Scuttlebutt: Housing On The Coast • Nuclear Weapons

     Every month I get a comment or two from someone who has read my previous column.  Last month when I wrote about problems getting a building permit  I really touched a nerve.  People now come up to me with their stories of woe such that I feel like I accidentally began a sort of "Me-Too" moment for frustrated permit seekers.  I am still waiting for someone to tell me that things aren't so bad—that they got through the system with minimal difficulty.

     The main problem I see is that Point Arena has never had a real interest in local government.  Things have gotten done around there by groups of people just getting together.  There has never, in my experience, been much expected from city government  and for good reason.  Because of its tiny size and tax base and part-time council members, Point Arena has a tough time being taken seriously as a city.  They farm out services like law enforcement and building inspection to the county.  The volunteer fire department has been relieved by a separate fire district.  Most  studies and project planning is hired out to consultants.  Over the years some have even suggested that Point Arena should disincorporate, but fear of Ukiah vastly outweighs any dysfunction in Point Arena.

     Where am I going with this?  It relates to the  problem of permitting  and code enforcement.  Point Arena has always had a laissez-faire attitude toward what happens in town as there has long been a reliance on the idea that generally people will act in a responsible way.  This has largely  borne out to be true.  Maybe all the rules don't get followed just right, but no harm , no foul.  When you are the smallest dog in the pack, you sometimes have to cut some corners to survive.

     As the size of the state has grown, so has its regulatory power, for good and evil.  Same goes for the county and finally the City of Point Arena.  After once sitting through a lengthy, complex, and mind-numbing report and hearing perpetrated on the folks doing the Wildflower Motel (one of many), the only comment I could think to make to the council was, “boy, Point Arena is all grown up now”. 

      I believe that if Point Arena is serious about solving their housing problem, they need to divorce themselves from county building and planning and take control of their own affairs.  The  biggest problem I see is with the county plan checkers.  These folks are the guardians of  the castle.   It is not in their job description to make housing easier or cheaper to build.  Their main job is to keep the county from being sued.  That means everything has to be engineered or otherwise approved by outside experts.  The county will not take any responsibility for OK'ing anything without someone else' signature.  Anything remotely different or unusual is viewed with great suspicion.  Innovations are discouraged or outright banned.  When allowed they generally come with restrictions that alter or even nullify their benefit.

     If the city wants to take control of their destiny it will mean a good deal more work by the city council.  It will also mean take chances and even bucking the system.

     Don't hold your breath.


     While Donald Trump amuses and horrifies the nation with his wild antics and erratic behavior, there is something far more sinister and threatening happening and it is not filling the judiciary with unqualified political hacks.  It is even more threatening than that: global annihilation.

     We have already heard that Trump wants to know why we have so many nuclear weapons if we don't plan to use them.  This is a guy who seems to lack a basic understanding of physics.  Apparently he thinks that nuclear weapons are just a bigger version of standard bombs.  Nuclear winter and the poisoning of the planet with radioactivity are concepts that are apparently out of his reach.

     Unfortunately he is not alone.  the New York Times reports that “A newly drafted United States nuclear strategy that has been sent to President Trump for approval would permit the use of nuclear weapons to respond to a wide range of devastating but non-nuclear (emphasis mine) attacks on American infrastructure . . . .”  It also calls for the development of a new generation of small, low-yield nuclear weapons, blurring the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons, which, of course, makes them more tempting to use— especially with a mercurial temperament like Trump's.  The price tag for the new policy is set at $1.2 trillion over 30 years, though that does not include inflation or cost over-runs (that happens sometimes in the military-industrial complex).  The $1.2 trillion new expenditures are about equal to all the spending on Medicare and Medicaid combined over a three decade time period.

     To be fair, I shouldn't put all this on Trump.  Much of the report details plans previously made under the Obama Administration- Trump just added more to the request.  The difference is that Obama wanted a new low-flying cruise missile that would be undetectable by radar.  This, he and some in the Pentagon believed, would allow the U.S. to retire it's vulnerable land-based missiles and lead to a overall reduction in nuclear arms.  Trump doesn't want to eliminate anything, but rather put these new cruise missiles on submarines as well.

     The U.S. is not alone in its drive toward global destruction.  We know of Iran's and North Korea's efforts to join the nuclear “club”, as it is called.  I can't say that I blame them much (besides being totally insane), given the tremendous saber-rattling by the U.S. and Russia.  Putin is in a macho match with Trump and is said to be developing a long-range torpedo with a monster warhead that is apparently meant to shower coastal regions with deadly radioactivity, leaving cities uninhabitable.  Nice.  And you can be sure that that radioactivity will stay exactly where it is released.

     What is the matter with these maniacs?  Do they think that they can just blow off one or two and that will be it?  Once one side has murdered a few million people, who is going to call for restraint?  There would likely be a full nuclear exchange.  Where do they think they are going to live when they have poisoned the planet?    Have they not heard that more Japanese died from radiation than the bomb concussions?

     I would like to think that all this is just macho posturing and the real purpose is to throw more trillions at the defense industry, but with an emotional infant like Trump and his “Big Button”, you can't take anything for granted.

Alameda Poet Andrena Zawinski

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories, a book by Carmen Maria Machado (review)