- Probation Woes
- Handouts Bad
- Wildfire Investigation
- Ed Notes
- Huffman Visit
- Old Timer
- Costco Hiring
- Little Dog
- B Direction
- White Iris
- Yesterday's Catch
- Eternal Rest
- My Library
- Rat Catchers
- Tornado Cornfield
- Tax Results
- Gun Crazy
- Professional Societies
- Homeless Stereotypes
- Russiagate Hysteria
IN LATE MARCH OF THIS YEAR, it suddenly dawned on County CEO Carmel Angelo that Juvenile Hall was badly overbudget. Her initial reaction was to simply tell the Probation Department that she was slashing the Juvenile Hall budget to less than a third of its requested amount.
AT the 2017-18 budget review in June of last year (2017) acting Chief Probation Officer Kevin Kelley’s $2.3 million Juvenile Hall budget was rubberstampted by Angelo and the Board, even though they knew that budgeting $450 per day per delinquent was more than triple the cost incurred per delinquent of neighboring counties. (And that doesn’t even mention an overrun of $400k over the already depleted budget that somehow wasn’t noticed until March.
WE’LL SPARE YOU another rant about the County’s absolute lack of basic departmental reporting which should have provided the basic info to catch this problem much earlier, and move on to next week’s Supes meeting where the Juvenile Hall budget problem is buried in a much larger budget presentation rather than being addressed by itself.
LOTS OF LOCALS are against closing the Hall, saying that these “juveniles,” these “youth,” these “children” (ha-ha), shouldn’t be shipped out to, say, Sonoma County’s Hall where they would be farther from local family. They say there are more cost-effective models that would keep the Mendo Hall open, but they haven’t provided any so far.
REMEMBER that Juvenile Hall is part of the Probation Department, which is paid for by the County but is lately flagrantly mis-managed by the Courts.
THE PROBATION DEPARTMENT has undergone major management turmoil in the last year or two stemming from former Chief Probation Officer Pamela Markham’s libidinous carrying-on during work hours, which was either ignored or envied for months by her alleged supervisors at the Superior Court, who placed her on paid administrative leave while several hundred thousand dollars were thrown at outside lawyers “investigating” Markham's torrid desktop work habits while an acting CPO tried to run the department.
AS THE MARKHAM farce played out at huge cost to taxpayers, a succession of overpaid interims and temps and actings also ignored or were ignorant of the huge cost increases and overruns at Juvenile Hall. (We note that the outside investigation/lawyers were not charged to the Probation Department’s budget either.)
MEANWHILE, Mendo’s bloated and overlarge management staff gave itself raises which took another bite out of Probation and the Hall’s allocated budget, along with everything else.
BACK IN MARCH none of the overpaid Supervisors asked how it was that the Juvenile Hall budget deficit had suddenly grown so large. Not one $84,000 per year supervisor asked how Juvenile Hall was going to slash their prior year’s budget. Not a single $84,000 a year supervisor asked to have the new Chief Probation Officer appear in front of the Board to explain the situation. Not one $84,000 a year supervisor asked for spending or cost-cutting options to be put on a future agenda.
INSTEAD, the Board seemed satisfied with CEO Angelo’s comment at the end of the discussion of the item: “As we look at our costs going forward I think we’re really going to have to watch what we’re doing.” (Jesus Prayer optional while you consider the implications of the preceding statement.)
AS USUAL, next week’s Supes budget agenda item includes a muddled, disorganized Probation “presentation” which addresses the Juvenile Hall problem, gathers up some miscellanous related data, but doesn’t really propose much.
WE ARE TOLD that Mendo has 89 juveniles on probation — 56 on formal probation, 22 on informal probation, and 11 “others.” And there are 30 juveniles who are “Title IV-E Eligible” (meaning Social Security pays part of their incarceration costs).
BUT THE NUMBER of juveniles in the Hall is running pretty low at 10-15 at any given time (not counting a few from Lake County who are no longer being sent to Mendo because Lake County no longer is willing to pay Mendo’s exorbitant daily rate.) This begs the question of how costs could have escalated so quickly for the relatively small number of junior criminals in the Hall being overseen by way too many staffers.
CLEARLY the absence of competent Probation management resulted in the continuous hiring of friends of staff (the age old Mendo hiring strategy) without any consideration of the cost until Lake County finally said no more.
INSTEAD OF CUTTING their budget by over two-thirds as previously mentioned, Probation is being given a slightly less drastic 44% of last year’s budget. But, according to the presentation, if the Mendo Hall stays open it will still cost an additional $1.3 million over the slashed allocated amount.
A “SONOMA COUNTY OPTION” involves closure of the Hall and farming Mendo’s juveniles out to SoCo.
THE REST of the Probation presentation is your typical unhelpful list of this cost and that cost, but it’s so disorganized that it’s unclear which option the costs apply to. Obviously, the SoCo option will save money here and cost money there (more transportation, for example). But SoCo’s cost per day per delinquent isn’t all that much less than Mendo’s, so there doesn’t appear to be that much savings in that option.
THE ANONYMOUS PRESENTATION seems to prefer keeping the Mendo Hall open but reducing its capacity to 20 “youth,” with corresponding staff reductions of half a dozen or so apparently unnecessary positions and a reduction of out of control overtime. This option would mean that fewer juveniles would be placed in the Hall. How this would work is not explained other than to say they’d remain “in their community.”
(EUPHEMISM, as applied to under-age criminals, is always laughable. Juvenile Hall is a lock-up facility, and young people are placed there for the same reasons that older people are sequestered at the County Jail.)
IT DOES NOT APPEAR that any effort was made to look at different “models” as suggested by AV School Superintendent Michelle Hutchins a couple of weeks ago. You’d think that the Board would take Ms. Hutchins and her fellow Superintendents up on their offer to present those models before any decisions are made about the future of Mendo’s Juvenile Hall.
THE PROSPECTS for the future are not helped by the Probation Department’s list of “Juvenile Hall FY 2017-18 Accomplishments.” First — first! — on their list: “Implemented Mindful Meditation and Yoga Program.”
PLEASE, NO HANDOUTS
As the community continues to discuss and debate the report on homelessness handed in by Robert Marbut to the county several weeks ago, there is one of his study’s recommendations upon which most agree: Handouts to panhandlers is not good. If we can, as a community, agree together to simply stop giving cash to people standing on street corners, roaming parking lots and hanging out in numerous other places in town it would make an enormous difference in taking our streets back. Our Ukiah Police Department has statistics showing that these panhandlers can make upwards of $100 a day from soft-hearted people walking or driving by. And the panhandlers are clever. They know what will touch the public at large. They’ll claim to be veterans on hard times, they’ll claim to want to work, they’ll claim to have hungry children – they may even have a child along to prove it, or they will have a dog along because they know people are nuts about animals. One woman panhandling in town over the winter claimed her husband had just been deported. Many of their signs and stories seem very sad and we often think, “There but for the Grace of God go I...” but most of these untrue stories are meant to do just that and get you digging into your wallet. Will that money you provide send that person off to a grocery store for needed sustenance? Not likely. Your money is much more likely to fuel an alcohol, drug or gambling habit and keep the mooching going. When we look around and decry the many “street people” we see making our town an unpleasant place to walk around and shop in, we need to acknowledge that our own bad habits are encouraging these folks to hang around. The next time you are tempted to pull out your loose change or a couple of dollar bills, stop and consider that you have already helped pay for the many services available to the truly needy in this community. Don’t let the moochers make fools of us all.
Don’t Forget to Vote!
Election Day is Tuesday. Please be sure to vote at your local polling place, or get that mail-in ballot into the mail or into the hands of a poll worker. There is also a handy drive-up mail ballot box right in front of the county administration building at 501 Low Gap Road.
A reminder of the Ukiah Daily Journal’s endorsements:
- For 3rd District Supervisor: Shawna Jeavons
- For 5th District Supervisor: David Roderick
- For Clerk Assessor: Dirk Larson
- For Superintendent of MCOE: Bryan Barrett
(K.C. Meadows, Editor, Ukiah Daily Journal. Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
PETS OF THE WEEK AT THE UKIAH SHELTER
With the beginning of kitten season happening, it's important not to forget our senior guests. Toby is an 11 year old, neutered male Siamese mix. Even though he is still adjusting to life in the Shelter after losing his life-long guardian, he is affectionate and enjoys attention and scratches. Toby is a purrer and a bit of a talker. Won't you consider adopting this handsome senior?
JETSON is a wonderful dog and a shelter favorite. He’s been a guest for a while—in fact, he’s our longest-stay dog. He’s been VERY patient waiting for his new family. Jetson is a 1-2 year old, neutered male who weighs 60 pounds. Jetson spends time hanging out with his friends at CALSTAR. He loves the flight nurses and Pilots, and he’s won all their hearts! Sadly, they all have dogs, but they’re trying to find him a home. Jetson is seeking a playful guardian who will take him on romps, walks, play fetch, and help him feel comfy. In return, he will be your best buddy 4ever.
The Ukiah Animal Shelter is located at 298 Plant Road in Ukiah, and adoption hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and Wednesday from 10 am to 6:30 pm. To see photos and bios of the shelter's adoptable animals, please visit online at: www.mendoanimalshelter.com or visit the shelter. Join us the second Saturday of every month for our "Empty the Shelter" pack walk and help us get every dog out for some exercise! For more information about adoptions please call 707-467-6453.
CAL FIRE ISSUES FIRST REPORT ON WILDFIRE INVESTIGATIONS
by Jim Shields
Indies Now Second Largest Voting Bloc
If a campaign consulting firm’s information is correct, the second largest group of registered voters in California is no longer the Republican Party.
According to Capitol Weekly’s long-time political writer, John Howard, “Political Data, Inc., a campaign information firm that markets election data to candidates in both major parties, California’s voter registration figures show independent voters surpassing Republicans, the culmination of a trend that has been building for decades. Updated numbers from California’s 58 counties showed decline-to-state voters, those who don’t disclose a party preference, had reached 25.5% in the weeks before the June 5 election. Republican registration, meanwhile, was put at 25.1%. Democrats comprised 44.4 percent of registered voters.”
The California Secretary of State’s office is expected to release official figures on voter registration in the next few days which should confirm the two decade trend where both major parties have suffered defections to independent affiliation.
In Howard’s report, Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data said, “We are still analyzing this historic shift, but it is likely that the final push came from the new process of registration from the DMV, in which a high rate of voters are registering to vote with no party preference.”
During the past 20 years, decline-to-state registration has more than doubled, from 12.2 in percent 1998 to 25.5 percent currently.
Cal Fire Wildfire Investigation
In the aftermath of last fall’s historically deadly and destructive wildfires that hit both Northern and Southern California, the state’s “Big Three” (electrical companies PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric) have all been nervously awaiting the release of CAL FIRE investigative reports of the cause of the fires. The first of those reports — for fires occurring in Butte and Nevada Counties — were made public on May 25, and the news was not good for PG&E.
According to CAL FIRE, “After extensive and thorough investigations, CAL FIRE investigators have determined that four Northern California wildfires in last year’s October Fire Siege were caused by trees coming into contact with power lines. The four fires, located in Butte and Nevada counties, are the first fire investigations from last October to be completed.
CAL FIRE investigators were dispatched to the fires last year and immediately began working to determine their origin and cause. The Department continues to investigate the remaining 2017 fires, both in October and December, and will release additional reports as they are completed.
The October 2017 Fire Siege involved more than 170 fires and charred more than 245,000 acres in Northern California. More than 11,000 firefighters from 17 states helped battle the blazes.
Here is a summary of the four completed investigations:
- The La Porte Fire, in Butte County, started in the early morning hours of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 8,417 acres, destroying 74 structures. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by tree branches falling onto PG&E power lines. CAL FIRE investigators determined there were no violations of state law related to the cause of this fire.
- The McCourtney Fire, in Nevada County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 76 acres, destroying 13 structures. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by a tree falling onto PG&E power lines. The investigation found evidence that PG&E allegedly failed to remove a tree from the proximity of a power line, in violation of the state Public Resources Code section 4293.
- The Lobo Fire, in Nevada County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 821 acres, destroying 47 structures. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by a tree contacting PG&E power lines. The investigation found evidence that Public Resources Code section 4293, which requires adequate clearance between trees and power lines, was allegedly violated.
- The Honey Fire, in Butte County, started in the early morning hours of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 76 acres. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters and no structures were destroyed. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by an Oak branch contacting PG&E power lines. The investigation found evidence that Public Resources Code 4293, which requires adequate clearance between trees and power lines, was allegedly violated.
“The McCourtney, Lobo, Honey investigations have been referred to the appropriate county District Attorney’s offices for review.”
Within several hours of the CAL FIRE report’s release, PG&E responded.
“Based on the information we have so far, we believe our overall programs met our state’s high standards. Under PG&E’s industry-leading Vegetation Management Program, we inspect and monitor every PG&E overhead electric transmission and distribution line each year, with some locations patrolled multiple times. We also prune or remove approximately 1.4 million trees annually.”
Additionally, PG&E pointed to various fire prevention measures it has taken in recent years:
- Increased foot and aerial patrols along power lines in high fire-risk areas;
- Removed approximately 236,000 dead or dying trees in 2016 and 140,000 dead or dying trees in 2017; these tree removals were in addition to approximately 30,000 trees removed per year prior to the drought;
- Launched daily aerial fire detection patrols during high fire season to improve fire spotting and speed of fire response;
- Since 2014, provided $11.4 million to local Fire Safe Councils (FSCs) for fuel reduction projects in communities; and
- Provided $1.7 million to local FSCs for 28 highly programmable remote-sensing cameras for critical fire lookout towers.
The utility claims it “meets or exceeds regulatory requirements for pole integrity management, using a comprehensive database to manage multiple patrol and inspection schedules of our more than two million poles.”
It also raised the argument of being faced with circumstances beyond their control, such “years of drought, extreme heat and 129 million dead trees have created a ‘new normal’ for our state …”
Likewise, “Extreme weather is increasing the number of large wildfires and the length of the wildfire season in California. According to CAL FIRE, in 2017 alone, CAL FIRE confronted 7,117 wildfires, compared to an average of 4,835 during the preceding five years. Five of the 20 most destructive wildfires in the state’s history burned between October and December 2017.”
And specifically citing the unusual conditions surrounding the Northern California wildfires, “We saw an unprecedented confluence of weather-related conditions, including: years of drought resulting in millions of dead trees, a record-setting wet winter that spurred the growth of vegetation that then became abundant fuel after record-setting heat during the summer months, very low humidity and very high winds.”
Of course all of this is playing out in legal and legislative arenas over the issue of whether the Big Three will be allowed to recover costs due wildfires not covered by insurance by passing those costs along to ratepayers, even when they are culpable due to negligence in properly maintaining their equipment and infrastructure.
There’s a lot at stake in this epoch fight over cause and liability as the Big Three could be held legally accountable for billions and billions of dollars in damages if, as is the case with the CAL FIRE investigative report just released, investigators find their equipment caused the most horrendous wildfires in state history.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)
ALL OVER but the shouting, and given the unwritten Mendo Code of Conduct there won't be any shouting over the election. Argument is, you see, bad form. Passion worse. Shouting unthinkable. To get along, hop a long, which is what happens when everyone at the power levers is unacquainted with give and take, un-equipped for argument, which is why the Supervisors, to take the most egregious local example of 5-0-ism, not only seem offended by criticism, they are offended by it. But name an elected body anywhere in the County where you don't have unanimity on every vote. And if there happens to be dissent, the dissenter apologizes before he or she casts the nay vote.
IF, by some fluke, Art Juhl, an old fashioned Good Government kinda dude, is elected 5th District Supervisor, he'll be cordoned off by his colleagues. As Pinches was when he was a Supervisor, and will be again if he's re-elected to the Board. Of the rest of the candidates from both districts, we haven't heard a single statement from any of them indicating that they have the slightest awareness of how badly Mendocino County is managed. And if they do get it, we predict they'll simply assume their seats and the big pay (by Mendo standards) that comes with the job for part-time "work," and go on pretending that this is local government.
THE PRESENT Supervisors have screwed up every pressing issue they've touched — marijuana, mental health, fiscal management. The tail in the form of CEO Angelo, wags the mangy, flea-bitten dog. She and her sub-drones set the agenda, the Supervisors sign off on it. If any issue before the Supervisors is a true crisis requiring clarity and purpose, well, look elsewhere.
HOWEVER if, as is likely, either Roderick or Williams is elected in the 5th, and Pinches or Horger is elected in the 3rd, conceivably we might expect the new people to join McCowen and Gjerde to begin cutting through the managerial fog prevalent all these years.
GJERDE needs to step up his game, and he's got game to step up, assuming he hasn't lost it since his reform years on the Fort Bragg City Council. McCowen? He needs allies to do the right thing but hasn't had them.
* * *
CLOSER TO HOME, the Boonville school boss and a candidate for County Superintendent of Schools, has been relentlessly and falsely vilified by a small group of retired Boonville teachers as...what? Nothing specifically other than vague accusations like, "Lacks people skills," a kind of Rorschach for fuzzy warms unable to come up with real beefs, but boiling down to, "She wasn't at my feet so I'm at her throat."
THE ONE SPECIFIC Mrs. Hutchins' critics did come up with was listed as "Gun Control." Had to laugh at that one, but Hutchins' enemies claimed she hadn't properly handled a gun incident at Boonville High School. This is what happened. A gang-influenced delinquent brought a handgun to school. When it was made known he had the weapon in his backpack the cops were called who took the gun from him and placed him in Juvenile Hall where he will enjoy meals and supervision valued by Mendocino County at $450 a day. I guess the Superintendent could have lurched into full panic mode like we see on TV, scaring students and parents unnecessarily, but from here it looks like the episode was handled exactly as it should have been — no fuss, no muss.
MRS. HUTCHINS was opposed by an edu-automaton out of Ukiah named Brian Barrett. Barrett didn't show up for one of the rare opportunities to debate how the historically somnolent and occasionally criminal County Office of Education might be made more relevant. Barrett sent former Superintendent Tichinin in his place. Tichinin dutifully read off his pal's platitudes, "I lead from the middle," was among the more dynamic promises from Barrett and that was that.
BUT BARRETT AND TICHININ, like the weasels they are, have steadily maligned Hutchins, using as ammo the complaints about her mustered by the handful of Boonville critics. (The critics are a minority of the 90-plus persons employed by the Boonville schools but talk like they're the whole community.) Hard to predict this one. Most voters haven't the foggiest about the County Office of Education and are voting blind for its Superintendent. I've seen Mrs. Hutchins do some very good things at historically unsupervised Boonville Unified, and have admired the way she's admitted her errors and apologized for them. But the women, and female-type men who are most opposed to Mrs. Hutchins, are the kind of people who get the knife in from behind and in the dark, most of them anyway. You don't want them running school systems. At least I don't.
AS THE PUSH FOR FEDERAL LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA GATHERS MOMENTUM, CONGRESSMAN JARED HUFFMAN VISITS HUMBOLDT CANNABIS FARM
YOU'RE AN OLD TIMER IF....
- You followed J.T. Farrer’s old Ford pickup (a Model T or Model A) as he drove SLOWLY from Philo to Boonville or back.
- You bought apples and/or produce at Art’s Apples (Art was Art Gowan) west of Philo or apple juice at Peterson’s Apples (where Goldeneye Winery is now).
- You had Mr. Rapp as your high school science teacher.
- Don Van Zandt sighted-in your rifle.
- You remember Marshall Wynn Sr. as the Philo Postmaster.
DESPITE 4,000 APPLICATIONS, NEW UKIAH COSTCO STILL NEEDS 100 EMPLOYEES
MSP saw this posted to social media:
“Costco is still Hiring.
All applications are done online. They do not have a table or booth anywhere that you can apply for a job. They are hiring now. They have hired about 70 people and are looking to hire 100 more.
A friend of mine was told that you HAVE to put that you are willing to work any days at any time including holidays. Also you MUST put down that you are looking for full time work. With out those things on your applications they won't even consider your application.
It doesn't mean you will work weekend, nights or holidays but you must say are willing to even be considered.
Anyone that needs a job or wants a change, get your application in. You never know and nothing will change unless you try. Their wages are pretty good and they have a decent benefit package.
Don't say I wish I would have done that, just do it.
If you need to make a change in your life, here’s the perfect opportunity.”
Here’s the online link.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Second game in a row they told me to ‘Stay outside and keep an eye on things while we watch the Cavs-Warriors.’ Don't tell these slave drivers, but I put my mojo on the Warriors. Cavs by 10!”
To the Editor:
Don’t be irresponsible with Measure B.
I am highly concerned regarding the direction the Measure B committee is taking. I was asked last year to support Measure B. I was told the process would start with identifying what services are needed and then move on to what type of facility to build.
This is not the direction the committee has been taking. They are already deciding to utilize the old Howard Hospital before knowing what services are needed. This is the absolute wrong direction.
The committee doesn’t even know if an inpatient facility will be needed. Redwood Community Services is building a new crisis center in Ukiah. This center will significantly reduce the number of people in need of hospitalization. It is highly likely that there will not be enough daily patients to allow an inpatient facility to be fiscally viable.
At the same time the old Howard would be an irresponsible choice for any type of Measure B facility. First, the vast majority of people in need of inpatient services are coming from Ukiah. Secondly, the cost of transporting people the 30 minutes to Willits will be substantial. And thirdly, it is far better to build a new facility — one built to last decades — than reuse a 90 year-old facility that will need regular, costly maintenance.
At the same time, it is a medical facility. Inpatient psychiatric facilities have very specific design needs. They are nothing like medical facilities. The old Howard is a very bad choice. Major demolition and rebuilding would have to take place for it to be successfully utilized as an inpatient facility. The Howard Hospital Foundation is simply wrong about the facilities capacity to be utilized for a Measure B program.
I urge the committee to slow down, conduct a needs assessment, and understand that the facility should be located in the same community where the vast majority of its patients will be coming from.
It would be irresponsible to stay on the current course. It’s time for common sense.
WHITE WILD IRIS, ANDERSON VALLEY
(Photo by Marshall Newman)
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 3, 2018
BASILIO ANGUIANO, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
ALVARO CARRASCO, Riverside/Ukiah. DUI, evasion.
JOSEPH HOAGLEN, Covelo. Controlled substance, ex-felon with stun gun, mandatory supervision sentencing.
RHANDA JACK, Ukiah. Petty theft-bicycle, receiving stolen property.
GABRIEL MENDOZA, Hopland. Probation revocation.
SHANE MILLER JR., Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
JACKIE MONTIETH, Fort Bragg. Burglary.
GAYLAND OTT, Ukiah. DUI.
ANITRA ROMO, Willits. Misemeanor Hit&Run with property damage.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
It is a modern dilemma I think for centuries ago when “progress” moved so slowly forward, life stayed a lot more the same from generation to generation than it does today. Sure there are always large differences from grandpa to grandson, but never has it been as radically different as it is today thanks to technology and the huge degradation of our social structure. I was raised to respect and even admire those who worked for a living and who provided value to our society. So many 30 and 40 somethings today look down with contempt at those who work, being raised and “educated” to be “better” than that, that it makes me wonder who will carry on after we are gone. And if you check out their social media pages, you have to wonder what will happen if they ever come to the harsh reality that they are not the center of the universe and that nobody really gives a rat’s ass about all of the crap they post despite the collection of “Likes” they amass. Perhaps this is one of the elements adding to the huge increase of violence in the youth of today. Whether you believe in something afterward or not, they do not call it Eternal Rest for nothing. The older I get the better that sounds because after all I have done and still do, rest to me is the greatest of all pleasures.
JUNE 8, 1943 — An urgent call for women rat catchers has been issued by Health Director Geiger. “We need women to catch rats,“ said Dr. Geiger, “because the men won’t stay on the job. Of the nine positions for rodent control men, only three are filled.” Dr. Geiger said rats are increasing in San Francisco because of the increasing difficulty of regular garbage collection and the transient living habits of families coming to the city to work in war industries. The rat population has grown enormously in the section of the city formerly occupied by Japanese. “I believe women can do as good a job as men,” Dr. Geiger explained, “and I think they will remain in the job longer.” The duties include: trapping and poisoning rats, conducting autopsies on dead rats, combing rats for fleas, grinding up fleas and inoculating with resulting serum other animals for disease tests.
THE ONLY COUNTRY, AGAIN
I just returned from several weeks in Ireland and France. What was particularly noticeable to me were the clean streets and lack of homeless people or beggars on the streets of Dublin and Paris. I understand all urban downtowns have their challenges, but what do these local governments know and do that we don’t in our beautiful San Francisco? I asked locals about their homeless, and uniformly I was told that their taxes go to finding housing and services, as well as they have laws keeping people from living on the streets. Among other things, it’s a health issue, both mentally and physically. While many of these countries have higher taxes, they get a lot more back in services, and certainly a more pleasant environment. When will we ever wise up here?
PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES: CORPORATE SERVICE OR PUBLIC SERVICES FOR YOU?
by Ralph Nader
They call themselves non-profit professional societies, but they often act as enabling trade associations for the companies and businesspeople who fund them. At their worst, they serve their paymasters and remain in the shadows, avoiding publicity and visibility. When guided by their better angels, professional societies can be authoritative tribunes for a more healthy and safe society.
I am referring to the organizations that stand for their respective professions – automotive, electrical, chemical and mechanical engineers; physicians; architects; scientists; and accountants. The people working in these occupations all want to be members of a “professional” association, not a “trade” association.
So let’s start by distinguishing how a “profession” is supposed to differ from a “trade.” First, profit is not to be the end-all of a profession and its practitioners. Moral and public interest codes of ethics are supposed to be paramount when they conflict with maximizing sales and income.
The National Society of Professional Engineers’ code of ethics stipulates that an engineer has a professional duty to go to the appropriate authorities should the engineer be rebuffed by employer or client who was notified of a dangerous situation or product.
Physicians have a duty to prevent the trauma or disease which they are trained to treat. A half-dozen physicians in the 1960s aggressively pressed the auto industry to build more crash-protective vehicles to prevent trauma casualties they had to treat regularly.
A profession has three basic characteristics. First is a learned tradition – otherwise known as going deep and keeping up with a profession’s literature and practices. Second is to continue a tradition of public service. Third is to maintain the independence of the profession.
How do professional societies measure up? Not that well. They are too monetized to fulfill their public service obligations and retain their independence. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has had a notorious history of following the technological stagnation of the auto companies. Their standards almost never diverge from what is permitted by GM, Ford et al. Indeed, the SAE’s standards committees are mostly composed of company engineers whose employers provide funding and facilities for any testing.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is waist-deep in the automation and artificial intelligence drive. You’ll not hear from that Society about the downsides, collateral risks and undisclosed data by the companies in this portentous area.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has not distinguished itself regarding the safety of gas and oil pipelines, allowing industry lobbyists to take over the federal regulator without as much as a warning whistle. This history was exposed years ago by a retired DuPont engineer, Fred Lang.
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) knows about the scores of vulnerable plants resisting regulatory efforts to safeguard their premises from sabotage that could destroy a nearby town or city. Ask Rick Hind, former legislative director for Greenpeace, about this evasion (See: “Chemical Security Testimony by Greenpeace’s Rick Hind”).
The American Medical Association (AMA) received peer-reviewed studies by Harvard and Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine pointing to at least 5,000 patient deaths per week from preventable problems in hospitals – from malpractice to hospital-induced infections. Despite this clear medical emergency, the AMA refuses to move into high drive against this epidemic. Mum’s the word. Where the AMA shouts out is against the law of torts and the civil justice system that, every once in a rare while, hold negligent or criminally behaved physicians accountable to their victims.
Possibly the most complicit profession facilitating, covering for, and explaining away corporate greed and deception is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Too many corporate accountants specialize in complex cooking of the books for their corporate clients. The Wall Street crash in 2008-2009 is a major case in point. Donald Trump knows about such accountants from his business career of obfuscation.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA), after a long period of submissiveness, woke up to the energy waste/pollution crisis of modern buildings and developed standards with labels to give builders incentives toward more responsible construction. But by and large, it remains a profession, apart from modern technologies, which has left its best days back in the 18th and 19th centuries (e.g., the classic cities of Europe).
Now what about the scientific societies? The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) has led the way for nuclear arms control and other weaponized discoveries of the warfare state. On the other hand, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — by far the largest membership organization and publisher of Science magazine — has been utterly timid in putting muscle behind its fine pronouncements.
The large street protests by scientists in Washington, after the Electoral College selected Donald Trump, were started by young social and physical scientists. They stood up for scientific integrity and conscience and opposed Trump’s defunding of such governmental organizations as the National Science Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These scientists’ efforts have been met with some success.
What most Americans do not know is that many of the state and federal safety/health standards are taken in considerable measure from the weak “consensus” standards advanced by professional societies. These societies, so heavily marinated with their respective industries, see their important role of feeding their industry standards into state, national, and international standards which are enforceable under domestic law or treaty.
Maybe these societies continue a learned tradition at their annual meetings, workshops, and in their publications. But they far too often fail to maintain their profession’s standards of independence (from commercial supremacy) and commitment to public service.
These professional societies, and other associations not mentioned here, need to be brought out of their convenient shadows into the spotlight of public scrutiny, higher expectation, and broader participation.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!)
OUT IN THE COLD
I am offering my own personal experience of being a former homeless person to counter the biased and stereotyped view of homeless people as lazy, irresponsible drug addicts who are suffering from mental illness. I am a professional jazz musician and a former public school teacher. I also became a homeless person in 1983 after I lost my job teaching music in Cleveland’s public schools, and so could no longer keep up my rent payments for my apartment. For almost three years I had to endure sleeping outside — either on the cold and wet night-time streets or in the nearby woods. Every day was a constant challenge for me to find enough money to buy food and to find a place to sleep at night: A place where I wouldn’t be either arrested by the police or possibly attacked by some frustrated and angry person. I also had to endure the frequent insults of the many average citizens who couldn’t understand that good-paying jobs are not available to everyone on demand. I had to tolerate the rude comments of many others who became almost hysterical when they saw someone who they viewed as a failure in life. Most homeless people are much like I was in the 80s. They are merely trying to cope with an extremely competitive society that cares nothing for people who are not working every day and who don’t fit the description of a normal and average citizen. And compared to this nation’s most wealthy and powerful people, homeless people are of little danger to anyone. When was the last time a homeless person threatened to “totally destroy” a small country like North Korea with nuclear weapons? And what homeless person goes on television to brag that everyone who doesn’t agree with him is just spreading “fake news”?
AMID ‘RUSSIAGATE’ HYSTERIA, WHAT ARE THE FACTS?
The most important fact, obscured in Russiagate hysteria, is that Americans elected Trump under the terms set forth in the Constitution. Americans created the Electoral College, which allows a candidate with a minority of popular votes to become president. Americans were those who gerrymandered electoral districts to rig them in favor of a given political party. The Supreme Court issued the infamous Citizens United decision that allows corporate financing of candidates for political office. (Hey, money talks and exercises freedom of speech; corporations are people!) Americans created a Senate that is anything but democratic, since it gives disproportionate representation to states with relatively small populations. It was American senators who established non-democratic procedures that allow minorities, even sometimes single senators, to block legislation or confirmation of appointments. Instead of facing the facts and coping with the current reality, the Russiagate promoters, in both the government and the media, are diverting our attention from the real threats.