Tea Party Gazette: The Sequel

The ballyhooed editorial board of The Union has given people with extreme right-wing political views the “bully pulpit” to wax on in the editorial pages — just as I expected.

First we are hearing from local tea-party founder Stan Meckler — once a month, in July and August, no less — and now CABPRO activist Norm Sauer is weighing in this morning “on a plan to save our forests.” They sign their names as members of The Union’s editorial board. OK then.

Norm was present when “New World Order Prophet”-Defend Rural America activist Doyel Shamley, masquerading as a “natural resources consultant,” visited a County board of supervisors meeting. Sauer has a paper published on the Defend Rural America website.

Now he writes: “Most importantly, the county supervisors must support the sheriff of the county as chief law enforcement officer to deny the federal agency any law enforcement power …” It’s an old saw — and an extreme view.

Also, this weekend we are treated to another letter from Dick Phillips, a hard-core right and regular letter writer — for years: ” Gaza is in flames. The Ukraine is in flames. Afghanistan is in flames, while our fearless president was on a two week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, the playground of the very wealthy. … It will take America 100 years — under strong leadership — to regain its importance in the world. How sad that the young and the dumb can drag us down so easily.”

The “Obama golf narrative” was repeated in a letter last week too. Thanks gentleman.

In the meantime, we learned that The Union’s new publisher, Jim Hemig, who manages the paper, is a registered Republican and conservative — relevant to the discussion. For context, our state is Democrat and our county is “purple.” We are not supposed to be living on an island — or are we?

And earlier this week, The Union pointed to hard-right political blogger George Rebane’s blog in the news pages. Rebane once wrote a column for The Union.

I keep hearing all about the First Amendment and people’s right to express their views, an issue I understand all too well.

But that’s not the point: the point is judging whether Meckler, Sauer, Rebane et al. are getting too much ink when the local voter rolls show a more moderate political landscape. Are we appeasing longtime subscribers to The Union and “squeaky political wheels,” or enlightening and delighting people with thought-provoking columns on the Op-Ed page?

The editorial pages could be filled with interesting columns from teachers and parents about education, the one gigabit internet speed proponents (underplayed in The Union), engineers from Telestream about job creation, Pulitzer prize-winning poets such as Gary Snyder on the environment (as the NY Times offered recently) and on and on. We have a lot of interesting people around here.

Granted, it’s a much bigger paper, but the Bee’s editorial page has some stimulating columns. Some are from the hard right but more thought provoking.

It continues to remind me that The Union is catering to its own demographic — aging, conservative people who still read printed newspapers — rather than reflecting a richly diverse community — politically, culturally and economically. It is not a “growth” strategy; it’s a “standing in place” strategy. And it sounds like a broken record.


Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

63 thoughts on “Tea Party Gazette: The Sequel”

  1. Jeff,
    When we are hammered with hard right wing opinions constantly it is sets the table for people like Jim Firth or Terry Lamphier to be labelled as extreme left wing when they aren’t even close. Compared to Rebane and the others the Republican god Ronald Reagan seems like a Marxist.

    1. There’s a rhetorical pattern to the writing of right wingers which leads me to believe that they get together on a regular basis with someone to help them craft BS. Jason Fouyer’s Other Voices today reflects that pattern. While he says he’s not about “Platforms” he then proceeds to present his platform. The premise that readers are generally ignorant is reflected in the rhetorical style we consistently now see in compositions from those on the right. Another example is Bonnie McGuire’s piece. First she draws you in with a praise of SYRCL then proceeds to slam Izzy Martin and implies that there was no local political effort before suggesting that water storage is more important.
      This style of composition works because, as most professional propagandists know, folks generally don’t practice critical thinking and are likely persuaded with false appeals to their fears and suspicions.
      I don’t know what “the left” can do rhetorically to counter them. That’s a question that’s been on the minds of thinking people for some time.

  2. Where are Lynn Wenzel and Nancy Eubanks? Editorial board members who tend to lean left. Are they writing? There ate several folks who have been submitting other voices and letters who have not been published while newer peices from right wingers are.
    Did anyone notice that Garcia’s letter was published twice? I thought I picked up an earlier edition but confirmed that I really was reading that days paper. Garcia’s letter was chosen to be reprinted over other letters.
    Who decides what does and does not get published? Is it Corey Fisher? Is it Brian? Jim?
    I recently resubscribed to the union out of community support but I’m wondering if the paper is really as dedicated as Jim likes to tell us.

  3. These two examples sum it up:


    “You’ve got to kick them sometimes, but they will do it [publish the letter],” Meckler said on the YouTube video ( at 17:10). A letter could include support for a particular candidate, Meckler said, adding that readers often go to the letters page before the front page.

    It’s cool to live in a place, though, where people always want to see the glass as “half full” — even if it isn’t. There are choices, however: Social media, blogs, the Bee, etc.

    1. Jim Hemig said that Meckler was too controversial a figure for the editorial board before putting him on the editorial board. At a First Tuesday event in August, Jim used the words “fair and balanced” before catching himself. When someone says “fair and balanced” a red flag goes up in my mind. Red is no pun, it’s a clear catch of a Freudian slip.

      1. The goal is clear: show support for the social issues that the local “progressives” support, such as homelessness, but make sure the local politics and business climate remains solid “red.” Make no mistake about that!

  4. Jeff:
    I see Ron Lowe and Jim Firth and other “left” opinions all the time in the Union. Granted there are more “right” opinions IMO. Maybe there are too few ‘left” opinions that submit letters or articles? I submit letters and they have printed them all. Voter registration says that we have a pretty balanced community, but the turnout and election results don’t bear that out. My point being that the “left” maybe does not want to participate? I would like to see better investigative reporting out of the Union as well as “fair and balanced”. My guess is this is a business decision by them as opposed to trying to advance a viewpoint. A good topic and I enjoy reading your blog as well as Dr. Rebane, and others, keep it up.

    1. I have also seen Jim Firth and Ron Lowe’s outstanding letters in the Union. I would love to see more from Nancy Eubanks too.

  5. I’m beginning to hear this “participate” narrative a lot. “Participation” comes in all flavors — not just the one we hear about most. Chico State Professor Tony Waters helped provide some context on that:
    “I read Hemig’s article, and it looks to me like he is already embracing the “good ol’ boys” of Nevada County, starting with this 7 a.m. meeting with Rotary. Rotary by its very nature is focused on local businesses, which represents only a small number of the many people in Nevada County. But whenever I see Rotary mentioned too early in an article, it shouts “good ol’ boys and girls” to me. For the 20 years I lived in Nevada County, Rotary seemed to be the first stop for almost every new publisher, school superintendent, politician, etc. Nothing wrong with Rotary, but it is also good to remember that most of us are not part of that circle.

    “Rotary does one flavor of good works in Nevada County, but there are many more flavors which Hemig needs to balance out his anecdotal “research” about good ol’ boys and girls and their habits of excluding people defined as “outsiders” whether they’ve lived in Nevada County a long time or not. Besides Rotary, perhaps he should join Wolf Creek Alliance for monthly stream monitoring, SYRCL, or serve the homeless. Others work through the many churches in Nevada County. Such good works are as important as donations by Rotary Club members to understanding Nevada County.”

  6. While getting a tire fixed at a local tire shop I was reading The Union Saturday and I got really confused. I saw more ink given to the No on Measure S and it looked like a reprint of a front page article from two days ago. Anyone else see it, for the second time or just more ink from the right wing?

    1. I caught Jo Ann Rebane’s article on George’s blog and the Union. Same cut and paste and she attempted to make Measure S as a bad thing. She did go thru the effort of making a small comparative analysis so I won’t fault her there.

      1. I have to agree with you on that Curtis. They are masters at distorting fact. Something learned from Rush Limbaugh?

  7. Are The Union editorial board members now required to write “other voices” columns? It seems like there have been two or three in the last week or so all signed with name and ” member editorial board” underneath. All seemed to have been TPers or hard right as well. Are readers supposed to be impressed and influenced by the board member tag? Is including that tag some kind of egocentric attempt at credibility as in “I”m on the board so what I have to say is important so read and learn”? Stan Meckler’s column on Gaza was about as stupid and one sided as it gets. Apparently Stan doesn’t know that the Israelis took the land from the Palestinians in the first place. Include Rebane’s wife in the mix and most all of this past weeks guest columns have appeared to me to be from the right. Is there a letter writing campaign going on here that the Union’s board members are participating in? I thought the purpose of an editorial board was to determine policy not write letters themselves, other than the once a week or so “our view” column.

  8. I think it’s a take-off on the ’50s TV program “Queen for a Day” or “King for a Day”! “Do YOU want to be Queen for a Day?!” The host would bellow out those words before each program, to which the audience would reply en masse: “YES! And the rest of us get to deal with it.

  9. I wonder what The Union real circulation is? I wonder if the new editorial board members writing all those letters will result in a downward slide beyond that which is already occurring (assumption).

  10. I just picked up the Sunday copy of The Union, Quick Stop was out of the Bee, but there was plenty of copies of The Union. After reading Saur’s editorial piece, if it was correctly titled it would be: “A rightwing plan to takeover our National Forests”. Or maybe, “Norm Saur’s plan for a Nevada County coup d’état of Federal Lands”. His ignorance is amazing!

    Saur’s answer for dealing with potential catastrophic wildfire by a new landuse plan driven by the county, with the county taking over the legal authority of Federal Lands. And the nuts and bolts is to get more mining, logging, OHV use, opening up all the closed roads, and of course, cattle grazing. Get those cows chomping riparian areas, that always works well. And higher OHV use, they never cause fires in forests. Gosh Norm, did you dust off an old forest plan from the 1950s? It sure seems that way. If those are your answers to dealing with fire threat and climate change, boy did you miss the question.

    What Norm Saur advocates for solutions are the exact things that caused many of the current forest problems, those and too much fire suppression in forests where fire was a regular occurrence in some forest types and infrequent but stand replacing in other forest types. From what I’ve seen, the Sierra Nevada can be a real mixed bag of forest types and stand densities depending on elevation, slope, aspect and soil productivity. Region 5 has got some GIS data that dials it in pretty well. What they might need is for our do nothing Congressman to get off their arses and get funding specific for thinning. It can only be used for thinning. Make that a requirement to the funding, if our Congressmen will ever do anything.

    If Nevada County wants to do anything about fire threat, start with the areas in the county on private lands, the areas they are responsible for with approving parcel split after parcel split without road improvements in areas of high fire threat. God help those folks who may need to evacuate quickly in areas with one lane winding roads and over grown brush, if there is a wind driven fire. It wasn’t the Tahoe NF that approved all that development, it was the county!

    (I’d send this to the Union, but I doubt the current editorial board would approve it, what do you guys think?)

      1. Join the conversation! The Editorial Board does not approve submissions. The Union policy is for just about everything to be printed to lend as many voices as possible to the discussion, so send it in. If you don’t hear back to confirm the Union has received it, call or email letters@theunion.com.

      2. Cheryl,
        Thanks for joining the conversation here. The community “conversation” increasingly is occurring in social media, not behind a “paywall.” Therein lies the problem.

    1. Hi Steve- Thank You for your Other Voices this morning. You played the “fact card” to counter Mr. Saur’s usual, ridiculous, ideology driven, fact free, crappola.

      1. You’re welcome Chad. Steve Frisch also contributed a part at the top.
        I’m surprised no one has commented but commenting is behind the paywall, so not sure how many folks are willing to fork over the money to the Union when it is so dominated by local right wing good ol boys.

  11. I think you should send a rebuttal, if only to show readers that there is a core of clear thinking citizens interested in forest and fire policy in our little burg.

    I could go off on Mr. Sauer’s total misrepresentation of the SCOTUS cases he cited (apparently without either reading or understanding them) but what would be the point. To people who think like Norm does ‘law’ is just an inconvenience to be used as either a distraction or skirted at the convenience of ideology. It is ironic for people who claim to be ‘constitutionalists’.

    This is what happens when ideology is the filter for science instead of science being applied to ideology as a decision support.

    1. “To people who think like Norm does ‘law’ is just an inconvenience to be used as either a distraction or skirted at the convenience of ideology. It is ironic for people who claim to be ‘constitutionalists’.”
      That is an excellent point Steve, and a very important one! I want to do some editing and I’d like to include that, okay with you?

  12. The idea of the editorial board is a calculated business decision by The Union to make people feel like they “belong,” but it has not led to clearer thinking. You still have to go elsewhere for that.

  13. Another classic Rebanism:

    “The pen is mightier than the sword only to the extent that it can invoke the sword.”

    So much for the triumph of western civilization.

      1. Yeah, just something to do with half our brains tied behind our backs while we watch the 49ers game and read Nixonland 🙂

  14. I don’t think RL Crabb would have anything to write about if it wasn’t for this blog. The attacks are resuming on Rebane’s blog too — unmoderated personal ones. These curmudgeons just don’t have much else to say. They don’t have a plan for our community, only for themselves.

    The “narrative” is always the same. Bob thinks I’m the “leader” of the “progressives.” LOL. For him, the context is his blog and all the hard right-wing blogs. Most of these people are “off the map” right wing in the context of our state, starting with issues like global warming, the role of government, gun rights, feminism, abortion, etc. Others are political activists and have an agenda. They are intolerant and rigid in their ideology.

    As for me, I’ve voted for Democrats and Republicans. I’m a middle of the road “decline to state” voter. I am a fiscal conservative and socially tolerant, just like a lot of working, educated “50 somethings” in our state with kids. It’s pretty typical.

    You think like this, because you want your kids to be prepared for the “real world,” including the “big city.” You want them to be tolerant, and you remind them that “WASPs” are going to be the minority, not the majority, when they grow up.

    By contrast, a lot of the curmudgeons live in a myopic world. They are retired, their kids live elsewhere, and their social life is with their “contemporaries.” It eats at them that WASPs are being subsumed by the “new immigrants,” though we all were immigrants at one time or another.

    As for progressive, that would be a blog like Don Pelton’s “Sierra Voices.” In our community, progressives are the registered Democrats. They also are the leaders of the “progressives,” not me.

    My criticism of The Union newspaper is simple: It’s mediocre. Yubanet, Facebook and the blogs beat it to the punch on this weekend’s fire, which drew a full-court press from Cal Fire and 200 firefighters. The vocal hard-right recently has highjacked the editorial board. The management is the same ideology and from the same chain-ownership team as in the past: just new faces. The paper is too defensive about its shortcomings too. It lives in its own “bubble.”

    This may come as a shock, but the Union will not exist in its current form within a decade. It likely will have to go all digital. It also may have to merge with a neighboring paper, in Auburn or Marysville, to sustain itself. The turnover will continue because the journalists don’t get paid enough, so the institutional knowledge will continue to fall short. The best opportunities are in the cities, often with startup ventures, not at The Union. A job with this newspaper is a lifestyle career move, at best. Others will go into p.r. The longest tenured person at the paper works in HR, not journalism, and that’s telling.

    Bob wants to preserve the “status quo” in our community, because it benefits him and his contemporaries. But the towns are dying because of an aging, declining demographic. We don’t have enough people left to sustain our economy. The money is on the Coast, and we need to embrace it, not fight it. Truckee has embraced change, and it shows on so many levels. We need to plan for the future, not hang on to the past. Nostalgia will only get you so far.

      1. Bob continues to paint me into a vision that exists to suit him. This is the problem with cartooning: it’s two dimensional. I am not endorsing candidates in GV. And I have voted for conservatives. The trouble with Bob is that, deep down, he is a “good old boy” apologist. The lifestyle he celebrates is just not sustainable for our community, because the world is changing all around us. A case in point is Truckee, which “zigged” while our western county “zagged.” The Union also reflects this “standing in time” posture. The good news is that the successful people are just walking around it: innovating, expanding, evolving. We are changing from the grassroots level, not from the top down.

      2. Oh, now Barry Pruett has weighed in. He’s part of this group. He’s also the guy who brought “cesspool politics” (to use his words) to our little community with his campaign against Greg Diaz. It was mind boggling. (Did you know Barry worked at Apple Computer? Well, actually he didn’t). A highlight for Barry was when Bob drew a cartoon about me and Jeff Ackerman published it in the newspaper. You can’t make this stuff up.

      3. Well Jeff, Barry ought to know what “cesspool” politics are. He did a good job of demonstrating that.

      4. Aww, Barry Pruett thinks he “scorned” me. Barry do you think the reason you lost the clerk recorder election as bad as you did is because you “scorned” too many voters?

    1. And this eats at Bob too: “And by the way, Mr. P., as long as you refer to The Union as The Tea Party Gazette, I’ll have no qualms about name-calling. It’s a lie, and you know it.”
      Look around Bob. Example after example show that, including this past weekend. Listen to what people are saying, not just me. Survey the community (again), not just The Union’s subscribers or the “old guard.” Ask yourself why more people don’t subscribe. So far, this “editorial board” has been a step backward — to give people with extreme political views, including the local founder of the tea party, a “bully pulpit” and ID them as “The Union editorial board” members. The prize goes to he or she who floods The Union with the most letters. How ridiculous.

      1. And then there’s George Boardman, who gets slammed week after week after week for factual inaccuracies in his column and has become a parody of himself as “Bored Georgeman,” but he still has the Alfred E. Neuman “What Me Worry”? approach. It’s the bunker mentality. BTW, George, here’s a tip, go look up Keith Gruenberg’s pension on the Transparent California website and report it. You’ll get some people to read your column for a change.

        BTW, nobody in our neighborhood went to The Union for real-time fire updates as the air tankers flew overhead — they went to Facebook, blogs and Yubanet. That’s no laughing matter, but George thinks it’s funny. I’m not sure what it would take to wipe that toothy grin off of George’s face. Not even a note from the tax collector.

  15. 300 word limit with a letter to the editor to the Union, what a joke! Had to strip that submission way down. Glad we have this blog.

    1. Done. I sent in the full version of my response and then an email asking them to replace my earlier 300 word letter to the editor with the 740 word version asking them if they will run it as an “Other Voices”. I hope they replace the early submittal with the full version. I’m heading to Oregon for a week so dealing with this is going to be on the back burner.

  16. I wonder if regular readers of The Union are like the person who seems to be sleeping in front of the TV, but when you turn it off, they sit up and say, “Hey, I was watching that!”
    When some opinion other than whatever flavor of political pablum we usually chose to anesthetize ourselves with hits the opinion page, we are startled and take notice.
    For example, Jo Ann Rebane referred to The Union back in May as “our suddenly left-leaning newspaper”. Maybe it is the Tea Party Express if people are surprised when it veers left (before “righting” itself :).

  17. This is a hoot: Crabb thinks adding names to an editorial board automatically makes it diverse. He ought to think more deeply about the views that wind up being expressed in the pages and how often. We’ve been exposed to Stan Meckler’s musings each month, the latest one on the Middle East. And now the CABPRO long-timer (also a board member) wants our Sheriff to tell the Feds to get lost. Soon the Terry Lamphier bashing will begin. The Union has turned its Op-Ed page into an “arms race” between the left and the right, rather than showing judgment about what it publishes for the people in the middle (who are most of us). Stan tipped his hand when he said: “You’ve got to kick them sometimes, but they will do it [publish the letter].” Then he advocated a letter writing campaign from his politically like-minded friends. As for Reinette Senum vs. Meckler, Renette — regardless of her politics — helped build the farmers market and has been a champion for Nevada City and the homeless. Meckler is more one dimensional; he’s just a political activist. Maybe he could write about Bubba’s Bagels or something.

    1. And now (drumroll please), “fish.” He doesn’t even live in our community. I wonder if that would qualify him for The Union’s letters page, let alone Crabb’s blog. What a farce.

      1. And last but not least, here comes Greg Goodknight, “Mr. Science”! Tell us Mr. Science how does “vapor lock” work? What can you do to prevent it? Go back to school Mr. Science.

  18. And as if we didn’t have enough entertainment tonight while watching Monday Night Football, here comes Mr. Global Warming denier Russ Steele, claiming YubaNet must be biased because it had the audacity to run an article about global warming. http://sierrafoothillcommentary.com/2014/09/08/no-virgina-yubanet-is-not-a-balance-news-source/
    Here’s some background on Russ’ end: https://sierrafoothillsreport.com/2012/02/15/chico-climate-denier-confirms-heartland-funding-watts-up-with-that/
    You can’t make this stuff up. The parody site NCScooper needn’t make things up; all it has to do is report what goes on in some circles around here.

  19. I like RL Crabb. We have talked many times at various places about life, politics, and of course the blogosphere in Nevada County. He is a political cartoonists and from what I see a pretty good one, especially when it comes to Nevada County. I find most of his political insights accurate and many times very funny. We might disagree on some political issues but I don’t know any two people who agree 100% on politics, anywhere.

    Despite my disgust with the personalities and behavior of the hard right on the blogosphere it doesn’t mean when they actually talk about issues they don’t make some good points. It is to bad that attacking people personally takes the priority. The inability of the fab five and couple others to see the difference between personal attacks vs. attacks/ challenging a persons position on any given issue is very sad to see, not to mention very frustrating to try and have a dialogue.

    I also believe that Jeff P. is doing our community a great service by bringing his journalism background of covering issues and using that experience in exposing the underbelly of these issues locally. By exposing the weaknesses he is alienating the perceived status quo, which is always a good thing in my book.

    What we got going on in the blogosphere/ The Union from where I sit is a bunch of guys stepping on each others toes.

    1. Sorry Ben, You seem to have forgotten the treatment that Crabb gave Sandra Fluke, over the birth control controversy, and that he is no better than Rush Limbaugh when it comes to women’s issues. Crabb is as nasty a right winger as we can get, judging from what he wrote (or lamely cartooned) at the time-

      1. Chip,
        What I remember about Bob’s criticism of the Rush/ Fluke commentary was we(myself included) were calling for advertisers and stations to pull Limbaugh from their stations. This is where I would disagree with Bob and point out public airwaves aren’t for constant bigoted commentary. Rush can be a misogynistic bigot all he wants as an individual but we as the public have a say on what goes out on our airwaves. The best way to get people to tone down their rhetoric on our airwaves is by direct action with advertisers. Bob disagrees and thinks it is a 1st amendment issue and I don’t it is a public airwave issue.

  20. George Boardman (AKA “Bored Georgeman”) still can’t seem to grasp his ineptitude. Instead of apologizing, he is targeting me. I don’t think the poor old bean will ever get it.

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