Letters to the Editor 8/19/2009
by Letters to the Editor, August 19, 2009
The frustrated television watcher and newspaper reader who looks to science for facts and analysis is faced daily with journalistic accounts which seem deficient if not recklessly lacking information which might promote informed, if painful, political decisions. Take for instance the Fort Bragg Advocate News front page article of July 2, 2009 entitled “Marine Life Protection Act tudy tools miss the mark with local fishers.”
The reader learns that the officials entrusted with restoring to helath what's left of a depleted resource (elsewhere called “our salmon”) are under siege by typical Americans who haven't absorbed the fact that exploitive practices carried over from frontier conditions are no longer tolerable. The implied conclusion is that fishers are greedy. But an unmentioned possibility is that they are merely players in an inflated system of demand driven supply.
Hearings to resolve similar resource problems are being held all over California. The fresh water supply in particular is under stress. Increased agricultural pumping is allowed to replace court and agency ordered cutbacks of surface water sources needed to preserve fish. See the Santa Rosa Press Democrat article of July 6, 2009 to learn what happens when regulators cave in to the demands of irate consumers, often encouraged by equally ignorant politicians, who have foolishly become economically dependent on dwindling supplies. Indignant protests against decisions that “favor fish over people.” Oh, the injustice and scandal!
Satellite detected evidence is presented that land subsidence over depleted aquifers which during previous periods of heavy pumping amount to as much as 30 feet is rumbling to life thus threatening the canal on which 90 million urban consumers depend! Shocking evidence of rapacious human behavior? (Around 20 years ago the United States Geological Service estimated that the permanent loss of groundwater storage capacity from land subsidence from overpumping in California equaled the capacity of our five largest reservoirs!)
Scholarly literature, ignored even by organizations which claim to be scientifically oriented, has long been available warning of the tragic consequences of human excess. (See the insightful article by Rachel Olivieri in the May 7, 2008 AVA entitled “the silence of collapse,” and the February 6, 2002 column by Nicholas von Hoffman entitled “Will the Tide of Immigration Wash Away the Nation?”) Most environmental groups, preoccupied in recent years with politically correct causes such as “environmental justice,” “smart growth,” recycling and corporate malfeasance, won't touch the deeper reality of overpopulation. Immigrant advocacy groups whose militancy grows with their numbers push “rights” and “entitlements” with no reference to the concept of overpopulation of their adopted nation.
In the short run costly techno-fixes and debt-based subsidies may stave off ruination and widespread violence so common throughout the world as civilization falters, but what would it take to make a meaningful start toward ending the human assault on natural life support systems in our country? Assuming rare and wise leadership free of ideology, following are four guesses by one humble observer:
1. Open admission of the fact that US society no less than those of the past is vulnerable to collapse. And that we have already pushed crowding and complexity far beyond our ability to manage short of a police state methods. To blame our troubles on drought or other natural cycles is a form of denial. The charge made by growth and immigration advocates that low birth rates among nativeborn signifies decadence needs careful scrutiny.
2. Strict compliance with the idea of church-state separation. The majority's delusion that humanity is the “special creation” of a supernatural power with a heavenly mandate to “subdue” nature has been the source of endless mischief throughout history, not least in the matter of procreation. An Islamic scholar in a new book entitled “The Crisis of Islamic Civilization” asks whether “a modern society …(can) be built on a vision of the divine?” It's a question applicable to the United States as well. Bible thumpers have been allowed far too much influence. Motives must be fearlessly exposed. What is the logic behind the fundamentalist opposition to contraception and abortion? Are individuals and nations which encourage such practices somehow less ethical and more subject to divine punishment? Should a narrow interpretation of a few Bible verses override the far reaching consequences of irresponsible parenthood and unwanted children? Does the unspoken implication that medically approved interference in the reproductive process, where injection of a “soul” into a fertilized egg is alleged to occur, undermine the credibility of authoritarian religion and its claimed power to secure “life after death”? Get over it, people! As a society outgrows its natural environment it can no longer tolerate policies based on myth, superstition and wishful thinking.
3. A modification of the capitalistic economic system so that “growth” in living standards is limited to technical improvements for a stable population (vastly reduced in the long run) which do not create increasing demands on natural resources. A system which is sustained by never-ending expansion of new projects and workers is another concept that is overdue for scrutiny and revision.
4. Revival and adoption of the recommendations of the three major federal investigations of population growth by the Rockefeller Commission under Nixon, National Security Study Memorandum 200 also under Nixon but approved by Ford, and the Jordan Committee under Clinton, all of which were suppressed by the influence of the Catholic Bishops and the Vatican. (See the book by Steven Mumford, “The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the destruction of political will doomed a US population policy.”)
Dick Van Alstyne
ALLMAN, NOT MITCHELL
To the editor:
Bravo to Sheriff Allman.
Get well wishes to Sheriff Tom Allman. Thank you for being responsive, once again, in a crisis and for willingly putting yourself in harm's way saving a citizen. What an excellent model for your fellow officers and for the youth of our county.
The sheriff and his deputies are not like typists, accountants, or maintenance people because they work with their lives on the line. They put themselves at constant risk protecting and rescuing. Allman just made that point very clearly.
Current financial stresses threaten this necessary protection because County leadership, especially CEO Tom Mitchell, seem to be unable to understand this very crucial distinction. Economic hard times bring increases in crime. Sheriff's Department personnel should be increased, not cut. And, wouldn't that be a great get well message to speed the healing of our local hero!
POT SYNDICATES V. FOREST
The recent San Francisco Chronicle front page “exposé” of drug cartels in the Shasta Trinity National Forest failed to mention that the cartels have infested the entire Emerald Triangle — and beyond.
Your correspondent, Mr. Mooney, is lucky to be alive after his recent adventure traversing the Emerald Triangle's Ho Chi Minh trail during the locked and loaded early pot harvest season.
His travel through the Mendocino National Forest was particularly dangerous because the forest is no longer public land and is now a Foreign National Forest, totally occupied by free enterprise Mexican and Central American drug cartels.
Many campgrounds on the Forest are occupied by cartel workers and their families trimming and packaging bud.
Local ranchers with grazing permits on the forest have been fired upon while they tried to locate and manage their cattle. The pot worker diet of poached venison, bear, raccoon, squirrel, etc. gets mighty old after a while. Time to upgrade the chow with some “slow elk” — what the Plains Indians called cattle.
A recent “Sportsman's Corner” column in the Willits News lamented the drastic decline of the black tailed deer population on the Mendocino National Forest and called for a “study” by Fish and Game to determine the cause, citing habitat loss, climate change, disease, infertility, etc.
Duh! How about drastic depletion by pot cartels which routinely slaughter and poison pot munching deer. Though some of the quality deer end up as chow, the majority are wasted. I've seen poisoned salt licks surrounded by numerous deer carcasses including fawn.
Many of the large bucks on the Forest are poached by Asian gangs from the Sacramento Valley to supply the black market for antlers in velvet. Large racks command thousands of dollars in Asia where they are thought to possess healing and sexual potency powers when ground up and ingested.
The pot industry is much more devastating to the forest environment than the timber industry ever was. We've all heard the litany by now, but by far the worst effect is wildlife depletion due to the broadscale use of toxic chemicals, particularly the rodenticide Warfarin which is sold by the pallet load through Spare Time Supply in Willits — the largest distributor of pot growing supplies in the Emerald Triangle.
Warfarin is an anticoagulant that causes animals to bleed to death internally. That's bad enough, but the poison bio-accumulates and is transferred up the food chain, killing other predators and scavengers that feed on the carcasses.
The US Forest Service proudly asserts that it manages our national forests as “lands of many uses,” but the Mendocino Foreign National forest is a land of one use. The Forest Service has lost control of its land base, turning management over to foreign nationals.
Lower-level forest service ground pounding grunts, particularly law enforcement, diligently try to do their job but are frustrated and demoralized by lack of support from Forest Service brass who sit on their asses hunkered in air-conditioned bunkers, downloading porn, playing computer games, twittering, and upgrading their Facebook portfolio.
The Forest Service does nothing, law enforcement does nothing, politicians do nothing, the forest is trashed, and the public is [bleep]ed.
Our only hope at this late date is to assemble a Dirty Harry Magnum Force to clean house.
TREES, NOT JAIL
Who did it?
Who cut down the four sky-reaching long-needle pines in Redwood Valley's Lions Park?
According to some of the farmers market folk, only one of the older trees showed any sign of disease. What about the other three pines? Is there a new policy of sawing down trees that might contract a disease? Preventative disappearances?
Hey, County Official whoever ordered this tree massacre IN THE PARK: Ever heard of global warming? Climate change? Drought? We need many, many more trees planted, planetary replanting. How many toothpick trees will it take to equal the biomass of each large tree, to match the oxygen produced nightly to help clean our air? To suck up the rainwater and recharge the water table? To reduce flooding? Now that the south side of the asphalt parking lot is denuded of half its trees, Lions Park is uglier and less inviting as the black expanse bakes in the summer’s heat.
How about letting some of our young people in jail for substance abuse work outside, planting trees in all the County’s parking lots? Planting could begin with the bleak asphalt flats outside the jail. Perhaps the official/officials who ordered the death of our shade trees should try out the jail cells themselves to determine if this experience improves their attitude.
Though not legally labeled so, this is a criminal action.
PARTYING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
How do Ukiahs city administrators and council as well as private financiers, backers and sponsors of the community-wide free “concerts in the park” justify the use of marijuana when these are supposed to be family friendly?
There is no way that so many people can be that sick in this community that they require the so-called medical marijuana usage at a public function. And if they are that ill, they should be recovering in their homes instead of spreading their germs and smoke at public functions and making more people sick or addicted.
Perhaps their physicians prescribing the smoking of pot should reconsider this course of treatment for their patients! The smell was so overwhelming that children and adults were getting headaches from the smoke.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the city parks off-limits to smoking? Or was it only the small neighborhood parks that perhaps many of the homeless stop to rest in?
Then the alcohol usage, whether it was beer, wine or hard liquor being sold and even brought into the park is another issue that needs to be addressed. What entity is going to be liable when someone gets injured from a drunk’s bad decision? Are those clearly “under the influence in public” or driving while intoxicated being given a wink and a nod or are they actually being ticketed by the police? Don’t we have enough costs incurred from teen or adult alcoholics in this community that require court and/or AODP intervention programs?
If this continues to be the norm at the citywide concerts in the park I imagine others will be as discouraged as I am and will speak out.
Thank you for listening.
GREEN LIGHTS FOR CHO-MOS
While sitting in my cell in Mendocino County Jail for petty theft with a prior, I came across an article in the Ukiah Daily Journal that was just screaming for my comments on this [bleep]ed up matter.
Of course, again, it involves the outrageous and unheard-of legal decisions that come out of the mouth and the courtroom of infamous Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Clayton Brennan.
Having appeared before him in court, I know first hand of the twisted decisions that he doles out in the blink of an eye.
No, I am not saying that I don't deserve to be in jail for my petty crime. I just have three months left out of the year he gave me.
This brings me to what I need to say. Okay, first let's go over Mr. Clinton Smith’s seemingly never ending charges.
In January 2008 teacher Clinton Smith was charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a child, oral copulation with a child under 16, sexual penetration with a foreign object, sexual intercourse with a minor and providing harmful matter to a minor with the intent of seduction. On the Internet during chat sessions he would turn on his web camera and video himself naked masturbating and ejaculated while they talked!
Soon their relationship went further and Mr. Smith and the victim began having unprotected sex at his home routinely and other times in the back of his sport utility vehicle!
After all of this information had been presented before Judge Brennan all he thought Mr. Smith deserved as punishment was 180 days in Mendocino County Jail and three years probation with a suspended four-year prison sentence!
And if that's not hard enough to swallow, Smith doesn't even have to register as a sex offender!
If you think that Mr. Brennan's judgment is [bleep]ing crazy, here's another “winner” to be leery of. He's Ukiah psychologist who goes by the name of Kevin Kelly. He and Brennan must have the same motherly instincts that have them take Mr. Smith under their protective wings. After evaluating Mr. Smith, Kelly did not consider Smith a pedophile or a predator!
What in the hell is wrong with these two sons of bitches?
Apparently somewhere along the line they got their priorities mixed up. They are supposed to help the victim not the criminal! I don't know about you but it makes me wonder where the hell is this justice system going? If I wasn't in jail I would picket the Willits courthouse and bring attention to Judge Brennan and his unprofessional rulings. Even though Brennan would probably label me as a terrorist and send me to the pen.
Along with the help of Brennan's henchman Kevin Kelly, the psychologist wannabe.
Anyway, enough of that.
I strongly hope this case serves as a wake-up call for all parents with school-age children. You cannot always depend on the judge to make the right decision. Who's the victim?
PS. Smith's jail time starts on August 25 to do his six months. He might get time off for good behavior! Right? Is this a green light for cho-mos everywhere or what?
We are seeing some resurgence in many of our corporations in that even though their sales are much less, they are being able to show a profit. Why did this happen in some companies, but not others? Companies were able to lower costs such as reduction of worker compensation, closures, especially of their least productive parts.
Now I am sure that none of these bosses wanted to lay off employees and cut salaries. It was a necessity to stay in business and at least from going broke, throwing many more people out of work. Many companies that had contracts that did not allow them to cut costs went out of business or bankrupt which put many more people out of work. The car industry and the state of Michigan are examples.
This little story leads up to governments with cost structures and efficiency which is out of control. The latest is the choo-choo train that’s going to go from Cloverdale to San Rafael, some 80 miles. They talk about it taking some four years to complete. Mind you, the right of way is already there and probably the basic foundation (rock) is there and if we go by other government projects it will probably take six to eight years and no one knows the cost.
As I have said before, private oil companies built the Alaska pipeline through uncharted land, rivers and mountains in two years and under their estimated cost.
Again, the only way to balance budgets is to cut all government wages. No exceptions, with the top people getting the biggest cuts which is only more than fair. After all, it’s the head that makes the decisions that cause everything else.
In Santa Rosa Orchard Supply Hardware, a division of Sears, is going to open a new store in the old Circuit City building. The pay scale is $8/hour which translates to $16,000/year, and $16/hour which translates to $32,000/year. That’s probably the manager who is held accountable. And if he don’t deliver, “So long, Charley.” The line-up went around the block many times the need for positions. That’s the reality out in the private world.
Government is necessary, but it has to be affordable and efficient. The fact is that government produces nothing just like Rossi Hardware (except for a few years after the war). Competition has always been fierce. If you don’t believe that, just think how many businesses, farms, mills, stores of all kinds have come and gone. I don’t remember any government positions that have gone, but plenty that have come.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM HAPPENS TO US
Food Inc is a non-romanticized plain talk documentary about behind-the-scenes corporate slaughter of animals for human consumption, and the corporate takeover of seed, the precondition for a paradigm shift to a GMO world.
One and one half hours of heart wrenching images and stories is not entertaining but you have to sit there and take it in order to learn about the nature of mass produced food, the gruesome source of what we eat, and the consequences: illness, mass obesity and a paradigm shift from small independent family farms to farm slavery the world over.
There is no relief from the gruesome depiction of chickens and cows in feces-drenched beds they are forced to lie in, dripping off their coats as the animals' skins are stripped from their skeletons, slated for humans' dinner plates. The spillage of the feces and the required anti-biotics to protect against disease is a toxic cocktail that travels in the food chain from farm animals to human animals. What happens to them happens to us.
One lone brave female farmer opened the warehouse door of her mechanized chicken “farm” to bare the gruesome innards of the Purdue corporate operation. “Someone has to,” she said, as she revealed the nature of the corporate death machine behind the scene, the source of our eggs and chicken soup. Like the janitor that first exposed Nixon's Watergate, she has made enemies.
Purdue cancelled her contract, leaving her strapped with highly mechanized machinery worth hundreds of thousands of dollars they had put her in hock to buy from them, a mountain of debt and no way of getting affordable repairs and replacement parts. Why?
They said their reason was due to her refusal to upgrade from a free roaming outdoor chicken farm to indoor modernization. But in truth they ruined her livlihood for exposing the corporate/USDA/FDA-approved death machine, devoid of safety standards behind the saran wrap — the agreement to keep safety standards for meat and poultry modernization off the books, thus making it possible to hide she process from the public. We owe this woman a debt of gratitude, as well as filmmaker Robert Kenner, for lifting the veil.
Another woman featured in the film was a mother, a conservative Republican, whose young son died of E-Coli poisoning. She wanted nothing more than an apology from the responsible corporation and for FDA/USDA to issue safety standards to prevent it from happening again. Six years later, she is still seeking justice.
Respected authors Michael Pollard and Eric Schlosser spoke to how this should concern everyone who eats.
The film was released before the recent front page mass suicide of farmers in India whose lives became worthless after they discovered they had unwittingly killed their independent farming livlihood by entering into a contract making them dependent on Monsanto GMO seed. In the face of farm slavery, death was more attractive than life. What happens to them happens to us.
It's time to travel a bit and broaden your horizon. I have been in the Valley only nine years and see myself as a part of this diverse community. I also attended the Hawaiian fundraiser for our local radio station, partially to see who would step up and support our little radio station at the tune of $40/$45 per person. Let's be glad for the guys in shorts and expensive sandals and the women in summer dresses who attended. What's wrong with wearing a summer dress to a Hawaiian party anyway? I listen to our local station often; not all the programming is to my taste. Some of it is pretty awful and some of it just lame (for example, the shortwave radio report?) But there is also Fresh Air and there is our very own Fred Wooley with the always wonderful “Audible Feast.” Just to name two programs I enjoy. It would be awful if KZYX falls silent because there is not enough support or care in our little community to pitch in. So everybody who attended this past Saturday showed some GREAT community spirit, even if they haven't lived here for 14000 years!
NO ON SANTA ROSA
Monster Mall Measure A Creates Environmental NIghtmares
It is obvious why DDR's Measure A eliminates the requirement for the California Environmental Review Act (CEQA) that is usually an automatic requirement for a project this size. Big Box retail parking lots rank among the most harmful land uses in any watershed. During rain storms, parking lots deliver a hefty dose of toxic pollutants leaked by vehicles or deposited from the atmosphere — including phosphorous, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides — into our nearby water bodies.
While a 200,000 square-foot mall covers four acres and consumes another 12 for parking, the same amount of retail spread over two floors in a Main Street-style setting with shared parking takes up only four acres. The Masonite Monster Mall is four times that size (800,000 square feet). In some cases, permits for big-box projects have been denied on the grounds that they would add additional pollution to a nearby river. DDR has eliminated that possibility and denied the democratic control of our own environment with Measure A.
Instead of creating more disastrous car-dependent sprawl, the solution is to revitalize what is already here — our own walkable, bikeable downtown business district. Compact downtowns that have multi-story buildings, multi-story parking, and support a mix of uses, take up far less land and create far less polluting runoff.
Measure A is an attempt by slickster outside corporations to colonize our valley and override our zoning requirements with big bucks and pretty pictures — while insisting that, somehow, their Monster Mall, full of boring Big Boxes, Corporate Chains, and Industrial Food Restaurants, just like everywhere else, will be “shopping local.” Ha! What a bad joke! What they will do to our now-liveable environment is import the ugly sprawl, pollution, and traffic horrors of Santa Rosa and points south, while exporting our hard-earned cash to Wall Street fat cat investors who could care less about our small valley.
Thank you for voting No on Measure A to preserve our unique, locally-owned businesses and neighborly small town values.
Back in the latter 1990s I was pondering taking a cruise on a freighter. I searched options and soon concluded that being on the open sea for long periods would suck.
Then I came across a “freighter” line that runs in Norway. The more I investigated, the more attractive it became. I decided to do it. It is like this:
Everyday around 20:30 (8:30pm) a ship departs Bergen, Norway for a 12-day round trip voyage up and back the entire coast of Norway, some 1300 miles each way. Some of you may have already done some arithmetical calculations and imagined what is happening.
Hurtigruten operates 13 ships that are half cargo and half world-class passenger liners. At any moment all 13 are operating somewhere, some traveling north, some returning to Bergen. All make about 36 ports of call in each direction to drop off or take on cargo and mail or passengers. They call at the same ones in each direction sailing day and night, every day of the year.
The cargo portion is totally silent, the docking of the ships smooth. The hotel part is world-class with gorgeous accommodations, food and staff. These are not cruise ships and no entertainment is provided. You bring your own happiness or go without. Other passengers are always friendly as well as the staff.
The route up and back is, for the most part, close to or VERY CLOSE to land so there is lots to see day and night. One can enjoy a round-trip voyage, a half trip or even shorter segments as do natives who use the ships to get from one port to the next. One can take their vehicles with them.
Getting to Bergen can best be enjoyed by arriving in Norway at Oslo, staying overnight and then leaving in the morning on a 7.5 hour train trip across Norway to Bergen. Amtrak, eat your heart out. This train trip is one of the best in the world routing though gorgeous country from and ending at sea level and crossing over the peak country with lakes and glaciers. No freight trains share this route allowing the train to run stop to stop exactly to the minute.
I have since adopted Bergen as a favorite city. It is smallish and beautiful, protected on three sides with high mountains and the ocean on the fourth. Art and history abound to compliment great dining and hotel options. There is a funicular to take one high up to a great overlook of Bergen.
I became very attracted to Bergen, Norway and the wonderful people who live there (and other tourists as well), attracted enough that I have returned and taken the Hurtigruten cruise six times. The peace and tranquility is so refreshing. The only downside is getting there and then returning to the shit we have here for a country. By comparison Scandinavia is so dangerous that the cops don't carry weapons, i.e., guns. Don't have to. That is quite a statement all by itself.
Look it up: www.hurtigruten.us
PS: After sampling Norway and Sweden, I tried Iceland, another treat where most know three or four languages including English. Visit Scandinavia, and don't forget to bring a smile so you fit in.
PPS: Bruce Hering seems to have taken the bait. Perhaps he too will return for another dose of Norway and that “horrible” socialistic system they have. Ha-ha.
LIFE’S TOO SHORT…
I have been enjoying the AVA for the past year and deeply appreciate the good writing of yourself and your staffers. I probably disagree as least as much as I agree but it's intellectually stimulating in any case.
On Alex's latest on the way overpublicized Gates saga I just have to laugh. He gives white America another pompous lecture on our racism but the nearest group of blacks to him is at the supermax prison at Pelican Bay. Since Gates verbal abuse of the officer is on tape it really doesn't matter what Alex believes. He didn't believe that the Soviets killed tens of millions and Mao even more but these facts are well documented by R.J. Rumnel and other historians. Alex didn't believe the stories of Castro's torturers but of course all the Pinochet atrocity tales are solid gold. Whew !
Then Alex drags out local “talent” Ismael [sic] Reed as the objective authority on Uncle Toms. I guess the black officer present at the Gates arrest is a Tom too because he supported the arrest.
I love it when Alex refers to an Oakland cop shooting a black man as if blacks don't shoot other blacks and sometimes whites far more often than the very occasional police shooting. But Alex has a schizoid side to him because he endorses libertarian books like Robert Higgs's Against Leviathan which explicitly attacks all legislation of the New Deal-Great Society era including government laws outlawing non-governmental discrimination. Maybe he can't make up his mind whether he wants to be a libertarian or Stalinist when he grows up. Sort of like poor Lyndon LaRouche, who couldn't decide whether he was a Communist or National Socialist.
He now labels himself a FDR New Deal Democrat which combines both above concepts.
I think the real reason for Cockburn's transparent blackophilism is to make up for being widely hated in US Jewish circles, a venomous hatred that matches what Ismael Reed and white feminists feel for each other.
As frontier Tennessee housewife said while watching a brawl, “Go husband, go bear !”
On the recent school teacher case I agree that the guy reads like a real pervert but I don't agree with any prison sentence unless it was actually rape. In more rational places like Ontario the legal age of consent is 14. There's something deeply sick about America as it has always related to sex. Goes back to our fundamentalist communist Puritan heritage and the fact that we have the largest group of Christ-Cult nuts in the western world. We are split between the good Athenian part of our intellectual heritage and the bad Jerusalem part. As Nietzsche said, Christianity is the Jews' revenge on the Gentiles.
Well I've been living here since 1973 and the only good public policy I've seen here in that time is Prop 13. We still pay way too much taxes but if we were in some rathole like New Jersey it would be triple.
Alexander Cockburn replies: Among the Rules for Life to which I cling is a commitment not to read anything to which the name Hardesty is appended. I concluded long ago that reading his unique brand of ignorant venom was a worthless and degrading activity.
THE CHINA SELL-OFF
To: Jim Andersen, Mendocino County Employee Retirement Fund Director
I hope you listened to my market report on KZYX Monday night. I've been predicting a big correction for stocks for the past two weeks. It looks like the correction may have started today.
In overnight markets, the correction started with a huge sell-off in China. And that is significant. Why? Because China has been a reliable predictor of what's happening in US financial markets. China was a frontrunner in all five of the major turning points in global financial markets during the last two years. In that respect, China is like the proverbial “canary in the mineshaft.”
Also very negative for markets Monday was the fact that portfolio managers at both CalPERS and CalSTRS announced new asset allocations that shifted away from stocks. Their respective portfolios are now more heavily weighted toward cash and fixed income.
I share these developments so that you might exercise your fiduciary duty over our own MCERS portfolio, and make the necessary changes to our investment strategy. Please do not simply pass this duty on to Peter Chan. It's time for you to be proactive now.
Finally, in my Monday market report, I make reference to the comments made last Friday by David Tice, the head portfolio manager at Federated Investors. David Tice's fund returned 27% last year, even as S&P 500 fell 38%.
You might also want to refer to recent comments made by PIMCO's Bill Gross. Undoubtedly, you find Bill Gross credible. As you know, MCERS recently shifted out of Dodge & Cox and into PIMCO.
Finally, because I don't think I will be able to make this Wednesday's (August 19, 2009) meeting of the MCERS Board, please print my email and David Tice's comments and distribute to the Board. Let my warning be a matter of record, as I similarly warned of a credit bubble and a subsequent bear market a few years ago that went unheard.
In 1945 at the end of World War II Great Britain suffered from the destruction of the war and the loss of its worldwide empire. In spite of its problems, the British Parliament established a National Health System protecting every man, woman and child. That program with slight changes continues today.
During my 18-month stay in England I was allowed to join the National Health System for a small fee. I was able to select the doctor of my choice and prescriptions were free.
Now that I have a retirement and Medicare, I have the protection I would have received at birth in England. My fees amount to approximate $100 a month which is a pittance compared with my income. There are 300 million people in the US. If each taxpayer paid on a sliding scale a tax for medical service there would most likely be no individual costs for major health problems. There are no services provided to me by private insurance companies and some people refer to it as “socialism.”
EMPIRE OF SPECTACLE
Chris Hedges on KZYX's Corporations & Democracy show this Friday at 1pm
Trillions of taxpayers' dollars go to bail out the bankers and speculators who wrecked our economy, yet there's little protest. Despite electing a “peace” president, the US wars go on and on, with hardly a demonstration. Real healthcare reform is blocked yet again by corporate big bucks, and the loudest protests come from the right-wing defenders of the corporate status quo. What has happened to our country? To the forces for change?
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges will help us answer these questions on KZYX's Corporations & Democracy show this Friday at 1pm. The latest of Chris Hedge's seven books is “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.” Released last month, this book charts the dramatic and disturbing rise of a post-literate society that craves escape, fantasy and illusion, instead of a reading society that can cope with complexity, separate illusion from truth, and initiate the social changes that our country desperately needs. A growing majority of Americans are retreating from a literate reality-based world into one focused on image, celebrity, spectacle, false certainty and magic, leading to an age of terrifying decline.
To learn more about this trend and what we can do to reverse it, tune in, and call in, to author/journalist Chris Hedges on KZYX's Corporations & Democracy show this Friday at 1pm.
Dear Editor and Readers,
The August 12 issue of the AVA was definitely one of your most disturbing to me. First, the story of a sexual predator and a neanderthal judge. The second, regarding the funding needed to retain a second deputy sheriff in the Anderson Valley.
The first story illustrates the historical rights of men to dominate in our society. Sadly, it's an acceptance of this fact that causes so much anguish among so many. The sense of powerlessness is overwhelming.
The fact that everyone knows that our County government is totally mismanaged and top-heavy is not the story. The real story is that we allow it to exist.
The only reason it is clearer to see the fiasco in Ukiah is that less money is available to keep it covered over. The reason there is less money goes straight through Wall Street to Washington DC — the capital of cover-up.
How can we not see the trillions of dollars going to a bloated military whose prime directive is to protect Corporate America? We can't see it because 99% of our elected representatives are in their plush jobs because they are paid for by the same corporations raking in the trillions and 99.9% of the media is paid to shut up. (AVA excepted.)
I know it is more complex than that, but the basics don't change. Unfortunately, most who live in the US of A don't have a clue about what to do about it. But that's another story.
Time to wake up and speak out. Powerlessness comes out of silence.
At the risk of inciting prejudice, I’ll start by identifying myself as a Special Education Teacher at Anderson Valley High School, the site of the recent graffiti incident your reporter apparently attributes to gangs of Special Ed students. (See “Tagged!” AVA, 8/12/09.)
I found Bruce McEwen’s article distressing on many levels. Of course, none of us welcome vandalism or gang violence. They are, as Mr. McEwen points out, “ugly and insulting” to our community. What are equally distressing to me are Mr. McEwen’s thoughtless and ugly comments about Special Education. The only thing I found heartening is my knowledge of the students of AVHS, who, in my experience, display much more maturity and compassion than Mr. McEwen.
I think I’ll begin my school year with a discussion of the concepts of disability and prejudice. We’ll talk about what it means to be in Special Ed and what it doesn’t mean. I’ll teach my students that when they encounter attitudes such as Mr. McEwen’s, they should be insulted, but never ashamed. He’s welcome to join us anytime.
Sarah Cornsweet, Special Ed Teacher,
AV High School, Boonville
WHISTLE IN THE DARK
To the Editor:
When Developers Diversified Realty announced payment of $30.5 million in second quarter dividends (at $0.20 per share) on July 17, its stock dropped 9.41 percent on the New York Stock Exchange, closing at $4.33 per share. Its historic high was $72.33 in February 2007.
It was hardly reassuring that DDR paid dividends with $3.1 million in cash and $27.4 million in common stock. Stated otherwise, each 20-cent dividend was for two cents in cash and 18 cents of corporate wall paper.
But what else could it do?
DDR was one of the first commercial mortgage-backed securities peddlers to line up for Federal Reserve bail-out money earlier this month. A column in “The Economist” magazine in July noted, however, that while the Federal Reserve’s program had “extended to commercial mortgage backed securities … many are or will become ineligible under its present rules because of ratings downgrades.”
Since all three rating services have downgraded DDR to junk bond status, the corporation’s hand-out hopes, not to say its swaggering in our neighborhood, seem like just so much whistling in the dark.
Does anyone, including DDR’s directors, believe this derelict will be capable of developing more than a local disaster in this county?
To the editor,
I have rarely spent time reading the American Legion magazine. I only did because I was in the San Francisco VA hospital. I their your big issues very interesting in the parallel from Katrina to the economic crisis. Two different houses talking a different language but echoing the effects of a sought after goal, on one hand a seizure from fire sales of companies by who(m) JP Morgan bought out Washington Mutual. Why would JP Morgan get a bailout and not Washington Mutual? In Katrina nature removed the barriers (levees) that caused the cracks to open for the banking industry (the Senate, Legislature, Judicial branches). The sought after goal is and has been global materialism, the case in point global materialism has to find new ways to bring about further economic resources in order to have things brought to the table to sell someone has to lose control of it “American traditionalism” is being reduced to a commodity the Wall Street over main street, the big over the beautiful, the giant over the gentle, the great over the good. Where does this leave us the Joe/Jane Veterans in the short run security is being mentioned in the long run tougher because no safe bases will be allowed to stand where materialism rules. Who has the largest economic infrastructure in life time health care The American Veterans? The only way to keep it safe is to keep it out of all governmental, political special interests.
On a happier note, as I sat in the eye specialist section a very nice Asian woman asked would anyone like a massage? I said yes, this was the best massage an old guy like me has had in a long time. By the way I noticed the correlation between investing heavily in transportation. I recall that the government our elected officials want to buy planes (Wall Street Journal, August 2009) because they need to get to the meetings faster, sounds like we are the butt of an old (expensive) joke like $900 for a toilet.