Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Holiday Season: Beauty and Joy...



Okay, enough of the elections. On to less controversial subjects---like, religion. You can't avoid it this time of the year. Christmas combines Christianity, Paganism and the Secular Religion of Consumerism---all thrown together like a bad stew.

I'm old school so the Holiday Season really shouldn't start until the leftovers from Thanksgiving have been fully consumed. When the stuffing is gone and the turkey is stored away in the freezer, then it is time to break out the Christmas Music. My favorite being John Denver's Christmas Album.

That's when we get our tree. We thin some of the pines around here and find, generally, an anemic tree that is packed too close together with other trees. And since we have an 18 foot high ceiling, we can get a tall one. It is a fine pagan tradition---which, of course, comprise most of the Holiday traditions.

This time of the year, you need a celebration to make it through the, literal, northern hemisphere darkness.

Of all the holidays we celebrate in the US, Thanksgiving seems to be the least adulterated. I think all of us can get behind the rather simple notion of being thankful for the harvest. Okay, so nowadays we celebrate the harvest of mostly GMO crops while eating a bird that was blown up with growth hormones and anti-biotics while the poor gobbler more than likely never got to see the sun or breathe fresh air. We celebrate the ideal while ignoring the real way things are done.

So yes, we splurge and buy a fresh, organic, happy turkey. It costs forty dollars more but it is more than worth it. Another tradition out here on the Left Coast, and maybe a bit more Foodily Correct is the practice of eating Dungeness Crab on Thanksgiving. The Crab opener often coincides with Thanksgiving. Dungeness Crab is a success story the way it is sustainably harvested. No guilt while eating Crab. And it is delicious.

But I meant to write about Religion in this post. That's the direction I was headed when thinking about the Christmas Season. And the point I wanted to make? Religion is best when reduced to being about Beauty and Joy. Beauty and Joy are sufficient mystery enough to complete any catechism. We need not worry about Transubstantiation or Virgin Births or Magi or Heaven or Hell or Cartesian Arguments for the Existence of God or Baptism or Circumcision or Original Sin or Communion or Confession or Sermons or Rosaries or Stations of the Cross or an After Life. Beauty and Joy are sufficient mystery for me.

And a corollary is true too: Beauty and Joy should comprise the basic tenets of our political ideology. We need a politics of Joy and Beauty as our response to creating the world we live in.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Local Dems and Jerry Brown's Dog...




At Costco the other day, I ran into a Chico City Council candidate who had some pretty choice words for me regarding this blog and my reaction to the Slate Mailer Scandal. I had written that I hoped the Chico City Council Democrats lost the election due to their use of deceptive Slate Mailers. "You got your wish", this Candidate said---going on to say that their loss (the Dem. City Council Candidates) was my fault. And then this Candidate attempted to guilt me with the "We need to stick together come hell or high water" argument.

It was a good conversation. This poor Candidate had paid $500 to put a name on something that took him/her by surprise. The amount of exposure the mailing would give the Candidate was just too tempting. It was obvious that this scandal had shook him/her to the core. "My reputation means everything to me and now I've been slimed".

And then there was the story of the door hangers. The door hangers had President Clinton's face on it. This Candidate wanted to celebrate Obama and complained. So President Clinton's face was taken off the door hanger and guess whose face replaced him? Jerry Brown's dog. Yes, you read that right: The consultants for the local Dems thought that Jerry Brown's dog was more popular than President Obama.

Was I wrong for being so hard on this Candidate? No. This decent person got caught up in Machiavellian politics and this was way beneath him/her. Tactics matter. They matter in every campaign. Especially if you are the minority party or if you are attempting to defend turf---which was true in this Chico City Election.

At a meeting last night of the Paradise Democratic Club, the whole issue of the Slate Mailers, the Door Hangers and the Democratic Party's endorsement of the Cannabis Industry was pretty much ignored. It seems everyone wants to forget about this past election. We forget at our peril.

And so there will be a meeting on December 7 for a post mortem of the Butte County Democratic Party's behavior in the last election. I plan on attending. Should these things be ignored, I fully intend to drop my registration in the Democratic Party.





Friday, November 14, 2014

Why Isn't Butte County Blue?




In 2008, Barack Obama won Butte County. He turned Butte County blue. In 2012, he nearly did it again, losing to Mitt Romney by just a two thousand votes and two percentage points. In 2010, Jim Reed, the candidate for the Dems against Republican U.S. House Representative Wally Herger actually took Butte County. And in 2012,  Democrat Jim Reed lost to Doug LaMalfa by two points in Doug LaMalfa's home county.

In 2004, Kerry got walloped by George Bush in Butte County. In 2000, Al Gore did even worse than John Kerry.

But there has been a trend: Gore did awful (Nader took 6 percent of the vote that year, probably the entire listenership of KZFR turned out to vote for him); Kerry did less awful in 2004; Obama won in 2008 and nearly pulled it off a second time in 2012.

The trend over the first 12 years of this century was that the Democrats made significant progress in Butte County. And that makes sense because Chico continues to grow and lots of retirees from more Liberal areas of California have settled into the very affordable retirement communities of Paradise and Magalia. Yes, the Dems should have continued to do well. Yet, in 2014, the election's numbers looked more like they did in 2000. Why? Why did the progress towards Blueness stop?

Of course, much of it is about turnout. In 2008, the turnout was an astounding 87 percent! Even in off year elections, turnout in Butte County has been good---usually around 66 percent. In Presidential elections, Butte County votes in the 80 percent range. Butte County citizens like to vote; they turnout in droves.

And it looks like the turnout this year was better than expected: 52.5 percent. That's well above the average in California. So how did the Dems do in a low turnout year? Heidi Hall was the Democrat running against Doug LaMalfa this year. She turned out to be an excellent candidate. Sharp. A good campaigner. She did great in the debates. But she got beat by Doug LaMalfa 56% to 44% in Butte County. Jerry Brown nearly took Butte County, but not quite. Of course, in Chico, the Democratic candidates for city counsel all got pummeled.

So why the loss of ground by the Democrats in 2014? Especially since Democrats have been gaining ground every year since 2000. Turnout is obviously part of it. If the turnout had been more in the normal range, the Dems obviously would have done better. The fact that turnout was low even in Butte County compared to the past five or six elections is, in itself, a statement. People just didn't have a reason to go to the polls. They have become disenfranchised.

And then there is the fact that the Democratic Central Committee endorsed a very unpopular Cannabis Measure that was written by the rowdy Cannabis Industry. Half the population in Butte County lives in the unincorporated areas. In these areas that have witnessed the problems caused by the influx of Pot Growers from all across the country, Measure B (written by the Cannabis Industry) was very unpopular. The Growers got walloped despite spending a couple hundred thousand dollars and owning the television airwaves with their "it will hurt the patients" commercials. Aligning themselves with the scruffy Cannabis Industry was a major mistake. It seemed the Urban Democrats did everything possible to screw up this election: they played dirty tricks with mailers, they ignored their neighbors in the unincorporated areas that said the Cannabis Industry was out of control. The Urban Democrats chose Hipster Culture over listening to real life problems.

Which is probably why the turnout was so low this year. Nobody in the major parties is listening to the real problems that people have. It was an election of airy fairy issues and slogans. The Urban Democrats felt that regulating an industry that is/was out of control was "prohibition". They got their shirts handed to them.

The Chico Democrats thought they could trick their way into retaining power. It didn't work.

What's the solution? Start to listen. Develop a rural program that addresses the needs of rural and urban people. And don't wear ideological blinders that skews your analysis as to the real consequences of Hipster Values. The Democrats certainly misread the anger against the Cannabis Industry. All it would have taken for these Dems to change their minds was to go knock on a few doors out in the country (if you can get past the pitbulls and the armed citizenry). Rural Butte County has changed over the last few years. Endorsing Measures that will cause more problems was not a popular, nor a smart, strategy.

So what will happen in 2016? The Democrats will only turn this county blue if they start to listen to what the needs of the people are. There is no rural program in the Democratic Party. Until they develop one, the people will continue to vote for the party that actually seems to listen to them. Right now the Dems just seem to want to bark at them. To pontificate. Or to obfuscate. That doesn't work. This year proved that assertion quite well.







Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fallout...




Gotta learn to stick to my guns. On June 5, 2014, I wrote:

"Cannabis Advocates like Andrew Merkel, with their hundreds of thousands of dollars and an army of stoned volunteers, might not have such an easy time of it in Butte County this Fall. They won two years ago with a ballot measure that was difficult to comprehend what you were voting for, or against. This time the lines will be better defined and we are beginning to understand the social and environmental costs of a massive Cannabis Economy. I think the Chico ER under-estimates the backlash against the Cannabis Industry. I think the vote will be very close this Fall."

Of course, it wasn't close. The advocates of having a commercial cannabis industry got handed quite a loss. And turnout looks like it was better than at first suggested. Some 15,000 uncounted ballots brings the turnout up to over 50%. All of these will come from the Mail In ballots that just got handed in at the polls, plus some Provisional ballots. About half these ballots have now been counted and there hasn't been much of a change in the numbers in any of the races. The Democrats still got trounced in Chico. Measure A wins with a huge majority; Measure B loses with an even bigger vote against it.

Fall out. Turns out that many Democrats felt the same way as me about the dirty campaign tactics and the endorsement of the illegal Cannabis Industry. A letter to the editor in the Chico ER called for a protest against the party by changing your registration from Democrat to Independent. At a meeting of rural Democrats yesterday, there was universal condemnation of the endorsement and the Democratic Central Committee. There will be a party post mortem in December that might be very interesting to attend.

What these rural Democrats really wanted to know was how much money the Chico Democratic  Candidates and the Central Committee received from the Cannabis Industry. We know that it was at the very least, $1,000. Some think it might be much higher than that. When the campaigns make their final reports we should be able to trace the final dollar amounts.

In the meantime, the county is trying to figure out how to enforce the new codes. It does look like these codes will be enforced aggressively and the primary mechanism will be through fines. There will be levies assessed of $500 a day against the property owner until the garden is removed or brought into a legal size.

The people have spoken: they do not want to have a commercial cannabis industry in our county. At least, not the way it is presently done without licensure of the production, distribution and sale of cannabis.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Butte County Democrat's (and Environmentalist's) Big Mistake....




All three Democratic city council candidates that endorsed Measure B lost.


It was not much of a surprise to me that the Democrats lost the Senate. They sort of deserved to lose as they scrambled to run away from their President; one candidate from Kentucky wouldn't even admit to voting for Obama. Not that Obama is any great bastion of Progressiveness---however, there was no reason for the beating the Dems took last night. They should have flaunted health care, jobs, the debt going down and raised a platform of things to vote for that would move this country forward. They did neither. So they lost. Deservingly. Timid fearful little rodents that they are.

You have to give the people a reason to vote. The Democrats didn't do that.

Locally, the Democrats did even worse. In a county that should be purple, the Dems lost handedly. The turnout was low, only 40 percent, in a county that has 80 percent turnout in Presidential years and 60 percent in Midterm years.

In the Chico city council race that I spent the last two posts ranting about the horrid tactics of the Democrats---the three who backed the pro-Cannabis Industry lost. The Liberals lost the Chico city council. All three conservatives won. Why?

The liberal city council mishandled scads of money. There were budget problems. They did some good things, like a plastic bag ban, but for the most part, they didn't manage the city well.

And then it came down to tactics. The Chico Democrats endorsed Measure B (a cannabis ordinance written by the pot growers) which turned out to be a hugely unattractive Measure. The Conservative Chico ER, the Paradise Post, The Oroville MR, and the liberal Chico News and Review, uniting the entire political spectrum, all endorsed a No vote on Measure B. The Democrats were stupid to endorse this Measure and to take the money from the Pot Growers. Measure B lost 68% to 32%. That's 36 points. A wipeout.

Measure A, which severely limits the size of Cannabis gardens and essentially eliminates a commercial Cannabis Industry in Butte County, won 61 percent to 37 percent. It comes down to people being sick of the social and environmental costs of pot growing. Drifters galore come here for the bud and trimming jobs. They come here to get rich. They come here to get high. And they are everywhere. Every street corner has a beggar with a dog, usually a youngish male, looking for money to do god only knows what. The Democrats didn't have a solution to the problem. In fact, they endorsed what causes the problem: an of control Cannabis Industry that has no regulations and no license required to grow the stuff.

This was all part of a little noticed backlash against the Cannabis Industry in the rural areas of California. Shasta county voted to do away with outdoor grows; Nevada County voted down a Measure put forth by the pot growers to liberalize their laws; Lake County voted down two ordinances written by the Cannabis Industry. The rural people have spoken. The way we are going about this Cannabis thing is not working.

Eighteen years after legalizing medical marijuana this should have been a cake walk for the industry. They should have won the hearts and minds of rural people by now. They haven't.

California picked the wrong model. When anybody can grow commercially without getting a license to do so, the criminal element quickly moves in to make a buck. That's what we've experienced all through out rural California. Until we license the production, distribution and sale of Cannabis, we will not solve the social and ecological costs of Cannabis production.

The Foothills have spoken. The Democrats should listen.

So what should the local Democrats do now? Give back the money they received from the Cannabis Industry. Apologize to the voters for not listening to their concerns. Start talking about the social and the environmental costs of cannabis production in Butte County. But mostly, they need to get the ideas out of their heads that regulation of the Cannabis Industry is prohibition. REGULATION IS NOT PROHIBITION.

And what of the Prius driving Enviros? The Butte Environmental Council (BEC) was pathetic around the whole debate. They were too timid to engage in it. The biggest threat to Butte County's watershed and wildlife is the current method of production of cannabis. Yet they said and did nothing. I went to the BEC dinner where Joni received an award and not a word was spoken about this problem. The blinders were on. And I'm fairly certain that writing this won't make me popular with either the Enviros or the Democrats.

And so, this time around, the Conservative voter turned out to be the best Environmentalist. We should give them an award at the next BEC dinner. The Butte County Voter was the Environmentalist of the year! And the Chico Conservation Voter? They turned out to be the worst enemy of the environment.




Sunday, November 2, 2014

Machiavelli, Paul Wellstone and Butte County Democrats


The first campaign I volunteered for was Paul Wellstone's campaign for State Auditor back in 1982. His campaign manager back then was a peacenik by the name of Bob Lamb. I remember hanging out in the office, stuffing envelopes, walking precincts with Bob---who was a well respected radical. Paul would drop by the office and we'd chat for a bit. That was a special election because two eclectic politicians faced off. The guy who won the election was Arne Carlson. Arne was a different sort of Republican; hell, nowadays he'd be a Democrat. Arne went on to become Governor of Minnesota for a couple of terms. Paul Wellstone went on to win a seat in the US Senate.

When Paul Wellstone decided to run for the Senate, I was a drinking buddy with his first campaign manager, Dick Senese. Those were the days before the Internet so everything was done by paper. I had a spare room in the house I owned in Duluth, Minnesota---and Wellstone didn't have an office. Sending out a fund raising letter to every Democrat in Minnesota took up lots of paper and lots of space. We stored his first campaign letter in my spare room and licked thousands of  envelopes until we sent them all off. Paul went on to win that election in a dramatic underdog fashion.

Paul Wellstone said during that first election when he was running against a wealthy opponent that in order for people to vote for him, they needed to believe every word he said. Integrity mattered. I remember him saying that if he spoke from the heart, and spoke the truth, even people who didn't agree with him would respect him and even vote for him. He won the election when Rudy Boschwitz used some dirty tactics against him that backfired.

I broke my teeth in politics by working with honest candidates who wanted to make a difference. Paul Wellstone would never, ever think of sending out a duplicitous mailer. He knew that populist candidates lose when they are no longer considered to be trustworthy.

Take a look at this mailer that arrived in mailboxes in Chico yesterday:


This is a mailer that endorses the Republican ticket for Governor, Controller and Treasurer. It gives the impression that this is done by a conservative, Republican outfit. Instead, this is just a profit centered mailer that candidates pay money to get their names on them. This one was targeted at Republican voters in Chico.

Three Democrats bought space on this thing. Scott Gruendl, Lupe Arim-Law and Forough Molina. This is a deceitful piece of mail, designed to trick a Republican voter into voting for these three Democrats. It lacks integrity.

If I lived in Chico I wouldn't vote for any of these candidates. I have pretty high standards when it comes to politicians. The first one I worked for was Paul Wellstone. And he would never sink so low as to try and trick the voter. He had integrity.

Of course, the Republicans do it too. Here is a mailer put out by the same group that tries to trick Democrats into voting for a Republican:


Jeff Gorell is a Republican running for Congress in a Democratic District in Sacramento. Local Democratic Guru Bob Mulholland says that politics is dirty and we should just put up with it. Justin Meyer, the Butte County Democratic Chair, uses the above mailer to dampen the damage done by the mailers sent out during his watch. They both seem to imply that this is the new reality; the way things get done. Machiavelli rides into Butte County on a Democratic Ass (or donkey?).

Well, I say: Bullshit! We should not employ these sorts of tactics in the Democratic Party. We don't win elections by doing this. We only make people more cynical of government, of office holders, of democracy (with a small d).

I am amazed at my fellow Democrats behavior in Butte County this election cycle. From endorsing Measure B (a Measure that no print medium endorsed in Butte County--uniting the liberal CNR with the Chico ER and the Paradise Post against it) to sending out fake mailers, this cycle seems to have been built on fooling the voter. Whoever gave the Dems election advice like this, well, they should never be allowed to practice here again. The Dems should apologize and start over. And they should give that money back to the Cannabis Lobby as, it seems, they are borrowing tactics from their playbook.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Dems lose big on Tuesday. Tactics like these should not be rewarded with a vote. And so far, the mail in vote has been dismal.



Saturday, November 1, 2014

Andrew Merkel, the Butte County Democrats and the Politics of Sleaze..

One very important, and sickening, development in the debasement of the politics of Butte County can be solely blamed on one individual. His name is Andrew Merkel and he is the CEO of Western Plant Science (a pot group) and the leading advocate for the Cannabis Industry in Butte County.

He comes armed with cash. Lots and lots of it. With this cash he was able to buy the petitioners who got Measure B onto the Butte County ballot in the first place. He spent $60,000 to get the 12,000 signatures for the Measure to make it on to the ballot. The going rate, I'm told, was a dollar a signature.

He also has used the cash to help sway the Butte County Democratic Central Committee. In exchange, the Democratic Chico city candidates, Lupe Arim-Law, Forough Molina and even the Chico mayor, Scott Gruendl allowed Merkel to run the No on A; Yes on B endorsement on the candidates' mailers. Money talks. I do think that Merkel's influence over these Democrats has led them down a path of immature pranks and misinformation that embarrasses the Butte County Democratic Party. It is shameful.



How else to explain the deception of the Democratic Party this election cycle? Where the hell did our integrity go? In one of the worst cases of deceit, Lupe Arim-Law attached her name to a slate mailer that gives the impression that she has the endorsement of Law Enforcement. She doesn't.

And now there is this mailer (see below), which involves Arim-Law, Molina and Mayor Gruendl, where they claim they are the best Republican choice. All three are Democrats. This is just not okay.




The Measure B people spent $3,000 to get a bogus Republican group to endorse No on A; Yes on B and mailed it to Republican households in Butte County. This upset many Republicans who want nothing to do with Measure B. They complained. But what do you expect from an industry that says they are growing dope for sick patients, and then market 90 percent of it (according to Mike Ramsey) out of state? The whole impetus for the Measure B is a lie. This is about a greedy industry.



Want more evidence of sleaze? How about the carpet bombing of Butte County with No on A; Yes on B signs. These signs were peppered illegally on to public right of ways and unsuspecting private property owners fields and yards. Caltrans eliminated the blight. Private property owners, incensed, took down the signs. You can hardly find anyone who will put up a Yes on B sign. Most are gone.

So what happens next? Since no one will put up a sign on behalf of Measure B, they started defacing, and then stealing, the very finite amount of Yes on A; No on B signs that we had. These signs had all been put up with the permission of the property owners (just go to the Yes on A website and you will see the form that orders a sign and also indicates that you must be the owner of the property that the sign is going onto). The Yes on A people went to great lengths to follow the rules. Now many of the signs are gone. The sign that was on former Sheriff Jerry Smith's property was stolen. Takes a lot of gall to do that.

Taking down political signs that are placed in a lawful manner is a crime.

But here is a bit of dirty politics by Andrew Merkel that hasn't been picked up by any media.

On August 26, 2014, Andrew Merkel filed three separate California Form 410 "Statement of Organization recipient Committee" documents with the Butte County Recorder. The purpose of this form is to file for a committee name, in this case one whose purpose is to oppose or support specific measures. It appears that these filings were a calculated attempt to undermine the efforts of YES on A, NO on B.

Prior to that date, there were a couple of informal groups, one I was present for the creation thereof, in order to back Measure A. One of these groups was called Butte County Safe Access Not Excess (for which a Facebook web page was created and also a very excellent web site). Andrew Merkel registered that name so only he could use it for campaign purposes. He registered three names:Two
were already groups working towards supporting Measure A. The names he registered were:

 Protect Butte County
 Butte County Safe Access Not Excess.
Butte County families Against Cannabis Trafficking

Want to see a copy of the original filing? Here they are:

Protect Butte County:


 
Butte County Safe Access Not Excess:


Butte County Families Against Cannabis Trafficking


Now how petty can you get? You are the leader of a Measure to increase the size of Cannabis gardens. You know the names of a few organizations that, more than likely, will oppose you. So what do you do? You run down to the County Clerk's office and steal their names. Behavior like this would make Richard Nixon proud.

And the Butte County Democratic Central Committee took money from the organization this guy leads.

When you get into bed with people who are slimy, you end up becoming a bit sleazy yourself. And that, my friends, is why the Democrats really need to apologize to this county for their behavior this cycle. We have become sleazy. And as a member of the Butte County Democratic Party, I am very unhappy with this behavior.