Letters To The Editor
by AVA News Service, November 30, 2011
The Occupy Wall Street protest movement that emerged this summer in New York City as a public rebuke of corporate greed, fat-cat government bailouts, and the decimation of social programs is the best thing that's happened in America since the yippies surrounded and then levitated the Pentagon in the 60s as an awesome display of raw people power that convinced the government to end the Vietnam War — eventually.
Some pious political pundits have dissed the Occupy Wall Street movement as an “herbal tea party of occupational therapists engaged in temper tantrums and primal screams.” … “A kook collective rent-a-monster's ball.”
It's all of these and much, much more as a highly diverse critical mass of Americans has risen up and screamed, “We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!”
The biggest impact of the Occupy movement, fueled by angst and resentment, has been to provide a focal point for generalized economic and political discontent by exposing the evil alliance of financial power and political power.
But after several months, what's the point of continuing to focus on Wall Street as a symbol when the owners and rulers of America Inc. hunkered down in their lofty fortress high-rises in gated mansions are insulated and immune from the effects of the protests?
Why not head from the streets into the Suites and occupy the rulers of Wall Street, starting with the enabler in chief of Wall Street, Barack Obama?
According to Washington Post reporter Zachary A. Goldfarb (November 7, 2011), “during president Obama's tenure, Wall Street has roared back even as the broader economy has struggled.”
Goldfarb reports that, “The largest banks are larger than they were when Obama took office and are nearing the level of profits they made before the depths of the financial crisis in 2008, according to government data.
“Wall Street firms — independent companies and securities trading arms of banks — are doing even better. They earned more in the first 2.5 years of the Obama administration than they did during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, industry data show.
“Behind this turnaround in significant measure are government policies that helped the financial sector avert collapse and then gave financial firms huge benefits on the path to recovery.
“For example, the federal government invested hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars in big banks — low cost money that the firms used for high yielding investments on which they made enormous profits.
“Stabilizing the financial system was considered necessary to prevent an even deeper recession. But the Bush administration, which first moved to bail out Wall Street and the Obama administration which ultimately stabilized it, took a far less aggressive approach to helping the American people.
“The bailout was done with a tremendous amount of firepower and focus on saving the largest Wall Street institutions but with very little regard for Main Street.”
While President Obama, in public statements, has called Wall Street manipulators “fat cat bankers,” he has shamelessly pandered to the same fat cats privately, soliciting large “investments,” attracting more money for his campaign and for the Democratic National Committee from Wall Street than all of the GOP candidates combined — a total of nearly $16 million according to campaign finance records compiled by the Washington Post in late October of this year.
Despite his lofty rhetoric, President Obama has demonstrated an aloof unwillingness to address the deeper causes of America's socio-economic problems including a fatal decision to avoid seeking systemic, fundamental reforms of the financial and banking institutions on Wall Street and beyond.
As Deep Throat said during Watergate, “Follow the money.” President Truman, sitting in the Oval Office said, “the buck stops here.” President Obama says, “The buck talks here.” Obama is the puppet of Wall Street. He's not a figurehead, he's a hood ornament.
The first definition of “occupy” in Webster's Collegiate dictionary is “to engage the attention or energies of.” Since Barack Obama is the de facto president of Wall Street, occupy Obama. Circle the White House with a permanent encampment. Protest at Obama's speeches, press conferences, campaign appearances, fundraisers (public and private), photo ops — be there then! Levitate the White House.
The fun-loving disciplined few in the Occupy Movement who want to focus on bigger fish should develop witty, humorous, effective ways to hound the owners and rulers of America Inc. in their private enclaves. These people have names and addresses. Remember the Earth First! hot tub party at Harry Merlo's backyard?
Breach their moats, scale their battlements, invade their country clubs, yacht clubs, swim clubs, tennis clubs, squash clubs, racquetball clubs, gun clubs, fun clubs — crash their cotillion, smash their pumpkins — nonviolently, of course.
Think of Saul Alinsky's shock troops paralyzing Chicago's O'Hare International Airport by occupying all the restroom urinals and toilet stalls. Think of a thousand Michael Moores swooping down on America Inc.'s owners and rulers for some primo occupational face time on their own turf.
PS. As much as I hope that the Occupy “Whatever” movement prevails, my dark pessimistic side argues that a vast majority of Americans will never join a collective occupying movement because they're already preoccupied — with themselves.
SAVE STANDISH II
Letter to the Editor:
I just found out that Standish Hickey Park is shutting down. I heard that they will remove the tables and fire pits and close the bathrooms and block the roads. It will cost so much to do this that they may never be able to re-open. I live too far away to get to the special meeting at the Leggett School on Monday, but they can sign me up for the trail maintenance and other work when the family returns to the area this summer. Please help if you can.
THE NEW FACE OF AIDS
After 30 years of AIDS, people under 30 face greatest risk.
People who weren’t yet born when AIDS first emerged are today most at risk for becoming HIV positive — an alarming development that underscores how essential awareness is, especially as we approach World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.
From 2006 to 2009, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the HIV incidence rate for Americans between 13 and 29 years old increased by about 21 percent. In fact, most of the new HIV infections reported in this country involve people under 30.
Americans under 30 have never known a world without AIDS. At the same time, they’ve never really known a time when effective treatment for HIV and AIDS wasn’t available.
This hasn’t always been the case. As this disease turns 30, we need to ensure people — especially younger people — remain aware of AIDS and how to prevent it.
AIDS awareness is one of the biggest challenges we face when trying to prevent it. After 30 years of addressing what was once considered one of America’s most pressing health problems, AIDS is no longer front-page news.
On this World AIDS Day, let’s not forget that about 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year, according to the CDC, and that more than 14,000 Americans with AIDS die each year.
Thanks to more effective and more available treatments, more Americans who have HIV and AIDS are able to live. The CDC estimates this number at more than 1 million nationwide.
Regularly testing people most at risk for HIV — and then providing antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients — dramatically reduces the number of new infections.
Preventing HIV is not complicated. If you’re sexually active, get tested. Don’t use IV drugs or share needles. Abstain or practice safer sex. With preventive care, patients and their health care providers can fight and manage this disease and slow its spread.
But we can’t allow today’s more effective treatments to make us complacent or ambivalent, or to lessen our resolve to find a cure.
To learn more or to find a place near you to get tested, visit www.actagainstaids.org .
Dr. Sam Ho, MD,
chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare.
FREEDOM OF THE DRUMS
Should drum circles be protected by the constitution? I suppose so, like any bad art or music, or for that matter annoying people. There is no shortage of bad taste or rude behavior in the US.
Renegade Priest to Speak
Fr. Seán ÓLaoire, Ph.D., Roman Catholic priest, licensed clinical psychologist, and author of several books, returns once again to speak in Mendocino. His topic this visit is 2012 — Breakdown or Break through: Chaos or Christ-Consciousness?
Fr. ÓLaoire’s eclectic background insures a lively evening characterized by his Irish wit and warmth. This storyteller-priest spent his childhood in Ireland steeped in its mythology, then lived in East Africa for 14 years immersed in that country’s culture. Fr. ÓLaoire’s homilies draw on science, psychology, and history from many spiritual and religious traditions — Buddhist, Hebrew, Hindu, Taoist, and Christian. His unconventional approach to the concept of “God” is refreshing in its commonsense attitude, easily accessible to all. His talks are unique in that they encourage all listeners to develop their own spiritual path without strict adherence to one specific dogma.
Fr. ÓLaoire’s stories, augmented with poetry, passion, and humor have been enthusiastically received. Event is at Saranam, 10401 Nichols Lane, Mendocino, Tuesday, December 13, 7pm, sliding scale $5-$15, seating is limited; call 937-6015 for reservations.
STILL NO GRADING ORDINANCE?
Why is there no ordinance regulating the construction of vineyards on the hillsides as there is in the Napa Valley region?
It would seem a prudent measure to follow the lead of one of the most renown wine producing regions in the world. Are we so naive as to think that pumping water out of the Navarro River up to the hillside vineyards is a good thing? Or that more man made ponds preventing water from filling the streams is a sacrifice we’re willing to make for the prestige of a pinot paradise?
ms notes: See my Grading Ordinance piece for some background on this question.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, HOMEYS
A very happy holidays to you, your family and staff at the AVA. And to my homeboys here in solidarity with me: Mr. Shannon Henson and Joe Herold. Thank you for the Mendo love when I pulled up. To Flynn “stick'em up” Washburne and my bro Dan Shealor. To Pastor Gerry Burney and his family. To Randy Sherwood and all the fakes, frauds and part-time broads at Low Gap Jail. To CO Waller who I hope gives his wife and my kids my best wishes. And to all the ones in my life who continue to support me in spite of my insanity. I love you all.
TOO MANY DOTS
Thank you for printing my last letter. I forgive you for the crack about my “irrelevant credentials.” You publish possibly the best newspaper left in today's world (rapidly entering a dark age I believe), and I certainly respect you for it. I'm not a big believer in credentials and only brought up that I am somewhat well educated and have a father who knew some world leaders to persuade you to publish my letter. Harry Truman, the best president of my lifetime I believe, never went to college and was a farmer until age 30, but read a lot on history. Lincoln, as you know, never went to grade school but taught himself law and passed the bar exam.
I am familiar with Norman Mailer's views on Oswald. He appeared on a PBS “Frontline” program but I thought most of that program supported my views more than his. I've heard people who knew Oswald in Russia say he did speak fluent Russian. I'm rather appalled by your references to the FBI following Peter, Paul and Mary and the CIA considering an exploding cigar to kill Castro as if to imply they are bumbling Keystone cops, but not really capable of anything very dangerous. Believing Oswald as a “lone gunman,” some kind of unaffiliated communist in Texas, could kill JFK, but the CIA couldn't do it (and cover it up) seems bizarre to me.
My old Cornell friend from the 60s, Brian Quig, worked for Louis Stokes who co-chaired with Henry Gonzalez the committee of the House that reopened the JFK case in 1977, told me he believed the actual triggerman was E. Howard Hunt who was seen nearby in Dallas, had known Nixon when he was vice president and had worked on the Bay of Pigs. (Yes, a fiasco.) Hunt, as you know, became famous because of Watergate but never himself made public statements. I myself, in 1974, read in “Esquire” magazine an interview with Frank Sturgis, another ex-CIA person involved in Watergate, in which Sturgis was “full of shit,” then added, “Hunt did kill a lot of people. He was an assassin for The Agency.” Then around 2007 I saw on a US national TV news program that Hunt on his deathbed told his daughter that he killed JFK.
To me, all this is not some arcane historical question like who killed Lincoln. Note that George Bush Sr. was a Nixon crony and head of the CIA under Ford (who co-chaired the Warren Commission), obviously Bush Jr. was elected because of his father and Cheney and Rumsfeld had worked for Nixon and Ford and Obama chose Gates, the elder Bush's CIA Director, to be his Defense Secretary. Furthermore, despite all the empty rhetoric against Wall Street, Obama reappointed the younger Bush's Fed chief.
So my point is that a violent coup occurred in 1963 and that the people who lead it — or the proteges they trained — are still our rulers. They no longer have to kill a president. By the time of Jimmy Carter, they had perfected the technique of undermining and peacefully removing a President and now have learned how to control both parties, even how to create a pseudo-radical like Obama so they can please the left, enrage the right, and still make no actual changes. Yes, they are all imperialists and have great amounts of Third World blood on their hands — unfortunately legal and usually popular — but they are also accessories in the murder of our own president, an act not legal or popular and this has, more than any other reason, made the United States no longer a democracy.
PS. You mentioned the “prison library.” Prison libraries now have no funds for new books but I have rich relatives and can have any book I want mailed to me. (Not “old rich” — dirt poor in the 30s on both sides!) I never bring up being in prison. That is an “irrelevant credential,” like the fact that I was disabled and couldn't walk as a child. People in prison have run the gamut from Hitler to Mandela, just as disabled people have from Richard III to FDR. Thank God in America prisoners are still allowed to read and to write letters. (No doubt because we're seen as no threat, just as you are.) But I will speak out against the bad guys until my final breath.
I only recently heard that you were sick. I'm glad you're better now.
And you can choose to dismiss this but one thing my dad learned in DC is the CIA is good. I don't mean morally good. I mean skilled. They once, as a sort of joke, told him word for word what a Soviet Politburo member said to him in an elevator in Athens. He never found out if they bugged him, the Russian, or the elevator — or if the Russian worked for them. He also was told they have sections that do not report to people who are officially supposed to be director. They also knew before he knew that the Saudi government would offer him a job and knew before he knew that Ted Kennedy — about to run against Carter — would offer him a job.
ms notes: The CIA is “good”? Read “Legacy of Ashes,” by Tim Weiner. (Oh, wait. Never mind; you've already read everything.)
WILL THEY GRILL HUFFMAN?
On Friday, December 2, at 9 AM, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Chair of the State Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, will be my call-in guest on “The Truth About Money,” on KZYX.
Jared will be speaking on the effort to save Hendy Woods and the six other state parks scheduled for closure in Mendocino County. In particular, he will be speaking about AB 42. Jared will be speaking in the capacity as the parks committee chair, and only in that capacity.
Saving Hendy Woods is a local issue, a timely issue, and an important issue… the three criteria for doing any show. The seven state parks are crucial for the Mendocino County's $258 million tourism industry and the 5,000 county residents who make their living in the tourism industry.
And folks are concerned. Something like 200 to 300 people showed up for the Occupy Hendy Woods weekend earlier this month, and 75-85 people showed up last weekend in the cold and rain to hear Jared, and other speakers, at the Save Hendy Woods event.
So, we're doing the show. And we'll take a few calls from listeners during the show.
Under separate cover, I'll send you some background materials I have on AB 42.
LIMEY CAR NUTS
Letter to the Editor:
British car obsession! A wonderful article, Dick Meister, and memories of 1982. I committed the most colossal automotive blunder of my life and did so with gusto. I traded a perfectly sound 1970 Ford Falcon for a 1967 Morris Mini with right-hand drive. I did say Morris: everyone knows the Mini as either a Mini-Cooper or Austin. Morris was the body maker for this model. The guys at the used-car place must have laughed for hours. Then I barely got it home. That was the beginning.
I observed the brake master cylinder was low, so I grabbed some Dot 3 or 4 and topped off. Thought nothing of it. Wrong! The brakes failed at about 30 mph. The handbrake slowed me down to a breathless stop. I bought a very good manual, the kind that shows dirt and grease and cut hands working on engines. I studied the brake system thoroughly, rebuilt everything with neoprene seals and the correct brake fluid.
Other problems include the fact that it was rusting out and the metal was so thin you could not do much with it. It had an absolutely mysterious front nitrogen-filled suspension (or whatever) that, when the car hit a bump, would preload the rear shocks. I think that was the idea.
This car was so cute it was naíve. No locks to speak of. Little sliding windows. Yet there was something about that engine, 1275cc, that so many English car guys love. We had some big fun with it in the wet snow of a shopping center parking lot. You could spin the wheel and never flip it over. But it had to go and it did. So here's a dram to you, Dick, from a fellow recovering (forever) limey car nut.
WINTER READING BARGAINS
A genuine reader never has enough books and usually likes to give books to friends and family.
This Saturday the AV Unity Club Library will be selling “gently used” books, including three boxes of new children’s books at the Holiday Bazaar, 10am-4pm, to be held at the Boonville Fairgrounds.
We have had an unusual gift of a broad variety of fiction and non-fiction — lots of them. Prices range from 50¢ to $5 with most hardbacks at $1-$2. Books are very costly purchased new, so do yourself a favor and pick up a few at the Library table. Funds are used for library maintenance and to purchase new books.
You will also find some gently used and new toys, puzzles and games. Recycling is good for the world and your pocketbook. Come early for the best selection.
SAVE STANDISH III
I love Standish Hickey State Park. My family goes there every year and we love The Peg House, too!
Please come to the meeting to save the park at the Leggett School house on December 5th. It's at 6 o'clock.
We're driving up from the city to volunteer our help.
The Awesome-atrons of Austin—
Look, I have nothing against over-using a word until it is rendered meaningless. Ok, I lied, I hate what you did to “Right On!” It used to mean something beyond what it means today: “Ok.”
Yes we have trouble, right here in River City and the trouble is AWESOME! Can one word define a culture, a counterculture? Awesome has lost any of the exultant meaning proportionate to its name, the poor little Awesome-atrons of Austin say awesome for anything — awesome is the new “Right On!”
Here at the Bouldin Creek Coffee Shop (where I observed Jim Hightower last week working on his diatribes) a woman just dropped a couple dice from a children's game and said awesome as she picked it up. Then her sunglasses slipped to the floor and she said awesome as she picked them up. I couldn't stand it any longer.
“Awesome? Um, what's awesome about that?” I asked. I don't think I even penetrated her Awesome-atron stupor — she just stared at me like I was an alien.
These hip young people in Austin seem to have become like cute little robots, wind-ups whose default word for anything is AWESOME. I'm not sure there's anything I can do about this epidemic — you might wonder why do I care? I care because I love you Austin and all the sweet servers and clients at this coffee house where I hang out, but please brothers and sisters when you say AWESOME at the drop of a dice or sunglasses I can only think that your brain is slowly melting under the Texas sun.
Last night I hosted a wine and cheese party at my Swiss friend's house. There were over ten exotic gourmet cheeses from all over the world and a collection of organic wine from Australia to Spain. “Now, this is awesome,” I told my friend.
Don't break my heart Awesome Austin: if I hear one of your children saying “Awesome,” I know there's no hope for your fried little culture.
I hope to see everybody who cares about protecting Standish Hickey Park at the Leggett School on Monday Dec 5th at 6. We have a chance to form a citizen support team to keep the park open if we move quickly. Under the new legislation just signed by the Governor certain non-profits can qualify to operate a limited number of parks, but only if a team of volunteers can be formed to do the work. We have two qualifying non-profits in the county and now we citizens need to come together to save this magnificent park before it is too late.
For more information listen to The Truth About Money and the State Parks with Piercy Fire and Rescue Commissioner Jeff Hedin on KZYX radio December 2, 9am. Please join us!
WILL WALMART WIN AGAIN?
Letter to the Editor:
The Ukiah Valley is about to lose its latest battle against Big Box stores and will soon watch the final destruction of our downtown area. Walmart's application for a 50% expansion of their Mega-Store will add a sixth super market to a valley already suffering from too many retailers squabbling over a shrinking market. The final Planning Commission vote is December 14th and an ultimate appeal to the City Council should follow by January. “Occupy Ukiah” is planning a “Save Our Downtown” demonstration at Walmart on December 17th.
Meanwhile, CostCo has negotiated to purchase a 15 acre site just 300 yards down the street. This will make seven large food outlets in an area whose population has not grown significantly in 20 years. Besides adding to this seeming abundance of grocery stores, CostCo and Walmart will also threaten the existence of established drug stores, eyeglass shops, clothing shops, small book stores, nurseries, and appliance dealers. Our Ukiah City Council and their Planning Department seem totally happy with what they view simply as just the final wheeze of our downtown area. State Street is already a depressing vista of shuttered stores and vacant business lots as a result of the first Walmart invasion in the late 1990s. Our city officials can see only the increased property tax revenues these new enterprises will instantly provide but fail to consider the equal loss of taxes from those stores they have forced out of business.
The laws of supply and demand that we learned in economics 101 from Paul Samuelson and from Ronnie Reagan's simplistic lectures no longer apply. Walmart and CostCo are not concerned about too many competitors - for they know that with their predatory pricing practices they can quickly slit the throat of a few competitors like Lucky and Food Maxx. They will also undercut the smaller groceries within walking distance of dense neighborhoods like the Chavez Market on South State. When there are too many hounds after the table scraps, just kill off a few and all will be fine, or so the thinking of our planning officials seems to go. Our city planners even hired CBRE Consultants, a fully-owned subsidiary of Walmart's in-house real estate agents CBRE to evaluate the impact of a massive Walmart Superstore on local businesses. When called on this obvious conflict of interest by Jeff Blankfort back in August, our city planners quickly got one of the CBRE study team to pose as an independent consultant named Amy Herman and assured us that it all was perfectly legal, even though very smelly. Our always-comatose City Council and their Planning Commission seemed quite startled when the obvious conflict was pointed out. Surely you cannot pose as an independent consultant to the City Planning Dept. while you are actually an arm of the applicant's real estate agents. CB Richard Ellis boasts on their website that they have sold more than 197 “big boxes” on behalf of Walmart.
The major trouble with this All-American dog-eat-dog scenario is that we the citizens suffer most. Many of the supposed bargains at the Big Boxes prove illusory in the long term. Once the competition has been trimmed back, why bother selling at really low prices? And if the market slumps too far, they can always close down and move on to greener pastures. Walmart has done it hundreds of times before, leaving not only their empty emporiums but also the vacant storefronts of those they forced out of business earlier. Walmart is well known to always pays the lowest wages in town and providing no health coverage for their 34 hour per week employees. Unionized workers in the other local supermarkets fare much better. That may be why you see the same faces behind the cash resisters year after year at Safeway and other union shops. The average Walmart employee is often forced to rely upon Food Stamps and government-subsidized health care for their families and seldom stays a “Walmartian” more than a year. This sort of corporate welfare that Walmart depends upon costs California taxpayers more than $86 million a year. A 34 hour work week at $9.81 per hour works out to less than $17,000 a year and doesn't put much bread on the table. As soon as he or she can find a better job they get the hell away from Walmart.
If all this leaves you a bit uneasy, then attend the Planning Commission meeting at 6 pm on December 14th and gather at the Walmart parking lot on December 17th at 11am. Make some noise!
DRUMBEATS & HOOFBEATS
The natives are getting restless. The young and able are beating the drums. We who are at home hear the message and respond by shunning all things corporate to show our solidarity.