- March Showers
- River Rise
- Spay Day
- Food Crisis
- Equinox Moon
- Moores Appeal
- Erin's Auction
- County Museum
- BOS Agenda
- Overexcavation Lawsuit
- Gualala Sky
- Shots Fired
- Heroism Awards
- Ed Notes
- Yesterday's Catch
- Opiate Epidemic
- Be Kind
- Reinventing Beto
- Dem Debate
- Baseball Rot
- Happy Man
- Bad Vibes
- Nuh Uh
- Karma Sparkle
- Military Spending
- Women Composers
- Cal Worthington
- Spring Stehr
SPRING SHOWERS ON THE WAY. Up to a quarter of an inch of rain and cool temps expected on Friday into Friday night, tapering off Saturday into Sunday. More rain Sunday evening with temps in the 40s, followed by rain on Monday with showers on Tuesday and Wednesday tapering off with more light rain on Thursday. Daytime temps not likely to reach above 60 during the week. (National Weather Service)
MSP'S 'EYE ON THE NAVARRO RIVER'
RAIN WILL RISE THE RIVER NEXT MONDAY - TO 11.9'
The Wednesday rainfall caused only a slight "bump" in the Navarro River level and the last reading (11:15 am) from the (upstream) USGS river gauge found the level at only 5.21'.
It was discharging a LOT of water though - an estimated 609 cubic feet of water per second.
And the long-range forecast from NOAA sees the river level cresting at 11.9' Monday @ 7:00 pm - well below the 23.0' flood stage but this will be scaled up or down as the rain arrives.
FOOD CRISIS AHEAD
"Food production in the United States is going to be way, way down this year. Prices at the grocery store are immediately going to start rising, and they are going to keep rising all year long. So now is the best time to stock up and to get prepared for what is coming. Our breadbasket has been absolutely devastated, and things are only going to get worse. The mainstream media seems to think that this is just another in a long string of major natural disasters that has hit our nation in recent years, but the truth is not so simple. This disaster is going to have a dramatic impact on our ability to grow our own food, and even if everything went perfectly from this point forward we are talking about a recovery that would take many, many years."
EQUINOX FULL MOON RISING THROUGH THE TREES
THE SUPERVISORS heard the appeal from William Moores, the litigious owner of most of the undeveloped parcels at Irish Beach. Moores, appealing a Planning Department denial, presented a hodgepodge of unrelated zoning and planning changes he’s accumulated over the last few years that he implied he'd been the victim of unfair denials. One of his proposals was for changing a forestland zoning to a timber zoning, a distinction with little difference which was the only Moores proposal that the Planning people went along with. Another Moores proposals was to be allowed to relocate his rental management/realty office from its current slightly cramped location on the coast side of Highway One to a larger parcel down the road, which he wanted changed from ag zoning to commercial but which the planning people denied.
“I think that it is worth noting in this packet that has been put out there that has not been distributed to you, the Planning Commission is asking you to adopt, to support the denial of the rest of the applications, they are asking you to adopt the finding that the application is inconsistent with coastal policy 3.2-16 and that has to do with -- it's discussed -- I attached it in my packet there. It says, All agricultural land designated rangeland for ag shall not be divided or converted to non-agricultural uses unless continued where renewed agriculture is not feasible. Following that attachment not passed out is a letter from John Harper, University of California extension agriculture office, which says, 'After reviewing the aerial photos and topographical map of your information you sent me I can better address your question about the economic feasibility of grazing livestock.' This is the boot area at the north end. The topographical map shows the only land that would be usable for livestock is the southeast corner and is approximately 2 acres. This amount of coastal bench land in the exceptional years might carry at most two animal units, more likely the actual use would be one animal unit. One animal unit is roughly equivalent to one cow and the calf up to 300 pounds. The remainder of the acreage is too steep for grazing an animal economically, and would need to have, at least for economic viability, a livestock operation would need to have at least two animal units. In other words the ag advisor is advising continued agriculture use is not feasible. That's related to the policy 3.2-16 which is supposedly the finding that would support the denial of the application for the office on the inside. And number one of the *2c."
SUPERVISORS Dan Gjerde and John Haschak initially thought maybe Mr. Moores had a point, however minor. But the more experienced Supervisor John McCowen clarified the situation and put the Moores application in proper context: "I really don't think we need more information. I think it's clear that there is limited ag production capability on this site. I think that's just obvious. There is some but it's minimal, limited. However, that fact does not justify approving it for commercial development, particularly since it is outside the established urban boundary for Irish Beach. So we are trying to contain urban development within the Irish Beach area, within the urban boundary of Irish Beach. The memo from [recently retired planner] Bill Kinzer, senior planner, November 27, 2018, says that approving the change would be inconsistent with the County General Plan, inconsistent with the County coastal element, and inconsistent with the Coastal Act and I believe it would just be setting the applicant up for an appeal and the rejection at the Coastal Commission. So I think the recommendations before us from staff [to deny everything but the forestland rezone] and the Planning Commission are comprehensive and well thought out and worthy of our support."
THE SUPES then quickly voted 5-0 to uphold the Planning Commission’s denial. The multi-millionaire Moores will have to limp along with his existing rental/real estate office (staffed by his brother Gordon at last check, not him) until his next giant pile of rezone paper arrives at the County’s planning office, as it surely will.
ERIN LANE is holding a Silent Auction at Lauren's as part of her Senior Project. She is raising money to support a Wild Horse Sanctuary, that took in Nacho, a horse very special to her. The auction has been extended until March 30th, so come in and check out Erin's project and bid on art, massage, horseback rides and a whimsical "book" lamp donated by friends.
The Mendocino County Museum is preparing to open a new exhibit called Mendocino County: A Collector's Journey New Acquisitions from Dusty Whitney on April 6, 2019.
This new exhibit features many wonderful artifacts and historic photos that highlight the rich history of Mendocino County, like this Mendocino County Bartlett Pear label.
Learn more about our soon to open exhibits by visiting our website: mendocinocounty.org/government/cultural-services-agency/museum/current-and-upcoming-exhibits
The Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP) connected San Francisco to Eureka and was known as the "Redwood Empire Route."
Check out our railroad display at the Museum! Learn more about trains and the rich railroad history in Mendocino County. On most Wednesdays and Saturdays tours are offered of the Museum's Engine House with a Roots of Motive Power volunteer.
(Mendocino County Museum)
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MEETING AGENDA for the March 26, 2019, meeting is now available on the County website:
HOGS AT THE TROUGH GET SUED
2017 Fire Victims sue over ‘Overexcavation’ debris cleanup
Class action legal move claims haulers over-excavated for profit
by Julie Johnson
Three Sonoma County residents who lost their homes in the 2017 firestorm have filed a class action lawsuit against companies involved in the debris cleanup, claiming two government-chosen firms purposely allowed debris haulers to remove too much soil from their properties for financial gain.
Plaintiffs Craig Mason, Patricia Healey and Gary Goodrich named AshBritt International and Tetra Tech Inc. in the lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court in Oakland on behalf of all residents of Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties whose burned properties were cleaned up by the companies and their contractors.
The lawsuit follows well-documented problems with the debris cleanup program run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Contractors and subcontractors removed about 2.2 million tons of debris left behind by wildfires that burned more than 4,500 properties in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties “Our allegation is they did over-excavate with an intentional effort to capitalize on this tragedy,” said Robert Arns, the plaintiffs’ attorney.
Though their lawyer, Mason, Healey and Goodrich declined to comment. They are seeking unspecified damages. The plaintiffs are suing under the civil provisions of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations — or RICO — Act, which was passed in 1970 to help law enforcement go after the mafia and organized crime.
They are accusing the companies of working together “in maximizing the profits of its constituent members in disaster cleanup projects” by excavating more than the 6 inches of soil spelled out in the removal contracts. The companies were paid between $200 and $300 per ton of debris removed, according to the lawsuit.
AshBritt chief of staff Gerardo Castillo, in an email, defended the work conducted by the Florida-based company, “and that of over 30 local and California contractors that performed debris removal on properties,” which he said was closely supervised by the Army Corps.
He noted that plaintiffs in a separate case represented by Arns’ law firm initially named AshBritt in a separate lawsuit for cleanup work in Napa County, but AshBritt has been dismissed from the case. He said that in the class action lawsuit filed by the three fire survivors in Sonoma County, the company had a hand in the cleanup at only one of the properties.
“The amount of debris removed from properties followed all contract requirements,” Castillo said. AshBritt is the subject of several lawsuits stemming from the North Bay cleanup, including a labor complaint filed last year in Sonoma County Superior Court by laborers, equipment operators and other workers employed in the debris cleanup. The workers claim they were paid below minimum wage, denied overtime compensation and not given breaks. These workers are also being represented by Arns’ firm. AshBritt did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on the labor lawsuit.
A Tetra Tech spokeswoman didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment on the cleanup lawsuit.
In an unrelated case, the federal government in January accused the Pasadena-based civil engineering firm of fabricating radiation data and submitting false invoices worth tens of millions of dollars related to the environmental cleanup at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco.
In the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires, property owners had two choices: participate in the government-sponsored fire cleanup or hire a private contractor.
Local officials, including county supervisors and Santa Rosa city officials, urged people to opt for the government-run program overseen by the Army Corps. Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane said they were told it would be more cost- and time-efficient for burned-out residents.
But reports of problems with the public cleanup emerged as property owners began seeing signs of over-excavation and damage to driveways, septic tanks and retaining walls.
Zane said the Army Corps made her “feel like we’ve been made liars” at a July meeting when the Board of Supervisors urged the state government to do a better job of resolving complaints from people who said their properties were damaged in the cleanup.
In August, the California Office of Emergency Services, Cal OES, sent a letter lambasting the Army Corps for its “egregious oversight” of the “negligent” work done by its contractors.
“Given these subcontractors were paid per ton of soil removed, it is probable this overexcavation was an intentional effort to capitalize on this tragedy by defrauding the government,” then-director of Cal OES Mark Ghilarducci wrote in the Aug. 22 letter. “USACE (the Army Corps) allowed this to occur.”
Since then, Cal OES has spent $17.8 million to hire other contractors to fix some of the damage, mostly for overscraping, an agency spokesman said this week.
In Sonoma County, people reported problems at about 20 percent of the 3,800 burned properties handled by the government- run cleanup program, according to Michael Gossman, the deputy county administrator in charge of the county’s Office of Recovery and Resilience. “We will leave you with a safe, clean site ready for rebuild — that was the promise that was made,” Gossman said. “That promise wasn’t kept for some people.”
The state has since backfilled soil at 379 properties, according to Gossman. For the remaining 343 properties, the state declined to step in, either because it determinedthe property wasn’t over-excavated or the work was too complex for its contractor. Gossman said that was the case for many hillside properties where the work required skilled engineering.
One of those properties belongs to 37-year-old Tim Gavin, who said he was told the state couldn’t repair the damage done at his Fountaingrove parcel because it is on a hill. Gavin, who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the cleanup crews removed retaining walls that should have remained and hauled away too much soil.
He’s spent more than $30,000 for additional soil and compaction work.
The foundation was poured earlier this month.
“While I would like to fight to get the money back, it’s more of a headache to me and I simply want to forget about it,” Gavin said. “But I can’t. There are constant reminders of Oct. 9. I feel like I’ve aged 10 years in the last year and a half.”
The plaintiffs’ lawsuit will go before a judge, who will decide whether it can be classified as a class-action case.
(Courtesy, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
FAIRLY DRAMATIC THIS MORNING in our little town of Gualala
DISCHARGE OF FIREARM AT AN INHABITED DWELLING
On March 21, 2019, at approximately 1:58 a.m., Officers of the Fort Bragg Police Department were dispatched to multiple reports of gunshots being heard in the area of Dick Williams Way. While in route to the location, Officers were advised of several other callers throughout the City who were also reporting hearing shots fired. Many of the callers reported hearing 3 to 5 shots fired.
Upon arrival, Officers contacted the occupants at 112 Dick Williams Way. One of the occupants led officers to his bedroom, where he pointed to a hole in the drywall in his bedroom. An additional hole in a mirror and wall on the opposite side of the room was located, and it was believed the bullet stopped in the second wall. Despite the multiple reports of 3 to 5 shots being heard, Officers were only able to locate one bullet hole in the residence, and no other damage as a result of the activity.
Officers canvassed the entire area, and contacted all of the neighbors they could locate, and confirmed that there were no human victims injured. Officers were unable to locate any shell casings, or additional damage from the shots. Despite some of the neighbors being awake at the time the shots were fired, there were no witnesses who reported seeing a vehicle or any persons in the area, or leaving the area.
The motive for the shooting is unknown, and this is an active ongoing investigation. Currently this incident resulted in property damage only and there is no evidence to indicate anyone was injured.
The Fort Bragg Police Department requests that anyone with information regarding this incident contact Officer Lopez at (707) 961-2800 ext. 141, or the Fort Bragg Police Department (Anonymous) Crime Tip Hotline at (707) 961-3049.
Recent Shootings Incidents
Last Friday night, Fort Bragg police officers were dispatched to the 600 block of Madrone in response to shots being fired at an unoccupied vehicle. A search of the area revealed that a residence in the neighborhood had also been struck by two bullets. In a very similar incident this morning, shots were fired at a residence in the Dick Williams Way area. No one was injured.
Although the motives for the shootings are not confirmed, the Fort Bragg Police Department is proceeding as if the shootings are gang related. The City of Fort Bragg has a zero tolerance policy for gang activity. Chief Lizarraga has stated that these shootings are of the highest priority and additional staffing and resources have been dedicated to the investigation and protection of the community. Mayor Will Lee expressed support on behalf of the elected officials for the Police Department’s increased vigilance related to gang criminal activity. Mayor Lee stated that he has full confidence in our officers’ dedication to the safety of our community.
Several persons of interest have been identified and will be sought for questioning. Additional assistance from other law enforcement agencies has increased the resources available to developing additional leads and information. If you have any information regarding these shootings or any suspected gang activity, please contact (707) 961-2800: Officer Awad (Ext. 180), Officer Lopez (Ext.141) or Sergeant O’Neal (Ext. 120). Anonymous crime tips can be reported to the Fort Bragg Police Department Hotline at (707) 961-3049.
Please remember if you see something, say something.
(Fort Bragg Police Department Pressers)
CARNEGIE ‘HERO’ MEDAL AWARDED FOR RESPONSE TO WILLITS CRASH SCENE
A man was honored for his quick action that saved lives in a Willits accident nearly two years ago.
This was the entry then:
“Nicholas Anderson — Forty-five-year-old Nicholas Anderson saved five people from burning when he stopped at the scene of a May 26, 2017, accident in Willits.
Six people were inside a pickup truck that collided with an SUV. Fire broke out at the front ends of both vehicles. With another man’s help, Anderson, an operations manager, pried open one of the truck’s rear doors and freed a 7-year-old boy from his seat and removed a 22-month-old girl from her safety seat, handing her off to another person.
As Anderson moved around the truck to reach the passenger side, he heard a man, 24, moaning from inside the covered bed. He reached through the cover’s rear window and lifted the injured man through it, lowering him to the road.
He then entered twice more to remove two women, 19 and 43, from the truck, as flames licked the front windshield. The fire rapidly spread and engulfed both vehicles; neither driver survived.”
This is the link to the press release and the 18 other 2019 recipients: carnegiehero.org/carnegie-medal-awardees-march-2019-heroism/
THE NEW ZEALAND shooter's video and "manifesto" made its way to the ava via a cyber-savvy friend. I wanted to see them for myself. The video of the actual shootings captured by the lunatic himself as he went silently about mass murder isn't as disturbing as I expected it to be. In fact, if I hadn't known what it was I was looking at I wouldn't have recognized it as mass murder. You hear the gunfire, you see the huddled forms on the floor jerk as the bullets hit them. They mostly aren't moving when more rounds strike them. You see the loon's calm hands shoving more magazines into his rifle and then more gunshots into more huddled forms, none of whose faces are visible. No screams, only moaning.
LIKE most non-nazis, I agree with the cyber-gods' decisions to remove both the shooting video and the shooter's "manifesto," and I totally agree with the New Zealand prime minister's decision not to ever speak his name. Should he be allowed to defend himself in court? I'd say No, because his stated reason for mass murder is, as he makes clear in his "manifesto," is the global media opportunity to disseminate his twisted idea that "invaders" are threatening to subsume the white "race." This guy sees himself as a great martyr in the same way ISIS fanatics see themselves as great martyrs. He should be denied his platform as his own attorney.
THE SHOOTER'S "MANIFESTO" is routinely reported as "rambling" and "incoherent." It isn't. It's occasionally repetitive, but it's also terse and to the deluded point. It appears in interview format with the loon interviewing himself:
"WHY DID I DO IT? To most of all show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands, our homelands are our own and that, as long as a white man still lives, they will NEVER conquer our lands and they will never replace our people."
THAT was one reason. Another was, " To take revenge for the enslavement of millions of Europeans taken from their lands by the Islamic slavers. To take revenge on the invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history." Which you'd have to go back a very long way in history, and an even longer way to get your crazy self all indignant about.
"Finally," he says, he did it "to create conflict between the two ideologies within the United States on the ownership of firearms in order to further the social, cultural, political and racial divide within the United states. This conflict over the 2nd amendment and the attempted removal of firearms rights will ultimately result in a civil war that will eventually balkanize the US along political, cultural and, most importantly, racial lines. This balkanization of the US will not only result in the racial separation of the people within the United States ensuring the future of the White race on the North American continent, but also ensuring the death of the “melting pot” pipe dream." Etc.
THE KILLER asks himself, "Are you a supporter of Donald Trump? As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no."
THE DECISION by New Zealand authorities to at least try to blot the killer out of the historical record is, I think, a sound one but probably futile. As all reasonably informed persons know so-called "white identity" has the dimmer white boys — not as many white girls, proving again the intellectual superiority of females — all in a tiz that the "muzzies," as they call Muslims, and darker people generally are coming to get them. The New Zealand killer's crude notions are common on the internet, and most of us are aware that, thanks to the internet, neo-nazi thinking is on the rise:
To most of all show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands, our homelands are our own and that, as long as a white man still lives, they will NEVER conquer our lands and they will never replace our people.
To take revenge on the invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history.
To take revenge for the enslavement of millions of Europeans taken from their lands by the Islamic slavers.
To take revenge for the thousands of European lives lost to terror attacks throughout European lands.
To take revenge for Ebba Akerlund.
To directly reduce immigration rates to European lands by intimidating and physically removing the invaders themselves.
CATCH OF THE DAY, March 21, 2019
SARAH GINSKEY, Mendocino. DUI, suspended license, probation revocation.
JOSEPH HOAGLIN, Ukiah. Burglary.
DAVID KROLL, Ukiah. Failure to appear. (Frequent Flyer)
STEVEN RICH, Clearlake/Ukiah. Parole violation.
GET YOUR TEENAGE KIDS ADDICTED to OxyContin and then cheaper black tar heroin. Hire a bunch of dodgy temporary doctors needing a job and open a “Pill Mill” in rural small town America. Get on SSI so that you can get a Medicaid card to buy OxyContin and then sell it to third parties for thousands of bucks.
Get the old people in on it to sell their pills to young kids.
It seems that a big part of the opiate economy in rural America is WalMart. People shoplift merchandise from WalMart and trade the goods from WalMart for OxyContin at a 50% discount. (The old fart “Greeters” at WalMart turn a blind eye to the blatant theft because they only get paid $10 bucks an hour, and they aren’t going to confront some deranged desperate opioid addict.) So that if, for example, a Black & Decker Power saw sells for $60 bucks at WalMart the shoplifter can barter it for a 30 mg OxyContin Pill. The going black market rate for OxyContin is $1.00 per each milligram, so that a 30 milligram OxyContin Pill sells for $30 bucks. In some places OxyContin has become an alternative currency to the US dollar. It’s like one of those futuristic post-Collapse novels.
—Sam Quinones, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic
REINVENTING BETO: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
by Norman Solomon
To understand Beto O’Rourke as a candidate, it’s vital to go beneath the surface of his political backstory. News watchers are already well aware of the former Texas congressman’s good looks, charisma, youthful energy and fundraising prowess. But most remain unaware of an inconvenient truth that could undermine the O’Rourke campaign among the people who matter most—the ones who’ll be voting to choose the Democratic presidential nominee next year.
O’Rourke is hardly eager for those upcoming voters to realize that the growth of his political career is rooted in an alliance with powerful Republicans that began 15 years ago. Or that he supported raising the minimum age for Social Security in 2012. Or that—during six years in Congress, through the end of 2018—he often aligned himself with Republican positions.
If facts matter, such weighty facts could sink the “Beto for America” presidential campaign. Since his announcement, information gaining traction nationwide runs directly counter to the Beto brand.
“Before becoming a rising star in the Democratic Party,” the Wall Street Journal reported a week ago, “Beto O’Rourke relied on a core group of business-minded Republicans in his Texas hometown to launch and sustain his political career. To win their backing, Mr. O’Rourke opposed Obamacare, voted against Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader and called for a raise in the Social Security eligibility age.”
Meanwhile, a Washington Post news article—under the headline “Beto O’Rourke’s Political Career Drew on Donations From the Pro-Republican Business Establishment”—also foreshadowed a bumpy ride on the campaign trail. In the eyes of most people who don’t like the GOP, key points in the Post’s reporting are apt to be concerning. For instance:
“Several of El Paso’s richest business moguls donated to and raised money for O’Rourke’s city council campaigns, drawn to his support for a plan to redevelop El Paso’s poorer neighborhoods. Some later backed a super PAC that would play a key role in helping him defeat an incumbent Democratic congressman.”
“O’Rourke worked on issues that had the potential to make money for some of his benefactors. His support as a council member for the redevelopment plan, which sparked controversy at the time because it involved relocating low-income residents, many of them Hispanic, coincided with property investments by some of his benefactors.”
“As a congressman, he supported a $2 billion military funding increase that benefited a company controlled by another major donor. That donor, real estate developer Woody Hunt, was friends with O’Rourke’s late father. Hunt also co-founded and funds an El Paso nonprofit organization that has employed O’Rourke’s wife since 2016.”
Central features of Trumpism are budgets that add billions to already-bloated Pentagon spending while cutting essential programs. In Beto’s last year in Congress, when nearly one-third of House Democrats opposed the record-breaking 2019 National Defense Authorization Act of $717 billion, Beto voted with Trump. (Four senators who are running against O’Rourke voted no: Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.)
Overall, the Post reports, “in contrast to the aspirational image he has fostered in recent years,” O’Rourke’s political career has gone along a path of “winning support from a typically pro-GOP business establishment interested in swaying public policy. Born into one politically potent family and married into another, he benefited repeatedly from his relationships with El Paso’s most powerful residents, including several nationally known Republican moneymen.”
To put his more conservative actions in context, O’Rourke cannot plausibly claim that he was striving to be in sync with the voters who elected him. El Paso and the House district that O’Rourke represented are heavily Democratic. The Wall Street Journal summed up this way: “In a one-party town -- the Democrats have held El Paso’s congressional seat for all but one term since 1902—local Republicans viewed Mr. O’Rourke as one of their own.”
Naturally, O’Rourke would much rather talk in upbeat generalities than answer pointed questions about why anti-Republican voters should cast ballots for him—when he has a long record of going along with many GOP positions they find abhorrent. It may be better for him if unflattering coverage fixates instead on matters like youthful stints as a punk rocker and early computer hacker.
It was just seven years ago when—during his first run for Congress—O’Rourke did a campaign video to tell people in the blue West Texas district that “we’ll have to look at future generations . . . retiring at a later age, paying a greater percentage of their income into Social Security and making other necessary adjustments.” And, the Wall Street Journal reports, “in a candidate questionnaire published two days before the May 2012 primary, Mr. O’Rourke called for raising the Social Security eligibility age and means-testing federal entitlements.” According to exit polling, O’Rourke won that election with major help from Republicans who opted to vote in the Democratic primary and cast their ballots for him by a ratio of more than 7 to 1.
After becoming a congressman, O’Rourke backtracked and, as Politico reports, “co-sponsored legislation that would increase Social Security benefits -- without raising the retirement age.” Yet his wobbly stance on Social Security in this decade is a warning flag.
O’Rourke affinity with Republican sensibilities related to corporate power has continued. So has largesse from interests that are the antithesis of progressive values. Notably, for his final term, Beto retired from the House as the member of Congress who was the second-highest recipient of campaign cash from the oil and gas industry.
In June 2015, O’Rourke was one of only 28 Democrats—out of 188 members of the party in the House—who voted to give President Obama the power to negotiate the corporate-oriented Trans-Pacific Partnership. The measure squeaked through the House, propelled by support from 190 Republicans.
A year later, the TPP was a highly visible and contentious issue at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where hundreds of Bernie Sanders delegates held anti-TPP signs. (I was one of those delegates and still support Sanders.) These days, O’Rourke is typically aiming to have it both ways, as Vanity Fair reported in a campaign kickoff cover story last week: “O’Rourke now says he would have voted ‘no’ on the ultimate agreement. But in 2015, he traveled with Obama on a trip to Asia to help build support for the deal.”
At the end of last year, the Guardian published an exhaustively researched article under the headline “Beto O’Rourke Frequently Voted for Republican Legislation, Analysis Reveals.” The piece reported that “even as O’Rourke represented one of the most solidly Democratic congressional districts in the United States, he has frequently voted against the majority of House Democrats in support of Republican bills and Trump administration priorities.”
Written by investigative journalist David Sirota (who days ago joined the Sanders presidential campaign as a speechwriter), the Dec. 20 article reviewed “the 167 votes O’Rourke has cast in the House in opposition to the majority of his own party during his six-year tenure in Congress. Many of those votes were not progressive dissents alongside other left-leaning lawmakers, but instead votes to help pass Republican-sponsored legislation.”
A cautionary tale comes from David Romo, an activist and historian in El Paso who describes Beto O’Rourke as a “masterful politician. . . It’s all fluff, it’s all style, it’s all looks.” Romo clashed with City Councilman O’Rourke when he went all-out for redevelopment that would enrich some of his wealthy backers. Romo said recently: “O’Rourke, because of his charisma, can kind of pull off some of this behind-the-scenes power peddling. He was the pretty face in the really ugly gentrification plan that negatively affected the most vulnerable people in El Paso.”
To the casual listener, however, O’Rourke might sound lovely. Consider this verbiagefrom the presidential campaign trail: “We want to be for everybody, work with everybody. Could care less about your party affiliation or any other difference that might otherwise divide us at this moment of truth, where I really feel we will either make or break this great country and our democracy.”
From O’Rourke, that kind of talk has sometimes overlapped with disinterest in defeating Republicans. Last year, while running for the Senate, O’Rourke helped a friend in need—Texas GOP Congressman Will Hurd—by notably refusing to endorse his Democratic opponent. Gina Ortiz Jones, a gay Filipina-American, had momentum in a district with a majority of Hispanics. But O’Rourke’s solidarity with his Republican colleague may well have saved Hurd’s seat.
Hurd won re-election by under one-half of a percentage point, while O’Rourke won in the district by a five-point margin. As the New York Times reported, O’Rourke “had elevated” his Republican colleague Hurd “with frequent praise and, most memorably, a live-streamed bipartisan road trip that helped jump-start their midterm campaigns.” During the campaign, O’Rourke tried to justify his refusal to endorse Hurd’s Democratic opponent by declaring: “This is a place where my politics and my job and my commitment to this country come into conflict. I’m going to put country over party.”
When Politico asked O’Rourke late last year whether he considered himself to be a progressive Democrat, O’Rourke replied: “I don’t know. I’m just, as you may have seen and heard over the course of the campaign, I’m not big on labels. I don’t get all fired up about party or classifying or defining people based on a label or a group. I’m for everyone.”
After O’Rourke campaigned in the Detroit area a few days ago, the Detroit Metro Timespublished information that would concern anyone with minimally progressive leanings: “He supported Republican efforts to limit the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was established by Obama and Democrats to protect Americans from Wall Street following the recession. O’Rourke also broke with the party to support Trump and GOP attempts to loosen requirements in hiring border patrol agents; chip away at the Affordable Care Act; kill a ban on oil drilling in parts of the Gulf of Mexico; and lift the 40-year-old oil export ban. He also supported Republican legislation that protected utility companies that start wildfires.”
It’s understandable that many progressives came out of 2018 with a favorable view of O’Rourke. He ran a strong campaign that got remarkably close to unseating the odious Sen. Ted Cruz. Along the way, O’Rourke showed himself to be eloquent and tireless. Some of his stances are both enlightened and longstanding, as with his advocacy for legalizing marijuana. And O’Rourke provided some stunning moments of oratory, as in a viral video that showed his response to a question about NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem; his support for dissent in the context of civil rights history was exemplary.
Yet, overall, there’s a good reason why O’Rourke declines to call himself “progressive.” He isn’t. His alliances and sensibilities, when you strip away some cultural affinities and limited social-justice positions, are bedrock corporate.
In his quest for a Democratic nomination that will require support from a primary electorate that leans progressive, Beto O’Rourke will be running to elude his actual record. If it catches up with him, he’s going to lose.
MIKE TROUT’S MEGA DEAL AND BASEBALL’S ECONOMIC ROT
by Dave Zirin
The number itself is eye-popping, sending the jaws of media members and baseball aficionados to the floor with the speed of a Randy Johnson fastball. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels will play the next 12 years for $430 million. It’s the largest contract in the history of US sports, and the biggest number ever to be earned by a baseball player, by over $100 million.
Does Mike Trout deserve it? Of course he does. Baseball is a $10 billion-a-year business. The Angels have a $3 billion cable contract. And Mike Trout is the greatest player of his generation. As ESPN summed up nicely:
“Through his age-26 season, Trout has won two MVP awards and finished second in the voting four times. He has compiled the highest career WAR (Wins Against Replacement) through his age of any position player in history, just ahead of Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle. He led the American League the past three years in on-base percentage, the past two seasons in OPS and the past four seasons in park-adjusted OPS. He has hit .300 five times and owns a .307 career average. He hits for power, steals bases, draws walks, scores runs and plays center field.”
In many ways, Mike Trout is also the perfect symbol for baseball in 2019. He is brilliant on the field, yet almost completely anonymous off of it. The $430 million man could walk through LAX and go unrecognized, unless he were wearing a T-shirt that read, “Hi. My name is Mike Trout.” He is not going to be the face of the sport. That baseball can both afford his contract and afford his anonymity speaks to a far broader economic problem.
While Trout and former free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have contracts in excess of $1 billion combined, two out of three MLB teams have actually cut their payroll. The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of those teams, with a payroll that’s $15 million less than it was a year ago. Roughly 100 free agents will find themselves out of work. This includes star players like closer Craig Kimbrel and former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, still unsigned as opening day looms. Tony Clark, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, says that the MLB is currently not in the business of putting the best teams on their squads. While superstars earn unprecedented sums, most players are seen as cheap and expendable. Most solid or even All-Star players are on the outside looking in.
The problem is that teams no longer see their financial fortunes tied primarily to putting a good product on the field. Revenue is tied less to ticket sales than to public subsidies for new stadiums, and sweetheart cable-television deals. Team owners have less incentive to pay the middle class of baseball talent, opting instead to organize their teams with haves and have-nots — a small group of lavishly paid players and then a precarious mass. Yes, the minimum baseball salary is $550,000 per year. But the average baseball career is between five and six years, with players finding themselves with few options once careers have ended.
The union believes that the root of the problem lies in how teams handle revenue sharing where teams that spend over the salary cap must also divvy up their funds with the smaller-market franchises. The union’s problem is that the collective-bargaining agreement says that teams must use these revenue-sharing funds to improve the franchise, but it doesn’t specify that this money must necessary be used on payroll. By August 15, teams are required to break down how they are spending this money, or the union can request a full audit to see if these funds are just going into the pockets of the billionaire ownership class. What is certain is that the union has a fight on its hands to make sure that an increasingly wealthy ownership doesn’t turn baseball into a neoliberal laboratory of haves and have-nots, with a declining middle class of talent, and fans wondering what the hell happened to the local team.
So good for Mike Trout. But know that his windfall is a cover for a larger rot.
SON OF A HAPPY MAN
Hello from the beautiful High Desert State Prison in Susanville. I would like to ask you if you could send me a complimentary description to America's Last Newspaper. I had a subscription before but let it run out. There are a couple of fellows in my cell block from Mendocino County who also enjoy reading the AVA. I am currently here for court from an incident in 2015. I caught a battery on staff and thought for sure I would never see this godforsaken place again. I am currently years from going back to court. I was offered a plea deal. The whole California Department of Corrections report is a lie. I am sure I can prove it's a lie in court. But there is no penalty for correctional officer who files a false rules report. Two inmates were assaulted prior to my attack of self-defense. All of the correctional officer reports match but the Lassen County District Attorney waited three years to file charges. As soon as the correctional officer placed his hand on the first inmate the alarm should have been alerted!
I enjoy reading the Okie Joe Munson stories. When he was a pot grower in the 80s my late father who passed in 2015 was an outlaw pot grower in those days until his death. My father died a happy man. He brought in one more harvest before he passed and I would highly appreciate it if you folks could honor my request for a complimentary subscription. I would like to hear from [Leeland? illegible]. If you know him please give him my address.
God bless and warm regards
Marc Hunter, P-80840
P.O. Box 3030 E4-212
Susanville, CA 96127
THE SANTA CRUZ were beginning to develop a sinister reputation at that time. In ‘East of Eden’ Steinbeck had found them kindly mountains, compared to the range across the Salinas Valley which he saw as menacing. The Santa Cruz were certainly beautiful and magical too. You can pass through veils of fog as thick as woodsmoke and then suddenly come upon a sun-dappled mountain meadow to make your heart soar. The road between Saratoga and La Honda wound like a fairy tale lane through redwoods, fields of grass and live oak. Here and there it would pass through valleys filled with ferns that would haunt your dreams.
Unfortunately, we were only a few years short of the Summer of love which would fuck up everything. Our garden was too beautiful to ever have been free of serpents. Now things were emerging from beneath the earth that created a phylogeny like that at the bottom of Monterey Bay; big ones or poisonous ones were eating little ones. Unlike that on the seafloor, this was a pathological predation, attracting and setting free murder. Police parlance adopted a sporting metaphor to describe the method of psychos in search of prey. They called it “trolling.” The kids talked about "bad vibes." The Santa Cruz became a sinister lonely place.
On reflection, I’m sure this amounts to exaggeration. However, people, especially the young, spoke or imagines in such terms. The fear and attraction became hippie lore, the stuff of urban legend, and so produced some quite real effects. Administrators and residents at my colony at the foot of the mountains became extremely concerned that the gates be locked at night. Returning late and leaving them unsecured was a major dereliction. This was described to me then as a recent development. Fewer and fewer people walked the extensive wooded trails in its arboretum. A young woman was murdered there, on the grounds.
Still, I was not yet ready to abandon my sense of having discovered a new Eden in a condition toward which the entire world ought to aspire. I left for New York again that spring of 1964 because that was where my Heart’s Ease dwelled, regrets and dear friendships would not keep me away. Moreover, I thought we would soon be back in California. I resist the idea of ever having been so naive, but perhaps I thought we would return to find everything as we’d left it, waiting to be reclaimed. Maybe I believed that if you worked at it right you could have all the lives you wanted at once, all the loves, all the lights and music.
—Robert Stone, "Prime Green: Remembering the 60s"
ALL THE REST OF THE MESS OF IT
Two in the morning defines the heart of the night. It is the time that welcomes cosmic, existential insights. It is the time -- the froth and the substance -- of me. These are the chunks, the stress fractures, if you will (or even if you won't) of memory. They make a fine show. They make karma sparkle. And they too will be compressed into a sedimentary layers about as thick as a Zigzag which will die when the earth is consumed by the sun. But, in that minuscule interim, what a show. The interim. The life.
This morning's crumpled flotsam are tiny fragments, as usual. Severely spraining my wrist when I was about six years old, helping my mother squeeze the water as part of the wash the way we did it in 1950. The only cast I have ever worn. Watching the motorcycle and stock car races on the dirt track where horses that got better care than their jockeys ran in circles the day before. Teaching. Teaching all of my kids. Attaining a kind of national fame. National conferences. Bill Ayers. Albuquerque. There is fine news for us in this. Just what we need, finding heart in plate the Great Spirit has put here before us. Our life is unlikely to matter as much as we like to think. This too shall pass. Eh?
'MILITARY KEYNESIANISM IS BACK!': Democrats and Trump Agree on Pentagon Increase, Quibble on Details
Opus is welcoming back violinist Anita Fetsch Felix and pianist Miles Graber! They have created a program of women composers who pushed the boundaries of what was expected of women. Composers such as Clara Schumann (who supported her husband’s music career over her own) and Fanny Mendelssohn (whose family gave more care to her brother Felix’s musical gifts despite her own prodigious talent) persisted in their efforts to create beautiful music of the romantic era. Hear their works, along with works by Maria Grandval, a French romantic composer who achieved fame by publishing music under a pseudonym. The Felix-Graber Duo will bring these works to life with their skilled and passionate musicianship. Please get your tickets online or at one of our vendors, Out of this World in Mendocino or at Harvest Market in Fort Bragg, ahead of time. Some tickets will still be available at the door but we had to turn away 10 people at the February Opus Concert for lack of space. We very much would like to avoid that. Looking forward to seeing you this Sunday, Preston Hall at 3pm.
Eva von Bahr
MEXICANS ARE STEALING BORDER WALL MATERIALS, USING THEM FOR HOME SECURITY
SPRING TIME FOR CRAIG
The First Day of Spring
First day of spring, the last bit o' nip still in the air. Ducks on the stream float past. The crow caws. Buds on the trees are peeking out. It's green all around here in Redwood Valley, California. The air is clear. A white rabbit hops by, needing nothing, content, and going somewhere. Sunny, with a light blue sky filled with fluffy clouds. It's quiet here. Arrived last night from the other side of the continent, having been a part of the Peace Vigil in front of the White House for the 15th time. And every time it becomes more difficult to really understand what exactly it is that we are protesting. The object of our collective dissent is ever more difficult to define ongoing. The current political landscape in Washington, D.C. is characterized by an irrationality that is vast. The Peace Vigil, begun in 1981, continues decade after decade around the clock, as a witness to a national capital whose soul has left, and only the outer shell remains. And so, the first day of spring is being celebrated in a sunny back yard, three thousand miles away from Capitol Hill, with music and tea and a big white rabbit. And good it is!
Craig Louis Stehr