Sunday, December 31, 2006


Let's back the Mateel Board

I've held back my comments from the beginning of this controversy, mostly because I didn't want to fan flames, pour salt into open wounds, or produce any other adverse effect that can be summed up in cliche metaphors. Unfortunately, I did let certain opinions slip through. Having participated in these conflicts in the past, it's hard to stay objective particularly given the intensity of the experiences.

This has split the community practically down the middle, in almost Biblical fashion setting father against son, servant against, master, yada yada yada. I have good friends on both "sides" (actually, there have been more than two "sides" which has complicated things even more). And for me personally, the end result is sad. I know there are those who are more sanguine, but I really did hope that mediation could turn out a more unifying result.

I also believe that the Board exhausted every reasonable possibility before making this decision. And I know that it was very difficult for at least some of the Board members. But one thing everybody agreed upon even before the negotiations began - the relationship wasn't working. In some ways, it never has although the money was made and the bills were, until recently, paid. The Mateel had to make a decision that would benefit the center and the community as a whole. Prior boards had visited the possibility of a divorce, but had not acted upon it. Whatever you think of the wisdom thereof, this Board's decision was courageous. And I hope it was the correct one. In either case, it's done.

I'm encouraged by these threads and those at the Reggae forum. It appears that people who were "adversaries" are pulling together to make ROR 2007 work, regardless of their opinions of the recent controversies. And as harsh as some of the venting has been, it could be much worse (and may yet worsen).

I also want to echo a sentiment expressed in the threads below. I don't censor comments for the most part, and I understand the need for some to remain anonymous. My suggestion is that if you must remain anonymous, avoid personal attacks. It's one thing to express a controversial opinion for which you are afraid of social or other repercussions. It's quite another to snipe from the cover of anonymity.

In the meantime, I'm grateful for the efforts at unity which currently outweigh the venting. I hope this spirit holds.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Finding a left narrative on Iran

Obviously I've had my share of run-ins with the peace movement, which tends to minimalize the evils of any particular enemy with the rationalization that the war propaganda is so pervasive and so misleading that any criticism of "the enemy" is seen as contributing to the war climate. The idea has been taken to extremes where activists begin to accept traditions they'd slam as reactionary in our culture - even to the point of organizations called "Women in Black" which romanticizes the very burkas the women of Kandahar threw into the streets and burned once the mandatory laws were lifted. I'm hearing so much from activists calling Islam a "beautiful religion" while not granting Christianity the same status. The farther something is, the easier to romanticize.

At minimum, progressives lose credibility. Where they're successful, they become instruments of oppression they'd never stand for in their own countries.

But I do understand the desire to avoid marching in cadence with the war drum beat, and the question becomes how to strike a balance between opposition to a war and support for transformation in the country in question. This blogger, Ali Eteraz, is making a serious attempt to reach such a balance with regard to Iran. He starts with seven points, and then in "part 2" suggests a program of which I'm not entirely in agreement. But the basic idea is sound.

One problem with the peace movement is that it tends to be so fixated on its own message, it fails to confront and deal with opposing views, sometimes unfortunately because activists have their own dogma and would just as soon avoid having to integrate any significant nuance into their perspective. Unfortunately, this often means their political opponents have free reign. Eteraz grabs the bull by the horns.

The Right has a narrative on Iran: bombs away. The Left has a critique of that position as enunciated by Unclaimed Territory. What the Left doesn't have is its own narrative on Iran. This is where I can be of help.

Point 1: The Right's information on Iran comes from very dubious sources. One of the foremost Right authorities on Iran is Amir Taheri, who, as a reader informed me, was once referred to as the Emissary of the Apparatus. This post also discuses how Taheri lied about a story about Iranian Jews being forced to wear yellow stars and even though Juan Cole called him on it he refused to recant.

Not only that, but Taheri has a history of misrepresentation. In his article written after Nejad's letter to the White House, Taheri stated that the Iranians leaked their letter after the White House's dismissive attitude, when, in fact, Wiki had a copy of the letter hours after Nejad wrote it. This was the first time I started becoming reticent about Taheri's work.

I'm going to jump around as the article in its entirety is linked above. But the next salient point in my mind is that for its shallowness, the depth of the peace movement's analysis of Iran tends to be better than the opposition.
The Left's coverage of Iran has been immeasurably better and broader. In this post I looked at two case studies of discussions about Iran and found that both times the Right picked up a story about Iranian reformists and then dropped it, neither time questioning its bombs away strategy. Not only that, but it actually picked up the stories from the Left. As such, the Right overlooked the fact that there is a Velvet Revolution afoot in Iran (yes, we have been hearing that since 1996 but ten years is a very short time if you consider how long it took the Central Europeans to get out of Soviet control).
Then we get to the key point. The peace movement ought to be alligned with the dissent in Iran, just as it should have been with the dissent in Iraq under Hussein.

Iran, domestically, and internationally, is rife with activists and dissidents who are well aware of the evils of the Theocrats and doing something about it. My point is showing this group is that people are doing something about Iran's evils without dropping bombs. In this post (scroll down) we heard about Amir Fakhravar who has written an important collection of writings called "The Prison Papers." In this post we saw an Iranian dissident publicizing a letter by a man whose mother was stoned to death. In this post we heard about Rahim Jahanbegloo, the Iranian Gandhi. In this post we saw an Iranian-American anti-stoning activist take the Iranian regime to task.

Point 5: The most important point. Iranian dissidents do not need or want bombs backing their activism. In Der Speigel, Iranian nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi stated this very clearly...

On the other hand, it's not enough to argue that Iran should be allowed to determine its own history. The left has to be actively engaged with reform efforts, and not come across as isolationist or even as "appeasors.

The Left has to understand and promote the fact that there are ways for dealing with problems in Iran -- and that the Left does have to do something about these problems because when the Left remains silent the Right starts screaming for bombs. Email and letter writing campaigns like this one -- the kind of stuff that the Left excels in -- help get activists involved at the global level. In fact, when I launched that initiative, close to 90 different left blogs linked to it (and one Right one). It isn't just stoning where such pressure can be exacted. Working with Muslim and Persian ethnicity groups is another way for the Left to seek positive change in Iran. Working with Muslims will not immediately make you any less secular humanist; you can still make plenty of critiques of the perversions of religiosity in Iran. There are many opportunities for pro-active initiatives in Iran. For example, after an important cleric imposed a death fatwa on a journalist, we at were able to write a pointed letter directed at the cleric. Why wasn't this picked up by the big boys on the Left? My guess is because the Left does not have a narrative on Iran.

But it should.

No magic formulas. Just some thoughts. There would certainly be no harm in encouraging activists to become familiar with the Iranian reform movement and its players.


Let's try to keep the Reggae discussion respectful

I'm not going to censor posts unless they move outside all reasonable boundaries of decency. I expect that there's going to be a great deal of screaming and carrying on over the next couple of weeks, as anxieties mount and hard feelings come back to the surface. A decision was made, and the issue now is where to move.

The Mateel Center will be telephoning all of the coordinators it can reach, to confirm continued interest and obtain feedback. There will be meetings with volunteers and/or the public as well. I'm certain the Mateel will appreciate all constructive input.

Contrary to rumors posted herein, the "database" was apparently given over to the Mateel.

The ROR forum was not hacked nor shut down in an attempt to censor discussion. The forum was not actually a part of the ROR site, but rather was provided by a forum service. The account was in the name of People Productions and so the forum was presumably shut down by PP. I'm told that another forum will be set up soon.

And Taunya Stapp posted in the thread below to confirm that a contract with a new producer is being negotiated presently. I assume that an announcement will be made upon completion.

By all means vent if you must. Use these threads. But please try to stick to the issues and avoid the unnecessary personal attacks. And come Tuesday, I hope the bulk of the community will start to come together to make ROR work.

Update: The ROR forum's back up! No foul play on the part of anybody. Just coincidental timing.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Saddam Hussein's execution

Here's CNN's account. Here's the BBC account.

I don't support the death penalty under any circumstances, so it's hard for me to get worked up about it. I feel like I should feel differently about any death. But this guy was, well, what he was.

I do have questions about the trial, and I'm sure all of those will be raised. So far no reports of increased violence in Iraq, though I'd expect something symbolic to happen over the next few days, or as soon as the inevitable increased security is eased. Also, from this account it doesn't appear that his family was in attendance. I hope that was a matter of choice for the family.

And maybe some are breating just a bit easier in Iraq? Maybe not.

Anyway, I don't really have anything profound to say about it right now. Feel free to comment.

None of the major league blogs has put together any meaningful thoughts yet that I can find. I may update this with some links tomorrow night if I come across anything particularly worth reading. Whatever you think of the execution, the war, President Bush, whatever - this is a big moment in history.

Photo is from BBC.


Mateel Press Release

(Thanx to Garth Epling of the BOD)

Mateel Announces New Direction for Reggae on the River

The Mateel Community Center Board of Directors regrets to announce that extensive mediation with People Productions has failed to produce a favorable result for both parties. The Board remains completely committed to the continuation of Reggae on the River, and is moving forward to ensure the successful production of the festival in 2007. Unfortunately part of that process is ending the existing contract with PP as Carol Bruno has publicly announced that she will not work under that contract with this Board and E.D. In order to move forward the MCC has taken the necessary step of ending the contract with People Productions.

The MCC board feels that a short term licensing of the event is the best course of action. This will protect our intellectual property that is Reggae on the River and give us time to gather community input on the direction of the show. The MCC will announce the licensee in January of the new year. We invite all Reggae volunteers and coordinators who want to continue working for the Mateel to join us for ROTR 2007. They will have every opportunity to retain their positions at the festival. We will work diligently with local non-profit groups to make certain that their places at ROTR are protected.

We will also be working closely with Tom Dimmick, the owner of the ROTR site, to ensure that the festival is an ongoing success. We understand that Reggae on the River is dependent on the support of the local community, and we are counting on everyone to help us make the 2007 festival successful.

The Mateel will be working hard to make Reggae on the River as great as ever this year while we spend the year developing a long-range plan. We have heard the many concerns expressed by community members, and will be designing and implementing a year of planning to develop a long term viable plan for sustaining the Mateel Community Center and Reggae On The River far into the future. The planning will encompass an updated study of current community needs, membership and community meetings for input regarding the direction of the Mateel and ROTR, and a special meeting on the needs of the many local community nonprofit groups which rely on Reggae on the River. We look forward to a year of hard work on building a direction which focuses on the positive and creative well-being of our community.

Finally, the Board wants to express its gratitude to Carol Bruno, owner of People Productions. Under her direction and guidance the festival and the entire community has benefited immeasurably. We gratefully acknowledge the love, hard work, and years of dedication Carol and John Bruno have given to making Reggae On The River a world class event for all of our enjoyment and benefit.

We look forward to another excellent year of Reggae On The River in 2007.


Breaking news re Reggae on the River

I just received an e-mail from a very credible source with the following sentence.
PP contract was terminated yesterday.
I don't have any more at this time.

Addendum: In other Mateel news (I guess I've missed the news this week), the Mateel Center was burglarized on Tuesday. About $2500 (fund for Sherry Nelson) in cash was stolen, along with a computer. Files were rifled through as well, and a mess was left. They came in and out a back window.

Update: Okay, a few more details. Apparently after some very intense back-and-forth the Mateel decided to accept the resignation Carol offered at the general meeting. The confirming letter was delivered last night following a unanimous vote of the Board. According to two sources, the Mateel is in the process of signing up another producer for the event.


Eureka Second Ward appointee to be announced today

According to Capt. Buhne, it will be at 2:00. He's apparently obtained some inside information that the selection will be a "suprise."

I'm not sure when the city council will meet to vote on confirmation. Maybe somebody can post that info?

I'll update when I have more information.

Update: Hank Sims (whom I thought was on vacation!) reports in the comments section here that Polly Endert was chosen. What does anybody know about her (besides the Sohum connection)?


Why the Muslim world denies the Holocaust

Short answer - on top of nearly constant anti-Semitic propaganda, much of the Muslim world hasn't even heard of it. No, I don't blame all Muslims, nor even Islam per se in contrast to some others who have posted here. But the anti-war movement isn't doing anybody any favors by trying to downplay, ignore, or gloss-over these very harsh realities. The recent Holocaust denial donference in Iran should be a serious issue of discussion within anti-war movement circles. Some are taking it on. Others are in denial.

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

AYAAN HIRSI ALI, a Somali immigrant who served in the parliament of the Netherlands until earlier this year, is the author of "Infidel," an autobiography to be published in February.

December 16 2006

ONE DAY IN 1994, when I was living in Ede, a small town in Holland, I got a visit from my half-sister. She and I were both immigrants from Somalia and had both applied for asylum in Holland. I was granted it; she was denied. The fact that I got asylum gave me the opportunity to study. My half-sister couldn't.

The complete article can be viewed at:
http://www.latimes. com/news/ opinion/la- oe-ali16dec16, 0,4520813. story

Some key passages:
I saw pictures of masses of skeletons, even of kids. I heard horrifying accounts of some of the people who had survived the terror of Auschwitz and Sobibor. I told my half-sister all this and showed her the pictures in my history book. What she said was as awful as the information in my book.

With great conviction, my half-sister cried: "It's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed."
Western leaders today who say they are shocked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conference this week denying the Holocaust need to wake up to that reality. For the majority of Muslims in the world, the Holocaust is not a major historical event that they deny. We simply do not know it ever happened because we were never informed of it.
What's striking about Ahmadinejad's conference is the (silent) acquiescence of mainstream Muslims. I cannot help but wonder: Why is there no counter-conference in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum or Jakarta condemning Ahmadinejad? Why are the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference silent on this?

Could the answer be as simple as it is horrifying: For generations, the leaders of these so-called Muslim countries have been spoon-feeding their populations a constant diet of propaganda similar to the one that generations of Germans (and other Europeans) were fed — that Jews are vermin and should be dealt with as such? In Europe, the logical conclusion was the Holocaust. If Ahmadinejad has his way, he shall not want for compliant Muslims ready to act on his wish.


The first presidential race polls are in!

For you junkies.

The American Research Group just released new polls from early states in the 2008 nominating process.

Among Democrats:

Iowa: Clinton 31%, Edwards 20%, Vilsack 17%, Obama 10%
Nevada: Clinton 37%, Obama 12%
South Carolina: Clinton 34%, Edwards 31%, Obama 10%
New Hampshire: Clinton 27%, Obama 21%, Edwards 18%

Among Reublicans:

Iowa: Giuliani 28%, McCain 26%, Gingrich 18%
Nevada: Giuliani 31%, McCain 25%, Gingrich 22%
South Carolina: McCain 35%, Giuliani 28%, Gingrich 15%
New Hampshire: McCain 29%, Giuliani 25%, Gingirch 14%

If Gore's going to run, he better get moving. Time's a wasting!

Is Newt Gingrich serious??


Ocean's Three strikes in Trinidad

Well planned, but probably not well enough. Give them credit for brains - in the narrow sense. They cleared about 200 grand.

One was caught. Peter Daniel Collins, 35, and Emily Katherine Weitzel, 22, remain at large.

The photo, which is cute but would have served the public better with larger mug shots, is from the Times Standard.

Update: Captain Buhne dug up an old photo of Weitzel, who was a star softball player in high school.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


The Conspiracy Industry

An excellent article by James Meigs, Editor-In-Chief, Popular Mechanics. It's one of those articles that you read and find yourself nodding with every word, that is if you've got any skeptical inclinations whatsoever and you have a call-in radio show in Sohum. I haven't been villified quite to the extent of Popular Mechanics (and I wonder just how many of those same people who have poured through volumes including Crossing the Rubicon or anything David Griffin has written have bothered to pick up the Popular Mechanics book - the lone book which is intended to debunk rather than reinforce the theories. Since my interview with Chip Berlet I've received more than a few odd letters, e-mails, and telephone calls and I've been accused of everything from denial to Illuminati membership.

On February 7, 2005, I became a member of the Bush/Halliburton/Zionist/CIA/New World Order/ Illuminati conspiracy for global domination. It was on that day the March 2005 issue of Popular Mechanics, with its cover story debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories, hit newsstands. Within hours, the online community of 9/11 conspiracy buffs—which calls itself the “9/11 Truth Movement”—was aflame with wild fantasies about me and my staff, the magazine I edit, and the article we had published.

The Web site, an organization that claims that questioning the “official” story of 9/11 is “an act of responsible citizenship,” fired one of the first salvos: “Popular Mechanics Attacks Its 9/11 LIES Straw Man,” read the headline of a piece by a leading conspiracy theorist named Jim Hoffman.

We had begun our plunge down the rabbit hole. Within hours, a post on, which claims to be dedicated to “radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth,” called me “James Meigs the Coward and Traitor.” Not long afterward, another prominent conspiracy theorist produced an analysis that concluded that Popular Mechanics is a CIA front organization. Invective and threats soon clogged the comments section of our Web site and poured in by e-mail:

I was amused at your attempts to prove the conspirator theorists wrong by your interviewing people who work for the government. Face it: The U.S. government planned this attack to further its own agenda in the Middle East.

Rest assured, puppet boys . . . when the hammer comes down about the biggest crime ever perpetrated in the history of man—AND IT WILL—it will be VERY easy to identify the co-conspirators by their flimsy, awkwardly ignorant of reality magazine articles. Keep that in mind the next time you align yourself with evil scum.


I shouldn’t have been surprised. In researching the article we’d spent enough time studying the conspiracy movement to get a feel for its style: the tone of outraged patriotism, the apocalyptic rhetoric, the casual use of invective. A common refrain in conspiracy circles is the claim that “We’re just asking questions.” One would think that at least some quarters of the conspiracy movement might welcome a mainstream publication’s serious, nonideological attempt to answer those questions. One would be wrong.

Then Godwin's Law kicked in:
It was only a matter of time before the Nazis got dragged in. Christopher Bollyn, a prominent conspiracy theorist affiliated with the far-right American Free Press, weighed in a few weeks later with a piece titled “The Hidden Hand of the CIA, 911 And Popular Mechanics.” The article begins with a brief history of Hitler’s consolidation of power following the Reichstag fire in 1933. “Like Nazi Germany of 1933,” Bollyn wrote, “American newsstands today carry a mainstream magazine dedicated to pushing the government’s truth of 9/11 while viciously smearing independent researchers as extremists who peddle fantasies and make poisonous claims.”

In a few short weeks, Popular Mechanics had gone from being a 100-year-old journal about science, engineering, car maintenance, and home improvement to being a pivotal player in a global conspiracy on a par with Nazi Germany.

The article goes on to describe the cycle of argument employed by the conspiracy buffs in very familiar detail. But I think the article and the point was summed best by an e-mail contributor who said:
Some people are open to any possibility, and honestly examine all evidence in a rational manner to come to a conclusion, followed by a moral evaluation. Others start with a desire for a specific moral evaluation, and then work backwards assembling any fact that supports them, and dismissing any fact that does not.

Now, this tendency is not exclusive to conspiracy theorists. We've certainly seen plenty of that around here, in discussions about everything from Paul Gallegos to rating local hamburgers. But it resonates particularly when it comes to conspiracy theorists, and we seem to be more saturated with them locally than in most other places - even considering that the call-ins and bloggers aren't representative of the population as a whole. Conspiracies are easy, especially when you're "just asking questions." And the intellectual intransigence doesn't bother me nearly so much as the virulent anger coming from the mouths of conspiracy theory adherents when you don't come around to "the obvious." Sometimes my radio show sounds like the Scopes Monkey Trial.

By the way, Skeptic Magazine, published by Michael Shermer, a former fundamentalist Christian, makes yet another attempt at rational discussion of the topic. But I think you have to buy the hard copy.


Unitarians fight back!

In a blistering letter response Karen Harris, the "ministerial consultant," informs:
A recent letter published in your paper questioned whether the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is a religious organization. We would like to clarify any misunderstanding that this may have created. We Unitarians have been active in our religion for many years. The second U.S. president, John Adams, was a Unitarian.
And furthermore:
We are a religious organization made up of individuals with different basic beliefs, but all of whom agree to certain principles.

We covenant together to explore and embrace openly the fundamental mysteries of existence, to nurture a sense of family and to enhance the quality of life for ourselves, our children and the larger community.

We respect the contributions of each person in our activities and our discussions, seeking truth in the interactions of differing views. We recognize and honor the diversity among us.
And here's the kicker!
We hope this helps clear any misunderstandings and wish everyone a happy holiday season.
See that? No "merry Christmas." She's shoving your nose into it with "happy holiday season," an offense to the Christian faith. Let's take away their tax exempt status!

For the record, those "certain principles" are as follows (this is sort of like the Unitarian Ten Commandments):
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Nothing about the death of the ego though. And nothing about the immortal soul.

That chalice comes from here.


No news on the Reggae front

I made my calls yesterday. Everybody is still very tight-lipped about ongoing talks. What little I've gathered is just rumor, but they suggest that the talks aren't going very well. I'm not going to repeat mere rumors here.

I'm also wondering what ever happened to the audit. The newspaper accounts of November suggested that the report was going to be finished by early December. We're a bit overdue it seems. Are they keeping it under wraps for negotiation purposes?

Meanwhile, next week is the deadline for your Board of Directors vote. Get your ballot in the mail today!

Meanwhile it's 218 days until Reggae on the River. The fans are hoping.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Why the NRA is right and the CSGV is wrong

Somehow (with my help) a discussion about the power of the Eureka mayor over at Fred's blog veered into a Second Amendment debate. I previously posted some thoughts on the subject and promised a follow-up. I guess this is as good a time as any.

Let me first say that from a purely philosophical view, I have nothing against gun control. But for the concern for the integrity of the Bill of Rights, I'd have no problem if the government rounded up every gun and tossed them into a bonfire. I don't see guns as a deterrent to crime nor tyranny. As gun control advocates point out, crime is no lower where gun ownership is plenty, and the rates of crime are lower in states and countries with tight to absolute bans - the exceptions touted by the NRA being the exceptions that underscore the rule. And if a revolution becomes necessary, the revolution will get the guns. It won't be fought with handguns anyway - probably more likely with bombs set off by wireless technology.

But I do oppose certain forms of gun control in this country because they violate the Second Amendment, and the precedents that compromise that "embarrassing amendment" threaten to compromise the rest of the Bill of Rights as well.

I do agree with the gun control advocates' structural argument. The Second Amendment contains a qualifying preface clause. And as has been discussed in other contexts in this blog including the most recent post, every word in a law is presumed to have meaning and effect. Therefore:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

cannot be interpreted as merely

The right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Obviously, as the Supreme Court has ruled, the weapon in question must have some reasonable connection to the purpose of a militia (courts have thus denied the protection to the ownership of sawed-off shot guns and switch blades). But we don't know more than that. Unfortunately, the drafters left no clue as to what a "well regulated militia" is, or how the clarification should define or limit the right to bear arms.

The Constitution has often been analogised to a contract. For instance, in 1994 when the Republicans promoted their "contract with America," some Democrats responded that they already had a contract with America. It has all the elements (except arguably consent of every citizen, though natural law advocates have often spoke of the "social contract" you sign upon birth). It is a basic principle of contract law that ambiguities shall be strictly construed against the drafter of the contract. Therefore, the ambiguity of the Second Amendment should be strictly construed against state power (as should the ambiguities in other Constitutional provisions - it's really not that well-written a document when you get down to it).

This means that any infringement upon the right to keep and bear arms should involve a compelling state interest of the nature that would justify an infringement of First or Fourth Amendment rights. Certainly the interest of keeping automatic weapons, howitzers, and H-bombs out of private hands qualifies. Handguns probably not. Semi-automatics are more problematic. Outright bans of guns, such as the ordinance in San Francisco, are clearly unconstitutional. In my view anyway.

A note about my previous exercise - the article, written by a very liberal law professor, draws similar conclusions with somewhat different reasoning. It applies a more liberal approach to Constitutional interpretation to draw a "conservative" conclusion. I posted the portion of his article that describes his methodology, which is generally not accepted by straight "strict constructionists" and "original intent" advocates (the two are often combined, but they're really not the same thing as liberals would argue that the "living document" approach is "original intent."). The article The Embarrassing Second Amendment was spread all across the Internet by the NRA and their allies, but they certainly don't agree with the methodology; not the conservative wing of the gun rights movement anyway. There's a little bit of hypocrisy involved and when the first section is separated and presented to conservatives they often confirm the same.

Them's my thoughts on the subject, for what they're worth.

Photo source.

Addendum: Sorry. CSGV stands for Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. And by the way, I don't see any Constitutional argument against mandated child safety locks.


Democracy and the charter in Eureka

City Attorney Sheryl Schaffner's previous conclusion that the mayor is a "council member" under the Eureka city charter isn't sitting well with Michael Zinn (Matthew Zinn according to the ER), an attorney who was consulted by the San Francisco based law office of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP. He was consulted by what the Times-Standard refered to as a "local citizens group" (the ER names the organization as "Eureka Civic Association"). He submitted a letter to the city, and the TS quotes portions as follows:
Zinn adds that another section of the charter outlines that council approvals require a three-person vote, so the emphasis of the word “majority” in the council appointment portion was intended to have “independent significance.”

”The framers of the charter could instead have simply required 'the approval of the council,' but they did not do so,” the letter states. “By contrast, they did use such language where the appointment of members of city boards, commissions, or committees were concerned: they are to be 'appointed by the mayor with approval of the council.'”

I haven't read the charter myself, but this reasoning makes sense. In practice, every word of a law is presumed to have meaning, and if wording differs from other wording in law it is presumed to have a different meaning. If the drafters did not intend for the process to be different with the council selection process, it was clearly an error in drafting. This does happen, particularly if the second provision was drafted at a later date for a revision or addition to the charter. But in a lawsuit, the city would have the burden of proof, and thus would have to provide an explanation considerably less cryptic than Schaffner's.
Schaffner sees things differently, saying that if the framers' intent was to constrain the tie-breaking authority, the charter would say so.

”If they wanted to limit it, they could have said so,” she said. “They didn't.”

Schaffner said the research she has done turned up several cases that undermine the legal argument outlined in Zinn's letter.

But apparently the charter does say so. It says that an appointment has to be approved by a majority of councilmembers. I don't see the ambiguity.

As for her cases, unless the charters involved in those precedents contain the same discrepancy in wording between general council votes and the councilmember replacement process, I don't see how they're going to apply. I'm assuming that they don't pertain to Eureka particularly, or the issue wouldn't have been raised as it would be a done deal. I'm curious as to why she hasn't shared the case citations with the public.

The ER quotes another portion of the letter for a more general point:
(A) further tie-breaking vote — one of, at the very least, questionable legality — in an attempt to approve her own appointee creates a very strong appearance of an elected official taking great pains to hand-pick her own successor,” he wrote. “Plainly, filling a vacancy in an elected legislative body in such a manner stands in stark contrast with our traditions of democratic government.
I agree that an executive function official should not be allowed to vote on his/her own appointment, but then again the mayor of Eureka isn't really an executive branch position, but more of an extension of the council itself. Of course, nationally the Vice President breaks ties in the Senate (Art. 1, Section 3, Clause 4), and I assume that includes presidential appointments. But the US Constitution doesn't use two sets of language to describe the same process either.

Hopefully, Mayor Bass will choose a candidate that draws a consensus vote. Then the new council should address a clarification of the charter to avoid future complications and lawsuits.

Update: Heraldo is addressing the issue as well.

Fred also.


I'm back!

The office is without power, so I'm working from home this morning.

I drove up in the storm yesterday. My kids slept in the back almost the whole way, oblivious to my fear. We almost hydroplaned on a couple of streams of water crossing 101 in Mendo County. I was about ready to stop in Laytonville for the night, when the weather eased up. Miraculously, we got by Confusion Hill with no problems.

When we got home, we got a busy signal for any phone call out of the Redway/Garberville area. Starstream Cable was down as well, so I couldn't get online until late last night. Made a couple of posts before I went to bed. The storm got loud at times, and we ended up with a bed full of kids and pets by morning.


For anybody with a family I strongly recommend membership with the HSU Natural History Museum. The museum itself has some things to offer, including workshops for the kids throughout the year. But you also get the benefit of free entrance to any of the other science museums on the list - a long list of museums located across the country. To qualify, the museum has to be at least 90 miles from your residence which is to say that all museums are free to Humboldt Residences. The associate membership is $45.00 annually, though I encourage those of you who can afford it to pay for a higher membership. If you do any traveling you'll break even in no time. Our membership got me and the kids into the Steinhart Aquarium, the Exploratorium, and the Lawrence Hall of Science last week.

The Lawrence Hall of Science is hosting an exhibit of grossology, which was a bit over-the-top actually. The science was actually created locally by Whale Gulch residents Sylvia Branzei and Jack Keely. The kids liked it (although Asher missed the dinosaur exhibit the museum hosted last year). Guess I'm a little less open minded.

The Exploratorium has some new exhibits - and Christmas Eve day was perfect to avoid crowds. It's location makes it easy to slip right into the city and right out again when you're done.


Okay, time to get caught up in Humboldt affairs, but first I have to get caught up with my cases. Apparently somebody served a summary judgment motion on us just before Christmas! Damned insurance defense scrooges! (that was a joke Andy!).

Monday, December 25, 2006


North Coast Journal rates the Mateel/Reggae story among top ten stories of 2006

One Sohum story made it. That's just about proportionate to the relative population. You'd think some sort of affirmative action was at work.

I don't disagree with any of the selections. Some honorable mentions are in order: the Klammath River politics; Measure T; McKee's court win over the county in the Williamson Act case; local political bodies freaking out over the designation of Humboldt Bay as toxic; and the Arcata city council election.

Haven't heard anything about the Mateel/PP negotiations. I'll be back up there tomorrow and see what I can gather up.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Peace on Earth

Merry Christmas.

I'll be back following the Holiday.

Graphics source.


Code Pink Blues

Last weekend my mother attended a Code Pink event which was supposed to include a talk by Cindy Sheehan. Ms. Sheehan was unable to attend, but Media Benjamin took the stage along with a slew of woman entertainers. Code Pink is a feminist oriented anti-war network named in satire of the Homeland Security color coded alert system.

I'm not certain how the event was billed, but apparently at some point a decision was made to exclude male speakers and entertainers, although the group graciously allowed men to sit in the audience (not sure if they were required to sit in the back). The dogmatism of the moment took an extreme turn when one woman's act was barred because her percussion accompanist is male. It caused a stir and a number of people left the event in disgust, including my mother.

This is a classic example of the reason normal people don't participate in the prevailing anti-war movement - despite a war opposition unprecedented since the last days of the Vietnam war. Every effort becomes heavily influenced by nutcases, conspiracy theorists, bigots, and people so wounded in their personal lives they have to express themselves in bizarre manner in political causes. I understand the arguments behind separatism and the less extreme manifestations thereof, but nobody besides college age activists and insulated radicals is going to buy them, and most people don't have the time nor energy to fight these battles. And when these agendas are placed in front of the issue at hand, namely a war killing dozens of people daily.

And when normal or at least quasi-normal people do put something together, the wack jobs wander from their own grouplets at the first sign of success. If you make your organization democratic in nature, they stack meetings, derail the process, and make the new organization into their own image. They don't have lives outside of their political causes. They have the time. You don't.

I'm not quite sure what the answer is (it certainly isn't ANSWER). I have some thoughts developing, which I'll post sometime in the next week if I have the time.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Adventures on noisy Van Ness Street

My second visit to the SF artery this week - this time without my urban noise sensitive daughter. Van Ness is of course where the firefighters made their stand in 1906, and is second only to Market Street in significance to SF commerce, culture, and history. Lots of corporate logos along the way, but also some very unique SF institutions, including the Opera House.


I'm told that the San Francisco Ballet production of the Nutcracker Suite has been rated best in the country. I have no basis of comparison, but I attended with my son and mother today, and it is quite spectacular. The matinee version is abridged a bit, though towards the end of the second half I became acutely aware of half-pint fidgeting all around me. The first half at least contains an impression of a story that keeps the kids' attention, particularly the mouse/toy soldier battle.

I wonder if I'm alone in rooting for the mice. Of course they accosted Clara and frightened her early on, but we're never quite clear about their intentions. Bear in mind they face down the soldiers with inferior weapons, enduring artillery barrage, and weathering a cavalry attack, only to defeat the soldiers. Then in a remarkable moment of chivalry, the Mouse King agrees to fight the militarily vanquished Nutcracker/Prince and is about to defeat him - the tables turning due to a sneak attack by Clara! Add to this the fact that all the male dancers are used for the soldier parts, so essentially the mice are all women (I was 8 years old when Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs, and I rooted for King - her brother Randy Moffit was a pitcher for the SF Giants).

No complaints about the production however. But for having spent 4 dollars on a bottle of Pepsi for Asher down in the cafe during intermission, I'd have no complaints whatsoever.


Afterwards we had dinner at Little Joe's. Having been unable to renew their ancient lease on Broadway, they're now on noisy Van Ness, near Filbert which is on the Marina end. Parking is a bit of a problem there, but it's an improvement on Broadway (although I miss having an after dinner pilgrimage to City Lights Bookstore). Given the cultural trend of SF I've discussed previously, I was concerned that they would take the opportunity to scale up to trend status, and change their menu. I was pleasantly surprised as we entered. They still have a counter with their cooking done in the open behind it, with all their potware steaming with sauces that fill the air with aroma's you won't find in the kiwi-butter/mango chutney "California cuisine" homogenized chic outlets that have replaced the old family Italian restaraunts of North Beach. Even some of the surviving traditionals have caved to the pressure and altered their menu to meet the homogenized arrogance of dotcom gentrification. Little Joe's has the same old menu, with liver and onions, gnocci, etc., and the prices reasonable though higher than they would like them to be. Unfortunately, SF's rent control doesn't apply to commercial rentals.

I ordered my usual (hadn't been there in 3 or 4 years) - raviolis with a green salad and a glass of the house Chianti (served in a traditional tumbler rather than a stem glass - very important!). Their raviolis are the best in the city. No joke. I've tried them all. They make their own, and the sauce is a legend - made with TLC starting with a base of pot roast and vegetables stewed until it all breaks down, serving as a base as the tomato sauce is added along with a great blend of spices. And if you have room for dessert, try the canoli, which impresses even my east coast in-laws - the riccota stuffing not too sweetened and laced with dried fruit.

There weren't that many people tonight, although it was early. Try it while you can, because Little Joe's is a member of an endangered species.


Still thinking about a strange call on my radio show last night

After defending Dr. Helen Cauldicott's "exageration" in which she claimed 20 years ago that every time one of the space shuttles enter orbit 3 percent of the ozone layer is destroyed, a self defined "activist" told me that I just don't understand how hard it is to be an activist. Presumably, by "hard" he means how difficult it is to convince somebody else that you've unlocked the secrets of the universe and they should simply crown him king. Do any of you who consider yourself activists actually believe it's appropriate to lie to people to motivate them?

Let me first clarify that I don't believe Cauldicot was lying. She was most likely just repeating some tin foil hat lunacy she'd read or heard. The point is, she lost a bit of stature with that comment and others. Obviously the ozone layer would be completely gone by now if there was anything to it.

If the gentleman caller is really wondering why convincing people is so hard, he ought to look in the mirror. Believing something with all your heart doesn't make you right, or worth listening to.

This point about "action" we've discussed here and on my show at length. It stems from Karl Marx's lamoid critique of the philosophers of his time - "the point of philosophy is not to interpret the world, but to change it." Maybe if he and other "activists" spent a little more time interpretting the world, they wouldn't run into so many brick walls.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Are the Unitarians a real church?

The question was asked by the state of Texas a few years back, and now it's being asked by Leonard Shumard in a letter to the Eureka Reporter.

I looked up their Web site and couldn’t find any reference to God
I guess that's that.


Democrats already starting to wimp out?

Already Harry Reid is talking about more troops to Iraq, although after three Democratic senators got on his case about it he's "reconsidering." Then yesterday, on a very annoying television show called The View, Hillary Clinton announced that she would support the introduction of more troops if they were on "the right mission."

See, apparently the Iraqi government is getting in the way. So Clinton wants Bush to reprimand the government to allow the troops to go where they will and do what they want - you know, because things were going so well before. So basically, she's doing what the president can't do - blaming the government he installed. She gets points for being "bipartisan" and for partisanship all in the same stroke.

And she's doing it while congress is out of session to minimize her public opposition. I hope some of the Progressive Caucus types are taking this head on today. Last night Olberman's show was dedicated to its annual "Oddball Moment" special. I haven't listened to Air America today. But I will be disappointed if today's news cycle closes without some strong responses from the progressive wing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Heard from my 2-year-old daughter in SF yesterday

Reflecting on Van Ness Street traffic, with hands over her ears:
Too loud!!
My daughter. A Luddite in the making.


Mateel/People Productions mediation continues

No news is good news. They're still talking.

Both sides are keeping a pretty tight lid on the rumor mill. Somebody in the thread below referred to an offer that PP made which was rejected by the Mateel Board on Friday night in an emergency meeting. My understanding is that the Mateel had made two offers which were rejected by PP.

But that's what negotiation is all about.

Feel free to post any thoughts or information, but if something was told to you in confidence please honor it.


Jury says Gallegos didn't oppress Ms. Sheets

So was it a fix?

Sorry, I can't cut and paste on this lamoid computer. But you can find a link to the ER article over at Captain Buhne's, where some of the anonymous posters missed the point of his joke precisely because they were too lazy to hit the link.

So Rose, or anybody who was there, what was Ms. Sheets' evidence? Did she actually go to trial simply on the fact that he let her go while she was on disability? The two articles I've read don't really say anything about her case. She must have had something or her case would have been tossed out on a summary judgment motion or directed verdict.

I also very much appreciate Paul's conciliatory statement for her following the trial, though I'm certain his detractors will assume it isn't heartfelt. Takes class, especially in light of the litany of personal attacks she indulged in during the recall campaign.

Can anybody tell me if the verdict was unanimous?

Update: Sorry I can't link you, but Heraldo reports the TS attributing a statement to Ms. Sheets calling Gallegos a liar. Speaking of class.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Missive from the southland

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't been posting much over the past few days. My mother-in-law's computer is on its death bed, and she has one phone line. Apparently, some people still survive daily life without a regular dose of the Internet. Right now I'm using my mother's computer, which benefits from regular maintenance from my computer geek brother.


I headed down here Sunday morning. Saw a billboard along the way in Santa Rosa which advertised car sales "both new and pre-owned." Call me a smart-ass, but unless a consumer purchases a car right off the assembly line any car is "pre-owned."


My wife accompanied me until Monday night. She had to head back up to Sohum to work for a few days. It's me, the kids, and the mother-in-law for the longest stint without Mommy we've shared yet. They're handling it better than I actually. After a night of musical beds I woke up with both of them clinging to me. Fortunately, I got a extra hour of sleep as my MIL ran interference.


On Monday morning I had a court appearance in Yuba City. I trusted Yahoo for directions once again, and I think it was a mistake. Leaving Petaluma I'd expected to be directed along the 505 bypass of Sacramento from 80 to I-5 to leave 5 for some road intersecting 20 somewhere between Colusa and my destination. Yahoo sent me right up through rush hour traffic in Sacramento, then tried to send me east towards Marysville before heading to YC. But fortunately the Sutter Buttes were quite visible across the flat and served as a beacon. I knew if I kept on 116 I'd eventually run into Sprawl Boulevard, though as it happens Yuba City has several of those with pretty much every big box and corporate logo you can think of. But the Highway 20 sign kept me on track, and I made it early.

Can't complain too much about the Sutter County courts. I have yet to lose a motion there despite the judge's extremely strict compliance with local rules that aren't particularly friendly to out-of-county attorneys. No court call appearances for instance. But the rulings have all been to my liking so far. This visit was no exception, and I actually got to argue this time - for nearly 20 minutes. And with half the drive of usual.

I won the motion, had a nice breakfast, and headed south. I was treated to a gorgeous view to my left of a snow pack in the Sierra foothills. The sun was out. Life was good.


On the way I caught a dose of Air America. Thom Hartman is subbing for Al Franken., who is entertaining troops in Iraq. I could hear it on Sacramento's first progressive talk station at 1240 AM and when I lost that signal I could pick it up on SF's "quake" at 960 AM. Basically Hatman was pontificating on the housing collapse and projecting a serious recession in coming months.


I confess I've been getting a number of e-mails from three individuals who have been sending me articles about similar projections. They've asked me to blog on the topic. I have them in a file to read one of these days. Hopefully I won't be reading them while waiting in a soup line.

I promise I'll read up on the subject and come up with something profound to blog.

Thing is, it's hard for me to be anything other than sanguine about the housing market collapse. I thought the prices had reached ludicrous proportions anyway, and I'd like to think it's something of a "correction." Still, I wasn't comforted by the assurances of a talking head on one of the cable news stations who said that the slow consumption since the record breaking "Black Friday" will be offset by "procrastinators," and encouraged viewers to continue to invest and spend. He sounded like a pre-owned car salesman.


I spent the day with the kids in SF today. We visited the limbo version of the Steinhart Aquarium in its Howard Street incarnation, where it will be until the Golden Gate Park construction is completed 2 years from now (that's what's promised anyway). The presentation is minimal, hardly worth a trip to the belly of the beast. I wish we'd gone to the Exploratorium instead, but we'll do that on Sunday.

We did go to Opera Max's for lunch. I slammed down a chicken liver sandwich on their famous corn rye with a hard crust - whipped livers garnished with grilled onions and crumbled hard boiled egg, served with potato salad, cole slaw, and a half sour pickle. I barely finished half of it, and I'll be nibbling on the rest for days. You haven't lived until you've tried that sandwich.


As we waited for the food, I ran the kids outside to burn off some energy in the plaza. I noticed that A Clean Well Lighted Place was replaced by Books, Inc. Didn't get a chance to look it over, but ACWLP was in institution that can't be replaced.


As we headed back across the Golden Gate Bridge, we stopped at the view spot to walk onto the bridge. I got a major thing with heights, but I've managed it in the past. This time I was acutely aware of the space between the bottom of the railing and the pavement. I'm not sure if my daughter can fit through the gap, but I didn't want to test it. It was getting dark, and it was cold. And I got dizzy every time I peeked through that gap. And I wasn't comforted by a plaque in the concrete wall at the entrance dedicated to a 2 year old who lost her life in 1997. Still, I got through the experience, with both kids intact - our trip back to the car hastened with the promise of hot chocolate at my Mom's.


All in all, it's fun. More later.


Picking on the kids

We've already discussed at length somewhere in these threads my view that it's inappropriate to target the families of pols with vitriol and ridicule, particularly the children who have absolutely no say in their status as public figures. I wasn't impressed when Rush took shots at Chelsea Clinton, nor the comments made on the local blogsville about Rob Arkley's kids.

I was less concerned about VP Dick Cheney's screeching after John Kerry complemented his relationship with his daughter (though he was dead silent when Alan Keyes slammed her as a "selfish hedonist"). I haven't really been paying attention to the pregnancy story, though I would like to know what the president and VP, and other Republican leaders, have to say about it. Whether she intends it, she may have made the biggest breakthrough for gay rights in pop political culture history.

Another ambiguous example is actor Matt Damon's recent comment to the effect that President Bush's daughters ought to be in Iraq. Is this really an attack on the daughters? And when people take shots at the president over the daughters' antics with substance abuse, is it fair game as an issue of hypocrisy in terms of values in child rearing? Did they open themselves up with their giggling presentation at the last Republican convention?

In my view, it's better to err on the side of decency. They should all be off limits, adult-child Lynn Cheney included.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Three Libertarians walk into a bar...

Heard on the Stephanie Miller show: "A libertarian is a Republican who smokes pot."

Or one who operates by the motto: "Do what I tell you and leave me alone."

Previously I was told that the difference between an anarchist and a libertarian is that the former believes that property is theft, while the latter believes that everything is property.

Apologies to Fred who probably knows more libertarian jokes than he can count. These are probably old, but they're new to me.

Anyway, topic of discussion: What is libertarianism?

Saturday, December 16, 2006


The politics of fear

My next show - Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. on KMUD. I'll be calling the show in from the Bay Area. Tom Hanson will be in the studio. We'll discuss the role of fear in politics, looking across the political spectrum. We'll consider the hype leading up to wars; police crackdowns; emotion based political activism, etc. Individual topics that may come up are the WMD scare post 911, the water fluoridation issue, GMOs, crime, terrorism, ideological and religions differences, and race.

Anybody interested in some homework should check out The Case for Fear in the latest New Republic. The link also takes you to some rebutting views.


Shades of Skokie

The ER is reporting that we have little to fear from Nazis who have recently moved into the county. Apparently they aren't much of a problem because they've been in prison and they don't do drugs - or so goes the explanation. This quote from FBI agent Christopher Langer bothers me however:
"“What we set out to do (after publication of the newspaper article) was to identify any organizations, any organizational structure, any members that might be involved,"” Langer said. "“We also wanted to see if we could identify any groups or individuals we had not identified beforehand. It was our goal to disrupt and dismantle any of these organizations."” (emphasis added)
My inner-ACLU extremist is chiming up again. Unless such an organization has actually broken the law, is it the role of a law enforcement organization to "disrupt and dismantle" an organization based on its ideology? I would hope that the job is to monitor such organizations and intervene if they plan to break the law. Tharkenskens back to the whole issue with Cointelpro - law enforcement is charged with preventing crime, not pushing or suppressing a particular ideological perspective, whether the ideology is prone to criminal activity. And no, I don't believe the interests of being "pro-active" warrant such a flagrviolationtoin of the right to assemble and associate.

Call me a "liberal."


Christmas shopping, court battles, and cops

I had to violate a personal pledge today. I went to Target during the Christmas madness, and on a weekend to boot! I have to say that the experience wasn't entirely traumatic. I found my stuff with a little help. Only had to wait about 7 or 8 minutes in line. I don't get caught up in the parking lot traffic as my practice is to slip in and park away from the store near the exit - quick in, quick out. I think I got there just in time as I was the only one leaving and about 12 cars passed me coming the other way.


Where were the Salvation Army Santas? I've heard that Wal-Mart has banned them. But I thought I remembered them outside Target last time I ventured in during this season, though that was a few years back, before my pledge.

Update: Target did indeed ban the Santas. Bummer.


I was going to head to Old Town for some more shopping, but I couldn't find parking and I was in a bit of a hurry. They lost my business today. Not sure what the solution is, other than a parking garage somewhere. But where?


On my way to Target I saw a lone man outside the courthouse with a sign that read "Free Dinsmore. HCSO cover-up." I haven't really followed the trial, and today's ER article is the first I've read on it.


Heraldo has some excellent thoughts in response to Glenn Franco Simmons' editorial about this years EPD killings. There's been one or two anonymous posters who've been pretty rabid about what they perceive to be Heraldo's "hate for cops." Probably the same who believe that Heraldo is actually Dr. Ken Miller. I expect this post will set off a new volley. I haven't read the comments (15 as of this posting), but I think I could pretty much write them in advance.

Friday, December 15, 2006


KMUD hires legend for Executive Director position

No kidding! Brenda Starr will be moving up from Santa Rosa to run the station. The hiring was confirmed yesterday, and she will be at the KMUD Christmas party tonight. I'm not sure about her radio experience, but as a reporter of many decades (the picture must be an old one!) she is obviously familiar with the media industry.

She has her own Wikipedia entry, which is where I got the picture. According to the entry, Ms. Starr's husband has been missing for several years. We are sorry for her loss, even as we are happy for our gain, and hope her husband shows up soon. We also hope that their financial condition has not precluded the use of modern cosmetic technology to provide an eye prosthetic to replace the patch. I am unable to locate a photograph, however if you see a man resembling the doll to the right, please notify KMUD.

KMUD will benefit from her prestige, which includes having been placed onto a postage stamp. In the comic depiction below, she accepted a presidential award on behalf of a fellow reporter. The clip also shows her ability to improvise under stressful situations, which will be an asset to the station. Click on the clip for a more clear viewing.


No Mateel news

Mediation will continue at some future date. Everybody signed a confidentiality agreement, including the community representatives who were asked to leave on the first day. Refreshing that the confidentiality appears to be holding for the most part. When I was on the Board everything confidential would leak like a sieve.

One participant described some developments as "very interesting." Apparently one of the mediators, Steve Brown, is pleased with the progress.

Meanwhile, the Mateel office is closed due to lay-offs.

Anything I get that's "on the record" I'll post.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Albin-Sheets vs. County of Humboldt underway

The ER is providing some coverage. Gloria Albin-Sheets has hired counsel from Santa Rosa while the county is represented by John Vrieze, and is being tried in front of visiting judge Conrad Cox, who came up from Mendocino.

The article summarizes some of the testimony from Albin-Sheets and Gallegos, who claims she was laid off due to the loss of grant funds. The article quotes from Gallegos' testimony as follows:
“I regret to inform you that due to budget cuts and grant reductions, your employment with the office is terminated,” Gallegos read from the termination letter he sent Sheets.

In 2003, he said approximately 60 percent of the funding for the District Attorney’s Office was paid for by grants.

At the point of Sheets’ termination, Gallegos said the grants were either lost or would be soon.

“I know the decisions I made at the time were based on the information I had at the time,” he said.

Had the grants not been lost, Gallegos said Sheets would not have been terminated when she was, although he said he could not say what would have happened in the long term.

Gallegos said it was also important to note the difference between terminating employment and firing, especially in this situation. “(If I fired you), I would have asked you to leave, even if I had all the money in the world,” he said. “Termination means I don’t have the money, ‘Sorry, you have to go.’”
Where I'm confused is whether it makes any difference why she was terminated. One of the controversies around Gallegos' office is that he's maintained an "at will" employment system despite earlier suggestions that he would abandon it. Basically, it means she can be fired for any reason except for an unlawful reason, such as her race, sex, etc. The article references her worker's comp status. Is she alleging that she was fired because of her injury? That would be wrongful, but if the jury is convinced that she was fired for political reasons then I don't get her case. The article is silent on her theory.

Not that you necessarily need a theory. I've been told about a case in which the plaintiff rested his case and in the hallway the defense attorney came up to plaintiff's counsel and said "what the Hell is your theory of the case?!!" Plaintiff's counsel responded "my theory is that you're going to fuck up." As the story goes, the defense did indeed fuck up.

Hmmm. No TS coverage of the trial?


The new Arcata city council

Damn if it isn't the most conservative looking Arcata council I've seen since I've moved here. Appearances can be deceiving of course, but wow!

Not to take anything from the winners, but nobody should be elected to an office with 23.73 percent of the vote. Ironic that the most progressive jurisdiction in the county lacks even the most basic of Progresssive era civil reforms - the district election - yes, even in a town as small as Arcata.

Maybe also local progressives have gotten a little cocky over the past few years. And complacent. Is anybody talking about it?

Photo is from the Arcata Eye.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Short takes - here and there

I've been rather busy and uninspired over the past few days. I'm taking a week off for Christmas and hopefully I'll get caught up on the issues of the day and find something profound to write about. In the meantime, I'm going to throw out some potential topics of discussion.


As reported on other blogs, the Times Standard has introduced a comments function on each of its articles. Some articles have gathered in excess of 50 comments. Word has it the Arcata Eye may be following suit.


Fred brought my attention to this article. Apparently the nuke plant south of Eureka won't be decommissioned after all, but replaced. Fred's wondering if the opposition went to sleep at the wheel. I confess, this is the first I've heard of it. I've heard that the old plant actually has a plaque from the Sierra Club - nuclear power having once been viewed by enviros as a clean alternative source. Three Mile Island probably changed that with the help of Jane Fonda and Jack Lemon.

Update: As the first comment notes, the new plant will not be nuclear, but rather a natural gas/diesel combo. I guess I could have hit the link before I started typing. Sorry.


Heraldo alerts us to a danger to the fragile Democratic Senate majority (as if Lieberman wasn't enough). Apparently it wasn't a stroke or heart attack. Good news for Senator Tim Johnson, but should he risk his health for to maintain a Democratic majority?


Richard has a post on Humboldt pizzarias. I rate Smug's the highest quality that I've tried in NoHum, but we have the two best pizzas in the county right here in Redway - the Mateel Cafe and Damato's. It's been awhile since I've tried Sicilitos.

The former owners of Poppa Murphy once told me that the Garberville franchise was the only one in the country where the vegetarian special was their number one seller. Not even any of the college towns matched that.


The Bay Guardian is calling for impeachment. I've heard that Kucinich is supporting it as well. Of course Cynthia McKinney made the motion her parting shot. Maybe Thomson is misreading his colleagues.

I still think it's a waste of time and energy. The elderly need Medi-Care fixed. There's a war to stop. And by the time impeachment would be accomplished, Bush would be on his way out anyway. Not a wise choice of battles imo. Tim Redmond obviously doesn't share my view.


Forest Defender posted some old shots of Julia Butterfly hanging out with him in Luna. I have my questions about the whole strategy, but just from looking at those photos I know she's made of tougher stuff than me. Of course, I get dizzy climbing on the roof to get leaves out of my gutters.


I'll pick it up again. I've got all sorts of odd thoughts buzzing through my head as usual. I'm just not feeling like typing them out right now. Imagine if I actually had deadlines!


Mateel/People Productions mediation open thread

I've been out of town and I'm completely out of the loop, but I'm assuming that mediation took place yesterday as scheduled. I haven't tracked anybody down yet for comment, and the grapevine is asleep at the wheel. (note - okay, those were badly mixed cliche metaphors).

If anybody has any information please feel free to post it.

After Monday's experience I was a little burned out on mediations myself. I had to drive from Sacramento to Redway Monday night, only to head up to Eureka yesterday morning for yet another mediation. This one was looking hopeless until mid-afternoon when both parties considered seriously the consequences for not reaching settlement and things all of the sudden moved very quickly. Kudos to Don Roberts, the mediator for an excellent job.

Does anybody know who mediated the Mateel/PP negotiations yesterday?

Update: Okay, I called the office and the staff is completely out of the loop as far as the mediation is concerned. They are officially laid off as of today. Some of them are offering to volunteer that time, but I'm not sure it's a good labor policy to let them do so. The Mateel Meal will continue, and the rental dates will remain on calendar.

So the mediations did indeed begin yesterday. Representing the Mateel was Taunya Stapp and Bob Stern (Board Treasurer). Representing PP was Carol Bruno, Susie Matilla, and Danny Scher (big time bay area promoter and brother to my partner). The mediators are Steve Brown (Rio Anderson's uncle) and some other guy. I have been given some names of people who might be representing the community in the proceedings, and the names include Barbara Truitt, Eric I-forget-his-name who is ED of the Health Center, and former Mateel ED Katherine Lobato. I have also heard that Doug Green is in attendance.

I am told that the first couple of hours were dedicated to a special session between Taunya and Carol. Apparently, the mediators weren't too happy after the first few hours, but that's par for the course in just about any mediation where there are hard feelings. I do know that the talks remain under way, and that the Board members are all "on call" for any short notice votes.

That's what I have. More as I get it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Looks like the Kuenel recount is over

According to Captain Buhne, Leonard gained two votes with 87% of the vote counted and only absentees remaining. At least the second part is confirmed by the ER.

So the focus now is on the Second Ward appointment.

Update: Heard from the K man himself. I mangled the spelling of his name here. Well, actually, just one letter off. As I've said, if it doesn't spellcheck, I'm in trouble.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Sometimes I hate attorneys

Almost as much as I hate insurance adjustors. I don't usually discuss my cases here, but I have to vent. I drove 5 hours to Sacramento for a mediation yesterday, which the defense called in a case involving a traffic collision with 5 deaths. The defense had previously not shown up to mediation, but called for another one as their own experts started to admit some facts very detrimental to the defense. They called for the mediation. So all the plaintiffs and all of their attorneys came from all over to mediate. A number of us were looking for a global settlement. They had previously refused to attend because they wanted the settlement proposals capped at 3 million (we're demanding much higher). So when they called for another mediation, we assumed that they had more on the table. Their highest offer today was 1 million, for 5 deaths.

When the case is resolved, one way or another, I will post the name of the insurance company as I view this as a sleezy attempt to wear down grieving plaintiffs. We're set for trial in Yuba City in May, and it looks like a sure thing. I think one problem is that the defense attorney really didn't adequately inform the carrier of the problems with their case. The investigating CHP officer, who had blamed the wreck on another driver, reversed himself upon being presented with additional information. Their response is that they can keep his opinion testimony out, but that really begs the question. The problem is that they had evaluated the case for much less than it eventually became worth. That's giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I still don't understand why they called for mediation.


At least we were in Old Town of Sacramento, near the I-5 offramp. There are some pretty buildings in the area, and I had a nice walk last night. It didn't dawn on me until I returned to my Hotel room that maybe walking around empty streets so late at night in a city that large isn't prudent. Living in Redway has me desensitized.

Apparently they're building two scrapers in excess of 50 stories. Right now Sacramento's tallest building is 27 stories. Developers couldn't Manhattanize the San Francisco skyline, but apparently there isn't much opposition in the capitol. Makes me even less likely to support flood prevention bonds next time it comes up.


On my way home I listened to a talk show host named Mark Levin, a ranting right wing loon who lacks the wit and humor of Rush or Hannity, or any originality of thought or rhetoric. It was all purely visceral grunts aimed at the reptilian portion of the brain, with callers chiming in to say that Jim Baker is a traitor or to equate Barak Obama with holocaust deniers.

I miss the era of William F. Buckley and Thomas Sowell - when conservatives at least made an attempt at coming across as reflective and scholarly.

It's funny, because my listening followed a debate the night before between Karel of KGO and Cinnamon Stillwell, a liberal turned conservative by the events of 911 - during which she explained that she was attracted to the conservative community because it responds to issues with logic rather than emotion. I just have to wonder what conservative community she's talking about.


Earlier I'd listened to Kristine Craft before I lost the signal on Highway 20. Apparently Sacramento's PBS station no longer airs Mr. Rogers and losing subscribers over it! I just wanted to add my gripe with KEET. Also, my son says that Dragon Tales is on too early!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Where was the outrage with Hot Stuff?

My kid has taken a liking to comic books, including the old Harvey line including Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy, the Good Little Witch. Comic Castle had a few copies of some of the last of the Harvey Comics which apparently went out of publication permanently in the early 1990s (and apparently wasn't revived by the 1995 Casper movie) which I bought up... excuse me, Santa bought up for stocking stuffers. Inside the issues are some advertisements for Hot Stuff, the Little Devil, which I remember reading as a kid.

Basically, these were kid stories about a boy devil from Hell, who was really a nice kid even if he had a temper sometimes. The bizarreness of the theme only just hit me as I thought about it as an adult. I mean, a ghost and a witch are one thing. You can debate their antagonism towards the prevailing religion. But it's hard to get around it with Hot Stuff. Were there protests when this came out?

I guess the theme isn't as bizarre if you accept this writer's explanation of Harvey Comics as a force of the Enlightenment:
The interesting thing about Harvey Comics is that they take characters that would traditionally frighten little children and make them harmless. It is normal for a small child to be frightened of ghosts, witches and devils, but Harvey Comics has always made their monsters friendly at best, mischievous at worst. Hot Stuff, the Little Devil, is one of these.
The same writer hints the obvious as the reason Hot Stuff never made animation on the airwaves. But maybe the comics were on the wane before the religious right had gelled as a political movement. I can't find any objections from the same crowds who have called for school censorship of The Wizard of Oz because the story includes a good witch and because the characters at the end are told that they must look inward for virtue rather than to God. Sure, there are Satan themed films and books all over the place, but Hot Stuff is unique in that it's intended for children.

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