasting volunteer fire 
fighting staff. And even though we have not yet commenced 
construction on the firehouse project, Chief White has 
come through for Fiddletown already: in partnership with 
Pioneer Fire Protection District, they are staffing two 
volunteer fire fighters inside our long empty fire house 
on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting July 3. I 
learned that they have built the largest volunteer 
firefighting staff they have had for years, and also 
learned they are partnering with local non-profits 
for roadside land clearing and emergency animal 
evacuations.  I also am aware of the SAFER grant 
AFPD has written to obtain funding to create a new 
training Academy which would provide free training 
for 100 new volunteers over the next four years and 
a career path for those who want it.

Yet in recent days, primarily on Facebook, community 
members are accusing AFPD of purposely trying to 
destroy the volunteer aspect of firefighting 
throughout the county.  Mr. Mitchell fanned these 
flames by writing, "Coming off the cryptic emails 
and reaching out and investigating the wild claims 
about AFPD, more than a dozen sources came forward 
to corroborate, substantiate and define an ongoing 
battle as, according to all sources, Volunteer 
Firefighters are being quietly and systematically 
wiped out." But Mr. Mitchell did not include all 
the sources, as he dismissed out of hand the press 
release sent to him by AFPD detailing all their 
successful volunteer efforts which would have 
doused this flame. (Full disclosure, after seeing 
such allegations on local FB pages but before the 
publication of the Ledger article, I suggested to 
AFPD they put out such a release so people would 
have the facts about their volunteer efforts. 
Maybe he missed the memo, so here it is 
One last thing. Some on Facebook are saying it 
was the recently dismissed volunteer Antonio 
Moreno who was bringing volunteer staffing to 
Fiddletown. The first time I heard Mr. Moreno's 
name was in a related conversation I had with 
Brian Oneto on June 22nd when he told me of 
Moreno's dismissal.  I do not know Mr. Moreno, but 
I can tell from the backlash that he is much loved 
in this community. Perhaps he helped train one of 
the two volunteers staffing our station, I do not 
know that (the other is provided by El Dorado 
County's Pioneer station, as Fiddletown crosses 
over into that county.) But I know personally 
that Chief White has been driving 
this effort for volunteer staffing here.
There is much more I have to say about state 
requirements for volunteer firefighter
training and reasons why volunteer firefighter 
staffing is dwindling throughout the 
entire nation, but I will reserve that for now.
Sue Wilson

Impeachment By Radio - The Elephant in the Room is NOT the GOP

February 14, 2020

     On October 24, 1998, a group of activists from across the United States gathered in Washington DC to protest the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton in the first rally ever organized on the Internet.
     Darrell Hampton's umbrella group "We the People" was generally outraged at Starr's excesses; White House staffer Bob Weiner railed against Ken Starr for subpoenaing him for eating ice cream with a fellow Democrat; the fledgling group "Censure and MoveOn" (later to become was featured; and my "Truth in America Project" focused on the biased media promoting the investigation, media which had recently gained its dominance from the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

     We all understood the long drawn out Grand Jury investigation of Bill Clinton had found no crimes, and so Starr et al manufactured a perjury trap to have an excuse to impeach the President. As I said on the Ellipse in front of the White House, "Is it okay for a big government attorney to work with a private civil lawyer to see if they can figure out a way to get a man to lie about his sex life so they can prosecute him for it?"
     But what was just coming to light, and what has had a lasting damaging legacy, is the effect of the 1996 Telecommunications Act on our political landscape.
     Brief history: When radio and television were first invented, broadcast pioneers and government officials recognized that radio had the potential to entertain and inform, but when used improperly, also to brainwash a population. So Congress passed the 1934 Communications Act, which limited any one owner in the United States to owning just 9 stations nationwide: 3 AM radio stations, 3 FM radio stations, 3 TV stations. The thinking was that by having multiple local owners, no one person could dominate the (publicly owned) airwaves with political rhetoric.
     Ah, those were the days...

Fakebook: Zuckerberg's Hands-Off Political Ad Policy Undermines American Democracy Itself

October 25, 2019

$10 billion should buy a lot of fact-checking on his social media platform. Instead it empowers the fake news he claims to oppose...

     There has been a battle between Elizabeth Warren v. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook since the social media giant started accepting incendiary paid advertisements from President Donald Trump in which his campaigns makes claims about former Vice President and Presidential candidate Joe Biden that are, to put it mildly, less than true.
     Recently, Warren, in a gutsy move, shot back with an ad that willfully lied about Zuck and Trump so she could make a valid point about Facebook's recent policy of allowing candidates' ads to run on Facebook without any vetting of facts.

     What is really at issue is whether laws developed for local broadcast licensees can --- or should --- apply to social media platforms and, really, whether any outlets should be allowed to make billions of dollars knowingly running ads that lie and purposely misinform the public.

Book Review: Reality (TM) 2048 by Derek Cressman

May 22, 2019

Note: I rarely write book reviews, but activist writer Derek Cressman has written a novel which so speaks to me as it portrays a future born of today's media manipulations.  Find it at Amazon.  

Derek Cressman’s REALITY 2048 is a modern day horror tale disguised as a futuristic thriller. 
Cressman’s novel is written in the same vein as George Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty Four, but by the time the calendar turned to 1984, little of what Orwell predicted actually existed. 
 REALITY 2048, on the other hand, offers an entirely realistic dystopian future which projects just past modern day headlines to a society brainwashed by corporate/ government propaganda which has traded security for freedom. It chillingly takes us into post-nuclear Los Angeles, but is at core an indictment of modern day media manipulation and indoctrination.  

Unfortunately, Alex Jones, Sandy Hook Did Happen #StopTheHoax

December 14, 2018

Last July, after Facebook and Twitter and You Tube banned radio host and performance artist Alex Jones from their platforms, I did a little digging, and found that his program and all his affiliate stations are breaking a longstanding Federal Communications Commission rule prohibiting hoaxes.  And what Jones has been doing goes way beyond the original 1938 Halloween broadcast of War of the Worlds, which prompted passage of the rule in the first place.
The nationally syndicated radio host is currently being sued in Connecticut and Texas by at least eight families who have faced the unthinkable: losing their children in a school shooting. The Sandy Hook school shooting. The school shooting Alex Jones broadcast never happened.
Court filings document the Alex Jones broadcast saying: “Children did not die, teachers did not die on December 14, 2012.”  “How do you even convince the public something's a total hoax?... The general public doesn't … know they had the kids going in circles in and out of the building as a photo-op” “… Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured.” Referring to video of the parents of children killed in the shooting, Jones stated that "they ... bring in actors to break down and cry.”  
Once Jones planted that seed, people began to attack the real grieving parents of small children. Among them, the parents of slain six year old Noah Pozner received death threats, had to relocate seven times, and now live too far to even visit their son’s gravesite.  “Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying that despite our efforts at security, a determined conspiracy fanatic might gain entry to our home,” said Noah’s mother, in reports of her court declaration. Declared her husband, “Due to Mr. Jones’ broadcast, I have also suffered severe emotional distress and trauma which I cannot even begin to adequately describe. No human being should ever be asked to suffer through the torment Mr. Jones carried out.”  

Fake news is only the beginning. The FCC is about to let monopolies decide what local news you see

What would happen if the politician you love to hate were indicted, but your local news didn’t report it? No newspaper stories, no TV news, no radio news on the hour, nothing.
Couldn’t happen? Think again.
The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission will vote Nov. 16 to allow just one corporation to own the local newspaper plus nearly every commercial TV station in your town. Nifty way to reduce down to just one newsroom then dictate whatever information that corporation does – and does not – want you to know in this democracy.
It’s exactly what’s happened with radio. Back in the day when lots of companies owned 40 radio stations, the broadcast industry made big promises that local information would be much more diverse if they could simply own many more stations. The 1996 Telecommunications Act resulted in a handful of corporations owning thousands of stations – and force feeding conservative programming down our country’s throats ever since, no debate, no opposing opinions allowed.
The Media Action Center showed during the Scott Walker recall in Wisconsin that “conservative” radio giants there gave millions of dollars in free airtime to the GOP candidate – while refusing to allow a single Democrat on the air at all. GOP operatives there still gloat about radio winning elections for them. After 21 years of this kind of divisive public policy, 60 million people listen to conservative radio... about the same number that voted for Donald Trump.

Media Action Center WIns $13.5 Million Victory Over Entercom

April 10, 2017
Originally published at

Over the weekend, Dan Morain, editorial page editor at Sacramento Bee, wrote an article about what I've been working on, and writing about here at The BRAD BLOG and elsewhere, for many years now.
Morain's article starts this way:
From her home outside the no-stoplight settlement of Fiddletown, Sue Wilson tilted at a corporate windmill, and a funny thing happened.
Sue from Fiddletown won, on our behalf. You can hear the sound of that victory at the end of the FM radio dial in Sacramento. Where there once was commercial pop music, hooting deejays and stupid radio stunts, there’s static.
"We the People own the air waves," she said, and repeats: "We the People."
It's a very nice article, that begins with a tragic story. That story, however, now has at least a somewhat encouraging ending for, yes, We the People.
Here's what happened...

New FCC Will Determine Your Internet Speed

August, 2017
This article is still accessible online at the Sacramento Bee, but in case it disappears, read below what is at stake when we talk about "Net Neutrality." With President Trump leading the way, the government may well allow corporations to throttle free speech on the internet just as they have on our publicly owned radio airwaves.
Takeaway: Net neutrality means keeping the Internet as it has been since its inception. You may make a comment at the FCC until August 30, 2017.

Read more here:


You’re enjoying your weekend java, wanting to learn what happened at last week’s school board meeting. Your local newspaper doesn’t cover that beat, but a local blogger does a good job, so you try to pull his site up on your laptop. Meanwhile, your 5-year-old opens up “Sesame Street” on her iPad, and on his, your teenage son is bringing up “Spider-Man” on Netflix. You instantly hear the sounds of “Spider-Man,” but your daughter is getting impatient, as her show hasn’t yet appeared. In another minute, the “Sesame Street” theme song finally plays, but your school board blog still isn’t up. You get another cup of coffee and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, the site fills your screen.
This is what the Internet will look like if the Federal Communications Commission does not pass strict “Net neutrality” rules. While opponents have painted Net neutrality as government takeover of the Internet, it is actually meant to prevent a corporate takeover of free speech on the Web. Net neutrality means keeping the Internet as it has been since its inception, with users paying their Internet service provider a fee to access the Internet, and then freely choosing what to watch, hear, read or post – with no outside interference. Proponents include Google, Microsoft, AOL, Mozilla, eBay and thousands of small businesses. There is very little opposition to Net neutrality – except from the giant Internet service providers themselves.
Verizon, ATT, Comcast and Time Warner Cable are among the chief opponents of the current model. They are now the largest Internet service providers and have devised a more profitable model (for themselves) called “paid prioritization.” They want to charge higher fees to content providers (writers, moviemakers, application developers) who have the means to pay. Those providers who cannot pay more will suffer slower speeds.

Battling the Genesis of "Alternative Facts" in Our Communities - NOW!

 January 28, 2017
Congratulations to Devil's Advocate for getting on the air in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to counter the right-wing "alternate facts" out out on our publicly owned airwaves every day! Now El Dorado Hills, CA has an opportunity to get it's own low power FM station. Going back into the archives, here is why it is important:
originally published by the Sacramento Bee, May 11, 2008
    There's a mournful hush in Sacramento these days, the empty sound of an entire political viewpoint quieted. More than 32,000 weekly listeners who once tuned to KSAC (1240 AM) to hear partisan Democrats beat up on President George W. Bush, now hear only Christian hip-hop.
There's nothing wrong with Christian hip-hop; it's a great outlet for artists breaking out of the gangsta rap mold. But there are six other commercial radio stations licensed in the Sacramento area programming the Christian message. In the political realm, three local radio stations program 264 hours of partisan Republican radio talkers beating up on Democrats every week. Now, zero stations program any Democratic view whatsoever: 264-0.
     This follows the national trend revealed in the 2007 Free Press and Center for American Progress study, "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio." Nationally, 90 percent of commercial talk radio is conservative; only 10 percent is liberal. (This study does not include Public Radio, which by statute is required to provide differing points of view. One is as likely to hear a Republican's views as a Democrat's. And NPR hosts don't beat up on anybody.)
     KSAC shared another characteristic with other liberal radio stations: It had a tiny, 1,000-watt transmitter. Tough for a little station that barely reached Sacramento's suburbs to compete with 50,000 watt giant KFBK, whose signal stretches from Chico to Modesto, from Reno to that little town of San Francisco. Despite KFBK reaching millions more potential listeners, KSAC mustered an audience nearly 20 percent that of KFBK's. (Its ratings were double local conservative station KTKZ, which has a 5,000-watt transmitter.) And Arbitron showed the progressive station's audience was steadily growing. KSAC was the little station that could.
Until it couldn't.

Bill Maher: Here's the Fix for Fact Free Media

November 8, 2016
I’m a fan of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” but Friday night, for the umpteenth time, I wanted to reach right through the TV screen and shake somebody. 
How the media is destroying our country is one of Bill Maher’s favorite topics, and he’s right about it. But this time, it wasn’t just Maher deriding the collapse of facts, it was everybody on the show: funny man Martin Short, liberal Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Neo-conservative writer David Frum, and even President Barack Obama: “How do we create a common space where truth gets eyeballs… and we can create a common conversation?” Yet not one of them had any clue about how we got to this point or what to do next.
AAAUUUGGGHHHH! (beating head against wall…)

For twenty years I have been sounding the alarm that our very democracy is at stake due to pro-fascist changes in broadcast media policy. Changes in policy which made one-sided conversations the norm. Changes in Law which allow a handful of corporations to control those one-sided conversations. Changes which have allowed a determined faction to replace fact with fiction. Changes which came about with the stroke of a pen in 1987 and again in 1998, and now, on the eve of the Trump/ Clinton election, we’re all just waking up to it.

Brainwashing Trumps Reason

March 17, 2016

I’d like to punch him in the face.” Fighting words from presidential contender Donald Trump  that foreboded real violence at Trump rallies, manifesting last Friday at the University of Illinois Chicago, and first in North Carolina, where Trump supporter John McGraw first sucker punched peaceful protestor Rakeen Jones in the face, then told a news reporter later, “Yes, he deserved it, the next time we see him, we might have to kill him. 
“We don't condone violence,” Trump told Fox News’ about the incident, “but the kid did, from what I hear, stick up a certain finger right in everybody's face. And this man has had enough, because I'll tell you what, people in this country are very angry. What about Chicago? Did his incendiary language cause the clashes at the U of Illinois? "I don't think so," Trump argued. "I represent a lot of people who have great anger."
Anger? You bet there’s anger. But as revealed by Jen Senko’s new documentary “The Brainwashing of My Dad,” it is faux anger, caused by more than a generation of propaganda stemming from a coordinated far right takeover of media – and brains.

THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD  - Trailer from Jen Senko on Vimeo.
THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD  - Trailer from Jen Senko on Vimeo.

Those familiar with my work know I’ve dealt with government policies which allow corporate media giants to take over our airwaves with lies painted as “news.” But in “Brainwashing,” Senko goes deeper into the historical underpinnings of far right media indoctrination and the virtual brainwashing of family members and society. Senko’s film shows over time how her open-minded Kennedy Democrat father transformed into a raging right-winger after excessive exposure to Talk Radio and Fox News. Says Senko, "What I mean by brainwashing is that people like my dad have become so taken over by right-wing media and its disinformation campaign, that they speak, vote and even act against their own interests - even against the very core of who they are.”

Trump and Cruz: Will Somebody Sue Already?

February 29, 2016
originally posted at

One of them could do us all a great favor by holding broadcasters accountable in a way that We the People cannot...
 Republican Presidential contenders Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are at war over what they charge to be false political ads against each other. It's one battle in this bizarre and contentious campaign year which could actually benefit us all.
The Cruz campaign has been running a series of attack ads about Trump's position on abortion, which Politifact reviewed and described as "flawed." In response to what he calls Cruz' "lying ads", Trump has threatened to file a suit charging that Cruz, who was born in Canada, may not be eligible for the Presidency.
Meanwhile, a SuperPAC called the American Future Fund ran an attack ad against Cruz calling him "weak" on defense, which the group Fact Check reviewed and found to be "misleading." Cruz' response was to have his attorneys write a sternly worded letter to the TV stations running the ad against him, demanding they pull it, citing FCC public interest obligations and more.
"Because this advertisement makes a flatly false factual claim for which your station is ultimately liable," the Cruz attorneys wrote, "we strongly urge you to exercise your discretion as a licensee to refuse to continue to broadcast this advertisement, and, because it is already airing, immediately pull the advertisement from your rotation."
In this case, the Cruz attorneys are right, at least in regard to the legal issues at stake...
Why is Cruz going after the TV stations, but Trump is going after Cruz personally? Trump can't sue Cruz over a "lying" campaign ad, because there's no law against candidates lying on air. Therefore, he's threatening litigation on the separate issue of Cruz' birthplace. (Whether we like it or not, any Federal candidate who runs their own "I approve this message" ad on TV or radio is free to lie to the public as much as he or she likes. Broadcasters are legally not allowed to vet candidates' ads for fictitious statements, and stations are required to run those false ads over our public airwaves.)