Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Unearthed FBI memo reveals agency quietly backed off from full investigation of Andy Lopez shooting—less than a week after announcing it on Oct. 25 2013.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 12:34 PM

The Bohemian has a story in tomorrow's epic Best Of issue that's taking a look at a new documentary about Andy Lopez made by Sonoma County filmmaker Ron Rogers. As part of the research for this story, an FBI memo from Oct. 30 2013 reveals that the agency re-classified its involvement in the Lopez shooting from a full investigation to the lowest-rung of FBI prioritization, an assessment. What's it all mean? The FBI weighs in on the memo in tomorrow's paper and says the agency they did their due diligence in the Lopez inquiry. Stay tuned for more. In the meantime, here's the memo. What do you think it means?


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Friday, February 24, 2017

Sheriff Freitas trip to D.C. cost Sonoma taxpayers $2,522.90. Plus: ICE and SCSO.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 2:42 PM

Freitas addresses concerns over ICE raids in public letter.
  • Freitas addresses concerns over ICE raids in public letter.

Shannon Dower, Legal Staff Supervisor and Discovery Clerk with Sonoma County, followed up with the Fishing Report this week with some information about the cost of an early-February trip to Washington D.C., taken by Sonoma County Sheriff-Coroner Steve Freitas.

During the trip, Freitas met with then-U.S. Attorney General designate Jeff Sessions, along with five other California sheriffs. The trip was met with dismay among immigrant-rights advocates in the county, who have worked to protect the local undocumented population from the threat of mass deportation. At the same time Freitas was meeting with Sessions, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors was pushing the idea of the county-as-sanctuary—without actually calling it a sanctuary, given how loaded that word has become. Sessions has since been confirmed as U.S. Attorney General—and in the days following his confirmation, immigration agents have ramped up raids around the country and the state—but not in Sonoma County.

Dower says the Freitas trip cost Sonoma County taxpayers $2,522.90, broken down as follows:
Airfare: $595.60
Hotel: $1597.30
Meals: $300.00
Taxi: $30

(I’m waiting for further information from Dower and the SCSO about where he stayed and for how long.)

The information about the cost of his trip arrived as the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office released a public letter from Freitas this week, to regional media outlets, that it then withdrew and then resent a day later when the original letter was found to have contained some errant information.

The corrections in the second letter key in on the number of times the county informed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents when an undocumented immigrant was arrested and booked into the county lockup.

The first letter, sent on Feb. 22, reported that ICE had been contacted four times this year: one undocumented perpetrator at the Main Adult Detention Center was a felony suspect; two were in jail on domestic violence charges; and a third was locked up on a weapons charge.

The updated letter on Feb. 23 said—with “extreme apologies” from SCSO for pushing out the initial, errant info—that ICE had in fact been contacted 15 times so far this year, not four.

Here’s the updated breakdown of ICE contacts in 2017: Two felonies, three domestic violence, one weapons charge, four DUI, two felony DUI, one for violating probation; one for false identification/drug possession, and one who had committed assault and battery on another person.

What is the eventual fate of those inmates?

"We don’t release them to ICE custody," says Sgt. Spencer Crum, the SCSO public-information officer. "We simply advise ICE of the release date and if they pick them up, they pick them up outside of our jail after they are released. There is no 'transfer of custody.' We don’t know about it and don’t keep any records."

In the updated and corrected letter, Freitas also clarified the rules-of-engagement with ICE officials who are looking for a criminal suspect in the county—an entire paragraph that wasn’t in the first letter in any form, but which seems designed to set minds at ease when it comes to fears of random roundup of undocumented immigrants under the guise of a criminal investigation:

“Additionally, my deputies will cooperate with ICE agents if they are in Sonoma County looking for serious/violent criminals in the community. However, our policy is clear that my deputies working with ICE, and the ICE agents themselves, will not detain people solely for immigration violations while we are looking for the serious criminals. If ICE does not agree to these conditions then my deputies will not join them in the community.”

That paragraph could be viewed as an acknowledgement of SB 54, the Senate bill proposed by California Senate pro Tempore Kevin DeLeon that would make California a sanctuary state, and restrict local law enforcement participation in ICE raids. In part, the de Leon bill reads, “State and local participation in federal immigration enforcement programs also raises constitutional concerns, including the prospect that California residents could be detained in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, targeted on the basis of race or ethnicity in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, or denied access to education based on immigration status.”

At the same time, SB 54 would also restrict California law enforcement agencies from, “Giving federal immigration authorities access to interview individuals in agency or department custody for immigration enforcement purposes.” And yet it appears that SCSO may have done that on 15 occasions so far this year—gave ICE a heads-up on potential deportees, including a handful locked up on what appear to be non-violent, non-felony charges.

Freitas says in his letter that his main concern is the public safety of county residents, "regardless of your citizenship or immigration status."

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sonoma Sheriff's Office responds to set of questions about Sheriff Freitas meeting with Jeff Sessions

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 4:24 PM

Below, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office public-information officer Sgt. Spencer Crum addresses a set of questions posed this morning to SCSO about Sheriff Steve Freitas' meeting with AG-designate Jeff Sessions.

BOHEMIAN: The Examiner story noted that the sheriffs who met with Sessions support him as the AG-designate and "back Sessions' stance on immigration." I did not see Mr. Freitas directly quoted in the article saying that so I am giving him the chance here to let our readers know whether he does support Sessions, and some clarity on what Mr. Freitas actually supports. For example, Sessions supports deportation of so-called Dreamers under DACA. What's the Sheriff's view on DACA?
SGT. CRUM: Sheriff Freitas believes in cooperating with our federal counterparts to keep communities safe. His viewpoints have widely been shared with the community and can be found on a video on the front page of our website. Sheriff Freitas has a policy that Sheriff Deputies cannot ask anyone about their immigration status and we do not assist ICE in immigration raids, based solely on immigration. If someone is committing crimes, we will do our best to enforce the law or assist any law enforcement agency.
BOHEMIAN: How did this meeting come about? Was Mr. Freitas invited to join the other Sheriffs at the request of Mr. Sessions? I'm curious about how this unfolded and who and what prompted a meeting of these six sheriffs.
SGT. CRUM: Sheriff Freitas will be back next week and can respond how the meeting with Sessions came about.
BOHEMIAN: What is Sheriff Freitas' view of any state, city, or county-wide effort to enact policies that generally fall under the rubric of "sanctuary." Does Mr. Freitas support any local, state or county efforts aimed at shielding or undocumented aliens from their potential interactions with ICE agents?
SGT. CRUM: directs to see answer to first question.
BOHEMIAN: What is Sheriff Freitas' view of Mr. Sessions long-held anti-cannabis viewpoints? Does he share Mr. Sessions view that cannabis should continue to be outlawed at the federal level?
SGT. CRUM: Sheriff Freitas doesn’t answer to Sessions’ views. Sheriff Freitas’ opinion has always been that marijuana possession, cultivation, use, transportation and sales should be illegal. This has been widely publicized through the Proposition 64 campaign and hasn’t changed.
BOHEMIAN: Who paid for this trip to Washington, and if this was a taxpayer-funded trip, what was the total cost of the trip to meet with Sessions? Did any other members of SCSO also take this trip, and was the sheriff part of any meetings with the president himself during this trip?
SGT. CRUM: This is taxpayer funded trip. No other members of the Sheriff’s Department accompanied him. President Trump addressed the group, welcoming them and expressed his support of local law enforcement entities. Sheriff Freitas did not have any meetings with the President. Cost hasn’t been determined as he is still on the trip. We have no responsive records.
BOHEMIAN: Was there any notification or advance notice, a press release or any public announcement, from SCSO, that announced Mr. Freitas' trip and visit with Mr. Sessions?
SGT. CRUM: No announcement was done ahead of time. Sheriff Freitas attends these conferences on a yearly basis.
BOHEMIAN: As elected Sheriff of Sonoma County, can the Sheriff provide a statement or comment that lays any of his specific concerns that may have arisen in the weeks since Trump took office, especially as those concerns might impact on LE in Sonoma County and/or in addressing issues where the county's undocumented population intersects with law enforcement?
SGT. CRUM: directs to response to first question.
BOHEMIAN: Lastly and very generally, why did Sheriff Freitas meet with the AG-designate given that he hadn't been confirmed at the time of the meeting?
SGT. CRUM: Sheriff Freitas met with Senator Sessions to discuss opportunities to keep our community safe and understand how local and federal agencies would best work together to achieve ultimate goal of community safety.

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Sonoma sheriff meets with Sessions in DC, questions ensue

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 11:49 AM

further dispatches from upside-down America - U.S. TAXPAYERS
  • U.S. taxpayers
  • further dispatches from upside-down America
The conservative Washington Examiner reported this week that Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas was among six California sheriffs who met with Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, with a headline that noted the sheriffs "back Sessions stance on immigration."

In fairness to Freitas, the story does not quote him saying that he backs Sessions' stance on immigration. It doesn't quote him at all, in fact. The article was mostly framed around county-level interactions with Federal immigration officials (ICE) and undocumented immigrants in the county lockup. And the elected sheriff of course has an obligation and a responsibility to understand the intentions of the incoming AG—regardless of party or the fact that the man in the White House is kind of a maniac.

The Examiner story appeared just as the GOP-ruled U.S. Senate was putting the gag on Elizabeth Warren for reading a letter from Coretta Scott King that highlighted Sessions' vote-suppression history and generally lousy attitude toward elder minorities. The Alabama Senator will likely be confirmed this week.

Here's a money quote from the Examiner story: "After their meeting, the sheriffs said they are seeking Sessions' support once he becomes attorney general as expected on Wednesday. That includes working together on several California-specific problems that are tying their hands when it comes to keeping illegal immigrants convicted or charged with major crimes detained in order to work with federal immigration authorities."

This morning I sent off a set of questions to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office public information officer, Sgt. Crum, seeking some further information about the trip undertaken by Sheriff Freitas. Here's the gist of what I sent, which was also forwarded to the public-record compliance administrator at the county.

* The Examiner story noted that the sheriffs who met with Sessions support him as the AG-designate and "back Sessions' stance on immigration." I did not see Mr. Freitas directly quoted in the article saying that so I am giving him the chance here to let our readers know whether he does support Sessions, and some clarity on what Mr. Freitas actually supports. For example, Sessions supports deportation of so-called "DREAMERS" under DACA. What's the Sheriff's view on DACA?

* How did this meeting come about? Was Mr. Freitas invited to join the other Sheriffs at the request of Mr. Sessions? I'm curious about how this unfolded and who and what prompted a meeting of these six sheriffs.

* What is Sheriff Freitas' view of any state, city, or county-wide effort to enact policies that generally fall under the rubric of "sanctuary" protections against federal immigration raids or other efforts directed at the undocumented? Does Mr. Freitas support any local, state or county efforts aimed at shielding or undocumented aliens from their potential interactions with ICE agents?

* What is Sheriff Freitas' view of Mr. Sessions long-held anti-cannabis viewpoints? Does he share Mr. Sessions view that cannabis should continue to be outlawed at the federal level?

* Who paid for Sheriff Freitas' trip to Washington, and if this was a taxpayer-funded trip, what was the total cost of this trip to meet with Sessions? Did any other members of SCSO also take the trip to D.C., and was the sheriff part of any meetings with the president himself during this trip?

* Was there any notification or advance notice, a press release or any public announcement, from SCSO, that announced Mr. Freitas' trip and the scheduled visit with Mr. Sessions?

* As elected Sheriff of Sonoma County, can the sheriff provide a statement or comment that lays any of his specific concerns that may have arisen in the weeks since Trump took office, especially as those concerns might impact on law enforcement in Sonoma County and/or in addressing issues where the county's undocumented population intersects with law enforcement?

Will keep readers posted once I hear back from SCSO.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Up Against the Wal-Mart

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 11:42 AM

The Wal-Mart General Tso's is actually quite tasty - WALMART.COM
  • walmart.com
  • The Wal-Mart General Tso's is actually quite tasty
Hello, it's been awhile. Many strange and unsettling things have been happening over the past month and, well, where does one begin? How about with Wal-Mart, and the Sonoma County District Attorney? Got a press release earlier today from Joseph Langenbahm, the spokesman, who announced that D.A. Jill Ravitch and 22 other district attorneys around the state had settled with the mega-corporation over a lawsuit that teed off on plastic products sold in California "that were misleadingly labeled as 'biodegradable' or 'compostable' in violation of California law."

Whoops. Wal-Mart's now on the hook for $940,000 in penalties and pay-outs. Here's some backdrop provided by the DA's office: Back in 2004 the state passed a bunch of laws under the Public Resources Code, which limited the sale of plastics marked as biodegradable on the reasoning that degradability is a relative term subject to the whims of the environment within which the plastic is deposited. For example, landfills don't have a whole lot of oxygen in them, "which can significantly hamper the ability to biodegrade," according to the D.A.'s office. Without proper labeling to indicate as much, the claims are "inherently misleading to consumers purchasing plastic products based on an assumption that the products will quickly biodegrade after disposal."

Now Wal-Mart is forbidden, as in verboten, to offer labeling on plastic products that claim the product is biodegradable, degradable or decompostable, according to Langenbahm's missive (the ruling also applies to an outfit called Jet.com, a WalMart subsidiary). The penalty is split three ways: $875,000 in civil penalties for Wal-Mart; a $50,000 payout to CalRecyle "to fund testing of plastic products marketed to consumers as compostable or degradable," and another $15,000 in civil penalties from Jet.com. The county's windfall in the suit is not insignificant, as the Sonoma County's Consumer Fraud fund "will receive $89,000 as a result of the resolution."

Speaking of frauds, and in other news—the end is near? China, whose many and inexpensive plastic products find their way to Wal-Mart, not to mention Trump-run gift shops, is ratcheting its nuclear profile and pointing big bombs at California as Steve Bannon declares that there's definitely gonna be a war in the South China Sea, stay tuned. I've always said that America would never sanction a war against China, given our national fixation on Chinese takeout. I am not so sure Gen. Tso would agree, the chickenhawks are unloosed and it's getting downright freaky out there.
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Thursday, December 22, 2016

50 Songs to Commemorate the Death of the Great American Experiment in Democracy

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 8:24 AM

Here's a bunch of music that in some way or another might provide you with some sonic shelter from this particular storm that's a-brewin'.

1. Sister Rosetta Tharpe

“Didn’t It Rain”
Oh, but didn’t it rain, my brothers and sisters. Rained 2,800,000 popular votes in favor of the losing candidate. Rained vile, nutty outbursts that continue to this day in the terror-tweeter moment. And now it is cold, soooooo cold, the Putin vortex cometh, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe is singing for the swinging kids of London, circa the mid-sixties and live on a train platform. Oh, man, didn’t it rain. Dance between the raindro ps, in a spirit of celebration and defiance.

2. Rainbow
“Can’t Happen Here”
Or can it? Has it? What happened, Ritchie Blackmore? Here's a hard-rock classic from the early eighties that sort of spells out an oil-fouled future as seen through the bulging white slacks of Joe Lynn Turner, vocalist.

3. Missing Foundation
"Kingsland ’61"
Missing Foundation was a legendary New York band, if you can even call them that, who were on to this whole "1933, the Party's Over" business long before Glenn Beck put on a Christmas sweater and asked us all to forget about his past sins. This track is a total brain-scraper and you'll quickly appreciate its uses as a primal-therapy tool—let it be your guide to an anarcho-cathartic release of a most gratingly angry variety.

4. John Brown’s Body
“Orange and Gold”
John Brown was an American abolitionist hero of the first order who lived in the Adirondack mountains of New York. John Brown's Body is a American Reggae band from Ithaca, New York. Orange is the color of American fascism. The toilets are gold and you know what they are full of.

5. Drive By Truckers
“Surrender Under Protest”
American Band was a great 2016 release from Drive-By Truckers, a kick-it-easy Southern-altrock offering with punchy, poignant lyrics that take on all sorts of rolling American injustices and political issues and is definitely not your daddy's "Sweet Home Alabama," Kid Rock.

6. Johnny Cash
"The Battle Hymm of the Republic"
Gee whiz, I am trying not to be divisive or anything here—I know how those Trump people really want us all to stand together, as one, and kiss the ring (or else)—and so I thought this offering from Johnny Cash might serve as a kind of olive branch to our friends in the alt-right Confederacy of their hate-damaged minds. In the lead-in to this performance on his short-lived TV show, Cash talks about how he could imagine soldiers on either side of the war of Northern Aggression singing this patriotic classic as they headed home and into the loving arms of their webbed-feet children. Well he doesn't actually say that.

7. Fiona Apple,
“Trump’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire”
Not really sure what message Fiona is trying to convey here in this nuanced Christmas offering to the president elect but she seems to be suggesting that we cook his testicles. Trump McNuggets? Ewwww. I don't about that, Fiona, but this stuff is pretty funny.

8. Boyd Rice
“Total War”
A cartoon character that looks suspiciously like Donald Duck, and is carrying a giant Swastika on his back while meat-faced men in fascist-chic attire make menacing faces? That sounds about alt-right. Boyd Rice is this kind of scary and somewhat inscrutable musician-provocateur whose art-fuck heyday included a notoriously knife-wielding picture taken with the leader of the American Front, which ran in the pages of Sassy. He says it was a prank and if the Wikipedia entry is to be believed, he's a Social Darwinist and an authoritarian, and if a 2006 Stormfront posting entry on him is to be believed, Rice is not a Neo-Nazi but would rather you just called him a fascist. Okay then. I guess this is the sort of alt-right nomenclature stuff we have to get used to.

9. The MC5
"The American Ruse"
The MC5 were the revolutionary White Panther vanguard rockers of the 1960s, probably best known for the barn-burning "Kick Out the Jams." But this grooving little slice of agit-rock feels right up our current alley, it's a total killer, and here they are playing it on British TV. Plus they were from Detroit, which is in Michigan, which is where this year's sinister Russian ruse played out, if those reports about Paul Manafort's electoral counsel to Trump are to be believed, and why not?

10. Patti Smith
"A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall"
Speaking of the MC5, Patti Smith (who was married to MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith) was asked to perform at the Nobel event honoring Bob Dylan’s award this year. An extraordinary moment ensued. Smith stumbled partway through the iconic song and it came to a hard, awkward stop, mid-verse. Patti soldiered on after an apology to the audience, and not long after, there was another moment of potential stumble—but this time she persevered and pushed through to the rousing, uplifting end. Lots of people watched this and thought she stumbled in a moment of clarity about our times, the clear menace afoot, the hard rain is already falling. The imperfection of the performance rendered it to an exquisite, humble perfection, sort of in the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, where you repair broken pottery with gold, highlighting the breaking point as the source of strength.

11. Sonic Youth
"Teenage Riot"

C'mon millennial kids, time to hit the streets. I hope it works out your way. This map says it should, right? 

12. Mark Arm
"Masters of War"
The Mudhoney frontman put out this version on the Dylan classic around the same time everyone started wondering about this kid Kurt Cobain, and this will be the last time I mention or highlight a Dylan track in this list and will warn readers in advance that there are no Nirvana songs coming up. The lyrics to "Master of War" are extremely bitter and brittle, and Arm's delivery does the song total justice.

13. The Exploited
The best part about this classic from Scottish punks the Exploited is when lead singer Wattie Buchan calls the White House and gets hooked up with a secretary in the executive branch. "Can I speak to Mr. Reagan please?"  No, but have a nice day. Republicans used to be so pleasant. Whatever happened?

14. Mariee Sioux
"Two Tongues"
I saw Mariee Sioux perform this First Nations song not long ago in Pt. Reyes and have listened to it just about every day since then, a welcome, gentle, trippy earworm for this season of the mean. The fork-tongued people have indeed stolen our Democracy, lies and betrayals as far as the eye can see, and she sees right through it like a candle in a buffalo's eye.

15. Zero Boys
"Civilization’s Dying"
Apparently some Norwegian futurist-scholar who looks like Bernie Sanders predicted everything correctly in recent years, including the fall of the Soviet Union, and he recently predicted that the American Empire will collapse by 2020, regardless of who is nuking North Korea. At least we have the Zero Boys as we dance on our own grave.

16. Neil Young
"Keep on Rockin' in the Free World"
For now, at least. In the meantime, Neil, stop hanging up on reporter-fanboys from Newsweek when they ask you a question you don't like. That's straight out of the Trump media handbook, and it's unseemly.  

17. The Ramones
"The KKK Took My Baby Away"
"I'll take classic punk songs for $600, Alex."
"This Ramones song is reportedly about how right-wing Johnny stole left-wing Joey's girlfriend, and is not, as some have suggested, Steve Bannon and Ivanka Trump's plan for subsidized child care under the Trump administration."
"What is the KKK Took My Baby Away, Alex?"
"Right you are!"

18. The National
"Start A War"
This song isn't about starting an actual war but it does have a choice lyric that I think of whenever someone mentions how Hillary big-footed the Democrat primaries this year: “We expected something, something better than before. We expected something more.” Maybe next time.

19. The Chills
"Pink Frost"
Not your president? Not your country? Thinking of taking a little respite from the ol' U.S.A. as it sorts out its problem? You might consider New Zealand as an alternative to moving to Canada. For one thing, the music scene is way cooler, they don't like nuclear bombs, and haunting songs like this one from the Chills come complete with ugly sweaters that are nevertheless kind of comforting and lord knows I could use some comfort right about now in this year of the chilling effect.

20. Gorecki
"Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"
I first listened to Gorecki's Third Symphony around 2009 and in very short order it became one of my all-time favorite pieces of recorded music, on the list between the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and Big Mama Thornton's take on "Wade in the Water." I can't write about it or I'll start weeping again, sorry.

21. Nina Simone
"Mississippi Goddamn"
...and she means every word of it.

22. Iron Maiden
"Run to the Hills"
The Canadian Rockies are pretty hilly, but they do have mountains in New Zealand as well, big ones. (see #19)

23. Pharaoh Sanders
"The Creator Has a Master Plan"
And perhaps he does. I'd like to see his tax returns while we're at it.

24. Jimi Hendrix
"Machine Gun"

On the advice of the High Holy Hippies of Bolinas, I've decided that I'm “gonna pick up my axe and fight like a farmer," just like Jimi. This guitar will kill fascists dead.

25. Eminem
"Campaign Speech"
There are some extremely wicked, raw and aggressive anti-Trump rhymes on this Slim Shady election-season outburst. And then there's lines like "got slapped with a Colin Kaepernick practice sock." I pledge allegiance to this extremely nasty piece of music. 

26. The Rolling Stones
"Commit a Crime"
The Stones Blue & Lonesome is the album of the year and "Commit A Crime" is pretty much exactly what just happened and continues to happen in the criminal kleptocrat conspiracy now coming into harsh relief. I wrote about this album recently and considered it the best news of 2016, but in reality it's the second-best news of 2016. The best news of 2016 in these parts is none of your business but see #27 for a hint.

27. Sly and the Family Stone
"Family Affair"
It's a family affair, see.

28. Ian Whitcomb and the White Star Orchestra
"Frankie and Johnny"
You arrange the deck chairs, and I'll hum the old classic and keep an eye out for polar bears floating around on ice cubes, wondering whatever happened to the icebergs of their frosty arctic youth.

29. William S. Burroughs
"The Junky's Christmas"
Here's an uplifting tale of a desperate junky trying to score some smack who finally gets the fixins for a proper fix, but just as he's about to shoot up, he hears a guy in the hotel room next door moaning in pain, with kidney stones. The junky takes pity and gives his drugs to the guy, shoots him up and eases his pain. Redemption follows. Moral: It's the small gestures of sacrifice and decency that are going to get us through this. Or heroin.

30. Tom Petty
"I Won't Back Down"

And nor shall I. Nor should you.

31. Iggy Pop
"The Passenger"
Sure, I could have included "Search and Destroy" and been a street-walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm, just like angry Iggy. But the mood invoked by "The Passenger" feels more appropriate and provides a kind of nerve-balm—Iggy's just checking out the scenery, letting it pass without judgement or comment and it speaks mightily to the power of bearing witness as a form of resistance. If you let it.

32. Blind Willie McTell
"Razor Ball"
The classic from McTell keeps coming to mind whenever I check to see if Trump has nabbed any talent for his upcoming inauguration ball. This is my kind of ball, I mean hall, down around the Razor Ball.

33. The O'Jays
The early seventies classic is a staple in the New Orleans second-line marching band scene and is the perfect track to describe the two-faced plantation liberalism that characterizes the white-dominated political and media landscape down there. Closer to home, "He smiles in your face, even as Trump says the media's a disgrace."

34. Santana
"Soul Sacrifice"
The drummer is just a flat-out monster, and everyone is tripping balls. Meanwhile, the nation has just sacrificed its soul to the forces of racist hatred, but we can always get naked and pretend we're at Woodstock or something.

35. Husker Du
"I'm Never Talking to You Again"
Correct. I didn't really care when you voted for Bush, twice, cousin. He was horrible but not an outright fascist, and people can agree to disagree. However.

36. Sonny Sharrock
"Promises Kept"
I can name a few: Osama Bin Laden, health care for millions of struggling Americans, clean-energy revolution, saved the auto industry, equal pay for women, the list is long and strong. As is this track from the late free-jazz skronkmeister Sonny Sharrock.

37. The Frogs
"Grandma's Sitting in the Corner with a Penis in her Hand Going No, No, No, No, No"
Sorry Grandma, they really did repeal Obamacare and privatize Social Security and gutted Medicare, and left you holding the bag.

38. The Fugs
"CIA Man"
Russian hackers and the FBI is whackers, but the CIA, man—they called it.

39. Captain Beefheart
"Dachau Blues"
It is critical to bust out this harsh old Captain Beefheart classic whenever an anti-Semitic jackass should come to occupy a position of  high power. Never again means never fucking again.

40. Allen Ginsberg
"Capitol Air"
Times like these is when I really miss Ginsberg's presence in the American culture, because of punchy numbers like this. I got to know Ginsberg a little after interviewing him way the heck back and one time he said that I had a "haunted quality" about me. I had to agree, and it's only gotten worse since election day. Then he tried to pick me up.

41. Slash
"Godfather Theme"
Someone's going to be terror-tweeted into sleeping with the fishes before this is all over, don't you think?

42. Eric Idle
"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
Tomorrow is another day, another chance to resurrect our broken Democracy and lift our heavy hearts. A weighty cross to bear indeed, and so it is important to retain a spirit of mirth.

43. NOFX
"Idiots are Taking Over"
As if any further explanation is necessary.

44. Adicts

"Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out"
The Adicts turn the Timothy Leary LSD slogan into a catchy pop-punk tune and make me remember the time I was editing the college radio newsletter and suggested that people turn off, tune out, and drop dead. I'm feeling some of that spirit scanning the Breitbart headlines this morning.

45. Big Mama Thornton
"Let's Go Get Stoned"
Let's, while there is still time.

46. The Action Swingers
"Fear of a Fucked-Up Planet"

Long live Ned Ludd, who called it in 1994.

47. Nirvana
"The Man Who Sold the World"
Okay, so I lied. Did I lie? The media lied. See #12? Who wrote that? Did I write that? I never wrote that. Disgusting media.

48. Bob Dylan
"Not Dark Yet"
Goddamn this whole lying thing is becoming a big problem (See #12). Are you calling me a liar? No, you're a liar. No, you're a liar. Well anyway, it's not dark yet...but it's gettin' there. Check back with me on on Jan. 21.

49. Peter, Paul and Hitler
"Trump the Magic Fascist"
It's an alt-right sing-along, folks! And just in time for a prime-time performance at the inauguration! "Oh, Trump the magic fascist/lied by the sea/and grabbed that pussy at the ballot box/all the way to the West Wing."

50. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
"That's All"
Brothers and sisters, thanks for taking a spin through this list. I leave you with another classic from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and this one with the choice lyric:
Listen, people fighting one another
And think they're doing swell
And all they want is your money
And you can go to heeeeyyyyy

That's all.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Lord Monckton of the House of Wingnuts

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 4:21 PM


Last week an email came to the office that said Lord Christopher Monckton would be hosted at the Lomitas School House in Santa Rosa in a talk entitled “Using ‘Climate Change’ to Attack Rural America.” But by popular if not populist demand, the event was moved late last week to the city-owned Finley Community Center, which will host Monckton Dec. 7 in its senior wing.

The Monckton talk in Santa Rosa is one of four taking place in California this week sponsored by the Eagle Forum (and co-sponsored locally by North Bay Patriots).

The Eagle Forum is the hard-right organization founded by the late Phyllis Schlafly, known for its stridently anti-immigration, anti-feminist, “pro-family,” anti-globalist agenda.

The president of the California Eagle Forum is a woman named Orlean Koehle, who founded the Sonoma County Land Rights Coalition back in 2006. She lives on land outside of Santa Rosa and recently published a book that detailed plans for an upcoming one-world religion. Her website warns that “many believe [it] will be an Islam/New Age/pagan religion.”

Monckton is a British climate-change denialist and Brexit proponent, and a press release announcing his appearance says the issues are indeed related. “The control that the European Union was exercising over the British people and their property and water rights is similar to the controls we are experiencing in rural America today—using the excuse of climate change.”

A review of online resources and reports that have popped up over the years highlight that Monckton, besides the climate-change denialism, has been a proponent of the birther lie about President Barack Obama and has also, in the past, called for the quarantine of HIV-AIDS patients in internment camps. That’s a pretty grim tidbit to read about during a week of moving Worlds AIDS Day remembrances—and during a month when hard-right fearmongers have raised the specter of similar camps for American Muslims.

The press release that was sent to the Bohemian says to contact Sebastopol Eagle Forum member Carol Pascoe to reserve a space for the event. I did so while it was still booked at the school-house and asked Pascoe while I had her on the phone about Monckton’s embrace of birtherism. Pascoe says she “wasn’t sure about that one” and has seen “a lot of evidence,” including the movie on the subject by Dinesh D’Souza, who is both a conservative and a convicted felon. “It does bring up a lot of questions.”

As for the Eagle Forum’s "pro-family" views when it comes to equal rights for gays, Pascoe notes that lawmakers like Jerry Brown defied the will of the people when they ignored the California gay-marriage ban enshrined in Proposition 8, which passed in California in 2008 only to be overturned in court two years later.

Pascoe didn’t return a follow-up call about the move to the larger venue, which is owned by the city of Santa Rosa. The city administrator who oversees the rentals says there is one standard for potential renters of public space: “I rent to any group that pays,” says Loretta Van Peborgh. That would include David Duke or the Ku Klux Klan if someone wanted to host them in Santa Rosa, she says. “We would have to rent to them,” under First Amendment free-speech protections.

Long live the First Amendment, which also protects the free speech and free-assembly rights of citizens who may take issue with the assertion that Lord Monckton is, as the press release announcing his imminent arrival says, “a very well informed authority on the fraud of climate change.”

The Monckton talk takes place Dec. 7 at the Finley Community Center, Person Senior Wing Auditorium, 2060 West College Ave. Santa Rosa. There’s a potluck dinner at 6pm and the program runs from 7-9pm.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Big Rock in the Middle of the Desert

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 8:18 PM

The rock is there to be avoided but not ignored - WIKIPEDIA
  • wikipedia
  • The rock is there to be avoided but not ignored

You know the parable of the big rock in the middle of the desert, right? The parable of the big rock in the middle of the desert is you’re driving in the desert and you see a big rock ahead. You have more than enough time to avoid the rock, there’s plenty of space to get around the rock, you can easily not hit the rock, and you keep driving along and of course you hit the rock anyway. There’s your president-elect and the election night meltdown of expectations and assumptions about the inevitable victor. Guilty as charged. I hit the rock. Ouch.

Back in 2004 I canvased for a while in New York City, collecting money for the DNC on behalf of the Democratic Party and its candidate for president that year, Secretary of State John Kerry.

I did a little story about the canvasing experience after the fact and there was a notable encounter on the Upper East Side that I reported on. This was of course Bush’s re-election campaign after a disastrous first term and I was out there on a sidewalk, people whisking by, and one woman took a look at me with my red DNC shirt and clipboard and rushed past me as she said—don’t worry, we’ll definitely get him this time.

I suggested in the story I wrote that she might not want to be so sure about that. That year she hit the rock that I saw coming. And yet this time around—I totally blew off the rock, couldn’t imagine or fathom the rock, and slowly succumbed to faith over reason and the lure of the unobstructed view. I thought about that story earlier this year in the early summer when I was sure Orange Sunshine would win—I'm calling him Orange Sunshine because I'm trying to stay positive—but then pivoted to there's no way this can happen and then to a happy semi-relief the more time I spent binge-watching fivethirtyeight.com

More recently I had another opportunity to see the rock before it was too late. I read that the guy who owns Yuengling Brewery, America's oldest, was a big supporter of Orange Sunshine and remembered my buddy Jim, a friend of a friend who made a great documentary about Yuengling back around 2000.

I wrote a little story about that, too. The brewery is located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and the filmmaker told me a story while we watched the film together, about one of the scenes where a group of brewery workers is sitting outside the brewery on a hot day, and some are wearing flannel or other long-sleeve shirts—sleeves rolled down. It's frickin' 90 degrees, what's the deal? Jim the filmmaker tells me the deal. The deal was the sleeves hid the swastika and white-power tattoos during working hours. The sleeves were finally rolled up on Nov. 8.

And right before the freaking election on Sunday afternoon I had this weird and very deep pang of worry about Clinton's prospects as the first female major ticket candidate for president—I was thinking about the failed Equal Rights Amendment of the mid-seventies and the lingering stank of outright male-dominance politics on the spectacle this year. Support for the ERA seemed a no-brainer at the time—how could anyone vote against equality for women?—but hey, I was ten years old, what did I know.

Older and presumably wiser, later in the day Sunday I headed out and glimmed an umbric horizon, Orange Sunshine rising at sunset—and a large massif emerging from the ocean.

Oh, relax, it's just the Farallon Islands, how can she possibly lose?

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Free Tex Watson? Nah. A Note on Capital Crime and Culture

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 1:06 PM

Tex Watson was denied parole for the 15th time yesterday as California soon votes to end or "mend" capital punishment
  • Tex Watson was denied parole for the 15th time yesterday as California soon votes to end or "mend" capital punishment

Charles Watson sounds a lot cooler when you put the “Tex” in the middle of it, but that’s how people remember the horribly notorious Charles Manson-ite, Charles "Tex" Watson, who was in the headline scroll of the L.A. Times this week when his parole was denied by the California Department of Corrections, for the fifteenth time.

Watson was convicted in the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders and was sentenced to death (along with Manson himself) at the end of 1971. California ended capital punishment in 1972 which meant Watson's sentence was commuted to life with the very remote chance of parole. In his case and for all intents and purposes, that is likely a zero chance of parole, given the notoriously evil bent of Watson and the Manson Family's 1969 murder spree. Thirty-five years after being incarcerated for his participation in the seven murders, Watson has become an ordained minister with his own church, and a college graduate with a business degree. He got married and had three kids. All while in prison. After this latest parole denial, Watson won't go before the board again until 2021, when he'll be 75 years old.

Seeing Watson in the headlines reminded me of how edge-culture purveyors of Generation X, myself include and deplorably so, were kind of fascinated by Manson. As a young lad just out of college in the early nineties I bought the Manson album, Lie, that had all those earnest, scratchy, weird-folkie songs on them. There was also the Manson connection to the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson, very intriguing. And I bought the Dec. 1969, Life Magazine with Manson on the cover at some little shop in eastern Vermont, roundabout 1990—The Love and Terror Cult! I'm kind of ashamed I did nowadays, but recently I pulled “Garbage Dump” off the Youtube at the office and the officemates thought it was kind of catchy. It's Manson. He gave “The Sixties” a bad rap for the generation that followed and Watson was an arguably even bigger psycho, if actions speak louder than forehead swastikas and bizarre interviews with Geraldo Rivera.

I went to San Quentin early this year and while I did not spot Charles Manson, I can readily report that there is no fair shortage of psycho killers among the 700-plus men on the three tiers of death row. But there are also redeemable men, and there may even be men who are not guilty of the crime that put them there. This is not an unusual occurrence.

This year Californians will vote on whether to end the death penalty outright (Proposition 62) or quicken the appeals process to speed up—to kickstart—the executions (Proposition 66—or, The Number of the Beast, Minus 6). In our upcoming issue we’re endorsing a bunch of things and one of them is Proposition 62, the repeal initiative that would commute all the current capital sentences to life-without-parole. So that, for example, someone like Tex Watson doesn’t waste taxpayer time and money with 15 fruitless attempts to be a free man again, after already having been found guilty for crimes For Which There is No Parole But God.

Forget that. And forget Prop 66, which contains some downright creepy language that’s nevertheless totally unsuitable for Halloween: Proposition 66, if enacted, “Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution method.” The condemned are hereby instructed to check all apples for razorblades.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hopes and Fears of a Vote for Hillary

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 8:55 AM

I don't expect Clinton to be as cool as Obama, but her Veep is a big fan of the Replacements, and that's something - WIKIPEDIA
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  • I don't expect Clinton to be as cool as Obama, but her Veep is a big fan of the Replacements, and that's something

As these things go, people generally have either a good faith or bad faith view of government and public life. You either think public officials are basically decent people trying their darnedest to enact good public policy on behalf of the people, or you think they're all a bunch of cynical crooks who manipulate a rigged system to selfish ends and cast votes based on the imperative of political self-survival. Foolish me, I tend to take the good-faith view of public officials, up to and including Hillary Clinton, which may not be the greatest trait for a journalist, but does help in the department of how to be a better human.

I'll be both proud and wary to cast my vote for Clinton in a couple of weeks (is it over yet)? Proud because she has earned it and because I have high hopes that she will deliver, that she will extend and improve on the best of the Obama years, bring peace and justice where such things are absent, both here and abroad. Yes, she can. Let’s hope she does.

But I’m wary because of the Iraq war vote Clinton cast in the Senate, and the bad jingoism, the Cheney-like parroting of the Saddam-Qaeda link that went along with the 2002 vote. So I’m taking a deliberate but reluctant journey around that moral road-block and voting for Clinton anyway, despite a vote that reeked of bad faith. She has owned up to the colossal error of that vote and while I remain skeptical about Clinton I'm not cynical about her. My hopes are tempered by fears that range along a line of seriousness and gravity:

1. I fear that Hillary will start WWIII or some hapless proxy version thereof, that she will accelerate chaos with overly robust responses to faraway disasters, and she will be subsequently drowned in the Sea of Man as it rises to the electoral challenge in 2020. I hope she will have learned the lesson of that indefensible Iraq War vote and earn the Nobel Peace Prize that was prematurely given to Obama, through a foreign policy that emphasizes peace through restraint—with strength on the horizon as needed, and humanitarian boots on the ground.

2. I fear that in her zeal to “jump-start the economy” that she will capitulate to the lords of capital while failing to “save the middle class” and destroy the best of Obamacare in the process of cutting bad deals with Republicans in the service of a false bipartisanship of surface civility. I hope she gets along with reasonable Republicans and that there is some sort of genuine public rapprochement among moderates, and whoever else wants to come along, that delivers results and not just fleeting moments of happy-pants posturing on TV. Along the way I hope she enacts the best of the Bernie platform along with a Clinton Fixit on Obamacare that improves it, and its standing, with The People.

3. I fear that given the ample history and current obsession with emails, that she and her administration will become embroiled in scandals of such a distracting nature that “wag the dog” will look like “swing the DINO” by the time she turns outer Raqqa into a sheet of glass, to use the Cruzian construct. So I’ll vote for Hillary but with a zero tolerance policy for Clintonian shenanigans, and especially after eight years of no-whack Barack leading the way with cool dignity. I don't expect Clinton to reach for Obama levels of coolness, but I do expect Tim Kaine to give her the Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me for Christmas, and for her to enjoy it.

And on that cheerful note, I hope the Obamas invite the Clintons for Christmas and an early move-in to the White House, to ease the transition, and so that they can have The Talk with Bill one morning, in their bathrobes over coffee and cakes and Michelle with the stern-friendliest face of all. The ankle bracelet is presented, wrapped in a blue bow. “You were a mediocre commander-in-chief who talked a big game but squandered your presidency with the drama. Don’t blow it for her, Bubba.”

Yes, he can. Let’s hope he doesn’t.

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