Mendocino County Today: December 21, 2013
by AVA News Service, December 20, 2013
KZYX MANAGER John Coate has announced that Paul Lambert will stop doing the local news as of December 24. Between December 25 and January 2, KZYX won't run local news apart from travel advisories and bulletins of urgent public interest. Coate's pal, Michael Kisslinger, is going to share local news duties with somebody named Sheri Quinn.
Ms. Quinn is a fairly recent arrival to Mendocino County, but she is reported by John Coate to have 13 years experience as a public radio news reporter, producer and host, mainly with Utah Public Radio. Even though Ms. Quinn now lives in Willits, she still does two public affairs programs for Utah Public Radio. The 5-minutes of local news is being expanded to 10-minutes. Fifty more minutes to go to keep even with KMUD and nearly every other public radio station in the country.
THE SONOMA COUNTY WATER AGENCY is requesting that the State Water Resources Control Board reduce flows from Lake Mendocino to less than 75 cubic feet per second, the normal minimum flow for a dry year. But we're beyond mere “dry year” status; we're in the driest of three consecutive winters whose cumulative impact is still playing out. For years, the state has used Eel River flow rates to determine whether a year is “normal,” “dry” or “critical” in the upper reaches of the Russian River, but it has reliabilty probs of its own as a guide to downstream water policy.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES of long, complicated reports on Russian River water above Healdsburg, it is clear that simply draining Lake Mendocino in dry years is no longer sufficient to maintain the health of the upstream, mostly Mendo stretches of river. Sonoma County is clearly going to have to dip into its own Lake Sonoma to supply its ever more numerous domestic customers, now dependent on the Eel River Diversion and storage at the presently empty Lake Mendocino. The whole show is headed for rationing and careful monitoring along the Mendo stretch of the Russian.
MONDAY NIGHT'S NINER'S game vs. Atlanta is it for Candlestick Park. I know this will be a minority opinion, but I always liked the place. Sure, it was a tough venue for baseball, especially after 3pm when the wind and the fog howled in, and night games were cold, as night games are at the new ballpark. But the Stick is fine for football, and count me among the many thousands who think it's disgraceful that the Niners weren't kept in The City — like there isn't enough money to pull it off? I can't remember the last time I went any farther south than SF International, not that I could possibly afford a ticket at the corporate box in Santa Clara. If I weren't a long-time Niners person I'd write them off for moving and start following the Raiders.
LOTS OF NOSTALIGIC stories about Candlestick among today's deluge of catastrophes, large and small. I was at the Stick for the Giants against the Mets the day Ukiah's Kelvin Chapman started at second base for the Mets. There were a lot of Mendo people there that day because Chapman was, and is, a legendary local sports figure known personally to many of us who played men's league basketball against him in the 1970s. Boonville's Gene ‘Yewgene’ Waggoner one-on-one against Chapman was something to see. Both of them could have stepped into the NBA without embarrassing themselves.
ANOTHER TIME at Candlestick, and we're going way back here, I saw Orlando Cepeda hit a batting practice pitch so hard it knuckle-balled on a line all the way out to the left field fence. I'd never seen that before or since, although I'm told it happens. I also remember the first time I saw people throwing stuff at Krazy Krab, and I thought to myself, “I really love this city. Where else would people attack a minor irritant like a cartoon figure?”
WHERE AND HOW SF got the false rep as a kind of effete, wimped out town I don't know. Among ballplayers, the city has the reputation as the worst fans in sports, the most violent, the most foulmouthed, the craziest. But anybody who went out to the Stick for either a baseball or a football game knew out front to expect fights and various other forms of low rent behavior, male and female. It was part of the experience. The Giants have made fan behavior a top priority out of fear of Candlestick-ism. You can't shout out obscenities that turned the air blue at Candlestick and wrecked the ball game experience for young families, and you certainly can't fight. That's over. At the 'Stick the left field bleachers was fight city, meaning everyone out there who wanted to watch the game wound up dodging the yobs instead. It was so far out of control you wondered, for the umpty numty time, why, how?
I HAD LOCKED the gates and taken the phone off the hook, just settling in with a six pack of tall Buds to watch the World Series — the famous Bay Series between the Giants and the A's in 1989 — when there was a sonic boom, a fairly big boom by Boonville standards. That's what I thought it was. The screen went dark for just a fraction of a second as the announcers interrupted their pre-game patter to say things like, “This isn't good. It must be an earthquake. The light standards are weaving.” Then the ballplayers and their families were standing on the infield, and the rest of the night we all watched as fires broke out in the Marina, cars fell off the collapsed stretch of the Bay Bridge into the bay and, we learned later, Joe DiMaggio hustled out of his damaged house in The Marina with $600,000 in cash in a black garbage bag over his shoulder.
CANDLESTICK survived intact while the Bay Bridge partially collapsed and the freeway came down in West Oakland. It was built to last, and it lasted. I'm sorry to see it go.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
by Mike Whitney
All told, Obama has been bad for the economy, bad for civil liberties, bad for minorities, bad for foreign wars, and bad for health care. He has, however, been a very effective lackey-sock puppet for Wall Street, Big Pharma, the oil magnates, and the other 1% -vermin Kleptocrats who run the country and who will undoubtedly attend his $100,000-per-plate speaking engagements when he finally retires in comfort to some gated community where he’ll work on his memoirs and cash in on his 8 years of faithful service to the racketeer class.
But, let’s face it; no one really gives a rip about “drone attacks in Waziristan” or “hunger strikes in Gitmo”. What they care about is keeping their jobs, paying off their student loans, putting the food on the table or avoiding the fate of next-door-neighbor, Andy, who got his pink slip two months ago and now finds himself living in a cardboard box by the river. That’s what the average working stiff worries about; just scraping by enough to stay out of the homeless shelter. But it’s getting harder all the time, mainly because everything’s gotten worse under Obama. It’s crazy. It’s like the whole middle class is being dismantled in a 10-year period. Wages are flat, jobs are scarce, incomes are dropping like a stone, and everyone’s broke. (Everyone I know, at least.) Did you know that 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Check it out:
“Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.
Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults.
Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all…
JUST A MINUTE THERE
Have a little patience on health care delays.
It seems that almost every day there is an article lambasting the Affordable Care Act and Covered California. The opinion piece by John Aiello was no exception (“Consumers deserve better than backlogs, long delays,” Open Forum, Dec. 13).
As a retired individual with a pre-existing condition, I was paying over $1,070 a month with the usual deductibles and co-pays. Under Covered California, my cost for an almost identical plan is $800 less. I was able to go onto the website in early October, choose a plan, and have received my first statement and paid my first installment for a policy beginning January 2014, all of it being seamless and painless.
I did have a few questions over the last few months and have called Covered California several times, each time getting through immediately, never put on hold, and had courteous and informed answers.
I suggest that perhaps John Aiello needs to find a better “certified agent” or improve his phone skills. Also, I wonder if he has better results when trying to resolve problems with AT&T or PG&E by phone? Although this plan is not perfect (single-payer would have been much more efficient), let's be a little more patient, please.
Michele Tagger, Oakland
THE TRUE STATE OF THE NATION
Camden is just across the Delaware River from the brick and polished cobblestone streets of downtown Philadelphia, where oblivious tourists pour in every year, gobbling cheese steaks and gazing at the Liberty Bell, having no idea they're a short walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge from a full-blown sovereignty crisis — an un-Fantasy Island of extreme poverty and violence where the police just a few years ago essentially surrendered a city of 77,000. All over America, communities are failing. Once-mighty Rust Belt capitals that made steel or cars are now wastelands. Elsewhere, struggling white rural America is stocking up on canned goods and embracing the politics of chaos, sending pols to Washington ready to hit the default button and start the whole national experiment all over again. But in Camden, chaos is already here. In September, its last supermarket closed, and the city has been declared a “food desert” by the USDA.
THE PLACE is literally dying, its population having plummeted from above 120,000 in the Fifties to less than 80,000 today. … It's a major metropolitan area run by armed teenagers with no access to jobs or healthy food, and not long ago, while the rest of America was ranting about debt ceilings and Obamacares, Camden quietly got pushed off the map. That was three years ago, when new governor and presumptive future presidential candidate Chris Christie abruptly cut back on the state subsidies that kept Camden on life support. The move left the city almost completely ungoverned — a graphic preview of what might lie ahead for communities that don't generate enough of their own tax revenue to keep their lights on. Over three years, fires raged, violent crime spiked and the murder rate soared so high that on a per-capita basis it “put us somewhere between Honduras and Somalia,” says Police Chief J. Scott Thomson. “They let us run amok,” says a tat-covered ex-con and addict named Gigi. “It was like fires, and rain, and babies crying, and dogs barking. It was like Armageddon.” (— Matt Taibbi)
THE BOYFRIEND AND CAREGIVER of a Ukiah woman who died at the hospital after authorities found her lying in her own feces and urine was sentenced last month to spend six years in prison, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office. The victim, Jennifer Boyd, 32, weighed 67 pounds when she was admitted to Ukiah Valley Medical Center, according to the DA's Office. She was also severely dehydrated and had several pressure sores, including a large sore on her back that was six inches in diameter and exposed her tailbone, according to the DA's Office.
The state's In-Home Supportive Services program paid her caregiver and boyfriend, Thomas J. Winkle, 53, who lived with her, up to $1,500 per month to care for her. Boyd died 11 days after she was admitted to the hospital. Ukiah Police Department detective Rick Pintane described her living conditions as “the worst I've seen” after he and other detectives served a search warrant at the couple's South State Street apartment. Winkle claimed he didn't know how severe Boyd's condition was, but Pintane contended it wasn't possible he was unaware of her condition. Winkle was arrested on suspicion of severe neglect and abuse of a dependent adult. Winkle pleaded guilty Aug. 13 to inflicting pain and/or mental suffering on a dependent adult, and to a special allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury. On Nov. 15, Judge John Behnke sentenced Winkle to the mid-term of six years in prison, and ordered $5,000 restitution. (District Attorney’s Office Press Release.)
YOU WILL DISCOVER
As far back as I can remember is barely yesterday
when I ate what was it for dinner, drank that
don’t know, turned on the television, gave my
soul over to that one show that everyone seems
to think requires watching. In my early years
there were so many people who I loved that
I have a stomach-ache with fear that I will meet
them in a heaven I don’t for one moment believe
in, will not hedge my bets. I do, however throw
salt over my shoulder, yell, “Watch out,” when
flinging liquids out the back door, for the you
know, fairies, wonder why I can guess ages
easily or within five anyway. When I was younger
I overcame the underwhelming sideways depths
of death defied abysmal height. Get yourself a
woman, job, some money, run right off the cliff.
You will discover that it’s easy to recall almost
nothing that wounds you, if you make living in,
of itself, a purring cat, sit you down by the fire, lick
your fur, murmur, there, there. Most reassuring.
— Lawrence Bullock
TWO CHALLENGERS – BOTH ONE OF A KIND
We Need More Abraham Briloffs & Tom Laughlins
By Ralph Nader
Two distinctly different Americans with distinctly similar, independent thinking and progressive values passed away last week. The great accounting professor Abraham Briloff (age 96) who relentlessly and brilliantly took apart the failures of his profession to insist on honest and ethical corporate accounting, and Tom Laughlin (age 82), the jolting producer and star of the ‘Billy Jack’ films who broke the Hollywood industry’s rules with sagas of fighting for justice. Although they never knew each other, they both championed fair play and courage to face the grim realities of the day.
It was exhilarating to read Professor Briloff’s (Baruch College in New York City) precise exposés of companies faking their financial conditions in the influential Wall Street publication, Barron’s. He would dissect captured accountants’ sleights of hand and shake company executives and stock prices down from their deceptive, overvalued pedestal. I initially subscribed to Barron’s Financial Weekly because of Briloff’s writings, and later the excoriating articles by the conservative financial analyst, lawyer Ben Stein.
But what most impressed me about Briloff, was that he took his criticism directly to the accounting profession and threw back its own standards and ethical rules against the indentured hypocrisies of compliant accountants.
In his books The Truth About Corporate Accounting and Unaccountable Accounting: Games Accountants Play, Mr. Briloff, who also had an accounting practice, was a lone voice who blew the whistle and stood tall with reform proposals among hundreds of thousands of silent accountants.
All professions have a few courageous challengers of their fellow practitioners who speak the truth of ugly failures, damaging greed and conformity within the ranks. Lawyers, doctors, architects and dentists all have these positive dissidents. But accounting, with its ‘mums the word’ tradition, has the fewest dissenters and standard bearers of all the professions.
Much of corporate financial speculations and the crimes, such as those of Enron and Lehman Brothers, flow from years of phony accounting or what is commonly called ‘cooking the books.’ The sheer complexity of the multi-tiered, multi-corporate transactions, feeding off intricate corporate-lobbied tax laws, provide a camouflage that few people can understand, much less authoritatively expose.
Abraham Briloff was one of those rare individuals.
Abstruse as corporate accounting can be, its consequences, the loss of millions of jobs, huge fleecing of investors and the depletion of pension funds, ending with coerced taxpayer bailouts, are clear.
The Wall Street binge of 2008-2009, that collapsed the economy into the ‘Great Recession’ while continuing to enrich the very rich, illustrates the derelictions of an accounting profession that is paid to cover up misdeeds and then look the other way.
None of this excuses the regulatory agencies or Congress from meeting their responsibilities. But the genesis of these frauds stems from the complicit and corrupt services of accountants and auditors.
About ten years ago, I tried to get some conscientious accounting practitioners and professors to form a public interest accounting group. It almost happened, but the few founders could not raise the necessary sustaining funds for staff and offices. Too bad there weren’t more Briloffs around that table.
Tom Laughlin’s ‘Billy Jack’ character was largely based on the values of Tom Laughlin. Billy Jack is a hell-raising peace advocate and environmentalist, who protects Native Americans and wild horses, and advances justice by standing up to the ruling classes and their henchmen-bullies. The first ‘Billy Jack’ movie in 1969 was distributed by Warner Bros, but Tom Laughlin did not feel that the studio adequately promoted his film. He bought back the distribution rights in 1973 and, with a national advertising campaign, rented 1,200 theaters for a re-release. This move was unheard of in Hollywood. The re-released film grossed $100 million, which would be the equivalent of about $400 million now. The New York Times said, Laughlin’s success “caused Hollywood to rethink its approach to releasing films.”
Laughlin used his sharp way with words to promote his films and a bold style to advance his causes. The trouble was that his imagination was way ahead of his ability to obtain funding. His ‘Billy Jack goes To Washington’ premiered, but was never released theatrically.
Around Presidential election years, he would call me to share his ideas about how to make a popular movie so inspirational that it would propel its leading actor-candidate into the actual presidential primaries and challenge the power structures that Laughlin so intensely wanted to make accountable to “we the people.” His messages were eye-catching and provoking.
It must have been very frustrating for him to not continue what appeared to be a vision of dynamic, gripping real movies about injustices that could motivate viewers to civic and political action for reform.
Unlike many good muckraking documentaries today, Mr. Laughlin and his co-actor, wife Delores Taylor, mixed blood-and-guts fighting with themes of challenging wrongdoing. The Los Angeles Times gave one flavor of the man with a quote from his daughter Teresa: “A student of the martial art hapkido, Laughlin would train feverishly for his films with grandmaster Bong Soo Han, who choreographed the fight scenes and sometimes acted as a double.” They produced raw scripts that, as actors, fit their own real life passion for a just society.
A man of perpetual enthusiasm for the next theatrical breakthrough, however blunt and unnuanced for the film academy’s taste they would be, Tom Laughlin may generate successors in the same vein.
His style was encapsuled in a scene from Billy Jack that has been called “I…Just…Go…Berserk” which has developed a cult-following. (See the clip here).
Our society needs more Abraham Briloffs and Tom Laughlins. To remember them and their works can help make that prospect more likely.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)
WATER RATEPAYERS PROTEST ‘TWIN TUNNEL TAX’ AT LA CITY HALL
by Dan Bacher
One of the biggest myths about the fight over Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build the twin tunnels under the Delta is that it is a conflict between northern California and Southern California.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The conflict over the gigantic twin tunnels is not between northern California and southern California, but instead between the great majority of Californians, both north and south, who oppose the tunnels and corporate agribusiness interests, developers, water privateers and corporate-backed politicians who support the project.
The growing opposition to the tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) was highlighted by a news conference in front of LA City Hall on Wednesday, December 18. Water ratepayers, community leaders and consumer groups spoke out against the tunnels project, claiming that it would raise rates and property taxes but bring no new water to Los Angeles.
Governor Jerry Brown and his staff have portrayed the BDCP as the "solution" to achieving the co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability. The 120-day public comment period for the 40,214 pages of BDCP documents released last week began on Friday, December 13.
"One calamitous storm or natural disaster — driven by climate change — could jeopardize the entire Delta, destroy its ecosystem and cut off water to 25 million Californians,” Brown claimed. “This agreement with our federal partners moves us another step closer to being more prepared for an uncertain future in California.” (http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/12/18/consumer-group-warns-delta-twin-tunnels-plan-may-cost-ratepayers/)
Food & Water Watch, eight Los Angeles neighborhood councils, the Sierra Club, Southern California Watershed Alliance and Environmental Water Caucus Ratepayers and advocates strongly disagreed with Brown - and called on Mayor Garcetti, the Los Angeles City Council and LADWP to oppose “unfair rate hikes and property taxes” proposed to pay for the massive twin tunnels project.
The 35-mile long, 40-foot wide twin-tunnels project is estimated to cost between $25 and $54.1 billion, forcing Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to increase water bills and property taxes from $2,000-$4,500 per household, according to Food & Water Watch California Director Adam Scow. This “twin-tunnel tax” would not bring any new water to Los Angeles.
“At a time when Los Angeles is becoming more water efficient and using less water from the Delta, this twin-tunnel project would raise water bills and property taxes on Los Angeles homeowners and small businesses by at least $2,000 to subsidize more water for large corporate agribusinesses in Kern County and the Westlands Water District,” said Scow. “This plan is fundamentally unfair to Los Angeles taxpayers and ratepayers.”
Scow said the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s water plan calls for reducing its purchase of imported water from the Delta by 30 percent and increasing its local water supply through cost-effective measures such as replacing aging water pipes, cleaning groundwater, and expanding water recycling.
“Yet large corporate agribusinesses in Kern County and the Westlands Water District support the tunnels on the condition that they will secure massive amounts of water from the Delta for themselves and continue to be subsidized by taxpayers and ratepayers in Los Angeles and throughout southern California,” emphasized Scow.
“It's wrong and unfair for Los Angeles ratepayers to subsidize new tunnels for corporate interests when we already need to invest billions in fixing and upgrading our local water infrastructure,” said Ed Begley, actor and environmental advocate. “We need to clean our local water supply and create local jobs - not waste billions on a wasteful tunnel project.”
An independent cost-estimate of the tunnels done by ECONorthwest for Food and Water Watch and the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) shows that LADWP would need to increase water bills from $7-15 per month for over 40 years or $2000-$4,500 per household to fund its cost share of the tunnels, according to Scow.
Furthermore, with rising energy prices, delays, and cost overruns – common in large-scale construction projects – the costs to Angelinos could be significantly higher. ECONorthwest projects that the real cost of constructing the tunnels would be $17 billion in 2017, the earliest year that construction would begin.
“In a tough economy, we know that ratepayers can only afford to pay so much,” said Chris Sales, Board President of the Northridge South Neighborhood Council. “The Northridge South Neighborhood Council, which represents 20,000 Angelenos, encourages Mayor Garcetti and the City Council to oppose this wasteful project and prioritize investments that create local jobs and protect our environment.”
“The North Hollywood North East Neighborhood Council, representing 25,000 residents, opposes the twin-tunnels – a project that would raise our water bills and property taxes but deliver no additional water,” said Board President Ernie Moscoso. “We call on Mayor Garcetti and the City Council to oppose this unfair tunnel tax and prioritize investments that expand our local water supply.”
LADWP has projected that billions of dollars are needed to replace its aging system of pipes and water mains, and billions more to expand water recycling and to clean a large aquifer in the San Fernando Valley, according to the groups. A recent poll from the L.A. Times showed that when told about the costs of the tunnels, a majority of Californians opposed the project.
Conner Everts, Executive Director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance, also slammed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, representing a growing movement of Los Angeles Basin environmentalists who are opposed to Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels.
“This project is an unfair tunnel tax will raise our water bills but give us no new water,” said Everts, who grew up steelhead and trout fishing in Southern California streams. “Los Angeles needs to invest in local infrastructure and local jobs first.”
Everts also noted that Southern California is on the path to taking less imported water. “If we continue with the illusion that there will be more water, we aren’t facing the reality of our water supply, or investing in water conservation jobs for Southern California,” he stated.
Increasing numbers of columnists and editors from the Los Angeles Times and other Southern California newspapers have criticized the tunnel plan also.
On December 15, LA Times columnist George Skelton exposed how Governor's Brown’s use of the "threat" of a "catastrophic earthquake" on the Delta to justify the construction of the twin tunnels is based on a “shakey rationale.” ( http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-cap-delta-20131216,0,4576916.column#axzz2ns32l7z5)
Skelton also had a alternative to the tunnels. “Before spending $16 billion boring oversize tunnels and mucking up people's lives, how about this? Try modern fish screens. Relocate the pumps so they don't reverse river flows. Take the water after it flushes through the delta," he said.
Californians for a Fair Water Policy is a statewide coalition of ratepayers, environmentalists, Tribal leaders, farmers, businesses and fishermen opposed to the tunnels project because of the severe negative impacts on California ratepayers, taxpayers, wild salmon and the San Francisco Bay Delta's ecosystem. Learn more at http://www.stopthetunnels.org.