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Letters (Sept. 1, 2022)

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BICYCLISTS PLEASE RIDE SAFELY AND LEGALLY

Editor,

We members of the Fort Bragg Seniors on Bicycles (SOB) see a major increase in the number of people using bicycles for their transportation and exercise. Many of them are new cyclists.

Many of these new bicyclists either don't know the laws regarding riding bicycles on public roads or they ignore them. They don't know how to ride safely in traffic. They seem to think bicycles are toys or recreation equipment to which the rules of the road don’t apply.

Under California Vehicle Code 21200 (a), bicycle riders have all the rights and are subject to all the same responsibilities and duties as drivers of vehicles. This means bicyclists must obey speed limits, stop at stop signs and bike on the right-hand side of the road.

Under Vehicle Code 21200 regulations, bicyclists must ride as far to right of the road as possible. They must ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb as possible, due to their slower speed.

There are four situations under which cyclists aren't subject to this regulation.

* When riders are overtaking and passing another cyclist.

* When they're preparing to make a left turn at an intersection or into a driveway.

* When it is necessary to avoid unsafe conditions. Unsafe conditions include objects or people on the right that could cause the cyclist to fall. Also included is when the cyclist needs to avoid being where an opening car door could knock them into oncoming traffic. Anything that blocks safe passage on the right is a safety hazard.

* When the cyclist is approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

Numerous cyclists are riding the wrong way in bicycle lanes against traffic. They make it unsafe for cyclists riding legally. This forces those legally riding cyclists to ride dangerously closer to moving automobiles. Bicyclists must ride in the same direction as the motor vehicles.

All cyclists should wear helmets. Riders under 18yrs old must wear helmets under California Vehicle code section 21212. Helmets worn must meet the standards of the American Society For Testing Materials (ATSM) or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Too many cyclists aren’t wearing safety helmets. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 70 percent of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries. Meanwhile, only 20 to 25 percent of all bicyclists wear helmets. Wearing a properly fitted helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 74 to 85 percent.

Some bicyclists are riding at night without lights or reflectors on their bicycles. Section 20201 of the vehicle code says that bicyclists riding at night must be equipped with a lamp emitting a white light that is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front of and from the sides of the bicycle. They must also have a red reflector that can be seen 500 feet from behind in front of the lawful upper beams of a motor vehicle. Cyclists must have white or yellow pedal reflectors and wheel reflectors.

We Seniors on Bikes have seen numerous cyclists who not only don’t have lights or reflectors, but also wear black or dark clothing. This makes them even nearly invisible to drivers at night. We highly recommend wearing very brightly colored clothing whether riding in the daytime or at night.

Cyclists should make sure their bicycle is in good mechanical condition before they ride. Any malfunction can distract one’s attention from the road. This can be dangerous for the safe operation of the bicycle, especially the brakes.

We ask drivers to be alert for bicyclists on the road. If you're in a parked car, please watch for oncoming bicyclists before opening the car door to leave the vehicle.

There will be more of us on the road due to the damaged economy and rising gas prices. We ask everyone to share the road so we can all travel more safely. Bicycling safely can be a healthy, liberating way to travel. Bicycles are much cheaper to maintain and operate than an automobile. Readers can visit https://www.bts.gov/content/average-cost-owningand-operating-automobilea-assuming-15000-vehicle-miles-year) to get an idea of how very expensive automobiles are).

Many drivers seem to have the attitude that bicycles are second class vehicles that must immediately get out of their way. They are NOT!

According to the Fort Bragg DMV office, most people who don't pass the written part of driver license tests fail because they missed the questions on bicycles.

Bicyclists can take satisfaction from commuting or traveling without creating more greenhouse gases. Please ride safely and carefully!

Ed Oberweiser

Fort Bragg

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THE TAX MAN'S BIG BLIND SPOTS

Editor: 

There is a lot of misinformation regarding planned increases in the Internal Revenue Service’s budget. Perhaps the worst example is people claiming the IRS is planning to hire 87,000 auditors whose only possible role will be to “go after you and me.”

Let’s look at some facts.

The planned hiring isn’t primarily auditors. Hiring plans include administrators, computer experts, support staff and others, as well as auditors. Almost one-third of IRS employees will retire soon. Audit staff is down a third from 2010, lower than it was in 1952. The IRS conducted 675,000 fewer audits in 2017 than were done in 2010.

Who wasn’t audited? The audit rate for Americans earning more than $5 million a year plunged from over 16% in 2010 to just over 2% in 2019. Audits of corporations with profits over $1 billion are down from 100% to 50%. A recent review of the IRS showed that taxes due but not collected amount to over $400 billion, one-fifth of the federal deficit.

What’s the real effect on you and me? Refunds are taking months, phones are not answered, and real tax cheats are thriving at our expense.

Jim Housman

Sebastopol

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TRUE ZONES, NOT BLUE ZONES

Open Letter to Ukiah Unified Superintendent Deb Kubin sent on 8/11/22 

Dear Superintendent Kubin, 

I hope you’ve had a pleasant and restful summer and are, like me, excited about starting the new school year. At Scott Paulin’s suggestion I’m writing to express my concern about the new and according to Scott unprecedented partnership between the UUSD and a sectarian religious organization, Adventist Health, whose stated mission is “Living God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope.” I believe this partnership may violate federal law. 

As you know, Scott and I had several conversations about this issue at the end of last school year; I’m cc’ing Scott, all my UISA colleagues and Kris Swett, principal of South Valley, on this letter in the hope that we can have an open discussion about this critical issue that affects all of our students, their families and school staff. 

Last spring Scott informed me that teachers at UISA and South Valley are entering a new collaboration with Adventist staff on student activities which promote health and fitness. Adventist employees are offering copies of the book The Blue Zones Solution to staff and students involved in this partnership. This book promotes the Seventh Day Adventist Church and no other specific church or religious sect, and for that reason it is not appropriate for use in a public school classroom or instructional setting. The book also rests on claims that have been debunked by reputable scientists. 

Here are my main concerns about this book and why I believe disseminating it among public school staff and students in a school setting violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment: 

● In the chapter about Okinawa, the author notes briefly that one resident regularly says a Confucian adage, 'Hara hachi bu,' before eating, but he never ascribes Okinawans' health to adherence to Confucian philosophy. Why is a section in the same chapter headed 'Top Longevity Foods from Okinawa' and not ‘Top Confucian Foods,’ as in the chapter on Loma Linda, where the similar section is titled, 'Top Adventist Longevity Foods.' The Loma Linda chapter has a section with the heading 'God's Food Guidelines' and another headed 'Typical Daily Diet of the Seventh-Day Adventists.' Why is the Loma Linda chapter the only one that mentions any specific church and the only chapter that focuses on religion? 

● Almost all people who live in Sardinia and Nicoya (locations of two other so-called Blue Zones) identify as Catholic, yet the author doesn't state that Catholicism is a major factor in their health; there are no sections titled 'Top Catholic Longevity Foods' or 'Typical Daily Diet of Catholics.' Interestingly the author says that with the help of researchers and demographers “we concluded that the Nicoyans' secret lies partly in their strong faith community” (73) but the name of their church is never mentioned. Again, why does this author omit all references to specific churches except for the Seventh Day Adventist Church? 

● Buettner lists “Community” as one of his Power Nine (p 21), or nine habits and practices common to all five so-called Blue Zones. The word 'Community' is in boldface; the text that follows reveals that by 'community' the author only means “faith-based community,'' strongly implying that faith-based communities are the only genuine ones or at least the only ones that confer health benefits. Not surprisingly, the author provides no evidence to support this specious implied claim. 

In addition to these distortions which promote the Seventh Day Adventist Church above all other religious denominations and religious groups over secular ones, the book’s major claims are dubious and have been refuted by medical and science professionals: 

● Oxford University demographer and geneticist Saul Newman studied the claims related to so-called Blue Zones and concluded “Blue Zones were rife with fraud, error and logical inconsistency.” Newman’s research notes, for example, that Okinawa 

“ranks first in the nation for obesity and unemployment, second for beer consumption and number of households living on welfare, and last for consumption per capita of fruit and vegetables.” (https://www.smh.com.au/national/dr-saul-newman-has-a-big-idea-it-might-change-ho w-we-think-about-ageing-20210316-p57b32.html) 

● Regarding the longevity claims, Newman states “Blue Zones are full of people either getting their age wrong – or lying about it.” He notes that “when you look at the birthdates of people aged 100 or more, they tend to cluster on the first day of the month – as though someone is simply writing in their age on a form.” Newman suggests early eligibility for a pension as a likely motive for a person to misrepresent their age. 

● Physician Harriet Hall writes, “The Blue Zone Diet assumes that common dietary factors have been identified and that following the diet will make us live longer. That appears to be a false assumption based on speculation, misinformation, and wishful thinking, not on science.” (https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/blue-zones-diet-speculation-based-on-misinformati on/) 

● Hall notes, “Loma Linda has a longer-than-average lifespan. This has been attributed to the large population of Seventh Day Adventists with a healthy lifestyle, but it might just be due to the fact that people who are richer tend to live longer. Similar longevity might be found in other well-to-do locations. There have been no good studies to rule out possible confounders.” 

● In his 2018 study, Newman notes that “In France, Japan and Britain the best predictor of extreme age records was poverty.” (https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/704080v2) He argues that attributing longevity in Loma Linda, California, and elsewhere to other factors is misleading at best: “They had the entire US to pick from and they picked one town; if we did the equivalent in London, and went to the rich part of London, I would expect the average life expectancy to be 10 years higher than what it is in Loma Linda.” 

● Newman says the problem with claims of longevity arising from a particular region was leading to “wasted research” and “he wonders whether these are just ways to sell diets.” Sardinians themselves understand that claiming special status regarding longevity is a potent “marketing vehicle.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/13/world/europe/italy-sardinia-perdasdefogu-seulo- longevity.html) 

At a time when six members of the U.S. Supreme Court appear determined to impose the Catholic doctrine of their upbringings on a vast, diverse, democratic nation contrary to its wishes, I urge you to stand firmly on the side of our students and their constitutional rights. 

Some have claimed that so-called Blue Zones workers are not employed by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. That is obviously false (simply google ‘Who owns Adventist Health, LLC?’). Some have also argued that there is no cause for concern because these workers may not even be members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. That fact is not material. All Blue Zones workers must commit to fulfilling the mission of the Church as is required of all Adventist Health employees. All Adventist Hospital employees, for example, “are expected to be familiar with 

and to ‘dedicate their service’ to the Hospital’s Mission and conform their conduct to that Mission.” (https://www.sidley.com/~/media/files/experience/in-the-matter-of-ukiah-valley-medical-center-an d__/extensioncerepexperiencedocument1/ukiah_and_cna_before_nlrb.pdf) 

According to lawyer and Seventh Day Adventist minister Alan Reinach:

The principal function of any Adventist Hospital [is to] fulfill the Healing Ministry of Jesus Christ, which is very much both a Healing Ministry to the body and to the spirit as well. We have a belief in the holistic nature of man, and you cannot separate the secular and the spiritual. The [UVMC] hospital is absolutely central and essential to the evangelistic work of the Church. ... The Hospital views itself as ‘a continuation of the healing ministry of Christ.” [emphasis mine] 

It’s safe to assume that the Seventh Day Adventist Church’s acquisition of Blue Zones, LLC, last year for $78 million was likewise intended to further that mission. 

When the UUSD promotes ‘Blue Zones’ in any way with posters and other advertisements, it is prima facie engaging in promoting a particular religion. 

It will be difficult, for example, to defend the idea that a school district which distributes literature describing the five healthiest places in the world but credits only one church by name– which happens to be the church that owns Adventist Health, the provider of the literature– is not promoting that religion in violation of the establishment clause. 

So many Ukiah educators care deeply about health and fitness and devote our passion and energy to helping our students learn about these important topics. Our efforts should not be directed at improving the reputation of a controversial church-owned healthcare corporation. 

I would like to know what steps you and school site administrators are taking to ensure that our school district is not sanctioning the promotion of a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment. I hope you will share this information with us and join us in this important conversation. 

Sincerely, 

Andrew Lutsky 

Ukiah

PS. Superintendent Kubin sent a short reply on 8/17/22 in which she stated “this program does not promote any religion nor does it act to coerce children into the practice of any religion.” 

I sent the following response to her on 8/19/22: 

Deb, thank you for the reply. Since you did not address any of my specific concerns I will continue to voice those concerns to UUSD stakeholders until it is clear to me that you are not sanctioning a partnership that violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

Some immediate questions are: 

● Will Adventist Health employees (aka ‘Blue Zone workers’) and/or UUSD staff be distributing the book Blue Zones Solutions to UUSD students or families? 

● Will Adventist Health employees or UUSD staff be distributing any other literature related to so-called Blue Zones or Adventist Health or the Seventh Day Adventist Church to 

UUSD students or families? 

● Will the UUSD administration notify Adventist Health employees that, contrary to the commitment they have made to their employer, they are not permitted to mention, discuss, or promote in any way Adventist Health’s mission with UUSD students and families before they have any contact with those students and families? 

● Will the UUSD administration notify all relevant UUSD staff that, while the administration 

has chosen to partner with a church-owned organization, that decision does not change the fact that UUSD staff may not promote a particular religion, the practice of a particular religion or religion in general because doing so violates federal law? 

● How will the UUSD administration verify that Adventist Health employees and/or UUSD staff are not promoting a particular religion, the practice of a particular religion or religion in general in violation of federal law? 

I hope you will share the answers to these questions with our community right away. UISA and South Valley staff in particular have a right to know whether their efforts to promote health and wellness through this partnership may implicate them in civil rights violations. 

I have received many positive responses to my open letter from my UISA colleagues and from concerned community members, and I am grateful for those supportive comments. I pledge to continue voicing my concerns at every opportunity until it is clear that UUSD teachers and school staff are not spreading Seventh Day Adventist church propaganda or are in any way involved in violating the First Amendment rights of our students. Most of us do not believe that those rights ought to be jeopardized in exchange for the opportunity to receive free water bottles or similar items. 

I hope you will share with us the specific measures the UUSD administration intends to take to safeguard our students’ First Amendment rights as you embark on this unprecedented and controversial new program. If you cannot do so I hope you will reconsider your approval of this potentially illegal partnership. 

In solidarity, Andrew Lutsky 

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GROUNDWATER REGULATION

To The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors:

The Board of Supervisors submitted an ordinance to regulate the sale and transport of groundwater from private wells in Mendocino County. The key factor of this ordinance is a hydrologic well test. The key factor of this test is called the THEIS calculation. Using the data collected during the course of the THEIS test and then running it through the THEIS calculation we get very accurate graphs of the radius of influence for the tested well at various pumping rates. This means the county can stop a potential problem of overdrafting! This will protect the county from future litigation like what happened in Sonoma County in 2021.

If the Board of Supervisors allows existing water sellers to continue pumping and selling without having met the same requirements as new permittees, then they will have failed to comply with their duties as ministers of the public trust.

From permitsonoma.org, August 9, 2022:

Sonoma County puts forward an amendment to their well drilling ordinance #25B from July 2015. The new ordinance number 25B-4 titled “To Mitigate Public Trust Resources Liability” will be voted on in 2023. To cover additional costs they will add at-cost fees to well permits deemed to have potential public trust involvement.

Today: We have the science available and must use it to make informed decisions about our groundwater. Every commercial well must have a full hydrologic test!

Robbie Wyre

Round Valley County Water District

Covelo

PS. A brief history of groundwater protection laws in Northern California:

1977. There was a serious drought. Butte, Sierra and Glenn Counties passed groundwater protection ordinances.

1980. Some groundwater ordinances in Inyo and Nevada counties were struck down. This caused other counties which were thinking of passing groundwater protection regulation to hold off!

1994. Baldwin versus Tehama. Tehama Aquifer Protection Chapter 9.40.20. Mining of groundwater prohibited. 9.40.30, permit required for extraction of groundwater for off-parcel use. This ordinance was upheld by the California Supreme Court!

2002. 22 of the 58 California counties passed groundwater protection ordinances!

2014. The state passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. This Act emphasized local groundwater management. It required state agencies to help local entities manage groundwater basins.

2018. An environmental group sued the State Board of Water Resources Control. Third District Appellate Court confirmed the public trust doctrine applies to groundwater if the extraction adversely impacts navigable waterways. The court also ruled that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act did not excuse the county and the State Water Resources Control Board from their obligation to consider the public trust doctrine.

2021, July 1. California Coastkeepers alliance sues Sonoma County. This lawsuit alleged Sonoma County did not consider public trust resources in issuing 404 well permits between August 2018 and August of 2020. The suit also alleged through public records that Sonoma County knew that wells were overdrafting the Russian River. Records show the county's knowledge of overdraft as early as 2015.

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LOOKING FOR HAPPY

Editor,

Happy is a 14-pound Chihuahua and Dachshund mix. He is about 9 or 10 years old. Happy is a rescue dog that we got 8 years ago from the animal shelter in Santa Rosa. 

In 2017, Happy and Cosmos (a dog we were watching for someone) headed for Forestville from the 43 acres we live on in Pocket Canyon (west of Forestville). A lady caught them and turned them over to animal control. Trying to retrieve the dogs was hard because Cosmo’s owner was traveling in Turkey for two weeks! Happy cost me $185 for an overnight stay and a rabies shot. We got Cosmos back and the owner paid my out of pocket expenses. 

Fast forward to June 18, 2022. Millie, Happy, and I were going to pick up Milo from the Sebastopol skate park when we get a text from Milo’s friend Oudom. It said “Milo got hit by a Subaru.” After that, no communication for 10 long minutes until we arrive at the skatepark. When we pulled up in front there was Milo and Oudom sitting on the bench. I was hugely relieved to see them both! Millie and Happy and I jumped out of the car and ran over to the boys and we said, “What the f___?” Milo said that a senior citizen brushed him with her Subaru but did not even realize that anything had happened! Milo was fine! Then Oudom shows us his arm and back that were scraped up pretty badly and I was like “She f___ing hit you too?!” They said no and that Oudom had gotten speed wobbles and bit it hard at the skatepark!

Oudom’s grandmother is a hard core biker ( HD) and the Supervisor for the Monte Rio Park District and I had to return Oudom (damaged goods) to her. Soooo Millie, Milo, Oudom and myself piled into the car and headed to Monte Rio. We dropped off Oudom in Monte Rio and headed home. On the way home, I asked Millie if she wanted to walk the dogs at Armstrong Woods. We have three dogs, we have Happy, Yama, and Taiyou. Millie said, “Yes let’s grab Yama and Taiyou from the house.” Then we looked at each other and said “WHERE’S HAPPY?” “Oh no, he’s at the skatepark!”

We dropped Milo off at the house and headed back to Sebastopol. When we got there, one of the skaters told us that some lady with lots of tattoos and her husband with a pink beard had been hanging out with Happy for a while and then took him with them. 

So Millie and I went home and made a big sign: LOOKING FOR HAPPY! Phone number and all that and posted it at the skatepark in Sebastopol. No calls because AT&T could not turn my phone on for five days (two months off earlier that year). On the 24th I got a letter from Animal Control saying that they had Happy and to contact them by the 30th or they would give him to someone else or if necessary, “humanely euthanized.” 

As it turns out Oudom’s grandmother donates to the Animal Shelter, so I am going to see if Millie and Leslie (the grandma) can get Happy!

I spent three hours over two days trying to talk to a human and it did not happen. I was put on hold for hours before having to do other things around the house. I couldn’t stop worrying that they might put him down!

June 30th! 20 minute wait time and then, then wait, wait for it - a living human! The lady said, “How can I help?” I said, “You have my dog Happy and I don’t have any money to give you.” She said “Come get your little dog, we will work it out.” We got to the Animal Shelter, Oudom, Milo, Atsuko (my wife) and myself. They gave us Happy and I signed a paper saying that I would give Animal Control $366. I told the lady that it might take a minute and she didn’t seem bothered by that. Happy was so excited to see us that he was shaking like a leaf most of the way home. We have two 150-pound guardian dogs that love Happy. Happy weighed more than they did when we got them! The puppies would not calm down for half an hour. 

Now we have our little dog back and I’m lying on my bed petting Happy and listening to Taiyou eating a bear in his doggie dream! 

Oaky Joe Munson

Monte Rio

PS. What does Oaky Joe say when Happy is missing? ‘DOG GONE!’

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MY BROTHER, CLAYTON

Dear Editor,

My brother, Clayton was born in 1983 in Southern Indiana. His life ended in 2021 in a small town in Kentucky. He was 38 years old. According to the CDC, he was one of 71,238 fentanyl deaths in the US last year, and one of 2,250 overdose deaths in Kentucky. Seventy percent of those deaths were due to fentanyl. If 2021 is any indication of what’s to come, many more of our loved ones will have perished at the end of this year from synthetic opioid use. Government officials refer to the fentanyl massacre as part of the battle against opioid addiction. They call it a nation-wide pandemic. There seem to be so many pandemics lately.

I spend a lot of my nights alone, thinking about my brother and what his life meant. If I’m being honest, almost all of my nights are spent like this. I try to make sense of the events that led to him turning to heroin. I make lists of the events that happened immediately after he died so I’ll never forget.

I woke up in Laytonville, California on June 6th 2021. I took my phone off of airplane mode, and got a lightning round of texts from my mother saying, “911,” “Call me back,” “Clayton is dead.” I called my mom. She told me she’d found my brother in the back bedroom of her apartment; A room that had once been his childhood bedroom. He was on the floor. He was on his side, curled into himself. He was rigid. He died around one a.m. She’d been asleep, just two walls and some 30 feet from where he’d taken his last breath.

My mother told me when the paramedics came, she’d overheard one of them refer to my brother as “trash.” My mother, usually someone who paints the truth with pastels, was horse, shaken to her bones, and raw with the reality of how she felt she’d failed him throughout his life. I flew to Kentucky from San Francisco two days later. At my mother’s home, I cleaned the bedroom my brother died in. His belongings were everywhere. He was kind of a messy guy. The police said to wear gloves and a mask because trace amounts of fentanyl may still be present in the room and absorbing even a small amount could be deadly.

I tried to sleep in his room that first night because I didn’t want to be afraid. I didn’t want him to think I was afraid of him or who he’d been if his spirit was still around. It felt like an act of love to stay there and be with him, But I couldn’t do it because I was actually afraid. I slept in my mom’s bed with her. I kept repeating in my head, “Where did you go, Clayton?”, over, and over, and over again for weeks.

My brother wanted to be cremated. He’d said so to my mom a few times in his adult life. He often felt like he wouldn’t have as much time on earth as other people. My family and I went to view his body at the crematorium in Louisville. It was a one-story building in an industrial area. There was a bird perched on the roof above the entrance door, looking down at us. He was singing. It seemed that he stayed there singing longer than a normal bird might have.

Inside the crematorium there was a viewing area. Behind a large, glass window was my brother's body, on a gurney, wrapped in a bright, white sheet. Behind his body was a furnace. The only part of him we could see was his head, which was red and swollen. It looked maybe two or three times the size of a normal head. His eyelids seemed to be swollen shut. I sat with my family and stared at him through the glass. I wanted to touch him. He didn't look real. I constantly wonder if he had any idea he was dying, or if it was the instant evaporation of his soul from his body.

Before my brother died, I hadn’t seen him in maybe two or three years. We hadn’t even really spoken except for a few texts about three months prior to his passing. I don’t remember what sparked our text conversation, but I remember telling him I didn’t understand the “heroin thing”. I remember him telling me he had been clean for some months. He also told me he loved me. I wasn’t able to say it back. Not because I didn’t love him. I did and do love him very much. I don’t know what to say for myself, but not being able to say it back haunts me. It’s a feeling wrapped up in darkness, and encased in cement, that sits on my chest and drags me to the floor each night. When people say love is the only answer, I don’t agree while turning around to roll my eyes anymore. I just plain old agree now.

Sincerely,

Annie Evarts

Elk

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NEEDS NEW BATTERIES

To the Editor: 

I think your bullshit detector is broken.

Reading about the black guy in the rental car getting pulled over and arrested for the crime of having $100,000 in cash on him, money he claims he was carrying just in case he found a good land deal, sounds like total bullshit. First of all, there is no law against carrying any amount of cash. Second, every land deal including cash sales goes through escrows, which can be opened with a deposit. Anyone can speculate why the gentleman was pulled over, why he was arrested, and why he was carrying such a huge amount of money, but what happened to your usually reliable bullshit detector? 

L.C. Lewis

Willits

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LESSON LEARNED

Editor,

Before Kevin Spacey was slut-shamed for being too perverted for Hollywood, one of his movies cast him as an abrasive producer whose constant refrain, shouted at underlings, was “Sit down, shut up, listen and learn.” It’s very difficult for people, generally speaking, to do any of these things, but they are keys to an otherwise unknown world. You have to sit down, shut up and listen, before you can learn.

Look at the natural world. People call it “the outdoors.” What are they saying? That they are aliens on vacation. That they are fantasists, frightened by silence, always eager to console themselves by reworking the earth in their own image. That they can ignore what is given in favor of preferable illusions. That they can hate the real world and use that energy of contempt to create a phony one. Phony philosophies, phony religions, phony politics, phony relationships, an entire universe of fakery, seamlessly welded together so convincingly that generations are born and die without actually understanding much of anything.

I have learned some things by being ashamed. I spent a night at what the settlers call Spencer Hot Wells. Valuable minerals go hand in hand with these places, and the miners had thoroughly ripped this one up, leaving hills of wasted rock, junk cars shot full of holes and wrecked buildings. Somehow a hot spring had survived and, forcing its way to the light, made a small pool. 

There was a trash can full of liquor bottles, left by drunks and partiers. Some persons had gathered all the liquor bottles and stuffed them into the trash can. There were so many bottles that they had been fashioned into a pyramid of glass on top of the trash can, and the whole of it stood as a monument to the surroundings left by the miners now long gone. Someone had tried to exorcise the spirits of waste by piling up all these bottles, by sequestering them in their metal container, by isolating them yet not removing them elsewhere so as to speak a history and a warning.

The pool was too hot and shallow to bathe in but steamed quietly alone. I walked off a hundred feet or so and wormed into my bag. A mile or so away a car turned off the highway and bounced down a dirt track towards me while I hoped to heaven it wasn’t another load of stupid noisy drunks. The car stopped where the track appeared to cross a rough and sandy draw across its path. Its lights went out and I watched for nearly an hour to see if it was going to come my way because I wanted to be alone and didn’t want to deal with a load of idiots. Why couldn’t they go back to Reno if they wanted to get loaded and make noise? The car seemed to have vanished into the desert brush as the sun set. I stopped worrying long enough to get to sleep.

At first light I woke to a film of steam from the pool drifting in the air, near the pyramid of liquor bottles. I had to void myself so I walked another hundred yards into the brush and scooped a shallow hole. Then I made some breakfast and enjoyed the silent scene of the land before sunrise, and the subtle desert scents carried by the bit of moisture in the air, liberated overnight by the earth before the heat returned. I packed up, started the car, and began driving on the dirt track to the highway.

Suddenly there were Indians. An old man wearing a red shirt and a black vest with a crushed hat on his head led a group of young men up the track towards the hot spring. The old man seemed to be intent on something and he barely glanced my way while the young men looked around at the mining wreckage and suddenly it was clear to me that they were the party in the car and that they preferred that I would have not been there the previous evening, but they had stayed off in the brush all night and waited for me to leave, and that not only had I obstructed them but I had failed to remove the pile of liquor bottles and worse I had crapped on a place that I now saw was of such importance to them that they were willing to wait out yet another fool who didn’t understand a thing but would soon be gone down the road, and I saw that there was no way for me to ingratiate myself or seek to have my rambling pointless curiosity speak with them as if whatever they might tell me would be comprehended in a totality of knowledge that could never really be mine because my people had not spent 10,000 years listening to the desert. 

I knew nothing of their world, their culture, their stories and songs and beliefs. I knew nothing of what their intention was, to wait for me to leave. I had no idea what the hot spring was named in their language and knew nothing of its place in their world but I did know that it was important to them and that I was in their way. So I said nothing to them because there was no way to even begin to speak of it all, and returned to my own intention of delivering the car to the naval officer who waited for it on the other side of the continent. 

But this minor event has impressed itself on me, and I have been taught to get off the roads and trails and sit down, shut up, listen and learn.

Yours, 

Jay Williamson

Santa Rosa

* * *

ABAJO, ABAJO!

Editor,

Elizabeth Kohlbert writes for the New Yorker that the reason for unanimous voting by Republicans is money. Caused by the Citizens United decision. Are there any old codgers around who remember Stanton Delaplane in Mexico talking about holding two fingers close together which indicates the “little now,” or Art Hoppe and his “Ayatollah U” t-shirts, or “our famous correspondent,” Charles McCabe in “QED.” When Falk, Anderson and Bosco drop to their knees in prayer at bed time they always give a shout out to A.J. Liebling — “Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one.” Would anyone on the AVA list of contributors like to write a letter to the editor of the Press Democrat, Richard Green, and ask them Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson thought about the Pelosi trip to Taiwan? That is #12 on my list of this poor decisions he has made since he started as editor. He should be sent to Hales Grove to learn which news stories to run. You pick up the phone and asked Hoffman and Thompson directly. If they don't have an answer for the question, that's the story. Seeing the story about the Gualala library in the Press Democrat reminded me that that's where I started my trip to try to collect enough money to buy Charles Peterson's subscription to the Advertiser. He claimed that he never read the AVA. I made about five stops until I got to Elk. I collected zero money. Bruce Anderson wasn't as popular then as he is now. He has cooled down his Marxist rhetoric somewhat.

Ralph Bostrom

Willits

PS. When I write to the AVA I often wondered if anyone is interested? One? Three? Nine? Marques does correct my spelling errors for free. I wrote about listening to classical music on Google streaming. There may not be an AVA reader who listens to that style of music. But anyhow I've found that switching from WQXR New York to do WRTI to KQAC Portland to classic KING in Seattle when I hear something I don't want to listen to it only takes a minute.

Every time a deputy sheriff or cop kills an unnamed Hispanic or negro the Press Democrat buys five extra barrels of black printing ink and a rail car of number one grade newsprint. The Andy Logan story has gone on for long enough so it is now found in schoolbooks. Recently we have experienced the death of an Hispanic man who lost his life simply because he didn't understand what the police were shouting at him. It should have been “Los Manos Arriba!,” (raise your hands) instead they were shouting “Abajo, abajol.” (Down). Now when something like this happens large gatherings of “people of color” rise up from nowhere and demand that “something” be done, usually at a cost of thousands, at least hundreds.

Needless to say as usual I have found the answer. Each deputy in and cop in Willits will be ordered to learn in 100 words in Spanish. This may include five commonly used words that are not in the dictionary because they would burn a hole in the paper within two months. What's happening in Willits when all the police are in the classroom? Nightly lectures series would be sold out, especially those featuring Tommy Wayne Kramer, Thom Hartmann and Scott Simon.

I've been reading 'Following the Equator' by Mark Twain. He has a lot of information but it is not well presented. He could have skipped every other chapter but he had debts to pay and needed “volume.” I like the part of “Roughing It” where Mark told us how much he doesn't like the Mormons, particularly the women. What I like about the Spanish language is that a question mark is placed at the beginning of a sentence upside down to warn the reader that a question is on the way.

Another narrative-free letter you seldom see anymore. Katie Tahja and I both read but never the same books. She likes cowboy stories. She likes pieces in the New Yorker that I don't bother with. I've noticed that when MSNBC has a particularly knotty problem to deal with they call in David Remnick. Trump was elected in some places by huge margins. Main reason: racism. I wrote that in a letter to Bruce Anderson on the second week of January 2001. He did not print that letter. I sent exactly the same letter to him in the second week of November 2001 in 2016. He did not print that letter either. I think today he would print it.

Ed note: Mr. Bostrom probably has his dates confused. We did not get those letters. We have printed all of Mr. Bostrom's letters we have received, letters which would never be printed anywhere else. Sometimes Mr. Bostrom sends us packages of clippings from other papers which we do not feel like re-typing; maybe that's what he's referring to.

* * *

FAILURE TO OBEY

Editor,

A common theme in cases of death by cop is that the victim did not obey the cop. A shout to a boy who is unaware of the presence of a cop did not produce obedience, a man acting erratically doesn't go "down" when a cop says "down" in broken Spanish. Police training has to change. Failure to obey is not a reason for killing. Police have to be trained how to deal with failure to obey by something other than killing.

Roger Delgado

Sebastopol

* * *

POLITICAL POLICING

Editor: 

Whether people wish to notice or are comfortably blinded by hate, I’m pointing out how various government agencies use the law as a weapon. A large percentage of Donald Trump’s legal problems have nothing to do with politics, government or his presidency. They are tax issues, real estate issues, etc. These investigations have been pushed because many don’t care for his behavior as a president. However, these investigations have, or so we are led to believe, nothing to do with politics.

I question why no other similarly situated billionaires have been subjected to the same scrutiny. Unless all billionaires in this country, Democrats and Republicans alike, undergo the same in-depth investigations, it becomes obvious that the law is not being applied evenly and fairly. Many wonder why voters are disenchanted by our government and legal system. Maybe it’s because they feel like they might be the next target of an inequitably applied/weaponized legal system.

Today’s favorite hue and cry is that no one is above the law. It appears that the various governments, state and federal, feel they are above the law and can use their position to use the law as a weapon against anyone they don’t like and turn a blind eye to those in favor.

Bob Proctor

Rohnert Park

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