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?