Thursday, October 27, 2011

Guest Post: View from the Occupation

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 11:30 AM

(UPDATE: Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman released this letter calling on Occupy Arcata to "remove all tarps, tents, and structures from the Plaza immediately. Continued violation ... will be subject to arrest.")

The following was posted by Travis Turner -- a Navy veteran, freelance writer/photographer, and Humboldt State student -- on his Facebook page Thursday morning.

I listened to several people in the community yesterday, and voiced my own concerns about the plaza and what was happening down there. I stayed up all night on the quad at HSU thinking about this movement, what it means to all of us. Or at least what it should mean to all of us. 

Yesterday a friend who works at an investment firm in town told me that, with a friend, she tried to go down and talk with the protestors in the plaza. She said the people there were inarticulate, didn't know what the movement was about and basically the situation there was disgusting from a hygiene point of view.

I agreed. I watched a video where some protestors screamed racial slurs at my friend Rodney Dickerson and chanted "Fuck You Cops" as they arrested two people. The arrests did not have to happen and one could say it was initiated by the officers intervening in the plaza situation in a very unthoughtful way. Writing one person a ticket in the plaza for camping in the middle of an encampment seems a bit thick.

I went down the next morning and checked on the camp and it seemed peaceful. I went down last night and saw people heading over to Eureka to stand with their group in case the police tried to evict them. Still peaceful.

It was smelly. You could smell urine. You could tell people were living there and the protestors did not have access to clean clothes, showers, sinks or bathrooms

So now we want to take back our plaza. We want to push these protestors out. My question is, are we seeing the bigger picture? Am I seeing the bigger picture?

Our country is suffering, the people are suffering. Thirty million people are out of work, more are underemployed. We have more people in poverty than ever before. We have the largest percentage of homeless veterans per capita in the nation and that number is growing. Two homeless vets work and sleep at the HSU quad. Both are in school. Both are working diligently to help change our system here. Beyond that we have widespread mental illness, child hunger and systemic apathy to problems like these all over our county. We push people into the forests and hills so we don't have to look at these problems. We don't want our children to see a bunch of homeless people on the plaza. Yes, some are travelers here for the working season, but not all. These things are only getting worse, not better. The scene in the plaza will be repeated all around this country and soon we wont be able to push it out of our sight.

Here at HSU I know students who can't afford to rent a house and go to school. I know students who live in that forest, on people's couches and in cars. I know that hundreds of students work in the marijuana industry here to make ends meet. Sometimes in very dangerous situations. I know the school over the last decade has consistently replaced living wage jobs with minimum wage student work.

Our financial system is in ruin. Our government has taken a giant leap from its senses and allowed/is allowing one of the greatest swindles in history. It is corrupt, our banking institutions are corrupt and our country and the people who live here are suffering by the millions. Yet, we worry about taking our plaza back.

Here is another option. Grab a tent and join them. Teach the young and old there to harness that anger, from a lifetime of being stepped on in this system, that there is a different way. Susan, get a bathroom constructed ASAP. I will raise money for public, single stall showers to be installed in the Endeavor House. Let's subsidize a laundromat like our electric company subsidizes grow ops. Let's feed people. Let's spend time with the smelly unwashed masses, because damn it, they are us. They are the cousins who lost their homes in unfair/illegal foreclosures. They are my sisters who were laid off. They are my brothers who pay more for less education. They are all of our problems. Let's own those problems and be a light to the rest of the world. Let us teach. Let us be compassionate.

Let's all join in on the conversation, together. 

My fingers are frozen this morning. I have a home to go to, things to do, but I am here on this quad because I think it is important. I am going to go down to Arcata today and I will march with my brothers and sisters as they march on BofA because I think it is important. I am going to look past the smelly parts because that is a function of our inability to be a real community. I am going to try and put a stop to the drinking and smoking at the camp. I am going to try and put vets in shelters. 

What are you going to do? This is a messy business, being a community. Time to get your hands dirty.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pretty Fine Pilobolus

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 7:15 PM


Horizontal became vertical, electricity became visible and chairs morphed into the only solid ground in a slippery world on Tuesday, when Pilobolus dancers leapt, slouched and spun across the Van Duzer Theater stage.

The Connecticut-based troupe reached into a repertoire that spanned most of its 40-year existence and pulled out one dazzling winner and mixed assortment of lesser efforts.

High point: "All is Not Lost," with its camera under a raised, transparent platform, showing dancers from the soles of their feet on up. Playing with that tilted perspective, dancers seemed to swim and bobble through empty air. (A somewhat different video version is here.) "That was awesome," the kid behind us kept saying over and over.

Less awesome: "Megawatt," a twitchy, electricity-inspired work that could have been subtitled "Just how ugly can we make highly trained, superbly athletic bodies in motion?" Pretty ugly. But the thing was ambitious, and that seemed to be enough for crazy-happy applause from a near sellout crowd of 750 or so.



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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Algae Diet

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 2:07 PM


We get how this works! It's easy: Just spray summa that magical "Klamath algae" into your maw and nobody will want to ask you out to dinner anymore, or even welcome you at the home table. Presto! Your diet begins. (Alternatively, and just as good a method: If you get the wrong Klamath algae, the dog-poisoning kind, presto! No need to diet anymore.)

OK, that's not actually what the following handydandy "news report" from the Daily Mail in the UK says about the new supposed appetite-suppressant mouth spray "Full Fast" which contains the "secret ingredient" Griffonia and...

"... Klamath Algae, said to have positive physiological effects on mood and Guarana, a stimulant which is twice as powerful as caffeine."

Wowza. Probably's got electrolytes, too. (Also, the news report doesn't talk about that other, dog-killing kind of algae, cuz it's a totally different algae. We were just kidding. It's not part of Full Fast. Probably doesn't taste as good either.) Anyway, the report quotes a study by the International Journal of Obesity that found that the overweight women who sprayed the gunk into their mouths felt less hungry after just five days.

Wouldn't you?

And of course:

"The £23.95 spray, for a month's supply, should be used five times a day, before or after a meal."

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Murre Hard Times

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 1:10 PM


Common murre, Trinidad State Beach      Photo by Ken Malcomson

Oh, cruel, hard Nature, won't you let me wander your beaches without encountering so many of your soft little reminders of Death? Of All Things Must Go? Seriously: Seventeen sleek little feet-up feather bundles laid amidst piles of drying eel grass is quite enough. Their poor breastbones jutting like useless keels from their white bellies. Partly folded stubby black wings seeming to salute the old ocean, or sky. Dark heads lowered, beak to plush chest. Black backs blending with sand-shadow.

Enough! But wait: Perhaps there is someone besides indifferent Mother to blame for these 17 silent common murres tumbled dead onto Trinidad Beach on a fair October day. A dastardly spiller of oil, perhaps? An ocean gill-netter?

Nope. Not in this case, anyway: We have no gill-netting in our open ocean here and there've been no oil spills of late. This time of year, says HSU wildlife professor Richard Golightly, it's quite normal for the bodies of common murres to wash up on beaches up and down the coast.

They're probably teenagers, hatched this spring.

"They fledged off the rock about two months ago, and at this point they're coming on hard times," Golightly says. "Winter's coming and the ocean currents begin to change, and the food changes."

That is, the shifting current can carry the food far from the murres' range. By "the rock," Golightly means any of the rock islands where our local populations breed: Flatiron -- that elongated poop-covered rock you can see straight off of Trinidad Beach -- Pilot Rock (closer to Trinidad Head), Green Rock, White Rock. Those are the ones south of the Klamath River. North of the river, Castle Rock off of Crescent City holds a huge breeding colony of common murres -- last year, 160,000 birds, or 80,000 pairs. From Cape Mendocino to Point St. George, there are roughly 300,000 common murres breeding on offshore rocks. That can yield a lot of chicks. Says Golightly, when you raise that many chicks you're going to have some mortality.

So, yes, scientists are unfazed when the occasional beachcomber calls up to ask about all those fluffy dead murres. Unfazed -- but not cavalier. Says Golightly, just because they're called "common" and are somewhat plentiful and happen to suffer a normal wallop of chick mortality each year, that doesn't meant they're invulnerable to devastation. Those food-stealing current shifts? They could become even more pronounced with climate change. And predation is always a concern -- just picture those 300,000 birds descending each year to breed on their fewer than a dozen rocks.

"There's a bottleneck every year," Golightly says, "where they all show up at the colonies together. If you had somebody stupid enough -- scratch that. If you had somebody unaware enough to go onto one of those rocks during the time they were making eggs, you would end up with a catastrophic failure in the colony. So even though it sounds like a lot of birds, you have 10 or 11 point sources -- colonies -- where they're concentrated and where you could have a problem."

Ah, cruel Nature indeed. Hey, people: Be kind enough to respect these hardworking, risk-taking, chick-losing little fuzzballs of the sea.


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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Go, civil liberties!

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 2:40 PM

A passing shout-out to Arcata from a writer who dared to read the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in a New Mexico airport when TSA wanted to scan, scan, scan:

People walking to the gate stare wide-eyed, but no one stops. In my hometown of Arcata, someone would have whipped out a cell phone and filmed it for You Tube, or at least “Shame!”ed the police for this act of cruelty.

See her full post on AlterNet, with the charming headline "Bizarre: Woman Roughed Up, Arrested for Reciting the Constitution during TSA Inspection." She's got the same tale up on her own cryptic website. Seems like someone worth knowing -- why so incognito, T.P.? It's not like you're the Mirror, sayin' stuff you outta be ashamed of.


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Monday, October 17, 2011

No More Free Matsutakes

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 8:15 AM

Mushroom hunters salivating for their first foray of the year into the woods to scare up some delectable matsutakes for dinner may very well lose their appetites when they arrive at their local Six Rivers National Forest Service office to get a collecting permit.

Until now, personal-use matsutake collecting permits for the SRNF have been free. Now, there's a fee: $35 for a minimum five-consecutive-day permit and $7 more per day beyond that. A 30-consecutive-day permit is $100 and a full-season permit is $200. And each mushroom picker in your party has to have a permit.

The matsutake season opened on Oct. 10. The grumblings began not long after. One collector, Greg Chisolm of Willow Creek, wrote the Journal with a list of grievances about the new setup, including: the five-consecutive-day permit is a losing proposition for people who only have weekends off to go collecting; a formerly fun outing into the woods with Dad is suddenly quite costly at $35 a person; you can collect rocks and fir poles at a far, far cheaper rate (the rocks, in fact, are free, up to eight tons a year from the Trinity River in a site above Hawkins Bar, says Chisolm).

Chisolm also worries that the top brass at SRNF hasn't communicated enough about the new fees to the folks on the ground.

"Pity the poor ranger who will be sitting behind the desk actually issuing these permits",he said. "I went into our local Willow Creek district office today and the young man sitting behind the desk had no clue whatsoever about any of the conditions surrounding mushroom permits. If I had just driven over there from Eureka I'd be furious."

In a news release sent out by SRNF Supervisor Tyrone Kelley, Kelley said the new fee conditions are intended "both to ensure sustainability of the mushroom resource and to protect other National Forest resources."

SRNF Public Affairs officer Julie Ranieri said last week the direction to institute a fee came down from Washington; she's still trying to get more details for us and we'll add an update when she does. Ranieri did note that commercial matsutake permits have always had a fee. Last year it was $20. This year it's $35, same as for the personal-use collecting permit.

Matsutake season ends Dec. 31 on the SRNF. The news release noted that "Forest Service law enforcement personnel will be patrolling and conducting checkpoints to enforce permit conditions." Violators could be slapped with as much as $5,000 and six months in jail.


Meanwhile, over at the Bureau of Land Management office in Arcata, which also hands out mushroom-collecting permits for the lands it manages, a spokeperson says permits for personal collection of matsutakes are still free. However, you have to cut the mushrooms you collect so they can't be sold. Those and other regulations are explained on the permit application. And commercial permits come with a fee.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Security National Company Declares Bankruptcy

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 12:27 PM

One of the numerous companies under local businessman Rob Arkley's Security National umbrella today announced that it will be seeking releif under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The press release is below:

Security National Properties Funding III, LLC is announcing that it is voluntarily seeking relief to restructure its bank financing under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

SNPF III and certain subsidiaries (collectively with SNPF III, the "Company") own approximately 10 regional shopping centers and 21 multi-tenant office buildings in 15 states. The Company has owned shopping centers and office buildings since 1993, with such properties having a current occupancy rate of approximately 80 percent. These subsidiaries have also filed for protection.

The Company intends to work with its creditors to emerge from bankruptcy as quickly as possible while executing a plan of reorganization that preserves the Company's operations.

All day-to-day operations and business of all of the Company's properties will continue as usual. The decision to pursue reorganization under Chapter 11 came after extensive efforts by the Company to restructure its existing debt outside of Chapter 11 with its existing lenders.

"Our portfolio is completely stable with above-market occupancy rates and solid cash flows," said Chad Christensen, Senior Vice President of Real Estate of the Company. "We hope to find consensual resolution that is beneficial to both the Company and its lenders."

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

'Federal Terror Campaign' Hits Mendocino Collective

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency today raided Mendocino County medical marijuana collective Northstone Organics, whose executive director, Matt Cohen, is featured in this week's Journal cover story by Zach St. George. Cohen's collective was operating under a permit issued by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Dept., and by all indications it was following the county's pioneering medical marijuana ordinance.

Profiled in many news stories including PBS' "Frontline" and the above clip from "California Watch," Northstone Organics has purchased county-issued zip-ties and placed them around the stalks of marijuana plants to identify them as licensed gardens. Over the past week, however, California's four U.S. Attorneys have unleashed their federal might, sending letters to dispensary owners and landlords threatening asset seizure and criminal prosecution. And in the latest twist, they've threatened to go after media outlets that run marijuana ads.

"This is a systematic federal terror campaign," said Charlie Custer, co-founder of both the Tea House Collective, a medical marijuana cooperative, and the Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel, a policy group that has worked closely with the Humboldt County Planning Commission to help develop our own countywide ordinance. The Planning Commission has been looking very closely at Mendocino's zip-tie licensing system as a potential model for replication. Today's federal actions will likely change -- or at the very least delay -- that approach, Custer predicted.

He believes the actions of the U.S. Attorneys are politically motivated. "They absolutely do not want to see any states voting for legalization in 2012. That's what this is all about." Well, that and their own political aspirations. "We've become an ever-more fearful society, and our U.S. attorneys are ever-more invested in managing public fears as a way of advancing their own careers," Custer said bitterly.

As noted in a previous post, the recent federal threats -- along with today's raid -- run counter to President Obama's campaign promises and his administration's stated policies.

Custer said it's impossible to know whether federal agencies will target dispensaries and collectives here in Humboldt County. On the one hand, he pointed out, the smaller scale of our operations combined with our region's geographic isolation make local operations less efficient targets. Still, he can't be certain, which he believes is precisely the idea.

"The purpose of this is to sow fear, and it's effective," Custer said. "I've said to my wife as we clutch each other in bed, wondering what's gonna happen, 'Everything we do in our collective is in accordance with what the feds say is desirable. We're small-scale, decentralized, nonprofit and environmentally benign. We're as groovy as can possibly be.'"

Nevertheless, he's not resting easy. "It's all just so screwball and unpredictable."

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Houses: Sort of Affordable Again

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 3:56 PM

More affordable than they've been in almost a decade, anyway. In August, low interest rates and sagging pricetags combined to make the median-priced Humboldt County home more affordable (as a percentage of the median household income) than it's been since February of 2002, according to data released today by the Humboldt Association of Realtors.

Here are the numbers: The median price of all the homes sold in Humboldt County in August was $228,500, down $12,400 from the previous month. Meanwhile, the median household income that month was $44,175, and the average mortgage rate was 4.69 percent.

Indulge a hypothetical: Say your family makes exactly the median income and in August you bought a house that cost exactly that median price -- $228,500. Your monthly payment (including principle, interest, taxes and insurance) would be $1,192.61, or 32 percent of your family's monthly income.

That's within spitting distance of the standard bank guideline of 28 percent. (And we're assuming your family doesn't have any, uh, unreported income.)

County home sales have been all over the map recently, rising and falling with no discernible pattern. Check out the crazy home sales graph in the latest issue of the Humboldt Economic Index. That report also points out that 90 homes sold in Humboldt County in August -- the most in a single month since June of '08.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Peace Talks in Garberville

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 4:10 PM


Back in July in sunkissed Garberville, residents/merchants and loafers/homeless engaged in a particularly wet battle in the war over Veterans' Grove, a little park on the town's north end where hordes of wanderers and folks down on their luck apparently have set up semi-permanent camp.

According to reports on SoHum reporter Kym Kemp's blog, "Redheaded Blackbelt" (from whence we stole the above photo), children urged on by their father (allegedly) had been launching water balloons out their window onto the homeless camp. Their campaign was met with a return volly of rocks and apples allegedly flung from the homeless hangout. From Kemp's July 12 post:

"An employee of the laundromat, Rebecca McFarland, says that last week she came to work to find folk at the park throwing apples and rocks at what she thought was her car and her business. A van of German tourists, she says, were upset and concerned that somehow their presence was causing the attack. According to McFarland, the tourists had planned to spend some time in town but left hastily. The attack she says was not on them or on her however but in retaliation for a continuing hail of water balloons thrown by some sort [of] launcher from above. Insults were hurled from the folk above to the "dirty homeless" below and insults were returned and so were rocks and apples at the "stupid rednecks" above. The bare chested man on the rock braved stinging assaults to hurl his own replies. Finally the sheriff called a time out and sent the bad boys to their respective corners."

The story unfolds further in the comments following the post, wherein the balloon-lobbing family engages in sharp words with another resident, who's pissed off at just about everyone, and the gist of the issue emerges: Lots of people like to wander off the nearby 101 and hang out in the 'ville for a spell. Some neighbors complain that some of these travelers drink and do nefarious things in the park, poop and pee and break stuff and, occasionally, stab each other.

Some people say there should be a portable toilet in the park -- and, indeed, one resident actually paid to have one put there but, because she didn't get a permit, she had to remove it. Others say a toilet would encourage more loafers and that a stern unwelcome would be more in order. And yet others say when you gotta go you gotta go and they oughta put a public toilet in town for everyone -- transient, tourist or what-have-you.

There've been meetings on the problem park, including a recent one at the Veterans' Hall in Garberville that got so contentious the Sheriff was called, according to local attorney Eric Kirk. Tonight, Friday Oct. 7, they're going to try again: Local bookstore owner and homeless advocate Paul Encimer and town cleanup guy John Casali are hosting another meeting, and have asked Kirk to facilitate. It's at 6 p.m. at the Vets' Hall. And this time, people have to sign up to speak and their time will be limited. There won't be any presentations or formal decisions.

"Basically it's a public meeting to gather thoughts," said Kirk by phone Friday afternoon. "And it will primarily be focused on whether or not there should be an outhouse at the park."

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