Graphic by hotflashcarol, based on actual signs, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of driving through Texas.
On the evening of July 13, 2012, 38-year-old Angel Dobbs and her niece, Ashley Dobbs, 24, were traveling in Angel’s boyfriend’s car on Highway 161 in Irving, TX, a suburb of Dallas. They were on their way to a casino in Oklahoma. They were pulled over by Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper David Farrell, who said he saw each of them throw lighted cigarette butts out of the car windows. This is important; these women were pulled over for nothing more serious than—allegedly—littering. Littering in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 on first offense; a second offense may result in a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail. Or, if you’re unfortunate enough to be stopped by Trooper Farrell and his accomplice, Trooper Kelley Helleson, you might be subjected to public sexual assault by a couple of subhumans with an array of deadly weapons but apparently only one set of latex gloves. And then you might end up on YouTube.
This video made me sick. Literally—shaky, knot-in-your-stomach, cortisol-overdose sick. The worst part was watching these two innocent women, one of them only 24 years old, having to passively succumb to what amounts to vaginal and anal rape because the perpetrators had not just guns but badges. In the federal lawsuit that Angel and Ashley Dobbs have recently filed, Angel says she was was “overwhelmed with emotion and a feeling of helplessness and reacted stating that Helleson had just violated her in a most horrific manner.” Those of us who have been sexually abused or assaulted, especially by authority figures, know that such violations can have a lifelong impact that will not be mitigated by settlement dollars or prison sentences. The damage has already been done; these women have already been found guilty of littering and having a boyfriend who might have smoked pot in his car, and they have been punished accordingly. I bet they never do that again. (How fucking pernicious is the “I smelled pot” excuse; it apparently gives the police state carte blanche to escalate the situation to whatever level matches their testosterone that day.)
The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.
—John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
Steinbeck didn’t live to see the work of a team of tree-climbing scientists who have now photographed two of the largest trees in the world: The President, a giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park featured in the breathtaking video above; and, in 2009, a coast redwood in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
Redwoods are spiritual beings to me; the redwood forest is my cathedral. When I need to get in touch with the universe, I go find a redwood. There is a little grove of coast redwoods in Bidwell Park within walking distance of my house; they were brought here as seedlings from Arcata. I visited the coast redwoods and the sequoias several times as a child and have returned many times as an adult. It’s like a pilgrimage to Mecca.
A picnic area in the park near my house; these redwoods are just babies.
Fifteen years ago this month, on December 10, 1997, Julia Butterfly Hill embarked on one of the most heroic direct actions I have witnessed in my lifetime. She is one of my most cherished role models. Julia ascended a 600-year-old redwood tree named Luna in Humboldt County, CA. Her intention was to take her turn at the tree-sit, an ongoing action to stop Pacific Lumber from clear-cutting the ancient Headwaters redwood forest and causing widespread environmental devastation. She expected to be in the tree for two or three weeks. But Julia decided not to come down until she was sure that Luna would not be cut down. It took more than two years. For 738 days, Julia lived on a couple of six by eight foot platforms, 18 stories above the ground, where she survived two brutal winters, helicopter assaults and intense loneliness. She said that Luna’s love kept her alive; she felt “the heartbeat of Mother Earth” in Luna’s bark. Julia discovered that Luna’s sap ran a lot more than usual when nearby trees were cut down; she said it was Luna’s way of communicating grief.
Perhaps most encouraging of all is the work that is being done by the scientists mentioned above in the National Geographic video. Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine and others from Humboldt State University figured out a way to climb into the canopies of redwood trees 300 feet in the air—a place no human had ever previously occupied. They discovered an entirely new ecosystem—enormous horizontal branches which themselves supported vertical trees the size of those in your backyard. They found moss, lichens, ferns and huckleberry bushes sprouting in the soil that collected on the huge branches. They found spotted salamanders.
They also figured out how to accurately measure these behemoths. A team of five climbers spent 20 days measuring one of the largest coast redwoods, a 320-foot-high tree they named Iluvatar. The crown of Iluvatar contains a forest of 220 vertical trunks. It is one of the most structurally complicated living organisms that has ever been discovered. Richard Preston wrote a book about the “lost world” of the redwood canopy; it’s called The Wild Trees and it’s absolutely fascinating.
A photo from our trip to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park; somewhere in this forest is Iluvatar.
“I consider it to be the greatest tree in all of the mountains of the world,” said Stephen Sillett, a redwood researcher whose team from Humboldt State University is seeking to mathematically assess the potential of California’s iconic trees to absorb planet-warming carbon dioxide.
The researchers are a part of the 10-year Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative funded by the Save the Redwoods League in San Francisco. The measurements of The President, reported in the current National Geographic, dispelled the previous notion that the big trees grow more slowly in old age.
It means, the experts say, the amount of carbon dioxide they absorb during photosynthesis continues to increase over their lifetimes.
Giant sequoias grow so big and for so long because their wood is resistant to the pests and disease that dwarf the lifespan of other trees, and their thick bark makes them impervious to fast-moving fire.
It’s that resiliency that makes sequoias and their taller coastal redwood cousin worthy of intensive protections — and even candidates for cultivation to pull carbon from an increasingly warming atmosphere, Sillett said. Unlike white firs, which easily die and decay to send decomposing carbon back into the air, rot-resistant redwoods stay solid for hundreds of years after they fall.
So . . . if we can find the will to save these ambassadors from another time, these beautiful, silent sentries who’ve lasted all these millennia . . . perhaps they can help save us.
Her Highness Hotflashcarol and her little sister, back in those halcyon haystack days at the ranch
The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.
― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
I used to have this quote taped on the wall in front of my desk, where I would see it every day. Some days I would focus on the “elementary kindness” part, and that would remind me of another quote, attributed to Mother Teresa: “Be kind anyway.” Thinking about that eased my mind and allowed me to set aside my “righteous” indignation over that day’s outrage. Whew.
Other days, I would focus on the “living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides” part. I would remember the wild abandon I felt as a child, racing between the long rows of haystacks on my grandpa’s ranch. Or I’d imagine that I was one of the players on my high school football team at the state championship, bursting through the giant Go Leopards! banner and running through a tunnel of my teammates as they slapped me high-fives. Or I’d hear my Auntie Anne, a therapist and shaman who heals veterans with PTSD, say to me when the world seemed hopeless, pointless, impossible: “You can live in the nightmare, or you can live in the dream.”
* * *
For the past few weeks of this election season—maybe even months—I’ve chosen to live mostly in the nightmare, to live inside despair instead of hope. Yesterday, I suddenly snapped out of it. I got a little wake-up call from someone who chose to be kind anyway. I spent a lot of Tuesday evening and most of the day Wednesday venting my rage on various FDL threads and on Facebook, excoriating everyone who voted for Obama and attempted to defend their positions. Even people who love me and agree with me were telling me to take a chill pill.
Oakland’s ruling troika of Larry, Moe and Curly Police Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana.
In this week’s segment of You Can’t Make This Shit Up, it was revealed in federal court filings that for the past year, beleaguered OPD Chief Howard Jordan used a spam filter to divert emails he received that contained subject lines such as “Occupy Oakland,”"police brutality” and “respect the press pass,” straight to his junk mail folder. So he never saw them. Because that crap was getting on HoJo’s last fucking nerve, OK? I mean, not only was he having to contend with those DFHs hanging out in the plaza with their signs and their chalk and their food and their hopes and their dreams, they also thought they had the right to assemble and march and the freedom to speak, any time they wanted! The last thing he needed to see in his email box was some exaggerated BS about one of his officers knocking some college girl off her bike and cracking her head open or arresting some loudmouth journalist or lacerating the spleen of some guy with a camera. He was forced to deal with that, uh, unfortunate Scott Olsen thing, since the whole goddamn world suddenly seemed to be all freaked out about some skinny veteran almost losing his life in the streets of Oakland. (Jordan and Quan had really hoped they would get their turn to be on the The Daily Show, but not like this.)
Flickr photo by anirvan
Flickr photo by geekeasy (Adam Katz)
Above: Hippie children and the occupants of the illegal Interfaith Tent Umbrella, just two of the many banes of HoJo’s existence.
Now poor HoJo is in even more trouble with Judge Thelton Henderson, since emails from Robert Warshaw (the federal monitor Henderson appointed to oversee OPD) ended up in HoJo’s junk mail and he never responded to them. It’s not Howard’s fault that Warshaw titled his message, “Disciplinary Actions-Occupy Oakland.” “It was never my intention to ignore the monitor,” Jordan said in his declaration. In fact, Jordan and his officers have taken the threat of federal receivership hella seriously. For instance, they posted defaced, racially insensitive photos of Judge Henderson (an African-American) and Mayor Quan (a Chinese American) on a bulletin board in the Oakland Police Administrative Building and didn’t even take them down after an employee complained. So there, Mistah Warshaw, you devil, you. The irresistible Ms. Santana may win this round yet. Or maybe not.
Anyway, all this unwanted (and undeserved, in Howard’s estimation) attention on OPD is like deja vu all over again. It reminds HoJo a lot of when he had to bust some hippie heads back in 2003, during that episode when OPD infiltrated an anti-war group and then used wooden bullets, sting-ball grenades and beanbag rounds to break up their non-violent protest at the Port of Oakland. (Back then Jordan had this to say: “You don’t need to have some special skill to infiltrate these groups. Two of our officers were elected leaders within an hour of joining the group. So if you put people in there from the beginning, I think we’d be able to gather information and maybe even direct them to do something that we want them to do.”)
On the bright side (Judge Henderson, are you listening?), OPD’s new 2012 Occupy Oakland War Room is a well-oiled machine. Millions of taxpayer dollars are funneled from schools, libraries and neighborhood crime initiatives in order to ensure that no illegal camping takes place downtown, that no graffiti mars the Clorox Building or CitiBank, that no Chamber of Commerce member is inconvenienced. While OO marked the one-year anniversary of the October 25th camp raid and police riot,
inside a downtown building, dozens of city, county, regional and state workers gathered at the city’s Emergency Operations Center to provide support and coordinate the troops on the streets.
Three officers sat at computers monitoring Twitter and other social media for clues on protester plans. Other officers coordinated the taking of internal affairs complaints, and some oversaw the gathering of street intelligence. Five televisions and several other screens showed live streaming video from locations around the city.
The story above also revealed some “undisclosed technology” that allowed OPD to keep track of a protestor who allegedly threw rocks at an officer; he was arrested later when he had fewer comrades around to save him. My guess is that “undisclosed technology” is actually a low-tech undercover officer; as HoJo says above, it don’t take no special skillz. Hey, Officer Friendly! Follow me on Facebook! I know, you already do!
And Howard, I couldn’t leave without posting a little something special just for you; you know I’ll be thinking of you every day between now and December 13th:
Thursday, October 25, 2012, marked the one-year anniversary of the Oakland Police Department’s violent assault on the Occupy Oakland encampment and the ensuing protest in which Iraq veteran and anti-war activist Scott Olsen was shot at close range with a barely-less-than-lethal beanbag round. People attempting to administer aid to Scott were forced to flee when an officer fired a flashbang grenade into the group. Eventually Scott was carried away by his comrades and driven to Highland Hospital, where it was determined that he had a skull fracture and brain injury that kept him from being able to speak. Scott survived Iraq only to be critically wounded by a sociopath paid by the City of Oakland to protect and serve the interests of the one percent.
OPD received more than 1,100 complaints related to Occupy Oakland incidents. Based on OPD’s ongoing investigations (they’ve only addressed about half of the complaints so far), a total of 44 officers will be disciplined. Two officers will be fired, one will be demoted, three are to undergo counseling and training, 15 will be suspended for up to 30 days and 23 will receive written reprimands. This makes me think of a joke: What do you call 100,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start. (Apologies to lawyers; feel free to replace that group with the demonized demographic of your choice.)
Flickr photo by Bora S. Kamel, taken in Cairo, Egypt on October 28, 2011
Information from the Free Leah website was just posted on Facebook that indicates Pacific Northwest grand jury resister Leah-Lynn Plante has been released from prison. The statement is relatively short and quite alarming, despite what should be very good news. I don’t want to just cut and paste the whole thing; please go to the link. It begins as follows:
First and foremost, do not panic.
Leah wanted for us to express these points to you with this news:
She is extremely traumatized and experienced a lot of very, very bad things, but she is alive. The state of her mental health is also very bad.
She asks that people do not jump to wild conclusions about her release because they do not apply.
She spent her whole time in SHU / Administrative Detention (solitary confinement) and was told that that is where she would stay for the duration of her incarceration, up to 18 months. She was classified as “different” from Matt and Kteeo.
For anyone unfamiliar with Leah, Kevin wrote about her just a few days ago here.
Google and bing searches turn up no additional information; I’ll update if/when more becomes available.
UPDATE 1: This appears to be another site where Leah posts. I say “appears” because I can’t say for sure that this was posted by Leah. I’m taking everything with a grain of salt until more information becomes available on the Free Leah page, which seems to be a little more official. In the meantime, Leah, if you are indeed reading what the internet has to say about you, let me say this: I am holding you in my heart today, along with that “new world” that so many of us are trying to make possible. Whatever happened to you, please know that you are not alone. There are a whole bunch of us out here who have your back.
Background: Two weeks ago, the family of Alan Blueford and their supporters sought answers from the Oakland City Council about Alan’s death — answers they have been seeking since their 18-year-old son was murdered by Oakland police officer Miguel Masso on May 6, 2012. Answers were not forthcoming. The council attempted to move on to other city business, including a resolution proclaiming Oakland an “International City of Peace.” The community rose up in anguish and distress and said: No Justice, No Peace.
* * *
In an attempt to avoid facing an onslaught of distraught citizens again this evening, city administrators held behind-the scenes meeting where they discussed limiting the number of people who would be allowed in council chambers. It’s comforting that they were able to focus on such matters while violence continued unabated on the mean streets of their city; five people were shot to death in the last couple of days.
Although such restrictive policies were not yet supposed to be in place for tonight’s meeting, dozens, if not hundreds, of people were barred from entering the council chambers. Balcony seating was closed. I didn’t attend, but I watched the livestreams and chatted online with people who were there. A friend who made it inside said that at the beginning of the meeting, there were only about 75 people present and many seats were empty. (There is seating for 216 and standing room for many more.)
According to media reports (which almost always underestimate crowds), about 100 people took part in the Interfaith March for Alan Blueford, which began at the Alameda County Courthouse and continued to City Hall for the meeting. Interfaith member and fearless Occupier Nichola Torbett says that the group blocked the streets at rush hour, without a permit. (Whose streets? Our streets!) Once they arrived at City Hall, many of these people were denied entrance to the council meeting by the police.
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