Schwarzenegger Axes Forest Bill
Pepper Spray Trial Ends: Jury Deadlocked 6-2 in Favor of Plaintiffs
If America Were Iraq, What Would It Be Like?

Flotsam & Jetsam
October 4, 2004

Don't call him a 'girly-man'! When it comes to forests, the Governor has reverted to "Conan the Destroyer."
Schwarzenegger Axes Forest Bill
Gar Smith

(September 25, 2004) -- Back in 2000, Jackson State Forest was "the forest nobody knew." Today, it's the forest everybody loves. Well, almost everybody. If you were a marbled murrelet, you might be forgiven for calling California's Republican governor "The Exterminator." On September 15, the former movie muscleman (known in body-building circles as "the Austrian Oak") took a lethal swing at SB 1648, a bill that would have saved the 50,000-acre Jackson State Forest from being turned into two-by-fours and fence posts.

Vince Taylor, who started the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest in 2000, called the governor's action a "slap in the face" to the 4,000 citizens who wrote the Governator to plead for the protection of Mendocino County's redwood treasure. The environmental community was outraged by the Governor's unexpected veto. It was the equivalent of calling California's forest-lovers a pack of "squirrely-men."

SB 1648 was one of those rare pinnacles of compromise that had won the backing of tree-huggers and timber barons. Some of the backroom heroes included Senator Wesley Chesbro, Assemblyman Joe Simitian, and the Sierra Club's Paul Mason and Kathy Bailey, who spent the better part of a year building a political consensus around the bill. But Taylor serves up some special praise for Mike Jani, head of the Mendocino Redwoods Company, the county's largest logging firm. Jani, Taylor says, "spent uncountable hours representing the interests of local timber companies and workers in a thoughtful and progressive manner."

When Taylor started his crusade, he promised to "save the forest for our children" in five years at a cost of $500,000. Five years later, Taylor thought he was about to see his dream come true -- a forest saved "for all future generations for less than $10 an acre -- what a bargain!"

So what happened to a bill that was supported by the public, every state environmental group and the region's largest timber company? As Taylor explains, the bill's backers "underestimated the entrenched timber bureaucracy's contempt for the public and [its] power to prevent reform."

Schwarzenneger admitted as much when he explained that he vetoed the bill because it would have interfered with the ability of the California Department of Forestry (CDF) to raise money by toppling trees. While it is commonly thought that the proceeds from logging are supporting local school districts, this is only true of logging on Federal forests. In fact, the proceeds from logging state forests is ploughed back into research and projects that protect commercial forestry -- in short, the CDF channels the proceeds to subsidize the private timber industry. We're cutting forests to pay for cutting forests.

Taylor will be going to court to protect Jackson from "the state's single-minded pursuit of timber profits." Taylor's team has used court orders to log-jam logging companies since 2000 and he vows to keep returning to court until "the state recognizes the legitimate rights of the public to influence management of its redwood forest." Famed nature photographer Ansel Adams once remarked: "It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment." Vince Taylor now has his own aphorism: "Government exists to protect the interests of the powerful from the will of the people."

For more information on the Jackson State Forests campaign, go to:

Police videotape shows police rubbing caustic pepper-spray directly into the eyes of nonviolent logging protestors. Credit: Humboldt County Sherrifs Department
Pepper Spray Trial Ends
Jury Deadlocked 6-2 in Favor of Plaintiffs

Karen Pickett

SAN FRANCISCO (September 22, 2004) -- A federal court civil trial over police use of cotton swabs to apply burning pepper spray directly on anti-logging protesters' eyes ended in a mistrial. The San Francisco Federal Court jurors announced that they were divided 6-2 in favor of the eight plaintiffs who had pepper spray smeared on their eyelids by Humboldt County sheriff's deputies at three anti-logging sit-ins in 1997.

The hung jury was the second in the case. An earlier trial in the court of a different federal judge in San Francisco in 1998 also ended in a mistrial, with that jury split 4-4. No date was set for a third trial in the case, but plaintiffs' attorneys vowed to move to a third trial as quickly as possible.

The eight jurors in the Pepper Spray by Q-tip trial informed the judge at 3:15 Wednesday afternoon that they were "hopelessly deadlocked" and could not find resolution through further deliberation. After encouraging them to rethink their opinions and meeting privately with the jury foreman, Judge Susan Illston declared a mistrial. It was then that plaintiffs and defendants learned there were six jurors in favor of plaintiffs and only two against. The plaintiffs are the eight activists who sued Humboldt county Sheriffs' Dept and Eureka Police for subjecting them to direct application of pepper spray into their eyes with Q-tips as they were locked down in sit-in protests.

Some of the jurors spoke with plaintiffs and attorneys in the hallway outside the courtroom, telling them that the two who opposed plaintiffs simply favored the police view in all respects. One juror expressed that she felt what was done to the protesters, particularly the young women, in her view, was "just wrong".

Lead counsel Dennis Cunningham said the plaintiffs are ready to go back to trial at the earliest opportunity. "We not going to let go of the issue. We are going to go back to trial as soon as we can." But he added, "We are really disappointed, of course. That our claim was clear to the great majority, but rejected by two people who held out means we were close, and that is encouraging. We realize how difficult it is for some people to believe that there is a real need for control over what the police are allowed to do. It is a leap for some people, and a leap they are not comfortable making, if they have no direct experience with police abuse."

"We're not going to stop pushing the public consciousness about the need for controls over the police. We don't believe sanitized modes of using force against non-violently resisting protesters engaged in civil disobedience represents much of an improvement over the old ways."

Spring Lundberg, 24, reacted to the hung jury: "Civil rights in this country today are an endangered species just like the ancient redwoods we aim to protect. The fact that our case is a contentious one is the very reason we need to follow through with it and win the retrial. This jury came back 6-2 in our favor this time. Next time we will win."

Said Noel Tendick, 27, one of the eight plaintiffs, "We had a three-fourths majority, but as we saw with the last election, a majority isn't always enough to give you victory. Trees are still falling, police are still brutalizing peaceful protesters, so we will pursue this case, and we will do so vigorously."

For more information, contact: Karen Pickett, (510) 548-3113

Bombs over Baghdad. Imaging 11 times the number of bombs raining down on San Francisco, Houston or Washington, DC.
If America Were Iraq, What Would It Be Like?
Juan Cole / Informed Comment

(September 22, 2004) President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country. What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?

What if all the reporters for all the major television and print media were trapped in five-star hotels in Washington, DC and New York, unable to move more than a few blocks safely, and dependent on stringers to know what was happening in Oklahoma City and St. Louis? What if the only time they ventured into the Midwest was if they could be embedded in Army or National Guard units?

There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totaling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver and Omaha, such that local police and Federal troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the Secretary of State (Aqilah Hashemi), the President (Izzedine Salim), and the Attorney General (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?

What if all the cities in the US were wracked by a crime wave, with thousands of murders, kidnappings, burglaries, and carjackings in every major city every year?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Montana, Flint, Michigan, Watts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anacostia in Washington, DC, and other urban areas, attempting to target "safe houses" of "criminal gangs", but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

What if, from time to time, the US Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by US Air Force warplanes daily, destroying thousands of graves and even pulverizing the Vietnam Memorial over on the Mall? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the US Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?

What if there were virtually no commercial air traffic in the country? What if many roads were highly dangerous, especially Interstate 95 from Richmond to Washington, DC, and I-95 and I-91 up to Boston? If you got on I-95 anywhere along that over 500-mile stretch, you would risk being carjacked, kidnapped, or having your car sprayed with machine gun fire.

What if no one had electricity for much more than 10 hours a day, and often less? What if it went off at unpredictable times, causing factories to grind to a halt and air conditioning to fail in the middle of the summer in Houston and Miami? What if the Alaska pipeline were bombed and disabled at least monthly? What if unemployment hovered around 40%?

What if veterans of militia actions at Ruby Ridge and the Oklahoma City bombing were brought in to run the government on the theory that you need a tough guy in these times of crisis?

What if municipal elections were cancelled and cliques close to the new "president" quietly installed in the statehouses as "governors?" What if several of these governors (especially of Montana and Wyoming) were assassinated soon after taking office or resigned when their children were taken hostage by guerrillas?

What if the leader of the European Union maintained that the citizens of the United States are, under these conditions, refuting pessimism and that freedom and democracy are just around the corner?

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