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Mendocino County Today: Monday, May 26, 2014

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SIGN THIEF REVEALED! Rich Lamken, MCOE Director of Human Resources, was caught in a MCOE neighbor’s yard trying to take Warren Galletti’s campaign sign down. Consistent with the history of an agency synonymous with incompetence, Lamken was unable to remove the sign and spotted in the act of doing it.

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I know that in some quarters I am seen as Mendocino County DA Dave Eyster's hired media hack, and that my comments will be immediately scorned. But frankly I'm still trying to understand what's driving recent negative coverage in the Press Democrat of the DA's three-year-old marijuana restitution program.

It was a bold move by Eyster in 2011 to launch a program aimed at bringing clarity to prosecution efforts and eliminating costly courthouse practices. At the time local media jumped on Eyster's announcement, and grilled the new DA during face-to-face interviews about details of the innovative program. A statewide legal newspaper joined in. They did what good reporters do by examining public policies, asking questions, and writing informative stories about any major shift. At issue then was how marijuana cases were going to be prosecuted in Mendocino County in the face of a hodgepodge of ineffective and confusing statewide marijuana practices, and a local court system swamped by a case overload.

Yes, Glenda Anderson, Eyster implemented a new approach to marijuana cases “which is unique to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.” But so what if Sonoma County DA Jill Ravitch and others chose to duck the marijuana prosecution crisis in courts and continue the same tired practices that proved so ineffective when she worked as a prosecutor in Mendocino County.

Eyster chose to research, review and study a myriad of conflicting statewide enforcement practices. After much thought, Eyster abandoned the lax, confusing and costly prosecution practices of the past in favor of using existing state laws to craft a new no-nonsense approach. Eyster has been open and transparent about his program, even sitting down recently with Ms. Anderson for two hours to answer questions.

There is no doubt Eyster's program has produced results. In just three years marijuana cases that used to languish in the local justice system for up to 18 months are now resolved in about three months. Can you imagine the cost savings for taxpayers? Eyster in addition has recouped $3.3 million during the past three years from convicted marijuana growers to directly cover law enforcement costs that were gobbling up local budgets.

How is it that this proven program suddenly involves questionable practices as cited in the recent PD coverage? How is it that the new local rules are somehow seen as potentially unfair to dope growers who cry poor and then use public resources to defend themselves? As for the ballyhoo surrounding a rumored federal investigation into Mendocino marijuana practices? Good. Take a look. And if the feds don't like how Mendocino does business, then let me repeat Eyster's standing offer to federal prosecutors: come in, take over marijuana prosecution and pick up all the costs.

As for allegations that Eyster is abusing his legal discretion, perhaps the PD and other critics should ponder court rulings on the subject, as cited in this article: Prosecutorial Discretion (Continuing Legal Education article (reprinted in pertinent part) from the Los Angeles Daily Journal) By Dolores A. Carr (DDA, Santa Clara County)...

“The role of a prosecutor is to represent the people of the state. The prosecutor ensures that victims' rights and interests are protected and that criminals are punished.

“Representing the people means that the prosecution strives to respect the public interest, including the interests of crime victims and accused people. The prosecutor's goal is thus not to win at all costs but to reach a just result.

“The prosecutor has tremendous discretion in deciding how best to accomplish that goal. Prosecutors are bound by state and federal constitutional and statutory law in the exercise of their duties.

“However, prosecutors enjoy significant discretion in deciding whom to charge, which charges to file and which penalties to seek, on obtaining a conviction. This article discusses the proper scope of that discretion and the extent to which it may be supervised by the courts.

“Our Constitution delineates the role of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. See California Constitution, Article III, Section 3. As part of the executive branch, the prosecutor enforces the law by deciding whom to charge and which charges to file.
 In deciding whether to file charges, California prosecutors rely on California Rule of Professional Conduct 5-110: ‘A member in government service shall not institute or cause to be instituted criminal charges when the member knows or should know that the charges are not supported by probable cause. If, after the institution of criminal charges, the member in government service having responsibility for prosecuting the charges becomes aware that those charges are not supported by probable cause, the member shall promptly so advise the court in which the criminal matter is pending.’

“So long as the prosecutor is exercising discretion in making a charging decision, that decision does not violate separation of powers. Thus, the prosecutor's decision about the type and number of crimes to charge is ordinarily not subject to judicial review. See People v. Cortes, 71 Cal.App.4th 62 (1999). This is true even if the prosecutor's decision concerning which charges to file constricts the sentencing options available to the courts. See Davis v. Municipal Court, 46 Cal.3d 64 (1988). For example, the prosecutor may decide to file a charge alleging use of a firearm even though that decision forecloses the court's ability to grant probation. See People v. Tanner, 24 Cal.3d 514 (1979).

“The separation-of-powers doctrine comes into play after charges are filed. Once ‘the decision to prosecute has been made, the process which leads to acquittal or sentencing is fundamentally judicial in nature.’ People v. Tenorio, 3 Cal.3d 89 (1970). After charges are filed, the prosecution may not exercise a veto over the court's powers by, for example, barring the court from dismissing a ‘strike’ prior (People v. Superior Court (Romero), 13 Cal.4th 497 (1996)), or barring a court from reducing a “wobbler” to a misdemeanor (Esteybar v. Municipal Court, 5 Cal.3d 119 (1971)).”

Mike Geniella, Ukiah

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The L.A. Times on DA Eyster's pot strategy:

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Aloha, Mr. Editor, and here's hoping all's well with you and yours.

Today's on-line item by Robert Mailer Anderson about coffee was B-U-tiful! Having fervently nursed a coffee jones of my own for some decades, I can appreciate it. Some years ago, when I came across Woody Guthrie's rant against coffee, I wasn't so receptive; I couldn't get why he was so very against it. Now, in a new century (and a new world?), it makes a lot more sense, especially seeing today's excellent article. Looks like coffee is the perfect beverage to enjoy in a nation so busy overpowering itself. It's significant also, I think, that coffee is among the most-traded commodities in the 'market,' right up behind the bloated rump of petroleum. And, firefighters have long been aware that residential structure blazes caused by self-destructing electrical appliances are mostly attributed to televisions (in the day of cathode ray tubes), and, yep, coffeemakers. Makes me question, briefly, whether I should have my second cup...

Rick Weddle, Navarro

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At its March, 2014, meeting the Board of Directors of Mendocino County Public Radio (MCPB), colloquially known by the call letters, KZYX, made its first move to outlaw dissent among the Board. The Board of Directors, led by Board Chair Eliane Herring, and advised by the station's embattled General Manager and Executive Director, John Coate, was asked to consider signing a loyalty pledge.

A loyalty pledge!

Didn't loyalty pledges go out of style, along with blacklisting, fear mongering, and red-baiting, in late-1950s, with the fall of Senator Joe McCarthy?

Maybe not.

Specifically, the idea of a “MCPB Board List of Responsibilities” was introduced by Chair Herring at the March meeting. I was the only member among the Board's nine members who opposed it. I had serious concerns about the so-called list of responsibilities. I believed the Board needed a legal opinion on its legality and enforceability.

The following items from list gave me the greatest concern: 5.) the “confidentiality clause"; 7.) the clause to “do nothing to violate the trust of those that elected or appointed a director to the board,” and 10.) the clause to “do nothing undermine the authority of the General Manager."

I was aghast. I believed the confidentiality clause violated the principle of open meetings. It defeated transparency and accountability at the station. Meanwhile, the trust clause was vague. What exactly constitutes a violation of trust? Finally, the clause promising not to undermine the authority of the General Manager was tantamount to giving the General Manager dictatorial control of the station.

It wasn't going to happen on my watch. Nope. And I didn't care if my opposition made me the most hated guy at the station. I was prepared to assume the role of Alger Hiss in this new reenactment of McCarthyism.

I made such a fuss that Chair Eliane Herring tabled the item.

But the worse was yet to come.

On Wednesday, May 21, GM John Coate, wrote the following to the station's volunteer broadcasters. The station has approximately 100 volunteer broadcasters.


As to the point, I have received a lot of thoughtful replies to the question and more are coming in. I will compile them and come back with a more refined set of questions based on those replies. Why am I doing this? Because while the Programmer Handbook addresses a number of ways a programmer can lose the privilege due to on-air behavior, off-air is left much more vague. I think it should be made more specific. There is some precedent already though. Beth Bosk and Sister Yasmine were both put off the air because of their off-air behavior. But it was never really codified.

After reading GM Coate's screed, I'm left wondering: What off-air behavior? What off-air behavior will be on the list of banned behaviors at KZYX? What behavior will result in getting a shows cancelled and broadcaster kicked off the air?

Conviction of a felony crime?


I can completely understand being kicked off the air for felony criminal behavior, but I don't think GM Coate is talking about criminal behavior.

So, what is GM Coate talking about? What conduct will get a broadcaster in trouble at KZYX, I wonder? Criticism of station management? Is that enough to get a broadcaster kicked off the air?

How about other criticism? Criticism of the Board? Criticism of station policy? Criticism of another broadcaster? Or how about the very act of my writing this op-ed piece? Will that get me kicked off the air?

What other conduct? Where does the slippery slope end?

How about getting kicked off the air for holding controversial opinions? Holding certain political beliefs? Belonging to certain religions? Belonging to certain organizations deemed subversive by KZYX station management? Perhaps even making certain lifestyle choices unacceptable to station management?

Sounds like McCarthyism all over again.

Any policy in this area would almost almost certainly be actionable in court. A policy mandating or regulating off-air conduct would immediately have KZYX defending itself against claims of reprisals, double standards, and discrimination.

If anyone thinks KZYX's legal bills for the renewal of its FCC licenses are too high — those legal bills are now pushing $10,000 — I shudder to think what defending against such claims in court would cost in the future. John Coate would bankrupt the station by trying to mandate or regulate off-air behavior. Think about it. Almost certainly, none of the above claims would be dismissed by a judge. The opportunity for making case law in a constitutional challenge at publicly-funded radio station, like KZYX, would far too compelling. When the day is done, a judge's career is determined by how published case law came out of cases heard in his or her court.

Also, there's all the negative publicity that would come from a publicly-funded radio station trying to mandate and regulate the off-air behaviors of its volunteer broadcasters. The five objections to the renewal of Mendocino County Public Broadcasting's two FCC licenses, KZYX and KZYZ, drew a spark of national attention — I filed one of those objections — but creating a policy for required off-air conduct would almost certainly create a firestorm of controversy. And I don't think any other public media station in the country would support an attempt by KZYX to mandate or regulate off-air behavior. They would be aghast.

Talk about making KZYX a pariah among its peers! Does KZYX really seek further negative publicity? Weren't the five objections to the renewal of their FCC licenses, including my own objection, enough of an embarrassment? Weren't the 107 members of “KZYX Members for Change” on Facebook enough of an embarrassment?

But the nightmare might not stop at public humiliation, if the station tries to mandate or regulated off-air behavior among its volunteer broadcasters. I can also see the U.S. Congress getting involved.

I explain why.

Any attempt by a publicly-funded radio station, like KZYX, to mandate or regulate off-air conduct would be an invitation for Congress to jump into the fray along with the courts. In the1990s, Congress got involved at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) over what constituted freedom of speech and public decency. Actually, Congress went beyond getting simply “involved.” Congress tried to kill the NEA. In 1995-1997, Congress tried to kill the NEA, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) — all funded by public dollars. Congress almost succeeded. There's no law that says Congress must fund the arts or the media. It's a budget thing.

Incidentally, there is some relevant case law from that time. The case filed by the “NEA Four” in 1993, with lead plaintiff Karen Finley, centered on subsection (d)(1) of 20 U.S.C. § 954 which provides that the NEA Chairperson shall ensure that only excellence and merit are the criteria by which applications are judged. The court ruled in 524 U.S. 569 (1998), that Section 954(d)(1) is facially valid, as it neither inherently interferes with First Amendment rights nor violates constitutional vagueness principles.

In other words, it can be inferred that only criteria by which publicly-funded broadcasters would be judged would be the same criteria that publicly-funded artists are judged — excellence and merit.

Let me state that again. If public dollars are involved, then only excellence and merit matter — excellence and merit.

Again, the courts have already decided this issue in the area of publicly-funded art. No doubt the courts would jump at the chance for a test case in the area of publicly-funded media.

The NEA, NEH, and CPB all have interests that are aligned. For the same reason that the NEA fought back against mandated public decency standards in the 1990s, I also don't think the CPB would sit still for a code of required off-air conduct for volunteer broadcasters. I don't think they would sit still for one minute. The CPB's very survival would be imperiled. They would not welcome negative publicity created by one of their own, KZYX. Remember, KZYX receives some money from the CPB.

Remember, too, Congress can take away the CPB's funding for any reason, or for no reason at all.

Then, there are the conservative groups who would be ready to pounce on KZYX: The Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, The Project for a New American Century, and others. These right-wing groups are always ready to pounce on public television and public radio at almost any opportunity — all in the name of smaller government and smaller budgets. A code for required off-air conduct at public radio would be a constitutional issue for these groups. It would be like waving a red flag at a bull.

But there's more. Even liberal groups would be concerned about the free speech issues implied in a code for required off-air conduct at a public radio station like KZYX.

I was once married to a national reporter who was also a Carter Center Fellow. After reading GM John Coate's post to KZYX's volunteer broadcasters about off-air conduct, I spoke with someone affiliated with the Carter Center. Together, we made a list of all the groups who would be aghast at a code of required off-air conduct. They include not just many liberal groups, but also some libertarian groups, like the Annenberg Public Policy Center. I then asked another person who has been a guest on my show, and who has impeccable national media credentials, to put a call into Annenberg. Why? To get a read on this dubious business of a code for required off-air conduct. I'll ask that person to poll a few other places, too. But I'm not expecting too much support for Coate's proposal. There's no place for McCarthyism in public radio.

KZYX may be small, but our issues are big.

Incidentally, Beth Bosk and Sister Yasmin Solomon were kicked off the air years ago at KZYX for no good reason. They are both outspoken, intelligent, independent women. They are strong women. That's the only thing they were guilty of. Beth Bosk is the editor and founder of the highly respected The New Settler Interviews. Sister Yasmin is a popular disc jockey. The KZYX Board of Directors should direct GM John Coate to give them their shows back — with an apology.

John Sakowicz, Ukiah

(Disclosure: For the last six years, John Sakowicz has been the host and producer of “All About Money” on KZYX. He writes a popular blog at the station's website. Sakowicz is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Mendocino County Public Broadcasting (MCPB) and has served as its Treasurer. MCPB is the holder of two FCC licenses, KZYX and KZYZ. Earlier this year, Sakowicz filed an informal objection at the FCC against the renewal of the MCPB's two licenses, pending a change in management at the station. It was the first objection to an FCC license renewal from a sitting board member at a public radio station.)

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In the autumn, when the great metropolis is so much hotter, so much noisier, so much more dusty or so much more water-carted, so much more crowded, so much more disturbing and distracting in all respects than it usually is, a quiet sea beach becomes indeed a blessed spot. Half-awake and half-asleep, this idle morning in our sunny window on the edge of a chalk cliff in the old-fashioned watering place to which we are a faithful resorter, we feel a lazy inclination to sketch its picture.

The place seems to respond. Sky, sea, beach, and village lie as still before us as if they were sitting for the picture. It is dead low-water. A ripple plays among the ripening corn upon the cliff as if it were faintly trying from recollection to imitate the sea, and the world of butterflies hovering over the crop of radish seed are as restless in their little way as the gulls are in their larger manner when the wind blows. But the ocean lies winking in the sunlight like a drowsy lion — its glassy waters scarcely curve upon the shore — the fishing boats in the tiny harbor are all stranded in the mud — our two colliers (our watering place has a maritime trade employing that amount of shipping) have not an inch of water within a quarter of a mile of them, and they turn, exhausted, on their sides, like faint fish of an antediluvian species. Rusty cables and chains, ropes and rings, under-most parts of posts and piles and confused timber defenses against the waves lie strewn about in a brown litter of tangled seaweed and fallen cliff which looks as if a family of giants had been making tea here for ages and had observed an untidy custom of throwing their tea leaves on the shore.

You would hardly guess which is the main street of our watering place, but you may know it by its being always stopped up with donkey chaises. Whenever you come here and see harnessed donkeys eating clover out of barrows drawn completely across a narrow thoroughfare, you may be quite sure you are in our High Street. Our police you may know by his uniform, likewise by his never on any account interfering with anybody — especially the tramps and vagabonds. In our fancy shops we have a capital collection of damaged goods, among which the flies of countless summers “have been roaming.” We are great in obsolete seals and in faded pincushions, and in rickety camp stools and in exploded cutlery, and in miniature vessels and in stunted little telescopes, and in objects made of shells that pretend not to be shells. Diminutive spades, barrows, and baskets are our principal articles of commerce, but even they don’t look quite new somehow. They always seem to have been offered and refused somewhere else before they came down to our watering place.

Yet, it must not be supposed that our watering place is empty, deserted by all visitors except a few staunch persons of approved fidelity. On the contrary, the chances are that if you came down here in August or September, you wouldn’t find a house to lay your head in. As to finding either house or lodging of which you could reduce the terms, you could scarcely engage in a more hopeless pursuit. For all this, you are to observe that every season is the worst season ever known and that the house-holding population of our watering place are ruined regularly every autumn. They are like the farmers, in regard that it is surprising how much ruin they will bear. We have an excellent hotel capital baths, warm, cold, and shower — first-rate bathing machines — and as good butchers, bakers, and grocers as a heart could desire. They all do business, it is to be presumed, from motives of philanthropy — but it is quite certain that they are all being ruined. Their interest in strangers and their politeness under ruin bespeak their amiable natures. You would say so if you only saw the baker helping a newcomer to find suitable apartments.

We have a pier — a queer old wooden pier, fortunately, without the slightest pretensions to architecture, and very picturesque in consequence. Boats are hauled upon it, ropes are coiled all over it; lobster pots, nets, masts, oars, spars, sails, ballast, and rickety capstans make a perfect labyrinth of it. Forever hovering about this pier with their hands in their pockets, or leaning over the rough bulwark it opposes to the sea, gazing through telescopes which they carry about in the same profound receptacles, are the boatmen of our watering place. Looking at them you would say that surely these must be the laziest boatmen in the world. They lounge about in obstinate and inflexible pantaloons — that are apparently made of wood — the whole season through. Whether talking together about the shipping in the channel or gruffly unbending over mugs of beer at the public house, you would consider them the slowest of men. The chances are a thousand to one that you might stay here for ten seasons and never see a boatman in a hurry. A certain expression about his loose hands, when they are not in his pockets, as if he were carrying a considerable lump of iron in each without any inconvenience, suggests strength, but he never seems to use it. He has the appearance of perpetually strolling running is too inappropriate a word to be thought of — to seed. The only subject on which he seems to feel any approach to enthusiasm is pitch. He pitches everything he can lay hold of — the pier, the palings, his boat, his house — when there is nothing else left, he turns to and even pitches his hat, or his rough-weather clothing. Do not judge him by deceitful appearances. These are among the bravest and most skillful mariners that exist. Let a gale arise and swell into a storm, let a sea run that might appall the stoutest heart that ever beat, let the light boat on these dangerous sands throw up a rocket in the night, or let them hear through the angry roar the signal guns of a ship in distress, and these men spring up into activity so dauntless, valiant, and heroic that the world cannot surpass it. Cavilers may object that they chiefly live upon the salvage of valuable cargos. So they do, and God knows it is no great living that they get out of the deadly risks they run. But put that hope of gain aside. Let these rough fellows be asked, in any storm, who volunteers for the lifeboat to save some perishing souls as poor and empty-handed as themselves, whose lives the perfection of human reason does not rate at the value of a farthing each: that boat will be manned as surely and as cheerfully as if a thousand pounds were told down on the weather-beaten pier. For this, and for the recollection of their comrades whom we have known, whom the raging sea has engulfed before their children’s eyes in such brave efforts, whom the secret sand has buried, we hold the boatmen of our watering place in our love and honor, and are tender of the fame they well deserve.

So many children are brought down to our watering place, that when they are not out of doors, as they usually are in fine weather, it is wonderful where they are put: the whole village seeming much too small to hold them under cover. In the afternoons you see no end of salt and sandy little boots drying on upper windowsills. At bathing time in the morning, the little bay echoes with every shrill variety of shriek and splash — after which, if the weather be at all fresh, the sands teem with small bluemottled legs. The sands are the children’s great resort. They cluster there like ants, so busy burying their particular friends and making castles with infinite labor which the next tide overthrows, that it is curious to consider how their play, to the music of the sea, foreshadows the realities of their afterlives.

It is curious, too, to observe a natural ease of approach that there seems to be between the children and the boatmen. They mutually make acquaintance, and take individual likings, without any help. You will come upon one of those slow heavy fellows sitting down patiently mending a little ship for a mite of a boy, whom he could crush to death by throwing his lightest pair of trousers on him. You will be sensible of the oddest contrast between the smooth little creature and the rough man who seems to be carved out of hard-grained wood — between the delicate hand expectantly held out and the immense thumb and finger that can hardly feel the rigging of thread they mend — between the small voice and the gruff growl — and yet there is a natural propriety in the companionship: always to be noted in confidence between a child and a person who has any merit of reality and genuineness, which is admirably pleasant.

There are a few old used-up boatmen who creep about in the sunlight with the help of sticks, and there is a poor imbecile shoemaker who wanders his lonely life away among the rocks as if he were looking for his reason — which he will never find. Sojourners in neighboring watering places come occasionally in flies to stare at us and drive away again as if they thought us very dull; Italian boys come, Punch comes, the Fantoccini come, the tumblers come, the Ethiopians come; glee singers come at night and hum and vibrate (not always melodiously) under our windows. But they all go soon and leave us to ourselves again. We once had a traveling circus and Wombwell’s menagerie at the same time. They both know better than ever to try it again, and the menagerie had nearly razed us from the face of the earth in getting the elephant away — his caravan was so large and the watering place so small. We have a fine sea, wholesome for all people profitable for the body, profitable for the mind.

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W.H. Auden, 1907 — 1973

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be

One against whom there was no official complaint,

And all the reports on his conduct agree

That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,

For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.

Except for the War till the day he retired

He worked in a factory and never got fired,

But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.

Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,

For his Union reports that he paid his dues,

(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)

And our Social Psychology workers found

That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.

The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day

And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.

Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,

And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.

Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare

He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan

And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,

A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.

Our researchers into Public Opinion are content

That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;

When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.

He was married and added five children to the population,

Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.

And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.

Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:

Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

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by Jeff Costello

Voltaire defines truth as “a statement of the facts as they are.” Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Except that in Voltaire's time there was admittedly religion, but no television, internet or elective politics. The word “fact” has been rendered meaningless as thundering hordes of self-promoting TV announcers, preachers, would-be writers and politicians use the term “fact” to describe anything they please, anything that suits their purposes. It doesn't matter a bit that these “facts” are wildly contradictory in most cases.

In his early presidential campaign, Bill Clinton began half his statements with the phrase “the fact is...” This was normally used to dismiss the claims of factual truth by other, competing politicians. And poor Bob Dole, a frumpy unattractive Nixon to Clinton's charming latter-day Kennedy, probably thought in earnest that he had the facts. And so it goes now across all the overblown media with which most Americans are assaulted on a daily basis. This is not unlike religion, in which countless sects, churches and other self-proclaimed paths to god, heaven and enlightenment each claim possession of the One True Way.

I kind of like Buddhism for its idea of not taking the life of any sentient being, and for the notion of letting go of attachments. But people, god bless'em, have a marvelous knack for screwing anything up and out of its original stated purpose. In 1969 I was working in Manhattan, just off Times Square. Walking down Broadway one day, I was accosted by several tiny Japanese ladies who wanted to show me “the real true Buddhism.” It was the 60's after all, I had taken LSD, and was ready to check out anything that was not related to my normal (dysfunctional) American upbringing. Up we went to an apartment high above the street. The place was crowded and we were told that the real true Buddhism consisted of chanting Nam Yo Ho Ren-ge Kyo. Then came the testimonials. A man got up and told the crowd in a feverish tone how he had needed a refrigerator, chanted the chant, and received a free refrigerator. It was the truth. That's when I left.

Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut and nearby environs, I was exposed to Catholicism to some great extent, at first through my classmates in school. Even at the tender age of 7 or 8, I had a strong sense that something was wrong with the creepy-looking imposing church, the nuns and whatever else I was aware of at the time. (It would be a long time before I started hearing about the was far worse than I'd thought). They told me that only by becoming a Catholic could I get to heaven. This was a serious fact. Later on I had friends from a large Catholic family, who told me the same thing, as they sat around the kitchen table drinking beer and playing poker, trying to beat each other out of their hard-earned weekly paychecks. In Wisconsin they like to sing “In heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here.” Another fact.

Wildly contradicting “facts” can be heard anytime day or night on cable TV news, or read on the internet, anywhere someone is pushing an agenda. Lies. As Swift wrote, people saying “the thing that is not.” And the louder they are, the further from whatever actually is. The world appears to be drowning in more and more bullshit, and lots of human behavior seems more and more insane. Am I saying there's a connection? Certainly. It's a fact.

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WITH DUE RESPECT to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA — I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) “interests.” The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol. While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do — and yet we don't seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: “Why us? What is it about US?” Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that? Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses — and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, “Guns don't kill people — people kill people,” they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: “Guns don't kill people — Americans kill people.” Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.

— Michael Moore

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ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: I've felt crushing grief a number of times in my life. It never made me turn to a supernatural explanation for my life or to make me feel better. Grief is a normal part of living, and so is recovering from grief and finding joy in life. I reject the notion that people need to turn to supernatural explanations in order to see hope. That's a negative perspective on life, in my opinion, and one of the fundamentally negative aspects of religion. So many religions teach we are broken from birth (in Christianity's case, broken from the crimes of our ancestors... which is a perverse idea in itself) and in need of being saved because of how we were born, because of our very nature as human beings... which we are told is naturally evil/sinful. May you look back to those dark times of great pain and allow yourself to see the joy in life, accept pain and suffering as a natural and unavoidable aspect of being fortunate enough to be living in the first place, and come to accept your own self worth.

One Comment

  1. Rick Weddle May 26, 2014

    re: ‘broken from birth’…
    There was a bumpersticker (our version of the writing on the wall?) a while back that read, ‘Born OK The First Time.’ I was struck by the eloquence of it. Plus, I laughed long and loud.
    The notion we’re indelibly soiled by the indiscretions of our Four Bears is hilariously incorrect, a loud example of how a people can get their ‘religion’ on upside down and inside out. The fathers’ sins’ CONSEQUENCES are famously problematic for posterity. This would move the prudent to then avoid such behavior, and to be wary of the suggestion that we are all AUTOMATICALLY SUBSCRIBED to being ‘broken,’ along with being resigned to ACTING broken. Who does this benefit?
    All this insanity and destruction because of a design oversight by the Almighty? Hey. God did not do this. Don’t go blaming Her.

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