- PG&E Herbicide Use
- Storm Damage Money
- Belarus Hyperinflation Panic
- Muddy Waters
- Liberal Pretensions
- Catch of the Day
- Media Politics
- Christian Soldier
- Hard Winter for Ag Workers
GREENWOOD WEST TO ELK is very unhappy that PG&E has sprayed the bases of its power lines with herbicides, so unhappy that it seems a formal complaint to the PUC may be in the works. There is also a hard won County ordinance that restricts the use of herbicides, a fact of local life that's got to be known by the local PG&E people. The poisons, of course, run off in two watersheds — Elk's and Philo's.
GOVERNOR BROWN has declared states of emergency for four rain-damaged counties — Marin, San Mateo, Ventura, and Mendocino. The proclamation says the recent storms caused damage to roads from mudflows, debris, floods and erosion. Mendo can get some federal repair money.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Pay very close attention to what is happening in Belarus, starting yesterday: Capital controls; FX trading clampdown ; Huge taxes on FX purchases ; Lineups for withdrawals at banks ; Emptied store shelves; News website shutdowns; Online shopping shutdowns; etc. etc. In other words, the hyperinflation panic has begun “at the margins.”
It’s 11:00, Do you know where your money is???
I'M JUST AS RESTLESS man as the deep blue sea
Oh yeah, they call me muddy water
I'm just as restless man as the deep blue sea
You know I've been like that
Ever since my baby been gone from me
The night she left me
You know the rain boy was pouring down
Oh yeah, I mean the night the little girl left me
You know the rain was pouring down
You know I was the most bluest man
In this whole Chicago town
I got a brand new babe
She just as sweet, man, as a girl can be
Oh Lord, I got a brand new girl
She just as sweet, man, as a apple on a tree
I wanna tell all you people how the little child been sending me
I'm just as restless man as the deep blue sea
Oh yeah, they call me muddy water
— Muddy Waters
COMMENT OF THE DAY:
Right wingers have chided me in the past for being keener to attack the Clinton crowd than Newt and his gang. Nation editors Victor Navasky and Katrina vanden Heuvel taxed me with the same supposed sin a few months before the 96 election, when the All-Out-For-Bill drive was in full spate. Well, there's no keener pleasure in life than giving liberal pretensions a sound kick in the backside, and besides, a lot of the enduring damage is done by liberals and by the liberal culture of which this magazine — which Navasky and vanden Heuvel carefully call “independent” rather than “left” — is an increasingly sedulous exponent.
— Alexander Cockburn, explaining to readers in the Nation why his column had been cut back, 1998
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 23, 2014
DENISE BARTOLOMEI, Willits. Possession of meth for sale.
HENRY CASTORENA, Ukiah. Domestic assault.
JUDITH DUCHARME, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
ANGELA FURIA, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance.
CARLOS GONZALEZ-ARRIAGA, Ukiah. DUI.
CHARLES HENSLEY, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
BRETT HOAGLEN, Covelo. Failure to appear.
IRAN HOAGLEN, Covelo. Domestic assault.
DANIEL MONTALVO, Covelo. Elder abuse.
BILLY RICKMAN, Philo. Possession of controlled substance, violation of county parole, resisting arrest.
GERIANN WHARTON, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
ADELITA ZACARIAS, Redwood Valley. Possession of controlled substance.
PHONY BALONEY FROM BRENNAN & SONY
by Fred Gardner
A week ago, two big stories had just broken: "Senate Exposes CIA Torture" and "Sony Chiefs' Racist Emails Revealed."
In response — and in concert — the National Security Apparatus denied the torture charge and Sony staged a boffo misdirection play.
The hackers had made available documents exposing the workings of a major corporation. Presumably they revealed the extent of income inequality (who gets paid what), tax avoidance strategies, etc. Of primary interest to the media were the vile emails between Sony executives Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal. The assumption of these two Caucasian morons that Barack Obama would be especially interested in flicks with African-American characters is demeaning beyond words. Scott and Amy — and people like them at the other studios — decide what movies and TV shows get made and transmitted into the brains of the American people. The Scotts and Amies control the culture on behalf of the corporate chieftains who hire them. Their movies and TV shows promote the belief that the world is a very dangerous place divided into "good guys" (generally associated with law enforcement) and "bad guys."
Ms. Pascal issued a pseudo-apology using a word — "insensitive" — that has been forwarded to Alexander Cockburn for guillotining Up There.
Sony strategists came up with a brilliant line to cut off further exposure: anyone publishing the hacked material is an accessory to terrorism. The line was eloquently set forth by Aaron Sorkin in a December 14 New York Times op-ed. Sorkin, a super-successful writer, asserted his leftiness as he led the counterattack:
"As a screenwriter in Hollywood who’s only two generations removed from probably being blacklisted, I’m not crazy about Americans calling other Americans un-American, so let’s just say that every news outlet that did the bidding of the Guardians of Peace is morally treasonous and spectacularly dishonorable."
Aaron Sorkin was so adamant, and so obviously carrying water for Sony, that it got me thinking... They promoted the absurd "North Korean threat to U.S. moviegoers" story to stop the hacked material from getting published! The original statement from the so-called Guardians of Peace made no reference to blowing up movie theaters in America. The National Security Apparatus — eager to bury the CIA torture story ASAP — promptly announced that both the obviously real hacking and the supposedly credible threat to moviegoers at the Bijoux in Peoria emanated from North Korea! The ploy worked perfectly. Today, anyone who says that the racist creep Scott Rudin should be fired is doing the bidding of Kim Jong-Un. Amy Pascal, after a 90-minute meeting with the Reverend Al Sharpton, is going to be more sensitive in the future. The CIA torture story has vanished — John Brennan's denial was the last word. And paying to see "The Interview" — which preview audiences thought was snore bore — is now seen as a patriotic duty.
When Aaron Sorkin was head writer of West Wing, pro-cannabis activists eagerly watched an episode said to be based on the experience of Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the surgeon general who had been fired by Bill Clinton after acknowledging that marijuana has medical uses and masturbation is normal.
It turned out that any connection between the real Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and the West Wing version was just name-dropping and p.r.
In the TV show, a female surgeon general (Caucasian, BTW) tells an interviewer that marijuana is "no more harmful than alcohol and nicotine" and "no more addictive than heroin or LSD." (Both comments contain misinformation. Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol and nicotine, and LSD isn't addictive. Joycelyn Elders would not have misstated the facts.)
President Martin Sheen is out of town when the Surgeon General does her supposedly outrageous truth-telling. Top aides tell her to resign immediately so that the Prez doesn't have to fire her. Meanwhile, one of the president’s daughters, a med student, phones a reporter and says her dad would never fire the surgeon general. The Prez returns from abroad, is furious at the surgeon general (who happens to be Godmother to the daughter now coming to her defense), and furious at the daughter, whom he feels doesn’t love him. Soap-a-roonie! The surgeon general explains to Martin Sheen that his daughter really does love him, and was showing filial admiration by saying that he would never fire her. The Prez is flattered and refuses to accept the surgeon general's resignation. It's a happy ending with the flag flying and the White House glowing and patriotic chords tugging at our sentiments.
In real life there was a female Surgeon General (Black) who spoke the truth in terms the President, a Democrat, considered impolitic. He offed her immediately and ignominiously.
When radical movements emerge, practitioners of leftiness — using NGO money and media access — start speaking for the movement. They pretend that they're helping, reaching a wider audience, etc. — but actually they're weakening the movement's message and demands.
The blacklisted Hollywood writers whose mantel Sorkin claims were not opponents of the North Korean regime, back in their day. They were opponents of capitalism and imperialism. After World War Two, the U.S. had propped up a regime in South Korea dominated by the former ruling elite, many of whose members had collaborated with the Japanese occupiers. "Our" regime in the South prevented Korea from being unified under leaders who had fought against the Japanese. Anyone wishing to understand how North Korea became so insular and anti-U.S. should read The Korean War by University of Chicago historian Bruce Cummings (Random House, 2010). And anyone wishing to understand McCarthyism — the taunting, firing and blacklisting of American dissenters — should review the coverage of Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea with a team of ex-NBA players. Especially chilling for those who remember Senator McCarthy's voice and interrogation style was Piers Morgan's hounding of Kenny Anderson on CNN. It's almost as if Morgan, a teabag, had studied McCarthy's sneering inflection and cadence.
I knew Ring Lardner, Jr. slightly — he played in my in-laws' poker game, we talked about politics on several occasions — and you, Mr. Sorkin, are no Ring Lardner, Jr.
Empty Apartments, Theirs and Ours
At the Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa I ran into David Bienenstock, the writer/editor and cup impresario who left High Times for a job at Vice.com. I expressed appreciation for Vice backing Dennis Rodman's visits to North Korea. "To open doors and bridge a gap," was Rodman's stated intention, and who could not dig that? Bien said that Vice honcho Shane Smith was with Rodman's crew when they were driven to the basketball court, which was in a sports complex surrounded by tall apartment buildings. Upon his return, Shane looked at the site on Google Maps and noticed that the buildings were dark at night — nobody lived there, they were just for show. "They're so weird," said Bien about the North Koreans. I told him that one summer night I was walking along the shore in Palm Beach, Florida, and noticed that most of the high-rises looming above were completely dark; in a few the lights were on in a single apartment. The people who owned those apartments used them in the winter. In the summer they go to their places in the Hamptons or the Poconos. In September it's back to the apartment in Manhattan... North Korea's empty apartments may be a manifestation of foolish pride, but Florida's are a testament to material inequality... I sent Bien a song written to console Rosie (who was upset by the way Rodman had been ridiculed). I wish I could get it to him. Or to some musicians who don't aspire to a contract with Sony.
And the Winners are... Best slogan on a tee-shirt at this year's Emerald Cup: "Marijuana Cures Racism." Best slogan on a product — Kurova Chocolates' "You Can Always Eat More, But You Can't Eat Less."
HARD WINTER FOR CALIFORNIA FARM WORKERS
Photo/essay by David Bacon
San Joaquin Valley, CA, December 2014
In October in California's farm worker towns, the unemployment rate starts to rise as the harvests end. In Coachella, not far from the wealth of Palm Springs, one of every eight workers has no job. In Delano, where the United Farm Workers was born in the grape strike 50 years ago, it's one of every four, as it is in other small towns of the southern San Joaquin Valley. On the coast in Santa Maria and Lompoc the rate is 13.8 and 15.5% respectively. In the Imperial Valley, next to the Mexican border, the unemployment rate is over 26% in Brawley and Calexico.
This is a reality invisible to the state's urban dwellers. Los Angeles has a high unemployment rate for a city, but it is still less than rural towns at 8.7%, or one of every twelve workers. And in San Francisco and Berkeley the percent unemployed is 4.3 and 5.9 -- less than a quarter of the rate in Delano.
Then the winter really hits. By February one of every three workers in Delano and Arvin is unemployed. In Salinas it goes from October's one in ten to February's one in five. Coachella is one in every six. And in Brawley, Calexico, Lompoc and Santa Maria unemployment just never goes down.
Winter is the hard time, when the money made in the summer and fall has to keep the rent paid and kids fed while nothing is coming in. With immigration papers workers can get a little unemployment insurance benefit, but with no papers workers can't collect it -- in fact, any benefit that requires a Social Security number is out of reach. Everyone in this season can use a little work, but for undocumented people especially, even a few days of work make a lot of difference.
Much of the work in the winter is cleanup. With the onset of the drought in California one farmer in a watermelon field near Merced began using drip irrigation to cut down on his water consumption. In the winter, therefore, the plastic tubes that carry water to the plants have to be collected so that leftover fruit and vines can be plowed under, and the field made ready for planting again in the spring. The tubes are only good for one season. After they're collected a recycler is paid to dispose of them.
Drip irrigation is an important technique for organic growers because it waters only the plants growing fruit, helping to keep out weeds without using herbicides. This kind of irrigation also decreases the vulnerability of the watermelon plants to diseases that can occur with the older system of overhead sprinklers.
Organic or not, few growers and contractors here supply any protective equipment for field cleaners. Workers purchase their own cotton gloves to keep their hands from getting scratched and infected, but the thin cloth doesn't keep out water. The field is full of mud, and workers buy big black garbage bags, tearing holes for their head and arms. That's some protection, but water still seeps in quickly through sleeves and pants. No one knows what chemicals might have been used here, or what's in the water that soaks their clothes after a few hours.
Most of the workers in this field come from Sinaloa. Twenty years ago they might have gone home during the off-season, where the cost of living in their hometowns of Guasave or Los Mochis is a lot lower. They might have spent the holidays with their families, and returned when the work starts up again in the spring. Not any more, though. Going home is too expensive for workers at minimum wage, regardless of their immigration status. And those with no papers are held virtual prisoner in the U.S. by the combination of economics and immigration policy.
Taking inflation into account, wages have been falling in California fields for two decades. Today a bus ticket home, or gas for the car, costs at least a week and a half of full time work at the minimum wage of $9 an hour. For those who don't have papers, going home is virtually impossible.╩ Just the cost of a coyote to take a returning worker through the desert and across the border is at least $2000. At $9/hour that's more than a solid month of full time work.
And many people don't make it. The cemetery in Holtville in the Imperial Valley holds the remains of hundreds who die on the border journey every year, many of whom are found in the desert with no identification, and buried with no name.
So in the west San Joaquin Valley town of Gustine, the trailer parks are full in the winter. The town is evenly divided between residents descended from the Portuguese immigrants who arrived two or three generations ago, and more recent arrivals, mostly from Moyahua in Zacatecas, even further from California than Sinaloa.╩
Some people get jobs pruning grapevines and cleaning almond orchards, two of the few relatively dependable sources of winter work. But unemployment hits hard here too. The town was once a center of the dairy industry, supplying milk and cheese to nearby cities. The dairy industry has grown elsewhere in the San Joaquin Valley, but Gustine's cheese plants closed one after another over the last two decades. Its original cheese factory, the New Era Creamery, was built in 1907 when the railroad line was extended down the valley's west side.╩ New Era closed in 2005, just short of a century in operation. Last year what remained of the structure burned down, leaving residents with even fewer alternatives to labor in the fields.
In the winter, even that labor is hard to find.
MERCED, CA -- Bonifacio Villegas, an immigrant farm worker from Guasave, Sinaloa, cleans watermelons from a field after harvest. Villegas is a photographer who worked in Merced before he lost his camera, and went back to the fields to earn enough to get another.
MERCED, CA -- (L) Vidal Cota is an immigrant farm worker from Los Mochis, Sinaloa. He cleans the plastic tubes used for drip irrigation from a watermelon field, after the melons have been harvested. (R) MADERA, CA -- A farm worker cleans almonds from trees in a field near Madera. The crew is made up of immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico. They have to knock the old almonds off the branches, because they'll become infected with worms if left on the trees. Enrique Zavala breaks open an almond to show how it can become infected.
MADERA, CA – (L) Juan Florencio Martinez Alvarado lives in Madera, and gets a few weeks of work in the winter in a crew of farm workers pruning vines that grow grapes for raisins. During the summer he goes north to Oregon and Washington, when the heat in the San Joaquin Valley rises to over 100 degrees. In the winter, though, it can get so cold he says his hands get numb. (R) MERCED, CA -- Francisco Acosta, an immigrant farm worker from Guasave, Sinaloa, cleans the plastic tubes used for drip irrigation.