Matthew Owen and Political ^* Polarization


Mr. Owen began his most recent Lost Post Outpost screed with a clever play on words.  He contends America (and by inference Humboldt) is in the midst of a Civility War as “this country is more polarized today than at any time since the Civil War. Back then it was the North vs. the South. Today, it’s the Left vs. the Right.

Despite the my appreciation of the “Civility War” pun, I couldn’t disagree with this statement more.

bar_magnetPolarization has been a buzzword for political talkers and typers from both sides of the aisle for as long as I can remember.  What is generally meant by the word, including the way Mr. Owen uses it in his piece, is there is a bifurcated political agenda in our country.  There are extreme left and right poles which are both attracting an increasing number of people leaving a broad center and vital center empty.

Matthew, of course, famously sees himself smack-dab in the middle of this vacuous center. We can infer from his writings that his call is to people from both sides to join him in this  middle in a sort-of kumbaya session with a corporate dress code.

The problem with this story, imho, is it’s a dangerous and misleading lie.  I contend it’s a lie Matthew himself believes, and would like to impose on others because it naturally puts him, along with his friends and family which shared ideas, in the center of decision-making.

There are two reasons I feel Mr. Owen’s contention that “this country is more polarized today” is wrong.

1)  As a nation, we are not more polarized at any time since the Civil War.  We have gone through several economic and political upheavals in the century and a half since the civil war including, significantly, the political polarization of FDR’s governing coalition vs the opposition economic royalists (from President Roosevelt’s perspective).  To pretend that we are somehow more polarized now than in, say 1935, or even 1985 is a-historical and feeds the fear that leads people to disassociate themselves from a more vital and rightly contentious public process.

2) It actually supports the trend and narrative to promote the real problem in America and in Humboldt County: asymmetric political polarization.

Here is what I mean.  I agree with Mr. Owen that there is a significant political divide between those on the left and right in our country today.  However, for various reasons, including because a tidy profit can be made from talking conservative politics, the right currently owns populism. This has meant that while Democrats and their proponents in media *HI!* are busy promoting snoozers like governing, regulating marketplaces, due process, sustainability and equality those who will eventually support Republican candidates can simply blame all our problems on Mexicans and Muslims and liberals.

This, by the way, while governing by quietly handing the keys to the very business and religious leaders government is meant to help moderate given that America is made up of a pluralistic society that has grown to depend on a strong middle class.

Of course this is a somewhat unfair (and polarizing?) over-simplification, but but if you are paying attention to where we’ve been since Nixon and where we are in the Trump era, the asymmetry of our politics, becomes more clear.  And this isn’t a problem with Matthew’s “regressives”, it is a problem with a continued migration of the right wing from insincere, to untrustworthy, to now, clinically bonkers.

Donald Trump was NOT elected with a full-throated campaign by Rush Limbaugh (Locally-owned Eureka Broadcasting‘s KINS 9 to 12), who had to couch his tepid support with a fear of losing listeners.   Another virulent conservative, KINS afternoon talker Mark Levin was, well, virulently anti-Trump.  Both Rush and Mark Levin are the political standard-bearers for anti-establishment conservatives and have been for  decades.

Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and others have spend the post-Nixon era pushing the Republican consensus (ie the pole of polarization) further and further away from what was seen as a Northeastern establishment elitist conservative culture that was the Republican norm in Nixon’s day.  Today, very few old-timey moderate Republicans remain in the halls of power.  One of these endangered species is Maine Senator Susan Collins, another, arguably, is Senator John McCain.  Christine Todd Whitmann, former Governor of New Jersey and EPA Administrator under George W. Bush famously wrote a book asking for her (Republican) party back. I could go on (Jim Jeffords) and on (The Mitt Romney who once was a supporter of Massachusetts’ RomneyCare)…

But during the Republican nominating process, fringy populist Republican candidate Donald Trump was too fringy even for the likes of KINS conservatives such as Rush and Mark Levin [1].

Example of asymmetry:  Asymmetricly sized inauguration crowds.

The Trump candidacy was first fueled by the fringe of conservative politics. His most fervent support in the media came from radio talkers like Alex Jones and Michael Savage(For those of you unfamiliar with either, may God continue to bless you.)

This connection Donald Trump had to populist conservative media personalities who depend on misinformation for their way of life helps to explain why ideas like 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes exists as a thing in the head of our current President. I would guestimate that 90 to 99% of Republican officials understand what an atrocious and …innumerate… lie this head-thought is.  While many Republicans will quietly admit publicly this can’t be true, all of them also know that this lie is critical to their electoral successes.

This is the danger our country, and I’d say our county, is facing.  We are dangerously out of balance and the problem isn’t polarization, it’s an unconscious, yet systemic, asymmetric polarization.

Here is an example.  Imagine for one moment if Democrats would not allow a nominee of a Republican President to even get a hearing in Congress, FOR A YEAR!  Just imagine.  Imagine the hours of righteous indignation that would pollute stations like KINS hour after hour day after day in county after county until the next election.  How do you think that would have affected the results of the next election?

And you know what?  If the roles had been reversed, if Democrats blocked a Republican President from being able to appoint a nominee, I along with many other liberals would have supported that indignation.

Liberal or progressive leaders should understand that their base believes in a fair and just governing system, which I contend means this hypothetical reversal would never have happened in the first place.

Matthew, it’s not polarization that is the problem, it’s asymmetric polarization.  We all need Lincoln’s Republican Party [2] back and I think as a former Reagan devotee YOU could be one of the people fighting to get this back rather than uncivilly calling out the heart and soul of the Democratic Party as “regressives”.

Obviously this will not be the path to return to a sane, and yes, “environmentally sustainable” Humboldt or American governing coalition away from the right-wing brink.  In our case locally, it is simply not in your interest of local conservative politicians to take on their hateful base from within the Republican Party.  And nationally?  Republicans are doing just fine with Rush Limbaugh, then Tea Party, then Trump populist conservatism, (thank you very much).  Why would they do anything to change?

I believe that as Americans, we will find our way back from this ongoing national Republican drive to ungovern that, from this regressive’s perspective, is so clearly driven by increasing doses of fear stoking hatred so those 40% of our population continue to be unaware that they don’t have to be OK with a national economy that allows them ownership of less than 1% of our nation’s wealth while 20% of our population owns 85%.

Even a polarized system can be in balance.  We are not in balance, something else is the problem.


[1] Levin’s protest against Trump sadly didn’t include the general election.

[2] Bring Back the Party of Lincoln, NYT op-ed by Heather Cox Richardson 9/3/2014.

Administrative note on comments.  In case Matthew is one of the 4 readers of this blog when his name is mentioned prominately, I have changed the comment setting so each comment has to be approved prior to be published.  No anonymous commenters here, at least until Mr. Owen’s writings are not a topic.

Matthew, consider this your digital safe zone from the anonymous left.  No name calling you all!  If you are even thinking “douchebag”, maybe articulate this differently.  Start with “I disagree with you Mr. M, stridently, on …. and here’s why…”.




Coast Seafoods v Humboldt Bay.


Sadly lost in the onslaught of local and national news (not to mention the onslaught of storms this winter) is an important meeting Harbor Commission tonight which seems to pit the interests of one incredibly powerful out-of-town employer against many scientists, fisherfolks and hunters.

Here is a quote from from Will Houston’s article in today’s Times Standard.

Several environmental advocates, bird hunters, fishermen and researchers state the project’s revised environmental impact report still does not address their concerns about the expansion’s impact on sensitive eelgrass beds in the bay and the wildlife that rely on them.

Coast Seafoods’ original proposal from 2015 was to expand 620 acres.  The current proposal is to expand to 256 acres which, for perspective, is the equivalent of 193 football fields within the bay.

From Mr Houston’s article…

Coast Seafoods — which is owned by the Portland-based Pacific Seafood — is currently the largest mariculture business operating in Humboldt Bay with a 300-acre operation in the northern portion of the bay. The proposed expansion would add 256 acres of intertidal oyster culturing to Coast Seafood’s operations in two phases.

Greg Dale is an operations manager for Coast Seafoods and is also a Harbor Commissioner.  Thankfully he will be recusing himself. As Mike Wilson’s seat has yet to be filled, all three commissioners which include Larry Doss, Patrick Higgins and Richard Marks will have to approve the expansion at tonight’s meeting.

From the article former CA Fish and Wildlife scientist Scott Frazer..

“They have failed to take into account the comments they have already been given and to accurately and appropriately address those comments. Many of us feel like we’re being basically ignored.”

From fox Greg Dale regarding our hen house…

“There has never been anybody doing more monitoring than what we’re doing now and what we’re proposing to do. Honestly, I think the folks that have advised us in this project and agencies that have worked on it have done quite a bit of work to reach some sort of solution to minimize any impacts, if there are impacts.”

For another perspective, here is a link to Dennis Halligan’s My Word from yesterday’s Times Standard.  He agrees with Mr. Dale that the net benefit of this expansion outweighs the costs.  I will say that this one excerpt makes me wonder if Mr. Halligan is being completely forthright.

For me, one of the ironies in this whole debate is that the Audubon Society has teamed up with the waterfowl hunters (I am a duck hunter) to stop this project. Both organizations are worried about the brant, which is a good thing. However, the waterfowlers are interested in maintaining or expanding eelgrass so they have more brant to shoot. Interesting dynamic/ strange bedfellows there.

Maybe there are some, maybe many, wildlife enthusiasts who would like to ban hunting, but it seems to me this group would be in the minority.  Our bay is an incredibly productive and complex ecosystem as is the human society that has developed along its shores.  This is about allowing a successful ecosystem to thrive alongside the demands of us humans.  That includes our human needs to feed ourselves (fisheries and oysters) and our need to recreate (hunt and photograph).

BTW, thank you to the reporting by the Times Standard and Will Houston. Also, if you, like me, don’t know a brant from Grant, here is an upset brant taking a “defensive posture”.  He (or she?) is looking at you Commissioners.  Let’s just step away and not piss her/him off any further.  We don’t want this to get ugly.


When “Illegals” are not Illegal.

“Illegals”.  It’s a shorthand noun to group undocumented immigrants into a one word slogan.  It’s a poor use of the English language and it’s confusing.

There is an ongoing defense of the use of this slur by right-wing talkers and legislators.  Any internet comment zone will defend it’s use, but the reason this term exists is it is a politically valuable epithet to those worried that they are losing their culture or power in our society.

Yesterday, President Elect Trump, who is not known for his attention to linguistic details used this term completely out of context.  To be used properly, to distinguish it from an outright slur, “illegals” should be short hand for “illegal immigrant” which should be refer to breaking the laws of the United States.  It has no meaning in Germany, especially when he is talking about legal Syrian refugees.

Here, via John Amato, is the quote President Elect Trump had with editors from the UK’s Times and Germany’s Bild.

“I think she made one very catastrophic mistake, and that was taking all of these illegals, you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from, and nobody even knows where they come from.”

Given this use in this sentence, how are we to understand this word if it has no connection to legal status?  The word he is looking for is of course “immigrants” but it comes out as “illegals”.

The battle for and against the use of the slur “illegals” is not new.

Here is an excerpt from a column from 2006 by a Denver Post staff columnist Cindy Rodriguez.

When figuring ways to shape public opinion, the first thing any savvy strategist does is craft phrases that will elicit a desired response….

That is exactly what is happening with the immigration debate.

To avoid dealing with complex problems in our nation – crumbling public schools, senior citizens who have lost their pensions, a shrinking middle class – some politicians are taking the easy way out by focusing on undocumented immigrants.

Those politicians are being goaded by nativists, racists and brainwashed people who are confused in our culture of fear.

Their term of choice: “illegals.”

That shorthand term for “illegal immigrants” – which they use as a noun, making linguists cringe – is being used repeatedly by reactionary commentators and politicians in every venue available.

…If Ms. Rodriguez only knew then where we were headed.

Here is a video about the I Word from 2010 sponsored by Race Forward.


The campaign that featured the video above was the center piece of the Bill O’Reilly clip below.  The segment was run in 2012 during the Obama/Romney general election for President and we can compare the right wing priorities then and now.  O’Reilly was saying this is a left wing crazy-talk talking point because we were all trying to avoid talking about the economy.  This is ironic because in 2016, with a slow and steady economy under President Obama, it was still the favorite talking point of the Republican selection for their nominee.

Those of us who were witnesses to the election  of 2o16 have to remind everyone what it was about.  We have to continually remind people that Donald Trump’s linguistic slip-up not only demonstrates complete ignorance to geo-political realities, it is a foundation of how the man thinks and why his supporters voted for him.

“Illegals” is a slur.  People like Bill O’Reilly defend a very limited rhetorical space where it can be used with some cruel and patronizing legitimacy, but when used outside of those limitations we as a society need to acknowledge it for what it is.

And if you think this is some left-wing keyboard-slammer who is misguided and confused, please allow Rush Limbaugh conservative Rick from Los Angeles remind all of us how Trump was elected as the Republican nominee.  It was all about the immigrants in their candidates mind, whether they are U.S. Citizen children of undocumented parents or not.   Rick understood this was just another con from his party’s eventual nominee.   Turns out Rush did too, but he didn’t care because he knew Trump voters didn’t care about the barely-concealed rhetoric of hate was disingenuous or the policies he was selling were lies.  They wanted to vote for someone who was saying what they wanted to hear.

(Note:  it’s difficult to listen to this clip because as on-target Rick was about everything else at the time, he had no idea who was about to win the election.)

From the L.A. conservative caller Rick..

With all due respect, Rush, on Chuck Todd’s show, he specifically said, when asked the question, “You mean you’re going to rip the families apart?”

He said, “No, I’m not going to rip the families apart, they all have to go, even the U.S. citizen children.

He then got into the middle of the debate, and the argument between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, when Ted wanted legalization and Marco wanted citizenship as part of a comprehensive plan. He said that they were both wrong, that they were both being absurd, that they all had to go “or we don’t have a nation of laws.” Come on! You were watching the debates as well as the rest of us were. You know exactly what he said and you know exactly the way he ridiculed everybody on that stage.

Immigration policy is critical for Tea Party and Trump Republicans to win elections, even when many business conservatives need the cheap labor that lax immigration policies and enforcement often allow to inflate profits.  The solutions really are simple and would include serious penalties for those employers hiring undocumented immigrants.

But think about how that goes over behind closed Republican doors with it’s outsized influence from the business community.  Instead of Republican-lead solutions on immigration policy that would include heavy penalties on employers of undocumented immigrants, what the rest have to be subjected media talkers and political demagogues bending the language to sow resentment and fear of an already vulnerable group.

Occasionally, when used out of context, we get a glimpse of the truth behind the slur.   Being an “illegal” in Trump’s mind has nothing to do with our nation’s laws.  It makes one wonder what, then, all the fuss is about.


An Holiday Wish Comes True Unexpectedly.

From a My Word in today’s Times Standard by Renee Saucedo.

In late November 2016, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, detained my mom at the San Francisco Airport and deported her that same night to Mexico. She is 81 and has dementia, complicated by diabetes, anxiety and depression. She needs around-the-clock care, and I am her main care provider. Deporting a little old lady who can’t think straight or care for herself is cruel and inhumane. And my family, as millions of other families do when they’re forcibly separated, have suffered greatly.

On Dec. 22, 2016, I received a call from Congresswoman Pelosi’s office saying that my mom’s Humanitarian Application for re-entry had been accepted. By Dec. 30, she was with us again at home in Eureka.

Congratulations and best wishes to you and your mother Ms Saucedo may there be no more further anxiety of separation in 2017 or … ever.

Keep doing what you do, all of us in Humboldt depend on your good works.  Thank you and happy 2017 to you and your mother!

District 02 ADEM Results: Huzzah!

Here are the results, thank you HCDCC Chair Bob Service!


It’s tough to make out, but it was an old school landslide for the progressive slate that you can find here.

Maybe it is a contrarian in me, but as much as I welcome this news and I congratulate good friends and good Democrats and wish them all the best for the next couple of years as our (2nd Assembly District Democrats) representatives, I can’t help but be a little nervous with the results.

As one candidate brought up, I think with credence, this wasn’t a very democratic process as she was left off of the progressive slate and did not even get a chance to petition for inclusion.  This criticism is not meant to reflect poorly on Bobby Shearer who lead the creation of this slate or anyone else on this slate, in my mind these are FDR Democrats without the inherent racism.  You know, Democrats in the vein of Senator Sanders.

Still, going forward, and believing in a sustainable future, we need to make sure this process becomes less susceptible to malfeasance such as a sort of blue-washing or Democrat-washing of candidates in the vein of a, say, Supervisor Virginia Bass lead slate.  Democrats, especially FDR and Bernie Sanders Democrats, have to remember the route forward for Democratic victories and, importantly, governance, with Democratic principles is by standing with principle, not moving further and further right with the Republicans.

Remember, we are one of 80 Assembly Districts, if a simple slate had this much effect here…

One more thing.  Phyl Specer was not a member of the slate and won by 8 votes over Jeffrey Reynolds.  He wrote this in his statement “It’s the basis of a simple message about what Democrats stand for: Continuing the American Revolution.”

I do not believe Democrats stand for continuing the American Revolution.  The first and second (attempted) revolts are over.  It’s time for Democrats to lead America to building a country run by the people sustainably and indefinitely into the future.  Revolutions are by their very nature not sustainable.  We in America have a pretty good thing going sans one Party that is intent on destroying what we have and returning us to the type of government that governed over a society before the industrial era.

But what about Bernie’s political revolution?  Lookit, I can buy that as rhetoric, but we should allow the Republicans be the party of destruction, secession and revolution.  Democrats should work toward a society that is sustainable and powered by people.  Democratic-lead governments evolve to the needs of a changing society, modern Republican-lead governments are here to revolt and destroy that which FDR and even Lincoln helped build.

It’s a distinction Democrats must learn from the environmental movement.  Our blue marble can not stand incessant cycles of revolutions.

Live Blogging the ADEM Elections.

The 1 minute introductions from about 20 to 30 candidates are over.  It went off in true Democratic style, friendship, good cheer, technical difficulties, a tiny bit of friction between candidates and a whole bunch of community spirit shared, via cellphone, between both voting polls, one in Ukiah and the other here at the Labor Temple in Eureka.

You still have time.  When I left to post this, the line to vote went out the door.  Apparently this large of a turn-out isn’t unusual.

Come out and join us, there is still time.  You can read about the candidates here and here.  Please join us!  Here is a local slate of candidates.  You’ll notice only 6 male candidates on this slate.  I think Jeffry Reynolds made a really strong pitch, especially mentioning FDR.

The Labor Temple is located on E at 8th St. in Eureka.




An Important Election Today. Get to Eureka’s Labor Temple!

Please join me and many other Democrats as we select 14 members, 7 men and 7 women, to represent Democrats from our 2nd Assembly District.

This election happens only once every two years, and those people you vote in will be shaping California’s Democratic Party going forward.

Here are more good people saying good things about how and why you should get out to Eureka’s Labor Temple today.  See this link for a great local slate of candidates.

Here is where you can go to find out more about the female candidates.

And the male candidates

Not convinced?  Here is Allen McClosky giving a great 2 minute pitch on why you should show up in this storm.  (Facebook is not non-proprietary inter-tube friendly.  Sorry!)

Here is the NCPA:

Make the Democratic Party Work for WE THE PEOPLE!
The Assembly District Election Meeting (ADEM) for AD2 will be held:
Saturday, January 7, 10:00am-12:30pm
Labor Temple
, 840 E Street, Eureka (at 9th St.)

Democrats from the 2nd Assembly District will elect 7 women and 7 men to represent AD-02 at CA Democratic Party conventions as DSCC delegates. You will also vote for 1 candidate for the Executive Board. Delegates we elect will attend two state conventions, in 2017 and 2018. This year the delegates will vote for the new State Democratic Party Chair.  Next year they vote on the Party platform.

Lots more info on Facebook at

Candidates speak beginning at 10:00am.  You may sign in, vote and leave any time between 10am and 12:30.  Not a Democrat?  You can re-register on the spot.  Please carpool if you can.
NCPA is pleased to have several of our members running – we are pleased to endorse and support Robert Shearer, Allen McCloskey, Lesley Ester, Helene Rouvier, and Peter Martin. These folks have joined a slate of progressive Dems, and while NCPA has not endorsed the entire slate, we encourage you to check out their great informational website at

North Coast People’s Alliance

Here is a statement from candidate Peter Martin

Dear Fellow Progressive,

There is an election for delegates to the Democratic State Central Committee on January 7, 2017.  I am part of a slate of former Bernie Sanders supporters who are running for election to the committee.  If you have a few minutes to come and vote on January 7, 2017, we would appreciate your support.

Where: Labor Temple, 840 E Street, Eureka

When: Saturday, January 7th anytime between 10:30 a.m and 12:30 p.m.

(just walk in and vote, it will only take 5-10 minutes )

Our slate of candidates embody the set of values our district came to rally behind for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid: putting principles before politics to represent the needs of everyday people and the environment. We are carrying the torch of the Political Revolution. Real change has to be bottom-up and people-powered. We hope you’ll join us at the polls January 7 and stick with us through 2017 and beyond as we bring our party back to its progressive voter base.

More information on our slate is on the web at:




Political Resolution: Minimize Manipulation

It’s a pretty simple concept and it’s important.

On some level I think speaking directly to voter’s concerns were the strength of both the Sanders and Trump campaigns.

Trump spoke to like-minded Americans directly through frequent informal interviews on cable and directly through his prolific use of Twitter.  Although I believe his candidacy is all about manipulation, I think many of those who voted for him believe they are in on it and stand to benefit from a little lie here or there.

Here are a couple of hints that Trump voters don’t mind being lied too because some or most of the time they know what is going on, and presumably, those times they don’t, they trust the man has their back.

Exhibit A:  A link by fellow local blogger Fred Mangels to an article by Justin Raimoneo about those of us suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).  (Yes, this rhetoric is starting already.)

“Especially when discussing Trump’s views on immigration, hysterical TDS victims assume there’s no difference between the president-elect’s rhetoric (get out!) and his proposed policy (deporting known criminals who are in this country illegally).”

Exhibit B:   This amazing call by a conservative caller “Rick” to Rush Limbaugh during the heat of the election when Trump’s chances seemed impossible, even to most conservatives.

Rick: With all due respect, Rush, on Chuck Todd’s show, he specifically said, when asked the question, “You mean you’re going to rip the families apart?”

He said, “No, I’m not going to rip the families apart, they all have to go, even the U.S. citizen children.”

He then got into the middle of the debate, and the argument between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, when Ted wanted legalization and Marco wanted citizenship as part of a comprehensive plan. He said that they were both wrong, that they were both being absurd, that they all had to go “or we don’t have a nation of laws.” Come on! You were watching the debates as well as the rest of us were. You know exactly what he said and you know exactly the way he ridiculed everybody on that stage.

Rush Limbaugh: Yeah, well I guess the difference is—well not the difference, I guess the thing is, this is gonna enrage you. You know, I could choose a path here to try to mollify you, but I never took him seriously on this!

Rick: 10 million people did.

Rush Limbaugh: Yeah, and they still don’t care. My point is they still don’t care. They’re gonna stick with him no matter what.

Rick: But this is why Trump is going to get annihilated. Because nobody called him out early on about his absurd policies. (me:  … oops…)

Rick, I wish you would have been right.  Turns out Republican voters value power over principle or truth and both Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump get this.

(A great article on this call from Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic can be found here.)

Of course voter manipulation isn’t only a conservative vice.  From Hillary’s complete avoidance of her connections to Wall Street to Bernie’s promises of free college education, all politicians are guilty on some level.

But we are entering unchartered territory in 2017 with an impending Trump Administration and we all have to do what we can to make sure truth and reality are integral to our public discussions of politics and policy.  Minimizing manipulation will lbe a continuing resolution of mine even if I hadn’t consciously made this a priority previously.

I contend that those politicians and/or organizations who work to maximize truth-telling and minimize manipulation will, eventually, be rewarded.  I think Bernie and his approach to politics was a sterling example of this from 2016.  Let’s hope for hundreds or thousands of more Bernies in 2017 and beyond.