REVISITED: The Trouble With Belgium

(This was published in November 2015. I thought it was worth revisiting in view of the  last  few day’s events. I love Belgium and wish I were there right now. So sad.)

As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, and we snuggle beside our cozy home fires behind the Redwood Curtain, it’s apparent that the world is at war again, maybe for the rest of my lifetime.  Everyone is mourning what has happened in Paris.   I’ve been there,  too, but my connection is to Belgium and I hate watching the news these days.

In 1994 I spent a couple of weeks in Belgium, a country which a lot of Americans miss when they visit Europe.  Their loss. You cannot find a greater concentration of history, culture, museums, art, belfries, windmills, canals and just overall loveliness,  keeping in mind that it’s a small country and Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and Bruges are separated by only a short train ride. And the food! All this in a country where practically everyone speaks English.

It’s puzzling to me that more Americans haven’t visited Belgium.  Brussels is the capital of Europe, of NATO of course, and the European Community or Union or whatever they’re calling it these days.  The hotels are full of diplomats who make charming breakfast companions even if they can’t resist making a point or two about the textile tariffs they were sent there to discuss.  But Belgium is also a tortured country,  cobbled together in the post-Napoleonic era with an existential split between the  French-speaking  Walloons in the south and the Flemish population in the North. Brussels is the capital of everything bad in Europe –  arms dealing, drugs, pornography.  It’s all there.

Even in 1994 there were millions of Muslims in Belgium.  I stopped in at a little cafeteria in Antwerp and when the proprietors learned I was American, they practically jumped over the counter.   “WE are Kurds! We LOFF America!  We LOFF George BOOSH!” they told me over and over, referring to the complexities of the Kurdish situation as summarized HERE.  I stayed a couple of hours while they had me try everything on their menu. I made a halfhearted attempt to tell them that not everyone in America loved George Bush but I didn’t make much headway.  They wanted me to go home with them to drink coffee.  I’m sorry I didn’t go.  It would be great to have their perspective on what’s happening now.

I saw a lot of Muslims on that trip.  The neighborhood in Oslo where the Munch “Scream” was stolen from its museum- once, or was it twice?- is a Muslim enclave, large and dreary and gray. My companions on the train to Stockholm were Iranians, and great company.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to Belgium but I’m missing it terribly as I write this. And I never even got to Waterloo!  May the New Year bring us sufficient peace on earth to allow us to travel safely again. 

END

Neighborhood Watch Run Amok?

Thank God this didn’t happen in Eureka, but over in Redding an overenthusiastic neighborhood patrol volunteer is up for charges that he pepper-sprayed a neighborhood resident who ran a stop sign.  Details HERE.

I generally support a neighborhood watch if the residents really believe they need it and are willing to staff it. Unfortunately, there are always a few idiots in any civic group who let their egos take over. If this creep had pulled up on MY lawn I’d take the max action allowed by the law.  Maybe this guy needs a few lawsuits as a reality check. Or Maybe the Redding police need to be more deeply involved in the programs they sponsor.

END

Let’s Talk About Guns

 

(PLEASE SEND YOUR SUPPORT AND PRAYERS TO THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, WHO ARE SUFFERING GREATLY THIS WEEK.)

When it comes to guns, everyone’s got an opinion. What I am presenting here are not opinions, but statistics that were gathered by a gun enthusiast from South Carolina, Dr. John Rheney, who has been the outdoor columnist for the Orangeburg Times & Democrat since 1984. Click HERE for his complete article.  They are followed by some California statistics from the State departments of Public Health and Justice.  If you have information to the contrary, kindly post it with your sources or better yet a link.  Enjoy!

Seven per cent (7%) of Americans hunt.

A survey found that 32 percent (32%) of Americans either own firearms or live with someone who does. This is down from 50% in the late ’70’s.

In 1977, a third of Americans lived in a household with at least one hunter.  In 2014, that number had declined to 16%.

While the number of guns being sold has held steady or increased, the guns are being concentrated in fewer hands.  22% of Americans own a gun as opposed to 31% in 1985.

About 35% of men and 12% of women own a firearm. 31% of people over 35 years old own a firearm.  Only 14% of people under 35 do.

Republican households owning guns: 50%.  Democrats: 25%.

Whites are twice as likely to own a gun than other races. People with higher incomes are much more likely to own guns than the poor.

Continue reading

Redding Safeways Under Seige

The local media in Redding has been debating whether or not there is a crime wave over there. KCRA reported that their two Safeways have had different experiences lately.

From KCRA:  “Crime statistics by the Redding Police Department show in January 2015, the Safeway on Pine Street had 151 calls made to police from that location with 15 arrests. In February, after the store changed its hours, the number of calls dropped to police to 67, with arrests dropping to seven. Those numbers stayed consistently lower for the months to come.”

Translation: when this store started closing between midnight and 6am, their police calls dropped to less than half the former numbers. However, the other Redding Safeway, which continues its 24-hour open policy,  has seen its police calls GROW from 57 calls and three arrests in February to 109 calls and 19 arrests in May.  In other words, they doubled.  

It appears this is a whack-a mole situation- the trouble calls move around to where the OPEN stores are.  What if they BOTH closed down during the wee hours? What a concept!

END

The REAL High Crime Counties

The data crunchers at FindTheHome have an interesting approach . If you count robbery as a “violent” crime as opposed to a mere property” crime,  the “high crime” areas shift and San Francisco becomes the highest crime area in the State! Take a look at this great interactive graphic that shows, among other things, that Del Norte’s crime rate is twice ours.  I always knew Crescent City was a pit.  I just didn’t have proof.

I think this statistic-  how likely are you to be a victim of crime in general- is a lot more useful than splitting it up.  YMMV.  It’s a great map.  Have fun with it.

END

Fun in the Sun

As the cold November winds prepare to blast us into winter, wouldn’t you like to fly away to a land of perpetual sunshine? Someplace like Maui?

Well,  two dozen California legislators have packed their swim trunks and sunscreen and have flown to Maui.  These lucky folks are being treated to a five-day conference at the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel in Wailea,  where the rooms cost $350 per night. But they won’t see a bill. Their expenses ($2500 per lawmaker) are being paid by  a non-profit called the Independent Voter Project.  Who are they? They include:

Occidental Petroleum and the Western States Petroleum Association

Eli Lilly

the Altria tobacco firm

the California Cable and Telecommunications Association

the State prison guards union 

the California Distributors’ Association tobacco and other products).

Just to make sure our legislators get enough rest, a mini-conference from Nov 19-23 will be held just down the road at the Grand Wailea. The sponsor is the Pacific Policy Research Foundation whose supports include Eli Lilly (again), PG&E, and Amgen.

Who attends these gatherings? That’s a semi-secret but legislators from both parties routinely show up as well as power brokers like former assembly speaker John Perez. The only people who don’t get a seat are you and me. Patrick McGreevy lays it out in the LA Times.  

Every year they have these elitist parties with the public left out and every year people bitch about it, but here we are again. And Jerry Brown,  who doesn’t make many mistakes, vetoed a bill  that would have required nonprofits that pay for legislators’ travel to meetings like this, to disclose their donors.

But what good does disclosure do? These people have no shame.  Next year they’ll do it again. Even with a series of recent scandals, they’ll do it again unless someone stops them. Write to Mike McGuire, write to Jim Wood, join California Common Cause.

Maybe next year we should crash the party? Or at least get them to hold it in-state?  Box lunches at the Wharfinger should be good enough for those who are really doing the people’s business. 

END

 

 

 

“Your credit card expired in your PayPal account”.

Just returned from the Bay Area and found this message in my in-box. Came as quite a shock since I closed my PayPal account a year ago,  mostly because I was tired of all the emails and warnings about mischief with PayPal accounts. All they wanted was for me to update my credit card details. Yeah, right. 

IF you receive something like this, go to the PayPal website and click the “Contact Us” button. PayPal will ask you to forward the bogus message to them so they can investigate. 

The world is full of dreadful people, isn’t it?

The Man from Freshwater Farms

I met Rick Storre on two occasions. The first was when I visited Freshwater Farms to find a native-plant solution for my planter boxes that always looked like hell, stuffed with geraniums that never seemed to thrive. I entered the building and eventually a friendly man showed up. From the way he settled into his seat, I could tell this was going to be a long chat. It was. It was the kind of chat that takes place when one oldtime Humboldter encounters another.

We reviewed his parents and grandparents, and mine, and gossiped for an hour or so. It felt like being in Ireland, where purchases are never hurried. He suggested a certain type of huckleberry for my planters and I left with six of them.  Three died immediately  and I called him for advice. I went back to FF and he replaced them cheerily. Eventually I managed to kill all of them and went back to geraniums.

I must have passed by FF a thousand times since then, secure in the knowledge that there was a friendly and intelligent person within. Today I feel very empty inside. The house where the bodies were found is a few blocks from me and I feel violated. I lost an acqaintance. I can only imagine how his friends and family feel.

And I feel that I’m losing my town. I don’t recognize a Eureka where St Bernard’s Church is considered in a “bad neighborhood” or where people are murdered a short walk from my home. The people who are running for County or City offices had better have some ideas for change. Mental illness is perhaps the toughest issue facing our society and balancing the rights of the mentally ill with the rights of people like me who are supposedly sane is a conundrum for which all the answers are expensive. Necessary, but expensive.

All I know is that I feel empty. “And the sky is crying.”