Thursday, August 31, 2006

 

It's official

The would be bane of Arkleyville Larry Glass is a carpetbagger, and apparently legally so. So says Hank Sims.

So I ask, what's wrong with being a carpetbagger? Is political affinity strictly defined according to geography? I've voted for two carpetbaggers since I moved here (Carol Ruth Silver and Michaela Alioto - two figures of SF political fame). Neither of them won. But Hillary Clinton won.

And apparently he's willing to live in the westside, which if you believe various posters around here and Gallegos detractors, it's pretty much like living in the post-apocalyptic down under policed only by Mad Max. You'd think they'd admire the commitment. After all, it's not like having run a business in the neighborhood for 30 years holds any value.

His opponent Mary Beth Wolford agrees (kudos to her character):
One of his opponents -- Tish Wilburn -- says, in her typically snarky style, that if elected she would change the laws so that you have to live in the city for six months before running for elected office in Eureka. "He's a carpetbagger!" she shouted, gleefully. But Glass' main competition, incumbent First Ward Councilmember Mary Beth Wolford, was more magnanimous. "I think every candidate needs to meet the requirements stated in our elections procedures, and he has," she said last week. "He's moved into the Old Town area, and he's registered to vote."
And of course he also happens to be a mammal, which I think is a requirement.

By the way, I got a personal mention in the second half of Sims' column for an earlier post. Who is the mysterious owner of balloontractwatch.com?

 

Cryptic streams of consciousness

I've added two blogs to my local blog link list: Arkleywatch and Humboldt Nation. Please let me know if I'm missing anybody, and I would especially like to list more Mendocino County blogs. I'll also count Trinity and Del Norte bloggers as "local."

Update: Found another anti-Arkley blog, this one called "Arkley's Propaganda." Belongs to somebody named Sean Ryan.

.....

Captain Buhne is picking on my good friend Andy again. I've only skimmed the ER piece, but I do have to correct Andy on one point. His Golda Meir quote is wrong, but very often quoted that way. The end of the sentence should read "us" not "the Jews." It might seem like a fine point, but the "us" could very well mean Israelis rather than Jews in particular. The statement seems much stronger when you use "the Jews." If you google the subject, you will find it quoted in various ways with nobody attributing anything specific. But I was assured by a Zionist friend that it was "us," and she admitted that the change to "the Jews" was deliberate manipulation on the part of her compatriots in the cause.

.....

What's with all the screaming and carrying on about an editorial comment by Keith Olberman? I don't have time to read up on the matter at the moment, so any brief explanation would be helpful.

.....

Are the Rhode Island Republicans nuts? Looks like the GOP may do the Democrats job for them. Not that Democrats haven't done the same on numerous occasions.

.....

If the Times-Standard goes down under the heels of the Eureka Reporter, it will be because of editions like today's. I mean, look at these headlines. With the dubious exception of the meth ring bust, can you get any more boring?

.....

Heraldo reports that the Moore killing inquest may very well be televised. And one of the commenters there is whining because s/he feels that coroner Frank Jager has "caved in" to political pressure from "loco solutions." I'm starting to think that some of you local political old guard defenders are losing it. If you want to know why you're losing elections, this is part of the explanation.

 

Program reminder - my radio show tonight will be on intellectualism and anti-intellectualism

As posted last week, Tom Hanson and I will focus on some of more anti-intellectual moments in American politics, which has led to the demise of politicians in both parties who came across as too scholarly and intellectually aloof. We'll focus on both history and modern trends. I've been accused of picking on the left too much lately, so we'll pick on the right tonight - as well as the left. In fact, until recently I would say that the right has been producing more intellectual raw material in terms of political thought, although it seems to have degenerated as the Ann Coulters and Michael Hannity's replace the William Buckleys and Thomas Sowells at the helm of right wing rhetoric. On the other hand, the embracing of emotional appeals to the detriment of critical thinking and reason is also rampant on the left, even when it is right, which is one of the reasons I'm not particularly enamored with most of the programming on Air America nor Pacifica Radio of late. And often, the peace movement in particular has degenerated into borderline anti-semitism (beyond merely criticism of Israel and Zionism) as well as off-the-wall conspiracy theories.

We're going to be taking a different approach tonight. Tom and I are going to take up the first half sans callers in order to set the subject, so we don't trail off onto specific topics and lose focus on the topic at hand. I may actually cut callers off who insist on focusing on their pet issues to the detriment of the discussion. I'll play it by ear.

Calls will be welcome from 7:30 to 8:00, at 923-3911 or 1-800-KMUDRAD. The show is at 7:00 p.m. at 91.1 and of course you can listen in online at KMUD.ORG.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

 

Senator George Allen may be in trouble


Jim Webb has crept up in the polls to within the margin of error, and Allen is still trying to fend off the tag of racism after his "macaca" slur, thrown at a native born Virginian (unlike Allen who was born in California) of east Indian descent. The surfacing of the above photo (lifted from Kos) won't help.

Council of Conservative Citizens is a white supremacist organization that avoids some of the harsher KKK language, ensconced in respectable code words and phrases so that some of the allegedly mainstream conservative leaders have been photographed with them and even spoken at their events, including Senator Trent Lott; Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour; Mississippi state senators Gary Jackson and Dean Kirby; and former governors Guy Hunt of Alabama and Kirk Fordice of Mississippi. Here is the ADL page on them.

Senator Allen in a moment of vivid irony today:

"You can tell a lot about people by the folks they stand with..."

Tell us about it George.

I'd previously said that I didn't think this race was going to be competitive. Just changed my mind.

Update: The Nation's all over the story.

 

Finally, a sign of life from the Angelides campaign

This is a clever ad that gets your attention, brings Schwarzenegger's pro-war stance into light, and emphasizes Schwarzenegger's fear of debating Angelides. Angelides' only real hope is to clobber Schwarzenegger in a debate, and he'll probably only get one chance. Schwarzenegger is probably pushing for the weenie format where the questions are provided ahead of time, and Angelides needs some ammunition in those negotiations. Angelides is also invoking Truman with "gluttons of privilege" imagery, just in time for Labor Day. But note the LA Times headline, which just about says it all.

Angelides should also hammer hard on the governor's anticipated veto of the universal health care bill. The problem is that Angelides himself opposes it. It's that very gutless centrism that brought Davis down. And deals like this will help Schwartzenegger secure even some of the bleeding heart vote.

Angelides is down big in the most recent poll, and Kos has already thrown in the towel.

On another subject, the same pollster has Proposition 86, the cigarette tax, winning big.

Meanwhile, another California Republican incumbent is ducking debates. Can an issue be made of it with voters?

Photo from SJ Mercury.

Update: Hmmmm. Not good. Even libertarians like Fred are going to vote for Schwarzenegger, and he likes his party's candidate.

 

Just a few quick notes

I've got some posts on the backburner (including one about Gallegos and the dog torturers), but not a lot of time right now. But I have a few short thoughts for discussion.

.....

I was in court yesterday morning. There were three criminal trials in progress, almost capacity - not in terms of the available judges but in terms of the available jurors in any given week (or so this is what I'm told when we can't get our cases out). We have one designated civil judge (J. Michael Brown). Every party in a lawsuit has the right to exclude one judge from handling the trial under Civil Code section 170.6. When a party exercises that right, the case competes with the criminal cases for those courtrooms, and criminal cases have priority. There is almost never an available courtroom for those cases. The point is, if Gallegos and his people are pleading all those cases out, why can't I get my civil cases tried in a timely manner?

.....

A gentleman named Carl Johnson wrote a very brief letter to counter some of the accolades for Tim McKay, published in the ER yesterday. My first response was that it was unnecessary to criticize McKay now that he's dead, but I thought about it. Mr. Johnson doesn't attack McKay's character, only what he perceives to be the impact of McKay's deeds. It doesn't attack his intent, nor his character. Secondly, he did wait awhile to submit the letter, so that he wouldn't be aggravating fresh wounds, and the letter is more in response to the avalanche of praise than a comment on McKay himself.

Of course, Mr. Johnson is wrong in his conclusions, but I hope the responses to his letter aren't reflective of my initial gut reaction. I don't think Johnson means any disrespect.

.....

I heard on the KMUD's news rebroadcast yesterday morning that the bill that would have prohibited local regulation of GMO's was abandoned for the year, thanks in large part due to some parliamentary maneuvers by our own Wes Chesbro. I caught the story at the tail end, so I don't know the details.

On the downside, the salmon relief bill was also blocked. Retaliation maybe?

.....

Oh, one of the reasons I don't like Tuesday morning court appearances in Eureka is that Los Bagels is closed on that day. I don't get my cup of Heart of Darkness! So I have to settle for breakfast at the Cafe Waterfront (great waffles!), now that Carl's omelets is closed. It was empty when I got there and it looked close from the road due to construction right outside it's door on F Street. But if you look more closely you'll see that the corner door has been opened. The restaurant is in fact open for business, which they're obviously losing at the moment.

.....

More later.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

 

SoHum and ecological roots

My recent post on what I consider to be the dark side of SoHum culture, due largely to the effects of the marijuana industry, didn't generate many comments from industry apologists. I have been treated with some off-the-record conversation however, and most of it's been fairly nuanced and positive. Nobody who's spoken to me disagrees with my overall concern, though they've challenged me on what they feel are some of my misconceptions, which I'll discuss another time.

The conversations have moved into other areas in which the Mateel experiment has not panned out as the early pioneers had hoped. I received the following piece from a long time Mateel resident and cultural participant, and the person has allowed me to post it on the condition of anonymity. I was going to edit it down a bit, but there's some very thoughtful material in here and I'm not sure what I'd eliminate.

It's kind of an old story heard everywhere about reality setting in on a counter-culture on some precarious foundations from the beginning. On the other hand, the counter-culture created some enduring institutions that continue to make a positive difference. The revolution may not have made good on all of its promises, but hey, the old hippies aren't all dead yet anyway.

Connecting with our ecological roots: What’s stopping us?

The reading and class presentation regarding the evolving discipline of Ecopsychology struck a deep chord in my personal experience. Yes, human beings evolved in a context of relationship to and integration with the environment. We were not separate from the natural world; we were a part of it. Yes, we are psychologically attuned to the lifestyle of early humans. Small groups of related families living a nomadic or semi-nomadic existence in a seemingly infinite world of relationships between humans, plants, animals and natural geographic realities and climatic events. We evolved to experience periods of intense physical activity and challenge, and periods of rest, reflection, and relaxation. The activities of our lives were responses to seasonal variations in climate. We were keen observers of natural history. Our survival depended on fine tuned perceptions of patterns in natural cycles and in the behavioral characteristics of various species of plants and animals. It makes immediate, personal, common sense that we humans are psychologically whole when we intimately experience the environment in which we evolved. Yes, our intellectual and physical dissociation from ecologically based prehistoric tribal/clan lifestyles does seem connected to pathological behaviors on individual and cultural levels.

Why have we ensconced ourselves in our built world? We live, to a large extent, both mentally and physically, within “manmade” constructs. The environment still exists and the resurgence of interest in “wilderness” experience underscores our desire to reconnect to a more primal relationship with “wild” (undomesticated?) nature. What is stopping us?

Childhood relationship to nature: adventure and privacy

Two and half blocks from the house that I lived in from age 8 to age 17 was a dirt road leading to the city water supply. For a half mile on either side of Six Mile Creek, extending several miles up the creek and including three dams, there was no development. You could ride your bike to “Second Dam” in five or ten minutes. In two minutes, (it was downhill) you were in the woods. In places the creek had cut deep gorges through the upstate New York shale. I knew this watershed well, but not as an ecosystem. We fished, swam, and challenged ourselves to climb the cliffs, jump the cliffs into the reservoir 20-50 feet below, and walk the slippery foot wide edge of Second Dam from one side to the other, water on one side, 30 foot drop to rocks on the other. I remember my uncertainty the first time I swam from one side of the reservoir to the other and the feel of the patch of “seaweed” that reached up to my chest and legs 100 yards out in the middle. We walked across it’s frozen surface in the winter, hearts in our throats as we heard the unmistakable sound of ice cracking and we lay quickly on the ice spreading our weight to keep from breaking through. In the creek above Second Dam we slid down waterfalls to the pools below. We got caught in territorial rock throwing contests with the boys from South Hill. When we got older we went there to drink beer and indulge in other frowned upon, illicit activities. We went there with our girlfriends and skinny-dipped in the dark.

In my teenage experience with the restrictive atmospheres of school, family and church, this watershed represented a kind of freedom. Not so much freedom to behave as I wanted (we were teenage boys, constrained by an ill defined behavioral code of our own interpretation) but, freedom from the strictures and structures of the social roles and expectations we faced every day. As a rebellious son of a Presbyterian minister, I suppose the puritanical characterization of the forest as a place of darkness, danger and evil had a certain appeal. My comfort there helped to promote a serious questioning of the theological paradigm I was raised in.

I don’t mean to idealize this experience. In our noisy ways we saw few animals, we had little sense of responsibility for this watershed. Although there were still trout and smelt in the lake the watershed drained into, and there were bass and sunfish in the reservoir, the fishing in the creek was generally lousy. You could see 12-18 inch golden carp swimming near the surface (discarded and overgrown pet goldfish) in the first reservoir. This was not an undisturbed habitat.

One fall day, I was 18 and in the woods with six male friends, we had been climbing the waterfalls, and we came crashing and sliding down a steep slope littered with leaves recently fallen from the 30 or 40 foot tall canopy of hardwood trees. No doubt there were mushrooms, ferns, herbs, and saplings that I failed to notice. You could definitely see the path we had followed down the hillside. At the bottom of the slope was a friend of my family’s, an ardent conservationist and biology professor from the university. He lit into us with an fierce lecture on the different life forms we had so cavalierly trashed and disturbed on our way down the slope and the potential for erosion we left behind. This man was a conservation biologist and the source of most of what I knew about the woods in upstate New York. Our families camped and fished together on the Beaverkill river every year. He could answer almost every question we asked about the fish, trees, berries, fungus, insects and the strange, interesting growths we found on trees and bushes. I was chagrined, my friends were merely indignant, or so they behaved.

Later on in college in southern Ohio, as I watched the built world apparently melt before my eyes, during a brief but intense period of experimentation with psychedelics, I often retreated to the safety of the woods. The concurrence of patterns generated in the psychedelic experience with organic patterns of growth and decay in the nearby forest reinforced a growing affinity with the processes of the natural world.

In the context of the Ecopsychology readings I see this relationship with the local creeks and forests as a response to the alienation from nature experienced as a teenager in suburban upstate New York. I see the risk taking activities as both an unconscious and conscious drive to experience the ontological challenges common to young men in hunter-gatherer societies which I was prone genetically and psychologically, to emulate.

Early adulthood: Back to the land

I dropped out of college 1972 for a variety of reasons (lack of financial support and an unwillingness to commit to debt to pursue an uncertain career or educational path, among other reasons) and I hitchhiked to California for the second time. I gravitated to southern Humboldt County around the same time a number of counter-cultural refugees from college campuses and the street scenes in Haight-Ashbury and on Telegraph avenue began to establish a presence in the recently harvested (50’s and 60’s) forest lands around Garberville. I was in the woods again.

I was part of the back-to-the-land “movement”. We shared a distrust of the “system” that functioned through relatively rigid patriarchal hierarchies limiting creative initiative. This system produced the Vietnam war, cities shrouded in smog, rivers so polluted they burned, ghettos, segregation, race riots, poverty in the midst of plenty, repressive and tortuous economic and military relationships with “developing” countries, and a large middle class living a hollow Leave-it-to-Beaver lifestyle: seemingly devoid of meaning, jingoistic, damaging to the environment, and emotionally phony. We would not be plastic people, we would be real.

We were hippies. We didn’t believe the stories our culture told to explain the realities of our lives and the actions of our leaders. We came to the forest, because we didn’t fit, or didn’t want to fit, into the society we knew. Or perhaps, we came to search for a collective relationship to the natural world which would heal the damage we held inside ourselves and, we hoped, heal the culture we came from. We were arrogant enough to believe that we could show the way, wherever we were going.

We aimed to be “self-sufficient” and to divorce ourselves from the “military industrial complex”. Ideologically and culturally, if not in fact, we rejected consumerism, professional careerism, and technology in general. We wore beads, leather, sandals, long hair, shells, feathers, buck knives, leather pouches, and amulets. The appropriation of the trappings of tribal culture was no accident. Many of us wanted to live by the old ways, which we did not know.

And, we smoked marijuana. Rightly or wrongly, many of us felt that marijuana was a “mind expanding” drug, that it had opened our minds to a keener or deeper aesthetic and spiritual appreciation of music, relationships, art, sex, and the beauty inherent our natural surroundings. Marijuana was credited with improving the capacity to perceive connections between apparently disparate concepts and phenomena. And, perhaps, it did break down the ability to maintain rigid, logical boundaries between conceptual categories and disciplines, and enable one to perceive the world more directly. Sometimes to the detriment of whatever project you might be working on. Of course many people also used marijuana as an escape from responsibility, as a way to avoid facing unpleasant personal realities, as a pleasant way to relieve stress, and as a defense against intimacy in relationships.

We had lots of ideas, and even more opinions, but most of us knew almost nothing about what we were doing. Just being there was an act of faith and vision, or disgust and desperation, depending on what opportunities or constraints we left behind. We were primarily suburban and urban refugees with little, if any, experience in farm or homestead skills. We bought cheap land and built cabins from found, natural and recycled sources. At the time, we called it “scrounging” materials. We planted gardens and fruit trees, used kerosene lights, heated our cabins with wood, got our windows from U-Needa-Window used windows and doors in Berkeley, ran gravity fed cold water through plastic waterpipe to our scrounged sinks, and stopped wearing our watches. We had no electricity, no stereo, and no radio reception: we made our own music. We became aware of the phases of the moon and celebrated when the moon was full. We swam naked and often, we worked outside, we ate when we were hungry, and slept when we were tired. We could tell time by the position of the sun. We spent naked days camped at the beach eating surf fish, mussels, and abalone.

We wanted community and we wanted isolation, privacy. While mostly young, white, and middle class we were not necessarily a homogenous group. We were college educated and high school dropouts. We were wealthy scions and unemployed laborers. We were draft dodgers and Vietnam veterans. We were pacifists and we were anti gun control. We were Buddhists, Christians, Pagans, Taoists and agnostics. We were apolitical and we were democratic, socialist, anarchist and libertarian. We believed in new age philosophies and we were cynics and skeptics. We believed in communal lifestyles and we were individualists (often in the same person).

Some of us arrived single and some as couples, but many couples did not last the first winter together. Summers could be idyllic, but winters were rainy, dark, and difficult. Wet or green firewood, frozen waterlines, small cabins, broken cars and washed out roads taxed the endurance, finances, and homesteading skills of us all. The concept of “cabin fever” took on substance as a kind of forced withdrawal from the constant social and technological stimulation of “civilized” behavior patterns. Single parent families and multiple family children were common. We needed each other and we knew it.

No one I know succeeded in being self-sufficient, I rarely hear the phrase today. There were certain technological products few of us managed to do without: roads, cars, chainsaws, propane stoves and plastic water pipe. Our efforts were financed in various ways including: savings, equity from previous homes in the city, low-paying jobs in the local economy, seasonal work, periodic spells of work in more populated areas, parental support, welfare, commodities, and food stamps. Rarely was anyone able to make it off the resources on their land.

And we grew older. We learned carpentry, gardening, auto mechanics, and road maintenance skills. We made jewelry, leather goods, pottery, hand-carved pipes, wooden boxes, spoons and ladles, macramé, and all manner of crafts. As our homesteads became livable our attention turned to building alternative institutions: a health center, schools and community centers. We learned about forest rhythms of growth and recovery on the cut-over lands we purchased. The scars from recent logging (stumps, skid trails, and silted up streams eating away at their banks), viewed from the perspective of the remaining stands of old growth, were graphic reminders of what had very recently been lost. Often the roads we drove in on were old haul roads and themselves the most vivid scars on the landscape. We felt this loss, and eventually this responsibility, and began the process of recovering what we thought had been.

Ironically, and quite naturally, one of the main flags of our rebellion was the instrument that co-opted our idealism. At the same time that we began this community building and restoration effort we discovered that marijuana grew quite well in this region. When we learned that pulling the male plants and leaving the females to flower without fertilization created a very tasty bud with a high THC content, the nature of the community’s relationship to marijuana began to change. This development was almost inevitable. Marijuana seeds, tossed into the compost or dropped outside the cabin sprouted easily. Planted in a vegetable garden “weed” out produced everything else, except, perhaps, zucchini. Cannabis is a hardy plant and even a poor gardener can reap a decent harvest. As the prices for high quality home grown began to rise, the entire socioeconomic foundation of our community changed radically.

If there was ever an opportunity to recreate community on a more holistic model and to integrate day to day community activities with an ecological awareness and progressive social commitment, this was it. It was a compelling and hopeful time. The community was potentially funded to set itself up for a sustainable and equitable future.

Access to capital provided by marijuana funded numerous visions, dreams, and ambitions. Cabins became beautiful hand crafted houses. Gardens flourished, tools, generators and well equipped craft shops began to emerge all through the hills. Artists of all kinds pursued their art, a successful travel agent appeared in town, dance classes and elaborate amateur plays and dance productions were presented. We organized arts and crafts fairs where we sold our hand thrown pots or hand woven rugs and we danced and we sang.

Benefit boogies thrived and raised money for various non-profit efforts. Community centers and alternative schools found the support and involvement necessary to experiment and thrive. A health center was founded, committed to alternative therapies, preventative medicine, and patient centered care. As the community became more involved in creating institutions we searched for non-hierarchical models of organization, we made decisions by consensus, we paid everyone equally, and we took our organizational memberships seriously.

Businesses started up offering alternative, environmentally responsible, power sources: photovoltaic panels, water wheels, and wind generators for electricity, and wood fired and solar hot water heaters, even a wood fired hot tub.

People committed time and energy to salmon rearing projects and stream restoration efforts. Watershed based organizations began to appear and efforts to protect remaining intact habitats began to bring our concerns to government regulatory and public land management agencies. We learned words like biodiversity and mitigation. We began to learn more and more about place, the forest we had come to live in.

And, we thought we were really cool… funky, righteous, and cool. Being somewhat out of touch with the rest of the world, we, quite naturally, began to believe we were the counter cultural center of the known universe.

We grew older. We became established. Our family relationships, whether traditional, step-parent, or same sex, became more stable and nuclear. Our children grew older and many entered the public school system. We became well acquainted with our property lines. Fences, gates, and no trespassing signs began to appear. We no longer needed each other in the same ways. Some of us became quite well off. Those of us who did not grow weed benefited from the multiplier effect of the general prosperity. We built shops and additions, and bought new vehicles, tools, inverters, satellite dishes, stereos, TV’s, VCR’s, and all manner of consumer items. I don’t mean that we had no restraint, but we sought comfort and the security of some type of means of production. Because we had items of value, rip-offs began to occur. Some of us felt compelled to defend property with guns. Conscientious tracking and distrust of outsiders was endemic to the area. There were accidents and people were hurt and killed. In a very real way, we, as a community, lost our innocence.

This community was sandbagged by marijuana, the perfect vehicle to deconstruct our idealism. Because marijuana was already a part of our culture we had little inherent resistance to growing it. It was low-tech, natural, and organic and the production of marijuana was consistent with the parameters of our needs for economic support. We could stay where we were, work flexible hours, work outside, stay close to nature, earn a living, and remain apparently separate from mainstream American society. As it turned out the money itself and the access to status, respect, power and material well-being that it represented was enough to actuate and dramatize our own internal inconsistencies. And then intense, annual aerial community surveillance and repression of marijuana cultivation by local and federal law enforcement began.

Obstacles to our holistic eco-community building efforts presented themselves. Our buildings effort were literally and metaphorically red-tagged by the building inspector. Our stream and fish restoration projects were undermined by upstream logging. Watershed advocacy groups met with powerful opposition from large timber companies who appeared to have undue influence on government regulatory and management agencies. We saw that we could not remain isolated as a community even as we were becoming more distant from each other. We sought funding from government agencies and foundations for restoration efforts, for our health center, and various other non-profit activities. Our institutions, in the process of striving for competitive funding resources and coping with the responsibilities inherent in organizational growth and development, began to assume more traditional hierarchical structures as a part of our efforts to overcome financial and organizational obstacles to the realization of a (we thought) shared vision.

From my perspective, inherent dichotomies in the community began to express themselves at this time. In the face of obstacles and uncertainty, and given the opportunity, we began to act on the assumptions inherent in our childhood social contexts. When we had nothing or very little we recognized our common ground, and maintained a commitment to changing our relationships to each other and the environment. As our vision confronted the sources of power in our remote communities: private capital, corporate influence, local government , law enforcement, and state and federal government agencies, and as the stakes grew higher in terms of private property, career development/advancement, and organizational growth and influence, we displayed a tendency to revert to models familiar to our heterogeneous backgrounds. Those of us able to articulate issues in a language understood by businessman, foundations, scientists, courts, politicians and bureaucrats formulated strategies for moving our agendas forward and rose to leadership positions within our businesses, our organizations and our communities. Paradoxically and rationally, we began to recreate the business, social, and organizational models we intended to leave behind in order to further the development of our vision of equitable sustainability. Although significantly different from more mainstream efforts, our institutions no longer represented a paradigm shift. These models of our own creation now stand between us and a direct relationship to each other, and to nature, the sources of the sustenance we originally and instinctively sought in coming back to the land.

What stopped us?

We instinctively attempted to escape a downward spiral of participation in, and association with, increasingly pathological social behavior. We tried to heal ourselves through a commitment to creating a way of living that honored community and environmental integrity. Out of our alienation from and disenchantment with modern industrial society we reached for a connection to what was real and grounded: a direct relationship to a natural environment. Our efforts ran up against two powerful obstacles:

the political, social and economic clout of the dominate interests in our remote area, our own world views and ambitions which we inescapably and unconsciously brought with us.

Although, society as a whole is much more complex, the basic dynamics operating in this experience demonstrates the way that the “benefits” of technological prowess, and rational, dualistic, enlightenment appeal to our personal needs for comfort, security, status and respect. Our inability to develop the personal power to articulate effective, coherent alternatives capable of resisting the combination of temptation, coercion, and entrenched hegemony wielded by elite corporations and government representatives leaves our best intentions vulnerable to co-optation.

We want to develop community strategies for socially equitable, and ecologically effective, restoration and renewal. Such strategies must have the political and economic clout to counteract vested interests in our culture. This process is inherently and necessarily a personal healing process in which we confront powerful motivations integral to our own psychological and paradigmatic vested interests in the status quo which act to undermine our efforts.

To heal the personal distress, grief, and alienation we feel as members of an industrial society which is deconstructing the natural world, we want to create healthy community relationships to our immediate ecosystems. This is an inherently political process in which we encounter powerful external vested interests which act to subvert our efforts.

The power of external vested interests is a direct expression of our personal participation, which we cannot evade, in the paradigm we want to change. We cannot confront one without confronting the other. When we challenge them both, it is our highest expression of psychological health and wholeness.

As the Doonesbury comic strip character said in one of the panels about the Vietnam war, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

As we protested, humans, dressed as salmon, swam up the road to Fisher gate on Pacific Lumber property in an attempt to spawn, and were arrested. Then the highway patrol dove into the crowd looking for leaders and cameras. We drove home in our fossil fuel powered vehicle, past the old stumps, the old growth, and the second growth up the old logging road to our wood framed house. We ate some chicken raised in Petaluma, and watched a video made from petroleum by-products. The next day we gathered oyster mushrooms from the woods around our house and watched the mist, drifting through the valley, draped over the saddle in the ridge between our watershed and the next. We checked in on the Pacific salamander that lives under the plywood over by the garden. We mixed some of the acorn mush we made into a cookie recipe and had some ice cream made in Vermont. We went to bed early, the next day was work and school. A direct experience of relationship to nature is not a simple thing.

Monday, August 28, 2006

 

For political geeks and junkies

Chris Bowers over at MYDD has put together an House race forecast database, which will be updated on a regular basis. Bowers says:
"What I am not worried about is competition. The sheer amount of information I offer in this forecast easily surpasses anything publicly available anywhere in the nation."
It's impressive, but I don't know that the "sheer amount of information" is all that astronomical, but he's probably right that you won't find all of this information in any single quick-reference source. I'm sure the professionals will be printing it out regularly. The chart contains the following:

The top 60 House races in the nation, grouped by competitiveness tier.

Meanwhile, Osama is stalking Ned Lamont.
  • The names of both the Democratic and Republican candidates in all 60 races.

  • The relative cash on hand in all 60 races

  • The partisan voting index for all 60 districts

  • The 2004 margin in all 60 districts

  • The latest poll, if any, from all 60 districts

  • Notifications as to whether each district is an open seat, held by a freshman, has a repeat challenger, or has been targeted for ad buys by the DCCC

  • Mini-commentary on each district
His projections are probably optimistic (for Democrats). Kos agrees with me:
"And for the record, I still don't think we'll win back either chamber. I've seen the GOP close the deal too many times before for me to get complacent and cocky. Nah. I think we'll win 7-14 seats in the House, 3-5 in the Senate."

The recent polling notwithstanding, I doubt that Virginia, Tennessee, and Nevada are really in play. Casey will probably beat Santorum in Pennsylvania. Brown is looking good in Ohio. And I've got a very good feeling about Montana because of an unusually strong Democrat in Tester. But I'd never bet on Missouri, and Chafee will probably pull it out Rhode Island if he wins his primary. One the up side, none of the previously indicated vulnerable Democrats look like they're going down, not even Maria Cantwell. I say the Democrats pick up 3 (not including the Lamont win over Lieberman, which I believe is relatively certain current polls notwithstanding). I have no idea about the House, except that it appears that the Democrats will gain seats.

Oh, and Osama's stalking Lamont (photo above from Lamont's blog).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

 

Damn I'm sick of gag agreements!

The whole Paul Hagen/CDAA thing is frustrating enough, but today Governor Schwarzenegger settled a suit filed by one of his alleged groping victims. The agreement? Everybody keeps quiet. Does the gag order protect her, hor him?

The suit was actually a slander suit based on allegations made by Schwarzenegger that she had forced herself onto him. Her account was, according to the L.A. Times:
Schwarzenegger had appeared on Richardson's late-night show in December 2000 to promote his movie "The 6th Day." Richardson said that after the taping, Schwarzenegger pulled her onto his knee and told her, "I want to know if your breasts are real," and then groped her left breast.
According to the woman's attorney the settlement seems to have made everybody happy.

The AVA's Bruce Anderson once asked about one of the gag-stipulated settlements with the parents of an alleged victim: "How much money would you accept to allow Michael Jackson to rub your son's balls?" So how much for a grope? Inquiring minds want to know.

Editing do to my own attention deficit disorder - okay, he paid (presumably) for an alleged lie rather than an alleged grope. Sue me.

Matt Stoller has some interesting east-coast perspectives on California politics in general, including the settlement and the race.

 

Proposition 90 is about much more than eminent domain reform

Time to kick off my November election coverage, starting with one of the worst of the propositions - number 90. I will probably be fine tuning this and other posts on various initiatives and candidates, and I'll post a comprehensive final version a week or two before the election. I also hope to have, as usual, Tim Redmond of the Bay Guardian to discuss the statewide measures on my October radio show.

Capitalizing on the negative public reaction to the recent eminent domain case decided by the Supreme Court decision, Proposition 90 is essentially intended to force governments to privatize more services while altering 900 years of common law upon which the security of public infrastructure is based. What most property owners don't realize is that they don't really own their property. They own a tenancy in it. The commonwealth owns all of the land within its jurisdiction. Accordingly, it can exercise "eminent domain" to seize land for the public benefit, the Constitution requiring compensation of fair market value of the property.

The case of Kelo v. New London involved the seizure of property in order to sell it to developers, the theory being that economic development is a "public use" that eludes the minimal 5th Amendment restrictions. The Supreme Court majority voiced reservations about the policy, but refused to null the seizure on the basis that the Connecticut local government had met Constitutional terms thus rendering the issue a state matter with no federal jurisdiction.

Since the decision various states have visited the question of reform at that level, specifically placing more restrictions on the purposes for which state or local governments may invoke their commonwealth rights to the land. Unfortunately, certain special interests have been pushing additional agendas into these reform proposals, and Proposition 90 is one of those "Trojan Horse" initiatives.

Currently, the law of "takings" requires that government compensate property owners when a new zoning, regulation, or statute is passed that deprives the property owner of the essential value of the property. This measure would reduce the standard to merely "substantial" value, and the measure doesn't bother to define the term which will open government up to a floodgate of litigation. Thus every law that could possibly have any impact on property, from rent control ordinances to environmental regulations. Even residential zoning ordinances would be at issue, as well as limited growth, parcel size minimums, ag zoning, worker safety laws, unionization rights, and virtually any benefit from basic urban civil engineering. The measure provides an ill-defined exception for public health and safety, and you can bet that more than a few governments will be trying to expand the scope of that exception, which will lead to even more litigation.

The actual portion of the proposition that actually deals with eminent domain is problematic in it's definitions, but less of an issue for me. "Public use" would be limited to seizures for purposes in which the government would either occupy the property itself, or lease it to a private entity that allows for public entry (such as a mall, baseball stadium, or university). It couldn't be used for private housing, nor private industry, and that's fine with me except that it does reduce a local government's ability to comprehensively plan local development. On the downside, the measure also fails to provide an exception for areas that create a public nuisance without a showing that each and every parcel contains the source of that nuisance, thus hampering redevelopment projects. And it couldn't be used to promote a new industrial or other local economic base in furtherance of a general plan. Personally, since general plans are often dictated by private monetary interests, I think this measure is going to backfire on some of the proponents - the proposal does thus incorporate some characteristics of karma.

And the measure places the burden of proof on government in any court battles, while depriving it the ability to recoup attorney fees.

And the measure also allows property owners to collect more than the value of the property itself, including presumably costs the property owner may have incurred in anticipation of his/her/its own uses, essentially requiring the government to put the owner back into the economic position it would have been but for the taking. Does this mean they're entitled to speculative profits? More lawsuits, and enormous costs to the taxpayer.

The normally conservative San Diego Union-Tribune had this to say:
The initiative then veers into radical territory in two ways:

It declares the compensation for seized property must reflect the value of the project to be built on the site, meaning an astronomical increase in the compensation taxpayers must provide.

It requires that private property owners be fully compensated when any government regulation causes their property to lose value. Decisions on matters as mundane as traffic lights, parking meters and noise abatement could be argued as having negative effects on property value. The vagueness of the initiative suggests this is just what sponsors want – an atmosphere in which local officials contemplating basic questions of governance see legal peril and costly lawsuits at every turn.

Did the trial lawyers surreptitiously take over California's eminent domain movement?

So, while we hope those appalled by eminent domain abuses continue lobbying the Legislature for reform - Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, is a key player on the issue - we hope that this dismay doesn't translate into support for Proposition 90. It is a radical overreach that would create vastly more problems than it would correct.
Plenty more here and here.

And for an account of the movement behind this proposition and similar proposals in other states, please read this High Country News article.

 

Balloontrackwatch.org (aka Balloontractwatch.org)


How come nobody told me about this site? Just found it while looking for something else.

It's put together very well, with lots of quotes, photos, and links.

It doesn't indicate who's behind it, which should trigger all the usual local conspiracy theories. Has anybody linked it back to Salzman's computer yet? The authors don't attempt to hide their bias, though they do post and link to objective news articles on topic.

It does however side with the Eureka Reporter over the Times Standard with regard to the reference to the property as the "balloon track" rather than "tract." However, you can get to the site with the address spelled either way.

The graphic to the left is a "slide show" of quotes from local dignitaries about the issue.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

 

No more GMO bans

The Times Standard reports on a bill (Senate Bill 1056) opposed by Patty Berg, that is just about to be passed barring counties from banning GMOs (genetically modified organisms). It looks like it's a done deal. Mendocino County has already passed a measure that would be grandfathered. Some activists in Humboldt County pushed a measure here that failed largely because it was horribly written and probably would have been sliced to pieces by the courts for due process violations. It looks like they won't get a second chance, and the efforts on the backburner are going to have to be shelved or altered.

On the topic of GMOs, I am an agnostic. While I agree that we have a tendency to ignore the precautionary principle and charge forward without concern for potential unintended consequences, there are also GMO developments that could potentially make huge differences in the lives of those living in underdeveloped countries. I don't know enough about the science personally, and I've read reasonable arguments from many sides of the debate. My good friend Tom Hanson is much more knowledgeable on the topic, and has written some interesting and controversial letters to the SoHum papers which generated some thoughtful and some less-than-thoughtful responses. Upon reading this post, I'm certain he will send me plenty of links for good reading and I'll be happy to update accordingly.

At minimum, I do believe in mandatory labeling. Whether the products are safe, there is no legitimate reason to conceal the nature of a product from the consumer that may in fact impact the choice of consumption. It's up to the industry to make the case to the consumer, rather than simply decide what the consumer needs to know about the product.

And more to the point of the bill, I also believe in local control. While I don't know how I'd vote on a well-written GMO measure, I don't see any compelling reason to deny county's the right to make these decisions on their own. I don't know how the vote is breaking down, but there are liberals and conservatives who talk local control, but don't seem to want to walk the talk when lobbies come calling for pre-emption of basic democracy. I imagine the anti-GMO crowd will be pushing a statewide ballot initiative at this point, where they might have been content to remain at a local level for some time to come. The legislature is forcing them to go for broke. Probably wasn't the wisest move even setting aside democratic principle.

Moreover, the law will go too far. As amended in the link above, it would prevent all regulation at the county level, including mandatory labeling. Agribusiness and state government know what's best for you, and you don't need to know how your food is made. I hope somebody makes this a campaign issue somewhere.

 

A proud Dad post

My family and I were in Fortuna today for the soccer league jamboree. My son is in the 6 and under division, and today was his first game ever. The young division doesn't really keep score, and we're not supposed to make a big deal about it, but I can't help but be proud.

All last year his team got 3 goals. They got 5 in today's game. And my son got 3 of them.

Basically it's because he knows how to dribble, and we've been practicing. The rest of the kids will probably catch up to him, and in fact there's another kid on his team who is more physically developed than the rest and will probably be the "star" of the team - he got one very convincing goal today.

I have to say that I prefer the the atmosphere of today's event to my memories of little league with drunken chronologically adult idiots yelling from the stands. We actually have to sign an agreement for the soccer league in which we agree that we will only make positive and supportive input at games. Yeah, it all sounds "politically correct," but I think this is one area where PC has improved the life experiences of children. It was a great day.

Some of the kids will only participate in soccer until they are old enough for football. Apparently soccer provides the earliest team sport opportunities. It makes for an interesting cross-section of the community.

I was curious about a Fortuna police officer, who walked by with a dog. Was that to sniff out SoHum herb? I like to think the officer was simply in the K9 unit who made a special trip and decided not to leave the dog in the car.

By the time the game was over and photos, the afternoon was already well under way. We didn't make it to the organic festival. If anybody reading this was there, I wouldn't mind reading about it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

 

Thank you Ed!

I've been informed that Ed Denson plugged this blog on his KMUD show last night. Unfortunately, the talk show hour is right around when my kids are going down for the night, or getting ready to do so. It's not always easy to listen in. Plus I got disoriented this month because I'm used to Ed's show taking place a week after mine, not before.

Ed has contributed some excellent comments in various posts below, and handles the flames against him with grace (mostly by ignoring them, which is what the rest of us should do). We don't always agree. I think he was a little frustrated with me in some earlier blog discussions about the breastfeeding incident at Benbow Inn. But it's good to have someone like Ed practicing law locally. Sometimes it's hard for me to relate to most of the rest of the law profession, as they tend to come from a bit of a higher socioeconomic class background than I, and share some social views that I don't - even when they're liberal. Don't get me wrong, they're mostly very nice people, but I get that same feeling I got in high school when my working class parents all of the sudden came into money and tossed me into an upscale private school. There are a handful of attorneys I feel a certain type of comraderie with, and it's uplifting to see them when you're negotiating the courthouse. Ed is one of those attorneys.

His show is of course on the fourth Thursday of the month and named for The Rights Organization. Now what I'd like to see is a blog from him. You don't have to update it every day Ed. Even once a week is fine.

 

Promo for my next radio show

KMUD promo - All Things Reconsidered - August 31, 2006

This week we discuss intellectualism and anti-intellectualism in American culture, as Americans are reading less and people of all political persuasions rely more on prejudices and gut feeling to make political decisions. We will also discuss the flip-side - the over-reliance of the intellect in the pursuit of truth and understanding. Then we will open the discussion to callers to discuss ideas for finding balance. Please join us on All Things Reconsidered, Thursday night at 7 p.m.

For homework, you can read the wikipedia entries for intellectualism and anti-intellectualism, from which I got the above drawing and where you can find the explanation for it.

 

The God of the Netherworld slighted by science


Astronomers got together and decided by committee what most have known for decades - they decided that Pluto isn't a planet. Of course, this won't sit well with astrologers who haven't been happy with other changes in astronomical consensus. In order to be a planet, it must be large enough to have a gravitational pull sufficient to make it round, and must be the "dominant object in its region of space" (you can sure tell that men still write the science), the latter of which has always been a problem because Pluto's very ellyptical orbit intersects with Neptune's, and Neptune is top dog in that space. I'm trying to remember, but I think both gods were brothers of Zeus. Of course, technically speaking, Pluto should now be renamed after a lesser god.

The issue came up with the recent discoveries including Pluto's moon Charon, and a new object actually bigger than Pluto given the catchy name 2003 UB313. Either Pluto was to be demoted, or Charon, UB, the asteroid Ceres, and a number of other objects would have been promoted.

Thing is, I was taught in the 3rd grade that Mercury was the smallest planet, an assumption I've held until I read the paper this morning. Well, I guess my assumption was always correct.

I guess I shouldn't make light of it. Not everybody's laughing.

So how long before someone posts some lame metaphor involving Gallegos, Arkley, Smith, Brinton, or Warford?

Photo source (with other cool photos as well)

Update: According to Captain Future, astronomers really have found better things to do with their time.

 

The Sonoma County Catholic Church needs another wake-up call

Actually, we might be within the same Archdiocese jurisdiction, I'm not certain. Anyway, as previously mentioned on this blog, Bishop Daniel Walsh is in some hot water over his failure to report an admission of several sex crimes involving minors by one of his priests. Apparently, the police believe they have the evidence to prosecute. It's now in the hands of District Attorney Stephen Passalacqua.

Apparently, one Father Xavier Ochoa kissed two boys on the lips, and paid another $100.00 to strip dance for him. He admitted the transgressions to Bishop Walsh who then sat on the information for three days before reporting it, allowing Father Ochoa to slip out of the country. Walsh faces misdemeanor charges that could conceivably lead to 6 months in prison, and considering the fact that a suspect for a serious crime actually escaped due to his inaction, I would hope that if convicted he would receive at least some jail time. Something has to get through to this institution, particularly given the local history. Walsh has previously apologized, which should mitigate the sentence, but given his status and the importance of a hard-line message that enough is enough, an apology no matter how heart-felt is simply inadequate.

So the question is whether the D.A. down there has the balls to take on the Church. Reading the comments to the online PD article, it sounds a lot like local politics, with a few of the writers seeming to be torn between the conflicting impulses to defend the Church and attack the D.A.

Photo is from the PD.

 

Great moments in listener sponsored radio

Well, maybe not always great, but what Jon Stewart refers to as a "zen moment." From this morning's Thank Jah:
Caller: I know you give a hoot Owl, but let me talk. Hey, that was a good one, wasn't it?

PB: Yeah.

Owl: Yeah, it was great.
An now it's immortalized.

Hey, now here's an exercise for Ron Davidson when he calls into a show, or writes a letter to an editor: do you think there's actually any topic you can discuss in which you don't attribute the evil of an act to the teaching of evolution? I liked it better when you obsessed over lesbian waitresses.

By the way, my show is out of its usual schedule this month. Tom and I will be discussing anti-intellectualism next Thursday night at 7 p.m. as usual. I'll talk a little more about it as the week progresses.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

 

What do we owe exonerated inmates?

The Humboldt Advocate, whatever the shortcomings of its editor, is going out with style. It features two great articles highlighting two great local businesses. Apparently Smug's Pizza, in my opinion the best in Humboldt County, is expanding to McKinleyville and considering expansion into Fortuna and delivery service. And there's a nice article on Rita's Mexican Food, in my opinion the second best in the county.

But the article that captured my attention is a syndicated column by Steve Chapman. The article opens with an anecdote of Michael Evans, who spent 27 years in prison and upon exoneration and release was given a check $162,000 - $6,000 per year. Illinois, where he was falsely convicted and held, is actually one of the more generous of states. Many give you nothing at all. Per the 5th Amendment, the government has to give you fair market value for any property they seize for eminent domain purposes. But we don't value liberty the way we value property.

Evans sued for false arrest and prosecution, but if the arrest and conviction were reasonable at the time, there is no recovery under those tort theories. Call me a bleeding heart, but I believe that false arrest and conviction should be a matter of strict liability. Even if it was an honest mistake, why should the victim shoulder the burden? The concern that it will open floodgates is pretty sad commentary on the efficiency of our criminal justice system, and maybe if compensation came directly out of those funds there would be an incentive to perhaps investigate for evidence pointing to innocence rather than treating each case in an adversarial manner from the point of the arrest. Currently, there is no legal duty to look for evidence of innocence, only a requirement to turn it over to the defense if the prosecution should happen onto it.

In other words, if the resistance is a matter of budgetary concerns, we really need to take a look at the justice system.

Meanwhile, I found the Chapman column elsewhere. It's a worthwhile read.

 

Thursday Thoughts

The Times-Standard reports on Local Solutions' endorsements in the Eureka races. The theme is "no surprises." I'd be curious to know if any of the other candidates went to the interviews.

.....

The Chimney Tree in Phillipsville will be closing permanently on September 17. It's too bad, because they serve a decent burger. This means that the Hobbit Hill walk will also close. It's a trail that winds up the hill behind the restaurant with exhibits of scenarios from The Hobbit with button activated excerpts from the novel. It's one of the few tourist trap places worth bothering with, but they've obviously lost interest as the exhibits have been in disrepair. You can see from faded murals that they had capitalized on the animated films that came out in the 70s and 80s, but did not take the effort to exploit the recent films. The trail is about half a mile long, and takes you through some very pretty areas of the forest. Take advantage of it while you can.

.....

We had a black-out in Redway last night, which lasted until about 3 in the morning judging from my blinking clocks this morning. The Feet First dress rehearsal at The Mateel Center was cancelled. Tonight is the opening performance.


.....

A letter in today's Eureka Reporter warns that if you don't repent God will torture you for eternity for cussing. I'm not going to put the guy down for his religious beliefs, however, I think the use of the phrase "Jesus Christ" as a curse has it's roots as a prayer. You encounter a frustrating situation, and you invoke the name for help. Hence, the writer's comparison with the lack of use of the name Hitler in cursing would be inapplicable.

And I probably shouldn't venture into this, but if there are any fundamentalist Christians out there maybe you can answer a question for me. And this isn't to belittle your beliefs, but I just want to know how you resolve the question. In the letter, the writer quotes the Bible, and assuming it's not taken out of context, it says that everyone falls short of compliance with God's laws. Everyone. Compliance is impossible for the species apparently. So why would God judge us by a standard that is impossible for us to meet? And please don't bother if you're just going to respond that "it's a mystery."

.....

For those of you who were concerned, Christine of ER has informed me that she didn't have the local blogs I listed yesterday, including Arkleywatch. She thanked me for them, graciously. I expect that she will amend the list.

.....

Emperor Gallegos?

.....

In national political news, the RNC is going to try to tag Kos supported candidates as such. It would seem that Lamont's primary win over Lieberman has them freaked out. Meanwhile Lieberman himself, in a dead heat race as an independent, is campaigning with Republicans.

And it looks like Senator Allen's racial slur is taking its toll. I still think a Webb win is a long shot however.

The primary chances for Democrat Senate gains appear to be in Pennsylvania, Montana, Ohio, Missouri, and Rhode Island (and of course Connecticut). Virginia's in play, as are Nevada and apparently Tennessee. Arizona doesn't seem to be panning out as competitive, but it could change as well. So, with an inside straight, we could be looking at a Democratic majority senate next year. It's still a long way to November however, and these races are all close.

.....

And this is cool. The SF Bay Guardian is now posting it's letters to the editor on its website. Not much of interest this week, but over the years I've read some of the best letters in that paper. Not quite the literary quality of the letters of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, but close.

.....

Bob Doran has a fascinating article in this week's North Coast Journal about compostable plastics, a story that was apparently born from an amusing experience at Reggae on the River. Pretty much everybody associated with green issues locally is interviewed. The facts suggest that maybe it's more practical and even greener to simply recycle conventional plastic.

Meanwhile, if you're in need of a gun, there's be a gun auction at St. Bernard's School. Prices range from 50 bucks to 45 hundred. I'd say that's more effective fundraising than a bake sale! It all ends tomorrow, so make hay while the sun shines. On September 15, the school will be selling ale and oysters. Guns. Booze. Maybe Captain Buhne is right (he's got a post with a few more fundraising ideas!).

.....

Twisted Geezer supports the re-election of Mayor LaVallee.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

 

Eureka Reporter has dedicated a webpage to a list of local blogs

Check it out. A nice gesture on their part to the growing medium.

Definitely more than are in my links list. I'll add any that I'm missing later.

Update: Looks like I'm only missing the fat guys, which I'll include later. If there are any other local blogs I should include please let me know. I have only one Mendo blog right now, and I consider those local as well.

And I'll include any Del Norte blogs. They do have internet service up there, don't they? I know they have electricity, I've seen it.

Second update: Just noticed that the ER list omits Arkleywatch. Probably an oversight. I'll bring it to their attention.

Third update: They left out a couple of other local blogs as well. One is Dreaming up Daily, which is sometimes a bit out there in the new agey theme. Whenever I visit I can almost hear Kitaro or Vangelis music in the background. He (Captain Future) does come up with some gorgeous pics to display, and it often makes for a nice read.

The same blogger also has at least one other blog (I haven't perused all of his links) named Soul of Star Trek. Mostly it's updates about yet another (oh boy) movie from the franchise that won't die. Isn't there some rule about odd or even numbered movies sucking? I don't even remember what the last one was about.

I mean, I really liked the original series, and some of the subsequent efforts have been decent. But enough already! How about putting some effort into making more movies based on Azimov, Clarke, or Ursula Leguin? Maybe the third try would be the charm on Nightfall. Anyway, check out some of the convention shots posted. I'm sure they're all very nice people, but how can you not laugh? These guys are in their 40s and 50s for crying out loud! Have they moved out of their parents' basements yet?!

The photo of the Borged Counselor Cleavage was taken from the above-mentioned blog.

 

Will this help revitalize the Humboldt agricultural economy?

This Times-Standard article focuses on the opinions of Jennifer Harris, owner of Arcata's clothing store Hempworks. Assembly Bill 1147 passed on Monday, and apparently she didn't even know about it.

Apparently, if it's signed by the governor (and it's expected to be) it will allow for licensed hemp growing, though not in back yards or other "clandestine places." Will it specifically prohibit the culling of male plants? I suppose that would look suspicious.

Here's a piece of irony. Schwartzenegger is expected to sign the bill. Governor Gray Davis meanwhile had opposed hemp, and vetoed a bill that would merely have approved a feasibility study for the cultivation of alternative fibrous substances including among them hemp. Thought for food. Should we nickname Arnold "Governor Toke?"

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

 

Dumb things we write when we're young, and their virtue

AnonRmouse is all over Shane Brinton's case over a dogmatic piece Brinton wrote a couple of years back blaming the spread of AIDS on capitalism. I believe he was still in high school. As I said in response, I'm certainly glad that the Internet wasn't around when I was in high school, or there'd be plenty of material to slap me around with. When you write something for publication, you're putting yourself out and in some ways making yourself vulnerable to everything from personal attack to more intrinsic consequences. And when you're still at an intellectual stage where passion and impulse override cognition, you're bound to put something out with unintended consequences, as in Brinton's case or the gentlemen I discussed earlier.

Well, I'm not going to share some of the dumber things I wrote. I'm actually somewhat proud of the following leaflet I wrote for the DSA a couple of decades back, though I indulge the medium of writing with a style of prose that makes me wince as I'm reviewing it in my middle age. I had volunteered to write up a position piece on Cuba for an anti-sanctions rally, and I wrote honestly from what I understood to be DSA's position from my readings of Irving Howe and even Michael Harrington - two of the grand patriarchs of DSA at the time. But I also wrote to provoke negative response (the Lyndon LaRouche blushing sentence probably wasn't necessary to my point), and we got it in the form of angry telephone calls from local political icons like Betty Kano and Tony Platt. And there was a little bit of a backlash within the organization as some of the SDS/NAM types felt it was "too anti-communist." From my perspective it was an effective leaflet because it opened up a discussion that nobody in the democratic left wanted to deal with.
Democratic Socialists of America is on record for its opposition to our government's aggressive destabilization campaign against Cuba. We support the right of any nation to settle its own internal differences and establish its own political and economic system; and we oppose the arrogant concept of a superpower's "realm of influence" that leads its citizens to regard their neighboring lands as "our own backyard." Specifically we condemn the financing of Miami based organized criminals in their attempts to retake Cuba, the hypocrisy of an embargo of the sort we are afraid to levy on countries like South Africa or China, the insulting and provocative Radio Marti project (which doesn't bother to recite Marti's poems), and the climate of hostility that has prevented the "normal relationships" we have with other countries, "communist" or otherwise.

But while we decry the destruction the U.S. has levied on this country, we do not share some of the left's romanticization of what is a very despotic and often brutal dictatorship. The cult-like worship of the charismatic image of Fidel Castro has led many of us to ignore some very harsh realities. The Castro regime tolerates very little dissent, censoring even periodicals from other communist bloc countries. Embarrassingly dogmatic rhetoric dominates what passes for the Cuban press while graft and corruption run rampant through all levels of government. The prisons are centers for wholesale torture, and a homophobic policy for AIDS has been implemented that would even make Lyndon LaRouche blush. As per the nature of Leninism, socialism in Cuba is defined simply as state ownership of the means of production rather that a process in which working people gradually claim power within their workplace and communities. This simply can't happen in a system with no institutionalized checks on the power of the central committee. As the saying goes, "there cannot be socialism without democracy."

But we believe the foremost concern for American progressives should be over the policies of our own government, which actually serve to maintain the status quo of Cuba. Still, in light of that concern, it's important to speak for the whole truth, regardless of it's momentary inconvenience.
I'd write it differently today. But would I get the same responses? There's something to be said for the openness of youthful passion, and I'd hate to see everybody grow up too fast before "dumb" things get written. Kudos to Shane Brinton for having cared enough to write about something that matters, regardless of the erroneous conclusions and assumptions.

 

Paul Hagen firing redux

Today's Southern Humboldt Independent has a story by Daniel Mintz about the new unit being created by the D.A.'s office to handle environmental and consumer fraud cases. The article quotes Gallegos as saying it could serve the whole north coast, but it's nonspecific as to whether the CDAA will be funding it. CDAA has already replaced Hagen with somebody named Gale Filter, the head of the organization's environmental circuit project and formerly Hagen's supervisor. The headline and the first 5 paragraphs deal with the proposal, but then the article moves into new questions about the Hagen firing. And unfortunately, once again the coverage raises more questions than it answers.

For one thing, I'm confused about the pact of silence around the dismissal. David LaBahn of the CDAA says that the pact was a "mutual agreement." So did Hagen insist on the gagging, or was he pressed into it?

I'd also been confused about the geography of Hagen's jurisdiction, which was Del Norte, Humboldt, and Lake Counties. Why the gap of Mendocino? Well, apparently the Mendo D.A. had informed the CDAA that they no longer wanted his services way back in 1999 - which I believe would have been shortly after Norm Vroman replaced Susan Massini. The Mintz article is bereft of any details of that incident. Mintz quotes Gallegos as saying that the issues between Hagen and his CDAA employer were "long standing" and not related to him. He then urged Mintz to get the story from CDAA which is of course either hiding behind or bound by the gag agreement.

The article then rehashes some of the difficulties of the Stoen cases, and finishes with a quote from Gallegos saying that this new unit may take two years to fully realize.

So what I'm reading between the lines is that CDAA and Gallegos are pointing at Hagen as if he's responsible for the secrecy, without really saying it. So either both are playing a very cynical game of manipulation of circumstances the CDAA muscled Hagen into, or Hagen really screwed up somewhere and agreed to forego a fight if they would keep it under the hat.

.....

The Independent also reported that violent crime went down in Humboldt County in 2005. Odd thing is, the Press Democrat recently reported that crime is up in Eureka - a report that some have already used to slam Gallegos. It seems Eureka residents may have only their own government to blame. Will this be an issue in the city council elections?

 

Organic Planet Festival this weekend

At Halverson Park in Eureka, 11 to 8 and put on by Californians for Alternatives to Toxics. Info here. 5 bucks if you get in before noon. 10 bucks thereafter (don't ask me, doesn't make any sense to me either). Kids under 13 free.

I'll be attending after a soccer game in Fortuna (which means we'll be shelling out 20 bucks instead of 10). The kids' section has much to offer, and my own enjoyed it very much last year. Some very interesting booths of artisan, artistic, and political nature (I still have a Local Solutions CD from last year - unopened I'm afraid to admit). Great food, though I didn't particularly feel like waiting in the long line for the "big salad." Last year there were free ice cream samples.

There'll also be a biodiesel workshop, a talk by Chef Ann Cooper about organic school lunch programs, and much of the usual hippie music fare.

Hey, if anybody wants to meet me there and talk/argue about politics or anything else, let me know and we can set something up.

Check this out, the blogger spell-check doesn't recognize "biodiesel." Bastards!

Oh, and the photograph was lifted from the festival site, and it was taken by my good friend Fred Evenson.

Monday, August 21, 2006

 

Party lines, political correctness, and basic decency

I'm about to describe a pivotal moment in my own intellectual development. If it seems that sometimes I'm harder on progressives than right wingers it's because I expect more from the former. I expect lib/rad types to constantly re-examine even their most basic assumptions, because anything that's worth believing in can stand up to the scrutiny, and anything that's pure hypocrisy or dead wrong should be attacked no matter how convenient it is to short term political gain or ideological consistency.

This piece was written in response to an actual break-dancing event by a thoughtful student during my time at UC Santa Cruz in the spring of 1984. It didn't go over well. The provost shut the newsletter down, and Mr. Brauner was vilified as evil personified. There were anti-racism rallies and pushes for mandatory racism awareness curriculum, and workshop after workshop. There was also plenty of venom reserved for those of us who tried to point out that it was satire.

Brauner did go overboard, and the words are indisputably offensive. But what amazed me was how many people took the piece in earnest, and one individual who identified himself as a grad-student referred to "this Rudyard Kipling of Stevenson College," not even recognizing the author's name. How does one get to grad-school without learning who Rudyard Kipling was, let alone without having read at least one or two of his works? And what about the professors who should have recognized the writer's intent? Surely they knew who Kipling was? Obviously they never exposed themselves to Ibsen either (I promise, that's my last reference for awhile).

More importantly, how was it that virtually nobody on campus recognized that the author was actually trying to make a point about more subtle forms of racism? He was particularly targeting the patronizing even if well-intentioned liberal versions of the "white man's burden," and also certain stereotypes of black sexual prowess which are actually promoted and perpetuated by political correctness itself? None of the angry letters to the campus paper's editor even acknowledged the intent, whether the omission was by ignorance or willful disregard.
"A Wonderful Event"

By Rudyard Kipling

Stevenson College has taken on the white man's burden. Gail Heit, our faculty director, was able to bring to our higher facility some of the native break dancers. These strapping young bucks are able to able to undulate and twist their bodies in ways that we never imagined possible. Besides being paid real American dollars, there is a rumor going around that they were receiving hot meals and a copy of the UCSC brochure, which contains many pretty pictures.

This reporter was able to learn much about the black and Hispanic ethnicities of the local outlying regions. Who knows, perhaps this event will help relations and ensure that there is less crime and upstart activities by these peoples. Perhaps they will learn to admire our way of life and in the future will work willingly for us in such responsible positions as dishwashing, carparking, and as doormen.

Next week, provost David Kaun will lecture in a local ghetto on "Economics and the market. What does it mean to you?"

From Doublespeak (Stevenson College - UCSC - Newsletter, 1984), actually by Asher Brauner
Brauner rebounded and was actually elected Student Body President a few years later, during my senior year. After he was elected, somebody remembered and wrote another rather stupid letter to the paper condemning him and everybody who voted for him as racists. I was a few years older by then and had a little more fortitude for battle. It's a rare opportunity that one has after replaying events for long periods of time rolling over in bed saying to yourself "I should have said..." and I took full advantage of it. A woman whom I unfortunately never had chance to meet wrote an even more blistering letter making the same points. Unfortunately, I can't find my copy of the City on a Hill edition containing the letters. And I waited that week for the next issue hoping the first letter writer or somebody else had something to say, ready to tear somebody a new hole, but alas, there were no responses and none of the expected calls for Brauner's removal. No apologies from any professors for their prior silence either unfortunately. Brauner had also written an apologetic letter that clarified his intentions as a younger man made older overnight.

And don't get me wrong. The words are insensitive, even in satire. That much should have been said, and could have been said in constructively worded letters. The vitriol was unnecessary.

And since then I feel almost compelled to buck anything resembling a party line. Attacking stupidity on the right is easy - I've been doing it all my life. But I feel even more compelled to challenge stupidity in my own ranks. And if I'm playing the pack animal - it's very easy to fall into - I hope somebody will call me on it. The theme of my radio show All Things Reconsidered is constant scrutiny. It's not your imagination - I really do take on leftists more often that right wingers. It's because I'm frustrated quite frankly. In some ways we can be the worst in terms of tolerance. And it's part of the reason we're politically marginalized.

Update: Hmmm. I think Brauner went on to become a novelist.

 

Sobriety checkpoints this weekend

Apparently, thanx to some sort of grant, the Fortuna and Rio Dell police will be conducting a sobriety checkpoint this weekend. Of course, my feeling has always been that word gets out among the drunks right away so for the most part the only people who get hassled are innocents just going about their evening. On the other hand, the Center for Disease Control has evidence that they can be effective. The supposition is that while the checkpoints may not net all that many DUI violators, they may in fact deter the violations to begin with. There is certainly logic to the supposition in addition to the evidence.

The US Supreme Court has ruled them constitutional when the interrogations are brief and the intent is to get dangerous vehicles of the road. They are Fourth Amendment violations when the intent is to investigate potential criminal behavior by stopping motorists randomly in a fishing expedition. There were very articulate dissenting opinions in both cases. The ACLU has a nice summary. MADD views them all as consistent with the rules applying to airport security, a point repeated by other proponents who point out that more people have been killed by drunk drivers than were killed on 911.

Now, I'm sort of a fundamentalist when it comes to the basic right to be left alone absent some basis to believe you've committed a crime or are a danger to the public. But it's not just America-hating pinko pro-terrorists like me who want to see drunks running over our children. While federal law does not prohibit checkpoints, the constitutions of some states do, and they remain illegal in some states. And we aren't just talking about wimpy pro-criminal New England state either. The death-penalty-capitol-of-the-world has barred them (the site even has a section for "checkpoint horror stories"). Of course, how real American can they be if they're linking to a checklist of checkpoint grievances from the dread ACLU, otherwise known as "America's Taliban?"

I share in those Talibanesque reservations, the biggest one being the lack of faith I have in sobriety tests. Every single DUI client I've ever had has felt that he or she passed the test, every single one. Now, I know, defendants always claim they're innocent, but it started to occur to me that there might be something to the claims when I had a false arrest claimant as a client who "failed" the test but tested for no alcohol nor any other substance. The the patterns of alleged inaccuracy on the part of investigating cops have been fairly consistent, and are well documented. And in fact the studies have indicated some real problems with the subjectivity of the tests.

I'll post something more extensive about sobriety tests later, but let me just conclude now with my opinion that the presence of checkpoints adds to the probabilities of erroneous determinations with impacts on the lives of individuals constitutes one of those violations of liberty that should trump the benefits. Yes, that means that more people will be hurt, even die, at the hands of drunks. But we value liberty highly enough that we send kids to their deaths for it, at least in principle. We could eliminate DUI related deaths, as well as 10s of thousands of other deaths, by banning vehicles altogether. We're willing to sacrifice many, many more lives for convenience. Why not liberty?

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