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Adios Monterey Bay Partisan. Viva Voices of Monterey Bay

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NEW WEBSITE HOPES TO PROVIDE MONTEREY BAY AREA WITH THE NEWS COVERAGE IT DESERVES

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.

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A brief in this week’s Monterey County Weekly about a scrap between county police agencies and media outlets over the encryption of police radio traffic got me thinking.

First, as a former reporter who spent years in newsrooms with police scanners squawking just loud enough to be heard by a stressed-out desk editor or an amped-up cop reporter, I naturally side with the media on this one. I hope the Law Enforcement Officer Association changes direction.

For myself and my erstwhile colleagues, police scanners were a valuable tool that provided a rolling outline of what was happening in the local emergency services world. They’re critical for photographers and camera crews, whose appetites are whetted by locations of big traffic accidents, water rescues or street closures caused by police incidents. Often the first hint of something bigger – an armed robbery or drive-by shooting – came when the newsroom scanner emitted a be-on-the-lookout for suspects or getaway cars. Never once did I hear of any police complaints about the media misusing scanners.

Secondly, my nostalgia circuits switched on full as I thought about about the times newsroom scanners sent me or colleagues out the door headed to a big fire, a shooting or, just a few years ago, after a black bear lumbering through a Seaside neighborhood.

I recalled rookie lessons in decoding scanner language — the state Penal Code numbers for serious crimes, the police 10-code, the frequencies used by different police and fire agencies. I heard dispatchers use the term X-Ray for a female — as in, “See the X-Ray at (such-and-such location)” — but never figured out why. In scanner world, there were males and X-rays.

At my first newspaper job in the Humboldt County hamlet of Garberville, I had two electrical devices on my desk, a pencil sharpener and a police scanner. The sharpener probably provided more practical use. The only channel the scanner picked up clearly was used by the volunteer fire department. Since the volunteers were alerted to any emergency by thunderous horn blasts that rattled every window in town, the scanner wasn’t necessary to sound the alert in my one-man newsroom. Still I liked to see the tiny bank of red lights flash by on the scanner. I felt a link to a bigger world beyond the office walls.

I recall cop reporters who fussed over their scanners — programming new frequencies, fine-tuning the squelch — as avidly as garage mechanics tuning up hot rods.

A guaranteed heart-thumper was riding shotgun with a photographer with a scanner on the dashboard blaring at top volume. The photographer would be pressing the pedal to the metal, passing cars right and left, steering with one hand while fiddling with the scanner knobs and then yell over the din, “Did you catch the address?”

While the radio traffic offered bare tips on whether a consequential story might be breaking, I don’t recall any sensitive information about a crime or emergency being relayed on a newsroom scanner.

Both police and fire agencies seemed to routinely use tactical channels on frequencies we didn’t  know for that kind of talk. You’d invariably hear instructions to switch over to the “silver channel,” or “channel B” just as things got interesting. Often, you’d hear cops at the scene being told to “use a landline” to relay information. 

In recent years, to the frustration of myself and other nosy reporters, police scanner traffic provided sparser information. Transmissions from fire agencies rolling medical crews to emergencies provided a better inkling something was happening.

Scanner traffic never substituted for reporters and cameras on the scene. At a minimum, a reporter would call a police commander if something caught their ear on the scanner and ask, “What the heck is going on?” 

No self-respecting reporter or editor would base a story on unverified radio calls. The line gets a little blurry today with social media, but responsible media tweeting on scanner traffic attribute it to emergency radio reports and underscore that it’s unverified. The old rule that it’s best to be right rather than first is still a good rule.

The move by local police agencies to screen scanner transmissions from the media behind encryption seems a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. The Weekly reported that police agencies are concerned for the safety of officers who may be harmed by criminals monitoring scanners after a major crime. But criminals, along with hardcore cop reporters, overnight convenience store clerks and other insomniacs, have been listening to police scanners since I began work in a newsroom 40 years ago.  

My inner cynic thinks it’s just excuse to plunk down public money on some fancy new police radio equipment. Legitimate security issues should be worked out between media outlets and police agencies. That would build trust between two key players in the community. Just saying no doesn’t instill trust, and it further obscures what the police do from the public they serve.

When I started journalism, a reporter working the cop beat on a medium-sized daily paper would start a shift by swinging by major city and county sheriff stations to check overnight reports, daily incident logs and chat up officers and other staff members in patrol and detective divisions. The rest of the day was doing interviews on non-daily stories, making phone checks with smaller city cop shops and checking out possible stories  picked up on the scanner.

Today the cop beat has largely devolved to rewriting press releases, attending press conferences hours after major events and dealing with police media relations officers who typically respond to questions by saying they’re working on a press release. It’s a one-way system in which virtually the only police news reported are stories fed to every media outlet. 

Partly it’s because of the lack of full-time cop reporters in depleted newsrooms. But timely access to basic police records such as daily activity logs was always a battle with insular departments. Years ago, some agencies started putting such records online. But they lagged a day or two behind. If an entry caught a reporter’s eye, it was certain no one would be around to talk about it for days or longer.

Aside from press briefings, staged events and interactions with public affairs officers, personal contact between reporters and police increasingly occurs only in the field at major incidents. A few reporters may have personal cell numbers for trusted sources among police ranks. But these well-sourced cop reporters are getting rare as newsrooms shrink. 

That leaves police scanners  – always a vital tool in community journalism – as one of the last unfiltered human links between the police and the people trying to keep their communities informed. It’s a bond that shouldn’t be easily tossed aside.

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Spring, when nature’s clockwork reveals the certitudes of life bursting forth after the hidden dormancies of winter. California is witnessing a super bloom of wildflowers coaxed forth by drought-busting rains. And home gardeners are dealing with the ever-vexing question of which tomato varieties to plant.

The springtime of a presidency, too, has its new-growth marks. Reports on the new president’s honeymoon being over are quickly followed by the hoariest of benchmarks for the new guy’s (always a guy, still) first 100 days. Some presidents — FDR, Obama, Reagan — are viewed as those who did great things in their first three months in office. All modern presidents are judged thusly; it’s the first rule of Beltway journalism.

There are scores of stories, commentaries and gasbag explosions about the infancy of President Donald Trump’s tenure, which hits the 100-day mark Saturday.

I’ve been biting my tongue about President Trump for several reasons: the wait-and-see reflex, the avalanche of coverage out there about Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride, and the wise admonition my mother instilled to not say anything if you can’t say something nice.

Judging Trump’s first 100 days as a colossal failure would be too easy, though accurate. A lot of people are doing that, including most Americans who put his popularity at the lowest level ever for a new president.

It would be easy to rattle off the ways the Trump administration has pushed retrograde policies on every issue from health care and the environment to immigration and criminal justice reform. It would take no hard work to assemble a long list of naked lies, empty boasts, clumsy threats, self-inflicted wounds and pocket-lining grifts perpetrated by the White House over the past three months. But that game is overwhelmed by players.

Trump’s only big deed is restoring a conservative majority to the Supreme Court with Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who refused to allow a vote on Judge Merrick Garland for a year, really won that trophy for the GOP. Trump simply picked the best-looking conservative off a handy list compiled by the Heritage Foundation. Any Republican president could have done that. Hell, you or I could have done that.

Still, I’ve put together a list of positives generated by the Trump White House. It doesn’t include his raft of executive orders, which aside from those blocked by courts, don’t amount to much but words on pretty paper. Nor am I going to give credit for his use of awesome arms in one-off attacks in Syria and Afghanistan. Those miserable wars remain unabated, and your guess is as good as mine in divining what Trump will do to help end them.

Credit, though, is due on several fronts:

— Golf: Trump has played so much golf that it must be doing some good for the sport, though I doubt many young people will take to the links in emulation of their 70-year-old president. Since he won’t disclose his taxes, I say Trump should release his golf scores, so we know if anything is getting better.

— Emoluments: While xenophobia was the fancy new word learned by many Americans during the 2016 campaign, emoluments has been added to our vocabulary as he moved into the White House and turned on the open-for-business sign. I believe the White House should announce daily how much money the president made in the past 24 hours. Again, as a kind of reassurance that at least something is getting better, I.e. the Trump family fortune.

— Citizen engagement: Trump’s nascent presidency has stirred Americans and citizens throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands have marched in support of women, immigrants, scientists; Thousands of would-be candidates are lining up to enter politics; and many “safe” Republican congressional seats may be hotly contested in 2018. These are good things.

— Truth and lies: The leader of the Republican Party, the party whose great thinkers have long longed decried moral relativism, has brought us a golden age of factual relativism, in which all negative news is fake news and critical journalists are enemies of the people. This has caused resurgent interest in the literature of authoritarianism and newspaper subscriptions. It’s good more people are reading Orwell and, maybe, fewer are logging onto Breitbart.

— Nuclear war: So far, Trump hasn’t touched his nuclear arsenal against North Korea or Canadian dairy farms. That is good. The other night, though, some of his top advisers — nicely  dressed chowder heads on Fox News — were glibly weighing the pros and cons of preemptive nuclear strikes on North Korea. Let us hope that Trump, who boasts the best TiVo in the world, won’t be swayed by these lunatics. The White House just proved it could learn about the Holocaust by using Wikipedia. Maybe they should look up “Hiroshima” by John Hersey and start learning some rudiments about the reality of nuclear weapons.

— Things are complicated: Trump has been playing catch-up on several fronts. He has learned that several things, including being president, health care, North Korea, NATO, trade pacts and having a campaign under FBI investigation are complicated. These baby-step signs of humility from the man who bragged, “I alone can fix it”  last July are good things. It’s probably better to have a maniac capable of learning rather than a closed-minded megalomaniac in charge of the country.

— Business of government: In his wild AP interview last week https://apnews.com/c810d7de280a47e88848b0ac74690c83

Trump acknowledged a big flaw in the old saw of running-government-like-a business. He said he’s learned that as a public leader you have to care about people, to have a heart. That’s rarely the case in the business world, where the bottom line is all and a heart is best keep cold.

“Well, in business you don’t necessarily need heart, whereas here, almost everything affects people,” he said. “You have to love people.” This tiny glimpse into the heretofore unseen soft side of Trump may be a good thing. It’s a good thing when a national leader isn’t a heartless bastard.

I don’t expect Trump to go all hippie, “Love is all,” on us in the next 100 days. But maybe he will learn a few more things about public leadership now that he’s admitted one of the main duties is to actually care about people. That is if a 70-year-old man with super-abundant self-adulation can detect much of anything beyond the glow of his own star.

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I’ve been trying to start this piece titled “15 reasons to not sink into bottomless despair over the Trump presidency” for several weeks.

After much reading, reflection and assiduously following the Trump transition, I figured the best thing would be a more realistic, reasoned approach. I decided to rename the article “10 reasons to not (etc.)”

Still, I couldn’t find the spark to get going. Time was flying by and the Inauguration was fast approaching. Lots of people were producing woeful predictions of what President Donald J. Trump will mean for America — and Russia.

Long lists were composed of potential victims who will be tied to the tracks as the Trump Train bears down. Everyone from immigrants and women to people anxious about apocalypses triggered by world climate change, nuclear exchanges or the rise of red-white-and-blue fascism.

I wanted to follow the lead of President Obama, a man with an inexhaustible supply of optimism despite having weathered eight years of pure political hatred from the same people now talking about showing respect for the incoming president.

Obama has handled the transition with class and gone out of his way to say positive things about Trump, who only begrudgingly acknowledged his American citizenship a few months ago. I wanted to follow Obama’s example. To know there is evil in the world but to believe in a fundamental goodness in the American spirit.

I decided to rename the piece “Five reasons to not sink ….” Ten still seemed too big a number. Trump will take the oath at noon Friday, so I’d best start.

  1. Trump’s ego will deter him from making a colossal mistake and starting a nuclear World War III. While the showman in him may make him want to supersede President Truman’s mark for deploying two atomic weapons, Trump should realize he would go down as the worst president ever if he unleashes a nuclear Armageddon. Of course, this presupposes some future presidential historians will be around after emerging from glowing rubble.
  2. As president, Trump will have to correct two of his most prominent habits — whining about everything and lying his ass off. There is nothing presidential about a person in charge who constantly complains about the media, the haters or the losers, and runs for the Fox News clubhouse to gripe about it. Trump, who already faces record unpopularity as he assumes office, will find he needs to start telling it straight, if he wants most Americans to believe their president at all.
  3. The 2018 midterms aren’t far off, and Trump already has energized the Democratic base far beyond what the Iraq War and a disastrous bid to privatize Social Security did to fire up opposition to the Bush administration before its big midterm losses in 2006.  A scorched-earth campaign of deep social spending cuts, military adventurism and attacks on civil liberties likely would put Trump in the White House two years from now facing a decidedly less friendly Congress.
  4. After eight years of a no-drama, scandal-free Obama presidency, Trump has already positioned his presidency for possible doom by a thousand paper cuts. Filling his administration with a gallery of rigid ideologues, partisan billionaires, science-deniers and good old fat-cats promises a parade of holy-crap exposés, damaging leaks and tin-eared embarrassments. Trump’s refusal to divest his real estate and branding businesses will color every move by his White House with multiple appearances of conflicts of interest.
  5. Already a 70-year-old man with lots of acquaintances but few friends, Trump may very well find solace in the adage about life in Washington, D.C. — if you want a friend, get a dog. I hope so.

He’s the first president in 150 years who will enter the White House without a dog, cat or any pet. That fact is startling by itself. As far as I know, Trump has never had a pet. It could be that the renowned germaphobe is repulsed by the thought of puppy or kitten licking his face. Or, more likely, there never has been room in Trump’s self-centered life for a pet that might piddle on a fine marble floor or lick a lowly doorman as soon as The Donald.

He should get a shelter dog or cat. He’d never sink in their polls. They could console him through the inevitable dark days, as every president faces sooner or later. That’s one of the things I love about our three cats and two dogs, or as I now refer to them: five more reasons to not sink into bottomless despair over….

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160_f_1249591_0wtu4etym9fpuhafuhrwgl9fu8eoyd-1Ran into a guy I know the other day. He’s one of the hardest-working persons I know. He works two jobs that keep him running six, maybe, seven days a week. He’s a leader of his Neighborhood Watch. He runs a men’s Bible study group at church.

He mentioned the next day was his birthday, and for the first time in many years he was taking a day off to spend with his family. He said he needed to take a day to try to relax, to relieve some of the pressure that’s building up inside.

He and his wife have three children. The oldest is a boy, 10 going on 11. He said his son hasn’t been able to sleep the past couple weeks. The boy is worried about what will happen next. He said he comes home from one of his jobs, usually after midnight, and finds his son with the light on in his room and tears in his eyes.

He said he has talked with people at his son’s elementary school. They told him there are many kids feeling the same way, so many that they might bring in professionals to talk with the anxious children.

“What do you think is going to happen?” he asked me.  It was anything but an idle question.

In his mid-40s, he has lived in the Salinas Valley since he was a teenager. He married here about a decade later. His three children are U.S. citizens. His wife, too, has the legal right to be here. He doesn’t.

That’s why his son is so worried. He is afraid his father will be taken away from him. Incoming president Donald Trump has made it clear that large-scale deportations of undocumented immigrants will be a key to his presidency.

But Trump, as is his style, hasn’t been specific. He called Mexicans rapists and criminals when he started his White House campaign, and almost grudgingly allowed that some may be good people.

Trump has spoken glowingly of the barbaric “Operation Wetback” deportations in the 1950, but most recently has talked about focusing on the expulsion of 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

Trump doesn’t differentiate among felonies, misdemeanors or parking tickets, but repeatedly told rally crowds that vicious immigrants are preying every night on the streets of the nation to commit horrible violence. No matter that others put the number of undocumented immigrants with criminal records at 1 million. This is Trump world, where feelings, not facts rule.

“Whatever happens isn’t going to happen right away,” I told him. “Have you ever been arrested?”

No, not even a parking ticket, he said. I told him that’s good. Of course, I don’t know if it’s good at all.

I struggled to answer his question, to try to calm him a little. But what the hell do I know about what happens next? I fell silent.

Trump’s electoral victory seems to have unleashed fresh waves of bigotry and ignorance upon the land. Hate crimes are up, swastikas are scrawled on more walls. Nazis wearing nice new clothes met over the weekend in Washington, D.C., to soak up all the old lies about white supremacy and publicly celebrate the new president.

The worried man broke the silence, saying there was a community meeting coming up that he planned to attend. Yes, I said, there already have been several in Salinas. People are getting organized, they are getting unified. Just the other day, I went on, about 1,000 students at Alisal High School over in Salinas marched in a show of unity and peaceful resistance.

We’d reached the point where we had nothing more to say on the subject. I was tired of my attempts to lift his spirits. I thought I sounded like some idiot in Germany, who told his neighbors that those men with the funny salute are fools and surely won’t last.

I asked about his birthday plans. His wife would cook the kids’ favorite tacos with green sauce. They’d go to church in the morning. With a smile, he added he’d already gotten a birthday card from his son, the one so worried that some day coming soon his father will be taken away.

The kid probably didn’t want to wait another day without giving him the card and its message of love. It’s never too early to do that, especially these days.

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masksI just watched the sober  and inspiring day-after speeches by the president and Hillary Clinton.

Their words, while tinged with the sorrow of defeat at the hands of Donald Trump, were appropriately considerate of the norms of American democracy. The president said he would do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition from the Obama administration to the Trump White House.

They spoke of continuing to battle for rights and opportunities for all Americans, not as Democrats sore about losing to Trump, but as patriots who believe in the nation’s founding principles of life, liberty and dreams for all its peoples.

I found myself, as I did many times during the past 18 months, taking momentary comfort in these words that now seem as similar and outdated as big-hearted folks in a Normal Rockwell painting. I found myself momentarily sentimental over the lofty political rhetoric. Their words seemed to come from a distant country, as far away today as the never-defined America that Trump has promised to restore to greatness.

Those words don’t cut it anymore. Not after the tidal wave of vilification, threats and promises of raw power uttered by Trump and his supporters, which were distilled in all the chants, T-shirts and memes of “lock her up” and “bitch.”

Clinton closed speeches on the campaign trail with the cloying phrase “Love trumps hate.”

Not this time. A bombastic, vainglorious candidate who called immigrants rapists, Muslims prime suspects, women targets and journalists scum rode on to a narrow victory.

Already I’m tired of the conflicting analyses. Clinton won the popular vote, stupid Electoral College. Democrats ignored their working class base, yet the poorest voters gave her majorities.

Trump appealed to those left behind by global trade, but he ran stronger in areas with some of the best job growth. White men supported him heavily, but he also ran strong among white women. The Obama coalition didn’t turn out, but minority voter suppression was widespread. The polls got it all wrong, but social media sites advised young Trump supporters to conceal their views from pollsters.

On Tuesday night, as I had watched Trump’s victory unfold, I felt like an old man dropped into a foreign country, where public bigotry and denigration of others are the coins of a strange new world.

A couple SUVs sped past a friend and I as we walked from an election-night gathering. A few occupants shouted “Trump, Trump” as their tires squealed around a tight corner. “Man, the goon squads are already out,” I joked without laughing.

In his speech today, President Obama said he would root for a successful Trump presidency in uniting and leading the country. That is what outgoing presidents do, though the handover of power to the man who questioned his citizenship for five years must gall Obama beneath his cool exterior.

But presidents must rise above the fray. They are not just party leaders or leaders of a band of loyalists, but leaders of the whole nation. They must use words and perform deeds that evoke the best of our democracy’s identity.

Whether Trump can, or even can try, to make that long pivot is a question that weighs heavily today. He has yet to demonstrate anything remotely presidential.

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LARRY PARSONS: Dylan’s prize should come as no surprise

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800px-joan_baez_bob_dylan

1963

News that Bob Dylan will receive this year’s Nobel Prize in literature is welcome relief. If you don’t know why, you haven’t been paying attention to the race for the White House, which to cop from Dylan for the 1,000th time could be accurately called “Idiot Wind.”

I told my housemate, who awoke before me to tend to our cats and dogs and had informed me of the prize, “Wow, that’s really out of left field.” I told her lots of folks had called it for Don DeLillo, Philip Roth or Thomas Pynchon, if an American were to win.

But fitting, I said. I can think of no other lyrical poet who has made more impact over the past 50 years than the raspy-voiced bard from Hibbing, Minn.

I told Jane how I could still smell the fresh mimeographed copies, with lyrics to “Mr. Tambourine Man” in smeary purple letters, passed out by my 10th-grade English teacher. The question for the day was, “Is this poetry.” Hell yes, the class said. Most of the rest of the attuned world agreed.

The man can write some crazy couplets, turn an old folk melody into a haunting urban scream and take the American blues on rides several dimensions past the Delta’s Highway 61.

Dylan is a great one in the American canon, and anyone who says otherwise is as blockheaded as Mr. Jones.

“I wonder what he’ll say in his acceptance speech,” I said. Dylan has been known to mumble speeches with strands of unintelligible odds and ends. I told Jane that Nobel speeches are pretty heady stuff. John Steinbeck delivered a good one in 1962. But William Faulkner‘s 1950 address in Stockholm is rightfully regarded as one of the most vital American speeches of the 20th century.

We studied Faulkner’s speech in that same 10th-grade English class back in my public high school in Fresno. He discussed writing – making something new out of the human spirit – while under the existential threat of the nuclear arms race.

Faulkner said humans would not only endure but would prevail, owing to possession of a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. And the poet’s voice would be one of the crucial props on which we would endure, he said.

Anyone who says Dylan hasn’t been one of the leading poetic voices of compassion and endurance for the last 50 years — well, they’ve just never been tangled up in the kind of blue Billy Faulkner was talking about.

Jane said, “Dylan’s supposed to play in Las Vegas tonight.”

A few minutes later, I tweeted: “Things that make America great #12 & 35: Nobel literature laureate has gig in Las Vegas.”

Viva Las Vegas. Viva America. Viva Bob.

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Funny kittenWith early voting already under way in parts of the country and the nerve-wracking election barely a month away, I humbly offer the first installment of what I hope will be soothing diversion.

For the next few weeks I will offer thoughts on cats as my low-tech simulation of the thousands of adorable kitten video loops that provide feline relief from the rank world of people, which becomes rankest in presidential election years.

Why, you might say, is this daffy geezer going to prattle on about cats with the continued existence of American democracy, a livable global climate and a world free of nuclear incineration at stake? Simple answer: We have a new kitten — a shelter rescue tabby — and his daily capers make me laugh.

Longtime Partisan readers may wonder: Aren’t you the idiot who writes silly stuff about your two dachshunds, Max and Minnie, while ignoring serious subjects such as the crying need for single-payer health insurance? What’s up with doxies, you dolt?

I assure you our weiner dogs are as cantankerous, stubborn, insufferable and overindulged as always. We haven’t traded them in because we fell for a lithe, young trophy kitten. They remain on the scene and, from time to time, snarl at a cat that tries to break the first law of pet physics, which firmly states: A cat and a dog can not occupy the same space simultaneously at a food bowl without ripping apart the space-time continuum and fur flying.

Many people declare themselves either dog or cat persons, allowing no leeway to cross this deep ‘pet-isan’ divide. Just the other day, a friend who gleefully withstands his young dog regularly chewing up shoes, TV remotes, rugs and small pieces of furniture told me, “I’ve never had a cat that didn’t hate me.” He’s squarely in the dog camp.

Myself, I’ve always been ‘bi-petsual’ on the “cats are weird and dogs are in the garbage can again” spectrum of our four-pawed friends. So I decided to write about cats in a reflective way. During my days as a daily newspaper reporter, cats never arose as subjects except in the occasional stories about tree rescues, semi-tragic fires or pet hoarders.

I recall one morning I accompanied animal control officers to a sad shamble of a home in North County, where a disturbed hoarder was keeping dozens of cats, dogs and other small animals in horrible conditions. I believe they found 47 adult cats and kittens. The stench was comparable only to an election year.

For some reason, that precise number of cats came to mind when I saw reports of a big, new study that found only 3 percent of Americans own 50 percent of the guns in private hands, with an average of 17 guns per owner. But I’m here to celebrate cats, not to dwell on hoarders of creatures or things.

Writing about cats, which have been the object of human fancy for thousands of years, puts you up against renowned scribblers. T.S. Eliot wrote a book of whimsical poems about cats that provided the basis for the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Surprisingly, “Cats the Musical” has a production history just a bit longer than the current presidential contest.

Eliot, who wrote about cats using the name Old Possum for reasons known only to literature wonks, never wrote verse about dogs, or, for that matter, possums. That is fortunate. Imagine trying to choreograph dance numbers for “Dogs the Musical,” knowing that all the dancers’ powerful and graceful motions would, at regular intervals, be interrupted by breaks to sniff other dancers’ butts or to lick one’s nether regions.  On second thought, don’t imagine it all.

No one who takes pen to paper or fingers to keypad to compose words about cats will top what mad English poet Christopher Smart (1722-1771) says in the “My cat Jeoffry” section of his extraordinary religious poem “Jubilate Agno.” It’s the most anthologized piece of cat writing ever, and Jeoffry is the most famous (Sorry, Garfield and Bill) feline in English literature.

If you’ve never read Smart’s catalog of praise for Jeoffry, his asylum companion, you should. If you have, read it again. It is tonic and welcome relief from polls, spin and political hiss and spit.

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A pair of old used leather working gloves. Pure white background, soft shadows.I was a big fan of “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” when I first hit double digits in birthday numbers. That simple moose! That plucky flying squirrel! If I’d been a flounder, I would have filled their mailbag with fan mail.

My favorite sequence was when Bullwinkle got them in another pickle — “Again,” as Rocky would say again — herding a herd of worms on a worm drive of several hundred miles from Frostbite Falls, Minn., to a southern destination where worms evidently were in great demand and fetching top dollar. BigBassylvania, perhaps.

Rocky and Bullwinkle wore cowboy hats and drove the subterranean worms by furiously hopping up and down on pogo sticks to shake the ground and get their doggies wriggling in the right direction. I forget how the plan fell apart, but I recall the daring duo pogoed halfway down the Mississippi Valley driving those worms.

I rolled with laughter, delighted at the vocational prospects of someday being both a buckaroo and a marathon pogo-stick rider. Such jobs have great appeal to 10-year-olds.

This came to mind recently as one of those personal-list outbreaks took over social media for a few passing hours. Everyone on Facebook and Twitter was posting lists of their first seven jobs, and I remembered a day, when I was 20, when I tried but failed to fulfill my childhood dream of landing work as head rounder on a bonafide worm ranch.

That chilly day in late November 1971, I wasn’t chuckling as I looked for job number four or five.

I’d already been a paperboy who didn’t have the moxie to collect from deadbeat subscribers, a landscape maintenance worker at a mobile home park whose rudimentary pruning skills angered residents, and an assistant night manager at a discount (12 cents) hamburger joint where business grew especially busy on the 1st and 15th of every month, when the eagle flew on government aid checks and hungry people filled the parking lot.

p478447_b_v9_aeMy most recent job, doing preliminary surveys of future logging roads in the mountains of the Stanislaus National Forest, had ended a few weeks earlier when two feet of snow made survey work miserable. I moved to Santa Cruz where my girlfriend was studying at UC Santa Cruz. The plan for me was to get a full-time job so we could get a little home together.

After a few weeks, as winter approached and our finances dwindled, I was still looking. I set out each day to visit any and every possible job site, from the shadowed San Lorenzo Valley to the Monterey Peninsula, where  a new Highway 1 route had formed a huge construction obstacle course just south of Fort Ord’s then-bustling firing ranges.

That morning, I dropped by a gray-concrete slaughterhouse that arose on the flats just west of Watsonville. The owlish manager walked me to his office through a cold room where beef carcasses hunk from pulley chains, saws whined and men wearing blood-streaked aprons carved various chunks of meat.

As we talked, the manager sat at a desk underneath a long shelf packed with thin boxes containing large syringes I gathered were used to administer death to cattle trucked here to their the last roundup. I may have filled out an application form. As we walked toward the exit, I lagged a few steps behind the bustling manager. An older guy bundled up against the refrigerated cold whispered to me, “You don’t want to work here. Not here.”

That was kind of weird, but I never had the chance to turn down an offer. Never got a callback.

Back in the hazy sunshine, I aimed my old car north and soon found myself on one of the twisty roads between Freedom Boulevard and Highway 1. I almost missed a sandwich-board sign beside a gravel drive that fell off down the hill. On weathered plywood in fading red letters, the sign proclaimed, “Worm Farm.”

I quickly turned the car around, and probably heard Bullwinkle in my head saying something about pulling another rabbit out of his hat. I thought, “They might be hiring.”

I didn’t see anyone around the small home up near the road, so I walked farther down the hill to where two rectangular, wooden boxes lay beside each other on semi-level ground under bare winter branches. These are the worm corrals, I figured.

A woman’s voice came from above. “Can I help you?”

She was middle-aged and wearing a thick sweater, a knit cap, work boots and weathered jeans. A few strands of graying hair poked from beneath her cap. I explained I was looking for work. We stepped to one of the boxes, which were 3 feet wide and 10 feet long. The side boards came up just above our waists.

At one end, she lifted the lid and scooped into the dark loam, revealing a fat knot of writhing worms. She may have stated the obvious, “Here are the worms.” I caught the odor of vodka or gin on her breath, which rose visibly in the midday air.

Back then, raising worms — who digest organic materials and expel worm castings, a soil enricher known scientifically as worm poo — was one of those enterprises that promised piles of cash for rustic, stay-at-home entrepreneurs.

A generation earlier, it had been raising chinchillas. A few years later, we’d all encounter family members with strange gleams in their eyes as they hawked Amway products. But this day fell within a brief era replete with ads promising $500 a month if you purchased and scrupulously followed these instructions for raising worms.

She lifted the lid on the other box. It was nearly empty except for a few inches of what looked like worm-free dirt. She explained the cycles of worm husbandry. I bent over the side of the box to get a closer look.

“I don’t see how there would be much for you to do,” she said. I looked over my shoulder. Her eyes seemed to be pointed toward the far end of the near-empty box. But they had a faraway look, too, as if she were trying to measure some incalculable distance that had brought her here — to a cold hillside plastered with last summer’s leaves and two long boxes for worms.

Much later, I realized I’ve seen that same look on people at every job I’ve ever had, from the first seven to the final seven.

Just for a moment, near the end of a factory shift or after composing a tough paragraph in a newsroom, a fellow worker would stare into space, as if to catch a quick glimpse of the world beyond the work at hand. Or to somehow measure the days, years and distances that flew by to arrive at this hour in another working week. Or simply to take a short breather before bending again to labor — to earn our daily bread and, if fortunate, our fleeting notice.

Even the artists on “Rocky and Bullwinkle” probably lifted their eyes from their drawing boards, a time or two, with this bemused “look of work.” Then they resumed the immediate task, involving all those worms and pogo sticks that would leave me so greatly amused.

On this Labor Day, I salute them and all who find strength to do the work.

— In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
    Where did the masons go?
                                                          Bertolt Brecht

Proprietor’s note: OK, Partisan regulars and irregulars, those of you who aren’t trust fund babies, tell us where you cut your teeth vocationally:

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Monterey County’s oil industry is one of its newest economic drivers — or the oldest.

One beginning dates to November 1947 when the Texas Co. — later to be known as Texaco and today as Chevron — discovered the San Ardo oil field five miles south of the tiny ranch town of San Ardo. The discovery well was called Lombardi 1 and by the time it began daily deliveries of 155 barrels of very thick crude, the county’s far bigger commercial mainstays — agriculture, tourism and military bases — were well established.

DSCN0585 (2)But in another way, the origin of the county’s oil industry goes back 6 million to 17 million years, give or take a few million, when the oil-bearing geologic formation that underlies much of California’s Central Coast settled into place.

This Monterey Formation is a huge swath of shale and sandstone that stretches below rolling hills from the Salinas Valley to Ventura County and inland to Kern and Fresno counties. It holds potential for more untapped oil, though estimates of just how much vary widely. But the prospect of a 21st-century oil boom reliant on controversial, water-hungry methods to extract oil from the drought-parched Coast Range has sparked a fierce and growing environmental battle over the past decade.

In Monterey County, where the oil industry has been tucked away in a faraway and nearly forgotten corner for almost 70 years, the new oil war spurred a citizens’ push to put Measure Z on the November ballot. The measure would ban fracking and other “extreme oil extraction methods,” primarily as a protection against potential contamination of groundwater needed by farms and people. It also would prohibit new oil or gas wells, and phase out wells and ponds used to dispose of wastewater from current oil and gas drilling.

Measure Z puts the county’s oil industry squarely before voters throughout Monterey County. (Here’s a link to the website operated by proponents of Measure Z, Protect Monterey County. The opposition hasn’t created a site yet.)

The Monterey Bay Partisan will be delving into the coming shootout between environmentalists and oil industry boosters, but first we look at how we got here.

San Ado Oil Fields | San Ardo, California by Drew Bird Photography

The Salinas River runs through the San Ardo oil fields. Photo by Drew Bird Photography

DISCOVERY

The story starts near the community of San Ardo, a town town of 500 residents halfway between King City and Paso Robles. That’s where miles and miles of flat Salinas Valley cropland finally give way to rugged hills more fit for grazing cattle.

The town was laid out in 1886 when the railroad arrived and needed a water stopover. After a year, its Spanish-era rancho name of San Bernardo was changed to San Ardo to avoid postal mix-ups with San Bernardino.

From the beginning, the community had closer ties with northern San Luis Obispo County and Paso Robles than it did with the Monterey County seat in Salinas 70 miles to the north. As one old-timer put it in 1980: “In Salinas, they really aren’t sure we’re part of the county.”

After World War II, when operators began tapping wells in the San Ardo oil field, those ties extended eastward over the mountains to where bigger oil-producing areas had already grown up in Fresno and Kern counties.

The Monterey Formation had been extensively mapped and studied by geologists by the 1930s. The presence of oil around San Ardo was obvious to those who’d seen crude seeping from the ground in various spots.

When early oil ventures in Paris Valley, near San Ardo and west of Highway 101, didn’t pan out, oil prospectors turned to the east side of the Salinas River a few miles south of San Ardo. They drilled the 1947 discovery well in the Lombardi pool, and found two other pools in the San Ardo field by the next year. A county use permit was issued in 1949.

Getting the heavy crude out of the ground was a problem. More than 60 wells were drilled in hopes of tapping less viscous oil, to no avail. In oil industry parlance, San Ardo was a “reluctant” field.

DSCN0575

This map from the Drilling Edge website shows most of the inactive oil wells (purple) in Monterey County. San Ardo is in the middle of the image. King City is in the upper left corner

MOVING THE OIL

The San Ardo field was largely idle for four years. But as post-war demand for gasoline and other oil products grew, General Petroleum, a West Coast affiliate of Mobil, moved in and spent $36 million to buy half of the San Ardo field to compete with Texaco.

General Petroleum’s idea was to import light oil to mix with San Ardo’s heavy crude and heat the mixture so the blended oil would flow through a pipeline. But with the Korean War going, there was a shortage of steel to build new pipeline, according to the company’s 1972 history.

General Petroleum scavenged material from an oil pipeline between Lebec and Mojave on the southeast side of the Tehachapis. That pipeline had been made obsolete, ironically, by the switch of Santa Fe freight trains from steam to diesel engines. At a factory in San Miguel, the old pipe was reconditioned and fashioned into a 40-mile line from San Ardo to an oil tanker terminal at Estero Bay between Morro Bay and Cayucos in San Luis Obispo County.

Operating oil well profiled on dramatic cloudy skyThe first barrel of San Ardo crude arrived at Estero Bay in June 1951. The ocean-tanker terminal was active until 1999. Today, San Ardo oil is hauled by trucks and southbound trains to refineries in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas.

Of those early oil days in San Ardo, “Nobody was more surprised than I was that it became lucrative,” Margaret Barbree Rosenberg said in a 1980 interview for a University of California oral history project.

Rosenberg came from a pioneer San Ardo family, and the Rosenbergs, along with other pioneer families, still have some of the most productive wells in the San Ardo field on their land. Rosenburg said her family lost a little pasture from its 12,000-acre ranch, but cattle ranching and the new oil boom were an easy fit.

“Sometimes you go down there and see the cattle wandering through the oil fields,” she said.

Rosenberg said her family didn’t get extravagantly rich off its oil holdings.

“They bought more cars and things like that; but they’d always bought cars, so it really didn’t seem that different,” Rosenberg told the UC interviewer.

But the extra income helped keep ranch fences and roads maintained, and paid for costly irrigation equipment. That argument remains in vogue with South County landowners, who face the boom-or-bust cattle business, when they discuss efforts to block oil development.

BARRELS OF NUMBERS

Monterey County is the fourth-leading county of 20 California counties that produce oil.

Virtually all of it comes from the San Ardo field, which offers motorists and train passengers near the San Luis Obispo County line a few miles of scenery beamed straight out of West Texas.

Today, the San Ardo oil field ranks 41st in terms of productivity among U.S. fields, and is the 13th largest producer in California.

In 2015, 7.8 million barrels of oil were pumped from San Ardo, slightly more than 4 percent of the state’s total onshore production. Kern County alone produces three-quarters of California’s crude. Los Angeles and Ventura counties also out-produce Monterey County.

San Ardo isn’t the only oil field in Monterey County. Others discovered in South County, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s – include Lynch Canyon, McCool Ranch, Monroe Swell, Quinado Canyon and Paris Valley. They have produced little oil. The only one to yield “significant” amounts of oil besides San Ardo is the King City field, located near the hills west of Highway 101 six miles south of King City.

San_Ardo_Oil_Field_MapOver the years, wildcat exploratory wells have been drilled in Fort Ord, Laguna Seca, Seaside and the foothills above Spreckels, county planning documents say.

The group Protect Monterey County reported this year that 3,876 oil and gas wells have been sunk countywide, of which 1,108 are active. An oil industry trade publication says this year there are 551 producing wells in the San Ardo field and 3,683 wells on file.

The two big players in San Ardo are Chevron Corp. and Aera Energy LLC, which are also the two biggest oil producers in the state.

This year, Chevron has about 300 producing wells in San Ardo, a trade publication says. By contrast, Chevron has 16,000 wells in the San Joaquin Valley.

Aera Energy, a Bakersfield company formed in 1997 and owned by Shell Oil and ExxonMobil, has about 240 San Ardo wells in production. A smaller operator, Eagle Petroleum, has 22 producing wells.

A 2013 industry study said there were 190 employees in Monterey County working in oil and gas extraction, another 23 in well drilling, 126 in oil-and-gas support jobs, and two in pipeline construction.

A total oil industry work force of 1,233, the study said, included 721 employees in gas station jobs, 117 in petroleum wholesaling, 35 in natural gas distribution and 19 in fuel sales. In all, the number of oil industry jobs represented 0.8 percent of county employment. Total employee income came to $116 million.

A REALLY GOOD YEAR

In Monterey County, 1967 was a special year.

It was the Summer of Love, when performers Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin blew minds and ushered in a new era in pop music at the Monterey Pop Festival under oaks at the Monterey Fairgrounds.

At the other end of the county, San Ardo oil field workers labored on another chart-buster. Fifty new wells were drilled that year, a frenetic pace of almost one new well a week. Chevron was pumping 27,000 barrels of crude a day.

By year’s end, 1967 would go down as the most productive year in San Ardo history. The 20-year-old field yielded 18.1 million barrels from 885 producing wells, well more than double its output in 2015.

Oil and gas well profiled on sunset sky

San Ardo’s biggest years — in which annual output regularly topped 10 million barrels — began in the mid-1950s and lasted through the 1970s. It was regularly among the state’s top 10 producing oil fields.

Though it was by far the biggest, San Ardo wasn’t the only Monterey County field that produced oil in 1967. The King City field yielded about 135,000 barrels, and other fields produced crude by the hundreds and thousands of barrels, state records show.

Technology changed to keep pumping the crude. By the mid-1950s, San Ardo operators were turning to “thermal recovery” techniques, which were widely used in other California oil districts, to coax more of the extremely thick crude from the ground.

In 1957, an estimate for the “ultimate recovery” from the San Ardo field was pegged at 200 million barrels. By the mid-1970s, that estimate rose to 530 million barrels based on San Ardo’s response to “reservoir stimulation” techniques.

The thermal recovery methods to squeeze stubborn crude from the ground go by a variety of names — steam injection, steam flooding, water flooding, steam cycling, fire flooding. They all heat underground oil to make it move more easily through rock and push it toward production wells.

At a 2014 industry conference in Bakersfield, Chevron predicted “many more years of successful production” in San Ardo. Steam injection is now used throughout the field. More new technologies — 3D-modeling and horizontal drilling (where well boreholes turn to the side to follow layers of oil-bearing rock) are being employed, the company said.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, the Monterey County oil industry embodied by San Ardo generated little media attention, aside from occasional feature stories or “local reacts” to wild gyrations in world oil markets. The subject of oil never arose during a decade-long fight over the county general plan.

But the oil industry’s low profile vanished dramatically in recent years. Measure Z puts it front and center.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

In 2004, Chevron applied in Monterey and Fresno counties to build a 58-mile oil pipeline from San Ardo to Coalinga to connect with a major north-south pipeline on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Unknown-1The big project didn’t attract notice until two years later when Monterey County commissioned the project environmental study. Chevron wanted the pipeline so it could stop using trucks to haul San Ardo crude. The company was using 20 trucks a day, but said increased pumping could require up to 200 trucks per day.

A big increase in South County oil production appeared afoot, but public reaction remained mute. The county approved the pipeline in 2008 and subsequently renewed the permit twice. The pipeline hasn’t been built.

By 2009, the national political winds were shifting dramatically, as fracked natural gas wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado were linked to methane contamination in drinking water. A federal oil and gas lease auction in Monterey County — the first in a decade — was blocked over environmental questions about impacts on water and air quality, wildlife and greenhouse gases. Monterey County’s oil industry was no longer a forgotten cousin in a distant town. Increased scrutiny was putting it in the crosshairs of environmental politics.

It’s not the first time the oil industry has roiled county politics. In the 1980s, Congress had stopped auctions of federal oil and gas leases off the Central Coast six straight years. The issue hit the back burner with the 1992 approval of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. That put waters from San Francisco to Cambria off limits to oil rigs.

In an earlier watershed event, county residents in 1965 blocked Humble Oil Co. from building a huge oil refinery on Moss Landing wetlands. A referendum drive to reverse a county supervisors’ 3-2 vote for the refinery forced Humble pack up and go away.

What led to the present showdown? Put simply, speculation that there is a lot of untapped oil on the Central Coast.

In 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said the Monterey Formation could yield up to 15.4 billion barrels of shale oil, making it the biggest such reservoir in the country. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the common technique used to extract shale oil. Opponents say fracking threatens groundwater, increases seismic risks and uses too much water. The oil industry says it’s been safely used for years in California.

That bullish estimate for the Monterey Formation, which cast the Central Coast as the nation’s next oil capital, was dropped to 600 million barrels in 2014. Others have since put it as low as 21 million barrels, figuratively a drop in the barrel.

But a dizzying race for Monterey shale had already started. Oil operators reported inking exploration deals for tens of thousands of acres in Monterey County. Meetings on mineral rights were pitched to rural property owners. Federal auctions were readied for oil and gas rights on new blocks of land in South County.

As the shale-fracking story swelled, the pushback from environmental quarters grew.

In Monterey County, after decades of fights over pesticides, development sprawl, munitions cleanup at Fort Ord and water, the oil rush triggered new alarms.

Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.At first, the concerns were over risks from fracking wells; then over the compatibility of an industry that uses and pollutes great amounts of water with the water needs of Salinas Valley agriculture. The state’s five-year drought sharpened the debate.

In June 2009, local officials tried to slow the express train by delaying U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to auction mineral leases on 35,000 acres near King City and Lake San Antonio. By 2011, environmental groups were in court over BLM auction plans for land in Monterey and Fresno counties. They said the potential dangers of fracking hadn’t been analyzed. A planned 2012 BLM auction for 12,000 more acres fueled more protest.

In 2011, Denver based Ven0co Inc., which reported having leases for 300,000 acres of Monterey shale, abruptly withdrew its application for nine exploratory fracking wells near Bradley in the face of environmental pushback. The company complained to the county it had already spent $10 million.

This March, Venoco, one of biggest operators in the Monterey Formation, reported filing for financial restructuring under Chapter 11 bankruptcy law. The company website lists two current major oil projects, both in Southern California.

By the end of 2014, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties had anti-fracking laws on the books. Several other local jurisdictions followed suit, accusing the state of dragging its feet on fracking regulations.

Attention turned to longtime oil industry practices to dispose of contaminated wastewater — injection wells and percolation ponds. There were reports of illegal wastewater dumping. And there were concerns that injection wells put aquifers at increased risk of contamination from chemicals in wastewater and fracking material.

In May 2015, environmental groups sought to stop operations of 2,500 oil wastewater wells, which they said were polluting protected aquifers. The group Protect Monterey County says there are 109 oil wastewater injection wells (44 operational) in the county, most of them near the Salinas River in the San Ardo oil field.

Without a phaseout of these disposal methods, Measure Z says, “Water contamination could have devastating impacts on agriculture, our local economy, and our water supplies.”

As the campaign heats up over Major Z in Monterey County, another oil industry battle continues to burn in San Luis Obispo County.

Phillips 66 Co. wants to expand its Santa Maria rail terminal to greatly increase oil train deliveries to its underused Nipomo refinery. Several jurisdictions along the proposed rail lines, including Monterey County, have objected.

Citing the possibility of an environmentally devastating oil-train derailment on the coastal line through Elkhorn Slough, Monterey County’s top planner wrote to San Luis Obispo County officials earlier this year.

He said Phillips 66 hasn’t looked closely enough at bringing crude to its Nipomo refinery via pipeline. And he pointed to Chevron’s long-proposed San Ardo-Coalinga pipeline as evidence “a local pipeline is feasible.”

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LARRY PARSONS: The last word on The Donald

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donald-trump-cartoon3OK, this is the last time I’ll mention Donald Trump in the Monterey Bay Partisan. I’ve grown weary of the predictable, link-ridden comments that previous posts have invited. I’ll just go with Sen. Ted Cruz here and advise people to vote their conscience come November.

WHY I WON’T VOTE FOR TRUMP

My conscience would never allow me to vote for Trump, even if he were running his entire campaign to the left of Bernie Sanders or winking at the 1,000 points of compassionate conservatism professed by the two Presidents Bush.

Trump lost me years ago when he jumped in the engineer’s cab on the crazy train of birtherism, the malignant slur at the heart of too many Republicans whose antipathy toward a middle-of-the-road Democratic president revolved around a wildly racist theory posited by flat-out kooks.

Trump has never acknowledged that President Obama was born in Hawaii and eligible for his two terms as president. He doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. Trump took credit in 2011 for forcing the president to release his long-form birth certificate, which didn’t placate a single one of his fellow travelers in birther circles. Trump hinted that private investigators he sent to Hawaii had found explosive evidence. He never disclosed those supposed findings. He never will because he lied. He basked in the entire demeaning plunge into the sewers of political discourse because it made him “popular.” Indeed it did. He’s on the ballot as the GOP nominee.

Sorry, you don’t get to pass Go and get my vote if you’re a birther — repentant or, as in Trump’s case, not. Case closed.

BOTTOM LINE CASE FOR CLINTON

It doesn’t matter what I could say here about good reasons for keeping Trump out of the Oval Office. He will be soundly defeated in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, and he will lose in California. Going on at length about his many negatives is preaching to the choir in these parts.

I would like to see the local Republican candidate for Congress, the personable and bright Pacific Grove Councilwoman Casey Lucius, repudiate the man at the top of the GOP ticket to burnish her fresh-kind-of-a-Republican image. I won’t hold my breath, though. It wouldn’t do her any good from a purely political perspective.

That’s why Republican Congressional leaders — House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — will condemn Trump’s bigotry against a Mexican-American judge or his churlish insensitivity to the Muslim-American parents of a slain Army officer. They must go through the motions of decency. But they know the prize is winning the White House. They’ll hold their breath at any malodorous Trump exhalation to beat Hillary Clinton. They are realists. To advance the GOP agenda, they need the presidency.

I’m a realist, too. Trump or Clinton will be the next president. And the next president will appoint several Supreme Court justices, shaping the court for the next 20 years or so.

That’s why McConnell has gone to historic lengths to block Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, a highly qualified and decidedly moderate jurist. The next president will break the high court’s current 4-4 split between liberals and conservatives.

After the authority to use military force as commander in chief, a president has no greater power than to nominate Supreme Court justices. The court has the final say on crucial issues that define our country — voting rights, civil rights, free speech, privacy, executive power, money in politics, police work, same-sex marriage, gun rights, reproductive rights and far more.

GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence on the stump a few days ago predicted Roe vs. Wade, which made abortion access legal, will be “consigned to the ash heap of history” under a President Trump. Pence has his eyes on the big prize — a right-wing Supreme Court majority for the next generation. The only realistic obstacle is Clinton.

Spare me the back-and-forth about Hitlery this, NAFTA that, neocons, war hawks, DNC emails, tax returns, Benghazi, bankruptcies, Crooked Hillary, Cheeto Putin, radical Muslim terror, Monica and “lock her up.”

If Trump wins, his name will be stamped on the Supreme Court Building for years to come, long after the current, birther-born fever breaks. Bad. Very bad.

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American Flag Painted by Roller Brush, Wining Concept of FlagAs the Democratic National Convention opens in Philadelphia, there’s no shortage of drama.

Bernie Sanders backers were marching in the streets and booing leaders at the first breakfast meetings of state delegations Monday morning.

Some of the rancor is owing to the dump of stolen emails from the DNC speaking ill of Sanders’ campaign and much is simple antipathy for Hillary Clinton and her hawkish record on Iraq and Libya and ties to Wall Street.

Will Sanders be the wrench in the works — a la Ted Cruz’s boo-fest in Cleveland after not endorsing Donald Trump — in Philly for the Clinton campaign? The simple answer, yes.

— Some Sanders’ backers are so devoted to their man that it won’t matter if Sanders offers the most-ringing endorsement of Clinton humanly possible. He set in motion the revolution and revolutions are wont to eat their own. Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein is in the wings, ready and willing to drain a few percentage points from the liberal vote. If it helps Trump win in November, so it goes. Purity must be maintained.

— Trump is burning up his Twitter feed with mockery of the Clinton-Kaine ticket while trying to woo Sanders’ backers with contrived sympathy and his paper-thin rhetoric on protectionist trade policies. What else about Trump could appeal to a Sanders progressive escapes me, other than sheer anti-Clinton vitriol.

— Cyber security experts are fingering hackers with ties to Russian spy agencies for the theft of the embarrassing DNC internal emails. This adds another troubling layer to questions about Trump’s financial ties to Russia, his Putin-friendly foreign policy view of the NATO alliance, and whether Russia is deliberately acting to sabotage an American election.

Seems the FBI should be investigating the DNC hack — which is the modern version of the 1972 break-in of DNC headquarters at the Watergate hotel. But these days, even FBI crime stats are viewed with suspicion. Looking into the DNC hack warrants serious investigation, but these days, who the heck cares?

— Trump looks like he will successfully deep-six his tax returns forever, so voters will never get basic answers about his businesses, his financiers, his taxes or his charity. I would like to know to whom the possible next president owes money, but details, details. His great America has a wall to build.

— Will it be necessary for nominee Clinton to follow Trump’s lead and pivot deep into the Twilight Zone and accuse Sanders’ father of being in on the Kennedy Assassination, too, just to keep pace with Trump? Trump is enjoying a bump in the polls after Cleveland despite continuing such untethered pronouncements.

After the next four days of diversion in the City of Brotherly Love, all the rough beasts will resume their slouch toward Election Day. And what a crapstorm it promises to be.

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LARRY PARSONS: Beware Trump’s promises

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I was going to quickly — or, as Republican nominee Donald Trump would put it — very, very, very quickly offer a few takes on his 70-minute acceptance harangue Thursday night.

But I had to start early this morning to pick up a roll of special-transmission tin foil, which allows me to see all truths out there, but usually hidden by crafty Clinton spinmeisters, CIA mind-control programmers and sundry system riggers.

If I don’t set out before the crack of dawn, I would be easy prey for marauding hordes of politically correct killers and fancy-pants liberals who nightly turn the streets of America into the blood-curdling hellhole to which Trump wants to take a really great water cannon.

Poised to set off, I quietly chant, “USA, USA, USA,” in hopes of warding off any straggling, malevolent roamers intent on murdering the likes of me before they retire for another day of vampirish rest in their foul nests.

Through the slit holes in my front-porch bunker, the coast looks clear. I’m headed for the 7-Eleven two blocks away, where almost-certain hand-to-hand combat awaits me if I’m to secure one of the store’s last rolls of ridiculously overpriced Reynolds Wrap. I beseech you, Donald, give me strength. Don’t let me become another anecdote in your stump speech about all the horrible, awful, vicious mayhem that is America.

I duck behind a bush outside of Burger King, where things look suspiciously normal inside. People are taking trays from the counter and sitting down to eat. Cars, which apparently avoided crocodile-infested sinkholes that plague every street, line up at the drive-up window. Songs play from radios.

A kid on a skateboard whizzes down the sidewalk. He doesn’t appear to have a care in the world. Foolish — very, very, very foolish. As only you and I know, Donald, looks can be deceiving. They are easily disguised beneath many coats of attractive orange lacquer.

This kid could be an immigrant, a terrorist, or — Donald, forbid — not yet inoculated with the correct dosage of fear. Has he not heard your message of dread?

This is no time for happiness. Silly smiles just aid and comfort the enemy. Kisses? Don’t even think. The battle is nigh. The Donald Signal flashes across the storm-tossed sky.

I sneak a peak over the top of the bush to make certain I actually recognize the truth underneath this placid-appearing summer scene. Yes, there it is again, the hideous landscape of America where everything good, decent and inlaid with Italian marble has been torn, ripped asunder and left in shreds for lawyers and carrion birds.

“USA, USA, USA,” I shout as I zig-zag in a low crouch past a couple renting an action-movie video from one of the big red kiosks. I reach the front door of the 7-Eleven. Every nerve in my body is on high alert as I scan the aisles for evildoers.

There’s a woman by the slurpee machine, and a guy deciding which flavor of Doritos to buy. Are they really a suicide hit team? Are they going to take all the maple bars? Will they take forever getting change out of their pockets while I wait to pay for my tin foil?

I have me eyes peeled for trouble because trouble’s all that’s out here in America. And our airports, don’t get me started. Very, very, very third-world airports. The world is laughing, convulsed in laughter, giggling uncontrollably at us. Not good.

Foil secured, I duck behind a dumpster, peel off a long strip and wrap it around my head. Reception is strong. I begin to receive the truth. It is staggering, almost as staggering as the  foul odor wafting from this dumpster.

My god, I’ve gotten it all wrong. Trump says he cares about the Second Amendment more than anything. He proudly packs, and proclaims that everyone should pack to have a sliver of a chance to make it through another night on the horror-strewn streets of America.

But what did he say he would do come inauguration next January? Instantly make America safe again. Restore law and order before doing any other amazing things.

If everyone and every place in America is safe from harm, thanks to Trump, of what use will be 350 million guns in circulation? Folks won’t need them anymore to keep their families safe. Trump will do that. Guns will be useless, except to hunters and hobbyists. They’ll become passé, boring relics of pre-Trump dystopic America. You won’t be able to give them away. Into the trash they’ll go.

My tin foil crackles: “Wake up sheeple! Trump aims to take your guns away!!!! He’s a fiendish libtard con man!!!!!!!. End of transmission.”

Shaking like a leaf, I make it back home by trotting beside a lumbering farm labor bus for cover. I bolt and bar the door. It is quiet and dark.

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182285_600Day 1 at the Republican National Convention, to be charitable, did not go smoothly.

When the day’s best speech about the warm and cuddly aspects of Donald Trump is being defended the next morning as 93 percent not-plagiarized, there are big chunks of gravel in the smooth road to the White House.

But one thing I’ve noticed over the years about big GOP celebrations went off just like clockwork. Trump entered the stage out of a backlit mist of fog in a tableau worthy of a championship wrestling match, while the song “We Are the Champions” by Queen blasted the Cleveland convention arena. Within hours, surviving members of Queen were demanding that Trump Fest stop using their anthem.

Then the hippy-dippy tune “Happy Together” was pumped through the arena where delegates had spent hours cheering fearful speeches far from those “peace, love, understanding” times when that song was a hit.

Within minutes, members of the Turtles crawled out of their shells and were not happy. They demanded that their song be struck from the convention playlist.

I’ll leave it to intellectual-property lawyers to litigate the legal issues. But this stuff keeps happening. Earlier in the campaign, I recall members of the Rolling Stones asked the Trump Bandstand to stop spinning “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at rallies.

I believe the Trump Jukebox’s response to the Stones’ ultimatum was: “Piss off! The Beatles were better anyway!”

I’d suggest using the Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” for a couple obvious reasons. It’s obviously a fave on the NRA mixtape, and it’s a track found on the Beatle’s all-White Album. But I’m sure Paul and Ringo would put their Beatle boots down and demand the RNC “Hold it right there, mates.”

These dust-ups aren’t new. Anyone who knows about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his fan-boy crush on Bruce Springsteen realizes Christie’s biggest disappointment probably wasn’t being bypassed as Trump’s VP choice but being enjoined by The Boss from using Springsteen tunes on his short-lived campaign.

Springsteen has been around so long that he asked Ronald Reagan’s campaign to quit using — and grossly misinterpreting — the song “Born in the USA.”

I did a little research over a year ago about similar episodes and was struck by how many different musicians have complained over the years about their creations being used as ear candy for political campaigns.

In 2010, the prog-rock band Rush told Sen. Rand Paul — a big Rush fan — to stop using its music and quoting Rush lyrics in his speeches. In 2012, Newt Gingrich was sued for using “Eye of the Tiger” for his presidential campaign and eventually settled. Back in 2000, Tom Petty told George W. Bush to stop using his “I Won’t Back Down” in his race against that other southern tough guy, Al Gore.

And on and on. Bands from Heart and Neil Young to Katrina and the Waves and the Dropkick Murphy’s have scored publicity from complaints about their tunes being appropriated by GOP politicians. A few times, Democrats have been instructed to drop the needle elsewhere by musical artists. Still, it appears that most offended musicians — a decidedly liberal lot — get their feathers ruffled when conservative politicians use their works.

I’m not aware of anthem-style rock songs that sing the praises of cutting taxes for the 1 percent or auctioning off national parks and forests to the highest bidder. But I have a few suggestions for music the RNC could use this week to avoid any more of these kerfuffles.

Stick with songs by NRA board member Ted Nugent like “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Jailbait,” country songs used in pickup truck commercials, orchestral pieces by German composer Richard Wagner and the extra-long version of “Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph.

“Yakety Sax” makes anything fun.

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Zen waterOnly 26 days on the calendar separate the America’s worst mass shooting in Orlando from the terrible murders of working police officers Thursday night in downtown Dallas. There’s been no shortage of chilling events in the days between, from mass-casualty terror bombings in Iraq to viral videos of two lives erased in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. Following the news seems like watching a dizzying carnival ride from hell that keeps sucking your breath and hope away.

There’s no shortage of words — from the pundits and partisans on cable TV to hashtag commentators on social media — trying to frame each living nightmare with self-evident truths about who or what’s to blame. I’ll refrain from burdening heavy hearts today with anymore dashed-off tropes about guns, hate, race, religion, enemies, heroes or politics.

I’ll stop talking without thinking. I’ll stop keeping score without thinking. I’ll stop sloganeering without thinking.
So far, all I can think is that these are hard times in a woeful month. It will take open hearts to get through the days ahead, open arms to bear up one another. And knowing, without talking, what binds us together. That’s all I’ve got.

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