Archive for January, 2009

No Transparency in Mendocino County

January 27, 2009

Today local attorney Barry Vogel addressed the County Board of Supervisors in response to the County’s refusal to divulge information to the local newspaper regarding county employees job duties, number supervised and pay scale. The Ukiah Daily Journal’s editor wrote this piece, published on the front page of the January 23 edition, responding to the County’s refusal.

A copy of Mr. Vogel’s comments is below. They were not received very well by some of the Board members:

Mr. Chairman and members of the Board, good morning. I’m Barry Vogel. I live in Ukiah and have been practicing law here for 35 years.

I come to tell you of my disappointment in the stonewall failure of Tom Mitchell, the County’s Chief Executive Officer, to answer the Ukiah Daily Journal’s inquiry directed to him and each county department head.

Journal’s questions, as reported on the newspaper’s front page last Friday are:

1. How many people do you supervise, and who are they?
2. How much is your yearly salary?
3. Please provide a brief description of your job duties.
4. What do you believe will be the challenges facing your department in 2009?

The answers are simple, straight forward and known. Yet, according to the Journal this information has been made secret by Mr. Mitchell and county attorney Jeanine Nadel.

One week ago today President Obama told our nation:

Those…. Who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

It is bad habit to keep this information secret. Your support of this secrecy will question, among other things, the wisdom of how you will spend the little money that remains in the public coffers.

I am here to ask that you direct these questions to answered now, directly, openly and fully. Today.

Although this issue is not on today’s agenda, the law provides authority to when an emergency exists. “The blanket refusal to answer these questions” to quote the Journal’s editorial, imposes an emergency. You may address this matter today as an urgency measure by a 4/5ths vote. Make the simple finding that this information should be public: No court in this state will chastise you.

Knowing each of you, and I do, I believe that at least four of you voted for Mr. Obama and support openness in government.

If, however, you find that this senseless secrecy must endure, then I implore you to put this matter on the agenda of your next meeting and shine the light of day on the public’s business.

And do so now.

Thank you.

I am in complete agreement with Barry and hope Mendocino County will divulge this public information without further delay.

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A New Page

January 22, 2009

Well, Obama is now president and he is off to a running start. It is tremendous to witness such a dramatic change, and one that I feel has been such a long time coming. The White House has a new website that does a great job of embodying the changes Obama represents. The use of the internet was a key element of Obama’s campaign and he is continuing to use it effectively. The potential of the internet to assist in a representative and participatory democracy is massive and Obama is the first president to tap into it. Here is a section of one of the first blog posts at the White House web page:

Just like your new government, WhiteHouse.gov and the rest of the Administration’s online programs will put citizens first. Our initial new media efforts will center around three priorities:

Communication — Americans are eager for information about the state of the economy, national security and a host of other issues. This site will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated. Check out the briefing room, keep tabs on the blog (RSS feed) and take a moment to sign up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration so you can be sure to know about major announcements and decisions.

Transparency — President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and WhiteHouse.gov will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President’s executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government. You can also learn about some of the senior leadership in the new administration and about the President’s policy priorities.

Participation — President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and reinvigorated!
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MLK Remembered

January 19, 2009

Slate’s Magnum Page has a great slide show.
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BART Police Shooting

January 16, 2009

It was not until the day before yesterday that I started to take a serious look at this BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Police killing on New Years Day. I was actually on BART that night around the same time as the shooting and I noticed a lot of police at the West Oakland BART station looking rather anxious. BART has their own police force that patrol the stations and trains. After viewing a few of the numerous films of the shooting death of Oscar Grant I find myself angered, saddened, confused and outraged. What was this police officer thinking? After watching the video I can only see this as cold blooded murder. The only explanation I have heard is that the officer thought he had his taser in his hand and thought he was tasering the man. I find this excuse to be unreasonable and ludicrous. Here is a link to one of the SF Chronicle articles detailing the event dated Jan. 4. Since the shooting there has been riots and protests in Oakland that have caused thousands of dollars to Oakland businesses and further tarnished Oakland’s fragile reputation. It is unfortunate that the public has reacted this way. However, this completly unjustified killing of an unarmed man by a police officer and the slow response from law enforcement are the heart of the problem.

Obama: Professor President

January 7, 2009


I just listened to a very well produced radio piece on the academic and intellectual development of Barack Obama. The BBC is running the piece here. It included interviews with Obama’s professors at Harvard, his colleagues at the University of Chicago, and his former students. The piece reminded me of just how impressive Obama is and how one cannot help looking at this man with complete respect. It was highlighted that one of Obama’s biggest assets is his ability to identify with such a wide breadth of the population and academia is one of them. I highly recommend downloading this show and listening to it when you have some time.

Harvey Milk and Jesse James

January 4, 2009

Harvey Milk
I watched two films in the last few days, Milk and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Although at first glance these two movies may seem very different, and they are in many aspects, I would like to do a little bit of comparing and contrasting.

Both films are biographical in nature and based on true stories. Both films end in an assassination and in both cases the killer was a close acquaintance of the man they killed. In both films the viewer knew the assassination was coming. Both films center on the relationship between a “charismatic celebrity” and a man who walked in this celebrity’s shadow. Both were good films and I believe this may be because they used a similar formula.

I have mixed feelings about entertainment based on true historical events. This is mainly because I fear that the entertainment version will twist the facts to make it more appealing to a mass audience thus making us more ignorant of the truth. However, there’s also a strong appeal to seeing events unfold on the screen which you know a version of actually occurred in the past.

I am not sure if I liked one of these films more than the other. I believe the cinematography and style of Jesse James to be superior, but Sean Penn’s performance in Milk is marvelous. What really strikes me is the similarity in the two stories and the coincidence of me watching them in two consecutive days.

New Year’s Saluatation

January 3, 2009

Some Wisdom to bring in the New Year:

As the dawn breaks on a new year, let us give thanks for all we hold dear: our health, our family and our friends.

Let us release our grudges, our anger and our pains, for these are nothing but binding chains. Let us live each day in the most loving ways, the God-conscious way. Let us serve all who are in need, regardless of race, color or creed.

Let us keep God of our own understanding in our hearts and to chant God’s name each day. Let us lead the world from darkness to light, from falsehood to truth and from wrong to right.

Let us remember that we are all one, embracing all, discriminating against none.

May your year be filled with peace, prosperity and love. May God’s blessings shower upon you and bestow upon each of you a bright, healthy and peaceful new year.
Reverend Marcy “Melchezedek Order”

“Here we are in a month named after the Roman god Janus, an appropriate personification of the start of the new year. This particular Roman god had two faces so that he could look ahead toward the future and back at the past at the same time. As we get rid of an old year and look forward to a new one, we all try to be a little like Janus. We know through experience what we did wrong and what we did right, and hope to do better this year. Some people make ambitious new year’s resolutions; others just take a deep breath and hope for the best.…”

The most destructive habit……..Worry
The greatest joy…….Giving
The greatest loss…….Loss of self-respect
The most satisfying work…….Helping others
The ugliest personality trait…..Selfishness
The most endangered species…..Dedicated leaders

Our greatest natural resource…..Our youth
The greatest “shot in the arm”……Encouragement
The greatest problem to overcome……Fear

The most effective sleeping pill……Peace of mind
The most crippling failure disease……Excuses
The most powerful force in life……Love

The most dangerous pariah……A gossiper
The world’s most incredible computer……The brain
The worst thing to be without……Hope

The deadliest weapon…..The tongue
The two most power-filled words……”I Can”
The greatest asset…..Faith

The most worthless emotion……Self-pity
The most beautiful attire…..SMILE!
The most prized possession…..Integrity

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Wishing all a 2009 filled with Peace, Strength, and Love