THE NORTHCOAST'S new congressman, Jared 'Spike' Huffman, told the Press Democrat that he's raised $80,000 in re-election dough only months into his first term. Huffman, once an All-American volleyball player, said he'll need to raise “a minimum of $1 million to defend my seat next year.”
HUFFMAN, a lock-step Democrat, and an empty suit almost as empty as Wes Chesbro, won election with 70% of the vote against a lock-step Republican named Dan Roberts.
NORM SOLOMON, a genuine progressive, challenged Huffman in the Democratic primary but failed to qualify for the general election, as several vanity candidates — plus, it seems, Solomon's decision to resort to movie star endorsements and slick advertising as vacuous as Huffman's — took votes from Solomon and cost the Marin County writer a place in the general election.
SPIKE'S MONEY TREE? The same as former Northcoast rep Thompson — wine people, public employee unions; the party's own money machine; rich people generally.
IF SPIKE has core convictions they are so far invisible. The point of “defending his seat” seems to be getting himself rides in long, black limos and photo ops with Party bigwigs. He was in San Francisco last week hobnobbing with One Percenters as Obama himself swooped into town to lay the clichés on people who paid $5,000 to have cocktails with the President out at Sea Cliff and to eat with him at the Getty mansion in Pacific Heights at $30,000 a plate.
(THE GETTY MANSION, incidentally, is a pair of architecturally mismatched houses, all be them large houses, shoved together to make one architecturally mismatched big house. I have a vague memory of a Chron photo spread on the “mansion's” interior, recalling it as high whorehouse — huge gilt-framed mirrors, random botanical explosions featuring palms, fifi furniture, effete little dogs. Just down the street off the Lyon Street Stairs, rests Dianne Feinstein's bunker. It's coherent, anyway, the idea being basic Georgian (?). You can see a portrait of Dianne from the stairs, her bland features illuminated by museum lighting. I haven't been invited in for coffee but you'll be the first to know when I finally get the nod. Apart from killing the country, the problem with our ruling class is that it has no style, no verve. They all seem kind of stupid and boring, but undoubtedly very crazy and entertaining behind those big walls. Of course that could be the Chron's supine reporting, but I defy anyone to cite a single memorable remark from any of them.)
WHY ISN'T REP. JARED HUFFMAN PROMISING TO DEFEND SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE?
By Alice Chan, chair of Progressive Democrats Sonoma County.
Last week, a Press Democrat editorial praised Rep. Jared Huffman for refusing to join colleagues who have promised to “vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.” What's going on here? On February 28, I joined a group of a dozen constituents meeting with Huffman's district director, urging the congressmember to sign a letter initiated by Representatives Alan Grayson and Mark Takano. That letter includes a promise to vote against any cuts to benefits in those three vital programs. Why did we request that our congressmember sign this letter? Republicans and some Democrats in Washington are pushing for cuts to Social Security benefits in cost of living adjustments, as well as raising the Medicare eligibility age. Those changes would directly affect the most vulnerable among us — the elderly and others with low and moderate income, who rely on these earned benefits to provide the basic necessities of life. What was Huffman's response? On his Facebook page a few days later, he stated: “I won't be bullied from the left or the right into signing Norquistian vote pledges to outside groups.” I was surprised to see our request characterized as a “Norquistian pledge.” Promising to stand up for the more vulnerable among us is the very opposite of Grover Norquist's extreme conservative anti-tax pledge. I was even more surprised to see myself portrayed as a bully. As a constituent, I and those with me were participating in the traditional democratic process. Why won't Huffman make this particular promise to his constituents? He has certainly made other promises, such as committing to vote against any infringements on a woman's right to choose. Signing the letter would signal in a very strong way to his district that he is committed to fully defending Social Security and Medicare benefits. It's disturbing that Huffman has refused to sign the Grayson-Takano letter. You can ask him to do so at www.pdsonoma.org.
AB WATCH, the volunteer Coast group trying to cut back abalone poaching, was much in evidence Saturday at several Coast access points near Fort Bragg and Mendocino. More power to them. Mobs of ab divers were out Saturday, and if the resource survives, credit the volunteers out there every day of the season keeping an eye out.
THE MOUTH of the Navarro is silted over and completely closed, the silt running laterally about a hundred yards before halting this side of the Pacific. Water is backing up onto Highway One in puddles here and there. Used to be locals opened it so the fish could get back out to sea…
LOTS OF RECREATIONAL SALMON boats out of Noyo Saturday, a hundred or so visible from the Haul Road. Reports say catches are spotty.
LARGE TURNOUT Saturday morning for the dedication of Fort Bragg's Vern Piver Little League Field, a little jewel of a ballpark in a corner of the high school's playing fields on Fort Bragg's eastside. A number of local people clearly put in a lot of time and effort on the new field whose namesake sign, on a slab of old growth redwood, is a work of art. Vern started the Fort Bragg Little League in 1973 and, as most of us know, was a great athlete and baseball player himself, with a long tour in the high minor leagues before returning to Fort Bragg to work as a logger. If he'd been a few years older Vern undoubtedly would have caught on with a major league expansion team. He coached basketball and baseball for many years in Fort Bragg.
STAN ANDERSON reminds Mendocino County's dozen or so Republicans that the Party of Lincoln's local central committee (wear your beards and top hats) will meet Saturday (April 20th) 10am to noon, at the Henny Penny Restaurant in Ukiah. Info at 707 321-STOP HILLARY. Check that: Info at 707 321-2592.
BEYOND BASKETS: California Indian Artists display range of creative talents in panel and trunk show
by Roberta Werdinger
On Saturday, April 13, from 2 to 4:30 pm, the Grace Hudson Museum will host a California Indian artists panel, trunk show, and sale. The panel brings together six California Indian artists whose homelands range up and down the state and whose artwork represents a wealth of artistic mediums and approaches. After the one-hour panel discussion, the artists will display jewelry, prints, and other items they have brought for sale, and will be available for further individual conversations with the public. The event is free with admission to the Museum and everyone is warmly invited to what is sure to be a lively event.
Participating California Indian artists include Bradley Marshall and his nephew, Joseph Marshall, members of the Hupa tribe, residing in northeastern Humboldt County. Both Bradley Marshall and Joseph Marshall make ceremonial regalia out of a wide array of natural and human-made materials, continuing a tradition that the Hupa people have successfully shepherded into the modern age. (See more on Bradley Marshall and the Museum's current exhibit, below.) Bradley also creates jewelry using tribal motifs and materials, including abalone cut into basket designs. Loren Lavine, another Hupa tribe member, will share her experiences as a painter, photographer, and jewelry designer.
Meyo Marrufo, Environmental Agency Director for the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians, will also be part of the panel. Marrufo loves to blend the contemporary with the traditional in her diverse artistic creations. These include cards with digital graphic designs, jewelry, baskets, and French knot embroidery. Marrufo has also been making regalia for male members of several tribes for over 20 years. Another participant, Eric Wilder, a Kashaya Pomo living on the Sonoma Coast, creates bright, striking images of California Indian life employing his background as a graphic artist. Finally, Leah Mata, a member of the Chumash tribe in the Santa Barbara area now residing in Sonoma County, will be present. In addition to creating jewelry out of abalone, pine nuts and beads, Mata won first place in the Traditional Attire category at the Heard Museum Guild's Indian Fair and Market (in Arizona) for the Chumash dress she created.
This panel and trunk show are part of the activities surrounding the Museum's current exhibit, "Natinixwe: The Hupa People." Curated by panel member Bradley Marshall and including art by Loren Lavine, the exhibit features historic photos of the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation community during the 1940s and 1950s taken by Ernest (Ernie) Leland Marshall Jr., Bradley Marshall's grandfather, along with regalia created by Bradley Marshall.
Meyo Marrufo comments, "This panel represents a second generation of California Indian artists, in their thirties and forties, who blend the traditional and the contemporary in their artwork. We don't just make baskets. Although we're very proud of our baskets, we work with so much more—abalone, pine nuts, and other beautiful materials. At the panel we hope to have a good time and see California art in different forms. We as artists learn from each other all the time."
The Grace Hudson Museum is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah and is a part of the City of Ukiah's Community Services Department. General admission to the Museum is $4, $10 per family, $3 for students and seniors, and free to members or on the first Friday of the month. For more information please go to www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or call 467-2836.
MTA STATUS REPORT
Supervisor Dan Gjerde posted this MTA report in next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors Agenda Packet.
This is my first year to ever serve on the Mendocino Transit Authority (MTA) board, and I'm finding this to be a transformational time for MTA. The purpose of this memo is to provide the Board of Supervisors with an update on the changes underway at this organization.
New MTA General Manager — In the last three months, the MTA board interviewed four qualified applicants to fill the vacancy of retired MTA General Manager Bruce Richard. (The interview process also benefited by the participation of MCOG Director Phil Dow, Sonoma Transit Authority General Manager Brian Albee, MTA Finance/Personnel Manager Sally Webster and MTA Marketing/Planning Manager Glenna Blake, who offered their feedback for the board's deliberations.) Personally, I was impressed with all of the applicants, and am eager for you and other members of our community to meet and discuss your ideas with the new general manager. The new general manager should be at work at MTA on June 15. You can expect to hear an introduction directly from MTA.
New Fuel-Efficient Buses — As you know, MTA has sought transit grants to update its fleet of buses. We are all now seeing the fruit of that work. Five of MTA's largest buses (40') have been replaced with entirely new buses. Assembled in Hayward, these buses can travel twice as far on a gallon of gas. Equally impressive, they burn fuel so cleanly, they claim just 10% of the emissions of the old buses, according to MTA staff. (This includes a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.) Among other things, this will help MTA's operational budget, as fuel consumption is clearly part of MTA's core operating expenses. Three more of these buses are expected to be in service at the end of year.
Big Savings on Inland MTA Facility — I had heard a bit about MTA's effort to secure grants so it could replace its hodgepodge of bus maintenance and office buildings in Ukiah. As you know, their complex of structures are located in a neighborhood of industrially zoned properties, just south of Ukiah and near the Highway 101 exit to Highway 257.
After securing a number of transit grants, MTA's contractors have now built a new bus maintenance facility, and it is one of greenest buildings in Mendocino County. As of the first 10 months of operation, the maintenance facility is on track to produce as much electricity as it consumes during its first year of operation. That said, the mechanics report they are no longer uncomfortably cold in the winter or miserably hot in the summer, due to the building's super efficient cooling and heating system, which allows for heating the floors or cooling the indoor air, as needed.
MTA is also set to construct a solar canopy this summer. Not only will the solar canopy provide electricity to power MTA's office buildings, it will improve the fuel efficiency of MTA's bus fleet, for two reasons. First, buses will roll onto streets at a lower temperature, and therefore place less demand on their air condition units. Second, reduced direct sunlight hitting the buses will curtail fuel evaporation in the buses, which have 130 gallon fuel tanks.
Perhaps the biggest news is the drop in construction prices. With these projects going to construction in a competitive economic market, bids have come in significantly below initial estimates. As you know, the architects initially estimated these three projects would cost $22 million. Now they estimate that when MTA staff move into the new offices after phase three is built, the total construction costs will instead be a much lower $10.8 million.
MTA now has architectural drawings for the third phase. With the success of the first two phases, the MTA staff and board is hopeful they can secure transit grants to construct the final phase of this project.
CRASHING THE TWO-PARTY SYSTEM
The Way Forward is a Single-Issue Social Security Defense Party
By Dave Lindorff
The history of third parties in America is pretty dismal. The system is rigged against them, for one thing. But equally problematic is the lack of focus that leads to infighting and splits whenever a third party is created.
A great answer to this would be to create a third party that has a laser-like focus on a single issue, where there is little or no room for debate over what the party stands for.
As it happens, there is such an issue, and it has the potential to decimate the two major parties by pulling support from both their bases.
I’m talking about Social Security and its more recent offspring, Medicare, both under threat by the Democratic/Republican duopoly in Washington.
Social Security is without a doubt the most popular program ever created in Washington. Virtually every American pays into it and expects to rely on it in old age, or if he or she becomes disabled. There are currently 54 million people who are receiving Social Security benefits ( 39 million are 65 or older, and 8 million are disabled). And there are some 74 million Baby Boomers — people born between the years of 1946 and 1964, representing one-in-four of all Americans — who will be receiving it over the next several decades. Add to that number the many younger people who are ardent advocates of the program, not just because they expect to also depend upon it, but because they know it is providing already for their parents and grandparents, and you have a bloc of voters and potential voters the likes of which this nation has never seen.
The key to getting them all together is establishing a political party whose raison d’être is preserving, improving and expanding Social Security benefits.
Medicare is also an important part of this concept. Everyone who receives Social Security in retirement is also eligible for Medicare, as are those 65 and older who choose to wait a bit to earn higher Social Security benefits. Again, the number currently depending on Medicare is 50 million, but this will rise dramatically as the Baby Boom generation reaches 65. The Medicare program is under even graver threat than Social Security at the moment as Democrats and Republicans in Washington, both beholden to huge medical industry and insurance industry campaign donors who want to undermine the program, do the bidding of their paymasters.
It’s time for progressives, advocacy organizations of the elderly and the disabled, labor activists and everyone who is worried about halting and reversing the decline of American society and democratic governance to rally around defending these two critical programs created, respectively, in the 1930s and 1960s.
The Social Security Defense Movement envisioned here would organize a single-issue party with the following simple platform:
Defend Social Security benefits and ensure that they are adequate to provide for a decent retirement for all Americans!
No increase in the Social Security payroll taxes for current payers!
Eliminate the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes! This would mean that all income would be subject to the tax and the wealthy would finally pay their share!
Add a tax on so-called unearned income from investment! This would mean that people who live on profits from investments, interest income, etc., would pay into the Social Security fund, too. (Note: income in retirement could be exempted, so people drawing on their tax-deferred IRA or 402(k) money would not have to pay a Social Security tax on it.)
Tax all short-term stock and bond trades at 0.25%, with the revenue generated to be designated for bolstering the Social Security and Medicare funds!
Eliminate Medicare Parts B, C and D! Roll doctor and drug coverage into Part A making it a single, simple program covering all medical costs, and just throw out Part C, which simply provides a huge profitable business to the private insurance industry to cherry pick healthier elderly people, luring them into subsidized private plans and leaving government-run Medicare to pay for the sicker, more costly beneficiaries.
Lower the age of eligibility for Medicare, gradually if necessary, but quickly, so that all Americans will be covered by one government insurance program, fully funded by taxes, and bar private insurance companies from providing health insurance, with the government negotiating reimbursement rates for hospitals, drug companies, doctors and medical device companies. (Explanation: Right now, the 10% of Medicare beneficiaries who are the oldest use 90% of Medicare’s funds. Younger Medicare users in their 60s use are much less costly. As people are younger, their health care costs are even less, so it is actually a bargain to bring them into Medicare. They would be paying in much more than they would be costing. This explains why Canada’s universal Medicare program is such a bargain. Canadians pay 11% of GDP for in total for Medicare that covers everyone, while Americans pay 18% of GDP for health care and many millions are simply left out and get none.)
Eliminate the Veterans Administration and make all veterans eligible for Medicare immediately.
* Eliminate the two-tiered health care system created by Medicaid, and enroll all Medicaid eligible people in Medicare, lifting that financial burden entirely from the states.
The pure focus of a Social Security Defense Party on the issues of Social Security and Medicare might at first appear narrow and parochial, but as one considers the implications, it becomes clear that can be the core of a whole new progressive movement.
Just a couple of examples:
Protecting, guaranteeing and improving Social Security provides long-term security to workers who then no longer have to stay in exploitive jobs simply to save for their old age. The same goes for lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 0. Nothing makes it more difficult for workers to adopt a militant stand in organizing a labor union or going on strike against intransigent management than the fear of losing a family’s health benefits. This is the whole reason that American companies have, seemingly against their own interests in reducing labor costs, consistently opposed a state-run health care system such as the one in Canada. Employers are happy to have the leverage they get by being able to withhold health benefits from strikers or union activists.
Making sure everyone has access to quality health care insures that the quality of that care stays high. Just check out the health care quality in countries like Sweden, Finland, Germany, Canada or France, where everyone has access to the same doctors and hospitals. The quality, and the outcomes, are higher than in the US, where the poor get shoddy, late and often criminally inadequate healthcare in crumbling facilities, while the wealthy get state-of-the-art care at absurdly high prices, with much of the money being wasted on marketing and amenities having nothing to do with actual care and treatment.
Besides getting millions of Americans to refocus on their common interests, such a single-issue party and movement would also inevitably lead to a mass collective rejection of the military industrial complex, with its $1.3-trillion annual expenditure on wars and war preparation. Any attempt to provide adequate funding for retirees, the disabled and for health care for all would inevitably have to confront, head-on, this massive waste of tax dollars and to see it for what it is: a vast transfer of national wealth to giant corporations and the people who own and run them, and away from human needs.
Easing the economic pressure on the elderly by strengthening Social Security and improving Medicare would also tend to make the elderly more politically progressive. People who are not scrimping in order to have enough money to pay the rent, buy enough to eat, and pay their health bills can afford to be more generous and altruistic about supporting funding for local schools, for example, whereas today, the elderly in many communities often become opponents of needed school funding because they see the local school taxes as making it impossible to pay for their prescriptions.
The best thing about a Social Security Defense Party is that it would draw heavily on the base of both the Democratic and the Republican Parties. Regardless of their political views on issues like prayer in schools, abortion, flag-burning, stem cell research, animal rights, climate change, gun ownership or the death penalty, polls show that the vast majority of Americans, left and right, support Social Security and Medicare. Most of them know that they are being betrayed on those two critical issues by their party leaders and elected representatives, Democratic and Republican. Independents, too, support both programs overwhelmingly. A party that speaks resolutely about defending and improving both programs, and that runs candidates who do the same, could potentially vacuum up supporters from both major parties, leaving them empty husks.
And that’s what they should be.
(Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.)