Press "Enter" to skip to content

Mendocino County Today: Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014

* * *

HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK for the Mendocino Coast:

High surf advisory in effect from 8 pm this evening to 2 am Thursday (breaking waves 19 to 24 feet along west facing beaches).

Flood watch in effect from Wednesday evening through Thursday evening (rises on streams, creeks, and small rivers are expected and may result in flooded roads).

High wind watch in effect from Wednesday evening through Thursday morning (strong south winds 20 to 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph; higher ridge tops may see gusts to 60 mph).

--National Weather Service, Eureka CA (5am, Tue, Dec 9, 2014)

* * *

THE FORT BRAGG CITY COUNCIL MEETING of December 8th could not be held at Town Hall due to construction work. Costs of those Town Hall building improvements were a minor point of contention in the recent election campaign for three of the five council seats. The December 8th gathering in which the three campaign winners (former councilmember Lindy Peters, recently retired public works department employee Michael “Q Ball” Cimolino, and Mayor Dave Turner) would be seated was held at a smaller venue on Dana Street, the John Diederich Center. Only thirty chairs were put out for public seating. Those were filled long before the six o'clock meeting start time; another thirty or so people stood behind the folding chair audience and several handfuls more flooded outside the entrance door. The attraction seemed to be Agenda Item 5.C: Receive Report Regarding Modifications to Main Street Merge Lane Relocation & Streetscape Project in Response to Business Concerns and Provide Direction to Staff.

Main Street business managers like Autumn Stuckey were on social media earlier in the day urging a big turnout for the meeting. On Facebook, Stuckey stated, “So lets all try to be there and welcome the new council in and put to voice the stopping of this project. Then we can move on to the next issues.”

Though she doesn't own a Fort Bragg business, Roberta Mayberry, the wife of recently retired Fort Bragg Police Chief Scott Mayberry responded with this lengthy comment, “The two new council members agree with the people, no main street project, but the Queens not worried because the rest of them don't care what the community and business owners want, the do what they are told..... If you are smart you'll get to all the business owners and remind them in person that they need to be there. "She" said this will all pass and everyone will just go back to normal. Then we'll be back to 5 people at all the meetings...... I would hope she is mistaken folks. I say, let's get that petition going to say good riddens to bad rubbage!"

There's no use placing [sic] next every spelling, punctuation, or grammatical error when this woman is on a roll. The “Queen” and the “She” Mrs. Mayberry referenced is Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing. Seemingly, Roberta Mayberry can't bring herself to write the woman's actual name.

The Main Street Merge Project was obviously designed by someone unaware of the ingress and egress needs for several downtown Fort Bragg businesses (because Main Street in Fort Bragg is one and the same as Highway 1, much of the blame falls squarely on the oft criticized folks at Caltrans), so it has become a cause not just for those business owners who might lose customers due to construction, but those opposed to the project have found anti-city hall support from citizens still disgruntled over the dismissal/retirement of Scott Mayberry from his position as Chief of Police.

Unfortunately for the latter group, by the time former Chief Mayberry took to the podium during the public comment period of the city council meeting the vast majority of the audience (the Main Street business people) had left the building as surely as Elvis.

Undaunted, Mayberry began by noting that not a day has gone by since July without some member of the public asking him to reveal exactly what issues triggered his apparently early retirement and to clarify what accusations had been made about/against him by city staffers. It would seem clear he referred here to City Manager Ruffing and possibly her assistant, Ginny Feth Michel.

“So I'm going to clear up some of those issues,” Mayberry said.

The next words out of his mouth made it evident that awareness of irony may not be the highest priority in the Mayberry household. “As we know, I have been probably the most humble person in the world – three and a half years as Chief of Police here.”

I can't just leave that quote hanging there to lynch Scott Mayberry with his own words. On the job he is generally a gentleman who, at times, even delights in self-effacing humor. Like all of us he is not perfect, his choice of words at this meeting was sometimes self-aggrandizing and self defeating, but from his point of view, from his world as a leader of police officers, he spoke as genuinely as he could. As a member of Coast Copwatch, I've seen Scott Mayberry make mistakes. His steadfast defense of a rookie officer who made one misjudgment after another brought periods of closed doors to critics from a public servant who professed an open door policy. On the other hand Scott Mayberry has been seen taking a bag lunch to Bainbridge Park to sit down on the grass and eat beside the homeless or chat amiably with those afflicted by drug problems. He is a man of contradictions, but there are many, many folks in Fort Bragg who believe in him. His departure from the police force was clearly an impetus behind the candidacy of Michael Cimolino, and the anger and frustration of those residents of Fort Bragg who believe strongly in Scott Mayberry was the chief reason Cimolino was the second highest vote-getter in the November council election.

As he spoke to the City Council, Mayberry pointed out that comments were made by city staff at council meetings this fall that damaged his reputation. He also disclosed what many in the public may not have known, that at the end of June his doctor recommended that Scott Mayberry needed at least thirty days away from work, essentially to recover from the physical and emotional stress he had been under for the three months following March 19, 2014 when Deputy Sheriff Ricky Del Fiorentino was ambushed and killed and shortly thereafter Fort Bragg Police Lieutenant John Naulty killed the assailant. Mayberry provided immediate backup on the scene. Naulty has been on leave ever since (this too may become a controversial issue at some point). At any rate, Mayberry not only filled in for Naulty on duty, but according to Mayberry's account, he also worked extra shifts, including graveyard, so that his sergeants and other officers could have time off with their families.

Mayberry stated that city staff accused him of “abandoning the department at an important time.” Mayberry revealed that his physician had told him, somewhere near the end of 2013, that his physical condition was such that he needed to take six months off from work to successfully recover. Mayberry offered to make public all medical records needed to prove the point.

According to Mayberry he told his doctor that he could not do that because the staffing at Fort Bragg PD was so low he could not take time off. Mayberry reiterated, “I did not abandon the department, I would never abandon the department. In thirty years of law enforcement I have never abandoned anything I have done. And to be accused of that is outrageous.”

Mayberry divulged that he had been suffering from pseudoseizures while on the job. He said that when this happened he pushed his office door shut so subordinates wouldn't notice and he didn't point this out because he needed to get on with his job and “get things done.”

The former chief went on to cite other alleged statements made by city staff that purportedly insinuated things like, 'There's more to Chief Mayberry, but personnel rules prevent us from talking about it.'

Next, he attempted to turn the tables, saying that if there were incidents that proved he had performed in a way that amounted to abandoning the Fort Bragg Police Department, all of those specifics should be cited in his personnel record. He offered to make such records public, seemingly daring city staff or the city council to cite any formal documentation of such failures. Mayberry's clear implication being that there's virtually nothing in his performance evaluations that specifies anything that would be interpreted as abandoning the department.

Scott Mayberry clearly feels disrespected, I might feel the same way in a similar scenario, but here's the problem: Roberta Mayberry. The former chief's wife's comments noted above already top the snarky meter and move on into blatant disrespect. Mrs. Mayberry's comments were made online, which in today's world is as public as any civic meeting, possibly reaching a broader audience and creating a longer lasting impression.

Mrs. Mayberry didn't stop there. No sooner had the City Council meeting broken up, she was back on line with this litany about City Manager Ruffing, “She can put that in her pipe and smoke it! Isn't he just wonderful! I feel so sorry for this community losing someone who loves this community so much. SHE is the reason this happened....SHE needs to be next. He proved she is a liar tonight when he disputed three separate things she had made statements about... Once a liar, always a liar!”

I don't know about you, dear readers, but as for me that's quite a mouthful of insolent disrespect. Scott Mayberry is perhaps rightfully upset that he has not been fully respected by Fort Bragg's city staff and the city manager in particular, but c'mon, if this is how your spouse behaves publicly, you can't expect most people to take you seriously.

In the immortal words of Steve Martin, “Excuse Me,” Mr. Mayberry, but when your spouse is out their online dissing another public figure in a manner more suited to a spoiled teenaged cheerleader than a sympathetic supporter, well, if that's the case, and it most certainly seems to be, then my best advice is to “fuhgeddaboutit” and move on with your new job as an investigator in the district attorney's office, a position that you took on willingly without six months of doctor mandated R&R beforehand.

By the way, the Fort Bragg City Council ended up listening to the majority of business owners and unanimously rejected the Main Street Merge Project. The newly constituted city council elected Dave Turner mayor and Lindy Peters vice mayor.

--Malcolm Macdonald

* * *

TOMMY WAYNE KRAMER checks in from across the waters: “The civilization edge our European Betters once enjoyed may be thinning. Coffee is weak orange ditchwater over here and I would gladly pay $5 (or even 5 euros) for a nice big cup of Starbucks every morning. For Peet's: $7.50. We bought a small brick of Spanish ground coffee that we decided was probably intended for smoking; as a morning beverage I'd prefer my pre-gargled toothpaste backwash. Awful crap.

On la otra mano, there are plenty of nice little fruit stands and butcher shops. Food is inexpensive and the rents are what we used to call “Peoples' Prices.” An eight-pack of beer no worse than Miller or Bud quality runs about $3 euros, which is maybe $3.45 or so in Americano dollars. We go to Seville and Cordoba tomorrow morning (by rail) and the nice little downtown hotels that look great on the internet will cost about 35 or 40 euros a night — less than $50.

The people are nice, but contrary to the endlessly circulated myth, not everyone speaks English, nor tries to. It's more daunting to conduct everyday business transactions with the taxi drivers and shopkeepers here than it is in Italy or France or Covelo.

But what the hell do I know? I’ve been here four days and I'm talking like the Europe on $10 a Day Handbook. First let me check out the youth hostels in Amsterdam so I get a better balance of information."

* * *

HOOPS! 30 YEARS AGO, the $40,000-a-year prep schools got run right out of the Boonville gym. “Take that, rich boys!” Then the private schools started passing out scholarships to kids who could also play basketball, perhaps taking their cue from the Catholic schools who have scoured their catchment areas for athletic talent for many years now, leaving public schools at their athletic mercy. Of which they have none, running up lopsided wins for decades now over the undermanned public schools. The frenzied contests for prep sports titles are objectively crazy but alumni steadily push their favorite sports to the limits of prep crazy. Here in Boonville at our Redwood Classic there are way too many mismatches as these high school private school powerhouses drive up from the city to beat Mendo teams by fifty points. Only Cloverdale is consistently competitive or, from the north, Hoopa, and one year Hoopa showed up with this huge German kid from Argentina, descended, perhaps, from one of the Boys From Brazil.

BRANSON SCHOOL, now a prep hoops powerhouse in the tough Marin County league, was once a sleepy girl's school tucked away among the impenetrable mansions of Ross. Julia Child is perhaps the school's most illustrious graduate, and up until the fraught 1960s, Branson was a secure place for the ruling class to stash their debutantes to keep them from unsuitable matches. Of course all that social precaution flew out the wide open window of 1967 when the debs began flying off with guitar players. Lately, Branson has been much in the news because its headmaster was discovered in a grungy Sacramento motel room with an impressive array of drugs and a girl young enough to be his granddaughter passed out on the bed. The scandal would have been nicely rounded off if she'd been a Branson Girl, but no such luck.

* * *

THE OMNI-TALENTED OLIVIA ALLEN is presently in England where she is starring in the University of Essex's stage production of Revolutionary Road. A theater natural, Olivia, who grew up in the hills west of Philo, is a 2012 graduate of Anderson Valley High School. Soon, we'll all be saying, "Hey! I knew Olivia when…"


* * *

LAURA DALE, a former lieutenant at the Mendocino County Jail, has filed a claim against the County alleging that six colleagues at the Jail posted her photo on the Jail computer in a way that was sexually suggestive. The posting, Ms. Dale says, caused her great embarrassment and mental anguish. Ms. Dale characterized the behavior she allegedly suffered as "malicious" and "egregious." She retired in March of 2010. The Supervisors routinely deny claims.

* * *


THE MENDO COUNTY Board of Retirement has appointed a new administrator. James Wilbanks succeeds interim retirement administrator Jim Anderson. Wilbanks was previously employed as an economist and financial executive by the state of Oklahoma, and for the past five years has functioned as the executive director of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System.…

OF COURSE WILBANKS GETS ON IN MENDO, America's little set-aside where every day history starts all over again and you are whatever you say you are. (This guy, fired in Oklahoma, 11-0 by his board of trustees, will be pulling down about $160k annually and, children, we'll assume the fox hasn't been hired to watch over the County's retirement eggs.)

* * *


The sudden firing of James Wilbanks as executive director of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System came after trustees discovered he had granted severance packages to a dozen employees without obtaining required approval from the director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Wilbanks said he was unaware of the legal requirement for approval when he signed off on the severance agreements.

“I did this believing it was appropriate and that it best protected the interests of the system and all of the clients of the system,” Wilbanks told The Oklahoman. “Had I known that the approval was required, I absolutely would have complied with the technical provision.”

Twelve unclassified employees of the state Teachers Retirement System have been granted severance packages totaling $301,233.05 since Wilbanks became executive director in January 2009, according to documents obtained by The Oklahoman through the state Open Records Act.

The severance packages ranged in amount from $13,548.43 to $58,738.58 and appeared to be calculated in accordance with a formula provided in state law for compensating unclassified employees whose jobs are eliminated for “budgetary reasons.”

Trustees of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System surprised many pension system participants when they voted 11-0 to fire Wilbanks on Oct. 2, even though the system had seemingly thrived under Wilbanks' leadership, obtaining high rates of return on investments while operating with fewer employees.

Trustees initially were secretive about the reason for Wilbanks' dismissal but recently acknowledged that Wilbanks' failure to obtain approval for the severance payments prompted their decision.

“This decision was difficult for many board members as we felt the system as a whole was moving in the right direction,” board members said in a prepared statement. “During his time as director, Dr. Wilbanks streamlined agency operations and saved the agency millions of dollars. But complying with state statute is not optional. As board members we have a fiduciary duty to guard against anything that be a detriment to the system and its beneficiaries.”

Board members said based on the information they have received to date, they believe the statute that was violated was a civil matter rather than a criminal matter, so they have not felt the need to contact law enforcement authorities.

Trustees said they have requested an audit and will await the results of that audit before deciding whether any further action is needed.

Trustees said they wanted to reassure teachers, retirees and taxpayers that the retirement system remains “sound and will not be impacted by this matter.”

Wilbanks' failure to obtain approval for the severance plan from the director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services would appear to be particularly sensitive since agency Director Preston Doerflinger also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Teachers Retirement System.

Among other things, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services is supposed to review severance plans to make sure those plans demonstrate that funds are available to cover projected costs and contain estimates of anticipated cost savings or reduced expenditures.

For the most part, Wilbanks said severance packages were offered to individuals when it was possible to eliminate positions and save the system money by operating more efficiently.

“One of the many things we accomplished at Teachers Retirement during my tenure was finding some efficiencies,” he said. “When I first arrived, we had 52 full-time employees, and when I departed, I believe we were at 33.”

By operating with fewer employees, the agency has saved much more on salaries than it spent on severance payments.

“I think everyone who knows me knows that I am a straight shooter,” he said. “I absolutely poured my heart and soul into working every day on behalf of the teachers, to protect their retirement and do everything we could to give them the best retirement that we could under the provisions of the law.”

* * *


"On Thursday, December 4, at approximately 9:10am, officers of the Fort Bragg Police Department were dispatched to the area of the alley east of the 500 block of S. Main Street for the report of a male versus female domestic altercation in progress.

While in route to the area, officers were advised that the parties involved had engaged in a physical altercation.

Upon arrival to the area, officers observed a male subject matching the description provided by witnesses, fleeing the area on foot near Rite Aid.

Citizens in the area began directing officers to the location of the male suspect as he was continuing to evade police.

Arion Kelsey (age 18, of Fort Bragg) was apprehended in the 400 block of S. Franklin Street after a short chase.


Kelsey was found to have been in possession of a collapsible baton (aka “sap”) that he had reportedly struck the suspected victim with. The baton was located where Kelsey admitted to having thrown it.

When located later, the suspected victim was uncooperative with law enforcement and refused to provide any statement regarding the altercation.

Kelsey was found to be released on bail from the Mendocino County Jail on an unrelated felony charge that he had not yet been tried for."

* * *

A 27-YEAR-OLD MAN was stabbed in the upper body outside the Forest Club in the center of Ukiah Sunday night. He managed to walk into the bar about midnight to report the assault. The bartender called police and an ambulance. The victim's wounds were described as “significant.”

* * *


MEANWHILE IN WILLITS, police have arrested Torren Andrew Hebel, 24, of Willits who is suspected of robbing the Chevron station with a sawed-off shotgun station just before midnight on Saturday. Hebel was located Sunday morning on East San Francisco Street and arrested, police said.

He was booked Monday into the Mendocino County Jail on suspicion of possession of a short-barreled shotgun, robbery, burglary, felony possession of a firearm and probation violation, according to jail officials. He’s being held on $75,000 bail, officials said.

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, Dec 8, 2014

Bennett, Bolton, Delatorre, Flores
Bennett, Bolton, Delatorre, Flores

ISAIAH BENNETT, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance, possession of controlled substance.

JOSHUA BOLTON, Willits. Drunk in public, resisting arrest.

STEPHEN DELATORRE, Kelseyville/Willits. Probation revocation.


Foote, Fox, Nunez
Foote, Fox, Nunez

SHON FOOTE, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public, resisting arrest.

DANIEL FOX, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

DANIEL NUNEZ, Ukiah. Driving on suspended license, probation revocation.

Fulton, Furia-Miller, Goleman, Gonzalez
Fulton, Furia-Miller, Goleman, Gonzalez

DEXTER FULTON, Ukiah. Drunk in public, fugitive from justice.

TANNER FURIA-MILLER, Clearlake Oaks/Ukiah. Domestic battery.

JAMES GOLEMAN, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

ANTONIA GONZALEZ, Ukiah. Resisting arrest, probation revocation.

Hebel, Nguyen, Siegler
Hebel, Nguyen, Siegler

TORREN HEBEL, Willits. Robbery, burglary from motor vehicle, possession of sawed-off shotgun, ex-felon with firearm, probation revocation.

DUNG NGUYEN, Sacramento/Ukiah. Perjury.

CHRISTINE SEIGLER, Ukiah. Drunk in public.

Smith, Villa, Williams
Smith, Villa, Williams

MALACHI SMITH, Arcata/Ukiah. DUI-Drugs, under the influence of controlled substance, possession of controlled substance.

GARY VILLA, Ukiah. Community supervision violatioin.

CRYSTAL WILLIAMS, Redwood Valley. Domestic assault, assault with a deadly weapon other than firearm, battery with serious injury, criminal threats of death/great bodily injury.

* * *

THE OBAMA ADMIN announced new limits on racial profiling on Monday. Kind of. But the policy changes won't apply to local police departments. Under the cosmetic new regs from the Justice Department, racial profiling will be banned from national security cases; the FBI will not be permitted to consider gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity in deciding whether to open cases. These new rules will be introduced in addition to existing prohibitions on considering race and ethnicity. However, state and local law enforcement, which have faced charges of racism in light of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, will only have to follow these regulations when they work on federal task forces. Otherwise, the Department of Justice's curbs are just guidelines, and they are not obligated to adhere to them in their own communities.

* * *


by James Howard Kunstler

The Beauty Shop had barely stopped smoldering in Ferguson, Missouri, when the Eric Garner grand jury decision came down on Staten Island — no probable cause to indict one particular cop for something — manslaughter? — in his choke-hold take-down of the 300-pound cigarette-seller. For my money, they should have indicted the whole gang of cops who were there that day, including the black female NYPD sergeant on the scene ostensibly “supervising” the action, at least for something like negligent homicide, since the infamous video shows them acting cruelly, stupidly, and indifferently as the poor guy just lay dying on the sidewalk.

Worse, the decision only muddied the public’s view of several events in recent years involving black people, police, and standards of behavior so that now a general opinion prevails that all black people are always treated badly for no reason. That was the same week, by the way, that a white Bosnian immigrant named Zemir Begic was bludgeoned to death by three black teenagers wielding hammers who were out beating on stopped cars on a St. Louis street — a crime that was barely covered in the news media, and went unprotested outside the immigrant neighborhood where it occurred. It’s hard to blame the public for being confused about what may or may not be happening across the nation, but history will surely judge this as a tragic time for America.

If we can’t or won’t unpack the separate issues in these matters, the country is going to get into a lot more trouble. One issue is whether police forces in the USA are becoming goon squads. The decision by the federal government to offload tactical military equipment, including armored war wagons, on police departments far and wide was disgracefully stupid since it only gives the impression, when hauled out, that the police are at war with the citizenry. There ought to be public discussion of just flat-out taking all that stuff away from them.

Non-black America is constantly being importuned to “talk honestly” about race and then punished when they actually do.

I’ll venture here to summarize what I think has actually happened, and I’m sure a lot of people won’t like it, including plenty of white people. I take a historical view. It is at least an interesting coincidence that the climax of the civil rights campaign produced a black separatist movement that has endured for half a century. It emerged at exactly the moment that the two signal civil rights acts passed congress in 1964-65 (the public accommodations act and the voting rights act).

I think the reason for the sudden rise of black separatism was anxiety among black Americans about the prospect of being formally invited to participate in what was then American common culture. By the late 1960s even colleges were chartering new, separate student unions (at the demand of black students).

The sad irony of this has been lost to history. But in effect, by that time a large segment of the black population had opted out either actively or mentally from trying to join the then-dominate culture. The gulf between the two cultures has only grown wider since then, egged on by a foolish white-sponsored “diversity” campaign which had imposed the ridiculous idea that a common culture in one nation is unnecessary.

The result is a permanently oppositional black culture with an elaborate ideology of endless grievance and a guilt-tripped white political culture held hostage by it and pandering endlessly to it — and sandwiched in between those two dispositions is a whole lot of really bad behavior. The least you can say about the four incidents involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice is that they involved some degree of ambiguity about what was actually going on, and in probably all those cases, at least, death was not caused by sheer malice. The same is not true about the case of Zemir Begic, or of the many people victimized during last year’s “knockout” game fad, or indeed the astounding number of people being gunned down regularly on the streets of Chicago.

I don’t think we’re capable of making these distinctions anymore, and surely not of doing anything constructive about them. Instead, we just appear to be careening toward a new and different kind of civil war.

(James Kunstler’s new World Made By Hand novel
 is now available!)

* * *

THE FOLLOWING is from the current New Yorker. I think it nicely outlines the tough physical trials of lots of rural children as compared to the full body armor child rearing prevalent in the urbs and burbs. I think the full body armor childhood at least partly accounts for the dangerously wild drug and alcohol behavior indulged in by the young as soon as they're away from mommzy and poppzy's required helmets.

"I thought about a playground near my house in Brooklyn, in Park Slope. A couple of years ago, it was beautifully renovated by the city, with a rock-lined stream meandering through it and an old-fashioned pump that children could crank to set the water flowing. The stream was the delight of the neighborhood for a while, thronged with kids splashing through the shadows and floating sticks down the current. Yet some parents were appalled. The rocks were a menace, they declared. The edges were too sharp, the surfaces too slippery. A child could fall and crack her skull. “I actually kept tapping them to check if they were really rocks,” one commenter wrote on the Park Slope Parents Web site. “It seemed odd to me to have big rocks in a playground.” Within two weeks a stonemason had been in to grind the edges down. The protests continued. One mother called a personal-injury lawyer about forcing the city to remove the rocks. Another suggested that something be done to “soften” them. “I am actually dreading the summer because of those rocks,” still another complained.

The parents at the (rodeo) camp flipped this attitude on its head. They valued courage over caution, grit over sensitivity. They reveled in the raw physicality of boys. The mothers sat in the bleachers taking videos and hollering advice — “Wyatt, just ride the way Daddy taught you!” The fathers straddled the chute, leaning over their sons to cinch the rope and shove the calf into position: “Are you ready?” “Yes, sir!” “You’ve got to take the fight to him.” “Yes, sir!” “You’ve got to want.” When the gate blew open, they leaped up on the rail and watched their sons with clenched fists and narrowed eyes. They weren’t stage parents, for the most part. They just took following your bliss to its logical extreme. “I’d let my kid do whatever he has a passion for,” one mother told me, “even if he wanted to be a piano player.”

— Burkhard Bilger

* * *


Why Cash is Better

by Ralph Nader

At a recent American Antitrust Institute (AAI) symposium in Washington, D.C., I asked the presenters about the ability of cash and checks to compete with the credit card industry and its strict controls on merchants. This obvious point becomes less obvious when one takes into account the expanding exclusion of cash/check payments due to the overwhelming expansion of goods and services that you cannot buy unless you have a credit card or a friend with one whom you can reimburse.

When sending some types of express mail, renting a car, or paying for the services of airlines/trains or hotels, you either cannot pay with cash/check or it is a real hassle of inquiries and conditions. The overall trend is to limit more and more what legal tender can actually buy in America because of exclusionary fine print contracts (see

For many people, the convenience of a credit card and potential for rewards justify their preference to forgo cash. Moreover, lower income consumers want a brief extension of credit, however expensive. Credit card carriers are given “points” such as frequent flyer miles, but often the consumer pays in other hidden ways for these “freebies.”

Notwithstanding the above obstacles, I still do not have a credit card or a signature-based debit card. There are ten relevant reasons for my preferring cash or checks over plastic.

  1. Plastic lays the groundwork for massive, daily invasions of privacy. Personal purchasing data now floats around the world without controls. The data mining industry is everywhere and both government and hackers can get into peoples’ files. As Facebook and Google demonstrate, it is almost impossible to keep up with the sharing of your personal information.
  2. Once you enter the credit economy you fall under the controls of arbitrary credit rating and credit scoring merchants. So if you complain strenuously to an auto dealer or insurance company, if you are a victim of false information in your credit file, or even if you have too many credit cards, your credit can suffer so that you pay more or are denied loans.
  3. The credit card economy, with its anti-competitive no-surcharge rules, etc. is inflationary and affects negatively consumer purchasing power as well as lower savings rates.
  4. Credit cards encourage impulse buying. The industry knows this very well. Swiping a plastic card rather than opening a wallet and directly taking cash out creates a disconnect between the purchase and the loss of money to the consumer.
  5. Credit card terms—what Senator Elizabeth Warren calls “mice print”—are mostly inscrutable and non-negotiable. You sign on the dotted line, shut up and shop. Companies rarely compete over fine print terms that favor the consumer. Compare, with a suitable microscope, the standard form contracts of Visa, Mastercard or Discover or GM, Ford and Toyota, or Bank of America, Citigroup or Wells Fargo. Consumers have been driven into a choiceless contract of peonage or contract servitude.
  6. Using cash/check encourages consumers to live within their means and not get caught in an ever deeper cycle of debt. For instance if you are out shopping with cash and set a budget for yourself, it is impossible to overspend if you simply do not bring more than has been allocated for your purchases.
  7. Paying by cash/check avoids the gouging of fees, penalties, termination charges, and of course, sky-high interest rates for consumers. Corporations on the other hand enjoy low-interest rates across the board. (Remember, however, checks have a fee if they bounce.)
  8. Paying by cash/check—say in a restaurant—saves time and follow-up monitoring for errors. Furthermore, it prevents the addition of any fraudulent charges to the bill.
  9. Paying by cash/check avoids having to give away your personal property to the likes of internet companies that turn around and very profitably sell this free information to advertisers with such specificity that the latter knows what ailment or craving you have.
  10. Credit card issuers often approve consumers for credit cards with maximum spending limits that are too high considering their salary or lack thereof.

Apple is now out with a payment system that does not require signing or clicking. You can regularly fall into the credit penitentiary with a mere swipe. What’s next, the evocation of brain waves?

There is a strong case for giving cash discounts to consumers, as is done by many gas stations. This would pass along the savings that the vendor would make by bypassing the credit card companies to benefit the consumers, a win-win situation. In addition, there should be no discrimination against consumers based on their choice of legal tender; vendors should have to accept all methods of payment.

(Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.)

* * *


by Neil Young

They were hiding behind hay bales,
They were planting in the full moon
They had given all they had for something new
But the light of day was on them,
They could see the thrashers coming
And the water shone like diamonds in the dew.

And I was just getting up, hit the road before it's light
Trying to catch an hour on the sun
When I saw those thrashers rolling by,
Looking more than two lanes wide
I was feelin' like my day had just begun.

Where the eagle glides ascending
There's an ancient river bending
Down the timeless gorge of changes
Where sleeplessness awaits
I searched out my companions,
Who were lost in crystal canyons
When the aimless blade of science
Slashed the pearly gates.

It was then I knew I'd had enough,
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one-way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends I still don't understand.

They had the best selection,
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed,
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting, waiting.

So I got bored and left them there,
They were just deadweight to me
Better down the road without that load
Brings back the time when I was eight or nine
I was watchin' my mama's TV,
It was that great Grand Canyon rescue episode.

Where the vulture glides descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Thru libraries and museums, galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and air-conditioned bar.

But me I'm not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrashers comes,
I'll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I'll know the time has come
To give what's mine.

One Comment

  1. burnunit December 9, 2014

    Hey Bruce,

    Who does the postings of the rock lyrics such as today’s Neil Young song?

    Thanks for doing so!

    the Burnunit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.