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             The MS Oösterdam, our Holland-America cruise ship through Alaska’s Inside Passage to Glacier Bay and Juneau and back to Seattle by way of Ketchikan, Sitka, and Victoria is, at 937 feet, about the length of a naval battleship, although in common with most of its passengers it is swelled some in the waist.  Its ten decks (six of them open to the 2205 paying customers) are serviced by eight elevators, two of them glass-walled and ascending or descending on the outside of the ship.  Its Crow’s Nest Bar, spanning the width of deck ten and (of course) front-facing, sports ever-changing and gaspingly spectacular views through ten-foot windows cleverly pitched to avoid all but wind-driven rain.  Everything that should be carpeted is, the brass is polished twice daily, and all the wood glows warmly.  The ship is powered by five diesel engines plus a gas turbine for all the TV sets and radios and coffee warmers and lighting and so on.  Two electric, steerable units called ‘Azipods’ not only make it go but steer it, too.  Bow-thrusters help to maneuver in tight spaces, so we never saw a tugboat.  The Captain (or the Harbor Pilot, or whomever) can park all 82,000 tons of it at the dock with more precision that most can manage with their Range Rovers.

Holland-America began life in 1873, precisely seventy years before I did, as the Holland-America Steamship Company.  Its early business lay mostly in transporting European immigrants across the Atlantic, and by the time the rush was over, it had brought about 400,000 of the mostly strapped and distressed to the land of the free and the home of the brave.  The steamship company first undertook pleasure cruising almost as a side-business around the turn of the century, visiting places like the Holy Land and Egypt.  In 1989, Holland-America was bought by Carnival Cruise Lines (also the owner of Princess Cruise Lines) making the conglomerate easily the largest in the world.  Holland-America is now headquartered in Seattle.  At present, they operate fifteen ships worldwide and carry upwards of 700,000 passengers per year.  The Oösterdam was built in Italy in 2003.

I am plenty old enough that I no longer much try to anticipate what is to happen next, but stepping out of the cab, we seem to have stepped onto a movie set.  There were not one, but two ships as big as any I have ever been close to.  The other was a Carnival ship that departed right after us and that we played tag with all the way to Glacier Bay and back.  Each was nosed toward land, on either side of a cavernous building with, as far as I could see, pretty much symmetrical snaking lines.  It all looked like a movie set which the stars would cross, deep in a conversation whose import won’t become clear until late in the third reel.  Luggage was tagged.  Everyone went through airport-like security lines.  Passports were presented and rooms were assigned.  Luggage went away.  It was easy to imagine large steamer trunks with colorful stickers, but today, at least, the luggage looked mostly about as monochromatic as a Costco parking lot.  Clots of people followed families and lines followed lines, and suddenly, we entered the ship.

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So the Fortuna Beacon is dead.  The Times Standard is shrinking.  Greystone Jewelers is closing, along with several other Old Town stores which have closed over the past year or two.

Now Hometown Buffet is closing – which has provided a meal at relatively low expense especially for seniors.  A couple of weeks ago I received a telephone call from someone who went to the Bay Shore Mall for a haircut.  He noticed that many of the spaces were empty, and the building was run down in places.  He took a few photographs before he was approached by a security person who instructed him to stop taking photographs.  He complied and put away his camera.  Several minutes later he was approached by another security employee, obviously someone with a little more authority.  The employee asked the individual for his name.  The individual declined to provide the name, and then the employee instructed him to leave the mall.  The individual said that he was waiting to get a haircut, but the employee was firm.  The individual had broken the rules.  Not that such a prohibition is posted or anything, but that was irrelevant.

As reported earlier, it appears that WalMart has found a back door into the community, and I suspect the ultimate goal is to take over the mall, maybe leaving a space or two for PetCo and such.

Unless something is done to bring in some employing investors, I suspect Humboldt County is in for a long period of decline towards a retirement community, with fewer and fewer families – even beyond this particular recession.  This is the only time I will comment on the subject as it could be seen as self-serving, but we really need to ask whether spending millions of dollars on lawsuits instead of conferring with potential employers to invest in local infrastructure accordingly.  And yes, environmentalist groups really do need to ease up a bit and let something happen every once in a while.  While the accusations against environmentalists with regard to economic impacts are overblown, there is an intransigence which does have an economic effect, and which will eventually generate a backlash which could undo crucial environmental regulations.

Not that the other side of the political equation is much better with their constant pushes for more housing and retail development without any kind of plan for an economic base to fuel it all.  Of course, the ideological thrust behind this side is that you don’t “plan” anything.  You just sort of let it all happen, because the economy isn’t a system, it’s organic, yada, yada, yada.

But we do need planning.  And we need community leadership, in office and out, which can venture outside its milieus of ideological comfort and take a holistic look at the situation – and generate a plan.  The plan can change, evolve, etc.  But right now we’re in trouble, and even the better aspects of the leadership are focused on the short term (which is admittedly daunting).  We need a comprehensive vision, anchored in short term reality, but also with a long term economic plan in mind.

I sincerely hope that discussion is the primary theme of the upcoming Supervisor races, because really, none of the smaller stuff is going to matter if we’re headed towards becoming another Trinity County where you see only a handful of people under 40 years old and hardly any kids.

Apparently NASA’s elite never saw the episode where the unmanned probe was rebuilt and reprogrammed!  Will we never learn?!

And yet, here we go!  Unlike the Vikings and previous rovers, this one shoots lasers!

As a side note, I guess I didn’t notice it as a kid, but don’t the two red shirts who get zapped in the video look like twins?

Addendum:  Check out the squid robot!

Second addendum:  (Sigh).  More “boring” stuff from Hubble.

Terrifying experience for the family, but one very lucky victim.

Lost Coast Outpost reports.  No names as yet.


A huge loss to progressive causes in Congress.  Apparently he didn’t fare too well in his state’s redistricting and would have to introduce himself to 300,000 new constituents.  He’s also been blamed for the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac melt-down, unfairly in my opinion, and his opponents in both parties sensed blood.

I guess then his bill which would ban federal prosecution of marijuana growers/distributors/users who follow state laws will probably die on the vine in committee.

He was also known for his quick wit which terrified conservative interviewers.  And he was never the meal-mouth pol who would take too much care to avoid offending even one of his constituents.  If you called him a Nazi for instance, his response would not be soft.

And he has pledged that he will not become a lobbyist nor an historian, taking a swipe at Gingrich on his way out.


So my son Asher and I were watching a movie the other night in which one character’s use of the word “nigger” resulted in a brawl.  Asher looked at me in confusion and asked, “what does ‘nigger’ mean?”  Seriously, I can’t count how many times I heard the word by the time I was ten years old, off screen as well as on.  It’s not easy explaining what it “means.”

From…, oh, some progressive email list somebody put me on.


Tomorrow starts the traditional holiday season, when Americans will spend billions of dollars.

Several Occupy groups and our friend Ed Schultz are urging Americans to use our shopping dollars strategically, to help repair our economy. They’re asking Americans to support local businesses, not big chains selling foreign products.

Can you share your thoughts on how consumers can use our dollars to impact change this holiday season? Click here.

We’ll share the best ideas with fellow PCCC members (800,000 now!) in the near future — and we’ll share them with Ed Schultz, in case he wants to feature them on TV. Click here to share your ideas.

Huffington Post reports:

One group, known as Occupy Black Friday, is urging shoppers to bypass chain stores in favor of small and local businesses, while another group, named Don’t Occupy Walmart, is organizing a boycott of Walmart stores in protest of what it calls unjust and anti-union practices on the part of the retail giant.

On MSNBC, Ed Schultz said:

What can we do as Americans this holiday season to make things a little bit better in a tough economy?

I think as a country we should all focus on buying American. Instead of buying some cheap product from China that’s sitting on somebody’s big department story shelf — that will help build their empire — save a small business in our country this year and buy American this holiday season. May I ask you to do that?

Americans, we will spend $10 billion this holiday season. If we just make the effort, we can save a job. We can help a company stay in business and do something for our neighbor.

Click here to share your thoughts on what we can do as consumers to impact change this holiday season. 

Happy holiday season — and thanks for being a bold progressive.

— Michael Snook, Stephanie Taylor, Adam Green, Forrest Brown, and the PCCC team

Pretty testy confrontation, but it’s illustrative of the degree to which political discourse is sinking.  How you view the exchange will probably correspond to which side of the issue (preservation of Arctic wilderness apparently) you take, and the testimony is chopped up so it’s hard to know who “started it.”  I do think that comments from both the Rep and Dr. Brinkly were unnecessary, and clearly both lost their cool.

Incidentally, a private university is in fact in the private sector.

Here’s a transcript of the most testy portion of the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the impacts of Arctic drilling.

<i>Things went south when Young called Brinkley “Mr. Rice” and said his testimony is “garbage.” Brinkley then goes on the attack: “It’s Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university. I know you went to Yuba College and couldn’t graduate.”

Young and Brinkley then had the following exchange, if you can call yelling over each other an exchange:

Young: I’ll call you anything I want to call you while you sit in that chair. You just be quiet. You be quiet.

Brinkley: You don’t own me. I pay your salary.

Young: I don’t own you, but I can tell you right now—

Brinkley: I work for the private sector, you work for the—

After Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) cuts them off, Young says he’s “really pissed right now” and yells at Brinkley a little bit more.</i>

TPM also reports, for what it’s worth, that Rep. Young did graduate from Yuba College.

But it left me curious as to Dr. Brinkly’s testimony and which portion Rep. Young thinks is “garbage.”

Addendum:  This appears to be the pre-tiff testimony.

My wife reports that one lane was blocked off and six police cars with lights flashing.  She was on her way to Arcata at about 4:00.  I’ll check around the blogosphere, but all reports are welcome.

Another driver reports that it was cleared up, but a sizable protest remained, by 5:30.

Addendum:  NCJ Blogthing has some photos.  It looks like the protesters put some shelters back in, and the authorities removed them.  No indication of any altercations in the report.

From the Solomon campaign:

Media Critic Jeff Cohen to Speak in Support of Democratic congressional candidate Norman Solomon

Nationally respected media critic and TV news commentator Jeff Cohen will make a campaign stop in Eureka this Tuesday in support of Democratic congressional candidate Norman Solomon. The event will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Labor Temple, 840 E Street, Eureka. Cohen will speak about corporate power, media bias, and the need for principled political leadership.

Cohen has appeared regularly on national TV and radio. He was a daily commentator on MSNBC in 2002, a weekly panelist on the Fox News Channel’s “News Watch” from 1997–2002, and a co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire” in 1996. He was senior producer of MSNBC’s Phil Donahue show until it was terminated on the eve of the Iraq war.

As founder of the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Cohen has worked closely with Solomon. In the 1990s, they co-wrote the nationally-syndicated column “Media Beat.” They have also co-authored three books on media bias and politics.

For more information about this event contact Shane at:

For more information about Jeff Cohen visit:

For more information about Norman Solomon visit:


November 2011