Mendocino County Today: September 6, 2013

by AVA News Service, September 5, 2013

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT announced Wednesday it's going to charge for its on-line edition. Bad idea. The PD doesn't do anything worth paying for. The SF Chron just tried a pay-to-read scheme the Chron abandoned after a couple of weeks, and the Chron does have news worth paying for. The PD, believe it or not, was once a very good regional newspaper, providing real coverage of events north of Marin County. But when the paper was sold to the NYT and became simply a cash cow for the mother ship, with a cringing crew of incompetent editors, it was over as a Northcoast must-read. Since former congressman Bosco and an assortment of Democratic Party hacks took the paper over it's even become worse than it was in its Times period.

“I THINK we have real value in the content of this newspaper,” said Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat. “Simultaneously, we are following our readers to digital applications as more and more people appreciate the convenience of iPhones and iPads and tablets. But at some point we have to keep the journalism healthy financially, and the way to do that is to begin putting a value on the content.”

WELL, STEVE-O, you'll soon find out the value of your content, not that you're likely to be humbled by the assessment. It's a shame, too, because like a lot of failing papers the PD has a stable of pretty good reporters who, allowed to report the Northcoast news, could do it right.

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INTERESTING STATS from a piece by Tiffany Revelle in a recent Ukiah Daily Journal: CalFire Dispatch, Mendo, takes 10,000 calls a year at its office on the Willits Grade. Three operators, one of whom is always on duty, sort out 20-40 calls a day, which they re-direct to one or more of the County's 22 fire departments and five ambulance services.

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CONGRESSMAN SPIKE HUFFMAN'S latest thoughts on war on Syria. Spike is quoted in Thursday's SF Chron saying that he wants “a fundamentally different approach” than Obama's. “So far we're basically being presented with only two choices: support immediate, unilateral action by the US without a clear sense of where it takes us and the region, or, you do nothing and be accused of acquiescing in the use of chemical weapons.”

SPIKE DID NOT SAY what his approach would be, but the AVA fully expects him to vote Yes for whatever monstrously hair-brained scheme the White House and its military masterminds come up with.

THE ONLY TWO NorCal Democrats who are unequivocally opposed to an attack on Syria are Barbara Lee and John Garamendi. Lee, some of us will recall, was the only person in the entire Congress with the courage to vote no on the infamous WMD invasion of Iraq.

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THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION is not disputing the findings of Avalere Health's just published study that analyzed 11 states, including California, of what consumers of Obama's mandatory health coverage can expect to pay. The scheme kicks off October 1st and, by January 1st, you are either signed up with a private insurer or you're looking at painful fines.

AVALERE found that the average 21-year-old can expect to pay $270 a month, less possible discounts based on income.

A 40-YEAR-OLD will pay an average of $330 a month, a 60-year-old will pay an average of $615 a month.

WE THINK these prices are crazy. Most people will not be able to afford them, and we hope to see a mass opt-out movement.

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THE STATE PRISON hunger strike is over. Inmates called it off Thursday after two months. More than 30,000 inmates began refusing meals in July, but that number dwindled to only those relatively few prisoners held for years in solitary confinement.

A STATEMENT by an attorney associated with the resisting inmates read: “Our goal remains: force the powers that be to end their torture policies and practices in which serious physical and psychological harm is inflicted on tens of thousands of prisoners as well as our loved ones outside.”

ASSEMBLYMAN Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, and Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, last week called for legislative hearings to address inmate complaints about conditions in maximum-security prisons.

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REGARDING KZYX boss John Coate's trip to Australia, the station's program manager, Mary Aigner writes that the station did not pay for the trip: “My but that rumor mill is creative. That's a no. I'm concerned about the AVA publishing this while John is out of town for reasons of security. John was very concerned the last time he was away to give a keynote speech and someone talked about it on the air. I ask that you please wait until he returns later this month to address this. It would be most unfortunate if someone broke into his house while he was away. Thank you.”

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THE STATE'S DEPARTMENT of Toxic Substances Control have announced that the abandoned Georgia-Pacific mill site at Fort Bragg is just about all cleaned up. The old mill pond and the powerhouse area remain “areas of concern.” The rest of the sprawling 420-plus seaside acres are A-OK.

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MEN ARE SO LOGICAL. I think this calls for another beer and additional conversation. What deep thinkers men are. I mowed the lawn today, and after doing so I sat down and had a cold beer. The day was really quite beautiful, and the drink facilitated some deep thinking. My wife walked by and asked me what I was doing and I said “nothing” because saying “just thinking” would have produced, “about what?” At that point I would have to explain that men are deep thinkers about various topics which would lead to other questions. Finally I thought about an age-old question: Is giving birth more painful than getting kicked in the nuts? Women always maintain that giving birth is much more painful than a guy getting kicked in the nuts. Well, after another beer, and some heavy deductive thinking, I have come up with the answer to that question. Getting kicked in the nuts is more painful than having a baby  because a year or so after giving birth, a woman will often say, “It might be nice to have another child.” On the other hand, you never hear a guy say, “You know, I think I would like another kick in the nuts.” I rest my case. Time for another beer.

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THE OCEAN FRACKERS

Oil Lobby Pours Money Into California

by Dan Bacher

Some may consider California to be a “green” state and the “environmental leader” of the nation, but that delusion is quickly dispelled once one actually looks at who spends the most on lobbying in California – the oil industry.

The Western States Petroleum Association spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group, according to quarterly documents released by the California Secretary of State.

The association spent $1,023,069.78 in the first quarter and $1,285,720.17 in the second quarter, a total of $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials.

Because of the enormous influence exerted by the group and the oil companies themselves in the Capitol, all but one bill to regulate or ban fracking was defeated in the Legislature this year. The only bill that has passed through Legislature's Committees is the weak bill to “regulate” fracking sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley.

The association’s members are a “who’s who” of big oil companies, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillip, ExxonMobil, Navajo Refining Company, Noble Energy Company, Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation, Shell Oil Products US, Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, U.S. Oil & Refining Company, Venoco, Inc. and many others.

The top 20 interest groups who spent the most money in the first six months included labor unions, the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron and health care corporations.

The latest report on spending on lobbying emerged as the Associated Press revealed that companies prospecting for oil off California’s coast have used the controversial practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) on at least a dozen occasions to force open cracks beneath the seabed.

Now regulators are investigating whether the environmentally destructive practice, one that threatens fish and wildlife populations in the state’s marine waters, should require a separate permit and be subject to stricter environmental review.

“Hundreds of pages of federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press and advocacy groups through the Freedom of Information Act show regulators have permitted fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least 12 times since the late 1990s, and have recently approved a new project,” wrote AP reporters Jason Dearen and Alicia Chang.

“Companies are doing the offshore fracking — which involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of salt water, sand and chemicals into undersea shale and sand formations — to stimulate old existing wells into new oil production,” they said.

“Federal regulators thus far have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from the nation’s clean water laws, allowing companies to release fracking fluid into the sea without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects. That exemption was affirmed this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the internal emails reviewed by the AP,” Dearen and Chang stated.

Big Oil Lobbyist Oversaw Creation Of Marine Protected Areas

While federal regulators allowed oil companies to frack offshore, state officials have also left the door open for fracking and offshore oil drilling.

Inexplicably missing from the mainstream media and even most “alternative” media reports on this issue is any mention of one of the biggest environmental scandals of the past decade – the alarming fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the alleged “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California waters in January 2012. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

Grassroots environmentalists, Tribal leaders, fishermen and advocates of democracy and transparency in government blasted the leadership role of the oil industry lobbyist in creating these “marine protected areas,” but state officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs embraced her as a “marine guardian.” MLPA Initiative advocates refused to acknowledge the overt conflict of interest that a big oil lobbyist, who supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, had in a process allegedly designed to “protect” the ocean.

You see, the “marine protected areas” created under Reheis-Boyd’s leadership weren’t true “marine protected areas” as the language of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 called for. Reheis-Boyd, a marina corporation executive, a coastal real estate developer and other corporate operatives on MLPA Initiative task forces oversaw the creation of “marine protected areas” that effectively allow fracking and offshore oil drilling to continue and expand.

These “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling and spills, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

As I have pointed out in article after article, Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine “protection” official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California. The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators – and MLPA Initiative advocates helped facilitate her rise to power.

Fracking Sacrifice Zones In California.

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.

Peripheral Tunnels Will Provide Water For Fracking

Not only do the association and oil companies buy access to lawmakers, but they exert enormous control over Governor Jerry Brown, who is currently fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels. The water destined for the tunnels will go to corporate agribusiness and oil companies seeking to expand fracking operations.

Nobody knows exactly how much water is used specifically for fracking in California now, since reporting by the oil companies is voluntary. One thing is for certain – oil companies use big quantities of water in their current oil drilling operations in Kern County. Much of this water this comes through the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct and the Central Valley Water Project’s Delta-Mendota Canal, the canals that will export the water diverted through the tunnels.

“In the time since steamflooding was pioneered here in the fields of Kern County in the 1960s, oil companies statewide have pumped roughly 2.8 trillion gallons of fresh water—or, in the parlance of agriculture, nearly 9 million acre-feet—underground in pursuit of the region’s tarry oil,” according to Jeremy Miller’s 2011 investigative piece, “The Colonization of Kern County,” in Orion Magazine. “Essentially, enough water has been injected into the oil fields here over the last forty years to create a lake one foot deep covering more than thirteen thousand square miles—nearly twice the surface area of Lake Ontario.”

Governor Brown has pursued an increasingly cozy relationship with oil companies, leading many to believe that he is going to promote the practice of fracking, in addition to pushing for the construction of the tunnels that will provide more water for fracking.

“A state senator has told me that Brown has cut a deal with the oil companies – he’ll push fracking in exchange for campaign contributions to his 2012 Proposition 30 and his 2014 reelected,” said RL Miller in her recent article on Daily Kos.

She cited as evidence for a deal the $27,200.00 that Occidental Petroleum Corporation contributed to Brown’s 2014 campaign. That’s the maximum allowable under California law.

Miller also noted the roughly $1 million that oil companies – members of the Western States Petroleum Association – contributed to Brown’s Proposition 30 campaign. These contributions include the following:

Aera Energy (Exxon-related), $125,000

Berry Petroleum, Denver, $35,000

Breitburn Operating, Houston, $21,250

CA State Pipe Trades Council (usually the pipeline union supports Big Oil), $100,000

Conoco Phillips, $25,000

E & B Natural Resources Management, Bakersfield, $20,000

MacPherson Oil Co., $50,000

Naftex, $10,000

Occidental Petroleum, $500,000

Plains Exploration & Production, $100,000

SoCal Pipe Trades Council, $125,000

Signal Hill Petroleum, $10,000

Vaquero Energy, $35,000

Venoco, $25,000

There is no doubt that the powerful oil industry and its chief lobbyist are going to use every avenue they can to divert more water for fracking, including taking Delta water through the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The industry will also use its increased power in California politics and environmental processes to expand fracking in the ocean unless Californians rise up and resist these plans.

It is time that Californians question state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates about why they supported the leadership role of an oil industry lobbyist in creating so-called “marine protected areas” off the California coast. After all, oil and water don’t mix!

(Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.)

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WILL 1000 AMERICAN ‘HUMAN SHIELDS’ STOP ANOTHER CRIMINAL WAR?

By Franklin Lamb

Damascus A sort of roller coaster atmosphere pervades Damascus these days with “good” and “bad” news rising and falling, often by the quarter hour. Much of the population is monitoring closely the news and quickly expressing their interpretations of the latest media reports and rumors as well as predicting the fairly precise timing of the now assumed American attack on their country.

In the very popular, and normally crowded Abaa Coffee House on the edge of the old city in what is called the Sarugha section, students and others enjoy the fine cool mist, as Damascenes have done for years, that is sprayed from ceiling pipes to provide welcome relief from the 37 degree Celsius (98 degrees F) outside temperatures. Many are clued to their laptops and/or in animated conversation analyzing the likely extent and timing of the soon believed to be arriving American missiles.

This observer often meets interlocutors in the Abaa because it’s very pleasant, large with dozens of tables, cheap and two blocks from my hotel. I have noticed that common greetings are changing from “kif hallack” ” (how are you?) and “Arak lahekan” (see you later) to “Get home safely” and “Good luck with the checkpoints.”

But there is also a distinct growing esprit de corps and a broad coming together of much of the population here as the countdown to the American attack on Syria begins. An evident rallying around the Assad regime, which one presumes is the opposite of what the White House was hoping would result from its threats.

A good friend from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) an humanitarian organization doing amazing rescue, and medical services for Syrians and Palestinians during this expanding crisis, described one way that her friends are preparing for the American attack. “We gathered our important documents, birth, marriage certificate and passport and made photo copies. Then we leave them with friends in “safe” areas or even bury them somewhere. No one knows how bad the Americans will bomb us. At work we have been told during our final practice drill last saturday that the next siren will be the ‘real thing’ and we will do as we have planned for.” She added, “Many of my friends and family are leaving but it’s not easy and is very expensive now to go to Lebanon and they don’t want us– and my family has decided to stay in our home no matter what happens in the coming days.”

One common topic being discussed is the reluctance of the American public to attack Syria and how Obama can ignore it. “What kind of Democracy do you have that your President can ignore the will of the American public?” this observer is frequently asked. One soldier who is stationed with his unit just outside my hotel seemed to speak from his heart: “You Americans claim you are trying to help the Syrian people. Every child knows, both here and in your country I think, that the coming attack will make things much worse for the Syrian people and many others. The American people are good and we hope they can control their government, but we are preparing for the worst and there will be consequences you will come to regret as with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.”

The government here is assuring the public that Syria is ready for the American attack and that public services will continue. TV channels show around the clock images of heroic Syrian army exploits with marital and patriotic music. Youngsters, students and workers are gathering at presumed targets offering themselves as Human Shields in solidarity with their countrymen while challenging President Obama to bomb their beloved Syria.

Interestingly, an International Human Shield movement is coalescing according to informed sources here and abroad. One initiative is to bring 1000 Americans and thousands of others, to Syria within the next ten days to guard likely bomb sites reminding one of the International Solidarity Movement international volunteer’s efforts in Occupied Palestine in order to try to protect homes of Palestinians from Government bulldozing.

Some redacted specifics have been disclosed to this observer from an international organizing committee working around the clock on this Human Shield initiative.

Some descriptive excerpts:

International Human Shields are planning on coming to Syria in solidarity with the Syrian people and in an effort to send a global message and hopefully deter an American attack next week…

Timing – While moves can be made fast and with all other key elements in place, time is not in our favor. Ten mores days for preparation would be ideal. The HS initiative assumes that it must be done in such a way that very little time lapse from the official announcement of the action to the actual arrival of the Human Shields on the ground in Syria…

Impact – In order to achieve a significant impact having at least 1000 Americans and several thousand international Human Shields deployed in Syria is the objective. With ideally at least one representative from every UN Member State, as evidence of the true ‘international community’ opposing the American attack.

The US activist-based steering committee is quickly bringing together professionals in IT, marketing, logistical planning and implementation, spokesperson(s), public relations, accounting, documentarians, and experienced project managers. Ferries from European ports are to be arranged to carry significant numbers of Human Shields from Major European cities. Ideally, several jumbo jets will be chartered to carry human shields from some of the world’s major cities and use of land convoys are under consideration.

An excerpt:

HS/Government Relations – The first objective of the enemies of Syria will be to portray Human Shields as nothing more than pawns of President Bashar al-Assad. This was precisely what the mainstream media did in 2003, presenting Human Shields as pawns of Saddam. In order for the Human Shields to have power they must be seen as independent supporters of the people of Syria who represent the will of the vast majority of people around the world who oppose the pending US-led western attack. The HS should however work with prominent leaders in the civilian sector of Syrian society and great effort should be made to produce daily news stories of the Human Shields and Syrian people working together to protect Syria from the ongoing foreign instigated aggression. There are once again many details here and these would need to be discussed and agreed if any action will be able to reach its full potential.

Strategy – The sites that Human Shields deploy to must be very well publicized and these sites must be identified as protected sites under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The White House is saying that they are not going to attack infrastructure (as they did with Iraq in 2003), but they must attack the infrastructure as the goal is to drive Syria into the stone age and make it so weak that Israel will through its agents eventually take Syria over. They know that the Syrian people and military cannot be defeated without massive attacks on the infrastructure.

So it is absolutely vital that all power plants, water treatment facilities, bomb shelters (if they exist), civilian communications sites, food storage sites and other such sites that are critical to the civilian population are the primary if not sole focus of sites for the HS to deploy. They cannot deploy to military sites, although I personally feel this is morally defensible, it will neutralize the power of the HS in the public relations realm and intelligent public relations is absolutely critical.

A comprehensive list of protected sites is to be produced immediately and these sites will need to be verified by the most independent sources we can manage to obtain. UN representatives or former representatives would be great, human rights attorneys, legal experts and others of this type are very useful.

There will be room to deploy to sites not specifically listed in the Fourth Geneva Convention, such as with ethnic and religious minority communities who are deathly afraid of the foreign invaders/terrorist. Special emphasis should be placed on Christian populations as the western audience sadly has more sympathy for Christians than Muslims.”

Our goal is to personalize the people of Syria and show their suffering through the eyes of the HS with effective daily reports to be uploaded on the Internet and reported by legitimate news agencies such as Press TV, RT and Telesur. A massive effort must be made to educate the public about the reasons for the Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC) and the imperial powers undeniable record of knowingly destroying the lives of ‘protected persons’ as defined in the FGC. There must be high quality, well-spoken Arabic/English speaking spokespersons.

We should be ready to provide evidence of any attack on such sites the moment it happens and have legal briefs prepared to immediately charge the aggressors with war crimes. This is why it is critical that the HS are almost exclusively at sites that are protected by the FGC.

The Action Plan concludes:

We cannot necessarily stop them from doing what they intend to do, but we can make their aggression harm them far more than Syria and its people in the end. Herein lays the power, using the enemies momentum against him in the most powerful way possible.

Time will tell which Americans will arrive first in Syria, the military or the American public. Many Syrian are today praying it will be the latter and have pledged to join them to defeat the coming aggression.

(Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com)

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MARY MOUNTCASTLE EUBANK’S ‘EDGES AND FLOWS,’ JANE INGRAM ALLEN’S ‘FOR THE BIRDS,’ & CANDACE LOHEED — Exhibitions October 25-December 1

Reception for the artists October 27, Sunday 3 to 5 pm. Salon December 1, Sunday, 4 to 5 pm. Materials and Motives (artists talk and discussion). For more information go to: http://galleryrouteone.org.

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