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Letters (October 27, 2023)

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Tom Cahill lived here on the Mendocino Coast for nearly 30 years. He was our official historian and compiled 3 large albums chronicling life on the ranch during his tenure. He was also the Commodore of the Ten Mile Fleet, caring for the canoes, kayaks and miscellaneous water craft based on the river, especially the “Solar Queen” an 18 foot aluminum boat he outfitted with an electric motor, canopy and non-functioning princess phone on which we’d pretend to order pizza. We were all members of his navy of the Grand Duchy of Fenwick.

Tom was a great friend and firm teacher. When he and I were arrested while protesting at Headwaters, they pepper sprayed him just because he was known to be who he was: a tireless peaceful warrior for all life. He taught us the Ho’oponopono prayer, “I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” We have been better people since.

We remembered Tom and spread his ashes in the river last Saturday afternoon at the “Horse Barn” where he used to live. From there we went to the river beach and launched kayaks to spread his ashes.

Judy Vidaver


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Dearest Editor

When I was younger I watched a movie by Monty Python. In one scene Moses is holding up three stone tablets and yelling about the 15 commandments, but he dropped one tablet and it shattered on the ground. So Moses barely misses a beat and starts yelling about the 10 commandments. Sonoma County has a whole bunch of their own commandments I will share. Around April or May of this year the neighborhood that I live in was buzzing with rumors that the Sonoma County fire agencies were going to inspect every property in the county. The goal of course was to prevent, slow and stop fires in the county. Sure enough fire personnel started showing up unannounced for inspections. Since then they have been very busy. Apparently, they have already inspected almost all the private properties in the County of Sonoma.

So, here's the rub. The fire inspectors have many demands that are life altering in some cases. Propane tanks must be 20 feet or more from any structures, setbacks, trees, brush, tallgrass, limbs, nothing under porches, fences to be removed. No firewood within 30 feet of any structure. The list goes on and on. Keeping people safe is great, but… So the fire inspector told us to call when we were ready for our inspection. So we got to work, and put in hours and hours of work. Less than two weeks later they showed up unannounced again. They were very happy with our progress but made even more demands.

Almost fifty acres is a lot of land to harden against wildfires.

Blackberry bushes must be knocked down to four inches and then removed and don’t disturb the soil or the EPA will come with penalties in hand. One inspector says fifty foot setbacks( four inches high max) from any forested area. The next inspector says it has to be a hundred foot setback.

To create a fifty-foot setback around ten acres of blackberries will take a crew of four with all the proper equipment about a month. A hundred foot setback around the same ten acres will be multiplied by about 5x the cost and work. Including a lot of tree removal. Some of the equipment would include woodchipper, dumptruck, chainsaws, weed whacker, heavy boots, and clothing suitable for poison oak and blackberries. This is going to financially ruin a bunch of seniors and people that have already tightened their belts as much as they can. If you can’t do it yourself then you have to hire someone. Hey, all it takes is money. We are getting into six figures in some cases. Get it done or else!

Three days ago, the Sonoma County Code Enforcement shows up unannounced and commanded that we remove any unregistered motor vehicles from the property. Even if the vehicle is on a current NON OP status. Bruce, I have to either register the car that you were nice enough to give me, or get rid of it. This car does not leave the property and I use it every day to exercise my two 150 lb dogs so as I don’t mess up my wife’s Camry. I have to register a vehicle that will never drive on the highway!(WTF?!) We have thirty days or else! One of the tenants has at least 15 collector cars that he is trying to sell. Get it done or else. This guy was trying to make a little money and enjoy fooling around with a hobby! Thirty days, got it?

Usually right round this time of year (before the rain) the EPA goes around the county and barks its own commands. At this point some people are being triple teamed by these overzealous government agencies! People are already feeling beat down by all the calamities that have befallen us over the last years!

In the Press Democrap, not a word, nothing, nada, zilch! They have a regularly published section dedicated to the all powerful wine industry. Wine and Feast, shows the winos how to drink the right booze with their cheese or whatever. Wine people are totally uninteresting until they are into their third glass. How about a section dedicated to tracking how many accidents involving drunk yuppie scum in their bullet proof $100,000 SUV’s. And maybe how many assault cases involving drunks. In a nutshell Oaky Joe says to the Press Democrap “Get a fucking spine and do some real reporting about these real issues.”

In my humble opinion, this is yet another money grab by our hyper regulatory regime run by their high paid pencil pushing terrorists. And we are paying them to do this to us through taxes, fines, and liens. Shame on the government! We have not seen our government at its best yet! Do what you are told and don’t piss off anyone in government or suffer the consequences.

We need a couple of wealthy people with a good lawyer or two, to take on these out of line regulators. If they don’t regulate they have to get another job! They can’t sue PG&E effectively so it only makes sense that they target the people they can mostly beat up. It is better for the County of Sonoma to make the landowners second property owners that live most of the time elsewhere! Less wear and tear on the local infrastructure, reduce water use, and still collecting taxes at the same time (what could be better). This shit is coming to Mendocino County sooner than later probably.

I have to try to find the solutions and not just complain. So how about the firemen with all their equipment find the landowners that really need them and help them satisfy the commands laid on them. Build community and get some exercise besides lifting weights at the firehouse.


Oaky Joe Munson

Monte Rio

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Dear Editor,

The County has taken the questionable course of removing the elected Auditor/Tax Collector/Treasurer from her elected office. Whether they have the power to do this will be determined as the lawsuits begin to fly.

In her stead, a Deputy Chief Executive has been put in that Acting Position. The County currently is lacking 5-6 department heads, and the Executive Office (EO) is now running about 75% of all the County departments. What could go wrong with that? Well, it opens up the possibility for fiscal malfeasance and/or fiscal mis-management. One is deliberately stealing and the other is inexperience or incompetence. I am not asserting that there is any malfeasance and I believe most people who work for the County are good people and well-intentioned. But sometimes that isn’t enough.

When we interview department heads, we vet them to see if they have the in-depth program knowledge for that department. For example, you wouldn’t hire an Ag Commissioner to be the Chief Medical Officer. They both may have advanced degrees, but neither would know how to do the other’s job. The Executive Office is putting their cronies and their friends, in charge of complicated programs that require in-depth program knowledge, administrative experience and an understanding of the qualifications staff need to do their respective jobs. This is not only very de-moralizing for existing staff who are more qualified, it’s creating a situation where experienced staff with the institutional knowledge and qualifications are being marginalized. These staff are primarily older, have been in government for years, and are the people who will question decisions made by these inexperienced, unqualified managers.

These inexperienced and unqualified managers aren’t bad people, but they’re being put into highly paid positions that come with a hefty pension. So while they aren’t stealing, there is a nice reward whether they do a good job or not. Where is the oversight? The County can move whoever they want into “Acting” positions. These Acting positions are not supposed to extend more than 6 months, but guess who can over-ride that? The CEO.

Why does this matter to you? Because most of these people don’t understand what the department and its programs or services does, they are making wrong decisions. They are firing highly qualified staff members before they have completed their probationary period, and replacing them with their cronies. No merit system. Who suffers from this? You. The public. Instead of having a meritocracy, we have a system that doesn’t reward initiative, education, experience or character. We have a system of sycophants who will never question decisions made. And it trickles down. We also have new employees who never receive training or guidance because their managers don’t know how things should be run. This sets these new employees up for failure.

The Board of Supervisors tell us the County is in an economic hole - with a budget gap that they must fill of between $7 million dollars to $50 million by June 2024. But apparently no one is really sure what the numbers are. In order to help close that gap, the Executive Office is using grant funding from various departments to pay the salaries of these managers. This is technically not illegal, however in Public Health, for example, this is resulting in the inability of the department to conduct the programs and services mandated by the state to keep the community safe. Who loses? You do. Public Health makes sure your food and water are safe. We make sure beaches get closed when there is poop in the water. We provide disease surveillance and research the health of the community to address gaps in services. We make sure children in foster care get the health care and support they need. We monitor restaurants so you don’t eat rat tainted food. We provide free vaccine clinics so we don’t all get sick at once and over-run the capacity of our three hospitals. In Public Health having unqualified people making decisions has resulted in such a toxic work environment that there has been a literal exodus of experienced and trained personnel.

I am retiring after long years of public service. But I leave you with these cautionary words and a suggestion - We desperately need a Public Health Director with the experience, training and education, who understands how a functioning Public Health department operates.

I care deeply about this community. You deserve better.

Julie Beardsley, MPH

Mendocino County Senior Public Health Analyst

President, SEIU Local 1021

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Mendocino County government is obviously in crisis and it looks as if our crisis is deepening. Recently our County Auditor Controller Treasurer Tax Collector and the former County payroll manager both had criminal complaints filed against them by the Mendocino County District Attorney. Their arraignment is this Tuesday morning (October 17) in Mendocino County Superior Court. 

I believe in due process and that everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. I do not know all the facts in the case or their merit. I will withhold public judgment of the ACTTC and former payroll manager, patiently waiting for our justice system to decide what is fact, what is fiction, if and who is guilty, then levy whatever punishment is necessary. It does our system a disservice to speculate and poison the well of public opinion, tainting the possible jury pool. 

Regardless of the outcome of the recent criminal cases, it seems obvious that County finances haven’t been what they should be for quite some time. Before 2014, County budgets were easy to follow. Then between 2014 and 2017, the format changed and the financial picture became less clear. The Board continued passing budgets without a clear financial picture.

In 2014 the County elected a new Auditor Controller then in 2015 adopted a new software program to upgrade the County’s property tax assessment and tax collection system. The software program integration is still in process, we have another Auditor Controller and in late 2021, the BOS voted to combine the offices of Treasurer Tax Collector and Auditor Controller into one elected office despite protests from both offices. County finances and our financial systems have been in turmoil for almost a decade. 

I still have misgivings about the combining of the offices of Auditor Controller and Treasurer Tax Collector. Since the consolidation of Elections and Assessor’s offices, the Assessor’s side of the office has suffered. Consolidating very different functions of County government under one office doesn’t guarantee greater efficiencies if the tasks of each department have no overlap or redundancy. It takes away the power of the electorate to hold office holders accountable and gives that responsibility to the BOS. On the other hand, voters don’t often hold errant officeholders accountable by way of a recall. One way or another, those who serve in these positions must be held accountable. We should tread thoughtfully and carefully into whatever our next steps are.

Finger pointing won’t fix the crisis or move the County in the right direction. We need our elected officials to assume leadership roles, take responsibility for County finances, work together to come up with a plan of corrective action then commit the resources needed to execute. Anyone not willing or able to work together and play their part, should resign or face a recall. If anyone is participating in financial malfeasance, they need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. 

The Assessor’s office is not promptly reassessing property taxes after sales or new construction. There are many buildings that have been built without permits and are not on the tax rolls. The County needs to prioritize fully staffing the department to get caught up and stay caught up. This may require paying a more competitive wage, offering a hiring bonus and possibly performance bonuses. We should be using whatever technologies or services are available to identify unpermitted buildings, offer them amnesty to come in, get on the tax rolls or face the consequences. If we aren’t properly collecting taxes, we are not collecting the revenues to fund County functions such as the Sheriff's Department, maintaining roads, etc and our community suffers.

The Auditor Controller’s office needs to work with the Executive office and County Departments to develop annual budgets and standardized monthly financial reports to track financial progress throughout the year. With revenues and expenses being closely tracked throughout the year, adjustments can be made to keep costs in line before the end of the Fiscal Year. The Auditor Controller may be in charge of the County’s accounting but this work must be supported by all departments and offices to be as accurate and timely as possible. 

The Board of Supervisors must work with the Executive Office to get timely monthly reports from all departments and elected offices. These reports must be made available to the public in the CEO report. Just as there is time allotted for public comment on non-agenda items at the beginning of the meeting, there should also be time allotted for staff reports. When necessary, departments should be required to give reports not just for the benefit of the Board, but in the interest of public transparency as this is our County. The BOS must support staff/departments with whatever training and continuing education is necessary to manage the County efficiently and effectively. 

If the County doesn’t have accurate and timely financial information, the BOS can’t make educated decisions which puts us all at risk as we fly blind. We can’t afford to be held hostage by any one department or office. We must work together for the sake of the County. 

Adam Gaska

Redwood Valley

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Exciting News: I’m Running for 2nd District Supervisor of Mendocino County!

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this message finds you well. Today, I'm thrilled to share a new chapter in my life – I'm officially running for the position of 2nd District Supervisor in beautiful Mendocino County.

My decision to run stems from a deep commitment to our community and a strong desire to tackle critical issues head-on. Here are the key areas I'll be focusing on during my campaign:

Financial Responsibility: Mendocino County deserves the highest standards of fiscal responsibility. I'm dedicated to addressing the financial challenges that our county faces, including improving reporting and budgeting processes to ensure transparency and accountability.

Affordable Housing: Access to safe and affordable housing is a fundamental right. I am committed to working diligently to expand access to affordable housing options, ensuring that all our residents have a place to call home.

Homelessness Crisis: It's disheartening to see the homelessness crisis affecting our neighbors. I am determined to work tirelessly to find compassionate solutions to provide shelter, support, and a pathway to stability for those experiencing homelessness.

Economic Growth: Mendocino County holds immense potential for economic growth. I am committed to fostering an environment encouraging business growth, job creation, and economic prosperity for all our residents.

I embark on this journey with the knowledge that it's the support and trust of friends and family like you that make a difference. Your encouragement means everything to me, and I'm grateful for your unwavering belief in our vision for a better Mendocino County.

In the coming weeks and months, I will share more about my plans and ways you can get involved. Your input and participation are invaluable, and I'm eager to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Join me on this exciting path towards a stronger, more vibrant Mendocino County.

Stay tuned for updates, events, and opportunities to engage with the campaign. Your support is the driving force behind this movement.

Thank you for being part of this journey!

With gratitude,

Jacob Brown


ED NOTE: The unnamed incumbent 2nd District Supervisor is Maureen Mulheren of Ukiah.

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In the on again, off again nature of the last 24 hours, my rain gauge has added a .035 inch in accumulated moisture enough to make a measurement in my gauge. This brings my totals since July 1st to 2.45 inches.

They predict the next reasonably serious rains to begin next week. Is your firewood covered? Do you have clean all-weather gear at home? Have you picked the fruit? Is your roof finished? Clear the culverts and grade your driveways, this one's gonna be a beaut!


J.D. Streeter


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The Oct. 8 PD editorial maintains the fiction that SMART will reduce traffic on Highway 101. That was not true when SMART was first promoted and remains untrue today, as it will in the future. People working across the Bay are not going to adopt SMART since it ends abruptly in Marin County. The ridership remains people interested in a novelty, and that will leave Highway 101 full of commuters. All of this was predicted when SMART was being proposed, and voters should not agree to any additional funds for this losing agency.

Ralph Melargagno

Santa Rosa

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TWK’s column:

I read TWK’s column every week. I know he’s just trying to be a shock jock by writing negative stuff about everything. I mean everything. But I just read his column, “Dr. Jill Biden’s Diary”. All I can say about that column is that it’s stupid. Absolutely and downright stupid. I can’t think of any other word for it.

John Rensen


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Dear AVA Editor,

Yesterday I purchased the Hostess “donettes” double chocolate flavored mini donuts. Upon opening the bag I noticed a faint smell of dead fish. Really. So today I read the back of the bag. It says “Contains Bioengineered Food Ingredients.” I hope those who favor these snacks would go back and tell the store owners. I do plan on mailing the bag for evidence as proof. Yet I didn’t keep the recipe.

Sincerely yours,

Greg Crawford

Fort Bragg

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No doubt, like me, you are horrified at the terror and killings by the radical, terrorist organization Hamas of innocent Israeli civilians going about their lives. I am equally horrified by the inhumane policies perpetrated on innocent civilians of Gaza by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The borders in Egypt and Israel are closed to them, so they are trapped with no water, food, electricity or medical care.

While I am in agreement with President Joe Biden’s support of Israel during this crisis, I am shocked and disappointed that he has not spoken out against Israeli government policies in Gaza. Starvation of civilians in a war is a violation of international humanitarian law and is a designated war crime.

Joan McAuliffe

Santa Rosa

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The immediate reaction by the U.S. and the Biden administration to send more arms to Israel will do nothing to alleviate the inequity that is Israel the occupier of the Palestinian territories. The recent attack by Hamas represents not what we have been trained to label as terrorists, but a reaction of the Palestinian population in Gaza, as well as the West Bank, who have by and large suffered under military control, murder, settler attacks and home demolitions. Sending war ships, increasing an already bloated supply of the latest tech weaponry and sustaining the same apartheid that has made their lives a mere existence will only embolden a population seeking freedom.

Warren R. Smith

Santa Rosa

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To the Editor:

After the dust settles in the criminal matter and Chris Andrian gets Auditor Chamise Cubbison acquitted, I wonder how much Cubbison will win in a wrongful termination lawsuit?

The case will turn on three questions: What was the scope of Cubbison's duties? What were Cubbison's statutory obligations? And What were Cubbison's rights and privileges as a constitutionally elected officer? I'll explain.

“Violation of public policy” are grounds for wrongful termination.

More specifically, wrongful termination in violation of public policy occurs when an employer fires an employee for exercising a legal right or performing a legal obligation, provided that the legal right or obligation is connected to an important public policy. This usually applies to things like taking time off for military service or to serve on a jury, or to serve as a witness in court in compliance with a subpoena or other court order, but Cubbison's attorney could argue that firing Cubbison for "just doing the job she was elected to do" was a violation of public policy.

California wrongful termination law also provides that an employer may not fire you for performing a statutory obligation (that is, a legal duty).

Finally, California wrongful termination law provides that it is wrongful discharge in violation of public policy for an employer to terminate an employee for exercising a right or privilege granted to them by law.

A word about the required nexus between public policy and termination.

One important point that plaintiffs in wrongful termination suits based on public policy need to prove is that there was a “nexus” between: 1.) the employer’s public policy violation and, 2.) the employee’s termination.

This means that Andrian will need to demonstrate a clear causal connection between the public policy problem and Ms. Cubbison's termination.

The fact that Cubbison is a constitutionally elected officer will only strengthen her case.

Compensatory damages?

Cubbison not only gets to recover lost wages and the value of any employee benefits, but also damages for emotional distress/pain and suffering arising from her public policy wrongful termination, which may include compensation for physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, grief, anxiety, humiliation, or loss of reputation.

Punitive damages?

In a few cases, an employee may be able to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the employer for its behavior and do not need to be related to any economic or non-economic loss that Ms. Cubbison suffered. Punitive damages are only awarded in public policy wrongful termination cases where the employer is found to be guilty of 1.) oppression, 2.) fraud or 3.) malice.

Oppression. Fraud. Malice. Yup, you read right. I see all three.

Jurors are going to have a blast decoding this case and meting out justice. As far as American institutions go, there's nothing quite like “twelve angry men and women.” Big judgements are as American as apple pie.

Trial attorneys start your engines!

John Sakowicz


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Yesterday there were two lines of big-rig trucks lined up on the Egyptian side of the Rafah check-point Egyptian/Gazan border which is still closed. Each truck is filled with Red Cross relief supplies, food, water, and probably clothes and also gasoline. Unable to move, Even though it was reported day before yesterday that the Egyptian Government had given its OK, and a few trucks, possibly four, did get through.

This idea is simple. Allow a few brave Israeli volunteer IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers to accompany a few trucks to cross into Gaza. Have them stop about 6 or 8 Km into Gaza. Allow the Red Cross to unload them and return safely empty to Egypt.

If this is done without a lot of fanfare, it would serve as an example of getting humanitarian aid directly into the hands of some hungry Gazans. Hamas might not have time to take over. Actions speak louder than words. I have emailed President Biden earlier today this idea.

If done successfully, it might reduce hatred and fear on both sides of this very imminent wider war.

Frank H. Baumgardner, III

Santa Rosa

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Andrew Smith has some valid points and some erroneous ones. He is correct that the early development of SMART was flawed, especially in the area of climate change and highway congestion, as the original build out eliminated most of the rail switches used by previous freight customers, who now ship via heavy truck.

While the Windsor extension shutdown was a Bay Area regional issue over bridge tolls, the comment about state Sen. Mike McGuire’s not supporting extending SMART to Ukiah, within his own district, is telling, as a lot of trucks could be removed from Highway 101 with rail service to Ukiah.

The glass is now over half-full and increasing as the months-old airport shuttle is becoming known, funding to rebuild the Healdsburg bridge has been identified, and Windsor should have a working connection next year. Celebrate the “comings,” not the shortcomings.

Richard Brand

Santa Rosa

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My AVA timber tete-a-tete with tree man Tom has reached a truce.

Remember that titanic article I wrote about the JAG (quit asking what that stands for!)? Tom the forester took umbrage at a few things and we exchanged comments, possibly read by nobody but us and poor Bruce and Mark.

Tom didn’t want me to call the timber company president a logger, in the context of environmentalists versus loggers. I have refused to budge on this position, although in the future I have agreed to note when timber company presidents are also foresters, Presbyterians or fine golfers. But it’s still environmentalists versus loggers. There is really no such thing as foresters versus environmentalists, foresters are mostly people who love the environment and got into the business to study and harvest our forests in a better way.

However, I did agree on Tom’s salient point. I may indeed have slandered grand fir trees by calling them an insignificant timber species and worse, calling them short! This is particularly onerous for those who spend their lives standing straight up! In my own defense, I told Tom that grand fir trees are some of my best friends! (see the photo of myself and Gandalf the Grand Fir on my own property) And grand fir trees seem like they would be immune to teasing with that regal name. Those unlucky other fir trees apparently named by unimaginative taxonomists who named all our rivers, trees and sports teams. There is the white fir (not actually that white), the red fir (not really that red) and the fir apparently named after a guy named Doug!

As Tom argued, the truth is grand fir trees are truly a significant lumber species here in Mendocino County. I was wrong. There, I said it Tom!. I actually had 4 people tell me this, as if the whole titanic ten thousand word tome in the AVA was only about the size of grand fir trees.

Grand firs are interesting trees, ones like on my property at lowlands don’t become the towering giants that can reach over 200 feet! that they do near the spot I was at in Jackson Demonstration State Forest when I insisted they didn’t measure up to Doug and Redwood, the trees that boast most of the swagger of Pacific Coastall forests. Grand firs actually can stand as tall as these rivals and they make fine boards but are only truly grand at certain altitudes. Sorry grand fir!

Tom says our county has at least three disjointed populations of grand fir. “Grand Fir is common in Idaho and Montana at much higher elevations but for some reason we have them here. I recently measured one at better than 4 feet in diameter,” Tom informed me.

Even in Jackson they quickly thin out when the altitude gets higher or lower. At higher altitudes they give way to their cousin, the mundanely named white fir. Interestingly, white firs and grand firs also cross and make something of a new species that lacks a name as far as I know.

I read all the books and studies I could find that mention grand firs. Apparently, these regal fellas really like forests that haven’t been burned in a long time, which is exactly what we were looking at when I remarked that grand firs I saw were surprisingly tall and generally short, the statement that created all the trouble.

Another thing people called to express rival opinions about was who decimated Jackson. Was it the Caspar Lumber Company? Or did it happen under Cal Fire’s tutelage after WWII? I had people from all sides tell me different, and contradictory things about this. Tom suggested a study on Whiskey Springs in Jackson Forest, which has data going back to 1970s and also describes what happens before that all the way back to Caspar Lumber company records from more than a century ago. It seems the perfect property to look at the science. He will give me the tour if we can talk about that published scientific study and on the grounds I bring Brutus,whom I think he likes much better than me.

Tom also points out that Point Arena has a population of Sugar Pine at elevations a few thousand feet lower than its normal domain in the mid-slope of the Sierra. “

Years ago (Frank not Tom) had a cute blondie girlfriend for a summer and we went hiking in the Sierra for a week and brought back a ton of the gigantic sugar pine cones on our property corner, hoping to do some art project. Instead a sugar pine tree grew from 1992-2012 and had big cones until the damn chicken turned over a can of gasoline and created a fire that burned our shed and the tree. The FBFD put it out quick and we could never figure out how the gas got ignited but I was thrilled the giant coned tree, with tasty sugary sap, could grow here.

Oh , the tete-a-tete with Tom has turned off on a tangent.

I will soon take the tour Tom has graciously offered to see. The JAG meeting on Nov. 15 figures to be another big deal. Details about the meeting are promised 10 days before the meeting.

The Tom referenced here is Tom Kisliuk, any resemblance to other tree men is total tomfoolery.

Frank Hartzell

Fort Bragg


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It is sad but true that federal judges and justices appear more and more to be defined by the party of the president who nominated them.

But this tough fact confirms why public opinion has become so distrusting of our judicial system: Judges and justices who are intended to be objective are in fact revealed to be partisan in their ideologies. And the number of split judicial decisions and appellate reversals merely accentuates that there is no one, clear legal conclusion, but legal opinions on both sides of each case.

It also doesn’t help to read how many federal judges and justices serve into their late 80s and early 90s. Without succumbing to ageism by suggesting that such ancient ones are unfit, it is still a weakness in our society for those in positions of authority to hold onto their office so long that it deprives the next generation — likely having a more current understanding of complex issues that evolve over the decades — of a chance to step into positions of judgment.

James Berkman

Plymouth, Vermont

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I don't often agree with John Sakowitz but his letter in the October 18 issue, spelling out the essential background to the massacres of Gaza from the air being conducted by Israel's air force, a war crime backed to the bloody hilt by US President Joe Biden and the majority of both Democrats and Republicans and expressed unequivocally in the UN, by US ambassador, Linda Thomas Greenfield, who cast the lone vote vetoing a resolution calling for a ceasefire  because it didn't included support for Israel's “right to defend itself.”  

By being “the first US president to visit Israel at a time of war,” Israel's Duce Netanyahu, told the world, Biden will, I expect, go down in history as this century's Neville Chamberlain, who gave his blessings to Adolph Hitler before the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia, but by sending two US carrier groups to help Israel defend itself from what was essentially an uprising at "the world's largest outdoor prison," he appears to have exceeded Chamberlain in his willingness to crawl before evil.  

Jeff Blankfort


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