Dogpaddling in the Cesspool

by Michael W. Stowell

February 11, 2002

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After loading my desktop with research and dumping it several times and living with this quandary of what to write and how best to convey my thoughts, synchronicity finally kicked in. Guess what, folks; it's election time, again.

My wake-up call came in the person of a man running for District Attorney here in Humboldt, a new-comer to the area running against an incumbent who has been in office a very long time. Paul Gallegos is a man of rare courage who seeks even rarer justice for his community, his qualifications are significant but his motivations are what attract me.

I suppose most readers have heard of the infamous 'pepper-spray incident' that occurred here a few years ago. A handful of Earth First! forest defenders decided to haul an old stump and some saw chips into our congressional representative's office and lock-down around it; dare I repeat his name lest I conjure up his ghost, Frank Riggs. Their purpose, of course, was to draw the public's attention to the good ol' boy's corrupt bedfellowness with Big Timber, namely MAXXAM's Pacific Lumber Company (Palco), the scourge of the redwood rainforest.

Palco's hired guns, the County's deputies and Eureka police, responded in their customarily violent and abusive manner, but this time they had a new method of torture and a video camera to document its effectiveness. After shooting aerosolled pepper spray directly into the eyes of one defender and dobbing it into the eyes of the others, they secured the arrests and gleefully went on their way with a new police training video. Our District Attorney, Terry Farmer, defended the action. A federal court recently decided that the sheriff, the chief of police, all the officers involved and the D.A. are liable for damages via the civil courts.

Then there was David "Gypsy" Chain, who was out playing 'cat and mouse' with one of Palco's timber fallers who was cutting in an old-growth stand without proper permits. A. E. Ammons totally lost it and threatened to get his pistol and shoot the little **#~@#*`!!! Instead, he dropped the next tree on Chain and killed him (I have his threats on videotape). Two hours after the manslaughter the sheriff called it all an accident and the D.A. later concurred, refusing to protect the crime scene for private investigators to document for a civil suit.

Then there was that young woman working as a security guard at Palco's main sawmill in Scotia. She turned up missing one morning and her body was found a few days later buried under some bark and slash off the end of the log deck, buried by an end loader. According to a young guy who quit the mill right afterwards, rumor was that she was raped and killed by three drunken mill workers partying in the parking lot after a 3 to 11 pm shift. There was never much of any, if any, investigation and her husband, the father of her two kids, had to settle out of court in a civil case he brought against PL; with a gag order, of course. We'll probably never know what really happened that night.


So the campaign has just begun for this important position and already the Demos are lining up to endorse their man, the present D.A., even though the challenger is a registered democrat, as well. Point is, how can anyone endorse any candidate before sufficient opportunity is given for discussion of issues and platforms and expression of ideas? It seems damned impetuous, impertinent, imprudent and presumptuous to throw the full weight of a political machine behind any candidate before all the contestant's voices are heard. It reeks of the political cronyism so typical in the cesspool of American politics.

All this brings to mind campaign finance reform and election reform. Whatever happened to those discussions? Is it any wonder that half the people in this country don't bother to vote? Can we honestly expect our elected officials to implement any meaningful changes? Or do we learn to live without the government and stop paying taxes; let the cesspool dry up?

Take a close look at what's happening at your end of the pool; hold your nose.

External Resources

Headwaters Earth First!
Earth First! Journal


Michael W. Stowell is chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Arcata Library in Arcata, CA. He is the producer/editor/videographer of numerous public access television programs; he is a naturalist, a gardener, a bicyclist and a Swans' columnist.


Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work on the Web without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Michael W. Stowell 2002. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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Published February 11, 2002
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