Letters To The Editor
by AVA News Service, June 6, 2013
Re: Jeff Costello’s April 18 piece, “The Crackpot Files” —
Ahh, another appreciator of Thomas Szasz! Yes, he talked to a friend of mine who asked “what should we do about drugs and drug laws?” The word he used in response was “repeal,” which I’ll reiterate:
Total repeal of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 — the DEA should be about quality control only — let the state license drug users (like a driver’s license — take a test on basic pharmacology and get an ID you’d use in pharmacies). Then if you want heroin, go to the pharmacy and buy it, period. The billions saved on “interdiction” (translation: revolving door incarceration for poor people and other social deviants who find solace in intoxicants) would be rerouted to real clinics where real help would be available for those who want it. Those who don’t want help aren’t aided by incarceration or “drug programs.”
All statistical studies show that people stop using when 1) they decide their lives would improve by using less meds, 2) They have something positive happening in their lives — an interesting career, education, support from friends and family, etc., etc.
And of course the state would add a tax to the drug sales — we’re talking real money here, folks. It costs pennies to manufacture various narcotics for instance — add a small state and federal tax to each sale (narcotics are already federally taxed, by the way) and the user would still pay far less than he/she would for any street garbage. The state would be happy, the users’d be happy.
Who wouldn’t be happy?
Oooops, forgot about the drug mafia paying those billions to crooked politicians, and all the drug squads that no longer would pocket millions in money and drugs (“Oh darn! The evidence locker got left open again — now where the heck did all that dope and money go? Oh well…”)
It’s a plague all right — a plague of corruption, irrevocable loss of civil liberties, the branding of whole populations as “felons” with the concomitant loss of voting rights, jury duty rights, etc.
Anyone dare to disagree with this precis? If so, I suggest you read the news, because the handwriting is on the wall, and it’s pornographic as hell.
WE'RE THERE IN SPIRIT, OLD SPORT
We know that the AVA has the best damn writing and best damn writers around, so I hope that some of those fine and vigorous words will be heard next Sunday June 9th, at the Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration, at the Hill House in Mendocino.
There'll be two sessions for the annual marathon. Sign in at noon for the reading at 1pm; sign in at 6 for the reading at 7. Prepare four minutes of poetry or prose. Bring some AVAs for the display table.
See you there, dressed in a literate manner.
WHERE IS EVERYBODY?
Everything is depressing as civilization crumbles on all fronts and all levels, and as human life teeters on the proverbial brink. I can deal with my own mortality, but would have liked to leave something for future generations just as past generations had left something for me.
Recently I read a fascinating and challenging book, If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens — WHERE IS EVERYBODY? Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life by Stephen Webb. After examining the arguments of why intelligent life and advanced civilizations may exist despite our not yet having detected it, and counter-arguments as to why it may not, Webb concludes that Earth may be the only place in the entire universe with an advanced technological civilization and gives good reasons for his conclusion. If he's right, and if the prognosticators of impending doom are right — as I believe they are, the only forces of light, the only part of the universe that has risen out of the muck to examine itself and its place in the universe is about to disappear.
Wallace Stevens wrote a poem called “Domination of Black” in which he contemplates triumph of darkness over light:
At night, by the fire,
The colors of the bushes
And of the fallen leaves,
Turned in the room,
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
Yes: but the color of the heavy hemlocks
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.
The colors of their tails
Were like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
In the twilight wind.
They swept over the room,
Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks
Down to the ground.
I heard them cry — the peacocks.
Was it a cry against the twilight
Or against the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
Turning as the flames
Turned in the fire,
Turning as the tails of the peacocks
Turned in the loud fire,
Loud as the hemlocks
Full of the cry of the peacocks?
Or was it a cry against the hemlocks?
Out of the window,
I saw how the planets gathered
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
I saw how the night came,
Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks
I felt afraid.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.
* * *
I too feel afraid. And sad.
Louis S. Bedrock
Roselle, New Jersey
THERE WAS NO THREAT
Last August the Mendocino Co. Sheriff’s office issued this Press Release:
”On 8-30-2012 Mendocino County Sheriffs Deputies were dispatched to the area of the “North Pass Fire complex” in Covelo regarding a firefighter that had been threatened with a firearm.
Upon arrival deputies contacted a CALFIRE Firefighter that reported he was on a vacant lot of land, in the “Blands Cove” area, involved in fire suppression duties and documenting fire damage, when he came across a small marijuana garden. The firefighter, who was driving a marked CALFIRE vehicle and wearing firefighter protection gear, ignored the marijuana garden and proceeded with fire suppression efforts. (It should be noted that this area was clearly marked and identified as a mandatory evacuation area due to the aggressive fire behavior and ongoing fire suppression efforts.)
As the firefighter was continuing with fire suppression efforts, he noticed a vehicle drive up to his location. The vehicle approached him and pulled up next to him. The male subject inside the vehicle told the Firefighter that he needed to leave the area. When the firefighter attempted to explain to the subject that he was engaged in fire suppression activity, the male subject told him that he needed to leave immediately, the subject then looked down at an object that was between his legs on the floorboard of the vehicle. As the firefighter looked into the vehicle, he could see that a shotgun was between the subject’s legs, and that the barrel was pointed directly at him. In fear for his life, the firefighter left the area immediately.
Following a search of the area, deputies located a residence (located within the mandatory evacuation area) and the possible suspect vehicle. Deputies contacted a male subject at the residence who admitted to confronting the CALFIRE Firefighter. In addition, the male subject, later identified as VEDA Bennett-Swank, admitted that he was growing marijuana and that he was aware that he was remaining in an mandatory fire evacuation area.
Veda Bennett-Swank was arrested for brandishing a firearm in a rude, angry or threatening manner, interfering with emergency personnel or a firefighter at a fire and criminal threats. He is being held at the Mendocino County jail on $20,000 bail.”
* * *
Veda Bennett-Swank is my son. I would like to comment on the situation regarding his arrest for supposedly threatening a fire person or brandishing a weapon at him. The DA actually wants to take this to trial.
To understand the situation it’s important to note that the Swank family property is located about 15 miles from Covelo, where the average homestead is about 200 acres and there are maybe 5 homes in 2 miles. It’s remote, far from services, and you are going to have to take care of yourself, rather than rely on police to protect you, who would probably take 45 minutes to arrive at best. The Swanks have owned their property over 20 years, and are improving it as a family homestead and eventually want to build a home and live full time there.
The area is home to bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and “Cinnamon Bears” (relocated Grizzly bears) are known to be in the area. Most residents own and carry guns when they are out on the land to protect themselves.
Residents in the Northern California wilderness areas also have to constantly be on alert for threats from humans. Numerous incidents of gangs trying to set up huge illegal pot operations on someone’s land, steal their belongings, criminals trying to rob them if they are pot farmers during harvest time, and scary folks who come deep into the wilderness to put up a “quick meth lab” which can destroy the land permanently or case fires, are common problems.
During the fire, there were numerous criminals working off their sentences fighting the fires with the firefighters who were within a few miles of the Swank property. The Swank family experienced multiple thefts of thousands of dollars of tools and personal belongings at their property around this time and were concerned about looters or criminals returning to the area after the fire.
This event took place many days after the fires were out, in an area a long ways from the affected fire area, on private property. A white truck, with no placards, signs or other identifying information, was on the property near the small, legally operated marijuana garden on the Swank family land. A man in unremarkable clothing with no badge or other identifying clothing, was standing inside the small, fenced, legal pot garden, snapping pictures of the plants with a camera.
The report says the individual was engaged in “fire suppression efforts.” In reality, his behavior consisted of being inside the small pot garden in question. His “fire suppression equipment” consisted of a photographic camera.
Veda told the person that he was trespassing and should leave immediately. The man got in the white truck, waved goodbye, and left. I don’t know whether Veda was “rude” to the man about him being deep into his garden with a camera or not, but I might have been less than polite if a person claimed to have a right to be doing this on my land, and used his government authority to assert his right to do so.
As to how this gets twisted into a story about a firearm, as the man drove away, he noticed that Veda had a firearm in his truck with him.
Veda is a truthful person, and told the police he had a firearm in his vehicle. This is very common in this area as a precaution against meeting large animals or criminals who may be on your land.
I worry myself for anyone who legally is growing during the time close to harvest due to the risk of being robbed and potentially harmed. I myself own land inside Forrest boundaries and while I do not choose t to grow marijuana, I am always concerned about my safety when there are individuals who are on my property without a right to be there.
As I said before, many people show up in the late summer to rob pot farmers in the wilderness areas of California, or hunt on private land, or worse, are looking to find a secluded spot to set up a quick meth lab or do other criminal behavior. These types of individuals are likely to be carrying weapons should you come upon them.
I don’t think it’s rude or threatening to tell someone who is pointing a camera at a pot plant inside a fenced garden that they need to leave and don’t belong there.
I’ve known Veda all of his 21 years, and I know that he would never intentionally harm anyone who was not at that moment threatening his own life or that of a loved one. He is a very gentle and peaceful young man. I don’t agree that babysitting pot gardens is the best use of his time, but he is committed to living on the Swank family land, and I admire and respect him living his dream to live in this rural way.
Having a weapon in your vehicle in case the other person is a criminal is prudent in the very wild hills outside of Covelo.
The firefighter clearly admits that what happened is that he was told he was trespassing and that he saw a weapon in the car down at the floorboards of the car. I truly believe that this is a horrible abuse of government power to try to claim you were harassed or threatened. To be walking around in someone’s legal pot garden, however small and modest, in the Mendocino Hills, snapping pictures, is an abuse of your position as a Civil Servant.
Veda and the other members of the Swank family suffered significant losses due to thefts during the fires, as well as the tremendous sums defending himself against these unfair charges. I truly believe that Mendocino County residents’ tax dollars are much better spent prosecuting illegal growers, gang drug activities and violent crimes.
That being said, I want to thank all of the brave individuals who fought the fires this year.
AN ELDERHOME SUCCESS
The fundraising dinner for the ElderHome last Sunday was a roaring success with the largest attendance ever and the most monies raised! We have a lot of folks to thank for making the evening such fun. The Lions cooked a delicious BBQ. Hard to tell which was the best, tri-tip or chicken. Many Individuals made delicious desserts to share.
DJ Pete kept us all in an upbeat mood with his music. The dinner and camaraderie were helped by the libations poured thanks to AV Brewery, Bink, Maple Creek, Philo Ridge, and Signal Ridge. A big thank you to all of the Volunteers, before and during the event.
We also need to thank the Donators, numerous individuals and businesses, who so generously provided the many items for our live and silent auctions. Our newest board member, Brian Snelling, did a fabulous job as an auctioneer. He topped the evening off with Sandy Mailliard’s help. The Band-Aid over her injured nose, decorated by Jerry Reis, was auctioned off for $100. Yes, a used band-aid, this has raised the bar for auctions in this Valley.
Most of all thank you, Community Members and Visitors for coming and making the event such a success.
The ElderHome Board
Maureen Bowman, President
WHO APPROVES THIS?
To the Editor:
The third Saturday in May means more than just the running of the preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown around here. It means the Sheetiron 300 motorcycle rally, from Stonyford to Fort Bragg will take place — mostly in Mendocino National Forest and on Mendocino County's rural roads. 500 supposedly road legal dirt bikes from the Oakland Motorcycle Club participate.
How do I know this? Most of them go by my house, many at excessive speeds. Then they race over the tiny, winding mountain road toward Willits. It's there that my family, with three or four horses in the trailer, has almost been hit head-on, two years running by groups of motorcycle riders screaming down the middle of what is pretty much a one-lane road. After a few years of this, a pattern emerged; I decided to find out what was going on and happened upon their identity. I spoke with representatives from CHP about this issue and was informed that “we” don't want to discourage events like this because of the revenue they bring the County. When I asked for some CHP presence on our road I was told that would probably be impossible. (Funny how many CHP officers guard the bypass, while none protect our road while hundreds of dirt bikes blaze over it. Must be the revenue thing again.)
This year I encountered these bikers in Willits — many parked at local bars, Potter Valley and most disturbingly on Orr Springs Road. It's 32 miles from Ukiah to Comptche on that road and much of it is one lane with multiple switchbacks and blind corners. Two miles east of Comptche a biker lost control of his bike on a hard blind turn, laid it down and smashed it into the driver's side of my truck. Several other riders were right behind him but couldn't see the accident. Thankfully they missed us both and no one was seriously hurt. I'm not looking forward to trying to get his insurance company to pay for the damage to my truck — especially since the insurance information he carried was expired. Sure do hope he doesn't come after me. At least he didn't come through my windshield. Fun times.
This County can't provide adequate police/emergency presence for an event like this. We waited about an hour for CHP to arrive at the accident in Comptche. While we waited the motorcycle riders tried hard to talk me out of a police report. These folks are from out of the area, unfamiliar with the treacherous roads they are on and unaccustomed to coming across vehicles like livestock trailers and tractors. Many of the bikes going by our house are racing, passing each other and taking up the whole road. They are having a great time and appear oblivious to the risks they are taking, putting everyone on the road in danger, and breaking many laws — oh, now there's some revenue.
Money generated from these folks being here for 24-36 hours shouldn't outweigh public safety on the miles of rural, hard to access roads they travel over — to say nothing of the damage they cause riding through creeks, forests and on fragile dirt roads.
THE MENDO NINE
My name is Scott Faber and I was wondering if it would be possible for me to get a subscription to the wonderful Anderson Valley News. I am currently residing at the world-famous San Quentin State prison awaiting to see my counselor to get bused out of here to do the remainder of my time at another prison. As you might know, but if you don't, this is a reception prison where prisoners are classified and shipped out to numerous different places. Unfortunately there are nine of us from Mendocino County waiting for the bus with pretty much “no” communication with the outside world. It is very boring, bland and “distraughting” not knowing anything that is going on in our county and the current news. I have written to you guys before, apologizing to the community. You published my letter. You also sent me a month's worth of newspapers while I was in Mendocino County Jail. Please sign me up for the newspaper again for me and for the fellows who are sitting in this Dracula's Cave! I didn't finish my program due to family issues so the judge gave me my suspended sentence. If you are willing to send me the newspaper that would be so, so, so highly appreciated from me and the rest of the fellows here because we could keep up with Mendocino County news and current situations in our county. You wouldn't imagine how much that would brighten up the life here. We are locked down about 23.75 hours of every day in a five-foot wide, eleven-foot-long “bat hole” with literally very few things to do. I know I must do the time for the crime I have committed and I am. I would be greatly honored to read your newspaper again to know a little bit more about what is going on in my hometown. If you do decide to send me the Anderson Valley newspaper I will share it with the rest of the eight gentlemen who are in the cells next to me end we will cherish it. If there is some amount of money you would like for the subsciption just let me know and I will have it sent to you ASAP. I know it's $1 for the paper each week. I can afford that, no problem. Please send me the news as soon as your earliest convenience. Thank you very much. I will be waiting patiently for the reply. Thank you and have a beautiful day. Thank you so much. Thanks!
NO HARM DONE
I didn't really want that last letter printed. It was for you, just saying thank you for supporting my letters.
Update: My public defender has done really well since then and I would like to give credit where it is due. At the time of my last letter I was frustrated. Today my frustrations are gone and I would like to say thank you to the public defender for a job well done. I know it's not over yet, but I still have a sentencing date in six weeks. I'm really not happy about the last letter being printed, but I guess you guys print everything. My public defender is really doing a good job and I would really like to say thank you. I meant no harm by the letters that were printed; I was just trying to get help. In turn, I did get the help I needed. So all in all no harm was done. I just spoke about things that were true at the time. Overall, I learned a lot from writing those letters to such a newspaper because I didn't really know what kind of effect it would have on people. I am sorry if I offended anyone because that was not my intention. I learned that I should be careful about what I say and I will be especially careful about what I write to the AVA.
Thank you public defender, job well done.
HAMBURG & THE PEA
Hamburg's complaint about the broadband item shows that he suffers from acute Princess and the Pea sensibilities and an equally acute lack of basic reading comprehension skills.
His dismissal of Mark Scaramella's denial that he posts on the list serve under an assumed name strongly implies that Scaramella is a liar and an internet troll unwilling to stand behind his opinions. Scanning a single issue of the AVA should convince anyone that he has plenty of opinions including critical and unpopular ones and that he doesn't hesitate to stand behind them. Hamburg and his followers react with outrage if anyone mentions his well-documented personal foibles but he is willing to toss out accusations against Scaramella with no facts to back it up. I'll bet “Paul Baum” is a hammer critic, just as you and Scaramella have been on occasion. Labeling Scaramella as an internet troll is an attempt to discredit both antagonists in classic “shoot the messenger” style.
When he was caught cheating on his unemployment, Dan blamed his political enemies and had his contractor friend lie to cover up for him. When his marijuana growing partner sued for his share of the profits, Dan blamed his political enemies, trashed his partner and then quietly paid off to avoid going to court. When he was caught cheating on his political disclosure forms Dan blamed his political enemies, dismissed it as technicalities, but paid a substantial fine to settle the case. The disclosure forms are required so the public can track where a candidate gets their money and where they spend it. The public has a right to know if special interests are contributing or if the campaign is being run by a political consultant. Hamburg concealed over $5000 in cash and almost $20,000 in expenditures. As George Hollister pointed out, having a cash donation jar at a fundraising event is a great way to launder campaign contributions. And Hamburg failed to disclose how he spends large chunks of campaign money by making the payments directly and reimbursing himself instead of making the payments from his campaign account. Were the payments for legit campaign expenses? We will never know.
When Dan's judgment was questioned for being a follower of cult leader Adi Da, he attacked his political enemies and said they were going after him for his wife's religion. Carrie may have been more into it than he was, but Dan posted an online autobiography where he praised the divinity of Adi Da. As for Adi Da, when he died, the faithful prayed for his resurrection. After about three days with nature taking its course they finally realized they needed to get the Promised God Man in the ground without further delay.
As for the burial flap, I think you ought to be able to bury mom and pops at home, if that's what you want, but the law in California says there is a process to go through if you want to do that. The Hamburgs had the time and money to follow the process or try to change it but they made a deliberate decision to ignore the law and provoke a confrontation with the county. When I heard Dan hired Barry Vogel I wondered, Is he going to sue the county? Or force the county to sue him? Now we know that he planned to sue the county all along. Hamburg and his camp followers can't see the problem is caused by him breaking the law. They go after you for reporting it and the sheriff for investigating.
It comes as no surprise that Hamburg is a classic narcissist and entitlement prince.
I bet his colleagues and the CEO are really happy that Hamburg has put them in this position with his premeditated lawsuit. If they roll over they will be charged with granting of special favors and if they don't they will be labeled as ghouls for interfering with his wife's burial.
You may print this or not but I am keeping my name out of it to avoid targeting by the loons on the listserve. And if that sounds paranoid just remember the campaign of character assassination against Wendy Roberts.
POOR DAN, POOR GREG
The current run at Dan Hamburg, Re burying his wife on his land, in my opinion is mean spirited politicking. The man lost his soul partner after a long struggle with cancer. This sort of “anything goes” approach to politics is the reason I left the Green party. Somehow decency disappears and the recognition that human emotional pain exists vaporizes. It is clear to me that those willing to undermine folks in this way are clueless and uncaring people. It isn't astute political work, it is just shameful. The recent AVA article, stirring his path, is bad timing and bad taste. Some basic respect when people are mourning is due.
Ed note: Life can be painful, Greg, as your mummy and poppy should have warned you. But if you can pull your tear-soaked hanky away from your face long enough to read the whole story, and today's, you'll find that the Hamburgs fully anticipated everything that has happened. Get a grip.
Dearest G. W. Bush Library and Museum:
It's a classic in American literature. Might you have onsite a copy of “My Pet Goat” available for viewing?