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Mendocino County Today: May 12, 2013

KGO TV had a major feature story about the folly of the Willits bypass on their evening news Friday night. Bypass opponents are thrilled by the blunt tone of the high-profile report which made the simple point that the entire project is a Giant Waste of Money. Here’s the transcript of the show from the KGO-TV website:

WILLITS, Calif. (KGO) — If you live in the Bay Area, you know how bad traffic can be. There are thousands of cars backed up in the same spots day after day. Many of those communities could make good use of $200 million of taxpayer money to improve their highways. Instead, that money is going north to a little town where traffic is actually going down.

There have been angry protests, tree sitters, and senior citizens begging to be arrested over this issue. It is happening in the normally quiet town of Willits where residents are at odds over a massive highway bypass that will cost at least $210 million.

“It's insane to put this much money into a project that isn't necessary,” said one protester.

Willits is 135 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 101. It is the major route through Mendocino County and north to Eureka. Just south of Willits, Highway 101 is a four-lane freeway, but when it comes into town 101 turns into Main Street with five traffic lights. So Caltrans wants to build a freeway to bypass Willits.

“To improve inter-regional traffic along 101. 101 is a very important corridor for commerce and for just people going on vacation,” said Phil Frisbie, a Caltrans spokesman.

After two decades of planning, Caltrans is starting to cut trees and put up fences around the construction area. The plan calls a four-lane freeway six-miles long. Only two lanes will be built in the first phase, but crews will clear a roadbed wide enough for four lanes. Environmentalists are suing saying a much smaller project could do the job with less damage.

“It's going to involve cutting down 100-year-old oak trees, filling in acres and acres of wetlands, endangering threatened salmon and steelhead,” said Aruna Prabhala, an environmental attorney.

The impact will be so significant Caltrans is required to do $50 million worth of environmental improvements to compensate. An online video shows their plan and Caltrans is standing by it. The case goes to trial next month.

In the meantime, critics are asking a more basic question: does Willits even need a bypass? Caltrans says yes and they've already got most of the money for the first phase.

“The actual construction costs, about $136 million, are funded by California’s voter approved Proposition 1-B which is designed for congestion relief,” said Frisbie.

That bond money is going to Willits, but it could go to any congested traffic area around the state. It will be paid back with your tax dollars, including interest. So what will you actually be getting for your money?

The major problem area is the south end of Willits where traffic often backs up. Thirteen years ago Caltrans projected traffic would increase, but their own figures show traffic has actually gone down. Even so, Frisbie told us via Skype they still need a four lane freeway.

“To make sure we weren't building a project that was going to be basically obsolete in 20 years,” said Frisbie.

We asked to see the new growth numbers that justify their findings, but Caltrans could not produce them. They do have documents that show about 70% of the traffic at the south end of town is local. That means most of the cars stuck in traffic there would not even use the bypass.

To get an idea of who would drive on the bypass, we took a look at photos from Caltrans' traffic cameras on 101 north of town. Caltrans data shows most of the vehicles on that part of 101 are driving through Willits, so the level of traffic there is closer to the level of traffic that might be expected on the bypass. The photos are taken once an hour. We recorded them for a week. Many showed no cars at all, or just one or two vehicles. But Caltrans says it's hard to get a true understanding of traffic with still pictures.

“Especially on a two-lane facility because traffic tends to get bunched up behind slow moving vehicles,” said Frisbie.

Actually. we did see that — once. Many locals told us these photos are a good indicator of traffic most days.

“We're paving paradise and putting up an empty concrete freeway,” said Willits City Councilmember Madge Strong.

Plenty of people in Willits do want the bypass, including City Councilmember Bruce Burton, owner of a local saw mill.

“It's not the perfect project, but it will be a big improvement to the safety of downtown,” said Burton.

But opponents don't plan to give up.

“You have a lot of congestion in the Bay Area that you could probably use the money from this bypass to fix,” said Willits resident Naomi Wagner. (Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.)

THE FULL VIDEO BROADCAST IS AT:

http://www.savelittlelakevalley.org/2013/05/10/feature-story-on-abc7-news-in-san-francisco/

COMMENTING ON the KGO TV story on the Coast Listserve, Supervisor Dan Hamburg said, “I was told by a good source that one of the main reasons for the outrageous amount of spending on the Willits Bypass was that the California Transportation Commission felt that northern California was ‘owed’ a big ticket item. In my opinion (and presumably that of Supervisor Gjerde), we could certainly have done without it.  The damage to the environment of Little Lake Valley will be irreparable.”

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THE GEOGRAPHY OF HATE – a cartographical collection of every geotagged tweet in the continental US between June 2012 and April 2013 in which the words "chink," "gook," "nigger," "wetback," "spic," "dyke" "fag," "homo," "queer" or "cripple" was used in an explicitly negative way.

HateSpeech1The Racist Map of America: Tweets analyzed for offensive keywords reveal the most bigoted parts of the US and which people are the most hated. The Geography of Hate project was created by cartography students at Humboldt State University who analyzed 150,000 tweets containing hate words sent between June 2012-April 2013. They looked at usage of 10 slurs in three categories: racist, homophobic and disability. Use of offensive term n***** was not concentrated in any single region, but had pockets of concentration in Iowa and Indiana. Racism, homophobia and general intolerance are not unique to any particular region of the US — that is the conclusion that California college students have reached after mapping out hate speech based on Twitter posts. After processing the data aggregated by the DOLLY Project, the team comprised of three students in Dr Monica Stephens’ advance cartography class produced an interactive map as part of the project. They avoided the pitfall of an computer algorithm automatically classifying a tweet as negative if it contains a “hate word” by having students read the entirety of the message for context before deciding if is tweet is in fact hateful. Only words unequivocally deemed as “hate speech” were used in the creation of the map. That way, a phrase like “dykes on bikes,” for example, was left out of the data used in the project because it referred to a gay pride event in San Francisco. To produce the map, all tweets containing each “hate word” were aggregated to the county level and normalized by the total Twitter traffic in each county. Where there is a larger proportion of negative tweets referencing a particular “hate word” the region appears red on the map; where the proportion is moderate, the word was used less and appears a pale blue on the map. Areas without shading indicate places that have a lower proportion of negative tweets relative to the national average. Researchers discovered 41,306 tweets containing the word “n*****,” 95,123 referenced “homo,” among other terms. Tweets that included the slur “n*****” used for African-Americans were not concentrated in any single region in the US; instead, there are a number of pockets of concentration, including East Iowa, where 31 users sent out 41 tweets referencing the word, and Fountain, Indiana, where there were 22 tweets containing the slur. Perhaps the most interesting concentration comes for references to “wetback” — a derogatory term used for illegal Mexican immigrants. Most tweets containing the offensive term came from several parts of Texas, which surprisingly are not even close to the Mexican-American border. Under the category of racism, besides “n*****” and “wetback” students also looked at the usage of such slurs as “chink” and “gook” refering to Chinese and Koreans, respectively, and “spic,” which is an offensive term for Hispanics. The word “chink” was concentrated in Central Minnesota, where 19 users referenced the slurs in a total of 23 tweets.(Courtesy, the Daily Mail.)

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HUNT FOR FAMILY KILLER CONTINUES:

Shelter in Place Request Lifted—Caution Still Advised as Authorities Search for Homicide Suspect, Shane Miller.

Miller
Miller

The search continues for wanted triple homicide suspect Shane Miller. As of Saturday over 70 law enforcement officers are in the Mattole Valley and Bureau of Land Management Kings Range Recreation area, also known as the Lost Coast searching for him. SWAT Teams from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Shasta County Sheriffs Office, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and California Department of Corrections are on scene, along with law enforcement officers from Arcata Police, Eureka Police, Fortuna Police, Rio Dell Police, California Highway Patrol, Bureau of Land Management, Cal-Fire, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, helicopters from the California Highway Patrol and Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and a team of United States Marshalls, along with a Specialized Communications Truck which they brought with them. The Kings Range Conservation Area is 65,000 acres in size, and has no paved roads. Officers are researching some areas that have been previously searched and are expanding their search areas. They are also checking numerous cabins in the area. There has been no sighting of Miller since his truck was located in the 30000 block of Mattole Road. Meantime the Tour of the Unknown Coast Bike Race is currently occurring. The law enforcement officers are providing additional security for the racers who are traveling through the Mattole Valley area. There have been no issues regarding the race as of noon today.

Area residents are no longer being requested to shelter in place, however are being advised to stay in at night and lock their doors. They are also requested to report any break-ins or other unusual activity immediately. The law enforcement checkpoints have been lifted during the race. However check points will continue during night time hours. SHANE FRANKLIN MILLER, White male adult, 45 years old, 5-10, 200 lbs blue eyes, red hair. Believed to be armed and dangerous.  If sighted call 911. Anyone with information for the Sheriffs Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

(Note: The Bureau of Land Management Kings Range Recreational Area is still temporarily Closed and the public is requested to stay away until further notice.)

— HumCo Sheriff’s Office Press Release.

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MEANWHILE, IN LAKE COUNTY…

The Town Being Swallowed By The Earth:

The luxury California neighborhood abandoned as landslips cause homes to collapse.

By Damian Ghigliotty

LakeCoHomeHomeowners in a wealthy Northern California neighborhood are facing a depressing reality: The ground is swallowing their homes. As the terrain continues to slide under roughly two-dozen houses in the small hillside community of Lakeside Heights, residents are struggling to figure out the root cause. Uncertainty has led to growing fears and tensions in the community as homeowners and local officials continue to argue over who is responsible for the catastrophe. The landslide, which began in late March, has damaged five homes so severely they are too dangerous to live in, while two of those homes are beyond repair and must be torn down. The unstable terrain has led to the evacuation of eight homes and the notice of imminent evacuation of another ten. The Lake County Board of Supervisors officially declared the site a local emergency on April 16. The damage caused by the landslide is forcing the local government to move water and sewer lines, which could cost as much as $500,000, a county supervisor told The Press Democrat. Lake County was shaped by earthquake fault movement and volcanic explosions which helped create the Coast Ranges of California. Many natural hot springs and geysers receded underground in the early 1900s and have since been tapped for geothermal power. Officials say water that has bubbled up to the surface is playing a role in the collapse of the hillside subdivision. One report released by the Lake County government in early April cited a leak in a homeowner's irrigation line as a possible cause for water saturation along the hillside. The irrigation line was shut off to prevent further damage. “Don't do half of the investigation,” Fred Johnson, a local doctor, told state and county officials at a town meeting on April 29, as he held them responsible for finding the underlying cause of the problem. Some residents say the house-sinking dilemma may additionally be due to soil instability, while others are blaming it on “substandard work” by the developers that built the collapsing homes there. The homes in Lakeside that are currently on the market were built as early as 1900 and as late as 2013. Others in Lakeside Heights are voicing fears of temporary evacuations and permanent loss of their houses, which are valued between $200,000 and $250,000, without relief of their monthly mortgage payments. For now, the homeowners impacted by the landslide are being left to absorb their relocation and damage costs without a clear cause to place the blame on. One resident told the Press Democrat that his insurance company said nothing could be done until the source of the problem was determined. (Courtesy, The Daily Mail.)

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SimplySantaMuerteShrineSANTA MUERTE! Death shrines prayed at by Mexican gangsters are increasingly common in Mendocino County and every other place drugs are produced and sold. Not long ago, a drug raid in Boonville found two entire rooms devoted to the worship of Santa Muerte, which is also prayed to generally by people considered on the margins of respectable society.

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FOUR TROMBONES classically trained, two women, two men, were playing at Powell and Post playing La Renaissance, but were soon drowned out by a Fulan Gong parade complete with a police escort, a hundred piece marching band, several hundred orange-t-shirted Chinese, and a float with a tiny old lady in an even tinier cage next to a bloody, wide awake man on an operating table as a maniacal surgeon removed his organs for resale. The Chinese have been accused of “organ harvesting” the marketable parts of the many people they execute every year, a grisly practice if true but, on the other hand, a kind of ultimate recycling that gives life to more deserving persons. Zippo-bang. A bullet in the back of the head and your kidney is off to India for fifty grand hard currency! About a thousand people were participating in the Falun Dafa parade, including a few goofy-looking round-eyes who, this being San Francisco on a sunny Saturday noon, probably just grabbed an orange shirt and joined in. It was World Falun Dafa Day while in Union Square proper it was Celebrate Taiwan, with an energetic dance troupe resembling the Warrior Girls gymnastically exercised on the big stage. Back out on Post Street, a banner read, “Falun Dafa is great.” No exclamation point. Another banner summed up the movement's principles, “Truthfulness, Benevolence, Forbearance.” Nothing to argue with there. An elaborate float passed by with attractive young women sitting on budding flowers looking, at a minimum, benevolent at the max like cult bait. I guess forbearance in the Falun Gong context means tolerance and patience, but it’s all pretty vague in a kind of fuzzy Buddhist or at least Buddhist-like version of, “Dude, Whatever” — just be nice and patient about it. The founder lives in SF. He's worshipped as a kind of god, always the tip off that whatever it is parading past in uniforms is likely headed in malevolent directions. The general idea of Falun Gong, whatever it is, seems to resonate with many Chinese to the point where the motherland has cracked down on it as politically threatening. Of course American Chinese are overwhelmingly hostile to communism, having had bad experiences under The Great Helmsman. But China's government, with its militarily enforced To Get Rich Is Glorious economic strategy is indeed much more like fascism than any kind of revolutionary socialism it no longer even claims to represent. Hell, China's anonymous leadership sends its children to Harvard and its millionaires buy property all over California.

DOWN THE STREET at Powell and Market a woman was passed out on the sidewalk an inconvenient four feet from The Gap's front door, meaning shoppers exiting the store had to step around her. A red-jacketed SF ambassador stood guard over her, explaining to passersby, the minority concerned enough to ask, “The ambulance is on the way.” I could see her yellow emergency hospital wrist band, meaning she'd gotten out, gotten drunk and here she was again, a guess soon confirmed by a scruffy white guy selling the Street Sheet. “They oughta just prop her up over there; she's gonna wake up. She does this bullshit all the time.” A black cop soon arrived, strolled over to the street casualty, pulled on a pair of bright blue plastic protective gloves, and jostled the downed woman's shoulder. She stirred, rolled over and continued sleeping as a Fire Department truck rolled up and three uniformed fat guys waddled over to have a look while one lean guy took her pulse prior to all of them loading her on to a gurney and packing her into a King's Ambulance. The basic Frisco policy, unwritten of course, is you can't conk out or otherwise stress out tourists. This lady was conked out between The Gap and the cable car turnaround, which, if simply ignored, is bad for the city's tourist image. Farther down Market in either direction no one would care.

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SNWMF13========================================================

MENDOCINO SPRING POETRY, Sunday, June 9 — 38th Anniversary of the Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration at The Hill House in Mendocino on the Coast. This annual event draws poets from the north counties and beyond. All lovers of the lively word are welcome. Two open readings: afternoon and evening. Prepare four minutes for each of the rounds. Noon: sign up and socialize; afternoon reading at 1. Break: enjoy the town, the sea, and the Headlands of the Coast. 6pm: sign up and socialize; evening reading at 7. Refreshments. Music. Open book displays. Contribution requested. All poems considered for broadcast by Dan Roberts on KZYX. Info: Gordon Black, (707) 937-4107, gblack@mcn.org.

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BENGHAZI and the Conservative Scandal-Creation Apparatus

By Alex Pareene,

The conservative scandal-creation apparatus still has juice, but it's not as effective as it was against Clinton

On Friday, Republicans finally got their Benghazi hearing. After months of nonstop screaming, everyone finally paid attention to the conservative movement's favorite scandal since Fast and Furious. Darrell Issa's House Oversight Committee heard explosive testimony from three Benghazi whistle-blowers, who blew the lid off the Obama administration's conspiracy to win re-election by allowing Americans to die in a terrorist attack and then having an administration official most Americans had never heard of pointedly not blame al-Qaeda on Sunday news shows that only people in Washington care about.

Those are the accusations the Benghazi coalition has been making since shortly after the attack: that the Obama administration intentionally allowed the attack on the US consulate to happen, or did not do as much as it could have to stop the attack once it started, because it did not want to admit that it did not successfully destroy terrorism itself in its first term; and that after the attack, the administration intentionally and repeatedly lied about the attackers and their motivation (the “they didn't say ‘terrorism’ ” argument), and then engaged in a Watergate-style cover-up of the fact that the attack had been terrorism. One of the reasons Americans aren't outraged about Benghazi is that the event is a series of tragedies in search of a unifying explanation, and one that “Obama is evil” doesn't cover. Because really, to suggest that the Pentagon or the White House would deliberately — and yes, this is exactly what Republicans are suggesting — prevent special operations forces from rescuing American diplomats because they worried about the potential political blowback because they knew exactly who was behind it (al Qaeda) is — well, it is to suggest that Barack Obama is simply and utterly evil.

This is the "STAND DOWN" thing, by the way. The notion that the military could've saved the day, but the administration ordered them not to because — politics?

Once the attack commenced, there was little, militarily, the United States could do that it did not do. This one paragraph from an LA Times story is basically everything you need to know about Benghazi. Not everything you need to know about the actual attack and our State Department's preparedness and response — that is all covered in the State Department's Accountability Review Board report, which came out in December — but this paragraph just about sums up the Republican Party's attempted Whitewater-ification of the deadly attack: “There were military assets, there was military personnel, they were told to stand down,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said Monday on the Fox program “Fox and Friends.” Chaffetz acknowledged in an interview published Monday with the Washington Post that they would have arrived after the attack on the CIA annex was over. He said they could have provided first aid.

Why didn't the president order the Special Forces to provide first aid to the victims hours after Stevens had disappeared, and been taken to a hospital? If you start from the assumption, as Issa and Chaffetz do, that the Obama administration is evil and corrupt, then the only explanation for the actual real failures in preparedness leading up to the consulate attack is obviously evilness and corruption.

What's interesting, though, is that Americans aren't, so far, eating up the Benghazi scandal. There is some proof that months of conspiratorial coverage have made people aware that Benghazi is a thing. There was a Fox poll with some very leading questions that found that 46% of registered voters think the Obama administration is “covering up” what happened in Benghazi. In December, a less leadingly worded CNN poll found that 56% of Americans think the administration didn't deliberately mislead the public after the attacks. But on the whole, the majority of the public that doesn't consume right-wing media hasn't been hugely concerned. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both still broadly popular. In the Clinton era, I can't help but feel, this would've been much huger, with the help of the non-partisan press.

The high-profile hearing might've changed things. More people probably believe in some form of the Benghazi conspiracy today than did on Tuesday. But the mainstream press is basically aware of what the right is trying to do. Mike Huckabee gave the game away when he predicted that Benghazi would lead to Obama's impeachment. When Clinton was president, the right screamed and threw tantrums until he was impeached. They are not quite certain why that has not yet happened with Obama, but they are working on it. In part the right-wing media is a victim of its own success. It successfully browbeats the liberal media into covering a million bullshit, trumped-up scandals, and those scandals usually end up going nowhere. The lessons the media failed to learn from Whitewater, it eventually picked up after Tony Rezko, Shirley Sherrod, Solyndra and Fast and Furious. The conservative movement is so detached from reality that they can't come up with a coherent or convincing narrative. It was easy (too easy) for non-partisan journalists to imagine the Clintons as conniving and corrupt, but the conservative fantasy version of Obama is so bizarre that stories relying on that interpretation don't get traction beyond Fox.

Which makes more sense to you? That the State Department ignored requests for more security because the Obama campaign was running on the message that the administration had crippled al-Qaeda, and additional security at diplomatic posts in unstable areas would contradict the message? Or that the requests were denied because a culture of excessive thriftiness has taken hold in Washington since the 2010 Republican wave election and the subsequent endless debt showdowns? The deaths of Chris Stevens and the others who died last September were probably avoidable. An opposition party made up of sane people would be very useful, right now, in determining how to prevent future tragedies like this. Alas, our existing opposition party is made up of numbskulls and charlatans who take WorldNetDaily seriously. The most depressing thing about Benghazi is that it's completely supplanted all efforts to learn from Benghazi.

(Courtesy, Salon.com)

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