BOARD OF SUPERVISORS HONORS THE MEMORY OF AL BELTRAMI
On Saturday, November 23, 2013, long-time Mendocino County Administrative Officer (CAO) Al Beltrami passed away at age 79. At the time, he was the youngest man ever to serve as administrator of a California county, and in 1989 held the distinction of having the longest tenure in that post, having served as CAO from 1964 to 1989. Beltrami returned as interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from 2006-2007 to manage a challenging transition in county government.
According to his son Bob Beltrami, Al had only planned to work in Mendocino County for a few years, using his position as a career “stepping stone.” However, the place “got to him” and in a short time Al and his wife Pat realized that Mendocino County would be an ideal place to both work and raise a family.
Subsequent to his years as CAO, Beltrami served on many influential state boards and commissions, including the North Coast Water Quality Control Board. He served briefly as Chief Executive Officer for Stanislaus County following his retirement from Mendocino County. Al also had a long and successful career with the U.S. Navy, which ended with an honorable discharge as a Commander in 1994. “Al Beltrami was a giant in Mendocino County government, politics and philanthropy for five decades,” said Board Chair Dan Hamburg. “His sharp intellect, quick wit and infectious laugh will be missed by everyone who had the good fortune to know him.”
The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors will be presenting a resolution during its December 10 Board Meeting regarding Al’s service to the County. The Board of Supervisors, on behalf of the entire County family, sends its deep condolences and gratitude to the family of Al Beltrami. He will be greatly missed.
Released by: Carmel J. Angelo, Chief Executive Officer
JIM TAT KONG and Cindy Bao Feng Chen were found dead in the van they apparently drove up here from the Bay Area. They and their van were found near the old bark dump gate off Highway 20 near Fort Bragg back on October 17th. They had been shot in the head. There may be an organized crime component, Asian Division, but so far all the Mendo Sheriff’s Department will say is “The case is progressing well, but at this time we cannot release any further information so as to not jeopardize ongoing investigations.” Investigations. Plural. Which seems to mean, if we’re reading the tea leaves correctly, federal agencies are also involved.
SATURDAY, Clyde Thompson, 67, diving for abalone, drowned off Salt Point State Park. On Sunday, Oakland resident and abalone diver, Alan Rosenlicht, 57, was pronounced dead after emergency divers “found him unresponsive in the water” at Fort Ross State Park. The abalone season runs from April through November, and every season older men, unaccustomed to the rigors and complications of the sport, don’t live to dive again.
CHEAP SHOT FROM SEIU in a recent leaflet featuring unflattering photos of County CEO Carmel Angelo and her assistant, Kyle Knopp, both of whom are large, very large. It’s like some overpaid someone at SEIU read a Cliff Notes version of Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and several generations later, all the new generation of so-called labor organizers can remember is that they are supposed to pick a target and demonize them, but without knowing how that fits into a larger strategy. By attacking Angelo, who has the solid support of the Board, they are reinforcing the existing united front between the Board and County Admin. SEIU hasn’t defined victory, but based on their childish tactics (more like antics) the masterminds running the SEIU think they are “winning” in Mendo, although SEIU was in a position to declare victory with a rollback on the health insurance increase and a cash payment just before Christmas, but has chosen instead to deliver a lump of coal to its members this holiday season. “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” — Sun Tzu
NOW FOR OUR weekly Post Office lament. Our Independent Coast Observer, based in Gualala, the edition of November 8th, arrived in Boonville on Wednesday, November 20th. As the crow flies, Gualala is 20 miles from Boonville; in road miles via Mountain View Road 44 miles. A subscriber in Indiana says he has yet to receive a November edition of your beloved community newspaper. Ditto for subscribers in LA and New York. HumCo papers were a week late.
VOTERS in the town of Sonoma narrowly defeated a measure that would have restricted hotel development in the already tourist-overwhelmed community. Looking around tourist-underwhelmed Anderson Valley, I have to wonder how long it will be until someone figures out that the “wine country experience” sold by Napa and Sonoma counties, which is your basic mob scene experience, is available here, complete with an array of restaurants equal to anything in Napa and Sonoma?
HAVING ACHIEVED geezer status myself, I think I’m entitled to comment on the sartorial habits of my fellow geezers, one of whom emerged from Paysanne slurping a double-decker ice cream cone Sunday afternoon in a candy cane shirt and shorts ensemble with red running shoes, the shark’s belly white of his spindly shanks on full display. I wonder if Americans have gone blind. I wondered at Mrs. Geez sending the old boy out in public dressed like death’s summer vacation, although she was probably down the street for a double decaf latte, wowing the clerks in her tank top, mini-skirt and ballerina shoes. Contrast our human and architectural eyesores with, say, the old Italians sitting around their ancient plazas in their worn dark suits, all of them presenting the understated dignity of their years. Judged purely by the visuals they present, lots of aged Americans look like lunatics.
GIVEN THE ECO-SENSITIVE times, it’s peculiar that the County’s Health and Human Services Agency, where roughly two-thirds of the County’s employees work, has decided to resuscitate an ancient but ignored County policy prohibiting employees from riding bicycles to meetings. A hardy and healthy minority of County workers ride bikes to work or have otherwise liberated themselves from the tyranny of the automobile, and regularly ride their bikes to department meetings.
BUT FOR SOME STRANGE REASON, only HHSA employees got the No Bikes memo (below). Employees are expected to either drive their personal cars to meetings or get in line to use a County pool car. But there are only one or two pool cars at the facility and they are usually reserved. Staff spotted riding bikes to meetings are reported and officially chastised. (A bike narc in County government?) Morale is already extremely low among County employees, and now this wackily oppressive edict?
TEN YEARS AGO when HHSA was a progressive, community health oriented department, its leadership and advisory board would have advocated for bikes, not written up bike-riding employees. One can only hope a policy revision will be considered. The County could have its bike riders sign away County liability. But imposing and enforcing No Bikes is against national Public Health priorities for promoting clean air and walk-able/bike-able communities. It’s also against the County’s 2009 General Plan: “*Policy DE-161: The County will demonstrate leadership in the implementation of programs encouraging the use of alternative modes of transportation by its employees, as well as the use of alternative fuels. Example programs may include:
• Preferential carpool parking and other ridesharing incentives;
• Flexible working hours or telecommuting where consistent with job duties and customer service needs;
• A purchasing program that favors hybrid, electric, or other energy-efficient vehicles;
• Properly matching trips to the most efficient vehicle to minimize fuel expenditures;
• Encouraging pedestrian/bicycle trips between County facilities where distances and physical ability permit;
• Assisting in the development of demonstration projects for alternative fuel technologies such as ethanol, hydrogen, and electricity;
• Secure bicycle parking; and
• Transit incentives
* * *
MENDOCINO COUNTY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY MEMO
Staff Resources Bulletin # 13-08
To All HHSA staff
Re: Bicycle Usage For Official County Business
This memo is to remind all HHSA staff that riding a bicycle for official County business is prohibited. This includes going from one office location to another for meetings, trainings, etc.
Mendocino County Policy #18 – Travel and Meal Policy, states in part “Employees may use, as an option, their personal vehicle for travel on official County business providing they meet the following requirements:
1.6.1 A personal vehicle is defined as an automobile, truck or van. Motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, bicycles, or similar vehicles may not be used to conduct county business.
1.6.2 Vehicles shall be adequately insured (see policy for liability amount).
1.6.3 The vehicle shall be in sound mechanical condition adequate for providing required transportation in a safe manner.
1.6.4 The vehicle shall be equipped with, and each occupant shall be required to use, seat belts.
1.6.5 The cost of damage and/or wear and tear to a privately owned vehicle used on County business is the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle.
1.6.6 Employees not in compliance with these minimum standards shall not be authorized to drive their personal vehicle on County business.
Therefore, an employee shall use a County vehicle for official County business if he/she rode a bike, motorcycle, moped, scooter, or similar vehicle to work.
It has also been brought to management’s attention that some HHSA staff have been parking his/her bicycle inside the building hallway(s) and/or office space during official work hours. A bike stored in hallways and or office spaces could fall or be knocked down, creating a restriction/blockage to a required “EXIT PATHWAY” and is a violation of the Fire Code Sec. 1003.
Bicycles should be locked in a rack that is provided by the County outside of the County building(s). If a bike rack is needed, a work order should be submitted to acquire one for employees in a secure location. To locate a bike rack near you and/or to order one, please contact your building coordinator.
While HHSA promotes and encourages good health and exercise for our employees, we also have the responsibility to ensure staff is safe and follow County policy.
Thank you, Carmel J. Angelo, Chief Executive Officer
FIRST FRIDAY ART WALK, Ukiah, California December 6th from 5-8pm Enjoy one or all of the First Friday venues– art, music and refreshments
• ART CENTER UKIAH — “Memories and Messages of Good Cheer,” a community effort Create your own holiday postcard and be part of the exhibit. Involve family and friends, bring the cards (5 /12” x 8”) to the gallery, preferably before December 3rd. Name and phone on the back please, schools and businesses welcome. 201 S. State Street Ukiah, 707 462-1400
• CORNER GALLERY — Gloria Simmonds and Cory Jaco, mixed media Catherine Lair, “Nature’s Guardians,” paintings, oil, acrylic, pastels 201 S. State Street, Ukiah, 707 462-1400 www.artcenterukiah.org
• GRACE HUDSON MUSEUM AND SUN HOUSE — “Frank Lloyd Wright: Architecture of the Interior” 431 South Main, Ukiah, 707 467-283 www.gracehudsonmuseum.org
• KIT ELLIOTT GALLERY Tim Moore, paintings 116 South State, Ukiah, 707 468-1600
• MANZANITA & FRIENDS — “Home for the Holidays” Watercolors, oils, drawings, gourd art, & wool felted surprises to bring you joy. Walk that extra “block” it is worth it! 270 N. Pine Street, Ukiah, 707-972-9040
• UKIAH VALLEY ARTIST COOPERATIVE GALLERY — Celebrating Crafters Holiday Craft Show December 6th, 7th and 8th. Reception is on the 6th from 5 pm to 8 pm. Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. 518 E. Perkins, (next to Rod’s Shoes), in the Pear Tree Center, 463-0610 Open Thursday-Saturday 11am to 5 pm
Warmest spiritual greetings, Arrived in New Orleans Wednesday past, staying now at my friend Bork’s 1/2 block from the Common Ground Medical Clinic, which she helped get established following the hurricane eight years ago. The rest of the anarchists left awhile ago, yet she remains in the historic Algiers neighborhood, (where the slaves from Africa were brought to prepare them for servitude). We are four blocks from Gretna, Louisiana, where a statue of the founder of the Ku Klux Klan stands in front of the courthouse. And yet, a free ferry boat ride across the Mississippi River drops one off in the French Quarter; preparation for Mardi Gras has begun, and the big floats are being constructed behind warehouse doors on this side of the river. Bork is fundraising to realize a community center in the old Algiers neighborhood, a place where a sizable number of residents cannot read…although $250 dollars will get you a driver’s license…a friend’s friend sold one of her daughters recently to a man, and we are surrounded by five drug dealing houses. The basketball court nearby is named after the former 1850 plantation owner. Walking the area is moderately surreal, as one passes an historic cemetery, and then a huge alligator figure waiting to be installed on a float, and nondescript streets with weathered houses from another era, reflecting the fact that historic Algiers has been inhabited since the 1790s, and then a contemporary coffee house selling California brand kombucha beverages, in addition to the cajun-creole breakfasts, and everywhere there are churches, many of the southern revivalist type. These are jumpin’ on Saturday night. Considering that this all sits on a swamp, and was impaired by Hurricane Katrina, there is nevertheless no visible interest in any environmental activism related to global climate destabilization. Any mention of the environment on my part has produced a conversation about fishing. What everybody here is really all about is southern cooking and cheering on the Saints football team. Fleur de Lis tattoos are common. Everywhere I go people are discussing holiday recipes. The fact that areas hereabout have the look of being forgotten by time, does not overly concern the majority of residents, except the more politically experienced, who are committed to a community center now that the medical center is established. For many activists, none of this is remotely adequate, and they say that the place that was established to “break slaves” needs a radical social overhaul. Happy Thanksgiving feasting to the rest of postmodern America!
Craig Louis Stehr, c/o Jamie Loughner, 333 Socrates Street, New Orleans, LA 70114, Telephone: (504)302-9951. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: http://craiglstehr.blogspot.com
FRIENDS OF THE GUALALA RIVER TO BE HONORED FOR ITS CRITICAL ROLE IN PRESERVING LARGE TRACT OF COASTAL FORESTLAND; FORMER CONGRESSMAN DAN HAMBURG TO SPEAK
Occidental, California—Forest Unlimited, a Sonoma County forest and watershed protection group, will honor the efforts of Friends of the Gualala River in saving over 19,000 acres of northwestern Sonoma County forest from conversion to a vineyard, a winery and estate properties recently known, ironically, as Preservation Ranch.
The dinner event will begin at 4:30 pm on Saturday, December 14th at Anderson Hall, 101 Lake View Avenue (aka Tower Road) in Camp Meeker (Sonoma County), roughly two miles north of Occidental along the Bohemian Highway. Former congressman and current Mendocino County supervisor Dan Hamburg will offer remarks. Tickets are $17, payable to Forest Unlimited, Box 506, Forestville, California 95436. Ticket orders received up to December 3rd will get any seats remaining.
The celebration honors the work and personal sacrifices made by members of Friends of the Gualala River in a decade-long, David vs. Goliath fight against enormous odds to prevent the clear-cut of some 1,600 acres of redwood and douglas fir forest and the development of the rest of the entire 19,000+ acre parcel (nearly 30 square miles), which lies east and north of the settlements of Annapolis, Sea Ranch and Gualala, near the Mendocino County line.
The entire tract was owned by CALPERS (the California Public Employee Retirement System), which planned to transform these rich coastal watersheds into fragmented vineyard blocks, miles and miles of wildlife fencing and private estates.
Perhaps to the relief of the state’s unsuspecting retirees, this dubious investment strategy was finally exposed and stopped.
The protracted and contentious land-use issue ended last May, when a national group, the Conservation Fund, combined its resources with those of the California Coastal Conservancy, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and the Sonoma Land Trust to purchase some 20,000 acres for $24.5 million. It is the largest land conservation transaction in Sonoma County history.
The lands, renamed Buckeye Forest after the creek that runs through them, will now be permanently preserved as forest.
Members of Friends of the Gualala River worked tirelessly on the issue for years, employing street theater, lobbying of elected officials, speaking before community groups and an online petition signed by 90,000 critics of the development project.
Accepting the award on behalf of the community-based group will be Gualala residents Chris Poehlmann, Dave Jordan, Peter Baye, Ph.D. and Joel Chaban.
OVERPLAYING ITS HAND, ISRAEL STILL HOLDS PLENTY OF US CARDS
by Norman Solomon and Abba A. Solomon
More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.
In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.
While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.
A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).
Netanyahu and many other Israelis — as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics — fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”
This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the *New York Times* reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: *Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.*
Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.
Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the USA and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.
Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. government should stop enabling them.
The longstanding obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.
Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than a million members,” according to the *Jerusalem Post*) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of broad and successful Israel advocacy in the United States.
Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been equated with support for a precious bulwark against terrorism.
Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for UN General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with top officers of American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote for the American public, with phrases familiar to us, such as “making the desert bloom” and “outpost of democracy.”
As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective — along the way, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.
The mainstream American Jewish Committee decided in 1953 that for its pro-Israel advocacy, “To the utmost extent, non-Jewish and non-sectarian organizations should be used as spokesmen.” Such a strategic approach has borne fruit for the overall Israel advocacy project in the USA. It is time-tested and mature; broadly distributing messages through organizations of most political flavors; and adept at touching almost all sizable media. This year, Israeli leaders have intensified their lurid casting of Iran as the next genocidal Third Reich, and Israel as the protector absent for Jews during the Holocaust. For some, the theme is emotionally powerful. But it must not be allowed to prevent a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran. From now till next summer, the struggle over talks with Iran will be fierce and fateful. All signs point to determined efforts by Israel — and its many allies in the United States — to wreck prospects for a peaceful solution.
(Norman Solomon is the founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews,’ Given to the Baltimore Chapter American Jewish Committee, February 15, 1948.”)
WHY do governments store their money in private, for-profit banks? A public bank has only one depositor, the government, and the returns on investments are used to benefit the public instead of private shareholders. It can increase liquidity by partnering with community banks and credit unions, and reduce county debt service by underwriting public infrastructure projects. Although 40% of the banks in the world are public banks, Bank of North Dakota is currently the only public bank in the USA. Acclaimed author and attorney, Ellen Brown, will be in Mendocino County the weekend of December 14 &15 to educate voters about the advantages of establishing a Mendocino County public bank. This is part of the Mendocino County Public Banking Coalition’s educational campaign preparing voters for the June 2014 election when you will have the chance to make Mendocino, California’s 15th Charter County. California law requires that counties have a charter in order to manage their own money and have a public bank.
by Jean Swearingen
I was on my way to eighth grade math class, in the makeshift middle school in Dixon, in Solano County (four years after my family moved away from Boonville). Because we didn’t actually have a school building of our own, which was remedied several years later, named after C.A. (Chris) Jacobs, the long-time teacher who taught language arts for many years, including my two years there, we utilized classrooms in both the high school, where my older brother had attended classes before graduating in June of 1962, and the upper (intermediate) grade school where my mother taught fourth grade. As I made my way to the classroom, I couldn’t help but notice the tear-streaked faces of my classmates, sending me an emphatic message that something was terribly wrong.
Upon arrival at my math class, the message came over the intercom, loud and clear: “The president has just been shot.” Although our math teacher did his best to reassure us, it was abundantly clear to all of us that something had gone horribly awry — something that, as we learned over the next five decades, could never be “fixed” by a teacher’s or parent’s feeble attempts at con¬vincing us that everything was going to be OK. The date was November 22, 1963 — it wasn’t going to be OK then, and it still isn’t now, 50 years later. As adolescents, we were in a state of shock from which most, if not all, of us have never recovered. All of our illusions of safety and protection had been irrevocably shattered, and we were left with feelings of intense vulnerability and helplessness, and a sense that the “American Dream” had eluded our grasp forever.
At the elementary school in Ukiah where I am currently employed, one of the teachers had left copies of a JFK worksheet with factoids about the 35th (and youngest) president, with a crossword puzzle reiterating those factoids about his administration, near the copier. It included information about his family, his founding of the Peace Corps, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, his face-offs against Khrushchev and Castro, and the oft-quoted reference to his administration as the American equivalent of “Camelot.” Sunday’s Ukiah Daily Journal also ran a full-page account of several local residents’ reminiscences of that fatal day that occurred 50 years ago.
I doubt that few would question that the most definitive film account of the “conspiracy” (if, indeed, as many believe, there truly was one) is the movie JFK, with its a-list of all-star celebrities. There are, however, many more accounts, in film and on Broadway, that pose many alternative viewpoints to this significant historical event of which any of us born in the 1950s or earlier still have fairly vivid memories. The 2009 film An American Affair features a story line in which Catherine Caswell (portrayed by Gretchen Mol) is both a former CIA agent and mistress of JFK, whose story is told through the eyes of her 13-year-old neighbor, Adam Stafford (portrayed by Cameron Bright), with whom she develops an unlikely friendship. One of the final scenes in the film depicts Adam sitting in his living room watching Jack Ruby on TV break through a supposedly impenetrable police line to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald at point blank range, an event that I remember viewing myself all too clearly when I was exactly the same age as Adam. Words do not even begin to suffice to explain how sur¬real that experience was.
The 1974 film The Parallax View, set in Seattle, and starring Warren Beatty and Paula Prentiss as news reporters, deals with a multi-national corporation whose sole purpose is to recruit and train political assassins. I have attempted, on several occasions, to obtain a copy of the film, to no avail. Coincidence? I seriously doubt it. In the Robert Altman film Nashville (filmed within 50 miles of where my mother grew up), the one Catholic character in the cast, a Kennedy supporter, comments on the anti-Catholic sentiment in the South, and how it is highly unlikely that there is no correlation between the fact that Kennedy was our first Catholic president and that he was killed in a Southern state. Ironically, I have always been cognizant of the fact that Catholicism is “the tie that binds” the Irish and the Italians — Peter Lawford (a Kennedy by marriage) was a card-carrying member of the elite Hollywood group known as “The Rat Pack,” of which Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were charter members.
Finally, there is the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical Assassins, which is a musical overview of political, particularly presidential, assassins throughout history. I was fortunate enough to see a live production a few years ago, presented at the Harbor Theatre in Suisun by Solano Community College in Fairfield, whose theatre department receives substantial support from Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. In preparation for the production, I visited two local bookstores in search of original soundtracks from previous productions. I found two: one from a Broadway production and another from a more well-known off-Broadway production, featuring Victor Garber, Debra Monk (both of whom had starring roles in the Disney remake of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man) and Patrick Cassidy, son of Shirley Jones, who played Marion Paroo in the original movie version of The Music Man.
The off-Broadway version contained one song that was not on the Broadway version — a tribute to slain American president John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Since I had given the former to a friend, I had not heard that particular song. As expected, I was not alone when the theatre suddenly became flooded with sobs of remembrance and regret.
OBAMA IN FRISCO
by Carla Marinucci, Kevin Fagan and Stephanie Lee
President Obama issued an impassioned call Monday for Congress to pass immigration reform, during a visit to San Francisco that – in true city-by-the-bay fashion – included everything from a shout-out to Batkid to an exchange with a heckler who wanted the president to halt all deportations.
As he often does when he’s unable to push his proposals into policy, Obama blamed Republican obstructionism for the lack of progress on immigration reform. However, he said he was encouraged by recent remarks by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that at least some changes in immigration law might make it to a House vote. “It is long past time to reform an immigration system that right now doesn’t serve America as well as it should,” Obama told an invited crowd of about 400 people at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in Chinatown. “The only thing standing in our way is the unwillingness of certain Republicans in Congress to catch up with the rest of the country.” Obama said that if the House approved an immigration package passed by the Senate, which includes creating a path to citizenship for some immigrants in the country illegally and beefing up security at the Mexican border, the U.S. economy would grow by $1.4 trillion over the next 20 years while the deficit would shrink by $850 million.
Boehner has resisted bringing a sweeping package to the House floor, but he said last week that he was willing to allow some pieces to come before lawmakers. Obama welcomed that offer Monday. “I believe the speaker is sincere,” he said. Chopping a comprehensive reform package into chunks, he said, was “OK – it’s Thanksgiving. We can carve that bird into multiple pieces.” Obama cited a local example of the benefits of immigration: Andrew Ly and his four brothers, who fled Vietnam, entered the U.S. as refugees and in 1984 took over a cafe in San Francisco that they turned into today’s $60 million Sugar Bowl Bakery operation.”These humble and striving immigrants from Vietnam now employ more than 300 Americans,” Obama said, and suggested to laughter that perhaps the bakery could acquaint him with its famously tasty doughnuts.
Obama’s half-hour speech was interrupted near the end by a heckler who demanded that he halt deportations. The president responded that he couldn’t take such an action alone, and as the heckler persisted, Obama told his staff that stood ready to eject him, “No, no, he can stay here. I respect the passion of these young people.” KCBS radio identified the heckler as 24-year-old Ju Hong, a South Korean who is a graduate student at San Francisco State University and is in the U.S. without documentation. It quoted him as saying he was dissatisfied with the president’s response.
Obama’s speech was the most public portion of a five-hour visit that began when Air Force One touched down just after 10:30 a.m. at San Francisco International Airport. Afterward, he headed to fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee at the SFJazz Center and at the Presidio Heights home of Salesforce founder and billionaire Marc Benioff, the latter a $32,400-per-person affair.
Obama was met at the airport by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and among those in the Ong Center to hear the president were Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The president opened with a nod to Batkid, the 5-year-old leukemia survivor who got to play his superhero Nov. 15 on the streets of the city before huge crowds. “No more super-villains because Batkid cleaned up the streets,” said Obama, who cut a short congratulatory video for the boy, Miles Scott, on his big day. “Love Batkid.” Then Obama turned serious, starting with a defense of the interim agreement his administration reached over the weekend with Iran to relax economic sanctions in exchange for that country curbing its nuclear development. Critics, some of them Democrats, who say the U.S. gave away too much should recognize that incremental diplomacy can eventually achieve results, he said.
The main purpose of his speech was jump-starting immigration reform, five months after the Senate approved a package that would create a 13-year path to citizenship for most immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. It would also increase the number of highly skilled workers allowed into the country, establish a new visa program for farmworkers and beef up security at the Mexican border.
The heckler who made it into Obama’s speech was not the only activist who believes the president has been too tough on immigrants in the country illegally. Protesters outside the Chinatown center denounced the record number of deportations under the president’s watch.
One demonstrator, 24-year-old Wei Lee, who is ethnically Chinese, came to the United States from Brazil in 2005 and said he has been fighting in federal court for refugee status ever since. “This shouldn’t be a privilege,” he said. “It should be a human right – families being together.” Joining immigrant advocates in protests directed at Obama were activists outside the SFJazz Center fundraiser angered by the administration’s use of drone-aircraft warfare. Drone bombers, said Code Pink organizer Janet Weil, 58, have been “Obama’s signature war weapon and war policy. Drone strikes under his command have killed thousands of people with our tax dollars.” Other protesters were dismayed by the president’s actions on climate change, including his failure so far to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline that would carry oil refined from tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama alluded to the protests inside the fundraiser to an audience that included Mayor Ed Lee, state Attorney General Kamala Harris, East Bay Reps. Eric Swalwell and Barbara Lee, South Bay Rep. Mike Honda and University of California President Janet Napolitano, the president’s former homeland security chief. “I had some folks sing to me,” Obama said. “I had some guy with the shoes with the little toes in ‘em. … You know, that doesn’t happen in Chicago. “There have been at least five protests. … I don’t know what they’re yelling, but they’re yelling something,” he said. “That’s par for the course in San Francisco.”