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Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014

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Here's how it looked, from above, a couple days after it opened:

The river breached north of Pinnacle Rock.

The second time we returned, four days later, it had widened a little bit more. but my impression was it had made more progress cutting deeper rather than widening.

Bruce Anderson adds: I noticed the mouth of the Navarro is quite narrow. The channel looked like it blasted through then darn near closed again, and will close again if we don't get another blaster.

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WE DOVE DEEP the other afternoon in an impromptu office discussion about torture. A friend said she thought people everywhere were getting worse, especially American people. The rest of us said versions of while we thought the quality of the leadership is definitely worse, people aren't any better or worse than they've ever been, although our brutalized culture has steadily worked to make us crazier, more distracted from the real problem, which is, ahem, the present form of social-economic-political organization. We all agreed that every time one of our "leaders" pops up in our viewsheds we know in our bones that we're screwed unto the tenth generation. At least. You mean to tell me in a nation teeming with smart, decent people the best we can come up with is John Kerry and Leon Panetta and the Bush family?

BUT TORTURE has been around forever. Name the war and we tortured people. The diff is that the fascisti — Cheney and friends, with the libs going along as usual — got legal opinions saying, Sure, go ahead because it will stop terrorists from hitting us again here in the motherland. I'll pause here to point out that England was bombed every day for an entire year during World War Two without it being parlayed into anything but a legitimate war on the Nazis. We get hit hard once and the leadership goes all to pieces on our behalf while we suspect it's all bullshit. The upshot of 9-11 has made billions for big financial interests, and sorry for being so trite about it but how many ways are there to point out the obvious? Naturally, we wound up destabilizing the entire Moslem world. Our grandchildren will be fending off suicide bombers.

TORTURE. The FBI is not a liberal organization; the CIA is a liberal organization in the Clinton-Obama sense of liberal, drawing many of its cadres from Ivy League colleges. The FBI is heavy on Catholic and Mormon colleges. But the FBI said early on they wouldn't waterboard and otherwise physically attempt to extract information from Al Queda suspects. Why? Because torture doesn't work. It gets bad information and unleashes people who should never be unleashed. If you waterboard me or hook my testicles up to a field phone I'm going to tell you whatever you want to hear. The FBI discovered long ago that if you just ask versions of the same questions over and over again you'll find out what you need to know. The CIA, though, went ahead and got two Mormon psychologists to say that torture does work, and Bush-Cheney, backed up by a lunatic legal opinion from a Berkeley faculty lawyer, went for it, as did the libs in the Obama administration. (My favorite torture victims are the four guys held at Guantanamo for 14 years, never charged with anything, then released a couple of weeks ago to Uruguay!) The CIA, not having the guts of their torture convictions, jobbed a lot of it out to places like Romania and Egypt. Anyway, it seems obvious that the serial atrocities, including torture, that we've committed over the past three decades have created exponentially more terrorists than have been suppressed. With no end in sight.

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RAY DONOVAN, a movie. It came highly recommended, and Jon Voight was in it so I stuck around until he came on, but even Voight couldn't hold my attentions and I was so repulsed I walked around waving my arms and muttering to myself for an hour afterwards. This thing was just about the most witless, most inanely vulgar, most gratuitously violent, all-round dumbest movie I've ever seen. This Ray Donovan guy is a Hollywood fix-it man, you see, meaning he goes around bailing famous scumbags out of trouble. The way he does is it is to kick doors down and beat people up. It's all totally implausible, and I cite it as a tiny example of how decadent the culture has become as millions of people seem to think the thing is entertaining, and the hero is somehow admirable in a noir-ish way. In fact, now that my feeble mind is re-focused on it, this fascination that we seem to have with violent criminals is another measure of how far we've sunk, culturally speaking. Sorry to preach at you like this, but goddam, it's dark outside.

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DON'T TELL ANYONE but the Anderson Valley Health Center Board is having a meeting. Where? Not known. When? Not known. Subject: Job Description for Executive Director. Take a good look at the draft position description and supplemental information for the center executive director search, posted on the (old) web site under "jobs" at the top of the page.

There is a lot to consider here, with implications for center administrative reorganization. Note the references to "Management Team" throughout. This term is left undefined and is critical to success of the management and administration of the center.

The Board of Directors of the AVHC will meet at 5:30 tomorrow, Dec. 17. Presumably at the health center although as is regretably usual, there is no posted agenda. The assumption is that the directors will act on the report of Bill Sterling's Search Committee.

Will there be a financial report, now six months into the fiscal year?

Will there be progress on the website?

Will there be progress on the dispensary?

How about the selection of new Board Members.

The by-laws of the AVHC require that:

Section 5. Selection of Directors Selection of the Directors shall be staggered and the number of Directors to be elected in any one (1) year shall depend on the size of the Board; no more than four (4) Directors shall be selected in any one (1) year when the Board consists of 12 or less Directors; and n o more than five (5) Directors shall be selected in any one (1) year when the Board consists of 13-15 Directors. Notwithstanding the aforementioned staggered election of Directors, the Student Member shall be selected in September of each year. The Directors shall be selected at the annual meeting of the Corporation in January, in the following manner:

During the December Board meeting preceding the annual meeting, notice will be given that there will be selection of Board Members in January.

The Board Development and Governance committee shall present a slate of nominees at the Annual Meeting. Selection will be made by the Directors by written ballot.

Following the tabulation of votes by the Secretary of the Board, Directors will be announced and shall assume their duties.

Presumably directors will clarify how many total board members they will have in 2015, and how many are to be selected in January, for a new three year term.

The Concerned Citizen's Committee was to meet last night at Heidi Knott's. Heidi is now a director, and Secretary of the Corporation. She is the liason for the CCC to the Board. There should be a report from the CCC (written) at tomorrow's meeting. I'm not able to go because I don't like to drive at night anymore, so will rely on those of you who do go (if you can find the venue) to let me know what happens.

Many thanks, Gene Herr, Philo

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OLDEST REHAB PROJECT in Mendocino County history hits another snag.

Palace Hotel asbestos removal delayed again.

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This EQRO (External Quality Review Organization) Report was missing from your packet so here it is. The Mental Health Approved Claims Report CY13 (Prepared by Rachel Phillips, APS Healthcare / CAEQRO) shows that Mendocino County had a:

  1. "Day Treatment" Program in 2013 for 6 people that cost $115,023 for a total of $19,170/person. WHAT?? Where was this? How did everybody miss it?
  2. Another question is, How could County Mental Health serve 1,332 beneficiaries/patients in 2013 with only 1 psychiatrist, 1 Nurse Practitioner and 1 part time R.N.? As we all know, neurobiological brain disorders require medical treatment as well as other forms of treatment.
  3. When there are almost no Mental Health Services throughout our County, why is there $5.5M of Mental Health patient dollars stashed away in Reserve Funds? See below.

State Controller County Budget Act 2010   County of Mendocino County Budget Form

Details of Provisions for Reserves/Designations by Governmental Funds for Fiscal

Year 2013-14 Schedule 4

Reserve/ Designated Balance as of June 30, 2013

Mental Health Fund

Designated for Proposition 63 MH Services Act: $3,058,107

Designated for MHSA Prudent Reserve: $1,857,850

Designated for CONREP: $80,604

Designated for MH Audit Adjustment: $549,505

TOTAL: $5,546,066

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Thanks to all who helped, came and ate! Our dinner this year was less well attended due to a couple of other events that night, but that left more food for the rest of us :) It was a true community effort, which seems to happen so easily here.

Our turkeys and potatoes were from Redwood Valley, our ham was from Anderson Valley Community Farm and some of the potluck dishes brought in meat and produce from other Valley farms and gardens. We are lucky to live in such an abundant place.

Rod and Diane were there in spirit, as was Jan Wax's mom Vera, who passed on that morning. Vera was one of our pianists last year and she was missed by those in attendance.

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For those who brought tablecloths and left before the tables were cleared, your's are at the Boonville General Store ready to be picked up, under the bench to the left as you enter. There are three tablecloths still unclaimed from Diane's memorial. They are there, as well.

Any other left items can be retrieved tonight (Tues) at the Grange meeting. The potluck begins at 6:00 and the meeting at 7:00.

AV Foodshed Group

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Dec 16, 2014

Ackerman, Beck, Bergquist
Ackerman, Beck, Bergquist

DEREK ACKERMAN, Ukiah. DUI, evasion, driving on invalid license, probation revocation.

DYLAN BECK, Ukiah. Petty theft, non-caretaker embezzlement, probation revocation.

CHERIE BERGQUIST, Willits. Ex-felon with firearm.

Brest, Coleman, DeWolf, Jenkins
Brest, Coleman, DeWolf, Jenkins

PAULA BREST, Fort Bragg. Refusal to leave.

MICHAEL COLEMAN, Willits. DUI with injury.

HEATHER DEWOLF, Fort Bragg. Refusal to leave. (Frequent flyer.)

GLENN JENKINS, Willits. Community Supervision violation.

McAllister, Rea, Wedgley
McAllister, Rea, Wedgley

ELIZABETH McALLISTER, Willits. Criminal threats of death or great bodily injury, petty theft with prior, burglary, under influence of controlled substance, probation revocation.

CRUZ REA, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)

SCOTT WEDGLEY, Grass Valley/Fort Bragg. Refusal to leave.

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by Ryan Burns

NCRA officials survey tracks through the Eel River Canyon.

It’s been more than three years since the North Coast Railroad Authority (a state agency) tried to ditch its own state-financed Environmental Impact Report with the brazen claim that it is exempt from following state environmental laws.

If you’ll recall, two local environmental nonprofits — Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) and Friends of the Eel River (FOER) — sued the agency over its plans to reopen the southern section of its line for freight traffic. The groups argued that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for that project was inadequate because it failed to address the impacts of reopening the entire line, all the way up to Humboldt Bay, which had long been the agency’s stated goal. (Not so much lately, however.)

Last year the NCRA board voted 8-1 to decertify that EIR, hoping to step out from under the burden of state environmental law by claiming federal preemption. Specifically the agency argued that the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act took precedence over all state laws, including CEQA.

And last year, an appellate court agreed, ruling that freight rail traffic is technically interstate commerce and thus falls under the domain of federal regulators with the Surface Transportation Board.

Trouble is, another court of appeals elsewhere in the state came to the opposite conclusion. As the local environmental groups noted in a press release issued last week, “That court found that where the state is acting as an owner, not a regulator, federal preemption does not shield the state-owned rail line from having to comply with CEQA as a condition of its state funding.” (Download the full press release by clicking here.)

The NCRA (again, a state agency) is the owner of its entire rail line, though it leases operations on that line to the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Co.

Complicating matters even further, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board last week issued a 2-1 decision pertaining to California’s high-speed rail project, which of course is far more expensive than anything the NCRA is dealing with but which has some similar dynamics.

Like the NCRA, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has appealed to federal regulators, asking for permission to ignore CEQA, and the U.S. Surface Transportation Board agreed, ruling that federal law “expressly pre-empts any state law attempts to regulate rail construction projects.”

“It’s a real overreach,” said Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River. But while Greacen is disappointed in the STB’s decision, he said it doesn’t address the fundamental question in his own group’s case. That question, he said, is, “What’s the obligation of a state agency, one that has received state funding, to follow state environmental law?”

That question will now head to the state supreme court, which agreed last week to review the latest appeal from CATs and FOER.

If this all sounds overly bureaucratic and confusing, you’re not alone. Stuart Flashman, the lawyer representing opponents to the California High-Speed Rail project, told the Fresno Bee that the effects of the STB’s latest ruling “are about as clear as mud.”

Greacen suspects the local environmental groups’ case against the NCRA may ultimately head to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not proved particularly friendly to environmental causes the past decade, he noted.


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Storm of the century for Healdsburg

Healdsburg has seen periodic flooding in the past, but the deluge that hit downtown last week and overwhelmed Foss Creek occurs less frequently than once in 100 years, city officials said Monday.

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The Republicans were at a loss for a POTUS candidate. Scott Walker was under indictment. Fat Boy Christie was behind bars. And intraparty wrangling had killed Jeb Bush’s candidacy (mostly because nearly everyone hated him.) Sarah Palin had become a universal laughing stock. Colin Powell was out of action, uninterested, and uninteresting. Gingrich was considered a latter-day Stassen, damaged goods and over-the-hill besides.

So what to do? The Right desperately needed a man on a horse, a white knight. (Of course, a black Republican nominee was unthinkable for most of the lily-white faithful — who, after all, had spent years trashing the DINO Obama.)

Perceiving the candidate gap, on a slow news night, some newsreader at Fox News waggishly suggested trotting out Richard Bruce Cheney to run. Surprisingly, perhaps, the other on-air types immediately jumped in, saying that it was a fine idea. A brilliant stroke, in fact. So the next newscast Fox called Cheney at his home in the Bahamas.

At first, Cheney appeared hesitant, claiming to be happy and content in retirement. Plus, there was his heart to consider. Finally the Foxperson implored: “But, Mr. Vice-President, your country needs you.” Seconds of portentous dead air followed.

The caller tried again: “Mr. Vice-President–“

“Well, right now I can’t promise that I will run,” said Cheney, “but I can say that yes, I would accept a draft — just one condition: This time no more Mister Nice Guy.”

— Michael Slaughter

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Paragons of Villainy

There are lots of fingers pointing to the 'Bad Guys.' Among the champion Bad Guys of History, I'm thinking many of those pictured as 'our' public servants need to be in the Front Row in the Dock. The list of 'our' power-addled moral derelicts now includes Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, et al, PLUS those in positions to do something like Justice, who then decide NOT to...yes, I mean Obama, and anyone else who does not advocate and act for Justice. So, where does that leave me? And you?

Mr. Cheney is precisely the current, visible posterboy for why there are Laws against cruel and unusual punishment...AND Laws banning ANY punishment without Due Process. Lying about torture and advocating it, Cheney takes his place with some determination among the likes of de Sade, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Jeff Dahmer, and so on. It was specifically to avoid giving the criminally insane access to any power whatever that our democratic republic was designed with a Balance of Powers...those were the daze...There has been a lot of mileage logged honoring and memorializing the very brave volunteers who got up and resisted the hijacking of that airliner over Pennsylvania that morning of 911. Those courageous few saw something was Wrong, got together and got up and did something about it.

They had no idea they could save themselves, they moved because it was the Right Thing to Do. We Americans now find ourselves in their shoes. Are we to remain seated, with our belts fastened, and maybe order another cocktail, all calm and compliant, while 'our' public servants unlawfully fumble at the hijacked controls, tailspinning us into the dirt? Or is there a feeling, an inkling, an urge to recognize the peril, and to get up on our back feet, and say, all in one loud voice, '...let's roll...'? I, for one, and my family and a lot of my friends, for a bunch of others, will not be going quietly, thank you.

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Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it's lonely here,
there's no one left to torture

Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that's an order!

Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture

Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide,
slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore

The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul

When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant...

You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I'm the little jew
who wrote the Bible

I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories,
heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival

Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going
any further

And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide ...

There'll be the breaking of the ancient western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There'll be phantoms
There'll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing

You'll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets coming round
tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson
and the white man dancin'.

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima

Destroy another fetus now
We don't like children anyhow
I've seen the future, baby:
it is murder.

--Leonard Cohen

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A data center is a room or an entire building housing computers, network connection equipment and telecommunications links. Many data centers are built for the exclusive use of just one company, such as Google, but others host — the interconnect — systems belonging to many different users. One of the world’s largest multi-user data centers was once a high-volume printworks. R.R. Donnelley & Sons’ Calumet Plant, on East Cermak Road on the southern edge of the Chicago Loop, printed Time, Life, the Sears Roebuck catalogue and telephone directories. The building is now a data center used by — among others — telecoms companies, financial exchanges and automated trading firms.

A data center is no more detached from the brute physical world than a printworks was. Cermak (as it is universally known in the business) is full of stuff. No individual computer server is particularly heavy, but at Cermak there are tens of thousands of them, along with hundreds of miles of cabling, giant generators and transformers, 30,000-gallon tanks of diesel and big power distribution units. So it’s just as well that the building’s floors were originally reinforced to carry heavy printing presses. Cermak is also no less noisy than it would have been in its time as a printworks, although the clanking of machines has been replaced by the steady roar of multitudes of fans and hard disks.

The signals that encode digital information are, ultimately, electromagnetic impulses. The man who showed me around Cermak works for a firm called Steadfast, which rents out space there. He pointed to a cable no thicker than a kettle flex, and told me it was a ten-gigabit fibre-optic connection: it could carry ten billion binary digits every second. The cables are connected up so that the separate, private networks owned by carriers such as Comcast, Verison and BT can join together to form the seemingly unitary, public internet.

As we walked Cermak’s endless, windowless corridors, with their white walls and anonymous blue doors, we paused (not for too long: Cermak is under continuous video surveillance; lingering looks suspicious) outside Cermak’s ‘Meet-Me Room’, where the crucial cables connect. The backbone of the internet’ goes through Cermak, I was told. The building’s original design helps in this respect. The Calumet Plant had 21 big vertical shafts, through which giant rolls of paper were raised and lowered. Cables now run through these shafts, shortening the paths that signals have to follow between the building’s eight floors.

Everything that goes on in Cermak requires electrical power. Cermak is the second biggest electricity consumer in Illinois, after Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Its supply must never fail. The building is connected to three different electrical grids, and the tanks of diesel are there to fuel the big generators — of the type, my guide told me, that power cruise liners — that would kick in if all three grids went down.

Nearly all the electricity that flows into Cermak is transformed eventually into heat. Fierce air-conditioning is needed, and data centers used often to be uncomfortably cold. Gradually, their operators have learned better ways of working, for example arranging the computer servers and fans in alternately-facing rows, so that the fans pump heat into a ‘hot aisle’ between the rows, in which the backs of the servers are easily accessible. It’s in those aisles that Cermak’s few maintenance staff mostly need to work. As you walk around, though, you get constant reminders of what it takes to keep Cermak cool: huge pipes carrying chilled water; the occasional blast of very cold air.

The most dramatic episode in the short history of automated trading was the ‘flash crash’ of 6 May 2010, a sudden huge fall — and then almost as rapid a recovery — in prices, which led to a widespread disruption of trading. Cermak was where the crash began. It seems to have been triggered by a set of electromagnetic signals — originally generated by an investment-management firm in Kansas City — encoding a big sell order. At Cermak, the order entered a complex electronic ecosystem of trading algorithms, which would usually have been able to absorb it. For reasons that remain unclear, it didn’t do so on 6 May, so the shock then traveled from Cermak down the fibre-optic cables connecting it to the data centers in New Jersey in which shares were traded, spreading chaos as they arrived.

Human eyes and ears are of limited use in understanding what goes on in a data center. Even my guide couldn’t enter most of Cermak’s rooms, which are protected by doors with biometric locks. Once you’re inside a room, you get only the most tiny clues as to what’s going on. At least in the rooms housing trading firms’ servers, the computers are generally in locked cages, and those cages are usually tightly packed: renting space in Cermak is pricy, so you want to make the most of it. In one room, though, there was a big cage with only three cabinets of servers, surrounded by expensive, empty floor space. What program could be running on those servers?

— Donald MacKenzie

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* * *

AMERICANS aren’t particularly bothered by the torture interrogation tactics revealed in last week’s Senate report on the CIA. A new poll from Washington Post-ABC News shows 59 percent of Americans approve the CIA’s brutal treatment of detainees post-September 11. Only 31 percent took issue with the interrogation methods. Furthermore, 58 percent Americans believe the torture of detainees is justified “often” or “sometimes.” CIA interrogation tactics included rectal feeding, waterboarding, and forcing detainees to stand on broken legs. The New York Times reported Tuesday that James Mitchell, the man who was one of the prime designers and advocates of these post-9/11 tactics, was vetted by CIA officials in under 24 hours.

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Arousing Congress

by Ralph Nader

The 528 page Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A. torture may come as a shock to many, but would not have surprised the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY). In 1991 and again in 1995, fed up with his dealings with this agency, he introduced a bill for its abolition. Too much secrecy that amounted to a blanket institutionalized cover-up, too much bad or inadequate information leading to blunders, tragedies and failures to anticipate events like the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moynihan believed that secret government breeds disaster and shreds democratic societies.

Despite the bill not being put to a vote, Senator Moynihan’s criticisms proved justified after 9/11 when the C.I.A. became more imperial, more secretive, more violently operational and more of a “government within a government” — a phrase used by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) during the Iran/Contra scandal under President Reagan.

Outwardly, the C.I.A. claims its “enhanced interrogation methods” (aka torture) have blocked plots and saved lives. Asked to document these claims, the agency automatically hides behind its secret curtain. When a federal agency claims what it is doing is legal and constitutional, it better back this up beyond general assertions of secret legal memos from the Justice Department and knowledge and approval from the war criminals (e.g. invasion of Iraq) President George W. Bush and the generic prevaricator, Vice President Dick Cheney.

The C.I.A.’s bureaucratic environment assured this kind of searing and specific criticism. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, delivered by its chairperson, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) after a five year investigation revealed torture, cover-ups, lying and a failure to achieve its objectives.

With a very ample, multi-billion dollar, secret budget, near zero independent Congressional oversight, and the omnipresent sheen of protecting “national security”, the C.I.A. can never answer the old Latin question, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” or, “who will guard the guards themselves?” No rule of law or externally independent monitoring can contain this rogue agency driven by internal conviction and righteousness.

During the Bush years, the C.I.A.’s unbridled forays were commonly marked by dictatorial secret wars, secret prisons, secret courts, secret evidence, secret law, and dragnet illegal surveillance.

In addition, there were no criminal or civil prosecutions of any culpable bureaucrats either by the Bush or Obama administrations — with one exception. The only person prosecuted, under Obama no less, was the truly patriotic John Kiriakou — a well-regarded C.I.A. interrogation specialist who accurately blew the whistle on illegal C.I.A. torture. He is serving a 30 month jail term—having copped a plea on a minor, questionable charge to spare his wife and five children from an even longer, financially breaking ordeal defending himself from vengeful prosecutors with endless budgets.

To prevent the Senate Intelligence Committee from finally redeeming its history of passivity and complicity exhibited by its “look the other way” tradition, the C.I.A. tried to obstruct the Committee staff in numerous ways. They blocked the staff from proper access to documents, leaked false information to the press, hacked into the Committee’s computers, and even urged the Justice Department to criminally prosecute the Senate’s valiant investigators. When all that failed, the C.I.A. delayed and delayed the issuance of the report, while it pored over its contents and secured so many redactions that readers would wonder what else they could possibly be hiding. (See for yourself:

Well, how about 6,000 more pages of the Committee’s work product, kept secret by C.I.A.’s demands, describing in stomach-wrenching detail the various forms of torture and their uselessness, especially compared to other friendlier methods, described by former C.I.A. interrogators such as Ali Soufan.

All of this “spook business” creates a tightknit brotherhood of self-reinforcing admiration that belies or suppresses significant dissent inside spy agencies. Indeed, as the New York Times just reported, “[i]n January 2003, 10 months into the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prison program, the agency’s chief of interrogations sent an email to colleagues saying that the relentlessly brutal treatment of prisoners was a train wreck ‘waiting to happen and I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.’ He said he had told his bosses he had “serious reservations” about the program and no longer wanted to be associated with it ‘in any way.’”

No wonder one of the Times headlines summed up the Intelligence Committee’s work with these words: “Senate Report Depicts Broken Agency That Was Wedded to Failed Approach.”

So broken, that the C.I.A. contracted out torture to two psychologists who promptly formed a company that received $81 million in taxpayer money. To add to what one C.I.A. official quoted in the report called “useless intelligence.”

The bigger story in this sordid mess is that there will be no prosecution against the top government officials responsible, starting with Bush and Cheney. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) framed this accountability issue on the Senate floor: “Director [John] Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture. In other words the C.I.A. is lying.” He urged the president to purge the agency leadership, including Mr. Brennan. “There can be no cover-up. If there is no moral leadership from the White House helping the public understand that the C.I.A.’s torture program wasn’t necessary and didn’t save lives or disrupt terrorist plots, then what’s to stop the next White House and C.I.A. director from supporting torture?”, he concluded.

The response from the White House was President Obama expressing “complete confidence” in C.I.A. Director John Brennan, and Mr. Brennan calling all his subordinates “patriots.” The circle has closed once again.

An even larger consequence from the increasing disclosures of how Bush/Cheney and Obama have responded in their “War on Terror” comes from the millions of innocent children, women and men who were killed, injured or sickened, millions more refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan, the loss of American life and limb, and the trillions of dollars in public funds that could have been used to rebuild America’s crucial infrastructure to save lives and provide needed facilities and jobs.

The criminal gang that struck on 9/11 had no second strike capability. Bush’s gigantic over-reaction, blowing apart whole countries and societies year after year, has only enormously spread the Al-Qaeda forces into a dozen countries through affiliates and offshoots such as ISIS.

Fighting stateless terrorism with massive state terrorism and torture that strengthens the former creates a deadly boomerang. It destroys our priorities, mutes the waging of peace and corrodes our democracy with its purported rule of law. It also obscures the history of the West intervening violently in the East’s backyard for a century, carving up its colonies, backing local, brutal dictatorships with U.S. arms, money and diplomatic cover.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s first step should arouse Congress to its constitutional duties and stop the destruction of the separation of powers by an overweening White House executive. Certainly the Left-Right in the Congress should agree on that principle. It helps if we the people, who pay the price, give them constant nudges in that direction.

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

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Festival of Lights Thanks / Christmas on Sale!

All of us at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens appreciate each person who attended our spectacular light display this year, or who supported Festival of Lights through volunteering, working, or sponsoring the event. Each year, we make Festival of Lights better. Keep your eyes open for dates as we move into 2015, and make sure you put this on your calendar. We'll see you here next year!

Christmas Items on Sale!

Come see us for 40% off Christmas items in The Garden Store, from Wednesday, December 17 through January 1. If you've been eyeing a special ornament, now is the time to make it part of your holiday decor!

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by Dan Bacher

In spite of intense opposition by fishermen, environmentalists, Indian Tribes and Northern California Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives on December 9 passed "drought relief" legislation, H.R. 5781, that would eviscerate protections for Delta smelt, Chinook salmon and other fish species.

The bill’s author, Rep. David G. Valadao (CA-21) claimed the bill would “improve the dire drought conditions currently threatening California” and “ would provide operational flexibility for the two California State water projects in order to immediately provide relief to hardship caused by water supply shortages.”

The vote passed by a tote of of 230-182. Original cosponsors including Reps. David G. Valadao (CA-21), Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Ken Calvert (CA-42), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Tom McClintock (CA-04), and Devin Nunes (CA-22) released the following statement following the passage of the legislation:

"Californians are suffering and this bill will provide them with the immediate relief they desperately need. The House of Representatives has recognized the importance of this legislation, not just for California, but for our entire nation. The drought is a natural disaster, and like any other disaster, deserves immediate action. Earlier this year, the House and Senate both passed drought-relief bills, and we entered negotiations to try and find middle ground. Every time we return home, we see how much pain this drought continues to cause. In order to get this bill across the finish line in time for the rainy season, House Republicans included many provisions from the Senate’s own legislation as well as agreed upon language from negotiations in the bill passed in the House today.

Unfortunately, Barbara Boxer and many of her Democratic colleagues in the Senate have not shown the same commitment to achieving a solution to the California water crisis as House Republicans have, and they remain opposed even to bipartisan compromise. It is time the Senate recognize the severity of this situation and act on this legislation before they adjourn for the year.” (

Ironically, the biggest storm of the decade moved into northern California the day after Congress passed the “drought relief bill,” with record amounts of rain documented in a number of locations throughout the north state.

The legislation has little chance of passage in the Senate this year, due to opposition by Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, but you can expect a similar bill to be introduced in the new Congress and Senate next year. Fortunately, both the Brown and Obama administrations also announced their opposition to the bill.

According to a statement from the White House, “The Administration opposes H.R. 5781 because it fails to equitably address critical elements of California's complex water challenges. H.R. 5781 makes operational determinations regarding the use of limited water resources during the ongoing drought, and contains many new provisions that could lead to unintended consequences or further litigation. The Administration cannot support the bill in its current form.”

In a letter, John Laird, California Natural Resources Secretary, announced the Brown administration's opposition to H.R. 5781 while touting the passage of the controversial water bond, Proposition 1:

"Coming off a year where more progress has been made on water policy in California than any time in recent years – with broad support evident in the electorate for this strategy – this is no time to reignite water wars, move water policy back into the courts, and try to pit one part of the state against another. For this reason, the administration opposes HR5781. Our collective energies should be devoted to a long-term solution for California’s water needs in a way that rewards working together as opposed to dividing interests, just as the successful campaign for the water bond recently did. We stand ready to work with the supporters and opponents of HR5781 to that end.”


Delta smelt and salmon protections had little impact on pumping in 2014

For many years, corporate agribusiness interests and their Astroturf groups, including the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and the Latino Water Coalition, have blamed Endangered Species Act protections for Delta smelt and Central Valley Chinook salmon for creating an alleged "Dust Bowl" on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

However, the campaign to blame Delta smelt and salmon for reductions in Delta exports was shown to be a big “red herring,” pardon the pun, when Restore the Delta (RTD) and researchers from California Water Research of Santa Cruz revealed that Delta smelt and salmon protections had little impact on water pumping operations from the Delta in 2014.

Federal biologists reported to the Delta Stewardship Council at its November 20, 2014 meeting that Delta water exports were governed by the biological opinions for Delta smelt and salmon just 36% of the time that they were in effect in the first half of 2014.

Through scattered periods from February to May, state and federal water export pumps were restricted in the South Delta for Delta smelt protections a total of 21 days, while salmon biological restrictions totaled 36 days, according to the scientists.

Deirdre Des Jardins, principal with California Water Research, explained, “This just means that the biological opinions were in effect, not that they had any real effect on water exports.”

In fact Mike Chotkowsi, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, told the Delta Stewardship Council in November that because of dry and low flow conditions, Delta smelt stayed “largely in the Sacramento River side of the estuary, and the result is we had relatively few concerns about Delta smelt. The Fish and Wildlife Service did not issue any determinations in water year 2014 that affected water operations. There were essentially no salvage of Delta smelt adults this past year and there was very low salvage of larvae."

Federal biologists also explained at the November DSC meeting that they found that the main constraints on exports from the Delta were reduced reservoir releases and low Sacramento River flows, according to their “Annual Report of Activities.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, said the biologists’ findings contradict claims that endangered species regulations protecting Delta smelt and salmon species are responsible for low Delta exports during the drought.

“Such claims are used by Congressional supporters of H.R. 5781, the supposed ‘drought relief’ bill,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Clearly, they do not understand the facts, or they are deliberating misrepresenting the facts so as to convince other members of Congress to support the water grab for big industrial growers in the Westlands Water District.”

Even though this information was available in November, the House of Representatives nonetheless approved H.R. 5781.

“Its prospects for passage in the lame-duck Senate are poor this month, but there could be renewed legislative battles over the bill’s provisions in 2015,” she added. “This report shows that operations of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project were largely due to the effects of drought and can’t be blamed on the Endangered Species Act.”

“Reduced reservoir releases in early 2014 were due partly to low river flows and the need to harbor dwindling supplies to meet contractor demand,” said Restore the Delta Research and Policy Analyst Tim Stroshane. “What supplies remained also had to be balanced with the need by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to protect cold water supplies in reservoirs for use later in the summer and fall to help salmon returning to spawn upstream of the Delta.”

He emphasized, “In other words, these agencies were doing what the public expects: managing supplies for use throughout the year for both agricultural use and fisheries.”

The DOSS Group (Delta Operations for Salmonaids and Sturgeon) noted back on April 29 "flows are so low in the Sacramento River that fish might not be moving or be able to avoid the rotary screw traps."

Des Jardins explained, “The California Department of Fish and Wildlife trucked Nimbus (American River, east of Sacramento) and Coleman (Battle Creek, north of Chico) hatchery fish to San Pablo Bay, 30 miles west of the Delta, to overcome low flows, which obstructed young fish migrating to the Pacific Ocean in April, May, and June.”

“Early in 2014, the Bureau and DWR persuaded the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce minimum Delta outflow requirements to 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), but this caused problems with salinity intrusion for both agencies’ projects,” said Des Jardins.

She said reducing Delta outflow requirements helped somewhat with reservoir storage, but it reduced the amount of outflow that normally blocks incoming tidal flows to the Delta. State board water quality standards limit pumping when salt concentrations are high in the Delta, as they were during much of 2014.

“And neither DWR nor the Bureau wants to pump salt water to their customers south of the Delta. The report given to the Council stated that the main purpose of state board water quality objectives in effect was to manage salinity in the Delta,” she observed.

“With H.R. 5781 in place in 2014, the Bureau would have added insult upon injury delivering salty water supplies to the unemployed residents of Mendota and other drought-stricken communities of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Blaming their drought year problems on endangered species in the Delta is just plain misplaced.”

The Smelt Working Group, hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, monitors conditions affecting Delta smelt under a 2008 biological opinion on how to protect and recover its population. The Delta smelt was once the most abundant fish in the entire Delta.

As recently as 30 years ago, Delta smelt numbered in the hundreds of thousands of fish according to state fisheries data. Today, its population is estimated at a few thousand at best.

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  1. Bill Pilgrim December 17, 2014

    Probably the most darkly ironic aspect to the poll finding that shows more than half of Americans are OK with torture is that way more than half of THEM are fundamentalists Christians!
    Jesus, their professed savior and object of devotion, was tortured brutally before being marched up to Golgotha, and the cross.
    No doubt they’ll find some obscure reference in the Gospels to rationalize their rank hypocrisy: “But HE wasn’t planning to blow up a Roman shopping center!”

  2. Harvey Reading December 17, 2014

    “Washington Post-ABC News …”

    Consider the source: two of the larger propaganda-spewing outfits in the country.

  3. heilig December 17, 2014

    “You give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.”

    – Jesse Ventura — (who underwent waterboarding as a Navy SEAL) on CNN

  4. LouisBedrock December 17, 2014

    Torture is as Christian as pregnant virgins and Zombies that walk around three days after their burial.

    Christians skinned alive Hypolita, burned down the Library of Alexandria, and beheaded heretics like Priscillan. Since the early fourth century, they’ve gone on murderous rampages, slaughtering all Pagans, Jews, and Infidels in their path.

    Christians invented the Inquisition and its ingenious instruments of torture to induce the non-orthodox to confess. Christians developed the sport of drowning and burning witches.

    American soldiers and the CIA in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are bungling amateurs when compared to the Catholic Conquistadors, whose ingenious methods of killing the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas ran the gamut from cutting them to pieces to feeding them alive to their dogs.

    Many of the Popes would have been excellent generals and wardens of concentration camps. Pope Innocent III murdered half the population of France during the Albigensian Crusade. He also sent tens of thousand of children into death and slavery with his Children’s Crusade.

    Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XI, not only supported Hitler and Mussolini in their crusade against communism, but he and his successors provided visas that enabled much of the Nazi hierarchy to emigrate to South America.

    And these are just a few examples: torture is as much a part of Christianity ritual as transubstantiation.

    Christian embrace of torture is not hypocrisy: it’s orthodoxy.

    Merry Christmas.

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