A READER WRITES: Here's a painful tidbit for your record: the price of regular at the Chevron station in Mendocino next to Schlafer's Garage is $6.25 a gallon! According to Bloomberg.com the national average is $3.66. According to AAA the highest average is in Fresno at $3.91, which makes Mendocino the current record holder for a gallon of gas at over $2.34 higher than Fresno and $2.59 cents higher than the national average. The greed blows strong along the coast. Mendo Chevron is way more than half way past the world record, which is in Norway at $10.08 a gallon.
THE PROPOSED DOLLAR TREE STORE IN FORT BRAGG
Fort Bragg's city government talks a lot about preserving and protecting existing small retail stores; allowing a Dollar Tree Store simply does not comply with that promise. To quote a new book on urban design and small town economics, “Happy Cities: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design” by Charles Montgomery:
“Money spent at small local businesses tends to stay in a community, producing more local jobs, while money spent at national chains tends to get sucked out of local economies. Local businesses use local accountants, printers, lawyers and advertisers, and owners spend more profits in town. National retailers tend to send such work back to regional or national hubs, and profits to distant shareholders. Every $100 spent at local businesses produces one-third more local economic benefit and one-third more local jobs.”
It's crucial that as many people as possible attend the next meeting of the Fort Bragg Planning Commission, set for Wednesday, December 18, at Town Hall, to voice opposition to this ill-advised project. Those who cannot attend are urged to email their opinions to Jlemos@ftbragg.com, or use the USPS to City Clerk's Office, 416 N. Franklin St., Fort Bragg, CA 95437. Economic analysis shows that smaller “match box” chain stores have as much power to hurt local economies as big box stores, because of corporate buying power that enables them to undersell any competition. If you don't want to see Fort Bragg become the coast's discount capital, Please speak out now.
Thanks, Alice Chouteau, Fort Bragg
A UKIAH MAN was arrested early Saturday morning for allegedly attacking his girlfriend with an ax, the Ukiah Police Department reported. According to the UPD, a caller in the 700 block of Village Circle reported at 2:28am on November 16 hearing a disturbance in the area. When an officer responded, he reportedly saw the suspect, identified as Jesse J. Rodgers, 20, of Ukiah, holding a four-foot-long ax in an apartment complex. When Rodgers saw the officer, he reportedly began running and was chased through the complex by the officer. He threw the ax over a fence, then was stopped at gunpoint in the field between the complex and East Gobbi Street. The officer learned the disturbance began when Rodgers found his girlfriend with another person and got an ax and began to attack her with it, using both the sharp and blunt end of the weapon. He also reportedly tried to gouge out her eyes. When a friend tried to break up the fight, Rodgers reportedly punched her in the face repeatedly. The victim’s left eye was swollen shut and there was some additional swollenness and bruising above her eye. One of the victims was transported to Ukiah Valley Medical Center for treatment. Rodgers was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, battery with serious injury, domestic battery and resisting arrest.
THE DOW JONES industrial average closed above 16,000 for the first time Thursday, rising 109.17 points to finish at 16,009.99, up 22.18% on the year. Reading around, there are experts who say the four-year ups are over and the market is about to go into free fall. There are others who think it's more evidence of an unending bull market. We think it's clearly unsustainable, the whole show being kept artificially alive by so-called “quantitative easing,” the creation of billions of dollars handed to the biggest financial players to keep trillions in bad paper from being recognized as valueless.
THE AUTUMN OF '63
By Fred Gardner
Friday, November 22, was going to be my last day of civilian employment in Manhattan, barring a miracle. I was supposed to start basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, on Sunday the 24th.
I had been an editor at Scientific American since the day after I graduated from college in early June. The job involved working with cutting-edge researchers on articles that would explain their work to “the educated layman.” When he hired me, the publisher, Gerard Piel, said I needn’t worry about the draft because during the Korean War a Scientific American editor had gotten an exemption on the grounds that the magazine was “vital to the national preparedness.” I notified my draft board that they should change my classification from 1A and they notified me back that I was and would remain 1A. I told Piel I was planning to join the six-month program to get the Army out of the way. He said he was sure his contacts in the Kennedy Administration could intervene on behalf of the magazine (me). I don't know if he followed up.
Getting drafted into the Army meant a two-year hitch; volunteering meant three years; and joining the reserves meant six months of active duty plus five-and-a-half years of weeknight and/or weekend drills, and two weeks every summer to maintain “readiness.” Most of us six-monthers joined to get the Army over with — the disruption to our lives — because we had middle-class careers to pursue. Working-class guys knew that employers required you to have an honorable discharge, because they wouldn't risk the expense of training you and then losing you to the draft. In 1963, the only US troops in Vietnam were Special Forces. In due course draftees would be sent to Vietnam; joining the reserves became a way of avoiding that fate.
On the morning of Friday, November 22, I went to Piel's office to remind him that it was my last day of civilian employment.
He buzzed his secretary in the adjoining room and said, “Winnie, get Jerry Wiesner on the phone. And if he's not available, try Bob McNamara.”
Wiesner was President Kennedy's scientific advisor, McNamara was the Secretary of Defense.
Piel knew everybody. His family owned a major brewery. He had been on the wrestling team at Harvard and now he was on the board of overseers. His wife was a prominent civil liberties lawyer. He was 50ish, 5' 7", wiry, with thinning hair cut short. He had a very brisk, upright walk. Piel and the managing editor, Dennis Flanagan, had been trained by Henry Luce at Life magazine, and when they struck out on their own and acquired Scientific American in 1948, they used Life's secret formula: tell the story twice, once in text and once in graphics and captions.
The office was at 415 Madison Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets in Manhattan. There were many great, affordable restaurants in walking distance, and the art director, Jerome Snyder, was moonlighting as a restaurant critic for a new magazine called New York, and had made it his mission to evaluate them all. Jerome and his partner, Milton Glazer, called their column “The Underground Gourmet.” The original idea was to write about restaurants that were literally subterranean — at least three steps down from the sidewalk. Then they changed it so that “underground” meant not well known, not too expensive, and really, really good. Their column was widely read and brought deserved success to many a small restaurant owner.
Our consensus favorite was a Pakistani place on 45th Street, if memory serves, called the Kashmir, and that's where we went for my last lunch on Friday the 22nd. I strolled back to the office with my friend Joe Wisnovsky, still harboring hope that one of Piel's connections had been able to keep me in civilian life. A flatbed truck loaded with cement bags blocked our way on 48th street as we were approaching Madison. Where once a pseudo-colonial red brick building had housed a Hanover bank, there was now a construction site — a deep hole in the granite with a grade cut in so that supplies could be delivered and the foundation prepared for another high riser. The truck was paused at the entrance to the site.
A black hod-carrier hollered to the driver, “Hey, man, you hear they shot the President?” The driver, who was also black, leaned out the window and said “Yeah, man, right in the hade!” It was a totally matter-of-fact exchange and I knew it was true, and that Jerry Wiesner and Bob McNamara were going to be otherwise occupied that afternoon.
People I didn't expect to be upset by Kennedy's death turned out to be deeply moved. Back at the office Dennis Flanagan, a leftist, slammed his fist into a file cabinet with all his might. That night my dad said, “He was so young. He had a beautiful family. And he read books.”
On Sunday morning I reported to the armory at 33rd and Park Avenue and got on a bus for Idlewilde airport with my cohort — about 50 young men who were going to be cops, firemen, sanitation workers, salesmen, and ad men after this six-month detour from real life. We flew on the previously unknown Saturn Airlines to an airport in Louisiana, and then were bussed to Fort Polk. On the trip down, a dominant personality emerged: a big, overweight loudmouth from Brooklyn named Herb Gelfand, who was a fan of Lenny Bruce. He regaled us with reconstructions of Bruce’s act, which he had caught at various small nightclubs.
By Sunday night we were standing in formation with the rest of Company B — draftees and volunteers from Alabama, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas — under the dim stars. We were lined up outside a warehouse from which we would be issued uniforms. The temperature wasn't below freezing but the air is very moist in swampy areas and the cold was penetrating. There was a portable radio on the loading dock providing assassination updates. All of a sudden Gelfand stepped forward and bellowed at the young, blond sergeant who stood in front of Company B: “You killed our President! We are New Yorkers. You southerners killed our President! You're not in mourning but we're in mourning because we're New Yorkers. We demand that we be dismissed immediately for a three-day period of mourning.”
I remember the amazed look on the sergeant’s face as Gelfand stomped back to his place in formation, but I can't remember what he said or did, if anything. His mind was blown and so was mine. This Gelfand might be dangerous, might draw the heat on the rest of us. The radio was playing Connie Francis singing “America the Beautiful.” For the first time since I was a kid I allowed myself to cry (just a little).
In due course we were issued our gear and marched back to the reception center barracks and clambered onto our racks. We slept in the scratchy woolen long johns we'd been issued. In the morning a kid named Steinbach woke up with a grotesque case of hives, his skin dark pink, his face swollen by a factor of about 1.8. He was ecstatic: “They're gonna have to let me out of the Army! I'm allergic to their clothes! They’re gonna have to give me a discharge!” But of course they just issued him long johns made of a different fabric.
When Mrs. Selborne first came to Dixieland from the hot South she was only 23 but she looked older. Ripeness with her was all: she was a tall heavy-bodied blonde, well-kept and elegant. She moved leisurely with a luxurious sensual swing of the body: her smile was tender and full of vague allurement, her voice gentle; her sudden laughter, bubbling out of midnight secrecy, was rich and full. She was one of several handsome and bacchic daughters of a depleted South Carolinian of good family: she had married at 16 a red heavy man who came and went from incomparable table, eating rapidly and heartily, muttering, when pressed, a few shy-sullen words, and departing to the closed leather-and-horse smell of his little office in the livery stable he owned. She had two children by him, both girls: she moved with wasted stealth around all the quiet slander of a South Carolina mill town, committing adultery carefully with a mill owner, a banker, and a lumber man, walking circumspectly with her tender blonde smile by day past all the sly smiles of town and trade, knowing that the earth was mined below her feet, and that her name, with clerk and merchant, was a sign for secret laughter. The natives, the men in particular, treated her with even more elaborate respect than a woman is usually given in a Southern town, but their eyes, behind the courteous unctions of their masks, were shiny with invitation.
— Thomas Wolfe, ‘Look Homeward Angel’
AMA STILL AGAINST LEGALIZING POT
By Chris Kaiser
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland. — The American Medical Association resoundingly turned down a request to soften its position on legalizing marijuana and supported a health-first approach to the drug's use.
The delegation from California had proposed amending AMA national drug control policy to reflect a “neutral stance toward cannabis legalization."
The AMA House of Delegates at their interim meeting here on Tuesday voted to not adopt the amendment.
The delegation from California also proposed that the AMA advocate for the “sale of cannabis to be regulated on a state-based level.” This proposal was also defeated.
However, the House did support an amendment advocating a “comprehensive review of the risks and benefits of U.S. state-based drug legalization initiatives” and to continue to oppose drug legalization until “such research can be adequately assessed."
Members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine ASAM) expressed their disapproval of the amendment to soften AMA's approach to legalizing marijuana.
Delegates from ASAM noted that tobacco and alcohol still remain two of the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S. and asked why AMA would want to add another drug to “the cost society already bears from alcohol and tobacco."
"Unless there is science showing us this amendment makes sense, it is wrong,” the delegate said.
After the voting had concluded, Richard Thorp, MD, chair of the California delegation, told *MedPage Today *that the science on cannabis doesn't exist because it can't be studied as a Schedule 1 drug — the same classification as heroin.
"We [California Medical Association] would at least like to see it changed to a Schedule 2 drug so we could study the drug and approach the topic scientifically,” Thorp said. He found little support among the crowd.
"It would be very inconsistent for the AMA to say cannabis is a dangerous drug and then suggest we don't care if it's legalized or not,” said Michael Greene, MD, an alternate delegate from Georgia.
Greene was referring to existing policy that states, “AMA believes cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern."
Thorp said the amendment wasn't about advocating for the liberalization of a drug. It was about increasing the science surrounding cannabis — particularly in reference to medical marijuana, and it also was about states' rights.
"We wanted to have the AMA at least not take a stand on legalization — or otherwise risk being perceived as interfering with states that have already decided to legalize marijuana in one way or another,” Thorp said.
He said he and his colleagues realize “there is a process to help people understand the complexity of cannabis” and that such a change wouldn't happen overnight.
However, the AMA did adopt several provisions in its policy on marijuana that emphasize the use of public health-based strategies, including that AMA:
• Discourage cannabis use, especially by persons vulnerable to the drug's effects and in high-risk situations
• Support the determination of the consequences of long-term cannabis use through concentrated research, especially among youth and adolescents
• Support the modification of state and federal laws to emphasize public health-based strategies to address and reduce cannabis use
The AMA also adopted a provision that urges the federal government and the nation to “acknowledge” that the current war on drugs has “been ineffective” and to expand the availability to treatment programs for substance use disorders and reduce their costs.
THE SUCCESS OF PROP 103: CALIFORNIA VOTERS ACTED TO SAVE $100 BILLION
By Ralph Nader
A report just out from the Consumer Federation of America found that, over the past 25 years, auto insurance expenditures in the United States have increased by a sharp 43 percent — despite all the advancements in auto safety and new players entering the auto insurance market.
Only one state saw insurance prices fall — California. For that, we can thank the consumer advocates who pushed for the 1988 passage of Proposition 103, which enabled voters to enact the strongest pro-consumer insurance regulations in the nation.
Proposition 103 was a response to a 1984 law that required California drivers to have auto insurance. The insurance companies jumped on this by drastically raising their rates to squeeze as much profit from motorists as possible. Consumers were obviously not pleased. Prop 103 advocates fought back by drafting an initiative proposal requiring insurers to roll back their rates by 20 percent as well as provide an additional 20 percent discount for drivers with good safety records, as well as other vital regulations to keep the insurance industry in check and eliminate ways in which insurers took advantage of policyholders.
As one might expect, the large auto insurance companies used every obstructive and deceptive tactic in the book to oppose this law — spending upwards of $80 million fighting it. Up until that point, the powerful insurance lobby had never lost a major battle with state or federal agencies. Most state legislators were firmly under industry control or locked in neutral. Big money and political connections had provided them an aura of invincibility. So when Consumer Watchdog’s Harvey Rosenfield and I launched the drive to pass Prop 103, many people thought the effort was hopeless.
But big money and powerful connections were not enough to quell the voices of California consumers who loudly proclaimed that “Prop 103 is the one for me.” The passage of Prop 103 was a monumental accomplishment and an example of what can happen when people band together for a cause and show up at the polls. Hopelessness is merely a sentiment for the apathetic.
Rosenfield, who was the author of the measure, recently said: “Proposition 103 proves that when citizens join together, they are an unstoppable force.”
The recent report by Consumer Federation of America’s J. Robert Hunter, an insurance actuary, and his colleagues titled “What Works? A Review of Auto Insurance Rate Regulation in America“ documents the spectacular successes of Prop 103.
Since 1988, over 100 billion dollars have been saved by California consumers which equals “an average annual savings of $345 per household, or $8,625 per family over the entire period.” Under Proposition 103′s rate rollback requirement, refunds totaling $1.3 billion were paid back to consumers. It banned discriminatory practices such as credit scoring and rating based on prior insurance coverage. It provided consumer intervenor funding which allows public challenges to rate hikes. All these benefits and more equal more consumer peace of mind and a more competitive but still profitable auto insurance industry — indeed, California insurers made higher than average profits compared to insurance companies in other states during the study period.
“When I was asked by the California legislature in 1986 to draft a report telling them how to fix the auto insurance price skyrocket, the leaders of the legislature scoffed at our ideas (and collected millions in campaign money from the insurers to reject the plan out of hand). But then the people spoke,” said Hunter. When government is captive to special interest it fails to act, crushing good ideas. But ideas soar into full bloom when the people take over and, not blinded by corruption, do what is right.”
A California’s Prop 103-type reform should be enacted in other states that still allow insurance companies to gouge, irritate and arbitrarily discriminate against their policyholders. According to Hunter, Americans could save $350 billion over the next decade without any serious repercussions for the insurance industry. He said: “When it comes to regulating an industry as large as the auto insurance industry that impacts so many millions of Americans who are required to purchase insurance, we ask of policymakers and regulators the same question we asked when we first began reviewing auto insurance systems around the country more than a decade ago: Why not the best?”
Let the success of Proposition 103 serve as the ultimate counterpoint to big industry lobbyists who regularly bad-mouth regulation as an undue burden on profitable business. When the system works and the companies become more efficient and less capricious — it benefits everyone.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)