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Adios Monterey Bay Partisan. Viva Voices of Monterey Bay



I was surprised when I realized  the Monterey Bay Partisan was born more than three years ago. Time truly does condense as we grow into our crotchety years. It seems more like three months.

Either way, the Partisan is nearing its last fight and its last typo. But, and it is a big but, there is cause for celebration because the Partisan’s impending fadeout is precipitated by the advent of something bigger and better. It’s a new online news source for the region and it is called Voices of Monterey Bay.

In a soft opening, the web site has been operating for a few days now and the full kickoff is coming soon. You’ll want to read about the details at the Voices site but here’s the Readers’ Digest version. It is the brainchild of former Monterey County Weekly Editor Mary Duan, former Monterey Herald reporter Julie Reynolds Martinez and Joe Livernois, who preceded me as editor of the Herald. I’ll be coming on board as a contributing writer, specializing in investigative efforts, and other journalists will be signing on as well.

The people behind Voices of Monterey Bay are thinking big – much bigger than us Partisan types ever did. It’s a non-profit with charitable status, which means your absolutely critical donations will be tax deductible. A morsel of seed money is in hand but look for plenty of opportunities to help create a budget solid enough to support some solid full-time journalism with a focus on identifying and solving problems. Voices has aligned itself with a Southern California nonprofit that nurtures fledgling news operation and it is seeking financial help from various foundations – and from you. To the greatest extent possible, the Voices report will be bilingual.

This is happening for the same reason I started the Partisan back in 2014 – to supplement the shrinking news report from other sources. Don’t get me started about what isn’t covered in the Herald anymore. The Weekly is fast becoming the dominant source of print news locally and, one can hope, it will continue to grow into that role.

I am proud of a few things we did at the Partisan. I’m very proud of the number of community contributions to the report and those many wonderful essays on politics and dachsunds by Larry Parsons. I think we have done a halfway decent job covering politics, environmental issues and the antics of Cal Am. We kicked a few butts that needed kicking. We plan to maintain an archive after we stop adding content in the coming weeks.

The Partisan proprietor, preparing to sign off

None of this would have been possible without the able and patient contributions of our techmeister, Paul Skolnick, a retired TV journalist who worked without compensation or recognition. Back when I was a newsroom manager, I was smart enough to hire folks smarter than me. I accomplished the same thing by coaxing Skolnick and Parsons to come aboard.

We had several pieces that helped readers interpret the mess that is Peninsula water politics, and we published numerous contributed commentaries that cleared up misunderstandings about inclusionary housing, land use, transportation issues and other topics. Regular contributors included Bill Hood, Jim Toy, Jane Haines, George Riley, Joe Livernois, Bill McCrone, Glenn Robinson and Celeste Akkad, all writing about important topics.

Our biggest financial backer has been winemaker Tony Dann, who has already agreed to help get Voices launched. Other significant contributors included Gillian Taylor, Jane Haines, Michael Stamp, Dan and Jeanne Turner, Larry Parrish, Bill Leone, Lou Panetta and others too numerous to name. I also loved all those $10 checks that wound up in my mailbox. Thank you all.

I hope we have occasionally enlightened and entertained. I am exceedingly grateful for your support and I urge you now to transfer it to Voices of Monterey Bay.


The government capitol in Havana was designed to replicate the Capitol in Washington, though the locals take pride in saying it’s bigger.

They love us down in Cuba.

We are assured of this everywhere we go on the island. It feels genuine, without irony and without the sense that the sentiment is the result of a directive from La Oficina Gubernamenta de Propaganda y el Sentimiento Feliz.

“We like Americans,” they tell us, time and again, from every city and every barrio, from Havana to Santa Clara. “We don’t like the United States government, but we like Americans.”

It’s nice to hear, of course, when you’re an American visiting a country with such a curious relationship with its nearest neighbor. For Americans of a certain generation, Cuba has long been an enigma, a mystery that seemed vaguely scary way back when.

If Americans have a notion of Cuba at all these days, it’s likely an amalgamation of grubby revolution, godless communism, dangerous beards, improvised cars, angry exiles, lively music, failed assassination attempts, stinky cigars and an excess of rum.

We recently spent a week there to unravel what we thought we knew.

After nearly 60 years of being pais non grata to the United States, Cuba got a visit from President Obama last year in a first-step effort to normalize relationships. He was the first president to step foot in Cuba since Fidel and Che deposed Batista, the Mafia and the International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. back in the 1950s.

Normalization would be nice, obviously, but lifting the trade embargo would be even better.

That’s another constant you hear from people if you’re an American in Havana. We talked to an architect, to a diplomat, to college students and to senior citizens at a community center and they all told us the same thing: the U.S. embargo is killing Cuba.

It’s a “fact” Cubans have embraced since the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia left Cuba to fend for itself. For about 40 years, the USSR managed to keep old-fashioned communism alive in Cuba with sizeable stipends in exchange for sugar, the island’s primary resource. Cuba’s unholy alliance with the Soviets allowed the U.S. to whip up Cold War fears with a convenient nearby enemy. Then, all of a sudden, boom!, the Kremlin said adios to Cuba. But that didn’t keep every American president from shaking their fists at and/or ignoring the island nation.

A scene from a farmer’s market in Cienfuegos.

Cuba has been working through abandonment issues since its population nearly starved to death during what they now call the “special period” in the years after the Soviets disappeared. With Russia a lost cause, Cubans turned their attention to the United States and to the embargo. Because what else could they do?

The U.S. is Cuba’s nearest neighbor, so it sort of makes sense that the average desperate Cuban would want to make friends. They hear about New York. They hear about L.A. They are intrigued. And maybe they could benefit economically without the sanctions.

For the most part, Cuba is still a horse-and-cart country. Nearly everyone works for the government because virtually everything runs through the government. The basic monthly wage is the equivalent of 27 American dollars. Everyone is guaranteed free housing and free health care. University and trade-school education is also free. Food staples are exceedingly cheap and available from neighborhood bodegas. Free preschools, free senior care.

It might sound like a progressive Democrat’s ideal, but all this free stuff is difficult to sustain when the economy is in free fall. So Cubans end up with a lot of mediocre free stuff. And there is really no incentive for a citizen to attend university when the guy who is driving a patched-together ’54 Buck for tourists in Havana is earning more in a single day than a government functionary makes in a month.

That’s not to say that capitalism isn’t alive, if not well, in Cuba. To survive, everyone needs to improvise some sort of gig, some of it with the government’s blessings. Bed-and-breakfasts are huge, for instance, and so are paladares (private restaurants opened in homes). Virtually every shack along the beautiful, tropical shores of the Bay of Pigs — remember that place? — is open to tourists.

Also, black-market capitalism seems to be a thing. A visitor to the country can purchase dirt-cheap cigars from vendors who sidle up surreptitiously, as if they’ve got high-grade heroin for sale.

The embargo will be lifted, eventually, after American capitalists figure out that there’s money to be made on the island and when they accept that free enterprise in Cuba is complicated. Or when communism eventually collapses under the weight of its incapacities.

It may or may not happen during the Trump administration, and that’s okay, according to the experts in Cuba.

“Cuba isn’t losing any sleep over Trump,” said Carlos Alzagaray, a Cuban diplomat. “The attitude here is that it couldn’t be any worse than it’s already been.”

A billboard outside the Che memorial in Santa Clara

If anything, Cubans seem rather bemused by America’s plight these days. “You’ve replaced no-drama Obama with all-trauma Trump,” Alzagaray said.

When that day finally comes, when access and trade with the United States open up to Cuba, we’re led to believe that it will be embraced like the dawning of a new age. Best-case scenario, the economy will prosper with a new emphasis on capitalist principles, allowing an upgrade to its generous social programs.

A philosophy student, Maria, says she hopes to see a McDonald’s franchise in every neighborhood someday.

Virtually everyone we met in Cuba said they yearn for better access to the Internet. It’s difficult for Cubans to keep up with the rest of the world these days, we are told. The messages they get from tightly controlled media are limited. Billboards everywhere still propagate Big Brother-like nationalist propaganda. On the bright side, some local black-market entrepreneurs earn a nice living by downloading information off the ‘net and delivering weekly pacquetas from their thumb drives, at about $2 a pop, to those with a hunger for outside influences. For the most part, the pacquetas include very little useful news, but are mostly filled with celebrity and entertainment items from around the world.

We’re told that Jimmy Fallon is very popular in Cuba.

Hearing the party line day after day, a visitor can easily develop the sense that the embargo has become a handy justification for the country’s malaise. Some might say that the embargo absolves Cubans from making an effort to self-determination. Surely Cuba has had enough time to work through its issues, to massage its systems, to reinvent itself, even under the weight of its creaky autocracy.

While that might be partially true, it doesn’t absolve the United States from carrying out a policy against Cuba that can only be referred to nowadays as petty and venal. The embargo is payback for a forgotten history, at the expense of generations that continue to suffer the consequences. How easy would it be to allow some free trade to its nearest non-border neighbor, to 11 million people who have never consumed a Big Mac? Fidel is long gone. Raul is on his last legs. The U.S. trades with China; we’re on speaking terms with Russia. But, somehow, Cuba gets our cold shoulder.

The political intellectuals in Havana will tell you that the exiled Cubans in Miami have an outsized influence on American-Cuban policy. In Florida, a state with a significant influence on national elections, no presidential candidate since Nixon wished to risk losing the Cuban vote, which could swing Dade County, which could swing Florida to an opponent. So U.S.-Cuban relations remain in statis, for no good reason, forcing Cuba to build trade relationships with third-world banana republics with no more future than their own.

Nevertheless, Cubans tell us they love the American people even as they despise American policies. It sounds like a broken record. Even Maria, the philosophy student who yearns to eat a Big Mac someday, apes the party line about, about the goodness of the American people and the not so goodness of the American government.

I didn’t mean to deflate her sense of what Americanos are like, but I thought she should know that the people from the U.S. are the government. U.S. citizens, after all, elect the boobs who continue to nurture our country’s petty institutional grievances.

Former Monterey Herald Editor Joe Livernois is a Monterey writer. See his collection of photographs


poop bagsOne of mankind’s great inventions, and they only cost a nickel

In the context of the simmering conflict of dog-poop etiquette that afflicts my adopted neighborhood, I recently encountered the most pathetic woman I have ever seen.

We surprised one another, early on Sunday morning, as I walked my bundle of curlicues on Van Buren Street in Monterey, on the sidewalk along whatever it is MIIS is calling itself these days.

The woman was startled to have been caught, red-handed, while stealing an entire roll of doggy bags from the nearby poop-bag dispensary. The Mitteldorf Institute of International Studies had erected the dispensary along the sidewalk some time ago as a convenience to neighborhood dog walkers.

For my part, I was frankly rattled to chance upon someone who would commit such a low-grade misdemeanor. I mean, really! Stealing poop bags?

Like most of us, administrators at the Marzipan Institute of International Studies are greatly bothered, if not inconvenienced, by dog owners who allow their little brutes to crap indiscriminately wherever they wish, but who then allow the steaming piles to remain where they land until a hapless pedestrian steps in it, soiling his/her footwear with a stench that will adhere to and alter the entire day. It’s happened to all of us, and it’s never pleasant. It’s like you’re unable to completely scrape the newspaper publisher off the bottom of your shoe.

Progressive institutions like the Murgatroyd Institute for International Studies erect these poop-bag dispensaries as gentle reminders to dog walkers and to promote public health. As the sign affixed to the poop-bag dispensary at Mockingbird Institute for International Studies reminds us, “Pet Waste Transmits Disease.”

We live in a civil society, for the most part, and a good number of dog owners in the neighborhood happily comply with the unspoken code of dog-walkery: Your dog craps, you pick it up and you dispose of it properly, preferably by tossing it at the family of neighborhood opossums.

Sadly, a handful of locals are barbarians who blithely reject their responsibilities and who won’t pick up after their dogs. You know who you are, you bastards. The road to your special corner of hell will be paved with festering piles of dogshit.

For the rest of us, poop bags are the currency of my neighborhood.

Forget the adage about good fences; good poop bags make good neighbors.

Even without the convenience of nearby poop-bag dispensaries, responsible dog owners can purchase poop bags at any reputable pet store for a reasonable price. They come in little rolls and the plastic bags withstand the normal exertions of a typical walk, in a variety of colors to suit all personal preferences. The truly conscientious dog owner can purchase cute dog bone-shaped poop-bag dispensers that snap right on to leashes.

The international dog-poop disposal industry has made it all easy, stylish and fun to accessorize.

Better yet, volumes of poop bags are available at Amazon for eye-poppingly low prices. A quick check: 700 bags for $14.99, and the online store will even include a free mini dispenser and free two-day shipping. Assuming your dog is good for an average of two dumps a day, that’s nearly a year’s supply of poop bags for a measly 5 cents a day.

But conscientious and thrifty dog owners can improvise, if need be. They can recycle their old plastic produce bags, if they wish, or reuse the plastic bags that allegedly protect your newspapers against fog and rain. And everyone is free to use the bags offered, one at a time, from the dispensaries erected by forward-thinking institutions like the Marlboro Institute of International Studies.

As I’ve mentioned, such dispensaries are meant as a convenience to the general public. Take one, if you need it, and leave the rest for others. Which is why it was so disconcerting to witness the offender in the act of stealing the entire roll of poop bags from the MiddleEarth Institute of International Studies last week.

Having been caught in the act, she clutched the purloined poop bags to her chest and dashed to her vehicle for a getaway. The pitiful woman refused to look my way as she made her escape, too ashamed to acknowledge my righteous entreaties. I noticed an accomplice in the back seat of the woman’s SUV. It was a large mixed-breed pooch with sad eyes that gazed at me longingly, as if to implore me to rescue him from his cheapskate owner.

Former newspaper reporter and editor Joe Livernois walks his dog with utmost responsibility as he sallies forth into Monterey each morning to capture photographic images of the city for www.goodmorningmonterey.com.


Sanderscartoon_zpsurnuxh8sQuick observation:

The Associated Press yesterday published its revelation that HRC has enough delegates to win the nomination. The story broke on the eve of the California primary, so of course the good people who support Bernie Sanders are in a lather. They somehow believe the timing is evidence of some nefarious conspiracy to force Hillary Clinton on us by influencing today’s primaries, including the vote in California.

I’ve been involved in the media long enough to dismiss the laughable conspiracy theories about it. The media can barely figure out how to meet payroll, much less develop nefarious global plots. The AP story was simply an over-eager effort at getting a scoop.

I suspect, if anything, the timing of the AP report will actually work in Bernie’s favor. The Bern Patrol is a passionate demographic, easy to outrage and quick to mobilize. My guess is that most of them have already voted, but those who haven’t will now be hyper-motivated to get to the polls, if only to prove a point about the corrupt establishment paradigm. At the same time, the less-than-enthusiastic voters among Hillary’s supporters could decide to sit this one out, now that AP is reporting she is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Polls have shown that California is too close to call. The AP story could just tip the balance in Bernie’s favor.

My prediction: Bernie wins California.


share red glossy circle modern web icon on white backgroundAbove these words is a little row of colorful boxes. There’s blue, darker blue, grey, grey and orange. For now, let’s just worry about the blue ones.

If you are one of the 12 gazillion Facebook users in this country, you can share this article, or other Partisan articles, simply by clicking on the second blue button. If you are a Twitterer, and who isn’t, you can share the piece with all your followers simply by clicking on the first blue button.

You also can share the Partisan’s Facebook post right there on Facebook. You can and you should if you care about saving the world and that sort of thing.

Here’s what’s in it for you. Your Uncle Harry in Cedar Rapids might be annoyed but you will be doing yourself and your local friends a favor because now you’ll have something to talk about while waiting for your Zoomba class or tasting wine in the valley or shopping for home decor at Last Chance Mercantile.

Y0u may have noticed that the daily newspapers continue to lose weight, that the Weekly has picked up only some of the slack and that the local TV stations seem to cover only the stories you already know about. So what do you have to talk about at the Sports Center or Goodwill? How long does it take to agree that Ted Cruz is icky? Sure, you could talk about Bernie v. Hillary, but that’s dangerous ground. Better to talk about the latest Partisan scoop by Royal Calkins or the latest essays from Larry Parsons or Joe Livernois, veteran Monterey County journalists with great insight.

If you read the Partisan, and your friends do, too, you’ll be able to have deep conversations about the insidious nature of Cal Am’s accounting practices, about the sheriff’s latest attempt to mask his shortcomings by wearing larger and larger hats, about the ag industry’s plan to hypnotize the community to forget Jane Parker’s name. If you don’t share these stories, you’ll be the only one at your book club who knows whether Dave Potter plans to plant spies in the Mary Adams camp.

What’s in it for us if you hit those buttons and share the wealth? Fame, power and prestige, mostly, but it also could provide just enough advertising income to fix the printer and even someday, dream of dreams, be able to pay beyond a pittance for content.

The Partisan does have a few supporters who sometimes click on the Pay Pal button to the right to send us some other their hard-earned trust fund money, and there are a couple of wonderful folks who send checks now and then (84 Harper Canyon, Salinas, 93908, in case you’ve forgotten.) But we’re ambitious, greedy even, and we want more attention because we feel that we can be of greater service when more people know about us.

So warm up those clicking fingers. Click on this one today and, if  only for practice, go back to earlier stories and click there too if you see anything you like. You’ll be glad you did and we’ll be even gladder.


Sofia, Bulgaria - November 4, 2014: Homeless man is sleeping on a bench in the center of Sofia. Years after joining the EU Bulgaria is still the poorest country in the union.The Monterey City Council quickly righted a wrong on Tuesday.

The council unanimously passed an urgency ordinance to locate a safe-parking place for six homeless people on a city-owned parking lot on Pacific Street. In so doing, it’s possible that the city’s solution could work out even better than a proposal the city turned down two weeks ago.

“It’s been a little bit of a rocky road,” acknowledged Mayor Clyde Roberson.

“The way it stands now, it’s really a best-case scenario,” said Councilman Timothy Barrett.

Two weeks ago, the council rejected a proposal by the Monterey Methodist Church on Soledad Street to allow six homeless women to sleep in their cars overnight in the church parking lot. The safe-parking program would be operated by One Starfish, a Methodist group.

The council expressed support for One Starfish, but ultimately bowed to Methodist Church neighbors who said their area is already overrun by homeless people, many of whom live in the gullies and hillsides around nearby Del Monte Shopping Center. Among other concerns, the neighbors said they worried that the women parked at the Methodist Church site might not be safe in a neighborhood populated by a rougher element of homeless men.

While rejecting the Methodist Church as a site by a 3-2 vote, the council asked city officials to find an appropriate city parking lot to handle the safe-parking program.

That action generated criticism from activists who said that the council seemed to be more concerned about inconveniencing neighbors than meeting the needs of desperate homeless people.

City staffers scrambled to survey its parking lots for accessibility and safety, and ultimately found a lot at 735 Pacific St., across the street from Monterey High School. During the day, the lot handles parking for the city’s finance and human-resources offices.

The urgency ordinance allows One Starfish to operate the safe-parking program on the lot immediately.

Response to the city’s action on Tuesday drew praise from all circles, including representatives from One Starfish. In particular, they pointed out that Assistant City Manager Hans Usler and Community Services Director Kim Bui Burton moved swiftly to find a parking lot that meets the concerns of both the homeless and the community.


Sofia, Bulgaria - November 4, 2014: Homeless man is sleeping on a bench in the center of Sofia. Years after joining the EU Bulgaria is still the poorest country in the union.City Council votes 3-2 not to offend the neighbors

Minnie Coyle, the late mayor of Monterey, was known for many things, but a single sentence published in the Monterey Peninsula Herald possibly best describes her legacy.

“Almost like Horatio at the Bridge,” the Herald declared, “Monterey Mayor Minnie D. Coyle symbolically stood at the city gates last night ready to protect the citizenry from the ‘flower children.’”

The issue, of course, was the city’s crossed-armed resistance to organizers of the Monterey Pop Festival.

Now enter our new Horatio and his small army — Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson and the council majority — to protect the citizens from six homeless women who are trying to make their way in this desperate world.

By a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Monterey City Council denied a use permit that would have allowed six homeless women to sleep safely in their cars at the Methodist Church on Soledad Street.

Later in the evening, the council also rejected an ordinance that would give homeless people overnight shelter within the warm and sacred confines of local churches. This last ordinance was considered an “urgency” action, formally and morally, since the weather has been cold and inclement lately and there is significant fretting among those who possess a modicum of compassion that more homeless people might die without shelter.

The bodies of two homeless men were found across the street from Trader Joe’s last month, killed by their apparent inattentiveness and preparedness to prevailing weather conditions. By police accounts, they had earlier declined officers’ offer of help.

Before ruling in the Methodist Church case Tuesday night, the council heard from a long line of neighbors with legitimate complaints about the headaches caused by encampments of homeless people in and around their neighborhood. In particularly, vagrants, beggars and homeless haunt the gullies and backwoods near Del Monte Shopping Center and many of them make the nearby Union Bank property their toilet.

The neighbors described a long list of the bad behavior they must endure, and for that they deserve our pity.

But then they argued that allowing the Methodist Church to use six spaces in its parking lot so that homeless women in cars can sleep comfortably and safely will further degrade the neighborhood.

Each neighbor agreed that the Methodist Church program, called One Starfish, is righteous and beneficial and deserves our support. Many of the neighbors felt compelled to preface their public testimony with statements asserting that they are compassionate and giving people who would give the shirts off their backs to homeless people, as long as said homeless people are situated somewhere other than their general vicinity.

They pointed out that many other parking lots are better suited for such activity. Indeed, there exists a quiet and functional parking lot, away from the madding crowd, behind City Hall and Colton Hall that might be used. And they do have a valid point. A Capitol Idea, one might say.

And, ultimately, it’s one of many other sites the council might consider now that it rejected the Methodist Church parking lot.

Still, even after the council voted against the Methodist site as a safe parking place for harmless homeless women, the neighbors’ problems haven’t been solved. The council action Tuesday did not a thing to remedy the vagrancy problem in that neighborhood.

For the record, councilmen Alan Haffa and Timothy Barrett cast votes in support of One Starfish.

While the One Starfish issue was a localized rejection, the council’s action on church shelters was more of a citywide rebuff of compassionate treatment of folks who are down on their luck.

This was an outright rejection of the I-Help model of grace and humanity, egged on by homeowners who declared that offering those who are less fortunate than the rest of us a dry, warm place for the night only encourages them.

Almost 50 years ago, the Herald scribe who covered Mayor Minnie Coyle was not the only bemused observer of her brigade of finger-waggers. Also on the scene was Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of an upstart magazine called Rolling Stone.

Wenner’s account of the unfolding drama, published in 1968, feels appropriate today: “And so it began to happen in Monterey: a bizarre enactment of the entire American tragedy.”


JOE LIVERNOIS: Let’s worry about the new class of victims


discussionSomewhere in Northern Italy, perhaps in Cremona, perhaps buried in the basement of a musty museum, there must be the smallest violin in the world.  I’d like to get my hands on that tiny violin, so that I might play it for the aggrieved white citizens of the United States.

According to the number crunchers with the Public Religion Research Institute, a whopping 43 percent of Americans believe that discrimination against white people has become as large a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.

The PRRI poll further indicates that more than half of Americans believe the American “way of life” has changed for the worse since the 1950s.

What a bunch of whiners.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing from these crybabies about how difficult they have it while they enjoy the freedoms bestowed by the greatest nation in the world.  With all the opportunity at their ready disposal, they opt to whine and complain about their lot in life.

Don’t they realize that Weber now has a gas grill with three stainless steel burners and a cooking area of 637 square inches they can purchase for less than $850? And that they can now enjoy the full bloviation of Fox News on a 65-inch Samsung flat screen for less than $2,000?

What is wrong with these people? Maybe if they got off their duffs and made something of themselves, they wouldn’t have all that spare time they apparently fill up now feeling sorry for themselves.

If you want respect, you’ve got to earn it.

And let’s face it, white people, you haven’t done much in the past 40 years to earn respect. And by white people, I’m mostly talking about the useless old white men who lurch about America’s donut shops and coffee houses with their screwball notions about how great everything used to be back in the ‘50s.

As an authority on old white guys, I can claim the moral high ground. I am myself a product of the pale persuasion, born in the ‘50s. I’ve grown up with many of those people. Some of those people are my best friends. So I’ve got as much right to offer my critique of white people as Bill Cosby thought he did when he lambasted black men more than a decade ago, back when he was drugging-and-diddling young women.

I’ve gone more than 60 years without feeling the least bit of discrimination.

I was reminded of the irrelevance of old white men in America earlier this week when a friend posted a plaintive and existential inquiry about the fate of humankind in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris. He posed the question, expecting to open a contemplative heart-mind discussion about grief and madness. Almost immediately, some old white guy posited the belief that the social order would be greatly improved if only we had more guns.

And that’s it, right there, the sum total of an old white guy’s introspection.

Sadly, many of those who grew up as white guys once wore their progressive idealism on their sleeves. They were banging the drums for change, rooting out oppression from all corners and demanding useful solutions. Then they secured jobs in a world someone else created and they eventually cozied up to mediocrity.

I’d like to blame it on all the acid they dropped in college or in Vietnam, but I suspect it’s a simple case of laziness. Perhaps their wives didn’t let them buy that Harley to assuage their mid-life crises. Or maybe it’s a mindless reaction to their loss of relevance, a fear that their lethargy and their negligence have rendered them useless. I don’t know. I’m not Freud.

Because let’s face it, whatever the issue, and in context to the complexities of the modern world, all you can expect to get from too many old white guys these days are easy answers. Dumb answers. Simpleton reactions.

Build a fence! Close the gate! Bomb them all! Women ask for it! Gays are taking over the world! Too much tax! Get a job! They’re taking our guns! Pull up your pants! Getting something for free! Not in my backyard! Black guy in the White House! Everyone is too sensitive these days!

I say screw these self-absorbed white people. You don’t want to be discriminated against? You want respect?

Earn it.


20151110_065058.jpgOfficials of  the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey have relatively modest plans for campus growth during the next 10 years. In fact, the school’s recently released master plan shows campus expansion would be mostly limited to its existing footprint, on less than six acres along the downhill edge of the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Representatives from the institute unveiled their plans to neighbors on Monday. The proposal, along with environmental documents, is expected to be reviewed by the Monterey Planning Commission next month.

The only real expansion to its boundaries would be on a city-owned parking lot at Franklin and Van Buren streets, where a new school building would be located. Institute officials also expect to replace another parking lot within the existing campus, between Van Buren and Pierce streets, with classrooms.

Also, significantly, institute officials plan to close down half of Pierce Street to develop a pedestrian-friendly quad for the school, according to Jeffrey Ross Dayton-Johnson, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the institute.

The elimination of parking spaces appears to be the primary concern for neighbors who peppered Dayton-Johnson with questions about the school’s parking plans on Monday.

Located just up the hill from downtown, street parking along the lower end of the Old Town is already burdened with employees working at MIIS, downtown and in City Hall, as well as students at Monterey High School and MIIS.

Neighbors acknowledged that students at the institute aren’t a major problem — they generally live within walking distance of MIIS — but employees and visitors often use neighborhood streets to park their vehicles.

About 700 students are enrolled at the institute this year, and the master plan would accommodate about 400 new students, though Dayton-Johnson said he doesn’t expect the student population to grow beyond 850 during the next decade.

The institute now employs almost 300 professors and staff, and about 140 more would be working at MIIS by the completion of its expansion, according to environmental documents.

Jai Shankar, director of the school’s operations, said many of the lost parking spaces would be replaced with underground parking beneath the new buildings, which will result in a net gain of about 60 new parking spaces.  He said the institute would also aggressively promote ride-sharing and public transportation option among employees and students.

Several neighbors also said they were concerned about the closure of Pierce Street to create what Dayton-Johnson described as a “common campus core.” The existing campus does not have an identifiable quad, or common gathering area, that easily links buildings and classrooms within the school. Partial closure of the street and the addition of open area would represent the heart of the campus, Dayton-Johnson said.

Some neighbors said the closure would create fewer street-parking opportunities for employers and shoppers on Alvarado Street. They also said they were concerned that the closure would block access to emergency vehicles. Shankar said that removable posts would be erected at the entrance points on Pierce to allow access for emergency personnel.

If approved by the city, the institute would still need to negotiate with city officials over the acquisition of the city parking lot on Franklin and Van Buren.

The school was established in 1955 as the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies to promote international understanding through the study of language and culture. It moved to the Old Town neighborhood in 1961 and has steadily grown, drawing students from dozens of countries and adding programs ranging from the translation studies to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Middlebury purchased the institute in 2010 and formally changed the name earlier this year.

Officials from the school also told neighbors Monday they have no intention of purchasing the massive AT&T service building next to the campus on Pierce Street.

Livernois, a former editor, reporter and columnist for the Monterey Herald, is the author of “The Road to Guanajuato.”


The white deer of Monterey

We just finished raking dead holly tree leaves from the juniper bushes. We hope we didn’t need a permit for that.

Raking unsightly deciduous leaves from low-spreading conifers is apparently the sort of landscape maintenance required of responsible urban dwellers.

Or maybe not. We’re still learning the rules of urban dwelling. We understand that domestic water use should be minimized, but we have not yet received municipal directives about yard-waste maintenance.

We moved to Monterey a couple of weeks ago, to a house in the Old Monterey neighborhood behind Colton Hall. It is an area that we had heard referred to as Spaghetti Hill, though we were recently told by a kindly neighbor that enlightened natives call it Garlic Hill. The woman has apparently lived in the neighborhood since forever, so she probably knows.

We come to the neighborhood from Prunedale, a state of mind along the northern fringes of Monterey County. We were there for 35 years, which amounts to three-and-a-half decades of hearing lamebrain Prunetucky jokes.

It’s also 35 years of avoiding (mostly) the responsibilities of civilization. It’s been 35 years of crowing roosters, landscape-munching deer and starry, silent nights punctuated by the occasional baffling shotgun blast. It’s been 35 years free of Cal Am Water Co., municipal interference and enforcement of basic county regulations.

Out in Prunedale, where the oak trees meet the eucalyptus, the whims of home ownership are variable. You can live in a palace situated next to a rusty double-wide. Some people have access to water; others don’t. If your property is situated along a major road, it’s best to meet county requirements in all activities. If your property is at the end of a long and terrifying driveway, you can likely get away with any sort of toxic situation.

Our life in Prunedale was sublime. Terrific neighbors, quiet oak forests, functioning schools and not as many skunks as you might have heard. When we first moved there, it had a reputation as some sort of hillbilly holler, but it has diversified nicely over the years. As an example, the property at Dolan Road and Castroville Boulevard that was once a roping arena is now a busy weekend Charreada facility.

The seclusion of Prunedale is great, yet its centralized geographic location and recent highway improvements mean that Prunedaleans are no more than a half-hour drive from Salinas, Santa Cruz, Monterey or San Juan Bautista, and less than 90 minutes from the heart of San Francisco. It’s a convenience that shouldn’t be overlooked.

But then, as the kids got lives of their own, we realized that everything was a half-hour away. The location didn’t seem so convenient anymore. It came time to find a place where we could simply stagger home rather than weave all over the highway.

So we settled on Monterey. We’re now in a neighborhood with neighborly neighbors, functioning sidewalks, expensive Cal Am service and curbside trash pickup. Our house is 105 years old, a middling but comfortable stepchild in a neighborhood teeming with stately architectural charm.

We are learning to adjust. We require a permit to park on our street. Vehicles careen up and down the street less than 20 yards from our living room. Porch lights beam through the bedroom windows. Pedestrians parade the sidewalk. Students attending MIIS are tucked away in apartment buildings everywhere. The holly tree drops its leaves on the juniper.

Change is difficult, as we know. Habits are formed in a place that served as home for more than three decades. We loved Prunedale. But habits can be quickly broken in a city like Monterey.

The day after the crew from Cardinale Moving and Storage delivered our stuff to the new home, we let the dog drag us around the new neighborhood for his post-dinner walk. We headed up the hill, toward the gulch behind Monterey High School. As we turned a new corner, we encountered a white deer standing in the middle of the street. She calmly assessed our presence and quickly determined we were no threat to her two fawns.

The white deer is a rarity in these parts, but it’s a creature of myth and legend. Tribes of Native Americans revered them. The white stag is the heraldic symbol of England’s King Richard II. A white deer is said to have sent King Arthur’s Court on adventures against fairies and gods.

And in Hungary, a mythological white stag led two brothers, Hunar and Magar, to a fertile land to establish the Hun and Magyar people.

The white deer of Monterey did not lead us here, but we’re grateful she welcomed us to her neighborhood.

Livernois, a former editor, reporter and columnist for the Monterey Herald, is the author of “The Road to Guanajuato.”



The editorial board at KSBW-TV must still be waiting for an apology from the folks who blocked traffic on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

With all the pent-up rage of Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski character chasing his Hmong neighbors off his lawn, Joseph Heston, the animated embodiment of KSBW’s editorial board, on Friday unleashed a stern finger wag to UC Santa Cruz students who blocked traffic on Highway 17 near Santa Cruz back in March. Heston and the editorial board are furious because the students failed to “apologize for their incredibly reckless behavior.

The six students were in court last week to plead no contest to misdemeanor charges of creating a public nuisance. Their misdemeanors were committed in March, when they chained themselves to concrete-filled bins they had placed on the highway to bring attention to tuition increases in the UC system.

Heston was apparently expecting expressions of “real remorse” from the students, but he was sorely disappointed.

Ever the reliable defender of commerce and the status quo, Heston went so far as to proffer his own two-bit psychological diagnosis of the Santa Cruz students.

“Perhaps it comes from being a part of a generation that grew up being awarded blue ribbons no matter who actually won the race,” blustered the telegenic amateur Freudian, apropos of nothing. “Or, when acting out in kindergarten or elementary school, the misbehavior was excused as the child’s just expressing his or her true feelings.”


A group of activists, overly entitled according to toad’s standards, commemorates the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., a landmark event in the Civil Rights Movement. The movement went on to considerable success. Little is remembered about the traffic troubles of the time.

As far as local media pundits go, nothing stirs the jaundice worse than a bad traffic jam. Unless, of course, the traffic jams are created in the interests of golf tournaments, food festivals and fancy car shows. They are the sorts of events we should apparently all get behind because their participants aren’t liable to go all social-justice crazy on us.

Six weeks ago, another student protest tied up Saturday traffic on Highway 1 on the Monterey Peninsula. I got caught up in that particular jam, but it didn’t seem much worse than the usual strangulated highway situation on any typical Monterey weekend.

Admittedly, the issue of tuition hikes doesn’t exactly reverberate like the civil rights violations that students in Alabama were protesting when they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma back in 1965, an event that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Still, I would imagine the manager of the Selma television station at the time must have been livid that young and uppity whipper-snappers possessed the temerity to raise awareness for their cause by tying up traffic without an apology.

Rather than showing remorse, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee continued their peaceful protests and eventually succeeded in pushing for the Voting Rights Act. Or, as Heston might have said at the time (as he did in his editorial on Friday), they “pontificated about the lack of justice and proclaimed their ultimate righteousness.”

As I recall, the Civil Rights Movement grew out of a generation in which blue ribbons weren’t awarded to everyone because of their race.

Livernois, a former editor of the Monterey Herald, is the author of “The Road to Guanajuato.”