Rick Springer protests at an anti-nuclear demonstration near the Nevada Test Site in 1992. Photo from Flickr user Mark Bult.
Rick Springer, a former Humboldt County anti-nuclear activist who briefly became famous when he stormed a Ronald Reagan award speech in 1992, died Sunday earlier this week at his ranch in Gerlach, Nevada. He was 59 years old.
Earlier today, Steve Finnell of the Washoe County Coroner's Office told the Journal that his office was undertaking a medical examination at that moment. He said that it was still too early to ascribe a cause of death, but that Springer had suffered "some sort of traumatic injury."
We're waiting to hear back from the Washoe County Sheriff's Office, which is currently conducting an investigation.
(UPDATE, 3:46 p.m.: Lt. Darin Balaam of the Washoe County Sheriff's office tells the Journal that a coroner's report won't be available for a couple of weeks, but that he would be very surprised if the report revealed that there were anything suspicious about Springer's death. Also, he said that his office first heard about the death at 7:27 a.m. yesterday morning, making the time of death originally reported above somewhat uncertain.)
Springer was married just two weeks ago, according to a local friend who attended the ceremony.
Springer's famous confrontation with Reagan formed the basis of his book, Excuse Me, Mr. President: The Message of the Broken Eagle. Clips of that moment are preserved on YouTube.
Freshwater Tissue owner Bob Simpson made the announcement in a press release this morning. The last remaining pulp mill on the Samoa peninsula -- a feature of the Humboldt County skyline for the last 50 years, for better and worse -- will be parted out.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2010 - Samoa Pulp Mill Permanently Closed
Samoa, Ca - Freshwater Tissue Company announced the permanent closure of the Samoa pulp mill. Evergreen Pulp, the prior owners of the pulp mill, closed the mill in October of 2008 after a global collapse of the banking industry left Evergreen insolvent.
Freshwater Tissue purchased the Samoa mill assets in February of 2009 with a vision of converting the pulp mill to an integrated pulp and tissue plant that would convert forest residuals into consumer-ready, eco-friendly toilet paper. The projected cost of the plant conversion was $400 million. The owners anticipated borrowing the funds from the Department of Energy. Unfortunately, DOE loans were only available to green energy projects, such as wind energy, solar energy, and the production of electric cars.
After failing to fund the integrated tissue mill project, Freshwater scaled down its business plan and reduced its capital requirement to $30 million. The company's new plan was to produce eco-friendly pulp, and it secured a 10-year sales contract for 100% of its production. Freshwater obtained all necessary regulatory permits to re-open the mill, it received unprecedented environmental and labor support, and it had bi-partisan government support. When the company received notice from the U.S.D.A. that it qualified for a $25 million loan guarantee Freshwater believed a loan was certain, but it soon discovered banks would not loan against a government backed guarantee.
In a statement issued by Robert M. Simpson, Freshwater's President, Simpson said "I am disappointed in our failure to re-start the pulp mill. We exhausted all possible means of funding the project with the intention of re-hiring union workers. Unfortunately, FDIC regulations made it impossible for banks to finance startup projects like ours."
Freshwater reported that it has received an offer for its power and recovery boiler. When asked about the offer Simpson said "we have two groups interested in acquiring the boiler but we are not in contract and we don't have any expectation as to when a sale will be completed." Simpson didn't offer any details of Freshwater's future plans for the 156 acre industrial site.
I've been watching Strix Vega and listening to them grow for more than five years at this point. What started as an unmistakeable nod to the folky sounds of Neil Young, has grown into a psychadelic mix that touches on influences like The Doors and Pink Floyd.
Saturday night, Strix Vega played two full sets at the Alibi, and had their friend (and a guest on the band's "Estranged Meadow" EP) Eric Mueller play guitar and synthesizer on a few songs.
This dude was arrested Friday morning after allegedly hitting a man in the head with a handgun, then barricading himself in his garage. (Shudder.)
By the time Sunday rolled around last weekend, it seemed like most folks had had enough of being soaked to the bone on the Arcata Plaza, but the ones who stuck out the weather were in for a slightly overcast treat, late in the afternoon.
Ukesperience played on the Garden Gate stage at 9th and H Streets, and were joined by their new bass player, Rick DeVol -- the band's original bass player, Tim Johnston, was in town for the weekend, but elected to experience the band from the crowd's-eye-view. Friend of the band, Tommy (whose last name escapes me, but who used to play drums with Vinyl) sat in on drums.
Ukesperience's old motto was "No guitars!" but with the addition of DeVol on electric bass, they've definitely taken on a little bit more edgy sound.
According to the band's website, the next two shows they'll be playing are the first Fridays of November and December at Six Rivers Brewery. You can hear their song "Float Your Boat" on the music player at Radio Radio Radio, and they also stream a number of their songs at Ukesperience.com.
Humboldt's favorite AfroCuban salsa band plays one last song at the caliente Farmers' Market today on the Arcata Plaza. They're playing again tonight at the Jambalaya.
The California Highway Patrol pulled in a pretty good haul up in McKinleyville last night -- $120,000 and 55 pounds of weed. The suspect is from Jamul, Calif. -- apparently a real place.
The CHP press release is below. (Reminder: Follow our @HumboldtCHP feed for other real-time dispatches from the local CHiPs.)
On 09/21/2010, at approx. 1713 hours, California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer M. Campbell observed Ian Charles Mason talking on his cell phone, a violation of California Vehicle Code section 23123(A), while driving his 2009 Dodge Ram 2500 on School Road near Betty Court, in McKinleyville. A traffic stop was made. Mason displayed objective signs of alcohol intoxication and was subsequently arrested for DUI.
While conducting an inventory of the vehicle contents, 6 large plastic garbage bags were located in the bed of the truck. The garbage bags contained approx. 55 pounds of processed Marijuana packaged in 1 pound smaller bags. The Humboldt County Drug Task Force (HCDTF) was notified and responded to the scene. Officers then located $121,860.00 in cash concealed under the rear seat of the Dodge. The cash and Dodge were seized by the HCDTF for asset forfeiture. Mason was booked into the Humboldt County Jail for charges of 23152(A) VC- DUI, 23152(B) VC- DUI over .08%, 11359 H&S- Procession of Marijuana for sales, 11360(A) H&S- Transportation of Marijuana for sale.
When TV newscaster Howard Beale stands up in the 1976 film Network and yells, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" it propels him into the role of a proselytizing demagogue -- a half-mad sage who dares to speak the truth about a hypocritical and irrational world. His manic jeremiads are celebrated as cathartic calls to arms. But what happens when you lash out against injustice and not a damn thing changes? What happens when you're as mad as hell and forced to keep on taking it?
Oregon physician Paul Hochfeld began examining the ailments of our country's health care system in 2007 -- well before President Obama's health care reform bill made it the divisive issue du jour. What he ended up with, in the spring of 2008, was a self-produced video called Health, Money and Fear. In the film, doctors and other health care professionals from across the country identify the causes of America's skyrocketing health care costs, which by now are familiar to most of us: duplicitous insurance companies, expensive technology, our litigious culture, the prescription drug industry, the growing number of uninsured and the public's ignorance of real costs, to name a few. Their unanimous prescription: universal health care, aka a single-payer system. The experience of producing the film led Hochfeld and a few colleagues to establish an Oregon chapter of the advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program.
In July of last year, Hochfeld was contacted by two political operatives, Gary Jelinek and Adam Klugman, who had helped organize the 2004 presidential campaign of Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich. They wanted Hochfeld and his PNHP pals to hit the road in an RV, delivering their message in a 27-city tour across the country culminating in Washington, D.C. They would be called "The Mad as Hell Doctors."
The journey, undertaken last fall, allowed the participating doctors to forge a network of relationships with like-minded people across the country, but it failed to achieve the popularity of Howard Beale's crusade. Amidst the din of Tea Party rage and town hall hysteria, the Mad as Hell Docs were all but ignored by the national media. Worse still, in the halls of government single-payer was quickly deemed politically untenable and abandoned altogether.
A year later -- with a reform bill passed but the root problems still in place -- the angry doctors are soldiering on, embarking on a California-only tour of 22 cities (starting with Arcata this Thursday) despite the fact that prospects for single-payer have rarely looked bleaker. The state legislature has twice passed a single-payer bill (Senator Mark Leno's SB 810, the California Universal Health Care Act) only to have it vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. This year the senate was set to pass the bill a third time when it was summarily pulled by the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, allegedly for political reasons. (Supporters of gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, including the California Nurses Association, have said that forcing him to take a public stance on single-payer would be a strategic liability.)
Reached by phone last week, Dr. Hochfeld expressed concerns over the state of American society at large, saying the problems that afflict health care -- namely corporations manipulating public policy for profit -- have infected other aspects of our daily lives, from our "broken political process" to the mainstream media. He didn't sound particularly "mad as hell" -- more like battered and depressed -- but he remains determined. "I think eventually we'll have something that looks like single-payer," he said. "But 'eventually' might be ten or 15 years, and between now and then the whole thing might collapse." Sounding like a reluctant oracle, Hochfeld predicted difficult times ahead. "I think things are going to get really, really bad before they get better."
If Hochfeld sounds like a bit of a bummer, he promises a lighter tone Thursday evening at the Bayside Grange when the traveling physicians are joined for a panel discussion by local doctors Hal Grotke, Ann Lindsay and Ellen Mahoney. (There's also a noon event planned for the HSU quad. See the calendar in this week's issue, on newsstands Wednesday, for details.) What people can expect, he said, is doctors discussing health care issues with uncommon candor, and even humor. "I hope we make them laugh a little bit, because we can't take ourselves too seriously," Hochfeld said. "I hope they're entertained, and I hope they come away from it feeling more of a sense of community with those who feel the way they do."
Preaching to the choir? Perhaps. But Hochfeld added that he's happy to engage those who disagree with him, too. He even sympathizes with the Tea Party movement's primary objection to government-run health care. "You can't blame 'em for being afraid of the government," he said. "But the solution for a lot of them, instead of fixing government, is to make government smaller and more impotent. ... The trouble with that solution is then nobody's going to get in the way of the corporations completely raping us and manipulating the media to hide the fact that that's what's going on."
Like he said: candor.
As Bob Doran mentioned in The Hum this week, this was a big weekend for tribute bands. Friday night, Journey Unauthorized was out in Blue Lake for the casino's motorcycle run, and at HumBrews, Full Moon Fever and the Solitary Men came together for a night of classic rock (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and shmaltz (Neil Diamond). Solitary Men (and Strix Vega) bass player Andy Powell suggested on Twitter that it would be a flannel vs. sequins showdown.
As it turned out, only one member of the Solitary Men wore his sequined shirt (Powell), and I don't think any of Full Moon Fever wore any flannel, though cowboy boots and a velvet shirt were present. The crowd sang along to both bands and tended to keep the chatter down, at least until the end of the show when the Full Moon Fever guys started getting to their Nucleus roots -- half the band is members of that group -- and got a little bit jammy on their Petty covers.
Saturday night, on the heels of Weezer announcing that they will be touring their Blue and Pinkerton albums in the next few months, Wepeel performed songs from those albums at the Alibi. The band, which only covers songs from 1994-1997-era Weezer, played as a three-piece, which did limit their scope a little bit (Pinkerton definitely requires a second guitar player, and Wepeel's was unable to make it up from the Bay Area for the show), but technical difficulties were overcome and mosh pits broke out a couple of times. Sadly, lead singer CJ's Buddy Holly glasses frames fell victim to one of the mosh pits, during which an audience member fell head-long over a monitor and landed on the band.
Photos of the three tribute bands I was able to catch this weekend:
(For shots of the Interlopers, who played with Wepeel at the Alibi, visit my website, RadioRadioHumboldt.com)
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