Monday, December 30, 2013

Good Bye Dr. Khan, 2013 and Thoughts on Writing...

This will be the last entry for 2013, as I work tomorrow and then will be traveling across California on New Year's Eve (a brave thing to do).

First off, I must pay my respects to a Psychiatrist that worked the occasional weekend with us at the hospital. Dr. Khan was always pleasant to me. He loved to hike and we always planned on taking hikes together. As it turns out, we only took one.

Dr. Khan (I'm old school when it comes to MD's and I have a  hard time not calling an MD "Doctor" even on a social basis)---passed away while visiting his native Pakistan over the Christmas break. He was only 52 and he left behind a wife and two girls under the age of 8. Dr. Khan was also the Medical Director of Napa State Hospital. He always asked me what I was writing about and when my next adventure was planned. We always talked about taking more hikes together.

You never know what is going to happen when you get up in the morning.

Or to borrow from John Lennon: "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

Of course we are all terminal. Joni and I both got a hint of that this last year. Joni had a pacemaker placed on her heart, got infected, and then had a second pacemaker put in. The first pacemaker costs $21,000 and ended up in the trash (it was a newish kind that you can actually have an MRI done with this brand). So that's $42,000 that our insurance paid just in hardware.

And on May 3rd, I was assaulted by a patient and I haven't returned to my job yet. I remain in pain when not medicated. Thoracic Myofascial Chronic Pain Syndrome. It means that my rhomboid, trapezius and subscapular muscles are always in spasm. Activity makes it worse. So I spent much of the year in a Lazyboy. Both Joni and I experienced ER visits for dehydration. In addition there are a few other things that are a bit worrisome that we are keeping an eye on regarding my health.

I had my first stress echocardiogram. Things looked good. I also got to experience a Workers Comp system that blames the worker for an injury and always looks upon your response to the injury with suspicion that you are faking it. That gets rather tiresome. I actually laid into the Workers Comp MD and told him what I thought of his opinion of my injury.

So we start 2014 not really knowing what will happen regarding my employment status and whether I will ever be able to return to work again.

2013 was sort of a breakout year for me as a writer. I was made a Contributor to the Chico News and Review after writing two very popular pieces. I also have been doing some paid work for a couple other publications. A fun hobby. I don't consider myself a journalist; I consider myself a writer.

I don't think Journalists exist. There are Reporters and Writers---but Journalism doesn't exist. Too bad for all those kids who went to Journalism School, thinking they actually have a profession. Your profession is really reduced to being a Reporter, an Editor or a Writer. Journalists always think they are neutral and balanced. When they say they are neutral, we all should be very cynical. Best to get the bias right up front and let it be known that you have an opinion and that mostly you are an Advocate for a position. If you aren't an Advocate for a position, you are then a Reporter---a mirror that only reflects what the Reporter thinks is important. There are good Reporters, fair Reporters and bad Reporters. There are good mirrors, warped mirrors, circus mirrors and foggy mirrors.

I am not a Reporter. I am not a Journalist. I am a Writer who attends events searching for truth, as I see it. Writers write. Journalists don't exist; they are sort of a mixed breed of part reporter and part writer; some are good; many are bad. But journalism, as a profession, doesn't exist.

When I look at "Journalists" I admire, I see people who never went to "journalism school". Can you imagine what class would be like with Alex Cockburn trying to learn how to write a lead while Chris Hitchens sits in the front of the class--eagerly copying every word the teacher said while Hunter Thompson, from the back of the class, rolled a joint; Ed Abbey would be staring at the behind of Ann Coulter, who is busy scribbling an essay on how to be sexy and vile at the same time. Alex Cockburn, and the whole talented Cockburn family, learned the trade from his Commie father Claud. Hunter worked at a newspaper until he got lucky with his Hell's Angels book. Ed Abbey free-lanced his whole life and stitched together a living as a Fire Lookout, Ranger, Professor. Abbey famously said he failed the only journalism class he took. And he failed it twice.

So are  you saying there is no value in Journalism school? Yes and No. But I think journalists would be better served if they just took one class on how to edit and spent the rest of their time learning grammar. Writers should read. A lot. Writers should live hard. Get dirty. Tangled up in messes. Get divorced a couple of times. Fail. Live in many different cities. They should figure out who they are by figuring out where they came from. Look back to look ahead. Hell, all of us should do that. And all  of us write our own lives, whether we know it or not.

But I could go on with this all night. I have to get up early. Need to sleep.

So how was that year, 2013? I don't know if any year can be all good that has the number 13 in it. I'm hoping 14 is better.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Nest. Doug LaMalfa on the Take? Dan Logue's Paranoia...

Somebody has been building a nest in a Ponderosa. Do you see it?

We haven't figured out who is building this thing. We do know by the scat underneath it, that it is a fairly large bird. A hawk? We've found evidence of feathers from other birds that have been caught with only a few feathers as evidence, very near this nest. I've seen a hawk flying around close to here quite a bit. I don't know what species. My knowledge is pretty much limited to identifying a Red Tail. I need to learn more.

2014 resolution: Spend more time identifying trees and birds.

We will continue to monitor this nest and see if construction continues on it. It isn't complete: they haven't finished the floor of the thing. From the green boughs though, it is obvious they have been working on it recently. Joni and I just noticed it today--and we walk by it everyday.

I've been remiss in not talking about the local politicians. Well, they haven't been idle this Christmas season. My favorite, Doug LaMalfa (and the Congressman many suspect forced the Park Service to issue me citations---I have no proof other than conjecture from almost everyone who is familiar with me and my discussions in print about LaMalfa). After all, his staff knows me by name; I've embarrassed him and have been highly critical of him in print; he has blocked me from his Twitter feeds for no apparent reason; his chief of staff, Mark Spannagel, is known for such childish tricks and also didn't accept my request for following him on Twitter; and LaMalfa is drunk with power---so again, I have no proof other than every left wing journalist who lives around here has said the same thing: LaMalfa ordered it. I wouldn't put it past him. He never did offer to pay my fine.

So what has LaMalfa been up to? He has offered legislation for a casino to acquire land in southern California to house their employees. A county Supervisor there has lots of questions of why LaMalfa is butting into something that is none of  his business. The tribe that runs the casino gave LaMalfa a thousand bucks in a campaign donation. But that is chicken feed to Doug. There must be something more to the story. So Doug, please tell us: Why are you involved in this land grab in southern California?

Dan Logue, the Assemblyman who believes global warming is a fraud, has now done everything in his power to keep poor people from getting health insurance. He was quoted in a Kentucky newspaper (which grabbed it from the Sacramento  Bee) that the government wants the health information to snoop on you. Here is the direct quote:

Even as the exchange works to come into compliance, some elected officials say they don't see it as the state's job to get involved. GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue questioned what health insurance policies have to do with residents registering to vote.

"Are they going to threaten to cut off their health care if they don't register to vote?" asked Logue, vice chair of the Assembly Health Committee and a member of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. "Is that the next step by an overreaching government that thinks they should tell us how to blow our nose and when we should do it?"

Logue, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. John Garamendi next year, said public confidence in the law and the exchanges was eroding.

"Nobody trusts what the big government says. Nobody believes them anymore," he said. "There's always an agenda that goes beyond health care. The real fear is: What is that agenda?"

And to end this thing, here is Dan Logue writing an Op/ED in the Marysville newspaper (one of the last of the Right Wing Rags that will publish him). Dan is concerned about Democrats taking away the right to vote in this piece. Of course, Dan Logue has argued for years that Hispanics are cheating in elections, committing massive voter fraud. He also claims thousands of Carolinians who were dead voted in the last election (all of it turned out to be untrue upon investigation). No matter. Doug repeats it anyway as part of right wing lore. So for him to be all upset about appointing politicians to finish out terms, well, Logue's concern for the democratic process is a bit suspect. You can read the piece  here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013



Well, this was an activity filled Christmas with plenty of food and plenty of people around the table. Lots of gifts. Smiles. Joni gave me Satellite radio for the car. Now I can listen to music and talk radio, something other than the Right Wing tripe offered on the local stations. My CD player died years ago---a victim of this Concow dust. Now my commute should be a bit more pleasant.
It was a good Christmas.  Kylie got "spider bites"---yes, a piercing that kids are into these days. I'm not one to approve of such an act, but she has proven herself with her commitment to school. Work hard in school, you get what you want. That's the rule. Sucks.
Joni will get new Binoculars. Recommended by Cornell University and their Ornithology program, she should receive them in March because of the backlog from the endorsement.
Jazmine was happy to receive a Ukulele.
The girls made me a new Hiking Stick. It is etched all along the thing. A bit crooked. Sturdy. With "Owl--an" carved into it. When the girls were young they couldn't say my name. Allan sounded like "Owl--an". Like the Owl---an. An inside joke and a precious Walking Stick, sure to protect me from rattlers and Pot grower's pit bulls. Strong enough to fend off a mountain lion. I look forward to using it.


On the Importance of Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve...

Christmas Eve, 2013.

I worked in the Napa Valley and then headed out across the State of California in my trusty Yaris (she has 102,000 miles on her now---all acquired since 2009). Since my CD player doesn't work, I flipped through the FM stations as I drove the 165 miles home. Turns out I heard Paul McCartney's "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" nine times. Yes, I counted them. Radio Christmas music tends to be up beat. I didn't hear "Silent Night" once. And John Denver's Christmas album is now a thing of the past, listened to only by JD fanatics and washed up 70's culture admirers.

The girls were gone when I got home. Joni was barely awake. "It's a Wonderful Life" was playing on the television. As George Bailey realized his life wasn't so bad after all, I made Oyster Stew in the kitchen. This is a way for me to remember, and honor, my Mother.

Joni fell asleep.

Mom used to make Oyster Stew every Christmas Eve. I don't really know why because nobody in the family liked it except Mom and me. I believe this was a Christmas Eve tradition in her family, passed down from Mom's Mom. I always loved the Oyster Stew; whereas most kids (and adults) hate oysters, I love them. Smoked, barbecued, raw, in stew---I love Oysters.

I left Minnesota back in March of 1993. Mom passed away on Thanksgiving in 1999. Someplace in between those years, I started the tradition of having Oyster Stew myself on Christmas Eve. This is rather problematic when you work many holidays. Most years I pulled it off. I remember one year I stopped into one of the few restaurants that was open in St. Helena hoping they would have Oyster Stew. They did. I paid a fortune for that bowl---but it is one of the more memorable Christmas Eve's I have ever had. I also remember going to Trader Vic's in a casino in Sparks, Nevada that makes some of the best Oyster Stew on the planet. It is a regular menu item. If you are ever in Sparks, Nevada, go to Trader Vic's for the Crab and the Oyster Stew. You won't be disappointed.

I've been alone many Christmas Eve's. Years in between relationships, alone in a city--Reno, Grand Junction, Rochester, Las Vegas, traveling alone in St. Helena (having to work), while Joni stayed at the farm. Christmas Eve by yourself can be one of the more lonely nights a person can experience. I think that is partially why I started the Oyster Stew thing: it was a way to bring my Mother back to share Christmas Eve with me. I wasn't alone with that bowl---and the memories the stew dredges up.

The Stew was good tonight. Joni raised an eyelid to say "no" she didn't want any and then fell back to sleep. She doesn't like Oyster Stew. Not many people do. Just me and Mom.

So Mom and I enjoyed our Stew tonight. I thought about the year, eating the soup, watching the beautiful tree. I know those years went fast for Mom when she died at the much too early age of 71. That's only 18 years away from the age I am now. I've been on Disability since May 3rd and have wrestled with my own health issues this year. More issues than really should be written in a public blog. I started to feel my own mortality this year---with a few very serious problems that my excellent personal doctor and I continue to monitor. I spend a lot of time at the Doctor's office. I put my pills in a morning/noon/afternoon/night pill dispenser so that I remember which ones I've taken. I carry my meds in their very own suitcase.

Joni also felt the icy hand of the reaper when she had a pacemaker placed on her heart. Actually two of them, when the first one became infected and had to be pulled out. Between Joni and me, we've both had to rehab ourselves back from surgery and an injury from a patient that turned out to be way more serious than expected.

Such thoughts to be writing, alone, late at night on a Christmas Eve. I feel content. I listen to the wind blowing hard outside. I walk down to the shed to turn off the generator, and the stars are so beautiful, they seem they are almost there just for me. The wind through the 100 foot tall Ponderosa pines sway. I think of crazy John Muir, riding out a storm in the top of a Ponderosa. I won't join John in the top of a Ponderosa tonight. Instead, I'll finish the stew and visit with my Mom. Fifteen years after the loss of the kindest, most wonderful person I've ever met, it is good to spend some time with her.

That's why I have Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve.

Oh yes, the last words I heard my Mother say, were "I love you". She was in the hospital, dying of cancer, inadequately morphined up by a bunch of RN's that seemed more interested in reading their daily horoscopes than treating a dying woman's pain. I had driven from Reno to Mesa, Arizona in a marathon fashion to reach her room. "I love you" were the last cogent words I heard her say as I entered the room, alone. I stayed up all night with her as she babbled incoherently---after driving all day. It was like she worked hard to stay lucid for me to get there so that she could tell me she loved me. Saying "I love  you" is something we stoic Norwegians never say. We act like we love each other; we just never say it. Until we reach our deathbeds, and then we struggle to stay alive until we can get those three words of magic out.

When the doctor visited at 5 am, I asked him to stop the IV's that provided hydration to her. As a family, we had decided that death should come naturally. We got Mom transferred that day to a real hospice where treating pain and dealing with death was done with grace and mastery by the RN's that ran the place. When Mom died, when she took her last breath, a tear ran down her cheek. She knew it was too soon to  leave; life had just gotten good for her.

Now she visits me when I have my Stew on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, I share a smile or a tear in her memory.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bare Naked...

Christmas Tree, 2013.

I have spent twenty years in a row away from Minnesota during Christmas time and I admit that this time of the year, my heart certainly misses that sleepy little town called Rushford and all the good people who call that wonderful small town home.

I think of the Christmas Tree that must be lit up on Magellssen's Bluff, by the lookout. If you climb under the tree, do a ladder like climb down some 10 feet of loose sand stone, you will come to a cave--one of two on that Bluff. At night, that Christmas tree shines over Rushford---providing multi colored cheer from 600 feet off the valley floor.

To the east, there would be the "Star" lit up in white light on an opposing Bluff. I can't remember if it was a five pointed or a six pointed star. I used to hike up there once and awhile. If you hike around to the right of the star, around 100 yards or so, you'll find a cool little rock outcrop complete with a hole for some sort of critter. I remember it well from my childhood days. We used to haul tents up the hill to the top near the star and camp out, overlooking the valley.

Christmas in Rushford, in this close knit small town, has all sorts of charms. The Christmas displays on the street lights. The houses that had lights on them (my Dad went all out for this, nearly causing car accidents as cars would unexpectedly stop to watch the contraptions Dad had set up).

There is a tradition called "Yulebakking" where neighbors would dress up in costumes and try to appear incognito. You dropped in on a neighbor dressed in strange garb that hid your face, and the custom was that the people you stopped in on had to feed you until they guessed who you were. I think some houses had the custom of giving you alcoholic drink, but we had none of that in my family.

More traditions around food. Forgive my spelling. There were rosettes, and struell and fattimande (poor man's cake). All delicious. There were date cookies from the bakery. And lefse. Homemade lefse---every family with a slightly different recipe. One of my family's tricks was to let the potatoes cool outside on the porch. For some reason, that added flavor.  Another trick is to roll it as thin as possible. Lefse is a potato tortilla, but much more than that: lefse is just the best food on the planet. Oh, how I miss it.

And blood Klub. Flour and blood made into a dumpling. It tasted the best the next day when you added butter and cream to it (and you wonder why my coronary arteries are clogged). It sounds gross but tastes divine. Anthony Bourdain really needs to explore these Norwegian treats.

And then there is Lutefisk; Cod fish soaked in lye. It has the texture of snot and tastes like rat poison. And I love it. You eat it with meat balls and potatoes. Lots of mashed potatoes with drawn butter poured over the whole thing.

I miss the Christmas Eve service at Rushford Lutheran with the candles. I won't go there again since they broke away from the rest of Lutherdom when the ELCA said it was okay to ordain Gay Pastors. Shame on them. But there is precedent because this church was the one that split away from a prior Lutheran Church back in the 1870's (in Rushford) because some Lutherans thought black people should still be slaves. Another church couldn't handle such a supposition and went on to create another brand of Lutheranism.

I miss Rushford during Christmas time. I would like to see that Christmas tree on the Bluff and that Star on the opposing Bluff one more time in my life. If anybody wants to take a photo of them and send them to me, I'd love it. I miss it so very, very much.

Friday, December 13, 2013

LaMalfa and Logue and the Air in China

Well, Doug LaMalfa left the Tea Party right wing and joined John Boehner and most Democrats in voting for the budget agreement. Granted, the budget deal is skewed towards the Republican view of things. Still, he left the True Believers behind. Why? I'd guess because it is getting a little late for anybody to mount a primary challenge against him. The coast is clear so he need not worry about any challenges from his right. Good thing too. Doug's extremism was getting more than a little embarrassing. Looks like that visit John Boehner made to Doug's farm in the summer of 2012 paid off handsomely.

And then we come to Dan Logue who is running for Congress in a District currently held by a Democrat John Garamendi. Logue had this article in the Sacramento Bee blaming the loss of jobs in the United States, and income inequality, on (drum roll please) Government Regulations.

Yeah right.

In the early 90's the "plant" that kept my hometown alive picked up and moved to Mexico. Why did they leave? Well, first off there was no penalty to do something like that---in fact, there were tax incentives to do that (gotta shrug your head on that one). And why did that plant leave along with thousands of others, first to Mexico and then, for many of them, to China? Labor costs.

But Dan Logue trots out his continuing war on air quality boards and the management of diesel trucks. I guess Dan Logue would be happy to have our air resemble the polluted skies of the cities in China where people have to wear masks inside, let alone go outside.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Weather, Nukes and GMO's....

Record lows last night brought frozen water pipes to us this morning. Our water pipes can handle the temps down to around 22 F. Last night the temperature was in the teens: 16 F. in Paradise. A record. The water pipes in the kitchen thawed this afternoon. But for the first time, the exposed part of the well pipe to the cistern froze, despite being wrapped in lots of insulation. Luckily we have a spigot close to the well, which is inside a little structure protected from the elements, so we can get water there.

We will just wait for the weather to warm up and thaw the pipes. Until then we will haul the water in buckets to the house, something we did for a couple of winters when we didn't have the money to put in an improved water system and the old one broke.

Of course the lesson from all of this is no matter how much you plan and prepare, more than likely it won't be enough and nature will prevail one way or another. As extreme weather related events become more prevalent due to the build up of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere, we will be talking about the weather a whole lot more. And weather will take us by surprise. Like last night.

Part of the reason to be against nuclear power and genetically modified food is that the potential for things to go wrong with these technologies overrides any benefit from using them. Think Fukushima. Those four nuclear reactors had state of the art protection systems. They had a sea wall 40 feet high. They had backup generators to last weeks if power ever went out to the plant. They had state of the art containment walls around the reactors. And all it took was an unexpected 7.2 earthquake and tsunami to make all of that planning and preparation null with health consequences that will extend on for generations. Of course, Fukushima wasn't weather related; it was still natural forces making mincemeat of human preparation.

The same for GMO's. The potential for disaster playing around with genes from different species in order to improve on something nature has already created is just too risky to do. I know the Monsanto people have their studies that prove their food is safe. My question is: When is it that we have ever had to do a study on a staple product in order to  prove it is safe to eat? Just having to ask the question should make us pause a bit as to what we are doing. Of course, we are overly dependent up on corn and Monsanto corn at that. All it takes is some specific blight against the Round Up tolerant corn and all of us will end up losing quite a bit of weight.

And so it isn't the potential for disaster that motivates the use of these technologies---it is monopoly and the profit motive (to borrow a bit from Marx). I'm of the opinion that if a technology used in a mass scale manner has potential calamities linked to it, we should pass on that technology and employ something that makes more sense.

Of course, nobody asked me before they built all these reactors and planted all that corn.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Winter Snow and more.

Cold here. Cold everywhere, it seems. The low tonight is supposed to be 19 degrees Fahrenheit. We had a bit of snow fall overnight. Usually it melts the next day but this time, as in the rest of the nation, cold temperatures will mean the snow will stick around for a bit.

We took a short hike in the snow with the dogs. The dogs ran and ran and ran---enjoying the powder. We had fun watching them and playing with them. Moments like that are delicious; best to savor them.

Nelson Mandela died a couple days ago. A great man. I was contacted by the editor of the ChicoSol to write a response. You can read it here.

Out of curiosity I checked out our Congressman Doug LaMalfa's Twitter feeds to see if he had any statement regarding the death of Nelson Mandela. LaMalfa has two Twitter feeds--one for his Congressional office and another that is very informal and, at times, downright offensive. I checked both of them for any word about Mandela. The result? No mention of Mandela.

I'm blocked from following Doug LaMalfa's informal Twitter feed, but that doesn't mean I can't read it. I find it amazing that so many media types can follow that feed and never comment on the feed's content. It is often sarcastic and juvenile. Definitely on the extremist fringe, he retweets people who post images of Obama as Hitler. Yes, he will retweet the opinions of weirdo  kooks, but he goes out of his way to block the respectful opposition from following him. Par for the course for LaMalfa. Play to the gallery and run from the more serious minded people.
I'm getting a bit tired of the Republican party. It seems they want to stop the agreement with Iran. Do these right wing knuckleheads really want war? Is it because President Obama negotiated this thing that they decide to sabotage it? These people hate Obama more than they love America. Don't ever let them tell you otherwise.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Took a Break...

Took a little break from writing this thing. Been busy. What with Park Service Law Enforcement Officers stopping by the house with citations and trying to go back to work with a partially effective back---I haven't had time to deal with this.

So I'll just provide links to the Lassen Solitaire story. I think this is the best thing I've had published thus far. I'm very proud of it.

And here is my story about Officer Troy serving me citations.

And here is my editors response to the whole mess.

And here are two sets of letters to the editor: one and two. And here.

We shall resume  regular writing at some point when things simmer down.

Oh, and thanks to William. Nice letter.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A New Assignment...

Note: Now that the Lassen story is published, I can bring back this post that I wrote when the pitch for the Lassen story was made. I pulled it because it broadcast too much of the idea before I had even written the story.

At Kylie's high school, they have various caricatures of various writers drawn on the walls. This one of Thoreau look a little hairier than normal to me. He looks more like Ed Abbey after a 20 day river trip.

Speaking of Ed Abbey, I pitched a 3,000 word feature to the new editor of the CNR whereby I would climb Mount Harkness where  Ed Abbey worked as a fire lookout and wrote and mailed in his first draft of Desert Solitaire. I said I'd sleep up there and contemplate the importance of Ed Abbey, updated for modern times. The editor liked the concept and gave me the go ahead after negotiating the price of the project. So now I have a license to write a 3,000 word essay on Ed Abbey. And I haven't the foggiest idea what to write.

Well, I have to get over to Mount Harkness fairly soon, before the snow flies, and spend a night up there. Think I'll bring some Jim Beam. I won't have time to go until a week from this next Monday (September 9). The goal is to introduce Abbey to a new generation. I also will try and update him, as to how he would view some local issues such as plastic bag bans and  the building of 1,000 extra houses on some open space. The issues are complex from the localist of the local to the globalist of the global. Lots of material. I want to paint an accurate picture of Abbey, using some of his best lines and pithy statements. Should be fun.

I think I will borrow the style of doing it from Abbey himself. His Down the River with Henry Thoreau is inspiration enough. Imitation is the highest flattery a guy can give another writer.

In case you missed it, here is an Op/ED I had published last week.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Not So Graceful

My piece on climbing Mount Lassen to see Ed Abbey's old fire tower, and the place that he wrote the first draft of Desert Solitaire came out today. And although I haven't left the house, it seems to have had a good reception. As an experiment, I had them include my Twitter handle in the story to see if I would pick up any new followers. One, thus far. But he is the editor of a magazine in Southern California, so a good quality pick up.

And so now I can relax for a bit. If you want to read the Ed Abbey at Mount Lassen story, you can just click here. As always, the hard copy is a whole lot more beautiful than the Internet version. The Art Directors at the CNR always do a marvelous job of making the piece beautiful. It also is a luxury, harder to find these days, to actually be able to ramble along for 3,000 words on a topic. I am thankful for the opportunity to have this forum.

On the Internet version, one Anonymous person wrote:

"Awesome article. Keep the Allan Stellar stories coming. The tribute to Ed Abbey was wonderful and Allan’s account of his permit application and the subsequent shutdown clearing the way was hilarious and nicely Abbey-esque, and the general thrust of the essay was spot-on. Thanks for running this story!"

I don't know who wrote that, but if I ever met that person, they would be a friend for life.

Monday, November 4, 2013


I'm in St. Helena, California. Staying a couple of days at the hospital, doing doctoring. Today I had more injections (steroid) in the muscles behind my right scapula. For a bit, these things seemed to be doing better. Which brings hope. Then pain again. Which brings despair. The best thing about these injections is the temporary anesthetic, lidocaine, which takes away all pain. It is then that I remember what it was like to have a pain free body again. It takes a few days for the steroid to kick in. I'm lying on a hot water bottle as I write this. Hot water bottles are to painful scapulas as Bud is to Weiser. They work well together.

Tomorrow I have the day free here in the Napa Valley. I didn't bother driving home as I have to meet with the Workers' Comp MD on Wednesday. Should be interesting. I haven't had a whole lot of buy in from Workers' Comp on this injury. As I've written before, they don't exactly think neither my pain or my injury is real. "Ribs broken? Two months to heal. Max. Next! Oh, your lungs were scarred and deflated but we didn't discover that until 10 days after the accident? Oh well. Won't mention it. But your clogged coronary arteries are probably causing your back pain. You just have to learn how to work in pain. Ignore it. Oh, and by the way, you are getting too old to do your job; you should get buff or get out." Things doctors say when they've never had to deal with severe pain or are frustrated by a client that doesn't just bounce back to work.

Met with the cardiologist last week about the results of my stress test. He said I'd live another forty years and that there is no sign of any pathology in my heart. Good news!

So what are my goals for healing from this injury: 1. to not be in unbearable pain at work and 2. to not take medications that interfere with my ability to exercise good judgment at work.

And I have the Cover and Feature story in the Chico News and Review that comes out on Thursday to be inflicted on 100,000 readers. The article went a different direction than I had hoped (they wouldn't let me rant)---but none-the-less I am proud of how it turned out. It is a good little piece of writing, in my view. I'll post it on Thursday. Feedback welcome.

Friday, November 1, 2013

On Socialism

Driving on Neal Road, I saw this, rather professionally done (except for the lack of punctuation marks) sign. Around these parts, people on the right still think Communism exists and that the mole of proletariat revolution is likely to unburrow itself and come to power in some form of unconstitutional Obama revolution leading to a regime for life for Barack. Yes, they are that crazy. But even without the paranoia about Obama, this Red-Baiting is still going on.

And yet I wonder if maybe we should try and reclaim the term "Socialism". After all, what's wrong with being social? And to value being social over the other choice capitalism (the love of money), well, I know where my loyalties lie on that one.

Seventy years of a brutal reign by a brutal regime, in a country that has a history of being brutal anyway, has ruined a magnificent concept with a marvelous history. Throw in there the Commies of Mao and Pol Pot and the whole Socialism concept stinks to high heaven. Three countries remain loyal to the Marxist/Leninist path where they are run by a Communist party in the old Soviet model. China (which is Marxist in name only), North Korea (possibly the strangest place on Earth where the people suffer) and Cuba (which still seems to have a mostly popular government and has done a marvelous job of making the transition away from being a Soviet puppet).

Jeanne Kirkpatrick (remember her?) used to argue that the US should support right wing authoritarian regimes because they alone morph into democracies. That was just a simple matter of easing her conscience as we gave money and guns to thugs who raped, killed and pillaged poor people in dozens of countries. The body count between our thugs and the Russians thugs, if added up, would be pretty close. They had Cambodia. We had Timor. They had Hungary. We had El Salvador. They had Russian Gulags; we had Vietnam and Attica.

Then the Soviet Union fell. I always thought it would: you don't teach that many people how to read, write and think without having some sort of move away from having a Thug government. And all the former Communist Party officials made a killing and are living even more lavish lives than they used to. Meanwhile, according to a recent poll,  Brezhnev is still considered the best leader the Russian people have ever had. Yes, Brezhnev---because it was during his reign that the people lived the best with a life filled with certainty. Brezhnev wasn't Stalin. Older Russians miss the Soviet past. Younger Russians just want Iphones and Ipads and all the other I gadgets. They have become Americans. Cultural imperialism strikes again.

But the point shattered Jean Kirkpatrick's premise: suddenly we had peaceful change in Communist governments. Nicaragua had an election in 1988 that foreshadowed the whole thing and the $5,000 sun glasses wearing Daniel Ortega gave up power. Then Germany reunited, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union peacefully gave up its empire in eastern Europe. They created Democracies. Again, you don't educate that many people without having them wanting to do something with those skills. Education matters.

Marxist/Leninism hangs itself with its own rope; that rope is egalitarianism that values education. The exception is China where different tiers of schools ensures a tailored education for most of the masses---leading to millions of dutiful factory workers.

In the meantime, the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala ended with democracies established. Leftist governments took power, in real elections, in Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and even Guatemala. Mexico nearly followed suit. And Cuba lost its status as the red headed step child of the hemisphere and did the Third World a whole lot of good. Cuban doctors saved more Haitians in the Haitian earthquake than American doctors.

Europe, in the meantime, post-war embraced Democratic Socialism and created the happiest, longest living, societies the world has ever seen. Socialism? For sure. They aren't the Socialism of Lenin and Trotsky. They came to power after World War 2 through democratic means. And it worked.

Meanwhile in the US, Socialists were persecuted in a number of purges. Partly because of the Left's love of the Soviet Union and partly because, well, they were Socialists. And yet we have a grand tradition that contains fighting Bob Lafollette and Norman Thomas. We have a rich intellectual history of leftists, many non-Marxists that range from Scott Nearing to Michael Harrington. Jack Reed. Izzy Stone. Jack London. Noam Chomsky. Martin Luther King. Malcolm X. Many others.

We don't condemn capitalism because Pinochet existed. Why do the same with Socialism? Why not resurrect  non-Marxist/Leninist Socialism? The Socialism that gave us the 40 hour work week and the five day work week and overtime. The Socialism that gave us a free education K through 12. The Socialism that provides a progressive income tax and builds wonderful public projects. The Socialism of public health campaigns and working sewer systems. The Socialism that created National Parks and millions of acres of National Forests and public lands .

So what's the difference with Liberals? Socialists aren't scared of using the government to own the means of production. It works in Norway, where they nationalized their oil bonanza and put all the revenue into funding their Social Security Program for hundreds of years. Imagine if we did that with our oil back in the 1920's? We'd be living pretty well when Age 62, or maybe even age 60.

Of course, I'm over simplifying the differences between the ideologies. Throw in a concern for the environment and the belief that an economy should also leave huge amounts of space, and not just rock and ice space, but real fertile livable habitat for wild things, then you have, what I call, an EcoSocialism. That is, we must be social with all beings. It's sort of Conservative really.

But most Democrats I know would bristle at being called a "Socialist" because it is meant to mean a person who loves an authoritarian government that is quick to put a boot to your neck and send you to the Gulag. They certainly aren't talking about Norway. The person who put up that sign certainly meant it as a derision.


On my desk, in my "man cove" I keep a copy of Einstein's essay he wrote for the Independent Socialist Monthly, the Monthly Review called "Why Socialism" taped to the wall where I can glance up and look at it. Einstein saw Socialism as the only economic system that cares enough to see that every person lives up to their highest potential. He saw that as society's responsibility, not just the individual's.

In the end, Socialism is less an economic system than a philosophy of life. Amongst those values are egalitarianism, concern for those less fortunate, concern for the environment, valuing non-human life,  frugality, creating a food system that isn't evil, removing the barriers to develop your skills to the highest possible rung, financial security, cultural security and valuing our resources. At least, that's what Socialism should be.

Call me a Socialist, and I won't run from it. Call me a Conservative, and I won't run from it either. Call me a Luddite, and I won't run from it. Call me a person who wants to limit growth so that other creatures can live, and I won't run from it. What is that ideology? I call it Eco-Socialism. Others might have another name. Whatever it is, it is still evolving. Hopefully, in time to make a difference.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fracking and Irony

Joni and I ran across this drilling rig outside of Williams, California yesterday. The rig is drilling on land that belongs to (I think) the Wilderness Unlimited private hunting club. A weird juxtaposition, for sure. They are drilling at this site 24 hours a day. Given the large tanker trucks present, I assume they are fracking this well.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I am thankful that my back is on the mend. The injections that were shot into my muscles of my back seem to have done the trick. I met with the specialist MD last week, and there seems to be room for improvement yet. So, lord willing Workers' Comp approves the request, I'm hoping we will get one more set of shots and then things should be good enough for me to return to work.

The last six months certainly have been hard; made harder by the fact that not all the health professionals bought into the fact that I was even experiencing pain. Tensions flared. Medications were grudgingly given or too slowly given. I felt a whole lot of pressure to work before I was ready to. I felt a whole lot of pressure to work while under the influence of medications that nurses shouldn't be working under.

At times I was told to "buck up" and "learn how to work in pain". I was told that the pain in my back was all in my head. I was told that it was referred pain from the broken ribs. I was told there was no reason for me to be experiencing pain. The way I was treated was disorienting. Dismaying, really. Confusing.

In the end, the right decisions were made. I'm thankful to the NP who listened closely enough to order the consult with the pain specialist who does the steroid injections. And I'm thankful that they seem to be working.

I am still in pain--but it is livable. And it seems to be calming down everyday. By the time I get back to work it will have been six months since I was injured. It was good that we have such things as Workers' Comp to help us through injuries. The system certainly isn't perfect (I learned that); and I still don't think that my hospital should be able to self-administer its Workers' Comp. It isn't a friendly system and you have to stand firm and work with the people who are there to help you. Their job is to get you well as quickly, and as cheaply,  as possible. Your job is to stand up for yourself. Only you know your symptoms.

It is all water under the bridge now. I'm glad to be on the mend.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

LaMalfa, McClintock, Denham: Near Universal Condemnation

Belinda reorganized one of our bookshelves. Looks nice. There's some good stuff on this shelf. Most of it acquired since we moved up here in 2008.

Well, I'm pretty sick of politics and LaMalfa after that horrible business of the Government Shutdown and the Debt Limit increase. There has been universal spanking going on against LaMalfa for having voted AGAINST restarting the Government and raising the Debt Limit. If it was up to LaMalfa, we might still be in Shutdown. The Government may not be paying creditors, and all general financial mayhem would be going on right now.

The Chico ER wrote a  decent editorial against Doug LaMalfa stating that he is an embarrassment. True. From the editorial:

"The reality is, the extreme-right wing of the Republican Party — north state Rep. Doug LaMalfa included — held the country hostage in a hissy fit over a health care law they didn't like. Well, we're not real fond of it either, but buck up, House Republicans. You lost. Get over it. Do what you can to improve the Affordable Care Act and quit trying to derail it. That train has left the station."

And it was more than the Chico ER that spanked LaMalfa. The Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee outright called for the three Congressman who voted to continue the Shutdown and to not raise the Debt Limit should have consequences for their action next November of 2014. From the Sacramento Bee:

"Reps. Doug LaMalfa, Republican from Richvale, Rep. Tom McClintock, Republican from Elk Grove, and Jeff Denham, Republican from Turlock, cast extremist votes. Central Valley voters should remember come November 2014."

Read more here:

 This may have been the extreme Right Wing's Waterloo and,  finally, the end of the Tea Party as a force in American Politics. I hope so, anyway.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Apologies to the Chico ER..

Okay, so I've been grumpy and all in an uproar, punching out text from atop this little soapbox that the Chico ER wasn't covering the LaMalfa induced Government Shutdown properly. I accused them of being silent on the issue. I accused them of ignoring an issue that needed to be addressed through an editorial. Turns out I was wrong. David Little, the editor of the Chico ER, pointed out the mistake to me today and was kind enough to send a copy of an editorial entitled "Republicans in no-win situation".

On October 2, two days into the Shutdown, the Chico ER wrote a decent editorial that pretty much summed up the situation: "House Republicans need to come to their senses and realize their futile political statement has some real-world implications." The editorial was totally against the Republicans shutting down the government in order to attempt to defund Obamacare.

And they mentioned Congressman Doug LaMalfa: "The people who were impacted the least (by the shutdown)? The political tools in Congress who don’t think twice about holding the country hostage while they play politics. Shame on them. And that starts with House Republicans, including Doug LaMalfa."

It was a scathing editorial that found the Republicans behavior to be "baffling".

I hate it when I'm wrong. I will say that I am pleased that the Chico ER took this position against the Republican's strategy. The Chico ER got it right. And because I missed this important editorial, I apologize to the Chico ER.

I was wrong.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The LaMalfa Coup

Robert Reich described what just happened over the last 16 days as a coup attempt by some extremist Congressmen who are financed by a couple of billionaires. It is amazing that we had 18 Senators and 144 Congressman vote to default on our debt and to continue the Government Shutdown. All of these irresponsible America Hating Politicians should be voted out of office. They are essentially the Gang of Eighteen and the Horde of One Hundred Forty Four--willing to risk defaulting on the debt in a "gee, lets see what happens" experiment. These Extremists don't trust the word of any experts. Global Warming? No, even though 97% of Climate Scientists confirm it is true. Some don't even believe in Evolution.

Hard to believe we'd elect these idiots. However, nothing ever gets reported in the papers about LaMalfa around here anyway. In the past 16 days, the Chico ER didn't have one story on LaMalfa, nor one editorial about the shutdown. They protect the criminals and keep the electorate uninformed.

But it is worse than that. What these guys tried to do (and a few gals) is to destroy government itself. They don't believe it is needed, so "get rid of it".

My own Congressman, Doug LaMalfa said that he would vote to end the Shutdown if it got rid of Obamacare or if it greatly reduced the deficit. He voted against it; one of the 144. I called his office and asked a hapless staff member if he knew how Doug was going to vote? "No", the staffer said as he took my name and phone number. Doug LaMalfa must have hired the most clueless staff members ever. Every right wing politician knows what Freedom Works is---they fear that this group will finance a primary challenge to their right. The woman who runs his Oroville office, Lisa D., said she didn't know what Freedom Works was. She is the same woman who tried to physically push me away from Doug LaMalfa when she figured out that I was going to ask him about Agenda 21. Didn't work. I got to ask Doug, who answered the question in the affirmative.

So we know who the extremists are. Now it is time to work to get them out of politics. Let them go back to their old jobs before they do real damage to this country.

I hope the 27 Republican Senators and the 87 Republican Congressmen who voted for sanity depart from their Extremist cousins and begin working with the Democrats who are more than willing to create some real bipartisan progress towards the problems facing this country. Hell, we should just go ahead and invite them to become Democrats.

And Boehner? More Democrats voted to end the Shutdown than Republicans. When it comes to actually governing, he needs to turn to the Adults in the Room and forget the Tea Party 80. Or 144. It is scary that 144 Congressmen voted the way they did. Amazing. Just Amazing.

This really was a Coup attempt by an extremist fringe that hates government and hates Obama. The LaMalfa Coup.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

They Are Nuts Enough to Push Us Over The Brink...

We keep edging closer and closer to catastrophe. The government is shut down (which is what the government hating Fascists want) and the debt ceiling has not been raised yet (again the Extremists think this would be no big deal). In the mean time, China warned us that they would like to be paid. Our bond rating is on the brink of being ruined again, just like the last time the Tea Partiers did this.
The ironic thing is that the debt is coming down. Obama raised taxes and slashed spending such that our deficit is much less than expected. It helps to wind down two wars too. The second will end soon with all sorts of budgetary savings.

John Boehner doesn't have any balls to stand up to the extremists in his party. If I were one of the Republicans who didn't sign the letter to withhold Obamacare, I'd seriously start thinking about becoming a Democrat. Hell, I think the Dems should start trying to actvely lure some of the reasonable Republicans to the light.

Of course LaMalfa remains in the dark. And you'd never know that LaMalfa is one of the 80 Representatives who are pushing for default on loans and are keeping the government shut down. There has been no mention of this in any of the papers. They are staying away from the budget debacle--and I don't know why. Are they scared of offending readers? I'm talking about the major newspapers, specifically the Chico ER.

So honestly, I think these guys are crazy enough that they just might push the country into default. Boehner is going to have to grow a couple and appeal to the Dems to get this thing stopped. The 80 Extremists should be shunned for the remainder of Congress. No bills passed of theirs. No cooperation whatsoever until they learn how to play nice.

If I were a Republican right now, I'd become a Democrat. The patients just took over the asylum in the House.

And I sent in a long piece to the CNR today which, if the editor likes it, will be the feature story in a few weeks. Generally, the rewrites suck. They make me work. But this time, and with Joni's excellent editing, I think we've got a good piece going.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Man Cove...

I live with four women. Joni. Joni's daughter who moved in with us in July. Kylie and Jazmine (age 13 and 12). I'm also on Disability so I don't really have all that much of an escape from these Female antics. Yes, I can take a walk...but my back dictates that I try and heal and not do too much.
Four women and we share one very small bathroom. I trip over hair dryers, hair straighteners, curlers, four bottles of face wash, fru fru shampoo bottles (multiple), bottles of conditioner, buckets of nail polish and many other implements of proper female teenage vanity care.
We have one television--which is probably unusual in American families these days. What to watch, when we watch is always a negotiation process similar to what the Soviets and the Americans had during the SALT talks. Exemptions: The television is ceded to me at 6 pm every night for Rachel Maddow; NCIS is Joni's Tuesday night must see show. Other than that, it is a negotiation between the Teenagers who have fallen in love with some of the worst television to pollute the airwaves. Jersey Shore. A game show called: Baggage, which is so disgusting, I can't even describe it. The adults have veto power over the TV. The Teenagers pine for a more traditional lifestyle (and their own television).
This off grid, simple life inflicted on the two Teenagers with a house of walls of mud and rooms that aren't even close to being finished, is really uncool when you are in that image conscious "gotta fit in with my friends" stage of life. Inviting friends over is rare; at this point, what we have done is just plain bizarre to the Teenagers. "Why can't we have drywall or a NORMAL house!", words I hear often, usually at top volume.
Now that it is colder, there is no place for the male of this tribe to get away. Until yesterday. Joni ceded a corner of our Bedroom to be my: Man Cove. It ain't much. But it is a place where I can escape the female talk and problems, retreating to a place of refuge to write and read. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chico's Role in the Battle to Label GMO's.

Went down to Chico today to catch part of the March Against Monsanto. In the election of 2012, California had a ballot measure to label GMO's on packaging (Prop 37). The woman who wrote the law and started the Initiative, Pamm Larry, is in the photo above. She is the farthest person on the left, looking sideways. Pamm did a hell of a job--essentially starting the whole movement to label GMO foods single handedly. The ballot measure lost very narrowly. It was outspent by Thirty Million dollars. Every major newspaper in California (and I mean EVERY newspaper in California) came out AGAINST the ballot initiative. Pamm took on the likes of Monsanto, Coca Cola, General Mills--the list of companies that put millions of dollars into the fight against the Initiative is astounding. Like I said, the Initiative lost narrowly.

Despite losing, the fight was picked up in many other states. Washington State has a ballot initiative coming up in November. After California's Prop 37 lost, the state legislatures of Maine and Connecticut passed GMO labeling laws. Twenty six States have legislation pending on labeling GMO's.

This is a law that is going to happen. The movement is comprised of mostly women. Women who are appalled that twenty years ago, genetic changes were made to seeds and were released untested into the American food system. The evidence seems murky regarding the safety of these foods. Yet there are a couple of reasons to object, despite the insufficient knowledge regarding the food safety. First off, it puts our whole seed industry into just a couple of company's hands. A monopoly for Monsanto. Secondly, it is never a good idea to splice genes from different organisms into a "Genetically Modified Organism".  This does not happen in nature and, philosophically, this is just something that should not be done. It is a gut reaction that we are playing with the stuff of life.

Personally, I think the evidence is there to make a case against GMO grains. First off, just take a look at the explosion of chronic disease that has occurred since they were put on the market in the late 80's. I'm sure we will be gathering more and better data confirming what, at this point, is just circumstantial evidence with a few promising studies.


This March wasn't as big as the one a few months ago. But the last one I attended was in Sacramento. However, when you attend these gatherings, it really is a movement that is led by women. There must be something maternal about genetics and food. Women know instinctually, that you just don't mess with the genetic make up of an organism. And because this movement is led by women, it will succeed. I'd make a bet that every state will have labeling laws by 2016. And after that, there will come the push to eliminate GMO's to our diets. That is what the big companies are worried about. And that is what is going to happen. Of this, I am fairly certain.

Friday, October 11, 2013

No Mention Again by the Chico ER and others....

Just a few of us down at LaMalfa's office today. We were there as a presence to ask that this Government Shutdown, engineered by Congressman Doug LaMalfa and 78 others, and carried on by Speaker John Boehner---that this thing end. The whole thing has become pointless. I know that the Republicans are upset that the Working Poor just might have the opportunity to have health insurance, but, really, must we have such a temper tantrum that we close down vital services because of it?

In the meantime, the Newspapers of Northern California remain silent on the whole matter. The Chico ER still has not editorialized about it. Nor anybody else in the past couple of days. There was a good Letter to the Editor in the Chico ER today. But nothing from those who run the paper.

To me, their silence is tacit approval. Approve of it or not, the people of Northern California need to know that their Congressman is one of the zealots who pushed to have this mess happen. Somewhere, someplace, Doug LaMalfa should be deemed responsible for this mess.

Will the Chico ER? the Oroville Mercury? the Marysville Appeal/Democrat? the Redding Searchlight? the Red Bluff Daily News? the Corning paper? the Mount Shasta paper? Will anybody please come forward and mention that our Congressman is responsible for a Government Shutdown that has led to some pretty scary things?

The risk of a default by not raising the Debt Cap seems less today. Boehner is willing to give in on that, for now. Unless, of course, 79 absolutely crazy Congressmen, amongst them LaMalfa, decide that all the dire warnings about defaulting on debt is wrong and Boehner buckles, once again, to Right Wing pressure.

It is time for the Democrats to retake the House in 2014 and put an end to this irresponsible behavior by a party that has become enamored with Extremists.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Inequality, the Vietnam War and Lennon's 73rd Birthday...

Hard to believe that John Lennon would have been 73 today. He died just as the Baby Boomers were settling down en-masse. No longer radical (as if they ever really were); they settled down into their jobs and their new cars and had their babies that were superior to almost every other baby born in any generation (they called them the "Indigo Children"); the kids helped along with the very best of Scandinavian Wood Train toys and swimming classes for 8 month olds. And Good Night Moon read at night (it was short). Yes, the Baby Boomers became Republicans in the 80's.

They moved to the Suburbs so that their kids could go to school with other White kids. Egalitarianism from previous generations was gone; killed by the draft and the Vietnam War and the thinking that you deserved to die if you couldn't figure out a way to get out of going to war. Kids found God and got religion for the deferment. Kids went to college for the deferment. It set an ugly precedence, got us used to a whole divide of people less fortunate than us. It set the table for the tax cuts to the rich and the unbelievable wealth transfers to the Upper Classes.

The elder Baby Boomers, those born before 1954 who had turned 18 in time to vote for McGovern (but not in great enough numbers). After that war ended it was career and cars and a focus on  the immediate family. Normal stage of life stuff for about sixty million peers. It was a time for "meritocracy" in Chris Hayes terms. "I deserve this house in the ex-burbs, due to my own brilliance". Reagan came along and it was morning in America again. And most Baby Boomers bought it. And they bought into the materialism: the SUV's, the Monster Houses, the stereos and an increased love of gadgets. The age of political activism was done; time to raise family. Yet this family raising was done in isolation with the belief that with enough early exposure to Mozart, my kid could develop into a renaissance child. Public schools got neglected in order to create Magnet Programs. Charter schools. School choice. Anything that would get my kid the advanced status he/she deserved. Meritocracy, you know: we earned it.

Those were awful years. Clinton became President, the first Baby Boomer Executive in Chief and he immediately declared that the age of big government was over. Old tried and true socialist health programs were ignored to try and create some complicated private market mess called Hillary care. It flopped. The war on the poor ramped up; Welfare was reformed so that taking money on the dole was no longer possible for the poor for more than a few months; only Trustfunders could receive a monthly stipend for life.

A second Baby Boomer President came along in 2000. A not too bright C student son of privilege by the name of George W. Bush Jr. 911 broke our hearts and rather than seeing it as a sophisticated criminal act, W decided it was good cause to settle some old scores against his Daddy. We began a decade of war. Cost trillions of dollars (all off budget). And it secured the vast oil fields of Iraq for western corporations. One of the first acts of the invasion of Iraq was to eliminate the state owned Iraqi Oil Company.

More awful years. Now the Baby Boomers were nearing retirement. So what did Baby Boomer Romney do? He created a plan whereby the best Medicare plan would continue for the older Baby Boomers. Younger brothers and sisters would get vouchers and would expect to pay for their healthcare on the private market. The program that had worked since 1967 would remain the same for the elder Baby Boomers. An unfair system, but that didn't matter; this generation had become used to inequality from the time the boys received their draft number and they had to scramble to figure out a way to avoid the Vietnam War.

And I wonder how John Lennon would have responded to all of this? Would his songs remain political. At all. Or would he sing of organic veggies and awakenings to spiritual leaders, GURU's with seven digit incomes. The old line churches melted away, only to be replaced by either the Suburban Pop Church with their pop psychology, drum sets and action groups for divorced lonely Boomers. It was either that or a flight into a world denialism, a nilhism, represented by self actualization and meditation combined with a bit of herbal juicing, organic gardening and either Tarot card Divination or Astrology. Sometimes both.

Alternative medicine became all the rage. Andrew Weil MD, with his Marxian whiskers, had absolutely nothing in his approach to health that was even slightly communal. He made a fortune; bought a bunch of BMW's, a huge house in Tucson with an Olympic sized pool and reminisced about the days when he used to look for medicinal plants in the Amazon.

Nobody talked much of class anymore. Nobody mentioned egalitarianism. Tax rates were brought down to obscene levels where the wealthy paid LESS than the working poor. And this monster bulge of Baby Boomer population went along with it. They reveled in it. They created it.

The Sons and Daughters of the Greatest Generation decompensated into what Hunter Thompson called a "Generation of Swine". Yup. As it turned out, the Baby Boomers departed from the social contract in many ways: They escaped to Gated Communities. They created private police forces. They created school choice and Magnet schools. They became very comfortable with poverty and the return of homeless beggars.

These kids, who used to agitate against Apartheid in South Africa ended up living their own American Apartheid where their kids went to magnet schools and their families lived in the ex-burbs in houses that had three car garages and four bathrooms.

Back to Lennon? Would he be happy with his generation? Would he create  social commentary that saw through the inequality. The racism. The White privilege. At the end of his life, John Lennon, like many of his peers, became enamored with Ronald Reagan. Amongst the Baby Boomers, there was no reaction against the materialism. No reaction against the inequalities in education. There was no reaction against the tax system that favored the wealthy and taxed the elites at levels where their anti-social behavior became trendy. No. Lennon lost any interest in Lenin years ago. I'd suspect he'd end up just like the rest of his generation: happy to enjoy the fruits of wealth with a martini in one hand and a joint in the other.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Seventy Nine and the Silence of the Editors; Brian Dahle gets a Bill!

The mountain in the background is Mount Lassen. This photo I took on my little illegal foray into Lassen Volcanic National Park. I had the place to myself, courtesy of Doug LaMalfa, who was quite active in pushing for the government shutdown (despite his denials in a letter he sent a friend of mine today).

LaMalfa knows no shame really. He is part of a new breed of right wing extremist politicians whose world view are so tight, no amount of fact, truth or matter of the heart will cause any change in the hard hearted politicians. LaMalfa doesn't believe government is good for much of anything. Charity should take care of the poor. In his world, Somalia is probably the most free nation on earth: plenty of guns; charity is the welfare system; no government regulations to ruin a free market.

These guys, the "Suicidal Seventy Nine" members of the House of Representatives are dangerous. They aren't particularly bright; they just lead very myopic lives. And their zealotry is frightening. They see nothing beyond their own rice farms.

So in keeping tabs on the Newspapers of Northern California today: None of them have had an editorial that blames the Government Shutdown on LaMalfa. In fact, it is day 8 of the crises and there is very little acknowledgement that the Shutdown is happening. Come on David Little, editor of the Chico ER, what's up with you avoiding the issue? And Bruce Ross of the Redding Searchlight, a bright fella, better than most around here, whose politics more resembles Joe Scarborough rather than Rush Limbaugh----why so silent Bruce?

In other matters: Assemblyman Brian Dahle did get a bill signed by Governor Brown today. The bill he wrote with a Democrat is good in that it calls for clearing undergrowth in a way to cut down the severity of wildfires. The only problem is that it extends the legal diameter of a tree that is cut from sixteen inches to twenty-four inches. This is no longer clearing undergrowth; it is a slippery logging bill that got snuck through the legislature. There was no outcry from environmental organizations about the bill. The bill would have been better if the current sixteen inch max diameter would have been honored.

Of course, the Redding Searchlight was pleased that Dahle managed to get a bill through the legislative process. They have an obvious affection for the guy who used to participate in coyote hunting competitions on his land. Jim Nielsen was the Senator who sponsored it on his side of the aisle. That should have been warning enough that something slimy was going on.

Dahle does have an idea to create pellet facilities from the bio mass that is cleared from the thinning of the undergrowth. And there is plenty of undergrowth to clear. I wonder if he would go so far as to have either State government funding for these factories or maybe even have them be owned by the State of California. As such, that would make Brian Dahle as much of a Socialist as Obama. It would be good to see his idea come to fruition. Although you have to be a bit skeptical:  Most times when Republicans mention "thinning" and forests, it really means "logging".  Logging operations in California must be planned and approved by the California Department of Forestry. Clearing undergrowth doesn't require that extensive of a permit process---so it just might be a quick way around a regulatory process. Twenty four inch trees makes it worth their while to log.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Woeful North State Coverage of the LaMalfa Government Shutdown...

The government shutdown that began October 1, was first called for by a letter, drafted by a Mark Meadows of North Carolina and also signed by Doug LaMalfa and 77 others---requested that John Boehner shut down the government over the funding of Obamacare. Mark Meadows is a freshman legislator from the Tea Party freaks. Doug LaMalfa is also a freshman legislator friendly to the Tea Party freaks. Rachel Maddow is reporting that there has been a plan to shutdown the government since the Inauguration of Obama's second term--masterminded by Reagan era veteran Edwin Meese and funded by, guess who? The Koch Brothers.

You wouldn't hardly know that there is a shutdown if you read the Northern California newspapers. Reading through the editorials for all of the papers in Doug LaMalfa's district, only one, the brave Nevada City newspaper, the Union, has called for Doug LaMalfa to change his position on shutting down the government. Kudos to the Union!

One other newspaper had an editorial regarding the shutdown: The Paradise Post. The Post editorial board didn't blame either side, nor was LaMalfa's name even mentioned. There was no mention that this shutdown was planned by 79 Congressmen including LaMalfa. The Paradise Post's solution is to, amazingly, stop the Congressmen's paychecks. They think this will end the Shutdown.

Nothing in the last seven days was mentioned in the Red Bluff paper. Nor the Redding paper. Nothing in the Corning paper. The Marysville paper did have an editorial complaining that Beale Air force Base isn't considered an essential base (even though they manage drones that bomb kids in Afghanistan).

One paper that has been at least a little bit critical of Doug LaMalfa is the Chico ER. Yet, David Little, the editor, decided it was much more important to write about the fantasy State of Jefferson last Sunday rather than write about the reality that the government Shutdown was brought about by the actions of our Congressman LaMalfa. Shameful!

I guess you just don't mention things that you are embarrassed about. Come on editorial writers, get it together! Do your research on our awful Congressman LaMalfa! Inform us, don't ignore us.

In the meantime, there have been demonstrations against Doug LaMalfa. Redding had one last Thursday as did Oroville. We will do it again in Oroville this next Thursday, assuming the Shutdown is still ongoing. The Chico ER did have a feeble attempt at covering the LaMalfa protest in Oroville. They sent a reporter, Mary Weston, whose report reads like a very disinterested students attempt at taking notes in a calculus class. Terrible reporting.

Over the weekend I went to a National Park that is in Doug LaMalfa's district. Lassen National Park is closed. Partly out of civil disobedience and partly out of  a contract to write a story about the Park, I hiked into the Park and spent the night on the peak of Mount Harkness where Ed Abbey wrote Desert Solitaire. It was a once in a lifetime event to have a National Park to yourself. I slept under the stars, with the new moon making it very dark, and watched a beautiful display of amazing starry beauty. You should be able to read about this adventure in print in another publication in about a month.

Thursday, October 3, 2013