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Mendocino County Today: April 12, 2013

RAUL ENRIQUE LULE, 43, the married father of two children, died Wednesday at the Redwood Empire Sawmill in Cloverdale. Reading between the lines of the scant press release announcing the accident, Lule seems to have died "pulling greenchain" — working at the conveyer belt on which lumber is sorted.

THE BELT can jam up with lumber, and is usually turned off while the jam is cleared. If a worker tries to unstop the jam while the belt is moving he can become part of the pile-up and be badly injured or killed in the crush.

WE DON'T KNOW the exact circumstances of Mr. Lule's death but in September of 2008 another mill worker at the same mill in Cloverdale was killed on the conveyer belt. And we recall a worker killed pulling greenchain at the now closed L-P mill in Ukiah.

IT WILL TAKE months before the Department of Occupational Safety issues a report on the precise causes of the Lule fatality.

REDWOOD EMPIRE also owns the mill in Philo, whose grounds it lately uses mostly as a log deck. The company is owned by Roger Burch and is based in San Jose under the name Pacific State Industries. Burch also owns a plant in Creswell, Oregon, and timberland in, I think, Mendocino County.

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YESTERDAY, we posted the news that Mendocino County had reached a “settlement” with the feds over the US Attorney’s subpoena of reams of paperwork and materials related to Mendocino County’s now-defunct marijuana cultivation ordinance (aka County Code 9.31). The news was based on a press release from County Counsel Tom Parker who wrote: “With respect the [Board of Supervisors Agenda] item 9(b), Conference with Legal Counsel — Anticipated Litigation: Significant Exposure to Litigation: County Counsel issued the following statement: ‘The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and the United States Attorney's Office for the northern district of California have reached an agreement on the nature and scope of documents to be provided to the Federal Grand Jury, pursuant to the subpoenas of October 23, 2012. The information to be provided will not include personal identifying information involving individuals. This consensus is reflective of the law enforcement needs of the United States Attorney's Office, as well as reflecting the public policy goals of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. The scheduled hearing on April 16, 2013, will not be held in light of this consensus.”

THE ORIGINAL SUBPOENA had demanded that Mendocino County turn over “any and all records,” including financial records, related to the county's medical marijuana cultivation ordinance from Jan. 1, 2010, to the present. The subpoena covered all types of communication regarding 9.31, including communications with third-party medical marijuana garden inspectors and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors then approved spending $12,000 for a pricey San Francisco attorney named William Osterhaudt to file a motion to quash the subpoena on grounds that Mr. Osterhaudt said the subpoena was “burdensome and oppressive,” an “improper intrusion” on the county's and the state's ability to govern its citizens, overbroad, and that it would hinder the county's ability to comply with state law requiring medical marijuana programs. Based on complaints from participating pot cultivators, Mr. Osterhaudt also said the subpoena would violate patient confidentiality.

SO IT LOOKS LIKE all Mendo got for its $12k was a grudging concession from US Attorney Melinda Haag that while Mendo still has to fork over all the overbroad, burdensome, and oppressive materials in response to an improper intrusion into County business — but it’s ok if they black out the names of the program participants with a felt tip pen.

SOME “SETTLEMENT.” On top of the $12,000 wasted on Mr. Osterhaudt, Mendo’s harried staff on Low Gap now still has to scurry around making copies of reams of 9.31 materials so that Ms. Haag can continue her fishing expedition and punishment of Mendocino County for the crime of trying to regulate medical marijuana cultivation.

MENDO COULD have done that in the first place and forced the feds to try to demand the names if they really wanted them, rather than thrashing around wasting money for permission to redact a few names. But with self-serving lawyers steering the ship at every level, the County has burned through $12,000 and hours of unnecessary staff time with almost nothing to show for it.

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Arogundade, Weaver
Arogundade, Weaver

ON APRIL 7, 2013 at approximately 7pm, deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office responded to a residence in the 100 block of Sherwood Hills Drive, Willits, to investigate a report that four to seven individuals had forced their way inside the home. On arrival the Deputies observed a subject at a Ford Explorer in the front yard with Arizona license plates. The subject appeared to be hiding something in the console area and then attempted to walk away from the vehicle. The responding Deputies believed they may have interrupted a robbery and that the item being hidden could be a weapon. They detained the man and located the concealed item. It was a plastic bag containing over six ounces of suspected methamphetamine. Twenty-five year-old Jamiu O. Arogundade of Goodyear, Arizona, was arrested for possession of a controlled substance for sale. Inside the home, 45-year-old Asahel Weaver Jr. of Willits, was arrested for possession of a small quantity of methamphetamine which was in plain sight on the table in front of him. Two other males escaped on foot. Weaver and Arogundade were transported to the Mendocino County Jail without incident. Arogundade is being held on $40,000 bail while Weaver's bail was set at $25,000. The motive for the suspects forcing their way into the home was never determined. (Sheriff’s Department Press Release)

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BOONTLING MAKES ITS APPEARANCE on the California Star Test for high school students:

BoontlingTest========================================================

Kavanaugh
Kavanaugh

ON APRIL 8, 2013, at approximately 11:15pm, deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were on routine patrol in the area of North State Street and Orr Springs Road when they saw a black 1990 Honda Accord traveling at a high rate of speed. As the deputies turned to follow the vehicle it accelerated to speeds of 80-90mph. The deputies activated their vehicle emergency lights and siren, in an attempt to stop the speeding vehicle and warn others in the area. The suspect ignored the emergency lights and sirens and continued westbound on Orr Springs Road. The deputies pursued the suspect vehicle westbound on Orr Springs Road at speeds ranging from 70-90mph. The suspect was speeding, driving recklessly by using both sides of the roadway around blind corners and at one point during the pursuit the suspect vehicle suddenly slammed its brakes on, in an apparent attempt to cause the pursuing deputies to collide with the suspect vehicle. Deputies continued to pursue the suspect vehicle approximately 10 miles west on Orr Springs Road when the suspect vehicle suddenly pulled onto a dirt turnout as if it were going to stop. The suspect vehicle failed to stop and turned back eastbound on Orr Springs Rd. with the deputies still in chase. The California Highway Patrol along with the Ukiah Police Department arrived in the area to assist the Sheriff's Office in the pursuit. The California Highway Patrol attempted to use spike strips to disable the suspect vehicle's tires but the suspect vehicle was able to avoid the spike strips and continue fleeing. In the area of milemarker 42 on Orr Springs Road the suspect lost control of his vehicle which then hit the embankment and came to a stop in the middle of the roadway. Upon the vehicle coming to a stop, the driver (who was the sole occupant of the vehicle), fled on foot with the deputies in close foot chase. The deputies then deployed a Taser which immediately disabled the suspect and caused him to fall to the ground. The deputies were able to handcuff and secure the suspect without further incident. The driver was identified as 27 year old Peter "Redheart" Kavanaugh of Covelo. Kavanaugh stated he was attempting to elude the deputies because he does not have a valid driver’s license. During the investigation Kavanaugh was also found to be under the influence of methamphetamine. He had numerous syringes and a methamphetamine pipe in his possession as well as an imitation firearm (toy gun) that had been altered to look like a real firearm. Kavanaugh was arrested, transported to Ukiah Valley Medical Center for a medical clearance, and then booked into the Mendocino County Jail on the above listed charges. His bail was set at $25,000. (Sheriff’s Department Press Release)

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THE PRESIDENT'S RETIREMENT PLAN: They all get a cabinet salary forever pegged to inflation, meaning in, say, Obama's case, he'll get $5 mil a year.

MEAN TIME, Obama is getting ready to freeze Social Security payments or, as they've come to be called, “entitlements” although recipients have paid into them all their working lives. Obama's move on Social Security has even prompted our Congressman, Spike Huffman, to a rare show of passion. “Why are we even talking about trimming Social Security benefits?” Spike harrumphed to the Chron this morning (Thursday). “There's no way to sugarcoat this.”

SUGARCOATING being the preferred political strategy anymore, Spike is correct. Sort of. He and his political party aren't talking about means testing Social Security, nor they do they dare mention that the Social Security fund is about as sound as the rest of the economy, its contents consisting entirely of government paper, paper whose value is inexorably being eroded by Bernanke and the Fed as they print more money every week to give to the banks. Nor do they even suggested the easy fix of removing the cap on earnings which let’s the rich pay nothing into social security for earnings over about $114k.

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THE DAYS THAT WERE

McQueenInBullittWe all lament “the loss of a certain type of San Franciscan that maybe ain't ever coming back. It's the guy who, like my dad, took me to Candlestick to see Mays and McCovey. He worked a real blue collar job, where he just did it. Didn't talk about it, or write about doing it. Just did it. A little like Steve McQueen's character in the movie Bullitt. These teamsters, mechanics and cops for the most part drank and smoked too much, and maybe they didn't wear their seat belts, but most certainly they wouldn't have texted while driving, or at all, and would never have thought of bringing a mitt to a ball game unless it was worn by their son, as mine was.” — Armando Lagunas, Sunnyvale

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DAN GJERDE might want to re-think his blind support for the Mendocino County Transit Authority, an ongoing grant-subsidized boondoggle (about $12 for every paying customer) grandly mis-managed for years now. Yes, MTA has a brand new bus barn and offices for management. Yes, MTA has some brand new buses. But MTA also has a major hangover. It seems locked in to an excessive rate of pay for its manager, a spot recently vacated for its one and only occupant, the ineffable Bruce Richard; it has a board of trustees stuffed with the usual array of inland career public agency people who could not survive a day in the free enterprise jungle; it has a lingering debt incurred by the departed Richard when he shifted some polluted earth during bus barn construction down the street to the Ukiah Fairgrounds. This is an agency so encumbered that, in the terrible economic times to come, it will expire from years of bad management.

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SPEAKING OF TRANSPORTATION, how come little kids have to be wrapped in combat-quality car seats in automobiles but these grotesquely irresponsible young parents can pedal their kid all over the place unprotected on the back of bicycles?

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KRUGMAN VS. STOCKMAN

ABC's Epic Steel-cage Smackdown

By Mike Whitney

Krugman, Stockman
Krugman, Stockman

It was no Rumble in the Jungle, that’s for sure. There were no blindside blows to the ribs, no bone-crushing roundhouse punches, and no blood-spattered warriors sprawled out on the canvas for the mandatory 10-count. But by the time ABC’s 15-round bareknuckle extravaganza was over, just one man was left standing, David Stockman, TKO champ of “This Week’s” Sunday morning political blabberfest.

The anticipation for the main event had been building for more than two weeks, ever since Reagan’s former budget director had delivered his hyperbolic libertarian manifesto on the editorial pages of the New York Times. Stockman’s incendiary treatise took a sledgehammer to Washington, Wall Street, “mutant crony capitalism,” FDR, the ballooning budget deficits, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the droves of debt-encumbered, consumption-addled Americans and, of course, Beelzebub Satan himself, the perfidious John Maynard Keynes.

Here’s a clip from Stockman’s sepulchral screed aptly titled “State-Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America”:

“Over the last 13 years, the stock market has twice crashed and touched off a recession: American households lost $5 trillion in the 2000 dot-com bust and more than $7 trillion in the 2007 housing crash. Sooner or later — within a few years, I predict — this latest Wall Street bubble, inflated by an egregious flood of phony money from the Federal Reserve rather than real economic gains, will explode, too.

Since the S.&P. 500 first reached its current level, in March 2000, the mad money printers at the Federal Reserve have expanded their balance sheet sixfold (to $3.2 trillion from $500 billion). Yet during that stretch, economic output has grown by an average of 1.7 percent a year (the slowest since the Civil War); real business investment has crawled forward at only 0.8 percent per year; and the payroll job count has crept up at a negligible 0.1 percent annually. Real median family income growth has dropped 8 percent, and the number of full-time middle class jobs, 6 percent. The real net worth of the “bottom” 90 percent has dropped by one-fourth. The number of food stamp and disability aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million, about one in five Americans.”

It’s a great read, particularly if you think the country is circling the plughole, which most people do. And Stockman doesn’t pull his punches either. He “kicks ass and takes names,” and the name that looms larger than all others inkjet Ben Bernanke, public enemy #1. The micromanaging central planners at the Fed take a real beating in Stockman’s diatribe, according to him– their scatterbrain printing operations and gluttonously-lavish bailouts are at the very heart of all that ails the nation.

That’s not to say that I agree everything Stockman says. (balanced budget, a “means-tested safety net,” etc.). I don’t. But I do think he is dead-on in his overall analysis that corrupt institutions have ”turned the economy into a giant casino” and “have brought America to an end-stage metastasis.” More important, he’s captured the mood of the times, which he sees as relentlessly bleak. Who would dispute that? When he refers to our present epoch as ”sundown in America,” he speaks to the vast number of 99 percenters who’ve seen their jobs, their homes and their future prospects go up in smoke in the last decade as more and more of the country’s wealth is carted off by ne’er-do-well plutocrats and scotch-guzzling fund managers.

But while Stockman’s editorial has broad popular appeal, it’s come under ferocious attack by the liberal commentariat, who’ve savaged Stockman on issues that are largely meaningless to the average working stiff. Obama’s primary apologist, Paul Krugman, has been leading the jihad against Stockman; pounding away at his economic theories while dismissing him as a “cranky old man.”

Here’s a sample of Krugman’s work in a recent post on his blog:

“Actually, I was disappointed in Stockman’s piece. I thought there would be some kind of real argument, some presentation, however tendentious, of evidence. Instead it’s just a series of gee-whiz, context- and model-free numbers embedded in a rant — and not even an interesting rant. It’s cranky old man stuff, the kind of thing you get from people who read Investors Business Daily, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and maybe, if they’re unusually teched up, get investment advice from Zero Hedge.”

Ouch.

The attacks on Stockman have come from all quarters of the liberal establishment. Much to his credit, Robert Scheer has veered from the party-line and defended the ex-budget director in a recent column at Truthdig titled “It Wasn’t David Stockman Who Wrecked the Economy.” Here’s a clip:

“Why is David Stockman driving everyone crazy?…What’s all the outrage about?…

The headline on Stockman’s piece—“State-Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America”—is unquestionably accurate…..What his critics find so disturbing is not a quaint argument about the purity of monetary policy but rather the bold assertion that the overall American system of crony capitalism is in fact wrecked. This is a contention that most Americans might readily agree with in terms of their daily experience, but one that the hardly suffering pundit class would rather not contemplate…

Bernanke, who throws $85 billion a month at the bankers who caused this mess, purchasing their toxic mortgage based derivatives, is still treated with respect. But Stockman, who opposed bailing out the banks so they, like those tens of millions of foreclosed homeowners, could learn a tough love lesson in real economics, is now an object of derision…

That fiasco’s enablers—Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers—and the more disastrous ones to follow were crowned “The Committee to Save the World” on Time magazine’s Feb. 15, 1999, cover and are still welcomed in those polite circles where truth-teller Stockman is being treated as a pariah.”

Not surprisingly, Scheer has been the only voice on the left to take Stockman’s side against the army of toffeenose pundits and establishment dipshits who wave off the concerns of ordinary people as —how does Krugman put it?– “pathetic and embarrassing.”

Nice.

This is the context in which the mano-e-mano faceoff was staged; Noble Prize winning heavyweight Krugman vs the scrappy underdog Stockman. Naturally, the econoblogs have been eating it up.

Then came the Big Day. Here’s an excerpt from ABC’s This Week featuring Krugman, Stockman, Arianna Huffington, Greta Van Sustern and always-irritating, George Will. (transcript) The confab starts with a softball question to Krugman about Friday’s lousy jobs report, which Krugman deftly sidesteps with his perfunctory ”austerity” mumbo-jumbo never mentioning the fact that his hero, President Stardust, is the author and main backer of the present contractionary policy. Obama bears 100% of the responsibility for the jobs crisis.

Moderator George Stephanopoulos then moves on to Stockman who fires off this opening salvo:

“I think the machinery of government is failing. That’s the problem we face. A real threat to the mainstream economy. That’s why the numbers are far more serious than what you heard Friday than is being suggested by the White House. The truth is, if we were still counting the labor force the way we did in 2000, the last time the stock market was where it was today, the unemployment rate would be 13. 1%. We had a massive drop out of the labor force. It’s not from retirement. That we’re not even beginning to appreciate the harm and the damage and the hurt going on in the mainstream. We had the lowest economic growth in the last 12 years other than wartime for a century.”

Kaboom.

That’s how you deliver the goods, just square off and let ‘em have it with both barrels. In contrast, Krugman follows up with more obfuscating blather saying, “The numbers aren’t that bad. This month is bad. But the numbers actually over the past year and a half have shown significant improvement once you correct for demography.”

“The numbers aren’t that bad”? What planet does Krugman live on anyway? 7.6% unemployment five full years after the recession and Krugman thinks that’s okay? That’s not what you’ve been saying on your blog, professor.

Enter Arianna Huffington who makes a spirited appeal for job creation.

“This is a real jobs crisis. The urgency of the jobs crisis is not just the budget there’s a real disconnect between the real crisis is and what his priorities are. I know that Obama said that we can do both. We can reduce the deficit and grow the economy. We can’t. We haven’t been able to. (There’s) a disconnect between the real economy and the financial economy. Everything we are doing has been good for Wall Street…but not good for Main Street.”

Call me crazy, but I find it hard to buy Huffington’s populist bloviating, especially when she’s decked-out in designer rags and sporting a $400 coif. There seems to be a basic disconnect between her message and her appearance.

Back to Stockman:

“The thing is, what we’re doing is not working and that is the bubble machine coming out of the Federal Reserve. Zero interest rates are basically crucifying the savers of America on a cross of zirp. (ed–zero interest rate policy)

All of this money isn’t getting out of the canyons of Wall Street. It’s going back to Wall Street. It’s going back to excess reserves. It allows speculators to borrow money for nothing overnight. We get bubble after bubble after bubble. But it’s doing nothing for the main street economy.”

Krugman (sardonically):

“Do you really think we should be raising interest rates with high unemployment?”

Stockman:

“I think to have zero percent with interest rates when interest rates are the price of money, when our economy has massive amount of debt built up over three decades. We don’t need more debt and debt isn’t a good thing. I know we owe it to ourselves. Still, it’s a burden on the people who owe it….whether it’s households with mortgages, credit cards or whatever.. It’s hurting, and making more debt through zero interest rates is absolutely counterproductive.”

Stockman makes a good point here. No one denies that zero rates can help rev up a flagging economy, but 5 years of zero rates? Give me a break! It’s a complete ripoff. The Fed is providing limitless free funding for crooked bankers so they can gouge credit card holders for 18% per month while concealing the red ink on their balance sheets.

Meanwhile Mom and Pop get zippo interest on their paltry retirement savings forcing them to downgrade from ground beef to catfood and move from their one bedroom flat to a dilapidated doublewide in the back of the Safeway parking lot. Is that what Krugman thinks is sound policy?

Here’s Krugman’s response:

“This is actually part of my problem with David’s book. Which is, we have huge debt numbers. A huge misunderstanding of what those numbers mean. People say, debt is 3. 6 times GDP. We’re broke. The country has been living beyond its means. That’s not what it means.

It’s a little known fact that America earns more on its investments overseas than it pays to the foreigners. We have complexified the economic system. Now, some mortgage originator makes the loan, borrows the money, using securities, you count the same debt twice.

We have this overly complex financial system. We need to bring it back to simplicity. It has nothing to do with excess.”

Do you have any idea of what he’s talking about or is he just beating his lips?

What a terrible answer. People are worried about the debt and deficits and Krugman tries to allay their fears by saying the economic system is too complexified. What the hell does that mean? It’s that Krugman’s elitist way of saying, “You dopes can’t possibly understand the economy, so leave it all to us experts.”

It sure sounds like it.

Huffington again:

“The CBO predicted that another 750,000 jobs would be lost this year because of the sequester. And there’s absolutely no plan by the administration to deal with the jobs crisis….We have 64% increase in suburban poverty. We have a doubling of people on food stamps and disabilities payments. We have millions of people’s homes under water.

The administration is ignoring their crisis. Because they’re prioritizing deficit reduction. This is not a right/left point. They have bought into the Republican talking points.”

Like I said, Huffington seems to say all the right things, but it just doesn’t resonate with the people she claims to support. The fact is, it’s hard to channel Huey Long when you sound like Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Krugman again:

“The administration has a difficult choice to make. Do they talk about what they should be doing? Or do they position themselves like nothing is going to happen? They chose not to talk about what’s going to happen. They have chosen to do a halfway cut between what’s happened and what’s going to happen. None of this is real.”

More gibberish. This is why Stockman did so well in the faceoff, because–as smart as he is–Krugman lapses into these periodic trances where he sounds like a snake-oil salesman. What he appears to be saying is that Team Obama doesn’t really draft policy on the basis of conviction, but based on political calculation. In other words, “If we can’t win, we won’t try.” That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the Dear Leader.

Krugman, one last time:

“This isn’t about machinery, it’s about people and visions. We have two parties who have fundamentally different visions of what america should be. We have democrats, who want the expansion of the safety net and have gotten it in Obamacare. They want it to be even more. And we have Republicans that want to dismantle a lot of the legacy of the Great Society and the New Deal.”

This is such nonsense. What difference have we seen under the Dems?

Zilch. The drones, the wars, civil liberties, regulation, spying, Guantanamo; you name it, it hasn’t changed a bit. Same shit, different leader.

Obama claims he can kill a US citizen without charges or trial, but Krugman maintains the Democrats have “fundamentally different vision of what America should be.”

Uh huh.

Finally, Stockman goes in for the kill.

“The (Democrats) don’t stand for anything. They don’t believe in anything. Why do we still have Too Big To Fail? We allegedly had a heart attack, the banks are bigger than ever. Why don’t Democrats do something to break them up and cut Wall Street down to size?”

And that’s how it ended, with Krugman backing up against the ropes while Stockman delivered one haymaker after another like a windmill spinning in a gale-storm. Mercifully, moderator Stephanopoulos intervened and stopped the carnage, lifting the ex-investment banker’s gloved hand skyward and declaring him “This Weeks” new champ. Krugman was rushed off to ICU where he is reported to be in stable condition.

Krugman has one of the best economics blogs on the Internet, but he should stay away from TV. It’s not his long-suit. He should also stop making excuses for Obama, the crummiest president ever.

(Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.)

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