Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Night Movies

Painted: An Adventure in Stop Motion Body Art from Elvis Schmoulianoff on Vimeo.
Reflections -- The Imagination Series (VIMEO STAFF PICK!) from Bombay Sapphire on Vimeo.

Yosemite from Ian Ruhter : Alchemist on Vimeo.

Paris in Motion (Part 4) from Mayeul Akpovi on Vimeo.

Super Life from Eben McCue on Vimeo.

Deca - Gabriel Ratchet from Steven Mertens on Vimeo.

A-Z of Dance from Jacob Sutton on Vimeo.

Lunar Odyssey from Andrew Walker on Vimeo.

Slaber Nackle from Turkeymelt on Vimeo.

Wall Dogs of NYC from Vocativ on Vimeo.

Becoming Sumo from Salazar on Vimeo.

Major MiWok Treasure Trove found...and paved over by developers in Larkspur.

Indian artifact treasure trove paved over for Marin County homes

Archaeologists crushed that tribe declined to protect burial site

Updated 7:29 am, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

  • The $55 million Rose Lane development in Larkspur is being built on the site of a 4,500-year-old Indian burial mound. The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria opted to rebury and pave over the artifacts found. Photo: Lacy Atkins, SFC
    The $55 million Rose Lane development in Larkspur is being built on the site of a 4,500-year-old Indian burial mound. The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria opted to rebury and pave over the artifacts found. Photo: Lacy Atkins, SFC | Buy this photo

A treasure trove of Coast Miwok life dating back 4,500 years - older than King Tut's tomb - was discovered in Marin County and then destroyed to make way for multimillion-dollar homes, archaeologists told The Chronicle this week.

The American Indian burial ground and village site, so rich in history that it was dubbed the "grandfather midden," was examined and categorized under a shroud of secrecy before construction began this month on the $55 million Rose Lane development in Larkspur.

The 300-foot-long site contained 600 human burials, tools, musical instruments, harpoon tips, spears and throwing sticks from a time long before the introduction of the bow and arrow. The bones of grizzly and black bears were also found, along with a ceremonial California condor burial.

"This was a site of considerable archaeological value," said Dwight Simons, a consulting archaeologist who analyzed 7,200 bones, including the largest collection of bear bones ever found in a prehistoric site in the Bay Area. "My estimate of bones and fragments in the entire site was easily over a million, and probably more than that. It was staggering."

No artifacts were saved

All of it, including stone tools and idols apparently created for trade with other tribes, was removed, reburied in an undisclosed location on site and apparently graded over, destroying the geologic record and ending any chance of future study, archaeologists said. Not a single artifact was saved.
Lost forever was a carbon-dated record in the soil layers of indigenous life going back approximately to the time the Great Pyramid of Giza was built in Egypt. It was, said several prominent archaeologists, the largest, best-preserved, most ethnologically rich American Indian site found in the Bay Area in at least a century.

"It should have been protected," said Jelmer Eerkens, a professor of archaeology at UC Davis who visited the site as a guest scholar. "The developers have the right to develop their land, but at least the information contained in the site should have been protected and samples should have been saved so that they could be studied in the future."
The shell mound was first documented in Larkspur in 1907, but no one knew its significance until a developer decided to build homes, prompting an examination of the grounds.

Archaeologists brought in

The development was approved by the city in 2010, but the developer, Larkspur Land 8 Owner LLC, was required under the California Environmental Quality Act to bring in archaeologists to study the shell mound under the direction of American Indian monitors before it could build.
The developers hired San Francisco's Holman & Associates Archaeological Consultants to conduct an excavation, and that firm spent the past year and a half on the site, calling in 25 archaeologists and 10 other specialists to study aspects of the mound. As required by the environmental act, their work was monitored by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, who were designated the most likely descendants of Larkspur's indigenous people.

The American Indian leaders ultimately decided how the findings would be handled, and they defended their decision to remove and rebury the human remains and burial artifacts.

"The philosophy of the tribe in general is that we would like to protect our cultural resources and leave them as is," said Nick Tipon, a longtime member of the Sacred Sites Protection Committee of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. "The notion that these cultural artifacts belong to the public is a colonial view."

But Eerkens and several other top archaeologists said a lot more could have been done to protect the shell mound. The problem was that the work was done under a confidentiality agreement, so little was known about it until March when some of the archaeologists discussed their work during a Society for California Archaeology symposium in Visalia.

An extraordinary site

It was too late by then to preserve the site and, by all accounts, the archaeologists at the symposium were stunned.

"In my 40 years as a professional archaeologist, I've never heard of an archaeological site quite like this one," said E. Breck Parkman, the senior archaeologist for the California State Parks. "A ceremonial condor burial, for example, is unheard of in California. This was obviously a very important place during prehistory."

The developer, Larkspur planning officials and officials at Holman & Associates all pointed to tribal leaders.

"We coordinated the entire time with the tribe and the archaeological team to make sure it was a collaborative effort and that things were handled in accordance with the tribe's wishes," said Brian Olin, the senior vice president for New Home Company, which is part of a joint venture with Larkspur Land 8.

Miley Holman, the owner of the archaeological firm, referred all inquiries to the American Indians, as did Neal Toft, the Larkspur planning director.

"The city did not participate or oversee any of the archaeological digs or discovery," Toft said. "The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria managed the oversight along with a qualified archaeologist. We were not apprised or assessed of any significant finds, and in fact we kept out of it."

Greg Sarris, the chairman for the 1,300-member tribe, was far from apologetic about what happened to the archaeological site. It is nobody else's business, he said, how the tribe chooses to handle the remains and belongings of its ancestors.

"Our policy is that those things belong to us, end of story," said Sarris, whose tribe recently opened the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park. "Let us worry about our own preservation. If we determine that they are sacred objects, we will rebury them because in our tradition many of those artifacts, be they beads, charm stones or whatever, go with the person who died. ... How would Jewish or Christian people feel if we wanted to dig up skeletal remains in a cemetery and study them? Nobody has that right."

The protection of cultural sites has been a prickly topic for decades in the Bay Area, where American Indian shell mounds were once abundant around San Francisco Bay. There is often tension, and there are sometimes courtroom battles, between American Indians, who generally want ceremonial items left alone, and archaeologists who want to collect and preserve ancient artifacts and village sites for science.

State and federal laws attempt to balance the two - protecting cultural sites and giving American Indians a say over what happens - but in most cases a private-property owner can't be forced to protect a cultural site.

The new homes, on a 22-acre former tidal estuary of Corte Madera Creek, across from Hall Middle School in central Larkspur, will include 42 senior housing units, eight senior cottage homes, six affordable-housing town houses and 29 single-family homes. They are expected to go on the market in the fall for $1.9 million to $2.5 million.

Shrouded in secrecy

Nondisclosure agreements are relatively common when dealing with Indian burials because of the historical problems American Indians have had with looters, grave robbers and vandals, but the archaeologists believe the developer was behind the secrecy.
"The developer was reluctant to have any publicity because, well - let's face it - because of 'Poltergeist,' " said Simons, referring to the 1982 movie about a family tormented by ghosts and demons because their house was built on top of a burial ground.

They also question Larkspur planning officials, who could have protected the mound by ordering a redesign or mandating construction of a cap over the site. Critics suspect planning decisions were influenced by the fact that Larkspur is getting out of the deal a 2.43-acre piece of land to build a community center.

"It's like the fox watching the henhouse," said Al Schwitalla, an archaeologist hired by Holman & Associates to analyze artifacts at the site. He said radiocarbon dating was arbitrarily limited and DNA testing was prohibited, a move that prevented confirmation of a genetic link to Graton Rancheria tribe members.

Lost treasures

A draft report is being prepared documenting what was found inside the Larkspur mound, but the actual items are lost to science and future study. That includes atlatl throwing sticks, which were used for hunting before the bow and arrow. There were also thousands of shells and the bones of bat rays, waterfowl, deer, sea otters and some 100 grizzly and black bears. Archaeologists say the remains of the condor, a species revered by the Miwok, could be an indication that the birds were kept as pets, possibly for their feathers.

There were also antler tools, flutes, beads, bone awls, hairpins, game pieces and ritualistic stone objects apparently used to trade for obsidian and beads from Napa-area tribes, according to archaeologists.

"There are a lot of things that went wrong here," Eerkens said. "It's really a shame." 

"Remember we are good guy developers, we are a non-profit"

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Night with Jim Kweskin

I saw the fabulous Jim Kweskin with Suzy Thompson at the HopMonk Tavern in Novato last night.  He is a folk musician specializing in ragtime and early American folk music.  The Grateful Dead credit Jim Kweskin's Jug Band with inspiration for getting started in music.  You can see Jim play tommorrow night at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley

Kowloon: The Walled City the densest place on Earth

See the fascinating interactive article in the Wall Street Journal HERE

American Indian artifacts are covered up a lot, experts say

American Indian artifacts are covered up a lot, experts say

The recent decision to rebury artifacts and grade over a 4,500-year-old American Indian midden in Larkspur wasn’t the first time sacred burials and archaeological sites in the Bay Area and California have been covered up, literally or figuratively.

Some 425 marshland village sites were recorded between Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties in 1907 by UC Berkeley archaeologist Nels Nelson, but nearly all of them are now gone.

A Miwok grinding stone recovered in 2013 at Novato village site
A Miwok grinding stone recovered in 2013 at Novato village site

In the last few decades, many sites have been paved over for development, often without anybody except those who were immediately involved knowing anything about them, according to Indian representatives and historians. One of the most egregious, according to archaeologists, was a historic shell mound that was bulldozed away when the Emeryville Shopping Center was built, covering the last remnant of what was probably the largest archaeological site in the Bay Area.
Many of the lost village sites were in Marin County, including a large midden that now sits underneath the Fireside Inn, in Mill Valley, public documents and local historians say.
The Larkspur midden, which included grizzly bear bones and a ceremonial California condor burial, was legally removed and reburied, but several archaeologists said the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria knew what was happening and should have done more to preserve the archaeological and geologic record.
The Rose Lane Development is being  built on top of a 4,500-year-old Miwok archaeological site
The Rose Lane Development is being built on top of a 4,500-year-old Miwok archaeological site

Gregg Castro, a Salinan and Ohlone cultural preservationist and member of the Society for California Archaeology, said it is the height of hypocrisy for archaeologists who worked at the site – and were likely paid a substantial sum for the service — to blame the Federated Indians, who have few legal choices in a system jury-rigged to benefit developers.

“What did (the archaeologists) do with their “outrage?” asked Castro. “Were they in anyway complicit in the outcome?”

Indeed, said Jelmer Eerkens, professor of archaeology at UC Davis, the archaeologists had a moral and ethical responsibility to protect the site and they didn’t.

Castro, who is also a member of the Native American Heritage Commission, said the focus should be on “the prejudiced, hypocritical preservation system” that allows sacred sites to be wiped out “then lets the powerless field workers caught in the headlights take the blame, while others walk off unscathed and richer for it.”

“No one walks out of these situations completely clean,” he said, but society would do better to cast blame on “who is shoveling the dirt and not just who gets dirtied by the mud slinging.”

But the issues go beyond the ultimate disposition of the human remains, according to several of the archaeologists who worked at the site. They accused tribal representatives of setting arbitrary limits on the number of items that could be radiocarbon dated, restricting photography and prohibiting the collections of artifacts and samples for laboratory testing.

There were prohibitions against hydrologic and other testing, including a total ban on DNA sampling, the researchers said. Such testing, Eerkens and others said, could have been used to confirm a genetic link to the Indians of Graton Rancheria.

“They overstepped their role and started making decisions that had nothing to do with their advisory capacity,” said Al Schwitalla, an archaeologist hired by Holman and Associates to analyze artifacts at the site. “They tried to dictate scientific protocol that had nothing to do with the burials.”

An excavation last year at a Miwok site in Novato
An excavation last year at a Miwok site in Novato
Schwitalla and others said they were given only 60 days after the excavation was completed to analyze the physical data, a process that ideally would have taken at least a year and could have gone on for decades.

“It would have been nice to have more time to thoroughly study the remains and the artifacts we uncovered,” Schwitalla said. “We got as much information as quickly as we could, but the time constraints cut into what we could learn.”

N.S.A Spying: Why Does It Matter?

The Vanity of Public Transit

The Vanity of Public Transit

Earlier this month, the American Public Transportation Association breathlessly announced that American transit systems carried more riders in 2013 than any year since 1956. The growth in ridership, said the association’s president, was evidence that Americans want more federal investments in transit.
A careful look at the association’s data, however, reveals a different story: Virtually all the increase in transit ridership from 2012 to 2013 took place in New York City. New York bus and subway ridership grew by 120 million trips in 2013; nationally, ridership grew by just 115 million trips. Outside of New York City, then, national transit ridership actually declined.
Many rail projects marginalize poor communities and waste tax dollars.”
New York City transit ridership didn’t grow because of federal investments. Instead, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transit Authority told The New York Timesit was a result of declining unemployment rates.
On the other hand, many cities that spent federal dollars building expensive transit projects saw falling ridership. In Portland, Ore., often cited as the model for public transit, both light-rail and bus ridership declined. Baltimore; Buffalo, N.Y.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, also saw fewer bus and rail riders, as did urban areas with older rail systems, such as Boston and Chicago.
Furthermore, rail ridership fell in Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Houston; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix; Sacramento, Calif.; San Francisco; and even Washington, D.C.
Rail ridership grew in Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but these cities lost more bus riders than they gained rail riders. Dallas, for example, lost four bus riders for every new rail rider; Austin lost seven; and Charlotte lost 17.
The main reason for ridership decline is that rail is expensive to build, expensive to operate and expensive to maintain. To keep trains running, transit agencies almost inevitably make cuts in bus service and raise bus fares. In 2010, the Federal Transit Administration found that the nation’s rail-transit systems suffered from a $60 billion maintenance backlog, and it has grown since then because agencies can’t even afford to keep the systems in their current state of poor repair.
Opps! I guess we miscalculated!

Regrettably, the new trains are often designed to attract middle-class travelers out of their cars, while buses are left to serve low-income neighborhoods, where people are more dependent on transit. Cuts in bus service are both unfair to transit-dependent riders and harmful to transit systems.
The NAACP even successfully sued the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority for discrimination when the agency cut bus service to black and Hispanic neighborhoods in order to cover cost overruns on its rail projects.
Only a handful of places outside of New York City saw growth in both rail and bus ridership, including Los Angeles; San Jose, Calif.; and Seattle. Previous years saw huge drops in Los Angeles and San Jose transit ridership owing to the high cost of rail. Considering that Seattle is building the most expensive light-rail line in the world — a three-mile underground route expected to cost close to $2 billion—future service cuts and overall ridership drops seem likely.
In short, far from improving transit, federal funds for building glitzy and expensive rail lines often, if not always, harm both transit systems and transit riders. Commuter trains in Dallas-Fort Worth; Nashville; and Portland, Ore., are so expensive and carry so few riders that it would have cost less (and been better for the environment) to give every daily round-trip rider a new Toyota Prius every other year for the next 30 years than to build and run the rail lines. [SMART trains in Marin will cost MORE].
The root of all these transit problems is a little-known federal fund called New Starts that gives transit agencies incentives to pick the high-cost alternative in any transit corridor. Thus, Maryland wants to build the Metro Purple Line in suburban Washington and the Red Line in Baltimore, even though environmental-impact statements for both lines say light rail will massively increase congestion and use more energy than all the cars they take off the road.
Congress should repeal New Starts and distribute the funds to transit agencies based on the number of riders they carry or fares they collect. Cities could still build rail transit lines that are truly worthwhile for their communities, but this formula would give agencies incentives to do things that boost ridership — not costs — and help transit riders in cities all over the country.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

We Can’t Save the Environment without Freedom

We Can’t Save the Environment without Freedom

The first Earth Day took place in 1970, when I was a high school senior, and that day set the course of my life for the next 25 years. Convinced of the need to protect the environment and realizing that forests were a key part of the environment in my home state of Oregon, I elected to attend forestry school, graduating in 1974.
Over the next two decades, I helped almost every major environmental group in their efforts to save public forests from what we thought were the rapacious hands of timber companies. But I soon realized that the real problem was that Congress had inadvertently given public land agencies budgetary incentives to lose money harming the environment, and disincentives to either make money or do environmental good.
This insight helped me see that creating markets for all resources would allow them to compete on a level playing field. Recreation fees, for example, could reward public land managers for protecting things that recreationists care about, such as scenery, diverse wildlife habitat, and clean water. Though economists estimated that recreation was worth more than any other public land resource, Congress didn’t allow managers to charge for most recreation.
Many environmentalists in the 1970s and 1980s were receptive to my ideas of reform. Our common goal was to protect the environment, and they happily accepted any tools that would solve a particular environmental problem best. Soon, Congress passed a law allowing federal land agencies to charge recreation fees and to keep those fees.
Giving government power to solve a problem is not the same as actually solving the problem.”
Unfortunately, things changed in the early 1990s because of two events: the fall of the Soviet Union and the election of Bill Clinton to the White House.
Polls showed that the fall of the Soviet Union persuaded most Americans that government was a poor solution to most problems. One of the few exceptions was environmental protection, which many Americans still believed needed government regulation. This led many self-described “progressives,” who believe in more government control, to push their agenda by joining the environmental movement.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s election changed the financing of the environmental movement. From 1981 through 1992, environmental groups raised much of their money by charging that Republicans in the White House threatened the environment. With a Democrat as president, grassroots funding for environmental groups plummeted.
To make up the difference, most groups turned to foundation grants. But foundations demanded that the groups they funded all adopt the same strategy. Progressives took this opportunity to demand that their strategy — transferring power from on-the-ground forest managers to political appointees – be the one that was adopted. For example, they opposed recreation fees because, with everything controlled from Washington, they didn’t think they needed to rely on incentives.
The progressive goal was not environmental protection but government control. They believed they knew how every acre of land in the country should be managed, which forests should be cut, which crops should be planted on which farms, and how many urbanites should live in apartments instead of single-family homes.
The constitutional rights and personal desires of property owners, the expertise of public land managers, and the housing preferences of homebuyers were unimportant compared with the greater good that could be achieved through central control of our natural resources.
When free-market environmentalists showed that most environmental problems could be solved with better incentives, progressives latched onto climate change as the one issue that demanded complete government control. “Climate change is a collective problem that demands collective action,” enthuses Naomi Klein, and it “supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books.”
Giving government power to solve a problem is not the same as actually solving the problem. Instead, that government is more likely to make the problem worse as it abuses its power. Klein’s own proposals for climate change — “subways, streetcars and light-rail … everywhere” and high-density “housing along those transit lines” — will have practically no effect on climate but devastating effects on our economy.
Air, water, wildlife, forests, and other things we call “the environment” are precious and deserve our care. But freedom is also precious. The most important lesson of my four decades as an environmentalist is that you can’t have one without the other.
Randal O’Toole