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Governor Brown Orders Historic 25% Water Cuts



California’s Extreme Drought Calls for Extreme Measures




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It’s not looking good as the Golden State’s water situation goes from bad to worse.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered the first mandatory water cutbacks in California history, a directive that will affect cities and towns statewide.

Suffering a severe and long-lasting drought, Brown ordered new and historic restrictions designed to reduce water use by 25 percent through 2016.

With new measurements showing the state’s mountain snowpack at a record low, officials said California’s drought is entering uncharted territory and certain to extend into a fourth straight year.  As a result, Brown issued sweeping new directives to reduce water consumption by state residents, including a mandatory 25 percent cut in urban water use.

California State measurements show snowpack at just 5 percent of average for April 1, well below the previous record low of 25 percent, which was reached last year and in 1977.

California’s mountain snowpack is crucial to determining summer supplies, normally accounting for at least 30 percent of total fresh water available statewide.  The poor snowpack means California reservoirs likely already have reached peak storage and will receive little additional runoff from snowmelt, an unusual situation.

“We’re standing on dry grass, and we should be standing in 5 feet of snow,” Brown said visiting the snowpack site.  “We’re in an historic drought, and that demands unprecedented action.”

Brown’s executive order directs California’s more than 3,000 urban water providers to collectively cut their water use by 25 percent compared with 2013.  The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to impose the new restrictions by mid-May, setting a different target for each agency depending on how much water its customers use per capita and conservation progress since last year.

With 2015 opening with some of the driest weather in California history, Brown has faced increasing pressure to act on the drought.  His call last year for residents to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20 percent statewide resulted in increased conservation, but it ultimately fell short.  Water agencies collectively managed to meet this target only once out of the past eight months.

“I called for 20 percent voluntary, and we’re going to get more like 9 percent,” Brown said.  “That’s not enough.”

The new goals will be mandatory.  Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the water board, said her agency will decide next month exactly what tools it will wield to ensure compliance.  But she suggested water agencies that don’t meet their targets are likely to face fines.

“Enforcement is definitely on deck in this next phase,” she said.

Brown’s directive calls on the state to create financial incentives for homeowners to replace thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant landscape, as well as rebates for new water-efficient appliances.  But he said local water agencies also might issue cease-and-desist orders on water users if they fail to meet the conservation order.

In the Sacramento region, water agencies overall cut water usage per capita by about 18 percent from the summer of 2013 to the summer of 2014.  That means many already are close to the 25 percent cut mandated by Brown.

However, the capital region still guzzles far more than most other parts of the state.  On average, Sacramento-area residents used about 190 gallons per person per day between June and September 2014, compared to an average of about 131 gallons per person per day in the rest of the state.

Among the other measures in the governor’s order:

–A program to replace 50 million square feet of residential lawns statewide with drought-tolerant plants, equal to more than 800 football fields.

–A new statewide consumer rebate program to subsidize installation of water-efficient appliances, such as toilets and washing machines.

–A ban on watering ornamental lawns on public street medians.

–A ban on irrigating yards in new housing developments unless the water is recycled or drip irrigation is used.

–Financial assistance for families forced to find new housing because they have run out of potable water.

“People should realize we’re in a new era,” Brown said.  “The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past.”

Brown’s order requires water agencies that service agricultural areas to develop drought management plans, with increased reporting on water supply and use.  But unlike cities, farms will face no conservation targets, mandatory or otherwise.

Agriculture consumes nearly 80 percent of the state’s “developed” water supply.

Marcus said agricultural water agencies already have had their surface water allocations slashed considerably.  In the case of farmers dependent on the federal Central Valley Project, many have been told they will receive no water.  The State Water Project, which is operated by the Department of Water Resources and also serves some farms, plans to deliver 20 percent of typical contract amounts.

Craig Wilson, former Delta watermaster at the state water board, is among those saying the state should be doing more to force conservation on farmers.  He noted that many farmers enjoy so-called senior water rights, which have not been curtailed at all.  Many also rely on groundwater, which has been pumped to unprecedented lows in some parts of the state.

 “Ag is where the water is,” Wilson said.  “Come up with a plan to cut their water use by 10 percent, 20 percent.  I wouldn’t dictate to the farmers how to do it, but tell them to give us the plan that shows how you’re going to do it.”

Two of the first three months of this year, January and March, were the driest in more than 100 years.  Many areas of the state were also hotter than average during these months, shattering heat records in many locations, including Sacramento.

During a major drought in the late 1970s, when Brown was governor before, residents trusted dry years were cyclical and would come to an end.  The current situation is far more dire given the climate change conditions for the foreseeable future.

Brown was asked about his own conservation efforts.

“First of all, my own water use is relatively limited, I must say,” Brown said.  “We’re very careful of what we’re doing – turning off that faucet a little quicker, getting out of the shower a little faster, and not flushing the toilet every time.”

* * * * * * * * *

Humboldt County is not immune to the Governor’s order.  The water cuts will be affecting us, too.



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California’s Water Wars



Record Drought Reshaping State’s Future


Award-Winning New Yorker **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



California has been suffering through a historically severe drought.

For farmers of the Central Valley, the providers of the nation’s fruit basket, salad bowl, and dairy bottle, the future seems especially bleak.  Wells have gone dry, orchards have been left to perish, and those who came to California to work the fields stand idle.

As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions to the south of Humboldt County.

In Humboldt County, we’re between good and flush in regards to water.  Our creeks and rivers are full, our reservoir has a three year supply of water, and we’re just 3 inches below our normally copious year-to-date rainfall.  For those of us who live here, we have it good.  We just had a good soaking of several inches in as many days, too.

Nonetheless, while we have two-thirds of all the water in California, the Central Valley produces two-thirds of all the food for the nation.  Farmers are now selling water instead of crops, Sacramento is already at water odds with the Nestle Corporation, golf courses are using 525 gallons of water for each square yard of turf per week, the state bureaucrats are resorting to silly water antics, and farther away, an Ohio town is being sued for not providing their public water to an oil and gas fracking company.

The water wars are shaping up.

The following post by water scientist Jay Famiglietti underscores our waking up to the seriousness and policy measures of what we’re facing.


January was the driest month in California since record-keeping began in 1895. 

Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows.  The state has one year of water stored in its reservoirs. 

We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California; we’re losing the creek too.

Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014.  That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.

Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011.  Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley.

Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%.  But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. 

Wells are running dry.  In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought.  NASA data reveals that the total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing.  

California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one, let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought, except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

Several steps need be taken right now.  

First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state’s water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial.  The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is already considering water rationing by the summer unless conditions improve.  

There is no need for the rest of the state to hesitate.  The public is ready.  A recent Field Poll showed that 94% of Californians surveyed believe that the drought is serious, and that one-third sup-
port mandatory rationing.

Second, the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 should be accelerated.  The law requires the formation of numerous, regional groundwater sustainability agencies by 2017.  Then, each agency must adopt a plan by 2022 and “achieve sustainability” 20 years after that.  At that pace, it will be nearly 30 years before we even know what is working.  By then, there may be no groundwater left to sustain.

Third, the state needs a task force of thought leaders that starts, right now, brainstorming to lay the groundwork for long-term water management strategies.  

Although several state task forces have been formed in response to the drought, none is focused on solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California.

Our state’s water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future.  It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon.  Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin.

Finally, the public must take ownership of this issue.  This crisis belongs to all of us– not just to a handful of decision-makers.  Water is our most important, commonly owned resource, but the public remains detached from discussions and decisions.

This process works just fine when water is in abundance.  In times of crisis, however, we must demand that planning for California’s water security be an honest, transparent and progressive process.  Most important, we must make sure that there is, in fact, a plan.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’d like to live in a state that has a paddle so that it might also still have a creek.


* * * * * * * * * * *

Jay Famiglietti is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine.

~Via Jay Famiglietti, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, California Water Blog, and Vimeo



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Balancing the Budget on the Poor– with Fines



John Oliver:  It’s Time to Pay Up– Or Chill Out in Debtor’s Prison




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Debtors’ prisons have made a huge comeback.  


If you have money, committing a municipal violation is a minor inconvenience.  If you don’t, it can ruin your life.

John Oliver took on fines for municipal violations and how they disproportionately harm the poor and minorities on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”

If there’s one thing John Oliver teaches us, it’s that being broke sucks.  Whether it’s payday loans or municipal violations, making one mistake when you’re broke can result in months or years of being screwed.

“We have all committed municipal violations, and if you’ve never gotten a ticket for one, congratulations on not getting caught,” he said on Sunday.

What can start out as a small fine for speeding or not wearing a seatbelt quickly balloons when municipalities and courts tack on surcharges and fees.  And when offenders can’t immediately pay them, they can have their license suspended, making it difficult for them to continue working.

“Most Americans drive to work, and if you can’t do that, you’ve got a problem,” he said. 

“In New Jersey, a survey of low-income drivers who had their license suspended found that 64 percent had lost their jobs as a result, which doesn’t help anyone.  You need them to pay their fine, but you’re taking away their means of paying it.”

Some municipalities pass off enforcement to private companies, which charge their own fees, making it impossible for some to pay off their tickets. 

Take Harriet Cleveland, for example.

When Harriet Cleveland opened her door one morning, the last thing she expected to see was a cop.  And when she did open her door, it didn’t even cross her mind that he might be there for her, because the only thing she had ever done was to get a minor traffic ticket.

Except he was there for her.  To take her away to the local pokey for not paying her traffic debt.

Since Harriet didn’t have enough money to pay her ticket, the court handed the collection responsibility over to a private company that slapped enormous fees onto the cost.  Every time Harriet tried to pay off the ticket, all the money she handed over went to cover the fees, not the ticket itself.  And the fees kept increasing regardless.  Eventually, she had to decide between paying the fees and covering her food and utilities.

So she gave up.  And she went to jail.

And there are hundreds of thousands more like Harriet across the nation.  Debtors prisons’ — throwing people in jail for owing money — are theoretically illegal.  The federal government outlawed them in 1833, and most states followed shortly thereafter.  And yet, shady cities and towns and municipalities across America– including Humboldt County– have slowly been bringing them back.

“Let’s be clear, no one is saying people who break the law shouldn’t be punished,” Oliver said.  ”This isn’t about being soft on crime, but having fines people can reasonably pay off.”

“Not only should municipalities not be balancing their books on the backs of their most vulnerable citizens, but we cannot have a system where committing a minor violation can end up putting you in jail,” he added.

Make no mistake:  there are a growing number of citizens going to jail at the behest of banks and a welcoming judicial system.  Our Founding Fathers would have had a hissy fit.  And we wonder as the courts balance their beastly burgeoning budgets on the backs of the working poor, What the Hell Did You Do With All That Money?”

~Via John Oliver, HBO, YouTube, UpWorthy and the Humboldt Sentinel



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A Vineyard Dispute, Lots of Cash, and a Murder or Two



Running For Your Life Through the Napa Grapevines




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It began with the red Adidas gym bag stuffed with $800,000 in cash– coupled with the wine deal gone sour.

A tragic story of an overhyped and failed wine venture here in the heart of Napa Valley, the drama ironically led to the emotional and furious court battles between Robert Dahl, who ran a struggling vineyard, and his chief investor, Emad Tawfilis, who had willingly handed over the gym bag to offer the vintner seed capital.

Their dispute, in a region where money flows like, well, wine, climaxed Monday in the style of a Hollywood movie or a pulp fiction thriller, with a wounded Mr. Tawfilis racing frantically through the grapevines as Mr. Dahl, carrying a silencer-equipped .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol and driving a black sport utility vehicle, methodically pursued and then killed him in sight of onlookers and arriving sheriff’s deputies.

Mr. Dahl, 47, a former Minnesotan with a checkered background of delusional disputes and broken deals, later shot himself to death as officers closed in after a chase up a twisting valley road in Yountville, near the Napa-Sonoma border.

The Napa County sheriff’s office said Wednesday that it was still sorting out Monday’s events.  But Mr. Tawfilis, who had given Mr. Dahl the $800,000 and more to finance another winery that may have been defunct at the time of the investment, had told his lawyer that day that he was meeting Mr. Dahl to examine documents and talk about settling the lawsuit he had filed to recover his losses.

Days before, a judge appeared to have backed Mr. Dahl into a legal corner, ordering a hearing on an 18-count contempt citation for violating court orders not to move or dispose of corporate assets and lying to the court.

“The settlement conference was nothing more than an ambush to kill Emad,” said Lewis Perdue, the publisher of Wine Industry Insight, who is also a mystery writer and a former police-blotter journalist.  He said he had talked to both men and written extensively about their legal dispute.

Mr. Dahl, those who knew him say, came across at first as an ambitious, fast-talking salesman with a wealth of moneymaking ideas and the appearance of financial competence.  

When he arrived in California around 2011 from Minnesota, he left behind a group of investors who so liked his pitch for Duraban International, a company he had founded to produce a mold-killing spray, that they bought the firm.

But they later decided that the product “wasn’t what it was purported to be” and sued Mr. Dahl, Steven J. Lodge, a lawyer for the investors, said in a telephone interview from Anoka, Minn.

That was one of two lawsuits Mr. Lodge said he had filed on behalf of unhappy associates of Mr. Dahl’s.

“He was real good at getting into deals,” making his business partners upset, “and then exiting in a ball of fire,” Mr. Lodge said.  “I considered him kind of pathological.”

Mr. Dahl and Mr. Tawfilis met sometime after Mr. Dahl, who was married and had three children, moved to a San Francisco suburb around 2011.  Mr. Tawfilis, 48, of Los Gatos, worked in the Silicon Valley tech industry, but apparently in finance and accounting rather than software.  A soft-spoken, private man, he was unlike the beefy, quick-tempered Mr. Dahl, according to Steve Burch, a winemaker who worked for Mr. Dahl for two and a half years.  But the two shared one thing, he said:  the dream of having a place in Napa’s glamorous wine industry.

“It’s not about the wine or the work that goes into it,” Mr. Burch said.  “It’s about the lifestyle — drinking wine every night and having great dinners.”

According to court papers, Mr. Dahl said he had the business entree that Mr. Tawfilis sought, a Minnesota business called the Patio Wine Company.  In 2012 and 2013, according to court documents, Mr. Tawfilis lent Mr. Dahl $1.2 million to finance the venture, taking 97.5 percent of the company’s stock and its assets as collateral.  In return, he was to split profits from wine sales that the loan financed.

What he did not know, Mr. Tawfilis claimed in a subsequent lawsuit, was that Mr. Dahl had already dismantled Patio and was siphoning his money into a another winery and a Napa craft beer brewery that was, at one point, said to be losing $100,000 a month.

By early 2012, the court papers state, the two men were at odds over terms of the loan.  But Mr. Tawfilis, undeterred, delivered the balance — at least $800,000 — in a bag the next year.  Mr. Dahl, elated, distributed a picture of the bag to associates.

Michael Calhoun, the husband of a member of the family trust that owns the land, the wine grapes and the structure for Mr. Dahl’s winery, said Mr. Dahl told Mr. Tawfilis he could get better deals on bulk wine purchases if he paid in cash.

“He wanted cash, and Emad met with him with Emad’s accountant,” Mr. Calhoun said.  “He handed Robert $800,000 in cash in a red Adidas bag, and Emad regretted it terribly.”

Mr. Dahl’s winery, Dahl Vineyards, was a small 7-acre leased spread producing 1,500 cases of red and white wine a year.  Dahl’s business found itself in regular trouble with county regulators, bringing in busloads of tourists to tastings over officials’ complaints that he lacked permits.  

Though the venture was little more than a leased renovated barn, his website waxed ecstatic about “the ideal home for his own wine brand that could reflect his commitment, heritage and his entrepreneurial spirit.”

But early last year, Mr. Dahl had fallen behind in loan payments and Mr. Tawfilis, investigating, discovered that Patio Wine no longer existed.  A volley of lawsuits followed, with the sides exchanging charges of fraud, money-laundering and usury, among others.

Mr. Tawfilis, no longer working by that time, “was consumed by this,” his San Francisco lawyer, David Wiseblood, said in an interview.  “This was a lot of money for him.”

Mr. Tawfilis was winning the legal war, Mr. Wiseblood and court documents both indicated.  Mr. Dahl was uncooperative, dodging court orders and making statements that the judge considered deceptive.  But negotiations continued even as the battle raged, and by last week, Mr. Wiseblood stated, the sides had agreed to meet in Napa to discuss a settlement.

That arrangement fell apart on Friday, after Mr. Tawfilis sent representatives to enforce a court order that Mr. Dahl turn over five large metal tanks that were part of the collateral for the loan.  The tanks had disappeared, and Mr. Wiseblood canceled the session.

But on Monday, he said, Mr. Tawfilis told him that he had exchanged text messages with Mr. Dahl, and that they had agreed to meet at the vineyard near Solano Lane and Hoffman Avenue to review Dahl’s records.

 “My advice was, ‘Don’t go to Dahl Vineyards alone — you canceled the meeting for a good reason,’ ” Mr. Wiseblood said.  

But Mr. Tawfilis went anyway.

Mr. Dahl had no documents to examine, however, and at 11:10 a.m. the two men held a brief telephone conference with their lawyers.  “There was no screaming, no profanity,” Mr. Wiseblood said.  “There was no hint of what was to come.”

Mr. Dahl’s lawyer, Kousha Berokim, said in an interview that he never saw a suggestion of violence in his client.  After the 11:10 phone call, he said, he believed that the two parties “were inching toward a number and a settlement.”

“I was hoping for a phone call telling me, ‘We’ve agreed on these terms, draft an agreement so we can sign it,’ ” Mr. Berokim said.  “That phone call did not come in.”

Minutes after the telephone conference, Napa County deputies received a 911 cellphone call from Mr. Tawfilis.  He had been shot, he said, and was running through the vineyard.  Mr. Dahl was in pursuit in his black S.U.V.

As rescuers arrived, Mr. Tawfilis fled onto a street intersection— near busy Hwy 29 running through the heart of the region’s wine country– and collapsed, the deputies said in a statement.  Mr. Dahl got out of the vehicle, walked up to him and calmly shot him again in front of witnesses and deputies, then got back in the S.U.V. and fled.

Mr. Calhoun, the relative of the landowners, depicted Mr. Dahl as desperate.  “Robert Dahl’s whole life was at stake, and it was do or die, and it wasn’t doing,” he said.  “He had a lot of anger toward Emad.  It’s irrational because all Emad did was invest in his company.”

With squad cars and a helicopter in pursuit, Mr. Dahl fled and sped up a heavily forested road and crashed through a private gate.  Deputies surrounded the area and called in a SWAT team, but there was no need. 

The vineyard dispute and subsequent murder, so to speak, had been settled out of court.  Mr. Dahl was found dead in his driver’s seat, due to a single self-inflicted gunshot wound.


~Via the NYT, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, YouTube



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California Farmers Selling Water Instead of Crops



Southern Californians Thirsty– and Buying– Water at Record Rates


Get Ready, Humboldt




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Cash is king.  And so is the water.

California farmers plan to sell water instead of crops– because they can get more money for it.

The rice industry in the Sacramento Valley is taking a hard hit with the searing drought.  Some farmers are skipping out on their fields this year, because they are cashing in on their water rights instead.

Many fields will stay dry because farmers will be doing what was once considered unthinkable: selling their water to dry Southern California.

“I will probably make more money doing the transfer than I will by actually growing a crop,” said Jim Morris, communications manager for the California Rice Commission, a group representing the state’s farmers.  Morris said it was too soon to say how many would end up participating in water transfers.  Last year, when the drought was slightly less severe, rice production declined 25 percent.

“It’s something we’re watching,” he said.  “It’s a reflection of four years of drought… there’s just an insufficient amount of water for all needs in the state.”

“In the long term, if we don’t make it available we’re afraid they’ll just take it,” said Charlie Mathews, a fourth generation rice farmer with senior rights to Yuba River water.

He and his fellow growers have agreed to sell 20 percent of their water allotment to Los Angeles’s Metropolitan Water District as it desperately searches to add to its dwindling supply.  They are also afraid that if they don’t sell it, Southern California will simply abscond with it, through legislative or voter referendum.  If one doesn’t think that could happen, take a look at the example of nearby Mono County; a small and powerless county that lost its rights to the vast majority of its water to its ever-growing and thirsty neighbor to the south.

It’s not really surprising that Southern California is looking for a place to buy water.  But what is making news is how much they’ve agreed to pay for it: a record $700 per acre foot of water.

In 2010 the going price for water was $244 per acre foot.  Just last year, rice farmers were amazed when they were offered $500 for the same amount.  This new $700 price is a gamechanger and means growers will earn a lot more money on the fields they don’t plant, making water itself the real cash crop in California.  The price of water has already risen 30 percent in 12 months.

“It’s much more than we ever expected to get.  But at the same time, it just shows the desperation of the people that need it,” Mathews said.

The ripple effect of this will be felt around the entire state.  If a Bay Area water district needs to buy more water, it will now be competing with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District to do it, a district that stretches from Los Angeles to San Diego County.

“They have to pay whatever is the last price, and the highest price, that people will pay,” Mathews said.

“We’re going to make a lot more selling the water than planting the rice,” Lance Tennis, whose family owns about 900 acres of farmland in southern Butte County, about 80 miles north of Sacramento, said on Tuesday.  ”This is a huge deal.”

And the trend of buying water may extend to Northern California and Humboldt before much longer as the fourth year of record drought continues.  Desperate for water, county and city municipalities are getting nervous– but haven’t hit the panic button quite yet.

Recent data released by NASA satellites have shown that the total amount of water stored in the state’s reservoirs leaves thirsty consumers with only a year’s worth of supply.  Groundwater— another key resource for Californians— has also been rapidly drying up.

And Los Angeles would rather use the water than have to conserve it.  Last summer, California water regulators passed statewide restrictions against water-wasting practices like excessive lawn watering and driveway hosing.  The restrictions included a provision that allowed local communities to practice enforcement via warning letters and, in the worst cases, a fine up to $500.

Unfortunately, the measure has been a real drought of enforcement, with municipalities ignoring the restrictions.  A survey by the Associated Press discovered that few localities are doing much, if anything, at all.

Los Angeles has only issued two $200 fines– and it services some 4 million people.  The desert city of Coachella in Riverside County hasn’t sent out a single warning letter— while homes in the city’s many gated communities continue to sport deep green lawns.

Get yourself ready and prepare thyself, Humboldt County. 

The new water carpetbaggers, with their desire for ever more water, will be heading North to Humboldt to purchase— or steal— the most precious liquid resource we have available in abundance.



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‘What the Hell Did You Do With All That Money?’


California Administrative Office of the Courts Bleeding Counties and Courts Dry


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



“What the hell did you do with all that money?” a California
legislator asked.

That’s a good question.  It vanished.

California legislators laid into the administrative bureaucracy of California’s courts at a hearing in the capitol on Wednesday, where State Auditor Elaine Howle presented a highly critical audit documenting the bureaucracy’s waste of hundreds of millions of dollars that should have gone to keeping the courts running during the state’s long-running budget crisis.

“There’s probably close to $2 billion that have been pushed into the courts.  So the real question is, ‘What the hell did you do with that money?’” Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer said, the audit’s legislative sponsor.

At the hearing’s outset, Jones-Sawyer said that when he joined the State Assembly two years ago, the Legislature and the governor had already begun to pour a cumulative total of $2 billion back into the judiciary’s coffers as the California economy began to turn around, and he has not seen any fundamental change in the judicial bureaucracy.

 ”I’m not comfortable that there’s been any accountability,” said Jones-Sawyer.  ”There seems to be relatively no oversight, and there’s no transparency.”

The hearing is the result of years of criticism from judges and legislators over the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) spendthrift ways during a period of severe cuts to the courts, as California’s economy and its budget constricted.  Thousands of trial court employees were laid off and courthouses shuttered up and down the state, while the massive bureaucracy at the top of the court system cut little from its budget while pouring $500 million into a failed controversial statewide IT project.

Legislators, judges and union members hoped that things would change.  Service Employees International Union representative Michelle Castro said the bloated court bureaucracy has “a very entrenched culture of poor decision-making and hubris.”

Howle’s audit, released in January, pointed to an excessive $30 million spent over a four-year period on salaries for employees of the judicial bureaucracy, the Administrative Office of the Courts, as well as $386 million spent by the AOC over four years on statewide services that nearly half of California’s 58 trial courts don’t use, including $186 million on private contractors and consultants.

“Despite budget shortfalls and budget cuts, the AOC continued to provide its employees with unreasonably high salaries and generous benefits.  There is a disconnect about what the AOC is doing and what the courts need,” Howle said, testifying Wednesday before a panel of state lawmakers.  She added, “There has not been much progress in key areas.  Reforms never got off the ground.”

“Here we are in March 2015, almost 3 years later,” she continued.  “There needs to be fundamental change at the AOC.  There’s some cultural change that needs to happen at the executive level.  They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk.”

Jones-Sawyer’s budget committee is set to hold its own hearing on the audit.  On Wednesday, he hinted at increased legislative control, saying, “Maybe we can even do some budget language to institutionalize this so we can ensure accountability and access to justice and transparency, all of those things.”

Nonetheless, the AOC keeps wantonly bleeding the taxpayer’s money, the courts, and the counties dry. 

In a searing report on California’s court bureaucracy in January, the state auditor singled out the financial accountability committee for failing in its mission.  Last month, the same committee approved another multi-million-dollar request for a statewide technology project, inviting a fresh blast of criticism from trial judges who said it looked to be yet another waste of money.

The new tech project would cost $5.6 million to build data exchanges between the courts, law enforcement agencies and the Judicial Branch Statistical Information System.  The project would rely almost entirely on private contractors making up the bulk of the cost, requiring eight new contract workers and costing $3.2 million of the total.

The idea has a poor track record behind it.  It’s the same type of exchange that was a heavily-promoted feature of the earlier statewide tech project, the Court Case Management System, which also relied heavily on outside contractors and spending $500 million– before it was abandoned altogether as a total waste.

“The AOC’s use of contractors, temporary workers, and consultants has resulted in significantly higher costs than the AOC would have incurred had it hired state employees to perform this work,” auditor Howle said.  She estimated that if state employees were used rather than contractors, the savings over three years would total $21 million.

“It’s an awful lot of money when they couldn’t spare $72,000 for Siskiyou County,” said Judge Greg Dohi of Los Angeles.

Dohi was referring to the hat-in-hand visit to San Francisco by judges from Siskiyou Superior Court in the far north of California.  In addition to rejecting their very modest request, the council voted unanimously against $82,000 for Mono County and $300,000 for Del Norte County, all courts trying to avoid firing their employees.

In the end, the committee regardless voted 11-2 to approve the additional and controversial $5.6 million funding request. 

Before casting her vote, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Joyce Hinrichs said, “In how the money will be spent, there are multiple committees specialized in this that will be better able to direct staff about what needs to happen.  We may not even get the money in the first place.”




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Free Climbing to the Top of Yosemite



Climbers Make Historic Attempt Straight Up
El Capitan Using Only Hands and Feet




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It’s almost over.

The two climbers vying to become the first in the world to use only their hands and feet to scale a sheer granite face in California’s Yosemite National Park are almost to the top.

A spokeswoman said Tuesday that 30-year-old Kevin Jorgeson of California and 36-year-old Tommy Caldwell of Colorado will likely finish the historic half-mile climb up El Capitan’s Dawn Wall this evening.

Kevin Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, California, had been behind Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Colorado, for about a week as they try to scale El Capitan’s Dawn Wall without climbing aids other than safety ropes.

Jorgeson caught up with Caldwell at a rare ledge after his third attempt, Patagonia spokeswoman Jess Clayton said.

It’s been one long haul towards the top.

For 17 days, the two have been attempting what many thought was impossible: “free-climbing” to the 3,000-foot summit– meaning they are only using their hands and feet with safety ropes to prevent deadly falls.

Each trained for more than five years, and they have battled bloodied fingers and unseasonably warm weather making the arduous climb.  

On Friday, Jorgeson got past one of the most difficult stretches after days of failed attempts and waiting. He fell 11 times in a seven-day battle with the tough section, which required him to grab onto razor-blade-thin holds that tore up his fingers.  On another difficult section he had to make an 8-foot leap from one small slippery crevasse to another.

“Momentum is a powerful force. When it’s on your side, everything feels a bit easier.  When it’s not on your side, it feels like wading through mud,” Jorgeson wrote on Facebook of his week-long attempt to get past the particularly difficult section.

“It took everything in my power to stay positive and resolved that I would succeed.  Now that momentum has returned to my side, I’m staying just as focused and resolved because a lot of hard climbing remains.”

The climbers are more than two weeks into what is billed as the first free climb of Dawn Wall.  If the two succeed, they will be the first in the world to complete this type of climb of Dawn Wall.

They climb in the dark, using headlamps to light the way.  Climbing during the daytime would be too risky, since the sun would heat the rock, causing their tired hands to sweat and slip from the coin-thick nooks and crannies.

About a third of the way up each day, they set up camp — a hanging platform tent tethered to the wall.  They rappell down with ropes to sleep after each night’s grueling climb.  They make coffee and sandwiches.  Then they set out again.

Their beards have grown full.  Their hair, greased with sweat and brushed only with mountain air, stands on end.  Their fingers, raw and ragged from grasping at sharp crevasses in the stone, are bandaged and bleeding.

El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the world has about 100 routes to the top. The first climber reached its summit in 1958.  In 1970, Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy Caldwell) climbed Dawn Wall using ropes and countless rivets over 27 days.  The duo turned down a rescue attempt by park rangers in a storm.

All previous attempts used traditional mountain climbing gear for the ascent.  Caldwell and Jorgeson are making the first attempt of free climbing the 3,000 foot sheer granite monolith. 

In the meadow thousands of feet below, Jorgeson said he could see people, cold and shivering, cheering them on to the finish.

They are exhausted.  But their spirits are good, and they intend to reach the summit together without fail, they said.  When they do make it to the peak, they will enter into the annals of rock climbing by standing atop the colossal granite giant known as El Capitan.



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Stormy Weather Ahead



Love Rain Over Me


**Pearl Jam VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



A ferocious storm is forecast to batter California with drenching
rain, heavy snow, pounding surf and howling winds until Friday.

The National Weather Service said the storm is “expected to be one of the strongest storms in terms of wind and rain intensity” since ones in October 2009 and January 2008.

An atmospheric river — known as the “Pineapple Express” — will deliver a steady stream of moisture directly from Hawaii to the West Coast starting today.  Meteorologists use the term to describe a long, narrow plume that pipes warm moisture from
the tropics into the USA.

An average of 3-6 inches of rain is possible in parts of northern California, AccuWeather predicts. That includes much
of Humboldt County, the San Francisco Bay Area and drought-
stricken Sacramento.  Some spots could see as much as nine

“We’re looking at widespread rain in the Humboldt area, and it will be pretty heavy at times,” National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Aylward said.  “It’s the worst weather we’ve seen in several years.”

Both high wind and high surf advisories are also in effect throughout the next few days, with waves of up to 23 feet and wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour expected in some places.

The rain could overwhelm waterways and roadway drainage systems, possibly leading to flash flooding.  Locally, the Eel river at Fernbridge and the Van Duzen rivers are predicted to reach monitor stage, not quite flood stage.  

“It’s going to be some of the higher flows we’ve seen in a year and a half.  Last year, we didn’t get much rain at all,” Aylward said.


In the Northern California area, the strong winds expected with the Pineapple Express — with gusts as high as 60 mph — could take down outdoor holiday decorations.

“I’m not putting any of it up until after the storm because even though it’s pretty durable, it will just blow over,” Sacramento resident Tim Adams said.

Experts are advising people take down their holiday lights, especially inflatable decorations, if they are not anchored properly.

Winds of 15 to 30 miles per hour are expected in the coastal region with gusts of 45 mph throughout the area.

On local ridges, gusts are expected to get up to 60 mph, posing driving hazards to vehicles.  The strongest winds will occur in places like Trinidad, Fickle Hill, Kneeland and Crescent City.

Mark Ghilarducci, the director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, issued a warning that the storm will present a risk of flash flooding and debris slides particularly in areas that saw wildfires earlier this year in northern and southern California.

“Burned areas are especially at risk for debris slides.  Even regions that don’t experience regular seasonal flooding could see flash flooding during this intense storm system,” he said in a statement.

More rain than what this storm will deliver is needed to end the region’s drought.  Still, this rainfall will be a major step in the right direction, AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

Runoff from the storm will cause water levels to surge rapidly in streams, eventually emptying into lakes and reservoirs.


Snow totals could soar to four feet in the Sierras and Trinity Alps.  A blizzard warning has been posted for portions of the northern Sierra, where winds could rage to 80 mph with heavy, swirling snow likely.  A winter storm warning is also in effect for the southern Sierra. 

The weather service warns travel will be “extremely dangerous” due to the blizzard conditions:  ”Do not travel.  If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you.  If you get stranded … stay with your vehicle.”

The storm is expected to dump enough snow on California’s mountains that the state’s snowpack — currently only 35% of average for this time of year — could be 75% or higher by this weekend.

Oregon and Washington will be the first to see the storm’s effects on Wednesday, with flooding and landslides possible in western Washington State.

There is some respite:  the NWS forecasts a lull in the stormy weather come the weekend. They’re predicting dry conditions for Humboldt on Saturday and Sunday– until another storm system comes barreling through
next week.

~Via National Weather Service, USA Today, Tom Sebourn and the Times-Standard
   “Love Reign Over Me” written by The Who and performed by Pearl Jam; artwork by
   Leonid Afremov


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Americans Should Care About Sierra Pacific’s Fire Case



A Prosecutorial Abuse of Justice




Sidney Powell
Former Federal Prosecutor



Question:  What happens when lawyers uncover what could be explosive evidence of misconduct in a $122 million case by attorneys in the Department of Justice? 

Answer:  the Department of Justice tries to have all defense lawyers who have even read about the alleged government misconduct removed from the case and gagged from discussing what they know.

What’s at stake here?  In a word, justice, including the ability of many lawyers to continue to represent their clients.   

And it is ultimately about our justice system– about the very rule of law.

This is not a hypothetical issue.  It happened last month in a California federal court, where a local timber company is trying to pursue charges of fraud against federal prosecutors and investigators as well as win back millions in imposed penalties.  The company has already won a major victory in California’s state court– which may be why the Department of Justice is trying so hard to make this case of allegedly profound prosecutorial abuse vanish.

The story starts on Labor Day weekend 2007, near Westwood, California, where a wildfire destroyed 65,000 acres of countryside.  Some 45,000 of those acres were national forest, and it cost millions for state and federal governments to extinguish the blaze.  State and federal investigators and prosecutors set about to identify the cause and find someone to blame.

They quickly focused on a “deep pocket”– Sierra Pacific, a family-owned company that is the country’s second largest timber supplier and a huge local land-owner

The government agencies decided that a bulldozer used by Sierra Pacific created a spark that started the blaze, and a massive litigation assault forced Sierra Pacific to sign a settlement of cash and land valued at $122 million to end the federal litigation alone against it. 

Sierra Pacific already paid millions toward the settlement and transferred 1,500 acres of its valuable land to the feds but has always maintained the fire started elsewhere and that the state and federal investigators and Department attorneys lied.

But when push came to shove on a parallel state court case brought against Sierra Pacific by Cal Fire, the California investigative authority, it was the civil prosecution that went up in smoke.   A state audit lead to the discovery of piles of evidence that Cal Fire had hidden concerning the case– including an unauthorized, off-the-books “slush fund” that Cal Fire maintained for the profits of such actions.

California Judge Leslie C. Nichols found that Cal Fire “had engaged in the pervasive and systematic abuse of the California discovery rules” and “egregious” conduct affecting the integrity of the court itself.

He assessed $32 million in fees and court expenses against the state.  Although the U.S. government was not a party to the state case, the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire and their attorneys had all worked together on the investigation and litigation under a joint prosecution agreement.

More was soon to come.  Former Assistant U.S, Attorney E. Robert Wright read the widely publicized orders of Judge Nichols, and on June 12, 2014 gave Sierra Pacific’s defense a 15-page sworn statement for use in the federal case against the timber firm.  In it, he raised serious questions about the possible suppression of evidence that would clear the company…

Shockingly, the Department of Justice moved to disqualify all of the defense attorneys who had even read Robert Wright’s sworn declaration.  The government asked the court to remove the entire defense team because Wright’s declaration contained confidential and privileged information belonging to the government.

The Department also claims that former Assistant United States Attorney Wright breached his duties of loyalty and confidentiality to his former client, the United States, by disclosing that the government may have been hiding evidence that undermined its case.   Calling Wright’s duty of loyalty to his client “absolute,” and his breach “inexcusable,” they claim that he should have brought any concern to the attention of his superiors.

Unfortunately for the government counsel, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Shelledy, Sierra Pacific’s motion to set aside the judgment states that it did bring the entire problem to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility– only to have the evidence of misconduct smothered as effectively as the evidence that someone less wealthy than Sierra Pacific had caused the original fire.

Sierra Pacific has now asked a federal court to set aside its $122 million settlement agreement because of fraud on the court– by the federal prosecutors and agents. 

A federal judge has the case, and held his first hearing on its status on November 24.  California Senior Federal District Judge William Shubb, himself a former U.S. Attorney, is reputedly a no-nonsense jurist who expects the government to follow the law– a novel and welcome application of Article III of our Constitution.

…Fraud on the court infects our entire judicial system and renders public confidence impossible.  What happens in Judge Shubb’s Sacramento federal courtroom will matter to all Americans.


An excerpt, you can read Sidney Powell’s full article here: Why Every American Should Care about the Moonlight Fire.

Sidney Powell is a former federal prosecutor who served in three districts under nine United States Attorneys from both political parties. 

She is the author ofLicensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.”

 * * * * * * * * *


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To Dam or Not to Dam?


Californians to Vote on Water
 and North Coast Relics




Will Parrish
Anderson Valley Advertiser



In roughly three weeks, the relatively slim percentage of Californians who vote in the Nov. 2014 election will decide on a politically contentious $7.5 billion state general obligation bond, Proposition 1, entitled “The State Water Bond.”

A creature of the dominant political response to California’s panic-strickening drought, the bond issue would provide a greater level of financing for new water projects than any in the state’s recent history.

Although the bond includes funding for everything from bike trails to water recycling to wetlands restoration, its most pivotal line item is $2.7 billion that would be allocated for expanded water storage.

That likely means dams, and construction of the Sites Reservoir, a vast new facility just east of the Mendocino National Forest, about 10 miles west of the town of Maxwell.  The bond singles it out for special mention.

Sites Reservoir would involve two large dams on the main stem of the Sacramento River, each around 310 feet high.  The water would be ferried through the Tehama-Colusa and Glen-Colusa canals, as well as a third canal that would be built specifically for the project and originate north of Colusa.  All of this liquid gold would thereby be plumbed into the Antelope Valley, drowning an estimated 14,000 acres of grassland, oak woodland, chaparral, riparian habitat, vernal pools, and wetlands– including 19 acres of rare alkali wetlands.

The water bond, it should be noted, would only cover part of the cost of constructing these enormous new installations.  Sites Reservoir would be California’s first massive water infrastructure project since the 1982 completion of Lake Sonoma, a huge reservoir less than one-fifth as large.

As of this writing, the state water bond enjoys strong support, especially from the state’s political leaders:  Only one state legislator voted against placing the bond on the ballot.

For their part, California water infrastructure planners have long envisioned capturing virtually every single drop of free-flowing water in this state behind a dam, enabling them to control exactly where water goes and who receives it.


The Plan of 1964

I have a PDF of a 1964 California Department of Water Resources document entitled “Possible Additional Facilities to the State Water Resources Development System in the North Coastal Area and West Side Sacramento Valley.”  The document is compelling exactly because of how shocking it is to the sensibilities of most people who would view it today: an era in which unlimited exploitation of the natural world is a death sentence for the planet.  The document is the product of an era in which California’s highways, dams, canals, electrical grid, suburban housing, and industrial manufacturing capacity grew recklessly and without restraint.

For perspective here, consider that the largest reservoir currently existing today in California, the Shasta Reservoir, holds 3.5 million acre-feet of water, and consider further that California has altered its natural watersheds to a greater extent than any area of equivalent size in the world.  This 1964 map features at least four reservoirs that would be considerably larger than Shasta Reservoir. 

The largest of the reservoirs this document envisions, the so-called Humboldt Reservoir– which appears on the 50-year plan– would span much of Humboldt County’s interior, including an enormous swath of the Six Rivers National Forest.

It would capture water from the Eel and Klamath Rivers via a dam on the lower Klamath, for the purpose of shunting that water via a network of tunnels and canals into the so-called Helena Reservoir — a huge add-on to the existing Trinity Reservoir.  From there, it would be on to Whiskeytown Reservoir and thence to the Sacramento River, which would virtually pipe it down to the main beneficiaries of this unparalleled plumbing system: San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and the water districts that provide Southern California’s megalopolises.


Mendocino County Plans

What did state water infrastructure planners have in mind for Mendocino County?

Well, if you like Lake Mendocino now, you may just learn to love the so-called “Enlarged Coyote Valley Reservoir,” which would expand the current reservoir by a factor of five.  Five!

But there’s so much more.

A new dam on the Eel River would expand the present-day Van Arsdale Reservoir and Lake Pillsbury Reservoir above Potter Valley — currently separated by a distance of more than 12 river miles — into one continuous reservoir known as English Ridge Reservoir.  The reservoir would extend even further than that, though, encompassing a significant expanse north of Potter Valley.

English Ridge, in turn, would drain into Clear Lake via the Garrett Tunnel, which would be bored through the mountains that comprise the southern portion of the Mendocino National Forest.  Dos Rios Reservoir would feature a second outlet, providing a more direct route to the Central Valley, a tunnel feeding into another massive new reservoir also envisioned on this map called the Glenn Reservoir Complex in Glenn County.  This enormous reservoir, far larger than Shasta Reservoir, would be just west of the actually-existing Black Butte Reservoir, which is roughly due east of Chico.

And that’s still not enough water for the good people of Glenn County to have on hand, either.  Spencer Reservoir would capture the waters of the North Fork Eel River channel (remember, the Eel has four major forks — all slated for new dams here), shunting it off into the Glenn Reservoir Complex as well.

And those are just some of the projects our state’s water planners envisioned as possibilities worth considering in the ensuing 25 years.

The 50-year plan would involve development of the Bell Springs Reservoir and the Sequoia Reservoir, which would flood most of the remainder of the mainstem Eel River’s 192-mile channel.

Part of the reason these projects never came to pass is that when the Army Corps of Engineers and the State Division of Water Resources pursued construction of the Dos Rios Reservoir in the late-1960s, they were thwarted by vigorous grassroots opposition and Republican Governor Ronald Reagan, who vetoed state funding for the facility.

The social upheavals of the time compelled Reagan and other leading politicians of the era to grant many of the demands of the burgeoning environmental movement leading to passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act several years later.


Ancient History

There are other interesting parallels in California’s history.  

In 1906, the conflagrations that consumed San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake provided renewed impetus for the Hetch Hetchy Dam project, which San Francisco-based engineers first developed in detail in 1864, exactly 100 years before the Division of Water Rights developed its master plan for transferring North Coast water to the Central Valley and Southern California.  If water tunneled into The City from the Sierra Nevadas had been available, project boosters asserted with little foundation, then the fires of 1906 would have been extinguished before they grew out of control.

In December 1964, the largest flood in the modern history of the Eel River caused what biologists refer to as a “mass wasting event.”  It was another case of North Coast ecosystems’ sacrifice on the altar of reckless expansion elsewhere in the state.

Clear-cut logging throughout the Eel River system had fueled the suburban construction boom in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.  The reckless logging had left deforested soils to run off into the river channel, with hundreds of miles of temporary roads also contributing to the problem.

The moral of the story: natural disasters create huge new political openings.  Nowadays, California’s water infrastructure boosters are saying this new set of proposals is the answer to the state’s water supply problem.

Of course, California’s existing reservoirs sit empty in large part due to the loss of snow melt, not capacity problems; climate change is a huge new factor in all of this.  Of course, the odds that any of the abandoned projects I’ve mentioned in this piece will be revived any time soon are slim.

But if dams become a popularly supported political solution to the state’s water woes, it remains to be seen which seeming relics from the past the water boosters will dust off.

~An abridged excerpt, you can read Will Parrish’s
full Oct. 15 article in the best little provocatively
independent newspaper still left standing:  
Mendocino’s Anderson Valley Advertiser .





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Marie’s Dictionary


Saving Wukchumni:

‘How We Got Our Hands’


**Award-Winning VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Her language has become her life.

This short documentary tells the story of Marie Wilcox, the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language and the dictionary she created in an effort to keep her language alive.

It was a labor of love and hard work as she remembered the ancient words from her childhood and slowly  “pecked” at her computer every day, teaching her daughter Jenny Malone and grandson Donovan.  The dictionary took Marie seven years to complete.

Filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee profiled Wilcox, the last known speaker of an extremely rare Native American language.  The Wukchumni tribe, once numbering 50,000 people, is now estimated to have fewer than 200 remaining members in the Tule River region of California, which means that Wilcox is the last hope for any meaningful survival of its spoken heritage.

The 80-year-old woman has spent more than seven years creating a dictionary of the Wukchumni language—and teaches weekly classes with her daughter—but unfortunately, few seem devoted to learn. 

“See, I’m uncertain about my language and who wants to keep it alive.  Just a few,” Marie says.  “No one seems to want to learn.  It’s sad.”

“It just seems weird that I’m the last one.  It will just be gone one of these days… I don’t know,” Marie says sadly with a tone of gentle resignation.

Marie’s dictionary is the first Wukchumni dictionary to be created.  It serves as an inspiration for other Native American tribes to revitalize their languages and keep their living history from passing away forever.

* * * * * * * *

Filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughn-Lee said:

“Throughout the United States, many Native American languages are struggling to survive.

According to Unesco, more than 130 of these languages are currently at risk, with 74 languages considered “critically endangered.”  These languages preserve priceless cultural heritage, and some hold unexpected value — nuances in these languages convey unparalleled knowledge of the natural world.

Many of these at-risk languages are found in my home state of California.  Now for some, only a few fluent speakers remain.”


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California Love


The Golden State


**Award-Winning VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



“California is about the good life.

So a bad life there seems so much better than a bad life anywhere else.  Quality is an obsession there– good food, good wine, good movies, coffee, music, weather, cars.

Those sound like the right things to shoot for, but the never-ending quality quest is a lot of pressure when you’re uncertain and disorganized and broker than broke.

Some afternoons a person just wants to rent Die Hard, close the curtains, and have Cheerios for lunch.”

~Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot


California is between a trip, a fantasy, a vacation and
of course, a reality.

Everyone says the West Coast is the best coast.  Maybe it’s true.

We literally have everything: the ocean, mountains, deserts, fertile valleys, big cities and the teeny-weenie tiny towns dividing a wide and divergent state.  A tantalizing attraction in and of itself, California’s varying landscapes play a big roll for making a great place.

The diversity of its people make the state complete. Due to its laid-back lifestyle, people are warmer and more welcoming compared to the rest of this great nation. There’s something mysterious about California that brings the beautiful people out to live and visit and play… and stay. 

But make no mistake, we also have the nutty, the nonsense,  the delusion and the egomania.  We all think we’ll be young and beautiful forever, even though most of us aren’t even young and beautiful now.  It’s a land where many would look like broken-down, worn out, has-been leathery-faced movie actors if it weren’t for the nip and tuck doctors plying their lonely trade to the insecure.

It rains on the just and the unjust alike.  Except in California.  Maybe it’s the year-round beautiful weather.  The gold rush mentality.  Or the drought, the Vicodin, the weed.

Unlike many other big cities, say Chicago and New York, it’s easy—and almost necessary– to have a car.  People like to drive, to explore, to feel free.  Granted, one can take public transportation, walk and bike and even ski, on roads tantamount for traversing such a large chaotic schizophrenic state that’s filled with political divisions, special bond-issue districts, and homogeneous cookie-cutter shopping nuclei– all with access roads to the common interstate.

California spoils its residents with the Pacific Coast.  From south to north, you can experience the warmer climes of San Diego to the legendary cooler climate of our Humboldt Redwoods.  The two regions of the state are about as similar as night and day, with the exception of earthquakes and tsunamis and wildfires held in a common trust to liven things up from time to time and awaken our senses.

With a couple of thunderstorms and blustery days here and there, the weather can drop temperatures on a cold winter’s day.  Still, a sweater is usually good enough for keeping you warm.  California pretty much has summer year-round– and it only snows in the mountains. 

People here know little about freezing temps because they simply don’t need to.  They understand the Donner Party was an anomaly, an abberant spectre of something gone wrong a long time ago and that could never happen again in this state of effervescent sunshine and tonic and perpetual happiness by the beach.

More than a state, California is a state of mind.  You can rush or stay still, work or play.  It’s an ideal place where you can do (almost) whatever you want, whenever you want.  Or darn close to it.

Many dream of making a life and living here in the Golden State.  Newcomers and transients from all walks of life are drawn by the dream, or running from the nightmare.  They want to make a fresh start, to draw a new lease on life.

Californians invented the concept of life-style and they say the best way to live it up in California is to be from somewhere else.   If you’ve ever had a good cold daiquiri on a hot day in Southern California with the people you love, you’d forget about Nebraska, too.  

There’s a reason why the tune goes, “There’s mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice, and she said, ‘We’re all just prisoners here, of our own device.’”

Be forewarned, though: Paradise has its limits. Some believe God will break California off from the surface of the continent like breaking off a piece of fine Belgium chocolate.  It will become its own floating paradise of underweight movie stars and dot-commers making for a fat-free Atlantis with superfast Wi-Fi.

Given all this, we say just do it— make the place more golden by being there.


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Ranger Gabriel Gets His Wish


A Young Boy’s Journey to Yosemite


Staff Pick **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Gabriel always had a wish to be a park ranger.

When the Yosemite park rangers got word of his dream, they stepped up to the plate, in a VERY big way.

Gabriel Lavan-Ying is an eight-year-old from Gainesville, Florida, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an inherited and incurable connective tissue disorder that causes abnormal bruising and skin and joint weaknesses.

With the help of Make-A-Wish Central California, and Yosemite National Park, Gabriel’s wish came true on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.  That was the day he became an honorary park ranger at an official swearing-in ceremony.

The rangers at Yosemite National Park put Gabriel through extensive training in order to ensure his success as a national park ranger.  He arrived in Yosemite with his family– mother Tara, father Kon, twin sister Angelica and older brother Dominic– and stayed at Tenaya Lodge just out-
side the south gate of the park.

On Tuesday, Gabriel and his family traveled to Yosemite Valley for his training and swearing-in ceremony.

Gabriel was dispatched to fight a woodland fire with the Yosemite Fire Crew, attended naturalist walks in Cook’s Meadow, and was dispatched to a search and rescue operation involving an injured hiker and assisted the Yosemite medical team in transporting the patient to a rescue helicopter.

After Gabriel’s full day of training, he was sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger in a ceremony at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

Approximately 300 people, including Yosemite community members and Yosemite park rangers, witnessed the ceremony in which Gabriel received his badge and credentials.  United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng and Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presided over the ceremony where Ranger Gabriel received a flag that had previously flown over Yosemite National Park.

We understand Gabriel passed with flying colors.  And he got his own parking space and celebratory cake to boot  after his official swearing in.

Nice job, Ranger Gabriel– and to all of those making his dream come true. 

We can’t name all of you– but you know who you are.

~Via Chris McKechnie, Yosemite Park, and
   Photos by Michelle Hansen

* * * * * * * *

The Make-A-Wish organization grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2½ and 18 who currently have a life-threatening medical condition which is defined as a progressive, degenerative or malignant disorder placing the child’s life in jeopardy.

More about the Make-A-Wish foundation can be found here.


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Going the Distance


Ronnie Goodman’s Long Run

Award-Winning **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Ronnie Goodman may well be San Francisco’s
most unexpected half-marathoner. 

He might not have a comfortable place to rest his aching feet at night, but that didn’t keep the homeless artist from running 13.1 miles in San Francisco’s half marathon for charity.

Drug addiction and prison time left Goodman without a home, sleeping on the streets of San Francisco.

Now, sober for more than a decade, Goodman trained for the city’s marathon, setting out to conquer the same streets on which he sleeps.  He finished the race
in 1:43, raising $10,000 for charity.

When he’s not out beating the streets, he paints.

Goodman, 54, has been living under a freeway in San Francisco for two years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.  Still, he trains two or more hours every day to fulfill his dream of running in the famed local event.  And his fans have found a way to make sure he will.

After reading about his love of running in the Chronicle’s original profile of Goodman, the fans stepped in and donated $120 to cover his entry fee for the July race.

While Goodman could have certainly used the race as a way to raise additional funds for himself, he’s decided to give back to the organization that’s helping him get back on his feet.

He collected money for Hospitality House, an organization that empowers homeless and low-income people through a number of initiatives including an art program that encouraged Goodman to pursue his passion.

The self-taught artist paints and draws works that explore both the beauty and diversity of his city along with images of human despair, according to his website.

Setting a pretty ambitious goal for himself of raising $25,000 for the organization, his donors were entered into a raffle to win one of Goodman’s original works.

Looking forward to showing the Hospitality House just how grateful he is, Goodman feels confident he can reach his goal.

This is my chance to give back to them,” Goodman told the Chronicle.  “That makes me very happy.”

~Via Ronnie Goodman, Google News,
SF Gate/Huffington Post, Vimeo


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The Church of Type


Letterpress Font and Beauty

Award-Winning **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It’s been a long and archaic journey.

For 15 years Kevin Bradley lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, as co-founder of the design studio and letterpress giant Yee-Haw Industries, churning out fine-art prints, commemorative and promotional concert posters, album art and even wedding invitations, using 200-year old equipment in the same tradition as Guttenberg and the original printing press.

Kevin has covered the globe with a range of ephemera and custom typographic fine art prints for a litany of clients. His new company, the Church of Type in Santa Monica, California, represents his newest venture.  In 2013 he moved 30 tons of letterpress equipment across the country to bring his own vision and style to the epicenter of American Culture.

“I am using the old stuff, but I’m making a contemporary print with it,” Bradley says.  His slogan is “Art for the People, Since 1987.”

“I’ve rescued 200 years of beautiful type as well as plates …I always wanted to make a new print with the old stuff.”

He showcases a set of plates with images on metal.  

“In these drawers, I have the entire history of pro wrestling and boxing.  They would develop the photograph on the metal, put a line screen on it, match it with acid, and then they would mount it on wood for printing.  That’s how the newspapers were printed back in the day,” he says with pride.

For 25 years, Bradley has been scouring old barns and basements east of the Mississippi for these rare fonts and types from the 1800s and 1900s.  His business houses one of the most extensive wood and metal type collections in use today: multiple letters and sizes comprising over 1,000 fonts of moveable type and in-house, hand-carved woodblocks, all printed on a 4’x10’ Takach press.

He wants to bring to life the way the world communicated hundreds of years ago, only in a modern way — much like how modern folk musicians keep old songs alive, bringing them to contemporary listeners in new forms and textures.

He considers himself a graphic designer, an illustrator, a painter, print maker, editor, copywriter– even a janitor.  But at the most basic level, he’s a typographer — a last craftsman in a dying profession.

“I’ve got all this type, and I’ve got to figure out how to use it and get people to see it,” Bradley said.

Church of Type is much more than just a printing shop for Bradley; it’s a means of communication that steps into the mythology of man, to the campfire, to that archetypal yearning for the power of the word mixed with the smell of the ink and the wood and the dust.

Across the walls he has a series of original images — robots, dinosaurs, Godzilla.  Each of them is made with letters, which you can see when you look up close.

He’s constantly experimenting every day with the form.

“It’s a repository of the real stuff,” says Bradley.  “It’s my Church of Type.  The word on the page is a powerful thing.  When the power goes out, I will be king.”

~Via Kevin Bradley, LA Weekly, and Vimeo

If you liked this story, you may enjoy our other one, On With the Show


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Finding Your Unclaimed Property


You Better Get It
BeforeThe State Does




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Everyday people lose their stuff.  In a big way.

They don’t mean to.  They move, forwarding addresses aren’t kept current, sometimes the folks pass away or beneficiaries aren’t named. 

These assets range from uncashed dividend checks to safe deposit boxes to actual bank accounts.  Banks and other businesses are required to turn that property over to the states for “safekeeping.” 

It all starts when statements, refunds, stock dividends and accounts from banks, saving institutions, mutual funds, brokerages and the like, get returned back to the sender– and presto!  After a short period of time, assets are transferred without the owner’s knowledge to an ‘unclaimed assets fund’ run by the state.

Sometimes owner’s names are simply misspelled or their addresses have minor errors– starting the whole process into motion because their statements were returned to the institution of origin.  In other cases, no apparent heirs or next of family kin are designated and can’t be contacted.

 After another short period of time without owner contact, the state seizes the assets for its own personal use.

You may be surprised to know that all 50 U.S. states now have laws on the books that allow them to seize “dormant” assets from their owners.  The problem is that states return less than a quarter of this supposedly “unclaimed” property to its rightful owners.

One of the most egregious is California.

California law used to say assets were unclaimed if the owner had no contact with the business for 15 years. But during various state budget crises, the waiting period was reduced to seven years, then five, then three. Legislators even tried for one year.

Some states — such as Oregon, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas — keep their unclaimed property in a special trust fund and only tap the interest. Many, including Maryland, use tax databases to track down the rightful owners.

But California dumps the money into the general fund — and spends it. The Golden State became so addicted to spending people’s “gold,” as it were, that for years it simply stopped sending notices to the rightful owners.

Some of these cases of state-sanctioned theft were shocking even to jaded observers.

A British resident who bought $4 million in U.S. stock to fund his retirement found it had been seized and sold for $200,000 years earlier in California — even though he was regularly in touch with his broker.  A Sacramento family lost railroad land rights their ancestors had owned for generations, sold off as unclaimed property.

But the cake-taking story belongs to San Francisco resident Carla Ruff.  

Her Bank of America safe-deposit box was drilled, seized and turned over to the state, marked “owner unknown.”  She discovered the loss when she went to open it to retrieve important paperwork she needed because her husband was dying.  The papers had been shredded.  And her great-grandmother’s natural pearls and other jewelry had been auctioned off — for $1,800, even though they were appraised for $82,500.

California isn’t the only state to operate a legally-sanctioned theft racket.  All 50 states pay private contractors commissions to locate and seize accounts for them.  

It’s a classic conflict of interest: the more rightful owners are found, the less money the contractors make.  But the states have the biggest conflict of interest of all.  In Delaware, for example, unclaimed property is the third largest source of state revenue.

To note, yours truly has helped others track down their unclaimed property in California and Humboldt County and rightfully get it back. 

To date, 150 owners were found for a whopping grand total of $350,000.  It was truly amazing to find out much property was ‘lost’ to so many individuals I knew and most being utterly unaware of it.  They just had to know where to go and what to do.  I helped them find, and claim, what was theirs.  And yes, I did it for free because it was the right thing to do.

And I’ll help you, too, loyal reader.  It is free and easy.  Here’s how to do it: 

In California, go the State Controller’s website here.  On the left sidebar, click ‘start your search’ and you’ll be on your way.  I also have more detailed instructions here if you need it.

For other states outside of California, go here.

Good luck.  If you don’t find yourself listed, don’t sweat it.  You WILL find others you know.  Remember, it’s better to give than receive, and greedy people always get what they deserve.

We hope you claim what is rightfully yours or that belonging to your friends or family before the state gets its hands on it first.  Once that happens, you’ll have no chance and little recourse of ever getting it back. 

And, as always, pass this post on to those you know spreading the love
and wealth to others.


~Via Skippy Massey, Activist Post, and Ted Bauman


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Drought, Water, and California


Precious, Precious Water



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


We’re in a drought of historic proportions.

Forecasters are now saying the El Niño effect that was predicted to at least bring some relief to California may not happen at all.  As of June, nearly 80% of California is considered to be under “extreme” and “exceptional” drought conditions. 

Humboldt County is fairing somewhat well considering we’ve received a third of our normal rainfall.  Los Angeles County, however, isn’t.  It has the driest year on record since record keeping began in 1877.

The following are two brief excerpted articles keeping you abreast of what’s in store for our future. 

And it isn’t a downfall of water anytime soon.


State Looks to Regulate All Water Users

The State Water Resources Control Board in California is expected to institute statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time.

All of California is in some type of drought and reservoirs are precariously low in many places.  The nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead in Nevada, recently reached an all-time low.  So now the impact of the enduring drought has extended beyond warning.

The restrictions would ban wasteful outdoor watering, such as sprinkler water that runs onto the sidewalk or street.  Hosing down sidewalks and driveways would also be banned and washing a car would require a shut-off nozzle on the hose.  

Maximum penalties could reach up to $500, enforceable by any public employee empowered to enforce laws, including local water agencies.  Warnings and escalating fines would likely be the more moderated approach.  If the restrictions prove ineffective or the drought worsens, tougher restrictions could be considered.

The board estimates that the proposed restrictions could save enough water to supply more than 3.5 million people for a year, about nine percent of the state’s population.

…You can read the full article in Think Progress here.


Running Out of Water

The California State Water Resources Control Board says that nearly 50 communities are already on the verge of running out of water.

Climate scientist Tim Barnett says that the water situation in nearby Las Vegas “is as bad as you can imagine“, and he believes that unless the city “can find a way to get more water from somewhere” it will soon be “out of business” ..  Rob Mrowka of the Center for Biological Diversity believes that the city of Las Vegas is going to be forced to downsize because of the lack of water…

According to Accuweather, “more than a decade of drought” along the Colorado River has set up an “impending Southwest water shortage” which could ultimately affect tens of millions of people.

Farmers in California are allowing nearly half a million acres to lie fallow this year due to the extreme lack of water.

Things are so dry in California right now that people are actually starting to steal water.  For example, one Mendocino County couple recently had 3,000 gallons of water stolen from them.  It was the second time this year that they had been hit.

It is being projected that the current drought in California will end up costing the state more than 2 billion dollars this year alone.  As underground aquifers are being relentlessly drained in California, some areas of the San Joaquin Valley are sinking by 11 inches a year.

The lack of produce coming from the state of California will ultimately affect food prices in the entire nation.   Just consider the following statistics from a recent Business Insider article

National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt says that this is “the worst drought we probably have seen in our lifetime“.

…You can read more in the Activist Post here.


Water from Hyungsoon Joo on Vimeo.


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The Young Brothers Mondavi


The New Breed of Winemaker on the Block


Award-Winning **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


We like the brashness, ingenuity, hard work and
determination of youth.  We want them to succeed. 
Here’s an example.

Carlo and Dante Mondavi are two brothers from the famous winemaking lineage family who ventured out on their own.  They’re breaking from the age old estate vineyard model and showing that young winemakers can indeed still have their individual fruitful harvest and a piece of the pie.

The Mondavi legacy has spread outward from Napa Valley for more than a century.  RAEN is the first creation from the brothers.

Carlo and Dante are exploring a new path in the creation of their own wine while testing the rules and pushing the boundaries of their childhood.  These contrasting worlds– and their trials– led to the first 2013 RAEN production from vine to harvest to bottling.

The brothers believe that by breaking the mold they will have a world class Pinot Noir– made by young winemakers from the unusual climate of the most famous wine growing region of the Sonoma Coast.

We wish them the best.

Courtesy: Vita Breta Films, Mondavi Family, Terence Ford, Vimeo


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Military School Administrator Faces Molestation Charges


Abused Position of Trust
and Students


Award-Winning VIDEO


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced seven new criminal charges Friday against a man already accused of molesting students at the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad.

The new sexual abuse charges against a former top administrator of an exclusive southern California military boarding school for boys were unsealed on Friday in a California state court.

Jeffrey Barton, 56, who was charged with 16 counts of sexual abuse in October, pleaded not guilty to the new indictment, which added seven new charges and one new victim. 

Barton worked at the Army and Navy Academy from 1995 to 2013 and was the Head of Schools. 

He has a bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University and was an English teacher for 25 years, including 13 at the military academy.  Along with other posts, he was director of summer programs at the academy.

“This is a serious sexual abuse case spanning three decades, three schools and seven victims,” Deputy District Attorney Tracey Prior said.

In the new indictment filed in San Diego Superior Court on Friday, Barton was charged with sexually assaulting four students of the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, California, between the seventh and ninth grades at his private cottage and on various field trips,  including instances where he used prescription drugs to incapacitate his

Prosecutors revealed that Barton had allegedly given his victims drug-laced brownies to incapacitate them prior to the sexual molestations.  Barton’s baked goods became known around campus.

One victim testified before a grand jury that while he and another student were on a snowboarding trip with Barton in 1997, he awoke feeling paralyzed to the sight of Barton sodomizing the other boy, Prior said in court.

Another victim, aged between 14 and 15 years old, was forced to let Barton commit oral sex on him on multiple occasions in various locations, including his office, house on campus, and car, according to court documents.  The teacher is also accused of taking a victim to Joshua Tree, Santa Barbara, and other trips where he sexually assaulting the teen in hotel rooms.

The assaults charged in the indictment occurred between 1996 and 2001, Prior said.  

The individuals are now between the ages of 28 and 42 years old and were too ashamed to report the alleged crimes when they happened.

Barton was initially charged in October with sexually abusing two students from the academy based on testimony given by seven individuals who said they were victimized.  Three had gone to similar schools in South Carolina and Tennessee where Barton had previously worked.

Judge Kathleen Lewis raised Barton’s bail from $3 million to $6 million in light of the new allegations.

Barton’s attorneys argued that the charges, secured by a secret grand jury, left him without the right to cross-examine those who testified.

“Mr. Barton was promised an opportunity to have a preliminary hearing so we can test the veracity of the allegations against him.  This violates Mr. Barton’s right to a preliminary hearing and his federal rights to due process,” said defense attorney Daniel Greene. 

“These are horrible allegations and now Mr. Barton has been denied the opportunity to confront his accusers and defend himself.”

Barton’s former attorney, Jim Pokorny, who represented Barton when he was first charged with the molestation crimes last year, questioned both the timing of Friday’s hearing and Dumanis’ decision to involve a Grand Jury in the case.

“This is a thinly-veiled attempt to garner publicity for something that’s old news,” Pokorny said, and he is “outraged” by the timing of the new charges, and the decision to hold a news conference after the hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Prior said however that the secret grand jury process was done only to protect the victims.

“It is only about the victims in this case,”  Prior said.  ”We are trying to get them closer the closure they need.”

Carlsbad police believed there could be more victims and said the investigation was ongoing.

Via Google News/Vimeo/Laibach


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How Yolo County Went Grid Positive


–With No Upfront Capital Investment,

Creates 152% More Energy Than It Uses


By Laurie Guevara-Stone
Rocky Mountain Institute RMI Outlet


California is known for being a leader in solar energy, but a small county in Northern California has taken things
a step further.

It has become the first county government in the state to not only zero-out its electric bill with renewable energy, but also to become grid positive.  Yolo County– population 200,000, just west of Sacramento County– now produces 152 percent more energy from solar panels than it uses.

Terry Vernon, deputy director of Yolo County General Services, is behind much of the solar success.

In 2010, the Yolo County government was facing an annual $1.4 million electric bill.  Vernon knew there was a better way, so in the 1980s he helped Stanford University put power back into the grid with a cogeneration plant that heated the entire campus.

No stranger to innovative energy solutions, Vernon knew he could power Yolo County with renewable energy.  

The issue he was facing, however, was that Yolo County was, like the rest of the country, in a serious recession.

“I had to look for a way to do a zero-capital investment because we didn’t have any capital funding,” Vernon told RMI.  “It had to pay for itself the very first day.”

Vernon said it took a lot of effort; he had to go to the county board numerous times.  Fortunately, the board was extremely supportive of the project.  Even before board members knew it would produce a positive cash flow, they saw the potential to reduce the county’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

Once they approved the proposal, the first solar project was under way.



Working with SunPower, Yolo County installed a 1-megawatt solar power system at the Yolo County Justice Campus in the county seat of Woodland.  

Yolo County owns the system and associated renewable energy credits, and financed the purchase using multiple funding sources, including a $2.5 million loan from the California Energy Commission, and clean renewable energy bonds and qualified energy conservation bonds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The system produced $162,000 the first year of operation, and is predicted to earn the county $10 million over the first 25 years.

With the success of that project under his belt, Vernon decided to do even more.

In 2013, the county installed three arrays totaling 5.8 MW of power as part of its County Wide Solar Project.

The first array produces .8 MW for three buildings on the county government campus in Woodland, reducing the campus’ electric bill by 75 percent through net energy metering.  Two 2.5 MW arrays were installed at Grassland Regional Park in Davis and sell power back to PG&E, the local utility company, through a feed-in-tariff (FiT). 

These projects also were installed with no upfront capital investment.  In partnership with the Yolo County Office of Education, the county secured $23 million in qualified zone academy bonds (QZAB).

The projects not only eliminated the county’s electric bill, but also earned just under $500,000 the first year.

The county sells electricity to PG&E for 10-cents/kilowatt hour, although when its 20-year FiT contract is over, that price might rise.  The county conservatively predicts it will generate $60 million over the next 35 years and avoid 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

“We not only did it with zero upfront capital investment,” Vernon stated, “we eliminated our electrical bill, and we generate cash, which goes into our revenue stream.”

In July, the EPA recognized Yolo County on its list of green power partners that generate and consume the largest amount of green power on-site, alongside companies such as Walmart and Apple.  

Although Yolo County came in 13th in the nation for the amount of kWh used on-site (13.5 million), if ordered by the percentage of total electricity use, Yolo County would be first at 152 percent– with no other entity even coming close.  Even second place electrical partners elsewhere only reach 75 percent.



Even before the solar projects were installed, Yolo County was at the forefront of environmental action.  In the 1980s, it adopted an energy plan that was the first of its kind, and built a gas-to-energy facility at the county landfill that generates 20 MWh/year and captures 90 percent of methane emissions.

From 2002 to 2004, the county enacted the County Wide Energy Conservation Retrofit Project, through which it replaced lights, boilers, HVAC equipment, chillers, fans, water heaters and motors in all major county buildings.

In 2008, Yolo County approved a plan to change the temperature set points in all county office buildings (3 degrees higher in summer, 2 degrees lower in winter), to change air conditioning and lighting system schedules to the minimum hours per day of operation, and to perform retro-commissioning on all building outdoor air economizer systems, among other actions.

These actions annually save the county over $200,000 and reduce carbon emissions by more than 1,200 tons.  And in 2011, the county passed the Climate Action Plan, designed to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.



Yolo County officials realized that public education is key to their climate goals.

Part of the QZAB education bonds acquired through their partnership with the Yolo County Office of Education, along with a donation from SunPower, financed the construction of seven “solar academies” to bring environmental education to K-12 students. The academies teach school children about climate change, environmental science, renewable energy technologies and energy auditing.

The Qualified Zone Academy Bonds typically are used by K-12 school districts, community college districts and county offices of education to fund capital projects accompanied by an educational component.

For Yolo County’s solar projects, the bonds were structured as a lease payable from the county’s general fund with a term of 20 years.  In addition, the bonds required a 10 percent match by a private or nonprofit entity, which came from SunPower.

The benefit of using these bonds to finance the county’s solar projects is twofold — first, the county benefits from a direct federal subsidy (ability to pay back the bonds at no interest); and second, the County Office of Education benefits from the 10 percent contribution to implement the academies.

But “the real winners,” explained Vernon, “are the children of California.”

Santa Clara County and Orange County already are trying to replicate Yolo County’s successes, and Vernon would like to see other counties follow.

“Global warming makes me nervous for my children and grandchildren,” Vernon told RMI.

“Other counties and municipalities can duplicate a piece of this project and achieve the same results. Even if they only did one megawatt, which most cities can do, it would make a big difference.”

* * * * * * * * * *

This article also appeared on Public CEO and Greenbiz as part of RMI’s monthly institutional column.  RMI Outlet, Rocky Mountain Institute’s blog, explores topics critical to the mission of driving the efficient and restorative use of resources.

Share this with other municipal leaders and organizations you know. 

Humboldt, in particular, could benefit from a similar example using the progressive smarts, coordination, and innovation like Yolo County did– that is, if the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors were on the same page and not so wrapped up in the petty issues of unraveling the GPU that’s been consuming much of our local energy resources lately.

Sunlight is the most abundant source of potential energy on the planet.  If harnessed properly, sunlight could easily exceed current and future electricity demand.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, enough energy from the sun reaches the Earth every hour to meet the world’s energy usage for an entire year.

The future is ours.  At least it is if we take it back.


Solar Roadways | Michéle Ohayon from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

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Governor Brown Wary Of Marijuana Legalization in the Golden State


‘The World is Too Dangerous for Competition and Potheads’


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


SAN FRANCISCOThe Golden State hopes to remain golden– and not too stoned and tarnished.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said he is not sure legalizing marijuana is a good idea in his state because the country could lose its competitive edge if too many people are getting stoned.

If pot smoking gains more legitimacy in the nation’s most populous state, Brown said he worries it could have negative ripple effects.

“The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK. But there is a tendency to go to extremes,” he said in a wide-ranging interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

”And all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” Brown said.

Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.  But Brown said he is watching closely to see how Colorado and Washington handle their new laws that go a step further by regulating the growth and sale of taxed recreational marijuana at state-licensed stores.

Colorado’s pot shops opened Jan. 1, and Washington’s are expected to open later this year.

“We have medical marijuana, which gets very close to what they have in Colorado and Washington.  I’d really like those two states to show us how it’s going to work,” he said.  

“The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive.  I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

Brown, who was interviewed remotely from San Francisco, also discussed California’s drought problems, climate change and his future political career.

Now, as he prepares to run for his fourth term as governor, Brown said that despite his progressive politics, the key to turning California’s budget deficit into a projected multibillion-dollar budget surplus was exerting fiscal discipline.

“You’ve got to be tough on spending. No matter how liberal you want to be, at the end of the day, fiscal discipline is the fundamental predicate of a free society,” he said.

Brown also mused about the Democratic Party’s future, saying he favored a Hillary Clinton bid for president in 2016.

“She’s got more experience, both domestic and international,” he said. “I mean, it’s her nomination if she wants it, as far as I’m concerned.”


Via Google News/SF Gate News

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California Couple Stumble Across $10 Million Gold Hoard


Largest Treasure Horde Ever Found in North America




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The California couple who stumbled on what may be the most valuable cache of gold coins ever found in North America while on their daily walk were so taken aback that they reburied them in an old ice chest until they could figure out their next step.

That was the story relayed by John and Mary in an interview transcript posted by the numismatic firm Kagin’s Inc., which is representing the couple and keeping their identities confidential.

The pair had walked the path on their Gold Country property for years before they spotted the edge of a rusty can peeking out of the moss in the shadow of an old tree last February, they told Kagin’s.  When they cracked the lid off with a nearby stick, they found dirt-encrusted coins.  All together, there were eight cans filled with coins beneath the surface.

The face value of the coins were $28,000.  If the coins were melted down, the gold alone would be worth $2 million, said David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin
Grading Services in Newport Beach, who recently
authenticated the coins.

On the market, however, the “Saddle Ridge Hoard,” named for the space on the couple’s property, may be the most valuable treasure cache ever found in North America, with an estimated value of more than $10 million. 

Most of the coins are $20 gold pieces, known as double eagles.  All of those were made at the San Francisco mint, founded in 1854 to process the nuggets that prospectors were finding in the newly discovered California gold fields.

But at least one of the coins came from a much earlier bonanza—a rare $5 piece known as a Dahlonega half eagle.  That’s Dahlonega, Georgia.

The couple said that when they realized what they had found, they dug a hole in their wood pile, placed the rare and perfectly preserved 1,400 coins in bags and boxes in an old ice chest and buried them again.

“I looked around over my shoulder to see if someone was looking at me — I had the idea of someone on horseback in my head.  It’s impossible to describe really, the strange reality of that moment,” John said in the interview.

All dated between 1847 and 1894, 13 of the coins are the finest of their kind.  One “miraculous coin,” an 1866 $20 piece made in San Francisco and missing “In God We Trust,” could bring $1 million on its own, Hall said.  When the motto was added to the coin in 1866, some were still minted without the phrase, he said.

Had the couple attempted to clean the delicate surface of the piece, they could have reduced the value to $7,000 or $8,000 in under a minute, said David McCarthy, senior numismatist for Kagin’s, who evaluated the hoard.

“A lot of people see stuff like this and all they see are dollar signs,” McCarthy said.  ”If I got to bestow these treasures on people, I would do that on this family without even blinking an eye.”

John and Mary,” who prefer to remain anonymous and their property location undisclosed, said they plan to keep some of the coins and sell others on with the intention of donating part of the proceeds to charity.

More important, they said, they will use the money to pay the steep taxes expected to be levied on the find and to hold on to their home.  They did not explain further.

“Whatever answers you seek, they might be right at home,” Mary said.  “The answer to our difficulties was right there under our feet for years.”

The bigger mystery remains, however, as to who the original owner of the cash stash was– and why he let $10 million of cold hard gold slip from his fingers and go buried and forgotten for over a hundred years.

* * * * * * * * *

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The Octopus Affair


Diver Captures Wrestling Encounter on Video



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Octopi are incredibly smart invertebrates and very curious 
when it comes to new things.

Just ask diver Warren Murray when he went scuba diving off Bluefish Cove in Carmel, California, on February 1.

First thinking he’d happened upon a large rock, sudden movement quickly turned into a tussle when an eight foot long octopus took an interest in his diving camera.

“I wasn’t too worried.  Generally they are not too interested in people. They’ll just take off,” Murray said.  

“I was thinking he would take off as soon as I got close to it.  When he wasn’t moving, I was excited.”

Even more amazing was that this species of octopus doesn’t normally inhabit the waters where Murray was diving. 

The Giant Pacific Octopus is normally found in deeper, cooler waters of the northern Pacific, anywhere from California
to Japan, and 2,500 feet down. 

They’re truly giant, ranging from around 14 feet and 33 pounds, although some specimens have gone as far as 30 feet and up to a whopping 600 pounds.  They feed on a wide diet, typically fish and shrimp, but aren’t adverse to larger prey such as birds or sharks, either.

With a highly developed brain and acute vision, they are masters of camouflage and can quickly change the color and texture of their skin to match their background surroundings.  They typically pounce on their target, enveloping it with its inter-arm webbing and using their powerful beak to break open hard-shelled prey.

As intelligent as they may be– they’ve been observed opening jars, solving mazes, and other complex activities– the octopus’ reaction may have been a case of mistaken identity.  Because of the camera’s reflective surface, it’s possible the octopus saw his own reflection and believed it was another octopus, spurring him to action.

The struggle didn’t last long, as Murray’s diving partner, David Malvestuto, captured clear video for a few moments in the calm water before the octopus gave up and ran away.

“I was a little concerned … but we both knew they are harmless,” he said.  ”He was very cool and collected.  I wanted to make sure nothing bad would happen.”

Though powerful, octopi are generally not dangerous to humans unless they feel threatened.  The pair said they never felt that they were in any real danger during the ordeal.

“Pacific octopus not a fan of being photographed, apparently,” Malvestuto mused in the description of the video encounter  above.

* * * * * * * *


Via DailyNews/National Aquarium/David Malvestuto/YouTube

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The California GOP’s Fake Health Care Website


Dirty Tricks on the Taxpayer’s Dime


Jim Hightower


In this wicked world of woe, there are hucksters, flimflammers, plain ol’ crooks… and Republican members of the California Assembly.

This last bunch of scoundrels went out of their way to monkeywrench the rollout of President Obama’s new health care law.  Obama’s computer geniuses were making a hash of the initial rollout in October, but the sign-up was finally smoothing out – and with any Obama success, GOP lawmakers automatically start tossing out monkeywrenches.

This time, the tool they tossed is a fake website created by California Republican legislators in August to look like the state’s official health exchange site, where people can sign up to get coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  

When things finally got worked out on the national health care exchange in November, the Repubs mailed a pamphlet to their constituents, directing them to the decoy site, calling it a “resource guide” to “help” them navigate the ACA sign up process.

Far from help, however, the faux site is a trap.  It’s filled with boilerplate Republican propaganda against the law, gimmicks to discourage viewers from even applying for the health care they need, and a rash of distortions and outright lies.  

There’s so much bunkum on the site that its fine print includes a disclaimer saying they don’t vouch for “the quality, content, accuracy, or completeness of the information” it provides.

The silliest thing about the lawmakers’ blatantly political ploy is that even if it convinces some people to forgo the ACA’s benefits, who does that hurt?  Not Obama – but their own constituents!

I know there’s no IQ requirement to be a state legislator, but what were they thinking?

We can laugh at their low comedy and nincompoopery, but if you’re a California taxpayer, congratulations: You paid for the GOP’s bogus website and mailings.  So much for that party’s opposition to wasteful spending!



“A Bogus Health Care Website, Courtesy of the GOP,”, December 4, 2013.

California Republicans Defend Fake Obamacare Site,”, December 3, 2013.

“California GOP Creates Fake Health Care Website to Discourage Constituents from Obtaining Insurance,”, December 2, 2013.


Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.  You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.



* * * * * * * * *

It’s been a long time since the American people have seen such dirty tricks.  The Republican party of today makes the party of Richard Nixon look like a collection of altar boys.

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Swimming in the Rain


The Golden Days of Aquafornia



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The Golden State hasn’t been so golden lately. 

It’s been more of a bone-dry brown color, and if it keeps up there
will be more wildfire days than swimming ones come summer.

The rain currently falling is a welcome respite.  Over the past few days most of California has experienced an atmospheric phenomenon not experienced in quite some time: measurable rain and snow has fallen across much of the state for the first time since early December.

Two systems have moved through the state.  The first dropped significant precipitation primarily in the Sierra foothills, and the second (and ongoing) system is currently bringing cold showers to California’s coastal regions.

Between these two systems, the incredible zero-rain spell across nearly the entire state has finally been broken.  

While runoff into rivers and streams from these two events has been virtually nonexistent, the observed rainfall has drastically lowered the risk of wildfire (and Central Valley dust storms) for the short term.   In a rather dramatic contrast to the all-time record warmth measured several weeks ago, accumulating snowfall has been reported today in parts of Northern California.

January 2014 will probably go down in the record books as the warmest and driest in California history.  This is certainly the case for most of California’s major cities while many other places also exceeded their previous all-time record for consecutive dry days during the so-called “rainy season.”  Our all-too-familiar Ridiculously Resilient Ridge—an unprecedented offshore high-pressure barrier stretching 4 miles high and nearly 2,000 miles long– dominated the weather throughout January, pushing moisture away to the south and north of us in California.

The incredibly dry conditions brought about by the RRR mean that much of the San Francisco Bay Area has been drier than Death Valley over the past six months or so– and perhaps even drier than parts of the northern Sahara Desert.

At a recent press conference detailing the unprecedented measures currently being undertaken in response to California’s exceptional drought, a Department of Water Resources official claimed that California would need to receive heavy precipitation every other day between now and the beginning of May to eliminate the existing precipitation deficit.

That’s not likely to happen.  It is becoming increasingly clear that at least some towns and cities in California do not have enough drinking water to make it through summer, and emergency contingency plans are being put into place in anticipation of even more water districts running dry as the drought continues.

For the first time in history, State Water Project  deliveries will not occur south of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta this year.  The announcement marks the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project that such an action has been taken, an unprecedented move that affects drinking water supplies for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland.

The 29 agencies that draw from the state’s water-delivery system have other sources, although those also have been hard-hit by the drought.  State officials say 17 rural communities—including Willits– are in danger of a severe water shortage within four months.  Wells are running dry or reservoirs are nearly empty in some communities.  Others have long-running problems that predate the drought.

It’s hard to say exactly how much rainfall we would need to stave off the worst effects of the drought. 

2/3 of the rainy season has already passed and it will be hard to reach even a modest level of water security without much-above-normal precipitation for the rest of the traditional wet season.  Right now, that scenario just doesn’t appear to be in the cards even as the 2014 political water wars heat up

Conserve.  Do the rain dance.  Pray.  Swimming in the Golden State of Aquafornia may soon become a distant memory of our youth if the weather holds out.

* * * * * * * *

“I Go Swimming” performed by Peter Gabriel. 

Our appreciation goes out to Doug Curran and family for sharing his vacation video with us here.

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Smith & Wesson, Ruger Quit California Over Stamping Requirement


Making Handguns Obsolete Through Legislation?



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



A new gun law proponents say helps law enforcement has driven Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger out of California, and affirmed the suspicions of firearms rights advocates that the measure is really about making handguns obsolete.

The two companies have announced they will stop selling their new wares in the nation’s most populous state rather than try to comply with a law that requires some handguns to have technology that imprints a tiny stamp on the bullet so it can be traced back to the gun.  The companies, and many gun enthusiasts, say so-called “microstamping” technology is unworkable in its present form and can actually impair a gun’s performance.

“Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms,” the Springfield, Mass.,-based manufacturer said in a statement.  “A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.”

“The microstamping mandate and the company’s unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents.”

Southport, Conn.-based Sturm Ruger also announced this month that they will also stop selling their guns in California due to the microstamping law.

Firearm microstamping, or ballistic imprinting, works by engraving a microscoping marking onto the tip of the firing pin.  When the gun is fired, it leaves an imprint, usually of a serial number, on the bullet casings.  The telltale mark theoretically allows law enforcement investigators to trace the bullet to the registered gun owner.

California’s law is the first in the nation to be implemented and was originally signed into effect in October 2007, but not implemented until recently.  Several other states are considering similar measures.

Law-enforcement is exempt from microstamping requirements.

Critics say tracing a bullet to a registered gun owner does little to fight crime, since criminals often kill with stolen handguns.  Many believe tracing bullets was never the real intent of the law in the first place.

“This is the latest attempt to undermine the Second Amendment in California by politicians with little to no knowledge of firearms, who seek to impose their liberal values upon those who choose to protect their families with the constitutional right to own a handgun,” said Chuck Michel, West Coast Counsel for the National Rifle Association, an Adjunct Professor at Chapman University and author of the book “California Gun Laws.”

One of the main arguments critics pose is the claim that
the technology is not perfected, yet the requirement has been put into effect.

“The technology doesn’t fully exist yet, but by making it into a law, they [California] in fact enacted a gun law without actually passing one,” David Kopel, a constitutional law professor at the Denver University Sturm College of Law and Research Director of the Independence Institute, said.  

“This is an indirect way to ban new handguns from being sold,” Kopel said.

The patent holder of microstamping tech, Todd Lizotte, was part of a Department of Justice study team which concluded that, “legitimate questions exist related to both the technical aspects, production costs, and database management associated with microstamping that should be addressed before
wide scale implementation is legislatively mandated,” according to the study
which was published in the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners Journal.

Lawsuits were also filed against the Golden State this week by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute challenging the microstamping law, saying in a statement this week that they predicted back in 2007 when the law was first passed that it would result in a “de facto semiautomatic handgun ban.”

Other states considering a microstamping requirement include Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.

Smith & Wesson said it expects sales of its California-compliant revolvers, which aren’t required to have microstamping, will offset the impact to the company.  Company President and CEO James Debney vowed to continue to work with industry groups to oppose the law, while providing California customers with products that do comply with it.

Two trade groups, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, filed a legal challenge to the law in California Superior Court earlier this month.


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California Drought in Pictures


Statewide Rain Average:  4 Inches of Rain in Last 13 Months


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


California has seen its share of droughts, but — at least in recent years — it hasn’t seen something like this.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last week, shortly after it was revealed that 2013 was the state’s driest year in recorded history.  San Francisco saw a low record-shattering 5.59 inches of rain– compared to the previous low record of 9 inches– while dry Los Angeles saw just 3.6 inches of precipitation in all of 2013.

To make matters worse, there isn’t a drop of rain in sight.  Right now, with snow and freezing temperatures battering the rest of the country, the forecast was a sunny 77 degrees in Los Angeles.

While those bundled and shivering on the East Coast might have little sympathy for the Golden State’s January summer-like beach weather, take a look at what the drought has done to the water supply across our state:


A bathtub ring around the San Gabriel Reservoir in the Angeles National Forest reveals the low water level


Girls walk on rocks that normally make up the water’s edge at Folsom Lake


Forestry experts feared the drought would prime the Sierra Nevada mountain range for a major fire, a prediction that sadly came to fruition during the devastating Rim Fire that burned through hundreds of acres of Yosemite National Park


This month’s Colby Fire, which destroyed several Southern California homes, was also worsened by the drought.  Drought conditions and an early season is a predictor of the worst forest and wildland fires expected on state record.


Signs opposing California lawmakers — seen by some as responsible for worsening drought conditions with legislation — are common in the inland Central Valley and display the increasing tension over water rights in the state


A fish washed ashore on the banks of Folsom Lake


Governor Jerry Brown compares satellite photos of the Sierra Nevada snow pack from 2013 and 2014 at a press conference to declare the state in a drought emergency


Researchers at the Department of Water Resources look over a meadow that is usually covered in snow during the final survey of the 2012/2013 season in May


Researchers at the Department of Water Resources measure snow levels near Echo Summit in January, 2014. The readings showed the water content in the snowpack was at 20 percent of average for this time of year


The drought isn’t limited to California: the low water level can be seen at Hoover Dam in Nevada, as well


Conditions are expected to worsen further as officials apprehensively monitor the state’s water resources



It’s not looking pretty anywhere. 

* * * * * * * *

Who says climate change isn’t happening?

(Via Huffington Post/Discover/Yahoo News)

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California Poised To Legalize Marijuana by 2016– Or Sooner


Different Initiatives in the Works


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


It’s coming.  Again.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Californians support legalizing,
regulating and taxing recreational marijuana in the state,
according to a
Tulchin Research poll.

The figure, based on responses of 1,200 likely 2016 voters surveyed during the last two weeks, shows a “solid majority” back proposals to legalize adult recreational marijuana, the San Francisco-based pollster said.  The poll found 32% oppose legalization and 3% were undecided.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and American Civil Liberties Union representatives released the poll results during a news conference last month and announced the launch of a two-year research effort focused on proposals to legalize recreational marijuana.

Newsom will chair a panel of 16 experts, including professors, medical professionals and policy researchers, who will study legal and policy issues involved in adult recreational marijuana.

“This is about real people,” Newsom said to The Huffington Post.  ”Communities are devastated because of this abject thing called the drug war.  Forget the politics.  This is the right thing to do.

“But we need to answer the tough questions before we put it on the ballot,” Newsom said.  ”I want the research in order to be more convincing to others.”

Not everyone is willing to wait until 2016.  Two groups have filed
proposals to put recreational pot initiatives on California’s 2014 ballot.

Both proposals — the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative and the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act — would regulate and tax marijuana similar to alcohol.  And both face an uphill battle in gathering enough funds and volunteers to collect the 504,000 signatures in 100 days needed to make it onto the ballot.

The organizers behind the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative are collecting signatures, and backers of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act are awaiting approval from the state to begin collecting signatures.

Other marijuana advocacy groups– including Newsom’s panel– are working toward a California voter initiative for 2016.

“Voter turnout tends to be much higher in presidential election years,” Mason Tvert, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said.  “We believe a 2016 initiative will best demonstrate just how much support there is for ending marijuana prohibition in California.”

The Drug Policy Alliance echoed this sentiment, saying more education
is needed to rally voter support.

“The support for marijuana legalization in California is there,” Amanda Reiman, policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, said.  ”It just may not be there strongly enough or from the right populations to claim victory in 2014.”

California voters narrowly rejected marijuana legalization in 2010 with Proposition 19.  About 53% of California voters voted no.

Drug Policy Alliance co-hosted a symposium on legalization in California with the California Society of Addiction Medicine in Denver.  
Reiman said that working with that organization is part of an effort to
win support from California’s medical community, which she said is
essential to persuade the public.

Drug Policy Alliance also is working with environmental and agriculture groups, since much of California marijuana cultivation is outdoors, particularly in the northern counties of Humboldt, Mendocino and Ukiah.

California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996.  

Since then, the medical cannabis industry has flourished, generating upwards of $100 million in annual tax revenue.

“This is not a matter of 2014 or bust, or 2016 or bust,” Reiman said. “Legalization of marijuana in California is going to happen.”


* * * * * *

Surprising Facts About Marijuana and the US Economy


$13.7 Billion Saved On Prohibition Enforcement Costs

The government would save an estimated $13.7 billion on prohibition enforcement costs and tax revenue by legalizing marijuana, according to a paper endorsed by 300 economists.


Marijuana Inmates Cost Prisons $1 Billion per Year

Inmates incarcerated on marijuana-related charges cost U.S. prisons $1 billion annually, according to a 2007 study, AlterNet reports.

Marijuana Prohibition Costs Taxpayers $41.8 Billion A Year

Including lost tax revenues, a 2007 study found that enforcing the marijuana prohibition costs tax payers $41.8 billion annually, Forbes reports.

California Marijuana Crop Worth $14 Billion A Year

Marijuana growers account for $14 billion a year in sales in California, making it the state’s most valuable cash crop, TIME reports.

Illegal Marijuana A $36 Billion A Year Industry

It’s estimated that illegal marijuana is a $36 billion industry in the U.S., MadameNoire reports.

One-Third Of Americans Think Legalization Would Boost The Economy

About one-third of Americans say they think legalizing marijuana would boost the economy, according to a 2010 poll by Associated Press-CNBC.

Dispensary Ads Boost Newspapers’ Revenue

The Sacramento News and Review saw a big boost in ad revenue when it offered advertising space for more than 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, enabling the publication to hire three additional employees, according to News10.nets

Mendocino Zip Tie Program Raised $600,000

Mendocino County, California’s zip tie program aimed at regulating medical marijuana growing by charging permits for each plant raised $600,000 in revenue in for the Sheriff’s department in 2011.

Oakland Raised More than $1 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue

The City of Oakland, California raised $1.3 million in tax revenue from medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011, 3 percent of the city’s total business tax revenue, according to The New York Times.

Colorado Pulls In $5 Million From Pot Sales Tax

In 2011, Colorado pulled in $5 milllion in sales taxes from medical marijuana businesses, The New York Times reports.

Legal Marijuana Could be $100 Billion Industry

Economist Stephen Easton estimated in 2010 that legal marijuana could be a $45 to $100 billion industry, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Majority of States Support Taxing Marijuana

More than 60% of states agree with taxing marijuana, according to a poll by Associated Press-CNBC.

Marijuana Affects Workplace Motivation

Sorry to say, but a Norwegian study 25 years in the making came to the shocking conclusion that frequent marijuana use lowers employees’ motivation at work.

Denver Counts More Dispensaries than Starbucks

As of July 2011, the city of Denver counted more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks franchises.


Via Huffington Post/Mark Newcomb/Los Angeles Times/Forbes

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News of the Redwoods


New Study Reveals Redwoods Contain Climate Data Over the Ages


Sonoma County Slowly Destroying Forests for Wineries


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Seeing the forests for the trees depends upon how you view the whole situation.  Take these two articles making the rounds in the news today, for example:


SEATTLE, WA– Many people use tree ring records to see into the past.  But redwoods – the iconic trees that are the world’s tallest living things – have so far proven too erratic in their growth patterns to help with reconstructing historic climate.

A University of Washington researcher has developed a way to use the trees as a window into coastal conditions, using oxygen and carbon atoms in the wood to detect fog and rainfall in previous seasons.

“This is really the first time that climate reconstruction has ever been done with redwoods,” said Jim Johnstone,  He is corresponding author of a study published online Oct. 24 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.

While coastal redwoods are not the longest-lived trees on the West Coast, they do contain unique information about their foggy surroundings.  Coastal redwoods in Northern California use fog as a water source, incorporating the molecules in their trunks, Johnstone found.

“Redwoods are restricted to a very narrow strip along the coastline,” Johnstone said.  “They’re tied to the coastline, and they’re sensitive to marine conditions, so they actually may tell you more about what’s happening over the ocean than they do about what’s happening over land.”

The new study used cores from Northern California coastal redwoods to trace climate back 50 years. Weather records from that period prove the method is accurate, suggesting it could be used to track conditions through the thousand or more years of the redwoods’ lifetime.

Tree-ring research, or dendrochronology, typically involves a detailed look at a cross-section of a tree trunk.  But the rings of a redwood are uneven and don’t always fully encircle the tree, making it a poor candidate for anything except detecting historic fires.

The new paper uses a painstaking approach that’s more like processing ice cores.  It uses the molecules captured in the wood to sample the atmosphere of the past.

Most oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere has an atomic mass of 16, making it O-16, but a small percentage of oxygen is the heavier O-18 isotope.  When seawater evaporates off the ocean to form clouds, some drops fall as rain over the ocean, and more of the heavier O-18 molecules rain out.  The remaining drops that fall on land thus have a higher proportion of the lighter O-16 molecules.

Fog, on the other hand, forms near shore and blows on land where it drips down through the branches until the trees use it like rainwater.

By looking at the proportion of O-16 and O-18 in the wood from each season, the team was able to measure the contribution of fog and rain.

“We actually have two indicators that we can use in combination to determine if a particular summer was foggy with a little rain, foggy with a lot of rain, and various combinations of the two,” Johnstone said.

Related research by Johnstone shows that the amount of West Coast fog is closely tied to the surface temperature of the ocean, so redwoods may be able to tell us something about the long-term patterns of ocean change, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  Understanding the cycles could better distinguish natural and human-caused climate change.

“It’s possible that the redwoods could give us direct indication of how that’s worked over longer periods,” Johnstone said.  “This is just a piece that contributes to that understanding in a pretty unique place.”

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 SONOMA COUNTY, CA– Would you like a little whine to go along with that cheese?

A coalition of environmental groups in California is fighting to stop a Spanish-owned winery from chopping down 154 acres of redwood trees and Douglas firs to make room for yet more grapevines, NPR reports.

The fight, according to the report, is a global one, with a 2013 study finding climate change would profoundly impact ecosystems, with wine grape production being “a good test case for measuring indirect impacts by changes in agriculture.”

In the California case, the groups, which filed suit in 2012, are charging that state officials violated California’s environmental protection laws when they approved the plan to clear the area, which is in the wine mecca of Sonoma County.

According to the NPR report, Artesa Vineyards and Winery, owned by the Spanish Codomiu Group, will spare two old-growth redwoods on the property.  According to a company spokesman, most of the trees at the site are less than 100 feet tall.  ”There are no forests on this site,” spokesman Sam Singer told the station.

Redwoods are among the biggest trees on Earth, and can stand more than 350 feet high.  Some are more than 2,000 years old.

The redwoods at the center of the controversy are not the old-growth trees.  Thousands of trees slated for removal are between 50 and 80 feet high, according to Chris Poehlmann, president of a small organization called Friends of the Gualala River, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  He says the trees provide important habitat to local wildlife and guard the soil against erosion, which has been a significant challenge for streams in the area that once harbored salmon as well as steelhead trout.

Dennis Hall, a higher official with CalFire, says his department’s approval of Artesa’s project in 2012 came only after a lengthy review process found that it would not significantly damage the environment.

Still, Poehlmann feels CalFire has been too lenient on proposals by developers to level trees.  ”They are acting as if they are actually the ‘department of deforestation,’ ” he told the station.

“But at least we’ll have plenty of wine to drink,” he quipped, “while we bemoan the fact that our forests are all used up.”

Friends of the Gualala River and the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter, another plaintiff in the current Artesa lawsuit, have tried several times over the past 10 years to successfully stop ‘timberland conversion’ projects.  Those projects, proposed by winery groups, were approved by the state.

But from 1979 to 2006, 25 conversions occurred in Sonoma County at an average rate of 21 acres per year– for a total loss of 560 acres of forest– according to county officials, NPR reported.



Articles via University of Washington, NPR News, and
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Rare Sea Serpent Found Off Catalina


18-Foot Oarfish Monster Brought to California Shore



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


It was a monster of a find.

The 18-foot oarfish found dead off Catalina Island over the weekend was rare not only because they live nowhere near coastlines, but also because it was among the biggest reported in nearly 20 years.

26-year-old science instructor Jasmine Santana brought the oarfish to shore at the Catalina Island Marine Institute.  The long, snake-like fish usually resides in deep oceans, but Santana happened upon it in less than 15 feet of water at Toyon Bay, about 2 miles west of the island’s main town of Avalon.

“I was out snorkeling, and I saw it just west of the pier on the sea floor,” Santana said.  “I didn’t have a camera, and I thought to myself, if I just tell everyone I saw this huge thing, they probably won’t believe me.”

So, she dove down to inspect the creature and, after making sure it was dead– and checking to make sure nothing else even bigger was around that might have killed it– Santana began pulling the fish by its tail to shore.

“It was so heavy, there was no way I was lifting that thing out of the water,” she said.  “It felt like I was in life-saving training for lifeguards.”

Once she got the oarfish to shallow water, other instructors ran toward the find in disbelief, helping her pull in the estimated 200-pound creature.  Fellow instructor Michelle Sakai-Hart was offloading gear from the Institute’s tallship Tole Mour at the pier when she saw Santana in the water, struggling with the oarfish.

“I had heard of an oarfish, and had seen footage of a baby one, but nothing like this,” Sakai-Hart said.  In total, it took 15 adults to get the silvery, slimy fish onto shore.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Jeff Chace, program director at Catalina Island Marine Institute, said.

Rick Feeney, ichthyology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said giant oarfish only “wash up occasionally” because they’re typically found deep in open ocean.  When oarfish come closer to shore, they could be starving, disoriented or landed in shallower water because of a storm. 

“It may be a sign of distress.  They’re usually in the deep ocean, away from land,” Feeney said.  Giant oarfish get up to maximum length of about 27 feet, he said, adding that stories of them reaching 50 or more feet haven’t been verified. 

One of the museum’s existing specimens, a 14-foot oarfish recovered from Catalina Island in 2006, is well-known to visitors.  It is suspended in alcohol in a giant case in the grand foyer.  “Not a whole lot is known about them, because they are sort of secretive,” Feeney said.  “We’re slowly finding out more about them.”

The Catalina Island Marine Institute is awaiting results of several samples sent out to researchers of its 18-foot specimen.  Until then, staff members say they lack the capacity to keep it refrigerated.  In the absence of preserving the carcass, the institute may go with one option on the table:  Bury the dead fish in 3 feet of sand and let it decompose over a couple of months.  After that, the skeleton could be exhumed and mounted.

Oarfish live most of their lives at depths between 700 and 3,000 feet.  While thought to be capable of growing to 50 feet in length, little is known of the fish’s behavior and sightings of the animal alive are rare.  Oarfish are thought to be the basis of sea serpent legends accounted for by ancient sailors.

A 12-foot oarfish washed ashore in Malibu in 2010, but it was a much smaller — and thinner — variety with its silvery scales and a scarlet red dorsal fin.  But not since a group of Navy SEALS found a 23-foot-long oarfish off Coronado in 1996 has such a large oarfish
been reported as this one.

In recent years, researchers have captured video of an oarfish swimming deep underwater in the Gulf of Mexico and spotted one swimming not far from the shore in Baja California.  

Recent video of the creature alive and well was published in the Journal of Fish Biology this summer, as remotely operated vehicles surveying oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico incidentally captured video of the fish swimming in its natural state.

“By sheer luck, we encountered five oarfish while conducting surveys down there,” said Mark Benfield, professor at Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences.  What caught Benfield’s eye was the animal’s movement in water. 

“Normally, they just move by this curious undulation of the dorsal fin, but when it wants to pick up the pace, it can serpentine quickly through the water,” Benfield said.

* * * * * * * * *


Via Google/Discovery News
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California Hikes Minimum Wage to $10 an Hour


Increase One of the Highest in Nation


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


LOS ANGELESCalling it a “matter of justice,” California Governor Jerry Brown signed a minimum-wage hike Wednesday that raises the hourly rate to $10
an hour within three years.

Brown signed the bill into law at a ceremony in downtown Los Angeles.

The minimum wage, currently at $8 an hour, will rise to $9 an hour on July 1, 2014.  On January 1, 2016, it will rise to $10 an hour.  California’s minimum wage will be one of the highest rates in the nation and the increase is the first to California’s minimum wage in six years.

Brown called the bill an overdue piece of legislation that will help working-class families and close the gap between “workers at the bottom and those who occupy the commanding heights of the economy.”

The raise comes amid a national debate over whether it’s fair to pay fast-food workers, retail clerks and others wages so low that they often have to work second or third jobs.

Supporters said the bill by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, would help workers left behind during the recent recession.

Miguel Aguilar, a worker at a Los Angeles car wash, thanked the governor for signing the bill.

“We work really long hours,” said Aguilar, who has a union contract. “Now, with the increase in the minimum wage, we’ll be able to sustain an income that can support our families.”

The governor was joined by state legislators and business owners who supported the measure, saying increased wages would boost the state’s economy.

“A higher minimum wage will mean much-needed money in the pockets of millions of workers in the state, and that’s good news for businesses throughout California that will benefit from increased consumer spending,” Gary Gerber, founder and CEO of Sun Light & Power in Berkeley, said in a statement.

The state Senate approved AB10 on a 26-11 vote Sept. 12, and the Assembly followed hours later on a 51-25 vote.  Both chambers voted largely along party lines.

In opposing the measure, Republican lawmakers said increased wages would encourage businesses to cut jobs and automate.  The California Chamber of Commerce was against the bill, saying it will drive up businesses’ costs by ratcheting up other wages and workers’ compensation payments.

“Small business owners will now be forced to make tough choices including reducing employee hours, cutting positions entirely, and for many, closing their doors altogether,” said John Kabateck, head of the California branch of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Federal law sets a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but California is among 19 states and the District of Columbia that set a higher state minimum wage.

The federal minimum provides $15,080 a year assuming a 40-hour work week, which is $50 below the federal poverty line for a family of two.  More than 15 million workers nationally earn the national minimum, which compares with the median national salary of $40,350, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

President Barack Obama has sought an increase of the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

Among states, Washington has the top minimum wage at $9.19 an hour, an amount pegged to rise with inflation.  But some cities have set higher rates, including San Francisco, which has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $10.50 an hour.

The California bill does not index the rate to inflation, meaning it would remain at $10 per hour unless the Legislature raises it again in the future.


(Via Yahoo News and Capitol Review)


* * * * * * * *

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Pomo Archaeological Site Destroyed by Willits Bypass Construction


Federal Agency Slams Caltrans for Failing to Protect Historic Properties


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


By Jennifer Poole
Willits Weekly

The Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians (SVR) got a notice from Caltrans on Friday, September 13 that an archaeological site with Pomo cultural resources known to Caltrans in the Little Lake Valley has “been destroyed by construction activities,” said SVR Tribal Chair Mike Fitzgerral in a statement given to the Willits Weekly.

As per the September 13 notice from Caltrans: “Caltrans has discovered that one of the sites” – CA-MEN-3571 – “is actually located within the area of direct impact” of the Little Lake Valley project.  “As you know,” the notice continues, “wick drains have been installed in that area and 3 feet of fill has been placed.”

The exact location of CA-MEN-3571 and specific descriptions of cultural resources found there and at other known archaeological sites – discovered before and after construction started in the bypass area – is not public information.  Federal and state law keeps this information confidential due to the potential for theft or vandalism.

According to the tribe’s statement, CA-MEN-3571 was identified by Caltrans in 2011, during archaeological investigations of the area, as part of the bypass footprint’s “area of potential effects,” but: “later, in 2012, Caltrans claimed that changes for the project (i.e., changes to the bypass route) resulted in the site no longer being located in
the project footprint.”

“However,” the statement from the tribe continues: “Caltrans has just confirmed that the site does indeed exist within the project and has, over the last four months, been severely impacted by the removal of topsoil and the installation of 1400-1500 wick drains.  What little, if anything, remains of CA-MEN-3571 is now inundated with 3 feet of fill.”

A September 18 letter to Caltrans from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency in Washington, D.C., characterizes this destruction of CA-MEN-3571 as a “major breach of the protection of a historic property that Caltrans committed to protect as part of its determination of ‘No Adverse Effect’ in the project’s environmental impact statement.”

The Advisory Council is charged with administering the National Historic Preservation Act’s review process for agency projects, which includes identification and analysis of historic properties, analysis of the proposed project’s effects, and exploration of ways to avoid or mitigate those effects.

In the environmental impact statement for the bypass project, Caltrans states: “If buried cultural materials are encountered during construction, it is Caltrans’ policy that all work in that area must halt until a qualified archaeologist can evaluate the nature and significance of the

The Willits Weekly asked tribal chair Fitzgerral and consultant Lee Rains, who’s been working with the tribe since May on bypass issues, why the Caltrans notice about CA-MEN-3571 came so long after topsoil was removed, with wick drains already installed and the fill process well underway.

“That’s the $20 million question,” said Rains, who consults on historic preservation law and regulatory compliance.  “What actions took place, or didn’t take place as far as what Caltrans is calling ‘an error,’ we don’t know,” chairman Fitzgerral said.

The tribe hopes to get “a thorough accounting” in an upcoming meeting scheduled with Caltrans staff.  But, the tribal council has been “frustrated” by previous meetings with Caltrans, Fitzgerall said, “where a lot of words were said,” but nothing seemed to change as far as consultation with the tribe or actions on the ground.

The tribe has asked Caltrans repeatedly since May to “plot all known cultural resource locations onto existing project plans so as to avoid damaging the resources” and to ensure “responsible in-field monitoring of these locations.”

The tribe has also requested that Caltrans place protective barriers around seven known archeological sites, including CA-MEN-3571.  These requests have been “summarily dismissed” by Caltrans, the statement says.  Requests for explanation have gone “unanswered.”

The Caltrans draft environmental impact report for the Willits bypass project reads “Once a preferred alternative is selected, and if that alternative is one of the ‘build’ alternatives, Caltrans will conduct a detailed examination of archaeological properties.  The Final EIR/EIS will report the findings of this examination and determine the level of impact and if further mitigation is required.”

But in the final environmental impact statement, that paragraph is struck out, with this sentence added under it: “Mitigation Measure is no longer required.  This has already been accomplished.”

The letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation also reports three and potentially four “post-review” discoveries of “NR eligible” historic properties that have occurred during construction of the bypass project.  “NR eligible” means the sites are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The undertaking is being carried out in a way in which historic properties that were supposed to be avoided are now substantially affected,” the letter states, “and the undertaking activities are affecting NR eligible historic properties” within the bypass area.

The Advisory Council is recommending that Caltrans “re-open the consultation” and work with the Sherwood tribe, the California State Historic Preservation Officer and “other …consulting parties” on “appropriate steps to resolve the adverse effects of the undertaking on historic properties and to resolve concerns.”

Re-opening the historic consultation process, the letter states, could result “in an outcome that would sufficiently address all of the historic property concerns with this project to avoid further delays.”

Tribal council members believe “the unnecessary destruction of
CA-MEN-3571 serves as a powerful illustration of what non-
compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act can reap,”
the statement reports.

“SVR can only hope that this stark realization will now compel Caltrans to heed the tribe’s long-voiced call for the agency to re-open consultation under the national Historic Preservation Act, review their previous identification efforts, revise their Finding of Effect, and create a Memorandum of Agreement for this project that would, from this point forward, ensure that injuries like that experienced by CA-MEN-3571 are not repeated,” the statement said, “and that the history and the homeland of the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Little Lake Valley are treated with all due respect and protection.”

(Via Jennifer Poole, Willits Weekly Facebook page, and slightly abridged)


Cropped map image courtesy Chris Hardaker.  This image shows detail of a map of Little Lake Valley Pomo village sites and dialectic subdivisions, from the 1908 book by S.A. Barrett, “The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo Indians” from UC Berkeley’s collection.

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House GOP Pass Massive Food Stamp Cuts


There’s No Such Thing as a Free Meal– Except for Congress


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


On Thursday, House Republicans passed sweeping cuts to the nation’s food stamp program, reducing spending by
$40 billion over 10 years and imposing new work require-

The Congressional Budget Office says the measure would strip nearly four million people of food stamp benefits starting next year, followed by another three million for every year after.

In a speech on the House floor, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California held up steak, vodka and caviar to mock Republicans who want to cut food stamps while charging expensive meals to taxpayers during trips overseas.

Speier said:

“In my district, California 14, we have about 4,000 families who are on food stamps, but some of my colleagues have thousands and thousands more.

Yet, they somehow feel like crusaders, like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps.  

Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business.  They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar.

They receive money to do this. That’s right; they don’t pay out of pocket for these meals.”


The budget office said that, left unchanged, the number of food stamp recipients would actually decline by about 14 million people — or 30 percent — over the next 10 years as the economy improves.  A Census Bureau report released on Tuesday found that the program had kept about four million people above the poverty level and had prevented millions more from sinking further into poverty.  

The census data also showed nearly 47 million people living in poverty — close to the highest level in two decades.

The House measure sets up a showdown with the Senate and likely will delay passage of a new farm bill until at least next year. 

While poor American families may end up receiving the food stamp cuts, large corporate Agri-farm businesses are set to receive billions of dollars in ever-increasing agricultural Farm Bill subsidies, boosting their bottom line.

The New York Times has more of the details here

* * * * * * * *

The House GOP sure has been on a tear lately.




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Medical Marijuana Not Immune From Seizure


California Appeals Court Rules on Humboldt County Cannabis Case


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


SAN FRANCISCO (Courthouse News)The mere presence of users’ medical marijuana recommendations
at a grow site did not immunize the crop from seizure, nor
did it require police to prove the growers were guilty of a
crime before they could destroy the harvest, a California
appeals court ruled last week.

 The case stems from a 2008 open field eradication project by Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies and agents from the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) task force.

 ”The facts are largely undisputed,” P.J. McGuiness and J. Jenkins wrote for the appellate court.

Officers “entered a garden that contained 118 marijuana plants ranging from three to eight feet tall with an average diameter of six to seven feet,” according to the ruling.  

Four medical marijuana recommendations were posted on the gate, for Sylvia, Timothy and Roscoe Littlefield, specifying conditions that included degenerative joint disease, low back pain, anxiety and glaucoma and indicating “the use of up to two ounces of cannabis per day, the equivalent of 45.6 pounds per year,” the court noted.  A fourth recommendation, for Jeffrey Libertini, did not specify a condition or dose.

Officers found a second plot on the property with “an additional 96 flowering marijuana plants from three to eight feet tall and averaging four to six feet wide.  Medical marijuana recommendations for Richard Littlefield and Summer Brown, each of which indicated up to two ounces daily for degenerative joint disease and low back pain, were posted in this garden,” the appellate court wrote.

The Sheriff’s Department “believed the recommendations were invalid and the marijuana should be seized.”  The appellate court noted the quantity was “enough of a supply for two ounces of cannabis daily for six people for five and one-half years.”

An affidavit by Deputy Cyrus Silva stated that destroying the marijuana complied with Health and Safety Code requirements and that it was not reasonably possible to store it elsewhere.

“Humboldt County does not have adequate storage facilities, or sufficient personnel to guard the marijuana.  In addition, recently harvested marijuana gives off great volumes of heat and may erupt into fire,” he wrote.  Most of the two large crops were destroyed, though some samples were kept for evidence, and a few other plots on the property were left undisturbed.

The Littlefield family sued Humboldt County for “the replacement value of the confiscated cannabis, physical and mental suffering, emotional distress, and medical expenses,” the appellate court wrote, but Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson did not find their arguments compelling.

Wilson ruled that the quantity of marijuana would lead “a person of ordinary caution or prudence to believe, and conscientiously entertain a strong suspicion of the guilt of the accused,” that the requirements of probable cause had been met, and that the Littlefields did not lawfully possess the marijuana.  He did not buy into statements by an expert witness for the Littlefields, who failed to convince him that he had specific knowledge of the plaintiffs’ medical needs.

 California’s First Appellate District reviewed the facts of the case and examined each of the Littlefields’ arguments, agreeing with Wilson that the seizure and destruction of the marijuana was neither unconstitutional nor illegal.

 The appellate court agreed that the seizure was supported by probable cause and cited case law on the limits of medical marijuana legalization.

 ”The most salient fact here is the vast quantity of marijuana found,” the ruling states.  ”The CUA [Compassionate Care Act, California's medical marijuana statute] protects the possession of marijuana only in an amount reasonably related to the user’s current medical needs.”

 The appellate court agreed that the seizure was supported by probable cause and cited case law on the limits of medical marijuana legalization. “The most salient fact here is the vast quantity of marijuana found,” the ruling states.

The court also expressed skepticism about the recommendations themselves. “Each purports to authorize the use of up to two ounces per person per day, or 45.6 pounds of cannabis per year – 15 times the three pounds per year deemed reasonable under the County’s Ordinance,” the court wrote (emphasis in original).

The Littlefields claimed the County unlawfully destroyed their stash, but the appeals court agreed with Deputy Silva’s affidavit, quoted above, that the destruction complied with the Health and Safety Code.

The appeals court backed the trial court’s ruling that the Littlefields did not bring admissible evidence showing their possession was lawful, and ultimately concluded the trial court’s ruling was sound.

Kym Kemp, a writer who has followed medical marijuana issues in Humboldt County, told Courthouse News that the ruling could influence the dynamics of marijuana policing.

Referring to California’s Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana use with a doctor’s recommendation, Kemp said, “An officer in the field now can feel more comfortable pulling out plants even with 215 recommendations, without having to worry about being sued or having to reimburse the growers.  It could be a game changer for growers and for law enforcement.”

Khurshid Khoja of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel, former general counsel for the Emerald Growers Association, told Courthouse News, “Given the number of plants that were seized and destroyed and the nature of the recommendations, it seems like a reasonable decision by the court.”

He added that there are some medical marijuana preparations on the market today, such as highly concentrated oils, which might require the use of up to two ounces a day to produce, but that the Littlefields had not brought a credible medical witness to testify during
summary judgment proceedings that they needed that much.

* * * * * * * *

Article courtesy of Barbara Wallace and the Courthouse News Service 
Images by the Humboldt Sentinel

Thadeus Greenson’s article in the Times-Standard news has more details of the case.

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Marijuana and Farm Poisons Contaminating California’s National Parks


New Study Indicates Problem Worse Than Originally Thought


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


CALIFORNIA (Live Science/Yahoo News)– Pesticides from California’s valley farms are collecting in the tissues
of a singing treefrog that lives in pristine national parks,
including Yosemite and Giant Sequoia, a new study finds.

The chemicals include two fungicides never before found in wild frogs, said Kelly Smalling, lead study author and a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research hydrologist.  The study was published today (July 26) in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

“Fungicides have been registered for use for many years, but for some reason, they haven’t really been on anybody’s radar screen until recently,” said Smalling, who is based at the USGS California Water Sciences Center in Sacramento.

California’s Central Valley is one of the country’s most productive agricultural regions; crops include stellar wine grapes, nuts and kiwis.

Agricultural pesticides and fungicides have been detected more than 100 miles to the east, in the rural Sierra Nevada’s snow, water, air and amphibians.  

But valley farmers aren’t the only source of agricultural chemicals: Illegal marijuana gardens hacked into public lands also expose wildlife to fertilizers and toxic rat poison.  Rare predator species, such as spotted owls and fishers, eat the poisoned mice and die.

“The marijuana cultivators make trail systems to go in, and put toxicants at every clearing,” said Mourad Gabriel, a University of California, Davis, wildlife disease ecologist who studies the effects of rodenticides on rare species.  “A lot of predators will use any type of trail system, so you can imagine the potential risk to multiple different species.”

Scientists first noticed sharply declining frog populations in the Sierra Nevada starting in the 1980s.  The problem, however, is a global one– amphibians everywhere are suffering steep population losses and strange deformities.  Earlier studies by the USGS researchers found toxic pesticide concentrations in several frog species living in the national parks.  In 2009 and 2010, the scientists resurveyed many of the same sites, Smalling said.

Researchers collected Pacific chorus frogs on a north-south transect across Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Stanislaus National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument.  They tested frog tissue, water and sediment samples for more than 90 different pesticides and fungicides.

Complex Causes

The most common chemicals in the frogs were the agricultural fungicides pyraclostrobin and tebuconazole and the herbicide simazine.  DDE, a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, was also frequently found.

“This hammers home the point that even if you’re in an area that looks wild and natural, it can have very serious impacts from human activities 100 miles, or even more, away,” said Brad Shaffer, director of UCLA’s La Kretz Center
for California Conservation Science.

The chemical concentrations were often higher in frog tissues than in the environment.  ”The contaminants in the water and sediments were ridiculously low,” Smalling said.  The frogs may store up small exposures over time, or there simply wasn’t any pesticide when the water and sediment samples were taken, the researchers suggest.

While scientists agree that pesticides likely contribute to the dramatic decline in amphibians, there are many reasons that frogs are disappearing.  The heavyweight is habitat destruction and degradation.  Climate change is another factor.

Toxic Pot Gardens

Most pesticides in the Sierras come from the Central Valley.  The pesticides travel to the mountains as aerosols, tiny particles that waft into the atmosphere on warm, rising air currents.  Winds coming off the Pacific Ocean blow the aerosols west to the mountains, where they fall out of the atmosphere in rain and snow.

However, a boom in illegal pot farms in the past five years has brought a new chemical source into the parks. 

The cannabis cultivators spray pesticides and fertilizers and spread rat poison.   Rodents that eat the poison live for two to seven days before keeling over, giving predators plenty of time to capture their dazed prey.

UC Davis’ Gabriel and his colleagues are seeing the effects of these chemicals on the fishers, a carnivore being considered for Endangered Species Act listing.  

Fisher cats nibble on everything from acorns to deer carcasses.  The scientists found rat poison in 85 percent of fisher cat carcasses collected on public and tribal lands, according to a study published in June.

The animals are also passing the poison on to their kits when the babies nurse, Gabriel said.

The UC Davis group is now testing barn owls, which rely more heavily on rodents for food than fisher cats do.  Spotted owls have tested positive for rodenticides in Oregon, and Gabriel said preliminary data indicates barn owls are also
snaring poison-laced mice.

* * * * * * * *

To note, amphibians such as frogs are considered the bellweather of an ecosystem’s health– the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. 

If the Pacific tree frog is being affected by agricultural pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and rodenticide blowoff and fallout as studies suggest, you can bet other species are being affected too, such as insects (think bees), fish, larger predators– and yes, even you.

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California Public Pension Reform Heads for First Hearing


San Jose Court Battle Could Present Landmark Case for the State


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel 


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – California’s third-largest city, San Jose, and its employee unions faced off in court
on Monday over public pension reforms in a case that has
major implications for other local governments across the
state trying to rein in the costs of retirement benefits.

The lawsuit, led by San Jose’s police union, shows how difficult it is for local governments to break benefit promises to current and past employees even when other public services are being cut to pay for them.

San Jose’s pension overhaul was promoted by Democratic Mayor Chuck Reed and approved by nearly 70 percent of voters in 2012 but city unions argue the move violates the rights of its members and is in breach of the California constitution.  They want the court to block the measure from going into effect and to maintain the current pension plan.

“If the unions prevail it will give local leaders elsewhere reason to pause.  If Mayor Reed prevails, they may get even more ambitious in finding new ways to reduce pension outlays,” said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University.

In opening remarks in court on Monday, Arthur Hartinger, a lawyer for the city of San Jose, said that the pension measure was necessary given the city’s strained finances.  ”Retirement cost increases have gone through the roof,” he

But Gregg Adam, a lawyer for San Jose’s police officers, countered that employees’ vested rights are at issue, adding that they can’t be legislated away.  ”Decades of California law say ‘No’,” he said.

The trial is expected to run through Friday.  Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas will have up to 90 days to make a ruling on the trial’s central issue of whether the city’s pension overhaul of current employee’s benefits is at odds with state law.  Analysts say her ruling will be appealed.

Reed told Reuters outside the courtroom the city is ready for a long legal fight regardless of Lucas’ ruling.  He said the city would appeal all the way to the California Supreme Court if necessary.

In recent decades, municipalities across the country have provided their workers with higher retirement benefits, both pensions and health coverage, often in lieu of pay increases.  But this has often created a future burden for budgets, made worse in some cases by skipping payments
into pension funds.

Two other California cities, Stockton and San Bernardino, last year filed for bankruptcy due to deep financial problems that include spiking pension costs.  Detroit’s decision to file for bankruptcy on Thursday, the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy filing ever, was also partly related to the cost of pension and other post-retirement benefits for city employees.

San Jose’s pension reform, which has not yet been adopted because of the lawsuit, does not reduce benefits already earned by employees, but would require them to either pay higher contributions to maintain current benefits or receive lower benefits.

It also requires new city employees to split pension contributions evenly with the city.  San Jose, which has two pension funds, currently pays $8 toward pension benefits for every $3 contributed by its employees, according to Dave Low, a spokesman for the mayor.

Reed made tackling San Jose’s pension spending, which rose to $245 million last year from $73 million in 2001, a priority.  San Jose has had to slash other spending to help cover the costs and balance its budgets.

Savings from the measure will help balance San Jose’s books in future years and restore services cut over the past decade in response to budget shortfalls, said Low.

Unions for public employees don’t see it that way.

“The mayor’s initiative was flawed from the get-go because it pulls the rug out from employees who have worked hard, played by the rules and expected the city to keep its promise,” said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition representing more than 1 million public employees.  “The foundation of California’s public pension system for nearly a century is that pensions are a legally protected promise,” Maviglio added.

The unions argue that any change in employee benefits needs to be negotiated and cannot just be imposed by the city.  They say the law shields their pension benefits from changes as they are the property of employees tied to their compensation.

San Jose’s public pensions are generous in comparison to others in California, which are already well above the country’s average.

The average San Jose police officer and firefighter who retired in the past decade, and worked for 26 years, gets an annual pension of $100,000, while the average civilian city employee who retired in the past decade, and worked for 20 years, has an annual pension of $45,000, according to proponents of the city’s pension reform measure.


* * * * * * * *

….To note, the City of Eureka is not far behind the salary levels of San Jose.

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Global Tipping Point


Governor Brown Joins Global Scientists to Call for Action on Climate Change


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


By Rebekah Kearn
Courthouse News Service


SACRAMENTO, Calif.– Hundreds of the world’s top scientists outlined five
crucial environmental concerns that “policymakers must address” to avoid
a global tipping point, in a call to action endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

global warming flaming earth“This is not just about science, this is about activism,” Gov. Brown said in a statement Thursday.  “This is an important challenge, cause and undertaking.  We can do it, but we have to do a lot more than we’re doing now.”

The scientists released the call to action and a 51-page consensus statement at the fourth annual Water, Energy and Smart Technology Summit and Showcase at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Drafted at Gov. Brown’s behest, the consensus statement “translates key scientific findings from disparate fields into one unified message” that seeks to help policymakers address
climate change at the political level.

“Here are 520 scientists from throughout the world making a very strong statement … about Earth’s environmental problems, and we’re putting it in the hands of policy makers so they can understand and start formulating solutions,” Anthony Barnosky, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and lead author of the consensus statement, told UC Berkeley’s News Center.

global warming lightbulbThe consensus statement identifies 5 key areas wherein human impacts threaten the quality of life for future generations: climate change, extinctions, ecosystem loss, pollution, and population growth, according to the press release.

The scientists claim in the press release that, given current global trends, Earth will reach its hottest climates in human history by 2070, and lose “75 percent of vertebrate species” within 300 years.

They also say that humans have irreparably altered 40 percent of the planet’s “ice-free lands,” which has reduced its biodiversity; have exposed the environment and millions of people to record levels of toxic pollutants; and have increased levels of greenhouse gases through unchecked population growth.

The consensus statement offers several possible solutions to these issues, including:

  • Switching from fossil fuels to “carbon-neutral energy technologies
  • Developing newer, safer chemicals and phasing out older ones
  • Curbing urban sprawl
  • Investing in ecosystem restoration projects
  • And eventually halting population growth by ensuring that everyone, especially women, has access to birth control.

The consensus statement has been signed by more than 500 scientists from 44 countries, including “two Nobel laureates, 33 members of the U.S. National Academy of the Sciences and members of the international scientific academies,” according to the Governor’s release.

global warming polar bears

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Del Norte District Attorney in the Hot Seat Again


More Allegations of Misconduct Face DA Alexander in Federal Court


By Chris Marshall
Courthouse News Service


SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – California officials shielded a child molester who contributed to a district attorney’s campaign,
and arrested a mother when she took the children to be examined
in another county, the mother claims in court.

Barry and Jennifer Brown sued Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander, the county itself and five other people, in Federal Court.

Jennifer is the mother of two co-plaintiff children Jane Does 1 and 2; Barry, her father, is a former investigator for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

They claim Alexander refused to investigate claims that defendant Donald Crockett – Jennifer’s Brown’s ex-husband – had molested their children.

And, the Browns claim, Alexander et al. had Barry Brown falsely charged with kidnapping when the Browns took the children to Eureka to be examined.


DA Alexander’s Woes

DA AlexanderThis lawsuit is not the only challenge facing Alexander.

The San Jose Mercury News reported in May 2012 that Alexander faces possible disbarment for professional misconduct: allegedly taking a loan from a defense attorney working on a case he later dismissed.

The newspaper reported , in an Associated Press article, that Alexander was a recovering methamphetamine addict when he was elected in campaign using the slogan “Death to Meth.”

Alexander also has been sued by Michael Riese, the former Del Norte County district attorney whom Alexander defeated in the 2010 election. Riese claimed Alexander tried to frame him for child endangerment and driving under the influence.


Allegations of the Suit

gavelIn the Browns’ lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that when Jennifer told a sheriff’s deputy in June 2009 that her 2-year-old daughter said Crockett “had hurt her vagina with his finger” and that it appeared red and irritated, the sheriff took no action.  A local hospital refused to examine the girl and neither she nor her daughter were interviewed by police about these or earlier complaints against Crockett, the Browns say.

Crockett is co-owner of a flower-growing business, which is one of the largest employers in the county, and has other business interests, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs claim Crockett and his family contributed to Alexander’s election campaign and “have exerted their personal and political influence throughout county agencies to effectively protect Crockett from criminal and child protective investigations and also to inflict harm on plaintiffs.”

Crockett and Jennifer Brown divorced in 2009 after 4 years of marriage, after which they shared custody, with Jennifer the primary caregiver of their twin girls, born in 2007.

The Browns claim that sheriff’s deputies in November 2011 destroyed a tape of a police interview with Crockett, after Jennifer Brown reported that her children said he had showed them movies of men and women “naked belly dancing on a bed.”

When Brown asked police why they destroyed the tape, they told her that “showing pornography to children is not a criminal offense,” according to the complaint.

Alexander and his co-defendants again refused to investigate Crockett after Sutter Coast Hospital Urgent Care filed a report against him for neglect and molestation after both children alleged that Crockett had molested them, the complaint states.

The Browns claim the defendants “were made aware of the claims of Jane Doe 1 and 2 and that the defendants decided not to investigate Jane Doe 1 and 2′s claims about Crockett, whose family exerted political and personal influence over the defendants, whose careers rose and fell on the favor or disfavor of the Crockett family.”

Concerned that the officials were ignoring their claims, Barry Brown claims he contacted his former employer to obtain a Sexual Assault Response Team exam.  He was told the children could have the exam if they went to Eureka, the seat of Humboldt County.


Falsely Arrested

scales of justiceBarry says he wrote a letter to the defendants and told Alexander over the phone that he was temporarily removing the children from Del Norte County for their safety and under the terms of California Penal Code Section 278.5.  But Alexander and other officials had a magistrate judge issue a warrant accusing the Browns of kidnapping the girls, and said they did not know where they were, according to the complaint.

“These defendants knew that the basis for the warrant was false when it was presented to the judge for issuance,” the complaint states.

An all points bulletin was issued for Barry Brown and he was arrested the next day at the Crescent City office of the California Highway Patrol while working on a separate investigation, he says.  He works now as a licensed private investigator.

Alexander and defendant Deputy Sheriff Ed Fleshman agreed that no criminal charges would be filed, but booked and photographed Barry Brown on felony child-stealing charges, creating a felony arrest record that made its way into national criminal background databases, according to the complaint.

Barry Brown says he was released within a few hours and no charges were filed against him.  He says he suffered financial loss and personal embarrassment when the all points bulletin with an enlarged photograph was sent to police in Humboldt County.

Jennifer Brown claims that in March 2012, county sheriffs used excessive force while arresting her, though she was not resisting. They took her to the Crescent City jail and put her in a holding room with glass walls, which was brightly lit day and night and in full view of male correctional officers and the public, according to the complaint.

Jennifer claims she was held in jail there for two days while the jail staff mocked her and refused her requests for medical attention for lupus.

She claims the jail staff even threw a pizza party in front her cell, “celebrating her arrest and further humiliating her.”

After she was arrested, Child Welfare Services took her children into custody “without benefit of due process hearings,” while Crockett had unfettered access to the children, the Browns claim.

Crockett was grated custody of the children in June 2012 and Jennifer Brown was limited to 10 hours of visitation per week, according to the complaint.


Officials Turn a Blind Eye

whistle blowerOne of the girls told defendant Child Welfare Services worker Cindy Salatnay in January this year that Crockett had molested her, according to the complaint.  Salatnay examined the other girl’s vaginal area and told court-appointed visitation monitor Arlene Kasper “there’s something there,” the Browns say in the complaint.

When Kasper asked Salatnay what she was going to do, Salatnay “said there was nothing she could do as she had been told by her supervisor, defendant [Julie] Cain, that no matter what Jane Doe 1 or 2 said, she (Salatnay) was to come back with either an inconclusive or unsubstantiated report,” according to the complaint.

Kasper said her “hands were tied,” and repeated it in front of two other witnesses, according to the complaint.  Kasper is not a party to the complaint.

Though Child Welfare Services documented the molestation allegations, they placed the children in a foster home instead of returning them to their mother, Jennifer Brown claim.

She claims the defendant claimed that she had “created stress on the children by reporting abuse and molest.”

Salatnay returned the girls to Crockett’s custody without supervision in March this year after they refused to repeat the allegations to a male detective, which was done without court authorization though a child dependency petition hearing had been held and a subsequent jurisdictional hearing was set for the next week, the Browns say in the complaint. Jennifer Brown says she was allowed to be with the girls only 5 hours per week under supervised conditions in a small room.

Salatnay then lied to and misled the court in a jurisdictional report in which she argued the girls should be left in Crockett’s custody, the Browns claim.

They claim that “only sham investigations were conducted so as to protect Crockett from scrutiny by law enforcement.”

They seek millions of dollars in damages for conspiracy, false imprisonment, false arrest, defamation, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, vicarious responsibility and other civil rights violations.

Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson also is named as a defendant.

The Browns are represented by Thomas N. Petersen, with Black, Chapman, Webber & Stevens, of Medford, Oregon.

* * * * * * * * *

Article by Chris Marshall and the Courthouse News Service

Posted in Media, State3 Comments

Missing: Sterling “Buggy” Gilbert


25-Year-Old Youth Last Seen March 13; May Have Been in Arcata


“Help Me Find My Son”




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


We received an urgent plea yesterday from Tricia Gilbert, Buggy’s mom.

She’s worried sick.  She hopes you will forward and share this information to others via links, Facebook, Twitter, social media, and/or any other avenues as much as possible.  Tricia’s tired, exhausted, and needs the help of others:

MISSING: Our Son, Sterling “Buggy” Gilbert, age 25.

Buggy openingOriginally from Alaska, Sterling was homeless in Springfield, Oregon, for the last 2 years and left on approximately March 1, 2013 on a Greyhound bus to Redding, California.

When he was in Oregon he had been involved with dangerous people who had shot at him and were trying to kill him.  That’s why he fled to California.

My Stepson Sterling Gilbert hasn’t been heard from by family since March 6, 2013.  We know he was homeless and hitchhiking to Arcata, California.  When he contacted family, he was in Redding.  Regardless of anything, Sterling ALWAYS phoned a family member no matter what was going on at least 2-3 times a week.

From Redding, he supposedly met Stephanie and her husband Kris Cosentino who helped him out in Redding and were hitchhiking to Los Angeles.  Sterling and the couple (Stephanie is pregnant) made it to Lodi, California, where he called the family on approximately March 6, 2013.

buggy2We made a Missing Persons Report to Lodi Police, Case # 13-1837 on 3/17/2013.

There may be connection to this Stephanie and Kristopher in Oregon.  We don’t know if they met in Oregon, or Redding.  They may know people in Oregon who wanted to hurt Sterling.  Stephanie may have been known as Stephanie Skinner.  She, according to posts on her Facebook, had a history of meth and her 2 young children were with her family, not her custody.

According to the last known number belonging to Stephanie Cosentino, we called to get information.  They
supposedly got stuck there a few days and then made their
way to Stockton.  Unfortunately they separated in Stockton
when they got bus fare the remaining way.

buggy carSterling was last seen getting into newer white sedan, heading south towards Los Angeles.  The destination for Stephanie and Kris was El Monte or Downey, California.

The last known photo from Springfield, Lane County, Oregon, shows he had died his hair.  So it’s most likely growing out and two tone, or he has had his head shaved with short hair.  He was last seen wearing blue jeans, grey t-shirt, black jacket/or hoody with dirty white tennis shoes.  He had with him a blue beany cap, green tent, and a green floral blanket.

Buggy1Anyone with information on Sterling Gilbert (he may use his brothers name Donavan or Levon) or his whereabouts, please contact:
Lodi Police 209-333-6727, or the local police regarding missing person Sterling Gilbert, Case #13-1837.

….or give him these phone numbers:  #818-554-2563 for Tricia Gilbert; or #907-322-3668 for Donald Gilbert– and please tell him to call family.

Our son’s Facebook page:

 Tricia adds:

buggy and baby“Sterling Has a spiderweb tattoo on his hand and a weed leaf growing plant on his arm.  Its Between the elbow and wrist.   He was last seen wearing dirty white tennis shoes, grey t-shirt, blue jeans and a black jacket or hoody.
He was last seen 3/13/2013 getting into newer white sedan near Greyhound in Stockton, CA.
Please go to our page for flyers and pics.
Anyone wanting to help, please copy & paste or link this page to any FB pages for the areas of :
Arcata, CA
Humboldt, CA
Stockton, CA
San Joaquin County, CA
–And any areas relating to the above, whether its a bar, restaurant, law enforcement, new, etc.”
We are praying for his safe return.  His dad is very ill and his brother, Mom, and myself are very afraid of his safety.  Thank you for everything.
* * * * * * * * *
We hope for the best, Tricia.  We hope Buggy isn’t in danger and he makes it home safely.  And we hope you can get some rest.
Readers can click on the pictures to enlarge.  Please share this page, information, and Tricia’s Facebook page with others.



 UPDATE:  From Tricia Gilbert:

He’s been found.  Safe!  He turned himself into a rehab.  Thank you for everything :)


Posted in Local, State2 Comments

Bombing Biodiversity


Action Alert: Protect California’s Marine Life from Violent Military Sonar and Explosives


Navy Plans on 8.8 Million ‘Takes’ of Marine Mammals


Amber Jamieson
Environmental Protection Information Center


Take action now.

Over the next five years, the United States Navy plans to conduct large scale training exercises involving intense sonar pulses and explosives off the California coast, which is expected to result in more than 9.5 million instances of harm to whales and dolphins between Dana Point and San Diego and extending more than 600 nautical miles out to sea.

navy ship and whaleImpacts to marine resources could spread as animals travel in and out of toxic debris leftover from explosives.  In addition, the Navy’s blast of high intensity noise from mid-frequency sonar pulses can impact animals far from their source.

However, before these training exercises can begin, the Navy must ask the California Coastal Commission to determine that these activities are consistent with California’s Coastal Zone Management Act, including goals to protect, preserve, and enhance the coastal environment. 

EPIC has been tracking  the Navy’s proposed warfare testing along the Pacific coast and since October of 2010.  Over the last few years, we have had over a thousand people take action online and nearly 2,000 people filled out post cards requesting Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment Committee, to hold congressional hearings to address cumulative effects to marine life and to stop the unnecessary and harmful warfare testing along the Pacific coast.

beached whalesThe threat has not gone away, and we still need your help to speak out against these acts of violence towards sentient marine mammals and other sea life that will be affected if the Navy does not comply with environmental standards that have been put into place to protect us and all other life that depends on a safe and clean marine environment.

On Friday, March 8th, the California Coastal Commission will hold a hearing to determine whether the Navy’s proposed training activities are consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act.

The Coastal Commission has already prepared a staff report and additional background materials on the Navy’s Sonar and Munitions Program, which can be found at:

Please take a moment to ask the Coastal Commission to protect our coastal waters by requiring the Navy to implement additional measures to reduce harm to marine mammals and other coastal resources. 

Click here to take action now.

* * * * * * * *

We understand the need for the Navy to be well-prepared.  We also understand the concerns of our local citizens who packed the Wharfinger Building a few years back when the Navy came to town explaining their plans.  They were courteous, prepared, and came to listen to the public’s input with seemingly deaf ears.

Looking into the 188-page staff report, we were struck by the Natural Resources Defense Council letter on page 156.  It stated in part:

subThe Navy’s consistency determination, along with other documents it has prepared to satisfy federal law, details extraordinary harm to California’s marine resources.  That harm includes hundreds of mortalities of marine mammals and other species; numerous cases of lung injury and permanent hearing loss in marine mammals; literally millions of instances of temporary hearing loss, a significant impact for species dependent on their hearing for survival and reproduction; and millions of additional cases of disruption of vital behaviors, such as calving and foraging.

In total, the Navy estimates that its activities – including high-intensity sonar exercises and underwater detonations – will cause more than 8 million biologically significant marine mammal impacts on its Southern California Range Complex.  This number represents a 1,300 percent increase over the harm estimated in the Navy’s prior five-year review, including much higher levels of mortality, injury, and hearing loss.

Unfortunately, the dramatic increase in impacts did not trigger a corresponding effort on the Navy’s part to identify better means of mitigation.  Indeed, the Navy has proposed virtually the same environmental mitigation as it did in 2008 for its current five-year operations period, when the Commission was obliged to set conditions to bring the Navy’s activities into consistency…

.sonar..The Navy estimates that training and testing off Southern California will result in more than 8.8 million takes of marine mammals… including nearly 1,700 instances of permanent hearing loss or other permanent injury, 130 mortalities, and millions of instances of temporary hearing loss and significant disruptions in vital behaviors.

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in State1 Comment

Field Poll: Californians Favor Legalizing Recreational Marijuana


Largest-Ever Margin Supports Sales– and Having the Feds Butt Out


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Californians support legalizing weed in greater numbers than ever.  Additionally, they want the federal government
butt out and stop cracking down on medical marijuana

Field PollIn a Field Poll released today, a greater margin of California voters, 54% to 43%, supported allowing the legal use and sale of recreational marijuana– as long as it’s treated like alcohol:  with age restrictions, consequences for driving under the influence, and licensing distributors.

The new numbers represents the highest level of support since the Field Poll began asking the question 44 years ago.  Back then, most Californians believed pot was the gateway drug to more hurtful substances.  In 1969 — the year of Woodstock– only 13% of California adults supported legalizing marijuana.

Times have changed as recent poll results show.

“We’re getting to the point where baby boomers have lived with this stuff for most of their lives now,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

California voters across party lines also seem to be taking issue with federal threats, raids, and prosecutions involving medical marijuana businesses.  The state’s four U.S. attorneys have brought criminal cases against some medical marijuana providers and growers and sent letters threatening seizures of properties of others.

While all marijuana use is illegal under federal law, U.S. prosecutors assert California’s medicinal cannabis industries have been “hijacked by profiteers” violating both state and federal laws. 

Californians, however, take a slightly different view.

weighing budTwo-thirds of 834 registered voters said they opposed the Obama administration’s ongoing raids on medical marijuana outlets, according to the poll.  Nearly 200 dispensaries — most in California — were targeted in President Barack Obama’s first term.  Local governments have taken cues from the administration crackdown: Two hundred cities and counties have banned medical marijuana dispensaries.  The California State Supreme Court is also poised to issue a ruling on whether local governments can shut down dispensaries.

“It’s certainly not winning over the hearts and minds of Californians,” DiCamillo said of voters’ reactions to federal enforcement efforts.  “The getting tough policy by the feds is not impacting public opinion in a positive way.”

Nearly three-fourths – 72% — of Californians back the state’s existing medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1996.  A strong majority – 58% — would support allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in their own community.

keep off the grass“Certainly, it’s a rebuke of the Obama administration’s tactics,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. “It should indicate that the Justice Department’s tactics are unacceptable and should be reconsidered.”

Obama once criticized President George W. Bush for his aggressive approach to shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries.  But make no mistake, Obama is on pace to exceed Bush’s
record of medical marijuana busts.

Though voters support medical marijuana, remember that just over two years ago they rejected Proposition 19, the ballot measure to legalize pot, by a 53 to 47% margin.  With only narrow support, legalization by the measure was derailed by what analysts called a lackluster campaign and a vague regulatory plan.

In contrast, heavily financed and well-run campaigns, and more detailed regulatory plans, led to marijuana legalization last November in the states of Colorado and Washington.

Uncle Sam and weedA coalition of Proposition 19 supporters met in December and discussed potential California legalization ballot efforts. They’ve said that they will be targeting the 2016 presidential election ballot, though they haven’t ruled out putting it on the ballot as early as 2014.

They may have a chance judging by the numbers.  A younger and more tolerant electorate is changing the political landscape:

  • Among voters between the ages of 18 and 29, legalization has a 58-39% edge
  • Among 30- to 39-year-olds, it has a 61-38% advantage
  • Voters 65 or older are the least likely to support legalization, with only 43% in favor and 52% against
  • Independent voters most strongly support legalization– at 59%, closely followed by Democrats, at 58%

Not surprisingly, only 42% of Republicans favor legalization.  Latinos are just as against it, with only 41% in favor.  But Latinos between the ages of 18 and 39 support it, 53 to 47%.

weed girlsVoters living in the Bay Area are most likely to support legalizing pot, with 66% in favor.  Voters along the coast south of Los Angeles County are the least likely, at 47%.

Not everyone favors the new numbers.  Bishop Ron Allen of Sacramento’s International Faith Based Coalition, a member of Californians Against Legalizing Marijuana, said the poll results show that “we have to do a better job of educating the community about the harms of marijuana.”

The Field Poll was conducted February 5 through February 17 with 834 voters.  The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Posted in State0 Comments

California AG Sues Standard and Poor’s to the Tune of $3 Billion


Claims Rating Agency Mislead Consumers and CalPERS


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has filed a lawsuit against one of the nation’s major credit
rating companies for allegedly inflating its ratings of structured
finance investments, which caused California’s public pension
funds and other investors to lose billions of dollars.

The Complaint

harrisThe complaint, filed on February 5 in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. and Standard and Poor’s Financial Services violated the False Claims Act and other state laws by using a ratings process based on what senior executives described as “magic numbers” and “guesses.”

“For years, S&P placed its priority on maintaining its market share, instead of the investors who trusted in its supposedly objective ratings,” said Attorney General Harris.

“When the housing bubble burst, S&P’s house of cards collapsed and California paid the price— in billions.  S&P must be held accountable for its conduct that contributed to one of our country’s worst financial crises,” Harris said.

Investors relied on Standard and Poor’s and its competitors to rate these securities because they had access to only general descriptions of the assets backing their investments, which often included mortgages.  California’s public pension funds also relied on S&P because they are often required to buy securities that received a coveted “AAA” rating, signaling that the investment was top-tier and bore minimal risk, Harris’ office said.

Misrepresenting Investors

sp1The complaint alleges that, from 2004 to 2007, S&P systematically misrepresented to the public, and to CalPERS and CalSTRS, that its ratings of structured finance securities were based on an independent, objective and reliable analysis, and not influenced by S&P’s economic interests.

In doing so, S&P lowered its standards for rating securities to gain market share and increase profits, and violated the False Claims Act by making false statements about the nature and risk of investments
to investors.

The complaint also describes the company’s efforts to suppress the development of new and more accurate ratings models.

In mid-2007, the housing bubble burst.  After securities that S&P had deemed the least risky began defaulting, S&P downgraded many residential mortgage-backed securities investments.  The market collapsed; of those securities issued in 2007, more than 90 percent were downgraded to junk status.

$1 Billion Dollars: Times Three

casheThe California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) – two of the nation’s largest institutional investors – lost approximately $1 billion.

Attorney General Harris today joined the U.S. Department of Justice and 12 other states and the District of Columbia in announcing lawsuits in Washington, D.C.  The other lawsuits allege violations of the federal Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act and State Unfair Competition Laws.

However, California’s suit is unique because its being filed not only under California’s unfair competition laws but also under the state’s False Claims Act.  This suit includes a claim for triple damages – because when the state makes a purchase based on a false statement, the defendant is responsible for three times the amount.

20-Month Investigation into Misconduct

glasses clinkingThe lawsuit arises from a 20-month investigation into the issuance and rating of mortgage-backed securities by Attorney General Harris’s California Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, which she formed in May 2011 to comprehensively investigate misconduct in the mortgage industry.

The Attorney General’s additional efforts to investigate the mortgage crisis include securing an estimated $18 billion for California in the National Mortgage Settlement and sponsoring the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package of laws instituting
permanent mortgage-related reforms.

The AG’s complaint can be found here.

Standard and Poor’s replied with a press release the same day the lawsuit was filed, claiming the DOJ lawsuits in California and other states are “Untrue, unjustified, and without merit” and that the ratings the company used were based on available market information at the time.

* * * * * * * * *

cartoon wall street pay

Posted in National, State0 Comments

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