Schizoid culture and a course for treatment

From Sean Ré
Mendocino County

3/2/09 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~ J. Krishnamurti

Denial and excess

My step-father is baffled by my current interests. He has, as of late, become interested in alternative energy. He, like many others, thinks that there is a singular technology that can save us all. In a previous career, I was an engineer, and he wonders why I don’t use those skills to pursue something that will serve humanity. Humanity has all the solutions it needs to solve its problems, I tell him; what it lacks is the will to exercise them. My stepfather, his body ravaged by the excess of his life and denial of his disease, diabetes, has lost half of his left foot, and most of the toes on his other. He is on dialysis three days a week. He tells me almost every time I’m on the phone with him about some new substance he has discovered that will restore his health, that will turn back part of the excess of his life. Excesses that he indulged in with denial. A denial that raged, even as he watched his siblings destroyed by the disease. In him I see an allegory of our whole modern way of being.

Charlatans and false solutions

I have these days concerned myself with issues of the exercise of will. I listen to community radio every weekday morning, and much of what I hear is denial, speculation, opinion, and false hope… dancing around the gorilla in the room. Fill the void with noise, but rarely utter the truths of our lives. We work so hard to fill our lives, and yet a feeling of emptiness seems to prevail. We feed the guard dogs of our way of life with our own flesh. A truth is before us but remains unfocused in our vision; it’s a dream we are told, it can never happen here. Stay the course, these things are just cyclical: things will return to normal soon. But what is normal? We refuse to look to the lives of others who show us a better way, as we cling to the lies that serve to make only a few prosper… for a while. Normal has come to mean common, as opposed to a state of well being: sustainable homeostasis. Sometimes I hear credible solutions to our problems, but I fear they won’t be realized. As with any addiction, delusional thinking prevails. But the truth lies within us if we can remove the barriers that have blinded us to our own truths.

Barriers: Signs, symptoms, and false diagnosis

In my profession the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) is the psychiatric profession’s attempt to legitimize themselves as a player in the scope of medical science. It is the fundamental tool at the core of the counseling profession. The DSM-IV (brought to you by similar minds that brought you the DSM-III, which listed homosexuality as a mental illness) presents clusters of symptoms which represent behaviors that lie outside the norms of our current culture. Symptom is the key word here. Webster defines a symptom as, “a phenomenon experienced by an individual as a departure from normal function, sensation, or appearance, generally indicating disease or disorder.” A sign is defined as “a bodily manifestation indicating the presence of a disease or malfunction.” The difference being, one is perceptual and the other is empirical. For example, if you go to a doctor and complain of pain in your arm, that is a symptom. If she takes an x-ray and observes a fracture, that is a sign. Imagine you went to your doctor and complained of leg pain, whereupon she snapped to a diagnosis (without the x-ray) and said, “your leg is broken” and then laid out a course of treatment saying, “and you’ll have to wear a cast for eight weeks.” You would look at her sideways and hop out of her office as fast as you could, as this would amount to malpractice. She made a diagnosis with only a symptom, and no signs, and then suggested a course of treatment. To understand this is to begin to wrap your head around the common standard of practice in the mental health profession: treatment (often medication) for a diagnosis made on symptoms alone. The actual causes (observed by signs) that can make the symptoms manifest are many. For example, the symptoms we associate with ADD can be caused by trauma, neglect, in-utero drug exposure, allergies, poor diet and the immediate environment just to name a few. I suspect there is not a child out there who is suffering from a deficiency of Ritalin. Yet that is a standard “treatment” given for this “disorder.” Something is a disorder if it impairs the individual from some area of life functioning: relationships, work/school, and self-care. Let’s look at two common mental “disorders” common in modern society.

A Look into the Future

From Janie Sheppard

3/2/09 Ukiah, North California

Let’s just imagine, for a few minutes, that marijuana is legal. There are signs that such legalization is in the offing: The new Attorney General, Eric Holder, has said it will henceforth be the policy of the DEA not to raid California medical marijuana dispensaries. There are other signs as well.

California would become the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use under a bill introduced February 23rd  by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco.  Numerous commentators have suggested that taxing marijuana sales, a Thirteen Billion Dollar industry in California alone, would be a painless way to fill the state’s coffers. Taxation, long ignored as a source of revenue for our beleaguered state, extends to marijuana sales. Imagine, for now, that is the reality.

With legalization, comes regulation. Only sustainably grown marijuana, meeting organic standards, is legal. Artificial fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, diesel generators, their spills and contamination, along with vicious guard dogs, are relics of the past.

Sales are made only to adults, with strict punishments meted out to anyone caught selling to underage purchasers. This is how sales of alcohol and tobacco are controlled today; such a scheme easily could be adapted for marijuana sales.

Mendocino County is known for strains of marijuana that treat specific maladies, many of them providing medicinal benefits without the high. Purchasing these strains is no longer illegal. Imagine patients receiving treatment without being forced into bankruptcy by prescriptions that make the out-of-county pharmaceutical companies rich. Recall too that the defendant in the Kelly case, presently before the California Supreme Court, grew 7 marijuana plants (one over the limit under S.B. 420) to treat pain, something he could not afford to do by purchasing prescription pharmaceuticals.

Recreational users, for the most part, become responsible, just as most wine drinkers are today. Wine drinking drivers know they stand a healthy chance of being pulled over and arrested if they have exceeded the allowable blood alcohol limit. Well publicized campaigns against driving drunk provide further deterrence and the same could work for marijuana.

The Sheriff deploys deputies to help the federal government clean up trespass on federal lands where illegal grows produce no tax revenue, only environmental damage. Illegal grows decrease rapidly because there are more available enforcement personnel. Wildlife returns to take advantage of the quietude and the water that is no longer siphoned from the streams for irrigating. Consider that last season there were 50 trespass grows on Cow Mountain alone, with only one BLM enforcement agent for the entire Ukiah district. Consequently, there was no enforcement and only minimal cleanup.

The Sheriff can deploy deputies to help the feds because it got its act together early. Seeing legalization on the horizon, the Sheriff and his deputies brainstormed priorities. They figured out that the serious problems (not per se breaking the law) came from large-scale growers using diesel powered generators to run the lights and fans required for indoor grows. Also causing big problems were the out-of-county residents who hired locals to tend marijuana gardens here, there, and everywhere. And, of course, the gun-toting, pit bull owning outlaws. The Sheriff realized that if he concentrated his efforts on the serious problems, he could win support of county residents. He also realized that shutting down local, small-scale growers hurt the local economy. He quit doing that.

Paul Krugman, noted economist and New York Times op-ed columnist won the Nobel Prize last year for his ideas about international trade. Implied in those ideas was the notion that production (e.g., of marijuana) becomes concentrated in areas where expertise exists. Here, where medical marijuana expertise exists in abundance, we should acknowledge it by promoting the various Mendocino marijuana-based remedies. This is our opportunity. We need to take advantage of it.

Is this a change (of) team we can believe in? (Updated)

From Jim Houle

Ukiah, California 02/13/09
Dave Lindorff, reporter for Salon, the Nation and Businessweek,/ writes: ”Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama’s presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three of his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills”. Lets look at the list:

William Lynn: A former Raytheon Co. lobbyist, confirmed today as deputy secretary of defense, (the department’s chief operating officer – which includes overseeing acquisitions). He has agreed to sell his stock in the military contractor but will not be forced to step back from decisions related to Ratheon, the Defense Department said Friday. Instead, Obama wrote Lynn a special permission slip to exempt him the new revolving door ban. Allowing Lynn to do business with his former employer makes a mockery of Obama’s new ethics rules.

Tom Daschle: Nominated as Secretary of H&HS – dropped out after acknowledging that he had belatedly paid more than $128,000 in taxes owed to the federal government.

Nancy Killefer: Intended to become the government’s first “chief performance officer”, bowed out, after admitting she never paid payroll taxes for her household employee.

Timothy Geithner: a key official of the Bush years, has now been confirmed at Secretary of the Treasury, although he admits not having paid the Social Security and Health Care taxes he owed to the US Treasury., while working at the IMF. He had avoided paying them, despite his signed acknowledgement that he owed these taxes and hid behind the 3 year statue of limitations, thus had saved himself $41,000. He only paid up after his nomination was confirmed. And this guy will supervise the IRS?

Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) dropped out after having accepted the job of Commerce Secretary. A deeply conservative man, he is opposed to the very existence of the Commerce Department he will head. To top it off, Obama had worked out a deal to have the Democratic governor of New Hampshire fill Gregg’s vacated Senate seat with a Republican appointee, thereby forfeiting the right to add a Democrat to the Senate and eliminate any chance of Republican filibusters. Gregg explained that he didn’t like Obama’s economic stimulus program. It sounds like his ego got ahead of his ability to keep current on the news.

Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture: A Strong supporter of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered crops and of unsustainable ethanol manufacture from corn and soy beans.

Senator (D-Co) Ken Salazar, Obama’s choice for Secretary of Interior: a loyal servant of the big ranching, and mining interests. Energy stocks climbed over 10% on expectations that his taking charge of Interior would assure continued opening up of federal lands for minerals exploitation”. WSW.org 12/18/08. However, on February 10th, he surprised us by extending the review period for oil and gas leases in western states by 6 months. Should we wait and see if this leopard changes his spots?

Arne Duncan (currently CEO for the Chicago Public School System) will become Education Secretary. He is seen as a strong supporter of the “No Child Left Behind” initiative of the Bush administration.

Dr. Steven Chu has headed the Lawrence Berkeley Labs these past 4 years and is a scientist, not a businessman. His lifelong support for the nuclear power industry is why he’ll be DOE Secretary.

Keep reading Obama-Watch.us Eighth Edition

[Update -DS]

See also Obama and Liberals: A counter-productive relationship by Glenn Greenwald, Salon

and An Open Letter To President Obama About Republicans (From a Former Republican)

and The obstructionists dilemma at Daily Kos→

and They Sure Showed That Obama by Frank Rich, NYT→

What about a new bank?

From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

The Obama administration is about to disgorge the second half of TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) money ($350 Billion Dollars) to bail out the banks. The first $350 Billion didn’t do the trick, the second won’t either. But wait, before once again dumping that much money into unsound banks, here’s another idea. This idea isn’t mine, and if it gets some attention, I’ll again ask permission to disclose its origins. For now, we’ll just focus on what I understand to be the substance.

Forget existing banks. Why not leave them to sink or swim? The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was created to clean up banking messes, and it has a good record. Let it do its job.

Instead, ask Congress to appropriate money for a NEW BANK. In its charter would be a mandate to extend credit, something no amount of TARP money alone will do, as we have seen.

The NEW BANK would not be burdened with toxic assets like mortgage-backed securities that turned out to have no value and were a bad idea in the first place.

The NEW BANK would not have greedy shareholders demanding dividends from government bailout money. The shareholders would be us, the taxpayers. Instead of dividends going only to rich shareholders, taxpayers would see the benefits in the form of readily available credit. What would this mean? Ordinary people could finance cars, houses, businesses, and get lines of credit. With the increase of economic activity created by the loosened credit, employment would increase. Instead of losing hundreds of thousands of jobs each month, there would be a gradual turnaround.

What else would this mean? No more huge bonuses for executives more concerned about their pay and perks than the welfare of the country. No more incentive to produce short-term stockholder dividends. The NEW BANK’s profits would come from the interest on loans, not from fraudulent financial instruments that through the deceptive magic of “bundling” hid huge losses. This game of “hot potato” went on while the bundlers sold the instruments to our pension funds and, amazingly, to each other.

Congress would set the salaries for NEW BANK employees and managers. Bonuses would be tied to the health of the economy, not bolstered by phony recommendations of executive pay consultants. This could be in the legislation, if we demanded.

There are plenty of people in the federal government who could run the NEW BANK. Recall that the Resolution Trust Corporation and the FDIC employ plenty of smart people. Bankers who made the mess would be prohibited from employment, if we demanded.

To get the NEW BANK going requires a popular revolt. Unless we tell the Congress, loud and clear and with street demonstrations, if necessary, that we’re fed up and not going to take it anymore, the TARP money will be spent, banks will continue to go bankrupt, and the likes of you and I will not see any benefits while the unemployment numbers keep going up.

If you’re fed up, let President Obama know, let Mike Thompson know, let Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein know, and share this idea with your friends. Don’t take it anymore!

See also Good Bank/New Bank vs. Bad Bank: a rare example of a no-brainer – Financial Times

and I am as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore – YouTube

Our toxic, malnourishing food supply (Updated)

From Dave Smith

Toxic food? Toxic lipstick? Toxic assets? Ponzi schemes? Comes from the same mindless mind-set: suck out the  life at each step along the supply chain, but keep claiming value, not poison, is being added. Last trusting person at the  end of the chain? Oops, sorry about that! Ah, well… I got mine.

We are blessed in our town to have a thriving, locally-owned, democratically-controlled, organic- and local-farm-oriented, 100% organic produce, cooperative food store, Ukiah Natural Foods… along with farmers’ markets and organic, biodynamic, CSA farms (listed in Localizing Links below). If you are local, and not a member of our co-op, you should be—for many reasons. A main reason is shown in the graphic above from an old post by Dave Pollard, Eat Shit and Die, which expands on the topic with details… if you can stomach it.

We have also banned GMO plants from our county, and certify or own organic farmers locally under the Mendocino Renegade label thanks to the Mendocino Organic Network.

One of our local organic farmers, Charles Martin, when asked why organic foods are pricey says simply: pay for healthy food or pay your Doctor… your choice.
See also Staying Organic During Tough Times at OrganicToBe.org→

and Co-operatives: The Feeling is Mutual

and The Greenhorn Guide for Beginning Farmers

and Newly Discovered Toxic Chemical Is Common In Cosmetics

A distinguished panel tells a packed room of environmental journalists that the way we grow our food matters to a heating planet…

Go to Agriculture and climate change at RodaleInstitute.org

Do you see what I see?

From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

Jeff Adams, the man on the ground for DDR (Developers Diversified Realty, aka, Mega Mall at the old Masonite site) resurfaced recently.  In a January 13, 2009 letter he informed the Governor that DDR intended to create a project that we could be proud of.  Looks like DDR isn’t going away any time soon.  I wonder why not when I contemplate what’s happening locally and on the national scene.  Why doesn’t DDR see what I see?

I see:  Lead article in the New York Times Sunday (2/1/09) Business Section, entitled Our Love Affair With Malls Is on the Rocks.  In the article, the reporter points to the nation’s bad habit of overspending as one of two causes of the economic crisis, the other cause being “mortgage-related financial insanity.”  But, the reporter informs us, because “personal consumption” accounts for 70 percent of the American economy, if we don’t spend, we don’t recover.  The reporter analogizes thusly:  “[T]he mall we married has become the toxic spouse we can’t quit . . ..”  So, why marry the mall?  If we can make DDR go away, we wouldn’t have to marry it and we wouldn’t end up paying alimony if things didn’t work out.  Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

I see:  Windsor Town Green, a mixed retail/housing development between Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, isn’t doing well.  When that development first opened, Laura Fogg and I visited it, describing what we saw  in an article published in the Ukiah Daily Journal (December 11, 2005).  Three years later, I revisited the area to see how it was faring in the face of the current economic downturn, depression, recession, whatever you want to call it.  I found lots of empty storefronts.  Why would DDR’s project, Mendocino Crossings, be different?

I see:  The localization movement is growing.  More and more people don’t like the idea of the money they spend going to distant corporate headquarters, never to be reinvested in Mendocino County.  Local shops reported good holiday sales while big chain stores mostly reported their sales were poor to awful.  We could continue our personal consumption without acquiring Mendocino Crossings, a toxic spouse.  So far as I know, it’s not even immoral to spend money locally . . .

So:  DDR’s matchmakers urge us to get married.  I say the odds are so against such a marriage working out that we should call off the romance.  Jeff Adams seems like a nice guy.  We could remain friends.

The gap and the bridge

From Dave Smith

What is real anymore? Local neighbors, you and me, struggling to weather a financial tsunami that threatens to take us all down with it.

What is real? Our need as citizens to “put away childish things” and work to find a common ground on which to stand together.

That common ground is local and precious, not national or symbolic. It requires us to trust, not fuss. It moves us back in a direction that we lost long ago when we all decided that the point of life was to stampede through the door and grab all we could before someone else did. And now that the grabbing is over, the bills are coming due in the mail, and in the environment.

Judging another’s values based on our identity as consumers, of various political stripes, has been a favorite pastime writ large by mass media… and it kills community. What will get us through locally will be the virtues we share, not the values we fight over.

Values are legion, symbolic, and divisive. Political values are conservative vs liberal, right vs left, us vs them; economic values are socialist vs capitalist, communist vs fascist, etc. etc., all made moot by their smudging together into a bewildering hodge-podge of muttering and grimacing, point-counterpoint yelling and screaming… then suddenly gone silent with the overwhelming alarms of financial and planetary disaster, and personal tragedy. What now?

Virtues are what is best of who we really are. They are the fundamentals of our individual character, and full of meaning. Although defined most recently by religions, they go back much further in ancient wisdom traditions before religions codified them, and thus are relevant to the secular as well. Faith in each other, hope in the future, justice for all, courage to do what is right, and love for our neighbors. And there are a couple more that we’ve forgotten even existed: Prudence, which is wisdom and sensibleness in practical matters; and Temperance, which means to be moderate in one’s needs… knowing when enough is enough.

It is from this place of responsibility that citizens can expect and demand an open and responsive democratic government, both at the county and national level. Closed off, suspicious, and paranoid government officials, as recently demonstrated by our county CEO refusing access to journalists, are not what a renewed and empowered citizenry requires in this county, and at this time in history.

While we stand and fight for our values, as a democratic society demands that we do as citizens, we will find much more to admire and work with by recognizing each other’s virtues and responsibilities. The measure is how we respect and work together as citizens, neighbors, political representatives, and journalists.

Recognize the virtues in a neighbor, and you’ll find a friend, not a foe. And in a time of fear and trembling, that’s what builds a community.

The problems…

Crash Course in Economics

The Automatic Earth

Local solutions…

Mendo Time Bank

Mendo Moola

Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts. ~Wendell Berry

More Stonewalling: Growth of County Debt (Updated)

From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

Continue to YourPublicMoney.com


From Dave Smith

The feeling returns
whenever we close out eyes
Lifting my head
looking around inside.

Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts dont do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts dont stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape

I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…

Crosseyed and Painless – Talking Heads

Bad Faith Economics – Krugman

By Paul Krugman

As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don’t want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don’t want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending.

Some of these arguments are obvious cheap shots. John Boehner, the House minority leader, has already made headlines with one such shot: looking at an $825 billion plan to rebuild infrastructure, sustain essential services and more, he derided a minor provision that would expand Medicaid family-planning services — and called it a plan to “spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives.”

But the obvious cheap shots don’t pose as much danger to the Obama administration’s efforts to get a plan through as arguments and assertions that are equally fraudulent but can seem superficially plausible to those who don’t know their way around economic concepts and numbers. So as a public service, let me try to debunk some of the major antistimulus arguments that have already surfaced. Any time you hear someone reciting one of these arguments, write him or her off as a dishonest flack.

First, there’s the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created. Why is it bogus? Because it involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years.

It’s as if an opponent of the school lunch program were to take an estimate of the cost of that program over the next five years, then divide it by the number of lunches provided in just one of those years, and assert that the program was hugely wasteful, because it cost $13 per lunch. (The actual cost of a free school lunch, by the way, is $2.57.)

The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 — and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts.

Next, write off anyone who asserts that it’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.

Here’s how to think about this argument: it implies that we should shut down the air traffic control system. After all, that system is paid for with fees on air tickets — and surely it would be better to let the flying public keep its money rather than hand it over to government bureaucrats. If that would mean lots of midair collisions, hey, stuff happens.

The point is that nobody really believes that a dollar of tax cuts is always better than a dollar of public spending. Meanwhile, it’s clear that when it comes to economic stimulus, public spending provides much more bang for the buck than tax cuts — and therefore costs less per job created (see the previous fraudulent argument) — because a large fraction of any tax cut will simply be saved.

This suggests that public spending rather than tax cuts should be the core of any stimulus plan. But rather than accept that implication, conservatives take refuge in a nonsensical argument against public spending in general.

Finally, ignore anyone who tries to make something of the fact that the new administration’s chief economic adviser has in the past favored monetary policy over fiscal policy as a response to recessions.

It’s true that the normal response to recessions is interest-rate cuts from the Fed, not government spending. And that might be the best option right now, if it were available. But it isn’t, because we’re in a situation not seen since the 1930s: the interest rates the Fed controls are already effectively at zero.

That’s why we’re talking about large-scale fiscal stimulus: it’s what’s left in the policy arsenal now that the Fed has shot its bolt. Anyone who cites old arguments against fiscal stimulus without mentioning that either doesn’t know much about the subject — and therefore has no business weighing in on the debate — or is being deliberately obtuse.

These are only some of the fundamentally fraudulent antistimulus arguments out there. Basically, conservatives are throwing any objection they can think of against the Obama plan, hoping that something will stick.

But here’s the thing: Most Americans aren’t listening. The most encouraging thing I’ve heard lately is Mr. Obama’s reported response to Republican objections to a spending-oriented economic plan: “I won.” Indeed he did — and he should disregard the huffing and puffing of those who lost.

[Action: Fill the internet with emails, and the phone system with calls to our representatives. Don’t let utterly failed policies or roadblocks screw America over again… -DS]

Supervisors! Bring Our County CEO To Heel!

From Dave Smith

UDJ Editor K.C. Meadows writes today (excerpts):

Here at the Daily Journal, in an effort to keep the local citizens informed about the changes at the top of county government as we enter a financial crisis locally, we began this week the process of putting together a Who’s Who of the county’s non-elected department heads. We know that there have been some recent changes in the top slots and we figured the best way to let the public get to know these new and existing leaders is to do short profiles on them which we could run twice a week or so until we got through the list…

What we did not expect was that the county’s CEO, Tom Mitchell, would lead the county government in a blanket refusal to answer our questions.

We were told by one county contact that an email went out this week advising department heads that they should not cooperate. Already we have had an email from County Counsel Jeanine Nadel telling us she will not be getting back to us.

We cannot understand why the county’s top officer perceives this simple request for 10 minutes of his or any department head’s time so threatening. We thought of it as not only a public service but a positive one at that. We realize that some of this information is on the county web site but we wanted to give these county staffers a chance to personalize their responses.

Mr. Mitchell, in a snide email to our reporter, said in response to our request for information that he would like to know who our columnists are and how they get paid and why we don’t do more positive stories about the county.

Mr. Mitchell apparently forgets that he heads a public agency…

We can no longer tolerate such undemocratic and uncivil behavior from our lead “civil” servant. Mark Scaramella’s ongoing series in the AVA on the CEO’s lack of open communication only reinforces our view that we need a much more responsive CEO. Does he know what’s going on? If he has to answer “I’ll get back to you” so often to the Supes, and spend so much money on consultants, is it because he doesn’t have any answers, or are the answers being given “off-line” without citizen oversight in public meetings? Maybe he hasn’t heard that we are transitioning into a new era of openness, transparency and accountability. He needs to hop on the ol’ cluetrain.

The recent change in title from Chief Administrative Officer to Chief Executive Officer is a problem. It feeds the arrogance that an administrator is above the citizens and Supes, and takes its cues from corporate CEO behavior and our recently departed Boy King of the United States. This is top down dominance, not service… and not appropriate for a position answerable to the citizenry. Because administrators run the county like a byzantine firewalled fiefdom, switching back to a more respectful title would help redefine the position appropriately and hopefully open the county to healthy scrutiny. Mr. CEO, tear down this wall!

Action: We need an uproar from our citizenry, asking our county’s elected leadership to force compliance to K.C.’s request.

Turn up the heat! Let the sun shine in!
Cartoon Credit Link

Guiding the Ship of State

From Jim Houle
Redwood Valley

Amongst all the euphoria about our entering the Obama Era, I find the sardonic words of Alexander Cockburn somehow appropriate:

Successfully Guiding The Ship Of State During Its Sunset Cruise

Alexander Cockburn writes in Counterpunch 1/17/09 that/: “I’ve always been a fan of George Bush, on the simple grounds that the American empire needs taking down several notches and George Jr has been the right man for the job. On Bush’s Jr’s fitful watch Latin America edged nervously out of Uncle Sam’s shadow. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia boldly assert their independence and thumb their noses at Uncle Sam. Twenty years earlier the ‘strong leadership’ craved by Americans of all political stripes would have seen Chavez and Morales briskly toppled by the CIA and their local right-wing allies.”

“Barely a month went by in Bush Jr’s second term but that some liberal or left pundit would predict a US attack on Iran. It turns out that the Israeli high command made numerous requests for clearance for its planes to overfly Iraq on their way to Iran, but were adamantly nixed by George Jr. “

“Jr’s greatest single triumph in reducing America’s standing was his insistence that the assembly elections in Iraq go forward as planned, in December of 2005. Many seasoned counselors advised Bush to suspend the elections he’d pledged because they would lead to a majority Shi’ite government. Nevertheless, the 43rd president obstinately rejected these counsels, and the elections resulted in a mortal blow to U.S. objectives in Iraq and in the entire region.”

“Somewhere in late 2003, blaming everything on Bush became a national pastime and alibi. He took the hit for fifty years of venal failure by the city fathers of New Orleans and the legislators of Louisiana to protect their city. He’s even had to shoulder the blame for the Wall Street meltdown and the sub-prime crisis, for which Congressional legislators and overseers can far more justly be held responsible.”

“Blessed blunder dogged his every step: He made so half hearted an effort to ‘reform’ Social Security – the last defense of older Americans – that Wall Street, the instigator of the ‘reform’, remembered with profound nostalgia that Bill Clinton was well on his way to destroying Social Security until the Lewinsky scandal forced him to abort the mission. Bush passed his final White House years in morose seclusion, despised by all, obeyed by none – a welcome rebuke to the concept of ‘unitary power’ and an omnipotent executive.”

“Now Obama proclaims his mission of renewing America, always a sinister prospect. We’re heading back into the high country of moral uplift, and dispiriting talk of America’s ‘mission’.”
This is an excerpt from Obama-Watch.us Sixth Edition now available on the Internet:

Also see The Obameter

Free The Journal!

From Dave Smith

The Ukiah Daily Journal is now a mere shadow of its former self. It is being sucked dry by its parent company who takes close to a million dollars annually (by some estimates) out of our community, sending it to parts unknown, and hires people on the other side of the planet to do most of the paid work… apparently hoping that  local volunteer-generated content can fill in the gaps and not harm the cash flow leaving our community. The local staff and employees, troopers all, are not to be blamed for its sad demise under current ownership.

If any community enterprise should be independent and locally-owned it should be our daily newspaper. Chain-owned newspapers are as harmful to a community’s prosperity as big-box chains. Surely there is enough money in our community to buy our newspaper back from distant corporate owners, relocalize its jobs, contextualize its stories, keep its advertising and subscription revenue, and profits, circulating locally… and restore its rich tradition of local news done well.

Free The Journal!
Image Credit: Evan Johnson

Body Count

From Evan Johnson

American Aid To Israel – A Libertarian Perspective

[We welcome a wide diversity of political opinion on Ukiah Blog, although we would like to keep it primarily local. I was not aware that libertarians all must sign the statement “I do not believe in the initiation of force to achieve political goals” in order to join their political party. -DS]

From Virginia Macintosh

The current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is the most recent incarnation of an ancient, and endless war between Jews and Arabs. The expectation that a greater show of force by one side or the other, such as Israel’s newest push into Gaza, will finally solve the problem for once and for all, is, of course, a delusion; America’s continuing support of Israel, the lone democracy in the region – but with its own strong army – prolongs another delusion that somehow, with our help, the rest of the middle east will calm down.

In a recent commentary, Andrew Davis of the Libertarian Party notes, “There are several complications with U.S.foreign aid going to Israel. One, it makes the United States culpable for the actions of Israel that many times come with international condemnation. Secondly, it opens up the United States to cries of extreme bias in favor of Israel – a main catalyst for terrorism against U.S. interests at home and abroad.”

Libertarians have long criticized not just aid to Israel, but any type of intervention into the political policies of all nations, believing that 1, It is not in our national interest;  2, it invites consequences never envisioned; and 3, there are better ways of creating friendly relationships with the world’s nations.

The complications of intervention were of concern to early political thinkers who formed this country. In his first inaugural address,Thomas Jefferson set out to define what he thought were the essential principles of government. The words most often quoted from the list are, “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” Our alliance with Israel is a perfect example of the kind of entanglement Jefferson warned against.

What does a policy of non-intervention do for us and can it be justified morally? Far from abandoning our friends, trade, commerce and friendship, are powerful forces of good will. Direct financial aid to other nations, rarely goes where it is most needed, often buying arms or lining the pockets of the country’s rulers. But honest and fair practices of commerce and trade devoid of import taxes, price supports or blockades create an even playing field in which pure trade – value for value – a fair exchange of goods and services, enrich all parties concerned.  We should be open to trade with, and be free to visit all countries including Cuba and all other “axis of evil” countries. One of the worst aspects of the Israeli conflict in Gaza is the forced closure of Gaza’s borders which stops any chance for trade with the rest of the world – a requirement for any new or established country for stability and growth.

In his January 7th post, Watching the torching of Gaza, Jim Houle properly asked if the majority of Americans feel we have an obligation to support Israel in their battles with Hamas, or, in parallel, Hezbullah. A good question indeed. One might also ask if Americans knowingly support the “entanglement” of our military presence in 135 countries, or 70% of the worlds countries, not counting territories. How can this huge military presence in the rest of the world be tolerated by the American public?

Disengaging from the quagmire of political alliances, by ending all financial and military aid to Israel and others would create real change in U.S. policy for the better. Tourism, trade, and commerce, with bias to none, supports Jefferson view of “honest friendship,” and removes the threat to all. By doing this, we do not turn our back on the rest of the world, but instead, encourage prosperity and stability. This change would serve us in the long run and help bring back the respect we once deserved.

The City Council’s Obama Moment – Will it Last?

From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

Monday, January 5, when the Ukiah City Council convened (minus Council Member John McCowen) in a Special Meeting to appoint a new member to fill the remainder of departing McCowen’s term, over 40 people attended.  Seeing so many members of the community interested in its proceedings, the Council did itself and the community proud.

Seven residents of the City of Ukiah filed applications for McCowen’s job.  Among them were John Graff, well-known representative of the Employers Council of Mendocino County, and Mary Anne Landis, respected member of the Ukiah Planning Commission, educator, and prominent proponent of the principles of “Smart Growth.”

Because three of the City Council members were likely to support Landis, and the fourth, Doug Crane, was not, the entire matter could have been handled in a matter of a few minutes.  One of the Council members could have nominated Landis, another seconded the nomination, and a roll call vote could have garnered the requisite three votes.

Instead, the members took their time, after first quizzing Dave Rapport, City Attorney, on possible procedures to fill the remainder of a departing Council member’s term.  Lacking a definite procedure to follow, the members heard the presentations of the seven applicants, asked them a couple of questions, and then heard the presentations of interested citizens.  The citizens spoke respectfully; enunciating criteria they felt were relevant to the selection of a new Council member.  A few endorsed a particular applicant.

After the last speaker, the Council members began deliberations.  Benj Thomas said he believed it was important to measure the applicants against certain criteria, and Doug Crane made a pitch for a conservative-leaning applicant.  Mari Rodin, noting that it sounded “like kindergarten,” spoke up for the qualities of respect and kindness.  She explained that Council members need to be respectful and kind to the City’s staff, other members, and citizens who attend and speak at Council meetings.  “Reaching across the aisle,” as our President-Elect Obama would say (my comment).  When Rodin spoke, a light came on:  rather than bringing the matter to a vote quickly, the members were showing kindness and respect for each other, the applicants, and the speakers.  Ah, I thought, Obama comes to Ukiah.  I get it . . .

So what? a cynic could say.  Well, here’s what:  in the end, Doug Crane voted with the other three Council members, making the vote unanimous.  He had been heard, his candidates treated with respect, but in the end he acted to welcome Landis to the Council.  How in the spirit of Obama I thought.

If the actions by the City Council are indicators of what is to come I foresee the Board acting in harmony in these difficult times.  Thank you Ukiah City Council for showing us the way.

Watching the torching of Gaza

From Jim Houle
Redwood Valley

As I watch the Israeli onslaught in Gaza, I must ask who really controls American Middle East policy. Our strategic interests in the region are clear:

1st: We have much to gain through peaceful relations with the oil producing nations of the Middle East. Israel produces no oil or gas.
2nd : The major petroleum producers in the Arab nations buy our shaky treasury bills and keep much of their cash in our bank vaults. Israel by contrast receives $3 billion per year in economic aid to keep their economy afloat and another $3 billion to keep their military machine well oiled.
3th : We supply the F-16 jets, the anti personnel mines, and the missile systems Israel employs to keep their neighbors at bay.
4th : Without America’s weapons and money, Israel would have had to come to a lasting peace with its neighbors after the 1967 War, in accord with UN Resolutions.

So, do the majority of Americans feel we have some sort of obligation to support Israel in their battles with the Hamas, their continual suppression of the Palestinians in the West Bank, and with the Hezbullah in Lebanon? Is there any logic in our encouraging Israel to operating outside of the Nuclear Proliferation Agreement?

The answer is no: The American Jewish Lobby, representing no more than 2.2% of Americans, has managed to take control over what we can read in the press, what we can hear on our main stream broadcast media, and what our elected politicians in Washington can safely say on the subject of Israel. No politician, no television news show host, and no newspaper editorialist will dare to question the pro-Israel position. The power of the American Jewish lobby, working through the American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) and similar groups, has effectively stifled all dissent.

You will find far more dissent with Israeli policies in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz than ever makes its way into print in the U.S.


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