Weak Front | Save Hitch | Skatepark Meeting | Mosswood Table | Ever Evolving | Eureka Productions | Treefrog Johnson | Destroying Itself | Yesterday's Catch | What's Popular | Amish Style | Flower Fields | Demented Grammys | Chiefs Bet | Undercover Work | Humboldt Honey | Unionization Bill | Open That Door | Breaking News | Constantly Freaked | Fighter Pilot | Empire Propagandists | Ukraine | Second Line | Giants Falling | Old Guy
A WEAK FRONT will clip the northern portion of the area today, bringing a chance of light rain to Del Norte and Northern Humboldt counties this afternoon and evening. After mostly dry weather on Wednesday and Thursday, a better chance of rain is forecast for Thursday night and Friday as another storm system approaches NW California. (NWS)
AV SKATEPARK PROJECT (Noor Dawood)
We've been busy bees since securing the site for the skatepark in November, building our work team, laying the groundwork for student fundraising projects, preparing grant applications, ushering the property transfer along and preparing for custom design!
AV SKATEPARK COMMUNITY DESIGN MEETING #1 (of 2)
Thursday, Feb 16, 6:30pm at AV High, Room 6
We have contracted Frontier Skateparks (read here for more details), a design/build firm out of VA (but with deep roots in CA!), to complete custom design for our skatepark. The design process entails two community meetings in which the designers interact with AV community members to explore future users' preferences and ideas. In this way, we work together to shape our future park. This phase will culminate with a 3-D rendering of our custom-designed skatepark, set in its permanent location, and a more precise cost estimate for construction.
For those interested in participating, please read the following information about what to expect and how to prepare, from Frontier Skateparks designer/builder Mike Greenwald:
The reason I began to design skateparks is that I felt like I was seeing a lack of creativity and progression in the parks that were being built. They all began to look the same and the features within them continued to be reproduced over and over again. As skateboarders, we are taking simple, fundamental tricks and developing and combining them and performing them on different and new terrain. Often times, the terrain causes us to develop new tricks or opportunities to do older tricks in new ways. This is progression that contributes back to the overall body of work that is skateboarding… doing something new that other people can take and build upon. I feel a responsibility to constantly look for and be open to new possibilities in skatepark design.
Concrete is a magical medium: it starts as rock and powder, becomes a liquid, and finally turns into an extremely hard solid. There is no limit to the possible shapes that liquid can take… and so it is with concrete. With imagination and skillful placement and finishing, there is no end to the shapes it can take.
I’d like to encourage your group members to do the following:
1. Challenge yourself to think creatively, beyond features or obstacles that you have either ridden or seen. There are an infinite number of obstacles that haven’t been built or thought of yet… contemplate these and if an image comes into your mind, try and draw it.
2. If there is a specific feature that you are interested in incorporating into the design, draw it and if possible give it a location within the park.
3. Contemplate an obstacle that would push your limits… Maybe it scares you but you’d like to conquer that fear. Try and draw it.
4. If you are having trouble drawing a feature / obstacle, see if you can find and print an image of it.
5. Contemplate this as a goal: we want to build a park that will give a maximum amount of skaters a maximum amount of joy… all at the same time. This is a real spacial challenge!
6. Bring an open and positive mindset to the meeting.
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AV student screen printing launches to create custom merchandise for AV Skatepark Project
In December 2022, AVHS grad and professional artist Cozette Ellis began teaching a weekly screen printing workshop for students on the AV Service Learning Team. Stay tuned for the opening of online sales of hand-printed Skatepark Project t-shirts and totes... as well as announcement of students' new fundraising venture to offer screen printing services to the community!
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Big push for Clean CA Grant application
Much of our energy and time in these months has been focused on preparations for the CalTrans Clean California Local Grant Program application, in hopes of receiving around $500,000-$1,000,000 in state funds to cover skatepark construction and other adjacent park elements and improvements.
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Site Transfer Moves Forward
Per the AVUSD School Board's November decision to transfer the AV Community Park area to the AV Community Services District (for $1) for the explicit purpose of developing a skatepark on the property... the site transfer is now underway!
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Engineering Surveys Underway
We are working with civil engineers Tyler Pearson (Ukiah) and Ron Franz (Boonville) to complete various studies necessary for finalizing skatepark design and the property transfer from AVUSD to AVCSD.
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How you can get involved:
- Share our website and encourage others to sign the petition
- Stay tuned for a list of our current needs and sign up to help.
DERF DIGGLER: I'm the first person to get to sit at the Mosswood Market's new table.…
SUPERVISOR MULHEREN IS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE COUNTY’S UTTER FAILURE OF A POT PERMIT PROGRAM (facebook post)
“Pretty early on in my term on the BOS after a long day of cannabis debate a friend saw me taking my daughter to ice cream in the evening and she rolled down her window and said “Keep your head up, prohibition lasted a hundred years!”
Some people reference all of the laws and regulations will be changing and continuing to be made for at least 10 years (from 2016). If you’re in the industry in Mendo you’ve likely been in it for decades and you’ve already gone through a ton of changes.
“The work isn’t done, it won’t be done for a while. There are still a lot of changes happening, the State is still adjusting, Mendo is still adjusting, the national politics and of course the market is still (and will continue) to adjust.
“Just wanted to say keep your head up, there’s more work to do, stay engaged.”
THE TIME OF THE IRRESPONSIBLES
by Bruce Anderson
Tree Frog Johnson, aka Luis Reynaldo, was a free range pedophile who established himself in the Boonville area in the early 70s, mostly staying with his sanctioned catamite on the property of a back-to-the-land family in the hills a few minutes west of Boonville. Johnson was a much more visible public presence in Mendocino County than the other reclusive, peripatetic perv, Kenneth Parnell, who worked as a night clerk at motels on the Mendocino Coast and, when he was arrested, as night man at the Palace Hotel in Ukiah. Both would become infamous.
A black man in his early 30s when he appeared in Boonville with a small white boy in tow, Tree Frog was immediately embraced by the counterculture as a sort of wise man cum naturalist. And an eager baby sitter.
Tree Frog’s silent child companion, Alex Cabarga, hadn't been kidnapped, he’d been turned over to Tree Frog by his parents, Ted and Diane Cabarga of San Francisco. They seemed to think their son would be better off with Tree Frog.
The abandoned little boy and his guardian lived in a half-finished cabin on the property of the Colfax family of Boonville, three of whose home-schooled sons went on to Harvard. The Colfaxes said they supported themselves by raising goats, but most of their neighbors supported themselves by growing marijuana.
David Colfax went on to become a three-term Mendocino County supervisor. Before that he spent twelve years on the Mendocino County School Board. He has always said he had no idea that his tenant preyed on the small boy with him, and was just as unaware that Tree Frog preyed on as many sons of the counterculture as were put within molesting distance of him.
Boonville counterculture people can claim they didn’t know that Tree Frog was a walking evil, but that opinion doesn’t explain why the hippies “shunned” Tree Frog when they finally figured out that Frog was an ongoing menace to children. Shunning was supposed to be a kind of internal exile, but the hapless, undefended Cabarga, instead of being retrieved from a childhood of terror and forced sex, was shunned right along with his captor. It apparently didn't occur to anyone to call “The Man.” Better to leave a child with a criminal than a quick call to 911.
The Boonville hippies shunned Frog all the way to Albion, a 30 minute hop from the Anderson Valley, where Tree Frog and his diminutive sex slave lived in Tree Frog’s step-van at Albion’s “alternative” Whale School for another year before they moved to San Francisco where, months after kidnapping an East Bay child named Tara Burke three months before her third birthday, they were finally arrested.
With Tree Frog the lead story on television and newspapers everywhere in the country, Alex Cabarga, now in his 20s, was described by Chronicle columnist Art Hoppe as “soft-featured and slow-eyed” when he appeared in court on kidnapping charges. Cabarga’s formative years, like Steven Stayner’s, had been spent in the hills of Mendocino County with a sexual psychopath. But Cabarga was 9-years-old when his parents turned the boy over to Tree Frog because, Mom said, the boy needed a father, and who could be a better dad than this guy?
It was Alex Cabarga at age 17 who, as always doing what Tree Frog told him to do, had run out of Tree Frog’s step-van and snatched little Tara Burke from her parent’s car at a shopping center parking lot. Tara's parents had left her in the car with her 9-year-old brother. Cabarga tapped on the window, telling the 9-year-old that his mother wanted him. When the kid opened the car door, Cabarga grabbed his little sister and ran off with her.
Cabarga’s oblivious mother, Diane Cabarga, writing as if she were an innocent bystander, summed up: “If the tragedy of my son’s life, his arrest and conviction for kidnapping and sexually molesting 2-year-old Tara Burke, has any purpose at all, it may be that it will help to focus public attention on a social problem which has reached a magnitude that is beyond belief. In 1982 in California, the Department of Social Services received 119,000 reports of cases of child abuse (and, of course, there were many more unreported cases). A large percentage of these involved sexual abuse, most of them perpetrated by a family member. Usually, by the child’s father, step-father, or by a close and trusted friend of the family, a baby sitter or a teacher.
“While Alex’s case is extremely unusual in many ways, there are certain aspects which are classic. Luis Tree Frog Johnson, who already has been sentenced to 527 years in prison for his offenses against the little girl, was a trusted friend who was accepted as a surrogate parent for Alex from the time the boy was nine years old. Not until their arrest the day after Alex’s 18th birthday, on December 18, 1982, did we discover that he had been sexually molested and beaten up all of that time by Tree Frog.
“Our son’s case is but a sensational example of this very widespread problem. For one thing, it brings to light the fact that both men and occasionally women are seducing and raping both boys and girls at very early ages, as early as infancy. Secondly, it demonstrates how hidden the sexual relationship can be, both from other family members and from members of the community. There are signs to indicate the problem exists, but they are subtle and one has to be aware of the syndrome before being able to recognize them. Unfortunately, we were not.
“When an adult, especially a trusted parent figure, has sex with a child (called incest), he is using the power of his size, age and respected position to betray the child’s innocence. One of the first noticeable signs in the child is the change from a free, outgoing innocence to a withdrawn, fearful distrust. The offender always makes the child swear not to tell anyone, which is obviously necessary to protect his crime from being discovered as well as to allow the acts to continue. In addition, there is the psychological manipulation used on the child to create guilt and to arouse a binding sense of loyalty. The child is soon totally under the control of the adult, and has lost his or her will and self-esteem to such an extent that the child feels completely helpless and trapped. Children will rarely admit what is happening even when a loved and trusted parent or teacher tries to find out what is bothering them.”
Tara Burke was with Tree Frog and Cabarga while all three were in and out of the Whale School in Albion, a counterculture enterprise at the center of the so-called Albion Nation. Nobody said a word. Never, ever would a true hippie go to The Man. Heck, Frog was just doing his thing, as was at least one more child molester at the Whale School who serially molested a young, loosely supervised pre-teen girl over a period of years. When that child’s stoned parents tardily discovered that the nice photographer who was so kind to their child was not the disinterested teacher they’d thought he was, instead of having him arrested, they settled on a long-term financial settlement, the matter being resolved “within the community,” as the hippie propagandist Beth Bosk would later describe the crime’s mercenary resolution.
I would see Tree Frog around Boonville on his under-sized motorcycle, the little white boy riding pillion behind him. I knew who they were, wasn’t much interested in who they were. So many unusual visuals presented themselves in those days that this improbable couple was simply one more among the passing parade. And in this case, to ask who they were was to risk accusations of racism.
“What’s strange about a black man and a little white boy?”
Nothing cabrones, but que pasa? Is he the step-father or what? Looks like a weirdo to me, and not a man to be in charge of a small boy. Which was judgmental and extremely “uptight,” as moral equivalence was called then.
As it happened, I had a step-van for sale in the Boonville time of The Frog. It had been given to me by a social worker who had only occasionally gone camping in it. But I could never get it to reliably run, and I wanted to get rid of it before it became a permanent part of my front yard. I put it up for sale. Tree Frog came to look at it.
A man had called to say a friend of his wanted to look at my step-van. Two men soon appeared, one of them a standard-issue longhair, amiable, pleasant. The other was introduced simply as Tree Frog. He was an unimposing, silent, dark, Latin-looking man with a round face, a long pig tail and quick, furtive movements that prevented me from looking at him straight on. Years later when Tree Frog was arrested I was surprised to read his description as black, but I wasn’t surprised that his real name was Luis Johnson.
The white hippie did all the talking while Tree Frog examined the van. He never said a word in the ten minutes he and his pal were there, never so much as looked in my direction. Later, when I saw the white hippie downtown, as Boonville’s one bar, one market and post office was called, I asked him if his friend was some kind of mute. “No, he just doesn’t like straight people. He never talks when are straights around.”
Several years later, city detectives investigating the Tree Frog and Cabarga kidnapping case came to Boonville with a portfolio of photos of nude children, many of them Boonville kids, the rest of them, I supposed, from the Mendocino Coast. The cops spent a couple of days in Boonville attaching names to the pictures, then they went out to the Whale School at Albion where they were denied access to the property and where nobody would talk to them about the man who had undoubtedly preyed on their children, too.
Tree Frog got a royal flush of life sentences, Cabarga, clearly one of the many victims of the monster, spent almost two decades in prison. He has married and, I'm told, lives a conventional life.
GLUB, GLUB, GLUB
America is slowly being allowed by its government and citizens to destroy itself. We have gun violence every day, and nothing is done. The government does nothing, and voters allow it. We are told the Second Amendment allows gun possession, so that’s it. Well, the Second Amendment was passed in 1791, and I don’t think it meant the types of guns being used now. It’s rather ridiculous to compare those times to now and use that as an excuse.
Congress has an easy ride because it seems all they do is argue and belittle each other and lie. We have elected liars, and nothing is done. Take a look online at benefits they get. Being in Congress isn’t a bad deal. It’s sad that the government and citizens of this country have allowed it to sink to the level it has, and it will continue until citizens wake up and do something about it.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Monday, February 6, 2023
JORDAN CAMPBELL, Willits. Battery on peace officer.
MAGICK EVANS, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, battery on peace officer, resisting.
JESUS HERRERA, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
TIMOTHY OCONNELL, Clearlake/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
JONATHAN PARKER, Covelo. Failure to appear.
SAUL RAMOS-CERANO, Modesto/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
RONNIE SALAMONE, Willits. Under influence, parole violation.
SCOTTY WILLIS, Ukiah. Trespassing. (Frequent flyer.)
BILL KIMBERLIN: I posted this on my “American Nitro” Facebook site and it got over 139,000 views. That just shows the power of movies and American legends.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Empires come and go, always have. And they leave behind the ruins of once great buildings in ancient capital cities. We like to explore these historic places as tourists. Imagine someday in the future “touring” through the ruins of our former automobile culture. Imagine places like Las Vegas or Gatlinburg TN all boarded up, vandalized, and crumbling apart while being scrapped for building materials. Imagine derelict and rotting skyscrapers being explored by the wanderers of a century from now. Imagine North America returning to the way it’s been for the last 30,000 years or so. Inhabited by squabbling semi-tribesmen living the good life in simplicity, Living Amish style. Clopping down dirt roads in horse drawn buggies and using coal and wood powered steam engine trains for long distances. No soup for you! And no nat gas or petroleum!
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FLOWER CARRIERS?
From Diego Rivera's Paintings to the Fields of California
Text and Photographs by David Bacon
Along West Ocean Avenue in the summer of 2022, where Lompoc, California's flower fields meet the edge of town, workers from Oaxaca and Guerrero wereharvesting stock flowers. Even far from the rows where they labored, breezes carried the overpowering, almost sickly-sweet fragrance from thousands of blooms.
Stock flowers often anchor elaborate floral arrangements at funerals, their familiar smell calling up memories of churches and death. In Mexico, where Day of the Dead displays always feature brilliant orange marigolds, a family that has lost a child sometimes substitutes white stock blossoms on their altar. For them, the scent and color exercise a singular power to awaken memories of lost innocence.
Workers in the Lompoc field were harvesting stock flowers in several colors—white for funerals, as well as deep purple, pale yellow, violet, and an orangey rose. As each worker moved down a row, he’d pull up a plant, roots and all. Gathering together half a dozen stalks, he’d reach for one of the paper-covered wire ties hanging from his belt. Wrapping the tie around the stems, he’d spin the bunch of flowers like a propeller, twisting it tight and banding them together.…
WHAT THE DEVIL WERE THE GRAMMYS DOING LETTING SAM ‘SATAN’ SMITH TROLL MOST OF AMERICA?
by Piers Morgan
What’s the best way to piss off half of America in less than five minutes?
It would be hard to beat what the Grammys did last night when they had pigtailed, filler-face-plumped Madonna introduce non-binary singer Sam Smith — who first came out as gay, then gender-fluid, and now demands to be called “they” — to perform a duet of a song called “Unholy,” with a transgender artist named Kim Petras, in which Smith dressed up as Satan in red tunic, hat and horns while dancers performed a devil-worshipping ritual around him, as “they” and Petras sang about a married couple who leave their children home to both commit adultery.
Oh, and then reveal it was all sponsored by Viagra manufacturer Pfizer!
“If they call you shocking, scandalous, troublesome, problem, provocative or dangerous,” Madonna, increasingly resembling an embalmed version of the Bride of Wildenstein, told the crowd, “you are definitely on to something.”
What if they — OK, me — just call you, Madonna, a toe-curling, embarrassing shambles of a once-great pop star, now best suited for annual appearances on Halloween?
And what if they — OK, me again — think Sam “Satan” Smith’s desperation for attention is now fueled by a demented desire to be just as pathetically vulgar and repellent as the aging disgracefully Material Girl?
I wouldn’t go as far as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who tweeted about Smith’s performance: “This…is…evil.”
But judging by the instant fury that erupted on social media, I suspect many of his fellow Texans, and many of the other 210 million Christians in America, will have been very offended by this deliberate mockery of their Christian beliefs.
Petras made no secret of that being the intent, saying: “It’s a take on not being able to live the way that people might want you to live because as a trans person, I’m already not kind of wanted in religion. So, we were doing a take on that, and I was kind of hell keeper Kim.”
When they finished their incendiary act, host Trevor Noah pretended to be on the phone to his mother as he said: “No, Mom, it wasn’t the actual Devil … yeah, you did warn me about Hollywood.”
Then he turned back to the audience and quipped: “She says she’ll be praying for all of us.”
I’ve no idea whether Noah’s mother will be saying any prayers, though she should probably say one that her son gets a lot funnier than he was last night before his awards-hosting career comes to an abrupt, laughter-devoid halt.
But I do know this whole unedifying stunt didn’t have a prayer of doing anything but unnecessarily enraging vast swaths of a country already bitterly divided by toxic political partisanship.
Someone who seemed to get this was Ben Affleck, sitting with a forced half-smile next to his new wife, Jennifer Lopez, as Noah tossed out his lame religious gags.
In fact, every time the TV cameras fell on the movie star’s face, he looked increasingly miserable.
As “music’s biggest night” wore on, and on, and on, Affleck’s exhausted eyes glazed into the kind of expression normally only seen in hostage videos.
Meanwhile, J.Lo giggled, hooted, clapped, and shimmied around like a hyperactive Labrador, absolutely loving it.
“Ben Affleck, blink if you’re okay,” tweeted one concerned fan.
But who can blame him?
The whole night wasn’t just too long, it was also laced with lashings of what now seem to be the three obligatory awards show ingredients: absurdity, political virtue-signaling, and hypocrisy.
The absurdity came from the likes of Harry Styles, who looked like he’d been wrapped in a giant piece of Christmas tinsel and sang like I sang at my family’s post-lunch festive karaoke competition — which is not a compliment.
The virtue-signaling came when first lady Jill Biden appeared on stage to present an Iranian singer with an award for his song that has become a protest anthem in the repressed regime.
And then there was the hypocrisy.
Beyoncé became the biggest Grammy winner in history with a swag bag of awards for her album “Renaissance (Act 1),” which has been lauded as an “LGBTQ+ battle cry.”
“I’d like to thank the queer community for your love,” she said in her tearful acceptance speech.
Bey had previously declared her mission with the record was to create a “safe place, a place without judgment … a place to scream, release, feel freedom.”
All very laudable, right to the point she then accepted a reported $24 million fee to perform two weeks ago at a hotel launch in Dubai, where it’s illegal to be gay, and neglected to sing any of her pro-LGBTQ+ songs on “Renaissance” lest it offend her paymasters.
Beyoncé’s a brilliantly talented superstar, but this was preposterously, jaw-droppingly two-faced, and a massive kick in the teeth to the “queer community” who’d shown her such love.
I much preferred the typically blunt honesty from Ozzy Osbourne, who wasn’t there and sent up a producer to deliver his seven-word thank-you speech: “I love you all and f— off.”
I’m all for the Grammys celebrating the best of the year’s music, and for being a bit edgy as they do so, and last night’s show was a superbly produced if overextended concert.
But why troll America’s heartland so egregiously in the process?
(New York Post)
IN UNDERCOVER YOU’RE ACTING FOR YOUR LIFE
by Alex Sanchez (not his real name)
I work four nights a week, from ten until eight in the morning. I’ve gotten used to it. When I get off Monday morning — that’s my Friday — I come home, and if I have nothing to do, I’ll take a nap for a couple of hours or so. Then, I'll get up and I'll be good for the rest of the day. I’ve been on night shift since I got promoted to sergeant two years ago. I got a $2 raise and a $10 headache. Obviously, you need to move up the ranks if you want to get an increase in salary. The responsibilities are a little different now, you get to teach, and mentor, helping those below you. You have the responsibility to train them, and hopefully create more little monsters like me.
A lot of the original gangsters, the old-timers, they know who I am. I used to be out there hunting and chasing them down. Then I went off the streets for many years, doing undercover stuff. Now that I’m back on the street, as a sergeant, they look at me and they go, “What’s up?” You know. They say, “Teach these youngsters good.” And the younger cops will look at that and kind of laugh.
It’s neat when you have a good reputation out there.
Currently, I’m on patrol. I have to prepare stuff for roll-call — what’s been going on with scheduling, who’s coming in, who’s not. Put the officers in their respective beats that they’re working that night. If there were any crimes that happened the day before we’ll give out information about wanted suspects at briefing. We usually have some sort of a training exercise. Updated case law, tactical stuff, officer safety issues, department policies. If something happens, we debrief that — where we went, if we did it right, where we made mistakes — always to better ourselves. That’s what we do at roll-call, which is usually the first half-hour of the shift. Then we sign out the cars, and everybody goes ten-eight — meaning going to service. They go out there and start handling calls. Whatever it might be — anything from petty theft, drive-by shootings, homicides, burglary…
We’ve really brought the homicide rate down from what it used to be. We’ve pretty much stopped gang violence. With the three strikes law a lot of the criminals are in prison for a very long time. Many of the hardcore folks are done. That has helped. An aggressive effort on our part has also made a difference. Occasionally gang wars will act up and these guys will start shooting at one another, or doing drive-bys and so on. We'll immediately move in, getting officers to work specific gang suppression details, aside from our usual gang units, and we'll do parole and probation searches. Basically hit back real hard, making arrests, trying to find evidence.
HOW CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE SKIRTS ITS OWN LAWS
by Sameea Kamal
California legislators pass hundreds of laws every year. But sometimes, they free themselves from following them.
On one emblamatic issue, however, this may be the session when that changes: Lawmakers, who have pushed through major bills to support unions throughout California, may finally let their own staffers organize.
For at least the fifth time in the last 25 years, the effort came to an anticlimactic end last year as a legislative unionization bill passed the state Senate, but failed in an Assembly committee on the last day of the session.
This year, there are a lot of pieces in place that could help the new push. For one: the amount of turnover in what is now California’s most diverse Legislature ever.
The legislation was revived — and highlighted as Assembly Bill 1 on the first day of the current session Dec. 5 — by new Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, who leads the committee where it has died four out of the five times it has been proposed.
“It is hypocritical as legislators that we ask our employees to staff committees and write legislation that often expands collective bargaining rights for other workers in California, but we intentionally prohibit our own workers from having the same right,” the Inglewood Democrat said at a press conference introducing the bill in December.
In addition, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon supports the idea of staff unionization. The incoming speaker, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who is set to take the top leadership post on June 30, is one of 20 Assemblymembers and seven senators whose names were on the bill at introduction.
A wave of unionization in Democratic state legislatures across the country, plus among some congressional staff, could also help the cause. Oregon became the first state to allow legislative staff to unionize in 2021. Similar efforts were started in Massachusetts, New York and Washington state.
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher one of the most prominent union champions in the Legislature from 2013 until last year, when she resigned from the Assembly to become head of the California Labor Federation — says there’s no legitimate reason for legislative staff to be blocked from collective bargaining.
“It’s an argument that we hear always in unionizing efforts: Our place of work is special, it’s different, we have unique challenges,” she told CalMatters. “We have unions that are used to dealing with a variety of sticky situations. That’s something that can be worked out.”
At last count, there are more than 1,800 full-time staffers in the Assembly and Senate, including legislative directors, district coordinators, secretaries and aides.
Unionization isn’t the only area where the Legislature exempts itself.The state Senate and Assembly also set rules for other state agencies and businesses that they don’t require themselves to follow: minimum wage, whistleblower protections, public access and more.Dan Schnur, a politics professor at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine University, says there’s “no coherent argument” to be made on why legislators should not abide by the laws they pass for other Californians. He also argues that “rules for thee” damages civic engagement.
“This is exactly the type of double standard that makes voters across the ideological spectrum absolutely despise politics and politicians,” he said.
Legislative staffers unite
State employees other than legislative staff were granted the right to collective bargaining in the Ralph C. Dills Act, signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1977.
Of the 200,000-plus state workers, more than 80% are represented in one of 21 bargaining units; managers, supervisors and some others are excluded. Last week, for instance, the union representing more than 2,700 state scientists rejected a contract offer from the Newsom administration. The union, which has been without an agreement since July 2020, is seeking 43% raises.
Concerns about past staff unionization bills have included treating the Assembly and Senate as one joint employer though they operate independently, as well as potential timing conflicts between labor contracts and legislative terms.
Other lawmakers have also flagged concerns about outside interests such as unions having a say in the Legislature’s operations, where constituents’ voices are meant to be prioritized above all else.
But staff members say long hours and low pay can also be damaging to democracy.
“People are comfortable trying to exploit our passions for public service,” said Aubrey Rodriguez, a legislative director. “That’s why a union is absolutely needed.”
Unionization isn’t the only labor law the Legislature exempts itself from. Lawmakers also aren’t required to pay minimum wage — though many choose to do so — or to pay overtime. And until 2018, legislative staff weren’t included under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which prohibits retaliation against state employees who report misconduct.
A foggy glass house
The Legislature wasn’t immune from the Me Too movement, which raised awareness into rampant sexual harassment and abuse in workplaces. In 2018, leaders released a decade’s worth of records that included 18 cases of alleged sexual harassment and that named four lawmakers then serving — but only after public pressure and the threat of court intervention.
Also in response, Senate and Assembly leaders created the Workplace Conduct Unit in 2019. Last December, the unit released its first report, which said that since February 2019, 91 cases were substantiated and 86 resulted in disciplinary action, including nine dismissals.
The goal was to clear up the “erroneous assumption that allegations are not being substantiated or that discipline has not been imposed,” according to an August 2022 letter from legislative leaders to fellow lawmakers and staff.
But beyond the high-level numbers, the letter didn’t provide a lot of detail. It did not include names or specify disciplinary actions, other than the terminations.
That’s concerning to Ruth Ferguson, a former legislative staff member who helped start the Stop Sexual Harassment in Politics coalition after her unsatisfactory experience with the Workplace Conduct Unit.
“It appears they haven’t kept that promise of reporting out high-level staffers or members who have been found to have done something inappropriate,” Ferguson told CalMatters. “It makes me wonder: Why hasn’t the public been given an explanation as to why?”
The Legislature is exempt from the Public Records Act that applies to other state agencies. Instead, it’s covered by the Legislative Open Records Act, which does not require the release of misconduct reports.
The anti-sexual harassment coalition will focus this year on trying again to pass a bill to amend the Legislative Open Records Act to require the release of those records, using language similar to a law passed in 2021 that applies to disclosing police misconduct.
“The justification [for those bills] was that there’s this lack of trust and transparency and that greater transparency would result in a fair and more just system,” Ferguson said. “I think similarly that’s really true in this case. For staffers in the legislature and the public, there’s no accountability mechanism.”
Public meetings are another area where the Legislature doesn’t have to be as transparent as other elected officials. The 1953 Ralph M. Brown Act and the 1967 Bagley-Keene Act require local governments and state agencies to conduct business at open meetings, with some exceptions for closed sessions requiring confidentiality, such as personnel issues.
The logic: “The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.”
But that doesn’t apply to the Legislature. Undera 1973 law, legislators can gather privately in partisan caucuses. For example, Assembly Democrats met behind closed doors for six hours at the state Capitol last spring on the speakership fight, then hammered out the deal for Rivas to succeed Rendon as speaker in another six-hour private meeting in November at the Sacramento Convention Center.
“The most angry and resentful populists in both parties are driven by the accurate belief that most politicians think that they’re better than the rest of society,” Schnur said. “Every one of these double standards reinforces that belief.”
Open the door, Richard
Open the door and let me in
Open the door, Richard
Richard, why don't you open that door
I met old zeke standing on the corner the other day.
That cat sure was booted with the liquor.
He was what?
He was abnoxicated.
He was what?
He was inebriated.
He was what?
Well, he was just plain drunk.
Well, alright then!
He was sure salty with the bartender.
The bartender's trying to make him by another drink.
Zeke told the bartender,
There ain't no need of me buying no drinks when everyone else is buying them.
I'm going to drink to everybody's health, till I ruin my own.
Open the door, Richard!
Why don't he know who he's throwing outta that joint?
Why I'll go back in that joint and take a short stick and bust it down to the ground!
Open the door, Richard!
But I hate to be caught out on the street like this cause I got class I ain't never used yet.
But I guess I better get on in the house cause I don't want my pastor to catch me out like this.
Open the door, Richard!
Now look at that old woman across the street,
Done stuck her head outta the window calling her sister.
Look at her and her sister saying, 'ain't that him, ain't that him?'
Yes it's me, and I'm drunk again.
Open the door, Richard!
I know he's in there cause I got on the clothes.
They can't throw him out cause I owe just as much back rent as he does.
Imagine that old woman charging us three dollars a month
And getting mad cause we 12 months in the arrears.
Come meeting me last Thursday saying,
'ain't you boys going to give me some back rent?'
I told her she'd be lucky if she got some front rent.
Open the door, Richard!
Come on, open the door.
Cause I'm standing here scratching in my pants pocket
And standing here groping in my coat pocket
And standing here feeling in my shirt pocket
And I can't find the key.
Open the door, Richard!
Open the door, Richard
Open the door and let me in
Open the door, Richard
Richard, why don't you open that door
GOVERNMENT BY PANIC
We may never know if it was spying, but the Chinese balloon served its purpose, feeding our political establishment's tireless efforts to keep the public freaked out.
by Matt Taibbi
“This is completely an isolated and accidental incident caused by force majeure, but the U.S. still hyped up the incident on purpose and even used force to attack.” — Chinese foreign minister Mao Ning
Empires can’t be ruled without belief. Without confidence in official words, subjects will lack direction, becoming “lost at sea,” as Revolt of the Public author Martin Gurri put it. They’ll support Brexit, Catalan independence, Trump; they’ll wear yellow vests, throw away masks, even refuse the shot. When you tell them Beto O’Rourke is Robert Kennedy, they vote as if he were Ralph Nader.
Now take a hypothetical. Say you’re a member of the American political establishment after the 2016 election of Donald Trump. You’re staring at four years as part of a government-in-exile and need a new message to solve your belief problem. What’s your answer?
My hypothesis is such people never bothered to find one. Instead, they declared a state of emergency.
What emergency? Doesn’t matter. Russian interference was a good startup disaster, but you can keep changing them. The important thing is the pattern. One, declare a crisis. Two, spread panic. Three, take emergency measures. If you do this over and over, you end up with permanent crisis, permanent panic, permanent emergency rule. So long as new crises keep evoking unconscious fear and anxiety, the legitimacy of the political establishment is continuously justified.
An episode that took place over the weekend speaks directly to our leaders’ new dependence on government-by-panic. A Chinese balloon of unknown etiology drifted into American airspace, and wigs flipped from coast to coast. The episode ended in Kubrickian spoof, with one unsmiling official after another lining up to declare victory over a balloon. And nobody thought it was odd.
The Chinese airship was declared a “spy balloon” on the Internet instantaneously. Hype and fear built all weekend until finally, in a story I initially thought was a joke, the United States military shot the thing down off the coast of South Carolina with an F-22 Raptor jet launched from Langley Air Force in Virginia.
The comedy factor is off the charts. The F-22 is one of the most expensive weapons ever built, costing taxpayers $334 million per plane, with a program tab of more than $60 billion. The jet has the radar signature of a hummingbird, screams upward at 62,000 feet a minute, and is generally so super-awesome that we’ve banned its export, not wanting the Japanese or the Saudis or even the Australians to possess our secret Promethean fire.
The idea that this celebrated super-weapon got its first air-to-air victory shooting down a fucking balloon is as perfect a demonstration of the pitiful mindset of modern American leaders as could be conceived. That it apparently happened before we were even sure it was a spy craft, just before supposed diplomatic talks with China, and while more sophisticated Chinese satellites zoomed over us in space made this an even more damning satirical bullseye.
News stories full of frightened official commentary were legion. They dragged out a NORAD general to warn us there’s “a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.” New York Senator Chuck Schumer gave an impromptu presser stressing that the balloon episode could end up being a good thing. “We can learn a great deal about China’s capabilities and what they are up to,” he said, referring to the chance to retrieve balloon debris. Former CIA head Leon Panetta ripped Joe Biden for not shooting the balloon down sooner, instead of letting it “traverse the entire country.” Secretary of State Tony Blinken admitted upcoming talks with China mattered, but balloon freakout took precedence.
“We continue to believe that having open lines of communication is important,” pronounced Blinken. “But the most important thing right now is to see that this surveillance asset gets out of our airspace, and we’ll take it from there.”
Translation: I have real diplomatic work to do, but the tenuous nature of my authority requires I spend the weekend humping a panic button, so my government can keep the public in a nervous stupor and ultimately declare victory over a balloon.
In America, the ritual of panic has now become more important than real-world governance. We became a world power building cars, planes, light bulbs. Now we make panics, and tending to them is the first business of state.
Try this exercise. Go to Google (I stopped using that devious propaganda site about a month ago, but it’s useful for this exercise). Enter “attack on our democracy,” “attacks on democracy,” or any similar phrase. You’ll find a deluge. Here’s a brief thumbnail list of “attacks” we’ve endured since late 2016:
November, 2016, Trump’s “Russian interference”-aided election. Regularly characterized as a 9/11-like moment, so much so that it would soon become known as “the 2016 attack on our democracy,” or an “unprecedented attack on our democracy.”
July, 2017, revelations of Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyers. ”Americans need to close ranks against Putin’s attack on our democracy,” declared the CIA’s onetime Moscow station chief Steven Hall, in the Washington Post.
September 2019, Ukrainegate. “This was an attack on our democracy,” Rhode Island congressman David Cicilline said.
November 6, 2020, Trump’s speech claiming Democrats were trying to “steal” the election. ”At its core, the President’s speech was an attack on our democracy,” wrote NYU law scholar Anne Milgram in CNN, in a piece headlined, “Trump’s brazen attack on our democracy.”
January 6th, 2021, Capitol Riots. Joe Biden called this the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.”
March 26, 2021, Georgia’s “voter suppression” bill. “The law signed in GA today is a blatant attempt to suppress the votes of Black Americans and an attack on our democracy,” said Bill Clinton.
October, 2022, the assault on Paul Pelosi. “The attack on Paul Pelosi was an attempt to intimidate all of us. Don’t let it,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle.
Note that in each of these cases, “attack” language spread far and wide, rarely confining itself to a few commentators. Matt Orfalea made a video about how quickly the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War” language spread:
The “attacks on our democracy” list has grown too big for the press to manage. It’s become humorously common for news organizations to lump them in bunches, ala a Vox article last year about “Four Threats to Democracy,” or PBS learning via poll that 2 out of 3 Americans think democracy is under an unspecified threat, or an incredible Washington Post article from 2020 called “Trump’s most worrying attacks on democracy, in one giant chart.” You needed a magnifying glass the size of Columbus Circle to read that thing, and that was in just one article! There were so many more.
The Post by the end of the Trump years was collecting “attacks on our democracy” the way the New York Times used to collect “ties” to Russia. Its chief media writer Margaret Sullivan even wrote a piece insisting that reporters needed to stay close to the hyperbolic “attack” framing, resist the urge to look at “both sides,” and “stop being savvy, and start being patriotic.” New Journalism 101: stay panicked, and if anything moves in your direction (like a balloon), stab it with a flagpole: “Our democracy is under attack. Washington’s journalists must stop covering it like politics as usual.”
This subject is on my mind among other things because an emerging subtext of the #TwitterFiles reporting that’s been keeping me away from the site recently (I’ve been on the road, as I’ll explain soon) has to do with a widening network of shadowy new institutions built to feed the national panic machine.
After Trump’s election the old think-tanks and academic organizations we relied upon to give credibility to official pronouncements had a makeover. Suddenly a parade of new, official-sounding outlets began appearing and entering the lexicon. They served both as news sources and as homes for researchers who would “help” private platforms and journalists assess “inauthentic” or “fake” or “dangerous” content, or foreign threats. Hamilton 68, which we now know helped spawn countless news stories misidentifying organic Internet conversation as Russian influence activities, was just one of dozens.
From the “Center for Countering Digital Hate“ to the Atlantic Council’s “Digital Forensic Research Lab“ or Harvard’s “Technology and Social Change Project“ (shut down last Friday in a mysterious development) or dozens of others, the landscape is now littered with extravagantly funded institutions, many supported not just by the government but by money from defense or intelligence agencies. These outlets exist to feed public panics and reinforce narratives about the system being under immediate “existential” threat. Nearly every one of them will have a reference to “democracy under attack” somewhere on their face or about pages.
These institutions were designed to address an emergency, all right, but never the one they claim to be concerned about. The real crisis is the loss of public faith in government. To keep the public’s heresy in check, these groups are pumping the Internet full of tales from the bottomless well of panic narratives they craft, many about foreign subversion or domestic extremism. The idea is to get the public in a place where it will spend days terrified of a foreign balloon flying overhead, or obsessing about the nature of the balloon’s mission, or raging at the government’s impotence against the balloon, or whatever. Anything is fine, so long as people aren’t calm, happy, and free to assess world events with a sober, independent mind.
We don’t ask, “Are we sure it’s not just a weather balloon drifted off course? Because we’d look stupid sending an F-22 to blow it out of the sky in that case.” It’s unlikely the press will follow up much on the question, either. The panic is now the point, and once that passes, so does our interest, no matter what the truth of what just happened.
THE WESTERN MEDIA CLASS is a cloistered, incestuous circle jerk that only cares about impressing other members of the cloistered, incestuous circle jerk. It doesn't care about creating an informed populace or holding the powerful to account, it cares about approval, inclusion and acclaim from its own ranks, regardless of what propagandistic reporting is required to obtain it. The Pulitzers are mostly just a bunch of empire propagandists giving each other trophies for being good at empire propaganda.
— Caitlin Johnstone
UKRAINE, MONDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov is not expected to be replaced this week, Ukraine's parliamentary leader said as President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes up his government amid a growing corruption scandal.
Ukrainian troops will begin training with Germany's Leopard tanks on Monday, Reznikov said. Tank crews are already in the UK training on the Challenger 2.
There's no sign of Ukraine retreating from the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group said. A Ukrainian leader described the city as a “stronghold.”
WHERE DO THINGS STAND?
by James Kunstler
Have you forgotten the Chinese balloon incident yet? Don’t worry, you will. It was just a momentary distraction from the slow-motion crack-up of our country. And it came along with a boffo jobs report, led by hiring in “leisure and hospitality.” Oddly, the same month saw a record car re-po number, even higher than it was in the depths of the 2009 Great Financial Fiasco — raising the question: how will all those people without cars actually get to Disney World? And if they do, what will they use for money there?
America was bundled up last week, huddled beside space heaters and wood-stoves against an Arctic super-blast that also distracted us from the global warming scare-talk which the agit-prop industry has ramped up to replace the disintegrating Covid-19 story in the public’s attention-space. Lesson: The more impotent and inept our government gets, the more it will seek the appearance of exquisite control over everything… employment… the weather. The key fallacy of the climate change crusade is that there’s nothing our government can do about it except posture and pretend — and issue more idiotic regulations that prevent people from doing business and leading their lives.
The citizenry, a.k.a. the public, has been successfully divided and groomed into two political factions. On the Left: those who believe anything government officials tell them, no matter how absurd. Most of that faction’s senior members used to be people who believed nothing the government told them, but then they got “Woke.” Now, they believe that mRNA vaccines are really good for you… that basing all social conduct on skin color will exorcise racism from society… and that sexual confusion is the highest-and-best psychological state of being. If you try to debate any of these points with them, they’ll block or cancel you. If that doesn’t work, they’ll orchestrate a new episode of political chaos as an excuse to push you around.
On the Right: those skeptical and worried about government overreach, those opposed to meddlesome official censorship, those who resist the manipulation of language to invert and subvert a formerly coherent value-system, those who recognize a hustle when they see it and coercion when they feel it, those who respect the long struggle of mankind to construct a comprehensible view of reality and mechanisms for testing it. Those who insist on a certain degree of personal liberty under a fair and upright rule-of-law.
Nothing is more self-evident than how implacably at-odds these two factions are. The ascendance of the Left follows exactly our glide-path into collapse. The so-called mass formation phenomenon rises as a function of suppressed panic over America’s wobbling business model, especially among the managerial class and the “experts” who are supposedly in charge. The more their management and expertise fails, the more desperately they seek to control every lever of daily life. Pretty soon, their policies become mindless — in the pure sense of the word.
The Right perceives that its opponents have lost their minds, but there is no arguing with people who are literally insane. What must be done is to wrest political power away from them. In the madness of the Left, power is solely a destructive force, and coercion is a form of pleasure-seeking. Unable to control the dynamics in-play, they seek to wreck the dynamics, to induce as much chaos as possible, so as to punish the non-insane.
That is exactly what the Green New Deal does. Unable to control the dynamic disruptive changes in the global oil-and-gas industry that our high-tech economies depend on, the Left pretends that there is work-around “Green” energy system that can replace fossil fuels with wind and solar devices that don’t scale up and which require fossil fuels to make and deploy. It’s slick and grandiosely hypothetical (i.e., wishful thinking), and the net effect of this major crusade will be to hasten the collapse and impoverishment of our society (ergo: the punishment).
Keep all this in mind as you watch the Congressional inquiries now just getting underway. Much as they are likely to reveal the insane and arguably criminal machinations of a panicked bureaucracy, and the figures who run it, the Left will remain impervious to any truthful revelations that emerge. Of course, many of these officials are culpable for actions extremely damaging to the people of this land, and the masses on the Left who supported those actions — such as mandatory vaccinations — will be among the most damaged. These True Believers will find it hard to admit that they did it to themselves.
So, the hearings upcoming, such as the House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government, will probably not change the minds of your friends and relatives stuck in the mass formation of Jacobin-Wokery. But the hearings will be a step in wresting power away from these maniacs. Part of that step must be to demonstrate the dishonesty of recent elections, so as to remove the implanted mechanisms that enabled that dishonesty: mail-in, no-ID ballots, “motor-voter” laws, electronic vote-counting machines. If that can be fixed, the left can be voted out of power.
The hearings will take place against the back-drop of our deteriorating charade over in Ukraine. The Zelensky regime that we employed to foment this conflict with Russia is losing its mojo for creating chaos in that corner of the world. The newly-announced tank caper will amount to nothing. Russia’s war-aim is simple: the elimination of chaos on its border. This rational objective is something that America’s Party of Chaos can’t understand. How will it react when chaos gets cancelled in Ukraine? Probably by attempting to foment chaos in another corner of the world, or on the home front — another reason that power must be wrested away from it.
Also, of course, there is the deteriorating economic scene in the background of things political. The insolvency contagion is spreading now among the big boys — the global corps, the national brands, the car-makers, the giant retailers who are shuttering their outlets by the hundreds. This change on the economic landscape is actually a positive trend. As the giants fall, their roles in daily life will be assumed by the smaller organisms occupying niches in local economic ecologies. This is one bright horizon for young people otherwise sunk in hopelessness. Get ready to do business! Opportunity awaits! When you embrace it, your insanity will dissolve and the world will look meaningful again.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
THE TIME OF THE IRRESPONSIBLES
At its core the hippy culture was a combination of the rejection of all American/Western/Christian/human convention coupled with “creating your own reality”. I am sure some good came of it, there always is, but I have no idea what that would be.
RE; Tree Frog Johnson, who for the obvious nature of his crimes was never able to walk a mainline yard in the California Prison System, was set free on the Protective Custody yard at New Folsom Prison in late ’98 only to take a 30 second walk and immediately lock back down in fear for his life. Now when you fear for your life on a Protective Custody yard I believe that makes you one of the lowest of the low, even the worst cretins must show that you are lower than them. Truly a complex psychology exists in our penal institutions. The psychology of the distribution of justice among convicts is downright fascinating.
RE: TWITTER VALUES
“Going forward, Twitter will be broadly accepting of different values, rather than trying to impose its own specific values on the world”.
-Elon Musk @elonmusk
Sounds like the definition of a true, classical, liberal. Good for you, Elon, but, hey, try a little harder to eliminate child abuse from twitter:
“…A review by the New York Times found that (child pornography imagery) persisted on the (twitter) platform, including widely circulated material that authorities consider the easiest to detect and eliminate….”
NY TIMES, 2/7/23
Sam Smith Invited To Perform At State Of The Union
Very funny, James, but Sam would probably make more sense than the presenter.
Bruce: Your vilification of Joe Biden has gotten tedious, to put it politely.
You’re right, Jim. I’ll go easy on the old grifter.
It’s almost like it’s scripted!
~Bliss Divine God Realization Amidst the Stupidity of American Postmodernism~
Warmest spiritual greetings, Following a sumptuous free lunch at the Plowshares Peace & Justice Center in Ukiah, California, am sitting here and now in front of computer #5 at the Ukiah Public Library. Glowing from the immortal atman located in the svarupa, or heart chakra, the body is relaxed and the mind is happy. Not identified with the body nor the mind, going where it is necessary to go and doing what it is necessary to do. The total chaos and insanity of American postmodernism does not affect the real you (us). The modifications of the mind stuff have no affect whatsoever on the real you (us). The changes in the body have no affect whatsoever on the real you (us). You (we) are free.
On March 1st it will be one year that I have resided at the Building Bridges homeless shelter in the Mendocino county seat. I am interested in being active on a larger stage, and am seeking others who identify as Jivan Mukta (liberated spirit), to collectively take divinely focused direct action. I invite you to contact me.
Nothing else is effective anymore on the planet earth, so therefore, it is our calling to destroy the demonic and return this world to righteousness, which is the classic vedic definition of the role of an avatar. Meanwhile, I take long walks watching the mental factory and letting the thoughts dissipate, not attaching to them.
It is time for a global spiritual revolution. Thank you for listening.
Craig Louis Stehr
Snail Mail: 1045 S. State Street, Ukiah, CA 95482
Telephone Messages: (707) 234-3270