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Mendocino County Today: June 9, 2012

A PRESS RELEASE from the Solomon campaign issued Thursday: “California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen has designated the ongoing race for the 2nd Congressional District as a ‘close contest’ due to the unresolved question as to who the top two finishers will be once all the votes cast in the race are counted (http://vote.sos.ca.gov/returns/close-contests/). As of the most-recent vote count, Democrat Norman Solomon and Republican Dan Roberts are separated by only 1.1% with tens of thousands of ballots throughout the 2nd Congressional District remaining to be counted before county elections officials certify the election results to the Secretary of State by the first week of July. We are confident once all of the votes cast in this race are actually counted that Norman Solomon will have earned a top-two finish and advance to the general election,” declared Tom Higgins, Solomon’s political consultant.

Roberts

DAN ROBERTS, Republican, discusses his surprise to find himself in the November Northcoast Congressional election with the bland machine Democrat, Jared Huffman

(Election Night, Tuesday, June 5, 2012). Interviewed by Hank Sims)

Sims: You have held on.

Dan Roberts: That's all I can do in a Democratic district

Sims: You financed a great deal of your race out of your own pocket. You were the leading Republican all along. You have run the most serious campaign of any Republican. But it seems like you are slighting your own chances in the general election. Are you not?

Roberts: (Laughs). Well, somebody tonight on TV said Jared could measure the drapes.

Sims: I didn't realize the office came with drapes, or even windows.

Roberts: I have not examined the office. (Laughs)

Sims: You are doing better in Humboldt County than you are in the district at large. You currently have 21% of the vote with somewhere over half the vote counted. Five percentage points more than the district at large. You are a Republican running in a blue district. It seems to me that you are saying that there won't be much of a contest in the general election between yourself and Mr. Huffman?

Roberts: I did not say that. But it's long odds, my friend, long odds. But I'm a long odds player.

Sims: Are you confident you will be able to hold on? Norman Solomon has been nipping at your heels the whole night. With less than 40% of the vote counted he could make that up. Are you confident that the Republican base will stay with you?

Roberts: I think it has shown that it is standing with me. And I want to thank the folks up in Humboldt County for their support and the Republicans for hanging with me.

Sims: What's your strategy over the next five months, assuming that you do make it through. Not to criticize you at all, but you have not been as successful a fundraiser as most of the major Democratic candidates have been. How are you going to mount a campaign?

Roberts: Let's go back to your premise; why should that surprise you or anybody?

Sims: I don't know. Why would it not?

Roberts: Two years ago the whole Republican ticket went down. Do you not recall 2010? It sucked all the air out of the balloon.

Sims: The statewide ticket? The Republican ticket?

Roberts: Yes! For sure!

Sims: There is a sort of debate about the California Republican Party. You are not, Mr. Roberts— I've heard you speak in debates, you are not a flaming Southern righteous tea party Republican. You are a moderate California Republican of the kind many of us in California sort of miss nowadays. The California Republican Party has been unable to find its feet, given its differences with the national party, right?

Roberts: I agree. The point is that the ideas work. We just have to put a smile on the Republicans. They don't currently have it. This is a rebuilding effort, don't forget that.

Sims: Is that what you are about? Rebuilding the Republican Party?

Roberts: Yes!

Sims: Compassionate conservatism?

Roberts: I would not use those words, but thank you for the suggestion. No no no. But I am not poking my nose into the private pockets of our state citizens on all the social issues. I say live and let live.

Sims: You have a libertarian bent?

Roberts: I won't say that. I don't use any labels. I am a post-partisan. This is a post-partisan race. Through the primaries you have a whole debate, that's true, and I want to capture some of the independents, that's true. But I'm looking to capture some of the old Reagan Democrats also. That's a winning proposition, if I can do that.

Sims: Do they exist anymore? The Reagan Democrats?

Roberts: If you go back even farther you can look at the silent majority, Nixon's silent majority. I am waiting for them to howl.

Sims: So you are saying they are still there but they are still silent?

Roberts: We will find out. They spoke a little tonight, but they will have to howl in November.

Sims: I should say Mr. Roberts you sound jubilant.

Roberts: I am. I'm excited. There's a lot of my treasury and a lot of volunteers who have come out in the last month. It was slow happening. My momentum has peaked.

Sims: You sound surprised.

Roberts: Pleasantly. I'm not surprised, I'm pleased. I'm just pleased that I had so much help up in Mendocino and Humboldt. I had the endorsement of both those county Republican Central Committees.

Sims: You are the Republican in the race. You were early. You are the most serious Republican in the race.

Roberts: We do not presume anything. We had another Republican to contend with who came in. He doesn't live in the district. He has no money, no campaign, but he presented a threat to me somewhat.

Sims: Here is some more news, you are currently leading all comers including Mr. Huffman in Del Norte County.

Roberts: You forgot Trinity.

Sims: Yes, you are the leader in Trinity County as well.

Roberts: I heard I got all the votes in Trinity.

Sims: There's not many to get.

Roberts: Unfortunately. Unfortunately that's true. We'll have to move some more Republicans up there.

Sims: Mendocino County, I have to tell you, I'm sorry to inform you, and I presume you will take action against the county when you accede to Congress, but you are running in third place behind Mr. Solomon in Mendocino County.

Roberts: Mendocino County? That's probably the marijuana, probably my marijuana stance. Would you suggest that?

Sims: You are pro-legalization, are you not?

Roberts: No. I must say I'm against it. There is a federal law that prohibits that, and as a federal officer I have to recognize the federal law.

Sims: You are a federal lawmaker. You can change the law. That's the point of being in Congress.

Roberts: I would not lead on that subject.

Sims: I doubt that's it anyway. Because marijuana growers, like law enforcement, generally support the status quo; they profit off of it.

Roberts: Very good! Okay.

Sims: Maybe that accounts for your Humboldt success somewhat.

Roberts: I don't know. But Mendocino — I don't know. I debated in Redway and I smelled a lot of funny stuff. I asked the folks, what is that? I don't know what that is. (Laughs).

Sims: They didn't inform you?

Roberts: No, and they didn't laugh, and in the straw poll I got one vote.

Sims: Well, that's better than some got. So you praise your Trinity team, your Del Norte team, your Humboldt team. What went wrong in Mendocino?

Roberts: I don't know. I worked a little bit up there and the team had volunteers up there. I spoke over in Fort Bragg and I debated in Willits. I don't know. I will have to figure that out.

Sims: Did you go to an election party tonight? Did you throw a party? What are you doing tonight?

Roberts: No, no. I ran out of money two days ago.

Sims: So you spent the night at home.

Roberts: I start my morning at six o'clock. And I spend three hours on the pavement with my home-made “Honk If You're Voting For Dan” sign.

Sims: Really? You held the sign out on the sidewalk?

Roberts: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Sims: It looks like you'll get another chance to do better in Humboldt County. You're still in second place. The vote is coming in very slowly.

(Roberts thanks Sims, and hangs up.)

Sims: He's so happy. Why would you not want to vote for such a happy candidate?

SAM SMITH POINTS OUT: “The right spent about $23 a vote to win in Wisconsin. Transferred to the fall election, that would mean — thanks to the despicable Citizens United ruling — any of the following could buy the election and still have from 83% to 98% of their wealth left: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, either of the Koch brothers, George Soros, any of four Waltons, Michael Bloomberg or Mark Zuckerberg.”

THE CENTERS for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that 23% of high school students said they recently smoked marijuana, while 18% said they had puffed cigarettes. The survey asked teens about a variety of risky behaviors. For decades, the number of teens who smoke has been on the decline. Marijuana use has fluctuated, and recently rose. At times, pot and cigarette smoking were about the same level, but last year marked the first time marijuana use was clearly greater. An earlier survey by the University of Michigan also found that pot smoking was higher. A Michigan expert said teens today apparently see marijuana as less dangerous than cigarettes.

THE CALIFORNIA AG DEPARTMENT has announced that the Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission has voted to disband, and will cease operations at the end of the month. The group is made up of growers and winemakers. A majority of vintners, 68%, voted to continue the commission, but only 45% of growers wanted the commission to continue, while 55% voted to wind it down, according to the CDFA, which tallied the vote.

THE COMMISSION was created by the California Legislature in 2006, and represents 91 wineries and 343 grape growers, according to its website. It is funded solely through member fees.

IRV SUTLEY WRITES: Many of you have probably now heard of the recent death of author, Ray Bradbury. What fewer may not know is that Ray was an initial Peace and Freedom Party registrant in 1967 and was active in getting the party on the ballot.

DAVID McCULLOUGH, a teacher at Wellesley High School in Boston, has delivered the most honest high school graduation speech in the history of the genre. Called “You're Not Special,” McCullough laid it right out there in his bracingly true assessment of the graduates:

McCullough

“Dr. Wong, Dr. Keough, Mrs. Novogroski, Ms. Curran, members of the board of education, family and friends of the graduates, ladies and gentlemen of the Wellesley High School class of 2012, for the privilege of speaking to you this afternoon, I am honored and grateful. Thank you.

“So here we are — commencement, life’s great forward-looking ceremony. (And don’t say, ‘What about weddings?’ Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement. And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys trying on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent — during halftime, on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.

“But this ceremony— commencement. A commencement works every time. From this day forward, truly, in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

“No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism. Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue. Normally, I avoid cliches like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field. That matters. That says something. And your ceremonial costume — shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all. Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same. And your diploma — but for your name, exactly the same.

“All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special. You are not special. You are not exceptional.

“Contrary to what your soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you — you’re nothing special.

“Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! And now you’ve conquered high school! And, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building.

“But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.

“The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee... I am allowed to say Needham? Yes? That has to be 2,000 high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians. 37,000 class presidents. 92,000 harmonizing altos. 340,000 swaggering jocks. 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs.

“But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you. Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching 6800 yous go running by. And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. Neither can Donald Trump. Which someone should tell him — although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

“ ‘But, Dave,’ you cry, ‘Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!’ And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another — which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it. Now it’s, “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune — one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School — where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not.

“If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream — just an FYI) I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know, how little you know now, at the moment, for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.

“As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read — read all the time; read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

“The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness —quite an active verb, ‘pursuit’ — which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube. The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life. Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow. The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil. Locally, someone, I forget who, from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem. The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands. (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression — because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once. But because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

“None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion —and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special. Because everyone is.”

ALEXANDER COCKBURN (from a speech delivered in Olympia Washington last month): “We're no longer allowed to have debates, let alone acrimonious disputes. That was all kind of too noisy with people throwing furniture around. Suddenly it's a ‘conversation.’ Join the national ‘conversation.’ You get this image of people sitting around in a circle, like Peace Corps people did in the 60s — sitting on the ground with their legs crossed. And everybody is having this very civilized conversation… ‘Don't you think that the really rich people should have all the money?’ And somebody else says, ‘I'd like to contribute to this conversation.’ They can't scream. And they say very quietly and conversationally, ‘I think that's not a very good idea’.”

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