March 17, 2005
YOU-REEK-A: It's a blast
from the past, a glorious opportunity for old-timers to show
youngsters and newcomers how things were in the good old days.
Yes, Eureka stinks again. Lawrence Odle, director of the North
Coast Unified Air Quality Management District, said Tuesday that
his office received a large number complaints last week, after
Evergreen Pulp began operations at the old Stockton Pacific pulp
mill in Samoa, which Evergreen's parent company -- the Hong Kong-based
Lee & Man -- acquired in late January. And if the company
gets its way, there could be more stench on the way. Evergreen
has asked the district to relax its regulations on the mill until
the end of December. According to Odle, the company would like
to be able to pump an additional 18 tons of particulate matter,
above and beyond what is currently permitted, into the air around
Humboldt Bay between now and then. The Air Quality District's
hearing board will hold a public meeting on the issue at 10 a.m.
Wednesday, March 23, in the Eureka City Council Chambers, 5th
and K streets.
IN JUST TWO HOURS FRIDAY, ALEXANDER COCKBURN, progressive political columnist and all around rabble-rouser, described Democrats as the enemy of social change and Greens as a joke.
An older crowd of more than 50 people filled the Westhaven Center for the Arts nearly to capacity on March 11 to hear Cockburn's lecture, "The Shape of Things to Come." The lecture, part of the center's series, "West Coast Authors Explore Current Affairs," addressed the downfalls of the left, the anti-war movement, the homogeny of the press and why politics has become the practice of ignoring the big issues.
Above all, the self-proclaimed optimist emphasized a positive political outlook.
"Pessimism is all very well, but you can't run just on pessimism," Cockburn said. "However, it has to be said that the horizon doesn't look too good."
Cockburn has been called one of the foremost reporters and commentators of the left, a warrior freethinker and the most gifted polemicist now writing in English. He co-founded the nationally recognized muckraking newsletter, CounterPunch, writes a bi-weekly column for The Nation magazine and has authored an armful of books.
He pointed to a lack of sound political leadership as a frustration and a barrier for progressive voters. "Political leadership is as bad and as feeble as in the 32 years I've been in this country," said the native of Ireland. "And now is when we need it -- someone pointing the way."
Taking an occasional sip of red wine, Cockburn stressed that the Democratic Party mishandled the presidential election, leading to an overall weakening of the left. "How did the Democrats blow it?" he asked the audience. "How did they manage it?" He said John Kerry's indecisive stance on the Iraq war was a key factor in losing progressive voters, and criticized the party for its steady drift to the right, saying the party is now almost wholly controlled by Washington strategists.
Cockburn, 63, was born and raised in Ireland and graduated with honors from Oxford University in 1963. He has lived in Petrolia for nearly 15 years and occasionally writes about issues of social justice and the environment affecting Mendocino, Humboldt and surrounding counties. Cockburn and co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair launched CounterPunch about 10 years ago. Its Web site, counterpunch.org, now receives 250,000 page views a day. The newsletter is also available in print.
Emphasizing the unpopularity of the war and of President Bush, Cockburn dismissed the idea that a majority of Americans just aren't interested in progressive, systematic change. "I think in many ways the country is profoundly radical," he said. "It's not that people don't want radical ideas, it's not that people aren't receptive to radical ideas." Cockburn pointed again to a lack of effective political representation and organizing in the left.
If Cockburn is pessimistic about one thing, it is the Green Party. "I'm fairly gloomy about the long-term perspectives of Greens," he said. "The Green Party is just a joke at the moment. There's no national presence at all," he added in a later phone conversation. "I think they're pretty impossible."
Still, Cockburn advocated building bridges among progressives, despite setbacks and differences of opinion. For instance, he said, Greens should recognize that they have much in common with Libertarians on social issues. "The left is much too wary of coalition building," he said.
Cockburn said stronger leftist coalitions could build a larger, cohesive anti-war movement. "The anti-war movement seems to have died on the vine," he said, adding that he does not foresee U.S. troops leaving Iraq anytime soon. "They're holding on by their fingernails," he said. "But the fact of the matter is they're not going to [leave]. The war will drag on, and it will be here when we come around to the next electoral contest."
Cockburn said current politicians neglect the issues that most Americans are concerned about, "Most of our politics are agreements, essentially, of what not to talk about," he said. "We can't talk about the drug war, we can't talk about NAFTA or the role of the Federal Reserve. We can't talk about the imbalance between rich and poor countries or military spending," he added.
He also called for responsibility in the mainstream press, saying it has become so uniform in disseminating Bush's dominant line that Americans cannot count on media to keep the government in check. "Newspapers, by and large, have stopped covering their beats," Cockburn said. "The mainstream press, overall, is in very bad shape."
In closing, Cockburn again encouraged political optimism. "Things can change and things can be done," he said. "People, in essence, have creative ideas and you have to hope that something good will come of that."
Cockburn travels extensively and speaks locally once or twice a year. The Westhaven Center for the Arts lecture series will continue April 22 with Derrick Jensen, Crescent City resident and author of The Culture of Make Believe.
Cat Sieh is a journalism student at Humboldt State University.
by BOB DORAN
The subject line on the e-mail shouted in capital letters, "MUDDY MUSIC SHUT DOWN!!" The coffeehouse's music booker, Brian Loose, wrote to explain that "all music has been put on hold" until an agreement could be reached with the Arcata Police Department regarding sound levels.
That agreement was reached Monday, but the story began several weeks ago.
Loose's announcement came after the Northtown establishment received a letter from the police denying a request for a dance permit for March, which followed on the heels of a written warning from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officer threatening a loss of the establishment's liquor license if they were not in compliance with city laws. The heart of the trouble: a series of noise complaints.
"The neighbors living in the surrounding area -- not all of them, but some of them -- have problems with the noise level, so I guess we'll have to change our [music] format or come up with some sort of plan to make them happy," said Loose, contacted at Muddy Waters Friday.
"It's a residential neighborhood," said Arcata Police Chief Randy Mendosa, who met on Friday and again on Monday with Muddy Waters' general manager Chris Nichols to discuss the issue. "The ABC license requires that any music there not extend beyond the premises. Any music they have there cannot be booming out into the street." According to Mendosa three or four neighbors have called "on quite a few occasions. It had become a problem, and we did not renew the dance permit."
"We can't afford to lose our ABC license," said Nichols, pointing out that the complaints are usually in connection with electric rock `n' roll shows and "DJ music with lots of bass," which "brings the police for sure."
Said one of the complaining neighbors, a teenager's mother who asked to remain anonymous, "I don't know what bands are there or who's playing music. All I know is my walls are thumping and bumping, and it goes on three nights a week `til midnight. They're interfering with my sleep and my daughter's sleep; the [other] neighbors feel the same way.
"I've called them [directly] numerous times asking them to turn it down. I get different responses like, 'Oh, we'll work on it,' then nothing happens, or `It's our last song,' and it goes on for another half hour. Or I get, `We don't have any control over it, it's the DJs,' or `We have a dance permit, so it's OK.'"
Arcata's municipal code requires that anyone providing music for dancing apply for a permit. "The way we use it is to give us an opportunity to meet with organizations and venues to try to work out events that don't cause problems like what we're talking about now," said Mendosa.
Mendosa noted that the police had been called to Muddy Waters repeatedly in recent weeks, including three times on March 5, when a group of DJs called Deep Groove Society was spinning a form of electronica known as "house music." The police were called again on March 8, when Moontribe played.
Joe Schoenfield from the Moontribe Collective, a group of DJs that originated in Los Angeles, has been playing music at Muddy Waters for what was known as "$2 Tuesdays" ($2 for admission; $2 for a pint of beer) since December, spinning what he calls "deep electronica."
"It's everything from breakbeat to tech house, house music, techno, downtempo, a full variety of deep cutting-edges styles," he explained.
"I supply the sound system people have been complaining about," he conceded. "I have a very large concert sound system; I only bring a small part of it on Tuesdays. It's presenting electronic music the only way it should be, on a full-range sound system. That's why people enjoy it; that's what we were pulling in so many people. We have an amazing following."
For the neighbor, calling the police was the only recourse. "I called over there many times when the music was loud and nobody would answer the phone. When I spoke with Chris, the manager, one of his comments was, `Maybe they can't hear the phone.' Well, duh."
After Loose and Nichols met with Mendosa on Monday to present a new music plan, Muddy Waters was once again awarded a dance permit.
The compromise agreement allows for acoustic music three nights a week. "We'll have jazz on Thursday nights and acoustic music Fridays and Saturdays," said Loose. "No more rock 'n' roll, no more DJs -- pretty much just acoustic-based folky kind of stuff, bluegrass and jazz. We're hoping there will be interest in this type of music. We're stoked that we will be able to have music. The worst case scenario was having nothing at all."
The coffeehouse management also promised to end the music every night by 11:30, and to provide more supervision so that patrons will not create problems outside. "We're in a neighborhood and we have to respect the neighbors," said Loose. "We have to find a balance."
Pete Ciotti, drummer for the rock band Nucleus, said that the police have never been called when he was playing music at Muddy Waters.
Ciotti was scheduled to perform at Muddy Waters with an electric trio this weekend. The show has been canceled and as of press time there is no replacement. On Monday, after hearing of the revised plans for music at the coffeehouse, basically excluding electric bands like Nucleus along with all DJ music, Ciotti began making plans for a musical protest march to be held this Friday, March 18, departing from Muddy Waters at noon and heading for city hall. "We're gonna make some noise," he said.
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