Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Election Day Takeaway: The Huffington Post is Dumb

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 1:54 PM

Texan strikes pose against Prop 1
  • Texan strikes pose against Prop 1
My take on these off-year election results and what they mean is not what this political writer over at the Huffington Post declared last night. The idea that disparate ballot measures and elections across the country adds up to a conservative bounce-back and repudiation of progressivism is a sad, lazy and wrongheaded conclusion to draw.

Let's take a look at the examples of this alleged conservative trouncing and why liberal pundits ought to to rethink these quickie conclusions about What It All Means before sharing them with the world. 

Unfortunately for the Huffington Post, Election Day 2015 might not mean anything, or not much, anyway—an unimaginable concept to the website, which reflexively gins up "who's up/who's down" set piece reports after every Election Day and then goes hunting, when necessary, for evidence to back up the dramatic declaration that, in this case, It's All Gone Bad.

But this year, the evidence of a conservative comeback is paper-thin and most of the conservative victories can instead be described more fairly as weak push-backs to progressive-driven campaigns and victories that have dominated domestic politics this year.     

1. Ohioans defeat cannabis legalization initiative. Ohioans defeated a cannabis legalization initiative that would have created a pot monopoly in the Buckeye by giving all the bud business to a few select capitalists. If anything, this is a victory for the progressive value that says a proper legalization effort must emerge from the grass-roots and must strive to be inclusive. The Ohio vote is only a victory for conservatives if conservatism has suddenly rejected its previous embrace of a Koch-driven descent into the American oligarchical moment. 

2. Houston rejects LGBT protections. Houston is a state in Texas, yet Texas is only nominally a part of America anymore. Yes, it's bad news that one city in the most militantly anti-American state in the country didn't extend civil rights protections to variously gendered and identified people—but the battle over Prop 1 only served to highlight that many Texas Republicans simply cannot deal with the mystery that presently lies between Caitlyn Jenner's legs. Whatever's down there, it makes them angry, and so the battle for LGBT rights in Houston devolved into a ridiculous scrum over transgendered dudes using the ladies' loo. As the debate over LGBT rights is debased by conservatives into a series of indignant potty jokes, progressives should be able to do better than weep openly on the pages of the Huffington Post about it, given that 2015 is, among other things, the "transgender tipping point" year. It was right there on the cover of Time, for crying out loud.

3. Kentucky elects Tea Party Governor. Kentucky's one of the few red states that expanded its healthcare coverage to the lesser and uninsured by accepting Obamacare and the Medicaid dollars that went along with it. The state created its own state exchange, known as Kynect, which has been reported to be quite a success story. But now there are 400,000 Kentuckians in the crosshairs who might lose their insurance if the new governor, some weirdo named Bevin, follows through on his implied promise to kill the poor. If he does, conservatives can at last take a victory lap and celebrate that their inhumanely aggressive hatred of Obamacare has finally yielded a few scalps. That's not a victory for conservatives, but it is a victory if you happen to be a sociopath or a fascist, or both. 

4. Virginia GOP holds state-Senate majority and defies Democratic heavyweight Gov. Terry McCauliffe in the process.  This one's a real stretch—it stretches right into 2016 presidential politics. The idea here is that it's a conservative "victory" that the GOP held on to a slight advantage in the state Senate because it will make it difficult for McCauliffe to enact progressive legislation. Which will in turn make it difficult for McCauliffe to effectively shill for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is a huge win for online slingers of speculative journalism, and no one else.   

5. Portland, Maine pushes back against Fight For $15. Just as 2015 is the Transgender Tipping Point, it's also the year that saw a big push, oftentimes successful, to get state and local government to kick their minimum wages up to a point where it's actually a living wage. There have been numerous such initiatives across the country that have gained traction with policymakers this year—big movement in big cities like San Francisco, New York and Seattle. At best, Portland can lay claim to a small victory in the fight against the Fight for $15, which was orchestrated by business leaders there. Yet the Portland City Council had already voted in September to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $10.10. That's called a small victory, aka progress.  

5. San Francisco rejects AirBnB regulations. Now wait a minute. How come none of these smarty-pants political analysts have declared a conservative victory in San Francisco, where voters—with the help of an estimated $6-$8 million AirBnB push—defeated a measure that would have put the popular home-share site under the watchful eye of communist regulators by the Bay. Conservatives tend to hate regulations, not to mention San Francisco, and love it when the capitalism gets all unfettered in the name of servicing the leisure class. AirBnB's victory is also a victory for conservatives, but given the hipster aura that surrounds AirBnB and the sharing economy generally, it's no surprise that the SF-based HuffPost blew it on that one, too. 

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sean Parker Goes to Pot: Billionaire all in for Legal Bud in 2016

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2015 at 12:39 PM

Parker's a member of the Forbes 400, or was that 420?
  • Parker's a member of the Forbes 400, or was that 420?

In a widely anticipated move, Sean Parker, Napster founder, former Facebook president, billionaire philanthropist and Big Sur forest defiler, announced a new marijuana legalization initiative on Oct. 2—a move with the potential to throw a wrench in California’s 2016 push to legalize.
The Parker initiative would be the second big-ticket plan put forward to gather about 380,000 signatures to get legalization on the ballot. ReformCA has already sent its initiative to California attorney general Kamala Harris as it launched its signature drive. ReformCA has Howard Dean campaign guy Joe Trippi on the payroll and the support of old-guard pro-marijuana organizations like NORML, among a host of civil rights groups. ReformCA says it will spend up to $14 million in the campaign to free cannabis in the state, mostly on advertising—but the organization hasn't yet lined up any big-time donors and is relying on contributions from its 70,000-odd members. 
So here's the emergent picture, hazy though it may be as details around this latest initiative shake out: ReformCA has the organizational muscle but not the cash. Sean Parker has the cash but, as yet, no sign of a field organization to ring up the signatures.
Which means that it's time to bring a pro-pot politician into the room for an intervention: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has been identified as the public official most likely to bring the competing initiatives together into a cooperative juggernaut of legalization energy by election day 2016. Let's hope. Newsom headed up a white-paper commission on marijuana legalization this year and has said he'd support an initiative, if it's the right one. ReformCA and Parker both worked to hew their initiatives with the general lay-of-land in the Newsom white paper, which emphasized issues around taxation and keeping the devil-weed from the hands of children. And, while Newsom has made public noises about not wanting to encourage a so-called "Green Rush" should California go legal, the capitalists are at the gate and the presumptive rush is already on: Judging from the slew of pro-Parker supporters who came forward this week, some are as pro-business as they are pro-marijuana.
Parker is reported to be chums with the well-heeled-himself Newsom and says he's ready to spend millions from his billions to launch his legalization initiative, which came out the gate with the support of organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the Sierra Club, and from tech-focused outfits like GreenRush, a California-based cannabis delivery company. 
“The involvement of heavy-hitting technology and investment leaders like Sean Parker is vital to gaining the momentum necessary for a real and robust regulatory regime critical to the continued growth of California’s world-class cannabis industry,” says GreenRush CEO Paul Warsaw in an email to the Fishing Report.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rohnert Park viral-video investigation concluded: Officer exonerated, questions remain

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 12:33 PM

Lots of finger-pointing in this story
  • Lots of finger-pointing in this story
Rohnert Park has concluded its independent investigation of a late July encounter between a city police officer and an RP resident that turned into a viral video. The verdict: Officer David Rodriguez acted properly and within police guidelines when he unholstered his weapon during a tense but unnecessary encounter at Donald McComas's house on July 29. 

A few key takeaways from the statement include the fact that McComas did not provide testimony though he was given the opportunity to do so. He's suing the city over the incident. So what we have is Rodriguez' version of events, and whatever version of McComas' that independent investigator Sue Ann Van Dermyden could piece together through his social media posts. It's unclear in the city statement how much weight was given to McComas' digital-video recording of the incident. 

The exonerating moment, according to the city statement, was when McComas suspiciously ducked behind his truck when the officer drove down a cul-de-sac in response to a civilian call that someone on the block was violating parking codes.

The city isn't releasing the full report, and since there's no account of McComas' version of events beyond what he posted on Facebook, let's take a look at the key findings and see what might be missing from the picture:   

The city statement cites the report and says, "the officer saw the resident quickly duck behind the truck after his patrol car came into view."

It does not mention that McComas appeared to be filming Rodriguez as his patrol car came into view and stopped in front of his house, and that McComas says, "He clearly didn't like that I pointed my camera to videotape him." And that McComas appears to be standing next to the truck and near the hood, not behind it, for much of the encounter as it unfolded.

Why does this matter? Next sentence from the city statement:

"The officer considered this suspicious behavior, and decided to investigate further." The statement doesn't note that Rodriguez began to film McComas from his cruiser before he exited it. "He thinks he's being funny now," McComas calmly says on the video.

Why does that matter? Next sentence:

"After the Officer got out of his patrol car, he also noticed other unusual behavior, including the resident’s agitated demeanor and his initial refusal to comply with the officer’s instruction to remove his hand from his pocket, which had a bulge in it."

The video shows that Rodriguez unholsters his gun seconds after exiting the vehicle and that McComas dumps keys on the hood of his truck almost immediately thereafter. If there's a moment in the video where McComas' agitated demeanor might be at issue, it's right there, and the behavior is anything but unusual. It appears that McComas had an opportunity to de-escalate the situation, and he instead mocked McComas while McComas was clearly freaked out—at the sight of the gun as Rodriguez begins to raise it.

"You're taking a picture of me, I'm taking a picture of you," says Rodriguez.

It's not just lip service to say that police officers have to deal with a lot of tense and disturbing situations, we all know that, but they also have a very basic responsibility to not contribute to those situation—to not escalate. They have the responsibility to act in accordance with the fact that their power is derived from the very people with whom they are interacting, and arresting. 

Police officers are now operating in the face of a public that's increasingly wary of their very presence, and a pro-police backlash that always puts the onus on the perpetrator, whether they're an actual perpetrator or just some grieving and recently orphaned kid in South Carolina who is having a very bad day at school (that just got way worse). A basic compact between citizens and the police that serve and protect them has been broken, and the blame for that does not lay with the criminals but with people who should know better. 

This endless national spasm of viral-video encounters between police and civilians is a part of Rohnert Park story, has crept into the story because of Rodriguez and his peculiar inquisition of McComas: toward the end of the encounter he asks McComas if he's a "Constitutionalist crazy guy."

At the time of the incident, Rohnert Park officials put out a statement that said that the encounter was not typical of police-civilian encounters in their city. Ya think? And the city statement following the investigator's report does the useful service in recognizing, however implicitly, that the issue here is police procedures in Rohnert Park. "In this incident, we recognize that there is the opportunity for improvement in some areas," the city stated, without providing any details. 

I'll phrase a suggested improvement in the form of a question: When was the last time you heard of a policing situation where in the course on the incident, an officer unholsters his weapon but then never arrests, detains or otherwise questions the person beyond, "are you some kind of Constitutionalist crazy guy, or something," before calmly re-holstering the weapon and driving away? No charges, no handcuffs, no frisk, no backup—not even a parking ticket? Doesn't happen too often, is my bet. 
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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trump's Unforced Immigration-Plan Omission

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2015 at 4:16 PM

Can you spot the missing word in this section of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s immigration “reform” plan? 


Did you miss it?

"...we need to companies to hire from the domestic pool of the unemployed.”

The missing word is force, and it's the only word that fits, as in: We need to force companies to hire from the domestic pool of the unemployed. 

Encourage? C'mon. Gently cajole? No way; this is Trump we're talking about. Not his style.  

It’s no surprise that the campaign never bothered to fill in the blank, and let a benignly unspecified "requirement" stand as placeholder until another day. In the meantime, there are other, quite forceful parts of the plan to distract Trump supporters' attention from the slippery omission: Trump pledges to force Mexico to build a wall along the border. He’s going to force 11 million undocumented Mexicans to leave this country. 

Read on, and he’s going to [DON’T GO THERE!] American employers to hire unemployed Americans.

Can you imagine the Trump campaign hovering over that sentence as it tried to figure out how to phrase it so it didn’t sound so…dictatorial? So...bullying? I can. 

Because, really, who are these companies that Trump speaks of? I'd venture that it's the less-tolerant wing of small business America, tradesmen and men in construction, those sorts of professions. The Iran-irate Joe the Plumbers in red-blooded American hypocrite trucks, cruising the “Real America” of Sarah Palin in search of the nearest Home Depot of cheap Mexican labor. Paleface forty-somethings with a resentful mortgage payment that's due and an open-carry hostility to those shifting electoral demographics, along those lines.

Does Trump believe he's really going to force that voting bloc to hire unemployed Americans after what they've been through these past six years? 

I think it's fair to say there’s a lot of touchiness regarding the use of force under President Barack Obama coming from the president's detractors out there in the "Real America." To wit: Why should I be forced to buy health insurance, if my preference is to stand in line at the emergency room with a don’t Tread on Me flag wrapped around my gaping wound of victimization?

Or, why should I be forced to send my children to a Michelle Obama fat camp, where they will be forced to eat granola bars and recite the Internationale at top volume? 

Force is a loaded word—so loaded that it's just about to go off in my hand—and we know who the real dictator is here. Hint: Trump smirks that he was born in Kenya, and that he’s a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid man.

The omission is part and parcel of the overarch that defines Trump's entire campaign: Elect me, and we'll fill in the blanks later as we strive to make America hate again. 

Why force the issue if nobody notices in the meantime?  

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor Day Weekend Wine-and-Bites Ballyhoo in Healdsburg, with the Crew

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2015 at 4:34 PM

The Bohemian crew, minus photo-snapper Lynda Rael and the author of this blog, who was busy cleaning Ramen stainage off his white linen shirt. - LYNDA RAEL
  • Lynda Rael
  • The Bohemian crew, minus photo-snapper Lynda Rael and the author of this blog, who was busy cleaning Ramen stainage off his white linen shirt.

Hello and welcome to your post-Labor Day Fishing Report. I had the good fortune to get invited with some of the Bohemian crew to the Taste of Sonoma event up at MacMurray Estate Vineyards in Healdsburg, on Saturday over the long weekend. The even was part of the three-day Sonoma Wine County Weekend. Glad I went. My colleagues from the sales department, Augusto Leon and Lisa Santos, Lynda Rael and Rosemary Olson, made for a delightfully fun and easygoing afternoon nestled among the sublimely beautiful vineyards and hills of Healdsburg.

There were a few highlights along the way. I grabbed a bunch of business cards as I worked through the variously packed tents to try and keep them all straight, and also took a few opportunities to find a quiet spot to take it all in. The MacMurray grounds are vast and it wasn't too hard to find some uncrowded space in the shade, in the grass, on a haystack, from whence to observe the goings-on in a spirit of bemusement and the eternal frolic. 
I had a few sips of Pinot Noir from various vineyards (am I really supposed to recall all of them? There were over 200 represented here).

There were many enjoyable bites on offer paired with the wines, which included a fine square of seared albacore tuna in a paper ramekin; a tidbit of tri-tip on toast, fried balls of mac-and-cheese, and salty oysters on the half, courtesy of ace shucker-servers (and our friends), the Oyster Girls. The latter was featured in the so-called "Bubble Lounge," where there was a bubble machine and lots of bubbly refreshments from Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards. 

Elsewhere, a cup of butterscotch pudding emerged from the Patisserie Angelica, in Sebastopol. Banned cliche alert: it was to die for.

Sazon, the Peruvian joint in Santa Rosa, put out a ceviche that was accompanied by one of the great plaintain chips of the 21st Century. Meanwhile, Santa Rosa's Belly offered up some rich morsels of fatty pig belly—another memorable micro-bite down the gullet with barely a pause to reflect that I was supposed to go no-pork-on-my-fork in my 48th year. Tomorrow. Besides, where's the fork?

Disappointments were few and far between. I saw one woman of quite sophisticated affect gnawing on a nice big beef rib and was almost moved to rip it from her fist. Never did find those ribs. The heaviest conversation I got into all afternoon concerned my attire, and the apparently unforgivable faux pas I committed: I wore white linen to a wine-tasting event. For shame! I did slobber a sauced-up strand of ramen noodle all over it within 10 minutes of arriving, which is why we have dry cleaners.

My coworkers crowed over multiple varieties of caviar on a cracker in the Bubble Zone, and we all enjoyed music performed by a bunch of bearded hillbillies, who should change their name to just that: A Bunch of Bearded Hillbillies.

As the day wore on, the wine was decanted, and people started to enter their prospective and proverbial cups, a generalized swoozy uptick in the energy level was discerned. This was punctuated at the end of the event, near the shuttle-bus stop, by a man who announced, loud and proud and to no-one in particular, that his next stop was San Francisco for a Billy Joel concert that night.

His fragrant outburst reminded me how Joel had memorably wrapped his car around a few unlucky trees in the tony town of East Hampton, New York, over the years. I did not mention this to the man or to my colleagues, but merely note the outburst to highlight the insistence by which Taste of Sonoma does not want their attendees to wind up in jail on a DUI.

The drill here is lots of designated drivers and shuttle services from points all around the region to this event and the two others that flesh out the Taste of Sonoma Weekend.

Me, I had a few sips of Pinot Noir and then switched over to iced coffee.  

My overall impression? As a relative newcomer both to California and these sorts of epic and iconic events centered around wine, my takeaway is that organizers of this vast, three-event fund-raising blowout across the county really have the logistics down cold. It's just a fantastic event, and this year they raised more money than ever, $4.5 million for underprivileged Sonoma kids, at the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction that went down on Sunday. The event had kicked of Friday at the Coppola vineyard in Geyserville. 

Given that the MacMurray event on Saturday was attended by thousands of people on a hot day, bellies bursting with wine by the end of it, there would seem to be ample opportunity for parking-lot beat-downs or other besotted meltdowns. I frankly wish I'd seen one or two of those. I love that kind of stuff, especially when it doesn't involve me.

Yet the event went down as smooth as those few last silky drops of Pinot Noir swirling down yonder in my glass.

Yes, we plucked a couple grapes from these vines on our way back to the courtesy van. - LYNDA RAEL
  • Lynda Rael
  • Yes, we plucked a couple grapes from these vines on our way back to the courtesy van.


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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Glee Club: Should Democrats still be cheering on Donald Trump as Americans go all-out ugly for him?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Save the glee, Dems
  • Save the glee, Dems

In late July I interviewed U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman to get his take on the evolving 2016 presidential race. Huffman, the second-termer from Marin County who represents much of the North Bay, said that based on his read of the politics, he’d be supporting—if not endorsing—Hillary Clinton on the basis that she was the clear front-runner and the obvious eventual nominee.

Huffman credited Bernie Sanders with injecting the race with some bracingly populist rhetoric, but stood his ground on the Hillary eventuality. He now says he wasn’t endorsing Clinton, merely prognosticating, and says there’s still a probability that she is the nominee and eventual winner—despite Sanders’ dogged popularity and the distant possibility of a Joe Biden run. “But definitely,” Huffman says, “this could still take some twists.”

Speaking of, and almost as an aside, I asked Huffman in July who he’d like the GOP to nominate and without pause—except for a quick chuckle—Huffman said he was crossing his fingers and hoped Donald Trump got nominated by the opposition party. He noted that someone like Scott Walker was a more likely candidate to emerge from the primary process.

That was then, and this is now. Huffman was one of scores of Democrats who expressed their glee over the Trump run in its early days, when everyone wanted to believe that it couldn’t possibly last.

But since his mid-June announcement that he’d run for president on a revanchist bash-the-immigrant platform, Trump has surged in GOP polling from worst to first among the top contenders, and now owns something like a 30 percent support rating, leaps and bounds above the next also-ran. He’s forced most of the other GOP candidates to swing hard right on immigration.

But Trump’s GOP putsch quickly devolved into outright pugilism: Two men in Boston beat up a Mexican immigrant in Trump’s name in late August. A large and intimidating Trumptard got in Jorge Ramos’ face just the other day and told the Univision anchor to “Get out of my country,” even though Ramos is an American citizen who lives in Florida.

So: How many Mexicans have to get beaten up or otherwise bashed in Donald Trump’s name before Democrats move beyond their glee over the politics, which appear to favor their candidate in 2016?

Huffman gave me a ring earlier this week to talk about it. He says that when we spoke in July, Trump was a “humorous sideshow and a flash in the pan. We thought he’d be gone by now. Now that it’s clear that he’s not going anywhere, we need to re-evaluate. The toxic things that he is saying about immigrants, among other things, are taking root and gaining traction with a significant part of the Republican electorate.”

There’s two elements of that dynamic to consider, Huffman says. One is that “we don’t want our national debate to be cynical and divisive,” the other is that “we are also learning that this stuff was already out there and to some extent maybe it needed to be exposed, and maybe the GOP needed Trump as a sort of reality check so the responsible, thoughtful ones could take [the party] back from the crazies.”

Responsible and thoughtful Republicans, you say? Tell me more! Huffman cites Sen. Lindsey “I’m Quite Possibly Gay” Graham and former New York governor George “Nobody Cares Who I Am Anymore” Pataki, both of whose polling numbers essentially add up to “rounding errors,” but who have distanced themselves from the promised anti-immigrant violence of a Trump presidency.

As for the Trump surge in the polls, “It’s definitely more real and sinister than anyone could have previously thought, so it’s not something you flippantly joke about at this point,” Huffman says. “This is something that may well represent a majority of Republican voters at this point in time.”

I’m not sure that this development is all that surprising. Let’s not forget that Trump tried to hog the presidential spotlight in 2011 and thought he’d be able to gain traction in the 2012 race by jumping in with a two-fisted thrust of birther mongrelism.

People seem to have largely forgotten those televised images of the smug and smirking Trump as he carelessly hurled the reddest of red meat available to a paranoid, racist right that hated Barack Obama from day one and still sees him and his presidency as somehow less than legitimate. Not because he’s black or anything.

That pseudo-campaign was largely viewed as a ratings-boost gimmick by Trump, who then still had his ridiculous reality show on TV. Now he’s back and there’s no TV show to pimp—just some immigrants to pounce on, and Jimmy Fallon to help mainstream his message. On the latter point, Trump is scheduled to appear on the Tonight Show on 9/11, where, if history is any indication, he'll be treated to a kid-glove interview from resident throne-sniffer Fallon, who never met a tough question he would actually dare ask. Perhaps he might see fit to ask about those undocumented immigrants who reportedly helped build Trump’s hotel empire. For starters.

Huffman says he offered the Bohemian his quickie thought on Trump 2016 “somewhat tongue in cheek,” and that’s fair enough. But there’s no doubt about Democratic glee over Trump. Hell, just go type “Democrat” “glee” and “Trump” into the Google search engine and you too will get millions of results.

It was safe to be gleeful when the mainstream media, already agog at the Trump phenomenon, had baked into the agreed-upon reporting cake the notion that a Trump campaign couldn’t possibly last. Mexicans are rapists? This can’t last. Megyn Kelly’s a bimbo? This can’t last! Enthusiastic endorsements from David Duke and other white supremacists? This can’t last?

Last week Time reported on a GOP focus group that was put together by messaging guru Frank Luntz. The upshot was that Trump has emerged as a Teflon Don whose most extreme positions are exactly what disfranchised Republicans are foaming after in 2016. Luntz told the magazine he was freaked out at the realization of how far the establishment GOP had strayed from the desires of this most base of bases.

The Democratic Party is not of course responsible for the emergence of a Trumptard movement, and Rep. Huffman notes that “whether we are gleeful that Trump is tearing apart the party from within, or alarmed at the way he is activating bigotry and divisiveness, frankly, the way liberal Democrats in California see this is not going to decide the race.”

Huffman still believes that at some point Trump will flame out. The script called for Bernie Sanders to have flamed out by now, too—and yet, like Trump, his crowds get bigger with each passing week.

Now there is talk of a possible Joe Biden entrance in the race. Most of that chatter is premised on a sense of dread over the Entitled One: All this email mishegas will eventually grind Hillary Clinton right out of contention, again.

Yet it was none other than Hillary's hubby Bill Clinton who may have put the wind in Trump’s presidential sails during a phone call that Clinton and Trump both deny they placed. The Washington Post reported on the conversation from early this year, where Clinton reportedly told his friend that if he did run, he’d really shake up the GOP establishment.

And that's exactly what has happened. With Clinton’s counsel to Trump, we’ve now come full circle in the louche politics of the mutual American reach-around, where Trump emerges as a rolling “bimbo eruption” in his own right, while Bimbo Boy the Original is no doubt gleeful that Trump jumped in to the race—you can practically hear the characteristic Clintonian snicker—since that’s good news for Hillary, or supposedly so.

In any case, Huffman maintains that there’s still a benefit to the Trump campaign insofar as it highlights the following: “There are a lot of racists in the Republican Party in 2015, a lot of bigots and a lot of haters, and I think we’ve allowed this narrative: It’s just the margins. Trump is revealing that it’s not just the margins—the Republican Party fundamentally has a character problem.”

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Notes on that Napa Trainwreck: Not a Laughing Matter

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 5:33 PM

He had a dream. They just wanted to have some laughs on a train.
  • He had a dream. They just wanted to have some laughs on a train.

According to Census Bureau information posted on Wikipedia, Napa County’s African American population is .4 percent of the total population of about 125,000. By my math, that means about 600 black people live in the entirety of this most hoity of toity counties.

True to the demographic it chugs through on its tours, it appears that the Napa Valley Wine Train has an issue with sensitivity around cultures that aren’t white, well-off and self-entitled to silence, or at least hushed and delicate voices, while drinking wine on a tony tourist train.

You’ve heard the story by now: Ten African-American women, and one white woman, were summarily booted off the privately owned and operated Napa Valley Wine Train over the weekend. Their crime was laughing while black: Laughing too loudly, as it were, for the sensitive earlobes of certain passengers of a Chardonnay-hued variety. 

The group, members of a book club out of Antioch, were warned and they were warned again. The women said they turned down the volume, but it wasn’t enough, so: Three strikes, you’re out. Where have we heard that one before? 

Here’s a fact I could not help but notice as this story jumped the local for an express track to certain media ignominy on a national scale: The Napa Valley Wine Train is made up of old Pullman cars. The cars are classic and well-appointed, but as the Pullman State Historical Site website explains, Pullman railroad cars are inextricably linked to the racial history of this country.

The Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case of 1896 “involved a man traveling in a Pullman car,” the site notes. It sure did. Plessy v. Ferguson was the case that endorsed and legitimized a racist “separate but equal” doctrine that gave rise to murderously unequal Jim Crow policies that would follow for decades.

Those same policies are now, not incidentally, being given a new lease on life with the advent of anti-gay Jim Crowish laws written by an intolerant Republican rump that’s already had it with the Voting Rights Act and other efforts to un-separate equality from historical racism. There’s a nasty ol’ “new Jim Crow” out there for blacks, too, and even a book of the same title that was very well-received.

Some have asked, “Why does everything have to be about race? Can’t people get thrown off a train because they deserved to get thrown off a train?”

Sure. But a little context, please: We live in a country that’s spent the last six-plus years over-tolerating right-wing weenies who believe that the Public Accommodations Act of 1964 should be outright repealed. In this fevered imagining of a purportedly “race neutral” America, black people might not even be able to get on the train in the first place. Let alone get thrown off of it. So there's that. 

And what’s the justification for such backwards-ass agitation in the service of legalized segregation? The country elected a half-black president, of course! Or was he half-white? Whatever, we’re all equal now, so shut up about race!

These are bitter times for anxious crackers who seek legitimizing purchase in a country they’ve lost to the forces of tolerance, empathy, justice, and a few other good things, some of which you can smoke or marry. So, let’s take it out on some rowdy black women on a tourist train! Next stop: Clutch that Confederate Flag and beat up some Mexicans because Donald Trump says that's how you make America great again. Whoo-hoo!

This stuff is happening all over. A lady at a nice Chicago beach recently dropped some rough and unforgiving language on a black woman whose kids had accidentally splashed her with water and did not express sufficient contrition. A police officer recently grope-arrested a teenaged black girl in a bikini for the crime of showing up in a white neighborhood for a pool party. It goes on and on. 

And here we are in sunny Napa County, white and well-heeled and perhaps the nearest thing to a “red” California county this side of Orange. But if you come to Napa, don’t laugh too loud while being black, or you may be harassed and humiliated by security officers deployed to root out undesirables, like so many neo-Pinkertons. You’ll be escorted through numerous Pullman cars of mostly white people on your way out the caboose, at which point you’ll be greeted by an actual police officer, who may or may not arrest you, but who will almost certainly be white. 

Why is everything about race, you people ask? Because the Napa Valley Wine Tour has done an abysmal job of contextualizing this episode in any way other than one that would have you thinking, “Geez, there’s quite possibly some damn racism going on here.”

Take this: A company employee who was on the train posted on the wine car's Facebook page after the incident in an attempt to turn the tables on the women. That person blamed them for escalating the situation, alleged they had been "verbal and physical towards other guests and staff" and said they had no choice but to throw them off the train.

It was a woeful gambit, dankly reminiscent of the posturing over the death of Sandra Bland in Texas last month: They escalated the situation! All bets are off!

Wrong. The women denied any of that happened, and the post was soon determined to be one of those things called a "lie." It was deleted, but not before one of the book-club ladies took a screenshot.  

The Napa Valley Wine Car is now in a state of media free-fall, derailed by its over-reactions and unable to come up with a justifiable reason to boot the women beyond, “They were laughing too loud.”  So it is no surprise that this afternoon the apologies reached all the way to the corporate media ninnies at CNN. After first saying they'd apologize to the women even though they'd done nothing wrong, the Napa Valley Wine Train today told CNN, “We were 100 percent wrong.” That's about right.  

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

We need news writers; RIP George Houser; and more

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 2:40 PM

Hello and welcome to the Fishing Report blog. Here is its history, for the sake of the permanent record: I first started writing an occasional print column about 10 years ago called the Fishing Report that used to run in the now-shuttered New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly, over in Connecticut. I've always loved to read actual fishing reports, but the original idea behind the column was to write about anything except fishing, and yet call it a Fishing Report. I grew up in the age of irony, see.  

Well, I'm very psyched to re-animate that column as a blog, and plan to actually do some fishing and write about it—just not every day. A man's got to work. With that in mind, I'll cover the waterfront, too, and whatever bits of curious flotsam, jetsam and corruption happen across my trail. Always looking for tips and leads, and a good sandwich, so don't hesitate to send an email if you've got a hot tip or crazy lead on a story, or a snack suggestion,

But let's start with this bit of in-house business: The Bohemian and the Pacific Sun are looking for news stringers who can cover Napa, Marin and/or Sonoma counties. That means we're looking for freelance reporters who have stories to tell, who know how to work sources, and who can deliver hard-hitting news stories in the 750-1150 word range with a minimum of drama and a maximum of reporting. There is pay involved, not to mention glory. Please kick me an email at with a clip or two and some strong language indicating why you're up for the job.

Before you do, however, please take note that we are looking for news stringers. It is not "news" if you are a DJ with an upcoming gig and you want to write about it. But good luck to you.


George Houser was a Civil Rights hero who lived in Santa Rosa and died yesterday at the age of 99. Thanks to locally-based Black Panther founder and activist Elbert "Big Man" Howard for linking me to this celebratory obit from an upstate New York Gannett paper; Houser formerly lived north of New York City. You'll read all about him yourself, but he was a pacifist and co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality, and his early marches against Jim Crow were a direct antecedent to the legendary Freedom Rides that would come later. Here's to Houser, and while we're at it: Here's to the continued existence of the 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution, GOP presidential candidates notwithstanding. Strike the Bob Dylan song, "I'll Be Your (Anchor) Baby Tonight" and lift one in Houser's honor. 


While we're on the subject of the GOP, I just read a spot-on takedown of NY Times columnist Frank Bruni, who wrote a real barnburner this week on the subject of Jeb Bush. It seems Bruni found him to be wanting. On his website, my pal and former editor Russ Smith finds Bruni to be a nightmare master of the hack. A classic takedown. And if you are wondering, per that headline, "What the %$&# is a 'Bruni Goo-Goo,'" only Eddie Murphy can answer that question for you. 


Got an emailed press release from the city of Santa Rosa the other day that announced upcoming plans to finish the ongoing expansion of Stony Point Rd. The work's been going on awhile, and yeah, it has presented some traffic-snarl hassles. I'll occasionally take that route home if Highway 101 out of Santa Rosa is overly congested, which it was on Wednesday.

It seems that this last phase of construction on Stony Point Rd is pretty well-timed: I came upon a crazy accident yesterday on a really tight stretch of the road that involved several vehicles and resulted in what appeared to be a downed power wire, and a U-Haul in a ditch. A civilian man stood in the road directing traffic around the downed wire while everyone else stood around and waited for the cops to show up. I spotted a guy on the side of the road cradling what at first looked like a small baby, with a worried look to his face that made me think: Uh-oh. But as I passed by I saw he was holding a small dog. From the look of things the dog seemed to be okay, maybe a little freaked out. Other civilians were descending on the scene to help out with the mess, but five minutes down the road I watched a CHP cruiser scream by to end the momentary anarchism of the accident scene.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful, except I almost threw a Jane's Addiction CD out the window in a fit of pique. 

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Welcome to the Fishing Report!

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 1:02 PM

Hey, welcome to my new blog! There's more to come, just working out some kinks here. 
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