Wednesday, July 27, 2016

KLINKERBRINK WINERY AND FAREWELL

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Clark (left) is my youngest brother at age 60. My son moved just up the road from him 3 years ago and instead of an uncle/nephew relationship, they became fast friends. Both Clark and Ken are members of the Klinkerbrick Winery in Lodi. Klinkerbrick puts on a party every year for its members and friends of members.
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This year's  theme was creole food with a Dixieland Band. The trombonist in the middle sings just like Satchmo. The deep voice comes as a surprise.
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The wives, Laurie and Theresa have become good friends. Both women like to cook, enjoy trading recipes and just socializing. Bad news has a way of tainting the day, as Laurie told them a coyote entered the backyard of their new home in Reno, Nevada, and killed Bix and Coco their two mini-dachshunds, leaving a bloody patio, windows, rocks, walls-evidencing the violence of their deaths. It is hard to come to terms with such an end to your fur children. Healing takes a long time.

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I've learned that there is therapy in discussing it, and talking it through. Stewart Matzek, in the background, toasted the dogs along with all of us. He represents good news to balance the bad. Next week he goes through orientation, a three day process, before he flies to Japan with several other applicants to teach English as a second language. He will be placed in a high-school in Komatsu, Japan, a coastal city of about 100,000 people. To say we are excited about that turn of events is an understatement. He already has a small apartment and bought the furniture and appliances from its former owner.
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The band was a hoot. Some people danced on the grass or played a balancing game with sticks.
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Doncha just love a banjo and a tuba? And the Old Ghost wine was a smooth, delightful concoction. Everyone's fave.
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Surrounded by juicy, bursting-with-flavor-grapes, and green, green grass. Tin Roof Catering supplied the food. A delectable pork stew among the choices,  with ice cream stirred in wine for dessert.
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All too soon, it was time to part.
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Laurie and Stewart, back to Nevada in her new Mini-Cooper, with all-wheel drive since snow is a factor in the winter.
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And Ken, back to his residence, though temporary, in Santa Clara. He'll be taking over his new job in Reno two months from now. Meanwhile, they live apart for a while longer. Both are counting the days.
As my mom got up in years, looking at the downside, she would say, Life is good. And, it is.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

THE INDIGNITIES OF BEING HOMELESS.

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Among the homeless, Norman is luckier than most. Here we are, his siblings who made him welcome for a week after Christmas for several years.  Left to right, Norman, my sister who died at age 80, Will and Clark, who both live near me. After Dawn died, Norman has declined  visits over the holidays. Growing up, she was more like a mother to him. He'd say, "Why not me?" He said the same when Brother Mark, died at age 45 and Brother Dan died at age 59. "Why not me?"

Worse than feeling worthless, Norman got involved with a Baptist church where he and the pastor developed a friendship. The whole congregation befriended Norman. He was accepted; he had friends. He attended services regularly.
The church had movie nights in their hall with free popcorn. He was happy. Norman suggested Fiddler On The Roof? No one had seen it. Feeling some reluctance from the members, he drummed up support for it. Then offered to pay for the movie from his own funds. He knew they'd love this movie. A scant number of non-parishioners attended. He couldn't understand it? I said maybe because  Fiddler On The roof is about Jewish families. "So what? Jesus was a Jew. That can't be it."

He survived that fiasco and sometime later when he was talking with the Pastor, he mentioned a passage in his bible that he thought could be interpreted that God might be a woman. The Pastor was visibly upset and told him that was heresy. He wanted the Pastor to read it and talk about it. He would not. From then on, the congregation ostracized Norman. No one would look at him, or speak to him. Deeply hurt, he left with bitter tears in his voice. I didn't hear from him for months. I say, Oh yea good Christians, how shallow thou art.

It saddens me, that Norman didn't get  treatment for alcohol addiction when he first stepped into the arrest and re-arrest cycle. Right now, Norman is doing well. But, looking at the numbers of homeless, most are not.
Cleveland, Ohio, learned several years ago, that providing housing was cheaper (though not by much), than emergency room medical treatment and the revolving doors of the courts and jail. Low cost housing makes a huge difference in the community and its sense of humanity.

Doing nothing complicates the consequences of angry, helpless, hopeless people, left to fend for themselves in a jungle atmosphere. The strong pick on the weak. Addiction increases. Hunger is constant as is dirt and filth. When you see homeless encampments, they are always loaded with dirty bedding. There is no garbage service, so garbage is everywhere. Vermin follow.  People have to answer natures call, whether there is a toilet or not.

Communities want them out of their site. In my neighboring  Tuolumne County, one Supervisor suggested that the churches should quit feeding them because they hang around town and businesses don't want them on the sidewalks.  Passing ordinances doesn't make them invisible, less hungry or less likely to steal food.
Low cost housing works. People need stability. Children need healthy meals and decent clothing with regular attendance in school. Some parents, single or dual, will find work enough to move on. It is a chance for a better life.
Living on the streets can drive you crazy. Having a pet can help. It is healing to have responsibility for someone or something other than one's self.  Cleveland recognized that and allows residents in housing to keep a pet.
Not every community will find enough money for housing.  What I learned from the Butte Fire is that  gated parks with mobile washers, dryers, toilets, showers and storage lockers can make a big impact on the homeless.  The long-term homeless have different needs than fire victims, of course. And they may prefer to sleep in individual tents, or cots on the grass, or out in the open. Most shelters are plagued with smelly bedding and bed bugs, in a closed space where someone else's snoring or farting keeps then awake. The park should have a covered picnic area with electricity for people to cook their food, or barbecue. It should include garbage cans and a wash up area.

Separating and treating drug addicts and drunks and getting the mentally ill treatment is necessary. Money for facilities for the mentally impaired is money well spent. It may be as simple as providing medication for bi-polar people. Isn't it a civil responsibility to assist those who cannot help themselves no matter what caused their dilemma?  As citizens, don't we have the right to demand solutions that work even if it is mandatory treatment?

For long-term homeless, the park must have a guard and rules. The gate guard allows those inside who have agreed to be responsible for the privilege of using the park.  A safe haven for good behavior. But, who wants to be in a park where a drunken or drugged up person wants in when his behavior hasn't been so good? He creates a fuss and keeps everyone else awake and the dogs bark.

Is he turned away?  No. Cooperation with the police provides him a quick trip to the drunk tank to sober up or come down from his high.  From there a hearing  before a civil magistrate must be endured before he can get a trial or his legal day in court. It requires a change in the law or perhaps, just procedure.  A sentence to treatment means he gets his place in the safe haven secured and his belongings and a pet, if he has one, taken care of .  Communication between law enforcement and the city or county run park is paramount.

AA meetings and medical treatment for addiction is first, under lock down in a dormitory style building.  Sentences are long enough to give the person counseling along with treatment.  Staff tries to find him a job on the outside while he is under treatment.  The job is probationary. From the job, he returns to lock down until he is considered stable enough to turn his life around. If he fails, he has three chances to make it work.

Every human being is entitled to be treated as well as animals. As my brother indicated in his letter,  "the son of man has no place to lay his head."  That has to change.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

HOMELESS-DIGNITY AND SELFWORTH.

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Continuing the saga of my homeless brother Norman, here he is with his little dog and his bike. He lost the dog the last time he was arrested.  He had taken over a condemned house. With a house address, he was able to get a bank account and begin collecting his social security which amounted to about $1,200 a month. He dug a new sewer line, fixed leaks on the roof, put in new flooring, a toilet and new plumbing. Over time,  he put in a washer and dryer and television set. He made friends with the neighbors.  He lived in this place for three years and invited a couple other homeless guys to live there too.  Then, he decided to plant a garden with veggies and marijuana. A neighbor reported on him and the police came to “his house”, knocked on the door, arrested him for growing marijuana. (The other two guys vacated the minute the cops came to the door.)The cops would not let him secure the house nor make arrangements for his dog.  Directly to jail.

In court, Norman could make a deal with the D.A. but he refuses. “If you do, they own you. They can just pick you up at any time and slap you back in jail for looking cross-eyed at someone.  Probation for me is useless. I can’t get anywhere on time. I don’t have a watch or a calendar. I often don’t know the time of day or what day it is.”

While in jail, another brother picked up his mail and deposited his checks and paid for his storage building.  Without family help, he would have had to reapply for Social Security all over again, wait for it to clear, from 6 weeks to  3 months.  When Norman returned to “his house”, the place had been stripped of everything he owned. His dog gone.

He made his way back to a homeless camping area under the freeway in San Leandro. Someone told him  about a mobile home park in Hayward with vacancies.  It was a run-down place. He walked up to apply. The woman took one look at him and turned the sign around and said she had no vacancies. He was scruffy and dirty again, by this time.

Norman is personable. People like him.  He makes it a point to befriend the storekeepers he must depend on so they know he doesn’t steal. He manages to fend off depression through his Bible and his faith.
Desperation is the most common ailment of the homeless. It sucks away any sense of well-being, hope or strength. It is naive to think that homeless people, single men especially, who can’t afford housing and basic necessities, should somehow be kind and sweet. Homeless people can be scary, full of tattoos, drunk and offensive, druggies, often panhandling aggressively. They don’t want to be dirty and stinky and loathed by all who see them. So called normal people with homes and traditional lives suffer from depression, drink too much, beat their wives, and kick the dog.  They can live their messy lives behind a locked door. But the homeless are treated like trash and we expect them not to be depressed, hungry, angry, criminal and ill?

It kind of reminds me of the old debtors prisons. You go prison for stealing a loaf of bread because you are hungry. You can’t get out until someone pays your way out, but you have no money to make that happen. Are we that medieval?  The way some cities treat the homeless, the answer is yes.

Everything has changed again for Norman. He is in a burnt out house that he is slowly fixing for the owner using his carpentry skills. He is not paid. With housing, he is stable, relatively sober and upbeat. The owner buys materials and arrives with his tools, one or two days a month. The owner takes the tools with him so no one can steal them while he is gone. (Not exactly the best neighborhood.)

At this new place, he has something to love-a stray cat;  He has a place safe from young street punks who steal his bike and shove him around, just because they can. Here guys on the street have offered him friendship and marijuana. He doesn’t trust them and so far has refused any involvement with them. It is easier to do when you have a locked door.

The owner, (to remain unnamed), is a guy Norman built a house for about 10 years ago when he was homeless but still working for food and booze.  It was before he had his stroke and before he could collect his social security. This man allows Norman to use his address for his mail when he is living on the street.
Norman has a throw away phone for which he buys minutes so he can communicate with me. He has a know it all attitude about some subjects and can be irritating at times.  I listen as patiently as I can.
Currently, his Social Security has been  reduced to $780 month.  Social Security is on auto deposit now, and they promptly deducted Obama Care from his check.  He has no way to get to a hospital, or establish a relationship with a doctor. He recently had a toothache and was in considerable pain. But, he couldn’t get to a dentist either. His income and ability to find a place to live is further from reach then ever, when this house is finished.

His bills are few without rent. He has to pay his storage fee. When on the street he has electricity there and he can cook in a crock pot and sit in a chair and write his letters. He has a place to keep his papers safe and dry.  But, no shower, nor place to sleep.  Still, it is a refuge of sorts that the manager of the storage building allows because he likes Norman.

Meanwhile, he can now shower and keep himself clean.  He is stable and has a sense of purpose. He writes letters to public figures like Elizabeth Warren, President Obama, Governor Christie. He writes long letters to major newspapers and sends me copies of them.  He is a bit mentally impaired in that he thinks he is part of the political scene and is influencing others for a better America with his letters.

I feel he needs to know that he has some self-worth; that his opinion is worth something to someone. That someone cares about whether he lives or dies.  Isn’t that what we all need?  A sense of self-worth with some dignity?
In one of his letters to the editor, he wrote:  “A fox has his den, a bird has her nest, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.”

So, what is the answer? More tomorrow.

Friday, July 1, 2016

ITS AGAINST THE LAW TO BE HOMELESS.

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This man, Norman Moore, is homeless. He is my brother. He became an alcoholic and the family gave up trying to help him years ago.  We reconnected over the last five years and we speak on the phone about twice a week.

Norman worked most of his life, owned a house, paid his taxes and contributed to society. He and his wife divorced and he invested in a farm and from there an office building. He went broke. He began to drink to excess in his late fifties and the downward spiral began. DUIs, license taken away, lost his wheels. Lost his ability to get to work. Can't pay fines. Jail time.

No one can live on zero money without stealing or begging or dumpster diving.  You can't sign up for welfare without an address. Social Security will no longer send checks to a post office box. You have to have a bank account. And you can't get a bank account without an address. Likewise, he can't collect his carpenters pension.

When you are homeless, you have nothing to lose. But, you can't live way out in the country where I am, for instance.  The homeless need services. A grocery store, a laundromat, a liquor store.  More than anything, they need showers. Homeless people congregate in cities where there are parks with restrooms, or any open spaces. He can sometimes get to a church or rescue mission where they serve meals if his current camp is near enough. Some rescue missions require you to listen to their religious message first, which he resents.

Norman is a Jesus freak.  He doesn't steal or commit crimes, other than drunkenness, resisting arrest, trespassing, loitering, and his latest, for growing marijuana. And, he has had a stroke and is crippled to the point where he can only walk about two blocks. He can bike a couple miles. He has been shoved off his bike, his bike has been stolen several times. He can't defend himself.
Norman has been removed from an encampment in the bushes, under the freeway, on private properties, public properties or a condemned house, I'm guessing about 60 times over the last twenty years. 
 Example. He got rousted from some bushes. Found a new spot near a grocery store he'd never been too before. He looks scruffy. He is dirty. Grocers expect the homeless to steal. He went in, bought three cans of beer, the owner watched him like a hawk. He went out in the back near the dumpster. Didn't find anything worth eating. He sat on the pavement and opened the beer. The owner came out and said: " You  can't drink that beer here. I'm going to call the police."  Norman told him, go ahead and continued to drink his beer. It's mid day.

The police arrived and by this time he has consumed two beers and was on the third can.  The cops took one look at Norman sitting peaceably next to the dumpster with his beer and they turned to the owner and said, "You called us out for this? Get a grip."  They left. And, so did Norman when he finished his beer.

It is against the law to be homeless. It is literally impossible for a human being to exist without the right to stand on a piece of the world's real estate. We treat stray animals better than we treat the homeless.
Shame on us.    (Norman's saga continues tomorrow.)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

TAX VIOLENCE


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The front page of the New York Daily News called it right.  The NRA is beginning to lose some of its power as they continually sell fear.  Gun deaths have risen as gun ownership hits the roof. The Republicans refuse to put forth reasonable gun control laws. No one could ever strip Americans of their guns, there are too many out there.

Reasonable control of loopholes could prevent needless deaths from assault rifles. I’ve heard it said that as soon as you ban assault rifles that can kill 50 people in less than 50 seconds, the NRA, the main gun manufacturer, will find a way around it. Plastic guns, do it yourself kits, convertible guns. It is time to regulate the manufacturer or put them out of business. Their business is profit from killing people. If every bullet made for assault rifles had a 1000% tax, it would reduce the number of bullets some individuals could afford to buy. If bullet making supplies surge, they too must be taxed to match the damage. Make it the law that all guns and  bullets must be purchased by check. The check is held until extensive background checks are cleared for ownership.  When the check clears the bank, the buyer is notified and can pick up  the gun. The same goes for gun show and on-line purchases. Gun shows should also be regulated. When they set up, all guns on the table are chained models. No buyer can walk away with a gun from the gun show. Gun shows have to have a security guard to check that rules are being followed. When a gun is sold at a gun show, the check is photocopied, and the gun show owner can place the item purchased in a safe controlled by the security guard for eventual pick-up. We are dealing with a killing product, like poison. It must have strict controls. Tax violence.

And what is the true cost of gun ownership? Jennifer Longdon, shot in the spine in a drive-by shooting, spent 5 months in the hospital, and came out a T-4 paraplegic. She can move her head, talk and breath. Her care costs $5 million. Why isn’t the NRA responsible for her around the clock, permanent care? They produced and profit from an unsafe product that has no practical use outside of war . It she were injured by a stroller, a bike, or a faulty plane, the manufacture would be responsible.
In ten years, 750,000 Americans have been injured by gunshots. And, 320,000 have been killed. Not counting the most recent mass shootings. Twenty thousand commit suicide with a gun each year and 11,000 people are murdered with a firearm each year.

Gun deaths are about to surpass car accidents as the leading cause of death.
The cost to you and me?   The national average cost to taxpayers is $700 per person for gun violence. Wyoming has the nation's highest rate of gun deaths despite its low population. The cost per capita in Wyoming? $1,397 per person.
Louisiana has the highest gun homicide rate, 9.4 per 100,000 residents. Nearly half the households in the state own a gun. Cost per capita? $1,600.

It is insane. I personally know of a young paper-boy who accidentally injured his sister playing with his father’s gun. Life for him, and his family, will never be the same. His guilt was so deep, though his parents and even his sister who is confined  to a wheelchair, are forgiving and understanding. Counseling didn’t help. He continually does self-destructive things, like stealing, getting into accidents, looking for punishment. Tragic.

We all vote. Let’s make reasonable gun control happen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

HOMELESS IN MURPHYS.

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Son Ken spent Saturday night with me. He's homeless. Temporarily, anyway. Their house sold. He and Laurie followed the movers to the new house in Sparks, but he still has about two months left in his Santa Clara unit. He is bunking around with relatives and friends. He came, did his wash, and took me to Rob's for dinner.

For anyone visiting the Motherlode, Rob's has great food, attentive but not overbearing service. Nice atmosphere. Murphys has several good restaurants and this is one of them.
We walked around town and discovered that a comedy club is coming to town. Now that excites me and reminds me how glad I am to live here.  I didn't take down the particulars, so more on that later. We peeked into store windows, just like any tourist. Ken visited a sister-in-law in Lodi earlier in the day and met a couple from San Francisco who were visiting in Lodi. He invited them to have a look at Murphys. They got on their phone, "Oh, only 44 miles from here. We'll do it next weekend."  They were having a grand time. I guess we qualify as quaint.
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This is a picture of Rob's. I deliberately showed the old rusted metal ceiling. I guess that qualifies as quaint. The building is an old Gold Rush structure. There are several still left in town. Come see, have fun. Ciao.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

WICKED SISTERS.

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I attended a Calaveras County Arts Co. Music In The Parks event in Arnold. On the way I stopped to visit with my old friend Paul Moeller. He was tired after a day at Big Trees State Park with his caretaker, Nellie. She is a marvelous woman who makes his end-of-life issues tolerable. He talks about hopefully passing on to meet his Martha in heaven-soon. It saddens me but I'm aware of how lucky he is to have so many caring people in his life. He is a legend in our community.
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Cedar Center Businesses in Arnold built a stage for events, starting with the Arts Council 25 years ago. Cathy Mazzafaro is our current Director, a popular, personable and capable replacement for retiring Mary Jane Genochio.  The only funding for these free concerts comes from donations. I call it small town amazing.
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The Wicked Sisters is a group of teachers who turned to music. Originally four women, they have a couple of stand-ins for when someone can't make an event. All of them sing.
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An amazing variety of instruments are used. A banjo, ukulele, several different guitars, a mandolin, different percussion instruments, tambourine, a shaker.
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Musical numbers varied from "Summertime," to rock classics and radio pop tunes, country and folk.  Interesting diversity, such as "My Ex's Commin' Back To Me", and a couple really challenging pieces-I didn't remember the titles but the music still strums through my mind.
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I met a couple of friends at the concert, but I made a new friend as well. Her owner told me she listened to everything I said.  (Of course, I told her how pretty and well-behaved she was.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

WE ARE PHYSICIANS TO A DYING PLANET.

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During the 1970's, Wallace Broecker, of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, began warning anyone who would listen about the dangerous buildup of Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere. Thirty years later we are witness to a dying planet as we know it. Losing great mammals like elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions, tigers, polar bears, monkeys, gorillas, whales, oceans, coral, sand. We lose millions of small populations of plants and insects. We've lost billions of birds, dangerous numbers of amphibians, lizards and frogs. The rates of loss in every country is accelerating.

In Broecker's day, developers began working on a scrubber, a unit 10 feet by 50 feet that can scrub carbon from the air. It would then have to be piped underground beneath the saline layers and stored.  "Better yet, a way must be found to turn carbon dioxide into a mineral without using a lot of energy to do it," Broecker said. Gas seeping out and escaping into the atmosphere is one of the factors holding the technology back.

Fast forward to 2007.  An international team of scientists has investigated how basaltic rocks in Iceland's geothermal fields can naturally store C02. Dubbed the CarbFix project.  The researchers have happened upon a method of stowing carbon away that can fast-track the mineralization of CO2.  Researchers have come up with a technique that promises to turn the gas into a solid within two years,  a drastically shorter time frame than the centuries or millennia the current scientific consensus suggests.

The team at Reykjavik Energy's Hellisheidi geothermal power plant, where the original study took place, says up to 5,000 tons (4,535 tonnes) of CO2 are now being stowed away each year.
What really surprised the researchers was not just how much of the CO2 was converted, but how quickly all of this happened. Through observations  researchers found that more than 95 percent of the CO2 had formed into solid carbonate minerals within just two years.
International Energy Agency describes this method of carbon capture as a "critical component" in combating climate change.

Five thousand tons sounds like a lot, but it is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the billions of metric tons emitted globally each year. The good news is that basalt rock is present beneath the Earth's surface more than any other rock. It's not so common on land, with only around 10 percent of the continents made up of basalt, but almost all the ocean floors contain the material. So while it won't be simple, replicating the process in other locations is a real possibility.

Of course, the best way to stop climate change from wreaking havoc on our planet, is to remove CO2 spewing cars, cows, factories, fossil fuels, gas and coal, that produce CO2 gas.
All necessary technological components are available and in use in various areas, but carbon sequestration is yet to be applied on a scale that would make any meaningful difference to global carbon emissions.

It is up to us and our government to set things in  motion. We must get the word out by reporting to all the agencies fighting climate change, including our Senators and Representatives at all local and national levels. Change always takes place from the people up. We can't wait for government to do it all. We must push them to do it by complaining loudly
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The Reykjavik team's research was published in the journal Science.

Groups you may want to know about:  Earth Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council,  Air and Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Defense Fund, Wilderness Society, FSEEE, National Park Trust, Friends of the River.  There are hundreds of groups that are active on environmental issues.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

THE BINDING ARBITRATION CLAUSE.

The Binding Arbitration Clause is a very secretive way to coerce people into giving up the right to their day in court to redress any wrongs done to them. This is what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones, a 19-year-old soldier. She along with about 400 others was offered a special assignment in Iraq that offered high pay with free room and board to  work on an oil installation, a subsidiary company of Halliburton. She happily signed the contract and was shocked when she got to Iraq to see stark portable barracks where men and women were housed together, two to a room, with double bunks. But, she had signed and she went to work.

There were many more men than women, and she was constantly harassed by guys who would grab her butt, try to touch her breasts and make suggestive comments. She complained to her boss about the sexual harassment and was told he'd report it.

One day she found herself incoherent and in the nurses station. She had been drugged and gang raped. They gave her a rape kit which showed pubic hair in her anus and vagina. After filling out the paperwork she asked to go home. She was told she signed a contract and couldn't go home. She could go for arbitration, a part of her signed contract.

When she got back to her room, she was astonished to find that one of the rapists was still in her room in his bottom bunk.  It hit her that he was unafraid because there was no consequences. She again went to her  superiors and asked to go home thinking they have an obligation to see that she was safe in her workplace. She refused to work and insisted she be allowed to go home. They locked her in a storage container and held her there for refusing the arbitration which was all she was entitled to.  She insisted she had a right to a phone call.  Denied. After several weeks, a guard felt sorry for her and handed her his phone and she called her father. He called his congressman, Al Franken, and they got her back to the states where she had to have reconstruction surgery from the brutal rape.

Here is how an arbitration clause works.  When you sign the contract, you give up your rights. Arbitration is held in secret. The arbitrators are paid by the company and they tend to side with the company because if they don't,  they get black balled, and are not hired back. Arbitrators have no motivation to be fair. Furthermore, the results are kept secret and Jaime learned later that other women were raped in that installation but, because of the arbitration clause, that information is not allowed to be shared. A complete and total coverup ensues. Corporate bullying at its worst.
 The company hadn't counted on the fact that Jaime was only 19 years old and that she was a fighter. It took her four years to get her "day" in court.

Have you ever signed a binding arbitration contract? Have you bought a phone, or anything on-line?  If you have, you accept their legal contract with a click of the button. Most people don't take the time to read all that  boring, lengthy, usually small print, legal language. And, if you do, you may not find a binding arbitration clause-at first.  If it is a phone, especially, the binding arbitration clause comes in a jumble of later mail along with your bill as a change to your contract, in almost unreadable small print. You toss it in the garbage. Many companies do this. You give up your right to sue and you must accept binding arbitration to settle any disagreement you have with the company.

Democracy cannot tolerate such egregious wrongs as the secret Binding Arbitration Clause.

Monday, June 13, 2016

THE CHAMBER OF HORRORS.

Karl Rove had a horrible, Grinchy, ugly idea.  Supreme court judges are prohibited from spending more than $5,000 to run for re-election in some states. Why not outspend them and get rid of "liberal" judges?

John Grisham wrote a book on just how it could happen.  It was fiction and being a fan, when I read it, it was a scary prospect, IF it could really happen.

In real life, could a well-financed shadowy,  group,  get an ordinary judge, one who made decisions for people suing for redress from corporate neglect, be replaced by a corporate leaning judge?  They began their push in the Southern States of Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas which is how they caught the attention of John Grisham.

Grisham appeared on LINK public television, along with members of Public Citizen and explained that it is happening all over the United States.  The Chamber of Commerce funds these power grabs,  attacking judges who make decisions in favor of ordinary people and replaces them on the bench with corporate friendly judges.

Here is how they did it to Judge Oliver Diaz of Oklahoma.
The Chamber spent $19 million dollars distorting his reputation, using decisions he made for a defendant, and dishonestly twisting the results in the newspaper.  When Diaz tried to buy ad time on television in his area, the Chamber used all the ad time and squeezed him out.
 He borrowed money from an attorney friend, Paul Minier, to defend himself with ads in the newspapers. The Chamber of Horrors immediately filed suit against him claiming that he made decisions in favor of this attorney. He was suspended from the bench. But, he had recused himself every time his friend came before his court. The case got thrown out after the opposition pulled delay after delay after delay. Then they filed suit against him for tax evasion while he was still in suspension. Again, delay, after delay and the phony suit was thrown out, costing the judge a million in defense, and three years off the bench.
 When he finally got back on the bench, he lost re-election to Keith Starret because people believe, where there is smoke there is fire. There MUST have been something shady going on.

There was. The Chamber of Horrors.

Chamber CEO Richard Bush has turned the Chamber of Commerce into the leading lobbying group for removal of judges and tort reform, which is another avenue of attack on ordinary citizens in favor of corporate rule. (More about that tomorrow.)

If a defendant has his leg cut off by a piece of farm machinery that was defective and goes for a jury trial and wins in court. The court has the power to reverse the decision, lower the amount, or throw it out and the defendant has to start over again.  Corporations win over 90% of the time against people suing for redress. This is the only weapon the people have against corporate neglect and we are losing our ability to fight because corporate money is strangling the life out of our democracy.

Make your vote count. Vote for corporate regulation and protect judges in your community. Support every measure you can to keep money out of politics.