- Peachland Fire
- Turner Credit
- Ticket Amnesty
- Telescope Expo
- Snyder Honored
- Public Servants
- Catch of the Day
- Union Bullshit
- Tourism Economies
- Sanders Snippets
- Mayfest Chiaroscuro
- Blue Yodel
- SNWMF 2015
- Nestle Protests
- Eco Callout
- U.S. Oligarchy
- Goodnight Radio
VEGETATION FIRE IN ANDERSON VALLEY. Deep Peachland at Lone Tree Ridge northeast of Boonville. CalFire called up a lot of fire-fighting force, including a bucket helicopter, fixed-wing chem-retardent bomber, with the Anderson Valley volunteers taking up perimeter positions.
CHARLES BRANDENBURG, Fort Bragg, notes: I have a new "Dave does this" Item… Dave takes credit for doing all the great things in our town since he has been here. Dave Turner should not take credit for things that would have happened anyways… Do the right thing, Dave Turner, resign.
GOV. JERRY BROWN is proposing an amnesty program for Californians who can't afford to pay off spiraling traffic fines and court penalties. The push by the Democratic governor spotlights growing concern among lawmakers and court administrators that California's justice system is profiting off minorities and low-income residents. Brown's spokesman Evan Westrup said the issue has prompted discussions between the state and U.S. Department of Justice. It's not clear if the Justice Department has launched an inquiry into California's court system. The department did not return requests for comment, and Westrup declined to provide details. Advocates for the poor have criticized California's courts as a pay-to-play system. The state has suspended 4.8 million driver's licenses since 2006 related to traffic fines. In that same time, only 83,000 licenses have been reinstated.
(Courtesy, the Associated Press.)
JUNE 19 OR JUNETEENTH AND THE SIERRA NEVADA WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL
The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival begins Friday, June 19, 2015, in Boonville, CA. June 19, also known as Juneteenth, celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is celebrated in more than 200 cities, and is now a holiday in several states.
Susie de Castro, Fort Bragg
TELESCOPE EXPO planned at Observatory Park
The final presentation in the “Tours of Earth and Sky” spring series presented by Friends of Observatory Park will be this Thursday May 28, from 7:30 to 9:30, at Observatory Park, 432 Observatory Avenue in Ukiah.
“Instead of our regular lecture, we’re going to have a ‘Telescope Expo’ ” park interpreter Martin Bradley said. Several different types of telescopes will be on display beginning at 7:30 while it is still light. “We want people to have a chance to see how the stargazing telescopes work before viewing the night sky after dark.”
Volunteers at the observatory and members of the Ukiah Astronomical Society will explain the different kinds of astronomical telescopes. This will include the original four inch refractor telescope installed in 1899 at the Ukiah Latitude Observatory.
Modern telescopes with advanced technology will also be on display. An eight inch Celestron Cassegrain telescope was recently donated the Observatory. It is equipped with a GPS system and computer to find celestial objects using a hand held keypad.
The non-profit group has more than twelve telescopes. Some are on very simple, easy to navigate mounts. Others have more complex equatorial mounts that track the stars as the earth turns.
“People can view telescopes that are available from under one hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.” Bradley said.
After the sky darkens at 8:30, visitors will have an opportunity to view several planets in the late spring sky. The moon will be positioned to view through the original 115 year old Ukiah Latitude Observatory telescope Bradley promised.
The event is free to the public, sponsored by Friends of the Observatory and the City of Ukiah Community Services Department. For more information call 707-467-5768 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on the park and observatory is also available at www.cityofukiah.com/observatory-park , or on the Observatory’s Facebook page.
— Martin Bradley
BOONVILLE TEACHER HONORED. Winners of the 2015 California State Science Fair were announced during ceremonies that took place May 19, 2015 at the California Science Center. This year's fair drew 968 students from 425 schools statewide, with finalists selected from a volunteer pool of scientists and engineers from private industry and higher education. Students took home a combined total of over $50,000 in cash prizes. The presenting sponsor for this year's event was Northrop Grumman Corporation with additional support from Chevron Corporation, Southern California Gas Company, THE MUSES of the California Science Center Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and Gilead Sciences, Inc. James Snyder, a teacher at Anderson Valley High School in Boonville (Mendocino County) was named California State Science Fair Teacher of the Year.
A READER WRITES: Reading the remarks by Supervisor Woodhouse on Hack&Squirt et al — Jeez, this Woodhouse guy's brain is such a mess. I don’t think I could ever dismantle or untangle that thicket. He’s a real black-and-white thinker, isn’t he? No shades of gray in Wood’s house. It appears that MRC’s meeting with this supervisor certainly paid dividends. I was at the hearing where a number of people told the Board that something needs to be done – now – about the standing dead timber fire hazard. Woodhouse claims to be open to all views yet he thinks the people who don’t like MRC’s creation of an enormous fire hazard are all clones of Naomi Wagner or Beth Bosk. That’s way off. Most of the people in the room simply don’t like the fire danger or the poisons; none of them mentioned logging practices. (Not to mention the unanimous vote of the 90s-era Board that called for a halt in hack&squirt. Are they logging haters too?) He blandly calls for everyone to be polite and listen to opposing views and so forth, yet he dismisses firefighters and MRC neighbors as neo-logging haters who have just been sitting around for two decades waiting for an opportunity to stop all logging! Then Woodhouse uses that false straw-man as an excuse to let MRC heedlessly continue doing whatever they want. (PS. A version of this applies to Carre Brown too, who actually said she didn’t care about the enormous public health and safety hazard because she didn’t like Bosk’s obviously rude behavior.) But at least Brown didn’t pretend to be an open-minded listener. We expect better from people who are paid public money to represent the public.
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 23, 2015
DORIAN BEACH, Glenhaven/Ukiah. DUI.
RAMON DELOSSANTOS, Ukiah. Pot possession for sale.
JAMIE KSRES, Fort Bragg. Burglary, vandalism.
NICHOLAS LANZIT, Ukiah. Possession of controlled substance, violation of court order, probation revocation.
CHAD LINDSEY, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
BEYLI MALDONADO, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ALBERT MANFREDINI, Ukiah. Court order violation.
DAWN MCKNIGHT, Talmage. Domestic assault, assault with deadly weapon not a gun, probation revocation.
MARCUS MELOY, Ukiah. Parole violation.
ELIAS RUTHERFORD, Laytonville. DUI-drugs, possession of meth and pot, pot sale-transport-furnish.
NICOLE SANDERSON, Laytonville. Drunk in public.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I remember years ago attempting to haul out a faller with a crushed pelvis. He was so mangled a search and rescue helo had to winch him out of the bush and off the hill. The next day I was back in camp and listened, amazed, at his partner going on about “The Union,” and how he worked in a non-union camp so he wouldn’t have to put up with union bullshit. I thought to myself, “Let’s see, we just hauled out your crushed partner because you didn’t even have a stretcher in camp, let alone a first aid attendant. And you don’t want a Union.” So like America and how she rejects planning. You can’t fix stupid, the saying goes.
TOURISM LIFTS MENDOCINO, LAKE ECONOMIES
Another indication tourism is related to the general economy of the northcoast, not on some vague bunch of overpaid wine-and-cheese lovers and their so called "promotion."
BERNIE SANDERS: on e-snooping and trade bill.
CHIAROSCURO COMES TO AMERICA
Extreme Contrasts of Musical Dark and Light
by David Yearsley
While travel played an increasingly important role in musical life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries — the great age of chamber music — most musicians spent their lives, or long stretches of them, playing more or less with the same folks: their families and friends; colleagues in court musical establishments; groups of small town amateurs; long-time members of musical societies. Some fled the familiarity of their surroundings or the oppressive princely tastes under which they labored, but most did not.
P.E. Bach spent nearly thirty years accompanying the flute-playing chamber music fanatic of a Prussian King, Frederick the Great. The repertoire was limited to works by the monarch’s favorite composers, played by the king in frustratingly meandering tempos. After the first decade of this service, Bach took in his much younger half-brother Johann Christian, who had been turned over to his care on the death of their father. It’s no wonder that, having witnessed his older brother’s musical servitude, Johann Christian set out for Italy as soon as he could and ultimately ended up in London. There he started one of the most important series of chamber music concerts with fellow émigré Carl Friedrich Abel at which subsequent staples like some of the string quartets of Joseph Haydn were premiered.
There is nothing more uplifting than chamber music, but as a form social practice it surely could and can become claustrophobic when cultivated over years with the same cohort. This much is confirmed by the infamous dissensions with which string quartets have so often been riven. While travel has played an increasingly vital role in musical culture, it is worth remembering that, like all but one the Bachs, most musicians, both professional and amateur, long resisted the centrifugal forces of ever cheaper transport and the lure of distant lands.
As I’ve noted previously in this column the Cornell International Chamber Music Festival known as Mayfest, which concluded its eighth edition last night, takes a different tack: bring in musicians from across the continent and around the world and match them up with resident court players from the adjacent principalities of Cornell University and Ithaca College, the latter founded as a conservatory in the nineteenth century and in the intervening century and some having assembled a large and gifted faculty of performers.
Artistic directors of Mayfest, Xak Bjerken and Miri Yampolsky, both pursue ambitious, geographically wide-ranging chamber music calendars of their own even while they hold down teaching positions at Cornell. Over the cosmopolitan course of their own studies and subsequent careers each has built up large networks of musical friends from whose ranks they have, over the past eight Mays, gathered diverse rosters of world-class musicians to spend a week in Ithaca to mix and mingle with the locals and together explore the seemingly inexhaustible repertoire of chamber classics augmented by a couple of newly commissioned works.
In seven concerts spread over six days, the visitors played with residents in shifting constellations that shone, in various magnitudes and colors — but always brightly. Make no mistake: both locals and visitors are stars.
This year Yampolsky summoned her longtime friends violinist Yehonatan Berick and clarinetist Chen Halevi. Born in Russia, Yampolsky, spent some of her formative musical years in Israel, that most prolific of musical hothouses. Such is the smallness of this musical world in which excellence attracts excellence, that Berick was for several years a member with Bjerken of the Los Angles Piano Quartet. Berick is now professor of violin at the University of Ottawa, and Halevi is on the faculty of the Trossingen Hochschule für Musik. Both are much in demand as soloists and chamber players and one feels lucky to have such talent spend a week in the verdant vernal provinces of Upstate New York.
Throughout the festival Halevi could be heard on various models: for a performance on period instruments of Mozart’s sublime and beloved clarinet quintet he used a muted basset horn that looked rather like an enormous tobacco pipe, the bell (or bowl, if you’re still thinking of the instrument as pipe) tucked between his thighs; an early nineteenth-century style clarinet with just a few keys was unpacked for the perky if longwinded Mendelssohn sonata in E-flat done with venerable local hero Malcolm Bilson playing on a copy of a Viennese piano from the 1820s; and a modern black one for the late-in-life revelations of Brahms’ clarinet trio in A minor. On the Brahms, Halevi was joined Bjerken on piano, a Californian native who, along with his love of contemporary music harbors an expansive sensibility for the music of Mittel-Europa, its outpourings and introspections. So naturally did this trio, completed by Albany native Clancy Newman on cello, inhabit this music of loss and possibility that one would have thought its members had played together for years rather than simply a few hours. Newman is a much-travelled musician, who won the prestigious Naumburg Competition back in 2001; Berick came second at the Naumburg in 1993, though twenty years on it’s hard to imagine anyone beating him at any aspect of the violin game.
With irrepressible humor and sprezzatura, Berick could be heard over these six days in a dazzling array of contexts: with Yampolsky urging him on at the cabaret night that comes in the midst of festival, he sprinted with the sprites through the exuberant pyrotechnics of Antonio Bazzini’s Scherzo fantastitque. There is no more outlandish a nineteenth-century showpiece, and no more impish a master of it than Berick, the dazzle of his bow and fingers of his left hand matched by the winking humor of his wonderfully warm and expressive face.
Among Berick’s many other Mayfest contributions was his participation in Fauré’s Piano Quartet in C minor with Yampolsky, Newman, and violist David Quiggle, a recently repatriated from long stint in Spain to take up a professorship at Ithaca College. This Mayfest quartet gave a magisterial, moving, and at times, fittingly turbulent reading of the work’s refined romantic effusions and lovelorn reveries.
Berick and Halevi ganged up with five Ithacans to form the septet for the festival’s concluding piece, Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, narrated with husky panache by local thespian Kristin Sad. That soldier plays a little violin and meets another fiddler while on leave — the devil himself. Berick frolicked through the score’s wild syncopations with demonic ease, his playing juxtaposing ironic modernism and folksy charm.
All these musicians were matched in various configurations with the real revelation that issued from this year’s festival: the Chiaroscuro Quartet. Having just received the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik in the chamber music category — one of the classical world’s highest honors — for its freshly minted recording of quartets by Mozart and Mendelssohn, this group of young European musicians who met in London rockets towards richly deserved fame — but thankfully does so by way of Ithaca and Mayfest.
Unfortunately, I had to miss the opening concert kicked off by the Chiaroscuro, because I was participating in a Moog Synthesizer 50th anniversary bash elsewhere. But later that night and before the next afternoon’s concert Mayfest was buzzing with talk of the ensemble’s astonishing confrontation with quartets Haydn and Mendelssohn. When I did hear Chiaroscuro the next evening in Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet I too was thunderstruck by thrilling, often extreme contrast of musical light and dark from which the group takes its name. The hollow whispers of their pianissimos could not be softer or more intense, and elicit a range of emotions from panic to transcendence and everything in between. All depends on what is required by the collective will of their always-unpredictable, always-compelling interpretations. And as a result of these murmurs and group soliloquies the coruscating passagework that inevitably erupts seems all the brighter, electric, joyous. The risks taken by this group are enormous — and therefore, too, the exhilarations.
The group’s second violinist, Spaniard Pablo Hernán Benadì celebrated his twenty-fourth birthday during the festival. He’s the junior member of this young quartet that has been going for a decade, and Hernán has been in the group for half of that time. That these musicians have already transformed the way we hear the string quartet — the core of the chamber music repertory — speaks to their limitless potential.
In the spirit of Mayfest Chiaroscuro’s members were put on the others participants’ dance cards. Berick took up his viola and joined the excellent and edgy Chiaroscuro violist Emilie Hörnlund in the middle of the texture of Brahms sumptuous Sextet in in B-Flat. That work was preceded by Chiaroscuro first violinist Alina Ibragimova’s epic, visionary performance of Bach’s Sonata in C Major for solo violin. On the concert that ended with “Death and the Maiden,” Hernán Benadì and cellist Claire Thirion teamed with Bjerken, who played that same 1820s Viennese piano, for a bracing rendering of Beethoven’s “Ghost” trio, shouting and shimmering even though the gut strings of violin and cello were under heavy assault by the evening’s extreme humidity.
That Mayfest was responsible for bringing Chiaroscuro to America for the very first time will redound to the festival’s glory, and has already spawned ardent hopes of a return spring trip to Ithaca by this fabulous foursome.
(David Yearsley is a long-time contributor to CounterPunch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His recording of J. S. Bach’s organ trio sonatas is available from Musica Omnia. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
MULE SKINNER BLUES (BLUE YODEL NO. 8)
Good morning, Captain
Good morning, Shine
Do you need another mule skinner
Out on your new mud line?
I like to work
I'm rolling all the time
I can carve my initials
On a mule's behind
Hey, little water boy
Bring that water round
If you don't like your job
Set that water bucket down
Walking on the good roads
Dollar and half a day
My good gal's waiting on Saturday night
Just to draw my pay
I'm going to town, honey
What you want me to bring you back?
Bring a pint of booze
And a Johny B Stetson hat
I smell your bread a burning
Turn your damper down
If you ain't got a damper
Good gal, turn your bread around
— Jimmie Rodgers
SIERRA NEVADA WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL 2015
June 19, 20, 21, 2015
Mendocino County Fairgrounds
14440 Hwy 128
Boonville, CA 95415
3 day ticket: $175
Friday only: $60
Saturday only $75
Sunday only: $70
Camping ticket: $75 (one per vehicle)
Three day and single day tickets are now on sale for the 22nd annual world peace and summer solstice gathering, the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. Held at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville, California, the event brings together artists from around the world for a three day festival. Artists perform on two stages while children’s activities are held in the Kids Zone and dance and drum troupes perform on the Solstice Stage positioned in the International Arts, Crafts and Food Bazaar. Early morning yoga and a late night dancehall make for a full day and night of action!
Onsite camping makes for family friendly as well as alter-able options for accommodations. A free daily yoga class starts the mornings off Saturday and Sunday under the pines in the Village Stage Area. After the stages go dark, the indoor dancehall fires up with DJ’s from around the world playing global grooves into the wee hours of the morning.
This year’s lineup has something for everyone with groups from the vintage reggae music of Jamaica that SNWMF is noted for hosting over the years, to Polynesian-Jawaiian styles to the West Coast style that has recently evolved. World music is represented this year from hybrid African-rock to traditional Latin Cumbia.
The entire artist lineup by day is outlined below with short descriptions of each scheduled act. Actual stage locations and times will be announced closer to the festival.
Steel Pulse - First emerging in 1970’s England, the band has become one of roots reggae’s most well-regarded bands performing to audiences thirsty for their brand of truth and rights.
Common Kings - With their origins in the South Pacific, their Polynesian island-style reggae is influenced heavily by R&B vocals and production values.
Yellowman - In the 1980’s this man, born an albino triumphed in the dancehall toasters style with some of reggae’s biggest hits that carried him into the international market.
Stick Figure - Part of the current wave of “West Coast Style” reggae, this popular touring band blends upbeat tempos with the heavy vibes of dub music in a multilayered sonic experience.
Admiral Tibet - Coming from Jamaica, this singer first came on the scene in the mid ’80’s singing songs that reflected the struggles of his fellow citizens as well as every day morality tales.
Hirie - A female fronted 7 piece band named after the lead singer, this high energy California-based group mixes pop influenced reggae with conscious lyrics.
Pentateuch - Part of the next generation of reggae bands coming out of Jamaica, this five piece group went to music school together and showcase the high level performance abilities and songwriting with a nod to both vintage harmony vocals, recording techniques and lyrics that reflect present day realities.
Hempress Sativa - A next generation female performer from Jamaica whose vocals soar with lyrical messages that are at times militant and at times romantic, all within context of modern roots reggae.
In the Dancehall:
Mungo's Hi Fi - A reggae soundsystem of 7 people coming in from Scotland, their deep crates and energetic MC’s will be sure to keep the dancehall rocking until late into the night.
Comanche High Power - Daddy Stevo has an ever expanding collection of reggae vinyl collected over the past 20+ years. Steve builds the sound system and is the engineer for the SNWMF dancehall sound system as well as selecting to warm up the floor early on Friday and Saturday nights.
Jimmy Cliff - an artist who is best known for his performance as an actor and recording artist in the cult film and soundtrack The Harder They Come which introduced reggae to the world, Jimmy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
Third World - Formed in 1973 this group has criss crossed the globe performing their original reggae sound with its deep influence from American vintage soul and R&B. Original member Cat Coore introduces the cello at times during the performance lending to the showmanship and drama of their live show.
Max Romeo - Despite his huge following in Europe, Max Romeo has not performed in the U.S. in 25 years. His extensive catalog reflects his roots reggae beginnings in the turbulent 1970’s Jamaica.
Ken Boothe - Considered the “Wilson Pickett of Jamaican music” Ken is a legend who got his start in pre-reggae, rocksteady in the 1960’s with his golden voice that topped the charts both Jamaica and in the United Kingdom.
Big Youth- A reggae legend, this reggae dancehall toaster ruled the microphone in the 1970’s, and some would argue he is the original “rapper” developing the concept of the spoken word chant over varied rhythms both in the studio and live setting.
Bixiga 70 - Representing the music of Brazil and named after a neighborhood in central Sao Paulo, this all-instrumental combo combines Afro-Beat with Samba, Cumbia and more represents a fusion of African and South American polyrhythms.
Nattali Rize & Notis - After spending most of 2014 living, writing and recording in Kingston, Jamaica, lead singer Nattali doubles as the lead singer of Blue King Brown. Now she recruited a band from Jamaica that represents more reggae and world leanings.
Jesse Royal - With a deep rich voice and strong sense of phrasing and lyrics, this Jamaican reggae artist represents the reggae revival but also represents the strategies used to break rap artists, with a few excellent mix tapes under his belt, he proves his abilities as a freestyler reworking his growing catalog of songs with great hooks and timeless messages.
Taj Weekes - With strong imagery sung in an agile falsetto, this native of St. Lucia brings together all of the elements that reggae music exemplifies, righteous lyrics, precise musicianship and a message that resonates with many on stages around the globe.
Soul Syndicate-Backing two of reggae’s great artists with whom they recorded back in the ’70’s- Big Youth and Max Romeo, Soul Syndicate made their own solo album in 1982 and will feature some of these songs during the festival set on Saturday.
La Misa Negra - Based in Oakland, CA this 8 piece band plays ’50’s & ’60’s style cumbia and Afro-Columbian dance music. They are an explosive band on stage and will present a one-of-a-kind performance!
Bustamento - Coming from Australia the band performs vintage Ska music with a nod to calypso and Motown. Players include an upright bassist and steel pan drum player.
Meta & The Cornerstones - Born in Senegal, lead singer Meta Dia started out in Hip Hop and the sound has evolved into reggae music with the depth that is inspired by some of his African reggae counterparts. A diverse band of professionals help shape a strong stage performance.
The Itals - Lead singer Keith Porter represents the harmony trio style of deep roots reggae that prevailed in the 1970’s. Through the years their poignant lyrics and engaging hooks have reached audiences around the globe.
Tafari - The next generation of reggae “rapper” this artist is the son of Big Youth, also on the lineup. He has released several singles with some of the industry’s biggest producers.
In the Dancehall:
Rorystonelove Black Dub - Part of the Stone Love sound system that has been in operation for the past 40 years, Rory comes to SNWMF for the past several years with deep crates and a sense of the hottest trends both on the dance floor and in the studio where he has evolved as a producer.
Thievery Corporation - Though a duo at their core, this group whose expansive style from dubby trance soul to saudade has developed some of the world's most loved recordings, they've now become known for the carnival-like atmosphere of their live shows where they bring out a 15 member live band of musicians and vocalists.
Luciano - Known as Jah Messenjah, this artist’s unmistakeable voice hit the reggae scene in the late 1990’s and his career has continued on a trajectory with numerous hits and an impassioned fanbase on multiple continents.
The Very Best - Conceptualized in 2008, the group combines African polyrhythms and lyrics sung in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, with production elements from dance, trance and alternative rock.
Melbourne Ska Orchestra - Coming from Australia, this group features several horns in an exuberant presentation of ska music from Jamaica, the UK and Latino style Ska. With harmonies and strong percussion songs engage the audience with call and response singalongs.
Gentleman's Dub Club - From Leeds, UK this 9-piece group performs deep roots reggae with a heavy bass and sweet lyrical vocals that lean toward pop with horns brightening up the vibes.
The Melodians - Part of the tradition of harmony trios in Jamaica that formed during the 1960’s Rocksteady era, the songs that topped the charts are still classics to this day.
Keith & Tex - This duo evolved during the Bluebeat era, the precursor to Rocksteady, and their music was relegated to obscurity. They make their second appearance on SNWMF 2015 and a rare US appearance.
B.B. Seaton - His first big song first came out in Jamaica in 1967 during the Rocksteady era as part of the vocal trio the Gaylads. Since going solo he has released 15 albums and written countless tunes for other artists.
Monty Morris - Credited with being one of the foundation artists of Ska music, he performed at the 1964 World’s Fair as part of the Jamaican contingent.
Ras Muhamad - Coming the farthest for the festival from Indonesia, this artist combines Jamaican reggae influences with principles from his own culture with both militant chants and pacifist messages.
No-Maddz - This group blends varied music genres and shares vocal duties amongst several members. Their style and message are part of the next generation of Jamaican bands.
Joseph Israel - One of the first American artists to gain international recognition after recording in Jamaica, this artist brings authentic roots reggae with deep spiritual messaging and a top notch band that includes powerful harmonies and solos.
PROTESTERS CONVERGE ON NESTLÉ BOTTLING PLANTS IN SACRAMENTO AND LA
by Dan Bacher
The outrage over the bottling of California water by Nestlé, Walmart and other big corporations during a record drought has become viral on social media and national and international media websites over the past couple of months.
On May 20, people from across the state converged on two Nestlé bottling plants - one in Sacramento and the other in Los Angeles - demanding that the Swiss-based Nestlé corporation halt its bottling operations during the state’s record drought.
Wednesday's protest, led by the California-based Courage Campaign, was the third in Sacramento over the past year. The first two protests were "shut downs" this March and last October organized by the Crunch Nestlé Alliance. For my report on the March protest, go to: http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/29947-activists-shut-down-nestle-water-bottling-plant-in-sacramento.
For over an hour Wednesday, over 50 protesters held signs and marched as they chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, Nestlé Waters has got to go," "Water is a human right! Don't let Nestlé win this fight," and "Keep our water in the ground, Nestle Waters get out of town."
An eight-foot-long banner at the Sacramento protest read: “Nestlé, 515,000 people say leave California’s precious water in the ground,” referring to the total number of signatures on the petitions.
At the protests, activists delivered the 515,000 signatures from people in California and around the nation who signed onto a series of petitions to Nestlé executives, Governor Brown, the California State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Forest Service urging an immediate shutdown of Nestlé’s bottling operations across the state.
The petitions were circulated by Courage Campaign, SumOfUs.org, CREDO, Corporate Accountability International, Avaaz, Food & Water Watch, Care2, Change.org and Daily Kos.
In Sacramento, local activists and residents joined residents from San Francisco and Oakland who took a bus protest outside Nestlé’s bottling plant at 8670 Younger Creek Drive. View photos from the Sacramento protest here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/132616837@N02/sets/72157653159511042bottling in California.
Jessica Lopez, the Chair of the Concow Maidu Tribe, participated in the protest with her daughter, Salvina Adeline Santos Jesus Lopez.
"I stand here in solidarity with everybody here demanding the protection of our water rights," said Lopez. "Nestle needs to stop bottling water during this drought. Why have they obtained their current permits to pump city water?"
Tim Molina, Strategic Campaign Organizer for the California-based Courage Campaign, told the crowd, "Today we are saying enough is enough. With people across California doing their part to conserve water -- it’s time that Nestlé did the right thing and put people over profits - by immediately halting their water bottling operations across the State."
“If Nestlé won’t do what’s right to protect California’s precious water supply, it is up to Governor Brown and the California Water Resource Control Boards to step in and stop this blatant misuse of water during our State’s epic drought," he said.
“Bottling public water for private profit doesn’t make sense for communities and it doesn’t make sense for the environment,” said Sandra Lupien, Western Region Communications Manager at Food & Water Watch, also at the protest in Sacramento. “During a historic drought crisis, it is utter madness to allow corporations like Nestlé to suck our dwindling groundwater and sell it for thousands of times what it pays. Putting a halt to water bottling in California is a no-brainer and Governor Jerry Brown must stand up to protect Californians’ public resource.”
After the activists gave the petitions to Nestlé representatives at the Sacramento plant, the Nestlé supervisor presented the organizers with a letter from Tim Brown, President and CEO of Nestlé Waters North America, responding to a letter from the Courage Campaign.
Brown wrote, "Keep in mind that beverages consumed in California but not bottled in the state must be shipped a longer distance, which has its own drawbacks, such as the environmental impact of transportation. Sourcing water in California provides water with a lower carbon footprint, which has a beneficial environmental impact. The entire bottled industry accounts for 0.02 percent of the annual water used in California."
The company said it also would like to engage in "thoughtful dialogue" with the water bottling opponents.
"We appreciate the opportunity to engage in thoughtful dialogue - and in meaningful action - to address California's water challenges. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with you - in person or over the phone - to advance our shared desire for a more sustainable California. We are hopeful that the public discussion we are all engaged in around water use - including your efforts - leads to positive collective action."
In 2014, Nestlé Waters used about 50 million gallons from the Sacramento municipal water supply to produce "Nestlé Pure Life Purified Drinking Water" and for other plant operations, according to a statement from Nestlé Waters. To read the city of Sacramento's responses to my questions about the Nestlé bottling plant's use of city water, go to: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/10/1376873/-City-of-Sacramento-s-responds-to-my-questions-about-Nest)
Nestlé Waters is not the only corporation bottling Sacramento water during the drought. A report on CBS TV earlier this month revealed that Walmart bottled water also comes from the city of Sacramento's drinking water supply. (http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2015/05/08/wal-mart-bottled-water-comes-from-sacramento-municipal-supply)
In Los Angeles, local activists and residents were joined by people from Orange County and Long Beach who took buses to protest outside Nestlé’s bottling plant at 1560 East 20th Street.
The representatives from consumer, environmental and human rights groups who participated in the protest, like at the protest in Sacramento, blasted the corporation for making millions off bottled water during the drought when urban users are seeing increasing restrictions on their water use.
“As California's water supplies dry up, Nestlé continues to make millions selling bottled water and that’s outrageous!” explained Liz McDowell, campaigner for SumOfUs.org. “We’ve stood up to Nestlé exploiting natural resources for profit in the past everywhere from Pakistan to Canada, and now the global community is speaking out before California runs completely dry.”
The Desert Sun recently reported that Nestlé was bottling water in desert and drought-stricken areas of California and selling it for a big profit, even though its permit for water pipelines and wells in the San Bernardino National Forest had expired in 1988. Nestlé currently extracts water from at least a dozen natural springs in California for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands.(http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2015/04/11/nestle-bottled-water-california-drought-water/25621915/)
A majority of people in the U.S. believe Nestlé should stop bottling in California, according to a recent poll. However, in spite of the increasing public outcry, Nestlé CEO Tim Brown, when asked about the controversy, said he wished the corporation could bottle more water from California.
When asked in an interview with KPCC radio if he would stop bottling water in the state, Brown replied, “Absolutely not.In fact, if I could increase it, I would.”
Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager at CREDO Action, accused Nestlé of "profiteering at the expense of the public interest."
“In the midst of an historic drought with no end in sight, it is wildly irresponsible for Nestlé to extract vast amounts of California’s water," said Malitz.
"For decades, Nestlé has demonstrated a blatant disregard for local communities and the environment," said Erin Diaz, the campaign director at Corporate Accountability International's Think Outside the Bottle campaign. "In response to community concerns about its backdoor political dealings and environmental damage, Nestle has poured millions into PR and greenwashing campaigns. But Nestle's money can't wash away its abysmal track record, and Californians are demanding an end to Nestle's abusive practices."
John Tye, Campaign Director, Avaaz, concluded, “Families across the American West are already paying a steep price for mismanagement and scandalous selloffs of public resources. It's time for California, and Governor Brown, to set a strong example for conservation and responsive regulation. Tens of thousands of people across the country are tired of watching companies like Nestlé profit at the expense of the taxpayers."
The protests take place as Governor Jerry Brown continues to push his plan to construct two massive tunnels under the Delta, potentially the most environmentally destructive protect in California history. The twin tunnels would divert massive quantities of water from the Sacramento River to be used by corporate agribusiness interests irrigating drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, as well as to Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations.
The construction of the tunnels would hasten the extinction of winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species, as well as threaten the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
But the tunnels plan is just one of the many environmentally destructive policies of the Brown administration. Governor Brown has presided over record water exports and fish kills at the Delta pumping facilities; promotes the expansion of fracking in California; pursues water policies that have driven Delta smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon and other fish species closer to extinction; and authorized the completion of questionable "marine protected areas" created under the helm of a big oil lobbyist during the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. (http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/30452-the-extinction-governor-rips-the-green-mask-off-his-tunnels-plan)
The groups are now urging everybody to sign the pledge by Daily Kos, Courage Campaign and Corporate Accountability International: Do not drink bottled water from Nestlé: http://www.dailykos.com/campaigns/1224
This is the text of the pledge to the Nestlé Corporation:
"I pledge to choose tap water instead of buying the following Nestlé products: Acqua Panna, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Nestea, Nestlé Pure Life, Ozarka, Perrier, Poland Spring, Resource, S. Pellegrino, Sweet Leaf, Tradewinds and Zephyrhills."
This is an emergency eco-callout to be at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington D.C. on Tuesday morning May 26th at 7:00 A.M. for ratcheting it up in the battle against fracking shale to extract gas for export sales. For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (703) 999-2634. And remember, NATURE BATS LAST! Location: (two blocks north of Union Station) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 888 First Street, NE, between H and K Streets Washington D.C. ~This has been a public service announcement~
Craig Stehr, email@example.com
U.S. NO LONGER A DEMOCRACY, Princeton Study concludes
A new study from Princeton spells bad news for American democracy, namely, that it no longer exists.
Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue <https://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf> that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.
Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.
"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they write, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."
As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the governmentâ€”whether Republican or Democraticâ€”more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.
The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month's ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC <http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/supreme-court-campaign-contribution-limits-mccutcheon-fec-2>. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.
"Ordinary citizens," they write, "might often be observed to 'win' (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail."
Scholar Behind Viral 'Oligarchy' Study Tells You What It Means
A new political science study <http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/princeton-experts-say-us-no-longer-democracy> that's gone viral finds that majority-rule democracy exists only in theory in the United States -- not so much in practice. The government caters to the affluent few and organized interest groups, the researchers find, while the average citizen's influence on policy is "near zero."
"[T]he preferences of economic elites," conclude Princeton's Martin Gilens and Northwestern's Benjamin I. Page, who work with the nonprofit Scholars Strategy Network <http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/>, "have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do."
TPM spoke to Gilens about the study, its main findings and its lessons.
You published an advance copy of your study on April 9th, and in just the last few days there's been an explosion of coverage and interest. Are you pleased, shocked, overwhelmed, all of the above?
I'm delighted to be able to contribute to a terribly important public discussion. And I'm thrilled that there's so much interest and concern about the issues. It takes on a life of its own. I'm sure you've noticed, this notion of America being an oligarchy seems to be a dominant meme in the discussion of our work. It's not a term that we used in the paper. It's just a dramatic sort of overstatement of our findings. So it's been interesting for me. Typically my work is read by a few dozen political scientists and I don't get this kind of response.
Let's talk about the study. If you had 30 seconds to sum up the main conclusion of your study for the average person, how would you do so?
I'd say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups -- of economic elites and of organized interests.
You say the United States is more like a system of "Economic Elite Domination" and "Biased Pluralism" as opposed to a majoritarian democracy. What do those terms mean? Is that not just a scholarly way of saying it's closer to oligarchy than democracy if not literally an oligarchy?
People mean different things by the term oligarchy. One reason why I shy away from it is it brings to mind this image of a very small number of very wealthy people who are pulling strings behind the scenes to determine what government does. And I think it's more complicated than that. It's not only Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers or Bill Gates or George Soros who are shaping government policy-making. So that's my concern with what at least many people would understand oligarchy to mean. What "Economic Elite Domination" and "Biased Pluralism" mean is that rather than average citizens of moderate means having an important role in determining policy, ability to shape outcomes is restricted to people at the top of the income distribution and to organized groups that represent primarily -- although not exclusively -- business.
Would you say the government is most responsive to income earners at the top 10 percent, the top 1 percent or the top 0.1 percent?
This is a great question and it's not one we can answer with the data that we used in the study. Because we really don't have good info about what the top 1 percent or 10 percent want or what issues they're engaged with. As you can imagine, this is not really a group that's eager to talk with researchers.
How exactly do you measure the preferences of average citizens in an academic way? Polls show that many American voters feel on a gut level that the government isn't looking out for them. But what kind of data do you use to test this theory and how confident are you in the conclusions?
What we did was to collect survey questions that asked whether respondents would favor or oppose some particular change in federal government policy. These were questions asked across the decades from 1981 to 2002. And so from each of those questions we know what citizens of average income level prefer and we know what people at the top of the income distribution say they want. For each of the 2,000 possible policy changes we determined whether in fact they've been adopted or not. I had a large number of research assistants who spent years putting that data together.
There are criticisms of your study within the academic community. Some say public opinion surveys are a poor measure because people don't understand policy or that their stated preferences are self-contradictory. Tyler Cowen says citizens vote retrospectively so it's better to judge on outputs rather than whether voters get their preferred inputs. How do you respond?
These are all good questions. They're questions I address in some length in my book, "Affluence and Influence <http://www.amazon.com/Affluence-Influence-Economic-Inequality-Political/dp/0691153973>." There is some truth to some of these perspectives. But in a nutshell I think citizens overall have fairly sensible policy preferences which appear not to change much if citizens have an opportunity to learn more and debate the policy and view pros and cons.
Talk about some examples of policy preferences that the majority holds that the government is not responsive to.
Financial reform -- the deregulatory agenda has been pursued, somewhat more fervently among Republicans but certainly by Democrats as well in recent decades. Higher minimum wage. More support for the unemployed. More support for education spending. We'd see, perhaps ironically, less liberal policies in some domains like religious or moral issues. Affluent people tend to be more socially liberal on things like abortion or gay rights.
Which party, Democrat or Republican, caters to the interests of the rich more? Does your research find them to be equal or is one more responsive than the other?
We didn't look at that in this paper. Other work I've done suggest it depends. There are a set of economic issues on which the Democratic party is more consistently supportive of the needs of the poor and middle class. But it's by no means a strong relationship. Both parties have to a large degree embraced a set of policies that reflect the needs, preferences and interests of the well to do.
Relatedly, does divided government like we have now make politicians more or less likely to cater to the affluent than one-party control?
It does seem, absolutely, that divided government has the effect of reducing the amount of policy that gets adopted, restricting the policies that get adopted that are more broadly popular.
When did things start to become this way?
It's possible that in earlier eras, that we don't have data for, that things were better. But in the time period that we do have data for, there's certainly no such evidence. Over time responsiveness to elites has grown.
It seems to me the paradox here is that sometimes non-rich people favor an agenda that supports the rich. For instance, middle class tea partiers want low taxes on the highest earners, just as Steve Forbes does. Isn't that still democracy at work, albeit in an arguably perverse way?
Yes, absolutely. I think people are entitled to preferences that conflict with their immediate interests -- narrowly conceived interests. That may be an example of that. Opposition to the estate tax among low-income individuals is another. But what we see in this study is that's not what this is happening. We don't look at whether preferences expressed by these different groups are consistent or inconsistent with their interests, narrowly conceived. We just look at whether they're responded to by government policy-makers, and we find that in the case of ordinary Americans, they're not.
How does a system like this perpetuate itself when after all it's ordinary voters who cast their ballots and elect their leaders. Theoretically they can change it in a heartbeat. Why don't they?
That's a very good question. I don't have a complete answer for you. Part of it clearly is that while politicians need votes while in office, they need money to obtain and retain office. So they need to balance the activities that will benefit them in terms of money with the activities that'll benefit them in terms of votes. Voters are not particularly effective at holding politicians accountable for the policies they adopt. Voters also have a limited choice set when going into an election. We find that policies adopted during presidential election years in particular are more consistent with public preferences than policies adopted in other years of the electoral cycle.
What are the three or four most crucial factors that have made the United States this way?
Very good question. I'd say two crucial factors. One central factor is the role of money in our political system, and the overwhelming role that affluent individuals that affluent individuals and organized interests play, in campaign finance and in lobbying. And the second thing is the lack of mass organizations that represent and facilitate the voice of ordinary citizens. Part of that would be the decline of unions in the country which has been quite dramatic over the last 30 or 40 years. And part of it is the lack of a socialist or a worker's party.
What does the broader social science literature say about societies that go into this non-democracy state? Do you see this as a pendulum that swings back and forth, or is it a sort of tipping point from which there's no way back?
That's kind of a gloomy question!
It's my job to ask those.
I don't know. There have been periods -- the ages of Robber Barons and Trusts, the progressive era where there was too much concern about concentration of power. I'm not a historian, so I don't know -- maybe it takes a Great Depression.
Your study calls to mind something that Dennis Kucinich, the former congressman, said years ago during the recession. He essentially said the class war is over and the working class lost. Was he right?
I mean, for now, it certainly seems like it. The middle class has not done well over the last three and a half decades, and certainly has not done well during the Great Recession. The political system responded to the crisis in a way that led to a pretty nice recovery for economic elites and corporations.
Given your findings, what do you make of the great sense of persecution that people at the top appear to feel in recent years? Is there a phenomenon you came by that speaks to this, and does that perpetuate the cycle of policy moving in their direction?
It's certainly not something our study or data has addressed. But it's part of an effort to defend, in the face of growing inequality, their advantages and wealth.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. The study is below.
Gilens and Page 2014 - Testing Theories <http://www.scribd.com/doc/219648078/Gilens-and-Page-2014-Testing-Theories>
SOFT KITTY, WARM KITTY, LITTLE BALL OF FUR.
From: "Marco McClean" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The recording of last night's (2015-05-22) KNYO Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show is ready to download and keep or just play with one click at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
Also you'll find thousands and thousands of links to interesting things to see and do and learn about, such as:
The flinging molten iron festival. It's all fun and games until someone burns an eye out.
Dance of the peacock spider, inventor of tango.
And the drunken master/Charlie Chaplin method of interacting with the man.