Sierra City Harmony #164 Lodge 12/30/15

 Sierra City Harmony #164 Masonic Lodge elects new Officers for the Masonic year of 2016. Back Row: from left to right Mike Edwards-Master of Ceremonies, John Trauner- Initiating Officer, Michael Koettel-Senior Warden, Jerry Brzyscz-Master of the Lodge, Tom Krummell-Chaplin, Sam White-Junior Deacon Front Row: from left to right Past Grand Master John Cooper-Treasurer, William Miklos-Junior Warden, Frank Edwards-Senior Deacon, John Chilcote-Marshal, Karl Krummell-Junior Steward, Michael Galan-Secretary The Lodge, one of the few Moonlight Lodges, meets the Thursday after the full moon, so our meeting dates for 2016 will be Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 24, April 28, May 26, June 23, July 21, Aug. 25, Sept. 22, Oct. 20, Nov. 17, Dec. 15, meetings start at 1:00pm at the Masonic Temple in Sierra City.

Sierra City Harmony #164 Masonic Lodge elects new Officers for the Masonic year of 2016.
Back Row: from left to right Mike Edwards-Master of Ceremonies, John Trauner- Initiating Officer, Michael Koettel-Senior Warden, Jerry Brzyscz-Master of the Lodge, Tom Krummell-Chaplin, Sam White-Junior Deacon
Front Row: from left to right Past Grand Master John Cooper-Treasurer, William Miklos-Junior Warden, Frank Edwards-Senior Deacon, John Chilcote-Marshal, Karl Krummell-Junior Steward, Michael Galan-Secretary
The Lodge, one of the few Moonlight Lodges, meets the Thursday after the full moon, so our meeting dates for 2016 will be Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 24, April 28, May 26, June 23, July 21, Aug. 25, Sept. 22, Oct. 20, Nov. 17, Dec. 15, meetings start at 1:00pm at the Masonic Temple in Sierra City.

For additional information please contact Jerry Brzyscz or Michael Galan
Jerry Brzyscz W. M. 530.885.8806 – brzyscz@sbcglobal.net
Michael Galan Secretary 530-289-3595 – michael.galan@sbcglobal.net

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The last post of this year and on to 2016. I have to say in my life and in many of us here in Sierra County this past month has been the most dysfunctional month of 2015. The year has been tough, we have lost many friends and community members  who have been part of the essential structure of our community.

Let us look to the future and  not only hope for the best but work and be part of making things better for us, our community, humankind, the animals and the environment. Peace on Earth, Good Will towards All, and let it begin with us/me.

We have Carrie’s Corner, Dianne Ponders, The Cats, The Others our guest columnists Bob Koehler, Rivera Sun, Winslow Myers, Lawrence Wittner and a little local news….

The fantastic photo was taken by Downieville’s Kevin Lozano you can’t beat a snow-blind full moon over the Pass.

Mountain Messenger (Happy & Joy Prevail) 12/30/15

Well, it is almost next year and Don is tired of signing photos of himself to his new subscribers which makes me what to encourage your subscription and demanding he fulfill his promise to provide a signed photo of himself suitable for bedroom tables or the ceiling which ever you prefer. Milly mentioned today that she really loves Don he is a wonderful boss, “best ever” and she is thrilled and excited about her new position as Assistant to the Editor and CEO. She also stated she was very sorry about all the things she has said about him in the past year. However the prior years and the future are still not clear as to where he may fall in her reign of benevolence and kindness.

The rock from Randy may have something to do with Milly's joyous state of mind.

The rock from Randy may have something to do with Milly’s joyous state of mind.

mess subcrip (1)Send anything you need published to Milly, the CEO and most important person in the office, at yesdearyousuck@yahoo.com or you may call directly to 530 289-3262 and talk to Don, (and suggest he give a raise to Milly). For a subscription: send in as below or call 530 289-3262 with credit card in hand.. Write to Don Russell at mtnmess@cwo.com and tell him you subscribed because you read about it on Sierra County Prospect…..

Lions and Clampers 12/30/15

The Downieville Lions Club is extremely grateful to the Clamper Devil Mt. Brigade for their generous donation of gifts that supplement the Tags for Kids Program.  Receiving the items from Brigade Quarter Master, Steve Sharp, are Patti Stringer, Lions Club President and Karen Galan, Tags for Kids coordinator.

The Downieville Lions Club is extremely grateful to the Clamper Devil Mt. Brigade for their generous donation of gifts that supplement the Tags for Kids Program. Receiving the items from Brigade Quarter Master, Steve Sharp, are Patti Stringer, Lions Club President and Karen Galan, Tags for Kids coordinator.

Teach Us About Trump 12/30/15

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

What the Women of Berlin’s Rosenstrasse Protest Can Teach Us About Trump – By Rivera Sun

Many United States citizens are appalled at recent remarks by Donald Trump and other bigoted politicians advocating policies against Muslims that are eerily reminiscent of Nazi policies toward the Jews. The parallels between the 1930s-40s in Germany and the United States in 2015 are frightening. It is clear to many citizens that the rise of bigotry and fascism in our nation cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged. Organized resistance is essential. In this effort, revisiting the history of resistance to the Nazis offers us some tantalizing concepts.

Those of us who choose nonviolent action as a form of making change are often challenged with the question, “But what about the Nazis?” The stories of nonviolent resistance are far more numerous than most people suspect. One of the most interesting successful stories comes from the heart of Germany itself when the women of Berlin rose up to demand the return of their Jewish husbands.

In 1943, Joseph Goebbels promised Adolf Hitler that Berlin would be Judenfrei – Jew-free – in time for Hitler’s birthday. On February 27, without warning, Jews were snatched off the streets and from workplaces and held in buildings temporarily before they were loaded onto trains to be sent to their deaths in the concentration camps. This was the fate of nearly 6,000 Jews from Berlin. Another group, the 1,800 Jews with non-Jewish German wives, were rounded up according to a separate list and held in a building on Rosenstrasse, Rose Street. The German women, upon discovering their husbands were gone, raced to the location and began an impromptu unarmed, nonviolent demonstration demanding the release of their husbands.

For a full week, as many as a thousand women protested night and day, defying orders to disperse, withstanding threats of being shot to death. The German Gestapo office sat within earshot; the women persisted despite the danger. On March 6, as thousands of other Jews were being sent to Auschwitz, the husbands of these Berlin women were released. Even the 38 Jewish husbands who had already been sent to the camps were returned to Berlin. It is said that the Rosenstrasse protest also halted the plans to round up the intermarried Jews in France, a change that likely saved thousands of lives. The German government felt that the dissent and visible signs of resistance would be detrimental to morale at that time and that releasing the men was easier than risking more uprisings.

Today, as Islamophobia and anti-refugee rhetoric are whipping the American populace into a frenzy of fear, we need not wait until the eleventh hour to see where this type of discrimination leads. Before politicians allow bigots to require Muslims to register (like the Jews in the 1940s), or wear a symbol (like the yellow star), or be deported to concentration camps, let us take a chapter out of German history – the Rosenstrasse women’s episode – and learn from it. If the threatened registry appears, let us protest it, or sign it en masse as an act of protest. If the parallel to the yellow star occurs, let us all, as citizens, resist the labels unanimously. Let us never forget the words of Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—

and there was no one left to speak for me.

And if they come for any of us, let us be prepared to use nonviolent action, as the women of Berlin, to rescue not just our loved ones, but all of our human brothers and sisters, so that the tragedy of the Holocaust can never be repeated. With courage, preparation, and knowledge, we can stop the dangerous cycle of history from repeating in the context of our contemporary lives.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network.

Economy Democratization 12/30/15

Lawrence Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Has the Time Come for Democratization of the Economy? – By Lawrence S. Wittner

A study released at the beginning of December by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) reported that America’s 20 wealthiest individuals own more wealth than roughly half the American population combined—152 million people. The startling level of economic inequality in the United States is also highlighted by Forbes, which recently observed that the richest 400 Americans possess more wealth than 62 percent of the American public—192 million people. Furthermore, these studies apparently underestimate the concentration of wealth in the United States, for the use of offshore tax havens and legal trusts conceals trillions of dollars that the richest Americans have amassed for themselves and their families.

Ironically, the United States has long been depicted as a land of economic equality, with widespread prosperity. Writing from Monticello in 1814, Thomas Jefferson emphasized America’s difference from class-divided Europe. “The great mass of our population is of laborers; our rich . . . being few, and of moderate wealth,” he declared. “Most of the laboring classes possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are enabled to exact from the rich . . . such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families.” In the early twentieth century, Werner Sombart, a German economist and sociologist, argued that, in the United States, “socialistic Utopias . . . are sent to their doom” on “the reefs of roast beef and apple pie.” The “American Dream” of economic opportunity for all has constantly been invoked, sometimes to avoid a more equitable sharing of the wealth and, at other times, to advance it.

Nevertheless, the reality of life in the United States has often fallen short of the American Dream. Certainly, American slaves and their descendants didn’t consume much of the roast beef. And there was also substantial economic misery and class strife among other portions of the American population, who labored long hours in factories and mines, experienced high levels of industrial accidents, endured frequent layoffs and unemployment, and lived in squalid slums. What led, at times, to some degree of economic leveling was not a voluntary sharing of the wealth by the richest Americans but, rather, economic struggles by unions and public policy breakthroughs secured by progressive politicians.

But, with union strength declining and progressive politics in retreat since the 1980s, economic inequality in the United States has grown by leaps and bounds. In the 1970s, America’s wealthiest 0.1 percent—the richest one-thousandth of the population—owned 7 percent of U.S. household wealth. Today, that figure has risen to 20 percent—about as much wealth as is possessed, in total, by the bottom 90 percent of Americans.

Although the 20 richest Americans, who possess more wealth than about half the American population combined, include some founders of corporations, they are outnumbered by the heirs of families with vast fortunes. The latter individuals include Charles and David Koch (the scions of a wealthy founder of the John Birch Society, with $82 billion between them) and four members of Wal-Mart’s Walton clan (with $127.6 billion among them).

All right, you might say; but does this economic inequality really matter? Well, it certainly matters to those Americans whose economic opportunities have been stunted to facilitate this accumulation and hoarding of vast wealth. Furthermore, as the authors of the IPS study note: “Extreme inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity undermine democracy, social cohesion, economic stability, social mobility, and many other important aspects of our personal and public lives.” In addition, “extreme inequality corrodes our democratic system and public trust. It leads to a breakdown in civic cohesion and social solidarity, which in turn leads to worsened health outcomes. Inequality undercuts social mobility—and has disastrous effects on the economy.”

Economic inequality is certainly warping American politics and public policy. In recent years, the wealthy and their corporations have poured enormous financial resources into political campaigns, dwarfing all other sources of campaign funding. In the first phase of the 2016 Presidential election cycle alone, half of total campaign contributions have come from 158 wealthy donors. Not surprisingly, relatively few politicians dare to offend rich donors and their interests. Thus, wealthy rightwingers like the Koch brothers (who have promised to put nearly a billion dollars into the 2016 elections) and Sheldon Adelson (possessing wealth of $26 billion) have far greater influence over public policy than do average Americans. As numerous pollsters have observed, most Americans favor progressive public policies, including raising the minimum wage, taxing the rich, providing free college education, and establishing a single-payer healthcare system. But, when it comes to federal action, these programs remain dead in the water.

Will Americans stand up and insist upon sharing their nation’s wealth more equitably? There are signs, such as the popularity of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, that many of them are becoming fed up with economic inequality. Of course, they might be distracted by xenophobia and fear-mongering, which have been promoted assiduously in recent months by pro-corporate politicians. Even so, there are growing indications that Americans favor democracy not only in their politics, but in their economy.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

Broken Souls 12/30/15

Robert Koehler

Robert Koehler

Adding Up the Broken Souls

By Robert C. Koehler

“The question now is how to change our institutions so that they promote human values rather than destroy them.”

Philip Zimbardo, who posed this question in the wake of the famous — or infamous — Stanford Prison Experiment 44 years ago, might have added: If we fail to do so, we guarantee our own social collapse.

The collapse is underway, one broken soul at a time.

“But the basic story the men told was the same: (Leonard) Strickland was pushed down a flight of stairs, and then beaten nearly to death by a large group of guards.”

This is from a recent New York Times investigative piece about inmate abuse at Clinton Correctional Facility, in upstate New York — a particularly boiling caldron of racism in America’s prison-industrial complex. Almost all of the nearly 1,000 guards who work at the rural prison are white; the inmates, mostly from New York City, are black. Not surprisingly, the prisoners say “they face a constant barrage of racial slurs.”

And racial slurs have a way of escalating, especially under conditions in which one group of people has enormous, unchecked power over another group. Zimbardo called it the Lucifer Effect: the transformation of ordinary, decent people into monsters. His 1971 study, in which two dozen college-student volunteers were randomly designated either guards or prisoners in a makeshift “penitentiary” in the basement of Stanford’s psych department, was meant to last two weeks but was called off after six days because the situation had gotten out of control.

Zimbardo said that he came to his senses after an outside observer, who was brought in to conduct interviews, reacted with utter shock “when she saw our prisoners being marched on a toilet run, bags over their heads, legs chained together, hands on each other’s shoulders. Filled with outrage, she said, ‘It’s terrible what you are doing to these boys!’”

Compare this to the Times story about Clinton Correctional Facility. Though all the guards were officially cleared of wrongdoing in the 2010 death of Leonard Strickland, who was diagnosed mentally ill but had no history of violent behavior, six prisoners who had witnessed the event, interviewed separately at various facilities, told essentially the same story: that he was called a racial slur, pushed down a flight of stairs and beaten and repeatedly kicked by a group of guards at the bottom of the stairs.

As Strickland fell down the stairs, one prisoner told the Times, “his skull hit the concrete steps several times. At the bottom, he pulled himself into a tight fetal position, as about 10 officers took turns kicking him in the head and the ribs … They ‘beat this kid to zero,’ he said.”

Ah, Lucifer!

The broken souls add up. We live in a world where the prevailing belief is that control and dominance are necessary … because of all the terrorism, y’know, and the crime and what have you. In so many American cities, armed police officers (white and otherwise), wield unchecked power in impoverished, minority communities. Not surprisingly, the Lucifer Effect continually makes the news.

Last month, the Associated Press released the results of a yearlong investigation of sexual misconduct by police, discovering records of about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for various sex crimes, including rape. The figure is “unquestionably an undercount,” the AP story noted because many departments don’t maintain such records.

“‘It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,’ said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida, who helped study the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. ‘It’s so underreported, and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.’”

What this otherwise excellent story fails to do is put the crimes into a larger context, dismissing the perps simply as “bad officers.” When they can’t resign quietly and disappear, they are turned into scapegoats: exceptions to the rule in otherwise good, solid institutions that serve the public. This is how it is in every institution that commands enormous power over a particular group of people, including the scandal-rocked U.S. military and the Catholic Church.

It’s time for the media, which usually goes along with the “bad apple” explanation, to expand its consciousness. Lucifer haunts the corridors of power. Ordinary, decent people can turn into monsters — rapists, murderers — when given unlimited power over others. It happens with eerie frequency, especially when, in the era of the cellphone video, such crimes are not so easily covered up.

In Chicago, a police officer shot a teenager walking in the middle of the street 16 times, almost as though the gun took control of the officer’s consciousness. Barbara Ransby, a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, interviewed recently by Democracy Now, pointed out that, because of budget cuts, only about 20 Chicago police officers have received crisis intervention training.

My God, budget cuts! In a country that’s waging perpetual war and raking in billions from the global sale of weapons. Yeah, the boy had been acting erratically. But real public safety for the city of Chicago would have included safety for Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old killed by police officer Jason Van Dyke.

I fear we’re reversing the evolutionary process. We’ve surrendered to simplistic, impulsive, fear-based “safety” and we’re reaping the consequences, one broken soul at a time.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. 

Illusory Mis-identity 12/30/15

Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘Between the World and Me’ – Review by Winslow Myers

Toni Morrison calls this book required reading, and it is. Even if it first germinated before the many police murders of unarmed African American boys and men over the last year, it could not have entered the cultural scene at a more fateful moment.

The book takes the form of a letter from Coates to his son, overflowing with mingled anger, despair, and love, about the experience of growing up in a country where our foundational heritage is the ongoing freedom of whites to kill blacks with impunity. This injury is complemented by the insult of hundreds of years of rank economic injustices extending back to the origins of our “exceptional” political experiment, conceived, with due respect for their good intentions, by slaveholding white men.

To define whiteness, Coates uses the provocative phrase “people who believe they are white,” by which I take him to mean that there is a negative part of some of us that needs to feel superior to, and therefore also fearful of, some “lower” order. No peak without a valley. The pain caused by this illusory mis-identity is unfathomable.

After the latest mass shooting in San Bernardino, the African-American president of the United States spoke from the Oval Office trying to calm the fears of citizens anxious about the random terror of ISIS. He appealed to our best tendencies: “We were founded upon a belief in human dignity that no matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.” While acknowledging the reality of terrorism, he cautioned against separating Muslims and non-Muslims into a stereotypical “us and them.” Because “us and them” sadly forms a big chunk of our only partly acknowledged heritage, Obama was immediately attacked by presidential candidates of the opposing party with the fear-mongering version of our national identity.

The violence of ongoing exceptionalism, built upon so much insufficiently processed history, continues to assume grotesque forms. Sadly, the Senate cannot even pass a bill forbidding people on terrorist watch lists from buying weapons because the National Rifle Association has such a powerful lobby. What are the roots, if not raw fear of the “other,” of this white obsession with the Second Amendment?

At my Ivy League college 50 years ago, the hundred or so young white men with whom I shared meals were served by a group of young black men in white coats. Did we speak a friendly word to them? Did we see them as people with the same potentialities as ourselves? We did not.

Now I have become part of a family where I have four mixed-race adoptive grandchildren. My love for them is just as fierce and fearful as Ta-Nehisi Coates’s for his son. Suddenly it is of more than the academic interest that the oldest of my four is approaching the adolescent moment when he will start to look dangerous to the police.

The knotted heritage of our nation cannot be loosed by the descendants of slaves who endured it and endure it still. Instead, the knot must be newly owned by those who have too long disowned it; can we who think we are white emerge from the dreamy pretension of our effortlessly assumed privilege? Can we admit that our perverted form of exceptionalism has cut a swath of destruction not only through our national history but also through such diverse haunts of otherness as Vietnam and Iraq?

Those who think they are white came to wherever they are now by free migration not by slave ships, out of the common pool of all humans from the savannas of Africa. In that shared origin story may reside some hope of post-racial—or post-religious for that matter—interrelationship among equals. Meanwhile, we have Coates’s authentic cry of the heart from which to learn and grow.

Winslow Myers, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.” He also serves on the Advisory Board of the War Preventive Initiative.

War Presidency? 12/30/15

Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

US imperial war presidency?  – by Mel Gurtov

The death of six US soldiers in Afghanistan on December 21 at the hands of a Taliban suicide bomber brings to 21 the number of US combat deaths there in 2015. Once again we must confront the question of national purpose in waging war without debate or declaration. Like all other battlefield deaths in the Middle East, the Obama administration rationalizes these latest as being part of “training, advising, and assisting,” not combat. But those are merely code words for direct interventions that Congress has not authorized since 2002, in clear violation of restrictions the War Powers Resolution of 1973 places on presidential power.

There will be plenty more casualties in the Middle East for years to come, and not just because of the seemingly permanent US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Consider two recent news items. According to a plan not yet formally approved, the Pentagon wants to create a worldwide string of “hubs” as staging areas for Special Operations forces to strike quickly against terrorists. Second, most members of Congress are unwilling to introduce and debate a bill authorizing the Obama administration’s use of force in the Middle East and beyond. Thus, there is no end in sight to the US at war, both because the Pentagon has found the perfect enemy and because no one in Congress is willing to stand up to it.

The Pentagon’s plan is to have a forward presence that, in the words of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, “will enable unilateral crisis response, counterterror operations, or strikes on high-value targets.” Not long ago the Pentagon’s mantra was “places, not bases,” so as to avoid all the political problems, as well as the monetary costs, associated with a permanent military presence on foreign soil. Now “places” evidently have been modified to “hubs” and “spokes,” Pentagon-speak for small-scale leased bases of the sort already in place all over Africa. Northern Iraq and southern Europe are being considered as additional hub sites.

Beltway Resistance

Not everyone is reportedly on board with the Pentagon’s plan. The State Department correctly sees it as a power grab that may actually harm US foreign policy. The plan works at cross-purposes with diplomacy, substituting the deployment and use of force for potential opportunities to engage governments and rival groups. More US military facilities, no matter their size, invite criticism in the host countries, may become targets of terror groups, and feed the hostile propaganda of militants. In our terrorism era, however, State has no chance to win this battle.

The last time anyone in Congress got serious about its war powers was last May, when Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced legislation to authorize military force against the Islamic State, a step he believed would force debate on what an authorization for war should actually entail. “There is no doubt that our current offensive amounts to war,” said Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “Congress should take action both to authorize its prosecution and to set limits on that authorization so it may not be used by any future administration in a manner contrary to our intent.”

Schiff’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) would have limited military action against the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) to three years, prohibited the use of US ground troops, and immediately terminated both the 2001 and 2002 congressional authorizations tied to the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War, removing two pillars of presidential authority claimed by President Obama as sufficient to go after IS. Neither Schiff’s resolution nor a similar one proposed in June by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ever got to the floor of Congress.

Now, however, there is a twist from the previous story: the executive branch wants a new authorization, and it is Congress that is balking. Democrats fear being seen as weak on terrorism if they try to constrain the president while IS is around, and Republicans fear giving him control over what they regard as a weak-kneed strategy. The president is thus left free to do as he pleases in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, totally ignoring the War Powers Resolution and, as a lame duck, ignoring Congress too.

Bypassing Congress

The War Powers Resolution establishes the circumstances under which the president must consult with Congress and obtain an authorizing resolution to sustain a military operation beyond 60 days. Here are the relevant sections of the act:

SEC. 3. The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situation where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and after every such introduction shall consult regularly with the Congress until United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in hostilities or have been removed from such situations.

SEC. 4. (a) In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced–

(1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances;

(2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or

(3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation . . .

There is little doubt that President Obama violated the WPR by introducing and reintroducing US forces into “hostilities,” not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan. In Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 2,000 U.S. service personnel have died since Obama took office in January 2009.

Unfortunately, the academic notion of shared powers is something of a myth. Only in rare instances will Congress attempt to tie the president’s hands in a war situation—for instance, when the Boland Amendment prohibited intelligence agencies from supporting the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government in the 1980s and when Congress placed a six-month limit on President Reagan’s troop commitment in Lebanon in 1983. But those attempts mattered little. The Boland Amendment failed to prevent President Reagan’s National Security Council from secretly funneling money to the Nicaraguan contras. And Reagan pulled US troops from Lebanon after the disastrous attack on their barracks in Beirut.

In general, Congress simply defers to the president. Even the president’s most hostile critics will bend to his leadership when national security is believed (or said) to be at stake.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support presidential war making. Today, some of them—for example Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)—are saying the president should have the authority to use “all means necessary” to defeat IS. In other words, they want to go beyond what Obama is asking under the authorization resolution. That’s the same mistake Congress made in 1964, in the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, when it gave Lyndon Johnson a virtual blank check in Southeast Asia (“to take all necessary steps . . . to promote international peace and security”).

The WPR, in fact, has never been effective. No president has ever regarded it as a legitimate exercise of congressional authority in war. No president has been forced to abide by its key provision: obtain congressional approval of a troop deployment within 60 days or withdraw the troops. Only a few presidents (including Obama) have even acknowledged the resolution when planning military action abroad. All presidents have insisted that as commander-in-chief they have all the constitutional authority they need to make war. Thus, when Congress votes to authorize military action abroad, what it is really doing is legitimizing what the President has already decided to do—and would do even in the absence of Congressional authorization.

So the only difference between then and now is that Congress won’t bother to vote, or even debate, presidential war powers. Senator Kaine is apparently going to try again with his resolution. But even if his or Representative Schiff’s proposal were to pass, the president would not be prohibited from many forms of military intervention, all of which he is employing today: using “advisers,” CIA operatives, and special forces; transferring arms to friendly forces; conducting drone strikes; directing air strikes by non-US air forces; training other militaries; and supporting third countries or groups whose ground forces substitute for US forces that Congress would prohibit. Congress will thus be bypassed once again. And only a few members of Congress will likely speak out against the potential human and monetary costs associated with the Pentagon’s latest basing plan. Indeed, most members of Congress, not to mention most of the presidential candidates, will push for increased use of force abroad. Endless war, both undeclared and undebated, will thus remain a central feature of the next presidency.
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University and blogs at In the Human Interest.

On The Shelf 12/30/15

on-the-shelfIssue 2015 – 15    Book Reviews
Four people gathered on December 17 for the final Book Share & Review Group meeting of 2015. Here are the books that were shared:
The Kitchen Boy, by Robert Alexander: a work of fiction, the story explores the final days of Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra, as seen through the eyes of a young kitchen boy, Leonka. Years later, as an ancient Russian immigrant, Leonka claims to be the last living witness of the brutal murders of the Tsar and his family. (Not currently in the Downieville Library.)
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson: this novel has an unusual structure, repeatedly “looping” back in time to describe alternative possible lives for its central character, Ursula Todd, born in 1910 to an upper-middle class British family. The story raises interesting questions of “what if?”. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)
A Lawyer’s Journey, by Morris Dees: an autobiography by the co-founder and chief trial attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Alabama. The author details a history of some of the major legal battles the Center has waged against bigotry, discrimination, and injustice since 1971. He also tells the story of his own personal involvement in that struggle, including the number of attempts on his life by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)
The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith: this crime fiction novel is written by J.K. Rowling under her pseudonym. It is the first novel of the Cormoran Strike series of detective novels. Private investigator, Cormoran Strike, is hired to look into the supposed suicide of a famous supermodel, Lula Landry, who, as a mixed-race girl, was adopted into a wealthy white family. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library, both as a print book and an audio book.)
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins: a psychological thriller, this novel is told from the perspectives of three women, who discover how their lives intertwine with one another. It begins with Rachel’s daily trips to London via train, as she passes the neighborhood where she formerly lived with Tom, who is now married to Anna, and who lives just a few houses down the street from Megan. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee: the novel serves as both sequel and prequel to Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. This story takes place 20 years after the time of the first novel, when Jean Louise (“Scout”) Finch returns to Maycomb, Alabama, from New York City for her annual two-week visit. Utilizing flashbacks to that earlier time — and before — combined with what is happening in the present, Jean Louise discovers that all is not as it has always seemed to be — especially in regard to race relations in her family and town. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)
Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse: this book of fiction is an archaeological mystery, set both in the Middle Ages and present-day France. Two storylines follow two protagonists, Alais (from 1209) and Alice (from 2005), both framed against the Catholic Church’s crusade against the Cathars in the 1200’s. Ultimately, the story becomes a quest for the Holy Grail. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)
Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs, by Michaela Muntean: this children’s non-fiction book tells the story of the former circus high-wire performer who rescues “bad” dogs (after everyone else has given up on them) from shelters, utilizes each dog’s own special skills and what motivates them, and trains them into a “circus” act, which is performed primarily before school audiences. (Not currently in the Downieville Library.)
The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy: winner of the Booker Prize in 1997, this debut novel is about the childhood experiences of fraternal twins in India. The book explores how small things affect people’s behavior and lives. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)

The next gathering of the Book Review and Share Group will be on Thursday, February 18, 2:00 PM.

New Year’s Resolutions
If you’re into making resolutions for the new year, how about one in which you resolve to visit the Downieville Library, sign up for a library card (if you don’t already have one), and take home some books for reading or listening, or a DVD to watch? If you’re not into making such resolutions, come by the library, anyway. We won’t ask to which category you belong.

Moral High Ground 12/30/15

Robert Gould

Robert Gould

The Ongoing Tension between Power and Morality – by Robert J. Gould

American Exceptionalism is the belief that, even when the US is flawed in its policies, those politics are justifiable because there is something innately morally superior about being an American. This alleged moral high ground comes from our international commitment to promote and enforce democracy and free-market capitalism–even when it boils down to supporting dictatorships and economic exploitation.

This view has deep historical roots. We can go back 2400 years to Plato’s dialogues to find the belief that it is better to act unjustly than to suffer unjustly. In the dialogue, Gorgias, Callicles challenges Socrates (Plato’s stalking-horse) by asserting that there is no good in being a victim, so it is morally better to be the victimizer. In my memory, there was an interesting contemporary parallel to this view when I saw a female gang member being interviewed to explain how she was tired of being a victim, that it was time to be the victimizer.

Even though Socrates appears to defeat Callicles’ argument, we find ourselves ensnared on Callicles’ belief today. American Exceptionalism is the legacy of Callicles, where the victimizer can create and maintain power, security, and riches (aided by lawyers, accountants, and publicists, who are conveniently for sale).

Key to the success of the modern Callicles is the use of dishonesty to make the politics of ruthless power appear to be moral. One of the most crazy-making victimizations is the ability to lie with impunity. We were lied to about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, about the alleged Vietnamese attack on the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, about the RMS Lusitania off Britain, about the USS Maine in Cuba, and on and on, to make wars appear to be the moral mission of self-defense, when they have too often been instruments for the maintenance of world dominance, justified by American Exceptionalism.

The dilemma created by Callicles is brought into bold relief when we think about Socrates counterargument, that people should work together, honestly, with justice and moderation: honesty, not lies, nor corruption; justice, not oppression; moderation, not inequality and exploitation. This dilemma finds its parallel today in the proclamations of Donald Trump, in the Callicles role, and Bernie Sanders, in the Socrates role. How the election turns out will speak volumes about how Plato’s dilemma plays out in the drama of American Exceptionalism going forward.

Robert J. Gould, Ph.D., is an ethicist, writes for PeaceVoice, and co-founded the Conflict Resolution Program at Portland State University.

RCRC Year in Review 12/30/15

From: Lee Adams
RCRC Chair and Sierra County Supervisor

2015 proved to be another busy year for California’s rural counties. As Chair of the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), I am proud of the successes we’ve seen, the progress we’ve made, and the lessons we’ve learned this year. RCRC was founded more than 40 years ago to represent California’s rural counties on issues that are unique to them. With more than 2.7 million residents and comprising nearly 50 percent of the state’s land mass, the highly diverse geography of RCRC’s 34-member counties range from forested and mountainous landscapes, to coastal areas, desert regions, farm lands, and vineyards. Recognizing that a “one-size fits all” approach to policymaking doesn’t work, RCRC provides the rural county perspective on a myriad of issues throughout the state and federal legislative and regulatory processes.

While RCRC develops an Annual Report titled the “Year in Review” that covers a wide range of issues worked each year, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of the most hard-fought battles, incremental wins, and overall successes realized in 2015.

Early in the year, RCRC launched a multi-pronged statewide advocacy and public affairs strategy that garnered passage of 27 local Resolutions urging Congress to immediately pass a long-term reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Self- Determination Act (SRS). SRS is a critical funding source for California’s forested counties and schools, where funding supports road maintenance and day-to-day school operations. In April, Congress enacted H.R. 2which contained provisions that provided retroactive SRS payments for Fiscal Year 2014, and extended payments through the end of Fiscal Year 2015. California counties received approximately $31 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and $29 million in Fiscal Year 2015 for SRS payments.

RCRC has been at the forefront of the most talked about issue this year – medical marijuana. In the 2015 Regular Legislative Session, a three-bill medical marijuana licensing/regulatory framework package addressing RCRC’s four key policy concerns was enacted. The package preserves local control, provides explicit county taxing authority, ends the collective model, and addresses environmental impacts associated with cultivation. The RCRC Board of Directors’ adopted Policy Principles

RURAL COUNTY REPRESENTATIVES OF CALIFORNIA
1215 K STREET, SUITE 1650 SACRAMENTO, CA 95814 PHONE: 916-447-4806 FAX: 916-448-3154 WEB: WWW.RCRCNET.ORG

regarding marijuana cultivation allowed RCRC staff to effectively advocate for these key policy concerns of interest to California’s rural counties.

Just this month, Congress passed and the President signed the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Spending Package (Omnibus). The Omnibus includes $452 million in spending authority for the Federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes (Federal PILT) program – an estimated $40 million of which is dedicated for California’s counties. Earlier this year, RCRC staff executed an advocacy and media strategy that included the passage of 30 local county resolutions urging Congress to reauthorize these critical funds. While the reauthorization of Federal PILT has been an annual effort for RCRC, we continue to advocate for long-term funding and the return to a mandatory spending program. The Omnibus also includes an increase to wildfire funding to support wildfire operations of roughly $670 million above Fiscal Year 2015 funding levels. While there is much work to be done on the federal level, Federal PILT reauthorization and an increase in wildfire funding should be celebrated.

The California Payment in Lieu of Taxes (State PILT) program was established in 1949 to offset the adverse impacts to county property tax revenues that result when the state acquires private property for wildlife management areas. Prior to this fiscal year, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) had not made any State PILT payments to the 36 impacted California counties in well over a decade, resulting in arrearages of approximately $19 million. RCRC advocated for State PILT in both the legislative and State Budget processes, and was successful in making initial headway prior to the final Budget deal. In the end, the 2015-16 State Budget Package included $644,000 to pay current year State PILT. Looking ahead, RCRC will continue its efforts to advocate for State PILT arrearages, as well as reversing prohibitive language recently enacted that makes State PILT payments permissive instead of obligated.

In recent years, several of the state’s Regional Water Boards have expressed increased interest in regulating discharges of waste from grazing operations, culminating in a proposed statewide regulatory program known as the Grazing Regulatory Action Project (GRAP). With no formal proposal, and no new relevant data or studies supporting the need for regulation of grazing operations, RCRC joined with key stakeholders in the ranching industry to develop strategies to halt the development of GRAP. After months of collaboration and working closely with the industry, the development of the program was officially discontinued.

On the transportation front, Congress enacted a long-term highway, bridge, transit, and rail funding bill on December 3, 2015, just before the short-term extension was set to expire. The bill, referred to as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, is a fully funded $305 billion, five-year surface transportation bill that largely addresses several critical county issues RCRC has advocated for over the past two years. Specifically, the FAST Act provides increased funding for local and regional transportation priorities and increased bridge funding for both on and off-system bridges.

Lastly, RCRC continues to serve as a voice for rural California, and was appointed to serve on two important working groups this year – the Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT), and the Tree Mortality Task Force. Under the direction and

leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, FCAT was assembled in August of 2014 with the primary purpose of developing a Forest Carbon Plan by the end of 2016. Also convened by the Governor, the Tree Mortality Task Force is charged with finding solutions to the growing bark beetle epidemic currently decimating California’s forested landscapes, increasing fire risks, and creating a public safety hazard from falling trees in and around communities. Additionally, RCRC continues to manage the California Forest Watershed Alliance (CAFWA), an urban-rural coalition dedicated to the restoration and improvement of California’s forested watersheds. Comprised of RCRC, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the California Forestry Association (CFA), and the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), CAFWA spent the year advocating at both the state and federal levels, and finalized an overall platform, brand identity, and website.

While I am proud of the hard work that our organization has put forth this year, I am most humbled by the generosity and determination of our Board and county family. Our collective mission to enhance and protect the quality of life in California’s small and rural counties brings us together, and our commitment to the goals outlined as an organization help us achieve that mission. I thank my RCRC colleagues for the opportunity to lead, I thank my Sierra County colleagues for appointing me to serve on their behalf, and I thank the people of Sierra County for their trust in me as a Supervisor.

RCRC’s Year in Review can be accessed here. To learn more about RCRC, or to dive deeper into a particular county-related issue,http://www.rcrcnet.org.

Harshest Year of All 12/30/15

by Sharon Dobija (courtesy of the Mountain Messenger)
SIERRA CITY–It was not a good nor gentle year, 2015. Not to diminish the rest of the County communities’ losses, Sierra City lost not only a proportionately large number of residents but people with a significant intrinsic value in the year 2015.
There was John Grenier who in most persons’ estimation was the nicest person one would ever meet – not ever a harsh word; funny and a loving family man.
Of course, C.K. Smith, 90 plus years of historical relevance and a true joy to know – one of the kindest human beings ever to grace Sierra City.
Shortly thereafter, Kathy Breed, clever, creative and able to bring ideas and people together unlike any other person and with energy unmatched by most.
Tom Hennessy, our summer resident entrepreneur known widely for the “Hennessy Hilton” yearly soirees and his kind generosity of all things local.
Most recently, Steve “Birdman” Underwood; lover of the outdoors, forests, fishing and friends.
There are few who make the title of Sierra City “Character”; and the title is usually bestowed on the elderly and crotchety, or the unusual in personality. However, each of the above persons was a Sierra City Character in their own right.
The color and flavor of Sierra City has changed somewhat this year, and not for the better. There have been those that have gone before, of course, but this particular year was harshest on the community of Sierra City. May 2016 be a kinder year for us.

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