Of Snoop and The Supes

May 7, 2008 – 4:48 pm by admin

The Monterey County Supervisors narrowly dodged being forever known as “Playa Haters” when they agreed to let the (former) gang banging, booty-slapping, ganja puffin’ Snoop Dogg do his damn thing at the Monterey Music Summit over the Memorial Day weekend. The Supes had been worried about violence. Of course, they also agreed that the former Crips member and his roadies will be patted down, his vehicles searched, and oh, by the way, undercover cops are going to be flooding the event. But thankfully, the self-appointed don of hip-hop will be allowed to grace the stage and deliver his deteriorating, I-was-big-10-years-ago, perma-stoned performance.
Let’s back up here and look at what the Supes were really so concerned about in the first place. The argument for not allowing Snoop to play was essentially that, with gang violence on the rise in Salinas and outlying areas, any rapper that glorifies gangs visiting the area is going to cause opposing gangs to come together and result in a string of shootouts/stabbings/etc. in the middle of a densely packed concert. It’s an interesting take on gang psychology, more or less assuming that gang members function on a primal level that compels them to hurt or kill anyone they see from a rival gang.
It sounds like we’re poking fun, but this analysis might not be far from the mark. During Santa Cruz’s famous downtown Halloween celebration of 2005, there were seven gang-related stabbings and numerous other gang-related altercations. Up in Oakland, a concert by local rapper Juvenile in 2000 ended in a raid by riot police after opposing gang members began beating the living hell out of each other in the middle of a set. This wasn’t the first time this had happened in the area and a moratorium on rap concerts was swiftly instituted. The list of such examples goes on and on.
So, it might seem, shoving young men with a penchant for violence into a confined space is not a good idea, and Snoop Dogg is sure to bring out at least a few men with a penchant for violence. On the other hand, Salinas has been home to gang bangers for many years, and will continue to be a home to gang bangers for many years to come, whether or not Snoop Dogg comes to town. Gang members will find a venue for their turf wars and machismo battles just about anywhere they can, and the risk that they might chose a Snoop Dogg concert as a good place to have a gang war should not ruin the fun for the rest of the peaceful hip-hop lovers. Nowadays, Snoop raps a lot more about lighting up the chronic than shooting up the club anyhow, so perhaps these warring factions can all sit down and enjoy some music over the ol’ peace pipe. Is that naive? Who knows.
In the final analysis, the Monterey Supes made the right call by deciding to use metal detectors on concertgoers and increase the law enforcement presence during his performance, instead of punishing Snoop for a problem he has nothing to do with.

Leave the Sea Lion Out of This, Pal

March 25, 2008 – 6:07 pm by admin

The declines in West Coast salmon populations have made international headlines over the past month, but one proposed solution to the problem is, to put it bluntly, ridiculous. The National Marine Fisheries Service, a federal agency under the US Department of Commerce, is arguing that sea lions living near Oregon’s Bonneville Dam are unfairly eating up salmon that would otherwise swim up the Columbia River to lay their eggs. Following this logic, the agency is getting ready to capture and possibly kill off at least 60 California sea lions for the crime of being too hungry.
The idea that getting rid of 60 sea lions is somehow going to resuscitate the natural habitat of salmon in the Columbia River represents the same anthropocentric thinking that caused salmon populations to plummet to below 10 percent of their historic numbers on the Columbia in the first place.
Let’s step back and take a look at what’s really going on at the Bonneville Dam near Portland, Ore. The feds are arguing that fish ladders installed at the dam are becoming less effective in transporting salmon back to natural spawning grounds because they provide an easy perch for “aggressive” sea lions hunting the migrating salmon. Federal wildlife managers have used rubber bullets, firecrackers and many other non-lethal methods in an attempt to scare away these pesky critters, but all to no avail. So now the feds are taking a page out of Buffalo Bill’s playbook and have declared war on the sea lions for carrying out their natural role in the ecosystem.
But are the sea lions really the biggest threat to salmon at Bonneville Dam? A quick glance at the data suggests a big NO. A 1998 study by Kenyon College’s Environmental Studies Department concludes that dam construction has much more to do with reducing the numbers of naturally spawning salmon in the Columbia River than any other factor. Prior to the beginning of Pacific Northwestern dam construction in 1938 salmon had 260,000 square miles of Columbia River water to swim up, providing plenty of room to dodge predators such as sea lions. Of course quite a few salmon would get caught in the claws of bears and sea lions, but meanwhile hundreds more would go swimming by unbothered. Today, these salmon are squeezed into narrow ladders that circumvent dams, which throughout the entire Columbia only provide about 73,000 square miles of room – a drop of over 60 percent from natural conditions. At Bonneville Dam specifically, each ladder is about 40 feet wide. So of course sea lions that once had to pluck an individual salmon from a run of hundreds leaping up a wide-open river, are now taking advantage of the fact that these salmon are moving up narrow ladders in a relatively orderly fashion (if they can make it up the ladders in the first place, which is another story). As the Kenyon study notes, “Terrestrial animals around the Bonneville Dam become aware of salmon location and routinely feast upon them.”
But that’s not all. The dams also have more subtle effects. Since salmon have adapted to lay their eggs in sandbars and other areas where their posterity will be protected, the destruction of these habitats can create huge declines in salmon populations, as dams destroy these age-old birthing locations. Dr. Franklin Ligon and his colleagues published a study in the BioScience Journal in 1995 that concluded by tweaking the flow of a river, dams often eliminate these sandbars. One can imagine confused salmon looking fruitlessly for the places they’ve been genetically programmed to lay their eggs.
The record of Columbia River salmon catches backs up this analysis. According to data provided by Oregon State University, when the Bonneville Dam was constructed in 1938 the catch of spring run Chinook went from just under 100,000 fish a year to just over 20,000 a year by 1940.
The Northwestern Power and Conservation Council provides similar data. In the 1890s fishermen routinely caught up to 40 million pounds of salmon. By 1993 fishermen were only bringing in one million pounds. The Council also reports that many of the salmon making up the latter figure were raised in hatcheries—artificial “fish farms” that don’t rely on natural salmon spawning habitats.
The factors affecting salmon are many, and natural variations in rainfall and temperature can often have just as big an effect on one year’s population as human activities, such as fishing. And yes, even sea lion predation is a factor that can cause salmon populations to ebb and flow with the passing of time. Yet over the long term, the data seems to support the assertion that dam construction is a major cause for permanent population declines. The sea lions are no doubt killing off many, many salmon, but that’s what they’ve been doing for millennia. If we truly want to solve the salmon population declines, we must take a hard look at the human impact on these fragile rivers.

The Ballad of Highway One

March 3, 2008 – 2:26 pm by admin

The twin engines driving Santa Cruz culture—art and politics—have become intertwined yet again with the recently released protest song “Widening One Won’t Work.” Long-time protest singers and Campaign for Sensible Transportation members Peter and Celia Scott (and oh yes, she was mayor of Santa Cruz) produced the song, which readers may have guessed rails against recent efforts to widen Highway One between Aptos and Santa Cruz.
The song deftly mixes troubling factoids about the current status of Santa Cruz transportation infrastructure with a sense of humor that Peter Scott hopes will humanize the persistent debate over widening.
“You know, songs help these things because people can feel good about singing,” says Scott, a retired UCSC physics professor. “People like to sing. It’s in the tradition of Pete Seeger, who always gets people to sing along with him.”
So might Regional Transportation Commission members begin to hear lyrics such as, “Two hundred thousand cars descend on Santa Cruz/ lookin’ for a place to park/ Two hundred thousand up and down the avenues/ Searching from dawn until dark” echoing outside their meetings? Scott thinks he can do better than that.
“We could sing it inside the RTC commission meeting,” he jokes. “Or any gathering, really.”
The song borrows its score from a traditional folk ballad titled  “The Wreck of the Old 97,” which recounts the tale of a devastating 1902 train wreck that was caused by a mail train hitting a tight curve at over 50 mph in an attempt to reach its destination on time. At first glance, it’s a perplexing song for the Scotts to select. After all, the Campaign for Sensible Transportation has been an outspoken proponent of passenger train service along the stretch of rails running from Watsonville to Davenport. After a bit of thought, however, it’s obvious the Scotts are mocking RTC Commissioners for recklessly speeding ahead with plans to widen the highway. Slow down and consider alternatives, the Scotts seem to be saying.
Or, as the song itself proclaims, “We need a brand new transportation policy/ No more CO2/ We’ll have better mobility, and no more traffic jams/ Better for me and for you.”
This isn’t the first time the retired UCSC prof has decided to make his opinions known through song. After the 1989 earthquake damaged the UCSC Natural Sciences building housing Scott’s office, he received an email from the associate chancellor announcing he would be temporarily moved to Kerr Hall. There was only one catch: No bikes would be allowed inside the building. This was a bit of very unwelcome news for the avid cyclist, so he wrote a song called “Don’t Get Mud on the Carpet.”
“It turned out that totally defused the irritation that was floating around,” says Scott. “So this is an attempt to do that again.”
There is certainly plenty of tension to defuse. A sales tax measure that would have raised $600 million for highway widening, train service and bus service was abandoned on Feb. 7 amidst bickering between highway widening proponents and members of the Campaign over which project should get the most money.
So, if ever there is a faint sound of singing along the lines of, “We’ll be able to travel by train or by bus/ And more able to walk or to run/ And we’ll be more able to ride our bikes/ There will be travel for every-one,” watch out, because a rowdy pack of alternative transit advocates may be nearby.

Check it out for yourself at http://sensibletransportation.org/songs/

Police Cite Parasites on Protestor

February 22, 2008 – 6:34 pm by admin

Yet again the court date for the case against the tree-sit protestors has been delayed (this time to March 6), but, as they say, good things come with time, and it’s given us a chance to comb through the documents surrounding the case.
The files contain a litany of complaints against the protestors, including reports that  they’ve tried, and failed, to empty buckets of waste in the science building toilets, and reports that the protestors have urinated on the buildings on Science Hill.
But what really sticks out is the written testimony of a police officer who reported that one of the activists who was arrested was, disturbingly, “infested with lice.”
Yes, lice. Pediculus humanis capitis, the parasite that infests the human scalp and deposits its filthy brood in the hair of its prey, has, according to the court document, begun nesting in the hair of one of the former tree dwellers.
However, because it’s a court document and not a journal entry, we don’t get to learn how the officer discovered that the protestor had lice, or why he thought it was important to make a report about it.
The document doesn’t tell us, for example, if the officer realized that the activist had lice when his head-locking armpit began roiling with parasites (if he even put the activist in a headlock) or if he decided to comb the protestor after arresting him, just to check for nits.
If this reinforces the vision of activists as parasite-infested hippies, or if UCSC thinks portraying the activists as a disease vector is a good legal strategy, might be revealed when the case is tried in court on March 6, along with the issue of, you know, whether treesitting is protected under the constitution or not.
Unless, that is, someone sets the date back even further.

Sordid History of Pleasure Point

February 21, 2008 – 5:21 pm by admin

A recent spat between local historians has unearthed some seedy nuggets of Live Oak lore. It all began with a fight over whether the Pleasure Point Roadhouse should be designated as historically significant or simply as an old fixer-upper that had lived out the last of its days. The County Supes resolved that debate on Feb. 12 when, in a 3-2 vote, they designated it an old fixer-upper, or in legal parlance, a NR6. This simply means the Roadhouse is not considered a historical resource by the county. If they had designated it as such, it would have granted an increased level of protection to the century-old structure, restricting the ability of property owner Leila Naslund to build whatever her heart desires on the land. What she will build on the land now, and whether or not the Roadhouse will be left standing, is still an open question. But in the course of this argument, some of the history of how Pleasure Point became so darn pleasurable was uncovered.
According to a report written by local historian Ross Gibson, before the days of Prohibition, Pleasure Point was known officially as Soquel Point. That innocent title didn’t last long. Apparently, the remote location of this beachfront resort was perfect for law-dodging rumrunners, prostitutes and other folks looking to make a quick buck selling pleasurable sensations to the summertime tourists rolling through town.
Gibson reports a Dr. Norman Sullivan as writing, “During Prohibition, the Roadhouse became a Speak-Easy, with rumrunners bringing booze ashore and burying it at Menzel’s Cozy Cove Beach.”
There is less evidence to support the assertion of prostitution, but the man who built the Roadhouse, John Henchy, was known to deal commercially in the sex biz. Before coming to Pleasure Point he had run a brothel and saloon in San Francisco. It seems that around these parts, you just can’t keep the fun from roaring on.

At The Movies in Santa Cruz

February 19, 2008 – 8:09 pm by admin

If we’d dropped out of a space capsule, we would have known we’d landed in Santa Cruz. It was Saturday, Feb. 16, and the early showing  of Michael Clayton at the Nick was full of the kinds of people who like to keep up on things–the kind of people, say, who missed a little-noticed movie the first time around but want to see it now that it’s an Oscar contender several times over (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Music, Screenplay). A discerning crowd, let’s call it. And an opinionated one.

As the trailers progressed, there was one that had us all puzzled. It looked like no film you’d ever seen before — a series of serene images on beaches, in cities, and the words “Where will your journey take you?” You could almost feel the mental gears whirring all around. And then the logo came up: it was Louis Vuitton’s new 90-second cinema ad. The theater erupted into howls of indignation. A luggage ad? In the theater? Mark one noisy Santa Cruz vote against an unwelcome new frontier in advertising.

The next trailer was for Taxi to the Dark Side, a documentary about US torture in Iraq, Guantanamo and Afghanistan. Once again the audience sat spellbound until the camera flashed on President Bush. Once again a cry of disapproval went up, along with the more standard boos and hisses. Mark one noisy Santa Cruz vote against the waterboard-approvin, dividin’-not-unitin’ Decider.

Three’s a charm: about a half-hour into Michael Clayton,  following one character’s worried comment about a nut job roaming the streets (or something to that effect), the camera showed the mentally unstable character in question walking in a crowd, a beatific expression on his face. It probably wouldn’t be a laugh line in most places, but here it got a roar of spontaneous approval. Mark one noisy Santa Cruz vote in favor of inhabiting your own universe, very happily.

Councilwoman Robinson, Spray Supporter—NOT

February 15, 2008 – 3:23 pm by admin

With the breakneck pace of developments in the light brown apple moth (LBAM) story, it’s mighty easy for anti-spraying activists to lose sight of strategy. And strategy is what Santa Cruz City Councilwoman Lynn Robinson had in mind when she stated her objection to a resolution opposing the state’s aerial pheromone spraying plans at a packed 3pm Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Unfortunately for Robinson, the fact that the item was on the consent agenda prevented her from explaining what was, to many, a surprise vote. This was despite calls for her to explain her opposition from some of the 30-plus anti-spraying activists who had packed the usually sparsely attended afternoon session.
Well, now she finally gets to say her piece, and her explanation will hopefully dispel any rumors that her vote against the resolution means she actually supports the spraying. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Robinson is fully behind the city’s lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) regarding the lack of environmental review prior to the spraying. In fact, that’s the reason she voted against the resolution.
“I truly, from the bottom of my heart, understand the community’s desire for this resolution. I don’t have any problem with it; I knew it would pass,” explains Robinson. “I just see that the meat of what realistically will have strength is our lawsuit. That’s why I would have put this [resolution] behind that, not ahead of it. Our arguments and the facts really sit in the lawsuit.”
Furthermore, Robinson argues, the city shouldn’t be wasting time passing anti-spraying resolutions while CDFA is actively engaging in delaying tactics to push back the Feb. 28 court hearing on the city’s lawsuit.
“We have given really strong direction to our attorney to be aggressive so there’s not a delay,” she says. “It’s in our arguments within the CEQA lawsuit that you’re going to be obtaining the factual information. Depending on the outcome of that, this resolution would have made sense to me.”
The next stop on the LBAM train comes Feb. 21, when CDFA officials swoop into town for what is sure to be a boisterous public comment session on the state’s Environmental Impact Report for its eradication plan.

The EIR public comment session will take place Feb. 21 from 6-8pm at the University Inn: Sierra & Dawn Room, 611 Ocean St. Written comments can be sent to Jim Rains, staff environmental scientist, California Department of Food and Agriculture Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services, 1220 N St., Room A-316, Sacramento, CA 95814.

‘Spray CDFA,’ The Single

February 13, 2008 – 5:44 pm by admin

If Ray Newkirk, president of Pacific Biofuel, had a hammer we’d all have to hope his aim was good. Luckily Newkirk’s approach to spreading justice all over this land is more Apollo than Thor. Newkirk sent us his ode to the LBAM pheromone, “Spray CDFA.” Take a listen here:  “Spray CDFA”

Hankering to sing it around your own campfire? Newkirk has kindly provided lyrics and chords:

“Spray CDFA”

Light brown apple moth that might just curl a leaf
With dangerous larvae whose gigantic teeth
And voracious appetites likely to eat
The millions of dollars we’re poised to bequeath
On pesticide companies ready to spray
Suterra’s secret sauce on Monterey Bay
Emergency declared by Feds and the State
Makes testing unfeasible ‘cuz this threat’s so great
Untested, unwarranted, unwanted by all
Get pissed on and witness democracy’s fall

Chemical cocktail, its taste on your tongue
Time released micro-capsules lodged deep in your lungs
If you had a song I sure hope it’s been sung
‘Cuz you’ve been stopped from breathing by men full of dung
Spray CDFA or spay them instead
Release sterile bureaucrats until they’ve all fled
Back under their rocks, right back where they belong
So we can all be free to join in this song
Breathing clean fresh air in sweet harmony
With Mother Earth’s good life all chemical free.

Eradicate radicals throughout the land
Eliminate liberals wise to the scam
Armageddon gets closer ‘cuz Bush loves LBAM
Religious Right Raptured ‘cuz poison’s God’s plan
Think moths are destructive? Y’ain’t seen nothing yet
The government’s policies are the real threat
The end of America drops from the sky
Death sprayed in your back yard by jack-booted guys
They’ll kill pets and children; they don’t hear your cries
They couldn’t care less if we live or we die
So get off of your duff and join up with CASS
Or head between knees kiss good-bye to your ass
Clean air is our birthright and freedom our goal
Let’s send those snakes slithering back to their hole
(No offense to reptiles)