Wednesday December 28, 2016

NEWSFLASH FROM CAROL – I saw Sally at the dump today. She said they are open Saturday, CLOSED SUNDAY. Not open Monday, as they were this week. Thought you may want to post this info.

Golly Gee, Gosh, this is the last issue of 2016, next week will be 2017 and the beat goes on…. So if you are thinking about making a donation to a worthy cause before the year end Sierra Frontier Medical Resources, Inc is the non profit working with local emergency medical responders to bring consistent Advanced Life Support (ALS) with an ultimate goal of 24 HR Urgent, Emergency & Primary care back to the west side of Sierra County. Your tax deductible donation would be so appreciated.

Joyce White let us know there is Senior lunch tomorrow (29th) at the Downieville Community Hall and there will be New Years Eve Bingo at the hall on Saturday the 31st. Doors open at 7pm and games start at 8…Bring a snack to share if you want.

More good news, I was told by Rebecca at the Mountain Messenger that subscription prices are not being raised for 2017, so you can start or renew your subscription at the same low price and if you renew for two years you are cinching the deal for longer.

This week we have our usual suspects Carrie’s Corner, On The Shelf, Sheriff”s Log, local and state news our guest columnists John LaForge,  Mel Gurtov,  Cuautli Verastegui, Robert Koehler, Lawrence Wittner,  It has been a rough couple of months to find anything positive to write about politically and I really wish I could be positive about our future. I am worried but somewhere deep down I have believe our system will work that Donald Trump will turn into a good President, that the whole legislative, judicial. and executive branches of governement come together and make sure we don’t drive ourselves off the cliff. I thought about only publishing upbeat stuff this week but you know it doesn’t hurt to think about things and figure out how to work towards a better world than what we have now, as Americans we really do have it good compared to the many other countries, but then there are some countries who have figured out how to prioritize education, health care and living wages for all, we can do that we just need to think a little bigger.

The photo this week came from You know you’re from Sierra County if you remember… Jim Yeoman posted it and although we are not sure who took the photo it was taken in 2013, it could have been this morning that is how cold it is today.

Generous Spirit 12/28/16

P.O. BOX 254

December 27, 2016

Dear Editor:

The Western Sierra Food Bank, Inc. volunteers who made –up and delivered 105 food baskets at Christmas time would like to thank all of the people who so generously contributed funds to Western Sierra Food Bank The funds included private donors; people who attended Sierra City’s Holiday Potluck; Sierra City’s Community Church service and Kyle Bosworth, as a Boy Scout project, who set up food collection boxes within the communities.

The generous spirit of all those who gave provided more than funds and food as they also provide a better quality of health and caring to our appreciative community members.

Also, food baskets are available to those in need throughout the year. Please contact Bette Jo or Frank Lang if a need arises. The phone number is: (530) 289-3644.

Sincerely,   Bette Jo Lang, Chairperson

Hurricanes of Hate 12/28/16

Cuautli Verastegui

Standing against the hurricanes of hate – by Cuautli Verastegui

My name is Cuautli Verastegui, and if there’s one aspect of life I understand, it’s conflict; my first name is Nahuatl or Aztec, and my last name is Spanish, representing a history of bloodshed; my mother is a devout Christian, and my father is an Atheist; and, I live in a world where people’s quest for power results in death and suffering.

But I don’t want my name associated with conflict, with killing, with war. I want my name associated with peace. Instead of thinking of the bloodshed amongst the Native Americans and the Spaniards, I want my name associated with the wonderful Latin culture that has flourished from this history, with the fact that love triumphs over everything. Instead of thinking of the fighting amongst my parents’ peoples, I like to think of the four loving children they created. Instead of thinking of how rich, powerful people are corrupt, I want to think about how a simple personal choice can change all of that. I want my name to represent the peace, love, and beauty that can be reached on this earth, even if our pasts are haunted by the opposite.

We’ve all heard this narrative before. We all know that peace is good and that war, violence, and oppression is bad. Because at the end of the day, all everyone wants is to have the right to live life: to smile, to laugh, to be happy, and to enjoy watching our loved ones do the same.

But I’m scared to act. I’m smart enough, white enough, and charismatic enough to live a good life in this deeply flawed nation. However, I’m brown enough to feel the fear this campaign season and election has blown in like a bad wind.

A president-elect who supports deporting 11 million immigrants and dividing two countries by a wall, as a Hispanic, I cannot support that; a president-elect who supports institutionalized racism with stop and frisk; as a minority, I cannot support that; a president who wants to place a ban on Muslim Immigrants, gropes women and only cares about their appearance, does not support LGBTQ rights, the list goes on and on, as a decent citizen, I cannot support those ideas nor the impulses that drive them.

I’m here to tell you that I’ve found courage. This courage comes from deep within. From a source that’s never ending, and its seeds will sprout hope.

When I was four, I lived in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. If you’ve never been there, there’s a lot of dust. Occasionally, huge windstorms would sweep the dust across the city, making it unsafe to breathe outside. But when you’re four you have no consciousness of safety, only your mother does, and she’d keep us playing inside. However, one day I got an idea. What if my older brother Ricky and I didn’t go outside to play, but went outside to stop the sandstorms? It was just like the stories of Moses parting the Red Sea my mother had read to me. The logic was sound to any four-year-old. And so, that’s what my brother and I did. We went outside and yelled at the wind, “Para!” And we did stop the wind that day, it seemed to us. Of course it picked up because it was putting up a good fight. However, when the wind did pick up, we’d simply yell louder, stronger, and somehow more courageously.

Until today, I have never had more courage then when I was four yelling at the wind to stop.

Now, I am sitting in a computer lab—hoping that this story, this message, these words, this idea that I have carried with me for 15 years will transfer to you. Because words can be powerful. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is an action, even if it is small?

I’m here to tell you that I will begin to hold a sign reading: “An Advertisement For Peace.” This is my way, a small action but only a beginning, to saturate the world with Peace.

The question is, when that moment comes when you know how to contribute to a peaceful change, what will you do? Will your fears overwhelm you? Or will you act?

We can stop this wind. We can find the courage. We will be loud. We will get louder, until our voices are heard, and we are met with actions not simply promises and words.

Cuautli Verastegui, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a university student leader of Students United for Nonviolence.

Cruise with Lou 12/28/16

Celtic Thunder Cruise  will set sail from Miami Florida and cruise to Roatan and Cozumel, Mexico on CARNIVAL SENSATION. Will spend a day in Roatan with Celtic Thunder for a beach party!

Everyone will be able to see two Celtic Thunder Shows, Celtic Thunder solo shows. Some of the guests are Gaelic Rhythm, Sandra O’Hara and the ever-so-funny Ritchie Hayes.

There will be and “day before” hotel in Miami where we can meet all fellow “cruisers”. The hotel will be announced soon. Lots of questions so be patient, details will follow throughout December. No prices have been posted yet.

So, there you go! Mark that calendar, get that passport ready and start packing. We have been on two previous cruises with the boys and had a blast. Don’t be a scrooge, come join the fun!


Forget “Never Again” 12/28/16

John LaForge

What Part of “Never Again” Does Mr. Trump Not Understand? – by John LaForge

Asked last year whether he would require American Muslims to register in a database Donald Trump said he “would certainly implement that — absolutely.” During a Nov. 16 appearance on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show, former Trump spokesman Carl Higbie said a registry of Muslims would be “legal” and that “We did it during World War II with the Japanese.”

“You’re not suggesting that we go back to Japanese internment camps are you?” Kelly asked. “I’m not proposing that at all,” Higbie said, “But I’m just saying there is precedent for it.” To this Kelly declared: “You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything the president-elect is going to do.”

But of course he could, because Mr. Trump appears to win support by boastfully saying and doing anything that produces a roar from the mob — crowing about sexual assault, torture, shooting people in the face, bombing civilians, deporting millions — no matter how unlawful, bigoted, sexist, hateful or dishonest it sounds.

The so-called “precedent” includes the bitter irony that many imprisoned Japanese-Americans had sons in the military fighting against fascism in Germany and Italy. Muslim-Americans likewise have thousands of children in the US armed forces. Yet Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, the parents of Humayun Khan–an Army Captain who died in a car bombing in Iraq in 2004–were viciously belittled by Trump, using the same bigotry with which he attacked Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, absurdly calling him “Mexican.”

News coverage of Higbie’s Muslim registry “precedent” balloon neglected to mention that arresting 3-11 million undocumented immigrants (Trump calls this whole class “Mexicans”) would also require a mass police-state internment program like the WWII crimes visited upon Japanese-Americans. The media also ignored the fact that the US government has officially memorialized an apology for the WWII mass arrests and detentions, and has erected a monumental promise never to do any such a thing again.

“The Lessons Learned Must Remain As A Grave Reminder Of What We Must Not Allow To Happen Again To Any Group.”

The National Japanese American Memorial, in Washington, DC, pledges never to repeat this overtly racist chapter of American history. The national media’s ignorance or omission of this national monument is partly understandable. It’s not noted on any of the DC tour maps I consulted. The memorial is a permanent reminder of the shameful arrest and imprisonment-without-cause of more than 120,000 Japanese-American civilians. What’s more, for a city like Washington, which is crowded with mostly self-congratulatory monuments, the internment memorial is a vanishingly rare, direct and unambiguous admission of wrongdoing by the government.

Inscribed in the memorial’s elegant marble pedestals are President Reagan’s words: “Here We Admit A Wrong. Here We Affirm Our Commitment As A Nation To Equal Justice Under The Law.” Also carved in stone is this pledge from the late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii: “The Lessons Learned Must Remain As A Grave Reminder Of What We Must Not Allow To Happen Again To Any Group.” In 1988, Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which apologizes on behalf of the government and declares that the mass arrests were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” This sounds familiar.

In The Underside of American History, historian Roger Daniels writes about early 1942 that: “Racist feelings were intensified by wild rumors of sabotage and espionage, and a variety of groups demanded the expulsion of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast.” The US Army and the War Relocation Authority forces then used house raids to detain and ship 120,313 Japanese-Americans to hastily-built, barbed wire-circled prison camps — many built in the desert.

Today’s advocates of Trump’s “database of Muslim residents” should consult the 1983 federal commission on the mass detentions of World War II. It found there was “no military necessity for the mass imprisonment of the Japanese Americans and that a grave injustice had been done.”

The US started down this road immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, when more than 2,000 people in the country were arrested in secret. The Justice Department refused then to issue a list of names or the number of those incarcerated, arguing that “national security interest” outweighed the public’s right to know. During these secret arrests, US Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., visited the Krome detention center near Miami and found it astonishing that “…the Immigration and Naturalization Service is fixated on detaining and rounding up countless Arab-Americans without any justification.”

But Trump would rather we forget US history, ignore Reagan’s apology, and break Senator Inouye’s promise. Today’s wartime hysteria, fueled by Trump’s baseless accusations against immigrants, helps some ignore our history, especially if it is ugly, and consider repeating it even if we’ve promised “never again.”

John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.

CEO Retirement Inequities 12/28/16

Lawrence Wittner

The Scandal of Vast Inequality in Retirement Pay – by Lawrence Wittner

Cato the Elder, a Roman senator and historian, once remarked: “Cessation of work is not accompanied by cessation of expenses.” For centuries, retirees have been aware of this unfortunate fact, which led them to demand and, in many cases, secure old age pensions to help provide financial security during their “golden years.” But as indicated in a recently-released report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the financial security of retiring corporate CEOs is far, far greater than the financial security of average Americans.

According to the extensively researched IPS report, A Tale of Two Retirements, 100 corporate CEOs possess company retirement funds totaling $4.7 billion―an amount equivalent to the entire retirement savings of 41 percent of U.S. families (50 million families, including 116 million Americans). The retirement funds of these 100 CEOs are also equivalent to those of 75 percent of Latino families, of 59 percent of African-American families, of 55 percent of female-headed households, and of 44 percent of white working class households.

Indeed, the top 100 CEO nest eggs, if averaged, would generate a $253,088 monthly retirement check to these 100 individuals for the rest of their lives. By contrast, workers who had 401(k) pension plans at the end of 2013 had only enough in these plans to pay them an average monthly benefit of $101. Of course, these were the lucky ones. Among workers 56 to 61 years old, 39 percent had no employer-sponsored retirement plan at all, and would likely depend on Social Security, which pays an average of $1,239 per month, for retirement security.

Of course, these are only averages. When one looks at individuals, the contrasts are even starker. Glenn Renwick, the Progressive Insurance Company’s CEO who retired in 2016, receives a monthly retirement check from his company for $1,035,733. Among Walmart’s 1.5 million employees, fewer than two-thirds have a company-sponsored retirement plan and, if they do, it will pay them, on average, only $131 per month. But Walmart’s CEO, Doug McMillon can expect to receive at least $360,000 per month―more than 2,700 times the amount a typical Walmart worker with a 401(k) account can expect. And there’s also CEO David Cote of Honeywell―a company that has locked out its workers from its factories in Green Island, NY and South Bend, IN for seven months for rejecting a contract that eliminated workers’ pensions―who receives a monthly retirement check from the company for $908,712.

Or take the case of John Hammergreen, CEO of the McKesson corporation, a drug wholesaling giant. A few months after Hammergreen arrived at McKesson in 1996, the company froze its employee pension fund, closing it to workers who came there in 1997. Even so, the company launched a lavish Executive Benefit Retirement Account that enriched Hammergreen’s pension with an average of $22,000 a day for the next 20 years. Thus, today he receives a monthly retirement check from the company for $782,339.

Things were not always like this. From 1946 to 1980, a combination of union action and government policy led to the expansion of pension benefits for American workers. By 1980, 46 percent of private sector workers were covered by defined benefit pensions. But, in the following decades, declining union strength, corporate attacks on pension funds, and government action resulted in a severe erosion of worker retirement security. By 2011, only 18 percent of private sector workers were covered by defined benefit plans.

As demonstrated by the authors of the IPS report, the growth of economic inequality in retirement provisions resulted from rigging things in favor of CEOS through new rules for pensions, taxes, and executive compensation. “Since more than half of compensation is now tied to the company’s stock price,” the authors note, “CEOs have a powerful personal incentive for slashing worker retirement benefits in order to boost the short-term bottom line. Every dollar not spent on employee retiree security is money in the CEO’s pocket.”

Although changes in public policy could close the widening pension gap, such changes do not seem likely to occur while a zealously pro-corporate party controls the White House, Congress, and the courts. Indeed, as the authors point out, thanks to the shielding of enormous CEO income in tax-deferred accounts, Fortune 500 CEOs will see very substantial gains in their retirement checks if President Trump succeeds in implementing his plan to slash the top marginal income tax rate.

It’s possible that, in the long run, the rising tide of retirement insecurity will spark a revolt challenging the severe economic inequality between corporate CEOs and their American workers. Until then, however, it’s tempting to propose updating Jonathan Swift’s eighteenth century satirical suggestion, made in A Modest Proposal, that poverty among the poor might be alleviated by selling their babies as food for the rich. Perhaps, in twenty-first century America, retirement insecurity might be alleviated by selling elderly workers to the corporate rich, who could use them for the burgers sold by their fast food companies.

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?

Havens of Safety 12/28/16

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Urges “Safe Haven” Designation for California’s 10,500 Public Schools

Tom Torlakson

SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today released a letter encouraging all California public schools to be declared “safe havens” for students and their parents and to remind families about existing laws that protect students’ records from questions about immigration status.
“Unfortunately, since the presidential election, reports of bullying, harassment, and intimidation of K-12 students based on immigration status, religious, or ethnic identification are on the rise,” Torlakson said in the letter distributed to county and school district superintendents, charter school administrators, and principals.
“As State Superintendent of Public Instruction, safety is my top priority. And my strongest commitment to you, your students, and their families is that schools remain safe places to learn. California serves more than 6.2 million kindergarten through twelfth grade students with the most diverse population in the nation.”
The letter encourages all parents and guardians to fully participate in their school communities. Engaged parents play a key role in helping students succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college, Torlakson said.
The California Department of Education (CDE) will continue to provide local educational agencies (LEAs) with guidelines about existing laws that protect student records, including the 1984 Plyler v. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires schools to enroll all eligible children regardless of immigration status.
Schools must verify a student’s age and residency, but they have extensive flexibility in what documents are used and do not need to use pertaining to immigration status. No records can be released to law enforcement without a parent’s written permission, a court order, or subpoena. Schools should not collect or maintain any documents pertaining to immigration status, Torlakson said.
Some California schools districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District and Sacramento City Unified School District, have declared themselves safe havens and let their communities know they will maintain a welcoming environment for all students and parents.
The full letter is available on the California Department of Education (CDE) Public Schools Remain Safe Havens

The California Department of Education is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education’s Web site 

CA Democrat Delegates 12/28/16


SACRAMENTO – All California Democrats are invited to elect delegates to guide the California Democratic Party! Whether you want change in the CDP or appreciate the way the CDP operates now, this is your opportunity to make your voice heard.

The California Democratic Party is convening Assembly District Meetings (ADEM) to select delegates in each of the state’s 80 Assembly Districts on Saturday January 7 or Sunday January 8, 2017.

The Assembly District 1 election will be held on January 7 starting at 12:30 at the Off Center Stage theater, 315 Richardson St, in Grass Valley and at the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local, 900 Locust St, in Redding. Two simultaneous elections are scheduled due to weather considerations and to encourage participation in our very large district which includes Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, Shasta, Siskiyou and portions of Butte and Placer Counties.

The Assembly District Election Meeting (ADEM) delegates are roughly one-third of the governing body of the California Democratic Party which is also known as the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC). The DSCC is made up of approximately 3,200 members. Together these delegates vote and conduct business at the yearly State Conventions, including the elections of CDP Officers, the election of up to 25 State Party Regional Directors, CA Democratic Party legislative endorsements, ballot propositions, CDP Resolutions and the California State Party Platform.

Each of the 80 Assembly Districts will elect 14 people (seven women and seven men) to be members of the Democratic State Central Committee Delegation for the 2017-2019 term. These 14 people will represent their Assembly District for both the 2017 and 2018 State Conventions.

While the filing period has closed to run as a delegate candidate, all AD1 Democrats are encouraged to participate by meeting and voting for their candidates of choice. The ADEM is conducted as a caucus so Democrats must vote in person; mail or proxy balloting is not allowed. The list of candidates, specific times and locations of all the election meetings will be final on January 2. This information will be posted at or you may call the California Democratic Party headquarters at 916.503.7302, or email

Different Worlds 12/28/16

Robert Koehler

Pledging Allegiance  – by Robert C. Koehler

I pledge allegiance to . . . what?

The Electoral College, to no one’s serious surprise, voted Donald Trump in as the nation’s 45th president, and the pot of outrage in the American spectator democracy begins to boil.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no — no to all his right-wing and idiotic cabinet and Team Trump appointments, no to his conflicts of interest and serial tweets, no to his sexism, his reckless arrogance, his ego, his finger on the nuclear button.

The word of the day is resistance. For instance, Nancy Altman and Ira Lupu, writing at Huffington Post, point out that Trump, though legally the new American president, lacks political legitimacy, thanks to widespread voter suppression, his huge loss in the popular vote and the anachronistic absurdity of the Electoral College; and even more disturbingly, is a thin-skinned, dishonest, immature jerk, utterly lacking the moral authority a national leader must project. These are flaws that cannot be ignored.

“Other elected officials, the media, and the citizenry at large have no obligation to afford him the slightest political respect,” they write. “Rather, the next four years should be a time of resistance and outright obstructionism. Opponents of Trump should be at least as aggressive in challenging the political legitimacy and moral authority of his presidency as Republicans were in disrespecting President Obama, whose political legitimacy and moral authority were beyond reproach.”

Wow, I get it. Don’t let Trump get away with anything! Fight every alt-right and nutcase appointment he tries to make, every racist or reckless policy he tries to implement. Above all, don’t let him shift the paradigm of normal.

There’s only one problem here, and it’s the same problem the Hillary Clinton campaign faced and had no way to overcome. The “old normal” — the Washington consensus, the status quo — that Trump is so successful at selectively mocking, even as he remains utterly enmeshed in it, is a ravenous predator and looming disaster of global proportions.

I pledge allegiance to the United States of War? To the United States of Prisons? To the United States of Poverty and Infrastructure Decay and Contaminated Water?

Indeed, the concept of American exceptionalism ensconced in the old normal and thoughtlessly touted by the corporate media is Trumpesque in its narcissism. And its time is running out. The economy is breaking down for much of the working class and some of our deep, foundational flaws — the racism, the militarism, the environmental exploitation — are getting increasingly difficult to avoid noticing.

The challenge presented by Trump requires something more than resistance. I believe it requires reaching for, and pledging our allegiance to, a much larger, more compassionate and peace-oriented country than the one we have now. It requires pledging allegiance to the planet and the future.

But what does this look like?

Half a century ago, the emerging nation could be seen in the civil rights movement. Today, perhaps the best place to look is Standing Rock, where an old wound, you might say, is insisting on its right to heal.

“What can we learn from their struggle?” Audrea Lim asks in The Nation. “Bombarded for months with tear gas, sound cannons, rubber bullets and water hoses (often in freezing temperatures, no less), the camp at Standing Rock grew from around ten in April to thousands by fall. They transformed what might have otherwise been a remote, invisible, rural struggle into national headline news.”

The struggle, she notes, had blatantly racist origins: “Originally meant to traverse the Missouri River north of Bismarck, city residents complained that it would threaten their municipal water supply, and the pipeline was re-routed to nearer the Standing Rock reservation in September 2014.”

She adds: “It is significant that Bismarck is 92.4 percent white.”

This could have been just one more isolated wrong, but for some reason the national or perhaps global moment was ripe for it to be something else. The struggle for water rights, for the sanctity of the land, for a wounded people’s dignity, sent a tremor through the whole country. Something sacred — to use a risky, old-fashioned word — had been violated. And maybe we’re no longer simply Consumer America, using up our resources, destroying our rivers, clotting our veins, to consequences born only by the racially and culturally marginalized. We used to be, but this is changing.

“We live today at a moment of transition between worlds.”

So writes Charles Eisenstein in The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. The world that’s giving way — and the story, or mythology, that sustains it — is the world of “survival of the fittest” and winner takes all, the world of domination and conquest, isolation from nature, a dismissal of life itself as less than sacred.

“Today,” writes Eisenstein, “it is increasingly obvious that this was a bubble world built atop massive human suffering and environmental degradation.”

It isn’t merely resistance that will replace the bubble world of exploitation, but a new and deeper consciousness of connection with all of life and a reawakening to what is sacred.

I pledge allegiance to the world that is coming into being.

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

Loyalton VFD Fire Calls 12/28/16

Loyalton Fire Department Incident Log: Sun. 18 Dec thru Sat. 24 Dec 2016 

Date Time Area Nature Details
Sun. 18 Dec. 12:50P City of Loyalton Medical Unresponsive person, assist ambulance
Sun. 18 Dec. 4:45P Community of Sierra Brooks Medical Person w/laceration of arm, assist ambulance
Mon. 19 Dec. 4:15P County, West of Loyalton Medical Party w/respiratory distress, assist ambulance
Mon. 19 Dec. 6:00P City of Loyalton Training Live fire double car fire incident at night with ice

LVFD double car fire training last Monday Dec. 19th where Chief Shawn Heywood conducted a live fire two car incident at night and in freezing conditions. It was excellent and attended by nearly the entire department.

Leverage or Blackmail 12/28/16

Mel Gurtov

The Diplomacy of Donald J. Trump – by Mel Gurtov

Oblivious to Tradition and Good Sense
Those of us who appreciate the unconventional have to have second thoughts after watching Donald J. Trump in action. All the more so when it comes to the conduct of foreign affairs, in which Mr. Trump is a novice. Defying convention, which calls for the president or president-elect to call on the State Department for advice and talking points, and on the intelligence community for daily briefings, Trump at any time might decide to pick up the phone and chat with a foreign leader, might Tweet an opinion, or might make an off-the-cuff remark about a controversial issue. Trouble is, any of these acts might run directly counter to ongoing US foreign policy. You can’t flatter a dictator, interject comments about another country’s domestic affairs, praise one country at the expense of another, or bring family into high-level meetings without consequences. Trump has done all these, and more, and as president seems determined to continue the practice.

Such practices only make sense when understood in terms of Trump’s “art of the deal” approach to diplomacy. And “the deal” must be taken literally, since Trump clearly sees doing the nation’s business as being equivalent to doing his personal business. Protecting the environment, promoting human rights and social justice, and strengthening international law have no place in the deal.

Trump Organization hotels and golf courses outside the US, and Trump’s financial portfolio (Goldman Sachs, Apple, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and other international firms ), spell conflicts of interest in capital(ist) letters. Given Trump’s lack of transparency on his taxes and business dealings, his refusal to establish a blind trust or divest his financial holdings, and his absolutist belief that “the president cannot have a conflict of interest,” we may never know whether or not he is using his position to further “the brand” and his personal fortune.

Here’s What Trump Has Said and Done
China: Trump broke with longstanding precedent again when he held a telephone conversation with Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, the first conversation between two leaders since the 1979 US recognition of the PRC and breaking of ties with Taiwan. Contrary to Trump’s insistence that “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME” to offer congratulations, official Taiwan sources said the call had been arranged in advance. Supporting that view, a Washington Post report said the call “was planned weeks ahead by staffers and Taiwan specialists on both sides, according to people familiar with the plans.” In fact, Trump’s pro-Taiwan advisers said they deliberately wanted to send China a message that the old Taiwan policy might change if China’s policies on currency, US investments in China, the trade deficit, North Korea, and the South China Sea did not change. Trump underscored that message by publicly questioning the one-China policy that has guided US-China relations for 40 years. (“I don’t know why we have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China,” he said.) Leverage, or blackmail?

During his campaign, Trump had harsh words for China—and in doing so revealed very limited understanding of Chinese motivations, not to mention reliance only on himself for his views of China. He said then what he has said now, that if China doesn’t behave as he sees fit, he will authorize trade and currency sanctions. After all, who needs China?

But if Trump now intends to put China on notice, China is also putting Trump on notice. The Chinese press has carried stories indicating that although positive US-China relations are most important to Chinese leaders, further steps that are contrary to the “One China” principle will be resisted. The press has also reported various negative views of US society and politics today, with the suggestion that the US has become weak and divided in the course of this electoral cycle. If the idea of Taiwan independence, which most concerns Chinese leaders, actually takes shape under Trump, we can expect that China’s pushback will be very strong. The recent incident in South China Sea waters in which a Chinese vessel picked up a US Navy unmanned research drone (later returned) may be just a preview.

Trump’s Taiwan gambit is reminiscent of George W. Bush early in his presidency, when he expressed strong support for Taiwan and authorized a major arms sale. But before long Bush accepted the One China policy of his predecessors and backed off from a shift on Taiwan. It’s not clear that Trump will do the same. (The House recently passed a defense authorization bill that called for the secretary of defense to approve annual “senior military exchanges” with Taiwan.) Trump may just be testing the waters, but more likely is that he believes he can pressure China into making concessions. He’ll find that Beijing does not respond well to pressure tactics or blackmail. And that will leave Taiwan out to dry, vulnerable to Chinese threats.

Philippines: Then there’s Trump’s talk with Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, which ended with an invitation to visit the US and Duterte’s later statement that Trump endorsed the anti-drug crackdown. According to Duterte, Trump was “quite sensitive” to the Philippines’ drug problem and was handling it “the right way.” That was not Obama’s view, of course. Duterte’s crackdown on drugs has caused more than 2000 deaths and several hundred surrenders by users and traffickers. Obama’s criticism of Duterte for trampling on civil liberties and engaging in vigilante justice while suppressing drug trafficking is what got Philippines-US relations off track.

Left unsaid is Trump’s considerable real estate interest in the Philippines, an interest that clearly will conflict with his presidency. As reported in the Washington Post, a newly built Trump Tower condominium outside Manila, which Trump’s sons visited for ceremonies to mark its completion, is operated by a top official in the Duterte government:

“The man writing millions of dollars’ worth of checks to the Trump family is the Duterte government’s special representative to the United States. To argue that these payments will be constitutional if they are paid to the Trump children, and not to Trump personally, is absurd. This conflict demands congressional hearings, and could be an impeachable offense.”

Turkey: Similarly, the Post also reported, Trump has business interests in Turkey, and conveyed compliments from a “close friend” of his to Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That association, supplemented by Michael Flynn’s involvements with Turkey, could lead Trump to reverse US policy and expel the cleric, now residing in Pennsylvania, whom Erdogan believes is responsible for the recent coup attempt.

Britain: Trump told the British prime minister, Theresa May, “If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know,” an offhand invitation that came only after he spoke to nine other leaders. He later compounded it by saying on Twitter that Britain should name the anti-immigrant leader Nigel Farage its ambassador to Washington, a startling break with diplomatic protocol.

Israel: Trump just can’t wait to show Benjamin Netanyahu just how pro-Israel (i.e., pro-settlements, anti-UN) he can be. He and “Bibi” are of one mind about the irrelevance of a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. So when the US for the first time failed to reject a UN Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine–the US abstained–Netanyahu went ballistic and Trump followed. Mind you, Obama had only recently pledged $38 billion in military aid to Israel over the next 10 years–a huge increase, considering that from the 1967 June War to 2015, total US military exports to Israel came to $34 billion–in hopes Netanyahu would halt further illegal settlements. Trump will no doubt resume the practice of giving aid without conditions. His nominee as ambassador to Israel, a strong supporter of the settlements, will see that Israel gets whatever it wants.

Japan: When Trump met Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in New York shortly after his election, only one other American was in the room: his daughter Ivanka. Trump apparently did not consult with the State Department for talking points. For all we know, Trump may have reiterated his view during the campaign that Japan should shoulder more of its defense burden, leaving open the possibility of Japan’s producing nuclear weapons.

Pakistan: Trump’s phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif showed total disregard for the sensitive issues that mark US relations with his government, including relations with India, involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence services in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. According to the Pakistani government, Trump told Sharif that he was “a terrific guy” who made him feel as though “I’m talking to a person I have known for long.” He described Pakistanis as “one of the most intelligent people.” When Sharif invited Trump to visit Pakistan, the president-elect replied that he would “love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people.” Trump’s team would not confirm or deny Pakistan’s account.

Kazakhstan: Trump’s penchant for cozying up to dictators (except China’s) shows that he will follow an unfortunate US foreign policy tradition. His call with President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev is indicative: As usual, Trump failed to mention that country’s repressive politics. Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, initially as head of the Communist Party before independence. He won his fifth election in April 2015 with about 97 percent of the vote. The Kazakh government claimed that Trump lavishly praised Nazarbayev’s leadership, citing “fantastic success that can be called a ‘miracle.’” More intelligently, Trump apparently also praised the Kazakh government’s surrender of the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviets.

Russia: Trump’s love affair with Vladimir Putin remains one of the most bizarre stories in international affairs, though I can’t quarrel with the goal of a reset in relations. But the terms of a reset are critical. Since the start of Trump’s campaign, he has endorsed Putin’s strong leadership (stronger than Obama’s, Trump said), avoided criticism of Russian interventions in Ukraine and the Crimea, agreed with Putin on focusing on ISIS in Syria, and—most extraordinarily—rejected the consensus view of the intelligence community on Russian hacking of the US elections. Furthermore, Trump and his future secretary of state, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, have large business interests in Russia. Now Trump has embraced the idea of a nuclear arms race; Putin has said “nyet,” but Trump’s bravado gives him license to push for more nukes and other weapons in the context of a much larger military budget.

In Conclusion
Let’s remember one thing about all these forays into foreign policy: Trump has still not been inaugurated. Thus, he is trying to make policy while still a private citizen and, in all the cases above, without a secretary of state or defense. His recent pronouncements on nuclear weapons, Russia, Israel, China, and the United Nations—all via Twitter or telephone, and thus without benefit of expert advice or questions from the press corps—not only reveal a preparedness to make significant, high-risk departures from longstanding US policy. They also subvert the country’s leadership, making it appear that Trump is already in charge. President Obama is fighting back by executive action. But shouldn’t he also pick up the phone to firmly remind Trump who’s in charge?

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University and blogs at In the Human Interest.

Durant Appointed S.C. Judge 12/28/16

Good morning,

Yvette Durant appointed Judge for Sierra County Courts

We are pleased to announce that Governor Brown has appointed Yvette Durant to fill our judicial vacancy. Ms. Durant served as the shared Family Law Commissioner for Sierra and Nevada Counties from 2011 to 2016 and prior to that maintained a private law practice in Truckee. Once arrangements are made regarding her start date, she will be sworn in and a welcome addition to our bench and Court.

Further, we would like to acknowledge and thank Judge Pangman for his commitment and service to Sierra Superior Court prior to and during this vacancy.

Please join us in congratulating Yvette on this distinguished appointment.

Regards, Honorable Charles Ervin,  Superior Court, County of Sierra


SACRAMENTO December 23, 2016 – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the appointment of Yvette Durant to a judgeship in the Sierra County Superior Court.

Durant, 51, of Truckee, has served as a commissioner at the Nevada County Superior Court since 2011.

She was a sole practitioner from 1999 to 2011 and an associate at Tonon and Associates in 1999. Durant was an associate at Ashbaugh Beal from 1991 to 1993. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Washington School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nevada, Reno. She fills the vacancy created by the death of Judge John P. Kennelly. Durant is a Democrat. The compensation for this position is $191,612.

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