I'm a Libertarian living in Humboldt County, CA. I've lived here in Eureka since 1973 and joined the Libertarian Party in 1992. This blog will mostly focus on local political issues, but I may stray into state and national issues as well, when I can't help myself. Please post your comments by clicking on the "comments" link at the bottom of each post. Although I do moderate comments, you need not be a registered user to post them.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Free Jeff Mizansky!
I've always wondered how many people are in jail nowadays for non- violent drug offenses. We hear from the drug reform folks fairly often that there's thousands (or millions?) of Americans in jail for such things. I used to take it for granted that might be true, but with California's prison realignment in mind, I can't help but wonder most of those sorts of prisoners have been released? Regardless of that, Reason magazine reports on a fellow in Missouri that is, indeed, serving life in prison for only marijuana related offenses. To be clear, the article mentions he's the only one in that state serving life for pot. That sort of puts aside the claim of at least Missouri's prisons being full of non- violent drug offenders (doesn't address lesser sentences, though). It still makes me wonder how many others there are like this in other states? You can use this form as I did to ask the Governor of Missouri to give Jeff Mazinsky clemency. I hope you will, too. They even have Clemency/Pardons on the list of subjects.
I received an e-mail from a guy on the East Coast asking me some questions about Eureka. He included this Sperling's Best Places web site that has comments from various people about Eureka. Most aren't very complimentary.
I replied to him that there is some truth to all the comments, but some people tend to focus on negative things, others the positive. I tend to see a little of both. How do you see things?
The Sacramento Bee has an online poll asking whether you think the northern California counties should be allowed to secede from the state. I was surprised to see Yes- 58% of 884 votes- winning as I write this. It's a pay site, so if you've used up your free views I'm not sure if they'll let you access the poll.
Just ignore the title. I didn't know what else to use but had decided this North Coast Journal article showed at least one point of agreement between Media Maven Marcy Burstiner and myself. There's been discussion locally for some time regarding all the crime in Humboldt. The Tuluwat Examiner being one that likes to say crime is on the rise in the county, if not out of control. The Examiner manipulates the issue for partisan purposes, of course, but others might sincerely believe crime is escalating. I don't, and didn't think so. We just get that impression because that's pretty much all we read about in the news. Sensational stuff is what gets people to read news and that's why they report it. I don't blame the media for concentrating on things that will get people's attention. Burstiner made the same point:
The problem with the news industry is that it feels compelled to report
what's new. But in rural areas that isn't much. So instead, news
organizations report anomalies and after a while, we think the anomalies
are the norm. When news sites can report EVERY child abduction in the
country as individual news items, we think children are abducted
everywhere, when that isn't the case. They don't report children who get
home safe every day. When every homicide is reported and not much of
anything else, we think homicides happen everywhere, all the time.
Newspapers don't report non-crime. Exactly. She then went on to write, "I'd like to wake up every morning and see a big five-column headline in
my paper: "Nothing Bad Happened Today." That's a paper I'd read."
I don't think she would. Too boring. I wouldn't read a paper like that either.
This article in the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat got me to thinking about something again. The article is about a kid in Napa that had a chimney fall on him during their earthquake of a few days ago. It nearly killed him. I had to wonder if his parents are going to rebuild that chimney? Many people do. I've seen it here in Eureka many times. When an earthquake damaged our chimney back in the early '90s, I tore it down. The part sticking above the roof, anyway. But I can think of two very large chimneys almost within sight of my house that were damaged and repaired. Now they have the potential to be damaged again or even collapse. Make that three or more chimneys if you count the Arkley's. Theirs were damaged back in the 2010(?) quake and they seemed to go to some effort and expense to rebuild them. I had to ask Cherie Arkley why they went through all that effort when they could have simply replaced the damaged sections above the roof with stovepipe. She just shook her head and almost glared at me. Some folks just like brick chimneys. With that in mind, why are we still using traditional bricks for chimneys? I would think it wouldn't be too difficult to come up with a simulated brick made out of something akin to what they used for space shuttle tiles: super light, fireproof but durable. Make bricks out of something like that and I would think the hazards of earthquake vs. brick chimneys would pretty much be eliminated, yet you'd still have the brick appearance some insist upon. I'm wouldn't expect people to rush out and replace their brick chimneys with the phony ones, but on new construction and repairing earthquake damaged ones, seems a lightweight alternative would make perfect sense.
All right, entrepreneurs, let's develop those artificial bricks.
Addendum: A fellow replying to my comment in the Press- Democrat advises me such artificial bricks are already being used, although I'm not sure they're exactly what I was proposing.
We rented a car to go to UCSF this last weekend. The last time I rented one was in the early '80s and that didn't go well. Couldn't afford it but my truck has some issues. I decided to try Enterprise Rent-A-Car. They have an office here in Eureka down on 5th Street and a friend gave them rave reviews. They also had the smaller, economy type cars of the type I'd prefer. If nothing else, maybe we could save some money on gas? My first concern was that they weren't open on Sundays when we'd be leaving. We'd have to pick up the car on Saturday which probably meant an extra day's rental. I was hoping by talking with them they'd be able to cut me some kind of deal. I gave them a call. The gal I spoke to was nice and gave me the basic info. At first I was left with the impression we'd have to rent the car for four days, even though we really only needed it for two or three, depending on how they tallied the days. Pick up on Saturday, then returning it Tuesday since they'd likely be closed by the time we got back Monday night. She surprised me by saying it would only be three days rental so long as we picked it up around 2pm on Saturday and brought it back before 2pm Tuesday. That was still one more day than needed, but better than two extra days. Cool! They rent them on a 24 hour schedule rather than days. I went ahead and told her we'd like a car, mentioning the Chevy Spark they showed on their web page. She didn't seem to pay much mind to the type of car and just took some info from me including my address and phone number. Went down on Saturday just before 2pm to pick it up. When we got there I had a pretty strong feeling we wouldn't be getting the Chevy Spark. I couldn't see anything resembling a small car in their lot. In fact, very few cars at all. Most must have already been already rented. Two guys were standing just inside the door of the office. I figured they must have been just walk- in customers who hadn't made reservations. Those with reservations go to the front of the line and the guy behind the counter immediately turned to us and asked if we had a reservation. I told him I'd guessed that was what we'd done on the phone a few days earlier. I gave him my name. He checked the computer and verified the information I'd given them
earlier. Then he asked for a driver's license and credit card. As he filled in more info he said that we'd be getting a Chrysler 200. He didn't even mention the Chevy Spark. I didn't bother asking. We checked our receipt later and noticed they'd charged the same rate that we would have paid for the Chevy. Good enough. After some back and forth with the girl working with him, the guy says they're changing plans and were going to give us a Toyota Corolla. That was the car that just drove in the lot, having just been returned. I just shrugged my shoulders. Whatever. We just need a car. A minute or two later he says there's been another change and we're back with the Chrysler 200. Ok. I didn't like the black Toyota anyway. Within 10 or 15 minutes he'd pretty much handled all the details and we went out to inspect the car with him. That's to record any damage already present on the car. With just a few barely noticeable scratches, it looked as if it was new. After a few more last minute instructions and signing the rental agreement, he gave me the key and I drove the car home. As far as the car, a couple things I was disappointed in from the start. First, it was bigger than I'd wanted. It seemed almost as big as my truck. I was hoping for a small enough car to use the Compact Car parking at UCSF if necessary. Not with this one. I was worried about gas mileage, too. Once I got home I went online and checked the supposed mileage of the Chrysler 200. They showed it as between 30 to 35mpg on the highway, depending on the exact model. That's better than my truck's even if I could get close to the lower range. Despite looking almost new I was still bugged by the appearance. I guess it was just too ritzy and too high class a car for a bum like me. It made me feel out of my element. It did have an automatic transmission and that was like a breath of fresh air, especially for driving in the Bay Area. I was also a bit leery of the controls. How do you turn the headlights on, run the air conditioner and all the other things you normally take for granted? Luckily, all the controls were pretty easy to figure out right away with a couple exceptions.
First thing in the morning I went to open the trunk and there was no keyhole, but I quickly found a marked button on the dashboard that opened the trunk. One thing I didn't like is only the driver's door can be opened by the key. I guess you have to open that door first before you can open the others. What if you just want to take something out of the passenger side (and that became an issue)? I still don't like that. Something I thought about briefly but forgot to ask about was whether it had an alarm system. I didn't think about that again until we stopped at the One Log House in Piercy. I locked all four doors using a button on the driver's door. When I came out and put the key in the driver's side door the car alarm went off. Yikes! Hope I didn't screw something up. The alarm on my truck can disable the vehicle if you don't reset it right. I just opened the door and stuck the key in the ignition. The noise stopped with no further problems, but I didn't use that button that locks all four doors again.
A couple other issues of concern:
I thought I'd heard a strange noise earlier on when we started out and I put the car in reverse. I gave it no further thought until Monday morning. We started backing out of our parking spot at the Villa Inn and there was a loud scraping, grinding sound the whole time we backed out. Loud enough that the Inn's manager who was walking across the parking lot stopped and turned to see what it was.
Once I turned and pulled forward the noise stopped. I stopped next to the manager, explained it was a rental car and had no idea what the noise was. He said he thought I was dragging something. We both looked under and around the car and couldn't see anything that would have caused the noise. I drove off to UCSF hoping that wasn't going to happen again. It didn't. I'm guessing it was something in the transmission, but a non- issue in the end. Hey, we made it back. Another weird thing was at least twice, maybe three times, I found the engine hood unlatched. I have no idea how that happened. I knew where the hood latch was and I hadn't touched it. Maybe just a loose latch that popped open easy but things like that make me wonder what else might happen if I pressed the wrong button in the car accidentally. At the end of two days we made it back with no problems. In fact, when we got home Monday night there was a message on our answering machine from one of the gals at the Enterprise office just calling to check if everything was ok with our rental. Nice touch.
After topping off the gas tank (they charge like $5.00 a gallon if they fill it up) I took the car back in Tuesday morning. The gal at the desk grabbed my file, took a quick look at the car including checking fuel level and mileage. Then we went inside, she printed out a receipt and told me they'd remove the $200 security deposit they charged to my credit card when we picked up the car. That was it.
Simple enough and I was pleased. I might well rent a car from them again next time we head to the Bay Area, assuming we can afford to do so.
I was up at one of my sweepstakes web sites this morning and stopped by its forum. One of the sweepers mentioned he or she lived within 10 miles of the center of that Napa earthquake. A small discussion ensued with another sweeper saying he found small earthquakes fun and the big ones scary.
Am I the only one that sees it the other way around? With the large quakes, they happen so fast you don't have much time to be scared. You just hang on for the ride. Sure, you may worry when it's done that there might be more to come, but that's countered by being relieved that it seems to be over. With a small quake, you have the time and composure to worry... and get scared. Happens all the time to me. I'll be sitting here. The house will shake just a bit and I can't help but worry if this is the start of The Big One. My heart starts pumping and I sit there wondering if the worst is about to happen, even after the shaking stops, sometimes for quite some time. Not saying I'd prefer a large quake over a small one. They all suck, but I've probably aged a lot more with my heart thumping over small ones than I have over the biggies.
I forget how long ago it was that somebody suggested giving Eureka's infamous bottom feeding lawyer, Jason Singleton, a bunch of crappy Yelp reviews. It was in the comments to a story somewhere about Singleton's latest shakedown of a local business- Porter Street BBQ. maybe? I thought that was a great idea. Myself and a few others gave him one star put downs. I believe there were eleven at last glance. The one exception was what seemed to be some disabled guy saying how great Singleton was. Otherwise, I thought it a fun and successful exercise. I received an e- mail from Yelp a few days ago telling me my comment was removed for not following Yelp's guidelines or some such. Took them long enough, although I still don't know how it violated their guidelines. As my Yelp account says, "I tell it like it is".
Checking Singleton's Yelp page now shows only one review left and it's a one star review saying he's a piece of ****. All the others are gone. Even his one good one. Wonder how they work that?
Anyone out there have any experience with this? I've gotten a couple letters from Anthem/ Blue Cross encouraging me to sign up for this Live Health Online deal. It's claimed to be a low cost way to consult with a physician. Once you're a member you can consult with a doctor quickly via computer or smartphone. It looks like the most you'd pay is $49.00. That's not bad. Problem for me is the list of common afflictions they deal with like colds, flu or allergies aren't things I'd go to a doctor for. Maybe some of you would? Here's their Frequently Asked Questions page. If anyone decides to try it, let us know how it goes.
The Sacramento Bee lists California's most conservative and liberal cities according to voter registration figures. Berkeley and Inglewood are the top two liberal cities. Yorba Linda and Newport Beach have the highest Republican ratio. I suppose it should be no surprise that no cities in Mendocino, Humboldt or Del Norte counties are included, although they do list Redding.
This might be news since Eureka Family Practice's newsletter of March 2013 (pdf file) explains why they weren't accepting insurance from Covered California. That page has been updated to say as of May 1, 2014 they have contracted with Covered California. There's no mention of Covered California on the Redwood Family Practice web site site at all. They only state they take all insurance, including MediCal and CMSP (strange, as more and more providers don't take MediCal). I'm going to call Monday and suggest they update their web site to mention they don't accept Covered California. Might save them and potential patients some headaches. Good to see I have somewhere to go, if needed, with Eureka Family Practice. I'll hold off for a while before switching, though. Maybe Redwood will eventually take Covered California, too. As an aside, I noticed Quest Diagnostics was listed as one of Anthem/ Blue Cross' network providers. They do blood tests and such. I stopped by there the other day to make sure they accepted Covered California policies. The gal there said they did but I'd have to call A/BC to see if they covered the tests I wanted. Hmmm??? You think Quest would know that already. She said the tests I wanted done would cost $320.00. That's what it cost last time I had it done at St. Joseph's. Too expensive for me. We got to talking and she did something on the computer, then told me if Anthem/ Blue Cross covered it, I'd pay $250.00. Still too expensive for me. Guess I'll have to go back to the low cost blood draw place just a couple blocks away. Quest Diagnostics (corner of Buhne and Harrison in Eureka) was empty when I went in there around 10:30am Friday. Costs aside, if you want a blood draw done quick, it looks like that might not be a bad place to try.
This Sacramento Bee article has a map showing which California counties solve the most murders. Humboldt does pretty well, but that assumes we've found all the bodies.
After I first moved here I was told more than once there's any number of bodies buried out on the North Jetty. How they knew that is anybody's guess. I chalked it up to just talk. I was in the National Guard a bit later and we were out at the North Jetty Coast Guard station doing some sort of training. I grabbed a shovel and started digging when I hit something. It seemed to be a plastic garbage bag with either animal or people remains in it. Didn't see or feel any bones so probably just someone burying the remains of a deer or some such. I wasn't sure though. I just covered it up and started digging elsewhere. How many bodies are out there?
I'm not sure if I've mentioned here before I'm not happy with some of the people that go around trying to provoke incidents with the police. I've seen more than a few videos of those looking to try to get an over reaction from police over something. Gun owners are often involved, walking down the street carrying a gun (not that there's anything wrong with that) and when a cop stops to ask about it, they get in his face. I don't like that. But the incident in the video here is ok, despite the guy kinda trying to jerk the cop around. He's a magician who offers to sell a cop some pot, but the pot disappears. Pretty funny. I just wish the cop would have cooperated a little more so they could have played it out longer. Video lasts just over one minute.
An informative article in this week's North Coast Journal lays out the facts regarding all the local tax increases we'll have on the ballot this November. They do a good job of showing why the cities and counties are short of funds. For example: "As an example, Fortuna has seen general fund revenues increase 31
percent over the past decade while expenses have increased 60 percent.
"Since 2003, costs for [Pacific Gas & Electric] increased by 58
percent, health insurance increased by 98 percent, vehicle fuel prices
increased by 142 percent and [California Public Employee Retirement
System] increased by over 640 percent," City Manager Regan Candelario
wrote in the city's 2013-2014 budget."
"It's that last line item that's clamping down on local budgets
throughout the state, says Michael Shires, an associate professor at
Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy who has written
extensively about California's tax structures. "The driving factor in
all this is really pension obligations," Shires says. "We have a bunch
of commitments to spend money in ways we cannot afford."
Pension obligations? Where have we heard that before? While I am sympathetic to the need for additional revenue, I've mentioned before I'll likely be voting against any proposals on my ballot. First of all, raising the revenue to cover the pension obligations does nothing to deal with the core problem of unsustainable pensions. We might well have to raise taxes again before long if CalPers insists on increased contributions. Second, while these seem like a large number of tax increases for the local area, they're likely not all we'll be facing. We're facing potential tax increases on the state and federal level in the near future. I've already pointed out the state's planned gas tax increase of between 14 to 79 cents a gallon. That's in addition to however high the price of gas goes on its own. Third, other costs of living have gone up considerably just over the last few years. Eurekans have seen something like a 2/3 increase in water and sewer bills- mine having gone from $35ish a month to $55ish. Gas and electricity has gone up substantially. This time of year our monthly bill used to be around $25. I received this month's this morning at $38. That's almost a 50% increase from 2 or 3 years ago. Thanks to those of you who supported AB32, it might well go even higher. The list goes on and I'm scared. No, I'm not exaggerating. Things do not look good, especially in this state and I'm worried about being able to make our basic living costs. I'm not going to exacerbate my situation by voting for what will likely be any number of new expenses.
I've wrote before of my concerns over automation replacing human jobs so I wasn't surprised to read about this robot that can make a hamburger in 10 seconds. So much for worrying about minimum wage increases for fast food workers once they become commonplace. Ironically, those same wage increases might well increase the use of robots.
The State of California is planning on adding automobile fuel to the list of items penalized under California's AB32 Cap and Trade scheme. Taking effect January 1 of next year, the tax/ penalty is expected to be between 14 to as high as 79 cents per gallon. I expect the latter, if not more. That's even higher gas prices we'll be paying. Never mind I've heard whispers the feds are considering their own gas tax increase. Some Democrats in the state legislature are having second thoughts on the increase, realizing it's already hard enough to make ends meet in this state. Here's an online petition you can sign to help convince them to drop the proposal.
Addendum: Here's a web site I just found where you can add your name and contact info to join the Coaltion Against Higher Oil Taxes. I just added mine.
Just some personal and and local National Guard trivia: I went to dinner last night at the Elk's Lodge. It was a get together of members of the original 1st Detachment, 570th Military Police Company that was based at the National Guard Armory here in Eureka back in the '80s. The big surprise of the night was Ken Golden showing up. He was a founding member of the unit and loyal member for some years until he moved to Oklahoma. I had no idea until last night he had been elected to the position of Bryan County, Oklahoma Sheriff last year after serving 20 years on the force. I know he attended the College of the Redwoods Police Academy while he was here, but can't recall exactly where he lived. Fun guy. When we'd be playing army and painting our faces with camo, he'd actually put camo on his teeth.
A brief explanation in the New York Post explaining why ebola shouldn't be that big of a concern. I love the description given to the author: "Michael Fumento is a lawyer and journalist who specializes in mass hysteria.".
No, I still don't think it's a good idea to bring ebola patients back to this country, but what the heck. They're going to get here sooner or later.
I"ve written here before of my displeasure over various businesses being taken to court because they refused to work for gay and lesbians. Looks like this sort of thing is running its natural course. Reason magazine reports on a gay bar in Colorado being sued by a gay man for discrimination.
Probably not the epilogue as I'm sure I'll be dealing with this in some manner for who knows how long. The long awaited question posed by readers and wondered by myself has been answered, though: Does Redwood Family Practice in Eureka accept Covered California (Obamacare) insurance? Short answer: NO. This, despite the two or three phone calls I'd made to them earlier asking about it.
As I recall, the first time they said they accepted Anthem/Blue Cross. The second time I called and specifically asked about Anthem/ Blue Cross policies under Covered California. I was told that time they accepted and processed all A/BC charges the same way, but weren't sure whether they'd continue depending on reimbursement rates. Third time- just the other day- I was told they accepted all insurance, with the exception of a California....something, but it wasn't Covered CA. Went in there today for the first time since signing on with Obamacare A/BC. I gave the gal my card and she immediately told me that it was a Covered California plan and "...we don't even bill Covered California...". She said they'd give me a receipt for my payment and I had to send it in to A/BC. What happens after that is between me and A/BC. Oh, well. I wasn't too surprised. I was surprised to have insult added to injury, though. When I went to check out my bill was $98.00. That's an increase of $19.00 over what I paid last time and a $22.00 increase over the price before Obamacare. It looks like I may have been priced out of paying out- of- pocket at this point, aside from maybe just going in once a year for a prescription refill. The question now is whether to continue paying my A/BC premiums for insurance my medical provider won't accept?
Update: Silly me, and apologies- kinda- to Redwood Family Practice. After I made the original post I went and looked at the receipt they gave me. I guess they charged me the $18 for the poop smear test for butt cancer I was given. No, they didn't perform it. She just gave me a test in an envelope.
She gave me one a year or two ago, though, and I wasn't charged for it. Maybe this means the analysis is already paid for, should I decide to actually do it and send it in? I don't know. I threw the old one away. Or maybe they're charging just to offer you the test now? Whatever.
Mike Newman, Eureka city councildude for the 3rd Ward, was pounding the pavement in my neighborhood yesterday working on his re- election. He gave me the heads up on the start up of his campaign web page. More to come on his web page, I was assured, and I'm sure we'll be hearing more from him in the near future. His opponent, Kim Bergel, doesn't seem to have a web page up yet, but does have a campaign Facebook page.
Just did a product review on Amazon.com so thought I'd vent here, too. Decades ago- right after we bought this house- we bought a Multipure water filter. They're pretty neat. Expensive, but neat. They take nearly everything out of tap water using a carbon block filter. We've been more than happy with it, but the filter replacements got more expensive over the years.
Not too big a deal as we'd use one filter well past the supposed 12 month lifespan. I'd often leave the same filter in for two or three years. Earlier this year the wife complained the water coming from our last original filter tasted bad so I went to order another. The price had gone up considerably since last time we bought one so I checked Ebay to see if there were any that were less expensive. I found a number of supposedly "compatible" filters that were much less expensive. Around $36.00 delivered for these copycat filters, as opposed to close to $90.00 (after taxes and shipping) for the original replacement. The statement on their Ebay listing seemed to claim the same filtering ability as the originals. I took that with a grain of salt. Still, for the savings, why not give it a try.
When it was delivered, I wasn't surprised to see it looked like an original. Screwed right into the fixture and seemed to work the same. Water tasted fine, too. I wasn't sure if it took out all contaminants as the originals but wasn't too concerned about that. Good enough for me, at least as it started out. Then a few days ago the wife mentioned the water coming from the filter tap tasted bad. Once she mentioned it, I noticed it as well. I figured it was time to buy a new filter, although it seemed to me we'd bought this one around the first of the year. That's nowhere near as long as an actual Multipure filter lasts. But, if I had to buy two a year, that's still less expensive than buying an original.
Except I'd usually use the originals for more than one year. Sometimes two or three, but I figured what the heck. I went ahead and ordered another phony filter. Then we started wondering exactly when it was we bought the last one. The wife thought it was in the last few months. I thought it was probably closer to January.
I checked my Ebay purchase records and the wife was right. I bought the last one on March 28. With the filter not installed until around the first of April, that meant only four months use before something went wrong (bad tasting water from the filter, but wife says regular tap water tastes fine). That means we'd have to buy three or four of them a year making the high cost of authentic filters not so high.
I already ordered the phony filter by the time I figured that out. In a few months when that one stops working I guess it would make better sense to buy a filter straight from Multipure. Sometimes trying to save money doesn't save money.
A couple articles online about the ebola virus that set my mind a bit more at ease: Lewrockwell.com features Seven Facts You Should Know About Ebola.
Time magazine has a couple. This one explains how to contain the epidemic. Hint: isolation. This one explains why it's unlikely there would be an ebola breakout in the United Kingdom. The take away from all of them is that ebola doesn't spread through the air. You need to come in contact with an infected persons body fluids to catch it.
I consider myself fairly level headed and not one to panic or jump to conclusions, but bringing two Americans infected with ebola virus back into the country seems a really bad idea. Not that the disease might not make it here on its own, anyway, but why help it along?