- Merry Christmas
- Tournament Politics
- Shelter Half-open
- Mine Off
- Catch of the Day
- Graves Reconsidered
- Bullet Heard
- Emergency Calls
- Big Legged Woman
- Proto Hippie
- What the Monk Said
- Serfs In Toyland
by Alaxander Cockburn
“Happy Holidays”: Can we please deep-six this trite “non-denominational” greeting, designed to alert the world that those uttering the salutation “Happy Holidays” are sensitive people aware that the recipients of the greeting might not be Christians, might be Kwanzans, or Jews or Muslims who have a low opinion of J. Christ and no desire to celebrate his birthday. The Muslims think Christ was not divine and the Jewish sacred writings say likewise, and that for the sin of getting ideas above his station JC is being pickled in excrement for all eternity.
But my Jewish friends say “Happy Hanukah”, with no nonsense about saying “Happy Holidays” out of sensitivity to the fact that the festival of Hanukah derives from the Maccabbees’ triumph over the bestial forces of Hellenism in 165 B.C., said Hellenism being in its neo-Platonic guise one of the central components of the Christian religion. An irony is that there’s no mention of Hanukah in the Torah, but only in the Books of the Maccabees, an annex to the Bible.
My friend and neighbor Joe Paff tells me he heard Oregon Public Radio harshly criticize Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for daring to utter the forbidden phrase “Merry Christmas”, even though he immediately made haste to light a menorah to show that his “Merry Christmas” wasn’t an eruption of ur-Schwarzenegger, overture to a volley of Sieg Heils and Aryan paeans to Wotan.
When I lived in an apartment building on the Upper West side of New York, throughout December our elevator rang with jovial cries of Happy Hanukah and Merry Christmas, and Margot Adler who lived in the apartment right next to me wasn’t put out, even though she was a boisterous Wiccan and reserved her enthusiasms for the festival of Beltane, which I vaguely remember involved dancing round some sort of a Maypole. One time Margot, a radio broadcaster of the first quality, was up for a big job at NPR but lost out because NPR was worried about being trashed in the New York Post for hiring a Witch (though a witch who was White in every sense of the term).
So, hear it from a unbaptised, unconfirmed Protestant/atheist, born out of wedlock, albeit raised in a Christo-Commie environment, MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.
MORE EXCELLENT REPORTING FROM MENDOCINOSPORTSPLUS:
Fort Bragg 'Un-Invites' Mendo To Holiday Hoop Tourney
The MSP message box has been crammed with messages like this one: "Not sure if you have heard but our teams have been uninvited to the holiday classic. Fort Bragg tourney officials felt that if Mendo were to wear the [“I Can’t Breathe”] shirts it could be a public safety issue so felt it best we not participate."
Here's another: "Did you hear Mendocino got kicked out of the Holiday Classic? Just a bit of true holiday spirit I guess. What better way to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace..."
MSP will be sending out emails to the Mendo coaches, MUSD Superintendent Jason Morse and the tournament to confirm this rumor. The Mendocino basketball teams unveiled "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts when they played Fort Bragg in the Archer Anderson gym December 16th. The phrase has become ubiquitous at protests and rallies after a New York jury declined to indict a New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner, who was heard saying “I can't breathe” during an altercation with law enforcement before he died. Athletes have been seen wearing a black T-shirt with the phrase written in white. Protesters supporting police have even been seen wearing “I Can Breathe” T-shirts, as a nod to law enforcement. MSP is the only news outlet to post about this “coast controversy.” We've had more than 70,000 unique views on our original post and hundreds of comments.
* * *
From MSP 'Rumor Central': Tourney Will Ban 'Any One' Wearing 'I Can't Breathe' T-Shirts — MSP is trying to get an "official" response on the banning from Mendocino from the annual Vern Piver "Holiday Basketball Classic" because they "might" wear the "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts they wore December 16th in Fort Bragg. Which is problematic as it's Christmas Eve.
From what we understand, Mendo was "given the boot" from the (Fort Bragg) tournament and no tourney official even ASKED the [Mendocino] Cardinal teams to “not wear” the shirts at the tourney.
MSP UPDATE (Wednesday, 8:53AM) Heard back from Mendocino Head Coach Jim Young (thank you coach) who wrote: "The boys were informed they were out after we complied with FB's requests."
We also heard from one source, who wished anonymity, that said (tourney officials) "…said NO ONE could wear the shirts in the gym, not just the players but spectators also wouldn't be allowed in the gym if they wore their shirts because it would create an unsafe environment."
So much for freedom of speech.
Wonder if tourney officials will issue a list of "approved" t-shirts before the tourney slated to start December 29th — and if emails have been sent to participating teams informing them of "proper" attire for the tournament?
Mendocino High Club Cardinal President Douna Scarmaglia posted: "I have been asked if, as President of the booster club, we purchased these shirts. Fair question as we purchase all other uniforms."
The answer was "NO."
Apparently a parent of one of the Mendo players was responsible for the printing of the t-shirts.
More as it rolls in...
* * *
MSP BREAKING NEWS...
MENDOCINO BOYS 'RE-INVITED' (WITH CONDITION) TO FORT BRAGG TOURNEY
MSP doesn't have all the details YET, but we've learned from a reliable source the Mendocino Boys Varsity team will, indeed, be playing in the Vern Piver Memorial Classic Monday.
There IS a condition however.
The condition ?
The team agreeing to NOT wear the "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts on the Fort Bragg campus at anytime during the three day tourney.
The Fort Bragg administration also put in their two cents:
(We would) "like to be perfectly clear that we, at Fort Bragg High School, reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who threatens the goals of our tournament. Should any MHS fans decide that this would be a good time to demonstrate in protest of our decisions, we will ask them to leave our venue or they will be escorted off the premises. "
The Mendocino girls, however, will not play. It has to be assumed most of the team would not agree to the "condition." One boys varsity player has refused to abide by the "condition" and will not play - but won't be penalized by the team for doing so.
More as this story develops...
* * *
WHAT WOULD VERN HAVE DONE? The Fort Bragg tourney is named after the late Vern Piver who, for many years, dedicated himself to youth sports, and when I invoke the overused and often misapplied term "dedicated," everyone who knew Vern knew he spent many thousands of hours, almost every waking hour after his work in the timber industry, to the full range of youth sports, from little kids through high school age youth.
I HAVE NO IDEA how Vern would have reacted to the politicization of his high school basketball tournament. My reaction is that I think the emotional manipulation of high school kids as surrogates for adults unwilling to take their own public political stands is pretty crummy.
I ALSO THINK the Hands Up, Don't Shoot stance is politically false and an insult to all cops because it implies that white cops are out there randomly gunning down black people to satisfy their racist blood lust. It also implies that we've made no racial progress in our sad country, which is also false. Does the Mendocino High School basketball team or any of their parents think they're in danger of being shot by a Fort Bragg cop or a Mendocino Sheriff's deputy? Let's have the reasons.
EACH of the shooting episodes that have cumulatively set off this national hysteria maligning all cops as state-sanctioned psycho killers occurred in dissimilar circumstances. Collectively, they hardly represent a pattern of arbitrary police shootings.
MENDO BEING MENDO, there are no forums (except the AVA) for arguing any of this, but if someone out there on the Mendo Coast wants to organize a face-to-facer about this fraught issue, I'm available anytime. Maybe we could hash it out in the Fort Bragg or Mendocino gym, proceeds to the late Eric Garner's family.
THE BUDDY ELLER CENTER, Ukiah’s 50-bed homeless shelter, is kinda open, kinda not. The bathrooms are still under construction. Presently, about 30 persons in need of temporary shelter can sleep at Eller, assuming they aren't drunk or spectacularly under the influence of controlled substances, but they'll have to make do with portable toilets and related facilities.
THE ELLER PROJECT has been closed for remodeling. It's operated under the auspices of Ford Street, a multi-tasked non-profit also based in Ukiah. Jacque Williams is in charge.
AT THIS TIME, the shelter is accepting only local people and is giving preference to people with children and those with special needs or disabilities. And even when construction is complete, Eller will be open only three months a year due to lack of funding for the year-round operation it used to be.
THE ELLER REHAB occurs in a wider discussion vaguely aimed at a more orderly, more stable county-wide homeless policy. As it stands, the do-good non-profits mostly subsidize a floating population of drug and drink-addicted persons, with an admixture of criminals, who, in the days before America lost its way, were mostly confined to state hospitals.
THE PROPOSED KUNZLER TERRACE MINE appears to be off, for now, as the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted to rescind the use permit and final environmental impact report, or EIR, for the project as part of its consent calendar on Dec. 16.
The Board of Supervisors was required to overturn its 2010 decision of issuing the permit and final environmental impact report for the project after the Masonite Corp., and the Russian Riverkeeper, successfully challenged the approval of the plan in July 2013, in the California First District Court of Appeals, alleging the county failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.
In accordance with the decision, the Mendocino County Superior Court issued a writ of mandate, or reversal of its previous order in December 2013, which gave the county until Dec. 8, 2014, to file a response, which the county says it did by the deadline.
Besides pulling the permit, the board was ordered to recirculate a supplemental EIR with provisions, according to the decision from the appeals court.
In its complaint, Masonite alleged the permit's approval process and impact report were deficient in part because the project had more negative impacts than originally proposed, nor did it properly outline the impacts to the Foothill Yellow Tailed Frog.
Masonite also stated in its complaint that "the county erroneously determined that conservation easements and in-lieu of fees were not feasible ways to mitigate the loss of prime farmland due to the project, and the EIR did not adequately analyze the project's cumulative impacts on agricultural resources."
The appeals court granted a supplemental EIR, which includes provisions pertaining to the frog and addresses the related deficiencies brought forward.
The project has gone through a lengthy process for the past several years since it was first proposed by Granite Construction Company back in 2008, according to county documents. The plan called for a terrace mining operation on property near the intersection of the Ackerman Creek and the Russian River, or one mile northeast of Ukiah.
On July 27, 2010, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors certified the final environmental impact report and approved the use permit and reclamation plan.
If eventually approved, the site would extract 2.25 million cubic yards of material, or 167,000 cubic yards per year, over 25 years, the permit application from the county's planning department states. The pit would be developed through three phases, totaling 30 acres with a maximum depth of 65 feet.
The findings of the May 2010 environmental impact report, as required under the CEQA, determined that project operations, including the processing plant, off-road equipment, haul trucks, employee trips and sources of "fugitive dust" like unpaved areas and storage piles, would generate "criteria pollutant emissions with the impact being potentially significant."
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal.)
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 24, 2014
AARON BECK, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public.
MEREDITH BOONEDENHEM, Clearlake/Ukiah/Coyote Valley Casino. Leaded cane, blackjack, slingshot, sandclub, sap sandbag, theft or illegal driving of vehicle, probation revocation.
BRANDY BROGIE, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear. (Frequent flyer.)
JAMES CLARK, Sacramento/Ukiah. Witness intimidation, probation revocation.
ASHLEY ESPINOSA, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance.
THOMAS GALLUPS, Willits. Ex-felon with firearm, concealed weapon, prohibited person with ammunition, loaded firearm in public.
JOEL GONZALES, Lucerne. DUI-Drugs, under influence of controlled substance, possession of smoking/injection device, driving without a license.
WILLIAM HOLT, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
ADRIAN JAMES, Potter Valley. Vandalizing phone/cable lines.
JORGE LOMBERA, Ukiah. Resisting arrest.
JEANNETTE LONG, Redwood Valley. Burglary (of a store), forgery, receiving stolen property, possession of meth, unauthorized use of someone else’s ID, ex-felon with firearm, driving without a valid license.
ROBERT VERVILLE, Willits. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
WAYMAN WILSON, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
LOCAL BOY MATT GRAVES: MATT AS TEST CASE?
In a sharp reversal of federal drug policy, Congress has prohibited the Justice Department from interfering with laws in California and other states that allow the medical use of marijuana. And the turnabout caught the immediate attention of federal judges, who want to know its impact on some recent criminal convictions under the federal law that classifies pot as one of the most dangerous drugs.
A day after President Obama signed the new law last week as part of a government spending bill, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco asked a federal prosecutor whether the change would affect the sentencing of a Mendocino County pot grower, who pleaded guilty to charges requiring at least five years in prison.
Not at all, replied Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Barry, because defendant Matthew Graves “was not growing (his crop) for patients. ... He was growing it for money.”
But Breyer wouldn’t take Barry’s word for it, and rescheduled the sentencing for February.
When Graves was charged with illegal cultivation in 2012, the judge noted, federal law barred any evidence of medical use, but the new law might make that information relevant now. In fact, Graves’ lawyer has said some of his client’s plants were for medical patients. A day earlier, another judge in the same courthouse postponed the sentencing of a Humboldt County man who claimed his pot crop was all for medical use, in compliance with state law.
Not far away, lawyers for Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, were preparing to invoke the abrupt change in federal law to fend off U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s two-year effort to shut Harborside down and forfeit its property.
The legislation should persuade Haag’s office “to lay down its arms so as to end the costly and misguided offensive on the rights of medical cannabis patients,” said Henry Wykowski, a lawyer for the dispensary.
Federal prosecutors aren’t prepared to concede anything. While the Justice Department hasn’t spoken publicly on the meaning of the new law, saying only that it’s under review, the legislation — an amendment to a government spending bill — is loosely worded and subject to varying interpretations.
Sponsored by two California congressmen, Republican Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach (Orange County) and Democrat Sam Farr of Carmel, the amendment prohibits the government from spending money to prevent 32 states — California and 21 others that allow the medical use of marijuana, and 10 more that legalize hemp oils — from “implementing their own state laws.”
“It’s ironic that they don’t want any money spent (on federal enforcement), because there’s going to be a lot of money spent in courts,” said Marsha Cohen, a UC Hastings law professor in San Francisco who specializes in food and drug laws.
Medical marijuana advocates have promoted such legislation for the past decade to counteract a system in which state laws that allow cultivation, distribution and use of the drug with a doctor’s approval can’t even be mentioned in federal court.
Voters approved the California law in 1996, and since then both Democratic and Republican presidential administrations have backed raids on pot growers and suppliers, prosecution and imprisonment of their leaders, and seizure of their properties, regardless of state or local licensing. The four U.S. attorneys in California announced a campaign in October 2011 to shut down marijuana dispensaries, which they likened to drug trafficking operations, and have closed several hundred.
The forfeitures have slowed since the Justice Department announced in August 2013 that dispensaries complying with state laws should not be a priority for federal enforcement. But Haag’s office and others in California contend the outlets they target are violating state law because of their inherently commercial nature — or, in Harborside’s case, its sheer size, with 108,000 customers — even if the state lets them operate.
Because federal prosecutors say they’re already abiding by state laws, the new legislation is mostly “a political statement that has no significant impact” on current cases, said Oakland attorney William Taggart, a former Golden Gate University law school dean and advocate of marijuana decriminalization.
But medical marijuana advocates say Congress clearly meant to stop federal crackdowns on state-licensed operations.
Haag’s “lawsuit to forfeit property is contrary to the intent of Congress,” and so are prosecutions of medical marijuana growers and suppliers, said Cedric Chao, a lawyer for the city of Oakland, which approved Harborside’s operation.
Medical marijuana lawyer Joseph Elford said California courts have rejected the federal government’s argument that pot dispensaries violate state law.
The debate is about to begin in federal court.
Before he pronounces any sentence in the Mendocino case, Breyer said at Wednesday’s hearing, he needs to know “what does that act mean with respect to marijuana prosecutions?”
Bob Egelko (Courtesy, the San Francisco Chronicle)
THE UKIAH POLICE DEPARTMENT this week was investigating an incident that led to a gun being fired close to an officer early Saturday morning.
According to the UPD, an officer reported that he was parked in the 700 block of South Orchard Avenue around 2:45 a.m. Dec. 20 when he heard a gunshot and heard the bullet pass his location.
Believing he had been fired upon, the officer immediately requested emergency assistance and directed his passengers, who included a citizen ride-along as well as someone arrested for public intoxication, to a safe location while he tried to determine where the shooter was.
One person was seen walking from the parking lot of the Super 8 Motel and Henny Penny restaurant who fled upon seeing the officer. After other officers responded, along with Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers to set up a perimeter, a second person was detained.
A K-9 officer was deployed to search for the first person, but he was not found.
UPD detectives responded to the motel and reportedly learned there had been a disturbance there involving numerous people just prior to the gunshot, and began an investigation, during which they reportedly found evidence related to the incident that included "ammunition and a significant amount of methamphetamine."
UPD Capt. Justin Wyatt said there is no evidence linking this incident with another on Dec. 11 involving shots fired into a home in the 700 block of South Orchard Avenue.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
PRESS RELEASE: Humboldt Bay Fire-Eureka Police Dispatch Center processed 39 emergency calls for service in 30 minutes this morning when high winds and rain moved on shore. Most of the calls were for downed power lines, trees across roads, and flooded roadways. However, Humboldt Bay Fire did respond to a reported structure fire on the 2500 Block of Pine Street during the weather event. Upon arrival at the structure fire units determined that the weather had caused electrical issues within the residence but there was no fire. There was damage to appliances in the residence from the weather caused power surges. Personnel ensured that there was no further threat to the residence. The Battalion Chief on scene held two units for a short time and released the other responding units to handle the flurry of calls that were coming in for other emergencies.
At one point in time, all fire personnel were committed on various incidents. Fire officers triaged each call as they arrived on scene, made the situation safe and notified the appropriate agencies to respond. They then moved on to the next call and coordinated additional responding resources. Although there was a significant draw on resources, Humboldt Bay Fire, City of Eureka Police, City of Eureka Public Works and Pacific Gas and Electric personnel were able to coordinate and respond to all of the immediate incidents. As this weather moves through the area, we continue to field calls for service.
Residents should be prepared for possible power outages. If you come across a down wire, do not approach it. Although lines may look safe, they may still be energized. Please report the line down and we will respond to the hazard.
With the current stormy weather, Humboldt Bay Fire recommends having flashlights available instead of using candles. If possible, avoid going out in the weather until it passes.
BIG LEGGED WOMAN
I love the tip, i love the top, i love you better than a hog loves slop
'cause you're a big legged woman, with a short short miniskirt
Promise me darlin', you'll never make me feel like dirt
Just like the vine, goes around the stump, you are mine, call me sugar lump
'cause you're a big-legged woman, with a short short miniskirt
Promise me darlin, you'll never make me feel like dirt
I've told you once, i've told you twice, we go together, like fried beans and rice
'cause you're a big legged woman, with a short short miniskirt
Promise me darlin, you'll never make me feel like dirt
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, you mess with my woman, i'm gonna hurt you first
'cause she's a big-legged woman, with a short short miniskirt
Song by Freddie King
THE FIRST HIPPIE
A Christmas Fable
by Steve Heilig
When the rain let up and the sun went down, it started to get cold out. The soggy skies had kept it somewhat milder and sleeping out in the park was OK. Not great, but OK, as long as one could find shelter from the deluge. True cold was another matter though and I needed to find either a warmer spot or more blankets, or both.
The dog and I walked out into the streets. Our first goal was something to eat. I was no good at begging but the dog's big sad eyes and sweet if cautious demeanor set him apart from many of the tougher, more threatening sort. I could sit out on a busy sidewalk with my hat upturned in front of me and collect a few dollars in an hour or two, so that's what we did. I said "thank you" every time somebody tossed something in, but I didn't look at people expectantly as that seemed to be more of a guilt-tripping thing, and actually produced less coins.
Tonight, being a holiday, there were less pedestrians out but those who passed were often more generous. By the time an hour or so had passed I was starting to shiver and Pup was getting restless. I picked up the hat and there was $5.73 in there, not quite minimum wage, but plenty for now. Getting up, dusting off my pants, we headed for the corner store. Two cans of dog food, one for now and one for morning, $2.15. Two bananas, one for now and one for morning, $1.20. One cup of yogurt, $1.40. One granola bar, $1.00. That about did it. The clerk just nodded at me and turned back to his TV set and I stuffed the grub into my bag and headed out, where the dog was tied and waiting eagerly, more aware of what time it was more than I: Dinnertime.
The next decision was where to seek the night's shelter. The park was still there of course but lately it felt more damp and unwelcoming than usual. I knew a few other spots though, in semi-remote urban cubbyholes under the cover of overhangs, garages, and so forth. My one good blanket wasn't as efficient on concrete or wood but it still beat being damp.
But first, dinner. Down the street I found a bench, plunked down, motioned for Pup to jump up and join me on it, off the cold sidewalk, and went to work on his can with my battered Swiss Army Knife. He watched my every move intently. I liked to just give him the opened can, as it gave him sport to work his way through it himself. While he was gnawing into that, I ate my banana, yogurt, and crunchy bar, musing that most of my meals felt like breakfast and were pretty healthy, if not large. Losing weight is supposed to be good for us though.
One we were both done, I took the licked-clean can and poured some water into it from my bottle and swirled it around, so Pup could lick every last morsel out while having a post-dinner drink. I briefly thought of how good a drink of my own might be, a beer or even glass of wine, but that was out of the question. A coffee in the morning was a luxury enough, once I had the first cash of the day in hand.
It was probably only about 7PM now and really too soon to turn in but that nightly dilemma was here: What to do with oneself? Being down on the ground, trying to sleep, for like twelve hours a day was just too much. But where to go? I pondered that I'd had perhaps twenty words with other humans today, mostly "thanks." My fellow street denizens were rarely folks I wanted to interact with much. I no longer knew what it was like to not be lonely, so like a fish in water, that had come to feel normal, if not good. My life consisted of walking, begging, reading, sleeping, and feeding myself and Pup. As all but the last seemed a sort of treading water to no real end, I again had the brief flash of realization that if and when Pup was gone, there was really no reason to carry on with the rest. My mind briefly thought of some people from my past, especially the women who had loved me at some point, but I caught that and shook it off, knowing the past is past and they did not miss me now and wouldn't again in any event. So be it. Shaking that off too, I got us up and walked on, vaguely heading to a relatively safe and dry place I'd slept in before, hoping nobody else had already claimed it. A few blocks down, I heard group singing. Walking a bit further, I saw it was coming from a small church.
I've never spent any real time in churches, other than ceremonies like weddings or funerals. And though some offered shelter and meals to folks like me, I felt guilty availing myself or their charity, being of little — OK, no — faith. But this was a special day, I had no other plans, and it looked and sounded warm in there, so I strolled the few step up to the doorway, stepped into the first little room inside, noted there was nobody there and nobody could see me, so I motioned Pup to sit down in the corner, handed him a small biscuit from my coat pocket, and left him there munching, expecting to just check out the inside for a moment or two. Inside, it was a standard, non-fancy but nice enough church room, nicely lit up by both electricity and candles. It was about half full with people, sitting in rows and singing from the books in their hands. They were pretty good at it too and the sound from some song I did not recognize swelled and filled the air inside. I stepped forward to the last row and sat down to listen, and not incidentally to warm up a bit before facing the long night ahead.
One song ended, and another started up without a real break. "Oh come all ye faithful.." they began. Aha, I know this one, or some of it, I thought. It's one of the better carols, or so I felt. Joyful and triumphant, it advised, regarding the newborn boy it celebrated. I just didn't know. The song brought up memories of youth, but not much else. Still, I liked hearing them sing it. It was soothing. And so, of course, I fell asleep, sitting up.
"Sir", came the voice, with a gentle nudge. "Wake up, sir," he said. He was a big guy with a kind enough look. "It's time to go, and you have to take your dog out with you." Well, duh, I thought. As if I would leave him. "Thank you," I simply said, and got up to go.
"Here, please take this," said the man, handing me a small booklet. Not wanting to displease him, I took it, and walked out to where Pup was sitting, looking worried as he had been awoken too. "Good night" the man said, closing the big wooden doors behind us, and I nodded and walked down and onto the sidewalk. It was noticeably colder out and I checked my old watch and saw it was after 9PM, so I must have slept at least an hour in there. Nice of them to let me, I thought, although it would have been nicer to let me stay the night. We headed down towards the college, where some of the sleeping spots could be found, if one was not too obvious about it. Around the back of the library was a small courtyard with many plants and even some pine trees. I'd found that putting a thick layer of pine needles down, under my blanket, with Pup nestled next to me and my bag under my head as a pillow, was pretty good, about as good as it got.
There was one little shaft of light that came down from the building through the branches so I could even read if I wanted to. I had a couple of magazines I'd found, a book, and today's papers, so I was set, as usual. But the first thing I found was the little booklet the church keeper had pressed upon me, so I looked at that.
"The REAL Bible", it was titled. A somewhat pompous title, I thought, especially as it was only about twenty small pages long. I tuned the cover and the Introduction, one one page, simply said "These are the words of Jesus Christ, from the Holy Bible. The rest of the Bible, thought well worth your time, was all added on after his lifetime. For the truth, you really need read no further. So please do so now. God bless you."
Well that's straightforward enough, I thought. I know not from the Bible, and could maybe name only half of the Ten Commandments, for that matter (although I'd probably violated all of them at some point). Did Jesus say "Bless the beasts and children?" I wasn't sure, but I agreed with that much. Maybe that was Saint Francis, the guy my adopted home city was named for? I read on, and such words as these, some familiar, some not, were there:
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
"What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?"
"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven"
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
"Judge not, that you be not judged."
"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Hmm. I let the booklet drop to my chest and closed my eyes. Man, I thought. There was no way around it: Jesus was the first hippie. Or at least, the first Western was, as there were probably wandering monks and such before him, Hindu, Buddhist, whatever, around the world. And of course they tortured and killed him, of course in the name of faith and protecting the children. His words certainly didn't seem to guide too many of the self-proclaimed religious folks I'd met, but then, again, he said to judge not. I vowed to spend some time at the library, where I and others like me went anyway to warm up, dry out, clean up, nap in peace, use computers, and most important, use the bathrooms, to learn more about him and his time. Yes, some of us even read there sometimes. I wouldn't be able to do that tomorrow, as in fact it would be his birthday, but the day after, perhaps.
Pup stirred and whined a little. I looked around, up into the light from the building, and saw a strange sight — masses of little lights coming down and landing on the bench, the branches, the ground. Pulling my arm out of the blanket, I held out a bare hand: Snow. How rare and strange. And good, actually, as it might mean that the air would warm up a bit again. It seemed to worry Pup, though. I reached under my head into my bag and found the other banana. He sat up and stared as soon as I popped the little stem off, a sound he knew. The strange big dog, who was a giant baby but kept me safe just by virtue of his size, just loved bananas. I broke off pieces for him, eating one, giving him the other four. Bless the beasts indeed, whomever said it.
It would still be a cold morning, and likely another damp day. Christmas day. I motioned Pup to lie back down, on his side, and he did, and I scruntched back down next to him, spooning as they call it, and pulled the rest of the blanket over us. I looked up into the air one more time before trying to sleep and suddenly the famous ending to James Joyce's story "The Dead" came to me. I hadn't read it since college, but there had to be a reason many thought it one of the most perfect and powerful short stories ever written, although it isn't all that short. I thought that it was set at Christmastime. What I could remember, more or less, went something like this:
* "It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight.... It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill ... It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."*
I shut my eyes, and figured I'd have to look that one up in the library too. After Christmas Day, anyway.
TOYS FROM ABUSIVE CHINESE FACTORIES BRING NO HOLIDAY CHEER
by Ralph Nader
Here’s a question to ponder this Holiday season — what do toy brands like Barbie, Mickey Mouse and Thomas the Tank Engine have in common? What about the companies that produce these toys — Mattel, Disney, Fisher Price and other major toy companies such as Crayola and Hasbro? Many parents might say that the shared commonality of these toys and their corporate manufacturers is their young children’s affinity for them, especially around the holiday season when corporate advertising and marketing launches into overdrive. Many parents may be planning or have already purchased these and other toys as holiday gifts for their youngsters.
Here’s one common factor that many parents will likely not consider about the toys they purchase as gifts. According to a recently released 66-page report from the nonprofit organization China Labor Watch (CLW), these aforementioned popular toy brands and many others are manufactured in Chinese factories that have been found to have repeatedly committed a vast number of worker rights violations. This most recent CLW investigation was a follow-up to one conducted and reported on in 2007. Disturbingly, many of the same abuses reported then were discovered once more, seven years later. Despite efforts to bring attention to these harmful labor conditions, the conditions in Chinese factories persist, and Americans continue to buy up these products by the millions. As for the American companies that sell them, finding ways to shirk any responsibility for deplorable factory conditions is their primary public relations concern.
The CLW report states:
Many toy companies divide their toy orders among dozens or hundreds of factories in order to ensure that their orders in any given factory only consists of a small proportion of that factory’s total orders usually no more than 20 percent. Toy companies will also use this as a basis for avoiding responsibility for poor labor conditions. For example, if CLW uncovers labor rights violations at a Disney supplier factory in China, Disney might respond that it only maintains a small number of orders in the plant and is unable to influence the factory’s behavior.
Parents should consider the following harsh realities uncovered by CLW:
Workers who create these toy products often make just over a dollar an hour, nowhere near a living wage. Many live in cramped company dormitories with inadequate bathroom facilities for the number of people who occupy them. Many receive inadequate or no safety training. Many are forced to work excessive overtime hours in violation of Chinese labor laws. Many are provided inadequate safety equipment or work on poorly maintained and potentially dangerous equipment. None of the factories investigated by CLW conducted fire safety training, and one even locked emergency escape doors and had fire escape routes obstructed. Unfortunately, the grievance procedures for factory workers to file complaints or report incidents are ineffective or nonexistent.
Here’s one that might strike a chord with the smartphone generation — a 2013 CLWreport on Mattel factories reported that in one factory, “A worker who checks his cell phone will have that day’s working hours reset to zero, effectively not paying the worker for the actual work that he did.”
These are only some of the numerous issues reported. Taken as a whole, the report describes a truly nightmarish and inhumane work environment that would appall many in the Western world. Behind the friendly plastic smiles of Mickey Mouse and Thomas the Tank engine lays immense human suffering and worker abuse.
Eighty-five percent of all children’s toys that are sold in the United States come from China. Furthermore, these toys often come with too many hazards — burning, choking risks for small children, or toxics in or on the toys. It can be difficult for parents to know what toys are safe for their youngsters. Some are recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. (See cpsc.gov for the latest recalls.)
A few examples of recent recalls: A singing monkey toy, sold in Cracker Barrel restaurants, has a battery compartment that can overheat and cause burns. Another is a “Dream on Me” playhouse that reportedly can collapse and pose a strangulation risk to young children. Yet another is a “Hello Kitty” whistle, distributed by McDonald’s, in which a small internal piece can come detached and be swallowed or choked on by young users. The proposed remedy from McDonald’s: “Consumers should immediately take the whistle away from children and return it to any McDonald’s for a free replacement toy and either a yogurt tube or a bag of apple slices.” All of these dangerous products were manufactured in China.
The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act (H.R. 4842) was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) It would require U.S. companies to disclose its contracting practices in annual reports that find instances of “child labor, forced labor, slavery, and human trafficking.” It would also require the Secretary of Labor “to develop and publish annually on the Internet website of the Department of Labor a list of top 100 companies adhering to supply chain labor standards, as established under federal and international guidelines.” This would be an important step in holding toy companies accountable for the inhumane conditions they permit by doing business with abusive factories in China.
In the meantime, being a socially-conscious shopper is one way to let these corporations know that Americans do not approve of products built on the backs of Chinese serf-labor. One easy method is to check the country-of-origin label on products to see where they came from. Parents should know about the products their children request and not give into demands or nagging because the youngster wanted the products to fit in with their friends. These toy companies want their young consumers to be compliant, vulnerable and ever-hooked on fashionable fads.
Is such crass commercialism worth the cost of human suffering?
(Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.)