Sunday, December 28, 2014

Joni Saves a Bear...

On Friday Joni was out raking leaves when she heard a commotion. A pickup truck with an enthusiastic Redneck driver, was chasing a bear up our road. More than likely, he was trying to run it over. The harassed bear chose to climb about 75 feet up into a Ponderosa tree on the edge of our property. This was not a small bear: he was a good sized adult.

Joni went over to the man who was staring up at the bear. He wanted to kill it.

"Is this bear hurting your livestock?" he asked. Joni said no, we don't have any livestock.

"Is this bear eating your garden?" he asked. By garden he meant pot garden. Many of the pot gardeners, of which there are around 5,000 in Butte County, shoot anything that comes near their gardens, worried that the deer or bear will eat their precious and pricey plants. Fish and Wildlife Officers tell me that there has been about a 50% reduction in the numbers of wildlife in the past five years because of this poaching.

Joni told the man we don't have a garden.

In order to defuse the situation, Joni mentioned how cute the bear was. The man wanted to kill the bear in order to put him in his freezer. Joni explained to the man that the bear was more than welcome on our property; they were here first. In the end, the guy figured out that Joni wasn't going to approve of the bear being killed. The man left.

Joni returned later with binoculars and watched the bear for awhile. She then left. He was gone the next morning.

Of course, we are infuriated by the Redneck's behavior, chasing a bear with his truck. Trying to run it over and then wanting to kill it for no good reason. Looking for any reason he could find to kill the bear as a nuisance.

Does this bear know that Joni saved its life? I think so. He will remember her going to bat for him. She made another friend that day.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Poverty and the Change Jar

Have you ever had a Scarlet O'Hara moment? Scarlet's last line just before the Intermission in Gone with the Wind is (from memory): "As God as my witness, I will never be poor again!"

Poverty sucks. And for those who are into the voluntary poverty movement, as I was for a time, it seems to me that voluntary poverty has the danger of just becoming outright poverty. There is nothing glamorous about poverty. St. Francis might have been able to give away his clothes in the public square and, therefore, renounce the riches of his Father (adolescent rebellion?) and have a good life, but, for most, poverty is a mind numbing, belly hurting, chaos creating, crime producing, drug use inducing awful way of life that should be eliminated from the planet. And for those who listen to Jesus and think we must always have poor people, as when he said there will always be poor people---I say Shame! Perhaps Jesus was talking about the poor in Norway? I'd rather be poor in Scandinavia rather than Chad. Life for the poor in the US is becoming ever more desperate.

There is nothing good about poverty. Being poor is the number one predictor of mental illness. Poor people are less happy than people who have enough money (usually seen as an income around $60,000 a year in the US). Poor people get worse services, poorer health care and die younger than do middle class or rich people. If you are poor in the US, you'd be better off to go have your babies in Cuba because they have a lower infant mortality rate than poor people do in the US.

I have had times in my life when I was very poor. The poorest time was just after finishing nursing school and there were no jobs for RN's in Minnesota. This happens in nursing with ebbs and flows of jobs available, dependent upon economic conditions. Well, it was a poor time and I couldn't find a job. One day I managed to find a job opening in Las Vegas with interviews being conducted in Omaha, Nebraska. The problem was my girlfriend at the time and I had no money. All our credit cards were maxed out. Texaco sent me a letter requesting that I stop using their credit card at gas stations; I was using that card to buy food.

My girlfriend and I managed to secure an interview in Omaha. The problem was getting there. I managed to sell a story to the Fillmore County Journal for $25 bucks (gas money) and we found a can of peas and a can of tuna fish to eat on the journey. The $25 was just enough to get us to Omaha and back. We cleaned up in a Rest Area previous to the interview. We got the jobs and we were given a sign on bonus to get us to Las Vegas.

I vowed after that to never be poor again.

Of course, there have been times with little money since then. Just after Joni had to stop working because of her back, we were having a tough time making ends meet. I was picking up as many hours as possible, but with the responsibilities of home and  hearth and kids, it wasn't quite enough. It was then that the Change Jar tradition started.

During this poor episode, I had a Change Jar. As many people do, I take my spare change and throw it into a gallon sized pickle jar. This was my emergency gas fund to be used when funds were low in the checking account. I used to carry it in the trunk of my car for awhile, after one unfortunate incident in a gas station in Clear Lake when I was out of gas and our checking account didn't have sufficient funds to get more gas. Stranded in Clear Lake with 120 miles ahead to get home, I was able to find enough change in the car in order to eek out just enough gas to get me home. Thank heavens for 40 mile per gallon cars.

As we eased ourselves out of dire poverty, the Change Jar evolved into being a Christmas Fund. Every year, around Christmas time, I bring the jar into Safeway and put the change into one of those change machines they have there. Forget the name, but they take a cut of the money, which seems fair to me as banks don't do change counting anymore.

This weekend I will take the Change Jar (pictured above) into Safeway. I'm thinking there is $150 in that jar. And then, I will start anew, hoping that the Change Jar remains a Christmas Fund and not Gas Money.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Well, that was quite a year. It began with me on disability, followed by a cancer scare, followed by a miserable post procedure infection that made me ill for a couple months. There was a time during the first half of the year, when I wondered if I would ever feel well again.

It took over a year to recover from getting hurt by a patient. And I still have to take pain medication for periscapular myofascial pain syndrome. Because of this injury, I decided to hang up my inpatient spurs and to move on to a new job. After 11 years at St. Helena Hospital, I took a home health psychiatric nurse job which has been a good fit for me. I drive way too much (which isn't good for my back) and I work way too many hours but at least I don't have to worry about being pummeled by a patient anymore. The pay is substantially less than what I am used to and the benefits suck. The plus side is I get to go home every night.

But mostly I'm happy that I don't have to wrestle with patients. When I think back on my inpatient career and try to count the number of times we had to put "hands on" a patient because of dangerous behavior, I would estimate that I have been involved in probably 500 "take downs". As the years have gone by, it took longer and longer to recover from the broken ribs and the bruises from these violent events. The last one was the last straw. Psychiatric nurses, like police officers, should be able to retire with a pension at age 50.

It was a good Christmas here. All the gifts were practical and needed. It was a relaxed time and we all pretty much just enjoyed each other's company.

And the year ahead? There is so much I want to do. Time to start scratching a few of those bucket list items off the list.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Constitional Right to Kill?

I had the Guest Comment in the CNR today. Go have a look at it here.

I struggle whether to allow Anonymous comments on this blog. This thing serves as a place for me to kind of informally wrestle with a few ideas or concepts. A place to write and keep the thoughts flowing. When I have written about a few controversial items in the past, the Anonymous posters sometimes can be unkind. I love debate, in fact, I encourage it. But the nastiness of a Pothead who thinks he is about to lose access to his Precious, as has happened with a few posts--well, that caused me to do away with the Anonymous posts until after the election.

And then there was the post that I wrote about The Demise of Backpacking. The lightweight backpacking crowd got a hold of it and weren't too pleased with that opinion.

After the election, I decided to keep the Anonymous feature, but to moderate the responses. A happy medium.

On a couple of posts about the end of coyote killing contests, an Anonymous poster writes in (go ahead and read the posts) twice to proclaim how hunters are going to have the hunt in Adin anyway and that interest is high in the event. He (and only a he would be so belligerent) insinuates that more coyotes will be killed now more than ever. Just so you don't have to go read the posts, here they are:

Here they are:

This year's coyote "event" will be larger and more successful than in years past.
The only difference is that there will be no prizes awarded, as per recently enacted California regulations.

It was a big mistake to try to ban this event, all you accomplished was to bring hunters together in solidarity.

There are already more interested participants than in last years event.


And the other one:

The hunt has not stopped, only the prizes.It is no longer a "contest" it's a constitutionally protected right to assemble.
It's gathering even more momentum than in years past as a show of solidarity amongst hunters.
Happy trails... ; )

So these hunters think they have a Constitutional  Right to kill as many coyotes as possible. What they don't get is that California is having a reappraisal of the role of predators in the environment. As such, we can probably expect more reforms, including a hunting season and probable bag and possession limits. Or perhaps a ban altogether, just like we have with the mountain lion.

Note that this gentleman gives an argument that is not based on wildlife science. This is more of a lifestyle argument. An appeal to baser instincts, as hunters come together to kill as many creatures as possible. I doubt that real hunters care for killing contests. The guy who wrote the lines above displays the attitude that killed off the bison and the passenger pigeon. It is despicable and reminds me just how awful some people are.

So does the Anonymous poster have some inside knowledge of the Adin Hunt? Or is he just yanking my chain? I don't know. I do know that he seems a bit unstable and hateful. And I'm not too happy to have this person focused on me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kim Jong Un and The Satanic Verses

What a day. I heard the news this morning that Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba. It is about time! Joni immediately gave me permission to go to Cuba and see what is going on there. Perhaps I will.

And SONY decided to not release a movie called "The Interview" that is supposedly a comedy about killing the North Korean child dictator. Often called The Hermit Kingdom, North Korea is a terrible place. And the leaders have even larger egos than usual. The new kid leader, Kim Jong Un, who carries on the tradition he inherited from his father and grandfather, didn't take too kindly to an American movie that supposedly lampoons his assassination. So he put his security apparatus up to the task of hacking SONY and also to deliver threats against American movie goers. Somehow they pulled off the hacking part, which, we shouldn't be too surprised because they also have been successful in building a nuclear weapon. Yes, they may not be able to feed their people, but they do seem to have a knack to build stuff and even hack into SONY. We shouldn't underestimate them.

So with all the threats, SONY bowed to the pressure and decided to cancel the release of the movie. It was supposed to be a Christmas Day release. And I had planned to go to it then. Screw Kim Jong Un.

Compare this to when The Satanic Verses came out. In case you don't remember, Salman Rushdie wrote a novel about Mohammed that was none too flattering. Conservative Muslim Clerics didn't care for it and threatened the author and also threatened those who sold the book. I was working at a bookstore at the time. We had threats, but we stocked the book. We didn't put it in the front window; you had to ask for it and we would retrieve a copy for you. Everyone thought there might be violence over that book. Salman Rushdie went into hiding, from which, he hasn't emerged yet. In the end, nothing happened and we considered it our patriotic duty to sell it, even though I only made the minimum wage at the time. We risked our lives for peanuts and we were proud of it.

I guess booksellers are braver than cinema owners.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Coyotes Win!

Every evening, the local coyotes that inhabit my off grid neighborhood break into song. I like to think they are singing about something, sharing stories, letting the world know of their joy. Listening to the coyotes sing----their yip, yipping---is comforting to me. An exhilarating comforting experience, a simple pleasure, much like listening to the pitter of rain on my tin roof or watching the flames (and feeling the heat) from my woodstove.
I sometimes capture one or two of them on my trail camera that I set up on this ridge. Handsome critters, always caught during the night. They are incredibly smart animals. Once on a hike, a coyote ran in front of me and my dogs, taunting us, making the dogs give chase. While chasing after the dogs (and the coyote), I looked over my shoulder, only to see another coyote slouching away, protecting their den and pups. We were too close to their home so a diversion had to be created. It worked.

As long as we don’t raise chickens, the coyotes mostly leave us alone, content to do their job of keeping the rodent population down in this semi-wild community. An important task, what with the hanta virus and bubonic plague making a comeback. They are welcome neighbors. Beneficial.

A neighbor raises goats. She has guard dogs that protect the herd. She hasn’t lost any goats to the resident coyotes. There is a gentle balance of wild and domestic here in these woods. Co-existence.
It is hard to believe that anyone would kill coyotes for the sport of it. For pleasure. That “killing contests” would still exist in this modern age. It is hard to believe that contests that gave extra points for killing pregnant female coyotes would be an acceptable part of our culture.  Nor would anybody believe that a killing contest would be a reasonable management tool for ranchers. I wrote a story once about such a contest. I traveled to Adin, California where hunters hid their mass kill from my prying eyes.

Last week the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 1 to end such killing contests. Once again, just like the mountain lion hunting ban that passed by citizen initiative back in 1990, California is leading the nation. We are rethinking our relationship to predators. And we are a better state for doing so.

When the coyotes in my neighborhood sang for me that night after the ban was established, I like to think they did so in celebration of the Game Commission’s ban. And to share that joy, I howl with them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Missing My Hikes....

For the last six months I have worked full-time. More than full time. I get up much too early, drive Kylie 45 minutes to her school, then spend the rest of the day driving around the better part of four counties. I leave at 7 am; I get home, generally, between 6 and 7 pm. Then I have to chart the day's activities.

I feel like a long haul truck driver who sees psychiatric patients.

The job is fulfilling but the sitting in the car, followed by sitting with clients, is killing me. And the pay is certainly less than what I am used to.

The worst part is that I miss my walks with my dogs. Without that grounding exercise, I feel like I am quietly losing a part of who/what I am. I miss the daily romp in my woods. I miss seeing my incense cedar tree, that poor exile tree that should be living a few thousand feet higher. And I miss the trek down to the bottom of the canyon.

And I miss my time to read. How does a person go through life without reading two or three books a week?

I took this job because I was sick of traveling and not being home at night. I fixed one problem (not being home at night) but the other problem remains not fixed. I travel much more now.

Little by little, this job is sucking the life out of me. I feel less creative. Ungrounded. Stale.

It will get better when daylight lasts a little longer and I can take the dogs out for our hikes in the evening. It is depressing to note just how long it will be until that is possible. Probably March. Three more months of being Natureless is unacceptable.

I have to figure out how to change this or I will go insane. I can't spend this much time seeing the world from behind a windshield.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The End of Coyote Killing Contests in California...

A couple years ago I ran across a photo of the coyote hunt up in Adin. The photo showed around 50 dead coyotes, laid out in the middle of the town of Adin. Dozens of hunters posed with the dead coyotes in the picture. The photo was on a website advertising a coyote killing contest. The photos appalled me and I immediately made plans to go write about that hunt. I missed the hunt that year: 2012. But in 2013 I made it there. In the meantime, I sent out the link to the hunt to everyone I knew. I wrote to the Center for Biological Diversity and several other enviro groups in an effort to get the attention of people regarding this barbaric hunt.

A couple weeks before that 2013 hunt, one of the links I sent out caught the attention of Camilla Fox at Project Coyote and several other wildlife organizations. They hurriedly launched a petition drive to end the hunt. They were unsuccessful; the hunt went on.

I had already planned on being there. I got the gig from the CNR and, foolishly, brought Kylie with me to cover the event. It was a tense place to be and Kylie and I nearly got arrested.

Today the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 1 to end Coyote Killing Contests in California. In fact, they ended almost all wildlife killing contests. I am proud to have played a small role in ending these barbaric hunts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Going Ornish...

Two days of eating low fat, delicious, mostly vegetarian food created by Joni and all is well. We call it "Going Ornish" after the program and diet advocated by the Low Fat Guru: Dr. Dean Ornish. He also advocates exercise and meditation in addition to the diet. My job and the demands of life get in the way of exercise. I sit for a living. Today from 7 am until bedtime. Tonight I had the quiet meditation of rain drops falling on our tin roof.

But we have begun making the change.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ornish and the American Working Class: Reflections on Heart Disease

A week of mild chest pain sent me to the bookstore to look up Dean Ornish MD.

When a patient broke my ribs and damaged my lung and back a couple years ago, a CT of the affected area revealed that I have moderate to severe Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). The test revealed calcification of those ever important arteries that keeps the heart alive. After getting the diagnosis, I did all the things you are supposed to do: I got a stress test. I had already gotten my cholesterol under control and have had dramatic improvement in those important numbers. I take a statin. I take Niacin and Fish Oil, Cinnamon, Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium. These items have brought my cholesterol down and my HDL/LDL ratio to dramatically improve. The numbers say I am at a low risk; I know better than that.

For those who don't know, Dr. Dean Ornish is the guru of diet, exercise and stress reduction to treat heart disease. His program is revolutionary in that he actually proved that CAD can be reversed. In his latest book, Spectrum, he tries to change his image from the No Fat Ascetic that he used to be, to a more reasonable, "everything in moderation" sort of guy. His whole approach now is to lean to the Spectrum of good health behaviors and diet, according to the desired result of the patient. The sicker you are, the more to the good side you should spend most of your time. It is a Spectrum.

When Ornish originally introduced his program, it was very effective. The problem was that the lifestyle changes required were not sustainable for most people. It was too severe.

What Ornish and his colleagues have also discovered is that you can treat Prostate Cancer with the same approach and have documented evidence of slowing and stopping the progression of Prostate Cancer by using his techniques.

Well, I have both conditions. Coronary Artery Disease and an elevated PSA that resulted in a negative biopsy last Spring. I will never, ever have another biopsy, no matter what my PSA numbers elevate to, because the one I did have got infected and I felt extremely ill for almost two months after it. The procedure is painful and often leads to infection. I'll take my chances on cancer.

So how's the chest pain? I started back on a blood pressure medication that I had run out of  and that seems to have taken care of it. But with CAD, you know it is there, lurking like a shark, waiting to attack.

I have a very sedentary new lifestyle. I love this new job, but driving from 7 am to 7 pm takes a toll. I drive to drop Kylie off in the morning, then drive to an appointment and then sit and talk; drive to the next one and sit and talk; drive to the next one and sit and talk. It is not unusual for me to drive over 200 miles a day. My territory is huge from Oroville to Corning; Los Molinas to Willows; Orland and Chico to Magalia. My territory is as large as some New England States. That's a lot of sitting.

I joined a gym but have been increasingly fatigued while trying to muster the energy to run on the treadmill. I walk now--when I can fit a visit in. My new life of getting up so damned early, not getting enough sleep, 16 hour days, a job that requires lots of home time charting, and endless travel have taken a toll.

Since nothing can really change in my life (I need this job to survive with all the travel, long hours and sedentariness)---the only thing that can really change (and needs to change) is the way I eat. Ornish is right about this.

But there is something that just makes me feel very unsettled about these health Gurus like Ornish and Andy Weil. What I find so unsettling about both of them is the way they advocate a certain amount of personal piety but do not ever examine the larger picture that creates the need for the personal piety.

Ornish acknowledges his friends in the back of the book: it reads like a Whose
Who from Bono to Bill Clinton. Tony Robbins is even in there---and if there was ever a Guru of personal self indulgence with no hint of social responsibility it would be Tony Robbins. The impression is that this lifestyle is for the elite; and in fact, it is mostly the middle to upper classes who have the economic privilege to be able to spend the time and energy it takes to become healthy. You don't see many low wage workers from McDonald's entering Ornish's program at the Cleveland Clinic. Alternative heart disease treatment is for the well educated monied class. The rest of us take a pill and go back to work with the endless hours, low pay and fast food drive-thrus.

It is too easy to sit back and blame the lazy American for being fat and not caring about his/her health. Screw that: the American Working Class are working too hard to provide for their families to pay attention to taking care of themselves. And the choices offered are easy, unhealthy but time saving. And time is the one thing the American Working Class does not have.

And so that leads me to this question: What is more important for the health of a population: an Active Government that is interested in the health of its citizens (think Norway or Cuba) or the Personal Piety of the democratic masses (think Ornish and Weil)? I would argue that the Government is more important.

Something to think about. In the meantime, time to start eating oatmeal and broccoli.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Heroes...

Thanksgiving 2014.

It is a quiet one with just Joni, Kylie and me home to celebrate it. Of course, I'm still kind of getting used to this idea of having a normal 9 to 5, weekends-and-holidays-off job. It is abnormal for me to have such a normal life. So many take if for granted to have weekends and holidays off. Just like so many take it for granted to go to bed at night and not have to work a job that makes you stay awake all night, being alert while the rest of creation slumbers.

In one sense, that makes me a recovering nurse. Recovering from the weird schedules, endless hours and major holidays worked. All of that takes a toll on one's health. And on one's family.

And so I think of all those public servants who work taking care of others on the holidays, weekends and nights. They sacrifice a whole lot just so that the rest of us are taken care of. Bless them. They are heroes. My friend, Jaime O'Neill had a column recently that said much the same thing. As usual, he is right.

Joni was lauded by the CNR as a hero for her courage and pluck when she took on the Big Oil people in court. If life ever imitated a Frank Kapra movie, Joni doing her own legal research and having the guts to petition in court against million dollar lawyers certainly would qualify. She deserves all of the praise she has received for this brave act.

I watched her go through the whole process. She spent hours in the law library. She just said, after the Big Oil lawyers intimidated Butte County into withdrawing the petition, "Enough!" Although she was unsuccessful getting it on the ballot this election cycle, it will be on the ballot for the next election. Big Oil doesn't always win. We'll get to prove that in 2016.

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


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.

The Deep Dive...

Four days away from the Mid-term election and I have almost no excitement for it. Instead, I feel dread. I've been thinking about survival strategies to get through the next two years of the Republicans owning the House and the Senate. Do I follow along and enjoy the comedy of the situation? Or do I withdraw?

And the one issue that really affects me personally on the local ballot is the Cannabis Initiative. If Measure A is elected, we just might stop some of this awful growth out here in the Foothills; if Measure B wins, well, then Butte County becomes a pothead's delight for the foreseeable future. How to deal if the potheads win?

Again, do I enjoy the comedy of the situation? Or do I withdraw?

Humor and withdrawal are both equally decent defense mechanisms. One enables us to continue to engage in the world around us; the other enables us to survive that mean, new world.

The humor is going to have to wait: I see nothing funny about either a Senate full of Republicans or the Foothills filled with commercial cannabis entrepreneurs. Should we end up with both, I think I will take a deep dive.

I may even shut this blog down. Quit writing. Focus more on my bank account and less on the problems of the world. Retreat into work. Stop caring so much about all this stupidity around me. It seems like the stupidity increases just as quickly as the CO2 numbers climb.

The local Democrats got into trouble for putting out fake mailers. Some candidates that you think would know better got involved in this. Lupe Arim-Law, a good Democrat running for the Chico Council, signed up for one of them making her look like she got the endorsement of a Law Enforcement Group. And the Pot People bought into one that made it look like the Republican Party endorsed their issue. I'd expect such behavior from the Cannabis People--they will do anything, legal and illegal, to win. But the Democrats who did it surprised me. Especially Lupe Arim-Law.

I guess that's what happens when the local Democrats get into bed with the Pot Growers. They lose all sense of ethics. Which is one reason why I am seriously considering leaving the local Democratic Party. They are morally bankrupt followers of a herd. The local Democrats have become a childish, immature, sloganeering, urban, deceitful followers of whatever the current fad is. I haven't seen or read anything thoughtful out of any of them in a long, long time. The Butte Environmental Council has started a campaign against chopping down 25 trees in Chico, yet they totally ignore the sudden loss of decent Savannah Woodland habitat and the loss of the tributaries to Lake Oroville to illegal cannabis grows.

I grow tired of this battle.

You can't fight that kind of stupid. I may just have to re-register as an Independent.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

North Dakota, Jackpot and Early Grieving...

I am back home. That was quite an exciting week. Last Wednesday, I went into the belly of the beast to argue for stricter controls on cannabis gardens. Going on the local Liberal Radio in order to argue a point that has very little support amongst the Herd of Liberals, well, that just isn't a wise thing to do. Nobody wants to hear anything negative about wonder weed. To do so is Liberal Blasphemy.

I was there to support my piece in ChicoSol and also to support Measure A here in Butte County (which severely limits the amount of pot that can be legally grown). My point? Our current method of managing cannabis has led to the environmental and social destruction of the rural areas of California. And in those areas you are seeing a backlash against it. Next month there will be ballot measures for tighter controls of marijuana in Lake County, Shasta County, Nevada County and Butte County. Even the emerald green counties of Humboldt and Mendocino have seen a backlash against cannabis production--with their County Supervisors starting to raise a stink about it. The pro-cannabis people present an image of Jeffersonian Farmers heroically raising a vital product out of unselfish concern for their fellow humans. Greed is never mentioned. Nor the fact that the Pacific fisher is about to be put on the endangered species list because of cannabis farming.

I hope it did some good and got a few people to think. I favor a form of Cannabis Socialism, with the licensing of the production, distribution and sale of legal weed.

And then off I went to Minnesota for a quick visit with my Dad, brother and a grueling, lonely van trip back to California via the long way: through North Dakota.

I spent four days driving back to California. I slept in a compartment of the van (it was full of furniture from my childhood home) just outside of Mordor (Bismarck, North Dakota). The Dakotans are happy with fracking; they are getting rich. And they say the boom will last 35 more years.

Of course, I got caught in the rain/snow traveling through the Rockies and the high desert. My window wiper motor burned out just outside of Jackpot, Nevada---leaving me stranded for a bit until it stopped raining/snowing. Never thought I would spend a night in a trashy casino in Jackpot, Nevada.

It was in Jackpot, sipping on my fourth Bloody Mary (weakly poured) that a waitress from Russia told me she was born in Leningrad.

"Don't you mean, St. Petersburg?", I asked.

"No", she said. "I was born in Leningrad". Then she said something in Russian which I think probably had something to do with a yearning for those heady years of Brezhnev---who, to this day, remains Russia's most popular leader.

There is nothing like a road trip across the American West that will wet your appetite for more travel and adventure in the American West. We are so very lucky to live in a part of the world that still has something wild left in it. Fly over Iowa and look at the domesticated grid like pattern of industrial agriculture and you really start to appreciate just how wonderful it is to have some wilderness left to explore. It is all I can do to not quit my job and pack Joni and the dogs into the van and head on out for a few years. I guess we think of such things when we are in our 50's. We become Kerouacs. Wannabe Beatniks.

I drove by so many places I want to explore. Like the Valley of the Moon Monument in Idaho. What is that about? I want to wander about the battlefield at Little Big Horn. So much to do.

And so now I am home and in my Pre Election/Post Election Depression. I fully expect Measure A to lose; the Growers just have too much money for radio and TV spots and not one television truck has managed to leave the confines of Chico/Oroville to take a look at the huge number of grows that have sprung up out here. Nobody will investigate the allegations of environmental damage. I think they are too scared to venture out here.

I fully expect the Senate to go to the Republicans. And you know damned well we are going to have a few more years of LaMalfa for comic entertainment. Except it isn't funny. It stings all the more knowing that Heidi Hall is such a good fit for the job. It would be progress if her vote takes Butte County. She wins if she comes within 8 points.

So what to do for the next two years? Withdraw. Create my own sanity with my own small tribe of humans and dogs. Take small trips. Hike. Throw out the TV. Escape.

And then, later, go back to work to fight for all those good things we need: wild lands, economic justice, peace and real freedom. But first, a bit of wound licking and some much needed quiet time.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dispatch from the Bakken Shale

I'm sitting in a Perkins Restaurant on the edge of the Bakken Shale someplace west of Bismarck, North Dakota. There are "Hiring Now" signs everywhere. The Interstate Freeway billboards advertise things like "safe ignition flare" devices for oil derricks. Yesterday, I drove across Minnesota and most of North Dakota; making a trip to my boyhood home to bring back a couple items from my Father's home which is on the market. It is being sold to help defray the cost of the memory unit where he resides.

I'm driving home with my inheritance: A lazy boy love seat, an antique saw, a rocking chair (for my old age) and a table chair.

I slept last night in a Rest Stop squished kitty korner fashion amongst the loot in this rusty van I'm driving.

The radio ads across Minnesota were mostly attacks on Mark Dayton trying to explain why Minnesota is doing so well, despite raising taxes and investing in public education. Dayton is gonna win this thing in a breeze---having salvaged his career after getting a reputation for being a flake while he served in the US Senate. Over across the Mississippi, Scott Walker struggles to win re-election despite a separate strategy of austerity and tax cuts. If Scott Walker survives, we are certain to see his brand exported to the national level. Keep your fingers crossed that he will lose.

Minnesota and Wisconsin are case studies in what works and what doesn't work.

Here in North Dakota the residents are trying to salve their collective guilt with a ballot initiative that would take 5% of the profits from the oil money from the Bakken Shale and invest that into wildlife habitat. I wish they would put the money into ReWilding the place. These prairie hills need bison. About a million of them. That would make the drive across North Dakota much more interesting; I'd like to wait for about thirty minutes for a hundred thousand bison to cross the road.

There is no protest against fracking here. The place is awash in money. North Dakota has no income tax and they have no clue what to do with all the money they are taking in. There are some wind turbines visible. That'd be one place to invest it. North Dakota had a choice as to what to invest in, Green Energy or Increased Global Temperatures. They chose to have a warmer climate.

While in Fargo, I saw hundreds of new rail tank cars rushing by, all filled with the liquid gold. My brother tells me that the oil companies say there is at least 35 years of oil to be pumped out of the ground on this wind swept prairie. This oil boom is going to last, the locals say. Of course, no one wants to live here and someday it will return to the bison as they march past the collapsing boom towns of manufactured housing. That is, if the grass and the bison can handle increased temperatures.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

On Science, GMO's and Philosophy....

It is all the rage these days to accuse a few segments of the population that deny the efficacy of some things as being "Anti-Science". We throw those words around a whole lot when we talk about those who deny Climate Change. Or those who deny the value of vaccines. I've used the words myself when in debate with these two groups.

But the other day I was called "Anti-Science". Why? Because I don't want to eat salmon that have eel genes in them. And I don't want to eat vegetables or grains that have been engineered to withstand Roundup. It was the standard GMO debate and I was lumped into the category of those who don't believe in science. And since, in their view, there have been no studies that demonstrate GMO foods as being unsafe, well, then we have an obligation to feed the starving millions by using such crops en masse, right away, as soon as possible.

Of course, science is just a tool, often of whoever pays for it---but a tool. It should be a part of how we argue points with each other, but not the only, or even the best, points to be made in an argument.

There is still room for Philosophy. And I mean Philosophy in its best sense: the love of Wisdom. And there is still room for Morality.

Or as Saint Ed once said: “Though men now possess the power to dominate and exploit every corner of the natural world, nothing in that fact implies that they have the right or the need to do so.”

Amen, Ed.

And that's where I politely part company with those who have a magical belief that Science is the one thing that sets us apart from the Natural World. It has to do with Dominion, which is as much a part of a Monsanto Scientist's belief system as it is the holy roller Pat Robertson who believes the world was put here for our exploitation and that when we are done, Jesus will rapture us away to some other place, where, I assume the exploitation will continue.

Thus far, we haven't seen good science that demonstrates that GMO foods are bad. And there are those who argue that Three Mile Island wasn't terrible and that Chernobyl didn't kill a million people. But the parallels with Nuclear Power and GMO's are much the same for me. The manipulation of the atom is the same as the manipulation of the gene. Both frightening ethical territory. And the will to proceed with both technologies, I think, stems from what your world view is regarding our Dominion over Creation.

It is a Religious Argument. A Philosophical Argument. An argument that frames science but doesn't rely on science as the end of the argument.

When I call somebody "Anti-Science", I have to think a bit before bringing that arrow out of the quiver. Because I can be Anti-Science too. And I am Anti-Science when it comes to a few issues.

Reason and Science are not the same. We should never forget that.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

80 Things I don't believe in or don't like

1. The invisible hand of the market.
2. Buildings with windows you can't open.
3. Anthony Watts.
4. The Chico ER.
5. Urban Enviros who love cannabis more than the integrity of the rural areas of Butte County.
6. Left Hand Turns.
7. UPS
8. Tabouli.
9. Tofu.
10. Applebees.
11. Chili's.
12. Marie Calendars
13. Any restaurant that uses a microwave and doesn't have a knife in the kitchen.
14. Generic Mac and Cheese.
15. Generic Cereal.
16. Advertisements for Cialis and Viagra.
17. Sitting through advertisements for Cialis and Viagra with teen-aged granddaughters.
18. Fox News.
19. Most MSNBC shows before Chris Mathews at 16:00.
20. Getting dressed up.
21. Clothes made out of anything other than cotton.
22. Trekking poles.
23. Store bought bread.
24. The Koch Brothers.
25. The Oil and Gas Industry.
26. Japanese Whaling.
27. Norwegian Whaling.
28. Russian Whaling.
29. Cell Phones.
30. Taiji Japan.
31. Warren Buffet.
32. Steven Jobs.
33. Apple products.
34. Silicon Valley.
35. Smart Phones.
36. Anthropocentrism.
37. Adrenaline Sports in Wilderness Areas.
38. Rock Climbing.
39. Private Health Insurance dependent upon who your employer is.
40. New Agers who believe they construct their own positive, joy joy reality.
41. Dollar Stores.
42. The New CNN
43. Dan Logue.
44. Rand Paul.
45. Logging Shows on the Discovery Channel.
46. Most everything on cable TV (so we got rid of it).
47. Most Music Since 1980.
48. Dancing.
49. Sheet Rock (the stuff walls are made of).
50. Suburban Housing Developments.
51. John Updike.
52. The Nation Magazine.
53. Most Magazines that originate on the East Coast.
54. GQ
55. Vanity Fair
56. NPR
57. Any car that costs more than $20,000 new (possible exception: Prius).
58. McMansions.
59. Gated Communities.
60. No Trespassing Signs.
61. Quads.
62. Pickup Trucks that go off roading.
63. Guns.
64. Tread mills.
65. Texting.
66. Walmart.
67. Plastic bags.
68. Coal fired electrical plants.
69. Cameras on Lap Tops.
70. Skype.
71. HughesNet.
72. Domesticating Wolves as pets.
73. Fashion Magazines.
74. Suburban Pop Churches.
75. Doug LaMalfa
76. Joel Olsteen.
77. Homeschooling.
78. Anti-Vaxxers.
79. Scott Walker.
80. Rick Warren.

Friday, October 3, 2014

80 Things I Believe in or Like:

Things I believe in or like:

1. Baseball.
2. Buying simple, bottom of the line, basic cars.
3. Hiking.
4. Reading before bed.
5. Writing.
6. Statins.
7. Vaccines.
8. Inexpensive housing.
9. Dogs (best love money can buy).
10. Living in beautiful places.
11. Climate Change.
12. Cheap Housing.
13. Love.
14. Working less (this one I'm not living up to right now).
15. A really good bottle of wine.
16. Spending time outdoors everyday (again, I'm not living up to this one lately).
17. Pomegranate Juice.
18. Cinnamon.
19. Fish Oil.
20. Niacin.
21. Public Education.
22. Public Lands.
23. National Parks.
24. Solar Panels.
25. A Progressive Tax System.
26. More Taxes.
27. Less Defense Spending.
28. Oxford Button Down Collar 100% Cotton Shirts.
29. Blue Jeans.
30. 70's Singer Songwriters.
31. Road Trips Avoiding Interstates.
32. Non-Chain Restaurants.
33. Not Shopping.
34. Keen Hiking Boots.
35. Living in the country.
36. San Francisco.
37. Restaurants in the Napa Valley (Yountville and all points north of there).
38. Being skinny (been awhile since I've been this).
39. Being Active.
40. Getting Published.
41. Sloth.
42. Backpacking.
43. Political T-Shirts.
44. Ed Abbey.
45. Simplicity.
46. Facebook.
47. Passionate Discussion.
48. Donuts.
49. Public Investment in almost everything except bloated defense budgets.
50. Art Museums.
51. Gitane Cigarettes (which I will never imbibe in again).
52. Drinking a Latte' on a Sunday Morning while reading the New York Times.
53. Opinion pages of all newspapers.
54. Listening to Coyotes Sing.
55. Libraries.
56. Free Time.
57. Keen Sandals.
58. Having enough money.
59. Weekends by the ocean.
60. St. Orrs and weekends in Gualala.
61. Joshua Trees.
62. The big Cedar Tree on my walk.
63. Making a difference at work.
64. Having a Goal.
65. Sleeping under the stars.
66. Campfires.
67. The Pacific Crest Trail.
68. Frugality.
69. Houses made of mud.
70. Sleeping in.
71. Sea Shepherd.
72. Visiting the houses and graves of famous people.
73. Everything in the US west of the Rocky Mountains.
74. Norwegian Socialists.
75. Environmentalists.
76. Bumper stickers.
77. That breeze that flows down from the mountains about 11pm on summer nights that cools everything off.
78. Socialized Medicine.
79. Bike Trails.
80. The Ancient Burr Oak on top of Maggelson's Bluff in Rushford, Minnesota (see photo above).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

For Chris and Michael...

A man I never met died yesterday. He was the husband of a person that I admire. The husband of a woman who works tirelessly for peace. The husband of a woman who works tirelessly for the forest and the environment. The husband of a woman who is a very caring Nurse Practitioner. That husband also was an RN.

I never met Michael Pike, but I wanted to. I feel like I do know him because I read about him in Chris Nelson's blog: Veggie Voyagers. Chris writes eloquently and ever so honestly about her life and adventures, so when Michael came down with cancer, she wrote about it with style and dignity. The blog developed after a cross country adventure in their Veggie Mobile--a trip they turned into a book. Chris and Michael would take trips in their veggie wagon, always to lovely outdoorsy locations. Michael kept this old camper, held together with duct tape and chewing gum, running with veggie fuel he processed himself. The sense of adventure in their blog is infectious.

Michael was off cross country skiing up in Lassen National Park just a day after finishing a chemotherapy treatment. He was that sort of man. He never quit. I have never seen a man die so elegantly. Living so ferociously---canoeing, backpacking, traveling to remote locations all the way up to the last week of his life. He wrung and appreciated every last moment he had. I want to live and die like Michael did.

My heart goes out to Chris. Chris has read almost every nature book there is. Whenever I want to know something about a nature writer, I always ask Chris. She always knows the answer. I don't know when Chris will be able to write about this awful loss, but when she does write about it, I know it will be beautiful. These are two beautiful people.

Chris is grieving now, as all of us who knew (and didn't know) Michael are grieving. There will be a silent vigil for peace next Saturday in Chico to honor Michael Pike. Although I never met the man, I intend to be there. I only wish I had been able to meet him when he was still walking the planet. What a man. A hero.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Letter to Chico Liberals and Environmentalists: Yes on A; No on B.

Last month, the Butte County Central Committee of the Democratic Party voted to endorse a "No" vote on Measure A (which restricts the size of marijuana gardens to a very small scale) and a "Yes" vote on Measure B (which creates a commercial industry for cannabis). I was told by a person who attended the vote that it was the urban Chico contingent that pushed the party to make the endorsement. Rural Democrats on the Central Committee were against this endorsement.
It is the politically correct position these days to be “Pro” anything having to do with Cannabis. We rightly see legalization and decriminalization as a way to end the war on drugs that has led to so many people getting rap sheets, and not treatment, when it comes to the abuse of drugs. Yes, I agree. The war on drugs must end.  

But as a person who has been both a life-long Lefty and an Environmentalist who lives in rural Butte County, I do not see how endorsing Measure B protects rural Butte County from the ravages of greed. Let me explain.

In the past few years a new industry has sprung up in one of the most environmentally sensitive eco-systems we have left in California. The late environmental writer, Philip Fradkin, estimated that 75% of the wildlife in California lives within the environmental sweet spot between 1,000 and 4,000 feet in elevation. The great valleys of California have mostly been taken over by agriculture. Wildlife has been extirpated to what little habitat they have left.

The Foothills is what they have left. We should be very careful about letting any large scale commercial enterprise develop in that zone. Up until the cannabis boom, settlement in the rural Foothills was limited for a number of reasons: zoning, commute distances and the difficulty of the terrain. What little settlement there was in the far rural areas was limited to recreational cabins and a few “Mountain People”.
That has changed. Suddenly, just like the Gold Rush, the Green Rush made it economically viable to live in the Foothills. The fuzzy legal status of the Cannabis Industry has pushed it into the nether, unpopulated regions. Out of the way and mostly out of sight of Chicoans. In Butte County, the number of grows burst overnight to around 5,000 gardens. More are created every year. And these aren’t the Cartel Grows--- these are the Grows that are encouraged by a much too generous Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance such as Measure B.

So what has the impact been? Untrammeled growth in a sensitive environment. New roads going in. Water being diverted from streams. Wildlife are shot on sight by paranoid gardeners who want to protect their million dollar grows. Pit bulls and wolves are being reintroduced to the area, killing critters and menacing any recreational hiker. It has become a dangerous place to live, not because of the mountain lion or rattlesnake, but because of the need to protect grows (that can be worth up to a million dollars) with guns and aggressive canine.

From talking to the Fish and Wildlife employees in the area, the number of deer are plummeting, just like they have been plummeting in the marijuana rich counties of Mendocino, Lake and Humboldt. Population pressure and poaching are taking their toll.
We are mismanaging the Foothills and injecting a large commercial industry into an environmentally sensitive zone that should be left to the raccoon, squirrels, ring tailed cats, bear, deer, mountain lion, badger, marten, fisher, rattlesnake, wild turkey, quail, trout, salmon.

A vote for Measure B ensures that we will have less wildlife. Less wild space. More pit bulls and guns and mismanagement of rural areas. I know. I live there. I’ve witnessed the growth and the loss of habitat.

And so, dear Chico liberals and Environmentalists, please vote to limit the size of gardens. Vote Yes on Measure A. There are limits to growth. Let’s vote to limit our impact by maxing out the size of the gardens. We don’t need another commercial industry in the Foothills.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The State of Jefferson, Logging and the Confederate Mindset...

All across rural northern California you can find evidence of a growing secessionist movement.  The feeling I get when I look at all these billboards and flags (yes, flags) that are sprouting up everywhere  like measles spots as I drive around Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties for my job---the feeling I get is that I'm looking at the northern California version of the Confederate flag. And that's what it is essentially.

The State of Jefferson has been adopted by mostly extremist Tea Party types who pine for the days when there were no rules regarding resource extraction. They blame city people for most of the problems in rural areas, and they long for the days when resource extraction didn't come with all those "regulations". They mostly blame Environmentalists for their problems and most would shoot a spotted owl if they saw one.

However, if you look at time sequenced shots of the forests in northern California, you will see that there has been no shortage of resource extraction. The number of clear cuts is sickening and to watch them on time sequence shots is apalling. There is no shortage of logging. Mechanization has created a world where logging takes a couple of people to clear a forest---as seen on those horrid logging television shows. And what happens to the wood? Factories are more efficient, more mechanized and require fewer people. Plus much of the wood is shipped raw to China.

There has been no reduction in cutting of our forests. Ten minutes on Google Earth is all that is needed to prove that assertion. The reduction in work force has come from mechanization and global trade. The Third Worldization of rural California. Yet, it is so much easier to blame an Enviro. Or a spotted owl.

Ban shipping raw logs to other countries and rural California would immediately see an increase in jobs. Ban all clear cutting of forests and move to selective logging of the forests and  you would see an increase in jobs in California. Selective logging is much more labor intensive.

But for those who want to see an end to the onerous regulations that Sacramento supposedly imposes on rural California, well, it is much more fun to blame a bureaucrat or an Enviro for your problems.

Of course the State of Jefferson is a pipe dream. Can you imagine two more US Senators from Glenn and Siskiyou Counties? Can  you imagine two more Senators who would be like Doug LaMalfa and Dan Logue?  It is bad enough that we have to put up with the undue over representation of rural areas like Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. Political clout is already skewed towards unpopulated rural States.

But these Tea Partiers are convinced that a new State of Jefferson that would look and behave much like Texas would be the answer to all their woes. Well, their woes have been caused by a lack of vision in their elected Representatives for the past 40 years. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans have a decent plan for reintegrating rural areas into a functioning economy.

But at least the Tea Partiers have a plan. The Democrats have presented no ideas as to how to help rural California. Hence, without a competing vision, the people have bought the lies of the logging and the extraction industries and continue to elect politicians who are tied to the teats of these industries.

It wasn't always this way. Northern California was solidly in the Democratic camp up until 1980. What happened? The Unions were busted and local economies were destroyed in the previous 20 years as economies of scale brought cheap products in and moved the small manufacturers and the mom and pop shops out. Agriculture has been in a free fall from mechanization for seventy years and now is essentially controlled by a few corporations and a few rich families. Local examples of that would be the Butte County Rice Barons found in the LaMalfa family and the Lundbergs.  A tale of those two families would make a pretty interesting contrast: the organic, progressive Lundbergs who sit (and profit) on the same water district as the right wing, reactionary LaMalfas.

What is needed is a competing plan/vision for rural California. A plan that doesn't rely on extraction but on sustainability. A plan that markets beauty. Adventure. Local economies. All the benefits of rural life that creates good jobs without creating rural sprawl.

One thing is for certain: creating a State of Jefferson is not the answer, even if there was a snowballs chance in hell of being created.