THE BOONVILLE FAIRGROUNDS is ablaze in zinnias and bustle as the annual County Fair gets ready to kick off Friday and will run on through Sunday, featuring lots of interesting events that include a soccer game Friday night between small school champs Anderson Valley and Mendocino, and a football game pitting Anderson Valley against Point Arena, with a rodeo Saturday. Sheep dog trials, too. It's a wonderful little fair, probably the last best of its country kind anywhere in the state.
SPEAKING OF FOOTBALL and, yes, like much of NorCal we looked forward all week to the return of the Niners and the amazing Colin Kaepernick who, as always, did not disappoint last Sunday, methodically but spectacularly passing the Niners to a big win over Green Bay in the 'Stick's last year as a sports venue.
Count me among the minority who will miss the old place, not so much for baseball but definitely for football. Saw lots of ballgames of both types there over the years and, as a kid, a few games at Kezar where I can still remember being afraid of the drunks at my first exposure to masses of unruly fans. Later, as a drunk myself, I found them unintimidating. But Kezar was as wild, if not wilder, than Candlestick ever was even though people were generally much more orderly, much more restrained through the 1940s and 50s. About '67 things went nuts in every arena of American life, but they were always nuts at Kezar.
FROM THE CHRON of 4 January 1971: “Brawling, Beatings At Kezar. Many spectators got particularly drunk as pro football made its last stand at Kezar Stadium yesterday. The 49ers were beaten by the Dallas Cowboys and numerous fans were beaten by rioters who were beaten in turn by police. Defeat, drunkeness and brawling have been familiar aspects of pro football at Kezar for 25 years. It seemed an appropriate way to close the era.” The writer was Steve Zousmer.
IS PATRICIA DARLAND making a run for Fifth District Supervisor? Ms. Darland, a former nurse, has been on the Coast Hospital Board since the early 2000s. But now, according to a note Ms. Darland posted in the newsletter of the Mendocino County Women’s Political Caucus: “As you may know, my term on the hospital board ends in December of 2014 as does Dr. Graham’s. I will most likely not run for re-election and Dr. Graham is most likely retiring as well. That means in December 2014, there will be two vacancies. It is my hope that two or more women choose to run. Any woman who plans to run for the Hospital board should consider starting the process January 2014, declare as soon as they are able for the November 2014 elections..... There is a man on Finance, Kirk O’Day, who is planning to run and hopefully he will not win. Not because he is man but because he is painfully unqualified. Either way, I could help a candidate run against him. Meanwhile, to let you know, I will most likely run for Fifth District Supervisor, either against Dan Hamburg, if he chooses re-election or anyone else who plans to run. If I decide to run, I will decide in January of 2014 and make a public commitment. My term ends, November 2014 and the Supervisorial Term will begin January 2015. Finally, an update: I have divested my Nursing/Elder Care Business, it was suffering due to the inordinate amount of time I was spending at the hospital during this critical time. I am closing my Fort Bragg store for a variety of reasons. I still have a store in Cloverdale, which I most likely will sell that business at the end of the year. I still provide Independent Nurse Consulting but will have additional free time after the first of the year to participate with MWPC, Democratic Central Committee, Soroptimist and others. — Patti.”
BETTER HUNKER DOWN, PATTI. The NWPC, an extension of the local Democratic Party, will have its knives out for you, as will the Demo's Central Committee. They are lip-locked to Hamburg even though Hamburg is registered as a Green, and the Greens, as a Mendo presence, are also a paper front for the flab wing of the local Democrats. Val Muchowski, Joe Wildman and Lee Edmundson did a job on Wendy Roberts last time around, even going so far as to have the phony local branch of the NWPC declare for Hamburg over Roberts, although the point of the organization is to support female candidates. They'll be lying about you from now on.
ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2013 at about 12:27am (just after midnight) Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to an agency assistance call from the California Highway Patrol regarding the report of subjects riding golf carts on the roadway between Testa Vineyards (6400 North State Street) and the downtown Calpella area. The first responding deputy arrived where he was told by a citizen, the golf carts were coming from the Testa Vineyards parking lot. The deputy responded to that location where he contacted numerous individuals who appeared to have been drinking, one of whom indicated he had been giving people rides from the Testa Vineyard parking lot to an off-site parking lot in downtown Calpella.
The deputy was then confronted by Clyde ‘Rusty’ Martinson, 48, of Redwood Valley, co-owner of Testa Vineyards, who was belligerent, intoxicated, and demanded the deputy leave the location. As the deputy was dealing with the crowd, another golf cart being driven by an unidentified person approached the scene and crashed into an object in the parking lot. As the deputy approached that cart to determine if anyone was injured, Martinson threw a beer can at the deputy and then shoved the deputy, again demanding he leave the location. The deputy then called for additional units to respond due to the hostile crowd surrounding him. Martinson was eventually wrestled to the ground by some members of the crowd and restrained. Additional deputies, members of the Ukiah Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and Coyote Valley Tribal Police all responded to assist with the hostile crowd. It was then learned that some unknown person had stolen an ignition key from one of the deputy's patrol vehicle. The key was later returned to the deputy. At one point James Thompson, 49, also of Redwood Valley, approached officers in an agitated and belligerent manner. Thompson was obviously intoxicated and was subsequently arrested for public intoxication and placed into the rear of a patrol unit. Martinson was then contacted, where he was still being restrained, and taken into custody for battery on a peace officer and public intoxication. Martinson physically resisted during the arrest and was also charged with resisting arrest. While Martinson was being arrested an unknown person succeeded in releasing Thomson from the patrol vehicle and he escaped while handcuffed. Deputies searched for Thompson but were unable to find him. Martinson was transported and booked into the County Jail.
AT AROUND 10:45am later that Sunday morning Thompson responded to the Sheriff's Office in Ukiah and surrendered himself to deputies. He had several injuries to his wrists where it appeared the handcuffs had been cut off after his escape. He was then booked into the County Jail. Deputies subsequently received an anonymous tip, identifying Charlene Testa, 59, [Ed note: Charlene Testa is the sister in law of Martinson] of Ukiah, as the person responsible for releasing Thompson from the patrol vehicle, aiding his escape. Testa was contacted and interviewed where she admitted she was responsible for Thompson's release. A case was submitted to the District Attorney's office for review of a charge of lynching against Testa. [Ed note: Charlene Testa is listed as Mendocino County Transportation Department employee and a member of the County’s Employee Wellness Advisory Committee.] The case was submitted to the District Attorney's Office for review of charges and to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for review of possible sanctions against the holder of the liquor license of Testa Vineyards. The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information identifying anyone aiding the escape or release of Thompson is encouraged the contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office at (707)234-2100. (Sheriff’s Department Press Release)
[Ed note: Testa Vineyards’ website shows their third annual “Barn, Blending, BBQ” event was scheduled to end Saturday night at 10pm.]
A READER WRITES: “I am interested to know if the District Attorney has or is willing to look into the possibly corrupt privatization process of the County's Mental Health Services? In particular: A) The conflict of interest with the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Director, Tom Pinozzotto, regarding his financial ties with the Ortner Management Group who won the contract to replace the Department of Mental Health's adult services and Mental Health crisis; B) Mr. Pinozzotto's dismantling of Crisis Services before and during the contract bidding in order to sell the need to outsource to the public and Board of Supervisors while endangering the citizens of Mendocino who needed emergency mental health hospitalization; C) The conflict of interest regarding James Shaw as the Mental Health Board Chair and his wife, Anna Shaw, the Executive Director of Fort Bragg's Hospitality House who both financially gain from the privatization with Anna receiving money directly from Ortner Management Group to provide Adult Mental Health Services and Crisis services.”
KSHAMA SAWANT is a socialist candidate for the Seattle City Council. She received 35% of the primary vote and will face a Democrat in November for the seat. “The Democratic Party has run this city for decades. The mayor and all the city council members are Democrats and are representing only a tiny spectrum of political opinion and the interests of the people of Seattle, namely Paul Allen and the richest 1%, along with Amazon, Starbucks, big property developers, and downtown business interests. … While the Democratic Party pays lip service to working people, in reality both the Democrats and Republicans serve the interests of a tiny financial aristocracy. The Sawant campaign is an opportunity to break out from the prison of corporate politics.” DITTO FOR THE DEMOCRATS of Mendocino County and every other area of the country where they're dominant.
THE EAST EUROPEAN CONNECTION
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office press release:
On 09-09-2013, approximately 9:00 a.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office assisted by CalFire, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Humboldt County Drug Task Force
(HCDTF) served a Humboldt County Superior Court Search Warrant on a 160 acre parcel of property off State Route Highway 36 near milemarker 31.54, Bridgeville. When the warrant was served deputies located and detained twelve suspects located at various locations on the property. A thirteenth suspect fled on foot as officers arrived. A chase ensued, however the suspect was able to escape into the brush. Officers searched greenhouses and buildings on the parcel. They located an approximate 60’ by 30’ shop with living quarters. The shop was being utilized to process and dry marijuana. Hanging in the shop was approximately 375 pounds of drying harvested marijuana. Also located at the property was four greenhouses approximately 40’ by 80’ which contained growing marijuana plants. A total of 685 growing marijuana plants ranging from 6’ to 7’ tall, all budding, were located and removed. A semiautomatic
A 9mm handgun was located in one of the suspect’s vehicles. Officers located and seized $10,422.00 in US currency, scales, packaging material and other items indicating sales of marijuana for profit. The suspects claimed the marijuana cultivation site was a collective for medical marijuana and presented the officers with a stack of medical marijuana slips approximately 3” thick.
Officers also located a significant amount of environmental damage to the parcel. Cal-Fire Officers on scene described the damage as a “Significant environmental impact due to water course alterations because of heavy equipment operations in and around the watercourse.” The watercourse affected is Little Larabee Creek. Officers found clear cutting of trees and illegal roads cut into the hillside. A pump was found in Little Larabee Creek illegally removing water from the creek which was dry downstream from the pump. Little Larabee contains Steelhead trout which means the drainage is federally protected per California Department and Fish and Wildlife.
Approximately four hours into the search of the parcel, officer heard noises in the brush at a different location on the property. The suspect who fled on foot was sighted again and ordered to surrender. California Fish and Wildlife Wardens had a K-9 with them. After the suspect failed to stop at officers commands, the K-9 was released and caught the suspect. This suspect was identified as Yul Cashman. He was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for dog bite wounds prior to being transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility.
The following suspects were arrested at this location and transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where they were booked on the listed charges:
• Valentine Velikov Marinov, male 37 years old from Pleasant Hill, California: charges of cultivation, possession of marijuana of for sale, armed in the commission of a felony, altering a streambed, water pollution, harvesting timber without a license, illegal harvesting timber, misuse of timber lands
• Valeri Petrov Vasilev, male, 57 years old, from Las Vegas, Nevada : charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale
• Maja Damnjanovska, female, 27 years old from New York, New York: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, also Immigration and Customs Hold
• Dragoljub Obucina, male, 28 years old, from Astoia, New York: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, also Immigration and Customs Hold
• Boriana Eugenieva Stoyanova, female, 51 years old, from Las Vegas, Nevada: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, also Immigration and Customs Hold
• Paulina Aleksandrova Kitanova, female, 63 years old from Charlotte, North Carolina: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale
• Nevena Patrova Alexandrova, female, 46 years old from Charlotte, North Carolina: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale
• Silviya Simeonova Lazarova, female, 43 years old from Las Vegas, Nevada: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, also Immigration and Customs Hold
• Julieta Mihaleva Ivanova, female,54 years old from San Francisco, California: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, also Immigration and Customs Hold
• Tatyana Aleksandrova Pencheva, female, 59 years old from Buglaria: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale
• Milana Tojagic, female 31 years old from Chicago, Illinois: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale , also Immigration and Customs Hold
• Tamara Srpsko Acimovia, female 33 years old, from New York, New York: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale
• Yul Cashman, male, 65 years old from Las Vegas: charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale and resisting arrest.
While officers were searching and processing the first marijuana grow site they located a second marijuana grow site on an adjoining parcel. A second Humboldt County Superior Court Search warrant was obtained for that location. When the warrant was served at approximately 1:00 p.m. officers located three greenhouses on that parcel containing 1026 growing marijuana plants ranging in size from 1’ to 5’ tall. They also located ammunition, but no firearms along with additional significant environmental violations. Those violations included illegal timber harvesting, allowing raw sewage to drain into Little Larabee Creek which included fecal matter, and unpermitted roads.
Cal Fire officials who were at both locations commented that the roads cut at both sites were similar to what would be seen during logging operations in the 1940’s. They expect both locations to have significant sediment issues from runoff once the winter rains begin.
Located and arrested at the second location were the following suspects:
• Michael Kenneth Metelits, 42 years old from Fortuna: charged with cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, five counts streambed alteration, four counts of polluting a waterway, littering with 150 feet of a stream, misuse of timber lands, and conducting timber harvesting without a permit. Metelits is also wanted by the State of Virginia for shipping large amounts of marijuana from Fortuna,Ca. to Virginia.
• Jaime Javier Contreras, 20 years old from Stockton, California: charged of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale
• Carlos Fuerte Cachu, 61 years old, from Stockton, California: charged of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale
The Cal Fire Public Information officer is Jim Robins who can be reached at Ph. 1-707-599-6435
The California Fish and Wildlife Public Information Officer is Jordan Traverso who can be reached at 1-916-654-9937
The investigation is ongoing.
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 Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: The rich have a sort of pilot fish who goes ahead of them, sometimes a little deaf, sometimes a little blind, but always smelling affable and hesitant ahead of them. The pilot fish talks like this: “Well I don't know. No of course not really. But I like them. I like them both. Yes, by God, Hem; I do like them. I see what you mean but I do like them truly and there's something damned fine about her.” (He gives her name and pronounces it lovingly.) “No, Hem, don't be silly and don't be difficult. I like them truly. Both of them I swear it. You'll like him (using his baby-talk nickname) when you know him. I like them both, truly.” Then you have the rich and nothing is ever as it was again. The pilot fish leaves of course. He is always going somewhere, or coming from somewhere, and he is never around for very long. He enters and leaves politics or the theater in the same way he enters and leaves countries and people's lives in his early days. He is never caught and he is not caught by the rich. Nothing ever catches him and it is only those who trust him who are caught and killed. He has the irreplaceable early training of the bastard and a latent and long denied love of money. He ends up rich himself, having moved one dollar's width to the right with every dollar that he made. Under the charm of these rich I was as trusting and as stupid as a bird dog who wants to go out with any man with a gun, or a trained pig in a circus who has finally found someone who loves and appreciates him for himself alone. That every day should be a fiesta seemed to me a marvelous discovery. I even read aloud the part of the novel that I had rewritten, which is about as low as a writer can get and much more dangerous for him as a writer than glacier skiing unroped before the full winter snowfall has set over the crevices. When they said, “It's great, Ernest. Truly it's great. You cannot know the thing it has,” I wagged my tail in pleasure and plunged into the fiesta concept of life to see if I could not bring some fine attractive stick back, instead of thinking, “If these bastards like it what is wrong with it?” That was what I would think if I had been functioning as a professional although, if I had been functioning as a professional, I would never have read it to them. — Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
THE SNOWDEN FILES: THE NSA & ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE
By Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill
• Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by Israelis
• Only official US government communications protected
• Agency insists it complies with rules governing privacy
The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian <http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/sep/11/nsa-israel-intelligence-memorandum-understanding-document> by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.
The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization,” but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.
The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum <http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/sep/11/nsa-israel-intelligence-memorandum-understanding-document>, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.
The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons,” repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.
But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” — signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”
According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection,” it says.
Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.
“This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law,” the document says.
In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.
“Any US person information that is acquired as a result of NSA's surveillance activities is handled under procedures that are designed to protect privacy rights,” the spokesperson said.
The NSA declined to answer specific questions about the agreement, including whether permission had been sought from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court for handing over such material.
The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian is publishing in full, allows Israel to retain “any files containing the identities of US persons” for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the Israelis should consult the NSA's special liaison adviser when such data is found.
Notably, a much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The Israelis were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government.” Such communications included those of “officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court).”
It is not clear whether any communications involving members of US Congress or the federal courts have been included in the raw data provided by the NSA, nor is it clear how or why the NSA would be in possession of such communications. In 2009, however, the New York Times reported on “the agency's attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip.”
The NSA is required by law to target only non-US persons without an individual warrant, but it can collect the content and metadata of Americans' emails and calls without a warrant when such communication is with a foreign target. US persons are defined in surveillance legislation as US citizens, permanent residents and anyone located on US soil at the time of the interception, unless it has been positively established that they are not a citizen or permanent resident.
Moreover, with much of the world's internet traffic passing through US networks, large numbers of purely domestic communications also get scooped up incidentally by the agency's surveillance programs.
The document mentions only one check carried out by the NSA on the raw intelligence, saying the agency will “regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons' identities.” It also requests that the Israelis limit access only to personnel with a “strict need to know.”
Israeli intelligence is allowed “to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA” on condition that it does so “in a manner that does not identify the US person.” The agreement also allows Israel to release US person identities to “outside parties, including all INSU customers” with the NSA's written permission.
Although Israel is one of America's closest allies, it is not one of the inner core of countries involved in surveillance sharing with the US — Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This group is collectively known as Five Eyes.
The relationship between the US and Israel has been strained at times, both diplomatically and in terms of intelligence. In the top-secret 2013 intelligence community budget request, details of which were disclosed by the Washington Post <http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/black-budget-summary-details-us-spy-networks-successes-failures-and-objectives/2013/08/29/7e57bb7 8-10ab-11e3-8cdd-bcdc09410972_story.html>, Israel is identified alongside Iran and China as a target for US cyberattacks.
While NSA documents tout the mutually beneficial relationship of Sigint sharing, another report, marked top secret and dated September 2007, states that the relationship, while central to US strategy, has become overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of Israel.
“Balancing the Sigint exchange equally between US and Israeli needs has been a constant challenge,” states the report, titled “History of the US — Israel Sigint Relationship, Post-1992.” “In the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA's only true Third Party [counter-terrorism] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner.”
In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US. “On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”
Later in the document, the official is quoted as saying: “One of NSA's biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel. There are parameters on what NSA shares with them, but the exchange is so robust, we sometimes share more than we intended.”
The memorandum of understanding also contains hints that there had been tensions in the intelligence-sharing relationship with Israel. At a meeting in March 2009 between the two agencies, according to the document, it was agreed that the sharing of raw data required a new framework and further training for Israeli personnel to protect US person information.
It is not clear whether or not this was because there had been problems up to that point in the handling of intelligence that was found to contain Americans' data.
However, an earlier US document obtained by Snowden, which discusses co-operating on a military intelligence program, bluntly lists under the cons: “Trust issues which revolve around previous ISR [Israel] operations.”
The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the FISA court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off on the agreement with Israel.
In its statement, the NSA said: “We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.
“NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information.”
See Also: Read the NSA and Israel's 'Memorandum of Understanding' <http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/sep/11/nsa-israel-intelli gence-memorandum-understanding-document>
(Courtesy, the London Guardian)
POST OFFICE BLUES. Jeff Costello writes: The USPS is up to its usual declining function. Deliveries to Denver started on Mondays, then Tuesdays, then Wednesdays, a week after publication. Now it looks like Thursday. Maybe.
HIGH ON LODI
By William Hughes
I've got a friend Chris who's a skydiver. A legitimate one. He goes skydiving every Sunday in Lodi/Acampo at the Parachute Center.
I've got a little experience in the sky. Way back in my New York life a group of us summer lifeguards went parachuting (precondition for skydiving) in Lakeland, New Jersey where the Nazi Hindenburg blew up. That added a little spice to the jumping out of an airplane from 10,000 feet. The jump school was barnstorming, “Dawn Patrol,” Red Baron shabby, Quonset huts and a World War II DC-10 to take you up.
After the class the first parachute jump was a little shaky, stepping into the door, and jumping out. But once the static line chute opened, and with the reassuring voice from the radio on your reserve chute, floating above the Earth, floating down to the target zone was bliss, absolute.
Jump number two for the day was at twilight, dark¬ness in the sky, still light on the ground. Bliss plus-plus.
So I'm off with Chris to Lodi/Acampo on a Sunday, not to jump, to observe, take a ride up in the jump plane. His description of the Lodi Airport Cafe got my atten¬tion, maybe shabby meets well turned out. I expect to jump again, just a matter of when.
I've been to Lodi once, taking a friend to a dialysis clinic, so this is basically my first trip. John Fogerty's song, like everyone, is all I know about Lodi.
Skydiving always gets a day in the news, the good news for some 80-year-old doing a jump or the bad news of someone not surviving a jump or more recently that amazing news of that semi-astronaut guy jumping out from the edge of space.
99 South to Lodi, sort of our Route 66, bumped and bruised but still of great use. Elk Grove, green around the edges of an abandoned shopping center. Galt, some vineyards, Little League fields and a short golf course with nobody on it. The Lodi Airport Cafe with its flying cheeseburger sign, small planes like large dragonflies, sheet metal hangers, thin white clouds like skywriting in the almost clear blue sky, cool and comfortable, first lit¬tle parachutes sign for the Parachute Center.
I'm expecting ex-military types getting their Seal Team 6 on, but Chris tells me it's a lot more hacky-sack than haversack.
And sure enough, two guys in the gravel parking lot look like they slept in their truck, all their jumping gear stuffed in back, “Dead Head” gruff.
The grounds are what I expected, almost abandoned chic, sheet metal sheds and former hangers. It reminds me of a visit to the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, overgrown and shabby where the greatest wine, uh, whiskey in the world is created. Seemed impossible.
Part of the scene here is an abandoned phone booth with a worn-out Superman costume hanging inside.
The sheet metal hanger is a “Dead Head” encampment, a slice of Woodstock, the absolute bare minimum, parachutes for curtains, broken furniture for furniture, the dedicated jumpers each with their own wall locker, video screens and computers to view their jump videos, everyone ambling or lounging around, some in jumping suits, some shirtless, shoeless, hippie chicks, rasta potheads, athletes and artisans.
I'm totally bowled over, or rather totally gently rolled over. There's a gypsy camp where I expected a fort. This is zen central. We fly, we float through the air, chill out, man.
I do, soaking in the shared apartment atmosphere, Russian commando types, surfer dudes and surfer chicks, quiet like, subdued. You can camp here if you like, Chris all familiar with all of it with over 100 jumps under his harness now.
You can pick out the first-time jumpers, something like your first day at summer camp. Again, I'm not going to jump. I'm along for the ride.
Chris has to suit up in a room reserved for the seri¬ous. $15 bucks for the observation seat which Chris tells me will be in the copilot seat of the twin engine Otter, whatever that is.
Chris is transformed into Spiderman, helmet, goggles, suit and parachute.
We pay up at the memorabilia-splattered front desk, Bill and Kathy, husband and wife owners looking like two elderly ex-pats who owned an apartment in Paris with famous works of art. Chris tells me that Bill has one billion jumps on his resume.
So we're all set, sitting on a broken couch, Chris explaining all the gauges and devices on the pier to make sure he arrived back on Earth in one complete piece.
There's a short training video for the first timers. The narrator looks like a Rasputin from Humboldt County. The wonder continues.
We'll go up in flight 12, a twin engine Otter going up and coming down, up to 13,000 feet, dropping some jumpers as low as 3,000 feet.
It ain't your old man's parachute, World War II round and white. It's all multi-colored sport chutes all the time.
We've got time to sit on another broken couch on the flight line with all the others in a busy Sunday. Now comes the good stuff. Chris gave me a taste on the way in, colored chutes appearing out of the clear blue sky like colored dandelion pods, jumpers from 3,000 feet semi-soaring-floating down to earth.
There are stories galore on the flight line, helmet mounted cameras, a woman I'm chatting with was wear¬ing a weighted belt like a scuba diver to make sure her body weight can pop the shoot. There's a ring of coed jumpers practicing their sky ballet. There's Chris, a member of the cult-fraternity but only on a freshman level.
The first-time jumpers get attached to a pro. A $100 stand in the door at 13,000 feet. Go! Next time for me.
And the flights that are up before you. Shield your eyes against the sun and poof, those dandelion pods magically appear, one, two, three, four, five, twisting and twirling to earth, landing quietly, almost softly.
Here we go, a flight of about 15, the twin engine Otter's engines revving as we climb in, me upfront with a pilot right out of Long John Silver's locker, all the dash instruments like the first ever computer. The grizzled pilot doesn't say a word to me as I buckle in.
I'm a Vietnam vet, so I've been in my share of heli¬copters, both in flight and wobbling down from under fire. I feel both comfortable and uncomfortable.
I can't turn around far enough to take in all the crew behind me. Chris is back there somewhere. I've seen vid¬eos of him in-flight. I doubt if I could.
Down the runway we race. Off we go, slowly cir¬cling up to 13,000 feet, the disciplined earth of the farm field valley much more impressive and disappointing from above, Mt. Diablo earthtone clear, the plane slow¬ing to let jumpers at 3,000 feet disappear out the door.
You can feel the cold air as we climb, human made lakes and communities below, a first-time jumper and his pilot right at my shoulder, laughing and smiling, getting ready to go.
I'm watching the altimeter. We reached the big 3 after the 0 on the dial. The pilot slows the engine. We almost glide for a few moments.
Out they go, only two packages of silk to get you home.
Now comes my own, stomach churn that it is, as the plane banks into the steep curve down. If we crash there's only one chute for the two of us. I'm exaggerating it of course, but your throat does go up into your upper throat as this somehow flying machine plummets back to earth, a glimpse here and there of the carnival chutes as we curve down, the runway somehow appearing, the landing always a bit tight in the undershorts, the plane racing along the runway. We're not going to stop, we're not going to stop! Reverse all engines and we coast to a stop.
I'm out as quick as I can, trying to catch the last of the jumpers come back to earth.
Chris has landed. He's transported to that other life of it, again. He wants up again as soon as he can. It changes things.
We do a little Ready Room debriefing on another frumpy couch, a Russian woman jumper so beautiful you'd defect for her roaming all around all in black.
That is that, for now, except for the Lodi Airport Cafe on the way out, people Chris knows from their res¬taurant visit where he works in Sacramento. It's a unique little place, hangar-like beside the little plane airport this Lodi family owns. It's a little too brand-new bare, in need of a large dose of flying memorabilia. I'll talk to my friend Chuck Yeager of sound barrier fame, no kidding.
We can be birds but the birds can't end the day with a salutary cocktail. The sky is not our limit. (To be continued.)
ACTIVISTS URGE SENATOR PAVLEY TO WITHDRAW DANGEROUS FRACKING BILL
by Dan Bacher
Following the adoption of anti-environmental amendments to Senate Bill 4 under intense pressure from the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) on Friday, September 6, major environmental, consumer and progressive groups are calling on Fran Senator Pavley to withdraw the bill.
The bill, the only remaining bill in the California legislature addressing hydraulic fracturing, was amended on the Assembly floor on Friday in ways that “undermine existing environmental law and leave Californians unprotected from fracking and other dangerous and extreme fossil fuel extraction techniques,” according to a statement from Californians Against Fracking.
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid â€” typically water, sand, and chemicals, including ones known to cause cancer â€” are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well, according to Food and Water Watch.
SB 4 would require permits for fracking, acidizing and other oil well stimulation practices, according to a news release from Senator Pavley's Office on August 30. Supporters of the legislation include the Natural Resources Defense Council and California League of Conservation Voters,
“This bill will address serious unanswered questions about the safety and environmental risks of fracking and acidizing,” Senator Pavley claimed. “California needs strict regulations to hold the oil industry accountable for the true costs of its activities.”
However, over 100 groups, including the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, MoveOn.org Civic Action, CREDO, Friends of the Earth, California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) and the Center for Biological Diversity, oppose Pavley's bill, saying it will pave the way for increased fracking.
“Senate Bill 4, already a seriously flawed bill, has been further undermined and does not protect Californians from the threats that fracking poses to our water, air and communities,” said Adam Scow, California campaigns director for Food & Water Watch. “It's time for Senator Pavley to drop this bill.”
“New amendments to Senator Pavley’s Senate Bill 4 could pave the way for more fracking between now and 2015,” said Ross Hammond, senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “The latest round of amendments would require state officials to continue allowing fracking while environmental review would be conducted only after the fact.”
Key dangerous provisions in the latest amendments include:
â€¢ New language added to the bill specifies that “no additional review or mitigation shall be required” if the supervisor of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources “determines” that the proposed fracking activities have met the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.
“This provision could be used by DOGGR to bypass CEQA’s bedrock environmental review and mitigation requirements,” according to the groups. “This language could also prevent air and water boards, local land use jurisdictions and other agencies from carrying out their own CEQA reviews of fracking.”
â€¢ In addition, under existing law, the governor and DOGGR can deny approvals for wells that involve fracking or place a partial or complete moratorium on fracking. The new language states that DOGGR “shall allow” fracking to take place until regulations are finalized in 2015 provided that certain conditions are met.
“This could be interpreted to require every fracked well to be approved between now and 2015, with environmental review conducted only after the fact, and could be used to block the Governor or DOGGR from issuing a moratorium on fracking prior to 2015,” the groups stated.
“With the new amendments added, Senator Pavley's weak fracking bill has gone over the edge and become dangerous,” said Zack Malitz, campaign manager for CREDO Action, “If this bill passes as amended, it will allow the fracking industry to shoot holes in CEQA, potentially exempting fracking from our state's most important environmental law. It's time for Senator Fran Pavley to withdraw this hopelessly compromised bill.”
“With the greatest respect for Senator Pavley and her efforts this session, we urge her to withdraw this bill because it could undermine existing environmental law and leave Californians in the short term with even fewer protections from fracking than the law currently provides,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California, declined to comment on the details of discussions with lawmakers, according to the Sacramento Bee.
However, she “dismissed the notion that her organization is trying to avoid the CEQA review process, which the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, or DOGGR, administers for wells.” (http:// blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/09/energy-industry-seeking- ceqa-exemptions-in-fracking-bill.html
“The environmental groups that are claiming that WSPA is trying to exempt hydraulic fracturing from CEQA review are just misstating the facts,” Reheis-Boyd told the Bee.
Ironically, Reheis-Boyd and her colleagues on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force made sure that the so-called “marine protected areas” created under their “leadership” failed to protect the ocean from the destructive activities of the oil industry and other ocean industrialists.
Oil companies have fracked at least 12 times in California's ocean waters, according to information received from Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by truthout.org and the Associated Press. The California Coastal Commission has pledged to investigate the environmentally destructive oil extraction method, including what powers the agency has to regulate it.(http://www.mercurynews.com/ central-coast/ci_23876202/californias-coastal-commission-investigate- offshore-fracking)
The evidence of the enormous threat that fracking poses to fish, water, air and the environment continues to pile up. Oil companies have used 12 dangerous “air toxic” chemicals more than 300 times in the Los Angeles Basin in recent months, according to a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity that is already drawing concerned reactions from public health advocates and an L.A. city councilmembers. Air toxics are chemicals considered among the most dangerous air pollutants because they can cause illness and death. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/09/05/18742764.php)
Already nearly 200,000 petitions have been signed urging Governor Brown to ban fracking in California. Farmers, environmental justice groups, public health advocates, local elected officials, students, Hollywood, and many others are calling on Governor Brown to halt fracking in California.
More than 100 groups, including CREDO, Food and Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, MoveOn.org, California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), Environmental Protection Information Center, Butte Environmental Council and Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, signed a letter demanding that Governor Jerry Brown immediately impose a moratorium on fracking in California and opposing SB 4.
For more information and to sign the petitions to ban fracking in California, visit:
http://www.CaliforniansAgainstFracking.orgSenate Bill 4 must be approved on the Assembly Floor and return to the Senate Floor for “concurrence” (to reflect changes since it was first approved by the Senate) before it can be sent to the governor.