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Off The Record

THE HAMBURG-ROBERTS 2010 race for Fifth District Supervisor was, for laid-back Mendocino County, intense and bitter while it was underway, and unlikely to become less bitter with the news that the California Fair Political Practices Commission has fined Dan Hamburg $9,500 for not accurately reporting his campaign finances during his winning campaign of November 2010.

THE MOST SERIOUS CHARGE is that Hamburg failed to report more than $5,000 in cash contributions and “more than $100” in in-kind donations. The inaccuracies occurred over six reporting periods from the run-up to the June primary through the November election.

WAS ANY OF THIS deliberate? It wouldn’t seem so. One discrepancy, for instance, involved $1,458 less than the reported campaign balance of $10,316. With money coming and going in a relatively brief periods of time, and an error of only $1,458, this hardly seems like anything to get all huffy about, especially put against state and federal elections where deliberate accounting fraud involving millions of dollars is commonplace.

WENDY ROBERTS, throughout the campaign, was rightly aghast that the Hamburg forces were lying about her and continually misrepresenting her positions. The same thing happened back in the deVall-Galletti race for Fifth District supervisor of 1978. The liberals broke out the secret slander in that one that said incumbent Fifth District supervisor Ted Galletti was planning huge developments in the Elk area and was a “redneck” besides. (By '78, hippies and/or hip-symps, comprised a voting majority in the 5th. The 4th was still solidly 'necks, as were the 1st, 2nd and 3rd.) The development canard wasn’t true about Galletti, an honest man who couldn’t refute all the lies about him fast enough to win re-election.

DEVALL himself, like Hamburg, is a gentlemanly sort unlikely to engage in straight-up slander and dirty tricks, not that either of them publicly denounced untrue statements about their opponents at the time. But this is politics, my dears. It happens.

MRS. ROBERTS, unlike Galletti or Gentleman George Hollister who also ran against deVall in a subsequent election, took it personally, and has now achieved a measure of revenge with the FPPC report and the $9,500 in fines assessed against Hamburg that Hamburg and/or his campaign committee have had to pay. (The FPPC is famous for penalizing minor outback campaigns to make it look like they’re a real watchdog organization. Fact is, you’ll never see them go after the Big Boys.)

IN RESPONSE TO WENDY’S REVENGE, Hamburg told the Ukiah Daily Journal, “This action resulted from complaints filed in the fall of 2010 by a retired judge (William Masterson) who is a friend of Wendy Roberts. They went through our campaign reports with a fine-tooth comb (as is their right, and maybe even their obligation) in an attempt to disrupt our campaign. It's my belief that the vast majority of these complaints are frivolous, mostly pertaining to ‘in-kind’ donations made in support of campaign and fundraising events. My opponent held almost no such events so didn't have that exposure. There was also some misreporting on my campaign that was totally unintentional but nonetheless out of compliance.”

ON HER PART, Mrs. Roberts defended the complaint to Fair Political Practices as nothing personal. “It was certainly not a witch hunt. We felt they were hiding money and not disclosing where they were getting it, or where they were spending it.” Mrs. Roberts told the Journal that she indeed hadn’t held the retro-hippie campaign boogies that Hamburg had but that “those big events are very good at hiding where your money comes from.”

HAMBURG of course inspires cult-quality devotion among his supporters throughout the County, and especially in the Fifth District with its concentration of up-from-hippie liberals. Ever since the deVall-Galletti race of 1978 the Fifth District supervisor’s seat has been held by conservative liberals of the deVall-Peterson-Colfax-Hamburg-Obama Democratic type.

THE FIFTH DISTRICT is also the stronghold of the active part of the in-County Democratic Party, complete with its tax-supported audio arm at Mendocino County Public Radio (KZYX) and a couple of liberal front groups like the local branch of the National Women’s Political Caucus and Mendocino County’s jive Green Party, invisible but dependably corporate-liberal-Demo at election time. And behind this apparat you’ve got the real heavyweights of Mendocino County conservative liberal politics — all but one of the Superior Court judges, plus a large number of very wealthy part-time residents always good for emergency cash, and the wine industry represented by Congressman Thompson and Thompson's successor, Spike Huffman.

THE COUNTY’S NWPC is a two-person organization consisting of fanatical Democrats Val Muchowski and Joe Louis Wildman. Muchowski also dominates KZYX at election time on behalf of local, state and national Democrats, and is on-air year round with the dependably wacky Women’s Voices program. (Wacky men hold down the weekly Environment hour.)

THE NWPC supposedly exists to support female candidates. Did Muchowski’s and Wildman’s NWPC endorse the female liberal Democrat Wendy Roberts? Nope. Dan the Man got the nod, taking 57.44% of the vote.

IF LOCAL Republicans weren’t so generally out-of-it and politically lazy they’d launch a few legal grenades at all this. They get zero air time on KZYX and the station is tax-supported, meaning in theory everyone owns it, even people who think they're getting the straight skinny from Fox News, i.e., Republicans.

MEAN TIME, and the times are meaner every day, all us lefties can do is grumble, and lefty is defined here as people who view Democrats and Republicans as THE political problem at all levels of government. Us pwoggies are down to a Northcoast rear guard of less than 10% of the vote.

MENDOLIB fer shure did a job on Wendy, who always seemed naively aghast that people were lying about her, and she took it all personally, for which she can’t be faulted given the abuse, much of it gratuitous, she absorbed. I hope she runs again. She was a good candidate, and now that she knows what she’s up against, might also be a wiser candidate.

HAMBURG'S CAMPAIGN TREASURER was listed as Geoffrey Baugher, a Point Arena landscaper. John Schaeffer of Hopland, founder of Real Goods, was listed as “chair” of Hamburg’s finance committee. Lauren Sinnott of Point Arena; Laura Hamburg of Ukiah; Chris Skyhawk of Albion; Gai Daley of the Mendocino area; and Doug Mosel of Boonville-Hopland seemed to function as the campaign's co-managers.

JEFF COSTELLO COMMENTS: Since KZYX is NPR standards of local/community broadcasting cannot be applied, and I'm afraid you're languishing in the past to think otherwise. NPR is akin to Wal-Mart and McDonald's, just another functionary of American monoculture. Wal-Mart tells us what to buy, McDonald's tells us how to eat, and NPR tells us how to think, how to talk and most importantly, what to fear — and they never let up on any of it. So, since as an NPR affiliate KZYX exists only to promulgate the Official Story, creative and/or critical thinking will not be tolerated, and hired personnel are chosen accordingly, and are left plenty of time for petty ego-wrangling. On-air announcers read the same stuff Wolf Blitzer does on CNN, just in a more restrained tone of voice. Blitzer, it is worth noting, appeared on a “celebrity” Jeopardy show and did not get one correct answer. He is dumber than a rock but apparently can read official press releases phonetically without the burden of knowing what the words mean. The difference between CNN and NPR is that NPR is aimed predominantly at politically correct liberals who regard themselves as smarter than everyone else. The corporate underwriters like Chevron understand this quite well. — Jeff Costello

THE LOCAL JUSTICE SYSTEM is content to run Leon and Charles through its Potemkin processes on an average of once a month, and both are about to turn up their toes.

THROUGHOUT their repeat catches and releases, the judges simply declare, “Well, it's poor old Leon again. Oh, here's poor old Charlie. Nothing we can do.” Which is untrue, but we live in a society that has irretrievably lost its way where no one will or can take responsibility for any public calamity. So we tolerate a hundred slow motion public suicides just in Mendocino County.

WHY DON'T MENDOCINO COUNTY'S eight judges show some leadership here and, on their own initiative, buy a suitable piece of property — or maybe two pieces of suitable property — one inland, one near Fort Bragg, to serve as a Mendocino County Farm. Their honors might do this in return for their life jobs at the big pay, and they'd do it because the hundred or so Leons of Mendocino County cost us all more in money and civic chagrin than should be tolerated, and the judges are the responsible authority. The judges should also get behind a County Farm, or at minimum an expansion of the County Jail into a County Farm, because the revolving court door they sponsor undermines respect for the law, which is already synonymous with disrespect.

ONCE THE JUDGES have performed this unprecedented and highly unlikely act of pure charity, the rest of us, via the County of Mendocino, would be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the County Farm, which, by the way, was the way the County of Mendocino dealt with its drunks and incompetents up until World War Two. The old County Farm near Low Gap and Bush in Ukiah was, we understand, at least partially self-supporting, and it was indeed a working farm.

A READER WRITES: “…given the absence of a national functional rail system a Fort Bragg-Willits train scenario will remain just what it is: a fantasy. We still live in the stone age of transportation. The practicality of high-speed trains has not been lost on the Chinese. They just launched their longest high-speed train in the world:1400 miles from Beijing to their southern coast. China has agreed to build a high-speed rail system across Turkey. What China gets in return would be a link that would complete a Chinese trans-Eurasian railroad bridge project that would bring freight from China to Spain and England. Just a quick google search of Chinese high-speed trains would illustrate how backwards we are. I say give the Fort Bragg-Willits job to these guys, although it might take them a few months.”

LINDA WILLIAMS of the Willits News informs me, “While some may think Lakeport resembles India (not I) our ads are being built in Lakeport — the same place our paper is printed.” I'd passed along the news Media Group had out-sourced that task to Mumbai, which, as it develops is untrue. Ms. Williams, who has done the best reporting on the great Mendo-Kansas Drug Case, also informs me that the matter has been put over for a year for the 13 defendants who haven't pleaded guilty. “The Soderlings pleaded guilty — sentence awaiting possible trial testimony; not yet published but Wall has a plea change hearing next week I'll be watching; no signs that Keller or the others are actually ready to plead at this time although Keller was entertaining the notion.”

DIRECTLY FROM MS. WILLIAMS most recent report on the Mendo branch of the affair: “The trial date for the five remaining Mendocino County defendants in the federal drug trafficking case in Kansas has been moved from June 2013 to April 2014. Guilty pleas have already been entered by 29 defendants, leaving this new trial date pending for only 13 defendants. Seven Mendocino County residents were originally charged in this Kansas, California and Missouri drug trafficking conspiracy. Two local defendants, James and Elizabeth Soderling of Fort Bragg, pleaded guilty in February.

Of the 13 defendants left facing trial, three already have change-of-plea hearings scheduled and three more are negotiating with the government. This includes two of the Mendocino County defendants, Erin Keller and Jeffrey Wall, who “are actively engaged in plea negotiations with the government,” according to court documents.

All Mendocino County defendants are out on bail awaiting either sentencing or trial except Henry McCusker, who remains in federal custody awaiting trial.

The Soderlings pleaded guilty of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and marijuana and face a sentence of 10 years-to-life. This guilty plea was in exchange for cooperation and possible testimony by them. In exchange for their complete cooperation the federal prosecutor has agreed to drop the remaining charges and make a sentencing recommendation to the judge based on the perceived value of their testimony. Typically they will not be sentenced until after any trials are concluded.”

ONE OF THE COUNTY'S finest poets, Mary Korte, has been arrested at the Willits Bypass protests. Mary's most memorable poem, “Throwing Firecrackers Out The Window While the Ex-Husband Drives By,” is the ultimate statement on domestic crack-ups, and funny as heck, too.

FROM SAVE LITTLE LAKE VALLEY: “An overflow crowd of local and out-of-town citizens staged a demonstration and sit-in Wednesday at the Willits Caltrans Headquarters to protest Caltrans’ bypass through the ecologically fragile Little Lake Valley. Over 80 people rallied at the corner of Baechtel and East Hill Roads carrying a long banner reading: “Caltrans—Hands Off Our Little Lake Valley.” Protestors, including many elders of the community, gathered in the Caltrans parking lot. Caltrans locked their doors, and refused to meet with a delegation, including local officials. Two women, Priscilla Thomas, 76, and Mary Korte, 78, were arrested, one while blocking a Caltrans vehicle, and the other blocking the entrance to the locked office. They refused to move when told to leave by CHP, who share the same building with Caltrans. The delegation from Save Our Little Lake Valley, an expanding local organization opposing the Bypass, had requested a meeting with Caltrans Resident Engineer Geoffrey Wright on April 12. They submitted a list of questions to his office. To date they have received no response. “Our request to meet was being stonewalled,” said Sara Grusky of SOLLV. “That’s why we were compelled to come here in person to make our statement. The concerned citizens of Willits and the broader community are adamant their concerns be heard. We can wait no longer.” Since April 2, when five tree-sitters were arrested by riot-clad California Highway Patrol officers (many of the tree sitters having been arrested at gun-point), two new tree-sits have gone up, both on creeks that are considered Federal fisheries protection zones because of their endangered coho salmon and steelhead. A ban on clearcutting in the fisheries zones expired on April 17, making the treesitters the salmon’s only defense. The bypass has been contested since its inception nearly 50 years ago, when planners expected large increases in long-distance traffic volume. Many believe the current project is outdated and oversize for current conditions. The Caltrans webcam just north of Willits shows the traffic this freeway would serve. Protesters claim that the effects on local wells, farmers, fisheries, and public safety have not been fully disclosed, much less addressed. Caltrans has come under increasing scrutiny recently, with legislators and taxpayers calling for greater controls and accountability. The agency, which has a budget of $12.8 billion, has little review or control from outside. After it was discovered that Caltrans employees had falsified safety checks on 11 bridges and causeways, Senator Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, introduced Senate Bills 425 and 486 calling for a new office to investigate Caltrans activities, and for peer review on the design of large projects. Citizen groups across the state have mobilized against projects like Niles Canyon, Richardson Grove, and the Willits Bypass, claiming that local concerns have been ignored by Caltrans.”

FROM A RECENT CHRONICLE obituary: “Born Jan. 20, 1924, transitioned April 20, 2013.” Transitioned? To what? Hopefully, a less corporate noun.

AND THIS DYSLEXIC HED from Tuesday's Ukiah Daily Journal: “County Workers Displaced By Flood Moving Back.”

IT'S GETTING HOTTER: “And the heat goes on. In the last few weeks, new data from the CryoSat satellite system have shown that there’s only one fifth as much sea ice in the Arctic as there was in 1980. New data from the carbon dioxide monitors on the side of Mauna Loa in Hawaii showed the second-greatest annual leap in atmospheric CO(2) ever recorded. A new study of temperature records dating back 11,000 years showed that the planet is currently heating up fifty times faster than at any point during human civilization. New data from the Arctic showed that over the last thirty years vegetation zones have moved seven degrees latitude further north. In other words, the planet continues to show the effects of the early stages of global warming, and those effects are very large. If the one-degree Celsius rise in temperature observed so far is enough to melt the Arctic, we have to ask what further increases will bring.

“We will, sadly, find out. At this point, almost all observers agree that because of the inertia in our political and economic systems, it would take an all-out effort to hold temperature increases below two degrees Celsius, the red line that the international community drew at Copenhagen in 2009. And there is no sign of that all-out effort; instead, there’s a constant push to drill and frack and mine for more oil and gas and coal. Instead, also in the last few weeks, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson announced that the company would double the acreage it is currently exploring looking for new oil.

“Meanwhile, a new oil find in California was reported to be four times larger than the new oil patch in North Dakota, which was itself compared to Saudi Arabia. And that’s just in the US — in Australia, a new find of shale oil in the Ackaringa Basin was estimated to be even larger than the tar sands of Canada, with estimated recoverable reserves worth as much as $20 trillion.

“The mighty political power of the fossil fuel industry has so far been enough to obliterate reason — we’re now a quarter-century past the day when NASA scientist James Hansen first announced in Congress that it was ‘time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.’ Those twenty-five years have seen no real climate legislation passed by our Congress. A few countries — notably Germany, which is now supplying 22 percent of its energy needs with renewable sources, and headed for more than 40 percent within a decade — have made good-faith efforts. But in most places the fossil fuel industry has prevailed, both by funding disinformation campaigns and by purchasing the affections of enough legislators to make sure the status quo persists. One sounds like a broken record for saying this, but so far democratic systems (and pretty much every other kind of system) have proven no match. (Bill McKibben, NY Review of Books, May 9, 2013

MAUREEN MURPHY OF PETALUMA WRITES: “My son had been bullied by two boys (a grade older) from 1st to 3rd grade. At the beginning my advice to him was just to stay away, since he couldn’t tell me of a particular incident. At the end of 2nd grade I picked him up from school and asked him how his day was and he just started sobbing, my heart sank. The same two boys had climbed up onto a play structure that he was on and started kicking at his arms and body to get him to fall off. He wanted nothing to do with “tattle-telling” because he thought they would treat him worse if they found out. Being a mother I had to say something although since an adult hadn’t witnessed it nothing was done. In 3rd grade he had a wonderful teacher and school was getting better for him although there were times where he would seem so unhappy and wanted to change schools. I tried my best to encourage him and made his teacher aware of the situation so that she could keep an eye out. Finally at the end of his 3rd grade year a parent of one of the boys came up to me after school with her son and apologized for the torment and told me that she didn’t realize how bad they were treating him. A few days later when I was doing laundry I found an apology letter from the other boy in my son’s pants packet. Finally an incident was witnessed by an adult at school and the whole situation was addressed with the boys and their parents, I felt so much peace and so did my son.”

MIKE MONTGOMERY spent a week in Mendocino County last year (a week in Boonville) where he worked on a documentary about the dope business. The video at the link below describes his own inadvertent experience with the love drug, confirming (again) that Mendocino County's casual tolerance, especially as it affects the young, ought to be re-thought: Pass the chips…but hold the brownies:

THE OMNI-EXPERIENCED Jeff Costello remarks: “If you haven't had the experience of eating as opposed to smoking pot, there is a world of difference. The effect when eaten, especially things like brownies made with concentrated oil or hashish, is way stronger and lasts a long time. The worst thing about it is there is no antidote. None. Not alcohol, not narcotics, not speed. Smoke a joint and if you don't like it, you can dilute the effect to some extent with almost any other drug, or even food. Not so when you eat it. This guy in the youtube cartoon found out the hard way after greedily consuming two whole brownies. Sheesh. And it was so bad he now has reservations about the entire legal pot trade? What he doesn't know is that some people like the experience that was a nightmare for him (and for me way back in 70s when I ate half of one cookie)".

AND YOU'RE GETTING POORER: “From 2009 to 2011, the average wealth of America’s richest 7% — the eight million households with a net worth north of about $800,000 — rose nearly 30% to $3.2 million from $2.5 million, according to a Pew Research Center report that analyzed recent Census data. By contrast, the average wealth of America’s remaining 93%, some 111 million households, actually dropped by 4% to $134,000 from $140,000. Wealth is the value of what a household owns minus what it owes.” (—Wall Street Journal)

FAULTY INTELLIGENCE: “Money-making is the one aim in life of Americans. The men make money to live luxuriously and over-educate their wives and daughters who are allowed to talk too much. Their lack of real culture is betrayed by their love of jazz music. Americans are still untamed since the wild pioneer days. Hold-ups, assassinations, kidnappings, gangs, bribery, corruption and lynching of Negroes are still practiced. Graft in politics and commerce, labor and athletics is rampant. Sex relations have deteriorated with the development of motor-cars; divorce is rife. America has strong points, such as science, invention and other creative activities. While outwardly civilized, America is inwardly corrupt and decadent.” (— Japanese propaganda assessment, 1941)

PWOGS! “The Progressive Movement we see, and in whose media and messaging we are immersed, doesn’t exist as an infrastructure to bring about change, it exists as parasitic marketing campaign, directed at those who want real change. It looks like it is a Movement, but it doesn’t function like one. It functions like any corporation. It exists primarily via marketing, PR and fundraising all in the name of public education and mobilization, but funneling all that energy and noise every two years into helping elect Democrats by bashing Republicans and promoting, if with pious and righteous reservations, Democratic candidates. … The real agenda of the Big Green groups, the Progressive Media and Progressive Think Tanks, is raising money for themselves. What they do is decided and directed by their small group of decision-makers who are funders or who play to the funders. The professional Progressive Movement I criticize and critique does not ultimately represent or serve any real progressive movement at the grassroots. It markets to them for followers and funding, and every two years votes for Democrats as the lesser of the evils.” — John Stauber

THE PRESS RELEASE BEGINS: “Mendocino County Wellness Program Honored With National Fitness Award — The Mendocino County Working on Wellness program known as “MCWOW” has been named a Silver award winner in the Healthyroads Fit Company Awards® program. The Healthyroads Fit Company Awards® program recognizes organizations nationwide who are leaders in the areas of employee wellness and preventive health care, and who demonstrate their commitment to wellness by offering exceptional employee wellness benefits and services.....” And so on. But eyeballing County employees, I'd say they're generally less fit than a NASCAR crowd, and to even speculate on their mental fitness is simply too frightening to think about.

FROM CHRIS COURSEY'S PD COL Friday: “Getting a ‘real’ newspaper job wasn’t much different; particularly the pay scale. But what reporters don’t get on their paycheck is returned in the intangibles of the job. Independence to pursue the story. Responsibility to get it right. Access to the halls of power, the mansions of the rich, the slums of the poor. Curiosity may kill the cat, but it rewards the reporter.”

THE HALLS OF WHAT? A one-on-one with Wes Chesbro? Hugh Codding's house? Reportorial independence at the PD? I dunno, Chris. I think you're fooling yourself here big time.

ROBERT A. SCAGLIONE has been appointed Mendocino County Air Pollution Control Officer for the County’s Air Quality Management District, replacing Chris Brown who “resigned” last month. Mr. Scaglione has been breathing air for much his professional life — 35 years and counting, and by golly he knows when it's safe to go outside. “Scag,” as he's known around the office, has been employed by Mendocino County for 12 years.

THE FOLLOWING have been described by CareerCast as the worst jobs, with newspaper reporter being the absolute worst . CareerCast does not elaborate other than to state that reporters make an average of $36,000 a year which, as Jennifer Poole points out, is not quite double what a chain-paper reporter makes in Mendocino County. But at large-circulation papers reporters can make a lot more if they’re Guild (union) reporters. Press Democrat staffers, for instance, used to do pretty well, upwards of $70,000 a year, and they were Guild. As newspapers die, the salaries they pay fade, too. Lumberjack is a tough, dangerous, seasonal job that can pay well while the work lasts. It’s non-union and compensation, at least for the fallers we know, is by the board foot, so the more trees a lumberjack drops the more money he makes. Military pay depends on time in service, but an Army private starts at around $18,000 with room, board, medical paid for. And there’s always a chance you can get killed, as there is in lumberjacking, working on oilrigs, night clerking at 7-11. But for an unskilled dude with zero employment prospects there are worse options than “enlisted military personnel.” Actor? Most of them moonlight as waiters, don’t they? There are certainly lots of theatric food servers around. The rest of the jobs on this list are probably on here because the work is hard and the pay not very good in proportion to the effort the tasks require. Whatever roofers make it isn’t enough. Stewardesses not only work hard they’ve got to put up with drunks and rude, demanding passengers. Any honest assessment of contemporary employment would begin with the premise that most of it is hard slogging for less and less money.

1. Newspaper reporter.

2. Lumberjack

. 3. Enlisted Military Personnel

. 4. Actor

. 5. Oil Rig Worker

6. Dairy Farmer

. 7. Meter Reader

. 8. Mail Carrier

. 9. Roofer

. 10. Sky Waitress

FORMER CONGRESSMAN DON CLAUSEN is 90. Clausen was a bring-home-the-pork Republican moderate, at least moderate by today’s rabid standards, was the Northcoast’s Congressman from 1962 until 1982 when he was defeated by Doug Bosco running as an anti-nuke liberal. One line from the PD’s story on Clausen casually libeled Oscar Klee, the volatile Mendocino County populist who'd also run for Congress against Clausen back in the 60's: “Oscar Klee, a Mendocino County accountant convicted of failing to file personal income tax returns.” In fact, Klee, like Norm Vroman, was hauled off to federal prison for failing to convince the courts that nowhere in the Constitution does it say that Americans have to pay income tax. That argument, especially if you back it up by not filing tax returns, never fails to get its proponent a one-way ticket to federal prison. Klee and Vroman thought they had a case; they weren't simply ducking their taxes.

KLEE WAS AN INTERESTING figure. Quick to anger, the former logger turned legal advisor had lost an arm in a woods accident. He'd famously go off at meetings of the Board of Supervisors where he represented the Fort Bragg area. He was also a principal in the famous War of the Warrants. That one saw rival political factions in the County putting out arrest warrants for each other.

SILENCIO! “The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague. There is likely no place on earth untouched by modern noise. Even far from paved roads in the Amazon rainforest you can still hear the drone of distant outboard motors on dugout canoes and from the wrist of a native guide the hourly beep of a digital watch. The question is no longer whether noise will be present, but how often it will intrude and for how long… In my experience, a silence longer than 15 minutes is now extremely rare in the United States and long gone in Europe. Most places do not have quiet at all; instead, one or more noise sources prevail round the clock. Even in wilderness areas and our national parks, the average noise-free interval has shrunk to less than five minutes during daylight hours.” — Gordon Hempton

ALWAYS WORTH SEEING, the Mendocino Coast Furnituremakers will hold their annual fine woodworking show at the Oddfellows Hall on the corner of Kasten and Ukiah Streets in Mendocino from July 3rd to 28th, 10Am to 5 PM.

THE OCEAN PROTECTION COALITION (OPC) will show Gasland, the award-winning documentary film about fracking in the Fort Bragg Library Meeting Room on Saturday, May 11, from 12 noon until 2 p.m. There will be a discussion after the film. The film investigates hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the Halliburton-developed technology of drilling for oil and natural gas. Fracking is supposedly unlocking what the gas and oil companies are calling a “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Fracking is a highly controversial drilling technology. It involves pumping toxic fracking chemicals, sand and water under very high pressure from eight to eleven thousand feet underground. The fluids and sand are pumped at a high enough pressure to fracture the ground below and free natural gas deposits. There are more than 596 chemicals in the mix, many of which are toxic. Just what these chemicals are is not revealed to the public, because they are protected as by oil companies as “trade secrets” A number of bills have been introduced into the California state legislature. They call for an independent study of the process, disclosure of the chemicals used and mandating a permitting process that requires a 30-day notice to all adjacent property owners of intent to frack. A bill by Senator Fran Pavley, introduced before the State Senate, calls for a complete statewide moratorium on fracking if an independent study is not completed by 2015. For more information: David Gurney, OPC Chair 961-1339

EVERY YEAR, maybe twice a year —these things seem to always be occurring — the Press Democrat announces that it's won a bunch of journalism awards. Which, in a world with even residual standards, would be impossible. But there it was in the PD last week, an excited account of trophies all-round for almost everyone at the paper, just like a Little League banquet.

WHAT THE CASUAL reader doesn't know about newspapers, apart from what he's reading is, to varying degrees, untrue, including the weather report — fog is not a “marine layer” it's fog — is that the large circulation papers pay a person to apply for these awards. The smaller papers simply order one of their staffers to do it. To get a Pulitzer — which everyone in the country except the Boonville paper has gotten twice over — someone has to spend a lot of time filling out the application forms and mailing them off with a nice check to the Pulitizer people who support themselves out of the application and membership fees. At the PD level of shameless hackdom, everyone who pays the entry fee gets a teddy bear. I think the PD even has a Pulitizer or two, by golly, but the awards it usually gets come from associations of comparable newspapers organized for the purpose of giving each other medals. Think of journalism awards as school accreditation where you have a team of nuzzlebums from Duck Lake coming to Boonville for a week to hang a seal of approval on Boonville High School. Next year, a Boonville team will drive to Duck Lake to hang a seal of approval on Duck Lake Unified. This stuff is in-house for a reason — the consuming public is uniformly critical, and often hostile.

IF THE AVA, in a moment of high irony, sent in membership fees to The Little Papers of America or whatever Association of Defeated Hacks run these things, we'd probably get an award for, for, for… Best Newspaper For Towns Beginning With 'B' With Less Than A Thousand Residents.

IF THE EDITORS at the PD weren't so purely contemptible in the way they not only don't cover the news, and so shameless in their serf-like devotion to the soil-destroying, water-stealing, labor-exploiting, industrial wine industry, they'd still get an award for “Devotion To Community” or something like that. The fact that they trumpet these phony recognitions in their paper is simply pathetic, desperate even.

BUT HERE THEY ARE AGAIN. A whole bag of trophies for the Rose City daily. “Ambitious opinions! Excellent, firm editorials! Attention to political diversity! Blue ribbon! General Excellence!” And so on.

FIRM EDITORIALS? If you're stirred by statements of the obvious, if Pete Golis musing on “Problems of Education” grabs you, or that mega-feeb Gullickson going on about his dog has you reaching for your hanky, well, our dialogue has ended before it’s begun.

THERE'S LOTS of good reporting out there, but you've got to look for it. Some of it even appears in the mainstream papers, but the PD? Not even close since Art Volkerts was the man in the editor's chair. When Art ran the show the PD was a pretty good regional newspaper.

HAS THE BOSCO GANG improved the Press Democrat? Not in the least. It might even be a little dumber, a little heavier on big front page color photos of toddlers and their puppies running through the summer sprinklers. No, sir, it's a bad hat, Harry anyway you read it.

ANOTHER COMMENTER, MARK GREEN, responded to the PD's latest round of bogus awards a bit more temperately: “The Santa Rosa Press Democrat has some very nice entertainment stuff: restaurant reviews, food columns, etc. Often, quite good photography, too. But if the PD is the top paper in the state, journalism is in a sad, sad circumstance. Routinely, its editorial positions are public-minded in inverse proportion to how influential they are, so the paper will speak out on federal and state issues — over which it exerts absolutely no influence — with a reasonable moral compass, but on local issues where it does carry some influence, it carries water for its advertisers — primarily development, real estate and agricultural interests — with completely predictable regularity. Now it has been bought by the Bosco machine. In more than 20 years of various levels of involvement in Sonoma County politics — including serving as the founding Executive Director of Sonoma County Conservation Action and shepherding it through its first decade, in the years of UGB campaigns, building the public support for SMART and working to defeat plans to discharge Santa Rosa’s wastewater to the River or the Estero Americano — I have never seen any member of that machine show up at a public hearing to advocate for the public interest. Not once. Rather, they advocate for positions which financially benefit themselves and their clients, which include major garbage haulers, developers, road builders, construction companies, and gravel mining interests. So now we are treated to glowing reports, for example, of the glorious exploits of primary PD owner and Bosco kid Darius Anderson in relation to the Sacramento Kings and a hotel in Sonoma, as if the seeking of yet more millions is somehow heroic. Acknowledgement of his stake in the paper is safely buried in these stories where only those who read them all the way through will ever see them, while they belong in the top three paragraphs. Given the increasingly tenuous state of paper journalism, the PD is more dependent than ever on the shrinking pool of those who pay its bills, and therefore much less likely to print anything that might discomfit them. I think it’s safe to say that the wishes and interests of those who live here yet do not belong to the Ralph Lauren set — and particularly of advocates for the quality of life of ordinary citizens and of organized labor, which the PD appears to loathe — are unlikely to see fair airing when it comes to the issues of the day. Perhaps the problem is simply the model. For-profit newspapers have always had conflicts of interest, and while they represent themselves as carrying a public service role, at the end of the day they are about the return on investment to their owners. Public benefit inevitably takes a back seat when the two conflict. The bottom line is that the PD cannot be trusted in its reportage on local issues where its owners and advertisers have a financial stake.”

FIRST TIME we’ve ever agreed with anything Sarah Palin has had to say: “That White House Correspondent’s Dinner was pathetic. The rest of America is out there working our asses off while these DC ass-clowns throw themselves a nerdprom.”

NARROWLY CONSIDERED, that’s a pretty good assessment of that ugly event. But Sarah, who hardly looks like she just climbed out of a coal mine, then went on to lunches and dinners with another set of clown-asses, the billionaires largely responsible for the state of things.

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