Saturday, December 29, 2012

Extremists and Guns...

I got a little kudos in the Chico News and Review when my piece on Sam Aanestad (pictured above) was mentioned in a year-in-review article. Felt good. The Chico paper said:

"On April 22, at a Paradise Tea Party Patriots gathering, Republican congressional candidate Sam Aanestad reportedly said President Obama was a Muslim. Allan Stellar wrote in this paper that he’d asked Aanestad if he believed the president was a Muslim, and he said indeed he did.

At a press conference about a month later, Aanestad explained: “What I said was that the president’s background is Muslim. He was brought up in the Muslim culture, his father was a Muslim. Does that mean he follows the practices and customs? He says he is Christian. Who are we to judge?”

It is always good to embarrass a political extremist.

This area of Northern California is loaded with extremists. The extremists here tend to be on the right side of the political aisle. Today, a prominent local politician posted an article on her Facebook page stating that the Sandy Hook shootings were part of a government conspiracy to take people's guns away. I kid you not.

The Sandy Hook killings have all the gun loving nuts in a frenzy. There are plenty of gun nuts here in rural California. When Obama was elected back in 2008, the check out clerk at the local convenience store that we affectionately call "the Dome store", told me that he was sure that Obama was going to take his guns away. Anybody who actually thinks Obama wants to take your guns away--if you are that paranoid to believe that--then you should have your guns taken away! It is obvious that you are incapable of rational thought if you believe that. I'm quite certain that a person who believes "Obama wants our guns" is unable to responsibly own a firearm. They are just too irrational and paranoid to possess a weapon that can easily kill someone.

We also live in an area that is filled with Cannabis growers. Most of them are local Rednecks who are anything but hippyesque. They aren't into "peace and love"--no, these Stoned Cowboys are more into "Guns and Monster Trucks". They are mostly paranoid of anything affiliated with government. Libertarian Anarchists of an uneducated variety.

Frankly, I don't think anyone who is raising a drug that makes you paranoid, should be allowed to own a gun. Cannabis grows should be gun free zones with substantial penalties for bringing a gun into a grow.

No, I hate guns. I hate the cavalier attitude people have about them. I hate the politics of gun owners who think that owning a gun, even a machine gun, trumps my right to feel safe taking a walk in my neighborhood. I hate the fact that a teenager on our ridge, put a gun to his head and killed himself last year. And I fear it happened again, as a number of sheriff's cars, and ambulance and the county coroner rolled by our house earlier this afternoon. I suspect we've had yet another gun tragedy on our ridge.

It is time for gun owners to pass the same sorts of tests that a person has to prove in order to drive a car. There are no rights without responsibilities. Time to get the guns out of idiot's hands.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve...

Yesterday I drove across California in a storm. It was a harrowing experience and I darn near turned the car around and went home. But I didn't. Had to get to work. We've had a couple of ten inch rain storms this December. Yesterday's storm had winds gusting to the mid 50's. As I was driving, the rain went sideways, the roadway was wet and the wind treated the car like a sail. I crept along with my usual cautious driving style. Folks around me seemed to think that a bit of wind shouldn't stop them from driving 70 or 80 miles an hour. Are they braver than me? Or just plain stupid?

I vote for stupid.

The older I get the more intolerant I am becoming of stupidity. Humans have been writing things down for five thousand years, yet, the average American hasn't read one book this year. And things just seem to be getting worse. Not much hope for the bipedal hairless ones. Watch one episode of Jersey Shore or Swamp People and you'll certainly concur that as a culture, we admire Snooky more than Einstein.

And so I worked tonight. Christmas Eve. Over the last twenty years I've spent as many holidays on psychiatric units as I've spent with friends and family. The five years I spent working on Adolescent Units were the worst. Kids acted out all night. When somebody is acting in a dangerous manner sometimes you have to take control of the situation and have a "take down". If you watch those shows on television about prisons, you will see examples of such procedures. On mental health units, these sorts of procedures are done without the body armor and helmets. No, it's scrubs and street clothes. It is one of the reasons why we psychiatric nurses and mental health workers have the highest injury rate of any profession. We are only armed with needles. Holidays on Adolescent Units were filled with such violent events. Takedowns. Restraints. Emergency medications. I'd go home bruised and battered.

Working with adults is easier on the holidays. Adults get more sad than angry. Many have lost the expectation that they will have a visitor or a phone call and don't act out in anger when they don't feel like anybody gives a rip about them. In fact, Christmas on a psychiatric unit can be pleasant experiences for those who are poor, lonely and sad. Tonight was easy---so we made popcorn and watched It's a Wonderful Life.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012--a Retrospective.

I'm writing this warm and snug by the woodstove in the midst of another group of storms that are battering northern California. My rain gauge shows about five inches of rain have fallen the last two days. These storms have been a bit more angry than most. Not the gentle saturating rain that usually falls. No, these rains have been apocalyptic in nature. Lightning. Thunder. Some snow. Trees down all over the place--especially in the burned sections.

Speaking of Apocalypse--looks like we survived the end of the Mayan calendar. Whew.

Hard not to reflect on the last year--sitting in front of the woodstove with a dog or three curled up at my feet. We have a leg of lamb cooking in the stove. And tonight I'll be opening a fifty dollar bottle of Cabernet that I splurged on. Gotta live a little.

So it was mostly a good year. I said goodbye to my dear sister in May as she succumbed to breast cancer; her life tragically cut short by a cancer that has ended so many baby boomer females' lives. Way too many women have been affected by this awful cancer. My own theory is that we are paying the price of all that above ground nuclear testing in the 1950's in the lives of fifty and sixty something women who grew up drinking the milk and storing the cesium in their fatty tissues. Goodbye Ruth. Thanks for taking care of me as a child. And nobody could make the organ rock like you!

My favorite journalist, Alexander Cockburn, passed away this year too. A victim of cancer--I miss reading his weekly column on Counterpunch and his biweekly in The Nation. Alex was a weirdo. A Red Diaper Baby whose father was the famous Communist journalist Claud Cockburn. Alex was a climate change denier. An oil cornucopiast who believed in the theory of abiotic oil. He was a socialist with anarchist tendencies. He was definitely hard to pin down. I had the privilege to watch his career almost from the start to finish--one day I even traveled to Petrolia, California where Alex lived along the Lost Coast of California. When I got there I felt way too much like a groupie--so I just went to the beach and put aside all efforts at meeting my hero. Cockburn's influence on me has been immeasurable through out the years. Not as much as Ed Abbey (who Alex admired and even traveled to the secret location of Ed's illegal burial with Doug Peacock in the photo below)---but I've copied Alex's ideas and writing style on more than one occasion. Multiple times, in fact. Good bye Alex.

What else? Well, I took a solo hike that was fun, dangerous and nearly killed me. I also went to the doctor while feeling fatigued and found out that I'm getting older so now I have to get a monthly injection of manliness.  It helps. I've started on all the classic medications one would expect of an overweight Fifty-something. Joni just got a pacemaker to help her heart beat a bit faster. Seems our parts are wearing out a bit sooner than expected. Time to take better care of this aging body; I have much more I want to do. A goal for next year. Again.

Financially, we are doing well. So well that Joni and I managed to take a trip, a real vacation. This was the first time in years we managed to get away--and we packed much action into our nine day adventure. We met enviro authors (Craig Childs, Jack Loeffler); had beers with some of Ed Abbey's friends--Ken Sleight, Eric Temple, Katie Lee, Ken Sanders; stayed in a cabin on the edge of the Grand Canyon; marveled at the wonders of the Beatles Love show in Vegas (not to be missed).

I managed to be interviewed on a radio station this year. A radio interview that went national when Congressional candidate Sam Aanestad (the point of the radio interview) called Obama a Muslim on the record. I had only one piece published in 2012--but that bit of writing did help bring down a congressional campaign.

Kylie and Jazmine continue to get straight A's in school. The arguments and yelling seems to have dropped a few decibels. These young women are growing up wise and strong and healthy and smart. I am impressed at their lack of consumerism. They don't whine much about just having a few outfits and one pair of shoes. They don't demand the latest gadgets. They put up with this "off grid" lifestyle where starting generators to pressurize the water is a morning chore. And hanging clothes in the living room above the woodstove is our dryer. They tolerate this simple lifestyle with grace and class. And they work ferociously hard in school.

I continue to make the 330 mile round trip to work once a week. Yes, I feel guilty about my carbon footprint. I'd look for work closer to home except: 1. I like my jobs and 2. I make way more money there than anything close to home. Trade offs. The time away from home is hard. But I will continue to do it for another year or two (or six?) or until forced to do otherwise.

The house remains unfinished--but livable. Sort of. We still have two dogs too many and two bunny rabbits. Rocky, our cat, still calls us his humans despite the fact that we keep getting more dogs that chase him and make his life a catty hell.

There are still some things I didn't get done this year. I didn't lose fifty pounds. I didn't spot a Condor. I didn't read 100 books (although I came close). I didn't spend a month on the Pacific Crest Trail. I didn't finish the house. I didn't build a fish pond. I didn't plant a garden. I didn't run. I didn't climb as many mountains as I wanted to. I didn't camp as much as I wanted. I didn't write as much as I wanted. I didn't have enough late-into-the-night talks trying to  finish a third bottle of wine with friends. I didn't have enough campfires.

That's okay. Another year beckons.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Flood? Climate Change and Doug La Malfa the Hypocrite...

This is a photo of the bridge that leads to our house taken by a neighbor on Sunday morning, Dec. 2, 2012. Normally there is a 10 foot clearance underneath the bridge.

I am safe and sound in the Napa Valley. Joni is home with the animals where she is quite safe. Our house is on top of a ridge. Our roof didn't leak despite receiving probably 12 inches of rain. Joni has lots of food and plenty of power since we make our own. As long as the bridge doesn't wash out, she will be fine. The girls are with friends, closer to school and away from being marooned.

Mount Shasta is supposed to have set a new snowfall record for a snow event in the United States. They claim around 220 inches of snow fell there. Climate change scientists state that storms will become wetter, wilder, more severe. Because of the increased temperature, our atmosphere is already around 5 percent wetter in the last thirty years.

And yet, our local politicians don't accept the conclusions of the scientists. Our newly elected House Representative, Doug La Malfa, has claimed the only climate change he believes in is when seasons change. He is a Green Energy foe.

So why is Doug La Malfa  appearing at a Chico Waste Plant this week to cut the ribbon of a methane from garbage energy plant touted as a way to reduce greenhouse gasses? The irony is that the company that built the plant, Ameresco, is a leader in renewable energy and has been a recipient of stimulus funds. Horrors!

La Malfa didn't support the stimulus. Yet he is cutting ribbons for energy plants that were built with the assistance of local, and federal, government. Doug is all about small government and freeing up the creativity of the private sector. These guys always hate government until they can step in and take credit for something. Good ole Doug is following in Wally Herger's steps nicely in that regard.

And if that isn't awful enough, here is Doug La Malfa engaging in a bit of magical thinking, doing the Michael Jackson Moonwalk, as he selects the lottery for where his office will be. At the end of the video La Malfa pontificates about watching the movie "Lincoln" with new colleagues and how deeply moved he was by the experience. He talked about the vote that ended slavery in the United States. I wonder if he will develop some backbone and stand up to the oil companies that are enslaving the planet as the photo of the bridge demonstrates?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Waiting for the Superstorm...

I came home early to get ready for the storm. So far, not much rain. A bit of wind is blowing right now. A blustery day. Best not to get too over confident; it is still early.

I went to a Democratic Party meeting last night. The county chair stated he was happy with Butte County's election results. Ever the party pooper, I spoke up and said that I wasn't happy. Only 56 percent of Democratic mail voters returned their ballots as opposed to 61 percent of Republicans. Of course, some of those vote-by-mail voters could have returned them on election day. Overall turnout was 71 percent, as opposed to 80 percent in 2008. Obama didn't carry the county. The guy we ran for Congress didn't carry the county. He had hopes of carrying Butte County by 10 points which is the only way we will ever elect a Democratic Representative again.

Prop 32 did prevail in Butte County (that's Jerry Brown's State funding tax). Turns out that things that got decent exposure through ads on TV won. Chico elected three progressive council members. That's the extent of the good news. The bad news is that the GMO initiative failed in Butte County, even though the thing was written by a Butte County resident. The Democratic Party remains splintered with all the likely members not talking to each other. Or helping each other.

When I brought up the idea that we actually try to do something to defeat the Republican Crook, Jim Nielsen, in the special election on January 8th for State Senate, there was no support for the idea. We did talk about having a Christmas Lunch on the 12th though. I'm sure it will be a fine lunch. They decided to have it on a Wednesday at lunch time because many members of our club can't go out at night.

The local Democratic Party functions more like an aging Politburo rather than a functioning political party.

Meanwhile the wind is blowing outside ever harder. We await the storm.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our Superstorm Sandy?

I gave up a shift at work in order to return home one day early. Why? Because rain is in the forecast. And not just a little sprinkle: The National Weather Service states that eastern Butte County will receive between 12 and 20 inches of rain in a four to five day period. And to make it worse, winds are supposed to gust to 45 miles per hour.

And so today we got ready for the storm: I went to the library, the doctor, the pharmacy, the hardware store (for tar to put on the roof if it leaks), the gas station. We shored up a wall we are working on with plastic. We brought in dry wood. Since there is more than a small chance that if we actually do get 20 inches of rain, the bridge out of here will be impassable, we have enough provisions to last a week. We have books to read, a functioning romantic wood stove and plenty of food (including some fresh Dungeness crab).

A 20 inch storm is way more rain than New Jersey got during Superstorm Sandy. Sooner or later we will have our own superstorm. This could be it. Sacramento's levees  are 100 years old and weak. Sacramento sits at 5 feet above sea level. Sacramento is the next New York, Staten Island, Atlantic City, New Orleans. It will happen. Maybe this week.

The good thing is that because we make our own power, we don't have to worry about the power going out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nielsen and Harrington: A Crook versus an Honest Laborer

Fake Rancher, Jim Nielsen with his never worn before cowboy hat. Hey, it helps get votes in Northeastern California.

To tell you the truth, I've been rather frightened to read any of the local papers the past couple of days. Day after day, the stories just seemed to get weirder and weirder. Depressing to read about such louts who would turn a flag upside down at Obama's election. Or read about those who oppose bike trails as part of a UN plot to take over the world. In a sense, I didn't think I could stand to read any more of the stupid exploits of my fellow citizens of Northeastern California.

What to do?

I drove down to my place of employment and am working a stretch. Took the time to read a couple of the local papers. The Marysville Appeal Democrat had the standard diatribe against carbon taxes and the like. The Chico ER did manage to take a swipe at both Doug La Malfa (our Congressman elect) and Jim Nielsen (La Malfa's heir apparent in the Senate).

To describe the antics of these two guys is to signal what is absolutely the worst of North State politics. La Malfa resigned his seat early in the State Senate so that he could run for Congress. Nielsen, La Malfa's buddy, signed up for the special election and had his signs ready to go the day La Malfa resigned. In fact, La Malfa and Nielsen's signs were nearly identical; both signs featured a white cowboy hat and called them "Conservative Ranchers". Both these guys have their piggy faces firmly  planted in the government trough. La Malfa, by capitalizing on cheap state water and rice subsidies and Nielsen by being a career politician privy to sweet heart deals and phony per diem submissions. They both provide ample evidence on why people should be cynical about politics.

Jim Nielsen doesn't even live in the district. His real home is a mansion outside the district where he has a history of collecting the per diem pay while the State Government is in session to finance his monstrous house. To add insult to injury, his wife collects the same sort of per diem pay. State spending at its worst. His home in the district is a manufactured home in Gerber--where he isn't seen very often. Like never. He calls himself a "rancher" but he only owns a couple of acres of land. Guess that makes me a rancher too.

But people keep voting for this kind of corruption even though fine alternative candidates were, and are, available. Because Nielsen didn't clear the 50 percent plus one rule in the quickly staged general election, there will be a special "run off" election. Nielsen will be opposed by Mickey Harrington in a special election the second week of January.

I was actually with Mickey the day that La Malfa quit and the special Senate election was announced. We were working a booth at a festival registering hippies and stoned Concowites to vote. I told him about the special election and Mickey decided that he would run as we were talking. He felt that some Democrat should throw his hat in the ring--so Mickey did just that. Mickey is a fine gentleman. He represents a cherished and dying sect in America: the union worker of a non-governmental organization. Mickey is now retired. He has been a tireless advocate for the Democratic Party.

To me, the choice is easy this January. Why would I want to vote for a crook when there is a perfectly responsible, honest man running? Easy choice. Go for the Union guy.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Red Bluff County Supervisors Agents of Agenda 21?

The real view from my deck. Another super day here in the Foothills with balmy temps approaching 70 degrees.

Just when I thought I've seen it all,  an article in the Red Bluff Daily News surfaces to amaze me. Baffle me. Shock me. Disgust me. Evidently, Tehama County has a new coordinator for Trails and Open Spaces. The Tehama County Tea Party showed up to protest this as part of the County Supervisors secret following of Agenda 21. In case you don't know what Agenda 21 is---Agenda 21 is supposedly a secret ploy by the United Nations to control our lives by forcing us into a servile environmentalist and sustainable state.  Glenn Beck has a new novel out about it. This all goes back to a UN document, non binding, from the early 90's that discusses the admirable goals of sustainability and environmentalism. The Kooky Right Wingers have adopted this as some sort of Communist/Socialist/UN plot to rule the world.

The Red Bluff Daily News article is really worth reading if only for the entertainment value. This section amazed me, describing one of the attendees of the meeting:

Tom Mohler, a regular attendee of the board meetings, said Agenda 21 has been pushed in America for decades, but few people see it. "We're seeing it, the ones who read through the Internet, what the government puts out in documents", Mohler said. During public comment, Mohler described a future in which people would be forced to live with five others in 20-by-20 living spaces with push-button furniture in high-rises across major cities. The complexes would serve three vegetarian meals a day, feature mosques and have a 24-7 on-call doctor to discuss taking one's own life.

Agenda 21 was brought up multiple times during the board meeting.

To its credit, the Redding Record Searchlight wrote a strong editorial against the Tea Partier's extreme behavior. It by no means was kind towards environmentalists. In fact, it states:

But if north state residents have problems with environmental laws, their beef isn't with the United Nations. It's with Bay Area liberals.

And it certainly isn't kind towards those of us who might believe in "Rewilding". However, it did talk back to the lunacy of the Kooky Right Wing that is so much on display here in this part of Red Northern California.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Appeal Democrat's Silly Conspiracy Theories

A beautiful day here in Northern California. Joni and I took the time to take a walk in the sunshine.

Reading the local editorials this morning, looking for the awful and the unusual, I ran across an editorial from the Appeal Democrat in Marysville that is titled: "Team Obama and secret e-mails". The just of the editorial is that Obama is hiding secret conversations to do such dastardly things as impose cap and trade or a tax on carbon. It also beats the Benghazi drum, that we could learn a whole lot about what happened in Benghazi if we read the secret e-mails of the Obama Administration.

Of course, they won't ask for the secret e-mails of Hilary Clinton's masterful negotiations of a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

The Appeal Democrat quotes a right wing think tank: the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which is leading a lawsuit to gather incriminating e-mails from several key cabinet officials, including Tim Geithner and Lisa Jackson (the head of the EPA). Somehow they think that Tim Geithner, the snot-nosed suck up to Wall Street, is leading a behind the scenes conspiracy to tax carbon. Huh?

The CEI's biggest claim to fame was trying to stop anti-smoking regulations back in the 80's and 90's by stating that the science behind secondhand smoke wasn't settled. Sound familiar? Well, they are also doing it again, looking to prevent the EPA from stating that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. The CEI's funding has come from all the usual sources: the Koch Brothers, Exxon and other major corporations. The CEI did  have to reduce some of their programs when part of their enterprise dashed off to become part of the climate denying Heartland Institute.

Right Wingers are always hoping to score big by reading private e-mails. And I bet General Petraeous wishes he had used a bit more discretion with his e-mail accounts. E-mails have become the new Watergate recording system. Witness the Climategate controversy over stolen e-mails from climate change researchers. Look through enough e-mails and you will find something compromising. Would you want other folks to be digging through your private e-mail accounts?

All of this is to establish some sort of secret Agenda 21ish type of  conspiracy on the part of the Obama Administration. I only wish that this was the case. As it is, we are going to have to push real hard to see any sort of legislation of decreasing the use of carbon. Obama has said as much that economic growth is more important than cutting carbon. Gone is the talk about all the jobs gained from a Green Economy. Nope. The Appeal Democrat is seeing a bogeyman where none exists at the current time. I mean, Tim Geithner conspiring to limit carbon? Are you kidding me?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Joni and I took a walk on this glorious Thanksgiving day. We skipped having a feast; we'll do that tomorrow or the next day. Instead it is just a lazy day.

The oaks seem especially beautiful this year.

Joni and I are alone with the dogs for Thanksgiving  this year. Hard not to count our blessings. Amongst them are:

1. Joni and I are still alive and kicking.

2. Obama won the election.

3. We have enough money. Not too much, not too little: just the proper amount that makes us appreciate having enough without taking things for granted.

4. Israel and Hamas have stopped pummeling each other with bombs. And wasn't that cool how Hilary Clinton negotiated that settlement? Do you think Mittens could have done that?

5. We have good health insurance that takes care of those things that break down after one turns 50.

6. I have a good job that provides for this family even though I work just part time. I have the flexibility to increase my hours when unforeseen circumstances arrive.

7. We were able to take a trip this year, just Joni and me.

8. Obamacare was upheld by the Supreme Court.

9. We remain warm and dry within this home-made house.

10. God this dear Earth is beautiful!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The First District, Local Papers and their Editors

I live in the First Congressional district of California. An area that is huge (larger than many States) and very, very Republican. This district runs from Marysville, California (about 40 miles north of Sacramento), goes east to the Nevada border and north all the way to Oregon. Everything east of Interstate 5 is in this district. Here  you will find lots of rural cities and towns like Yuba City, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Susanville, Quincy, Chico, Oroville, Alturas, Red Bluff, Redding and a small town with the double entendre, very descriptive, name of "Weed".

This huge rural district includes all of Northeastern California. And it is beautiful. Both Mount Lassen (which is a National Park) and Mount Shasta (which should be a National Park) are in the district. It includes the northern tip of the Sierra and the southern edge of the Cascade mountains. I live in the Foothills where the Sierra ends and the Cascades begin. On the valley floor, agriculture is plentiful growing many of the nuts you will eat. Walnuts and almonds. You also will see rice paddies on the valley floor. In the foothills, we are in the "Emerald Triangle" meaning that cannabis is the number one crop. And it is everywhere. The intersection where the bus picks up our 11 and 12 year old girls is the juncture of three marijuana plantations. We call it "Cannabis Corner".

You'd think that the political persuasion of pot farmers' would be liberal. Wrong. They tend to be Rednecks who are mostly interested in making a buck and being left alone. Or as a friend of mine put it: "Have you ever noticed how the kids of Hippies turn out to be Rednecks?" True. They also tend to use their product in large amounts with the general,  predictable consequences you would expect of heavy use of a drug that disengages you from reality and saps your motivation to improve your life.

On a more local level we have four newspapers in this part of Butte County. Three of them are owned by the MediaNews Group which is the second largest newspaper chain in the United States. Two of the papers are dailies: The Chico Enterprise Record and the Oroville Mercury Register. Really, these two papers are pretty much the same entity and are edited by the same person. Only the masthead is different. This is how the MediaNews Group tries to make a profit by sharing newsrooms for more than one paper. A trick they are famous for which has been only partially successful as the MediaNews Group had to file for bankruptcy in 2010.  The other two papers are the weekly (and excellent) Chico News-Review--the alternative paper that caters to the college town of Chico; and the two-edition-a-week Paradise Post (another paper owned by the MediaNews Group). There is yet another MediaNews Group paper in the town of Red Bluff (which is about 40 miles north of Chico).

All of these MediaNews Group newspapers reflect the demographics of the area with the exception of the Chico Enterprise Record which is a right wing paper in the liberal University town of Chico. Read these papers on a daily basis for awhile and you will see that their respective editors influence the political persuasion of the paper.

By the way, the Chico Enterprise Record's DNA can be traced back to a paper that existed in the 1870's called the Chico Caucasian. The Chico Caucasian morphed into the Chico Enterprise. This was back during the time when Chinese labor was used extensively in California. Oroville had a large Chinese population, the only remnant remaining from those times is a Chinese Temple. The Chinese were persecuted to the point that most of the population was forced out of northern California. These local Podunk papers have almost always been rather racist in tone; it continues today with all the blather against the "Illegals", the attempt to ban migrant workers from receiving social services and the "English only" movement.

Back to the editors. They are all predictably Right Wing in their politics. David Little edits the Chico and the Oroville paper. He sits on the editorial board and also writes a Sunday column which is at its best when he writes about camping trips. When he writes about politics, well, let's just say he isn't at his best. I do admire him for being in support of returning wolves to Northern California. However, he also ascribes to reducing the numbers of mountain lion so that deer hunters can get more tags.

Rick Silva edits the Paradise Post and also writes a supposed-to-be weekly column. He is unabashedly right wing in his politics. It seems that his real love is sports (he started his career as a sports writer). In my opinion, he should go back to sports writing. His last column claimed that the Republican Party would be best served by turning even more to the right. He claims that running moderates doesn't work. Silva is a pro-lifer  whose advice to candidates is to just not answer questions regarding their stance on abortion. Ugh.

Rick Silva does deserve credit in that he has several good liberal columnists who write for him. Jaime O'Neill is perhaps the best writer in Northern California and has a must-read weekly column. Much to Silva's credit, he always runs a local liberal on the editorial page. Unfortunately, Silva has a difficult time finding a talented local Conservative pundit. However, the editorial page is livelier than most.

Chip Thompson is the editor of the Red Bluff paper. He probably wrote the stupidest editorial ever when he defended the town's flag being hung upside down and at half mast after Obama's re-election. However, he also has a good local liberal columnist in Richard Mazzucchi. Thompson also runs one of the worst Limbaughesque Awful Columnist in Don Polson. Polson bought the Republican Kool Aid and predicted a massive landslide for Romney. Oops.

And so this is an introduction to the cast of characters. A motley bunch. A rich treasure trove of material to be visited again and again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tale of Two Newspapers and Two Towns

Once a week, late on a Tuesday night, usually around midnight, I drive through the town of Marysville, California. I always stop at a gas station there where I stretch my legs (I have a three and a half hour drive home from work). I buy a mineral water, check my e-mail and pick up a copy of one of the most awful weekly newspapers you will ever read.

Marysville makes up half of the dual, twin cities of Marysville and Yuba City. An interesting place, there is a yearly gathering of Sikhs who descend on the cities once a year. This is the largest gathering of Sikhs in North America; thousands of turbaned, bearded men gather in this bastion of very conservative people. These towns are seated in a county that the Federal government must help oversee elections due to their past history of excluding Hispanics and other minorities. This area also has bequeathed to us perhaps the single most vile politician in all of California: Dan Logue.

There are two newspapers in this town. One, a weekly, The Territorial Dispatch, is a rag dedicated to informing us, and saving us from, the perils of Agenda 21. The Territorial Dispatch is a Tea Party Kook paper. Hardly worth mentioning. I read it for the entertainment value--plus it makes good fire starter in the wood stove.

The other daily newspaper ain't much better.

The Appeal Democrat has nothing appealing nor democratic about it. The editorial page is just as horrid as most of the Northern California papers. Maybe a little more Libertarian in focus. Of course, this is all compounded by the fact that the media group that owns the unappealing Appeal Democrat also owns the Orland Press Register, the Corning Observer, the Colusa Sun-Herald, and the Willows Journal. They have much of the media locked up in the Sacramento Valley. Yes, newspapers influence might be waning, but not when you are the only game in town. Or the region.

All of these newspapers are owned by Freedom Communications. Their newspapers are spread across California like chicken pox lesions. Given the name of the company, you certainly can figure out the editorial slant. The flagship newspaper of the Freedom group is the very conservative Orange County Register.  The company was founded by a gentleman by the name of R. C. Hoiles. Hoiles was a man who campaigned against Communists and socialist public education. Of Hoiles, who died in 1970, the company's website states:

"Our company founder, R.C. Hoiles, left a legacy based on the principles of voluntaryism (sic) and the libertarian philosophy. Those legacy values — Integrity, Self-Responsibility, Respect for Individual Freedom, Community and Life-Long Learning — are the bedrock on which Freedom Communications operates today. We call it the Freedom Way."

The Freedom Group hasn't escaped the problems newspapers are facing in a digital age. They emerged from Bankruptcy in 2012 and currently have been purchased in July of 2012 by a new group that cast off some of their East Coast holdings. They remain one of the most influential conservative voices in California though.

So you get the picture. In Marysville you have the unfortunate choice of a weekly newspaper that is saturated with the most bizarre, paranoid, Agenda 21 hating, climate change denying, kookiness or you can read the Libertarian, government hating, climate change denying,  Appeal Democrat. Not very appealing or democratic.

As we move along through time, I shall explore some of the more bizarre beliefs and behaviors of both these newspapers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grand Old Upside Down Flag

Obama's re-election didn't go over well here in this Red, rural part of California. Obama isn't very well liked. I happen to know this because the Obama lawn signs I placed here in the Foothills all disappeared within hours of setting them up. Romney signs were left unmolested.

Anthony Watts, the climate change denying Chico meteorologist who also writes a popular climate change denying web-site (Watts Up With That) and was featured recently on PBS's News Hour, posted on Facebook a flag being flown upside down at half mast, in Chico. His post seemed to be encouraging this sort of behavior. Evidently this is a new protest: called a sign of "distress"--folks on the right used to think it was sacrilege to fly a flag upside down back when the Vietnam War was under protest. Now that a black man has been re-elected to the White House, those same "honor the flag" types seem to think it is an appropriate expression of First Amendment Rights.

In Red Bluff, California--a town on the valley floor 40 miles north of Chico--the hamlet's flag custodian, Vern Raglin, decided he would fly the flag upside down the morning after Obama won the election. He did this on property owned by the city. This caused quite a stir; a photo was taken and published in the Red Bluff paper.

Red Bluff is where John Brown's widow settled after John Brown was executed prior to the Civil War. Tom Hanks, the actor, also grew up there.  Today, Red Bluff is home to a lovely theatre that Tom Hanks helped to renovate (Hanks said he did it because it is the theatre where he saw the original "Planet of the Apes"). Red Bluff is also home to a newspaper that publishes some of the most outlandish opinions in California. To be a Democrat is synonymous (I kid you not) with being a Communist for some of these Neanderthals whose letters are regularly published in the paper.

Lately, the Red Bluff Daily has been all a flutter with opinions about Vern Raglin's impulsive act. The paper's editor, Chip Thompson, wrote a nasty defense of the public protest; equating flying the flag upside down with those Vietnam War protesters who put flowers into the barrels of National Guard Troop's guns.

One of the paper's reporters, a snot-nosed bloated kid, said that flags are desecrated everyday, so it is no big deal. In fact, those who criticised the public demonstration on public property were just as worthy of being damned: "Did Mr. Raglin disrespect the flag? Of course he did, but all those who chastised him for doing so were just as disrespectful. Our ideals are only hurt when we cheaply reflect them."

My view? Symbols have power. Flying the flag upside down in protest to Obama's re-election is the moral equivalent of burning a cross on the White House lawn. It is a racist response to a campaign that was laden with race metaphors. I find it to be a disgusting act that describes more about the protester than the protest itself. It is similar to George Wallace standing on the steps of the University, blocking the entrance of those brave black students who were asserting their God given Constitutional rights.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chico ER Hates Climate Change Plans.

One of the more entertaining newspapers in this region is the Chico Enterprise Record. Chico is a good college town. As such it boasts a more liberal, and green, city government. Today the Chico ER launched into the town's sustainability committee with this editorial:

Editorial: Chico's haste on climate plan odd

Our view: When the City Council ramrodded through a climate action plan on election night, it did a real disservice to the public.

So, the city of Chico now has a climate action plan. Do you know what's in it? Did you know the city was working on such a thing? If you're like most Chicoans, the answer to both questions is no. Well, it's a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Chico by 25 percent from 2005's level by 2020. The state's aiming for a 15 percent reduction, but hey, this is Chico. We aim high, even if it causes some hardships. 

The plan's been shuffling through the city's maze of commissions and task forces for a few years and finally hit the City Council — where the general public was actually likely to notice — last week. On election night. In other words, when the general public wasn't likely to notice.  The sensible thing would have been to delay it to a night when people wouldn't have to choose between following election results or commenting on some obscure, enormous, dense plan they hadn't heard of before.

 But no, the mayor and the other liberals on the council said the plan had been vetted enough and went ahead and approved the thing on a 5-2 vote.  The plan's vetting has been through groups of like-minded people like the Sustainability Task Force, that hold views not common across Chico. Those views read, for example, "If parking remains abundant and traffic is not congested, vehicle travel will continue to be a convenient option," and they agree convenience is a bad thing.

And they apparently don't think a business with more than 100 jobs that is looking at coming to town might blanch at the requirement to submit a "Travel Demand Management Plan" explaining how it's going to reduce "single-occupancy vehicle trips" among its employees.  There's lots of that stuff in there. Requiring home energy updates before you can sell your house. Dividing Chico between the two waste haulers in town to reduce the amount of garbage truck traffic.

And in a second phase of implementation (starting in 2016), requiring "large employers" to provide showers and bike parking out of the rain. How large an employer? Not defined. How much greenhouse gas will be reduced? Yet to be determined. And why are we doing this?

Why have we spent $124,000 in tax dollars on this plan? Apparently because it makes some people feel good, since it's not going to have a bit of effect. The very first words in the plan are: "While Chico plays a very small role in the global problem of climate change ..."

Indeed. The city figures Chico emits a bit more than a half-million of the 469 million tons of greenhouse gases oozing out of California annually. Just under half the reduction the city is shooting for is coming from things others are doing. It's coming from increasing federal vehicle fuel efficiency standards and state regulation requiring, among other things, that power companies use more renewable sources. Those rules are just going to be screwed down tighter in the years ahead. Such state and federal moves are more effective — targeting the big players and resulting in the biggest reductions. We're looking at changing all the streetlights in Chico. But apparently we have money to burn, and time to burn developing a plan ... except when it's time to approve it.

Climate change isn't popular in these parts. The Chico ER endorsed Doug La Malfa for congress (the Republican who won). Doug La Malfa is most famous for saying that he believes in climate change. "It happens every year when the seasons change." Doug La Malfa also got into trouble for saying that having an abortion leads to cancer. Sigh.

Back to climate change and the sustainability task force. Of course cities should plan for the future. Planning for traffic and figuring out ways to get people onto bikes is an inexpensive and heroic thing for a city to do. I bet New York City and the Jersey shore communities wished they had planned a bit more for climate change.

As for passing this plan on election night? The committee has been meeting publicly for years (a friend of mine serves on this task force). The community has had plenty of opportunities to address what is in the report.

Travels, Travails and Terrors of Northern Caifornia..

Why a new blog? It's simple: I read almost every Northern California newspaper everyday. I live in Northern California. This up valley land, on the edge of three mountain ranges, is rich in characters and politics. We have the worst (and most entertaining) right wing newspapers and politicians found anywhere in the United States of America (with the possible exception of Texas and Alabama). The material is just too rich not to share. Life is too rich here not to share.

I've chronicled taking a daily walk at 365 Walks. I've chronicled building my home (still not completed, by the way). I've written about taking a solo backpacking trip. Now I want to put it all together in a site that includes some of these things, but also expands it to what life, and politics, are like here in this Red part of California.

I can literally see Paradise from my porch. The town of Paradise, that is. Paradise, California: A town whose claim to fame is that they are the largest city in America totally dependent upon individual septic systems. Thousands and thousands of people flushing their waste with no treatment. Or, as a friend of mine said, Chico better hope that shit doesn't slide downhill.

I wander all across this state weekly. I guiltily burn lots of Carbon as I split my time between the Napa Valley and the Northern California Foothills. As such, I see a whole lot. I want to share some of what I learn, see and read here.