ABOUT 50 BYPASS PROTESTERS began to impede wick drain installation in a field (aka former wetland) along the northern end of the bypass construction zone on Wednesday. The California Highway Patrol called for their usual battalions of reinforcements after observing the obstructing protesters for awhile. Five of them — Danielle Fristoe, 24, and Patricia Kovner, 72, of Laytonville; Naomi Wagner, 67, and Freddie Long, 67, of Willits; and Chad A. Kemp, 21, of Eureka, were arrested for trespassing.
ON THURSDAY, AVA Contributor Will Parrish (aka Red Tail Hawk) climbed more than halfway up the 100-foot metal scaffolding of one the “stitchers,” aka a wick-drain installer, stopping wick drain installation. CHP was unable to get the Hawk down on the spot after they noticed that he had locked himself to the machine with a cable protected by a pipe.
PHIL FRISBIE, Caltrans spokesman, tells Glenda Anderson of the Press Democrat that the Willits Bypass protests “have cost taxpayers about $1.2 million since April.” Faithfully regurgitating Frisbie's unsupported statements, Glenda writes that “the protests have cost the state $100,000 for paying workers sidelined by the protests, $160,000 for building a temporary access road to remove tree sitters and about $935,000 for law enforcement to remove tree sitters.”
ON THE OFF CHANCE that the ineffable Frisbie's figures are more or less accurate, and although the handful of protesters prompted the police response, were so many cops really necessary to deal with less than fifty harmless demonstrators? What if the security masterminds had decided to call out the National Guard? Would that cost be the responsibility of the protesters too?
THE DREADS HAVE LANDED. The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival packs them in every year, and Mendocino County's most happening venue, Boonville, is radiating peace, love and good vibrations as Mendo's very own rasta-groover, Sister Yasmin would say. Our fair town will be so crowded with fans of Bob Marley’s son(s) on Saturday and Sunday that lots of people will be parking (and camping) beyond our civic center at Boonville High School. Pedicabs are expected to be much in evidence, and second hand smoke from the holy herb the dominant scent. Many locals will be able to enjoy the music, whether they want to or not, as the reggae sounds accompanied by congas and cowbells intermingle with the mind-altering fumes long into the night.
COASTAL REPORTER FRANK HARTZELL deserves some credit for getting some action taken to clean up a petroleum spewing wall owned by Caltrans near the Navarro River estuary. Hartzell got Mendocino County’s Environmental Health department to issue an abatement order to Caltrans based on a finding that the leaky wall was a public nuisance. Trey Strickland, a County Environmental Health supervisor wrote to Caltrans, “I'm writing to inform Caltrans that the abandoned asphalt emulsion oil present at Hwy 128 Post Mile 0.16 constitutes a public nuisance that requires additional mitigation to be considered fully abated. Per Mendocino County Code, it is a public nuisance to maintain property in such a manner … To abate this violation of Mendocino County Code, remove and properly dispose of the remaining asphalt emulsion oil no later than August 2, 2013.” It’s very likely that when Caltrans is seen to have done nothing when August 2 rolls around Hartzell will be right back on the case.
PERVS ALWAYS FIND A WAY. A Fort Bragg man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly touching a woman inappropriately during a pedicure, the Fort Bragg Police Department reported. According to the FBPD, a 23-year-old Fort Bragg woman reported shortly before 1pm on June 18 that she was groped by a man giving her a pedicure at the “My Beautiful Nails” salon on East Redwood Avenue. The woman told responding officers the suspect, identified as Anhtuan Nguyen, 24, of Fort Bragg, had slid his hand under her pants and rubbed the inside of her thigh during her pedicure. She reported the incident to the owner of the business, then called the police. When officers spoke with Nguyen, he reportedly admitted touching the woman in a sexual manner. He was arrested on suspicion of sexual battery and later cited and released.
THE COUNTY’S RETIREMENT BOARD continues to refuse to lower their highly optimistic expected rate of return on their investments. On Wednesday Board member and investment maverick Ted Stephens suggested lowering the currently projected 7.75% to a more realistic 7.5% or lower (to a rate that more accurately reflects what the future revenues and value stock market values will be. The problem with lowering the expected rate of return is that the County and the pensioners would have to pony up more in the short run to make up whatever difference might result from the lower return assumptions. The current retirement board is mostly made up of representatives of the County and the pensioners who are not inclined to bump up their contributions in the wake of a lower revenue projection. The green-eyeshaders point out that not lowering the revenue projections will just postpone the inevitable as the “unfunded pension liability” grows larger and larger. But the County and the pensioners all say they need the money now and can’t afford to put more into the pension fund via lowering the projected revenues.
STUDIES HAVE SHOWN that most county pensions are modest and reasonable considering the time most pensioners put in. But a small percentage of higher paid pensioners (and some current employees in the same high pay range) have skewed their own pension levels artificially high by not only engineering high pay raises for themselves while on the government payroll, but also by various well-documented salary and benefit tricks to bump up their own pensions at the end of their careers. It’s not fair to harp simply on interest rates and make everybody pay more now simply because a few high paid pensioners have gamed the system to their advantage. But since the high pensions were obtained legally, the only solution, if a solution is even possible, may be to take more money from County coffers and current employees at all pay grades. It’s an upside-down formula favoring high paid insiders that seems to dominate almost all financial problems these days.
THE NEW YORK TIMES published a story Friday on the environmental damage caused by marijuana growers.
In it, Gary Graham Hughes of EPIC says, “There is an identity crisis going on right now…The people who are really involved with [the marijuana] industry are trying to understand what their responsibilities are.” The article looks into many marijuana growing issues that have been covered locally — rodenticide, erosion, and water diversion. Interestingly though the piece leans heavily on the problems associated with marijuana growing, it does end with the idea that the industry has “begun to police itself.” The conclusion notes the Best Management Practices manual and the program that works with people to install water storage. According to the Times, law enforcement hasn’t been very effective against the worst offenders. The article states, “Federal environmental agents, including Mr. Roy and Mr. Job, have brought two cases to the United States Attorney’s office in San Francisco. The office declined to prosecute a case last year, they said. A new one is under review. But, they said, manpower for enforcement is limited.” With articles like this happening more frequently, will the increasing notice the wider world is taking of the environmental impacts of growing marijuana cause the government to take more notice also? (— Kym Kemp, Courtesy LostCoastOutpost.com)
COMMENT OF THE DAY: Regarding the ongoing heat wave in Alaska, “The melt in Greenland and the high temperatures in Alaska may be more signs—like we needed more—of the reality of climate change. Even scarier is the fact that the climate models used before didn’t predict this sort of thing. The climate is very complex, and it’s hard to model it accurately. This is well-known and is why it’s so hard to make long-term predictions. But before the deniers crow that climatologists don’t know what they’re doing, note this well: The predictions made using these models almost always seem to underestimate the effects of climate change. That’s true in this case, too. So it’s not that the models are wrong and therefore climate change doesn’t exist. It’s that the models aren’t perfect, and it’s looking like things are worse than we thought.” (Slate, on-line magazine)
CORPORATIZING NATIONAL SECURITY
What It Means
by Ralph Nader
Privacy is a sacred word to many Americans, as demonstrated by the recent uproar over the brazen invasion of it by the Patriot Act-enabled National Security Agency (NSA). The information about dragnet data-collecting of telephone and internet records leaked by Edward Snowden has opened the door to another pressing conversation—one about privatization, or corporatization of this governmental function.
In addition to potentially having access to the private electronic correspondence of American citizens, what does it mean that Mr. Snowden—a low-level contractor—had access to critical national security information not available to the general public? Author James Bamford, an expert on intelligence agencies, recently wrote: “The Snowden case demonstrates the potential risks involved when the nation turns its spying and eavesdropping over to companies with lax security and inadequate personnel policies. The risks increase exponentially when those same people must make critical decisions involving choices that may lead to war, cyber or otherwise.”
This is a stark example of the blurring of the line between corporate and governmental functions. Booz Allen Hamilton, the company that employed Mr. Snowden, earned over $5 billion in revenues in the last fiscal year, according to The Washington Post. The Carlyle Group, the majority owner of Booz Allen Hamilton, has made nearly $2 billion on its $910 million investment in “government consulting.” It is clear that “national security” is big business.
Given the value and importance of privacy to American ideals, it is disturbing how the terms “privatization” and “private sector” are deceptively used. Many Americans have been led to believe that corporations can and will do a better job handling certain vital tasks than the government can. Such is the ideology of privatization. But in practice, there is very little evidence to prove this notion. Instead, the term “privatization” has become a clever euphemism to draw attention away from a harsh truth. Public functions are being handed over to corporations in sweetheart deals while publicly owned assets such as minerals on public lands and research development breakthroughs are being given away at bargain basement prices.
These functions and assets—which belong to or are the responsibility of the taxpayers—are being used to make an increasingly small pool of top corporate executives very wealthy. And taxpayers are left footing the cleanup bill when corporate greed does not align with the public need.
With this in mind, let us not mince words. “Privatization” is a soft term. Let us call the practice what it really is—corporatization.
There’s big money to be made in moving government-owned functions and assets into corporate hands. Public highways, prisons, drinking water systems, school management, trash collection, libraries, the military and now even national security matters are all being outsourced to corporations. But what happens when such vital government functions are performed for big profit rather than the public good?
Look to the many reports of waste, fraud, and abuse that arose out of the over-use of corporate contractors in Iraq. At one point, there were more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than U.S. soldiers. Look to the private prisons, which make their money by incarcerating as many people as they can for as long as they can. Look to privatized water systems, the majority of which deliver poorer service at higher costs than public utility alternatives. Visit privatizationwatch.org for many more examples of the perils, pitfalls and excesses of rampant, unaccountable corporatization.
In short, corporatizing public functions does not work well for the public, consumers and taxpayers who are paying through the nose.
Some right-wing critics might view government providing essential public services as “socialism,” but as it now stands, we live in a nation increasingly comprised of corporate socialism. There is great value in having public assets and functions that are already owned by the people, to be performed for the public benefit, and not at high profit margins and prices for big corporations. By allowing corporate entities to assume control of such functions, it makes profiteering the central determinant in what, how, and why vital services are rendered.
Just look at the price of medicines given to drug companies by taxpayer-funded government agencies that discovered them.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)
THE ALBION LITTLE RIVER FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT & the Albion Little River Fire Auxiliary present our 52nd annual BBQ and fundraiser. Come join us at the Little River fairgrounds by the airport Saturday, July 13, 12-5 pm. $15 Adult, $10 ages 6-11, under 6 free. We will be serving beef tri-tip, smoked chicken and vegan tamales. Enjoy good food and live music throughout the afternoon. We’ve got lots of new firefighters – come meet us! Spend the day with family and friends and support your Local Fire Department. Featuring Music with the: The Groovenators Stellar Baby including Jon Faurot, Butch Kwan, Buddy Stubbs, John Smith, & Steven Bates Solos by Jon and possibly Steven Three on the Tree Additionally: - Display of classic cars and hot rods! - Display of CalStar & REACH air service vehicles, including the newest EC135 REACH helicopter There will be children’s activities, so bring the kids! Kids' area with games, prizes, bounce house, & Smokey! Save the date! Mark your calendars now! If you would like to donate baked goods, please contact Susy Kitahara at 937-3714. If you can't attend but still want to support us, consider joining the Fire Auxiliary. Monthly meetings are held the third Tuesday of every month at 7 pm at the fire station behind the Albion Grocery. We look forward to seeing you. — Scott Roat, Mendocino