Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Death of a Boyhood Home.

My life hasn't been a stable one. I've had more than my share of change: cities, states, partners, friends, names, family, geography. I don't think I could list all the different addresses I've had since I turned 18. My brother, many years ago, wrote my address in his Address Book in pencil so that it could be easily erased. I remember one time when I first moved to Reno, that I had four moves in a couple of months. Change has been a constant feature in my adult life.

But for the first 18 years of my life (except a couple of summers), I lived in one residence. My mom and dad's home in Rushford, Minnesota. How we ended up living in this monster beheamoth Victorian is unbeknownst to me; our family income certainly didn't match the house. It was a Victorian in a sleepy little river town in southeastern Minnesota. A town filled with Victorians and amazing architecture.

Rushford had around 1,000 people living in it back then. Rural. In the "Driftless Area" meaning that, for some inexplicable reason, the last few glaciers didn't squish the place flat. What was left behind were "bluffs". From a child's perspective, they were mini-mountains. Hardwood forests and "open space" (in the words of city planners) abounded. I crawled all over those bluffs. All of them surrounding the town of Rushford. Some of the bluffs had names: Magellson's (I don't know who Magellson was, but there is a city park on top of the bluff); "Star" bluff was where the "star" was that was lit up at Christmas. I used to carry my tent in a pack up to the top of that one and camp out, looking out over the town below. No trails back then: I just grunted the stuff straight up the bluff.

It was an idyllic childhood with lots of time playing in creeks and hiking the bluffs. Rare was the day that my friends and I weren't out hiking. My huge leg muscles were developed from such exploits.

Life was stable back then. The economy was good. Rushford was supported by "The Plant". This was a factory that made heater switches for GM. Two shifts churned these things out, day after day. It gave a decent wage to hundreds of workers who could live very inexpensivlely  in this town. My mom was one of them who worked in the factory from the day it opened nearly up until the day it was dismantled and shipped to Mexico courtesy of NAFTA and Bill Clinton. Voters for Hillary, be warned.

Our town of 1,000 people boasted three grocery stores, a butcher shop, a fantastic bakery, three diners, a local dairy that made their own ice cream and butter---in short, this was a localvores dream. And it still existed 45 years ago. Affluence had its downside too; much of the beautiful downtown architecture got torn down in order to modernize. Rushford lost many of its historic buildings. Other towns that weren't so prosperous, like Lanesboro, were discovered by Yuppies from the Twin Cities and became a tourist destination with fancy restaurants, a theatre (acting kind) and newly restored downtown buildings turned into B and B's.

That was Rushford in the 60's and 70's. I miss it.

Of course, I couldn't wait to get out of there. I dreamed of going to the city, then moving all over the place, eventually settling in California after a bunch of craziness. I've lived in Vegas, Reno, the Napa Valley, and the western slope of Colorado. From my upbringing, the one rule I've had is that I want to live in a place of physical beauty. Vegas was a move out of desperation for a job--but there is beauty there if you look for it.

But now that that house back in Rushford is gone, I find myself immensely sad.

It is said that to have a sense of "Place" you need Space and Culture. Space and Culture = Place. Now that almost every place looks the same; the same restaurants, the same gas stations, the same architecture, the same Box Stores---it hardly matters where you live. We've lost the culture part. Or rather, the economics of Corporate Culture destroyed all that was local.

Except for where the rich congregate. They can afford to have a sense of place. Witness the Napa Valley with their "NO CHAIN RESTAURANT" rules. Or Lanesboro, Minnesota.

One of my places is gone now. That bedrock of childhood yanked away by Alzheimer's and the need to pay for care.

I fear I will never get over it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

You'd be a fool to let the Lotus Guide you...

The Lotus Guide is a free publication distributed in Northern California. It is filled with the normal New Age fair: meditation and past life regressions, rebirthing and homages to Yogis and Yodas. You will find the usual Woo stuff there. I've read it a few times. Not all that impressive. Most of the content in the magazine sells you some sort of enlightenment. Enlightenment is usually for sale from an Ayurvedic Healer or some other peddler of New Age Goofiness. The Advertisements are for "Life Coaches" (usually Trust-funders who haven't a clue as to  how to manage their own life, called upon to tell you how to manage yours) and various dietary claims.

And so it is with curiosity that I picked up the most recent copy where the Publisher named Rahasya (really?) Poe. He names his piece "Disinformation and Misinformation: What’s the Difference And Why Does It Matter?: In it he states:

"I recently read in two local newspapers who published two separate stories that were specifically meant to be disinformation pieces, meaning that they were deliberately published to mislead their readers.

The first one was on vaccinations, giving them approval in a way that was meant to persuade parents to vaccinate their children but that left out pertinent information most parents should have to make an “informed” decision."

He doesn't identify my piece on vaccinations as the one he is talking about, but I have seen this guy elsewhere exclaim his disgust for my article. Frankly, he should have the courage to acknowledge who he is responding to so that people could go and read the article and decide for themselves whether the piece was intellectually honest.

Rahasya then goes on to quote VAERS (the vaccine injury reporting system) to point out just how dangerous vaccines are. He claims the Measles vaccine has killed 108 kids. (It hasn't). When it comes to Misinformation, his article is the one that is guilty of the act.

My tolerance for New Agers gets less and less the older I get. The fact that a New Age Magazine is opposed to vaccinations is not very surprising. New Age Religions are pretty much narcissistic, selfish exercises that ignores the needs of the majority. You won't find much talk about "no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for another" from a New Ager. Nope. New Agers are about their own Enlightenment and to hell with everybody else. They seek their own path. And if others are trodden upon or lethal disease is spread or reawakened? Big deal. More than likely they would argue that their own Immune System is arrogantly superior to the disease. Too bad for those lesser humans who die. If they only were Gluten Free and ate Organic, they could handle the disease.

If vaccinations are safe (they are), effective (they are) and if Herd Immunity is real (it is) then an Anti-Vaxxer has no moral ground to stand on in their opposition to vaccines. It is immoral to oppose them.

A final note, the other article Mr. Poe objects to is one that is critical of those who believe in Chem Trails. Need I say anymore?

Lenin wrote that one must strive to be as radical as reality itself. The radical thing in some circles is to stand up for Vaccinations (they work!), or to state that some things are unreal, a mere fiction (Chem Trails!). Or state that Bush didn't blow up the Twin Towers (which is absurd). Or that cannabis farming is disastrous to the Pacific fisher population and is destroying some of our last wild areas of California (because it is). Liberal Orthodoxy can be pretty bizarre. But Radicals need to tell the truth. Even if it hurts. We need to be as Radical as Reality itself.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Murder: Chicago and the Northern Sacramento Valley Compared

Chicago made national news when they had 7 murders last weekend.

The 45 mile patch between Orland and Cottonwood in California suffered 6 murders from 4 separate incidents between July 2 and July 5. Just guessing, but I would put the population of this area of California at, tops, 40,000 people.

Chicago has 2.7 million people.

The murder rate in the northern part of the Sacramento Valley must be close to Guatemala or El Salvador's in the early 80's. All 6 of the unfortunate victims were killed by guns. Two of the incidents were family violence: an ex-husband killed his ex-wife and ex-father in law; a 19 year-old female in Orland killed her 16 year-old sister and her father and then turned the gun on herself. The 19 year -old lived but is in serious condition having shot herself in the head.

The two other incidents? A teenager from Chico killed by a gun in Orland (three murders in Orland over the weekend). Orland has a population of just under 8,000 people. A 28 year-old man was killed by a gun in the small town of Corning. Corning's population is 7,600 people. So far, the motives behind these two murders are a mystery.

So what to blame? Guns are dangerous things to have when our emotions are challenged by a situational crises. This rural part of California is awash in guns. The NRA dinners are well attended. Guns are loved. Cherished. Worshipped. Available.

When we don't teach emotional intelligence, when we don't teach people how to withstand tough emotional problems such as divorce, betrayal, jealousy---and when we add easy access to guns to the mix---people die. People Die.

And they died in this rural, agricultural breadbasket of California over the last weekend.

And yet, the gun worship continues. We need a cultural shift when it comes to guns. Soon. If you have a friend going through a tough time, check in with them. Figure out if they are unstable. Ask to take their guns "for awhile", until things simmer down.

We license drivers; it is time to license gun owners.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Three Huge Decisions and the Big Three's Response.

I wrote the following for a Facebook page I admin. on Butte County Media.

Three huge events occurred in the world of politics over the last week. Two national issues involving the Supreme Court with marriage equality and Obamacare, and one state issue regarding mandatory vaccinations.

So how did the the Big Three (Chico ER, Chico News and Review, the Paradise Post) deal with this? You can learn as much about a paper by what it omitted, rather than by what they chose to comment on.

#1. Marriage equality: The Chico News and Review (CNR) lauded the Supreme Court's decision to extend same sex marriage to all 50 states. They called it "about time". The Chico ER's editorial board was silent on the issue. They did publish a couple letters to the editor, both pro and con. The editorial board of the Paradise Post had a first paragraph where they said they were happy that gay people can get married, then they went on to publish extensively from the dissenters, bringing up concerns about an activist court and polygamy. Jim Chastain, columnist for the Paradise Post went much further and outright condemned the decision. He called the Supreme Court an "American Politburo".

Overall, CNR (pro); Chico ER (avoidant); Paradise Post (mostly negative).

#2: The opinion pages of all three newspapers avoided Obmacare being upheld. The Chico News and Review did have a small news blurb on the story. So far, no letters-to-the-editor, nor columns mentioned it. Nor were there any editorials on the fact that Obamcare was upheld. Quite the omission on such an important decision.

Overall on the Supreme Court decision? The Big Three avoided the topic.

#3. In a surprise move, Governor Brown signed SB277 on Tuesday, which requires school aged children to receive vaccinations from 10 diseases in order to attend public and private schools. The Chico News and Review devoted a feature story in May to the issue, and have been editorially friendly to vaccinations, but they were quiet on its passage--probably because it happened close to press time for them. The Chico ER has been very pro-vaccination since the Disneyland measles epidemic. They ran an editorial applauding the Governor's decision to sign the bill. On this issue, they have strayed from the positions of Sen. Nielson, Assemblyman Gallagher and Assemblyman Dahle, who all voted against SB277. The Paradise Post has been silent on the issue so far. And there have been no columns or letters to the editor on the Gov. Brown signing the legislation. Yet.

Overall on SB277: CNR (silent); Chico ER (pro); Paradise Post (silent).

So what to make of this? The Chico ER's position on vaccinations is refreshing. The ER occasionally departs from the conservative lockstep regarding important issues. Their silence on Marriage Equality is a bit disappointing. As is their silence on Obamacare.

It is interesting that the CNR had nothing to say editorially on Obamacare. The ACA isn't popular among liberals because many support Single Payer. When the Public Option was lost from the bill, most liberals lost their enthusiasm for the law. They still support it because something is better than nothing, but it is hard for Lefties to get excited about it.

When it comes to Obamacare, the silence of the Chico ER and the Paradise Post is deafening. Conservatives don't want to admit that this law is now codified and will be very difficult to repeal. They are beyond anger and outrage and have settled into a quiet acceptance (and depression?) regarding the law, thus completing their stages of grief on the issue.

Overall, this was a very interesting week reading the Big Three. Some of these topics might be taken up in subsequent weeks.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Two Days that Changed the World....

Sometimes life surprises you. Like the Assembly passing SB277. Or the Supreme Court deciding that marriage is just marriage. Or the Supreme Court saving Obamacare. Twice.

For those who think there is no difference between the parties, all of the above came about because of Democrats. Democratic Supreme Court nominees made the difference. The Democrats carried SB277 in California.

And I was surprised to see I had the Guest Comment in the CNR last week. That was a surprise when I opened up the page to see my smiling mug.

It has been a good week.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

For the Serious Butte County News Junkie...

This is a post I wrote for Butte County Media Watch, a Facebook Page I manage. On that page, I try to publish most of the opinion pieces and letters-to-the-editor in Butte County. I include it here because it took a lot of work and I'd like it to get a bit more exposure.

Warning: This is a post for the serious local News Junkie.

Butte County Media Wrap Up:

It has been quite awhile since I've done one of these. Partially it is because the media scene has been downright boring. After the really ruckus election of 2014, things have settled down.

Butte County has only four newspapers that provides local news content. The liberal Chico News and Review (CNR), The Chico ER and Oroville MR (mostly the same paper), and the Paradise Post. The last three papers are owned by the same media group. The CNR is the first creation of 3 weekly newspapers that includes the influential Sacramento News and Review and the Reno News and Review. The Sacramento News and Review is where the persecuted Gary Webb ended up after writing gallantly about the CIA/Cocaine connection. His life was profiled in a recent movie and his reputation has been redeemed. Unfortunately, Gary took his own life from struggling with the pressure before he was vindicated.

No doubt we have some fairly decent journalism in Butte County. The CNR newswriting is awesome. The Chico ER and the Paradise Post boast some decent reporters. Heather Hacking is always good when she writes a news-story. Ashley Gebb at the ER also turns in a good read. The best newswriting belongs to the CNR where their newswriters, managed by Tom Goscoyne, always put out accurate, readable print. All in all, the news writing is pretty good in Butte County.

We could benefit from more local, diverse opinion writing. The Paradise Post has four columnists on board: Rick Silva (the editor): Russ Neal (a conservative retired school administrator); Jim Chastian, who grew up in Paradise but lives elsewhere and, again, is a conservative; and the ever fiery Jaime O'Neill, who single handedly, defends the Left/Liberal spectrum up on the Ridge. Plus the editorial board is skewed to the rightward end of the spectrum. Rick Silva does occasionally offer an "Editor of the Day" column. Never-the-less, the Paradise Post does, at least, offer some local Op/Eds.

The Chico ER has a column by its editor: David Little. Plus they have a weekly amateur column, rotated by four writers. These columns are rarely about politics and tend to be local, color/flavor pieces without much controversy to them. The letters-to-the-editor are the most diverse and interesting in the Chico ER. But the word count diminishes the arguments of the proponents. Plus they can be amateurish (by definition) and the accuracy of information is judged on a very low standard.

The CNR has a column by Melissa Daugherty, the editor. She has won awards with this "Second and Flume" column and it is influential. She has been the editor for a couple of years, and after a fairly slow start, she has established herself as a good column writer and an excellent editor. I've written for her and she is demanding and an excellent editor. The CNR also has a 400 word "Guest Comment" that provides local insight into issues. The letters-to-the-editor section is tidier than the Chico ER. Plus the 3,000 word Feature is open to free-lance writers (I've written a few of them). Again, the quality is very good.

The CNR editorials are a much needed breath of fresh air in an otherwise mostly Conservative desert.
We live in a county that boasts a University and a 2 year college. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of highly educated professors and teachers. Our culture doesn't benefit enough from having these thousands of educators who live the intellectual life. Our Intelligentsia has lots of heavy weights in it. From writers of books on Climate Change to a biography of I.F. Stone.

I wish we would hear more from these Professors. Mark Stemen and the retired Jaime O'Neill aside, very few of these teachers enter into the fray. And please, correct me if I'm wrong. Some do write for the CNR; and the online publication: ChicoSol, does do some good work.

There are some local freebie publications that offer a limited world-view such as the Lotus Guide (which tends to be a bit flakey and intellectually infirm).

It would really help if the Big 4 local newspapers did more to attract expert opinion from the PHD's. Everyone likes to be paid for writing: offering a small sum might help. There is nothing like a check from a newspaper to stroke a writer's ego.

So come on Professors, belly up to that lap top and let us know what you think! We need to hear your opinion. Come down from the Ivory Tower and join into the fray! We get to hear plenty from the small set of courageous letter writers. We could use more expert opinion to elevate the debate on many local issues.

When it comes to newspapers, we who live in Butte County are spoiled. Per capita, we have more newspapers and more variety of opinion than most small, rural counties. I'm not complaining. We do well here. I'd just like to hear from the Ivory Tower a bit more in the form of local Op/Ed's.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

For the Love of Guns...

All this is so predictable. Another horrible mass shooting by a young, white male. Wait a few months and it will happen again; the response, the same.
Already I have seen the tired argument that if only somebody in that historic church was armed, they could have stopped the assassinations. Right wing radio talkinghead, Michael Savage, raised the question that the government did it. Just another "false flag" operation. And then he said perhaps it was the opiate recovery medication, suboxone, which caused the kid to do it. When in doubt, blame the AMA and psychotropic medications.

In fact, blame everything possible in order to deflect the argument elsewhere. And provide the same old answers: More guns make us safer! Psychotropic medications creates crazed killers! There are gun laws already on the books that would have stopped this! Gun free zones lead to mass shootings!
But never, ever question why a 21 year old, unstable, unemployed, racist kid had a reason to own a lethal, easily concealed, weapon. Never question that the love of guns, the worship of the false Glock Idol, the political power of the NRA—all contribute to this problem.

There was an opportunity to prevent the tragedy in Charleston.
A friend of the shooter actually took Dylann Roof’s weapon when he became concerned that his friend was making bizarre threats. This friend gave the gun back to Roof because the friend was a felon and he couldn’t be found in possession of a gun. In California, under AB 1014, this friend could have called the authorities and reported that Roof was making bizarre lethal threats. The police then could have investigated and taken the weapon. Now that’s a sensible gun law.

But would that friend have actually called the cops? Good question. The NRA used to be an organization that promoted gun safety. Well, by now we certainly should have figured out that some people should not own a gun. Rather than fighting every sensible gun law that is proposed as a threat to the 2nd Amendment, the NRA could get back into the business of gun education—including when you should call the police and report that a fellow gun owner is acting bizarre and making threats.
Protecting the public by calling the police when someone is acting unstable and making threats is the responsibility of all of us, whether we own guns or not. The NRA certainly could make this part of gun education a higher priority. And they should get out of the way of stopping sensible gun laws.