- Journalism Awards
- The Neighborhood
- Recommended Reading
- Sternberg Exceeds
- County Roads
- Planet Pacifica
- Teen Fundraiser
- Biannual Job
- Rampant Racism
- Disabled Placard
- Polio 1953
- Senorita's Necklace
- Marco's Show
- Catch o'the Day
- Road Trip
- Oil Money
EVERYTHING WRONG with American journalism in one easy lesson from the current edition of Pacific Sun, a Marin County free weekly: “Great journalism, community involvement, a forum for sharing ideas. That's what we do here at the Pacific Sun. We bring readers, business owners, thought leaders [sic], activists and nonprofits together to make Marin a great place to live…” And so on.
OVER THE YEARS at the Sun, as can also be said for almost every other newspaper, large and small, there has been some capable journalism, which is what a newspaper is supposed to do. Congratulating yourself for doing your job is always pathetic, and journalism, more than any other endeavor I can think of, is the most self-congratulatory enterprise there is.
COUPLA TIMES A YEAR, the Press Democrat, for the one un-excellent example many of us are familiar with, announces that it's won a bunch of awards for “excellence” when there's no evidence of simple competence, let alone excellence. The PD, day to day, simply re-writes press releases. When it isn't simply re-writing press releases its news writing reads like the outline of a story rather than the story itself. And the PD ignores lots of stuff, especially stuff likely to draw retaliation from its primary advertisers in the wine industry. The worse the paper gets, the more awards it wins for excellence from associations of newspapers comprised of editors from PD-like publications.
BUT there's been good journalism in this country from its beginnings, and there are still thousands of competent journalists roaming the land. But most of the really good reporting gets lost in the internet deluge anymore. And contrary to the academic hacks who put out Project Censored — the tame left loves to believe that the whole show is censored out of fear of them — but very little of the skulduggery that goes on at the higher levels of our oligarchy goes unreported; buried maybe, but not unreported. Self-censorship by media and everyday citizens is more of a problem than the overt kind. Our rulers have us so hornswoggled they don't need to censor the people writing about their machinations. And now that they've got total surveillance capacity, a fact we're aware of because of the heroic Snowden and the handful of brave reporters who brought us the bad news, it is going to be hard to resist the ruling classes when the worm finally turns.
THE PACIFIC SUN, like every other weekly in the country, is primarily an ad sheet, meaning its primary allegiance is to people who place the big ads, the “business owners,” which also the business owners, the most powerful people in the community, edit the paper and, natch, edit themselves beyond criticism range.
“THOUGHT LEADERS” typically translates as press releases from career officeholders and, in a narcissistic place like Marin, the heavy hitters from Therapy Land. I've read the paper for years and can't remember a single Thought Leader piece or, for that matter, anything else that made a lasting impression on me. Newspaper prose everywhere reads like term papers. The lively stuff gets edited out for fear of offending both the business community and the Thought Leaders. The Sun, like lots of weeklies, does encourage letters-to-the-editor, and these can be very good — passionate and smart. And another reminder that our crumbling country is teeming with smart, passionate people few of whom, unfortunately, write for newspapers whose electronic commenters are much smarter than the copy they're commenting on.
“COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT”? What community? There aren't communities anymore. There are affinity groups, but community in any true sense of the term walked out the social door years ago.
VIA AN ACCIDENT of family, I now live in San Anselmo, land of tank-size vehicles and the haughty materialists who pilot them. Nothing new there, but the few faces I see who look like someone sentient is at home in them, are few and far between. I've met the neighbors across the street. I have no idea who the neighbors are on either side of me or any other place on the quietest street I've ever lived on. I open my garage door late afternoon and look out to the west. Take away the houses, it's not a bad view. People shuffle by with their dogs. There are dogs everywhere, a sure sign of mass human disconnectedness. I don't know any merchants or any other people in my community other than the people across the street, and I only know them to exchange friendly waves with. There are coyotes out back, though, and the other night the whole pack of them went to howling. I considered adding my voice, but it would have been misunderstood.
RECOMMENDED READING: No sooner had I written the usual churlish denunciation of newspapers than it occurred to me I'd just read a memorably outstanding work of journalism called “Ghettoside — A true story of murder in America” by Jill Leovy, a reporter for the LA Times. The book jacket makes a huge claim that Ms. Leovy more than backs up: “Someone is killed nearly every day in Los Angeles County, murders mostly unnoticed by the city at large — and likely to remain unsolved by the police. The killing of Bryant Tennelle seemed destined to share that fate, until the case was assigned to John Skaggs, a relentless detective of unusual gifts whose investigation reveals much about the epidemic of American homicide and how it can be stopped.”
DETECTIVE SKAGGS is truly a remarkable man who works in a context foreign to most Americans. What sets him apart is his refusal to write off ghettoized black communities as so pathologically violent that they can't be policed in a fair, just manner. Skaggs' tenacity in bringing ghetto killers to justice stems from his refusal to view black people as a race apart. Author Leovy makes the case that the present plague of violence in places like Oakland stems from America's intractable history of violently repressive racism, a writing off of black people as beyond the legal system that has always applied to non-black people. This failure to apply and enforce the law in whole communities of black people goes way back, meaning that people harboring the usual range of neighborhood beefs can bring their own vigilante-like justice to their enemies and the world outside could care less. This is way simplified. If you don't read another book this year, read this one. It really is excellent journalism.
WE RECENTLY reminded readers of this exchange among the Board of Supervisors about an earlier exchange about the prep work on the forever pending Little River Airport logging job:
Supervisor John Pinches: “You expect the contract with the forester not to exceed $20,000. But does that include the biological surveys?”
GSA Director Kristin McMenomey: “That's everything.”
Pinches: “That's everything?”
McMenomey: “That's everything. That's all the hooting (owl calls), that's everything. He hires the sub-consultants under his limit with the county.”
Supervisor John McCowen: “Is it correct that there was a competing proposal to perform the same work not to exceed $10,000?”
McMenomey: “There was a proposal of not to exceed $10,000 [from Registered Professional Forester Tom Kisliuk of Fort Bragg, much closer to the Little River Airport] to complete the work. However, the plan of action to do so, you could not do that in accordance with our NTMP because we have surveys that have to be conducted and it was CalFire's call. And you can't possibly know CalFire's call until you meet with them. And they made the call. You have to redo your studies.”
McCowen: “Was everyone bidding on the same project?”
With this, Ms. McMenomey hedged.
McMenomey: “Everybody was bidding on the same project. It wasn't a bid. It was a request for qualifications.”
THE PROJECT was “not to exceed” $20,000.
STERNBERG'S CONTRACT was amended to “not to exceed” $50k as Sternberg pushed more paper around and “coordinated” with other agencies while the logging project was temporarily put back on the table.
STERNBERG is not a working forester. His expertise is in conservation easements, not logging.
THE COUNTY has since abandoned its plans to harvest the 53-acre patch of timber near the Little River Airport (which Sternberg had worked so hard on) because the value of the timber won’t cover Sternberg’s rising costs, and some Coast enviros think what's left of the stand is worth saving without logging it. Ever. So the County has been looking (they’ve been looking for over a year now) for someone or something like a coastal land trust or conservation group to buy the timber stand and not log it. But will the conservationists be able to come up with enough money to cover Sternberg’s ever greater fees? Sternberg still has his cold dead hands wrapped around the seemingly endless project, whatever it may become, meaning a land trust or the County will probably have to hire him — AGAIN — to prepare the conservation easement paperwork that he’s supposedly an expert in.
* * *
ITEM L on the March 3rd agenda was a request to over-run Sternberg's most recent approval of a “not-to-exceed” contract of $50k.
AND RIGHT HERE is Exhibit A of government's fiscal irresponsibility with, in this case, the noble exception of Supervisor McCowen.
Summary Of Request: In July of 2014, the original contract with Roger Sternberg was amended to increase the compensation payable from a maximum [sic] of $20,000 to a maximum [sic] not to exceed [sic] $50,000. The contract was further amended extending the termination date [sic] of the original Agreement to December 31, 2014. As of September 14, 2014, GSA has received and paid invoices from Roger Sternberg totaling $49,313.07. (Ol' Rog's billing is conveniently just under the not-to-exceed max.) Due to the continued pursuit of amending the timber harvest plan with Cal-Fire [even though there is no longer any plan to do a timber harvest], Roger Sternberg submitted an additional invoice in the amount of $3,879.70 that reflects the work [sic] performed to date. This invoice exceeds the $50,000 contract amount in Purchasing Agent Agreement 14-09A by $3,192.77, and therefore, requires an amendment to the original [not to exceed] contract [which was itself an amendment to an earlier “not to exceed” contract].
BLEED IT, ROG BABY, BLEED IT!
ROG'S LITTLE RIVER AIRPORT project item (from above) came up again last Tuesday when his bill “exceeded” the “not to exceed” amount of $50k by another $3,200. Supervisor McCowen pulled the item off the consent calendar for discussion and vote.
McCowen: “With regard to Item L to increase the amount the contract for the Little River Airport timber harvest plan which never quite came together. I don’t want to draw that one out because I think we have decided now that it is rather straightforward. There was a not to exceed contract for $50,000. Funds have been expended in excess of that. The board previously gave direction when it decided not to go ahead with the timber harvest plan, that it did not want to continue expending funds towards that effort. Personally, I cannot support it based on, When does ‘not to exceed’ ever mean ‘not to exceed’? The board directed to spend no further funds on this. We could start with a motion against or a motion for.”
Hamburg: “I'm sure Supervisor McCowen is correct. I think we are actually going a few thousand dollars past what our amendment was. I would like to let Kristin [McMenomey, General Services Director], just discuss this $3000 overage because I know that she has the latest information on why this is occurring. I also just want to state, and I think this has come up before, that it's our intention that the costs that have been expended for the THP this year will be recovered in any agreement that we come to with the three groups that we are working with. Those three groups being the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund, and the Save the Redwoods League. I've reported before and I think Supervisor McCowen knows that we are in negotiations to try to come to a good agreement on the property that we don't need for airport operations in Little River. We do intend to recover our investment in this latest round in trying to go forward with the NTMP [Non-industrial Timber Management Plan].”
McMenomey: “This bill was received by my office in January. When I contacted Roger Sternberg I think there was a little confusion with regards to that. When you had the board hearing with regards to Mr. Sternberg, I believe that he was in the middle of filing the amendment to the NTMP which was the previous direction from this board and myself prior to when we had entertained the idea of having the ad hoc committee come back and report about going forward with some conservation groups for a potential conservation easement. This invoice was based on him finalizing that NTMP which it was my understanding in speaking with Roger (sic — chumsy-wumsy) further that that needed to be done regardless of whether we were harvesting or not harvesting. Even if we go with a conservation easement, the NTMP needed to be amended. And that needed to be finalized. So.”
Supervisor Dan Gjerde: “Is it your understanding that there won't be additional requests coming in from Mr. Sternberg?”
McMenomey: “Yes. That’s correct. This is the final request. I am aware of a request between Department of Transportation Director Mr. DeShield. He's been in communication with Mr. Sternberg and that would be a separate contract that may or may not come forward to this board for consideration with regards to spotted owl surveys that need to be done in accordance with the FAA regulations.”
Hamburg: “With respect to the item that Kristen just brought up, I think the entire board probably received an e-mail from the DOT Director on February 27 having to do with the bird surveys.”
McCowen: “And that's actually a separate item.”
Hamburg: “That is a separate item, but just because Kristen brought it up I just wanted to mention that the board has been kept up to date on the need that we have to keep those surveys up to date and the $300 cost and so on.”
McCowen: “I'm not sensing a groundswell of support for my position. So I will defer to my colleague to make a motion.”
Hamburg: “Thank you, [sarcastically] but I deeply regret not getting your vote on this item. However, I will make the motion that we approve the amendment to the standard services agreement in the amount of $53,192 to Mr. Sternberg.”
Motion passed 4-1, McCowen dissenting.
ROAD REPAIR & MAINTENANCE GRANTS
Supervisor Tom Woodhouse: “Do you feel like you have the staff and the money to get the projects out? You must have tremendous paperwork and delays and get scattered. Do you feel like you are working on all cylinders or…?”
Transportation Director Howard Deshield: “I feel like the staff is not the major holdup in most of the project delays. They typically come from permitting or processing delays or in the case of the bridges sometimes the holders of the money way up at the federal level will just re-program -- it's interesting, I think I said supervisor McCowen the revision on bridge programming and some of the bridges for the County they literally put in a column that says ‘future years.’ You know, our 20 bridges. A few months ago I sent that. So there are so many things that cause these projects to stretch out in time. But I think the staff just looks at what they can. There's always a lot to work on. They just work on what is funded and what we do get allocations for. I think if we had more staff we might advance or look for a few more things. It's possible that would help, but I don't really see that is the major factor.”
Woodhouse, on task for the first time as supervisor: “Do you think you get all the grants and the money that's out there? If you had somebody specially focused on that would pay for itself? Or is there a limit to how much you can actually perform?”
Deshield: “The problem with grants is that there are some grant programs that are sort of a guaranteed reimbursement rate. The bridge program is real good. Right now it's total credit, 100%. Normal times its 88.53%. Same thing with the storm damage program. It's 88.53%. They look at your project costs. If it's eligible for reimbursement, they reimburse on that. But many of the other grants they will offer a certain match and they will give you a fixed amount and then you are supposed to complete the project. So if it goes over in cost or if it turns out to be more expensive, the department ends up absorbing that with your existing funding. So depending on which grant you get it's just more difficult. So grants are a mixed bag. We like to go after as many grants as possible. And we have done different types of grants. But some are better than others. And usually the ones that take more time and effort that you put a lot into, sometimes you end up paying 30% or even more for the match.”
SADLY, Pacifica is no longer focused on service to the listeners but absorbed with itself and the inhabitants therein. I call it Planet Pacifica, a term I coined during my hiring process. There is an underlying culture of grievance coupled with entitlement, and its governance structure is dysfunctional. The by-laws of the organization have opened it up to tremendous abuse, creating the opportunity for cronyism, factionalism, and faux democracy, with the result of challenging all yet helping nothing. Pacifica has been made so flat, that it is concave — no leadership is possible without an enormous struggle through the inertia that committees and collectives and STV’s (no, not sexually transmitted viruses, but single transferable votes) can engender.
Pacifica calls itself a movement, yet currently it is behaves like a jobs program, a cult, or a social service agency. And oftentimes, the loudest and most obstreperous have the privilege of the microphone. There are endless meetings of committees and “task forces”— mostly on the phone — where people just like to hear themselves talk. Sometimes they get lucrative contracts from their grandstanding. It’s been grueling for someone in my position, someone like me who is not a process person, much less a political gamer. I keep asking: what’s the endgame? Paralysis has set in, coupled with organizational drift.
The programming isn’t attracting many listeners anymore, either. It skews towards the narrow in its editorial stance, leans towards the niche, and change to the programming can’t occur without a fight. The listening audience is small, in other words, the stations have yet to grow into their large signals.
— Nicole Sawaya, former KZYX station manager
ON FRIDAY, March 13, the Anderson Valley Teen Center will hold their second food fundraiser to help fund the next field trip to a college in Northern California. With the first fundraiser we were able to raise $1,700 which had a tremendous impact on our trip. The event will take place in front of the Methodist Church in Boonville on March 13, at 5:00pm. (The Teen Center is located right behind it.) High school students are currently selling pre-sale tickets to the community. Tickets can be purchased at the door, but pre sale tickets are highly encouraged due to food availability. Tickets can also be purchased at the Anderson Valley Elementary office or from me. People can contact me at the number below to set up a meeting location.
The menu will include three options.
- 2 potato sopes with rice and beans, hibiscus drink
- 3 potato tacos with rice and beans, hibiscus drink
- 3 chicken enchiladas with rice and beans, hibiscus drink
Individual tickets are $10 or family tickets for $30 for 4 people.
Food to go will be available.
Daniel Angulo, 707-684-6423
A MAN walks into his bedroom and sees his wife packing a suitcase. He asks, “What are you doing?”
She answers, "I'm moving to Nevada. I heard that prostitutes there get paid $400 for what I'm doing for YOU for FREE!”
Later that night, on her way out, the wife walks into the bedroom and sees her husband packing his suitcase.
When she asks him where he's going, he replies, “I'm coming too. I want to see how you live on $800 a year.”
REAFFIRMING RAMPANT RACISM
Not that it is necessary, but i would like to affirm the presence of rampant racism in Mendocino County. At Caspar Inn, we imported many bands that were composed of, or included, people of color (i think that is the current PC phrase). i can not recall a single instance when some customer, often a well-meaning “liberal” who believed themselves to be racism free, did not make a comment that confirms Officer Massey's statements. One of my “favorites”: Africans, coming to the USA via Europe, to whom English was their fifth or eighth language, being viewed as semi-sub-standard in communication skills. Constantly, in so many ways, the, i believe, mostly unconscious, racism, was made manifest. It is interesting that there was (is) more open, vituperative racism demonstrated against Latinos. Of course, that was a much more prevalent attitude in the bucolic Anderson Valley than on the touro-centric coast. Skin color is an obvious characteristic; a clear difference between some people. Racism is not recognizing this difference; racism is giving this difference a negative value. Pretending this irrelevant difference does not exist, when it is the reason for continual, differential treatment is cruel to those who suffer from it.
FROM THE RICHMOND STATION'S LOG: Geary & 7th Ave
03-03-2015 10:16 AM. An officer on patrol saw a driver park in a spot reserved for the disabled. The car was displaying a disabled person’s placard registered to one person while the car was registered to another. Upon further investigation, the placard was issued to the driver’s wife, but she was not present. The driver was cited for misuse of the placard.
Captain’s Note: The placard is issued for the use of a particular person. When that person is not present, the placard cannot be used by someone else simply for their own convenience.
Regarding the letters about vaccinations — has anybody noticed that polio has all but disappeared from the US? As a 5-year-old living in San Francisco in 1953, I had what everyone hoped was a bad cold. I remember in late July, Dr. O'Gara (doctors made house calls then) shook his head and packed his little bag and left. Later, I stepped out of bed and fell, my spine stiff as a board, crippled with polio. That evening, quarantined away from my mother and father, I experienced one of the most horrifying nights of my life at Children's Hospital; I was in a room full of other screaming, terrified, crippled children. The Salk vaccine had not come to the public quite yet and many people, including Canadian musicians Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, were afflicted with polio before the Salk and Sabin vaccines; Salk was an injection and Sabin came on a sugar cube. Jonas Salk, in one of the most impressive generosities I've yet learned of, refused any financial remuneration for his vaccine.
I really have not heard a convincing argument for refusing to vaccinate a child against measles; in some Arab nations, religious fanatics railed against polio vaccinations, preferring to try for some political/religious bunk by declaring the mass injections to be a Western conspiracy to sterilize Muslims. Since Islam has the most followers in the world, I guess those hysterics were not true.
— Charlie Morgan, Marshall
SENORITA WITH A NECKLACE OF TEARS
I have a wisdom tooth
Inside my crowded face
I have a friend who is a born-again
Found his Savior’s grace
I was born before my father
And my children before me
And we are born and born again
Like the waves of the sea
That's the way it’s always been
And that's how I want it to be
That's the way it’s always been
And that's how I want it to be
Nothing but good news
There is a frog in South America
Whose venom is a cure
For all the suffering
That mankind must endure
More powerful than morphine
And soothing as the rain
A frog in South America
Has the antidote for pain
That’s the way it’s always been
And that’s the way I like it
Some people never say no
Some people never complain
Some folks have no idea
And others will never explain
That's the way it’s always been
That's the way I like it
And that's how I want it to be
That's the way it’s always been
That's the way I like it
And that's how I want it to be
If I could play all the memories
In the neck of my guitar
I'd write a song called
“Senorita with a Necklace of Tears”
And every tear a sin I'd committed
Oh these many years
That's who I was
That's the way it’s always been
Some people always want more
Some people are what they lack
Some folks open a door
Walk away and never look back
And I don't want to be a judge
And I don't want to be a jury
I know who I am
Lord knows who I will be
That's the way it’s always been
That's the way I like it
And that's how I want it to be.
— Paul Simon
WHAT'S UP WITH MARCO
The recording of last night's (2015-03-06) KNYO Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show is ready to download and keep or just play with one click at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
Also at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find thousands and thousands of links to interesting things to see and do and learn about, such as:
Here's something I didn't know. Did you know this?
The story of Bedlam.
And typewriter porn.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Mar 7, 2015
MAUREEN AUSTIN, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
OZZIE BUSHWAY, Willits. Domestic assault.
LUIS CAMARILLO-RAZO, Calpella. DUI, driving without a license, resisting arrest.
JESSICA COUGHLIN, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
JAKE HARBOUR, Willits. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
SCOTT HEIDINGER, Hopland. DUI. (Frequent flyer.)
BRADLEY MAXFIELD, Willits. Domestic battery.
BOBBY MILLER, Fort Bragg. Unspecified offense (Garberville CHP arrest).
ALAN POLLICK JR., Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JOHN SCARBERRY, Ukiah. Willful child neglect by parent.
STEVEN SMITH, Fort Bragg. Child endangerment, prohibited person with ammo.
PATRICK TAYLOR, Ukiah. Robbery.
DEBORAH TENNIAL, Fort Bragg. Smuggling controlled substance/liquor into jail, obtaining someone else’s ID without permission, prohibited person with ammo, possession of controlled substance.
ROAD TRIP TIME AGAIN
by Denis Rouse
I smoke marijuana (medical), drink Russian vodka (political, Go Vlad!) and take two pills from Big Pharma every morning to address my lifelong hypertension. When I was enlisting in the National Guard at 17 they took my blood pressure and told me to lie down and when they took it again it was still an alarming 140/90 yet I was declared fit enough to serve my country. I’m a real American, now 73, hiding from much of this contemporary insanity you young folks are going to have to endure for a long, long time. And I’m taking too much time to get to the point which is it was road trip time again because even though I live in a high remote mountain valley in NE CA where the freeway and the mall are far, far away I require contemporary insanity once in a while if only to rekindle appreciation how wonderful it is to look twenty miles out every window of the house and see the great natural sprawl of the world under a huge sky; the fields and the sagebrush and the junipers and the barns and the fence lines and the ridges of the surrounding mountains laced brilliant with snow.
The opportunity to road trip out of here again came up because an old friend from L.A. I hadn’t seen in forty years told me he was going to The Fly Fishing Show to be held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, could we reunite there? When I first thought of the drive to get there, 100 miles west to Redding, then another 150 miles south on the I-5 to the appalling traffic corridor of the I-80, then another 40 miles south on the equally terrifying 680 into what I regard as East Bay hell, there was no way I was going to do it. Then, after I smoked and drank again, my priorities re-adjusted, I had great memories of my friend Ben who got me (and my brother) insane for fly fishing fifty years ago. God, the rivers, the trout, the profound mysterious beauty that the sport entails. And Ben is even more into it than ever because it’s still also his business, he handles PR and advertising and promotion for many clients in the industry including the producer of The Fly Fishing Show germane here. So, what was I to do but go?
Since we agreed to meet Saturday morning I figured I’d better get an early start Friday and overnight somewhere closer to the grand oxymoron of Pleasanton. The question was where. I’d had some good experience in Calistoga at the northern terminus of the Napa Valley at the base of Mount St. Helena atop which Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife honeymooned in a cabin in 1880. And getting there involves relief from the I-5 at Williams and proceeding west on Highway 20 through some old oak-studded central California hill country of Colusa County where hoof prints still outnumber foot prints a thousand to one. My woman Gwen hates wine, and I wouldn’t give a damn if I never had another glass of it but we’ve had some soporific times soaking in the Olympic-size natural hot spring pool at the Indian Springs Hotel in Calistoga. Too, our friend Barbara is a local therapist specializing in facials and massages that leave you begging her for mercy. And another friend, Carlos, runs the bar at Brannan’s, a restaurant named after the town’s founder Sam Brannan and I know from experience it is a good idea to eschew the service in the dining room and choose to drink and eat at the bar where Carlos is in expert charge, where if you want oysters done off-the-menu baked Jalisco style no problema. It goes like that except, remember, it’s Friday, the pool at the hotel is aswarm with Bay Area weekenders, and when one of the kids yells up at Daddy that she has to go to the bathroom to pee, Daddy tells her “No worries, honey, just go in the pool,” I think, good night Indian Springs, it’s been fun.
* * *
Zero dark thirty foggy Saturday morning Indian Springs Hotel. I fear driving in the dark, and fog only exacerbates my discomfiture but time/distance anxiety is my middle name. An early start seems prudent if we’re going to meet Ben at the fishing show at a reasonable hour. I have a naïve notion traffic will be zip as we make our way south at this ugly hour down the wine lovers’ Napa Valley corridor of Highway 29 which I know from priors can be a gridlocked nightmare on a weekend. Reality check comes immediately as blinding headlights of tailgaters in my rearview mirror indicate I’m holding up a series of seemingly crazed people who don’t care squat about speed limits, and near zero visibility that has me biting washers out of my driver’s seat. Let’s face it, I think, this whole state of ours is going bat shit. When I finally reach the road construction maze that defines the perilous abrupt transition to the I-80 and then to the 680 the only good news is the sun is coming up, the fog is gone, and at least initially 680 south is a fetching two-lane drive that affords views to the east of the vast gleaming wetland of Grizzly Bay, a fecund remnant of old east bay San Francisco before much of it was drained for the human tide, and then plying over the great bridge that spans San Pablo Bay at Benicia, and then it’s over, I’m on the most modern freeway in California, six lanes of perilous concrete where the off-ramps indicate more oxymoronically named places like Pleasant Hill where one supposes, at least from the view from the freeway, that living there in that massive monotonous urban sprawl can hardly be pleasant in anyone’s sense of the term, but what do I know?
Thirty miles later what I do know is I should have stayed home. The Saturday morning 680 traffic isn’t gridlocked but I find myself wishing it was when a soccer mom with three kids in the car startles me by suddenly blowing by my right at about 85. Mom of the year, I think. But, ah, there it is at last, the Pleasanton off ramp, down I go with only a vague idea how to get to our hotel booked for the night, the Doubletree Inn by Hilton. Checking in there, dumping our meager luggage seems like a good idea. I finally find the hotel after conversing with some barely verbal locals at a Standard Station/Burger King/Kwikmart and find, not really much to my surprise, that it’s located in a dreary industrial park one off ramp north. Can we check in? Of course not, rooms won’t be available until “about 3:00”, the desk man tells me. Can we dump our luggage? Of course, he says, so the day isn’t a complete loss yet. A quick breakfast before we hit the show seems like a good idea so I try to find downtown Pleasanton, miss a turn and end up in a hilly upscale neighborhood of tony tract housing where I’m immediately being tailgated by a moron in a black Mercedes never mind the 25 mph speed limit. When I considerately pull our pickup over to allow him to pass he gives me a stink eye that would get his passive/aggressive ass chased and kicked by many people I know. Then I find old downtown Pleasanton and to my horror I see the Saturday farmers’ market is going on, streets are closed, traffic is horrendous, and throngs of people are scurrying everywhere. Finding a place to park is frustration squared. But I luck out thanks to a kind lady working in a restaurant not open yet who allows me to park in their lot and we walk a block or two to one that is serving where I enjoy a reasonably healthy portabella burger and Gwen inhales her usual the-hell-with-cholesterol deal, a crab and poached egg special under a lava load of Hollandaise. The cruel reality here is I know she’s going to outlive me.
Finally on to the fly fishing show to meet Ben who’s told me to call his cell phone from the vast parking lot of the fairgrounds so he can get us into the exhibit building on his press pass. How do the Chinese put it? It’s who you know that counts. I pay ten bucks to park at the gate, and then drive for what seems like forever through an old walnut orchard to get reasonably close to the show entrance. The Alameda County Fairgrounds occupies huge real estate worth way too much money to remain something of true value like an historic traditional venue that celebrates what was once the great bread basket of the county. Ben tells me shortly after we meet, say adios to this place, condos are coming. He’s 81 now, still possessed with wry humor suffused with cynicism, and he hasn’t lost a calorie of passion for what he calls tight lines and if you’ve ever fly-fished you know what he means, fish on, nothing else matters. Ben leads us through the aisles of the show he pausing often to schmooze with clients, Gwen and I enjoy many of the exhibits that include those of master rod builders, fly tiers, fly casters (there’s a long casting pool for demo and instruction) and those of promoters of places to partake of the apogee of the sport, like Turneffe Flats, Belize, in the eastern Caribbean, on the impossibly blue/green flats of the second largest barrier reef in the world where it is likely five pound bonefish and forty pound permit will inhale your fly and make you and your fly reel scream, and Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River in the tail waters below Glen Canyon Dam, a red rock wonderland where the trout have tails as strong, as Ben once wrote, as a blacksmith’s wrist. Fly fishing is fine sport because fly fishermen (many of whom are catch and release proponents) care deeply about maintaining a quality environment; they know without it the activity they love most is doomed.
Early Sunday morning, the Doubletree Inn by Hilton. As we prepare to embark on our long homeward drive I know I’ve caught something at the fishing show and it isn’t a fish and it isn’t pretty, it’s something that feels very much like the stomach flu, I’ve become much acquainted with the toilet in our hotel room during the night. As it turns out Ben is in similar straits and is too weak to depart for his home in L.A. until Monday, and it’ll take much of the ensuing week for both of us to recover. By the time I pull into a gas station in Winters on the 505 to fill up the truck, I feel like death warmed over and to make matters worse, the truck won’t re-start, the battery has taken a clue from me and died. I grab the jumper cables from the tool box and a kind Samaritan also at the pumps jumps us back to life. On we go but with trepidation because we’re still nearly three hundred miles from home and there’s the possibility we’re not going to make it with a dead battery. Gwen’s driving by now and I’m supine in the passenger seat wondering in a state of semi-consciousness where we can get a battery on a Sunday. I know there’s a major truck stop in Corning and just as that thought dances around my fevered brain, Gwen says, “I saw a billboard, there’s a place in Corning called Loves that has 24/7 mechanical assistance.” Ah, nothing like a little hope to make a man feel better. Nearly a hundred miles later we pull into Loves in Corning and I stagger to a line at the register where I wait behind three or four guys buying fried pork rinds and six packs of Pepsi from Loves that is also obviously a Kwikmart. When I finally get to the register I tell the lady there I need a new battery in my pickup. She picks up a phone and tries to call someone working in the service bays. She can’t get anyone on the phone, tells me in a rather perfunctory manner to go out there and talk to somebody. I’m feeling so weak by now I fear fainting but out I go to the bays and find a guy pressure washing some small tanks. Hey, I say, I need a new battery for my pickup. He says, no way, go up the frontage road for a mile or two and you’ll see O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, they’re open today, they’ll put one in for you.
God bless Ireland from Belfast to Dublin, we get salvation at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. A capable considerate young man there installs a new battery in our truck and not without some real effort to remove and replace some ducting that the job entails. The cost of new battery is negligible, but there’s human cost too; Gwen has slipped and bashed her knee when she climbed into the bed of the truck to get a socket set from the toolbox the young man needed. Somewhere in the back of my damaged brain I remember we’ve got another road trip scheduled soon, with some dear friends north to Washington State. God bless Ireland from Belfast to Dublin. God bless Jameson’s, the Irish whiskey I’ve long preferred.
MLPA CHAIR’S OIL LOBBY GROUP DOUBLED SPENDING IN 2014
by Dan Bacher
The oil industry continued its long reign as the top spender on lobbying in California in 2014, according to data recently released by the California Secretary of State.
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) led the list with $8.9 million spent on lobbying in 2014, nearly double what it spent in the previous year. WSPA spent $4.67 million in 2013.
The spending increase by WSPA was part of an overall spending rise by the oil industry, which spent a total of $38,653,186 on lobbying in 2014, a 129 percent increase from $17 million in 2013.
What has this to do with fishing and fish? Everything!
The WSPA and the oil lobby used their money to attack California’s laws protecting our air, land, rivers and oceans and the fish and wildlife that live in the. The WSPA President also oversaw the removal of anglers and tribal gatherers from huge areas of the ocean designated as no-take “marine reserves.”
The lobbying group defeated a bill to impose a moratorium on the environmentally destructive practice of fracking in California and spent millions trying to undermine California’s law to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of WSPA and the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create questionable “marine protected areas” that banned or restricted fishing in large areas of Southern California marine waters, also successfully opposed 2014 legislation by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson to protect the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve and the Tranquillon Ridge from offshore oil drilling plans!
“The winners of the 2014 lobbying competition are in — and the winner is... BIG OIL!’" said Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. “Congratulations, Western States Petroleum Association and Chevron! No one has spent more on evil in California than you!"
The association spent a total of 4,009,178 lobbying state officials in the third quarter of 2014, a new quarterly record by WSPA. (http://calaccess.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1147195&session=2013&view=activity)
During that quarter, the association paid $375,800 to KP Public Affairs, a prominent Sacramento lobbying and public relations firm that represents clients in health care, aerospace manufacturing and other industries. WSPA also paid $77,576 to Pillsbury Winthrup Shaw Pittman LLP.
WSPA spent $1,456,785 in the first quarter, $1,725,180 in the second quarter and $1,692,391 in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Along with KP Public Affairs and Pillsbury Winthrup Shaw Pittman LLP, the association hired two other firms, California Resource Strategies and Alcantar & Kahl, to lobby for Big Oil.
The Sacramento Bee pointed out that the "vast majority of the petroleum association’s spending on lobbying last year — about $7.2 million — was reported under a catch-all 'other' category that requires no detailed disclosure showing who benefited or how the money was spent." (http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article9261986.html#storylink=cpy)
The San Ramon-based Chevron and its subsidiaries placed third on the list with $4,282,216 spent on lobbying in 2014, including $2,198,209 paid in the fourth quarter.
The California State Council of Service Employees placed second with $5.9 million, while the California Chamber of Commerce finished fourth on the list with $3.9 million and the California Hospital Association and California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems finished fifth with $3 million.
The oil industry has spent over $70 million on lobbyists in California since January 2009, according to a 2014 report written by Will Barrett, the Senior Policy Analyst for the American Lung Association in California. (http://www.lung.org/associations/states/california/advocacy/climate-change/oil-industy-lobbying-report.pdf)
The Western States Petroleum Association topped the oil industry spending with a total of $31,179,039 spent on lobbying since January 1, 2009 at the time of Barrett’s report. Chevron was second in lobbying expenses with a total of $15,542,565 spent during the same period.
From July 1 to September 30 alone, the oil industry spent an unprecedented $7.1 million lobbying elected officials in California “with a major focus on getting oil companies out of a major clean air regulation,” said Barrett.
From 2005 to 2014, the oil industry spent an astounding $266 million influencing the Governor, the Legislature and other California officials, according to Stop Fooling California.
Big Oil also exerts its power and influence by spending many millions of dollars every election season on candidates and ballot measures. The industry spent $156 million on political campaigns during the same 10-year-period.
This included $75,665,793 from Chevron, $37,177,594 from Aera Energy, $17,100,680 from Occidental Petroleum, $6,472,155 from Valero and $5,872,096 from ConcocoPhillips.
In the November 2014 election, the oil industry dumped $7.6 million into defeating a measure calling for a fracking ban in Santa Barbara County and nearly $2 million into an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a measure banning fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in San Benito County. Chevron also spent $3 million (unsuccessfully) to elect “their” candidates to the Richmond City Council.
Aera Energy LLC, an oil and gas company jointly owned by affiliates of Shell and ExxonMobil, also contributed $250,000 to the Yes on Proposition 1 campaign, Governor Jerry Brown’s water grab for agribusiness, oil companies and Southern California water agencies.
Not only does Big Oil spend millions every year on lobbying and campaign contributions, but it funds "Astroturf" campaigns to eviscerate environmental laws. Leaked documents provided to Northwest Public Radio, Business Week and other media outlets last year exposed a campaign by the Western States Petroleum Association to fund and coordinate a network of “Astroturf” groups to oppose environmental laws and local campaigns against fracking in California, Washington and Oregon.
This network was revealed in a PowerPoint presentation from a Nov. 11 presentation to the Washington Research Council, given by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President and “marine guardian.”
“The Powerpoint deck details a plan to throttle AB 32 (also known as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) and steps to thwart low carbon fuel standards (known as LCFS) in California, Oregon, and Washington State,” revealed Stop Fooling California.
The oil companies also further exert their power and influence by serving on state and federal regulatory panels. In one of the most overt conflicts of interest in recent California history, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force to create questionable "marine protected areas" in Southern California.
She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a NOAA federal marine protected areas panel from 2003 to 2014.
The so-called "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
Not only did these alleged "Yosemites of the Sea" fail to protect the ocean, but they violate the traditional fishing and gathering rights of the Yurok Tribe and other Indian Nations and are based on terminally flawed and incomplete science.
The millions Chevron and other oil companies have spent on lobbying, campaign contributions and setting up “Astroturf” groups promoting their agenda are just chump change to Big Oil. The five big oil companies — BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon Mobil and Shell — made a combined total of $93 billion in 2013.
Even with sliding oil prices, the big five oil companies - BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell - made $16.4 billion in the last quarter of 2014 and $89.7 billion for the entire year, according to the Center for American Progress. (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2015/02/03/105935/sliding-oil-prices-still-yield-90-billion-2014-for-big-oil/)