All posts by Steve Stern

Non Fake News

Karen Amy posted this chart on facebook and so did Gail Cousins so this is really only a repeat, probably at a larger size for easy reading. The chart was made by the very generous Vanessa Otero whose blog title is All Generalizations Are False.  In her blog, Ms. Otero qualifies the chart thusly, However, I weight the ranking downward is if it has a significant number of stories (even if they are a minority) that fall in the orange or red areas. For example, if Daily Kos has 75% of its stories fall under yellow (e.g., “analysis,” and “opinion, fair”), but 25% fall under orange (selective, unfair, hyper-partisan), it is rated overall in the orange. I rank them like this is because, in my view, the orange and red-type content is damaging to the overall media landscape, and if a significant enough number of stories fall in that category, readers should rely on it less. This is a subjective judgment on my part, but I think it is defensible.

Vanessa Otero

A Good Citizen?

Like most people, I think, we scoop out our cat’s litter box and put the contents in a plastic bag left over from some other use and then put the plastic bag, filled with cat urine, poop, and kitty litter in the trash. But, yesterday, Michele bought a box of biodegradable bags made especially for dog poop and by extension, usable for Precious Mae’s litter box waste. Both Michele and I feel like we are being better custodians of the environment and, therefore, better Citizens by eliminating the plastic bags we had used before. But, here is the rub, when Michele got home, she realized that some scoundrel had opened the box and stolen one of the three rolls of the biodegradable pet waste bags. Now we wonder, is the person who stole the third roll, presumably to use for their pet’s waste, also a good Citizen? Even though they stole them, by using these bags, the thief is also keeping plastic bags out of the environment and, it seems to me, the world is better off with two households eliminating plastic bags. Still, they did steal them. 

Fake News…sort of

The headline on my Google news feed said MELANIA TRUMP ORDERS REMOVAL OF NEAR-200-YEAR-OLD TREE FROM WHITE HOUSE and my first reaction was one of anger. Pretty righteous anger as in “These people have no appreciation for anything”, and the first line said The historic Jackson Magnolia has been on the south facade of the White House since the 1800s—making it the oldest on the grounds. and my anger grew even more righteous.

But the next paragraph said specialists at the United States National Arboretum, which determined the magnolia tree must be removed and the whole tenor of the story changed. Melania didn’t really order the tree removed, tree experts at the National Arboretum wanted the tree removed and she was just following their recommendation. A couple of paragraphs later, the article said White House groundskeepers were prepared for the tree’s demise, however, and offshoots of the original Jackson Magnolia have been growing nearby. and my anger turned from the Trumps to Newsweek, where I ran into the article. The headline was designed to piss me off; the final decision was Melania’s sure, but she didn’t just make the decision for no reason which the headline implies.

I don’t watch FOX news because, among other reasons, they slant the news. But that is a story told by people who also slant the news, just in a different direction. Everybody, from the New York Times to CNN, curates the news they think we should know and my Google News Feed cherry picks those curated stories based on algorithms generated by what I clicked on in the past. I undoubtedly get different news than a Trump voter in  Alabama and we react against each other, each thinking, What an ignoramus, he/she would agree with me if only he/she bothered to look at the facts.  

Democrat Doug Jones just won the U.S. Senate seat in ALABAMA!! Headline


I will defend a woman’s right to choose and stand with Planned Parenthood. On the front page of Doug Jones’ Website. 

I’m thrilled and a little surprised that Doug Jones won. Still, I must admit that, up until today, I really didn’t know what he stood for, although I donated to his campaign, so my vote was really against Roy Moore who has seemed despicable to me ever since I read about his putting the Ten Commandments in front of the Alabama Supreme Courthouse. Well, really a copy of the Commandments because, to state the obvious, the original no longer exists; and really, only his interpretation of what they said, if they even ever existed, because that is the way with religion, everybody has their own interpretation of somebody else’s interpretation from more than a thousand years ago.

Increasingly, in the magazines, papers, and websites, that I read, Roy Moore has been painted as evil. From the quotes I’ve read and the clips I’ve seen of him and his wife, Moore seems to have gone out of his way to reinforce that picture of evil. It is only slightly tempered by what seems as monumental cluelessness and cultural myopia. He doesn’t even try to sound reasonable. Yet, he almost won and that is surprising. I’m not ready to chalk it up to only racism or abortion rights, or, even, homophobia although I am sure all were contributing factors.       

I have no idea how many people voted for Doug Jones rather than against Roy Moore, most I hope. However, if most did, I didn’t. Going to Doug Jones’ Website before I donated money, I went to the Priorities Section which seems to be written as innocuously as possible. Jones says I will bring integrity back to Washington but that is close to meaningless (and, in my opinion, isn’t going to happen soon). On Healthcare, Jones does say Health care {sic} is a right, not a privilege and Coverage must meet basic standards that protect individuals and No woman should be denied coverage of services based on the religious beliefs of her employer and We need more robust Medicaid funding. There is no mention of ObamaCare or Single Payer although religious beliefs of her employer is probably an oblique reference to abortion rights and Medicaid is a Federal Government program.

Now, when I went back to the Website, which I very much doubt has changed since the election, the front page says:

    • Everyone has the right to quality, affordable health care.
    • I will defend a woman’s right to choose and stand with Planned Parenthood.
    • All children deserve a first-class education regardless of where they live.
    • College must be affordable without burdening a student with overwhelming debt.
    • I believe in science and will work to slow or reverse the impact of climate change.
    • It is past time we raise the minimum wage to a livable wage.
    • Women must be paid an equal wage for equal work at all levels.
    • Voter suppression is unAmerican – we must protect voting rights.

While this isn’t Bernie Sanders territory, it is closer to Sanders than Clinton and has made me feel even better about Jones’ win. 

A change of mind

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Protecting & Caring for Open Space In & Around Silicon Valley.  Heading on POST site.

The day after we go back from our trip across the country, Michele and I drove over to the coast. Michele thought the trip wouldn’t really be complete unless we drove all the way to the actual Pacific Coast and got a picture of the water. We took State Highway 84 over the Santa Cruz Mountains, which form a sort of spine running down San Mateo County just to the west of the San Andreas Fault. This is a familiar drive, I’ve done it hundreds of times and passing by farms, mixed with expensive houses and trailers seemed normal and made me wonder why I found it so strange while driving through rural Georgia. 

When we decided to go to the coast, we also decided to have lunch in Pescadero. We wanted to have lunch somewhere on the ocean side of the mountains and the New York Times had recommended Taqueria de Amigos (in Pescadero in an article some years ago on the best taquerias between Los Angeles and San Francisco). After an excellent couple of tacos, we wandered around town and I stopped to look at the public notices on a community billboard. One of the notices said, Visitors to Pescadero Please Read and then went on to talk about a major problem the town is having with funding of its schools because of POST.

POST stands for Peninsula Open Space Trust and some of my favorite hikes/walks are on POST areas. Land, set aside by POST, is a major benefit of living here. The picture at the top of this post is Russian Ridge, which up until 1950, was grazing land for a dairy owned by a Mr. Paskey (thus, apparently, the name Russian Ridge). According to POST, The District began acquiring the Preserve in 1978, through a series of complex transactions, from its owners, who were planning to subdivide and build houses. Now it has been put aside as a place where I can take a long walk with a great view, a place to watch the sunset over the Pacific, or watch the fog creep into the distant valleys. I love that, I love that are no houses here, and, up until I saw the public notice on the Pescadero bulletin board, it seemed like a win-win. But, it turns out, the place that I considered free – or paid for by donors like me – is being paid by someone else, the citizens of small towns in rural San Mateo County.

On my side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, San Mateo County is urban and one of the richest places on earth, but the Pacific side is neither rich nor urban and when POST buys a piece of land, it gets taken off the county Tax Rolls which, overwhelmingly, affects the rural east side of the county. These are taxes that are desperately needed in unincorporated communities like Pescadero, San Gregorio, and La Honda. According to the notice, this removal of taxable lands has resulted in a loss of yearly income of $570,439, or about 15% of the school budget in these small communities. While it is legal, this just doesn’t seem fair. 

Talking about POST and Pescadero, we wandered down to Pescadero Beach on the Pacific Ocean, 

about twenty-seven hundred miles from Dataw Island in South Carolina. Then we drove home, past the farms and through the redwoods, over the Santa Cruz Mountains, stopping to watch the light grow dim over The Bay, talking about how much we like living here and how much POST contributes to that, but realizing, now, that there is a cost that is being paid by people who can’t afford it.